Monday, June 20, 2022

TV Picks - Week of June 20

Cue the piano player music. Westworld returns for its fourth season on HBO this Sunday night at 9pm.

Confounding is the perfect adjective to describe this show. It's a compliment. It's a criticism. You never know what you're going to get with these artificial beings trying to take over the planet. Or save it. Or destroy it. No one really knows.

The original Westworld was a sci-fi thriller written and directed by Michael Crichton, the author of Jurassic Park. Robots malfunctioned at a Western-themed Park and began to kill visitors. It's Yul Brenner at his finest in a cowboy hat.

The first season of the series arrived with maximum hype. Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris led a cast of heavy hitters and tremendous special effects in HBO’s coveted Sunday at 9pm time slot.

The opening credits looked like they cost more than most seasons of other shows. Evan Rachel Wood starred as Dolores Abernathy, a robotic "host" who feels that she's coming to life and the futuristic Western theme park slipped into chaos.

Westworld quickly stumbled upon the Heroes problem. The first season of Heroes was fantastic, but then everyone got powers and the universe was less special.

As Westworld has progressed, it seems everyone is a host. Or are they? They've been killed, but have they? The big reveal that a particular human is a host no longer carries any weight.

But the characters keep me coming back for more despite the confusing plots. Here's why:

Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) - She frightens me. Wood's performance as Dolores is chilling, shifting from caring to violent with an invisible flick of a switch. If Dolores told me what to do, you bet that I'm listening. She was destroyed in Season 3, but now she's back as a writer named Christina. Okay...

Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) - Couldn't get enough of him in the first season with the genuinely surprising reveal that he was a host. Or was he? He was Arnold, right? This was the first of many "are they human" characters that confused the audience. Choose a side, Bernard.

Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) - The struggle to find her daughter was the emotional strength of the first season. She turned into an ass-kicking righteous warrior as seasons progressed taking no prisoners. Love the look, the accent, and the clear distinction that she is a host who achieved consciousness.

Teddy (James Marsden) - Another host who defended Dolores at any cost. Never got over Dolores changing who he was to create a killing machine. So he killed himself, or did he? He's back this season. Uh oh.

Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) - The eyes. It's all in the eyes. From her first appearance in the saloon, Clementine locks you in as a good host should.

The Man In Black (Ed Harris) - I'll watch Ed Harris in any project he's in, and this is a perfect for the intense actor. He's the literal black hat who was obsessed with the park and provided the big William surprise in season one. His quest for immortality has become difficult to follow. He got his throat slit in a post-credit scene by his host twin, but both seem to be back this season.

Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) - The park creator and soul of the first season until he met his demise. The man behind the curtain provided some answers and guidance. He was all about the hosts and one step ahead of everyone until his demise. The show has been teetering without him.

Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) - She came to the park after the host uprising. I got that she's "corporate", but never really felt like I should care about her. After meeting her demise as a human, she returned as a host with Dolores info inside. Now she’s Dolores. I think.

Caleb (Aaron Paul) - Love the actor, don't get the part. At all.

Oscar winner/Tony host Ariana DeBose joins the cast this season as the roommate of Christina (that's Evan Rachel Wood). No doubt beautiful chaos will ensue.

Westworld is a gorgeous show to watch and the acting is excellent. But let's ride out west again and have the hosts revolt instead of challenging human existence with interchangeable characters. The humans who visit the park can get their comeuppance. Let the player piano play.

Here's what else is worth watching this week…

PREMIERES

Jon Stewart: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize (PBS)
Tuesday, June 22nd 9pm ET

I'm an unabashed Jon Stewart fan. He's an extremely funny guy (thus the prize) who has always gotten the most out of his staff and then cheered them on to exciting new ventures. The list is too long...Colbert, Carrell, Bee, Oliver and countless other comedic greats.

Everyone gathered in person to celebrate the newest winner of the coveted Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Look who showed up to celebrate, and that tells you everything about Jon Stewart's legacy. You might not like his politics, but you must respect his wit.

The Split Season 3 (Sundance Now)
Thursday, June 24th

This British divorce lawyer dramedy appeared in my Greatest Hits when I thought the series was ending after two seasons. Well Hannah and her eclectic family are back for a third season with divorce front and center on the table. Sadly this season will actually be its last.

This season focuses on Hannah (the brilliant Nicola Walker) and Nathan's (Episodes Stephen Mangan) split which is intended to be amicable but takes a turn for the worse.

Divorce is one thing - lawyers divorcing is a whole other level of angst. Family drama and humor is what makes The Split work, and there's plenty to go around in the final six episodes. Watch trailer.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Chloe (Prime Video)
Friday, June 24th
A young female British temp worker becomes obsessed with the Instagram account of Chloe, a woman leading the perfect life. Chloe meets her demise, and the temp gets to the bottom of what really happened.

THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT!
(Shows That I Hope To Get To!)

Mind Over Murder (HBO) – Six-part documentary on six individuals (five pled guilty) of killing a Nebraska grandma but were exonerated by DNA evidence 24 years later. Monday at 9:00 PM ET.

The Future Of... (Netflix) – A close look at the impact of technology on our daily life. Tuesday.

The Umbrella Academy (Netflix) – Elliot Page leads the way in the third season of superhero children. Wednesday.

Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes (HBO) – A non-fiction follow up to the excellent miniseries from 2019. Wednesday at 9:00 PM ET.

Loot (Apple TV+) – Maya Rudolph's husband (Adam Scott) leaves her nothing but billions of dollars, and she gets involved in a charity foundation in this comedy. Friday.

GREATEST HITS
(Really Good Shows You May Have Missed)

This Week's Pick: Police Squad! (Prime Video) – This six-episode short-lived ABC comedy was the origin of The Naked Gun movies. Leslie Nielsen plays Frank Drebin and gives a master class in deadpan. The brilliantly stupid puns, gags and jokes are nonstop on the L.A.P.D. You'll have to pay for this one, but it is worth the investment.

Previous Picks:
Party Down (Starz)
Dexter (Showtime)
Alias (Hulu/Disney+)
The Great (Hulu)
Atypical (Netflix)
Sherlock (PBS)
Magic City (Peacock)
Imposters (Netflix)
Episodes (Showtime/Hulu)
For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
Abbott Elementary (ABC)
Damages (Hulu)
Luther (HBO Max)
Downton Abbey (Netflix)
Justified (Hulu)
The Good Wife (Paramount+)
Freaks & Geeks (Hulu)
Patriot (Prime Video Prime Video)
Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
The Split (Prime Video)
Bordertown (Netflix)
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)

---

If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!

Monday, June 13, 2022

TV Picks - Week of June 13

Here's the familiar plot of The Old Man, the new FX drama premiering this Thursday at 10pm…

Dan Chase leaves the CIA and lives off the grid until the agency hunt commences for the older, wiser elusive operative who's forced out of hiding following an assassination attempt.

Sounds like any other bestselling government insider action novel, so the casting is all that matters.

Let's see. An old guy… gonna need more than that.

Aging former government employee who's living off the grid. Okay.

Wise sage on the run but always one step ahead of the agency… we've drifted into veteran action hero territory.

It's TV, not a movie. So that eliminates Liam Neeson.

FX, right? That makes it easy. It's a veteran actor named Jeff. Daniels or Bridges?

Jeff Daniels was busy with American Rust, so Jeff Bridges portrays Dan Chase in a tailor-made part for the award-winning actor. What parts haven't been tailor-made for this guy?

Oscar winner for Crazy Heart. Kidnapped in Starman. The Dude in Lebowski. The bad guy in Iron Man. The list goes on.

Back to the plot of The Old Man. Chase is being tracked down by an FBI assistant director of counterintelligence with whom he shares a "complicated history."

The worthy adversary is a short list too… Malkovich? Patinkin? Jeff Daniels?!

Even better. It's John Lithgow playing the foil to an adversary just as smart, experienced, and old as he is. They don't make villains better than Lithgow. Just ask Dexter Morgan.

If it's Bridges vs. Lithgow, does the plot really matter? This is typecasting done right, and Thomas Perry's thriller novel provides quite the backdrop for these two acting greats.

Jeff Bridges’ roles have taken a nastier turn late in his career. In The Old Man, he goes full John Wick with the skills and arsenal to make life miserable for anyone in pursuit of him. The CIA is all over Dan Chase, but Chase wrote the playbook and is ready for whatever comes at him.

Bridges' villains have been virtually unstoppable since Glenn Close found that typewriter in The Jagged Edge. He recently overcame a personal brush with death beating leukemia, and production waited for his return. This is one tough dude.

That's why Lithgow works so well as an archrival. It's a chess match, but the elder statesmen get weapons to play with across the board. There's plenty of action to go around with Bridges going full Richard Kimble as he evades his former co-workers.

A little bit of plot and a lot of great acting is enough to make The Old Man work. The title says it all, but this old man is a force to be reckoned with and behold.

Here's what else is worth watching this week…

SEASON PREMIERES

Jerry and Marge Go Large (Netflix)
Friday, June 18th

I don’t frequently recommend movies here, but this true story is too fascinating to ignore. Jerry is a retired factory worker with a knack for numbers, and he finds a loophole in the lottery to legally exploit. Conservative Jerry and his wife Marge bring their small Michigan town along for the lucrative ride and revitalize the community with their winnings.

Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening shine as Jerry and Marge in this lottery tale brought to life. It's nice to see a feel-good flick these days.

You Don't Know Me (Netflix)
Friday, June 18th

A young black man in South London is accused of murder. All evidence points to his guilt, but he ignores the barrister and pleads innocence telling the story of the woman he loves and all he did to save her.

This British courtroom drama features an excellent cast and its twists and turns will have you second-guessing whether or not you believe the defendant's tale. The four-part series is adapted from the bestselling novel of a former barrister, so break out your wig and enjoy.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Hotel Portofino (PBS)
Sunday, June 15th at 8:00 PM ET

A rich British family opens a first-class hotel on the Italian coast in the 1920's in this six-episode series.

THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT!
(Shows That I Hope To Get To!)

30 for 30: Dream On (ESPN) – Quality time with the 1996 USA Women's Olympic basketball team. Wednesday at 8:00 PM ET.

God's Favorite Idiot (Netflix) – Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone play co-workers, and Ben gets the Oh God! treatment and spreads the message of the Lord to the staff. Wednesday.

Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend (Netflix) – The OG culinary competition series returns with Alton Brown hosting. Wednesday.

Players (Paramount+) – A mockumentary series from the team behind American Vandal set in the world of eSports. Thursday.

GREATEST HITS
(Really Good Shows You May Have Missed)

This Week's Pick: Party Down (Starz) – A catering staff with big Hollywood dreams work big L.A. events in white shirts and pink bowties. Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Jane Lynch and Martin Starr had yet to become household names, but each shine in their snarky element in this comedy. A revival is coming soon.

Previous Picks:
Dexter (Showtime)
Alias (Hulu/Disney+)
The Great (Hulu)
Atypical (Netflix)
Sherlock (PBS)
Magic City (Peacock)
Imposters (Netflix)
Episodes (Showtime/Hulu)
For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
Abbott Elementary (ABC)
Damages (Hulu)
Luther (HBO Max)
Downton Abbey (Netflix)
Justified (Hulu)
The Good Wife (Paramount+)
Freaks & Geeks (Hulu)
Patriot (Amazon Prime Video)
Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
The Split (Amazon Prime Video)
Bordertown (Netflix)
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)

---

If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!

Monday, June 6, 2022

TV Picks - Week of June 6

Ronald D. Moore's underrated alternate history space race saga For All Mankind returns for a third season on Apple TV+ this Friday. The series started with a unique premise — what if the Soviet Union landed on the moon before the U.S. did?

For All Mankind follows Moore's Battlestar Galactica blueprint. Space is fascinating to explore, and the visual effects can be dazzling, but at the heart of the series is character development that makes us really care about those intimately involved with the stars above.

The drama carefully navigates the thin line between actual history and manufactured events during its updated timeline. Fake history is difficult to pull off on TV and has been achieved mixed success. The Man In The High Castle started strong but faltered on its initial premise. HBO’s excellent Watchmen placed fictional superheroes within actual events to enlighten its audience.

The first season of For All Mankind was inconsistent and tied up in NASA politics, but when it was good there was nothing better. The second season reoriented after a time hop and dug deep on characters as they matured. Space exploration is no joke, and major accomplishments coupled with horrible tragedies are a natural part of the storyline. For All Mankind refuses to pull any punches. Season two was one of TV’s best series last year, culminating in a fantastic finale.

My favorite season closers are ones that feel like a series finale. These often occur when show runners aren't sure if their program is going to return for another season. They go all-in knowing that some network executive might not give the green light for more episodes. Fans hope for a return but are satisfied if things are left as is.

At the end of For All Mankind season two, more episodes seemed like nothing more than dreaming to become an astronaut. This Friday, dreams come true.

This new season is all about Mars and getting there first is once again what space exploration is all about. Set in the mid-90's, it's not just the Americans and Russians competing to get to the red planet before anyone else does. There's a new desperate entrant doing whatever it takes to be the first to plant its flag on red soil.

Another time jump adds ten more years to the lives of pioneering astronaut Ed Baldwin, astronaut turned politician Ellen Wilson, black female astronaut Danielle Poole and Margo Madison, who has rightfully risen to Director of The Johnson Space Center in Houston. Expect them all to deal with victories, tragedies and plenty of nail-biting drama in the NASA world.

As for the show's future, we've got a few more decades to go. I can't wait to see how this writing team tackles the adventures of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Here's what else is worth watching this week…

SEASON PREMIERES

That's My Time With David Letterman (Netflix)
Thursday, June 9th

Dave just won't go away, and that's a very good thing. In his latest Netflix endeavor, a comedian does a stand-up set and then joins Dave for a quick chat. These episodes were recorded at the recent Netflix Is A Joke festival in Los Angeles.

It's clear that Dave enjoys doing things on his own terms now. Some stand-up, a quick chat, and on to the next comedian. I'm sure he misses Paul, but not all the other baggage that comes with hosting a late-night network talk show.

Dark Winds (AMC )
Sunday, June 8th 9:00 PM ET

It's 1971, and the Navajo nation has some intriguing crimes to deal with. Two Native American detectives are on the case in this adaptation of the Tony Hillerman novel that's powered by a mostly Native American cast and crew.

Robert Redford and George R.R. Martin executive produce this new series, which was shot in three different sovereign nations, written by indigenous writers and primarily directed by a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.

Evil (Paramount+)
Sunday, June 8th Season 3

The creators of The Good Wife and The Good Fight are back with a third season of Evil. A priest in training, cynical female psychologist and contractor continue to explore mysteries of the Church that defy logical explanations.

This psychological thriller has toyed with science and religion since its debut. The cast is excellent with tons of recognizable faces. The writing makes you think twice about those unexplained phenomena, and I don't recommend watching this series alone at night. 

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Becoming Elizabeth (Starz)
Sunday, June 8th 9:00 PM ET

Starz takes its shot at the crown (pun intended) in this new eight-episode miniseries chronicling the orphaned teenager who would become Queen Mother. King Henry VIII passes away and nine year-old Edward takes the throne as the scramble for power ensues resulting in the great Queen Elizabeth I.

THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT!
(Shows That I Hope To Get To!)

Irma Vep (HBO) – Alicia Vikander is an American actress in Paris getting a little too close to the evil character she's playing. Monday at 9:00 PM ET.

Ms. Marvel (Disney+) – Kamala Khan is a Jersey comic book nerd who becomes the first Muslim superhero in the Marvel universe. Wednesday.

A Tribute to Bob Saget (Netflix) – John Stamos, Jeff Ross and John Mayer lead this tribute to the comedian who was much more than Danny Tanner. Friday.

75th Annual Tony Awards (CBS) – Broadway's finest are going live coast to coast for the first time ever. Sing along Sunday 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT.

GREATEST HITS
(Really Good Shows You May Have Missed)

This Week's Pick: Dexter (Showtime) – Dexter Morgan is a blood splatter expert for the Miami P.D. who also happens to be a serial killer operating with a code. Dex rationalizes taking out "bad people" to satisfy his compulsion. I'd stack the first four seasons up against any show from its time, and the John Lithgow season is one of the best you'll ever see. It's dark, funny, and truly compelling stuff.

Previous Picks:
Alias (Hulu/Disney+)
The Great (Hulu)
Atypical (Netflix)
Sherlock (PBS)
Magic City (Peacock)
Imposters (Netflix)
Episodes (Showtime/Hulu)
For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
Abbott Elementary (ABC)
Damages (Hulu)
Luther (HBO Max)
Downton Abbey (Netflix)
Justified (Hulu)
The Good Wife (Paramount+)
Freaks & Geeks (Hulu)
Patriot (Amazon Prime Video)
Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
The Split (Amazon Prime Video)
Bordertown (Netflix)
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)

---

If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!

Monday, May 30, 2022

TV Picks - Week of May 30

Norm Macdonald has a new stand-up special premiering on Netflix today.

The great Canadian comedian died in September 2021.

Yup, it's a new Norm stand-up special, even though he's no longer with us. It was recorded directly from the comedian's living room about one year before he died. He knew what was coming and wanted to perform one last set while he still "had it." The laughs and snark are there.

A sense of humor is required to get through this life. Norm knew this. He had tremendous ups and downs, but you couldn't tell from his public persona. Norm always did things his way. He was the smartest guy in the room who operated on a higher plane. His jokes cut so deep that you couldn't possibly get through all the layers.

Many refer to Norm as a "comedian's comedian." I beg to differ. It's true that he was universally loved by comedic compatriots, and Conan, Letterman and my boss could never get enough. This special includes our favorite funny people paying tribute to Norm from the recent Netflix Is A Joke festival.

But you didn't need to do an open mic night to appreciate Norm. He just made you work a little bit harder to get the joke. Norm would tell stories that went on forever, only to have a punchline that made the wait worthwhile. His talk show appearances speak for themselves. And he was the best ever to sit behind the Weekend Update desk.

Norm wanted success, but he wasn't motivated by fame. He just wanted people to laugh. He was never limited by worrying about offending the wrong party or taking things too far. That was his forte, mixed in with pure Canadian charm.

Norm sadly is no longer with us, but he did record one last special in case the worst happened. He feared his leukemia was progressing to the point where he couldn't perform. The self-recorded living room set was an insurance policy for Norm — and for us. Like the great athletes he admired and loved, Norm wanted to leave the ice showing he still had his slapper.

Posthumous work plays on our emotions in multiple ways. Naturally you miss the individual, but the work lives on. It's poignant because the artist knows what's coming, and they work to preserve their legacy as their clock runs down. Warren Zevon and David Bowie recorded memorable albums on their way out. Life is short, but the music endures.

Now it's Norm's turn. He's going out the only way that Norm Macdonald could. On his own terms… and making us laugh his way.

Here's what else is worth watching this week…

SEASON PREMIERES

Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals (ION/Bounce)
Thursday, June 2nd 8:00 PM ET

ESPN gave the Spelling Bee the axe, but that doesn't take away from one of the most intense competitions you'll ever see. These young kids who can spell any word you throw at them sweat it out in front of their parents, a monotone presenter, and a live audience.

The Bee always provides a lesson in performance under pressure, and all the prep and dictionaries in the world are no help as you're isolated asking for the language of origin. Changes to The Bee should eliminate the multiple player ties of the past. The post-elimination hugs are reminders that these brilliant competitors are just young kids trying to make their parents proud.

Borgen - Power & Glory (Netflix)
Thursday, June 2nd

This was going to be my Foreign Affairs pick this week, but Borgen deserves its own full paragraph. This drama focuses on Denmark politics and the struggles of the Prime Minister and her staff. Think of The West Wing set in Denmark with all the drama, humor, and social commentary.

The first three seasons took place ten years ago, but Netflix has brought back the Danish crew for an all-new season. The drama picks up years later with most of the major players returning.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

This Is Going To Hurt (AMC+, Sundance Now) – Ben Whishaw works hard and charms his way in a British OB-GYN ward. Thursday.

THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT!
(Shows That I Hope To Get To!)

Theodore Roosevelt (History) – Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin digs into Teddy R over two nights. Monday.

Pistol (Hulu) – Danny Boyle tells the story of The Sex Pistols in this six-part limited series. Tuesday.

Physical (Apple TV+) – Rose Byrne is back for her second aerobic season, and this time she's being mentored by Murray Bartlett from The White Lotus. Friday.

The Boys (Amazon) – The God-like superheroes return for their third season as Homelander's ego and power continues to grow. Friday.

GREATEST HITS
(Really Good Shows You May Have Missed)

This Week's Pick: Alias (Hulu/Disney+) – Jennifer Garner's big break was her star turn as Sydney Bristow, daughter of Jack (Victor Garber) who involuntarily gets sucked into the super-spy world. One of Bad Robot's first shows tackles the exotic arena of espionage in a thrilling way featuring young Bradley Cooper in a supporting role. Ron Rifkin is a fabulous bad guy, and it's the best role Garner has ever had. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Previous Picks:
The Great (Hulu)
Atypical (Netflix)
Sherlock (PBS)
Magic City (Peacock)
Imposters (Netflix)
Episodes (Showtime/Hulu)
For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
Abbott Elementary (ABC)
Damages (Hulu)
Luther (HBO Max)
Downton Abbey (Netflix)
Justified (Hulu)
The Good Wife (Paramount+)
Freaks & Geeks (Hulu)
Patriot (Amazon Prime Video)
Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
The Split (Amazon Prime Video)
Bordertown (Netflix)
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)

---

If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!


Monday, May 23, 2022

TV Picks - Week of May 23

Stranger Things returns for its fourth season on Netflix this Friday. The Emmy-winning 80's pop-culture filled series is one of my favorite rollercoasters to ride.

I love coasters. Always have. Hitting the Thunderbolt, Jack Rabbit and all the others at Kennywood growing up in Pittsburgh. Graduating to The Cyclone after I moved to New York. Taking my family to Hershey every summer to tackle the Comet, Lightning Racer, Sooper Dooper Looper, and every exciting new ride that got built. If there's a rollercoaster, you'll find me strapped in.

Once you’re looking for them, parallels between Stranger Things and rollercoasters smack you in the face. You can't wait to experience both, and each has its ups and downs. If it's a good ride, you exit anxious to do it all over again. But sometimes you walk away feeling sick to your stomach.

I'm rolling with this metaphor, so let's break it down:

Anticipation - Whether you're a child or all grown up, as you head to the amusement park you're thinking about the rides. The more thrilling, the higher the anticipation. You just can't wait to get there. That feeling has persisted since the first Stranger Things episode The Duffer Brothers offered up in 2016. You're immediately sucked in from the opening Stephen King font-ed credits. There's horror, laughter, romance, government conspiracy, other worlds, nostalgia, and a little bit of Dungeons & Dragons. But every season, and every ride, leaves you wanting more.

The Initial Thrill - It's hard to describe the first time you ride a great coaster. The chain clicking as you slowly make your way up the first hill, the big drop, the turns, the speed and the abrupt braking at the end. The first season of Stranger Things had that feeling as it captured the world's attention. There wasn't anything else like it on TV. The kids and their hometown of Hawkins, Indiana were innocent and perfect. Millie Bobby Brown came from another world and was known as a number. Winona Ryder was back playing a worried mom. David Harbour fit right in as the bearded lawman who went by his last name. Matthew Modine was the requisite bad guy. Oh, and the Upside Down didn't hurt either. Throwback childhood innocence with plenty of 80's nostalgia mixed in and a battle of good versus evil. Couldn't get enough.

The Second Time Around - Sade once sang it's never as good as the first time, but I don't think she was referring to roller coasters. After you've been on once, you know what to expect. Sure, you enjoy the ride, but you know what's coming. That's the problem with expectations - they're difficult to meet when you set the bar so high. The second season of Stranger Things felt like another roller coaster ride. You knew what was coming. The kids were maturing and kept apart for most of the series to flesh out the characters. Mistake. Millie Bobby Brown was unleashed at the end, but there were others out there numerically just like her. You could see the jokes coming and the battle that would ensue. Steve and Dustin shined, but that innocence from the first season was lost.

Three Is A Magic Number - An initial thrill ride keeps you coming back for more, and gradually you appreciate the twists and turns in spite of their predictability. Renovations have been done and enhancements have been made. Roller coasters have peaks and valleys, but the best ones surprise you right when you feel like things have slowed down. The thrill is still there. Season three got back to what made the first season work. The kids were back together. The mystery was back. Good was going to battle evil in a mall filled with plenty of inside references. The Russians got involved. It was a fun ride with a ridiculous ending. But it was satisfying.

Three years and one pandemic later, we’ve arrived at season four. Everyone’s hit puberty and left Indiana. Eleven has no powers. Hopper is a Russian prisoner who somehow survived a fire that would devastate a city. We know what's coming… a new monster will enter that portal in Hawkins, and our heroes will return to fight another day in the 80's.

Can't wait to strap in.

Here's what else is worth watching this week…

SEASON PREMIERES

That Damn Michael Che (HBO Max)
Thursday, May 26th

Friends tell me Weekend Update is must-see TV. I don't always agree with my friends. But the second season of Colin Jost's co-anchor's show continues to hit the mark. The first season was filled of stories and biting satire that should be on SNL. Thankfully, HBO Max provides a different outlet for Che to express himself and make us laugh.

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney+)
Friday, May 27th

"Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope." Those words from Carrie Fisher in 1977 live on with a Jedi great getting his own Disney+ series. Ewan McGregor returns from those horrible sequels to play not so Old Ben Kenobi and picks up after Luke's dad betrayed him to go to the dark side. Hayden Christensen also returns to emote as a young Darth Vader.

The Mandalorian proved that stories about The Force can thrive. Boba Fett got interesting when the Mandalorian (and Grogu) showed up. Obi-Wan has a lot more history to work with. Jedis are being hunted down, and this has the potential to be something special. We know Ben ends up in a cave watching over Luke… now we'll find out why. 

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Prehistoric Planet (Apple TV+) – Richard Attenborough's brother David covers the wildlife when dinosaurs ruled the planet. Monday.

THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT!
(Shows That I Hope To Get To!)

Keeper of the Ashes: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders (Hulu) – Oklahoma Girl Scout Kristin Chenoweth narrates the true story of three scouts who were murdered at camp. Tuesday.

Ricky Gervais: Supernature (Netflix) – Stand-up special from a comedian who truly doesn't care who he pisses off. Tuesday.

Somebody Feed Phil (Netflix) – The creator of Everybody Loves Raymond continues his worldwide quest in search of something to eat. Wednesday.

GREATEST HITS
(Really Good Shows You May Have Missed)

This Week's Pick: The Great (Hulu) – A smart comedy about Catherine the Great and her ascent in Russia aristocracy. The jokes are dark, there's plenty of innuendo, and the ensemble acting is as wonderful as the writing. Elle Fanning is perfectly cast as Catherine, but Nicholas Hoult playing her husband Peter steals the show as the obnoxious young Emperor. Huzzah!

Previous Picks:
Atypical (Netflix)
Sherlock (PBS)
Magic City (Peacock)
Imposters (Netflix)
Episodes (Showtime/Hulu)
For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
Abbott Elementary (ABC)
Damages (Hulu)
Luther (HBO Max)
Downton Abbey (Netflix)
Justified (Hulu)
The Good Wife (Paramount+)
Freaks & Geeks (Hulu)
Patriot (Amazon Prime Video)
Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
The Split (Amazon Prime Video)
Bordertown (Netflix)
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)

---

If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!