NEW SHOWS & SPECIALS Saturday Night Live – “Bill Burr/Jack White” (B+) The best episode the show’s had in 2020, if not a little before. Its cold open went on far too long with a parody of The Fly that doesn’t work. But Burr being antagonistic in his monologue and some truly dark jokes during Weekend Update made this show feel bold in a way it hasn’t in a very long time.
A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote (B+) A charming reunion and a strong reminder that if your vote wasn’t worth anything, people wouldn’t be trying so hard to take it away from you.
CURRENT SHOWS & SPECIALS Beth Stelling: Girl Daddy (B+) A funny, freewheeling hour that interweaves vital #MeToo points and a surprising number of bestiality jokes.
BINGEING Ted Lasso – Season 1 (A- average) Everything you heard about this show is true. It’s a warm and worthy successor to Schitt’s Creek, with an added underdog sports plot. Jason Sudeikis is stupendous, as is the ensemble cast.
NEW SHOWS The Boys – “What I Know” (A) / season finale A jam-packed finale that could serve as a fitting series closer. Its emotional beats are earned and its “girl power” moment is a million times more effective (and violent) than the one in Avengers: Endgame. Thankfully, there will be more pitch-black satire to come, just as soon as this pandemic calms down.
CURRENT SHOWS South Park – “Pandemic Special” (A-) I shouldn’t have been surprised that the only scripted show on TV with this quick a turnaround would have been able to come up with something this savvy – hitting everything from economic downturn to Trump’s inaction to police shootings – but I wasn’t expecting it to be moving. But Stan’s storyline about being extremely anxious that we’ll never know when and if we’ll go back to normal hit very close to home.
BINGEING Luther – Season 2 (B+ average) Realism goes far out the window, but Elba helps keep it grounded. It’s captivating, but nowhere near as resonant as the first season.
Defending Jacob – Season 1 (B average) By turns predictable and preposterous, the acting is consistently good but the writing is often weak, relying on twists instead of true character development. But its finale still packs a wallop.
NEW SHOWS The Boys – “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” (B+) Felt a bit too on-the-nose, but it’s not the show’s fault the real world is run by white supremacists trying to start a race war.
CURRENT SHOWS The Boys – “The Bloody Doors Off” (A-) One of the show’s darkest and most violent hours yet, with half of the Boys trapped in a hospital for mentally ill patients injected with Compound V. The casting of Shawn Ashmore as an ex-Supe who kills the patients whose bodies reject the superpowers is inspired.
REWATCH The Simpsons – Season 6 (A average) Perhaps the show’s second-best season (after Season 4), with a particularly inspired stretch in the back half. And that finale, in which Mr. Burns’ behavior “crossed the line between everyday villainy and cartoonish supervillainy” doesn’t feel so cartoonish anymore.
FILMS Top Picks A Knight’s Tale – Prime 10/1 The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Netflix 10/16 Bad Hair – Hulu 10/23 First up is one of the most rewatchable movies of the 21st Century, a rousing period comedy about jousting. Sure, Heath Ledger gave heartbreaking and masterful performances, but he was also an extremely charming romantic lead, at least for a brief moment in time.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 gives Aaron Sorkin a chance to indulge in his best and worst impulses in his dramatization of the legal case against protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. There will surely be some grandstanding and speechifying, but my god, that cast!
Finally, Bad Hair will provide some scares for this Halloween, but with a healthy side of laughs. Hailing from Justin Simien (Dear White People), it got mixed reviews out of Sundance but looks far too wild to ignore.
Recent Selections A.M.I. – Netflix 10/1 Black ’47 – Netflix 10/1 I’m Leaving Now – Netflix 10/1 Judy & Punch – Hulu 10/1 Kindred Spirits – Prime 10/1 La Sucursal – Prime 10/1 Next Level – Prime 10/1 The Outpost – Netflix 10/1 The Sandman – Hulu 10/1 Sk8 Dawg – Hulu 10/1 We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Netflix 10/1 Archive – Prime 10/8 Terminator: Dark Fate – Hulu and Prime 10/9 Infamous – Hulu 10/11 Savage Youth – Hulu 10/11 Scotch: A Golden Dream – Hulu 10/11 The Swing of Things – Hulu 10/12 Alice Junior – Netflix 10/14 A Most Beautiful Thing – Prime 10/14 Halal Love Story – Prime 10/15 Life After Basketball – Hulu 10/15 Playing with Fire – Hulu and Prime 10/15 The Painted Bird – Hulu 10/16 Cyrano, My Love – Prime 10/21 The Hummingbird Project – Netflix 10/22 Yes, God, Yes – Netflix 10/22 Bad Therapy – Hulu 10/29 Soorarai Pottru – Prime 10/29
Originals All Because of You – Netflix 10/1 The Binding – Netflix 10/2 Dick Johnson Is Dead – Netflix 10/2 Oloture – Netflix 10/2 Serious Men – Netflix 10/2 Vampires vs. the Bronx – Netflix 10/2 You’ve Got This – Netflix 10/2 Black Box – Prime 10/6 The Lie – Prime 10/6 Books of Blood – Hulu 10/7 Hubie Halloween – Netflix 10/7 Ginny Weds Sunny – Netflix 10/9 The Forty-Year-Old Version – Netflix 10/9 Evil Eye – Prime 10/13 Nocturne – Prime 10/13 BLACKPINK: Light up the Sky – Netflix 10/14 A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting – Netflix 10/15 Love Like the Falling Rain – Netflix 10/15 Time – Prime 10/16 Rebecca – Netflix 10/21 Cadaver – Netflix 10/22 Guillermo Vilas: Settling the Score – Netflix 10/27 Holidate – Netflix 10/28 Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight – Netflix 10/28 Bronx – Netflix 10/30 His House – Netflix 10/30 The Day of the Lord – Netflix 10/30
LIMITED SERIES Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu) Mrs. America (Hulu) Unbelievable (Netflix) Unorthodox (Netflix) Watchmen (HBO)
Should and will win: Watchmen Could win: Mrs. America Should have been nominated: Briarpatch (USA)
The skinny: It’s not quite Watchmen all the way down. (We’ll get to that in a moment.) But 2019’s best show is going to have awards rain down like baby squid.
It’s too bad that even though these categories have fewer nominees than the comedy or drama fields that Briarpatch couldn’t pick up a single nomination.
ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR TV MOVIE Jeremy Irons, Watchmen Hugh Jackman, Bad Education Paul Mescal, Normal People Jeremy Pope, Hollywood Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much Is True
Should and will win: Hugh Jackman Could win: Mark Ruffalo Should have been nominated: Nick Offerman, Devs
The skinny: While I had long that Ruffalo would walk away with this for his dual role, it now seems like Jackman is going to win, and deservedly so. It’s his best on-screen performance.
ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR TV MOVIE Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America Shira Haas, Unorthodox Regina King, Watchmen Octavia Spencer, Self Made Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere
Should and will win: Regina King Could win: Cate Blanchett Should have been nominated: Rosario Dawson, Briarpatch
The skinny: It wouldn’t be the most shocking thing if Blanchett won for her humanizing portrayal of Phyllis Schlafly, but if anyone other than King wins, there will be gasps across America. She’s the best part of the best show.
COMEDY SERIES Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO) Dead to Me (Netflix) The Good Place (NBC) Insecure (HBO) The Kominsky Method (Netflix) The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Prime) Schitt’s Creek (Pop) What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
Should and will win: Schitt’s Creek Could win: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Should have been nominated: The Great (Hulu)
The skinny: It’s been a long time coming. While it’s sad The Good Place never got its due, Schitt’s Creek was the warmest, most open show on TV for six seasons. It will be a night of worthy sweeps.
While I was glad to see What We Do in the Shadows get some love, it’s sad The Great didn’t get the same attention.
COMEDY ACTOR Anthony Anderson, black-ish Don Cheadle, Black Monday Ted Danson, The Good Place Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek Ramy Youssef, Ramy
Should win: Ted Danson Could win: Ramy Youssef Will win: Eugene Levy Should have been nominated: Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
The skinny: While I still think Danson should have won for giving the evil Michael a soul (metaphorically and literally), Levy is almost certain to win. As the straight man in the ensemble, he doesn’t have as many chances for memorable catchphrases and moments, but he’s been one of the funniest people on earth for decades. It’s time.
COMEDY ACTRESS Christina Applegate, Dead to Me Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Linda Cardellini, Dead to Me Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek Issa Rae, Insecure Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish
Should and will win: Catherine O’Hara Could win: Rachel Brosnahan Should have been nominated: Elle Fanning, The Great
The skinny: It seemed like she was close last year. This year, nothing is standing in the way of the great Moira Rose.
DRAMA SERIES Better Call Saul (AMC) The Crown (Netflix) The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) Killing Eve (BBC America) The Mandalorian (Disney+) Ozark (Netflix) Stranger Things (Netflix) Succession (HBO)
Should win: Better Call Saul Could win: Ozark Will win: Succession Should have been nominated: Mindhunter (Netflix)
The skinny: Even though it’s been nearly a year since Succession has last aired a new episode, it feels like it has all the momentum. Chalk that up to a lackluster season from The Handmaid’s Tale and Game of Thrones ending, but it’s clearly the frontrunner. Ozark has also been steadily building its case over the past two ceremonies, and its eligible season will be fresher in voters’ minds.
But for all their strengths, they pale in comparison to Better Call Saul, which just wrapped its best season to date. A thrilling, daring expansion of its themes of interior rot.
DRAMA ACTOR Jason Bateman, Ozark Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us Steve Carell, The Morning Show Brian Cox, Succession Billy Porter, Pose Jeremy Strong, Succession
Should win: Brian Cox Could win: Billy Porter Will win: Jeremy Strong Should have been nominated: Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
The skinny: While Porter could no doubt win again (and use his acceptance speech to call out the Academy for ignoring his trans co-stars), it seems it’s down to the father-son duo of Succession. Cox is a long-respected actor of stage and screen, but he hasn’t won a major award since an Emmy 20 years ago. I’m giving the slight edge to Strong, who’s been an exceptional That Guy until this show came along.
But I’m still not sure how they could forget Bob Odenkirk, who somehow got even better in his 10th year playing this part.
DRAMA ACTRESS Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show Olivia Colman, The Crown Jodie Comer, Killing Eve Laura Linney, Ozark Sandra Oh, Killing Eve Zendaya, Euphoria
Should win: Sandra Oh Could win: Jennifer Aniston Will win: Laura Linney Should have been nominated: Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
The skinny: This one’s gonna be a nail-biter. With Moss shockingly snubbed (whatever you think about this season of Handmaid’s Tale, Moss is still acting her ass off), it’s down to Linney and Aniston. The former, who already has four Emmys, is now clearly the lead of the show, getting even more deeply involved with the family’s illegal dealings. But the latter is still beloved, at least judging by her SAG win for a show that’s otherwise received mixed reviews. She won what seems like a lifetime ago for Friends, but seeing as that show’s remained in the public consciousness all this time, that can only help her. Still, I’m sticking to my guns, but I may regret that come Monday.
NEW SHOWS The Boys – “Over the Hill with the Swords of a Thousand Men” (A) A deeply fucked-up hour-plus, as some characters get a brief moment of tenderness before having the rug pulled out from under them again. Few, if any, comic book adaptations have this level of character depth.
CURRENT SHOWS The Boys “The Big Ride” (B+) / season premiere “Proper Preparation and Planning” (A-) “Nothing Like It in the World” (A) The first two episodes feel like table-setting, but by the third episode, it’s even more gleefully depraved and cynical than its darkly satirical first season. I think this show is going to take the leap.