TV Diary

a) "The Night Manager"
I always thought about all the great roles Hugh Laurie could be doing when he was stuck making 8 seasons of "House" way past when that show had ceased to be interesting. So it's nice to see him in stuff like "Veep" and this, where he plays a villainous arms dealer. I'm 5 episodes into the 6-part miniseries and it's really good, although I feel like they're not having enough fun with the fact that Tom Hiddleston is basically a normal guy who gets thrown into this spy movie, at a certain point the humor of the first couple episodes has faded as the story has escalated.

b) "Houdini & Doyle"
4 different actors have portrayed Sherlock Holmes in major TV or film projects in the past 5 years, so it feels like some kind of ridiculous spillover Sherlock-mania that there's now also a show about Arthur Conan Doyle solving crimes. Apparently he and Houdini really did strike up a friendship and help the London police around the turn of the century, but even with some factual basis this show is obviously mostly about having fun with history and making up weird semi-magical mysteries for them to investigate. It's pretty enjoyable, though, I like the cast.

c) "The Girlfriend Experience"
I never saw the Soderbergh movie, so I can't compare this or say how different or similar it is. But I could see this kind of story working better as a feature film, halfway through the first season of the series it already feels like it's descended into a gloomy, repetitive rhythm. I mean, it's very interesting as a show co-written by a woman that takes a realistic, unglamorous look at sex work, it's a perspective you don't see much. But the main character is such a blank slate that I don't know if there's enough plot in the second half of the season to hold my attention.

d) "Containment"
My wife is an epidemiologist, so I like watching things like Contagion and letting her explain and fact-check the science to me. And this miniseries on The CW is obviously not going to be the most scientifically rigorous show about an outbreak. But it's about a new mutation of a new avian flu mutation that starts spreading in America and is traced back to a Syrian immigrant, so it really just feels like this show is stoking two very unjustified paranoid media narratives at once, which is pretty disappointing.

e) "Game Of Silence"
This was adapted from a show in Turkey, about a group of childhood friends who go to jail, and kind of continue to be stuck in these dark violent lives as adults when they get out of jail. In the original show, all the kids had to do was steal some baklava to get thrown in Turkish prison, but in America they had to justify the prison sentence by having the kids steal a car for a joyride and crash into and kill another motorist. So basically, the one big plot adjustment they had to make in changing the location of the show also inherently made the lead characters way less sympathetic, so from the jump I'm not really rooting for these asshole kids to grow up and have decent lives. And the whole thing is just really dark and pointless, feels like some "Rectify"-style misery porn that's so big on TV these days.

f) "Time Traveling Bong"
When the latest season of "Broad City" ended, Comedy Central followed it up with a 3-part miniseries starring Ilana Glazer and the guy who plays Trey. And it's funny, but I dunno, it also feels like they wrote a stoner-themed Hot Tub Time Machine knockoff and no studio wanted it, so they did it on the cheap for Comedy Central. There's a few really funny scenes but it just feels like a forgettable side project.

g) "Lopez"
I feel like "semi-autobiographical single camera sitcom" is this perfunctory stage in every aging comedian's career now, and for every "Curb Your Enthusiasm" or "Louie" that does something people love with the format, there's a few shows that are just masturbatory in-jokey "Entourage"-style toothless showbiz satires. "Lopez" is somewhere in the middle, it's got some pretty sharp humor here and there and kinda lets George Lopez do something a little cranky and grown up after coming off like a jolly cheeseball in his talk show and his old sitcom. But again, it also just feels like a perfunctory career stage he's going through after those shows went off the air.

h) "Dice"
If George Lopez wasn't a very appetizing star for the "semi-autobiographical single camera sitcom" formula, Andrew Dice Clay is downright revolting. This show is mostly about breaking down the Dice mythos and letting him make fun of himself as this old has-been trying to get by in a more politically correct modern world, but really I feel like it's kind of easy and stupid and I just hate this guy so who cares. At least in "Vinyl" they killed him.

i) "The Real O'Neals"
This was the best of the networks' mid-season replacements this year, so I'm glad it got picked up for a second season, it can be hard to make that happen in May if you only debut in March. Sometimes I feel like the show is so old-fashioned in its "religious family coming to grips with the son being gay" theme that I forget that it takes place in the current day and not 2 or 3 decades ago, but the writing is really sharp and the cast had chemistry from the jump.

j) "The Family"
My wife accurately predicted this show's twist back when the show debuted, and I was bummed out that she turned out to be right. Not that I begrudge her being right, I just hate the whole switcheroo plot, and although I finished the season, I really just didn't care what happened after that, and I'm glad it's canceled.

k) "The Grinder" 

Of all the shows that were canceled last week, "The Grinder" and "Agent Carter" are the only ones that I was really anxious about being on the bubble and am really disappointed that they're canceled. But "The Grinder" really kinda worked through the premise so thoroughly, and did so many fun things with it, that I am happy to remember it fondly as a one season wonder, I don't know if they were set up to really thrive in the long run with such a weird show.

l) "Grace And Frankie" 
The first season of "Grace And Frankie" debuted a couple weeks after my son was born last year, and it was one of the rare Netflix shows I really binge watched because we were just home all the time with the baby and it turned out to be the warm, comforting show full of familiar old actors being funny and cantankerous. So I haven't rushed through the second season as quickly, I'm just a few episodes in, but it still seems to have the same charm.

m) "iZombie"
This show has been consistently great in the second season, and they ended the Steven Weber story arc really well. And it was great that TV writer Rob Thomas finally responded to years of jokes about his name by having Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas come on his show and get killed by zombies.

n) "The Last Man On Earth" 
This show was never about plausibility, so I've enjoyed the ridiculous plot where Will Forte's astronaut brother Jason Sudeikis lands back on earth and they're reunited. I always feel like the show is falling short by leaning so hard on Forte doing a typical sitcom schlemiel thing, the show has always been its funniest when it didn't rely on that for laughs.

o) "Empire" 
This show is just not as deliriously entertaining as it was in the beginning, and you can kinda see the ratings and the Twitter discussions dropping off already. But now and again a couple of characters will repeatedly, solemnly refer to a song called "Boom Boom Boom Boom" and I'm like I'm so glad this is on TV.

p) "The Mindy Project"
Last week, well into the 4th season, Mindy Kaling did an episode that kind of finally responded to frequent criticisms of her show only ever depicting her dating white men. And it was really frank and funny and unsparing while also not feeling like a crowd-pleasing capitulation to that criticism. But I feel like she'll probably never do an episode like that again, and people will just continue to be unhappy with the show not making her race the main topic of the show, for better or worse.

q) "Saturday Night Live" 

I really like the current "SNL" cast but outside of the Ariana Grande episode I feel like this season will go down as one of its worst in recent memory. The Trump-hosted episode will live on as one of those infamous incidents that people talk down on in oral histories, but really other than Ariana Grande's episode and maybe Peter Dinklage's, there were a lot of episodes that just barely got a laugh out of me the whole night. I feel like so many people have been on the show so long that there will be a few cast shakeups this summer, but I'd rather see them replace the writing staff, it feels like the writers have been letting the cast down.
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