Wednesday, July 20, 2016

ASK BRETT - Emmy Nominations 2016; 'UnREAL's Sophomore Slump; Lame Summer for New Shows; & More!

Welcome to the first edition of Ask Brett, a new weekly feature on the site that will post every Wednesday for the foreseeable future. TV critic Brett Hense will be taking your questions about the current state of television. Hopefully, it creates a meaningful dialogue of interesting conversation.

Q: Has it just been me or has this summer been really lame for new shows? Last year was so great with UnREAL and Mr. Robot. This year, Preacher is the only exciting new one. I tried to watch Outcast, BrainDead and Dead of Summer but none of them did anything for me. Preacher is far from perfect but at least it's entertaining and distinct. - Ryan

I do have to agree that the returning shows this summer have been significantly better than the new fare. Orange Is the New Black had an almost perfect season. Mr. Robot had a solid premiere last week. Angie Tribeca and Casual have really solidified their voices in their second seasons. And Survivor's Remorse has a solid start to its third season this coming Sunday. But yeah, I don't know why so much of the new shows this summer have been awful. Off the top of my head, I would also add Feed the Beast, Guilt, American Gothic and Roadies to your list. Television is tough. It's tricky to break through in this medium. Of course, not every new show this summer is terrible. I would second your appreciation for Preacher while also acknowledging that it's had some structural problems. But I would also add Stranger Things and The Night Of for doing distinctive and entertaining things this summer.

Q: What is going on with UnREAL this season? It is a mess! Rachel and Coleman?!?! John Booth who? What has Darius even done? And now, Romeo gets shot after not being in an episode for weeks? Is this a classic case of a horrible sophomore slump? - Amy

Unfortunately, that seems like exactly what has happened. It's as if someone looked at Mary's death last year as the new standard for the crazy and outrageous twists that needed to happen every week on Everlasting. Rachel and Quinn's manipulations used to be fun and character-based. But now, it seems like the show no longer knows how to tell stories. It's constantly being distracted by other story threads that are nowhere near as interesting. Remember when Rachel was the showrunner and Quinn replaced Chet as the head executive? That was a dynamic for one episode. It would have been far more interesting this season to see the characters adjust to those new dynamics and how to handle the power and the pressure to succeed. But instead, it's been a narrative focused on conflict without really generating the character beats to make any of the big surprises really work. So disappointing.

Q: Soooooooooo happy that The Americans finally got some love from the Emmys. Do you think the show, Keri and Matthew have any chance at actually winning? - Paul

After years of being snubbed, it finally happened. The best drama on television was finally nominated as such. That's a huge accomplishment that the show and FX should celebrate - and they have too. It's entirely possible they can win as well. This was the best season of the show so far. However, I have to think that Game of Thrones will repeat for Drama Series solely based on how much support it has across the board with voters. But Game of Thrones doesn't have anyone in the lead races. Keri and Matthew have awesome episodes to submit. And yet, it won't be easy because of their competition. Keri is facing Viola Davis, Tatiana Maslany & Robin Wright. Meanwhile, Matthew is battling Rami Malek, Kevin Spacey & Bob Odenkirk. I would be delighted if the show won anything come September. But being nominated is enough for me - at least right now, I might think differently in two months.

Q: Glad Tatiana Maslany got [Emmy] nominated again. But where is Bates Motel? Rectify? The Leftovers? Sense8? Some of the best TV of the last year. Ignored! - Claire

Emmy voters simply can't please everyone. This year they got it more right than wrong. That's a great first step to regaining some relevance again. There are always going to be snubs. That's just the truth. You are only really able to complain about something being snubbed when you can swipe it out with something else in the category. I agree that it's completely ridiculous that The Leftovers was shut out. "International Assassin" should have won for writing! But it's just a show off the Emmy radar. Plus, the writing category was able to recognize Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot, Downton Abbey, The Americans, The Good Wife and UnREAL. That's a strong and competitive field of other episodes I liked. So, I'm afraid that's the only counseling I'm able to give. Sorry it's not enough.

Q: I've noticed that you haven't been doing a Pilot Watch series this summer. Have you been watching the new broadcast pilots? Which look good? And which are bad? - Mary

In all honesty, I just haven't had the time to write up brief thoughts about pilots this year. Plus, I've only seen new shows from NBC, FOX and CBS so far. The new ABC and CW shows are still a mystery. With that being said, it's really a knockout year for Dan Fogelman. Both of his new shows are strong. NBC's This Is Us warmed the Parenthood-sized hole in my heart. Plus, it has by far the best end-of-pilot twist of any new show I've screened. Meanwhile, FOX's Pitch put me into a world I have absolutely no interest in and made the story so powerful and gripping to watch. With the comedies, I liked NBC's The Good Place. However, I'm really glad it's getting an hourlong premiere. In terms of what's horrible, nothing really comes close to CBS' Michael Weatherly vehicle Bull. It's stupid and makes absolutely no sense. I felt bad for everyone associated with it from the very first minute.

Brett Hense is the chief TV critic and founder of TV-Recaps-Reviews. He has been writing about television professionally for five years now. To be featured in a future edition of "Ask Brett," make sure to email your inquiries to Make sure to put "Ask Brett" in the subject line. Or you can leave a comment on this page or the site's official Twitter and Facebook pages.