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.

JASON’S PICK:
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!

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

NAVANI’S PICK:
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.

ALSO ON TONIGHT:
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.

 

 

What to Watch: 01/16/2016

Ok, it’s a Saturday in January, not a whole lot of options, but we’ve found some of interest — including musical superstars, intrigue, and drama.

JASON’S PICK:
Willie Nelson: Gershwin Prize [PBS, 8p]
From “Crazy” to “On the Road Again,” Willie Nelson has been an American songwriting treasure for over 60 years. An impressive array of talented friends and fans — ranging from Neil Young to Alison Krauss to Buckwheat Zydeco — gather in D.C. to fete the Red-Headed Stranger.

NAVANI’S PICK
From the Bottom Up [Centric, 10p]
Because everyone likes a good comeback story. When your mishaps are scrutinized in the public eye it seems impossible to ever move on but these five ladies are finding their way.

KATHERINE’S PICK
A Crime to Remember [Investigation Discovery, 8p]
Enjoy two back-to-back episodes, recalling the wrongful conviction of Sam Sheppard (who became a wrestler in his final years!), Nellie May, the first woman sentenced to death in California.

What to Watch: 01/15/2016


NAVANI’S PICK:
Dr. Ken [ABC, 8:30]
A welcome beacon of comedy light on an otherwise slow night for television. Based on the life of Ken Jeong prio to  Hangover fame, we follow his shenanigans while being a doctor in a HMO clinic.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
The Overnight [Netflix]
Taylor Schilling and Adam Scott are a new-to-LA couple whose playdate descends into debauchery in this 2015 dark sex comedy.

 

 

Screen Scholars’ Top Shows of 2015: 10-1

10. Inside Amy Schumer [Comedy]

2015bestinsideamy

Amy Schumer took all of the flak she took last year, and all of the controversies and struggles women face, and made it funny. She challenged the notion that she isn’t hot enough for television. She criticized ageism. She satirized health care. In “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” she dedicated the full episode to one bit, using 12 Angry Men in a brilliant, cinematic takedown. She married low culture and highbrow criticism at the same time, making the feminists’ battle accessible for everyone.
-Katherine M. Hill

9. Silicon Valley [HBO]

2015bestsilicon

Easing into its second season — sadly sans the enigmatic and scene-stealing Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch died in December 2013) — Silicon Valley thrived by embracing its absurd chaos. We get deeper dimensions to some of television’s best side characters — Guilfoyle and Dinesh (Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani, respectively) particularly shine as they tour an energy drink company then debate whether to warn an extreme sports stuntman about a life-threatening miscalculation as only they can — in a hilarious logic puzzle. There’s also more of “Big Head” (Josh Brener) as he fails majestically up the Hooli ladder; Brener’s oblivious expression as he guzzles caffeinated soda is a sight to behold. Then there’s Chris Diamantopoulos’ latest repellent concoction, billionaire investor Russ Hanneman (a thinly disguised Mark Cuban), an uber-bro collector of gaudy trinkets who owns a framed portrait of three commas (rep’ing his first billion), and is gleefully — as Dinesh dubs it — “the worst man in America.” Despite the gang’s predictable weekly descent into peril, only to save the company (or be saved) at the last moment, Silicon Valley’s deft writing crew manages to wring every bit of drama and suspense from actions as intangible as waiting on whether a computer will crash.
-Jason Thurston

8. Parks and Recreation [NBC]

2015bestparks

There was a time when Six Feet Under was lauded as having mastered the series finale –pioneering the way a beloved show ties up its loose ends and showing the audience the future, so that nothing is left unresolved. Friday Night Lights and Parenthood did a pretty good job, too. But Parks & Rec‘s final season served as its finale, jumping forward to 2017, and sending the residents of Pawnee on quests that would positively affect their futures, setting the course for a clean resolution before its two-part finale, which jumped as much as 50 years into the future. Season Seven is the show’s greatest — delivering not a series of episodes more confident, funny, charming, and heartfelt than before.
-Katherine M. Hill

7. Playing House [USA]

2015besthouse

Nothing says bff like giving up your career and moving in with your friend to help her raise a baby. That’s what happens when Maggie finds out her husband is cheating and calls on her longtime pal, Emma. Now childhood friends Emma and Maggie are off on their biggest adventure to date, navigating motherhood.
-Navani Otero

6. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt [Netflix]

2015bestunbreakable

Tina Fey’s first post-30 Rock sitcom UKS makes it fairly clear in its opening sequence and faux-viral video theme song that it inhabits its predecessor’s goofy, whimsical, hyper-meta shoes. Kimmy Schmidt (inhabited by the irrepressible Ellie Kemper) emerges from an underground cult prison after 20 years to discover a bright, shiny world she struggles to understand. She decides to make a go of it in New York City, findings a basement apartment (points to UKS for realistic NYC lodgings) featuring the showstopping and Emmy-worthy (and duly nominated) Tituss Burgess as her aspiring-actor-turned-Broadway-costume-wearer roommate Tituss Andromedon (nee Ronald Wilkinson) and a job with Upper East Side trophy wife Jacqueline Vorhees (30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski pretty much reprising Jenna and all her oblivious diva tantrums). While on its surface, it’s sunny and absurd — from the holla-ring construction worker who gradually pieces together his latent homosexuality to Kimmy misconstruing a potential love interest’s enthusiastic pocket-dialed rpg exhortations as expressions of passion (up to and including “troll the respawn, Jeremy”) — what makes UKS truly work is its ultimate realness. Kimmy was kidnapped and raped after all — a fact the show does not gloss over. Problematically (and newsworthily), it also included 30 Rock‘s glib no-comic-holds-barred attitude towards cultural-based humor, notably in Kimmy’s Vietnamese love interest Dong and the Native American lineage of Jane Krakowski’s Jacqueline Voorhees. While protesters (and there were many) had a point, it’s also fair to say these characters are the farthest from one-dimensional, and the former is even the primary (and easily rooted for) pairing for Kimmy.
-Jason Thurston

5. Jane the Virgin [The CW]

2015bestjane

Jane Villanueva vowed not to follow her mom’s footsteps by having a baby as an unwed teen. She thought she was in the clear too at 23, engaged to an amazing guy and still a virgin when a routine gyn appointment went haywire and she walked out artificially inseminated. But the insane premise is not even the best part of this show. Its charm lies in the satirical, over-the-top, telenovela dramatics from characters like Jane’s novela superstar dad Rogelio and from the love triangle between Jane’s fiance and sperm donor. Extra points for Jane’s cheeky abuela who speaks only in Spanish with English subtitles.
-Navani Otero

4. Mr. Robot [USA]

2015bestrobot

Some vigilantes scale buildings in one jump and toss cars, others have social anxiety disorders and save the world from the comfort of their computer. Enter Elliot, a cyber-security programmer by day and hacker by night. He usually goes after society’s scum but is faced with a moral dilemma when he is recruited by an underground anarchist called ‘Mr. Robot’ to attack the company he actually works for. What is a hacker to do? What if the dilemma is not with Mr. Robot but with himself? So many plot twists, so little time. The scariest part about this drama is it actually mirrors what’s happening IRL, so much so that the finale had to be postponed from airing as to not upset viewers. Season 2 promises to be even tougher so you def want to be caught up by then.
-Navani Otero

3. Fargo [FX]

2015bestfargo
What a wonderful world we live in, to receive the clever, brilliant, beautiful (and it’s digital!), perfect second season of Fargo. An ensemble cast, all characters of separate motives, dreams, and desires, collide at the lodge (as foretold in Season One). The writing, editing, and photography was better than some of this year’s greatest movies, and the end result is a dizzying, delirious, immersive sensation that begs the question: Why aren’t the other networks adopting this dedication to cinematic perfection?
-Katherine M. Hill

2. Master of None [Netflix]

2015bestmaster

At one point in an episode dealing with casual racism, after Aziz Ansari and Ravi Patel fail to connect on a joke, Aziz announces to the air, “well, that interaction didn’t go as planned.” It’s as good a tagline as any for Ansari’s sometimes-do-well comic actor Dev. While the post-Woody Allen neurotic mensch is nothing new, Ansari’s Master of None takes a rather original spin on the trope by not taking it to any extreme. Dev isn’t unrepentant like Larry David, nor terminally pathetic as with Louis C.K., but a real 30-something struggling to understand his own generation’s post-device perfectionist (and often emotionally isolationist) lifestyle. When Dev and friend Arnold (Eric Wareheim of Tim & Eric fame) spontaneously decide to grab lunch, it results in a labyrinth of choices within which, while chasing the perfect Yelp-endorsed meal, the pair go hungry. What’s most striking about Ansari’s masterful series is in his bold willingness to let conversations be genuine and unfold in real time; Dev & his friends’ dialogues build into referential reverie, go off-track, and often just peter out. So goes his relationships, as Ansari is not afraid to show his courting of Rachel (SNL’s Noel Wells) delightfully connect, adorably implode, and haltingly revive. Master of None is neither eternally awkward nor saccharinely full of cute moments — nor tidily focused on one element of life — but thrives in a world of unplanned interactions that occasionally, but not always, work out fine, kind of like life. It’s a show about everything craftily disguised as a show about nothing.
-Jason Thurston

1. Broad City [Comedy]

2015bestbroad

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are twenty-something bffs trying to navigate life in NYC with all its quirks and glory. Unlike other coming-of-age shows, there is never a dull moment with these two whether it’s getting your air conditioner stolen, trying to figure out how to carry weed on your person without subway dogs smelling it or shopping at whole Foods under the influence. Luckily, they have great friends like al dente dentist Lincoln and roomie-extraordinaire Jaime who have their backs through all the hilarious shenanigans.
-Navani Otero

Relive 20-11
30-21

Our Top Episodes of 2015

 

What to Watch: 01/14/2016

A busy, busy, busy night as no one feels afraid of competing with the GOP Debates as they banter back and forth for the thirteenth(?) or so time. Our suggestions include a new goofy comedy from a network on a roll for picking up web series, another sitcom that is standing the test of time based on its deft writing, and one of those always engaging PBS baking shows. Bon app!

JASON’S PICK:
Idiotsitter [Comedy, 10p]
Comedy Central has shown a knack for plucking quirky comic teams off the web (see Broad City, Workaholics, etc.), and while Idiotsitter looks hit-or-miss on its promos, the early reviews are in and pretty promising. Billie Brown (Charlotte Newhouse)  is shocked when she finds out the “child” she is engaged to nanny turns out to beGene Russell (Jillian Bell), an adult with a Ronnie Dobbs-level penchant for mischief.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
A Few Great Bakeries [PBS, 9p]
I love when PBS tours America’s pie shops/ice cream shops/taco huts* Few family-owned bakeries across the world, from Lafayette, Indiana to Juneau, Alaska, and consider these spots as ways to map out your summer road trip.
*not real as far as I know, so consider this a request.

NAVANI’S PICK:
Mom [CBS, 9p]
I forgot how amazing Allison Janney is until I saw her on Ellen recently. Now I am sold on watching her help/annoy her newly sober daughter Christy as she gets her life together. In this episode Bonnie pushes Cristy to get back into the dating world with a rich financier who happens to be Candace’s dad.

ALSO ON TONIGHT:

The debut of Sawye…I mean Josh Holloway’s new series Colony, second episodes of Jane Lynch’s semi-baffling Angel From Hell, and J-Lo’s (and Henry Hi…I mean Ray Liotta’s) promising Shades of Blue. Also, Liz’s fate is sealed on tonight’s conclusion of The Blacklist, is anyone out there watching the Heroes reboot(?), and dogs get a bunch of awards for being good dogs (yes they are, yes they are) on The World Dog Awards. And, if you really, truly hate yourself, the GOP candidates are battling it out yet again.

Screen Scholars’ Top Shows of 2015: 20-11

20. Bob’s Burgers [FOX]

2015bestbobs

It’s a tragedy and downright dishonorable that Bob’s Burgers is competing for airtime with the dastardly Sunday Night Football. (That’s how we ended up with a Christmas episode following a Halloween episode, airing in November.) It’s a shame because Bob’s inhabits the strange, surreal, fictional Brooklyn-esque (creator Loren Bouchard has placed it ambiguously there or Jersey Shore) universe reserved for highbrow, live-action programs. When we watch Louie, Girls, or High Maintenance, we laugh and nod sagely. Yes, that weird thing you think only a lunatic made up happened to me Wednesday morning. A Landship Parade would install porta potties in front of a restaurant and ruin business. A family would band together to scare its youngest, never-been-scared daughter. I’m surprised my landlord hasn’t pitted the tenants against each other in an effort to fraction unity and jack up the rent. Through its unreal, fantastic universe the Belchers remain unchanged. They operate as a single, dedicated unit, just like a real family. Airing half an hour before primetime is for the slush pile, Fox, give Bob’s the slot it earned.
-Katherine M. Hill

19. The Good Wife [CBS]

2015bestgoodwife

Alicia Florrick has had a hell of a year on television, and she’s made so many daring moves, so many choices, that Kalinda’s exit from the show (and her tense life leading to it) seems longer ago than this past spring. Alicia had no time to mourn Kalinda’s absence, and neither do we as Alicia continues pivoting for mere survival. The Good Wife is CBS’ great show; sometimes I think the reluctance in others to watch is less its misleading title than its association with a stodgy network, but The Good Wife remains wise and prescient. It is often contemplative and edgy — its editing and photography often leagues ahead of its peers. (Perhaps Madame Secretary and Supergirl may be an indication that CBS is willing to aim higher in quality and story for the network; nevertheless, may The Good Wife follow Fargo’s cinematic lead.) Quality is apparent in last season’s “Mind’s Eye,” a Mrs. Dalloway-ian ode to being alone with one’s thoughts, as Alicia prepares for an interview and imagines and recalls events and conversations. It is a meditative and thoughtful view of the show’s universe through the eyes of its own protagonist.
-Katherine M. Hill

18. Mad Men [AMC]

2015bestmadmen

This year we witnessed the “The End of an Era,” literally, with part two of the series finale of Mad Men. Yes, it was annoying waiting for the second part of season seven but it was worth it to see how Mathew Weiner would tie up all the very messy loose ends of Don Draper and company. We find ourselves in the middle of 1970, with the rise of feminism and women’s rights being played out in the office via Joan and Peggy. Don ended up pretty much where he also has, alone but this time a little more self-actualized. After his hippie, yoga retreat we see him ohming on a mountain, possibly thinking up the famous Coke ad, which meant he bought all the idealism as long as he could bottle it up and sell it.
-Navani Otero

17. BoJack Horseman [Netflix]

2015bestbojack

Admittedly, touting an animated series as one of the starkest, most accurate reflections of human depression might not make one want to sprint to the remote for a hearty bingewatch. However, BoJack Horseman’s second season is such an enthralling, hilarious, sprawling, bizarre, provocative, endearing mess that is almost impossible to turn off (well, until the daringly brilliant penultimate episode, but we’ll get to that). Fifty-something burnout actor BoJack (Will Arnett) finally seems to have his life together at the beginning of the season as he’s filming the Secretariat biopic of which he’s always dreamed — so of course things will inevitably fall apart. While they do, we’re treated to such glorious absurdities as a constantly-on-fire Disneyland, J.D. Salinger coming out of both reclusion and the grave to produce a celebrity quiz show, an extended joke about mulch, a straight-outta-30-year-coma owl voiced by Lisa Kudrow, a cultish improv troupe that is not, they repeat not, a stand-in for Scientology, and BoJack’s ill-advised road trip to New Mexico to re-kindle an old flame — one which if you are indeed invested in the series, may well destroy you.
-Jason Thurston

16. Hindsight [MTV]

2015besthindsight

Oh, Hindsight we barely knew ye, and now we’ll never know how Becca gets her BFF back. …Because that’s why Becca wakes up on the day of her first wedding in 1995, and not the day of her second wedding in 2015. In a romantic comedy Becca would realize that she’s destined for her first husband, but in this short-lived gem, she realizes this is finally a chance to right her wrongs, and get her estranged best friend back. What a best friend, too. On the surface Lolly is the Wacky Best Friend, but through Sarah Goldberg she is loyal and Becca’s biggest supporter. We’ll never know how Becca overcomes her future to right the past, but deep in my heart I believe she could.
-Katherine M. Hill

15. UnREAL [Lifetime]

2015bestunreal

UnREAL sets its soap opera shenanigans behind-the-scenes of a reality dating show in the vein of The Bachelor(ette). Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby) shines, equal parts detached and venomous, as a reality producer who’s reluctantly gifted at her job. The show’s opening sets the stage with Hitchcockian drama as the various crew and cast await the sure-to-be tempestuous return of mysterious genius-in-exile Goldberg — last seen fired by the show one season prior for an unrevealed infraction. While the show is jam-packed with well-defined flawed and fractured characters, it’s Rachel’s slow descent into a certain kind of madness which drives UnREAL. How much of her soul is she willing to surrender as she puppet-masters the contestants into mind-bendingly awful scenarios? And how far are we willing to join her?
-Jason Thurston

14. The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore [Comedy]

2015bestnightly

I used to turn to Jon Stewart during the presidential campaign, expecting The Daily Show to act as a balm; before Stewart retired, Larry Wilmore superseded that position, through his deft and clever humor, and inability to kowtow to, well, anything. The Nightly Show powerful as soon as it premiered, and in 2105 covered tragedies and controversies, particularly the protests in Baltimore, with the respect and grace the news outlets never bothered to muster in the first place. The Nightly Show is more than we deserve and we must never let it go.
-Katherine M. Hill

13. You’re The Worst [FXX]

2015bestworst

You’re the Worst followed its first vulgar, explosive, heartfelt season with an ambitious, successful, gut-wrenching exploration of love and the desire to be loved. A show about terrible people isn’t usually sensitive and nuanced, but You’re the Worst always was, and this season took an unexpected gamble when Gretchen fell into a deep depression, exploring what it really means to love someone when she’s feeling her worst.
-Katherine M. Hill

12. Orphan Black [BBC America]

2015bestorphan

Street-savvy orphan Sarah thought she would change her life by taking on the new identity of a woman murdered in front of her. Instead, she found out more about herself, including the fact that she is a clone. Of how many is still to be determined. Figuring out who the bad guys are and keeping her daughter safe keeps us on a roller coaster in this sci-fi thriller. Now Season 4 promises more twists and turns and sisters to keep track of.
-Navani Otero

11. Veep [HBO]

2015bestveep

Former Senator Selina Meyer has accepted the call of duty to become the VP and it’s nothing like she thought it would be and everything she feared. Follow her and her esteemed team as they try to navisgate the circus that is politics in the White House. The stakes and satire get even bigger now that she is campaigning for the presidency. Her shenanigans are great training for dealing with the upcoming 2016 elections IRL.
-Navani Otero

See 30-21

Or 10-1

Or Our Top Episodes of 2015

 

What to Watch: 01/13/2016

Wednesday is a great day for crime programs, and have we got two of them for you. Well, we do, one gritty, one a bit goofy. If you don’t see something you like over-the-air, head over to Netflix, where Reed & the gang have completed the set by adding every episode from the excellent Season Seven.

NAVANI’S PICK:
Second Chance [FOX, 9p]
A disgraced cop gets resurrected by some biomedical engineers for a second chance at life BUT they of course expect something in return. Give it a whirl, why not?

JASON’S PICK:
American Crime [ABC, 10p]
While Season One got exhausting by the end, the second go-around had a promising start last week. Taylor has to battle both perception and apathy while admitting his victimization. And Leyland High School is certainly not going to offer much help. It’s a provocative show, and so far this season seems poised to be another powerful character study.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
Parks and Recreation [Netflix]
Happy-sob your way through season 7 and realign your resolutions based on Leslie Knope’s career success in 2017 Pawnee.