Critic’s Pick: TV Picks: ‘Hudson Valley Ballers,’ ‘Daily Show,’ ‘Gaffigan,’ more
Hudson Valley Ballers (Above Average, L/Studio). After two years, best friends Paula Pell and James Anderson are back with their funny little Web series about how they left show business to run the Embarrassed Lamb, a “bed & brunch” in upstate New York. The new season, a prequel -- shades of “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp” -- begins as the longtime “SNL” writers give their easily accepted notice to Lorne Michaels. (“I think it’s time,” says Michaels. “Comedy writing’s like an avocado; once it’s too soft, you really don’t want it in your guacamole. We good?”) Where the first season offered mostly discrete bits in which Pell and Anderson also played characters other than themselves, the new series is a continuing narrative in which the stars encounter the country for the first time and find it a tough nut to crack. “We’re brilliant,” Paula says to the hardware store clerk (Alex Karpovsky) whom they have asked how to get paint from the can to the wall, “but simple things perplex us.” Elsewhere, James finds it “too quiet ... like chewing a banana on the moon.” Much humor, or something beyond humor that seems like humor, comes from syntax and pronunciation, as if James and Paula had flown in from a parallel universe that imperfectly resembled the 19th century American Midwest. Natasha Lyonne plays an intimidating first guest, Lena Dunham the exterminator they call to rid them of a strange critter who may be baited with saltines or “hot gossip.” William the Truth Basset, who when you hold him you cannot tell a lie, returns. Four episodes are up now; another four arrive Wednesday to round out the season. Co-produced by Above Average and the Lexus-backed L/Studio.com, and available from both.
“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” (Comedy Central, weeknights). This is it, American society, media, politicians: You’ll still have “The Daily Show” to kick you around after Thursday, but it won’t be Jon Stewart’s foot doing the kicking, and whatever that will be, it won’t be the same. Trevor Noah, who begins rebooting the brand Sept. 28, might turn out to be the host of your dreams -- and the current host, in the seat since 1999, was, after all, not the show’s first -- but it’s clear from listening to him for, like, six seconds, is that his approach, his energy, his frequency-range, his schtick, will be nothing like Stewart’s, with its echoes of an older comedy world, its particular mix of ironic and real seriousness with a weaponized Borscht Belt voice. (He’s late night’s only Jew, interestingly.) Stewart has been in the news himself of late after a reminiscence by former “Daily Show” correspondent Wyatt Cenac on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast (and subsequent links to some older stories) made it sound like he might have not been the world’s best boss always, for everyone -- which makes him sound like … a boss. But that is all almost behind us now. Whatever else, Stewart and his team established the daily nightly topical comedy show as an important, playful player in the life of the nation, a platform whose reckonings must be reckoned with. Amy Schumer, Denis Leary and Louis C.K. are the final week’s announced guests, though one would assume some unannounced ones as well. Thursday’s finale goes double-wide.
“The Jim Gaffigan Show” (TV Land, Wednesdays). Big, pale and doughy “clean comic” Jim Gaffigan’s lower-Manhattan single-camera family-sitcom-that’s-all-about-the-grownups is one of the treats of the summer, and this week’s episode, “In the Name of the Father,” is an especially good one. (Gaffigan is a Catholic -- that’s part of the premise -- but one not beyond stealing a line from the liturgy for his situation comedy.) It makes great use of its four principals -- Gaffigan as sort of himself, Ashley Williams as his wife, Adam Goldberg as his best friend and Michael Ian Black as hers -- by putting them together, filling them up with Scotch and sending them out into the New York night and the valley of the shadow of death, to messy, joyful, sweet, salty ends.
“Mad Men” auction (online, until Aug. 7). Bits and pieces of the 1960s used to make “Mad Men” are up for auction this week at Screenbid.com. Items range from Don Draper’s 1965 Cadillac Couple DeVille on the high end to ash trays and playing cards on the low; in between you will find such treasures as Sally’s plaid pool bag, Pete’s wool plaid scarf , Bert’s Asian-inspired lighter and ashtray, Betty and Don’s tiered dessert tray and plates, Dawn’s desk ceramic cat (one of three), Sally’s Highlight magazines, “While You Were Out” messages signed by Megan, Joan’s burgundy velvet stilettos, a Kodak Cavalcade projector, Megan’s wedding ring, Don’s “Why I’m Quitting Tobacco” newspaper ad, Peggy’s gold wire medicine cabinet, Betty’s musical jewelry box, Don’s Social Security card, Sally’s family tree, Joan’s office bar cart, Pete’s final episode overcoat and Don’s gray pinstripe damaged arm suit (he’s a 42 regular), and more than 1,300 other items of midcentury clothing, accessories, furnishings, housewares and ephemera; indeed, if you were rich enough and lucky enough, you might be able to remake your own life in the image of your favorite “Mad Men” character. It was a show whose subject was in a sense these objects -- that made a fetish of these fetishes -- and whose characters were understood in part by what they owned, wore, used, sold or gave or threw away. This collection is a text in itself.
Robert Lloyd tweets authentically @LATimesTVLloyd