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06 Jan 2016
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Shades of Blue (Thursday, Jan. 7, NBC), series debut: When The Player was quietly but unofficially canceled last year, Shades of Blue materialized out of nowhere as its NBC Thursday replacement. A gritty cop drama pitting Jennifer Lopez against Ray Liotta? Sounds like a forgotten ’90s flick you’d run across on TNT at 3 a.m., but Shades of Blue is more like The Shield with bigger hair: NYPD detective Harlee Santos (Lopez), having spent most of her career skirting legalities with “creative” police work, is busted by the FBI and forced to take a deal to secretly inform on her equally sketchy colleagues (including Liotta and Drea de Matteo), or risk never seeing her moppet daughter again (because of course Harlee’s a single mom). What follows is mucho capital-A Acting!, few twists you didn’t fully expect, and the nagging truth: “Well, it’s not the worst show NBC’s thrown at us…
30 Dec 2015
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This is a filler week; we all know it. We’re suffering from a Christmas hangover leading into a New Year’s hangover—then we’re back to TV business as usual. In the meantime, I’ll remind you of what you should have been watching in 2015 (and can still on-demand), as well as the shows we’ve lost—and those that should just die already. Shows I Told You to Watch (Cable) Bates Motel (A&E); Stitchers (ABC Family); Better Call Saul (picture below), Fear the Walking Dead, Halt and Catch Fire, Humans, Into the Badlands, The Walking Dead (AMC); Childrens Hospital, Mike Tyson Mysteries, Rick and Morty, Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell (Adult Swim); Doctor Who, Orphan Black (BBC America); Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, Odd Mom Out (Bravo); Banshee, The Knick (Cinemax); Another Period, Big Time in Hollywood FL, Broad City, Drunk History, Inside Amy Schumer, The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail, Review…
23 Dec 2015
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Bordertown (Sunday, Jan. 3, Fox), series debut: “It’s about time we did something about immigration—the Southwest belongs to retired art teachers and meth-lab entrepreneurs!” So begins Bordertown, the long-long-delayed animated comedy from Family Guy producer Mark Hentemann, with a cultural-consulting assist from Lalo Alcaraz (La Cucharacha cartoonist) and Gustavo Arellano (Ask a Mexican columnist). Bordertown mashes-up the Tex-Mex sensibilities of King of the Hill with Family Guy’s rapid-fire absurdism, as well equal-opportunity skewering of Whitey/Latino relations and conservative/liberal agendas. At the show’s center are Bud (voiced by Hank Azaria), a Fox News-loving ’Merican who works as a U.S. border agent in the desert town of Mexifornia, and Ernesto (Nicholas Gonzalez), his immigrant next-door neighbor who’s achieved more in a few years here than Bud has in his entire life—hell, even Bud’s boss is Mexican. Of all the comedies that have tried, and mostly failed, to capture the country’s modern dual-cultural…
16 Dec 2015
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F Is for Family (Friday, Dec. 18, Netflix), series debut: Comedian Bill Burr was slinging (smarter) anti-PC rants long before a certain GOP presidential frontrunner hijacked the practice, and his new animated series is the most hilariously profane breakthrough since Netflix’s own BoJack Horseman—and he only had to set it in 1973 to pull it off. F Is for Family is a semi-autobiographical take on Burr’s wonder years, wherein dad Frank (voiced by Burr) is a beer-swilling bullhorn of backward thinking; Mom (Laura Dern) is too smart for the room and the time period; and kids Kevin (Justin Long), Bill (Haley Reinhart) and Maureen (Debi Derryberry) somehow survive without excessive “helicopter” parenting. Beyond all of its R-rated laughs and detailed attention to ’70s-isms, F Is for Family also touches on real-life drama and, yes, the occasional Heartfelt Moment. It won’t attract Jessica Jones-level hype, but F Is for Family is…
09 Dec 2015
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Transparent (Friday, Dec. 11, Amazon Prime), season premiere: Long before Caitlyn Jenner demanded your instant approval, Mort-turned-Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) earned that respect and adoration in the wildly fantastic debut season of Jill Soloway’s Transparent, a family dramedy like nothing ever seen on TV (or streaming service, app, etc.). Season 1 introduced the hilarious-to-heartbreaking-and-back minefield that is the Pfefferman clan through Maura, but also made it clear that this isn’t a one-woman show: Co-stars Judith Light, Gaby Hoffmann, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass are all equal players in the chaos, and Season 2 makes even greater leaps in spreading the dramatic wealth now that Maura is “out.” The small moments of Transparent are more real than anything that will ever, ever, ever happen on I Am Cait; catch up—patiently—on the first season before diving in. Becoming Santa (Saturday, Dec. 12, Lifetime), movie: It’s Christmas, and Holly (Laura Bell Bundy, last seen…
02 Dec 2015
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A Very Murray Christmas (Friday, Dec. 4, Netflix), special: This is not a “holiday variety show” in the traditional sense, because it’s directed by Sofia Coppola, so you know it’s going to get weird: Bill Murray’s grand plans for a Christmas cabaret show at the Carlyle Hotel are dashed when Manhattan is hit by an even grander blizzard, yet he puts on the show anyway for the hotel guests and staff, because he’s Bill freakin’ Murray. Braving the storm and pitching in are George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, Rashida Jones, Amy Poehler, Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman, Maya Rudolph, Chris Rock, Jenny Lewis, David Johansen and, for no apparent reason, French awk-pop band Phoenix. (Told you it would get weird.) Finally, a reason to look forward to Christmas! Telenovela (Monday, Dec. 7, NBC), series debut: Former Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria can do funny (check out her brief stint last year on…
25 Nov 2015
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South of Hell (Friday, Nov. 27, WE tv), series debut: Either WE tv (it’s a real channel, promise) is embracing the binge-watching model by dropping all seven episodes of South of Hell tonight, or they’d just rather get it over with and hope no one notices. This likely one-season-and-done horror series, about a Southern demon hunter (Mena Suvari) who herself has a demon inside fighting for soul custody, is co-produced by Eli Roth (Hemlock Grove, Hostel) and Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity and, even scarier, Jem and the Holograms), and it’s just as over-the-top-of-the-top insane as you’d expect from that unholy union. The sex and scares are served up buffet-style, and Roth’s visual flare is in full effect—but South of Hell lacks the humor of an American Horror Story, as well as the, oh, story. And isn’t this about a month late? Unforgettable (Friday, Nov. 27, A&E), season premiere: The crime…
18 Nov 2015
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The Art of More (Thursday, Nov. 19, Crackle), series debut: Small-time crook Graham Connor (Christian Cooke, Witches of East End) slips into the high-end art world of the super-rich—but if the dark side of the auction house doesn’t sting him first, his shady secret past will. The slick and sexy Art of More is relatable to your life in no way whatsoever (sure, Graham came from nothing, but he’s still ridiculously good-looking), but the show is deeper than you’d expect luxury porn to be, and the supporting cast (Dennis Quaid, Kate Bosworth and Cary Elwes) ain’t bad for a show on a streaming service you’ve barely heard of, either. Given the app/network’s (appnet?) recent surge in original programming, it looks like reports of parent company Sony’s lack of interest in Crackle are greatly exaggerated. Also: There’s now really Too Much TV. Marvel’s Jessica Jones (Friday, Nov. 20, Netflix), series debut:…
11 Nov 2015
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W/ Bob and David (Friday, Nov. 13, Netflix), series debut: I’m going to assume/hope my audience is too young to remember HBO’s Mr. Show With Bob and David—if not, then I’m talking to a bunch of geezers who won’t be around much longer to continue to support my lavish lifestyle. Anyway: Mr. Show was a ’90s sketch-comedy series starring Bob Odenkirk (now of Better Call Saul fame) and David Cross (Arrested Development and The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret infamy) that was nothing less than the American Monty Python: a fearless, biting comedy whirlwind that eviscerated pop culture and influenced every show after it. W/ Bob and David isn’t the groundbreaking vehicle that was, but Odenkirk and Cross (as well as several returning Mr. Show regulars and some new faces) still deliver the goods like it’s 1995. Where’s my flannel shirt and sixer of Zima? Spotless (Saturday, Nov. 14,…
04 Nov 2015
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Master of None (Friday, Nov. 6, Netflix), series debut: Comedian/actor Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation) plays a New York City comedian/actor who’s a hell of a lot like Aziz Ansari. Depending on your Aziz Ansari tolerance levels, this is either great or terrible news (and nobody’s asking you, Family Guy). The pleasant surprise of Master of None is that the closer Ansari hews to himself—or at least this version of “himself”—the more likable and endearing he becomes. Whereas the Louis C.K. of Louie and the Marc Maron of Maron stay on-brand, this isn’t (always) the Aziz Ansari who yells his lines to the back row, and it takes to getting used to. Likewise, Master of None is more thoughtful than jokey—it doesn’t always work, but at least it shows another side of Tom Haverford, er, Ansari. Flesh and Bone (Sunday, Nov. 8, Starz), series debut: Showrunner Moira Walley-Beckett (a former …