Pop Culture Tasting Menu: October 2017

TV shows are on phones now and summer movies start coming out in March.  While there is no real seasonality to pop culture anymore (it’s the second 12-month-a-year sport, after the NBA), the fall does get its unfair share of pop culture.  Here’s a look at the first half of what to check out in October 2017.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

In a year that every piece of pop culture gets crushed under entirely unfair scrutiny and criticism, Curb Your Enthusiasm returns after six years to not give a shit about any of it and focus its efforts on the everyday minutia of one man’s id and super-ego railing on each other.  

Stars: Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, Cheryl Hines, and JB Smoove

Premiere: 10/1

Network: HBO

Best Case Scenario: Every episode is on par with ‘Palestinian Chicken’

Pluses

  • Pure pop culture quotables
  • The interconnectedness of Seinfeld combined with the swearing prowess of pay cable
  • Joke delivery expertise – 29 minutes of setup for one blistering minute of punchlines every week
  • History of putting guest stars in situations to steal every scene they are in – Jason Alexander, Michael Richards, Michael J. Fox, Wanda Sykes, Vivica A. Fox, Ted Danson, Bob Odenkirk, just to name a few.  Curb is better at any other show on TV at putting its stars in position to succeed.

Minuses

  • High stakes after a six-year hiatus
  • No pop culture buffer zone
  • Strength of season depends on primary season arc

 

Happy Death Day

Based on the trailer, this is one part Groundhog Day, one part Final Destination, one part every horror movie you’ve ever seen.

Stars: Jessica Rothe

Premiere: 10/13

Movie Studio: Blumhouse

Best Case Scenario: The pure horror movie version of Get Out in that it’s a high-quality execution that pushes its genre forward.

Pluses

  • Amazing trailer
  • Well-balanced combination of recognizable traits and genre troupes
  • Produced by Blumhouse, which is on a winning streak on par with the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors

Minuses

  • Easily telegraphed plot points
  • An absolutely ridiculous title
  • I’m pretty sure I’ve already solved the case – she’s her own stalker

 

White Famous

After six solid – and often thankless – seasons on SNL, Jay Pharoah stars in a Showtime 30 minute comedy loosely based on the life and career of Jamie Foxx.  Pharoah stars as Floyd Mooney, a comic on the rise who has to balance being a credible comedic voice vs. crossing over into mainstream entertainment and becoming ‘white famous.’   

Stars: Jay Pharoah, Jamie Foxx

Premiere: 10/15

Network: Showtime

Best Case Scenario: The best possible version of Entourage

Pluses:

  • Jay Pharoah, an underutilized comedic force on SNL whom I am 90% sure never broke in a sketch, getting a chance to carry a TV show
  • The best premise of any TV show in 2017
  • Showtime 2017 roster is looking for a breakout star; this should get all the attention and promotional effort it deserves

Minuses

  • Eight seasons of Homeland
  • Seven seasons of Dexter
  • Five seasons of Ray Donovan
  • Eight seasons of Shameless

 

The Mayor

It’s the feel-good version of the current state of US politics.  What if a political outsider ran for office and won, and as a bonus, he beats David Spade to do it?  Sign me all the way up.  An aspiring rapper who can’t catch a break runs for public office in his hometown to promote his music career and wins.  It’s the second best premise of any new show in 2017.  

Stars: Brandon Michael Hall, Lea Michelle, Yvette Nicole Brown

Premiere: 10/3

Network: ABC

Best Case Scenario: A nice break from the barrage of bad news that’s injected into the pop culture bloodstream every minute of every day; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington only this time Mr. Smith has BARS.

Pluses

  • Yvette Nicole Brown out in front
  • Great supporting cast in Lea Michelle and David Spade
  • Produced by Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs, easily the best part of Tour De Pharmacy
  • Great premise for a sitcom on a major network in a TV season lacking in new ideas

Minuses

  • TV shows that rely heavily on premise have a hard time progressing beyond the reality established in the pilot
  • This show probably should be on a streaming platform
  • Could get lost in a crowded TV landscape as excellent, premise-heavy shows often do

 

Ghosted

I think Fox may have stumbled onto a genius new genre of television: take something mega familiar and just let funny people play with it.  Ghosted, a new buddy comedy starring Adam Scott and Craig Robinson, reunites a “skeptic” and a “true believer” in weekly adventures into paranormal discovery.  It’s the X-Files plus goof ‘em ups.  I love it.  

Stars: Craig Robinson, Adam Scott

Premiere: 10/1

Network: Fox

Best Case Scenario: Supernatural (a show that has been on for thirteen seasons) but only 30 minutes and with jokes.  

Pluses:

  • Adam Scott, the scene stealer from Parks & Rec that is not Chris Pratt, and Craig Robinson, the scene stealer from The Office that is not Ed Helms, get put front and center at a show custom built to succeed on Fox.
  • Funny people getting to be funny first and paranormal investigators second

Minuses:

  • Similar to NBC’s The Good Place, and ABC’s The Mayor, Ghosted is a very premise-heavy 30-minute show which have a hard time finding footing in the network landscape
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