Welcome back to another installment of the Monday Morning Critic. In this space each week, I’ll be looking at the week that was in addition to the week ahead in television. The format will shift each week, as the world of TV will dictate the form and content of each piece.

In this week’s installment: shows that are in danger of falling into my DVR abyss.


In the age of Too Much Good TV, it’s physically impossible to watch everything. Even factoring in catching up with certain shows before the next episode airs, it’s still a semi-Herculean feat to watch everything that attracts your attention. In some cases, this means straight up missing out on entire seasons/shows for lack of time (which has put me far, far behind on shows such as Banshee and Vikings, two shows that I like but got on board far too late), but more often takes the form of simply being behind on current seasons. Maybe it’s blasphemy for a critic to admit that, but unless I’m writing about a show on a weekly basis (something I rarely do anymore), there’s little incentive beyond personal desire and/or shame to watch shows as close to initial air date as possible.

On a given week, there are usually about 7-8 shows I’ll watch live or within a few hours of initial airing. Right now, that list contains The Good Wife, Last Week With John Oliver, Jane The Virgin, The Flash, The Americans, Justified, Scandal, and Saturday Night Live. Below that are shows I’ll usually watch within a day or two, but can easily catch up over the weekend if need be: The Voice, The Goldbergs, iZombie, Arrow, and Cougar Town all fall under this category. This list alters depending on the time of year, obviously. Until a few weeks ago, The 100 and Parks and Recreation fell under the first category, and Togetherness fell under the second.

Come April, television will straight up explode with a bevy of critical and popular favorites, which will make the weekly juggling act even more difficult than usual. Mad Men, Game Of Thrones, Penny Dreadful, The Comedians, Louie, Daredevil, Silicon Valley, Veep, Orphan Black, Happyish, and Inside Amy Schumer make up only a partial list of those programs. (I’ll have reviews of several in next week’s column.) That puts an even greater pressure on me to get through any and all current seasons of TV currently piling up on my DVR and online queue. In some cases, these are legitimately good shows that I have failed. In others, the quality doesn’t necessarily earn my immediate eyeballs.

So will I eventually finish the current seasons of these shows, or will they get shuffled off into the pop culture ether? I decided to put some odds on the likelihoods, mostly as I way for me to plan out my viewing and maybe, just maybe, get a little sleep this Spring.

The Show: Fortitude

The Network: Pivot
The Number of Total Episodes In The Season: 13
The Number of Total Aired: 8
The Number I’ve Watched: 3
Odds I’ll Finish: 15%

It’s not you, Fortitude, it’s me. I enjoyed the three episodes sent for review, which were glacially paced (pun semi-intended) but compelling both visually and metaphorically. The multi-national cast led by a strong, off-kilter performance by Stanley Tucci is uniformly strong, but the punishingly cold winter in New England hasn’t exactly made me long to watch television set in a similar tundra-like wasteland. Plus, while this this is a variation on a recent trope (small-town drama in which a murder reveals the seedy underbelly of an otherwise “perfect” enclave), it’s not THAT much of a variation. But who knows: maybe in the summer months as I endure the brutal heat, I’ll long to watch miserable people in parkas.

The Show: Better Call Saul

The Network: AMC
The Number of Total Episodes In The Season: 10
The Number of Total Aired: 7
The Number I’ve Watched: 5
Odds I’ll Finish: 50%

I’ve watched this show in fits and starts since it aired, often legitimately forgetting it was a thing airing on the television box. I came away from the three episodes provided for review with a mixed attitude towards it: While different enough from Breaking Bad to not seem like a copycat endeavor, there wasn’t a whole lot of reason for the show to exist. Now, I understand I am stopped at precisely the point where the show apparently went from good to great with the sixth, Mike Ehrmantraut-centric episode. But if the best episode isn’t about the main character, isn’t it possible that Better Call Saul is about the wrong character in this universe? I’ll more than likely catch up, but even all the praise heaped upon “Five-O” hasn’t caused me to drop the programs above in favor of viewing that. The overall lack of mass enthusiasm for this show, “Five-O” aside, isn’t helping either.

The Show: Bloodline

The Outlet: Netflix
The Number of Total Episodes In The Season: 13
The Number of Total Available: 13
The Number I’ve Watched: 2
Odds I’ll Finish: 5%

Netflix dropped the entire first season of Bloodline this past Friday, and no one was more surprised than me, since I had somehow avoided any and all news that this was something that existed. I’m almost impressed with my own ignorance. I started it Saturday night out of curiosity and due to its incredible cast, and found that the pilot is a fantastic cure for insomnia. Look: the lack of commercials and/or actual timeslots means online shows can last as long or as little as needed. But while the bloat here isn’t nearly as bad as it was on the fourth season episodes of Arrested Development (which was THE WORST), the 59+ minute running time of this first episode felt like Peter Jackson had shot and edited it. I have no problem with “slow burn” TV, but “slow burn” is not inherently antithetical to “entertaining.” Just because all thirteen episodes are available for view doesn’t mean they are worth my time to get to the good stuff. Throw in the fact that Bloodline uses my least favorite narrative technique–the “flash forward that shows you something that will probably be proven to be something else as part of a big twist later on”–and you have a recipe for a huge misfire. Orange Is The New Black understands what Bloodline doesn’t: That even if all episodes are available at once, each episode has to work as a piece unto itself.

The Show: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The Outlet: Netflix
The Number of Total Episodes In The Season: 13
The Number of Total Available: 13
The Number I’ve Watched: 6
Odds I’ll Finish: 90%

Here’s a simple but true fact: It’s way, way, way easier to catch up on a half-hour show than an hour-long. I was an English major in college, but I’m pretty sure it’s twice as easy. I bring this up because it’s both a banal fact but an important one: I’d much rather watch three episodes of this show (which run about 20 minutes each, as they were designed to air originally on NBC) than an episode of Bloodline, which runs the equivalent time. Now, I also think Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is much better than Bloodline, but if I thought the two were equally great, I’d almost always opt for the half-hour over the hour. Time is precious, both Socrates and Boy George once told us. But I can’t be alone in espousing the practicality of that viewing habit, which makes it mind-boggling to me that so many online outlets focus on hour-long shows rather than those thirty minutes or less.

I had some problems with Kimmy, especially in its problematic third episode that essentially pushed me away from the show for a week. I’ll watch all of them, as Tina Fey has earned a lifelong pass from me and I love Ellie Kemper in general. But if/when I finish, it will be something of an odd accomplishment. We’ve all basically moved on from Kimmy already, which means anything I might have to say about the show at that time will be spewed into the void. I mean, there were people that binge-watched the show before I got up for work on the day of its release. It’s great that people can consume a season of Kimmy or something like Transparent in the course of a morning, but it does mean that the shelf-life for discussing these shows is growing smaller and smaller. If only some online networks used a more familiar episodic rollout model…

The Show: Community

The Outlet: Yahoo
The Number of Total Episodes In The Season: 13
The Number of Total Available:
The Number I’ve Watched: 0
Odds I’ll Finish: 99%

I can’t quit you, Community, even if I rarely like you. Amazingly, we’ve gone from this show’s fanbase seemingly powering the internet itself with its enthusiasm to a muted, almost resigned acceptance of its continued existence this time around. (“Six seasons and a sense of apathy!” is a less-catchy but perhaps more accurate phrase at this point.) This past weekend, I watched the documentary Harmontown for the first time, and was amazed mostly at how dated all of it seemed. Even though the events depicted took place two years ago, it felt like it was from another era altogether. I’ve watched every episodes of Community, even though I’ve only enjoyed about a third of the episodes.

At its worst, it’s a navel-gazing, insular piece of pretention. At its usual, it’s not nearly as clever or emotional as it thinks it is. At its best, there’s simply nothing else operating on its level of confessional, open-hearted embracement of people’s inherent faults and fears. I watch every episode because I never know which version of the show I’m going to get, and when I get the third variation, it’s something truly special. Even die-hard fans didn’t seem to like the first two episodes that dropped last week, but I can easily see knocking out a half-season in a few weeks and then dropping in occasionally between then and the end of the season. I think the weekly distribution model works for Community, in that it has the chance to sustain itself in the overall conversation. Even if that conversation is no longer at the deafening levels of five years ago, it’s still one that’s better sustained over the course of a few months than a few days. Knowing I can eventually catch up in line with everyone else’s viewing experiences makes me more likely to do so.