What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Jul 12, 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 "Condor," "The Affair" and "Sharp Objects."

Hi everyone. The Emmy nominations were just announced and I'm still collating my thoughts. Best drama series noms (there are 7) went to: "The Americans," "The Handmaid's Tale," "This Is Us," "Stranger Things," "Westworld," "The Crown" and a little show called "Game of Thrones."

Best comedy series (there are 8) noms go to: "Atlanta," "Barry," "Black-ish," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Silicon Valley,"  "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "GLOW" and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

More nominations here, with instant analysis from our pop-culture team.

In other stuff: "The Handmaid's Tale" finale was as grueling and tense as the rest of the season, which is a good thing, but now I feel that fans are owed some things in return. Like that Aunt Lydia backstory, dammit. Read my piece on three things we need to see in Season 3, posted this morning.

And, earlier this week, I filed a piece about slow decline of Jerry Seinfeld's pet project, "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" and the glut of celeb-on-celeb shows. Lots of reactions in the comments (disclosure: I decided not to read all 500+ comments; one has to be in the right mood for that) and maybe you have something to say about it too.

I think I'm in the minority, but this one felt a lot more like True Detective Season 2 than Season 1 or Big Little Lies. Kudos to Amy Adams for taking on Colin Farrell's role with Vince Vaughn's brooding.

It is languid, that's for sure, but trust me, it's not even half as convoluted as Season 2 of "True Detective." I did say in my review that viewers might start peeling off after a couple episodes.

Here's something I noticed about season 2 episode six "Work The Leg." (Mild spoiler). After Sam's movie has ended and Ruth tells him about the encounter with the network big-wig at the hotel, the moment that it becomes clear that Sam is on her side the lights go up in the darkened theater... either representing Ruth's relief that he isn't angry at her, or that he has his good side, or both. The director timed that perfectly.

It's on of those things that some of us (you) notice and some of us (me) don't, but yes, it's ALL part of an art form, and sometimes we forget that. I'll be whoever decided to do that (it could have been the writer[s] who put it in the script that way, too) is pleased that you noticed. We binge so hard and fast sometimes that we often forget to just stop and admire.

Hi Hank -- back to Alison and Cole this week but I have to say that, even though I'm partial to the Noah/Helen pairings, great episode, mostly because of the brief appearance of Mare Winningham, one of the great underrated actresses (in my opinion)...hope to see more of her this season.

You might see more Mare (I haven't been given any episodes beyond the first four, though I might check my queue today during lunch to see if there's more), but I also think it's possible that they brought her back to just update her character's outcome, whereabouts. It's clams.

I haven't seen the complete list but no nomination for Best Comedy series...the end of an era?

It's like not having "Veep" this time opened up a world of possibilities. (I haven't seen those Supporting Actor/Actress categories in comedy -- are they represented there?)

Hi Hank, thanks for taking my question. My mom is currently in the hospital following major surgery but she does have access to Netflix and Amazon Prime. She loves crime TV shows - some of her favorites are "The Killing," "Bosch," and "Safe." She just discovered "The Fall," which she's enjoying. Can you think of anything else I can recommend to her?

Without knowing what else she's seen, I would recommend "The Night Of" (originally aired on HBO), "Goliath" (Amazon) and "Seven Seconds" (on Netflix, it was created/produced by Veena Sud, who produced "The Killing." "Seven Seconds" was canceled after one season, but it's a fully contained/concluded story).

Chatters will have more recs, I'm sure. There are a ton of modern crime/mystery thrillers from the UK (and elsewhere) on AcornTV, but quality varies wildly.

Send my good wishes to your mother for a speedy recovery.

I agree, it may not be as good as Big Little Lies, but way better than that awful season 2 of True Detective. Is HBO going to make a season 3?

Yes, a third season of "True Detective" is well underway -- Mahershala Ali, Stephen Dorff and Carmen Ejogo have been cast. It takes place in Arkansas, if I'm remembering the press release correctly. Sounds a lot more like Season 1.

"Broadchurch" is on Netflix and if she watches "The Crown" The lady detective on "Broadchurch" will soon be Queen Elizabeth. Did she ever watch "The Wire" on Amazon.

Yes to "Broadchurch."

But no, in this case (surgery recovery, passing the time pleasantly) to "The Wire," which is not in any sense mystery/crime series. That would be like handing someone in search of a Laura Lippman novel (wink) a copy of "A Tale of Two Cities."

I suspect it would have gotten a lot of noms if Roseanne Barr hadn't gone on that twitter rant. Spilt milk I suppose, but too bad, show itself was quite good.

The show itself was okay, with some very good moments. It might have made the cut, it might not, but if it had, it would have been more its buzz and its ratings than for its quality.

Great to see Judith Light nominated -- the best thing about the series... but disappointed that Cody Fern (David Madson) didn't make the cut.

Judith Light is the only person from that series I would have nominated. Criss was all right, but not outstanding. The series was kind of a dud, I thought, and really mangled its thematic messaging, which was a wan premise to begin with.

Hank, I love these weekly chats but can't really follow the conversations about all the shows. There are just so many channels with one or two shows I would follow but I can't afford to purchase all the channels/services. So if you had to choose, which would be your top choice? My other interest is to sign up for the $17 monthly DirecTV French language channel...what's a girl to do?

I'd have to know a lot more about you to make any sort of recommendation that could rival an impulse to spend $17 a month watching French-language TV.

And by the way, if that's what is tempting you, why not follow that instinct? Then you can return to the chat and serve us a dose of our own medicine by talking about shows we'll never have a chance of following.

After all (and despite all the snark that I sling around here), I hope that longtime readers of this chat have noticed that, more than anything, I want people to watch the shows that entertain them the most, even (or especially) when it's at cross-purposes with my criticism.

Other than that, if you really want to catch up to the conversations here about current, excellent TV in the American market, I would write down a few titles you've seen mentioned and see if there's a free (and legal) option for watching them -- DVD sets in your local library system, for example, or friends who have cable/streaming and would love to make a weekly watching party out of a mutually satisfying show.

I watched the premiere of Sharp Objects, but right before that, I watched all of Killing Eve, which was super. And I’m wondering if that’s why I had a negative reaction to Sharp Objects. I just don’t know if I want such a large helping of a damaged woman character in a moody, gothic setting. One of the things I enjoyed about Killing Eve is that Eve has a believable personal life but isn’t also embroiled in some big, past traumatic drama (yet?). They’re such very different shows I feel I shouldn’t be comparing them, but I am. Am I shallow?

I don't know if that's shallow so much as wanting a show to be something it's not. "Killing Eve" has so much more momentum than "Sharp Objects" that they're not really comparable. This happens a lot, though. Can it really only be six weeks since all "The Americans" fans were demanding a recommendation from me for a show that would fill their need, right now, and exactly so? These things take time -- especially when you come off of a show that you really liked. So instead of "Sharp Objects," maybe you need something a little faster and more tense. Did you ever watch "Mary Kills People," by any chance? For some reason that springs to mind.

Mr. S: I agree with you that this year's shows pale in comparison with previous seasons, but disagree as to the reason. A lot of this year's "coffee-ers" just aren't up to par with those of years past, such as Don Rickles, David Letterman, and Chris Rock. Maybe Seinfeld's best bet is to "rerun" the top guests, as he did this year with the good Mr. Baldwin.

I guess that might help, but then it's a show mostly about old people. I like that Seinfeld is trying to hang with the younger folks in his profession, but either he's not listening to them or they're not that comfortable around him. Rather than avoid this problem, Seinfeld might want to try harder to fix it.

I think they're setting it up to be June resisting Gilead internally, and Emily externally, plus June trying to find Hannah. Hoping to hear Oprah again as the voice of the Resistance, and I hope that they reveal that it's not just Oprah providing the voice -- that world's Oprah really is a Resistance leader. Really hoping for more of Bradley Whitford's character.

Yes to all this!

I enjoy this show but I have to say some of the plot points aren’t very believeable. They expect us to believe a political regime — a religious one at that — would separate children from their parents? Please.

[Snork.]

Jason Bateman and Milo Venti-whatever get Emmy nominations for best lead actor, but not Cillian Murphy for Peaky Blinders? I don't understand. We can be glad Henry Winkler got noticed, at least.

I get that we all have our personal favorites, but this is a very crowded category and that is an imported show that has remained somewhat niche, audience-wise, even though it's been around a while. (And may not qualify, production-wise? I forget the rules here.)

I might be a little off here, but I would suggest Timeless which is on Netflix. I know the show was cancelled, but I started watching the show while recovering from a back surgery and I found it really entertaining without too much stress.

"Timeless" is a very good thing to plug into while one has to recover in bed. Thank you.

Good choice of words to describe Jerry - curmudgeon

Well, he's sort of born that way, and worked alongside the best (Larry David), but now, in his mid-60s, he can really let loose with it.

In reading about the Emmys I saw the term "Guest Actress." This reminded me, naturally, of the term "Guest Star." I can't actually recall the last time I saw someone billed as a "guest star." Is this an obsolete concept, or have I just been watching the wrong shows?

It still happens a lot. I think, though, the nomenclature has lost its "Love Boat"-style shininess. The hip word you're looking for in 2018 is cameo.

I worry that Villanelle will find this rude.

It's a vast, crowded category. You can tell her I said so.

I am more often than not in the dark about all the shows here. I have a stressful life and a 30-minute comedy is about all I can handle now. Mrs. Maisel was extraordinary, for example. But all that talk about Killing Eve got me curious and I watched one episode. Dang! I was totally hooked. I don't know why. I honestly would have laughed at anyone who thought I'd like a spy show about an assassin. But all of you convinced me and you were absolutely right. One of my more favorite shows to watch. I don't give too many things too much of my time, but I love that one. Thank you!

I think what you're really trying to say is how HELPFUL this chat is for busy, busy people.

Watched the premier episode and, although I think Amy Adams is one of the best actresses working today, each step of the story made me chuckle in a bad way. The reporter who drinks like a fish. The Blanche Dubois mother in the big house ("Please don't mention any baad things in my presence."), the disconnected stepdad wearing (no lie) a sweater tied foppishly around his neck, the handsome detective as out of place as the heroine (who she'll sleep with in Episode 3 or 4), and the inevitable flashbacks and forwards to ensure the viewer spends a lot of time asking "What the f.....?" It just seems so ... predictable. I'll watch it.

Yeah, I think you're pretty into it.

Do you think that network TV (ABC, CBS, Fox, CW) would ever release an entire season of a show on On-Demand similar to how Netflix releases an entire season at once? I understand the model is different with advertising vs. pay subscription but I would think they would experiment with it a little during the summer. They could still air episodes at a regularly scheduled time but the entire season On-Demand would be cool.

They've done it before though not a lot. (Example: "Aquarius" on NBC, the David Duchovny series about L.A. police detectives in the late 1960s.)

Do you think The Americans has a chance to actually win some of their categories this year? I really hope so - it was such a great season. Also, are the GLOW and Handmaid's Tale nominations for their most recent seasons? So confusing.

"GLOW" is for Season 1; "Handmaids" is for this season, which returned April 25. The key date in Emmy World is May 31. If your show premiered before that, it's part of the 2017-18 season.

Delighted to see Pamela Adlon's nomination, but a bit disappointed the show didn't also receive one. Silicon Valley is just not a better show.

Nor is "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." I'm with you, on both counts.

I've been really enjoying Killing Eve, which is a spy thriller. Emmy-nominated Sandra Oh plays a cop/spy trying to catch a serial killer. They become obsessed with one another. It also stars Jodie Comer as the assassin and the incomparable Fiona Shaw, who isn't well enough known in the US. She's brilliant.

I was going to suggest it, but the shows Mom was liking were a bit slower, pace-wise. "Killing Eve" moves reallyreallyRILLY fast.

Jane Lynch is nominated for Best Reality Host? I like her, but I think Hollywood Game Night is awful. Is the category that lacking for good nominees, am I wrong, or are the Emmy nominators saying "good host of a bad show"?

Oh, don't get me started on "Hollywood Game Night" and its ilk. Last time I got started on those shows (three years ago!), The Post ran my rant on page 1.

Oh so late here, but I finally finished Season 3 of Billions. I know you lost some enthusiasm, but it looks to me like the finale set up a Season 4 that solves the main structural problem of the show thus far - that Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis occupy separate spheres and seldom interact directly. Now it looks like they'll get to, operating together to pursue two channels of revenge. Thoughts?

You're on your own, babe.

Thanks for making me feel really old since the show seemed like it was on just yesterday!

Jerry was not exactly a spring chicken when it became a hit -- he was nearing 40, which is not exactly a "young people in the city" demographic. Luckily the show never played it that way. The characters were messed-up people bonding over their mutual anti-social qualities and a whiff of mortality.

What do you think of not letting TV shows or actors/directors/producers/writers be nominated for Emmys more than once? You win once, you can't be nominated again for the same show or role. It would prevent the monotony of the same old, same old being nominated year after year and force voters to look for other gems. If there aren't enough nominees for a category, then select a winner from a small field. I'd love to see this done for a few years as an experiment.

Great. Let's do the same for Pulitzers.

Yes - you nailed it. Of course, to me, "Cameo" term refers to a brief appearance that can be little more than an in joke. (You know, like Danny Thomas as a priest on "That Girl." Or Ed Sheeran on G.O.T.) What this has made me suspect is that with the rise of serialized television, the whole concept of building an entire episode around a Big Star has faded away.

Or it's been replaced by trying to keep it a secret. When new "Handmaid's" episodes began arriving this spring, I remember publicists asking critics not to reveal anything about Marisa Tomei's cameo or what it entailed.

Hi Hank, I just started binging on The Sinner. Wow, Jessica Biel is so good, Emmy worthy, IMO. I'm 3 episodes in and I'm hooked. Curious to know what you think about it.

She was just nominated for best actress in a limited series. I reviewed the show last summer when it aired. (Oh, sorry, let me Google that for you -- it's paired with a review of last summer's Unabomber series.)

The Alienist? Especially if she read the book. Not sure if its available.

Maybe, sure. If she can SEE what's happening.

Ever since I found out you can download the full list of nominations, including technical awards, I have put all of my "I can't believe [x] didn't get nominated!" outrage there. Dark not nominated for outstanding period costumes?? It had 50s AND 80s costumes!! (Actually, I do recommend looking at the full list, if only to get a depressing reminder of how gender-segregated most of the technical jobs are. Only 4 women nominated in the seven director categories...)

Yes, it does move fast, but I never found it rushed. I found it efficient. It doesn't waste a lot of time in long soliloquies or other time-consuming digressions.

a new cooking/travel show on PBS. I was primed not to like it -thought the same a ripoff of Bourdain's No Reservations and the premise has been done before. But what I found was an hour of the host exploring and talking with Lebanese immigrants in the Detroit area. Interesting food, but also the immigrant story and a positive one at that. Pleasantly surprised.

Thanks for the recommendation.

Over a year ago, I asked when/whether subscription channels would be releasing programs on DVD. Your answer was basically “Everybody does.” Well ... no. I’m in an area without reliable ability to stream, and rely on Netflix’s DVD rentals to catch up with streaming shows. Game of Thrones, Handmaid’s Tale ... I see them late, but I do eventually see them. Daredevil, Jessica Jones ... not so much, and it’s been YEARS. Netflix started out as a rental operation, they still get a not-insignificant revenue stream from rentals — I know you don’t control their decisions any more than I do, but do you have some insight?

I'm sorry, I don't have much insight. I started to type out a long hunch, but even that would take a lot of work. You've mentioned two specific, Marvel-made (which is to say Disney-owned, not Netflix-owned) series. We'd have to first figure out when Disney intends to release further seasons on DVD and then look into whether or not Netflix would have the right to rent them out.

The big bummer here is that you live someplace where Internet access can't keep up with the streaming market. If that's in the United States, then I think that's the real problem worth discussing, which we only hear about occasionally, but which contributes mightily to the sense that one part of the country thrives at full speed (in every sense of the word) while the other gets left behind. For that, you have my sympathies and concern.

OK, so technically it's not TV, but a movie -- but the documentary on Fred Rogers was fascinating, albeit sad towards the end. It does make me wonder though, do you ever watch TV shows and think about the impacts on our society and psychology as a whole? I know that is "deep", but some TV series and programs did have incredible impacts on society and the way it impacts who we are now.

Um, I hope you've seen me doing that in a lot of reviews. That's kind of my job.

Hank - I just wanted to thank you for recommending the book Drama High by Michael Sokolove. You mentioned it when I wrote in several months ago commenting on the cancellation of the NBC series Rise. The book was terrific (I thought the TV series was, as well). I found it interesting that Jason Katims has done two series - Friday Night Lights and Rise -- based on books where reporters embedded themselves in a community for a year to really learn about the students, teachers/coaches, football program/drama program. He seems drawn to that kind of immersion.

Sunday night has become my new favorite night of television watching: Pose. I’m Dying Up Here. Succession. Claws. Sharp Objects. Every one of these shows had outstanding episodes this week. Billy Porter singing in Pose. Ron overdosing (?) in I’m Dying Up Here. The sh*t show family drama in Succession. Those OMG moments in Claws. And the premier of Sharp Objects. Thank goodness for my DVR. This line-up is my summer guilty pleasure! (Plus John Oliver for the cherry on top.)

I think you're the first chatter who has brought up "Pose" since it premiered. (I reviewed it, somewhat favorably.) Some of the acting and writing can be atrocious, don't you think -- but still somehow entertaining. I wish they were doing more with these characters and plots than just basic melodrama.

"I'm Dying Up Here": I haven't heard much about its chances for renewal, but I keep coming back to it; Ron's death was foreshadowed plenty in the last episode but still sad, shocking.

 

I just can't even. Lovely voice, but one of the worst actors I've seen. Aren't there dozens of better choices? I mean pick any Hallmark movie and you'll find better acting. I also hate that broadcast TV has to compete with cable. It doesn't seem fair.

Yeah, that one seemed suspicious for a lot of reasons. Campaigning works, I guess.

Lifetime has just started rerunning from the beginning "The Closer." It has been 13 years since the series began so it is like watching the episodes new. I forgot how good they really were.

Instinct is light and fluffy and also has Alan Cumming, who adds brilliant comic timing to a mostly serious show. It reminds me a bit of Castle, although its comedy is drier.

It sounds like Mom prefers better shows than that. "Instinct" is mediocre at best.

GAAAAHHHHHH!!! *cries* I definitely think Sam Heughan could have slotted in nicely to the Best actors tv drama category in place of Larry David. What a performance in the front half of season 3!

Larry David is a comedy nomination, so you're a bit confused, but okay, we'll offer our sympathies. Look, "Outlander" is great fun and the acting is STURDY and exactly right for that show, but I'm not sure it really competes on the Emmy level. (Don't hate me. I'm kind of an Outmander!)

Thank you to the other poster.... I heard Marcus interviewed on NPR the other day and made a note to watch that show - fascinating life story and sounds like a kind and interesting individual.... (may we all be described that way)

So that person's question makes me want to ask: What shows in the last 5-10 years or so do you think have had that type of lasting impact?

Of the kind that "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" has had? I'm not sure we'd know it when we saw it; it takes time to realize it. As one of Mister R's devoted fans as a toddler, I can tell you that it was 30 years before the respect really came -- starting with the Tom Junod profile of Fred Rogers in Esquire magazine in 1998. Before that, Mister Rogers was a joke to baby boomers and older people (think Eddie Murphy doing Mister Robinson on SNL) who loved to think that his style was suspect and not really genuine. It took forever to convince the world that he was not creepy and that he was, in fact, OUR HERO AND OUR PROTECTOR. But we were Generation X and it took forever to get anyone to listen to us about anything. Still does.

Another suggestion for the recovering Mom to watch on Netflix. Although, I found the accents pretty difficult to understand, so closed captioning might be necessary! The story and acting are both quite good.

Girlfriends Guide to Divorce. I'm not giving it major kudos, but if I had to jam on something I could fall asleep to and still enjoy in the in between times, that might do the trick.

Come on, NO.

Talk about imposing your show onto someone else's request.

Do you think the fact that it aired way back at the beginning of the eligibility period was a factor?

Oh, sure, that.

Also we could have the always-pleasant (and utterly useless) debate over whether it was a  TV show or a movie.

I guess I could have predicted a year ago that the Emmy voters would never have time or wherewithal to nominate "Twin Peaks." Too bad. It was the best show of 2017. And yes, it was a TV show.

I really want to be able to watch Castle Rock, but there is nothing else I want to see on Hulu. I hate to pay for an entire service to watch one show. Is there any way I can get to see it as inexpensively as possible? I'm really unhappy with the proliferation of pay/subscriber services because so many of them have one or at the most two offerings that interest me and none that interest my husband. I sometimes long for the good old days. I do realize that many of these shows push the envelope as far as sex/nudity/violence, none of which interest me.

Although I'm really not in the business of helping people find a workaround to paying for shows that cost money to make, I would recommend that you wait for "Castle Rock" to finish (after the three-episode premiere, Hulu will add an episode each week) and then sign up for a trial month and watch it then. While you're there, you can see that Hulu has a very large catalogue of shows from other networks, some of which you might enjoy. It sounds like you make up your mind about a lot of shows without even trying them.

Would Handmaid's Tale Season 2 ever be available in Netflix or Amazon Prime? If yes, when? Just a comment: I watched the "Sharp Objects" S1Ep1 at the suggestion of this forum, after watching it, I thought it is too slow for my taste and felt no attraction to continue.

Again, I would think no, because it's a Hulu Original and Hulu paid for it. But for all I know, maybe it will eventually stream on Amazon Prime.

People. Hear me now and believe me later. These streaming services are in COMPETITION with one another. The prize is your money. They are not in a sharing mood.

Just adding to the list: The Sinner (which came up in another context), Mindhunter, and maybe Alias Grace, if she's ok with her crime show being a period drama.

There should be an Emmy for the best 5 minutes of TV - the award winner would be "no, no, NO, no, no ...."

Ironically enough, I was having this conversation with an older crowd (baby boomers) the other day. I'm a millennial, though I guess at the upper end of that group, and grew up LOVING Mister Rogers. Somebody mentioned the documentary and was pretty off-hand about his importance, whereas I immediately jumped in to argue in favor of his influence. There are still episodes I remember vividly, and I'd love to be able to show them to my son at some point.

The ones who don't get it by now are never going to get it.

But I understand that -- I would probably not relate to some young person going on and on to me about [insert circa 1992 children's TV program here, but not Barney please] but I hope that would be a good listener and try to see it.

a sign the show is on the wane or just a fluke?

There have been a few. Look again.

That's why we have commercials and product placements!

We had commercials. We found a way around them.

Nice Hans and Franz reference.

I'm glad that Godless received a few Emmy nods, especially Jeff Daniels and Merritt Weaver. It was great in every sense.

Agreed!

I just checked the full list of nominations -- TP did receive nine nominations (including writing and directing); most are for technical categories.

Thank you -- I haven't had time to read the whole list, since it came out just before this chat started.

And now we've spent an hour-plus chatting. Let's call it a day and meet back here next Thursday, July 19. Sound good? Great.

Thanks for all the questions -- and recommendations for the OP's mother. (I hope they came back and looked at all the choices.)

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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