Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
Thirty years ago, if it was Thursday night, there was only one TV place to go… the stacked NBC lineup. The Cosby Show, A Different World, Cheers, Wings and L.A. Law. As the decade progressed, Mad About You, Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, and ER joined the party. You could count on the Peacock network for quality programming every Thursday night.
There's nothing better than a bankable TV time slot. Turning on the TV on a certain day of the week without even knowing what program is coming on, but feeling assured that the entertainment will be there waiting.
Until The Apprentice came around, it was Thursday nights on NBC for me. For others who are younger, it was TGIF on ABC. You knew exactly what you were getting, and you were assured of enjoying every single week without giving it a second thought.
The most recent "sure thing" was Sunday nights on HBO. The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire, Game Of Thrones... a powerful list that is far from complete. The HBO Sunday bar has always been set high, and despite an occasional John from Cincinnati, the network came through.
HBO Sundays were a great launchpad for comedy, documentaries, or really anything else the network wanted to put on. The steady stream of popular shows kept the audience coming back for more.
This Sunday, HBO takes a crack at its next epic with The Nevers. Joss Whedon created this sci-fi drama about a gang of Victorian women... a superhero period piece with the ladies kicking some ass across the pond.
On paper, it's a logical move for HBO. Powerful female leads, old costumes and sets, end of 19th century London, and some science fiction mixed in… potent stuff.
What's missing though is the Sunday HBO mainstay to launch this type of fantasy show. The classic HBO shows listed above had other successful programs to build off of. Succession could be that show now, but Season 3 is not ready to roll.
The Nevers has already had to deal with issues before airing a single episode. Joss Whedon had to exit being "unable to meet challenges that impacted his life" during the pandemic. The title itself is a huge opening for critics with negative reviews (picture the "never had a chance" headlines).
Whedon excels at building fantasy worlds (Buffy, Firefly) populated with unique compelling characters. There's always a great sense of humor and plenty of empowerment to go around. This good and evil battle of women with extraordinary abilities is right up his alley.
The first season is split into two six episode parts courtesy of COVID. The trailer looks good, but let’s face it, most HBO trailers look good. The proof will be in the program itself, and hopefully it will provide a reason to not have to think twice about HBO on a Sunday night.
Even in this era of streaming and watching what you want whenever you want it, I still yearn for those bankable Thursday nights.
(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)
Chad (TBS) - Endless promotion during the NCAA tournament and I still don't know what it's about, but SNL’s Nasim Pedrad stars as a 14 year-old boy. Premieres Tuesday.
Kung Fu (CW) – I’ve lost count of the number of reboots. Airs Wednesday.
Fear The Walking Dead (AMC) - Those zombies keep creeping around. Sunday.
(For the sports aficionado or compulsive gambler)
NCAA Basketball National Championship (CBS) - The last college basketball game of the year tips off in Indiana Monday to complete everyone's already destroyed brackets.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
An art heist, Erin Brockovich inspiration and suburban rot...
This Is A Robbery (NETFLIX)
Wednesday, April 7th
Art fans aren't the only ones familiar with the Gardner Museum in Boston. In 1990, one of the largest unsolved art thefts in history took place there.
This new four-part docuseries chronicles how 13 works of art were stolen from the museum in the early morning. Guards admitted two men posing as police officers who proceeded to loot the museum over the next hour.
30 years later, the world's biggest art theft remains unsolved and there's a $10 million reward for any information that leads to the prized paintings. $500 million in artwork gone missing is definitely worth looking into.
Thursday, April 8th 10pm
Katey Sagal, welcome back to network television. Katey plays Annie "Rebel" Bello, a woman without a law degree who fights for noble causes and defends those who can't defend themselves against big corporations.
Sound familiar? It should, because it's based on the life of Erin Brockovich, who Julia Roberts won an Oscar portraying in a Steven Soderbergh film.
Sagal is a powerhouse who thrives in this role. Watch trailer.
Friday, April 9th
In 1953, a black family moves from North p>Carolina to Los Angeles migrating across the country for a better life. Over a ten-day span, the family encounters terror they couldn't even imagine would happen.
Lena Waithe and Little Marvin have created an anthology series that is intense and mysterious. The family's problems aren't only outside their new home. This new house just doesn't feel right, and they quickly find out why.
The title sounds familiar. Hmmm…..
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Wear two masks. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.