a) "Santa Clarita Diet"
Victor Fresco created some of my favorite short-lived sitcoms that were a little too weird for network primetime like "Better Off Ted" and "Andy Richter Saves The Universe," so I was thrilled to hear that he'd have a new show on Netflix. And "Santa Clarita Diet" is really fun and funny in large part thanks to their freedom to curse and show as much gore as they want. The contrast of the banal setting and the plot about about an undead suburban mom who eats people is an easy joke, but they execute it really well with Fresco's chatty dialogue and Drew Barrymore's weird offhanded screen presence, which has never served her better than here. There were some times when I thought the premise might kind of spin out of control, but it really just got funnier and became more about Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant making their marriage work under these circumstances, really kind of a sweet, heartwarming show at its core. There are some superficial similarities between this and that other show about an undead woman, "iZombie," and that show's creator Rob Thomas seems to feel some type of way about it, but really they're both pretty unique shows that I love for different reasons (and Ryan Hansen has guested on both, so he should squash any beef).
b) "The Breaks"
I've written a couple pieces
for Complex interviewing cast members of this show and the movie that VH1 did last year as a backdoor pilot, so I've been kind of excited to see this become a series. The first episode proper didn't engage me as much as the movie, partly because it was shorter but also introduced more characters for the narrative to juggle and didn't seem to bring back some of the people I liked in the movie. But I like the way it set up the story to move forward, and the way they're continuing to thread fiction into actual rap history with stuff like the release party for Special Ed's second album. I thought it was funny that the main character kept talking down "The Mission" because that's the song from the record that I still hear in old school mixes all the time.
c) "Planet Earth II"
I grew up watching nature documentaries and I thought "Planet Earth" was basically the greatest masterpiece the genre has ever produced, so I've been pretty excited to see the same team do a new series ten years later. I already knew that the scene with the baby iguana escaping the snakes was going to be the standout of the first episode since it went viral last year when the episode aired in the U.K., but there was a lot of good stuff in there. I love David Attenborough's voice, and the way he pronounces the word "sloth" was surprising and hilarious.
d) "The Collection"
This new Amazon show is about the Paris fashion industry in the immediate aftermath of WWII. And like a lot of period pieces on TV these days, I'm impressed by the on location shooting and the costumes and everything, but I dunno how interested I am in the story or the characters to keep watching beyond the endless 2 hour pilot.
e) "Animal Nation with Anthony Anderson"
When I started seeing ads for Anthony Anderson's animal talk show, it looked so much like he was just ripping off Tracy Morgan's "Brian Fellow" sketches. It's a fun show but kind of a weird way for Anderson to spend his show biz clout from "Black-ish," though I can see it being a dry run for him to have a more traditional late night talk show at some point down the line. The fact that he had Jerry O'Connell on one of the first episodes and spent most of the time talking about Kangaroo Jack
was not too encouraging, but at least they had some kangaroos on set. It's awkward that they had a laugh track, though, there's an audience right there.
f) "The History of Comedy"
Pretty good new CNN documentary series, hits a lot of the beats you'd expect about the history of standup but they've got a lot of great archival footage and new interviews to make it feel a little fresh.
I was looking forward to FX doing a show about a minor character from the X-Men universe, I don't really read the comics so I don't know much about what they're getting into here, but it just seemed like there was a lot of potential to kind of branch into that world with a TV show and do something different from the movies. I really really hated the first episode of "Legion," though, it was pretty low on plot for a pilot to begin with and then stretched out to 90 minutes with a lot of indulgent disorienting setpieces that were meant to simulate the character's mental illness, which is really a trope I dislike more and more in TV shows and movies and seems to be the primary storytelling engine of "Legion." The last couple episodes have been more tolerable, but I'm starting to suspect that I will just hate anything Noah "Fargo" Hawley does. I feel bad for Aubrey Plaza, I thought she was ready for some kind of interesting starring vehicle and instead she's in a supporting role even more one dimensional than the one she had on "Parks & Recreation."
Between "The Chase" and "Good Behavior" and now this, it feels like there are just so many TV shows coming on these days about relationships that end when one of the people turns out to be a con artist. I think this one has more potential than the others, though, because there's a little of a comedic element, and they're doing a good job of running these parallel narratives of the con artists and their past victims who are trying to find them.
I feel like Comedy Central at this point is trying to develop a formula for sitcoms based on the success of "Workaholics" and "Broad City," basically single camera shows where a group of broke rascals try to get by in this crazy world. And "Detroiters" basically sticks to that formula but I don't think it really does much new or funny with it, which is unfortunate because shooting on location in Detroit at least gives it a unique feel and setting that you don't get on TV much.
Last fall CBS premiered "Pure Genius," a show about a tech billionaire taking over a hospital and running it like a Silicon Valley business, and this FOX show is about a tech billionaire privatizing the Chicago police force. Both of these shows feel like they're kind of romanticizing a dangerous trend in an icky way, but at least "APB" feels a little more aware and interested in exploring the downsides of the concept, but I'm still not really into it as a show.
k) "WorldStar TV"
It's kind of sad that WorldStar got its own real TV show just after the founder died. But this is really just kind of another MTV2 filler show where comedians comment on clips from the internet, and I guess viral videos of crazy things happening are a big part of WSHH's legacy, but I feel like they could've done something better than this.
I was really excited when I heard about this show, just the idea of a sitcom about the mortals living on the periphery of the world of D.C. comic superheroes had a lot of potential, plus Danny Pudi in the cast. And it's a really cute show, but I wish it was funnier, I'm hoping they find a groove and maybe figure out more to do with Pudi, although so far at least Alan Tudyk is really hilarious. I thought it was odd that instead of setting the show in Metropolis or Gotham, they came up with a fictional city called Charm City which is obviously not meant to be Baltimore.
m) "Superior Donuts"
I don't like to dismiss CBS sitcoms for being too traditional, because I think there's still some potential left in those old formulas. And I like the idea of an old fashioned workplace sitcom with some hall of famers like Judd Hirsch and Katey Sagal. But this show just isn't that funny, and it reminds me of "2 Broke Girls" in that they keep making cheesy jokes about, like, gentrification or sriracha to kind of keep the hoary old fashioned show feeling "current."
I never saw the Mandela movie with Idris Elba because people really seemed to dismiss it and the filmmakers didn't seem like they approached it the right way. But I liked this BET miniseries with Laurence Fishburne, felt like they got to dig into the story a little more and not just hit the big obvious moments.
o) "The Quad"
Doing a show set at a (fictional) HBCU was a good idea for BET, although the show is a little soapy, I'm not that interested in continuing to watch it, but the marching band stuff is well done and fun to watch.
p) "Z: The Beginning of Everything"
I think my favorite thing about this show on Amazon about Zelda Fitzgerald is that the episodes are only a half hour. I've gotten so used to all this big ambitious historical shows kind of going on and on and on that it's refreshing to see a show kind of scale down and focus on an individual's life. That title is a mouthful, though, couldn't they have just called it "Z"?
The CW doing a sexy modern version of Archie Comics was kind of a ridiculous joke before the show even aired, but the result is at least a little more charming than I expected. The fact that the show's first few episodes focus on making a statutory rape between Archie and a teacher seem romantic and normal TV relationship to root for is pretty fucked up, though, I'm glad there's been some backlash to that.
I thought maybe the novelty of having a reality competition show that's shot to look more or less like a scripted TV drama would be cool, and it is, but I think I'm still too allergic to reality competition shows to really get into this.
Walton Goggins as a Navy SEAL is a pretty good starting point for a show, and I respect that History Channel seems dedicated to making their scripted shows pretty realistic, but it's really kinda dry.
t) "Jeff & Some Aliens"
This is the first show to be spun off from Comedy Central's animated sketch show "TripTank," and it's not bad. But it also kinda feels like everything about this show's absurd gross out sci fi style was done a hundred times better by "Rick And Morty," which is hopefully returning soon.
u) "Voltron: Legendary Defender"
My son watched the first season of this when it debuted on Netflix last summer, but he wasn't into it enough to finish the season. He got really hooked with the new season, though, and went back and watched the rest of the first season. It's no "Trollhunters" but it's pretty fun, I like the animation style.
v) "The Path"
I felt like this show had a lot of potential last year, with this ominous atmosphere of dread hanging over it, but by the end of the first season I felt like it had just gone nowhere. So I'm sitting here watching the second season with my arms folded, waiting to be proven wrong, and so far I haven't. I'll try to stick it out to the end of the season, but so far it just feels like a generic dark violent TV drama full of people who were in better dark violent TV dramas.
w) "The Magicians"
My wife enjoyed the first season of this show so much that she spent the last year reading all three books that it's based on. So now when we watch the second season, she comments a lot on how different it is from the source material, I don't know if reading the books kinda ruined the show for her. I still like it a lot, though, I feel like they've figured out how funny the cast can be and are using that a little more this season. The season premiere's weird joke about Tim Daly and "Wings" was hilarious.
x) "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert"
Colbert got off to kind of a slow start on CBS, but he's really come into his own lately, and his ratings have been steadily rising lately where he's finally competing with Fallon. And the contrast between Fallon ruffling Trump's hair and Colbert getting sharper and meaner with his political monologues has been really interesting. At this point I finish "The Daily Show" feeling kinda dissatisfied most nights and head over to CBS at 11:30 to see Colbert do a better job of commenting on the events of the day.
y) "The Mindy Project"
I'm glad this show is back, even if they still keep swapping supporting players in and out willy nilly in a weird way. I'm glad they brought back Adam Pally even if it was just for one episode, but the whole Nurse Ben plot feels like it'll be forgotten as soon as it's over, dude is just kind of boring and I feel like the show could be doing something better than a constant rotation of boyfriend arcs.
It's funny to see my favorite little stupid USA drama back now that Meghan Markle has suddenly become one of the most famous people in the world. It feels like the show is finally moving forward now that they've gotten Mike going to jail out of the way, but I miss Gina Torres.