With only a week and a half until the start of the official Fall TV season, let’s discuss a few more of the shows we’ve been watching this summer.
Let’s bitch it out…
It’s time to continue what we started last week with an end of summer TV wrap-up. Without further ado, here’s part two.
Playing House S1 (USA)
Initially I thought that this cable sitcom about two lifelong best-friends who reconnect to raise a baby was cute and amusing. Emma (Jessica St. Clair) abandons her high-paying job to come back to their hometown to help her best friend Maggie (Lennon Parham) when they discover that Maggie’s husband has been cheating on her. There’s a camaraderie between the two actresses that rings true, but what began as a well-observed series about lifelong friendship became increasingly shrill and sitcom-y as it progressed. Playing House has been renewed for a second season, so I’m hopeful that St. Clair and Parham will take the time to even out the rough edges before the show returns next Spring.
This is the sole UK show to hit my summer watch list (I must get to Utopia before the Fall season begins!), this Fugitive-esque limited event series is about Marcus Farrow (the great Jon Simm) a detective who is wrongfully accused of murder and forced to go on the run to clear his name. It’s a well-executed narrative that uses a few too many of the clichéd cop tropes (rather than inverting them), but there are enough twists to keep things interesting. Bonus points for making Marcus’ pursuer, Detective Susan Reinhardt (Rosie Cavaliero) a legitimately flawed/borderline unlikable character. Simm may be the draw, but it’s Cavaliero’s go-for-broke portrayal that shines.
So You Think You Can Dance S11 (FOX)
FOX’s annual summer dance program was as entertaining as ever (although if forced to choose, I’d recommend tracking down the Australian version for its more impressive dance numbers and stronger top ten). Ricky’s win over his competitors felt as predetermined as any reality contest; he began the season as the front runner and he never made a false move, all but securing his claim to the S11 title from the start.
The Quest S1 (ABC)
This little-seen ABC reality show has been one of the biggest surprises of the summer. One of the network’s big swings in terms of concept, this fantasy/reality infusion was a tad rocky in its early execution. Then somewhere along the line what began as a cheesy, mildly goofy rift on LARPing turned into something sweet and captivating. As The Quest has progressed and the challenges have becoming increasingly ingrained in the “narrative”, the series has found its footing, as well as a group of ardent fans who call themselves The Quest Army. The series’ low ratings and ABC’s track record for canceling high-concept summer reality shows could suggest doom for the show, but this underrated gem deserves a second chance to find a larger audience.
The Last Ship S1 (TNT)
This summer offering proved to be a strange guilty pleasure: equal parts rah-rah military propaganda and apocalyptic contagion drama. At first I tuned in primarily for Rhona Mitra and some well-produced action drama, but it quickly became clear that the series was much more than a simple NCIS knock-off. The serial nature of the series helped as a series of standalone adventures slowly but steadily helped to construct a dangerous and compelling new world recovering from a terrible biological disaster. Was The Last Ship a bit cheesy? Yes. Was it emotionally manipulative? Absolutely (especially the recent plotline with McSteamy’s family). Was it an entertaining, better-than-expected action-packed addition to Summer 2014? Definitely.
The Leftovers S1 (HBO)
Before The Leftovers debuted, all of the attention centered on Damon Lindelof’s (Lost) involvement. After the show began, Lindelof and The Leftovers was still catching flak, but the HBO depression-porn series slowly began changing the conversation. Exceptionally raw and powerful performances from Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and astounding break-out star Carrie Coon ground a drama that unflinchingly pushes the boundaries (and buttons) of characters and audiences alike. The antics of the Guilty Remnant, anchored by guest star Ann Dowd’s malicious performance, are definite conversation starters, but it’s the show’s refusal to cater to the traditional model of a television drama by delving deeply into grief, pain and confusion that helps it stand out as one of the most provocative dramas of the year. It certainly isn’t a show for everyone, but for those willing to invest in the tortured journey, the first season certainly paid off that investment. Look for some significant awards attention from this one in the next year.
The Strain (FX)
FX’s The Strain has turned into an interesting show, but it began life as one of the bigger disappointments of the summer. The writing was all over the place, the pace was glacial and the acting was bland (star Corey Stoll’s wig continues to exhibit more life than his CDC character). Slowly but surely, however, the show has picked up momentum as characters come into contact with one another as the contagion of vampires spreads across the city. Sure these people continue to exhibit the worst common sense and lack of judgment, but the series is so unapologetic about its intention to do anything but be gross and occasionally scary that it’s a refreshing change of pace from the high-brow glut of genre television. In terms of tone and atmosphere the show is top-notch, so let’s hope that as we head into the finale and events begin to take on an even more claustrophobic and deadly feel the show continues its upwards trajectory.
Witches of East End S2 (Lifetime)
What can I say about Witches of East End? Each week when I turn it on, my husband groans and exclaims “Oh no, we’re still watching this show?!” It is…not good. It can’t commit to a single narrative thread, characterization is inconsistent and two-dimensional, the special effects aren’t good and often the acting isn’t either.
Yet I. CAN’T. STOP. WATCHING. I’m consistently intrigued by what gonzo-batshit development will occur next: Dash kills a man in front of an entire party, Ingrid copulates with a monster with tentacles, Killian keeps boinking his old lady wife and new brother Frederick…umm…bores? Okay sure the latest addition to the Beauchamp family is a dud, but they can’t all be Wendy, whose portrayer Madchen Amick remains the only actor on the series who is in on the joke…not a part of it. As much as I rift on the series, it is compulsive and fun and even when it doesn’t stick the landing, by that point there’s usually eight new storylines to distract us anyways. And for this reason, I secretly look forward to Sunday nights with a certain incomprehensible glee that I’ll soon be getting my Witches fix.
You’re The Worst S1 (FX)
Initially I had no interest in this FX series about a pair of despicable Los Angeles singles who, despite their abhorrence of people, cautiously enter into a relationship. It’s hard to say which one is more toxic, Gretchen (Aya Cash) or Jimmy (Chris Geere), who are terrible to friends and foes alike. Initially the show struggled to negotiate the balance, but that issue righted itself much more quickly than many sophomore comedies.
I will say this: audiences who can’t handle a strong dose of snark and sarcastic should steer well-clear of the series. These are characters who day drink, talk frankly about sex and steal cats from their exes. And yet, despite the focus on truly terrible people, You’re The Worst is consistently, offensively funny and shockingly observant about relationships. The series, which isn’t pulling in the ratings it needs to survive, has recently developed a vocal fan base among critics and regular audiences so here’s hoping that the remaining episodes will garner a few more eyeballs. FX needs to recognize the potential insta-classic it has on its hands because this show is up there among the funniest shows on TV. This could be a contender for the ‘Best Of’ Bitch Awards. It’s that good.
That’s it for us. What else have you been watching this summer? Sound off below in the comments.