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November 6, 2016

insecure

Quite simply one of the best weekly half-hours HBO has ever produced about life in Los Angeles.

luke cage

A Marvel superhero serial set in and against the backdrop of Harlem is a significant development, and a milestone that's overdue—but Luke Cage, the series and the character, labor so mightily under this responsibility that the plot often veers erratically between leaden, sermonizing dialogue and plodding action sequences. The result is awkwardness instead of alchemy. If the show wasn't so busy touting its own importance, maybe it could let its excellent cast loose in its awesome setting and everyone could have more fun.

westworld

It's weird, it's clever, it's fun to talk about with my friends, and the production values are astonishing.

June 7, 2016

unreal

The kind of pitch-black satire I didn't know Lifetime was even allowed to produce. Every episode is like getting a tumbler of ice-cold gin thrown in your face. A tonic.

May 7, 2015

daredevil

Unexpectedly ambitious, compact and visceral in a way that Marvel's flagship series, the boxy, shoulder-padded Agents of Shield, is not. And unlike the latter, Daredevil manages to connect with the larger Cinematic Universe in a way that doesn't feel like it's always pulling its punches.

December 25, 2014

mozart in the jungle

An ingratiating fable of coincidence bordering on magic realism, all urban dreamfeel and casual privilege, with New York acting as a sort of massive art-school campus for the musically gifted. The proceedings are anchored with just enough sincerity and biting humor to keep the entire enterprise from floating away.

June 14, 2014

orange is the new black

Unlike its more pedigreed Netflix cousin House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black is actually a hundred percent better its second season, more confident, more nuanced, although the sex scenes and flashbacks still have a bit of that cheapo-gimmicky Showtime vibe.

March 9, 2014

cosmos: a spacetime odyssey

So squarely pro-science and space-positive that it's difficult not to embrace its corny resoluteness and boyishly gee-whiz visuals.

February 17, 2014

house of cards

Whereas the first season of Cards ended with the ascendant Underwoods poised for various pleasurable comeuppances, the second season dispenses with those promising storylines so peremptorily that you almost get the feeling the showrunners have no idea what made the series' initial run so enjoyable.

October 31, 2013

the good wife

With its matronly title and CBS berth, it's little wonder this Ridley Scott production doesn't receive a lot of buzz. It is, however, the canniest, the shrewdest, the most inventive and frequently the most surprising series on network television.

November 7, 2012

nashville

It's a little bit Country Strong, and it's a little bit rock-and–Robert Altman's–rolling-in-his-grave.

January 22, 2012

pan am

They spun a whole cotton-candy show out of the sugary one-minute Pan Am-stewardess sequence from 2002's Catch Me If You Can. Enjoy the empty calories while they last.

May 9, 2011

the trip

In Michael Winterbottom's hands what could have been wanky and meta becomes sincere and naturalistic.

January 25, 2011

downton abbey

Love at first slight.

November 9, 2009

modern family

So far it's straddling the caustic/humane gulf without seeming schizoid. Being only half an hour long helps.

November 2, 2009

cougar town

I could easily picture myself stepping out for a pack of smokes and never watching this show again, which makes it this year's Samantha Who?

September 21, 2009

defying gravity

I guess I should just admit I've been watching this show. The "Grey's Anatomy in space" angle has been grating for the eight episodes aired in the US thus far—but wouldn't you know it, the ninth episode, which I had to finagle the Canadian broadcast of because the show's been pulled from ABC's schedule—that's the episode that finally revealed enough of a big idea to keep me interested … in a show that's probably been canceled. Eh, the production values really weren't half bad, considering.

April 5, 2009

no. 1 ladies' detective agency

The pilot was the late Anthony Minghella's final big-hearted valentine to the world. May the series live up to it.

June 30, 2008

secret diary of a call girl

It's debatable how long a serial with so few recurring characters exploring the romanticized mysteries of what is essentially a dead-end job can maintain its delicate night-bloom charms, but this Showtime import (happily London-based with nary a whiff of the network's usual Canada-for-wherever substitutions) is watchable thus far. And for all the typical premium-cable come-ons about pseudo-hardcore hanky-panky, at this point boringly numerous and inevitable, the actual onscreen couplings are handled with an almost novel absence of exploitation. The mystique of illicit, moodily lit, soft-focus sex, and the obligatorily arch, worldly observations designed to puncture it, tend to come with a built-in expiration date; but for now, in twenty-minute segments, they feel comparatively fresh and inviting.

March 24, 2008

miss guided

The "offbeat/quirky" tone is liable to wear out its welcome quickly, but for the time being the cast is charming and there are chuckles, if not outright laughs, to be had. Oh, but please: no more self-indulgent cameos from exec pro-doucher Ashton Kutcher.

July 19, 2007

mad men

It's good. It works.

June 23, 2007

big love

Not into it enough to catch up on the first season, but it's something to TiVo during the summer.

June 17, 2007

the next food network star

Because Top Chef is only on once a week.

April 29, 2007

notes from the underbelly

It grows on you.

February 10, 2007

adventure time

Pure joy. [via sixfoot6.com]

February 3, 2007

the sarah silverman program

Uneven but amusing.

January 3, 2007

dirt

Giving it a shot, even though the pilot was chintzy, inauthentic and unfocused.

September 26, 2006

studio 60

Why does every episode of this show feel like it's ninety minutes long? The fate of the free world doesn't rest on sketch comedy. The fate of network television doesn't rest on sketch comedy. Nevertheless, nice try. Welcome back, Matthew Perry. And welcome, period, Amanda Peet. Enjoy it while it lasts, whatever it is.

September 24, 2006

battlestar galactica

Numerous personal recommendations, an EW cover story and an iTunes binge have made me a convert. I'll Netflix the rest while awaiting Season 3.

August 12, 2006

eureka

I want to like this show.

July 22, 2006

nobody's watching

Me and you and everyone we know.

April 10, 2006

huff

Almost mind-alteringly not-shitty for a Showtime serial. In fact it's so not-shitty that HBO should probably trade Big Love for it just to restore the cosmic premium cable balance. (PS. Also surprisingly not-shitty for anything—live action—featuring Hank Azaria.)

March 27, 2006

top chef

Schadenfreudelicious.