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.
Horrible thoughts crossed my mind as I watched the premiere of AMC’s new series Kevin Can F*** Himself. No, I wasn't thinking about getting rid of my spouse. I was thinking… I just don't get this.
The premise of focusing on the dark side of a traditional "sitcom wife" is intriguing. The contrast in visual style between the sitcom and the world outside is provocative. But the show? It just isn't for me.
The performances, led by Schitt's Creek’s Annie Murphy, are good. The writing is fine. The execution is solid. But as I read other critics whom I respect hailing the genius of this show, I kept wondering what am I missing?
Look, I love television. I always have. But I don't love all TV programs, and I accept that every show will not be in my wheelhouse. I do my best to objectively look at what's on my screen.
When you go to a museum, everything is presented as "great art." But as you peruse different exhibits, sometimes it's difficult to appreciate the “greatness” of some of the things you're looking at. Someone explaining why a piece of art is excellent does not make it so if it doesn't appeal to you.
I've watched a ridiculous amount of TV over the years and cannot get enough. I have a discernible palate. Some call me elitist. I like to think it's because I've got almost 50 years of experience watching and, with my Jump the Shark pedigree, I've got a pretty solid idea of what makes a good show.
My expectations are high for any program that makes its way on to the air. It can be as brilliant as Jeopardy! or as dumb as Wipeout, but it needs to be well-made and offer some value to the world. Good writing, appealing characters, sharp premises – that's what I'm looking for. My TV doesn't run in the background – I focus on what's earned the right to appear on my screen.
Maybe I just need to lighten up. Still, I'd love to know what I'm missing from these shows…
Critically Acclaimed Shows I Just Didn't Get
Friends - Everyone seems to love the saga of these six, but not me. My first daughter was born in 1994, so maybe that has something to do with it. It's not a bad show, but certainly not one of the all-time best.
Orange Is The New Black - I tried. I really did. The longer it went on, the less interesting it got. It felt like I was in prison.
Girls - I write this one off to not being in the right demo. Scenes like defending working at McDonald's were brilliant. The rest of the show? Not so much.
Shameless – Excellent actors in this one, but their characters were so unappealing. I’ve never enjoyed shows that rely on how gross you can be.
Shows That Are Ruining Society
Keeping Up With The Kardashians - Getting famous for the sake of being famous and flaunting wealth. I'll never get this one. Started a horrible TV trend. Glad it's over.
The Bachelor - You're never going to find true love here. You will find people succeeding at getting on TV and trying to be famous. No thanks. This applies to most other dating shows as well.
Real Housewives of Fill In The Blank - Terrible combination of deplorable people and manufactured drama. The worst of the worst.
The Masked Singer - Who is under the goofy costume is the top rated show? Really? We can't do better than this?
You may have noticed how all of the programs I listed are extremely popular. I have to respect that.
I also realize my distaste for these shows may say more about me than it does these shows. I'm generally not into watching single people, dating shows, reality television or gross-out entertainment.
Still, everyone on Seinfeld was single (and I loved it). I thought Love On The Spectrum was an excellent dating show. Survivor is one of my favorite programs. And The Walking Dead (a favorite before it jumped the shark) got pretty gnarly.
So maybe it isn't me. Maybe, just maybe, it's the quality.
THIS WEEK’S SPTINAFOBYMB!
(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)
This Is Pop (NETFLIX) – TV’s nostalgia machine marches on in this eight-part docuseries on the power of pop music. Drops Tuesday.
Too Hot To Handle (NETFLIX) – Back for its second season, it’s the dating show where contestants can look but they can’t touch. Rises Wednesday.
Epstein's Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell (PEACOCK) – Three-part docuseries on Jeffrey Epstein's right hand (pun absolutely intended). Creeps out on Thursday.
When Nature Calls (ABC) – Helen Mirren narrates this comedy of nature footage with human voices telling us what animals are thinking. Read that sentence again. Arrives Thursday.
Sex/Life (NETFLIX) – Steamy love triangle between a stay-at-home mom, her reliable husband and her checkered past. Drips Friday.
(This Week's Finales)
I'll Be Gone In The Dark (HBO) – One year after the docuseries ended, this special episode closes the chapter on the late Michelle McNamara's research on the Golden State Killer. Airs Monday.
Conan (TBS) – The very funny royally screwed over late night host will still have his podcast. Ends Thursday.
The Kings (SHOWTIME) – This great four-part boxing docuseries on Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran rings its final bell Thursday.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
University quizzes, legal drama queens, and Hieronymus final trip…
Capital One College Bowl (NBC)
Tuesday June 22nd 8pm
The title sounds like a football game and NFL Hall of Famer Peyton Manning hosts, but this has nothing to do with the gridiron. It's all about testing the knowledge of college students in this revival of the quiz show from the 60's.
Having cut his teeth on Nationwide ads and SNL hosting, Peyton continues to charm the audience as he hosts battles of wits between university geeks. The Manning brothers (Peyton, Eli and Cooper) are producers, and Capital One paid enough to get its name in the title. Aaron Rodgers will be watching closely.
The Good Fight (PARAMOUNT+)
Thursday, June 24th Season 5 premiere
COVID can claim the fourth season of this top-notch show as another one of its victims, but Season 5 is back at full strength. Mandy Patinkin joins the already fine cast with Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald at the helm.
This season Diane Lockhart wonders if she should be in charge of an African-American law firm after all that's gone down there. Expect major characters to return and the usual plot twists to keep you on edge. I can't help but wonder how CBS let this extension of Alicia Florrick’s world go. Watch trailer.
Friday, June 25th Season 7 premiere
It's the final case for Detective Harry Bosch in this gritty police drama based on the must-read Michael Connelly novels. As Harry likes to say, "everybody counts or nobody counts."
Titus Welliver found his way off the island in LOST into the lead role, and Wire alums Jamie Hector and Lance Reddick are part of the talented cast. Bosch cases are always complicated and deep, just like the life of the lead detective.
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.