What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Jan 04, 2018

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," "The Americans," "The Amazing Race" and "Shameless" Lately he's been digging "The Chi" "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "The Crown" and "Below Deck."

Where is he? Where is he?

I'M HERE. Sorry for the delay -- just signed on. Give me a sec, pretty please...

Happy New Year, TV chatters! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, got everything you asked for, and found your way to comfort and joy. If not, there's always the next one.

Speaking of, what did you think of Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen on New Year's Eve? I thought it was awful.

Coming to you today from lovely Pasadena, Calif., and the first day of the winter TV press tour. I will NOT rub it in about the California weather as many of you suffer the deep freeze, the bomb cyclone, or whatever it is. You have my sympathies. (Besides, karma being what it is, the second I start bragging about the warm weather, we'll have a big earthquake here and I don't want no part of that.)

The TV tour is kicking off with presentations from Fox, the broadcast network which is becoming part of Disney and not to be confused the conservative news outfit. Like that won't be confusing. Tomorrow is a full day of FX, including the Gianni Versace series we're all so primed for.

Speaking of Fox, my review of "9-1-1" is here. What'd you think of it?

And somewhere around here I should have a review of Showtime's "The Chi." (It hasn't posted yet.)

Did you see the tiny little Winter Preview I left for you? I'm guessing there's nothing there that you didn't already know, but it does have a lot of returning-show premiere dates between now and March.

With that, let's chat!



Not as bad as it looked in the commercials. But I don't see where you can get 13 episodes out of it.

Agreed. It also felt like a web-only series to me -- and no, that's not a compliment.

Have you seen it yet? The previews intrigue me. I love Luke Evans (Beauty & the Beast AND The Hobbit--completely different roles), and I like the idea of little Dakota Fanning all grown up. I have to admit I'm looking forward to it.

New year, same publicist-sounding questions. (I know, I know, you're NOT a publicist. But'cha sound like one. Why do you "have to admit" you're looking forward to it? The ads have been relentless and alluring. You're supposed to be looking forward to it!)

Awright, I'll stop picking on you and answer your question: I've watched a teeny bit of it -- enough to put it on my carefully calibrated list of shows to watch and review in full. It will probably be a few more days before I get to it and my review will run on or near the Jan. 22 premiere date. The cast doesn't exactly thrill me -- not the way it thrills you -- but I do remember how everyone adored the book when it first came out in the 1990s. I never read it, but I always dug the concept.

Was that an answer to the question? Hardly. I ap0logize!

I know that you have been lukewarm on this show, but now that it has gotten more popular I decided to give it a look. (I should preface this by saying that I work with many people who are on the Autism spectrum, so I am approaching it from a slightly unusual angle.) What I like is the fact that it actually exists. What I hate is that it perpetuates the myth of karma; that every "bad" thing is actually a "good" thing if we just approach it with an open mind and open heart and yada yada yada. This bugs me because it just isn't always so. As you once put it, not everyone on the spectrum has superpowers. This is important because so many people base their expectations on what they see on television and movies. And, of course, it isn't just Autism. We are told that getting cancer is empowering, that all special-needs children are sweet and gratifying to deal with, and that old people, alcoholics, and old people who are alcoholics invariable seek to resolve old hurts. In my line of work I have discovered that the truth is often much more complicated and often much more heartbreaking. I don't mean to sound cranky, but rather issue a plea that everyone who watches shows like this use them as a starting point, not as an ending point.

I think everything you've said here is spot-on. Hollywood has a long history of needing to make sickness and disability seem far more hopeful than they usually are. There's a feeling that audiences won't stick around unless they get a heavy dose of hope and uplift. That's one reason I liked "Getting On" so much -- it wasn't afraid of showing aging and elderly care as it really is. And it was also hilarious.

Should I bother? (I missed last night because my cable was out. Also, my sister laughed at me when I said I was watching it.)

Well, my editor certainly liked it, judging from his tweets last night (but he also mocking it). Around here in critic-land, the consensus is that there's some good stuff there in this new group of episodes (is it really a "season" or is it an "event series," like the folks at Fox call it?), but that the first episode (last night) isn't so great. Seems like it's been given an FFO rating. ("For Fans Only.")

Wait, I thought Mulder was the one in trouble, not Scully! And CSM had only half a face! Is there a good website for recalling what's happened over 10 seasons?

Oh, there must be. Chatters? Got a link to a good X-Files wiki?

Ms. Dockery has demonstrated great range in recent years, from Downton Abbey, to Godless, to Good Behavior. Have you heard whether Good Behavior is coming back for a third year?

I have a lot of email to sort through, but I don't believe we've heard anything yet on a season 3 renewal. Sorry.

Under the weather, angry, and bitter----only have Amazon Prime and OTA, wondering what, if anything, you could recommend as light and humorous. Dark and humorous works too. Best regards, Sullen in Shirlington

On Amazon, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "Catastrophe" and "Patriot." If you've watched those, what about "One Mississippi?" And have you done all the seasons of "Transparent?"

Hope you feel better soon.


Wondering if you have any inside scoop on when this will return given the illness of Julia Louis Dreyfuss, whose treatment obviously comes first. Selfishly, 2018 is shaping up to be missing some favorites with Game of Thrones, likely the Americans and Veep missing from the schedule.

"Veep's" production has been delayed until Julia Louis-Dreyfus is ready to roll -- that was the last I heard about it, and it's been a couple of months. So, yes, it's delayed. And this will be its final season, which was announced before she shared news of her illness.

"The Americans" will be back in March. (I expect we'll get an exact date from FX at tomorrow's press tour session for the show.)

"Game of Thrones" will be here when it gets here -- 2019.

Let's stay positive: You've got all kinds of opportunity to find some new favorite shows.

Do you think The Assassination of Gianni Versace has the potential to be as big as The People vs OJ Simpson? Or is 90s gay politics too niche for audiences?

Is it political, though? What principles did Andrew Cunanan stand for?

That said, I think you're onto something. Make the subject gay (either a little bit or a lot) and you still lose some potential audience (dude bros, mainly), though not nearly to the degree that you once might have. Plus, I think everyone wants to tune in to see if this one is as good as the last one. Versace is nowhere near the true-crime mania that accompanies the subject of O.J. Simpson. Minus the crazed gay serial killer angle and debaucherous gay luxury angle, he Versace murder is hard sell as a work of nostalgia or revisionist drama.

I have seen two episodes at this point, but I have a feeling I'll be bingeing a lot more of it tonight in advance of FX's presentations tomorrow. What I can say, so far, is that this series hits the same sweet spot that the O.J. series did, between fact and sensation. Darren Criss goes all out as Andrew Cunanan.

I can't find anything on google with you having strong feelings in the past. What are your thoughts on this show if you've been able to continue watching?

I have never written about it. My priorities are loosely organized to first confront the 500 or scripted shows being made and shown to the American market, with some big exceptions, of course. "Peaky Blinders" is imported by Netflix. I know it's good. I've heard a lot about how good it is from its fans and my readers. And once it was up and running, there has been little opportunity for me to go back and assess it.

Hi Hank, Google isn't finding a review of Grown-ish by you. Not sure if you haven't reviewed it or if the search is having trouble with the hyphen. Any thoughts?

I haven't watched it, sorry. I went on Christmas vacation instead -- my first break in 2017.

Boo, I missed the Amazing Race season premiere last night. It's getting harder and harder to keep up with TV schedules, I forgot to set my FIOS box to record Amazing Race episodes in time :-( At least I caught ads for Nashville's return tonight in time to set that one up.

Sounds like you need a Winter TV preview. It was in Sunday's paper and went up online last week.

Happy new year! I have a few flights coming up (figure about 24 hours of travel time) and I desperately need some distractions from how awful airplane seats are. I have about half of The Crown season 2 left, and I've already downloaded Mrs. Maisel. I'm leaning toward Peaky Blinders or Wormwood, but would appreciate any recommendations. I'm specifically looking for something so engrossing that the flight will just fly by (heh). The only types of shows I really don't enjoy are things like American Horror Story. I have Amazon Prime and Netflix. Thanks!!

Take a look at my Best TV of 2017 list (including the list at the bottom of shows that almost made the top 10 list) and see if that helps.

I just finished the second season of "The Crown" and have heard a nasty rumor that they are changing the cast to better match the age of the real Queen Elizabeth. This makes me sad as I thought Claire Foy was so brilliant that it seems like malpractice to boot her Just put her in a wig and throw on a little unflattering make-up. A little extra suspension of belief seems like a small price to keep her.

You're in for a real treat because you obviously don't know how good Olivia Colman, who is taking over the role of Elizabeth, really is. Go have a look at the first season of "Broadchurch." I have very high hopes for her as the '70s-era QE2.

I'm anxious for the Alienist - because I'm sick of the commercials. Just run it, already. I took your recommendation & watched Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - I enjoyed it, but I think it's being mis-marketed as a comedy, when it's actually a drama about a comedian. Yes, it's funny, but not really a comedy. Then I went nuts on Netflix. A ton of children's movies, then Dark, Black Mirror & halfway through the Five. (I expect to summoned for a wellness check any day now.) Very pleased with Dark & curious to know if there's a season 2 planned, pleasantly surprised at how much is actually going on in The Five, and generally disturbed but satisfied with Black Mirror. I didn't find Mirror nearly as upsetting as some people did, apparently. Metalheads was definitely the standout.

Thank you for this breakdown -- and all those impressive hours on the couch! (I'm impressed, anyhow. That is some serious stamina.)

(For this week's chat, everyone should start their question with the statement "I'm NOT a publicist ...) Did you review? Like clothing, for every new show I watch I have to give up an old one. Is it worth giving anything up?

I thought it was painfully overwrought. Barely anything was said about it.

I noticed there was no mention of Fargo in the story you did about returning series. I seem to recall they were delaying the next season, or maybe not doing one. Can you provide an update?

Yeah, there's no "Fargo" in the foreseeable future. FX may have some news for us on that tomorrow at the press tour. Noah Hawley has a lot of other irons in the fire, including "Legion," which IS returning on FX in March, I think. (Again, we'll probably get an actual premiere date tomorrow. They like to make big announcements during their time on stage here.)

Did Princess Margret really send an "unadorned" picture of herself to the London Newspapers? They should make a "History vs. Hollywood" like they had on the History Channel for The Crown.

Here's a story for you, by the inimitable Emily Yahr, about how watching an episode of "The Crown" sends a viewer down an internet-search wormhole, looking for the historical account of what they just watched.

Hosted by Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel for the Oscars and Stephen Colbert for the Emmys? Is this the way things are going to be for all award shows? Bob Hope is spinning in his grave!

Let him.

I really enjoyed it and actually found portions of it to be pretty moving (Emmett Till). I consider myself a progressive, feminist and was not bothered by his Louis C.K. observations. So many items in my newsfeed admonishing him for it, but feels like they didn't catch the tone or qualifiers he used in what was more like a spoken word in part two of his special. Would be curious on what your take was if you've seen it. Happy New Year...

I'm saving both specials for a special treat, when I find a moment to watch TV for pure enjoyment.

Happy New Year to you too!

I was bored a few weeks ago and felt like just veg-ing out with the TV on in the background, so I started playing the first episode of the Americans. (I've watched the whole series and love it.) Now I'm binge-watching the whole darn thing again, and wow. You know a series or movie is good when you know the outcome but are still pulled in by the suspense and drama. I just finished the Martha exfiltration and actually had clammy palms. I'm so excited for the final season!

I am too. I hope they learned something last season about pacing and backfilling and place-holding or whatever it was they were doing. Fans want and deserve the most exciting and most meaningful wrap-up possible.

Is that the Street Magician guy?

No, it's the guy from "Glee."

Hank - I know you don't have time to review imported shows, so when I noticed Schitt's Creek season 4 premiere on your mid-season calendar, I wanted to weigh in. It is delightful, especially if you enjoy Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara. The first 3 seasons are on Netflix. It's the best kind of dry, wicked comedy and the characters actually evolve in a realistic way. It has heart, which took me by surprise. No one I know watches it, and my efforts to nudge my friends to give it a try have failed, but maybe one of your readers will give it a try. (I'm not a publicist!)

It doesn't do much for me, but you've made a good case for it, so I hope other chatters who might like it will give it a try.

Thanks for the winter preview! The return dates are especially helpful because they remind me of shows I'd forgotten that I watch. (Seriously. The only problem with the TV golden age is that there's so much good stuff out there, I can't keep track of it!)

You're welcome!

As bad as the last season of Fargo was, good riddance to it. We loved the first season...but the 2nd was dumb and boring.

Wrong! Seasons 1 and 2 were terrific. Season 3 dragged a little but finished strong.

Should we expect the same storylines to reappear if it is renewed? Seems like they left us hanging in both stories. But, if I recall, last season had a definite ending.

I don't feel like any of the stories so far have left us hanging, but then again, I'm a firm believer in ambiguous walk-offs when they're done well, which these were.

I have no news on the future of the show.

As a longtime fan, count me in the ranks of those who were incredibly disappointed by last night's "twist". It seems awfully tone deaf, and makes me unlikely to watch next week, as I was somewhat warily watching to begin with. That also means I won't be watching 9-1-1, as I only watched it because the dog was laying on the remote and it wasn't compelling enough to make me seek it out next week.

That's a new one: "I watched it because the dog was laying on the remote." I love that.

this confuses me. The movie division I understand, but what is the advantage for viewers (if any) of having one entity control two networks? Will Fox become a 2nd ABC?

It's the many-billion-dollar question. A lot of people think that Disney has no incentive or reason to muck around with Fox and FX (other than the eternal quest to improve ratings), but that the real savings is behind the scenes, in terms of executives, marketing, production. I don't know -- I'm just a critic.

Check out all the cool bungalows!

I love Pasadena. Have been coming here for many winter TV press tours and frankly, I prefer it to Beverly Hills, where we do the summer TV press tour.

To the person requesting shows to watch that are light -- or, more relevant here, dark -- and humorous, there is also Fleabag on Amazon, which features, in a supporting role, the terrific Olivia Coleman (in a very different role from that on Broadchurch).

YES, "Fleabag!" I knew I was forgetting something.

Hank, I agree with you on The Crown. Claire Foy was just fine, but Olivia Colman is amazing. I may re-binge Broadchurch or the Night Manager this weekend, now that I'm thinking about it...

Grandkids (girl, 6, and boy, 3) visited for 2 weeks (yes, with their parents). Saw some very good kids' television like Little Einsteins, which features a work of art and some classical music each episode, many that were okay (yes, I do like Sofia the First and Tangled Ever After), and some of grandson's favorites--Bubble Guppies, Paw Patrol, and the absolute worst, Top Wing, which is Paw Patrol with birds. Argggggh!

I could not have stomached that much children's television. When I'm in a house with kids TV on constantly, I kind of lose my mind. It seems extraordinarily loud and shouty. I guess it's better when you love the children who are watching it.

You definitely need a cleanse. Order up some very dark, very grown-up shows ASAP.

Did you get to see any of the Rose Parade floats afterwards?

No, we are very strictly forbidden from checking into the hotel until the Rose Parade mania has left town. The bleachers are still up along Colorado Blvd. though.

Excited to see Unreal was back but missing was the Affair, was it canceled?

Showtime has been silent on where/when "The Affair" is. Maybe they'll have an answer for us on their press tour presentation. It was in production last fall with some new cast additions.

If you loved her in The Crown, also well worth watching Wolf Hall, she has a great turn as Anne Boleyn.

"Wolf Hall" was wonderful.

It started out so well and then ran out of steam. Dear Scriptwriters: Forget about Michelle Dockery's character seeing hallucinations, just stick with Highjinks with the ex-Parole Officer and his FBI wife.

I watched because I am a huge fan of Connie Britton (from FNL), not so much Ryan Murphy - sacrilege I know but he gets a great idea, starts executing it beautifully and then totally jumps the shark - Nip/Tuck anyone? Anyway, it was ok - not as dull as Law & Order (although the parts with Peter Krause were - 50 years old? quite an admission) but pretty formulaic. Could be worth tuning in if you are interested in watching something while you read the Post or your Ipad (can't do that with many of the streaming shows because I have to focus on the TV).

Oy. I may give it another episode or two, but it's horrible. Bad premise, horrible actors, and just loses big points in the "is there even a tiny aura of believability" factor. On the other hand, while it's incredibly stupid I'm loving the second season of Better Late Than Never -- precisely because of how stupidly funny it is. And the friendships the stars have -- Henry Winkler, Terry Bradshaw, George Foreman, and William Shatner -- at least SEEM to be real and genuine. (On the other hand, they said they hadn't seen each other in two years since the last season, so who knows.)

I'm not one of the people who asked you what to watch with their mother over the holiday, but I was wondering the same. So THANK YOU for the Mrs. Maisel recommendation. It was so much fun. We really enjoyed it.

Glad to hear it!

Without GOT or Veep in 2018, there's no reason to keep you subscribed. (I'm still mad about Westworld) See you next year!

I dare say that if those two shows were the only things you were watching on HBO, you weren't getting your money's worth. There's SO MUCH ELSE that's also good on HBO.

Still love it. Just binge watched S2. Can't wait to see Season 3. Love Paul Giamatti's awesomeness.

My first thought as I was jolted awake at 2:30am out here in Oakland. I'm SO SORRY for the instagram posts of me at a beer garden in a t-shirt over the weekend!!!!

That's why they say karma is a bitch. I hope you've learned your lesson!

Hey gang, I got here late and now I gotta split . Sessions are starting and I still haven't had enough Diet Pepsi to get in the game.

Let's chat again next Thursday, Jan. 11. I'll still be here at the press tour!


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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