Sunday, January 24, 2016

TV Thoughts - 1/24/16

If it snows two feet in one day, a lot of television gets watched.


Billions (SHOWTIME)

It seems that everyone working on this show has received or been nominated for an Emmy. With that kind of pedigree, expectations are set super high.

Mix in financial market manipulation in Manhattan, and you've got a lot of explaining to do right from the get go. There's no Margot Robbie in a bathtub, but at least Maggie Siff sports some high-heeled boots.

I've been a fan of the writing of Brian Koppelman and David Levien since Rounders in the late 90's. They're edgy, smart and you know a twist is always coming.

As for the acting, I would watch Giamatti and Lewis read a NYC deli menu (which would actually work on this show). I wonder how Tara left Jax in Charming and ended up with the Manhattan DA plus the gal from Children's Hospital is married to Axe, but I can get past that.

I'm two episodes in and enjoyed the second ep more than the first. The chess board has been set. The show is too smart for its own good at times and relies on cliches that aren't necessary. Just give me Giamatti and Lewis trying to outsmart each other with the DA's wife caught in the middle. The other characters are colorful, but more screen time for them means less for the big three.

Justice department versus hedge fund king with Manhattan as the backdrop - stay focused and I'm on board for Billions.

Angie Tribeca (TBS)

The Naked Gun. Sledge Hammer! I've always been a fan of police satire, the dumber the better.

On the recommendation of my good friend JD Harmeyer who shares my love for Python/Zucker Brothers humor, I checked out this new TBS comedy created by Steve Carrell and his wife Nancy.

This is no Naked Gun, but it is funny. And stupid. A lot of the gags are hit or miss, but it's non-stop absurdist jokes.

Rashida Jones does a fine job in the lead role. Other characters have silly names and are not as funny, with the exception of the canine partner of one of the detectives. That dog is a star.

There are tons of special guest stars and cameos, and I love the spirit of the show. Angie Tribeca is no Frank Drebin, but she holds her own in this first go-round.


History of the Eagles (SHOWTIME)

RIP Glenn Frey. After watching this documentary a second time, I still can't believe he's gone.

Love or hate the Eagles, this is one excellent rock doc. The footage, interviews and candidness are all there for you to marvel at.

Glenn Frey calling the shots. Don Henley rolling right along. Bernie Leadon wanting to stay mellow. Randy Meisner not wanting to hit that high note. Don Felder getting bounced. Joe Walsh getting sober. Tim B getting his dream job, going on hiatus, then living the dream. And Irving Azoff taking no prisoners.

Oh...and the number one selling album of the century.

And of course it's in two parts - it wouldn't be the Eagles if it wasn't.

The Godfather Saga (HBO)

I stumbled upon Don Corleone multiple times during the week, and no matter what point I entered, I couldn't change the channel.

I wondered if I had seen some of the deleted scenes before, but it really didn't matter. The Corleone family is impossible to turn away from.

And thankfully Godfather III is nowhere near this 7 hour masterpiece. It's must-watch TV. I didn't even realize it was snowing outside.


I watched Michigan beat Nebraska in Lincoln and the Penguins top the Canucks at home. That's a good sports day for the Hein house.

It's very strange having a Sunday without the Steelers playing. If only they could have stayed healthy. I like the Pats big and the Panthers not so big today.

Only two weeks until my new book, Fast Food Maniac, becomes available. What a great way to celebrate Groundhog Day.

I'll be doing some book signings in the metro New York area. Come by and say hi. I'm working with DQ and some other places on doing some events. More when things become official.

Word is out to late-night and daytime talk shows, so we'll see who wants me to drop by.

As always, let me know if there's anything out there I should be watching!


Sunday, January 17, 2016

TV Thoughts - 1/17/16

An old TV favorite, Oscar screeners, being on TV and a printed book - it's been quite a week.


The Good Wife (CBS)

The creators of the only network drama worth watching have declared this season to be their last (but not the show's). They have the right idea.

The first few seasons of The Good Wife are excellent. Guest stars straight from the Broadway stage or The Wire, shooting in NYC but pretending like it's in Chicago, interweaving politics and law in a more believable way than our current system - they pulled it off with flying colors.

Truly great shows can survive a major character exiting stage left, but it's a tough thing to do. Cheers is a rare exception. On The Good Wife, losing Will (Josh Charles) was a huge blow, but Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) leaving town at the end of last season was the death knell.

What makes The Good Wife special is the delicate balance between Alicia's (Julianna Margulies) battles with the law and her personal life. The cases mattered. Now, they don't. And the "is he going to be her love interest" guessing game has grown tiresome.

And as fantastic as Alan Cumming, Christine Baranski and all the other fine actors are, the writing hasn't kept up after losing those two key characters.

I will hang on until the end, hoping for that Florrick magic to rekindle for an episode or two. But I miss Will, Kalinda, and having a network TV drama that's actually worth tuning in for.

The Big Short

I watched this Oscar screener on my television, so I'm allowed to write about it here.

I liked The Big Short. It's not easy explaining the sub-prime mortgage crisis in two hours, but Margot Robbie in a bubble bath definitely helps.

This is very dry subject matter, but Adam McKay keeps things moving as the inevitable housing crash looms. Christian Bale pulls off a tough role, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt seem like themselves, and Steve Carrell continues his "Tom Hanks comedy to drama transition" as the heart and soul of the film.

It's not going to win Best Picture, but every American should watch this and remind themselves how the banking industry screwed us all not so long ago.


I also got to watch Spotlight on my big screen at home. Typically I'll avoid two hours of depressing tales of children being molested by Boston area priests, but people I trust told me how this movie feels more like All The Presidents Men. I'm glad I listened.

Spotlight is riveting from the get go. Told through the lense of a Boston Globe investigative reporting unit getting the story right, these horrid crimes are part of the tale - but the focus is more on the inner workings of the press and how it's not always so easy to "do the right thing".

All of the actors are excellent (particularly Mark Ruffalo) as we see their characters balance personal struggles and deal with the overwhelming power of the church in Boston.

I haven't seen all of the Oscar nominees yet, but as of now, Spotlight is my Best Picture.



Chris Carlin, the voice of Rutgers sports and long-time New York City broadcaster, asked me to join him on LoudMouths, a sports TV talk show he hosts on SNY.

I will talk sports with anyone who will listen. Chris and I share the trifecta of love for TV, sports and fast food, so I knew we would be a good match.

I've been on the MLB Network a number of times and talked sports with Rich Eisen, Dan Patrick, Michael Kay and Matthew Berry, but this was an opportunity to co-host a New York sports talk show  - and to do it on back to back nights.

It's easy to talk sports with your buddies, but not as easy when you're talking to a camera as 6th Avenue looms right behind you.

Living the dream in the SNY control room.
I enjoyed every minute of LoudMouths. From prepping in the newsroom as legendary New York sports talk voices passed by to sitting in a suit getting makeup applied right before critiquing the new coach of the Giants. It was fantastic.

Thanks to Chris, Sam, Brad, Jeane, Curt and all the folks at SNY for the opportunity. I hope to be back soon!


I finally received a printed copy of Fast Food Maniac and couldn't be more pleased with how the book turned out.

Can you name which places the letters come from?

I had a lot of fun (probably too much fun) writing and researching it, and thankfully the early reviews have been positive.

The book officially comes out on February 2nd, and I will be doing some signings and promotion at the beginning of the month. Thanks for your support.

That's all for now. I need to prepare to watch my battered Steelers give it their best in Mile High country.

Have a great week!


Sunday, January 10, 2016

TV Thoughts - 1/10/16

Let me start by wishing my wonderful wife, Debbie, a happy birthday. I know she's too good for me, and thanks to all of you for the constant reminders.

I'm still recovering from last night's Steelers victory over the Bengals, so let's get into it:


Many shows are on the cusp of returning or about to premiere, so I've been doing a little catch up. Not much new to talk about. Sorry.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

I found two eps left over on my DVR, and it reminded me how funny and informative this show is and why it's on my Best TV of 2015 list.

The show format sticks to the basics. A few big news stories, quick video joke which isn't as funny as the rest of the show, main featured topic, another video joke not as funny as the rest of the show, and some type of celebrity bit.

John Oliver is a very funny man who carries the show, and the writing and usage of video during the desk segments are top notch. It's informative, but not preachy (except for the church he created). It's biting but in such a witty way that you don't mind being reminded how dumb you and the rest of the world really is.

The celeb cameo bits are hit or miss, and there's one too many "and now this" segments, but I love TV that moves me. Last Week Tonight makes me laugh out loud and a little bit more aware of what's going on in our world.

Bravo, Mr. Oliver. Hurry back soon.

NFL Football (CBS)

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms trying to condemn the league that pays their bosses bills was fascinating to listen to as the Steelers/Bengals game reached its conclusion. A lot of what we saw was deplorable, and not only on the Cincinnati side of the ball.

Phil might have seemed lost, but I think he was biting his tongue on what he really thought of the thuggery happening on the field.

Nantz was just warming up for Peyton Manning next week.

The NFL needs to make some changes. Fast. Or there will be no one left on the field to play the game.

Tim's Vermeer (STARZ On Demand)

Howard raved about this documentary about an inventor recreating an 18th century painting, and it is fascinating. I know the plot doesn't sound particularly exciting, but watch what Teller (and Penn) did and judge for yourself.


The Man in the High Castle (Amazon)

Watched the second episode and didn't like it as much as the first. I'm in for the long haul though. Something tells me we'll get the country back from the Nazis and Japanese occupying it. Fingers crossed.

Undateable (NBC)

Live TV. Bill Lawrence is doing LIVE non talk show network television every Friday night at 8. It can be done, and not just on Saturdays at 1130 on NBC. Well done, Bill.


The Chiefs/Texans game made me yearn for the Red Zone. Boring football is one thing, but the ads are just killing me.

I will be on TV this Thursday and Friday at 530pm with Chris Carlin on Loud Mouths which airs on SNY. Can't wait to sound off on some sports with Chris.

My book, Fast Food Maniac, actually printed and is coming out February 2nd. I will be doing some signings and appearances in early February. More details as I get them.

Speaking of books, if you love TV half as much as I do, check out Alan Sepinwall's The Revolution Was Televised. I love his columns, and this book reminds you how good TV can be. Great read.

My daughter studying in London tells me Netflix UK is top notch. Glad she has her priorities straight.

Questions? Comments? Shows I should be watching? Let me know.

Be well,


Sunday, January 3, 2016

TV Thoughts - 1/3/16

Thanks for your feedback regarding my Best TV of 2015. I'm glad you're enjoying the recommendations.

Many of you missed my nightly TV suggestions, and to be honest, I miss discussing TV on a regular basis. So in 2016, I've decided to post some random thoughts as to what I'm watching.

Like most New Year's resolutions, this post might be the only action I take regarding this in 2016, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

I will do my best not to spoil anything. No guarantees, because some conclusions are too tempting not to talk about.


Making A Murderer (NETFLIX)

I started off the year tweeting this:

This must-see documentary series kicks off with a fantastic first ep recounting the ongoing plight of Steven Avery in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.

You'll be hooked from the get go, and you're inhuman if you're not compelled by his story.

I'm no fan of reality shows, mostly because there's no reality in them (Survivor is my lone exception). Making A Murderer is a "reality show" done right - a documentary about real people dealing with the struggle of the Wisconsin legal system and not looking to see where the next camera is.

It is ten episodes long, and well worth your time.

The Man in the High Castle (AMAZON)

I watched the opening credits of this "what if we lost World War II" story and smiled (not because of the fictional World War II outcome).

The theme song is Edelwiess, and I love the cheesiness of The Sound of Music.

The show's creator is Frank Spotnitz, and I'm a fan of Frank's because he co-wrote an episode of The X-Files entitled "Jump The Shark" with two guys you might have heard of - John Shiban and Vince Gilligan.

I visited The X-Files set and was slated to appear in the episode, but I had to catch a flight back to New York. At least I still have the script.

The truth was out there!
But I digress. Frank always makes good TV, and this Amazon series looks like no exception. Lots of secrets and twists are mixed into the Philip K. Dick story profiling a different kind of America.

I only caught the pilot, but I'm very intrigued.


Transparent (AMAZON)

Caught the first two eps of season two with my better half, and those might be the only two that I watch.

The acting remains top notch, but it feels like Transparent is trying way too hard to be different, something it inherently doesn't have to do.

I love Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light, and if the story focused mostly on them, count me in. But it doesn't - it deals with the trials and tribulations of their three screwed up kids, and frankly, I just don't care as much about them.

We'll probably be back, but there's a lot of other stuff to watch (and not just on Amazon).

Mozart in the Jungle (AMAZON)

Okay, I've been watching a lot of Amazon lately. Thanks to @NikRuckert for this recommendation.

The title sounds pretentious, and I get how life in various Manhattan orchestra pits might not appeal to everyone. I was initially turned off by the premise, but too many people whom I respect told me to tune in.

So I did. And it's funny, very interesting, and Bernadette Peters does not age. I will be watching more of season one with Debbie and we'll see how it goes.


Stumbled on to a Mr. Robot marathon on USA. Can't wait for season two of that gem.

It's not New Year's Eve without a late night Honeymooners episode. Good to see Captain Video. Switched to the Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy. Always room for one more, honey.

My daughters are home for winter break and watching Gilmore Girls and Friday Night Lights on Netflix. Solid writing up in Stars Hollow and down in Dillon.

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose!

Happy New Year,


P.S.  If I missed something or you have a recommendation, tweet me @jonhein.

P.P.S. My new book Fast Food Maniac comes out in less than a month. I think you're gonna like it.