Happy Friday! It’s the end of the work week and the semi-official beginning of the new season and we’re coming out of the gate with a whole mess of returning favorites and some new shows. Oh, and also this is The Best TV Shows on TV – our schedule has been so janky of late that we almost forgot how to set these up. But we’re back, baby!
Let’s get to it!
People of Earth – Holy smokes, these TBS shows and their season finales. And keep in mind, this alien abduction comedy killed off its lead weeks ago and so far there’s been no indication that Ozzie might come back. (His body appeared this week, though!) In a really well-constructed episode, the aliens mutinied against Eric the Cube even as Eric’s plot against StarCrossed came to a head. We’ve known for weeks that he tampered with Gerry’s mind, and now we learned that the plan was for Gerry to release poison gas in the middle of game night and kill them all.
Meanwhile, Alex met her sister, who turned out to be her twin. (Nasim Pedrad times two!) And it was twin Jasmine who knew the whole story – Alex was born on an alien ship while Jasmine was born after their mother was beamed back down.
The aliens locked up Eric and Walsh showed up just in time to save StarCrossed, though they’re still used to thinking of him as a bad guy and Alex took him into custody. They managed to snap Gerry out of his trance while Eric escaped, shrunk to a tiny size, and flew up Don’s nose to take control of his body. By the time Walsh convinced Alex he could be trusted and they returned, Eric beamed all of StarCrossed up on to his ship and exiled Kurt and Jeff to Earth. (Kurt managed to get hit by a car again, like, right way.) We don’t know what Eric has planned for the group but given that he was ready to kill them, he probably didn’t beam their up for a nice chat. It’s going to be a long wait for Season Three, but bless their hearts, TBS did renew it. So it’s a wait, but not an eternal wait.
The Opposition with Jordan Klepper – Comedy Central’s new companion to The Daily Show is, well, it’s not entirely clear. Former correspondent Klepper’s new show has been described as a parody of alt-right news sources but it’s not quite that. The idea seems to be more that it is to Alex Jones what The Colbert Report was to Bill O’Reilly, but it doesn’t quite come through. The problem is that what they’re apparently satirizing is already way over the top. Alex Jones talks about lizard people and voodoo rites and Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of a pizza place on the regular and that’s not even possible to satirize. It might be that it’s just meant to represent a take on all fringe media across the board, but that’s an awfully broad remit. And frankly, Klepper is too likeable to come off as a Jones-esque loon.
The thing is, it is funny. There’s some good joke writing in there and plenty of solid ideas. Klepper and his crew of correspondents come off really well and we’re especially geeked about Tim Baltz of Comedy Bang! Bang! and Bajillion Dollar Propertie$. That guy’s great. It’s early days obviously, but it’s still tough to make out just what the show is supposed to be and it feels like nobody involved has put their finger on it yet. It’s like Comedy Central wanted a Colbert character again but didn’t work out what that character would be. There’s a lot of talent involved and hopefully the show figures out its premise soon. We’ll stick with it and keep our fingers crossed.
Nathan for You: A Celebration – In anticipation of Nathan Fielder’s new season, Comedy Central aired this fun special with Nathan checking in with some of his most memorable guests over the years. Hosted by Anthony Napoli, a guest on the dating show episode from Season One and noted threesome-haver, it was as weird and awkward as you’d want it to be. For starters, Anthony seems to make Nathan extremely uncomfortable. Also, and we can not stress this enough, he did not deny the Holocaust during the show but he did not seem to know anything about it and wondered if it happened during Nathan’s lifetime.
Nathan revisited some favorite segments, which was great. He visited the Ghost Realtor and learned that the psychic from that episode had died but she had a new psychic who could communicate with him. She’s been trying to sell a paranormal real estate show ever since her episode aired. This has not been successful. He also helped the former teen vandal improve his job as a salesman by editing the naked tattoo on his arm and then he finally gave the underage drinker the beer he paid for three years ago, now that he’s legal. That was amazing. It was such a weird interaction that both of them tried to make bigger than it was.
Remember Brian Wolfe, that private eye who was mean to Nathan and then mentioned that he posed nude for Penthouse? Well, Nathan went back to see him complete with visual evidence of a burgeoning eighties porn career. First he denied it but then he gave a lot of details and eventually invited Nathan to toss a football around. That dude is never going to make any sense.
There was even a very nice segment where Nathan went to the Vancouver Holocaust Education Center, the recipient of all proceeds from the sales of his Summit Ice socially responsible ski wear. It wasn’t really played for laughs, other than Nathan presenting a tiny check (because a giant novelty check is showy). He met with nice people and gave them money and nice jackets and it was a sweet moment.
It was more than enough to get us pumped for the next season. Oh, who are we kidding? We’ve been pumped since the last season ended.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – The new season began with Jake and Rosa in prison after being framed last year. Terry and Holt visited Diaz – Terry made weird faces to not cry and Holt called her by her name a lot (too much!) to counter the dehumanizing effects of prison. At one point, he put his hand up to the glass to show that he had written “Rosa” on it. We’re 90% sure that as a “Not Penny’s Boat” homage. She kept giving them lists of increasingly difficult tasks, like typing and sending erotic emails to Pimento, cancelling cable, and breaking the news to her grandmother. Really she was trying to break them so they’d start acting like themselves again and giving her the bit of normality she needed.
Jake was in protective custody, sharing a cell with a cannibal. Caleb (Tim Meadows) would prefer to be known for his passion for woodworking, though. He made a deal with gang leader Romero (Lou Diamond Phillips) to bring in some “street flavors” of ramen in exchange for a phone. He made the deal (with Boyle’s help) but ran afoul of the warden (spunkyfave Toby Huss) and ended up in GenPop. (Just hearing people say “GenPop” is a total Oz flashback.) Jake tried to join Romero’s gang to keep himself safe, but Romero had one task for “Beef Baby” – kill a guard. He negotiated it down to getting him fired and then enacted the plan. He’d have the guard beat him up while Caleb filmed it on the phone. But Caleb’s been in jail for a while and doesn’t know how phone cameras work, so Jake had to take three beatings. (“He kicked me in the wiener a bunch.”) By that time, the Warden was onto him, so he set Jake up to inform on Romero. So our hero is a prison snitch now, which does not seem like something he’d be good at.
B99 rolled with the change in setting for the premiere, and while we want Jake and Rosa out of prison and back protecting the streets, this has a lot of potential for an opening arc. It was so good to see all our favorites again and Holt’s very serious face as he showed the “Rosa” written on his hand will have us laughing for a while. Welcome back, guys!
Me, Myself and I – Bobby Moynihan sort of stars in this new CBS sitcom, and it’s off to a decent start. The premise is that we’re seeing the same character at three different stages in his life, and Moynihan plays the present day version. Jack Dylan Grazer plays Alex as a teenager and John Larroquette plays him in the future at age sixty-five. Put aside that Moynihan and Larroquette aren’t especially believable as the same person, because that way lies madness.
We may be biased because we will always love the former Drunk Uncle, but it’s good. Splitting the show into three timelines means that everybody gets short shrift, which will probably be less of an issue as we go on, but as of the first episode we essentially have three main characters and we’ve only spent a few minutes with each. The structure means we’re going to have to take a little longer to get to know Alex and it’s almost painfully earnest at times, but it’s got some solid jokes, good performances and a big heart. We’re hoping to get to know Alex better as we go on. (Also, we’re thrilled to see Bajillion Dollar Propertie$’ Mandell Maughan as Young Alex’s mom. She’s great!)
Vice Principals – Hey, shoutout to this show for bringing in character actress Dale Dickey (forever known as Patty the Daytime Hooker) as Russell’s new vice principal, Nash. She unquestioningly takes orders from Gamby, and that’s immediately hilarious. Gamby continued his investigation, with Dayshawn’s description of the shooter leading him to Robin Shandrell, a former student expelled after Gamby planted pot in his locker. (He really was dealing, he just didn’t keep it there.) Gamby and Nash confronted him after an incompetent stakeout and the kid decked Nash. Later, Russell got in on in as they went to the Shandrell house and he created a diversion while Gamby snuck in (using bolt cutters on a screen!) and found… nothing. Except that Robin is taking care of his sick grandfather. It’s great whenever these guys are reminded of how little power they actually have, especially once they leave the school.
Speaking of, Russell thought it would be a good idea to try and spy on a staff meeting only to hear everybody making fun of him. First he tried to win them over with, well, leftover sushi. That didn’t work at all and also forced him to confront that being the principal isn’t the same thing as being the teachers’ boss. He finally took a bunch of teachers out to the woods to fire them, even if he may not have had the authority to do so. They’re both spiraling and haven’t accepted that they’re miserable bastards who will never accept the blame for their own problems. And also, it’s a pretty decent mystery – who shot Gamby? It seems like it has to be a character we know rather than the thousand nameless students who hate him. Is there any chance it’s Abbott? That seems like the funniest culprit, at least.
DuckTales – Let’s just take a second to talk about the voice cast on this Disney XD reboot. You have freaking David Tennant as Scrooge McDuck. Danny Pudi, Ben Schwartz, and Bobby Moynihan as Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Beck Bennett as Launchpad McQuack. Kate Micucci as Webby. Rad, right? And then in guest roles you have folks like spunkybuddy Marc Evan Jackson as Scrooge’s accountant, Jim Rash as Gyro Gearloose, Margo Martindale as Ma Beagle, Paul F. Tompkins as Gladstone Gander, and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Gizmoduck. That’s nuts, right?
And it’s really fun – the ducklings have individual personalities now, the art style is looser and more flexible than you usually see from Disney. Donald Duck is a supporting player (the original series exiled him to the Navy) and his bits are like the old Donald shorts, full of physical comedy and rage. The show bounces between globetrotting adventures and the kids just hanging out at the mansion, ruining stuff and maybe resurrecting the dead. It’s really a blast, whether or not you have nostalgia for the original series.
And can we just tell you about the best and weirdest joke on the show. In “Daytrip of Doom!” (Yes, just like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, the episode titles end in exclamation points.), the kids get kicked off a bus in the bad part of town. And there’s a montage of unsavory looking characters, ending with a guy who is spraypainting the word “Flatulence” on a wall. It is amazing. On the list of best Disney characters, this guy is already tied with, like, Goofy.
This Is Us–Last season’s breakout hit is back after a six month hiatus and it didn’t miss a beat in both breaking our heart and making us smile. In present day, we pick up with Randall and Beth looking into adoption, Kevin working on a Ron Howard movie in L.A. while Sophie stays in New York, and Kate auditioning for a wedding band with Toby’s support–all on their 37th birthday. Beth is not nearly as excited about adopting as Randall; she feels like this entire year has been all about him and she’s tired of playing the dutiful wife. Toby is struggling with Kevin and Kate’s twinspeak and how he can’t really take his girl on a proper date what with her movie star brother paying for everything and being the one she confides in first when she bails on the audition when every girl is a twig.
Ultimately, Beth cracks in an adoption meeting, asking if they have any black boys left at firehouses to adopt, because that would “really scratch my husband’s itch.” She eventually takes Randall to a park she used to sit at with William (who we see with her in flashback) and suggests maybe they adopt an older boy that no one else will help. Kate screws up her courage and goes back to the audition, only to realize she’s not as good as she thinks she is when a backup singer kind of wipes the floor with her…her size has nothing to do with it.
In the past, we picked right up with Rebecca and Jack, who are “taking a breath”. We learn that Randall left the party the kids had been at during their monster fight and witnessed some of it firsthand. We see that Jack is devastated that Rebecca won’t talk to him yet. And then we see her go to Miguel’s to get him to come home, but he won’t go with her. He says he’s drunk, and has been for weeks. He’s embarrassed and he needs to solve this problem. But she insists that he’s her husband and they will fix it together and says it will be fine in a few months. The next scene is presumably about a few months later. And all we see is everyone crying: Rebecca driving home numbly with Jack’s personal effects and wearing his Steelers jersey; Kate is sobbing while holding a dog; Randall is being comforted by a girl we’ve never seen; Kevin, sporting a broken leg in a cast, is making out with Sophie and has not heard the news about his dad. The last shot is Rebecca pulling up to a burned out house (with a Pearson mailbox in front) and letting out a wail. All of these things are clues to Jack’s death, which we will see unfold across the season.
We’ll be back next week with a bunch more new and returning shows, some catching up with the stuff we didn’t get to this time, and more! And to wrap it up, here are some of our favorite quotes of the week.
“It’s not him. He’s dead, remember? Not that that matters much in this town anymore.” — Harvey Bullock, Gotham
ZSASZ: “Didn’t you used to be rich?”
TABITHA: “That was before your boss stole my club.”
ZSASZ: “Well, you murdered his mom and tried to kill him. So…. call it even?” — Gotham
“Birds are smart. They’re nature’s dolphins.” — Jordan Klepper, The Opposition
“Recently somebody tried to commit first degree murder against my body, and that killer is still at large.” — Neal Gamby, Vice Principals
DAYSHAWN: “This is like your boy from Smoke Signals. You ever seen Smoke Signals?”
GAMBY: “No, I’ve never seen that film. Can you use a better reference?” — Vice Principals
“…a business casual Louis C.K. with a sound effects board…” — John Oliver describing Jim Cramer, Last Week Tonight
ADAM: “Did you know a computer just defeated the world’s greatest chess champion?”
BARRY: “In chess?”
BARRY: “NO! Why wasn’t I told? (punches locker) Stupid Dan Rather.” — The Goldbergs
“I developed this dating technique. It’s like negging, but wicked sensitive.” — Edgar, You’re the Worst
“You need to be reminded that you’re more than just a number, Rosa. You are Rosa, Rosa.” — Captain Holt, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
JAKE: “I hoped you were another cop, convicted of crimes you didn’t commit.”
CALEB: “Nope. I did all my stuff and more. There’s tons they can’t even trace to me. The secret is eating the evidence.” — Brooklyn Nine-Nine
“You’re more the biker type. I’ve seen you use a toothpick in public.” — Holt to Terry, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
“What hurts the most is knowing that prisoners are treated this way every day in the penal system. Also he kicked me in the wiener a bunch.” — Jake Peralta, Brooklyn Nine-Nine