Month: May 2016

What to Watch: 05/31/2016

Between variety shows, celebrity impersonators, and the epic mini-series Roots in full swing, it’s hard not to think we’ve TV time-warped back to the 1970s.

Maya & Marty [NBC, 10p]
NBC’s latest foray in the primetime sketch comedy arena stars Maya Rudolph, Martin Short and Kenan Thompson.

Secrets of the Dead [PBS, 9p]
The remains of a girl, found in a cellar, leads to the conclusion that Jamestown settlers resorted to Cannibalism.

First Impressions with Dana Carvey [USA, 10:30p]
This could be a trainwreck, but Dana’s recent cold open turn as his classic Church Lady character is a reminder that he can be funny, even if he was once not turtle-y for the Turtle Club.



40 years after the original, Roots makes a second debut introducing a new generation to this epic family saga in hopes of continuing the conversation of slavery and race history in America. Last night kicked off part one of the 4-day miniseries event. Starring rapper /actor T.I., Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Anika Noni Rose, and more.



  • There’s plenty of clashes on The CW’s Containment as the situation worsens.


Monday’s Best Reviewed: Person of Interest

It’s still slim pickings as most of the seasonal shows are slumbering for the Summer (and summer programming hasn’t kicked in), but CBS’ popular procedural Person of Interest is churning out the quality shows, and wins the night with yet another highly reviewed shows. Mistresses is surprisingly still going and kicked off its fourth season with a transformative debut that TV Fanatic loved, but AV Club felt “lack[ed] passion.”

Monday, May 30th’s Best: Person of Interest (9.0/10)


Like Michael Emerson’s other smash show, Person of Interest has hit its stride as it knows when it’s going to end. This week’s return is The Voice. IGN‘s Matt Fowler called it “a cool action-packed labyrinthine puzzle.” Sean McKenna at TV Fanatic goes further to dub it “such a satisfying ending as the core good guys were able to finally come together.”

The Rest of the Night:


12 Monkeys – 8.2

Mistresses – 6.5

Sunday’s Best Reviewed: Veep

Jonah for Congress on any other show would conjure up the ultimate shark-jump, but on Veep, it holds the promise of near-infinite comedy. This is happening. And between the New Hampshire hijinks and brilliant slapstick involving the c-word (another element Veep might be the only show to pull off), the HBO comedy wins the Sunday night. In a surprisingly close second, it’s a show which rarely gets any reviews, Starz’ The Girlfriend Experience, with a thrilling episode AV Club‘s Kyle Fowle calls a “perfectly-pitched waking nightmare of an episode.” Mostly the night was rife with praise, the only off-night going to the other HBO half-hour comedy, as Silicon Valley loses some focus now that the gang has been temporarily lifted from peril. As Vulture‘s Odie Henderson puts it, this episode “is a bit of a letdown after several weeks of intense, suspenseful, plot-heavy machinations.”

Sunday, May 29th’s Best: Veep (9.5/10)


As we must suspect — and quickly see in “C**tgate,” — Jonah will always be the oafish, abusive nutcase, even when thrust into a Congressional run by his uncle Peter McNicol. Kate Kulzick at AV Club dubs it “a great start to what should be a glourious train wreck.” In a five-star review, Jessica Goldstein of Vulture praises “one of the most powerful images in Veep‘s five seasons: Selina is in a bathrobe, smoking a cigarette in the Oval Office. It’s after hours. Amy arrives. It’s just these two women, in the room where it happens, this space that has excluded and continues to exclude women, and they’re just in there, talking about what it’s like to deal with rampant, relentless misogyny.”

The Rest of the Night:


The Girlfriend Experience – 9.0

Game of Thrones – 8.7

Penny Dreadful – 8.1

Silicon Valley – 6.8

What to Watch: 05/29/2016

While it’s technically still a few weeks til Summer, the actual season, tonight’s a night to chime in Summer, the concept. It’s time to wear white, start going to beaches, chomp on a chili dog outside the Tastee Freeze — although maybe not all those three things at once, as so many things could go wrong there. But don’t mind us, we’ll just be sitting in here with the AC on blast, picking out programs for you to enjoy.

The Carmichael Show [NBC, 8p]
What happens when one of the smartest shows on television tackles one of the dumbest political movements in ages? With Jerrod Carmichael, who really knows, as his comedy so often hinges on pushing buttons, challenging deeply held notions, and subverting expectations. In any case, Joe dons a Trump hat, Maxine gets liberally peeved, and Jerrod tries to have an “open mind.” Where it all winds up is anyone’s guess, but I’m excited to take the ride.

Game of Thrones [HBO, 9p]
I just can’t quit this show, no matter how many direwolves or innocents they kill. Something big is brewing so I don’t dare look away this week, not with Sansa finally calling the shots and learning the game of poli-tricks. Besides, you only live twice amirite, Jon Snow?

National Memorial Day Concert [PBS, 8p]
Gary Sinise continues to honor his deal with the devil and hosts this year’s concert on the National Mall. Come to honor the veterans buried in Arlington National Cemetery (there’s some Hills there!), stay for the NSO.



  • On Showtime’s House of Lies, Marty and the Pod woo an old boy band client, while the others deal with various trappings of fame.
  • Later that night on Showtime, it’s Penny Dreadful, one of the best reviewed shows of the year.
  • If you missed last week’s premier of the promising comic-book adaptation Preacher, you get another chance tonight on AMC. Then watch Chris Hardwick nerd out about it with the cast on the debut of Talking Preacher (yeah, the title construct is starting to lose its elasticity.
  • After Thrones, it’s HBO’s one-two critically-hailed comedy punch of Silicon Valley and Veep. On the former, Richard eases back into being CEO, and on the latter, our sorta title character clings to her last hopes of being elected prez.
  • Celebrities team up with chefs to defeat each other in food-related challenges. Even by reality competition standards, Celebrity Food Fight stretches the definition of celebrity, but Alias-star and Lost-pilot pilot Greg Grunberg getting “gooey” could be fun.


What to Watch: 05/28/2016

We’re going off the serial path for tonight’s suggestions — not that there’s much new stuff on with even SNL slumbering for the summer. So, what we’ve got is two movies with adults acting childish and one with Jack Black bringing hope the ape.

King Kong [NBC, 8p]
Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning 2005 remake lacks the charm of the original, but his Kong is pretty spectacular, even 11 years later.

Step Brothers [Comedy, 6:30p]
This heart-warming tale about two jobless middle-aged men still living at home is what classic tales are made of. In case you are not traveling for Memorial Day get whisked away to the F$%^& Catalina Wine Mixer with your fave blended family from the comfort of your couch.

Big [Pop, 9p]
One day as a kid, I was walking home from a friend’s house by the Hudson River, and looked across at the base of the Palisades to see a random carnival. It stayed there for three days and was wonderful and mysterious. About a year later, saw this movie and realized it was the source of the pop-up amusement park — built for the scene where young Josh makes his wish to be “big”…and becomes Tom Hanks. It’s a magical film which matched that magical moment and almost thirty years later, it still holds up.


What to Watch: 05/27/2016

Most regular Friday scripted shows have signed off for the Summer — and there weren’t that many to begin with. However, to paraphrase Hall of Fame football coach Marv Levy, when the programming is too sparse for others, it’s just right for our editors. We got you.


Chef’s Table [Netflix]

Season 2 of the critically acclaimed documentary series premieres today and can be described as Top Chef on steroids. Tune in for the inspiring stories behind the world’s most interesting chefs.


Real Time with Bill Maher [HBO, 10p]

It’s a terrific line-up on the Smug One’s show tonight, including brilliant MSNBC castaway (what were they thinking?!?!) Melissa Harris-Perry, Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, and some 70-something Vermont politician with whom you may be familiar.



  • About the lone scripted holdout is Syfy’s Wynonna Earp, which has its heroine on a spiral before joining in on a new quest.
  • On Food Network, Hoboken chef Buddy Valestro goes on-the-road with his fam on Buddy’s Family Vacation. First new stops are in Delaware and South Carolina.


Thursday’s Best Reviewed: Orphan Black

Ok, we knew this day would come. With the standard 2015-16 TV season winding down, there just aren’t very many shows airing; however it’s a new landscape, so it’s yet to see whether there will be enough Summer programming to keep this afloat. As it stands, there were two shows with enough reviews to qualify, Archer and Orphan Black, and they received almost exactly the same reviews, and the sci-fi mindscrew wins the night strictly by fortune of being reviewed decently by TV Fanatic.

Thursday, May 26th’s Best: Orphan Black (7.7/10)


We’ve yet to see if they’ve won back our own Navani Otero, but in a two-horse race, Syfy’s clone-y thriller ekes out a Thursday night critical score. Vulture‘s Devon Maloney gives Orphan Black credit for bouncing back from “last week’s emotional terrorism,” before acknowledging they “burst into tears three times” during this week’s episode. Lisa Weidenfeld of AV Club generally enjoys the episode and likes that it has “slow[ed] the pace down a bit,” but does feel the season has become a “bit like a slog.”

The Rest of the Night:


Archer – 7.5

Our Thursday Reviews

Inside Amy Schumer – B+

0527amybox.jpgThe second sketch of last night’s Inside Amy Schumer might provide some insight as to why the fourth season has been a bit uneven. Live from a blimp, Schumer hosts a talk show as an absurdly exaggerated version of herself, trying desperately hard to show how relatable her life is as she orders “coffee,” nothing fancy, while visiting her local coffeeshop flanked by Perez Hilton and her pet dinosaur. The show’s premise is right there in its title, the comedy stemming from what it’s like to be Amy Schumer. As that’s transformed from a somewhat familiar comic living an ordinary life to a borderline A-list movie star hanging out with Jennifer Lawrence because she can. It’s natural the show would have some growing pains.

This episode’s theme holds together more than most this season; it’s fame, and it was inevitable that Schumer would address the recent selfie controversy — when she spurned a fan’s memento attempt — and while that can be incredibly fraught, and there is a tinge of saintly self-projection, the barrage of crazy fans who feel it’s ok to grab her boob and ask for money because they recognize her as a celebrity — even if they’re not sure for what. The highlight of this sketch is the always excellent Aperna Nancharla‘s barista who mistakes her for Rebel Wilson, scrawls “Fat Amy” on her cup, and berates her for not being funny enough in a call to her brother (whose number is an endless series of fives, nice touch). Jake Gyllenhaal delights in the third sketch, hugging a ferret named Falcor, disappointing Amy’s Catfish-craving character by being himself.

If the episode had remained at this level, it would have been a near-masterpiece, and the best episode outside of her 12 Angry Men parody of last year. However, once Jake reveals Paul W. Downs and Kevin Kane — as the Catfish douches — as bags of “hot Chinatown garbage,” the show takes a turn. While it’s hella star-studded, it’s more of a hot mess than the aforementioned rubbish. Harvey Keitel and Sam Rockwell star in an Indecent Proposal parody that is loaded with great comic insights, but commits to none of them. Josh Charles is wasted in a silly throwaway bit about a bad boy chef (although it’s almost worth it for Kyle Dunnigan’s nerdily charming turn as an oblivious and ignored date). The “Amy Goes Deep” segment bumps the episode back up a half grade, however, as she brings out her adoring, if overly giggly, childhood friend for some insight as to the changed nature of friendship once fame hits. Finally, a quick hat tip to Selina Gomez who shines as the voice of sanity and band leader in the zeppelin talk show.
– Jason Thurston


Weekend Box office: 5/27/16

Last weekend’s box office winner was The Angry Birds Movie, with $135 million. One assumes everyone had already seen Captain America. The holiday weekend has two big releases, the latest in the X-Men franchise, and a sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland.

X-Men: Apocalypse
The Biggest Battle Yet finds mutants fighting an ancient mutant out to destory humanity, or something. A lot of famous people, some with Oscars, some nominated for Oscars, come together, and we’ll wonder why that sort of quality is lacking in this film where stuff gets blown up. Speaking of Oscars, the big bad is played by Oscar Isaac, and while you at least can’t tell that one of the only People of Color in a film, adapted from a comics series that was allegorical to the issue of Civil Rights, is a non-white human being. Oh, but he’s supported by Olivia Munn, so.

Alice Through the Looking Glass
James Bobbin directed the sequel to 2010’s Tim-Burton-directed film. But the cast is back. Alice goes back to Wonderland, following years of adventuring the high seas (be still, my heart), to help the Mad Hatter recover his Muchness. Sacha Baron Cohen is the film’s villain, Time (sigh).

Can we have a moment of silence for the dearly departed Once Upon A Time In Wonderland? That Alice had the moxie of her cinema partner.

The Idol
This film can take my money and my Kleenex. (It would probably pair well with Sing Street or One Chance.) It follows the story of a young man who aspires to win Arab Idol, despite insurmountable odds.

As I Am: The Life and Times of DJ AM
DJ AM, who died in 2009, in this documentary, which appears to examine the traumatic plane crash that almost killed him, and his involvement in the reality-intervention series from MTV, Gone Too Far.

Ma ma
Penelope Cruz plays a woman diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant.

Jia Zhangke, A Guy from Fenyang
This documentary follows the life of internationally-acclaimed director Jia Zhangke.

The Wailing
This Korean thriller finds a small town at the mercy of a mysterious, Japanese stranger, who causes illnesses, disappearances, and death. As a result a local police officer is forced to team up with a shaman to save the town.

The Ones Below
A perfectly nice couple are terrorized by their new downstair neighbors after the birth of their son. The difference between The Ones Below and your average Lifetime movie are the levels of quality in acting, tension, writing, and direction.

Last Man Club
A WWII veteran, forced into a nursing home (and probably suffering dementia) maybe goes on a cross-country road trip with a woman in a bad wig who will definitely steal his wallet. Destined for Pax and the UP networks!

Six men on a yacht on the Agean sea “play a game” (we all know this can’t end well, right?) to see which man among them is the Best. Everything about this screams, “Nominate me for Best Foreign Picture!”

Holy Hell
Paul Allen, a filmmaker who jointed a the cult Buddhafield in 1985. Members eventually felt abused and disillusioned by the charismatic and predatory leader, Michel.

Presenting Princess Shaw
This documentary tells the story of an aspiring songwriter in New Orleans (stage name: Princess Shaw) who is discovered online by the producer Kutiman through her YouTube videos. Kutiman mixed her vocals with other work, causing Princess Shaw to gain viral popularity online.

Farewell, Nashville


This post will contain spoilersYou can watch the series finale online at or Hulu.

Here we are, gathered to mourn the end of Nashville. We started four years ago with an aging queen of country contending with low-record sales, a young star making “crossover” country, aspiring songwriters, and a rock ‘n’ roll bad boy. At our sudden end we are blessed with a reunion of the show’s power couple: Gunnar and Scarlett (who really ought to break up, since The Civil Wars did); Will Lexington and his cute, industry boyfriend; Juliette en route to her husband and daughter after a real bender of postpartum; and the Rayna and Deacon clan (Teddy who?), who suffered a hiccup when Maddie emancipated herself to become a teen idol.

For a show about the industry, the focus of those couples is a relief; in the end, the supposed rivalry between Juliette and Rayna was that important. On the one hand, that’s fantastic, isn’t it, that the soap opera wasn’t about women fighting? And yet, with the show complete, my dream of Rayna guiding Juliette into adulthood remains unfulfilled. It’s a misguided dream, now, because Juliette may have self-actualized in the finale, skipping the Oscars red carpet to tell the world that her manager’s death was an accident, caused when she herself tried to commit suicide, and now it’s time to apologize and act like a real adult.

For a long time though, what Juliette “needed” was a mother figure. A recurring theme in the show has always been motherhood: Rayna struggled to straddler the world as a superstar and a present mother, and juggled her own feelings of uncertainty following the death of her mother some decades before; both Scarlett and Juliette had deeply flawed, abusive mothers who died suddenly, causing anguish and grief in many ways. That the finale included a tribute to a foster care group is not surprising, as the show has often examined the difficulties of parenthood and the many ways one makes and blends a family.

That Nashville ends as it introduces the prescient storyline of a predatory music producer surrounded by “get over it” lackeys is disappointing. Seeing how the fictional story unfolds after the end of Heathcliff Beru‘s career would have been incisive and fascinating. Even when Nashville spiraled wildly out of control it wove contemporary culture into its universe. Surely Rayna’s open letter would have done more than return Maddie to the family. Perhaps Juliette, Layla, or other singers would have stepped forward as women did in real life. This is a real conversation we’re having, and it’s a shame we won’t see how Nashville would have contributed.

Best of its storylines last night though, was its cliffhanger. Satisfied that everyone is receiving his and her happy ending, Avery waits for his estranged wife at the airport when he is called to come inside, because his wife’s private plane sent out a distress signal.

Juliette is flying to Nashville from Los Angeles, where she lost the Oscar race, after portraying Patsy Cline in Shenandoah Girl. The role was Juliette’s dream (I’m sorry she didn’t win); Cline died in a plane crash in 1963. There is no better send-off than this one.