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 new column for Primetimer, he'll be sharing his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
If you look hard enough, there really is some exceptional television out there. Before we dive into my picks for the coming week, let's start with some of my recent viewings.
You may have heard about Normal People, which premiered last week on Hulu. My wife and I loved this Irish romance based on Sally Rooney's novel. Actually, I enjoyed the first 8 episodes, while Debbie held out for all of the 12 half hours.
A young Dublin couple from the opposite side of the tracks makes their way through life and each other. Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) are fantastic and connect on a level that will remind you of your true love.
I know this screams "sappy teen romance" which is normally a big no for me, but this series is anything but that. The relationship feels very real as both characters deal with the pressures of everyday life.
A lot has been written about the intimate, "woke" sex scenes which are handled quite well. There's a lot to see here. The masochism of episodes 9 & 10 designed to highlight depression and lack of self-worth didn't really work for me. What sets this story apart are the daily encounters and emotion conveyed with a simple look or brief pause.
Connell and Marianne's roller coaster ride of a relationship is one well worth taking. It is one of the best series I've seen this year.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, how many times have you caught yourself watching a show mostly because of the time you've invested in it? At one point, Killing Eve (AMC/BBC America, Sundays at 9:00 PM ET) was great — but sometimes when a show has sailed over the fin, you find yourself sticking around just to see how things end (I'm looking at you The Walking Dead). And we are only in THE THIRD SEASON.
The first season was excellent: dark, edgy, funny and smart. The best new program of the year. The second season suffered a sophomore slump, but there was still some snap to it. Hard to go wrong with Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and Eve (Sandra Oh) leading the charge along with an excellent supporting cast.
The third season rings hollow so far. The kills remain exotic, major characters are getting bumped off, and the chase is still on... but it reeks of trying too hard. Eve was once appointment television for me, but now I'm watching out of habit. It's a pity, but some quality writing could restore its greatness.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Another week stuck inside means more TV to watch. How's that for a positive coronavirus spin? I've selected a handful of shows from a variety of sources (broadcast, basic cable, premium cable and streaming) to make sure you've got something to watch regardless of the TV package you pay for.
Amy Schumer Learns To Cook (FOOD NETWORK)
Monday May 11th (premiere)
Amy married an award-winning chef who will teach her how to make some meals. Their nanny helms the camera as baby Gene hangs around. I'm no fan of cooking shows, but I'll check out one of our best comics goofing around with her spouse as they create some dishes. We can use the laughs. Watch the preview
Monday May 11th (Season 3 premiere)
Finnish crime drama? I'm so there. It's a safe bet that this visually stunning procedural brings me as close as I'll ever get to Finland. Detective Kari Sorjonen moves from Helsinki to a Finland/Russian border town to get away from the crime. It doesn't work. Nordic noir at its finest, but binge now to catch up for season 3. Watch the trailer.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend (NETFLIX)
Tuesday May 12th
They're alive, dammit! It's a miracle!
Smiling yet? After 4 seasons, this very special episode lets you take a Bandersnatch as Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) takes on her kidnapper (Jon Hamm). The full cast is back with new special guest stars as you choose your path (and the jokes) to celebrate Kimmy's wedding day. Sure it's hokey, but that's Kimmy’s charm.
Wednesday May 13th @ 8pm (Season Finale)
"It's all in the game." Omar Little's maxim rings true with nearly all 40 successful seasons of Survivor.
Truth be told, I despise 98% of reality television. There are channels I refuse to turn on due to this type of programming. Reality TV isn't real - it's manufactured and...okay, I'll get off my soapbox.
Survivor is different because at its core, it's an endlessly fascinating social experiment. You're stuck on an island for up to forty days with hardly any food and endless competition for advantages. Whoever you choose to scheme against is part of the jury who decides your fate. Jeff Probst masterfully lets the players do the talking and pries only where he needs to. The players are entertaining but they really don't matter - the game itself is the allure.
This "Winners at War" 40th season has previous champs competing for a two-million-dollar prize, and now we're down to the final five. It's Tony's season to lose, but if the right person returns from the Isle of Extinction and zeroes in on busting up the Cops R Us alliance, things could get messy.
The final 3 hours will be compelling, plus I wonder how they'll pull off the live finale and recap. Get your buffs ready. Watch the preview.
I hope you enjoy these recommendations. If there's quality TV that I'm missing, don't hesitate to let me know.
Stay healthy and safe.
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.