“The Unicorn” Verifies Walton Goggins Can Do Anything

Ever since his starring role as Shane Vendrell on the hit police drama “The Shield” I’ve been a big fan of Walton Goggins. Like the rest of the strike team in that series he was a tough hard-nosed detective who had no qualms about breaking the rules to get the bad guys and making a little money on the side. Staying true to his tough guy image he followed that up by playing Boyd Crowder in “Justified“. Another memorable role. Along the way he then proved his versatility by playing the transgendered prostitute Venus Van Dam in six episodes of “Sons of Anarchy” proving that he could play a comedic role with a touch of pathos thrown in. A truly memorable performance all around. Going back to his roots as a tough guy he did 11 episodes of military drama “Six” playing Navy seal Rip Taggart. He is also recently appeared in “Deep State” and “The Righteous Gemstones“. When I heard he was going to do a sitcom at first it seemed to me he would be out of place since he always plays such bad ass characters. But remembering his comic chops playing the transgendered prostitute gave me hope that he can master a full-fledged comedy.

Much to my delight, my hopes were fulfilled in the new CBS sitcom “The Unicorn“. Here he plays Wade Felton, a widower who is trying to raise 2 teenage daughters on his own. As the series opens it has been a year since he lost his wife. The family has been eating frozen casseroles that people made for them when his wife died. He has a sort of a meltdown when he takes the last casserole out of their freezer. Meanwhile his friends are trying to get him to go out in the world and start dating again.

Through various scenes we see that he has dealt with his grief by being highly involved in his daughter’s lives. He is fluent in videogame jargon in a way most parents would not be. His daughter Grace is played by Ruby Jay most known for playing the title role in the Hulu children’s series Holly Hobbie. The other daughter Natalie is played by McKenzie Moss who is most known for voice work on the “Pup Star” films.

Wade is accompanied by 2 couples who are his best friends Forest played by Rob Corddry and his wife Delia played by Michaela Watkins. Also his friend Ben played by Omar Benson Miller and his wife Michelle played by Maya Lynne Robinson. Corddry is a comedic character actor recently seen in Ballers and voice work on a variety of animated shows. Watkins is most known for being on the 2008-2009 season of SNL. Miller was also in Ballers but is most known for 63 episodes of CSI: Miami. Robinson appeared in last year’s episodes of “The Conners” as DJs wife Geena who spends much of the show away in the military.

After going through a sort of sitcom cliché scene as his friends help him fill out an online dating profile, he soon discovers he’s quite a catch. He’s available but not divorced or not some sleazy guy who has been sleeping around. He is what all single women have been looking for. An elusive creature like a unicorn. He can’t believe the number of women ready to throw themselves at him. He finally goes on a first date which of course is a disaster. In the end the woman is ready to take him back to her house for a night of passion but he realizes its pity sex because he’s a widower. He just isn’t ready for this.

The characters are all likable. The situations are not overly contrived although having contrived situations is a staple of most sitcoms. Goggins proves he can pull off comedy. The show has a lot of heart. The kids are funny without being pretentious. His friends are a little bit shallow but I presume in future episodes we will get to know them better.

My ultimate test of a sitcom is did it make me laugh? In several places it did. Although not a kind of must-see sitcom like “The Big Bang Theory” or “Seinfeld“, it is an enjoyable show. I’m not sure I’ve got room for it in my already overcrowded viewing schedule. So I’m giving it a rating of “Recommended Watchable” which means I like it but I may not end up adding it to my regular schedule. But I can recommend you check it out and see if it tickled your funnybone.

“Batwoman” is a Worthy Edition to the Arrowverse

CW network has added a new series to its DC universe commonly known as the Arrowverse because the shows were a spinoff of the original “Arrow” series. “Batwoman” is a new series whose titular character first appeared in a series of Arrowverse crossover episodes “Crisis on Infant Earths” near the end of last season. Unfortunately I’m way behind on my Arrowverse shows and did not see those episodes yet. However I decided to go ahead and check out the pilot of Batwoman.

The story revolves about Kate Kane who is a cousin of Bruce Wayne apparently on his mother’s side whose name was Martha Kane. When she was a child her mother and sister died in an accident when a school bus full of kidnapped kids driven by The Joker drove them off the road and they were dangling precariously on the edge of the bridge. Batman tried to secure the vehicle with some cables and then went off to chase the Joker. Kate was able to crawl out of the car before the cables failed and mom and sis fell to their death. She always blamed Batman for caring more about catching the bad guy then saving innocent lives.

As the story opens, Batman has mysteriously disappeared for several years. So the job of protecting Gotham City had fallen to a private security firm called “The Crows” headed by Kate’s father Jacob Kane. He had sent her off to military academies supposedly to train her to be part of his kick ass security firm but had always denied her the opportunity to serve. Kate is an out of the closet lesbian who was kicked out of the military academy for having a relationship with fellow student Sophie Moore.

Just as Gotham City is ready to give up on Batman by turning off the bat signal and putting all of its trust In the Crows, a new super villain calling herself Alice (as in Wonderland) appears on the scene to terrorize the city and convince them that the Crows can’t keep them safe. Kate’s former girlfriend Sophie now works for the Crows. In an attack on a public event Alice kidnaps Sophie. The idea is that if the Crows can’t protect one of their own, how can you trust them to protect the city? Kate returns to Gotham to help rescue her former girlfriend and to try to persuade her father to let her work for the family company. An offer he initially refuses. We also learn he has since remarried and has 2 grown stepdaughters.

Kate Kane is played by Ruby Rose who has had a variety of minor roles including 9 episodes of “Orange Is the New Black“. For some reason she was a bit of a controversial choice for the role. In real life she is genetically female and attracted to women but describes herself as gender fluid not identifying as male or female herself. This led people to claim she wasn’t lesbian enough to play a lesbian role. Of course the actress’ own gender identity and orientation really doesn’t have any bearing on their ability to play gay, straight, or whatever. And how many roles are there out there for gender fluid people? The only one I can think of is Taylor Mason played by gender fluid actress Asia Kate Dillon on the series Billions. (I apologize for not knowing the proper gender-neutral noun for person in the performing arts). For me, the lesbian aspect of the storyline neither adds to nor distracts from the rest of the story. The relationship between Kate and Sophie could’ve just as easily have been a heterosexual couple in which one was expelled for fraternization.

Kate’s father is played by veteran character actor Dougray Scott who has played a variety of roles. Sophie is played by Megan Tandy who is probably most noted for 18 episodes of Teen Wolf as well as a variety of other TV roles. Along the way we meet Luke Fox son of Lucius Fox who is keeping the abandoned Wayne Manor and Batcave secure in the absence of Bruce Wayne/Batman. When Kate stumbles on to the secret identity of her cousin Bruce, she decides to fill the void and become Batwoman.

Although she is highly trained in a military academy and a fit kick ass fighter, she’s not quite as invincible as we have expected Batman to be. Usually he completely overpowers his enemies but the fight sequences she has are not quite as one-sided which sort of increases the drama and tension. She’s still getting used to her new role.

Overall the quality of story, acting, stunts, action, and special effects are on par with the rest of the Arrowverse. If you’re a fan of those other series you will definitely want to add this one especially since this will be the last season for Arrow so there should be room in your schedule for another series. I’m giving it a strong rating of “I’m Watching“.

“Sunnyside” Celebrates Incompetent Politicians

Sunnyside” is a new sitcom from NBC starring Kal Penn. He’s of course most known for his role as Kumar Patel the Harold and Kumar movies. He plays Garrett Modi who is a disgraced former New York City councilman. He got elected promising to look out for the little people and then sat on his ass for years doing nothing. He was unanimously voted out of office by his colleagues after a DUI arrest that went viral on YouTube.

He tries to reinvent himself and redeem his image so he can get back into politics. Along the way he runs into a group of immigrants who need his help to pass their naturalization test.

The cast of immigrants is played by a variety of different ethnic types. You won’t recognize any of them. It’s a little bit difficult after just one episode for all of these strange characters to define themselves. Penn’s character is your typical loser who is self-centered and lazy. The premise is that when he takes up the cause of these people, it turns his life around.

I always judge a sitcom by the standard “Did it make me laugh?” And I suppose I got a chuckle or two along the way. But it’s not really very memorable.

I suppose there is potential here if you get to know the characters but I’m not sure it can hold your interest that long. It isn’t terrible but it really isn’t very interesting. I’m giving it a recommendation of “Skip it“. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s an early cancellation.

“Almost Family” is Almost Worthless

The new Fox drama “Almost Family” is the story of Julia Bechley played by Brittany Snow. Her father Leon Bechley played by Timothy Hutton is a famous fertility doctor. It is revealed that he has used his own semen to impregnate 100 women. Julia discovers that among them are childhood friend Eddie Palmer played by Megalyn Echikunwoke, and retired Olympic athlete Roxy Doyle played by Emily Osment. I haven’t bothered to tell you the resume of these people. You can click on the names to look them up on IMDb.

Although technically a drama, at times the show is a bit too lighthearted for such a serious topic. Some of the characters are bit goofy and the others are mostly unlikable. Only Snow’s character comes across as mildly sympathetic trying to deal with the situation.

The show is based on an Australian TV series titled “Sisters“. That was going to be this show’s original title and then it was changed to “Not Just Me” and then finally its current title. This tells me even the writers and producers couldn’t really decide what the show was all about.

I was only able to make it through about half of the one hour pilot episode before giving up. I give it my worst rating of “Worthless“. Rotten Tomatoes gives it 25% and Metacritic gave it 40/100. I’m not going to waste my time or yours discussing it further.

“Stumptown” is Mildly Entertaining but Nothing Special

ABC’s new detective series “Stumptown ” starring Cobie Smulders as Army veteran Dex Parios who becomes a private investigator in Portland Oregon. She is sort of a down on her luck, hard drinking, gambling PI in the tradition of classic PI stories. Whenever she gets in trouble, she has flashbacks to dramatic events when she was in Afghanistan. The other gimmick is that she has a grown brother who has Down Syndrome that she cares for.

Smulders is most known for her role as Robin Scherbatsky in ” How I Met Your Mother” but also has appeared in the Marvel Comic Universe as SHIELD agent Maria Hill. So she has some background in action series.

She hangs out in a bar owned by her friend Greg McConnell played by Jake Johnson who is most known for his role as Nick in “New Girl“. Camryn Manheim and Michael Ealy play Portland police detectives whom she encounters on a regular basis. Her special needs brother Ansel is played by newcomer Cole Sibus who either is a phenomenal actor or actually has Down Syndrome.

The opening plot was that she owes large sums of money to the local Indian casino and in order to pay off her debt she agrees to track down the casino owner’s runaway granddaughter. It turns out that the runaway is actually a kidnapping and everything goes sideways from there.

Some of the fight scenes and action sequences are almost played for comedy. While the character is believable and has a certain charm about her, there really isn’t anything special about this show. It’s just your ordinary down on her luck detective story. She drives around in a junk Mustang that fails to start most of the time she turns the key. The automobile stunts are a bit ridiculously impossible. Not quite as bad as Fast & Furious films but almost.

I’m a little bit disappointed that she calls her brother “Buddy” in a bit of a condescending tone. That term applied to intellectually disabled people sometimes comes across the same way the word “boy” would be perceived when applied to an African-American. The subplot of the brother really doesn’t add anything to the show.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the show. It’s mildly entertaining and has a few laughs along the way. If this was the 70s which was the heyday of PI shows with “Magnum PI“, “Mannix“, and ” The Rockford Files” it would fit right in to that genre. But these days you need to have a better gimmick to hold people’s interest.

I’m giving it a mild rating of “Could Be Watchable” but I’m not sticking with it.

“Prodigal Son” is a Hannibal Ripoff but it Works

In 2013 it was with much anticipation that we had a TV adaptation of “Silence of the Lambs” character Hannibal Lecter in the series “Hannibal” which explored the early days of the character before it was revealed that he was a cannibalistic serial killer. The show was highly stylized, very dark, and quite compelling. Sadly it only lasted three seasons. The new Fox drama “Prodigal Son” could easily be described as a ripoff of “Hannibal”. But as I said in the title, I think this one works just as well.

Tom Payne stars as Malcolm Bright, a former FBI profiler who now works with NYPD. His insights into the dark criminal mind, mostly from studying his own father, an infamous serial killer known as “The Surgeon”.

You may or may not recognize Payne from his most recent role as Paul “Jesus” Rovia in “The Walking Dead” without his long hair and beard which gave him the nickname in that series. Malcolm’s father surgeon Dr. Martin Whitley is very creepily played by Michael Sheen. This character is the most blatant ripoff of Hannibal Lecter. The relationship between him and the police profiler is more complicated because unlike Lecter vs Will Graham or Lecter vs Clarice Starling , this relationship is a father-son relationship. Malcolm Bright is much more like Will Graham in that he is a tortured soul not only because of the dark paths that his profiling takes him down as he explores the criminal mind but also because of the legacy of being the son of such an infamous killer. Dr. Whitley exploits this relationship and is constantly appealing to the dark side of his son’s personality declaring repeatedly “we are the same”.

Of course like Lecter, Whitley consults with the profiler to help him solve cases. He does so to manipulate his son to continue to visit him. In flashbacks we learned that Bright (who changed his name to distance himself from his infamous father) quit visiting his father in jail when he applied to the FBI Academy in Quantico.

Similar to the opening plot of last year’s new profiler drama ” Instinct ” in which the opening case was a copycat, the first case that Bright covers for NYPD is someone re-creating four of his father’s most famous killings.

Lou Diamond Phillips costars as Bright’s NYPD boss. Bellamy Young plays Bright’s mother. You will recognize her as Mellie Grant from ” Scandal“. We also meet his sister Ainsley played by Halston Sage who recently appeared as Lieut. Alara Kitan on ” The Orville ” although you might not recognize her without her alien forehead makeup.

Despite the fact that the entire thing is derivative of a variety of other stories in the genre, the father-son relationship adds an interesting twist and the overall execution of the story is very compelling. Set aside any trepidation you have about the fact that it isn’t entirely original and is very much a Hannibal ripoff and just sit back and enjoy the ride.

It is a very dark drama and deeply psychological. But I would say it is not quite as dark as the 2013 TV version of “Hannibal”. I’m giving it a strong rating of ” I’m Watching” and I recommend you give it a try if this kind of story appeals to you.

“Carol’s Second Act” Can’t Compete with her Previous Work

CBS has been touting Patricia Heaton’s new sitcom “Carol’s Second Act” as her return to CBS. This is referring to her highly successful starring role in “Everybody Loves Raymond” where she played Ray Romano’s wife Debra for nine seasons. Since then she’s had a variety of TV roles on other networks including another nine years on “The Middle“… a show I never watched but it must’ve been reasonably good to harass that long.

Like last year’s series “The Rookie” in which Nathan Filion becomes a rookie cop in his 40s, in this sitcom Heaton plays a retired teacher who decides to start a second career in medicine. The show picks up on her first day as an intern where she is often mistaken as an attending physician because of her age. She’s also mistaken as the head resident because she’s wearing a long lab coat which she explains isn’t really long, she’s just short.

At times she uses her experience as an evidentiary school teacher to treat her fellow younger interns like they were eight-year-olds which is neither interesting nor funny. It tries to be poignant but fails that that as well.

As I previously noted in my review of “Bob Hearts Abashola“, any sitcom that has to rely on poop or fart jokes does not bode well for quality comedy. Sadly this sitcom suffers the same fate.

It is mildly reminiscent of “Scrubs” in that it is a hospital workplace comedy and although I wasn’t a big fan of “Scrubs” I don’t think this new entry into the genre stands up to even that low bar.

Kyle McLaughlin costars as the chief attending doctor and although he has played somewhat comic roles in the past, the broad comedy of this sitcom and the goofiness of his character doesn’t seem to work very well. The rest of the supporting cast consisting of nurses and other interns is so interesting it’s not worth it to describe them.

As I’ve often stated my ultimate test of a sitcom is “Did it make me laugh?” Unfortunately this one didn’t.

Before I waste anymore of your time or mine let me just say I’m giving it a strong rating of “Skip It“. Move along… Nothing to see here.