Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 9/20/19

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CREDIT: Netflix

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Movies
Ad Astra (Theatrically Nationwide) – Dad Astra.
Between Two Ferns: The Movie (Streaming on Netflix)
Loro (Limited Theatrically) – Bunga bunga!

TV
It’s that time of year again!
Disenchantment Season 1, Part 2 (September 20 on Netflix)
-Creative Arts Emmy Awards (September 21 on FXX)
-71st Primetime Emmy Awards (September 22 on FOX)
The Conners Season 2 Premiere (September 24 on ABC)
black-ish Season 6 Premiere (September 24 on ABC)
mixed-ish Series Premiere (September 24 on ABC)
The Masked Singer Season 2 Premiere (September 25 on ABC)
The Goldbergs Season 7 Premiere (September 25 on ABC)
Schooled Season 2 Premiere (September 25 on ABC)
Single Parents Season 2 Premiere (September 25 on ABC)
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 14 Premiere (September 25 on FXX)
South Park Season 22 Premiere (September 25 on Comedy Central)
Crank Yankers Season 5 Premiere (September 25 on Comedy Central)
Superstore Season 5 Premiere (September 26 on NBC)
Young Sheldon Season 3 Premiere (September 26 on CBS)
The Good Place Season 4 Premiere (September 26 on NBC)
The Unicorn Series Premiere (September 26 on CBS)
Evil Series Premiere (September 26 on CBS)

Music
-Brittany Howard, Jaime

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Jmunney’s 2019 Emmy Wish List, Part 1: Comedy

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CREDIT: Scott Patrick Green/Netflix

The 2019 Emmy nominations will be announced on July 16, and as that annual occasion approaches, I typically put together my own list of which shows and performers I would like to see recognized. But I’ve had some mixed feelings about that this year, as I’ve grappled with the fact that in the era of Peak TV, it becomes more and impossible to capture all my favorites in one place. Ultimately I decided I wouldn’t be too formal or too precious about it. If there are ten shows I really want to see nominated, then I’ll list ten on my wish list. But if there are just two I really like in another category, then I’ll just list two.

I’m kicking things off today with Comedy. Before I get to my selections, I’ve got some thoughts to share, mainly about the new entrants. Among freshman shows, The Other Two mixed affecting family dynamics with the silliness of fame, while What We Do in the Shadows was just so wonderfully goofy. But it’s a couple of sadly cancelled high school-set sophomore shows that have my most love: Netflix’s poopy mockumentary American Vandal and NBC’s sharp and lovable A.P. Bio.

Among the actors, Young Sheldon‘s ensemble has really been a welcome part of my weekly life, and with that in mind, it’s been a while since either the Academy or I have recognized Jim Parsons for The Big Bang Theory, and you know what? I’m going to recognize him for his final year. Among names that you may not recognize (yet), let’s all keep in mind What We Do in the Shadows‘ Kayvan Novak for our future comedy endeavors.

Nominees are listed in alphabetical order. My top choices are in bold.

Outstanding Comedy
American Vandal
A.P. Bio
Barry
GLOW
The Goldbergs
The Good Place
Jane the Virgin
The Last O.G.
The Other Two
Speechless
What We Do in the Shadows

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Best TV Episodes of 2017

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CREDIT: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

These episodes of television all originally aired in North America between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. I watched them, and I enjoyed doing so. I bet you will feel the same while watching them … if you haven’t already.

1. Twin Peaks: The Return – “Part 8”
2. Nathan for You – “The Anecdote”
3. Halt and Catch Fire – “Who Needs a Guy”
4. Nathan for You – “Finding Frances”
5. Rick and Morty – “Morty’s Mind Blowers”
6. Better Call Saul – “Chicanery”
7. Halt and Catch Fire – “Ten of Swords”
8. Black Mirror – “Hang the DJ”
9. Twin Peaks: The Return – “Part 17”
10. Halt and Catch Fire – “Goodwill”
11. Twin Peaks: The Return – “Part 18”
12. Mr. Robot – “eps3.4_runtime-error.r00”
13. Review – “Cryogenics; Lightning; Last Review”
14. The Good Place – “Dance Dance Resolution”
15. Great News – “Honeypot!”
16. Big Mouth – “Requiem for a Wet Dream”
17. Rick and Morty – “The Ricklantis Mixup”
18. Mr. Robot – “eps3.7_dont-delete-me.ko”
19. BoJack Horseman – “Time’s Arrow”
20. Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories – “Angel Man”

The Good Place Season 2 Review

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CREDIT: Colleen Hayes/NBC

This post was originally published on News Cult in February 2018.

Network: NBC

Showrunner: Mike Schur

Main Cast: Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto, D’Arcy Carden

Notable Guest Stars: Marc Evan Jackson, Tiya Sircar, Maribeth Monroe, Jason Mantzoukas, Dax Shepard, Maya Rudolph, Seth Morris, Angela Trimbur

Episode Running Time: 22 Minutes

It is difficult to talk about The Good Place in detail without spoiling anything, so SPOILER ALERT. But also go watch the entire series if you haven’t already. It’s really good.

Stylistically and tonally, The Good Place follows in the footsteps of the NBC Must See TV sitcoms that have preceded it, but since it is at its heart a mystery box puzzle show, its closest forerunner is Lost. Based on what I have gathered from interviews, creator Mike Schur conceptualized it as the NBC sitcom version of that stranded-on-a-desert-island juggernaut. Accordingly, it has been applying the lessons of what worked and what didn’t work on the island. So what we have in The Good Place Season 2 is a show that is constantly reinventing itself that amazingly is yet to show any wear and tear.

Lost dithered around occasionally in its first three seasons, but momentum locked into place for its final three years once an end date was set and the season episode orders were shortened. Thus, I have been heartened, and not worried at all, that NBC has given The Good Place 13-episode seasons right from the get-go instead of forcing it to stretch out to a more typical 20-plus run. It really feels like a series-long vision is in place. The first season finale, which revealed that Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and company were really in the Bad Place and were just being mentally tortured to think otherwise, seemed like a logical endpoint for the whole story, but in fact it has proven to be the perfect button on the first chapter that has been matched with just-as-satisfying shocks in Season 2.

After a two-part season opener in which our demon architect Michael (Ted Danson) tries and fails to reset everything with a bit of memory erasure, “Dance Dance Resolution” comes along to offer an entire series’ worth of plot twists in one episode. Not a season’s worth, a whole series’ worth. The Good Place has solved the problem that plagues shows that burns through plots too quickly by … burning through plots faster than anyone has ever seen. A glorious montage resets the status quo thousands of times. Subsequent episodes slow down that pace, but there is still about one reboot per half hour.

One of the reasons that The Good Place is one of the best shows currently airing is because it works for the smartest people in the room and the dumbest people in the room. If you want to figure out the twists ahead of time, the clues are there for you to puzzle them out, but if you prefer to be passive, the twists will eventually be explained, in a manner that avoids patronizing or reiterating the obvious. This is a show that rewards freeze-framing and re-watching (and there is still not enough room to contain all the flourishes from the writing staff). But it is also bright and boisterous enough for one helping to be filling. You don’t need to brush up on your Kant and Hume to understand the philosophical and ethical debates, but the supplementary reading is out there should you wish to seek it out.

While The Good Place has clearly done its homework regarding history’s most influential thinkers, I do wonder what the show’s own philosophy on existence and morality is. In aggregate, it is hard to pin down, which can be freeing, but also frustrating. Part of that is just the nature of fiction that tackles the afterlife. What happens after death is too ineffable to really be captured in any fully comprehensible fashion. The Good Place does not have to come up with some grand unified theory to be successful, but it is trying to say something weighty. Under close examination it can appear contradictory, though its message has thus far worked and can fairly be called “complicated.”

Should we really believe that a callous demon like Michael (the sublimely natural Ted Danson) can so quickly be humanized? Your mileage may vary on that conundrum, but Danson’s performance buys into the transformation, and perhaps these demons are fallen angels, or some similar beings that really do have capacity for goodness. It is easier to buy into the nature of A.I. program Janet (Arden), whose existence has been more or less created out of whole cloth. But the bugs she demonstrates suggest a haphazardness unexpected for infinity.

Along those same lines, the fate of our four principal lost souls can often seem petty, even without considering the self-improvement they began in Season 1 and have more or less been wholly committed to in Season 2. Sure, Eleanor is chronically thoughtless, Chidi (Harper) is dangerously indecisive, Tahana (Jamil) is profoundly self-absorbed, and Jason (Jacinto) is unselfconsciously vulgar. But they all have charms that elevate them beyond their worst selves. That is surely partly to due with the charming nature of each actor’s performance and how we as viewers tend to identify with lead characters, but at a certain part it feels like they are just being toyed with beyond what is fair or makes sense.

However, I suspect that that pettiness might be a feature of the show, and not a bug. The last couple episodes certainly seem to suggest that. The finale makes a case for making it up as you go along, with a gambit allowing the dead folks to (unwittingly) prove themselves in a simulation of how their lives could have played out if they were still alive. The haphazardness is unavoidable, but playing fast and loose with the rules (which might not be as intractable as we’ve been led to believe) could be the right thing to do if it makes the right connections. The parameters have been set up by a writers’ room, but they are justifying themselves thus far.

And finally, here’s to BORTLES! and accidental timeliness.

Best Episodes: “Dance Dance Resolution,” “The Trolley Problem,” “Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent”

How Does It Compare to Season One? With its first and therefore biggest twist out of the way, The Good Place has necessarily become less surprising but the tradeoff is that it has become more daunting. It is a tricky high-wire act, but it has been sustained for at least one full season so far.

The Good Place Season 2 is Recommended If You Like: Lost, Pushing Daisies, Community

Where to Watch: Season 1 is available on Netflix, while Season 2 is currently available on NBC.com.

Grade: 4.5 out of 5 Shirt Balls

 

What Won TV? – October 1-October 7, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

Sunday – Bob’s Burgers
Monday – Austin Rogers securing his place in the Jeopardy! record books
Tuesday – Austin going even further into Jeopardy! history
Wednesday – Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Thursday – The Good Place
Friday – Jeopardy!
Saturday – Halt and Catch Fire better be careful about being so good about making me so sad.

What Won TV? – September 24-September 30, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

Scoot McNairy as Gordon Clark – Halt and Catch Fire _ Season 4, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Tina Rowden/AMC

Sunday – Rick and Morty
Monday – Young Sheldon
Tuesday – Difficult People
Wednesday – You’re the Worst, and the title is back to being so true.
Thursday – The Good Place, The Good Place, The Good Place
Friday – VICE
Saturday – Halt and Catch Fire, and I keep watching the saddest parts again and again.

What Won TV? – January 8-January 14, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

bobs_burgers_ex_mach_tina

Sunday – Bob’s Burgers
Monday – Not a bad College Football Championship game
Tuesday – New Girl
Wednesday – Man Seeking Woman
Thursday – The Good Place
Friday – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Saturday – Carrie Fisher on SNL Vintage, Boob Mountain on new SNL

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