What to Watch: Alec Baldwin’s Talk Show or Jennifer Garner’s “Camping”? Choose Jen.
Plus, "The Haunting of Hill House" arrives on cue for Halloween horror season.
Welcome to What to Watch, in which we cover the best shows, movies and series out right now, both on networks and streaming services. Alec Baldwin makes a few appearances on “SNL” and thinks he can handle his own talk show now. Below are some considerably more exciting options.
All American (The CW)
From Crenshaw to Beverly Hills, bitch. The newest high end, high school soap from none other than The CW is about a teenaged football player Spencer James (Daniel Ezra), who gets an offer to play at an elite private academy in Beverly Hills. James’ challenges morph from gang violence in Compton to rich white kids eager to tear down the new-kid threat he poses to the team and the whitewashed world they live in. The show tackles issues of race and wealth inequalities. Although James’ new coach (played by Taye Diggs) is black, he and his white wife and very rich, which creates a distance where James thought there would be mutual understanding. Football takes a backstage to the melodrama of teen life, and performances by Ezra and other young actors are what make this show work. I’d enjoy the first season as much as possible before the show goes off the rails as CW projects (Riverdale, The 100, Vampire Diaries) often do.
Fish My City (Nat Geo Wild)
Some shows are so weird and kooky that while you would never pay attention to anything associated with the show, the elements together drive you to watch it. It’s the formula A&E uses for nearly all of its programs: Storage Wars, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, Dog the Bounty Hunter. And it’s for this reason alone that I even watched the trailer for Fish My City. Professional Bass Hunter Mike Iaconelli travels to six cities from New Orleans to London in search of specific “bucket list” fish lurking in sewers and canals. Yee-haw that’s my kind of niche television.
The trailer actually looks cute. And while Iaconelli doesn’t seem like the kind of person I’d normally hang out with, his loud personality is muted through a screen. And I’m a sucker for anything involving creepy things lurking in even creepier waters.
The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)
This week’s horror pick promises to be a good one, a reimagining the classic novel by Shirley Jackson. You may better know from a loose 1999 film adaptation starring Liam Neeson or it’s parody in “Scary Movie 2.” This version looks a lot different, focusing on generational trauma from successive mental illness and supernatural hauntings. Think “Hereditary” meets “Amityville.” In fact, the family in Hill House is known in the film for growing up in the most famously haunted house in America, much like the one in “Amityville.” The 10-episode series jumps around from the summer the Crane family lived in the house to the present, showing the emotional aftershocks on each member: a dead mother, a deadbeat dad, and five emotionally messed-up kids. The series slowly unravels what really happened the night they fled Hill House that fateful summer with supernatural reveals both terrifying and tragic. The show is eliciting viewer-warnings from early watchers, who have claimed to since be sleeping with the lights on after watching.
The show has so far been lauded for it’s interweaving of imagery and emotion, depth of writing, and capable actors all around. It will no doubt be the horror show everyone talks about this Halloween season, if you can make it through all 10 episodes.
Jennifer Garner is working again! The actress best known for Garnier Fructis hair commercials and playing the mom in Christian films is breaking out from her typical roles to play women with more than one dimension, and good for her. Even if her summer movie, Peppermint, where she plays a rogue vigilante seeking justice for her murdered husband and daughter, didn’t do so well in theaters.
“My marriage is split, just like these dry ends.” – Jennifer Garner in her next Garnier Fructis commercial probably
— T. Kyle (@tkylemac) June 30, 2015
In Camping, she plays an insufferable helicopter parent during a four-day camping trip to celebrate her husband Walt’s birthday. How insufferable? At one point she tells her 11-year-old son, “Don’t pout honey, it makes your face rounder than it already is.” The grating mom doesn’t make for an easy watch. Co-creators Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner excel at creating intense female characters. Their show Girls was criticized for that exact reason. But Garner is able to hold it down better than Dunham did in the lead role because unlike Dunham, people like her. She’s incessantly sweet both in real life and often on screen, no matter what she’s doing.
The Alec Baldwin Show (ABC)
Alec Baldwin is pretty busy appearing on almost every SNL episode to play Donald Trump, and he’s parlaying that new buzz into… a talk show? Baldwin’s short-live last one on MSNBC was canceled in 2013 after five episodes following allegations that Baldwin used a homophobic slur at a photographer. It was also a bad show. Baldwin has always been pompous. Out of every character on 30 Rock, he seemed to have the easiest time channeling an arrogant studio exec. As for this new show, Robert De Niro and Taraji P. Henson will be his first guests on Oct. 14. Next week is Kim Kardashian followed by others including Ricky Gervais, RuPaul, and Chris Christie. I can’t imagine it will be a standout show, especially in an era when talk show hosts seem to be withering on the vine.
Terrace House: Opening New Doors Part 4 (Netflix)
The fourth bundle of episodes for what has been its best season of Terrace House dropped this week, so I’m officially done hyping the show. But not before I say why this remains one of the most interesting reality concepts on television. The producers finally managed to wrangle a group of outspoken people without leaving Japan, whereas the last season in Hawaii was the most dramatic, it lacked the foreign allure that makes this show feel like one giant therapy session in a world of soft voices and overly polite characters.
This season has those same warm elements with love triangles and rivalries at extremes never seen on the show before. Unprecedented competition between houseguests caught up in love triangles and older members domineering younger ones for their own entertainment make this season’s drama. Terrace House is Big Brother without the frills and game showiness and distance from the outside world. Jumping into a season midway is easy. House members come and go, creating an ever-evolving cast throughout the with fresh plotlines every few episodes. So consider this your reality option this weekend if you want a calm weekend in bed.