The new season of The Walking Dead premieres this week… and that's all I'm going to write about it. It wasn't too long ago that TWD was a true sensation, eating television audiences alive. But lousy writing and cast defections sent the zombie audience elsewhere. There was a time I never missed an episode, but a few seasons later I couldn’t bring myself to watch a single one.
Great TV shows are often only great for a season or two; it's nearly impossible to stay on top. I created a website that thoroughly explored that phenomenon. Comedies are much more difficult to sustain than dramas (with or without zombies). The days of Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, The Big Bang Theory or any long-lasting top-rated sitcom are long gone. And I'm not just picking on network TV here. Cable networks and streamers develop quick hits, but the drop-off going into season two is often notable.
Sometimes it's the writing. Or actors moving on to other projects with bigger paychecks. Frustrated showrunners find greener pastures. The audience is fickle, and with the amount of programming being served up these days, you better provide a reason to come back. Extended time away leaves viewers looking for more, and it's easy to be forgotten.
Enter The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
The Amazon sitcom was an absolute sensation during its first season only five years ago. Critically hailed for its Palladino writing and stellar performances, the stay-at-home Jewish mom turned comedian won over audiences and took home awards. It was fresh, different, and we couldn't get enough of it. The dialogue was sharp, the jokes were funny, there was family strife, and Midge's plight was well worth the follow. Her secret was safe with her father, Abe, and all the acclaim was well deserved.
Season two tried to build on its winning premise, and Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein led the way with some award-winning acting. It was obvious the budget was increased kicking things off in Paris and showing off exotic exteriors. Mrs. Maisel had enjoyed some success, and its creators were making the most of it. But everyone was learning about her Midge's secret side career and the mystery was slowly evaporating. She wasn't as marvelous… she was becoming more mainstream.
Time progressed and beloved characters began to feel like caricatures. Mrs. Maisel had a rocky climb up the ladder of comedic success and started to get noticed. Ex-husband Joel is suddenly opening a nightclub. Her father Abe is no longer a professor. Plot lines got more outlandish, and focus drifted away from what made the show work — a single mother's struggle to make it as a comedian in the 1950's.
The third season followed Midge on tour opening for smooth singer Shy Baldwin, who's hiding in the closet. Lenny Bruce makes a triumphant Miami return. Susie is managing Sophie who wants to be a dramatic actress and Rose is out in Oklahoma with her estranged family. What the heck is going on here? It was easy to get lost in season three which ends up at the Apollo Theater. As the plane takes off at the end of the season, Midge gets left behind along with the remaining viewing audience.
Season number four arrives this Friday with episodes dropping on a weekly basis. Mrs. Maisel will enter the 1960's back in Manhattan with a chip on her shoulder. The cast is back where it all started. The talent is still on tap, but the novelty is long gone.
GREATEST HITS (Really Good Shows You May Not Have Seen)
This Week's Pick: Freaks & Geeks (HULU) Paul Feig and Judd Apatow's one season wonder was way ahead of its time. The cast is recognizable, but they were unknowns back when this comedy premiered on NBC with one of the best pilots ever written. You'll never hear Styx the same way.
Previous Picks: Patriot (AMAZON) Battlestar Galactica (PEACOCK) The Split (AMAZON) Bordertown (NETFLIX) Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)
FOREIGN AFFAIRS (International Hits)
Aftertaste (ACORN) – An Australian celebrity chef returns to his hometown following a memorable fall from grace. Monday.
THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT! (Shows That I Hope To Get To!)
State Of The Union (SUNDANCE) – A married couple regularly meets for a drink before their counseling sessions. Season 2 kicks off Monday at 10pm.
Icahn: The Restless Billionaire (HBO) – Carl Icahn made a lot of money from incredibly lucrative business deals. Tuesday at 9pm.
Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy (NETFLIX) – Learn why many consider Kanye West to be a musical genius, or just ask him yourself. Wednesday.
Abraham Lincoln (HISTORY) – Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin produced this 8-hour documentary about Honest Abe. Sunday at 8pm.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Severance (APPLE TV+) Friday, February 18th
Ben Stiller is a bankable director. If he's at the helm of the project, I will be watching. His last TV effort Escape From Dannemora was a thrilling seven-parter from beginning to end. Genre doesn't matter — Ben gets it done.
This new series explores work/life balance in a unique way. Adam Scott stars as a guy who literally splits his time and is two completely different people. One half is trapped working all day while the other is busy exploring life. Severance explores life inside and outside of the office and leaves you wondering which way is better.
Last Week Tonight (HBO) Sunday, February 20th 10pm
There's a reason John Oliver wins all those Emmys. TV’s most innovative current talk show returns for its ninth season with plenty of subject matter to explore. He consistently informs as he entertains and takes no prisoners when stating opinions.
Celebs are now plentiful (George Clooney is summoned with a finger snap), but the show hasn't lost its edge. Since leaving his COVID void, the spirit of early Letterman is alive and kicking on a show that never takes itself too seriously or fail to deliver the laughs. It's good to smile as the world falls apart around us.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe!