What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Jul 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 once gave "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" a good review. Lately he's been digging "The Leftovers," "Fargo" and "Silicon Valley."

Dateline Beverly Hills: Chickadees, I am here after rising before the dawn (LA time) to scrutinize the Emmy nominations list. I'm chatting with you from the annual TV Critics Association's summer press tour, where journalists get a huge dose of what the networks (cable, broadcast, streaming, telepathevision, what-have-you) have coming in the next few months. We're about to start a long session from the Turner networks, but you have my fullest attention.

Bear with me! God willin' and the crick don't rise (which is what the pioneers used to say when their wi-fi was spotty), we'll have a glitch-free hour of fun.

Let's tawk!

I don't know why I expect more from the nominations. But still, no Tatiana Maslany? No The Good Wife for Best Drama? Downton and House of Cards over The Good Wife? Modern Family, again (at least OINTB and Silicon Valley are in there for some breath of fresh air)? Did people just re-use their ballots from last year?!?!

Feels like it, doesn't it? But like you, I'm taking solace in the nominees who appear to reflect that yes, it is indeed 2014, not 2012.

Super happy to see her nominated - my husband and I think she's the best thing to happen to SNL in years, and she steals every sketch she's in. Think she has a chance?

I don't know that her Emmy chances are all that great, but I am right there with you.

I never got why people got so upset at what they considered Emmy snubs, it's all taste. But I really do not understand Tatiana Maslany's exclusion. Would they not consider an wonderfully talented actress if they maybe didn't like the show?

I think I want a huge neon sign that says "It's All Taste." Thank you for that -- seriously.

I honestly think that "Orphan Black" has just slipped by them. Niche fandom still takes a long time to get over that hump.

How long was she on screen during season 2? And she gets an Emmy nom? Please explain.

Well, she got it as a "guest actress," so there you go. And watch out for Metro trains!

So, tell us! What are you seeing at this summer press tour thing? Anything look good for the fall?

You know what I am so excited for later this afternoon? An HBO session on the long-awaited return of "The Comeback." ("Well, I got it.")

So far, things have been pretty dull. We're doing three days of cable first -- yesterday was a lot of Discovery stuff ... hillbillies, pit bulls, gunslingers, and so on. Saturday is "emerging networks" (DirecTV, Amazon, Hulu, etc.) Then we do the traditional networks. It goes on and on. I'll be here until July 23.

Care to share your thoughts? I'm setting my DVR.

Capable, qualified, love/hate -- pretty much fine with the decision. The real question is who they'll find to do the show with her. Got any ideas?

A lot of cable shows on the nominees list this year, feels like more than usual (without having evidence to back it up), is there any concern from the networks that they're being made irrelevant?

There's just a lot more of everything, everywhere, all the time. Hundreds of shows. Cable is nothing new to the networks; the streaming thing is probably a little more worrisome. But you know what else? I sat in a session the other morning with the scientific, hard-core data folks at Nielsen. Guess what people are doing more than anything else when it comes to TV? Turning it on, sitting there and watching it, for hours at a time. No time-shifting, no skipping, no binge-streaming. Lots of people are doing that, too, for sure -- but most people are still just sitting there watching good ol' TV. Five or so hours a day -- a statistic that has held steady for three years.

It's obviously about time a dramedy category was created, but my feeling is that this probably means we won't see one for another 10 years or so. Thoughts?

On principle, I'm opposed to more categories. But it would be a helpful way to further sort out what we're watching and how we respond to it.

Yes, I'll be sure to steer clear of the Cathedral Heights Metro Station. Though, my life would be easier if there actually was such a thing.

I dream of living in a $700,000 2-bedroom condo built right above the Cathedral Heights Metro stop. With cute chain cafes and restaurants on the first level. And it must have a turret. And please, fill the place with millennials.

is not a comedy. That said, they kicked Merritt Weaver to the curb.

I think more and more, if it's a half hour long, then it's called a comedy. And agree about Merritt. And I think Edie Falco was flat-out terrific this season.

Will he ever get an Emmy? Seems like Bryan Cranston will get it again this year. Maybe for the final 1/2 season next year?

Yeah, maybe.

How exactly do they determine the eligibility for shows, especially for those like on Netflix? Was OITNB not eligible in its first year? Did Kate Mara get a nom because of her first year on HOC? And you raised a good question: for which period of time did Jon Hamm get his nomination?

It's more of a mystery to me than I care to admit.

We just watched the final episode of Season 2 and thought it was excellent in so many ways. Just wanted to second your raves about Season 2. We were thinking that maybe 2 seasons would be about enough, but are now really looking forward to season 3 - any indications when filming starts, when available, etc?

Glad you liked it so much. I would guess that they will stick to their summer release schedule. I wouldn't reasonably expect season 3 until early June 2015. The wait seems longer because we get all the episodes at once. If OITNB was on a weekly schedule, it could have lasted all summer. But that doesn't make it any easier to write and produce -- these things take time to turn around at that level of quality.

Hank, I know you've covered this in excruciating detail already, but I am still gobsmacked that Orange is the New Black and Jackie are both considered comedies for Emmy purposes. I finished watching the end of this season of Nurse Jackie, and while you were right that it was amazing, I don't recall even cracking much of a smile this season. Even Zoey ceased to be the reliable comic relief she usually is. And women in prison! What a laff riot!

True, true.

I am aghast that she wasn't nominated for her amazing performance(s) in Orphan Black. There is no justice. Another really horrible snub was John Noble never being nominated for his great work in Fringe, especially in Season 2 when he played two diametrically opposite characters.

I don't get it. The Americans is one of the best shows on television, arguably the best, and they are all but ignored by the Emmy nominations? Help me understand the thinking here.

All I can offer is a hug. I just don't know. I thought it would be a shoo-in. Maybe they should fudge around and submit it as a miniseries. Or a comedy. Or a variety show.

Hearing anything about the upcoming adaptation of "Outlander," Diana Gabaldon's time-traveler mini-series, on Starz?

I'm waiting for a screener. Sounds very interesting; I might check out the books too, just to see what all the hubub is.

Win or lose, she still made history this year.


Hank-had a similar reaction to yours when I read the nomination list, so much it seemed similar to the past few years. I was like, gosh hasn't there been anything new on TV--but that said, most of what was nominated are really good shows.

This is something to keep in mind. We've become accustomed to it, but TV right now (defined however you like) has some great stuff on it.

Shepard Smith of Fox News. Maybe George Will.


I like "Reckless." What do you give its chances for renewal? Will its summer debut hurt or does that have anything to do with it? I ask because I personally can't think of any CBS mid-season or summer series that has lasted.

You know, I didn't get time to do a full review of it, but I thought it worked okay as a steamy, sultry waste of time. If you can't think of a CBS summer series that has lasted, I have three words for you: Under the Dome.

Do you watch them at all? If so, whom do you like? I cannot stand the ubiquitous Guy Fieri and I'm over Giada and Rachael Ray. I do like Kelsey Nixon, Melissa D'Arabian, and Aarti. Ina Garten seems to do some good food.

I don't. I tend to avoid cooking competitions and most food-as-travel shows and find that there's very little there to write about. But our Food section writers keep a close eye on what's on. It's a big demographic; I do take a look at some of the shows to make sure I'm not missing anything brilliant or original.

I'm reading the 8th Outlander book now. Books 1 to 4 or 5 were excellent. I'd say 6, 7 and 8 had their moments -- but not up to the earlier books. All in all though, an excellent series. You just have to suspend belief about the time travel thing -- in the end it's a love story.

Oh, dear. EIGHT books? I just took a step backward.

Hi Hank, I heard clips from Chris O'Dowd's Moone Boy series and it sounds hilarious. It's currently on Hulu, but I heard him mention in an interview that it might get picked up by PBS. I haven't been able to find anything more about this. Have you heard? BTW, I'm the OP who asked about catching up with The Good Wife a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to you and the helpful posters, I am sampling from the first three seasons with the help of an episode guide. I will watch all of 4 and 5 and should be good to go when it starts in the fall - thanks again!

I haven't seen "Moone Boy," sorry, but I'm glad our collective "Good Wife" advice has helped.

Wendy Williams seems to think Leah Remini and Meghan McCain would round out the table.


Don't forget that it is so safe and secure the Vice President can go in and out without Secret Service and without being noticed.

DC has really changed, hasn't it. Why, I remember in the crack wars when nobody would go over to Cathedral Heights. Now it's full of hipsters jumping in front of trains.

If you are going to pick up the book, might I suggest you do it during a down period. That book almost made me fail high school chemistry back when it was first released. I could not put it down. I'm actually contemplating signing up for Starz just so that I can watch the show. Then I MIGHT stick around for American Gods. Might. I'm intrigued to see what the genius behind my favorite show ever, Pushing Daisies, can do with Neil Gaiman's story.

I've been a big fan since its debut but the last season or two was more obligation than enjoyment. Just saw the new season is about to start. Has it passed the point of diminishing returns?

I haven't seen how the ratings are doing. I was sort of thinking that this might be the year I check in and see how it's doing. (I haven't watched the last few seasons.)

I'm just glad to see that So You Think You Can Dance is getting some love. I adore that show - and felt validated by the excellent piece written by your colleague, Sarah Kauffman, a few years back.

They're crap, and they've been crap for years. Maybe if some of the nominees or winners came right out and said so, a la how could you nominate me over Tatiana Maslany?, it would change, but somehow I don't see that happening.

So shows get to choose what category they submit under--ie dramas in comedy, series in miniseries? I'd think the academy would set down some rules on that somwhere?

There must be a big book of rules somewhere. Covered in dust, I'll bet. I wonder what would happen if the Emmy overseers could do like the Pulitzer judges do and move shows to a different category than the category the network submitted it into?

Watching Tatiana Maslany play a character impersonating another character multiple times and doing so well at that should be enough for an Emmy nom. Every single one nominated only played 1 character the whole time. Watching 4 of them in the dancing scene was so beautiful to watch.

I would just like to add that if the show itself wasn't as good as it is, then the multiple-part-playing would mostly just be a stunt. She's good, but part of why she's good is because the show makes it work so well.

Did they happen to explain why naked people are suddenly so trendy?

The naked survivalists were here! In clothes. The guys say they wish the blurred spots were bigger, suggesting a larger endowment. They didn't have any grand unifying theories that I recall. They seemed really pleased with themselves.

Wait. What about Boardwalk Empire? No Chalky White or Nucky Thompson? ... And Jeffrey Wright as Dr Narcisse? C'mon.

A few technical noms (costumes, e.g.), but seems like "Boardwalk" has been left in the dust.

Brooklyn 9 9 had a better season than The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family easily. I bet those two shows would say they didn't have great years for themselves either, besides ratings of course.

The "structured" reality show vs "unstructured" reality show. Guess it shows how many so called reality shows are on our screens these days.

I think "unstructured" is a very diplomatic, very broad way of admitting that a lot of those shows (and what happens in them) are highly directed/guided by the producers.

I for one am happy to not see Tatiana Maslany or Orphan Black as nominees. My boyfriend and I both watched the first few episodes of the show when it first came out to give it a chance (love most BBC America shows), and we both thought it was pretty terrible (especially her acting - the Russian accent was particularly painful). Why do people love this show and her so much? It is a mystery for me. I would have loved to see more Brooklyn Nine-Nine nods. That show is the funniest new show in a while.

There's always one.

Has any news leaked out all about what the new season will involve? I feel like there's so many places they can go with it, especially given how the industry treats "old" actresses. Although I am secretly hoping that we will find out that Valerie has had a reality-tv-career revival thanks to being on a Real Housewives type show.

The session is this afternoon, but what I've heard is that it's 10 years later and Valerie has noticed that just about anyone can have a TV show now, especially online, and she wants her piece of that pie. She also considers herself a reality pioneer who made the world safe for Kardashians, et al. I cannot wait to see more. I'll probably file a blog item later today after the session with fresh news.

Speaking of American Gods, how come Gaiman's HBO deal fizzled and it ended up with Starz? I woulda thought HBO would be hot for more fantasy programming after GoT.

Actually, my instinct (if I was HBO) would be to steer clear of another fantasy project, so as not to dilute GoT.

Certainly one of the most popular shows ever on Cable, with extraordinary viewership growth numbers over the first few seasons. Why no nominations?

I don't know, but you've reminded me that I really wanted to see a nomination for Melissa McBride (Carol), who was just fantastic this season. Norman Reedus, too.

Would Tatiana Maslany get a well-deserved nomination if she changed her name to Tina O'Malley? Or if BBC America sent a screener to everyone in the Academy? Or if they put a poster of her on every cheeseburger bought at In-and-Out? What does it take?!?

Would you recommend either of the new shows that NBC will air tonight?

No. "Working the Engels" was tiresome and "Welcome to Sweden" is cute but seriously flat. I gave "Sweden" a C in the summer TV issue on June 15; I didn't bother with "Engels."

Bandersnatch Cummerbund! Bilbo! PBS! That is all that needs to be said.

Please explain how American Horror Story and Treme are mini-series and Game of Thrones and American Detective are Drama series.

"American Horror Story" is a miniseries because each season is an entirely different story with new roles for a revolving cast.

"Treme" qualifies as a mini (I guess) because its final season was just a four-episode arc/conclusion.

"Game of Thrones" is totally a drama, a brilliant one, with four seasons under its belt.

"True Detective," to my mind, is a miniseries in every possible way. Unless they bring back McConaughey and Harrelson and have them hunt some more for the Yellow King. But that's not the plan.

A new term floating around: "Recurring serial."

Oh, my little Chickadee, I watched the second episode of "Vicious," and I'm afraid the plot twist was as predictable as something six decades ago out of "I Love Lucy," and not in a good way, either. I'm ready to give up on the show, even though I usually adore the two lead actors.

Fargo is the most entertaining show I've seen in years. Why no Emmy nomination? Also, do TV executives have any idea how annoying the flood of commercials are?

Friend, you need to look closer at the nominations list. Plenty of nominations for "Fargo," especially the cast members.

how about a guy like Anderson Cooper--

Hank: I was certain that Diane Kruger would get a nod for "The Bridge" as the detective, what gives ?

Too much competition. I read the other day that in 1992, there were about 25-30 shows in serious (or even remote) contention for a best drama. Today it's more than 100 shows. The field only gets more crowded when you move into the performance categories.

This show was unintentionally funny in a few places, the biggest for me being the face Academy Award Winner made when she rewound the surveilance footage and her sex tape turned out to only show her in it! How did the ratings do?

According to this morning's reports, about 9.4 million viewers tuned, but it fell off from the "Big Brother" lead-in. The 18-49 numbers on the premiere episode aren't super. But the headline from CBS will probably be the 9.4 mil.

What happened to Blacklist or at least a nod to James Spader?


NO MEN ON THE VIEW! It's a show for women from women's perspectives! We don't need a man on there mucking up the place!

Don't waste Anderson on "The View." He needs to be Alex Trebek's successor on "Jeopardy!" -- stat!

Hey, by the way -- for those of you puzzling out the Emmy category nonsense, be sure to check out Emily Yahr's piece from last Sunday about these very issues.

How about Sons of Anarchy? It seems like Kurt Sutter doesn't care about whether his show wins an Emmy or not, but to not at least throw in a nomination or two for SOA is, IMHO, a travesty.

Speaking of, did you see that Courtney Love AND Marilyn Manson will be in the upcoming season?

Any chance they will renew this for next season? I am enjoying the 12 episodes better then the full 24 episodes. There are many good shows with this type of format such as Game of Thrones and Homeland.

Haven't heard anything. Hardly any viewers are talking much about the show, from what I can tell. People who were really excited about it have peeled off or forgotten to keep watching, etc.

How long has this been in a vault. Except for the gay couple angle, the whole thing felt like BBC from the 70s.

Extolling the acting genius of Andy Samberg over Tatiana Maslany? Wow.

The question is: How long will she stay? With the exception of BW's farewell week, I did not watch The View at all this year (and I always recorded it in the past): can't tolerate Jenny McCarthy. I might tune in to see how Rosie fares: that imitation she did of Donald Trump was hilarious. If they add a guy, I'm rooting for Mario Cantone of Sex and the City fame.

I think I read it's a one-year contract? (With seven figures.)

Have you seen Pookie yet? Have you told her we miss her? Not that we don't love you too.

I can see Pookie from here. She sends her love.

I love this show! any chance Mayim can win in the best supporting category? She's terrific in that role. And can the show itself finally knock Modern Family out after 4 years in row?

Seems doable.

The original concept was to have five women representing different decades of life: Debbie Matanapoulos, and later Lisa Ling, as the young single (20s); Star Jones as an older professionally-established single (30s); Meredith Vieira as a working wife-mother (40s); Joy Behar as a mom with grown child(ren) (50s); and, Barbara Walters as a veteran career woman (60s-70s). I wish the show would return to having a variety of ages for its panelists, so we could get different generations' views.

It sounds so pure and quaint when you describe it this way, but yes, I agree. Women talking about things that affect women -- this is something the Internet has revolutionized, especially in the last few years. (At least it seems that way to me.) "The View" should reflect that, too.

What do you expect from the HBO TCA? I am a big fan of your work, thanks!

Well, as I mentioned, "The Comeback." Also a presentation from Dave Grohl on this new series he's doing about eight different cities and their music scenes (including DC!). Also an adaptation of  "Olive Kitteridge."

As much as I love Modern Family, their Emmy time is up! I want some other shows to get in the mix! I think 5 years in a row should be the limit set for emmy nods.

Agree. I also thought the Cameron/Mitch wedding wasn't nearly as entertaining as it had been built up to be.

Heck, I'd give it to her for this skit alone. I still laugh hysterically when I watch it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCCV_nB7HJk

Bryan Cranston vs. Matthew McCaunahey (sic)? True Detective vs. Breaking Bad? Big Bang Thoery vs. Modern Family? Fargo vs. AHS: Coven? Sherlock vs. The Normal Heart? What's your predictions?

I'm a lousy predictor. I'm too married to my opinions and not sharp enough on realistic odds, history, trends, etc.

Brilliant in Fargo. A masterful actor that made a character's full transformation (in less than 10 episodes) completely believable. He played a far more interesting character - and better acting - than Billy Bob Thornton. And THAT'S saying something.

I agree with this. Billy Bob was mostly doing things he's done all his career. Martin really pushed in that role -- even made me forget about William H. Macy's similar character in the movie version.

...How "Downton Abbey" was better than "The Americans". Thank You.

Is it HBO for "The Comeback"?

I just need to know that I am being heard.

Okay, gotta scoot. Thanks for joining me today. See you here next Thursday at noon. I'll STILL be at the press tour.

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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