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Hein’s TV Picks: The Thing About Pam Had Me at Hello

Plus, Survivor 42, Upload Season 2, and more.
  • Renée Zellweger stars as Pam Hupp in The Thing About Pam. (Photo: Frank Ockenfels/NBC)
    Renée Zellweger stars as Pam Hupp in The Thing About Pam. (Photo: Frank Ockenfels/NBC)

    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.

    Three years ago, a co-worker tipped me off to Pam. My friend is an avid podcast listener who insisted this was well worth the listen. So, I met Pam while boarding a subway at Rockefeller Plaza. Little did I know that the folks in the building above were putting together a TV series starring an Oscar winning actress based upon this tale.

    The Thing About Pam is a new six-part true crime drama premiering this Tuesday at 10pm on NBC. If this adaptation is anything like the podcast, it promises to be must-see TV.

    Forget books and newspaper articles – many dramas popping up on streamers and networks originate from podcasts. Dr. Death and Dirty John are just a couple of products from the podcast pipeline. The plot of Only Murders In The Building revolves around a podcast. Everyone seems to have a podcast these days, and the best stories are making their way into the mainstream.

    The plight of Pam Hupp was first covered by Dateline NBC back in 2014, and the series has come back the case to nearly a half dozen times through its many twists and turns, ultimately spawning the podcast upon which the new drama is based.

    It's surprising that this six-part Peacock production is airing on NBC. I understand that it's a Dateline story and it shows the confidence of NBC to bypass an original run on Peacock for valuable network airspace. The ad dollars must be there.

    Renee Zellweger doesn't just take any role. The Oscar winning actress has always made interesting choices and goes deep into any character she portrays. I can't wait to see how she tackles the part and watch the crazy saga play out. You cannot escape this story. That's the thing about Pam.

    (Really Good Shows You May Have Missed)

    This Week's Pick: Downton Abbey (Netflix, Amazon, Peacock, PBS and The Roku Channel) — This PBS classic is far from obscure, and yet a contingent of viewers who avoid period dramas continue to resist its charms. The Crawley family and their "help" make their way through the early 20th century. A charming witty look at what happens upstairs and downstairs in a somewhat royal setting.

    Previous Picks
    Justified (Hulu)
    The Good Wife (Paramount+)
    Freaks & Geeks (Hulu)
    Patriot (Amazon Prime Video)
    Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
    The Split (Amazon Prime Video)
    Bordertown (Netflix)
    Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)

    (International Hits)

    The Chelsea Detective (Acorn) — A British duo solves crimes in an affluent London neighborhood. Monday.

    (Shows That I Hope To Get To!)

    The Andy Warhol Diaries (Netflix) – Ryan Murphy's six-part exploration of the artist's posthumously published diaries. Wednesday.

    Domino Masters (Fox) – I'm a sucker for watching those tiles fall in cool patterns. Eric Stonestreet hosts. Wednesday at 9.

    Bust Down (Peacock) – Four casino workers at an Indiana casino try to improve their lives taking an absurd path to get there. Thursday.

    The Last Days Of Ptolemy Grey (Apple TV+) – Samuel L. Jackson stars as an elderly dementia patient named Ptolemy - do you need anything more? Friday.

    Critics Choice Awards (CW/TBS) – I'm a Critics Choice voter, so this is a selfish pick. Sunday at 7.


    Survivor (CBS)
    Wednesday, March 9th 8pm

    Season 42 - that's a lot of surviving. I've written countless times about the only "reality" show worth watching simply because the game is at the core of its success. Every week, my daughter Rachel and I tune in together to see what's going on in Fiji and marvel at the group dynamic.

    It doesn't matter who the contestants are. You won't remember their names once the season is over. But Jeff Probst does a masterful job leading a new crop to outwit, outplay and outlast each other in the quest of becoming the sole survivor.

    Upload (Amazon Prime Video)
    Friday, March 11th

    Greg Daniels has always made a different kind of TV show. The SNL scribe shifted to The Simpsons and King of the Hill, then left animation for The Office. He created Parks & Recreation which had a more humane feel to its comedy. Then he left the planet with Space Force.

    His Amazon creation Upload enters its second season as a different kind of look at what happens after we die. In 2033, the choice of a virtual afterlife is yours, and the comedy centers around digital heaven and how it relates to the "real world." I'd call this science fiction but take a look at what Meta is up to. At least we can laugh at this.

    If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

    Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!

    Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.

    TOPICS: The Thing About Pam, NBC, Dateline NBC, Survivor, Upload, Renée Zellweger