When we last left Sneaky Pete, it seemed like Julia Bowman (Marin Ireland) had figured out her “cousin” Pete Murphy’s true identity.

Or did she?

Series star Giovanni Ribisi, who plays con artist Marius Jasipovic who poses as Pete, spoke to Rotten Tomatoes about the third season of his streaming series, which debuts on Friday. The actor remained tight-lipped about his character’s big reveal, but assuming parole officer James Bagwell (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) answers Julia’s question about what her ex’s name is, she’ll get confirmation that it’s “Marius.” Officer Bagwell has no reason to maintain Marius’s cover as Pete, after all.


Sneaky Pete Ep303_GiovanniRibisi1 Addtl. Info Credit: Myles Aronowitz

Marius has been living with the Bernhardt family as their cousin Pete, a.k.a. his former cellmate, embroiling them in his con games. But that can only last so long, especially when more marks from Marius’s past come looking for him. This season introduces Lizzie (Efrat Dor) in the season premiere, and also features Ricky Jay in his final onscreen role. (The magician and actor died in November 2018 at 72 years old.)

Ribisi, whose lengthy movie and TV credits include roles in major feature films like Saving Private Ran and Avatar, dodged spoilers to tell us what to expect in season 3 of Sneaky Pete and revealed what he’s been watching on TV, both live and streaming.


WHAT IS APPOINTMENT TV FOR YOU?

I used to have appointment television and that was the first season of True Detective. [That] was a show that I couldn’t wait for the next episode. There’s [also] sports.


WHAT’S ON YOUR DVR?

I don’t have a DVR!


WHAT’S IN YOUR STREAMING QUEUE?

Planet Earth

The show Street Food looks incredible, and then also the Planet Earth series on Netflix just because of the cinematography. I’m a sucker for good cinematography.


WHAT SHOW IS COMING SOON THAT YOU CAN’T WAIT FOR?

(Photo by Netflix)

I would say Mindhunter season 2. I love that show.


(Photo by Amazon Prime Video)

Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: If Marius’s secret is out, is the family in too deep now to even do anything about it?

I don’t know what we want to give away at this point. It depends who knows about it, obviously, and how Marius further manipulates that — if that is, indeed, the case. I think that’s all I’m allowed to say. It was a cliffhanger. We left it up in the air.

Are there a lot more twists and turns pretty early in the season?

Yeah, that’s the nature of the show. That’s part of what Sneaky Pete is. It’s walking that line between something that is total chaos, this very fine string of logic of plot, juxtaposed to who are these people, the humanity and the characters and Marius’ relationship to the family. I think that speaks to the fact that the strength of the show is really in the cast members, Margo Martindale, Peter Gerety, Marin Ireland, and what they bring to the table and who they are. I think that’s the foundation, obviously.


(Photo by Amazon Prime Video)

We’re going to meet some new characters this season, and we get a taste of Lizzie in the season premiere. Is she a match for Marius?

Yes, she definitely is a match for Marius. Again, going back to that scene where he’s torn between who he has been in his life and a family, that relationship, that [co-creator/executive producer] Bryan [Cranston] said to me early on before we started filming the first season, is, “The show is Breaking Good.” There’s that dynamic there, but Lizzie’s definitely someone who is coming back to haunt him. She’s an amazing actress, Efrat Dor.

Will we see Ricky Jay’s final scenes?

Yes. It’s still an open wound, the tragedy that happened with Ricky Jay. He was just such an extraordinary talent on so many levels and his commitment to mastery of what he did in his life was just extraordinary. We were all fortunate to work with him. He’s very heavy in the season, actually.

Are we going to see how his real-life skills might apply to Pete?

Yeah, he does work with cards in this season. It’s just incredible what he did. What he could do is just mind-boggling.


(Photo by Amazon Prime Video)

Will we see some more fun cons this season?

Yes, without a doubt. I think there’s a lot of that, a lot of card sharking, spinning that web, I guess, that feels like he has to. It’s just who he is. It’s the fabric of his being. He’s playing this chess game and thinking five moves ahead, structuring this thing where somebody is going to behave a certain way and take that left turn he needs them to take. That’s just his nature so yes, there’s a lot of that this season.

Has the balance shifted to how much he’s still Marius and how much he’s trying to be Pete?

I don’t know if it’s necessarily something where he’s changing to step on a moral pulpit there and say “this is what’s good, and this is what’s bad.” I think that his loyalty is shifting.


Sneaky Pete season 3 premieres Friday, May 10 on Amazon Prime Video.

When it comes to TV, January 2019 is bringing an embarrassment of riches. With so many quality TV series returning to the small screen this month, we decided to recommend the best of the best in our January binge guide — below, find nine series returning in early 2019 that have one or more Certified Fresh seasons. Happy bingeing in the new year!


You're the Worst 95% (FXX)

What it is: This dark comedy from creator Stephen Falk is the love story of Jimmy (a pitch-perfect Chris Geere) and Gretchen (the magnetic Aya Cash), two world-weary, self-destructive cynics who want anything but to fall in love — until they do.

Why you should watch it: The type of distinctly unheroic antics our lovebird heroes get into in You’re the Worst is enough to make Walter White blush. No joke — this FXX comedy is about as real as it gets. Its fifth and final season premieres January 9.

Where to watch: Amazon, FandangoNOWGoogle Play, HuluMicrosoftVudu

Commitment: Approx. 19 hours (for the first four seasons)


Brooklyn Nine-Nine 94% (NBC)

What it is: This hit comedy series from creators Dan Goor and Michael Schur is a workplace sitcom featuring some very distinct personalities — the aloof and gregarious Det. Jake Peralta (Saturday Night Live’s Andy Samberg), his fictional precinct’s dry commanding officer, Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher), and the rest of the motley crew of the Nine-Nine.

Why you should watch it: We’ve seen fan-initiated primetime resuscitations before, but rarely do they happen as swiftly and unanimously as Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s after its unceremonious cancellation at Fox. The online outcry had barely begun before Universal Television began shopping the sitcom around, and it was scooped up by NBC just a day later — with good reason. The series is much more than the Andy Samberg show; it’s a tried-and-true ensemble piece with beloved supporting characters and as much humor as heart. Season 6 premieres January 10.

Where to watch: Amazon, FandangoNOWGoogle Play, HuluMicrosoftVudu

Commitment: Approx. 41 hours (for the first five seasons)


Future Man 91% (Hulu)

What it is: A hapless janitor named Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson) has one joy in life: video games. And surprisingly, it’s that passion that eventually gets him recruited into saving the world from certain doom. After beating Biotic Wars, a game so difficult that most gamers have given up on it, he learns it was all a test from the future, and is greeted by two mysterious visitors who hang the safety of mankind in his capable gamer hands.

Why you should watch it: Considering the creative pedigree behind this series (it’s created by Howard Overman, Kyle Hunter, and Ariel Shaffir and executive produced and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg), it should come as little surprise that Future Man is quite funny. But it’s also a high-octane, rollicking adventure and fitting homage to sci-fi genre classics (in case you’re into that sort of thing, too). Season 2 premieres January 11.

Where to watch: Amazon, FandangoNOWGoogle Play, HuluMicrosoftVudu

Commitment: Approx. 6.5 hours (for the first season)


True Detective 78% (HBO)

What it is: Like the very best mystery series, much of True Detective’s third installment is being kept under wraps, but what we do know sounds pretty compelling: Over the course of three decades in the Arkansas Ozarks,  a pair of detectives work to uncover the truth behind a grisly crime involving two missing children.

Why you should watch it: This gritty anthological crime series from creator Nic Pizzolatto was a hit out the gate with season 1, which featured a pair of surprising and career-best performances from Woody Harrelson and Mathew McConaughey. Season 2 was largely seen as a creative misstep, but with Moonlight Oscar winner Mahershala Ali leading season 3 (and a team that professes to have learned from its mistakes), we highly recommend tuning in for its January 13 return.

Where to watch: AmazonFandangoNOWGoogle Play, HBO NowMicrosoftVudu

Commitment: Approx. 17 hours (for the first two seasons)


Star Trek: Discovery 86% (CBS All Access)

What it is: Star Trek: Discovery is set 10 years prior to the original series and in the same universe as Kirk, Spock, and the Enterprise, and sees the titular ship venturing out to discover new worlds and quell violent alien forces. As always, it’s the cast of characters on board that is the series’ beating heart.

Why you should watch it: Creators Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman (not to mention star Sonequa Martin-Green, among others) had big shoes and a devout fandom’s expectations to fill when it premiered in September 2017. Our verdict: a job well done. Season 2 premieres January 17 and features Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), the U.S.S. Enterprise, and (another) young Spock (Ethan Peck). Catch up before it starts airing. 

Where to watch: Amazon, CBS All AccesssFandangoNOWGoogle PlayVudu

Commitment: Approx. 12 hours (for the first season)


High Maintenance 98% (HBO)

What it is: From husband-and-wife co-creators Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, High Maintenance began as a hit web series starring Sinclair as a traveling weed deliveryman living in New York City. HBO picked it up to series in 2016 and largely retained the comedy’s original format, just made its episodes longer.

Why you should watch it: While there are plenty of primetime programs that paint a great snippet of present-day NYC, few get the full picture the way High Maintenance does. That’s because each episode features various characters who — whether they’re hosting a swingers party, rebelling against their ultra-religious parents, or sitting home alone collecting cans of La Croix — are from such disparate walks of life that they end up inadvertently highlighting the similarities between all dwellers of the concrete jungle. (And we promise those similarities go beyond enjoying the green.) Season 3 begins January 20.

Where to watch: AmazonFandangoNOWGoogle Play, HBO Now, MicrosoftVudu

Commitment: Approx. 8 hours (for the first two seasons)


SMILF 91% (Showtime)

What it is: SMILF is a lot of things, perhaps most of all unexpected. But for the elevator pitch: a single mother named Bridgette Bird lives in South Boston and struggles to find a balance between the toddler son that relies on her and the expectations of work to make ends meet.

Why you should watch it: As SMILF’s creator, director, writer, star, and real-life single mom, Frankie Shaw is a force of nature. Pulling semi-autobiographically from her own experience as a working mother, the series is smart, unflinching, and funny. Better yet, the twice Golden Globe–nominated series’ runtime and episode count make it very easily bingeable. Season 2 premieres January  20.

Where to watch: AmazonFandangoNow, Google PlayMicrosoftVudu

Commitment: Approx. 4 hours (for the first season)


The Magicians 91% (Syfy)

What it is: Based on the acclaimed fantasy series by Lev Grossman and from producers Michael London, Janice Williams, John McNamara, and Sera Gamble, The Magicians follows Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) after he enrolls in Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy in New York. What follows for the young magician is a collision between our world and a threatening fantasy world with nothing less at stake than reality as we know it.

Why you should watch it: The Magicians has all the straight-up drama that comes with magic, secret academies, and battles between good and evil — and it’s a whole lot of crazy fun, too. Season 4 premieres January 23.

Where to watch: AmazonFandangoNowGoogle PlayMicrosoft, NetflixVudu

Commitment: Approx. 30 hours (for the first three seasons)


Broad City 99% (Comedy Central)

What it is: Creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer capture all the tomfoolery of your 20s in their  full glory while writing a sometimes-messy love letter to the Big Apple.

Why you should watch it: Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Broad City was a pretty great thing. Irreverent but relatable, honest but larger than life, this hit comedy series about two twentysomething Brooklynites just trying to keep it together tapped into the cultural zeitgeist with gutsy and goofy hot takes on matters of the moment. Its fifth and final season premieres January 24.

Where to watch: AmazonFandangoNowGoogle Play, HuluMicrosoftVudu

Commitment: Approx. 14 hours (for the first four seasons)

Julia Roberts in Homecoming (Amazon Prime)

(Photo by © Amazon)

Julia Roberts’ turn in the mind-bending Amazon series Homecoming marked the A-list actress’ debut as a series lead. She’s not the only big-screen actor drawn to the TV and streaming boom in serialized entertainment: Benicio Del Toro makes his debut in the Ben Stiller–directed Showtime miniseries Escape at Dannemora, and Avengers: Infinity War star Elizabeth Olsen is getting raves as a grieving widow in Facebook Watch’s Sorry for Your Loss.

Upcoming projects include Helen Mirren’s Catherine the Great miniseries, Jennifer Connelly in FX’s Snowpiercer, Henry Cavill in Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher, Russell Crowe in Showtime’s Roger Ailes miniseries, and Chris Pine’s TNT drama collaboration with Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, I Am the Night. Even three-time Oscar winner (out of 21 nominations) Meryl Streep joins Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman in the upcoming second season of HBO’s Big Little Lies. And that’s just the shortlist.

Below, find Rotten Tomatoes’ accounting of the best small-screen debuts for A-list movie stars from the past few years, ranked by season 1 Tomatometer scores (that is, the season on which they  made their TV or streaming debut). A note: Many actors got their start on TV, and while we included stars with a few guest parts on their resume, anyone with a significant number of TV credits (or a series regular or recurring role on a show, no matter how short-lived) got cut.


Julia Roberts, Homecoming: Season 1 (2018) 98%

Famous For: Pretty Woman (1990) 64%Notting Hill (1999) 83%, Erin Brockovich (2000) 85%

How She Fared on TV: While the Oscar winner has filmed a few one-off TV guest spots (a 1999 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the two-part former series finale of Murphy Brown) and starred in Ryan Murphy’s HBO movie The Normal Heart, Roberts’ starring role in Sam Esmail’s podcast-turned-streaming drama Homecoming, Certified Fresh with a 99% Tomatometer score, is her first true venture as a lead in a series. Critics agree that Homecoming is “an impressive small-screen debut for the actress, balancing a haunting mystery with a frenetic sensibility that grips and doesn’t let go.”


Winona Ryder, Stranger Things: Season 1 (2016) 97%

Famous For: Beetlejuice (1988) 85%, () , Black Swan (2010) 85%

How She Fared on TV: The ’80s superstar first dipped her toe into TV with the Oscar Isaac–starring HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero, but made a splash as the grieving mother of a missing son in Netflix’s nostalgia-heavy phenomenon Stranger Things. Both seasons of the horror series are Certified Fresh at 96% and 94%, respectively, but the first garnered fan and critical attention with a performance that the Village Voice’s Alan Scherstuhl described as “continually inventive in her grief” and Vulture’s Jen Cheney described as “grounded and convincing in Joyce’s moments of anger and quiet resolve.”


Elizabeth Olsen, Sorry For Your Loss: Season 1 (2018) 94%

Famous For: Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) 90%, Kill Your Darlings (2013) 76%, Avengers: Infinity War (2018) 85%

How She Fared on TV: The actress’ feature film debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene, was Certified Fresh with a 90% Tomatometer score, and she’s now a critical success in her TV debut as well. The Facebook Watch series — yes, Facebook — was Certified Fresh at 95%, with Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic saying that Olsen “anchors the story with her extraordinary portrayal of Leigh, a writer and barre instructor in Los Angeles whose husband has unexpectedly died.” Olsen is an executive producer of the series, which premiered in September 2018, and was actively involved in its development.


Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies: Season 1 (2017) 93%

Famous For: Election (1999) 92%, Walk the Line (2005) 82%, Wild (2014) 88%

How She Fared on TV: With her production company, Hello Sunshine, Witherspoon shepherded her TV debut Big Little Lies through the development process to the small screen. The first season featured the actress’ performance as a Type-A mom in “a precise turn with sharp, informed decisions made time and time again, in a role perfectly built for Witherspoon’s talent,” wrote Indiewire’s Ben Travers. She’ll next star in the series’ second season, as well as in Apple’s first TV series, a morning-show drama alongside Jennifer Aniston.


Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Honorable Woman: Season 1 () 91%

Famous For: Secretary (2002) 77%The Dark Knight (2008) 94%, Crazy Heart (2009) 90%

How She Fared on TV: Gyllenhaal’s first TV outing, 2014 miniseries The Honorable Woman, was Certified Fresh with the Critics Consensus that she gave an “enthralling performance.” In HBO’s The Deuce, both seasons of which are Certified Fresh at 93% and 99% respectively, critics say she carries the series in “a tour de force performance.”


Penelope Cruz, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace (2018) 89%

Famous For: All About My Mother (1999) 98%, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) 81%

How She Fared on TV: Cruz got real-life friend Donatella Versace’s blessing to portray her in the second season of FX’s American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Playing the slain fashion designer’s grieving sister, Cruz’s small role was overshadowed by a career-defining performance for star Darren Criss, who went on to win an Emmy for his role. Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield called Cruz “simply fearsome” and “no caricature” as the designer. Her version of Versace is “ruthless in her resolve to keep the House of Versace alive as an aesthetic.”


Laura Dern, Enlightened 87%

Famous For: Blue Velvet (1986) 94%, Jurassic Park (1993) 92%, Wild (2014) 88%

How She Fared on TV: One of the first major stars to jump to TV in the peak TV era, Dern starred in the before-its-time HBO series Enlightened as a woman who returns to her life after a public breakdown and time at a mental-health retreat. Both seasons of the canceled-too-soon series were Certified Fresh. “I was blown away by how Dern is able to keep Amy on this knife’s edge between maniacal optimism and seething anger, and there’s no telling which direction she might go at any moment. It’s exhilarating to watch,” wrote Meredith Blake of The AV Club.


Matthew McConaughey, True Detective: Season 1 (2014) 87%

Famous For: Dazed and Confused (1993) 92%Dallas Buyers Club (2013) 92%, Interstellar (2014) 72%

How He Fared on TV: The first season of the anthology series starred McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as Louisiana detectives investigating a murder over a 17-year span. NPR’s Eric Deggans said the series, which debuted the same year the actor won an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, “has the feel of an indie film spread over eight episodes starring two of the best character actors in the business.” Season 2 of the series — which again mined the film community, starred Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, and Rachel McAdams — did not live up to the first.


Cillian Murphy, Peaky Blinders: Season 1 (2013) 87%

Famous For: 28 Days Later (2002) 87%, The Dark Knight (2008) 94%, Sunshine (2007) 77%

How He Fared on TV: Murphy, whose only other TV credit is the 2001 miniseries The Way We Live Now, takes the lead as a crime boss hoping to move up in the world, in this 1919-set period drama that streams on Netflix in the United States. Chris Barton of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “This BBC effort set in post-WWI Birmingham, Britain, has more direct pleasures than the departed Boardwalk Empire thanks in part to a fresh, hellish setting and the reliable chill of Cillian Murphy, whose icy stare pairs well with the show’s grim Nick Cave soundtrack.”


Zooey Deschanel, New Girl: Season 1 (2011) 87%

Famous For: Almost Famous (2000) 89%, Elf (2003) 85%, (500) Days of Summer (2009) 85%

How She Fared on TV: Though she appeared in a few episodes of Weeds in 2006 and an episode of her sister’s series Bones in 2009, Deschanel didn’t fully commit to a lead role on TV until 2011’s New Girl. This is the performance that brought the world the adjective “adorkable,” and the first season was Certified Fresh at 86%. Critics Consensus is that “Deschanel ‘s offbeat style gets a worthy showcase in New Girl, and while It can get awfully cutesy at times, the show benefits from witty writing and a strong supporting cast.”


Benicio Del Toro, Season 1: Miniseries (2018) 90%

Famous For: Traffic (2000) 92%, Sicario (2015) 92%, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) 91%

How He Fared on TV: Aside from just a couple of one-off roles in the late ’80s and early ’90s on shows like Miami Vice and Tales from the Crypt, Del Toro has made his career in the movies. The Oscar winner (for 2000’s Traffic) stars in the Ben Stiller–directed Showtime miniseries Escape at Dannemora, about a real-life 2015 prison break. Carlos Valladares of the San Francisco Chronicle said the series, which debuts November 18, “proves yet again that the miniseries is the site of the most engaging long-form storytelling in television today.”


Paul Giamatti, () %

Famous For: Sideways (2004) 97%, Cinderella Man (2005) 80%, Private Life (2018) 93%

How He Fared on TV: After starring in HBO’s John Adams miniseries (and a guest role on Downton Abbey and the memorable 12 Angry Men spoof on Inside Amy Schumer), Giamatti returned with his first true series in Showtime’s Billions, the first and third seasons of which are both Certified Fresh. Regarding Giamatti’s portrayal of the founding father, Tom Shales of the Washington Post wrote, “Nearly throughout, Giamatti’s performance is captivating, often poignantly so.”


Jude Law, The Young Pope: Miniseries (2016) 80%

Famous For: The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) 83%, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001) 75%Sherlock Holmes (2009) 69%

How He Fared on TV: Though Law’s TV debut encouraged plenty of bad jokes — you’ll never believe just how young this pope is! — the actor’s performance as the American-born, cigarette-smoking, Cherry Coke Zero-drinking pontificate (previously known as Lenny Belardo) earned plenty of praise. RogerEbert.com’s Brian Tallerico lauded Law’s “magnetic lead performance” and Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen wrote, “I’m transfixed by the sumptuous visual storytelling of creator and director Paolo Sorrentino and mesmerized by Law.”


Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Murder House: Murder House (2011) 72%

Famous For: Tootsie (1982) 90%Cape Fear (1991) 74%, Big Fish (2003) 76%

How She Fared on TV: Ryan Murphy recruited the two-time Oscar winner (and six-time nominee) for his horror anthology American Horror Story, for which she won a Golden Globe and two Emmys. While the actress, who debuted on the small screen alongside Drew Barrymore in HBO TV movie Grey Gardens, left the series after four seasons, she returned in the latest, Apocalypse, and worked with Murphy again as Joan Crawford in the creator’s anthology series Feud: Bette and Joan. Lange’s first four seasons of AHS and Feud were all Certified Fresh, with Salon’s Melanie McFarland saying of Feud, “Lange and Sarandon hold the center with stunning likenesses of the legends they’re portraying, but the actresses also bring their inspirations down to Earth, tempering their decadent rages and vengeful spats with a gutting sense of loneliness that tempers its lightness in solemnity.”


Nicole Kidman, Top of the Lake: China Girl (2017) 72%

Famous For: Moulin Rouge (2001) 76%, The Hours (2002) 79%, Boy Erased (2018) 80%

How She Fared on TV: Kidman won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her portrayal of ritzy California mom Celeste in HBO’s Big Little Lies, but her TV series debut came alongside Elisabeth Moss in the second season of Sundance Channel’s Top of the Lake. The Sydney-set series featured Kidman as the recently separated mother of a troubled teen girl. Slate’s Willa Paskin called Kidman “resplendent,” though the season itself got mixed reviews. Kidman also appeared alongside Clive Owen in the 2012 HBO movie Hemingway & Gellhorn.


Anna Faris, Mom: Season 1 (2013) 70%

Famous For: Scary Movie (2000) 52%, Lost in Translation (2003) 95%, The House Bunny (2008) 43%

How She Fared on TV: Aside from short stints on Friends and Entourage, Mom was Faris’ first leading role on TV. While costar Allison Janney has gotten most of the praise (and the award-season hardware), Andy Greenwald’s Grantland review noted that the “perfectly cast” Faris “kills from the opening scene,” and that the series was “the first multi-cam comedy to crack me up in a decade.”


Sean Penn, The First: Season 1 (2018) 66%

Famous For: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) 78%, Dead Man Walking (1995) 95%, Milk (2008) 93%

How He Fared on TV: The two-time Oscar winner (and five-time nominee) has filmed (or voice recorded) cameos on comedies including Family Guy, Two and a Half Men, Friends, and The Larry Sanders Show (and, fun fact, was on two episodes of Little House on the Prairie as a kid). But his true TV commitment came in 2018 as an astronaut in the Hulu series about the first manned mission to Mars. While the series itself got mixed reviews, its Critics Consensus was that Penn “gives an intensely poignant performance as the driven but conflicted Tom Hagerty” in the slow-moving first season. He’ll next hit the small screen as the star of an HBO miniseries about seventh U.S. President Andrew Jackson.


Vince Vaughn, True Detective: Season 2 (2015) 62%

Famous For: Swingers (1996) 87%Wedding Crashers (2005) 76%, Four Christmases (2008) 25%

How He Fared on TV: Though Vaughn appeared in cameos in Sex and the City and Mr. Show (and appeared in a few bit TV parts in the earliest days of his career), his true TV debut came in the second season of HBO’s True Detective. The season didn’t garner the same acclaim as the first, with critics split on the season as a whole but praising its performances. Chuck Barney of the San Jose Mercury News wrote,“All of the lead actors dig deeply into their roles, with Farrell playing the wary, weary burnout to perfection, and Vaughn shifting into full-throttle intensity.”


Jane Fonda, The Newsroom

Famous For: Barbarella (1968) 74%, 9 to 5 (1980) 83%On Golden Pond (1981) 93%

How She Fared on TV: Aaron Sorkin brought Fonda to the small screen with his TV news drama The Newsroom, in which she played the strong-willed owner of cable news network ACN. But the real critical acclaim for her TV work comes with Netflix comedy Grace and Frankie, where, alongside Lily Tomlin, she plays the jilted wife of a husband who leaves her for the man with whom he’s been having an affair for decades. The first season got mixed reactions as a whole, but critics credited its “stellar cast” with bringing the series an “undeniable appeal.”


Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom

Famous For: The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) 92%, Dumb & Dumber (1994) 68%, The Martian (2015) 91%

How He Fared on TV: Now a small-screen veteran, with Hulu’s 9/11 drama Looming Tower and Netflix’s Western miniseries Godless under his belt (both Certified Fresh, by the way), Daniels first made the jump to the small screen with Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. Critics were mixed on the series, saying it had “good intentions and benefits from moments of stellar dialogue and a talented cast.”


Woody Allen, Crisis in Six Scenes: Miniseries (2016) 18%

Famous For: Annie Hall (1977) 96%Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) 91%, Blue Jasmine (2013) 91%

How He Fared on TV: Critics were not kind to the controversial writer and director’s TV debut, the 2016 Amazon series Crisis in Six Scenes. Among the scathing reviews were Dana Schwartz of the Observer’s critique that, “Woody Allen setting a new show in the sixties feels a little desperate, like he’s trying to physically yank back his glory days.” Wrote Sonia Saraiya of Variety, “it is hard to see the 80-year-old auteur as charming in the harsh light of the present.”

Stranger Things SEASON Season 1 EPISODE 3 PHOTO CREDIT Courtesy of Netflix PICTURED Top 5000 Shannon Purser

(Photo by Courtesy of Netflix)

Netflix delivered a thrilling double-whammy this October with the premieres of The Haunting of Hill House and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, both of which serve up stellar moments of serialized horror. While the latter portrays the campy, occult end of the genre’s spectrum, the former paints a haunting portrait of grief with ghosts stalking the lives of one family over years. 

Those shows’ biggest scares us thinking about the best episodes of horror in TV history, so we’ve prepared a list of the scariest episodes of television ever. Among these fearsome moments are episodes of The Twilight Zone, Twin Peaks, The Walking Dead, and American Horror Story. But, in addition to those no-brainers, episodes of The X-Files, Stranger Things, Atlanta, and Doctor Who also strike terror into the hearts of viewers. 

So enter the crypt, lose yourself in the Zone, take a walk with the dead, then rank these scary episodes from most frightening to least below. And if you don’t see your favorite spooky TV tale on our list, tell us in the comments!


13 Reasons Why stars Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford (Beth Dubber/Netflix)

(Photo by Beth Dubber/Netflix)

UPDATED Feb. 24, 2019

Sometimes the first season of a show is so good that the second season just can’t measure up, resulting in the dreaded sophomore slump. The 2018 season 2 release of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why notably stumbled in its follow-up season, scoring an abysmal 25% on the Tomatometer after being Certified Fresh with a 79% score for 2017’s season 1.

How does that plummet compare to other sophomore slumps we’ve seen before? We’ve put together a list of shows with the biggest drops from season 1 to season 2 by Tomatometer, each with at least 10 reviews on each season. The series on this list fell for different reasons – some had good second seasons that simply weren’t as great as their first; others truly lost their way. Few that made it past season 2 ever truly recovered.

And if you’re wondering where shows like The Walking Dead, Friday Night Lights, Heroes, Glee, and even the original run of Twin Peaks are on this list, their second seasons still got good reviews even though word-of-mouth seemed to suggest otherwise. If you disagree, let us know in the comments.

Here are the 11 biggest sophomore slumps on television by Tomatometer score.

Please note that the percent change is based on the scores at the time of the update — scores may change as additional reviews are added to the Tomatometer.


() %Marvel's Daredevil: Season 2 (2016) 81%

DOWN 19%

The show: Marvel’s first Netflix series told a grounded version of Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), the blind lawyer who uses his other enhanced senses to fight crime as Daredevil.

The ratings: Netflix famously does not reveal their ratings, but the success of Daredevil launched several more Marvel series and more seasons of Daredevil.

What happened: Season 1 was a revelation, both compared to the derided Ben Affleck movie and to show how serious superhero shows could work on streaming. By the time season 2 rolled around, Daredevil couldn’t measure up to the monster it created in Jessica Jones. “It’s still nowhere near as interesting or innovative as Marvel’s Agent Carter or Jessica Jones,” wrote The Daily Dot’s Gavia Baker-Whitelaw. “It’s hard to do anything new in the superhero genre, but the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil seems resolutely determined not to try,” wrote Abraham Riesman 0f New York Magazine/Vulture. Sharing the spotlight with Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) just made people more excited for The Punisher than Daredevil. Aggressive Comix’ Steph Cozza called Punisher “the true MVP here” in her Fresh review.


V: Season 1 (2009) 60%V: Season 2 (2011) 40%

DOWN 23%

(Photo by ABC)

The show: A modern-day reboot of the ’80s series, in which lizard-like aliens arrive wearing human skin.

The ratings: Season 1 dropped from 14.3 million viewers to below five, but ABC still gave it another chance. Season 2 couldn’t rise much above 5.7 million so that was that.

What happened: V went on hiatus after only four November episodes. By the time it returned in March following the Olympics, viewers just didn’t come back.  A second season may have been a chance to establish stability, but critics assured viewers it hadn’t improved. Uproxx’s Alan Sepinwall said, “This one’s not working, and it doesn’t matter how many fresh coats of paint or new showrunners they try to slap onto it.” The San Francisco Chronicle’s David Wiegand said, “The groan-worthy dialogue, usually spoken in a monotone by alien and human alike, is rarely credible and lacks the kind of self-aware irony that might make this enjoyable.”


Smash: Season 1 (2012) 80% | Smash: Season 2 (2013) 56%

DOWN 23%

(Photo by NBC)

The show: The NBC series featured all of the drama of putting on a Broadway musical, the fictional Bombshell about the life of Marilyn Monroe, along with the backstabbing and rivalries behind the scenes.

The ratings: Starting strong with 11.44 million viewers, season 1 steadily lost viewers week by week, ending with 6.74 million. Season 2 began with only 4.48 million and by the middle of the season NBC moved the show to Saturday to dump the remaining episodes.

What happened: Show creator Theresa Rebeck departed the series following the first season, and the plot veered Off Broadway, literally, splitting its focus between Bombshell and a new independent rock musical, and in so doing losing some of its glitzy central appeal. “Its failure wasn’t so much that it didn’t reflect the real workings of Broadway; it never came close to reflecting any aspect of the real world,” New York Times critic Charles Isherwood wrote. With the grind of writing new songs every week and rehearsing the same show, basically it was never as good as the pilot. Or as Boston Herald’s Mark A. Perigard put it, “It still feels as if you’re trapped in the middle of opening night of a third grade dance recital.”


True Detective: Season 1 (2014) 87% | True Detective: Season 2 (2015) 62%

DOWN 23%

The show: Each season centers on a different set of detectives investigating a harrowing case.

The ratings: The first season debuted mid–Hunger Games mania for Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey‘s career “McConaissance” (coming off of acclaimed performances in the likes of Dallas Buyers Club and Magic Mike) and captivated 3.5 million HBO subscribers by the finale. Season 2 stars Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch were each probably hoping for their own career renaissance (“Vaughnaissance”? “McAdaissance”?) after collectively starring in a number of Rotten movies around the time they signed on for the series. But the HBO thriller held onto viewers (2.7 million, which was on par with season 1 regular viewing), who stuck with season 2 hoping it would get good again.

What happened: They rushed it. With the first season’s success, HBO asked creator Nic Pizzolatto for another season, but a show as intricate as True Detective takes time. HBO President of Programming Michael Lombardo copped to essentially setting Pizzolatto up to fail. Lombardo told radio show The Frame: “When we tell somebody to hit an airdate as opposed to allowing the writing to find its own natural resting place, when it’s ready, when it’s baked — we’ve failed … I take the blame. I became too much of a network executive at that point. We had huge success. ‘Gee, I’d love to repeat that next year’ … I think that’s what I learned from it: Don’t do that anymore.” We’ll see if more time and new directors save the third season.


Under the Dome: Season 1 (2013) 83% | Under the Dome: Season 2 (2014) 61%

DOWN 25%

The show: Based on Stephen King’s 1,000-plus page novel, the town of Chester’s Mill becomes enclosed in a clear dome leaving the residents to deal with a lack of resources and laws.

The ratings: A summer hit for CBS, season 1 averaged 11 million viewers. By season 2, they were down to six or seven million, still enough to earn a third season. By the time season 3 hit a low of 3.7 million, there was no plan for season 4.

What happened: Under The Dome straying from the book showed early potential for keeping the story going beyond the finite novel. By the second season, viewers and critics alike felt the story was stretched too thin to try to make it last. Showbiz Junkies’ Rebecca Murray said the show “has taken itself so seriously and yet it’s one of the most nonsensical prime time shows to ever survive more than three episodes.” Backing her up, Screenrant’s Kevin Yeoman called it “one of the most frustrating and dim-witted shows on television.”


Bloodline: Season 1 (2015) 81%Bloodline: Season 2 (2016) 53%

DOWN 28%

The show: The dysfunctional Rayburn family admits in the series premiere that they killed Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), compelling viewers to find out just what tore this Florida dynasty apart. Kyle Chandler, Linda Cardellini, Norbert Leo Butz, and Sissy Spacek played the Rayburns.

The ratings: Netflix does not release ratings, but the creators of the show were planning five or six seasons. They got three.

What happened: Danny died by the end of the first season. The season finale ended with a cliffhanger reveal that his long-lost son came looking for his aunt and uncles, but the real mystery was over. The Young Folks’ Katey Stoetzel called the season “a long, drawn out plot that at times seemed to make up mysteries on the spot in an effort to be just as mysterious as the first season.” In Vulture, Brian Tallerico wrote, “This year’s story never felt as confident as the first.”


The Man in the High Castle: Season 1 (2015) 95%The Man in the High Castle: Season 2 (2016) 64%

DOWN 31%

The show: When you imagine what the world would be like if Hitler had won World War II, that’s good drama. Based on the Philip K. Dick novel.

The ratings: Amazon called The Man in the High Castle their most streamed original series. Season 2 came with no such announcement, but they are still making season 3.

What happened: The setup was great! The follow-up started treading water with aimless subplots and villains failing to remain threatening. “The scary people who were villains in season one ultimately become antiheroes,” said YouTube reviewer Jeremy Jahns. Andy Hartup of Gamesrada went further, saying, “Thanks to dull characters and mostly flaccid story lines, it falls short of being essential viewing.”


The Killing: Season 1 (2011) 94% () %

DOWN 31%

The show: Based on the Danish series, detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) investigate the death of Rosie Larson, which has ties to mayoral candidate Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell).

The ratings: Season 1 averaged two million viewers — pretty strong for AMC. Season 2 was down to 1.5 million and AMC canceled it. Thanks to a deal with Netflix, they revived it for a third season, and Netflix streamed the fourth and final.

What happened: They solved Rosie’s murder, but it was too little too late. By then, critics grew tired of the mystery and its characters. Slant’s Mike Lechevallier called it “a mystery show whose mysteries agitate and bore rather than mesmerize and astound.” The Mercury News’ Chuck Barney wrote, “The longer we spent with the show’s brooding characters, the more we came to realize that they were an unbearably dour and detestable bunch.”


Wayward Pines: Season 1 (2015) 78%Wayward Pines: Season 2 (2016) 43%

DOWN 36%

(Photo by Fox)

The show: A Secret Service agent (Matt Dillon) wakes up in the mysterious town of Wayward Pines after an accident, and the authorities in town just will not let him leave.

The ratings: Season 1 was a solid summer hit with about 3.82 million viewers. Season 2 dropped to 2.0.

What happened: Once season 1 revealed what Wayward Pines actually was, season 2 was just about new characters (Jason Patric, Djimon Hounsou) who didn’t know as much as the audience. IndieWire’s Ben Travers wrote, “You almost feel bad for the series in its second season, limping along, trying to rebuild from what little was left.” THR’s Dan Fienberg wrote, “If what you liked about the first season was the insidious unknown, that’s gone with little to replace it.”


Genius: Einstein (2017) 84% | Genius: Picasso (2018) 57%

DOWN 38%

The show: Each season told the biography of a different genius. Season 1 was Albert Einstein (Geoffrey Rush), season 2 was Pablo Picasso (Antonio Banderas). Season 3 will be Mary Shelley.

The ratings: Only two-thirds of Einstein’s audience of a million tuned in for Picasso, down to only half in week two, and only about one-third by midway through the season.

What happened: Perhaps artistic genius was too abstract to contain in episodic format. Surely an artist as complex as Pablo Picasso cannot be encapsulated in a TV series, but critics complain Genius didn’t even try. The Straits Times’ Alison de Souza called it “disappointingly conventional” and New Statesman’s Rachel Cooke said the script failed both Picasso and Banderas. “Even he can’t make his lines sound convincing,” Cooke said. Plus, the creative magic that led to ​season 1’s 10 Emmy nominations, including one for Rush’s buzzy performance, may have set the bar impossibly high for any subject or lead actor that followed.


13 Reasons Why: Season 1 (2017) 77%13 Reasons Why: Season 2 (2018) 28%

DOWN 54%

The show: Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) commits suicide and leaves 13 tapes for her classmates. As Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) listens to the tapes, each one reveals one of the reasons Hannah ended her life.

The ratings: Netflix does not release ratings, but the first season was a water-cooler conversation piece, as well as the center of controversy. Some mental health advocacy groups worried it glamorized suicide. But season 2 remained a trending topic on social media, and on Wednesday, Netflix announced that 13 Reasons Why has been renewed for a third season.

What happened: We already found out the 13 reasons in season 1. Season 2 tried to add more reasons, and stretch out the story with the civil trial Hannah’s mother (Kate Walsh) filed, but it was obvious to fans and critics that the story had naturally concluded. ScreenRant’s Kevin Yeoman wrote, “Right away it becomes clear this season’s narrative foundation is built on sand, which is worsened by a lack of forward momentum and over-reliance on rehashing the past.”

Trying to tackle gun control only gave critics more reasons to grouse about the show’s handling of sensitive issues. “It is bleak and depressing, scarringly graphic and stupidly glamorizing in its treatments of guns and ideas of vengeance,” wrote Siena Yates of the New Zealand Herald.

(Photo by AMC)

Although Tom Payne’s day job requires him to be knee-deep in zombies and murderous Saviors, when it’s time to unwind and watch some TV, The Walking Dead actor’s tastes are very eclectic.

When we first met Payne as Jesus in season 6, he seemed too good to be true — but it was quickly apparent that the man lived up to his nickname with an even hand and kind heart. He helped strengthen the Hilltop community by supporting Maggie (Lauren Cohan), bolstering her confidence to take control and oust the ineffective Gregory (Xander Berkeley) and encouraging the survivors to band together with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the others in order to defeat Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

Ahead of The Walking Dead Season 7’s DVD and Blu-ray release on August 22 and its season 8 premiere on October 22, Rotten Tomatoes caught up with the British actor to find out what he watches on his down time. Plus, he also sheds some light on what’s going to happen when the gang goes to war with Negan in season 8.


WHAT’S APPOINTMENT VIEWING FOR YOU?

(Photo by HBO)

I’ve been watching [the HBO documentary miniseries] The Defiant Ones. Lots of stuff I didn’t know about Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre and how they came together. I like stuff that has a bit of history in it and education. Also, in my business, you have to be very positive and open to situations, and it’s fun to watch people who are in similar creative industries and being successful at it. You have to be a certain type of person to be as successful as Jimmy or Dre, so it was cool and inspiring to watch.


WHAT’S ON YOUR DVR?

(Photo by HBO)

True Detective. The first season I still haven’t gotten around to watching because I know it takes a bit of time, so I want to be in the right frame of mind. But it’s definitely something there, waiting for me to watch.


WHAT’S ON YOUR STREAMING QUEUE?

(Photo by Netflix)

There’s a show out of England, which changed its name when it came over here, called Lovesick. It’s on Netflix. In England, it was called Scrotal Recall. It’s a silly premise but it works really well, about a guy who finds out he has an STD and he has to go through all of the people he has been with in the past and call them. Each episode is based on a call with a different girl and then also what’s going on in his life. It’s very British, first of all, so it’s very nice for me to watch being over here. It’s very British humor and has hysterical moments. I have a friend of mine, Dan Ings, who is one of the leads in it, who lived with me a bit in Los Angeles. He’s just really great in it. Yeah, Lovesick on Netflix, a half hour comedy that’s really fun, silly and great to laugh along to.


WHAT’S COMING SOON THAT YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT?

(Photo by Netflix)

The last show I watched because it was so fun, involving, and nostalgic was Stranger Things. I’m excited for the next season of that. I trust them, but I hope they don’t mess what made the first one so special. I do think what made it so special was the nostalgia aspect of the whole thing, the tone. When I was a kid, I was a big X-Files fan, and it has a bit of that in there — The Goonies and all those ’80s things you really liked. I used to watch The Outer Limits as a kid, too. [Stranger Things] just had all these flavors of things I really enjoyed when I was younger.


(Photo by AMC)

Kit Bowen for Rotten Tomatoes: In The Walking Dead, how much responsibility did you feel to get the character of Jesus right?

Tom Payne: Quite a lot, actually. The comic book fans were the ones I was most nervous about — for silly reasons, really. I’m not as tall as the guy in the comic books and maybe not as brawny, but they do a little remix on the characters before they come on the show. When he comes into the comic books, he’s kind of a finished character. He comes in and that’s who Jesus is. But what I like is on the show, we’ve definitely seen some growth with the character and who he is to become. From when he first came in to what we are shooting right now there’s a definite progression, which has been really nice to show – to give a bit more depth to the character.

Like being “Hand of the Queen,” so to speak, to Maggie?

Payne: Aha, that’s great! I like that. That’s a role in which [Jesus] feels comfortable. I think things have changed, where he might not necessarily have respected Gregory. I can pretty certainly say he didn’t. That’s a lot of the reason why he’d spend a lot of time outside the walls, going on scouting missions and such. He couldn’t quite stomach Gregory. Now, he’s much more inclined to spend time at the Hilltop and work with Maggie to make the place better. So that’s definitely a comfortable position for him to be in, and he will assist her in any way he can for the good of the community.

What was the atmosphere like on the set when you finally all came together to fight Negan?

Payne: It was amazing. I know Andy [Andrew Lincoln] was super excited and super happy to finally to be taking the fight back. Everyone was. Last season, everyone was all split up, so people are back together, working for a common purpose. So yeah, it’s exciting because last season everyone was so beaten down. It was nice to be on a more positive trajectory, like, “Now we are going to enact our plan.” It was very cool.

What can we expect from Jesus in the next season?

Payne: The war is happening. The war has started. Everyone will take different opinions on different situations that arise during the war. Jesus has a very strong moral compass, moral code, and there are situations that arise and there may be differences of opinion on the best way to go forward. So I think Jesus will be in different situations where he has to stick up for what he believes in.

(Photo by AMC)

How will things escalate in season 8?

Payne: The stakes are higher. If you enter into a situation where you’re committing to war, then you recognize that you have to throw everything into it. And that’s what everyone is committed to do. With that comes victories but also losses. As much as we are taking the fight back, there are things that aren’t necessarily going our way. There’s ebbs and flows within the whole situation. War is a very messy and scary thing, but everyone believes so much in what could happen after that they are willing to commit to that. They’ve come this far and they’ve been beaten down so much in the past that they recognize they don’t want to live in a world with Negan’s rules. They’d much rather live in a different place.

It sounds like it’s going to be pretty action-packed right from the start.

Payne: Yeah, the first four episodes — which we were told before we started shooting but we couldn’t believe it — have even more action than the one before. It just gets bigger and bigger. Just from a shooting thing and an acting thing, there was a lot to do. Anyone who thought last season was too hard and maybe stopped watching, just felt like it was too bleak, the advent of season 8, there’s some light. I think people could watch season 7 knowing that 8 is coming. We’re taking the fight back.

And there’s going to be sadness, too?

Payne: Like I said, there are big cheering moments but also big heart-stopping moments. No one is safe, more so in this season than any other season, I think. I’ve always said that’s one of the show’s greatest strengths. There shouldn’t be any golden geese, and it can be anyone at any time. Might be me, might be someone who has been there for years. It’s no fun if everyone is invincible. I know this is a little deep, but I’ve said this about the show for awhile: It’s life, just made more apparent. The real aspect of the show is that death lurks around every corner and it does for us in real life as well. It’s a TV show, but it’s not that far away from life. The job of fantasy is to show you real-life situations that are slightly heightened.

More importantly, when and if you do leave the show, how excited are you to cut your hair?

Payne: [Laughs] Very. Very excited to cut my hair. It’s going to be a lot grayer, I think. When I cut my hair, you’re going to be able to see my gray more. I’ll look completely different. I’ll do it in stages, I think. I don’t want to shock anyone too much.

The Walking Dead  season 8 premieres October 22 on AMC; season 7 is now available on Blue-ray, DVD, and streaming.


This week in TV news, Netflix expands its streaming services, Ozzy and Jack Osbourne may return to TV, Tales from the Crypt has been resurrected, and more!


NETFLIX EXPANDS TO 190 COUNTRIES IN 2016

netflix_tv-talk

After announcing last month that it would be doubling its original content output in 2016, Netflix has reportedly expanded its streaming service to 130 more countries, making the video service available in a total of 190 countries. Among the shows premiering later this year, Certified Fresh favorites Marvel’s Daredevil and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt will return for second seasons, with new shows including Marvel’s Luke Cage, Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down (watch the newly released trailer here), and an animated series from acclaimed director Guillermo Del Toro, as part of an expanded partnership with DreamWorks Animation. On their original film side, the Idris Elba-starring Beasts of No Nation and the documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? are both Certified Fresh and racking up awards season buzz, while the Adam Sandler vehicle The Ridiculous 6 (currently holding a strong 0%) has become the service’s most watched movie (including originals and licensed properties). Netflix currently boasts more than 70 million subscribers.


OZZY AND JACK OSBOURNE RETURN TO TV ON THE HISTORY CHANNEL

osbournes 3 edt
The Prince of Darkness and his son are returning to TV, according to reports of a trip to Havana over the weekend, prior to the commencement of Black Sabbath’s final tour. The Sabbath vocalist and heavy metal godfather Ozzy Osbourne traveled with son, Jack, to Cuba for about a week as part of a TV film project for the History Channel. The project will see the duo visit historic landmarks around the world and present them to the world as “history with an Osbourne twang,” according to Ozzy. Osbourne has also said the film will help educate himself on current events post World War 2, of which he is a bit of an expert. While most of the info on the project is under wraps, Jack has been updating fans on Instagram about the father/son travels. The Osbournes are two of a handful of celebrities traveling to Cuba since its recent relief of tensions with the US. A brief montage of Ozzy, 67, traveling in Cuba, can also be seen on YouTube.

HBO PRESIDENT TAKES THE BLAME FOR SEASON TWO OF TRUE DETECTIVE

700X380-TRUE-DETECTIVE
The second season of True Detective was more than a let down for those eagerly awaiting an encore to its widely popular and prolific first season. Well, HBO President Michael Lombardo has stepped up to the plate to take the blame for True Detective’s unsteady sophomore showing.  Lombardo made it clear in a recent interview with The Frame that “when we tell somebody to hit an air date as opposed to allowing the writing to find its own natural resting place, when it’s ready, when it’s baked—we’ve failed.” He went on to say “… the first season of True Detective was something that Nic Pizzolatto had been thinking about, gestating, for a long period of time. He’s a soulful writer. I think what we did was go, ‘Great.’ And I take the blame. I became too much of a network executive at that point. We had huge success. ‘Gee, I’d love to repeat that next year.” There still may be a third season of True Detective; and from where we stand now it looks like Lombardo and HBO have gleaned some important lessons from their successive season, third time may indeed be the charm.

HBO’S GIRLS AMONG FIRST CANCELLATION ANNOUNCEMENTS OF 2016

Girls-LenaDunham

The first TV show cancellations for 2016 have been announced, and syndicated talk show The Meredith Vieira Show will not be returning after it finishes it’s second season in May. TNT’s police procedural Rizzoli and Isles will wrap up this summer after its seventh season. And HBO has announced that it will not renew its hit series Girls past the sixth season. There is still plenty of time before Lena Dunham and company say their goodbyes. Season five of Girls premieres on February 21st.


M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN TO REVITALIZE TALES FROM THE CRYPT

Crypt Keeper - Tales
Hold the phone. M. Night Shyamalan is breathing new life into Tales from the Crypt, which originally aired for seven seasons on late night HBO. The revered series will be championed by the Oscar-nominated writer-director and TNT,  where Tales will be part of a new two hour horror block of programming for the cable channel. Shyamalan shared with Variety, “to be a part of such a beloved brand like ‘Tales from the Crypt, something I grew up watching, and to also have the chance to push the boundaries of genre television as a whole, is an inspiring opportunity that I can’t wait to dive into.”  Whether or not the creepy “Crypt Keeper” skeleton will return as host of the beloved show has yet to be revealed, but one thing seems evident – viewers are in store for a very twisted hair raising ride.

When True Detective and Fargo both premiered in early 2014, they shared many similarities: they were both “prestige anthologies,” revolving around weird, dark crime stories, created and written by novelists (Nic Pizzolatto, Noah Hawley), both starring Oscar-winning Southerners (Matthew McConaughey, Billy Bob Thornton). Detective ended up getting all the buzz, while Fargo got all the Emmys and Golden Globes.

When both shows returned for a second season this year, one turned out to be better-assembled than the other. People were quite disappointed with season two of Detective, as viewers found the story to be both monotonous and pretentious. Meanwhile, the second season of Fargo had audiences and critics saying it was better than the first (and in the same league as the 1996 Coen brothers movie that jump-started this whole thing). Hawley has said that he wanted to make sure his show was perfect since he believed he was making a movie. As the show ended its second season last night, let’s list the several things Fargo did right that Detective unfortunately did wrong.


FARGO SHARED THE WEALTH IN THE WRITING DEPARTMENT

In both their respective first seasons, every episode of Detective and Fargo were written solely by its showrunner. However, although Pizzolatto had fellow novelist Scott Lasser share writing credit on a couple of episodes, the rest of the season was still Pizzolatto’s show. As for Hawley, he assembled a crew of seasoned TV writers, including Steve Blackman (Private Practice) and Bob De Laurentiis (Providence). Being a veteran TV writer himself, Hawley must’ve realized that if he wanted to do a sophomore season that was just as good — if not better — than the first, he couldn’t do it all alone.


FARGO TOLD ITS COMPLICATED STORY IN A COHERENT MANNER

As this season of Fargo quantum-leaped back to 1979, replaying the hellish crime spree that defined the career of then-Minnesota cop Lou Solverson (played by Keith Carradine last season and Patrick Wilson this season), this season had everything: a bevy of homicides, a turf war, a crime family dismantling Greek tragedy-style, an on-the-run couple, Ronald Reagan – hell, even aliens! And I could pretty much tell you exactly how everything went down. Don’t even ask me about the specifics of Detective this season, with its trio of tormented California cops (played by Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch) chasing down murder suspects and uncovering a conspiracy, while a gangster (Vince Vaughn) aching to go legit, finds he’s no match for corrupt government officials and shady, sinister businessmen. It was a cluttered mess that, to quote Matt Zoller Seitz, felt like “a first or maybe second draft rather than a polished final product.’


FARGO HAD BETTER-WRITTEN WOMEN

Since its first season, Detective has had a problem coming up with decent female characters who weren’t hateful harpies or straight-up sex objects. Even this past season’s main heroine, McAdams’ perpetually bitter Antigone Bezzerides (without question, the worst TV character name this year), had to get dolled up and go undercover in order to infiltrate a David Lynch-worthy orgy. Fargo didn’t have this problem. The show had its share of complicated, dangerous-but-sympathetic ladies: Jean Smart’s ruthless yet level-headed big momma Floyd Gerhardt; Kirsten Dunst’s somewhat unhinged but always optimistic Peggy Blumquist; Cristin Milioti’s cancer-stricken but still proud Betsy Solverson; and Rachel Keller’s doomed femme fatale Simone Gerhardt. Thanks to these characters (and the amazing work done by the actresses who inhabited these roles), the women of Fargo were often more fascinating than the men.


FARGO HAD BETTER-WRITTEN WAR VETERANS

By far, the worst-developed character on Detective this season had to be Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh, a cop who had seen some hellish action in Afghanistan. He’s also a closeted gay man so determined to go/be straight, that he jumps at the chance to marry his on-again/off-again girlfriend when she tells him she’s pregnant. All through the season, it was hard to tell if it was his PTSD or his inner struggle with his sexuality that made him look like such an intense, emotionally confused fella. (It didn’t help that Kitsch played him like he was constipated all the time.) Fargo also had war heroes who were dealing with the aftereffects in their own ways. Some of my favorite moments from the series had Vietnam vet Solverson and his WWII-serving father-in-law Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) recalling all the good and bad times they experienced during wartime, wondering if they brought all that carnage home with them. There was also Hanzee (Zahn McClarnon), the Gerhardt’s Native American henchman and decorated Vietnam soldier who basically reaches his breaking point, inflicting his own carnage through the season’s final episodes.


FARGO’S MUSIC WAS WAY COOLER

Shout-out goes to Hawley and music supervisor Maggie Phillips for assembling many of the 1970s-era deep cuts that played all through the season. The score covered the gamut, from the decade’s biggest arena-rock stars (Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac) to little-known players (Billy Thorpe, Cymande). It’s like the world’s coolest classic rock station is always on while the show is in progress — rather than the throat-slitting melodies performed by Lera Lynn, the guitar-strumming singer who played many a bleak, depressing tune to accompany Farrell and Vaughn’s intense bar chats.

Craig D. Lindsey is a North Carolina-based TV and film critic. Follow him on Twitter: @unclecrizzle

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See how each one of the True Detective: Season Two episodes scored on the Tomatometer.
(Click on the image to see a larger version)

 

Season two of True Detective was overhyped so early in its incubation that it seemed destined to disappoint at least some of its 12 millions weekly viewers. With the first season gaining meteoric momentum by its midpoint, thanks to standout performances by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, fans of Nic Pizzolatto’s crime mystery were champing at the bit for anything in the news to indicate what was to come with the second installment. And when the announcements rolled around that the season two cast would include Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitch, and Vince Vaughn, the internet was already making judgments about the stars’ abilities to measure up to season one’s legacy.

Well, the verdict is in for season two, and compared to the Certified Fresh first season, it’s safe to assume that even the critics’ True Detective fever broke once we investigated Vinci’s layers of local corruption and personal tragedies. But that’s not to say that the second season was without its highlights. Here’s how each episode stacked up with critics in season two. [Warning: Spoilers ahead!]

 


EPISODE 1: “THE WESTERN BOOK OF THE DEAD” (Fresh76%)

What Went Down: The season opener introduces its major players separately: Ani Bezzerides is a no-nonsense Ventura County detective with strained family ties; CHP officer Paul Woodrugh faces false accusations of sexual misconduct; and Ray Velcoro is a burned out detective in Vinci, California with domestic troubles and a longstanding debt to local mob associate Framk Semyon, whose grand real estate development plans suffer a setback when the city manager disappears.

What Critics Thought: Strong performances by the season two True Detective cast make for a compelling hour of television, even when the story takes a little too long to get going.


EPISODE 2: “NIGHT FINDS YOU” (Fresh86%)

What Went Down: Velcoro, Bezzerides, and Woodrugh are jointly tasked with investigating Ben Caspere’s murder, while Frank Semyon begins a probe of his own when he discovers Caspere cheated him out of his money. All three cops are issued conflicting directives about their investigation by their superiors, and Velcoro’s connection to Semyon leads him to a shocking discovery that leaves his life hanging in the balance.

What Critics Thought: With “Night Finds You,” True Detective deftly contextualizes its four main characters, even if some of their backstories feel stale.


EPISODE 3: “MAYBE TOMORROW” (Fresh77%)

What Went Down: While Semyon attempts to keep his business interests in line after one of his men is killed, Woodrugh explores the prostitute angle at a local club and falls prey to old temptations. Later, Velcoro and Bezzerides follow a lead on a stolen car, culminating in an unexpected confrontation.

What Critics Thought: “Maybe Tomorrow” serves as a dark, stylish diversion from earlier episodes, even if it offers a somewhat less-than-satisfying conclusion to a previous cliffhanger.


EPISODE 4: “DOWN WILL COME” (Rotten52%)

What Went Down: In an attempt to shore up his finances, Semyon makes moves to reenter the criminal underworld he hoped to leave behind. Meanwhile, after it’s discovered Chessani and Caspere have been colluding for decades, Bezzerides and Woodrugh are confronted by unexpected setbacks. Later, the detectives follow up on a pawn shop lead that ends in a messy, chaotic gunfight.

What Critics Thought: Though the final scene of True Detective’s “Down Will Come” was spectacular, the events hardly felt earned after a brooding, clunky hour of storytelling.


 EPISODE 5: “OTHER LIVES” (Rotten54%)

What Went Down: The Caspere investigation is conveniently closed after the meth lab shootout, but Velcoro, Bezzerides, and Woodrugh are brought back together two months later when Bezzerides uncovers a new lead. Velcoro also makes a troubling discovery about his past with Semyon, who satisfies a hunch he has about one of his top men.

What Critics Thought: “Other Lives” succeeds in rebooting the characters of True Detective, but it might come too late in the season to create new tension.


EPISODE 6: “CHURCH IN RUINS” (Fresh74%)

What Went Down: Velcoro and Semyon establish a truce, and Semyon’s own search for an incriminating hard drive coincides with the detectives’ investigation into Caspere and Chessani’s extracurricular activities. Bezzerides goes undercover at a secret party, where things quickly spiral out of control after she locates a missing person. Velcoro and Woodrugh are able to collect key evidence and flee the scene with Bezzerides and their witness, but they leave a dead body in their wake.

What Critics Thought: A nightmarish scene with Rachel McAdams and a strong performance from Vince Vaughn stand out in “Ruin in Churches,” an episode that still suffers from the flaws of True Detective’s overarching story in season two.


EPISODE 7: “BLACK MAPS AND MOTEL ROOMS” (Fresh83%)

What Went Down: Aware of the danger they’re in, Bezzerides and Woodrugh move their loved ones to safety. The detectives piece together a theory about Caspere’s murder, while Semyon, armed with new knowledge, puts his final play against the Russians in motion. Unbeknownst to his partners, Woodrugh agrees to meet with an anonymous blackmailer, aware he may be walking into a trap.

What Critics Thought: Tense and tightly paced, “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” finds the disparate — and often vague — strands of True Detective coming into sharper focus.


EPISODE 8: “OMEGA STATION” (Rotten32%)

What Went Down: After learning of Woodrugh’s death, Velcoro and Bezzerides weigh their options and, in pursuit of a final lead, come face to face with the truth. When a tense showdown erupts in violence, the two detectives plan their exit strategy with Semyon, who enlists Velcoro’s help in one last score, hoping to secure a big payday and deliver some justice in the process.

What Critics Thought: A disappointing ending to a disappointing season, “Omega Station” was packed with incident but ultimately failed to tie together the many narrative strands of True Detective’s second incarnation.

The president of HBO programming, Michael Lombardo, addressed reporters Thursday at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills. From making more Game of Thrones to bringing back Curb Your Enthusiasm to cancelling Looking, Lombardo covered a lot of ground. Also, is Jon Snow dead? Yes. Is Lombardo disappointed with True Detective? No. Here are the biggest HBO developments from TCA.


GAME OF THRONES WILL PROBABLY END AFTER EIGHT SEASONS

As Game of Thrones hunkers down to shoot season six in Belfast, the head of HBO programming shared that the show will probably go through season eight.

“‘Seven seasons and out’ has never been a part of the conversation,” Lombardo said. “The question is, how much beyond the seventh season are we going to do?” He elaborated that the fate of the series is dependent upon how long showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss want to keep going, but they are “feeling like there’s probably two more years after [season] six.”

As for the fate of Jon Snow, Lombardo said that Snow is definitely dead. “Dead is dead is dead. He be dead… [from] everything I’ve seen, heard and read, Jon Snow is indeed dead.” Of course, dead is “dead,” but does that mean dead is dead?

When asked if HBO would be interested in a Game of Thrones prequel, Lombardo told reporters that, while HBO is open to anything Benioff and Weiss want to do, they need to focus on the next few years of Thrones before planning an offshoot.

A reporter also asked Lombardo about the controversial violence in season five, which he explained was critical to the storytelling. “This show has had violence from the first episode,” Lombardo stated. “I can’t speak to any single person’s particular taste, but I think the show is phenomenal. It went to 20 million viewers this year; it went up over one million viewers from the prior season. The show continues to grow dramatically. There are no two showrunners who are more careful about not overstepping what they think the line is — and everybody has their own line.”


12 MILLION PEOPLE LIKE TRUE DETECTIVE, EVEN IF YOU DON’T

It’s been well established on Rotten Tomatoes that critics are far less enthusiastic about the second season of True Detective than the first– season one is Certified Fresh at 85 percent, while season two is only 65 percent. And that’s just fine by Lombardo, who defended the series, citing that it’s drawing 12 million viewers a week.

“I had been on vacation,” Lombardo said. “I came back today to see you, all and I became aware that some of you had tweeted [and] written some comments about True Detective — that you weren’t enjoying it as much as you thought you would… I think Nic [Pizzolatto] is one of the best writers working in television and motion pictures today.”

Lombardo also said that season two has an ending “as satisfying as any show I’ve seen,” which will air Sunday, August 9. As for season three, HBO wants to do it if Pizzolatto does. “I’ve already called him and told him if he wants to have a season three, let’s start talking.”


LARRY DAVID MIGHT NOT BE DONE WITH CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM

Curb Your Enthusiasm fans have clung to the hope that Larry David might come back to HBO for another season, despite the lack of… well, enthusiasm from its creator, Larry David. HBO chief Lombardo, however, remains optimistic after meeting with David the day his Broadway premiere for Fish In The Dark. During that encounter, David showed Lombardo a notebook and asked, “Do you know what this is? This is the ‘next season’ notebook.”

Lombardo admitted that he hasn’t heard from David since, but that he’s fairly sure that there’s more to the Curb story.  “I don’t think it’s out of his system,” he said. “When he has something to say, he will come back. I certainly see this as a continuing dialogue with him — a long one, but a continuing one.”


EXPECT THE LOOKING MOVIE IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2016

Due to low ratings, HBO cancelled its half hour dramedy Looking in March after two seasons, but promises to finish the story with a two-hour movie. Starring Jonathan Groff, Frankie J. Alvarez, and Murray Bartlett, the Looking movie will appear sometime in the first half of 2016.

“Ending that show was, on a personal level, very painful for me,” Lombardo admitted. “I thought the show, creatively, was really doing something that I hadn’t seen on any other show, particularly dealing with gay lives… As a gay man, I was very proud that there was a show that felt like it was dealing very honestly and openly with gay men and their lives, without putting them into a comedic mode.”

The movie is written and production begins this fall.


THE SOPRANOS‘ CREATOR IS WORKING ON SOMETHING ‘PHENOMENAL’

For six years, HBO has teased a new project called A Ribbon of Dreams from Sopranos creator David Chase, and this week brings more encouragement.

“He’s writing. I have seen pages… I think there’s something phenomenal there,” Lombardo told reporters, explaining that, in part, the delay stems from deciding what form the project should take. “I think he was figuring out the format. Is it a miniseries, a limited series, or an open-ended series? What he showed us is basically two hours worth of material… and I trust I’ll see something by the end of the year, and we’ll go from there. But I fully expect we’ll be back up here during my tenure with David Chase and a new show.”

The title A Ribbon of Dream refers to an Orson Welles quote in which he described film as ‘a ribbon of dreams,’ and is about two young men who begin working in Hollywood in 1913 and eventually cross paths with some of the silver screen’s biggest names, including D.W. Griffith, John Ford, John Wayne, Billy Wilder, and Bette Davis.

On Wednesday, Januray 7, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) released their list of nominees for their annual WGA Awards, honoring outstanding writing in film, television, radio, and new media. The ceremony itself will take place on Saturday, February 7 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, but you can check out a select list of the nominees below:

 

Original Screenplay

Adapted Screenplay

Documentary Screenplay

Drama Series

Comedy Series

New Series

True Detective
It’s hard to stand out on a crowded programming dial, and that’s probably always been especially true for the stars of crime procedurals; often, making one’s mark isn’t as easy as simply lowering one’s shades while Roger Daltrey screams on the soundtrack. In order to rise above the fray, detective shows sometimes resort to adding the odd wrinkle or two in order to get our attention — and although this tactic isn’t always successful, sometimes it really, really works. In honor of all those offbeat gumshoes, this week, we’re devoting Total Recall to an appreciative look back at some of the quirkiest crime-solvers in TV history. Join us, won’t you?


Andy Barker – Andy Barker P.I.

Here’s TV’s biggest detective quirk: It’s a hard, dangerous occupation, dominated by grueling hours in which nothing seems to happen, but showrunners seem to think it’s the type of career that any old fool can bumble their way into without getting his or her head blown off. Not that we’re complaining, mind you — especially when the results are as gleefully absurd as Andy Barker, P.I., the lamentably short-lived comedy starring Andy Richter as a mild-mannered accountant who finds himself dragged into a life of crimefighting after renting some new office space in the spot where a since-retired private dick once plied his trade. Only six episodes were made, but with a supporting cast that included Arrested Development‘s Tony Hale, a roster of guest stars that made room for Ed Asner, and Richter playing a sweet-tempered naïf as only he can, Barker could have — and should have — run for far longer.


Barnaby and Betty Jones – Barnaby Jones

Although Betty (Lee Meriweather) was the quirkier of the two Joneses, having backed into the family P.I. business after her brother was murdered, her dad Barnaby (Buddy Ebsen) was no stranger to quirk himself — he was in his 60s when he came out of retirement to find his son’s killer, for one thing, and for another, he was a milk-sipping judo enthusiast rather than a raging alcoholic like most of his peers. Over eight entertaining seasons, Barnaby and Betty developed into quite the crimefighting duo, eventually taking on J.R. (Mark Shera), the son of Barnaby’s cousin — who also, per the Jones family’s rotten luck, made his way into detecting via an urgent need to figure out who murdered his dad. Ebsen essentially retired along with Barnaby when the show was canceled in 1980, but he played the character one more time in 1993, bringing him to the big screen for the Beverly Hillbillies movie.


Lieutenant Frank Columbo – Columbo

Rumpled in approach as well as appearance, Columbo (played by Peter Falk for the bulk of the character’s run) has to rank as one of the least assuming — and yet brilliantly effective — detectives in TV history. Over 10 seasons and 69 episodes, our seemingly absent-minded hero dispensed justice in distinctively amiable fashion, frequently deluding his suspects into believing his absent-minded demeanor was a sign of incompetence rather than an effective front for a laconic (yet dogged) method of case-cracking. No matter how many times Columbo’s goose appeared to be cooked, he always managed to spend the last few minutes of the show patiently explaining how he’d snared another bad guy — and oh yeah, he managed to make wrinkled raincoats cool, too.


Francis “Frank” Dowling – Father Dowling Mysteries

Few actors have a less detective-like appearance than Tom Bosley in a priest’s collar, which is what made Father Dowling Mysteries such a delightful burst of cracked TV genius during the show’s three-season run between 1989-’91 (with a 1987 movie-of-the-week essentially serving as the pilot). Aided by a tough-as-nails nun nicknamed Steve (played by Tracy Nelson), our Father spent just as much time putting Chicago crooks behind bars as he did tending to his parish — in spite of periodic appearances by his ne’er-do-well twin brother Blaine, who was often just as much of an inconvenience as the fact that the 10 o’clock Mass tended to take place just as Dowling was about to nail a perp.


Jonathan and Jennifer Hart – Hart to Hart

It seems a little hard to believe in these days of class warfare and one-percenters, but in the ’80s, there was actually a hit series about a couple of bored rich people (played to smooth, banter-driven perfection by Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers) who decided to pass their idle hours by (ahem) moonlighting as amateur detectives. Utterly ludicrous? Perhaps. But thanks to Wagner and Powers’ strong chemistry and impossible good looks, the show served as a reliably guilty pleasure for five seasons. Wagner and Powers even reunited in the ’90s for a series of TV movies with titles like Home Is Where the Hart Is, Crimes of the Hart, and Till Death Do Us Hart.


Theodore Kojak – Kojak

Some policemen are bald. Some are snappy dressers. But throughout the long and colorful history of TV’s many detectives, there’s only been one bald, nattily attired, lollipop-gobbling lawman, and that’s Theodore “Theo” Kojak. Played to perfection by Telly Savalas during the top-rated five-season run on the CBS series that bore his name, Kojak got to the middle of countless cases and an even greater number of Tootsie Roll Pops, all while cheerfully dispensing his signature line: “Who loves ya, baby?” Low ratings put an end to the original series in 1978, but affection for Kojak remained — Savalas reprised the role for a series of TV movies between 1985 and 1990. His 1994 death seemed to put an end to the franchise for good, but in 2005, The USA Network tried bringing the character back with a reboot starring Ving Rhames; it just wasn’t the same, however, and after nine episodes, the new-look Kojak had been consigned to the TV graveyard.


Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV – Magnum, P.I.

Detective work isn’t traditionally known as a path to riches, and many of our favorite TV snoops live in fairly dire straits. One notable exception: Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV, the lushly mustached focus of the eight-season CBS smash Magnum, P.I. Rather than being forced to gumshoe for a living, Magnum (played by Tom Selleck) spends his days idly loafing about a former client’s palatial Hawaii estate, where he’s been invited to live in the guest house free of charge while engaging in barbed witticisms with Higgins (John Hillerman), the stuffy, Doberman-wielding British Army vet with whom he shares the grounds. Although he could have whiled his life away sipping German beer in Hawaiian shirts, Magnum kept detecting — and despite his amicable beach bum’s demeanor, he took the work seriously enough to build a pretty impressive case file over the show’s 162-episode run.


Allison DuBois – Medium

Medium creator Glenn Gordon Caron knows a thing or two about quirky detectives — he was the guy behind Moonlighting as well as a writer and producer on Remington Steele — but he didn’t have to invent a central character for this seven-season hit, which served the bulk of its tenure for NBC before finishing out its run on CBS. Instead, he turned to Allison DuBois for inspiration, using her claims of having served as a real-life psychic consultant for various law enforcement agencies as the inspiration for a weekly drama about a crime-solving medium named Allison DuBois (played by Patricia Arquette). Beset on both sides by police who doubt her gifts and a husband who occasionally suspects she might be a little bit crazy, poor Allison had enough drama to deal with at home without being forced to contend with evildoers and other assorted complications, but it made for some awfully compelling television — as well as one of the more bittersweet series finales on our list.


Adrian Monk – Monk

This do-gooding bundle of neuroses is probably the first character who comes to mind when you say “quirky TV detective” to viewers of a more recent vintage, and for good reason: As portrayed by the inestimably talented Tony Shalhoub, the OCD-and-phobia-plagued Adrian Monk personifies the very best of off-kilter crime-solving. Shalhoub has played plenty of roles in his day, and Monk ended its eight-season USA Network run in 2009, but this will probably be the character he’ll always be most closely associated with, and for good reason: until The Walking Dead lurched onto the dial in 2012, Monk‘s series finale was the most-watched episode of any scripted drama in the history of cable television.


Maddie Hayes and David Addison – Moonlighting

Perhaps they weren’t quirky as much as they were essentially incompetent, but the squabbling duo whose will-they-or-won’t-they relationship drove Moonlighting — and entranced viewers during the ABC show’s first few hit seasons — were definitely a colorful pair, united more through wild twists of fate (she was a model who lost her fortune to a shady accountant; he was a fast-talking shyster clinging to an easy meal ticket) than any real passion for case-solving. That said, they certainly managed to solve their share of mysteries when they weren’t making up or breaking up — although that darn Anselmo case always remained frustratingly out of reach.


Jessica Fletcher – Murder, She Wrote

That prim pensioner clacking away on her typewriter might seem harmless enough, but don’t be fooled: she’s still sharp enough to unearth those dark deeds you’re hiding and have you sent to the slammer. As the mystery-writing (and solving) Jessica Fletcher, Angela Lansbury did it time and time again over the course of Murder, She Wrote‘s impressive 12-season run — although not even Fletcher’s legendary sleuthing was enough to solve the case of who at the network thought it was a bright idea to move the show from its traditional Sunday slot and feed it to the lions on Thursdays at 8 for its final season. Still, not even cancellation was enough to get rid of Murder: Lansbury returned to star in four TV movies, with the first airing in in 1997 and sequels following in 2000, 2001, and 2003. She’s stated in recent years that she’d be open to coming back for more — and judging from the scornful outcry that erupted when NBC tried rebooting the show with Octavia Spencer in the lead, her audience is still open to the possibility.


Shawn Spencer – Psych

You could make the argument that Psych‘s Shawn Spencer is more of a sociopathic liar than a genuinely quirky guy — after all, this is someone who lies about being psychic in order to avoid jail time and ends up taking a gig as an allegedly paranormally attuned “consultant” for the local police force — but it takes chutzpah to pull that kind of hoodwinking over on the law, and if a surfeit of moxie can be seen as a quirk, then Spencer surely fits the bill. Psych certainly hit the spot for viewers: Like its USA Network companion Monk, it was a solid hit for eight seasons.


Laura Holt – Remington Steele

She may have been the best detective in town, but in the ’80s, Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) couldn’t get a gig — so to circumvent rampant sexism, she invented a “boss” named Remington Steele and, in the series pilot, hired an unnamed con man (played to suave perfection by Pierce Brosnan) to assume Steele’s fictitious identity. With two beautiful stars, smart storylines that delivered a groundbreaking blend of mystery, romance, comedy, and drama, and a classic Henry Mancini theme song, Remington Steele regularly offered one of the better hours of television during its five seasons on the NBC schedule; unfortunately, audiences didn’t always turn out in the numbers that the network would have liked, and it was canceled after Season Four — only to be unexpectedly brought back when NBC brass were swayed by a grassroots fan campaign (which unfortunately cost Brosnan an early shot at the role of James Bond, forcing him to wait until the ’90s to don 007’s tux).


Sledge Hammer – Sledge Hammer!

One year after he scored a supporting role in arguably the most over-the-top cop movie of the ’80s (Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra), David Rasche took the lead in ABC’s Sledge Hammer!, an enthusiastically absurd sitcom that took the decade’s burgeoning pile of steely-eyed action tropes and lampooned them to the hilt. Not surprisingly, audiences were largely unsure of what to do with a show that had a laugh track and a central character who had a passionate relationship with his revolver, and Sledge Hammer! was never a big ratings winner — to the point that the first season ended with a nuclear explosion that presumably killed all the characters, only to pick up “five years earlier” the following season, despite the multiple continuity errors that caused. As Sledge would have said: Trust him, he knows what he’s doing.


Rustin Cohle – True Detective

Quirks don’t develop in a vacuum, and the next time you find yourself wanting to make fun of someone showing signs of odd behavior, you might want to consider the tragic tale of Rustin Cohle, the True Detective character (played by Matthew McConaughey) whose meticulous approach to the tireless pursuit of criminal justice has led to an ascetic life largely devoid of possessions or pleasures — with the notable exceptions of the bulging ledger file that earns him his derisive nickname of “Tax Man” and the drinking problem that threatens to drag him under. Unlike most of the detectives on this list, Cohle’s quirk isn’t played for laughs, but it’s no less enthralling in its seriousness; whoever steps into the McConaughey-shaped void in True Detective‘s second season will have an awfully heavy badge to carry.


The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards are here and we’ve been asking our esteemed Rotten Tomatoes critics to weigh in with their predictions. For the category of Outstanding Drama Series, there are six nominees: Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Mad Men, and True Detective. But you wouldn’t know it based on the 18 predictions below.

Breaking Bad will win and Breaking Bad should win. I think there’s maybe an outside chance that True Detective becomes the shiny new thing and it takes it, but I feel like there’s been enough backlash against True Detective in the last few months.Alan Sepinwall, HitFix
It was a real event. It’s the one season with these characters and this cast.Bonnie Stiernberg, Paste Magazine
Because it’s Breaking Bad‘s last year, it’s definitely going to go to them.Drew Grant, New York Observer
Even though it’s been over for a while, the voters understand that it is one of the best series of all time and they will want to be on the right side of history.Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe
I hate to use the cliche “stuck the landing,” but that’s what Breaking Bad did with its powerful finale.Lori Rackl, Chicago Sun-Times
I love Game of Thrones and True Detective was one of the best break-out series of all time, but Breaking Bad was one full movie from episode one of season one until the last episode of season five. So it was a complete series. It was the best written show in the history of television. It has to win.Kristian Harloff, Schmoes Know
It’s pretty close between True Detective and Breaking Bad. I have a feeling that True Detective might win just because there’s been so much chatter and they did give it to Breaking Bad last year.Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times
It’s going to be between Breaking Bad and True Detective. I think most people are predicting Breaking Bad, and that’s what my official prediction would be to win, but I’d much rather see True Detective pull it off. I just don’t think that any other show is going to come out that’s going to be like that again, even in its second season, so I’d like to see it honored for what it is this year.Ben Travers, IndieWire
It’s going to be really close and if True Detective wins, I will not be surprised. It’s going to come down to whether the number of people who have forgotten that Breaking Bad was on in the last TV season will be greater or smaller than the number of people disappointed by the True Detective finale. Todd VanDerWerff, Vox Media
One last chance to award a program the Academy has clearly loved in the past, and maybe True Detective wins it next year.
Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
Breaking Bad: the most brilliantly structured, cast, written and directed novelistic television of the year.Joanne Ostrow, Denver Post
The ending of Breaking Bad is the best ending of a series I’ve ever seen, but I think True Detective is going to win because it has so much buzz and because it McConaughey is so popular.Eric Deggans, NPR
With True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto dogged by hardly specious accusations of plagiarism, the question becomes not whether the series can win over Breaking Bad’s incredible swan song, but whether it will even return for a second season.
Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine
You could have a spoiler in the form of Game of Thrones or House of Cards or True Detective. But if I were doing a pool, I would go with Breaking Bad.
Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media
This race is a tough one to call, to be sure. It comes down to the star power and novelty of True Detective vs. the legacy of Breaking Bad. Yes, it won last year. Yes, it aired so long ago. But I’m going with my heart on this one, and giving the edge to Breaking Bad.
Debra Birnbaum, Variety
Newbie True Detective and old hand Game of Thrones are formidable contenders, but the final eight episodes of Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece are in a league of their own.
Tim Goodman, Hollywood Reporter
True Detective might be the buzziest show, but the ending was polarizing, and a recent plagiarism controversy could hurt its chances. Plus, it’s hard to beat the near-universal love for Bad, which finally won its first series Emmy last year and will never get that chance again.Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly


More Emmy Predictions:

This week’s biggest TV buzz is all about True Detective season two casting rumors. Plus, Ricky Gervais is making an Office spin-off, AMC is airing a Breaking Bad binge, James Van Der Beek is going to CBS, and everyone is watching Game of Thrones!

More casting rumors swirl around True Detective this week.

Thanks to a report by TheWrap.com on Monday, the internet is all abuzz again about who might star in HBO’s second season of True Detective. According to TheWrap’s Jeff Sneider, Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers) is in talks for Frank Semyon, the “central antagonist” — a role which series creator Nic Pizzolatto apparently wrote with Vaughn in mind. Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men, Top of the Lake) is also reported to be in the running for a lead role as “a tough, no-nonsense Monterey sheriff whose troubled upbringing has driven her to gambling and alcohol.” (Moss has remained tight-lipped about the casting prospect according to this piece in Vulture). Colin Farrell (Phone Booth) and Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) are also rumored to be circling roles for season two, which will take place in California, centering on the murder of a city official in the midst of a groundbreaking transportation deal. HBO has yet to comment on any of these season two rumors.

Ricky Gervais is making a movie based on his Office character.

On Tuesday, BBC Films announced an upcoming movie based on Ricky Gervais’ character from the British version of The Office TV show. Life on the Road will catch up with David Brent 15 years after his time at the Slough branch of the Wernham Hogg Paper Company. The mockumentary-style film will feature Brent, now a traveling salesman and aspiring rock star, who cashes in pension checks to fund his dream. “He thinks it’ll be like Scorsese filming the Rolling Stones, but it turns out to be a ‘Where are they now?’ documentary,” BBC Films said in a statement. Ricky Gervais added via Twitter, “Just to be clear, I am not making an ‘Office’ movie. I’m doing a documentary film about David Brent trying to be rock star. Just Sayin :)” Life on the Road will be distributed worldwide, though the BBC has yet to confirm whether the movie will have a theatrical release or a television debut.

AMC’s Breaking Bad binge starts this weekend.

Whether you missed it the first time around, or you think Breaking Bad is one of the greatest TV shows of all time, you’re in luck. Starting this weekend, AMC will air every episode of Breaking Bad in order on Sundays from 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. through October 5. Yes, that’s six Breaking Bads a weekend from now until October. Episodes will kick-off with never-before-aired interviews with the cast and crew, and even more Breaking Bad bonuses will be available on AMC.com, which promises to post between 40-50 new nuggets of companion content each week online. Breaking Bad concluded last year and is currently up for 16 prime-time Emmys. Learn everything you need to know before you start your Sunday night marathons with the Rotten Tomatoes Weekly Binge guide here.

James Van Der Beek is joining Patricia Arquette in CSI: Cyber.

CBS announced Wednesday that James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek, Varsity Blues) will star in the upcoming CSI: Cyber, the newest spin-off of the CSI franchise. Van Der Beek will play FBI Agent Elijah Mundo, an “action junkie” and battlefield forensics expert, opposite Emmy winner Patricia Arquette (Medium, Boyhood). Arquette will play Special Agent Avery Ryan, who heads the Cyber Crime Division of the FBI, “a unit at the forefront of solving illegal activities that start in the mind, live online, and play out in the real world.” CSI: Cyber is a procedural inspired by the real-life work of cyber psychologist Mary Aiken and will premiere during the 2014-2015 season on CBS.

Game of Thrones reaches nearly 20 million viewers.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Game of Thrones viewership has swelled to nearly 20 million people, becoming the most-watched show on premium cable (not just HBO). Adding up the numbers is a mighty task that includes episode premieres, repeats, DVR playbacks, and online streaming. The number is still lower than the viewership for top network shows like Big Bang Theory and NCIS (both of which averaged 22 million viewers last season), but doesn’t factor in the number of illegal streams of Game of Thrones, which is the most pirated show on the internet. That said, all of these shows are eclipsed by The Walking Dead, which, according to AMC, averaged 28 million viewers per episode last season when you factor in DVR and streaming plays. Meanwhile, AMC’s new series, Halt and Catch Fire, only drew 574,000 viewers for its finale on Sunday, so AMC can definitely use those viewers.

This week, The Flash and Sons of Anarchy announced new cast members… Orphan Black, The Knick, and Matador announced new seasons… and HBO announced that they might actually announce something about True Detective!

The Flash Casts Robbie Amell as Half of Firestorm

The CW’s highly anticipated Arrow spin-off, The Flash, announced that Robbie Amell will play the role of Ronnie Raymond — half of the hero known as Firestorm. “Geoff Johns, Andrew Kreisberg and myself designed the pilot and series to include Ronnie (aka Firestorm) — and to actually have someone with Robbie’s talent playing the role is beyond exciting,” said executive producer Greg Berlanti. “We can’t wait for viewers and fans of the character to check it out.” If the name Amell sounds familiar to superhero fans, it might be that you remember him from The Tomorrow People, another CW show in which he played the character Stephen Jameson — or you might know his real-life cousin, Stephen Amell, one of the stars of Arrow. Robbie Amell will appear in the third episode of The Flash as a maintenance worker at S.T.A.R. Labs and fiance to Dr. Caitlin Snow. The Flash premieres on The CW on October 8.

True Detective Casting Announcement Is Coming Next Week

HBO CEO Richard Plepler and HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo were tight-lipped about season two of True Detective at Thursday’s TCA panel in Los Angeles. They did, however, reveal that casting news is coming soon — like, next-week soon. [Update: The Hollywood Reporter said Friday that Colin Farrell is in talks for season two.] As for the rumor that season two will feature two male leads and one female lead, Plepler and Lombardo wouldn’t say. “We decided early on to free ourselves from the idea of stars and just lean into great acting,” Lombardo said. The HBO execs also promised that the first two episodes of season two will be “more exciting than the first season.”

BBC America Renews Orphan Black for Season Three

The Clone Club may be up in arms today over Tatiana Maslany’s Emmy snub, but they’ll hopefully find solace in the news that Orphan Black is coming back to BBC America for season three. The show, which doubled in ratings from season one to season two, will begin shooting its ten new episodes this fall. In the same announcement, BBC America also shared that the British mystery Broadchurch starring David Tenant will be back for a second season, early in 2015. Fox will air an American adaptation of Broadchurch this fall: Gracepoint, starring Anna Gunn.

Matador, The Knick Get Second Seasons Ahead of Season One Premieres

Better call Saul! Two more TV shows got a season two order before their premieres have even aired. El Rey, the English-language cable network helmed by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, announced Thursday that its second original series Matador, which premieres on July 15, will have a second season. The CIA-soccer thriller created by Roberto Orci stars Gabriel Luna and the freshly-nominated Alfred Molina. Similarly, Cinemax announced that Steven Soderbergh’s turn-of-the-century medical drama, The Knick, is renewed for a second season. Season one premieres on Cinemax August 8.

Courtney Love Joins Cast of Sons of Anarchy

Another rocker joins Sons of Anarchy season seven. TV Line reported this week that Kurt Cobain’s widow and Hole frontwoman, Courtney Love, will play a recurring guest spot in the final season. While Sons of Anarchy will be Love’s TV acting debut, she starred opposite Jim Carrey in Man on the Moon (1991) and was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996). For SOA‘s final season, Love will have a multiple-episode arc as Ms. Harrison, a preschool teacher. Walton Goggins from Justified will also be on the last season of SOA, returning to his guest-starring role as Venus, a transgender prostitute.

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