Morning TV Round-Up: 'Flash,' 'Grinder,' 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'SHIELD' & 'iZombie'
Time for another round-up of a bunch of shows I watched last night, with quick reviews and spoilers for, in order, "The Flash," "The Grinder," "Fresh Off the Boat," "Agents of SHIELD" and "iZombie" coming up just as soon as touching the tortoise would render it infertile...
Between having to set up the next spin-off and dealing with all the Earth-2 doppelgangers, "The Flash" is getting awfully busy at this point. I'm hopeful that things will calm down once "Legends of Tomorrow" has launched, but the show has been very hit-and-miss over the last few weeks as it tries to introduce a boatload of new characters. On the positive sign last night: Barry and Patty's blind blind date was fun, and the dynamic between Earth-2's Harrison Wells and Team Flash is sharp and refreshingly different from how Reverse-Flash behaved with them when he was impersonating Wells. I'm still not crazy about the show trying to make Vibe happen, but as I've said before, I'm willing to go with it if we get Carlos Valdes recreating the most important Vibe scene of all time.
"The Grinder" deployed a plot so old that (as a tweep pointed out) it was used in "Singin' in the Rain," but it worked because Dean is so pathological and weird that you could throw pretty much any old comedy trope at him and it'll feel like something specific to this show. But the best parts of the episode didn't involve Rob Lowe, or even the very welcome Christina Applegate, but what Fred Savage and Mary Elizabeth Ellis have been doing. Their banter is a reminder that you can, in fact, put two straight men characters together and generate laughs, in part because the actors have good chemistry, but also in part because when Stuart is with Debbie, he ceases to be the straight man and becomes every bit as crazy in his own way as Dean. And Savage's indignant delivery of "ZADAK! ZADAK!" as Stuart tried to get his daughter's boyfriend to leave the house was perhaps the show's single funniest moment so far.
Another week, another terrific "Fresh Off the Boat," which has pretty comfortably made The Leap at this point. The show continues to do an excellent job balancing parent and kid subplots, with Louis's stint on "Good Morning Orlando" giving the show an excuse to deal with minority representation in pop culture — and the existence of a series like this, with such a wide range of character types, shows how far we've come from the days of Long Duck Dong, even though TV as a whole still has a lot more improvement to do in the area — while the boys' increasing bafflement at figuring out which girl each of them is dating, complete with conspiracy board, was priceless. Throw in a bunch of fine celebrity impressions by Randall Park, plus good work from guest stars Ken Marino, Kathleen Rose Perkins, and Judy Reyes, plus a nice period shot at Bill Cosby as "America's moral compass," and you've got another winner.
Last week's "Agents of SHIELD" represented how good the show can be when it focuses on just one thing. Last night's, unfortunately, was back to juggling 15 different stories with varying degrees of success. More frustrating, though, is how, time and again, "SHIELD" wants to give its characters — who are, again, trained in an incredibly ruthless profession — the emotional maturity of middle schoolers. Fitz and Hunter both thinking it might be a bad idea to rescue Will because he's a romantic obstacle to FitzSimmons was nausea-inducing (especially given the parallels of that story to "The Martian," where practically the entire world comes together to try to save a man in a similar circumstance), and everyone's complaints about Hunter endangering Andrew's life in the attempt to take out Ward seemed the antithesis of Bobbi's speech to Ward and Agent 33 in last season's finale about how collateral damage is an unfortunate reality of the work they do. The show goes to this squishy emotional well too often (see also how easily Coulson's paternal feelings for Skye/Daisy colored his judgment last season), and it feels more like a network or studio note about "relatability" than something that actually fits these characters.
Finally, the latest "iZombie" was a good example that a superhero-type show can juggle a lot of plots if the execution's just right. There was a lot going on in "Love & Basketball"(*) — murder of the week, Liv and Major getting back together, the various schemes being hatched by Blaine and the Max Rager folks, Clive's investigation into the Meat Cute massacre, etc. — but none of it felt rushed, and there was room for a ton of sharp humor, like Ravi's feud with the Tacoma medical examiner (Banya!), or Ravi and Blaine wrestling for the zombie-killing potion while The Cure's "Friday I'm In Love" played on the soundtrack. My one big concern is how/if the show is going to be able to rehabilitate Major given all the functional, relatively peaceful zombies he's already killed (unless the show is playing games, and he hasn't been killing them?), but the show hasn't flinched from moral consequences in the past, and I would hope they're not going to sweep that stuff under the rug just so Liv and Major can be adorable together again.
(*) One objection: the dig at Kristaps Porzingis — who did this two nights ago, and who is contributing much more than even the most optimistic Knicks fan might have expected at this point — as the next Darko Milicic. #NotAllEuros
What did everybody else think?