Here's one of those situations where you definitely want to know it happened, but you don't want any more than the bare minimum of information. Someone, a hairdresser called Ariel Ramirez, is deploying a furious melange of curses at someone else who has booted him from an SUV. The someone else is Guy Fieri, a man whose hair is as legendarily tasteless as his food. Fin.
Halloween episodes are an underappreciated art and, when done well, they're uniquely satisfying. You get to see all your favorite TV buddies in delightfully character-appropriate costumes, and inevitably something weird or scary that would not happen any other week goes down. Here are our favorite spooktacular moments from the small screen — happy early Halloween!
There's no way Lionsgate is happy with Escape Plan's anemic debut, but we the people have received a golden treasure attached to the unnecessary movie's existence: seven new videos on Arnold Schwarzenegger's YouTube channel. They're all clips of the Governator reinterpreting some of his classic lines via Reddit request, and they are genuinely Schwarztacular.
NBC relaunched its once-proud Thursday-night comedy lineup a few weeks ago. Outside of critically adored/audience-ignored holdover Parks and Recreation at 8 p.m., the goal appeared to be relatively straightforward: Network honcho Bob Greenblatt was hoping to wring a few remaining drips of pride out of the faces of a more flush era. At 8:30 p.m. Welcome to the Family would hearken back to a simpler time, when gentle family foibles were enough to glue audiences to their couches. Sean Saves the World would bring back some of Will and Grace’s sassy magic at 9 p.m. The Michael J. Fox Show would complete the circle begun back in the glorious '80s, when Family Ties was ascendent, NBC's name was golden, and Brandon Tartikoff still pulled the sun across the sky every morning on his chariot driven by flying, flaming peacocks.
The first thing you should know about comedic actors is that most of them really want to act dramatically. The second thing is that, yes, A.C.O.D. is infinitely better than R.I.P.D., but that's not asking very much. The third thing, which is really the first and only thing you actually wanted to know, is that A.C.O.D. stands for Adult Children of Divorce. Adam Scott, lately of Parks and Recreation, plays Carter, the titular adult child of divorce. In a plot that sounds more convoluted than it plays, Carter finds out he was part of a landmark study conducted by a flaky pseudo-therapist (Jane Lynch) on the emotional issues suffered by kids whose parents split up. The feuding parents are played by Richard Jenkins and Catherine O'Hara, who find the humor in even the most intense screaming matches. It's like The Squid and the Whale mated with a Restoration comedy and a '70s sitcom.
A.C.O.D. tries to be a lot of things at once: a dramedy, a farce, a sex comedy, a sensitive emotional drama, a cynical rom-com, a late-coming-of-age movie. It's pretty good at all of them, if not outstanding at any. The movie is anchored by strong performances, particularly from Scott, proving he can carry a movie. Scott is an understated actor, and A.C.O.D. works best as a character study about Carter, whose attempts to keep the dueling halves of the family together keep backfiring on him. Instead of the man-child stereotype that is still so rampant in comedies, Carter is its converse — the overly responsible type-A guy. Carter is sort of the male version of that time-honored female rom-com character, the career girl whose emotional compass is wired completely wrong. Scott excels at playing struggling, but also at playing smug. In A.C.O.D. he's the former, surrounded by an extended family who fall into the latter category.
With our two-part preview of the new comedies and dramas on the networks' fall TV schedules released into the wild, the Grantland staff has gathered to offer its recommendations for returning series. So warm up your DVRs, because that's a thing you need to do for the recordings to stick inside the magic show-saving box.
Parks and Recreation (September 26)
Andy Greenwald: One week from today, Parks and Recreation will begin its sixth season with a one-hour episode, partially set in London. The show will be greeted with quiet huzzahs by its fans and admirers, lovingly GIF-ed and Tumbled by its diehards, and generally ignored by the world at large. The next morning, it will be revealed that somewhere between 2 million and 4 million people watched it, a number that is neither good nor bad. The sun will then set and rise again the following day.
There's something both noble and unfair about the quiet brilliance of Parks and Recreation. As the fortunes of NBC have crashed and burned around it, the show has never wavered from its core principles of consistency and quality. For much of its past three seasons, I'd argue that Parks has been the best show on network TV — comedy or drama. It has the strongest, most cohesive cast and the warmest spirit. Where other series strive to maintain a fragile status quo, Parks approaches change the way Special Agent Bert Macklin approaches a locked door. It's never less than good; it's very often great. To steal a line from Amy Poehler's indefatigable Leslie Knope, it's the rare show that one can both like and love.
Football season starts this week, and we here at Hollywood Prospectus are very excited about it! To help spread the word about this cool sport, we decided to highlight some of its biggest stars' most shining moments off the field and under the bright lights of showbiz. Because whether it's a charmingly self-aware sitcom cameo or a sincere dramatic performance, nothing steals a scene like a giant human trained to run into other humans for a living.
I’ve watched more television in the past three or four years than I watched in the previous 27 or 28. This is mostly because I was limited, as a kid, to occasional and closely monitored rendezvous with basic cable — 90210, Melrose Place, and My So-Called Life were covertly viewed at friends’ houses, or on VHS and the lowest volume while my parents slept — and then I was way too cool for TV for about a decade and a half. But then, then there was 30 Rock, and a subsequent and growing cohort of shows that were about and often created by women, overwhelmingly without the usual tropes of Hollywood-y girl-lives, in which supporting a man’s pursuit of something is the entirety of what’s up. Obviously, I had to see all of it.
Television in general has gotten good, great, or amazing in the last decade, but women had and are having a particular subrenaissance across absurdist comedies like 30 Rock (which finished its run early this year just perfectly); legal-and-family procedurals like The Good Wife; hot soaps like Single Ladies and Mistresses; smart dramedies like the canceled Enlightened and the maybe-canceled Bunheads; and Bravo’s reality oeuvre about mostly older women. (The cosmetic-surgery circuses aside, when else have we seen multiple posses of aging women rumbling around together, causing trouble?) Collectively, this extended, welcome emphasis on female creators, showrunners, writers, and stars has been encouraging conversations about basically everything: race (The Mindy Project), racism (Girls), actually sexual sex (Girls, Inside Amy Schumer), creative ambition (Girls, Nashville), antifeminist feminism (30 Rock), maturity (New Girl), adult friendship (New Girl, Parks and Recreation), work and family (Up All Night, The Good Wife, Veep), work families (Parks and Recreation, Bunheads), illness and death (The Big C), addiction (Nurse Jackie), recovery (Enlightened), age (Nashville), professional identity (Bunheads, Hart of Dixie, Nashville), and, in all of them, the sexism that marks the lives of women, even the able-bodied, heterosexual, and cisgendered, mostly slim and mostly white and almost uniformly rich — rich — women who populate these shows.
With every new day comes a new chance to link you to "Get Lucky." Tonight's special is the "Ultimate Johnny Galecki Fan Video," which can't be explained so much as delivered to your eyes and brain in a vacuum-sealed pouch. Also I just found out that the lyrics and performance were so "spontaneous" for Pharrell that he had trouble remembering that he'd ever recorded it. Those robots have the power to revoke access to your random session memories.
Yesterday, FX announced it was going into business with ex–talk show host George Lopez on what's become known as a "10/90" deal. It's not a tax thing — though it does have serious financial implications for those involved. Rather, it's an industry term referring to the sitcom strategy popularized by Tyler Perry and TBS a few years back, in which a new show is given 10 trial episodes to find its sea legs and to hit certain ratings benchmarks. If all goes not-catastrophically, a subsequent order is given for 90 additional episodes. It worked for FX with Charlie Sheen's comeback vehicle Anger Management, and it'll likely work again with Saint George, in which Lopez is set to play a guy with a wacky family life who does stuff. This sounds flippant, but it's not meant to. 10/90 deals for creaky-premised sitcoms are ideal for networks in search of reliability, not excellence. Saint George, like Anger Management and Tyler Perry's House of Payne before it, will provide value not by breaking ground or cracking wise, but by being a known quantity. These are the shows that no one talks about but produce a uniform, dependable product. They're the humble bricks necessary to build a solid schedule and protect a network from the slings and arrows of outrageous ratings misfortune. Quality aside, these sitcoms are a throwback to the way television used to be before auteurs and recaps, back when "social media presence" were three words that played about as well together as Charlie Sheen, Les Moonves, and Chuck Lorre.
As valuable as it may still be for programmers, consistency doesn't get much play these days from those of us on this side of the screen. There are too many shows debuting, too many sharks being jumped, too many cliffs being hanged to take time to consider the series that don't need to stand out to deliver. It’s a conundrum faced by Parks and Recreation, now gliding effortlessly toward the conclusion of its fourth consecutive stellar season. (Its first season was a mere six episodes and is necessary only for completists.) No show on TV, comedy or drama, has been as steady or as wonderful as Parks these past few years. It's not as quick as Happy Endings nor as cute as New Girl. It's not as creative as early Community nor as cringey as late-period The Office. But Parks chugs ever onward, as smart, sweet, and silly as ever. It is, in the words of Chris Traeger, the tall drink of Vitaminwater played by Rob Lowe, "a locomotive of positivity that runs on team power."
Please stop what you are doing and watch, in slack-jawed amazement and delight, as Patton Oswalt filibusters a Pawnee City Council vote with his fevered ideas for Star Wars: Episode VII in this very extended outtake from tomorrow night's Parks and Recreation double bill. What follows is eight minutes of improvisational wizardry that ends only when Oswalt nearly dies of dry mouth, having heroically reached the extreme limits of nerd-endurance by liquefying the minds of Star Wars purists with the taboo-obliterating suggestion of a grand merger with the Marvel universe.
Something happened in the most recent episode of The Americans. Spoiler: Phillip wore a wig. Then something else happened. It was a shocking moment, one that not only signaled a raising of stakes in the series' story, but a raising of game by the creative forces behind it. In one scene, The Americans made the jump from being good to great. As we discussed on this week's Hollywood Prospectus podcast, this was an "Oh shit!" moment; it's when a show you're watching takes the leap — whether it's when a sitcom goes from being amusing to being must-see TV, or when a high school drama becomes a meditation on human frailty. These moments are really the reason we give shows a chance in the first place. They can happen in the pilot or in the third season, but when they happen, there is really nothing like it. So here are the Grantland staff's favorite "Oh shit!" scenes, from some of our favorite shows. —Chris Ryan
NOTE: THIS POST CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR SOME OF THE MOST BELOVED SHOWS ON TELEVISION. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Hey, remember that cop comedy Andy Samberg is doing? The one that's coming to us on Fox? From the mighty brains of Parks and Recreation’s executive producers Mike Schur and Dan Goor? Well, now it's also got Andre Braugher, who's the kind of guy you could wake up in the middle of the night, blindfold, drop in a burlap sack, drive to an abandoned field, make act alongside only animatronic Chuck E. Cheese creatures, and still get a pitch-perfect "tough cop oozing professionalism" performance out of. Which means all signs here point to "slay."
Every week in this space, Grantland’s Andy Greenwald will run down the happenings and mishappenings in NBC’s Thursday comedy night done mostly right. (Note: The order reflects newsworthiness, not quality. Although occasionally the two just might overlap.)
1. Parks and Recreation
The normal metric for holiday behavior is, as Jim Halpert correctly argued last night, naughty or nice. But in terms of sitcoms, Dwight's Teutonic table might work even better: Do we prefer our comedies to be impish or admirable? Particularly at this time of year, when the tendency to sweeten the eggnog — or at least avoid the fat-free kind — can be overwhelming. For Parks and Rec, this balance isn't limited to December: The only time this most likable of shows stumbles is when its characters end up liking each other so much it muffles the conflict in a miasma of nondenominational good cheer. So it was particularly rewarding to discover that the excellent "Ron and Diane," as written by Aisha Muharrar and Megan Amram, celebrated Krampus far more than jolly old St. Nick.