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.
"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can compare to greatness." – Oscar Wilde
"Imitation is the sincerest form of television." – Fred Allen
TV tends to be a predictable business. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. As much as critics like me pine for original programming and new ideas, ratings prove that audiences these days prefer variations on a theme or "rebooting" favorite shows.
Network television is all FBI, L&O, Chicago and -ish. Cable favorites consist of housewives from different cities, dating twists or home renovations. Streamers are stocked with mindless rom-coms, true-crime, and dating games.
This week's new programming puts Oscar and Fred’s quotes to the test with a variety of takes on shows that we’ve already seen.
The Snitch Cartel: Origins (NETFLIX)
Reminds me of: Narcos Season 3 (NETFLIX)
The Snitch Cartel is a Colombian crime film made in 2011, so technically Narcos would be a variation on that theme. In this new Netflix series, two brothers from Cali transform from poor kids into drug kingpins of the Colombian cartel during the 1960's and 1970's. This version of the now infamous story is based on the 2008 novel by Andres Lopez Lopez. Premieres Wednesday.
Behind The Music (PARAMOUNT+)
Reminds me of: Behind The Music (VH1)
The groundbreaking music documentary series returns with new profiles and digs into its vault with updated tales of classic chart toppers who broke through. Ricky Martin and LL Cool J profiles kick off the reboot. What a gift for my brother Kevin who turns 50 on the premiere date. Premieres Thursday.
Dr. Death: The Undoctored Story (PEACOCK)
Reminds me of: Dr. Death (PEACOCK)
Peacock breaks out a four-part companion docuseries right in the middle of an original series that's currently airing! The Joshua Jackson/Alec Baldwin/Christian Slater led program is based on a podcast of the same name. The docuseries features the real-life victims of neurosurgeon Dr. Duntsch. Lots of variation on a terrifying theme. Premieres Thursday.
Watch The Sound with Mark Ronson (Apple TV+)
Reminds me of: McCartney 3, 2, 1 (HULU)
Fresh off Rick Rubin's sit-down with the cute Beatle, the timing of Mark Ronson's new series couldn't be more fortuitous. The Grammy-winning producer explores of the creation of music and extremes undertaken in search of the perfect sound. The six-part docuseries features interviews with prominent musicians including, you guessed it, Paul McCartney. Premieres Friday.
Back On The Record with Bob Costas (HBO)
Reminds me of: On The Record with Bob Costas (HBO)
Bob returns to HBO interviewing sports and pop culture figures from the past and present. His original HBO 2001 series stemmed from Later with Bob Costas which aired on NBC in the late 80's/early 90's. Bob is never afraid to speak his mind on controversial issues and should be a nice companion to Bill Maher. Premieres Friday at 11:00 PM.
Fargo, Battlestar Galactica, Cobra Kai – these programs have proven that this formula can work. TV is entertaining, but it's also comfort. And seeing an old friend or hearing a story you're familiar with feels good when it's done the right way.
I'll be watching this week with a fresh attitude. As for my reviews, I'll quote Oscar Wilde one final time, "the truth is rarely pure and never simple."
THIS WEEK’S SPTINAFOBYMB!
(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)
Love Is Blind: After The Altar (NETFLIX) – A second reunion for couples who didn't see love coming. Bows Wednesday.
Turning The Tables with Robin Roberts (DISNEY+) – Roundtable discussions with powerful women from all walks of life. Convenes Wednesday.
FBoy Island (NETFLIX) – The title says it all. Surfaces Thursday.
NBA Draft (ABC) – The Bucks just won the title, but the NBA keeps the ball rolling. Swishes Thursday.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
An expensive time machine and love in the UK…
Myth & Mogul: John DeLorean (NETFLIX)
Friday, July 30th
John DeLorean is one fascinating dude. Most know him from the brand of car Doc Brown made a time machine out of in Back To The Future. DeLorean started his car company after heading up the sporting car division of GM at a young age.
The three-part docuseries profiles his ascent at GM, the failure of his car company, and how trafficking cocaine somehow entered the picture. DeLorean's family and peers chronicle his quest to build a "dream car" and shine a new light on the late inventor.
The Pursuit Of Love (AMAZON)
Friday, July 30th
If you're hankering for Downton or some other type of British period piece with a twist, this is the series for you. Based on the 1945 novel, two women seek love during the time between the first and second World Wars in England.
The gorgeous Lily James and Emily Beecham play well-off female confidantes whose relationship gets put to the test. Mix in gorgeous cinematography along with Dominic West and Andrew Scott and there's plenty of eye candy to go around in this three-part series.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe!
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.