What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Feb 20, 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.

What’s on? What’s not on? What’s good? What’s not good? That’s what this chat is here for.

Since we last chatted, here’s what I managed to shovel:

Jay Leno departed and Jimmy Fallon started. I filed a “5 quick thoughts” blog post after Fallon’s first show and am filing a longer review this afternoon. What do you think? (Is there anything new to think?) I just hope he doesn’t take any more rock acts and audiences up to that roof. It was too vertiginous for me to watch.

“House of Cards” came back, which the Washington Post has told you about in no fewer than 3,000 articles, columns, recaps, items and blog posts. Let’s try not to talk too much about spoilers, for those who would still like to hop aboard but haven’t had time to watch it. In my review, I came to the conclusion that it’s just too dark, too depressing – and overpraised. How about you? Have you made it all the way through Season 2? Emily Yahr has been filing recaps of each episode, bit by bit.

The Olympics. I reviewed that instantly forgettable opening ceremony (they’re almost all instantly forgettable, as is most stadium-size theater). Style’s media reporter Paul Farhi has had recent pieces on the après-ski questions that brought Bode Miller to tears; the impossible math behind the Olympics’ total bill; whether figure skating should ditch costumes (omg!); and other assorted NBC/Olympics stuff. Have you been watching? Unload your gripes/kudos here about the coverage.

I wrote a long overdue re-estimation of Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0,” which I watch every week. I think Daniel Tosh walks one of the finest lines in the business, smartly personifying the misanthropic nature of the web. That’s my thesis and I’m stickin’ to it.

And, borrowing from one of my favorite “Tosh” clips ever: Calling all the basic bitches, calling all the basic bitches – it’s time to chat.

Any idea if this show will be renewed? I have really been enjoying it. It's so different from anything else on tv!

It's not looking so good for "Super Fun Night," just by the numbers. Enjoy it while you can would be my friendly advice. Professionally, I'm sticking to the F I gave it in the fall, though I do think they smoothed out a kink or two from the first few episodes. I just think there's got to be a better use of Rebel Wilson's talent.

Can't wait for it to resume next week. That is all.

Me too. FX sent me the first four episodes and I think fans will be pleased. Review coming next Wednesday.

How is it doing in the ratings? A guilty pleasure of mine are shows like this. And I have really been enjoying Meghan Ory's performance.

"Intelligence" ratings are not good. Enjoy it while you can.

I feel the need to share this - I just can't get in to House of Cards, or the Americans. I'm a born and bred Washingtonian, and House of Cards just reminds me of growing up here in the 80's and of dinner parties my folks would have - although I don't think any of their guests were quite like the Underwoods. For similar reasons I can't get behind the Americans. It takes place in the City of Falls Church in the 80's, and yet...there are no brick buildings. That is just not possible. I realize that is a little thing to get hung up on, but it has kept me from being able to buy into the setting, which keeps me from buying in to the plot. Homeland, for all its inaccuracies and roller coaster storytelling at least LOOKS like it takes place in NoVA. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Also, do you think we'll have to wait till may to find out the fate of favorite TV shows? Will the networks really drag it out that long? And thank you, thank you, thank you for having a TV chat.

I think you're completely justified in getting hung up on verisimilitude, especially when it involves your home turf. Writers and showrunners think we're being a little too picky when we notice location gaffs. (You may think "Homeland" does an okay NoVa with its North Carolina location shots, but I found some of the lapses in geographical positioning last season to be more than I could bear; especially when we learned Carrie lives in "Adams Morgan," and how fast she and her co-workers get from there to Bethesda to NoVa. Of course, no one wants to show about people who sit in traffic.) I thought "The Americans" started off okay with its attention to 1981 details (cars, clothes, Radio Shack technology) but, you're right, its Falls Churchiness left a lot to be desired.

So now of course we all want to know what sort of dark and murderous dinner parties your Washingtonian parents were having ...

Have you come around on this show at all? Yes it's extremely dark but that single-shot heist scene was pretty incredible and I'm hooked.

My review of it was based on episodes that went up and through episode 4, which ended with that technically terriffic long shot during the raid. (I've since watched 5-7; there's one more after that, the finale, which I probably won't get in advance.) I still give "True Detective" high marks for McConaughey and Harrelson's performances and for some (not all) of its languorous vibe.

What I still struggle with is the ho-hum serial killer plot (in episode 5, they took it precisely in a direction I mused about in my Jan. 12 review) and mostly I dislike the creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto's unwavering love affair with his own writing. The actors mouths are overcrammed with words.

So I'm not ready to do a full reversal on the original review. And anyhow, they don't need my help. The praise circle (centered in New York media) has closed around the show and is chanting its approval. It's one of those things that The Post's pop music critic, Chris Richards, would brilliantly identify as "undislikable." Which is not the same as great.

On Lisa's chat we decided to turn DC geographical mistakes into a drinking game. See palm trees in "Bethesda," or the Capitol in "Chevy Chase"? Drink!

I heard Lisa had all of you sent to rehab in a never-seen final episode of "Intervention." ("Will you accept the gift that is being offered to you today?")

Why the long delay on the return of Orange is the New Black? Seems like the viewership would dwindle. Many of my faves do this-- Louis CK's show for example. I dunno. Hoah.

I think you're suffering from a modern TV affliction I call calendar/fan disconnect. When a show airs, even a Netflix series, it's usually about a year before the next season gets here, regardless of when you watched the previous season or hotly it sizzled in the press. If you were an early adapoter to OINB when it premiered last July, then you've had a year-long wait, which is the customary production period for big premium cable dramas.

Season 2 will begin streaming on June 6.

So, technically, it's a month early.

Just hold on til then.

I miss The Mindy Project and Community! I'm not going to be too sorry when the closing ceremonies play. NBC gets back to regularly scheduled programming next week, right? (please say yes)

Jumping in to answer a few questions! (Hank said it was okay, I promise.) And yes, NBC has new everything next week. Including a new season of "The Voice," which made news yesterday when Cee Lo Green became the first judge to permanently leave the show.

...the non-Metro Metro is really starting to get on my nerves. You could fool me about nearly everything else - I think most of the show is actually shot in Baltimore, right? - but that drives me batty. Is it something that WMATA just says "no, you can neither film nor use our actual station names" to?

WMATA has a loooong reputation for not allowing movie/TV shoots in the D.C. Metro system. (Rumor or not, this used to be the reason given for why MTV waited 17 years to do a season of "The Real World" in D.C.; they couldn't shoot on Metro.) Moviedom and TVdom is filled with fine examples of Washington characters being chased or running through somebody else's subway system -- Los Angeles, Baltimore, etc.

Does anyone have any firsthand knowledge of this? How hard is it to shoot a scene on a Metro train or in a station?

I am thoroughly enjoying "House of Cards" on WETA, the British version with Ian Richardson, but don't have cable so haven't seen the U.S. version. Have you compared the two? Does Kevin Spacey do that charmingly reptilian thing that Ian Richardson does so well?

You don't need cable to see the U.S. version, you need a computer and a broadband Internet connection and a Netflix subscription. (Doesn't that sound so simple?)

Believe me, I've heard a LOT this week from fans/watchers of the original British version. I myself have not watched much more than a few scenes of the British HoC and here's why: If I assigned myself to watch all the British (or other European nation) versions of shows that get remade in the U.S., I would never have time to watch all the TV being offered to my readership. I get that the original HoC was very good and has its fans and is an excellent source for planning ahead for future spoilers.

But I only have so many hours in a day.

That said, I'd like to raise another issue: I think some of the fans of the British "House of Cards" (not you, in this case) need to turn down the volume a little bit on the superior flavor of their remarks. They need take some lessons in niceness/etiquette from all those folks who've read all the "Game of Thrones" novels and have very respectfully allowed fans of the HBO TV series to have their fun.

I've got that with Mad Men. I still think it's a strong show, but every season is just a little more meh than the last and I've lost interest during their ridiculously long hiatus. I'll watch it when it resumes, but I'm kind of, eh, whatever, about it.

Well, after season 6 last year, who could blame you?

I thought that Metro strictly wouldn't allow filming of any violence in a station--which pretty much rules out most things anyone would want to shoot. I was pretty impressed by the House of Cards Metro facsimile though; the fact that they managed to work construction into the scene was kind of brilliant.

I thought so too.

And really, a Cathedral Heights station would be just the thing, wouldn't it? For all those dweebs in McLean Gardens. (I'm kidding!)

If memory serves me, House of Cards had a scene in Season 1 that was filmed in the Metro. Which leaves me even more disappointed that the one Metro scene of Season 2 was not filmed in a DC Metro stop.

It did. The only other movie I can think of that got (a little bit) of something filmed in Metro was that atrocious "Body Snatchers" remake with Nicole Kidman.

I'm not sure how this can be quantified, but I've already watched more clips of Jimmy Fallon's Late Show bits (Will Smith Dancing, Kristen Wiig as Harry Styles, etc) than I watched of any Jay Leno over the course of his entire run. Is Fallon that good? Was Leno that stale?

Or are you just a piece of debris in the big tornado of hype? It will be more interesting to see if the show is good once things settle down. Some nights I want Fallon. Some nights I want Jimmy. Some nights I want Dave. It really depends on the guests. Some nights it's "Friends" reruns all the way to sleepytown.

But I see why TV sitcoms try to use 18-24 year olds to play children. I used to love Modern Family, but the kids in the show have so much teenaged awkwardness I wish they would be written off.

Aww, I think the "Modern Family" awkwardness is kind of endearing, though. I almost didn't recognize Luke when the show came back this year.

I did think it went on one or two questions too long. I personally don't like the focus on athletes' personal stories and have no interest in whatever hardships they are going through to get to the Olympics. Reaching the Olympics is reason enough for me to root for them; I don't need an uplifting sob story.

I'm with you. (Though I think the questions were totally fine, given the context.) I worry that our culture at large, beyond Olympics packaging, has become addicted to sob story/triumph story. That's part of the pink-ribbon/half-marathon aspect of being a person now. Your story is not complete with the narrative of hardship, grief, defeat, but we only want to hear it if it lead to accomplish. If you've got real problems (depression, mental illness, poverty) please disappear.

HBO, in my opinion, does documentary best. Is there another network that can compare?I would hate to miss a good alternative. Under-the-radar type stuff?

I agree, though I have been harsh when I think HBO has put through a documentary that seems half-finished or in other ways not up to their very high standards.

Two other excellent sources for documentaries are PBS-related: Independent Lens and POV. I am continually frustrated by the fact that many of these docs don't air on local stations (WETA, especially), but they all stream for free on PBS web sites for Ind Lens and POV. If I were you, I'd be circling around those sites often. One recent doc I liked but didn't have to review was "Las Marthas," about the debutante ball in Laredo, Tex., and its very strange mixed cultural messages.

Can't watch it. Too dark and unrealistic for me to get into it at all. And like the previous poster, I grew up in the DC area and the show just seems to distort so much. Yes, politicians today are mostly narcissistic clowns who use media manipulatively, but I do think some of them really DO want to help America. Jes sayin.


Shameless seems so much darker this season than in previous seasons. Is it going to lighten up? I like Frank's "new" daughter, Sammi, but it's no fun watching Fiona going into a downward spiral...and she needs to date someone more exciting. I miss Jimmy/Steve!

I have also been gobsmacked by this Fiona development (which we shouldn't discuss in detail, in case non-Showtime subscribers are still waiting). I liked the boring boyfriend. But normalcy can never last for long in chez Gallagher.

So I assume that instead of writing Shoshana's epic rant they just updated the script with mean tweets from viewers. Drunk Shosh calling out all of the other girls was pretty fantastic but not sure it's enough to keep watching.

It was a rare moment of catharsis, though, in a show that has so little in the way of satisfaction.

A problem with U.S. Olympic coverage of at least the last two decades is its attention to the parade of athletes. Everywhere else around the world, either commercials come to a stop (if the telecast is live) during the parade of countries, or if it's taped, all countries get their moments. It's only in America where there is a cut away to commercials during the entrance of the "less important" countries - at best they get a "while we were at commercials, the following seven countries came in, with a second's glimpse of each", or we simply jump from Mexico to the Netherlands with no acknowledgment of Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, etc. whatsoever. At least this time, every country got near real-time screen time, and some commentary on each. Thank you!

No inside knowledge, but I distinctly remember while living in Cleveland Park in 2005, there was filming inside of the CP metro station. Maybe Nicole Kidman?

Yes, that was "Body Snatchers." Her and Daniel Craig.

Have you watched it in the last few years? I used to love it but stopped watching around 2009. It seems like it has turned into "American Broadway Idol" since that's where most of the winners end up.

I don't know, Phillip Phillips went on tour with John Mayer. So that's pretty much the opposite of Broadway.

The only thing entertaining about the Olympic coverage was seeing how red his eyes would get.

Poor Bob Costas! I felt so bad when I went back and saw a headline I wrote when his role was announced: "Bob Costas will be impossible to miss at the Winter Olympics." At least I didn't use "All eyes will be on Costas" or something.

Has NBC's broadcasting of these Games generated as much outrage as it did at the London Olympics? I remember people being livid about not being able to watch everything live and about the time lag between the events occurring and the nightly broadcast. I feel like I've heard less about it this time, despite the time difference being even greater. Maybe people just care less about the winter sports?

It might be a winter/summer thing, or it might be that 2012 was the painful year in which a lot of viewers were still anxious and upset by multi-platform ways, besides TV, to take in the Olympics. Maybe that's settled down a bit in 18 months? People figured out how to navigate the time difference to their preference for spoilers, etc. They figured out how to watch other channels in the NBC family for their particular event. They figured out how to watch it on their phones and tablets and laptops? That sort of thing? I'm just theorizing.

Downton gets all the attention, but this show deserves a look in. After the last episode I literally emailed my best friend just saying, "I CAN'T EVEN." Her response: "I KNOW!"

I love "Call the Midwife."

I was glad to see you give "Shameless" some attention a few weeks ago at the start of its new season. I have been watching this since the beginning and agree with you that it has received "surprisingly little acclaim." I am surprised that Emmy Rossum has never even been nominated for an Emmy or Golden Globe. In fact, Joan Cusack (also great) seems to be the only person involved with the show ever nominated. Why do think this show has been overlooked?

Sunday-night traffic jams, mostly.

Do you think it will take anything short of an aneurysm during a broadcast to get Scott Hamilton, Tom Hammond, et. al. off NBC's primetime team to make room for Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir? They're so much more pleasant and less obsequious and fawning (as your colleague Dan Zak put it) that it's now painful to listen to the nighttime crew knowing what the daytime crew is capable of doing...

Agreed and feeling just as powerless as you.

Found Farhi's explanation of how the NBC Bode Miller piece was made fascinating, that the NBC reporter circled back to Bode after word got around that he'd mentioned his brother. And Miller's defense of her made me wonder if he was complicit in the scene, perhaps a bid to permanently shed his bad boy image, and perhaps further aid his bid to retain primary custody of his child. But maybe I'm too cynical.

Come sit by me, because I thought the same exact thing.

CBS is getting 8 Thursday night games next year, do you think the networks will move to putting more sports on prime time in the future? Sports are the one true reality event.

They'll probably try. NBC really needed those Thursday night games.

I love this show (but realize you don't seem to agree). Would next season involve a whole new cast/storyline? I think the current cast is one of the strongest aspects of it.

Yes, according the showrunner, future seasons of "True Detective" would follow sort of the "American Horror Story" (minus the ensemble cast) model -- new story, new characters, changed cast. That's how I've understood his remarks about next season.

You gave the new show THE 100 an A, if I'm not mistaken. Does it appeal to more than a typical CW audience?

YES, and I plan to give it a longer review explaining why, closer to its premiere date. I was hooked by the handful of episodes that they sent.

They filmed outside Archives, I think, with Laura Linney descending the escalators into the station. But not inside the station.

Yes, my impression is that the only scenes that get by are the ones on escalators or entrances.

You know, while we're on the subject, let's not go around wishing and wishing that our Metro system could get clogged up with movie shoots. You think the routine delays are bad -- how will commuters react when they find out they have to wait longer because "House of Cards" is shooting all day on the Orange Line?

Same with above-ground too. It's frustrating to watch "Washington" shows use other cities for location shoots, but do you really want Connecticut Avenue blocked all day? Do you want your 15-minute lunch on sunny day Dupont Circle bench interrupted by film crews, trucks, lights, etc?

Have to say, I *LOVE* the judges on AI--they actually give real advice that has some substance to it--not like the platitudes given by judges on The Voice--when you get down to it, they really said nothing. I love the interaction between the 3 judges, and Harry Connick Jr is just too darn funny. That's what I think, anyways--but then again, I haven't watched TV for years and this is my first year back...

Johnny and Tara are knowledgeable figure skating commentators, but they will have to ditch the "look at me, I'm gay and gay-friendly costumes" before they can depose the prime time team. When your costumes have more sequins than the skaters', you have a problem.

I think he is the beneficiary of all the hype and hoopla surrounding Jimmy Fallon's debut. Takes the pressure off him to bring early morning fireworks right out of the gate. Maybe a weak sparkler will pass muster?

The difference (besides cast, script, location, etc.) is that in a parliamentary system you get the legislative antics mixed in with the drudgery of actually running an executive branch. There is just a lot more stuff to play with. It is also the reason why "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" are so fantastic. No snobbery is needed.

Are any of the midseason replacements worth a look? I'm thinking specifically about Mixology, Friends with Better Lives, and ... one other I can't think of right now. Oh yeah, Mind Games. BTW, still on the fence about Rake -- it seems half cheeky entertainment and half "come on, this is just pure crap."

I'm diving into midseason reviews this week and throughout March. So far, besides "The 100," it's pretty awful: "About a Boy," which I thought was terrible until I watched "Growing Up Fisher." Reviews of both coming Saturday. Hold your noses.

I'm the other person who couldn't get into it. Watched two or three episodes of Season 1 over the holidays and blah. Love Kevin Spacey ordinarily. But, in one of those episodes, they did film inside a Metro station, on the platform. No question, it was our deeply flawed Metro!

Loved, loved, loved the House of Cards second season. They teetered on the brink of absurdity a few times, but I think the only time it really went over was the scene with the body guard, which never came up again? What the what? Is that going to be a big plot point in the third season or was it just a bizarre little vignette? (Will there even BE a third season?)

There will be a third season -- Netflix announced that earlier this month.

Not sure it's the hype--the only bits of late night tv I've watched over the past few years have been Fallon's musical impersonations with an occasional Letterman Top 10. How the networks can actually Fallon's buzzfeed worthy bits is another question because I've never watched a late night show in real time, with ads, outside of the Daily Show and Colbert.

My dad was a moderately high ranking intelligence officer - dinner parties were full of diplomats and folks jockeying for face time with higher-ups back at the office. Lots of diplomatic posturing - that sort of thing. No murder that I'm aware of, but I vaguely recall hearing about some darker episodes regarding these folks elsewhere. I was only a kid - my job was to take drink orders and deliver them. And then there were the years that my dad worked for the administration and I would wander around the West Wing when I got bored - he'd take me into the office on weekends to keep me out of my mom's hair. I guess that's why HoC is just not my cuppa. And while I concur that the American's gets the 80's vibe down pat, they NEED brick houses. And yes, Homeland needs work when it comes to its DC shots. Why don't they just shoot some of the external shots here and re-use them? Is it really hard to film in DC? Or is it just that much cheaper to film elsewhere?

My husband loves him too.. I am not such a fan, so maybe it's a guy thing. Some of his stuff is quite funny, and I absolutely get that he is edgy and fearless and deliberately makes fun of just about anything, but some (much?) of his humor seems to skew sorta, uh, juvenile and gender-specific sexist.

If it's a guy thing, then this might be the first time in my life I've been told that what I like is just a guy thing.

Surging with testosterone now, I am going make some lunch my bitch.

Thanks for all the comments and questions today and I'm sorry not to have gotten to them all.

Special note to the person who sends a question every single week about a certain local female newscaster: Knock it off. You're being creepy and I'll never post it.

Okay, gotta split!

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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