What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

May 29, 2014

Post TV critic Hank Stuever talked about what's bad, good and so bad it's good on TV.

Here's what Hank would watch if he wasn't paid to watch TV: "Game of Thrones," "House Hunters," "The Amazing Race," "The Suze Orman Show." And he recently gave "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" a good review. Lately he's been digging "The Americans," "Turn" and "Silicon Valley."

Greetings once again -- we talk about television here every Thursday. Let's go ...

I have it on DVR but am debating whether to watch it. For the record, I really enjoyed The Joe Schmo Show on Spike and thought Joe Millionaire and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance were amusing. Faux reality is a rich mine, I think ... but this just looks TOO bad. Thoughts?

I looked at it for about five minutes and that was all the brain cells I thought I could spare from my dwindling supply. You sound like you're game for it, so if it's permission you seek, I suppose we'll have to give it to you. Did you read Emily Yahr on it?

One of my favorite summer TV shows is Franklin & Bash on USA. Do you know if it will be coming back on this summer?

You love it so much you've forgotten what network it's on. F&B is scheduled to return for season 4 on Aug. 13 on TNT.

I'm sorry. Could they put any more cliches into 45 minutes?? No wonder it's in Summer Progamming

I don't think this even counts as summertime programming. I watched an episode and decided it wasn't even worth writing a review. (Same goes for "Undateable.")

Unwatchable?

Undigestable.

Did I miss an episode, or did HBO take Memorial Day off?

Episode 8, with the end of the Tech Crunch Disrupt conference, will air this Sunday (June 1), which concludes the season. The show will be back next year. (HBO did take Memorial Day off, though, in order to show "The Normal Heart." GoT is back this Sunday too.)

I've been watching, but mostly as background noise. It is the epitome of what the Divine Ms. Lisa D would have called craptastic. I was more bothered by Boy Meets Boy a decade or so ago...that bachelor had no reason to think 1/3 of the contestants were straight. These women should know better.

I checked your recent list and was dismayed to see That Rake was cancelled. Did you think the show deserved another season? I love shows w/ quirky, flawed characters rather than the rich and beautiful.

I thought "Rake" was fine -- Greg Kinnear is pretty much always good -- but the ratings went splat. People who liked the show supplied the usual excuses: wrong night, midseason, not enough marketing support, et cetera and so on.

Would Robert Morse be eligible for an Emmy this year? That "Best Things in Life are Free" number was great!

I'm not sure that particular scene would technically fit the Emmy deadline date, but actors are never nominated for specific scenes anyhow.

People are raving about that musical flourish as a walk-off until the show resumes in 2015. (Could it have just ended there?) Personally, it gave me a corny "Moonlighting" flashback, and I like "Mad Men" the least when it lapses into the hallucinatory, but it was a very dear thing to see for that particular character in that particular way. Top musical number in "Mad Men" for me is still Megan Draper's "Zou Bisou Bisou."

What did you all think?

No. The more I think about it (and I don't know why I'm even devoting any brain cells to this mess), the more upset I get at it. The premise is that he wants to see if love can survive once the ruse is revealed? He's just lied to them over a period of multiple weeks to trick them into believing he's someone he's not. I'd argue that if anyone would stay with him after that, they're a victim of domestic abuse, not a hero of unshallowness. And we're supposed to laugh at the crass Americans in comparison to the worldly Brit? How unfair to these women who are in a situation where they can't really come of as anything but dumb (they are literally being pushed every second into believing this guy is Harry so how can you laugh at them for believing it's Harry) and if this guy is the example of British men then no thanks. Did that just get a little ranty? This show makes me ranty, like the crass American I am.

Rant away!

I'm behind on my TV watching, but have a weekend alone to catch up. Should I watch this season of Modern Family or Community?

Hmmm, I don't know. Both are good, but I wouldn't want to binge an entire season of either in one weekend. If you were a "Community" fan the whole way through, then you probably owe it to yourself to start with its redemptive final season, which fans really seemed to like. (Which may not be so final -- rumors are still aswirl that Hulu or someone will order new episodes.)

Besides Mitch and Cam's wedding, all you missed on "Modern Family," as far as I can recall, is that the kids are really growing up, especially Manny and Luke. Lilly's got a bad case of the Cousin Olivers.

If that viewer liked the US version, they should check Netflix or on-demand for the original Australian one!

Oh, right! We sometimes forget that almost none of our TV shows are original.

This show just gets even more twisted in both characters and plot! How many episodes are left?

There are 10 episodes, which I think means three left after this week? (I'm a couple of weeks ahead and I'm not going to say anything else, because it gets even more surprising.) The last one airs June 17.

I strongly recommend "Fargo" for anyone who hasn't tried it yet. I think we were all leery of the need to make a TV show out of it, but it has really paid off.

One of the Best Series this year. Do you think it will get any Emmy love?

It better. I think this season was about as perfect as it gets. I can't do anything about Emmys, but I did nominate it in every possible category for this years Television Critics Association awards, which are given out in July at the summer press tour.

How are the ratings for Nurse Jackie? I used to watch but have found it difficult this season. Why do they all it a comedy?

Why do they CALL it a comedy? I think that's more about it being 30 minutes long instead of an hour. I agree that "Nurse Jackie" has been hard to take this season, but I also think it's been better than ever -- just gripping as the season comes to an end. Ratings, schmatings. It's been renewed.

Although "Zou Bisou Bisou" number was better as a number, Joan's time on the accordion was more defining, because she was being laughed at by her husband's friends and she got no support from him. I hope we find out he got fragged in Vietnam before this show finishes.

Forgot about that -- thanks for the laugh.

the final season is near. . .

I heard he gets murdered by the Manson family.

"Lilly's got a bad case of the Cousin Olivers." I don't get the reference.

Oh, come on, it's a "Brady Bunch" reference. When the Brady kids got older and too groovy, they brought in Cousin Oliver (Robbie Rist), a precocious child. And the comparison ends there, because "Modern Family's" Lilly is doing a lot better. (Did you see her on the revolving dry-cleaning rack? So great.)

You may not watch it for the rest of the skits, but her send-up of "Chopped" was totally spot on! It just about had me rolling off my couch. How have her ratings been?

I think her show has been great this season. One of my favorite sketches was the "Hello, M'Lady" phone app. Ratings are only way to measure "Inside Amy Schumer's" worth to Comedy Central. (About 900,000 watch it on TV this week or within a day of it airing.) The extra gold is, of course, online buzz. You can totally make someone's day by dropping a well-chosen dollop of Amy Schumer into your news feed. People go bonkers.

Is the World Wars mini-series on History worth watching? I have it on my DVR since I think History usually makes very good mini-series (Hatfields, The Bible). Is it worth 6 hours of time?

I could not get through the first hour, which was about poor, anti-social emo-Hitler in the WWI trenches. It was all too overblown (get it, haha) and over styled. Anybody else been watching? History buffs? Could you even stand it?

When is it back?

Wednesday, June 11.

Not sure if you follow Dr Who, but any insights on to the coming series with Peter Capaldi?

None so far.

Didn't Bill Cosby's show do the same thing by bringing in a constant number of adorable kids when the other kids got older?

I think that constant number was one additional tyke, but yes.

I keeping seeing commercials for Blackbeard on NBC. Is it any good? Since it is coming on NBC, I don't have much faith. For some reason, mini-series tend to be better on Cable lately.

It's called "Crossbones" and it starts Friday at 10. I watched it the other day, trying to decide if it's worth a full review. Malkovich is very interesting in it (as Blackbeard) and turns his so-so lines of dialogue into this strangely, artfully alluring monotone. But the rest of it is pretty dull -- although I think the "Crossbones" pilot is a whole lot better than Starz's awful "Black Sails" earlier this year.

I thought that character was on Family Ties.

No, you're thinking of Andy Keaton, the baby brother, who was played as a tyke by Brian Bonsall. Know your towheads.

 

do we think its coming back?

No we don't.

Geez, that made me feel old. Like I need another reminder I'm turning 50 next month and no longer matter to advertisers of prime time television.

You matter to the Washington Post! Subscribe today!

I'm sure this has been asked before, but aren't ratings obsolete? Nobody I know watches TV in "real time" - like the poster who asked which season to watch now of favorites - so how can they possibly measure who is watching?

You're right, it has been asked before. (DVR viewership is accounted for in ratings.)

I've been watching it. Mostly on background. I do like the music, which seems strange for miniseries about death and destruction. There were some things emphasized that you don't always get in these things, like Japan getting shut out at Versailles, which contributed to their turning to the Axis foe WWII. On a shallow note, the actors playing both young MacArthur and young Patton were quite attractive.

Listen, handsomeness is a perfectly good reason to watch ANYTHING.

When do we get "Bad TV Critic"?

Thursdays at noon, right here.

Is the actor who played Willis still alive or are they all dead?

Todd Bridges is alive and 49.

Is it getting an extra season on-line somewhere?

Fans are hoping, but nothing official yet.

Don't worry, 50-year-old friend. I'm weeks away from turning 30 and I totally got it. Maybe that makes me old too? But I think it makes both of us cool people.

I agree. Cousin Oliver is basic pop culture literacy.

Will they finally tell us what happened to Sal? When is Stonewall?

Well, they did the Apollo landing (July 20, 1969) in this most recent episode, so Stonewall (June 28, 1969) has happened. BUT I think they gave it (or gay-bar police raids in general) a nod when Bob Benson went to bail the GM fella out of jail. Yes?

Peggy Olsen got to have her version of Don's Carousel Pitch. Will Matt Weiner let her have a happy ending?

I thought maybe she'd get a little happy with that handsome handyman who was installing her (horrid, I know) drop-panel ceiling.

Better than being Cousin Itt (really old pop culture ref).

At first glance, TNT's "The Last Ship" looks like ABC's "Last Resort", but the previews look very interesting. Do you have any opinions on it?

I've watched two episodes in preparation for the big SUMMER TV issue I'm working on for Sunday, June 15.

"Last Ship" (premiering June 22 on TNT) is very much like "Last Resort," except that there's considerably less for them to worry about when it comes to having the US government shoot missiles at them, because just about everyone in the US is dead from a mystery virus. It wasn't the worst thing I've watched, including everything else with Michael Bay's name on it. McSteamy plays the ship's captain. I could keep going for a few more episodes, just to see where it's headed.

Hi Hank--I love your reviews and am interested in your take on HBO's new doc on the Prop 8 case. I saw a screening and was pretty shocked by how the film credits the Perry case with the same-sex marriage legal victories that have happened since then. This is simply wrong: the Supreme Court actually refused to decide on the Perry case because the supporters of Prop 8 had no legal standing. The subsequent victories are thanks to the Windsor case, which was decided the same day. The film also repeats the false storyline of Jo Becker's recent book on the case and wildly overstates the role certain people have played in making same-sex marriage legal. It's a shame that HBO's documentary team allowed these falsehoods into what could have been a really important film.

I haven't seen it yet (and will reserve judgment until I do), but I'm going to a screening event here in DC next week. You are absolutely correct on the Perry case's impact when compared to the Windsor decision.

This is all such a sticky wicket. Aside from the temptation to build compelling narrative and market it as THE INSIDE STORY, I don't understand why Becker and others are trying to narrow down the story of gay rights to a select few. But this doesn't only apply to the gay marriage story -- I'm leery of all journalistic and documentary work that is framed as THE story instead of A story. It's about the writer/editor/filmmaker giving into the temptations to oversell their work as the only work. On a more relevant scale, I'm sure we're all aware of what it's like to work with people who hog all the credit.

I'm loving how this show has characters making bad decisions because, basically, they're teenagers sent down to earth without guidance. How is this show doing in the ratings?

The ratings are CW-sufficient and the show has been renewed for next season. I'm with you -- one of the reasons the show is interesting is that it's taking time for us to acquaint ourselves with the characters through their bad decisions and major mistakes.

Is Mr. McLaughlin actually picking his teeth with a toothpick? (after clicking on link below, start watching from 20:30): http://www.mclaughlin.com/

Hold on, hold on. Are you trying to tell us that McLaughlin is alive?

Just started this on Netflix but not loving it after 2 eps. Worth watching?

Boy, it's strange and weird and slow and not especially gratifying at the end. If you're not digging it (I was oddly mesmerized by it), then I grant you permission to stop.

He's on "TruTV's World's Dumbest...", the best show on TV.

There you have it. We have spent an hour together and learned that Todd Bridges is on the BEST SHOW ON TV.

("Better than 'Poirot'!" -- The Washington Post)

Let's get while the gettin' is good.

Hey, last week I told you I was going to be gone on June 5 (next Thursday). I've changed my plans. I will be here and then taking a week off later in the month. So I'll chat you up next Thursday. Thanks, all.

In This Chat
Hank Stuever
Hank Stuever, The Washington Post's TV critic since 2009, joined the paper in 1999 as a writer for the Style section, where he has covered an array of popular (and unpopular) culture across the nation. Stuever was born and raised in Oklahoma and previously worked at newspapers in Albuquerque and Austin. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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