CVIndependent

Mon02242020

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

The Comedians (Thursday, April 9, FX), series debut: “Comedy is like heart surgery—it gets botched all the time,” says Josh Gad (as Josh Gad) in the pilot episode of The Comedians. “But, if you keep it loose and don’t overthink it … you can fix people’s hearts.” Gad is the other half of The Billy and Josh Show, a fictional FX variety series that was forced upon Billy Crystal (as Billy Crystal) after his one-man-show version was soundly rejected by test audiences, and The Comedians is the fictional behind-the-scenes doc—follow? Even funnier than the idea that FX would buy a dated trainwreck like Billy and Josh are Crystal and Gad’s clashing heightened-character comedic styles: Crystal plays “Billy,” old-school and only mildly self-absorbed, whereas Gad goes all-in to make “Josh” a delusional man-child idiot (a role he’s played before, but takes to a whole new, creepy level here). The Comedians may not fix hearts, but it could fix Crystal’s comedy cred after years of lazy hackery. (Take note, Steve Martin.)

Louie (Thursday, April 9, FX), season premiere: After last season’s hard departure into the artsy (read: not always necessarily funny), Louie returns to more familiar comic waters with Season 5 opener “Potluck,” which re-establishes that no one can weave a wildly random series of situations into a satisfying storyline quite like Louis C.K.—with a tasty fried-chicken tutorial, no less. And yes, the “Brother Louie” theme song and opening montage are back.

Game of Thrones (Sunday, April 12, HBO), season premiere: Finally, GoT truthers (“I refuse to watch anything until Game of Thrones returns!”) have something to live for once again. You know, there are other worthwhile series on TV—I write about ‘em here every week, but I digress: With the none-too-dignified escape of Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) complete, Varys (Conleth Hill) provides him with a new mission beyond drinking himself to death in hiding. (“Can I drink myself to death on the road?” he asks.) Meanwhile, Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) rule in Meereen is being undermined—and don’t even ask about the dragons. Among the questions not answered in Game of Thrones’ Season 5 premiere: Which will crash first under massive demand, HBO Go or HBO Now?

Silicon Valley (Sunday, April 12, HBO), season premiere: Speaking of “datageddon” (my new favorite tech-nonsense term, courtesy of “Hooli” CEO Gavin Belson), every venture-capitalist company in Silicon Valley is now courting Richard (Thomas Middleditch), Erlich (T.J. Miller) and their startup Pied Piper, while thinly veiled Google stand-in Hooli is plotting to crush them before they can even begin. As he did with corporate culture in Office Space, Silicon Valley creator Mike Judge has painted a hilariously real picture of code monkeys as ill-equipped superstars, full of overly lavish (and overly awkward) parties and gone-in-a-nanosecond tech victories. The stakes are even higher in Season 2—or at least the jargon is deeper.

Veep (Sunday, April 12, HBO), season premiere: If you thought the country was screwed with House of Cards’ Frank Underwood as the commander in chief, wait until you get a load of Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her SuperCut ascending-by-default to the office of president: She and her staff discover something they’re even more inept at than managing the vice presidency. This leads to glorious excesses of profanity, trash-talking (Veep staples) and a scriptless Selina faking her way through her first speech as president. (“I detest jazz, but this is impressive,” quips her strategist, played by the indispensible Gary Cole.) Now it’s up to this motley crew to get Selina elected for real; she’ll be campaigning and “building a roadmap to peace” simultaneously … all of which will probably end in more frightening political truth than House of Cards, if not C-SPAN.

Published in TV