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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

TV

25 Oct 2017
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Look, I liked the first go-round of Stranger Things (Season 2 premiere Friday, Oct. 27, Netflix) just fine, sort of like Panda Express takeout: filling, not quite dog food, coulda been worse. But then you people whipped up a breathless hype frenzy like it was The Greatest TV Show of All Time, and things just got ’80s-romanticizing-stoopider from there. And Barb? She’s dead; get over it. Season 2 of Stranger Things picks up a year later, on Halloween 1984, with Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) returning from The Upside Down to help the gang take on a new crop of weirdness in Hawkins. Meanwhile, Joyce (Winona Ryder) as cray as ever. (Hey, if ain’t broke.) There’s also the Reagan/Bush re-election campaign to deal with—boo! What an ambitious year 2015 was for broadcast network dramas—successful, not so much. Scream Queens, Limitless, Blood and Oil, Heroes Reborn, The Player, Wicked City, Rosewood, Minority…
18 Oct 2017
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Way back in April, I dismissed the debut of Great News (Thursdays, NBC) as an inferior Tina Fey production that lacked the snap of 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and I saw no point in the casting of Nicole Richie. But by the time the newsroom comedy wrapped its initial 10 episodes, Great News had found its goofy groove, and Richie proved herself to be an adept comic actress. (Let’s just pretend that VH1’s Candidly Nicole never happened.) Sure, Andrea Martin could dial it down a little—OK, a lot—but so what? Season 2 continues the subtle-but-sharp transformation into 30 Rock 2.0, meaning Great News is no longer the worst sitcom on NBC … here’s looking at you, Will and Grace. Like Ghost Wars, Superstition (series debut Friday, Oct. 20, Syfy) is an effectively creepy Syfy show saddled with a lame title: C’mon, Ghost Wars sounds like a reality series…
11 Oct 2017
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In her new weekly series I Love You, America (series debut Thursday, Oct. 12, Hulu), comedian Sarah Silverman is “looking to connect with people who may not agree with her personal opinions through honesty, humor, genuine interest in others, and not taking herself too seriously. … Silverman feels it’s crucial, now more than ever, to connect with un-like-minded people.” If you’re skeptical of Liberal Elite Hollywood’s motives for hanging out with Red State rednecks while promising to not to shit on them, join the club. But it’s a promising chat show/travelogue setup, and Silverman is more capable of pulling it off sincerely than, say, Chelsea Handler. She still does that thing on Netflix … doesn’t she? With a cool title like Mindhunter (series debut Friday, Oct. 13, Netflix), you’d expect sci-fi series loaded with psychic warfare and exploding heads, or is that just me? Sadly, this Mindhunter is another cop…
04 Oct 2017
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Now that The Strain is over, TV only has one vampire apocalypse show, Van Helsing (Season 2 premiere Thursday, Oct. 5, Syfy), and it’s finally stepping up to the challenge. In Season 1, Vanessa Van Helsing (Kelly Overton) spent mucho time wandering underground and losing colleagues—saving Canadian dollars on locations and costars, apparently—in a slow buildup to the vamp beatdown. Series creator/writer Neil LaBute—yes, that Neil LaBute—took a glacial approach that was unusual for a Syfy hour, and Overton more than delivered on the human drama and (occasional) vampire-slayer action. Now, the bigger/bloodier battle to take back the world really begins; come back if you got bored and bailed. No, it’s not a reality show about haunted storage units—Ghost Wars (series debut Thursday, Oct. 5, Syfy) is about malicious paranormal forces taking over a remote town in the remotest of states, Alaska. Anything set in The Last Frontier is automatically…
27 Sep 2017
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Not much was expected of Marvel’s Inhumans (series debut Friday, Sept. 29, ABC), and the two-hour pilot doesn’t … not? … deliver on that lowered bar. Like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with more ridiculous outfits, or dollar-store X-Men, Inhumans Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Medusa (Serinda Swan), Gorgon (Eme Ikwuakor), Triton (Mike Moh), Karnak (Ken Leung), Crystal (Isabelle Cornish), Maximus (Iwan Rheon) and supersized teleporting-dog Lockjaw are a royal family of don’t-call-them-mutants who flee the moon for Hawaii to establish a persecuted-superheroes-as-Dreamers narrative. An underwritten, obscure Marvel property dumped on Friday night doesn’t really need to perform, but it should do … something. Craig Robinson and Adam Scott in a paranormal comedy? Sounds like Adult Swim material, but Ghosted (series debut Sunday, Oct. 1, Fox) fits nicely into the Sunday-night broadcast between The Simpsons and Family Guy, maybe even better than The Last Man on Earth (which also returns tonight, Tandy fans).…
20 Sep 2017
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It’s finally here—and CBS won’t let TV critics see it in advance. Everything’s probably fine, just fine. Star Trek: Discovery (series debut Sunday, Sept. 24, CBS) has been a troubled production since it was announced two years ago; the least of its problems is that it’ll move to yet another paid streaming service (CBS All Access, whatever that is) after it debuts on CBS proper. The showrunner (Bryan Fuller, moving onto America Gods) dropped out; casting the lead took forever (finally going to The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green); the premiere date kept getting pushed back. Now, no reviews allowed? Maybe the debut will hook you into another subscription service. If not, there’s always The Orville. Young Sheldon (series debut Monday, Sept. 25, CBS) … dear god, no. As if an origin story for the most annoying, played-out character on television weren’t enough, one-note Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons also…
13 Sep 2017
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The first season of Better Things (Season 2 premiere Thursday, Sept. 14, FX) debuted quietly and closed to a deafening chorus of critical huzzahs, but no one had an answer for the question: “Is it a comedy, or is it a drama?” Creator/star Pamela Adlon has summed it up best as an “incredible feelings show,” so there. Better Things is a different animal than other Comics Kinda Play Themselves series; thanks to the influence of Adlon’s creative partner, Louis C.K., the closest comparison is Louie. Adlon’s a far better actor than C.K., and she can make you laugh, cry and scream along with single mom Sam and her three daughters—the most layered, interesting kids on TV, BTW—with uncanny ease. Catch up, noncritics. Eastbound and Down Goes to School is back in session! Vice Principals (Season 2 premiere Sunday, Sept. 17, HBO), which reunites E&D creators Danny McBride and Jody Hill,…
05 Sep 2017
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As I write this, David Lynch is apparently in France, awaiting the reactions to his final episodes of Twin Peaks. After a 26-year pause, the story of Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer continued this summer with 18 otherworldly episodes—and the series concluded in a way that was just as perplexing as that moment when Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) stared at his Evil Bob reflection in the mirror all those years ago. Peaks fans, let’s face it: Whether or not this is the final bow for Peaks, the story will never be tied up in a neat little package, even if it does come back again. Lynch loves his puzzles—see Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway as proof—and Twin Peaks has proven to be the ultimate Lynch puzzler. You can approach the series in so many different ways—all of them making perfect sense—or you can look the whole thing as a failure…
06 Sep 2017
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No animated series, not even the vaunted Rick and Morty, makes you feel the feels like BoJack Horseman (Season 4 premiere Friday, Sept. 8, Netflix). Last season was especially dark, culminating with BoJack (the voice of Will Arnett) once again pulling defeat from minor comeback victory and attempting highway suicide (told ya—dark). Now, he’s gone missing, and Hollywoo—they still haven’t fixed the “D”—is without its third, or maybe fourth, favorite ’90s sitcom horse. Diane (Alison Brie) and Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) are dealing in their own ways (and not well), while Todd (Aaron Paul) has stumbled into a fashion-modeling gig with Sharc Jacobs. Oh, how I’ve missed the animal puns … Rescued from the obscurity of Vimeo, Con Man (network debut Saturday, Sept. 9, Syfy) is going to be a pleasant surprise for casual nerds. While his former co-star (Nathan Fillion) of the 10-years-canceled space-adventure series Spectrum has gone…
30 Aug 2017
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Too many people told me that I “just have to” watch Ozark (streaming, Netflix), another summer series that got by me because there are Too Many Shows. Ozark must be good, since Netflix has renewed it for a second season, right? I blame Netflix’s idiotic, downright Trumpian “Very Good/Very Bad” ratings system. The Jason Bateman crime drama (he also directed half of Ozark’s episodes) mostly lives up to its Southern-Fried Breaking Bad hype, leaning more heavily on action than creating any characters to give a shit about. This makes for a quick binge—smart, because the plot (a nonsensical money-laundering operation in a Missouri tourist trap) shouldn’t be overthought. “Very Meh.” Meanwhile, The Guest Book (Thursdays, TBS) is halfway through its debut season, and you’ve probably never even heard of it. Creator/producer Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl) has created a sorta-anthology comedy about a rental cabin in a small mountain…