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Overrated/Underrated: The NFL must evolve or die, and it’s time to move beyond our zombie fascination

Zombies are held at bay by a chain-link fence during the press preview of the Universal Studios' "Walking Dead' attraction.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
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UNDERRATED

‘High Maintenance’ on HBO: For fans of this former Web-only favorite who wondered whether the absurdist-leaning series could make the leap to premium cable, worry no longer. This show about a bicycle-bound New York City pot deliveryman, developed by the husband-wife team of Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld, may have seemed easy to dismiss by those with ironclad views of our drug laws, but its recently completed six-episode run revealed the series as a gently humanist reflection of the many characters in city life to air on TV (whether you’ve ever inhaled or not).

Donny McCaslin’s ‘Beyond Now’: Maybe best known in pop circles for working with David Bowie on his jazz-infused “Black Star,” McCaslin has long been an inventive force on saxophone and as a bandleader. With Bowie casting a long shadow over “Beyond Now” — complete with cover of his instrumental “Warszawa” and the grim “A Small Plot of Land” — McCaslin has released one of his most engaging, immediate albums yet. Backed by his band of fellow “Black Star” alums Tim Lefebvre, Mark Guiliana and Jason Lindner, McCaslin confirms his standing as a musical shape-shifter in his own right.

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OVERRATED

Zombies: Oh, that’s right: Happy Halloween. And if you’re still struggling for a costume, it’s time to look past these creatures, who with luck will soon go the way of teenage vampires as a brief, all-too-common fright fixation in pop culture. Especially now that finally — finally! — some fans are losing faith in the nihilistic futility of the ratings monster “The Walking Dead” after its latest feel-bad fatality. Plus, given that we’re almost through a more-contentious-than-usual election year, haven’t we heard enough broad fantasies of the coming apocalypse, and can we finally turn our attention on the real worries?

Football’s invincibility: NFL broadcasts were once such a sure ratings bet that Hollywood awards shows scrambled to get out of their way. Now, with a glut of games and an eroding talent pool as a result of injuries inevitable in a sport built on real health risks, this durable money-printing operation isn’t the must-see TV of seasons past, with ratings down so far this season. Whether the result of a diluted product, ugly off-field scandals or a decline that comes when stars like Peyton Manning retire, the all-powerful NFL needs to make real changes to ensure that it and its players survive, and that’s something far harder to tackle.

chris.barton@latimes.com

Follow me over here @chrisbarton.

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