TV Diary

a) "The Carmichael Show"
Over the summer, NBC originally planned to air two new shows starring black comedians, "Mr. Robinson" and "The Carmichael Show," together as a block on Wednesday nights. Then, they decided to air 2 episodes of "Robinson" for 3 weeks, and then do the same for "Carmichael." And now, having seen both shows, I understand why. "Mr. Robinson," as I wrote last month, is a corny throwback sitcom about a schoolteacher that reminds me of something I would've seen in the '80s, complete with outdated jokes. "The Carmichael Show," by contrast, is an old-fashioned sitcom in a different way, with a family talking out serious issues "All In The Family"-style in front of a live studio audience. And it's really funny and really fearless within that comfortably familiar format. If NBC had aired these shows together, the "Robinson" episode where a wacky British rock star swings through town would've aired the same night that "Carmichael" dedicated an entire episode to Black Lives Matter protests. And yesterday, NBC cancelled "Robinson" and picked up "Carmichael" for a second season, so all's well that ends well.

b) "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" 
I was never as worried as a lot of people were about Colbert leaving his 'conservative persona' behind on the jump from Comedy Central to CBS -- as masterfully as he pulled it off for 10 years, he's strong enough as a host and comedian that he doesn't need to cling to it even in a format where it would have more issues. So far, I've liked the new show -- it looks weird seeing him stand up for a monologue, and I wonder if he'll eventually start doing it behind a desk like Seth Meyers did. But I think people have been a little harsh about the changes, he's off to a strong start, and the interviews have a strong dynamic with him being himself a little more. And it pissed me off so much that CBS had been filling the 11:30 timeslot with shit like "The Mentalist" since Letterman went off the air that I loved that inspiring a recurring gag in the first episode.

c) "Moonbeam City" 
Much like "Archer" on FX, this new show on Comedy Central feels like a transparent example of networks seeing all the cool genre parody shows on Adult Swim and wanting a piece of the action. And my biggest issue with these kinds of shows is that the other networks don't do 15-minute shows like Adult Swim, so you get something that might work in that format stretched out to a 30-minute sitcom format, where it doesn't quite work as well. This show is all "Miami Vice"-style neon cop noir, and maybe the best decision they made is to have Rob Lowe play the main character, since his voice carries so much '80s douchebag charisma with it. The pilot is funny here and there, but I find this kind of thing very difficult to muster any enthusiasm for.

d) "Public Morals" 
Edward Burns has been a TV-level talent for as long as he's been making movies. And it's funny that a fictional version of himself that Burns played on "Entourage" admitted this a decade before the real Burns finally did -- I'm even tempted to compare "Public Morals" to "Five Towns" as if it actually existed. He's not even great at TV, though, this retro crime show just feels like a low budget wannabe "Boardwalk Empire," without the money or effort to make the costumes or sets convincingly evoke the era. Michael Rapaport and Neal McDonough are particularly wasted. It's at least nice to see Lyndon Smith, who was good on "Parenthood," get another TV gig.

e) "Narcos" 
I'm starting to be actively annoyed at Netflix doing a data dump of a full season of its shows at once. I know 'binge watching' is all the rage, but I've never really cared to watch things that way. So I tried watching about one episode a week of this out of passive protest, but after about 4 episodes, I think I'm ready to give up anyway. The mix of subtitles and English dialogue/narration is balanced really well and is more watchable than I thought it would be, but I dunno, I'm not that interested. The second episode has more scenes with humping than without, if you're into prestige drama soft porn.

f) "Hand Of God" 
This is Amazon's newest show, and Amazon's track record aside from "Transparent" remains pretty bad. Like Netflix, they dump every episode of a show online at once, and like "Narcos," I'm giving up after a handful of episodes. This show is just emblematic of so many of the worst things about prestige dramas in 2015: a corrupt, powerful antihero (Ron Perlman as a judge) in a gratuitously dark situation (his son is in a coma because he shot himself after his wife was raped) with a confusing pyschological/supernatural twist (Perlman starts hearing commands from the voice of God) and a lot of stupid quirky flourishes to add character (Lance Bass singing in a pet store commercial, a priest fucking a lady on the keyboard of a piano). Maybe all of this could've added up to an interesting show, but it doesn't. And I'm annoyed, because the supporting cast includes Andre Royo, Garrett Dillahunt, and Alona Tal, all people who deserve way better.

g) "Difficult People"
This show started off strong and has just gotten better. As a sitcom, it's pretty unsentimental and mostly exists to set up ridiculously specific pop culture punchlines, but it's managed a good balance of letting Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner be obnoxious myopic people but also funny and easy to identify with. Sometimes the plot demands they say the most awful thing imaginable, and there was a backlash to one of those lines in the pilot, but I thought that was kind of dumb since the episode frames it as a terrible thing that the character experiences consequences for saying. The children's menu episode was my favorite, but the podcast episode was interesting just in how the show is critiquing how the actual comedy world works now, as opposed to some broad, slightly antiquated caricature of TV comedy like "30 Rock."

h) "Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll" 
This show started off okay, and has fallen off pretty quickly. I was entirely too generous about the first 3 episodes, but in fairness, those were the best 3 episodes. Since then, there's been some occasionally amusing music industry satire, but a lot of it is pretty tonedeaf and stupid. And really, some of the funniest parts have just been old guys being confused by terms like 'fleek' or 'normcore.' Mostly it's just a lazy show where the characters change from week to week to fit whatever the episode's stupid story is.

i) "Mr. Robot" 
The twist in the penultimate episode briefly grabbed my attention after a long, sleepy season, but it ultimately made a dumb show feel even dumber to me, especially with what happened in the finale. People are talking about this like one of the best new summer shows and I don't get it. Is this show for anarchist bike messenger Fawkes mask truthers? If it's making fun of them, it's not trying hard enough.

j) "The Jim Gaffigan Show" 
This show is pretty funny, although for some reason I don't buy Adam Goldberg as a standup comedian at all, makes sense why shows about comedy usually have standups playing standups.

k) "You're The Worst"
This was one of my favorite new shows last year, and I'm annoyed that FX shuffled it to FXX this year (which they didn't do with the more watched "Married"), but I'm just glad it's back. The season premiere wasn't huge on laughs but it's good to see where the story is going this year, with the dynamic between Edgar and Lindsay changing, they're kind of the 'secondary' characters but I don't think the show would work half as well without them.

l) "The Strain" 
I think the biggest step forward this show has taken in the second season is that they came up with a reason for Corey Stoll's character to "shave off" the ridiculous hairpiece they'd been making him wear. The vampire mom trying to come back and get her non-vampire son is a pretty delightfully creepy plot, too.

m) "Drunk History" 
The novelty may have worn off, but I still find this show entertaining as hell. I think it's generally funnier when women tell the stories (Jenny Slate and Jessica Meraz have been great this season), but that might be because it reminds me of how funny my wife is when she's drunk, I wish she could be on this show.

n) "Masters Of Sex"
I've predictably enjoyed the Josh Charles arc, having him and Lizzy Caplan act together is just dream casting for me. Interested to see where the Emily Kinney story goes, though.

o) "The Mindy Project"
Shows jumping from network to another used to be a really rare and awkward, protracted process, so I'm impressed with how quickly and seamlessly "The Mindy Project" went from FOX to Hulu. The new season premiered today, actually before it would've if it was still on FOX, which is nice since they were kind of picking up from a cliffhanger on the previous season. I was annoyed by the structure of the episode, which awkwardly cut back and forth between a dream sequence and a 'meanwhile, back in real life' B plot. But it's still funny as ever, I keep thinking about Mindy's fictional Jason Derulo jam, "Big Old Cheekies."

p) "Last Comic Standing" 
The guy who won this year, Clayton English, is pretty good, but honestly a lot of people were pretty good. And most of my favorite contestants (David Tveite, Taylor Tominlson, Sheng Wang, Andi Smith) got knocked out before the top 5, so the finale wasn't that exciting for me.

q) "Project Greenlight" 
The first three seasons of "Project Greenlight" ran 10-15 years ago, and it's kinda weird to see it back now. But I guess the rise in digital video and a lot of new platforms for independent film has made the playing field different and the show feels different. The premiere was interesting because you see all these glimpses of other finalists that you might want to root for, except you already know who wins and who will be the focal point of the show from the second episode onward. There was a scene where Matt Damon interrupts and talks over the one black producer on the project, Effie Brown, during a discussion of diversity, that's become the big flashpoint of discussion for the episode and kinda gets you pissed off at Damon, who you're used to being the smart likable one next to Affleck.
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