Master of None (Friday, Nov. 6, Netflix), series debut: Comedian/actor Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation) plays a New York City comedian/actor who’s a hell of a lot like Aziz Ansari. Depending on your Aziz Ansari tolerance levels, this is either great or terrible news (and nobody’s asking you, Family Guy). The pleasant surprise of Master of None is that the closer Ansari hews to himself—or at least this version of “himself”—the more likable and endearing he becomes. Whereas the Louis C.K. of Louie and the Marc Maron of Maron stay on-brand, this isn’t (always) the Aziz Ansari who yells his lines to the back row, and it takes to getting used to. Likewise, Master of None is more thoughtful than jokey—it doesn’t always work, but at least it shows another side of Tom Haverford, er, Ansari.
Flesh and Bone (Sunday, Nov. 8, Starz), series debut: Showrunner Moira Walley-Beckett (a former Breaking Bad writer) says the first two episodes of ballet drama Flesh and Bone are “the lightest,” and that it gets bleaker from there. Considering that those episodes—of eight total—are darker than True Detective strangling Black Swan in a puppy mill, fans of cringe-watching should take note. Flesh and Bone follows a troubled young dancer (Sarah Hay, a legit dancer) who joins a prestigious New York ballet company and quickly learns what kind of twisted world it is. (Unnecessary hint: waaay twisted.) With the exception of occasional-but-welcome bitchy outbursts from the company’s demanding artistic director (Ben Daniels, House of Cards), this is a discomfiting, humorless affair. Come for the ballet; stay for the angst.
Agent X (Sunday, Nov. 8, TNT), series debut: Agent X is John Case (Jeff Hephner, Interstellar), a super-secret weapon to be called in when the FBI and CIA can’t hack it. Even the president doesn’t/can’t know who he is, so Agent X is deployed by the vice president, played here by … Sharon Stone! The Bourne Identity’s William Blake Herron wrote the pilot and executive-produces, but, as TNT’s Legends continues to prove, an A-list star and a production pedigree don’t always add up to a killer project. Also, a brain-blowing overload of action and sexy operatives can’t overcome tossed-off storylines and a dumb show title (see: NBC’s pretty-much-canceled The Player). Commit with caution—in this era of Too Much Television, you can’t afford to get sucked into a subpar series. Related: Do you think Joe Biden has an Agent X?
Getting On (Sunday, Nov. 8, HBO), season premiere: HBO renewed new Tim Robbins/Jack Black politico-comedy The Brink for a second season, and then just last week canceled the renewal. Before you ask, “What’s The Brink?” (thanks for being a regular reader of this column … SMH), know that HBO probably won’t pull the plug on dark comedy Getting On before it begins its third and final season … probably. Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne, The McCarthys), Alex Borstein (Family Guy’s Lois Griffin) and Niecy Nash (currently stealing the show on Scream Queens) are still caring for the walking near-dead in a rundown Long Beach extended-care hospital, and Getting On laughs at the medical system, age and death in ways that more-acclaimed series like Showtime’s Nurse Jackie and Netflix’s Derek never dared. Enjoy it to the end.
Donny! (Tuesday, Nov. 10, USA), series debut: Says here, Donny Deutsch is a “TV personality.” Now, I watch a lot of TV, and I’ve never heard of this guy, who looks far too old to be calling himself “Donny.” Digging further into USA’s press materials, turns out he’s “a regular on MSNBC’s Morning Joe,” which explains everything: I thought MSNBC had been re-platformed as a 24/7 loop for nothing but Locked Up Abroad reruns. They’re still producing “news” shows for an “audience”? My bad. Anyway: Donny! is some kind of “reality/comedy” hybrid in the vein of USA’s horrific Chrisley Knows Best, so anyone dumb enough to tune in is in for more of the same “entertainment” from another over-Botoxed middle-aged assclown who thinks he’s starring in his own personal Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David is rolling over in his humidor.