What to Watch: TV Chat with Hank Stuever

Oct 17, 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 "Watchmen," "Unbelievable," "Lodge 49" "Succession," "The Affair" and "On Becoming a God in Central Florida."

Hey gang,

Peak TV has me by the throat today, so I haven't had enough time to read through the questions submitted so far. Give me a few minutes to get up to speed.

Meanwhile, let me entertain you with my reviews of Amazon's "Modern Love" (which, blech) and HBO's amazing "Watchmen." And leftover from last Friday, my review of Netflix's "El Camino" -- I'm interested to hear what Breaking Bad fans thought of this movie.

Stand by ... looks like our first topic will involve some "Succession" finale spoilers, so heads up ...

Last night, my mother said to me, "You know that actress, Corby Smuckers?" CORBY SMUCKERS. (She knew that was wrong, but also knew I'd know who she meant.) I thought of you immediately.

No one mangles celebrity names better than a mom.

"I wonder if the sad I'd be without you is greater than the sad I'd be with you" - Tom to Shiv, his wife, after she offered him up to be the official Wayco sacrifice. Very dark and entertaining. Thanks for turning us on, Hank.

Thank you for thinking I turned you on to it, but my reviews were so equivocal (especially in Season 1) that they hardly reflect the appreciation I've gained for the series. That's what makes TV criticism so different from the other kinds -- you're constantly getting new episodes, the material evolves and you (gasp) change your opinion.

Anyhow, I agree, that was one of the best lines from the finale. That marriage is ... not well.

AHHHH!! So awesome! Tom grows a bit of a backbone! Roman becomes my favorite character!?? Or does Marcia and her amazing yacht remodel take that spot? Shiv takes her older brother's place as her dad's lackey, doing his evil bidding while grumbling about how sexist it is. And Ken. YESSS!! My question is, were we supposed to see this coming? He had done everything for his dad, dismantling that one company, kicking his date off the yacht and then he back stabs him. Was this carefully calculated by him to not arise suspicion in his father since he knew he would be the sacrifice? Or did the last convo before the press conference when Logan says he's not a killer and refers to the young man who drowned as "no real person involved" tip Ken over? I feel like we were supposed to know after that convo what he was going to do. But I didn't. And I loved it.

I'm a simple guy, so I prefer your last theory, that the "not a killer" line -- delivered after so much recent abuse -- is what pushed Ken back into revolutionary mode. In a way, we've come all the way back around to where we started in season 1. I'm also willing to accept there was a longer game being played here on Ken's part, except for that whole drowned busboy problem.

Logan Roy's fatherhood approach has been thoroughly analysed, but isn't Kendall Roy kind of a bad dad himself? He has two kids and he barely seems to ever notice they are alive for the latter half of this season.

Has he been banned from seeing them? Or did I imagine that?

Oh no, Dud! I assume there will be a season 3? I think it's reached cult status.

I think the cult status (critics love it, people going out of their way to rave about it to their friends) is the main reason why AMC might renew it for us. I haven't watched the finale yet but from my Twitter feed it would seem another season is absolutely necessary. I'm all for it.

Submitting early because my time zone doesn't quite work - thank you for your delightfully snarky review of Modern Love so I don't waste my time watching it (I worry I wouldn't be able to hate watch - I'm a sucker for bad rom-coms, and then I'd be banned from your good graces!) but especially thank you for the Taster's Choice commercial link that led me to remember not only how amazing that whole concept of a soap opera commercial was but also that they had Anthony Stewart Head! With an American accent! Good times, and man am I old now.

How to explain instant coffee in 2019?

Hi Hank -- Really great to see the show return to form in the latest episode (no Joanie), with Noah clueless as usual and Helen, well, being Helen. And genius to put the odious Adeline and equally odious Sasha in the same scene. Hard to believe just a couple of episodes to go.

It was definitely a return to form. And I guess I'm okay with Noah going down in wave of cancel-culture, and perhaps Helen is the only left to love him? (Too nauseating?) Or ... here's a thought ... Malibu Canyon is so close ... can Noah scream into it? At the moment? Of his death? Create an avalanche, bury a man he never knew, and so on and so on and so on until someone reboots it?

Great review. I liked the observation that, naturally, aging has occurred. Aaron has become more physically imposing. This, combined with the PTSD, caused me to struggled a bit seeing "Jesse" in Jesse. But this is why the flashbacks were so effective - especially the last one. It reminded me who he once was, and hope that he might become that why again. But here's my question. By clearly stating that Walt Is Dead, has Gilligan, perhaps, weakened the ending of "Breaking Bad"? Part of the fun was the obsessive over-analysis. Further, there is an argument that even Gilligan should not be allowed to impose a retroactive narrative on his work.

Anyone who thinks Walt wasn't dead has wasted the last six years of their life, and it serves them right.

One of the things I especially liked in "El Camino" was learning more about Todd. In particular, seeing the almost childish way he decorated his apartment was almost as horrifying as his casual violence. Do you think that this helped us appreciate the PTSD of Jesse more than we already did?

I'm not sure what it brought in terms of understanding Jesse's psychic wounds, but the bring-back of Todd (in flashback form) really made the difference for how good "El Camino" turned out to be. And what a singing voice. Why, he's just an angel!

One of Logan Roy's relatives did something.

Don't get mad because people are watching something that you aren't.

I'd just like to say that as someone with an easily misspelled name, I really really appreciate it when people make the effort to get it right. And it took me back to the good old days of the Reliable Source chat and their love of Bandersnatch Cummerbund, aka Sherlock.

We'll see what we get today. On my end, mistakes are simply a matter of this being a speed-typing contest. On the chatters' end, I think it's often an autocorrect issue.

Curious, though. I remember Bandersnatch being a wholly owned feature of Lisa de Moraes's old chats, not Reliable Source? Maybe he haunted both.

"You know how normal people care about things like different kinds of beans and different roasting and brewing methods and all the things that make coffee good and expensive, but they also don't have time to fuss over it themselves? Well, back in the day we didn't care about good, but we still didn't have time to fuss over it ourselves. So it was a way to get bad coffee, but fast, and we didn't have to sit at the drive-up window to get it either. Plus, one of the brands had Anthony Stewart Head as a spokesperson."

That's a start.

I think we see Kendall, his son, his daughter and the rest of the family all together this season when they all go to the amusement park for the daughter's birthday. Also the baseball game included his son and daughter?

She's the "black sheep" of the family - out there in Hollywood, makin' movin' pictures, while everyone is else is working hard making jams and jellies for Real 'Merica. .... get off my lawn, and such.

At last I have an understanding of that theme song and its relevance to this show!

October baseball!! And the Nats are moving forward - are you watching? Who are you cheering for?

I watched the debates instead of the last playoff game, but it's easy to follow either on Twitter. You know who I was most delighted for after that win? Don Graham. (Of the Graham family, who wisely sold The Post to Bezos and greatly improved the paper's chances of survival.) Don has been waiting all his life for 1.) a return of baseball to Washington and 2.) a World Series. No one I know is happier about it than Don is, and that makes me happy.

(Otherwise don't get me started on the taxpayer cost for that boring looking stadium, etc...)

So now that the season has ended, I have lingering questions. Will Jack and Asha's relationship survive on land? Will Joao continue his upward professional rise? Will Hannah get her professional groove back, which she seemed to have lost in the latter part of the season? I think Colin and Ben are solid enough to return to the areas of seafaring they prefer, but I wonder the most about Travis. I think he was the character with the most substance and potential, and I hope he maintains his sobriety and continues to do as well as he did toward the end of the season. I admired Sandy for her understanding and support of him. What say you, oh, avid fellow fan?

It's funny because all those yacht scenes on the "Succession" finale made me think of "Below Deck." I can just see Cap'n Sandy calling a staff meeting and pausing the episode saying, see? See how nice Marcia's decor is? See how elegant the service is? Service. Serv-issss." (Hannah sneering.)

Anyhow, let's answer your questions, but first, here's mine: Was the no "reunion" show? Did my DVR miss it? I think there wasn't and I really want to know why.

My guess is that Jack and Aisha are long done, almost immediately after taping stopped.

Joao will thrive. He's a grownup now.

I fear we've seen the last of Colin, who has finally come to his senses about being on reality TV and seems to really miss mommy and daddy when he's a-sea. But Ben will always pop up in the BD universe.

Travis. THIS is why I want a reunion show. I want to know what Travis saw in himself, if he watched the show. Not just the alcoholism, but the darkness inside, the sadness. Who hurt you, Travis?

Sandy is my hero.

Either way, Kendall Roy could stand to spend less sh*tting the bed and more quality time with his son and daughter. Maybe in the third season.

I don't anyone on the show knows about "quality time," really.

Hank, I'm kind of a film/cinematography geek, and I thought the season finale of Succession was just PERFECTLY shot and lit and paced. I found out afterwards that the director also directed 6 episodes of Game of Thrones, which furthers my theory that this is basically the same show, but without beheadings (yet).

My better half keeps saying "Succession" and "The Righteous Gemstones" are shockingly the same show and he's amazed HBO airs them on the same night.

Another terrific aspect was the humanity shown by Badger and Skinny Pete, and how vital it was to Jesse's recovery of some semblance of self-worth.

Yes -- and it was good to see them again.

Have you seen the German series Dark? My brain is spinning.

No, with some rare exceptions, I don't really get time to watch or review TV shows made primarily for foreign markets.

I love how basically every episode now is a bottle episode. "Let's engineer a way to get the entire cast in the same hotel/international conference/giant yacht and sit them all down to tear each other to shreds."

Santa Fe was fun.

Apparently he had a girlfriend the whole time.

That scallywag.

(Of course, yes, there is an entire industry built around Bravo gossip, for those who have the time to read it. What else can you tell us?)

I wondering if Beth's mom telling Beth to not see Randall because it's clear that he and the rest of his family aren't over the dad's death and they are wallowing in their grief is sort of a meta-critique of "This Is Us" where plenty of people have pointed out the Pearsons really haven't gotten over Jack's death by killer crockpot even years later and it's kind of weird.

It wouldn't surprise me.

Are we sure it was an act of rebellion? The sly smile on Logan's face at the end could be interpreted as 1) I raised my boy right and he is a killer or 2) this plan worked perfectly - now I can run things through my puppet

Like all great season finales, every theory applies until we know for sure.

Hell yes, he was a creature of the Divine Ms. de M. If he lived in the RS chat, it was as a pale reflection. (Which, considering how pale he was to start...)

So, with Fred Andrews gone (RIP Luke Perry), are there ANY characters left to root for? Is someone stepping up and being decent without weird, possibly criminal awfulness? Anyone? Anyone at all?

You're asking someone who gave up on "Riverdale" quite a while back. Archie has resumed being a comic-book character I see in digest form at the checkout line.

You've convinced me to check out Watchmen as soon as it airs, though it was already on my list. I have HBO NOW - when do HBO shows drop on their app vs when they air on TV? I have Starz and recall that episodes are available at midnight, but think that HBO is different? (I feel like Big Little Lies wasn't readily available...)

Any HBO NOW customers know the answer to this for sure? I have the cable subscription and advance screeners, so I'm not the one to ask.

But, yes, everyone do watch "Watchmen," and give it two or three episodes to really sweep you in.

It was such a treat. Like meeting an old friend and reliving some favorite moments from the past, while knowing it will never be the same. Everything was in there - the guy in the hallway, the lady in the rug, some surprise twists, the cruel moments followed be the redemption. I know some people complained, but I loved it.

Yeah, I found it pretty harmless and entertaining. I don't need a whole lot more (if anyone's wondering), but it was fun.

Hanging plot thread nobody cares about is in the Season One finale, Kendall's wife (although they are separated) is pushing him at Shiv and Tom's wedding to get his lawyers moving on their divorce papers despite they have started having sex together again, and Kendall Roy get upsets and uses cocaine and blows up at her and maybe there was a throw away line this season about resolving that, but I must have missed it?


This is the third time Kendall Roy has tried to take down his own dad. I wondering if Logan is remembering Kendall Roy trying this (unsuccessfully) in both the pilot and first season finale when he smiles in the finale shot?

Symmetry is a hallmark of prestige television (and successful storytelling), so, sure.

I am hooked on Emergence and just loving Alison Tolman and Clancy Brown. Great to see him as a good guy while usually good guy Terry O'Quinn is evil. Also loving The Resident, although I have missed Jane Leeves, but she'll be back next week. Of course I am watching my Nationals.

When I was watching Game of Thrones, it went up right at 8:00 when it started on HBO, so I would assume Watchmen will do the same thing

8 o'clock? Are you on central time?

Early thoughts? The trailer looks AMAZING!

Not a fan, sorry.

I recall seeing GOT episodes on HBO Now pretty much concurrently to the 'live' run at 9pm, if not a few minutes before.

You may not have seen it last weekend but the Grouch parody of Joker was masterful and everything SNL should be. David Harbour was great in the entire episode.

I saw it, it was great. I like stuff like that so much more than I like their dependency on political spoof. More people were talking about "Grouch," I think, than anything else they did in that episode. At least in my world they were.

I actually saw an episode later night for the first time in awhile. One is it's very anti-public schools because Jughead is offer to go to prep school where all the kids are mini-geniuses discussing Moby Dick (does anybody read Moby Dick in high school) while Riverdale High's English class is shown as something out the first voucher-program propaganda where the students are all tuned out while the teacher just reads aloud from the textbook. Also the teachers and students are so buff it's ridiculous. Like putting glasses and a sweater vest on a ripped actor doesn't make me think, "oh yeah, he's super smart."

If this is an argument that we're somehow missing out on "Riverdale," I am unconvinced.

I shared your equivocation on Season 1, tuned out, but when you eventually recommended "Succession", I checked back in and connected.

We evolve as one!

Instant coffee is like K-cups but less expensive and friendlier to the environment. You're welcome....

I was really sad to find out that this would be Empire's last season because I really like it and am short on soap operas I enjoy. But now I think it's the right decision. Since the season premiere, they've taken on that mortal flaw: They've all become charicatures of themselves--especially Cookie, who was once one of my favorite characters on TV. So take a well-deserved bow, Empire, and I'll move on. Props to you for not carrying on with this charicature nonsense for several seasons and staining your legacy, like Friends and Seinfeld.

Hmmm, I wonder if children who have no yet been born will be obsessively streaming "Empire" the way today's younglings stream "Friends"?

It's not weird that young people don't ever "get over" the loss of a parent. I think that is the point of the show. Just ask anyone who has ever experienced it. My family has had struggles just like the show, I didn't really get that until today.

We all grieve differently and it's easy to judge when others should and should not still be grieving. That said, Kate's wedding sort of made clear that they were all still too obsessed with Jack, which is one reason why I like that they came up with some storylines that make Jack look less perfect.

Was wondering why you dislike James Corden so much - something in particular or is it just one of those he-gets-on-my-last-nerve things? I could understand that - that's how I feel about Seth Meyers. Yes he can be very funny, but could he just, for one minute, WIPE THAT FREAKIN' SMIRK OFF HIS FACE!!!! Thank you.

James Corden is a hack whose instincts -- as a host, as a performer -- are prohibitively self-centered and we should box him up and return him to England.

Holes poked in the box to allow oxygen, I hasten to add.

I'm with you on the political spoofing. If the impressions have a connection to reality, then they can be funny (Kate McKinnon as Warren, or Harrelson as Biden), but if they're just walk ons (Matthew Broderick as Pompeo, or De Niro as Mueller) where the star isn't even trying, it's a waste of time.

I went to look at the Succession Fan Wiki and I forgotten that Kendall Roy's daughter Sophie is adopted (maybe the son is adopted as well or maybe not). Kind of makes me wonder what Kendall used to be like if he got through an adoption agency's screening process?

I don't know. That's a fact that to me will seem only germane if they make it so. Sometimes these fan wikis go a little too deep.

I feel bad for Reggie. Reggie was clearly a core part of the Archie Comics and they keep trying to bring him into the group, but the actor is just such a dud. There was "homage" to Cameron destroying his unloving dad's vintage car in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" which was just them literally repeating the lines word for word then smashing the windshield because they can't afford to wreck a classic convertible. It was awful.

I spend the commercials trying to think of what I'd put on my preference sheet. What's on yours?

"Surprise me" (I have no real dislikes, foodwise, so I want the chef to feel free to show us what he or she can do. That, and I don't want a drop of Diet Coke to touch my lips. It's Diet Pepsi or nothing for the whole charter and if you don't think I'm serious, try me.)

I think Aisha said they'd broken up "but were still soooo clooooose" and he went back to another girlfriend a few weeks ago on Watch What Happens. If those two kids can't make it, I don't know who can...

I believe Aisha would say that they are still SORE close." (That accent is unnerving. And her high pitch, which is unfortunate.)

I don't know whom else to ask, so here goes. There are two different official-looking 30 Rock channels on YouTube. I think one is "30 Rock" and the other is "30 Rock Official". I'm assuming only one is official. Do you know which one is? And both have been uploading more clips recently, which makes me wonder if something is happening or about to happen with rights to the show.

No clue. Chatters?

As a good guy? Chatter must have missed his turn in the classic short-lived series 666 Park Avenue!

I know, I was kind of thrown by that description too, but he's been in a lot of shows, so maybe our references are crosswired yet both correct.

Jack's death shows that everyone processes grief differently. So sorry they haven't moved on.

Back to the "Below Deck" preference sheet question, which could make a whole chat on slow day, don't you think? ...

I was watching Monday's episode thinking how sad the producers if I and a few friends chartered that yacht. It would be an episode of guests just lounging and reading and reading ... and reading ... and reading ... and then eating and then swimming a bit and then reading ... and reading ... napping ... reading ...

They did a funny commercial parody several years ago -- the Wiig, Hader, Sudeikis era -- for a handheld device that translated mothers' misremembered names of celebrities to the actual names.

They did? It feels like maybe a vague memory, so I believe you.

I've watched Stumptown and it's pretty enjoyable. It's like a PG version of Jessica Jones - traumatized, hard-drinking woman who's a kick-ass PI (minus the minor superpower). It's no prestige TV, but worth a watch when I come across it. Plus who doesn't like Corbie Smuckers?

Not quite as funny as the first season of Blackish. Maybe we should invent a "Weezie Limit" when a show can't make any more sequels and still be funny

Agreed. I found "mixed-ish" to be deeply unimaginative. And please no more shows set in the '80s. No one loved the '80s more than I did, and even I can't take anymore.

Unlimited billions greasing the wheels of a bureaucratic process like adoption would be one the most realistic parts of the show.

So many great Easter Eggs in El Camino - they redeemed themselves as true friends, and it was great to see Old Joe as well.

Um, "The Stepfather" would like to have a word with you regarding TO's evil. See also: Last season of "Lost", "666", and that dumb X-Files spinoff with Lance Henriksen.

Anyone ever seen him in the first version of "The Step-Father"?

We made it to the end of the queue, so let's all sign off, shall we?

Next week: I will be gone (on assignment) on Oct. 24, so we'll resume our chat on HALLOWEEN. Come dressed.

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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