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TV

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…
03 Sep 2014
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The League (FXX; Wednesday, Sept. 3, season premiere): The funniest sorta-sports-related show ever returns, with Katie as the reigning (and insufferable) fantasy football league champion. Thanks to The Simpsons, FXX is finally on America’s radar. Boardwalk Empire (HBO; Sunday, Sept. 7, season premiere): In the fifth-season (and final-season) premiere, Nucky’s in Cuba wooing Bacardi Rum as Prohibition ends, and the Great Depression of the 1930s sets in. So, if you though the show was a downer before … Sons of Anarchy (FX; Tuesday, Sept. 9, season premiere): In the premiere of the seventh and final season, Jax sets a new mission for SAMCRO: Avenge the murder of Tara, as soon as he figures out who did it. Yes, the premiere is 90 minutes, and yes, half of it is musical montages. Z Nation (Syfy; Friday, Sept. 12, series debut): In Syfy’s answer to The Walking Dead, a group of survivors…
02 Sep 2014
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COMIC BOOK AND FANTASY ACTION Gotham (Fox, premieres Monday, Sept. 22) The “Garfield Minus Garfield” jokes regarding Gotham’s “Batman Minus Batman” origin story are valid, as is the observation that it’s just a highly-stylized cop show with the occasional glimpse of a future villain. (“Hey, look, the Penguin! And there’s Poison Ivy!”) However, a highly stylized cop show is better than a no-style cop show—as you’ll see soon—and Gotham, centered around detectives James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), sports this season’s priciest-looking pilot: The police station looks like the ’40s; the cars look like the ’70s; and you never see a cell phone or computer, but there are satellite dishes on the rooftops. Gotham occupies no time period, you see, and of all the excellent performances (McKenzie is as stoic and solid as Logue is manic and morally fluid), the most surprising of all is Jada Pinkett…
20 Aug 2014
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Doctor Who (Saturday, Aug. 23, BBC America), season premiere: The Only TV Column That Matters™ is glad to be rid of Matt Smith and his stupid hair—bring on the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Season … OK, series 8 of Doctor Who introduces a less warm-and-wacky Doctor: Capaldi’s incarnation is an all-business Time Lord who doesn’t care all that much for humans or niceties—my kinda guy. While the timey-wimey shakeup is intriguing, I’m more interested in the new BBC America series that follows … Intruders (Saturday, Aug. 23, BBC America), series debut: This supernatural-murder-conspiracy-horror production from Glen Morgan (The X-Files) doesn’t have a breakout star like Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, but it does sport an even creepier premise than cloning: “A secret society devoted to chasing immortality by seeking refuge in the bodies of others.” Yeesh. John Simm stars as an ex-Los Angeles cop with a nagging twinge of a British…
13 Aug 2014
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The Summer of Too Much TV is nearly over and, besides Sharknado 2: The Second One and True Blood: The Finally Final Season, nothing has made much of a splash in ’Merica’s above-ground pool. Even hyper-hyped new series like FX’s The Strain and TNT’s The Last Ship can barely keep up with the Kardashians’ ratings, even when the networks apply their convoluted “Live + 7” formulas (the audience watching the show as it airs is multiplied over seven days by DVR procrastinators, divided by a show’s hashtagged tweets and added to projected thought patterns of potential viewers squared by unicorn farts). As far as The Only TV Column that Matters™ is concerned, the biggest disappointment of the summer is AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, the ’80s period piece about the dawn of the personal-computer boom that premiered with a sizzling pilot episode and decent ratings, only to get stuck in…
06 Aug 2014
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Garfunkel and Oates (Thursday, Aug. 7, IFC), series debut: New Zealand musical-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords self-canceled their quasi-autobiographical HBO series partially because it was difficult to write so many songs for each episode. Since Garfunkel and Oates (Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci) already have twice as many funny tunes to choose from, maybe they’ll last longer than two seasons. Garfunkel and Oates is closer in spirit to female-centric series like Broad City and the subtly groundbreaking Sarah Silverman Program than the dude-heavy comedies dominating cable right now, and the sparingly used musical numbers are sweet and scathing. (DVR alert: Lindhome and Micucci’s clever wordplay flies fast and furiously.) Black Jesus (Thursday, Aug. 7, Adult Swim), series debut: What’s Aaron McGruder been up to besides not working on the final season his own show, The Boondocks? Making a whole new series to piss off Whitey: Despite the drama surrounding…
30 Jul 2014
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The Quest (Thursday, July 30, ABC), series debut: The biggest fantasy of The Quest is that the producers think they’ve invented a whole new genre by combining reality TV and scripted storytelling—that’s Every! Reality! Show! Ever! Made! Still, a Dungeons and Dragons/Big Brother mashup is a shift from the usual reality-TV tropes, and The Quest will have an instant, built-in audience of LARPers, fantasy nerds and others who actually use words like “trope.” The setup: 12 contestants are named Paladins (“defenders of a noble cause”) and dressed up like Lord of the Rings extras to “compete to save the besieged kingdom of Everealm” until Only One remains. The ridiculousness of bartenders and MMA fighters in Frodo gear is offset by the sheer scope and design of the production: The Quest looks as expensive as Peter Jackson’s catering budget, another departure from cheap-o reality standards. In other words, it’s the least-terrible…
23 Jul 2014
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The Only TV Column That Matters™ has seen the glory of Syfy’s Sharknado 2: The Second One (premiering Wednesday, July 30) in advance and can definitively report that it’s even more ridiculous than 2013’s surprise … hit? … Sharknado. This time around, the chompy tsunami hits New York City, and it’s up to Ian Ziering and Tara Reid—as well as Kari Wuhrer, Mark McGrath, Vivica A. Fox and a seemingly endless parade of other guest stars who’ve probably since fired their agents—to shut down the SharkDown. It may be cheesier than an overturned truck of Doritos Loaded in a 7-Eleven parking lot, but Sharknado 2 isn’t entirely predictable—let’s pre-test your pre-knowledge of The Second One: 1. Even though he’s famously battled one before, nobody believes Fin Shepard (Ziering) when he initially warns of a Sharknado hitting NYC because: A. It sounds like a bad Syfy movie. B. He thinks the…
16 Jul 2014
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Married (Thursday, July 17, FX): Judy Greer, Nat Faxon, Jenny Slate, Brett Gelman, Regina Hall, John Hodgman, Michaela Watkins—any one of the players of Married are funny enough to headline their own series; thankfully, they’ve been assembled for a grown-up cable comedy instead of being wasted separately on more network filler (as they all have been before). Greer and Faxon are Russ and Lina Bowman, a long-married couple whose three daughters drain them of any impulse for Sexy Time—one of them, anyway, though Russ’ wife-“sanctioned” quest for a mistress only lands him a puppy. Married walks the line between sweet and caustic more smoothly as it progresses (Lina and Russ come into focus as real people by the second episode, partially in contrast to their really damaged friends). This could be the most authentic relationship portrayal in years. You’re the Worst (Thursday, July 17, FX), series debut: On the other…