Tuesday, October 26, 2021

TV Picks - Week of October 25

It's always a thrill to find something new to watch on TV. The goal of this column is to help you find programs that provide that personal jolt. But when I discover a new way to watch television, well, life doesn't get much better than that.

I have my family to thank for this latest discovery. Watching TV has traditionally been a passive, relaxing experience for me. Comfy couch, quality snacks, the right lighting, and a big screen were all that was required.

Obviously this is not the healthiest option, so this summer I finally decided to do something about it. My wife uses a treadmill for dark, early mornings or lousy weather to get her steps in. I've tried an elliptical and treadmill before, but never experienced the exercise high or, frankly, the interest to really stick with it.

When my oldest daughter Rachel was growing up, she unlocked the secret to staying on an exercise machine. She found what I like to call a "Treadmill Show" (she used an elliptical, but treadmill sounds better). Her Treadmill Show was One Tree Hill.

Rachel would only watch One Tree Hill while she was exercising on the elliptical. No exceptions. As tempting as it was to see what was happening in that North Carolina town from a couch or comfy chair, she would only watch when she got on that machine. 187 episodes of motivation – and it worked.

If was going to start exercising, I needed to find my Treadmill Show. But this couldn't be just any program. Strict criteria needed to be met…

1. The show must hold your interest, but can't be so good that you have to watch the next episode right away.

2. The show must be binge-ready. There's no time to wait for the next episode to drop.

3. The show must be entertaining, but not too deep. I don't want to think too much here … just distract me enough from the heavy breathing and muscle aches.

4. The show cannot have been spoiled. This needs to be right out of the box with all the plot twists yet to be discovered.

5. You can only watch on the treadmill. No exceptions. This is an exclusive.

Finding my Treadmill Show was no easy task. Jeopardy! episodes were too short without ads. I enjoy watching Good Morning Football live, but the commercial breaks are tough to take. I wanted an hour-long show (45 minutes without commercials), but one that I knew hardly anything about.

That's when my Treadmill Show found me — Manifest. I knew it was popular on Netflix, but didn't really know anything else about it. I had to go in clean. It's not a great show, but it's entertaining and held my interest. By the time the soft music played at the end of each episode, I had worked a quality sweat. And I stuck to my pledge — limiting my viewing to only when my legs were moving on that machine.

As I followed the passengers of Flight 828 through three tumultuous seasons, I began to look forward to the exercise. The Stone family was getting me over the exercise hump whether Vance was helping them or not. Saanvi's plight became mine as did the Major's fate. Manifest is not going to win any Emmys, but it got me through these hour-long sweaty sessions. And now there's gong to be a fourth season! Can't wait.

I finished the final episode of season three, and now I'm in search for my next Treadmill Show. Maybe I'll start One Tree Hill.

(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)

4400 (CW) – A remake of The 4400 who disappear and reappear. Monday at 9pm.

The Last O.G. (TBS) – Tracy Morgan is back in Brooklyn for a fourth season. Tuesday at 10pm.

The Motive (NETFLIX) – True-crime doc about a 14 year old Israeli boy who claims a green creature told him to kill his family. Thursday.

Colin in Black & White (NETFLIX) – Former quarterback Colin Kaepernick narrates the telling of his teenage years. Thursday.

Scooby-Doo: Where Are You Now? (CW) – Those meddling kids reunite to discuss their old cases and stumble upon a new mystery. Friday at 8pm.

Swagger (APPLE TV+) – Youth basketball drama inspired by the childhood of NBA star Kevin Durant. Friday.

The best of baseball and finding love in Manhattan…

The World Series (FOX)
Tuesday, October 26th Game 1

The best playing the best. That's what any sports fan wants to see. Former National League rivals the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros are set to face-off at Minute Maid Park Tuesday night.

Joe Buck will be doing play by play and taking us through this championship battle. The game's pace is deliberate, but the talent will be undeniable to watch. I'll fall asleep early every night but still enjoy watching the Fall Classic.

Love Life (HBO MAX)
Thursday, October 28th Season 2

The first season focused on Darby (Anna Kendrick) trying to figure out relationships and handling her job in Manhattan. Darby navigated the ups and downs of her career and whether or not she was ready to find her soulmate, and this season she shifts to the background.

Ten-episode season two stars William Jackson Harper, better known as Chidi from The Good Place. He’s a guest at Darby’s 2016 wedding, and he begins to question his relationship, his career choices, and who he wants to be at this point in his life. I don't think he'll find Eleanor Shellstrop, but the journey should be a fun one to watch.

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

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

TV Picks - Week of October 18

If it's Sunday night on HBO, prepare for a character that you're supposed to love to hate. Classic anti-heroes have been a staple of HBO programming since Dr. Melfi asked Tony to take a seat in her office. The key to it all is finding something likable in these not-so-nice characters.

Tony Soprano had it. Tyrion Lannister had it. Barry has it. Anyone on Succession does not have it (see last week's column).

But the best example of a character we just love to hate is Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. And thankfully, Curb returns for its 11th season this Sunday night at 10:40pm.

Larry is a despicable human being. He has done countless awful things on Curb over the years. Killing a swan and trying to hide the body. Posing as an incest survivor. Dating a woman in a wheelchair for benefits like good parking and cutting lines. And yet we keep coming back for more, because part of us relates to whatever Larry is going through.

The brilliance of Curb is its uncanny ability to find the humor in these terrible situations. Larry thrives on awkwardness. He lives for the cringe moment, and from the moment you hear the show's theme, you absolutely know what's coming (Westworld should have learned this lesson).

And who would ever have thought that we'd get more Larry David than Jerry Seinfeld on a television series? Larry famously left Seinfeld towards the end of its run on NBC from the overwhelming pressure to help create and produce episodes we still talk about today. 11 seasons for Curb? That's a lot of awkward situations to make laughable. Larry has the freedom to decide when he wants to do a season, and that flexibility seems to be what keeps him coming back for more.

That's precisely the opposite of how a half-hour network sitcom is handled. Larry David has proven he can create brilliant television comedy, but the networks could learn a thing or two about letting their creators create. Curb stories are built around a few lines and ideas, and then the brilliant comedic actors go and do their thing. Who wouldn't want to be a part of the freedom allowed in this universe?

The show is known for having great guest stars, and this season's guest cast is truly stellar. Bill Hader, Jon Hamm, Patton Oswalt, Albert Brooks, Woody Harrelson, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, Kaley Cuoco and Tracey Ullman will be a part of Larry's world. And the regulars, including Susie Essman, Cheryl Hines, JB Smoove and Jeff Garlin along with the inevitable conflicts with Ted Danson and Richard Lewis are always a sight to behold.

This season's storyline truly doesn't matter. I'm hoping it deals with the pandemic, because the little bit of Larry in all of us can't wait to come out from under our masks. We can all use the laughs.

I'm banking on the 11th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm to leave us feeling pretty, pretty, pretty good.

(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)

Queens (ABC) – A hip hop version of Girls5Eva, minus the laughs. Tuesday at 10pm.

The Next Thing You Eat (HULU) – Chef David Chang tackles the future of food. Thursday.

Sex, Love & Goop (NETFLIX) – Gwyneth continues to show us the way. Thursday.

Dune (HBO MAX) – The latest attempt to make a really good book about sand and worms into a really good movie. Thursday.

Insecure (HBO) – Issa Rae's popular comedy returns for its final season. Sunday at 10pm.

Aliens around the world and live from New York…

Invasion (APPLE TV+)
Friday, October 22nd

Aliens are coming… worldwide. And it's happening on Apple TV+, which means there's going to be a big budget. This was shot in multiple locations all over the planet to create the feel of a truly global crisis.

Sam Neill stars as a sheriff who will hopefully finally get to see Montana. All of the characters have stories to tell as another war of the worlds unfolds in this ten episode series.

Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Saturday, October 23rd 11:30 PM ET/ 8:30 PM PT

I stopped regularly watching SNL a long time ago, but this Saturday night should be a special one. Jason Sudeikis, fresh off his Ted Lasso Emmy triumph, returns to Studio 8H for a victory lap.

Brandi Carlile will make her SNL debut, and her performances elsewhere have always been something to behold. Fingers are firmly crossed for a new What Up With That? that sees Jason dancing in that red tracksuit one last time before he heads back across the pond for Ted Lasso Season 3.


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

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

Monday, October 11, 2021

TV Picks - Week of October 11

HBO has been in search of a “Sunday at 9” hit since that dragon attack on King's Landing. The third season of Succession premieres this Sunday in that vaunted time slot, and the detestable Roys are primed to grab that mantle.

I've got a personal connection with this Emmy winning drama. Back in pre-COVID days, scenes from Succession were shot in the downtown offices of the sports network that I appear on. I was privy to those beautiful conference room views long before any Roy took a seat at the table.

But it's been a long time since we've seen this eccentric family get together. Forget social distancing, when any drama is off the screen for an extended period time, it can hurt the momentum. Absence sometimes makes the heart grow fonder, but when watching TV, it's on to the next streamable program.

The first two seasons of Succession are worth watching, but it's a bit of a roller coaster ride. The acting is top notch across the board. The writing has its moments packed with plot twists that few see coming. The problem, or strength depending upon your taste, is likability.

Succession reminds me of Shameless, but it's at the other end of the class system. The Showtime comedy had fantastic actors, brilliant writing, and absolutely no one to like. It made the show hard to watch, but I always appreciated the talent that was on display.

There is no one to root for on Succession. Not even cousin Greg. Every character is flawed. Deeply flawed. You want to sympathize with Kendall getting screwed over by his dad, but the son is such a jerk that it feels like he deserves it. It's the same case for all the Roy children, but that's just how they were brought up.

Rich broadcast moguls are an easy target. Everyone enjoys poking fun at the wealthy, but the lives that the one percent lead are too intriguing to ignore. A brief glimpse in to their day to day almost excuses their abhorrent behavior. Almost.

The Roys are actually like most families, minus the extreme wealth. Is there any family that doesn't have some type of conflict? Logan and crew amp it up a few notches, but at the core are the kids vying for daddy's empire/attention, a stepmother with her own concerns, the in-laws/cousins who want their fair share, and the staff who puts up with it for a nice payday. Plenty of conflict to go around.

The saving grace of Succession is the dark humor that accompanies the heavy drama. I wouldn't call this show a comedy, but it is a very funny program. The laughs help as helicopters take them to the yacht en route to the private island. These business tycoons act like spoiled kids if anyone tries to take away the toys of a titan.

This season, there's plenty of corporate sabotage and family squabbling. Things pick up right where they left off as Kendall declared he's ready to take on his mighty father, and Shiv, Roman and Connor need to choose sides as they deal with their own troubling issues.

Expect plenty of private plane trips, big laughs, screaming fights and unimaginable eccentricities. Succession will be entertaining, but if you're looking for someone to cheer for, you're in the wrong place.

(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)

Chucky (SYFY/USA) – The evil doll from Child's Play gets his own series. Tuesday at 10pm.

The Movies That Made Us(NETFLIX) – An informative guide to how your favorite horror films were made. Tuesday.

Just Beyond (DISNEY+) – R.L. Stine graphic novel adaptation Twilight Zone style. Wednesday.

Clash Of The Cover Bands (E!) – Meagan Trainor hosts the battle of the bands that no one was looking for. Wednesday.

Guilty Party (PARAMOUNT+) – Kate Beckinsale comedically crusades for a wrongfully convicted young mother. Thursday.

I Know What You Did Last Summer (AMAZON) – Now it's a series. Friday.

The Velvet Underground (APPLE TV+) – Documentary featuring the surviving members of the band. Friday.

The opioid crisis, even more sinning, and no ordinary Joe...

Dopesick (HULU)
Wednesday, October 13th

The opioid crisis has been profiled many times, but never before with a big cast led by Michael Keaton. This Barry Levinson directed eight-part series attempts to address every drug-related angle - big pharma, the government, and of course, a struggling mining town.

Michael Keaton is an all-time favorite actor for me. Forget Batman. He had me howling in Mr. Mom, Night Shift and Johnny Dangerously, and he shines in dramas like Birdman and Spotlight. He's one of my bankable stars, and I'll gladly watch him tackle the pharmaceutical industry.

The Sinner (USA)
Wednesday, October 13th 10pm Season 4

This under-the-radar Jessica Biel-produced drama returns for a fourth season featuring Bill Pullman as Detective Harry Ambrose. The creepy mysteries are intriguing to watch as our flawed hero attempts to decipher them. The Sinner is worthy of the "I didn't know this was on USA but it's good" distinction.

What crazy star will Harry track this time around? Season one starred Jessica Biel unexplainably losing it at the beach. Season two featured Carrie Coon and her crazy cult. Last season was professor Matt Bomer and a college pal. The mystery awaits....

Friday, October 15th Season 3

You is ridiculous. Joe Goldberg's love story from season one proved that. Beck, Peach, Candace... if you're looking for logic, you're in the wrong place. But there's lots of mind games, murder and literary references to enjoy.

If you're ready to bask in the ridiculousness, the latest season of this love-chasing drama is for you. Joe literally found Love in the second season, and she's just as crazy as he is. Now Joe and Love are married and raising a kid... do I even need to go on? Expect the unexpected.


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

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

Monday, October 4, 2021

TV Picks - Week of October 4

Did Princess Diana just pass away? If you turn on your TV, it certainly feels that way.

1997. That's when Lady Di was taken from us in a tragic car crash. 24 years ago. Elton rewrote "Candle In The Wind". The world mourned. Even the Queen was forced to honor her fallen nemesis.

Apparently everyone on the planet hasn't gotten enough of this wronged royal. It started earlier this year with the most recent season of The Crown and an Emmy nominated performance by Emma Corwin. You couldn't help but sympathize with the troubled young lady who became a princess yet suffered at almost every turn of her life.

More recently, the keyboardist from Bon Jovi helped create Diana: The Musical which you can watch now on Netflix before seeing it on Broadway (COVID permitting). Yes, Lady Di is on Broadway with plenty of singing and dancing.

But that's not all. Kristen Stewart will star in Spencer on movie screens everywhere next month. She certainly looks the part and will bring plenty of intrigue capturing the late royal's essence.

And this Sunday, CNN will take its turn in the ring with its own Diana docuseries at 9pm. The six-part event claims to reveal the person behind the princess with footage and interviews to reframe her legacy.

Don't all of these versions of Diana's life claim to do just that?

I get the royal family fascination, but Diana's saga is so much more. She was a real-life Cinderella to most of the world. A blonde beauty with a gorgeous smile who charmed Prince Charles (so we thought) and anyone in her presence. She was the commoner, the "one of us", who gained entrance into Buckingham Palace and wouldn't accept the status quo.

This all took place decades ago, but broadcast networks keep cranking out the specials. How many times can this story be told? We all know how it turns out in the end. Even Elton John grew tired of "Candle In The Wind" after the thousandth time it was played almost 25 years ago.

Prince Harry and Prince William have always had to deal with their late mother as a ratings grabber. This can't be easy for them, or maybe they've simply grown immune to it. A television documentary is one thing, but a Broadway musical? I'll tune in for the so-bad-its-good factor, but part of me is already cringing.

Diana Spencer left this world too soon. The CNN documentary does a good job chronicling her life and the legacy she left behind.

Now maybe it's time we leave Lady Di alone… just as she originally requested.

(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)

Escape The Undertaker (NETFLIX) – Wrestling trio The New Day look to survive a night at The Undertaker’s house in this interactive WWE themed special. Something tells me they'll make it. Debuts Tuesday.

Among The Stars (DISNEY+) – Six-part docuseries follows an astronaut repairing a multi-billion dollar spectrometer. Premieres Wednesday.

One Of Us Is Lying (PEACOCK) – Pretty little liars have a cruel summer! Starts Thursday.

Justin Bieber: Our World (AMAZON) – It's his world...we're just living in it. Arrives Friday.

Madame X (PARARMOUNT+) – It used to be Madonna's world - her Libson show from 2020 premieres Friday.

Legends Of The Hidden Temple (CW) – Olmec is back! This time it's in the jungle. Debuts Sunday at 8pm.

The best stand-up comedian and a return to the scene of the crime…

Dave Chappelle - The Closer (NETFLIX)
Tuesday, October 5th

No one is doing it better right now than Mr. Chappelle. He continues to tell it like it is in this sixth special for Netflix. Dave is harsh, but sometimes it hurts to hear the truth.

CSI: Vegas (CBS)
Wednesday, October 6th 9pm

The original CSI series is returning, and the franchise has been so successful that CBS feels compelled to attach the city of origin to its title. It all started in Las Vegas, folks. This should be called CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The One That Begat All The Others.

William Petersen, Jorja Fox, Wallace Langham and Paul Guilfoyle reprise their roles in the blood spatter crime scene investigation that started the craze. Naturally they'll be joined by the new breed of investigators who need to be taught by the master. The original was a game changer - let's hope this one can live up to the hype.

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

Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe!