A month has passed since I finished my Everwood re-watch after I started it five years ago. The network television season began shortly thereafter. A slew of shows premiered, including NBC’s This Is US, which received the most uniformly positive reviews. Critics favored network comedies more than dramas. Speechless on ABC received special praise. Michael Schur’s The Good Place, starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell, was an anticipated show, especially for fans of Parks & Recs and The Office. Most sighed sadly at the return of Kevin James to CBS comedy, the revival of MacGyver, and the Dr. Phil inspired procedural titled Bull. Last week began the return of The CW’s superpowered series, as well as the premiere of their curious new dramas, one of which is an adaptation of 2000’s Frequency, another which is an adaption of the Archie comics, and a third that follows a couple destined to be together by fate as they complete their bucket list before the world ends.
I watched little of the various networks’ new offerings. This Is Us is passable tear-jerky melodrama, but it’s heavy-handed and relies on contrivances to build drama and potential conflict. I enjoyed Speechless, but it’s no different from ABC’s other comedies. In fact, I’ll a reveal a secret to anyone reading right now. ABC has made the same comedy show for the last eight seasons. Modern Family, The Middle, The Goldbergs, Blackish, Fresh Off the Boat…they are the same. If you watch their comedy block, you’ll think you watched the same episode four times. No wonder Steve Levitan and the other show runners wrap for the day at 5PM.
Instead of network sitcoms and dramas, I watched more cable and premium channel shows, on FX and HBO, mostly. Donald Glover’s Atlanta follows the Louie formula, and it’s been good. It’s grounded, but surreal, too, as in the Justin Bieber episode, or the YouTube star one, or the two short scenes with the kid in whiteface serving in school suspension. I meant to watch Better Things from Pamela Adlon, but I haven’t yet. I watched two episodes of Westworld. The star of the show so far is the Utah wilderness. Westworld’s stuck in sci-fi tropes. Nolan and Joy want to explore consciousness, how it forms, and what it means, but they’re caught up in the typical tropes of sci-fi, and bound by Crichton’s book. Thus, they can only tease at those ideas of consciousness, ideas that work better in prose than in the televisual medium. It’s a huge narrative world filled with diverse characters but at its root is a story of good and evil--unless the writers have planned to subvert the traditional symbols of good and evil in westerns (the white hat and the black hat; the man in black and Ford, who wears white), and the narrative world the audience knows. Westworld’s already saturated in sci-fi and western tropes, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, John Donne, and Gertrude Stein, with Stein being the trickiest allusion, though an apt one for the show because of her dedication to the structure and style of the sentence might inform the structure, style, and substance of the robot soul.
I watched episode one of Issa Rae’s Insecure during the week and really liked it. Sure, it has the trappings of the typical NY-based sitcom, but Issa Rae’s voice, as Dan Fienberg pointed out in his review, sets Insecure apart from the other shows based in New York City around twentysomethings trying to find themselves in life and in love, but, of course, I’ve been slowly charmed by more and more hipsterish NY comedies, most recently by some of Girls’ last season, and Master of None, and Broad City.
Another show based in New York City and Brooklyn that completely surprised me and sort of dazzled me is HBO’s High Maintenance, created by Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair. The show follows a nameless weed dealer across the city as he delivers weed to his clients. The previews and the premise didn’t interest me one bit but, sometimes, one cannot judge a show based on previews and premises, and High Maintenance was the opposite of my expectations. I caught some of the second episode and remained transfixed for the next eighteen minutes. The third episode transfixed me more. I haven’t even told anyone I know about the show. It airs at 11 on a Friday night. TV blogs don’t devote exhaustive and overwhelming coverage to it like they do for Girls. I’d bet a pack of frozen spinach on none of my friends or wellwishers knowing that High Maintenance exists. I should perhaps write more about impresses me and arrests me about the show, but I can’t do that yet. For anyone reading, and there’s not a lot of you, give the third episode a chance. It’s titled “Grandpa”.
As for what’s ahead in The Foot, my reviews of The Vampire Diaries will resume next weekend. It’s the final season, and I’ll be closer to the TV blog equivalent of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria. Gratias misericors Dominus. NBC pushed Grimm’s premiere date to January 6, 2017 after announcing the show will end after six seasons. I will write reviews for what promises to be a baffling, incoherent, and nonsensical farewell season because, as evidenced by Everwood, I like to finish what I start.
THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEKEND