Happy Friday! It’s the end of the week, so that means it’s time to take a look back at the Best TV Shows on TV. Every week, we put aside matters like personal relationships and career advancement just so we can watch a full load of TV. Then we sort through the best television shows of the week and present them to you like a single perfect rose. When did we start doing this? We don’t even know anymore. Fashions were different, and men had longer hair.
This week’s list is comedy-heavy, and you’re going to see a lot of repeated names. Paul Scheer, Sarah Silverman, Seth Rogen, Nick Kroll, and Jayma Mays were all over our shows this week. Of course, Breaking Bad was also spectacular and we’ll have a recap of the last two episodes over the weekend. Trust us, it was great. We got to see Marie and Jesse in a scene together! And not only did Walt make his dumbest mistake in a long time (calling Todd is never a good plan), but he went full Hal with his hilariously incompetent lies. He’s either a master manipulator or the dumbest guy around, and sometimes both at once. More this weekend!
Jon Stewart returned to The Daily Show and Totally Biased expanded to every weeknight. We’ll talk about Luther next week – the first two episodes of Season Three aired as we write this, but it’ll be easier to discuss the whole thing next time. And on another note entirely, both American Ninja Warrior and Wipeout were a lot of fun this week. Jill and the Johns brought us a Blind Date edition of Wipeout, and it’s always great when people who’ve just met have to run an obstacle course together. And ANW continued to narrow down the field of competitors, sometimes heartbreakingly. The fact that it isn’t filmed very far ahead of time means that we could be really invested in a contestant who washes out early, and it was so sad this week when Sam Sann (who managed to advance despite running the course on a badly sprained ankle) just biffed an early obstacle this week and ended his run. We weren’t prepared for that! If there’s a video package and triumphant music, we assume he’s going to the finals!
Before we get to this week’s best shows, we want to mention author Elmore Leonard, who passed away last week. His books inspired shows like Justified, Karen Sisco, and Maximum Bob, along with movies like Out of Sight, 3:10 to Yuma, Get Shorty, and Mr. Majestyk. He was a great crime writer, and he gave us so many hours of entertainment. (EJ has 40 of Leonard’s books on his shelves right now.) Our sympathies go out to his family, and we’re grateful for the body of work he left behind. Check out Pagan Babies or Tishomingo Blues if you want to see Leonard at his best, transcending his chosen genre.
Childrens Hospital / NTSF:SD:SUV:: – On a recent episode of the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast, Childrens Hospital creator Rob Corddry said that Erinn Hayes would only be appearing in four episodes this season. (Apparently they shot the whole season over the holidays and some people wanted to spend Christmas with their families, not even considering what that would do to us.) Luckily, the show is getting the most out of her appearances – this episode is entirely devoted to Lola training as an impressionist for a secret military mission. Obviously, we’re totally on board already, but this week’s episode also brought back Jordan Peele as Dr. Brian. The training scenes that had Lola learning combat maneuvers in between impressions of Andrew “Dice” Clay and “Joan Rivers as Lincoln” were fantastic, and her actual mission was just several minutes of Hayes being hilarious all by herself. (Suggested DVD extra: The entire “Julia Child and Christopher Walken do ‘Who’s on First?’” routine.) This one was great, with an especially weird ending. And we’re renewing our annual campaign to get Erinn Hayes an Emmy nomination in the Supporting Actress category. Come on, Emmys! If you’re going to keep ignoring Nick Offerman and Katey Sagal, at least give us this one.
Over on NTSF, well, as the intro put it “The following episode of NTSF:SD:SUV:: is actually an episode of Time Angels.” Yep, the Time Angels returned, and other than a framing sequence with Trent telling Person Sam their story, none of the NTSF cast was present. The guardians of the time stream went to 1869 to save the Transcontinental Railroad. It was a whole new cast of Angels this time, with none of the actresses from last season returning. This time the Angels were Eliza Dushku, Jayma Mays, and Santigold. They did a great job – we loved Santigold reminding us that she’s the smart one and Mays going undercover as a Chinese newspaper reporter. (She’s really funny! Do the people who make Glee know that?) Even without our favorite characters, we were really into this one and would totally watch a Time Angels spinoff. And bonus points for featuring Veep’s Matt Walsh as President Ulysses S. Grant.
Comedy Central Roast of James Franco – Real talk. It’s not possible for a roast in the post-Greg Giraldo era to be as good as one that featured him. That said, the roast of the star of Spider-Man 3 (and other movies probably) was pretty darn good. It had a strong lineup including Roastmaster Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, Jonah Hill, Aziz Ansari, Nick Kroll and other funny folks. There were a lot of nice moments like Jonah immediately taking back every mean thing he said, Bill Hader as the President of Hollywood (“Seth Rogen. I put you on a movie poster and said ‘deal with it’.”), Nick Kroll’s “If Franco opens his eyes all the way, it means six more weeks of summer”, and Andy Samberg’s hilarious anti-roast material. (“Aziz’s parents are from India, and he’s from South Carolina. Hey, Aziz! What’s it like to have unique perspective on what it means to be American, you bag of sh*t? Roasting so hard right now.”)
The roasters did a great job, but Franco’s grandmother kind of stole the show. The adorable 91-year-old woman was there in the audience, listening to all the filth and she seemed pretty amused. She even shook her cane at the roasters, which was legitimately funny. There were no real flops (remember when The Situation roasted Donald Trump and it was the worst thing ever to happen on TV?), and lots of strong jokes – it’s running a few times over the next week, and it’s definitely worth checking out.
And since it doesn’t really fit anywhere else, we just wanted to note that Sarah Silverman’s dog, Duck, passed away this week. If you watched The Sarah Silverman Show, you saw the little guy playing himself on every episode. Sarah wrote a really lovely eulogy that will have you in tears if you’ve ever loved a pet.
Futurama – We’re a little emotionally raw from the series finale. Futurama ended with an episode that was weird and sappy and funny. If it’s really over, it went out on the right note. Fry decided to propose to Leela (“This is so sudden. After 13 years.”), while at the same time, the Professor invented a time button that rewound the entire universe (except for anybody near the button or hiding in his anti-chronotron time shelter) ten seconds. It took the button ten seconds to recharge, so it was impossible to ever go back more than ten seconds. (Of course it’s complicated! This is Futurama we’re talking about.)
Fry stole the time button and used it to steal a diamond ring (from a superhero who made it out of coal) and save Leela from losing her hand to a giant clam, but when it looked like she turned him down (He was confused because his watch was off after all the time resets), he jumped off the Vampire State Building. Just before he hit the ground, he realized his mistake and saw Leela, on her way to accept his proposal. So he hit the time button, only to find that he’d been falling for more than ten seconds. Fry was trapped in a loop – he could only keep himself by rewinding time so that he stayed constantly falling. Eventually, the Professor realized the universe was stuck, and he and the crew sought refuge in his shelter. But once there, he explained that that they couldn’t leave because another press of the time button would tear them to shreds. They had to walk the shelter, Flintstones-style, to the VSB and try to put a stop to the chronal antics. Unfortunately, Fry had been falling for so long that he fell asleep and splatted into the ground. It was gross, folks.
Leela resumed pressing the button, which trapped Fry in a loop of falling to his death. We watched the lead character to die a bloody death almost a dozen times. And then the Professor left the shelter and disappeared in the time stream. (One day we’re going to put together a list of all the times when the Futurama characters died. Fry has to be up over twenty by now.) They finally worked out a way to save Fry, but the button was destroyed and everybody in the universe except for Fry and Leela froze in time. And so, they lived out their lives between seconds.
The frozen universe was surprisingly creepy, and the way they moved around the motionless people and animals was sometimes funny (making a bed of panda bears) and sometimes creepy (the cracking noise Scruffy made), but it turned into this really sweet idea with Leela and Fry growing old together in a world where nobody else existed. In the end, Professor Farnsworth (trapped at a right angle to our timestream) located them and fixed the button. And by rewinding time to the moment before he built the button, he could cancel out everything that happened since, only nobody would remember. Fry and Leela chose to follow him to the past, erasing the life they’d shared together but embracing the chance to go around again. Yeah, we teared up a little. (And if you remember the previous possible series finale, “Overclocked”, the two of them got a look into their future and knew that they’d end up happy. So even though they’ll forget the decades they spent together, they still have a happy ending waiting for them. You’ll have to give us a moment. And maybe rewind it ten seconds to give us another moment. We’ve just got something in our eyes.
Comedy Bang! Bang! – Sarah Silverman was Scott’s guest this week, and she was great. She interviewed Scott, and at one point when he got too flustered to interview her, Reggie fed him lines through an earpiece. But when Reggie ran out of things to say, the sound guy fed him lines. And when that fell flat, Sarah gave the sound guy lines. We also loved her interactions with the other guest, Joe LoTruglio as the world’s fastest talker. (He spoke at a normal speed but insisted that it was incredibly fast.)
This week’s episode also included a fun, Pee Wee Herman-inspired bit about sentient ladders. We may or may not have shed a little tear for Big Ladder at the end, and Workaholics’ Adam Devine really helped sell this aggressively strange bit. We learned how Scott gets made up for the show (the process involves covering his head in prosthetics and sawing his legs off at the shins), and Scott and Reggie talked tort reform. It’s very difficult to describe any episode of the show without sounding like we’ve lost our minds, but it’s really great.
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart–Stewbeef is back! The erstwhile host and documentary filmmaker came back from the Middle East completely transformed, and not necessarily in the best way. With a defibrilator and two Big Macs, Jon and Jessica were able to shock him out of his reverie and through an amazing array of facial hair configurations to get him going, but stalled when Jess cracked him over the head with a Heineken bottle and created a tiny Jewish Hitler. Yikes. They called in “The Fixer”, and, well, you should just watch it…
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – The new FXX network launched this week. Theoretically, it’s where FX is moving their comedies while the original station focuses on drama. Except that not all of the FX comedies made the move, so who know what’s going on? Still, FXX kicked off on Labor Day with a 17-hour Parks and Recreation marathon and we can agree that’s a solid choice. FX’s longest running original series, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, made the switch and started a new season this week.
The premiere focused on Dee, who started the episode in a deep depression. The guys attempted to cheer her up by getting her stage time at a comedy club (Dennis wasn’t on board with the plan – he thought it would be better to find Dee a boyfriend. But not a really good one. Just a slightly below average guy.) After all her failed attempts at stand-up (usually ruined when she would start gagging on stage), it turned out the secret was just not caring anymore – the audience loved her. She went on to open for Landslide (a diarrhea-themed comedian), and before long, Landslide was opening for her. And then Taub from House booked her on Conan O’Brien’s show. The ending didn’t quite work – it was better than “Dee was briefly famous and now we’ll never mention it again”, but it assumes a degree of forethought from Mac and Charlie that seems well beyond their capabilities. Still, it was a really funny episode and Kaitlin Olson was amazing. (Her panic montage on the plane? THE BEST!) We’re so glad the gang is back! (Also, Glenn Howerton as Dennis really sold that final scene. And all of his scenes.)
The League – Another FX favorite found a new home this week as we began another season of fantasy football and personal abuse. As the episode picked up, Andre and Trixie (Jayma Mays – appearing on her second Paul Scheer show this week!) were preparing for their wedding in Los Angeles, while Ruxin quit the League rather than fulfill his Sacko punishments. Instead, he joined Raffi’s “Domination League”. That was not a name for a fantasy league, it turned out. Actual domination was involved. Anyway, the guys (and Jenny) ended up going to LA for the wedding and also the fantasy draft. Ted, the “out of town idiot” who won last season was holding the draft there. Ted, by the way, was played by Adam Brody from The O.C. Seth Cohen forever! Also, Ted revealed that he had AIDS. (“Full-blownsies”.) Presumably this was the first of two parts, since it ended pretty abruptly. Ruxin was being hunted by the Domination League (including Seth Rogen as Dirty Randy and Rob Huebel as sex addict Russell), Kevin was taking the AIDS cocktail, and that wedding was still looming.
It’s so good to have this show back – Andre’s hilariously douchey wedding invitations and Bachelor tribute, Raffi’s general filthiness (“It’s like wiping peanut butter out of a shag carpet.”), Taco’s fundamental misunderstanding of bachelorette parties, Ruxin’s absolute refusal to play along; it’s like a reunion with old friends who sort of hate us. This is one of our favorite comedies, and we’re geeked for the new season. Also, props to Andre for his Guardians of the Galaxy reference. When that movie comes out, you’ll all be impressed by how ahead of the curve he was.
By the way, what’s up with the Season 4 DVDs of The League bearing a sticker that says the new season starts in October? New network, new night, misleading promotional material. It’s like they’re daring us to find it.
That’s it for this week! We’ll get caught up on all our crime shows over the weekend and report back. And next week, well, a little show called Sons of Anarchy is coming back. And if you’re in the mood for something really weird, The Heart, She Holler returns to Adult Swim. It’s a paranormal southern gothic soap opera starring Patton Oswalt, and it’s the strangest thing you’ll ever see. Check back with us over the weekend for some Breaking Bad talk, and check out spunkybean contributor Lenny’s Kickstarter. There’s still time to give her money to make a pilot! We’ll see you back here for more TV talk, and they may be a quiz later on.