Monday, August 3, 2020

TV Picks - Week of August 3

October 4th, 2002 – I'm seated in a green room at CBS Broadcast Center, waiting to enter the set to shoot the Jump The Shark game show pilot for King World. 

I had made a career on my computer chronicling when good TV shows went bad. Now it was my turn to be on the other side of the camera. I was confident in the show concept we had come up with, but the butterflies were in full swing as I sat in front of the studio audience. 

Greg Fitzsimmons was a great game show host. The panel of Kathy Griffin, Christian Finnegan and myself did our best at being fair and funny judges. The shoot went off without a hitch. It was a good pilot. But would a Jump The Shark TV show make "jump the shark" jump the shark? 

There happened to be one other issue that I was unaware of at the time. King World planned to produce one new show for syndication that year, and the other contender was a talk show featuring some guy named Dr. Phil. Looks like King World made the right choice.

A couple of years later, we tried again at TV Land with a Jump The Shark panel discussion show featuring Barry Williams, Tatum O'Neal, Dean Edwards and yours truly. Shot the pilot, but it didn't fly. 

Two failed Jump The Shark pilots gave me an appreciation for all that goes into making TV. I think twice when I see a "bad show", because that's never the intent of the creators. 

Let's fast forward a few years, and I'm privileged to be hosting two shows on cable. I auditioned to host

The other show I co-hosted with my SiriusXM Radio partner Gary Dell'Abate was

For What It's Worth went away, but the idea didn't as you'll see in my picks below. A lot of TV is recycled premises, and the show rarely works the second or third time around. 

Believe me, it's a lot easier to sit at home and watch these shows instead of trying to create or appear on one. I'm lucky to have experienced the best of both of these worlds.

THIS WEEK'S PICKS

 

Stanley Cup Qualifiers (NBC Sports Network)

Monday August 2 (All Week Long)

Hockey in August? Bring it on.

The playoff grind is legendary, and nothing tops the quest for the Stanley Cup. It takes 16 wins to earn the right to hoist Lord Stanley's trophy above your head. This year, thanks to COVID, there's a qualifying round to determine which teams make it to the round of 16. 

Even if you're not a hockey fan, the Stanley Cup playoffs are worth the watch. The skills on display are impressive, but it's all of these athletes playing hurt, laying it on the line, not shaving, doing whatever it takes night in and night out to make it to the next round. 

The intensity of these games can't be duplicated. The qualifying round gives us hockey all day long which I cannot get enough of. And even thought it's 100 degrees outside, it'll be cold in Toronto and Edmonton as the best in the business give it all they've got to get that Cup. Let's Go Pens!

What's It Worth? (A&E)

Tuesday August 4 9pm (Premiere)

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Considered me BEYOND flattered. 

Jeff Foxworthy searches for hidden treasures across the country finding out if pop-culture keepsakes hold more sentimental or monetary value. 

WTF?!! Do you recognize that premise?

I haven't seen a minute of this program (and I won't watch it), but they've clearly seen a certain VH1 Classic show I co-hosted eight years ago. I get that people can have similar ideas, but come on. Plus the same title?

Jeff Foxworthy and his production company should expect a fan letter. "You might be a ripoff artist if you..."

The Rain (NETFLIX)

Wednesday August 5 (Season 3 Premiere)

I've got a thing for Danish TV series. I loved The Twelve, so why not try an apocalyptic take on the world? Seems timely.

The Rain

Season three continues the quest to find a cure from those pesky raindrops. This six episode season is reportedly the last one, so let's hope Rasmus and Simone can work things out. 

We Hunt Together (SHOWTIME)

Sunday August 9 (Premiere)

This big-time crime drama from the BBC follows a couple who loves to kill and an unlikely pair of police detectives trying to track them down. 

Eve Myles from the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood leads the quality cast through the cat and mouse chase. Baba and Freddy bond over their love for violence as the mismatched detectives find common ground tracking the killer couple.

This checks all the Showtime mystery boxes - sex, violence and lots of dark shots at nighttime.

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If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.


Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.

 

Monday, July 27, 2020

TV Picks - Week of July 27

The Muppets made me who I am today – or at least a large part of me.

I'll preview the latest Muppet return in my picks below, but the context goes well beyond a three paragraph blurb. 

The other night my youngest daughter Emily, who is now 23, asked if I'd like to check out Elmo's new late night talk show on HBO Max. Both of my daughters bonded over singing along the Muppets as they grew older, so why not check out the latest take from the furry red monster. It didn't work for me (full disclosure - I'm not an Elmo fan). But what did work was checking out the classic Sesame Street episodes that HBO Max offers.

I was two when Sesame Street debuted in November of 1969, the perfect age for sunny days to sweep my clouds away. I cannot thank my mom enough for plopping me down in front of the TV to fully absorb the latest from the Children's Television Workshop. 

Sesame Street was my preschool. Early episodes never talked down to children – I felt like I was in on the joke and part of an extended family. Only Big Bird could see his imaginary friend Mr. Snuffaluffagus. Oscar pulled no punches living in that garbage can and singing about trash. Ernie and Bert were close pals with different attitudes toward life. Kermit was the ultimate straight man, uh, frog. Mix in some trippy animation counting to 10 or reciting the alphabet, and you've got a better way to learn than most classrooms provide right now.

And Sesame Street was very funny, my first glimpse into sketch comedy. I hoped for vignettes featuring my favorite blue monsters Cookie Monster and Grover. I wanted to go to Roosevelt Franklin (Bah) Elementary School. Guy Smiley made me want to be a game show host in real life. And the lyrics to those songs they sang were building blocks in my education. 

The Muppets aged right along with me. Next up was The Muppet Show featuring a mostly new cast of characters led by Kermit and more adult humor. I was 9 years old and could not get enough of the chaos. Miss Piggy, Animal, Gonzo and so many more made their debuts on this fake stage.  

It wasn't long before the Muppets starred in their first feature film - The Muppet MovieSesame Street had jumped the shark with the forced cuteness of Elmo, but the big screen still had that wit and sense of adventure. We all got caught up in Kermit's journey to Hollywood and finding the Rainbow Connection. 

Then the marketing department took over, and the sequels got away from the core of what made the Muppets work. These beloved pieces of felt possess an innocence and savviness that makes you want to be a part of their world.

I've made a living in the entertainment field for the past couple of decades, and I thank Jim Henson and all of those great performers for getting me started. Checking out Sesame Street 50 years later, I still got that warm feeling watching three monsters count, run around and bump into each other over and over again.

THIS WEEK'S PICKS

 

Last Chance U (NETFLIX)

Tuesday July 28 (Season 5 Premiere)

So long, Kansas. Hello, Oakland. My favorite show about junior college football doesn't skip a beat this season.

The first four seasons profiled national JuCo powerhouses stacked with top talent trying to make it back to the big schools. These athletes made the most (or least) of their last shots to play the game they love as coaches filled with personality try to get another ring and keep the kids focused.

The last two seasons got too caught up in the awareness of the show and played to the cameras way too much. Relocating to Laney College was a wise choice. There's no scholarships, free housing or food – all students pay their own way to be there. Head coach John Beam isn't there to be a star - he's there to coach football as he has done for the past 40 years.

Right from the get go, you're invested in the defending champion Laney Eagles as they struggle to stay on top. The real-life obstacles they try to overcome are even more compelling than the final score of any game. 

Frayed (HBO Max)

Thursday July 30 (Premiere)

I'm a sucker for any good fish out of water story. This comedy starts across the pond and then heads to a completely different hemisphere.

Simone lives a lush life in the late 80's in a London mansion with a perfect husband and two teenage kids. Her hubby dies from a heart attack under odd circumstances, and her world gets turned upside down forcing a return to her hometown in Australia where we find out who she really is. 

Sarah Kendall is fantastic in the lead role. Everyone hates her in Australia, and that's just the start of the obstacles she needs to overcome to get back to London. Putting your life back together with your hometown reminding you, and your kids, of who you really are leads to some very funny situations. 

Muppets Now (DISNEY+)

Friday July 31 (Premiere)

It's time to start the music, it's time to light the lights...again.

The Muppets are back for another TV show, but this time, they're going back to their sketch comedy roots. 

The last Muppet reboot felt like The Office gone bad forcing them into situations that made no sense. A single-cam mockumentary centered around Kermit and Piggy breaking up? Big swing, big miss.

The classic Muppet Show was a variety show with real-life guest stars, cheesy acts, and chaos on and off the stage. Muppets Now aims to bring that chaos to the way entertainment is consumed today, so prepare for lots of sketches featuring some of your favorites. 

I've already spotted Kermit, Miss Piggy, Beeker and the Swedish Chef in preview clips. The Muppets can still work – as evidenced by their take on Bohemian Rhapsody and the Jason Segel led 2011 movie. 

I know the reviews from Statler and Waldorf won't be good ones, but if they're brutally honest, I'll be laughing right along with them. 

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If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.

Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.

 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

TV Picks - Week of July 20

I miss sports. 

It took a pandemic to make me realize how much time I actually spend watching and reading about baseball, football, hockey and basketball games. 

Something has been missing in my life with no professional sports. Don't get me wrong – the 2 or 3 hours I had spent watching games has given me the opportunity to watch a lot more shows. But sports connects me to my childhood. To my late father. To a simpler time when all I cared about was who won or lost and how well certain players I'll probably never meet in my life fared on the field.

Baseball is the first major sport returning this week (apologies to golf and NASCAR). There will be 102 fewer games played. There will be no fans in the stands. It is going to feel weird. But I can't wait to see it on my TV screen.

I hosted a nightly sports show here in New York City on SNY that was a casualty of this pandemic. I miss that too - the camaraderie and the paycheck. I'm happy to be rejoining the TV sports commentary world on MLB Network and paneling on SNY, but masks and social distancing are reminders of how the world has changed.

COVID has rocked any sense of normalcy. Watching a ballgame, even with all of the new awkwardness, helps bring that back. It is one of many small steps that will get us back to life before masks.

The other major sports will follow soon. Hockey in August? I'll take it. Basketball at Disneyland? Fine by me. And the NFL, which had the benefit of its offseason coinciding with the pandemic, still aims to start on time. I"m ready for some football.

Opening day has always been special to me. That will continue this Thursday, even though I can't be taken out to the ballgame. 

THIS WEEK'S PICKS

Norsemen (NETFLIX)

Wednesday July 22 (Season 3 Premiere)

Unable to fill that Game of Thrones void in your life?  This dark Norwegian comedy can satisfy your hunger.

A group of vikings makes its way through life in the year 790. The humor is very dry and there are tragic moments, but it's best poking fun at how seriously Thrones, Vikings and other period pieces take themselves.

Season 3 is a prequel leading up to the events of the show's initial season, so if you've been missing characters who didn't make it, you just might see them again. Start rowing and grab that sword.

Major League Baseball (ESPN)

Thursday July 23 7pm/10pm

Crank up the opening of John Fogerty's "Centerfield" – baseball is finally back. 

The season starts with a doubleheader featuring the perpetually stacked New York Yankees taking on the defending world champion Washington Nationals. This game will be followed at 10pm by baseball's most heated rivalry - the San Francisco Giants visiting Chavez Ravine to take on this year's favorite, the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Curious to see how COVID rules affect the broadcast of a ballgame. There are no fans in the stands and any noise you hear will be artificial. The Yankees and Dodgers will be there to love or hate depending upon your affinity (I'm a long-time Pirates fan), and an abbreviated 60 game season should be enough to satisfy any baseball lover.

I've always found the national pastime to be quite relaxing. It's the ridiculously slow pace and feeling of summer as the innings play out that gets me. Part of me still thinks I could be out there on that diamond with the pros. Then I go eat a snack and keep watching.

The Good Fight (CBS ALL ACCESS)

I wrote about the fourth season finale back in May, but I wanted to revisit my "Best Show That No One Is Talking About." Robert and Michelle King created a world that is wonderful to be a part of.

I was a huge fan of The Good Wife. My own good wife turned me on to the Julianna Margulies star vehicle. Good writing, great acting, and my favorite actors from The Wire would pop up every week.

The Good Wife took tremendous twists and turns during its seven seasons. Every character on the show was compelling, from Kalinda to Colin Sweeney. Series regulars, guest stars - it didn't matter.  

I heard about a spinoff featuring Diane Lockhart and saw it was regulated to CBS All Access - a mysterious pay service with Star Trek episodes and who knew what else. That did not sound like a vote of confidence.  No Alicia or Peter Florrick? No Ari Gold? How could this work?

Some of the minor players from The Good Wife were on board, but it was up to Christine Baranski and Cush Jumbo to carry the ball – and they exceed expectations. In the absence of the Florricks, there's plenty of drama and very strong politicizing happening at Chicago law firms.

The guest star element of the original series has continued with this sequel, but they are having more fun with the storylines. The Good Wife always had a sharp sense of humor, but CBS All Access allowed the Kings to take more chances and really put the characters out there. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I respect the chances they take. 

The Good Fight has been picked up for a fifth season, and with our real world in total chaos, it will capitalize and provide a welcome distraction. An edited version of this quality drama will make its way to CBS. That's the place it should have been airing all along.

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If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.

Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

TV Picks - Week of July 13

If it seems like every week brings yet another new streaming service, it’s because basically it does. Enter Peacock, NBCUniversal's new streaming platform, launching this Wednesday.

Let's start with the name — I think it's a horrible choice. We get the tie-in to NBC's long-time mascot and its historical meaning, but come on. “Hey, did you see that show on Peacock?” “Peacock and chill?” Did Jack Donaghy's marketing team come up with this? (More on Jack later.)

Next up is the content. Combining NBC' television library, Universal’s movie vault, and licensing shows from ViacomCBS and elsewhere provides a motherlode of viewing pleasure. Almost 20,000 hours’ worth. Most of it is old, but it's all there.

Apple and HBO have proven that a brand name alone will not carry wannabe Netflix rivals. You need to have programming that's worth paying for. Parks & Rec and The Office reruns are great, but not enough for me to crack open my wallet. I need more.

Peacock is offering three tiers. At tier one, 7,500 hours of NBCUniversal programming is yours absolutely free. Yup, free. And there's good stuff, too: Frasier. Downton Abbey. Jurassic Park. Plus they throw in some ads. (You didn't really think it was free, did you?)

Tier two (Peacock Premium) is all inclusive for $5/month. You get the free stuff plus more shows (Two and a Half Men, for example), early access to NBC's late night talk shows, and all of Peacock's original programming. Plus you still get the ads. Tier three at $10/month includes all of the above with no ads.

Leading the pack of "Peacock Originals" is an adaptation of the Aldous Huxley 1932 classic Brave New World (what a metaphor!). We all know the story since it's required reading in most schools, so the production of this updated dark world needs to be top notch. David Schwimmer returns to TV comedy (although I've seen him quite a bit lately) in Intelligence playing the lone American in British government communications headquarters. Also included at launch is Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, the second feature-length movie reuniting James Roday, Dule Hill with the cast of the long-running USA Network series. Further out, prepare for revivals of your favorite NBC classics (Punky Brewster! Saved By The Bell! ANOTHER Battlestar Galactica!).

Bottom line: I'm in wait and see mode on Peacock. I already get the NBC content I want on Hulu (for now), and none of the early originals feel like must-see TV. HBO Max has a comparable library and hasn't exactly lit up the streaming world. Peacock has a long way to go — can I suggest a name change as a first step?

THIS WEEK'S PICKS

Showbiz Kids (HBO)

Tuesday July 14 (Premiere)

Child actors in the entertainment industry — is it ever the kid's idea or is it always the parents? News flash: even if the child claims to have known since they were two that they wanted to act, it’s always the parents.

Alex Winter, aka Bill S. Preston Esq. from a most excellent adventure, directs this look at some of our favorite child stars and how things turned out. Elliott from E.T., Natalie from Mrs. Doubtfire, Willis from Diff'rent Strokes and others, including Evan Rachel Wood, detail relationships with their parents and dealing with fame at a young age.

Two aspiring child actors are also profiled as they try to maintain a healthy childhood with friends and family. Let's hope they learn their lessons early in life.

30 Rock Special (NBC)

Thursday July 16 (Premiere)

Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy are reuniting for a one-hour special for the NBC upfronts. Tracy, Jenna, Kenneth… they'll all be there, too.

This world really has turned upside down.

An upfront is when new programming is presented to the advertising community, and TV stars show up to hobnob and take pictures with media buyers and planners. My first “real job” was working as a media buyer at the ad agency DMB&B. My first week was the upfronts, and I thought I stumbled into the greatest job in the world as I chatted up the stars of thirtysomething and China Beach. The other 51 weeks were brutal, but upfront week was a great time for the TV geek in me.

While the circumstances are strange, who cares why the 30 Rock cast is remotely reuniting? It was great seeing the Parks & Rec gang, and I'll take any excuse to see this group back in action.

I loved how 30 Rock fearlessly mocked NBC's programming back in the day. This isn't CableTown we’re dealing with here. NBC has always had a good sense of humor about itself — let’s see if that holds up.

Cursed (NETFLIX)

Friday July 17 (Premiere)

Ready for some fantasy? The origin story of King Arthur's lady of the lake — now that's an epic undertaking. Thank you, Netflix.

It starts with the slaughter of a Druid village and a young teen girl on a quest to save her people. She needs the blade and to find a sorcerer whose name we all know. She’ll also be joined by a young future King of the Britons.

Based on the comic adaptation of Frank Miller, there's plenty of conflict in this ancient quest with young Katherine Langford leading the way.

I recommend watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail to gain a comprehensive understanding of this time period.

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If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.

Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

TV Picks - Week of July 6

Hope you're recovering well from your socially distanced July 4th celebration. Now, as always, is a great time to enjoy some air conditioning and catch up on your favorite TV shows.

There's a light slate of new stuff this week, so I wanted to follow up on shows that I've previously recommended in this column and see how they're holding up. 

Bordertown – I'm hooked on this Finnish crime drama. I watch every night after my wife falls asleep. For some reason, they renamed it Sorjonen after the quirky detective in the current third season, but don't let that distract you. This is CSI in its early years on steroids. I'm in deep on the Finland/Russian border.

I'll Be Gone In The Dark – Really enjoyed the first episode. Hate that HBO is making us wait week to week. It's always a good sign for a docuseries when you know how things turn out and don't even care. It’s amazing where a little late night obsession will take you.

Hamilton - Never sprung for the pricey tickets on Broadway, so I watched with my youngest daughter Emily who knows it back and forth. I went in cynical but emerged impressed. Angelica Schuyler and King George steal the show. I honestly didn’t love a lot of the tunes, but I do respect the talent on display.

Search Party - Excellent for binging. It's dark, intended for a younger hipper audience, but works for me. Maybe I should go to Brooklyn to watch it.

Yellowstone - Find the Paramount Network and watch this show!! Kevin Costner is not to be trifled with.

Dirty John - Only two episodes left, but it feels dragged out. The performances are very good, but this San Diego shooting should have been a two-hour documentary at most.

THIS WEEK'S PICKS

What Would You Do? (ABC)
Tuesday July 7 10pm (12th Season Premiere)


Five years ago, I was very close to co-hosting an episode of this ABC mainstay. Really. 

I had worked out a deal to do a themed WWYD? episode filled with situations happening to characters on existing ABC shows. I came up with a ton of different scenarios, but we never got the green light. What would Cam and Mitch do?

John Quinones somehow has managed without me, and this season's premiere includes a scenario with a man wearing a Confederate flag on his jacket and a Black customer politely asks him to remove it. Timely, indeed. 

The successful premise has always been straightforward, and putting yourself in these situations is an exercise worth engaging in.

Little Voice (APPLE TV+)
Friday July 10 (Premiere)


Get ready to find your voice and learn how to use it with some help from Sara Bareilles and JJ Abrams.

Bess King is a talented wannabe performer struggling to make her dreams come true while dealing with the perils of everyday life. She has the talent armed with lots of Sara Bareilles originals, but does she have the patience and persistence to get through her day?

Apple TV+ takes another shot with some big name creators in this cute tale that feels very Disney.

The Twelve (NETFLIX)
Tuesday July 10 (Premiere)


I've got a thing for foreign trials. First it was The Trial which came from Italy. Now there's this Belgian drama that was a big hit overseas.

When you're watching a show that originated outside of the U.S.A., stick with the native audio and use subtitles. English overdubbing takes away from the power of any drama. I use subtitles all of the time, so this wasn't too much of a stretch for me. Once I started, I couldn’t go back.

This 10-part courtroom drama revolves around a woman accused of murdering her daughter and best friend. Dark stuff.

What sets this series apart is focusing on the members of the jury and how the weight of the case affects their personal lives. The juror baggage sways the courtroom in unexpected ways. 

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If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.

Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.

 

Monday, June 29, 2020

TV Picks - Week of June 29

Summertime. Halfway through 2020. Nostradamus couldn't have predicted how this year would turn out thus far.

HBO Max joined AppleTV+ and Disney+ with mixed results. Quibi is here. Peacock arrives in a few weeks. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu keep cranking out the content. Most of us are stuck at home and TV options are plentiful, yet it gets more difficult to find stuff that's really worth watching.

Independence Day is upon us. When I grew up, my dad would make us watch the celebration on PBS with The Boston Pops doing their thing every July 4th. This year, I dread any form of fireworks since I've been hearing them nonstop in Manhattan for weeks. I'll take the Tchaikovsky, but no explosions, please.

Beaches aren't as crowded for obvious reasons, but I'm always on the lookout for fins in the water when it comes to current programming. Network execs have gotten much more adept at pulling a show before it can jump the shark. It could be budget issues, plentiful cheap reality programming, or simply better awareness, but casts aren't breaking into song and new babies haven't been introduced.

Don't get me wrong… many programs will continue to take Fonzie’s fatal leap. If you've watched Killing Eve or The Walking Dead, both have found the other side of the fin. It might be more difficult to spot, but sooner or later, show creators will fall back on plot devices that lead to breaking out the water skis.

THIS WEEK'S PICKS

Unsolved Mysteries (NETFLIX)
Wednesday July 1 (Premiere)

Last week, it was The Twilight Zone. This week, it's Unsolved Mysteries. Yet another of yesteryear’s titles deemed worthy of a reboot. Let's have a moment of silence for the late Robert Stack who hosted the popular show for 15 seasons.

There's no new host — good choice. They kept the opening theme (slightly updated) — an even better choice. Supernatural encounters, unexplained disappearances — the conspiracy theorist or cynic inside you will come out full force watching these tales. This season starts with a hole in a Baltimore hotel roof and doesn’t let up.

Unsolved Mysteries was well ahead of the true crime curve. The original show’s creators have teamed with the producers of Stranger Things for this reboot. Tons of cases were brought to light during the original run and hundreds got solved. Unsolved.com is going to get busy this summer.

Hamilton (DISNEY+)
Friday July 3 (Premiere)

"How does a bastard, orphan..." — you know the rest of the question.

I never saw Hamilton on Broadway, despite raves from close friends and family. I double-majored in communications and history, but the life of Alexander Hamilton as a Broadway musical seems like an absurd premise. And those ticket prices… I chose to spend my money elsewhere.

Now Disney+ brings the Lin-Manuel Miranda masterpiece into our homes. Aside from The Mandalorian, this is the premiere offering from the relatively new streaming service, and many are going to tune in. It's difficult to capture the pure magic of Broadway on TV (try watching Rent), but this is the now only way to see the Tony Award winning phenomenon with its original cast. I'm not throwing away my shot.

Hanna (AMAZON)
Friday July 3 (Season 2 Premiere)

Hanna is back for a second season of thrills and kills. This Amazon show is based on the Saoirse Ronan big screen splash back in 2011.

After being raised and trained in the forest by her dad, Hanna avoids the CIA in her quest to find out who she really is. Turns out she's not the only young mystery assassin in town.

The bloody ending of the first season sets up this next one well. Hanna is surrounded by others just like her forming a young female force to be reckoned with.

Where will Hanna's future take her? My guess it will involve a lot of grunting, running and killing in the woods.

60 Minutes (CBS)
Sunday July 5 7pm

Can't get enough of that stopwatch. It's time for a shout out to the all-time greatest TV news magazine.

I am not a TV news person at all, but 60 Minutes is more than just the news. It has always been a no-nonsense informative investigation into the issues of the day, but just as importantly, it's good TV.

I started watching following NFC football games with Pat Summerall reminding me what's coming up on 60 Minutes. Been there ever since. Correspondents come and go and it no longer tops the ratings, but I feel smarter after watching this hour every Sunday night.

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If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.

Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

TV Picks - Week of June 22

Let's start with an Emmy update, since everyone is on the edge of their couches thinking about a television awards show that is consistently one of the most boring programs to watch. Go figure.

The television academy has expanded the comedy and drama series categories to 8 nominees each - ripping a page right out of the Oscars withering playbook. 

Here's a suggestion - don't mandate any number of nominees for any category. The finest shows of the year deserve to be nominated, and limiting the number of nominees preserves quality choices. Expanding that number has nothing to do with the quality of nominees, it's all about quantity. 

If every show gets nominated, how do you know which ones are actually the best? This is the equivalent of giving everyone who plays sports a trophy and having every team make the playoffs. Are the Emmys really trying this hard to be the Golden Globes? Pick your winners, and stand by your choices.

Speaking of winners and losers, TV reboots are tricky to pull off. 99% simply don't work. For every Battlestar Galactica, there's an unwatchable version of The Munsters or The Odd Couple

The Twilight Zone is one of the greatest shows ever created. I fondly remember being fascinated and frightened by Rod Serling's tales as I caught up on every episode in syndication. I fell in love with that black and white beauty made more than a decade before my time. I never miss a marathon, much to the chagrin of my family since they've seen the episodes so many times (and suffer through me rewatching them).

Burgess Meredith and his glasses. Richard Kiel visiting Earth. Getting off the train at Willoughby. A third eye at the diner. Room for one more, honey. That dummy who haunts me to this very day. Endless examples of truly standout moments in television writing and production.

Yet time and again, someone tries to bring back The Twilight Zone. They think they know better - the brand will carry the series. It never ever works. 

It's not the creators fault. No one can recapture all that goes in to a Twilight Zone episode. The mystery, charm, horror, acting, narrator - even the sets. It is a brilliant product of its time. 

Free advice to the next Rod Serling - don't bother. Just be you, and create your own new world with your stories inside. Leave the zone alone. Please.

THIS WEEK'S PICKS

For network TV fans, Penn & Teller: Fool Us! returns for its 7th season Monday night on The CW. Magicians try to fool two of the best who ever played the game. It's a fun watch. Let's get to a bunch of returning shows and the premiere of a tragic docuseries.

The Twilight Zone (CBS ALL ACCESS)
Thursday June 25 (Season 2 Premiere)

This latest attempt to bring back this classic franchise comes from "the mind of Jordan Peele." The first season updated some classic episodes and offered some new stories - and it didn't really work. 

I'm all for seeing what Jordan Peele can do within this genre. Just don't call it The Twilight Zone. Charlie Brooker did it with Black Mirror which he wisely didn't title Twilight Zone - Across The Pond.

Most streaming services offer all of the original Twilight Zone episodes. Some are dated and rough to watch, but the stories at the core of most of these episodes retain their brilliance. Read that signpost up ahead - "the only one who should open and close any Twilight Zone episode is Rod Serling." I might be paraphrasing.

Search Party (HBO MAX)
Thursday June 25 (Season 3 Premiere)

After a three year hiatus, this TBS cult comedy hit has found a home at HBO Max. Maeby from Arrested Development and her Brooklyn millennial pals searched for a missing person who was a college acquaintance during season one. The second season dealt with the consequences of that search and it got ugly. I'm trying not to spoil things if you're new to the show.

Season three is all about the trial and fame that comes along with it. A fourth season is already in the can, so you won't have to wait as long for more of this satirical tale. 

Dark (NETFLIX)
Saturday June 27 (Season 3 Premiere)

You think Lost messed with your head when it came to time travel? This German language thriller is even more complex where everything, and I do mean everything, means something.

Those new to Dark will learn the significance of its premiere date. The first season is spectacular. The second season expands on that complexity and widens the universe.

Pay careful attention to all of the details and who is who. The creators have pledged that everything will make sense, and I'm not waiting 33 years to see how this plot is resolved.

I'll Be Gone In The Dark (HBO)
Sunday June 28 10pm (Premiere)

This six-part docuseries is based on the book written by Michelle McNamara (first wife of Patton Oswalt) who couldn't get the Golden State Killer out of her mind. 

While her husband was out perfecting his standup and their kids slept, McNamara indulged in her obsession of the unsolved California rape and murder cases that took place in the 1970s and 1980s. 

The subtitle of the book "One Woman's Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer" is an understatement. Amy Ryan narrates this true-crime tale which deals with multiple levels of tragedy.

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I hope you enjoy these weekly recommendations. If there's quality TV that I'm missing, don't hesitate to let me know.

Stay healthy and safe.