a) "Difficult People"
Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner are hilarious and I've been anticipating this show for a while, and watched the first episodes when the went up on Hulu last night, and the suppporting cast of James Urbaniak and Andrea Martin just sweetens the deal. Eichner and Klausner mostly play less famous versions of themselves and there's a lot of stuff about tweeting and writing TV recaps and making mean jokes about celebrities, which probably shouldn't be good sitcom material, but a few times each episode they get on a roll and it's hilarious.
I loathe Denis Leary and his stupid little firefighter show that was on for a million years, but this ain't bad. There's a lot of comedic material in a story of an aging rock star trying to make a comeback, and though they go for a lot of the obvious jokes, there are also some decent music nerd references ("You understand him?" "I toured with the Pogues for 9 months, I speak Shane McGowan"). There's way too much of Leary singing, and even if it's kinda played as a joke it's just so unpleasant to hear. I thought Elizabeth Gillies would be some kind of boring straight man foil on this show, but she's probably the smartest character in the room, in addition to being gorgeous and actually having singing ability.
c) "Significant Mother"
It's hard to think of a less promising context for a scripted series than a sitcom that The CW premieres in August. And the premise, about a guy who starts dating his best friend and roommate's recently divorced mom, is certainly kind of hacky. The show wasn't terrible, but I think they'd need a stronger cast to pull it off. The mom is the only cast member I've seen in anything before, and she was just the elevator girl in Liar Liar.
I watched this, or at least I had it on in the background and intermittently paid attention to it, all three nights it was on, which in retrospect was 3 nights too many. The actors and the locations and the costumes were all just 2 or 3 steps below what you'd reasonably hope a TV miniseries about King Tut would have, Ben Kingsley aside.
This show started with a pastor trying to talk a guy out of jumping off of a bridge, and then the pastor falls off the bridge and the suicidal guy decides to start his life over by stealing the pastor's identity. And it's supposed to be a snappy 30-minute sitcom. It never really overcomes that weirdly dark premise, which seems to only exist to justify the show's stupid title, and there's a lot of the usual jokes and tropes of a show about someone who's supposed to keep up a complicated ruse for as long as the show is on the air. There was a decent show a few years ago with a similar premise, "The Riches," but that was a drama. Sara Rue deserves a better gig.
f) "The Jim Gaffigan Show"
I liked the episode that was previewed on Gaffigan's site a couple months ago, but now that the show's actually on, I think it's one of the weaker episodes (along with the hotel episode last week, which was just a convoluted "Frasier"-style series of misunderstandings). The other episodes just feel more relaxed and rely on Gaffigan's natural appeal and moments that feel more plausibly taken right out of his daily life.
g) "Sex With Brody"
That Kardashian/Jenner money must be really good for the E! network because they gave a show to maybe the least famous member of the family. And it's not even really a TV show, it's a podcast and they just threw some cameras in the room, basically a "Loveline" knockoff sex advice show, except really stilted and chatty and rarely about the callers in any meaningful way.
h) "Kingin' With Tyga"
Another person who probably only has a show because of their proximity to the really famous Kardashians and Jenners. I watched an episode of this, just in disbelief that MTV made a show about this guy, and it was terribly mundane shit about him getting a gold toilet installed in his house and painting a wall with Chris Brown.
i) 7 Days In Hell
HBO ran a 40-minute mockumentary in which Andy Samberg and some guy from "Game Of Thrones" play rival tennis players, and the whole thing just felt like an okay "SNL" sketch pointlessly stretched out into something more. There were a few solid gags, and Lena Dunham was surprisingly good doing something wacky and broad, but really nobody needs to see this.
j) "Uncommon Sense"
MTV, or I guess MTV2 specifically, has spent a lot of energy in the last year or two trying to fit Charlamagne Tha God and various high profile Twitter users into TV shows. And the results have mostly been a bust, and it's just depressing to see Desus and Mero, easily two of the funniest people on Twitter, jump at the chance to be on some of the worst shows on television like "The Guy Code." This show at least kinda gives everyone a chance to do what they do best and say inappropriate things about current events, but the format's a little awkward, I think they'll have to keep retooling it to make it work. They have a lot of people hanging out in the background not saying much, usually people I followed at one point and then quickly unfollowed after I realized how lame they were.
This has easily been the best new show of the summer, perhaps of 2015. It started out strong and just kept getting better -- it actually kinda reminded me of the first season of "Homeland" or "Damages" in how it set certain expectations for the pace of the story and then just rocketed ahead of them and caught you offguard with increasingly faster, darker plot complications. The fact that it's about the crew of a fluffy reality show but they make you feel the drama and intrigue is all the more remarkable. But most of all, the characters were really well drawn -- you had to feel sympathy with someone and then watch them do something unimaginable, often in the same episode. The hero that you root for and the villain sit down at the end of the show and decide how alike they are.
Another one of my favorite new shows of the summer, although less bold in its vision. The first few episodes established the characters and dialogue really well, but now it's just kind of a light, character-driven procedural with a sci-fi twist, and that's fine, especially since Allison Scagliotti's role in the show grew over time.
m) "Mr. Robot"
This show has gotten a lot of hype as being one of the more exciting new summer shows, and I'm still pretty skeptical. It's very dark and slow and moody, but the fact that the characters are working towards the same goal Tyler Durden had just keeps making me think it's some kind of self-serious Fight Club reboot. There have been a couple episodes where there's been enough emphasis on the other characters to make me think it could be a good ensemble show, but a lot of the time I feel like there's just way too much of Rami Malek's character narrating while he broods and stares into the camera.
n) "The Strain"
Ever since they started promoting season 2 of this show with the fact that it was the top rated new cable show last year, I've been kinda scared that it's going to be a cultural juggernaut like "The Walking Dead" and be on forever and that in 5 years every show on cable will be about zombies and vampires and stuff. I like this show, but there are a lot of silly things about it -- certain effects look more ridiculous than cool, and it's frustrating that there are still scenes where NYC cops are, like, surprised by an attack when you know everyone would've heard about the epidemic by then and be on their toes. In a way I think my favorite thing about this show is that for once Kevin Durand gets to play a likable, sympathetic character after a decade of thugs and villains.
o) "BoJack Horseman"
People keep telling me this show is such a touching, realistic depiction of depression, hidden in the bawdy cartoon about a talking horse. And I got through the somewhat dark second half of the first season and the first few episodes of the new season in good faith, taking their word for it. But man, it still kinda feels like those "Family Guy" episodes where Brian has a drinking problem or relationship problems and there are these clumsy attempts to care about the talking dog's feelings. For every clever gag on here there's just a lot of hacky 'edgy' humor.
p) "Eric Jonrosh's The Spoils Before Dying"
Having Will Ferrell, as an old gross novelist, host a satire of '70s literary miniseries, is a cute idea. But both this and the first one last year, "The Spoils Of Babylon," lost my interest really quickly. They never really commit to the concept and it just becomes an overlong Funny Or Die sketch. Ferrell's recent Lifetime movie, A Deadly Adoption, felt like a much more successful balancing act of homage and parody.
Last year FX debuted two relationship shows, "Married" and "You're The Worst," as a block. I thought "Worst" was by far the better show, but it's getting shuffled to FXX later this year while "Married," which has better ratings and a more recognizable cast, returns to FX. That's a little annoying but ultimately I like both shows and am glad they're both continuing. "Married" initially seemed to fall into the same trap as This Is 40 of trying to be warts-and-all about marriage and ending up myopic and depressing, but I think the tone is better now and Judy Greer's innate likability is maintained a little more.
r) "True Detective"
I like the second season more than a lot of people do, but I'll be the first to admit there's a lot about it that's a total misfire. My new theory is that Vince Vaughn says things just as ridiculous as anything Matthew McConaughey said last year, but this time everybody acts like what the guy is saying is completely normal and so the scenes just make no sense. The last couple episodes of tension ramping up have had some genuinely gripping moments, it just feels like they were built on the shaky foundation of the awkward, confusing early episodes.
s) "Halt And Catch Fire"
It was kinda cool how the second season of this show ended up basically making the two female leads, Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishe, into the protagonists, and made the male leads' stories consistently feel like B plots. It worked, I wouldn't mind if the show stayed like that.
t) "Golan The Insatiable"
The Fox ADHD programming on Saturday night has mostly felt like a weird flailing attempt at catering to the Adult Swim demographic that has little to do with the animated sitcoms on Sunday night. But this summer Fox took one of the Saturday shorts and made it into a 30-minute Sunday show, and I dunno, it stuck out like a sore thumb. A couple good jokes in the episodes I watched but just such an annoying 'wacky' premise.
I get that this show is a deliberately slow, morally ambiguous Southern gothic deal, and I respect the degree to which they've pulled that off as a TV series. I dunno if it's for me, though. There are times when it just feels like a parade of misery on the scale of, like, Monster's Ball. And sometimes the dialogue is just ridiculous. Someone will say "I've been thinkin' about time," and someone else will reply, with a straight face, "It hangs over all of us."
v) "Hollywood Game Night"
I have a theory that NBC only keeps this show on the air so that SNL can do parody sketches, because a game show sketch where they can throw in random celebrity impressions is the holy grail of lazy SNL writing. I like the sketches, though, and I even like this stupid show.
w) "Masters Of Sex"
One nice thing about a show based on people's real lives is that it actually moves through different phases of their lives instead of trying to remain in a holding pattern for as long as possible. So season 2 represented a small shift from season 1, and season 3 is a bigger one, and it's exciting to see. Josh Charles joining the show is a great development, don't know how much he'll actually be in it this season but I hope it's a lot.
x) "Comedy Bang! Bang!"
This show is absolute garbage, Scott Aukerman is just horribly unpleasant and unfunny, and it always felt like he and Reggie Watts didn't even have enough rapport to pull off a host/bandleader rapport. Now, Watts is on James Corden's show on CBS, a real talk show (where the chemistry with the host is still flat), and "Comedy Bang! Bang!" has replaced him with Kid Cudi, which is just hilarious. Not hilarious because Cudi is funny, but because he thinks he's funny enough to be on a weekly comedy show. The guy's charisma has always been a polite fiction that he and the music industry agree to pretend exists, but TV cameras are a lot more unforgiving about that kind of thing.
y) "Last Comic Standing"
It's funny that they opened this season just totally admitting that Amy Schumer is now the show's most famous alumnus. She only got 4th place, but I watched that year, she totally deserved to win. So far there's been some promising comics, I like that they go straight to the big live competition and don't do the "American Idol"-style cattle call episodes or make them live in a house together anymore. Norm MacDonald is a great addition to the judges' table, the guy is just so strange as always but he's actually had some interesting, brutally honest feedback for the comics. Keenen Ivory Wayans doesn't really ever have much of substance to say, though. I just picture him thinking "I wouldn't hire any of these people, they're not related to me."
z) "The Daily Show"
The end of the Jon Stewart era makes me sad, but it's not like Letterman going off the air where I'm really that sentimental about it. In fact, I'm ready to move on and see whether Trevor Noah can overcome the skepticism. I really hope Jessica Williams stays on the show, though.