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.
Memorial Day is when we officially kick off the summertime and get outside! Well, maybe not this year. The good news is that we've got lots of premieres, finales and attempts by broadcast networks to entertain us this week. I'll get to those, but first, some thoughts on what I've been watching.
I realized that I've been taking John Oliver for granted. There's a reason Last Week Tonight takes home all those Emmys. This is the clear successor to Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. His look at recent events with biting sarcasm massaged by a British accent is extremely entertaining. It's silly, poignant, and the best show HBO is airing. By far.
I'm trying to figure out why The Last Dance got so much hype from non-sports fans. ESPN devotees are desperate for sports programming, but this went above and beyond. (To wit, this past Saturday the series began an encore run on ABC.) Michael Jordan is a once-in-a-lifetime superstar who controlled every minute of that footage we saw. Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Steve Kerr added some flavor, but the doc works because we got a peek into number 23's notoriously private life. I enjoyed all 10 parts.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
A new streamer! Series premieres! Finales! The worst idea I've ever heard for a network TV show! I've got you covered.
Wednesday, May 27
Not a new show. A new streaming service. Kevin Reilly is in charge of content, so this baby is going to succeed.
If you already subscribe to HBO via your cable company or otherwise, chances are this will be included as part of your package. That's good news.
WarnerMedia is covering all the bases with HBO Max. Naturally, there's the mass market hits like The Big Bang Theory and Friends. Quick side note — I never got the Friends thing. It's an average sitcom at best, but millions of viewers can't be wrong. That reunion will happen - this network will make sure of it.
Add to the mix any show HBO has ever aired and all its movies and documentaries. Sprinkle in an extensive film library featuring classics like Citizen Kane and Casablanca and new stuff like Joker and Crazy Rich Asians.
Animation is also taken care of. They've got Looney Tunes and Hanna Barbera classics. Rick and Morty. Plus Elmo and Sesame Street.
Original programming will roll out slowly, starting with Anna Kendrick's rom-com Love Life. Since they already have 10,000 hours of content, HBO Max can take its time with new series.
Netflix, beware. HBO Max is poised be a serious competitor. I'll be tuning in.
Space Force (NETFLIX)
Friday May 29
Steve Carell. John Malkovich. Ben Schwartz. Lisa Kudrow. What more do you need? 4-star general Carell teams with eccentric scientist Malkovich to run this branch of the U.S. military. Greg Daniels created the U.S. version of The Office, and we all know what Carell did with that. A space-age workplace comedy with this level of acting will generate plenty of laughs. Watch the trailer.
Sunday May 31
I've been waiting for this one. The real-life cheating scandal on the UK version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire comes to life. Tom from Succession (Matthew Macfadyen) attempts this "audacious heist" as he squirms in Michael Sheen's hot seat. The excellent cast is directed by Stephen Frears, so my expectations are sky high.
Speaking of Millionaire, this Thursday on ABC, Lauren Lapkus and Anderson Cooper get a chance to show how smart they are. I doubt either one will cheat, but it's great to see the amazingly talented star of The Wrong Missy on Netflix finally get her due.
The Good Fight (CBS ALL ACCESS)
Thursday May 28
We only get a seven episode season thanks to COVID-19, but thankfully the show has been renewed for a fifth season. This fourth season has been filled with plenty of twists and turns, and shelving the final 3 episodes will leave things in an absurd place. Some of the best acting on television is happening on CBSAA. Glad it's coming back.
Defending Jacob (APPLE TV+)
Friday May 29
I wrote about this drama in a previous column and can't wait to see how things turn out for the young son of Captain America and Lady Mary.
If you haven't started, you have the advantage of binging each episode leading to this climax. Apple TV+ rolled it out weekly to build buzz, but these days, that's not necessary. Just put it all out there and let us decide when to watch.
Killing Eve (AMC/BBC AMERICA)
Sunday May 31
I've been giving Eve a hard time lately, but the last couple episodes have steered it back down the path that made this show work. Jodie Comer deserves better. Here's hoping the finale, which has never been this program’s strength, can redeem its irredeemable characters.
Haircut Night in America (CBS)
Friday May 29 8pm
Jerry O'Connell gets a haircut from his wife Rebecca Romjin as they host this one-hour special about home snipping.
This is the state of network television. I have no words.
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: HBO Max, Defending Jacob, The Good Fight, Haircut Night in America, Killing Eve, The Last Dance, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Quiz, Space Force, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (UK), John Oliver, Lauren Lapkus, Michael Jordan