TV Diary

a) "BrainDead"
I love that the creators of "The Good Wife" took their clout and put it behind a weird sci-fi political satire where extra terrestrial bugs start taking over the brains of U.S. senators and controlling the government. And they even got CBS, the network least likely to put something like this on the air, to take it. Even if it airs in the summer, even if it gets quickly canceled, it's such a strange gamble and really more entertaining than it has a right to be. I mean, as a political drama it's sharper and closer to real life than the average network show about Washington politics, but it's also not afraid to have fun with the premise. And it goes without saying that Mary Elizabeth Winstead is charming and adorable, although there's something about her hair in this show, she's really never looked better. When the second episode opened with a jaunty song recapping the pilot, that was the moment I fell in love with this show. I hope every future episode has a recap song.

b) "Lady Dynamite"
Maria Bamford has been one of my favorite comedians for a long time, but I've never been sure how you translate her talent to something besides standup, since a lot of the appeal is that she can transform into different characters and shift tones with just her voice. So I was pretty thrilled to see a project like this happen, often I think Netflix comedy series can be a bit indulgent in departing from 3 act network sitcom formulas, but in this case I think it worked in Bamford's favor. I'm not in love with the way the storytelling jumps from the past to present, sometimes I think the tangential nature of the show would come across much better without it, but there have still been a lot of brilliant moments. I've only watched about half of the episodes and each one has been pretty different, so I almost don't feel qualified to really speak on it as a whole yet.

c) "Queen of the South"
The first episode of this didn't really hold my interest, I just don't care about these gangland crime dramas as a genre of TV and this is a bit blander on USA than it'd probably be on another network anyway. Not bad, but probably not something I'll stick with.

d) "Wrecked"
This isn't a "Lost" parody per se, but it pretty much is what you expect of a show about a plane wreck on a secluded island done as a comedy. It's broad and ridiculous but pretty funny sometimes, and I have to admit I'm rooting for the show a little bit because the creator's names are Jordan Shipley and Justin Shipley, gotta have some surname solidarity.

e) "Uncle Buck" 
I've watched Uncle Buck more times than I can count, but I think of it less as a great comedy than just an ideal star vehicle for John Candy. So it seems kind of silly to adapt it into a TV show, although refashioning the title role for someone like Mike Epps is more promising than if they just got some fat white guy doing a Candy imitation. Still, the execution is just kinda toothless, and the moments where they tried to do famous scenes from the movie (finding the daughter at the party, the giant pancake) just fell incredibly flat.

f) "Voltron: Legendary Defender"
My son saw this on the Netflix menu the day after Netflix released this new series and so we watched a few episodes. I dunno about him but I didn't like it as much as the other recent-ish Voltron series he's watched, "Voltron Force," although I have no particular reverence for the original show I watched as a kid.

g) "Feed The Beast"
I don't hold AMC up as any untouchable standard for prestige TV, but I'm weirdly disappointed in them for "Feed The Beast," which feels on some gut level like one of those flimsy Showtime series. It's not even bad, I could see it growing on me, but I was put off right away by the hackneyed 'childhood friends grow up to be very different people' premise where Jim Sturgess (his American accent getting worse by the day) is supposed to be a lovable cad but he's actually just terrible and impossible to like, and David Schwimmer is a sadsack with a tragic backstory but he's Schwimmer and I'm sorry I just can't feel too bad for Ross Geller.

h) "Outcast"
A very dour supernatural drama, based on a comic by "The Walking Dead" creator Robert Kirkman, with a lot of Exorcist-like depictions of demonic possession. The pilot was pretty gripping but I'm not sure how much I'm into it as a series going forward.

i) "Preacher"
"Preacher" is also based on a comic and mixes religious elements with horror, and it debuting within a week of "Outcast" feels like some kind of Armageddon / Deep Impact thing. I don't know if "Preacher" is the better show, but it is much easier to watch and leans into campy humor and surreal gore, so it feels maybe a little more likely to succeed. And I really like Ruth Negga.

j) "Maya & Marty"
Maya Rudolph is so talented and so funny and it's frustrating that she's never really found a good star vehicle to demonstrate that. NBC had her host a one-off variety show 2 years ago, but it took a while to come back, retooled with Martin Short, another "SNL" alum who's usually more successful in supporting roles. As an old-fashioned variety show, it's kind of fun, I appreciate that they focus on comedy and music, unlike that unfortunate recent Neil Patrick Harris thing that felt more like a game show. But it also just feels like an off season "SNL" side project with Kenan Thompson jumping in to help with a lot of the sketches, and it's only really made me laugh a few times.

k) "Inside The Label"
I really dig what BET has done with this show, it's like "Behind The Music" for famous rap and R&B labels. Sometimes it's the vanity labels of big stars, like Grand Hustle or Disturbing The Peace, sometimes it's more traditional labels like Uptown or Loud Records, but they've really uncovered a lot of interesting stories. I really learned a lot in the Ruff Ryders episode, even if they couldn't get DMX to do an interview. The production values are just okay, the voiceover narration often says goofy shit like "The album catches a fade from music buyers," but they usually talk to enough of the people that were there at the time to make it worthwhile.

l) "First Impressions with Dana Carvey"
Every week, three comics come on this show and show off their various celebrity impressions, which is really kind of a flimsy premise for a competitive reality show, but they have a lot of fun with it. Occasionally you get some kind of brilliant impression you've never seen before, or you get wildly varying Christopher Walkens in almost every episode. Carvey will usually bring someone in good as a guest judge, or they'll just have Jay Leno suddenly show up and make people do Jay Leno impressions to his face, which is hilariously uncomfortable.

m) "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee"
This show has really been a gem lately, Sam Bee is not approaching her show too much like John Oliver in terms of tone but they're both totally making the most of have a weekly show instead of a nightly show. I worked on a show recently and the script supervisor I sat next to for the week works on "Full Frontal," it was cool to hear a bit about how that show is made.

n) "UnREAL"
This was my favorite show of 2015, so obviously I was pretty excited for the second season. The first 3 episodes have been off to a strong start, mixing the camp and the tense backstage drama, but it kinda feels like everything's been set in motion for all the really interesting stuff to happen in later episodes.

o) "Wayward Pines"
This was one of my least favorite shows of 2015, but I was curious to see where they would go with a second season, since it was kind of initially designed as a 'limited series' that they scrambled to renew and keep going after the ratings were good. With the big twist of the first season having been played out, they can't put the genie back in the bottle, so now it's just this ungainly sci-fi thing instead of a small town mystery, and it's even worse than before. I'm surprised Terrence Howard is back, but I guess FOX just wants as much of him on the air as they can manage. Jason Patric being the big new addition to the cast seems to say it all, though, has Jason Patric ever been in anything good ever?

p) "500 Questions"
My wife has been watching this game show a bit lately. It's as watchable as any quiz show but it kind of amuses me how they stripped away any kind of gimmick or new format so that it's just question after question after question, kinda feels like someone gave up.

q) "Inside Amy Schumer"
There hasn't been any single tour de force episode like "12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer," but this season was otherwise up to the high bar set by the 3rd season. The gun-themed episode in particular had some pretty sharp moments.

r) "Silicon Valley"
I've never been as big on this show as some other people, and I've heard a lot of gripes from those people this season. It kinda grew on me over the course of the season, though, and one of the recent episodes had a great payoff to one of the show's best scenes ("this guy fucks"). I still get very frustrated by Martin Starr on this show, though, he's like his character on "Party Down" but not funny at all.

s) "Veep"
Another fine HBO show that I sometimes struggle to actually watch for some reason. I think this season I've been bitter because they moved production to California and I always thought it was so cool that they filmed in Maryland like 20 minutes away from where I live. Jonah is still one of the funniest characters on TV, though.
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