What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Mar 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."

Time for another chat already. Two weeks and a lot of television have flown by since we last gabbed. Some recent highlights from my cave in the newsroom:

Oscars! Selfies, pizza, Adele Dazeem and the wind beneath our flabby wings. Here’s my review – my 11th consecutive Oscar night spent working [“Price is Right” sad trumpet bleat here]. Doesn’t Oscar night seem like a billion years ago already? If you’ve any leftover thoughts (or leftover snacks), share them.

The Americans” is back. It was great last season and (I’ve seen five episodes) even better this season.

Filed a longer review near the end of Jimmy Fallon’s first week on “The Tonight Show.” How are you feeling about it, now that it’s been a while?

Also weighed in, very briefly, on Seth Meyers’s debut on “Late Night” on Feb. 24.

And after that, I decided to go cold turkey on all late-night shows for a brief bit, letting them clutter up the DVR and keeping up on their antics via next-morning clips. Frankly, I prefer to read before bed – heresy for a TV critic, I know.

What else?

Today I have a review of “Review,” a new Comedy Central show starring Andy Daly as a “life critic,” which, yes, is a show after my own heart. If you click on it, there are also reviews of George Lopez’s atrocious new sitcom on FX, “Saint George,” and a fairly funny one on USA about EMTs called “Sirens.”

I reviewed Chloe Sevigny’s new serial-killer drama on A&E, “Those Who Kill” (anybody watch it?) and weighed in very briefly on the second season of “Bates Motel.”

Vikings,” one of my favorite shows of 2013, is back with a really strong season. Any fans out there?

Mixology.” I’m interested to hear your thoughts (if any) on this. I didn’t get hooked by it, but I can see why some people might, just to see if they can keep the concept aloft. (What happens next season, if there is one? Another night? Another bar? Another group of randos?)

I thought “About a Boy” was another in a long line of lame-o NBC comedies, but others like it. And as bad as I thought it was, along came “Growing Up Fisher.” [Hairball sound.]

The tsunami of midseason TV is washing over us. Let's swim to safety together, starting NOW.






People seem to like Ellen, but I thought that was a pretty weak performance at the Academy Awards. For me Steve Martin should do it every year, he has no problem making fun of those rich entitled people.

Hmmm. I agree that Ellen's was low-key, but now that I've had time to think about it, I liked the casual aspect of it. I wouldn't want Steve Martin to do it every year. Mostly because I've seen that. I always am willing to try something new. But, with 43 million viewers this year, which is way up from recent years, the smart money says they ought to lock in Ellen for another year.

I find it compulsively watchable. Can't get enough of Bass and Miles and Tom and his Lady MacBeth wife. I can't defend myself. I'm just fascinated by it.

The first step is admitting it. We're all friends here, and I find that just about everyone who loves TV has that one show they stick with when it seems like no one else does.

I cut the (cable) cord years ago and never got good over-the-air reception. I used my TV to watch movie DVDs. Aside from hotel stays and waiting rooms, I rarely saw TV for years. {I watch news clips online, mute ads.} New housemate has TV and I am assaulted with heaving cleavage displayed by newscasters, actors, teens - ack. WTH?

I think if I'd gone as long as you had without TV, the thing that would floor me is the atrocious grammar on TV now, especially when "reality" people are yammering on. "This is between she and myself," etc.

What was it about shows 20 or 30 years ago that seemed so funny then, but don't hold up now? I watched an episode of "Cheers" the other day, it was awful. Forced story lines, bad obvious jokes, etc. Am I to hard on "Cheers", or is there an explanation for this?

Same could be said for the hair, the clothes, the theme music and whatever else was going on circa 1984. Humor is like anything else. It's just where we were at that moment.

And I predict someone will respond with a defense of the timeless hilarity of "Cheers." Let's time it.

I know a lot of the chatters here are into British shows. So here's one to recommend: Moone Boy. Adorable comedy where Chris O'Dowd (Bridesmaids) plays a little boy's imaginary friend.

Thanks, bloke.

This forum is anonymous, yes? OK, I admit to a weakness for the Game Show network: vintage episodes of the Pyramid (hi, Bert Convy and Markie Post!) plus updated versions of Password and Family Feud (look for the ones with Steve Harvey hosting). Plus The Chase is a fun and legit - not dumbed down - trivia game. That is all.

Your secret is safe.

I wonder if your fondness for old game shows translates to now -- do you like all the time Jimmy Fallon spends playing games with celebs? What about "Hollywood Game Night" on NBC? Too smarmy? Is it the vintage-ness of yesterday that you're responding to? Knowing it's all safely in the past?

I haven't watched much GSN since I reviewed their Bible show. I did like "Lingo" for a while.

Netflix has me rewatching Frasier. You know, that show actually holds up. I remember it was really uncool to like it by the end, but I'm finding it enjoyable on the rewatch.

Tossed salad and scrambled eggs.

I'm hoping that it will be good enough to anchor Sunday evenings. And is it going to be a limited run series like the original, or is it more open ended?

I have seen the ONE episode of "Cosmos" that they sent me and from that managed to write 1,600 words that will be online on Friday and on the cover of the Sunday Style section this weekend. It's 13 episodes, like the original, and it is very much like the original, with, of course, updated science and snazzier CGI effects. But the spirit is very much the same. Neil deGrasse Tyson is not quite as compelling as Carl Sagan, but no one could ever be.

Sunday night is going to be a real challenge for it. Just this Sunday, you've got the return of "Good Wife" and on cable, so very many must-sees, including the how-will-this-end-up ending of "True Detective."

So, we'll see how "Cosmos" does. It re-reuns Monday nights on Nat Geo, so that'll goose things along. It's a special event and all 13 episodes are in the can, so it doesn't have quite the demands put upon it that a series would have. It would be encouraging, however, if a surprisingly high number of people tuned in. I recommed watching it with your kids, mostly because I want to know if they'll respond positively to it or just yawn. When I was in middle school, a lot us (the smart ones, anyhow) were bonkers for the original "Cosmos."

2 1/2 months later, do you think there has been a lasting fallout from the controversy? I've never watched the show but it seems like I have not heard anything about it in a while.

I'm a big believer in E.B.O. ("everything blows over") and I was never fully convinced that the "Duck Dynasty" flap wasn't just a carefully choreographed stunt.

I think it's all pretty much EBO, but I haven't scrutinized the ratings. I've never written about the show.

Did past SNL Weekend Update anchors (Fallon and Meyers) seem as young and painfully unvarnished as Jost? (I know it was his first outing, but I thought he had done standup in the past.)

Interesting question. I have vague memories of thinking "she'll never cut it" when Tina Fey first did "Weekend Update" and I'm still not convinced Cecily Strong is well-placed in that role. (She was much better as the Girl You Wish Hadn't Talked to at a Party commentator.) But we'll see. Colin Jost has the right look and tenor, if the goal is just to replace Seth.

I religiously watched season 1, then it went on it's summer hiatus, and forgot about it. I heard season 2 was terrible, but season 3 is good, would you recommend getting back into it?

"Revenge" is one of those shows I don't have time to watch. As I learned watching "Cosmos," time is vast, but not my time.

Readers? Anyone able to tell us if this questioner should get back into "Revenge"?

Which show do you wish you could resurrect from the dead? The divine Ms. Lisa DeMoraes was famous for wanting to bring back Keen Eddie.

I always wished for another season (at least) of HBO's "Rome."

"The Comeback" is dying for a sequel season.

"Terriers" on FX.

Those quickly come to mind, but I'm sure I can think of more.

I'll tell you something I would never, ever, ever do, however: Donate to a Kickstarter to make more of anything.

I have the last three episodes of Almost Human on my DVR. Should I even bother as they haven't renewed the show yet? And I'm surprised at how funny Enlisted is and yet Fox hasn't promoted it at all.

Me, I'd clear off the DVR space and not worry about "Almost Human," but I'm sort of fanatic about keeping my DVR tidy.

"Enlisted" definitely gets my "most-improved" award from the pilot that critics were shown last summer. Those guys are a hoot -- they dropped by the Post newsroom in January, at which point I had seen a handful of more (and much better) episodes. They deserve to be renewed and put on a better night.

OTOH, lately I've been watching "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" from 35-40 years ago, and am astonished (and pleased) at how wry and nuanced the writing and acting were; that show seems truly ahead of its time. Sure, some of the clothes are out-of-date, but the wit and human nature of the show are still superb and largely timeless.

Did you read the recent book about "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"? I learned a lot from it. Here's a link to it.

"Cheers" might not be funny today, but I defy anybody to watch "I Love Lucy" or "The Honeymooners" or "The Carol Burnett Show" and not enjoy them.

Careful, grasshopper, about defying anybody to not like something.

Someone out there will always find a way to take a leak on it.

Broad City, and what's with the hiatuses? Just watched another episode of broad city. Wonderful to see two women in a comedy. Aside from that observation my question is what's up with the hiatus so many shows are taking now? A handful of episodes and then a two or three month break?

I suspect there's one or two shows in particular that you're thinking of, and maybe if you name them, I can give you the specific reason.

In general, I find that people sometimes have trouble adapting to TV's new cycle, which is that "seasons" consist of far fewer than the 22 episodes of yore. We burn through the 13 episodes (or 10 or eight!) and then carp about how long it takes (a year) to get more.

This is like the first Oscars show I've watched in years (haven't had TV for a long time). I thought Ellen was OK, but I felt her audience jokes/etc. were waaaayyyy to long. Move on with it! (Personally, I would have loved to have had her do something like what was on that old show -- was it with Monty Hall? -- you know, first person who can bring me "x' from your pocket gets "y"....) :-)

It's funny how much it seemed like it was dragggggging along. As a man with a serious deadline for an East Coast newspaper that is devoted to delivering 450,000 print copies in the pre-dawn (on a night of expected snow, no less), I am always hyperaware of how long the Oscars appear to be running. At one point, I was sure the Oscars were going to clock in at 4-plus hours this year (disaster!), but it came in at 3:30, which is about right in line with other years. It just seemed a lot more dawdly.

Why would I watch that show? She was a communist supporter.

Everyone, please welcome Joe McCarthy.

Talk about your 1980s guilty pleasure resurfacing. Very happy to see that the first season is now available on DVD, but hoping I won't cringe when I watch it.


For those who don't know, the long-awaited "LA Law" DVD was released last week -- starting with season 1. I have one and have been dying to watch it.

I watched the first episode and really don't like it, but I know Nestor Carbonell is in it. Is his part big enough for me to watch it?

No. If Nestor is your only enticement to watch that show, you're going to spend a lot of time waiting for his very short scenes. Better to just get your fix some other way? (Wall-to-wall posters?)

The real problem is the death of reruns. Even though Frasier had 22-26 episodes a year, it was still always reliably showing on Tuesdays at 9 for 52 weeks because of reruns. Now the nets refuse to air reruns and are constantly trying to see if we will love some other additional show.


I have to admit, as an under-30, there's a lot that doesn't hold up for me with that show. But oh man, if the one with the game show/Swanee River gag doesn't kill me every time. It's on YouTube, by the way. You're welcome: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KF6ITeJ7EM0

All right, thanks!

You think that Oscar ratings are driven by the host? I think there's been some pretty compelling research showing that ratings are driven by the films that are nominated -- i.e. ratings were up when noms are dominated by popular flicks like Lord of the Rings and Titanic, and down when they are dominated by smaller films like Hurt Locker and There Will Be Blood. Gravity was pretty popular and it was in a strong race with 12 Years. I don't think people tuned in for Ellen. After all, many fewer people tune in to her every afternoon.

Fair point. It's a lot of factors -- the movies nominated, the stars presenting or performing, the weather, the ineffable unknown. It's also not all one rating over the whole three hours.

That show will be "Everybody Loves Raymond," because it deals with timeless family relationships: interfering in-laws, sibling rivalries, lazy husbands and controlling wives. ELR has my vote for the best TV show ever.

I don't know what to say to this, but I am compelled to share it with the group.

I think Mash - both the original movie and the tv show - has held up pretty well. Much of their commentary & humor could apply to the world today. Sadly.

I hated "The Honeymooners" when I was a child, and whenever I accidentally see snippets now (e.g., in ads for oldies TV shows) it still makes me angry. Ralph reminded me of an obnoxious, loud-mouthed neighbor of ours who bullied his wife. Domestic abuse just isn't funny.

Is there going to be a third season of Louis on FX? I can't seem to find any information of when older episodes are aired.

He decided to take a year off. Before that, it ran in summertime. I've not checked in lately with the status -- anyone care to do that Googling for us and see if there's been any word on a new season?

Any thoughts about this new show? The ladies on The View were falling all over themselves (and Omar Epps) about it this morning.

I'm writing a review of it that will run tomorrow. It's another in a line of ooky shows where dead people come back to their loved ones -- not as zombies, but as they were.The French series "The Returned" also worked with this concept, pretty well (it aired on Sundance last fall and I reviewed it).

I think anyone who has ever grieved a loss might play with this bit of magical thinking in their heads, privately, but it might be pretty hard to watch as a TV show for anyone who might not think they can handle it -- and I'm thinking particularly of parents who've lost a child. "Resurrection" isn't bad; I'm still sorting out my thoughts. I'm eager to hear what others think.

Hank, what's your take on the reality TV singing shows? (AI, The Voice, X Factor)--do you ever watch them? I have been pleasantly surprised after a hiatus to find that I actually like the three judges on AI -- they actually give advice that makes sense. And thankfully The Voice realized it needed some judges that also gave some advice and had credibility -- I think the addition of Shakira and Usher, esp., has been good.

In the grand scheme of what I have time to watch and review and what I don't, I generally don't have time to watch any of the singing shows. That goes back to some general organizing principles that predate my tenure as critic -- our former TV Columnist, Lisa de Moraes, as most of you know, was ALL OVER "American Idol" and such, with great help from Emily Yahr, who still keeps on a eye on them in her newly expanded role as a reporter/blogger for the Style Blog.



Did that poster watch the same version of "The Honeymooners" as I did? The humor in Ralph's loud obnoxious exterior was that he was a marshmallow inside, and Alice knew it -- as did the audience. There was no domestic violence on that show.

I think in a current context, even suggesting/wishing for violence ("Why I oughta ..." and "One of these days ..." and making a fist) might constitute violence for some people.

It returns in May 2014.

You're hired.

I just want to thank you for doing these chats. I LOVE television and I love reading about television. Also, Dalia on Suburgatory is my favorite character on TV right now because of her hysterical awfulness, but I'm pretty sure I'm the only person watching that show.

Oh, yeah, I think that's a great character too -- safely on television. I'm not so wild about Dalia-like people I encounter in real life.

And thanks!

Wow, it's good to know we're not alone ... right now we're working through Northern Exposure, which is of its time but still holds up, due to the character-driven plots and humor.

Oooh, yes, between "LA Law" and "Northern Exposure" and, you know, throw in some "thirtysomething" and I could get very, very excited about the 1989, 1990, 1991 of it all.

If you need a Nestor Carbonell fix, watch The Tick where he plays Batmanuel! It was short-lived but it was glorious.

But what if you just want to stare at his eyelashes...

I adore this show (and I'm a 30-something). I conned my husband into watching it once we discovered it was on Netflix again and we didn't feel like shelling out $ to rent a movie one Friday night. Sure the show is a bit dated, but I have to say it holds up well. Also, there was no need to talk of re-making the show, it has already been done. The show is called Castle.

This has all been an interesting twist on a complaint I get from readers all the time, which is THERE'S NOTHING LEFT TO WATCH ON NETFLIX. (Meaning, "I've burned through all the premium cable dramas and now I'm going to be a baby about it.") Next time I'm going to answer "Murder, She Wrote" and see what the reaction is.

Louie season 4 coming spring 2014 http://entertainment.time.com/2013/10/04/louis-ck-on-new-york-money-and-the-long-awaited-season-4-of-louie/

Again, thanks. That's sooner than I thought! Maybe a screener will arrive soon.

Good for you, ELR lover. Everyone else on the planet may disagree with you, but you fly that flag high. I'm pretty sure ABC Family's Make It Or Break It was the best show ever made, so who am I to judge?

Always wanted to more of that show! I Knew there was a reason I trusted your TV judgment. Between that and your regard for Vikings (which I think is fantastic), I guess I should start watching Enlisted. When is it on?

Friday nights on Fox. It's a fluffy little show about three brothers assigned to the same Army base. Don't take it too seriously, but it does have its charms.

My cousin got UP IN ARMS about the idea of kickstarter recently, after a family friend whose child is a musician forwarded his kickstarter campaign to get an album made to a large email list of family and friends. I tried to explain the kickstarter concept and how it's meant to turn the power structures of the art world on its head. Are you anti-kickstarter in general or just for projects that have other avenues to get made (Zach Braff's movie, let's say. What about the Veronica Mars movie?). Or was that a comment more on your lack of desire to see old TV shows come back?

No, I am not anti-kickstarter and have been quite generous to a few projects, including a couple of non-fiction books and documentaries that were truly independent.

But I definitely don't warm to the idea of people who are already connected in Hollywood and having careers using it.

So addicting! Did you get to preview the final episode? Do you think Matthew McConnahey won the Oscar because he is so good on True Detective? If it matters, I vote for chatting every week. Thanks.

I'm still lukewarm on TD but have been watching; and no, HBO has not let critics see the finale, so we're all in this together. I thought Emily Nussbaum's recent review of the show (she was highly critical of it, especially in its disregard for its women characters) was rather spot-on. Here's a link.

And if I'm linking to other TV critics, that means it's time for me to bring this to a close, lest I get so crazy-generous that I'm doing other publications' promotional work for them.

I enjoy our time together and, yes, going weekly is definitely on the horizon. Let's stay bi- for now and make a date for March 20.

Til then ...

Verbal abuse is abuse. Plenty of domestic abusers have "soft" sides as well, but that doesn't un-do the harm of the abuse. Carolyn Hax has discussed this at length in her columns and on her chats.

I haven't lost a child, but I have small children. Just the commercials tear me up. I don't think I can watch, because the idea of losing them at all is too terrifying.

I wanted to get those last couple of comments in and I apologize for those I didn't get to. Come back March 20! Bye!

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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