What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Apr 04, 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: "Game of Thrones," "Better Things" "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Insecure" Lately he's been digging "Barry," "Veep," "Killing Eve" and "What We Do In the Shadows."

Hi everyone -- busy day here, but I'm ready to chat if you are.

While I sort through your questions/comments, here are some of my recent reviews of "Veep," "Barry," "The Twilight Zone" and ... well, as soon as it posts, my tip-toe/try-not-to-spoil anything review of the start of "Killing Eve's" new season. (Yay.)

What are you watching? How is it? That's a big reason for these weekly chats -- for me to get a chance to hear what's on in your world.

I see AMC is Replying Season One on Sunday Moring. Would it be best if I binged it before Season Two, or can i just jump in it?

You need to watch Season 1. I don't think this is up for debate. Season 2 begins 30 seconds after where Season 1 left off and it's a pretty complex story, with an adversarial relationship (of sorts) at its core that you need to understand fully before going forward.

Pretty fun so far. I don't Like the Energ Vampire, but now I'm suspicious of one guy in the office.

Wait until you meet the Emotional Vampire!

I love, love the show for tagging and describing the Energy Vampire -- every office has at least one, sometimes more.

Hate when the local PBS stations have pledge quarters. They should be banned. Wouldn't they make just as much money or more if they had their normal programming rather than stuff thats 10+ years old.

Have you ever thought about upgrading in a way that you could watch PBS content via streaming, instead of relying on the affiliate to spoon it out to you?

Did you like "Mrs. Wilson," on Masterpiece (PBS)? I was pleasantly surprised by the first two hours. Far more complex and nuanced characters than I'd expected; I guess I was fearing some sort of soap-opera "other woman" angst. Am now looking forward to the finale.

I watched a fair chunk of it and found it kind of slow. My real metric here is my other half, who, when given the option to keep watching the second hour of part 1 or switch over to "Barry" and "Veep" chose to flip to HBO. I've seen a little more of "Mrs. Wilson" than he has, but I unfortunately didn't have time to scrutinize it for a full review. Late March through mid-April has been a flood zone. I feel bad for any publicists who are trying to promote shows that don't have the word "Game" or "Thrones" in the title, because that's pretty much where everyone's head is at, right now.

Okay, everyone -- here's my "Killing Eve" review, just posted. People who haven't watched Season 1 (like the chatter above) are cautioned in the review to stop reading. I tried to keep Season 2 set-up as spoiler free as possible.

Any idea when the new season for The Americans will kick off?

I think they're just releasing a summary, not a full season.

We loved the first episode of the new season! Such a great show. Just the right blend of humor, violence, pathos.

Stand by for the contrary view...

I think this show isn't all it's cracked up to be. For one, the ebbs and flows of struggling actors in Hollywood and hitmen suddenly growing consciouses are two of the most tired genres in existence. Second, Barry should feel bad. He killed his friend. He killed his mentor's lover. Is there a debate? In each of those two cases, it might have been preferrable to take a plea deal or risk some other outcome than committing cold blooded murder but he made a choice in each of those two instances for self-preservation.

I totally hear you on the Hollywood milieu -- the "Get Shorty" echo, "The Kominsky Method" acting-school stuff, but I respectfully disagree on Barry and remorse. The man is TORTURED and somehow keeps deluding himself that it's going to be okay.

Your "bloated" observation is dead on. I enjoyed "The Comedian," but I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it clocked in at a half hour instead of 55 minutes. Remove the nephew, skip through the last three Second Amendment bits, ditch some of the angsty nonsense with the girlfriend, and you have a really solid half hour show. I'll probably skip "Nightmare at 30,000" because it feels a bit too much like the Vince Vaughn remake of "Psycho" with Adam Scott in the Vaughn role, but I'll check out future episodes.

I liked "Nightmare at 30,000 Feet" (which is already up and streaming; the weekly installments start next Thursday), which, in addition to Adam Scott, has a nice part for Chris Diamantopoulos, who I always enjoy. I also like the innovation -- creating a new kind of "gremlin" who is not on the wing, but inside the cabin.

1. Are you excited about the thought of the Apple streaming service, or are you thinking, "ugh we have enough"? On one hand, I'm excited to see what kind of content Apple will come out with, but on the other hand, I feel like I can barely keep up with what I already watch. 2. Do you watch movies, or does your job of keeping up with TV take up all of your screen time?

My only concerns with AppleTV at the moment are entirely practical: Why did they go to all the trouble of an unveiling and not show a single clip or trailer? Also, as a critic and member of the Television Critics Assocation (i.e., a long contact list), I have yet to hear anything from Apple. When is this happening? Will I receive access to preview screeners? Do they have a publicity department? Where will we get photos/art for the show? So far, I don't know. And if I don't know, I can't put them on my master calendar. And if you're not on my master calendar, it becomes hard for me to book out the time to watch whatever you're selling. And so on ... So, from where I sit, it doesn't feel at all like they're getting ready to launch TV shows.

2. Sadly, my moviegoing days are way behind me. I get to the movie theater maybe twice a year? (I used to go, at minimum, once a week.) But I do watch movies on flights (unless I'm reading or dozing) and I do see them when they wend their way to cable, sometimes. We've also streamed some -- last night, because I'm reviewing "Fosse/Verdon," we ordered up "Cabaret" and watched it.

To me, the torture is that Barry is so overwhelmingly amazing at the career he hates, yet so overwhelmingly horrible at the career he loves. And he keeps going in BOTH. I haven't seen episode 1 yet, but I literally LOL'd at the section of your review where NoHo Hank answered Barry's rhetorical question of "Am I evil" in the completely opposite manner as it was intended. That one exchange, to me, symbolizes the entire show.

Indeed.

What??? A new season? Summary of what? I thought it was done last year.

We kid, we kid.

That was a nice surprise in This is Us. I found the finale very satisfying. Last week's episode of Better Things was the best half hour summary of "life of a middle age woman" I have ever seen. Just spot on. Love the season so far.

I loved this show. Why can't Season 2 happen? I know it's based on a book that's rather close-ended but so is Orange is the New Black and besides shows like Community and AP Bio have concepts that are/were way more close-ended than this one. I don't even feel like what we actually saw on TV was close-ended.

I haven't seen anything that says it's canceled -- or renewed. Have you?

Started my binge, it's as good as everyone said... now about halfway through season 2. Is one of the "jokes" of the show that we never actually see the President?

Yes -- though I seem to have a vague memory that he comes in at some point. I'd have to go back and watch, but sounds like that's your job right now.

Sometimes you don't realize how much you've come care for TV characters until a scene like this week's, where it confirmed Randall and Beth had not split. Although, after spending most of this season wanting to slap some sense into Randall, it still irks me a bit that, yet again, it was Beth that had to come up with the solution. And, I thought that Kevin and Zoe's storyline did a good job of illustrating that love isn't always enough. I know the show has a lot of haters, but, I still love it.

If you haven't read my colleague Elahe Izadi's wrap-up of the season finale, then you definitely need to. We were both like, "How is moving to Philadelphia the elusive solution they were looking for?" All that time in traffic to think about it...

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fan here, I've been watching the final season but its become more of a chore than a joy -the main storyline now that Rebecca is (mostly) mentally healthy has been -wait for it -"which of the 3 guys I've dated and / or stalked over the course of the show will I choose?" All three are inexplicably steadfast that she is the only gal for them. This Friday is the finale, and I will watch, but don't have a lot of hope they will be able to end with anything but a dud. -Was a good ride until this year however!

Thanks for the useful walk-up. I know the show has a lot of loyal fans.

Remind me again who is left to have a relationship without committing incest?

Sounds like a job for our graphics department, who could work up a heck of a charticle.

To be fair, though, I think we're only up to two instances, and they're very different. (That's the cue for some hardcore GoT fan to weigh in with five other examples I've forgotten.)

Certainly quite a few questions after the season finale -- it's obvious that most everyone seems to be alive in the future (except maybe Miguel) and still together. Can't figure out how/why Jack's brother was there, but I'm sure we'll find out. And it would seem that there is a kid running around Kevin's ginormous future house that isn't Toby and Kate's but could possibly be Kevin's. And the Rebecca scenario in the future doesn't look promising. A lot to absorb from a flash forward ending, I think.

The show can test our patience and the bounds of credulity, but I do love its grand sense of architecture, built from flashforwards and flashbacks. I absolutely trust the creator/writers to keep building it out.

I didn't even realize it was the finale. Was I suppose to be shocked that decades in the future Rebecca is now... decades older? I didn't think Rebecca was a new Methuselah so I wasn't shocked.

I wish they had cast an actual old person to play Rebecca at that stage, like they do with the kids.

One of my favourite characters is Fiona Shaw as Eve's shady (?) boss. I've enjoyed watching her for decades but her relatively low profile in the States always makes for a treat when she shows up.

Agreed.

This Friday will have the narrative Finale episode one hour before and then a special Variety-show Finale at the usual slot. CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS.

Thanks.

Nothing has said canceled/renewed, but the creators at the beginning said they envisioned an American Horror Story style show, with the same folks but different plots in each season. I believe the OP was requesting that this specific storyline continue instead.

Ah. Thanks.

Wait, what?? A summary of what happens after the finale? Or just of seasons 1-6? Man I miss this show so much.

You guys! "Summary" was a joke, based on the news ... eh, nevermind.

Is Jack still Dead? And how long does it take to travel from Philly to Pittsburgh in the ThisIsUs-verse?

One commercial break.

Hi, Hank. Huge fan of "Jane the Virgin" here who is both excited and apprehensive about the show's final season. But I'm even more apprehensive about the news that there may be a spinoff based on the title character's fiction (the CW has commissioned a pilot). It just sounds too thin a concept to work, and but maybe I need to have more faith in Gina Rodriguez. Any thoughts?

I generally try to keep my thoughts to television shows that have actually been made and are scheduled to air. Life is too short (and the job is too hard) for me to gin up opinions on shows that are mere suggestions. It's the first step, critically, to keeping an open mind. This includes news about pilot season, greenlighting, casting, etc.

As a viewer, however, you should not feel similarly restricted. Pre-judge away!

Is that pequel season set 10,000 years before the current one going to happen?

A pilot for the prequel is definitely in some stage of production, last I heard. Keep in mind that HBO (at least, the HBO we know and love, not the HBO that has been ordered by its new boss, AT&T, to ramp up its output) will sometimes tinker for years on a pilot and series order before deeming it up to snuff and ready to air.

Any comments? I tripped over it a few weeks ago and binged. Pretty campy, very sexy. Lead character is gay and half of the sex involves the same sex, which is new to me as a TV series watcher. Oh yes, creepy, low tech martians too.

I gave it a pretty blah review.

Hank, it's called April Fools DAY, not WEEK! You had me going there too. Seriously, are there negotiations for some kind of movie continuation a la "Looking" or "Downton Abbey" for our favorite Russian spy family?

Doubtful.

The sidewalk chalk is for Rebecca to write with on a chalkboard--easier when you don't have fine motor skills, i.e., Parkinson's. And the Pin the Tail on the Donkey is to redevelop them.

My daughters have recently started their binge... except they find the singing so awkward that they usually FF through all the songs (too "cringey" they say). Personally, I found the entire series cringey... although I do like Jane Lynch.

Have they ever seen musicals before? Seems like they're unaccustomed to characters bursting out into song. Some people never get over that hump, btw.

Kate becomes a successful singer and leaves him or Kate's professional singing aspirations never get off the ground and her frustration causes the end of their marriage. Both seem possible. Actually shouldn't put it all on Kate. Toby and Kate have got personal issues so them lasting a decade or more doesn't seem like a failed marriage, but a success.

Elahe pointed out to me that we didn't even have a guarantee that Kate's still around. "They're on their way" could mean young Jack and any other person in the world.

Just watched the first episode of the final season of Veep. I was skeptical it would still hold up in the current era of awfulness in our politics but it definitely does. Their awfulness is still hilarious and an escape from real world awfulness. I will miss all the creative swearing.

I realize that the five original actors on "The Big Bang Theory" have each earned a massive pile of money from the show (and presumably will continue to do so, thanks to residuals). But do you have any word yet on what they or any others in the cast plan to do next, especially if it's TV?

I don't have word, but a bigger BBT fan might. Anyone?

isn't is Marcia, Marcia, Marcia? Can't wait for the Downton movie -they showed the trailer when I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody of all things in January.

Not when you're talking about "The Americans" it isn't.

Why would you FF through the musical numbers on a MUSICAL show? The non-musical parts of GLEE were often the least coherent.

As chatter pointed out, they're children. Children are WEIRD.

Is the next season of "Silicon Valley" in that HBO? Google says it won't be back until 2020!

That's fine. It could use a break.

Can I say that this is a really fun time to watch television? My last two shows - Russian Doll and Forever - were just darn interesting. I'm still not sure how I feel about Forever but enjoyed the heck out of watching it. I'm not one for the death shows (look how interesting - a mild mannered white guy who is a hit man, oh look, a mild mannered white housewife who kills people) but heck, I don't have to watch those because there's so much out there that is, again, darn interesting. It's tough to filter through, but thanks to decent TV critics, with a little effort it is fun.

It's a darn interesting time to be alive.

I watched this during nighttime feedings with my newborn and found it disappointing. There were some cool stylistic choices that initially hooked me, but the characters and plot were a bit cliche (anyone else notice the plot paralleled the first season of Heroes?) and fell flat for me. You will however, watch just about anything to avoid falling asleep while feeding your kid.

Netflix just renewed it, and I was going to venture a guess that your kid will be off the breasts by then, but then I realized, I don't know your life.

So I just finished a fantastic book about a real-life Cold War-era KGB agent turned MI6 informant ("The Spy and the Traitor" if that's anyone else's jam) and by the time I was halfway through I knew I would be rewatching the Americans post haste. I'm up to the end of S3 (oh, Paige) and it's even better the second time around. Do you have a list of shows you'd like to revisit someday, when (a hopefully long time from now) you are not doing this particular job anymore?

I only rarely think of life after this particular job assignment (which is coming up on 10 years, in August), but when I do, I don't see a lot of binge-watching. It would be fun, someday, to rewatch "The Americans," and maybe "Breaking Bad." I have a friend who is watching "Lost" with her 8-1/2-year-old (a very mature 8-1/2) and that somehow sounds like fun. I guess I won't know until I get that opportunity and that sort of time. I think it will take me a while to figure out what I want from TV (and how much) and what platform, etc.

At te end I thought 'Now THAT's how Sex & the City should have ended!" There are a lot more Women Friendships in NYC to examine.

I still need to watch that episode! Thanks for the reminder. Maybe today while I eat lunch.

We are in an expansion of streaming services, there will be too many, then 2-3 years from now it will subside again.

Google "John Landgraf" and "peak TV." Such things are very hard to predict.

Veep, Barry, GOT, and LWT are hard to top. What would be your dream HBO lineup? Personally, I'd go Curb, Barry, Veep, Larry Sanders, Sopranos (three hours).

Mine's different, let's just say that. You've only got one show where a woman is the lead character.

Why do you assume it was a woman? Maybe husband had bottles... you're right it was probably a woman.

Dang, you're right. I did assume and shouldn't have.

Soon to be a new comedy on Netflix (or the AT&T version of HBO)

About a struggling comedian who has just come out of the closet?

Not with its Finale!! It's like the Mueller Report, but for Network TV.

They've probably got an enjoyable distance to go before that letdown. Which I think is an important lesson for kids anyhow -- narrative failure. They need to know!

I hope that someday soon some company will start bundling streaming platforms so we can pick and choose ala carte from the myriad of choices that keep coming at us.

I thought you were about to make a cable joke, but you weren't.

heard a recent Jim Parsons interview. He doesn't have specific plans but expects soon after the show ends he will tire of all the free time and do more acting, plays movies etc. The usual answer one gives to these questions. And its been floated that Johnny Galecki may join the cast of The Connors as the character he played on Roseanne -David.

Any word on whether it's coming back for a fourth season? Became an unexpected fan but since it's been consigned to the Friday ghetto I'd never see it without my DVR.

It's still a bit early to expect renewal/cancellation news from the broadcast networks, but May (upfronts) is just around the bend...

I'm worried about your chatters. Got both the summary (cute!) and the Martha Martha Martha references immediately!

I know, but let's just whisper between us for now and hope that things smarten up...

In fairness, most of them have had male leads. Outside of SATC, Tracey Ullman, and Girls, most of their big shows have focused on men. See: Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones, etc. That's not to say there have not been excellent female actresses in great roles, but the leads for the biggest and most well reviewed hits have mostly been men. The same goes for their worst shows: Arli$$, Vinyl, Ballers, etc.

In REAL fairness:

Insecure, Enlightened, The Comeback, Getting On, Big Little Lies, Sex and the City ...

He's doing the Ted Bundy movie, though it seems almost certain to get ripped by critics after it's wide release in May.

Will someone at WaPo be hosting a Chat on Monday mornings to talk about the previous night's GOT?

I think we have at least two recaps (with a comments section), but I don't know of any chats.

Saw the premier was last night. Do you get to preview some episodes?

Nope.

Hahahaha. Thanks for the laugh. I really enjoy this hour.

Aw, thanks. I do too -- though you wouldn't always know it, would you?

But I do! And thank you all for yet another chatastic chat. Know that if I didn't post/answer your submission, I do read them all. I just can't answer them all.

We'll do it again next week, on Thursday, April 11.

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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