The Most Important Shows on TV: Week of April 24, 2017

Which TV series will your friends (and the entire internet) be talking about this week? Stay informed — or at least be able to fake it — with SideReel's weekly guide to The Most Important Shows on TV.

 

Great News: S1E1

Great News
(Series Premiere)

Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC

Why: When it comes to Great News, there's good news and bad news. The bad news: this is not (yet) a 30 Rock- or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt-level joke monster. The good news: the foundation is definitely there. Briga Heelan (Love) stars as a TV news producer forced to welcome her overbearing New Jersey mother (a perfectly cast Andrea Martin) as her station's new intern. The cast (including the surprisingly self-assured Nicole Richie) is excellent. But the mom-as-intern premise doesn't have very strong legs. And the comedy, while often charming and cute, lacks the bite of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock's other shows. It's worth remembering, however, that Season 1 of 30 Rock started a little slow, but gradually found its sweet spot.

Prepare to talk about: Emmy-winning writer Tracey Wigfield, who not only created this show, but recurs as the quirky meteorologist; the running gag with Katie's never-seen father; this fun fact: Briga Heelan is married to Father Brah himself, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's Rene Gube.

 

The Handmaid's Tale: S1E1

The Handmaid's Tale
(Series Premiere)

Wednesday at 3 a.m. on Hulu

Why: There's a lot of "important TV" right now, but thanks to recent events, Hulu's chilling adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel hits like a punch in the gut. The Handmaid's Tale does not ease into its difficult, troubling story. Immediately, you're immersed in a world of fear, struggle, and heartbreak. Most of the first episode takes place in the present in the new theocratic republic of Gilead, where Offred (of Fred), one of the world's few remaining fertile women, must suppress her inner rebel to survive as a handmaid ("two-legged womb") to a powerful commander. Elisabeth Moss is superb here. In fact, everyone shines, including Samira Wiley and Alexis Bledel, who play fellow red-caped handmaids. Like another "important" show, The Leftovers, there aren't many light moments here, but this is extraordinarily compelling TV.

Prepare to talk about: The quick and blurry cameo by Margaret Atwood; the particicution; Aunt Lydia (a woman and an abuser of women) and her dark promise: "This may not seem ordinary to you right now, but after a time, it will."

 

American Gods: S1E1

American Gods
(Series Premiere)

Sunday at 9 p.m. on Starz

Why: Neil Gaiman brings his award-winning fantasy novel to TV with the help of Hannibal and Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller and a crazy cast that includes Ian McShane, Cloris Leachman, Gillian Anderson, Kristin Chenoweth, and Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon. The series focuses on Shadow's work with the enigmatic Wednesday, who's gathering his fellow "traditional," immigrant deities to do battle with new, homegrown gods reflecting the modern world's love of money, technology, media, and drugs. This is a big show, in many ways. It's stylized and gorgeous, it's Game of Thrones-level violent, it's funny, it's shocking, and it's sad. It's an over-the-top thrill ride, but it also tackles issues like race, immigration, and faith. Like Legion and some of the other "peak TV" dramas, you want to pay attention to this show. There's a lot going on and it may take a couple to episodes for things to click. But it's worth the investment.

Prepare to talk about: Ricky Whittle, who's about to blow up; Technical Boy, the personification of the internet; how Starz may finally have a major Emmy contender.

 

T.J. DeGroat is the editor of SideReel. He is Team Cheno. Follow him on Twitter.

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scotwotContributor
Apr 22, 2017 12:32PM EDT

Atwood and Gaiman in the one week. Excuse me whilst I geek out at two of my favorite novelists each bringing a great novel to TV land.

As for the Handmaid's Tale, I love that Atwood is giving interviews saying that everything she wrote in the novel has been real at some point and place in this world. Horrifying but true if you look at the novel, and our world, in its entirety.

As for American Gods, bring it on, Gaiman! Frantically re-reading before the premiere, Sunday. I can only imagine the show will be bigger, better (if such a thing is possible) and more compelling than the novel. I can't wait to see it on TV.

Great News. I was thinking of choosing this for 'This Week in TV' (see top of page) but eventually went with another show, but not because I didn't like it. I absolutely love the cast and they've certainly done their bit promoting the show, in hilarious ways. The trailers are funny, the characters are fantastic - I love John Michael Higgins character already and think it's hysterical that the news show it's all set around is called 'The Breakdown.'

Great round up as always, T.J. Many thanks. : )

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TelevisionFanboyContributor
Apr 23, 2017 6:18AM EDT

This is foing to be a great week for television. I saw Great News on a flight and was surprised by how much it made me laugh! Spot on as always TJ and Scotwot.

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