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.
I'm a TV lifer. Glued to the screen since my mom told me how to get to Sesame Street. Made a career of it – I'm a lucky guy.
When I met my wife in the mid 80's, she knew what she was getting into. Debbie is the antithesis of me – super active, constantly on-the-go, tons of energy. But at night, it's time to settle down, and that's when we watch "our shows" together.
Every couple has their shows. Finding the right program to watch with your significant other can sometimes be a challenge. It requires an open mind, flexibility and compromise, but there are times when you need a little bit more. Allow to me to share our rules to make your TV life as a couple easier.
"OUR SHOW" RULES
Dual Appeal – The program has got to appeal to both of you. It doesn't have to be 50/50, and it usually won't be, but interest from both sides is an absolute must.
Everyone has particular tastes. I'm all about prestige TV and need to focus on what I'm watching. Debbie will turn on Bravo and let it run in the background. When we find a show that we both enjoy, everybody wins.
Genre Familiarity – Know which genres appeal to you and your partner, but also remember the ones you both can't stand. My wife has zero interest in Battlestar Galactica or For All Mankind (apologies to Ronald D. Moore). I'll never watch any Real Housewife from any city (apologies to Andy Cohen). Solo flights are highly encouraged and totally acceptable.
Honor Thy Recommendation – If one of you suggests a show to watch, the other is obligated to give it a shot. Knowing each other's tastes helps a lot in this instance. Debbie recommended The Good Wife, and I thought Normal People would be right up our alley. Win win.
No Repeats – This is a tough one, especially if you start watching a series on your own and quickly realize it could work as something to watch together.
For example, I checked out a sports-themed comedy (Ted Lasso) and realized that Deb might like it, but I was a few episodes in and didn’t want to wait to finish. I offer to re-watch the first season, but this would be her first time meeting Ted and not really a shared experience. The good news – she'll jump in on the second season because both of us have yet to see it.
Staying Faithful – Once you agree to watch a program together, there's no jumping ahead. There will be times when work, friends, family or real life gets in the way of regular viewing. You must watch the series together. This is tough when a program is really good and you've got some free time on your hands, but absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Snooze But Don't Lose – This is a corollary to staying faithful. If either of you fall asleep during the show, the other person can only watch the remainder of that episode and not give anything away. Whoever slept can choose a verbal recap, check out what they missed on their own, or you can watch together (an acceptable re-watch). It's all about being on the same page.
These rules work for us, and hopefully they provide some guidance to help bring you and your partner together in front of your TV.
Two of "our shows" are returning to Netflix this Friday for brand new seasons… Virgin River and Atypical.
I got sucked in to Virgin River. A few people had told me the first season was "a great date" and I should definitely watch with Deb. So we stumbled into this Northern California town anticipating plenty of sap. The cheesy romance was definitely there, but our expectations were surprisingly exceeded.
The exterior shots in Virgin River make you want to book a trip (it's shot in Canada). The setting is picturesque. The small town where everybody knows everything about everyone is cliched yet charming. Mel's (Alexandra Breckenridge) fish-out-of-water story is deeper than expected, and Jack (Martin Henderson) is a good-looking bar owner just trying to make things right.
We looked forward to seeing how Doc (Tim Matheson) and Paige (Annette O'Toole) would come to the realization that they needed each other. How Preacher (Colin Lawrence) always has Jack's back and why Charmaine (Lauren Hammersley) can't hold on to him. We got sucked in.
The second season ran a bit on fumes (focus on those exterior shots) with a little too much melodrama, but this new third season does a good job remembering what makes the show click. The magic is in Mel and Jack's romance, the locals dealing with their issues, and plenty of wide angles to take in the scenery. It's not Emmy winning television, but it's sweet, and Deb and I can't get enough of it.
Atypical is another one of "our shows," but sadly it’s coming to an end with its fourth season. This is one of the best coming-of-age comedy series that I've seen in a long time. The premise has the potential to be gimmicky – a kid on the spectrum figuring out his place in the world, but this comedy is so much more.
Atypical works because it feels grounded in reality. At the center is a flawed but caring family, and creator Robia Rashid stays true to life on the spectrum and how a family deals with a child’s struggle to become independent.
Sam (Keir Gilchrist) is at the heart of the story. He's a charming autistic teen who wants experience life. Family and friends understand Sam and his idiosyncrasies, and the show masterfully gets laughs without mocking being on the spectrum. Sam has progressed from getting through high school to finding a girlfriend, going to college and now prepares to move out and leave the comfort of his home.
Sam's sister Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine) was the breakout character of the first season. She's always there for her brother and gets the best lines insulting everyone in her orbit. Casey gradually realizes that she likes women more than men and grapples with her identity. Sam's parents Elsa (Jennifer Jason-Leigh) and Doug (Michael Rapaport) bear the scars of raising kids and deal with their own issues as their nest becomes an empty one.
The supporting cast, which could easily fall into cliché, operates at the same high level as the family. Sam's girlfriend Paige (Jenna Boyd) has become my favorite character as she earnestly pursues her goals and dreams. Sam's best friend Zahid (Nik Dodani) is all about sex and being a "bro", but he's got a heart of gold. Other actors (some of who are on the spectrum themselves) round out a caring community with a great sense of humor that you'd love to have in your town.
It has been a joy watching Sam and his family grow and evolve over the years. Atypical has expertly walked the fine line of dealing with people on the spectrum, but this season's emphasis on Casey's gender identity hits you over the head a bit too much. Her story feels a bit preachy, something that Sam's struggles have never felt like.
This fourth and final season of Atypical draws to a fitting conclusion. I'll miss this family of four. Now Debbie and I need to find another one of "our shows" to watch.
THIS WEEK’S SPTINAFOBYMB!
(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)
I Think You Should Leave (NETFLIX) – Season 2 of Tim Robinson's sketch series – many loved the first season. Returns Tuesday.
Cat People/Dogs (NETFLIX) – Reality shows about your favorite animals. Fetch Wednesday.
Big Brother (CBS) – I don't get the appeal, but it keeps Julie Chen Moonves working. Spies Thursday.
Love Island (CBS) – Back again for Season 3, this time based in Hawaii. Embarks Thursday.
Gossip Girl (HBO MAX) – A new group of teens in a reboot that presumably someone was asking for. Returns Thursday.
The Patrick Star Show (NICK) – A younger version of Spongebob's best pal gets his own show. Docks Friday.
2021 ESPYs (ABC) – Manufactured ESPN awards show which naturally airs on… ABC? Red carpet Saturday.
Wellington Paranormal (CW) – New Zealand spinoff of the original What We Do In The Shadows film. Appears Sunday.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Hit and run pursuit, comedy history, and resort perfection…
The Beast Must Die (AMC+)
Monday July 5th (premieres on AMC July 12th)
An upset mom wants payback from the man she believes to be responsible for killing her son in a hit and run accident. The show title expresses exactly how she feels.
Cush Jumbo from The Good Wife and Fight seeks revenge from Jared Harris (Mad Men) in this six-episode drama from across the pond. There's no way she's going to let him get away with it in this thriller.
History of the Sitcom (CNN)
Sunday, July 11th 9pm
Following the success of The Story of Late Night, the news network looks at the world of the sitcom throughout the years. The eight-part series is organized by theme and we see our favorite families handle defining issues in front of the cameras.
It's the same formula as the late night docuseries with tons of archival footage and opinion on how sitcoms have evolved. The first two episodes air back to back. Watch preview.
The White Lotus (HBO)
Sunday, July 11th 9pm
Everything is not as it seems with the guests and the staff at this beautiful Hawaiian resort. This six-part social satire peels back the layers of the property and its inhabitants to see if anything there’s any substantial under the hood.
Mike White, the real Ned Schneebly from School of Rock (which he penned) wrote and directed the series. If it's anything like his previous HBO series Enlightened, this trip will be dark and well worth taking.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
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.