What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Mar 31, 2016

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 "The Walking Dead." Lately he's been digging "Billions," "Shameless," "Outsiders" and "American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson."

Yow -- lots of questions waiting here already. I'll get right to them, but first an attempt to get you to read some of what you might have missed in the last week:

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK: Is there anything worse that a karaoke ride with James Corden? (I say no, there isn't.)

REVIEW: Slow but emotionally creepy, Hulu's 'The Path' portrays family life inside a cult. (Worth watching if you like Aaron Paul; from the "Parenthood" and "Friday Night Lights" people.)

Garry Shandling, father of all that is cringeworthy. RIP.

And in case you missed it last week: Who will be the next to go on 'The Walking Dead?' Maybe it's you.

All right, let's get down on it.

Would it be the Ultimate Punk Out if they showed what would have happened if the Jury found him guilty? Ooops! Spoiler Alert!

The final episode arrived in my inbox last night, so it is priority no. 1 for me to watch as soon as this chat is over.

I am REALLY enjoying The People vs. O.J. Simpson. I would be interested in knowing your thoughts about the performance of Courtney Vance as Johnny Cochran. I believe he has nailed Cochran, and could even be a performance worthy of an Emmy. Of all the actors, whom do you believe is giving the strongest performance in the series?

I think Sarah Paulson (as Marcia Clark) has just a little bit of an edge over Courtney B. Vance's Johnnie Cochran, maybe because her performance has helped change minds about Clark, whereas the Cochran performance has the benefit of being spot-on, but in line but the narrative we followed all along.

My very funny, smart editor, David Malitz, tweeted this the other night and I think he's nailed it:


OJ show cast rankings: 1) Marcia, 2) Johnnie, 3) Shapiro, 4) Darden, 5) Bailey, 6) Ito, 7) Northern Exposure, 8) Jim Morrison Poster, 9) OJ

How long before we see "Heavy Boobs" make 1,000,000 views on youtube? This show keeps going in totally unexpected directions.

I'm sure everyone just left this chat to Google "Heavy Boobs." And some won't ever come back.

I was watching a rerun of Last Man Standing this evening, and I felt a little bummed that we didn't see Ryan & Kristin's wedding, which evidently happened between seasons. On How I Met Your Mother there were three weddings, but we only really saw one of them--Robin & Barney. I think it all started with Marlo Thomas, when she did not want That Girl to end with Ann's wedding to Donald because she didn't want to pass on the message that the culmination of a girl's life is her wedding. I thought it was unfair to the fans, and I still do. I wanted to see Ann in her wedding gown, and I wanted to see Kristin in hers, with her sisters as bridesmaids and Tim Allen in a tux. There are a lot of weddings, even Oliver's and Felicity's faux wedding on Arrow, but it's disappointing to the fans when they don't show them. They really better show Mandy & Kyle's!

It's spring and somebody has wedding fever!

Can we just lose the Millennial Soap Opera and just find whatever excuses to get Sutton Foster in Fur Bikinis? For a 41-year-old, she looks pretty good!

It's spring and somebody has fur-bikini fever!

I guess it's not a good sign when your medical expert runs from you like a bat out of h-e-double-hockey-sticks! If things go bad, maybe they should invite Pastor Tim and his Gossipy Wife for a final confession!

It's spring and Gabriel has Glanders fever!

Disappointed we didn't get to see what Mr. and Mrs. Ito said to each other over dinner that evening. "Sweetums, I'd like to bring up something that happened at work today..."

Yeah, really.

Hi Hank -- such a fantastic show. In the class I teach we happened to be discussing the classic Twelve Angry Men the same week that the "jury episode" aired and I showed clips from it. Students loved the comparison...though for them the mid 1990s is the Dark Ages, too. Can't wait for the finale next week. We all know how it ends, of course, but it'll be exciting to see their take on it. Any word on when the next installment about Katrina will air?

Until we hear otherwise, I would presume (and hope) they'll get another season to us on roughly the same schedule -- premiering next winter. But these things take time to do right (example: Fargo, also on FX), especially on an anthology series that starts from scratch each season, so let's not rush them unnecessarily.

Given how the case (and story) played out in reality, why did the miniseries still decide to alter some facts and storytelling? Maybe I'm just naive, but if THAT story isn't incredible enough to watch unfold and believe the way it actually happened, then clearly I don't understand drama...

Example of altering?

Best Bad Suit Montage in the history of Television! And why did the Female Attorney know what Jimmy left in the toilet? One of the Best Shows on TV!

The suit montage (with the inflatable, Saul-esque air-dancer) might be my favorite thing about this otherwise deadly-dull second season of "Better Call Saul."

It's fallen way down the list of "best shows on TV," I'm sorry to tell you. There's so much else right now that's better.

Many years ago I had a long-distance relationship. Making a long story short, when we reconnected it was very clear that we had grown far apart, and mutually agreed to separate. I am reminded of this experience in season 2. The spark isn't there, and each episode feels like it's simply moving the story along. I was so looking forward to this season... and it just feels like a dud.

I'm afraid I mostly agree. I think they've really strung us along this season.

Do you still watch The Good Wife, and do you have any insight as to why this once-great show has become one of the worst on television? Last week's episode that closed with Alicia giving Jason a hand job in public (!) was groan-worthy. Do you think we'll ever find out the inside story of why this show went down the toilet?

I think the show has been terrific this season and is going out in a strong way -- hand-jobs, aside, I think the point of the last several weeks has been to show that Alicia isn't all that good. The heavy drinking, the lying to grand juries (c'mon that's worse than public lewdness). I wonder if they're going to end it Seinfeld-style, with her serving time? I'm still loving the show for all the usual reasons: the drama, the topicality, the tech-iness (would love to see more of those NSA snoops before it's all over), the personalities.

I'm really liking Billions a lot, tightly written, great cast, entertaining, the 1%'ers eye candy. But...can they sustain the show just on the cat and mouse games between Axe and Rhoades for another season?

I totally hear you, but let's worry about that when we get there next year. Meanwhile, what a fun-to-watch show -- you guys should check it out if you haven't been watching. Giamatti was soooo good in this week's funeral episode. Maggie Siff has been incredible, too.

Any chance the 13-episode model becomes the norm? Less filler in storytelling usually means a better return on your viewing investment.

Yes, I think it might become the norm -- but there are still some genres (procedurals, mainly) where more really is more.

When are they going this year? Is it even worth it anymore?

In May, as usual.

And although you hear a lot from high-tech know-it-alls about how it's all over for the TV industry, there are still billions of advertising dollars at stake in the fall season -- actual commerce, actual transactions, resulting in actual employment for many, many people. Things are changing all the time, but in a lot of ways, TV is still business as usual.

While I know you must be (generally) grateful for the oversupply of interesting television shows to watch these days, are you not even a teensy bit jealous of your colleagues who report/opine on politics because with Trump, et al. they have an exciting new episode to cover every single day?


Thanks for the appreciation. I don't think that you can reasonably say that Shandling invented cringeworthy comedy -- I can see antecedents in Albert Brooks and Woody Allen -- but he was certainly tremendously influential. It's also been nice to hear and read people talking about Shandling's kindness, generosity, and mentoring. I hope that influence gets passed on, too.

I think I credited him with translating cringeworthiness to television; Woody Allen and Albert Brooks worked in film.

I left to look at Heavy Boobs. Do I now have to leave also to check out Fur Bikini?

Sure. What a fun day you're having!

Have you watched Season 2 of Amazon's Catastrophe? It might be the funniest show I watched last year, I'll be happy if season 2 is even half as funny.

I have watched it -- gobbled it right up, all six episodes, and I think you'll be pleased. It jumps ahead a few years -- they're on baby no. 2!

I don't have any shows I want to watch at 10 pm. Is Rush Hour mindless fun or just stupid?

It's a very tricky distinction between the two -- mindless fun and just stupid. It's both? It's neither? It's not getting reviewed in the Washington Post, is really all I can tell you.

We almost... ALMOST... got through a Wash Post chat without mentioning the name of the current GOP frontrunner

Believe me, I discard a lot of them that you never see.

Nothing too significant exactly; I'm more referring to reading online "fact checking and finding some moderate differences: The date the will was signed, that Garcetti "moved" the Trial downtown, the timing of certain blowups between Darden and Cochran during the case. I guess I'm saying as much as I've enjoyed the series, it seems compelling enough as is with these terrific performances...

Norman Lear brought it to the U.S. when he created "All in the Family," based on the British TV series "Till Death Us Do Part,"

Different kind of cringe.

I think Supergirl is on its 22nd episode of the season. I wish Firefly had that many episodes in the first season before being cancelled.

"Supergirl" just aired its 18th episode, out of a 20-episode season order.

Did CBS ever pull the trigger (or drop the hammer) on Season 2? It would be a shame to see it go, my favorite of the super-shows. And who knew Callista Flockhart had another show in her?

I haven't heard anything yet. It's expensive to make, but I think they'll renew it.

When the district attorney had a heart attack (or whatever) in open court. It actually happened in a meeting.

Ironic post, since just watching Last Man Standing could be grounds for divorce

You said it, I didn't!

I cut the cable cord years ago, and for the the most part, I have been able to watch the programs I want to watch. I have a Netflix, Amazon Prime & Hulu subscription. I assumed that one of those would offer the ABC American Crime series, but apparently not. Hulu does not even offer season 1. Any idea why this is the case? Any suggestions for viewing this show?

Is it on iTunes?

I don't know. A couple of years ago I decided to get out of the business of helping cord-cutters find their workarounds, because they'd get so mad at me for not knowing or pointing them toward a solution that they didn't like. (With a few exceptions here and there.)

But I'm always happy to let our helpful chatters give advice to one another about specific shows and how to access them. So, chatters?

Hank, just curious if you read the comments on your stories. The commenters on your James Cordon story clearly didn't share your opinion on him (I do, BTW--I find him insufferable). Or is the comments section such a cesspool that you stay away?

My answer to this question changes depending on the day (and the article). Many of my colleagues say they never look -- and they also have to prepare the subjects of their stories to expect the worst in the comments section. I've never stuck to one personal dictum about the comments -- and neither has the paper. From time to time our audience-engagement people will encourage the staff to get into the comments and reply to some of them (our names and Washington Post ID included), and I've dabbled in that just to see what came of it. It was okay, but it also seems like it could go really wrong, really fast. Also I feel very strongly about "dropping the mic," so to speak. Once I've had my say, it seems rather uncool to pick the mic back up and have some more to say.

One thing I always do is go see how many total comments there are. If it's a really high number -- more than a few hundred -- then it's probably not about the review I wrote; it's almost certainly devolved into political views, etc. Until recently, the number of comments was one of the few ways a reporter could gauge if the piece was getting any online traffic. Now we can access those numbers in more-or-less real time (only on our own stories), so I've been able to see that the number of comments is not always a sure indicator of how many individual users clicked on the story (and how long they spent reading it, on average). Don't worry -- it's only numerical data; we have no way of identifying who online readers are.

This is a long answer. On the Corden piece, yes, I did go take a peek at the general thrust of the remarks. It's interesting (to me) that so many reactions were that I'm old and out-of-touch. How quickly I went from having readers accuse me of being a young brat who knows nothing to being a cranky (at age 47) who hates everything.

Sometimes I look, sometimes I don't, depending on my mood. Even in the worst of it, I'm sure I have something to learn from the feedback. There's always one comment that is articulate, well-reasoned and entertaining -- the very thing I strive for in my own criticism. I quietly click "Like" on it and move along.

While we're on the subject, I'd like to point out how much my colleagues and I deal with feedback. Long gone are the days where we could choose to ignore our audience. I'm active on Twitter (@hankstuever) and I try to answer every email I get, often right away. I maintain a Facebook page (a professional page; I have a personal page for friends/family) and I do this chat each week -- without a producer, which means I see all the questions/comments that are submitted. Modern life is basically a comments section, I think. Pretty routinely I get told, one way or another, how terrible I am, how stupid I am, how fat I am and how gay I am.

But more than that -- not much more, I'd say, but often enough -- I get wonderful emails, tweets and comments from readers who are either complimentary or add some really smart point that elevates my thinking.

Have you heard anything about the new TBS comedy, The Detour. I recognize the male lead as the guy who stole Stella at the altar in HIMYM but don't really know much about the show. Worth checking out? If it matters, I've been pleasantly surprised by some/most of the TBS comedies over the past few years (Men at Work, Sullivan & Son, for example).

It's on my list of shows to watch for possible review. At first glance, it looks a lot like "Vacation" -- dysfunctional family hits the road and all sorts of inappropriate, humiliating things happen. I saw some of it back in January at the press tour and was very impressed by the kids in it. So I'm somewhat optimistic.

Divorce?. Both my husband and I LOVE it!

Seek counseling.

First, I agree about how good the final season of Good Wife has been. The ever evolving Alicia is fascinating. She's turning into the Peter! Second, on the O.J. cast, consider the performance of Sterling Brown as Chris Darden...one of the more complex roles. Brown's done a good job portraying the suppressed outrage over facing racism in the office, in the courtroom, in his community...and all while being taunted by Cochran. He deserves some credit.

He has been good. They've all been good.

Except, alas, Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J.

Things must be so bad there they are looking at a complete overhaul. Do you think they will ever go back to a model where they actually show music videos and talk about music news? BTW, one of my guilty pleasures is not an MTV show, but one that should be: Lip Sync Battle. Really you can never have too many nutty celebrities trying to lip-sync with LL Cool J and Mrs. John Legend in the background.

In answer to your question, no, I don't think MTV will ever go back to showing hours and hours of music videos. You can do that yourself on YouTube.

And I'm sorry to hear you're watching the Lip Sync show -- the same underlying problem of the Corden karaoke bit.

With it looking like Sleepy Hollow will be cancelled, what about my other favorite literary-based show, Grimm? I think both are better than Supernatural, which I lost interest in after one and half seasons, but it's still on. What accounts for that?

NBC has renewed a fair number of shows so far, but "Grimm" is still awaiting word. For all things "Grimm"-related I invited you to go check out Kristi Turnquist's oeuvre -- she's the TV writer/critic at the Oregonian in Portland, where the show is filmed. It's a big part of her beat. I confess I've not watched "Grimm" very much since season 2.

"Supernatural" is its own phenomenon -- and an interesting one at that. There is a very large newspaper in New York that did an interesting feature story about the show and its longevity and loyal fans. I'll bet you could find it if you Google it.

Not a spoiler, but safe bet Jon Snow will come back from the dead. My worry is that the show thinks we the audience are dumb and ahead of the story and really prolong this revelation for most, if not all, of this season. That isn't to say that they can't find a neat way to bring him back to life or what he will be like (often Kit Harington's acting stiff so I guess they might as well play to what he's already doing). Just get it over and done within the first or second episode and move on to stuff that will genuinely shock up, right?

I tend not to watch any show with grand plans to pre-figure the storylines or stay several steps ahead of whatever's in store. It's just not how I approach shows (or movies or books). That's especially true with shows I enjoy, like "Game of Thrones."

And in "Game of Thrones's" case, I trust the showrunners completely to decide what to reveal and when to reveal in it, in whatever pace they think works. If it goes off the rails, I won't be alone in complaining, I'm sure.

Hank, my husband and I have never even seen the show but read your review just to laugh out loud over the snark. Loved it. Thanks.


What is this show about? Is it only on streaming?

Here's my detailed review of it. I like it.

It's on WGN America, which is a cable TV/satellite channel. I don't know what your options are for streaming it, but maybe the WGN website can tell you.

Cord cutter's best friend: http://www.wheretowatch.com/ According to that, you can purchase episodes/seasons of American Crime on Amazon. Doesn't look like it's streaming anywhere for free, but is available for purchase from Microsoft (xbox), Amazon, and Vudu. Though, no, I'm not a cord cutter. I just knew that such a site existed and used google to tell me what the actual URL was.

Thanks for this!

Word is that Friends is the most downloaded show in the world. Why do you think this is?

The millennials love it. The Vulture gang at New York magazine just put a lot of effort into answering this question last week, so dive in.

Hulu has five recent episodes. Season 1 is on Amazon but not part of Prime; you have to pay for it separately.

This too, thanks.

I'm with you on James Corden, but Lip Sync Battle feels different to me. I think now that it's a SHOW and not a bit on The Tonight Show and people kissing up to Jimmy Fallon, it's moved from the "I'll do this so I can pimp my latest project" into "I'll do this because it actually seems like fun to me." They don't even talk about any current projects on the show.

That's a good point. I'll ease off.

Since Emily Yahr doesn't chat, I hope you'll permit me to point out two big problems with her essay about spoilers. First, "spoiler" doesn't apply to historical events. We know that OJ will be exonerated, that the Allies will win World War II, that the Titanic will sink, that Lincoln will be assassinated. That's not a spoiler in the usual sense, because there's no suspense about that. A spoiler can refer to a fictional character in a historical setting -- say, Jack and Rose in "Titanic." (Except that you can't spoil a 20-year-old movie, either.) You can only spoil a story where there's some narrative suspense. The second big problem is that, where spoiling applies, some people like to be spoiled and some don't, and when the first people walk around spoiling the second people, they are imposing their values on other people. Which is rude, and un-American. And that's why this is a much bigger argument than it should be. So let's all chill out. We don't all have to like spoiling, any more than we all have to like potato chips in sandwiches, or "Walking Dead," or Buddha.

I tried to take on the issue of spoilers a few years ago in one of those long Sunday thinkpieces, also with a "chill out" angle. The point is essentially this: Shows are not only about their plots. To watch a show only to see what happens is to disregard the true art form, which focuses on how it happens. Major spoilers are also bummers, though. No one really disputes this.

This used to be my go-to destination for comfort viewing but now it's half-House Hunters (hate), half Property Bros, and half Love It or List It. Is this their new normal or is there any hope for improvement?

Uh, check your math -- you've got three halves here.

For a broader variety, have you ever tried HGTV's sibling, DIY? Things are a little more retro over there, but the emphasis is on fixing, remodeling, etc. That's where I sometimes catch one of my favorite guilty pleasures -- "Renovation Realities."

I think he's doing well, he's clearly a very good actor but doesn't seem to fit the role. I have a hard time thinking who would be better, though. No one seems to look like OJ

No one on that show looks exactly like the person they're portraying. It's an acting issue. And for starters, I'd say it's more about voice and demeanor than it is about looks, in this case.

For ABC, have you tried just getting an antenna? I've talked to so many people within easy range for amplified window or even just rabbit ears to pick up the big networks who haven't thought to try that. Just outside DC with $12 rabbit ears, I get >30 channels, including all the major networks.

Yes, that's one answer, but not helpful now that the show has concluded its season -- this person was looking for those episodes.

You say my husband & I should seek counseling because we like a show about a couple who have been happily married 30 years and raised 3 good kids, and you say the guy in the State Farm "For All the Nevers" commercial will be divorced when it's obvious that he is maturing and appreciating the truly good things in life. But you love a show about evil murdering Russian spies and another one about a couple who cheats on their spouses, who don't deserve that kind of treatment. You, sir, are no gentleman!

I'm a prince.

I liked him as guest start on Doctor Who, I loved him on Broadway in One Man, Two Guv'nors, but I can't stant his TV show

Why couldn't they have made a 2.5 hour movie on Flash and Supergirl getting together? That would have been much nicer. Also new Jimmy Olsen (African-American, not CIA spy) is Jealous.

Well, at least Jimmy Olsen is still alive in "Supergirl's" world. I heard the character gets killed off right away in that new Batman/Superman movie that looks so dreadful.

Speaking of, my brilliant thought about all this (which I'm sure a million others have had and probably even written about; the Internet is very big, you know) is that DC should just stick to its television success. In trying to out-franchise Marvel on the big-screen, it seems capable of only making grim, pretentious turds. But on TV it seems to find itself, the essence of the DC worldview and sensibility. It's more fun, too.

When is it coming Back? We need to see if Jon Snow is still dead or just "dead again" like you-know-who.

Sunday, April 24.

They had better not kill Glen next week! Or Daryl! Or Michonne! Or Carol! Or Maggie!! Maybe Rick. Yes, Rick or Father Gabriel can die. And One-Eyed Carl can go too. Just not Glen, Daryl, Carol, Maggie, or Michonne. Are any of the actor's contracts up?

That's a pretty tall order.

When is the new season? And will they put in a Donald Trump storyline?

I've been doing this chat for so long that my intuition tells me you're not talking about "Vice" but that you mean "Veep," which comes back April 24. As you know from last season, they've got an electoral tie to contend with (and actual constitutional law to back up this storyline), so a Trump-level sense of absurdity is nothing new to them.

Now, on the off-chance that you actually mean "Vice," the hipster news show on HBO, my answer to that is that I think they're in a season currently, no? Has it wrapped up already? Plus they have their own channel now. And I'm sure they've got some campaign action going on over at their digital sites/apps. Vice is a many-headed monster.

which reminded me of Cartalk and the new Puzzler that was always in the "third half of the show." RIP Tommy Magliozzi

Shapiro and Kardassian look exactly like the historial figures. Dershowitz, too

Exactly? No.

"First Time Flippers" -- another fun show very much in the vein of "Renovation Realities." As for HGTV, enough of the tiny house shows!

Those tiny houses! And on wheels, no less -- how is it even legal to pull one of those dumb cabins around? The homebuyers on those shows are all deranged. The builders all seem like scam artists to me.

So - Did anyone watch that show? I couldn't figure out why anyone would spend the time watching an hour of that when it's all over the internet in digestible 2-3 minute clips (if you're really interested).

Probably somewhere in my inbox is a braggy email from CBS about its splendid ratings. I haven't looked.

Identical twin stories were popular once--and she was a better actress than the material in the show. (darn theme song stuck in my ears)

I rather enjoyed James Corden's special, particularly the karaoke segments. Why? Because some of us (perhaps many?) harbor Walter Mitty-esque fantasies from our youth when we sang along to the Top 40 playing on the car radio -- I alternated between singing solo and backup on girl-group classics, especially the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, and the Shirelles -- and now we get to see and hear Corden fulfill a real-life version of that fantasy, with the actual singer right there in the car with him. It's harmless fun, and by the end of the show I had a smile on my face and lots of earworms happily running through my head!

Yes, I loved all the feedback from readers who accused me of not knowing what fun it is to sing in the car.

Word is NBC already said it isn't getting a second season. So is it worth binge watching?

The only answer to that, really, is for you to watch two episodes and see if your mind asks for a third and a fourth ...

OJ is a tough part to cast. You need someone who can project comfort in the spotlight and an affable public persona, combined with the physical ease of a retired athlete, combined with the moody darkness of his private side. I think Cuba only gets the first of these three. Denzel, for sure, but he wouldn't do TV. Laurence Fishburne, maybe. It's sad that I can't think of more.

Have you seen the audio from Negan's appearance has leaked online? Sounds brutal.

Oh, that's terrible. Shame on whoever did that.

Love 'em and watch 'em and judge the people who get them. Who wants their bed 6 inches from their toilet with only a curtain between?!?

Will there be a Season 3? When will ABC make the announcement, one way or the other?

Some of us are desperately waiting to hear -- one hope is that the new head of programming at ABC had a part in producing the show, so maybe she'll keep it.

Did OJ Simpson's voice often get that high-pitched. Cuba's Gooding Jr. often has a high-pitched, panicked voice.

In memory, no. And that's part of the problem.

11.22.63? Like it or hate it?

Liked it very much and watched all the episodes and reviewed it here.

Full episodes are available for streaming on ABC's website.

Gosh, could it have really been that easy all along? This whole hour.

THIS is why I steer clear of those "where-can-I-find" streamer questions.

But it's also why I love the collective wisdom of the chatters. If I can't find out, they can.

On that note, I'll see you guys here next week, April 7, at noon. Wear your fur bikini.

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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