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16 Aug 2017

True TV: 'Marvel's Defenders' Delivers the Goods; 'Halt and Catch Fire' Powers Down

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Marvel’s The Defenders delivers on the built-up hype and promise—at a brisker pace than its fellow Marvel series on Netflix. Marvel’s The Defenders delivers on the built-up hype and promise—at a brisker pace than its fellow Marvel series on Netflix.

Be careful what you whine for: Marvel’s The Defenders (series debut Friday, Aug. 18, Netflix) is only eight episodes long, maybe partially in response to complaints that previous Marvel/Netflix series Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist felt stretched thin at 13 episodes per season each. The story that finally brings them all together as the Defenders arguably could have been longer, but the no-filler/mostly killer approach works well here, leaning heavily on franchise favorite Jones (Krysten Ritter) while somewhat redeeming the maligned Iron Fist (Finn Jones) and introducing a subtle-but-menacing new villain (Sigourney Weaver). Marvel’s Defenders delivers on the built-up hype and promise, just at a brisker pace.

Everyone presumed it dead after Season 1, but Halt and Catch Fire (Season 4 premiere Saturday, Aug. 19, AMC) just kept coming back—but this time, it really is the end. The series that dramatized the rise of 1980s personal computing comes to a close in Season 4, now at the early ’90s dawn of the Internet. The core gang of entangled business/romantic partners (Lee Pace, Mackenzie Davis, Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishé) is as driven, and damaged, as ever, just with different hair and a new mission: connecting regular folk to this new thing called the World Wide Web. (They’re creating America Online, essentially—Wiki it.) Halt and Catch Fire logs off as one of AMC’s best, and overlooked, dramas—Netflix it.

Also from the “Is That Still On?” file comes another round of The Last Ship (Season 4 premiere Sunday, Aug. 20, TNT), the greatest naval TV drama since … C.P.O. Sharkey? Since those NCIS clowns rarely even get near water, let’s go with that. The global pandemic that killed 80 percent of the world’s population may be over, but the crew of the U.S.S. Nathan James can’t rest yet, as the virus that affected humans is now in the planet’s crops and food supply! Can’t we just subsist on Brawndo and Extra Big-Ass Tacos? (Shout-out to Idiocracy … sigh.) Problem is, Capt. Chandler (Eric Dane) has gone AWOL, fight-clubbing his way through Greece and generally embracing gone-rogue clichés. Season 5 is already a go.

The stars of Friends have experienced varying success in their post-Central Perk careers, but only Lisa Kudrow (The Comeback, Web Therapy) and Matt LeBlanc have dared to get truly weird—and he didn’t even have to stretch. Episodes (Season 5 premiere Sunday, Aug. 20, Showtime), LeBlanc’s hilariously wrong series wherein he plays a version of Hollywood star “Matt LeBlanc,” is ending with Season 5 so he can concentrate on lesser television (CBS’ Man With a Plan, the kind of hacky shit Episodes would parody). Besides LeBlanc’s misadventures, Episodes also features the painful showbiz tribulations of writers Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig); the show should just continue with them.

Expectations were low for Dice (Season 2 premiere Sunday, Aug. 20, Showtime) last year … way, way low. The initial episodes made no case for Andrew “Dice” Clay deserving to join the Curb Your Enthusiasm/Louie club of semi-autobiographical comic-coms, but it did get better as it progressed—no thanks to the Diceman himself. Co-stars Natasha Leggero (as Dice’s unlikely girlfriend Carmen) and Kevin Corrigan (as his gloriously strange bud “Milkshake”) picked up the funny slack nicely, as did guest Adrien Brody in a hysterical turn playing “Adrien Brody,” shadowing Dice to play “Dice” for a character role. It’s not essential, but Dice is at least the second-best comedy on Showtime right now.

Have you watched President Cheeto’s Real News Facebook show and thought to yourself, “That was cool, but where can I go for even more Red State propaganda?! Why won’t the media libtards let the golden waves of conservatism wash over me like Russian hooker piss?!” You got it: The One America News Network has been lurking in the bottom rungs of your cable since 2013, reporting mostly straight news and featuring two opinion shows, The Daily Ledger With Graham Ledger and The Tipping Point With Liz Wheeler (weeknights, OANN), both dedicated to the Gospel of Trump. Ledger is just Bill O’Reilly minus the charm, and Wheeler is Megyn Kelly weaponized with acidic snark—MAGA!

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