Shows you should be watching: Currently on air
Guys, we need to go on a diet. And I'm not talking about food. We're obsessively watching everything TV and streaming channels have to offer, constantly trying to find the next best binge. But what comes of losing an entire weekend to Amazon's The Man in the High Castle or Netflix's Bloodline? Just because you have a large cheese pizza in front of you doesn't mean you should eat it all at once. Woof. Also, there's something to be said about sharing and deciphering shows with other viewers (and not just the ones in your computer). It can be lonely watching an entire series by yourself.
As a person who admittedly watches too much TV, people love to ask me what they should devour next. And lately, my recommendations are for shows currently on air. I've listed five of my favorites below, and three more to come. Even if you don't watch the show the night it airs, there is still joy in having a scheduled date once a week with a show. Or a few of them. There are lots of new shows on RIGHT NOW that need your attention. If a show can't keep your attention once a week, is it really worth a 22-hour marathon later? Yes, you have to re-program your mind to be okay with waiting. I'm enjoying a healthy balance of live shows and binges, and you can, too. New year, new you, after all.
ABC, 10 p.m., Wednesdays: Hands down, this is the smartest show on network television. American Crime is taking a page out of what Law and Order: SVU does, and making it much better. It's an anthology series, so this new season has nothing to do with the last one, except you'll see many of the same faces doing some great work. This new story starts with an unusual rape. In a private school near Chicago, a boy on the basketball team attends a team party and comes home unsure of what happened. His mother, played by Lili Taylor, above, does everything she can with the school and police to make sure the crime gets justice. Each episode has been focusing on one character, while still moving the story forward with its large ensemble cast (including Regina King, Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton). The production is a little different than most network dramas: The camera cuts close on faces and objects, and there's no background music. It makes the show's commentary on race, gender and privilege especially riveting. I wonder how a show as smart as this one would do on a premium channel.
Fox, 9:30 p.m., Tuesdays: Oh, Rob Lowe. Can you be in all shows? (And can you tell me your anti-aging secrets?) The Grinder is the best new comedy, but its premise will be hard to maintain. Lowe plays Dean Sanderson, a self-absorbed but good-hearted guy who played a lawyer on television. Dean moves in with his brother Stewart, played by my beloved Fred Savage, when his show, also called The Grinder, gets canceled. Stewart is actually a lawyer, and Dean also thinks he's a lawyer, so he starts working at the family firm. Lowe and Savage have the perfect comedic chemistry. The writing is brisk, and the jokes are smart. There are lots of knowing winks for fans of crime dramas. We'll see how far this schtick will go, but right now, The Grinder is a fun half-hour.
CW, 8 p.m., Mondays: If you haven't watched Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, yet, it's about time. Fair warning, it's a musical comedy. But as comedies turn dark for laughs (I'm looking at you Casual and Transparent), it's refreshing to watch a new TV star find an offbeat approach to comedy. Rachel Bloom, who just won a Golden Globe for best comedic actress, has been singing for laughs for awhile. You may have seen her R-rated YouTube videos that tell us all about her love for Ray Bradbury and pictures of private parts. But musical comedies are risky. Glee fell a to pieces quickly. Flight of the Conchords on HBO only lasted two seasons because producing songs and a show is a lot of work. ABC's Galavant is really good, but has a very limited production. Bloom is brilliantly taking on the challenge, though. She's playing with darkness set to a cute beat. Her character openly struggles with mental illness as she moves across the country for a boy (hence the title of the show.) But she's endearing. She's hopeful. She's a little crazy. She is all of us.
FX, 10 p.m., Thursdays: This new comedy from the mind of Zach Galifianakis and Louis C.K. isn't for everyone. But if you're a fan of Galifianakis, who is best known for his role in the Hangover movies, and the online series Between Two Ferns, Baskets is worth your time. The show follows Chip Baskets (Galifianakis), a struggling clown who is angry at the world and the people around him. He failed out of clown school in France because he didn't speak French, and is now working as a rodeo clown in Bakersfield, Calif. Galifianakis also plays Chip's twin brother, Dale, a hilariously effeminate character we've seen before in Zach's standup specials. Chip treats everyone terribly, but especially his new friend Martha (played by his IRL friend Martha Kelly), who matches Galifianakis' anger with brilliant deadpan. And perhaps the funniest casting is Louie Anderson as Chip and Dale's mother. Yes, mother.
Shades of Blue
NBC, 10 p.m., Thursdays: Okay, J.Lo. You got me. I went into this show with low expectations. That premise? Girl, we've all been here before. Cops doing shady things? Please. Ray Liotta is a bad guy? Oooh, groundbreaking. But somehow, you've kept me paying attention to this gritty police show each week, waiting for the next twist in the story. Jenny From The Block plays Harlee Santos, a single mom and a slightly corrupt Brooklyn cop turned FBI informant. It's Lopez's best work, and it's amazing she can stand up against Liotta. While the show isn't subtle in its foreshadowing or originality, Jennifer Lopez keeps it compelling. Drea de Matteo also stars.
Mark your calendars
The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (Feb. 2, 10 p.m., FX): This is going to be the show you're going to need to watch each week to keep up with office watercooler chat. Cuba Gooding Jr. gives the performance of his life as O.J. Simpson during the 1994-95 infamous case. But the show isn't really about Simpson. It's based on Jeffrey Toobin's investigative book, which gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the trial. Even though the crime is 20 years old, the show seems as relevant as ever. Race, class and fame issues are front and center. And every actor (John Travolta, Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance and David Schwimmer) gives it his or her all. Come for the social commentary, stay for the wigs and baby Kardashian sightings.
Vinyl (Feb. 14, 9 p.m., HBO): The anticipated series from Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese stars Bobby Cannavale as Richie Finestra, the charismatic head of a record label in 1973. He's hit rock bottom as he tries to save his company in a changing music industry. Fueled by sex, drugs and rock ‘n' roll, the show's got lots of high expectations. Let's hope it finds a heartfelt story in an era that defined many lives. Boardwalk Empire's Terence Winter serves as showrunner. Ray Romano and Olivia Wilde also star.
The Family (March 3, 9 p.m., ABC): This pilot episode was one of my favorites for new winter programming. ABC's drama game is strong (thanks to Shonda Rhimes), and while the premise of this show is nothing groundbreaking, The Family is perfectly cast. Joan Allen is the matriarch of a family torn apart by tragedy 10 years ago. When the youngest son returns home after he went missing and presumed dead, the pain and anxieties the family buried away come to surface. But the real mystery is not what happened to their son, but is this their son at all? And to top it off, Allen's character is running for governor. Andrew McCarthy, Rupert Graves, Alison Pill, Zach Gilford and Liam James also star.
Images from press sites.