I’ll have a review of FX’s upcoming series Feud: Bette and Joan later this week. For now, here are 10 things I think about TV this week …
The best couple on TV? Has to be Constance Wu and Randall Park on Fresh Off The Boat. The combination of writing and performance has yielded one of the most specific and constantly surprising marriages in either drama or comedy right now. Wu rightly gets the bulk of the praise, but Park is sneaky great as well. The shift of the show’s focus from the kids to the adults has worked like gangbusters over the past three seasons, and Fresh Off The Boat keeps improving because of it.
I’d be OK if Last Week Tonight With John Oliver was a solid hour every week. Thirty minutes doesn’t seem like enough. Extending the show another half-hour might kill everyone involved with the show, but these are not normal times.
Completely related: Saturday Night Live should not be allowed to air reruns for the next four years. I don’t mean that this cast/crew should work every week until the end of 2020. I’m saying the show should employ a Broadway show mentality and have deep rosters in front of the camera as well as behind it in order to keep the satire coming. This is a fiscal impossibility (and make an already cutthroat competition environment downright untenable), but ratings for the show haven’t been this high in years, and an additional half-hour “Weekend Update” segment in primetime won’t truly supply the timely comedy needed right now.
On the whole, blackish is a fantastic show. But I don’t think its absurdist office segments get enough attention. While not quite the same tone or point of view, they scratch the Better Off Ted itch that I’ve had since that show went off the air. The rhythms of those scenes (usually only 2-3 minutes per episode) are so different than the domestic ones that they almost seem to be in two different programs. But the contrast works like gangbusters, and both feel vital to what the show tries to express on a weekly basis.
Completely uncontroversial prediction alert: When all is said and done, The Americans will go down as the best pound-for-pound drama of this century.
Caught up on Search Party last weekend as part of a blizzard-induced bingewatch. Some on Twitter expressed surprise at my surprise at how everything wrapped up. I’ll say I suspected about 50 percent of what went down about halfway through, but the other half was that perfect marriage of “unpredictable yet inevitable.” Saying more would spoil for those that have yet to check it out (which I’d recommend, even if many characters are downright [intentionally] intolerable for long stretches). But I would say that while I’d never wish unemployment on anyone, I’d prefer there wasn’t a second season coming. That ending lingers much more if it had been a one-and-done series.
I watch just about every episode of This Old House that I can, and I still can’t hammer a nail without help. But I do love watching people do things at a level of skill that seems superhuman, which is why I also watch Chef’s Table. Making a grilled cheese is a challenge for me, but I still enjoy watching people deconstruct steak and eggs by cooking each ingredient in the dark three hundred miles from the restaurant under a yurt made out of a specific type of wood that only grows once a century on the top of a mountain that only sherpas can access if they were born while Mercury was in retrograde.
The most useless thing on any entertainment website is a post-mortem from a showrunner. I get that there are clear exceptions to this rule, and I myself have conducted plenty back in the day. But 95 percent of these are just thinly-disguised publicity opportunities, which would be ultimately harmless if they didn’t have the secondary effect of trying to control the narrative about a show’s meaning. Yes, it’s patently untrue to say, “Every robot in Westworld is actually a sentient dinosaur,” but there are many valid interpretations of an episode of that show (or many others) that a post-mortem could and would undercut. I loved that Michael Schur didn’t do any after the end of season one of The Good Place, as it enabled all interpretations of that finale to linger. Again: There is utility to be found in discussing TV shows with showrunners, but I tend to see much more varied and compelling discussions from both critics and commenters. Producing the content is their job. Discussing its meaning and merit is ours. (That said, I’m now coming around on that sentient dinosaur theory.)
I’ve watched every episode of The Voice, but the idea of Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani coo’ing and faux-fighting with each other is going to test that streak. (To be clear, when I say I “watch every episode,” I mean I “DVR each episode and fast-forward through all the boring parts,” so I can knock out a two-hour episode in about 35 minutes.)
I’m pitching my first show to HGTV this week: House Hunters Introverts. It’s about a couple that chooses between three homes to find the best one in which to experience the least interference from friends and neighbors. This should provide a new spin on tired conversation setpieces. ( “This is close to plenty of restaurants and bars. I just don’t think it’s for us.” “This dining room can only seat four? WE’LL TAKE IT!”) I think it’ll be a huge hit with everyone who stays home at night and tweets about House Hunters anyways. Which I totally do.
Ryan McGee currently covers SNL for Rolling Stone. He has previously written about television for Screencrush, The AV Club, and Hitfix, among others, and co-hosts a podcast with Maureen Ryan Follow him on Twitter.