Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week, it’s Black-ish, Bob’s Burgers, Constantine, and Gotham.
Christina Harrington is watching…
Bob’s Burgers, Fox
Season 5, Episode 4: “Dawn of the Peck”
In the vein of the criminally underserved Thanksgiving Special, Bob’s Burgers‘ “Dawn of the Peck” is an incredibly fun ride through a Turkey Trot gone wrong, and an inside look into what Bob does when his family leaves him at home alone. Somehow a send-up of both zombie films and Jurassic Park, “Dawn of the Peck” follows the the Belcher clan (and Teddy, Ollie, Andy, Regular-Sized-Rudy, and Mickey) as they make their way through a poultry infested town and back to the safety of their homes. But the best parts of this episode don’t happen with Linda and the kids, but back at their apartment with Bob.
One of this show’s greatest strengths is the way in which the Belchers and their supporting cast have avoided being reduced to their most obvious traits (a phenomenon known as Flanderization). Instead, characters regularly surprise viewers with glimpses into their hidden depths. Last week’s episode, “Friends with Burger-fits,” saw a genuinely vulnerable Teddy rather than the usual dense one, and in this episode, it’s Bob’s turn to surprise. Deprived of making the traditional Thanksgiving feast and without his family, Bob entertains himself by getting drunk and, because of course he does, singing along to Donna Summer.
While trying to find a bottle opener, Bob happens across his abandoned turkey baster. A guilt-ridden monologue follows, eventually leading to Bob breaking down and admitting that he wanted to make the feast, that it’s his favorite part of the day, and maybe even the whole year. H. Jon Benjamin’s performance is both funny and heartwarming, and reveals the core of Bob’s character: he might protest when things get tough, but in the end, cooking is his passion and is incredibly important to his happiness. And in the end, his family will support that passion, even if they don’t eat any of his turkey.
Episode Highlight: Bob’s drunken letter to his family explaining that he’s gone to the supermarket and, specifically, H. Jon Benjamin’s reading of it, is so damn endearing, especially when he gets to the end: “Love forever, Bob.” Someone with power please renew this series in perpetuity. Please.
Haley Winters is watching…
Season 1, Episode 8: “Oedipal Triangle”
I should start by saying that I am all-in with Black-ish, the Kenya Barris sitcom that hopes to finally give Modern Family some much-needed competition when it comes to actually depicting the modern family. Overall, I’ve found Black-ish to be a wonderfully straightforward family comedy that hits the major sitcom beats through a single camera lens. And especially in light of certain ugly not-so-recent events that will likely soon take The Cosby Show out of the sitcom canon, it’s great news to have a new show about a black family that can capture and entertain audiences regardless of race.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that this week’s episode, “Oedipal Triangle,” was not one of Black-ish’s strongest. Luckily it’s perhaps the first weak episode, and I’m deep enough with these characters to soak up all the humor they have to offer. The plot is classic sitcom: Dre (Anthony Anderson) must balance his relationships with his wife Bow (the lovely Tracee Ellis Ross) and his mother (guest Jenifer Lewis). There are lots of Dre’s-in-love-with-his-mother jokes, which is kind of low-hanging fruit. A subplot involving oldest daughter Zoey (Yara Shahidi, who plays the Sarah Hyland role here) helping her brother Junior (Marcus Shribner) land a date is not particularly interesting, but it’s nice to see the kids getting some of their own screen time, and both young actors are talented and funny enough to keep the energy going.
The episode overall is solidly OK, but with seven previous great episodes, if you want to pick up Black-ish (and you should), don’t start here.
Episode Highlight: Don’t worry about tiny Diane (Marsai Martin) being traumatized by her parents fighting: “I don’t internalize these things,” she quips.
Julian Ames is watching…
Season 1 , Episode 5 “Danse Vaudou”
I’ve seen a lot of early reviews of Constantine compare the show to Supernatural. I’ve never seen the latter so I can’t remark on their similarities, but I think a comparison that often gets missed is the one between Constantine and Doctor Who. You’ve got the travelling guy with a mysterious, tortured past trying to fix all these supernatural/sci-fi problems. Of course, he’s a loner that just happens to work with a posse, one of which is a beautiful woman. And don’t forget about the obvious: he’s a British guy with a cool long coat. Not to mention the cryptic overarching threat that gets slowly revealed throughout the season. Constantine keeps up the insanity and scares of Doctor Who, often even surpassing them, while avoiding too many confusing plot elements (timey-wimey, anyone?) and stale writing. Every time I sit down to watch a new Constantine episode, I get the same feeling I used to get watching the early episodes of Doctor Who’s new run.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think this familiar feeling is what got me interested in Constantine from the get-go. The point that the show really sold me though was the third episode, “The Devil’s Vinyl,” in which our protagonist, John Constantine (Matt Ryan), has to track down a record cursed by The Devil (I think) that possesses whoever hears it; as the music editor for Deadshirt I am WAY INTO this idea. That episode also introduced a charismatic antagonist known as Papa Midnite (Michael James Shaw), a voodoo priest with means, an axe to grind with John, and a dope wardrobe. Midnite returns in “Danse Vaudou,” having accidentally raised the spirits of several people, sending them on ironic killing sprees all over New Orleans, so he teams up with Constantine to put them to rest.
In addition to teaming up with Papa Midnite, Constantine also allies with police officer Jim Corrigan (Emmett J Scanlan) with a dubious-at-best N’awlins accent, bringing the total posse of this self-proclaimed loner up to four–including his regular team of psychic Zed Martin (Angélica Celaya) and the delightful, undying Chas (Charles Halford). Five episodes in, the series seems to have settled into the “team up with someone new every episode” formula, but having Constantine work with an adversary, especially so early in the season, is a nice change of pace, even moreso when that person is the scene stealer that Papa Midnite is.
Episode Highlight: One of the killers asks her victims “Do you think I’m pretty?” before killing them. On her second encounter with Chas he responds with “I dunno, do you think *I’m* pretty?” catching the killer spirit off guard causing her to hesitate. Classic. Plus: Papa Midnite’s outfit!
Jen Overstreet is watching…
Season 1, Episode 9: “Harvey Dent”
This week, Gotham stops being coy and finally gives us Harvey, the real Harvey, the Harvey Dent we deserve but maybe not the Harvey Dent we wanted. After the noble Dent of the Christopher Nolan films, it seems like a smart move for Gotham to change gears and reintroduce Dent as an immediately unsettling character. We meet Dent showing off his signature coin flip by tricking a child into staying off the streets. He suggests to Gordon & the DA a double-dealing plan to corner corrupt (porn tycoon, I hope?) Dick Lovecraft with righteous certainty.
In the meantime, Selina Kyle is sent to Wayne Manor to keep her off the streets. Alfred plays reluctant foster dad, while Bruce finally gets to talk to someone his own age. Penguin is excellently creepy, finding out Fish’s secret weapon, while Fish vamps and connives as usual.
The bad guy of the week is a bomber, jail-broken from a transport truck by mysterious gangsters, and put to the task of breaking into a vault. The gangsters (of course) turn out to be on Fish Mooney’s payroll, in another attempt to hit back at Maroni. This plot feels secondary to the episode, which focuses on moving characters into new situations, and introducing Dent. It does bring up the poor treatment of mentally ill inmates of Gotham Penitentiary, who are all moved to the ill-equipped Arkham Asylum by Mayoral face-saving by the end of the episode.
Dent meets with Dick Lovecraft and his corporate cronies. Lovecraft is unimpressed by his accusations, and Harvey shows his good side by turning psychotically threatening for a brief moment. This Dent comes pre-unhinged, two-faced without the help of any face acid. Fitting with the show’s theme of growing vigilantism in response to Gotham’s corruption, Dent approaches prosecuting the villains of Gotham with extreme moral righteousness, disregarding due process or tangible evidence.
Barbara also moves on, providing her single line of dialogue per episode about how much she loves Jim in a note this episode. Frustratingly, we end the episode with her in bed with Montoya (gasp!), further solidifying her as the romantic football being passed around without any other defining characteristics.
Episode Highlight: In some delightful exchanges between Bruce and Selina, Bruce finally gets to seem like a preteen. In comparison to Selina, a kid who’s aged too fast through the necessity of street living, Bruce’s bizarre precociousness is acknowledged for how ridiculous it seems. Instead of adults being vaguely confused and freaked out by Bruce’s interest in their stock portfolio, we see Selina watching bemusedly as Bruce practices holding his breath underwater for no apparent practical reason. One of the things that Gotham does best is setting up the outrageous scenarios of Gotham City and Batman’s existence while simultaneously pointing out how ridiculous it seems.