What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Mar 15, 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," "Better Things" "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Shameless" Lately he's been digging "Seven Seconds," "The Good Fight," "This Is Us," "Star Trek: Discovery," "Atlanta Robbin' Season" and "The Looming Tower."

We're back and it's time to chat.

Let's go.

Any word yet on how TV series like "The Big Bang Theory" and "The Simpsons" will pay homage to guest star Stephen Hawking? Considering BBT's multi-episode send-off for late cast-member Carol Ann Susi (Mrs. Wolowitz), it seems likely that they'll plan an episode for Hawking.

I haven't heard anything (and welcome any news that chatters have read), but, in accordance with TV's very real laws of time and space, there's a distinct possibility that whatever remains of BBT's current season is already written and maybe already in the can. (They can always add an in-memoriam placard to an episode's credits.) "The Simpsons," meanwhile, works on a very long lead time, so whatever they have to say about Dr. Hawking (beyond, again, an in-memoriam credit) might have to wait awhile. Of course, either show could be more nimble on this, if budget and creativity allows, or if they planned ahead for his eventual death and had something ready to use.

I don't remember reading about Schitt's Creek on here, but forgive me if I just didn't know what it was when it was talked about. I started watching this show and initially thought it was a mild-mannered diversion, but it's really hooked me. Eugene Levy is almost the straight-man since everyone is so darn funny and I don't even hate Chris Elliott in it. And the recent romance between Dan Levy and Noah Reid is among the sweetest captured on tv.

It's definitely found some fans.

So now "This Is Us" can add in fantasy sequences with aged versions of long dead characters? I knew a set of triplets where two were identical twins so maybe poor stillborn Kyle can come back played by the same actor(s) who play Kevin?

I think you're being a little extreme, but I also think you wouldn't be laughed out of the "This Is Us" writers room, where all things seem possible. And to be fair, Old Jack was part of Kate's dream, not a fantasy sequence. Dreams and fantasies are different in key ways.

Got to admit that I thought Toby's mom and dad made a fair point about Kate. Anybody else?

Whether or not they had a fair point, what was possibly fair about confronting him about their misgivings on his wedding day, AS HE'S GETTING DRESSED IN HIS TUXEDO?

Was just talking about this season of SNL and it seems that how much a person is into Mikey Day or not really matters since there is A LOT of him?

Although he's still a "featured player" instead of leading cast, Mikey Day is getting a lot of screen time, which I think is due mainly to his versatility. I happen to think he's very funny  -- and Alex Moffat is good too. There's a longer conversation to have here about the current state of SNL (there's ALWAYS a long conversation to have about the state of SNL, once you get past those permanent crankypantsers who say it hasn't been good since 19-fill-in-the-blank) and which cast members are rising above it current/recent staleness. So much talk about SNL is about its talented women (Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones), but it seems like the biggest opportunity on the show right now belongs to the male cast member who can get some traction going and break out. I love Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett, but their shared sense of humor is esoteric. I miss Taran Killam. Mikey Day seems to really get the point of SNL, which is to give it your all, no matter how absurd. Also, it doesn't hurt that his looks are bland enough to accommodate a wide range of white-dude characters.

To be fair to Toby's mom and dad, they'd only been written in and cast for that episode so they didn't have an opportunity to have that talk before hand. Cousin Matthew's finance (the one that the Spanish flu killed off) said on "Downton Abbey" that only a fool doesn't try to ingratiation herself to her future mother-in-law which Kate doesn't much of ever.

I think your typing got ahead of what you're trying to say there in the end.

I gave this a shot but I thought they crushed it with all the angst. They should've named it "GLOOM". And who was clamoring for another show starring Josh Radnor?

Yes, the emotional and visual palette is dreary.

Anybody else? Thoughts on "Rise?"

Bill Hader is guest hosting this Weekend! Bring back fake vincent Price!

Bring back EVERYTHING he ever did!

I think this series is really good, and the plot is moving toward multiple seasons as a possibility. Did they get a 2 or 3 year guarantee, or will a decision be made when this season ends?

Showtime renewed "The Chi" for season 2, back in late January. Also one of the main writers was promoted to showrunner. Lena Waithe still executive producing.

Props for casting Josh Radner, as once again he seems to be a white dude who thinks is a good guy but really is a selfish jerk. During "How I met Your Mother", he was starting to be the Id to Barney.

Many critics pointed out that flaw in the show, that Radnor's character is unbearably self-absorbed and blundering into the drama department with an egregious sense of entitlement. Exemplified most in that scene where the closeted gay kid comes to him and asks why he got cast as the gay kid. Lou answers with a soliloquy  about himself and his desire to do something big. Kid just stands there staring blankly.

Definitely has the "Friday Night Lights" vibe. Then they have the special election in SW Pennsylvania the next evening. Maybe they should have made the show about Conner Lamb!


Look, they already had a kid auditioning with a song from "Jesus Christ Superstar" (tune in live April 1!!!)

Even the learning disable can still watch TV and then want to ask questions about to the WaPo TV reviewer.

Why is streaming becoming so popular? Why would I want to watch "TV" on my laptop or phone, when I have a 55" High Definition television? Is Cable TV even going to be available 10 years from now? 5 years?

Yes, cable TV will still be around in five years (he guessed, not willing to bet beyond five years, though 10 is probably safe too).

To answer your other fear, I feel like you've missed an essential part of what streaming TV is. Did you know you can stream shows ON your 55" TV? Or are you just carping about people who do it on smaller, mobile devices?

I know season 2 starts on April 25. For season 1, I binge watched it, and I'm not familiar with how the streaming TV shows work during the season. Will the new episode be on Hulu each Wednesday?

That's how it went last season, although sometimes on the premiere there are multiple episodes to kick off with, then the rest premiere weekly.

If she prevails in her lawsuit to get the NSD agreement tossed, how much more than $130,000 do you think she would make in appearance fees. Do you think 60 minutes is paying her, or is that show going to be her springboard into the real cash?

"60 Minutes" does not pay for interviews.

I don't know what's in store for Stormy, but I agree with a letter that appeared in The Post the other day, suggesting that if her payoff was in any way an illegal action by a campaign, even alleged, then she should not be legally bound to some flimsy non-disclosure agreement. And I'm not sure how much I care about this story anyhow.

But I am interested in that hideously low amount -- $130,000. Does anyone remember what Jessica Hahn got to keep quiet about Jim Bakker, some 35 years ago? $279,000! In today's dollars, that's almost $700,000.

So whatever happens, Stormy has some catching up to do.

I'm really bummed that TNT chose not to renew The Librarians, almost as bummed as I was when ABC chose not to renew Last Man Standing! Do you think there is a chance another network (SyFY, perhaps?) might pick up The Librarians?


I just kept translating the characters into Glee characters. Tough parents of closeted gay kid trying to get parents to understand. Check. Two girls trying for the lead role. Check. Tough football quarterback who can also sing. Check. Who will be playing Sue Sylvester?

I don't know, but whoever she is, I hope she has some choice words for Lou!

Hank, as a Batman fan, I enjoy Gotham. It's not groundbreaking TV, but it's fun. How are the ratings... just kidding. I used the old Google machine and the ratings aren't great. Yet, the VOD numbers are very good. Any insight into how networks balance live viewership, DVR, VOD, etc. when considering whether to renew a show. Back in the day, one could tell a show's fortunes simply by looking at Nielsen ratings, but that seems antiquated now. It seems to me that VOD watches are even more valuable because you can't fast forward through commercials, but perhaps I'm missing something obvious. Thanks.

You're sort of getting into a territory in which I'm not an expert (i.e., I'm not a television executive, nor am I reporter covering the ratings industry), but I have been to enough press tours to pick up on the fact that network executives are happy to consider (and tout, if the news is good) all kinds viewership data that goes beyond the Nielsen overnights. Also, keep in mind, Nielsen measures time-shifted viewing in as many ways as it can. So the answer is generally yes, that they weigh a lot of different factors when it comes time to renew. One factor is mainly ineffable, and it has to do with buzz and freshness and fans and word-of-mouth and all those things. It might be fair to say that "Gotham" once had a lot more of that than it does now; the hardest thing for fans is to admit that a moment arrives when a show has just run its course. (Deeply Googling ratings and worrying about it are two symptoms -- just sayin'.)

As for commercials contained in VOD, I can only recall a couple of anecdotal comments from network people, who say that sort of advertising (un-Fast-Fowardable) hasn't really been a revenue boon, for various reasons, but every little bit helps.


I think they were stuffing a lot into the pilot. I think they could have moved "Girl who's Mom is sleeping with the coach" and "Alcoholic Teen" to Episode 2 or 3. But I'll try it for awhile.

Agreed, but for all that they did stuff into 44 minutes or whatever they had, I thought the pilot was well-edited. It kind of needed a scene where Lou begs the Rosie Perez character to please stay and help him figure all this out. And gets the principal to keep paying her.

It was just...weird. I watched the first 20 or 30 minutes, then started channel surfing and going back and forth. the camera work was very strange, and it was very distracting.

I knew she'd be back.

I recall the muzzling for some time of the "60 Minutes" news story about tobacco executives. It seemed that it finally took "Murphy Brown" (at CBS's entertainment division) having a plot-line one week on a similar scenario to shame the news division into airing the "60 Minutes" story. So, if there's now wrangling over whether to air the Stormy Daniels segment, is there any sitcom nowadays to shame CBS into running it?

Well, it came down to a whole lot more than a Murphy Brown episode. Go watch the movie "The Insider" if you'd like to know more.

Sitcoms don't do that anymore. But have you ever watched any of our late-night hosts?

So I spent last Tuesday evening glued to the WaPo website (and later, local news coverage) following the Conor Lamb election results, and thus missed the première of "Rise." We don't do streaming, but will NBC re-run the debut episode before this coming Tuesday, so I can catch up?

Not that I've heard. Can you watch it at NBC's website?

I miss Taran Killam to. He could play almost anybody. And I agree with Mikey Day and Alex Moffat being good for a wide range of white dudes. From the new cast members I think Chris Redd has a lot of potential, but he messes up a lot of his punch lines. We also need a replacement for Vanessa Beyer.

We need Vanessa Bayer.

Is he talking about Nancy Travis? Is she on a new series? She's the only reason I watched that show sometimes!


Talking about advertisement, there was a major plotline in Riverdale about our beloved teenyboppers all going to the local movie theatre see "Love, Simon." I mean they talk about it and the plot then show a full scene of the movie in the show with the characters of Riverdale in the audience loving it, and then the characters weep talking about the movie later and quote direct dialogue from the scene they've already shown in the episode. Geez Louise.

Good Lord. Glad I'm not watching "Riverdale" anymore. (No dis to "Love, Simon.")

So is Kate's mom dead? Elizabeth Perkins was at Jack's funeral so she still comes to family functions. Obviously REALLY in the weeds, but while it's hard to like Kate's mom, I do like Elizabeth Perkins and her presence in the show's world.

Kate's mom is still Rebecca, and still alive. (Am I just not able to read what people are trying to ask today? What am I missing in this?)

I'm an unabashed fan of Alan Cumming's, so will I like his new series "Instinct"? More importantly, will the rest of the viewing audience in general?

If the only thing you require is quippy Alan Cumming on the screen for one hour, then, yes, the show will work for you.

But honestly? It's very boring. I have a piece coming tomorrow/Saturday that reviews the show but also discusses the ongoing tradition of putting the DULLEST new shows on in March.

Bless you, because now I'm thinking about Tammy Faye.

I was just re-reading the Style-section Appreciation I wrote about her  when she died in 2007. Here it is if you also want to read it.

OP means Rebecca's mom, not Kate's mom (who is, obviously, Rebecca!).

Sometimes I just can't tell what people are asking. Thanks.


It seemed like only the first and last episodes of the season dealt with the Conspiracy Arc. When does this season end?

Pretty soon, I think? It was only 10 episodes. And then hopefully we're done for all time.

Any plans to see this 4-episode miniseries on Netflix? I just finished it and can't tell if I enjoyed it or not because the pace is so fast. It was like speed dating with my television.

Unfortunately, in prioritizing my watching/reviewing load, I am finding less time for imports, not more. Coolly elegant British detective serials could be their own full-time reviewing job.

Why DID he leave SNL so abruptly? Artistic differences, monetary demands? Did Lorne fire him? I don't recall reading an explanation.

I either don't know or completely forget. But Googling provides so much!

How much does the annual college basketball tournament cut into audience viewership of other programming? Or does it at all?

Not enough to keep networks from launching new stuff, though I haven't done a night-by-night comparison. (Isn't a lot of March Madness played during the day? At first?) I've got more new and returning shows to write about (or consider writing about) than I can handle, all premiering, it seems on March 25, 26, 27, 28.

Sometimes I think the writers room has a "Homeland" style conspiracy board for all the ways one character is connected to eac other in include dates on when to reveal it.

Yes, it is clear there is a great deal of past/present/future plot engineering going on in the writing process, which is why I think the show is so good.

That reminds me, will "Endeavour" be returning for another season? As a fan of Morse and the Lewis sequel, I'm fascinated by this prequel of Morse's early days as a policeman (and love John Thaw's daughter as the local newspaper editor!).


Granted it was at the beginning of the season, but after 9/11, The West Wing put together a special episode that aired (I think) something like three weeks after the attack. So in theory (see what I did there?), BBT could put together a new show that could air before May or June.

Yes, and when "West Wing" did that (one of their worst episodes, btw), it was covered as this amazing and incredibly rare feat of turnaround.

Hawking's death is as big as 9/11? Even to those characters? You feel like going there?

If Jack had lived, Kate would have been a lot thinner at their 40th anniversary vow renewal. And Kevin would have still been married to Sophie.

Oh, you. Jack wasn't Jesus -- though it's easy to think so, sometimes, from the way the characters talk about him. I wish one of the wedding guests, during or immediately Kevin's sappy breathe-in-and-breathe-out toast, had just drunkenly shouted out: "Oh, fer Chrissakes, it's been 20 years. Will you people get over it???!!!"

I mean, we've all been to weddings where there's a missing parent. There are some nice words, some way of honoring the departed, and then, more than anything, an acknowledgment that LIFE GOES ON.

I'll be nice. Season 5 has just been show over there and should come here in the later half of this year.

Thank you very much.

Who are the actors playing Eric and Donald Trump, Jr? I know Scarlett Johanssen plays complict Ivanka.

So Googleable, but Style's own Dan Zak just wrote about them, so here, read this.

At least HIMYM used Ted's pretentiousness and self-absorption for a joke. (I still laugh when I think of his pronunciation of "bruschetta with fresh mozzarella.") Rise seems to want us to root for Josh Radnor's character. However, as an ex-theater kid, the montage of songs from Spring Awakening did get me. And I appreciated the accuracy of the teenage theater kids constantly hanging on each other in the background - you'll never find a group of teens more comfortable with friendly physical affection.

Actually, I'm so old that I remember when we didn't hang all over each other. Even at rehearsals.

In the runup to the Oscars I watched There Will Be Blood for the first time since I saw it in the theater. Then I discovered the SNL sketch where Hader played Daniel Day Lewis/Daniel Plainview as an oilman who went across the country in search of the perfect milkshake. His impression of Day Lewis's voice is uncanny.

Watched based on your review and loved it. Reminded me of the Wire - flawed characters, gray areas, events that can be frustrating and disappointing - but are probably realistic (trying to avoid spoilers here). For those who complain (are there are some every week) of there being "too much tv" - I appreciate this abundance of tv as a way for talent to have a broader stage. Regina King has been working for years and I have to think her career has gotten a major boost through Seven Seconds and American Crime that she may not have gotten in movies. She is great to watch!

She won back-to-back Emmys for "American Crime," so, yes, hard work pays off!

I watched "Rise" instead. Was the ABC Show any good?

Not really. It's pretty sleepy/underwhelming for a Shondaland show (I've watched three episodes) and I'm writing about in that piece I mentioned earlier about boring March shows.

I lost track in the middle of the first season due to surgery and now I'm catching up before the second season. Any Idea if they will finally show that last episode of "Feud: Bette and Joan" that I also missed?

Maybe they will, when another iteration of "Feud" comes along (it's supposed to be about Charles and Diana). I honestly don't have that kind of time or insight to tell you the FX rerun schedule. But "Bette and Joan" is on DVD -- try your local library? Or does your cable provider have it on-demand?

Okay, chatters, that's it for another Thursday.

No chat next week (vacation), so we'll aim to chat again on Thursday, March 29, at the usual time.

Til then!

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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