First episode impressions: ‘The Outsider’ (TV review)

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he Outsider” (Sundays, HBO) is written, directed and paced with such slow-burn confidence that a viewer can almost fool themselves into thinking this isn’t just another Stephen King novel adaptation. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of King’s catalog; I count some of his books and their movie versions as masterpieces. But it’s hard to disguise the Kingian cliches on display in this adaptation of his 2018 novel.

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Fall TV 2019: After watching the trailers, I’m bananas for some of these shows, not so much for others (Commentary)

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 watched the trailers of some notable fall TV premieres so you don’t have to (but they are embedded here if you want to). Here are my thoughts on each, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the series. All times Eastern:

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Throwback Thursday: ‘True Detective’ Season 1 (2014) stands as the decade’s elite example of the short-form detective series (TV review)

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ven in a decade that has seen many elite examples of the short-form detective series – from “Fargo” to “Sharp Objects,” from “The Killing” to “I Am the Night” – “True Detective” Season 1 (2014, HBO) takes the cake. And eats it, too. After all, as Detective Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) would say, “What else are you gonna do with cake except eat it?”

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Mamet Monday: Mamet, Dreyfuss create a sympathetic portrait of a famous mob boss in ‘Lansky’ (1999) (Movie review)

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he Amazon Prime description for “Lansky” (1999) includes “notorious,” “gambling,” “bootlegging,” “racketeering” and “murder,” but the film – written by David Mamet and directed by John McNaughton for HBO – paints a warm picture of mob boss Meyer Lansky (1902-83). Along with a treasure of a performance by Richard Dreyfuss, “Lansky” is driven by the intrinsic fascination of someone who is a normal family man and skilled businessman, but who is targeted by the U.S. federal government and hated by a percentage of the populace.

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First episode impressions: ‘Big Little Lies’ Season 2 (TV review)

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f the first episode is any indication, “Big Little Lies’ ” second season (9 p.m. Eastern Sundays on HBO) lacks the zest of the first but has so much momentum in the wake of the death of Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) that there won’t be a shortage of reasons to tune in. David E. Kelley returns to teleplay duties, working from a story co-written with “BLL” novelist Liane Moriarty, but Jean-Marc Vallee has handed the directing reins to Andrea Arnold. The show’s mesmerizing quality ebbs during the memory-refreshing, regrouping episode “What Have They Done?,” even though the transporting theme song by Michael Kiwanuka is back, subtly remixed.

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Mamet Monday: ‘Phil Spector’ (2013) is a Pacino showcase and a bizarre, gripping condemnation of juries without actually showing the jurors (Movie review)

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hil Spector” (2013), the last film from writer-director David Mamet before what has become the longest filmmaking hiatus of his career, manages to be a compelling murder-trial biopic without digging as far into the case as one would assume. Mamet focuses on building a character portrait of legendary music producer Phil Spector (Al Pacino), someone who is brilliant, strange, mostly off-putting, occasionally terrifying, occasionally kind, and possibly murderous.

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John’s top 10 TV shows of 2018

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t’s never before been so hard to pick the 10 best shows of the year, as streaming services deliver strong short series on a regular basis, and cable and network TV have mostly kept pace with the quality. Some staple entries have dropped out of my top 10 not because they got worse but simply because they were supplanted. Here are 10 shows worthy of special mention even in this age of Peak TV.

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