Top 5 TV: ‘Mr. Show’ Redux and the Return of Ronald Reagan
Everything on TV last week retroactively fell under the shadow of what happened in Paris on Friday, which made the weekend shows feel like either a welcome escape or an act of mass commiseration. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver kicked off with the host addressing the terrorists with, “Fuck these assholes.” Saturday Night Live — coming back strong from last week’s Trump debacle — served up both remembrance and relief, with a touching bilingual nod to France. Even when television offered comfort food, we first had to say a somber grace.
Oddly — or appropriately — this was actually a good week for small-screen escapism, thanks to kick-ass action from a pair of effects-heavy adventure shows, some long overdue comedy from a beloved duo, and a strange trip into the thoughts of an eccentric movie star. Each of those four shows makes it into this week’s column, joined by a bold bit of political theater from one of basic cable’s best dramas. If we’re being honest, the latter did make us think about the unsettled state of the world today. But you can only disappear into television for so long.
5. Welcome back, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross (Netflix)
We couldn’t have picked a better time to binge on the Mr. Show creators’ return to sketch comedy. (Seriously, thank you, Netflix.) Comedians don’t get participation medals, however, and the duo’s new show, W/Bob and David, wouldn’t have been so welcome if the old gang weren’t still funny. Yes, not every single gag lands in the series’ too-brief four-episode run, but when the troupe hits on a good idea — a “no-nonsense” TV judge replaced by one who tolerates some nonsense; an anti-police harassment activist encountering a friendly cop — they perform the bit with the precision timing of an atomic clock.
Odenkirk’s accomplished post-Mr. Show career serves him well here, with his richer acting experience bringing more depth to sketches like the one where his “bad cop” is sensitive over what his “good cop” partner says about him to crooks. And in one of the best new sketches, the local news reports on the death of a previously unknown member of the Beatles, as a philosophical man-on-the-street wonders, “If you had an invisible third arm that was paralyzed, would you miss it?” The pairing of Odenkirk and Cross is like that metaphorical third arm. And dear lord yes, was it ever missed.