10 tele­vi­sion shows you re­ally need to check out this sea­son.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Hank Stuever

Oh, my poor, sweet tele­vi­sion dar­lings, I hope you’re in the mood for lots of sigh­ing and vague feel­ings of en­nui this fall. Many of the sea­son’s best new shows share a cer­tain tone of sad­ness — some­times grim, some­time sub­ver­sively comic, but al­ways a lit­tle over­cast. Blame the times we live in. Blame “This Is Us.” In any event, grab your fa­vorite blankie and cud­dle up for th­ese 10 shows that I think are the most worth your time.


(Sun­days at 9 p.m. on Show­time; pre­miered Sept. 9)

This melan­choly dram­edy stars Jim Car­rey as Mr. Pick­les, the beloved Mis­ter Rogers-like host of a long-run­ning chil­dren’s show, whose calm and nur­tur­ing public per­sona is un­der­mined by a re­cent tragedy (the death of one of his twin sons in a car crash) and a split from his wife ( Judy Greer), who says she can’t live up to her hus­band’s rep­u­ta­tion as ev­ery­one’s emo­tional hero. Frank Lan­gella and Cather­ine Keener are ex­cel­lent as Mr. Pick­les’ col­leagues (and frosty fam­ily mem­bers), who worry about the show’s fu­ture more than its host’s well-be­ing. Although it’s not what any­one would call a joy­ful watch, “Kid­ding” is a provoca­tive and of­ten heart­break­ingly funny ex­plo­ration of hero wor­ship, grief and cop­ing. It’s also Car­rey’s best work in years.


(Se­ries now stream­ing on Ama­zon Prime)

Not long af­ter I started watch­ing this ex­quis­ite eight-episode dram­edy from Alan Yang (“Mas­ter of None”) and Matt Hub­bard, I re­al­ized why the folks at Ama­zon have been so in­tent on keep­ing a lid on its cen­tral premise. It seems like a show about two nice, nor­mal sub­ur­ban yup­pies named Os­car and June Hoff­man (“SNL” chums Fred Ar­misen and Maya Ru­dolph, in fine form) who are stuck in a mar­i­tal rut. Then, in a ma­jor sw­erve, “For­ever” be­comes a much deeper and al­most philo­soph­i­cal look at the con­cept of eter­nal love. Seek­ing to shake things up, the Hoff­mans skip their an­nual va­ca­tion at their lake house and go to a ski re­sort in­stead. The trip changes the course of their lives pro­foundly — at first for the bet­ter, un­til June re­al­izes she’s still dis­sat­is­fied be­ing with Os­car. Not only is “For­ever” one of the best shows of the year, I’d make it manda­tory view­ing for cou­ples con­sid­er­ing mar­riage.

‘The Hunt for the Trump Tapes’

(Tues­days at 9:30 p.m. on Viceland; pre­miered Sept. 18)

At 59, ac­tor-co­me­dian Tom Arnold has be­come a hyper-ex­as­per­ated celebrity cit­i­zen jour­nal­ist who is in­tent on find­ing and

pub­li­ciz­ing all the recorded in­stances of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s al­leged of­fen­sive re­marks about women and mi­nori­ties — dat­ing to when Trump was just a heat­seek­ing at­ten­tion hound (like Arnold) and not the leader of the free world. The search takes Arnold from the ar­chives of Howard Stern’s ra­dio show to an at­tempt to learn more about the locked-down, un­used footage from all those sea­sons of NBC’s “Apprentice” fran­chise. With even big­ger talk about find­ing the Holy Grail (the “pee tape” that so an­i­mates the pres­i­dent’s en­e­mies), Arnold’s hap­haz­ard meth­ods can come across as some­what pa­thetic. But he more than makes up for it with a wild ex­pres­sion of pa­tri­otic de­ter­mi­na­tion. And be­sides, what are other celebs do­ing about per­ceived con­sti­tu­tional crises, be­sides whin­ing?

‘Sorry for Your Loss’

(Tues­days on Face­book Watch; first four episodes pre­miered Sept. 18)

You’d think Face­book wouldn’t have time to be mak­ing TV shows, but this risky, 10-episode, half-hour drama cre­ated by Kit Steinkell­ner won me over with its au­then­tic wal­low in grief — the stages of which are never as clean as they’re pur­ported to be. El­iz­a­beth Olsen (known to most as the Scar­let Witch in Mar­vel’s “Avengers” movie fran­chise) stars as Leigh, a young woman dev­as­tated by the un­ex­pected death of her hus­band, Matt (Mamoudou Athie). Leigh leans on her some­what self-ab­sorbed mother, Amy ( Janet McTeer), and re­cov­er­ing-ad­dict sis­ter, Jules (“The Last Jedi’s” Kelly Marie Tran), for what­ever sup­port she can get. At group-ther­apy ses­sions for griev­ing spouses, Leigh is eas­ily un­hinged — by the de­ci­sion to re­place the usual dough­nuts with healthy snacks, for ex­am­ple, or by the ef­fu­sive plat­i­tude-speak from the perky widow of a fallen sol­dier. It’s not a light­hearted binge, but “Sorry for Your Loss” works be­cause it’s as in­ter­ested in Leigh’s heal­ing as it is in her suf­fer­ing.


(Se­ries now stream­ing on Net­flix)

From cre­ator Patrick Somerville and direc­tor Cary Joji Fuku­naga (“True De­tec­tive”), this oddly mes­mer­iz­ing, 10-episode drama is set in an al­ter­nate fu­ture/ present of Atari-age tech­nol­ogy within a Wes An­der­son-like aes­thetic, by way of a 1980s Wal­mart. Jonah Hill (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) and Emma Stone (“La La Land”) star as Owen and An­nie, strangers who vol­un­teer to par­tic­i­pate in a highly clas­si­fied phar­ma­co­log­i­cal trial for a se­ries of pills that could cure men­tal ill­ness. Justin Th­er­oux (“The Left­overs”) co-stars as the deeply trou­bled mas­ter­mind be­hind the ex­per­i­ment, and Sally Field has a good time play­ing his over­bear­ing mother. “Ma­niac” starts off too ab­sorbed in its own com­pli­cated struc­ture, but once Owen and An­nie are strapped in at the lab (and ex­pe­ri­ence an ac­ci­den­tal meld­ing of their sub­con­scious states), the show be­comes a vis­ually com­pelling romp through highly de­tailed dreams and per­sonal dis­cov­er­ies.

‘A Mil­lion Lit­tle Things’

(Pre­mieres 9 p.m. Sept. 26 on ABC)

If you be­lieve in the trea­cle-down the­ory when it comes to NBC’s rip-roar­ing suc­cess with “This Is Us,” then you’re ready for ABC’s drama about the emo­tional en­tan­gle­ments of a group of four Bos­ton men (Ron Liv­ingston, Ro­many Malco, David Gi­un­toli and James Ro­day) feel­ing all the feels that bros can feel when their best bro jumps from his sky­scraper of­fice bal­cony in the mid­dle of a work­day with­out leav­ing a note. “A Mil­lion Lit­tle Things” comes on a tad too strong in its setup: The sui­cide has the sur­viv­ing guys, along with their spouses and sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers, won­der­ing how some­one so happy and suc­cess­ful could take his own life — even though one of them was on the verge of do­ing the same thing. Turns out each man (they all orig­i­nally met in a stalled el­e­va­tor) car­ries around his fair share of angst about the big­gies: mar­riage, sex, fam­ily, sick­ness, suc­cess. They’re keep­ing se­crets from one an­other, too, so here come the flash­backs and break­throughs.

‘Mur­phy Brown’

(Pre­mieres 8:30 p.m. Sept. 27 on CBS)

Ex­pect some com­plaints from the right that “Mur­phy Brown,” which ran on CBS from 1988 to 1998, is wel­comed back with hearty huz­zahs, while this year’s “Roseanne” re­vival in­vited heaps of scorn be­cause its star and lead char­ac­ter voted for Trump. In the new-old “Mur­phy Brown” (episodes of which have not yet been made avail­able to crit­ics), Candice Ber­gen’s out­spo­ken news an­chor is com­pelled by re­cent events to re­turn as a morn­ing-show host in a markedly dif­fer­ent me­dia land­scape of so­cial­me­dia out­rages, “fake news” and all that. Although some things have changed (Mur­phy’s son, Av­ery, is all grown up and works for the com­pet­ing — and con­ser­va­tive — Wolf News Chan­nel), Mur­phy is re­joined by old “FYI” col­leagues Corky, Frank and Miles (Faith Ford, Joe Ra­gal­b­uto and Grant Shaud). As this 13-episode sea­son pro­gresses, cre­ator Diane English prom­ises to nar­row its turn­around sched­ule to a week or less, keep­ing the show as top­i­cal as pos­si­ble. Strap in, fans.

‘The Ro­manoffs’

(Pre­mieres on Ama­zon Prime on Oct. 12)

Rec­om­mend­ing shows that I haven’t seen a sin­gle minute of is cer­tainly not my pre­ferred method of TV crit­i­cism. But “The Ro­manoffs” can’t help but make a must-see list (whether it’s any good or not), sim­ply for be­ing cre­ator Matthew Weiner’s first se­ries since “Mad Men.” Billed as a con­tem­po­rary story that takes place in dif­fer­ent spots around the globe, it’s an eight-episode an­thol­ogy drama about peo­ple who claim to be de­scen­dants of the last czar of Rus­sia (ex­e­cuted with his fam­ily in 1918). The size and qual­ity of the cast list is rea­son alone to give it a whirl: In ad­di­tion to “Mad Men’s” John Slat­tery and Christina Hen­dricks, look for Diane Lane, Aaron Eck­hart, Grif­fin Dunne, An­drew Ran­nells, Amanda Peet, Is­abelle Hup­pert, Paul Reiser, An­net Ma­hen­dru, Corey Stoll, Noah Wyle and more. Af­ter a dou­ble-episode pre­miere Oct. 12, re­main­ing episodes will stream weekly. That’s all I re­ally know, for now.


(Pre­mieres 9 p.m. Oct. 14 on HBO)

“Girls” col­lab­o­ra­tors Lena Dun­ham and Jenni Kon­ner have adapted the Bri­tish ver­sion of this com­edy into a wickedly funny, un­nerv­ing eight-episode romp about an anx­i­ety-rid­den con­trol freak, Kathryn ( Jen­nifer Garner, in her first se­ries work since “Alias”), who or­ga­nizes a week­end camp­ing trip among friends to cel­e­brate the 45th birth­day of her easy­go­ing hus­band Walt (“Broad­church’s” David Ten­nant). Kathryn is the sort of busy­body who likes to tell peo­ple when and how to have fun; al­most im­me­di­ately, her best-laid plans are thwarted by the ar­rival of Jandice ( Juli­ette Lewis, in full Juli­ette Lewis mode), the free-spir­ited girl­friend of re­cently sep­a­rated Miguel (Ar­turo Del Puerto). As the group splashes in af­ter a naked Jandice hops into the lake, Kathryn com­plains that she had sched­uled a swim­ming ex­cur­sion for a dif­fer­ent day. “Camp­ing” ex­pertly ex­plores the very par­tic­u­lar suf­fer­ing of pas­sive-ag­gres­sive peo­ple.

‘Na­tive Amer­ica’

(Pre­mieres 8 p.m. Oct. 23 on PBS sta­tions)

De­spite an es­pe­cially daunt­ing premise, this beau­ti­fully in­for­ma­tive four-part doc­u­men­tary man­ages to get a han­dle on the vast, 15,000-year story of indige­nous peo­ple who shaped North and South Amer­ica. Com­bin­ing mod­ern schol­ar­ship with im­pres­sive ac­cess to tribal his­tory and tra­di­tions, the se­ries starts off with the ear­li­est ev­i­dence of Amer­ica’s “first peo­ples” (find­ing an­swers ev­ery­where from Ama­zo­nian cave paint­ings to New Mex­ico’s Chaco Canyon) and works its way through the rise of great cities and ter­ri­to­ries. It’s a mega-his­tory that’s rich with tech­no­log­i­cal achieve­ments, en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship, self-gov­er­nance and pro­found spir­i­tu­al­ity. Each story tends to lead to other mys­ter­ies, but what’s strik­ing about “Na­tive Amer­ica” is its re­luc­tance to let tragedy and loss be­come the de­fault set­ting - although cer­tainly that is pal­pa­ble, es­pe­cially in the fi­nal episode, which fo­cuses on re­sis­tance and re­vival. “Na­tive Amer­ica” is a re­veal­ing cel­e­bra­tion of cul­ture and in­no­va­tion.


El­iz­a­beth Olsen, left, and Kelly Marie Tran in “Sorry for Your Loss.”


Maya Ru­dolph and Fred Ar­misen star in “For­ever.”


Jim Car­rey por­trays a Mis­ter Rogers-like host of a long-run­ning chil­dren’s show in “Kid­ding.”


From left, David Gi­un­toli, James Ro­day and Ro­many Malco in “A Mil­lion Lit­tle Things.”


From left, Grant Shaud, Faith Ford, Candice Ber­gen and Joe Re­gal­b­uto star in “Mur­phy Brown.”


David Ten­nant and Jen­nifer Garner in “Camp­ing.”

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