What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Jun 05, 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."

Hello, again.

We talk about TV here at What the What to Watch. (Whuttt?)

Since we last chatted, I wrote an essay about the death of Ann B. Davis and what her Alice character on "The Brady Bunch" meant to the latchkey kids of Generation X. (Including me.) It ran on the front page of The Post and I've received a lot of nice email and personal reflections from readers. How about that? Your thoughts about Alice, Bradyworld, etc., are most welcome here.

Today I have a review of the new season of "Orange Is the New Black." (Avoid it if you don't want any spoilers at all -- it has some light spoilage.)

My review of "Halt and Catch Fire" ran last Saturday. Anybody watch it? Thoughts?

Also, our Sunday Arts & Style section asked each critic to contribute an essay about one of our guiltiest pleasures. I picked DIY Network's "Renovation Realities." What's yours?

Let's do it.


I can't wait for Friday. Part of me wants to watch all of OITNB this weekend, but I think I may take your advice and watch it over a few weeks. Do you happen to have a favorite character? There are so many--and they're so different--that it's hard for me to choose. But there's something about Uzo Aduba's Crazy Eyes that I can't get enough of.

I think my favorite character is Red. Though Crazy Eyes is certainly close.

You're the only reviewer I've read so far who loved "Derek." Maybe I've only seen a select subset and opinion is more mixed, but I've seen mostly negative to middling. Why do you think so many other critics are panning it? I haven't seen it and have been trying to decide if I should dive in or let it pass me by.

Season 1 (which came to Netflix last fall) has a score of 69 on Metacritic, which is pretty good. If you click there, you can see that I didn't love it back in September (I gave it a C+ in our fall TV issue), but, when it comes to TV criticism, one's opinion can change. I liked season 2 a lot more -- here's my review from last week. It's not a huge time investment; I think you should give it a shot. I will say I don't like "Derek" nearly as much as I like "Getting On" (the HBO version; I've not seen the British "Getting On"), but both are mining similar territory. If you're one of those people who has vociferously bad reaction to the subject of aging, geriatrics, nursing homes, etc., then you should pass. (And do some thinking about why.) If you're expecting "Derek" to be only hilarious, you might be disappointed, but there are a lot of laughs in it.

I can't say on a family chat how they succeeded, but I was laughing my posterior off about it. One of the best new comedies this season!

The middle out! The middle out!

I agree -- Mike Judge and his writers and his cast really delivered a perfect comedy as well as a meaningful, relevant satire of a culture that needs to be examined and questioned.

Maron. I like it. I don't know if others have been watching and I haven't read any reviews, but I look forward to it every week now.

When it came along last season, I'd had my fill of new shows about comedians offering us portraits based on their sad-sack lives. I need to go back and see if his show got any better or different. I've certainly enjoyed some of his podcasts.

Obviously ratings were bad enough to get these two shows that I really like cancelled. But were their ratings really that much lower than other shows that got saved? I'm particularly surprised by The Crazy Ones, which was well written and intelligent.

It's not only ratings. Sometimes its relative production costs -- how much the show is paying off in terms of buzz and accolades vs. how much it costs to make and promote.

Let that be a lesson: Iningo Montoya only exists in parodies of Fairy Tails. Next time, just kill the guy!

We won't get too into this, so as not to spoil the details for anyone who isn't caught up on their episodes. But, if you watched Sunday night and wondered if it's possible to really do that to a guy, The Post's Lenny Bernstein looks into it here. (Spoiler alert, of course.)

Hank - your observation that if the Great Architect Mike Brady was So Great, why couldn't he design a house with more than one bathroom for six kids was the funniest thing I read all week. I watched that show for years and it never even crossed my mind. (Of course, I was 11 at the time and hadn't fully developed my TV criticism skills yet).

Totally agree. My favorite bits have been the parts where the entrepreneurs are presenting their apps. "Changing the world! Through improved compression algorithms to better organize data points tabularly!" So spot on.

Yes, and it's not just parody. For some reason, they always want to make the world a better place.

Veep ends on Sunday, do you know the end dates for Nurse Jackie and Californication? am I the only one still watching Californication? I find it very offensive most of the time, but I still watch for some strange reason. Also, other than OITNB which I will try to savor but will undoubtedly burn through this weekend, what summer shows do I have to look forward to? Suits is back soon, I hope. but as much as I love Harvey, I need more. I really enjoy your chats! Thanks.

Lots of questions about Summer TV choices today. As it happens, I am writing a fairly large guide to what's on, which will run in next Sunday's paper (June 15) and probably be up online by Friday the 12th. There's quite a bit out there. I apologize that I still don't have my thoughts quite collected to start doling out recommendations, though I'm excited that "Masters of Sex" has been moved up from fall and will be back with season 2 on July 13. (If you didn't watch season 1, that would be an excellent way to get your summer started.)

"Nurse Jackie" ends June 29, with a season finale episode that is amazing. (I've already seen it.) "Californication" wraps up June 29 too -- and that's a final episode for the series.

Was it ever expressly stated that Mrs. B was divorced when she met Mr. B? Was there no mention of Husband #1 or was he just a deadbeat dad?

I don't believe it was expressly stated, but I'm almost certain Sherwood Schwartz has talked about it in retrospectives, documentaries, etc.

Can any superfans help out here? Was it ever mentioned in any episode?

"The Waltons" had only one bathroom for two parents, two grandparents and seven kids -- and they were lucky to have a bathroom at all (IIRC from the pilot, it was a rather new addition to the house). Thinking back to my own childhood in the '40s and '50s, MOST houses had only one bathroom back then.

But they were the Waltons, for pete's sake.

Started last week from Times Square in front of a crowd. I thought they took all sorts of measures (including fake runners) to ensure the public didn't know the teams until the race was finished!

Well, guess what: This time they want you to know (and they sent critics and reporters a press release with team members' names and hometowns) and here's why -- the show is moving to Friday nights this fall and will need all the extra publicity it can get.

As a middle child myself, I always liked Alice that one time she faked a secret admirer for poor Jan. But these days, we would call that Catfishing!


better than many shows of its era. Once in a while I see an ep and its still funny, corny, but funny. You're right, Alice was the heart of the show. Heard she got 2 Emmys, but neither were for the BB. RIP Alice-

Yes, as slightly older Ann B. Davis fans have been 'splaining to me all week, she was Emmy'd twice for playing Schultzy on "The Bob Cummings Show." Which I knew and included in my essay, but you know how baby boomers (and older) sometimes are: They need to tell you anyhow.

Last season of True Blood. I admit I'll be watching. I've added Kay & Peele to my DVD lineup. Guilty pleasure: Chopped. Is someone confused by qinoa again? Okay, True Blood is another guilty pleasure. Question: Should I continue with Penny Dreadful?

Last question first: I dunno. (Has anyone been keeping up with "Penny Dreadful"? I only watched the first three episodes and there are only seven, I think.)

"True Blood": It's a big mess. I've watched the first two episodes of the new season, which is all about the Hep V plague. But I think fans like that it's a big mess. So guilty-pleasure yourself with it, by all means.

As we never saw nor heard anything about ex-wives or ex-husbands, I assumed they were both widowed. I never ever even thought two such obviously perfect people were divorced.

Mike was widowed, because on the wedding day, Bobby is wistfully looking at a picture of Dead Mom. (Also, that's why Mike had Alice as a housekeeper, since he was a single dad raising three boys all alone.) I'm pretty sure Carol was divorced. Waiting for explicit evidence to the contrary.

The same as "Gilligan's Island" And much like "Game of Thrones" it got to ignore basic human anatomy and psychology, as well as several laws of physics. And we did know the boys mother had died (and apparently never allowed to visit her grave), but nothing was ever said of the girls dad. Maybe they were all conceived in the same Clone Lab as "Orphan Black"

Maybe the split-level house was built on her grave.

1 episode showed one of the boys looking at a picture of his mother, presumed dead. I don't recall anything similar with the girls' father. Divorce was still taboo back then, so I always assumed both had died young. TV rarely mentioned divorce, though, so who knows. In the movies, well, let's not go there.

What no one would tell us is that Carol was previously married to Reuben Kincaid.

What was with that Astro-Turfed back yard. If it was normal grass, Marsha would never have gotten her nose broken by a football. "OH MY NOSE!"

There is no law in the universe (this one or a parallel one) that would have kept that football from that nose. Or that basketball from that vase. THE END.

The more unusual family arrangements in old TV shows seemed to have hired help of some sort. Bachelor Father had a houseboy, Family Affair had a butler, the Bradys had Alice. And who could forget Hazel--who was the liveliest person in the Baxter menage? The Waltons had enough kids to parcel out all the household chores, so no need for a live-in maid.

The Bradys could have done chores. Such layabouts.

I love Louis CK. Went to his stand-up show last year, have watched and loved his TV show for years, but this season.... I don't expect it to never change or always be LOL funny, but aside from some moments of brilliance (Charles Grodin! Hurricane Jasmine Forsythe!)...it's like he's trying to become an outre Woody Allen. And the bad at rape thing, um, wow. Previous attempts at uncomfortably true humor were painfully funny. But this was just painful.

I agree. This season -- SPOILER ALERT -- started off just fine, but became increasingly indulgent and even trying my patience with the entire "Elevator" series. It's fine with me if Louis C.K. wants to try an arc that verges on an art film, but I didn't buy the love affair with Amia, unless its intent was to make viewers deeply uncomfortable. (Is he saying that the perfect woman is someone who speaks a foreign language and that you have no hope of ever fully comprehending or even just talking to?) I'm trying also to reconcile the other threads in that particular story and what they were supposed to mean -- the difficulty Louie and his ex-wife are having with their daughter Jane's behavior and intelligence; the philosophical (nihilistic, really) encounters with the doctor who lives downstairs (Charles Grodin), and, yes, finally, the Pamela scene ("you're not even a good rapist" or whatever she said). "Louie" is an ambitious, fascinating, downbeat show, but either it's a little lost or I am, when it comes to matters of artistic intent. I haven't had time to give it a proper analysis, but not sure I could come to any grand conclusion either. What I have enjoyed -- still -- are the sharp laughs. Such as: Hurricane Jasmine Forsythe.

You have any excitement for the third run of "The Newsroom" or not so much?

None. I wrote two reviews of it and couldn't hardly have been more negative.

After Oliver crashed the FCC website over his epic segment on Net Neutrality (let me add epic and Net Neutrality are rarely used together), I think he has eclipsed Jon Stewart. His segments are funnier and he doesn't have to worry about censorship. He also often doesn't have guests on which I think is actually a plus. The show is amazing.

The choir loves it, that's for sure.

i don't get CBS but i watch "good wife" online and i'm wondering. Christine Baranski says she's not playing a "b****" but she wears structured garments i haven't seen since the 80s and she basically throws people under the bus like a man. My question, is she that way because that's how they (women partners)are in real life or is that how she thinks that they are and so how she plays Di?


I don't know where to begin here. You lost me at "throws people under the bus like a man."

The ads for Chrisley Knows Best make me cringe. Can you restore my faith in humanity by telling me that it's not doing well?

Renewed for another 12 episodes! Sorry about that whole faith-in-humanity thing.

Any info re return of Ice Road Truckers? Cannot find anything anywhere (including Google and History Channel website). Also, believe read somewhere that Hugh Rowland was injured in accident involving a show producer. Any info re this?

I do not have any info (press releases, premiere date announcements, the usual indicators of life) about season 8, which was reportedly in production, but "reportedly" may just be wishful thinking on the part of fans. TMZ  and others did report that Hugh had been in an accident earlier this year as a passenger and blamed one of the producers. If true, that might put a damper on things. Maybe IRT (and its iterations) has run its course.

I think it would have been better had we not known that they will succeed. Maybe if they showed two teamss and kept us guessing which one made it?

Interesting point. I watched episode 2 yesterday (it airs Sunday night) and for the first 30 minutes or so I thought, hmm, okay, this is picking up somewhat, and then it fell apart again.

I appreciated your thoughtful essay on what the Brady Bunch meant to you as a youngster. Any other shows that you also recall fondly from that era?

Being in bed and the sound of my parents watching "M*A*S*H" reruns every night, volume too loud, after the 10 o'clock (Central time) local news. The theme song, the canned laughter, Alan Alda's voice, my mother's laughter...

Bionic Woman, Charlie's Angels -- action women in soft bras, kicking bad guys' asses.

The Catholic Church saying don't ever watch "Soap" or "Three's Company," which means DO, do watch.

My father watching "Hee-Haw" at 5 p.m. on Saturdays with the sliding-glass door open, back and forth from the patio, while waiting for the charcoals to light.

The six or seven hours of cartoons that each network showed every Saturday morning, capped with "American Bandstand" and "Soul Train." At some point I was told to turn it off and go get dressed.

In other words, don't get me started.


But this season, you can augment your review by saying "I would rather fight The Mountain and get his "Finish Him" move than watch another season of The Newsroom".

Maybe so.

Meanwhile, yikes, one thing I don't like about these chats is seeing words like "couldn't hardly" leave my fingertips.

What do you use to cleanse your palate between watching different tv shows?

Diet Pepsi.

of NdT's rebooted "Cosmos." Of couse, the thing I'll miss the most is the guy from Answers in Genesis saying that everything on that show is a lie.

Yes, one episode left and hardly anyone is left talking about it. Did it turn out to be too boring? (Was it the commercial breaks? Was it Neil? Was it the colorform cartoons?)

I took the whole Amia unable to speak English thing as a metaphor for how men never understand women even when they speak the same language!


When I was channel surfing a couple of nights ago, I came upon "The Night Shift" on NBC (FYI, I found it less bad than several of the shows NBC aired during the 2013-2014 season). Is this kind of fewer-than-usual-episodes, late spring/summer programming -- perhaps inspired by the success of "Under the Dome" -- something we're likely to see more of on the major networks? If so, I'm guessing that's because there's only so much reality television the public will accept, and because of the decline of the ratings of reruns (TV on demand, TIVO, etc., means anyone who wants to watch something has lots of opportunities to do so), and this is the networks' latest attempt to entice sets of eyes to watch what they put on air.

In this case, no, because "Night Shift" has been sitting in the pantry since NBC rolled out their 2013-14 a year ago.

They have some limited series that are truly summer shows, which I'm getting ready to watch today or tomorrow.

for me it was the time, if it was on a different night, perhaps. . .

Right, Sunday was not at all a good choice for "Cosmos." Too much else going on, even with the Monday encores on NatGeo.

when does season 3 start back up? another "why do I watch?" for me, but I would watch an Aaron Sorkin written adaptation of the phone book. no lol.

It's back in the fall.

I consider pretty much anything on the Food Network to be a guilty pleasure -- especially Next Food Network Star to see who gets a series that will run in a non-prime slot that no one will watch anyway, or Chopped to see if someone is going to bleed all over the food.

We, for two, LOVED "Cosmos" 2.0. Did you know it's being broadcast elsewhere, too? We were in Portugal recently and caught the then-current episode complete with Portuguese subtitles! If it's giving the fundies fits, then it's about time!

I am been biting my nails waiting for the new season. I even rewatched the last season to hold off longings. Now it turns out I am going to be stuck in a car driving for 30 + hours with no internet! Bad, bad planning! I adore Crazy Eyes. Surprisingly, Chapman is probably my least favorite. She has a long way to go towards being a real human who takes responsibility for her own actions.

I did notice with the new season that I was significantly less interested in Chapman's problems and much more wrapped up in everyone else's stories. That's another reason "OITNB" is so good. It's truly an ensemble piece.

One of the (satirical) movies was premised on Carol Brady's ex returning to her life.

Well, that's not canon, but you're right.

"Orphan Brady"?? I smell another sequel!

Yahoo is on the phone. They'll buy your pitch.

One of the interesting things to me about this season of Louie is that he doesn't seem sure whether he wants his point of view to be that humanity (and himself) have the potential to be good despite moments of terrible, or is inherently terrible despite some moments of good...

If this hasn't happened already, some philosophy professor somewhere should build a course syllabus around "Louie." Don't you think? (Enough with the "Breaking Bad" classes!)

Honestly, Hank!!!! I'm appalled.

Much self-loathing here too.

I really hated the cartoon segments and felt that they were talking down to us. Also, the show jumped around within the episode too much, and the climate change episode was so preachy it was ridiculous. Neil comes off as having a chip on his shoulder that is off-putting, and his riding in that fake spaceship was just plain silly. Worst of all, he lacked Carl Sagan's boyish enthusiasm about the wonders of the universe. Neil made watching the show seem more like homework than an exploration of the fantastic. Really a disappointment.

I'm leaning in this direction as well. And after all that build-up and anticipation ...

I agree about it being on the wrong night. Even the Fox Death Slot of Fridays at 8pm would have been better.

Fargo has been great, although the time jump in the last episode was a little bit of a curveball. I'm anxious how this ends with 2 episodes left. On a side note, should I check out "Tyrant" on FX coming soon?

I have not received any "Tyrant" screeners yet, alas.

I was also jarred by the time-shift in "Fargo," but we have no reason not to expect a strong finish; it's been quite good the whole way.

Usually I hate reality TV, but I can't look away! love the Demo data.

Ooh, I like that one too! He just yells and yells at those owner/managers.

...just try watching the Creationist side of the issue.

Visit the Creation museum, in other words? Part of me wants to, just to see...

I am delighted that CBS has not only renewed my favorite new sitcom, "Mom," but given it a better time slot (8:30 instead of 9:30). Anna Faris and Allison Janney are sublime, and the writing has both humor and heart, a far cry from much of what Chuck Lorre gives us. Your thoughts?

I have to say this about "Mom" -- it got a lot better as the season went on. I started out feeling sorry that Allison Janney had wound up in it, but she makes it work.

I thought you were older than you must be, given your Brady knowledge. MASH didn't conclude its run in regular seasons until 1983, so nighly reruns would not have begun until after then.

Wrong. "M*A*S*H" started having a successful syndication run in the late 1970s/early 1980s while it was still airing new episodes.

Truth! http://valleywag.gawker.com/silicon-valleys-gender-gap-plagues-wwdcs-bathroom-line-1585650430

Haha! That's awesome -- and sad.

An excellent show. We always throw our hands up when they say "Utensils Down"

Added enjoyment. I may have to try that.

I was referring to preachers on TV, especially on Sunday mornings.

There are preachers on Sunday mornings? On TV? All I ever see is David Gregory or infomercials.

Bugs Bunny and The Three Stooges every afternoon. Original Star Trek before they started to cut it down. Bad Afterschool Specials with the continous danger of Drugs, hitchhiking, Drinking, Drugs, etc. "The Agony of Defeat" Crushes on Valerie Bertinelli before you found out she was too freaky for even Eddie van Halen "DANGER Will Robinson!" Saturday Pro Wrestling, augmented by recreations using couch cushions "This is How-ard Co-sell." Wonder Woman's bossum and Daisy Dukes' shorts "De Plane! De Plane!"

Good times! (And "Good Times")

Well, friends, we've run 15 extra minutes and it's time for me to mosey back into Summer TV listings. I'm sorry I never get anywhere close to answering/posting all your questions and comments. I try.

Have a great week and weekend. Let's all try not to think too much about Wonder Woman's bossum.

I'll see you here next week.

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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