Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

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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No, not all of the great shows are here; 2016 served up too much quality TV to contain in this space, while not all of the great shows rise to the level of year-end best lists. (Too many other critical lists are surrendering space to Stranger Things; just sayin’.)

These 16 shows are binge-worthy alternatives to holiday family time—Merry Xmas!

Westworld (HBO): This Westworld was smarter, sleeker and more terrifying than its 1973 origin flick, but it also imbued the Wild West park’s androids with a tragic “humanity.” (Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton for all of the awards.) It also reminded us that actual flesh-and-blood humans are just the worst.

Veep (HBO): Now more than ever, huh? Vice president-turned-president-turned-footnote Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) suffered an exhausting political beating months before the rest of us did in 2016, but at least hers was funny (and slightly more F-bomb-heavy). Forget IdiocracyVeep is our republic’s true guide.

BoJack Horseman (Netflix): Animated series BoJack Horseman has always been about the aggressive shallowness of Hollywood and celebrity, but Season 3 went deeper and darker (and more experimental, including a dialogue-free underwater episode) than ever before. It’s also funny as hell. OK, it’s everything as hell.

Lady Dynamite (Netflix): Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite was a meta-comedy that did for bipolar disorder what BoJack Horseman did for depression and Jessica Jones did for PTSD: It made entertaining, thoughtful art out of the usually “too heavy” to talk about. Both way surreal and way real … sounds good, feels right.

Quarry (Cinemax): This overlooked, 1972-set crime-noir series is grittily crafted down to the most minute details, spun with jarring twists, and anchored by Logan Marshall-Green’s intense, mercurial performance as a reluctant hit man. It’s the Memphis-barbecued second season of True Detective you really wanted.

Better Call Saul (AMC): The debut of Better Call Saul was a fantastic surprise that expanded upon Breaking Bad, building its own pre-Heisenberg world. From hilarious to heartbreaking, Season 2 further transformed small-time Albuquerque lawyer Slippin’ Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) into future legal shark Saul Goodman.

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC): Behind Saul, Halt and Catch Fire is AMC’s best drama, even if it doesn’t generate Walking Dead numbers. The ’80s-set computer-revolution saga moved to Silicon Valley in Season 3, amping the startup fireworks between Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishé, who overshadowed even Lee Pace (!).

Mr. Robot (USA): Elliot (Rami Malek) and hacker group fsociety brought down E(vil) Corp at conclusion of Season 1, but it just caused more problems than it solved. Mr. Robot 2.0 was less buzzy, and trickier to follow, but it gave Elliot’s circle (especially Carly Chaikin and Portia Doubleday) space to shine.

Goliath (Amazon Prime): David E. Kelley and Billy Bob Thornton streamed a classic Los Angeles legal-noir drama that overcame a middling plot with killer performances from Maria Bello, Molly Parker, Nina Arianda, Tania Raymonde, William Hurt and, of course, Thornton himself. Binge with a stiff drink—or eight.

Atlanta (FX): Donald Glover’s Atlanta wasn’t what anyone expected. Something far more than a comedy (though there are hilarious moments) or a drama (ditto, heavy moments), it unfolded like an indie flick in no hurry to get any Big Moments, and depicted the flat-broke-and-black experience with unflinching detail.

Better Things (FX): One of the rawest comedic TV portrayals of single motherhood ever, Pamela Adlon’s Better Things swung from sweet to sad to snarky with an assured precision that her creative partner, Louis C.K., never quite nailed with Louie. Subtle jabs at Hollywood’s treatment of women are just a bonus.

You’re the Worst (FXX): The Only Anti-Rom-Com That Matters got back on track after some downer detours last year—which isn’t to say You’re the Worst didn’t take chances in Season 3. Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) may never work out, but it’s sweet (and profanely hilarious) to watch them fail.

Shameless (Showtime): Emmy Rossum, who’s played Shameless’ surrogate Gallagher mom Fiona for seven seasons now, recently got a pay bump to at least equal co-star William H. Macy’s salary. Coincidentally, she also turned in her best, most heartbreaking work this year. ’Merica isn’t Modern Family; it’s Shameless.

The Good Place (NBC): Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are an unbeatable comic combo, and fears that afterlife sitcom The Good Place would be too weird for broadcast TV were apparently unfounded: It’s a (relative) NBC hit and, even better, the Jesus people are mightily offended by this inclusive version of “Heaven.”

Wynonna Earp (Syfy): If you were somewhat disappointed with Syfy’s recent zero-fun heroine epic Van Helsing—I know I was was—look back a little further in 2016 for Wynonna Earp, a Buffy the Gunslinger supernatural series that star Melanie Scrofano tore up with quippy glee. Also: hot Doc Holliday!

Not Safe With Nikki Glaser (Comedy Central): Nikki Glaser’s Not Safe was a sex-and-relationships talk show that combined intelligence, real information and filthy comedy that more than lived up to the show’s title. So, of course, Comedy Central canceled it after 20 episodes to make room for more Tosh.0. For shame.

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Halt and Catch Fire (Tuesday, Aug. 23, AMC), two-hour season premiere: AMC just can’t quit Halt and Catch Fire, a critical darling that hasn’t cracked 1 million viewers since its premiere in 2014, despite improving markedly over the course of two seasons (both available on Netflix, FYI). The ’80s-set drama chronicles the personal-computer revolution more accurately than the, what, 19? Steve Jobs biopics cluttering the cultural landscape, and gives some long-overdue credit to women in the early days of PC tech. Season 2 really, ahem, caught fire when the story shifted focus to Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) and Donna (Kerry Bishé) and their Mutiny Co. startup struggles. Season 3 picks up in 1986, with Mutiny leaving Texas for Silicon Valley, a make-or-break play that leaves Donna’s engineer husband, Gordon (Scoot McNairy), professionally and emotionally adrift. The three are followed out west by ex-partner/antagonist/eyebrow creeper Joe (Lee Pace), because that’s how Joe do. Behind Better Call Saul, Halt and Catch Fire is AMC’s best capital-D Drama, even if it doesn’t generate zombie numbers. Halt and watch it already.

You Can Do Better (Tuesday, Aug. 23, TruTV), series debut: In most markets, this column runs under its given name, True TV, while some retitle it with drab monikers like “TV Reviews” or “On the Tube” (and you thought alternative papers were supposed to be “edgy”). One recently switched from a weekly publishing schedule to monthly and dropped this column, because they couldn’t figure out how to present it in a monthly format—never mind that major American magazines have been running monthly TV-review columns for 30 years. Still, the loss of that beer-money stream is no match for the insult of TruTV, the former Court TV network that swiped my name in 2008 and got away with it because TimeWarner Inc. has waaay more lawyers than I do. But: TruTV finally has a worthwhile offering in You Can Do Better, a guide series to “real-life” skills—first up being how to get drunk more efficiently. They’re doing God’s work here.

Better Late Than Never (Tuesday, Aug. 23, NBC), series debut: No, never would have been just fine. Geezers Henry Winkler, William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw and George Foreman are taken on a no-itinerary trip across Asia by comedian Jeff Dye … why? Because it worked on Korean television? If you’re curious about what else plays well in Korea, just Google “Korean TV Game Show” and wait for the porn filter to explode your computer.

The View: 20 Years in the Making (Tuesday, Aug. 23, ABC), special: Great panelist moments from The View that will likely be glossed over in the 20 Years in the Making anniversary special: Dangerous idiot Jenny McCarthy spews anti-vaccination nonsense for a full season; benign idiot Sherri Shepherd doubts the Earth is round, claims Christians predate everything on this flat planet, and admits to never voting because she “didn’t know the dates” (and won an Emmy in the process); champion idiot Elisabeth Hasselbeck survives a full decade on the show with no discernible brain activity; comedian Michelle Collins is hired to bring some funny to The View, only to be fired after one season for making jokes; Libertarian journalist Jedediah Bila is promoted to a regular for the upcoming 2016 season, and will probably be canned by the end of it for being too smart for the panel and the audience … there’s more, but I have to go watch The Talk now.

Zoo (Tuesdays, CBS), still on: Season 2 is almost over—have you even heard of Zoo, bro? Every network wants a sci-fi series; the best CBS could come up with was an “animal uprising,” based on a James Patterson book, no less. In Zoo, James Wolk plays ... I can’t believe I’m about to type this ... “renegade zoologist” Jackson Oz ... the first to make the connection between an uptick in critter-on-people violence and his father’s “crazy” theories about human extinction at the paws of fed-up animals. In Season 2, the animals are making the planet uninhabitable for humans almost as quickly the writers are making it unwatchable for humans. Zoo is just more stoopid, expensive-looking proof that CBS should stay the hell away from sci-fi, and yet it’s just been renewed for a third season … huh?

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Another Period (Comedy Central): After a meh first episode, Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome’s Downton Abbey/Kardashians parody became bolder and funnier (and dirtier) every week. It’s Wet Hot 1902 Summer.

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC): Just ended and most likely canceled, ’80s tech drama Halt and Catch Fire really did catch fire in Season 2 by focusing on its women (Kerry Bishé and Mackenzie Davis, killing it). Maybe just skip the first season.

UnReal (Lifetime): And another female-led powerhouse: UnReal’s behind-the-sordid-scenes drama about a Bachelor-esque “reality” show was brutal, discomfiting and, for all we know, completely accurate. Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer FTW.

Wayward Pines (Fox): It was obvious that M. Night Shyamalan’s Wayward Pines meant “limited series” business when it killed off two big-name cast members (no spoilers!) early on. A taut, weird sci-fi conspiracy yarn.

Maron (IFC): No hype, just Marc Maron being Maron in Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Next Generation.

Dark Matter (Syfy): The setup of really, really, really ridiculously good-looking amnesiac fugitives in space didn’t seem sustainable, but Dark Matter rolled out the back-stories (and ass-kicking action) more intelligently than expected.

Killjoys (Syfy): Ditto on the looks and action here, though Killjoys was a bit more complex (read: confusing) and even more low-budget than Dark Matter (which seems impossible). Still, Hannah John-Kamen is the sci-fi heroine to top this summer.

True Detective (HBO): Quit your whining and just watch all eight episodes in a row.

The Brink (HBO): It was sold as a Jack Black comedy, but The Brink (a modern-day Dr. Strangelove via Homeland) belongs to Tim Robbins as the tenacious secretary of state, and Maribeth Monroe as his impossibly loyal assistant.

Mr. Robot (USA): Rami Malek’s mumbling, monologue-ing hoodie-rat hacker isn’t a logical TV hero—which makes Mr. Robot’s Fight Club-meets-The Matrix-meets-Dilbert existence encouraging (especially on a network like USA). Another binge-watch candidate.

Humans (AMC): The biggest surprise from this British import about synthetic “humans” living/serving amongst us? Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) waited four whole episodes before bedding his nanny-bot (Gemma Chan). Humans was creepy, but with a heart—rare combo.

Extant (CBS): Halle Berry’s alien-takeover thriller is still insane—but at least it’s evolved into decent sci-fi, and new Season 2 co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan handily replaced what’s-his-name. Bonus: David Morrissey acting even harder than he did on The Walking Dead!

The Spoils Before Dying (IFC): Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell) and his lost crime-noir masterpiece somehow made jazz tolerable. That’s an accomplishment.

Rectify (Sundance): So rich, so moving, so … slow. Ray McKinnon’s Southern-gothic character study isn’t for everyone, but the quality of the performances (not limited to main stars Aden Young and Abigail Spencer) are undeniable.

The Strain (FX): Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire-invasion thriller kicked into high gear in Season 2, thanks partially to letting Kevin Durand’s badass Fet inject some comic relief into the occasionally too-damned-serious affair. Pretty vamps are so over.

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (FX): Denis Leary’s comic love letter to rock wasn’t groundbreaking by any stretch, but it was loud and fun. That’s rock ’n’ roll, right?

BoJack Horseman (Netflix): You will feel all the feels of a cartoon horse (Will Arnett).

Ray Donovan (Showtime): As if Jon Voight weren’t enough, Liev Schreiber’s titular thug-to-the-stars Ray had to fight for screen-chewing time with new Season 3 guest Ian McShane—and he held his own.

Stitchers (ABC Family): Impossibly pretty 20-something scientists “stitch” into the memories of the recently deceased in CSI: Dead Brains. Sure, it sounds similar to iZombie, but Stitchers was even stoopider—and yet oddly entertaining.

The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail (Comedy Central): Backstage is sometimes funnier than what’s onstage at the comic-book-store stand-up show; comedians, actors and sometimes even porn stars drop in randomly, adding to the anarchic atmosphere of The Meltdown. So all stand-up shows aren’t like this?

Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell (Adult Swim): Season 2 of hell as a workplace comedy … not a workplace reality show.

Married (FX): The second season of Nat Faxon and Judy Greer’s domestic comedy may have found a groove, if not viewers. Married is pretty much canceled; proceed at your leisure.

Rick and Morty (Adult Swim): It’s probably best that Community is now dead as a TV show, because Rick and Morty is a far better use of Dan Harmon’s time. There’s not a more off-the-charts science-geeky show out there—sorry, Cosmos—and the funny is relentless.

Wet Hot American Summer (Netflix): First Day of Camp bested the 2001 movie by streamlining the gags and going for ridiculous broke. So how do I get a gig at Rock & Roll World Magazine?

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Aquarius (Thursday, May 28, NBC), two-hour series debut: In a semi-factual drama about one of America’s most notorious killers, the cop (David Duchovny) probably shouldn’t be more charming and charismatic than his target—especially when that killer is Charles Manson (Game of Thrones’ Gethin Anthony). Duchovny’s 1967 LAPD detective Sam Hodiak is pretty much the same as Californication’s Hank Moody and The X-Files’ Fox Mulder: same snark, same swagger, different haircut. Aquarius—all 13 episodes of which will be available on and other streaming platforms post-premiere—lays the music (half the budget must have been spent on Greatest Hits of the ’60s clearances) and the cultural touchstones on thick, but often loses its Manson focus, likely because Anthony is only mildly creepy, and 13 episodes is too damned long to prop him up. Duchovny and his proto-Jump Street partner (Grey Damon) have a natural rapport; the supporting cast is solid; and it all looks great. Remove the lacking Manson factor, and Aquarius might have fared better as Law and Order: Hippietown.

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (Saturday, May 30, Lifetime), miniseries debut: It’s been 53 years. There are no more Marilyn Monroe “secrets.” Stop making these.

Halt and Catch Fire (Sunday, May 31, AMC), season premiere: This oddity about the dawn of the early-1980s personal-computer revolution booted up strong in 2014, like The Americans shooting up a Radio Shack. Unfortunately, Halt and Catch Fire fizzled down the stretch, in both ratings and story, and seemed destined for cancellation. (Star Lee Pace barely acknowledged the series while out promoting Guardians of the Galaxy last summer.) But it’s back, and the plot’s jumped ahead to 1985, which means much forced Exposition! about what the hell happened in the past couple of years, set to a dead-on ’80s soundtrack. (There’s no way any Texas bar ever had Black Flag on the jukebox, though.) HFC’s four still-fantastic leads (Pace, Mackenzie Davis, Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishé) and a tighter, startup-centered direction make Season 2 look promising, but we’ve been burned before. Best-case scenario: Halt and Catch Fire is an elaborate prequel to Silicon Valley.

The Whispers (Monday, June 1, ABC), series debut: Kiddies’ imaginary friends turn out to be an alien force bent on “world domination”—I’ve been saying this for years, and now it’s an ABC sci-fi series (based on a 1951 Ray Bradbury short story, Zero Hour). The Whispers is dumb summer-escapism filler that’s convinced itself that it’s something Far More Important (likely due to Steven Spielberg’s name being in the producer credits), and wastes actors who deserve better (like American Horror Story’s Lily Rabe and Revenge’s Barry Sloane), but it’s still not the worst thing ABC is serving up in the warm months (see: The Bachelorette, Celebrity Wife Swap, Mistresses, etc.). Don’t think too hard about it, and don’t be surprised if The Whispers suddenly disappears from the schedule in a few weeks.

Royal Pains (Tuesday, June 2, USA), season premiere: It was fun for a couple of seasons, but now USA is just straining to drag Royal Pains into 100-episode territory for the Big $yndication Payoff—really, how many stories are left here? Apparently, 16 more, stretched into summer 2016. With Royal Pains (it’s about a concierge doctor who caters to rich Hamptons folk—yes, that’s the show) almost done-zo, USA is looking to leave its trademark happy-sunny programming comfort zone and move onto darker, grittier experiments like this summer’s new Mr. Robot (about hackers) and Complications (vigilantes), and returning series Graceland (sexy feds), Satisfaction (adulterers) and Chrisley Knows Best (a grating “reality” series possibly devised by reanimated Nazi torturers). Essentially, USA now wants to be FX, though the results will probably be more A&E. If you followed all of that, you’re watching too much TV—good for you.

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The Summer of Too Much TV is nearly over and, besides Sharknado 2: The Second One and True Blood: The Finally Final Season, nothing has made much of a splash in ’Merica’s above-ground pool.

Even hyper-hyped new series like FX’s The Strain and TNT’s The Last Ship can barely keep up with the Kardashians’ ratings, even when the networks apply their convoluted “Live + 7” formulas (the audience watching the show as it airs is multiplied over seven days by DVR procrastinators, divided by a show’s hashtagged tweets and added to projected thought patterns of potential viewers squared by unicorn farts).

As far as The Only TV Column that Matters™ is concerned, the biggest disappointment of the summer is AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, the ’80s period piece about the dawn of the personal-computer boom that premiered with a sizzling pilot episode and decent ratings, only to get stuck in its own “We’re building computers! / No, we’re building dreams!” loop as star Lee Pace dismissed it on talk shows with hosts who only wanted to hear about his raccoon movie, anyway.

Despite the huge True Blood lead-in, HBO’s depresso-drama The Leftovers doesn’t exactly have viewers—wait for it—enraptured (thanks, I’ll be here all week … unless I suddenly disappear without a trace).

In addition to The Strain, FX has the second bizarro season of The Bridge this summer, as well as alleged new comedy Partners (unless the network has finally realized, “Wait, we put what on Monday nights?!”) and genuine new comedies Married and You’re the Worst (which get funnier every week—I hate the “You just have to stick with it” defense as much as you do, but I’m using my power of attorney), and a wacky little farce called Tyrant. For those unfamiliar—which the ratings indicate is all of you—Tyrant is about a murderous, psychopathic rapist of a Middle-Eastern dictator who somehow still hasn’t won the hearts of FX viewers. What does he need, a Harley and a SAMCRO patch?

And what the hell is going on with Extant? Viewers are fleeing CBS’ “event” series faster than Halle Berry can go through shapeless Target sweaters, either because it borrowed too many sci-fi themes to keep track of, or because it’s making less damned sense every week, or because, well, shapeless Target sweaters. The interest level in her alien baby and her Small Wonder A.I. son is now on par with “Hey, are those hicks and that Twilight chick still trapped Under the Dome?”

CBS also has a summer drama about sexy lawyers—no, really. It’s called Reckless, and it’s on Sunday nights. After Unforgettable. I’m not making these up!

Also swishing under the TV radar is The Quest, ABC’s Survivor-meets-LARPing reality-competition show that premiered to a resounding “Meh, verily” and still hasn’t attracted the fantasy crowd as well as, oh, fantasy, does. It’s like soccer: You might spend hours watching children play it out of parental obligation, but watching overpaid adults do it requires a special kind of dementia.

Were you aware that The CW aired shows called Famous in 12, Backpackers and Seed this summer? More than once? True. One was about TMZ trying to spin fame out of nothing; one was about a pair of bros backpacking across Europe; and one was about a sperm donor—none of which clicked with the network’s audience like previous summers’ programming, a screensaver of a CW logo bouncing from corner to corner two hours a night.

But they still attracted more eyeballs than Miley Cyrus: The Bangerz Tour, a July NBC concert special that now has a verified viewership of four frustrated housewives, since all them have filed “indecency” complaints with the Federal Communications Commission. So Miley simulated a BJ on Abraham Lincoln—what have you done for your country lately?


The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Spidey (Andrew Garfield) swings back into action to battle Electro (Jamie Foxx) and protect his girlfriend Gwen (Emma Stone). He’s successful on at least one front—oh, don’t spoiler-whine; that comic came out, like, 40 years ago. (Sony)

Fading Gigolo

Fioravante (John Turturro, who also directs) becomes a professional man ’ho to help out his broke pal Murray (Woody Allen), who in turn acts as his manager/pimp. The best Jewish-themed porno flick since Kosher Salamis. (Millennium)

Gilligan’s Planet: The Complete Series

This cartoon actually happened in 1982: Gilligan and the castaways (the original voice cast, minus Ginger) build a rocket to get off the island, only to  overshoot and land on another planet. Saturday mornings were weird back then. (Warner Archive; released July 22)

A Good Man

An obese former special-ops agent (Steven Seagal) who goes off the grid and becomes an apartment manager is forced back into action when Russian mobsters threaten his tenants. Hey, tubby’s gotta eat, and dead tenants don’t pay rent. (Lionsgate)

Live Nude Girls

After inheriting his uncle’s Hollywood strip club, Shane (Mike Hatton) discovers that the joint is a dump run by a drunk (Dave Foley) and crazy strippers (Bree Olson, Asa Akira and Tera Patrick). Not really seeing a problem here. (Screen Media)

More New DVD/VOD Releases (Aug. 19)

Boardwalk Empire: Season 4, A Brony Tale, The Good Wife: Season 5, Jarhead 2: Field of Fire, The Millers: Season 1, The Mindy Project: Season 2, Once Upon a Time: Season 3, Only Lovers Left Alive, Parenthood: Season 5, Parks & Recreation: Season 6, Revolution: Season 2, Rosemary’s Baby.

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Undateable (Thursday, May 29, NBC), series debut: When Whitney debuted in 2011, The Only TV Column That Matters™ asked, “Who’s this funny Chris D’Elia guy?” and “Why the hell are networks still producing laugh-tracked comedies in the 21st Century?” Three years later, I’m asking the same questions with Undateable. The idea of D’Elia as a delusional “player” who sets out to teach his romantically challenged buds how to play the love game is a solid one—his stand-up is loaded with hysterical relationship disasters—but Undateable’s lazy writing and cheap staging is straight outta the late ’90s, when NBC was cranking out “Must See TV” filler like it was going out of style (which it was). I’ll leave the “Unwatchable” puns to lesser TV critics.

Crossbones (Friday, May 30, NBC), series debut: During the two years (!) since Crossbones was ordered to series, Starz pissed in the pirate punchbowl with Black Sails, a hella-promoted Michael Bay joint that, while terrible, was at least glossy and buzz-y enough to snag a second season. Now, NBC finally drops Crossbones in the pre-summer dead zone on Friday nights, which essentially says, “Well, it’s paid for—let’s get this over with.” Too bad, because with a star like John freaking Malkovich and a showrunner like Neil Cross (BBC’s Luther), this could have been huge (or at least huge-adjacent) on a cable network that actually cared to launch it right. Check out Crossbones now before it gets dumped on corporate cousin Syfy, or Hulu or (ack) Esquire.

2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Saturday, May 31, HBO), special: I know something happened besides the fantastically uncomfortable spectacle of long-overdue Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Kiss (Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, plus estranged original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley) sharing a stage and pretending not to hate each others’ guts with the burning intensity of a thousand smoking guitars … but damned if I can think of it.

Halt and Catch Fire (Sunday, June 1, AMC), series debut: The clunky title sounds like a sequel to AMC’s snoozy Revolutionary War drama Turn (which is still on, BTW), but Halt and Catch Fire is actually a piece from a different period: The early 1980s, ground zero of the personal-computer revolution—it’s The Americans meets Silicon Valley meets MS-DOS! But the setup is timeless: An ex-IBM exec (Pushing Daisies’ Lee Pace) enlists a ragtag team of engineers and programmers (including Scoot McNairy as the obligatory Has-Been With a Dream genius and MacKenzie Davis as the obligatory-er Hot Girl With Punky Hair proto-hacker) to re-imagine his old boss’ gear and become a player on the still-forming computer field. Like The Americans, Halt and Catch Fire nails the look, the tech, the music and the claustrophobic, earth-toned feel of the era—and, even though we all know where this is headed, there’s a real sense of urgency and discovery to the proceedings. Barring an all-too-possible marketing misfire on AMC’s part (R.I.P., Low Winter Sun), this should explode like an old CRT monitor.

Longmire (Monday, June 2, A&E), season premiere: As Season 3 opens, Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) not only has to exonerate BFF Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) of murder charges; he also has to figure out who shot his deputy (Bailey Chase) and deal with that nagging Who Murdered My Wife mystery. Meanwhile, his other deputy, Vic (Katee Sackhoff), may or may not still have a vengeful stalker problem—and you thought Wyoming was boring. It’s a little slower and less quippy than Justified, but Longmire is the contemporary Western you should be watching in Raylan’s current absence.



The day before his wedding, a retired criminal finds himself on the hook for 20 kilos of stolen-mob cocaine. No sooner than you can say “one last job,” he has 24 hours to save his fiancée. Or not—there’s plenty of coke-loving fish in the sea. (Music Box)

In the Blood

When her husband is kidnapped on their Caribbean honeymoon, a woman with mad MMA skills (Gina Carano) investigates the conspiracy and then beats the living hell out of those responsible (which inevitably includes Danny Trejo). (Anchor Bay)


In the remake of the ’80s classic, a future Detroit policeman (Joel Kinnaman) gets shot up on the job and then reassembled by OmniCorp as the half-man/half-machine Robocop. Likewise, the dark humor has been replaced with better effects. (MGM)

Super Duper Alice Cooper

The combination documentary/rock opera (doc opera?) tells the true-ish story of Alice Cooper through archival footage, animation, general depravity and chaos—like there’s any other way to tell an Alice Cooper story. (Eagle Vision)

True Blood: Season 6

Louisiana declares war on vampires; Billith (Stephen Moyer) rises; and Sookie (Anna Paquin) faces off against her parents’ killer as Tru Blood and our patience with this nonsense begin to run low. Only one more season, and it’s over! (HBO)

More New DVD Releases (June 3)

Christina Perri: The Journey, Copper: The Complete Series, Falling Skies: Season 3, Graceland: Season 1, Lone Survivor, Luther: The Complete Series, The Motel Life, Pretty Little Liars: Season 4, Workaholics: Season 4.

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