TV Diary

a) "The Sinner"
I was complaining recently that 2017 hasn't had much in the way of summer TV obsessions for me, but this has been getting more gripping with each episodes. Reminds me a little of last year's summer highlight "The Night Of" in that it's a one-off limited series about a murder trial, but there's no question of who did it but simply why. I was skeptical that there would be 8 episodes' worth of intrigue about a muder committed in broad daylight with dozens of witnesses, but there have been some interesting wrinkles in the story. And I like seeing Bill Pullman as an investigator with a shy, halting way of speaking, very Zero Effect.

b) "Atypical"
This show is charming, particularly the episodes with the girlfriend Paige, and a family sitcom with Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Rapaport as the parents is some great casting. But I feel like "Speechless" set the bar pretty high for how much comedy and humanity can be woven into a show about a family with a son with special needs, and I find myself unfavorably comparing "Atypical" to that show now and then.

c) "The Defenders"
Marvel's Netflex series got off to a pretty strong start but they've arguably be on consistent decline since then, hitting rock bottom earlier this year with "Iron Fist," which I never finished watching (and to be honest it took me almost a year to trudge through "Luke Cage"). So bringing all the characters together in one big project, just as they did in the movies with The Avengers, isn't quite as exciting as it should be. But so far I'm enjoying this more than I've liked any of these shows in a while, it's kind of fun to see the heroes and their supporting characters all collide together and share scenes, it's fun to see, for instance, Luke Cage have a conversation with Foggy Nelson. But it's also kind of funny how their attempts to reconcile the tonal differences in the show has mostly resulted in Luke Cage's scenes having a hip hop score that makes it seem like phat beats just follow him around.

d) "Marlon"
Marlon Wayans has demonstrated some range and talent over the years, but I tend to find him unbearable when he's doing straight up comedy. And this show just feels grating and dated, like a scene literally ended with him saying "oh HELL naw," and then when it came back from commercial, he said "oh HELL naw" again.

e) "Weekend Update: Summer Edition"
I've never really seen the point of NBC running a special half hour "Weekend Update" on Thursday nights, especially during the regular "Saturday Night Live" season, as they did previously in 2008, 2009 and 2012. So it at least makes more sense that they're now doing it during the hiatus and getting a chance to get material out of those summer stories that "SNL" usually has to sit out. It's not Jost/Che is "Update" at its best by a long shot, but they're in a decent groove now, and there's been some good moments. I liked Tina Fey's bit of prop comedy eating a giant cake, but a lot of people kind of took it as an earnest political statement and got pretty mad at it, I dunno.

f) "White Gold"
I guess I never realized that the guy who played Chuck Bass on "Gossip Girl" was British, seeing him on a Brit show speaking in presumably his real voice is kind of surreal and jarring. Essex in the '80s is an interesting setting for a period piece, the music and fashion really give the show a unique texture, although I dunno how entertaining it is really.

g) "DuckTales"
I already discussed the first couple episodes of this at length on my brother's podcast, but this is pretty good, I'm looking forward to more episodes in September. One thing Zac had a good point about is that they made Huey, Dewey and Louie three distinct voices with three distinct personalities this time. And as in "We Bare Bears," Bobby Moynihan is the funniest of the three.

h) "True And The Rainbow Kingdom"
This Netflix series is one of those kids' shows I kinda sampled to see if I wanted to show it to my son. But it was really just loud and bright in a way that I found way more irritating than the average cartoon.

i) "Comrade Detective"
This Amazon show is one of those odd little projects where a couple of big name movie stars (in this case Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) get involved with a completely absurd idea as an indulgent little side project (in this case overdubbing the English dialogue for a fake '80s Romanian cop drama). But even at just six episodes, basically the bare minimum for U.S. television, it kinda feels like an insane amount of time and effort was spent on executing this idea that isn't really that funny after you get the gist of the first few minutes. It honestly could've gone over better as a one-off Adult Swim special.

j) "The Guest Book"
This TBS show is kind of a comedy anthology series about a rental cottage, where each episode is about someone else staying in the place. A lot of actors I like have popped up in the show, but I really can't stand the recurring characters that pop up in every episode and a lot of the comedy just feels very strained and broad and wacky. I think "Rasing Hope" was kind of an outlier in Greg Garcia's shows, I found that one charming but can't stand his other stuff.

k) "Room 104"
"Room 104" is similar to "The Guest Book" in that it's an anthology series about a hotel room's occupants. But it leans more toward horror, suspense and black comedy, so tonally it's very different, but I feel like it suffers from a lot of the same problems of just feeling like a jam session, all these ideas thrown at the wall from week to week. I've never thought the Duplass brothers had a particularly good grip on comedy or drama in their various dramedies, but they fail at horror to a much greater degree here.

l) "A Night With My Ex"
Another show where you meet a different set of people staying in the same hotel room in each episode, but it's a Bravo reality show where 2 people who used to be in a relationship are reunited for one night to give it another chance or just reconnect or to argue and air out their baggage or whatever. I have always had a limited appetite for reality TV and watch barely any of it now, but I really found myself getting sucked into this show, it's pretty good at these bite sized voyeuristic dramas where in 20 minutes you watch someone propose to an ex who's over them or admit to cheating, or even something less scandalous but still kid of entertaining.

m) "What Would Diplo Do?"
I've thought that Diplo was a vapid tool for about a decade before he was famous enough to justify a TV series lampooning his reputation as a vapid tool, so I suppose I can appreciate this show's existence on that level. But on the other hand, the rich twat executive produces this parody of his life to show how chill and good humored he is about everything, so how biting can the satire be? James Van Der Beek's entertainingly unflattering depiction of himself in "Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 23" was really a breakthrough for him as a comedic performer, and he's doing something similar here (as well as writing the show). But at the end of the day it has that "Entourage" stink of typical showbiz assholes thinking a little self-deprecation makes them less typical showbiz assholes.

n) "Nuts & Bolts"
Tyler, The Creator is another musician who I've never had much interest in, I'm just kind of indifferent to his records and tend to find his personality and his sense of humor off-putting. But his new show is kind of cool because he spends each episode learning about how to do or make something that he likes, like the first episode is about stop motion animation, talking to animators about how it's done and making his own short.

o) "Swedish Dicks"
An action comedy series about Peter Stormare as a stuntman turned P.I. looks like such a homerun to me on paper that I'm maybe a little underwhelmed by the show so far. It's not bad, though, and the Keanu Reeves cameos are pretty good.

p) "Baroness Von Sketch Show"
What stands out about this show from other sketch shows, aside from the all female cast, is the brisk pacing, the lack of padding -- most sketches last a couple minutes at most, use location and costuming to quickly establish the setting and characters without extraneous exposition, and get to the twist at just the right time and move on instead of repeating or escalating the joke. In fact, sometimes the show moves almost a little too fast -- there's not much in the way of interstitial music or transitions, and sometimes they cut to the next sketch so seamlessly that I look down for a second and look back at the screen very confused. That's a minor complaint, though. Meredith MacNeill feels to me like the show's standout performer so far, she's had a lot of memorable moments.

q) "Manhunt: Unabomber"
Between the O.J. show and the upcoming show about the Menendez brothers, it feels like TV is quickly running through all the big crime stories of the '90s. I was initially pretty skeptical about this show -- about Paul Bettany as Ted Kaczynski, about the show centering around one FBI analyst as if Kaczynski wasn't essentially turned in by his brother, and so on. But it's really sucked me in, it's pretty interesting to see the minutiae of the investigation dramatized. The dialogue can be a little clumsy -- a lot of people explaining stuff for the viewer's benefit, and at one point someone in the mid-'90s uses "snowflake" in the 2010s derogatory way -- but the cast is great, particularly Jeremy Bobb and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

r) "OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes"
One of the son's favorite new shows on Cartoon Network, the animation is crude and hand drawn in a way that you really don't see on children's TV much anymore, which is kind of refreshing, but there's still a fair amount of imaginative visuals.

s) "Siesta Key"
It's crazy to think that it's been over a decade since "Laguna Beach," which was at the time kind of a new nadir for MTV, but has at this point birthed a whole generation of MTV programming that has reached its own nadir with "Siesta Key." Most pathetic of all, though, I actually kind of enjoyed "Laguna Beach" and watched this hoping for some of the same mindless entertainment, but it was really just very boring.

t) "Signed"
This is one of those music reality shows that rejects the pageantry of performance driven shows like "Star Search" or "American Idol" for the idea of getting down to the work in the studio and the boardroom that actually makes careers in the music industry. And it can be kinda fun to watch guys who actually have a decent track record like Rick Ross and The-Dream give advice to new artists. But I don't watch it with any impression that I'll see any of these kids again outside the show, and it's pretty unfortunate that this show, which includes women vying to work with Rick Ross, is airing just as he's given a pretty awful interview about why he's never signed any female rappers.

u) "Daughters Of Destiny"
Pretty interesting little documentary series on Netflix, just getting this kind of glimpse of life in modern India, I always love to see how kids outside of America go to school and how differently things can be done.

v) "Gone"
There are 2 new TV shows called "Gone" and, even more confusingly, both are about missing persons investigations. The one that hasn't aired yet is a dramatic procedural starring Chris Noth, but this one on Investigation Discovery features a dramatization of a different real life case in each episode. It's not really too much my kind of show, but it's pretty well done and has featured some interesting stories.

w) "Snowfall"
"Snowfall" ticks of all the boxes as a gritty, ambitious cable drama with high production values, but I'm still struggling a little to connect with it. I promised myself I wouldn't compare it incessantly to "The Wire," but Franklin's mother being played by Michael Hyatt, who played D'Angelo's mother on "The Wire," kinda helped me realize just how little I care about these characters, they all feel a little flat and one dimensional. I think Juan Javier Cardenas is the standout of this cast, though, I think they really missed out on casting him for the Freddie Mercury biopic.

x) "Difficult People"
I've been pretty into this show from the jump, but it really feels like they've hit their stride with season 3 and there is a speed and density and nastiness to the humor on this show that is just incredible, like "30 Rock" on steroids.

y) "The Chris Gethard Show"
I always associate Chris Gethard with his early turn in the Comedy Central sitcom "Big Lake," but in the six or seven years since then, he's become more well known for this talk show, which aired on public access and then on Fusion and now most recently has moved to TruTV, where I finally saw it for the first time. And I kind of appreciate what they're trying to do with a spontaneous, fun, silly show. But man, it just feels like it's a guy who's not that funny telling you over and over what an exciting crazy thing is about to happen, like a low budget Jimmy Fallon.

z) "Suits"
I was pretty bummed when Gina Torres left "Suits" a year ago, particularly because she left to join the cast of an inferior network show, "The Catch." But now that show is cancelled, and she's appearing sporadically on "Suits" again and there's talk of her character getting her own spinoff, which i would be cool with. This season has been pretty good, it feels like they're still getting some mileage out of changing the power dynamics between Harvey and Louis and Mike and Rachel and Donna.
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