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11 Nov 2015

True TV: Reunited 'W/ Bob and David'; Soaping It Up With 'The Royals'

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W/ Bob and David isn’t the groundbreaking vehicle that Mr. Show was, but Odenkirk and Cross still deliver the goods like it’s 1995. W/ Bob and David isn’t the groundbreaking vehicle that Mr. Show was, but Odenkirk and Cross still deliver the goods like it’s 1995.

W/ Bob and David (Friday, Nov. 13, Netflix), series debut: I’m going to assume/hope my audience is too young to remember HBO’s Mr. Show With Bob and David—if not, then I’m talking to a bunch of geezers who won’t be around much longer to continue to support my lavish lifestyle. Anyway: Mr. Show was a ’90s sketch-comedy series starring Bob Odenkirk (now of Better Call Saul fame) and David Cross (Arrested Development and The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret infamy) that was nothing less than the American Monty Python: a fearless, biting comedy whirlwind that eviscerated pop culture and influenced every show after it. W/ Bob and David isn’t the groundbreaking vehicle that was, but Odenkirk and Cross (as well as several returning Mr. Show regulars and some new faces) still deliver the goods like it’s 1995. Where’s my flannel shirt and sixer of Zima?

Spotless (Saturday, Nov. 14, Esquire), series debut: A new original drama … from the Esquire Network … because maximum saturation in The Age of Too Much TV has not yet been achieved, apparently. Esquire’s original programming thus far has consisted of iffy reality shows (Knife Fight, White Collar Brawlers, Friday Night Tykes, etc.), but London-set Spotless has an intriguing premise: Professional crime-scene cleaner Jean (Marc-André Grondin) is dragged into the mob underworld by his criminal brother (Denis Ménochet) to scrub murder scenes before the law gets involved—or else, as per mob tradition, their blood and their family’s blood will be the next splattered. Spotless balances darkness, tension and humor as if it’s shooting for Breaking Bad with a Brit twist, and occasionally succeeds—if it were on a better-established network, it could maybe even last a couple of seasons.

Into the Badlands (Sunday, Nov. 15, AMC), series debut: While this is of the few new series not based on a comic book, martial-arts actioner Into the Badlands certainly looks like one: Bullet-biking warrior Sunny (Daniel Wu) kicks ass and sheds blood across a future, gun-free (!) America ruled by seven warlords, like Kung Fu (Wiki it) meets Mad Max with a Tarantino twist. (The producers of Django Unchained and Pulp Fiction are involved, after all.) This should click with The Walking Dead’s fans, but, of course, AMC had to shoot itself in the brain stem by sandwiching Into the Badlands between TWD and Talking Dead, a beyond-stupid move that will only piss off zombie connoisseurs: “I have to wait an hour to dissect this week’s episode with Chris Hardwick and three randos?!”

The Royals (Sunday, Nov. 15, E!), season premiere: The first season wasn’t perfect, but at least The Royals broke E! out of its Vacuous Morons With Too Much Money reality-show groove, with soapy modern drama and serious star power: Elizabeth Hurley was born to play the Queen of England, and newcomer Alexandra Park should be an It Actress by the time this series ends, if not sooner. Season 2 continues the Gossip Girl in Buckingham Palace ridiculousness, with Queen Helena (Hurley) plotting to wrest the throne from her conspirator Cyrus (Jake Maskall); party kids Princess Eleanor (Park) and Prince Liam (William Moseley) are still on the outs with the monarchy; and the Grand Duchess (Joan Collins—yes, Joan Collins) is still unnecessary with all of these other spinning plates in the air. As escapist trash goes, The Royals is as sophisticated as E! gets.

Chicago Med (Tuesday, Nov. 17, NBC), series debut: Ah, Dick Wolf. If anyone can resurrect the primetime medical drama (no, Grey’s Anatomy and The Night Shift don’t count, and CBS’ new Code Black is flat-lining), it’s probably him. Sure, The Walking Dead’s Laurie Holden dropped out of this early on, as did the original showrunner, but so what? Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. are the highest-rated non-karaoke shows on NBC, so get ready for years of Med and, soon, Chicago Animal Control, Chicago Building Inspection, Chicago Credit Union, Chicago Uber, Chicago Pizza, Chicago Dog and Chicago Sunroof.

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