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Fri09252020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

It’s almost fall already? Time flies when you’re … what’s been going on? The spring and summer were a bit of a blur, for some reason.

September is usually loaded with TV premieres, but 2020 is leaner than previous years due to delayed productions and overall existential dread. At least new seasons of The Boys (Prime Video) and A.P. Bio (Peacock) have dropped, though they don’t make up for the cancellations of Drunk History (Comedy Central), High Fidelity (Hulu) and Altered Carbon (Netflix).

But! There are actually some fresh shows streaming in September, pandemic be damned. Here are eight new series, and one returning champion, all premiering this month.

Raised by Wolves (Thursday, Sept. 3 on HBO Max): A pair of androids, known as Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim), are charged with raising a group of human children on newly discovered planet Kepler-22b. Sounds perfectly utopian, so of course humans—from outside and inside the tribe—are going to cock it up. Raised by Wolves is hard, high-concept/higher-budget sci-fi from Ridley Scott, with a side of religious jabs. (Ultra-Christians destroyed Earth!) Set expectations accordingly.

Away (Friday, Sept. 4 on Netflix): If you like your sci-fi a little less science-y, here’s Hilary Swank as an astronaut leading a mission to Mars—but she has to leave her husband and daughter behind! All the feels! Away comes from producers behind TV tearjerkers like Parenthood and Friday Night Lights, so no one’s going to confuse this melodrama with Netflix’s otherwise-very-similar Another Life. Netflix should have just dropped Season 2 of that Katee Sackhoff series and sent this Away.

Woke (Wednesday, Sept. 9 on Hulu): A comedy about racism? The times are (always) right. Woke is based on the life of cartoonist Keith Knight (The K Chronicles/(th)ink, which run in this fine publication), starring Lamorne Morris (New Girl) as “Keef,” a Black artist who avoids politics and social issues in his work—that is, until he’s roughed up by cops for no reason, and the trauma manifests as his cartoons coming to life and hilariously prodding him to finally take a stand. Woke handles heavy topics with a light, surreal touch—watch and learn.

Julie and The Phantoms (Thursday, Sept. 10 on Netflix): Talented teen Julie (Madison Reyes) loses her will to sing after the death of her mother—until cute-boy “rock” trio The Phantoms suddenly appear … literally. Yes, they’re ghosts of a band who never made it before their demise, but now they have a second chance with Julie on the mic. (People can see The Phantoms when they play with her.) Julie and The Phantoms is dumb, High School Musical-ish fun, but just imagine if she’d been haunted by Motörhead instead.

Coastal Elites (Saturday, Sept. 12 on HBO): In what could have also been titled Hot Liberal Porn Action, Coastal Elites is an ultra-now commentary on the state of the union and deplorables in MAGA mode. (Fox News should produce a rebuttal movie called The Deplorables.) Bette Midler, Dan Levy, Sarah Paulson, Issa Rae and Kaitlyn Dever deliver Zoom-style monologues that were meant for the theater stage before COVID-19 hit, some better than others. (Maybe fast-forward through Midler’s rants.)

Ratched (Friday, Sept. 18 on Netflix): Speaking of Sarah Paulson, she’s taking on the classic role of One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest’s Nurse Ratched for Ryan Murphy. Sure, Murphy’s productions have been hit-and-miss affairs for several years, but the 1940s-set Ratched recalls the colorful camp-gore glory of American Horror Story: Murder House and the underrated Scream Queens—and Paulson owns every second of it. Also featuring left-field cameos from Rosanna Arquette (!) and Sharon Stone (!!).

Utopia (Friday, Sept. 25 on Prime Video): It’s way too soon for a conspiracy thriller about a deadly global pandemic, but here’s this: A group of comic-book geeks discover a veiled threat to humanity in their favorite graphic novel, Utopia, and soon learn that’s all too real (and already under way). Upping the prestige, Utopia was adapted by Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn from the British original, and co-stars John Cusack as a sketchy biotech mogul and Rainn Wilson as a college professor with The Answer. Damn, 2020.

The Comey Rule (Sunday, Sept. 27 on Showtime): It’s way too late for a conspiracy thriller about the 2016 U.S. election, but here’s this: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (Brendan Gleeson) and then-FBI Director James Comey (Jeff Daniels) go from bros to foes during Trump’s rise to power. The Comey Rule, based on Trump Sucks Book No. 105, Comey’s A Higher Loyalty, is a miniseries with no heroes—just a spectacle of actors playing real-life politicos. It’s for wonks and masochists only; real humans, steer clear.

Fargo (Sunday, Sept. 27 on FX and Hulu): It’s been three years—three years!—since the third season of Fargo, a wrongly derided chapter that I would recommend you rewatch. (It’s better than you remember, not unlike the second season of True Detective.) Season 4 is set in 1950s Kansas City—Fargo is just a state of mind now—and stars Chris Rock as a crime boss employing Black escapees of the Jim Crow South (shades of HBO’s Lovecraft Country). Weirdest S4 casting: Indie-rocker Andrew Bird.

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Movie theaters are over. Sure, you might for a minute feel nostalgic for the privilege of driving to the Gigantaplex, buying tickets, forking over a lump sum for an XXXL BladderBuster Diet Coke and MegaButter popcorn, and then being marched to your Assigned Corporate Seat, amongst the other chumps—but you’ll get over it. You probably already have.

Video-on-demand releases during These Uncertain Times™ have proven that good content is venue-fluid. Hamilton on Disney+? Fantastic. Palm Springs on Hulu? Amazing. Extraction on Netflix? Didn’t see it, but it’s there and ready to kick my eyes in the balls with a single click.

VOD isn’t without its downsides—after all, plenty of garbage also slips through the cracks. Here are 10 of the absolute worst movies to premiere over video-on-demand streaming in the past four months: If you haven’t been suckered into watching any of these yet, beware.

Money Plane (VOD): A pro thief (Adam Copeland, aka WWE ’rassler Edge) and his luxurious man bun are forced to pull One Last Job: robbing a flying casino of its … bitcoin? … for crime kingpin “The Rumble” (Kelsey Grammer). Instead of ass-kicking combat (It’s Edge!) and aerial action (It’s a Money Plane!), all you get is interior shots of goons ambling around what appears to be a Days Inn in Reno, along with Frasier chomping a cigar on Zoom. Also starring piranhas (!) and Thomas Jane (?).

Irresistible (VOD): You’d think an election-year satire starring Steve Carrell and Rose Byrne as dueling political consultants would be impossible to screw up. But director Jon Stewart, of all people, somehow instilled Irresistible with fewer laughs and less insight than an NPR segment on the ethics of soy hot dogs. Instead of playing up Red v. Blue, Irresistible is as dull and passive-aggressively preachy as your Libertarian friend on Facebook who won’t stop posting Joe Rogan clips.

The Rental (VOD): Two couples spend the weekend in a seaside AirBnB … and that’s about it. The Rental shifts from a boring relationship quadrangle into a boring horror film after what seems like five hours (it’s only 90 minutes long), wasting a killer cast (including Alison Brie, Dan Stephens and Toby Huss) and enough fog-machine juice for an entire summer of EDM festivals. First-time director Dave Franco almost nails a creepy vibe in the homestretch; good luck making it that far. (For the record, my colleague Bob Grimm liked The Rental a bit more than I did.)

The High Note (VOD): R&B superstar Grace (Tracee Ellis Ross channeling her mother, Diana Ross) clashes with her record label over coasting on live albums rather than recording new material … because it’s 1978? No, it’s now, when no one cares about record labels and live albums. The High Note is a cloying Boomer fantasy about a music industry that no longer exists, and further proof that Dakota Johnson (as Grace’s assistant-turned-producer) should stick to Fifty Shades flicks.

We Summon the Darkness (VOD): In 1988, three girlfriends (led by Alexandra Daddario) rock at a death-metal concert and drag a trio of knucklehead musicians to their remote house to party. Surprise! The girls are part of a Satanic cult (Daughters of the Dawn—eh, not bad), and the dudes are dead meat. We Summon the Darkness could have been a rock ’n’ roll classic, but it never fully commits to the requisite gore and sex—not even Johnny Knoxville as a TV preacher can liven things up. Fail Satan.

Trolls World Tour (VOD): A unity-propaganda cartoon about six tribes of Trolls, each represented by a guitar string, coming together in alleged “harmony”? Puh-leez. In positing that there are only six types of music (pop, funk, country, classical, techno and rock), Trolls World Tour completely denies the existence of the seven-string guitar—there’s no room for Korn in your precious world, Trolls? There couldn’t be a seventh, nu-metal tribe? Korn already looks like Trolls, forhellsake.

Infamous (VOD): Ex-Disney kid Bella Thorne and apparent ’90s Stephen Dorff cosplayer Jake Manley star as an Instagram Bonnie and Clyde, racking up likes and heists on a cross-country crime spree. We all know how Infamous ends, but at least Thorne seems to be trying to make the most of an otherwise phoned-in movie. Come to think of it, her wild-child energy is exactly what We Summon the Darkness needed—if only for this, we’re going to need a do-over, 2020.

Battlefield 2025 (VOD): A random group of campers, escaped convicts, cops—and whoever else was available over the weekend this was filmed—band together to fight off an alien invasion in Arizona. If you’ve ever spent a minute in Arizona, you know it’s a parched hellhole that should just be nuked, paved and converted into overflow parking for California—not worth saving. So who should we root for in Battlefield 2025? Probably the aliens. After this, they should pay a visit to Dave Franco’s Rental.

Force of Nature (VOD): A retired cop (Mel Gibson) takes on a gang of thieves pulling a heist during a hurricane … hold on … wasn’t this already a movie? Literally called The Hurricane Heist? Needless to say, the suckfest of Force of Nature pales in comparison to 1999’s Forces of Nature, wherein a psychotic woman (Sandra Bullock) kidnaps a traveler (Ben Affleck) and dumps him in a pit, from which he emerges as Batman. At least that’s how I remember it; ’99 was a weird year.

Becky (VOD): Thirteen-year-old Becky (Lulu Wilson) takes on a gang of escaped convicts (it’s an epidemic) led by Paul Blart: Neo Nazi (Kevin James) to save her dad (Joel McHale). Becky is sufficiently bloody and brutal, but James isn’t up to playing the big bad guy, which is especially disheartening when you consider that we could have had Simon Pegg (who dropped out before filming) in the role. Hell, maybe Mel Gibson would have made a great Nazi … or is that too on-the-nose?

Published in TV

Perhaps the biggest tragedy of These Uncertain Times is the plight of our precious film critics: With no movies in theaters, they’re reduced to covering new releases debuting … on TV. The horror—reduced to the level of a common television critic! Thoughts and prayers.

Meanwhile, over here in the TV streamverse, business is booming. You may think you’re caught up on all the shows—having been stuck in lockdown for months with nothing but a remote and your own existential dread—but no; there’s always more. (TV, that is … well, existential dread, too.)

Here are nine series that debuted recently that you might have missed, a couple of which were brought to my attention by listeners of my podcast, TV Tan. They’re a sharp dozen.

The Dress Up Gang (Season 1 on TBS): L.A. roommates Donnie (Donnie Divanian) and Cory (Cory Loykasek) have a squirmy, surreal dad/son dynamic straight out of the Very Special Episode trope of family sitcoms—and that’s the least weird aspect of The Dress Up Gang. Like a low-key Tim and Eric, their daily courtyard mundanities are hysterically high-stakes (like the terror of a doorbell ditcher, or new white sneakers). Also, for no reason, their apartment neighbor is Andie MacDowell (as herself).

The Midnight Gospel (Season 1 on Netflix): Mashing up the deep-think interviews of The Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast with fantastical animation (by Adventure Time’s Pendleton Ward), The Midnight Gospel is utterly unique. Trussell voices Clancy, a “spacecaster” who visits apocalypse-bound worlds through the multiverse for enlightenment and kicks (and content). The combo of intellectual dialogue and acid-trip visuals should be overwhelming, but The Midnight Gospel is actually soothing.

Robbie (Season 1 on Comedy Central): Backed by a killer cast that includes Sasheer Zamata, Mary Holland and even Beau Bridges, comedian Rory Scovel turns what could have been a throwaway movie plot (small-town-youth basketball coach dreams of glory) into a charming eight-episode series with subtle, bizarre twists. Scovel’s Robbie comes off like a detached Kenny Powers (Eastbound and Down), but the show keeps the Southern stereotypes to a minimum (only one KKK-founded ice cream shop).

Mrs. America (Season 1 on Hulu): A miniseries based on a true, dark political story (the ’70s battle for the Equal Rights Amendment) shouldn’t be this fun. Likewise, ERA opponent Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) shouldn’t be this sympathetic, but Mrs. America pulls it off. The real-life feminists (played by Rose Byrne, Margo Martindale, Uzo Aduba and more A-list actors) didn’t win on every front, but Mrs. America is a colorful-but-firm reminder to keep kicking against the patriarchal pricks.

Jamestown (Seasons 1-3 on Prime Video): In 1619, more than a decade after establishing a colony in America, the men of Jamestown are finally sent British women to marry. (They purchased them like livestock, more accurately.) Jamestown is a soap opera with beaver pelts and bonnets, a period piece that favors glossy drama over historical veracity—which is what you’d expect from the production company behind Downton Abbey. Jamestown is an engaging watch, as long as you don’t think too hard about it.

Barkskins (Season 1 on National Geographic and Hulu): For a slightly more historically accurate dramatization of young America (1690s French-colonial Canada, that is), there’s Barkskins. Leaning more Deadwood than Downton Abbey, Barkskins juggles multiple storylines of frontier intrigue, most notably those of a hardnosed innkeeper (Marcia Gay Harden) and a gonzo land baron Claude (David Thewlis, chewing all of the scenery). It’s a dark, strange and occasionally funny saga—from NatGeo, of all places.

Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet (Season 1 on Apple TV+): Not that there’s much competition, but Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is the best show on Apple TV+. (Yes, it’s still a thing.) Co-created by and starring Rob McElhenney (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), the smartly scripted MQ:RB is set behind the scenes of a videogame company that makes the titular multiplayer, and the workplace is (barely) controlled chaos. What Veep did for politics, Mythic Quest does for gaming—just less profane and far more positively.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels (Season 1 on Showtime): Remember 2014-2016 gothic horror series Penny Dreadful? Doesn’t matter; Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is related in name only. The story is a sun-saturated tangle of Mexican folklore, crime noir, Christian evangelism, Nazi conspiracies and racial tensions (whew) in 1938 Los Angeles, but the players sell it. Nathan Lane’s LAPD cop and Kerry Bishé’s radio preacher are on point, but Natalie Dormer’s demonic Magda (among three other roles) is the reason to watch.

Fortitude (Seasons 1-2 on Prime Video): The icy beauty of Fortitude, a small Norwegian Arctic island populated with fishermen, scientists and polar bears, could carry Fortitude on cinematography alone. But there’s also a murder thriller at play here that becomes more eerie and X-Files anomalous by the episode. Everyone in Fortitude has a secret—or, at the very least, a charming accent—and the investigation shifts focus on a dime. A tidy conclusion isn’t coming, but the ride is a rush.

Published in TV

To paraphrase Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, “When the going gets stupid, the stupid turn pro.”

Now is the time for comedy, so put down the Clorox mojito; turn off Contagion (you can wait until after Gwyneth Paltrow’s brain is removed—it’s my favorite scene, too); and open yourself up to the idea of relaxing with some stupid sitcoms. Trust me; I’m a professional.

Dumb comedies have a strange, soothing effect on the psyche that you just can’t get from other modes of TV. (Reality shows with screeching blow-up dolls throwing White Claws at each other might have a similar upshot, but I’m certainly not going to watch that shit to find out.)

Here are 13 recent comedies to stream right now, ranging from the truly stupid to the deceptively dumb-but-subliminally-genius. Or you could just binge the entirety of Friends on HBO Max—you choose your own brain-removal machine. (Cue The Cult riff.)

Alone Together (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Before the #AloneTogether hashtag became a pandemic thing, there was Alone Together, a 2018 comedy about platonic besties trying (barely) to make it in Hollywood. Esther (Esther Povitsky) and Benji (Benji Aflalo) aren’t gorgeous, ambitious or even of average height, but their L.A. self-absorption is hilariously on point, and the millennial jabs are knowing, not scathing.

Broke (Season 1 on CBS and CBS All Access): New CBS comedy Broke debuted just in time for Lockdown 2020 in April—captive audience, literally. The story of obnoxious, destitute relatives moving in is nothing new, but stars Pauley Perrette and Natasha Leggero put a slyly fresh spin on salty-to-sweet sister relationships. The real scene-stealers here are Jaime Camil and Izzy Diaz, often in Spanish (sorry, gringos).

Beef House (Season 1 on Adult Swim): You never know what you’ll get from Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim—well, you kinda do, but not really. Beef House is a twisted ’80s sitcom send-up with no love for the genre; T&E deconstruct and destroy it, then build fresh gonzo laughs on the ashes. It’s Full House, but with five middle-aged dudes of questionable origin, which makes as much sense as Full House.

Three Busy Debras (Season 1 on Adult Swim): A trio of suburban housewives—all named Debra and dressed in white—take the surrealism of Beef House, crank it to 11, and rip the knob off. The Three Busy Debras’ misadventures swing wildly from cutely odd to disturbingly dark—straight-up murdering a dude in the first episode, and stuffing him into a purse. (It’s a big purse.) Watch Three Busy Debras, or they’ll “have your tubes tied!”

Dave (Season 1 on FXX and Hulu): YouTube rapper Lil Dicky (Dave Burd) stars as Dave, a 30-something white Jewish rapper who believes he’s the new Kanye West—the old one’s wearing thin, so why not? Dave could have been annoying AF, but the series’ clever writing and Burd’s chill delivery make for an absurdist look at coming up in indie hip-hop. Hell, Justin Bieber and Macklemore make appearances.

Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens (Season 1 on Comedy Central): Awkwafina’s semi-autobiographical series about growing up in Queens, N.Y., arrived to little media noise for a Golden Globe-winning actress running her own show on little ol’ Comedy Central. As stoner-slacker Nora, she’s the Broad City duo wrapped into a single manic package, with brilliant ensemble support from Lori Tan Chinn (Grandma) and BD Wong (dad Wally).

Brews Brothers (Season 1 on Netflix): Brews Brothers is produced by one of the minds from bro-comedy The League, and it shows—it’s like a pilsner-and-pork-tacos pairing of The League and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s not as sharp as either of those, but Brews Brothers, about antagonistic siblings running a Van Nuys brewpub, still delivers laughs. See: a hefeweizen unwittingly named “Weiss Power.”

What We Do in the Shadows (Seasons 1-2 on FX and Hulu): Far from “dumb,” What We Do in the Shadows (based on the 2014 movie) is the smartest comedy ever about supernatural dummies. Staten Island vampire roommates Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Nandor (Kayvan Novak) have been around for centuries, but learned apparently nothing—very ’Merican. Silly with a capital “SSSSS!”

Bless This Mess (Seasons 1-2 on ABC and Hulu): Frazzled New Yorkers Mike (Dax Shepard) and Rio (Lake Bell) move to a rundown Nebraska farm; Green Acres-esque wackiness ensues. However, Bless This Mess doesn’t condescend to the county folk, and the solid cast (which includes vets like Pam Grier and Ed Begley Jr.) serves up laughs warmer than a window-sill pie. Way better than flyover-state bait like The Conners.

The Detour (Seasons 1-4 on Hulu): Over four seasons, The Detour evolved from a National Lampoon’s Vacation-like family road-trip farce into a multilayered comic thriller with disparate angles and hidden agendas—but still never went too “thinky.” Nate (Jason Jones) and Robin (Natalie Zea) have secrets from each other, and their preteen kids, and the consequences get weirder (and funnier) by the season.  

Documentary Now! (Seasons 1-2 on Netflix): Before Bill Hader struck critical gold with HBO’s Barry, he and Fred Armisen created Documentary Now!, a fake PBS-style doc series that allowed them to play a feral variety of characters. Documentary Now! parodies everything from Vice News to Stop Making Sense to Grey Gardens, but with an attention to detail that belies the ridiculousness. All this, and host Helen Mirren (!).

The Other Two (Season 1 on Comedy Central): After years of showbiz struggle and failure, siblings Cary (Drew Tarver) and Brooke (Helene Yorke) are suddenly eclipsed by the overnight viral-video stardom their 13-year-old brother Chase (Case Walker). The twist: Chase is a sweet kid, and The Other Two zigs when expected to zag at every turn. It’s a hysterical takedown of insta-celebrity culture that also stans the fun side.

Tacoma FD (Seasons 1-2 on TruTV): Super Troopers, but firefighters—that’s Tacoma FD, created by and starring Troopers Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme. The raunch is dialed back for basic cable, but the idiotic antics and glorious moustaches are in full bro-tastic effect. Tacoma FD is proudly D-U-M-B, but earns its laughs through sheer commitment—and yes, of course there’s a weed-dispensary fire.

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You’re out of a job. You’ve been stuck inside for weeks. You’ve re-watched Tiger King so many times that you’re starting to ask, “What was the crime here? Loving big cats and the Seth Wadley Auto Group too much? Free Joe Exotic!”

Shut-in delirium can only countered with new streams of entertainment—preferably at no extra cost, because that gub’ment check will only go so far.

This month, streaming TV services Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, CBS All Access, Shudder, Sundance Now, Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel have extended their free-trial windows to 30 days. New streamer Quibi will let you have up to 90 days free, which is nearly enough time to figure out, “What the fuck is a Quibi?”

Beyond all that: There are also plenty of totally free, no-strings streaming TV apps out there to take advantage of through Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast or however you stream (laptops and phones, too). Content Shifter has rounded up 12 for your quarantine needs.

Pluto TV: What was originally just an odd app with a never-ending Mystery Science Theater 3000 loop and a few other iffy feeds (like the Conspiracy Channel—maybe avoid it right now?) has exploded into a rainbow of free TV, movies, docs, music, sports and doggos. (Yes, Dogs 24/7—you need it right now.) Pluto TV was seemingly pre-designed for broke homebodies … conspiracy?

Crackle: Crackle has been around for more than 15 years—and you’ve still never clicked on that orange button. It streams hundreds of old-to-semi-recent movies and TV shows, as well as a handful of originals like tech thriller StartUp, dumb comedy Ski Master Academy, and the sequel no one asked for, Joe Dirt 2. Crackle also has both The Net (1995 film) and The Net (1998 series)!

Tubi: With thousands of movies, TV series and a surprisingly loaded music section (as well as all three Decline of Western Civilization docs!), Tubi is like the last Blockbuster Video at the edge of the world. For every familiar title (Donnie Darko, Minority Report) there are hundreds of obscurities (like 2017 Russian superhero anomaly Guardians), not to mention the Rock of Love oeuvre.

Roku Channel: If your streaming device of choice is a Roku (the unofficial streamer of Content Shifter … still waiting on that endorsement deal), the Roku Channel has stacks of movies, TV series, kids’ stuff, fitness programs and an unhealthy mix of reality shows. (Trees and Forest meditation? Sure. Diagnosis Unknown? No thanks.) Minus a Roku, the Channel works in a web browser.

Shout! Factory TV: A cult-flick aficionado’s digital dream, Shout! Factory TV is stuffed with cheesy action and exploitation “classics” like Bloodfist (parts 1-8!), Cyberzone (space bounty hunter tracks down android hookers!), and Neon Maniacs (self-explanatory), among hundreds of others. If your objective is to shut off your brain, Shout! Factory TV works like a vodka and valium tonic.

Comet: Speaking of sci-fi goodness, Comet is a space-centric channel that broadcasts to rabbit ears (‘member them?) and streams simultaneously. The movies are schlock standards (Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Futureworld, etc.), but the TV series are solid: Battlestar Galactica (the good one), Stargate SG-1, and the underrated ’70s Night Gallery, among others.

Adult Swim: There are well more than 100 original series from the past 20 years available on the Adult Swim app—and a few don’t even require herbal abetment (very few). Currently, AS is streaming full seasons of quintessential series like Metalocalypse, Squidbillies, and the immortal Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule, plus newer shows like Tim and Eric’s sitcom takedown Beef House.

The CW: Unlike most other TV networks, The CW makes all of its shows available to stream the day after broadcast for free—even Dynasty, a reboot no one can prove actually exists. Full seasons to date are available for some newer series, like Batwoman (worth checking out), Nancy Drew (ditto) and Katy Keene (another show of questionable existence). Beats an antenna.

CW Seed: The CW’s secondary streamer, CW Seed, is home to some legit classics that never even aired on the network: Schitt’s Creek, Pushing Daisies, Constantine, Girlfriends, and others. CW Seed also features a few flops that are still good for a laugh, like Hellcats (clashing cheerleaders!), Moonlight (sexy vampire detective!) and Sinbad (not the comic who didn’t play a ‘90s genie).

WhoHaha: Women aren’t funny? Get the fuck outta here. Actress/director Elizabeth Banks created WhoHaha as a “Funny or Die for girls” in 2015, accepting submissions from indie female comics and curating the content. Like Funny or Die, not every digital short lands, but WhoHaha series like Untidy With Marie Kondo (not really Kondo) and No Chill are uniquely hilarious.

Night Flight: Way back in the ’80s, a weekend cable show called Night Flight kept millions of rockers, stoners and outcasts indoors with a slapdash mix of rock ’n’ roll kicks, cult-flick imagery and subliminal anarchy. The Night Flight app recaptures it, but only a portion for free (access to the full library is $40 annually—anarchy costs in 2020). Still, a taste of a rad flashback ain’t bad.

Red Bull TV: The outdoors were pretty cool, from what I remember. Red Bull TV goes to extremes with mountain biking, skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, skiing and some insane shit called “ice cross” that’s essentially frozen Rollerball. It’s all high-quality video immersion with little in-your-face Red Bull advertising; check it out to re-familiarize yourself with air and weather.

Published in TV

In the winter of 1997, great American sketch series Mr. Show With Bob and David revealed the true secret of thespianism: “All acting is, is jumping up and down and screaming a lot.”

I drop this bit of knowledge not to entice you to watch Mr. Show (though you totally should, on HBO Now), but to warn you that Adam Sandler’s inexplicably acclaimed Uncut Gems arrives on VOD this month. Film critics … what the hell?

Anyway: Here are seven TV series that are actually worth streaming in March, the lamest of the winter months. It’s not cold; it’s not warm; assholes are drinking green beer … again, what the hell?

Better Call Saul (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix; Season 5 on AMC): Speaking of Mr. Show, can we take a beat to appreciate Bob Odenkirk? Yes, everyone on Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul is fantastic—Rhea Seehorn in particular—but Odenkirk’s Jimmy/Saul is THE performance of the Bad universe. (Sorry, Heisenberg.) Few crime sagas are as steeped in raw humanity as Better Call Saul; do yourself a favor, and dive in this month.

High Fidelity (Season 1 on Hulu): Nick Hornby’s 1995 book and the nearly-too-late 2000 movie don’t hold up in 2020—think about it if you’re asking, “Why do we need a new High Fidelity?” The record store (“No CDs”) now belongs to 20-something Rob (Zoe Kravitz), and this iteration is less toxic, more inclusive and just warmer. There’s nothing wrong with a playlist where Lescop and Frank Zappa can co-exist.

Hunters (Season 1 on Prime Video): Critics and Jewish historians alike are appalled by Hunters, a comically bloody fantasy about 1970s New York City Nazi killers—but, as show creator David Weil politely replied, “It’s not a documentary.” (I would have added, “Suck it, fun police.”) Hunters’ pulp fiction is highly Tarantino-ized but features minimal scenery-chewing from Al Pacino. It’s that unpredictable.

Devs (Season 1 on Hulu): Nick Offerman steals the Wig of Shame trophy from The Witcher in Devs, a twisty thriller from Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation). Software engineer Lily (Sonoya Mizuno) suspects that her company’s CEO (Offerman) had her boyfriend “suicided,” and soon uncovers a sinister tech conspiracy. (Aren’t they all?) The first two episodes premiere March 5, with one episode being released on each of the six following Thursdays. Garland has eight hours to blow your mind, and he will.

Black Monday (Seasons 1-2 on Showtime): Season 1 was a fictionalized, dark-comedy countdown to the stock market crash of 1987, or Black Monday—why continue? Because the cast (Don Cheadle, Regina Hall, Paul Scheer and a yacht-load of comic pros) is too damned good. Season 2 (premiering March 15) follows the fallout on Wall Street, which somehow produces even more obscene wealth and cocaine.

Westworld (Seasons 1-3 on HBO Now): Remember Westworld? It’s been almost two years since Season 2 dropped a megaton of unnerving info about synthetic humans and also set a few loose in the unsuspecting “real” world. Season 3 (premiering March 15) expands the robo-drama beyond its cowboy confines, and we so deserve it—as Futurama’s Bender once said, “You meatbags had your chance.”

Brockmire (Seasons 1-3 on Hulu; Season 4 on IFC): The first two seasons of Brockmire followed the gonzo exploits of alcoholic ex-MLB baseball announcer Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria); the third sobered him up but sacrificed no profane hilarity. Season 4 (premiering March 18) goes for broke by fast-forwarding to 2035 and naming Jim the commissioner of Major League Baseball (!). Just in time for President Ivanka’s second term, cool.

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Like you, I was on the fence about the whole “The world ended in 2012, and we’ve been existing in an eff’dup alternate reality ever since” theory. But then the resurrection of the XFL was announced, so there’s no denying it: This is another dimension, and it is OFF.

For those unaware, the XFL was an “xtreme” football league launched by World Wrestling Entertainment in 2001. You don’t remember it, because the XFL crashed and burned after one mismanaged dumpster-fire of a season … or because your memory was wiped by the 2012 shift.

But now it’s back! Why? Stop thinking so hard. Here are the XFL teams we’ll all be following to glory, streaming on ABC, Fox and ESPN beginning Saturday, Feb. 8.

D.C. Defenders (Debut: Saturday, Feb. 8 on ABC): Washington D.C.’s 68th pro sports franchise will be led to violent, bloodletting victory by head coach Pep Hamilton. The Defenders are also notable for having D.C.’s least-racist team name.

Seattle Dragons (Debut: Saturday, Feb. 8 on ABC): When the XFL failed to recruit Imagine Dragons into its new gridiron venture, Vince McMahon said, “Fuck it, we’ll go to Seattle—they don’t have any football up there.” The readjusted Seattle Dragons are expected to have a strong running game, despite playing in Birkenstocks.

Houston Roughnecks (Debut: Saturday, Feb. 8 on Fox): Two XFL teams in Texas? How big is that state, anyway? The Houston Roughnecks derive their name from a downtown 1980s leather bar secretly frequented by NFL Oilers. In homage, the Roughnecks will play wearing zipper masks and ball gags instead of helmets and mouth guards.

L.A. Wildcats (Debut: Saturday, Feb. 8 on Fox): Early reports have it that the L.A. Wildcats’ coaching staff only wants to use this rebooted XFL season to transition their players into the NFL—which is sooo on-brand for L.A. In 2001, original XFL team L.A. Xtreme won the league’s “Super Bowl,” so … legacy? Like, totally.

Dallas Renegades (Debut: Sunday, Feb. 9 on ESPN): The new sportsball pride of Texas will play their home games in a refurbished Arlington baseball stadium—xtreme! Also, the Renegades will be the first football team ever to be allowed to use guns in defensive play, because, Texas. Sponsored by Alex Jones’ InfoWarsStore.com.

St. Louis BattleHawks (Debut: Sunday, Feb. 9 on ESPN): Since St. Louis is home to Anheuser-Busch, the BattleHawks’ official sponsor is … Bud Select? A 99-calorie light beer? A children’s brewski, at best. Even lamer, the BattleHawks’ hashtag is #KaKaw, a fowl cry not likely to strike fear into the hearts of Guardians or Roughnecks.

New York Guardians (Debut game: Sunday, Feb. 9 on Fox): New York didn’t have team in the 2001 XFL—kind of an insult, considering every franchise has boasted a Big Apple squad, even the Lingerie Football League (New York Majesty, represent!). Fun fact: The Guardians aren’t human, but supernaturally animated gargoyles.

Tampa Bay Vipers (Debut game: Sunday, Feb. 9 on Fox): Tampa Bay already has the Buccaneers, the Lightning, the Rays, the Rowdies, the Titans and Cannibal Corpse—what do the Vipers bring to the table? Lime-green uniforms resembling VeggieTales cosplay and Gatorade-filled bongs on the sidelines, bro. You gonna get Viped!

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New Year, new you? Likely not—but at least there’s new TV to stream.

You’re thinking, “New TV? I’m not even caught up on last year’s shows!” Just accept it: Unless you somehow land a sweet gig as a pro TV reviewer, you never will. I’m not saying I’m better than you; I’m just saying

Onward and upward—or at least fast-forward. Here are 11 new streaming shows to kick off the New Year. (I didn’t say “new decade,” because that starts in 2021. Don’t @ me.)

Reprisal (streaming now on Hulu): A flashy bouillabaisse of Tarantino pulp, rockabilly fetishism and neon-noir camp, Reprisal was lost in the December streaming overload—and I know that WTF? synopsis certainly didn’t help. The plot is simpler than the execution: A wronged woman (Abigail Spencer) is out for revenge against the savage hot-rod gang who left her for dead. Reprisal is weird and imperfect, but rarely dull.

The Witcher (streaming now Netflix): Speaking of weird and imperfect, you’ve probably heard of The Witcher; former Superman Henry Cavill’s pecs and He-Man wig are nearly as meme-able as Baby Yoda. For a Netflix series with a mild TV-MA rating, The Witcher is as much blood ’n’ boobs as it is swords ‘n’ sorcery, like a dollar-store Game of Thrones with a sense of humor. Beats the hell out of The Mandalorian.

Servant (streaming now Apple TV+): Remember Apple TV+? The arrival of Disney+ squashed its buzz before The Morning Show finally stopped sucking (only a little) and M. Night Shyamalan’s Servant arrived. It’s a creepy baby-sitter thriller with a twist—and then another twist, and another, and another, because M. Night Shyamalan. Most disturbing of them all is a teen baby sitter with no Instagram account (!).

Medical Police (streaming Jan. 10 on Netflix): A sequel to 2010-16 Adult Swim cult favorite Childrens Hospital, Medical Police stars several OG series doctors (including Erinn Hayes and Rob Huebel) as undercover Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agents recruited to stop a global bio-terrorism plot. It’s a mashup of Childrens Hospital and Jack Ryan that’s still less ridiculous than Jack Ryan, or (stay with me here) a sub-homage to Baywatch Nights.

The Outsider (streaming Jan. 12 on HBO Now): The murder of a small-town Georgia child leads to a solid-but-not-really case against a teacher (Jason Bateman), so it’s up to a pair of mismatched PIs (Ben Mendelsohn and Cynthia Erivo) to crack it. Spoiler: The Outsider is based on a Stephen King novel, so there’s supernatural shit afoot. As with King adaptation Mr. Mercedes (which no one saw), subtlety makes it work.

Curb Your Enthusiasm (streaming Jan. 19 on HBO Now): Season 10?! Damn. When last we left Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry (Larry David) was about to be assassinated over Fatwa! The Musical (2017 was a gentler time). We can assume he survived, unless CYE is going with an elaborate, Garfield Minus Garfield-esque setup of J.B. Smoove talking to himself for 10 episodes … which actually sounds amazing. R.I.P., Larry.

Avenue 5 (streaming Jan. 19 on HBO Now): Cocky Ryan Clark (Hugh Laurie) captains Avenue 5, a 1-percenter luxury cruise liner with an upgrade: It’s a spaceship. When a routine trip around Saturn goes awry, Capt. Clark and his crew aren’t up to the challenge of correcting course, calming passengers or paying NASA to save them. Avenue 5 is from the Veep people, so it’s at least funnier than Netflix’s Lost in Space.

Star Trek: Picard (streaming Jan. 23 on CBS All Access): As annoyingly reductive as the nostalgia-reboot trend is, there’s always room for more Star Trek—and if it involves Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), even better. Picard picks up with the retired Starfleet commander in 2399, taking on a new mission with help from new and classic characters (including ex-Borg Seven of Nine in odd militant-hippie mode). Make it so!

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (streaming Jan. 24 on Netflix): Fashion-forward witch Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) can only save her boyfriend from Madam Satan (Michelle Gomez) and her clutches in Hell by assuming the throne as queen of the underworld to defend it against the Prince of Hell. Meanwhile, a pagan carnival rolls into Greendale with apocalyptically evil intent—this new season is not screwing around. Still no Lucifer crossover, Netflix?

Shrill (streaming Jan. 24 on Hulu): Last year, Hulu debuted Shrill, a charming comedy about a large woman (Aidy Bryant, below) that wasn’t about making said large woman lose weight—yeah, crazy. Even crazier, as Season 2 opens, Portlander Annie (Bryant) is regretting quitting her job at the local weekly newspaper. Such regret doesn’t exist in 2020, nor do (last time I checked) local newspapers. Fake news, Shrill!

BoJack Horseman (streaming Jan. 31 on Netflix): Netflix is stretching out the sixth and final season of BoJack Horseman, the Citizen Kane of alcoholic-horse cartoons, by splitting it up; these are the last eight episodes, sadly. In October’s Part 1, BoJack (the voice of Will Arnett) finally got his act together, but Part 2 looks to blow it all up. Don’t be fooled by the talking animals: This is smart, emotional storytelling—binge it, hard.

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Most review columns are dropping their “Best of 2019” lists right about now, thanks to a deadly combo of holiday resignation and critical narcissism.

On one hand, it’s almost Christmas, so who cares? On the other, critics absolutely must disseminate their invaluable hot takes to the masses, because how will The Sheep know what was good if they’re not told?! Screw the tree—people need to know about Parasite!

I’m not playing like that; there are too many shows to stream. Here are nine series from this fall alone you might have missed—so tune out the family, and catch up.

Succession (Seasons 1-2 on HBO Now): Forget Game of Thrones and The Sopranos—the most cutthroat family on HBO is Succession’s Roy clan. A black AF satire of wealth and passive-aggressive family dysfunction, Succession follows a vaguely demented patriarch (Brian Cox) dangling the keys to the empire before his damaged, power-hungry kids. It’s Arrested Development from the darkest timeline.

Mrs. Fletcher (Season 1 on HBO Now): Scene-stealing side-player Kathryn Hahn finally headlines her own show (well, her own seven-episode miniseries; six are out now, with the seventh coming Dec. 8). As Eve Fletcher, she’s a single mom who’s just sent her only son, Brendan (Jackson White), off to college—midlife crisis, come on down! Eve’s newly adrift life has its highs (lots of lesbian porn) and lows (heartbreaking loneliness), and Hahn embodies it all perfectly.

Harley Quinn (Season 1 on DC Universe): Margot Robbie may have nailed the role in Suicide Squad, but Kaley Cuoco’s Harley Quinn is funnier—and both R-rated and animated. This Harley is also so over The Joker (Alan Tudyk) and angling to join the Legion of Doom with help from Poison Ivy (Lake Bell). If DC’s live-action movies were as fun and profane as Harley Quinn … they’d still find a way to ruin them.

Pennyworth (Season 1 in Epix): “Does Batman’s butler have a back story?” is asked about as often as “How do I get Epix?” (read: never), but here’s the origin tale of a young Alfred Pennyworth (Jack Bannon), London spy. Kingsman comparisons aside, it’s a visually stunning series that presents a different Alfred (not yet omni-brilliant) and a very different Thomas and Martha Wayne (not yet dead).

Stumptown (Season 1 on Hulu): One of the few bright spots in a dismal fall 2019 TV-broadcast rollout, ABC’s Stumptown is essentially The Rockford Files wearing Jessica Jones’ leather jacket: A broke private investigator (Cobie Smulders) solves cases while dealing with intense past trauma. Stumptown is smart, funny, twisty and full of intriguing characters—and craft beer, because, Portland.

Lodge 49 (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Weird, wonderful, and now canceled by AMC, Lodge 49 was like nothing else on TV—stick your neck out; get your head lopped off. Long Beach surf-bum Dud (Wyatt Russell) is existentially adrift after the death of his father, but finds a sense of belonging with a local fraternal lodge full of eccentric characters. Lodge 49 plays out like a dream, which it just may have been.

Castle Rock (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): You don’t have to be a Stephen King superfan to get into Castle Rock, but it sure as hell helps. In Castle Rock, Maine, characters from King’s literary multiverse collide, making for a creepy-if-slow Season 1. Season 2 raises the tension thanks to a jolting performance from Lizzy Caplan as unbalanced nurse Annie Wilkes (Misery). How about including The Running Man in Season 3?

Dollface (Season 1 on Hulu): Kat Dennings’ rom-com career was derailed by six seasons of CBS’ 2 Broke Girls and two Thor movies you’ve already forgotten; Dollface puts her back on track. When Jules (Dennings) gets dumped by her boyfriend, she has to win back the female friends she’s neglected. Dollface is fluffy, fantastical fun, and co-stars Brenda Song and Esther Povitsky own every scene.

Goliath (Seasons 1-3 on Prime Video): Goliath, created by TV lifer David E. Kelley, might look like a standard-issue L.A. legal drama on the surface, but there’s some bizarre shit going on underneath. Billy Bob Thornton is Billy McBride, a brilliant boozehound of a lawyer with a penchant for taking on wealthy corporate villains with over-the-top sex ’n’ drugs kinks. There’s something for law nerds and hedonists!

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Think you’re already oversubscribed to streaming TV services? Bend over, and grab your HDMI cables, because November has just dropped two more on you: Disney+ and Apple TV+.

Also, HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi are coming in 2020. But the Purge may happen first.

Back to Disney+ and Apple TV+: Disney+ costs $6.99 a month, while Apple TV+ goes for $4.99—are they worth it? Here are eight original series that may or may not sway you to subscribe to yet another new app.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (Disney+): Right below Twilight and Saw on the list of 2000s reboots no one asked for rests High School Musical, the 2006-08 series of Disney Channel movies (though I’m all in for a Twilight/Saw mashup). In mockumentary HSM:TM:TS, students meta-stage a production of the classic High School Musical. That sound in the distance is the universe imploding—catchy beat, no?

The Mandalorian (Disney+): If you’re among the nerd faction that’s completely on board with Disney owning all things Marvel, Star Wars and Fox Studios, I’m sure your benevolent corporate overlords will never screw you over. It’s fine, just fine. In the meantime, here’s The Mandalorian, about a bounty hunter somewhere in the Star Wars universe. Look, dust and droids! It’s fine, just fine.

The World According to Jeff Goldblum (Disney+): Actor Jeff Goldblum (Run Ronnie Run!) explains everyday items like ice cream, sneakers, tattoos, coffee, denim, RVs, barbecue, jewelry, swimming pools, cosmetics and video games as only he can. Prior to exploring these topics for The World, Goldblum reportedly did zero research to prepare for the episodes. I use the same approach here; totally works.

The Imagineering Story (Disney+): This is a six-hour documentary about Walt Disney’s 65-year-old Imagineering studio that doesn’t touch upon Walt’s purported Nazi sympathies and fascist tendencies at all. Not that it should, because it’s about the studio and the creators who worked there, not the frozen head in a secret vault who thought Adolph had a few good ideas. Allegedly. (Checks security cameras.)

The Morning Show (Apple TV+): Apple spent millions of dollars to lure beloved comedy stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell to streaming TV to headline … a preachy drama about media politics? Bring on the yucks! To be fair, The Morning Show works better than 80 percent of Aaron Sorkin’s similar The Newsroom, mostly by treating women as, stay with me here, humans.

See (Apple TV+): In a post-apocalyptic future … wait, don’t click away yet! A worldwide virus long ago wiped out half the population and rendered the other half blind—until a pair of sighted twins are born to tribal leader Baba Voss (Jason Momoa, Baywatch: Hawaii). Are they the Chosen Ones who’ll lead their people to a new homeland? Didn’t “See” that one coming! Ugh, I know …

For All Mankind (Apple TV+): What if Russia had reached the moon before the United States in the ’60s? Would Joe Rogan still be taking bong hits with moon-landing conspiracy theorists on three-hour podcasts? Probably. For All Mankind presents a science-y, alternate reality of an arguably better world—considering Ronald D. Moore’s previous work (Battlestar Galactica), things could have gone worse.

Dickinson (Apple TV+): Hailee Steinfeld (Between Two Ferns: The Movie) stars as poet Emily Dickinson in a coming-of-age dramedy that pits 19th-century societal constraints against modern millennial ‘tude. In other words, why the hell isn’t this on The CW? As she does in every role, Steinfeld delivers winningly as Dickinson, and you can’t argue with a series that casts Wiz Khalifa as Death.

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