What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Apr 10, 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."

A five-year deal. Just announced. What do you think?

Welcome back, gang. Sorry I had to cancel on you last week. We are a weekly chat now -- Thursdays at noon.

This has been an exceptionally busy TV spring already, but we're here to talk about ALL of it: The return of "Mad Men" on Sunday, "Game of Thrones," Letterman's retirement announcement and the official news just now (we're just hearing) that Colbert will replace him, new shows ("Silicon Valley" should be at the top of your list right now; "Friends with Better Lives" should be at the bottom of it) ... Let's get to it.

Sorry --- didn't realize I don't get a headline when I post something. Top item should have said COLBERT REPLACES LETTERMAN!

I feel like I just got dropped into the middle of a conversation. What's the deal?

Yeah, sorry about that. Stephen Colbert is taking Letterman's job. Now you know.

Will Stephen Colbert take over the Letterman show in his faux-right-wing persona, or as himself?

As himself, I'm going to go ahead and assume. It would be strange and silly to transport "The Colbert Report" wholesale to the Late Show spot. Though now we'll see just how much of him is him, so to speak?

So I read that Colbert will drop his "persona" in his new gig? I can't quite envision what that will be like. Can you?

I can totally see it. And I'm delighted because I think he's good on a lot of levels. Here's what I wrote last week after Dave's retirement announcement. What I want is a grownup who is funny.

Was this some sort of a double-secret deal? Is he going to stay in New York?

It was the prevailing rumor the day after Letterman announced his retirement, so not terribly secret.

When Stephen Colbert appeared on "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross on NPR, she insisted she would only interview him if he did the show as himself. He came across as bright, funny and likeable.

Yes, he's appeared here and there as "himself" and he's always delightful.

What? No more Colbert Repour (so to speak)? Is Colbert likely to reformat the late-night talk show to mirror the Colbert Report? What a shame if they limit him too much...

I think nine years of "Colbert Report" is PLENTY.

Is it true that Craig Ferguson contractually receives $5 million if not chosen to replace Letterman? Will he remain at CBS in the same time slot?

I dunno and ... I dunno. This just broke.

Will Craig Ferguson just keep his same slot? Does he run out of NY or LA?

Craig is based in LA. I've seen nothing more than the two lines of breaking news about Colbert.

Colbert as replacement would never have occurred to me but he's an inspired choice. Smart, savvy, great interviewer - plus he has the whole art/performing background. Much as I love Stewart I don't see him as the same good fit. And Chelsea Handler - ugh. Her schtick gets old really fast.

Any good Pilots out there yet?

It's a little early yet. Network upfronts are in May and critics usually get some screeners of the chosen pilots in June. It's always more fun to see if you get secret copies of the pilots that _didn't_ get chosen.

Could you please post a link to the Colbert story?

Yes. It's also right at the top of the Washington Post homepage right now.

Did you ever see the all-star semi-staged version of Sondheim's "Company" on PBS? Colbert acquitted himself admirably on it, singing and dancing with Martha Plimpton (as a one of the married couples).

I will quickly get bored if this entire chat is about Dave and Stephen, so let's talk about Mad Men returning Sunday. Any good insider info you have that you can share as the series starts to wind down?

I have a very long "Mad Men" piece that should be up online tomorrow and is getting big play in Sunday's sleek new Arts & Style section for you print lovers.

AMC and Matt Weiner only let critics have the first episode. It's very much like last season: hazy, dreamy, strange. They've asked me not to spoil anything.

Hi Hank. I started watching The 100 based on your review and love it. I'm wondering how much more of the series you've seen and if it stays this good.

I believe I've seen up through and including episode 6 and I liked it all the way through and hope for more.

Lost in all of the GoT HBOgo crashing hoopla was the return of Veep and introduction of the surprisingly funny Silicon Valley. Thrones may be the draw, but I'm glad I stuck around for one of the funnier hours of television. There are certain actors that are so good and natural that it's easy to forget that they're playing a challenging role--Jon Hamm comes to mind and I think Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is on that same level.

"Silicon Valley" wasn't overlooked by me. I love the show, especially after the third episode. And it's a great complement to "Veep," which, curiously, soon sends Selina Meyer on a campaign trip to Silicon Valley. The show's don't overlap (that would be very "Happy Days"/"Laverne & Shirley"), but it's interesting to see how "Veep" cuts into Silicon Valley so deftly in a matter of minutes.

Was I the only one a bit confused by the pilot?

Certainly not. I like the show but it is a confusing pilot and the series has its work cut out for it. The next couple of episodes help a lot. Here's my review from April 4. I also went in January to hang out for a day on the show's set in Richmond. You can read about that here.

Osahon Okundaye recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post wherein he condemned Game of Throne's rampant embrace of sexual violence against women. He said, among other things, that the show revels in its depiction of the rape and degradation of females. Season 4 began with a lengthy assault on a barkeep's daughter, a request to rape a child, and a young girl hung from a crucifix. George R.R. Martin has said that he can't imagine these types of things wouldn't happen in the world about which he writes. Considering that the show is set in a fictional world, Okundaye argued that the writers aren't beholden to some sort of historical accuracy and are free to break from Martin's narrative. I'm not sure I agree but he makes some good points. Does Game of Thrones have a sexual violence problem?

I suppose the answer could be yes, but it could also be viewed (by others who've written a whole lot more than I have about "Game of Thrones" and what it all means) as a symptom of a culture that is always on the verge of collapse.

Alyssa Rosenberg, who writes opinion pieces about popular culture for The Post's editorial department (which is separate from the daily newsroom, where I work), had a very good piece recently on rape on TV, not only on GoT but everywhere.

Why isn't anyone talking about the finale? Last week would have been the time to do it, but we didn't chat then. I didn't like the finale because I had come to love The Mother (aka Tracy McConnell) and was totally disappointed when she died and it appeared that Ted would end up with Robin, 25 years after they first met. I would have loved at least a couple of episodes with more Ted & Tracy.. I don't think the creators expected to get a mother that reached our hearts the way Cristin Milioti did.

Am I the only one who wasn't terribly bothered by it? Granted, I stopped watching after season 3 and jumped back in with season 8, so I missed all the crud in the middle, but still. Yeah, I was pretty irked that they spent the entirety of season 9 building up to a wedding that didn't last more than 20 minutes into the finale, but overall, I thought the ending was kind of sweet. I'm not enough of a fan to care about lazy writing by the show's creators, though I can certainly see how people were irked that it looks like they decided on an ending years ago and then had to write their way around it. Dunno, I liked the sort of wrap-it-up-with-a-cheesy-bow-tie ending. For what it's worth, I was a Seinfeld devotee and I HATED that ending, but mostly because it did the run of the show no justice - but then, I can't think of how else you end a show about nothing.

Our Emily Yahr, Style Blogger extraordinaire, had a heap of thoughts about HIMYM's contribution to our nothingness culture as well as a breakdown of what happened on the finale. I defer to her.

But it sounds like you watched the finale with the appropriate amount (i.e., normal) of rational perspective. I myself didn't have time to watch it. This actually happens: The TV critic gets so busy he actually can't watch TV.

This show isn't half-bad thanks to Christopher Meloni, but Fox scheduled it in the hinterlands. What are its chances of being renewed?

"Not half-bad" also means "not half-good." It feels like a dud to me and Thursday night isn't the hinterlands.

Are we soup yet?

Still officially on the bubble, if soup means renewal, but don't hold out hope for anything after last call. (You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.)

I'm really going to miss "The Colbert Report." But watching Colbert the last few years (not just on his show) I sometimes feel like I'm watching the second coming of Johnny Carson. For those youngsters out there, that's a good thing. Do you see him that way?

He's extraordinarily talented and smart and has, even as a satirical character, shown that he can handle an array of guests with the right measure of tone and humor. I guess those are some of the things we ascribe to Carson, but let's also be honest while we partake in nostalgia trips: Johnny's style, replicated exactly, is not what today's viewer needs or wants.

I saw the pilot and then lost track. How many episodes were in the first season, and is it worth it to try to binge-watch this weekend before the Season 2 premiere?

It's totally worth catching up. I was going to watch the Season 2 screeners this afternoon, until the Colbert thing broke.

We talked a few months ago in this chat about Community and how Chevy leaving didn't have a huge impact but Dan Harmon leaving destroyed the whole thing. Now that we're a few weeks past Donald Glover leaving, I have to say it feels like it's had a big impact. Not a Dan Harmon leaving level of impact, but something just doesn't feel the same. Anyone agree? Disagree?

I think Theon Greyjoy might argue with the premise that all the sexual violence is directed against women. Yow.

Yes, replacing one white, male liberal with another white, male liberal is really thinking outside the box. Wow, I'm so impressed by the major thought that went into that decision!

So you were hoping for Herman Cain?

So how many eps this year and how many in 2015? And are they going to have a "Talking Mad" show after each ep?

Seven episodes now, followed by the final seven episodes in 2015.

And you just gave me an awful image of Chris Hardwick hosting a post-"Mad Men" show. Eesh.

"Rape porn" has been a stable of TV shows for years now, and surprisingly, a large portion of its fans are women. Law and Order SVU is exhibit number one in that phenomenon.

Correct. This phenomenon has been written about too -- women who watch L&O as a way to ... I forget what the thesis was: confront fear? Wallow in it?

YES, person who asked this question. This show is made for binge watching. Do it. Immediately. It was 10 episodes long.

I liked it, but they're going to have explain things a little more for us to really appreciate some of the jokes. And shave that bad beard off the landlord~

Hmmm, I pretty sure they think all the jokes in it are sui generis to the present-day culture. Maybe you can Google along when they say things you don't quite get.

Far be it to question an incestiuos queen, but is she especially crazy this season? And who's this new paramour for Danrys? Or is it the same character from last season, but recast?

My pal Dan Savage (renowned sex-advice columnist and public intellectual) was just going on about this over at The Stranger -- the recasting of GoT's Daario Naharis character.

Dan thinks last season's dude (Ed Skrein) was more of a hottie. He could not be more wrong. Michiel Huisman ("Treme," "Nashville") is sooooo much dreamier. And the people taking Dan's poll tend to agree, so there.

Lagertha may be my biggest TV character crush ever. So glad it looks like she'll be around and active for a while after sticking it to Sigvard. I love that Vikings gives clues as to where the show is going to go, but doesn't overly telegraph things. Any predictions for the last few episodes of the season?

I loved that episode and I'm with you: I was worried they were going to write her out. I have no idea where it's headed, except back to England, right?

In case you missed it, here's my "Game of Thrones" review, which I kept short and sweet. I still advocate the dum-dumb route to watching GoT: Don't worry about keeping track of it or thinking about it too much -- just watch it, slack-jawed and hopeless.

"Returning to the world of 'Game of Thrones,' where the company loves misery."


This slow is slower than it needs to be, but I am enjoying it. What are it's chances for renewal?

What I'm hearing/reading is that CW has some choices to make and one of those dramas has to go. There are whole lot of fans of "The Tomorrow People" out there hoping that "The 100" gets the ax, but "The 100" got lots of good attention and imo is a far better show. But I've not seen any news of its renewal. Maybe someone who is paying closer attention to CW ratings/renewals can tell us?

Hank, Were you able to catch the HBO short series, Doll and Em? Thought it was good, not great.

I'm with you. Here's my review from March 19. It was an interesting rumination on friendship, but I also wish people in Hollywood, when left to their own devices, would come up with stories to tell that aren't about Hollywood.

So just who would the Colbert complainer choose for Dave's replacement? None of the women mentioned (Fey, Pouler, Degeneres) would really consider it. Is there some big pool of pan-racial talents that would be worth the risk of a multi-million dollar franchise? Please.

Carson was good about having scientists on his show, because he was interested in their topics. Do you think Colbert will follow in Carson's footsteps re that? And do you think that a lot of his "Colbert Report" guests will want to appear on his new gig? (I'm guessing yes).

It's wide open. (And a ways off, you know.)

is everywhere, had to turn off Criminal Minds last night, showed a young man being raped and waterboarded, like the show but not when it gets graphic about what the criminals are doing to the victims.

Okay, I don't watch GoT, but I just took a peek over at Dan Davage's article. He could not be more wrong. New guy = brooding, scruffy. Yes, please.

I usually watch GoT the day after it airs. It's just on too late at night. Since I've read the books, I'm not worried about spoilers. But there's a Particular Event that I want to see live, just for the Monday morning reaction chatter. I did for the Red Wedding, and it was so worth staying up for. Is this THE week? (You know what I'm talking about right? I don't want to spoil it for others.)

This is the week.

Confirmed? I don't know how I feel about that. The Colbert Report is so brilliant. I don't want it to go away. And I feel like the late night shows tend to soften the edges of whoever hosts them because they have to fit a certain mold, no matter how much they make it their own (or Craig Ferguson it up, as I just decided I like to say). I just don't know how to feel about this.

Am I the only one bothered by the not-so-subtle misogynist message sent via Robin's character? She--driven career woman--ended up divorced (because she was a driven career woman, ya know), alone, estranged from her friends, living her unfulfilled, lonely life with a pack of dogs (at least they didn't make it cats), until Prince Charming appeared under her window to save her from the miserable fate of a being an unmarried woman--evidently the worst possible thing that can happen to a woman. She was internationally known TV correspondent. She could have just as easily jetted into Ted's wedding from George Clooney's Lake Como estate, where she was hanging out with George and Charlie Rose. That whole storyline just really annoyed me.

I really liked this show last season, but this season is just too much soap. And Scarlett has to be one of the most tedious characters on TV today. I want more inside the music business and less standard soap opera plotlines. Give me a cutthroat business deal that bankrupts someone!

Literally only watched the show because someone I know plays for Kid Rock and talked about it. Had no idea what it was about, but REALLY enjoyed the first episode. Plus, Kumail Nanjaiani.

Will it get renewed? If they do, will they give it a real chance by putting it just after "Modern Family"? How long before Burt isn't cute anymore?

It's on the bubble still.

I've heard all sorts of rumors that CBS wants to not renew the show, but if they did NBC or ABC would pick it up. What are you hearing?

I've also heard it's teetering on the brink, but haven't heard the part about another network picking it up. That's a familiar stage of death -- before acceptance -- where fans start putting out rumors that another network will rescue the show.

So what was so dag-gum important that Josh Charles wanted his character killed on the show?

I guess he just got tired of the part.

Is it already dead? CBS waiting two weeks for the second episode doesn't sound very encouraging.

Who's rooting for it?

Is it holding its own? Survival chances for Season 3? Fingers crossed.

Critically, it's a smash, and this season is even better than season 1. FX has renewed shows with far less huzzahs and buzz; also, the ratings seem to be pretty much in line with what they like to see.

Dude can I just say how much I love your snark? Rockin.

Um, thanks? (I thought snark was such a 2008 thing to have.)

Last night's C.S.I. was about cannibalism. And I thought I had seen it all (especially the one about adults who want to be babies and either soil diapers, breastfeed, or both!).

As a Heterosexual Male, I liked the previous season's actor (Ed Skrein) better. Then again, I would prefer the ghost of Khal Drogo come back and coke them like one of Darth Vader's Admirals.

It's funny to look at the actual TV ratings and compare them with the media coverage. In particular, the WWE is near the top of the cable ratings week in and week out, and yet it gets 1% of the coverage that Duck Dynasty, GoT, or some History channel show gets. I understand the reasons not to cover WWE (nothing new, adult critics find it too juvenile, etc), but it still amuses me.

True. And country music is way, way more popular than, say, the last Arcade Fire album. As a critic, part of what we're doing here is tastemaking, which often doesn't reflect the ratings/sales/crowds. We're drawn to writing about stuff that is interesting, rather than redundant. If it was only about ratings, I'd have a long piece this Sunday about NCIS, not Mad Men.

How is Growing Up Fisher being received? I think it has potential but Jenna Elfman wasn't the right choice. Will the show stick around?

It pains me to say so, but the conventional wisdom is leaning toward a renewal for this show.

That commenter should read "The Stranger" for his weekly sex column "Davage Love" 8-)

I always assume those typos are from iPhones.

I interpreted that ending as being equally that Robin was saving Ted from the miserable fate of a being an unmarried MAN--evidently the worst possible thing that can happen to a man.

Was that the series finale? Or is there one more season of Wayland and Boyd?

One more season coming.

How upset do you think Comedy Central is right now at letting HBO get John Oliver instead of keeping him to now fill that empty slot?

I love how my readers are always a step ahead when it comes to network hubris! I hadn't thought of that -- yet.

Dude, snark NEVER dies and is ageless.

Well, friends, our hour is finished again. See you back here next Thursday at noon. Thanks for all the questions/comments today.

If I ever saw Michel Huisman in person, I'm quite sure I would spotaneously combust into a vapor of estrogen. He's hotter.

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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