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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,…
14 May 2014
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Stick a fork in this TV season—it’s time to look ahead to the next one. Here’s some of what the networks have green-lighted for the 2014-2015 season: Agent Carter (ABC): Or, more likely, Marvel’s Agent Carter, as it’s a spin-off of Captain America: The First Avenger. In the 1946-set drama, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) takes on secret spy missions for Stark Industries, because she’s a skilled, capable woman (yay) … and she needs something to distract her from pining over Cap (boo). American Crime (ABC): And the dullest show-title award goes to American Crime, which follows the personal toll taken on those affected by a racially motivated crime and trial. If TV audiences are clamoring for anything, it’s to be lectured on race and class politics every week, right? Forever (ABC): The Fantastic Four’s Ioan Gruffudd stars as a New York City medical examiner who also happens to be immortal…
07 May 2014
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Maron (Thursday, May 8, IFC), season premiere: IFC no longer stands for Independent Film Channel; it’s just IFC—not Insanely Funny Comedy, not I’m Feeling Crampy, just IFC. After a handful of false starts (remember Food Party? Z Rock?), Portlandia and Comedy Bang! Bang! (the latter of which premieres for Season 3 on Thursday, May 8) established IFC as a viable original-comedy destination, but it was 2013’s debut season of Maron that lent the channel some real weight. Despite outside appearances, Maron isn’t exactly Louie, just as Louie isn’t Curb Your Enthusiasm; the fictionalized “Marc Maron” rings truer—and often funnier—than “Louis C.K.” or “Larry David.” In the Season 2 premiere, Marc has an uncomfortable time on Talking Dead with geek-media “enemies” Chris Hardwick and Michael Ian Black. Making the world of Twitter, podcasts and nerd-analysis shows play like high drama—that’s comedy. Rosemary’s Baby (Sunday, May 11, NBC), miniseries debut: What’s a…
30 Apr 2014
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The Only TV Column That Matters™ knows the fate of your beloved network series—or knows enough to make a wild guess as to whether or not they’ll return next season, at least. Could an NBC exec wake up tomorrow and say, “Cancel Parenthood—we’re going with Hollywood Cornhole on Thursdays”? Sure. Is it possible that Fox and America finally realize the comedy genius of Surviving Jack before it’s too late? Remotely. Could CBS decide that one NCIS is enough for the nation’s shut-ins? Yeah, right. Will The CW’s show-cloning machine run out of unicorns-and-glitter fuel? Not likely. Might ABC embrace the concept of hate-watching weapons-grade crap and squeeze out another 13 episodes of Black Box? I almost hope so. These be the stats as I know them right now: Not Going Anywhere: Already Renewed, or Thisclose ABC: The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Castle, Dancing With the Stars, The Goldbergs, Grey’s Anatomy, Marvel’s…
23 Apr 2014
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Bad Teacher (Thursday, April 24, CBS), series debut: Do we really need a weekly sitcom take on Cameron Diaz’s Bad Teacher when the 2011 movie is still running on cable 24/7? If Diaz’s TV replacement is Ari Graynor (For a Good Time, Call …), yes. The single-camera, no-laugh-track Bad Teacher comes off like a Fox comedy that wound up on CBS, and Graynor’s Meredith—a dumped trophy wife who fakes her way into teaching at an upscale elementary school to snag Rich Husband No. 2—is far more appealing than Diaz’s toxic film version. She and vet David Alan Grier, as Nixon Middle School’s principal, make Bad Teacher CBS’ funniest new comedy in years—which means it won’t last long; catch it while you can. Black Box (Thursday, April 24, ABC), series debut: Last year, NBC premiered (and two weeks later canceled) Do No Harm, about a brilliant surgeon with a nocturnal second…