TV Diary

a) "The Strain"
This has been a real thrill ride so far, just not knowing exactly how far they're going to take the premise and being impressed by how many tiers they're moving the story forward on. I knew when Guillermo Del Toro was producing a show that it would look great, but thankfully there wasn't a huge difference between the look and quality of his pilot and of the subsequent episodes directed by other people (which was a huge issue with Alfonso Cuaron's "Believe" and some other shows where the pilot was done by a big film director). I just hope the story keeps spreading out interestingly instead of becoming a dull sci-fi soap opera like "The Walking Dead."

b) "You're The Worst"
The pilot was really funny and did a good job of establishing the leads as horrible people that are still watchable and even kind of likable, in a way that's more broadly satirical than, like, the post-"Seinfeld" sitcom formula. Aya Cash had a thankless role in the short-lived FOX show "Traffic Light," but she totally pulls off an unusual kind of character in this. Also, I really enjoy the whole subplot about her being the publicist for a rapper character who dresses like Tyler, The Creator and skateboards and gets in trouble for throwing around gay slurs. The kind of very specific meta gag that I feel like only a few people are going to find as funny as I do.

c) "Married"
FX has paired this show with "You're The Worst" as kind of a block of comedies that are deeply cynical about relationships. But this one is a little more situated in reality, while also being one of those overly bleak depictions of marriage that, depending on how charitable you want to be, could be put in the same lineage as "Married With Children" or "This Is 40." But Judy Greer is the best, I refuse to believe that being married to her would be anything but wonderful. So I dunno, sometimes this show has a lot of promise, sometimes it just feels like it's marking time and trying harder to be depressing than funny. Also, a little awkward that they didn't have the supporting cast in place in the pilot so they just kinda show up in the second episode. The whole thing with the really old guy Jenny Slate is married to turning out to be married to Paul Reiser is funny, though. I could see the ensemble coming together and this becoming a strong show eventually, but they've already pretty quickly started lazily doing A plots with Faxon/Greer and B plots with the rest of the cast that never meet up, which feels really lazy to me given.

d) "Legends"
I'm amused that Sean Bean's latest starring vehicle has a whole "Don't Kill Sean Bean" marketing meme, and I'm also amused that his hacker sidekick is played by the girl who was Mac, the hacker sidekick on "Veronica Mars." The show itself, not especially amusing, though, don't know if I'll stick with it.

e) "Outlander"
A show in which a super hot World War II era British lady has lots of sex, then magically travels back in time to 1743 Scotland, and has more sex. It wasn't until I watched an episode that my wife informed me that it's based on a popular series of romance novels, which I suppose I should've saw coming. Not terribly compelling, but it is a cable show with lots of sex, so it's got that going for it.

f) "Rush"
The USA network seems to be trying to ramp up the explicit material in their original programming -- I'm pretty sure the latest season of "Suits" has had an uptick in swearing, and the pilot for this show has a scene full of a guy yelling the word "cock" several times. This really feels like the usual USA bullshit, though, handsome guy is some kind of special secret doctor for rich people and of course his last name is Rush. I hate that shit, shows where the title has a double meaning based on the main character's last name. Except for "Masters of Sex," that show's based on a true story so God wanted that pun to happen.

g) "Satisfaction"
Another envelope-pushing USA show, about a regular guy who becomes a prostitute. Except HBO already did that a couple years ago, and while they really don't want you to compare the two shows, "Hung" was a pretty funny, underrated show and this is just kind of earnest and stupid.

h) "Black Jesus"
Truth be told, I was never that big a fan of "The Boondocks," as a comic or as a TV show, it just felt like Aaron McGruder was more interested in being subversive than being actually funny. But this show is just the pits, lacking even the merits of "The Boondocks." I'm sure there's someone somewhere that finds this offensive, or find it refreshing and edgy, but it feels like the weak-ass juxtapositions of LOL JESUS AS A BLACK MAN IN MODERN COMPTON get run into the ground in the first five minutes and after that it's just the longest comedy sketch ever.

i) "Garfunkel And Oates"
I'm getting pretty sick of the latest crop of comedians getting TV shows and just make it about their lives as comedians, so my hopes weren't really high about this. But it's not as twee or obnoxious as I expected, and the 2nd episode in particular was just great, the whole Chris Parnell plot as well as the bit about them meeting the porn parody version of themselves.

j) "Soundclash"
I appreciate that VH1 keeps trying to make shows that are actually about live music, but ?uestlove and Diplo getting together and making a show about acts from different genres doing a mini-festival together that culminates in a wacky cover collaboration/mashup thing, I dunno, it's just kinda trying too hard, whole thing feels stilted and silly. Also the first episode had Sia doing that ridiculous thing where she sings with her back to the audience and someone else wears a wig that looks like her hair and mouths the words, that shit is the worst.

k) "The Leftovers"
I guess this show has become pretty divisive, a lot of hate-watching talk around it, but I've been enjoying it a lot. Sometimes the episodes that turn into mini-biographies of certain characters feel a little too "Lost," but I've started to really appreciate the cast and how some of the actors have pulled off great performances as really strange characters in situations that haven't totally revealed themselves yet -- particularly Ann Dowd, Michael Gaston and Carrie Coon. And really, with all the scary shit like what's happening in Ferguson right now, it's kind of working for me right now to have something this bleak to watch, I'm just kind enjoying watching the situation escalate but not sure where it's going.

l) "Tyrant"
I still have a lot of misgivings about this show, which is basically all the usual gritty American cable drama tropes dropped into the middle east, especially since I watched The Godfather recently and this really feels kind of transparently modeled on that story too. But so far it's pretty compelling and I'm interested to see where the story is going. Ashraf Barhom's performance is pretty consistently great and increasingly complex and unpredictable, also Moran Atias is gorgeous, I kinda would just watch it for her.

m) "Halt And Catch Fire"
Now that the first season is over, I'm still kind of on the fence about it, which is not really a good sign. It feels a little like "Rubicon," one of those times when an AMC show avoids big moments so studiously that it risks being boring, and of course that one only lasted one season. I liked it overall, though, by the end of the season they really succeeded in making Gordon and Donna's marriage the most interesting story, but the rest of the characters, they never totally got fleshed out and felt kind of like archetypes.

n) "Drunk History"
I still love this show so much and am so happy that it's on TV. But it's also true that if you've seen it once, you get the idea, and there's a bit of a law of diminishing returns with it. There have been some great episodes this season, though, and the casting often makes things pop. "Weird Al" Yankovic as Adolf Hitler was just legendary.

o) "Suits"
Still one of my favorite shows on TV, although they've kinda hit that wall a lot of dramas get into where they're just moving around the chess pieces to keep it interesting. Mike was out of the firm, now he's back, he's mad at Rachel and then they're back together, now Louis is out of the firm. I would like a little less plot, some more of the character moments that made the show entertaining to begin with. Neal McDonough is always a great antagonist to throw into the mix of a show, though.

p) "How I Met Your Mother"
I tend to catch up on most shows On Demand at my leisure, especially since at 8 or 9 o'clock I'm usually giving my son a bath or reading him a bedtime story. And for some reason, "How I Met Your Mother" is the only show I watch that Comcast stopped putting new episodes On Demand in recent years, so I completely missed the last couple seasons. After the finale, though, my wife and I got the last 2 seasons and watched them all in a few weeks. And binge watching that last season was probably the right way to see it, since the whole weird conceit of cramming the whole season into one weekend was less irritating or difficult to follow that way. The show may have not ended at its peak, which is kind of inevitable when a show stays on for 9 seasons, but I'm glad I caught up. I liked Cristin Milioti as the mother, I liked the twist ending, I guess I see why some people hated it but it felt in keeping with the rest of the series.
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