What to Watch: Is Norm Macdonald’s New Show Any Good?
Patriotic returns of "American Horror Story" and "American Vandal" provide viewing options.
Welcome to What to Watch, a series where we tell you the best shows, movies and series out right now, both on networks and streaming services. Below: three returns that you should already have on your calender, and two new shows you’re better off skipping.
Featuring returning characters from seasons one and three in addition to a few new kids, this season of American Horror Story is poised to be the best one yet — or at least much better than the past four. Murphy has a tendency to let his storylines get out of control, especially after a few seasons pass (see Nip/Tuck, Glee!, and even this series). Although you if you somehow missed the show when the series first came out, you’re fine to start in on this season without prior knowledge, as it is an anthology series after all. From what little we know, Sarah Paulson plays Ms. Wilhemina Venable, who, along with Kathy Bates’ Ms. Meade, runs the mysterious bunker in which our host of characters hide to avoid some radiation. These two ladies seem truly evil installing bizarre, brutalist commandments within the bunker that would make John Goodman’s psychopath in 10 Cloverfield Lane seem like a gracious host. Paulsen will also appear as both of her characters from season one and three. The double casting is common for AHS, furthering the hallucinogenic quality of a show known for quickly going off the rails in delightful ways. Few creators dare to blend camp with gore to make a post apocalyptic world feel so comfortable to visit.
After a ingenious first season that shocked audiences, the obvious question is whether creators Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault can recreate the comedy of two teens solving a scandal while riffing on viral true crime shows. Now we know American Vandal can take a subject like graffiti penises and make it smart and compelling. Can the show do it again—this time with contaminated lemonade that set off a poop spree at a Catholic School—without boring us? That’s right, Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck), are now famous — fielding hundreds of requests by students to solve minor crimes and pranks after their investigation into 27 penises on 27 faculty cars in a school parking lot went viral.
American Vandal took a childishly funny subject and made a show about the relationships and ambitions of high schoolers (more compelling than you’d think). Now it’s up Yacenda and Perrault to replicate the success of the first season without creating a show that feels too repetative.
Blending thoughtful satire with quick wit is what elevates Netflix’s animated comedies above stale legacies like Family Guy and South Park. The streaming service gets even weirder with animations of anamorphic animals and pregnant pillows, and somehow manages to perfectly convey all of life’s struggles. Whether it’s nightmare of puberty (Big Mouth), adjusting to life in the doldrums of a nine-to-five life (Aggretsuko), or what to do when life doesn’t turn out how you expected (BoJack). This show is one of those buzzed-about series that continues to pick up traction every year, and gives views a heaping dose of existential dread to boot. You know, because you don’t have enough of that already.
Ohhh, Sean Penn. The last thing we heard about him he was interviewing El Chapo and ambling around with a girl I first thought was his daughter. According to IMDB, Penn has also recently played a sniper named Terrier in The Gunman and a bird named Terrence in The Angry Birds Movie. I guess he has stayed busy after all. Now he’s starring in a new Hulu original called, The First—but it’s not the first thing I’d recommend you watch this weekend. If you enjoy seeing Sean Penn cross his arms and furrow his brows in a variety of situations, you might be better suited for this show than I was. In The First, Penn plays Tom Hagerty, an astronaut chartered to become the first man on Mars but is hamstrung by the death of his wife and dealing with his troubled daughter. Creator Beau Willimon, who also created House of Cards, might have tried to mimic his prior success here with a similar format of gravitas and dramatics, but The First lacks the suspense and anticipation of his previous hit.
It’s been a rough week for Norm. The former “Weekend Update” anchor is known for his punchlines and dedication to classic stand up, which he hopes to bring back with his new show. But recently voicing support for both Roseanne and Louis C.K. has caused him to be lampooned on his press tour leading up to his Netflix debut Friday. So if you miss harsh, zingy comedy where punchlines make or break a joke (or share the SNL alum’s politics) this is the talk show for you.