TV Diary

Wednesday, November 28, 2018






Ben Stiller has a solid track record of directing broad comedy but when he veers towards dramedy he's wound up with dreck like "Reality Bites" and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." So I wasn't sure which way things would go with his miniseries about the 2015 upstate New York prison break, but this is really, really good. Just the right amount of bleak prison drama reality with Benicio del Toro and Patricia Arquette adding these tastefully restrained comedic notes to their performances to kind of acknowledge how bizarre the story is in and of itself. Paul Dano has given some of the worst, most overacted performances I've seen in films in the last 12 years or so, but so far even he has been just pitch perfect. I like the way they kind of put you in the not-quite-current setting with the diegetic soundtrack of Top 40 radio blaring in the background of scenes, random 2nd tier hits by Nick Jonas and Meghan Trainor that were on the radio in 2015 but wouldn't be obvious needledrops if someone was making a period piece about that time 20 years from now. 

When "9-1-1" returned this fall without Connie Britton I kind of assumed she realized how bad the writing was on that show and wanted to move onto some better material. And the first episode of her new show was pretty promising, Eric Bana kind of reminds me of Michael Keaton in Pacific Heights in terms of being this bland cargo shorts-wearing guy who you just know the other characters are wrong for trusting. I think probably the most promising part of the show is how it's not afraid to have these banal notes where even Britton's daughters, the most reasonable people in the story, come off as annoying kids. 

I really liked actor/director/writer Desiree Akhavan's 2014 debut feature Appropriate Behavior and was excited to hear that she'd gotten her own TV series on Hulu. But "The Bisexual," which first aired on Channel 4 in the UK, was at first a little of a letdown, and I found myself wishing that an American network had financed the production and it had an American setting and supporting cast. It grew on me by the end of the 6th episode, but I still have mixed feelings about the Brian (dead ringer for his father Brendan) Gleeson and the rest of the cast. Tanya Reynolds was really funny, though, I wish she was in more than one episode. 

I'm not too familiar with British TV star Julia Davis's work, but this fall HBO aired an American adaptation of one of her shows, "Camping," as well as her new show "Sally4Ever." I think I prefer the former, although I don't know how faithful it is to the original. But "Sally4Ever" is kind of interesting in that I thought the premise, a woman breaking off her loveless engagement to a cartoonishly pathetic man to have an affair with a woman, would be played more straightforward as a queer love story. But instead Davis's character, Emma, is even more cartoonish, and all sex in the show, gay or straight, is kind of portrayed as a gross joke. 

e) "Sick Note"  
I don't want to sound too down on British comedy, because I grew up on a lot of it and love a lot of modern performers, including "Sick Note"'s Nick Frost. But watching these shows really left a bad taste in my mouth about the state of British sitcoms, particularly "Sick Note," which exists in a world where everyone is about as intelligent, complex and sympathetic as the average "South Park" character. The whole thing just starts loud and broad and keeps getting nastier and dumber as it goes, with Don Johnson relishing his abrasive, unfunny role as "stunt casted aging celebrity who yells and curses a lot." 

I've long been kind of a Chuck Lorre apologist who thought he had the potential to make quality television if he got away from the churn of formulaic CBS shows. So his first Netflix show, "Disjointed," was especially disappointing because he stuck to a shrill laugh track and hacky jokes while wasting a star of the caliber of Kathy Bates. Lorre's second Netflix production, "The Kominsky Method," gets a lot closer to what I was hoping for -- Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin bleakly quipping about mortality in a single camera show with no laugh track. It's just okay, though, they don't knock it out of the park like they could've. 

Earlier this year I decided to embrace my ugly American instinct to not bother with subtitled foreign language shows, since Netflix and the Sundance Channel are producing so many of them now and I haven't really loved any of them. But this HBO miniseries based on the hugely popular Elena Ferrante novel is entirely in Italian and probably the most high profile foreign language series on an American network ever, so I figured I should check it out. I like it so far, but honestly, this seems like a story that works better as a novel, even the best adaptation probably wouldn't retain what drew readers to it. 

This moves really slowly and kind of requires more patience than I thought something about sexy spies could, but it's pretty good, Florence Pugh is fantastic in a role that's kind of like several roles wrapped into one.

i) "Charmed"
I've probably passively watched dozens of reruns of the original "Charmed" just crushing on Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan, so I don't really care about the show itself that much to care either way that they rebooted it, although Madeleine Mantock and Sarah Jeffery from the new cast are pretty beautiful too. This version of the show seems to take itself slightly more seriously than the old one and the visual effects are moderately better, but those aren't necessarily pluses.

j) "Light As A Feather"
The premise of this Hulu show is kind of interesting but the acting is really bad. I get that the argument for having high schoolers played by much older people all the time is that you can get more able and seasoned actors to pull of the role, but everyone playing a teen in this show is 20-26 and the acting is still terrible, so they may as well have tried casting actual teens.

Cheesy Netflix kids show, really reminded me of '80s family shows. I should probably watch trailers for Netflix shows before checking them out so I know whether I'm wasting my time on something I'm not in the demographic for. 

Another Netflix thing that's not really for me but I appreciate that they're kind of rebooted the '80s cartoon with a more explicitly feminist angle. I was hoping to get a "Steven Universe" vibe from it but it's definitely not as good as that.

m) "Super Drags"
The idea of an adult cartoon about LGBT superheroes is cool, but it kind of reminds me of a lot of really corny Comedy Central adult cartoons like "Drawn Together," wasn't into it.

n) "The Final Table"
Among the million other genres that once seemed best suited to traditional broadcast networks that Netflix is now trying to get into competitive reality shows. I don't know if the weekly suspense of narrowing down the field and eventually declaring a champion really works the same way if you release a whole season of the show at once, though. This cooking show has good production values and I like the way it's a big international competition across several different countries, but it's also kind of loud and obnoxious, and I quickly tire of watching shows about food I can't eat.

o) "Westside"
Another Netflix attempt at a popular reality genre, but this is a lot further from the traditional broadcast reality show about aspiring musicians. The whole thing looks really slick and you get to experience fully produced songs and music videos from the artists during the show as you watch them work on their careers and interact with each other, which is a really cool, novel approach. And yet, I found it unwatchable because these are all the usual vain, vapid wannabe pop stars you see on "American Idol" except somehow made more annoying in this context.

p) "Real Country"
Country music has always been a little more suited to reality TV than other genres in my opinion, just because the Nashville machine is already very regimented and structured in similar ways. And this show has some clever ideas, like having nights themed around 'drinking songs' and other country music conventions. But it's also kind of a loud annoying show with lots of "American Idol"-style filler taking up most of the show's running time. 

q) "Enemies: The President, Justice & The FBI"
A pretty interesting Showtime doc series about historical conflicts between POTUSes and intelligence and law enforcement agencies, obviously you watch these things thinking a lot about the present day. But for every way that the Nixon presidency was different from the Trump presidency and so on, they really brought up some interesting footage and little details of the Watergate era that I hadn't seen or thought about before that illustrated its relevance to current events.

r) "Medal of Honor"
This Netflix series is basically docudrama recreations of various medal of honor recipients' personal stories, the production values are good but I don't need to see more than one episode of this just like I don't need to see every Lone Survivor type movie that comes out.

s) "Shut Up And Dribble"
Laura Ingraham coined both "shut up and sing" and "shut up and dribble," which the Dixie Chicks and now LeBron James have turned into the titles of documentaries about standing up for your personal beliefs, which I guess is kind of a good rebuff to Ingraham but I also worry about how much more important it makes that terrible woman. This is an interesting miniseries, though, I particularly liked the second episode that kind of zoomed in on the legacy of Michael Jordan saying "Republicans buy sneakers too."

t) "Dogs"
I half expected this Netflix show to just be hourlong episodes of dogs running around like the "Puppy Bowl," but it's a nice little documentary series about bonds between dogs and humans, the first episode was pretty touching (and I say that as someone who enjoys occasionally walking dogs but prefers to live with cats).

u) "Axios"
This show really showed its true colors in its awful debut episode's awful Trump interview where their oily reporter dudes seem to delight in egging the president on to speak about trying to end birthright citizenship in America. They try to be measured and analytical in their little show but there's something totally hollow and amoral about how they approach these kinds of stories that's just rotten.

v) "Into The Dark"
Blumhouse Productions has released so many of the most acclaimed horror movies of the last few years that it was exciting to hear their anthology series for Hulu would feature a different feature-length story each month of the year, themed around a holiday from that month. I probably should have guessed that they wouldn't toss out a Get Out-caliber film as a Hulu freebie, though, the first two installments have been merely okay. The Halloween episode, "The Body," had a good cast and some fun, creative moments but also felt a little flimsy and slapdash. The Thanksgiving episode, "Flesh & Blood," probably could have been an above average horror flick in the right hands, but Dermot Mulroney just could not pull off his role and there have been like 3 other movies in the last decade that used agoraphobia similarly as a plot device and I'm really over it.

w) "Channel Zero: The Dream Door"
The 4th season of SyFy's creepypasta-inspired horror anthology series might be my favorite to date, from a visual standpoint it was just really creative and gory and gross. And Troy James's performance as Pretzel Jack was just incredible, to put a contortionist into this weird surreal costume and have him move in these bizarre unnatural-looking ways makes for a great character, I feel like they could've made a Pretzel Jack movie and he would've become an iconic horror movie villain.

x) "Room 104"
I pretty strongly disliked the first season of this old little Duplass brothers experiment on HBO where each episode is a standalone story taking place in the same hotel room. But there were one or two episodes that I thought made good use of the format, and they keep getting great actors to do their little show, so I wanted to give it another chance. But it almost feels like the better the cast is, the worse it gets, the Michael Shannon/Judy Greer episode was just the dumbest bullshit, at one point Shannon raps in a Russian accent.

y) "Midnight, Texas"
Ever since Andy Richter described this show's genre as "pile of hotties" it's all I can think about when I watch it. I think I'll stop watching it, though, hotties or not. It's just not remotely as good as "True Blood," which was plenty flawed but at least was on cable and didn't have to hold back on the sex or the gore.

z) "Stan Against Evil"
This show has been on for 3 seasons and I still don't think I've encountered another soul who's watched it, which I guess is what happens when you're on IFC in its era of daily "Two And A Half Men" reruns. It's good, though, at least once or twice an episode John C. McGinley says something that makes me throw my head back in laughter.

Saturday, November 17, 2018
































This week I released the first single from Western Blot's second album, Materialistic, which is on the way in early 2019. "Zeros All The Way Down" is on Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Apple Music, YouTube, and lots of other places, and it features vocals by Brooks Long and trumpet by Ishai Barnoy.

Mat Leffler-Schulman made the record with me at Mobtown Studios' Charles Street building last year before they moved out. We took a lot of advantage of the building and did stuff like put mics in the stairwell down the hall from the drum room and opened up the doors, which is how we got the big, cavernous drum sound in this track. Brooks Long & The Mad Dog No Good were featured on the Baltimore Vol. 1 compilation we put together in 2013, and Brooks was one of Mat's first clients at the studio a decade ago, so it was cool to have him be part of the album. He came in not having heard the track before the session and got the hang of the song very quickly and nailed the vocal.

Ishai is playing guitar in the new Western Blot live lineup that's started practicing for shows next year, and he also played guitar on a few songs on Materialistic, including "Ill Afford" that I put on the Too 30 EP back in January. But he mentioned in passing that he plays a little trumpet, so I convinced him to lay something down on this odd funky little track that became one of my favorite things from the album sessions.

Movie Diary

Friday, November 16, 2018
























a) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
So many veteran filmmakers are making TV projects for the first time these days, but I was a little surprised to hear that Joel and Ethan Coen would make an anthology series for Netflix. But it turned out they just couldn't bring themselves to make episodic television, and decided to bundle all 6 stories together into one film that got a small theatrical run to qualify for the Oscars. And I have to say, I think they made the right decision. There's only maybe one story, the Liam Neeson one, that didn't really land for me, but I think this odd little batch of tales plays better as pieces of a whole watched in one sitting than if they'd been broken up into episodes. It still doesn't feel like a major work for them, but it's an enjoyable one. Tim Blake Nelson in O Brother, Where Art Thou? is one of my all-time favorite performances in a Coens movie, so his opening segment as Buster Scruggs is a great entertaining start to the movie, but there's a lot of great performances from Tom Waits, Bill Heck, Chelcie Ross, and another O Brother alumnus, Stephen Root. And I laughed so, so hard when James Franco said "first time?" 

b) Dr. Seuss' The Grinch
My son has always loved reading The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and I've tried to steer him more toward the classic 1966 cartoon I grew up on rather than the Jim Carrey movie, but I think he just likes anything Grinch. And he really enjoyed the latest adaptation that's very much in the style of other Illumination movies like Despicable Me. I thought it was alright for what it was, better than the Carrey version but not by a huge margin. I don't really like the Benedict Cumberbatch's voice, it's probably for the best that the Grinch didn't sound British but it sounded like he just did Hugh Laurie's American accent from "House." 

c) Red Sparrow
I wasn't expecting much out of this movie but I was pleasantly surprised to realize that it was directed by Francis Lawrence, Constantine and I Am Legend and all his music videos are so consistently great-looking and full of stirring imagery and well choreographed action. So even when there isn't that much to the story, as in the case of Red Sparrow, it's still pretty enjoyable, and I felt like Jennifer Lawrence pulled off a pretty difficult performance notwithstanding her bad Russian accent. 

d) The Post
Even though The Post has two huge movie stars toplining it, it felt like an ensemble piece that brought a lot of people who'd done their best work on television, like Carrie Coon and Bob Odenkirk and Bradley Whitford and Sarah Paulson and Zach Woods, up to the big leagues to act alongside Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in a Spielberg movie. A while back I worked on a shoot for a lawn mower commercial with a guy who'd worked on The Post and he had interesting stories about how they prepared the exteriors so that they modern D.C. could look like the 1970s, in a way I think that's the biggest technical achievement of a movie like this. 

e) All The Money In The World
I felt like it was hard for me to not watch this movie mostly through a meta lens, both of knowing that Christopher Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey at the last minute, and of having already watched the TV series about the same story, "Trust," that came out around the same time. I much prefer "Trust" (mainly became Brendan Fraser is far more interesting in the Fletcher Chace role than Mark Wahlberg), but I was a little surprised how visually similar the two projects ended up being even with some major creative differences. 

f) Father Figures
I will probably never get sick of by-the-numbers Owen Wilson buddy comedies, even if this one where Wilson is the laid back brother of the more uptight Ed Helms is especially by-the-numbers. I got a few laughs out of it, but the format of them meeting various characters who may be their father, it got old fast. 

g) The Greatest Showman
A weirdly upbeat ahistorical movie about P.T. Barnum seemed like the oddest runaway box office hit, but I guess people really like the songs. And there are a lot of them, it seemed like there was almost more singing than dialogue, which was probably a good thing given the cheesy story. As someone who likes Moulin Rouge, though, I dunno, watching this felt like probably how people who hate Moulin Rouge feel watching it. 

h) American Made
It seems so unlikely that the same Doug Liman whose career was launched by Swingers would become a reliable purveyor of big budget action movies, including one of my favorite in recent memory, Edge of TomorrowAmerican Made reunites him with Tom Cruise but feels a lot simpler by comparison, even if like Edge it's kind of rare opportunity for Cruise to lead a complicated double life and not be the purehearted good guy who comes out victorious in the end. 

i) Norm of the North
At this point studios churn out slick computer animated kids' movies full of familiar celebrity voices with such ease that it's kind of easy to assume that there's a reliable formula for making them well and that even the ones that aren't Pixar masterpieces are going to be decent. So it's almost impressive just how bad Norm of the North is, I put it on for my kids because they love seeing polar bears at the zoo, but it's really just crap, I don't think they even finished it. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018



















Elvis Costello is playing in Minnesota tonight, so I did an update for City Pages of my EC deep album cuts playlist.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 126: Eric Church

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


















I always mean to do more country deep cuts playlists (so far the only ones in a hundred plus volumes have been Brad Paisley, George Jones, Dwight Yoakam, Shania Twain, and Taylor Swift). Eric Church has long been one of my favorite contemporary artists who I thought I'd do a playlist for once his catalog got big enough. And with the release of his 6th studio album, Desperate Man, last month, it feels like now is the time.

Eric Church deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. What I Almost Was
2. Pledge Allegiance To The Hag (featuring Merle Haggard)
3. Where She Told Me To Go
4. Leave My Willie Alone
5. Faster Than My Angels Can Fly
6. I'm Gettin' Stoned
7. Jack Daniels
8. Hungover & Hard Up
9. Country Music Jesus
10. Lotta Boot Left To Fill (live)
11. Before She Does (live)
12. A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young
13. Broke Record
14. Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)
15. Three Year Old
16. Mixed Drinks About Feelings (featuring Susan Tedeschi)
17. Knives of New Orleans
18. Higher Wire
19. Some of It
20. Drowning Man

Tracks 1 and 2 from Sinners Like Me (2006)
Tracks 3 and 4 from Carolina (2009)
Track 5 from Caldwell County EP (2011)
Tracks 6, 7, 8 and 9 from Chief (2011)
Tracks 10 and 11 from Caught In The Act (2013)
Tracks 12, 13 and 14 from The Outsiders (2014)
Tracks 15, 16 and 17 from Mr. Misunderstood (2015)
Tracks 18, 19 and 20 from Desperate Man (2018)

You can tell just from album titles like The Outsiders and Mr. Misunderstood how self-consciously Eric Church patterns himself after the rebels and mavericks of 'outlaw' country. And that preoccupation with setting himself apart from his contemporaries or taking a stand for the essence of country is a big part of his albums, from "Lotta Boot Left To Fill" and "Country Music Jesus" to the ridiculous 8-minute suite "Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)," where Nashville is essentially Satan. He also tends to salute his heroes with songs with silly titles, like the Merle Haggard tribute "Pledge Allegiance To The Hag" and the Willie Nelson hat tip "Leave My Willie Alone." It was funny, given Church's recent admission in Rolling Stone that he hates steel guitar, to notice the musical and lyrical tip of the hat to steel guitar on  "Pledge Allegiance."

Eric Church's chip on his shoulder about country music and his place in it isn't really what I go to his records for. If anything, it's something I tolerate because he's such a good writer when it comes to more introspective, emotional subjects and being able to turn words around in clever ways on songs like "Where She Told Me To Go" and "I'm Gettin' Stoned." The other day I sat next to my 3-year-old son, at the age of 36, and listened to "Three Year Old" and "A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young" on headphones and realized those two songs are exactly me at this moment in time. And "Some of It" from the new album has been hitting me hard lately.

In addition to Church's gifts as a lyricist, what I really like about his records is the sound he's cultivated by Jay Joyce, perhaps my favorite producer in country or in general in recent years. They've just really found some great guitar tones and drum sounds, and found a way to make a rootsy approach sound modern in subtle ways that I think a lot of artists could learn from, in and out of country. One pleasant surprise I stumbled across that I wasn't aware of before was the Caldwell County EP, 4 songs that he released 6 months before the biggest and best album of his career, Chief, ensured that he'd probably never release any stopgap EPs again.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep
Vol. 95: Linkin Park
Vol. 96: Shania Twain
Vol. 97: Squeeze
Vol. 98: Taylor Swift
Vol. 99: INXS
Vol. 100: Stevie Wonder
Vol. 101: The Cranberries
Vol. 102: Def Leppard
Vol. 103: Bon Jovi
Vol. 104: Dire Straits
Vol. 105: The Police
Vol. 106: Sloan
Vol. 107: Peter Gabriel
Vol. 108: Led Zeppelin
Vol. 109: Dave Matthews Band
Vol. 110: Nine Inch Nails
Vol. 111: Talking Heads
Vol. 112: Smashing Pumpkins
Vol. 113: System Of A Down
Vol. 114: Aretha Franklin
Vol. 115: Michael Jackson
Vol. 116: Alice In Chains
Vol. 117: Paul Simon
Vol. 118: Lil Wayne
Vol. 119: Nirvana
Vol. 120: Kix
Vol. 121: Phil Collins
Vol. 122: Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Vol. 123: Sonic Youth
Vol. 124: Bob Seger
Vol. 125: Radiohead

Monthly Report: November 2018 Singles

Monday, November 12, 2018




















1. Dennis Lloyd - "Nevermind"
It's interesting to see how far the U.S. is out of step with the rest of the world when songs like this or Alice Merton's "No Roots" is a top 10 pop hit in many many countries but in America it's isolated to alt-rock radio and only gets up into the 80s in the Hot 100. "Nevermind" is really an oddly blank little song, a few loops and a handful of lines repeated over and over for 2 and a half minutes, but I still totally understand its popularity, it's really entrancing. Here's the favorite 2018 singles playlist I update every month. 

2. Sevyn Streeter - "Yernin" 
Last year, Sevyn Streeter's 5 years of releasing great, largely underappreciated music on Atlantic Records culminated in an underpomoted debut album, Girl Disrupted, and that appeared to be the end of her contract. Fortunately, her first self-released single as an indie artist, "Yernin," is really fucking good and has drummed up some spins on my local station so hopefully she's still got some momentum in her career. I love how she took a classic Gap Band slow jam and kind of amped up the energy. 

3. The Glorious Sons - "S.O.S. (Sawed Off Shotgun)" 
Mainstream rock music is usually such a vague word salad that anytime a song says anything even a little pointed about anything it tends to stand out. So this song has been stuck in my head ever since I heard the chorus that goes "YEAHHHH, THEY SENT THE TAXMAN, I LOST MY JOB AND YOU GOT HOOKED ON OXYCODONE, THEY SHUT THE LIGHTS OFF, THEY TOOK THE CAR AND I BOUGHT A SAWED-OFF SHOTGUN." I'd never heard The Glorious Sons before, apparently they're from Ontario and have had a bunch of radio hits in Canada but this is their first song to do well in America. The band's official site has this odd 500-word disclaimer about "S.O.S." that their management apparently wanted to them to write ("They want me to explain it to you. They are scared. Because of Columbine. Because of Paris. Because of Las Vegas."). And it definitely is easy to imagine this song generating a lot of blowback if it got big enough, but I think ultimately it does come off more cathartic than celebratory. 

4. Young Thug f/ Lil Baby and Gunna - "Chanel (Go Get It)"
In my big Young Thug piece a couple months ago, I mentioned this song in the light that it's got the most buzz of any 'solo' track Thug has released in the last 2 years, but he only does the hook and cedes the spotlight to his two ascendant proteges on the verses. It works, though, I love this song, might be better than even "Drip Too Hard" in terms of capturing Gunna and Baby at their best. And as someone who's always been underwhelmed by Wheezy production and thought Thug relied on it too much on his releases since 2015, this is one of the first tracks he's co-produced that I really love. 

5. Cardi B - "Money"
Invasion of Privacy has been out for 7 months and has absolutely ruled rap radio over the past year with five different top 10 singles, and yet I still feel like it has untapped potential singles that I wouldn't mind them continuing to work to radio and shoot videos for. So it's kind of bittersweet that she's already started to move on with the first solo release since the album, but "Money" is also really great so I can't complain that much. The other day this came on when I was driving my kids home and they both went "money!" along with the vocal loop in the song. 

6. Ariana Grande - "God Is A Woman" 
I thought Cardi was kind of moving on from her album quickly, but Ariana now has "Thank U, Next" about to debut at #1 on the charts less than 3 months after Sweetener came out, with 2 of its singles in the pop radio top 10. And honestly, I wish Sweetener was given the space for a whole promo cycle because I like its singles better than "Thank U," but it's still exciting that she's kind of throwing out the rulebook and potentially releasing a whole new album really soon. I kind of rolled my eyes at "God Is A Woman" when it first came out, I'm not the biggest fan of how she's kind of picked up Drake's habit of filling every available space in a vocal track with "yuh." But it really grew on me, all the harmonies and runs are fantastic. There are so few decent vocalists on pop radio right now that Ariana stands out more than ever. 

7. King Princess - "Pussy Is God"
I kind of laughed when I saw this song's title because it kind of made "God Is A Woman" seem like it was mincing words by comparison. It's really good, though, and samples "Oochie Wally" of all things. I feel like King Princess and her girlfriend Amandla Stenberg co-wrote this song to up the ante from Janelle Monae and Tessa Thompson's "pussy pants" in the "Pynk" video.

8. The Chainsmokers f/ Kelsea Ballerini - "This Feeling" 
Given the way country radio's 'tomato' problem is only gotten worse and her 2nd album hasn't been embraced as much as her first, I don't blame Kelsea Ballerini for following Maren Morris into teaming up with an EDM act for a crossover single. And this one works well for her, she has a good voice for pop. 

9. Silk City & Dua Lipa - "Electricity"
The way people feel about the Chainsmokers is how I've been feeling about Diplo and Mark Ronson for the last 15 years or so, so I'm salty that they made a hot song with one of my favorite new pop stars out, but whatever, it's good. 

10. GoldLink f/ Miguel - "Got Friends"
This didn't quite hit the mark of continuing what "Crew" started, but it deserved more spins than it got, love the sound of GoldLink and Miguel together and the beat was great.

Worst Single of the Month: Quavo - "Workin Me"
Quavo Huncho is about as bad as people say it is, Quavo really just isn't that good at making complete songs without other Migos or collaborators filling in the blanks. But what really frustrates me is that there are much better songs on the album than the hit, "Workin Me" was released simultaneously with two singles that were both better, and the Pharrell production on the album is also really good. It's weird to think that this guy who writes dozens of catchy hooks every year could end up with lead singles that have choruses as crappy as "Workin Me" and "MotorSport."

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 125: Radiohead

Sunday, November 11, 2018
















Radiohead have been nominated, for the second time, for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and we'll find out in December if they got in. And they're probably the most archetypal 'classic band' out of the nominees, but they've often shied away from show biz extravagance, and have made several comments about not being terribly interested in the HOF. So it's easy to imagine Radiohead getting inducted but going to the Dire Straits route of participating as little as possible and letting Def Leppard or someone else take the mantle of the night's big splashy headline induction. Still, regardless of how you feel about the band or the Hall, it seems like a no-brainer that they'd end up there eventually.

Radiohead deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. You
2. Bones
3. Planet Telex
4. The Bends
5. Subterranean Homesick Alien
6. Airbag
7. Climbing Up the Walls
8. Everything In Its Right Place
9. The National Anthem
10. Morning Bell
11. Life In A Glasshouse
12. Packt Like Sardines In A Crushed Tin Box
13. A Punch Up At A Wedding
14. Myxomatosis
15. 15 Step
16. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
17. Give Up The Ghost
18. Identikit

Track 1 from Pablo Honey (1993)
Tracks 2, 3 and 4 from The Bends (1995)
Tracks 5, 6 and 7 from OK Computer (1997)
Tracks 8, 9 and 10 from Kid A (2000)
Tracks 11 and 14 from Amnesiac (2001)
Tracks 15 and 16 from Hail To The Thief (2003)
Track 16 from In Rainbows (2007)
Track 17 from The King of Limbs (2011)
Track 18 from A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

I was 11 when "Creep" came out, and even though I had only considered myself a fan and follower of rock music for a year or two at the time, it was one of my first experiences really feeling embarrassed by how broad and on-the-nose a song was, particularly an angsty alternative rock song. I loved the sound of Johnny Greenwood's cha-chunk guitar leading into the chorus, and the way Thom Yorke's voice soared on the outro, though. So when the band overcame their one hit wonder status and delivered a great album in The Bends, and continued to blossom creatively from there, I was a little surprised, but not too surprised. Even Pablo Honey has aged better than an album named after a Jerky Boys joke has any right to.

I got caught up in the excitement around OK Computer and Kid A as much as anybody, and those are undeniably great albums. But I've always felt a little less credulous about the acclaim around Radiohead than other people. The way a band who sounded great with 3 guitars started making lots of songs with no guitars, and built their career out of catchy radio singles but then made a point of releasing no singles from an album, it just felt a little over the top to me. The way they reinvented their sound was inspired, but it wasn't any bigger a leap than Achtung Baby or Berlin era Bowie -- if anything they were taking cues from earlier reinventions like those.

So I spent a good decade or more feeling like the conventional wisdom about just how unconventional and groundbreaking Radiohead was had gotten kind of over-the-top and ridiculous. And their albums after Kid A and Amnesiac felt notable for how unsurprising they were, how the band seemed to be methodically subtracting elements from their sound in favor of minimalism. I heard so little to love, so little to react to at all, in In Rainbows that I felt really out of step with the worship around that record in particular. If anything, the widely maligned The King of Limbs appealed to me more.

So yeah, sometimes I feel like Liam Gallagher when I think about Radiohead and just wanna listen to "Bones" and lament that the band got too pretentious to write riffs like that anymore. But it really is enjoyable to kind of subtract the most obvious songs from the band's discography and listen to their creative development in chronological order, I really do admire some of the things they've been willing to try. I love the 5/4 time signature and they've written some great songs in it -- "Morning Bell," "Everything In Its Right Place," and "15 Step."

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 124: Bob Seger

Friday, November 09, 2018

















Like Prince, AC/DC, The BeatlesDef Leppard and Peter Gabriel, Bob Seger was one of the last remaining major recording artists who'd held out from streaming services for years, and finally relented last year. But even what was put on Spotify is a woefully incomplete selection of his catalog; 2017's I Knew You When was his 18th studio album, and only 9 of them are available to stream now, along with his two very popular live albums and a few compilations. That's enough to cover his most popular albums, but I think it's a shame if Seger or anyone at his labels think it's alright for simply the more famous half of his discography to be readily available.

I think of Bob Seger kind of part of this moment in the '70s when the artists who most seemed like true believers in the power of a rock band were, oddly, solo artists whose backing bands got secondary billing, alongside Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. And while I and lots of people I know of my generation have come around to loving Springsteen and Petty, Seger never really got rehabilitated as much, he's kind of remained this stodgy voice who lives on in Chevy commercials and Tom Cruise movies and endless classic rock spins. Maybe it was just too on the nose to have multiple hits with "rock and roll" in the title. But less overplayed hits like "Hollywood Nights" and "Her Strut" warmed me up to him a lot over the years, and I found a lot to love in songs on this playlist. Occasionally I see this viral tweet about a fictional Seger deep cut and think, hey, that's kind of funny, but there's nothing wrong with actually digging into his real album tracks.

Bob Seger deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Chain Smokin'
2. Down Home
3. Tales of Lucy Blue
4. Jody Girl
5. Travelin' Man
6. I've Been Workin'
7. U.M.C. (Upper Middle Class)
8. Get Out of Denver
9. Mary Lou
10. Come To Poppa
11. Sunburst
12. Feel Like A Number
13. Till It Shines
14. Brave Strangers
15. Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight
16. Nine Tonight
17. Comin' Home
18. Sometimes
19. Blind Love
20. Gracile

Tracks 2 and 3 from Ramblin' Gamblin' Man (1969)
Tracks 4 and 5 from Beautiful Loser (1975)
Tracks 6, 7 and 8 from 'Live' Bullet (1976)
Tracks 9, 10 and 11 from Night Moves (1976)
Tracks 12, 13 and 14 from Stranger In Town (1978)
Track 15 from Against The Wind (1980)
Track 16 from Nine Tonight (1981)
Track 17 from The Distance (1982)
Track 18 from Like A Rock (1986)
Track 19 from The Fire Inside (1991)
Track 20 from I Knew You When (2017)
Track 1 from Heavy Music: The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967 (2018)

The holes in Spotify's selection of Seger's discography include 6 albums he made in the late '60s and '70s before he hit it big, and 3/4ths of the albums he's made in the last 25 years. But of course, I was able to include the more famous live versions of some of those songs from 'Live' Bullet, one of the many double live albums in the '70s that broke an artist through to the mainstream. Seger's cover of Van Morrison's "I've Been Working" first appeared on 1973's Back In '72 (which also featured the first recording of the iconic 'Live' Bullet hit "Turn the Page"). And "Get Out of Denver" and "U.M.C. (Upper Middle Class)" were originally on 1974's Seven.

I was also able to fill in the blanks a little in Seger's early years with the recent Heavy Music compilation that collects the earliest singles from Bob Seger & The Last Heard. After those singles, the stage was set for The Bob Seger System, which I believe was some sort of hovercraft. Then Seger released a few solo albums, and starting with 'Live' Bullet, every album he released for the next 20 years was credited to Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. The name on the sleeve is a little deceptive, though, because many of those albums had a few tracks with Seger's touring backing band and a few with the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. So you've got Alabama session musician vets like Roger Hawkins and David Hood on hits like "Old Time Rock and Roll," "Fire Lake," "Mainstreet," and "We've Got Tonite," as well as the songs on this playlist "Travelin' Man," "Come To Poppa," "Till It Shines," and "Comin' Home."

The Silver Bullet Band's second wildly successful live album, Nine Tonight, was named for the song of the same name that debuted a year earlier on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack, while the fantastic Stranger In Town cut "Feel Like A Number" was featured in another hit movie, Body Heat. At the height of Seger's popularity, he was able to convince his label to release Against The Wind on 8-track tape as the format was being phased out, because so many of his fans were truckers that bought his music on that format. And while I'm never sure if Prince was being respectful or snarky when he wrote "Purple Rain" as a deliberate bid to make the kind of power ballads that got Seger into the arenas that Prince wanted to headline, it's still kind of an interesting compliment.

Seger's output gets less interesting to me after the '70s, but there's still some gems (The Distance was supposedly inspired by Annie Hall, although it's hard to really sense that in the resulting album). And he seemed to really want to align himself some more eccentric and respected songwriters than the 'heartland rock' he became known for. He recorded no less than 4 Tom Waits covers in the late '80s and '90s, including "Blind Love" and, most famously, a "Downtown Train" cover that he shelved for 20 years because he mentioned recording the song to Rod Stewart, who then recorded his own version that was a massive hit. And Seger's latest album, I Knew You When, featured covers of both Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep
Vol. 95: Linkin Park
Vol. 96: Shania Twain
Vol. 97: Squeeze
Vol. 98: Taylor Swift
Vol. 99: INXS
Vol. 100: Stevie Wonder
Vol. 101: The Cranberries
Vol. 102: Def Leppard
Vol. 103: Bon Jovi
Vol. 104: Dire Straits
Vol. 105: The Police
Vol. 106: Sloan
Vol. 107: Peter Gabriel
Vol. 108: Led Zeppelin
Vol. 109: Dave Matthews Band
Vol. 110: Nine Inch Nails
Vol. 111: Talking Heads
Vol. 112: Smashing Pumpkins
Vol. 113: System Of A Down
Vol. 114: Aretha Franklin
Vol. 115: Michael Jackson
Vol. 116: Alice In Chains
Vol. 117: Paul Simon
Vol. 118: Lil Wayne
Vol. 119: Nirvana
Vol. 120: Kix
Vol. 121: Phil Collins
Vol. 122: Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Vol. 123: Sonic Youth

TV Diary

Monday, November 05, 2018






I adore Toni Collette, and it bummed me out that her one big previous TV series, "United States of Tara," was something I really disliked and could not watch. So I was happy to see that she did this 6 episode BBC/Netflix series, which feels like a one-off but was so good that I kinda hope they continue it somehow. The story, about a married couple who mutually decide to start having extramarital affairs, covers material that feels very familiar for contemporary TV dramas, but the cast and Luke Snellin and Lucy Tcherniak's direction really elevates it. I thought the 5th installment had kind of a bottle episode vibe and didn't really work that well, but it was still overall really strong. 

I got kind of turned off by the concept of "Mr. Robot" early on, so I feel like I never got to appreciate just how playful and unique Same Esmail's direction was until "Homecoming," which is really one of the best things I've seen in a while, I devoured the first 6 episodes over the weekend and want to get through the other 4 soon. I started watching it thinking the podcast the show was based on was some nonfiction true crime thing, but once I realized it was a work of fiction and there was not necessarily any limit to where the story could go, I've really been on the edge of my seat. Seeing Julia Roberts in a TV series is a trip and her performance is great, but the whole cast is great, Stephan James is fantastic and Bobby Cannavale and Shea Whigham give some of the best performances of their career. I just hope the ending lives up to what I've watched so far. 

This show invites "LOST" comparisons with its tale of a plane that disappears for 5 and a half years and then lands with its passengers not having aged or experienced any passage of time. But so far they've laid on the supernatural mystery aspects kind of thin and focused on the drama of people coming back to a world that thought they were dead for 5 years. I don't know, though, it just hasn't really grabbed me much, I think my wife is a little more into it and has some theories, but I don't feel like the show has made me care that much beyond a few interesting twists in the pilot. 

I kind of expected that Lena Dunham would just play thinly veiled versions of herself in Woody Allen-style autobiographical projects for the rest of her career. But her first post-"Girls" project for HBO is an adaptation of a British series and she's just writing, not onscreen. It's alright, kind of feels like a very familiar kind of comedy about awkwardness and rude or uninhibited people stepping on the toes of easily offended people. Jennifer Garner has done comedy before but it feels like her public persona has been of this extremely uptight, proper person that it's almost hard to think of her as being in on the joke, even though she must be to play a character like this. I've seen Ione Skye so rarely in the almost 30 years since Say Anything that it's really nice just to see her again, she's still gorgeous. 

"Roseanne" without Roseanne is kind of a crazy post-modern joke come to life, but even before she got fired from her own show I said that they could probably do a better show without her, and it's true: even if she created the show and its sensibility, John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert were equal and often greater contributors to what actually made the show worth watching, and it's kind of fun to see them all stab that shitty racist in the back and just keep marching on, even if I have a limited appetite for these kinds of revivals of characters I was fine leaving 20 years in the past. Also, I got a weird sense of deja vu after watching episodes of "Camping" and "The Conners" that both featured Juliette Lewis as a free-spirited girlfriend character tagging along where she wasn't welcome. 

As far as dark sexy reboots of Archie Comics go, of which there are now more than one for some reason, this show makes more sense on paper than "Riverdale," but of course nobody likes "Riverdale" because it makes sense. This seems moderately witty but I dunno this stuff is not my bag, give me reruns of Melissa Joan Hart and the cat puppet. 

g) "The Rookie"
I feel like I'd much rather Nathan Fillion do a full-on comedy than get into another ABC drama even more conventional than "Castle." But as unpromising as "The Rookie" seemed on its face, the pilot was really strong, they did a pretty good job of laying the groundwork of who the characters are and how this is and isn't like other cop shows (it mostly is).

h) "The Kids Are Alright"
There have been so many sitcoms over the years following the "Wonder Years" formula, but most of the recent ones have taken place in the '80s and '90s, where "The Kids Are Alright" actually takes place in 1972, part of the period "The Wonder Years" took place in. And there's nothing wrong with the show's execution, it just feels like I've seen everything about it too many times before.

i) "Bodyguard"
"Bodyguard" has nothing to do with the Kevin Costner The Bodyguard, but it is about a bodyguard having an affair with the woman he's sworn to protect, so it's not entirely unrelated, I guess. But this British show, which had record-breaking ratings for the BBC, is kind of a boilerplate sexy political thriller while also getting into some interesting themes. I can't imagine the biggest show in the U.S. being about Iraq veterans wanting to murder a politician who supported the Iraq invasion.

j) "The Woman In White"
The 1859 novel The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins is regarded as one of the earliest mystery novels, and the BBC's current miniseries adaptation is the 8th time it's been adapted for the screen and the 3rd time by the BBC alone. But this is my first experience with the story so I'm trying to just go along with it, it's pretty interesting, although I think they failed in a typical TV way to cast Jessie Buckley as a character who is supposed to be "not attractive" in the novel, she's really cute.

k) "Best. Worst. Weekend. Ever."
This Netflix show is one of those things that's about teens but I'm not sure who's really the audience for it, I find it boring as an adult but I don't know if a teen or a pre-teen would like it much either, it's like a watered down version of that movie Fanboys that wasn't good to begin with.

l) "The Curious Creations Of Christine McConnell"
An odd little Netflix show that feels like a spooky version of "Martha Stewart Living," with a creepy yet charming lady talking to weird little puppet creatures and creating weird ooky dishes and crafts. I think if I was throwing a Halloween party I would totally watch this show and take a bunch of notes.

m) "Eli Roth's History of Horror"
This been a pretty cool little documentary series so far, I have mixed feelings about Eli Roth as a horror filmmaker but he's probably as much a student of the genre as anybody to oversee something like this and they got some good interviews with directors and actors from the classics, I like the way they divided it up into episodes about zombie movies, slasher movies, demonic possession movies, and so on.

n) "T-Pain's School of Business"
I've always liked T-Pain's music and thought he came off as a pretty charming, relatable guy, so FUSE having him host a show about inventions and tech start-ups is a cool idea. The music-related stuff is the most interesting and natural for him to talk about, but they've showcased a pretty cool range of stuff and he's able to get the ideas across well.

o) "Brainchild"
This Netflix show kind of feels like someone watched "Adam Ruins Everything" and decided to copy its entire format and gear it towards teens and preteens. It's not the worst idea, though, they pull it off well enough, I might try to show my son this show and see if he likes it.

p) "Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj"
My favorite thing Hasan Minhaj did on "The Daily Show" was his recurring bit satirizing YouTube vloggers where he'd overemphasize everything he said and gesticulate dramatically like a camp counselor. So it's a little weird to me that that body language has seeped into the way he hosts his own Netflix show, but I think maybe he'll get a little more comfortable once he's done it for a while, I like the way the first couple episodes dove into current events from his perspective as an American Muslim.

I've always really liked Busy Philipps on "Freaks & Geeks" and "Cougartown" and want to see her in more stuff, so I was happy to hear she was one of the rare women to get a late night show. It feels a bit closer to a daytime show like "Ellen" in terms of its casual warmth, but that's not a bad thing at all, and it's a huge step up from what Chelsea Handler used to do in the same E! timeslot. 

r) "The Alec Baldwin Show"
"Sundays With Alec Baldwin" had a soft launch earlier this year when ABC aired a one-off pilot episode, and now the show has finally started a weekly run, still on Sundays but under a different title. The biggest change is that episodes now end with weird little bits where they play an interview excerpt that didn't appear earlier in the episode while showing drawings of Baldwin and the interview subject by a New Yorker illustrator, it's really bizarre. Anyway Baldwin is obviously not a very seasoned interviewer and the conversations all seem to exist inside this weird celebrity bubble that reminds me of the "SNL" sketch where he and Kim Basinger and his brothers were on "Family Feud" and gave ridiculous showbiz answers to every question. It's a pleasant show but I dunno how much longer it'll stay on the air what with Baldwin getting arrested for fighting in parking lots and shit.

s) "You"
I was really intrigued by this show when it debuted in September, and at the time I felt it could go either way of being great or kind of painting itself into a corner. And I'm happy to say that it's continued to be really gripping, albeit in a strange and uncomfortable way where the unreliable narrator can be charming and smart and relatable while doing horrible things. The fact that they've already renewed it for a second season, and have a second book about Joe to base it on, has me really curious how they're going to end this season.

t) "Kidding"
One of my pet peeves is when TV shows launch with a big name director who usually does features directing the pilot, and then every subsequent episode they don't direct looks different and usually worse or missing their distinctive touch. Michel Gondry has directed 6 of 10 episodes of "Kidding," so the majority of the season. And there's always something in his episodes that stands out and makes me realize the other episodes don't have the same visual flights of fancy, but the show is really more about the characters and the performances so it's not a big problem. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this show, there are these little surreal moments where it comes alive but the characters could be fleshed out a little more beyond their current problems.

u) "The Resident"
There's a funny thing with big network ensemble shows where once they're successful, they just keep piling on more established actors who want part of the action. So by the time "The Resident" finished its first season a few months ago, Malcolm-Jamal Warner had joined the cast, and when it returned for the second season, Jane Leeves had also joined, with Jenna Dewan in a recurring role. The original core cast was fine but I like the additions, especially Warner's character, who's one of those brilliant egotistical surgeons that TV actors love to play in medical shows.

v) "The Deuce"
When the second season of "The Deuce" started a couple months ago, I felt like the show was still this new thing that would be around for a while, or at lest 4-5 seasons like "The Wire" and "Treme." Then it was announced that the third season would be the final one, so we're already into the back half of the show's run. There's a lot I like about it, particularly in the second season, but it also often feels like this hug ensemble of characters is just breezing past me without me getting to know them or care that much.

w) "Castlevania"
This cartoon full of blood and cursing based on a video game from my youth was one of last year's great surprises, so I'm happy that it's back with twice as many episodes as it had last time. The Peter Stormare-voiced character that they brought in for this season is a great addition.

x) "The Good Place"
This show is such an unusual achievement in that it manages to bring you back to your funny sitcom friends every week even while the ground is constantly shifting under your feet and the whole nature of the show keeps shifting. I was skeptical that the show could be as good on Earth as it was in the afterlife, but this season has been good.

y) "Daredevil"
Now that Netflix has been letting the hammer fall on "The Iron Fist" and even "Luke Cage," I wonder if they're trying to focus on keeping their more successful Marvel shows around for as long as possible, or if they're not too far off from getting canned too. My investment in these shows was never too strong and it's at an all-time low, but I still like the characters enough that I'm giving season 3 a try. I thought I wanted Kingpin back but so far I'm not sure if I actually do, maybe when he gets out of jail things will be exciting again.

z) "Bob's Burgers"
Even though they don't have any traditional way of doing it like "Treehouse of Horror," "Bob's Burgers" always does great Halloween episodes and this year's was no exception, it's crazy to think they didn't even air the show in the fall until the 3rd season.