What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Oct 12, 2017

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 Vietnam War," "The Deuce," "Loudermilk," "Transparent" and "Better Things."

Hi everyone. Let's go.

I have mixed feelings about this latest episode. On one hand, they took one of the most iconic scenes from the books, and cut if off just as it started, in order to tease the next episode. Boo. But, on the other hand, whoever picks the music had a lot of fun this episode, and I noticed, and enjoyed that.

I also enjoyed the episode and I don't have the burden of expectations because I never read the books.

You know what I really want? (And, no, you don't need to tell me if I'll ever get it.) I want Jamie to come to 1968, not the other way around. That would be so much more interesting.

Has ABC canceled this wretched slop yet? The same for The Inhumans, which I watch for the laughs as it's beyond ridiculous. I think ABC must have resurrected Ed Wood to write, produce & direct this disaster!

"Kevin (Probably)'s" ratings are low, but I've seen worse for a new show. As for "Marvel's Inhumans," I feel like my decision to pretend it doesn't exist is a good one.

Enjoyed last week's second episode of the "Will & Grace" reboot, with homages to Julia Sugarbaker's rants on "Designing Women" (by Will), and by Grace and Karen in the water (channeling Lucy and Ethel!). Hope this quality continues.

They're definitely playing to their audience.

Great Scene last week between the Prostitute Candy (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) and a Pimp trying to corale her. Is there any Emmy talk about her acting?

Yes, quite a bit. All she needs is for voters to remember how great she was for 11 months -- not easy in the peak-TV era where really, really good roles in great shows abound. But I think she'll make it, even though it's way too early to tell.

Other than his films airing on some TV networks, has Harvey Weinstein been involved in production of TV (or streaming) content as well? Will his professional demise affect TV programming to any extent?

If you check IMDB (like I just did), you'll see that Harvey has many, many and varied producer credits in the TV world. Sometimes that's just a carryover from a movie getting adapted to a series. But some are very interesting. For instance, who knew (or remembered) or that he has been an executive producer of "Project Runway" since the beginning?

I realize it is still early in the TV season and some new and returning shows are not on yet, but this sure seems like a blah season. Other than Vietnam and The Deuce, there has not been much. Is it just me?

There are not a lot of standouts -- and the best shows this fall aren't new, they're returning shows.

I'm thinking this is starting to go downhill since they gave out he secret. Do you think it will be renewed?

Yes, I think it will be renewed. It's got buzz and a lot of the influential, New York-based critics really love it. (I like it, for what that's worth, but I think you're right -- how zany does it get from this point? Which is a reason to watch, to see how they sustain the premise.)

Forgive my schadenfreude, but I confess to deriving satisfaction from seeing Fox getting stuck paying a bundle to air the 2018 World Cup, even though it turns out the US team didn't make the tournament. How badly is this likely to cost Fox, in terms of lost ad revenues?

Here are some Washington Post-professionally produced thoughts from someone who cares.

What effect do you anticipate Weinstein's downfall could have on the production of ongoing and future projects?

Hard to say because the role of "producer" can vary widely -- as we saw in early January when our president-elect was given his nominal producer credit on "Celebrity Apprentice," even though he had no input into it and did no work -- it's a permanent credit.

My basic answer would be if there's a show that lists Harvey Weinstein as producer that is currently on and doing well, it will have very little affect, aside from some internal PR worry about listing his name on the credits.

Has Heidi Klum indicated if Harvey tried to assault her? Or would Seal have kicked his butt if he tried?

I guess we'll have to stay tuned to Twitter and see who else comes out with their own Harvey horror story.

He made a statement that a studio Executive gabbed his private parts while his wife was in the room. It wasn't Harvey Weinstein. Was there a Fox Executive that may have done it while Terry was on "Everybody Hates Chris"?

I really wouldn't begin to speculate. Sorry.

I love the digital networks (Antenna TV, MeTV, Decades). Since I love game shows, BUZZR is a guilty pleasure. Here's the question: There are thousands of episodes of old game shows; yet BUZZR airs about 100 episodes of each program over and over again instead of broadcasting the entire package. Why do they do this? After all, you can only watch Match Game '78 so many times before getting tired of Richard Dawson's mockery of the great Paul Lynde.

May I ever-so-respectfully suggest that if you're encountering the same 40-year-old game-show reruns over and over on BUZZR that you either join us in the television present or find something else to do? You did say "guilty pleasure," I see that, so I am going to suggest that there's a reason why "guilt" is part of the phrase.

Is really putting in a lot of 12-hour days doing interviews (including with Alyssa Rosenberg!) promoting the Vietnam series. Usually, this kind of promotional blitz leads to god-awful interviews but he is an exception. Great stuff, and really gives a lot of interesting background on the making of the series.

Ken has a lot to say, always, and it is this passion that drives his projects, not just the big ones. I've seen him talk excitedly and forever about two-hour films that he really only helped with.

You've rubbed shoulders with the Hollywood biggies... did you ever meet/interview him? (no... I didn't bother to google it)

Not that I recall, though I'm sure it's possible that he was at some of the Vanity Fair afterparties I covered/attended/stalked on Oscar nights, in the mid-aughts. I'm sure that I have never had a conversation or interview with him.

Hated it in the 90s and hate it even more today. These unlikeable hasbeens should move on with their lives and do the TV audience a favor.

CVS has Christmas decorations up and TV Chat has a grinch!

The one thing that surprised me reading about Weinstein's alleged attempts on Mira Sorvino and Angelina Jolie is that I'd have imagined their respective fathers (Paul Sorvino, Jon Voight) wouldn't have taken it well if they found out, because both seem like they could've been real badasses back in their primes. Also, Gwyneth Paltrow, who is practically show biz royalty due to her famous parents (actress Blythe Danner and the late Bruce Paltrow).

Always easy to speculate in hindsight about who should have done what. I hope one thing that comes through loud and clear in this scandal (and the ones that will surely follow; Harvey is not a unique beast) is that we don't really move a stone if our conversations are about what women (or the men they know) should have done about it. My own very limited experience with unwanted advances is that everything you think would do or say (or tell others) sort of vanishes in the moment that it's happening. So let's set aside the shoulda-wouldas.

One other though, in a very generalizing way: The women you've mentioned are all in an age demographic that predates helicopter parenting and the now widely held belief that kids tell their parents everything, even as adults. My generation (X) prized independence and solving our own problems, and we're old enough to have seen the fleeting edges of the "Mad Men" sensibility that dictated the uses of power in workplace relationships.

Finally, I dunno. You dunno. Only these women know whom they told what about any incident -- and maybe they did tell their parents, who lived under the same rules of intimidation and consequence. (I'm sure someone will hasten to point out that some of them, like Jolie, may not have had such great communications with their parents at the time, anyhow.)

Was Sexual Harassment by Producers ever really tackled in this series? It certainly never happened in "Entourage"!

I didn't watch enough episodes of "Episodes" to be able to say, but "Entourage" might be an interesting re-watch in current light. After all, it was highly praised for its Hollywood verisimilitude.

Excluding reality shows, what game shows have you liked to watch? Or at least remember watching from childhood?

All of them.

I also remember being told to go outside and play and knowing, even agreeing, that a game show was no excuse to lay around.

Has Jimmy Kimmel's ratings gone up since he became the Messiah of Medical care? Has he surpassed Stephen Colbert?

No, he's actually still third (behind Colbert, who has around 3 million viewers a week and Fallon). But Kimmel is getting awfully close to Fallon, whose total numbers continue to decline (even though he's still got good ratings with relatively younger viewers -- I mean, like, younger than 45). The real story here is still the lower Fallon numbers, which Kimmel is on track to catch and surpass, unless something happens.

What I find most interesting about the Weinstein debacle is how one TV network, NBC, didn't even want Ronan Farrow's story and he had to shop it elsewhere. It really makes me wonder what other stories got canned because the networks were afraid of the negative repercussions of going against a power man in the industry.

The backstory behind this changes daily, but NBC had said that the story Farrow had for them was significantly different from the one the New Yorker wound up with. You know, it's not rare for a hot story to be lacking enough facts and confirmations to be passed over, while the reporter either keeps working or moves on to something else. I'm sure NBC, like the Washington Post, has to say no to a lot of stories simply because they don't yet have the goods. But, as this story evolves, yes, it could be that NBC passed for other reasons -- like it's just too hot to handle.

When is it coming back and who will it probably replace on the schedule?

I don't know what it will replace but I do believe it's coming back in midseason. There has been no official announcement.

I loved Burns' and Novick's Vietnam. In fact, I would have enjoyed even more than the 18 hours offered. One question kept coming to mind when watching the documentary, though. When they are discussing a particular battle, do you have any idea if the footage they show came from that actual battle? I'm sure it does for some of the larger engagements, but is that true when the documentary deals with one of the lesser known fights for hill just designated by a number tied to its elevation? Not that it makes a real difference in the impact of the film, but I wonder if it's really possible to tie footage, especially from the North Vietnamese side, so specifically as it appears.

The real expert here at The Washington Post about Burns and Novick and how they made "The Vietnam War" is Alyssa Rosenberg, who writes about popular culture for the opinions/editorial department and spent a great deal of time following the making of the documentary in order to write/produce this project, which anyone who has watched the film (or is still watching) will probably find quite illuminating. In addition, she has recapped every episode and there's also a series of podcasts. She has a chat on Mondays and I encourage you to re-ask this question there, if you haven't already. (It's possible she's already answered a question like this, so maybe read back through her recent chat archive.)

My understanding of "The Vietnam War," as with the rest of Burns & co.'s documentaries, is that the footage or photograph is as close to the narration/script as can possibly be. In the case of Vietnam, very often there IS footage of the battle being discussed, filmed either by embedded media or the military itself. It may be the exact moment, but it's probably very close. That leaves room for the possibility that some footage may be days and several miles away from what's being discussed, but my hunch is that every effort is made to match the accounts to the best-available, most accurate footage.

Sound effects are another matter. The documentary genre has for a long time seemed to mutually agree that re-creating sound (bombs exploding, boots-on-dry-leaves, babies crying, etc.) is an acceptable enhancement to footage.

We are fortunate to have a PBS station with British & Austrialian TV shows in the D.C. area. Why has WETA UK put on "Are You Being Served?" and "As Time Goes By". Granted they are good shows but most people that have watched PBS for years has seen those shows too many times. Is it because they are cheap? I enjoy most of the other shows on the station. WETA UK I hope you are listening to a member!

Have you thought of just calling them and asking? The likelihood that they read this chat is low.

My cable company has given me 3 months of HBO for free, and it includes on-demand access to what looks like the full selection of HBO series. Once I finish binge-watching Game of Thrones Season 7 and the last couple of seasons of VEEP, what else should I focus on?

We get this question a lot here at the TV Chat and I think we answer it differently each time. Unfortunately, the questioner never gives us any sense of how much of the HBO oeuvre they've seen in the past, and how far back, but here goes, just from my personal preference sheet: "Silicon Valley," "Insecure," "The Night Of," "Big Little Lies," "The Young Pope," maybe "Westworld" (if it's your kind of thing) and "The Leftovers" (if it's your kind of thing). "The Deuce" and "Show Me a Hero." And don't forget to nose around in the documentaries, which are many and superb, such as "Bright Lights," about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, or "Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper," and going a little further back, "Life According to Sam" (one of my favorites) and "Ethel" (Rory Kennedy's film about her mother), "Jinxed" (*the Robert Durst documentary series) and "There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane." Some other dramedies I liked are "Enlightened," "Girls" and "Looking."

Chatters, what else -- I know we could go deeper and more classic with such aughties shows as "The Sopranos," "Six Feet Under" and "Deadwood," but remember, the chatter only has three months.

On either a film or a TV show, can a single producer (like Weinstein) have such power that he could deny somebody a role or even blackball from the industry? Films and TV shows seem to have multiple producers: executive, associate, line, etc. How can one person be so incredibly powerful when the power seems to be diffuse across so many others? Is there always one person who really runs the show?

Yes, the person closest to the money. Executive producers (and higher, such as studio heads or network presidents) have final say on just about everything. Their underlings are free to disagree, pout, beg, walk off the set, blab anonymously to Variety, etc. This is sort of the basis of nearly every show or movie about the biz'ness of Hollywood, isn't it? Some powerful bully in a suit telling people NO and watching them squirm?

Is Donald Trump willing to sacrifice his Presidency for the sake of Jimmy Fallon's Ratings. Jimmy did do him a solid by the hair fakery.

I would argue that Jimmy has paid heavily for that in cultural popularity and respect. It revealed him to be the lightweight that he is -- for those who already hadn't figured it out.

Is he beating that guy on CBS? He seems to have the best jokes on the current (mal)administration.

They're about even -- both getting around 1.3 million viewers a night (that's live viewers, not DVR, not morning-after retweets, clips, etc.) Would you believe ABC's "Nightline" routinely beats them both by an eensy-weensy amount?

I call for an early casting of Aaron Eckhart. That sexual harassment scene in "The Company of Men" against a male intern still haunts my nightmares.

Other than that angle, you would make poor, handsome Aaron Eckhart sit in a makeup chair for that long (we're talking "Star Wars"-level makeup) and wear a fat tummy? I'm not saying he wouldn't, but come on, try harder.

Hey Hank- Do you think Sean Hayes will be available to make new episodes of "Sean Saves the Universe" when he's done with W&G. This was the best work of his career and deserves to be re-visited.

Hey, Sean.

I watched The Sopranos back when it originally aired, but missed all of the others since then. Thanks for the recommendations.

You are most welcome.

If the HBO dramas are more serious than the chatter is looking for, I'd recommend going deep into the back catalog of less serious HBO shows like Bored to Death and Flight of the Concords (which pair well with the current comedy line-up of Silicon Valley / VEEP / Insecure).

Both of which are an acquired taste, but I recommended "Enlightened," so it's only fair...

My husband complained that whenever aerial footage showed a bomb exploding, the sound always matched the visual of the explosion... he went on and on about how the sound would actually be heard a second or two after the sight of the explosion. I continued watching in a different room.

Smart move.

Should they try to rename it something, or just dissolve?

Isn't their logo mostly just a TWC?

Yes, all sorts of rebranding are in order -- please don't worry, nearly everyone (except maybe Harvey) will find a high-paying job.

Episodes portrays a female TV exec serially having sex with her successive bosses at the network, and tolerating really callous and exploitative behavior from them. She's portrayed as a doormat and a ditz who honestly thinks she's in love with them. And of course it's all played for laughs.

Well, lucky for all of us, it's over.

Is it true MSNBC is catching up in the ratings and Rachel Maddow's Show surpasses it daily?

You guys and these ratings questions. You're killing me.

Did you see the preview? Looking forward to it?

I did watch it a few times and didn't feel much this time. I did really like "The Force Awakens," except I'm STILL (STILL!) bothered by the bad astrophysics (that Nazi snow planet shooting a laser "across" the galaxy at another planet in another solar system, while everyone on other planets simultaneously watches it streak across the sky) and, well, yeah, whatever. Here's what won't happen: I will not wait in any line to see it and I'll probably see it about 10 or 15 days after it opens.

For obvious reasons, the only person who can play Harvey Weinstein in a film is Ben Affleck. Pay me, Shirley.

Their true crime documentaries really are excellent. In addition to There's Something Wrong with Aunt Diane I'd recommend Mommy Dead and Dearest, Beware the Slenderman, Captivated (Pam Smart), Going Clear (Scientology), and Tales of the Grim Sleeper.

Yes. Since late night comedy shows are now only for liberals, the conservatives have to watch something, and Nightline appears to be it.

Interesting point. Wouldn't they find "Nightline's" fact-based journalism a little to fake, though?

Last Week Tonight. We just lost our HBO and that literally was the only show I was interested in. A (at times very) loud but excellent way to end the weekend, entertaining and highly informative.

I recently decided that I can't do "Last Week Tonight" as the last thing before bed and facing a Monday morning. Too loud, to anxiety-provoking, to angry-making. I also realized that if something really amazing happened, it would get written up and tweeted hither and yon and I can just face it then. And just when I decided this, I noticed a whole lot of people who were usually "John Oliver--didja'see????!!!" every Monday sort of stopped waving it around so frantically. It's entirely possible we grow inured to his ravings, no matter how trenchant.

Bad even with Tina Fey!

Will they have another season or has it run its course?

"Amazing Race" is still on CBS's list of current shows. I think they're keeping it to one per year and will bring it back in spring, like last year.

You were right, it was terrible!! Bad Casting. Weak Acting. Crappy plots, and Lame Catfights. But thanks for trying to warn us.

I love ending the chat with the words YOU WERE RIGHT.

There are a whole lot of questions/comments today I didn't get to, sorry -- I will make sure to read and think about each one of them. (Except the one from the chatter I'm going to call "Riverdale Perv." You I could do without.)

Gang, I will be out of town on assignment next week and then on vacation. We will not chat on Oct. 19, but I will be back on Thursday, Oct. 26. See you then!

Getting On - only a few seasons and hilarious. Watched on recommendation by Hank

"Getting On," yes! I'll bet I forget this one every time someone submits a "I have HBO for three months" question! Thanks!

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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