Could anything be more Ryan Murphy than an anthology series dramatizing the legendary feud between Old Hollywood icons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, who (sort of) set aside their differences to (barely) collaborate on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The answer is no. So it's no surprise that this works so well. Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon devour the scenery, but they also find some space to ground things, touching upon themes like ageism and sexism in Hollywood. Both are fantastic, but I find Sarandon particularly appealing in this role.
Continuing NBC's tradition of mockumentary-style comedies, Trial & Error follows a young New York lawyer played by Nick D’Agosto who heads to a small South Carolina town to help defend an eccentric poetry professor accused of murdering his wife. As he works with a two-person team of weirdos in an office next to a taxidermy shop, his client's actions become harder to defend. The premise is smart and the cast is stacked with talented actors, led by the effortless John Lithgow as the alleged murderer. It's not as immediately appealing to me as The Good Place, but there's serious potential here.
Rick Steves' long-running PBS series, a companion to his travel book and tour businesses, provides practical tips for visitors to Europe, but it also opens viewers' eyes to the different customs and concerns of people in other countries. Special episodes about Iran, Israel, and Palestine tackle weightier issues than the usual episode, which typically mixes a look back at a region's art with visits to contemporary hot spots. Steves is a gentle, likable guide who has the intelligence of Anthony Bourdain without the smug self-satisfaction.
On the surface, this satirical mystery series is about a group of self-obsessed but somehow still lovable friends in their late 20s searching for a missing college acquaintance (there's a bit of a Girls-meets-Columbo vibe). But on a deeper level, it's about young adults on a quest to figure out who they are and what they want. Fortunately, both levels are funny as hell.
I never thought I'd feel so sympathetic toward QE2, but this beautifully produced, smart show has made me really think about the extraordinary circumstances surrounding her childhood and young adult life. This is a woman who never asked to be queen, after all. Everyone in the cast is outstanding, but Vanessa Kirby is particularly fantastic as Margaret. (My favorite bit, however, is how bitchy Edward is made out to be.)
Michelle Dockery plays Letty Raines, a junkie ex-con whose terrible decisions — and an attempt to do something good — lead her into a dysfunctional relationship with a charming hitman (the fantastic Juan Diego Botto). Letty also battles a nightmare of a mother, who won't let her near the son Letty's unable to raise. Working with wigs and multiple accents in the premiere episode, Dockery shows just how talented and charismatic an actress she is. And the story has a ton of potential, shifting gears after the premise is all set up.
In some ways, this can be watched as a spiritual prequel to Catastrophe, albeit a harder, cringier version (if you can believe it). But still laugh-out-loud funny, thanks to incredible performances from the three lead actresses, especially Rebekah Staton as the daft but lovable Louise.
Noisier, twistier dramas tend to drum up more media attention and Twitter love, but "The A Word" has been consistently winning throughout its run. With so many interesting characters and paths to explore, I'm glad there will be a second series/season.
This has been on my "someday" list for a while. Well, "someday" was July 23. I'm only through the first two episodes, but I'm already (re) obsessed with the brilliant Maggie Gyllenhaal. And I am enjoying the slow rollout of Lady Stein's backstory and secrets. Well done.
In his first foray into television, Cameron Crowe shines a light on music's "unsung heroes." It's an interesting enough concept, and few people are as qualified to bring it to the screen as Crowe. But he hasn't exactly enjoyed creative consistency in recent years. ("Aloha," y'all.) So will he deliver here? The first episode is... solid. I don't think it will jump into the Emmy conversation, but it could become a pleasant addition to the "Thrones"-less Sunday night landscape.