The Newsroom (Sunday, Nov. 9, HBO), season premiere: The third and final season of Aaron Sorkin’s journalism fan-fiction drama takes place in 2013; your historical place-marker is the Boston Marathon bombing. The Newsroom never quite lived up to the promise of its rousing debut episode, which was a non-too-subtle challenge to American TV news media to actually report the damned news instead of placating advertisers and baiting click-throughs. You’ve probably noticed that it didn’t work. Even though ever-shouting anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) declares, “We don’t do good TV, we do the news!” (followed by, “I think I blew that speech”), The Newsroom is still great TV powered by capital-A Acting performances, particularly from the show’s women (Emily Mortimer, Olivia Munn, Alison Pill and, yes, Jane Fonda). The reform of TV journalism, however, it ain’t. For the closest approximation of McAvoy’s News Night in reality, check out Abby Martin’s bracingly bullshit-free Breaking the Set on RT America, the stateside arm of Russia Today (!). (See a trailer for The Newsroom below.)
The Comeback (Sunday, Nov. 9, HBO), season premiere: In 2005, Lisa Kudrow (playing has-been sitcom actress Valerie Cherish, hoping to return to television glory on a new network show as reality-TV cameras follow her and capture every cringe-worthy setback and defeat) and HBO dropped 13 episodes of The Comeback, which then led to … nothing. Now, in a turn so meta it hurts, Valerie is back years later starring in a dark HBO comedy created by her old network boss/enemy Paulie G (Lance Barber) about his pre-rehab stint working on a sitcom with aggravating redhead Mallory Church (played by Valerie … Kudrow … ouch): “What is this? The comeback of The Comeback?” he asks. Armed with a paltry number of followers on Twitter (which she learned about from The Real Housewives) and a tougher-if-even-more-clueless attitude, Valerie is out to win America’s love again … by playing a horrible version of herself. Just go with it; The Comeback is even more hilarious and scathingly Hollywood-accurate now than it was nine years ago.
Getting On (Sunday, Nov. 9, HBO), season premiere: Funnier than Showtime’s Nurse Jackie and less self-congratulatory than Ricky Gervais’ Netflix series Derek—both easy feats—Getting On, about the staff of a ramshackle geriatric extended-care facility in Long Beach, is a dark hospital comedy that works entirely because of its stars. Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne; also currently starring in CBS’ gawdawful The McCarthys), Alex Borstein (Family Guy’s Lois Griffin) and Niecy Nash (Reno 911!) are familiar faces from lighter comedies, but here, they’re obviously reveling in playing characters called upon to deliver more than punchlines (though the punchlines are wicked, as well). With a younger cast, Getting On would probably be attracting Orange Is the New Black-scale attention—the ageism lessons just keep coming.
The Godfather of Pittsburgh (Monday, Nov. 10, A&E), series debut: Speaking of which: In August, A&E canceled one of its highest-rated shows, the fantastic drama Longmire, after three seasons, because its audience was of the wrong demographic (old). Now, aside from the equally fantastic (and apparently younger-skewing) Bates Motel, all that’s left on A&E is a wasteland of cheap reality programming for morons who can’t find MTV. Meanwhile, AMC has gone the opposite route, dumping almost all of its reality shows in favor of developing new dramas to continue the legacies of Breaking Bad and Mad Men. (Longmire would be a good fit, but that’s one for the lawyers.) AMC may not always make the most obvious decisions—granting second seasons to Halt and Catch Fire and Turn comes to mind, as does the continued existence of Comic Book Men—but at least they’re investing up instead of cashing in. Oh, yeah: The Godfather of Pittsburgh is just more of the same reality crap.
DVD ROUNDUP FOR NOV. 11!
A champion racer-turned-driving instructor (Thomas Jane) gets caught up in a $9 million heist with a mysterious stranger (John Cusack) as they outrun pissed-off mobsters, corrupt cops and, apparently, competent hairstylists. (Image; picture below)
A woman (Victoria Almeida) and two men (Lautaro Delgado and William Prociuk) wait out the zombie apocalypse in a claustrophobic house in the Argentine desert. It’s part Walking Dead, part Big Brother, all dusty and weird. (Random)
Let’s Be Cops
A pair of buds (Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr.) dress as policemen for a costume party, and when they’re mistaken for real cops, someone at Fox decided there’s a one-hour-and-44-minute movie all up in here. And it feels good … real good. (Fox)
Queens of the Ring
To connect with her WWE-obsessed son, a single mom (Marilou Berry) convinces her fellow supermarket cashiers to join her in wrestling boot camp to compete as Divas. Also starring The Miz, Eve Torres and … CM Punk?! (Image)
After being fired from her job, loser Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) needs to split town—so she agrees to drive grandma (Susan Sarandon) to Niagra Falls. Wackiness and Valuable Life Lessons ensue. And it feels good … real good. (Warner Bros.)
More New DVD/VOD Releases (Nov. 11)
Batman: The Complete Series, Betrayal, Blood First, Getting On: Season 1, Hey Arnold! The Complete Series, How to Train Your Dragon 2, I Am Santa Claus, Jersey Boys, Mr. Pip, Once Upon a Time in Queens, Starsky and Hutch: The Complete Series, True Blood: The Complete Series.