TV Diary

a) "Wayward Pines"
It feels like there's been a lot of shows lately that follow a murder investigation in a creepy small town where everyone seems to be hiding something. "Gracepoint" and "Secrets And Lies" were suffocatingly serious (as was "The Killing," for that matter), but "Wayward Pines" is the first one to lay on enough eerie elements to maybe get a "Twin Peaks" thing going. Unfortunately, it's just laying it all on way too thick, so many strange things happening so rapidly that there's not even any veneer of normalcy to puncture, no time to even get curious about the explanation to anything that's happened (pretty much the same thing that turned me off the first season of "American Horror Story"). I don't even feel like you can blame M. Night Shyamalan, who directed but didn't write or create it, and does about as much as you can do with the ridiculous source material. There are occasional playful performances, like Terrence Howard's menacing sheriff who always seems to be eating an ice cream cone, but not enough to make it entertaining. I feel bad for most of the actors in this, but especially Juliette Lewis, who did this back-to-back with "Secrets And Lies."

b) "The Jim Gaffigan Show" 
Apparently TV Land is now making original sitcoms that are not all old-fashioned laugh track shows starring people who were in hit shows decades ago, this is a single camera thing that feels like it could've been on FX or NBC or something. It doesn't start until July but the pilot is streaming on Jim Gaffigan's website so I checked it out, I've always enjoyed his standup. It's hard to get a great idea of what the series will be like just because the first episode was such a one-off story that they can't really do anything like again. It's fun, though, Gaffigan's standup persona has always seemed ripe to build a sitcom around and I'm surprised it took this long.

c) "Big Time In Hollywood, FL"
Comedy Central tries really hard to make this show look outlandish and entertaining in the ads, and a lot of crazy stuff happens, but somehow it's just never very funny or memorable. These guys I've never heard of got a decent budget to make an expensive-looking, fairly ambitious show, and Ben Stiller is in the pilot, but nothing they do with the premise makes me feel like it was warranted.

d) "Grace And Frankie"
Netflix's new show from the co-creator of "Friends," in which Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin grudgingly become friends after their husbands, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, reveal that they're lovers. So basically, old people quipping in a beach house and grappling with divorce, which is something a lot of people will avoid on principle. But I've watched about half of the episodes so far and it's been really engrossing, both as comedy and drama, mostly avoiding easy gay jokes and getting by on the natural charm of the cast and even giving the secondary cast something to work with.

e) "Bosch"
I was musing recently how depressing it was that the only thing I'd seen Titus Welliver in is an ad campaign for Comcast, when it was pointed out to me that he recently starred in an Amazon Prime show. And that's funny in its own way, both because isn't Amazon trying to compete with cable? And because I have Amazon Prime and hadn't even heard anything about the show to check it out until months after it premiered. A few episodes into "Bosch" and I like it -- Eric Overmeyer from "Homicide" and "The Wire" adapted it from a novel series, and there are several more "Wire" folks in the cast and writing staff, so it's got some of that feel and pacing. But it's also one of those cop shows that's centered on a flawed anti-hero figure, and the show opens with Bosch going on trial for basically murdering a suspect on shaky grounds. And given current events it just gets harder and harder to watch these kinds of shows, even if they're dealing with the subject matter with intelligence and moral gray areas, I'm kind of like yay thanks more killer cop anti-heroes, how fascinating.

f) "Mozart In The Jungle"
Another Amazon Prime show, one that tries to make the world of gigging classical musicians in NYC seem sexy and exciting, and I guess it kind of succeeds. But it's one of those half hour dramedies that is never funny and never has any real dramatic stakes and after a couple episodes I have little desire to go on.

g) "Schitt's Creek"
Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara have done so much great work together in the past, fun to see them do a new show together. The whole thing is goofy and rides out some jokes as obvious as the show's title, but it's still pretty funny, Levy's son Daniel is surprisingly good and Chris Elliott has a supporting role. I only got through a few episodes of it, though, dunno if I'll finish watching the season.

h) "iZombie"
This show has been up and down, I was totally into "Veronica Mars" creator Rob Thomas doing another show about a girl solving mysteries with a zombie twist, but after a few episodes my interest started to dwindle. But somewhere in the last few weeks it's gotten really good and they've really explored the limits of the premise, and I finally got my wife, who was the person who got me into "Veronica Mars" in the first place, hooked on it. I'm glad it got renewed for another season.

i) "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver"
John Oliver's show was good from the jump but it really just feels like it keeps getting better, as they find new ways to differentiate it from "The Daily Show" besides just being able to curse and only having to do a show once a week. Those are definitely part of it, though, the fact that he can be looser with the language here and there, and that they can put a lot of work into covering one topic really thoroughly for most of the show every week, instead of just chugging along four nights in a row.

j) "Silicon Valley"
I had mixed feelings about this show in the first season, especially since my favorite character was played by Christopher Evan Welch, who died during production. But the second season got off to a really strong start and has held my attention more than I thought it would. The Martin Starr/Kumail Nanjiani bickering feels far more repetitive and tedious than it is funny, and feels like it belongs in a different, more boring show, so I hope they give those guys better material in the future (Zach Woods, meanwhile, keeps getting funnier). And it still feels like they're bending over backwards to create an "oh no our business might fail!" crisis in every episode, but at least now I'm convinced that there's enough story possibilities in this premise that they can keep doing so entertainingly.

k) "Undateable"
Now that NBC has finally canceled "About A Boy," but has renewed "Undateable" for a 3rd season, Chris D'Elia has officially replaced David Walton as the network's pet cause that they're quixotically dedicated to making into a star. The weirdest thing, though, is that the next season will be all live, when the one live episode they did this season was a near-disaster. I loved the "30 Rock" live episodes, I think it's a decent idea if a sitcom can pull it off, but the "Undateable" live episode was just kind of ragged and sloppy and did very little to use the format to its advantage.

l) "New Girl"
My dream of all the cast members from "Happy Endings" winding up on other shows was briefly a reality, and then it all came crashing down in the last few months, with the cancellation of "Marry Me" and "Weird Loners" and "Benched" and "One Big Happy" and Adam Pally leaving "The Mindy Project." And while those were all understandable losses, I am actively bummed about Damon Wayans, Jr. leaving "New Girl," him coming back to the show really brought it to a new level, it won't be the same without him. Hopefully the next gig he has lined up is worth it.

m) "Childrens Hospital"
This season has been hit and miss (the episode with the laugh track was kind of smug, as parodies of laugh track shows usually are), but the Cyrano episode was insane, one of their best to date.

n) "Community"
I suppose there's some irony to the fact that "Community" had to become an Internet-only show in order to finally become underrated by the Internet, but that's mostly because nobody watches Yahoo Screen. And Yahoo Screen really does suck, it always manages to fuck things up and put the ad breaks a few seconds off of where the scenes begin and end. But this season has been really good, still missing something from the cast changes but Keith David has been a hilarious addition. Even wen I rolled my eyes at them doing a new paintball episode, or spinning the Subway native advertising plotline into one about Honda, those episodes were so relentlessly creative and funny that I was ultimately won over. The RV episode was really the only one that reminded me of the show's old obsession with having the characters unpleasantly argue about their feelings.

o) "The Late Show With David Letterman"
I already wrote a big sentimental thing about Dave last week, but I'll just say that the last few months of farewells were really enjoyable. Seeing people like Chris Elliott and Julia Roberts on the show one last time was fun, or George Clooney handcuffing himself to Letterman, who then interviewed Tom Waits while handcuffed to Clooney. And it really bummed me out to tune into CBS the night after the finale and see that they're not even showing Letterman reruns, just old episodes of "The Mentalist." I mean, I feel bad for James Corden, he was gonna have to follow reruns for the next 5 months either way, but now he doesn't even get to follow Dave reruns. I guess that's a contractual thing.

p) "Saturday Night Live"
"SNL" is like life, in that people you like are always going away and it'll be ages before you have any idea if the new people replacing them are as good or possibly even better. But they haven't really lost anybody indispensable in a while (unless some big cast shakeups get announced over the summer), and I've been really enjoying seeing people like Taran Killam and Cecily Strong become the show's unlikely pillars. I even think I kind of like Colin Jost now? Don't tell Lorne I said that.
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