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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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HBO, April 14, 1O p.m. ET/PT |


You don’t need a poll to gauge how little confidence the public has in its government. Just watch TV. The Washington, D.C., in Scandal is I, Claudius without togas and daggers, House of Cards is Richard III minus the hump, and The Americans has us rooting for Soviet spies. At least Veep, which depicts a leadership so incompetent it should be sequestered in a steamer trunk and dumped in the Potomac, is funny. Very funny. The second season is pretty much like the first—profane, frantic – but Vice President Selina Meyer (Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is demanding a more prominent political role from the West Wing. (After disastrous midterm elections, it turns out that her presence on the stump actually led to fractional improvements in the numbers.) Louis-Dreyfus’s performance – which, like Congress, can be divided into two houses, Crackling Charm and Hysterical Ego—still drives the show, but we’re getting a more realistic sense of political gamesmanship. The President’s pollster (Gary Cole, superbly dry) constantly checks Selina’s ambitions, and other disgruntled power players are starting to share in Selina’s unsteady limelight. “The White House would work so much better if there wasn’t a President,” grumbles one staffer. “But there is.”

Nurse Jackie

Showtime, April 14, 9 p.m. ET/PT |


Starting season 5, Edie Falco’s excellent Nurse Jackie is, regrettably, getting tired. Maybe it’s physics: A hospital gurney, no matter how fast it’s pushed, will inevitably come to rest. Jackie, sober after her battle with pills, is divorcing and fighting over custody of her daughters, one of whom suffers from serious emotional issues. New doctors arrive: tough, smart Ike Prentiss (Morris Chesnut) and Carrie Roman (Betty Gilpin), who has the small, taut face of a Barbie doll and not much more medical skill. The ensemble remains perfect, but the show’s matter-of-fact crispness has been dulled. Stick out your tongue and say blah.

Hemlock Grove

Netflix, available for streaming April 19 |


Hemlock Grove, Netflix’s second series to be created for digital streaming, is a horror story in no rush to spill the beans or even the innards. In the three episodes shown to critics, we learn we are in a far from idyllic town plagued not only by a werewolf but a much worse variant—a werewolf with a mental illness. Who knew, right? There are presumably other monsters, plus a towering, shuffling Goth girl with one deformed eye. She’s like a giant’s rag doll. The acting is good, especially Bill Skarsgard and Landon Liboiron as two teens who function as Hemlock Grove’s Hardy Boys. I like the show’s languid, dreamlike beauty, but horror fans may be less patient. Imagine True Blood directed by Sofia Coppola.