TV Diary

a) "Sweet/Vicious"
This show, about a college girl who puts on a mask at night and metes out vigilante justice to campus rapists, is a pretty wonderfully bold premise, and I like that it's on MTV being marketed to a young audience that could use a very frank show about rape culture. But the quality control on MTV's scripted shows, though better than it used to be, is still not that high, and I find myself wishing this show had slightly sharper writing to get it close to the "Veronica Mars" vibe it kinda has. But I like that it has lots of Brandon Mychal Smith, who's been great but used sparingly on "You're The Worst."

b) "Shut Eye"
Hulu has been the only streaming TV giant that releases one episode a week for a while now, which I much prefer to Netflix and Amazon doling out entire seasons all at once that I end up having a hard time finishing. So I'm annoyed that Hulu's latest series "Shut Eye" came out in the all-at-once format this week, and I hope that's not a portent of their future strategy. So far I'm not too into the first couple episodes, which are about the "Burn Notice" guy working as a psychic who runs afoul of gypsies, although maybe I'll keep watching to see if they make use of Isabella Rossellini, who's been a minor presence so far.

c) "Mariah's World"
Most of the time, when a music star past their prime turns to reality TV, I find it depressing. But Mariah Carey has developed such a hilarious public persona in her interviews over the year that I found myself looking forward to this one. The first episode probably laid on the Mariah weirdness more than it needed to -- her 'evil twin' character from the "Heartbreaker" video makes an appearances -- but it was still a lot more worthwhile than about any other celeb reality show on the E! channel.

d) "Incorporated"
This SyFy show takes place almost 60 years in the future, but it's one of the more depressingly plausible dystopias I've seen lately, most of all because it feels like most aspects of it could be only 15 or 20 years in our future: corporations wielding more influence than governments, consequences of climate change, violently enforced inequality. The plot and the characters beyond the premise haven't really hooked me much yet, but I'm not sure if the frightening premise will make me want to keep watching or never watch it again.

e) "Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath"
It's fascinating to see a prominent celeb Scientologist leave the 'church' and turn on it so publicly and actually do a TV series laying out some of the secrets. A lot of this stuff has already trickled out in the past few years, but still, what an interesting cesspool it all is. The constant notes about the CoS's legal objections to everything Remini and other ex-Scientologists say in the show really just make the whole thing feel even more creepy and ominous.

f) "Savage Kingdom"
I grew up loving nature documentaries and have been trying to get back into stuff like this that NatGeo has been doing, but this show is pretty focused on grisly scenes of predator and prey and it can be a lot to take sometimes. I think I'm gonna wait for "Planet Earth" to come back in January.

g) "Nightcap"
I'm not the biggest "The Larry Sanders Show" fan, but this show about the backstage shenanigans at a fictional talk show, where celebrities playing unflattering versions of themselves clash in the green room, has a ways to go to not feel like a paltry retread of "Sanders" and to a lesser degree "30 Rock" (which is the first place I saw "Nightcap" co-star Jeff Hiller). It's funny at times, it's just also very familiar.

h) "Shooter"
I don't think I would've even watched this show if I realized Ryan Philippe was playing the same character as Mark Wahlberg in the movie of the same name. There were one or two badass action scenes in the first episode but this kind of thing isn't my bag.

i) "Soundbreaking: Stories From The Cutting Edge Of Recorded Music"
I missed the first 3 episodes of this PBS miniseries, but I liked the other 5 that I saw. It's nice to see something like this that focuses on the technology that has shaped how popular music is made and consumed, with episodes dedicated to amplification, sampling, and music videos. The execution left a little to be desired, some of the assembled talking head experts were just not that great (why have Mark Ronson talk about Wu Tang and refer to "Protect Ya Neck" as "Protect Your Neck"?) but it was alright.

j) "Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party"
It's interesting to think about how surreal this show would've been 20 years ago, and how it really isn't at all now. But there's also something kind of creepy about how much this show just constantly leans on the 'culture clash' of a black celebrity and a white celebrity for cheap laughs. Not sure why this needs to be a weekly series, could've functioned as a one-off special.

k) "Pure Genius"
A show about a tech billionaire running a hospital like a Silicon Valley business has the potential to be pretty interesting and raise some of the many questions about what things like this could lead to in the real world. But it doesn't really feel like they're going to explore much of that, it's just a quirky CBS medical drama. Brenda Song is pretty cute on this show, though.

l) "Man With A Plan"
Matt LeBlanc's best post-"Friends" work has been on "Episodes" as a broad, unflattering version of himself, starring in a terrible network family sitcom called "Pucks." And "Man With A Plan," his new sitcom on CBS, is about as bad as I always imagined "Pucks" to be, if not worse. Oh well, at least we're getting one more season of "Episodes" next year.

m) "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency"
As a kid I devoured all of the Hitchhiker's Guide books and then moved onto Douglas Adams's other, lesser known series, the two Dirk Gently novels. It's been a long time since I read them, so it's not like I remember enough to even expect an especially faithful adaptation, but it's still kind of remarkable how much they changed. Instead of taking place in London, the show takes place in America with Gently as the only British character, he's played by Samuel Barnett, who's much younger and skinnier and wackier than the Gently described in the books, and his sidekick character played by Elijah Wood is the true protagonist of the show, and is a completely different character from Gently's sidekick in the books with a different name and backstory. I don't even dislike the show, it's easily the most enjoyable thing that Max Landis has done, but I almost wonder if he even read the books. And what's more frustrating is that the BBC produced 4 episodes of a different, more faithful Dirk Gently adaptation a few years ago, and I haven't found any way to see those.

n) "Chance"
Hugh Laurie has done a good job lately of not being typecast from 8 seasons of "House" and doing pretty different roles on "The Night Manager" and "Veep." But now he's back in a Hulu show called "Chance" that's about an American doctor named "Chance," which by itself is a little too close to "House" even if it's tonally a pretty different show. I haven't watched too much of this yet, I like the cast but I dunno about the whole thing of a pyschiatrist getting pulled into the violent lives of his patients, it's a little ridiculous.

o) "Eyewitness"
"Eyewitness" is based on a Norwegian series, and reminds me of "The Killing," which was based on a Danish series. Both shows are about a female cop investigating a murder and have teen characters in the middle of the mystery, and both feel like they retain a certain dreary somber European vibe even as they move the stories to America. Julianne Nicholson is a really intriguing actor, though, I'm kinda watching the show mainly for her because I liked her so much in "Masters Of Sex" and August: Osage County.

p) "Falling Water"
This is a high concept USA show about strangers who are having the same cryptic dreams, the kind of thing that could be really intriguing and mysterious if executed well. But the first episodes really don't do much to establish the characters or make me care about what's going on, which you really kinda need in a show like this to make it not feel like a cold intellectual exercise.

q) "Channel Zero"
This past summer I worked with the Irish actress Fiona Shaw at the Kennedy Center, where she did a stage show with dramatic readings of Yeats and Dickinson poems. I'd never seen her in anything before (she's best known for the Harry Potter movies, but I haven't seen those yet since I just started reading the books to my son), but I had a really good experience working with her, she was really nice and very talented. So I made a point to watch this SyFy series, where each season is based on a different 'creepypasta' story, because she's in the first season. It's a pretty great spooky premise about this weird short-lived '80s kids show that has a link to a rash of murders in a small town, but really I'm just glad there's another horror anthology series on the air that feels so different from "American Horror Story." They missed an opportunity for a Public Enemy theme song, though.

s) "Conviction"
I feel bad for Hayley Atwell -- ABC canceled "Agent Carter" this year, very quickly placed her in a new fall show, "Conviction," and then canceled that almost exactly 6 months after "Agent Carter." This show was a bit more of a generic legal thriller, though, so I won't miss it at much, hopefully she'll get another starring vehicle that isn't so short-lived.

t) "The Last Man On Earth"
I'm really starting to tire of this show, which is now in its third season so squandering its potential. Will Forte thrived at playing ridiculously irrational and/or irritating characters in a sketch format that can utilize characters like that in small doses, but I don't think they really figured out that you have to make the protagonist of a series a little more of a balance to work. They just keep adding more new characters who can't stand him and his moments of redemption are increasingly fleeting.

u) "Billy On The Street"
I'm so glad that Billy Eichner is still doing this show even now that "Difficult People" seems to be an ongoing thing. You'd think "Billy On The Street" would run out of ideas or get kind of stale by now, but he keeps coming up with insane games like "immigrant or real American" (where all the immigrants are beloved celebrities and all the natural born Americans are psychotic killers) that keep me watching to see what he'll say next.
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