TV Diary

a) "The Slap"
This is one of those shows where you can kind of see why the source material might've been compelling and why some big name actors were attracted to the project, but by the time the whole thing makes its way on the air, the title and the ad campaign just make it look like the silliest, most unappealing thing in the world. I'm kinda just watching it in horror, laughing at the "Homeland"-esque fixation on the main character's love of jazz and the whole weird tone of the drama, even if it's closer to well made than a total campy failure.

b) "Better Call Saul"
Vince Gilligan was behind the "X-Files" spinoff "The Lone Gunmen," so I'm not surprised he thought this was a good idea. But that he and AMC have put so much effort and confidence in this show, picking it up for a second season before the pilot even aired, smells of desperation, like Gilligan's just gonna ride out this one successful thing he created George Lucas-style in favor of trying to create anything else. The first episode was nice, maybe this could be a quality show, it's just weird to watch prestige cable drama gunning hard to milk a franchise. I was always kind of indifferent to Odenkirk's Lionel Hutz schtick on "Breaking Bad," but Jonathan Banks was one of my favorite discoveries of the show so it might be worth watching just for him.

c) "12 Monkeys"
I've never really cared much either way about the movie, but this seems like a decent basis for a SyFy series. I haven't watched it since the pilot, though, Zeljko Ivanek was my favorite thing about it, but he gets killed off at the end of the episode, and I really wish he was a cast member on this instead of "Madam Secretary."

d) "Backstrom"
I always had a borderline irrational dislike of Rainn Wilson and in particular his performance on "The Office" (what was lost in the translation from Gareth to Dwight always felt emblematic of what I disliked of the U.S. version of the show). But maybe I don't mind him in general that much because this show seems like a pretty decent vehicle for what he's good at. That doesn't mean it's actually a good show, though, and it kinda feels like there's a strong cast being wasted here for yet another "misanthropic genius works his genius while everyone looks on in disbelief" procedural.

e) "Broad City"
This show was so good and so refreshing in its first season (my #1 of 2014) that I feel like people are already scrutinizing it for signs of a sophomore slump or reasons it wasn't all that to begin with. And so far I haven't heard any complaints worth agreeing with, show is still on fire. I especially loved Susie Essman as Ilana's mom.

f) "The Mindy Project" 
I was really loving how Adam Pally had fallen into the cast of this show, after "Happy Endings" got sadly canceled and "Mindy" struggled through a revolving door of underused supporting players in its first couple seasons. But Pally's contract just ran out and instead of renewing it, they just wrote him off the show, which is a shame. Still a good show, but I hope whatever Pally does next is worth it. Damon Wayans, Jr. leaving "New Girl" is even more distressing, I need all the "Happy Endings" alumni to keep being funny on TV, together or apart.

g) "Black Mirror"
I'd heard so many fiercely divided reactions to this show that I put on the first episode really just trying to figure out which end of the spectrum I fell on. And I'm leaning on the negative side, although given the format of the show I should probably see more than one episode before passing judgment. Which other ones should I check out?

h) "Shameless"
My attention really wandered early in the last season of "Shameless," and I never caught up on it. But when it started back up this year, I decided to just watch the recap at the beginning of the season, and didn't feel like I missed anything I need to go back to, and have been happy just watching the new episodes. The show has really been suffering from diminishing returns since the first couple seasons, though, I might give it up again.

i) "The Late Late Show"
After Craig Kilborn left "The Late Late Show," CBS had a whole series of guest hosts informally auditioning for the job with Craig Ferguson eventually getting it. But James Corden already had the gig locked down by the time Ferguson's run ended, so for a couple months in between they just have a bunch of different people keeping the seat warm for a few nights at a time, and it's been fun to watch. Drew Carey was competent but nothing special, while Judd Apatow and John Mayer were entertainingly mediocre just because you know you won't see them do anything like that again.

j) "Saturday Night Live"
The big 40th anniversary special last night was predictably anticlimactic but still fun in a nostalgic way -- the biggest surprise was not just that Eddie Murphy didn't do much or even try to be funny but just how much his innate charisma has disappeared. What I enjoyed more was the VH1 classic 'rewind' marathon over the last couple weeks, which included rare reruns of the dreaded '85-'86 season (which is probably a little better than its reputation but would almost have to be), and full 90-minute runs of '70s episodes that I've usually only seen in best-of edits.
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