Critic’s Pick: TV Picks: Marathons, ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,’ ‘Mozart’
“Twilight Zone” marathons (Syfy, Wednesday through Sunday, El Rey, Thursday to Friday) “Ash vs. Evil Dead” marathon (Starz, Monday through Wednesday). Before there was the binge there was the marathon, wherein episodes of an old TV series -- we used to call them “reruns” -- would air continuously, contiguously, over many hours or even days, often timed to make a festival of inertia out of a holiday weekend. And in spite of the services and devices that now allow you to wallow in the series of your choice at the time of your choosing, the marathon still lives: Not everyone owns a DVD player or subscribes to Netflix, after all. And sometimes you just want someone else to make the playlist.
Syfy has been mounting Woodstock-length showings of Rod Serling’s uncanny anthology series “The Twilight Zone” since long before it was called Syfy. (Geezers whose memory runs back more than six years will remember it as the Sci-Fi Channel.) This year’s New Year’s marathon -- they run them on the Fourth of July as well -- is the network’s 21st; it gets underway Wednesday at 7 p.m. and will include all 156 episodes, broadcast in chronological order and in HD. (Their progress will be interrupted only by Thursday’s airing of “WWE SmackDown” -- two hours to catch up on your sleep.) The temptation, of course, is to watch them all, which will cross you over into your own personal “Twilight Zone” -- there’s the sign post up ahead, I see it! -- but for those with less stamina and more sense, El Rey offers a more manageable 24-hour sampling of the same series, beginning at 6 a.m. Thursday. Fourteen hours of “Miami Vice” will follow, for something even stranger.
Old-style episodic series are made for marathoning -- you can drop in and out without feeling you’ve missed something -- but in the new serial world, it’s a way often used to get late-arriving viewers on board and up to speed. Starz will be rerunning its televisionification of Sam Raimi’s horror-larious 20th century film franchise, “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” three episodes a night Monday through Wednesday to prep you for Saturday’s season finale. The show has the arc of the movies, with more time for banter and detail and extravagantly bloody encounters between the dogged band of demon hunters led by Bruce Campbell’s Ash and the demonic ex-humans they doggedly hunt. Made to go low, it’s the kind of entertainment whose excesses, whether humorous or violent, can never be called gratuitous. One of the best shows of 2015, if my own list is anything to go by.
“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” (Wednesdays, Crackle). The odd particularity of the concept (and the off-road online venue) made Jerry Seinfeld’s Web series -- essentially a gussied-up video version of what podcaster Marc Maron does in his garage -- seem a kind of vanity project at first. And maybe it was, after all. But anything repeated often enough establishes its own kind of rightness, and the series has proved both an ideal vehicle for the host, who is both funnier and more disquieting here than in recent standup appearances, and a new way to regard his highly familiar guests. The new season, the seventh since 2012, kicks off with President Obama, who is not professionally a comedian -- whatever crack you may care to insert here, hater -- but can sell a joke and distance himself from himself in a way that not every politician can, but which every comic must. Adjusting the venue to the guest, and in line with the show’s travelogue aspect, the driving (in a 1963 Corvette Stingray) and drinking will reportedly be limited to the White House grounds. Later guests this season include names big (Steve Martin, Garry Shandling, Will Ferrell) and less big (Kathleen Madigan, Sebastian Maniscalco).
“Mozart in the Jungle” (Amazon Prime, arriving Wednesday). The second season of this lovely streaming series, created by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Alex Timbers and set around a fictional New York City symphony orchestra, arrives this week from Amazon, all in a clump, to wolf down or slowly savor. I can’t control your habits. Although in its pilot episode it leaned on the more sensational aspects of the book on which it was based, Blair Tindell’s 2005 memoir “Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music,” it quickly developed into something richer and less programmatic, more invested in concord than in chaos. There is some drama ahead in the new year: contract negotiations between orchestra and management, with Gretchen Mol as a labor lawyer crushing on cellist Cynthia (Saffron Burrows); rough winds rising up between oboist Hailey (Lola Kirke) and her dancer boyfriend; the real-world question of how to attract a younger audience and its newer money; a new conductor (Luke Rampersal) to trouble maestro Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal), as he formerly troubled maestro emeritus Thomas (Malcolm McDowell). But its best passages are still its dreamiest. Bernadette Peters, as board chairman Gloria, will seemingly be put to fuller use this season (I’ve so far watched three episodes out of 10); Schwartzman’s first-season cameo as a podcasting journalist happily becomes a recurring role; and there’s a sweet appearance by Schwartzman’s real-life great uncle, 98-year-old conductor-composer Anton Coppola, as a legendary oboist, shot in what I take to be his own apartment. And isn’t that Gustavo Dudamel playing the Hollywood Bowl stage manager at the opening of Episode 1? (Yes, of course, it is; I wouldn’t have mentioned it otherwise.) Other famous people of classical music, including Lang Lang, Emanuel Ax and Joshua Bell, will settle for playing themselves.
Follow Robert Lloyd on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd.
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