Happy Friday! It’s the end of the work week and that means it’s time for The Best TV Shows on TV. Every week, we watch so much TV that the bartender tries to cut us off and then we pick our favorite shows and tell you about them. We’ve been doing it for longer than we can remember and sometimes the village elders speak whispers of the Time Before, but those are the words of madmen and nothing more.
This week we talked about the final episode of Mad Men, the season finale of Dancing with the Stars, Game of Thrones and The Bachelorette, but we’ve still got more to cover. Why do we do this to ourselves?
First off, how could our Stars of the Week be anybody other than the cast of Mad Men? We’ve talked about the finale at length already, but we have to give it up for the amazing cast one more time. They’ve delivered exemplary performances for seven seasons. Jon Hamm made us want to know more about the enigmatic Don Draper and then kept us riveted after we learned his secrets. Elisabeth Moss’ Peggy had one of the greatest character arcs in recent memory and she embodied every step. Christina Hendricks, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, John Slattery, Kiernan Shipka, Rich Sommer, Aaron Staton – we loved them all. And then there were relative newcomers like Kevin Rahm and Jay R. Ferguson as characters we never thought we’d care about until they won us over. Robert Morse, Bryan Batt, Michael Gladis and Jared Harris didn’t stick around until the end of the series, but they were great during their seasons and we missed them. And we could spend all day talking about the recurring players like Alison Brie and Mark Moses. Basically, this is one of the best casts ever assemble on TV and we wish them all the best and look forward to each of them being the best actor on the next show they do.
And now for the shows!
Bob’s Burgers – The season ended with two new episodes, which is almost more joy than our hearts can handle. In the first, the family helped reunite the estranged father-daughter stars of Bob and Louise’s favorite samurai series. It was amazing enough that a network show devoted so much screen time to an ersatz Lone Wolf and Cub, but this episode was sweet and absurd in equal measure. They couldn’t possibly take the easy way, so they organized a secret film festival and tricked both actors into attending. Also, they could only get a print of the movie that wasn’t dubbed or subtitled so the family had to record a dialogue track. (Complete with Tina and Linda jockeying over who got to be the mayor.) It turned into a really lovely scene between Bob and Louise where they opened up about their fears. It’s rare to see Louise be vulnerable, and this was such a wonderful father-daughter moment. As extreme as the Belchers can be, they’re a family and they love one another, and this episode expressed that perfectly.
And in the finale, Bob and the other local shopkeepers went to Fischoeder to complain about his rent hikes. His response was to give them all water balloons and pit them against one another, with the winner getting a 50% rent reduction. We got to see pretty much all the store owners who’ve popped up over the years (most of whom are voiced by great comedians), and they even had Zeke there because this show knows a good thing when it sees it. Bob tried to act as the voice of reason and keep everybody united, but things spiraled out of control. It ended with a rare victory for Bob and some amazing jokes along the way. Bob’s Burgers pretty well nailed it this season.
Community – You know what? The people complaining about Community doing another paintball episode can pipe down because it’s been four years since the last one. Last time they played paintball, Thor had never been in a movie. He’s been in four since then. Game of Thrones had just begun! And, you know, the paintball episodes are great.
This time, paintball was an underground activity, prohibited by the school (and specifically Frankie). But City College figured out a way to trash Greendale once again with a mysterious man wielding silver paint. Jeff tried to shut it down as a favor to Frankie, but the only way to end a game of paintball is to win. This time out, the paintball scenes were based on post-Bourne espionage movies. (Including a scene taken right from the elevator fight in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Surprising, Cap and Community directors the Russo Brothers didn’t step in for that scene.) There was some Daniel Craig Bond, some Statham, even a bit of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The cast clearly has such fun with these, and adding Keith David to the mix made it even better. (He’s actually in action movies!) It built to a climax that could have come from the Golden Age of The Simpsons with the Museum of Custodial Arts.
And it didn’t hurt at all that one key scene had the whole gang using codenames – they were all actors who’ve played Batman. (Annie was “West”, Elroy was “Kilmer”, and the Dean, amazingly, was “Voice of Diedrich Bader”. You can imagine how we loved that.) Plus, the episode brought back some of our favorites. Starburns returned for the first time since the NBC finale. Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz reprised his role as Koogler. Steve Agee appeared as a DJ who may or may not have been one of the developers of MeowMeowBeenz, and Kumail Nanjiani returned as Lapari the custodian. He had a key role this week, and he was as great as you’d expect. This one was a winner!
The Simpsons – The season finale was bittersweet, as it was Harry Shearer’s final appearance on the show. But we’ll worry about that later, because this episode gave us a couch gag that served as a mini-episode of Rick and Morty. Just bask in its brilliance.
Silicon Valley – In a standout episode, Pied Piper tried to livestream an event to show off their system. Erlich had a former mentee who ran the marketing arm of Homicide energy drink and they set up a contract to webcast a stunt where a can-shaped car jumped a building. Problem is, the guy actually hated Erlich and wanted him out of the negotiations. When Richard gave in, he tried to steamroll him and Richard bailed out. In the end, a Pied Piper competitor broadcast the stunt, which doesn’t bode well for our guys.
But the bit everybody’s talking about was Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s subplot. Dinesh had a crush on one of the Homicide employees, only to find out that she was dating Blaine, the stunt driver. To make matters worse, Blaine was a jerk to them, even when they tried to point out an error in his math that could get him killed. And so, taking Jared’s cue, they filled up a SWOT board on letting Blaine die. (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) Entertainment Weekly posted a full list of the cards that weren’t legible on TV, and they’re amazing. (Strengths: “Blaine’s last moment is realizing his face is gone.” Weaknesses: “Blaine’s blood has AIDS and gets on kids.”) The payoff was amazing, too. This is the must-watch of the season so far.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – The season finale ended on one heck of a cliffhanger. Wuntch transferred Holt out of the Nine-Nine and into Public Relations, and Gina went with him. And the thing is, he had evidence against her that would have ruined her career but he didn’t use it because she threatened to ruin his detectives’ lives on the way out. The new Captain showed up at the end, but he didn’t get to see who it was. (The role hasn’t been cast yet, but we understand Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss and some other fine people have room in their schedules.) We haven’t see the last of Holt and Gina, but it could be a while before they come back.
In the parts of the episode that didn’t make us sad, Jake and Amy had to pose as a couple for an undercover operation. This brought up a whole lot of issues and had them both rethinking where they stand. Last year it seemed like this was moving too fast, but the way they’ve been handling the relationship this year is really thoughtful and interesting. And in a nice subplot, Boyle tried (clumsily) to get Rosa to her surprise birthday party. She saw right through it and accused him of not really knowing her if he’d try to get her to a party. But it was all part of the plan! It was actually a private dinner with Marcus in an empty bar, exactly the kind of thing she’d enjoy. (Boyle’s suggestion.) Watching these two has been really enjoyable because Boyle went from having a crush on her to actually being a good friend. It usually goes from friends to romance on TV, and we like the angle they’re taking here. Boyle’s a good dude!
And now we’ll fret about Holt’s fate for the remainder of the summer.
Louie – A star-studded episode featured appearances from Matthew Broderick, Glenn Close, John Lithgow, and Michael Cera. They were all appearing in a play that Louie and Lilly went to see, which is an off-kilter way to bring in a bunch of big name guests. This was all for a short vignette about the difference in the way the two of them interact with culture – where most comedians would make it a joke and about a kid using her phone and missing what’s happening, this was about Lilly learning more about the context of the play as it happened and Louie not being able to get that. It’s great when the show lets Louie be wrong, which is an element a lot of imitators miss.
Most of the episode was about Louie hosting a slumber party for Jane’s friends, an event he kicked off by offering one girl sympathy on her parents’ impending divorce. It was the first she’d heard of it. From there it was what you’d expect from a house full of preteens. Then Pamela go in touch with him, seemingly for the first time since the break-up. It was sad and weird, with poor Louie still not completely clear on what happened. And somehow, it started to turn into a phone sex session which was interrupted by a bunch of girls pounding on the door and asking for ice cream. (And after the call, we learned that Pamela’s seeing somebody else and she was at his house.) After everybody finally went to sleep, he got a call from Bobby, who needed somebody to bail him out of jail. So Louie had to load a dozen kids into an Uber and take them to the police station. Bobby’s explanation to the girls as to why he was arrested was hilarious – this weird black-and-white tale of free goats and old-timey cops. It was not at all accurate, of course. There were a few real laugh-out-loud moments, a lot of nicely-observed character work, and sadness lurking around the edges.
Comedy Bang! Bang! – Michael Sheen from Masters of Sex visited this week, and he brought a dry erase board so he could explain sex to Scott and Reggie using technical terms like “peen”. Also, “and then nine months later the baby comes out of the lady’s butt and it is scary as hell”. Hee! Sheen hasn’t had much of a chance to do comedy of late, but he’s really good at it. (Remember him as Wesley Snipes on 30 Rock?) Also, Brendon Small (creator of Metalocalypse) appeared as entertainer Victor Diamond. He’s the singer with such paralyzing stage fright that he passes out when people see him sing. Victor was there to raise awareness of adult freckles and sing a lovely song in ghost form. (Brendon Small is seriously the best.) Meanwhile, Scott got all the accolades for rescuing Wonky Cat, the World’s Weirdest Cat even though Reggie did all the work. If this kind of treatment continues, we wouldn’t be surprised if Reggie just leaves! (Oh, wait…)
Late Show – David Letterman’s final show was sweet and funny, and other than the star-packed Top Ten list, it was mostly Dave talking to the audience and sharing some behind the scenes videos. His goodbyes were heartfelt and the final montage just drove home how much fun we’ve had over the years. We’ve already talked about Dave’s legacy, but we want to share some great moments from earlier in the week.
First, spunkyfave Tom Waits appeared to perform a song he wrote in Dave’s honor.
And then Norm Macdonald visited one last time for a stand-up set and if you can get through Norm’s salute to our host without crying, then you’re a monster.
David Letterman Tributes – All the other hosts offered various tributes to Dave as well, and let’s just say they’re all a lot more broken up over Dave retiring than anyone could even pretend to be when Leno hung it up (either the first or second time). Jimmy Fallon said some nice words (and a yearbook that showed his 6th grade teacher’s prediction that he’d one day host Late Night), but the most outstanding salutes came from Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien, both of whom owe their careers to Dave, albeit in separate ways. Kimmel, who got choked up several times while he talked, has photographic proof that he’s been a Letterman devotee since he was a teenager.
Conan, who aired a new episode Wednesday but implored his audience to change the channel at the moment Dave’s last show began, gave an equally heartfelt story about how Dave helped him by dropping by for an on-air visit when Conan was struggling early in his Late Night tenure. You could tell immediately that he was eternally grateful, and it was yet another touching moment in a week chock full of them.
As a cherry on top, Seth Meyers also did something pretty cool: the current host of the show Dave originated opted to re-create the original show open circa 1982.
Saturday Night Live – Louis C.K. hosted the 40th season finale. As usual, the episode was kind of a mixed bag. Unlike his previous hosting stints, they didn’t really have sketches tailored to him and instead it seemed like they just had some bits they wanted to get on the air before summer. Still, it was fun to watch and the opening monologue was spectacular. It raised some hackles, and understandably so, but it was very funny and well beyond the gentle pleasantries that so often characterize the SNL openings. It was a solid block of great stand-up from one of our favorites.
There was more, too. A sensational Childrens Hospital had Val planning an Ocean’s Eleven heist of Sy’s sperm bank. The Comedians really hit its stride this week and also postulated a world where Seth Morris and Brian Huskey have a sketch show. Veep was a hoot, with the vice-presidential nominee overshadowing Selina in every way while Dan and Amy struggled with private sector life. Next week, as you may have guessed from all the finales this time, is going to be a bit thin. But that just means we’ll catch up on our backlog. We’ll try out Wayward Pines and get caught up on Orphan Black. And if you have any summer viewing recommendations, let us know in the comments.