TV Diary

a) "Mary Kills People"
I adored Caroline Dhavernas in the short-lived Bryan Fuller series "Wonderfalls" from 2004, and was happy that Fuller once again put her on TV in "Hannibal," but this new Lifetime series is maybe her most promising role yet. She plays an ER doctor who secretly takes up a side gig in assisted suicide, and the first of six episodes sets up the character really interestingly, and barrels through so many of the things that can go wrong in this scenario, that I'm curious to see where it's gonna go.

b) "Brockmire"
Hank Azaria has probably made me laugh more than any "Simpsons" cast member, which means he's made me laugh more than almost anybody. And this is really one of his best live action projects because as Jim Brockmire he plays a disgraced, unhinged baseball announcer who goes to work for a struggling minor league team, which essentially means Azaria gets to say strings of bizarre profanity in a slick talking sportscaster voice. The show can sometimes pick at crude low hanging fruit, but I've been consistently impressed with the hilarious dialogue. Also there's a recurring role from Katie Finneran, another actress I love from "Wonderfalls."

c) "Girlboss"
"Girlboss" is based on a young self-made multi-millionaire's autobiography. But in the year and a half between the book being published and the TV show premiering on Netflix, Sophia Amuruso resigned from her company and it filed Chapter 11, which puts the show in an awkward perspective. To the show's credit, though, it doesn't rely too heavily on being an inspirational tale of business success, at least in the first couple episodes I've watched, and mostly looks for charm and comedy in the character finding an unlikely way to turn a profit at a pretty young age. My wife and I have watched the Pitch Perfect movies a ton, and Kay Cannon's entertaining ear for dialogue is recognizable here, but beyond that I have pretty mixed feelings about it. It's almost like they did a 2006 period piece so accurately that it feels like some mediocre forgotten show from '06.

d) "Bill Nye Saves The World"
Bill Nye pretty much comes out at the beginning of his new Netflix series and says that it's not so much for kids as it is for adults who watched him as kids in the '90s. And that's basically me, but I kinda wish he was still gearing the show towards kids, because I'd love to have a show like that to put on for my son. I'm still getting a feel for whether my kid would like it or if there's not any glaring adult content. But it's nice to have Nye back and really sticking his neck out on issues like climate change and progressive ideas about gender. Sometimes it feels like it's trying too hard to be flashy and of the moment, though; the first five minutes of the first episode feature Desiigner making confused noises while a supermodel explains sciencey stuff to him.

e) "Famous In Love"
"Famous In Love" kind of feels like a cousin to one of my favorite shows of the moment, "The Arrangement," because both are about struggling unknown young actresses who suddenly get thrust into the spotlight. The main difference, however, is that "Famous In Love" is much, much more dumb. Even the moments that are kind of poking fun at Hollywood feel like a weak "Entourage" episode. But Bella Thorne is freakishly good looking, so I've watched a few episodes of it.

f) "Guerrilla"
"Guerrilla" was preceded by a pretty strong backlash, from an audience that probably would've eagerly celebrated a show about '70s black British revolutionaries, if they hadn't cast an Indian woman, Freida Pinto, as the female lead and really, so far the only substantial female character. I suppose they were trying to make a statement with the casting, hard for me to say if it was worth it, but the show is pretty slow moving so far, it's the kind of fact based show that makes me want to just pick up a book about the subject than trust this fictionalized version.

g) "Return Of The Mac"
I didn't think it was possible to be disappointed in the Pop network, but I thought "Schitt's Creek" was a good direction for them to go in with scripted comedy. But with their newer shows they've gone back into their usual rut of minor celebrities playing themselves in hacky show business satires. This one features Joey McIntyre from NKOTB trying to jumpstart his acting career and constantly being offered reality TV, which is kind of a meta joke on this show's existence being kind of a compromise between the two.

h) "Hollywood Darlings"
This is another new Pop show paired that lacks even the minor charm of "Return of the Mac," about a few former child actresses from "Full House" and "7th Heaven" and stuff like that. Some of the humor is a little 'edgy' compared to their images, which is I guess the point, but it falls pretty flat.

i) "The Son"
AMC's new big ambitious period piece with Pierce Brosnan as a grizzled frontiersman. I've been watching it, but it hasn't really made much of an impression on me.

j) "First Dates"
This apparently started as a British show and has been adapted in other countries, including America now, that basically just sets people up on blind dates and lets the cameras roll. And since so many reality shows conjure up the dark connotations of voyeurism, it's refreshing to see it go the other way and capture that feeling of eavesdropping on two people on a first date and wondering if there'll be a second date. It's a silly, cute little show, nothing really important but I'm not mad at it.

k) "You The Jury"
Maybe this show feels even more ominous to me than it otherwise would because it's hosted by a Fox News lady, but this whole thing of reenacting a trial and letting the audience decide the outcome feels pretty creepy, especially just the way the whole thing is framed on the show.

l) "The Toy Box"
I've never really watched "The Shark Tank," but I like the idea of a version that's about people who want to make toys and products for kids. Plus it's really funny to watch these video packages where these slick talking entrepreneurs say things like "I have gone all in in the pursuit of my dreams with Little Fruities" and then get shut down.

m) "The Gorburger Show"
Apparently this was a "Funny Or Die" online show that just became a real TV show on Comedy Central, with T.J. Miller voicing a big foul mouthed monster puppet thing that takes over a Japanese variety show. It's pretty deliberately obnoxious and might be hilarious to somebody, but for me I just figure it probably worked better as internet shorts than as a half hour series.

n) "Talk Show The Game Show"
So many shows like "Gorburger" or "The Eric Andre Show" tweak the conventions of talk shows with chaos and absurdity, but it's interesting to see something like this go the other way, formalizing the rituals of talk shows and turning it into a game with points and winners and losers. I'm a fan of Guy Branum, I don't feel like he really gets to put a lot of his personality into hosting this but it's still pretty fun. Tiffany Haddish from "The Carmichael Show" was on the first episode and was hilarious, starting to really like her.

o) "The Comedy Jam"
Tiffany Haddish was also great on the first episode of this show, which is a Comedy Central version of a regular L.A. event where comedians and actors tell a story about a favorite song and then sing it. It's a pretty loose, fun show, kinda captures the same vibe as "Lip Sync Battle" but with bad karaoke. But I feel like they made a mistake in having three performers per episode in the standard Comedy Central format of giving three comics 7 or 8 minutes. Because half of their time is taken up by the songs, so the introductions often feel kind of rushed and light on laughs, they should really just do two people an episode.

p) "Imaginary Mary"
I like when networks take chances on weird high concept sitcoms. But this show, where Jenna Elfman is revisited by the imaginary friend she had as a kid, a goofy looking little CGI creature voiced by Rachel Dratch, just really falls flat. It's all so wholesome and cutesy but I can't imagine a kid or an adult liking it.

q) "Cosplay Melee"
My wife is a big fan of SyFy's movie makeup competition show "Face Off," and this is basically a similar show for Cosplayers who get a theme and have to create a whole character with a look and a backstory. Yvette Nicole Brown from "Community" hosts and she has this really infectious enthusiasm for the cosplay world, it's a fun show. I'm kind of glad that they probably can't dress like famous characters for legal reasons and are forced to come up with original ideas, it's more interesting that way.

r) "Powerless"
I was so excited about this show, starring another "Community" alum Danny Pudi, when it debuted a couple months ago. And while it has one of the best opening title sequences on TV right now, it's been a little bit of a letdown. There's still a couple big laughs for episode but it just feels like they had this promising concept and didn't quite nail it.

s) "Billions"
This second season has really been great, just in terms of all these intense, smart characters facing down each other with dramatic speeches. It's total formulaic antihero cable TV, but it's so well done, in the writing and acting, that I'm cool with it. And I like the odd choice of Ben Folds being this year's equivalent of the first season's Metallica cameo.

t) "The Last Man On Earth"
I always liked the first episode of "The Last Man On Earth," with Will Forte totally alone in the world, more than the subsequent episodes where he found other survivors. So the recent episode with Kristen Wiig as a new character, also surviving mass extinction and going crazy in solitude, felt like they were throwing a bone to me personally, and I loved it. But then it went back to the usual antics I have mixed feelings about.

u) "The Leftovers"
I really liked the first season of "The Leftovers," but the second season was a little too heavy on self-consciously bizarre touches, like a fascinating mute character who died in the first season showing up over and over as a talkative ghost/hallucination. But that little subplot is done with, and I'm pretty curious to see how they wrap up the third and final season, and I've enjoyed how heavy it's been on Carrie Coon so far. One of the funnier little details in the first season was that all the series regulars from the '80s sitcom "Perfect Strangers" were taken in the departure, and they went back to that thread in a pretty interesting way this week. The episode actually opened with the "Perfect Strangers" theme song laid over "The Leftovers"' opening titles, which I thought was really obnoxious and off-putting at first, but I liked how the episode wound up.

v) "Fargo"
I really found the first season of "Fargo" kind of revolting, and tried to give the second season a chance and tapped out early. But since every season is a different story, and the third season had a really promising cast that made me decide to give it another try. It's crazy that Carrie Coon is starring in this and "The Leftovers" right now, both of which started their seasons the same week. Both those roles will end after this season, though, I'm excited to see what she'll do next. Ewan McGregor is also in this season playing two characters who are brothers (or as I call it, "pulling a Winklevoss"), but so far that whole idea has seemed kind of stupid to me. There have been some funny moments so far but after that "Legion" bullshit I think I may just think Noah Hawley is the king of prestige TV snake oil (a phrase I used a couple years ago that Winston Cook-Wilson recently credited me with coining in a piece about "Fargo").

w) "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is not the kind of show where it makes sense to take a cliffhanger seriously. But obviously, when they ended an episode in January with a cast member getting hit by a bus and then went on a 3 month hiatus, they wanted you to wonder whether they'd be coming back. And I'm glad that they did, I was really wondering if maybe they got another gig and were moving on. I liked the recent guest stint by Kimberly Herbert Gregory, I really became a fan of her from "Vice Principals" even if I found that show pretty distasteful overall.

x) "Veep"
There was recently a great video circulating that put some Trump footage over the "Veep" ending credits music, which raised an interesting question: is it different watching a show about ridiculous incompetence in the executive branch now that that's our horrifying daily reality? But there's nothing too glaringly Trumpy about the new season so far. If anything Selina brought Hillary Clinton to mind in her ambition to run for president again even after it all came crashing down. The show's still great, though, I love the whole thing with Jonah as a congressman.

y) "Mystery Science Theater 3000"
I grew up on "MST3K," and as much as I like the Mike era, you always had to want Joel to come back and do the show again. And so it was really weird and bittersweet for Joel to regain control of the show and crowdfund a new season, only for him to completely repopulate the cast with new people. The riffing on the movies is still fairly good, and of course that's the majority of the show, but all the interstitial stuff just keeps pulling me out of the show and reminding me that I miss the old crew and really find the podcast dude who hosts now kind of irksome.

z) "Sesame Street"
It was weird that all the talk about defunding PBS recently kept circling back to "Sesame Street," since HBO basically took on the financial burden to keep the show alive a couple years ago. My toddler watches it several times a week, so I try to mix up the new episodes with some of the old seasons that HBO has available on demand. They recently unveiled a new puppet character, Julia, who's autistic, and it's interesting to see "Sesame Street" still tackling stuff like that for the first time and trying to help kids understand something difficult.
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