What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Feb 06, 2014

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," "House Hunters," "The Amazing Race," "The Suze Orman Show." And he recently gave "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" a good review. Lately he's been digging "Masters of Sex," "Boardwalk Empire" and "Time of Death."

We’re back. Plenty of TV-watching has occurred since we last chatted. Here’s a roundup, Washington Post-wise:

Tonight is Jay Leno’s farewell – here’s my piece on that. Very difficult to come up with a new way to say goodbye. Will it stick this time? Do you want it to? FWIW, I think it’s been very smart of them to do “best-of” clip jobs in Fallon’s time slot this week, showing just how good Fallon is as an entertainer.

Some recent reviews:

The “Herblock” documentary on HBO. I thought there was too much fawning and not enough of just letting that brand of humor speak for itself. I was also a little creeped out by the use of an actor to play Herblock. But it’s worth watching, and still circulating on HBO.

Lifetime's been awfully hard to resist on Saturday night lately, upping the ambition of their movies (aka critic pinatas). Did you watch "Lizzie Borden Took an Ax?" Did you watch "Flowers in the Attic?"

That "Mitt" documentary on Netflix: Creeeepy but fascinating, kinda. What did you think?

"Klondike" on Discovery -- kind of fun, in a melodramatic way.

HBO's "Looking": Is anyone talking about it outside of the gay blogs? It's a nice character sketch, but so far the best character is San Francisco, I think.

Emily Yahr had a terrific wrap-up of the major things that went down at the Winter TV Press Tour in Pasadena. Neither of us actually went -- it's a sad day when you're too busy watching and writing about TV to go to a TV press tour. I'll go during the summer, as usual.

Emily also interviewed the women behind Comedy Central's "Broad City." Seen it? Laughing at it?

I stand ready for some questions. Let's gab.



I just recently watched the first season of House of Cards and enjoyed it. I'm wondering how Netflix releases new episodes. Do they drop the entire season online at once or do they spread out new shows on a weekly basis? Have you seen any of the new season?

Did you have plans for Valentine's Day? You might want to cancel them -- that's when Netflix is releasing ALL 13 episodes of season 2 of "House of Cards." I have not been given an advance peek, but I'm holding out hope that I'll get an episode or two. If not, we're all in it together.

Any predictions on whether Jay Leno will turn up late nights on another network and how Jimmy Fallon will fair as Tonight Show host? Theories on why NBC considers Leno to be too old, despite his show being #1 while CBS is loyal to Letterman, who is three years older than Leno?

Since I am not a network executive and I have not written a book on the late-night wars, I do not have any insight as to where Leno will land. I still sorta like him for the Piers Morgan job at CNN, which was a theory floating around for a while. CBS is loyal to Letterman because it's not _only_ about age. A lot of intangibles come into play, like style and tone and flavor; what works for one network might not work for another.

Was sad to see that it was cancelled even before the full 22 episode order had aired. As a longtime fan of MJF, I can't say I was blown away by the show; he was good as were his wife and boss. The rest of the characters not so much. The first couple of eps were not good, but it was improving. However, there isn't much patience even for a beloved actor like Fox to find his way on network TV these days. Hope to continue to see Fox in guest shots such as on Good Wife. He still has a great deal to offer us.

I agree about his character on "The Good Wife" -- he's always welcome back there. The NBC comedy, in my critical opinion, was unremarkable at best and downhill from there. It's hard to navigate the area between critical opinion and wishing the very best for the guy.

where are hbo shows available after the season is over? I can buy dvds sure, but can I view them on netflix or Amazon prime?

I don't know, because I pay dearly for HBO (and all the premium channels), which comes with HBO Go as well as On-Demand via Comcast. I think the right answer is iTunes? Readers, can you help?

Hank, I am loving this season of TGW. The writing and acting have been strong. Any idea when the next new episode is coming? Last time I checked cbs.com that information was not up. As for Scandal -- for me it jumped the shark when the mother bit her own arm. Eeeew. So I don't think I'll be watching it again. Should I?

Sunday, March 9 for "The Good Wife" is what I've been told.

People are SELF-CANNIBALIZING on "Scandal" now? Wouldn't it be wonderful if that show just decided to go full-zombie? 

Yes, they added a young black woman to the roster, but they don't seem to be giving her anything substantial to do? (although the same could be argued for the band o' interchangeable young white guys who started in September?) Beck Bennett has potential--if nothing else to be the Jason Sudeikis type and Taran Killam is then free to be as off the wall as he wants.

I've watched SNL very closely this season, as have a lot of people. It will take time for Sasheer Zamata to find her groove on the show, like a long line of "featured players" (read: not full cast yet) before her. Two of those white guys are standing out -- Beck Bennett, absolutely (turns out he can do lots of Phil Hartman-style things, like husbands and dads and game-show hosts), and Kyle Mooney. (Bennett and Mooney have done some funny shorts together -- google their "Sigma" skit.)

I'm curious about this new "Weekend Update" guy, Colin Jost. Here's Emily's short item about that.

I'm still bummed that next year is its last. There are so many great characters and actors in it, so many great story lines they could continue. Is it that so many of them moved on in their careers--Michael Shannon, Steve Bucemi, etc.--that they couldn't commit to more time?

I'm a little bummed about it too, but I never expected them to get all the way through Prohibition, did you? (Unless they fast-forward.) One great thing about premium-drama world is that the showrunner and writers (and cast) get enough advance warning and can bring the saga in for the best possible landing. So I do look forward to a superb wrap-up.

Not even close. I thought it was a horribly acted, overly clicked mess. The story, which I was hoping would be compelling, wasn't. The charcters, which I wanted to like, weren't likeable, and, more importantly, often acted in manners that were contrary to the main personaltiy traits, and not in a complex, conflicted way. And do I need to get into the total non-payoff of having the main villian die off-camera and then have his demise treated as a "one-horse open sleigh" footnote? Maybe it's because I expected more of a Deadwood feel to the whole thing, but, man, was that a disappointment.

Well, I liked it mainly because it reminded me of those dinner-theater saloon melodramas we used to see on car trips out West. Cliches and all. And I think the villain's demise was rooted in the actual history of the gold rush?

What was the more important factor to NBC, in your opinion -- Leno getting too old, or the possible risk to lose Jimmy Fallon? It seems to me that both decisions -- more the Conan decision than this one -- were at least in part to preclude CBS from potentially grabbing the presumed replacement. I know that was a factor with the switch to Conan; was that a factor here? Leno still gets the ratings, so I don't see why the need to switch *now* as opposed to when Leno wants. Please note: I'm not a Leno fan at all. I honestly haven't watched the Tonight Show in years. I just don't get the logic.

I'm not very good at playing the late-night chessboard. As I said previously, there are also intangible aspects to all this -- it doesn't always have to be about retaining the talent or worrying about what the other network does. How about a simpler take: It's just time for something else.

I believe that HBO go maintains all the programs from all seasons for HBO produced shows. So, if you're paying for the sub, get yourself set up on HBOGo. Otherwise, it's probably iTunes, etc... or waiting until your VOD service queues up the season you want to watch.

Yeah, that's what I thought. Thanks. (There's also good old-fashioned boxed sets of DVDs, if you're really behind and/or patient -- buy 'em used on eBay.)

Ok, I'm very mixed on this show. The acting is outstanding, especially Woody Harrelson, who I've never seen in this kind of role. But I feel like they are just cramming too much in. There are like seven different plot points to follow and we're jumping around in time on top of that. Should I stick with it?

You're pretty much where I'm at when I reviewed it on Jan. 12 (at which point I had seen episodes 1-4.) People are very busy fawning over the acting and style, but is the crime actually interesting enough to keep watching? I can't say -- as of yesterday's mail, HBO had not sent me any more episodes. (There are only 8, and the next season will be different cast/different mystery, so you won't waste too much time if you just keep watching it, I guess.)

Do you have a go-to for figuring out what a show's most likely fate is? TV By The Numbers has a pretty spotty record; are there any other sites that seem to have a good handle on these things?

I still go to TV By the Numbers when my hunch needs some confirmation and/or dispute. I also love their Cancellation Bear. (A great Twitter follow, btw.) If you're paying that close attention, maybe you've graduated from the De Moraes School of Covering Television and are ready to just examine the overnights and the DVR numbers on your own?

NBC has repeatedly bungled their handling of the Tonight Show (not to mention the Today Show) but they had the good luck of having prospects warming up in the batter's box. I love Letterman but, while I think Craig Ferguson does the best late night show around, I don't see an obvious heir apparent when Dave finally rides off into the sunset.

Me either.

I cut all of cable til I pay off my car. I claim it's for intellectual reasons, but I'm really white knucking it til I can watch 2 seasons of GoT!

Good news -- there are these things called books and they can be had for remarkably little cash on the open market. You can actually get _ahead_ on "Game of Thrones" by reading the novels.

Who did Dorff cross that sent his career trajectory from Next Big Thing to hawking E-cigarettes? He comes off like a bit of a tool in interviews. Is it as simple as that?

I don't know, but when I see him doing the E-ciggies, I don't feel like it's Stephen Dorff. I think it's Johnny Marco, the sad-actor character he played in Sofia Coppola's 2010 movie "Somewhere." (I loved that movie. Lovvved.)

How/When will Season 4 be available of Boardwalk Empire? I saw the first 3 season via Netflix and have been impatiently waiting for Season 4, no one anywhere seems to know...

Again, since this is not how I consume HBO (and because I get screeners), I'm a terrible person to ask about secondary release dates. I do know that when a DVD/boxed set is released, I seem to get those, and they seem pegged to the air date of the upcoming season. So I would guess September. If some knows for sure, chime in.

I'm still mad about Nina losing to Nick last night but my husband called it a few weeks ago when there seemed to an overt focus on Nick and his antics. did you notice a focus on him as well? And what's with the not considering all the other dishes the two finalist have made?

I know!!! Can you believe it???

(Erm, I don't know. I have a blind spot when it comes to all chef competition shows.)

I'm really digging this season of the Kroll Show. It fits nicely with the other off-beat comedies like Archer, Workaholics, and now Broad City. Do these shows get decent ratings or at least strong DVR numbers?

A very good question. They keep getting renewed and that's not just about Comedy Central's (and FX's, in the case of "Archer") clubhouse, mututal-stroke programming instincts. It also has to be about ratings, which are at least high enough to justify the bottom line.

Why does CBS not allow viewers to catch up on shows? I've missed the first half of NCIS:LA. But I cannot watch all of the shows so I can start watching in primetime again. I'm a loyal watcher, but I refuse to watch episodes out of order.

Is chronological order super-important? I thought the key to their success was accessibility to the story -- easy-on, easy-off.

Why does CBS not allow viewers to catch up on shows? I've missed the first half of NCIS:LA. But I cannot watch all of the shows so I can start watching in primetime again. I'm a loyal watcher, but I refuse to watch episodes out of order.

What say you on Girls? This season has had some strong episodes--the Gabby Hoffman guest role has been great. I struggle mostly with the extremely unlikability (word?) of the four main characters. Odd that on a show called Girls male characters are far and away the most interesting.

I said this and I stick by it. (And I agree with you about the guys who are on "Girls.")

I've been watching and it's okay. The writing seems unfocused and none of the leads are particularly charismatic or memorable.

It gets better?

(Haha. See what I did there?)

Thanks for chatting, Hank. It hasn't gotten much buzz, and Fox doesn't seem to be promoting it, but I am really enjoying "Almost Human." Any chance it will get picked up for a full season, or is it just a short-run filler?

Those who study the ratings are saying it's very likely to be cancelled.

Sorry Leno fans, but he is pretty stale. I think Jimmy Fallon can be much more clever about pop culture and the world we actually live in and he's pretty fast on his feet. Leno just seems sorta old and crabby.

And yet he's had some very sharp yet very tender final episodes that were worth watching. But I also think Fallon and his gang will do right by the Tonight Show's legacy and move it forward. Fingers crossed.

I'm way behind on TV. Which of the following shows should I watch first?: Breaking Bad, the Walking Dead, or Homeland?

"Breaking Bad," without a doubt.

Do the first season of "Homeland," with the promise to yourself to bail if the second season seems to be getting on your nerves.

"The Walking Dead" just goes on and on and on. I can't imagine binging it in order to catch up. But it is strangely compelling, almost in the manner of a video game. (And I have to say, this weekend's return episode is quite good -- and it's Carl-centric, if you can believe that.)

What was it about the "Mitt" documentary that made you spell creepy with four e's? I thought that it was interesting, but not very revealing as to what makes Mitt tick.

I put a link there to my review.

How much tv would you watch if it wasn't your job? (You refer to books and movies so you obviously have a foot in those camps, too.)

I would watch a lot less. In fact, when theday comes down the road that I am no longer the TV critic (I will certainly not do this job as long as my predecessor did it), I will probably go cold turkey for a bit. As I recall, in my pre-critic days, I had about three or four scripted shows that I liked to watch; some news; some HGTV (in my house "Property Virgins" = dinner's ready); "SNL" and "60 Minutes"; big events. But nowhere (really nowhere) near as much as I have to watch right now.

I know it was on last night, but c'mon, no alert for the Top Chef spoiler? Shouldn't there be at least a day or two for us DVRers to catch up? How am I supposed to watch it with my husband and pretend I don't know the outcome now? Ugh.

Oh jeez, I'm really sorry. I didn't even realize the original question was a spoiler.

So the Weekend Update anchor position is just a warm-up gig for the next late night job opening at NBC?

It's a Lorne, Lorne World. We just watch TV in it.

How come "Jumping the Shark" became TV short-hand, but "Cousin Oliver'd" never has? Lots of shows (Brady Bunch (the original), Family Ties, Cosby Show, Married With Children, All in the Family, and now Suburgatory) have all jumped the shark by adding "lovable" moppets to the cast -- yet this cliche hasn't generated its own catch-phrase that pays homage to the original instance. Is this just another indication that Henry Winkler secretly runs all TV?

I think "Cousin Oliver" is a fairly apt and widely accepted reference for people in the 30-50 age range.

I'm closer to Jay Leno's (and David Letterman's) age than any of the newer guys, and I'm going to really miss Jay. He was the "nice" guy of the late night, and I'll miss his non-ironic humor.

You are not alone, by any stretch.

Best fake comedy gameshow on TV or bestest fake comedy gameshow on TV? I know it breaks all nerd-code, but I'm fighting a serious man-crush on Chris Hardwick these days.

My question: How come Chris Hardwick is TV's only nerd? He has all the geek/fanboy shows. I thought geek/fanboy/Comic-Con culture was triumphant now. Are we to understand there is only one guy to host all these shows for that audience?

I'm in his age demographic and I live in a flyover state and never found him appealing. But I am looking forward to Jimmy Fallon taking over. So I'm happy.

Opinions are all over the map -- literally!

Tried to like it, but just don't get it. I'm finding that it's kind of like Girls, but the difference is that I can laugh at Girls.

Do you think people will watch just to see if something dreadful occurs? Can't imagine what kind of advance prep NBC is doing in case things go south in a bad way?

I don't know, but I do know lots of people are dying for more stories about the unfinished hotels, streets. And those poor stray dogs. And the mean laws. I think there's an element of hate-watching the Olympics this time around. I'm reviewing the Opening Ceremony telecast tomorrow night. Can't wait to see if it's like Russian TV. I really wish they'd bring in "SNL's" Kate McKinnon to be the commentator for that, doing her Russian woman "Weekend Update" thing.

In Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's cases, no.

But they still did well in a Lorne, Lorne World. For the ladies, it's edgy sitcoms, not talk shows.

I know! I'm totally fine with spoilers after a few days because, at that point, I think it's up to me. But I get up at 4:30 a.m., so I'm not able to stay up to see everything live. :(

Again, your host apologizes. I posted the question without knowing that it was spoiled goods.

Have you seen Rake? What are your thoughts? My dad, husband, and I quite like it, but I'm not sure how long it can go on (and I say that as someone who watched every episode of House).

I gave "Rake" high marks in our winter/midseason guide.

ABC managed at Munich in Summer 1972.

Yes, ABC did, and legendarily so -- and the '72 Olympic Games themselves went on during the hostage crisis and tragedy, which is galling for those of us looking at it from a post-9/11 context.

Actually, I think she should do her terrific version of Billie Jean King, since the real one has had to delay (and possibly cancel) her trip for family reasons.

She could so much there -- and why not, since SNL is on hiatus until the Olympics are over.

Any word on when "24" will return?

May 5.

Hank - thanks so much for pointing out a few weeks back that NBC4's Doug Kammerer may be a vampire. Now I can't watch the news without thinking that. "What does the vampire say it's going to do tomorrow?" "I'll be up in a minute, hon, I want to watch the vampire first." Of course, I understand that he can't possibly ACTUALLY be a vampire. He would turn to dust in a second when he was in the same studio as Wendy Rieger, whose aura of awesomeness and goodness would incinerate him instantly.

A friendly, handsome vampire.

Okay, a Doug Kammerer question is (among other things) the signal that our time is up. Thanks everyone for your questions and I'm sorry I didn't get to them all. I'll be back Feb. 20 (I think that's right -- we're still an every-other-week thing. Do you want to go weekly? Let us know.)

In This Chat
Hank Stuever
Hank Stuever, The Washington Post's TV critic since 2009, joined the paper in 1999 as a writer for the Style section, where he has covered an array of popular (and unpopular) culture across the nation. Stuever was born and raised in Oklahoma and previously worked at newspapers in Albuquerque and Austin. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Recent Chats
  • Next: