CVIndependent

Mon10142019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

We all have friends—mostly on Facebook, the whiniest of all social-media platforms—who have been threatening to “move to Canada!” for almost two years now. They haven’t; they won’t; and they’re certainly not going to shut up aboot it.

Too bad, because Canada has far more to offer than brutal hockey, legal weed and free health care: There is also some damned fine TV in the Great White North. Some of it can even be viewed down here in the Formerly Great and Still Mostly White South—in fact, you may already be watching some Canuck shows and not be aware of it. The moose’s nose in the tent, eh.

Crack a Molson, and stream these eight Canadian TV series while you’re filling out your passport application:

Letterkenny (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Neckless redneck Wayne (series creator Jared Keeso), his buds and a cavalcade of characters fight, drink and generally laze about in Canada hick town Letterkenny, trading verbally dense rants and takedowns with the hyper-speed virtuosity of an Eddie Van Halen solo (or, to keep it Canadian, Alex Lifeson). Letterkenny is like a flannel-shirted meld of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and a live-action South Park, but also wholly original—and a decidedly love-it-or-hate-it donnybrook.

Trailer Park Boys (Seasons 1-12 on Netflix): Speaking of hating it, I couldn’t stand Trailer Park Boys at first—and nearly avoided Letterkenny due to comparisons. Now … well, I’m not completely sold, but the long-running series does have its charms. The mockumentary about a group of Nova Scotia trailer-park fuckups and their perpetually-doomed moneymaking schemes strikes a consistent balance of hilarity and cringe—but should you find yourself relating to any of these characters, discontinue watching immediately.

Schitt’s Creek (Seasons 1-3 on Netflix): Attention: Schitt’s Creek is not a Netflix original, nor is it even ’Merican. Like Arrested Development à la Canada, Schitt’s Creek pits dumb ex-wealthy folk against small-town rubes for ridiculously funny results: Broke Johnny and Moira Rose (SCTV comedy treasures Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) are forced to live in a hotel in the dump town of Schitt’s Creek, which they once purchased as a joke. More so than Arrested D, Schitt’s Creek is also a stealth heart-warmer.

Orphan Black (Seasons 1-5 on Amazon): Attention: Cult sci-fi series Orphan Black isn’t British—it’s another Canadian production. A small-time criminal (Tatiana Maslany) assumes the identity of a dead police detective she eerily resembles, only to learn she’s a clone, and that there are more cloned versions of herself out there. And then it gets crazy. Orphan Black plays outside of its genre as an engrossing, personal drama, and Maslany’s performance—multiple distinct performances, to be exact—is stunning.

Mary Kills People (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Canadian actress Caroline Dhavernas has starred in U.S. series like Wonderfalls and Hannibal, but Mary Kills People is the first to fully realize her oddly chilly-sexy potential. Dr. Mary Harris (Dhavernas) kills people—specifically, those who are terminally ill and want to go out on their own terms. Her secret Angel of Death gig spills over into her life, echoing dark-side classics like Weeds and Dexter, and Dhavernas’ complex Mary is a near-equal to Nancy Botwin and Dexter Morgan.

Due South (Seasons 1-4 on Amazon): The setup for 1994-1999 crime dramedy Due South was weird, even in the decade that spawned Cop Rock: Canadian Mountie Benton Fraser (Paul Gross) relocates to Chicago with his trusty sidekick Diefenbaker (a deaf wolf-dog hybrid) to find his father’s murderer and solves cases-of-the-week with local a detective. Gross’ cartoonish good-guy routine delivers the laughs, but Due South also had a dark underbelly in line with grittier era cop dramas like Wiseguy—and it still holds up.

The Kids in the Hall (Seasons 1-5 on Amazon): Along with American series Mr. Show with Bob and David, Canada’s The Kids in the Hall defined subversive sketch comedy in the late ’80s and ’90s, leaning heavier in the surreal, cross-dressing direction of Monty Python. KITH featured five equally brilliant improvisers, all of whom still show up regularly in movies and TV today, including Scott Thompson, a then-rare openly gay comic who owned it to full effect. See also: The Kids’ 1996 cult-classic flick Brain Candy.

SCTV (Seasons 1-6 on Amazon): An offshoot of Toronto’s Second City sketch-comedy troupe, SCTV was a quiet contemporary of the original (read: dangerous) Saturday Night Live, launching in 1976 in Canadian and U.S. TV syndication. SCTV was on fire in the early ’80s as SNL was flaming out, making stars of John Candy, Martin Short, Andrea Martin, and the aforementioned Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, eventually creating 135 episodes of all-killer/little-filler comedy anarchy. See also: 1983 uber-Canadian SCTV spin-off movie Strange Brew, the Citizen Kane of beer-and-donuts conspiracy thrillers.

Published in TV

After a fall-winter-spring blur of Too Many Shows, you’re thinking to yourself, “Summer is finally here—I can take a break from TV. Praise the Lord!”

Sorry. Your god has abandoned you: Here are 32 new and returning series you’re going to have to watch this summer, because peak TV knows no season.

In the unexpected return of Flaked (Season 2 premiere; Friday, June 2; Netflix), Chip (Will Arnett) heads back to Venice to rehab his ruined Local Hero status, if not his booze problem. Matters are even more dire for the gang on Fear the Walking Dead (Season 3 premiere; Sunday, June 4; AMC), as vigilante Build the Zombie Wall border patrollers won’t allow them to cross back over from Mexico. It could be worse; they could be struggling comedians in 1970s Hollywood—which is the setting for I’m Dying Up Here (series debut; Sunday, June 4; Showtime).

Tim Heidecker re-ups for more ultra-violent spy action in Decker: Unclassified (Season 2 premiere; Sunday, June 4; Adult Swim), while Aussie comic Jim Jefferies takes another stab at ’Merican TV with late-night talker The Jim Jefferies Show (series debut; Tuesday, June 6; Comedy Central). Latina heroine (?) Teresa (Alice Braga) continues her quest to rule the drug trade in Queen of the South (Season 2 premiere; Thursday, June 8; USA), and the ladies of Litchfield are still doing time in Orange Is the New Black (Season 5 premiere; Friday, June 9; Netflix), hackers be damned.

The ragtag crew of ridiculously good-looking intergalactic criminals remain lost in space in Dark Matter (Season 3 premiere; Friday, June 9; Syfy), and TV’s coolest demon hunter is back and gunning for souls in Wynonna Earp (Season 2 premiere; Friday, June 9; Syfy). Meanwhile, the end is near for the Clone Club in the final run of Orphan Black (Season 5 premiere; Saturday, June 10, BBC America), and even nearer for frenemies Billie and Gene in the two-weekend burn-off of Idiotsitter (Season 2 premiere; Saturday, June 10; Comedy Central).

An all-star cast chews scenery and buffs cuticles in new Florida nail-salon dramedy Claws (series debut; Sunday, June 11; TNT), and primetime goes grindhouse with Blood Drive (series debut; Wednesday, June 14, Syfy), about a cross-country death race where the cars run on—what else?—blood. The Mist (series debut; Thursday, June 22; Spike) rolls out more subtle Stephen King-y scares, and the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling finally get their ’80s-spandexed due in the Alison Brie-led docu-comedy GLOW (series debut; Friday, June 23; Netflix).

Fiddy Cent’s nightclubs ’n’ drugs drama Power (Season 4 premiere; Sunday, June 25; Starz) finds kingpin Ghost (Omari Hardwick) caught in the middle of a, yep, power struggle, while Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy finally hit the road looking for God in Preacher (Season 2 premiere; Sunday, June 25; AMC). Liza (Sutton Foster) deals with the fallout of her bestie Kelsey (Hilary Duff) learning her dark, old secret in Younger (Season 4 premiere; Wednesday, June 28; TV Land), and everybody’s favorite ragtag trio of ridiculously good-looking interplanetary bounty hunters gear up to fight the good-ish fight in Killjoys (Season 3 premiere; Friday, June 30; Syfy).

John Singleton’s Snowfall (series debut; Wednesday, July 5; FX) dramatizes the crack-cocaine epidemic of ’80s Los Angeles, while modernized period piece Will (series debut; Monday, July 10; TNT) juices the legend of a young William Shakespeare as he arrives in the, wait for it, “punk-rock theatre scene of 16th century London.” Back in the present, a pair of college eggheads break it to the White House that an asteroid is six months away from mercifully colliding with Earth in Salvation (series debut; Wednesday, July 12; CBS).

Game of Thrones … yeah, nothing more needs to be said here (Season 7 premiere; Sunday, July 16; HBO). In the final stretch of The Strain (Season 4 premiere; Sunday, July 16; FX), nuclear winter is in full effect; the Strigoi vampires have seized the planet; and our heroes are down for the count—but are they, really? Meanwhile, Ballers (Season 3 premiere; Sunday, July 23; HBO) and Insecure (Season 2 premiere; Sunday, July 23; HBO) are paired up for the most incongruent HBO hour ever, while Midnight, Texas (series debut; Monday, July 24; NBC) takes Charlaine Harris’ supernatural novels for a TV spin.

Would you believe … Sharknado 5 (movie premiere; Sunday, Aug. 6; Syfy)? Marvel’s The Defenders (series debut; Friday, Aug. 18; Netflix) finally brings together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist for a dysfunctional superhero team-up, while the 21st go-round of South Park (season 21 premiere; Wednesday, Aug. 23; Comedy Central) attempts to find the funny in Trump’s America—if he’s still in office at that point. Fortunately, Abbi and Ilana drop the long-long-long-awaited comeback of Broad City (Season 4 premiere; Wednesday, Aug. 23; Comedy Central), and the new take on The Tick (series debut; Friday, Aug. 25; Amazon Prime) may reunify the country, after all. Spoon!

Published in TV

May is mostly a dead zone of season finales and reruns as TV gears up for the summer. (There’s no off-season anymore; get used to it.) But! Remember all those shows I’ve told you to watch harder in this very column? You know, the shows that are all readily available in various on-demand forms? Now’s the time to catch up! Here’s 12 to start with:

Wynonna Earp (Syfy): Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano) is a modern-day descendent of Old West gunslinger Wyatt Earp, who was also a supernatural demon hunter (just roll with it), and she’s back in town to re-smite evil souls (or Revenants). It’s all true enough to the comic-book source, and Scrofano is a likable combo of badass and goofball.

Orphan Black (BBC America): In Season 4 of tense clone-soap Orphan Black, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) investigates Beth, the deceased sister-clone whose identity she stole at the beginning of the series, as well as the origins of the clone conspiracy. Also, there are more clones, upping Maslany’s character load for the season to eight (and still no Emmy).

Hap and Leonard (Sundance): Hap and Leonard is a six-episode tale about ’80s Texans Hap (James Purefoy) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams), a pair of luckless laborers dragged into a get-rich-suspiciously-easy scheme by Hap’s ex-wife (Christina Hendricks). The plan soon spirals into a cacophony of conflicting agendas and colorful characters, with Fargo-like comic-to-violent jolts.

Idiotsitter (Comedy Central): An unemployed Ivy Leaguer (Charlotte Newhouse) takes a baby-sitting job—but the “baby” turns out to be an adult wild-child heiress (Jillian Bell) under house arrest. As the series progresses (or regresses), it’s clear that Bell and Newhouse can do stoopid repartee almost as well as the Broad City ladies. All this, and a Channing Tatum cameo!

Baskets (FX): Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis), having flunked out of a prestigious French clown academy, returns to uncultured ’Merica to be a rodeo clown—and then it gets weird. (Chip’s mom is Louie Anderson in drag, for just one example.) Baskets is a funny-to-sad-to-funnier-to-sadder commentary on artistic failure and Western decline, but don’t be afraid.

Better Call Saul (AMC): Better Call Saul continues to be a minor-miracle follow-up to, and expansion on, Breaking Bad in a flawless second season, further transforming small-time lawyer Slippin’ Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) into medium-time legal shark Saul Goodman. Even better, Rhea Seehorn, Michael McKean and Jonathan Banks get equal time to shine.

Banshee (Cinemax): Season 4 will be the last for this gritty slice of Amish-country crime noir, so there’s hope for eventually catching up on Banshee. The twisted tale of an ex-con/thief (Antony Starr) who assumes the identity of Sheriff Lucas Hood in the small town of Banshee, Pa., has taken many a bizarre turn, but the outcome is always the same (and bloody).

Vinyl (HBO): Vinyl is as excessive and beautiful as you’d expect a collaboration between Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter and Mick Jagger to be, mixing Almost Famous’ music-saves earnestness with Velvet Goldmine’s visceral glam bombast and Boogie Nights’ druggy chaos—and cranking it to 11 in 1974 NYC. It’s not perfect, but neither is rock ’n’ roll.

The Detour (TBS): Jason Jones (The Daily Show) and Natalie Zea (Justified) star as harried parents on a family road-trip where everything that could possibly go wrong does—spectacularly. Sound like National Lampoon’s Vacation? It is, but far funnier than last year’s limp Vacation reboot—and usually dramatic Zea is a comedic revelation.

Billions (Showtime): Damian Lewis (as a charismatic hedge-fund billionaire) and Paul Giamatti (as a troubled U.S. attorney) churn bluster and testosterone Acting! against each other, but they’re not Billions’ most interesting players: Maggie Siff, as a psychiatrist-turned-performance-coach with an invisible, spooky command, could lead this series on her own.

Teachers (TV Land): Teachers is a part of TV Land’s makeover from reheated sitcom repository to smart comedy destination, and six-woman improv troupe The Katydids (their first names are all variations on “Katherine”) gender-flip Super Troopers into an elementary school, dosed with Broad City’s fearless, vanity-free pursuit of so-wrong laughs.

Not Safe With Nikki Glaser (Comedy Central): Comic Nikki Glaser gets right down to topics like “losing your virginity, masturbation and putting stuff in your butt!” Not Safe is a sex-and-relationships talk show with fellow-comedian gab and pre-taped bits—it’s been done before, but Glaser has the smarts and presence to rise to the level of Amy Schumer.

Published in TV

Orphan Black (Thursday, April 14, BBC America), season premiere: Tense sci-fi soap Orphan Black has so much going within its clone-crowded narrative that the news of out-there musician Peaches appearing in Season 4, playing herself, barely even registers. (In fact, it almost makes too much sense.) In this chapter, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) sets out to investigate Beth, the deceased sister-clone whose identity she stole at the beginning of the series, as well as the origins of the clone conspiracy—which, of course, leads to trouble, as does trying learn anything in this universe. Unrelated … maybe: Yet another clone, a mysterious outsider who’s been aware of her multi-sister status all along, enters the picture, upping Maslany’s character load for the season to eight (and still no Emmy, huh?). One again, There’s Too Many Shows, but definitely move Orphan Black to the top of your TV homework pile.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Friday, April 15, Netflix), season premiere: Last year, Netflix snapped up Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt after NBC decided to get out of the “thinky” comedy business and canceled it before ever going to air; if you can name a single now-dead sitcom the network ran with instead, you probably work at NBC Universal (for now). Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) won hearts as a bubbly, wide-eyed ex-doomsday cult member discovering the modern world for the first time … but where to take her in Season 2? Don’t worry; she’s still plenty naïve—and, after 15 years in an underground bunker (possible spoiler alert), still a virgin. Also, brace for waaay more of UKS breakout star Tituss Burgess (“Peeno! Noir!”), if not a return appearance by Kimmy’s bunker mates (including, if there’s any justice, Jon Hamm’s hilarious cult leader, the Rev. Richard Wayne Gary Wayne).

Containment (Tuesday, April 19, The CW), series debut: Under the Dome, Colony, any dystopian-future YA book/movie you care to name—should it be disturbing that ’Merica seems to love stories about communities held captive? Go write a thesis or call Alex Jones; I have TV to review here. Oddly paired with the superhero fun of The Flash, the dark Containment follows the panic, societal breakdown and, of course, conspiratorial whisperings behind the outbreak of a deadly virus in Atlanta. (First The Walking Dead, now this—Georgia can’t catch a break.) Between the pretty citizens freaking out and dying inside the quarantined area, and the pretty scientists on the outside racing to find a cure, there’s mucho Big Drama to go around. But enough to carry 13 episodes? Here it comes: Containment isn’t all that infectious.

The Night Manager (Tuesday, April 19, AMC), miniseries debut: Tom Hiddleston is, of course best-known for the films Midnight in Paris and Muppets Most Wanted, or a handful of Marvel movies as Thor’s uptight brother with the mullet (aka the Asgard Natural, or “Party in the back, extermination of the human race up front”). In The Night Manager, he plays a British ex-soldier charged with infiltrating the inner circle of an international businessman/criminal (Hugh Laurie) and taking down his arms-dealing trade. The undercover-spy-in-too-deep trope isn’t anything new, but Hiddleston and Laurie !Acting! off one another is expectedly fantastic—and The Night Manager is every bit the Bond adventure that Spectre should have been. From the look of it, it was probably almost as expensive; at least AMC is spending some of that Walking Dead money wisely.

Time Traveling Bong (Wednesday, April 20, Comedy Central), miniseries debut: Ilana Glazer, the bigger-haired half of Broad City’s comic duo, is one of the funniest women on the planet—within the context of Broad City as “Ilana.” Outside of it, we don’t yet know. Time Traveling Bong, premiering after the Season 3 finale of Broad City on 4/20 (dude …), pairs her with a new partner, Paul W. Downs (also of Broad City), in a three-episode miniseries that’s summed up entirely by its title: Glazer and Downs play cousins who discover a bong that enables time travel, and they subsequently “blaze through time.” Until the bong breaks, that is, and the two become lost in the space-time continuum. TTB is even more stoopid than you’re already imagining it to be, but, hell, it’s only three half-hour episodes over three nights. You know the proper states in which to enjoy this; one is Colorado.

Published in TV

After “Are you still writing for that paper?” and “Why did I assume you were dead?” the question I’m most often asked is: “So, what’s good on TV?”

Sure, I write a readily available weekly column about what’s good on TV (and not-so-good), and produce a podcast (TV Tan—look it up on iTunes and Stitcher) covering the same, but you can’t be expected to keep up with it all. Quality programming? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

You do, actually: Let’s pretend that daily “live” TV viewing didn’t die along with print journalism several years ago, and let’s scroll through the week with a day-by-day breakdown of what to Watch (good stuff deserving of your attention) and, for the hell of it, Hate Watch (stuff so terrible that it’s fun to mock) right now. Or DVR it all for a weekend binge—I don’t know your lifestyle.

Thursday: Even though the network tried to kill its biggest hit by moving it to Thursday nights, The Blacklist (NBC) is still a must-Watch. TV critics are divided on The Comedians, but I say it’s a worthy lead-in to Louie, and that’s all that matters (FX). On the Hate Watch front, there’s Lip Synch Battle (Spike), a “singing” competition that’s done away with singing altogether. Jimmy Fallon’s next “viral innovation”: Celebrity Naptime.

Friday: Real Time With Bill Maher and Vice (HBO) for politicos and news junkies, The Soup (E!) for pop-culture catch-upists, and The Grace Helbig Show for … well, I’m not sure who this is for yet, but Helbig’s YouTube-to-TV transition is, more often than not, as funny as it is brain-implodingly awkward (E!). Also, Childrens Hospital (Adult Swim), because even you have 11 minutes to spare. Hate Watch: The Messengers (The CW), wherein impossibly pretty CW actors fret about the rapture and a desolate Friday-night timeslot.

Saturday: Orphan Black (BBC America) is one of the rare sci-fi dramas that lives up to its hype. Don’t be put off by all of the clone characters (most played fantastically by Tatiana Maslany)—if you can follow Game of Thrones, you can follow this. Same goes for the time-jumping Outlander (Starz), the lushly-produced Scot-drama that earns its nickname Fifty Shades of Plaid. For Hate Watching, My Cat From Hell (Animal Planet), because no one seems to realize that you can find a new, less-hellish kitty, oh, anywhere.

Sunday: A busy night, with Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Veep and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO); Mad Men (AMC); Salem (WGN America); Bob’s Burgers, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Last Man on Earth (Fox); Mr. Selfridge (PBS); and now the new Happyish (Showtime) all vying for discerning eyeballs. Set aside some Hate Watch moments for A.D. The Bible Continues and American Odyssey (NBC); they’ve really earned it.

Monday: Bates Motel has cranked its simmering insanity up to full-tilt bonkers this season, while The Returned continues its supernatural slow-burn—together, they constitute the creepiest two-hour block of the week, not counting Sunday-morning news shows (A&E). Hate Watch Turn: Washington’s Spies (AMC), which is as obtuse as a tri-corner hat and somehow even duller than actual American history.

Tuesday: Catch up on your streaming—there are unseen episodes of Daredevil (Netflix) and Community (Yahoo Screen) still waiting for you. Hate Watch: Powers (PlayStation Network), the comic-book adaptation that can’t even.

Wednesday: Heard of Big Time in Hollywood, FL? It fills the sick-wrong-funny gap left by Broad City where Workaholics failed (Comedy Central). The obvious Hate Watch is CSI: Cyber (CBS), the stoopidest depiction of tech-terrorism since every “cyberpunk” movie produced in 1995. Do not, repeat, do not respond to any e-mails from your parents re: “Black Hat Hackers.”

Published in TV

Axe Cop (Thursday, April 16, FXX), season premiere: Few watched Fox’s failed attempt to take on both Adult Swim and Saturday Night Live with the late-night Animation Domination High-Def (ADHD—get it?) in 2013; fewer still are aware that the cartoon block moved to FXX in January of this year. Only the puttin’-the-“high”-in-High-Def Lucas Bros. Moving Co. and some lazy scribbling called Stone Quackers have been offering new episodes—until now! Axe Cop, about a cop with an axe and a great catchphrase (“I’ll chop your head off!”), finally returns for second season of epic ridiculousness from the mind of a 5-year-old, voiced by Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation). But wait! There’s more ADHD goodness …

Major Lazer (Thursday, April 16, FXX), series debut: Major Lazer the musical entity is DJ/producer Diplo and a series of collaborators specializing in electro-house dancehall, reggae, moombahton, soca and other possibly-fictitious genres. Major Lazer the cartoon is a “rasta commando” with an ’80s G.I. Joe bent based on album covers and concert posters. It may look like an aesthetic clone of Adult Swim’s Mike Tyson Mysteries at first, but Major Lazer kicks the retro style up to frenetic levels to match the pounding beats. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost) voices the titular lead, but the guest-actor list is where it really goes rando: Andy Samberg, Aziz Ansari, singer Charli XCX, rapper Riff Raff, Oscar winner J.K. Simmons (!), and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig as a “vegan vampire” (!!).

Bitten (Friday, April 17, Syfy), season premiere: Laura Vandervoort (Smallville) didn’t make much of a first impression in Bitten’s 2014 debut as a she-werewolf just trying to make it on her own in whatever big city Toronto is supposed to pass for onscreen. She was all blonde hair and blank stares, with none of the edge or humor that made surrounding Syfy hits like the late Being Human and the soon-to-be-late Lost Girl click—but she did get naked frequently, so there’s that. Season 2 looks to be more of the Twilight-adjacent same, as her ambition to break free from her beardy, mansplaining kin is further hampered by the arrival of … witches. Did we learn nothing from True Blood?

Lost Girl (Friday, April 17, Syfy), season premiere: On the downside, Season 5 will be the last for Canadian import Lost Girl. On the upside, the sexy supernatural soap’s final ride will consist of 16 episodes, up from the originally planned 13. Kenzi (Ksenia Solo) sacrificed herself to the Underworld at the end of last season, and the final mission of Bo (Anna Silk) is to bring her BFF back from the “dead,” which could prove difficult, as actress Solo is currently trapped somewhere at least as bad as Hell: AMC’s soggy period drama Turn: Washington’s Spies.

Orphan Black (Saturday, April 18, BBC America), season premiere: Ksenia Solo is also guesting on the new season of cult phenomenon Orphan Black—Tatiana Maslany can’t play every role … can she? In Season 3, the militaristic male Castor clones are targeting Sarah (Maslany) and her myriad clone sisters with—probably safe to assume—malicious intent; Helena (Maslany) is pregnant and imprisoned in a compound; and Cosima (Maslany) is somewhat on the mend. Season-opener episode “The Weight of This Combination” will be hard to miss, as it’ll be premiering simultaneously on BBC America, AMC, IFC, Sundance and We. “Sister” networks … oh, how cheeky.

Published in TV

True Detective (HBO): Creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto probably screwed himself by launching this mesmerizing crime anthology with stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson at the top of their respective games. Good luck following up these eight near-perfect episodes.

Banshee (Cinemax): This left-field, visceral mashup of Justified, Twin Peaks and Fight Club went pulp-gonzo harder in Season 2, expanding the world of Banshee, Penn., just enough to introduce even more Amish mobster/Ukrainian thug mayhem. It’s that weird, and that cool.

Shameless (Showtime): Things somehow got worse as they got better for the Gallagher clan in Season 4, with William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum delivering alternately heartbreaking and hilarious performances. This is America’s family.

Justified (FX): Star Timothy Olyphant put his boot down and rescued Justified from becoming entirely the show of Boyd (Walton Goggins) in its fifth and penultimate season, and brought some new colorful characters along for the ride.

Broad City (Comedy Central): Few comedies arrive as fully-realized as Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s Broad City (though it did have a head-start as a Web series); their broke Brooklynites are the female flipside of Workaholics, only smarter, funnier and occasionally grosser.

Helix (Syfy): This Arctic Andromeda Strain/Walking Dead hybrid from Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) crept up with no big splash, but it did earn a second season for 2015—catch up on Netflix now.

The Americans (FX): Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys continued to out-spy Homeland while still stuck in Cold War 1981, facing down more danger (and wigs) than Carrie and Brody could ever imagine.

Archer (FX): Meanwhile, Archer (code-named Archer Vice) blew up its spy premise and dove face-first into cocaine and country music. Literally.

House of Cards (Netflix): Vice president Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) delivered a shocking twist in the first episode of Season 2, and the train didn’t stop a-rollin’ from there. As with actual D.C. politics, it’s best not to think too hard about the machinations en route to the presidency

Fargo (FX): Lorne (Billy Bob Thornton), Lester (Martin Freeman) and Deputy Molly (Allison Tolman) shut down the “You can’t touch that movie” doubters from frame one with this dark, funny adaptation that faltered fewer times than True Detective. Oh, you bet’cha.

From Dusk Till Dawn (El Rey): Another film-to-TV transition that defied the haters, From Dusk Till Dawn expanded the 1996 cult classic into an even crazier, racier 10-episode ride where the definition of “the good guys” is subjective.

Game of Thrones (HBO): Like anyone’s going to make a list without Game of Thrones. Get real.

Silicon Valley (HBO): Mike Judge finally, if not intentionally, created the sequel to Office Space with Silicon Valley, a hysterically profane (and tech-jargoned, at least at first) saga about programmers in waaay over their heads. If only Halt and Catch Fire had been half this much fun.

Veep (HBO): Speaking of profane: VP Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her team continued to fail upward in Season 3, from WTF? to the brink of POTUS. Pray for your country.

Bates Motel (A&E): Murder, drugs, love triangles, commercial zoning disputes—Bates Motel has it all! Norman (Freddie Highmore) became as intriguing as mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in Season 2, no small feat, as did some of the supporting players. Why wait for Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival? It’s already here.

Mad Men (AMC): Splitting the final season in half was a lousy idea (the Mad Men buzz is pretty much nil at this point), but those first seven episodes provided a course-correcting jolt that should make for a hell of a 2015 finale, whenever that happens (hopefully, not in the ’70s).

Orphan Black (BBC America): See Game of Thrones.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO): Sure, it’s a Daily Show knock-off with F-bombs—but those rants! Corporations, media, condiments—suck it! Everything the overblown Newsroom attempted over three seasons, Oliver nailed in 30 minutes.

Legit (FXX): Poor Jim Jefferies. His Louie-like Legit finally got good by the end of its first season, then FX exiled it to the untested FXX for Season 2: no promotion, no viewers, just yelling into a vast, empty room. See what you missed on Netflix (along with Jeffries’ stand-up specials).

Playing House (USA): Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham as almost-uncomfortably close BFFs failed on network TV, but found a niche on cable with Playing House, which could be the first series ever to make pregnancy play funny and inclusive.

Parks and Recreation (NBC): While as excellent as ever, Season 6 probably should have been the last (maybe even halfway through), but at least we’ll get a proper sendoff for NBC’s last great Must-See comedy in 2015.

Rick and Morty (Adult Swim): Few “get” Community, but Dan Harmon’s other TV project, the animated, and simultaneously brainy and crude Rick and Morty—imagine Back to the Future with more universes, booze and malicious aliens—clicked immediately on Adult Swim.

Louie (FX): Louis C.K. made us wait two years for a new season, then delivered 14 arty-if-not-always-funny installments of Louie, which were rightfully hailed as “brave,” “experimental” and “mostly free of black T-shirts.”

Maron (IFC): Marc Maron didn’t stray too far from the formula of his debut season in his second go-round—regarding how difficult it is to be Marc Maron, specifically, and a middle-aged white dude with a podcast in general. Still brilliant.

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix): Season 2 leaned more dramatic than comedic, and pulled killer performances from everyone in (and out) of Litchfield Penitentiary. Creator Jenji Kohan is well on her way to achieving the heretofore-thought impossible: Topping her previous series, Weeds.

The Leftovers (HBO): Life sucks when you’re not Raptured, and The Leftovers was the ultimate summer-bummer wallow, not to mention the vehicle that finally made Justin Theroux matter.

Rectify (Sundance): And while we’re on the topic of dramas filmed in Depress-o-Vision … damn.

Longmire (A&E): In its third season, Longmire fully broke away from its Justified Out West trappings and became a gripping, dusty crime drama in its own right. A&E rewarded this creative triumph—and high ratings—with a cancellation notice in order to make way for more Duck Dynasty. Fortunately, Netflix came to the rescue, and Season 4 will be streaming by late 2015. I’m beginning to understand you cable-cutters …

Coming next week: Part 2—even more shows!

Published in TV

Welcome to Sweden, Working the Engels (Thursday, July 10, NBC), series debuts: Comedy Welcome to Sweden is based on creator/star Greg Poehler (younger bro to Amy) and his real-life experience of moving around the world with his Swedish girlfriend (played here by Josephine Bornebusch); the show premiered in that country months ago. It’s only on NBC because of Amy (who guests in the premiere episode); Welcome to Sweden has a subtle, sweet, indie-flick vibe that would probably play better on cable—unlike Working the Engels, which drives home its few laughs with a sledgehammer. Oh, and that’s Canadian filler.

Hemlock Grove (Friday, July 11, Netflix), season premiere: The Only TV Column That Matters™ asked a question upon the debut of this supernatural soap opera last year, and I’ll ask it again: Why is anyone surprised that terrible things happen in a town called Hemlock Grove? Season 1 didn’t sit well with critics, who largely dismissed the style-over-sense creep-theatrics of executive producer/occasional director Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) when they should have just embraced the chaos and marveled at star Famke Janssen’s endless array of white outfits. (Seriously, they’re stunning.)

Ray Donovan, Masters of Sex (Sunday, July 13, Showtime), season premieres: As awful and eff’dup as Ray (Liev Schreiber) and the Donovan clan are, they still won over viewers last summer—even paired with the turrible final season of Dexter. (Let us never speak of that again.) This season, Hollywood “fixer” Ray and ex-con dad Mickey (Jon Voight, still stealing the show) face some new heat from a FBI bureau chief (Hank Azaria) and a journalist (Vinessa Shaw), who are both very interested in the Boston mobster Mickey plugged last season. Meanwhile, in the Season 2 premiere of Masters of Sex, Dr. Masters (Michael Sheen) and “Dr.” Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) deal with being fired and labeled a ho, respectively.

The Strain (Sunday, July 13, FX) series debut: If you’re thinking, “Not another vampire show,” don’t worry—The Strain is definitely not another vampire show. The Guillermo del Toro/Chuck Hogan series (based on their book trilogy of the same name) kicks off with a slow-burn premiere episode as an international flight full of “dead” passengers and crew lands in New York City; it’s up to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agents Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Martinez (Mia Maestro) to decipher how and why. The “how” is in freight: an ancient, vampiric monster let loose during the flight. The “why” is a conspiracy to turn Earth into Planet Vampire, with NYC as ground zero. According to sources (i.e., friends of mine who actually read), the series follows the source material faithfully, and the pilot sets up what should be, in a summer filled with apocalyptic TV epics, a genuinely scary experience. Suck it, True Blood.

Matador (Tuesday, July 15, El Rey), series debut: El Rey network el jefe Robert Rodriguez pulled off an impressive TV series remake/expansion of his From Dusk Till Dawn film earlier this year, but Matador seems like even more of a stretch: Tony “Matador” Bravo (Gabriel Luna) is a beloved soccer star who enjoys a jet-setting playboy lifestyle off the field—but it’s all a cover for his work as a CIA agent; his fame affords him access to criminal power players, but it’s also an increasing liability (unless he’s on a mission in the U.S. of A., where “soccer star” fame is equal to “badminton idol”). It may sound like a gag, but Matador is slick and action-packed, which we could all use after a month of the World Cup.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR JULY 15!

Labyrinth

Two women, one in Medieval times (Jessica Brown Findlay) and one in the present day (Vanessa Kirby), search for the Holy Grail in the Canadian/CW miniseries event—and there’s neither a Muppet nor a David Bowie in sight. (Lionsgate)

Orphan Black: Season 2

In the spectacular second season, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) fights to protect her daughter from pro-clone Rachel (also Maslany), endangering the other clones (all Maslany). And yet more clones are introduced—guess who plays ’em? (Warner Bros./BBC)

Sx_Tape

From the producers of Paranormal Activity comes something different—ha! It’s more “found footage” horror cheese, this time about a dude filming sexy times with his annoying girlfriend in a—wait for it—insane asylum. Yes, really. (Well Go USA)

Rio 2

Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and the kiddies hit the Amazon and run across new wacky characters (voiced by Rita Moreno, Bruno Mars and Kristin Chenoweth). Child critics rave, “Loud colorful blobs and doodie jokes!” (Fox)

Under the Skin

An alien in human skin (Scarlett Johansson) seduces and kills a succession of lonely men in director Jonathan Glazer’s meditation on humanity and the utter futility of resisting Scarlett Johansson, even in a bowl wig. (Lionsgate)

More New DVD Releases (July 15)

Bethlehem, Black Dynamite: Season 1, A Day Late and a Dollar Short, The Face of Love, The Junior Spy Agency, The Last Days, The M Word, A Night in Old Mexico, Open Grave, The Surrogate, Torment, Toxin.

Published in TV

Community (Thursday, April 17, NBC), season finale: One of the best and definitely most out-there seasons of Community has also been its least-watched—it’s almost as if creator Dan Harmon took his second chance with NBC as a challenge: “You think it was weird before? Suck on this!” And yet, even with Season 5’s sub-CW ratings, Community could still realize the dream of Six Seasons and a Movie, because the only other half-hour comedy to survive NBC’s 2013-2014 slate is Parks and Recreation; launching a new comedy block with only one established show is already a proven Turrible Idea (see: NBC Thursday, September 2013). So, with a hopeful eye to fall 2014, how’s Community closing out this bizarro season? With a guest appearance from Chris Elliott (Eagleheart) … this does not bode well.

Orphan Black (Saturday, April 19, BBC America), season premiere: The Only TV Column That Matters™ inadvertently overlooked the 2013 debut season of Orphan Black, a British sci-fi series about a small-time criminal (Tatiana Maslany) who assumes the identity of a dead police detective she eerily resembles, only to learn she’s a clone—and that there are several other cloned versions of herself out there. I’ve caught up, and I’d suggest you do the same, because Orphan Black is one of those rare sci-fi shows that plays outside of its genre as an engrossing, personal drama, and Maslany’s virtuosic performance—multiple distinct performances, to be exact—is that of a star in the making. It’s a Me (Us) Against a Grand Conspiracy paranoia thriller with many a squee-worthy twist (and even more coming in Season 2). Wisecracking Felix (Jordan Gavaris) is the new It Sidekick. Don’t miss Orphan Black (again).

Salem (Sunday, April 20, WGN America), series debut: Damn, everybody wants a piece of the Original Programming pie—even Chicago superstation (Wiki it, kids) WGN. Salem, a 17th-century period piece about—what else?—the Salem witch trials, from a creative team with a dubious TV resume (anybody remember Threshold? FlashForward? Terra Nova?), will likely be filed under “Nice Try, But …” in the near future; if you’ve already sampled “Sexy History” shows like Vikings, Black Sails, The Tudors, Spartacus or even The CW’s Reign, there’s nothing new to see here. Well, except for ex-Nikita buzzcut Shane West in a hilarious wig from the Sons of Anarchy Halloween collection.

The Boondocks (Monday, April 21, Adult Swim), season premiere: According to Adult Swim, “This season was produced without the involvement of (creator/executive producer) Aaron McGruder, when a mutually agreeable production schedule could not be determined.” Meaning: Adult Swim wanted the fourth and final (and, wild guess here, contracted?) season of The Boondocks now, and McGruder works on his own schedule. Since the last new episode aired in 2010, draw your own conclusions. Even with McGruder, The Boondocks has been frustratingly uneven; it’s searingly hilarious and ruthless about black culture in one episode, and flat and lazy the next—maybe his absence won’t make a difference. Besides, he’s on to his next project now, Black Jesus, which he’s producing for … Adult Swim? So no one’s learned anything from all of this?

True Tori (Tuesday, April 22, Lifetime), series debut: This is Tori Spelling’s, what, fourth reality show? After as many tell-all autobiographies? She—and especially husband Dean McDermott—ain’t that fascinating, and yet TV networks and book publishers can’t get enough of ’em. True Tori picks up with the couple three weeks after McDermott has left rehab, which is the standard healthy amount of time after rehab to begin shooting your next reality series, and … yeah, I’ve already lost interest.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR APRIL 22!

The Client List: Season 2

In the second and final season of The Client List, small-town rub-and-tug artist Riley (Jennifer Love Hewitt) finds herself in charge in charge of the massage parlor—but not her heart! Aww. Ends on a cliffhanger, so no … happy ending. Released earlier this month via manufacture on demand. (Sony)

The Good Witch’s Garden

Small-town witch Cassie (Catherine Bell) opens a bed and breakfast, only to have it taken from her by an evil land developer. Will she partner with Riley and open a competing new rub-and-tug-and-bed-and-breakfast across the street? Sadly, no. (Hallmark)

The Drunk

When the grandson (William Tanoos) of the founder of the Socialist Party of America is arrested and tried for drunk driving, he decides to run for governor against his prosecutor (Tom Sizemore). And keep drinking, of course. (Green Apple)

Killing American Style

The 1990 … classic? … re-mastered and re-released, because mullets, violence, strippers, crime, Hammer pants and hot kickboxing action never go out of style. Also starring Jim Brown as the cop who’s going to bring these clowns down. (MVD)

Smoked

Oakland stoners rob a medical-marijuana store, which happens to be owned by a notorious crack kingpin, who in turn hires ruthless contract killers to hunt down them down. Oh, and there are also ninjas and rappers, because, you know, Oakland. (Indican)

More New DVD Releases (April 22)

Apokalips X, Barefoot, Bettie Page Reveals All, Cloud 9, Doctor Who: The Web of Fear, A Farewell to Fools, Insane, The Lost Empire, Lullaby, Newhart: Season 3, Scream Park, Super Ninja Doll, The Suspect.

Published in TV