TV Diary

a) "Daredevil"
I was pretty skeptical about this show, just because I've never enjoyed any superhero TV show a fraction as much as a halfway decent superhero movie. But, after watching about half of the episodes, this has grown on me pretty quickly. It's dark as hell and lays on the crime epic Hell's Kitchen stuff pretty thick, but it's also pretty stylized and pulpy and entertaining and not just a Nolan Batman knockoff or whatever. The storytelling is just pretty sharp, too, just the way each episode pivots from the previous one and leaves gaps in the story to keep the tension high. Also happy to see Deborah Ann Woll in a big role, always loved her on "True Blood."

b) "Happyish"
I wish Phillip Seymour Hoffman was still alive, acting in good stuff or bad stuff or not acting at all. But I have to say, I am a little glad that his death stopped him from starring in this awful show. He shot the pilot, and then it was ultimately re-shot with Steve Coogan in his role. And I'm kind of amazed they bothered either time, it's another painfully facile, unfunny, unmoving dramedy from Showtime, with some special effects fantasy sequence gags that fall flat and remind me of the worst new show of 2015, "Man Seeking Woman."

c) "The Comedians" 
I am, I think, probably one of the only people of my generation who finds Billy Crystal funny in 2015. And given that, despite his starpower, FX basing a show around him seems like a hard sell, even if a lot of the whole meta premise revolves around making fun of how old and corny and out of touch he and his style of comedy are. Josh Gad, who has been irritatingly ubiquitous for the last few years, actually gets more mileage out of making fun of himself here, in that it's a little harder to pin down which of the several unflattering running gags about what he's like in real life is funniest, where the Crystal jokes are a little more obvious. This whole show feels kind of like the same showbiz satire with stars making fun of themselves that we've seen too many times, though. It's a lot like "Episodes" specifically, it even has a recurring gag about a useless assistant that's very similar to the one on "Episodes" except not as funny. But there are some fun scenes when Crystal and Gad get to bounce off of each other and just do goofy old school comedy schtick. The episode with Steven Weber as a transgender woman kinda felt like a minefield of bad ideas but I think they handled it well. And the line "I'm just trying to fit in with all these legends and Will Sasso" killed me.

d) "Sin City Saints"
One of the worst things about watching "Community" on Yahoo Screen is the constant ads for this show, which is a weird sleazy show about a Las Vegas basketball team that co-stars Tom Arnold (and makes itself seem every worse with Carrot Top and Penn Jillette cameos in the first 30 seconds of the pilot that they use in the ads). I even made fun of this on Twitter and poor self-hating Tom Arnold retweeted me. I would slander Malin Akerman too but she's at least been funny on "Childrens Hospital" and "Trophy Wife."

e) "Other Space"
The most annoying thing about Yahoo Screen constantly running ads for "Sin City Saints" is that they have another show that would actually appeal to "Community" viewers that they never advertise. "Other Space" was created by Paul Feig and feels a bit like his version of "Red Dwarf," just a really dark, funny show about a spaceship crew lost in space. Most of the actors are commercial actors that aren't famous at all (other than Milana Vayntrub, the girl from the AT&T commercials that everyone is in love with), but there's also Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu from "Mystery Science Theatre 3000," the latter of whom voices a robot not unlike Crow. It takes a little bit to get going, but once it got on a roll, I've been really impressed with the creativity of the show, they're really going as far with the sci-fi premise as they can and making it funny.

f) "American Odyssey"
This show is kind of drab and boring, even though the stakes are pretty high in the story, it just isn't very compelling. There is one scene in the second episode, however, where a guy is trying to hack into a computer, and when he fails, the Keyboard Cat video pops up. That was pretty unexpected.

g) "Lip Sync Battle"
As weary as I am of Jimmy Fallon and all the stupid mini-game shows he does on "The Tonight Show" instead of, you know, written comedy bits that require any talent, I do enjoy the lip sync battles the most of all those, and am in favor of cordoning them off into their own show. But then, taking a 10-minute segment and blowing it up into its own half hour show could either involve just doing that bit 3 times as much, or padding it out, and they chose padding. LL Cool J hosts, Chrissy Teigen does commentary (although she never really gets a chance to be funny like she always is on Twitter), and there's a lot of backstage stuff and trash talk. Here and there you get a really entertaining moment, like Anne Hathaway doing "Wrecking Ball," but there's a lot of waiting around to get to that.

h) "The Grace Helbig Show" 
Any popular YouTuber getting a job in real television is intrinsically suspect to me, but E! basically gave this one Chelsea Handler's spot on the schedule, which seems like a lateral move. Grace Helbig seems like a decent host, but I don't think I'll ever watch this show, because she brought that YouTube vlogger editing style with her, that unnerving thing where there are constant jumpcuts past every pause between sentences. I hated that before, and the idea of seeing that on TV regularly really pisses me off.

i) "The Last Man On Earth"
I loved this show off the bat and still enjoy it, but it has lost some luster for me as the season has worn on. I know they couldn't keep Phil the only character, or even just Phil and Carol, for any length of time, but as they've added more characters, it's mostly just ramped Phil up into cliche sitcom schlemiel behavior, rolling his eyes when his wife asks him to do chores and chasing the pretty blonde and making fat jokes about the guy she ends up with. I appreciate that putting this stuff in the context of a barren apocalypse environment is kind of the twist of the joke, but half the time the guy might as well be Alan from "Two And A Half Men."

j) "Fresh Off The Boat"
When I first wrote about this show I noted the ambivalent and critical things that the show's creator/narrator/subject Eddie Huang had written about it. And since then he's just ramped that up in tweets and interviews, and it's frustrating to see, because it's a good show but I totally get what he dislikes. Making a TV show about your life story just seems like a minefield, though -- at least with a movie you have a chance of depicting things accurately, but TV shows need new storylines every week and will keep embellishing until some really untrue things come out. Something's gotta give -- either he's going to have some kind of ugly break with the show, or he's going to get more control over it and make it into a more nuanced, honest show, or it'll get canceled before either of those things happen. I hope they let him do what he wants with it.

k) "Black-ish"
This show kinda mines similar territory as "Fresh Off The Boat" without all that angst and autobiography to worry about, but it works, they've really settled into a good groove as one of the best shows to survive the 2014-2015 season. I am a little bummed, though, that Laurence Fishburne has had such a small, sporadic role. I thought he was gonna be a breakout character of the show but there are whole episodes he's barely in or not in at all.

l) "Inside Amy Schumer"
I always feel like a namedropper when I mention my brief acquaintance with Amy Schumer in college, but it still just trips me out to see her become famous, especially right now when she seems to be everywhere, the Judd Apatow movie on the way and hosting the MTV Movie Awards. I always thought her standup was really sharp and enjoyed this show's first two seasons, but I have to admit that I was starting to worry that she was kinda falling into being another comic who takes a lot of cheap shots for shock value. So it was good that the first episode of this season just felt really solid and focused, as this post pointed out, she's really doubling down on her perspective on gender and finding funny ways to approach it from different angles.

m) "Veep"
I almost got to work the teleprompter on a first season episode of "Veep," and then a couple years ago actually did go to the set and do prompter for a PSA that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was doing (sorry, more namedropping). So it amused me that the season premiere this year was basically a whole episode of teleprompter problems, except instead of doing it for real they just CGI'd words onto the prompter glass. I'm not gonna humorlessly fact-check what they got right and wrong, though, it was a funny episode and they did capture some of the anxiety of last minute revisions and technical problems on a teleprompted speech. Also, it feels pedantic to say this, but is she actually going to be VP again in the show at some point or is the title just going to not make sense anymore?

n) "Justified"
Thoughout the six seasons of "Justified," FX made a lot of promos for the show that weren't actual clips from the show but these kind of high concept video game cutscene-looking setpieces of Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder aiming guns at each other and stuff like that. And I always thought those were kind of silly and misleading, almost admitting that the show was delaying the payoff of their conflict because, while Walton Goggins is great on the show and deservingly the second-billed actor, the show would just be stupid if it was the two of them dueling every week. So they filled the show with a revolving lineup of temporary villains (my favorite being Margo Martindale and Neal McDonough), and by the last season they just had this amazing repertory of good character actors being grizzled badasses. And by the time all the brush had been cleared away and it was time for Raylan and Boyd's climactic final showdown, they really took an interesting path that gave the show a much better and more satisfying resolution than if it'd gone out with guns blazing.
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