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TV

09 Jul 2014
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Welcome to Sweden, Working the Engels (Thursday, July 10, NBC), series debuts: Comedy Welcome to Sweden is based on creator/star Greg Poehler (younger bro to Amy) and his real-life experience of moving around the world with his Swedish girlfriend (played here by Josephine Bornebusch); the show premiered in that country months ago. It’s only on NBC because of Amy (who guests in the premiere episode); Welcome to Sweden has a subtle, sweet, indie-flick vibe that would probably play better on cable—unlike Working the Engels, which drives home its few laughs with a sledgehammer. Oh, and that’s Canadian filler. Hemlock Grove (Friday, July 11, Netflix), season premiere: The Only TV Column That Matters™ asked a question upon the debut of this supernatural soap opera last year, and I’ll ask it again: Why is anyone surprised that terrible things happen in a town called Hemlock Grove? Season 1 didn’t sit well with…
02 Jul 2014
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Bad Teacher (Saturday, July 5, CBS), return: When CBS canceled Bad Teacher in May after five weeks, it was implied that you’d never, ever see the final eight of 13 produced episodes—but here they are! Ari Graynor’s take on Cameron Diaz’s toxic film gold-digger was more light and likable at first, but it became apparent that she couldn’t carry the show alone; beyond the occasional comic assist from David Alan Grier, the only support she got on Bad Teacher was from Victoria’s Secret. Dead-fish co-stars aside, there’s still some funny here. Better this than a Saturday-night burn-off of fellow midseason casualty Friends With Better Lives. Married at First Sight (Tuesday, July 8, FYI), series debut: FYI is a real cable channel—it’s A&E Networks’ newly-“rebranded” Bio—with the company line that “FYI will be an upscale network with a younger and more modern sensibility … that embraces personal creativity and the sharing…
25 Jun 2014
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Rake (Friday, June 27, Fox), series finale: Try and follow this: The now-canceled Rake, starring Greg Kinnear as a rakish (get it?) screw-up who also happens to be a brilliant defense lawyer, debuted in January with its second episode. Fox continued to air episodes out of running order for several Thursdays before moving it to Fridays and, ultimately, blowing out the final 12th and 13th eps in what its few remaining viewers were left to assume was a two-hour series finale on a Saturday in April. But wait! Here’s the official series finale, the sixth episode, which makes no storyline sense airing after No. 13. Thanks, Fox. Reckless (Sunday, June 29, CBS), series debut: She (Anna Wood) is a gorgeous, street-smart Chicago defense attorney; he (Cam Gigandet) is a gorgeous, charming Charleston, S.C. city attorney; together, they’re Pretty Lawyers Fighting the Throbbing Urge to Bone In and Out of the…
18 Jun 2014
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Dominion (Thursday, June 19, Syfy), series debut: After the Season 2 premiere of cowboys-and-aliens future Western Defiance—yes, they’re still defying their asses off—Syfy drops another big-budget original, Dominion, which is waaay better than a series based on the 2010 mess of a movie Legion should be. Twenty-five years later, in the rubble of an Earth ravaged by lower angels bent on the destruction/possession of mankind, new, high-tech bunker-cities house remaining humans—including a Vega (the former Las Vegas, somehow even more obnoxious than before) soldier who happens to be, yep, The Chosen One who’ll save humanity. Dominion establishes its dark tone and New Ruling Class hierarchy quickly, thanks to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Anthony Stewart Head, who lends serious weight even without his British accent, and writing that doesn’t dumb it down. (See again: Legion.) Rectify (Thursday, June 19, Sundance), season premiere: If you missed the first season of Sundance’s dream-state…
11 Jun 2014
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Game of Thrones (Sunday, June 15, HBO), season finale: Not only has this been the most rape-y and head-popping season of Game of Thrones yet; it’s also the most-watched: Season 4 has averaged 18.4 million viewers, beating out The Sopranos as HBO’s highest-rated series. (Just imagine the numbers if HBO Go actually worked.) So now HBO has even less incentive to send preview screeners out to TV critics—all I’ve received is this synopsis of the season finale, “The Children”: “An unexpected arrival north of the Wall changes circumstances; Dany (Emilia Clarke) is forced to face harsh realities; Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) learns more of his destiny; Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) sees the truth of his situation.” Wild speculations: Wreck-It Ralph; split ends; an Animal Planet reality series; he’s screwed. Louie (Monday, June 16, FX), season finale: It’s over already, and while not every episode of the year-delayed fourth season of Louie…
10 Jun 2014
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Larry Kramer’s semi-autobiographical The Normal Heart, based on his play with the same name, offers up some of the best acting you will see in any movie or TV show. Mark Ruffalo plays Ned Weeks, a character Kramer loosely based upon himself. He’s a gay journalist with a blasé attitude about love and life. When visiting a party at Fire Island in 1981, one of the revelers falls to his knees, coughing, on the shoreline. In this moment, Ned and his friends are introduced to AIDS. What follows is a history-based dramatization of what happened to a group of men and doctors trying to raise AIDS awareness against a backdrop of citizen indifference and political blocking. The film addresses the controversial stance taken by New York City mayor Ed Koch, with the Weeks character proclaiming that their (allegedly) closeted gay mayor and politicians like him were essentially out to murder…
04 Jun 2014
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Orange Is the New Black (Friday, June 6, Netflix), season premiere: How badly did Piper (Taylor Schilling) beat down Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) at the end of Season 1? The bigger, more unexpected question is: Were the two alone at the scene? Orange Is the New Black grew stealthily and deliberately from a pretty-white-girl-goes-to-prison comedy into a racially diverse drama with real tension and consequences during its initial 13 episodes (while still retaining some laughs—this isn’t the female Oz yet); showrunner Jenji Kohan sends Season 2 down a darker path from the outset. (While the first episode is mostly Piper-centric, she’s not the same woman who entered Litchfield Penitentiary last year.) But, it’s not all a downer—two words: cunnilingus contest. Happy binging! Power (Saturday, June 7, Starz), series debut: Ghost (Omari Hardwick) is a successful-if-unfortunately nicknamed New York City nightclub owner by night, but an even-more-successful drug dealer by … later…
28 May 2014
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Undateable (Thursday, May 29, NBC), series debut: When Whitney debuted in 2011, The Only TV Column That Matters™ asked, “Who’s this funny Chris D’Elia guy?” and “Why the hell are networks still producing laugh-tracked comedies in the 21st Century?” Three years later, I’m asking the same questions with Undateable. The idea of D’Elia as a delusional “player” who sets out to teach his romantically challenged buds how to play the love game is a solid one—his stand-up is loaded with hysterical relationship disasters—but Undateable’s lazy writing and cheap staging is straight outta the late ’90s, when NBC was cranking out “Must See TV” filler like it was going out of style (which it was). I’ll leave the “Unwatchable” puns to lesser TV critics. Crossbones (Friday, May 30, NBC), series debut: During the two years (!) since Crossbones was ordered to series, Starz pissed in the pirate punchbowl with Black Sails,…
27 May 2014
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Television used to take a break in the summertime—but that was back in the dark ages, Grandpa. Today, networks are more aggressive than ever about establishing the fabled 52-week programming schedule, so the real winner is you! Here’s what you should be watching while it’s hot: JUNE Following the Season 2 premiere of 2013’s hit alien-western Defiance, it’s the debut of Dominion (right), a new supernatural drama about rogue angels bent on possessing mankind in the—wait for it—post-apocalyptic future. It’s based on the 2010 flick Legion, so the fact that Dominion doesn’t completely suck is a … miracle. (Syfy; Thursday, June 19) Quiet breakout series Rectify, about a former death-row inmate trying to fit back into his small Georgia home town, returns for a 10-episode second season. The gorgeously hypnotic Southern Gothic doles out details slower than molasses, but it earns every last drop of its critical mass—binge Season 1…
21 May 2014
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Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys (Sunday, May 25, Animal Planet), movie: So … Animal Planet is in the original-movie game now? At least it’s not another season of (Never) Finding Bigfoot. The exhaustingly titled Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys (they’re slimy, toothy, eel-like fish—not unlike Ryan Seacrest) looks like Syfy B-flick cheese, because it’s “from the creators of Sharknado,” and stars Shannen Doherty (whom you’d expect to be here) and Christopher Lloyd (wha?). The surprises end there: Bikini babes and hapless townies get chomped via lake, swimming pool and, yes, toilet (top that, Sharknado 2), while Doherty and Lloyd (re)act and wait for the checks to clear. In case you hadn’t noticed, terrible TV movies are replacing terrible reality shows as social-media “events,” which is a step … up? Petals on the Wind (Monday, May 26, Lifetime), movie: Speaking of trainwreck cable flicks as hashtag bait,…