What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Jun 14, 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," "Better Things" "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Shameless" Lately he's been digging "Westworld," "Killing Eve," "The Affair" and "Sharp Objects."

Welcome back, TV Chatters!

My SUMMER TV PREVIEW is finished and posting online today, in pieces, which I'll link to as they become available. Or you can get it all handsomely laid out for you in this Sunday's Arts & Style section, if you're lucky enough (and smart enough) to subscribe to the print edition.

The first piece is different: Now that it's summer and you (theoretically) have a little more flexibility in your life, what shows are you going to catch up on that you've been putting off?

Here's a list I made, some of which are shows that I unintentionally fell behind on: Summer is the right time for those TV shows you've heard about, but never got around to watching. I included "Killing Eve," "Baskets" and "The Good Fight."

What's on your list?

I loved this, though it feels odd to say I loved such a depressing story. The cinematography was amazing, particularly the first part in NYC, which reminded me of the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas movie with Johnny Depp. They even had a red Cadillac convertible. Bandersnatch outdid himself.

I thought it was really well done, too, although I admit I still need to watch the last part. My review was based on parts 1-3.

PS: "Patrick Melrose" would be an excellent thing to watch this summer when viewers feel as if they've run out of options. It's morose, but lovely.

I know we're talking TV/cable shows, but thoughts on the AT&T/Time Warner merger news and what opening the floodgates means to what and how we will be watching TV in the future?

Honestly, no, partly because I'd been paying more attention to Disney's acquisition of Fox and FX (the networks, minus the conservative Fox News Channel, which Murdoch is keeping). And now that's been upended by Comcast's offer for Fox. I let the business pages handle these stories -- the truth is, no matter what happens, it will be a long time before we see meaningful shifts in content because of the deal(s).

Some episodes are better than others, but on the whole I really like it... takes me back to the Twilight Zone days of TV (reruns, I'm not that old). Any word on an American version? (Even though I don't think it would be as good).

Why would there need to be an American version, when Netflix has made it a very popular binge for Americans already? That would seem redundant to me, but what do I know. Maybe one is in the works.

I recently read news of a possible Middle spin-off and a possible Roseanne spinoff, what's your favorite spinoff?

You make it sound like Six Flags.

Boy, between being mean to Trump and now mean to Commander Waterford from Gilead, who knew the Canadians could be such bullies?

In both cases, they have their reasons.

Although i love the completely original character of Sue Heck (and Eden Sher should get an Emmy for playing her), I do not want t spin-off with her character. Probably "The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt" would be closest.

Good point.

Hi Hank -- thanks for taking questions today. I happened to think that the Tonys are the only completely watchable awards show, mostly because they mostly avoid the cringeworthy moments that typically mar other awards shows (though last year's came close with Kevin Spacey as host, but let's let that one go). So while there were some political moments here and there that I thought were mostly subtle, then we have Robert De Niro stomping on stage, using the F word, and so on. Personally, I don't think that sort of thing helps the "opposition" at all, but maybe that's just me and perhaps it is inevitable, and the genteel Tonys are no longer immune. Your take?

No opinion on this one because I rarely if ever watch the Tonys. Whatever there is to be said about the Tony Awards, including the awards broadcast, I'm happy to leave in the talented hands of our theater critic, Peter Marks.

I'm not enjoying this new season so far. Am I the only one?

I don't know, but let's put it out there and see if we get any nibbles.

After reading the chat after the finale, they were bad people. They killed people and deserved at least prison. who knew all of your readers are such romantics?

Glad I didn't have to watch the show with you.

Now that I've caught up on the finale and the chat, and other people's hot takes, I want to add mine. The finale was deeply satisfying precisely because it was not completely satisfying. The whole series was about the conflicts between various ideals -- family, friendship, country, duty, morality -- and the impossibility of resolving them neatly. Why did Stan do what he did? Was Philip right about Renee? Will characters get what they "deserve"? There's no such thing as "deserve." People are contradictory. Sometimes the good guys win, sometimes they lose, and sometimes it's hard even to know who the good guys are. What a fitting ending to a great series.

Now, you I would watch it with.

Keeping up with non-streaming shows kept me well occupied during the spring, so now I'm making up for it with a whole lotta streaming. Alternating Netflix and Amazon, for the moment, with Bosch & Seven Seconds on deck. BTW, for folks looking to catch up, Epix is free this weekend so they can promote a new show.

Thanks for the tip!

This is a good "Binge during the Summer" show. It has a few jokes in there that make you really think. And others that are just absurd. So did that one of the Cast who "got into a program that Teaches in Amsterdam" get a gig on another show?

Between "Teachers" and the other one (on TruTV, I think?) and "A.P.,"  and "Vice Principals," I personally have had it up to here of shows that mock the profession. I am very pro-teacher, with public school teachers and administrators in my family, and I'm just generally not impressed when funnypeople in TV take every opportunity to deride them. (Newsflash: comedians hated school.) So that's what turned me off to "Teachers" initially. Has it evolved, in your eyes?

What bothered me most about DeNiro's profane screed was that it drew the attention away from eloquent and thoughtful anti-Trump comments -- that really needed to be heard -- by winners Tony Kushner and (long-time British MP) Glenda Jackson.

For several years, I have been open to having feature movies direct to watch at home but nothing yet. Now that streaming service is widely available, and maybe with the big merger on the horizon, do you have any estimate for when this service might become available. I'd gladly pay $15-20 to see a new movie in the comfort of my home rather than go out to the movie theater. Or maybe a Moviepass-like arrangement where you pay a fixed monthly fee to see several movies.

If you're talking about big studio blockbusters like Star Wars movies or Marvel Comics movies, then I don't see that happening for you anytime soon.

But it is worth noting that a lot of art-house stuff (not all, by any stretch) is on VOD (video on-demand), usually under a "Still in theaters" heading.

Also part of Netflix's ultimate domination strategy is to make movies, not just shows. They've made quite a few.

At what point does it stop making sense to make a distinction between shows that are on "television" and those that are "streaming"? Why does the medium of transmission matter? Wouldn't it make more sense to focus on the structure of the show itself? Episodic versus a movie?

So long as someone still has to count the billions of dollars of advertising revenue, then I think that's one distinction that will continue to get made.

Or is it more like Stranger Danger?

It's called Strange Angel, and it's in my Summer TV preview.

Apologies if you've already done a review (I searched but did not find anything). What do you think about Reverie?

I didn't write about it because I didn't have anything to say about it. Very mediocre.

I have been stupid excited about Castle Rock since the first glimpses (in a Super Bowl ad? Is that right?) and am relieved your review didn't deem it unwatchable. Stephen King is so good when it is good, and so disappointing when it isn't. I'll remain cautiously optimistic. I mean, I'm watching anyway, but I am grateful for the assistance managing my expectations.

I think Stephen King is mainly here in name/concept only, as it makes use of many of the details and settings from his stories. Then again, King is usually there in name/concept only, and yes, we have seen wild variations in quality when it comes to the words "Stephen King" on a TV show or movie.

My cable company just gave me free Showtime for a limited time, with access to back episodes of their original shows. First on my list to binge is the new Twin Peaks, and Our Cartoon President sound like fun for the summer, thanks for that tip. What else should be on my shortlist?

"Shameless," but you've probably had streaming opportunities for that one, so maybe you've watched it. I thought the most recent season of "Homeland" turned out pretty well. And do watch Liz Garbus's docuseries about the NY Times, "The Fourth Estate."

Thanks for the tips, Hank. I am looking for stuff that is fun and doesn't require a whole lot of my brain -- i.e. no homework shows -- but doesn't insult it, either. "Timeless" is at the top of my list, and you have put my mind at ease about "Atlanta." It looks as though the non-fun ones on your list are "Baskets" and "Killing Eve." Am I reading that right?

I found "Killing Eve" to be GREAT FUN.

I'm sorry -- it's hard for me to play this game when people stipulate that they don't want their brain involved.

Is it too early still for spoilers? Have you watched last Sunday's Westworld episode, "Kiksuya"? It was the first episode to have me in tears by the end. Having most of the episode in Lakota language with subtitles gave it a lyrical quality I felt. Backgrounds of several characters actions throughout the series were brought into focus and explained. Spoiler -- I don't want Maeve to "die"! The previews of this Sunday's episode seems to go off in a different direction. It doesn't seem as if the storyline can be resolved by next week's season finale. Can there be a 3rd season coming next year? Fingers crossed!

You've already followed up with your own answer (yes, "Westworld" is coming back), so thanks for that.

I agree with you and just about everyone else that last Sunday's "Westworld" was a triumph, far and away better than the show's usual tone and pace. I loved, loved the connection being made, that native spirituality would make the most sense of a nonhuman existence.

On my list: The Deuce, The Night Of, Godless, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Barry. Also lots of movies. I am not planning to go outside.

This is a FANTASTIC list. Some of my favorite recent shows. You're in for a treat -- the only one that might be difficult to stick with is "The Deuce," but I think it's very much worth watching to the end.

Thanks for sharing -- this would be a great list for just about anyone.

And I just mailed the Post's special sections on the Caps to an out of town relative who is a huge Caps fan! Thanks for doing these chats. I don't have cable or streaming services so it's my way of keeping up with the Joneses as best I can!

You are LOVED. Thank you.

Have you seen any of Snowfall Season 2 yet? Curious to hear how it's shaping up this year.

It has not arrived yet. It's coming back July 19, so it's a bit too soon for screeners.

Speaking of returning shows ... here's a BIG LIST (with my starred recommendations) of shows coming back this summer.

I hear you on not liking the ones that mock the profession? Any good ones that celebrate it? Forget more hospital/lawyer/cop shows...this profession seems like it would be a ripe field for a parenthood-esq show to fill...

Which could have been "Rise," only NBC canceled it. Season 1 is still very much worth watching, if it's still on-demand.

I didn't like it at first, but after I thought about it more I realized it was supposed to be their afterlife-- the long car trip where they could finally rest, then looking down on a sleeping city while talking about the people they will never see again. Also, I think it was within Stan's character not to arrest them because it was typical of him to do nothing when he didn't know what to do (Nina was sent back to Russia because Stan did nothing, his wife left him because he did nothing, etc.). He as such an idealist that he didn't know what his true feelings were when a situation wasn't all good or all bad. That's why Philip's observation about him was so piercing "Maybe if you'd stayed with me in EST, you'd know what to do."

It's hard to stop thinking about, isn't it?

It seems like nearly every book, novella, or story that Stephen King has ever written has been turned into a television or movie adaptation. Some even multiple times! Between King and Shakespeare, who do you think has had more of their work turned into adaptations for television or movies? We'll leave out the stage, since I think the Bard would mop up if we included plays or performance arts.

It's a tie.

I’m a 45 year old woman raised by old fashioned parents. I don’t get why people want to watch TV shows about women “fighting back.” Things were much more difficult for women in decades past. I was watching AMC last nite and saw that after Dietland, they hold a discussion session. Why??!! Being a woman has many advantages and there are, of course, aspects that aren’t fair. Do we need a TV show to dissect this? And one more thing for women in their 20s and 30s—it only gets harder to look good as you age. Accept it and work harder or live with the consequences. Complaining and, I guess, torturing men?????? is not a solution.

I found the first two episodes of "Dietland" so confounding that I didn't write about it. I didn't want to unwittingly write something I'd regret (or fly off the handle in some direction -- like this chatter), but I also didn't care very much about what I was seeing. It just seemed so intentionally muddled. I'd like to hear more from people who totally get it and are enjoying it. If you're out there?

So I am clearing my time for one month of CBS Streaming. Is there just "The Good Fight" and "Star Trek: Discovery" as far as new programming on it? Can I get those two great "In a Mirror, Darkly" episodes from ST: Enterprise? Or the finale of "Newhart"?

There's a pretty vast library, but I'm not sure what it includes. While you're a subscriber, see what you think about "Strange Angel."

Worth it? Or will I be tearing my hair out?

If you liked the show, I'm not sure why you wouldn't watch it. (I mean, I haven't, so I can't really advise you on how or if to pull your hair out.)

Just curious. What did you think of "Welcome Back Kotter" and "The Greatest American Hero" back in our days of youth?

I was a big fan of "Kotter," crica 3rd grade and it wasn't lost on me that Kotter got through to the Sweathogs and made a difference in their lives. Today's shows about teachers are about how filthy and self-absorbed the teachers are. It's very anti-teacher.

As for "Greatest American Hero," I'm drawing a blank in the memory vaults (except for the theme song). Which can usually be explained by going back to the original TV schedules and figuring out what I was watching instead. (That or I was suffering at basketball practice when it was on.)

Of course, the Post has become such a national newspaper that some of your readers (like me) are online-only subscribers live in other parts of the US -- and I even know some readers in other countries who subscribe online! -- where the dead-tree edition is not a realistic option. So please don't diss us.

Not dissing you -- and you are LOVED too. And just to say, at a certain price-point, your subscription gets you access to a very lovely WP print app that is just like reading the paper every day. You turn the pages with a swipe. I use it a lot, even when there's a paper waiting for me downstairs.

It was not on your list of shows returning this summer. I thought it ran last summer, but maybe I am wrong. Will it return?

I don't have a date for it, but it's supposed to be coming this year. Maybe fall instead of summer.

Legion is one of those shows you can only watch by binging it. Did Season 2 come to a 'satisfying" end, or should I wait until I'm really bored?

Hoo boy, I'm going to leave that choice up to you. Only people who really dig "Legion" should watch it. For the rest of us, it's kind of an exquisite form of torture. Some say drugs help the experience.

Have you reviewed or watched the series Crashing with Pete Holmes? If you have what are your thoughts on the program?

I have watched it, but since it felt like the 1,000th show in which a comedian plays a comedian, based loosely on his own life experiences, I've yet to have any response to it beyond a passing interest. Everything they're doing on that show -- the awkwardness, the sad sack, the comedy-is-brutal stuff -- has been done so many ways and times before.

But, as always, I hope this chat is more about what YOU think of the shows. Do you like "Crashing?" Why or why not?

Does this show get any better? The concept could be interesting, but the characters are all unlikable, boring, and predictable in my view. I am losing interest quickly . Is it worth sticking with?

I have a hard time answering this, because I watched the first five (I think?) for my review and I can't deny that I watched them very closely and quickly, which is usually a sign that a show is good. Which, from a technical perspective, "Succession" kinda is. But it's also such a downer, for no good reason that I can tell. It's also one too many shows (for my liking) about the cruel rich. The reviews, I noticed, were somewhat mixed. I have since received more episodes, which I'll watch soon.

Here's my review from June 2.

Pose: come for Evan Peters and his fabulous Chevy Citation. Stay for the music. Dietland: what a trippy experience! I imagine this is what it must feel like to be on an acid trip. Said the dude who has never smoked anything stronger than a sausage on the grill.

Drugs? I was supposed to take drugs before watching it? Suddenly, it makes more sense...Seriously, though, the only thing is Legion this season I appreciated was when they opened an episode and instead of 'previously on' they started with 'apparently on'.

Haha. That's a great way to do it.

Noah Hawley -- they sometimes opened "Fargo" with "Erstwhile, on 'Fargo' ..."

hooo, boy ! that chatter looking for brainless TV fare should NOT watch "Legion" !

Can you imagine?

I've been belatedly making my way through season 1 on Hulu and saw it on the list of returning shows. I'm enjoying the first season and the unflinching but still generally plucky, fun tone. I see that season 2 wasn't one of your top picks, but can't find what you thought of the first season. Do you think the quality has declined, or was it just never your cup of tea in the first place?

It's another one that I watched and decided not to review. You guys are finding all of those today!

I thought the tone in "Harlots" was way off, to be honest, and the plots quickly seemed very predictable to me.

for easy watching, I'd recommend "Quickdraw" on Hulu. for the other viewer with new-found Showtime access, "Ray Donovan" and "Billions" are worth a look.

Not as good as the original (of course) but still filled with jokes that appeal to both children and adults. Binge-worthy!

I made it through two episodes each of The Bridge with Gillian Anderson and Killing Eve with Sandra Oh. I like both actresses a lot, yet I found myself concluding that they were the weakest element in both shows...not just weak elements but the reason neither worked for me. I've been trying to figure out why since, as I said, I like them both. And then I remembered how difficult the cast of Seinfeld found it to work with the actress playing Susan. It turned out to be a rhythm issue; the regular cast and recurring characters had a rhythm to their dialog and reactions that bumped up against a way of interacting that was very different in that actress. That made sense to me as I realized that my favorite shows absolutely have a cadence in common. And that brings me back to Gillian Anderson and Sandra Oh: Is there something about rhythm or cadence or timing that is more distinctly American about them? Not that "American" would be wrong, just that it somehow clashes with the rhythm, cadence, or timing of a certain kind of British show and it's that subconscious class I may be reacting to. Probably haven't explained this well.

I think you mean "The Fall," as Gillian Anderson hasn't done any of "The Bridge" adaptations that I know of, and, as best I can tell, you just don't like Americans showing up in your British material. Which is your right -- it's probably why you're seeking out British shows in the first place, to get away from the sound/tone/cadence of American life.

I will just add to this that just about everyone I've talked to about "Killing Eve" agrees that Sandra Oh is an amazing part of "Killing Eve," a key reason to watch.

My wife and I love this show as a dramedy. The bickering between all the (potential heirs), the one son who keeps insisting to no one's agreement that he is next in charge.

It has roots in comedy, from some of the blokes who brought the "In the Loop" sensibility to "Veep."

But it's an hourlong drama and it means to be, even if the dialogue is biting, and it should be judged as such.

She's Canadian, not (US) American.

A-ha! And Ohhhhh!

Our chatters are smart.

Time to go, already. Thanks everyone for the chat! We'll do it again next Thursday, June 21, at the usual time. Now get to watchin' some summer shows!

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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: