What to Watch: TV Chat with Hank Stuever

Nov 21, 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 Crown" and "On Becoming a God in Central Florida."


It's been a couple of weeks -- while we were apart, I reviewed "The Crown," "The Mandalorian," "The Preppy Murder" and the impeachment hearings, all of which you can find HERE.

With that, let's chat!

OK, what the heck happened at the end of that last episode? We're following Rebecca through what we think is her Thanksgiving day wanderings and suddenly it's their 40th birthday at the cabin?

That's what happened. It's called a flash forward, and they've done it before. Don't worry, they'll fill us in when the show comes back for midseason.

I chuckled alittle when I when your article about the impeachment hearings and comparing them to the Watergate hearings, especially the "passionate degree of viewership" by the elders. I was in high school at the time, and the hearings were on the TV in my house ( and my friends's houses) all the time. Why? There was only about 5-6 channels. Not much choice.

You were lucky. There were three channels, plus PBS, in our house. UHF didn't come our way until 1979. I only remember the adults watching Watergate. I knew Nixon mainly as a punchline.

And THANK YOU for reading my take. When The Post gets fully absorbed in a single, big story, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle.

So is "Watchmen" going into 9/11 was an inside job?

Squid pro quo.

At BravoCon, Andy asked Capts Sandy and Lee who they would want from the other's crew. Got me thinking. Between the two franchises, who would make your all-star crew?

I forget their names, but

Captain Sandy

The very sweet stew from Texas who knew what she was doing and always kept things upbeat (she had the brother who wasn't as good at being a deckhand). Anyhow she'd be my head stew.

Joao > Ashton

Chef: surprise me

Deckhands: Shirts off and I'll decide from there.

This exercise has made me realize I like being a viewer better -- just put people together and see how it goes.

I recently watched Years and Years based on your recommendation, and wow. It captures so many of the political and societal issues in the world. I finished it over a week ago and it has stuck with me. So far it has my vote for best show of 2019. I don't really have a question, just wanted to thank you for bringing it to my attention. You rock!

I also really liked it, except the ending, which only got cornier the more I thought about it, and is one reason why, alas, "Years and Years" didn't quite make the cut for my best shows of 2019, which will publish in a couple of weeks. (It's an honorable mention, though. The choices are very hard this year.)

Do you watch "The Crown" purely as entertainment while escaping debating its pro-monarchy message. It doesn't really matter in the United States, but it seems like it's a part of it?

I think by "you," you mean we as American viewers? We are vauguely aware that having a monarch sucks, so we started a whole new country. But it's been a loooong time. We can be sickeningly addicted to the trappings of royalty. Oh well, to us it's mostly just a story.

I was thinking Prince Charles equals the Duke of Windsor was laid on pretty heavily. Unsure about real life, but within the story, it was pointed out again and again. We get it Peter Morgan.

They do like to be thematic.

Between not getting along with Deja's real mom and Deja's boyfriend's mom, it was nice to see Beth have a nice interaction with her sister-in-law Kate. It was getting that any woman who walked through the door was going to get on Beth's nerves.

First she wanted a dance studio, now she wants friends? Where will it end?

Have to say I'm impressed that the show seemed to be able to pick up without missing a beat. That's a credit to the actors, most of whom were recast for the time jump, as well as the people who decided on the casting. I can't recall a show (or movie) that has pulled that trick off and made it seem quite so smooth.

I'll bet a chatter can think of an example.

I know, I know, you don't recommend binging it, but, we watched 8 of the 10 new episodes last Sunday, and loved it. I can't believe some viewers are whining about the cast change (well, ok, I can, people being people), we thought they were excellent. Olivia Colman Colman is outstanding, but, really so are all of them, except for maybe the new Queen Mother, but, then that's probably more due to the fact that so far they haven't given her much to do. I found the Welsh episodes especially interesting and moving, both Aberfan, for it's heartbreaking tragedy, and the investiture episode, for it look at Welsh pride, and the fact that it managed to make Charles a sympathetic character.

I have to say I found this episode a bit tone deaf. 116 children died but the episode focused on whether the queen could cry about it? On one hand, it brought attention to a horrific event. On the other hand, the focus on the queen's visit and whether the prime minister threw her under the bus seems trivial, especially if you've read up in the horrific treatment of the people of Aberfan following the disaster (no one was so much as fined and the charitable contributions collected were managed in a manner than can only be described as cruel). I felt like it could have been handled better.

Well, it is a show about her. You can always read more and more about the actual events portrayed in each episode, but I think it's smart of them to stay in their lane.

Will you be doing a best of the decade list in addition to your best of 2019 piece? (I always have a busy December for work, and the end of year best of lists are always great panic-displacement/procrastination content)

Yes, I am doing both. Best of 2019 comes first (aimed for the Dec. 15 paper, if you're a print subscriber; posting before then online) and the decade thing will come later in the month, when we're all desperate in the Style section for fresh copy.

Seems like it hasn't gotten much attention as it winds down. Why is that? This is one of the great shows of the past decade. And this season, they've done some interesting things -- there was an episode that was almost entirely silent, another episode was staged like a play. This is one of the most stylish, most original shows I've seen. Not everything worked -- it can sometimes be a little maddening -- but at least Sam Esmail is willing to try different things. And it's launched Sam Esmail's career who now seems like he can do whatever he wants, thanks to Mr. Robot.

A flash in the pan.

I was bummed to see that This Is Us won't be back until the second week of January. I know there are only so many shows for each season, but that's a long time to be without the Pearsons. Many of my other shows are saying basically the same thing. What will I watch in December? Baseball is over. I don't like hockey and basketball. And I refuse to be inundated with Hallmark Christmas movies (which start way too early--before Halloween!).

One reason "This Is Us" is as good as it has been is that it doesn't have to produce 22 or 24 episodes per season. It's remarkable (to me) that they do 18 per season. Good writing takes time; it's not a personal snub to you or a deliberate act of withholding. There is plenty else to check out between now and the second week of January, which will be here before you know it.

Why bring Riley back?? There is enough drama! The decision to add her seems over the top to me as she will likely get on everyone's last nerve.

You have watched reality television before, yes?

It's not that she doesn't "get along" with Deja's mom--it's that she's responsible for Deja's well being now and doesn't want Deja to get hurt even more than she has been. It's not really a relationship conducive to friendship. Ditto with boyfriend's mom . . . Beth is protecting Deja. We're being shown Beth in mama bear mode as opposed to being persnickety--not sure what this has to do with her "needing friends"?

I'm not either, which is why I was making fun. I think the character is well-written, with a whole lot of feelings on the nuance spectrum. I loved the scene where she and Kate confessed their worst thoughts. (And who DOESN'T dislike CrossFit Toby. Omg.)

What a gem! I'm really enjoying his performance and character. How many Nicky's are out there, still grappling with their war experience and estranged from their families. And like the three sets of kids playing the Pearson triplets, the casting of Dunne and Michael Angarano as current and past Nicky is spot on!

Isn't it amazing. I think most of us (at least I certainly was) very eye-rolly when they brought in Nicky. But he's done a lot to move Kevin's story forward and also help put Dead Jack in some much needed perspective. And yes, Dunne is very good in the present-day part.

I've been going through old eps of his show lately (I know...). A Google search tells me that you like him in general; do you ever watch Billy on the Street, and what do you think?

I don't know what Google gave you that would suggest I'm anything more than tolerant of Billy Eichner. I got tired of Billy on the Street after about three episodes.

This Is Us is kind of an example of having different actors play the same characters at different ages? As much I love Claire Foy, I don't really need to pull a Mandy Moore.

This Is Us should get older actors to play the characters on the old side. Just like they do with the kids.

I thought I recalled when it premiered that you gave it a better than average review but expressed concerns about its ability to keep up the premise. Then I sort of dropped out of chats and such for a bit, but you said recently you're planning something for its finale. Did the fact that it didn't try to keep up the premise lead you to reevaluate/make something of a fan out of you?

Actually, it's a good example of why the whole fall-season apparatus sucks, throwing two dozen or more new shows at a critic (and usually only the pilots) and expecting him to get it all right the first time.

I don't know how common a perspective this is, but I'm not sure the show seems particularly pro-monarchy to me. Pretty much every time I watch it, I'm struck by how wildly obvious the inequality in society is, how absurd the wealth and privilege of the nobility. I'm still catching up on season 2 and just watched the episode where one of the lords speaks out about "modernizing" the monarchy, which to me only further highlighted how incredible it is to think even a *modern* monarchy is somehow a positive for humanity. I think it does unavoidably offer sympathy for the royals in that it's their story that's being told - we don't really get firsthand perspectives from the "commoners". But I feel like that sympathy only goes so far, and that the downsides of the institution are also pretty apparent.

Agreed, mostly.

My main exposure to the recent impeachment hearings has been on the radio, so for me, they are more like a podcast -- something to have on while driving, etc., but without the mattress advertisements.

What mattress advertisements? The TV I've been watching (broadcast and cable) has been largely uninterrupted.

Hi Hank, I confess to being a fan of "American Housewife" (don't worry, I watch other things too). But this season it was moved to airing on Friday nights. That's a bad sign for the show, right?

I haven't looked at the ratings, but they're online if you want to test your theory. I also haven't watched that show in a while, but I thought it was amusing back when it premiered.

May I add a shout out to my favorite show? Right now it's dealing with the problem of for-profit hospitals and how they affect patient care, including a shortage of nurses. Unlike the other medical shows, this one does have nurses who actually play a part in the story (I'm talking about you, The Good Doctor!). The addition of Jane Leeves and Morris Chestnut has just made the show better than ever. And Bruce Greenwood is amazing as Dr. Bell.

Consider it shouted-out.

I'm looking forward to bingeing many of your recommendations (Years and Years, Watchmen and Ramy) this weekend while my daughter recovers from wisdom teeth surgery, but I'm caught up with Mrs. Fletcher although each episode gets a little more cringe-inducing for me to watch. I get that Eve is trying to push her norms and boundaries as an empty-nester, but I feel like so many of the interactions shown on the show (the writing teacher and her student, Eve and the kid from her son's high school, Eve and her co-worker from the hot tub, to name a few) get awkward quickly and leave me with a sense of dread of how much more uncomfortable this can get. Clearly, I'm overly sensitive watching these fictional characters get themselves into mortifying situations, but if you've watched ahead, is there any relief on the horizon or is the narrative theme of this show?

Um, no, sorry to say (but also happy to report) that it gets a lot more awkward for Eve -- and for Brendan, her son.

. . . crossfit anyone, really. (Sorry, crossfitters!) I really hope Crossfit Toby isn't a cheater.

So agree.

After reading all the glowing comments about The Crown, I'm convinced there must be something wrong with me. This summer I was excited to go to the beach -- to watch Netflix, etc. I was determined to watch the first two seasons of The Crown. I made it through the first season. All while I watched, I kept thinking, "Would someone please turn on a light!" And, I could not understand a word anyone was saying. Should I give it another try?

The light/dark thing might have been the settings on the TV? And British accents may be difficult for you to follow? (Did you look for a closed-captioning setting?) It sounds like it's not for you, so I don't recommend you go further.

Can you believe they pushed this amazing show for more football? Will LMS still be eligible for all of the 2020 Emmy's? Tim Allen is a national treasure.

Clearly you have picked up on the fact that the chat is a little slow today.

Seems like a weird criticism that "The Crown" focus too much on the Queen. Sometimes it does feel like people forget it's narrative drama rather than a documentary. I get it's on them as well since they are using real people and real historical events, but there are now a thousand and one articles about Aberfan or any other event shown in "The Crown" online to read.

My pal Elahe Izadi just filed a story on this very thing -- how "The Crown" can lead to furious bouts of Wikipedia research.

I think the OP was referencing how Casper and the other online mattress companies advertise on every podcast I listen to these days.


Not a podcast guy, that's why. I walk to work in about 12 minutes.

"The West Wing" was SUPER popular in Britain. Is "The Crown" considered pro-monarchy in the way "The West Wing" was considered pro-Democratic Party?

Maybe it's just a case of just green the grass can look on the other side ...

I'm not a huge nitpicker, but man oh man does this show play fast and loose with its history. That said, I enjoy the acting (Forest Whitaker and Vincent D'Onofrio are fun to watch) and I ultimately appreciate that it at least loosely references (maybe rewrites is a better description?) the relatively unexplored history of Harlem.

I confess I haven't seen much of this, but thanks for the report.

You decry people who watch old shows rather than new ones, yet some of the platforms are spending huge bucks to obtain old series (e.g., "Friends," "Big Bang"), which can only mean that they expect, and want to encourage, viewership of these old shows. Sigh.

I decry that part of it too -- that viewers' slavish devotion to the past (reruns) drove up the syndication value beyond where it ought to be.

Not only did I watch the Senate Watergate hearings and House impeachment proceedings on TV, I watched the Army-McCarthy hearings with my mom when I was a kid. Take that!

OK Boom-- wait, maybe OK Silen Gen

But I recently discovered that the much touted back in June Hanukkah Hallmark movies for this holiday season are actually (based on the synopses) just Christmas movies that have had Hanukkah uncomfortably wedged into the narrative. I guess that's why there's been no further touting. I sort of thought this might happen, and again I KNOW IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER, but I still also feel a little sad about it.

Yeah, from what I read, it sounds like their big idea was to have Jewish characters as Christmas outsiders, rather than make a more genuine holiday movie where Jewish is, you know, normal.

Overlooked in all this: The Jewish contribution to the Christmas-industrial complex. Heck, start with the songwriting and work from there.

My husband and I are retirees, and we have closed captioning on all of our televisions. It very often helps, especially when there are people with accents (especially British!). Now I have only one problem--I find it difficult to read letters, texts, etc., that are shown on screen as part of a show. The letters are just too small.

Bigger TV might help?

Thanks for the rec for On Becoming A God In Central Florida, it's great and KD is FANTASTIC! Love seeing her in the driver's seat. And I'm so excited to watch Tobias Menzies in The Crown! Hoping the show will bring him some awards love next year...

Just wanted to thank you for your review of The Watchmen. I was skeptical when I heard about it, but after reading your piece I decided to give it a shot and am so glad that I did! The actors have been getting a lot of well-deserved praise, but I want to give a big shout-out to the music - this show has the best musical scoring I've heard on any TV series since "Lost"

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross! (Doing the music. They also did a lot of great work in Ken Burns's Vietnam War doc.)

The thing that makes me most annoyed about people who won't stop watching The Office or Friends is because its their comfort food in these trying times. OK, I hear you. But what have you done to make these times less trying? Volunteered? Voted? Donated to a campaign? How about making your own world one that doesn't require so much of this brand of comfort?

I'm with you.

I'm not a huge Star Wars fan, but I've enjoyed The Mandolarian through the first two episodes. This is hardly my original thought, but I think I like it because it's more like a western than a traditional Star Wars movie. I worry the premise may get boring after a few more episodes, but I guess Disney has several hundred million reasons to see that doesn't happen.

The only thing that throws me about it is how short the episodes are. I feel like I'm watching a vignette (so far) and it doesn't feel like it will become a real-deal TV show.

McCarthy hearings? Feh. Why, I read every article written about the Andrew Johnson Impeachment!!! ...... that's not really how this works, is it?

Haha. Thank you.

Neither a Boomer nor Silent Generation. Instead, a War Baby (a woefully overlooked, but distinct, cohort).

That's not a thing. Come on now. We don't to get invent our own little subgens.

I am ready to start binging it tomorrow. Is it true this will be the last season of the Nazis-win-WWII show?

Yes, it's the final season.

I gave it a try because you and other readers like it so much. I started watching this season and first was a little annoyed by the choppy editing and the cheap music, but then I watched and watched, and then my husband came in and watched too, and now I am catching up on season 6 and Mediterranean. This is the BEST distraction for everything. Charter guests who drink 4 Mimosas before breakfast, foam parties in the Jacuzzi - it's great. Thanks for the recommendation.

Another satisfied guest.

NBC had commercials for tonight's show. Will they be just off for Thanksgiving, or take a full hiatus until 2020?

They come back for a finale in January.

Is it supposed to be $7.99 / month just for an intro, or for the foreseeable future?

$6.99, I thought? I bought a year, for $69.99. And in case anyone wonders, no, The Post doesn't reimburse me for it.

I would guess the price will only go up as things progress. Same for Apple TV Plus. (Fun fact: Our copy desk issued an edict that we will be spelling out Plus in referring to either Disney Plus or Apple TV Plus.)

Pretty cool use of Careless Whisper, huh?

Very good playlists overall, so far. Sometimes a _little_ too on the nose.

Whoops! Where is this?


Since we've been discussing The Crown, which is a Netflix show, I'll mention that it's possible to enlarge the small captions you mention. There's a setting in your Netflix account that allows you to make them bigger. Look for 'Subtitle Appearance'.

You'll probably have to go over there and do it for them.

. . . I cast my vote for Greg-who-had-a stroke. He's funny and has a way with babies.

You know, I've been wondering if he's been marked to somehow become one of "Us."

For the person who says the text in closed captioning is hard to read should check out Prime Video where the text is adjustable in size as well as background (white/black/transparent). It is very useful for British television!

It may have already finished filming since I remember seeing on-set pictures over the summer, but regardless, given the recent news do you think they're going to frantically add in "Andrew is the Queen's favorite son and she lets him get away with anything!" plotlines or try to avoid that entirely?

I really doubt they're anywhere near having to reference 2019 in any way.

What did you think of Tobias Menzies' Emmy submission episode?

If you're talking about Philip's fascination and then letdown with the Apollo astronauts (and his overall manhood crisis), I thought it was the best episode of the season.

I was wondering why invent the whole Palace/Establishment keeps Charles and Camilla apart since Lord Mountbatten wasn't behind Charles overseas posting and the Queen Mother didn't force Camilla's parents and Ander Parker Bowles' parents to marry their children since it isn't "lovers denied" if she chose to marry another man and that was the reason they couldn't be together. The heir to the throne (or a baker or a grocer) stealing away another man's wife seems kind of reasonable to avoid and makes Prince Charles and Camilla less sympathetic.

It does get some people worked up, "The Crown."

If you have a qualifying Verizon wireless phone/data plan, you can get Disney+ free for a year I don't work for either company, I just like free stuff. I had to upgrade my plan, but it was a upgrade with a lower monthly cost AND free Disney+ Now if I could just log in...

One of them has "free" Apple TV too. I get lost in all that information. Here's my wallet, just do whatever you're going to do. One day I'll be in a monastery somewhere and you'll wonder what happened to the sucker with all the monthly and annual subscriptions. Especially YOU, Xfinity. You will really miss me most.

What are the options for 7:30-9:30 in bed in my pajamas with a drink?


That's that for today.

No chat next Thursday (Happy Thanksgiving) but there's a strong likelihood we'll reconvene here on Thursday, Dec. 5.

Have a great holiday, 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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