TV Review - The Middle, New Girl, The Mindy Project, A to Z, Mulaney & Cristela

New sitcoms like "Mulaney" failed to gain traction
I used to love The Middle, but, at six seasons, it's perhaps been going for too long. What's dissolving it is the idea that it's a family comedy that's built on the strength of all these characters living together and dealing with each others quirks and oddities. At this point, it makes no sense because the children in particular are practically grown and should be over many of their quirks and oddities. The children really should be moving out and moving on with their lives outside the home. Episodes like the Thanksgiving episode this year, which brought the family together for a specific reason, was fine, even though there was a lot of missed opportunities there, but the other episodes felt more forced and straining for a purpose. Missed opportunities include the exploration of sex. The two youngest children are both teenagers in high school. Sue, played by Eden Sher, and Brick, played by Atticus Shaffer, both have a boyfriend and girlfriend respectively. Yet, sex seems to be a topic not-to-be broached with those two.

I was never into New Girl, but I started watching it now that it's in its fourth season. The premiere episode "Last Wedding" was funny, and it hooked me. Yet, since that episode, I'm not sure the series, created by Elizabeth Meriwether, uses its ensemble to the fullest and best. Zooey Deschanel is funny as the titular character, Jess, but I could care less about any of the other characters. Max Greenfield who plays Schmidt is consistently annoying and for Damon Wayans, Jr., the show feels like a consolation prize for the loss of Happy Endings, which used its ensemble, in terms of writing and directing, in far better ways. Yet, Alan Ritchson, the CW's version of Aquaman, who guest starred was briefly well used. Cruel and hilarious to give that gorgeous a guy a micro-penis! Its other guest stars are a mixed bag in terms of how they're used. Jessica Biel was okay but Rob Reiner wasn't.

The Mindy Project is great, particularly now in its third season. I loved the pilot episode, but I felt that the show quickly fell off from there. The second season didn't do much to lift things, but it did lay the groundwork for what is now a fantastic junior year. What's great is that Mindy Kaling who plays Mindy Lahiri and Chris Messina who plays Danny Castellano are finally a couple. It was obvious from the first season that this is where the show was going, so it's nice that it's finally there. Mindy believes she's living in a movie rom-com and the Season 2 finale was the most prime example but better than any that's been in theaters in a while. Now, the show is exploring Mindy and Danny's relationship, and this has yielded gold. Kaling is great as always, but the greatness that is Messina has really been unleashed. He's funny. He's sexy and at times just weird. The ensemble is well used like the rivalry between Jeremy, played by Ed Weeks, and Peter, played by Adam Pally, and it's guest stars are amazing, such as Rhea Pearlman and Mark Duplass.

A to Z is like 500 Days of Summer but as a TV series on NBC. It's also a more adult version of the recently canceled Manhattan Love Story. The premise is that, as Katey Sagal narrates, we're watching the dating period of Andrew and Zelda, which lasts for 8 months, 2 weeks, 6 days and 1 hour. What happens after that, no one knows or that's to be revealed. However, what happens after or even during turns out to be a big, so what? Ben Feldman who plays Andrew and Cristin Milioti who plays Zelda are cute, but there's not much to make me care about these people. Andrew works at an Internet dating company and Zelda works at a law firm next door, and I wish more was focused on their jobs than stupid details of their dating life. There are interesting questions like using Google to dig dirt on people and whether that should affect how you perceive them, but when there isn't any real dirt, then, again, so what? I liked the brief appearance of Christian Gehring (DTLA) and Jensen Atwood (Noah's Arc) but not much else.

Much like Jerry Seinfeld and Louis CK, John Mulaney has made a comedy series that has him doing standup as himself, followed or inter-cut with a sitcom that involves him acting out scenarios or themes from that standup act. Mulaney as a series is nowhere near as good as Seinfeld or Louie, and I think I agree with other critics who think Mulaney himself is not that great of an actor. What's interesting is John Mulaney was a writer on Saturday Night Live and co-created the character of Stefon, played by Bill Hader. Stefon is probably the funniest and by far one of the best characters to run on SNL in about a decade. What Mulaney should have done is made a TV series about Stefon and had Hader star in it.

Finally, Cristela is watchable because its creator and star Cristela Alonzo is great. Unlike John Mulaney who is the creator and star of his show, Alonzo is a much better actress and has a much better screen presence. The cast is great. Gabriel Iglesias plays Alberto, the horny, Mexican friend who wants to date Cristela but keeps getting shut down. Carlos Ponce plays Felix, the sexy brother-in-law who has a love-hate and hate-love relationship with Cristela. Andrew Leeds plays Josh, the sweet but nerdy co-worker at the law firm where Cristela interns who could be a possible love interest for Cristela or her gay best friend. He walks a weird, ambiguous line.

The Middle: Season 6
Four Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-PG-L.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Wednesdays at 8PM on ABC.

New Girl: Season 4
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DLS.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Tuesdays at 9PM on FOX.

The Mindy Project: Season 3
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DSL.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Tuesdays at 9:30Pm on FOX.

A to Z
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-L.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Thursdays at 9:30PM on NBC.

One Star out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DL.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Sundays at 9:30PM on FOX.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-PG-D.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Fridays at 8:30PM on ABC.


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