Monday, December 24, 2018

The Best TV Shows of 2018

It's been awhile....

The last time I posted was my Best TV of 2017 list. 2018 has been a busy year in more ways than one. I continue to work my SiriusXM and SNY jobs yet somehow still manage to watch a bunch of TV. Not as much as I used to, but I try to keep up.

Other than sports and an occasionally exceptional show, I'm pretty much off the networks. ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX need to step up their game - or exceedingly average programming will continue to lose long time viewers like me. 

It's all about Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and countless cable channels. Even YouTube is in the mix as it tries to be the best...around. 

Miniseries ] messed with my list this year. There were so many good ones, but do they qualify as "shows"? I separated these into their own category, but any of them could have checked in at number one.

SPECIAL "MINISERIES" CATEGORY
A Very English Scandal (AMAZON)
Escape At Dannemora (SHOWTIME)
Wild Wild Country (NETFLIX)
The Looming Tower (HULU)
The Staircase (NETFLIX)
The Terror (FX)

Immerse yourself in any of the above and you'll be quite satisfied. Take your time. 

As for the rest of television, I've done my best to categorize the shows that stuck with me.

HEARD THESE ARE GREAT BUT HAVEN'T GOTTEN TO 'EM
Wanderlust (NETFLIX)
Detectorists (HULU)
The Last Panthers (HULU)
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC)
Patrick Melrose (SHOWTIME)
Narcos: Mexico (NETFLIX)
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX)

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

Patriot (AMAZON)
It's eccentric and works on every level. Love the cast, the writing, and seeing a ton of my favorite actors (hello, John Locke and Clarence Boddicker). Just catching up now.

MY WIFE AND DAUGHTERS MADE ME WATCH

Queer Eye (NETFLIX)
My family feels I'm a worthy candidate. After watching a few of these, I realize they're probably right. 

Dogs (NETFLIX)
Sweet show. I wanted more about the dogs than the families, but that's just me.

SLIP, SLIP, SLIPPIN' AWAY

The Walking Dead (AMC)
If you're going to kill Rick, kill Rick. One of the things I really liked about this show was the feeling that no one is safe. That ended once Negan bashed some skulls. This is a book that started out great and I'm holding on to finish it. Barely.

This Is Us (NBC)
There's time to recover, but the first half of this season lacked the magic of the previous one.

STARTED...BUT HAVEN'T FINISHED

Atlanta (FX)
I liked Teddy Perkins. Tried to watch the season a couple of times - but I haven't stayed. It's on too many Top Ten lists to ignore. I'll be back.

BoJack Horseman (NETFLIX)
Way behind on this. Looking forward to catching up.

Homecoming (AMAZON)
The first couple eps are slow, but it's Sam Esmail and I love his style. I'll finish.

Castle Rock (HULU)
I love Stephen King. I do not love this show...at all.

DON'T LOVE THESE CRITICAL DARLINGS AS MUCH AS EVERYONE ELSE

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (AMAZON)
Good show. Visually excellent. The actors are top notch. But it's way too schticky for me. 

Sharp Objects (HBO)
The ending was great. The slog through the 10 episodes to get there was rough. Too much style over substance. 

Succession (HBO)
Lots of people loved it. I am not one of those people. Didn't care about anyone in this family. The most interesting thing was watching scenes shot at SNY where I host Loud Mouths (weeknights at 5:30pm).

WORTH WATCHING BUT THIS SEASON WASN'T AS GOOD AS THE PREVIOUS ONE
The Sinner (USA)
Ozark (NETFLIX)
Westworld (HBO)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
The Handmaid's Tale (HULU)
GLOW (NETFLIX)
The Deuce (HBO)
Last Chance U (NETFLIX)
Black Mirror (NETFLIX)

MY TOP TEN TV SHOWS OF 2018

10. Cobra Kai (YOUTUBE)
Part of me wishes they skipped the sequels and went from The Karate Kid to this follow up three decades later. Johnny is washed up, Daniel is a car dealer, and old feelings never die. The story includes lots of callbacks to the original and a few surprises. This is how you revisit a mid 80's classic with what's left of the original cast in an entertaining way.

9. Bodyguard (NETFLIX)
So that's where Robb Stark has been hiding. Six episodes fly by in this BBC series where a war veteran turned policeman with incredible protection skills gets tasked to take care of the Home Secretary. The ending is not great, but the ride to get there will have you on the edge of your seat. 

8. The Kominsky Method (NETFLIX)
An acting coach helps his agent cope with the loss of his wife. Not the most original premise, but Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin showcase their chops and make it work. I'm still laughing at the second episode which shows all that a Hollywood funeral can be. 

7. Barry (HBO)
Now lets take an acting coach and have an assassin join his class. This HBO gem got better with each and every episode. Dark, funny and extremely poignant. Henry Winkler earned that Emmy, but Bill Hader was just as good in a tough role to pull off. In fact, this entire premise is tricky, but the showbiz satire mixed with some foreign hits worked quite well. 

6. The Good Place (NBC)
Remember when there were a bunch of comedies worth watching on network television? Neither do I, but The Good Place bucks this trend. This philosophical comedy is smart, stupid and surprising. Blake Bortles hasn't been the same.

5. The Good Fight (CBS ALL ACCESS)
Remember when there were a bunch of dramas worth watching on network television? Neither do I, but this spinoff of The Good Wife is just as compelling as its predecessor. Ygrette has moved on from Jon Snow to play the smart troubled daughter from a Madoff-esque family. The Good Wife supporting acting crew more than holds its own - and it's great to see all those guest judges again.

4. Atypical (NETFLIX)
An 18 year old who's on "the spectrum" is trying to figure life out, and his family is there for him. The acting and writing are exceptional, the laughs are well earned, and you feel so much for all the characters. It's genuinely heartwarming, and I'm glad there will be a season three.

3. Killing Eve (BBC AMERICA)
Barry wasn't the best show featuring a troubled assassin. Killing Eve is smart, funny, and gets pretty dark. Sandra Oh gets all the hype, but Jodie Comer is the one I marveled at. Didn't love the ending, but it didn't matter. This was the best new show of 2018.

2. The Americans (FX)
This is how you end a series. I've been on this Russian bandwagon since it started and 1987 was the right place for it to come to a stop. The disguises still crack me up, but Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys remain just as convincing. The finale was satisfying and full of surprises - a fitting end to an underrated drama.

1. Better Call Saul (AMC)
It's not better than Breaking Bad - but it's getting awfully close. The spinoff continues to be just as captivating as Jimmy McGill drifts into Saul Goodman territory. There are no better TV characters than Jimmy, Kim, Mike and Gus. We know how it turns out for most when Walter enters the picture, but for now, there's no better story worth watching.

Those are my favorites. Let me know what I'm missing.

Happy holidays, and here's to a great 2019!

Monday, December 18, 2017

This One's Got 11

As the year comes to a close, it's time for yet another Best TV list. Working two jobs makes it difficult to watch as much as I used to. Gary and Robin both put me to shame these days.

I still managed to watch a bunch of stuff, and here's what stood out in 2017:

SHOWS I'VE HEARD ARE GREAT BUT HAVEN'T WATCHED YET

Twin Peaks: The Return (SHOWTIME)
American Vandal (NETFLIX)

SHOWS MY WIFE CONVINCED ME TO WATCH

Big Little Lies (HBO)
Wasn't difficult to figure out "who did it", but the performances were very good and it was shot beautifully. Season two should be interesting.

This Is Us (NBC)
I caught myself staying up for the end of the last ep after Debbie fell asleep. It's sappy, it's network, but it's still done pretty well. I'm in.

CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED SHOWS I'VE TRIED AND JUST CAN'T GET INTO

The Good Place (NBC)
Tried it early and didn't really get it. I heard about the plot twist, so perhaps I will revisit. Wish I had the time.

Master of None (NETFLIX)
Tried it. Thought it was okay, but expected a heck of a lot more. Maybe I'll return someday. Or maybe I'm just too old.

SHOWS I'VE STARTED BUT HAVEN'T FINISHED YET

Brockmire (IFC)
Love Hank. Love the premise. Just haven't gotten to the rest of it yet. But I will.

GLOW (NETFLIX)
Alison Brie is awesome. That is all.

The Deuce (HBO)
I'm saving this one for when I don't have to watch late at night and can really focus. I've seen most of it, but I'm starting over again. David Simon deserves THAT kind of attention.

Godless (NETFLIX)
Liked the first two eps, but wasn't compelled to immediately return. I will go back though.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (AMAZON)
It's kitschy. It helps if you're from the metro New York area and Jewish. A lot.

REALLY GOOD SHOWS THAT HAD A SEASON NOT AS GOOD AS ITS PREVIOUS ONE
Fargo (FX)
Veep (HBO)
Last Chance U (NETFLIX)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (NETFLIX)
The Americans (FX)
Narcos (NETFLIX)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
The Crown (NETFLIX)

MY TOP ELEVEN TV SHOWS OF 2017

11. Ozark (NETFLIX)
It's not the next "Breaking Bad". Let's get that out of the way. But when it focuses on Jason Bateman and Laura Linney struggling to keep their family together in spite of his laundering - it's pretty damn good. 

10. Mr. Robot (USA)
Every episode feels like a movie. The mystery of season one is long gone (but not the plot), and plenty of weird twists and turns remain. Top notch performances from Bobby Cannavale and, of course, Rami Malek carry the show. Even when it gets lost in the weeds (or wherever it might go) it remains compelling.

9. Stranger Things 2 (NETFLIX)
Any show that starts with Dragon's Lair is going to rate high in my book. The bar was set so high, and the second season delivered. It recovered from Eleven's disastrous trip to Chicago with two killer episodes when the gang is all together. Good characters, decent mystery, and lots of fun references from when I was a kid.

8. Better Things (FX)
This could have made my "Shows My Wife Convinced Me To Watch" and "Really Good Shows But Not As Good As The Previous Season" lists, but it was still one of the 11 best this year. What's not to love about Pamela Adlon? Comedy...drama...slapstick...morbid - this Louis CK/Pamela Adlon combination checks all the boxes. Again.

7. Last Week Tonight (HBO)
I am no fan of TV news, but John Oilver's diatribes make me laugh and learn. I don't feel talked down to, and I'm getting a biting, honest reaction to the crazy world we live in. Easily the best late night show on TV.

6. Mindhunter (NETFLIX)
What's more entertaining than going inside a serial killer's mind? Getting into the head of the guys who figure it all out. Nice seeing Olivia from "Fringe" back in the mix as well. Can't wait to see who the next jail visit is going to be.

5. The Handmaid's Tale (HULU)
Creepy and powerful. Peggy Olson from "Mad Men" is in a whole new world. Fantastic acting across the board in this bleak outlook of the future. I need to read the book.

4. Better Call Saul (AMC)
Heartbreaking, dramatic and still funny. Michael McKean was fantastic this season, and Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks are so steady they get overlooked. Welcome back Gus Fring! It's great to have some New Mexico on the small screen once again.

3. Game of Thrones (HBO)
Absolutely taken for granted. It's such a spectacle and so overly hyped that you forget how epic a program it is and how well it's done. Every season isn't going to have a Red Wedding or a Ned Chop. This season had plenty of cool moments, including the best dragon fight entrance since, well, there have been dragon fight scenes. Can't wait to see how it all ends.

2. The Leftovers (HBO)
Gut wrenching. Carrie Coon can do no wrong in my eyes. Some of the plot twists are ridiculous, but for whatever reason they work in this universe. Truly exceptional television that stood out in a very crowded field.

1. Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)
I have a soft spot for this show since I'm a computer geek. The evolution of the characters and their relationships is masterfully done. Each season gets progressively better, and it was never afraid to take chances. The acting, writing, and of course, the progress of the computer world, all in one excellent series. I'll miss this show the most.

Those are my favorites. Let me know what I'm missing.

Happy holidays, and here's to a great 2018!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

TV update

My last post was in September. Of 2016. I apologize.

I'm a lucky guy. A busy guy. My day begins working on the Stern Show and culminates hosting LoudMouths at 530. Killer combo - Howard and sports. Rockefeller Center to 4 World Trade Center, then back to my apartment on the west side of Manhattan.

On a side note, we moved earlier this year into the city. Now I wonder why I waited so long to do it. I thought I would miss my house. I thought wrong. Highly recommended.

The view next to my TV. Distracting.
Back to my schedule - which has led to cutting back on my TV time. It hurts.

But I felt it was time for an update on what I've watched and also what's coming down the pike.

On My Radar

Sports - I would watch anyway, but I need to tune in for my SNY gig. Weekends are college football (Go Blue) and pro (Here We Go Steelers).

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC) - The best show no one is taking about. Sadly, like AOL Instant Messenger, it's coming to an end. If you ever cared about a computer, this is for you. Plus the acting is fantastic.

Better Things (FX) - Debbie and I enjoy Pamela Adlon dealing with her 3 daughters and mother as only she can. Good moody stuff.

This Is Us (NBC) - Another one I watch with my wife. It's well done sappiness - especially for network television, which is notably absent from this list.

Survivor (CBS) - My daughter Rachel and I have been watching for years. It's not about the people - it's all about the game. Jeff Probst, keep it coming. This is the only "reality" show I can stomach.

The Deuce (HBO) - David Simon creates a show, I watch it. I recommend you do the same.

Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO) - Long wait over. Foisting helped Larry pick up where he left off. Welcome back.

Last Week Tonight (HBO) - John Oliver deserves those Emmys.

30 for 30 (ESPN) - I've caught myself rewatching some of these. Subject matter is irrelevant - it's always quality. The Two Escobars didn't win an Oscar, but it's the best of the bunch.

The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu) - Worth the hype. I miss Peggy Olson.

Ozark (Netflix) - It's not Breaking Bad. Adjust your expectations. But it's very good. The family struggles are more compelling than the crime, but Jason Bateman is excellent. And you can never go wrong with Laura Linney.

Narcos (Netflix) - Still gritty and well done. Season 1 was the best, but 2 and 3 aren't very far behind.

Last Chance U (Netflix) - Loved the first season. Liked the second season. Glad they're going elsewhere for season three. Now I understand how a Juco works.

The Fall (Netflix) - Great first season. British crime drama. Get to know the bad guy and the good gal, and both aren't so good or so bad. Use subtitles - it helps.

The Crown (Netflix) - I've fallen asleep during every episode, but it is still done well. Masterful acting. And some history too!

Coming Soon

I will be watching Stranger Things (how can they top that trailer?) and The Walking Dead (I'm not sure why at this point).

I'm looking for the other "great shows" worth checking out. I know I'm missing some stuff. It can be old shows too. I'll take any recommendations you're willing to give.

Thanks, and happy viewing.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

I Want My Good TV

I'm a TV snob. I freely admit it.

I don't watch to kill time, or to have something on in the background, or because it's there. 

I want to pay attention - to actually think or become emotionally invested while I'm watching.

Bravo and E! will never appear on my screen. I get why people are entertained by mind-numbing pseudo-reality programming, but it's just not for me. The same goes for any "reality" dating series - I wish them all phony happiness.

I love sports. A good game will always get my attention.

But I'm on the hunt for quality scripted TV programming. And it's slim pickings these days, particular on the big networks.

So I'm reaching out to you. I'm open for suggestions. In this "golden age" of television, there's way too much fool's gold.

Here's what's currently on my radar:

- Mr. Robot (USA)

- Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

- Last Week Tonight (HBO)

- Narcos (Netflix)

That's all I've got. I'm desperate. Let me know what I'm missing!

Please tweet me @jonhein and help me build up my queue.

Thank you.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Summer TV Secrets

The Olympics are destined to be the top-rated program on television this summer. Big ratings. Lots of NBC crowing about the success of Rio. Get ready for it.

I won't be watching.

I'm not anti-American. I hope our guys and gals bring home bags of Gold, Silver and Bronze. I find most summer Olympic events to be a lot of hype - you blink, and they're over.

Unlike the Winter Olympics, I can see how much better shape all of these athletes are in than yours truly. That's depressing. I'd rather watch baseball, or even pre-season football.

But forget about my Olympic viewing preferences, here's a little secret about summer TV success - there's hardly anything else on worth watching, so it's not very difficult to be number one (on network television anyway).

I don't get this. We all watch TV year round, but most networks simply punt for the summer. The viewership IS there. People WILL come.

This was poised to change with the summer success of Survivor back in 2000 with roughly 50 million people tuning in for the Richard Hatch finale. No one watches during the summer, huh?

The network television landscape 16 years later? Find a reality or competition show that clicks (AGT, Bachelorette, etc.) and that's that. 40 million of us have decided to do something else with our time.

If anyone was actually working at a network during these months, I'd ask why they don't use the summer to air quirkier pilots or other shows they've invested in?

I don't mean burning off shows - I mean serving up some quality stuff that someone there once believed in. There's a good chance brilliant higher-ups might have misjudged one or two of those programs. Why not take some chances?

Well if you're not all caught up in Rio, there's still cable, Netflix and Amazon.

Here are my Top Five summer programs:

The Night Of (HBO)

When HBO gets it right, their dramas are simply the best. There are so many layers to this NYC murder mystery explored in each episode. It's slow paced, gritty, and truly fascinating. I continue to look forward to Sundays at 9 on HBO.

Mr. Robot (USA)

My favorite new show of 2015 picked up right where it left off. You must pay attention to this show. It's trippy, smart, and has characters who continue to grow multi-dimensionally. It's another slow-paced show that feels like a movie. Fine by me. Can't wait to see how things turn out for Elliot (don't hack this post).

Stranger Things (Netflix)

Believe the hype. I'm not going to spoil a thing here. Nice job, Duffer Brothers. Binge and enjoy.

All Or Nothing (Amazon)

I thought I knew what happened to the Arizona Cardinals last football season. I love Hard Knocks, and will watch anything NFL Films puts out. This show is a football fan's dream, even if you're not a Cards fan (here we go, Steelers!).

unREAL (Lifetime)

I don't watch this, but my oldest daughter Rachel swears by it. A behind-the-scenes look at a fictional dating show (as if network ones are actually real) is biting satire. I'm no reality show fan, but I do value my daughter's TV expertise.

The networks might change their summer programming minds one day, but it'll be too late. They have no one to blame but themselves.

Hope you're having a good summer. Thanks for reading.

P.S. - Following the rousing success of the Ryan Fitzpatrick Beard Challenge that Chris Carlin and I did on Loud Mouths (not shaving for 44 days), I've decided to bring back the beard. Very excited not to be shaving, but it won't be 44 days this time.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Television Prioritization

I need more TV time.

My workday begins with Howard, then Wrap Up with Gary, and concludes talking sports with Chris Carlin on Loud Mouths on SNY.

I leave my house before 5am and walk back in the door after 8pm. (I know, "waah")

I'm lucky to do what I do for a living. But it comes at a price.

I miss the early evening hours with Debbie, but my wife loves how I'm living the dream. Now I get home, eat dinner, watch TV for maybe an hour, and then hit the sack. Exciting, no?

If you're reading this, you know how much I love TV. My schedule is crunched, and catching the Penguins on their quest for the Cup makes it even tighter (Go Pens!).

I've had to prioritize. So here's what has made my recent TV cut:

Game Of Thrones (HBO)

Easily the best show on TV. Every episode has been better than the next. Howard and Robin say they're lost, well they need to pay closer attention. If not, just leave Westeros. My only disappointment is the map not changing all that much. Every subplot has gotten more intense, and thankfully they've moved away from Dorne. I catch this one live every Sunday at 9pm. If you're not watching - shame!

Silicon Valley (HBO)

I record this and watch it later in the week. Love that it's only 30 minutes, and man is it funny. The geek in me loves following the troubled saga of Pied Piper. It was the most improved comedy last season, and this season has not let up at all.

Veep (HBO)

Another half-hour show I record and watch during the week. It's slipped a bit, but still worth some belly laughs. Julia is excellent, and the supporting cast is arguably the best on TV. And just when you think they've gone too far, our "real" election reminds you that they haven't gone far enough.

Last Week Tonight (HBO)

I've professed my love for this show before. Always biting, informative and a quick half hour (see a pattern here?). John Oliver never lets up or varies his format. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I save this one for the weekend.

The Americans (FX)

Oh the places Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys will go. The disguises are still comical, but this show isn't afraid to take out anyone at anytime. The intensity has racheted up since Paige learned about what her parents "really" do and confiding in Pastor Tim. The 80's references are always a plus. This is a "catch up when I can" show.

Orphan Black (BBC America)

Didn't love last season, and the new season is building up on my DVR. I will get back to Tatiana, who deserves an Emmy for every season she does. Last season's male clones definitely slowed me down.

That's all I have room for. Before you tell me what I'm missing, some goodbyes:

The Good Wife (CBS)

I choose to remember the Florrick saga from its earlier spectacular seasons. This last one was a rush to wrap up everything, and it left out all of the little things that made The Good Wife work. Great to see Will at the end, but it reminded me of how weak Alicia's other romances were. The workplace dynamic desperately needed Kalinda, or more Cary, or something besides Diane's struggle. I loved this show early on, but when Will was gone and Kalinda soon followed, they might have had the right idea.

Banshee (Cinemax)

The best part of Banshee is how it never pretended to be anything more than what it was. Lots of action, violence, sex and a very slight degree of plausibility. Loved the opening credits and the bonus scenes at the end of each episode. Few shows had better fight scenes. Lucas Hood and crew made sure each trip to Banshee was going to be entertaining. I'll miss that Pennsylvania town.

I'm out of time to write. Back to work. Let me know what TV I'm missing!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Loud Mouths - Week 1

I've got one week in the books as co-host of Loud Mouths on SNY. We tackled the Mets starters, Jets QBs, Melo and Lebron, Letterman's beard, White Castle and so much more.

Behold the Brad Pitt and George Clooney of sports talk.




Chris Carlin is great to work with, and Sam Pepper is a fine producer in spite of him cutting anything having to do with the University of Michigan out of the broadcast.

There are other videos to peruse at SNY - just scroll down to Loud Mouths.

Thanks for tuning in!