TV Diary

a) "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" 
On the whole, I've been pretty suspicious of YouTube celebrities, especially when they get opportunities in real show business. But this show, created by and starring Rachel Bloom (previously best known for the song "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury"), is pretty promising. The pilot was just firing on all cylinders with quick wit and big emotion and occasional impressive musical interludes, and Donna Lynne Champlin is great as a best friend who teeters between being the voice of reason and the strangest character in the whole show. There have been a few moments in the next couple episodes where things got eye-rollingly wacky and my initial buzz wore off, but it's still by far one of the best new shows of the fall.

b) "Casual"
Michaela Watkins was very funny and underrated in her single year on "Saturday Night Live," but she always had this kind of subdued energy that made her maybe less suited for sketch comedy and maybe more suited for a dark comedy rooted in reality like this show. She's kind of the straight man to her brother, played by Tommy Dewey (who it took me forever to recognize from "The Mindy Project," where he looked completely different), who got rich off of a dating app. So the whole show is kind of looking at dating in the Tiner era through the lens of these two characters and Watkins's daughter, and it's very dry and sometimes very bitter and nasty, but it has an interesting energy that keeps me watching it.

c) "Red Oaks" 
Even now that "Transparent" has won some awards, Amazon has continued to trot out new shows this year that are just mystifying wastes of effort. "Red Oaks" has a promising pedigree, with executive producers Steven Soderbergh and David Gordon Green (who directed multiple episodes), but it's less of an '80s period piece than a tennis-themed Caddyshack knockoff that actually is about the boring Michael O'Keefe-type kid. It's hard to even tell if there's anything knowing about its '80s sex comedy tropes or if they're serious about this shit. Josh Meyers (annoying brother of Seth) even shows up with the same feathered hair he had on the dreaded final season of "That '70s Show," plus a cheesy mustache because he's in the '80s now. Even Paul Reiser, who I generally like, is way more interesting in his smaller role on "Married" than on his major role in this.

d) "Dr. Ken" 
Ken Jeong has always been hit-or-miss for me, even on "Community" he constantly veered between hilarious and totally unnecessary. Drawing from his real life experiences as a doctor for a sitcom should be a no-brainer, but this show just falls into such a broad, generic sitcom template, with the loudest, most transparently fake laugh track I've ever heard. Occasionally the jokes are sharp, but it's still kind of a bummer to watch guys I enjoy like Jeong and Dave Foley and Jonathan Slavin doing something so much broader than they usually do.

e) "Truth Be Told" 
One of the best new shows NBC has aired in the last few months was "The Carmichael Show," a laugh track sitcom starring a black comedian, and generally centers around the characters discussing hot button topics. One of NBC's worst new shows, "Truth Be Told," is also a laugh track sitcom with a black comedian (Tone Bell) discussing hot button issues with his friends and family. But on this show, he's buddies with Mark-Paul Gosselaar and they're just a couple of pathetic married dudes talking about porn. Like, seriously, the first episode is about them realizing the babysitter was a porn actress, and the second episode is about them getting tickets to an adult film award show. And they try to make the show interactive by having a stupid fucking poll question flash across the screen toward the end of the episode.

f) "Code Black"
Now that "ER" has finally been off the air for a few years, maybe there's some room for another emergency room drama. This one isn't terribly different in its approach, other than trading out "ER"'s shaky cam for more traditional camera work, but it takes place in the busiest ER in the country, where they frequently run out of resources to treat every patient (code black, natch), so it can get pretty intense. Marcia Gay Harden and Luis Guzman are great, interesting anchors for a show like this, and the rest of the cast is fresh-faced and anonymous. But I've never been big on medical dramas, so I don't know how long I'll stick with it.

g) "American Horror Story: Hotel"
I gave this a try on the heels of trying to watch "Scream Queens," which might as well have been a season of "AHS" if they weren't able to sell it to a different network as a whole other show, and once again I'm just finding this Ryan Murphy stuff is not for me. I don't think he even understands horror as a genre. There's no mood-building, no stakes, no pacing, no suspense, no psychological tension, just a bunch of gore and weird shit that doesn't even register as shock value or camp because there's nothing grounded about the world it takes place in to contrast it with.

h) "Gigi Does It" 
I've liked David Krumholtz in a lot of things over the years, but I'm just mystified that there's a show where he dresses up like an old lady with creepy Jiminy Glick-looking facial makeup and interact awkwardly with people and occasionally say inappropriate things an old lady wouldn't say. It's mystifying that they thought this was a good idea for a show.

i) "Benders"
Denis Leary produces a show about amateur hockey players starring a couple of inexplicably popular comedians from MTV2's inexplicably popular "Guy Code," so the whole thing just oozes a douchebag vibe. There were a few funny lines here and there in the episodes I saw, but it's pretty bad. "Documentary Now!" was good but generally IFC's original programming is just the pits, they're currently airing this and "Gigi Does It" in a block with "Comedy Bang Bang" and reruns of "That '70s Show."

j) "Adam Ruins Everything"
This show on TruTV is really unusual and impressive, it centers on this guy Adam Conover breaking down a particular topic and debunking a lot of cliches and received wisdom, like there's an entire show about cars and dealerships and driving insurance and all the bullshit involved with that industry. So it's kind of like "Myth Busters" crossed with the second half of an episode of "Last Week Tonight" where John Oliver just goes to town on a particular topic, but it's all really tightly scripted and revolved around this guy obnoxiously walking into a situation and just explaining all this stuff in a rude know-it-all way, while the other characters kind of try to get away from him. Apparently it grew out of a CollegeHumor video series, so like "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," that's a big point in favor of culling talent from the Internet.

k) "Moonbeam City" 
I still think that this show is, kind of like "Archer," a somewhat flat 30-minute version of what a lot of Adult Swim shows have done in 15 minnutes, but it's growing on me, the second episode was much funnier than the first and in general the writing has been pretty sharp.

l) "Stitchers"
One of my favorite new shows over the summer was "Stitchers," and ABC Family has already renewed it for a second season, although by the time it airs the network will have rebranded as 'Freeform.' So I was pleasantly surprised that they came back for a special Halloween episode this month. It was naturally, a little lighter than the show usually is, taking a break from the main storyline and just kind of doing a Scooby Doo kind of thing, but it was fun, I'm glad they did it.

m) "The Last Man On Earth" 
The first season of "The Last Man On Earth" started with two very funny episodes where Will Forte was completely alone in the world or alone with Kristen Schaal, followed by several episodes with a larger cast that kind of devolved into Will Forte being socially awkard and/or evil in increasingly absurd ways that weren't really all that funny. And so far the second season has followed that exact same pattern. When it's good it's really good, though, so I'm still along for the ride.

n) "iZombie" 
In its brief first season "iZombie" very quickly progressed from something that I enjoyed very easily for its similarities to creator Rob Thomas's previous cult classic "Veronica Mars" to a show with its own characters and storylines that are compelling and entertaining in their own right. And the second season has picked up nicely, continuing some threads from the first season but also getting an interesting arc with a couple new antagonists (Steven Weber, who's become more valuable as a frequent TV guest star than he ever was on "Wings" back in the day, and Leanne Lapp). I am a little disappointed in the declining presence of Aly Michalka, though, she was a strong component of the ensemble when the show started.

o) "Empire" 
I don't think I enjoy this show nearly as much as a lot of people do, but it's still pretty damn entertaining. The first season was such a phenomenon that I wasn't sure if they'd be able to keep up the pace, but so far the second season has just kept on turning out all these memorable lines ("A mouth is a mouth") and scenes (that insane prison recording session with Petey Pablo). As they load up the show with more and more guest stars, though, it gets confusing to try and square their imaginary music industry with real life -- Ludacris plays a prison guard, but Pitbull plays Pitbull, so does their universe also have a Ludacris?

p) "Fresh Off The Boat"
The first season of "Fresh Off The Boat" was very good, but the person whose memoir it was based on and who narrated the show, Eddie Huang, was very vocal about how the show could and should be better. And I respected the odd position he was in, and really hoped he would keep fighting the good fight to make it better and truer to his life. And I guess he didn't, because when the show returned for a second season this fall, the narration was gone. It's not a huge loss -- the narration usually felt kind of redundant to the action, and it actually took me a couple episodes to really notice it was gone. It's still a good show -- Constance Wu

q) "Black-ish"
Another good family show returning for a second season that is often driven by race and culture clash and comes at those things in funny, unexpected ways. The first couple episodes of the season weren't up with the show's best, but I feel like they got back into the groove and the chemistry of the cast is strong.

r) "Fargo"
I told you how much I detested the first season of "Fargo," but it's a new season with all new characters so let me tell you, it's still odious garbage. I didn't even think I revered Fargo the movie all that much until I realized how much it did right that the show abandons or does in the most rote, cynical way possible. About 7 people died in the movie, not all of them onscreen, and I think more people got killed in just the first episode this season. Ted Danson and a few other cast members can't help but be charming, and a couple of the stories seem like they could make for decent drama on their own, but put all together as this ugly parade of 10th generation 'dark comedy' tropes it's just foul.

s) "The Leftovers"
I think this show has gotten some undue hate from people who are still made at Damon Lindelof about "Lost." And while it is in some way a show full of mysteries that will never be solved, Lindelof is a lot more forthcoming about it here -- "The Leftovers" was based on a novel that never explained the mass disappearance of millions of people, so the show will never explain it either, and in a way that relieves a lot of tension. But while I've started the second season still very interested in this world and these characters, I'm not crazy about the direction they've taken. Ann Dowd gave a standout performance in the first season, but now her character's dead and she's still a member of the cast, as a ghost or hallucination that constantly talks to Justin Theroux, taking his more minor mental disturbances to a broader new extreme, and I'm not really wild about this being part of every episode now. In the last episode, Dowd's character started singing Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" in a couple scenes for no apparent reason, almost like a meta Rick Roll, and one of the scenes transitioned to a scene scored by a slow, gloomy cover of "You're The One That I Want" from Grease. I like the unexplained aspect of the show, but I feel like it's starting to just be inexplicable for its own sake.

t) "The Affair" 
"The Affair"'s conceptual hook is that each episode is told half from Dominic West's perspective and half from Ruth Wilson's perspective. And the wrinkle in the second season is that there are now episodes from the respective of their spouses, Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson. And while I'm still not terribly enamored with the whole vehicular homicide mystery driving the plot right now, it's still a really unique and interesting show. If anything, the second season has just emphasized the undercurrent of just darkness and depression and dread, like this show is really trying to make extramarital affairs seem like the total destructive dead end that they probably often are, without being, like, moralistic about it.

u) "You're The Worst" 
Still love this show. The recent episodes with Edgar dating the girl from the comedy troupe have been full of great stuff, and Gretchen managing an Odd Future-ish rap group continues to be hilarious.

v) "Drunk History"
Some great episodes lately. Jen Kirkman was the storyteller in the first "Drunk History" online video that I loved, so it was fun to see her pop up again.

x) "The Mindy Project" 
Generally speaking, there are sitcoms where the main character(s) have kid(s), and there are sitcoms that delay any plotline where they have kids until like season 7 at the earliest -- even "Mike & Molly" don't have kids yet (and apparently they had Molly get pregnant in one season finale and then just decided to completely forget about it in the next season, which is hilarious and bizarre). So "The Mindy Project" is unique just in the way they've progressed pretty quickly from Mindy and Danny having no relationship in season 1 to getting together in season 2 and having a baby at the beginning of season 4, things that any other sitcom would've stretched out over a decade. The show is still intermittently hilarious, and still has a weird relationship with its ensemble, who it keeps underusing in favor of constantly rotating in new recurring characters. Garrett Dillahunt is funny in everything and I'm happy to see him in the show, but I feel like at this point in this show's run it'd be nice if they just focused on giving Ike Barinholtz and Ed Weeks and Xosha Roquemore good moments in every episode.

y) "Project Greenlight" 
This show has really become about one of the producers, Effie Brown, struggling heroically against the absurd unrealistic expectations of the director they chose, Jason Mann. It's all kind of a trainwreck that I can't look away from, I really can't believe this guy sometimes. I'm curious to see the movie when HBO airs it, though, I get the feeling it might turn out okay. I've worked on enough sets, even if they weren't for feature films, to really feel the anxiety these guys go through as they fall behind schedule or go over budget or run out of time to do more takes.

z) "Saturday Night Live" 
This is the first new season of "SNL" in a while with no major turnover in the cast, nobody got fired and there's just one new featured player. The new guy, Jon Rudnitsky, is not very promising -- his most prominent role so far was a way too broad Anderson Cooper impression. The cast is in an awkward place -- Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam and Vanessa Bayer and Kenan Thompson are a strong glue, and Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones and Kyle Mooney bring weird interesting vibes that the show didn't have before, but sometimes they're all failed by the writing. And Killam's Trump was very bad, especially considering that Darrell Hammond is still around as the announcer and popping up to do the Clinton impression. It was fun to see Amy Schumer's episode, especially since she's maybe the first person to host "SNL" while starring in a different sketch comedy show, but as with most episodes lately it was a couple strong sketches and a lot of forgettable ones.
« Home | Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »

Post a Comment