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29 Jun 2016

True TV: 'Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll' Is Still Dumb Fun; 'Killjoys' and 'Dark Matter' Return

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As Season 2 of Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll opens, Johnny Rock (Denis Leary) and his Assassins bandmates react to the death of a fellow musician—2016 is the year for it—as only rock narcissists would. As Season 2 of Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll opens, Johnny Rock (Denis Leary) and his Assassins bandmates react to the death of a fellow musician—2016 is the year for it—as only rock narcissists would.

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (Thursday, June 30, FX), season premiere: The debut of Denis Leary’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll last summer presaged two rock-centric dramas, HBO’s just-cancelled Vinyl and Showtime’s currently meh Roadies—and his occasionally haphazard, always-swaggering comedy still nails inter-band relationships better than either. As Season 2 opens, Johnny Rock (Leary) and his Assassins bandmates react to the death of a fellow musician—2016 is the year for it—as only rock narcissists would: We each gotta establish solo-career immortality! (Wiki “Kiss,” “1978” and “mountains of record-company cocaine,” kids.) As terrible/hilarious as that idea sounds, SDRR doubles-down with actor Campbell Scott (as himself) buying the Irish Potato Famine rock opera by bassist Rehab (John Ales) from Season 1 and remaking it as a Hamilton-esque Broadway musical. Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is still gloriously ridiculous—rip off the knob, and turn it up.

Greatest Hits (Thursday, June 30, ABC), series debut: In 2015, a study circulated stating that the average person stops seeking out and listening to new music at the age of 33, settling into a one-ear-in-the-grave groove of just sticking with the tunes of their formative years. This is why all “classic rock” radio stations play the same 20 songs every day, as opposed to the same 10 songs spun into the ground hour after hour on younger-skewing “pop hits!” stations, broken up by regular 12-minute ad breaks on both. So, if you’re dead inside enough for commercial radio, Greatest Hits is probably for you: O.G.s (Original Geezers) and newer artists come together to perform the chart-toppers of yesteryear. Sound harmless? Tonight’s premiere episode features the union of REO Speedwagon and Pitbull. Think about what you’ve let happen, ’Merica.

Killjoys (Friday, July 1, Syfy), season premiere: Neither Killjoys, nor its Friday-night companion, Dark Matter, were ratings blowouts in their debut seasons last summer, both hovering at around 1 million viewers a week—but at least they got Syfy back into space (and, as observed in publications geek-thinkier than this one, projected a more realistically race- and gender-diverse future than most sci-fi series). Killjoys, about a trio of interplanetary bounty hunters (Hannah John-Kamen, Aaron Ashmore and Luke Macfarlane) working a quadrant seething with societal-class tensions (before Syfy’s pricier The Expanse did it), was more fun, balancing action, humor and clear stakes, and letting John-Kamen’s Dutch just be a badass heroine with none of the genre’s usual Strong Female Lead hype. A Season 1 Hulu binge here is a must, more so than with …

Dark Matter (Friday, July 1, Syfy), season premiere: Syfy seemingly thought Dark Matter would be last year’s insta-hit, promoting it heavily and leaving Killjoys to bat cleanup. But a really, really, really ridiculously good-looking cast didn’t make up for a muddled storyline (six people wake up on an adrift spaceship without memories, but with specific mercenary skills and bad attitudes) and a dreary, claustrophobic setting. (Their ship made the Battlestar Galactica look like a Carnival cruise.) Even though Season 2 opens with the gang entering an intergalactic prison in their undies—well-played, Syfy—the Sexy Six will see more of the outside world this time around before unleashing some vengeful ass-kickery onto the Corporate Warlords (which I’m trademarking as a band name as you read). In addition to more focused plotting, Dark Matters has scored a major get in casting Franka Potente as a galactic authority determined to bring the group down. Season 1 is on Netflix, but you might as well just jump in now.

Lady Dynamite (Streaming, Netflix), new series: Yeah, I missed this when it debuted—have I mentioned that There’s Too Many Shows? But there’s no better way to spend the Fourth of July weekend than watching all 12 episodes of Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite, a meta-comedy that does for bipolar disorder what Bojack Horseman did for depression, and Jessica Jones did for PTSD: Make entertaining, thoughtful art out of the usually “too heavy” to even talk about. Lady Dynamite’s time-jumping storytelling and fourth-wall-breaking asides would be overkill even in a less-surreal setting, but the long-underrated Bamford (and a boatload of guest stars) makes the weirdness of this semi-autobiographical story work seamlessly—and kudos to Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath for one of the most self-deprecating rock-star cameos of all time. Sounds good, feels right.

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