TV Diary

a) "People Of Earth"
A sitcom about people who believe in alien abductions could go in a lot of directions, most of them not very promising, but I've really enjoyed the first 4 episodes of "People Of Earth." It kinda splits the difference between being an empathetic look at the personal problems of people who are obsessed with aliens and a wacky show about real aliens by taking this weird psychological, ambiguous approach on whether Wyatt Cenac's actually been visited or is just falling into the obsession himself. I don't know how long they can keep delving into both directions and keep it funny and interesting, but so far it's pretty good.

b) "Last Squad Standing"
This is a goofy reality show on Oxygen where three groups of friends live in a house together and jump through hoops to be the best 'squad' that wins a cash prize. I mainly watched the first episode because one of the groups is from Baltimore, and includes the pretty good local rapper Starrz, but the whole thing is really really stupid even by reality TV standards.

c) "Chewing Gum"
This British show is very entertaining and driven by a big personality, in some ways it reminds me of two other recent shows, "Fleabag" and "Insecure," that I look more. But that's not to say "Chewing Gum" is bad, it's pretty charming, but after a couple episodes I haven't really found myself hooked yet.

d) "Good Girls Revolt"
"Good Girls Revolt" is based on a book about women working at Newsweek in the '60s, but for whatever reason there's a weird mix of real and fictionalized details in the show -- the magazine is 'News of the Week' and some names have been changed, but some of the characters are real people, including Nora Ephron, who's played by Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep's daughter). I like the cast, but I dunno, something about the writing and the production values, it just doesn't really feel like it captures the era that well, and other shows like "Mad Men" and "Masters of Sex" have already tackled sexism in the '60s in prestige TV pretty recently so it doesn't feel particularly fresh or novel.

e) "The Great Indoors"
I saw Joel McHale on Colbert recently promoting this show, and they joked about how "Community" always lost in the ratings to CBS shows and how he kind of went 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' and went and did a CBS sitcom. And it really is just the cheesiest, hackiest formulaic generational divid laugh track comedy, where McHale is the snarky Gen X guy versus a bunch of soft coddled millennials, including one played by the McLovin kid. It's really sad that McHale felt like he needed to go do a show like this, while his "Community" co-stars are off doing more interesting shows for FX and Netflix.

f) "Goliath"
There's ostensibly nothing wrong with Billy Bob Thornton's performance in "Goliath," but I think I'd like the show more with a different lead. The show has enough of a 'white male prestige drama antihero' vibe as it is, but whenever I see Thornton play a sexy cynical badass in something like this or Pushing Tin I just get the sense that that's how the guy really sees himself. I'm only 2 episodes in, and the 2nd episode featured the now incredibly cliche "shocking" scene where a character is abruptly hit by a car. Still, I really like the ensemble (particularly Molly Parker, Tania Raymonde, and Dwight Yoakam), and I'm intrigued by the story, which reminds me enough of better shows ("Terriers," "The Night Of") to keep me watching.

g) "Aftermath"
This SyFy show is about a family fleeing some kind of mysterious unexplained apocalypse, and what's most interesting about it is that so far there are no real rules. There's crazy weather phenomena, people acting possessed, fucking dragons flying through the sky, such a huge variety of weird shit happening that you really just don't know what will happen next. That set, the visual effects are just okay and I don't really care about the characters, so I'm not too hooked, I think my wife is into this show more than I am.

h) "Notorious"
Much like "Bull" is based on Dr. Phil's old job, this show is based on the life of someone who works in TV, a cable news producer, and it just feels like networks are dredging up whatever they can turn into a formulaic sexy drama. Kate Jenning Grant has a lot of fun in the show camping it up as this glamorous conceited TV host who hangs out with Puff Daddy, but the protagonist is her earnest producer played by Piper Perabo, so the show is kind of a drag, I'd enjoy it more if it was about Grant and let the show biz satire aspect of the show have a little more teeth.

i) "This Is Us"
"This Is Us" is the runaway network hit of the new fall shows, I guess because it works so hard at pushing emotional buttons that a sizable number of viewers just can't resist its calculated charms. I've tried watching it a bit beyond its mildly likable pilot, but I dunno, I'm just not feeling it, especially the jumps between the past and the present necessitated by the premise, which have meant Mandy Moore and Jon Huertas occasionally showing up caked in bad old-people makeup. There was a scene in last week's episode, however, where Mandy Moore sang Little Feat's "Willin'," which was even more surprising and surreal than hearing the song in "Roadies" over the summer.

j) "Ash Vs. Evil Dead" 
This show is fun for what it is, but it always feels like less than the sum of its parts. I almost wish they didn't have much better visual effects than the original movies, it's a good example of how modern CGI makes things blander. 

k) "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" 
I watched the first season of this show by myself, increasingly realizing that my wife would love it. So a few weeks ago I introduced her to it, and in the space of a week she binged the entire season, which was a good excuse for me to rewatch it and hear all the songs again. The second season's off to a strong start, the new theme song isn't as good as the first one, but I respect that they're probably going to change it every year, And I like how they've kinda culminated the relationship with Josh in a less than ideal way that gives the story somewhere to go. 

l) "Empire" 
I've kinda settled into accepting that "Empire" will never be as entertaining or essential as it was the first season, but it's still fun to put on in the background. I get very confused by the mix of music industry reality and fantasy, though -- like, there was a scene where Lucius meets with Birdman, who plays himself, and French Montana, who's playing some guy named Vaughn. Also, it cracks me up every time they refer to 'The Black And White Album,' like they say that phrase ten times an episode. 

m) "The Strain" 
The third season of "The Strain" just concluded and it's been renewed for a fourth and final season, and now that I know that I'm well past the halfway mark I feel like I'll probably stick with the show until the end. But man, I really don't care what happens on this show now. So little happened this season that even the action-packed finale wasn't that exciting. At one point I felt like Kevin Durand's character could've been kind of a fun character to root for but they really stopped doing anything interesting with him. 

n) "Years Of Living Dangerously" 
I never saw the first season of this NatGeo series about climate change, but the second season premiere was hosted by David Letterman, so I had to check it out. I mean, I'm kind of glad that Dave seems to be just enjoying his retirement and not clamoring to stay in the spotlight, but it's nice to see him do a little something, going to India and interviewing regular people about something serious. Cecily Strong was the co-host of the episode, and I sometimes found it distracting that she speaks seriously in a cadence that is extremely close to her The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started A Conversation With At A Party character from "SNL." 

o) "Black Mirror"
I watched the first episode of "Black Mirror" a couple years ago and kinda felt like the show wasn't for me. But I gave it another try with the new season, and watched a couple of the more widely praised episodes. "Nosedive" felt, well, very on the nose to me, and "San Junipero" was a bit more enjoyable because it was a love story with some interesting twists and kind of an optimistic conclusion. It's funny how divisive this show is, though, people will whip out "you wouldn't say that to Rod Serling" so fast if you criticize it.

p) "The Daily Show"
The idea that an election year would give Trevor Noah a chance to come into his own didn't quite pan out, at least in terms of Samantha Bee and some of the other late night hosts kind of upstaging "The Daily Show." But the show has been pretty damn good lately, and Michelle Wolf is a great addition to the correspondents, her latest segment was just insanely funny.
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