This week we do the briefest of check-ins with the state of TV in Trump’s America—specifically, the post-election cancellation of Reza Aslan’s ABC sitcom about a Muslim-American family.
Then, we jump to warp with week two of our Star Trek: The Next Generation TV Book Club, in which we discuss season 1’s The Big Goodbye, season 2’s Measure of a Man, and season 3’s Yesterday’s Enterprise.
We begin this week with a TV vs TV, in which Margaret and Kathryn go head to head in a debate about the best way to spend your money if you're only going to buy a single standalone streaming service. Many elements are considered, many factors are weighed, and in the end, no one's particularly happy about the decision. (Except the winner). From there we move into a broader discussion of the proliferation of streaming outlets, with a particular focus on CBS All Access and Seeso.
We've got just one thing on our minds this week - Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's our newest TV Book Club, and we'll be watching a series of hand-picked episodes from its seven-year run over the next few weeks to introduce Margaret (and, hopefully, some of you!) to its charms.
Sadly, those charms are largely absent from its sprawling, messy pilot. It's a poorly paced, poorly plotted, and incompetently assembled collection of parts that bears just a superficial resemblance to what the show would later become. But! It's important for continuity reasons, and it'll make it all the more fun in a couple weeks when we start getting into the good stuff.
Did you know that Amy Sherman-Palladino has a pilot for a new series streaming on Amazon? Yeah! We consider the potentially dubious wisdom of that project and imagine how we'd advise Jeff Bezos on its prospects. For our second segment, we consider the brutal onslaught of new TV that'll be appearing over the next several weeks, including new shows like Handmaid's Tale and Feud, and returning series like Catastrophe, Better Call Saul, and Veep.
This week we also promo our next TV Book Club - Star Trek: TNG! We'll be discussing the two-part pilot episode for episode 82, so hop on the bandwagon!
We get started this week with some listener mail that takes issue with our characterization of Kate from This Is Us; we don't AGREE with the listener, but we do take some time to more fully flesh out our talking points from before.
After taking about an extremely unfair and damaging iTunes review, we then spend some time in the Archie-meets-Pretty-Little-Liars world of The CW's Riverdale, a small town about sexy teens, the people who want to have sex with them, and the mysterious murders they commit.
This week we talk about the recent announcement that The Bachelorette has cast its first black lead, and dissect the weird spoilery timing of that announcement. We consider why this is an important milestone for the franchise, and why it's total nonsense that ABC actually be applauded for it.
We also turn to the end of our Fargo TV book club, discussing the final three episodes of the first season. It's hard not to spend the entire segment just jumping up and down and squealing about how great the show is.
First up, an apology: this is a recording of our recent live show at the Free Library in Philadelphia, and unfortunately the audio quality falls far short of our normal standards. We have learned a very important lesson about Having Contingency Plans and Packing Extra Equipment, and we should hopefully be able to avoid a repeat of this in the future.
For those of you who listen, it's still a good show! We talk up beloved 90s TV dog Wishbone, and debate the merits of letting a talking dog re-enact literary classics. Then, guest judge Craig Getting joins us to help us decide which is the best book-to-TV adaptation.
This week, upcoming remakes of both Will and Grace and Queen Eye For The Straight Guy show us that just because you CAN reboot something doesn't necessarily mean that you SHOULD. Then, we revisit the frigid, murderous Midwest for another installment of our TV Book Club segment on season one of FX's Fargo.
After mentioning HBO's The Young Pope in our episode on notable new TV for winter 2017, we return to discuss the depths and breadths of Andrew's distaste for it. Kathryn attempts to provide some cinematic context for the show; some singing is involved. We then pick up with the second installment in our Fargo book club, discussing episodes two through four. Topics include viscera, the purpose of viscera, pure evil vs pure goodness, and locusts.
On this week's show we're joined by Christina Grace of the Unfriendly Black Hotties podcast (@theblackhotties on Twitter) to talk about ex-Vice President Joe Biden's odd turn on SVU earlier this season; it doesn't really make any sense but it's also a reminder of a less bleak time. We also dig way into the surprisingly effective schmaltziness of This Is Us.
Have you ever noticed that people are rarely cold on TV? We did! Well, some of us did, and Andrew has some (reasonable) questions about whether that's even an interesting thing to notice, much less talk about. Regardless, talk about it we do.
We then move onto the inspiration for our cold TV thoughts, the first part of our book club on the FX show Fargo. This week we look at the pilot, and talk about the differences between it and the Coen brothers' film, representations of evil in naturalism, and what it sounds like when you fake an orgasm with a Minnesotan accent.
Inauguration Day looms, so we've devoted a good chunk of this episode to discussing whether you should watch Donald Trump on Friday. It's a spirited discussion, but not a bad one.
We then move to a lighter subject: namely, Netflix's modernized-yet-anachronistic reboot of Norman Lear's One Day at a Time.
A few weeks ago the New York Times published fascinating maps of American TV fandom, and ATV is ON IT. We look at the Upshot's maps of where different TV shows are popular, and talk a little about diversified viewing, why people like American Dad or Family Guy but not both, and what shows people watch in Colorado.
Afterwards we look at shows we're thinking about for 2017, including One Day at a Time, The Young Pope, and The Handmaid's Tale. Andrew, to some podcasters' regret, makes some Borat jokes.
We kick off our first show of 2017 by talking about “hygge,” the Danish concept recently popularized by New York Times thinkpieces but originally popularized by Margaret’s newsletter Two Bossy Dames. Kathryn has an extremely exacting definition of hygge that may or may not wreck it for Andrew and Margaret.
Then, we check in with some of the shows that will be returning in 2017, both those that we examined as part of our fall TV preview and some older favorites with winter and spring premiere dates.
In a not-quite-timely seasonal episode, we talk about our favorite Christmas specials and Andrew and Margaret get into a fight about fictional snowmen. Andrew speaks up for the Rankin and Bass classics, and Kathryn hearkens back to a lost Angela Lansbury treasure.
For our final installment of the Cranford TV Book Club, things with Dr Hotbutt get quite complicated, and we talk about the importance of muslin with a fine, close weave.
As this truly questionable year winds down, the crew talks about the TV shows that they missed the first time around that they’d like to sit down and catch up on during the holiday break.
Then, we talk about some quotes from the head of ABC’s entertainment division. Art so often reflects the age it’s made in, and as we go forward we’ll see TV respond to the reality of Donald Trump’s election in both potentially good and potentially disappointing ways.
This week we kick things off with a discussion of the TBS show Search Party and how great it is and how everyone should watch it.
We then move on to the second part in our TV Book Club on Cranford, covering episodes 2 and 3. Cow pajamas and Loch Lomond sing-a-longs are involved.
This week, we'll lead you into an all-out, no-holds-barred discussion of Netflix's Gilmore Girls revival. Will you follow? Anywhere that we tell you to?
The short version is that Rory is a monster, Lorelai is Lorelai, and Kelly Bishop is a national treasure.
For the first segment this week, we look at two recent depictions of abortion on television on Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Although we think they're both important, we talk about the differences in those stories and the few things we wish one show had done differently. As a part of this conversation, we touch on why it's so vital for TV to tell these kinds of stories, and we also discover that Margaret's not entirely sure about the pronunciation of the word "gallant."
Our second segment is the kick-off for our newest TV Book Club - the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford. Margaret and Kathryn are already way in the tank for this show, but we do our best to restrain ourselves in the discussion of the miniseries' first episode. Andrew still has some reservations, which he expresses partly through fanfiction.
In light of our feelings about the 2016 US presidential election, we work through some of our feelings and have a conversation about how notionally “frivolous” TV and TV criticism are still important, and how they will continue to be important going forward.
Then, we go into some comfort TV shows that you can use to make yourself feel just a little better if you’re feeling as bad as we are. And also: dick jokes??!
As a break between TV book clubs, we turn to a broader topic this week - houses and apartments on TV. We kick things off with a TV vs TV debate between Andrew and Kathryn over the best, most memorable TV house. As per usual, Margaret is forced to make a somewhat arbitrary but ultimately binding decision. There are no take-backs in TV vs TV court.
After the debate, we turn to a bigger discussion of the role of houses on TV. What makes a good one? What makes a TV home distracting? Which is better, Joey and Chandler's apartment, or Monica and Rachel's? Is there a difference between three-cam sitcom houses, and single-cam ones? What about dramas versus comedies?
This week we kick things off by making three of the next great TV shows using a fun tool of the same name from The Ringer. Then, we wrap up our TV Book Club segment on Veep, something that seemed a lot more fun before we had to confront our present political reality.
Speaking of that, this episode was recorded in mid-October when this devastating loss seemed all but impossible. We make jokes to that effect toward the end of the show. They’re hard to listen to now, but we’re leaving them in on the off chance that it helps any of you remember what it was like to feel normal.
For the final installment of our fall Good TV/Bad TV series, we first look at the British show Fleabag, which is now available for streaming on Amazon. Andrew and Margaret have seen all of the short series, and discuss its unusual protagonist, the show's uncanny ability to find emotional depth in minor characters, and the pleasure of identifying yourself inside deeply unappealing characters.
We then turn to different but even less appealing characters for Kathryn's Bad TV selection, the ostensibly real people of Ben and Lauren: Happily Ever After?. Unfortunately for Andrew, Kathryn and Margaret are too delighted with how terrible this show is to truly commiserate with his misery at being forced to watch it. Still, everyone agrees that it is remarkably terrible television.
This week we open with a chat about the first couple episodes of ABC’s Speechless, a zany family sitcom in which one family member has cerebral palsy. It’s satisfyingly progressive and fresh in a lot of ways (and it’s oddly regressive in a couple of others).
We then move on to the next batch of Veep episodes - our appetite for lusty cussing is as healthy as ever, don’t even worry about it, but it’s not like the show is COMPLETELY perfect.
We return to our fall Good TV/Bad TV series, this week with a look at the not-quite-a-24-reboot Designated Survivor and the not-quite-a-functional-TV-show, CBS's new MacGyver reboot. We talk about Designated Survivor's useful role as a silly security romp, its Obama-era politics, and the importance of acting with and without glasses. We then talk about the pilot Andrew's chosen to inflict on us all, the first episode of the new MacGyver. Spoiler: we are not fans.