Monday, January 25, 2021

TV Picks - Week of January 25

"I watch a lot of TV, but that's my job." 

I've been using that excuse for decades. The truth is, I loved watching TV before I learned how to walk. I'm fortunate to have made a career of it, but I'd watch just as much even if I was never paid a single dollar to do so.

I never bought the "too much TV is bad for you" argument either. You'll often hear that from elite pseudo intellectuals who feel books and museums are the only way to go. Once they get off their high horses, they'll see TV is a low-cost all-inclusive medium . If you've got an interest, there's a program out there for you either free or for a reasonable price.

Plenty of programs that fall through the cracks as I flip through all of these channels. When I was running, I didn't miss a thing. Viewers from other countries would contact me about shows I had never heard of. My viewing was updated on a nightly basis for a decade. 

Since I sold the site in 2006, the number of channels and offerings have dramatically increased. Netflix only mailed DVDs back then. It's almost impossible to keep up with everything that's on with all the options out there today...but I try. 

The good news is that I get to play catchup and watch series that I missed during their initial run. I keep an ongoing list (who doesn't) of TV that I need to see. It's nice to have quality stuff in the hopper.

Here are some shows that were on my radar but I never got to the first time around. I was able to avoid spoilers before checking these programs out, so I will extend the same courtesy in my reviews. 

Imposters (NETFLIX)

Missed this one because it originally aired on Bravo in 2017. Let's just say I've never been a big fan of the programming slate on that particular cable channel. Shame on me. 

Imposters starts with a simple con, but evolves into so much more. The acting is really good, there are plenty of laugh out loud moments, the plot twists are surprising, and the morality tale never gets too preachy.

Everyone in the cast looks like other more famous stars, except for Uma Thurman and Brian Benben (from Dream On) who are actually on the show. Lead actress Inbar Lavi (no, not Maggie Siff) is the glue who holds it all together and is mesmerizing to watch.   

Money Heist (NETFLIX)

I've started Lupin (great pilot), but had to get through Money Heist first. No issue here watching with subtitles and hearing the drama play out in its native tongue. Dubbing has improved, but if you want to capture the essence of any drama, listen and read along.

The Money Heist pilot plays like a feature film, but I expected something else for the remainder of the series. Happy to be surprised. Great character development, plenty of intense drama, and of course, the heist happening during it all keeps you hooked. 

The Wilds (AMAZON)

I recommended this show months ago when it debuted. The pilot feels like Lost for young women and potential Olympic gymnasts. There are plenty of Lindelof-style flashbacks as family drama oozes in this island mystery. 

This one is tough to review and remain spoiler-free, so let's just say some elements work well and others are a bit contrived. Overall, it's a good show with plenty of conflict that keeps you guessing all the way through. 

Don't worry, I haven't forgot about the new stuff. Here are my picks for this week...

The Price Is Right At Night (CBS)
Wednesday, January 27th 8pm

Yodeling. Golf. Plinko. The highest rated daytime show returns to prime time once again. And as always, it's all about the game. 

Bob Barker was irreplaceable, until Drew Carey came along. Bob's spayed and neutered charm is no longer there, but there's enough nostalgia in the current TPIR to satisfy anyone who wants to come on down. Drew's eternal love for this legendary game show always comes through. 

Once you get your Price Is Right fix, the next night celebrities spin the Wheel of Fortune on ABC. I love Wheel, but TPIR has a wholesomeness that will never go away. I look forward to the $1 bids, spinning the vertical wheel, and guessing how much that Showcase Showdown is worth without going over. 

The Great Escapists (AMAZON)
Friday, January 29th

Who doesn't love a great escape? Two buddies who are very good with their hands are stranded Gilligan style in this docuseries. 

Richard Hammond from the UK's Top Gear and Tony Belleci from Mythbusters only have their intellect and shipwreck scraps to survive a desert island. These two believe in science - and their skills get put to the ultimate test. 

This island is so beautiful you wonder why the two of them would ever want to leave. Watching them come up with engineering feats that the Professor could only dream of as they one-up each other is the highlight of the series. 

The Lady and The Dale (HBO)
Sunday, January 31st 9pm

In the 1970's, a woman fooled the country with her fuel-efficient three-wheeled car. This four-part documentary profiles Elizabeth Carmichael who rose to prominence during the oil crisis with her believable scam. 

The Dale was a three-wheeled two-seater vehicle marketed as a revolutionary machine powerful enough to take down the big three automakers. It promised 70 miles per gallon fuel economy at a low purchase price. 

If something seems too good to be true, it often is. Carmichael is more interesting that the car she created, and watching her company fall apart and the subsequent court case is a cautionary tale worth catching.


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

Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

TV Picks - Week of January 18

"Live from New's Saturday Night!" Saturday Night Live is still on holiday break this coming week, but with the change in the Oval Office, you have to wonder what will happen when the show returns for its first live episodes of 2021.

SNL ratings peak during every Presidential election season, and 2020 was no exception. It was a good year for Lorne’s baby. Dave Chappelle's episode drew over 9 million viewers making it the highest rated entertainment show since the Oscars. Chappelle is no fan of the Trump administration, but we all wanted to see his take on the state of our country.

But the times they are a changin’. Alec Baldwin is thrilled on multiple levels that Trump will soon be out of office. Many tuned in to see Alec’s Trump and what A-list FoL (Friend of Lorne’s) would cameo as that week’s politician in the news. Alec has his own issues to deal with, and as great as he is at playing the President, it’s time to have that character head out to the golf course. He can always come back.

Jim Carrey has also said his goodbye ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration. The cast is more than capable to portray the Washington elite, but are viewers as likely to tune in if Larry David or Ben Stiller aren’t dropping by?

The transition out of an election season has always been tough for SNL. Our country is in flames right now, and that’ll help keep viewers coming back for some much needed laughs even if the "live" in Saturday night no longer brings an edge of danger and excitement. That will be reserved for the occasional Weekend Update joke that generates a bit of controversy.

It’s a crazy time in the U.S.A. for a variety of reasons, and SNL will have a plethora of material to work with when it returns — it’ll all come down to the execution to keep viewers coming back week after week.

My picks this week include searching for ancestors, trying to find yourself later in life and a return to an Irish goodbye.

Finding Your Roots (PBS)
Tuesday, January 19th 8pm

Everyone loves to explore their family tree, but be careful what you wish for. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. returns for the seventh season of exploring the ancestry of influential people with diverse backgrounds.

I've yet to dig up the roots of where I come from as I can only go back to my great grandparents. There's a natural curiosity to learn where we stem from. Everyone wishes for blue blood, but we are often begat by regular folk who had much tougher lives during their time on this planet.

Andy Cohen, John Lithgow, Glenn Close and Mandy Patinkin are just a few of the celebs who take the journey into their past this season. Can't wait to see what they dig up on this PBS mainstay. Prepare for some surprises.

Losing Alice (APPLE TV+)
Friday, January 22nd

A 48 year-old film director feels she doesn't matter much after raising her family, so why not look to a younger woman to deal with her fear of aging. This psychological thriller uses flashbacks and flash forwards as it explores the minds of its main characters.

The Israeli program is triggered by a brief encounter on a train. Drama on the rails has been popping up as major plot device on a lot of recent cable dramas. I didn't realize there were so many exciting things happening on the local choo-choo.

Apple TV+ has invested heavily in the Israeli TV pipeline following the success of Fauda, Shtisel and Unorthodox on Netflix. It's all about the storytelling, and this one might be too cinematic for most, but worth checking in on.

Bridge and Tunnel (EPIX)
Sunday, January 24th 9pm

Ed Burns had early success with his mid-90's hit film The Brothers McMullen. The similarities are there in his new TV series as a group of six tries to figure out life as they pursue Manhattan dreams while battling their working class Long Island roots.

The cast is young as Burns returns to a formula that worked well for him in the past. College grads chasing their dreams decades ago is familiar territory. This time, though, he's the dad espousing advice instead of the headstrong kid receiving/ignoring it.

I'm a sucker for anything set in the 80's since that encapsulates my teenage years. Many relate to the desire to leave home and make it in the big city. You can take the kid out of Long Island, but it's awfully hard to take the Long Island out of the kid. Just ask Ed himself.

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

Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Monday, January 11, 2021

TV Picks - Week of January 11

"The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." — Albert Einstein

When it’s time to change, you need to rearrange.” — Peter Brady

All geniuses know that if you want to grow, you need to change. Television has morphed so much that almost anyone under 30 watches on their phone or computer. The 58-inch Panasonic plasma I bought after selling feels like a relic (and weighs like one too) — and that's only 15 years old.

Cable was the first sign that television programming would never be the same. New networks continue to pop up every year. Streaming services led to another wave of shows and events, and now we've reached the point where it's nearly impossible to keep up with everything TV has to offer.

Change is everywhere, and this industry should never be afraid to take chances. Sometimes it leads to spectacular failure (can you say Cop Rock?). Sometimes it leads to groundbreaking success. You’ve got to shoot your shot.

I waxed poetic (pun intended) last week about Cobra Kai. Creating a series based on a kitchy movie from the 80's was a huge gamble, but the creators and actors pulled it off. It can be done — with confidence, talent and persistence.

Content always rules. It really doesn't matter which network is airing your favorite show (as long as you can get it) or even what time it's on. A majority of late night programming is recorded and watched the next day. Most shows are cut up into consumable segments to be viewed online.

TV just isn't the same anymore. And at the end of 2021, it will be different once again. And that's okay — because change, although sometimes painful to endure, is a good thing for the long term.

An interim game show host, championship viewing options, a remixed stand-up special, and a Marvel family sitcom… change is everywhere, as you’ll see in my picks for this week.

Monday, January 11th

Ken Jennings steps in as the show’s first “interim” guest host. Katie Couric will reportedly soon follow and others will try to step into Alex Trebek's Canadian shoes.

It's going to be weird, but the game play of Jeopardy! is so strong that the host probably doesn't matter all that much as long as they keep things moving along. (Don't tell Ken that.)

No one wanted to see Alex leave the planet, but Ken, Katie and others will bring a new flavor to the classic game show. The core of Jeopardy! will remain the same, but a new host means change is in the air.

College Football National Championship Game (ESPN et al)
Monday, January 11th 8pm

The National Championship game will played as long as COVID doesn't get in the way. The two best college football teams, the Alabama Crimson Tide and The Ohio State Buckeyes, will settle things on the field ending a season that really wasn't much of a season.

This is one of my favorite broadcasts of the year, because ESPN rolls out its MEGACAST which provides a least a dozen different ways to watch the game. There's the traditional (boring) way that every college football game is presented. On the other ESPNs, there's Command Center, Skycast, Data Center, Spanish, National Radio, Hometown Radio and a return of the Film Room.

If you're watching your first game of the season, the standard broadcast is for you. If you're a college football nut, watching the Skycast to see the entire field or listening to coaches explain the game in the Film Room will provide a better viewing experience. If you went to Alabama or Ohio State (my condolences), listening to the hometown call adds another level of excitement.

In today's TV world, the viewer should be in control. Providing these options makes so much sense, and the ratings will be there to cash in on. Even something as traditional as college football benefits from switching things up a bit.

Total Blackout: The Tamborine Extended Cut (NETFLIX)
Tuesday, January 12th

Chris Rock is putting out an extended cut of his 2018 stand-up special Tamborine. Rock calls it "a remix" with almost 30 minutes of additional new material that complements his prescient act he recorded in Washington, D.C.

We rewatch stand-up specials all of the time. Adding a "commentary track" and interspersing updated material and reflective interviews is worth the try. The brilliant comedian is repurposing material and taking a chance putting it out there again – love that.

WandaVision (DISNEY+)
Friday, January 15th

Is a new series starring minor characters from The Avengers really taking a chance? You bet it is. WandaVision features superheroes Vision and Scarlet Witch (aka Wanda Maximoff) living a quaint suburban life where everything is not exactly how it seems.

It helps if you’ve seen all 23 related Marvel Avengers movies to follow the plot here, but it's not entirely necessary. There are a ton of comic book storylines to pull from and many characters will show up from different universes. At the core will be the relationship between two Avengers working off 50's/60's sitcom premises.

There's a built-in fanbase, and Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are major leads. This just needs to avoid feeling like an ad for the next Doctor Strange or any other Marvel flick.

I'm not sure it'll work, but I respect Disney trying something different here.


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

Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.

Monday, January 4, 2021

TV Picks - Week of January 4

Happy 2021! 2020 was an all-around disaster capped off by a masked Ryan Seacrest standing in an empty Times Square. No more looking's time to look forward to 2021.

This is going to be a challenging year for television. Thanks to last year's events (I know, don't look back!), production schedules were a complete mess. But just like our planet, TV marches on with new offerings and some hope for the future.

Everyone gets inspired at the start of a new year. How do you think all those gyms and weight loss plans stay in business? It is a new beginning that we should all make the best of. 

I believe there's going to be some breakthrough TV happening this year. Creators have had months to come up with unique ways of getting through their COVID days. One good thing that can come from a lockdown is creative solutions to everyday problems. There will be the reality dating shows and profiles of humans out of control, but I'm anticipating some out-of-the-box thinking showing up on our small screens. Have faith.

With that, here are my inaugural TV picks of the new year...!

Cobra Kai (NETFLIX)
Season 3 available now

Cobra Kai is my guilty pleasure. It would be so easy to get this wrong, but the producers really nail the balance of nostalgia in a contemporary tale. The first season was fantastic - lots of throwbacks peppered in with young Miguel following in the great Daniel Larusso's footsteps behind the training of rival sensei Johnny Lawrence.

The second season is not as good, but still does a good job of harkening back to the original films and letting you enjoy the ride. Johnny and Daniel-san experienced their highs and lows as karate became a bad word in the home of the All-Valley Tournament.

My expectations were lowered for season three, but the prized all grown up pupils of Mr. Miyagi and John Kreese deliver in a big way. When the show sticks to Johnny and Daniel, it's a lot of fun. When it diverts to other storylines, it slips into cliched plots worthy of a fast forward.

I will not spoil who returns to The Karate Kid universe this season, but if you're a fan of the franchise, you will be more than satisfied. Now I have to go wax my floor and paint my fence.

History of Swear Words (NETFLIX)
Monday, January 4th 

Nicolas Cage hosts a six-part series centered around the origin of our favorite curse words. Welcome to 2021!

The series is loud, profane and somewhat insightful. It's also straight out of the Drunk History playbook. Comedians you'd expect to see along with etymology experts you've never seen give a thorough examination of the words you're not supposed to say or you'll get in trouble.

Cage is the perfect host for this sort of thing. Always curious and never holding back, he explains why a simple expletive was created in the first place, and illustrates clever uses of each word. 

Mr. Mayor (NBC) Series Premiere
Wednesday, January 6th 8pm

The backstory on the latest Tina Fey comedy offering provides me with some faith. The original premise was to bring back 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy as the mayor of New York City, but contract negotiations with Mr. Baldwin fell through. 

The show shifted to L.A. and was recast, and Tina should have retitled it The Likeables. Beloved Ted Danson, Holly Hunter and Bobby Moynihan lead the way. Ted plays a wealthy businessman who runs for mayor to win the respect of his teenage daughter and awkwardness ensues.

Ted has been stellar on network TV, most recently shining as Michael on The Good Place. Here's hoping that traditional sitcom hokeyness gets avoided and who knows, maybe the Beeper King can make a cross country trip.

Friday, January 8th 

Alex Trebek says goodbye as host of the best game show on television. It will be bittersweet watching Alex give the answers (not the questions) to contestants for the final time. 

This signifies the end of the lucrative Trebek/Sajak host combo, but Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune will live on for many years. It's the peanut butter and jelly of dinnertime TV. 

First "guest host" Ken Jennings will settle in to the role over time. No one knows this show like Ken, and any celebrity host would be a disaster. Jeopardy! is all about the game itself as the late mustached Canadian would tell you. 

Prepare for a tearjerking Final Jepoardy!.

Tiger (HBO) Part 1
Sunday, January 10th 9pm

HBO profiles the rise, fall, and comeback of one of the most pivotal figures in modern-day sports in this two-party documentary. Tiger Woods was the can't-miss kid. His father and some god-given golfing ability ensured that. But does anyone really know what Tiger is all about?

We saw the championships and the demise of one of the greatest golfers who ever walked the fairways. This Alex Gibney produced doc digs in to the early years of Tiger Woods and focuses on how he became "Tiger". 

Tiger's dad was everything to him and seeing their relationship play out as his achievements stack up is a curious study. His destiny was clear early on as a child golf prodigy appearing on Mike Douglas and other talk shows. But unlike many child stars, Tiger got better as he got older and lived up to all the early hype. 

Fellow golfers, his caddy and the women in Tiger's life paint a detailed picture integrated with lots of never seen before footage. Last year, Michael Jordan had The Last Dance - this year, it's Tiger's turn.


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

Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.