CVIndependent

Wed11132019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Bill Frost

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.

SuperMansion: War on Christmas (Thursday, Dec. 8, Crackle), holiday special: Oldster superhero Titanium Rex (voiced by Bryan Cranston) and his geezeriffic League of Freedom are forced to stop arguing for a hot minute to save Christmas from a new supervillain, Mr. Skibumpers (Jim Parsons), a malevolent alien who’s turned Santa Claus (Gary Anthony Williams) into a bloodthirsty murder machine wreaking havoc upon Storm City. War on Christmas is SuperMansion’s unofficial kickoff of a second season, arriving in 2017 on Crackle, that little orange-button app you should get around to trying sometime. The Robot Chicken team didn’t quite nail its debut season—about a senior-citizen stop-motion sub-Avengers—but War on Christmas is a step in the right direction, amping-up the crazy and the cohesiveness for a solid holiday entry. As psycho Santa says, we could all use “the gift of oblivion” right about now.

Fuller House (Friday, Dec. 9, Netflix), season premiere: ’Merica has made plenty of egregious, perverse and downright stoopid decisions this year, but it’s not hyperbole to say our most catastrophic, soul-destroying, Sept.-11-times-100 act of them all was to make Netflix’s Full House reboot Fuller House a hit back in February. This means the laugh-tracked atrocity is back for a second season within the calendar year, further cementing 2016 as just the worst. Bob Saget, John Stamos, Dave Coulier and Lori Laughlin will again recur, because, paychecks, but Fuller House is still about the even-less-interesting next gen of Candace Cameron Bure, Jodi Sweetin and the other one; meanwhile, the Olsen twins remain conspicuously absent. (Yay?) Upside: Another season of this dreck will help fund other Netflix shows like …

White Rabbit Project (Friday, Dec. 9, Netflix), series debut: Missing Mythbusters? Can you say that five times fast? White Rabbit Project re-teams Tori Belleci, Kari Byron and Grant Imahara for a new series deconstructing events from pop culture, science and history—jailbreaks, superpower technology, heists, World War II weaponry and why the hell the Discovery channel fired the Build Team trio from Mythbusters two years ago. (OK, probably not the last one.) Speed, flames, explosions, shots and—it hasn’t been outlawed yet!—science converge for what should be an entertaining, if not educational, ride. Maybe next season they can explain Westworld.

A Christmas Wedding Date (Saturday, Dec. 10, Lifetime), movie: A few years ago, there was an odd wave of original Christmas TV movies wherein stylish, big-city businesswomen who had everything but time for love or the holidays were knocked unconscious, only to later awaken in small towns, relieved of those cumbersome career goals and designer fashions—all while being romanced by a hunky townie with a flannel shirt and carefree stubble. There are not so many such films in 2016, but A Christmas Wedding Date puts a Groundhog Day spin on the story of Rebecca (Marla Sokoloff of The Practice and the immortal Dude, Where’s My Car?), a stylish, big-city businesswoman who gets fired from her corporate job, then returns to her small hometown to attend a friend’s Christmas Eve wedding. Soon, she’s reliving the day over and over again, presumably until she gets her shit together, snags a man and learns The True Meaning of Christmas®. Stray thought: Why has no one pitched a sequel called Dude, Where’s My Christmas? Holiday gold!

Star (Wednesday, Dec. 14, Fox), series debut: This certainly sounds familiar: “Star (Jude Demorest), a tough-as-nails young woman who came up in the foster-care system, tracks down her sister, Simone (Brittany O’Grady), and her Instagram bestie, Alexandra (Ryan Destiny), and together, the trio journeys to Atlanta with the hope of becoming music superstars.” A little TLC, a little Destiny’s Child, a whole lotta Empire (Star is produced by Lee Daniels), as well as a cast that also includes Queen Latifah, Benjamin Bratt and Lenny Kravitz, all adds up to what could be a winter sleeper hit for Fox. The snag: Star relies more on music and heartstring-tugging than the over-the-top soap fireworks of Empire, so it’s going to need more (and better) songs to go the distance. But, then again, they said that about Lenny Kravitz, too.

Pacific Heat (Friday, Dec. 2, Netflix), series debut: Much has already been written about how animated Australian import Pacific Heat looks a hell of a lot like long-running American series Archer—and now here’s one more, damn it. First of all, the animation isn’t as slick as Archer’s; Pacific Heat more resembles a haphazard Microsoft Paint attempt at a tribute than a calculated rip-off. Second, the real stoopid-genius of Archer lies in its writing and voice talents, which are among the best on TV, cartoon or otherwise. The Gold Coast law-enforcement agents of Pacific Heat aren’t particularly clever or distinct, and every joke can be seen coming from a kilometer away. You could blame an Aussie/American disconnect, but remember Danger 5? That was some Down Under funny—time to bring it back, Netflix!

Mr. Neighbor’s House (Friday, Dec. 2, Adult Swim), special: You probably know actor Brian Huskey as “that guy” from People of Earth, Veep, Another Period, Childrens Hospital and 100 other bizarro-comedy series and movies. Mr. Neighbor’s House could be the first time Huskey has played a lead role, and he’s disturbingly perfect as a slowly-coming-unglued children’s show host who internally seethes like Patrick Bateman stuck with Mr. Rogers’ shitty sweater—and shittier puppets. Unfortunately, Mr. Neighbor’s House (which was created by Huskey and fellow alt-comedy vet Jason Mantzoukas) has been sitting in Adult Swim purgatory for more than a year, and only one episode of what could have been a hilarious series was produced. So, enjoy Mr. Neighbor’s “31st Annual 5th Birthday Party” and wonder what’s going on at Adult Swim programming these days.

The Royals (Sunday, Dec. 4, E!), season premiere: Sexy glam-trash soap opera The Royals is the only non-reality show on E!, as well as the network’s lone offering that isn’t an insult to anyone with an IQ higher than 50. (Has The Soup really been gone a year? Sigh …) Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley), Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park) and the rest of the fictional British royal family have been locked in a tawdry, shifting power struggle over the throne for two seasons now, and the unexpected return of presumed-dead Prince Robert (Max Brown, replete with fake castaway beard) at the outset of Season 3 further complicates an already sticky wicket. (Hey, I tried.) Catch up on The Royals over the holidays on Amazon Prime; the accents will fool your family into thinking you’re watching some proper PBS fare.

Shut Eye (Wednesday, Dec. 7, Hulu), series debut: A dark dramedy about a Los Angeles crime syndicate of gypsy psychics? Well-played, Hulu. Charlie (Jeffrey Donovan, Burn Notice) is a cynical fortune-teller conman desperate to get out of the gypsies’ racket and start his own racket with his wife (KaDee Strickland, Secrets and Lies), ripping suckers off as an independent businessman, because ’Merica. The idea of a grifter couple trying to get out from under the thumb of a ruthless psychic mafia is intriguing enough, but Shut Eye throws in another twist: When Charlie sustains a beat-down head injury that enables him to experience (seemingly, at least) real clairvoyant visions, the career fraud suddenly has a new outlook on life—not that gypsy mob bosses Fonzo (Angus Sampson) and Rita (Isabella Rossellini) care; their only interest is in retaining their star crystal-baller and his cash flow. Another left-field winner from Hulu.

Hairspray Live! (Wednesday, Dec. 7, NBC), special: John Waters got it right in 1988 with the original Hairspray movie—how many unnecessary and increasingly watered-down stage and film versions need to be made? Apparently one more, because current broadcast network TV is more about nostalgia and cheap stunts than original concepts and risk-taking. (Didya hear that Hulu has a series about a psychic crime syndicate, NBC?) Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Andrea Martin, Martin Short, Derek Hough, Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, Maddie Baillio, Ephraim Sykes, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Billy Eichner, Sean Hayes and Rosie O’Donnell make up the Who’s Who of Who Cares? cast, and every remaining trace of Waters’ subversive undertones will surely have been scrubbed out by airtime. At least he’ll get a check.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (Friday, Nov. 25, Netflix), return: Do not, repeat, do not, watch all four seasonal 90-minute installments of what is technically Gilmore Girls’ eighth season in a single binge—even writer/producer Amy Sherman-Palladino doesn’t recommend it. But you’re going to anyway. This return to Stars Hollow has everything a Gilmore Girls fan could possibly want, and Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory’s (Alexis Bledel) caffeinated banter hasn’t lost a beat since the end of the original WB/CW series nine years ago. Like all nostalgia wallows, however, A Year in the Life (the Netflix run’s unnecessary subtitle) has a few problems balancing ’Member This? with Here’s a New Thing! plot points. But it still hits all the feel buttons with a sentimentally deadly accuracy that lesser revivals like Netflix’s Fuller House crapfest can’t touch. Stretch it out over the Thanksgiving weekend, because this a lot of Gilmore Girls to (re)absorb, and they’re not as perfect as you remember. Except Paris (Liza Weil). She can do no wrong.

Christmas List (Friday, Nov. 25, Hallmark), movie: You know that this year’s crop of new Christmas flicks began airing in October, right? TV’s most egregious ho-ho-offender, Hallmark, is already five weeks into Santa season, and I pity the fool who has to write these plot synopses for ’em: “In Christmas List, Isobel (Alicia Witt) plans a storybook Christmas with her boyfriend, including a snow-covered cottage in the Northwest, and a carefully composed bucket list of classic holiday traditions. But when the boyfriend goes AWOL, the list proves challenging, and a tempting new romance turns her life upside-down. Will Isobel have a White Christmas ending under the mistletoe?” First, “AWOL”? Military jargon is not Christmas-y. Second, “new romance”? Isobel moved on fast.

A Heavenly Christmas (Saturday, Nov. 26, Hallmark), movie: Let’s continue the copywriter analysis with A Heavenly Christmas: “Upon her untimely death, Eve (Kristin Davis) finds herself tethered to her guardian angel (Shirley MacLaine), learning to become a Christmas angel in Heaven. Despite being the worst recruit in the history of Christmas, Eve is assigned the difficult task of helping a struggling singer, Max (Eric McCormack) use his musical gifts to heal old family wounds. As Max begins to overcome his issues, Eve begins to embrace the meaning of Christmas, heal wounds of her own and perhaps find love along the way.” OK, she’s dead, and she’s going to “find love” with a still-alive singer who’s a bit old to still be “struggling”? Kinky.

Journey Back to Christmas (Sunday, Nov. 27, Hallmark), movie: And the hits keep coming: “A World War II-era nurse (Candace Cameron Bure) is transported in time to 2016 and meets a man (Oliver Hudson) who helps her discover the bonds of family and that the true meaning of Christmas is timeless.” That sentence was written in AP Style—Ain’t Punctuating. As for the plot … huh? Is this some kind of reverse-Outlander, minus the kilts and abusive gingers? Also, the title Journey Back to Christmas implies that she’ll returning to the 1940s to possibly be blown up by Nazis, die from a minor flu bug or just be generally marginalized as a “dame.” Stay in 2016! America won’t begin devolving into The Man in the High Castle until at least Jan. 20 of next year.

Incorporated (Wednesday, Nov. 30, Syfy), series debut: So, is now the best time to introduce a sci-fi series about class warfare taken to corporate and technological extremes … or literally the worst time? Like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, the producers of Incorporated care. In this 2074-set drama, the world is split into two distinct halves: The Green Zone, a sealed corporate utopia that resembles American Psycho sponsored by the Apple Store and Ikea, wherein company loyalty is rewarded/demanded; and the Red Zone, the lawless, dirty dystopia that dozens of YA novels (and at least half of Syfy’s other programs) have warned you about. It’s slick and dazzling—so much so that Incorporated’s central story of an outsider (Sean Teale) infiltrating the Green Zone to save his girlfriend almost feels like an afterthought. Wait a minute … Green Zone … Red Zone … Christmas Incorporated?!

Lovesick (Thursday, Nov. 17, Netflix), season premiere: The British series formerly known as Scrotal Recall returns for a second season as Lovesick. Admittedly, that’s not as catchy of a name, but how could one ever top Scrotal Recall? Dicks for the Memories? Poundtown Abbey? Doctor Strange? Anyway: Lovesick is still a romantic-ish comedy about sexually prolific Dylan (Johnny Flynn) contacting his former bedmates episode-by-episode to inform them that he has an STD; perhaps he will come across … let’s rephrase that … happen upon a Miss Right whom he may have blindly overlooked before. It’s charming-enough fluff, worth binging over the holidays after you’ve torn through Gilmore Girls, and you won’t have to explain the (new) title to the parental units.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Fridays, The CW), new season: We’ve recently learned a hard, orange lesson about trusting polls and ratings, but the numbers show that no one is watching the second season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a musical rom-com oddity that struggled even before The CW banished it to Fridays. Too bad, because even though the songs aren’t as strong this time around—call it Flight of the Conchords syndrome—creator/producer/star Rachel Bloom is funnier and more confident than ever in the title role. In the first season, Rebecca (Bloom) left her career—and her meds—in New York City to chase old flame Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) in strip-malled SoCal; now that she’s sorta-landed him, things are getting even weirder and more unpredictable in Season 2. Put Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in the catch-up cue before Lovesick.

The Affair (Sunday, Nov. 20, Showtime), season premiere: Still on? Really? The Affair ran out of story in its first season, and now Showtime is tossing out a third installment of The Sulking Whiteys. It all started with frustrated writer—aren’t they all?—Noah (Dominic West) boning waitress Alison (Ruth Wilson), much to the meh-smay of their respective, equally boring spouses (Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson). For annoying measure, there are also alternate perspectives, split timelines and a whodunit murder subplot in play, all designed to excuse The Affair’s self-absorbed vanilla dullness with an “It’s Artsy!” defense. Nope. Shameless (still killing it in Season 7, BTW) deserves a better lead-out, Showtime.

Squidbillies (Sunday, Nov. 20, Adult Swim), Thanksgiving episode: Now more than ever, we need the redneck wisdom of Squidbillies. In Season 10 (!), the animated series about land-locked Deep South squids (just go with it) has been extended to include Halloween (grave-robbin’!) and Thanksgiving (dinner-fightin’!) episodes, but, sadly, there is no Christmas special—you haven’t earned it, ’Merica; maybe next year. On one hand (tentacle?), perhaps we should set aside such broad stereotypes and reach out to the conservative side of the nation to foster a new sense of unity and understanding. On the other … this shit is just too funny. Make America Squids Again!

Search Party (Monday, Nov. 21, TBS), series debut: Sometimes “dark” comedy is just code for “not necessarily funny” comedy, and there’s probably a reason TBS is blowing out Search Party over five days instead of running it for 10 weeks. When Dory (Alia Shawkat) and her insufferably shallow Brooklynite friends become caught up in the mystery of a missing college acquaintance they vaguely remember … barely anything happens. It quickly becomes apparent that these idiots wouldn’t even be able find their own asses without Google Maps, and that Search Party is a not-so-subtle commentary on directionless millennials who are armed with too much information and zero real-world experience. Edited down to a 90-minute indie-flick, this could work; the friends’ run-ins with harsh reality are hilarious, if too few and far-between. As a five-hour series, not so much.

Better Things (Thursday, Nov. 10, FX), season finale: Like the just-wrapped Atlanta, Better Things is a comedy like no other—on FX or elsewhere. Pamela Adlon’s semi-autobiographical story of a B-level actress/saint-level mom (her daughters are the worst) delivers no overly grand statements or sitcom-wacky situations; it just makes it through another day and drops subtle, been-there wisdoms. Better Things swings from sweet to sad to snarky with an assured precision that her creative partner Louis C.K.’s Louie never quite nailed, and Adlon subverts the first impressions of her co-stars beautifully. (OK, her daughters aren’t that bad.) Hell, FX aired the 10 episodes in random order—a note to future on-demanders—and it still worked. Thank goodness the show has been renewed for a second season.

People of Earth (Mondays, TBS), new series: It’s not as instantly defined as recent TBS comedies like The Detour or Angie Tribeca (you know, as Vacation and The Naked Gun clones, respectively), but People of Earth at least has ex-Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac, which is a hell of a start. Cenac plays a New York City journalist dispatched to a small upstate town to interview an alien-abductee support group, and investigate “extraterrestrial activity” in the area. It’s a quirky enough setting—like Parks and Recreation with Lexapro dumped in the water supply—but People of Earth leans more weird than funny, and the characters are even less fleshed out than those of TBS’ weakest new sitcom, Wrecked. But, as I always say about TBS: At least it’s not another King of Queens rerun.

Good Behavior (Tuesday, Nov. 15, TNT), series debut: Whereas Animal Kingdom, TNT’s first bid for grit-drama cred, was mostly bark and little bite, the rebranding network’s new Good Behavior has teeth. Not-so-lovable loser Letty Dobesh (Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey) is fresh out of prison and low on prospects when she hooks up with a magnetic hit man (Juan Diego Botto) who’ll most likely derail her already-shaky plans for getting straight (well, him and the drugs). Like Cinemax’s fantastic (and novel-based—writing matters, people) Quarry, Good Behavior takes a boilerplate crime-noir setup and twists it into unexpected shapes, going deeper than usual TNT fare. Dockery and Botto are transfixing to watch, and director Charlotte Sieling (who also helmed Queen of the South’s similarly impressive pilot) brings the sweat of the South alive. Yes, now there’s another show you need to watch.

Sweet/Vicious (Tuesday, Nov. 15, MTV), series debut: Intentions were good-ish: Sorority girl Jules (Eliza Bennett) and outcast computer-punk Ophelia (Taylor Dearden) team up to beat down sexual predators on their college campus; think Kick-Ass filtered through Jezebel. It’s a heavy balance to strike, avenging rape survivors and dropping post-feminist snark (not to mention keeping up on classwork—vigilantes should be sponsored by Red Bull), and Sweet/Vicious’ Serious Issues half isn’t yet as compelling as its Violent Fun half. Still, credit first-time creator/writer Jennifer Robinson and MTV for hitting on a hot topic while it’s timely, instead of five years from now in a tossed-off Law and Order: SVU episode. Of course the soundtrack rocks—MTV hasn’t completely lost its touch.

Ice (Wednesday, Nov. 16, Audience/DirecTV), series debut: Crackle’s The Art of More, a star-studded drama about high-end art crime, streams its second season today, and now DirecTV’s Audience network is debuting Ice, a star-studded drama about diamond thieves. Is there a new 1 Percenter TV trend that I missed? Anyway: Freddy (Jeremy Sisto) puts his family diamond business—and his family—in jeopardy when he kills a connected rival gem dealer; now it’s up to his half-brother Jake (Cam Gigandet) to save his ass from a ruthless diamond-cartel crime boss (Donald Sutherland). Violence, sex and shiny-object fondling ensue, but who needs to add this “meh” trinket to an already overstuffed Too Much TV cue? And why wasn’t it titled On the Rocks?

Election Night 2016 (Tuesday, Nov. 8, ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS): You could trust the Lamestream Media to give you accurate, unbiased coverage of voting results across the country, just like you could trust a urine-scented man in a ratty clown costume to baby-sit your kids in a windowless van under the overpass while you attend your political party’s “Victory!” bash at the local bar. Just sayin.’ ABC’s Your Voice Your Vote, CBS’ Campaign 2016, Fox’s You Decide 2016, NBC’s 2016 Election Night and PBS’ Newshour Election Night can’t even come up with decent titles, much less disclosure that their Liberal Media reporters and analysts are all Team Hillary. Except for that dreamy Shepard Smith, anchor of Fox’s recycled broadcast from Fox News …

Election Night 2016 (Tuesday, Nov. 8, Fox News): The Make America Great Again™ crowd will be glued to Fox News tonight, grabbing for any crumbs of positive Donald Trump poll showings, which Shep and conservative lust/loathe object Megyn Kelly may not be able to deliver. Which is why Fox News will probably throw on such true believers as human potato Karl Rove and inhuman hairball Ann Coulter to keep your grandfather from completely losing his shit and retreating to the bunker. With any luck, they’ll also give some screen time to Fox News wildcards like Greg Gutfeld and Kat Timpf to inject some (intentional) comedy into what could be a bleak night.

Election Night 2016 (Tuesday, Nov. 8, CNN): If the Centrist News Network were smart, they’d bring in Samantha Bee from Time Warner cable cousin TBS’ Full Frontal as a guest commentator. They’re not, so they won’t. Instead, it’ll be hours of Wolf Blitzer’s beardy blathering, broken up with the occasional pithy point from Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper and maybe a woman, if they can find one anywhere in the newsroom. But hey, 3D Minority Report graphics!

Election Night 2016 (Tuesday, Nov. 8, MSNBC): The Left Wing’s direct feed will be unapologetically, giddily pronouncing a Hillary Clinton landslide, and Hardball’s Chris Matthews will likely be even more intoxicated than usual … allegedly. MSNBC is as liberal as David Cross in Barbra Streisand drag snorting Ecstasy at Burning Man, but it’s still a credible news outlet that delivers in the clutch—maybe because they rest all weekend while airing 600 reruns of Locked Up Abroad, but who knows? Few newscasters piss off Redneck ‘Merica like Rachel Maddow, which is why she’s a national treasure who’ll become even more invaluable should this “rigged” election go the way of the Manchurian Cheeto instead of the presumed Pantsuit Assassin. Who better to be the voice of the underground resistance in the post-apocalyptic Mad Max hellscape of TrumpVana?

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah (Tuesday, Nov. 8, Comedy Central): It’s crunch time. If Trevor Noah and his crew don’t nail this, the most important moment of The Daily Show’s post-Jon Stewart era, Comedy Central might as well give up and just hand weeknights completely over to Chris Hardwick and @Midnight. We’re rooting for you, Trevor. Well, maybe not Larry Wilmore, but the rest of us are …

Stephen Colbert’s Live Election Night Democracy’s Series Finale: Who’s Going to Clean Up This Shit? (Tuesday, Nov. 8, Showtime): “It will be all the political comedy you love from my CBS show, with all the swearing and nudity you love from Showtime,” Late Show host Stephen Colbert has said of his epically-named live special. “Get all the election news without all the ethics and standards of news.” While that last part is essentially the mantra of AM talk radio, Colbert’s unusual live outing on an uncensored premium-cable network (again, why aren’t you doing a similar special with Samantha Bee on your HBO, Time Warner?) should be the go-to election broadcast of the year, even if it is only an hour long.

Good night, and good luck, America.