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 begin this week with an answer to Hank Williams Junior's most famous question…
I am ready for some football.
And it's a pretty safe bet that I’m not alone. Year after year, NBC’s Sunday Night Football tops the national ratings. It's not even close. Millions across the country can't wait for a primetime matchup of the sport that has become America's favorite pastime (apologies to baseball).
I don't enjoy the Carrie Underwood-ing of football coverage and turning into more of a spectacle. You can have your Super Bowl Halftime extravaganza, I'm all about the game. But the networks have gotten wise to incorporating the "entertainment factor" into sports and clearly it works.
Football Night in America will air before Thursday's inaugural game. It's a bloated pre-game show, light on analysis and heavy on the entertainment. If you're looking for your favorite band to perform its latest single, why not take advantage of a large audience? The NFL knows that football is a business, and audience is everything. Wake me up at kickoff.
College football also kicks off this Saturday night, and there's plenty of controversy here. The ACC is one of the college football conferences proceeding with business as usual while campuses deal with the pandemic.
Many enjoy pro football from their couches, but college football is a bit of a different story. Most of the appeal is from the passion of alumni (Go Blue!) and live college crowds being true to their school. Those crowds will not be around this year, but the cameras (and gamblers) certainly will.
Football equals fall, which is depressing weather wise. With Labor Day upon us, summer is gone and who knows what the future holds. As a lifelong football fan, I welcome a distraction focusing on X's and O's. We all can use the relief.
This week's TV highlights are all about music, sports and single moms in Britain.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Biography: I Want My MTV (A&E)
Tuesday, September 8th 8:00 PM ET
It was "M29" in my house growing up. My dad referred to the new music television channel by its number on the cable box, but my brother and I just wanted our MTV.
Anyone who grew up in the 80's knows this mantra. The A&E staple Biography takes its swing at the Vee-Jay era with its documentary on a channel that really did change the world.
Before MTV, the only place you could see music was on American Bandstand, Don Kirschner's Rock Concert, or other made for TV showcases. These shows were all about the musical performances and almost every one of them was lip synched.
MTV changed all of that. Suddenly there were mini-movies of Corey Hart wearing sunglasses at night, Cindy Lauper battling with Captain Lou Albano, and Nena looking for her luftballoons. The early years took video to new heights and made it an art form while still being entertaining.
MTV evolved and devolved from its five original Vee-Jays to whatever it is now, but back then the video was more important that the music itself. In this documentary, talking heads (not those Talking Heads) remember the era and the effect it had on the music and television industries.
Thursday Night Football (NBC) 8:20pm
Saturday Night College Football (ABC) 7:30pm
Sunday Night Football (NBC) 8:20pm
COVID permitting, the football season will kick off with premiere matchups as it reminds us that it's going to get cold outside.
The first NFL matchup of the year features premiere quarterbacks as the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans. Arrowhead Stadium was always a tough place to play because of the crowd, so I'm curious to see how the broadcast looks and feels with COVID protocols in place.
On Saturday night, it's college football's turn as defending national champion Clemson visits ACC foe Wake Forest. With no rowdy college crowd, the broadcast becomes all about the game which is bad news for Wake.
It all culminates with Sunday Night Football, and I'm guessing the number one show in the country gets record numbers. Naturally, the Dallas Cowboys visit the Los Angeles Rams at brand new SoFi stadium in Inglewood.
And if that's not enough for you, there are two more games next Monday night on ESPN. Can't wait.
The Duchess (NETFLIX)
Friday, September 10th
If something succeeds on television, every network (and now streamer) wants to capitalize and create the next big version of it. We've seen it time and again. It's an unfair comparison for some shows, but the similarities ring true.
This year, it's the next Fleabag. Have you noticed all the comedies featuring a single woman in London with a raunchy vocabulary who doesn't fit in with the status quo? Enter The Duchess.
Creator/producer/star Katherine Ryan rose in the Netflix ranks with her raunchy stand-up act. Now she stars as a "fashionably disruptive single mum in London" who dotes on her daughter, Olive. Katherine wants baby number two and debates whether a new boyfriend, Olive's estranged former boy band member father, or a sperm donor will get her pregnant.
It's not the Fleabag plot, but the vibe is similar as bad girl/good mom Katherine deals with other mothers and the challenges of having a second child at an "older" age. It's raunchy with some funny moments, and probably unfair of me to compare it to Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Emmy winner.
If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.
Wear a mask. Stay healthy, cool and safe.
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.