What to Watch: 02/14/2016

Haaaaappy Valentine’s Day to all you Valentines out in ValentineLand. Tonight, we suggest celebrating this loving day with the stirringly soulful voice of a youthful chanteuse, followed by the surely both rocky and triumphant return of an empowered female lawyer to her most familiar stomping ground, and perhaps ending the evening with a dose of righteous intellectual takedown of a few social wrongs by a sharp British tongue. There’s also roses, zombies, record execs, zombies, basketballs, zombies, aristocrats, zombies, Kardashians, Jimmy Fallon, and zombies.

Adele Live in London [BBC America, 10p]
Spend Valentine’s Day in with Adele serenading you and your loved one. Or just you, and your bons bons. Which on second thought might turn out to be a cryfest instead, oops.

The Good Wife [CBS, 9p]
In The Good Wife’s seventh-to-last episode, Alicia returns to the firm, with Lucca in tow, and the partners are not particularly welcoming.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver [HBO, 11:30p]
Now, more than ever, America needs the wit and wisdom of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. The British comedian returns with his hilarious and eye-opening long takes on the absurdities which plague society.


  • AMC’s (and, lo, all of cable’s) most successful show, The Walking Dead returns as the core gang, along with the oft-hapless Alexandrians face danger from outside. Whoever doesn’t make it, gets to gab with eternally giddy Chris Hardwick afterwards on Talking Dead. Points!
  • HBO’s Vinyl, the long-awaited Martin Scorsese-Mick Jagger collaboration, opens tonight, with a lot of drugs and some sex to go with the central rock’n’roll. The buzz is a-crackle like sparks flying from an old 45rpm record (i.e. about as loud as that metaphor).
  • The penultimate Downton Abbey airs tonight on PBS. Most wonder what will become of the too-opulent-for-these-changing-times Granthams, the newlywed and ever more snippy Carsons, the sulking Thomas the Evil Footman, or maybe even the bland Bateses. However, we’re more thrust to the edge of our seats by the will-they-or-won’t-they of Miss Patmore and Mr. Mason.
  • TNT carries the NBA All-Star Game. While the actual event pales in comparison to the hoopla and the skills competitions (slam-dunk, et al), it’s still fun to watch Steph Curry launch 3s in a game whose outcome is actually in doubt, right?
  • After over a quarter-century of seasons on FOX, The Simpsons offer, for the first time, a Professor Frink-centric episode, with the science and the laughing and the hovercrafts that don’t quite work with the…person. Glaven!

Your Essential Streaming Valentine’s Day Episodes

It’s cold out there, if you’re on the East Coast. People are begging Netflix to release House of Cards early. But if House of Cards isn’t for you (it’s definitely not for me!) and you want to honor the weekend’s holiday, you can’t go wrong with these themed episodes from your favorite shows. (That only one is still airing is incidental.)

I Love Lucy

Episode: “Lucy Plays Cupid” (Season 1, Episode 15)
Watch at: Hulu or CBS.com


Lucy schemes to set up her older neighbor with the grocer. An awkward love triangle ensues, made worse when Ricky (oh, brother) tries to teach Lucy a lesson. Ricky’s a bad husband, but the match works out in the end.

Parks & Recreation


Episode: “Operation Ann” (Season 4, Episode 14)
Watch At: Netflix

The show that invented a pre-holiday can’t be left out. While Leslie obsesses over finding a mate for Ann, Ben, Andy, and Ron struggle to solve a series of clues. Ann rightly finds Leslie’s second-hand desperation insulting, though it’s a joy to take in Pawnee’s community-thrown couples dance (poorly DJ’d by a very sad Chris). Ron and Ben revel in Ben’s challenge, which is way more fun than the dance, as they interrupt dates at JJ’s Diner and Pawnee’s odd attractions (including the snow globe museum, which is staffed by a disgruntled Martin Starr). It’s too bad that Manentine’s Day is already a thing of its own.

The Simpsons

Episode: “I Love Lisa” (Season 4, Episode 15)
Watch At: Simpsons World via FX Now


There’s more than one Valentine’s Day episodes in The Simpsons oeuvre, but Ralph Wiggum’s declaration of love for Lisa, who pitied him like we pity Charlie Brown, is easily the best of the series. Ralph’s stirring speech during the President’s Day pageant is more moving than a speech from a fictional second-grader has any right to be.

30 Rock

Episodes: “St. Valentine’s Day”/”Anna Howard Shaw Day” (Season 3, Episode 11/Season 4, Episode 13)
Watch At: Netflix (1/2)


In “St. Valentine’s Day,” Liz is foiled on a first date with Jon Hamm’s perfect (and stupid) doctor Drew on Valentine’s Day, while Jack reconciles with Selma Hayek’s Elisa over McFlurries. (“Don’t tell me you’re one of those convenient Catholics who goes to church every Sunday.”) In “Anna Howard Shaw Day” Liz rebels against the holiday, insisting she can do anything a couple can, including getting herself home from a root canal, which she deliberately scheduled for the holiday. Jack, on a date with Avery Jessup, has to carry a very out-of-it Liz home. It’s a balm for anyone rolling their eyes at friends shaking their fist at Valentine’s Day.

Arrested Development

Episode: “Marta Complex” (Season 1, Episode 12)
Watch at: Netflix


Michael’s speech about love causes Marta, G.O.B.’s girlfriend, to fall in love with him and inspires Lindsay to seek a divorce. Good job, Michael.

Happy Endings

Episode: “The St. Valentine’s Day Maxssacre” (Season 2, Episode 23)
Watch at: Hulu


Penny wants to dump her boyfriend, but wants to wait until after the fancy dinner (“for him,” she swears), and convinces Dave that he’s being strung along too, and his foolishness costs him a threesome and his relationship. It’s great to see an acknowledgment of what seventh grade boys and girls have been manipulating for decades: The Break Up Window.

The Twilight Zone

Episode: “From Agnes—With Love” (Season 5, Episode 20)
Watch at: Netflix


A computer programmer trying to use his work machine for offsite tasks (wooing a woman) finds himself foiled when the computer falls in love with him.

What to Watch: 02/12/2016

It’s the usual Friday line-up with one special addition as this weekend is Love Day‘s weaker cousin, Valentine’s Day, so with hearts aflame and nothing to lose, here’s tonight’s Screen Scholars Picks…


Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown; A Charlie Brown Valentine [ABC, 8p]

Charlie Brown spends his Valentine’s Day in 1975, hoping someone, anyone, will CH-CH-CHOOSE him. By 2002 Charlie Brown still pines for the little red-headed girl, while the rest of the gang scrambles for love as well.


The Rap Game [Lifetime, 10:02p]

It’s down to five contestants and an assignment from special guest Usher will have everyone in a frenzy, even the kids’ managers.


Grimm [NBC, 9p]

While this is a bit of a default choice, admittedly Grimm is heating up and it seems to be all hands on deck, even Wu & Bud, for a serial killer case to solve concurrent to battling the Wesen uprising which could signal the end of the human race as we know it. Oh my!


  • While the writer of this round-up is definitively not a fan of CBS proceduralBlue Bloods, tonight’s episode sounds very special as one of the cop family may be a criminal.
  • Earlier on CBS, the Hawaii Five-O crew are exchanging valentines.
  • Girl Meets World returns on Disney after a few weeks off. This week, Boy’s daughter will be meeting “Commonism.”
  • A&E is previewing the bejeezus out of the Robertson clan’s antics. More look ahead to the 9th{?!?} season of Duck Dynasty tonight.


Thursday’s Best Reviewed: Baskets

The idiosyncratic-as-fudgesicles (that dessert treat beats its own drumstick) Baskets wins the night with an early Easter episode. The victory is unsurprising for the introspective show which feasts on absurdity and the awkwardness of human interaction, and what’s more neurotically dicey than holidays with the family. The undercard winner — the highest score from Shondaland — goes to her old faithful, Grey’s Anatomy, while her two younger programs, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, get mixed but mostly positive reviews. Nerds of different stripes dwell at the bottom of last night’s review-fest, as The Big Bang Theory (why does everyone review this show?) and DC Legends of Tomorrow swim with the sixes.

Thursday, February 11th’s Best: Baskets [9.0/10]


A despondent and dreamy, yet sweet (not to mention oddly timed), Easter episode that begins with an epiphany achieved through a karaoke cover of TLC’s “Waterfalls” brought yet more positive reviews to the young series. Vulture‘s Andrew Lapin declares it “not only the best episode of Baskets to date, but also a piercing and ingenious study of melancholy.” Vikram Murthi of AV Club agrees “Easter in Bakersfield” is the best episode to date with similar reasoning, observing “the storytelling in Baskets may be flexible, and the humor can range from broad slapstick to strange dialogue delivery, but its tone is set, and arguably the one thing the series asks of its viewers is to lock into it.”

The Rest of the Night:

Grey’s Anatomy – 8.7

The 100 – 7.7

How to Get Away with Murder – 7.5

Scandal – 7.3

You, Me, and the Apocalypse – 7.0

Elementary – 7.0

The Big Bang Theory – 6.6

DC Legends of Tomorrow – 6.4


For Galentine’s Day, Consider ‘The To Do List’


Galentine’s Day, the Leslie Knope-created pre-Valentine’s Day celebration of Female Friendship, is Saturday. While the Bouqs, Travelocity, PureWow, and GrubHub wring their hands over your Valentine’s Day plans, I’ll wring mine over your Saturday night.

If going out with your Gal Pals isn’t your thing, may I humble suggest The To-Do List? (If hitting the town is your thing, by all means, get hand-crafted cocktails at a speakeasy and hit the theatre for How to Be Single.) Grab a bag of chocolate hearts from Duane Reade honey, and chill the rose, because this two-hour ode to feminism and female sexuality can’t be beat. (The double entendre stays!)

It’s 1993 and high school valedictorian Brandy Clark is bound for Georgetown University. Socially awkward Brandy is a virgin with a crush on hunky Rusty Waters (Scott Porter!) and feeling like she could be more well-rounded as an incoming freshman, Brandy vows to become sexually experienced.

She does that the only way she knows how: treating her sexuality as a homework assignment.


This is a pretty good idea, actually. Brandy is a smart and thorough student, and this way she is able to approach her goals in a way she can handle and understand. (Ultimately, the boys in her life can’t handle her self-actualization, but she can!)

Brandy is aided by the women in her life. Her promiscuous sister Amber (Rachel Bilson) provides advice and guidance, her best friends Wendy and Fiona are not initially supportive (Sarah Steele and Alia Shawkat in perfect casting), but mistakes and apologies are made. Because Wendy and Fiona will always be more important than Rusty Waters.

In a review I wrote in 2013 for Blast-O-Rama, where I am an erstwhile staff writer, I called it “a funny, honest, charming film that showcases Aubrey Plaza while trumping teen film stereotypes and boosting feminism in cinema.” I believe that now; if anything, the jokes are sharper and more prescient two years later.

Ladies and their gal pals will appreciate the themes and humor of The To Do List, I guarantee it.

Available for rent through Vudu and purchase through Amazon and iTunes.

The Music Behind…The Pharcyde on Black-ish


Black-ish is a show about stereotypes, and on Wednesday’s episode, the Johnson Family dealt with preconceived notions about swimming in its own inimitable manner. Dre fumes about being snubbed by their white neighbor for her pool party because he believes she assumes he cannot swim because he is African-American (of course, Dre can’t, but that’s far from the point). The greatest moment of “Sink or Swim” comes near the beginning when Anthony Anderson narrates a montage of the history of segregation in pools — including a hotel draining theirs to prevent movie star Dorothy Dandridge from “dipping her feet.” It’s a righteously angry rant which is backed by perfect soundtrack — a song by off one of hip-hop’s most surprisingly brilliant albums by a group whose glory days were sadly brief and who get short shrift these days when examining the greats of the game  — “Runnin'” by The Pharcyde.

In 1993, The Pharcyde scored a minor pop hit (and a #1 rap hit) with “Passin’ Me By,” from its debut album Bizarre Ride II Tha Pharcyde. The engaging classic featured an anthology of acrobatic rhymes about getting rejected by women — all told with a brave-for-rap vulnerability and self-deprecation. The entirety of the foursome’s debut record was a playful collection of thoughtful rhymes and silly skits.

While it was a clever, critically-well-received record, it would be hard to predict that the former dancers’ next record would be the remarkable Labcabincalifornia — a stunning collection of introspective but fierce songs about self empowerment, struggling relationships, racial stereotypes, and, essentially, being human. The second single, “Runnin'” — a slowly unveiled thesis on standing up for one’s self without allowing fame to blow up the ego, lain over a laid-back guitar-and-sax groove produced by the late J Dilla — was a minor crossover hit with a provocative video clothing the members of Pharcyde in seersucker suits overseeing a plantation of caucasian slaves. It’s a breathtaking single that perfectly backs up the Black-ish episode’s themes of subverting racism and building an unflappable sense of self which cannot be fazed by others’ perceptions.

Unfortunately, The Pharcyde never had another moment like that as inner strife split the band apart and they would not release their next album for five years, by then the band and Plain Rap and its follow-up, Humboldt Beginnings, were mostly overlooked by fans and critics alike, despite the overwhelming popularity of intellectual rappers like Outkast. However, in 1995, they achieved a classic moment, perfectly recalled and used by the producers of Black-ish. Enjoy the video below.


What We’re Streaming: Triumph Thinks We Have A Wonderful Collection of Presidential Candidates…

Triumph’s Election Special 2016


If you ever wanted to see a rousing political panel show including the Dell Dude, Chocolate Rain Guy, and Sanjaya from American Idol, this is about as close as you’re gonna get. Midway through Triumph’s Election Special, those footnote figures of yore share the stage, and are given equal footing, with professional guest commentators such as Ron Fournier and Professor Alan Dershowitz. At center, moderating this motley bunch, is Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, that resilient canine puppet birthed from the uber-eccentric Conan O’Brien universe in the 1990s and voiced by comedian/cartoonist Robert Smigel.

That a two-decade running gag predicated on a certain type of Catskills personality — one mostly dormant since the halcyon days of Don Rickles — could feel timeless is a magical feat. Whatever the sleight of hand employed, it works as Triumph’s Election Special is consistently crass and furiously funny. While much of the humor is rooted in now well-worn stereotypes of the endless election season — Christie is fat, Sanders is old, Trump is crazy, Cruz is creepy, O’Malley is… is… well, exactly — Smigel is lightning swift on his feet and a master of crowd work and takes the tropes in wild and imaginative directions — from training an admittedly game Mike Huckabee on matching barbs with Trump to a downright quaint exchange with a local Iowan who used a stall directly after Christie.

He’s also genius at reading the room, sensing levels of discomfort, and milking the awkwardness in between. The longest bit comes when he visits the University of New Hampshire, home of a handbook on bias-free language, to confront a group of woefully unprepared PC-touting students in the world’s most delicate, yet emotionally deadly, game of Scared Straight. He senses blood in the water after offering a very personal, brutal, and genuinely funny, example of “trigger words,” passes out name tags with phrases like “Renaissance Faire Groupie” and “Future Psycho Nanny” and launches into an extended riff culminating in a hilarious experiment on the dangers of weaselly language. Frankly, I tend to find jokes about PC lazy and an excuse for casual bigotry, but Smigel, through Triumph, finds the natural essence of truth in such humor.

Even the only semi-flaw in the endeavor, the show’s loose structure, adds to the unpredictability and nervous energy. In addition to Triumph’s travels — from visiting a Trump rally (with shockingly good-sport attendees) to stalking an elusive Cruz from diner to hall to field — TES2016 features funny, non-dog-puppet moments, including Tim Meadows giving his all spouting insanities like “I won’t even visit Washington if elected” to credulous restaurant patrons, and FoxNews-style attractive women fanning out with mics seeing just how big a whopper Republicans will buy (and they manage to pull in Rick Santorum, although Rand Paul sees through it).

While he can seem brusque and overbearing at times, like Michael Moore, Triumph’s greatest triumphs (sorry) draw from letting celebrities and regular souls reveal themselves. Triumph’s Election Special 2016 is both a Daily Show: Indescision-level font of political insight and a raucous, ribald barrel of laughs.

Watch it on Hulu.