Happy Friday! It’s the end of the work week, and that means it’s once again time for the Best TV Shows on TV. Every week, we maroon ourselves on TV Island and we watch all the TV. And then we pick out our favorite shows and tell you about them. This is our great responsibility that we bear even though it was not accompanied by great power. Uncle Ben lied to us!
We’ve already talked about Legends of Tomorrow, Venture Bros., Downton Abbey, X-Files, Agent Carter, and American Idol. And if you were to rank those shows in order of how much blood appeared onscreen, we think you’d be surprised by how the listings shake out.
First off, we have to honor our Star of the Week and this time it’s the great Hal Lublin. Around these parts, Hal is best known for his voice work on Thrilling Adventure Hour (particularly as Philip Fathom and Moonshine Holler’s Gummy). He’s a excellent voice actor and a lovely man (check out his new podcast We Got This and tell us he’s not your favorite dude), and we lost our minds when he joined the cast of Venture Bros. this season. Hal’s done multiple characters already, but most prominent is Wide Wale, Dr. Venture’s new archenemy. Wale is a combination of the Kingpin, Jon Polito, and an actual whale, and Hal found the perfect voice for him. That is definitely what a whale mobster would sound like. It’s a hilarious performance – check out this week’s scene where Wale chastised Fallen Archer for shorting his kickback. It’s maybe the funniest exchange on TV this week and the voice acting is just fantastic. How much do we love Hal Lublin as Wide Wale? So much that we’re cool with somebody other than the Monarch arching Dr. Venture. Who thought that would ever happen?
And now for the shows!
Childrens Hospital – A great new episode had Sy finally getting tenure and then immediately turning the hospital’s resources to creating a consumer jetpack. Cat was really the only person who had any kind of problem with this, but it’s not like she could do anything about it. Guy’s got tenure. Cat finally had to create a jetpack on her own just so she could get back to medicine. Meanwhile, everybody forgot that Chief was dancing on a table during his party and they left her there. (For months.) She couldn’t get down and slowly turned into a survivalist, fashioning her walker into a spear to catch any nearby mice for sustenance. And if that wasn’t enough, after a minute of filling in for Blake, Owen inadvertently became the hottest hospital DJ in Brazil (which is where they are). While he was heartbroken at first, Blake made the most of the new free time and really bettered himself while Owen ended up exhausted and miserable from all his DJ work And in classic Childrens Hospital fashion, these three plots sort of came together in the end. (No, not all the way. What kind of show do you think you’re watching?) Here’s what’s great – all of those plots are ridiculous. There isn’t a main story with emotional content with goofy sideplots. Childrens Hospital just commits to doing something bizarre and hilarious all the way through. There are no stakes to anything in this episode – just funny people turning in funny performances and a perfectly-worded script. When a show’s in its seventh season, it’s easy to take it for granted, but Childrens remains as funny as ever.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – After a plumbing emergency, the cops from the ninety-eighth precinct had to share the nine-nine’s office space. It was mostly a disaster, but it meant Jake’s old partner Stevie Schillens (Damon Wayans Jr.) was back in his life, much to Boyle’s chagrin. Poor Charles didn’t fit in with the “Beatsie Boys”, and when Stevie insinuated himself into a case they’d been working, it was an emotional disaster for him. He was left out of all their in-jokes and just couldn’t get into all the alpha-male business. But his distrust of Stevie paid off when it turned out that Jake’s ex-partner had planted the drugs they recovered in the bust. And when Jake tried to arrest him, the hostilities between the two precincts boiled over and it turned into an all-out brawl.
We loved seeing the two precincts clashing as our pals at the nine-nine came off like the normal ones. Maybe not Scully and Hitchcock, but everybody else. Holt’s slow burn of resentment was great, and Gina taking control is always great to see. We also love the way that Gina is constantly trying to get Terry to take off his shirt. And it all ended with Jake, Boyle, and their prisoner busting out “Unbreak My Heart”.
Saturday Night Live – Larry David hosted the show this week, so you had to know there would be something Bernie Sanders-related. What nobody could have expected was that the presidential candidate would actually appear to share a scene with his doppleganger. Sanders even busted out a Curb Your Enthusiasm catchphrase! The highlight of the show was a Curb parody with Larry as Bernie, alienating potential voters with social awkwardness. (Also? If the real show ever comes back, let’s get Leslie Jones in there to yell at Larry.) We loved seeing the SNL cast as Curb characters – Cecily Strong nailed Susie and Leon might be Jay Pharoah’s best impression yet. Most of the night was pretty strong, and it’s always good when you can say that about SNL Lots of good stuff, including a Weekend Update bit about the Republican debate that aired earlier that night and a great fake ad for pizza rolls.
No, You Shut Up – OK, it’s possible you don’t get the deep cable HD-only Fusion network. But new episodes of NYSU go up a day or two after they air on both Hulu and YouTube and you definitely have the Internet. Point is, there’s no excuse not to check this out. What is it? Well, it’s a comedy news show where spunkyfave Paul F. Tompkins debates issues of the day with puppets from the Jim Henson Company. And it is exactly as amazing as it sounds. The new season just started, and that means PFT and company are covering the election. In fact, the premiere aired the day after the Iowa Caucus, and Paul proudly proclaimed NYSU the last show to call the winners because if you’re last, you’re probably right. (He still wasn’t willing to commit to the Democratic results. Maybe next week!)
It used to be strictly a panel show, and there was nothing wrong with that. But over the seasons, the show’s gotten a little more elaborate with guests (Colin Hanks this week!) and special segments (“Elections Be Like”). And at this point, some of the regular puppets are really well-defined characters. Like conservative Christian squirrel Star Shlessinger or “actor / model / hot dog” Hot Dog. It’s such a funny show with ridiculous ideas (Colin Hanks forced to use only emoji to express his opinions) right alongside some clever commentary. In a post-Jon Stewart world, this might be the best political comedy show on TV. And even though it’s a big premise, it’s still very much driven by PFT’s comedy style. If you’re a fan, it’s a must-see. If not, then it’s time you get on board and this is a great place to start.
Baskets – This week, Martha adopted a stray coyote that she thought was a dog. Even before she figured it out, the coyote attacked her several times but she refused to give him up because, to her mind, it was a sad dog that had been rejected by everybody and just needed some love. If she also abandoned it, it would probably go eat a baby and would be right to do so. At this point, Martha and Rebecca Bunch are fighting it out to be the most heartbreaking character on TV.
When Chip’s scooter couldn’t be fixed, he collected a $900 payout from the insurance company and then immediately tried to use that money to impress his wife Penelope. You know, the woman who married him for citizenship and then just straight up started living with another guy. She had a thirty-two inch TV, so he tried to but one that was thirty three. Instead he bought a 4K TV just to show off the demo disc. She and her boyfriend were impressed indeed. After helping Martha deal with her coyote problem (a rare case of Chip treating her like a friend), she talked him into breaking things off with Penelope. He tried, but Penelope convinced him to jump into the hotel pool fully clothed and then she left him there. It’s so bleak in its portrayal of these people who barely fit into any kind of society, but it’s so funny at the same time, seeing this weird subculture of two people who aren’t even sure what their deal is. (Neither of them are clear on whether Martha is Chip’s employee or his friend.) We’re telling you, it’s this year’s Louie..
The Grinder – We just discovered that Grinder co-creator Jarrad Paul played Adam Rafkin the screenwriter on Action. You know, the Jay Mohr show where a young Will Forte got one of his first writing credits. That blows our minds. Anyway, this was another strong episode, even without Timothy Olyphant stopping by. Luckily, they made up for his absence with guest stars Maya Rudolph and Jim Rash. We’d follow Dean Pelton anywhere! Dean’s (Sanderson, not Pelton) flair for the dramatic scared off a potential new client (Rash), and there is nothing funnier on this show than a normal person trying to make sense of Dean. Stewart tried to turn thing around by getting Dean to see his therapist (Rudolph), but she seemingly empowered Dean even more. This pushed a frazzled Stewart over the edge and suddenly everybody’s life was full of Grinder-style drama, ending with a cliffhanger. (Maybe. It’s hard to tell with this show.)
This episode also introduced Colton Haynes (Roy on Arrow) as the Grinder’s TV son. It seems like we’ll probably see him popping up in Dean’s post-TV life at some point. And it looks like Maya Rudolph will be hanging around for a while because apparently this show needed more funny people.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – This show accomplished quite a feat this week; taking a standard 90s sitcom plot and elevating it past absurdity and into some real emotional territory. Flying high after the last week’s fireside cheek kiss, Rebecca ran into Josh at the Boba Tea place before work and couldn’t wait to gush to Paula. Since they had a meeting with a client, though, she texted her gushing. Too bad she accidently sent it to Josh! Everyone in the meeting (including opposing counsel!) was quick to offer helpful suggestions, and they even formed a hair metal band for a fantasy sequence and song! Luckily, Rebecca had learned in her morning run-in that he’d left his phone at home, so she had time to get there and delete the message. She did it, but Josh came home as she was leaving, so she thought quick and came up with a story of a break-in at her place, which she needed Paula and her husbadn to help fake. Josh was sweet and supportive, until one too many coincidences led him to finally realize he’d been lured there under false pretenses. Rebecca was left alone with fondue for two and a lot of broken glass, crushed. Her “Stupid Bitch” torch song was absolutely devastating. On top of that, she was at her most vulnerable in front of Greg, who was also supportive, until he saw the fondue bag with Josh’s name on it and told her off. The show has set up a wonderful dynamic with these three, and we’re sort of rooting for both couplings, if that makes any sense. Don’t worry; it doesn’t have to!
The People vs. OJ Simpson – This limited series chronicles the “trial of the century” that we all lived through in the mid-90s, but through a couple of different prisms. First, as a way to look back at how our society’s obsession with celebrity culture and reality television has ballooned in the last twenty years (helped along by the involvement of the Kardashian patriarch in the case); secondly, as a way to show just how terribly botched this case was from minute one. So far, it’s been insanely engrossing, even though we all know what happened.This week’s episode focused on the infamous slow speed Bronco chase and it was riveting. By the end of the hour, when a tortured O.J. walked exhaustedly into his house and was arrested, we were actually shaken ourselves. Sarah Paulson (as Marcia Clarke) and David Schwimmer (as Robert Kardashian) are excellent so far, as is the rest of the standout cast. Well, except for John Travolta, who is chewing so much scenery as Robert Shapiro it’s a little ridiculous.
The Goldbergs – Barry wanted to make Lexi a very special Valentine’s present, and he was inspired by the Lionel Richie “Hello” video. The resulting sculptures were hilarious and disturbing. Adam wanted to see Porky’s but Bev forbid it, so Murray pushed him into breaking the rules just so he could be proud of him for doing so. He still got punished after Bev found him during a screening of the movie. He even tried to defy her by flying to Seattle to see Dana, but the length of the flight and the possibility of turbulence led him to call home and not leave town.
Fresh Off the Boat – Louis and Jessica had a chance to go on a Valentine’s date when Marvin (Ray Wise) and Honey offer to take the boys for the night. Evan is sad when he runs back home to get something and finds the two of them doing their taxes rather than still out (or even in) being romantic. Marvin reveals to Emory that he was married to two women before Honey, who only knows about one ex-wife, and is furious. Eddie, for his part, is with his pals at the Janet Jackson concert, but loses his tickets to a scalper. Luckily, Janet’s producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, offer them free VIP tickets to the next night’s show. Unfortunately, VIP may not mean the same thing to Jimmy and Terry, since the kids are seated right behind a large pillar. Still better than no concert at all, right?
There was more. Teachers is consistently hilarious, though the vignette style makes it hard to write about. Trust us, though. It’s really good. Technical difficulties marred a live Late Show after the Super Bowl, but everything Stephen Colbert could control was gold. Will Ferrell jockeying to be the show’s animal expert was especially enjoyable. And we remain delighted / exasperated by the way that Philip on Top Chef never understands any interaction the same way that everybody else involved does. It’s kind of fascinating. We’ll be back next week with more, including the returns of Walking Dead, Amazing Race, and Better Call Saul. See you then!