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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

TV

02 Mar 2016
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The Family (Thursday, March 3, ABC), series debut: ABC has only launched a single winner in the 2015-16 TV season: Quantico (aka Federal Beautiful Investigators, aka How to Get Away With Homeland—which returns March 6, if you were wondering). Everything else has been DOA, and The Family will likely be no different. The dully named “political thriller” stars Joan Allen as Maine politician Claire Warren, an aspiring candidate for governor whose campaign is rocked by the sudden return of her son Adam (Liam James), who was presumed murdered a decade ago. Is Claire’s politically prudent persona as a “survivor” in jeopardy? Will the wrongly ailed “killer” (Andrew McCarthy) seek revenge? Where the hell’s Adam been—if it’s really even him? Is the Warren family harboring even more secrets and lies than ABC’s other lamely titled drama, Secrets and Lies? Couldn’t this have all been wrapped up in a Lifetime movie? So…
24 Feb 2016
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You’re probably watching few, if any, network shows (ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC) via live broadcast anymore. Hell, you’re probably not even watching on an actual television set—do you even own a TV, comrade? Or, as you’ll see on some of the lists below, you’re just not watching them, period. Broadcast networks have taken a particularly brutal beating from cable/satellite and streaming services this season, what with unfair practices like easy viewing options, non-garbage programming and limited pandering to the lowest common denominator of mouthbreathing ’Merica (E! excluded). Broadcast TV has become AM radio: It’s there, but who’s paying attention? Besides your uncle who believes that the moon landing never happened, that Obama is a ninja assassin who snuffed out a Supreme Court justice, and that the NSA is spying on him though his Keurig? Through intense ratings number-crunching, social-media trend monitoring and proprietary government data gathered through…
17 Feb 2016
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Love (Friday, Feb. 19, Netflix), series debut: Gillian Jacobs was always Community’s most-underrated player, a reliable source of dark snark who functioned as a counterpoint to Joel McHale’s, well, darker snark, and who was rarely forced to play the “pretty blonde” card. In her first real headlining gig, in Judd Apatow’s Love, she plays a character even less motivated than Community’s Britta: Here, she’s aimless radio-station programmer Mickey, who spends most of her time stoned, partying or obliviously failing out of relationships. When she meets up with recently dumped Gus (Paul Rust), it’s … something at first sight. Apatow has been making films for so long that it’s easy to forget his early TV shows (Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared), on which male and female teens and 20-somethings coexisted awkwardly while trying to Figure Out Life. Love is an older, none-the-wiser final entry in this unofficial Apatow TV trilogy, and the…
10 Feb 2016
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Vinyl (Sunday, Feb. 14, HBO), series debut: “What? You thought records got played because they’re good?” sniffs American Century Records president Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale), explaining away the radio-payola tactics of his marketing right-hand man (Ray Romano), who secures the label’s bands airplay with a little coke and a lot of cash. Thing is, Richie loves good music—he can hear a hit instantly, and gets downright misty-eyed over the artistry. Likewise, Vinyl, an early-’70s-set remix of New York City music-scene fact and fairy tale, loves rock ’n’ roll, cramming real-deal period tunes into nearly every second of every scene (with the exception of the music of Led Zeppelin—glaring, since the band figures prominently, and hilariously, in Vinyl’s two-hour premiere episode). It’s all as excessive and beautiful as you’d expect a collaboration between Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter and Mick Jagger to be, blending Almost Famous’ music-saves earnestness with Velvet Goldmine’s visceral…
03 Feb 2016
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Animals (Friday, Feb. 5, HBO), series debut: HBO’s history with animated series is sparse but solid; the most-recent network original, canceled 2008-12 obscurity The Life and Times of Tim, was a dry, hilarious slice of weirdness that more than deserved a second chance on Adult Swim. (Come on, HBO and Adult Swim are owned by the same media megacorp—why can’t we Family Guy Tim back from the grave, already?) Anyway: The new Animals comes from the Duplass brothers, the guys who brought you HBO’s Togetherness and many far-less-watchable indie-flicks; this sharply-drawn cartoon hints that maybe the bros have been wasting their time on humans. Animals follows the daily lives of dogs, cats, rats, mice, horses, birds and bugs in New York City, arguably the worst residence on Earth for wildlife. The tropes are NYC comedy-typical (relationships, racial tensions, jealousies, being swallowed by snakes, etc.), but Animals’ deep bench of voice…
27 Jan 2016
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You, Me and the Apocalypse (Thursday, Jan. 28, NBC), series debut: A British/American production that may or may not be the prequel to The Last Man on Earth, You, Me and the Apocalypse is a 10-episode limited series that promises to conclude with the literal End of the World in May—if NBC’s patience lasts that long. The faces you’ll recognize in the far-flung international dramedy belong to Rob Lowe (as bad-boy Vatican priest Father Jude), Jenna Fischer (Rhonda, a mousey librarian wrongly imprisoned in New Mexico) and Megan Mullally (Leanne, Rhonda’s white-supremacist prison mate). Along with several other oddly intersecting characters in the United Kingdom and United States, they’re frantically coping with the fact that a comet will wipe out the planet in 34 days. YMA is fast-paced and (mostly) funny, but probably too smart/weird for primetime ’Merican TV—if you get hooked, you might have to watch The End on…
20 Jan 2016
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DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (Thursday, Jan. 21, The CW), series debut: The Atom, Captain Cold, Heat Wave and other superheroes previously seen on Arrow and The Flash team up in this sorta spin-off, along with The Heroine Formerly Known as Black Canary, White Canary, and “time-traveling rogue” Rip Hunter (because what other career path are you gonna take with a name like that?). Sounds promising, and The CW has been hyping Legends of Tomorrow as a soufflé of Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Who. Too bad it arrived undercooked. Unseen supervillains include The Exposition Avenger (the setup-to-action ratio is tediously uneven) and Dr. ScreenTime (errybody’s fighting for their shot), who foil the two-part pilot from ever fully rising. But the potential for another entertaining DC/CW series is there, and the droll cartoon-villain delivery of Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) is alone worth tuning in for, as is White Canary (Caity…
13 Jan 2016
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Colony (Thursday, Jan. 14, USA), series debut: Throw yet another quality log on the There’s Too Much TV fire—and from USA, of all places. (One season of Mr. Robot doesn’t make ’em a prestige network just yet.) Set in a dystopian near-future … wait, come back! … Colony stars Josh Holloway (Lost) as a hunky ex-FBI agent torn between aiding the mysterious alien overlords’ Earth minions in keeping a lid—literally—on Los Angeles (for the strong-armed safety of his family), and remaining with his fellow facial-hair enthusiasts in The Resistance. (There’s always a Resistance.) The setup is naggingly familiar (not just in futuristic sci-fi, but also the recent Nazi-retro Man in the High Castle), but Holloway and co-star Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead) sell it convincingly, and the impressive special effects suggest that NBCUniversal didn’t blow all of its money on Syfy’s The Expanse, or on the hairspray budget of…
06 Jan 2016
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Shades of Blue (Thursday, Jan. 7, NBC), series debut: When The Player was quietly but unofficially canceled last year, Shades of Blue materialized out of nowhere as its NBC Thursday replacement. A gritty cop drama pitting Jennifer Lopez against Ray Liotta? Sounds like a forgotten ’90s flick you’d run across on TNT at 3 a.m., but Shades of Blue is more like The Shield with bigger hair: NYPD detective Harlee Santos (Lopez), having spent most of her career skirting legalities with “creative” police work, is busted by the FBI and forced to take a deal to secretly inform on her equally sketchy colleagues (including Liotta and Drea de Matteo), or risk never seeing her moppet daughter again (because of course Harlee’s a single mom). What follows is mucho capital-A Acting!, few twists you didn’t fully expect, and the nagging truth: “Well, it’s not the worst show NBC’s thrown at us…
30 Dec 2015
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This is a filler week; we all know it. We’re suffering from a Christmas hangover leading into a New Year’s hangover—then we’re back to TV business as usual. In the meantime, I’ll remind you of what you should have been watching in 2015 (and can still on-demand), as well as the shows we’ve lost—and those that should just die already. Shows I Told You to Watch (Cable) Bates Motel (A&E); Stitchers (ABC Family); Better Call Saul (picture below), Fear the Walking Dead, Halt and Catch Fire, Humans, Into the Badlands, The Walking Dead (AMC); Childrens Hospital, Mike Tyson Mysteries, Rick and Morty, Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell (Adult Swim); Doctor Who, Orphan Black (BBC America); Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, Odd Mom Out (Bravo); Banshee, The Knick (Cinemax); Another Period, Big Time in Hollywood FL, Broad City, Drunk History, Inside Amy Schumer, The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail, Review…