TV Diary

a) "Blunt Talk"
I grew up watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and have long thought that Patrick Stewart is one of the most hilarious actors who doesn't often do comedy, and that little piddling stuff like a recurring role on "The Family Guy" hasn't been enough. And I'm glad that he's finally headlining a property comedy vehicle, even if it is exec produced by Seth MacFarlane, who thankfully seems to be pretty hands-off with this. Instead, it's created and written by Jonathan Ames, and is pretty similar in tone to "Bored To Death," a show I didn't think much of at first that ended up really growing on me, and which I regard pretty highly in retrospect. Stewart's character is sort of like Ted Danson in "Bored," a weird old media guy living in his own little world, which means mostly that the difference in the shows is that character went from a supporting role to the main character. I'm not sure yet if that shift is necessarily a good thing, and the first two episodes have been kind of a slow start. But so far, I like it, and the supporting cast is strong -- glad to see Karan Soni getting more work, he was so good in "Other Space." If anything, Stewart needs to tone down his delivery and act a little less 'in on the joke.'

b) "Show Me A Hero" 
David Simon has a pretty unique knack for making the dullest depths of bureaucracy into compelling television, without even sexing it up to much into a procedural formula. But this, a 6-hour miniseries about Yonkers public housing in the 1980s, still really stretches the limits of that facility. Paul Haggis only directed, so I don't really hold him accountable for the story, but there is something weirdly deflating about having this stuff shot so handsomely instead of the straightforward, almost documentary-style cinematography of "The Wire," gives it a very different feel.

c) "The Comment Section" 
I've been watching "The Soup" for years, and the E! channel generally puts on something terrible directly after it, so I was happy to hear that they were going to start following it with a show exec produced by Joel McHale that is kind of a "Soup" spinoff about social media and internet comments. But I had no idea that they were going to feature one of my tweets in the first 5 minutes of the first episode, which was nice, although I was probably going to like the show even before they bought my affection so efficiently. The host, Michael Kosta, mostly reads/responds to comments with a super snide delivery that reminds me of Dennis Miller back when he was funny, and in a way it seems like the only way to talk about ridiculous internet comments. But mostly I like that the humor on the show is mean, not in a crass or cruel way but just sharp and unforgiving.

d) "Documentary Now" 
Bill Hader and Fred Armisen are both pretty talented, but I remain consistently impressed with Hader's chops and versatility whereas I started getting really tired of Armisen about halfway through his "SNL" run. But putting these guys together to satirize documentaries is a pretty good idea, and the first episode, with Helen Mirren introducing a Grey Gardens takeoff, was really entertaining.

e) "Kevin From Work" 
I grew up in the '80s and '90s, inundated with shows and movies about wimpy guys who pine for the hot girl with the dumb jock boyfriend, and more and more in recent years it's seemed increasingly clear just what a toxic male wish fulfillment that stuff is that has fed into a lot of entitled fedora-wearing dude mentalities. So seeing a new show like this walk through all those friendzone cliches once again in 2015 is kind of depressing, especially since there are tiny bits of charm and wit in this otherwise pretty unpromising show. At least it's cordoned off on ABC Family where nobody will be see it.

f) "Mr. Robinson"
This show is even more anachronistic than "Kevin From Work," it feels like such a corny '80s sitcom, where a comic's standup act is grafted onto a premise about them teaching elementary school. Craig Robinson is a pretty entertaining comic actor in the right context, but the songs in his standup act have always been kind of corny, and work even worse here. But it's really the rest of the show that's just a total shitshow of bad sitcom cliches and stereotypes. I thought the episode guest starring Gary Cole might be good but then he did the hackiest British rock star character and I just felt bad for him. The 6 episodes of the first season were burned off already in 3 weeks in August, and hopefully it will never come back. At least it's cordoned off on NBC where nobody will see it.

g) "Humans"
This show started out slow, but it was intriguing and eerie. As things started to ramp up towards the end of the season, though, it just started to feel like a lot of boilerplate sci-fi thriller stuff, and the show's idea about humanoid robots who'd gained some degree of sentience or emotional capacity just felt increasingly vague and inconsistent. By the end of the finale I didn't really care what was going on at all.

h) "The Brink" 
I had a certain indifference fall over me very early in "The Brink"'s run, and it never really let up even as I watched all 10 episodes. By the end, I got the sense that it might've been a bit rewarding if I'd paid it closer attention, but it really just never grabbed me, something very inert about it even with a fairly charismatic cast.

i) "Ballers"
The way the first episode of "Ballers" ended, with Dwayne Johnson's character finding his account overdrawn at the ATM, gave me hope that the darkness and desperation at the edges of the show would move it forward and keep it interesting. But by the end of the finale, when he's celebrating a big office and a promotion and there's absolutely no sense of tension whatsoever, it seemed clear that this show just wants to leap to tidy resolutions and be the blander "Entourage" we always suspected it'd be.

j) "Why? With Hannibal Buress" 
This show is even more loose and laid back than I expected it to be given Hanibal Buress's whole personality and approach to standup. But it's cool, he was never gonna be a dynamic performer who does an amazing sketch show, it's just not his style, and there's nothing wrong with basically let him riff on current events every week. A lot of the scripted segments are hit or miss, but the one last week reenacting his text messages with a guy who stole his laptop bag was amazing. Also he's been getting away with just putting whatever rapper he wants on TV every week, which is the one way that he's kind of filling the niche Chappelle occupied on Comedy Central 10 years go. Last week he had King Los on there, and it was exciting to see someone from Baltimore that I go way back with perform on TV.

k) "Killjoys" 
One of the seemingly countless Canadian-produced shows about pretty people in space that airs on the SyFy network. It's been OK but I think my wife likes it more than I do.

l) "Dark Matter"
This is the other Canadian pretty space traveler show that debuted on SyFy this summer that I liked a little more. Kind of became more of this character-driven ensemble thing with a group of people stuck on a spaceship together, instead of the usual interplanetary adventures.

m) "Geeks Who Drink" 
Basically just your garden variety Tuesday night bar trivia quiz, but on SyFy and hosted by that boring guy from "Chuck." One of those shows where everyone's making a big deal about how much fun they're having but it doesn't translate to the viewer's experience at all. I did like the game where they matched actors to characters they voiced in animated movies, though.

n) "Reactor" 
"The Soup"-style green screen clip shows aren't quite the fad they were a few years ago, but a lot of channels still want their own, especially SyFy. Last summer they had the short-lived "Wil Wheaton Project," and this summer they've got basically the same show with some random podcast dude hosting who doesn't even have the modest charisma or nerd culture cachet that Wheaton has.

o) "On The Record with Mick Rock" 
Mick Rock is a veteran rock photographer, and his show on Ovation is kind of a small scale "Sonic Highways," where he spends each episode in a different American city with a different artist. Mick Rock wears sunglasses, a jean jacket and a scarf 24/7 and is kind of a hilarious British rocker stereotype, but he has some good stories and is a decent host. The episode with Patti LaBelle in Philadelphia is good, but so far my biggest problem with the show is just that I don't really care about whole episodes centered on Kings Of Leon or The Flaming Lips. You spend an episode in L.A. and the best person you can talk to is Josh Groban!?

p) "Another Period" 
I was afraid of this show being kind of one joke with diminishing returns, but they really fit a lot of ridiculous and funny stuff into the basic concept, which is kind of like a "Real Housewives" show set 100 years ago, but also has kind of grown into its own weird beast over the course of the season. The ensemble just seems to grow with every episode and give them more characters to work with, and Paget Brewster is really one of the unsung MVPs of the show.

q) "The Hotwives of Las Vegas"
Last year this show debuted as "The Hotwives of Orlando," and this year they changed cities, with most of the cast returning as different characters. That seems kind of unnecessary -- not much about the change of scenery or character names really has much effect on the jokes or storylines. But the whole thing is an over-the-top satire of Bravo's "Real Housewives" shows and basically is better when it makes no sense, so it's fine.

r) "Real Husbands of Hollywood" 
This show has been satirizing "Real Housewives" for longer than either of the other shows, but they flipped the gender of the characters so it's not too similar anyway. I thought this was pretty funny when it debuted a couple years ago, but I never really kept up with it. Watching the first episode of the new season, it kinda felt like they'd abandoned the original premise for increasingly wacky gags.

s) "Rick And  Morty"
I was a little on the fence about this show last year, as good as it clearly was from the jump. But it's really been fantastic this season, I think there's even been less of Rick burping and vomiting and being kind of over-the-top misanthropic, which was one of the things I found off-putting about it initially. The multiple timeline episode almost felt like Dan Harmon deliberately doing a better job with the concept behind a popular (imo overrated) "Community" episode.

t) "Review" 
I like this show in theory more than in practice. As someone who reviews things professionally, it's fun to see Andy Daly take his straight laced persona into bizarre scenarios, but it also kinda feels like every episode goes to similar extremes, and already in its second season they've kinda stretched the premise as far as it can go and there's nothing 'new' or 'shocking' left to try. A half hour leaves a lot of slack in some episodes, too, it might've been better as one of those 15-minute shows on Adult Swim.

u) "Playing House"
I've always liked Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham and I'm glad they've kind of funneled their sensibility into a show that's now in its second season (there was another similar one on NBC that only lasted a few episodes). This show is almost like a WASP-y suburban mommy blogger version of "Broad City," there are these really unexpected hilarious moments within an ostensibly mundane framework.

v) "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore" 
I think the true test of how good this show has gotten is that I still want to watch it now that "The Daily Show" is in reruns until Trevor Noah starts, and I'm actually wondering if Trevor Noah will have to compete as much with how Larry Wilmore covers the same news cycle as he will with people's memories of Jon Stewart. I still kinda wish so much of the show wasn't taken up with panel discussion, but as much as I've tired of that format "The Nightly Show" easily has some of the best panel discussions on TV.

w) "Late Night with Seth Meyers" 
I remember how awkward Seth Meyers seemed the first night he hosted "Late Night," standing up to tell the monologue with no "Weekend Update" desk. And so it doesn't surprise me at all that after over a year of struggling with that tradition, he's finally just given up and is doing the monologue behind his desk. I hope they keep tinkering with the format, Meyers isn't really that bad -- really one of the better interviewers in late night right now, he actually interacts with people and improvises -- but there's such a weird stale air around the show. Fred Armisen is on there even less than I thought he'd be.

x) "Hannibal"
I guess all hope of someone else picking up this show after NBC's cancellation has dissipated, which means there's only one episode left of this show, which I have spent the summer devouring all three seasons of. The third season has been a very different beast from the other two, with the really funky abstract stretches in the first half and then the last few episodes going through the Red Dragon storyline, which has made for a pretty interesting shift. The only big bummer for me was that Joe Anderson's Mason Verger was barely any better than the awful Michael Pitt performance that I was so eager for the show to rid itself of. A shame they won't get to Clarice and Buffalo Bill now.

y) "Key & Peele"
I'm kind of relieved that these guys are gonna be done with the show after the 5th season. That's like 20 hours of television, hundreds of short sketches where 2 guys wear every wig imaginable and run through every scenario they can think of in their kind of small array of topics of interests. Every now and again they do something hysterical, and the production values and costuming/wigs are some of the best in sketch comedy ever, but it also feels like they've completely exhausted the show's potential. Also the weird "True Detective"-inspired interstitial sketches they started doing in every episode last year feel like an odd choice to stick with this year, I guess they got really sick of doing the interstitials with a live studio audience in the early seasons. Maybe they can go off now and do something fresh with a movie or whatever and come back and do another season a few years down the road.

z) "Suits" 
Another show in its 5th season that has kind of hit a wall, but will keep going for at least a couple more seasons. It's always been less of a law procedural than a show about the relationships between the characters, and it's getting increasingly hard to sustain that without getting repetitive or soap opera ridiculous. I'd love to see them drop some kind of real game-changer plot development by the end of the season (and not just something obviously temporary like Mike and Rachel breaking up again). Or maybe get back to a little more of the procedural stuff that was in the early seasons.
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