Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

In the winter of 1997, great American sketch series Mr. Show With Bob and David revealed the true secret of thespianism: “All acting is, is jumping up and down and screaming a lot.”

I drop this bit of knowledge not to entice you to watch Mr. Show (though you totally should, on HBO Now), but to warn you that Adam Sandler’s inexplicably acclaimed Uncut Gems arrives on VOD this month. Film critics … what the hell?

Anyway: Here are seven TV series that are actually worth streaming in March, the lamest of the winter months. It’s not cold; it’s not warm; assholes are drinking green beer … again, what the hell?

Better Call Saul (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix; Season 5 on AMC): Speaking of Mr. Show, can we take a beat to appreciate Bob Odenkirk? Yes, everyone on Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul is fantastic—Rhea Seehorn in particular—but Odenkirk’s Jimmy/Saul is THE performance of the Bad universe. (Sorry, Heisenberg.) Few crime sagas are as steeped in raw humanity as Better Call Saul; do yourself a favor, and dive in this month.

High Fidelity (Season 1 on Hulu): Nick Hornby’s 1995 book and the nearly-too-late 2000 movie don’t hold up in 2020—think about it if you’re asking, “Why do we need a new High Fidelity?” The record store (“No CDs”) now belongs to 20-something Rob (Zoe Kravitz), and this iteration is less toxic, more inclusive and just warmer. There’s nothing wrong with a playlist where Lescop and Frank Zappa can co-exist.

Hunters (Season 1 on Prime Video): Critics and Jewish historians alike are appalled by Hunters, a comically bloody fantasy about 1970s New York City Nazi killers—but, as show creator David Weil politely replied, “It’s not a documentary.” (I would have added, “Suck it, fun police.”) Hunters’ pulp fiction is highly Tarantino-ized but features minimal scenery-chewing from Al Pacino. It’s that unpredictable.

Devs (Season 1 on Hulu): Nick Offerman steals the Wig of Shame trophy from The Witcher in Devs, a twisty thriller from Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation). Software engineer Lily (Sonoya Mizuno) suspects that her company’s CEO (Offerman) had her boyfriend “suicided,” and soon uncovers a sinister tech conspiracy. (Aren’t they all?) The first two episodes premiere March 5, with one episode being released on each of the six following Thursdays. Garland has eight hours to blow your mind, and he will.

Black Monday (Seasons 1-2 on Showtime): Season 1 was a fictionalized, dark-comedy countdown to the stock market crash of 1987, or Black Monday—why continue? Because the cast (Don Cheadle, Regina Hall, Paul Scheer and a yacht-load of comic pros) is too damned good. Season 2 (premiering March 15) follows the fallout on Wall Street, which somehow produces even more obscene wealth and cocaine.

Westworld (Seasons 1-3 on HBO Now): Remember Westworld? It’s been almost two years since Season 2 dropped a megaton of unnerving info about synthetic humans and also set a few loose in the unsuspecting “real” world. Season 3 (premiering March 15) expands the robo-drama beyond its cowboy confines, and we so deserve it—as Futurama’s Bender once said, “You meatbags had your chance.”

Brockmire (Seasons 1-3 on Hulu; Season 4 on IFC): The first two seasons of Brockmire followed the gonzo exploits of alcoholic ex-MLB baseball announcer Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria); the third sobered him up but sacrificed no profane hilarity. Season 4 (premiering March 18) goes for broke by fast-forwarding to 2035 and naming Jim the commissioner of Major League Baseball (!). Just in time for President Ivanka’s second term, cool.

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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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Marvel’s Luke Cage (Friday, Sept. 30, Netflix), series debut: No, I don’t know what the Netflix/Marvel release schedule is anymore, either, but here are Luke Cage; Iron Fist, The Punisher, more Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and the long-teased Defenders will show up eventually. Luke “Power Man” Cage (Mike Colter) is now a few months removed from the events of Jessica Jones, relocated to Harlem and trying to lead as normal of a life as a mega-strong, bullet-proof, street-level superhero can. He’s soon drawn into a soul-of-the-neighborhood battle with a charismatic gangster (Mahershala Ali, House of Cards), which only sounds like Daredevil’s debut season. Luke Cage was Marvel’s first-ever black headliner in the ’70s; appropriately, this series is the most ’70s, the most New York, and the most straight-up black entry into the modern Marvel cinematic universe yet. It’s also a worthy follow-up to Daredevil and Jessica Jones—you’re three-for-three, Netflix. Now don’t ruin Iron Fist, or whatever’s next.

Westworld (Sunday, Oct. 2, HBO), series debut: HBO is spending a hell of a lot of money on what the network hopes—really, really hopes—is its next Game of Thrones, while anyone who actually remembers the original 1973 sci-fi cheeseball Westworld (and the lame 1976 sequel Futureworld, and the lamer 1980 TV series Beyond Westworld) is thinking “Uh, why?” This new Westworld is smarter, sleeker and more terrifying than its origin flick, setting up a near-future resort wherein tourists pay $40,000 a day to play frontier cowboy, knocking back whiskey at the saloon and riding horses on the range, as well as shooting up cyber-townsfolk in gunfights and generally abusing them for kicks. (In case you needed a reminder, humans are just the worst.) As Jurassic Park, Ex-Machina and countless robot-uprising tales have taught us, this won’t end well. Westworld is also as thoughtful as it is frightful, portraying the welling “humanity” and consciousness within the synth-slaves even better than AMC’s Humans did last year. Once you get past the pilot episode (which is somewhat long and slow; patience), you may not care about dragons anymore.

Conviction (Monday, Oct. 3, ABC), series debut: Glam lawyer and ex-first daughter Hayes Morrison (Hayley Atwell, Marvel’s Agent Carter), to avoid jail time for a cocaine bust, casually takes a job turning over possible wrongful-conviction cases for the less-glam … because that’s totally how the legal system works. Will sparks fly with her sexy new boss (Eddie Cahill), her former courtroom nemesis? Will Hayes begin to—gasp!—care about people other than herself? Will Atwell ever master an American accent? Shaky dialect aside, Atwell offers a strong presence, and she is surrounded by solid players (including The Walking Dead’s Emily Kinney and The Following’s Shawn Ashmore), but Conviction is just another pretty legal drama that’s waaay beneath Peggy Carter.

Timeless (Monday, Oct. 3, NBC), series debut: A scientist (Malcolm Barrett), a soldier (Matt Lanter) and a history professor (Abigail Spencer) chase a time-terrorist (Goran Visnjic) through the ages to stop him from altering the past and destroying present-day America. (As for the rest of the world, who cares?) Timeless is really just a dumb-fun Syfy-style action-adventure series trying to pass itself off as a gravitas-laden drama delivering Important Historical Lessons (this country used to be even more racist, sexist, etc.); it works as long as you don’t take it too seriously. No, the big event of the pilot episode isn’t a Led Zeppelin album-cover shoot—it’s the crash of the Hindenburg! See? You’re learning already.

No Tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 4, The CW), series debut: Uptight Evie (Tori Anderson) falls for a free spirit, Xavier (Joshua Sasse), who believes the world is ending in eight months. Is he as crazy as he is dreamy? Does it really matter if Xavier can help Evie get her YOLO on through his … “apocolyst” … of stuff he wants to do before his maybe-imagined asteroid wipes out the planet? Sasse and Anderson are charming enough, and it’s nice to see that The CW hasn’t totally forgotten about the portion of its audience who don’t care about DC superheroes, but No Tomorrow doesn’t seem built for the long haul. If a final episode wherein the asteroid does destroy the earth has already been written, however, I’m absolutely on board. (Did I mention that humans are just the worst?)

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