If a great show needs a little extra love, this TV reviewer has it in spades
Q You really, really, really like “Gentleman Jack”. OK, we understand. Maybe it’s time to recommend other shows too?
A. I recommend a lot of shows – I mean, say, maybe over 100 every year. I have a great time looking through as many of the over 500 annual new releases as I can, to report what I’ve seen to readers. Ask me for something to watch – and listen to me chatter too long, jumping from title to title.
But you raise a question about the role of a critic. I think most reviewers have a few favorites that they give a little extra love to. I take particular pleasure in paying attention to shows that I deem worthy, but that don’t seem to get enough attention or viewership. HBO’s “Gentleman Jack” is exactly that kind of unsung gem for me, thanks in large part to Suranne Jones’ phenomenal performance as a lesbian in the early 19th century. The fact that she wasn’t nominated for an Emmy is another for the TV award Hall of Shame.
“Gentleman Jack” is far from the first show I eagerly supported. I’m also doing all I can to get audiences to see HBO’s low-key, intimate comedy-drama ‘Somebody Somewhere’, starring Bridget Everett, and Peacock’s ‘We Are Lady Parts’, about Muslim women in London forming a punk band. I’ve yet to hear any complaints about either show, both of which should be – but probably won’t – be on this year’s Emmy nominations list.
One of my biggest and most sustained pushes was behind NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” a show from 2006 to 2011 that was constantly on the verge of being canceled. It struck me as so odd that the show wasn’t a hit, given its terrific acting and portrayals of small-town Texas. In retrospect, I think the show was too heartfelt for a lot of viewers who want dark comedy mixed in with their drama, and I also think too many people mistakenly believed the show was about football. It was as much about football as “Ted Lasso” is about football.
I also urged viewers to watch “Freaks and Geeks” in 1999. NBC was making it very hard to find the show, and it was driving me crazy. Readers then as now were looking for something unusual and good, and there it was, prime time – but still no one could find it. In March 2000, I wrote a long article called “Save this FREAKS show”, urging readers to find the 1980s series before it was too late. The day the article appeared, I got a sympathetic call from series creator Judd Apatow, which was an honor, but a sad one; he shouldn’t have spent time trying to catch up with network failures.
I watched a lot of other shows: “The Knick” with Clive Owen and Andre Holland as surgeons in 1900s New York; “High Maintenance”, a collection of short stories related by a weed dealer in New York; “Man Seeking Woman”, a unique comedy in the city in which the metaphors become real; “The Bisexual”, about a lesbian who has to come out again; “Lodge 49”, the sweet and optimistic story of a depressed surfer; and more, many more, including “Arrested Development” and “The Comeback” before they rose to post-race fame. I’ve seen other TV reviews making noise in favor of “Halt and Catch Fire”, “The Leftovers”, “Bates Motel”, and “Hannibal”. Generally speaking, we like to do this. It’s a satisfying part of the job.