Features

Jon Hein's TV Picks — Week of July 20, 2020

Baseball’s back, Norse laughter & The Great Fight
  • Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole and the casts of Norsemen & The Good Fight.
    Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole and the casts of Norsemen & The Good Fight.

    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 miss sports.

    It took a pandemic to make me realize the amount of time I spend watching and reading about baseball, football, hockey and basketball games.

    Something has been missing in my life with no professional sports. Don't get me wrong — the 2 or 3 hours I spent watching games daily has given me the opportunity to watch a lot more TV shows. But sports connects me to my childhood. To my late father. To a simpler time when all I cared about was who won or lost and how well certain players I'll probably never meet in my life fared on the field.

    Baseball is the first major sport returning this week (apologies to golf and NASCAR). There will be 102 fewer games played. There will be no fans in the stands. It is going to feel weird. But I can't wait to see it on my TV screen.

    I hosted a nightly sports show here in New York City on SNY that was a casualty of this pandemic. I miss that too - the camaraderie and the paycheck. I'm happy to be rejoining the TV sports commentary world on MLB Network and paneling on SNY, but masks and social distancing remind me how the world has changed.

    COVID has rocked any sense of normalcy. Watching a ballgame at home, even with all of its new awkwardness, helps bring that back. It’s one of many small steps that will get us back to life before masks.

    The other major sports will follow soon. Hockey in August? I'll take it. Basketball at Disneyland? Fine by me. And the NFL, which had the benefit of its offseason coinciding with the pandemic, still aims to start on time. I’m ready for some football.

    Opening day has always been special to me. That will return this Thursday, even though I can't be taken out to the ballgame.

    THIS WEEK'S PICKS

    Norsemen (NETFLIX)
    Wednesday July 22 (Season 3 Premiere)

    Unable to fill that Game of Thrones void in your life? This dark Norwegian comedy may satisfy your hunger.

    A group of Vikings makes its way through life in the year 790. The humor is very dry and there are tragic moments, but it's best poking fun at how seriously Thrones, Vikings and other period pieces take themselves.

    Season 3 is a prequel leading up to the events of the show's initial season, so if you've been missing characters who didn't make it, you just might see them again. Start rowing and grab that sword.

    Major League Baseball (ESPN)
    Thursday July 23 7pm/10pm

    Crank up the opening of John Fogerty's "Centerfield" – baseball is finally back.

    The season starts with a doubleheader featuring the perpetually stacked New York Yankees taking on the defending world champion Washington Nationals. This game will be followed at 10pm by baseball's most heated rivalry - the San Francisco Giants visiting Chavez Ravine to take on this year's favorite, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Curious to see how COVID rules affect the broadcast of a ballgame. There are no fans in the stands and any noise you hear will be artificial. The Yankees and Dodgers will be there to love or hate depending upon your affinity (I'm a long-time Pirates fan), and an abbreviated 60 game season should be enough to satisfy any baseball lover.

    I've always found the national pastime to be quite relaxing. It's the ridiculously slow pace and feeling of summer as the innings play out that gets me. Part of me still thinks I could be out there on that diamond with the pros. Then I go eat a snack and keep watching.

    The Good Fight (CBS ALL ACCESS)
    I wrote about the fourth season finale back in May, but I wanted to take this opportunity to revisit my "Best Show That No One Is Talking About." Robert and Michelle King created a world that is wonderful to be a part of.

    I was a huge fan of The Good Wife. My own good wife turned me on to the Julianna Margulies star vehicle. Good writing, great acting, and my favorite actors from The Wire would pop up every week.

    The Good Wife took tremendous twists and turns during its seven seasons. Every character on the show was compelling, from Kalinda to Colin Sweeney. Series regulars, guest stars - it didn't matter.

    I heard about a spinoff featuring Diane Lockhart and saw it was regulated to CBS All Access - a mysterious pay service with Star Trek episodes and who knew what else. That did not sound like a vote of confidence. No Alicia or Peter Florrick? No Ari Gold? How could this work?

    Some of the minor players from The Good Wife were on board, but it was up to Christine Baranski and Cush Jumbo to carry the ball – and they exceed expectations. In the absence of the Florricks, there's plenty of drama and very strong politicizing happening at Chicago law firms.

    The guest star element of the original series has continued with this sequel, but they are having more fun with the storylines. The Good Wife always had a sharp sense of humor, but CBS All Access allowed the Kings to take more chances and really put the characters out there. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I respect the chances they take.

    The Good Fight has been picked up for a fifth season, and with our real world in total chaos, it will capitalize and provide a welcome distraction. An edited version of this quality drama will make its way to CBS. That's the place it should have been airing all along.

    -------------

    If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.

    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: Major League Baseball, The Good Fight, Norsemen