Monday, August 31, 2020

TV Picks - Week of August 31

I pride myself on recommending shows that go above and beyond the norm. Stuff that's truly worth watching. As such, my expectations and standards are generally pretty high.

Then there's the sappy stuff. And all bets are off. So here’s my big confession: I enjoy watching not-so-smart romantic comedies with my wife. In fact, often times I'll get more invested in the ridiculous plotlines than she does.

It's not the finest programming, but it is entertaining in its own special way. Here are three recent offerings I can recommend to other discerning viewers who share a soft-spot for the sap.

Virgin River (NETFLIX)

For fellow old-timers, the ten-episode first season of this Netflix series is like Northern Exposure with a couple of twists.

Nurse/midwife Mel (Alexandra Breckinridge) shows up in a Northern California small town (it’s shot in Vancouver) to take over for aging doctor Doc (Otter from Animal House) at the behest of his ex-wife Hope (Lana Lang in Superman III). Mel has left L.A. under mysterious circumstances and is looking for a fresh start.

Naturally she ends up in the only bar in town which happens to be owned by Kurt Russell lookalike Jack (Martin Henderson) and there's instant chemistry. Mel struggles to win Doc over and fit into the idyllic looking hamlet as we discover the quirks of the locals and the secrets they're hiding.

It's a basic plot and it's done reasonably well. The location is gorgeous. There are no real big surprises and a few stretches in reality, but this is a cute show worth cuddling up to. And there’s more on the way, too – Netflix has picked up the show for a second season. 

The Kissing Booth & The Kissing Booth 2 (NETFLIX)

Full disclosure - I had to watch KB1 and KB2 for work.

Further full disclosure - I really liked the first one and the sequel wasn't too bad of a follow up.

We all know the story. An awkward looking girl (Joey King) hits puberty and suddenly the school begins to notice. She's in love with the lifelong best friend's older brother (Jacob Elordi) who happens to be the coolest guy in school. The best friends master a Dance Dance Revolution knockoff and work on a kissing booth together for the school carnival.

It's easy to fill in the blanks when it comes to the plot, but this is an enjoyable romp through high school navigating popularity, family jealousy and falling in love. Molly Ringwald as the mother of teens reminded me of how old I was, but she and the rest of cast fill their roles admirably.

The recent sequel is not as good as the original, but revisiting the relationships is worthwhile if you enjoyed the first film. Kissing Booth 3 might be too much for me. Just let me know if it's Berkeley or Harvard.

Ted Lasso (APPLE TV+)

Ted was one of my picks a few weeks back, and five episodes in, I realize it fits this bill of sweet shows.

Ted (Jason Sudekis) is a persistently optimistic Division II college football coach brought over to England in a Major League plot device as the owner ("Shame" nun from Game of Thrones) tries to ruin the soccer team she inherited in her divorce.

Ted Lasso strikes all the right chords. It's funny, a little bit raunchy, but also emotionally moving. The seemingly superficial characters have a lot of depth, and the wins and losses of AFC Richmond are far from what drives the story.

The supporting cast is quirky and adds to the flavor of the storyline. The right amount of time is spent on Ted and the rest of the characters in his brave new world. It's a feel good show at a time when we all need to feel a little bit better.

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

Wear a mask. Stay healthy, cool and safe.

Monday, August 24, 2020

TV Picks - Week of August 24

Reboots are everywhere. And they're not going to stop coming.

Full House got fuller on Netflix. Lizzie McGuire and Punky Brewster are all grown up and want to show their faces. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air plans to return as a gritty drama. 

On the surface, reboots reek of laziness and banking on nostalgic emotion. As the great Sade once sang, "it's never as good as the first time" although she wasn't referring to TV.  

But a successful reboot can happen and actually be done quite well. The writing is the key. We all want to embrace familiar characters, but we don't want to feel like we're being played. 

Just the title of an old TV show is a powerful thing. It's exciting to revisit characters you fell in love with long ago and see sets you wished you could have lived in. TV freezes those shows in time, but when you go back in 2020 the actors have aged. Times have changed. It's not the way it was. 

Show creators have their work cut out for them, but it doesn't always have to be a disaster. The great ones rise to the challenge.

Battlestar Galactica

Didn't really care all that much for the 1978 original. The guy from Bonanza was now a Commander in a futuristic outer space drama? The Cylons were interesting bad guys, but the effects and most of the plot was a joke. I was 11 years old and this should have been right up my alley. It wasn't.

When SyFy (then The SciFi Channel) announced a reboot of the Adama gang, I was stupefied. They must have got the rights on the cheap. This reboot dug itself into a deeper hole announcing that the memorable male character of Starbuck was now going to be female. This prompted a full scale geek freakout before seeing a single frame of the new show.

What we all missed was that Ronald D. Moore was in charge, the guy who wrote some of the best Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episodes. He knew how to create believable drama in outer space that didn't take itself too seriously.

Moore combined sexiness, special effects and good storytelling into a program many approached skeptically. Forget sci-fi, Battlestar Galactica is one of the best dramas I've seen over the past 20 years. The stories are powerful and the acting is top notch. It made you forget the cheesiness of the first time around. NBC's Peacock streaming service plans to reboot the series yet again, with Mr Robot creator Sam Esmail in the producer's chair. Here's wishing them luck.


It's one thing to top an old show that was pretty good in the first place. How about a beloved Coen Brothers comedy that won the Oscar for Best Screenplay? 

I went into a new take on Fargo in full cynical mode. Who would have the audacity to mess with this quirky award winning film? The Coen Brothers aren't writing it? What exactly can be done with Fargo?

Billy Bob Thornton answered all of those questions during a fabulous first season. The next season goes back to 1979 with a different cast and location. Season three changes everything up again. Yet creator Noah Hawley makes it feel like different chapters in a novel you just can't put down.

The fourth season is just around the corner, and I have no idea what to expect plotwise. I do expect Chris Rock and company to be in one heck of a predicament on one of the best dramas on television.

Battlestar. Fargo. It can be done. One of my picks this week shows how you do it right in a different kind of way. My other pick is one best remembered for its past. 


Cobra Kai (NETFLIX)

Thursday, August 27 (Seasons 1 & 2)

Some classic films should remain untouched. The Karate Kid belongs on that list. I was a big fan of Daniel-san taking on Johnny Lawrence and the bullies in his new Southern California home leading to the infamous crane kick at the All Valley Karate Tournament.

In Cobra Kai, the name of the evil dojo that shows no mercy, Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) are all grown up, but their adult lives naturally end up conflicting with one another. Their characters are multi-dimensional, and it's surprisingly not so easy to decide who to root for here.

The creators mix in a ton of nostalgia from the first film and sequels in the right amounts. The lighthearted tone of the original is all over this series. You can tell it was created by Karate Kid fans. Pat Morita is commemorated affectionately. Flashbacks use just enough footage from the film to bring you back, but not keep you there. 

New teens on the block play out the current drama, but the senseis are the touchstones of this sweet, funny and tremendously entertaining return to SoCal karate.

Originally on YouTube, Netflix snapped up the first two seasons and will be premiering a third one shortly. Household chores will never be the same.


Britney and Madonna. The Lady Gaga meat dress. Miley twerking.

There was a time when this awards show created news instead of simply celebrating past accomplishments. The MTV Video Music Awards were must see TV – something outrageous and headline making was going to happen, it was just a matter of who did it. 

Those days are gone. The VMAs are as significant as music videos are these days. No one really cares. MTV hardly plays any music. Everyone is there for show and to manufacture those aforementioned moments. Maybe that's the way it has always been and the audience has just grown to be more cynical. 

Add the pandemic into the mix, and there's no reason to check out this awards show. You're better off remembering the time when you wanted your MTV.


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

Wear a mask. Stay healthy, cool and safe.


Monday, August 17, 2020

TV Picks - Week of August 17

Politics has never been my thing. 

I double majored at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) in communications and history, but that's only because I took so many classes about old societies and how America was born. Political science - no thanks. Government history - sign me up!

I care A LOT about this country, but the disingenuousness of politics really turns me off. Politics is all for show - and it shouldn't be. It's embarrassing. It's all about style over substance which is truly a shame. Hamilton is an entertaining Broadway show, but trust me, it didn't play out that way in real life.

I'm not going to tell you who should be in office and why you should vote. There are plenty of annoying Facebook posts from your friends and family already checking that box.

My job is to talk TV, something I actually know a thing or two about. The new programs this week leave much to be desired, so I'm focusing on the Democratic National Convention (next week, the Republicans take their turn).

All political conventions are a farce when it comes to television coverage. It's all about hype. There's no "real news." We know who's running, and unless you want to see electors from the great state of "fill-in-the-blank" declare their love for a particular candidate, it's dreadfully boring. 

There are no real debates. There's no policy being broken down. The real stories are typically outside of the convention hall with passionate protestors bringing real issues to the forefront. 

COVID switches things up for sure. No big crowds. No balloon drops. No pre-planned moments that are anything but spontaneous. Just lot of remote speeches from around the country and way too much analysis from talking heads.     

I won't be watching CNN, FOX News, MSNBC or any of the other news channels. If I'm forced to check out these conventions, I'll need plenty of laughs and entertainment. Thankfully, some of the other channels will provide plenty of both.



Jon Stewart pulled off the neat trick of making these gatherings interesting even if you're not a political junkie. Sure he was there to mock the attendees and the process, but that was accompanied by a quest for knowledge and a desire to inform.

Trevor Noah has done an excellent job reframing a show that has already been reframed (i.e. Kilborn to Stewart). The Daily Show is expanding to five nights to cover both conventions as thoroughly as possible. This is their Super Bowl. 

Politicians recognize the value of coming off well on shows like these and its access to younger voters, and as Comedy Central reinvents itself for Generation Z, it’s clear that The Daily Show is at the center of its plans.

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS)

Sam Bee cut her teeth at The Daily Show, and she has taken the laughs to another level during the first four seasons of her very own program. Her team pulls no punches analyzing many aspects of today's crazy world. 

Full Frontal won an Emmy for its "Not The White House Correspondents Dinner," so you know she'll do whatever it takes to make these conventions interesting. Her political stance is very clear, but she holds everyone accountable while making you laugh.

Triumph The Insult Comic Dog (HULU)

There's nothing officially scheduled yet, but there's no way the brilliantly funny Robert Smigel will stay away from these conventions and this election.

I highly recommend Triumph's 2016 Election special on Hulu to get a sense of the craziness around our political world only four short years ago.

Once you start down the Triumph rabbit hole (apologies to all dogs), make sure you search for this insult comic dog's take on Star Wars, Hawaii and Bon Jovi concerts. You'll laugh until you cry.

Schoolhouse Rock (DISNEY+)

I grew up on this ABC interstitial series from the late 1970's, and the History Rock portion holds up just fine. Ask anyone my age how the Constitution starts, and they'll sing (not say) The Preamble. 

This throwback takes you through our entire political process. It's all covered here - women's suffrage, manifest destiny, and of course, the saga of a lonely bill just sitting up on Capitol Hill. 


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

Wear a mask. Stay healthy, cool and safe.


Monday, August 10, 2020

TV Picks - Week of August 10

Shark Week has always been near and dear to my heart. 

I remember seeing Jaws (arguably the finest film ever made) when I was 8 years old, and it's why I'll never swim deep in the ocean. Even today when I brave the water (and sporting a bathing suit), part of me wonders what's swimming underneath in the Atlantic Ocean. 

When I originally built, my logo (shout-out to the great Julian Ham) was an animated GIF of "jump the shark" text sailing over a fin. When the site started to take off, the folks at Discovery contacted me to do some promotion. They advertised on my site, but we worked on content where I was going to host a TV program featuring, what else, shark jumps. That show never happened, but somehow Shark Week has continued to thrive. 

By the way, I still think a "Jump the Shark" week would be great counter programming to Shark Week. Highlight the most memorable examples of when shows took their fatal leap. Are you listening, MeTV? Happy to consult.

The Discovery Channel keeps you safe this week as it explores the most dangerous predators of the seas. This 32nd installment features 24 specials, and Will Smith, Mike Tyson, and Shaquille O'Neal are along for the ride this year. Athletes and celebrities always want to be a part this special week  which adds another level of intrigue to the shows.

It's all about getting a glimpse into the mystery of the oceans and what makes this eating machine tick. Tons of misconceptions about this big fish are clarified during the week. Part of us wonders if these explorers will suffer the same fate of Matt Hooper's cage. That looming danger, even while watching from your couch, keeps you on the edge of your seat. 

Is Discovery taking advantage of our fears? Of course they are, but who cares? This week, there's jam-packed programming dedicated to the mighty Carcharodan carcharias, and I'll be looking for anyone taking a leap over a fin. Hope you heard that, Megalodon.


Hard Knocks (HBO)

Tuesday August 12 10pm (Season 15 premiere)

Are you ready for some football? No one has access to NFL training camps during the pandemic - except for NFL Films and HBO.

Every year I rave about Hard Knocks. It doesn't matter who the team is - it's the inherent drama of a coach trying to put together his squad and how the players live the lives all of us wannabe athletes which we had. If you can't get enough, get a quick fix on the junior college (JuCo) football scene with the excellent Last Chance U on Netflix.

Sure there's more camera awareness these days and the teams allow us to see only what they want us to see. But I still get a kick out of going behind the scenes of a NFL training camp, and this year, there's two to behold.

The Rams and the Chargers, two teams that haven't been in L.A. for very long, are the subjects this season. It's far from business as usual, but drama always finds its way out during every season of this HBO staple.

(un)Well (NETFLIX)

Wednesday August 12 (Premiere)

I'm no expert when it comes to the Wellness industry. Essential oils, extreme fasting...a lot of it seems like B.S. to me. 

This docuseries explores these crafty solutions to everyday problems. There's a boatload of cash being made in the Health & Wellness industry, but do any of these products actually work? I wonder if this should be an industry in the first place.

Learn which wellness trend lives up to its promise before blowing your next paycheck on a quick fix. Or you could just eat less and exercise more - that tip is for free.

Five Bedrooms (PEACOCK)

Thursday August 14 (Premiere)

Five single people meet at the same table at a wedding and decide to buy a house together. This Aussie import is a romantic dramedy debuting on the most horribly named streaming service out there.

These aren't kids in their 20's figuring things out. They've been around and aren't looking for a party house – it's more about making a sound financial investment with the baggage of potential relationships. 

Everyone has to deal with each other, the neighbors, and all that goes into buying a new home. Prepare for disaster, joy and heartbreak down under.

Ted Lasso (APPLE TV+)

Thursday August 14 (Premiere)

Football coach Ted Lasso, a Jason Sudekis creation, first came on the scene in 2013 promoting the English Premier League on NBC Sports. American football meets UK football – it was a viral sensation.

Now Bill Lawrence, creator of Scrubs, Spin City and Cougar Town, has created a 10 episode series fleshing out this fish out of water story. I know Bill and he “gets it.” A midwestern college football coach takes the reins of an English soccer team. Look forward to the laughs.

Lovecraft Country (HBO)

Sunday August 16 9p (Premiere)

If HBO debuts a program in the Sunday 9pm slot, there's going to be heavy drama and it's going to be intense. If the actor who played Omar from The Wire is in it, that raises it a notch in my book.

Korean War veteran hero Tic Freeman battles all types of monsters in 1950's America in this sci fi/horror drama. Tic returns to Chicago looking for his stubborn father, and he gets a taste of hardened America and the issues of the times.

The acting is top notch, featuring Jonathan Majors as the lead, Michael Kenneth Williams as the dad, and Courtney B. Vance as the uncle amongst a great cast. The show tackles racism from generation to generation and illustrates how this battle has never truly ended.


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

Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.


Monday, August 3, 2020

TV Picks - Week of August 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Stanley Cup Qualifiers (NBC Sports Network)

Monday August 2 (All Week Long)

Hockey in August? Bring it on.

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

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

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

What's It Worth? (A&E)

Tuesday August 4 9pm (Premiere)

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

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

WTF?!! Do you recognize that premise?

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

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

The Rain (NETFLIX)

Wednesday August 5 (Season 3 Premiere)

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

The Rain

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

We Hunt Together (SHOWTIME)

Sunday August 9 (Premiere)

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

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

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


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

Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.