This year has somehow been going by very slow and very fast. Like, it’s only June, but it is also already June, you know? Too many things are happening. I think that’s the problem. And the long and short of it all is that stuff might be slipping past you in your doomed attempts to stay on top of everything. I’m sure this applies to a bunch of different areas, but the one I am qualified to discuss is television, so let’s start there.
There are, as you might have heard, a zillion television shows right now. And there are more coming at a breakneck, almost reckless pace. A few of the new ones from the first half of this year bubbled up to grab a moment in the pop culture spotlight (Big Little Lies, Legion, Handmaid’s Tale, etc.), but a bunch sort of skidded by without much fanfare. Or without enough fanfare. According to me. Which is what is important here, because I’m the one writing this post.
So, what I’m going to do is retroactively shine a light on a few new shows from the first half of 2017, in the hopes that you take the time to circle back and check them out as the television schedule slows down a little bit this summer. The nice thing is, because they’re new, there’s only one season to catch up on. This isn’t me telling you to watch all 20+ seasons of Law & Order. Although you should do that, too. At least the Lennie Briscoe years. But watch some of these first. They’re good. I promise.
Where is it? IFC
Who is in it? Hank Azaria and Amanda Peet
What’s it like? It’s kind of like Anchorman crossed with Bob Uecker’s character in Major League
Brockmire is a IFC’s most popular original show ever, so calling it “under-the-radar” is a little insulting to IFC. I’m sorry. I am. But the first season was so good and outside of a smattering of reviews and a few stray tweets, I didn’t see nearly as much buzz about it as I thought it deserved. We can do better.
The gist: Brockmire is a comedy about a famous baseball announcer (Azaria, think Vin Scully) whose career goes down the tubes after he walks in on his wife in a compromising position and has a drunken, profane, very graphic meltdown on live television during the next game. He goes on a years-long, worldwide bender before returning to America to be the voice of a minor league team owned by Amanda Peet. (Her character, I mean.) What follows is a sometimes foul, sometimes sweet plot about the two of them rebuilding their lives, and many, many cuss words, a lot of which are said by Azaria’s character in his announcer voice. Brockmire is a good show.
Where is it? Amazon
Who is in it? Michael Dorman and Kurtwood Smith
What’s it like? It’s kind of like Fargo meets BoJack Horseman, but about a spy
Patriot is a very weird and dark and funny show and I love it so much. It’s hard to describe. That trailer doesn’t do it justice. Here, let me try: Patriot is a spy show, kind of, but it’s also a show about corporate America and middle management, kind of, and it’s also a show about a man dealing with near-debilitating depression. And murder. And track suits. And underground folk duos. And piping. There is, I am not kidding, so much talk about industrial piping. You won’t believe it. I feel like I’m not doing a good job with this.
Let’s try again: Patriot stars Michael Dorman as a depressed spy who has to infiltrate an American piping company as part of an international money deal that may or may not be above board. Things go wrong, frequently and spectacularly, to the great annoyance of his “boss” at the piping company, who is played by Kurtwood Smith in all of his “the dad from That 70s Show” glory. It builds and builds, with threads weaving this way and that, until everything slams together. It’s really funny, in a dry, almost Coen brothers way. Some of you will watch this and hate it and be angry at me for telling you to watch it. Some of you will love it, though, and if you do, then you are in a group I would describe as “my people.”
I think that went better.
Where is it? Comedy Central
Who is in it? Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson
What’s it like? It’s kind of like Broad City with boys
Detroiters has three things going for it.
One: It is so much fun. It stars real-life best friends Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson as fictional best friends who run a small advertising firm, and their relationship in the show is goofy and charming as heck. Need a break from “comedies” that play out more like 30-minute dramas? Detroiters. Wanna sit back and relax while watching something light? Detroiters. Wanna see two guys take a bunch of speed and try to heave objects through a surprisingly resilient window? You guessed it, Detroiters.
Two: Sam Richardson is the best. You probably know him as Richard Splett on Veep, as you should, because Richard Splett is a top-10 character on TV right now. While Splett is all dry humor and naive try-hard, Richardson’s character on Detroiters is profoundly silly. I get so happy every time he appears on screen, which is a lot, because he’s one of the two main characters. The guy is a star. I’ll be both happy and sad when Hollywood realizes it and he becomes too big for both of these roles.
I rest my case.
Where is it? Amazon
Who is in it? Giovanni Ribisi, Bryan Cranston, Margo Martindale, Alison Wright, and everyone else
What’s it like? It’s kind of like Justified but with grifting
I’m always surprised that we don’t talk about Sneaky Pete more. It’s got great bloodlines (originally created by Bryan Cranston and David Shore, later taken over by Graham Yost, who created Justified and executive produces The Americans), it has a cool premise (con man gets out of prison and pretends to be his cellmate to grift said cellmate’s long lost relatives), it has a million people you know in it (Giovanni Ribisi! Margo Martindale! Martha from The Americans! Deputy Tim from Justified! As a sleazy lawyer!), and it, uh, co-stars Bryan Cranston, who plays the show’s Big Bad. Hmm. I probably should have led with that. Seems like a big deal.
The whole thing — or at least the last two thirds, once Yost took over — has a very Justified, Elmore Leonard vibe, with snappy dialogue and shooty violence and really great bad guys. This is a compliment. Please watch it and talk about it, if only so the world makes sense to me.
Trial & Error
Where is it? NBC
Who is in it? Nicolas D’Agosto, Jayma Mays, and John Lithgow
What’s it like? It’s kind of like a Deep South Parks and Recreation crossed with The Jinx
Hey, do you like true crime and parodies and funny names and lawyer jokes? That’s cool. I do, too. Maybe that’s why I liked this show so much. John Lithgow plays an eccentric accused murderer who brings in a young lawyer from a big New York firm to defend him (D’Agosto). The legal team is a mess, the prosecutor (Jayma Mays) is a very horny conviction-hunting lunatic, and there is a character named Rutger Hiss, which won me over completely. The only real complaint I have about the show, and it is a small one, is that it leans on the “people from the South are dumb, cousin-humping rednecks” thing pretty hard, especially in the early parts, which is a shame because the show is way too smart and funny the rest of the time to use that as a crutch.
But even with that said, it’s still one of the best network comedies to come out this year, and one that looks really promising heading into season two. (See also, Great News, NBC’s other good new sitcom.) And it has maybe the best bleeped-out cuss word gag I’ve ever seen. You’ll know it when you see it. I guarantee it.