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 talents and clever critter-specific writing makes even 30 seconds of a rat with a podcast (voiced by Marc Maron, of course) more entertaining than the 79 minutes of the Duplass’ The Overnight that I’ll never get back. However, you probably won’t want to live with a pet ever again.
Manson’s Lost Girls (Saturday, Feb. 6, Lifetime), movie: Everything’s coming up Manson! Not only will NBC’s Aquarius, wherein David Duchovny hunts 1960s cult-leader-in-the-making Charles Manson, return this year; now there’s a Lifetime movie about the original hipster. More accurately, as per the title, Manson’s Lost Girls is about Linda Kasabian (MacKenzie Mauzy), Susan Atkins (Eden Brolin) and Leslie Van Houten (Greer Grammer), teen girls lured into Manson’s SoCal Spahn Ranch commune by free love, drugs and—just where The Man said it would lead—the occasional murder spree. This movie’s Manson (Jeff Ward) is at least more menacing than Aquarius’ hippie bore, but Manson’s Lost Girls didn’t even license the better tunes of the time. (The Turtles? Donovan? Bummer.)
Super Bowl 50 (Sunday, Feb. 7, CBS), sportsball event: I’ve been calling for dropping the pretentious Roman numerals from the Super Bowl ever since this column launched in the late ’70s in the back of The Koupon Klipper, and it’s finally happened! Vindication! And now I suppose the National Felons League (Ha! See what I did there?) will be looking for some free ink on their little football match this year—not gonna happen. The Carolina Putas and the Denver Bunkos … eh, close enough … will have to scramble for publicity on their own, and the less said about the halftime show (Coldplay … seriously, Coldplay), the better. Wait, what? The Roman numerals will be back in 2017? Oh, you bastards …
Full Frontal With Samantha Bee (Monday, Feb. 8, TBS), series debut: The late-night talk show “sausage fest,” as former Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee calls it, has settled into a predictable groove: Jimmy Fallon does celebrity playtime; Stephen Colbert remains too smart for ’Merica; Jimmy Kimmel snags the A-listers; James Corden does celebrity playtime on MDMA; and Carson Daly is … still on, right? Meanwhile, Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore are trying like hell to return their Comedy Central block to greatness, and my two personal favorites, Seth Meyers and Conan O’Brien, still manage to surprise occasionally. So what does Conan’s new nightly lead-in, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, bring to the fray? Since, like you, I haven’t seen the show yet, I’ll say … a vagina. Late night is better already!
Not Safe With Nikki Glaser (Tuesday, Feb. 9, Comedy Central), series debut: Between Chelsea Lately and Full Frontal, MTV gave two women a shot in late-night talk: 2013’s Nikki and Sara Live was one of the funniest and freshest shows the network ever launched—so, naturally, it had to be canceled after 24 episodes. In her new series sans Sara Schaefer, Nikki Glaser will focus less on celebrity pop culture and get right down to topics like “losing your virginity, masturbation and putting stuff in your butt!” Not Safe is a sex-and-relationships talk show with fellow-comedian interviews and pre-taped bits—it’s been done before, but Glaser has the smarts and presence to eventually rise to the comic level of Chelsea Handler and Amy Schumer. Also, she’s on Comedy Central, not MTV, so maybe she’ll be around for a while.