TV Diary

a) "Search Party" 
I'm not a fan of TBS's whole thing of piggybacking on the Netflix "bingewatching" trend of making whole seasons of shows available all at once. But they put "Search Party" on demand today and I had a day off so I ended up watching about half the season, it's pretty good. They go a little thick on the 'annoying NYC millennials' thing in the pilot -- in the first five minutes of the show, the characters go to brunch, tweet, and play ukulele. But after they settle into the mystery that drives the plot, it becomes pretty fun. I liked John Early's episode of "The Characters" so it's cool to see him get a big role like this, he's responsible for a lot of the show's biggest laughs, and Alia Shawkat is kind of a perfect straight man for all the odd things going on. and always has great hair and adorable outfits.

b) "Undercover"
I watched the first episode of the 6-part BBC miniseries about a lawyer trying to exonerate a death row inmate, it was pretty bleak, don't know if I'll go back to it.

c) "Good Behavior"
I feel like this is one of those shows about a brilliant, creative character, in this case a con artist, that actually needs some brilliant, creative writing to actually work, and the pilot really just failed to pull that off.

d) "Mars"
This show's mix of documentary and dramatization is interesting, and it is exciting to think about the idea that humans could be going to Mars in our lifetime. But the dramatized parts mostly felt like a less compelling version of that Matt Damon movie.

e) "The Crown"
As period pieces become more and more common on television and the production values and attention to detail become lavish and impressive, I have a harder and harder time giving a damn about how well a show can depict 1947 England or whatever. John Lithgow as Wiston Churchill is a good choice, though.

f) "Stan Against Evil"
I love John C. McGinley and always thought he deserved to have a bright career in comedy after being improbably great in "Scrubs" all those years. So I'm pleased that, after a couple years on that stupid "Ground Floor" show, he's finally wound up with a promising star vehicle, created by Dana Gould (an underrated standup and a staff writer from the silver age of "The Simpsons"). The first couple episodes have gotten off to an odd, slow start but it's starting to grow on me as they give McGinley more dialogue, and it kinda feels like this show is doing a better job of translating the tone of the Evil Dead movies to a series than "Ash vs Evil Dead" itself.

g) "Jon Glaser Loves Gear"
This is a show on TruTV where Jon Glaser basically satirizes reality shows about cool guys doing cool adventurous stuff, so of course there's a lot of meta jokes and awkwardness and arguing. I enjoyed it, but not necessarily something I'm in a rush to keep watching.

h) "Desus and Mero"
It's weird as a Twitter user to be, I guess, proud of these guys for climbing out of the social media cesspool and becoming actual TV stars? I was skeptical when they did crap like "Guy Code" but it obviously worked because they ended up with their own show on Viceland. It's pretty good, something that I can flip over to if both "The Daily Show" and "Conan" are on commercial breaks. But I can never shake the feeling that Desus could actually write or create something really good if he wasn't glued to all these improv-driven projects with a less creative partner who tweets and speaks in all caps.

i) "Wolf Creek"
The 2005 film Wolf Creek was an extremely grisly, frightening horror flick about a killer in the Australian outback, one place where you can really genuinely might not be able to run for help. It was a memorable movie, but turning it into a series, with John Jarratt reprising his role as the killer, is kind of an unpleasant idea since it asks you to just live in that bleak world for a while instead of visiting it for a couple hours. He kills a whole family, including a child, in the first few scenes of the show, and then it kind of becomes about this girl looking for him and trying to avenge her family, which is a good way to turn it into a series, but I dunno, I'm not real into it.

j) "Timeless"
With all the high concept sci-fi shows thriving on TV right now, I guess a time machine show is inevitable. But this just a goofy NBC show where they go back to famous moments in history, and the pilot where they go back to the Hindenburg explosion had some really paltry visual effects. It's nice to see Malcolm Barrett from "Better Off Ted" in a network show again, but he has to play the black guy who goes back in time to the more racist past and it's just really uncomfortable how they wink at that idea as kind of a comedic device.

k) "Westworld"
I like this show but I'm also kinda treating it like "Lost," where I'm just watching and taking the story one scene at a time and letting the internet obsessives come up with their theories of where it's all headed. I am kind of impressed by how much they've been able to make me empathize with the characters that are robots, although I guess it helps that they have such a high caliber cast. Every time there's an extremely emotional scene with the hosts, I think about whether the dramatic score is actually being played for the guests to hear, like a video game. It's nice to see Jimmi Simpson get a meaty role in something this high profile, been rooting for the dude since "Breakout Kings."

l) "The Exorcist"
I liked this show from the beginning but was skeptical that it would ever grip me as much as the movie. But in the last few episodes it really grabbed me, even before the big reveal that the story basically takes place in the same narrative as the film and isn't a 'reboot' after all. Hannah Kasulka is doing a great job with the role of the possessed girl, the scenes where she has visions of 'The Salesman' are creepy as hell (although I miss 'Captain Howdy' being the nickname for the demon).

m) "Speechless"
I found this show likable right away, but more and more I think it's becoming one of the most laugh-out-loud new comedies this fall, Minnie Driver and John Ross Bowie are really becoming one of those great sets of sitcom parents that are hilarious and inappropriate but also seem like real, genuine caring parents.

n) "The Good Place"
Another one of my favorite new shows that's been coming along well, the reveal with Manny Jacinto's character really kinda injected a grew new dynamic into the show when I wasn't sure how much mileage they'd get out of the initial dynamic between the characters.

o) "Red Oaks" 
I watched the whole first season of this last year and it left very little impression, so I thought I'd dip my toe in for the 2nd season, but it's still just incredibly an unfunny bag of '80s coming-of-age cliches. Even starting out the new season in Paris didn't really change any of that. It's weird that Steven Soderbergh, Hal Hartley and David Gordon Greene are involved with something this cheesy and bland.

p) "You're The Worst" 
The third season just wrapped up, and I like the way they kinda brought things to a head with the 3 couples on the show in the finale. But the really impressive episode was the one before that, which took place in a wedding and had several really long uninterrupted shots of the camera following multiple characters from room to room, it was really one of the more ambitious things I've seen a comedy do lately. Also I'm glad that Kether Donohue is finally getting some of the press she deserves. 

q) "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"
I enjoyed the undercover plot at the beginning of the season, but I'm glad they didn't draw it out too long and are back to 'normal.' That night where "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and "New Girl" both had crossover episodes with each other was pretty pointless and anticlimactic, though. I guess the bar for sitcom crossover episodes is not very high, though.

r) "Drunk History"
This season has been pretty good, I'm so glad they brought Paget Brewster back, she's really one of their best drunk storytellers.

s) "American Horror Story"
This was the first season of "American Horror Story" that I actually finished, and I kinda wish I hadn't. I had a feeling that the narrator/reenactment structure would eventually have a twist, but once they did it halfway through the season, the whole thing got way less interesting to me and just turned into a "Blair Witch" found footage horror thing, and then the finale was just a barrage of stupid meta jokes.

t) "Shameless"
After 6 seasons that each ran from January to April every year, Showtime decided to speed up the "Shameless" schedule and put season 7 on in the fall. I think it's kind of a terrible idea, an aging show that's running out of ideas should probably take more time between seasons to put more thought into it or make you miss it instead of going back-to-back, but oh well. I just kinda watch it out of habit at this point. I'm almost bummed they passed up a chance to finally kill William H. Macy's character, I don't know how much more ridiculous and evil they can make him.

u) "Saturday Night Live"
I'm kinda torn between staying pissed at "SNL" for having Trump host last year and becoming a part of this whole awful effort to normalize his hateful candidacy and wanting Alec Baldwin to keep coming on the show and pissing Trump off. The Dave Chappelle episode was pretty great, but the whole thing with Hillary Clinton singing Leonard Cohen was just the corniest zeitgeist mashup ever.
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