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Jon Hein’s TV Picks: Week of May 4, 2020

Billions is back, the mouse sings again, and “Hello, Jerry.”
  • Billions, Dead to Me and Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill. (Photos: Showtime/Netflix)
    Billions, Dead to Me and Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill. (Photos: Showtime/Netflix)

    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.

    I've been spending quality time on the couch lately — attempting (and failing) to avoid coronavirus news while tweeting about TV. In this ever-changing and often confusing television landscape, many of you have asked what's really worth watching these days.

    I'm happy to oblige. In this new column, I'll be talking about the shows at the top of my list for the week ahead.

    Before we jump into my inaugural picks, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a true highlight from last week (and one that's definitely worth checking out if you missed it): Thursday night's return of Parks & Recreation on NBC.

    Watching the Parks & Rec reunion felt like checking in with old friends. I miss Leslie Knope and all the residents of Pawnee. This cast clearly enjoys each other's company — it's telling when every single actor in the ensemble participates (although I wonder if Paul Schneider or Billy Eichner got a call). Greg Daniels and crew did an excellent job keeping everyone in touch on Leslie's phone tree via Gryzzl, culminating with a sweet Lil' Sebastian serenade.

    Many feel The Office and 30 Rock were the classic NBC comedies from the 2000's, leaving Parks & Rec overlooked. I've always been in the Pawnee camp. This heartfelt comedy with fantastic actors deserved some Emmy love (I'm looking at you, Nick Offerman). Thanks to Greg Daniels and Amy Poehler for bringing this special gang back together one more time.


    THIS WEEK'S PICKS

    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. Let's do this...

    Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours To Kill (NETFLIX)
    Tuesday May 5th

    There are a few sure things in the entertainment world. If Jerry Seinfeld puts out a stand-up special, it's going to be funny. He is the consummate comedy pro. I've seen Jerry at the Beacon in NYC (twice). This special was shot at that very theater, so I’m confident telling you that you're going to laugh at this legendary comedian's observations.

    Dead To Me (NETFLIX)
    Friday May 8th (full 2nd season)

    Welcome back Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. The second season picks up where the first one left off, and I won't spoil it for those who need to catch up. This show is dark, funny, and really lets these two excellent actresses do their thing. Christina got the well-deserved Emmy and Golden Globe love, but Linda had me at Freaks & Geeks. Watch the trailer.

    Defending Jacob (APPLE TV+)
    Friday May 8th (new episodes every week)

    We're at the midpoint of this limited series, which happens to be the best thing Apple TV+ has put out to date. Captain America and Lady Mary are struggling with their son being accused of murdering a fellow student in a cushy Boston suburb. Is the "murder gene" a real thing? This drama does an excellent job of examining possibilities without getting too sappy so far. Watch the trailer.

    The Disney Family Singalong Volume 2 (ABC)
    Sunday May 10th @ 7pm

    We all know network television is anything but must-see these days. If you're looking for recommendations for so-called reality dating or talent shows, you've come to the wrong place. That said, I'm not immune to the charms of unscripted televsion. I admit this upfront — it's cheesy, but following big ratings from its first time out, Ryan Seacrest once again navigates stars singing along to Disney classics from the comfort of their homes. It's mindless, it's fun, and it's for a good cause. Belt out the classics you know by heart, or just follow the bouncing mouse head at the bottom of your screen.

    Billions (SHOWTIME)
    Sunday May 10th @ 9pm

    I remember sitting with my wife watching the pilot thinking, sure, this is over the top and no one actually speaks like that. But you've got Damian Lewis facing off against Paul Giamatti. I'd watch those two read the phone book, so if the plot is sensationalized, so be it. Billions hasn't let up since. If you live in Manhattan, trying to determine where scenes are being shot adds to the fun. Axe Capital, the D.A.'s office - it doesn't matter. The solid supporting cast doesn’t hurt either. The Coronavirus has broken this season in two, so sit back and enjoy these seven pre-virus episodes.

    The Last Dance (ESPN)
    Sunday May 10th @ 9pm & 10pm (Parts 7 & 8 of 10)

    The best sports documentaries are rarely about the actual games. ESPN's 30 for 30's are top notch and I highly recommend that archive on ESPN+. Michael Jordan's quest for his final Bulls title is all about the cast of characters. We know the Bulls win, but watching Phil Jackson in prime guru/coach status pull together Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Ho Grant and Paxson is a textbook lesson in coaching. MJ is the best basketball player I've ever seen live, and his candid reflections are the highlight of this well-crafted special. A family friendly bleeped version on ESPN2 runs simultaneously. Watch the trailer.

    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.

    TOPICS: Billions, Dead to Me, Defending Jacob, Disney Family Singalong, Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill , The Last Dance, Parks and Recreation