Pictures: Netflix, Showtime and Amazon Prime Video.
Jon Hein knows television. 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 week ahead.
I’m in the presidential mood, and that has nothing to do with the recent situation in our country. And I’m certainly not referring to the cable news channels which are all devoted to entertainment rather than actual news when it comes to American politics.
The last few weeks in the world of television have offered Mount Rushmore-like programming to our consumption. A biography of Abe Lincoln. A Ken Burns breakup with founding father Ben Franklin. This week, we have two more presidential offers that couldn’t be more different.
The first is Our major national parks, a five-part documentary series airing this Wednesday on Netflix and hosted by Barack Obama. The focus is on the greatest national parks on the planet, not just in the United States.
I’ve always been a sucker for the eye candy contained in this type of documentary. The creators of Blue Planet II don’t disappoint with amazing photos of beautiful places and unique animals. Obama’s voice is on par with Sir David Attenborough and the perfect accompaniment to the gorgeous images.
This week ends with The first lady premieres Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime. The star-powered series profiles the ladies of the Oval Office who were true difference makers.
Try this acting triumvirate for height – Viola Davis as Michelle Obama, Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford and Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt. OT Fagbenie, Aaron Eckhart and Kiefer Sutherland portray their respective husbands and leaders of the free world.
I usually prefer a documentary to any fictionalized version, but The crown proved that if done right, TV series can be much more entertaining while still being informative. Gillian Anderson’s Emmy-winning performance as Margaret Thatcher bodes well for her portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt. Viola Davis and Michelle Pfeiffer are still delivering, and we know what the subject will be.
The challenge with any series like this is to maintain the illusion that we’re watching the real first families as the drama unfolds. By the time it looks like a History Channel reenactment, it loses its gravitas (which happens to be Kiefer’s favorite word).
I double majored in communications and history at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!), so maybe that’s why this type of programming appeals to me so much. There is no better TV series than the history of this planet if presented in the right way. It’s more entertaining and accurate than what’s happening on real “news” channels these days.
Here’s what’s worth watching this week…
Anatomy of a Scandal (Netflix)
friday april 15
Welcome to the start of the David E. Kelley anthology series on Netflix. Yes, another David E. Kelley series. There’s a scandal in the British government where a villain in Parliament is having an affair and the tabloids can’t get enough of it.
Lady Mary of Downtown (Michelle Dockery) is the lawyer on a mission to bring down Peter Quinn from Country (Rupert Friend) for cheating on Sienna Miller who is trying to hold on to the life they’ve built. But as with all Kelley stories, things may not be as simple as they seem. Watch the trailer.
Outdoor beach (Amazon)
friday april 15
Something strange is happening on the prairie in Wyoming. And it’s not Josh Brolin who is surprisingly natural to star in this new Amazon series. Close Encounters the vibrations linger throughout the Abbott Ranch, and a giant hole is calling strangers for a visit.
It’s not next Yellowstone despite having a similar location, an enigmatic male movie star who pulls off a cowboy hat and the ever creepy Will Patton who comes from Montana. The supernatural persists and mysterious troubles will certainly ensue. Watch the trailer.
The Garcias (HBO Max) – The next chapter for The Garcia brothers which was the first English-language sitcom with an all-Latin cast and creative team. Thusday. Watch the trailer.
THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT!
(Shows I hope to reach!)
hard cell (Netflix) – A mockumentary film crew is filming in a women’s prison. Tuesday.
The Kardashians (Hulu) – They are back. I won’t watch, but many others will. Thusday.
To kill him (Peacock) – Craig Robinson plays a prison guard who will do anything to buy his own house in this comedy. Friday.
Bill Maher #Adult (HBO) – A new stand-up special – and you know exactly what’s coming. Friday at 10 p.m.
Roar (AppleTV+) – 8 dark funny stories from the creators of GLOW featuring Emmy Award-winning actresses. Friday.
THE GREATEST HITS
(Very good shows that you may have missed)
This week’s pick: Episodes (Showtime/Hulu) – A happily married British couple travel to the United States to remake their hit TV show for American audiences. The guy who played Joey on Friends going to be the leader… and everything goes completely wrong. Matt LeBlanc gives his best performance as… Matt LeBlanc in this underrated comedy.
For all mankind (AppleTV+)
Abbott Elementary School (ABC)
Luther (HBO Max)
Downton Abbey (Netflix)
The good wife (Primary+)
Freaks & Geeks (Hulu)
Patriot (Amazon Prime Video)
Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
The split (Amazon Prime Video)
border town (Netflix)
Stop and catch fire (AMC+)
If you like or hate my picks, I would like to hear from you.
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Jon Hein is the creator of “Jump the Shark” and author of three books. follow him @jonhein on Twitter.