TV Diary

a) "Silicon Valley"
In a way this is the closest anything Mike Judge has done to Office Space since Office Space, but as a TV show, which should be pretty promising in and of itself, but so far I'm not very enthusiastic about it. I like the cast, but T.J. Miller, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, all those guys feel a little bit wasted, and the most memorable character, Peter Gregory, is played by Christopher Evan Welch, who died halfway through shooting the season, which doesn't bode well for the future.

b) "Penny Dreadful"
I love Eva Green so much that I watched the last unpromising historical fantasy cable series she was on, "Camelot" on STARZ, and so I will watch this one two. It even has Timothy Dalton. A Bond and a Bond girl! The pilot didn't really grab me, though, kinda felt like they set the story in motion without really having a lot of forward momentum to make me care what happens from here on out.

c) "Fargo"
The only thing odder than TV adaptations of successful movies is ones where they abandon all the actual characters and stories from the movie and just run with the basic tone and premise. It worked for "Parenthood" because they had a readymade template for heart-warming family drama; here, trying to replicate the vibe of one of the Coen brothers' signature films for serialized black comedy in the frigid, friendly midwest (and like "Parenthood," there was already one aborted "Fargo" TV pilot back in the '90s that hedged closer to the source material). After a while, I get a really icky uncanny valley feeling watching this -- it's kind of sort of like Fargo the movie, except you don't even feel a little bit of pity for Martin Freeman like you did for William H. Macy. And, honestly as great as the movie was, it's a little dated, and the soft fun it pokes at Minnesotans has curdled a bit -- in the pilot, you get a stripper saying "ohh yeah ohh yeah ohh yeah" in an exaggerated Minnesota accent while getting plowed by a customer, and another character saying "ah jeez ah jeez ah jeez" while murdering someone with a hammer. The whole thing is kind of gross.

d) "Bad Teacher"
Turning Bad Teacher into a TV series is probably not as hard as Fargo, just in terms of the size of the shoes you're filling -- the movie basically felt like a sitcom to begin with. But the moderate laughs Bad Teacher did get were basically only possible with an R rating, so the defanged version for network primetime just felt kind of sad -- plus Ari Graynor might be too likeable to pull off the heel turn required by the role. Not surprised it was canceled after 3 episodes.

e) "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver" 
I was excited by the recent announcement that something as promising as "The Minority Report With Larry Wilmore" will take "The Colbert Report"'s place after "The Daily Show," because for a while there I was feeling kind of annoyed that because of the luck of timing, John Oliver's logical role as the successor of that timeslot had been missed because he happened to sign up for this HBO show just before Colbert got the Letterman gig. I'm still a little weirded out by Oliver doing a shamelessly "TDS"-like show once a week on another network, though -- he could've some SOMETHING to try and make it a less transparent reenactment of the same format. But needless to say, it's really funny, and he's already starting to stake out some territory than feels a little different than how Stewart covers the news. The show's biggest strength, though, might be that they have to jam-pack the best show they can do for the whole week into 30 minutes, and they do it on Sunday, when there's invariably been 3 whole days of news to talk about that Stewart and Colbert's Thursday shows didn't get a chance to cover -- sometimes it irritates me to see "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" struggle not to make the same obvious joke about the same breaking headline.

f) "This Is Hot 97"
Making painfully uncomfortable hip hop-themed reality shows is kind of what VH1 does now, and I'm comfortable avoiding them and hearing about the silliness on Twitter. I had to check this one out just to see what the fuck they're going for, though, and man, if there's any sadder than bad reality TV, it's bad satirical reality TV. You get a bunch of radio personalities who aren't quite as funny as they think they are together, and let them do some weird awkward sitcom bickering over obviously staged "plots," good god, it's terrifying. It reminds me a bit of that really bad Gene Simmons reality show. Plus, I mean, these are mostly all people who have a face for radio, as the saying goes.

g) "Playing House"
Two years ago, Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair had a show on NBC, "Best Friends Forever," for a few episodes, that was about someone moving back to their hometown to reconnect with their best friend. Now, they're doing more or less the same show on USA, except in this version one of them is pregnant. Both shows were charming and minor, the main difference being that this one is on cable and might last for more than 6 episodes.

h) "Friends With Better Lives" 
One of my favorite things about the "Community" finale was the riff on a potential spinoff that perfectly lampooned so many current hopeless relationship-themed network sitcoms ("something that would last 6 episodes and have a lot of bickering about tweezers and gluten, starring them an equally WASP-y brunette couple, with a title like 'Better With My Worse Half,' or 'Awfully Wedded,' or 'Tying The Not,' but 'knot' is spelled without a 'k,' or '#CouplePeopleProblems.'") I would almost say they were directly dissing "Friends With Better Lives" if not for the dozen other shows that are just as likely the target. I actually almost enjoyed this show, though, mainly for Zoe Lister-Jones, who will hopefully someday find a better show than this or "Whitney."

i) "Surviving Jack"
Chris Meloni has been ready to do a sitcom for a long time, but this really wasn't the one that was gonna work. Very similar situation to "Growing Up Fisher" starring J.K. Simmons, another "Law & Order" guy who everyone knows is funny and finally did a sitcom that just turned out to be lame.

j) "TripTank"
As long as "South Park" is making money, Comedy Central will keep trying to make new animated shows, and they will keep being awful. This one is animated shorts with a whole lot of different people involved, so it's inevitably kind of a grab bag of good and bad, but what little I saw was just kind of crass and lazy.

k) "Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey"
I really need to catch up on this, I've only seen one episode and it was really good. This is the kind of thing, though, that I look forward to watching with my son in a few years, when he can understand it, this seems really made to blow kids' minds and expose them to ways of looking at the world.

l) "Rick And Morty"
This really grew on me after a few episodes. Sometimes it's just a little indulgent in its high-concept misanthropy, but it's done with a little more intelligence than the usual Adult Swim willful absurdity and some of the episodes just pull off something really strange and unique.

m) "Believe"
I've never seen a show tank from the pilot to the second episode so badly, mainly because the pilot was directed by Alfonso Cuaron and the second just looked like another awkwardly directed TV action drama. But also, the great villain from the pilot didn't appear at all in the next couple episodes I watched, so I lost interest pretty quickly.

n) "Veep"
Still a great, amazingly sharp show, although they're clearly hitting that 3rd season point where they're trying to rearrange the dynamics between characters and some of it works, some of it doesn't (Jonah is still funny, but getting him fired from the White House and shifting around to different jobs every episode is getting weird).

o) "Funny Or Die's Billy On The Street"
I feel like this is one of the rare shows where an increase in celebrity cameos is a good thing, because Billy Eichner is just a maniac and finds a way to make it funny and unexpected every time. Looking forward to the sitcom with him that USA recently picked up.

p) "The Mindy Project"
I feel like this show really hit its stride and figured out the right cast chemistry this season (especially with the addition of Adam Pally), but the relationship between Mindy and Danny always worked better when it was teased as a hypothetical than now that they've actually gone there, kinda hoping that doesn't become the focal point of the show for the next season or two.

q) "New Girl"
"New Girl" was arguably hurt by the on-again off-again relationship stuff with Jess and Nick too, but so far it hasn't really bothered me, this season ended with some strong episodes.

r) "Raising Hope" 
This show really started strong and petered out; I wanted to feel outraged when FOX threw it on Friday nights to burn off episodes, but those episodes never really seemed as strong as the early seasons, so I couldn't muster much disappointment when they inevitably canceled it. The series finale barely even felt like a season finale.

s) "Parks And Recreation"
Now, this is a show where the season finale felt a little too much like a series finale, it almost feels weird that they're doing one more season now, it feels like they've got one foot out the door.

t) "Justified"
Another show that's now got one year left, and feels like it's already almost run its course. There were a few really cool moments spread out over a ho-hum season this year, but I kinda get the sense they're ready to go out with a bang and do a really good final season, so I'm glad I've stuck with the show.

u) "The Soup"
When Joel McHale was in town recently for the White House Correspondents' Dinner, they taped "The Soup" in D.C. at the NBC building, and my boss got to run Joel's teleprompter for the episode, which made me so, so, so jealous. That coulda been me! Oh well. Now that "Community" is done it's nice that dude still has a job, I'm glad he never got used to the network money and left "The Soup," at this point it's hard to imagine anyone else hosting.

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