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12 Nov 2014
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State of Affairs (Monday, Nov. 17, NBC), series debut: Katherine Heigl was great in Grey's Anatomy, and then Knocked Up. Let’s pretend she joined the Peace Corps in 2007 and is just now returning to acting, OK? In State of Affairs, she plays a CIA analyst/adviser with a special relationship with the president (Alfre Woodard): She was engaged to POTUS’ son before he was killed in a terrorist attack (as depicted in the pilot’s intense, straight-outta-Zero Dark Thirty cold opening). Now she drowns her pain in booze and random hookups by night, and helps set foreign policy by day. Of course, as we’ve seen with Madam Secretary’s middling ratings, this couldn’t be just a straight-up political drama, so there's some Blacklist-y conspiratorial intrigue about the fiancé not being what he seemed (or seems—yeah, it’s like that). As long as Heigl isn’t called upon to “banter” with her co-workers, as she…
05 Nov 2014
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The Newsroom (Sunday, Nov. 9, HBO), season premiere: The third and final season of Aaron Sorkin’s journalism fan-fiction drama takes place in 2013; your historical place-marker is the Boston Marathon bombing. The Newsroom never quite lived up to the promise of its rousing debut episode, which was a non-too-subtle challenge to American TV news media to actually report the damned news instead of placating advertisers and baiting click-throughs. You’ve probably noticed that it didn’t work. Even though ever-shouting anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) declares, “We don’t do good TV, we do the news!” (followed by, “I think I blew that speech”), The Newsroom is still great TV powered by capital-A Acting performances, particularly from the show’s women (Emily Mortimer, Olivia Munn, Alison Pill and, yes, Jane Fonda). The reform of TV journalism, however, it ain’t. For the closest approximation of McAvoy’s News Night in reality, check out Abby Martin’s bracingly…
29 Oct 2014
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The McCarthys (Thursday, Oct. 30, CBS), series debut: A fat, loudmouthed, sports-obsessed Bah-ston family has a gay son—and it’s a go for borderline homophobic comedy! Or borderline comedy, period. Even sadder than the continued use of The Laugh Track (yes, there’s only one—all the shows share it) in 2014 is the abject laziness in the writing, staging and execution of The McCarthys: It’s like a CBS programmer found a cheap ’80s pilot in the closet, dusted it off, and said, “Here, just jam this in so we can hit happy hour and blow some Big Bang money!” Unfortunately, it’ll probably work (see The Millers). Slednecks (Thursday, Oct. 30, MTV), series debut: Remember how proud MTV was of Buckwild, their Southern-redneck answer to Jersey Shore—minus the intellectual discourse and hair products? That is, until one of the stars turned up dead in a swamp at 21 last year, and MTV “respectfully”…
22 Oct 2014
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Grimm (Friday, Oct. 24, NBC), season premiere: Law and Order: Supernatural Portlandia (or, Grimm for short) is back! When Season 3 left off, Nick (David Giuntoli) had lost his Grimm power to see fairytale Wesen creatures both good and evil, essentially rendering him the only straight-up human in Portland. (Seriously, is there anyone in this town who doesn’t have a hairy alter ego?) Now, it’s up to Nick’s ever-expanding Scooby Gang—especially the troublingly named Trubel (Jacqueline Toboni), the only functioning Grimm in the area code—to keep the local monsters in check, including tonight’s freak of the week: a memory-stealing octopus-man (!). Missed ya, Grimm. (Scroll down to watch the trailer.) Constantine (Friday, Oct. 24, NBC), series debut: Most of the advance gripes about Hellblazer (it’s another DC Comics thing) adaptation Constantine were right: Maybe this show can’t be done on network TV, but what NBC has here isn’t a total…
15 Oct 2014
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Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways (Friday, Oct. 17, HBO), series debut: If you’re new to The Only TV Column That Matters™, you should know that I like my music played and produced by humans—loudly, with electric guitars and minimal artificial sweeteners. In what’s left of the pop mainstream, Foo Fighters are the last band standing who fit that bill, and bless frontman-turned-director Dave Grohl for flying the rock ’n’ roll flag every opportunity he gets. Sonic Highways is an extension of Grohl’s Sound City doc, following the Foos to eight iconic studios in eight cities as they record and soak up local musical history at each stop. (Grohl even sits down with President Barack Obama in the Washington, D.C., episode, because, well, he can.) Grab any kid who thinks an iPad is a recording studio and Auto-Tune is an indispensable engineering tool, and make him watch Sonic Highways. (Scroll down to…
08 Oct 2014
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Cristela (Friday, Oct. 10, ABC), series debut: Says here that Cristela Alonzo is a “breakout star.” If that means she’s breaking out of the TV screen, grabbing you by the neck and screeching, “Laugh at my plight of being a modern Latina dealing with racism, sexism and following Tim Allen on a Friday night!!!” then, yeah. That’s the entire show. The laugh track isn’t the worst part of Cristela (it’s a close second); the by-the-numbers, My Wacky Mexi-Family one-liners weren’t fresh when George Lopez did ’em in this same network timeslot a decade ago. ABC should cancel this floater ASAP so Alonzo can go “break out” on something worth her and our time. The Walking Dead (Sunday, Oct. 12, AMC), season premiere: Walking Dead fanatic: “Why do we have to wait so long between seasons? Whhhyyy?!” Me: “By splitting the seasons in half every year, AMC is actually minimizing the…
01 Oct 2014
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Bad Judge, A to Z (Thursday, Oct. 2, NBC), series debuts: On second viewing, The Only TV Column That Matters™ has revised its assessment of Bad Judge: Kate Walsh is still great as a party-animal judge, but this sitcom is an underdeveloped mess, even compared to NBC’s own Mysteries of Laura, the fall TV season’s designated Underdeveloped Mess. With better writers and a home on cable (Walsh’s smart, wicked comic streak would kill on FX or Showtime), Bad Judge could have been a contender. (Scroll down to see the trailer.) Rom-com A to Z, on the other hand, is more focused and on-point with the network’s recent Less Weird/More Sweet comedy mandate. Plus, Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother’s mother) and Ben Feldman (Mad Men’s Ginsberg) have an easy, if somewhat vanilla, chemistry. Only one of these shows is likely to make it out of October alive—guess which? Gracepoint…
24 Sep 2014
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Parenthood (Thursday, Sept. 25, NBC), season premiere: As in, final season, Parentheads—you have 13 episodes to make peace with the impending departure of the Braverman family. To make matters worse, the show’s producers have hinted that one of the characters won’t live to see the tearful series finale that will undoubtedly be set to classic soft-rock hits, and the candidates are obvious: Kristina (cancer—in remission, but still, cancer) or Zeek (old; spent last season mad bucket-listing; longs to be reunited with his ponytail in heaven). The Only TV Column That Matters™ is holding out hope that it’ll be Max (annoying, one-note character) or Hank (annoying, is Ray Romano), however. How to Get Away With Murder (Thursday, Sept. 25, ABC), series debut: With Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and now this, the Shonda Rhimes takeover of Thursday nights is complete, leaving How to Get Away With Murder star Viola Davis (playing a morally…
17 Sep 2014
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Madam Secretary (Sunday, Sept. 21, CBS), series debut: When the secretary of state is killed in a plane crash, Elizabeth McCord (Teá Leoni), who quit the CIA years ago over “ethical issues,” is yanked out of her college-professor gig to replace him … sure. Beyond the iffy setup, Madam Secretary kicks into West Wing mode, establishing McCord’s zero-tolerance policy for bureaucratic bullshit and useless protocol. Madam Secretary is as solid a political drama as network TV has seen in years, and handled right, it could be Leoni’s The Good Wife moment—work it, CBS. Mr. Pickles (Sunday, Sept. 21, Adult Swim), series debut: Finally! A new animated series from Adult Swim! The live-action shows are cool (most of them, anyway—we’ll see how Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories goes), but the late-night stoner ’toons have been missed. In quaint Old Town, young boy Tommy thinks his dog Mr. Pickles is just a…
10 Sep 2014
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Z Nation (Friday, Sept. 12, Syfy), series debut: The Only TV Column That Matters™ had high hopes for Z Nation, Syfy’s would-be answer to The Walking Dead—not officially, but at this point in the game, any new zombie-based series will automatically be labeled as such. Too bad it’s a terribly written, cheaply shot (seriously, it looks like it was filmed on an iPhone—an iPhone4, at best) and spottily cast (don’t get attached to lone A-lister Harold Perrineau, just sayin’) crapshoot with only a handful of “Damn!” moments worth a look. (Two words: zombie baby.) Three years after a zombie apocalypse has ravaged the country, a ragtag band of survivors (led by Tom Everett Scott) have to get an ex-military test patient from New York to California for the possible formulation of an anti-Z vaccine. Meanwhile, for no apparent reason, a left-behind soldier (DJ Qualls) performs a stilted Pump Up the…