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.
"Live from New York...it's Saturday Night!" Saturday Night Live is still on holiday break this coming week, but with the change in the Oval Office, you have to wonder what will happen when the she returns for its first live episodes of 2021.
SNL ratings peak during every Presidential election season, and 2020 was no exception. It was a good year for Lorne’s baby. Dave Chappelle’s episode drew over 9 million viewers making it the highest rated entertainment show since the Oscars. Chappelle is no fan of the Trump administration, but we all wanted to see his take on the state of our country.
But the times they are a changin’. Alec Baldwin is thrilled on multiple levels that Trump will soon be out of office. Many tuned in to see Alec’s Trump and what A-list FoL (Friend of Lorne’s) would cameo as that week’s politician in the news. Alec has his own issues to deal with, and as great as he is at playing the President, it’s time to have that character head out to the golf course. He can always come back.
Jim Carrey has also said his goodbye ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration. The cast is more than capable to portray the Washington elite, but are viewers as likely to tune in if Larry David or Ben Stiller aren’t dropping by?
The transition out of an election season has always been tough for SNL. Our country is in flames right now, and that’ll help keep viewers coming back for some much needed laughs even if the "live" in Saturday night no longer brings an edge of danger and excitement. That will be reserved for the occasional Weekend Update joke that generates a bit of controversy.
It’s a crazy time in the U.S.A. for a variety of reasons, and SNL will have a plethora of material to work with when it returns — it’ll all come down to the execution to keep viewers coming back week after week.
My picks this week include searching for ancestors, trying to find yourself later in life and a return to an Irish goodbye.
Finding Your Roots (PBS)
Tuesday, January 19th 8pm
Everyone loves to explore their family tree, but be careful what you wish for. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. returns for the seventh season of exploring the ancestry of influential people with diverse backgrounds.
I've yet to dig up the roots of where I come from as I can only go back to my great grandparents. There's a natural curiosity to learn where we stem from. Everyone wishes for blue blood, but we are often begat by regular folk who had much tougher lives during their time on this planet.
Andy Cohen, John Lithgow, Glenn Close and Mandy Patinkin are just a few of the celebs who take the journey into their past this season. Can't wait to see what they dig up on this PBS mainstay. Prepare for some surprises.
Losing Alice (APPLE TV+)
Friday, January 22nd
A 48 year-old film director feels she doesn't matter much after raising her family, so why not look to a younger woman to deal with her fear of aging. This psychological thriller uses flashbacks and flash forwards as it explores the minds of its main characters.
The Israeli program is triggered by a brief encounter on a train. Drama on the rails has been popping up as major plot device on a lot of recent cable dramas. I didn't realize there were so many exciting things happening on the local choo-choo.
Apple TV+ has invested heavily in the Israeli TV pipeline following the success of Fauda, Shtisel and Unorthodox on Netflix. It's all about the storytelling, and this one might be too cinematic for most, but worth checking in on. Watch trailer
Bridge and Tunnel (EPIX)
Sunday, January 24th 9pm
Ed Burns had early success with his mid-90's hit film The Brothers McMullen. The similarities are there in his new TV series as a group of six tries to figure out life as they pursue Manhattan dreams while battling their working class Long Island roots.
The cast is young as Burns returns to a formula that worked well for him in the past. College grads chasing their dreams decades ago is familiar territory. This time, though, he's the dad espousing advice instead of the headstrong kid receiving/ignoring it.
I'm a sucker for anything set in the 80's since that encapsulates my teenage years. Many relate to the desire to leave home and make it in the big city. You can take the kid out of Long Island, but it's awfully hard to take the Long Island out of the kid. Just ask Ed himself.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Wear a mask. 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.