TV Diary

a) "Trial & Error"
I'm amused that John Lithgow's character in this show is named Henderson but it doesn't appear to be any kind of deliberate Harry & The Hendersons callback. I really like the first two episodes, though, I feel bad that NBC is kind of dumping its 8 episode season in 4 weeks from March to April. It's got a little of that "The Office"/"Parks & Rec" documentary aesthetic but it's not from the same folks and kind of has its own pace and sensibility that is used in service of trying to make a murder trial as ridiculous and funny as possible. The whole cast is funny but Jayma Mays doing a sultry southern accent is particularly hilarious

b) "Time After Time"
Even though TV audiences are more open to sci-fi and high concept shows than ever, it kind of feels like the big 4 networks have mostly responded to this with some hokey and hoary shows about time travel like "Timeless," which premiered on NBC in the fall, and "Time After Time," ABC's new show about H.G. Wells and Jack The Ripper running around in present day New York. The show's more watchable than it probably has a right to be -- Freddie Stroma and Genesis Rodriguez have genuine onscreen chemistry -- but it's just too goofy. 

c) "Making History"
The same night that ABC debuted their time travel show, FOX debuted their own time travel sitcom that is, at least, totally goofy on purpose. Adam Pally is always funny to me and Leighton Meester is surprisingly funny as the olden times straight man, but it kinda feels like they're going for a lot of easy jokes and it's a little more like an extended sketch than a series so far, dunno if it'll grow on me. 

d) "Feud: Bette And Joan"
This show is pretty promising but at this point I kind of just wait for Ryan Murphy to Ryan Murphy up his best ideas. I wish I knew more about the subject matter other than that I love Bette Davis in All About Eve, I should probably watch Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? at some point. But Susan Sarandon as Davis is pretty perfect. 

e) "TIME: The Kalief Browder Story"
The basic details of Kalief Browder's life that I'd seen in the news were always horrifying, but seeing a miniseries go into granular detail about his tragic story is just gut wrenching. I'm glad they're going about it so methodically, though, just showing how many ways how many different institutions failed him and need reform. 

f) "When We Rise" 
This 8 hour miniseries aired all in the space of a week and it seems like the ratings dropped off really sharply, I wish they'd spaced it out more, I'm still only about halfway through. I'm not super compelled by the dramatization of events, though, it kinda makes me wish there was a book version of this without all the light docudrama fictional scenes. 

g"The High Court with Doug Benson" 
Doug Benson is such a weird creepy comic with such a tired pothead schtick that I'm not sure why he gets so many opportunities to do it over and over, especially by Comedy Central. But this is an admittedly decent vehicle for him, it's just like 12 minute episodes and they actually settle a legal issue, I guess about as legitimately as any of the daytime court shows they're satirizing. 

h) "Taken" 
It seems like networks are adapting so many movies that I never thought should be TV shows lately, and sometimes it turns out great like "The Exorcist," sometimes it turns out like that "Lethal Weapon" show I guess. Doing a prequel series about Liam Neeson's character in Taken where I guess you find out how dude got so hardcore is not the worst idea, I guess, but it kinda feels like if you gave the show a different title, it would just be a generic spy show. Jennifer Beals deserves better. 

i) "Patriot" 
This is a slightly less generic spy show with some impish touches of humor and a great supporting cast including Terry O'Quinn and Michael Dorman. But like most Amazon shows, I find it hard to stick with it and watch more than a couple episodes after they dump the whole season at once. 

j) "Sun Records" 
I'm amused that CMT's first original scripted drama was about an Elvis impersonator and its second is about actual Elvis. I feel like Chad Michael Murray as Sam Phillips is all you really need to know to understand that this is not operating on an especially high level of authenticity. But it's still fun to see them play around with all this amazing musical history and Johnny Cash and Ike Turner and all these guys showing up. 

k) "Big Little Lies" 
It's interesting to me that after producing hundreds of hours of network legal dramas, even David E. Kelley has one of those dark HBO miniseries that everyone wants to make now (his recent Amazon series, "Goliath," has a prestige TV aesthetic, but it's bones are classic David E. Kelley). I don't know anything about the novel Big Little Lies or where this story is going, but the way the story starts with community outrage over a kid getting hurt had me thinking this would be an upscale "The Slap." And I'm not crazy about the constant foreshadowing to some murder mystery this is all building up to, which reminds me of the first season of "The Affair." But I'm slowly shaking off my apprehensive first impressions of "Big Little Lies" and appreciating the texture of the direction and the strength of the performances. I just hope this doesn't all end stupidly. 

l) "The Pop Game"
I wasn't wild about "The Rap Game," where kiddie rappers compete to be Jermaine Dupri's next protege. But Lifetime's spinoff, "The Pop Game," where Timbaland coaches aspiring pop singers is a little more interesting to me. I kind of feel bad thinking about how bland Tim's music has become and how he just walks around on this show repeatedly saying he sold 300 million records and telling people they'll be the next Nelly Furtado or whatever. But he's a genius, I still worship his classics. 

m) "First Family of Hip Hop"
I thought a show about the Sugar Hill Records folks would be interesting, but of course, Sylvia Robinson is dead, and the show centers on her annoying family members who all want to be music industry players now, and there's minimal cameos from actual notable people like Melle Mel, who shows up and says some really crazy shit. 

n) "Crashing"
Pete Holmes really grew on me over the course of his short-lived late night show on TBS, so I'm happy that he wound up with a Judd Apatow-produced HBO series. And while comedians making sitcoms about the life of comedians have become really really tiresome to me lately, this one at least takes a bit of a fresh look at the unpleasant realities of gigging standups who are just starting out. And the structure of Holmes basically crashing on the couch of a different famous comic in each episode is clever. 

o) "Love"
Watching "Crashing" and the second season of "Love" lately has brought me to the conclusion that Judd Apatow's TV shows are quite often like that middle half hour of Judd Apatow's movies where everyone gets sick of each other and starts yelling and something physically painful or embarrassing happens. There are things that I like about "Love," but sometimes it just captures the ups and downs of relationships so faithfully and sometimes it feels like they throw the most contrived wrench into things to keep the conflict going. There was one episode where things felt really nice and comfortable but not boring, and then I thought "well, there's 8 episodes left of the season for things to get awkward and angry again." 

p) "The Mick"
FOX has picked this up for a second season and it's really nothing special but it's a pretty good example of the growing trend of kind of weird bawdy sitcoms where anything can happen, really felt like it hit its stride with the 10th episode. 

q) "The Detour"
This is another sitcom that feels like kind of a bawdy silly open ended show where anything can happen and that's kind of the point, which really kinda wore me down and bored me by the end of the first season. But the second season started out promisingly, I feel like the show is at its best when Natalie Zea is the unpredictable one and not the long suffering wife. 

r) "The Real O'Neals"
It was kind of funny how "The Real O'Neals" had this successful first season as kind of a sweet coming of age sitcom and then during the hiatus, the star Noah Gavin gave this really wild bitchy interview and caused a big scandal but then the show resumed being a sweet coming of age story and the extremely outspoken 22 year old Gavin continues to convincingly play a naive 16 year old. 

s) "Billions"
This was one of my favorite new shows last year and so far the 2nd season has really cemented my love for it. It's so much the typical cable antihero drama about powerful men with big egos, but the way Maggie Siff's character negotiates that world is probably the most interesting part of the story. And they've introduced an enby character, Taylor, played by Asia Kate Dillon, who also subverts the testosterone-driven Wall Street atmosphere and kind of gets to be the smartest person in the room who doesn't share the same priorities as the other smart people in the room, I'm curious to see where that story goes. And I kind of like that the show takes place in this unabashedly upscale world where people quote "The Wire" and discuss Wilco. 

t) "Superstore"
I'm glad this show is doing well, it makes me happy that Mark McKinney has a steady gig on American network TV. The Garrett and Dina relationship was a pretty funny unpredictable turn for things to take

u) "The Expanse"
I think of this as part of SyFy's ambitious new era and I like the cast and the premise. But really there's too much going on in the plot and I haven't kept up, it's one of those shows I put on as background noise. 

v) "Humans"
This show's first season from the summer of 2015 was so long ago, and really seemed to kind of peter out at the end, that I almost forgot it ever existed. I'm trying to give it a chance, but the new stories and new characters haven't really grabbed me. 

w) "New Girl"
There's been some murmurings that the 6th season of "New Girl" may be its last, and I'm cool with that, It's settled into a comfortable decline where it's not way worse than it used to be but they've kinda taken everything as far as it makes sense to go, and I just want them to, I dunno, make Jess and Nick a couple again and wrap up the story. Unless Coach came back, then I'd want 3 more seasons. 

x) "The Amazing World of Gumball"
This is one of my son's favorite Cartoon Network shows, and it's really kind of mind blowing to me, that a show made by a French-British animator is so visually ambitious and unpredictable and creative but still wacky enough in a traditional kid-friendly way that a 7 year old would be into it.

y) "Dogs 101" 
My toddler is kind of obsessed with dogs, like we have cats but he's always excited to see dogs outside or watch dog videos. So most mornings, after his big brother gets on the school bus, we put on Animal Planet and watch "Dogs 101," which is kind of a fun educational show about different breeds and how to take care of them. And the other day there was this episode with the members of Shellac talking about Todd Trainer's greyhound, I never thought I'd hear the words "math rock" on Animal Planet. 

z) "Saturday Night Live"
I have mostly been pretty on board with "SNL"'s Trump sketches since Alec Baldwin started doing them, despite the show and NBC having this whole troubling history of enabling Trump. This past Saturday's opener about the aliens was the first sketch that I thought was really a dud, though. At least the Ivanka sketch was great. I hope they keep up the Melissa McCarthy sketches, though, I don't think Sean Spicer will have that job for very long so they may as well make the most of it. 
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