TV Diary

a) "The Young Pope"
I'm glad that I watched one of Paolo Sorrentino's films, Youth, a few weeks ago, because I really enjoyed his strange sense of humor and surreal visual sensibility. And it really primed me for "The Young Pope," which I think most people are checking out because it's an HBO show with a big movie star headlining it or because the title/premise is funny and are just kind of confounded or turned off by. But after watching four episodes, I'm really enjoying it so far even if I really have no idea if it's ultimately headed somewhere dark, funny, profound, or stupid, or all of the above.

b) "The New Edition Story"
I'm generally allergic to biopics, but a nice low stakes miniseries about a group with a pretty action packed history is some good TV, and I've enjoyed watching this after spending so much time lately listening to New Edition. It's stupid, but I really enjoyed that Michael Bivins's mother Shirley was played by Yvette Nicole Brown (aka Shirley from "Community").

c) "Throwing Shade"
This new TV Land series got a lot of advance bad publicity from people generally reacting to it being a bad look for a show called "Throwing Shade" to star 2 white people. The hosts, a woman and a gay guy, basically do a pop culture-heavy 'Weekend Update'-style report at a news desk, and kind of come off like a poor man's Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner. There were a few pretty sharp jokes in the first episode, and Will Ferrell surprisingly showed up for one of the scripted sketches thrown into the show, but they'll have to ditch the annoying laugh track and maybe have a real audience for this show to really have some potential.

d) "A Series Of Unfortunate Events"
Barry Sonnenfeld has a pretty spotty resume, but he's done a handful of things I love, and this series kind of feels like a pretty perfect melding of two of them, the Addams Family movies and "Pushing Daisies," the whole cartoony morbid vibe. I kinda feel like this show doesn't have enough of a plot to be an hour long, but Neil Patrick Harris and Patrick Warburton are hilarious and get a lot of great lines.

e) "Sneaky Pete"
Gritty antihero prestige TV drama icon Bryan Cranston co-created this Amazon show, which feels like a catalog of all the increasingly tiresome tropes of gritty antihero prestige TV. The whole premise with somebody stepping into someone else's life to get out of trouble has been done better on other shows, particularly "The Riches," which made much better use of Margo Martindale than this show does.

f) "Taboo"
I am, for whatever reason, one of the only people in the world who doesn't think much of Tom Hardy. He seems to have a different face and accent for every role, but never any discernible personality, and the FX period piece series he wrote with his father seems to confirm every feeling I had about him being kind of dull and pretentious. The production values are nice, I guess, but I am just not into this shit.

g) "Emerald City"
Tarsem Singh is one of the most visually creative and distinctive directors working today, probably best known for the not great but gorgeously filmed The Cell (although I prefer his far lesser known second feature The Fall). But given that he's increasingly failed to live up to his potential as a filmmaker, it's probably for the best that he's moved into TV, directing every episode of the first season of Wizard of Oz series. Rendering Oz as a dark gloomy Game of Thrones/Narnia mythology is kind of an iffy basis for a show, but there are enough colorful and grandiose sets and outfits and creatures and effects to make it one of the richest feasts for the eyes on TV, so I'm just kind of going along with the ride and hoping I eventually care about the story.

h) "One Day At A Time"
I only have the vaguest memories of the show with the Schneider guy being in syndication when I was a kid, so I don't have much investment in a reboot. But I do enjoy the Norman Lear style of sitcoms and appreciate that they're pretty true to that here, although the laugh track is pretty loud and it's more charming than it is funny most of the time.

i) "Big Fan"
A pretty goofy new game show hosted by Andy Richter where fans of a celebrity are quizzed on trivia, and then compete with the celebrity themselves to see who knows more about them. The debut episode with Matthew McConaughey was pretty entertaining but I have my doubts about most other celebs making for a good episode.

j) "Beyond"
I try to give sci fi shows on Freeform a chance because I like "Stitchers," but I dunno, this is kinda bland, not too into it.

k) "The Mick"
This show has been pretty funny so far, the whole rapport between Kaitlin Olson and Carla Jiminez is hilarious.

l) "Chasing Cameron"
Netflix made a documentary series about one of those Vine/Instagram stars and the stupid meet and greet event tours they do, I could only stomach one episode but it's really kind of a gripping, horrifying portrait of this odd little cottage industry that sprang up a few years ago. It's so weird because it's like Beatlemania without the music, it's just a free floating social media version of a bazillion teenage girls idolizing some random guy from the internet but it's really almost more intense than if this guy actually did anything or had a skill.

m) "Trollhunters"
The idea of Guillermo del Toro creating a kids' show sounds like a joke, but this Netflix animated series turned out to be pretty charming, with a voice cast including Kelsey Grammer (in a great turn as a six eyed troll) and the late Anton Yelchin in one of his final performances. My 7 year old loved the show, he watched all 26 episodes in the week he was home for Christmas and the last episode made him cry.

n) "Travelers"
This is a weird high concept show about people from the future kind of inhabiting people's bodies in the present at the moment they're about to die, interesting premise with some creepy ambiance, but then it kinda feels like Eric McCormack stepped out of a totally different, somewhat lighter show.

o) "Crazyhead"
My wife was a big fan of the British series "Misfits," though I never really saw too much of it myself. I really enjoyed this new show from "Misfits" creator Howard Overman, though, kind of a fun demonic horror comedy that in some way was a lot more creative and unpredictable than some of the similarly themed American shows that have been going around lately.

p) "The OA"
Netflix premiered this show with a very little information or advance notice in December, and kinda let people be allured by its mysterious aura and strange story. But I thought the first couple episodes were pretty rough going, and it pretty much never got better as I got to the ridiculous conclusion that felt like it was manipulating my emotions and insulting my intelligence. I was not a particularly big fan of "Stranger Things" but all the pieces comparing "The OA" favorably to "Stranger Things" came off pretty desperate, this really felt like a failed experiment.

q) "Star"
"Empire" had the right cast and caught the zeitgeist at the right time to be a pretty fun show to watch, but "Star" kind of mashes the "Empire" formula together with the lurid misery porn of Lee Daniels's other work like Precious and Monster's Ball, and it all kind of becomes an ugly mess, particularly in the pilot episode. It's a shame, because the production values and the staging on the musical scenes can be pretty impressive. But I don't know what they were thinking with this goofy show about a white R&B star, it plays like a Fergie origin story.

r) "White Rabbit Project"
I watched a lot of "MythBusters" back in the day, and apparently the show kept going on and on until less than a year ago. So now the people from the show are moving on to vaguely similar new projects, and this one on Netflix features the 3 members of the 'build team' testing out technology hacks and heists and things like that. I'm kinda over this whole style of show, I guess, but I'm still all about Kari Byron.

s) "Medici: Masters Of Florence"
It's weird that a Netflix series featuring Dustin Hoffman has gotten virtually no attention, but he's not really a very big part of it, and the one episode I watched moved pretty slowly and was kind of cheesy and melodramatic.

t) "Hip Hop Evolution"
From the moment "Hip Hop Evolution" starts, with the no name rapper who created it shoehorning his career and clips of his videos into the intro, I just have a very strong dislike for the guy and his perspective. But, I appreciate this documentary's focus on the early days of rap and they went to the source and got some interesting interviews out of the early generations of hip hop, so it's worth a look.

u) "3%"
Yet another international Netflix sci fi show, this one from Brazil. I don't think I have the attention span to watch an entire series with subtitles, though.

v) "Glitch"
Yet another international Netflix sci fi show, this one from Australia, with the great creepy premise of a bunch of people crawling out of a graveyard after being dead for years and having no idea why. I'm almost through the whole series now but it really hasn't held my attention much since that first episode.

w) "Paranoid"
More Netflix international fare, a British crime drama, didn't care much for the first episode. But damn Netflix is churning out a lot of content these days, half of the shows in this post are Netflix, and really most of them are pretty subpar television.

x) "Son Of Zorn"
My friend Josh is the only person I know who watches this show, and he seemed to hate it at first and now is its biggest fan. I'm kind of indifferent to it, it's had some funny moments but it kinda feels like they're just trying to squeeze too much out of a premise that would barely sustain a sketch.

y) "The Affair"
I really thought this show had developed into something pretty unique, if depressing, in the second season. But now the third season is almost over and I feel like it's maybe just descended into total pointless misery, they just keep plunging these characters further into heartbreak and betrayal and prison and addiction, and it's kind of gone way beyond what once felt like a fairly realistic look at the fallout of an extramarital affair and a divorce.

z) "Saturday Night Live"
I left "SNL" off of my year-end TV list the last two years, in part because of general lack of enthusiasm about the show but also pretty pointedly because both years I was pretty pissed about Donald Trump hosting after his campaign began. But now that Trump is actually president and "SNL" is the only show making fun of him that he actually watches and gets pissed off at, I'm kinda glad it's there and hope Alec Baldwin keeps poking the bear for as long as he's president, he's really been great. It was depressing that one of the few recent episodes Trump didn't tweet about was the one where Aziz Ansari asked him to denounce hate crimes, though. And that whole thing with a writer getting suspended over a tweet is pretty awful, too, the entire entanglement between NBC and Trump is just kind of shitty. Melissa Villasenor is growing on me out of this season's new featured players, though, she was hilarious in the sketch role playing in bed with Ansari.
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