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.
Summertime. Halfway through 2020. Nostradamus couldn't have predicted how this year would turn out thus far.
HBO Max joined AppleTV+ and Disney+ with mixed results. Quibi is here. Peacock arrives in a few weeks. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu keep cranking out the content. Most of us are stuck at home and TV options are plentiful, yet it gets more difficult to find stuff that's really worth watching.
Independence Day is upon us. When I grew up, my dad would make us watch the celebration on PBS with The Boston Pops doing their thing every July 4th. This year, I dread any form of fireworks since I've been hearing them nonstop in Manhattan for weeks. I'll take the Tchaikovsky, but no explosions, please.
Beaches aren't as crowded for obvious reasons, but I'm always on the lookout for fins in the water when it comes to current programming. Network execs have gotten much more adept at pulling a show before it can jump the shark. It could be budget issues, plentiful cheap reality programming, or simply better awareness, but casts aren't breaking into song and new babies haven't been introduced.
Don't get me wrong… many programs will continue to take Fonzie’s fatal leap. If you've watched Killing Eve or The Walking Dead, both have found the other side of the fin. It might be more difficult to spot, but sooner or later, show creators will fall back on plot devices that lead to breaking out the water skis.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Unsolved Mysteries (NETFLIX)
Wednesday July 1 (Premiere)
Last week, it was The Twilight Zone. This week, it's Unsolved Mysteries. Yet another of yesteryear’s titles deemed worthy of a reboot. Let's have a moment of silence for the late Robert Stack who hosted the popular show for 15 seasons.
There's no new host — good choice. They kept the opening theme (slightly updated) — an even better choice. Supernatural encounters, unexplained disappearances — the conspiracy theorist or cynic inside you will come out full force watching these tales. This season starts with a hole in a Baltimore hotel roof and doesn’t let up.
Unsolved Mysteries was well ahead of the true crime curve. The original show’s creators have teamed with the producers of Stranger Things for this reboot. Tons of cases were brought to light during the original run and hundreds got solved. Unsolved.com is going to get busy this summer.
Friday July 3 (Premiere)
"How does a bastard, orphan..." — you know the rest of the question.
I never saw Hamilton on Broadway, despite raves from close friends and family. I double-majored in communications and history, but the life of Alexander Hamilton as a Broadway musical seems like an absurd premise. And those ticket prices… I chose to spend my money elsewhere.
Now Disney+ brings the Lin-Manuel Miranda masterpiece into our homes. Aside from The Mandalorian, this is the premiere offering from the relatively new streaming service, and many are going to tune in. It's difficult to capture the pure magic of Broadway on TV (try watching Rent), but this is the now only way to see the Tony Award winning phenomenon with its original cast. I'm not throwing away my shot.
Friday July 3 (Season 2 Premiere)
Hanna is back for a second season of thrills and kills. This Amazon show is based on the Saoirse Ronan big screen splash back in 2011.
After being raised and trained in the forest by her dad, Hanna avoids the CIA in her quest to find out who she really is. Turns out she's not the only young mystery assassin in town.
The bloody ending of the first season sets up this next one well. Hanna is surrounded by others just like her forming a young female force to be reckoned with.
Where will Hanna's future take her? My guess it will involve a lot of grunting, running and killing in the woods.
60 Minutes (CBS)
Sunday July 5 7pm
Can't get enough of that stopwatch. It's time for a shout out to the all-time greatest TV news magazine.
I am not a TV news person at all, but 60 Minutes is more than just the news. It has always been a no-nonsense informative investigation into the issues of the day, but just as importantly, it's good TV.
I started watching following NFC football games with Pat Summerall reminding me what's coming up on 60 Minutes. Been there ever since. Correspondents come and go and it no longer tops the ratings, but I feel smarter after watching this hour every Sunday night.
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.