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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

TV

01 Jun 2016
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Outcast (Friday, June 3, Cinemax), series debut: While the fanboys are nerd-raging against each other over the authenticity of AMC’s Preacher, here comes another way-adult, based-on-a-comic-book property: Outcast, from Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman—and it’s so gut-wrenchingly creepy that it’ll only fuel the “Preacher shoulda been on premium cable!” fire. Outcast follows Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), a man surrounded by demonic possessions since childhood, who’s drawn out of seclusion when a child on the other side of his rural West Virginia town goes full-on satanic sock puppet. The pilot suffers from unavoidable, but minor, instances of first-episode exposition clunk, but the scares and gore effects could keep even atheists up all night. Don’t watch this alone. Banshee almost did it, but Outcast should be the series to finally make Cinemax a player in the original-programming game. Did I mention … don’t watch this alone? You May Now Kill the Bride…
25 May 2016
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It’s been a rough couple of seasons for broadcast network television. Programming competition from cable and streaming services is at an all-time high, resulting in the era of There’s Too Many Shows. You’d think that, in response, the broadcast networks would raise the quality and imagination going forward into the new fall season, and give viewers a reason to come back. Problem is, you’re thinking. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC? Not so much. (Who would have believed a decade ago that The CW, The C damned W!, would become the visionaries?) Not only have they given up on thinking; the networks have just given up, period: The majority of their proposed 2016-17 season new shows—a relative term, as there’s nary a “new” idea among them—look like complete garbage. A sampling of what’s to come this fall: Conviction (ABC): A hot lawyer (Hayley Atwell) goes to work for a hot district…
18 May 2016
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Preacher (Sunday, May 22, AMC), series debut: The uninitiated have no idea what the hell Preacher is, while the fanboys are convinced that the 1995-2000 Vertigo comic-book series can’t be adapted for any screen, let alone basic-cable TV. And then there are the concerns about stoner-comedy duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg as exec-producers, as well as how an epic heaven-and-hell struggle will be received as a weekly series (even though The CW’s Supernatural has already been mining that territory for a decade). While I can’t speak to the fanboys’ worries—I’ve only skimmed the comics—Preacher will definitely blow some newbies’ minds with its 90-minute premiere, a violent and funny explosion of sharply written characters (including Dominic Cooper in the title role, nearly obliterating his beloved Howard Stark from the Marvel Universe) and slow-burn exposition (Breaking Bad vet Sam Catlin is running the show here, not Rogen and Goldberg). Is the…
11 May 2016
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May is mostly a dead zone of season finales and reruns as TV gears up for the summer. (There’s no off-season anymore; get used to it.) But! Remember all those shows I’ve told you to watch harder in this very column? You know, the shows that are all readily available in various on-demand forms? Now’s the time to catch up! Here’s 12 to start with: Wynonna Earp (Syfy): Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano) is a modern-day descendent of Old West gunslinger Wyatt Earp, who was also a supernatural demon hunter (just roll with it), and she’s back in town to re-smite evil souls (or Revenants). It’s all true enough to the comic-book source, and Scrofano is a likable combo of badass and goofball. Orphan Black (BBC America): In Season 4 of tense clone-soap Orphan Black, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) investigates Beth, the deceased sister-clone whose identity she stole at the beginning of…
04 May 2016
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Ali Wong: Baby Cobra (Friday, May 6, Netflix), standup special: Ali Wong is one of the funniest comedians you’ve probably never heard of—and she’s definitely the most pregnant one you’ve ever seen in her own standup special. (Wong was seven months along when Baby Cobra was filmed in Seattle.) You may have noticed her in a few passable movies (Savages, Dealin’ With Idiots), and some truly painful TV shows (Are You There, Chelsea? and the legendarily stoopid Black Box), and she’s been seemingly on the verge of becoming a Breakout Comic for years. I’m not saying the knocked-up/debut Netflix special hook was timed and calculated for maximum media buzz, but, really, what else are babies good for? If that just tweaked your tweakables, you’ll squirm over Wong’s take on feminism; maybe you should stay away from Baby Cobra. Grace and Frankie (Friday, May 6, Netflix), season premiere: The debut season…
27 Apr 2016
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Penny Dreadful (Sunday, May 1, Showtime), season premiere: Showtime’s supernatural steampunk soap … whew … returns for Season 3 with Ethan (Josh Hartnett), Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) and Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) scattered about the globe, leaving a broken Vanessa (Eva Green) back in dreary old London with no one to confide in but an unorthodox therapist (Patti LuPone) and a sexy zoologist (Christian Camargo). For a dark fantasy series filled with vampires, witches and monsters, Penny Dreadful spools out plenty of deep character development and rich drama for players—particularly Vanessa (Green should be up for all of the awards)—who could easily fall flat and camp-ridiculous. It’s also still in a dead heat for the title of Creepiest Period Show on TV with Salem. (Netflix it, if you never want to sleep again.) Keeping Up With the Kardashians (Sunday, May 1, E!), season premiere: Achievements in human intelligence since 2007,…
20 Apr 2016
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Game of Thrones (Sunday, April 24, HBO), season premiere: What comprehensive information do I have on the Season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones? None? What critical motivation do you need to watch it anyway? None. In 2015, HBO mailed out DVDs of the first four episodes of Season 5 for review. Those episodes were immediately uploaded to torrent sites by asshats who are likely members of the Television Critics Association, an elitist club of tubbies into which I—a TV reviewer with GoT discs in-hand who did not rip ’em and ship ’em to the pirate-verse—have been previously denied entry. Shortly afterward, HBO switched to difficult-to-copy, online-streaming-only advance screeners for critics to avoid another leak. This time around, HBO isn’t even allowing access to that, releasing only a plot synopsis for Season 6’s premiere, “The Red Woman”: “Jon Snow is dead. Daenerys meets a strong man. Cersei sees her daughter…
13 Apr 2016
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Orphan Black (Thursday, April 14, BBC America), season premiere: Tense sci-fi soap Orphan Black has so much going within its clone-crowded narrative that the news of out-there musician Peaches appearing in Season 4, playing herself, barely even registers. (In fact, it almost makes too much sense.) In this chapter, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) sets out to investigate Beth, the deceased sister-clone whose identity she stole at the beginning of the series, as well as the origins of the clone conspiracy—which, of course, leads to trouble, as does trying learn anything in this universe. Unrelated … maybe: Yet another clone, a mysterious outsider who’s been aware of her multi-sister status all along, enters the picture, upping Maslany’s character load for the season to eight (and still no Emmy, huh?). One again, There’s Too Many Shows, but definitely move Orphan Black to the top of your TV homework pile. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Friday,…
06 Apr 2016
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The Girlfriend Experience (Sunday, April 10, Starz), series debut: No Starz series has ever arrived with as much critic-melting Prestige Television pageantry as The Girlfriend Experience: The 13-episode series is produced by Steven Soderbergh (and based on his 2009 movie of the same name); it’s written and directed by a pair of indie filmmakers; it stars the granddaughter of Elvis Presley (Riley Keough, Mad Max: Fury Road); and it and premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Keough plays a law-firm intern who moonlights as a high-priced escort with occasional bouts of self-awareness and humanity. The Girlfriend Experience looks like Soderbergh’s film—natural lighting is always a giveaway—but packs more story (and sex) into its taut, 30-minute episodes. Just don’t expect much cutesy comedy à la Secret Diary of a Call Girl—this Experience is serious business. Fear the Walking Dead (Sunday, April 10, AMC), season premiere: Good news/bad news if you’re…
30 Mar 2016
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Banshee (Friday, April 1, Cinemax), season premiere: Anyone flinching at the hand-to-hand-combat brutality of Daredevil has never seen Banshee—which is probably most of you, because, you know, Cinemax. Fortunately for those suffering from Too Much TV Syndrome, Season 4 will be the last for this overlooked, gritty slice of Amish-country crime noir (stay with me), so there’s hope for eventually catching up. The tale of an ex-con/thief (Antony Starr) who assumes the identity of Sheriff Lucas Hood en route to tracking down his former partner/girlfriend (Ivana Milicevic), who’s hiding out in the small town of Banshee, Penn., has taken many a bizarre turn, but the outcome is always the same (and bloody): The local Amish mafia, Native Americans, skinheads and even some members of Hood’s own police force would like him gone and/or dead. Season 4 picks up two years after the events of Season 3’s shattering finale—Banshee isn’t a…