It’s too hot in Utah to stay outside for long these days, but what to do inside in the air conditioning? Here are several TV choices … although some of them should be avoided.
“Stranger Things” (Friday, Netflix) • There are only two episodes left in season 4, but there’s huge caveat to “only” — episode 8 is 85 minutes long; episode 9 is 150 minutes. (Yes, it runs 2½ hours.) Combined, that’s almost as long as the first five episodes of season 1.
I’m still enjoying the show. A lot. The first seven episodes of season 4 are good, and the Big Reveal in episode 7 both surprised me and made sense within the “Stranger Things” universe.
That’s not easy to do.
But every one of those seven episodes is longer than it needs to be.
The Duffer brothers, Matt and Ross — the creators/executive producers/writer/directors of “Stranger Things” — have become the Ken Burns of Netflix. Burns, of course, is the hugely talented producer of a lot of truly great documentaries on PBS, including “The Civil War,” “Baseball,” “The Roosevelts” and “The Vietnam War.”
But Burns (a genuinely nice, likable guy) has become so powerful within PBS that there’s no one there to tell him to do some editing. That eight hours of “Country Music” was a lot. That 10 hours of “Jazz” was too much.
It would appear that there’s no one inside Netflix to tell the Duffer Brothers that more is not always better. That editing is not a bad thing. That trimming a few minutes out of each episode and eliminating a couple of extraneous storylines out of season 4 would have made “Stranger Things” better.
But, according to Netflix, “Stranger Things” is hugely popular. Which is more important than ever to the streamer, now that it’s losing subscribers, its stock price is falling and there are a host of other streamers out there competing for viewers’ eyeballs and dollars.
Netflix has reasons to keep the Duffer Brothers happy. Not only because they’ve still got to deliver season 5 of “Stranger Things,” but because they’re among the executive producers of an upcoming series based on Stephen King and Peter Straub’s 1984 novel “The Talisman,” along with Steven Spielberg.
(They won’t be as directly involved as they are with “Stranger Things.” Curtis Gwinn, a writer-executive producer of “Stranger,” will be the showrunner.)
As for the two extra-long episodes of “Stranger Things” that start streaming on Friday, I couldn’t spoil them if I wanted to … because, as of this writing, they haven’t been screened for critics. Maybe some of the suspense is spoiled because we already know there will be a season 5, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all the characters will survive the end of season 4.
That’s speculation. Not a spoiler.
“Only Murders In the Building” (Tuesday, Hulu) • Season 1 of this series was great, and it looks like season 2 is up to that level. It begins right where last season left off — Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez), having just solved the murder of Tim Kono, are suddenly suspects in the murder of Bunny, the board president in the building.
Season 2 features Amy Schumer as a fictionalized version of herself. She’s moving into the apartment previously occupied by Sting, who played a fictionalized version of himself in season 1. Tina Fey returns as Cindy Canning, whose new podcast “Only Murderers In the Building” focuses on Charles, Oliver and Mabel.
And Shirley MacLaine joins the cast. Really.
The second season is very entertaining, if somewhat more difficult to follow — there’s an awful lot happening, with threads of the story fraying in all sorts of directions and the path to solving the crime coming to forks in the road and doubling back on itself again and again.
But the real attraction here is the team of Martin, Short and Gomez, which continues to be wildly successful. But if you didn’t watch season 1, go back and stream those episodes. They’re only about 30 minutes each.
“Westworld” (Sunday, 9 p.m., HBO; streaming on HBO Max) • I loved the first season of this series. I was enthralled with the narrative, and intrigued by the many mysteries it presented.
I kept watching seasons 2 and 3, although I’m not altogether sure why. The narrative became increasingly obtuse, and I cared less and less about getting answers.
And it’s been more than two years since season 3 ended, so I don’t even altogether remember what the mysteries were — although one of the mysteries for season 4 is whether I’ll make it through the eight episodes.
“Jack Osbourne’s Night of Terror: Bigfoot” (Sunday, Discovery+) • Jack and his pal Jason Mewes (“Clerks”) go searching for Bigfoot. They’re skeptical, but rather easily convinced.
And as soon as one of the hunting-for-Bigfoot shows actually finds one, let me know. Until then, stop making TV shows about NOT finding Sasquatch.
“Endangered” (Tuesday, 9 p.m., HBO; streaming on HBO Max) • To me, this documentary — about how journalists in this and other countries are being intimidated — is terrifying. Not just because of the physical threats and abuse, but because of the threats to news itself.
And I do not possess the bravery of many of the reporters you’ll see in this 90-minute doc.
“Baymax!” (Wednesday, Disney+) • This new animated series features characters from the 2014 film “Big Hero 6.” (If you haven’t seen it, go watch it!)
The robot is still adorable. The animation is very good. Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter and Maya Rudolph return to voice characters. What’s not to like?
Well, it’s not as good as the movie. Did I mention you should watch “Big Hero 6″?
“The Terminal List” (Friday, Amazon Prime) • Chris Pratt stars in this eight-episode adaptation of the best-selling novel by Jack Carr. He plays a Navy SEAL who is the only survivor of an ambush that took out the rest of his team. And when he returns home, he discovers who was behind the attack — and sets out for revenge.
Fun fact: The supporting cast includes Patrick Schwarzenegger, who is Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver’s son and Pratt’s brother-in-law.
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