What to Watch: TV Chat with Hank Stuever

Oct 03, 2019

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: "Barry," "Better Things," "Below Deck," "This Is Us" and "Insecure." Lately he's been digging "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance," "Unbelievable," "Lodge 49" "Succession," "The Affair" and "On Becoming a God in Central Florida."

I need one of those old-fashioned PLEASE STAND BY cards.

Please stand by ...

Just curious what am I missing for the fall season here? What might i be behind on the landscape. i still can't get a lot of basic cable channels with my package (FX, Comedy Central, etc) and that's not counting Showtime which is buzzier than HBO at this point it seems.

In general, think you're missing a lot by not having HBO and FX, both of which, I think, you could get over-the-top as streaming services and not through cable. (Not sure about FX and where it is right now with streaming). I mean, since you asked.

As for the rest of fall, I really like "Mrs. Fletcher" (HBO, Oct. 27). Other than that, especially with your three streaming subscriptions, you should be able to watch plenty of good stuff.

I'm not sure if it's the worst follow-up to a great TV series in the history of the medium, but it's a humongous knock-off on the x-files/fringe, whatever with none of the charm. I just don't get why their instincts were so great in Good Wife and how their instincts went in the other direction on this?

It seems you missed a pretty great show from them between "The Good Wife" and "Evil" -- two of them, actually. "BrainDead," a really prescient D.C. satire/horror show and, of course, "The Good Fight," the spinoff from "The Good Wife." Robert and Michelle King have very good instincts for television and it's always interesting to hear them talk about they work together and make TV.

And yeah, OH NO, they've come up with a show in which a doubter and a believer pair up to investigate a specific kind of paranormal activity, which I would add, they're doing with a pretty topical eye on the nature of evil and technology. I think "Evil" is pretty good so far and if it's a crime for one TV show to sort of remind us of another, then I'd be a prison warden and not a TV critic.

Usually I watch SNL every week, but I just had zero interest in it. I didn't realize it was starting a new season and just don't care.

Another one for the "I don't care about this so much that I'm taking time to tell people in an online comment forum that I don't care" files.

(Who are these people?)

Stuff I learned from Succession was James Murdoch once has his own hip hop label. I'll admit I didn't find Kendall's rap about his dad that embarrassing. How sad am I?

I think we were supposed to find it sad. Like, because it wasn't all that bad, and took some thought and effort, and is just totally lost on their dangerously narcissistic father. (Same with Shiv giving him a book of all their houses.)

Then you would watch cells and not sell watches?

Someone's caffeinated!

I can't tell if Kevin Pearson is a more successful actor than Justin Hartley?

Well, he's doing feature films instead of a network TV series, which is for many people still a measure. (A bit outdated measure, but still a measure.)

That was a "This Is Us" question, for those who don't watch the show.

Sorry, it was just not funny enough, and it was too PG for a fairly adult subject. Was this supposed to be the funniest Network Comedy this year?

I don't know who called it that, but it isn't.

I know that you look askance at those who still watch old television shows when there are so many fine new programs available. But, I miss The West Wing and heaven knows, we could use President Jed Bartlett right now.

Fine, but that was always pure fantasy, with impossible solutions to real problems. Lately I've been hearing from people are somewhat horrified by what they see/hear on "The West Wing" (how men treat women, for starters), even though they loved the show back in its day and still want to love it. Proof that everything ages.

Lodge 49 is such a fun, refreshing show to watch! It's weirdly funny & earnest, mixing humor, drama & quirkiness so well together. It's pure joy, has no cynicism (except for Janet) I love that much of the cast is over 50. Paul Giamatti stole every scene he was in. I have never seen such an oogie hug. Is anyone else watching?

I am!

Hi Hank -- I'm not really sure what I thought about the "all Joanie hour" in the last episode. The acting as always was top notch, but it seemed like the whole thing was a bit...labored, I guess. Yes, Joanie is her mother's daughter...we get it. I'm just not sure we needed the whole episode to make that point. I missed the other characters, even Noah. And I read in a recap elsewhere that we're being set up for EJ to actually be Eddie the infant in the "present time" segments...if true, I'm sorry, a little too contrived for my tastes. Loved seeing the return of Luisa, who never got her due in the earlier episodes, but that old age make up reminded me of my high school theater days when we put on "Our Town." What did you think?

I'm with you on a lot of it, and will go further to say that episode was just embarrassing. I was interested for a while, and then she whipped out her special supermoon binoculars and off we go into "Cold Case" territory. It made me realize that crime & justice were never really "The Affair's" forte -- the trial, the prison time, now this futuristic murder sleuthing. We're here for AFFAIR(S) and different, contradictory perspectives on AFFAIR(S). I have a feeling by the time we get to the finale, those of us who are still watching, will be screaming ... into the canyon ...

I hate it when you're burning to discuss a show at the water cooler and everyone else is "Huh? What show? No, never seen it..."

Get used to it. TV is becoming like music and books. Everyone will have their own thing and not really that interested in your thing. Unless you form a book group, or go to a concert.

Every time I see that title, in my mind, I make it like they did in the Daffy Duck Cartoon 'Stuporduck' and pronounce it "EEEEE-Vill"

That would work as an opening theme, I think.

The Cooper family members on "Young Sheldon" don't seem as bitter or dysfunctional as they were depicted on "Big Bang Theory." Within the parameters of the characters, the most plausible explanation is the intervening sudden death of paterfamilias George Cooper, which may have turned the rest of the family into more extreme versions of themselves. (Yes, I realize it could also be deus ex machina, or producers' whims).

Well, not to get too existential on you, but maybe life and emotions transpire differently between the single-camera dimension and the multi-camera/studio audience dimension. All reality is perceived differently, depending on which dimension you're in.

Similar to teens continuously binge-watching Friends and The Office, my wife tends to have The West Wing on her phone A LOT. She will end the final season and turn it right back to the first. I tried to point out how much good TV there is these days, and like a snarling lion she replied "I don't want to watch something I have to think ABOUT!" I then noticed she does this while in the middle of other things... OK, I accept that. Like listening to your favorite music. I get it. But... the same show over and over?

So, does she set the phone down while an episode is playing and do these so-called other things, carrying it from room to room? And does she only watch it on her phone? Do you get to be involved in this in any way? (Do you want to be?) This all sounds dangerously detached to me, but I'm no Hax.



I want to like a show where Coby Smothers is driving around Portland in an old Mustang, but its not working for me yet. Do you know if it gets better?

I don't know if it gets any better for this chat than you calling the poor woman COBY SMOTHERS.

My problem with the Unicorn was that EVERY joke, plot point, entertaining element of the pilot was in the trailer. While watching the pilot, all I could think was how did they fit all 21 minutes of this episode into a two minute trailer? I could have just started with episode 2.

It's often the case and I once wrote a piece proposing that very thing: Just start with episode 2. We'll figure it out, especially if you pelted us with ads all summer.

It appears that there is an organized campaign - don't know for sure, but would bet a huge amount that it's Drumpf supporters - who make multiple comments of the "don't watch SNL anymore, been deteriorating for years" ilk in response to any article that's even tangentially related to SNL.

I guess so. But are they running the same campaign about every piece of culture we write about? Because they're always there: "Never heard her." "Don't care." "Won't watch" "Won't go, [art form] isn't as good as it was."

(My niece used ask this whenever her Grandmother and I spoke a word she didn't know in her young life) What is the definition of "an oogie hug"?


Talk about shows that don't age well/would never get made today: "Boston Legal." I love it, love it, love it (even though I work at a law firm as a non-lawyer and know the depths of absurdities on things such as how quickly a trial takes place), but know it would not go over so well in today's environment. I suspect many of us have our "comfort food" shows that might not be as well-received today to most poeple, but still bring us a measure of joy/laughter/etc.


Formerly from the hit show How I Met Your Smother.

I'm still laughing...

First off BBT and Young Sheldon are television shows and they are not documentaries. Second the viewers are viewing Young Sheldon as adults see the situation, not as very young, very smart child, trying to make his way in the world. BBT's Sheldon may only remember many of the bad things. Third BBT explained some of that when BBT saw the tape of his Dad coaching and the episode before Sheldon's wedding and his brother explained what happened after the father died. Finnally, It is fiction

Feel better now?

Not to mention the fact that, as Tina Fey has so ably noted, people have been saying the show has been going downhill since 1976 (that's Season 2 for you infants out there).

Same with the Style section, which "used to be better" about a week after it first started in 1969.

I'm really enjoying (halfway through) The Politician. While it's a Ryan Murphy production, your review helped me see Murphy's homage to Wes Anderson not only with actors including Gwyneth (not a huge fan) but the great Bob Balaban, Jessica Lange, Martina Navratolova, etc. but even more so to the settings and cinematography. Thanks for all you do Hank!

You don't feel strung along? Pummeled by obvious themes? Well then, enjoy.

I still think the best episode is "The Voter."

And the end, where Bette and Judith come along and all but say, "Oh, a TV show. Let's fix it."

And thanks to you, for reading!

Great episode title for Barry when hills kills someone with a pillow...

I don't know what it is but it doesn't sound pleasant.

Is it a form of ooky? Which I totally get?

I really wanted to like the episode, but kept getting hung up on timelines that didn't add up, among other things. By the end I was ready to go back to Noah, and that's something I didn't think I would ever say!

I know. I hope we don't have to say goodbye to him at 90.

Sheldon's father is a much better guy than was implied in TBBT, but I think that fits. I've noticed males complain that their fathers were worse than they really were (yes I'm a male, and no I don't mean every single male out there...)

I think you may be onto something.

I am one of the sorry souls who has watched every LOST rip off (no electricity, missing planes, other silly premises that I cannot remember), and they have all been pretty uniformly horrible. Based in part on your and other's reviews, I have decided to potentially allow myself to be disappointed again and check out Emergence. So far it's just OK. I like that the mystery is a little more focused and personal, I like the actors, but I still have my doubts that they can keep the momentum going. The second episode had some good parts, but also had some nonsensical parts. So I am wondering how many episodes to give. Did you see more than the pilot to base your recommendation?

I did not, and so will re-evaluate (probably in this chat) at some point. I hear you and ABC should also hear you. During the press tour, the producers were quite insistent that the mystery would move along unambiguously and with answers along the way. They could have been fibbing. Or high on their own fumes.

Ohhhh -- that was a character on Succession? I saw a reference float by on Twitter, and honestly thought it was about Kendall Jenner. Obviously I didn't care enough to look into it, but I am glad to have that cleared up. This chat provides a real service!

Unintentionally, sometimes!

I think both "Emergence" and "Evil" are saying they're tops. Is this a "Viewers vs. Demographic" thing? Or is one just using "a certain Point of View" Obi-Wan Mind Trick

It's bending Nielsen data to one's will, which is entirely possible. You could limit the age viewership, for example, or you could measure live plus three days or live plus five days or just live. For starters.

is on the CW tonight I'm okay with updating her, but I"m on the fence about watching it as I'm afraid it will Riverdale her up. Any advice?

My review of "Nancy Drew" and "Batwoman" just posted, but I don't see Nancy on tonight's schedule. The premiere date is Oct. 9. (CW is airing an iHeart Radio concert tonight.)

Still doing Great in its final season.Ms. Darcy should have won the Emmy she was nominated for.

If Stumptown doesn't make it, she could always team up with Uncle Tommy and Uncle Dick and bring back the old variety show.

Can we please get a Jack spinoff? Out of all of the cast members this season, he's the one I want back for next year.

Really? I'm sort of invested in what happens to Travis.

I never realized whether your homegrown strawberries turn out moldy or not was so important.

Yeah, the sudden panic over "this is our oxygen and food supply" seemed out of sorts.

Already Kate McKinnon plays Rudy Giuliani, Beck Bennett plays Pence, and now Aidy Bryant plays AG William Barr. I can't really think of anyone in the SNL cast who could play Pompeo, so wonder if they'll have to bring in a guest actor for it (a trend I prefer be avoided as much as possible, notwithstanding Alec Baldwin, Larry David and now Maya Rudolph as Kamala).

Taking a step back, I feel sorry that SNL has become this thing where every political person needs to be cast. They used to have Chevy Chase in no makeup fall off a ladder and call it President Ford. SNL is not a political satire show. It chooses to be, but it doesn't have to be.

I think the direction they took Young Sheldon in is brilliant. It just fits, and if the family was as caustic as the one talked about on BBT it would seem abusive to the young kids. Plus its pretty common for people to become more jaded as they get older, and memory is a funny thing -it doesnt' record events like a camera. Never bothers me a bit that the families on the two shows don't match exactly.

Nor should it. I think you're right.

In TBBT, George Cooper Sr. was depicted as a full-fledged alcoholic and womanizer, whereas in "Young Sheldon" he's a devoted family man who likes his beer, but not to the point of betraying his family.

With a whole lot of years in between for other things to develop or happen.

This chat never ceases to surprise me. Everyone weighing in on one stray observation about two different shows.

I wouldn't have expect at the start of the season that I'd be more interested in Emily Browning's Sierra than Anna Paquin's Joanie of the future, but I kind of am right now.

After hitting a new ratings low, any guesses what direction they'll flail next?

It'll be around for quite a while.

Thanks for bringing this show to our attention. I'm amazed at how naturally the crew acts in front of the cameras. May we assume nothing is rehearsed? I guess they're all so focused on their very demanding jobs that the cameras are an afterthought. Below Deck is such an interesting slice of life of the 1%.

It's like all reality TV -- a little bit real, a lot of necessary production involvement, a schedule of what they're going to be shooting today and general rough idea of what will transpire, but, because it's one of the rare reality shows about people actually working for a living, I think much of what we see is reliably real. That's my professional opinion, and there is, of course, the weirdness of how the passengers come into the situation (at deep discounts to compensate for the fact that they are vacationing on a TV set), but whatever level of interference there is, it's damn entertaining.

I have only watched a few Young Sheldon eps because that adorable boy irks me (sorry, kid), but it is very important to remember that Sheldon is on the spectrum---so his interpretations of behavior and emotion are not those of a "neurotypical" person and are "Sheldonized." Might explain the mismatch a bit.

Now how is that any better than my theory of separate dimensions between single cam and multi-cam? Besides yours being rooted in some actual observed medical science, I mean?

How would you revive the show, to attract a larger audience?

I'm not sure I'd worry about audience. It's an awards show full of fancy famous people and you'll either watch or you won't. There's no going back to a time where there were only three or four networks. Television is fractured, niche -- it makes sense that an all-encompassing awards show wouldn't exactly suffice now. It'll run its course, and, like I said, that day is still pretty far off. If it gets too costly for the networks to air in prime time, then they can tape it and make it available on streaming for anyone who wants to see it.


There you go.

Please. Thank you. I feel like I stumbled onto a Big Bang Theory fanatic chatroom.

Yeah, sorry. It's like you open the door to bring the cans back to the garage and all sorts of cats get out (or in).

I've been enjoying David Spade's show lately. He's kinda snarky which I love. I think I hit my limit on political humor and only watch Seth Meyers for that. It seems I hear the same jokes from various people, although it's been easy to write the joke before I even hear it.

So you're the person watching it. I was wondering who was.

"Wave your cane." Hahahahaha. Thanks, Hank. (I used to have a good-sized crush on Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy, but not nearly as big as the ones the girls had on Shaun Cassidy and Parker "The Big One" Stevenson. Today I imagine we'd all exchange hip replacement stories.)

You'll be delighted that they're bringing Pamela Sue Martin onto this "Nancy Drew," some special role just for her.

I love the genre (and still miss Deadwood). With so much content out there, is anyone doing new westerns worth watching?

Did you watch "Godless" on Netflix? Best one in many years, I'd say.

Have you seen any of the upcoming final season? Good? Bad?

Not a peep from USA about it. Not a beep. And not a screener.

I noticed that noone has been chatting here about Undone these past few weeks, and I am very curious people thought of the show. I enjoyed it, thought the animation was great in that the actors looked completely like themselves, and I particularly enjoy TV/movies/books that delve into complex areas of being human. Hank, did you watch this?

I did, when I was trying to narrow all the fall shows into my top 12 picks. I think I crossed it off after the list was at 20 or so. I found it kind of flat and the plot didn't interest me. That rotoscopic animation or whatever feels very early-2ooos to me.

Time to go.

We'll try again next week to get to the bottom of the parallel Sheldonverses. (Kidding. We will NOT.)

Bye everybody, and thanks.

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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