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.


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. 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.


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.


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. 

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.


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.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

TV Picks - Week of June 15

The nation is in the midst of reopening (and hopefully wearing masks), but there’s still a ton to watch while you’re cooling off indoors. I focus on new programs in this column, but Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and countless other resources are at your fingertips not only for new shows, but to also catch up on some classics.

I fondly remember the TV DVD box sets that occupied the shelves of my bedroom and basement. When I moved to Manhattan a few years ago, I sold my DVD collection for pennies on the dollar. All of those discs rendered worthless by streaming services — not the wisest investment on my part. But the availability of almost any series at any time these days — that is truly priceless.

I’ve been making my way through Bordertown on Netflix which I wrote about last month. It's an excellent crime series that needs to be viewed with subtitles to hear the Fins and Russians speak in their native languages. Deb and I have also been enjoying Quiz and Dirty John although both have involved waiting impatiently for the next episodes. You get spoiled bingeing on those streaming services.

Someone affiliated with BritBox reached out last week, so I might be delving into way too much TV from across the pond shortly. If you have any BBC/ITV suggestions, I’m all ears.


For network TV fans, the season 2 finale of Songland airs Monday night. My oldest daughter Rachel and her roommate enjoy it — that's my review. For me, this week is all about premieres including one of TV's most underrated shows returning for its third season.

Love, Victor (HULU)
Wednesday June 17 (Series Premiere)

This follow up to Love, Simon, the first gay teen romance film released by a major studio, was developed for Disney+ but moved to Hulu for sex talk and its depiction of alcohol. Victor is a new kid in town dealing with the challenges of moving as he struggles with his sexual orientation. The working class Latino reaches out to former high school legend Simon via social media to help him navigate his new digs. 

Love, Victor maintains the charm of the film and has already been renewed for a second season. If they focus on the story and lay off the sappy stuff, this promising start can blossom into something special.

Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn (HBO)
Thursday June 18 9pm (Premiere)

The story of lawyer Roy Cohn has been told many times in many ways (including a few takes from HBO) but never gets old. Pay close attention to this documentary as it profiles one of the most hated men who ever walked the planet. Prepare to be repelled and fascinated by the infamous power broker and all of the lives he influenced. 

Perry Mason (HBO)
Sunday June 21 9pm (Series Premiere)

You know the name. You know the theme song. But this is a reboot I did not see coming.

I'm a sucker for any good 1930's L.A. sleuth, and HBO gives this one the full Boardwalk Empire treatment. The cast features Matthew Rhys of The Americans, Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black, and John Lithgow of too many good shows to list here. The pace is slow and the scenes are darkly lit, but any hard case that needs to be cracked is always fun to explore.

I wonder if they'll keep the theme song. They have to, right?

Yellowstone (PARAMOUNT)
Sunday June 21 9pm (Season 3 Premiere)

If this series was on HBO, Yellowstone would have won multiple Emmys by now. The Dutton family saga continues with Kevin Costner in his element sporting that Stetson hat in Big Sky Country.

The third season welcomes Sawyer from Lost as Roarke Morris who is not intimidated at all by the largest landowners in the valley. He poses a threat to John Dutton, and we know that John Dutton doesn't take kindly to any threats.

"Montana doesn't want you." Oh but we want Montana, and those gorgeous landscapes and family squabbles. Find the Paramount Network and don’t miss this one.


  • 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.

Monday, June 8, 2020

TV Picks - Week of June 8

People watch TV for many different reasons – to stay updated on the news, watch sports (pre-COVID), and get in touch with what's going on in the world. CNN, FOX NEWS, know the networks.

Then there's me. My sole purpose in watching television is to escape the world we're living in. And it's not just now. I've felt this way since my mother planted me in front of a screen the moment I could sit up straight. I'm not a TV news guy – never have been. I read The New York Times and check online to stay current, but unless my wife is watching, news does not appear on my television screen.


This past week has been all about the unrest in our nation. You couldn't avoid it, and rightfully so. When it comes to this kind of TV, I don't feel qualified to tell you what you should be watching or where to tune in. There are much more knowledgable resources for that.


However, if you need a break from the protests, politics and Coronavirus, you've come to the right place.



It's all about premieres and finales this week. And I've left out the broadcast networks because, well, network programming in mid-June speaks for itself.


Love Life (HBO MAX)

Thursday June 11 (Season 1 finale)


Seems like Anna Kendrick just got started. Actually, she did. HBO Max premiered only two weeks ago but decided to release the final episodes of the series to capture the momentum of these single gal travails throughout New York City. Smart move, HBO Max.


Darby continues to make her way through many men searching for "the right guy" in pre-COVID Manhattan. I'm a big Scoot McNairy fan, and it's great to see him in the early episodes. The career stuff, the roommates, the angst – we've seen it all before on a quest for love. But Anna makes it work, and although my daughters are probably the target audience, it's nice to see someone looking for love in the city with no fear of social distancing.


F Is For Family (NETFLIX)

Friday June 14 (Season 4 premiere)


This animated sitcom for adults set in the suburbs of the 70's returns for its fourth season. Bill Burr continues to man his La-Z-Boy chair as the irascible family man and war veteran. Add Jonathan Banks as his estranged father (do voices get better than this?) as this very funny show attempts to fill Netflix's BoJack Horseman void. If you're looking for PC comedy, you're not going to find it here.


Crossing Swords (HULU)

Friday June 14 (premiere)


Medieval times needed some Robot Chicken. Patrick the peasant dreams of becoming a knight, but there's plenty of violence and an evil queen standing in the way of his heart of gold.


Like Robot Chicken, this new show is all stop-motion animation. And the cute-looking characters have plenty of evil lurking below their sweet smiles and limited movement. 


You'll recognize the voices of the peg people, and the violence gets pretty graphic during plenty of skirmishes. If you've been looking for a quirky new land to explore since Westeros shut down, this might be the show for you.


Marcella (NETFLIX)

Sunday June 14 (Season 3 premiere)


I'm seriously considering Britbox - and shows like this are the reason why. Whether it's Prime Suspect or Bodyguard, I can never get enough UK sleuthing. 


One of my favorite British female detectives, who happens to black out from time to time, has returned. The third season starts with Marcella working undercover in Belfast with a new identity and crime family to infiltrate.

Marcella carries on the spirit of Luther as other familiar faces pop up during this 8 episode run shot in Northern Ireland. Anna Friel has dug deep during her first two seasons, and don't expect her to let up at all in her return. 




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.

Monday, June 1, 2020

TV Picks - Week of June 1

It's June. Already. We're almost halfway through a year that none of us will ever forget. New TV used to take a hiatus when temperatures got warmer, but summer premieres, air conditioning, comfier couches and bigger screens put an end to that. So pour that glass of lemonade as I touch on what I've been watching lately and preview what's coming up this week.


My oldest daughter Rachel and I have watched Survivor (CBS All Access) together every Wednesday for years. Rachel moving into her own apartment on the east side of Manhattan hasn't slowed us down (we FaceTime). With no new season on the horizon, the two of us decided to go back to the very first season which she has never seen. 20 years makes one heck of a difference. A much more somber, dramatic Jeff Probst explains Tree Mail, the power of one Immunity Idol and how Tribal Council works. But the core of the game is right there, even without challenges, hidden idols or advantages. Richard, Rudy, Sue, Kelly, Gervase, BB, Gretchen - the seeds were planted with no roadmap to follow on Borneo. Good stuff. Only 539 more episodes to go.


Debbie and I finished Defending Jacob (Apple TV+), with the ending being as ambiguous as it is in the book it’s based on. Still a worthwhile watch with Chris Evans giving an Emmy worthy lead performance.


I've really been digging Bordertown (Netflix), or as I like to call it, CSI: Lappeenranta without censorship. Oh those wacky Finns on the Russian border. Watch with subtitles and in its native language - the dubbing does not work well.



John is back and even more filthy, words that you’ll never be able to spell, an animated NYC musical and a new 30 for 30. I've got you covered for the upcoming week. 


Dirty John (USA)

Tuesday, June 2 9pm premiere (regular time 10pm)


This true-crime drama based on a podcast returns for another season with an all new tale. Season 1 had Connie Britton let creepy anesthesiologist Eric Bana into her life leading to lots of cringe. It started strong and maintained a solid creep factor thanks to some very good acting.


Season 2 is "The Betty Broderick Story" with Amanda Peet and Christian Slater playing Betty and her husband Dan. Betty has always been there for Dan as he makes his way through school and becomes a local law superstar. Dan then hires young Linda as an assistant, and Betty is not pleased. You know the theme - do the stalky math.


Spelling The Dream (NETFLIX)

Wednesday June 3


I love the spelling bee. I finished second in my 6th grade competition (choked on "siege") and watch the National Bee every year. That didn't happen this spring (thanks COVID), but this doc fills the gap profiling young Indian-Americans who have dominated the contest for the past decade. Break out those dictionaries and marvel at the commitment and passion of these families.


Central Park (APPLE TV+)

Friday June 5


This animated musical from the creators of Bob's Burgers takes place in the heart of New York City. FOX originally passed on it, and Apple wisely outbid Netflix and Hulu for their first foray into the cartoon universe.


Last week's premiere had the quirky Tillerman family fending off hotel heiress Bitsy Brandenham who wants to convert Central Park into a collection of condos. This cast is loaded - Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Tituss Burgess, Josh Gad, Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom Jr., and Stanley Tucci. 


If Broadway isn't your thing, this show is not for you. But if you're looking for a sincere, heartwarming tale with some catchy show tunes, stop by Central Park. It's the closest you'll get to theater these days.


Be Water (ESPN)

Sunday June 7 9pm


Bruce Lee gets the 30 for 30 treatment on the worldwide leader. After playing Kato for one season on The Green Hornet, he auditioned and was passed over for David Carradine on Kung Fu. Bruce returns to Hong Kong and changes films forever while sparking the martial arts industry.


I hadn't seen a lot of Bruce Lee off screen, and watching him navigate the racial tensions that dominated his life is remarkable. As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says, "this country was not ready for an Asian hero." You appreciate why so many admire him as he defied stereotypes that sadly persist to this day. 




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.