TV Diary

a) "Yellowstone"
Taylor Sheridan played a police officer on the first two seasons of "Sons of Anarchy" and I thought it was a character with a lot of story potential before they abruptly had him run over by a van in the first episode of the 3rd season. It turns out he was written out of the show so he could focus on other projects, and it's paid off: he's become a director and the screenwriter of a string of hits including both Sicario movies and Hell Or High Water. I kind of like these stories where a little-known actor became a big behind-the-scenes person, and those movies are pretty good, so I'm rooting for him. I was skeptical about "Yellowstone" before I knew he created it (my exact words, I believe, were that spending millions of dollars on 'Kevin Costner in a cowboy hat: the series' was a waste of money). But the first couple of episodes have been pretty good, despite the fact that there are few lead actors I'm less inclined to watch in something than Costner and Wes Bentley. The Trump administrations recent moves about the national parks and thought-provoking pieces like this make a show like "Yellowstone" kind of an ideal lightning rod for all the issues involved in a drama about local governments and residents and native communities fighting over land.

b) "Kiss Me First"
This British sci-fi show distributed by Netflix in America, about two girls becoming infatuated with each other in a virtual reality game, almost seems like a deliberate attempt to fulfill public desire for a series-length version of the San Junipero episode of "Black Mirror." More on paper than in practice, though, it has more of a hazy, mysterious tone to it, I'm not really sure where the story is going because I haven't gotten too far yet but it seems kind of interesting.

c) "Love Is ___"
This is kind of an interesting meta show for BET where Mara Brock Akil, creator of "Girlfriends" and "Being Mary Jane," and her husband tell an autobiographical story about the 20-year-relationship of a Hollywood power couple. The pilot's meet cute moment is good and there's a nice amiable rom com tone to the whole thing, I don't know if it will ever be a gripping drama, but I kind of think that serialized television is a uniquely appropriate way to explore the subject of marriage.

d) "Dietland"
A lot of films are based on novels, but TV shows not quite so often. And when I see a strange, original show like "Dietland" that so clearly resists the kind of arcs and easily explained premises that I'm used to from TV, I kind of understand why novels seem like unwieldy source material.

e) "Take Two"
This show makes me wonder if ABC really misses having "Castle" in their primetime lineup and decided to do a gender-swapped version with an actress who plays a cop on TV shadowing a private detective. There's an unintentionally amusing moment in the pilot where the actress's show-within-a-show scene is kind of deliberately ridiculous and then the scene of the 'real' detective at work is more or less the same.

f) "Deep State"
The words 'deep state' have become such an absurd meme in the past year that only the most right wing nutjobs use with a straight face that I think it won't wear well as the title of an earnest spy thriller TV show. The whole premise of a former MI6 agent getting pulled back into the field is good, but Mark Strong is so charismatic in stuff like the Kingsman movies and then just feels like a bore as a straightforward protagonist in something more serious like this.

g) "A Very English Scandal"
It's clever Hugh Grant to tell the story of a politician whose career was unraveled by a sex scandal. The actual story of a member of the British Parliament going on trial for attempting to have his gay lover killed is pretty crazy, though, hard to believe I hadn't heard about the story of Jeremy Thorpe before this miniseries. I feel like tonally it's hard to be sure about whether they're coming from, though, if they really want it to be a black comedy kind of having fun with the weird story or have some empathy with the characters.

h) "The Last Defense"
As with Showtime's "Wrong Man," this ABC miniseries seems to be capitalizing on the current booming interest in true crime docs that advocate for a convict's innocence, but it at least approaches it like a network newsmagazine with a little more traditional journalistic rigor than some of these Netflix docs that seem to be urging the viewer to draw a particular conclusion.

i) "Cloak & Dagger"
A moderately charming teen-themed Marvel adaptation on Freeform, but it doesn't really escape the doldrums of Marvel's TV projects. Also every time I see Olivia Holt I end up just listening to her excellent 2017 single "Generous" again.

j) "Luke Cage"
"Luke Cage" is kind of a classic case of the Marvel TV series doldrums, even though the first season started pretty strong, they killed off a great villain halfway through it and enthusiasm for the show and the character waned in the later episodes and in the spinoff "The Defenders." But I have to say, I'm enjoying the second season more than I thought I would, I forgot how great the whole ensemble of Simone Missik and Theo Rossi and Alfre Woodard is and the 2nd season features the great Reg E. Cathey's final performance as Cage's father.

k) "GLOW"
The beginning of the second season really is a moment of truth for whether a show is really loved or not, and even though "GLOW" got good reviews in the first season, I really wasn't prepared for how huge the buzz has been around the second season, it really feels like it's arrived, culturally. I like the first handful of episodes of the new season I've watched, but I feel like the little character moments that emphasize the cast chemistry really make everything else feel kind of secondary. Also I'm still a little disappointed at the reveal about Justine's character that kind of took her out of the wrestling part of the show and made her part of this boilerplate estranged parent subplot that I have no interest in. 

l) "The Bold Type"
Even though this show's view of the magazine industry is frothy and inaccurate in plenty of ways, I feel like the way it's chasing the zeitgiest has yielded some good moments. I like that the way one character went viral by putting their employer on blast became a liability when they were interviewing for a new job, that felt like very perfectly of-the-moment problem to depict.

m) "Claws"
Another good show that debuted in 2017 returning for a second season this summer. I find it so interesting that "Claws" was developed as a half hour for HBO before ultimately getting on the air as an hour for TNT. It makes me wonder if there was an iteration that was quicker or lighter or more overtly comedic before it became an at times weighty comedy/drama. They still get away with some pretty odd playful moments, though, like the 'Brady Bunch' thing in the second episode of the new season. I don't know about the Virginia/Dean relationship, though, that whole storyline is so weird.

n) "The Opposition with Jordan Klepper"
I was disappointed to find that "The Opposition" ran its final episode last week and Comedy Central is kind of going back to the drawing board to develop a completely different weekly show for Jordan Klepper. Even though "The Opposition" never totally succeeded at present Klepper as a kind of Colbert-style alt-right alter ego of himself, I really found the show's writing and guests and cast of contributors to be more consistently entertaining than "The Daily Show" in the last few months.

o) "Drunk History"
I like that they broke up the latest season so that there were some episodes a few months ago and then more in the summer, a little "Drunk History" now and then goes a long way. The recent episode with Rachel Bloom was great, she's really an ideal narrator for this show. In fact one of my only criticisms of this show is that they could repeat the best narrators more often.
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