Month: January 2016

I Mean, Weiiiiiiird!



So, Kid Cudi’s reign as second banana to Scott Aukerman would appear to be over practically before it began. While I found Kid Cudi’s wryly hip take on the bandleader role to be a nice counterweight follow-up to Reggie Watts’ iconic absurdity, is there anyone who grew up in the…well, any of the past four decades who wouldn’t be excited to Pee Wee Herman-on-crack levels to see “Weird Al” Yankovic paired to a favorite show? I suggest that they would not (sorry Kid, we’ll always have Day & Nite)!

Well, apparently the Weird One is coming to IFC’s ultra-quirky version of Aukerman’s only slightly-less quirky podcast.

Perhaps the program’s most frequently recurring guest, Paul F. Tompkins had a fascinating meet-cute with the foremost practitioner of parody. See below…

What to Watch: 01/25/2016

This Monday is all about second chances, whether that’s the second episode of the second run of Mulder & Scully, the second chance to see slapstick that was marathon’d last week, or the second chance to get a relationship right. Ok, that last one is a far cry from the actual show, but we were so close to a symmetry, dammit!

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend [CW, 8p]
It’s back, it’s back! Golden Globe winner Rachel Bloom is back as lovesick Rebecca, who rents a party bus to impress her crush’s friends. Buckle in, it’s at least three hours to the beach!

The X-Files [FOX, 8p]
The second episode of the miniseries airs on its regular day and time. In this ep Scully and Mulder are on the hunt to find out what drove a scientist to commit suicide when they stumble upon a secret lab where genetic experiments have gone haywire.

Angie Tribeca [TBS, 9p]
Even if you’ve already watched all 10 episodes (they were all shown in one sitting and are available on demand), there’s so much new to catch in Angie Tribeca‘s Police Squadesque madcap, joke-a-second barrage, it’s worth viewing as many times as possible. Rashida Jones is a national treasure!


Watch the bakers bake (and the panda’s…panda{?}) on a Kung Fu Panda-themed episode of Cake Wars on Food Network…Superstore wobbles along on TBS, succeeding especially when America Ferrera and the gang are allowed honest moments in this often insincere sitcom…Lucifer (on FOX) looks kinda ridiculous, but our secret Satan is played by Tom Ellis, who was excellent as Miranda Hart’s supersweet but beyond star-crossed love interest in Miranda

What to Watch: 01/24/2016

The NFL definitely hovers inescapably over tonight’s lineup, as its the penultimate week of games that mean anything. If you are uninterested in the American game of warriors, but would still love to stare at a screen, there’s some choice cuts out there — not least of which is the unlikely return of one of the premiere cult classics of all time, a once-unfathomable event for those who want to believe. There’s also THE classic British soap opera on its inevitable march to the end, and NBC’s airing arguably the best comedy of this decade.

The X-Files [FOX, 10p]
I do believe! I do believe! The X-Files miniseries revival is here and so is my teenage nostalgia. Mulder, Scully and the whole gang are back together to help explain the unexplainable.

Downton Abbey [PBS, 9p]
While I’d even more highly recommend time tunneling back to last week for the wedding of true minds Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, but this week should up the intrigue factor. Moreover, it portends to be a huge episode for the ever-put-upon maid Daisy, whose heroic, but overzealous, defense of Mr. Mason — a charge she apparently will not be giving up soon, even if the price is her job.

Bridesmaids [NBC, 8p]
Football ruins everything, but Kristen Wiig won’t let us down.


If you disagree with Katherine vis a vis football and its effect on everything, there’s a pretty great game in the NFC Championship tonight as the stifling Cardinals defense tries to rein in Cam’s Superman Show (it’s on FOX before Fox & Scully)…the so far not-too-too-bad Mercy Street airs its second episode tonight, after DowntonGalavant continues to sing and dance and joust, if that’s your sort of thing.

Incredible Documentaries That Lost the Oscar

This year’s Oscar nominees for Best Documentary are packed with goodies: all five films have received buzz on their own merits, and deserve to win. 124 films were up for nomination, making it a true honor to be in the running. It’s as tight a race as Best Picture, yet only one can win, a loss for the four excellent films. (Cartel Land, What Happened, Miss Simone?, and Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom are streaming on Netflix; Amy and The Look of Silence are for rent on Amazon.)

Let’s take a look at shocking losses of the last 5 years.


Restrepo was nominated in 2010, but lost to Inside Job. Restrepo is, perhaps, better remembered. (Its 2014 sequel is Korengal.Restrepo follows the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company over the course of a year in Afghanistan’s deadliest valley, Korengal. Available on Netflix.


Pina lost in 2011 to Undefeated, a documentary about a high school football team. A critical darling of art lovers worldwide, it is inevitably playing in New York City at any given time. Wim Wenders’ 3D ode to the choreography of Pina Bausch features her best noted work, performed in the city of Wuppertal. The camerawork and cinematography are outstanding. (Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club was nominated and lost in 1999.) Available on Amazon Video (free with Sundance Doc Club).


Paradise 3: Purgatory was also nominated in 2011; it’s the third installment in a series of compelling documentaries following the West Memphis Three. Wrongly imprisoned for 18 years, Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin were suddenly released two months before the film’s HBO premiere; Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky focused then on the lives of the Three after the release after their Alford plea. Available on HBO Go.


How to Survive a Plague, the 2012 documentary about the actions and efforts of ACT UP and TAG in the early days of the (STILL ONGOING) AIDS epidemic lost to the very good Searching for Sugarman. But given the demographics of Oscar voters, it’s more than fair to say that its loss is entirely political. Available on Netflix.


The Invisible War is also from 2012. It explores the rampant sexual assault in the military, the lack of effort to stop it. Women are more likely to be raped than killed by enemy fire. The Invisible War won both a Peabody Award and an Emmy. Available through Amazon Video (free with Prime).


The Act of Killing lost the 2013 honor to 20 Feet From Stardom. Both were perfectly deserving. Killing finds the perpetrators of the 1965-1966 Indonesian massacre. Two of the men rose through the ranks of the death squads and killed over 1,000 innocent people in an enormous ethnic cleansing; today the men are proud, unapologetic, and in positions of political power. During the re-telling of the crimes director Joshua Oppenheimer has one of the men reenact the events, which is bizarre and horribly affecting. This year’s nominee The Look of Silence is Oppenheimer’s follow-up. Available on Netflix (theatrical release and director’s cut).


The Square was enormously popular upon its Netflix release in 2013, but likely suffered the affects of Netflix seeming less legit than the cinema. (This seems to have affected Beasts of No Nation, despite Netflix’s best efforts, though the Oscars’ inability to recognize Black actors didn’t help.) The Square examined the Egyptian Revolution; it won three Emmys. Available on Netflix.


Virunga was also released on Netflix. It lost the 2014 Oscar to CitizenfourVirunga follows four people in Congo’s Virunga National Park protecting gorillas from war, poaching, and deforestation. The popularity of the documentary resulted in scrutiny against Soco International (who agreed to stop exploring the area for oil drilling). The film won many awards, including a Peabody. Available on Netflix.

Many critically acclaimed documentaries were never nominated: the epically long ShoahGrey GardensGoing Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Prophet’s PreySenna, and Let the Fire Burn, the reason I wrote this article. (It’s so good! You can fin it on Netflix.) The exclusion of Hoop Dreams resulted in a change in the nomination system. The works of Errol Morris and Michael Moore are usually overlooked as well. (More did win for 2002’s Bowling for Columbine, and Morris shared a win with Michael Williams for 2003’s The Fog of War.)

What to Watch: 01/22/2016

If you are a fan of reality programming — particularly for unhealthy eating or (also probably unhealthy) dating, then Friday’s the television night for you. If you find yourself home (as many on the east coast are liable to find themselves) and want other options, we’ve got a few for you…

Grand Hotel [Netflix]
Snowed in? No problem, why not get whisked away to 20th century Spain in this who-done-it drama best described as Downton Abbey meets Fight Club.

Great Performances at the Met [PBS, 9p]
Look, I’m not going to front as a hyper-cultured opera expert, but if you want to dip your toes in the water, there’s worse places to start than Verdi at the Met.

Troop Beverly Hills [HBO, 3:30p]
Take me away from the snow and into the ‘80s, Shelley Long!


If you are interested in National Lampoon’s, you can either check out the underrated sequel National Lampoon’s European Vacation (“Big Ben…Parliament…Big Ben…”) on CMT…there’s also last year’s documentary about the founders, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead on History Channel…then there’s the latest permutation of young alt-comics (well, most are over 40, but still…) presenting a show featuring the same (but very talented and always welcomed) group of friends, Crash Test with Rob Heubel & Paul Scheer at 11pm on Comedy Central

What to Watch: 01/21/2016

Thursday’s picks are full of whimsy, featuring superheroes, alt-comic clowns, and an epic battle of the lips between two of Screen Scholars’ favorite stars.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, [CW, 8p]
The CW aids DC’s campaign against Marvel with DC’s version of Agents and Guardians. In the first part of the pilot, Time Master Rip Hunter assembles a team to fight an immortal villain determined to destroy humanity.

Baskets [FX, 10p]
You’ve seen the promos for months (well, if your viewing habits are anything close to mind), and how could anyone not at least check out Zach Galifianakis as a surly Schweppes-loving clown.

Lip Sync Battle [Spike, 10p]
My hair crush Tracey Ellis Ross is up against Anthony Anderson and from the looks of the preview she is giving Beyonce a run for her money. Also, another vote for Baskets and more info: All Chip Baskets wants to do is be a fancy French clown but nooooo things like rent and financial responsibility have to get in the way. Stop being such a dream killer, life! Now he’s forced to move back to his hometown and figure his ish out. Should be entertaining.


What to Watch: 01/20/2016

There’s a full quorum of Wednesday night programming tonight, plus some fun classics.

Just Jillian [E!,10p]
Get a glimpse of the fitness extraordinaire’s hectic life as she balances motherhood and a demanding career. In this ep travel to the UK causes some tension back home as does pressure from friends to marry her longtime partner.

Criminal Minds [CBS, 9p]
The twisted brains of CM take on Uber and their like, as a murderer uses the cover of a popular (of course unnamed) car service to complicate matters. Plus it promises to be another episode heavy on the Dr. Spencer Reid (after a brief absence).

The Parent Trap [ABC Family, 6:45p]
The 1961 original, starring Hayley Mills.

What to Watch: 01/19/2016

Something for everyone this January 19, so let’s just dive into it…

Marvel’s Captain America: 75 Heroic Years [ABC, 8p]
An oral-history of Captain America leads into the Agent Carter premiere. Will they cover his move to Red Hook, Brooklyn? I hope so.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine [FOX, 9p]
B99 moves to its new Tuesday night slot, and what’s better than Capt Holt and Jake teaming up…Capt Holt and Jake being forced by quarantine to team up.

Zoe Ever After [BET, 9p]
Brandy is back as Zoe, a newly divorced mom trying to juggle motherhood, work and now home repairs on her own.

Jess goes on a jury tonight on New Girl…Kevin Nealon and Nicole from the Pussycat Dolls together as you always imagined them on Hollywood Game Night…and 2016 returns of Pretty Little Liars and Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.

What to Watch: 01/18/2016

Many choices today for after you finish your day of service (or however you tribute the great man), so let’s jump right in…

Angie Tribeca Marathon [TBS, until 10p]
You are off from work today and the free Amazon Prime weekend is over. Thankfully, Angie Tribeca is still streaming all day so get caught up on season 1 of the spoof on police procedurals starring Rashida Jones. Also, NBA on TNT will host a one-hour special honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. featuring interviews with those close to him as well as documentary clips starting at 7pm before the big games.

Could I Live There? [Travel, 8p]
Dance features in both back-to-back episodes of this new series; first a family mulls over moving to Istanbul. The second family considers Buenos Aires.

Telenovela [NBC, 8:30p]
While it’s proven little more than a silly comedy (with a few appealing characters), shows like this can thrive in disaster settings, and what better than a hurricane for such a windblown program.


What to Watch: 01/17/2016

Comedy comes in many forms and fashions. On today’s menu, our offerings range from the broad to the broader — from Rashida Jones returning in a Naked Gun-esque farce running all day to a new set of Real Housewives battling near the site of this year’s most major battle.

Angie Tribeca [TBS, 9p]
One of the stranger TV debuts of all-time, at least wrt its rollout, Angie Tribeca has been on the shelf for well over a year, and now the creators are unleashing the entire 10-episode first season back-to-back-to-back-to-etc. Generally, that would be a whole bunting of red flags, but the trailer for the satire starring Rashida Jones looks hilarious and early reviews are excellent, so strap in!

The Real Housewives of Potomac [Bravo, 9p]
New money from Potomac, Maryland, bring new shame and degradation to the suburbs of DC.

Hitch [Lifetime, 3p]
A date doctor [Will Smith] finds his own rules for love challenged when he falls for a gossip columnist [Eva Mendes] with her guard up. So, turns out there are no formulas for romance but we will always have the soul train line.

Bob’s Burgers wins its ongoing battle against the NFL tonight and will air its first episode of 2016. If the Globes and the Oscar nominations have you in award frenzy, TJ Miller hosts the 21st Annual Critics’ Choice Awards on A&E. And this might not be a bad week to jump right into one of CBS’ most secret treasures, Madam Secretary.