CVIndependent

Mon12092019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

I’ve been with my boyfriend for a few months. Prior to dating, I was clear with him that I would need to open our relationship at some point. He initially hesitated to respond, but then agreed we could do that when the time came. That time has come much quicker than I anticipated, but I feel like he’ll renege on his end of things because of many comments he’s made recently—comments like not understanding or liking nonmonogamy, and how “his woman” sleeping around is a deal-breaker. Is this a DTMFA situation?

Specified Open Relationship Early

Early on, you let your boyfriend know that openness “at some point” was your price of admission—the price he’d have to pay to be with you—and now he’s letting you know that monogamy is his price of admission. What’s going on here? Well, sometimes Person A tells Person B what Person A knows Person B wants to hear regarding Topic X in the hopes that Person B will feel differently about Topic X after the passage of time or after Person B has made a large emotional investment in Person A. In many cases, Person A has the best intentions—by which I mean Person A isn’t being consciously manipulative, but rather Person A sincerely hopes Person B will come to feel differently about Topic X, or that they, Person A themselves, will. But considering how little time has passed, SORE—it hasn’t even been three months, and he’s saying shitty/judgy things to you about nonmonogamy and sexist/controlling things about “his woman”—it seems clear that your boyfriend wasn’t being sincere; he was being manipulative. DTMFA.


This is another request for a kinky neologism. How about those of us who like the idea of our significant other having sex with somebody else, but who aren’t into full-on cuckold-style humiliation? “Cuckold” implies a level of subordination that just isn’t my thing, and “hotwifing,” besides sounding incredibly sleazy, assumes that it’s a couple that is opposite-sex and married, and the guy is only interested in watching. Can you or the hive mind solve this problem?

Cuck In Name Only

I don’t think the term “hotwifing” is inherently heterosexist, as there are gay men and straight women out there into “hothusbanding.” (They get off on sharing their hot spouses with others, aren’t necessarily interested in getting with anyone else themselves, and don’t, à la cuckolds, get off on humiliation.) But if that term doesn’t appeal to you, CINO, there’s already an alternative: stags (a man who may or may not be dominant who likes to share his partner and may or may not participate) and vixens (a woman who may or may not be submissive who enjoys having sex with others in front of her partner and may or may not share them with others, too).


I’ve experienced anal itching in the past, and I’m not ashamed to say I enjoyed it. It felt so insanely good to satisfy that itching inside. I can find lots of information about relieving anal itching, but I can’t find anything about inducing it for pleasure.

Into Tormenting Clean Heinie

According to the Mayo Clinic, keeping your ass too clean or letting it get too dirty can induce anal itching, as can pinworms, diabetes and anal tumors. Seeing as you probably don’t want diabetes or rectal cancer, and since pinworms aren’t for sale at your local bait shop, ITCH, you could try scrubbing your ass with harsh soaps, which is what the Mayo Clinic urges people who don’t want itchy anuses to avoid. (I reversed engineered their advice for you. You’re welcome.) Good luck, and please don’t write back to let us know how you’re progressing, OK?


I am a 24-year-old pansexual trans woman, and I feel sexually broken. Hormones have made it nearly impossible for me to top a partner. I’m able to do it once in a while, but not as much or as reliably as I would like. Additionally, hormones have messed up my digestive system and made bottoming difficult. I’m also relatively sexually inexperienced, which means I’m enthusiastic about oral but not very good at it. This leaves me feeling like I bring nothing to the table.

Horny But Sex Is Thorny

Getting good at oral—like getting good at anything—takes a little practice. Let your prospective partners know you’re relatively inexperienced, and you’ll be far likelier to wind up in bed with patient and supportive people who will let you practice on them. As for bottoming, hopefully your guts will settle down in time. As for topping, well, lots of women use strap-on dildos for penetration. Having a strap-on at the ready and actively seeking out partners who don’t regard strap-on sex as a consolation prize (or a fail) will allow you to experiment with penetration without the pressure of having to produce or sustain an erection. You can switch back and forth between your dick and the dildo as needed, and being able to make it happen for your lover—using whatever tools you need—will build your confidence.

And you’re not broken, HBSIT. You are, like all of us, a work in progress. Good luck.


I’m a college professor. Several female students have confided in me they’re having trouble finding guys. (They’re not hitting on me—and even if they were, no way am I dating a student.) These girls are smart, nice, interesting, and usually obese. You and I both know that in this imperfect world, many (most?) people place importance on looks. But how do I tell them that? A straight, single, male professor telling a female student, even gently, that dropping 20 pounds might help her dating prospects is extremely risky.

Professionally Risky Observation Flummoxes

Oh my god. Keep your mouth shut. First, because it’s an asshole thing to say—never mind the professional risk—and second, because it’s not true. (Welcome to America, PROF, where most people are overweight or obese, and most people are partnered or married.)

The likelier culprit here (besides a skewed sample size and confirmation bias) is the scarcity of available male partners. Women now significantly outnumber men on college campuses: “Where men once went to college in proportions far higher than women—58 percent to 42 percent as recently as the 1970s—the ratio has now almost exactly reversed,” Jon Marcus wrote in the Atlantic. Graduating will probably do more to improve their romantic prospects than dropping 20 pounds.


I recently broke up with a girl because she didn’t know what plate tectonics was. We dated for three months. Great sex! Loved cooking together! Enjoyed spending time with her! But she was raised Mormon—and more important than that, she was simply NOT CURIOUS about science and the world. In all honesty, I think she’s a little dumb, although she doesn’t come off that way.

Science! Politics! Philosophy! All of these things are important in my life! Am I wrong for breaking up with her?

Date Tectonics

No! You did her a favor! I knew nothing about classical music before I fell in love with someone who’s passionate about classical music. I know a lot about it now, and I actually enjoy it—but I didn’t get there in three months. My husband didn’t follow the news closely until he fell in love with a news junkie. Now he’s a daily reader of The New York Times and The Washington Post—but he didn’t get there in three months. The more time we spent together, the more interest we took in each other’s interests.

There’s a lesson in here for you somewhere, DT, but I’m going to let you tease it out—because you’re CURIOUS and SMART, right?

On the Lovecast, Dan interviews sociologist and author Nicholas A. Christakis: savagelovecast.com.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; @fakedansavage on Twitter; ITMFA.org.

Published in Savage Love

The back-to-school time of year is special to people—not me, but, you know, other people: the kind of people who still have high-school graduation tassels hanging from their rearview mirrors, or still refer to their college ball teams as “we” and “us,” or whine incessantly about still-not-paid-off student loans.

Essentially, the kind of people who cause me to ponder the potential real-life benefits of The Purge.

However, just because school and those who love school suck doesn’t mean there’s no value in school-based TV shows. Here are nine series—well, eight plus one dishonorable mention—to watch in the spirit of back to school:

Daria (Seasons 1-5 on Hulu): Everything from the dissonant opening chords of theme song “You’re Standing on My Neck” to news-show-within-the-show Sick, Sad World still feels fresh-ish, as perpetually unimpressed high-schooler Daria Morgendorffer sighed for our myriad D-U-M-B sins. With smart social observations and sharp execution (if not great animation), the 1997-2002 MTV series remains the school-daze gold standard.

Clone High (Season 1 on iTunes and Google Play): Another inspired—but quickly canceled—MTV production, 2002-03’s Clone High, satirized teen dramas though the animated angst of the young clones of Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra and John F. Kennedy. In particular, Clone High played like a better-written take on Dawson’s Creek. Unfortunately, India really didn’t appreciate the show’s depiction of Mahatma Gandi, and MTV nixed a second season.

Bad Teacher (Season 1 on Crackle): For reasons known to no one, CBS produced a TV version of the 2011 Cameron Diaz film Bad Teacher in 2014—and then gave up on it after three episodes. Too bad, because Diaz replacement Ari Graynor (currently of Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here) was a far more appealing lead as a dumped trophy wife forced into elementary-school work—and this Bad Teacher was more often funnier than the movie.

Teachers (Seasons 1-3 on Amazon and iTunes): If you’ve ever wondered, “Why is there no all-female Super Troopers set in an elementary school?” you’re just fucked-up enough to appreciate Teachers, a cult comedy that’s been flying under the radar on cable since 2016. Six-woman improv troupe The Katydids (their first names are all variations on “Katherine”) take Broad City’s vanity-free pursuit of way-inappropriate laughs to another, gonzo level.

Freaks and Geeks (Season 1 on Netflix): Journalism law states that any article about school-set TV shows must include 1999-2000 NBC series Freaks and Geeks (and occasionally producer Judd Apatow’s follow-up, Undeclared). In a single, revered season, F&G played like an 18-hour indie-flick that captured early-’80s adolescence perfectly, and launched the careers of Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini and countless others (including Dave Franco’s brother).

21 Jump Street (Seasons 1-5 on Amazon): The Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill movies are funny, but they’re nothing compared to the hilarity of watching the original 1987-91 Fox cop drama and knowing that Johnny Depp & Co. were taking this shit Dead. Seriously. Sure, 21 Jump Street addressed teen issues from AIDS to alcoholism, set to a killer soundtrack, but the undercover high-schooler shtick was stoopid from the—wait for it—jump.

My So-Called Life (Season 1 on Hulu): The 1994-95 series that gave the world Claire Danes and, for better or worse, Jared Leto, only lasted for 19 episodes, but My So-Called Life (a sooo ’90s title) took on teen issues like no show before it. MSCL treated teenagers like humans, didn’t portray adults as buzzkills, and offered story perspectives from all—an approach that subliminally influenced everything from The West Wing to (!) The O.C.

Riverdale (Seasons 1-2 on Netflix): Without warning, The CW’s Gossip Girl-meets-Twin Peaks Archie Comics mutation Riverdale arrived in 2017 as a ridiculous, ready-to-rumble romp. The gang's all here: a ripped-but-sensitive Archie, a broody Jughead, a jittery Betty, and a smarter-than-the-room Veronica, throwing shade and pop-culture references with hyperbolic glee (not Glee—those kids wouldn’t stand a chance at Riverdale High).

Saved by the Bell (Seasons 1-5 on Hulu): Funny or Die’s referential web series Zack Morris Is Trash doesn’t go far enough: Everybody on Saved By the Bell is trash. The wrongly-beloved 1989-93 series introduced the misogynistic hellscape of Bayside High, where Zack harasses, dupes and manipulates teachers and classmates—and, most horrifically in hindsight, his female “friends.” No one acted, so all are to blame—including you, Gen X.

Published in TV

California’s public schools have enjoyed a remarkable restoration of funding since the bone-deep cuts they endured during the recession—but many are now facing a grave financial threat as they struggle to protect pensions crucial for teachers’ retirement.

Over the next three years, schools may need to use well more than half of all the new money they’re projected to receive to cover their growing pension obligations, leaving little extra for classrooms, state Department of Finance and Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates show. This is true even though the California State Teachers’ Retirement System just beat its investment goals for the second straight year.

Some districts are predicting deficits, and many districts are bracing for what’s to come by cutting programs, reducing staff or drawing down their reserves—even though per-pupil funding is at its highest level in three decades, and voters recently extended a tax hike on the rich to help pay for schools.

At the same time, some districts are grappling with how to simultaneously afford raises for teachers who have threatened to strike. The situation could become even bleaker if California’s economy doesn’t keep growing.

If there’s another recession—which economists say is increasingly likely, given the record length of the expansion under way now—the higher pension payments scheduled could push some districts deeper into the red, Legislative Analyst’s Office data indicates.

“Many districts’ budgets would be upside down with expenses growing faster than revenues,” said Michael Fine, CEO of the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, the state agency responsible for overseeing schools with financial problems.

School systems that saved money over the last few years will be able to use it to buy time, Fine said, but those reserves “won’t eliminate the impact or make that problem go away.” Tackling it will likely require new sources of revenue or an array of cuts.

“Building maintenance could suffer; grounds care could suffer; class size could suffer; instructional coaches could suffer; athletic programs could suffer; technology could suffer; intervention programs could suffer,” Fine said.

The problems stem from the state Legislature’s reticence to mandate steeper payments into the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. The system was badly underfunded and careening toward collapse four years ago when school districts, teachers and the state all agreed to pay more to reduce its unfunded liability, which now stands at $107 billion

Districts took on the greatest share of those new costs, agreeing to increase payments from 8 percent of their payroll in 2013 to 19 percent by 2020.

No matter how burdensome the larger and larger pension payments may be, actuaries say they’re necessary to protect teachers’ hard-earned retirement and prevent the system from running out of money. Teachers don’t get Social Security, and unlike firefighters or police officers, most retirees earn modest pensions of about $55,000 a year.

The Brown administration has directed an additional $20 billion to the state’s public schools since 2013 and says districts have had plenty of time to plan for the pension payments ahead. But many school leaders and advocates want the state to invest even more, especially since California still ranks near the bottom in per-pupil spending compared to other states.

“Knowing that these liabilities were growing, we provided districts with the resources they needed to plan accordingly,” said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance.

Meanwhile, the state’s largest teachers union is downplaying the problem and encouraging its members to bargain for raises. California’s teachers may be among the nation’s most generously paid, but they say the money doesn’t go very far, because the state’s cost of living is so high.

School officials are left with a Gordian knot of politically charged problems, forced to make escalating payments into the pension fund while trying to elevate disadvantaged students’ sagging classroom performance, which remains among the country’s worst despite the state’s big investment in their learning through a policy championed by Brown.

“We need to graduate more kids and close academic achievement gaps, but we can’t move the needle when costs are rising like this,” said Dennis Meyers, executive director of the California School Boards Association, who stressed that his group is not seeking to reduce teachers’ retirement benefits.

“We simply need more revenue, and we’re out here waving the white flag, looking for relief.”

Each of California’s school districts is bound to tackle these challenges differently, so CALmatters visited three of them whose circumstances are emblematic of what others across the state are experiencing. During those visits, we spoke with the people working to solve the problem.

Fremont Unified devotes a greater share of its budget to salary than any other district in the state—69 percent. (The three Coachella Valley school districts devote either 55 or 56 percent. See the percentage devoted to salaries at each of California’s school districts here.) So when the largest pension payments are phased in, Fremont will be hit especially hard. That means the district’s budget could face cuts even as enrollment in the Bay Area school system grows.

Sacramento City Unified knew that larger pension payments were coming and saved money to prepare for them. Then the local teachers union criticized the district for hoarding cash and threatened to strike. Now the contested funds are being used to finance a raise that teachers say is long overdue—and that the county superintendent believes the district can’t afford.

In Los Angeles, growing demand for charter schools and a dwindling birth rate has led to declining enrollment in the district’s own schools, which means pension payments will rise even as the district’s state funding shrinks. School officials recently predicted that a quarter-billion-dollar budget deficit was just two years away.


Raul Parungao’s distinctive grin and his cheery demeanor belie his concern about Fremont Unified’s finances.

Situated between Oakland and San Jose in the pricey Bay Area, the school system pays its employees more than most. That makes it a desirable place to work, but also means it will be hit especially hard when the largest payments required under Brown’s pension plan are phased in.

“There’s this sense in the community that we’re flush with cash, but I try to remind people about the other half of the story,” said Parungao, the district’s chief business officer.

Even though revenue is rising because enrollment is growing, the district must hire and pay more employees to serve them. And over the next three years, while Fremont predicts its revenue will grow by $26 million, a 7 percent bump, it also expects its employee pension and health care costs to climb by $14 million, a 23 percent surge.

“Here’s the bottom line: the extra revenue we expect to get from the state won’t be enough to keep pace with our pension contributions,” Parungao said. “The problem hasn’t exploded big yet, but it will. It’s only a matter of time. I haven’t met another chief business official who isn’t concerned about this.”

Meanwhile, Fremont’s teachers just won a small raise after months of protracted negotiations.

The current pay scale is competitive, with veterans making $114,000 a year, but leaders of the local union say about half of the teachers still don’t make enough to live in the district and must commute from up to an hour away.

But no matter how tough it may be for the district to afford this 1 percent pay hike, teachers deserve one, said Victoria Birbeck, the union’s president

“The series of small raises we’ve received haven’t covered cost of living,” she said. “Besides, the district has known about the governor’s plan for a few years now. There should have been better planning.”

Parungao said planning isn’t the problem. The district stretched to offer teachers a raise last year and even had to shift its budget by millions of dollars to accommodate that 2 percent increase, which came after a 13 percent bump over the prior three years. Plans to upgrade students’ textbooks and computers were postponed, and class size for kindergarten, first- and second-grade students increased slightly.

Given the district’s rising pension and other fixed costs, the new agreement’s $7 million price tag will be tough to accommodate. Still, Michele Berke, one of the district’s board members, acknowledged that for many teachers, $1 spent on pensions isn’t as good as $1 spent on salary.

“As we negotiate with the union, STRS is the elephant in the room,” she said in an interview before the deal was finalized, referring to the acronym for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. “We’re paying toward your future, but those payments don’t help put food on the dinner table.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg only worked with a few key players one weekend last fall when he helped broker a deal to avert a citywide teacher strike, and former school board president Jay Hansen was one of them.

Hansen had tried for months to negotiate the terms of a pay increase for the city’s 3,000 teachers, but the district and leaders of the local teachers union were far apart, and neither side would budge. An acrimonious relationship between the two camps was partly to blame for the impasse.

“It’s like the Hatfields and the McCoys,” Hansen said. “No one remembers why they can’t get along.”

At issue during the talks was the $81 million sitting in Sacramento City Unified’s savings account, a sum the district had built up over several years with spoils from California’s booming economy.

The union said the money should go toward class-size reduction and raises for teachers that would make the district a more attractive place to work. Sacramento educators are paid less than their peers in nearby districts, but they also receive more generous lifetime health benefits, records show. The district said it had saved the money to help cover rising pension and employee health care costs in the lean budget years ahead.

In the end, Steinberg helped craft an agreement that gives Sacramento teachers an 11 percent raise over three years. But just a few weeks after Steinberg announced the deal during a celebratory news conference on the steps of City Hall, Sacramento County Superintendent Dave Gordon delivered some bad news: The district can’t afford it.

“Based on the review of the public disclosure and the multi-year projections provided by the district, our office has concerns over the district’s ability to afford this compensation package and maintain ongoing fiscal solvency,” Gordon wrote in a December letter to the district.

The district’s own budget offers proof of Gordon’s concerns.

Over the next three years, the school system anticipates its revenue will grow by $6 million, a 1 percent increase, while its pension and health care costs grow by more than $18 million, an 11 percent increase. A popular summer program for struggling students has already been eliminated to save money

A second letter Gordon sent in January further underscores his concerns. He called the district’s plan to use one-time money to help cover the cost of the new contract a “poor business practice” that “only perpetuates the district’s ongoing structural deficit.”

“The pension contributions are putting a strain on everyone’s budgets,” Gordon said in an interview.

Even though Hansen had been the union’s adversary during months of stalled contract talks, he defended the district’s decision to offer teachers a raise, calling it “the right thing to do” despite the school system’s escalating pension and health care costs. “We did it anyway,” he added.

Steinberg echoed Hansen’s perspective.

“A strike would have been calamitous for everybody,” he said. And Sacramento isn’t the only place in California where teachers are thinking about a show of force: At least half a dozen other local unions fighting for higher wages have held labor actions in recent months.

In an interview with CALmatters that union leaders cut short after refusing to answer some questions, Executive Director John Borsos rejected any suggestion that the district won’t be able to afford the contract it recently signed or that it ever claimed to have needed the money stockpiled in its savings account to cover rising pension costs.

“They have more than enough to cover the pension increases,” Borsos said. “And they didn’t make that argument at the bargaining table.”


Gov. Jerry Brown promised his 2014 funding plan would shore up California’s teacher-pension system, but at least one young Los Angeles teacher, Josh Brown, says he’s not counting on it. The Oliver Wendell Holmes Middle School special educator is so worried about the system’s solvency that he has an alternative retirement plan: using a portion of his salary to invest in the stock market.

“I’m a fifth-year teacher. I’m 30 years old, and I’m paying into a pension system that may or may not be around when I retire,” he said. “If I were 65 years old and retiring soon, I would feel differently. Right now, I feel frustrated and worried.”

The largest payments required under the plan will be tough for many districts to manage, but they’re going to be especially vexing for large urban districts like Los Angeles Unified, which lost 100,000 students in the last decade and expects to shed more. (Here's the toll of that under-enrollment, school by school.) That’s a problem, because California’s schools are funded on a per-pupil basis, and fewer students means less money.

In Los Angeles, the swift enrollment decline is due to a dwindling birthrate and growing demand for charter schools, which are publicly funded but independently run, meaning their budgets are separate from that of the district.

Over the next three years, the district anticipates its employee pension and health-care costs will climb $90 million, a 5 percent increase, while its revenue dips about $270 million, a 4 percent decline. The result is a $258 million budget deficit in 2020 that the district can no longer paper over, push off or ignore.

“We’re going to have to tighten our belts to save our schools,” said Nick Melvoin, a board member whose stark views on district finances have been criticized by skeptical local union leaders and fellow board members. “We’re in a death spiral.”

The district plans to tackle the deficit with a one-time $105 million bailout from the state and central-office staff reductions. But observers says officials will soon need to consider some painful measures it has so far been able to avoid, like boosting high school class sizes or closing schools with dwindling numbers of students.

At least 55 schools across the district are under-enrolled by a quarter, and 10 of those are half-empty, a CALmatters analysis of building capacity and enrollment data shows.

“Our costs are rising, and as a result, there are hard choices and trade-offs to make each time we look at the budget,” said Scott Price, the district’s chief financial officer.

Parent Paul Robak fears that if the district doesn’t tackle its budget problems soon, it could be taken over by the state. At a recent board meeting, he urged the members to reject a health-care spending plan that would further squeeze the budget. The members listened and thanked him for testifying before approving the agreement.

“It’s as if the board members are prancing down the lane and covering their ears, pretending nothing’s wrong,” said Robak, who has been active on the district’s parent councils for a decade. “Everyone will lose if we fail to act.”

Board member Kelly Gonez also acknowledged the district’s budget woes and the pressure of rising pension and health care costs, but said officials should be trying to ease the pain by finding new sources of revenue, not by making cuts. All but one other board member declined to comment.

Even as a fiscal crisis looms, Los Angeles teachers are negotiating for a raise.

“Everyone who works in the district comes to work with an expectation they’re going to be treated fairly. They need to be treated fairly,” Austin Beutner, a former investment banker and the district’s new superintendent, told the Los Angeles Times. “How we strike that balance remains to be seen.”

United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl declined CALmatters’ request for an interview. However, at a Pepperdine University event held before the state bailout was announced, he pledged to keep pushing for more money and predicted that the state would come through.

“If we take it off the table,” Caputo-Pearl said, “then we are acknowledging that the public district system is going to go off a fiscal cliff, which (is something) I’m not willing to acknowledge.”


Flooded with calls from anxious school officials, Sen. Anthony Portantino of La Cañada Flintridge and several other Democrats pushed earlier this year for a fix that would boost districts’ funding by $1 billion a year. In the end, Portantino convinced Brown to include about half as much in the state budget he signed a few weeks ago.

He insisted that the money be “flexible,” meaning districts may use it to cover rising pension costs or for anything else. But California’s schools are still underfunded compared to other states, and to better fulfill their responsibility to students and taxpayers, that must change, he said.

“In a few months, we’ll have a new governor with a new set of priorities,” Portantino said. “Is there more to do? Absolutely.”

CalSTRS’ first official report on the impact of districts’ growing pension obligations is due to the Legislature in the middle of next year, when school budgets will likely be squeezed the most.

In the meantime, Fine hopes a recession doesn’t strike soon and that districts can manage their budgets without needing to make cuts or send out pink slips. He was a deputy superintendent in Riverside during the Great Recession and remembers how painful it was to carry out round after round of layoffs.

“We lost one of the best counselors and some very bright teachers. I had to layoff someone who years earlier had taught my young children how to swim,” Fine said. “I remember their faces.”

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Local Issues

Need more proof that broadcast television is out of ideas? S.W.A.T. (series debut Thursday, Nov. 2, CBS) is a TV show based on a 2003 movie based on a 1975 TV show—neither of which fared particularly well. (There was no 2 S.W.A.T. 2 Spurious film sequel, and the series lasted just 37 episodes.) Still, CBS is banking on ex-Criminal Minds star Shemar Moore to carry this re-reboot, because he’s the only face anyone’s going to recognize. Here, he’s former Marine “Hondo” Harrelson, a streetwise Los Angelino charged with leading the local Special Weapons and Tactics unit (militarized police, because ’Merica). Everyone else on the show? Mix-and-match CBS cop-procedural pretty people. This will run for years.

By the time a series hits eight seasons, there ain’t much story left to tell—remember cautionary Showtime series Dexter and Weeds? At least Californication had the good sense to bail at seven. Shameless (Season 8 premiere Sunday, Nov. 5, Showtime), on the other hand, has the legs to go eight more, as there’s no more endlessly evolving and entertaining TV family than the Gallaghers. Who would have expected Fiona (Emmy Rossum) to become a businesswoman, or Lip (Jeremy Allen White) to get sober? Or perpetual deadbeat Frank (William H. Macy) to become an upstanding citizen? (Best wait to see how long that lasts.) I’ve been tellin’ ya since 2010: This is America’s Family. Get thee to Netflix.

The “S” in SMILF (series debut Sunday, Nov. 5, Showtime) stands for “Single”; you know the rest. Twenty-something Boston mom Bridgette (Frankie Shaw, who created, wrote and directed this series based on her same-name Sundance short film) juggles parenting, an acting career and relationships in Los Angeles—a reality-slapped twist on the usual autobiographical actor/comic project. Even after Better Things and Fleabag, a female lead in this raw—and funny, it should be noted—a series is still somehow surprising and novel, and SMILF upstages Showtime partner White Famous through sheer willingness to go there. (Jay Pharoah is great, but WF still feels timid.) Shaw is a star—watch her.

Last year’s debut season of The Girlfriend Experience (Season 2 premiere Sunday, Nov. 5, Starz) arrived with much hype thanks to the connections to Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 film and The King. (Season 1 star Riley Keough is Elvis Presley’s granddaughter.) Season 2 of Tales of High-End Prostitution introduces all-new characters and two storylines: one involving a Republican super-PAC director (Anna Friel) and an escort (Louisa Krause) entwined in a steamy blackmail scheme; the other is about an ex-prostitute (Carmen Ejogo) in the witness protection program who dangerously falls back into her old ways. The Girlfriend Experience maybe not be as ’70s kitschy as The Deuce, but it does have a grit all its own.

All that’s missing from the USA Network’s bid to become a serious prestige-cable network is a period drama … oh, here’s one now! “An epic saga about the secret history of the 1930s American heartland, Damnation (series debut Tuesday, Nov. 7, USA) centers on the mythic conflict and bloody struggle between big money and the downtrodden, God and greed, charlatans and prophets.” Whoa, hyperbole much? Damnation has plenty going for it, including writers and directors from Hell or High Water and Longmire, as well as co-star Logan Marshall-Green (late of Cinemax’s fantastic-but-canceled Quarry), but it mostly just adds up to dust and bluster. This proves once again that nothing good has ever come out of Iowa.

When it aired what I thought was its series finale back in March, I was sure I’d never see Teachers (Season 2 fall premiere Tuesday, Nov. 7, TV Land) again. Surprise! That was just the “spring finale” of the second season before an eight-month “hiatus” … what? Anyway: Female comedy troupe the Katydids (Caitlin Barlow, Katy Colloton, Cate Freedman, Kate Lambert, Katie O'Brien and Kathryn Renée Thomas, hence the name—get it?) are back for more episodes of hot-mess elementary-school hilarity, inexplicable Walking Dead-sized breaks aside. This pleasant, unexpected gift at least makes up for the disappointment that was IFC’s Baroness Von Sketch Show.

Published in TV

On this week's grossly overbooked weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat tries to build a better mousetrap; Apoca Clips ponders Syria; Jen Sorenson looks at a double-standard regarding the treatment of children; The K Chronicles tells a story about how just one teacher can make a difference; and This Modern World examines life during wartime.

Published in Comics

My Kitchen Rules (Thursday, Jan. 12, Fox), series debut: This what the “celebrity” competition show has come to: a cook-off. In a borrowed Australian format, this show features teams of two taking turns hosting dinner parties for their competitors and judges—you suck, you go home. The “star” duos of My Kitchen Rules are N’Sync’s Lance Bass and his mom, bro-and-sis singers Brandy and Ray J, comedian Andrew Dice Clay and Mrs. Clay, Real Housewife of Who Gives a Shit? Brandi Glanville and some dude, and singer Naomi Judd and her long-suffering husband. Judges Curtis Stone and Cat Cora, chefs who are arguably bigger celebrities than everyone else in this clown car, could keep it interesting, but what’s next? Landscaping With the Stars? Celebrity Dog Wash? Or …

Caraoke Showdown (Thursday, Jan. 12, Spike), series debut: I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, this is exactly like James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke!” Wrong-o, you cynical dolt! It’s totally different, because there are no celebrities! Also, the host is Craig Robinson! It’s like comparing the bassline of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” to Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”—the ocean of disparity between the two is staggeringly vast! Incomprehensibly colossal! Goddamned yuge! How dare you suggest that Spike has given up on original ideas because of the success of Lip Sync Battle, which is just a stolen Jimmy Fallon bit! We’re making America great again here, people—you can either get onboard with Caraoke Showdown, or sit over there on the wrong side of history like a chump! Sad!

Homeland (Sunday, Jan. 15, Showtime), series premiere: After losing touch with/interest in terrorism soap Homeland a few years ago when—spoiler!—Damian Lewis’ co-lead character Brody was killed off, I’ve recently gotten caught-up on the Crazy Carrie (Claire Danes) solo-album seasons. Much to my surprise, Homeland has held up well without Brody—and Danes, who was great to begin with, is fan-damn-tastic on her own and unencumbered by that ginger dead weight. (Lewis is better off on Showtime’s Billions, anyway.) Season 6 finds Carrie back stateside after last year’s harrowing Berlin arc, but all isn’t well in the U.S.: A new president has been elected (!), and the transfer of power is looking to be tense and rocky (!!). If that’s not eerily real enough, this season will take place entirely between Election Day and Inauguration Day (!!!). Hell, let’s just go full bizarro and stage a crossover with Billions, already.

Teachers (Tuesday, Jan. 17, TV Land), season premiere: Last January, TV Land quietly debuted this raucous mashup of Super Troopers, Bad Teacher and Broad City from six-woman comedy-improv troupe The Katydids (all of their first names are variations on “Katherine”), a hilariously wrong half-hour that almost elicits sympathy for their elementary-school pupils—until you remember that, oh yeah, they’re elementary-school pupils. The Teachers rank at varying levels on the Hot Mess Scale, but no Katydid (Caitlin Barlow, Katy Colloton, Cate Freedman, Kate Lambert, Katie O’Brien and Kathryn Renée Thomas … whew) outshines another in the ensemble, reminiscent of old-school cable anarchy-com It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Your homework: binge Season 1.

Six (Wednesday, Jan. 18, History), series debut: A SEAL Team Six action drama? “Inspired by real missions”? Like USA’s military-leaning Shooter, Six has experienced setbacks and delays. (Original star Joe Manganiello dropped out during filming, causing Six to scrap its planned July 2016 premiere.) Also like Shooter, which has become an underreported stealth hit, Six has just enough jingoistic grit and brothers-in-arms heart to appeal to a flyover ’Merica wary of the dark geopolitical ambiguousness of shows like Homeland (though both share a director, Lesli Linka Glatter). In a lucky get, Walton Goggins (Justified), an actor who can do no wrong, has replaced Maganiello as captured SEAL Team Six leader “Rip” Taggart, adding some serious gravitas to this modern Saving Private Ryan riff. Big words aside: Much yellin,’ explodin’ and killin.’

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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.

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Vinyl (Sunday, Feb. 14, HBO), series debut: “What? You thought records got played because they’re good?” sniffs American Century Records president Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale), explaining away the radio-payola tactics of his marketing right-hand man (Ray Romano), who secures the label’s bands airplay with a little coke and a lot of cash. Thing is, Richie loves good music—he can hear a hit instantly, and gets downright misty-eyed over the artistry. Likewise, Vinyl, an early-’70s-set remix of New York City music-scene fact and fairy tale, loves rock ’n’ roll, cramming real-deal period tunes into nearly every second of every scene (with the exception of the music of Led Zeppelin—glaring, since the band figures prominently, and hilariously, in Vinyl’s two-hour premiere episode). It’s all as excessive and beautiful as you’d expect a collaboration between Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter and Mick Jagger to be, blending Almost Famous’ music-saves earnestness with Velvet Goldmine’s visceral glam bombast and cranking it to 11, the buzz only blunted by the occasional too-long quiet stretch and cliché-weary voiceover. Like a good rock show, Vinyl’s first episode is exhausting—and there are eight more to come, so strap on your most-sensible platform boots.

The Walking Dead (Sunday, Feb. 14, AMC), winter premiere: When last we left The Walking Dead, Team Rick was leading (what’s left of) the Alexandrians quietly though the undead swarm that had breached the compound, disguised by walker guts but potentially exposed by Jessie’s son, who was whining for mommy. (Even in an apocalypse, kids are the worst.) Meanwhile, outside Alexandria, Daryl, Sasha and Abraham had a not-at-all-cute meeting with the Saviors, a new band of grandiosely named road goons—but these goons are in league with mucho-hyped baddie Negan (incoming guest star Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who’s being built up as the closest—thus, most dangerous—equal to Rick that the group has ever encountered. Not to mention all of the possible, comic-book-preordained character deaths—Happy Valentine’s Day!

Better Call Saul (Monday, Feb. 15, AMC), season premiere: The 2015 debut season of Better Call Saul was a minor miracle that not only borrowed elements from, and expanded upon, a seemingly impossible-to-follow milestone TV series (Breaking Bad—like you needed to be reminded), but also built its own world in the span of 10 episodes, and proved Jimmy McGill/future Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) could headline his own show. Rather than sweat the follow-up to that follow-up, BCS jumps right back into the business of incrementally transforming small-time Albuquerque lawyer Slippin’ Jimmy into medium-time legal shark Saul Goodman. None show up early in Season 2, but it’s rumored that some (more) Breaking Bad characters will be making appearances on Better Call Saul—I know the odds-on favorite is Gus Fring, but I’m holding out for Badger and Skinny Pete.

Broad City (Wednesday, Feb. 17, Comedy Central), season premiere: Between Full Frontal With Samantha Bee and Angie Tribeca on TBS, Younger and Teachers on TV Land, and Idiotsitter, Not Safe With Nikki Glaser and now, returning champions Broad City, on Comedy Central, it’s a great time for female-led comedy on cable—and that’s not even counting the resurgence of Sarah Palin on the news channels. Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s stoner Laverne and Shirley was already renewed for Seasons 4 and 5 ahead of tonight’s Season 3 premiere, which means at least 20 more episodes of Brooklyn misadventures with the other Girls, and the occasional Hannibal Buress sighting sans subtitles. But right now, the biggest news of BC3 is that presidential still-a-candidate Hillary Clinton will drop in on Ilana and Abbi, which may or may not prompt a Bernie Sanders guest rebuttal on Workaholics.

Teachers (Wednesdays, TV Land), new series: When Teachers was mentioned above, it’s entirely possible you thought to yourself, “What the hell’s that? Something else I have to catch up on?” Yes, it is—remember, There’s Too Many Shows. Along with The Jim Gaffigan Show, Impastor and Younger, 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”) have inadvertently edged out Gaffigan on the funny front. (Sorry, Jim—it’s six against one.) Imagine Super Troopers gender-flipped into an elementary school, dosed with Broad City’s fearless, vanity-free pursuit of so-wrong laughs. We’re only six episodes into Season 1—catch up on Hulu and TVLand.com, now.

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