The first two episodes of this show felt more like a 2-part pilot, although I'm glad they weren't aired together, I hate 2-hour pilots and am glad there have been fewer of them this year than in other recent years. In a way the second episode felt like it could've come first, or at least it did a better job of pulling me into the story. This show has a bit of the same tone as Jonathan Nolan's screenplays for his brother's films, which is to say it's a little humorless and more interested in the concept than the characters, and that's potentially a much bigger problem with a TV series than with a one-off movie. But so far there are already some characters who feel like more than stoic mannequins to move through the premise, which is impressive since some of those characters are actually the AI robots (and I'm now inordinately fond of Evan Rachel Wood ever since she sang a Geraldine Fibbers song). This show has such a huge impressive movie star cast that it feels like the show is still slowly introducing everyone and setting things in motion. It's all very cool-looking and ambitious but I hope it's going somewhere good, but with a J.J. Abrams show you have to kinda wonder. Some of my favorite stuff so far is the people who work on the 'narrative' of the fantasy world and talk like TV showrunners or people creating a video game.
b) "Haters Back Off"
I try not to dismiss people who got famous off of YouTube too reflexively, especially since "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" and "Insecure" turned out to be really good shows. But I've always been skeptical of the 'Miranda sings' phenomenon and amazed by the size of the venues Colleen Ballinger tours with this character. And the show, which attempts to build a whole backstory and family sitcom life around basically a girl who sings badly and makes weird faces, I don't know, it doesn't work. You have this bland competent narrative around this incredibly obnoxious character with these goofy Ed Grimley mannerisms, and it doesn't really succeed in humanizing her, it just takes for granted how funny that one 'joke' is.
c) "American Housewife"
I thought Katy Mixon was a really promising comedic actress a few years ago when "Eastbound & Down" and "Mike & Molly" had just started out and she was one of the best things about either, but I lost interesting in both shows pretty quickly. So I'm glad she finally has a lead role in something that really feels like an ideal vehicle for her, even if it's kind of a cookie cutter 2010s network sitcom about a family that's always saying inappropriate things. The funniest parts of the first episode were in the ads, which I guess is to be expected, and I'm not crazy about the voiceover, but overall it was pretty funny.
I would like to think I created this show with a tweet last year. But anyway, I will forever ride for Thomas Haden Church, but after one episode, I'm not too sure how much fun it will be to watch a show about a marriage dissolving, even if it's a comedy. There were a few funny moments,
Also, it amused me that the pilot took place at Molly Shannon's character's 50th birthday party because, y'know, Sally O'Malley.
e) "Luke Cage"
Netflix's Marvel shows have been flawed but good so far, and Luke Cage was great as a supporting character on "Jessica Jones," so I was looking forward to this. It's been moving a little slow for me, though, I've only gotten to the third episode so far. A lot of people have written interesting things about the show's kinda weird conservative politics, I've only just started to really note it in the early episodes. Simone Missick is the bomb, though.
f) "Crisis In Six Scenes"
I still watch and dislike just about every new Woody Allen movie for the last decade, even the ones that have been well regarded, so I didn't have high hopes for his Amazon series, which both Allen and audiences seem to have already dismissed. It was better than I expected, though -- the 6 episodes felt less like a show than a Woody Allen movie than ran an hour longer than usual with lots of extended chatty dialogue scenes, but it was funnier than his last few comedies and made more sense taking place in the '60s than most of his movies that take place in contemporary times but feel like they'd make more sense in a '60s or '70s setting. Elaine May is a delight, and Miley Cyrus is just painful to watch but isn't even in the entire first episode (also, holy shit at Miley Cyrus saying lines like "I used to sleep with the black in an effort to kind of absorb some of his political rage").
g) "The Exorcist"
The original The Exorcist is one of my all time favorite movies and none of the sequels or prequels ever really hit the mark. This show is pretty promising, though; other than the basic framework (old priest and young priest, adolescent girl is possessed) it's not the exact same story with the same characters, and with a series they have the room to fill in the blanks more on the those characters and have some different things happen and not totally mimic the film's big iconic moments (although it's early in the story, those moments may still be to come). There were a few moments in the first couple episodes that have really given me chills. The second episode ended with a whole thing with a band of killers taking people's internal organs and I have no idea what it has to do with the exorcism story, but it was suitably creepy.
With all the original ideas thriving on TV these days, it's kind of amazing to me that the networks are still going for reboots of old properties. "The Exorcist" at least has potential, but "Lethal Weapon"? "MacGyver"? What the fuck? This one cracks me up because the cast is these kids who are a few years from Disney Channel/Nickelodeon shows, but it's not like they can make "MacGyver" cheesier, it just is what it is. The most ridiculous thing is that they'll actually caption some things, like MacGyver is hanging underneath a plane and little words pop up on the screen telling you where the engine and the electronics are because MacGyver knows that stuff but nobody's there for him to explain it to. I feel bad for George Eads, he did 15 years on "C.S.I." and this is the follow-up gig CBS throws him.
I'm really impressed with this show so far, I thought that maybe it would be kind of a generic 'inspiring' sports show about a theoretical first woman in major league baseball. But they've really explored the premise in a smart way, really playing out all the messy ways that the media and other players would react to something like that happening, it feels very true to what athletes deal with these days, for better or worse, things like the Michael Sam backlash. And the whole cast is really solid, Mark-Paul Gosselaar is a great choice to play the kind of jerky kind of likable veteran player. Also the violin-driven score gives the show a great unique feel.
j) "Designated Survivor"
Anyone who's ever seen the news things about the 'designated survivor' who stays away from the State of the Union Address has probably thought about how that's a cool phrase and could be the premise for a badass movie or show, so inevitably that finally happened. But of course, it's not just a neat little show about someone who never ran for anything unexpectedly becoming POTUS, it's about someone becoming POTUS directly after a catastrophic act of terrorism on the Capitol, and it's also another gloomy show about Kiefer Sutherland fighting terrorists. There were some moments in the pilot that were interesting but it quickly has turned into something I don't wanna watch.
At first, I was offended that they made a courtroom show called "Bull" that isn't a "Night Court" spinoff, and then I was offended because they made a show about Dr. Phil's pre-TV career with a handsome guy playing the role based on Dr. Phil. But after watching it, I realize this is just an all around awful show that tries to make the whole weird pseudoscience of modern jury selection into a cool noble profession like practicing law, it's just odious.
l) "Van Helsing"
Neil LaBute has had this odd career, starting out 20 years ago writing some really distinctive plays and films about misanthropic and emotionally manipulative relationships and then kind of becoming this undistinguished jobbing director who does stuff like Lakeview Terrace and that awful remake of The Wicker Man. I would've thought getting into television would allow him to return to his earlier style, but instead he created a Van Helsing reboot for SyFy, where Van Helsing's daughter Vanessa Helsing is resurrected in the future to save the day after a vampire apocalypse. It's perfectly okay for a goofy SyFy show but it's just odd to think that it's by the In The Company Of Men guy.
m) "Son Of Zorn"
FOX has been importing creators and tropes from Adult Swim with varying degrees of success for this years, and this show feels kind of descended from Adult Swim, with a "He-Man"-style character who lives in the real world, an animated superhero walking around a mundane live action world. I like the cast and there have been a few laughs in each episode, but the whole thing just feels like a misfire, the premise just isn't as funny as they think it is and there's kind of a disconnect between Jason Sudeikis's animated character and the rest of the cast.
This show has continued to be very good since the stellar premiere, although what I'm really interested in the way the show started out rooted in pretty realistic, straightforward storytelling but has slowly drifted out of that with things like, say, the black actor playing Justin Bieber and dropping n-bombs left and right moving the show into more high concept satire, more of a live action "Boondocks" kind of thing. I'm curious if this show will play out a bit like "Louie" where they eventually drop any pretense of traditional sitcom continuity.
o) "Better Things"
This show feels in some ways very unremarkable and unambitious but I really like its feel for family life and parenting, it just rings true to my experiences in a way that a lot of 'realistic' shows don't.
p) "Queen Sugar"
I respect this show a lot but it feels very heavy handed with its themes and melodramatic, I get a little exhausted watching it and don't even feel in a rush to get to the next episode.
q) "The Circus: Inside The Greatest Political Show On Earth"
This Showtime series, a weekly half hour about the presidential campaign, has really been one of the few non-comedic things on TV about the election that I've enjoyed watching in this year of tedious and mishandled CNN coverage. It's not the whole story by far, and is more about strategy and polls than issues, but it's a pretty interesting window into life on the campaign trail, and it was at its best back during the primaries madness, but some of the recent episodes about Clinton and Trump have been pretty interesting. I feel like this show will be a good time capsule for this crazy year someday.
I really thought this show had a strong cast with good chemistry from the jump and have been a little annoyed at how they've started to pad out the cast more, first with Sam Huntington's very annoying character towards the end of season 1 and now Eddie Cibrian in season 2. But maybe since the show got renewed and seems to have a future they're just figuring out how to do 24 episodes a year without Morris Chestnut and Jaina Lee Ortiz carrying the whole show so they're making it more of an ensemble. I kinda hate the way they broke up Tara and Pippy, though, their relationship was initially a really refreshing part of the show.
s) "Documentary Now!"
I liked this show in the first season but I feel like I really started to appreciate it this year, just how much fun it is to see some of these ex-"SNL" guys do these half hour pastiches of various classic documentaries that aren't really 'pop culture' enough to do on a sketch show. And Bill Hader and Fred Armisen just go all out as performers and the production values are incredibly detailed but they ultimately do these silly funhouse mirror versions of the movies. The episodes based on The War Room and Stop Making Sense have been my favorite this year, but I'm really looking forward to the The Kid Stays In The Picture one. Someday I might try and watch each episode back-to-back with the actual movies.
t) "Blunt Talk"
This is such an odd little show with so many characters dealing with their own particular psychological and sexual quirks and it's gently amusing but it also still makes me miss "Bored To Death."
u) "You're The Worst"
This show has been pretty consistently amazing but I feel like in this season it's gotten back to being really viscerally funny and firing off one-liners a little more than in the second season. Samira Wiley's therapist character seems like kind of a predictable 'straight man' to bounce off of Aya Cash but their scenes together have been really hilarious.
v) "Halt And Catch Fire"
This week AMC announced that "Halt And Catch Fire" was renewed for a 4th and final season and aired the season 3 finale, which basically jumped forward from 1986 to 1990 (where it seems the 4th season will take place, rather than a one-off 'flash foward'). And I'm still processing how I feel about that. This show's fictionalized version of the home computer revolution has always made my head hurt a little, just watching these characters say ridiculously prescient things and invent technology that often wasn't invented until much later, and it really went overboard in the finale, where they had these long dialogue scenes basically predicting the next couple decades of the Internet. Plus, it really bummed me out that the relationships I actually found interesting about the show (Donna and Gordon's marriage and Donna and Cam's friendship) were effectively broken up in the last few episodes while the Joe and Cam pairing seems to be back on the table. And I'm frustrated with these developments mainly because this was probably the best and most interesting season of the show to date.
w) "Masters Of Sex"
"Masters Of Sex" has the benefit of being a period show that's about actual people who really lived and did the important work depicted in the show, so the thing about a show like "Halt" that bothers me isn't an issue. It's a frustrating show in its own way, at times, but so far this season has been good. They're now in the swinging '60s and there's a whole subplot with Playboy and Hugh Hefner (and a cameo by Andre Royo doing a really impressive Sammy Davis, Jr.). But mostly I finally feel some kind of affinity for the characters and just enjoy watching them interact, the 'key party' episode felt like one of the show's best because of the way the story was told backwards and it was so character-driven and not really about the big overarching narrative.
x) "The Mindy Project"
The season 5 premiere marked the end of Chris Messina as a series regular on "The Mindy Project" and seemingly the end of the Mindy/Danny relationship, which was interesting, since that long seemed kind of the center of the whole series. And it felt like they very deliberately let Danny become a total asshole on his way out so that you'd welcome the change. Which is fine, I guess, since I like the show mainly for the one liners and not the plot, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. But the show also still doesn't really know what to do with Garrett Dillahunt, and they very quickly started and then torched an unconvincing romantic plot between her and Mindy, so it just kinda feels like this show's awkward handling of its revolving door supporting cast will never settle down.
y) "Once Upon A Time"
My wife has been a fan of this show since the beginning, and now as it drags into its 6th season, she's still watching, but she keeps talking about maybe or maybe not finally giving up on it. I just kinda sorta watch it if I'm around when she has it on, but I think even if I watched it faithfully I'd find all the stories hard to follow, I mostly like it for the hot Evil Queen lady.
z) "Saturday Night Live"
It's been interesting to see how "SNL" has handled the Trump candidacy -- obviously they dropped the ball hugely by having him host during his campaign and I think that'll always be one of those dark chapters in the show's history. But they also had Taran Killam's Trump impression totally flop, and then brought back Darrell Hammond, who is still kind of on the show (as the announcer and occasionally doing Bill Clinton) but has handed the reigns to Alec Baldwin to do Trump this season. Hammond's Trump is kind of a familiar classic at this point, but Baldwin's Trump in the first two episodes this fall has just been hilarious and better written than any of the Trump sketches last season, even if I find it kind of disturbing to see a portrayal of a more handsome Trump with the piercing blue eyes of a Siberian husky.