a) "Master Of None"
Earlier this year, I finally let myself stop watching "Louie," and don't regret that decision one bit. So as I started watching "Master Of None," I got this sinking 'here we go again' feeling. After decades of standups shoehorning their personas and comedy style into formulaic network sitcoms, guys like Louie C.K. have loosened the reins for anti-formula shows that are occasionally great but very often poorly acted and indifferently directed short films. And Aziz Ansari's comedic voice isn't as developed as C.K.'s, so the results are even more mixed here. I've only watched about half the episodes so far, and some of them, particularly "Indians On TV," delve into a topic so well that I can understand the excitement around the show. But a lot of it just feels like bad actors doing a table read of bad first draft dialogue, including a disconcerting amount of discussion of a secret Father John Misty show that kind of underlines how much this show is not for me.
b) "Flesh And Bone"
There was a movie about 15 years ago called Center Stage
, that took place in the fictional American Ballet Company, and most of the cast was real ballet dances who hadn't acted before -- I've seen it because my wife has watched it about a million times. So we were surprised to see that the Starz mini-series "Flesh And Bone" also takes place at the American Ballet Company, and was choreographed by Center Stage
co-star Ethan Stiefel, who also has a small role in "Flesh And Bone." The lead actress, Sarah Hay, is also a dancer with little previous acting experience. This show is very much its own thing and not any kind of spinoff, though, and it quickly unravels into an extremely dark tale of incest and sex trafficking and mental illness. We found it pretty engrossing -- we've watched 7 of the 8 episodes in the space of about a week (it just started airing last week, but it's all available on VOD already), and I'm looking forward to seeing how it ends. It depicts emotional trauma in a murky, impressionistic way that brings "Hannibal" to mind, and the odd tangents it has taken with all the different characters in the ensemble have mostly been surprising.
c) "Into The Badlands"
I've never been huge into martial arts movies, so while the first episode of this looked really cool and had some crazy fight scenes, and the world it introduces is kind of strange and intriguing, I don't know if I give a damn about the story enough to keep watching. It at least seems well executed for what it is, though.
I'm not one to argue for every superhero to be made as dark and brooding as possible, and certainly "Supergirl" is one of the last ones that would work for. But this show is maybe a little too sunny and deliberately low stakes. The first couple episodes were charming enough -- Calista Flockhart is surprisingly good as the mean boss, and there's a good meta argument about the name Supergirl in the first episode. But it's mostly kind of boring and reminds me of gross old Jeb Bush.
e) "Ash Vs. Evil Dead"
Two decades after Army Of Darkness
, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell finally gave up on trying to make another Evil Dead
movie and settled for a TV show. And that's probably for the best anyway, it feels a little more like its own story than an attempt at recapturing the vibe of the previous movies. Bruce Campbell continues to lean into the knowing campiness of the character, and Raimi's tone and approach is intact, both in the pilot he directed and the episodes directed by others. Nothing mindblowing. but it's been fun and gorey so far, and the supporting cast bounces off of Campbell well.
It didn't bode well for "Breakthrough," the new Nat Geo documentary series about scientific discovery, that 5 minutes into the first episode my scientist wife jeered at the screen about an inaccurate statement from the narrator. It's pretty interesting stuff, though. Every episode being directed by a different person means you never know what you're gonna get, but it's all been good so far, although the one by Paul Giamatti, which featured a lot of Giamatti onscreen looking thoughtful about what he just learned, cracked me up.
I don't really know who Donny Deutsch is, apparently he used to host a show on CNBC, but I don't think he's really famous enough to do a show like this where he plays an exaggerated version of himself. These kinds of shows are always a little self-serving, like he's showing humility by making fun of himself, but "Donny!" shows just how conceited and self-indulgent a show like that can truly be. He tries to be a buffoon while showing off that he's a rich womanizing buffoon who likes to walk around with his shirt off, the whole thing is just strained and creepy and unfunny.
h) "The Last Kingdom"
This new medieval war show on the BBC is better than "The Bastard Executioner," I guess, but that's a pretty low bar. I think I just don't have any interest in this kind of thing, even if it's done well.
i) "Wicked City"
The other day this became the first new show to get canceled, in a fall season where networks have been extremely gunshy about canceling anything even if it's doing terribly. And it makes sense -- I have no idea who this show was for, or what it wanted to be. I don't know if it was supposed to be about the serial killer, who was creepier on "Gossip Girl" than he is here as an actual psycho, or if it was supposed to be a procedural about Jeremy Sisto's cop who's after him, or whether the second season would continue to follow one or the other or neither if it happened. And as an '80s period piece, it was just really half-assed, almost going out of its way to have scenes where actors impersonated Billy Idol and Def Leppard. I watched it, because Erika Christensen was in it and I'll watch her in anything, but I'm glad they put it out of its misery quickly.
j) "Life In Pieces"
A couple months ago this is one of the new fall shows I would've pegged for a quick cancellation. Instead, it's gotten a full season order, and I'm just kind of mystified. The one thing that sets it apart from other sitcoms, that each episode is chopped up into 4 self-contained stories, is also the thing that makes it feel like a bunch of stupid webisodes featuring generic character types who are never developed into three-dimensional characters. Zoe Lister-Jones remains the best thing about it, and I'm increasingly afraid that she'll be stuck in this career-stalling show for years like Kat Dennings on "2 Broke Girls."
k) "The Grinder"
My favorite new comedy of the fall, which continues to be hilarious, especially with the repeated use of footage of Rob Lowe's show-within-the-show legal drama. The whole dynamic with Lowe and Fred Savage kind of needs to be stuck in a holding pattern to work, though, so I don't really see how this show will continue to work for years without getting old, but it's strong enough so far that I'm interested to see them try.
This show has settled into a nice groove, the cast has so much chemistry. Obviously Morris Chestnut and Jaina Lee Ortiz are the main will-they-or-won't-they duo that drives the show, but the scenes in Rosewood's lab with his lesbian sister and her fiancee that threaten to be too cutesy and wacky work surprisingly well and the tone of the show a little more warm and light than the usual crime procedural.
I like this show a lot, although sometimes it seems to just veer a little too regularly between the terrorist conspiracy stuff and the scenes with sexy people making out to Miguel songs.
n) "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert"
It was probably never realistic to think Colbert on CBS would beat Fallon in the ratings, but after only 2 months on the air he's already getting beaten by Kimmel too. It's not even a bad show, I'm fine with Colbert dropping the satirical edge of his persona. But where I used to be able to watch the first 15 minutes of the "Colbert Report" and get the good stuff, it's a little harder to know when to tune in to this show to see the funny parts, and increasingly I think he's just kind of not a good interviewer. He'll break eye contact with some huge movie star to look at a card on his desk and read off movie titles and then post awkward questions about the movies he definitely hasn't seen, it's awkward.
o) "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"
This show has just continued to be incredibly strong, and I like that they've started to play with the usual dynamics of the characters already for season 3 -- Samberg and Fumero dating, Braugher and Peretti starting the season working outside the precinct. Not that it's a very plot-heavy show, but the ensemble is so uniformly strong that anything they can throw at the cast is worth seeing. The episode with Bill Hader was hilarious.
Another good show entering its third season that is very good, if not great. Chuck Lorre shows get a bad rap, but if you give that mean, snappy dialogue to someone as good as Allison Janney it can be pretty entertaining.
q) "Billy On The Street"
This show moved from Fuse to TruTV for its fourth season, which I guess is a lateral move. And I still love it, although now that "Difficult People" is going and on its way to a second season, I find myself already thinking of that as Billy Eichner's main gig and this as a side project. Maybe it's just because this show seems to easy to make. Shows are rarely funnier with celebrity cameos, but the celeb walk-ons on this show are always great, especially the Chris Pratt bit this season.
r) "The Soup"
So it was announced this week that E! is cancelling "The Soup" after 11 years (or 24 years if we're counting "Talk Soup" and everything). And while I love this show and still watch it every week -- the 'reunion show' special a couple weeks ago was great -- it kinda does feel like it's run its course, at least with Joel McHale. I kinda wish they were continuing with a different host, though, there's always bad TV worth watching clips of, and all the other clip shows that have tried to run with the "Soup" formula have sucked.