TV Diary

a) "Love" 
Netflix's new original series "Love" is about the unlikely relationship that blossoms between two 30ish white Los Angelenos with complicated lives. Essentially, the premise is a lot like one of my favorite new shows of the last couple years, "You're The Worst," except it defaults more to awkward charm than dark humor or absurdity. Gillian Jacobs is great in the show, it's exxciting to see her in a complex lead role after she seemed to be a smaller and smaller piece of the ensemble over the course of "Community"'s run, But Paul Rust is just this nerdy guy who you watch talk about '80s movies and jam on Wings songs with the guy from Eels. Like "Girls" or most of Judd Apatow's movies, there's just a lot of 'realistic' tedium and arguing padding out every funny or thought-provoking moment, and it can get exhausting. That said, I actually binge watched a Netflix show for once, watching more than half of the episodes last night while the baby was keeping me up all night, and I enjoyed it a lot.

b) "Fuller House" 

A lot of people have already written about how weird and pointless this show is (Richard Lawson had my favorite take), and in a way I had to watch at least one episode just to see how bad it is. The first episode is so packed with references and fan service that it actually ends with them recreating a scene from the old "Full House" in split screen with the original version of the scene. It's basically like "Girl Meets World," except Corey and Topanga were always way more the center of "Boy Meets World" than the girls on "Full House," so they're actually equipped to carry a new show, Candace Cameron and Jodie Sweetin are just awkward. Andrea Barber actually has great comic timing, though, it makes me feel kinda bad that she's never had any career outside of playing Kimmy Gibbler.

c) "Vinyl"
I always struggle with music biopics and fictionalized accounts of music history, the cliches and twisting of facts and bad impersonations, all the stuff that I love Walk Hard for satirizing. And this show feels just designed to irk me, using an actual fascinating place and time as the cardboard backdrop for another rambling Scorsese tale of coked up businessmen. It's a shame, because I've liked Bobby Cannavale in other stuff and wish he got a more compelling lead role where he wasn't just an unlikable mook hanging out with ridiculously bad actors dressed up like Robert Plant or Andy Warhol.

d) "Outsiders"
This show about a clan of mountain folk clashing with the law in Kentucky feels like a retread of a lot of better shows like "Justified" and "Sons of Anarchy" -- one of the leads is Ryan "Opie" Hurst from the latter. It's not bad, I just feel like it's so much the same macho violent cable drama thing I've seen a hundred times before, better than "Vinyl" but not by a huge margin.

e) "Animals"
I adore shows like "Home Movies" and "Dr. Katz" that let voice actors improvise dialogue for animated characters, so I thought "Animals" might have the potential to pull something like that off. But it's just so flat and half-assed, with even more perfunctory and basic animation and a couple of boring lead voice actors surrounded by a rotating cast of familiar comedians, just rambling like a bad podcast. Something like "Home Movies" had very character-driven humor, where every episode got funnier as you got to know the cast, but here, they're playing different animals every time and there's no story or continuity, just a bunch of disjointed little segments.

f) "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee"
I was excited to finally see Sam Bee get her own show, since there's now this whole diaspora of "Daily Show" correspondents hosting late night shows. And Bee's show on TBS perhaps wisely used the same cheat code that John Oliver's HBO show used, doing a weekly show and basically packing in a really potent half hour instead of stretching out a similar amount of laughs over four nights a week. Her show isn't too similar from the others, though -- she stands in front of a screen for the whole show instead of sitting at a desk, and there's a nice satisfying mean streak to the writing that feels refreshing compared to the gentle sarcasm and earnest outrage of most of her contemporaries. The fact that she's spent sizable chunks of 2 of her first 3 episodes talking to Syrian refugees and finding humane, sympathetic ways to get humor out of the awful way American politicians talk about them is pretty impressive.

g) "Not Safe with Nikki Glaser"
A Comedy Central show about sex and dating has the potential to be a boringly bawdy parade of tired jokes about Tinder and porn, but Nikki Glaser has really put together a show that, at least for the episodes so far, has kept coming at the subject matter with fresh angles and maintaining a balancing act between not too dirty and occasionally surprisingly filthy. A lot of it in the way she just kind of talks about this stuff like it's not a big deal instead of laying on the shock value in an "ain't I a stinker" way like a lot of female comedians do now.

h) "Join Or Die with Craig Ferguson"
Craig Ferguson's decade of hosting "The Late Late Show" was so unlikely, such a strange little niche show even by late night TV standards, that when he finally left CBS last year and started hosting a game show, I kind of assumed he'd never get to do something like his "Late Late Show" on TV again, at best a podcast or something. So I was pleasantly surprised that the History Channel found a way to shoehorn him into their schedule, hosting a panel discussion show where he and guests debate a topic like 'history's biggest political blunder' and go over the options and pick a winner. Ferguson opens the show with a monologue, even using the same weird high camera angle from the "Late Late Show" monologues, and his guests are often people he had on his own show a lot, so it's all pretty familiar in a good way. And a panel show that isn't about current events is kind of refreshing.

i) "Great Minds with Dan Harmon"
After "Join Or Die" on Thursday nights, History Channel has this little cluster of comedy shows under the banner 'Night Class,' which kinda feels like their attempt at an Adult Swim-type programming block. Even the shows are only 10 minutes long like Adult Swim stuff, including this, in which "Community" creator Dan Harmon uses a time machine to interview historical figure. The first episode, with Jack Black as Beethoven, felt like the kind of thing these guys can throw together in their sleep, but it was still pretty funny and I feel like it has some potential if they get funny guests every week.

j) "The Crossroads of History"
This is one of the other 'Night Class' shows, and the first episode, which was just a scene of an art school rejecting Hitler, felt like such a predictable slam dunk of Hitler jokes we've all heard a billion times before, that I'm kinda waiting to see if this gets better.

k) "The Real Housewives Of Potomac" 
I never watch these shows, but I was kinda curious to see this one just because Potomac is like 20 minutes away from where I live and I kinda work among these fancy schmancy D.C. types. It was tedious, though, these shows are not for me.

l) "Those Who Can't"

This show on Tru TV is 3 guys from a no-name comedy troupe playing high school teachers, and there was some bad advance press about the fact that they struggled to write for the only female character in a show about a predominantly female profession. And it's a funny show, with some pretty well written moments, but it mostly just feels like some lazy sketch comedy bro stuff and Maria Thayer probably deserves better than to be the token chick in a show like this.

m) "Teachers"
This other recent cable sitcom about teachers, starring mostly women, feels like it should be a good corrective to "Those Who Can't" that I might want to recommend more highly. But they're both kind of middling shows that get by on the easy comedy of adults doing inappropriate things around children. "Teachers" has a few laugh out loud moments here or there, but I just wish the cast was stronger.

n) "Agent Carter"
If there was any show I neglected to include on my top 50 shows of 2015 that I probably should have, it's "Agent Carter." The first season was really good, but just held my attention a bit less than Marvel's darker shows on Netflix. But it's in that weird Indiana Jones/Brisco County niche of mixing real history with weird pulpy sci-fi stuff that I love, and I feel like the show has really gotten in a groove in the second season and has gotten better at when and how much to throw comedy into the mix.

o) "New Girl" 
I've always joked about how quickly "New Girl" became an ensemble show that abandoned the pretense of being a star vehicle for Zooey Deschanel, that her being the title character is basically the equivalent of if "Friends" had been called "Phoebe." She's not bad or dead weight, it's just that pretty much every other character is of equal importance to the show. But my thesis wasn't really decisively proven right until this season, when they did several episodes without Deschanel at all while she took maternity leave, and they just kinda said oh she's in jury duty and you barely noticed she was gone.

p) "Suits"
For most of the time that "Suits" has been on the air, USA has done this weird schedule where each season is 10 episodes in the summer, then a break for several months, and the last 6 episodes of the season early the next year. Obviously, it's somewhat arbitrary how these 'seasons' are divided up, but I've come to really dislike this schedule, particularly for the weird little 6-episode runs. The current one is kind of once again ramping up the tension of what will happen to Mike's secret being revealed, which is always kind of dumb because if anything too bad happens then there's no show, and they're definitely keeping this on the air as long as they can. But I liked the mock trial scenes, more than the actual trial, and I'm kind of hoping they can conclude this story well and then hit the reset button and do some new stories for the next season. 

q) "Shameless"
I've always had a love/hate thing with "Shameless," especially as it drags into the 6th season and has been renewed for a 7th. I don't think I ever even finished the 4th season, but decided to keep up with it again. Mostly I've just liked the last couple seasons for the Sasha Alexander arc, though, a lot of the show just feels like it's in a rut. And a recent episode ended with an unlikable minor character being burned to death onscreen, and it was basically played for laughs and then never acknowledged again in later episodes, which felt like a new level of callous and hollow for this show.
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when will you review Impractical Jokers Al
i haven't seen that much of it to comment! should i start with early episodes or recent ones?
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