John’s TV Roundup, 2017

We’re at the start of the fall TV season right now. In the age of cable TV, summer series, and streaming services, that’s not really the event that it used to be — You can watch new television episodes year round these days. But I figure it’s still as a good a time as any to take stock of the shows I’ve been watching (or trying to watch) this year and figure out where they stand with me. I’ll try to keep things as spoiler-free as I can. (I’m also including Amazon links in Bold throughout, so if you click on them & buy something, the AJS will get a small chunk of the sale.)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Rachel Bloom CW TV

The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend continues to be one of my favorite shows on TV. Rachel Bloom stars as Rebecca Bunch, a high-powered lawyer who irrationally moves across the country to West Covina, CA to pursue her childhood theatre camp crush, Josh Chang. I was already a fan of Bloom’s from her YouTube videos, but she’s just incredible on this show – hilarious, touching, screwed up, and sexy all at once. Oh, and did I mention the show’s a musical, to boot? Rebecca’s perceptions of reality are skewed, and one of the way the show expresses that is in big splashy musical numbers.

Here’s a sultry Bloom giving Marilyn Monroe a run for her money in “The Math of Love Triangles,” where Rebecca gets off on the ego boost of juggling two guys:

Here’s the downside of that same love triangle, as Rebecca finds that she can’t escape the ghosts of her past relationships with Josh and his best friend Greg:

And in “It Was a Shit Show,” Greg gives Rebecca a brutal assessment of their romance in a Frank Sinatra-style goodbye number:

I talked more about CEG and shared some other favorite musical numbers from it in this column. I can hardly wait for the third season premiere this Friday night, where Rebecca becomes a Crazy and Vengeful Ex-Girlfriend. I really hope that Santino Fontana’s Greg comes back some time this year, though. I miss him.

Timeless NBC TV season 1

NBC’s Timeless was one of the pleasant surprises of last season. I’m a sucker for a good time travel story, and this show has consistently delivered fun, original stories. I can’t say much more than Greg Hatcher already did in his columns about the show, so just go ahead and read those. I second everything he said. It’s a terrific show. I’m usually hard to surprise, but I was shocked by one of the twists they had in the season finale. I didn’t see it coming at all.

But the really amazing thing about Timeless is that the show came back from the dead. It was cancelled on May 10th, and then uncancelled a mere three days later, on May 13th. I’ve NEVER seen a TV network reverse itself so quickly, putting right what once went wrong.

Quantum Leap
Pictured: The NBC exec who renewed TIMELESS.

Let’s hope that when Timeless returns it starts getting the audience it deserves.

Flash Grant Gustin John Wesley Shipp Barry Allen Jay Garrick CW TV

Ever since an absolutely stellar first season, The Flash has steadily declined in quality. The second season, while still fun (Parallel Earths! The Jay Garrick Flash!), was a step down from season one, and season three was several steps down from that. On a show where the stories should move as fast as the title character, The Flash has gotten bogged down with plodding subplots. I’m sick of Caitlin agonizing about becoming Killer Frost, Barry revealing his secret identity at the drop of a hat, and yet another super-speedster master villain with a mystery identity. Here’s hoping that tomorrow’s 4th season premiere improves quickly and gets back to basics. The producers have already confirmed that the S4 Big Bad will not be another speedster, so that’s a start. I’m also glad that they’re starting to pare down the ridiculous number of characters of Team Flash and that Julian Desmond will not be returning this year. My nominees for further cuts: Wally/Kid Flash, Joe’s DA girlfriend, and the beyond-tiresome H.R. Give the wonderful Tom Cavanagh another, less obnoxious character to play, please.

Supergirl Mon-El CW TV

I gave up on both Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow early last season. While Melissa Benoist absolutely NAILS her role as the Girl of Steel, none of the other characters on Supergirl grab me. I also found the writing lackluster week after week. Same with Legends, despite my loving Brandon Routh and Victor Garber (It certainly didn’t help that the wonderful Wentworth Miller was downgraded to an occasional guest star). I’ve become very tired of the CW superhero formula where every hero needs a support team of at least a half-dozen other people to do anything. I’ll watch Supergirl, Legends and Arrow when they crossover with The Flash, but only then.

Deisgnated Survivor Kiefer Sutherland season 1 ABC TV

Last fall, I mentioned that I was enjoying ABC’s Designated Survivor, starring Kiefer Sutherland as a low-level Cabinet member who suddenly becomes President of the United States when a terrorist attack takes out the President, the Vice-President, and most of Congress during the State of the Union address. It was an interesting mix between 24 and The West Wing, as Sutherland’s character adjusted to being the leader of the free world as federal agents tried to uncover the perpetrators of the attack.

But after really enjoying the first dozen or so episodes, I have to admit that my interest quickly waned. I’m not really sure why. It could be that it’s a premise that can only sustain itself for a short amount of time (I’m frankly wondering if it might have been better as a limited series). Maybe the arc lost momentum after their mid-season break. Maybe our real-world political situation suddenly made the show look less absurd than real life. Maybe it’s some combination of all three. I don’t know. I was originally planning to finish out the first season, but when I found myself checking my phone halfway through an episode, I figured it was time to check out. Reading that the great Virginia Madsen wasn’t coming back as a regular for season two just confirmed that I’d made the right decision.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast Fox TV

Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a fun sitcom, and that’s pretty much all it aspires to be. On the rare occasions it deals with serious subjects, though, it does so very well. I was very impressed with “Moo Moo,” season four’s 16th episode, where Terry Crews’ character, Sergeant Terry Jeffords, was hassled by a prejudiced patrolman in his own neighborhood. But most of the time, the show is just a romp. The cast is stellar, without a weak link in the bunch. And hey, how can any Homicide fan not love Andre Braugher playing a cop again? I’m glad that B99 is back for a fifth season without missing a beat.

Justice League Action Space Cabby Cartoon Network TV

I’m honestly so-so on Justice League ActionSometimes I absolutely love it, sometimes I’m not too keen on it, but it’s certainly got enough creativity to keep me watching. Overall, it’s just good goofy fun. Each episode averages about 10 minutes, perfect for today’s short attention spans. Bottom line: It’s tough for me to entirely dislike a show that casts Carl Reiner as the Wizard Shazam, Hannibal Buress as Mr. Terrific, and Patton Oswalt as Space Cabby.

Mystery Science Theatre 3000 MST3K Jonah Ray Netflix TV

Speaking of Patton Oswalt, I haven’t been able to sample much of Netflix’s new Mystery Science Theater 3000 yet. It’s been sitting on my queue since it debuted, but it’s a lot harder for me to find the time to watch two-hour episodes than it used to be. So we’ll just put a pin in this one until I can give it a proper viewing.

Rick and Morty Adult Swim TV

I enjoy Rick and Morty, but I’m not as fanatical about it as most of its fanbase is. The Dan Harmon show that really captured my heart was Community, and that one was never the same after Harmon got fired at the end of season three, so I guess I’m a bit gun shy. But Rick and Morty is consistently funny, and uses its science fiction concepts to tell interesting stories and illuminate its characters. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Venture Bros Season 6 Adult Swim TV

It’s already been more than a year since season six of The Venture Bros. wrapped up, and we’re still more than a year away from when it returns in 2018, but that’s fine. I love this show unreservedly, and it’s always, always worth the wait. So take your time, Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick. I’ll still be watching whenever you return.

South Park Comedy Central TV

I officially gave up on South Park this year. I tapered off during season 20 due a combination of the show’s heavily serialized storylines and just general election burnout. I gave their season premiere a try in September to see if I wanted to come back to the fold, but I just wasn’t feeling it. And that’s okay. I watched it consistently for 19 years, and that’s a pretty great run for any television show. But I think I’m done.

Master of None Aziz Ansari season 2 TV Netflix

Netflix’s Master of None had a pretty stellar second season. Aziz Ansari has proven to be a thoughtful, charismatic leading man, as he delves into issues both universal and personal. The show had great material about struggling with with life, love, and career issues in New York City. I won’t say more as the show should really be seen rather than talked about. My favorite episode of the season was “First Date,” which captures the absurdities and frustrations of modern dating better than any other show I’ve seen. If you like this episode too, I also highly recommend Aziz’s book Modern Romance.

Glow season 1 Netflix TV

I enjoyed Netflix’s GLOW quite a bit. Community‘s Alison Brie plays against type as the at times very unsympathetic Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress in 1985 who gets a job with the brand-new Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. One of her new coworkers/opponents is her former best friend Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), whose marriage Ruth was responsible for breaking up. Marc Maron of WTF podcast fame also stars as writer-producer Sam Sylvia. It’s a nice mix of comedy and drama, and I’ll definitely be back for season two.

Love season 2 Netflix TVLove, another Netflix show, isn’t perfect, but it’s generally entertaining. I checked it out because it’s produced by Judd Apatow and it stars another Community alumna, Gillian Jacobs. Jacobs is wonderful as the severely flawed Mickey. Her performance alone makes Love worth watching. I just wish the show would realize that Paul Rust’s character of Gus is rather insufferable and not nearly as sympathetic and attractive as they seem to think he is. But since Rust is the co-creator and executive producer of the show, I’m not holding my breath.

Fargo season 3 TV

Fargo is another one I’ll have to put a pin into for a later time. While I absolutely LOVED the first two seasons, I still haven’t watched the third yet. I caught the first episode of season three when it premiered back in April, but I didn’t feel like I followed it as well as I could have. I was planning to rewatch it before I moved on to the rest of the season and, before I knew it, I had all 10 episodes built up on my DVR. That’s fine, though. It’s probably better for me to save these heavily-serialized shows for a binge watch, as all the plot points stay fresh in my mind that way.

Better Call Saul season 3 TV

I am absolutely loving AMC’s Better Call Saul. I was late to the party on Breaking Bad (I binged the entire series on Netflix streaming a couple of years ago), so it’s been fun tuning in to this show from Day One. It deftly avoids the traps of most spinoffs and prequels, and is no less compelling a narrative than its parent show.

And like its predecessor series, Better Call Saul is a slow-motion tragedy. We know from Breaking Bad how many of these characters will end up, and its both thrilling and harrowing to see them taking the steps that seal their fates. This last season, we not only saw Giancarlo Esposito return as Gus Fring, but Jimmy McGill use the alias “Saul Goodman” for the very first time. “It’s just a name,” he shrugs to Kim at the end of one episode. But we know it’s not just a name. Bit by bit, the corruption of Saul Goodman will take him over, until by the time of Breaking Bad, there’s nothing of Jimmy McGill left. Rhea Seehorn and Michael McKean are also doing absolutely stellar work on the show. My highest possible recommendation.

…And that’s pretty much it. I covered Series Four of Sherlock episode by episode when it aired back in January, and despite my absolutely hating the finale, I’m still looking forward to the show’s return. And I talked about Star Trek Discovery and The Orville here a couple of weeks ago.

Defenders Netflix TV

I’d like to talk about all the Marvel Netflix shows, but well… I still haven’t finished the first season of Daredevil. Great show, but life just got in the way. So I’m WAY behind there. I’ll catch up eventually, I hope. I haven’t sampled The Inhumans yet, either. The reviews have been horrible, but I’ve got a morbid curiosity about it. And now that I’ve finally signed up for Amazon Prime, I really need to watch the new Tick series, and…
…Remember when TV didn’t feel like a homework assignment that you were constantly behind on? Good times.

Blatant Self-Promotion Department: I’ve peppered this entire column with Amazon links to the shows discussed. If you click on them and buy something, the AJS will get a chunk of the sale, even if you’re not buying the thing I linked to. So help us out.

Thanks & see you next week!

20 Comments

  1. frasersherman

    I watched the first episode of Designated Survivor. When Kiefer Sutherland’s solution to avoiding a war with Iran was “We’re not going to attack — unless you attack first!” and this was apparently supposed to be totally out of the box thinking, I stopped.
    Inhumans; I can’t say it’s good, but it’s watchable, and for a superhero show that’s good enough. Well, sometimes. Gifted is better, but all the time I watched the pilot I kept thinking it was Tomorrow People S2.

  2. frasersherman

    When Timeless started I was ready to drop it as a somewhat better acted Time Tunnel. The conspiracy stuff with Rittenhouse made it more interesting — which is surprising as I’m pretty tired of secret conspiracies. But if I had to pick I’d go with Legends of Tomorrow.

  3. Alaric

    I tried to watch INHUMANS, but I couldn’t get even halfway through the first episode. There was a lot I liked about the visuals, but the writing and acting were horrible. It’s my new least-favorite MCU show/movie (replacing SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING). I should give it another try, though. Maybe it gets better.

  4. Le Messor

    “came back from the dead. It was … uncancelled a mere three days later, on May 13th. “

    Was that a Friday? … Because this is either a really freaky zombie-type thing or a weird Jesus metaphor.

    “The Dan Harmon show that really captured my heart was Community, and that one was never the same after Harmon got fired at the end of season three,”

    Hey, me three!

    I’ve got the first seasons each of The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends Of Tomorrow; and I’m strongly considering getting the rest. When do they get bad? (Well, you said for The Flash.)

    I’ve been considering doing a column on the Marvel Netflix shows… I’ve just got an invitation to watch Defenders on Friday (not all of it; we won’t be overnighting!). I’ve seen the rest now.
    I heard (from a comic shop guy in Colorado) that reviews of Inhumans were mixed.

    1. “I’ve got the first seasons each of The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends Of Tomorrow; and I’m strongly considering getting the rest. When do they get bad? (Well, you said for The Flash.)”

      Umm… Well, for my money, neither SUPERGIRL nor DCLOT ever got particularly GOOD. I talked a little about my misgivings about season one of SUPERGIRL here. Despite initially liking the second season premiere, my enthusiasm for it quickly dissipated. I actually checked out SUPERGIRL’s third season premiere out of boredom and curiosity tonight, and my opinion of the show is still largely unchanged. I still love Benoist in the role, but the show never really rises above “okay” for me.

      LEGENDS had a lot of growing pains in its first year, but it got a bit more fun in the second. But most of my patience for the show left along with Wentworth Miller, whose performance as Captain Cold skated right up to the edge of camp without ever tipping over.

      So I hope you enjoy them both more than I did.

  5. M-Wolverine

    Flash is still likable, but has all the problems you mentioned. The second season finale was where the problems really started. I’ll have a spoiler problem at the bottom.

    Supergirl has the same problem. I think this season wasn’t bad, but that show has the worst finales. And they Mary Sue’d the hell out of her by bringing in Superman.

    I actually liked Legends of Tomorrow Season 2 way better. The cast is better, minus Wentworth as you say, but it’s more that they realized it’s all ridiculous and doesn’t make any sense and just went Hellzapoppin balls to the wall with it all and said “don’t think, just have fun.” The Legion of Doom was great fun. Better than super serious why didn’t they just go back in time or any opportunity they had and kill Vandal Savage. Ugh.

    Designated Survivor is still interesting, but cheaping out on cast takes away some of the political intrigue, and the international intrigue was lost when it was all CONSPIRACY. Because we can’t offend anyone by seeing how the country would really deal with it if it ever happened. But still, Maggie Q.

    Same on JLA, hit or miss, and MSTK3, in my list, who has time?

    South Park is still the best of the animated. And yeah, I’d say 19 years is a good run. But at least they have episodes that hit now and then. Simpsons is so sad. But hey, anything is better than Family Guy.

    Watched season 1 of Fargo, and it just didn’t engage me like everyone else. Didn’t bother with season 2.

    I am up on all my Marvel Netflix if someone wants to go in on a back and forth. I actually was thinking of doing an Inhumans vs. Gifted article, but the weekend mess got in the way. I don’t hate Inhumans as bad as the reviews are. But it’s not really good either. It should never have been released to theaters, because I can see how it doesn’t look good as a movie. But an ok TV show. Gifted has promise.

    OK big Flash season 2/3 SPOILERS ….

    Re: the time changes, which are big, but a sadly minor point of it is the fact that he erased a friend of a friend’s child out of existence, and everyone is ok with that. OK, he replaced her with a him too, but I don’t care, even if I didn’t remember, I’d kill that mother fucker faster than he can run. How is everyone just “oh well” over that? And he did it for completely selfish reasons. Zoom was never that bad.

  6. I gotta say, we watch a lot of the same things, especially in regard to comedies, and I agree whole heartedly on Love and the character of Gus. It’s easy to root for Mickey but not Gus at all. I almost didn’t get past the first episode, because Mickey sleeps with her sleezy boss and Gus ends up in a threesome with sisters which weirds him out, and who wrote this? Oh yeah, the guy who gets in the threesome. It got better, but Gus never really does. Bertie can do no wrong though. Love her.

    On that note, I recommend The Good Place as the best comedy on TV right now, if you haven’t tried it. And I also enjoy The Last Man On Earth for the seriously dark comedy it is. I honestly can’t believe it’s still going. And Kimmy Schmidt is the funniest thing on Netflix by far. Also recommend! If you’ve tried all these and they’ve failed, well then – moving right along!

    Do the Amazon links work if you’re in Canada? Like, if I sign in on amazon.com and it redirects me to .ca will it still work? Got my eye on that Crazy Ex Girlfriend Season 2.

    1. Caanan, I made a quick edit on your comment while it was in moderation. You once typed “Gus” where you were clearly talking about Mickey, so I adjusted it. Just FYI.

      “On that note, I recommend The Good Place as the best comedy on TV right now, if you haven’t tried it.”

      I watched only the first episode of The Good Place, I think. But what I’ve read about the rest of the season intrigued me, and I think I’m going to give it another try on Netflix.

      “Do the Amazon links work if you’re in Canada? Like, if I sign in on amazon.com and it redirects me to .ca will it still work? Got my eye on that Crazy Ex Girlfriend Season 2.”

      That’s a great question that I don’t know the answer to. I bet Jim would know, though.

        1. It’s kind of ridiculous that I haven’t watched The Good Place yet, because I’m a fan of D’Arcy Carden (who plays Janet) from way back when she used to be a regular performer at a nearby suburban community theater. She was hilarious then, so I’m not surprised to hear she’s hilarious now.

  7. I’d like to think that the reason Jackson and Doc take the amount of time they do between seasons is because they’re keeping track of what we’re doing here at the Atomic Junk Shop. 😉

    And hoo boy, yeah, about feeling that keeping up with TV (or any pop culture any more) is like being perpetually behind on a homework assignment. This stuff shouldn’t feel like work!

    1. “And hoo boy, yeah, about feeling that keeping up with TV (or any pop culture any more) is like being perpetually behind on a homework assignment. This stuff shouldn’t feel like work!”

      It’s because most stuff, even sitcoms, is so serialized these days. It used to be if you missed an episode, it was no big deal. Now, you have to watch every episode or else you might miss something.

      And BTW, I watched the season 4 premiere of The Flash tonight and I really enjoyed it! They fixed most of the problems plaguing season 3, and most importantly, they got back to something resembling the status quo very quickly. If they can keep up this quality, we’re in for a great year!

      1. M-Wolverine

        I feel the same way about comics. It’s becoming a chore.

        TV, there’s sadly too much of the good stuff. Hundreds of channels, multiple streaming services, pay cable. Back in the “Golden Age” there were 3 networks, and truth be told most of it was garbage, even a lot of the “good” stuff. My DVR and Netflix list can only handle so much.

        Did like the Flash premiere (more than Supergirl). The motivation to recover was old school, but tried and true. Glad they listened and have a non-speedster bad guy. Legends was back with don’t think too hard fun.

        1. Le Messor

          ‘Chore’ isn’t the word I’d use, but it’s getting harder to pick. There’s just so much available now – new and old – that I wanna watch.

          Luckily for me, I have ‘genre allergies’; I won’t watch anything that’s not either spec-fic or comedy, so that narrows the field a lot.

          1. frasersherman

            I’ll watch other stuff, but simply because there’s so much specfic out there, I rarely do. I did get through the first season of Quantico, simply because the female lead was hot, but I pretty much used it (as a friend of mine says) as a talking lamp.

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