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26 Jul 2017

True TV: The Duplass Brothers Check Into 'Room 104'; 'Sinner' Shows Jessica Biel's Dark Side

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A time-spanning anthology series, Room 104 follows various occupants of a single motel room—including a mysterious maid looking for clues and two Mormon missionaries questioning their faith. A time-spanning anthology series, Room 104 follows various occupants of a single motel room—including a mysterious maid looking for clues and two Mormon missionaries questioning their faith.

The Duplass Brothers have created some intriguing, if not always watchable, shows for HBO (Togetherness and Animals, only one of which is still a thing), and Room 104 (series debut Friday, July 28, HBO) could be their best yet. A time-spanning anthology series, Room 104 follows various occupants of a single motel room; the premiere episode, about a baby sitter and a strange boy, is a mini horror film, while the others range from mysterious (a maid looking for clues) to visceral (a pair of female MMA fighters sparring) to sexy (a pizza-delivery guy invited into a twisted threesome) to awkward (two Mormon missionaries questioning their faith, among other things). Verdict: Watchable!

It’s finally here! Rick and Morty (Season 3 resumes Sunday, July 30, Adult Swim) dropped the first episode of its third season on April Fool’s Day (how delightfully schwifty) and then made us wait three more months, because creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland can’t get it together. Then again, there was a lot to process from that episode: Earth had been taken over by alien tourists, and Jerry and Beth finally split, not to mention Rick became addicted to McDonald’s Szechuan sauce and straight-up threatened poor Morty. As for the rest of the R&M season, Harmon says Earth life will both return to (relative) normal and feature a Mad Max tribute episode. Don’t ever change, you crazy bastards.

CBS News is so committed to serious journalism that they’re dedicating four whole weeks in the dead of summer to it. CBSN: On Assignment (series debut Monday, July 31, CBS) is noble in theory—a primetime hour featuring multiple news reports from younger correspondents (i.e., not the usual 60 Minutes coots in suits) on topics from inner-city gun violence to outside terrorism threats, but then what? Back to Kevin Can Wait and Superior Donuts reruns, that’s what, and neither advances the intelligence or awareness of the country. If any broadcast network can afford to sacrifice an hour a week—every week—to the primetime gods, it’s the bajillion-dollar property known as CBS.

While star and all-around garbage person Abby Lee Miller is currently serving time in prison for bankruptcy fraud, Dance Moms (Season 7 resumes Tuesday, Aug. 1, Lifetime) continues—the judicial system as failed us. On July 25, Lifetime aired the sympathy-baiting Dance Moms: Abby Tells All, a manipulative hour that I really hope they saw at the Victorville Federal Correctional Institution after Miller arrived. Oh, and what gutless design committee came up with the new Lifetime logo? A sans-serif font inside an opaque circle? Just like every other damned network on TV?! Anyway: In the resumption of Season 7 of Dance Moms … just more of the same shit, and hopefully the last anyone will see of Miller.

Despite what rock nerds may subconsciously fool themselves into believing, the Baroness von Sketch Show (series debut Wednesday, Aug. 2, IFC) is not a moonlighting comedy series from acclaimed prog-metal band Baroness—but wouldn’t it be great if it was? Four burly, humorless metalheads awkwardly performing wacky comedy bits between brutal musical interludes? I’d watch the hell out of that. Baroness von Sketch Show, in reality, is a Canadian comedy series produced, written, directed by and starring women, because anything goes up there in the Great White North, what with their pale beer, free health care and good-lookin,’ non-idiot president. Funny show, but not very metal.

Jessica Biel’s best previous TV work was not on 7th Heaven, but as herself on BoJack Horseman—and, as far as films go, she never topped Blade: Trinity. The Sinner (series debut Wednesday, Aug. 2, USA) is a compelling showcase for Biel’s dark side; she plays a dull suburban wife and mom who suddenly snaps during a day at the beach and stabs a stranger to death … but was he really a stranger? Enter the real star of Sinner, Bill Pullman, as a detective working backward to uncover a killer’s motives that are unknown to even her. In tone and length (only eight episodes), Sinner is veddy British, akin to Broadchurch and The Fall—which probably won’t work on USA, but will eventually blow up on Netflix. It’s science.

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