It’s beyond time I reviewed these shows that had their season finales a month (or more) ago, but don’t worry, later today they’ll be more current TV reviews, lists of the Best and Worst Movie moms, and even a list of the Most and Least Anticipated Summer Movies…
The common thread of all four of these sometimes great, sometimes-not freshmen series is that they’re slightly bi-polar, and have such strong elements that it’s infuriating when they run off the rails with bad episodes, arcs, or characters.
Six…Technically, the “worst” of the bunch and a classic example of what happens when a series has two storylines and only one of them is worth a damn. “Six” is really two separate shows, one with the great Walton Goggins as an ex-Navy Seal turned privateer who’s been captured by Boko Haram along with a girl’s school in Nigeria, and then a separate show where his former unit–beyond bland and talentless British and Canadian actors pretending to be Middle-American macho–are trying to find and rescue him. Walton’s scenes are great, and it’s good to see African terrorism being showcased rather than the Middle East, but nothing else on the series works, and it’s not an auspicious sign of things to come that the season finale made it doubtful Goggins will return for season 2. Grade for Season One: C…Although Goggins Scenes are Better
Crashing…Another frustrating example of a series that works so well in the even-numbered episodes involving Pete Holmes’ desperate comic’s attempts to get work as a stand-up comic (about being a road comic, a “barker,” and a warm-up comic) that it’s beyond a drag when we have to follow Pete’s cheating wife and her yoga-doofus lover in the (mostly) odd numbered episodes. You almost feel like Holmes is aware of this disconnect and that’s why he spaced the “Jess”-centric episodes out. Grade for Season One: B…Grade for Episodes 2, 4, and 6: A
The Young Pope…Unlike “Six” and “Crashing,” “The Young Pope” doesn’t owe it’s uneven quality to specific characters or storylines so much as a steep drop-off after the mid-point of the season, largely due to a softening (and weakening) of the overall tone. The first half of the season is a mean, tight drama about a vaguely psychotic Pope that may actually be in touch with God (who is vaguely psychotic in The Old Testament). It’s a thrillingly dark meditation on the aloof coldness of a “supreme being,” but around the mid-point of the season “The Young Pope” makes the disastrous decision to try to humanize Jude Law’s spectacularly unlikable title figure, and it only winds up feeling phony. Chillingly excellent scenes like Law’s Lenny refusing to be seen during his spectacular downer of a first-public address or an equally nasty address to The College of Cardinals are cheapened by making this asshole brat somehow less of one in the final episodes. Grade for Season One: B-…Although the First Five or Six Episodes are Better
Feud: Betty and Joan…The best of the bunch, and it surprises me to say that as I wasn’t exactly looking forward to watching a full season of Betty Davis and Joan Crawford’s dated rivalry. But “Feud” surprises by making its opening season a thoughtful meditation on aging in general, and society’s cruel ageism, whether you’re ready to be thought of as “disposable” (and who is?) or not. Still, “Feud” isn’t without its dips in quality, and even though its much, much more subtle than the other series, I personally felt the show was more interesting when following an Emmy worthy Jessica Lange as Joan than Susan Sarandon’s less formed Betty Davis. The writers seem to be aware of this too, and that’s why I’d bet Joan has more overall screentime than Betty, and with Jessica Lange’s powerhouse performance—portraying a woman who wanted to succeed so bad she doomed herself to failure, a consummate professional who ended her career over jealousy she wasn’t entirely unjustified in feeling—who can blame them? While I never felt like Sarandon got us fully inside the skin of Betty Davis. Grade for Season One: A-