What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Dec 07, 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 "Godless" "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "Loudermilk," "The Crown" and "Below Deck."

Welcome back, chatters.

A few links and then we'll get down to it:

My list of the BEST TV SHOWS OF 2017 is up (and in this Sunday's paper), so have a look at it and see if you want to quibble. And by all means, share your own picks!

My review of Season 2 of Netflix's "The Crown" just posted this morning (and will be in tomorrow's paper). Overall, it's still very enjoyable, but not as strong as Season 1 -- like 85 percent as strong, which is still very good.

With the constant open-fire-hydrant of scripted shows that I play in every day, I don't get to review as much reality TV as I once did, but I was drawn to Bravo's "Stripped" this week, mostly because it reminded me of the genre's more experimental early days.

With that, let's chat!

Did you still like the show all the way through? To me it felt like 3 strong episodes-- loved the start-- and then it petered out in episodes 5 & 6 before ending in a super convoluted finale (are the Griffin gang capable of regeneration? how were there still so many of them running around after each shoot-out?). I would have loved more resolution about the ladies of La Belle and Alice Fletcher (what a passive last shot of her). The long travel montage at the end did nothing for me, because he wasn't the person I felt was the real heart of the story.

Yes, my review was based on the entire series and I liked the ending (though I agree with you that we needed a counter in the corner of the screen to let us know just how many henchmen travel in Frank's gang -- it seemed like there were three dozen of them all of the sudden). Anyhow, the ending worked for me. I was interested in where Roy was headed. I was also mostly looking for hints that they were setting up for another season. They all talk a big talk about being a limited series, but then changed their minds if it's a hit. (Looking at you, "Big Little Lies!")

Thanks for giving this show some love, Hank. We're on episode 5 and loving it. As anxious as I am to see what happens (what is Frank's foresight on his death, and is it correct?), I'm sad to be so close to finishing it. Great characters abound.

Well, satisfaction with the ending may vary, as per the note above. Glad you're enjoying. And yes, so many great characters. When writing the review, I kept wanting to write more about Scoot McNairy's character, the myopic Sheriff Bill. (Also: Whitey Winn! Such a memorable character.)

Any truth to what Sophie Turner just said?

I don't know what she just said, but for some reason (maybe because it's already been said?) I've been working from the assumption that we weren't going to see the final episodes next summer and that 2019 seemed likely. Is this news?

Has CBS given any indication when Phil Keoghan will come back to say "You are the last team to arrive"?

Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 8 p.m.

What is the missing 15%? Are the PMs not as interesting as Winston Churchill?

For starters. Also the first half has way too much of Philip whining about not being able to screw around. Followed by another heaping helping of Miserable Margaret that goes on a little too long before Lord Snowden arrives.

It's still an absorbing show that's wonderful to look at, but, yeah, about 85 percent as enthralling as last time. Again,  that's still a good show!

What's this show about? Got a link to your review?

I linked to it at the end of my best-of list and you could Google it yourself, but (huge sigh) here. Merry Christmas.

I'm a little put off by "Godless", which has been advertised as a woman's empowerment movie, but focuses mostly on the men.

Stick with it, unless you were expecting the western version of Themyscira from "Wonder Woman." Part of it is about how men see women. In my review, I wrote that "Godless" is interesting because it includes so many women, of differing perspectives, in a macho genre.

Did QEII ever meet JFK? And is this shown on "the Crown" S2?

Maybe you should click on my review? Linked above?

Thanks for your positive review, which convinced us to try the show out. We quickly finished it over last weekend and loved every moment. Raucously funny yet full of complicated, interesting personalities.

My review (here's a linky)was based on episodes 1-4, so I also got to finish it up this weekend and like it even more than I already did. It's getting a lot of good word-of-mouth. This is also a really good show for Amazon to have at this particular moment, after the shameful business with their studio executive and the "Good Girls Revolt" blowback, etc. It doesn't make things all better, but it has to help, right?

For years it was chic to trash Ann Curry when she was on the Today Show. Yet I now wonder if you think she'll finally "land on her feet" professionally speaking, in the wake of Matt Lauer's egregious behavior, which NBC management seemed willing to overlook in pursuit of ever-bigger profits.

I must say here that I was always fond of Ann. Way back when, when I used to write The Post's annual in/out List, I got to take my pronouncements for the New Year to the "Today" show for a segment and she was always very kind, refreshingly funny and helped put me at ease about being on live TV. So for that, aside from my critical duty, she's all right in my book.

I also enjoyed poking fun at her once in a while (who doesn't? "Good morning, good morning everyone in the news this morning, good morning..." is for me a forever classic, and I'm still known to say it when I wake up and make a big breakfast on weekends.)

I don't know what her current thinking is -- she could just be happily semi-retired, y'know? There's no law that says once you've had a high-profile TV news job that you must spend the rest of your life trying to climb back to the top.

Am I among a very small minority who's actually enjoying "Young Sheldon," including the blessed absence of a laugh-track? I recently heard the show used as an unflattering punch-line in a late night comic's joke (forget who, since I channel-surf at that hour).

I think you're right to notice that "Young Sheldon" is a different kind of show, in tone and texture, and that there is something there that provides mild entertainment, which is the main goal of a CBS comedy, right? I think the cool-kid culture likes to lean too heavily on their own exasperation with "Big Bang Theory's" loooong success -- for them it's a symbol of America's mediocre tastes. So putting "Young Sheldon" in a punchline is mostly just a way to sharpen an old shiv.

Carry on with your enjoyment of it.

So they are having Season 8 without Frank Underwood. Does he get assassinated by Trump?

Honestly (and no offense to Robin Wright) but who really cares? With so very much great television on right now, "House of Cards" is the last thing anyone should be following.

Was going to parcel it out over a few days, wound up watching almost straight through. Very impressive. Didn't even recognize Jeff Daniels for a while. I do agree with the earlier poster, my count of the Griffin gang had them down to around 20 by the final fight but seemed to number 50 in the fight. That, and the high body count of horses are my only nitpicks with the show. I do wonder what happened with Griffin in the sickhouse...did he wait for nature or hurry things along?

Good question!

Do you have any thoughts or memories of Marlo Thomas' version of Its a Wonderful Life? It was an ABC made-for from 1977 called It Happened One Christmas

Yes, it's all I ever think about.

 

Both Godfathers were on last night. These are movies when flipping channels that you stop on as they are so amazingly great. No matter how many times seen.

Also part of some folks' holiday TV tradition, no? (I think just about any movie qualifies anymore. All it takes is one association -- "that Christmas we all watch Godfather 1 & 2" -- and it sticks.)

Hey Hank, could you repost the links you already posted in your intro? I know they're up there but I'm too lazy to scroll to the top. Thx.

I love you.

Good Line in your Crown S2 review.

Thanks!

I thought this four-parter was better than any of DC's movies, and that includes Nolan's films. Action! Romance! Suspense! Tragedy!

Will have to take your word for it, since I'm still rapturously tuned in to the crisis on this Earth.

Hi Hank! Thanks, as always, for your "best of" list. Here is my beef...I have the "basic" Verizon FiOS and Netflix - and I think I am already paying too much for entertainment. I sign up for HBO for "Game of Thrones," then drop it. Your list includes SHO, Hulu, HBO, CBS All Access, AT&T, Amazon. The rest of their schedules are "meh" at best. Am I doomed to pay for a few shows on these networks or just go without until they show up on Netflix, if ever? I simply cannot afford all of these subscriptions. I recently saw the new "Thor: Ragnanok" in the theater and it cost over $20 (ticket and the required popcorn) - for one person! Is this the future?

If FX is part of your Verizon package then that, combined with your Netflix subscription and your intermittent HBO subscription, means that you had access to eight of my 10 best shows of 2017. That's not so out of control, is it? Maybe one of those many, many months you don't have an HBO subscription, you could sign up for a trial run of Hulu and catch "Handmaid's Tale" and then Showtime and get "Twin Peaks." Sounds like it would be within your budget.

What I would do is stop thinking of Netflix as a welcome clearinghouse that will eventually supply some of the shows you're hoping to see land there. Netflix is in direct competition with these other outlets and there are going to be fewer instances of sharing content, not more. (I predict.)

LOVE THIS SHOW! Finished all 12 episodes on Netflix and can't wait for a season 2. For those of you who are fans of the Great British Baking Show and miss not just the cooking, but the lovely atmosphere of the show, I highly recommend it. It's absolutely charming!

Thanks for the recommendation.

Is it the men removed for sexual harassment going to be the things that kills Peak Programming?

Because without those men (a very small fraction of studio executives, so far), we won't possibly be able to greenlight new shows and put them on the air. It's so complicated that only a very few powerful men know how to do it. [eyeroll]

Do we have a premiere date for the final season of The Americans yet? I've been watching since the beginning, and I CANNOT WAIT to see how it ends.

My guess would be March. No official date yet, but I do see that there's an "Americans" panel scheduled very early in the winter press tour in a few weeks, so we'll probably know by then.

It cost me $6.35. Come early, skip the Popcorn.

Recorded it to watch hopefully later today - did you have any thoughts on it? I'm not optimistic but willing to give Meloni & Oswalt the benefit of the doubt. Also seconding the success of Crisis on Earth X - what should have been a logistical/narrative nightmare & a mess turned out to be entertaining & pretty good.

I lasted about 10 minutes.

With the addition of Amazon Prime to the apps on the Apple TV, my journey to the dark side is complete. That cord is never coming back. But I'm curious about your thoughts on traditional services in light of cord cutting. This has to change their economics, but is it enough to put cable and satellite services on the ropes?

They're worried, and there's been heaps of coverage predicting their demise, but I wish more of these stories would include an approximate, current total of customers who are still subscribing to cable and satellite. It is tens of millions of American households (shame on me for not having a current number handy, I want to say its well over 100 million) and it is not declining as fast as cord-cutters think it is. Many of us still very much enjoy having the full panoply of cable choices when we sit down and turn on our TV. I know that when I "switch" my set over to streaming choices, it definitely feels like I've entered another plane of existence, with a very intentional kind of watching. Cable still allows me to flip around and discover in a way that the Netflix and Amazon and Hulu menus do not.

Best of 2017 takes me to the crown article, so does the link to crown article

Here's a link to Best of 2017. I'll go up and recheck the link and see if I can edit. Thanks.

Update: Try it now.

I'll ask the question everyone's thinking, but no one wants to say: What will become of the venerable table from Charlie Rose? Will it get its own show? A new host? Or will it be put up for sale on Ebay? Inquiring minds want to know.

Didn't you hear? For the time being, while they try to figure it out, PBS is filling in the Rose slot with "Amanpour," hosted by Christiane Amanpour.

One thing folks with cable - or at least FiOS - can do to keep up with all the shows is check the 'On Demand' function once a week. All of the premier networks have free weekends a couple times a year (Epix had two in the last 4 months, which netted me Get Shorty, Berlin Station & a dozen movies.) From time to time there's also a free 'On Demand' weekend when whatever the top tier networks want to make available for free can be seen. (I went to Starz for American Gods & The Girlfriend Experiment.) Doesn't help with streaming services, but a little patience can pay off.

It sure can. Thanks for reminding us of this. Showtime was desperate to get people into "Twin Peaks" and offered some free weekends around it.

For my friend that does not have cable and really enjoys CSI type shows. I am shopping on one site for seasons of television on DVD and reading your chat on another and thought I would ask the pro. I like The Wire but season 1 is not available. I don't really like CSI and could use some help. Thank you.

"Broadchurch," maybe?

We are headed toward it not away from it, because all the shows with unheard, original stories that were prevented from being shown by the gate-keeping sexist, racist glassbowls will now get aired.

Preach!

I'm finding Godless to be a turgid, cliched, self-important slog. I'm on episode five or so, and it seems like not much stuff happens, and when it does it's for reasons of plot instead of because of how real humans behave. And that endless horseback riding lesson montage? Eeesh.

I'm curious why you've gotten so far if you're not enjoying it.

When I click on Best shows of 2017 it takes me to your review of The Crown. Shall I just google it so as not to bother you?

Fixed now, thanks!

Yes the two together. I think they are kind of what we need. Young Sheldon is funny but also very sweet and kind. I still enjoy "Speechless" but there are times it's almost too mean, though they generally reel it back in. Ann Curry, I recently saw, is going to have a show on PBS about people who met each other during significant events in history (think 9-11, World War II) and lost track of each other (I think that's what it's about anyway). It looks like it will be right in her wheelhouse. She always seemed very patient and kind as an interviewer.

Given how much the general public has learned about widespread sexual assault within the entertainment industry, and the fact that so much of this criminal behavior was apparently an open secret, isn't it about time to stop trying to tie Handmaid's Tale to Trump and instead acknowledge that it's a searing critique of its own industry? It would be really quite telling to hear how many of the actresses in that show have had to submit to Handmaid-like treatment in order to preserve and advance their careers.

The fantastic thing about Margaret Atwood's novel and the Hulu adaptation is that it works so broadly as a metaphor for the ways women are treated on a number of levels. It's also a really scary story about what happens when fascist and/or theocratic instincts get too much power.

So it works from a lot of perspectives, including your faint attempt at whataboutism.

Kennedy's sister Kathleen married into nobility and is buried in England. On a state visit in 1963 he took a detour to visit her grave. It's a safe bet he met the queen.

You don't have to wonder about it or make safe bets. There's this thing called history and the internet can tell you about it. (No spoilers!)

If I were to cut the cable and only subscribe to streaming services, other than Nexflix, to what should I connect?

The post about running across the Godfathers while "flipping channels" made me realize that I haven't flipped channels in years. Everything I watch, with the exception of live sports, is done on a "by request" basis. It's either on-demand, streaming, or from my DVR. I suspect that in the not so distant future "flipping channels" will be the new rewinding, turning over the record, or tuning the dial.

For myself, I should note that when I say "flipping channels," what I'm really doing is scrolling through the grid.

My significant other would love nothing more than to flip through channels the old-fashioned way, but it's just not convenient anymore -- there's a drag time between each flip while Xfinity switches to the HD version of the channel, etc.

Yes, I know I'm late getting to this show. Just finished season one. Is season two as good as the first?

Gosh, if only there was some sort of person whose actual job it was to watch it and write up a thousand words or so about whether or not it was as good as season 1. What would we call this person? And if such a thing existed, maybe there could also be a space -- a search bar -- on computers where you could type in "Stranger Things 2" and "Hank Stuever" and it would show up? I dunno, just thinking out loud here.

Your comment about wanting the convenience of cable/satellite is really useful. I also wonder whether Peak TV actually creates a small disincentive to cut the cord. For example, everyone (including you, in the Best of 2017, because I clicked through and read it) says I should check out The Handmaid's Tale and GLOW. But I don't have Hulu or Netflix. And heaven knows I have more than enough content to watch. I think we are moving to the point where TV is like books: it's no longer possible to watch everything worth watching, any more than you can read everything worth reading, so there are some very good shows (and books) that each of us will never watch (or read). I'm not going to get around to Ulysses, and I may never get around to The Sopranos either.

You are so right. We are definitely moving to that point and I use the comparison you've chosen all the time: My job was once about the collective experience of America watching television. Now it's a niche business -- not nearly as copious as books, but close. Ever try to compare reading lists with a stranger at a party? There's usually no overlap -- they'll effuse about titles and genres you've never heard of, and you do the same.

Music is even more diffuse. My colleague Chris Richards once told me that he almost never has to talk about music at parties and elevators or in the newsroom, not really, because everyone's music tastes are soooo all over the map.

As a baseball and weather fanatic, that will never happen.

I hope future episodes are better than the first one. Slogged through it. And while we're talking all things Bravo - RelationShep is dreck. Below Deck ended the season well, and I can't wait to hear how Nico talks his way out of his tryst with Brieanna while maintaining a girlfriend in Chicago in the reunion show next week.

Yes, shame on Nico. A classic example of a jerk who thinks he's a great guy.

I imagine I'm older than most of your chatters, but I just don't want to be hassled with finding my way through the maze of providers. Also, I still like network television. I love The Good Doctor, This Is Us, Bull, Lucifer, Hawaii Five-0, Blue Bloods, Once Upon a Time, Scandal (although I'm not so happy with the person Olivia has become), Jeopardy (I'm pretty good at it), and I watch reruns of Last Man Standing with my husband. I also watch Say Yes to the Dress & Four Weddings and some things on Investigation Discovery and Food Network/Cooking Channel, HGTV. And the Nationals! My biggest problem is translating channel numbers from MD to FL to Raleigh because of different providers.

As I said above, you are far (very far) from alone in this sentiment. The news coverage about cord-cutting often makes a cable subscriber feel like they're the last dum-dum on the planet still paying for cable, and that is not the case. I actually find a lot of the coverage of this to be biased in this regard.

Yes, thank you Hank for continuing to be a great a feminist. I appreciate you. To the OP: who knows how many great female voices were silenced because of men like Weinstein?

You're projecting, and still attempting to defend the indefensible. Was Harvey Weinstein a fascist or a theocrat? How about Matt Lauer? What about all the people in Hollywood (and all the entertainment journalists) who covered up for them? Are they fascists or theocrats? You're reporting on a very dirty business, and trying to cordon off blame to your political adversaries is collusive in its way.

I so badly need a "Sure, Jan" GIF here.

Partially I'm sticking with it due to sunk cost fallacy (as in, I've gotten this far so I might as well finish it). Also, my husband heckles it, which is hilarious.

Ah, see, you left out the Value Added part about being married to a wisenheimer.

We cut the cord about 2 years ago. We have Prime and Netflix. In order to watch things on HBO, Starz etc, I just buy a month's worth at a time and binge. Currently I am waiting for all of Season 3 of Outlander to be available and then I will buy a month's of Starz as an add-on to Prime, watch all 13 episodes and then quit it again. This way I am not paying for stuff I don't want to watch.

That's cool. (I am always amazed, though, by people who are certain that there is nothing else on a certain provider that they want to watch. I wonder where the process of discovery occurs.)

While I might quibble with one or two, I wholeheartedly agree with the bulk of the list. I don't envy the work paring the shows out there down to just 10.

Thanks!

It's difficult, but, like I said in the intro to the list, 2017 was a fabulous year to have my job. Soooo much good stuff.

I have a hard time cutting the cord and just subscribing to the networks I want because I do still enjoy flipping (well, as you pointed out, scrolling). Sometimes I have something in mind I want to watch, other times, I just want to scroll and see what's on. Maybe I'm wasting my time doing that, but it's a habit. I think it's not unlike books - I used to love going into bookstores and just browsing and picking up something that looked interesting and discovering a new author/series/genre. Now with Amazon making recommendations for me, I don't read half as much as I used to.

See what I mean?

There's something magical about wandering around, whether in a physical store or even on a TV gird.

I want to cut my TV cord from Comcast/Fios. To do so I need high speed internet access which are only available to me from Comcast/Fios. Feel like I'm cutting one end and plugging in the other.

Yes, this is the great fallacy of the so-called revolution. Nothing happens without excellent, hi-speed, premium Internet service, and guess who sells that?

 

I hate-hate-hate Comcast (my only cable option) and have signed up for Prime, Netflix, and Hulu, but I still can't cut the cord. I don't care about the range of channels--there's more than enough on the streaming channels. But I do need the MLB post-season, March Madness, the Oscars, and the Golden Globes. Thus I'll be imprisoned in cable hell approximately until I die.

Optimistically, I think you'll live to see some sort of solution. (Perhaps, for example, someone will come along and tell you about digital antennas, through which you can watch the Oscars and even some baseball games.) In the longer term, I think the market will solve some of your issues -- it'll mean a lot of little separate bills, but maybe that will eventually figure itself out too.

“...entered another plane of existence.” Brilliant ~ it resonates with me as the streaming services are more “appointment TV” vs channel surfing. Thanks for that.

It can be two things. I think you made a good point about it covering many levels of mistreatment against women. OP is just looking for a fight.

...that your talent for snarkiness will cost you readers? Me neither.

Haha.

If it goes the way it looks like it's going, isn't that a good thing for traditional networks and cable?

I don't know, but just talking about it is a TERRIFIC thing for Advil.

WHAT? We're out of time?

It seems so. We'll do it again next Thursday, Dec. 14, and then that's it for the year.

Thanks everyone!

 

HS

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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