TV Reviews

Television Roundup 3/26 – 4/2

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This article originally appeared on Crossfader.

Happy to report that we have finally entered Darkest Timeline in Crossfader TV: the latest prestige HBO release was underwhelming but the two new shows on ABC were pretty good! Enjoy this new reality and our thoughts for the week below.

television roundup Alex, Inc.

ALEX, INC. (ABC)

If this show were a food, it would definitely be a cinnamon roll: a simple treat, something fun for the family, and unraveling with sweetness. It follows Alex Schuman, a family man who recently quit his job to start up a business in meaningful storytelling via podcasts, something he really loves. Through this venture, he faces the difficulties that any entrepreneur would, teaching him lessons of money and of life in general. Like I said, a cinnamon roll; but, some people don’t like cinnamon . . . or sweets in general, for that matter. So, if you’re a complexity-driven television viewer, this is not the show for you. The story is cliche and the acting forced (it’s really not good) but that is typical of a pilot. The show is essentially one of those everything-comes-together-and-works-out-in-the-end, insert-“The Climb”-by-Miley-Cyrus-type tales. Though, to its credit, the message is one of risk-taking and creativity that I believe is important: you can have your dreams if you work really hard for them. A more realistic version of the optimism most parents of the early 2000s offered their kids. With all the stuff going on in the world right now, this is a good show for simple thinking and family time—put it on while baking some cinnamon rolls of your own and call it a night!  [Jade Michaels]

Verdict: Hit 

ALEX, INC. airs on Wednesdays on ABC

television roundup Barry

BARRY (HBO)

We all feel crushed by our daily grind sometimes, and everyone knows that creative outlets can greatly relieve the stresses of late capitalism. BARRY wants us to know that these feelings extend to contract killers, that even the adrenaline high of cold-blooded murder loses its edge after a while. So when Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) accidentally winds up onstage in an acting class while tracking a target, the intimacy of live performance gives him his mojo back. Conceptually, BARRY should work well enough to stand up to HBO’s other backburner comedies like VICE PRINCIPALS and HIGH MAINTENANCE. But while those shows deliver consistent laughs with bits of loose narrative substance, BARRY adds a lot dramatic flavoring that ends up spoiling the dish. The jokes don’t always land, and there’s not a great many of them in what’s ostensibly a comedy pilot. Hader does surprisingly well with such a cold, silent character, but the writers don’t give him much to work with. In fact, it seems like his hitman boss, Fuches (Stephen Root), and acting teacher Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) have first dibs on the zingers. And again, two great performances, but unsupported by the writing. The clean acting alone bumps this out of Sh** territory for me, but being let down by a hyped series always leaves a little extra sting. [Dan Blomquist]

Verdict: Sh** Probation

Barry airs on Sundays on HBO

television roundup Roseanne

ROSEANNE (ABC)

I never watched the original ROSEANNE, so I approached this reboot with a sense of wonder as to what made the original so great and impactful. What I found instead was lumps of nostalgia thrown in with a whole lot of political talk, and a whole lot of confusion as to why it was already renewed for a second season. While the original show was progressive for its time, highlighting working class struggles and an LGBTQ community which was not often seen on TV, this show almost seems to take a step back. We find Roseanne as a grumpy, Trump-supporting grandma, still as resentful as ever, alongside her husband (John Goodman) and opposite her pussy hat-wearing liberal sister (Laurie Metcalf). The creators of the show have gone on record as saying that the right will like the first episode and the left will like the rest, and that the title character will serve as a “lovable bigot” just like Archie Bunker in ALL IN THE FAMILY. Here’s the thing: most people in America hated Archie Bunker, but they obviously love Roseanne Barr. Thus, her bigoted messages can be amplified everywhere, and are almost justified by the fact that Chicago was the only blue city in the Top 10 in ratings for the premiere (and that’s where the show takes place). On a side note, the acting in the show is phoned in almost all the way around (save for Metcalf and maybe Goodman). If only for that, I can’t recommend this to you—even if you did love the original. [Derek Daniels]

VERDICT: Sh**

ROSEANNE airs on Tuesdays on ABC

television roundup Splitting Up Together

SPLITTING UP TOGETHER (ABC)

Jenna Fischer’s return to the half-hour comedy spotlight features her falling out of love rather than in it—or so you might think. SPLITTING UP TOGETHER follows a newly divorced couple as they attempt to make co-parenting more efficient by still living together, and find that driving themselves apart might actually bring them closer together. It’s the newest addition to ABC’s line of family comedies, this time bringing in the perspective of divorced parents that are still sharing custody. Fischer’s Lena plays alongside Oliver Hudson’s Martin as they mutually bicker to the point of no tomorrow. Of course, the comedy primarily lies in both Lena and Martin’s return to singledom, and the circumstances that arise due to the close proximity, but what SPLITTING UP TOGETHER excels in most is depicting a couple that still has a lot of love for each other. It is unique to show a broken couple that has the strength to want to give each other what they deserve, even if it isn’t themselves. One would expect from the trailer that a divorced couple living under the same roof would use a couple that seemingly want to kill each other, but what makes Lena and Martin’s relationship so unique is the, for lack of better words, “togetherness” of their divorce. In the pilot as Lena strives to figure out how to balance everything on her own, Martin actually looks into himself and learns more about why his marriage failed. There’s a hint there that maybe the couple’s marriage may still be salvageable, or maybe it’s just an example of the mutual love and respect the couple still has for each other at the end of the day, breaking the stereotypical toxic relationship between divorcees. That particular journey is what makes this show so promising. [Michelle Vera]

Verdict: Hit

SPLITTING UP TOGETHER airs on Tuesdays on ABC

television roundup The Terror

THE TERROR (AMC)

A tale of a mysterious disappearance is much creepier when you know it really happened. AMC’s new show, THE TERROR, is based on the 2007 novel of the same name, which is also based on the real lost Arctic expedition of Captain Sir John Franklin in 1845. The mystery surrounding the real expedition paired with the supernatural elements put forth by the novel make for a seriously spooky premise. While searching for the Northwest Passage, the crews of the HMS Erebus and the aptly named HMS Terror end up stuck and stranded in the frigid ice of the Victoria Strait, all alone and with no hope of rescue. The gripping first episode does well in setting up the circumstances of the failed voyage. You instantly feel the isolation, fear, and uncertainty of the men aboard these ships. A couple of the men experience inexplicable hallucinations that leave you anticipating more layers to the eerie story. The drama burns slowly, relying on atmospheric horror rather than jump scares. It should also be mentioned that the cinematography and production design is impeccable. The gorgeous shots of the Arctic and the attention to detail aboard the ships puts you right in the middle of it all—just watching this show made me feel cold and a little seasick. Pair that with excellent performances from the entire cast, and there’s no doubt that THE TERROR will pull you in if you’re a fan of creepy historical fiction. [Nadia Hayford]

Verdict: Hit

THE TERROR airs on Mondays on ABC

television roundup Trust

TRUST (FX)

In terms of socially acceptable, TRUST me, this show is pushing it; however, that is what makes it so fascinating. It is completely horrid, but not just for the sake of expressing some meninist’s wet dreams—TRUST is inspired by the real-life Getty family and their infamous kidnapping. FX has hit a gold mine or, perhaps more appropriately, they have “struck oil” with this new series. It is the best pilot I have reviewed yet, thoughtfully written and well carried-out. The acting, particularly that of Donald Sutherland, who plays the overbearingly rich J. Paul Getty, is so authentic viewers may feel as though they’ve been transported to the real Getty house. This vision is aided by FX having spared no expense on elaborate production designs and artful camera movements which help encapsulate the world of the wealthy. The only caveat to this greatness of storytelling is the real-life characters themselves: I don’t care for them. There is no one to really root for or relate to in this show, an important factor in tense or dramatic stories. However, that does not mean it isn’t interesting: it is very entrancing, just not particularly personal or lesson-bearing. Regardless, I fully believe this show—heavily doused in drugs, sex, money, and art—is the pinnacle of escapism for viewers who have not, and likely will not, ever live such lavish lifestyles. And after watching an episode or two they may learn a lesson of why that isn’t necessarily so great after all. [Jade Michaels]

Verdict: Hit

TRUST airs on Sundays on FX

PRHYME 2 by PRhyme

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