"Downward Dog": This show led by a talking dog clearly was on a short leash at ABC, which canceled the series before it ended an eight-episode run this summer. But if you catch up with it online and become acclimated to that conceit, the show reveals itself as the most human half-hour comedy of the year. Led by "Fargo" favorite Allison Tolman (in another refreshingly non-coastal setting), the series offered an odd yet heartfelt window into the lives of dogs and their owners trying to find themselves in a way that avoided rehashing old ideas. In a world where "Kevin Can Wait" will probably be on TV forever, could a streaming network offer this lovable mutt a forever home, please?
Jonah Parzen-Johnson's "I Try to Remember Where I Come From": A Brooklyn-based baritone saxophonist who was raised in Chicago, Parzen-Johnson pays homage to the black American music that influenced him with this swirling, oddly addictive album. Using circular breathing and multiple synthesizer loops to churn around his solo excursions, Parzen-Johnson's vaguely alien compositions split the difference between the organic and the synthetic with a far-reaching, expressive sound that carries an indefinable beauty. With a reverence for the jazz and creative music traditions of his hometown, Parzen-Johnson has found something new and unexpected.
Haim: Featuring three young sisters with a predilection for '70s soft-rock harmonies and the production flourishes of an imaginary "Now That's What I Call 1987" compilation, this band captured hearts, minds and Grammy voter attention a couple years back for its debut album, "Days Are Gone." While that record's sound was so polished it canceled out the group's rawer live energy, the follow-up doubles-down so thoroughly on replicating what worked before that it feels weirdly anonymous. It's decent listening if you're craving comfortably familiar pop to drift in and out of your car window over the summer, but Haim seems capable of delivering much more.
The future of dark political TV: The last 10 years or so have seen a fascinating shift in the tone of political shows, which began with the almost Capra-esque ambitions of "The West Wing" and soon after veered into the corruption and deception of "House of Cards" and "Scandal" along with the ambitious ineptitude surrounding the players in "Veep." No one knows what the future holds out here in the real world, but hopefully network executive and showrunners have been working day and night on swinging the pendulum back toward idealism because recent events out of Washington have been making all these imaginary depictions of the worst in political theater look very tame.
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