Welcome to another installment of Ask Alan, where I take your questions on the past, present, and future of TV. (And since I was in LA last week, you get me on video three Fridays in a row.) As always, you can send questions — the more concisely-worded, the better — to email@example.com. After various production and scheduling hiccups, we've finally reached double digits on this series, and seem in position for smooth biweekly sailing for a while.
A review of tonight's "Hannibal" coming up just as soon as I don't require conventional reinforcement...
I know exactly why HBO wanted to make its newest comedy series, "Ballers." It's created by "Entourage" producer Steven Levinson, it takes many of that show's lifestyle porn elements and applies them to the world of the NFL and, oh yeah, it stars Dwayne Johnson in his first regular TV role since he called himself The Rock and was a full-time part of the WWE's roster.
No, the question I have about "Ballers" (which debuts Sunday at 10 after the new season of "True Detective") is why exactly Johnson felt that this should be his first wholly scripted TV series.
"Ballers" isn't especially bad, but nor is it especially good. It's a show that's neither fish nor fowl: not nearly funny enough to really qualify as a comedy (and it's not until the fourth and final episodes sent to critics that it even seems to be trying all that hard to function as a comedy), not serious or complicated enough to qualify as a drama. It's just... a show. Featuring The Rock. And Rob Corddry. And, occasionally, cameos by real NFL players.
This is a crazy busy week in TV, especially for June (which is the new March, which is the new January, which is the new September), and I unfortunately don't have time to review everything (or, in some cases, like USA's "Complications," to even watch everything). Fortunately, the Internet sometimes allows me to point you towards other people's reviews of things I like but am too underwater to write about, like Sundance's newest import, the German-language (with subtitles) "Deutschland 83," which premieres tonight at 11.
Midway through watching the very first episode of "True Detective" season 1, Matthew McConaughey's Rust Cohle delivered what was already his fourth or fifth monologue about the pointlessness of existence, and I jotted down the following note:
Do I want to watch many hours of McConaughey saying this (stuff)?
So far, "Hannibal" season 3 has been very slow and deliberate about revealing exactly who survived the massacre at Hannibal Lecter's house at the end of last season, not to mention what kind of physical and emotional shape the survivors are in.
Last night, LeBron James came as close as any player has in 46 years (since Jerry West in '69) to winning the NBA Finals MVP for a losing team. What he did in carrying a team of scrubs and/or Knicks castoffs to within two games of a championship was otherworldly, not just for his own play, but for the complete ineptitude of his supporting cast whenever he wasn't on the floor.
Welcome to the third installment of our summer trip through "The Sopranos" season 1. When I revisited early seasons of "The Wire," as well as the whole run of "Deadwood," I did separate versions of each review for newcomers and veterans, but over time realized that the newcomers weren't commenting much, if at all, and that it therefore made sense to simply do one review. Any significant spoilers for episodes beyond the one being reviewed will be contained in a separate section at the end of the review; so long as you avoid that, and the comments, you should be fine.
Thoughts on the third episode, "Denial, Anger, Acceptance," coming up just as soon as I make like a mohel and finish your bris...
Happy Tuesday, boys and girls! The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast took last week off — though you did get us in video form — and to make up for that, plus the podcast's absence next week while Dan is on vacation, it's a double-podcast week, starting off with a whole bunch of finales, plus one new summer debut.
Our next finale revisit will be the end of "The Shield," which is streaming on Hulu Plus and available to download from Amazon, iTunes, etc.
After years in development at both HBO and Starz, Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" is finally coming to television. All it needs now is a cast.