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Jon Hein's TV Picks — Week of June 22, 2020

Zone defense, the Search is over and the edge of Darkness.
  • The Twilight Zone, Search Party and Penn & Teller: Fool Us! (Photos: CBS All Access/HBO Max and The CW)
    The Twilight Zone, Search Party and Penn & Teller: Fool Us! (Photos: CBS All Access/HBO Max and The CW)

    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.

    Let's start with an Emmy update, since everyone is on the edge of their couches thinking about a television awards show that is consistently one of the most boring programs to watch. Go figure.

    The television academy has expanded the comedy and drama series categories to eight nominees each — ripping a page right out of the Oscars withering playbook.

    Here's a suggestion: don't mandate any number of nominees for any category. The finest shows of the year deserve to be nominated, and limiting the number of nominees preserves quality choices. Expanding that number has nothing to do with the quality of nominees, it's all about quantity.

    If every show gets nominated, how do you know which ones are actually the best? This is the equivalent of giving everyone who plays sports a trophy and having every team make the playoffs. Are the Emmys really trying this hard to be the Golden Globes? Pick your winners, and stand by your choices.

    Speaking of winners and losers, TV reboots are tricky to pull off. Most simply don't work. For every Battlestar Galactica, there's an unwatchable version of The Munsters or The Odd Couple.

    The Twilight Zone is one of the greatest shows ever created. I fondly remember being fascinated and frightened by Rod Serling's tales as I caught up on every episode in syndication. I fell in love with that black and white beauty made more than a decade before my time. I never miss a marathon, much to the chagrin of my family since they've seen the episodes so many times (and suffer through me rewatching them).

    Burgess Meredith and his glasses. Richard Kiel visiting Earth. Getting off the train at Willoughby. A third eye at the diner. Room for one more, honey. That dummy who haunts me to this very day. Endless examples of truly standout moments in television writing and production.

    Yet time and again, someone tries to bring back The Twilight Zone. They think the brand will help carry the series. It never ever works.

    It's not the creators fault. No one can recapture all that goes in to a Twilight Zone episode. The mystery, charm, horror, acting, narrator — even the sets. It is a brilliant product of its time.

    Free advice to the next wannabe Rod Serling: don't bother. Just be you, and create your own new world with your stories inside. Leave the Zone alone. Please.

    THIS WEEK'S PICKS

    Penn & Teller: Fool Us! (The CW)
    Monday June 22 (Season 7 Premiere)

    It’s now officially summer, and the pickings are predictably slim on network TV — that is, unless you’re a hardcore fan of reality TV. Which I am not. Still, this is the rare reality show I can get behind. Magicians try to fool two of the best who ever played the game. It's a fun watch. Watch the preview.

    The Twilight Zone (CBS ALL ACCESS)
    Thursday June 25 (Season 2 Premiere)

    This latest attempt to bring back this classic franchise comes from "the mind of Jordan Peele." The first season updated some classic episodes and offered some new stories – and it didn't really work.

    I'm all for seeing what Jordan Peele can do in this genre. Just don't call it The Twilight Zone. Charlie Brooker did it with Black Mirror which he wisely didn't title Twilight Zone: Across The Pond.

    Most streaming services offer all of the original Twilight Zone episodes. Some are dated and rough to watch, but the stories at the core of most of these episodes retain their brilliance. Read that signpost up ahead — "the only one who should open and close any Twilight Zone episode is Rod Serling." I might be paraphrasing.

    Search Party (HBO MAX)
    Thursday June 25 (Season 3 Premiere)

    After a two and half year hiatus, this TBS cult comedy hit has found a new home at HBO Max. Maeby from Arrested Development and her Brooklyn millennial pals searched for a missing person who was a college acquaintance during season one. The second season dealt with the consequences of that search and it got ugly. I'm trying not to spoil things if you're new to the show.

    Season three is all about the trial and fame that comes along with it. A fourth season has already been ordered, so we shouldn’t have to wait as long for more of this satirical tale. Watch the trailer.

    Dark (NETFLIX)
    Saturday June 27 (Season 3 Premiere)

    You think Lost messed with your head when it came to time travel? This German language thriller is even more complex where everything, and I do mean everything, means something.

    Those new to Dark will learn the significance of its premiere date. The first season is spectacular. The second expands on that complexity and widens the universe.

    Pay careful attention to all of the details and who is who. The creators have pledged that everything will make sense, and I'm not waiting 33 years to see how this plot is resolved. Watch the trailer.

    I'll Be Gone In The Dark (HBO)
    Sunday June 28 10pm (Premiere)

    This six-part docuseries is based on the book written by Michelle McNamara (first wife of Patton Oswalt) who couldn't get the Golden State Killer out of her mind.

    While her husband was out perfecting his standup and their kids slept, McNamara indulged in her obsession of the unsolved California rape and murder cases that took place in the 1970s and 1980s.

    The subtitle of the book "One Woman's Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer" is an understatement. Amy Ryan narrates this true-crime tale which deals with multiple levels of tragedy.

    I hope you enjoy these weekly 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: The Twilight Zone (1959 series), I'll Be Gone in the Dark, Penn & Teller: Fool Us, Search Party, The Twilight Zone (2019 series), Emmys