CVIndependent

Tue05262020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Bill Frost

Britney Ever After (Saturday, Feb. 18, Lifetime), movie: Britney Spears is a decent pop icon. She barely contributed to the writing of her own music; her singing is at maybe a semi-pro karaoke level; and her attempts at being “edgy” and the perpetual “comebacks” are as laughable as they are tiresome. But! To a generation of young women, Spears is still as important as Madonna was a decade prior. (Side note: Madge, it’s time to give it up … seriously.) A Lifetime biopic was inevitable, so here’s Britney Ever After, a cheap flick that stinks of rush-job non-urgency and, blech, Canada. (Production began just five months ago in Vancouver.) Since Spears’ entire life and career have been over-documented in the media, there are no new revelations in Britney Ever After other than a sad reminder that Kevin Federline was once a thing.

The Good Fight (Sunday, Feb. 19, CBS), series debut: “Remember how great The Good Wife was? Wasn’t Julianna Margulies awesome? And Archie Panjabi, Alan Cumming, Josh Charles and Jeffrey Dean Morgan? So how about a spinoff with none of those stars, on a pay-per-stream platform you’ve never heard of? Here’s The Good Fight!” CBS’ $5.99/$9.99-per-month All Access streamer was supposed to be good ’n’ launched by now with Star Trek Discovery, but that’s been pushed back to a star date in a galaxy far, far away. The Good Fight finds Wife attorney Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) starting over at another Chicago law firm and … I’m already asleep. Regular TV is already clogged up with legal dramas and Chicago procedurals; no one needs to pay extra for another.

Big Little Lies (Sunday, Feb. 19, HBO), series debut: Writer/producer David E. Kelley came back hard last year with Amazon Prime’s Goliath, a standard legal drama juiced with tight scripting and star power. Big Little Lies doubles down on the big names (Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley, among several others), if not the writing; this could have easily been condensed from a seven-hour nonsensical series into a 90-minute nonsensical movie. The pretty, rich white folk of pretty, rich Monterey and their pretty, rich white kids at pretty, rich Otter Bay Elementary are embroiled in a who-among-us-done-it? murder mystery, impacting their daily lives of back-biting, gossiping and screwing (the parents, not the kiddies), and … who cares? The actors work their tiny, toned asses off, but Kelley’s cliché-soaked plot devices can’t be overcome.

Billions (Sunday, Feb. 19, Showtime), season premiere: The battle between semi-shady New York hedge-fund billionaire Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and frothily dogged U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) continues—cue the all-caps ACTING! Billions is dropping its second season of Big Money v. Big Law in a real-life political climate with eerie mirrors, though Bobby may not be as untouchable as the Cheeto-in-Chief: Chuck now has a smarter game plan in mind, while Bobby’s longtime ally—and Chuck’s wife—Wendy (Maggie Siff) has walked away from the men’s Season 1 wreckage, and Bobby’s heretofore loyal wife, Lara (Malin Akerman), might be next. It’s a soapy, twisting power struggle that, while not quite as unpredictable as current reality, digs its hooks in hard.

The Detour (Tuesday, Feb. 21, TBS), season premiere: In its debut season last year, The Detour took its National Lampoon’s Vacation inspiration and exploded it into countless directions over 10 half-hours as new weirdness about harried couple Nate and Robin (Jason Jones and Natalie Zea) was revealed in every episode. The road trip may be over, but Season 2 builds on last year’s cliffhanger revelation about Robin’s mysterious past by moving the family to Manhattan and introducing a new crop of guest stars to clash against (including John Oliver, Laura Benanti, James Cromwell and Jones’ wife/Detour co-creator Samantha Bee). I’ve already repeatedly told you to Hulu Season 1 … and now I am again.

Girls (Sunday, Feb. 12, HBO), season premiere: Yes, Girls creator/star Lena Dunham has made some astoundingly stupid statements on social media—isn’t that what social media is for?—but she’s also cranked out a half-dozen solid seasons of an HBO series, so she’s far more than just a “privileged snowflake.” Season 6 will be the last for Girls (though there may be a follow-up movie), and Brooklynites Hannah (Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) are totally different, and somehow exactly the same, as they were in the beginning. Girls’ infamously un-glam sex scenes and monologues continue, but it’s Dunham’s nimble comedy writing that deserves the attention—lines like “I don’t give a shit about anything, yet I simultaneously have opinions about everything” are as funny as they are instantly relatable (to some of us writers, anyway).

Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Monday, Feb. 13, HBO), documentary: Locally born party-rockers Eagles of Death Metal were a cult band, more or less, prior to the November 2015 terrorist attack at a Paris concert that claimed 89 lives—now, they’re a slightly more-notorious cult band who, surprisingly, still haven’t been sued by Don Henley of the Eagles proper. Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends) isn’t just about the Bataclan incident and the band’s subsequent return to play for Paris fans; it also explores the decades-long, yin-yang friendship between EODM founders Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age). It’s a sweet and sometimes harrowing story with a triumphant conclusion. If Nos Amis inspires some more sales of Eagles of Death Metal’s four excellent, ramshackle rock ’n’ roll records, even better.

Humans (Monday, Feb. 13, AMC), season premiere: Before HBO’s Westworld, AMC’s Humans was delving into lifelike-androids-among-us drama in a more understated manner. (Four whole episodes passed in Season 1 before someone had sex with a robot.) Busy London couple Joe and Laura (Tom Goodman-Hill and Katherine Parkinson) bought a refurbished “Synth” (a human-like robot servant, Mia, coolly/creepily played by Gemma Chan) who displayed flashes of organic emotion and passive-aggressive tendencies. (Never, ever buy “refurbished”; eBay 101.) What could go wrong? Everything, of course, and now Mia and her like-minded “family” of Synths are loose in the populace with the “consciousness code” (a backdoor switch that could make all Synths “wake up” and toss off their servitude). It’s going to be a looong time before Westworld returns—get some Humans in your life.

You Me Her (Tuesday, Feb. 14, Audience/DirecTV), season premiere: Last year’s surprise polyamory rom-com (!) played wacky-to-serious-and-back-again hijinks out over 10 near-perfect episodes that rung comically real. Then, You Me Her was about an unexpected love triangle between bored Portland couple Jack (Greg Poehler) and Emma (Rachel Blanchard), and free-spirited escort Izzy (Priscilla Faia), and their anxiety over hiding this new relationship, whatever it was, from their friends and family. Now, in Season 2, it’s about going public and, perhaps even harder, dealing with Izzy as a full-time housemate. The only predictable aspect of You Me Her is that the guy is going to screw things up, and inadvertent third wheel Jack is right on schedule. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Doubt (Wednesday, Feb. 15, CBS), series debut: TV's latest attempt to make Katherine Heigl a thing is yet another pretty-lawyers show—but with a twist! Attorney Sadie Ellis (Heigl) falls in lust/love with her client, a charismatic doctor (Steven Pasquale) accused of murdering his girlfriend years ago. Did he do it? Can she trust him? Will CBS somehow drag 13 episodes out of this? Meanwhile, the rest of her law firm (which includes Dulé Hill, Elliott Gould, Dreama Walker and Laverne Cox) are … around. Doubt has all of the sexy banter, perfect hair and designer clothes required of modern legal soaps, but it’s all as empty as a showroom briefcase. Quit dicking around, and just get Heigl a Fox comedy (à la The Mick) or back on Grey’s Anatomy, Hollywood.

Powerless (Thursday, Feb. 2, NBC), series debut: Rebooted before it even premiered: Powerless, which exists somewhere within the DC Comics universe, was originally a deadpan workplace comedy à la The Office, about an insurance firm that handled cases of civilians affected by superhero vs. supervillain battles—real catastrophic damage. Now, it’s about Wayne Security (as in, Bruce Wayne and Wayne Enterprises), a company specializing in tactical-tech personal-protection devices for non-superhumans. It’s a faster-paced, colorful upgrade that the cast (Vanessa Hudgens, Alan Tudyk, Danny Pudi, Ron Funches and Christina Kirk) delivers on hysterically—when the material’s there. Unfortunately, Powerless’ writing isn’t as consistent as that of recent NBC comedy breakouts Superstore and The Good Place, so it’ll have to be carried by its stars for now.

Superior Donuts (Thursday, Feb. 2, CBS; moving to Mondays on Feb. 6), series debut: Sitcoms like NBC’s The Carmichael Show and CBS’ Mom have shown that it’s possible for smart comedy, serious issues and … ugh … laugh tracks to coexist. But why, why, WHY?! Same goes for Roman numerals and the Super Bowl; it’s 2017—start using ’Merican numbers before I tweet at Uncle Cheeto to sign an executive order (and you know he’d do it). Anyway: Superior Donuts centers around a crusty old donut-shop owner (Judd Hirsch) in a gentrifying Chicago neighborhood who begrudgingly hires an ambitious millennial (Jermaine Fowler) to update his business. Hot-button issues like race, guns and cronuts are tackled between punchlines, but Superior Donuts tries a little too hard to be Important Commentary. (It is based on a play, after all.) I will just lean into the funny, and maybe forgive the laugh track. Maybe.

Santa Clarita Diet (Friday, Feb. 3, Netflix), series debut: Netflix’s slow reveal of just what is the diet of Santa Clarita was a shrewd move, teasing with an appealing-odd actor combo (Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant) and vague hints at suburban shenanigans for almost a year. The plot-bomb finally dropped a few weeks ago: SoCal Realtor couple Sheila (Barrymore) and Joel (Olyphant) see their painfully dull lives upended when Sheila contracts a mild case of zombie-ism and a hunger for human flesh. Thing is, she’s never felt better, and life is a whole new, if murder-y, adventure for the couple. Santa Clarita Diet contains traces of Desperate Housewives, Dexter, Weeds and iZombie (no Walking Dead, fortunately), but remains its own unique, bizarro thing. Most surprisingly, drama vet Olyphant consistently upstages Barrymore, letting his comedic freak flag fly like a loose-limbed maniac.

APB (Monday, Feb. 6, Fox), series debut: Even with 45 cop shows currently set there, Chicago is still a crime-ridden hellscape—will APB finally clean up this town? Probably not, but it’ll at least kill an hour after 24: Legacy for a few weeks. Much like—OK, exactly like—CBS’ now-canceled Pure Genius, ABP finds a tech billionaire (Justin Kirk) buying a failing enterprise (a Chicago police precinct instead of Pure Genius’ hospital) and outfitting it with ultra-high-tech gear to save and/or end people. (Pure Genius only flatlined itself.) Despite all its flashy screen grids, drones and the “game-changing” APB app (you’re outta luck, flip-phoners), APB is just another cop show with an outsider consultant.

Legion (Wednesday, Feb. 8, FX), series debut: It’s an X-Men TV series … but not. Legion, based on the Marvel comics, follows David Haller (Dan Stevens), who was diagnosed as a schizophrenic as a child and has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for decades. When a disturbing encounter with new patient Syd (Rachel Keller) explodes his mind-numbed world, David realizes that his inner voices and visions are real. (Don’t say “mutant powers,” because, lawyers.) Like creator Noah Hawley’s previous FX hit, Fargo, Legion looks and feels outside of its defined time, and is more of an inward psychological trip than a blockbuster Marvel flick. Not that there isn’t action and comic relief (like Aubrey Plaza as David’s perkily-unhinged hospital pal), but don’t expect Wolverine.

Riverdale (Thursday, Jan. 26, The CW), series debut: It’s exactly what you think it is—Archie Comics given a dark ’n’ broody CW-teens makeover, like Twin Peaks meets Gossip Girl. Riverdale is also far better than most are going to be willing to give it credit for: It’s sharply written (though the first ep is exposition-heavy, because kids today) and winkingly self-aware murder noir dressed up in muted-classic Archie couture that firmly states, “Yeah, we’re actually doing this—and we’re going hard.” The gang’s all here, including a ripped-but-sensitive Archie (K.J. Apa), a mysterious Jughead (Cole Sprouse), a jittery Betty (Lili Reinhart), a seductive Veronica (Camila Mendes) and an ambitious Pussycats-fronting Josie (Ashleigh Murray), and they all arrive as surprisingly fleshed-out characters. Riverdale will be the first TV obsession of 2017—count on it.

iBoy (Friday, Jan. 27, Netflix), movie: Because AndroidBoy didn’t quite have the same ring to it, here’s iBoy: British teen Tom (Bill Milner) gets a Limitless-ish upgrade when an intended kill-shot from a gangster explodes his iPhone into his brain, essentially turning him into a human Internet hotspot. Instead of using his new powers to dominate trivia night at the local pub, Tom becomes a Kick-Ass-style vigilante bent on taking down the baddies who shot him and assaulted his friend, Lucy (Maisie Williams). Whereas Black Mirror would have twisted this into a bummer treatise on connected tech, iBoy cranks the tension and action to 11, never pausing to consider the deadly ramifications of future OS updates. It’s dumb fun; just go with it.

To Tell the Truth (Sundays, ABC), new season: Yes, ABC has had a rough season, launching only one semi-hit (Designated Survivor, aka Not the Mike Pence Story as Far as We Dare Hope) while canceling a pair of dogs (Conviction and Notorious—’member those?). But are schedule-fillers like Match Game and To Tell the Truth really the answer? Revivals of decades-dead game shows that were pure cheese even in their day? If so, I demand a reboot of the greatest game show of all time, 1974-1975 landmark The Money Maze, wherein couples would race like rats through a shoddily constructed maze to push a cash-prize button at the end. Throw in celebrity couples (Kanye and Kim! Barack and Joe!) and a new host (Mitt Romney!), and make this happen, ABC!

The Bachelor (Mondays, ABC), new season: As with the previous, what? 48? seasons of The Bachelor, this column chose to ignore the Hot Tub STD Machine’s latest premiere. BUT! Along came Corrine, the most glorious trainwreck ever to (dis)grace the mansion. A blonde time-bomb of sex, audacity, insecurity and sheer crazy who makes for great TV, Corrine stands out in this season’s bland, interchangeable pack of women by seemingly channeling Haley, the oft-naked suitress of the classic Bachelor parody Burning Love (Hulu it). Bachelor Nick, a master of understatement if not styling gel, simply calls her “fun,” despite their every meeting being like an all-expenses-paid excursion to a strip club VIP room. Sure, The Bachelor is still a terrible, terrible, terrible show with zero societal value … but, as performance art, I’m currently all in for #MCGA (Make Corrine Great Again).

The 100 (Wednesday, Feb. 1, The CW), season premiere: The 100, now entering its fourth (!) season, is a future-set sci-fi series about 100 pretty juvenile space delinquents exiled to Earth, since rendered “uninhabitable” by a nuclear apocalypse (likely triggered by a 3 a.m. tweet), to survive and figure who to hook up with before one or the other gets killed (which happens often; they’re currently The 44). After three seasons of fighting off Grounders (meanies left behind on the planet back in the day), Mountain Men (ditto), a mind-controlling artificial intelligence (huh?) and split ends (everybody’s hair still looks fantastic), now the kids have to deal with residual planetary radiation. (There goes the hair.) As dystopian soap operas go, The 100 is smarter and more complex than most—check it out before it’s too late.

Baskets (Thursday, Jan. 19, FX), season premiere: When Baskets premiered last January, it appeared to be a loony lark, like someone dared Zach Galifianakis to create a comedy bizarre enough to make even FX flinch: Aspiring artiste Chip Baskets (Galifianakis) flunks out of a prestigious French clown academy and returns home to uncultured Bakersfield to become a crestfallen rodeo clown. Oh, and the black comedy also features an undercurrent of commentary on the decline of Western civilization and the futility of artistry, as well as Galifianakis playing his own twin brother, Dale, and Louie Anderson in drag as their mom—comedy gold, right? Actually, yes. Baskets’ weirdness was balanced with a certain sweetness, and Anderson’s hyper-quotable “Christine” became the unlikeliest breakout character of the year. At the outset of Season 2, Chip attempts to flee Bakersfield (hobo-clown-style riding the rails, of course), and Christine finds romance (and water aerobics). So, yeah, still bizarre.

Beaches (Saturday, Jan. 21, Lifetime), movie: The original 1988 Beaches, from a different time when Garry Marshall movies weren’t complete shit (too soon?), is a cheesy-weepy classic that needs no “reimagining.” But since we’re in the post-imagination 2010s, here’s a new Beaches, complete with remade songs. While it’s tough to argue with the smart casting of Idina Menzel and Nia Long in the iconic Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey roles—not to mention cred-to-burn director Allison Anders replacing Marshall—is a note-for-note re-creation of this lifelong gal-pals tale really necessary? Nope, but Beaches will be an easy hit for Lifetime, which means we can probably look forward to an update of Pretty Woman, re-written by and starring Lena Dunham, by fall.

Hunted (Sunday, Jan. 22, CBS), series debut: Unfortunately, this is not a second season of Melissa George’s cool 2012 spy series of the same name, which was wrongfully cancelled and … I’m just talking to myself here, aren’t I? Anyway: This Hunted is a reality show that pits teams of regular folk against pro investigators in an elaborate game of digital-age hide-and-seek; the fugitive squad that can stay off the grid and avoid being caught for 28 days wins $250,000. Hunted offers a valuable lesson about the liability of your digital footprint (not to mention reality-TV camera crews and trucks—wouldn’t they be a dead giveaway?). You may need to disappear yourself sometime in the next four years, so pay attention.

Outsiders (Tuesday, Jan. 24, WGN America), season premiere: The 2016 epidemic of Too Many Shows caused the debut season of Outsiders to slip by me—but it was discovered by a record-setting number of WGN America viewers who instantly latched onto this Appalachian hill-folk drama like it was Sons of Anarchy in overalls. (Coincidentally, SOA’s Ryan Hurst is one of the stars.) Outsiders is rife with juicy hillbilly family drama and stick-it-to-the-man anti-authoritarianism, as well as the most mud-flinging ATV action you’ll see outside of the Outdoor Channel. The story: The isolationist, mountain-dwelling Farrell clan (with the patriarch an unrecognizable David Morse) wants nothing to do with modern society in lowland Kentucky—then along comes Big Coal, aided by local police, to run them out of their centuries-long home. It’s a visceral, pulpy ride—catch up on Season 1 on Hulu.

The Magicians (Wednesday, Jan. 25, Syfy), season premiere: Essentially “sexy Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts College,” the first season of The Magicians introduced a pretty, angsty cast with plenty of personal probs and supernatural challenges, if not much humor or personality (which would have made it more of a Freeform show than a Syfy series, but whatever). Season 1 did, however, find some footing by its closing episodes, resulting in a relatively spectacular finale that could have launched a promising second season. Early S2 signs point to more perpetually grey skies and hair-in-the-eyes moping, but with flashier, Doctor Strange-lite special effects and a slightly clearer dramatic path forward. Nice trick (sorry, illusion).

My Kitchen Rules (Thursday, Jan. 12, Fox), series debut: This what the “celebrity” competition show has come to: a cook-off. In a borrowed Australian format, this show features teams of two taking turns hosting dinner parties for their competitors and judges—you suck, you go home. The “star” duos of My Kitchen Rules are N’Sync’s Lance Bass and his mom, bro-and-sis singers Brandy and Ray J, comedian Andrew Dice Clay and Mrs. Clay, Real Housewife of Who Gives a Shit? Brandi Glanville and some dude, and singer Naomi Judd and her long-suffering husband. Judges Curtis Stone and Cat Cora, chefs who are arguably bigger celebrities than everyone else in this clown car, could keep it interesting, but what’s next? Landscaping With the Stars? Celebrity Dog Wash? Or …

Caraoke Showdown (Thursday, Jan. 12, Spike), series debut: I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, this is exactly like James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke!” Wrong-o, you cynical dolt! It’s totally different, because there are no celebrities! Also, the host is Craig Robinson! It’s like comparing the bassline of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” to Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”—the ocean of disparity between the two is staggeringly vast! Incomprehensibly colossal! Goddamned yuge! How dare you suggest that Spike has given up on original ideas because of the success of Lip Sync Battle, which is just a stolen Jimmy Fallon bit! We’re making America great again here, people—you can either get onboard with Caraoke Showdown, or sit over there on the wrong side of history like a chump! Sad!

Homeland (Sunday, Jan. 15, Showtime), series premiere: After losing touch with/interest in terrorism soap Homeland a few years ago when—spoiler!—Damian Lewis’ co-lead character Brody was killed off, I’ve recently gotten caught-up on the Crazy Carrie (Claire Danes) solo-album seasons. Much to my surprise, Homeland has held up well without Brody—and Danes, who was great to begin with, is fan-damn-tastic on her own and unencumbered by that ginger dead weight. (Lewis is better off on Showtime’s Billions, anyway.) Season 6 finds Carrie back stateside after last year’s harrowing Berlin arc, but all isn’t well in the U.S.: A new president has been elected (!), and the transfer of power is looking to be tense and rocky (!!). If that’s not eerily real enough, this season will take place entirely between Election Day and Inauguration Day (!!!). Hell, let’s just go full bizarro and stage a crossover with Billions, already.

Teachers (Tuesday, Jan. 17, TV Land), season premiere: Last January, TV Land quietly debuted this raucous mashup of Super Troopers, Bad Teacher and Broad City from six-woman comedy-improv troupe The Katydids (all of their first names are variations on “Katherine”), a hilariously wrong half-hour that almost elicits sympathy for their elementary-school pupils—until you remember that, oh yeah, they’re elementary-school pupils. The Teachers rank at varying levels on the Hot Mess Scale, but no Katydid (Caitlin Barlow, Katy Colloton, Cate Freedman, Kate Lambert, Katie O’Brien and Kathryn Renée Thomas … whew) outshines another in the ensemble, reminiscent of old-school cable anarchy-com It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Your homework: binge Season 1.

Six (Wednesday, Jan. 18, History), series debut: A SEAL Team Six action drama? “Inspired by real missions”? Like USA’s military-leaning Shooter, Six has experienced setbacks and delays. (Original star Joe Manganiello dropped out during filming, causing Six to scrap its planned July 2016 premiere.) Also like Shooter, which has become an underreported stealth hit, Six has just enough jingoistic grit and brothers-in-arms heart to appeal to a flyover ’Merica wary of the dark geopolitical ambiguousness of shows like Homeland (though both share a director, Lesli Linka Glatter). In a lucky get, Walton Goggins (Justified), an actor who can do no wrong, has replaced Maganiello as captured SEAL Team Six leader “Rip” Taggart, adding some serious gravitas to this modern Saving Private Ryan riff. Big words aside: Much yellin,’ explodin’ and killin.’

Crazyhead (streaming on Netflix), new series: Few, if any, Buffy the Vampire Slayer “tributes” (or, if you prefer, “loving rip-offs”) have gotten that classic series’ deft blend of horror and humor as wonderfully right as British import Crazyhead, created and written by Misfits’ Howard Overman. When 20-something Bristolian Amy (Cara Theobold) discovers she’s a “seer” who can recognize the demon-possessed hiding among us, she forms an at-first-unlikely alliance with fellow seer-turned-hunter named Raquel (Susan Wokoma); much ass-kicking and sass-quipping ensue. But the six-episode Crazyhead’s bedrock isn’t action and wisecracks—it’s the friendship between Amy and Raquel, a sweetly rocky bond that’s as believable as it is hysterical. Also: killer soundtrack. Also, also: some of the loveliest public restrooms on television, British or otherwise.

One Day at a Time (Friday, Jan. 6, Netflix), series debut: A remake of the ’70s sitcom with a Cuban-American twist, complete with a single mom (Justina Machado), precocious kids, a sleazy building manager and, unfortunately, a damned laugh track. Norman Lear, the 94-year-old former comedy kingpin who managed to escape the Grim Reaper of 2016, is listed as an executive producer, but there’s little reason for this to be called, or linked to, One Day at a Time, even with a Gloria Estefan re-recording of the theme song: It’s a bland, lazy sitcom in its own right. But, that hasn’t hurt Netflix’s other dim throwbacks, Fuller House and The Ranch, so this One Day at a Time will probably outlast Lear.

Emerald City (Friday, Jan. 6, NBC), series debut: A smoldering Puerto-Rican Dorothy (Adria Arjona, True Detective) and a promisingly weird Wizard casting (Vincent D’Onofrio!) headline a “reimagining” of The Wizard of Oz that’s been kicked by NBC around for almost two years. Syfy tried this in 2007 with Tin Man, a mess of a miniseries that dropped Zooey Deschanel into a steampunk nightmare that went nowhere, darkly and slowly. Emerald City is more in line with its Friday-night lead-in Grimm: fantastical and soapy, but rarely scary (and, unlike Grimm, eye-poppingly expensive-looking; the CGI effects and D’Onofrio’s wigs probably cost NBC more than all 12 current Chicago dramas combined). Intriguing, but not built (or priced) to last.

Taboo (Tuesday, Jan. 10, FX), series debut: Long-missing-and-presumed-dead James Delancy (Tom Hardy) returns to 1814 London to inherit his late father’s East India Company empire, only to become caught up in a treacherous trade conspiracy that may get him killed. FX’s last attempt at a period drama, The Bastard Executioner, suffered from lack of star power (unless you count Vampire Bill from True Blood, which no one did), among many other problems; Taboo has Bane and Mad Max, fergawdsakes! It also has Ridley Scott and Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders) onboard as producers, as well as a Too Many Shows-friendlier runtime of eight episodes. Dark, violent and sexy, Taboo should at least tide you over until the return of FX’s Baskets.

Jeff and Some Aliens (Wednesday, Jan. 11, Comedy Central), series debut: Loser earthling Jeff (voiced by Brett Gelman) is observed by, and annoyed with, a trio of aliens crashing in his apartment. As Comedy Central cartoons go … this is one of them. As with most—OK, all—animated shorts from the network’s TripTank series, Jeff and Some Aliens offers little evidence that it deserves to be expanded into primetime and share an hour with a proven player like Workaholics, but here it is. Still, comedy MVP Gelman can’t help but make anything he’s involved with better, and his distinctive delivery elevates Jeff and Some Aliens from standard stoner comedy to tolerable stoner comedy. An achievement, really.

The Mick (Sunday, Jan. 1; Fox): Broke lowlife Mackenzie (Kaitlin Olson, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) gets stuck raising the kids of her just-incarcerated rich sister. It’s Uncle Buck meets Mary Poppins meets, well, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Ransom (Sunday, Jan. 1; CBS): A good-looking hostage negotiator (Luke Roberts) and his good-looking team resolve kidnapping and ransom cases in Your Town, USA (which is really Canada—shhh!). Ransom moves to Saturdays after tonight, so it’s already canceled.

One Day at a Time (Friday, Jan. 6; Netflix): A remake of the ’70s sitcom—with a Cuban-American twist, complete with single mom (Justina Machado), precocious kids, a sleazy building manager and, unfortunately, a damned laugh track. Almost had it, Netflix.

Emerald City (Friday, Jan. 6; NBC): A dark “reimagining” of The Wizard of Oz that’s been kicked around for two years, with a smoldering Puerto Rican Dorothy (Adria Arjona, True Detective) and a promisingly weird Wizard casting choice (Vincent D’Onofrio!).

Taboo (Tuesday, Jan. 10; FX): Long-missing James (Tom Hardy) returns to 1814 London to inherit his father’s empire, only to become caught up in a treacherous legacy that may get him killed as well. FX’s sexiest period drama since The Bastard Executioner.

Jeff and Some Aliens (Wednesday, Jan. 11; Comedy Central): Loser earthling Jeff (voiced by Brett Gelman) is observed by, and annoyed with, a trio of aliens crashing in his apartment. As Comedy Central cartoons go … this is one of them.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (Friday, Jan. 13; Netflix): Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Joan Cusack, Aasif Mandvi, Alfre Woodard, Don Johnson, Catherine O’Hara and other erase that trainwreck 2004 Lemony Snicket flick from your meh-mory.

Sneaky Pete (Friday, Jan. 13; Amazon Prime): A fresh-out-of-prison con man (Giovanni Ribisi) assumes the identity of his former cellmate to hide from a vengeful gangster, only to learn that his new “family” is just as dangerous. Smart upvote, Primers.

Throwing Shade (Tuesday, Jan. 17; TV Land): Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi adapt their pop-culture-skewering podcast to television. Wait, you can do that? Any networks out there want to turn my podcast into a TV show? Comedy Central? Telemundo? Anybody?

Riverdale (Thursday, Jan. 26; The CW): The “dark-sexy” Archie Comics drama no one asked for, with CW-ized Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and even Josie and the Pussycats! Sound terrible? More like, terribly entertaining! Bring it!

Powerless (Thursday, Feb. 2; NBC): Vanessa Hudgens, Alan Tudyk, Danny Pudi and Ron Funches star in an (insurance) office-place comedy set in the DC Comics universe of superheroes and villains. The Good Place is no longer NBC’s strangest sitcom.

Santa Clarita Diet (Friday, Feb. 3; Netflix): Husband-and-wife SoCal realtors Joel and Sheila (Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymore) lead boring suburban lives … until they don’t. No further details, but it’s probably not about dieting.

24: Legacy (Sunday, Feb. 5; Fox): Another looming terrorist attack, same real-time 24-hour format—but no Jack Bauer! This time, Dr. Dre saves the day! Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) takes over for Kiefer Sutherland; otherwise, same show.

Legion (Wednesday, Feb. 8; FX): The producers of the Fargo series take on The X-Men, even if they’re not actually called X-Men. (Apocalypse just ruined everything.) Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens stars, along with Aubrey Plaza and zero bald guys.

Doubt (Wednesday, Feb. 15; CBS): TV’s latest attempt to make Katherine Heigl a thing is yet another pretty lawyer show—but the cast (which includes Dulé Hill, Steven Pasquale, Elliott Gould, Dreama Walker and Laverne Cox) might save it. Might.

Crashing (Sunday, Feb. 19; HBO): Comedian Pete Holmes stars as a Pete Holmes-like comedian flailing in the New York City comedy scene, along with Artie Lange, Lauren Lapkus and T.J. Miller. A Judd Apatow production; proceed with caution.

The Good Fight (Sunday, Feb. 19; CBS): The Good Wife spin-off no one wants to watch will become even harder to get: After it premieres on CBS proper, The Good Fight will move to CBS All Access, a streamer with about 30 subscribers. Why not double-down and add Katherine Heigl, CBS?

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.

In a year so loaded with great TV, it’s easy to forget the crap—unless you’re a professional television watcher in need of holiday-month filler.

The best will come next week; here are (some of) the worst:

Kevin Can Wait (CBS): Kevin James plays a recently retired cop who finds that life at home with the family is exactly like a shitty sitcom from the ’80s. He’s fat! He’s dumb! He’s ’Merica! And we’re in for at least four years of it, if not eight. Thanks for nothing (again), CBS.

Party Over Here (Fox): A bait-and-switch Andy Samberg/Paul Scheer production that hinted at a Lonely Island sketch show, but instead pitted a trio of unknown (but talented) female comics with no material against Saturday Night Live. Just stay out of late night, Fox.

Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders (CBS): It has a decent cast (including Gary Sinise and Alana de la Garza), but this sub-xenophobic, white-folks-in-peril-abroad spinoff has little reason to exist when we already have a perfectly good O.G. Criminal Minds.

Heartbeat (NBC): In this now-canceled mess, Melissa George starred as a genius-rebel heart surgeon who whose accomplished-if-occasionally-man-splained career contrasted with her garbage personal/romantic life as a single mom and Melissa George-level hot thang. Insert time-of-death joke here.

Houdini and Doyle (Fox): An intriguingly weird setup—Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle solving crimes in the 1900s—turned into another redundant cop procedural, albeit one with an impressive suspenders and mustache-wax budget.

Maya and Marty (NBC): It’s an undead collection of rejected Saturday Night Live sketches that Maya Rudolph and Martin Short shambled though like The Walking Dead gang smeared in zombie guts, desperately trying to avoid attention. Upside: M&M should be the final nail in the variety show’s coffin.

Feed the Beast (AMC): Could a sullen wine sommelier (David Schwimmer) and a sketchy master chef (Jim Sturgess) make their Bronx restaurateur dreams come true? Or at least not get seared and deconstructed by the local mafia? No one, absolutely no one, cared.

Roadies (Showtime): Cameron Crowe’s ode to the hard-knock life behind the rock ’n’ roll fantasy, starring Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino and cameo bands galore, began more rom-com than rock show, then noodled as aimlessly as a Dead jam. Roadies did mostly pull it together by the end, but it was waaay too late.

Wayward Pines (Fox): The first go-round of Wayward Pines, with M. Night Shyamalan at the helm, was a nearly perfect sci-fi season—it was also meant to be the only season. Then Fox got greedy and went ahead with a needless, nonsensical second that made Under the Dome look like a model of cohesion.

Legends of Chamberlain Heights (Comedy Central): The only genuinely funny aspect of Comedy Central’s latest (badly) animated series Legends of Chamberlain Heights is the name of the school where it's set: Michael Clarke Duncan High. Following one of the most uneven seasons of South Park didn’t help.

Notorious (ABC): At least this criminally-stoopid mashup of The Newsroom and Law and Order, about a gorgeous lawyer (Daniel Sunjata), a gorgeous-er news producer (Piper Perabo) and “the unique, sexy and dangerous interplay of law and the media,” has been mercifully canceled by ABC. Just like …

Conviction (ABC): Yet another “sexy” legal drama, this one starring Haley Atwell as a party-girl lawyer learning how to overturn wrongful convictions and “care,” if not master an American accent. Conviction has a handful of episodes to burn off in January, but Atwell is now freed up for more Agent Carter (hint).

The Exorcist (Fox): This unnecessary reboot of the 1973 horror classic is spooky, atmospheric and ... not much else. Kind of a letdown, considering it’s The Exorcist and all. Premiering months after Cinemax’s satanically superior Outcast didn’t help, nor did the Friday time slot. Lucifer is the only Fox devil you need.

Aftermath (Syfy): And another supernatural-apocalypse series—but this time, it's about family! Mom is Anne Heche, who appears to be perpetually hungover, and phones her performance in from behind a ridiculous pair of sunglasses. Even she realizes Aftermath is hot trash.

The Affair (Showtime): Season 1 of The Affair delivered some intriguing adult drama from multiple perspectives. Unfortunately, now that it’s dragged on into Season 3, this “prestige” series offers little more than Middle-Aged Rich People Probs and pricey East Coast real estate views.

Broadcast and Cable News (all of it): Bitch all you want about “fake news”; the “real news” failed spectacularly in this election year. They handed over billions of dollars-worth of free advertising to the worst two presidential candidates in history, and they’re surprised by the outcome? Trump TV might actually be an improvement.