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Jon Hein's TV Picks — Week of January 11th, 2021

TV takes its chances with Ken Jennings, Chris Rock and WandaVision.
  • TV This Week: Jeopardy!, WandaVision and Chris Rock Total Blackout: The Tamborine Extended Cut. (Photos: Sony Pictures Television, Disney+ and Netflix)
    TV This Week: Jeopardy!, WandaVision and Chris Rock Total Blackout: The Tamborine Extended Cut. (Photos: Sony Pictures Television, Disney+ and 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 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.

    "The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." — Albert Einstein

    When it’s time to change, you need to rearrange.” — Peter Brady

    All geniuses know that if you want to grow, you need to change. Television has morphed so much that almost anyone under 30 watches on their phone or computer. The 58-inch Panasonic plasma I bought after selling jumptheshark.com feels like a relic (and weighs like one too) — and that's only 15 years old.

    Cable was the first sign that television programming would never be the same. New networks continue to pop up every year. Streaming services led to another wave of shows and events, and now we've reached the point where it's nearly impossible to keep up with everything TV has to offer.

    Change is everywhere, and this industry should never be afraid to take chances. Sometimes it leads to spectacular failure (can you say Cop Rock?). Sometimes it leads to groundbreaking success. You’ve got to shoot your shot.

    I waxed poetic (pun intended) last week about Cobra Kai. Creating a series based on a kitchy movie from the 80's was a huge gamble, but the creators and actors pulled it off. It can be done — with confidence, talent and persistence.

    Content always rules. It really doesn't matter which network is airing your favorite show (as long as you can get it) or even what time it's on. A majority of late night programming is recorded and watched the next day. Most shows are cut up into consumable segments to be viewed online.

    TV just isn't the same anymore. And at the end of 2021, it will be different once again. And that's okay — because change, although sometimes painful to endure, is a good thing for the long term.

    An interim game show host, championship viewing options, a remixed stand-up special, and a Marvel family sitcom… change is everywhere, as you’ll see in my picks for this week.

    Jeopardy! (SYNDICATION)
    Monday, January 11th

    Ken Jennings steps in as the show’s first “interim” guest host. Katie Couric will reportedly soon follow and others will try to step into Alex Trebek's Canadian shoes.

    It's going to be weird, but the game play of Jeopardy! is so strong that the host probably doesn't matter all that much as long as they keep things moving along. (Don't tell Ken that.)

    No one wanted to see Alex leave the planet, but Ken, Katie and others will bring a new flavor to the classic game show. The core of Jeopardy! will remain the same, but a new host means change is in the air.

    College Football National Championship Game (ESPN et al)
    Monday, January 11th 8pm

    The National Championship game will played as long as COVID doesn't get in the way. The two best college football teams, the Alabama Crimson Tide and The Ohio State Buckeyes, will settle things on the field ending a season that really wasn't much of a season.

    This is one of my favorite broadcasts of the year, because ESPN rolls out its MEGACAST which provides a least a dozen different ways to watch the game. There's the traditional (boring) way that every college football game is presented. On the other ESPNs, there's Command Center, Skycast, Data Center, Spanish, National Radio, Hometown Radio and a return of the Film Room.

    If you're watching your first game of the season, the standard broadcast is for you. If you're a college football nut, watching the Skycast to see the entire field or listening to coaches explain the game in the Film Room will provide a better viewing experience. If you went to Alabama or Ohio State (my condolences), listening to the hometown call adds another level of excitement.

    In today's TV world, the viewer should be in control. Providing these options makes so much sense, and the ratings will be there to cash in on. Even something as traditional as college football benefits from switching things up a bit.

    Total Blackout: The Tamborine Extended Cut (NETFLIX)
    Tuesday, January 12th

    Chris Rock is putting out an extended cut of his 2018 stand-up special Tamborine. Rock calls it "a remix" with almost 30 minutes of additional new material that complements his prescient act he recorded in Washington, D.C.

    We rewatch stand-up specials all of the time. Adding a "commentary track" and interspersing updated material and reflective interviews is worth the try. The brilliant comedian is repurposing material and taking a chance putting it out there again – love that.

    WandaVision (DISNEY+)
    Friday, January 15th

    Is a new series starring minor characters from The Avengers really taking a chance? You bet it is. WandaVision features superheroes Vision and Scarlet Witch (aka Wanda Maximoff) living a quaint suburban life where everything is not exactly how it seems.

    It helps if you’ve seen all 23 related Marvel Avengers movies to follow the plot here, but it's not entirely necessary. There are a ton of comic book storylines to pull from and many characters will show up from different universes. At the core will be the relationship between two Avengers working off 50's/60's sitcom premises.

    There's a built-in fanbase, and Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are major leads. This just needs to avoid feeling like an ad for the next Doctor Strange or any other Marvel flick.

    I'm not sure it'll work, but I respect Disney trying something different here. Watch the trailer.

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    If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

    Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.

    Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.

    TOPICS: Ken Jennings, Disney+, ESPN, Netflix, Chris Rock Total Blackout: The Tamborine Extended Cut, Jeopardy!, WandaVision, Alex Trebek, College Football Playoff National Championship