Doctor Doctor–Season 2 Premiere

The purpose of a season premiere is similar to the purpose of a season finale. The season finale’s job is to conclude the season’s story arcs and set up potential new arcs for the next season. The season premiere’s job is to commence new story arcs for the new season and to follow up on the potential plots set up in the previous season’s finale. By this logic, this premiere did about half its job.

Usually when a season premiere kicks off, especially second and beyond, the writers make a choice for a period of time to pass in the fictional world to give themselves wriggle room to kick off new arcs. In this case, four weeks have passed, which I think is a sufficient amount of time. I liked the writers’ choice to kick off with Hugh visiting Floyd and Penny at Bondi rather than at Whyhope, as it’s a smooth continuation of the vague last five minutes of last year’s finale. I also liked the writers’ choice to have them in a “non-relationship”—their friendship has clearly improved, they clearly have feelings for each other, but are also clearly not ready to face it and are living in blissful denial.

I also liked the reveal of Hugh’s other reason for being in Sydney–his artificial heart being transplanted into a human for the first time–which provided a nice throwback to the previous season. I felt that Hugh’s sense of failure when the patient ultimately died was true to his character, however I didn’t feel that the artificial heart moments really added anything else to the episode as a whole.

Back in Whyhope, Meryl has become mayor by a mere 11 votes, or so we think. Meryl’s disdain at the smell and colour of the mayoral robes was true to her character, and so was the reveal that she has hidden boxes filled with ballots. While we are yet to find out the context behind the hiding of the ballots, which will make a great story arc, Hayley’s attempts to hide them and her subsequent issues with her conscience were both true to her character and hilarious. I know her choice to hide rather than burn the boxes will come back to haunt both her and Meryl at some point.

Matt and Charlie are still separated with Matt apparently hiding out at some mystery location. The reveal of him actually staying at the local motel was predictable, however the cliche was kind of prevented by Matt revealing that he was originally staying in another town before coming back home. I found Charlie’s clingy then hilarious attempts to get Matt to come home realistic, however the highlight of this subplot for me was that it didn’t totally work at first as Matt snuck in to make the beer. I felt that Matt’s choice to ask Charlie about the B&S Ball incident was forced and only put in place to add further conflict–a writing necessity sure, but it didn’t feel natural. I mentioned in my review of last year’s finale that I hoped the writing of their relationship would be sorted out this season. Based on this, I feel that there’s still some work to do but since it’s only the premiere, I’ll give it a pass for now.

Meanwhile at the hospital, Nora is making everyone’s lives hell, but to me the most interesting development in her character is the reveal that she is clearly an incompetent doctor. However the reasons behind her incompetence are clearly going to be this season’s biggest story arc. It will be interesting to see how her character develops as the season progresses. In the meantime, Aoife has departed for India. While I enjoyed Shalom Brune-Franklin’s performances last season, I feel that since the relationship between her and Hugh had run its course, that she really had no further purpose in the show, so it made sense that she was written out. I’m just hoping that the writers don’t take Hugh down the same path with her replacement, the green but strong Mia (Brittany Clark). That being said I appreciated that Aoife made an appearance via Skype to give her a proper goodbye and that her and Hugh are on good terms.

I enjoyed the brief reveal of Penny dating a resident at her hospital. This will add some nice, necessary but also cliche conflict to the Hugh-Penny non-relationship.

Overall this season premiere was solid, but not spectacular. Other than the Matt and Charlie subplot, the writing was concise with nice throwbacks to the previous season, and the acting superb. I’m looking forward to reviewing the rest of the season.

 

Stray Observations:

Hospital Drama: A woman giving birth not realising she was carrying triplets as it was “a bit hard to get into town” for ultrasounds.

Dora sighting: Near the dam where Charlie was making her “alluring” video for Matt.

-There was no explanation for the hilarious appearance of the ram in Hugh’s office.

Throwbacks to season one: Hugh’s artificial heart, Jim’s blood disorder, the pharmaceutical rep that has casual sex with Hugh, the reveal of Ajax being Hugh’s son, and the B&S Ball.

-Ajax is clearly the most perceptive in the family as he noticed Jim’s fatigue before his collapse at the wheel.

-Matt is clearly the stealthiest family member with his methods of both preventing Charlie from waking up and letting her know that he was there.

-I didn’t really like Nora’s sexual harassment of Ken and the fact that it was meant to be hilarious. If the roles or rather the genders in this situation were reversed, no-one would be finding it funny.

 

Here Come the Habibs–Season 2 Finale (Leb Wedding)

The job of a season finale is to tie up the season’s loose ends and set up story arcs for the next season, if there is one. I felt that this finale really only tied up the loose ends and set up one story arc for another season.

You could argue that this season finale managed to pull off a season and a series finale simultaneously–on one hand you can say that all of the loose ends are tied up, and that Elias and Madison finally declaring their love for each other and getting engaged, is a great ending for the show. Whereas on the other hand you can say that while one potential story arc isn’t enough, the fact that the arc would be Elias and Madison’s engagement is big enough in itself to carry a season, and that the tying up of this season’s loose ends provides season three with the opportunity to start fresh.

While I loved the double wedding, especially Fou Fou and Olivia constantly trying to out-do each other with their respective weddings, as well as the drunk shenanigans at both the hens and bucks parties (more so the latter), there were too many cliches being thrown at the viewer. From Elias and Madison being stuck together for a few hours, to Layla recording proof of Yasmine’s con only for her phone to be destroyed, to Yasmine asking Elias to have nothing to do with Madison, to Layla being locked in a room to prevent her from revealing the truth. However I’ll give them a small pass as they helped move the episode forward.

Despite the excessive cliches, there was some solid character development, especially in regards to Jack. In Season 1’s finale, Jack finally stood up to Olivia which shocked her, this time he comforts Madison when she’s having doubts and reveals his own doubts about his marriage in the process. I enjoyed these moments as it shows Jack as a deep character and a loving father, a great contrast to the over-the-top, awkward, doormat Jack the viewers usually see. I also enjoyed the reveal that despite their conservative nature, Jack and Olivia had to marry due to Olivia’s pregnancy.

Overall this season finale was solid, in regards to season two as a whole I felt it was a huge improvement from the first. The first season of any show is all about establishing its characters, premise and finding itself, from the second season onward, a show should know its identify and grow accordingly. I felt that season two managed to do this successfully with improved writing, easing off the stereotypes (a little), and solid character development.

I hope there’s another season for me to review next year.

 

 

Stray Observations:

-Toufic’s invention for the episode–The Bride Glide.

-Apparently Jack and Olivia have Malcolm & Lucy Turnbull on their rolodex.

-Layla’s perception was on point in regards to Madison and Kanye’s relationship.

-Best one liners:

  • “You’re the nicest casual racist father-in-law a guy could ask for!” (Kanye to Jack)
  • “Yas I am” (Layla)
  • “Oh no all naughty!” (Anthea)

Speechless–Season 1, Episode 21 (P-R–Prom)

Both the DiMeo parents and the DiMeo kids had a fun night in this episode.

The A story revolves around JJ and Ray’s school prom, with Dylan also attending as the “bartender”. While usually JJ is the centre of attention, story wise, this episode Ray was front and centre, which was refreshing. Uniquely this episode peeled back another layer of the metaphorical onion, however this time it was a layer that didn’t directly affect JJ. Instead this layer focused on how a family member would deal with people’s ignorant perceptions of disability, which could possibly affect JJ at one time or another.

I personally enjoyed seeing Ray having to face a moral dilemma of this kind, especially as he is usually lecturing others on how to behave morally. It also shows that despite his intelligence that is usually beyond his years, at the end of the day, he is still a young and hormonal boy. The outcome of his situation with Riley was always obvious, his morality was always going to win over his desires, even if JJ gave his approval.

Meanwhile, JJ as usual is the unintentional centre of attention at his prom due to his disability, however I enjoyed how he managed to flip this on its head by having a fun, albeit brief non-prom with three miscasts. I stated brief as unfortunately the non-prom didn’t last long. I enjoyed the scenes between the four of them, especially due to the fact that they’re from different cliques and I would have liked to have seen more of them. I found that JJ ultimately going full circle, embracing the prom and drawing attention to himself, to relieve Caroline of her own self-consciousness, was true to his character and the right outcome.

Maya and Jimmy’s subplot of spending their night away from their kids as an opportunity to work on their marriage and air out old arguments, was hilarious. What made it even better was Kenneth acting as the judge/mediator on all of these arguments, eventually leading to him questioning how he fits into the family. I found Jimmy and Maya’s proposal to include Kenneth as part of the family slightly corny but also true to their character as their seemingly affectionate proposal, was really an excuse to get rid of some of their old stuff.

The writing was superb, especially in the cold open with Kenneth giving a “DiMeo sensitivity speech” to diners in a restaurant, which was a nice full circle moment in his relationship with them and a nice boomerang to how they met. The outcome of this moment was predictable but perfectly executed. I also found that the cold open was perfect foreshadowing of the A plot involving Ray and Riley.

On smaller notes I enjoyed Jimmy’s “party mode” on JJ’s wheelchair again displaying his talents for wheelchair costuming, and Dylan perfectly pulling off being a bartender, even going as far as studying “Tom Cruise in ‘Cocktail'”.

Overall this was a fun episode, focusing more on humour than drama, and with Maya, Jimmy and Kenneth, and the kids having their own plots, rather than mixing them up in pairs, which was a refreshing change.

 

Speechless–Season 1, Episode 20 (R-U-N–Runaway)

This episode was the second part of Speechless‘ first two-part story arc, an arc which was pulled off beautifully.

I’ve been talking about each aspect of JJ’s life as a special needs child being revealed to the viewer layer-by-layer, like a metaphorical onion being peeled. I believe the reason why a two-part story arc has only been explored now is due to the fact that each layer has explored JJ’s life in the past and present. This was the first time that JJ’s future was discussed in great detail, and what it would mean for each family member.

The A story of JJ running away both to Kenneth’s and later with Maya, was the most brilliant A story I’ve ever seen. I found the scenes between JJ and Kenneth in the cold open, and every family member yelling for JJ only to be yelling at themselves, provided necessary comedic moments for what turned out to be quite a heavy and profound episode. I thought Maya helping JJ run away by packing for him and taking him to the casino, entirely missing the point and finally getting it when JJ points it out to her, was heartbreaking and hard to watch. That being said the payoff was beautiful.

While we’ve seen JJ interact with other special needs kids before, this was the first time we see him interact with another person with CP, or as Maya affectionately dubs him, a “wheelchair badarse”. I found their interactions both sweet and funny, but I also enjoyed hearing Lee (Zach Anner) provide JJ with much needed advice on how to live independently without being preachy, which I predict he will take and put into action in future episodes.

I felt that the B and C stories were blips in comparison to the brilliant A story. While the reveal of Kenneth’s past as a basketballer was amusing and provided some nice character development, what I actually enjoyed about it was the fact that it lead to him and Dylan bonding and interacting, which is something else the viewers haven’t seen. I also felt that the minor C story of Ray and Dylan trying to get Jimmy to have a “heavy talk” and also get what they wanted out of it, didn’t really add to the episode and fell a little flat.

Overall this episode was incredible with lots of heart, hope, reality, and appropriately placed comedic and profound moments.

Here Come the Habibs–Season 2, Episode 7 (The Girl from Lebanon)

This episode comprised of two great mysteries, which made it a solid penultimate episode and a great springboard for next week’s season finale.

The two mysteries were obvious–What was Olivia’s downfall going to be in her attempt to run in the by-election, and what was Yasmine up to?

The A story of Olivia’s attempt to run in the by-election was like a wildfire. It got off to a great start by her and Fou Fou disputing over their imposed community service, which lead to Fou Fou throwing Olivia out of his car, which lead to her taking the bus, which lead to her inadvertently becoming an anti-racism hero. I liked the writers’ choice to have Olivia’s hatred of germs be misunderstood for taking a stand against racism and how quickly it escalated. Considering that Fou Fou couldn’t take Olivia down in public, taking her down in a private bathroom when her mic happens to be on was the only way it was going to happen. While the ‘mic being on’ element was cliche, considering how everything was going Olivia’s way, this was the only plausible outcome.

While the A story started and ended relatively quickly, the B story involving Yasmine (Danielle Horvat) was more of a slow burn. While it’s obvious that Yasmine is a con artist, the slow build up of her gaining the family’s trust, trying to win over Toufic and later Elias, and later calling an unknown person to confirm that “she’s in” was well paced and pulled off beautifully. The highlight of this plot for me was Layla quickly catching on to her and constantly following her around, especially as we only saw her eyes everywhere, as well as Jahesh giving Toufic advice on playing hard to get. While I expected Elias and Yasmine to be already married when they got off the boat, being engaged was a better outcome as it provides an A story for the finale and creates the much needed obstacle and tension between Elias and Madison.

Overall this episode was solid and I’m looking forward to next week’s season finale.

 

Stray Observations:

-Toufic’s invention for the episode–The Catch n’ Cook/Hot Rod.

-The show has another sort-of crossover with Olivia appearing on the Today show.

-I did enjoy Kanye’s brief appearances, however I would have enjoyed them more if he was subjected to character development.

-Best one liners:

  • “Idiot savant” (Yasmine on Toufic)
  • “Pretend she doesn’t exist and flex” (Jahesh)
  • “Being rich and white has to have some advantages” (Olivia)

 

 

Speechless–Season 1, Episode 19 (C-H–Cheater!)

So this episode peeled back another layer of the metaphorical onion, this time, JJ’s independence–both in the present and in the future, but I’ll get to that.

The A story of JJ “cheating” on tests was interesting but not spectacular. I liked the reveal of JJ’s cheating consisting of Kenneth giving him the answers, as well as the reveal of the teachers letting everything slide with him, however I felt that the outcome was predictable. Yes JJ was acting up and would have doubts, but we all know that he’s intelligent and would therefore pass at the end.

I felt that the B story was solid and I loved that it eventually led to the peeling back of the metaphorical onion. I found Ray’s interest in going to a careers fair to find out what type of careers make the most money, and the way in which he goes about it, hilarious. I felt it was smart on the writers’ part to have Ray sucked into a pyramid scheme as it makes him learn that he’s not always as smart as he thinks he is, especially due to his age and lack of life experience. What I enjoyed the most about this plot was Jimmy stepping up as a father by rightfully scolding Ray for his apparent greed and for revealing to him why he has a job rather than a career. Jimmy’s story, especially emphasising that he needed something “solid now, not great later” is something that a lot of people, especially college graduates such as myself, could really relate to.

While I found Dylan’s inadvertent trend setting by wearing the luggage that Jimmy brings to the careers fair humorous, the joke of it in itself fell flat and didn’t really add anything to the episode.

What I loved the most about this episode was the end, not because I wanted it to end, rather that every element of the B story paid off beautifully in the last few minutes, and peeled back another layer of the metaphorical onion. I didn’t see the reveal of Ray wanting to make a lot of money to support JJ, and the fact that both he and Dylan worry about JJ’s future coming. I felt that the whole family discussing the possibilities of JJ’s future was both heartbreaking and realistic. What was equally heartbreaking was the fact that JJ’s joy at proving his independence at school was taken away from him by overhearing his family making assumptions of his future independence.

I loved the writers’ choice to have JJ runaway like a typical kid and the fact that the episode ended on this note unexpectedly turned it into a two-parter, which was a good twist.

Overall this episode was mostly flat but later turned into a great first part of a two-part episode.

Here Come the Habibs–Season 2, Episode 6 (The Beach)

I recently reviewed an episode of American sitcom, Speechless, where the episode was set in one location and character-by-character stories unfolded and were related to this one location. My verdict on that episode was favourable due to this setting, and I feel the same way about this episode of Here Come the Habibs.

This episode was set mostly at one location–the beach. Both the Habibs and the O’Neills are looking forward to a day out, which is pretty much ruined when they run into each other in the parking lot. I loved the writers’ choice to have Jack and Mariam secretly plan the beach day in an effort to get Fou Fou and Olivia to resolve their differences and how things quickly escalated.

I felt that the tactics between Fou Fou and Olivia to one up each other perfectly suited their characters–who else would think to change the labels on the sunscreen and aioli other than Fou Fou? Who else would be callous enough to ruin Mariam’s food other than Olivia? The climax of the situation leading to Olivia and Fou Fou fighting with a beach safety flag and a fish respectively and getting arrested was inevitable and hilarious, which lead to some great and fleeting courtroom scenes.

I felt that the Kanye-Madison-Elias love triangle wasn’t explored as much as it should be, however I felt that this was a deliberate choice by the writers. Rather than having this explored, they have chosen to set it up to be explored in the remaining episodes. It will be interesting to find out whether Madison will stay with him and more importantly, whether the relationship is part of a visa scam as Layla suggested. The most interesting part about his introduction was the awkward scenes between Kanye, Olivia and Jack. Olivia and Jack have been racist and overly politically correct/awkward respectively to the Habibs, and the fact that they acted in a similar way towards Kanye shows that their behaviour isn’t entirely personal and they are uncomfortable towards other races, which provided interesting and unexpected character development.

I felt that the courtroom scenes broke up the episode perfectly, it was a way for the story to be told and prevented any pacing problems. Having Mustafa act as Fou Fou’s solicitor was a nice twist as you would expect it to be Toufic, however it was nice for him to briefly have the spotlight. I felt that the magistrate’s sentence for Olivia and Fou Fou to complete community service and carpool was the perfect punishment. The punishment was not too dissimilar to punishments that would be dished out by a parent or teacher to misbehaving children, and now that Olivia owns her house, the punishment provides another conflict for them.

Overall this episode was mostly solid and understated due to the simplicity in the premise and setting.

 

Stray Observations:

-Toufic’s invention for the episode–The Sand Bar.

-Officers Kemp and Darley (Dave Eastgate and Genevieve Hegney) return.

-Best one liners:

  • “Raising your eyebrows, that’s racist!” (Mustafa)
  • “Don’t try to calm me down with your delicious cooking!” (Fou Fou)