TV Diary

a) "Vice Principals" 
After watching The Foot Fist WayObserve And Report, and maybe half the episodes of "Eastbound And Down," I've come to the conclusion that I don't particularly like Jody Hill's work, even if I don't outright dislike it (okay, I dislike Swagger Wagon). But I wanted to give this show a chance, especially since Walton Goggins has been way overdue to do a comedy show, and he is a really good foil for Danny McBride here. But McBride is just the same dumb asshole he always plays and it's not that funny, in fact I didn't laugh once during the first episode. I do think the show has some potential, I particularly like the marching band score, but I would kinda categorize this with "Teachers" and "Those Who Can't," two other middling cable comedies that debuted this year about immature adults working in elementary schools.

b) "Stranger Things"
It's probably not fair to judge a mystery show like this until you've seen the whole thing play out, and a lot of people have already binged all 8 episodes and raved about it. I've only watched half the episodes so far, so I guess take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I'm not super impressed so far. There have been so many weird "dead/missing child in a small town" shows the last few years that have all been a wash, and this is a cut above those. But the more they pull the thread on all the weird unexplained stuff in this show, the less I care what it's all building up to. The thing with Winona Ryder and her missing son is stressful and sad but it also feels a little too emotionally manipulative to really get to me.

c) "Dead Of Summer"
"Dead Of Summer" is another spooky '80s period piece, but it's on Freeform and is much more a broad, unambitious homage to old school horror movies. I feel like they at least get the '80s music right more than "Stranger Things," though. Tony "Candyman" Todd as the mysterious bad guy is a nice touch, though, and there have been a few nice twists.

d) "Roadies" 
As a rock fan and musician who frequently works backstage at events, I have a lot of respect for roadies. I've worked with guys like Metallica's old lighting guy or Neil Peart's old drum tech, that world is full of great stories and big personalities. And Cameron Crowe creating a TV show about that world is a promising idea, especially since I think a lot of the quirks of his humor and storytelling are in a way more suited to television than film. This show isn't really living up to that potential, it's a bit lightweight and sometimes the contrived storylines remind me of, like, "Entourage" plots. And I wish that it focused more on the convincingly grizzled old roadie-looking guys played by Ron White and Luis Guzan instead of, like, Machine Gun Kelly, who's as unconvincing as a rocker as he is as a rapper. But there have been some fun, charming moments that capture a bit of what I liked about Crowe's best movies, and I enjoyed that there was an entire episode making fun of a thinly veiled Bob Lefsetz-type character played by Rainn Wilson. And it's fun to hear stuff like Little Feat and the Modern Loves played in the background.

e) "Greatest Hits"
This is a stupid summer show on ABC hosted by Arsenio Hall where each episode celebrates a different 5-year period (the two episodes I watched were 1980-85 and 1995-2000) with performances of songs from that era. As a music fan, I hoped there'd be some light nostalgic entertainment in it, but I dunno, it just seems like a grab bag of big obvious songs, Kenny Loggins doing "Footloose" or Hanson playing "MMMBop." If they did individual years per episode I think you might actually get a more interesting selection of songs with a more targeted time period, but this show isn't for music nerds. I don't really know who it's for, besides people who just put on ABC in the summertime even though the popular shows aren't running new episodes.

f) "American Gothic" 
Boring CBS show about a Boston political family who finds out a member of the family was a serial killer. A cable show with this premise might be intriguing but this just has crappy CBS production values and is too bland to even make me care about the mystery.

g) "Greenleaf"
One of my favorite developments in TV in the last couple years has been Keith David revealing himself as a hilarious sitcom actor on "Enlisted" and the last season of "Community." But in "Greenleaf" he's back to being the more intimidating patriarchal dramatic lead he usually plays, and a show about scandals and secrets at a megachurch is a pretty great premise. I haven't really found it very interesting so far, though, most of the cast besides David is kind of flat, and the sporadic scenes with Oprah as a club owner, always standing behind the bar on the phone with characters, probably so she could just shoot all her scenes in one day, are hilariously perfunctory.

h) "Animal Kingdom" 
I haven't seen the 2010 movie this show was adapted from, but TNT moved the setting of the story from Australia to California, and I suspect the story lost something essential about it by making it about Americans. I could easily see this being an interesting story about an Australian outlaw family, but this show just feels like a half-assed "Sons of Anarchy" without motorcycles. Ellen Barkin's matriarch character would be an interesting focal point for the show, but it feels like there's more screentime for two actors I have irrationally hated for years, Scott Speedman and Shawn Hatosy. This show is pretty entertaining for how many strategic camera angles they use for nudity, though, it looks like it took an insane amount of planning and editing for these mildly titillating scenes.

i) "Guilt" 
For years, my wife and I have had a silly running joke about the song "Big Empty" by Stone Temple Pilots, because she thinks the lyric "dizzy head" sounds like "daisy head," so it amused me that the lead actress in this show is named Daisy Head. The only thing about this Freeform murder mystery show that's really entertaining, though, is Billy Zane, who has in recent years given some really hilariously over-the-top performances in direct-to-DVD/VOD movies that virtually nobody has seen. His first scene in this show's pilot features him talking to an extremely fake-looking squirrel.

j) "Not Safe with Nikki Glaser"
I liked this show when it debuted earlier this year, I'm glad they brought it back for more episodes in the summer. I thought maybe they'd run out of raunchy sexual topics to draw humor from pretty quickly, but there really is just endless material and I feel like Glaser's unusually upbeat attitude really sets a unique tone for a show like this.

k) "Angie Tribeca"
This show's first season just debuted in January, and I guess TBS wanted to strike while the iron's hot. I think they're getting better at the wacky joke-a-minute style of comedy, too, they had Kevin Pollak show up for a 2-second cameo in an A Few Good Men parody scene and I was laughing about it for the rest of the episode.

l) "Casual" 
I really finished the first season of "Casual" last year with a feeling of total indifference about whether it ever came back. But it did, and I'm still here, and it kind of has more of a plot this season to keep me watching from one episode to the next. But Tommy Dewey is the only part of the show that's ever even remotely funny, and his charismatic asshole routine is not really as interesting as the show thinks it is.

m) "Difficult People"
"Difficult People" is a Hulu series in its second season like "Casual," but it's much more of a comedy -- in fact there's a great bit in the "Difficult People" season premiere where Billy Eichner bitches about how "comedies are just 30 minute dramas now," and "Casual" is the exact kind of show he's talking about. Eichner and Julie Klausner are pretty dedicated to the "Seinfeld" school of mean pointless misadventures in New York, but the rhythm of the dialogue is very different and I feel like it's really coming into its own as a show right now.

n) "Another Period" 
Another comedy back for its second season. It's kind of a one-joke show, but that joke is still pretty funny, it's just something decent I tend to put on when I don't feel like paying attention.

o) "The Jim Gaffigan Show" 
Another comedy co-starring the very busy Michael Ian Black in its second season. Sometimes the storylines they come up with so Gaffigan's not just walking around New York eating food are kind of more over-the-top than they need to be, but for the most part the show captures the amiable silliness of his standup pretty well.

p) "Mr. Robot" 
I was this show's biggest skeptic last year, but I'm trying to give the second season a chance. The 2-part premiere was not promising, though, it kinda went back to the brooding slow-paced style of the first season's weakest episodes, and now that they've played out a lot of the reveals and climaxes that the first season hinged on, I'm not really sure where they're going. But Joey Bada$$ is getting acting work, I guess that's nice.

q) "Killjoys" 
My wife really enjoyed this show last year, but it's kind of a show where I'm just along for a ride. It's pretty fun when it revolves around Hannah John-Kamen kicking ass, though.

r) "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" 
It amuses me how half-assed this show is, like what could Jerry Seinfeld do with his time that's less taxing? A show about golfing and being fed grapes? It's fun to watch, though, the shortness of the episodes is a good idea. The highlight of this summer's episodes was the Margaret Cho one, which ends with her going back to a place she bombed recently and apologizing and talking to the audience and then giving them a good show (with Seinfeld opening). It was kind of cool and unusual, and then it ended with Seinfeld deflating it all telling her "You know this is all just product placement, right?"

s) "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah"
Trevor Noah was never gonna have an easy road, but I feel like now that he's been given a historically ridiculous election year and hasn't really risen to the occasion, it's more or less over, whether Comedy Central decides to replace him soon or wait a while. Ratings have dropped like 37% since Jon Stewart left, "The Daily Show" didn't get an Emmy nomination for the first time in ages, I saw a Noah clip widely shared on social media for the first time just recently and it wasn't even particularly good. I don't dislike the show as it is now, even with Jessica Williams exiting I think the lineup of correspondents is good, I especially like Desi Lydic. But man, it feels like the public has decided and it's just a matter of time now.

t) "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" 
Colbert has been a little underwhelming in his new gig, too, but lately I've been watching the show more and more and I feel like he's gotten a bit of that old spark back. His stuff at the RNC this week really feels like it might turn the tide a little in him at least holding his own on CBS.
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