TV Diary

a) "Friends From College"
Nicholas Stoller has directed some entertaining movies and got together a pretty strong cast for this Netflix series. But it reminds me of a particular element of Stoller's movies much in the same way that I described for "Love" a few months ago, where almost every episode feels like that middle half hour of the movie where people angrily yell at each other and something painful or embarrassing happens. Plus one of those episodes takes place on a party bus and feels very derivative of one of the best "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" episodes. And "Friends" has the added element of most of the show centering around two married characters who have carried on an affair for years and years, and the fact that the whole show revolves around classic sitcom boo Cobie Smulders getting cheated on just gets hard to watch after a while. I mean, as a married dude, I try to just not be stressed out about how many movies and shows inundate you with adultery stories and marital dischord, but sometimes it's just wearing and depressing to watch. I think the show is a little better than reviews have given it credit for, though, to be honest. I particularly like the couple played by Fred Savage and Billy Eichner, who both play against type entertainingly.

b) "The Last Tycoon" 
My appetite for period pieces is far outpaced the number of them on TV right now, so I'm not sure if I'll stick with this F. Scott Fitzgerald story about 1930's Hollywood past the first couple episodes. But it has a scenery chewing Kelsey Grammer and a feisty, adorable Lily Collins, so it's not bad.

c) "Midnight, Texas"
"True Blood" was by no means a perfect show, but it had a certain unique charm, and of course I've felt a little nostalgic for it lately given the death of Nelsan Ellis. This adaptation of another Charlaine Harris series just feels a lot flimsier right off the bat, like NBC just put a lot less money and thought into the casting and the production values. But the pilot wasn't bad, this might be a decent summer show.

d) "Ozark"
I find Jason Bateman's only character, a beleaguered, cynical everyman, to be pretty tiresome in the comedies where he usually deploys it, and it's not terribly useful in a dramatic context either. This show has had some a few interesting or surprising moments, but for the most part it just feels like another gritty prestige show with a washed out color scheme and an antihero protagonist getting drawn into the criminal underworld and having to start his life over in a new place.

e) "The Worst Witch" 
A cute little Harry Potterish kids show on Netflix, which I sampled to see if I thought my son might like it, but I doubt it.

f) "Niko And The Sword Of The Light"
This animated Amazon show seems a little more like my son's speed, I think I'll test it out on him soon, it's really weird and surreal and goofy.

g) "Loaded"
So many British shows get adapted into American shows, usually inferior ones, that it feels weird to see something that feels so plainly like a Brit version of "Silicon Valley." I mean, I guess it's different because it's about guys who already cashed out and became rich, but the vibe is similar. It's kind of douchey and hard to love, but it's growing on me a little, there was one scene that made me laugh really hard where the one American character said "everyone loves Bono" and the British characters all said "no, everyone hates Bono."

h) "Hooten & The Lady"
It's pretty common for American networks to pick up British shows to run as a summer series, but the network that picked up "Hooten & The Lady" is The CW, which gives you an idea of what kind of frothy adventure/romance series it is. It's pretty charming, though, and I enjoy saying the title.

i) "Salvation"
This show is about a guy at MIT discovering that an asteroid is going to hit Earth in six months and getting together with a tech billionaire and government officials to try and come up with a solution in secret. Not a bad premise for a sci-fi show but it's got that assembly line CBS feel to it, hard to love.

j) "The Bold Type"
A Freeform show loosely based on Cosmo staffers, about women who work at a fictitious women's magazine called Scarlet. There's a lot of heavy handed plots about feminism and progressive politics and orgasms and representation, it's kind of nice to see that a show like this exists but it really just lacks the personality to actually be what it wants to be.

k) "Will"
Shakespeare In Love seemed too hacky to me two decades ago, so I don't even know where to begin this young sexy Shakespeare show that seems hacky compared to Shakespeare In Love. It's a shame, I don't think doing a somewhat irreverent, modern take on the life of Shakespeare is inherently a bad idea, but whatever a good version of it is, it ain't this, which had an awful faux rap battle in the first episode.

l) "Earth Live"
I love nature films and shows where you know a camera crew had to sit quietly for hours, if not days, to catch some amazing rare moment of animal behavior. So the idea of NatGeo doing a live special and hoping to have nature and various wild animals and unpredictable factors in outdoor filming all work well for a live broadcast seemed like kind of an insanely ambitious project. It turned out well, though, I liked the way they'd cut to different locations all over the world and it'd be daylight or night in different places depending on the timezone, and they ended up catching some cool moments.

m) "The Defiant Ones"
Like most people, I was put off by the idea of an entire miniseries dedicated to lionizing Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, and essentially casting their various trailblazing years in the music industry as a prologue to their current Beats/Apple Music work. But I was genuinely impressed by the production values and the charm of how they cut together the interviews and the narrative, and as a music geek it's hard not to enjoy some of the stories they unearth.

n) "Candy Crush"
Turning one of those stupid video games people like to play on their phones into a game show hosted by Mario Lopez is one of those perfect ridiculous ideas that networks love to put on the air in the summer. They managed, unlikely as it seems, to turn it into kind of a watchable game show and not just people playing the video game, but once I satisfied my curiosity about how they'd pull that off I had no desire to watch it anymore.

o) "Castlevania"
This is kind of also a video game turned into a TV show, but in a pretty different way. Netflix only has 4 episodes so far, but this is really one of darkest, most violent American animated shows I've ever seen, it's really surprisingly funny and entertaining and badass, we watched almost the whole thing in one night.

p) "Tales"
Scripted television inspired by hip hop has taken a couple of shapes over and over, so I appreciate the novelty of Irv Gotti's anthology series for BET where each episode is based on a different 'narrative' rap song, like Biggie's "I Got A Story To Tell." It basically amounts to some pretty boilerplate crime drama, but the casting and production values are on point.

q) "I'm Dying Up Here"
I was iffy on the first couple episodes of this show, and Andrew Santino is one of the most unlikable lead actors a TV show could have. But there have been a lot of good little character moments throughout the show, it's really grown on me. It kinda reminds me of Showtime's show biz dramedy from last summer, "Roadies," which might sound negative but I liked "Roadies." I'm continually distracted by how Dylan Baker plays Johnny Carson without looking or sounding at all like Carson in even the most abstract way.

r) "The Jim Jefferies Show"
I'm glad to see that Comedy Central ordered more episodes of this (and also "The President Show," which I have slightly more mixed feelings about). It's been interesting to see so many topical comedy shows now have non-American hosts like John Oliver and Trevor Noah discussing American politics, and Jefferies has kind of a refreshing plainspoken, logical way of breaking down and joking about the issues.

s) "People Of Earth"
This was a very odd, fun little new show last year, glad to see TBS bringing so much of its new comedy slate back for second seasons. I like that they're expanding the ensemble a little and adding Nasim Pedrad, although I'm amused that she's an FBI agent since her most prominent post-"SNL" role was as a cop on "New Girl," like she's being typecast as sitcom law enforcement.

t) "Insecure"
I really liked "Insecure"'s pilot, but over the course of the season my enthusiasm for the show really dissipated as it felt like the focus shifted from a unique comic voice to a kind of lightweight 'battle of the sexes' soap opera where people speak in Drake lyrics. So I'm apprehensive about the second season, although the first episode did a decent job of kind of balancing out those elements, hopefully they can keep that up. That opening scene with all the fast cuts of Issa on dates, imagining herself saying things she was thinking in all those fast cuts, though, that was really uncomfortable to me in how it revealed her YouTuber roots, it felt very hacky.

u) "Adam Ruins Everything"
I really enjoy this show and how it picks apart complicated topics and debunks popular myths with a humorous approach. A hallmark of the first season was quick little segments with experts and academics speaking for themselves, and that's kind of been spun off into its own podcast where Adam Conover interviews those people at length. And in the second season, there have been longer, more serious interview segments with those experts, which is fine and useful but I kinda hope the show's dry podcast-like bits don't become longer and longer, I like the silly like scripted narrative elements.

v) "Killjoys"
I always point out that my wife is more into this show than I am, but it's really good, I feel like they've honed the cast's comedy chops more now by the 3rd season.

w) "Stitchers"
The sci-fi elements of this show have really become kind of a bland afterthought to the character stories, for better or worse, but those stories have been pretty compelling, I like that they seem to appreciate that Allison Scagliotti is the best part of the show and keep giving her bigger plotlines like the recent story where Camille has a girlfriend.

x) "The Strain"
I'm kind of glad this show is wrapping up with the 4th season, my interest in the show has gradually decreased since the first season. I remember when the 3rd season ended with a nuclear bomb being detonated and I was just indifferently like "oh, okay." But that certainly at least sets them up to have a different kind of storyline for the final season and the premiere was promising.

y) "@midnight with Chris Hardwick"
I've always had pretty mixed feelings about this show, which is at best a fun little palette cleanser for me for a few minutes between "The Daily Show" and Colbert, because I really kind of dislike Chris Hardwick and his rise to become some kind of inoffensively ubiquitous comedy Ryan Seacrest. So I dunno if this show getting cancelled means he's finally down failing upward and I should stop hating on him, or if it means he's going to Jimmy Fallon his way into hosting "The Daily Show" sometime soon. But whatever he does from here on out, I doubt he'll be as good at it as he was at hosting "@midnight."

z) "Twin Peaks"
There's something overall kind of distasteful to me about the grab bag nature of this new season of "Twin Peaks," the weekly musical performances and the gratuitous celebrity cameos and things seemingly unrelated to the original show that were probably repurposed from various unproduced projects since Lynch's last feature. But the fact that we're getting 18 hours of this stuff, and have experienced so much less than two thirds through it now, still feels like this sweet bizarre generous gift. It's not like I care that much about the "Twin Peaks" mythology anyway.
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