What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

May 15, 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 "The Americans," "Turn" and "Silicon Valley."

Greetings, all! We have a lot to chat about besides "Poirot" this week:

Cancellations! Renewals! New shows! The end of the 2013-14 season. The main broadcast networks (and a few others) had their upfront presentations to advertisers, et al, this week. Emily Yahr has been dutifully posting the highlights from each.

If you have a question about whether a show has been renewed or cancelled, may I recommend you click HERE first and check? If it's a cable show and it's not on this list, which is network-focused, then ask me -- I might know. (I might not.) We will act as a caring support group today for all displays of cancel-grief -- get it alllll out. I have Kleenex.

New FALL shows: Okay, this is going to sound weird in this hyperactive age of instant-opinion, but I try NOT to look too closely at the newly-announced shows, trailers, sizzle reels, etc., until they start sending me pilot episodes in June, and even then, I watch them knowing that the pilot may get reworked (cast changes, etc.). I simply don't have a professional opinion about a new series until I've actually seen it.

I know, I know: "But it's produced by [big name here]! But it stars [name here]! But it's got lots of [demographic appeal, bold choice, strange concept], so maybe it's going to be really great!" I just don't believe it's fair for me, as a paid TV critic, to start opinin' before I've seen it. (Once I've seen it, hoo-boy -- look out.)

You, however, are completely free to let all of us in this chat know what you think of the look/concept of some of these new offerings. I want to hear your opinion about the network's choices -- it won't sway me either way. So feel free.

And, elsewhere in TV: Review of "Penny Dreadful." Review of "Rosemary's Baby." Thoughts from page 1 this morning about Barbara Walters's legacy of listening.

What elsh'ya got? Like Baba Wawa, I find you fascinating, people.


Finally, the show is living up to the first word of its name - "Mad." Ginsburg has indeed gone over the deep end. Yet another classic and perfect example how Matthew Weiner keeps us guessing what will happen next.

Yes, things have picked up noticeably over there in trippy-dippy (and now nippy) 1969. I'm not sure Weiner has us trained to guess what happens next so much as he has us trained to guess what happened at all.

She certainly was a pioneer.

Hero is stretching it. Pioneer seems okay, unless you're comparing her to people whose covered wagons didn't make it over the Sierra Nevada pass before the first snow. (An event Barbara covered as a "Today" girl, by the way. Donner was a big get. Just kidding.)

Women in television (women in news) owe a dutiful smidgen of their careers to hers, but not all.

Listen, I'm sad Community's done, because it gave us some of the most brilliant moments on TV in the past few years (at least for a network comedy - maybe for any comedy). But I'm not hand-wringing over it. It did feel like time. Challenges and gas leak season aside, this season felt like it was flagging.

I agree, and this was the season where we could all decide if "Community" could live up to its own standards. Done and done -- though the clamoring continues for a cable channel to adopt it and keep new episodes coming. Probably not worth the expense.

Are we the only ones who watched Sirens? What kind of ratings did it get and will it be renewed? We really appreciate Denis Leary's sense so humor.

The ratings weren't hot and as far as I know, there's been no renewal news from USA about it yet -- even after the finale. I liked the show; it's a lot better than the advertising promos made it look, which might have some small part to play in it how it did.

Thoughts on Gracepoint coming to Fox? I saw the preview and loved it - and also shook my head as I was blown away by Broadchurch. Remaking it a year after Broadchurch just seems weird to me. Although it is FOX so they will likely pull it within a few episodes. Farewell, Enlisted - you were amazing.

I haven't met anyone who thinks "Gracepoint" is a great idea, but I guess we just have to remember all the many millions of broadcast viewers who never heard of "Broadchurch," and would probably sooner drink paint that watch people with British accents. (Believe me, such people are out there.) I do think Fox believes strongly in it as an Americanized remake and I have to say, I'm curious about the results.

And yes, to the bros of "Enlisted": Sic transit and all that.

Is it me, or do the description of ABC's "Blackish" and "Cristela" sound like completely dishonest attempts at engaging minority audiences that play on vaguely racist stereotypes? "Blackish": "starring Anthony Anderson as a wealthy dad who wonders: “Has success brought too much assimilation for this black family?" "Cristela": "about a woman named Cristela in her sixth year of law school about to land a fancy internship. The only problem? “Her pursuit of success is more ambitious than her traditional Mexican American family thinks is appropriate" - I'm quoting Emily Yahr's articles, and it's not her wording I take issue with, it's the network execs'. These scream pandering, bad-idea shows that will backfire within a month. Who at ABC thought this was a good idea? I almost want to watch to see how bad these shows are - ah, wait, maybe that was the whole point to begin with. Argh!

I don't have any great big thoughts on these shows without having seen them yet (pilots will start arriving in June and I'll head to the summer press tour in July, where ALL of this will get picked apart, I'm sure). But I think you're right that, in the pitching of shows, networks too often put the "Look! Diversity!" part of the concept ahead of the more crucial element, which is "Look! Gather 'round! I'm going to tell you a very interesting story!"


The end is in sight for Two and a Half Men. Now, if only someone would put Two Broke Girls out to pasture with the horse.

One victory at a time ...

Hank, I read your review of "Rosemary's Baby" and then I (still) watched the first episode. You apparently lowered my expectations to the point where I actually enjoyed the show. I particularly liked recasting Minnie Castevet from a frumpy, intrusive hausfrau into a well-dressed sophisticate who is equally intrusive. But the new Guy can't hold a candle to the greedy, manipulative oiliness of John Cassavetes.

I'm pleased that I can somehow transform a mediocre experience into a pleasingly not-so-mediocre experience. I agree, I liked the new "Margaux" Castevet as a creepy riff on French Women Don't Get Fat.

We do need to talk about David Tennant's American accent. It's miles above his last attempt (watch this and despair: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4cqRsvu9t0 ) and I have to say I'm willing to roll with it. Interesting that he'll be essentially playing the same part in two different shows with two different accents at the same time.

I want to say that's happened before (Brit guy playing both versions of the same character), but I can't remember where. There was a woman in ABC's "Lucky Seven" (very short-lived drama last fall) who was also in the British original ... Anybody else remember some?

My husband and I both lost a favorite show to cancellation; him, Revolution, me Tomorrow People. Hoping to get him interested in The Flash in the fall, even if the casting is dreadful. (The CW cares very little for casting that looks anything like decades of character depictions in the comics their shows are based on.)

Well, let me point out the brighter news: You and he seem well-matched, genre-wise.

As far as how the CW does DC superheroes, I think that's the point, right? To circumvent the old icons, and make them more real? I still think they (and not NBC) should have been the ones to monkey around with a Wonder Woman pilot. (Have you guys ever watched NBC's never-seen "Wonder Woman" pilot from a few years ago? I think it still lurks around on YouTube. Verrry interesting failure, deserving of study.)

Saw that Idol is going one night a week next year. Is this show finally showing real signs of weakness. I know that record sales of winners have been horrible, but I know it still gets massive ratings. It is no longer any type of "water cooler" show and I am assuming it is crazy-cheap to produce with tons of ad revenue. Will anything put it out of its misery or do you think that it will be around forever in one form or another?

It's slimming down from 50 total hours to 37 hours. I don't know if this has any special meaning for the show, other than the universal law that all things in pop culture eventually run their course. "American Idol" seems a little bit of an exception to that law because, for it to go away completely, our culture has to become noticeably disinterested in the idea that we're all somehow meant to be famous -- and that doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon. "AI" mined that notion fully and allowed watchers to feel as if their votes had control over the outcome.

But even if fameseeking and dreaming is in our nature, every show gets old. We're still quite a ways off from it being canceled, but I think most people no longer believe the world would end if it just ... went away. I predict it will be shelved by the end of the decade, and then, after a dormant period (three years? Five? Ten?), will be revived for a new generation of caterwauling 15-year-olds. But by then it probably won't be a television show. It will be a hunger game, or somesuch.

that you have to give up on a show? I never watched Glee for the story. Never. It was always dumb. But now? The star of a Broadway show sure that she is going to quit the show (there isn't a specific performance clause in her contract? really?) to go to LA to film just a PILOT of a TV show that might or might not be picked up? Ruin her reputation in live theater forever for a pilot? I don't know why the other impossible things are easier to ignore, but they are. I kind of lost it on this one. Also, the music wasn't interesting which is why I watch Glee at all.

This is like receiving a little ping from the Voyager spacecraft way, way out on the edge of space. Very faint signal telling us "Glee" is still going.

I was so looking forward to Greta Gerwig on my flat screen! Did the bad finale to "How I met your Mother" kill the spinoff?

On this, read Emily.

CBS broadcasting eight games this season. Does this seem odd given the strength of their Thursday night comedy line-up?

Everything makes room for football.

Didn't you learn that in high school? (Watch those Big Bang nerds just quietly pick up their science project stuff and move to Monday.)

Super speed is actually kind of Boring! Whatever happened to "Aquaman"? Or maybe Hawkwoman?

Is there a vast archive of Weingarten chats in which the relative merits of the Flash were discussed -- for like, years?

Moving to Fridays, eh? I remember twhen they tried to put in "Viva Laughlin" in it's Sunday slot and it lasted only 2 episodes!

This is a move that greatly affects me. "The Amazing Race" is kind of my sacred space -- a show I won't ever write about (because what's to write about?) because I just like the rhythm of it being on Sunday nights, after dinner but before the big-dog dramas start. There's no telling how much laundry I've folded to "The Amazing Race." It's going to be a real vibe change on Fridays. We'll see how it goes.

I will say that if that self-satisfied Achilles Tendon guy and his stuck-up son win this final round on Sunday's "Amazing Race," I'm going to barf. Believe or not, I'm rooting for the Brenchels.

I'm embarassed to admit this, but I am completely captivated by True Tori. If for no other reason than an up close study of human behavior. I have never watched any of her other reality shows, and just caught it while I was channel surfing last weekend. I have since watched all of the episodes. Is anyone else watching this?? Thoughts??

I'm not watching it, but I've heard that it's gettin' pretty real in there. I mean, of all (ALL) the reality shows about celebs, you probably picked the right one this time.

I don't know if this is a question, maybe just an observation. I've been on the bandwagon of cord-cutting for several years now. Almost all of my TV consumption is on the computer. Almost all of it is time-shifted for whenever the episode gets to Hulu (often a week late) or Netflix (months late). But lately I'm finding myself really wanting to watch with the masses, and I think the rise of internet recaps and reviews is the culprit. I want to be able to talk about Louie with the rest of the internet instead of waiting. I fell behind on Orphan Black and have to actively avoid the spoilers. I guess the question is this - for years the trend has been towards time-shifting and away from shared viewing and watercooler conversations. Are we now going the other direction thanks to the dominance of TV talk on the internet?

I knew you'd miss us.

Come back. Watch TV the way God intended it.

Steuver-man! He has the power to cloud Network Executives' minds and have them pick shows that are actually good!

I'm sending the spandex suit back -- you misspelled Stuever.

Someone mentioned last week that Game of Thrones wasn't following the books. The same thing has happened with True Blood, which now bears no resemblence at all to their source material. It's understandable in a way: there's no sense in taking one form and copying it slavishly. I actually enjoy some of the new characters/events in True Blood. But no, it ain't like the books.

It started to feel like "True Blood" wasn't even following its own scripts, much less the novels. I started to call it "True Blood Improv." It was like watching children play "True Blood" on a playground: "And then, like, say there's a window to the fairy world? And I go through it? And then you're dead? But you're alive? And then we're boyfriend/girlfriend? And then say there's a witch? ..."

Anyway, final season starts June 22.

I do wonder if they will kill Amazing Race in the new time slot (I hope not!)-- but, I am excited not to have to worry about whether the football game will push back the start time. It was a nightmare for my DVR, and I never seemed to be able to record all of it. Now, I can set a recording for Friday and watch it whenever!

I agree, that is a wonderful benefit of moving it to Fridays.

This show is a hoot! Has HBO announced a renewal yet?

Yes, it's renewed. There are some great episodes coming up as the gang heads to the Tech Crunch competition. (I forget which episodes have aired and which haven't.) I think the show has far exceeded the expectations, at least, my expectations. It's very good.

Hi, Hank. Posting early: Why can't ABC seem to get a hit to follow "Modern Family"? Or precede it, for that matter? Does it just not lack the patience for slow-starters/niche shows like "Suburbagatory" and "Super Fun Night") to hit their stride, or is it just that "The Middle" and MF suck up all the oxygen?

It's a troubled piece of real estate on either side of "Modern Famiy," I agree. If only they'd just put "Happy Endings" there and stuck by it ... Well, we all have our theories. I thought "Super Fun Night" was dreadful and never going to find a stride. "Suburgatory" was a bit of a surprise cancellation (only a bit) and certainly got enough time to show its worth.

So, now the plan is to move "The Goldbergs" (yecch) before "Modern Family" and try a new sitcom "Black-ish," after it.

I think there is something to the case that "Modern Family," which is still so effortless in its comedy (though redundant, yes?) and pleasurable to watch, makes the weaknesses of the show before it and after it more evident.

This show has a great cast, but the writing is just not funny! Why does CBS keep putting it in the prime spot?

To annoy you?


By the way, it's "hieroglyphs," noun; they're only "hieroglyphics" if the word is used as an adjective (hieroglyphic writing). This mistake was in the show, and it's one that always makes me grind my teeth. (Same with people using "lay" when they mean "lie.")

I guess this in response to the "Penny Dreadful" vampire with all the markings on his body? Noted. Take care of your teeth, they're the only teeth you get.

Looking forward to seeing Andy Samberg on Saturday, since the return of longtime cast members to host often leads to a good show. On a less happy note, how many of the vast stable of Featured Players will still be on the stage come September. I'm rooting for Beck Bennett but haven't really sorted out the others over the season (which does not bode well).

I think Beck Bennett is a shoo-in and I'm rooting for Kyle Mooney. They'll keep Sasheer Zamata, too. I'm still sorting out the white guys, too.

Its name is its own review!

I'm sure that was much discussed in the marketing meetings. As you of course know, a penny dreadful is a pulp crime/horror-story magazine sold at newsstands in the Victoria era.

Wendi McLendon-Covey is pure genius as the overbearing mother we all had back in the 80s!

My mother wasn't like that in the '80s. (Or before or since.)

But that's an interesting thought. I didn't grow up in a loud family, which may be why I don't like the show. Everyone screaming. Always.

I didn't know that until just now. Watched the last episode, they left it on a cliffhanger, too bad they won't get to wrap it up. Although I assume if they did, Dallas and George would end up together. I liked so much about it, but it was having problems this season.

Isn't that what happened though? They ended up together, in the shrubs. What I caught of that episode (the last 10 minutes), seemed like they brought it all in for a landing.

I hope the cast have options for future work -- I thought Toks Olagundoye and Simon Templeman in particular were fun to watch.

I've dipped in and out of Person of Interest the last couple of years. The big season finale would seem to be sending things in a very new direction though. Could be a good thing. Or could be The End.

Why was "the Millers" renewed? I have never seen a show so lacking in any charm (J. B. Smoove not withstanding). Is Will Arnet cursed to perform only in cringe-worthy roles?

Never! They said if they win the $1,000,000 they will start to breed! Go Country Girls!

They've really redeemed themselves, haven't they? I can't believe I'm rooting for them, either. At least on Fridays, TAR won't be starting late due to football and my DVR will catch all of it.

Given the loss of the Cowboys and the Afghanimals, the Brenchels are our last hope.

Can his courtroom speech be submitted to this year's Emmy Nominations? Because he earned it there!

He's a contender.

I used to love the originally 24, but stopped watching during the last few season, as it just stopped being really good. Is it worth it to start watching the new 24?

Given your reasons for stopping, I'll say no.

Do Murphy & Co. KNOW how bad their writing and plotting is and don't care or are they proud? Every episode resets plot points and character. I know, I know, why am I watching? But the show was something original and really captivating in the early seasons. Hard to understand how it went so off the rails.

your mention of a WW remake made me remember that recently I caught an ep of the original Wonder Woman. It was so corny and stiff, I had a hard time believing I used to watch it when it was on. Now it plays like a Saturday night live skit or something, not a drama.

Years ago, I obtained a box set of the Lynda Carter "Wonder Woman" episodes, which I (in theory) adored as a boy, but as soon as I started watching them, I remembered that when it was on, I would get up and wander (no pun intended) around the house until she'd twirl around and become Wonder Woman. Which violated the rule that you had to be watching the television or else turn it off. (A good rule!)

Many 1970s one-hour shows are shockingly boring and slow when you watch them now. So many shots of people parking their cars, crossing the street, entering buildings ...

I guess you could see it that way, Dallas walks out on George, who says he wants to be friends (she wants more), but you know once the light bulb goes on they'll be together. And Tessa ended up with the boy next door about to have sex in the street no less.

Someone watched "Suburgatory" so you didn't have to.

I refuse to watch any of the "all star" seasons. So I have not subjected myself to a second of this season. Surely there are plenty of new annoying people to root against instead of recycling the old ones.

Oh, you.

I was going to ask whether people who like loud-family comedies tend to have grown up in loud families. I didn't, and I don't like "Goldbergs" or "Millers" or "According to Jim." Then it occurred to me that I grew up in a quiet family and like "Roseanne," "Everybody Loves Raymond," and "All in the Family." So maybe the answer is that quiet-family people only like GOOD loud-family comedies?

I like it. I'm agreeing.

I often watch the 1st couple of minutes, to giggle at the 80's clothing and other cultural artifacts, but never watch a whole episode. It is coming back in the fall?

Alas, yes.

First show cancelled: ABC's Selfie

The only way I, a former Glee fan, can take this season is by assuming that the entire show is tracing the arc of Lea Michele's career in some sense. Right? Wasn't she plucked from Broadway to try for the pilot of a show on Fox? Called Glee?

Really? That's all it was ever about? I'm good and depressed now, so it's time to sign off. Thanks again, everyone, for a productive chat. I'm sorry if I didn't get to your questions/comments -- I tried to post a lot of them today without necessarily answering or adding to them. Hope that helps.

See you next Thursday.

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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