What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Jul 17, 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."

From Beverly Hills, it's the TV chat. Good morning, good morning everyone in the news this morning. (Click here if you don't get that reference. Still one of my favorite memes.)

Would you believe I am STILL at the summer TV press tour? It's day 10 -- CBS. I'm chatting to you from the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton hotel (site of the Golden Globes awards show, if you need a visual reference) and a Q&A with CBS entertainment head Nina Tassler is about to begin at 9 a.m. -- so I'll keep one ear on that and both eyes on YOU.

What's the latest? Since last week, I've reviewed "Masters of Sex" season 2, "The Strain," and FX's new comedies, "Married" and "You're the Worst." You can find all of that -- plus some press tour updates -- here.

Onward to your questions and comments...

Showtime just started Season 2 of Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex. Do you think it is strange to start them both at same time? BTW, both shows are fantastic. After 4 shows last year, I knew Jon Voight would be up for an Emmy.

I think it's smart to package them together. The idea is to get fans of one to watch the other. Which isn't quite working on me -- I love "Masters of Sex" more than anything airing right now, and have gone cold on "Ray Donovan." Voight's character is for me an obstacle. I'd love the show more if it were more about Ray's work as a fixer, like "Entourage" with a body count.

Have you seen aything about her new show? (She a criminology professor and the show is from various students' point of view, yes?)

Yes, we had a long presentation on Tuesday with the cast and producers (and Shonda Rhimes) of "How to Get Away With Murder." And yes, you've got the plot essentially right. It looks okay to me. It's carrying a lot of freight from the commentariat, which wants to talk about Being Black in Hollywood and assorted social/culture meanings, when, really, it's another sudsy crime/sex drama from Shonda Rhimes.

Used to be TV seasons ran fall to spring and mid-season, when shows not doing well were replaced with new ones. Summers didn't count as a season since existing programs aired re-runs and new shows were considered specials. Now it appears there is a summer season, i.e, the return of "The Dome" and "Unforgettable." If these do well might we expect to see them again next summer and likewise "Extant" and "Reckless," rather than continuing through the fall? I used to like a series being completely repeated in the summer but this often gave me the opportunity to catch a show in its entirety that I had missed all season.

Hi, yes, welcome, please flip your calendar to 2014. Shows that do well in the summer will be back next summer. Repeats are all stored in order (by season) for you at a variety of video-on-demand services and sites, accessible through your TV or mobile devices.

I can't decide if this is compelling and intriguing and will develop into a great show... or another steaming pile of aimless turd like the second half of Lost. Thoughts?

I think it's a bit too leaden at the point and viewers are starting to carp about it and peel off in search of something else to watch, sort of like I feared they would when I watched four episodes in June. That said, there is something still intriguing and watchable about it, if you can take the dourness.

About halfway through the first season, I just wanted all of the characters killed, especially the nagging wife! What do you think Ray does for a living? If you had problems with that, you should have said something before you got the beautiful house and fancy car! Anything bad happen to her in the season premiere?

On top of everything else -- the criminal father, the boxing-gym brothers, the nagging wife -- Ray also has that problem that afflicts all TV characters: problem teenagers. Can't there be any TV character who just has a nice, quiet honor student who's biggest problem is too many school activities?

She's so awesome. I just want her to be in things as awesome as she is. It sounds like Married is not that.

She's the best thing about "Married," by a mile. (And Jenny Slate, a little bit, because, well, Jenny Slate.)

Is 'Rectify' the best kept secret on TV? I just found out and poured through Season 1 on Netflix and catching up on Season 2 through on-demand. Imo, the acting is superb and the story and visuals are beautiful. Thoughts?

YES about the acting and the visuals, though I think the ending to season 1 was far too languorous. I confess this has been such a busy summer, new show-wise, that I have set "Rectify" season 2 aside for later. It's an interesting and moody show.

As someone that needs to get up early to go to work, I tend to miss the 10pm shows. I watch them sometime later in the week though. Do networks take into account a drop in viewership for shows at that time? Or are there plenty of folks staying up that it doesn't matter?

I think most TV watchers make it to 11 p.m. just fine (10 p.m. in central and mountain time zones), but there are all sorts of data that takes into account the time-shifting of when something airs vs. when it is watched. More data than ever, not just via Nielsen families.

Still ripped off by the Emmy Nominations. Can't be said enough.

HBO won't cancel it mid season will they? I know a lot of people are hating on it, but I'm drawn in. At the very least I'm rooting for a smoke monster before the whole thing is over

They certainly won't and will probably renew it, because HBO believes strongly in its shows and giving even the least-rated of them a chance to find an audience. (Unless, of course, like "Luck," there's an animal cruelty issue involved.) I intend to watch "The Leftovers" through to the end of this season and then decide if it worked or not. Its flaws and strengths are plainly evident so far. For what it's worth, the Perrotta novel wasn't fully concluded, either -- readers never found out what the Sudden Departure was. That wasn't unsatisfying, partly because the book had a much lighter touch and wasn't as gloomy as the show we're now watching.

With the Series Finale of Boardwalk Empire have you heard anything about what year the show will take place in. History tells us that with the end of prohibition it all went down hill for Nucky. However, the show could go in a different direction and just have everyone murdered. Thoughts?

Yes, when HBO was at the press tour last week, we got some details. The last season is eight episodes. The story moves forward to 1931. The Depression has started, Prohibition is nearing an end and Nucky has to figure out where his life goes next. Your solution ("everybody gets murdered") may be as workable as any other. I'll miss the show, but we'll get the benefit of watching a story where the writers/creator know that it has to come to a sure end.

Not to jump o that commenter, but the comment about hating the nagging wife on Ray Donovan most of all reminded me a question I've been meaning to ask: when do you think we are going to see a show as strongly built around a female character as shows like Breaking Bad are around male characters? While it's not the case with all television, it does seem like so many of the prestige-y shows involve nagging wives/girlfriends and violent crimes against women (even my beloved Masterpiece Mystery!). It does seem like there has been a critical rumbling about this; have you heard about any shows in development and do you think it's something that could happen?

A few very good examples ("Orange Is the New Black," for one) may give the impression that things have really changed for women on TV, which is not true yet, but there are better parts. Things are improving.

Still, yes, there are mostly high-end shows about "difficult men" burdened with Problems and Deep Thoughts, where the women are mainly victims or Upset Again and Screaming at the Difficult Man (who then forces himself on her). I haven't seen anything for fall that quite fits your specifications, but maybe I have: It's hard to keep 40 or so new or developing shows sorted in my head at the moment. While we're on the subject, I think "Masters of Sex" is a great show in which the woman is stronger and more interesting than the men around her and everything sort of hinges on what she does, not what he does.

Can someone at the TSA ask Les Moonves to just finish it this season? I may just DVR and wait for you to tell me it gives a satisfactory ending at the end of the season.

Sure. The reason they're all here is to do whatever the critics tell them.

Is it still going to be a one-man show, or will it be adapted to multiple parts? ... And can Aaron Paul play Hubert Humphry?

It wasn't discussed...

Can you tell from the demeanor of the network execs whether they are genuinely confident about their offerings or just whistling in the wind?

CBS's Nina Tassler is always, always confident and convinced the network is doing everything right. NBC's Robert Greenblatt seemed a whole lot more confident this time, now that the ratings have turned around. HBO's Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo seem to enjoy the exchange with reporters/critics and don't really miss a step.

Every one of them accentuates the positive in bold + underline. But they're all of a certain type, whether male or female. They get were they are by being cool cucumbers. You can tell they like the power of it.

Which new ABC Tuesday show looked worse: "Selfie", "Manhattan Romance Stary", or "Forever"? Marvel's Agents of Shield isn't strong enough to hold any of those losers up.

"Selfie" might not be as bad as it looks, thanks to its leads, particularly John Cho.

"Manhattan Love Story" looks tedious, which is too bad, because there again, I like the guy and the girl.

"Forever" seems another in a string of lugubrious ABC dramas (what was the one last year that was cancelled so quick -- about the woman photographer who has an affair?), but this time it has a supernatural twist -- about a medical examiner who is immortal (not vampirically, just accidentally) and doesn't know why. It doesn't look so bad either.

But all three don't look so great. And that's what they really need to be to register in today's market. I will consider them further when I get busy reviewing the new season. Our Fall TV issue is slated (for now) to run on Sunday, Sept. 21.

just wondering if the tour is all in one place, or do you travel to different parts of L.A. for different networks. Hope you haven't been stuck in one place for all 10 days.

All the network presentations are held in the Beverly Hilton, where most of us are also staying, so yes, it's precisely as you feared. But it's not that bad.

There are trips away -- yesterday, everyone piled on to buses for a day of set visits that included "Brooklyn Nine Nine" and "Masters of Sex." Everyone but yours truly. I don't get a lot of useful stuff from en-masse set visits, so I use that day to catch up on writing reviews. We also leave the Beverly Hilton from time to time for network parties, where reporters can corner execs or chat with performers. NBC had one last week at a restaurant up on Sunset; CBS is having one tonight at the Pacific Design Center on Melrose.

Any early word on Outlander on Starz? Love the books and am looking forward to the show.

I haven't watched it yet, but I have the screener. All I know is that fans like you are giddy about seeing it.

Halfway through the first season and loving it. How do you think it will do at the Emmys? Any hope for Kate Mulgrew to win? She's fantastic in that role.

I think it's got everyone's attention and all the right buzz. Beyond that, I have no reliable way of forecasting who will win an Emmy.

You know, that's what made Skyler White so interesting on "Breaking Bad". At first, she liked Walt being more assertive, then she starts seeing him go into "I am the One who Knocks" territory and first she starts walking into the pool and then she has to start protecting Holly, Walt Jr, and herself. That being said, I would like seeing that scenario with the roles reversed.

LOVED LOVED LOVED the earlier seasons. Straight sci-fi, nothing political or sociological. But the current season has really suffered from a lack of imagination. It really needs a re-boot or loyal viewers will go searching elsewhere (like "The Strain").

I agree with your statement HS "I'd love the show more if it were more about Ray's work as a fixer, like "Entourage" with a body count." When Showtime was advertising it prior to last season, I thought it would be like this. Also, ugh to the nagging wife! She makes me want to rip out my eyelashes!!

Aaron would definitely win.

They're previewing it out of the Voice before it goes to its regular night. But can it really work in the Wednesday 8pm slot? Nothing's worked there for over 10 years except for Betty White!

One show I think gets kids right is The Middle. The three kids are basically good kids, don't do drugs or anything, but have of course many teenage issues etc. The siblings also seem to love each other at the same time they can't stand each other--which rang true for me from my growing up years.

He went to prison in 1941 & got out in 1945. He lived until 1968 I realize they take a lot of liberties, but killing off everyone would be a lot like the ending of the Sopranos, but reversed.

I don't think they've ever felt any obligation to mirror the real Nucky on which the "Boardwalk Empire" character is very (very) loosely based.

I like the show but I really can't take Justin Theroux seriously for some reason. Everything else about the show is decent. I haven't seen enough of the season to judge. But Theroux, ugh!

I thought a President had to have a speech or something for that to happen. If NBC doesn't want it, just give it away!

I loved the Oscars so much more when they were on Monday nights.

Why on earth would she want to have a talk show? So many infotainment queens (i.e., Couric and Pauley) have run aground on those rocky shores.

Sometimes a virgin can't resist the volcano.

His rant against Dr. OZ was priceless. Is HBO patting itself on the back for picking him up?


Are you hearing anything about NBC's new show, Welcome to Sweden? I really wanted to love it, because I love Amy Poehler and I love Sweden, but it was just...bad. Does it have any chance of getting better before it's cancelled?

Most of the critics were a little too kind to it (because of Amy Poehler's brother?) I thought. In the Post's Summer TV issue on June 15, I gave "Welcome to Sweden" a C-. It's got "limited summer show" written all over it. I don't think anyone had or has any grand expectations for it.

I watched it last night because I had seen every episode of Arrow, there was no baseball on due to the All-Star break, and the television in the hotel where I am did not offer the Food Network. I had seen one episode before, and I couldn't believe how dumb the whole family was. Last night's episode, about the family going to Disney was even worse. I couldn't believe that no one had noticed the tickets were for DisneyLAND, not DisneyWorld! I don't care how much the critics love it. I don't care if it's the only show available. I will not watch it again, ever! And the girl who plays Sue may be a wonderful actress, but the character is a caricature.

"The Middle" has a lot of vocal fans (see above). I'm not quite where you are with it, but it's not my favorite thing to watch either. Just a little too facile.

Does listening to TV executives and PR staff for three weeks affect your sanity in any way?

Oh, just a little.

What gets really old are the actors on the panels talking about how it was the character and the writing that drew them to joining the cast. Not one of them will just come out and say they were drawn to the show because they were overdrawn at the bank. ("The direct-deposit slip really spoke to me...") If one ever did, I might rush the stage and hug them.

This show has completely gone off the rails. Two main characters killed and the whole thing moved to a religious context? When you promise solutions in only one season, you should keep your promise. AMC learned that with "The Killing"

Hank: I know you can't review everything but what's the skinny on the new USA Network show "Satisfaction" debuting tonight? Seen some good reviews elsewhere.

I'm sorry to say I did not get a screener of "Satisfaction" from USA before I left for LA. I did watch "Rush." But as today (July 17) drew nearer, I had to make a choice to review either "Married"/"You're the Worst" on FX or "Satisfaction"/"Rush" ... I'll have to look at "Satisfaction" later. Other critics' reviews so far have been okay; less so for "Rush."

For your viewing pleasure: The Good Wife Prime Suspect (Netflix it) Orphan Black Weeds The Big C The Bridge These are just a few off the very top of my head - There are quite a few out there, and they're not all Scandal or Grey's Anatomy

Yes to all this. Thanks for the assist.

I love that the Oscar's is nominated for an Emmy!!!

Note to the Academy: Neil Patrick Harris is off CBS, so you can now name him as host in 2015. No more sub-par hosts!

Oh, I think some of us might be a little NPH'd out at this point, when it comes to award shows.

Bad Show?

I'm not ready to opine. It's one of the more unique shows up to bat this season.

I don't know about the offerings. It's nice that it's not all re-runs but I feel like there's a lot of garbage and very little appointment TV. And then fall comes and I'm overwhelmed with a wealth of choices. I wish they would spread it around a bit.

Well, they've tried.

that episode was such an infomercial for ABC and Disney. It was the worst "Middle" ever.

Would you have gone if they said they were filming a "Experiment" scene that day?

That would have totally depended on the subect/participants.

I hadn't thought about it much but he does have a kind of Paltrovian sense of self-importance about him. Not the ideal choice as the center of a TV series.

TOTALLY! Under the dome has definitely gone off the rails. "The Dome doesn't want you to kill, the Dome doesn't want you to die." HUH?

John Cho can't seem to keep a TV show, which sucks; because he's awesome and hilarious! But I don't see this show making it on ABC. They have cancelled every one of their 30something comedies in the past 5 years; Happy Endings, Mixology, Mr. Sunshine, etc. I'm hoping for the best for this show, but expecting the worst.


You are spot on. Ray's career would be 100x more interesting than all the silly family drama. I don't give sh*t one about anyone other than Ray. They've marginalized his fixer career to the point that it would be easy to watch the show and have no idea what he does for a living.

Laura Dern was terrific in Enlightened.

She sure was. That would have been submitted as a comedy. (It's the half-hour thing, you see.)

People keep asking why Hugh Jackman keeps playing Wolverine in movies. Hey, the Claws pay the Mortgage!

Another sudsy crime/sex drama from Shonda Rhimes is good!! I just hope the show is well written. I want it to be another guilty pleasure like Scandal!

I think it just might be.

OK. Maybe not ask him directly, but can you imply that the reason viewers are dropping like flies is that CBS said that "All questions would be answered" last season, and they weren't? Call it the Veena Sud Rule.

Hank, When we visit my wife's parents, they change the TV channel whenever a Republican is about to speak, saying that they pay to have sewage pumped out of their house not in! How's that for a conversation starter?

They sound like a whole lotta fun. Nothing like spending your vacation with people who put their fingers in their ears whenever they hear something they disagree with. But where besides Fox News do they find Republicans on TV?

Also snubbed by the Emmy Nominations!

Can't there be any TV character who just has a nice, quiet honor student who's biggest problem is too many school activities? - You mean like "Sue Heck" of The Middle?

You "Middle" people never give up, do you? (I'll take Alex on "Modern Family," in this case.)

Let me qualify it: In a drama. A teenager in a high-end drama who doesn't create more problems for the adult protagonist. (I guess Walt Jr. was one.)

I half-expected Disney to put a graphic at the bottom: "Dear Customers: your Disney tickets would normally be accepted at all parks. This is a fantasy."

Gotta go, everyone. The show panels are in full swing -- right now we're doing "Madam Secretary," a new drama starring Tea Leoni. More WASHINGTON.

No chat next week -- the press tour will have ended and I'm taking next Thursday off. I'll be back for a chat on Thursday, July 31.

Thanks, as always, for the many, many questions and comments -- especially the ones I didn't have time to answer. Please know that I read and think about all of them. -- HS

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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