Monday, December 20, 2021

TV Picks - Week of December 20

2021 has been a bizarre year.

Everything changed yet so many things stayed the same. We have a vaccine, but COVID and its new Greek letter is spreading everywhere. There's a new President, but the country remains divided and as angry as ever. Tom Brady is the quarterback of the defending Super Bowl champion.

TV was no different. Seinfeld relocated. Yellowstone runs on Paramount Network but streams on Peacock (and not the current season). Reality dating shows continue to be anything but real. There were plenty of new offerings on different platforms, but it was difficult for many new shows to break through.

It's impossible for me to limit my picks this year to just ten shows, so let’s begin with a few honorable mentions, starting with five shows (and/or seasons) I haven't yet watched but I hear are great and might well have made my list had I completed them in time: Midnight Mass (NETFLIX), We Are Lady Parts (PEACOCK), Reservation Dogs (FX), What We Do In The Shadows Season 3 (FX), and Yellowstone Season 4 (PARAMOUNT NETWORK).


Last Chance U (NETFLIX)
This season they switched to basketball. The drama remains the same.

Cobra Kai (NETFLIX)
I got an advance copy of the fourth season. Can't wait for the fifth.

Love On The Spectrum (NETFLIX)
I despise reality dating shows… except this one. It's a heartwarming and honest look into what dating is truly all about.


Leaving an abusive relationship leads to housecleaning and soul searching.

Cruel Summer (FREEFORM)
Great pilot, and it does a decent job of keeping the mystery alive throughout. Jeanette Turner, I hope you rot in hell!

Big Shot (DISNEY+)
John Stamos coaches a female high school basketball team in one of the most charming series of the year.

WandaVision (DISNEY+)
Wanda and Vision are living it up in the suburbs, until they're not. The best of the Marvel minor character TV spinoffs.


Get Back (DISNEY+)
I could watch another eight hours of The Beatles creating music that will last a lifetime.

1971 - The Year That Music Changed Everything (APPLE TV+)
Music was never more powerful and made a real difference in society. Focuses on all different genres in a truly magical year.


I’ve limited my list this year to episodic shows (otherwise Get Back would appear here), and shockingly there's not one network program on the list. More than half of the shows are new, which is exciting. There were a plethora of great shows this year, but I thought these ten were the best of the best.

10. Dopesick (HULU)
Powerful stuff and slightly preachy, but this drama with a stacked cast breaks the Sackler family and big pharma down from multiple angles. Kaitlyn Dever, Michael Keaton, Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg give riveting performances.

9. Ted Lasso (APPLE TV+)
The bar was set ridiculously high, and season two could not possibly have the impact of first one, but this is still one heck of a show. Charm has not escaped Ted and his "football" team and the Emmy winning acting performances remain top notch. I have a feeling the focus will shift back to Ted for the third season. We're Richmond 'til we die.

8. Narcos: Mexico (NETFLIX)
The third season of this show flew under a lot of people's radar - just like certain elements of the Mexican drug cartel. Following The Wire's proven template, there are no good guys in the cartels, government agencies or the press. Chapo is coming, but who and what he followed is an incredible ride.

7. Only Murders In The Building (HULU)
You can never go wrong with Steve Martin and Martin Short. This mystery got better with each episode as the guest stars joined the cast. Selena Gomez more than holds her own with the two comedy geniuses. It keeps you laughing and guessing until the end, and even a little bit more after that.

6. The White Lotus (HBO)
This quirky Hawaiian resort tale caught everyone's attention with some unique characters and genuine surprises. It drips with satire as the guests and staff live on the edge of tropical paradise. The razor-sharp writing of Mike White, aka School of Rock's Ned Schneebly, finally gets its due.

5. Squid Game (NETFLIX)
Everyone told me I had to watch. I'm so glad I did. A version of The Hunger Games that hits violently and emotionally hard. Every episode packs a surprise as the games progress and you grow more attached to the participants. Shot well, quirky and definitely not your typical series.

4. Hacks (HBO MAX)
Jean Smart shows how it's done playing an aging Vegas comedian who works with a youthful comedic scribe. Funny, poignant and smart writing performed by an actress who charms and stings is a winning combination.

3. For All Mankind (APPLE TV+)
One of the best second seasons you'll ever see. The space race continues with the Russians in the lead (or are they?). Tremendous effects, fine acting and some of the best writing on television with a killer finale.

2. Mare of Easttown (HBO)
Kate Winslet pulls off the eastern PA accent with aplomb. Dark story in a dark town where everyone's life is falling apart. The murder becomes the least interesting thing as this small town struggles to heal all the way through. Then you find out who did it.

1. Succession (HBO)
I'm big enough to admit when I'm wrong, and I was wrong about this award-winning drama. My big criticism is that there are no redeemable characters to root for. That remains true. But this ten-episode third season comes out swinging and does not stop until the riveting finale. The Roy family is a conflicted one, but boy are they entertaining. After all, it's all about winning.


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

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

Happy holidays! I’ll see you in 2022.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

TV Picks - Week of December 13

It's the most wonderful time of the year… on your TV screen!

Television is the gift that keeps on giving. Endless options for fans of any genre. Networks, cable, streamers -- you name it, there's quality programming to be had. Movies, reality, sports, documentaries… click and ye shall receive!

I'm a proud member of the Critics Choice Association. I take my television quite seriously, and the coolest part of being a member is the screeners that arrive between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a great way to catch up on movies and TV that might have slipped through the cracks in 2021.

Next week I'll focus on the best shows of the year, but right now I find myself returning to some old favorites. Don't get me wrong… there's plenty of new stuff worth watching. But right now, I'm craving comfort food.

There's tons to catch up on or see for the first time on your favorite streamer(s), but sometimes it just feels good to enjoy some familiar faces. This week provides a primer on an all-time great, the latest chapter of the best show of its kind, and some proven holiday classics.

Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street (HBO Monday at 10pm)
The Children's Television Workshop launched my career when I was a toddler learning how to get to Sesame Street. I've written before about the powerful influence of the early Muppets, and this documentary explores the early history of America's favorite kids show. Here's hoping for plenty of Grover and that bald blue mustached guy who kept finding a fly in his soup.

Survivor 41 (CBS Wednesday at 8pm)
Condensed season. Pandemic. Rule changes. Not a problem. Jeff Probst has done it again with the best reality competition show on network television. Twice a year I am fully invested in individuals whose names I'll never remember as they outwit, outplay and outlast the competition. The finale is always full of surprises (my money is on Xander), and then it's on to Season 42! Take me to Fiji now.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (PBS Sunday, now streaming on Apple TV+)
Holiday specials come and go, but this is one that tells you what Christmas is really all about. It also features some fantastic piano jazz and the finest cartoon dancing you'll ever see. I love Rudolph, the Grinch and the Miser brothers, but that little tree and the Peanuts gang get me every time.

The Sound Of Music (ABC Sunday 8pm)
The hills are alive and as cheesy as ever. This is the equivalent of watching The Ten Commandments when Passover/Easter rolls around. The Von Trapps do their thing accompanied by some of the most memorable show tunes ever written. Laugh, cry and sing along as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter. The Sound of Music will always be one of my favorite things.

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

American Auto (NBC) – A comedy about a Detroit auto company trying to keep up with the times. Monday at 8pm.

Grand Crew (NBC) – Six pals hang out a wine bar… clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. Tuesday at 8pm.

Shatner In Space (AMAZON) – Captain Kirk completes his quest for the final frontier with some help from Jeff Bezos. Wednesday.

MacGruber (PEACOCK) – First a sketch, then a movie, and now a streaming series with Will Forte in the title role. Thursday.

Finding Magic Mike (HBO MAX) – Regular guys compete for a chance to join the cast of the Magic Mike Live stage show in Las Vegas. Thursday.

A fictional pandemic and old school Duttons…

Station Eleven (HBO MAX)
Thursday, December 16th

Ready for a series centered around battling a flu that devastates the planet? No, it's not a documentary. This adaptation of the award-winning novel focuses on multiple timelines during an apocalypse. The fiction of 2014 became the fact of 2020.

This ten-parter has a loaded cast and plenty of pandemic to go around. Remind yourself that this is entertainment and you're not watching a news channel.

Sunday, December 19th

The Dutton family has been on that ranch for a long, long time. This streaming-only prequel sets the stage as the Duttons travel across the plains in post-Civil War America.

Sam Elliot (who else?), Tim McGraw and Faith Hill pave the way for Kevin Costner and crew in the next century surrounded by beautiful country and not-so friendly neighbors. If you're looking for more Yellowstone, here's your fix.

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

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

Monday, December 6, 2021

TV Picks - Week of December 6

And just like that… there's a new chapter in Carrie Bradshaw’s diary. The much-hyped HBO Max Sex and the City revival premieres this Thursday, and it will answer the age-old question – how many times can you go to a well full of shoes?

Sex and the City started as a show my wife watched that I paid some attention to while working on my computer. It was vibrant, funny and lived up to the billing of its title (although like many others I thought it was Sex IN the City). The fashion stuff escaped me, but I'm not the target audience for Carrie's closet.

Seventeen years have passed since the ladies said goodbye to Sunday nights on HBO. It’s been thirteen years since the first feature film. I'll have the decency not to mention the second one. HBO Max felt enough time has passed to catch up with Carrie and crew one more time.

Cue the samba… here comes And Just Like That. Who doesn't want to see these women age gracefully? Miranda has gone grey, Charlotte has a teenage daughter, and Carrie is guesting on podcasts. Sexually charged Samantha (Kim Cattrall) will sit this one (actually all ten episodes) out, and the new show's first big test will be how they handle her raunchy absence.

The strength of Sex and the City has always been the bond these women share in their never-ending quest looking for (and in most cases landing) Mr. Right. In their thirties, this led to plenty of memorable sex talk and adventure. In their fifties and down one member, there's going to be a lot of reminiscing and navigating the problems of women at a certain age. Husbands Steve, Harry and Mr. Big are still part of the mix. Carrie's old flame Aiden and Mr. Big's ex Natasha show up as well… all solid choices.

Watching beloved characters "grow up" as nostalgia pours over you can be a winning formula. Cobra Kai was nominated for an Emmy after it cleverly built off the 80's lessons of Mr. Miyagi. We love seeing familiar faces, but good writing and subtle winks at the audience are where the magic really happens.

Another huge challenge will be introducing younger characters to help open up the show. It won't be as obvious as four clones of the stars at a younger age, and my guess is all genders and races will be fairly represented. Many shows have miserably failed at this handoff, but you must broaden the audience to keep things fresh.

The final part of the equation is the city itself. New York City has always been the true love of Carrie's life, and the choice to present it as a fairy tale instead of one full of masks is an interesting one. Making your way through Manhattan has always been a vital element of the show. Can’t wait to see SJP plastered all over MTA buses once again.

I'm honestly not sure exactly what to expect from And Just Like That (I didn’t receive a screener). When Carrie excitedly responds to her "table for three," lets hope it's worth taking a seat for.

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

A Very Boy Band Holiday (ABC) – Members of your favorite boy bands are older and celebrating the holidays with the requisite sprinkling of cheese. Monday at 8pm.

Landscapers (HBO) – Two bodies are discovered in a proper English couple's (Olivia Colman and David Thewlis) backyard. Monday at 8pm.

VOIR (NETFLIX) – David Fincher's documentary series featuring essays on favorite films. Monday.

2021 People's Choice Awards (NBC) – Who exactly are these people, and why do we care about their choices? Tuesday at 8pm.

Greatest Holiday Commercials Countdown 2021 (The CW) – The definition of lazy cost-effective December programming. Sunday at 9pm.

Mrs. Garrett, Arnold Drummond and Robert Stigwood…

Live In Front Of A Studio Audience (ABC)
Wednesday, December 8th 8pm

You take the good, and (hopefully) not the bad. Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life get the Jimmy Kimmel live production treatment to satisfy our nostalgic television needs.

The key, as always, is the stunt casting. John Lithgow as Mr. Drummond along with Kevin Hart and Damon Wayans as Arnold and Willis sounds like a winner. Ann Dowd does double duty as Mrs. G joining Jennifer Aniston, Kathryn Hahn, Gabrielle Union and Alison Tolman as the fabulous Eastland four. If Clooney doesn't cameo, I'll be disappointed.

Mr. Saturday Night (HBO)
Thursday, December 9th 8pm

No, this isn't the 1992 Billy Crystal film. Australian businessman Robert Stigwood is the focus of this music doc. He's primarily responsible for the disco explosion of the 1970s and benefactor of the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time.

Stigwood's career was more than just buying the rights to an article about the New York disco scene that evolved into John Travolta hitting the Brooklyn dance floor. Eric Clapton, The Bee Gees, and many other artists were affected by this entrepreneur who was always willing to take a chance.

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

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

TV Picks - Week of November 29

After a COVID imposed break, the live TV musical format is set to return this Thursday at 8pm when NBC gives it another go with Annie Live!, starring everyone's favorite orphan.

My daughters are big Annie fans. When they were growing up, the soundtrack was a staple in our car as my wife and I drove them from activity to activity. So what better way to break down this new TV musical's chances then going song by song…

Overture - The universal popularity of Annie should not be underestimated. Carol Burnett, Kathy Bates, Jamie Foxx, Audra McDonald and other A-Listers have appeared in different versions over the years. My first Broadway musical was Annie featuring Sarah Jessica Parker as one of those orphans living a hard knock life. Every school in America has staged this musical, so the familiarity is there.

Maybe - Networks continue to contemplate putting musicals on television, but NBC simply will not give up. Ratings have consistently dropped for these performances, but a universally beloved story with theater geeks everywhere is too tempting to resist. Can they ever match the buzz Carrie Underwood generated when she starred in The Sound Of Music? Maybe.

It's The Hard Knock Life - Peter Pan, Grease, The Wiz, Rent, The Little Mermaid… many of these stage musicals were more of a joke than an event. The intrigue is the live element. There should be constant reminders that this performance is live. Many tune in for the "car crash appeal." The potential for something to go wrong keeps viewers hooked. Sandy might have an accident… that should keep us on the edge of our seats!

Tomorrow - The early showstopper, and eternal hope for success. Lead actress Celina Smith and Taraji P. Henson as Miss Hannigan bring some much needed diversity to the show. Harry Connick Jr. was born to play Daddy Warbucks. Titus Burgess and Megan Hilty play our favorite farm animal and dumb hotel. The stars are out, and NBC has its sunglasses on hoping the sun will follow.

I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here - Taraji P. Henson is one of few actresses who can truly own the TV screen and captivate an audience. She made her mark during the past decade in Person of Interest and Empire. She is a performer who should thrive on live TV and is perfectly cast as Miss Hannigan.

You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile - Oh there will be plenty of smiling and dancing all over the screen. Some love the cheesiness of an old musical while others can't stand it. As long as viewers are smiling, NBC won't care about the reason why.

Little Girls - Celina Smith has her work cut out for her. You need a great little orphan to carry the show. She needs to be cute, charming, and have one heck of a voice. It's a deceptively difficult part to excel at as all eyes are on you. Original Annie Andrea McArdle was set to play Eleanor Roosevelt, but she had to back out due to a family matter. Maybe Alicia Morton is available?

NYC - This production should absolutely hit the streets of Manhattan for some live reactions. Special live elements like that can help set the show apart from its predecessors. And it's the greatest city in the world, so why not show it off?

Easy Street - When classic Broadway musicals originally returned to television, execs assumed they would be sure things. Must-see events. There's nothing a network enjoys more than a bankable type of program, but the stunt casting and show title has started to run dry. They'd love to be back on Easy Street.

Something Was Missing - The audience. Until Hamilton made its way to Disney Plus, viewers simply have not been tuning in. The combination of holiday spirits, a diverse cast, and plenty of promos is an attempt to bring them back.

I Don't Need Anything But You - A final message from NBC. They will attempt to put a memorable production. But if no one watches, it could be the death knell for the TV musical. NBC needs an audience… but it's going to be tough on a Thursday night.

Will Annie Live! be must see TV? As the famous little orphan loves to sing — "Maybe."


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

Holiday Specials (ALL NETWORKS) – Brace yourself: Thanksgiving is over and the season of countless specials on every network has begun.

That's My Jam (NBC) – Sneak peek of Jimmy Fallon's new celeb-packed game show – get ready for heartfelt wackiness! Monday at 10pm.

Christmas At Rockefeller Center (NBC) – Annual reminder of why it's the most wonderful time of the year. Wednesday at 8pm.

Lost In Space (NETFLIX) – The third and final season of a family that's out there. Wednesday

Pen15 (HULU) – Part two of the second season of Maya and Anna grinning and bearing it. Friday.

Money Heist (NETFLIX) – Part two of the fifth season as the gang contemplates surrender. Friday.

Pre-heated ovens and smooth jazz…

Baking It (PEACOCK)
Thursday, December 1st

Just what we need… another heartfelt baking show. But this one is co-hosted by Andy Samberg and Maya Rudolph and produced by Amy Poehler. That guarantees some laughs.

Teams of two compete is a baking competition judged by a panel of four grandmothers. The folks behind Making It clearly studied The Great British Baking Show and are banking on good food and big yuks.

Listening To Kenny G (HBO)
Thursday, December 1st 8pm

Oh, that soprano sax. Goof on Kenny G all that you want… he's laughing all the way to the bank. Doesn't matter if you love him or hate him as long as you're paying attention to the music.

This documentary weighs what makes "good" or "bad" music and why some of us care so much about soft jazz. Perhaps the joke is on us?

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

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