Tag Archives: cable

‘Black Mirror,’ ‘This Is Us,’ ‘Westworld’ among year’s best TV

In this era of so-called Peak TV, the tally of scripted series aired in 2016 is closing in on 500. No wonder it’s so hard to pick the best 2 percent of the crop. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t pleased to salute our 10 particular favorites.

Here’s our honor roll:

“The A Word” (Sundance).

Loving parents Alison and Paul tell themselves (and everyone else) that there’s nothing wrong with Joe, their 5-year-old son. But evidence mounts. And then the unavoidable truth: Joe is on the autism spectrum. This bittersweet six-episode drama (with a second season announced) deals with a child growing up in rural England whose striking differences from other kids ignite the question: What constitutes “normal” and what becomes of those who don’t meet that standard? A beautiful story, a terrific cast and a spectacular performance by young Max Vento, who plays Joe, makes “The A Word” a unique exploration of a family as loyal as it is in turmoil.

“Atlanta” (FX).

It takes a sure hand to craft a series that blends a pair of young musical strivers from a downtrodden urban neighborhood — while keeping the series touching, relatable and funny. In an age of TV comedy that takes refuge in either irony, absurdity, outrageousness or mawkishness, creator-star-writer Donald Glover has pulled off a minor miracle with this gritty little show that blazes its own path, strewn with setbacks yet powered by hope. A fresh take on the hip-hop world, “Atlanta” never strikes a false note.

“Billions” (Showtime).

Chuck Rhoades, the powerful and perverse U.S. Attorney, is in a cage match with hedge-fund titan Bobby Axelrod. The result is a delicious drama of two Alpha Males butting heads: Rhoades (played by Paul Giamatti) wants to prosecute Axelrod for financial fraud, while the smooth, ever-calculating Axelrod (Damian Lewis) dares him to try. Adding to the spice is a third corner of this triangle: Rhoades’ wife and Axe’s trusted adviser (played by Maggie Siff) who, in confronting her divided loyalties, is as tough as either man. The result is a wealth of intrigue.

“Black Mirror” (Netflix).

Six new episodes on the Netflix site have supplemented seven hours of this nervous-making anthology previously aired by British television. The brainchild of British writer-producer-mischief-maker Charlie Brooker, this series defies clear definition other than to say (a) it deals with technology’s sly cultural inroads, (b) it packs the mind-expanding punch of a latter-day “Twilight Zone,” and (c) it reflects a certain, um, Brooker-esque brand of mordant humor. Every hour is different from the others while each, in its own way, is likely to leave you startled and disturbed. It should come with a warning: “Not To Be Missed, But Proceed with Caution.”

“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS).

With her show teeing up for a second season in early 2017, the time is past to celebrate “Full Frontal” as an issues-and-comedy series hosted by (go figure!) a woman. So let’s just celebrate Samantha Bee, who, now even more than during her dozen years as a “Daily Show” correspondent, stays true to her name: nimble and armed with a satirical sting for her deserving targets. She’s a bold champion of women’s interests, which are largely overlooked in political humor. But guys are welcome, too. They might learn something and have a laugh, along with getting stung now and then.

“Making a Murderer” (Netflix).

To be technical, this 10-part docuseries landed on the Netflix site in mid-December 2015. But early buzz spiked into a roar in the new year. Filmed over a decade, it tells the riveting, true-life story of Steven Avery, who is first seen in 2003 returning home to Wisconsin’s rural Manitowoc County after 18 years’ imprisonment for sexual assault. After his exoneration, Avery was a free man for just two years. He was then arrested for another crime — this time, a grisly rape and murder. So was his teenage nephew. Are they guilty or being railroaded? It’s an arresting thriller of mini-victories and major setbacks in a halting but dogged pursuit of justice.

“The Night Of” (HBO).

This dark and irresistible murder mystery stars John Turturro as near-bottom-feeding lawyer John Stone who stumbles on a righteous case: Naz, a Pakistani-American college student implicated as the killer of an alluring young woman who, after a chance encounter with him one Friday night, brought him to her bedroom. Never mind if Naz did the crime (viewers don’t find out until the end) — the legal system is stacked against him at every turn, and through the lengthy, often dismaying process, Stone fights on his behalf. Though a scripted drama, “The Night Of” is part of a new breed of law-and-order storytelling that also spawned “Making a Murderer” as well as “O.J.: Made in America.”

“O.J.: Made in America” (ESPN).

Arriving two decades after O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges for the death of his ex-wife and her friend, this five-part documentary series covers those ghastly slayings and the so-called Trial of the Century in you-ain’t-seen-nothing-yet detail. But it goes even further, framing Simpson’s life and career against the racial turmoil and Civil Rights struggle from which he was largely insulated by the warm embrace of celebrity and the white mainstream. Packed with never-before-seen footage, unreported details and never-heard insights, it’s a project that might have been dismissed as a true-crime rehash. Instead, it’s not only illuminating but often jaw-dropping.

“This Is Us” (NBC).

It isn’t often that a scripted TV series can be credited with being “humanistic” ‘ at least, not a show you can sit through without grinding your teeth. And yet this gentle ensemble drama is pulling it off, and viewers are loving it. Here is that rare series that is neither aspirational nor derisive in how its characters are portrayed, but instead reflects its viewers at their most goodwilled and, well, humanistic. The intersecting sets of everyday characters are depicted by a cast including Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia and Sterling K. Brown in a display of middle-class diversity that serves as a welcome rebuttal to this polarized age. Come to think of it, maybe “This Is Us” shows us what to aspire to, after all.

“Westworld” (HBO).

This odyssey is simultaneously set in an imagined sci-fi future and the reimagined Old West in the form of an epic theme park where lifelike robots indulge every appetite of paying guests. What measure of depravity does this unleash in the humans who treat themselves to this dude ranch gone wild? And what measure of upheaval is triggered when the robots rebel? The series’ visuals — both its western splendor and its futuristic labs _ are spellbinding and seemingly as boundless as its thematic sprawl. Its ensemble (which includes Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright) populates an anything-goes getaway with aplomb and shock value: Who — or what — are the heroes here?

A seasoned film critic eyes TV’s biography

At 75, David Thomson is the sultan of cinema criticism. British-born but long based in America, he is the author of nearly two dozen film-related books including “Moments that Made the Movies,” “’Have You Seen…?’: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films” and “The New Biographical Dictionary of Film.”

Now Thomson has switched his gaze, and his analysis, to the TV medium.

In “Television: A Biography” (Thames & Hudson, $34.95), David Thomson focuses on TV from its individual genres to its broad social impact during the past 70 years. As ever, his writing is bright, puckish and reader-friendly.

At 400 pages, the book is a bit weighty, but not the prose.

But what made Thomson, who had never before put his take on TV between covers, decide to change channels? During a recent interview, he explained.

“I was at a point where I felt that the movies were not really going anywhere very exciting, and that if you were looking for the best American movies, you probably needed to look at television. ‘The Wire,’ ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘Breaking Bad’ — they were so much more ambitious than anything made for theaters.

So I began to develop an historical perspective on TV that I had had on the movies for a long time. I’m much more interested now in thinking about and writing about TV than the movies.”

A VIEWER’S BOOK

“You may have watched a lot of TV but never thought systematically about it. I wanted to do a book which would give you a sense that the totality of the medium had been addressed. Not covered, but addressed. And if you have never watched television, after you read this book I think you can say, ‘I understand what television is.””

A DIFFERENT CREATURE

“Our relationship with TV is different than with almost any medium we’ve had before. It’s all well and good for something on TV to be so riveting that you don’t want to miss a moment. But when you tune in to watch one show, you may end up just watching TV overall. There’s such a lot on television that is sort of tidal — it just washes in and out, over you. You turn it on like you would turn on a light, and you may be doing other things. But even if you’re not watching, it enters into you in ambient ways.”

SHORT LIST

Thomson, film’s consummate list-maker, shared “off the top of my head” a few pick TV hits:

“Monty Python’s Flying Circus” … the BBC version of “The Singing Detective” … live coverage of the funeral of President John F. Kennedy … “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” … “a couple of episodes of ‘All in the Family’ where Edith is just sublime” … the ESPN documentary series “O.J.: Made in America,” which he calls “a major work” … and, of course, “Breaking Bad.”

“But this time tomorrow,” he cautions, “I would revise the whole list.”

TV PRESIDENT

“With Donald Trump in the White House, I think we’re going to get more of the same as with the campaign: His administration will have to be judged as an ongoing TV show. He is a television person, so I think it’s going to be a presidency of shows and moments. My instinct is, in terms of policy, he’s doing to be dreadfully disappointing to his supporters. But on TV, I think it’s going to be amazing _ until it becomes grotesque.”

LOOKING AHEAD

“We watch stories and stars, but it’s more and more evident that, as TV viewers, we go where the technology takes us. My sense of television is that technology has always driven the whole thing, and I think that will continue. I think more sophisticated, interesting fusions of what we still call television with the computer are going to occur. That will be more important than any sort of new genre or new narrative form in entertainment. And I see the end of the movie house. But it’s inevitable that a cellphone will be built into our hands. So maybe a screen could be implanted in our heads. I think that will happen!”

 

Kelly: Trump coverage was like ‘television crack cocaine’

Megyn Kelly says Donald Trump tried unsuccessfully to give her gifts, including a free stay at one of his hotels, as part of what she called his pattern of trying to influence news coverage of his presidential campaign.

In her memoir Settle for More, to be released today, Kelly says Trump may have gotten a pre-debate tip about her first question, in which she confronted him with his critical comments about women.

Her book also details the insults and threats she received after Trump’s tirades objecting to her reporting.

The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of the book over the weekend.

Kelly, host of Fox News Channel’s The Kelly Report, said Trump routinely attempted to gain favorable treatment from other journalists and commentators.

“This is actually one of the untold stories of the 2016 campaign: I was not the only journalist to whom Trump offered gifts clearly meant to shape coverage,” Kelly said. He also attempted to woo them with praise, she said, adding, “This is smart, because the media is full of people whose egos need stroking.”

“Trump tried to work the refs, and some of the refs responded,” she said.

When it became obvious that some reporters were “in the tank” for Trump, she alleges in one chapter, “certain TV hosts” would work with the candidate in advance on occasional Trump criticism so they would appear unbiased. She didn’t identify them by name or media outlet.

Resisting Trump’s attempts to buy her goodwill with an offer to comp her “girls’ weekend” stay at his downtown New York City hotel or fly her and her husband to visit his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida was an easy ethical decision, Kelly wrote.

More difficult was rejecting the ratings bonanza the colorful GOP contender could deliver with his “unscripted, unguarded” approach that made for great TV but was the equivalent of “television crack cocaine,” Kelly wrote.

She and her producer agreed they had to provide balance and be judicious in their coverage, asserting this was not a “directive to cover Trump negatively or to ignore him.”

It was at the first GOP primary debate last August that Kelly questioned Trump about derogatory comments he’d made about women. The day before, Trump had called Fox News executive Bill Sammon to say he had heard that Kelly’s first question would be a pointed one aimed at him, she wrote.

““How could he know that?’ I wondered,” Kelly said, not answering the question but clearing her Fox colleagues on the debate team of any suspicion of leaking it to him. Trump was agitated out of proportion in the phone call, she wrote, calling it “bizarre behavior, especially for a man who wanted the nuclear codes.”

Kelly was cast by Trump as his nemesis after the first GOP debate in which she asked him about labeling women as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.” In an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, Trump called her questions ridiculous, adding, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

Before another Fox debate, Kelly recalled being backstage with her family and getting an unsettling insight on how her children were being affected by the harsh rhetoric.

“I’m afraid of Donald Trump. He wants to hurt me,” she quoted her 5-year-old daughter, Yardley, as saying. When Kelly told her that wasn’t so, the child replied, “Well, he wants to hurt you, so he wants to hurt me too.”

Deadly season for lesbian, bisexual TV characters

A record number of gay characters are featured on broadcast series, but small-screen shows overall can be deadly for the female ones, according to a study released this fall.

More than 25 lesbian and bisexual female characters died on scripted broadcast, cable and streaming series this year, the media advocacy group GLAAD found in its report on small-screen diversity.

While TV remains far ahead of film in gay representations, the medium “failed queer women this year” by continuing the “harmful ‘bury your gays’ trope,” the report said.

The violent deaths included characters Poussey Washington (played by Samira Wiley on “Orange is the New Black”) and Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack on “Wentworth”).

It’s part of a decade-long pattern in which gay or transgender characters are killed to further a straight character’s story line, GLAAD said, sending what it called the “dangerous” message that gay people are disposable.

For its annual report titled “Where We Are on TV,” researchers tallied the LGBTQ characters seen or set to be portrayed in the period from June 2016 to May 2017. Counts were based on series airing or announced and for which casting has been confirmed.

The study, which in 2005 began examining other aspects of diversity on TV, found record percentages of people of color and people with disabilities depicted on broadcast shows.

Among the detailed findings:

  • Broadcast TV includes the highest percentage of regularly appearing gay characters — 4.8 percent — since Gay rights organization GLAAD began its count 21 years ago.

Among nearly 900 series regular characters on ABC, CBS, CW, Fox and NBC, 43 characters are LGBTQ, up from 35 last season.

  • Streamed shows included 65 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters, up six from last season. Lesbians, including characters on “One Mississippi” and “Orange is the New Black,” account for the majority of characters, 43 percent, a far higher share than on broadcast or cable.
  • Cable series held steady with 142 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters, with a 5 percent increase in the number of gay men but a 2 percent drop in the number of lesbian characters depicted.
  • The number of transgender characters in regular or recurring appearances on all platforms has more than doubled from last season, from seven to 16.
  • Characters with a disability represented 1.7 percent of all regularly seen broadcast characters, up from 0.9 percent last season. Each platform has at least one LGBTQ character that’s HIV-positive, with only one such character a regular (Oliver on “How to Get Away with Murder”).
  • African-Americans will be 20 percent (180) of regularly seen characters on prime-time broadcast shows this season, the highest share yet found by GLAAD. But black women are underrepresented at 38 percent of the total, or 69 characters.
  • The percentage of regularly appearing Asian-Pacific Islanders on broadcast TV hit 6 percent, the highest tally found by GLAAD and slightly more than the group’s U.S. population percentage. Contributing to the increase are the Asian-American family shows “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Dr. Ken.”
  • Latino characters rose a point to 8 percent, equaling the highest representation found two seasons ago by GLAAD. That differs sharply from the 17 percent Latino representation in the U.S. population as measured by the Census Bureau, the report said.

Free episodes to disappear from Hulu

Hulu is dropping free TV episode as it works on an online television service to rival cable TV.

Free episodes — typically the most recent four or five episodes from a show’s current season — will be gone from the site within a few weeks. Instead, Hulu is making free episodes available through Yahoo.

While Hulu started as a free site, supported by advertising, free video has become increasingly more difficult to find as Hulu tries to lure viewers into a subscription — $8 a month for a plan with ads, and $12 without. In recent months, visitors to Hulu.com have been presented with prominent links to subscribe, with links to free video buried in a menu after signing in.

And free episodes haven’t been available on Hulu’s mobile apps or streaming-TV devices, just on Hulu.com from a traditional computer. Now, they won’t be on Hulu.com at all.

Devotees of Hulu’s free on-demand videos will be able to find them by visiting the new Yahoo View site from a computer. The Yahoo site will not have free episodes of CW shows such as “Arrow” and “The Flash,” as Hulu has been offering, because CW has a broader deal with Netflix instead. Yahoo says it will have the past five episodes of ABC, NBC and Fox shows available. The Fox shows will appear eight days after their TV airing, as is the practice at Hulu.com now. Yahoo will also have some older CBS shows.

The episodes on Yahoo are not currently available on a phone, although Yahoo is working on a mobile web version and an app. Yahoo says the mobile version will be free, but it may not have all the same video as the desktop computer site because of content licensing restrictions.

Hulu says relatively few people watch the free videos. It now has about 12 million subscribers who pay for original shows, the entire current seasons of some network shows and access to Hulu’s library on mobile and streaming-TV devices like Roku.

Hulu also plans to launch a live online TV service next year. It would show broadcast and cable channels in real time, without making viewers wait until the next day for episodes. In a move that could make that service more appealing, Time Warner Inc. recently took a 10 percent stake in Hulu, joining the TV and movie conglomerates — Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox and Comcast’s NBCUniversal — that already owned it. Time Warner plans to contribute some of its channels, including TNT and TBS, to the new service.

Several other companies already offer live, paid TV over the internet, including Sony and Dish. DirecTV plans a service for later this year as well.

Yahoo also has broader ambitions for View. It wants to add video from other Yahoo properties and from other networks and studios. However, its previous attempt at an online video hub, Yahoo Screen, shut down in January, despite having new episodes of the cult comedy “Community” after its cancellation by NBC.

Verizon, which is buying Yahoo to help the phone company grow a digital advertising business , makes TV episodes and short videos available on its go90 mobile app. Phil Lynch, the head of media and content partnerships at Yahoo, says that as the deal gets closer to closing early next year, it “makes sense that we have integration discussions.”

DIVIDED AMERICA: Partisan media, intellectual ghettos?

Meet Peggy Albrecht and John Dearth. Albrecht is a free-lance writer and comedian from Los Angeles who loves Bernie Sanders. Dearth, a retiree from Carmel, Indiana, grew up a Democrat but flipped with Ronald Reagan. He’s a Trump guy.

They live in the same country, but as far as their news consumption goes, they might as well live on different planets.

Abrecht watches MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow each night. She scans left-leaning websites Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo and Down With Tyranny, where recent headlines described Donald Trump as “pathetic” and “temperamentally unfit” to be president. The liberal website Think Progress sends her email alerts.

This story is part of Divided America, AP’s ongoing exploration of the economic, social and political divisions in American society.

Dearth is a fan of Fox Business Network anchors Neil Cavuto and Stuart Varney. He checks the Drudge Report, Town Hall and Heritage Foundation websites, where recent stories talked about Trump supporters being “terrorized” by demonstrators. Because of his search history, he’s bombarded with solicitations to donate to conservative causes.

In a simpler time, Albrecht and Dearth might have gathered at a common television hearth to watch Walter Cronkite deliver the evening news.

But the growth in partisan media over the past two decades has enabled Americans to retreat into tribes of like-minded people who get news filtered through particular world views. Fox News Channel and Talking Points Memo thrive, with audiences that rarely intersect. What’s big news in one world is ignored in another. Conspiracy theories sprout, anger abounds and the truth becomes ever more elusive.

In this world of hundreds of channels and uncounted websites, of exquisitely targeted advertising and unbridled social media, it is easy to construct your own intellectual ghetto, however damaging that might be to the ideal of the free exchange of ideas.

“Right now the left plays to the left and the right plays to the right,” said Glenn Beck, the former Fox News host who started TheBlaze, a conservative network, in 2010. “That’s why we keep ratcheting up the heat. We’re throwing red meat. We’re in a room that is an echo chamber, and everybody’s cheering.”

Albrecht and Dearth don’t rely exclusively on partisan media. Albrecht starts her day with the Los Angeles Times, and Dearth occasionally flips to MSNBC to hear opposing viewpoints, particularly on “Morning Joe.” They do share mirrored misgivings about the major broadcast networks, newspapers and their related websites — the mainstream media — though Dearth thinks it’s too liberal and Albrecht considers it too conservative.

That’s the kind of thinking that inspired Roger Ailes to launch Fox News Channel in 1996. The former GOP operative mixed news during the day with a prime-time lineup that appealed to conservatives.

By 2002, Fox had raced past CNN to become the top-rated news network, beginning the golden age of partisan media.

There wasn’t anything to compare on the left, at least until summer 2006 when Keith Olbermann began a series of commentaries after being angered by a speech where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld equated Iraq War opponents to pre-World War II appeasers. His show became home for disaffected liberals in the Bush administration’s final years. MSNBC hired Maddow and eventually made the entire network left-leaning, although low ratings forced it back to news during the day.

Fueled by Fox’s primacy and opposition to the war in Iraq, liberals began finding their voice online in the early 2000s.

Writer Josh Marshall began blogging and reporting, developing the Talking Points Memo website. His work forced wider attention to issues like the firing of U.S. attorneys in the Bush administration, Republican voter suppression efforts and the fight against Social Security privatization. TPM has grown to 25 employees with offices in Washington and New York.

Others followed Marshall’s path. Conservatives took advantage of new media, too.

“I don’t think it’s as much a danger to democracy as people think it is,” Olbermann said. “When the business changes to being all conservative media or all liberal media — though I don’t know how that would happen — that’s when it becomes dangerous.”

Yet today’s political media get at least some of the blame for a hardening of attitudes. A generation ago, majorities in each political party described themselves as moderate. Now 62 percent of the Democratic primary electorate identify themselves as liberal, and 76 percent of Republicans say they’re conservative, according to ABC News exit polling.

Marty Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, spoke with some distress this spring at the commencement of Temple University’s School of Media and Communication.

“Today we are not so much communicating as miscommunicating,” he said. “Or failing to communicate. Or choosing to communicate only with those who think as we do. Or communicating in a manner that is wholly detached from reality. Too often we look only for affirmation of our own ideas rather than opening ourselves to the ideas of others.”

That thought was on Beck’s mind when he had lunch a year ago with Arianna Huffington, founder of the left-leaning news site that bears her name. They talked about the need for an outlet where a conservative can talk about ideas to a liberal audience and vice versa.

But for now, nothing’s come of the idea.

Digital divide: Wisconsin congressman launches rural broadband caucus

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, has launched the bipartisan Congressional Rural Broadband Caucus with Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont and Republican Reps. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Bob Latta of Ohio.

Their goal is “to facilitate discussion, educate members of Congress and develop policy solutions to close the digital divide in rural America.”

Pocan said, “Access to reliable, high-speed internet service is vital to economic growth in communities across America. Whether, it is for commerce, education or public safety needs, broadband service allows individuals and businesses in rural communities to take advantage of new technologies and stay connected to a 21st century economy. There are many parts of my district where residents experience extremely slow download speeds even as low as one megabit per second.”

Several communities in Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District, including the towns of Vermont and Cross Plains, have publicly adopted resolutions voicing concerns over the lack of quality broadband service available to residents. 

“Broadband access is not a luxury, rather it is a necessity,” Pocan said. “I want to ensure people in my district, and across the country in rural areas, have updated broadband infrastructure and access to a reliable connection.”

A significant digital divide remains between urban and rural America.

More than half of all rural Americans lack access to this basic standard of service.

In 2015, the FCC updated its broadband benchmark speeds to 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads.

According to the FCC, using this updated benchmark, the 2015 report finds that 55 million Americans — 17 percent of the population — lack access to advanced broadband.

IF you follow these simple tips, THEN judging this fall’s new TV shows will be easy

Every new TV series is a leap of faith — for everyone involved.

For network bosses, who buy and schedule the show based only on a pilot episode and a fuzzy notion of what will follow.

For each show’s creative team, who make it up as they go along. For its actors, who typically sign on for as many as seven seasons after reading no more than the first script.

And, of course, for its viewers, who, week to week, can only trust that the show will keep holding their interest.

Unlike movies or almost any other art form, a TV series isn’t a self-contained thing (at least, not until the final episode has aired). Until then, it exists as a work-in-progress, an unfolding relationship between the people who make it and the people who watch.

All this comes to mind for a TV critic who’s expected to recommend which new series the audience should watch, or avoid, on the basis of having only seen the pilot.

Let’s face it: The first episode provides only a first dose of clues (whether encouraging or cautionary) for how the series might emerge. The things you like about a new show you can only hope are part of its DNA. The things you don’t like, you can hope will be corrected — that is, if you decide the show is worth a second chance at winning your love.

Maybe the safest way to express one’s gut reaction to a new TV show is with a simple “if-then” statement.

For instance, ABC’s Quantico: IF this conspiracy thriller can maintain the twisted, rambunctious (and sexy) storytelling of its terrific pilot, THEN I’ll never miss an episode.

Conversely, I could say that, IF episodes beyond the premiere of NBC’s Blindspot can convince me there’s a story here that’s more than skin-deep, THEN I might consider overlooking the exploitative, peek-a-boo premise of displaying the clues to the prevailing mystery as tattoos covering a naked woman’s birthday suit.

NBC is taking a big swing with Best Time Ever, its comedy-music-and-lots-of-other-stuff hour to be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Since the show will air live, NBC has offered little more than promises. But IF just half of those ambitious, even brave, aspirations come true, THEN Best Time Ever will be a welcome change of pace.

As for the CW’s rom-com-with-music Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, can lightning continue to strike week after week? IF this series can sustain the infectious abandon of its pilot, and IF it can continue to do justice to the rapturous Rachel Bloom (its star and executive producer), THEN Crazy will be the fall’s big crazy breakout hit.

Regarding ABC’s sitcom Dr. Ken: IF the second episode can make me do what I never did throughout the premiere (even crack a smile), THEN I might revise my prognosis that, from the get-go, it’s terminal.

What about Don Johnson of Miami Vice’s return to series TV in ABC’s Blood & Oil? IF this melodrama set in boomtown North Dakota can stay true to the epic sweep and larger-than-life characters of its pilot episode, THEN it should bring in a gusher of viewers.

IF you like campy horror and pretty girls, THEN you can count on creator Ryan Murphy to deliver with Fox’s Scream Queens.

But IF you’re willing to buy into any part of Fox’s cartoonish pathologist-driven thriller Rosewood (especially the idea that, beneath his swagger and Adonis physique, its hero is a borderline invalid) THEN there’s a bridge in New York City someone’s eager to sell you.

CBS’ comedy Life in Pieces is taking a large-ensemble, entwined look at an extended modern family, but in an unusual format: four freestanding tales per half-hour episode. IF viewers warm to this piecemeal style, THEN Pieces could prove a fresh alternative to the well-worn Modern Family.

IF CBS’ Limitless can sustain the dark yet endearingly quirky tone of its premiere, THEN this sci-fi romp could prove as addictive to viewers as the mind-expanding pills its hero is hooked on.

IF NBC’s The Player can preserve the dark gamesmanship that underpins its hero’s manic derring-do, THEN it could certify its status as more than a guilty pleasure, but a brainy puzzler.

For these and the rest of the fall crop, one big rule applies in sizing up each new series: No single episode tells its full story. So be a little patient when sampling the new slate, and, when in doubt, stick with it. Hold out a little hope. You won’t be so quick to click the channel-changer if your fingers are crossed.

ABC family gets top marks for LGBT inclusiveness

The television network that gets the most praise from an advocacy group that monitors content featuring gays, lesbians and transgender people has “family” in its name and targets an audience of teenage girls and young women.

GLAAD said in a report issued last week that 74 percent of the programming hours on ABC Family included at least one LGBT character – the highest percentage any network has recorded since the group began issuing content reports in 2007. GLAAD studied the networks for a one-year period that ended May 31.

“We feel it is our responsibility to our viewers to reflect the world that they live in and it’s a diverse world,” said Karey Burke, executive vice president of programming at the Disney-owned network.

ABC Family’s numbers were boosted by the drama “Pretty Little Liars,” where one of the lead characters Emily Fields is a lesbian. “The Fosters” follows the story of a lesbian couple. “Chasing Life” featured a bisexual woman and a gay man, although the latter character died of cancer. “Young & Hungry” and “Mystery Girls” both featured gay men, and there were a number of gays and lesbians in the supporting cast of “Switched at Birth.”

Network viewers are also anticipating the January debut of “Shadow Hunters,” a show based on the book series “The Mortal Instrument” that prominently features a gay couple.

Three-quarters of ABC Family’s typical audience is female, with a median age of 29, according to the Nielsen company.

The network is likely to be more inclusive partly because it seeks a younger audience, an age group that is more accepting of gays and lesbians, said Matt Kane, GLAAD programming director.

Seamlessly including these characters in the stories sends a strong message of acceptance that is likely to help young people dealing with their own identity issues, he said.

“I hope that it is something that other networks are taking notice of,” Kane said.

GLAAD has consulted with ABC Family on its programming, although Kane wouldn’t divulge the group’s specific role. The network and its actors have helped GLAAD with some of its activities, including an annual “Spirit Day” that encourages people to wear purple for a day.

Burke said the status as GLAAD’s top-rated network “makes us deeply proud.

“We were hugging each other in the halls here,” she said. “It’s an honor to be recognized.”

GLAAD’s grade did not reflect “Becoming Us,” a nonfiction series about two transgender people in an Illinois community that aired on ABC Family this summer.

That series, which averaged 452,000 viewers per episode, was a ratings disappointment for ABC Family and it has not been decided whether it will come back for another season. Executives aren’t sure why it didn’t do well, whether the subject matter made viewers feel uncomfortable or whether the attention paid to Caitlyn Jenner’s E! docuseries “I Am Cait” drowned “Becoming Us” out.

“We hope it’s not a reflection of the subject matter,” Burke said.

Despite the inclusive hours, GLAAD said one story line on “Pretty Little Liars” was a disappointment. The series had a mentally ill transgender woman who, in the season finale, attempted to murder both her family and the main cast of the show. GLAAD said it was “the latest in a long series of transgender women portrayed as psychotic killers in mainstream media.”

Part of acceptance for LGBT characters in entertainment is having them portray villains as well as heroes, Burke said.

“We don’t feel the show has anything to apologize for,” she said.

At a Glance: Internet TV options

You’ve heard about Comcast’s new streaming video service. A glance now at the ever-changing viewer’s scape of Internet TV options.

COMCAST

Monthly price: $15.

Live offering: A dozen networks, including HBO.

On demand: Yes.

Restrictions: Internet customers only.

AMAZON

Monthly price: $8.25; only through $99-a-year Amazon Prime subscription.

Live offering: None.

On demand: Apart from original shows such as “Transparent,” offerings tend to be past seasons, plus movies. Next-day access to shows for $2 or $3 an episode.

Restrictions: Not available directly on Apple TV. Prime requires one-year commitment.

CBS ALL-ACCESS

Monthly price: $6.

Live offering: More than 90 markets.

On demand: Day-after access to shows on mobile devices (on traditional computers, it’s free without a subscription). Full seasons for many shows, not just past five episodes. Past seasons for a handful of shows, including “The Good Wife,” ‘’Survivor,” ‘’The Amazing Race” and “60 Minutes.”

Restrictions: No apps for streaming TV devices. Some sports blackouts.

DISH’S SLING TV

Monthly price: Starts at $20.

Live offering: About 20 channels, including ESPN, ABC Family, AMC and Food Network. No broadcast channels like CBS or NBC. Add-on packages for sports, movies, kids, lifestyles and world news available for $5 each and HBO for $15.

On demand: No recording of channels, though some offer older episodes, including HBO. Access to WatchESPN on-demand app, with others coming.

Restrictions: Can watch only one stream at a time, so members of households will need multiple subscriptions, although HBO content can be streamed on three devices at a time. DVR controls, such as pause and rewind, aren’t available for many channels. NFL blackouts on mobile devices.

HBO NOW

Monthly price: About $15.

Live offering: New episodes are available through apps about the same time they are shown on TV.

On demand: Current and past seasons of most HBO shows, including “Games of Thrones,” ‘’Girls” and “The Sopranos.” Hundreds of movies, including those from Universal, Fox, Warner Bros. and Summit.

Restrictions: Can subscribe only through a partner. Apple has exclusive deal among non-traditional distributors and requires Apple TV, an iPhone or iPad to sign up (you can then watch through a browser on other devices). Cablevision is the only pay-TV provider so far to offer HBO Now.

HULU

Monthly price: $8 for Plus, though many shows are free on Windows and Mac computers.

Live offering: None.

On demand: Next-day access to shows from ABC, NBC, Fox and CW, along with some cable channels. Some movies and original shows.

Restrictions: Fox and CW shows restricted to pay-TV subscribers for first week. ABC requires pay-TV or Hulu Plus subscription during that time. Plus also needed for viewing on mobile and streaming TV devices.

ITUNES

Monthly price: None.

Live offering: None, except for special events such as iTunes music festival.

On demand: Next-day access to shows for $2 or $3 an episode.

Restrictions: No Android devices. Apple TV is only streaming device supported.

MLB.TV

Monthly price: $20 (or $110 for full season).

Live offering: All Major League Baseball games, subject to hometown blackouts.

On demand: All games.

Restrictions: Lots of blackouts. Extra $5 a month or $20 for season to watch on mobile and streaming TV devices. Separate package available for minor-league games.

NETFLIX

Monthly price: Starts at $8.99

Live offering: None.

On demand: Apart from original shows such as “House of Cards,” offerings tend to be past seasons, plus movies.

Restrictions: Ultra high-definition (4k) streaming for $3 more, standard-definition only for $1 less.

NICKELODEON’S NOGGIN

Monthly price: $6

Live offering: None.

On demand: Games and activities created for service alongside archives of shows no longer on any of Nickelodeon’s TV channels. Aimed at preschoolers.

Restrictions: Available on Apple mobile devices only at first.

SONY’S PLAYSTATION VUE

Monthly price: Starts at $50.

Live offering: Base plan with CBS, NBC and Fox broadcast channels and cable channels from AMC, Discovery, Fox, NBCUniversal, Scripps, Turner and Viacom. Additional sports and other channels for $10 or $20 more. More than 50 channels in basic; more than 85 in all. Main omissions: CW network and Disney channels, including ESPN and ABC.

On demand: Recording capabilities with unlimited storage, though shows expire after 28 days. Many shows over the past three days are automatically available. Access to some channels’ on-demand apps.

Restrictions: Available in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles only. Up to three simultaneous streams in a home, but each must have a separate PlayStation 3 or 4, and only one can be PS4. Some content is available on an iPad app for out-of-home viewing, but a PlayStation is still required for set-up.