It's been an insanely busy week here at TV.com, as our brave editorial staff has been on-site in Beverly Hills at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, getting acquainted with the fall's new shows and checking in with several returning series. We've hammered away at our keyboards, we've chatted with producers and actors, we've eaten various snacks handed out by attractive waitresses, we've spent some time at the open bar, we've spent some more time at the open bar, we've closed down the open bar, we've asked them to reopen the open bar, we've cried when they didn't reopen the open bar, we've been escorted off the premises for demanding they reopen the open bar, and of course we've... PHOTOBOMBED!
Leave it to Dominic West and Joshua Jackson (stars of Showtime's upcoming The Affair, whose pilot is better than its trailer makes it out to be!) to ruin a perfectly good snap of Tim and Jen. Oh well.
Anyway, here's what we liked and didn't like about TV this week!
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't finished watching this week's new episodes (of 24, The Leftovers, etc.), we suggest that you hold off on reading this story until you do.
The Leftovers gains focus... sorta!
"Two Boats and a Helicopter" stepped away from the frenetic madness of The Leftovers' first two episodes and settled into more of a frenetic steadiness when it spent an entire hour following Christopher Eccleston's Reverend Matt through a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. The result was the best episode of the series' young season, which ended with a major move from the Guilty Remnant. Now if only we had an idea of where The Leftovers is headed, we'd be all set!
True Blood reveals Fangtasia's origin story
The HBO vamp drama continued its final-season fan service by showing us how Fangtasia came to be, when the authority sentenced Pam and Eric to running a crappy video store and then Ginger the then-burgeoning fang-banger, of all people, came up with the idea to transform the place. All of it just felt like a big hug from our TV.
The Strain surprises by not taking itself seriously
FX has a long history of producing serious drama, but The Strain seems like it was peeled off the screen of a drive-in theater. The pilot was everything we didn't expect it to be, with fun and campy horror tropes elevating the show to the perfect popcorn accompaniment. Let's hope the horrortainment lasts.
Kacy Catanzaro owns American Ninja Warrior
#MightyKacy indeed! On Monday, the 24-year-old former gymnast became the first woman to ever make the finals of American Ninja Warrior, and there is nothing that's not impressive about her showing—especially considering she's only five feet tall.
24: Live Another Day, runs out the clock with a heartbreaking death and Jack Bauer's best kill ever
It turns out the four-year vacation served Bauer and the 24 creative team well. Live Another Day wrapped up its often thrilling and sometimes emotionally brutal 12-week run with a tremendous finale that was so depressing Jack considered blowing his brains out, but instead decided to merely spend his next few years in a Russian prison. Escapist summer TV!
The CW's Backpackers is better than we ever expected it to be
Considering the "great" history of web series that make the jump to television, we didn't have much hope for The CW's imported bro travelogue (brovelogue?) comedy Backpackers. It's not one of the more sophisticated comedies out there, but stars Dillon Casey and Noah Reid have a charming chemistry, the plots are dumb fun, and the locations are lovely enough. We'll be back for Episode 2.
El Rey's second original series, Matador premiered on Tuesday with the comfort of a Season 2 renewal already in its back pocket. This show looks to pick up where playful spy shows like Burn Notice, Nikita, and Alias left off by taking a zany premise (soccer star is also a super spy) and committing 100 percent. Will Tony Bravo be able to infiltrate Alfred Molina's plan for world domination? We'll be watching to find out (though the answer is probably "yes, but not without a fair amount of difficulty and sacrifice")!
USA tries something new with Satisfaction
Most of the discussion about USA's new marriage drama/escort origin story Satisfaction will likely center on why it doesn't fit alongside the network's typical blue-skies output—and that's too bad, because judging by the first episode, there's a lot to like about the show. While the escort storyline is very juicy, it's Satisfaction's more measured take on a damaged—but not totally broken—marriage between two people who clearly love one another but have somehow lost that proverbial spark that makes the series so, uh... enjoyable.
Nathan Fielder's green card contains an unfortunate error
The Canadian star of Nathan For You appeared on Late Show with David Letterman, where he revealed that his green card sports a particularly unlucky typo and recalled a recent encounter with a border guard.
David Rees is Going Deep on mundane matters
Rees' NatGeo show is our new favorite edutainment series. He examines the best way to do the simplest things—like make ice, dig a hole, tie your shoes, or shake hands—by talking to experts in the field, and adds plenty of "no duh" commentary for laughs. Bring on the scientific comedy!
Walter White goes to space
We're still not exactly sure why the marketing team at tvtag launched a Breaking Bad bobblehead into space, filming its trajectory as it reached an altitude of 85,000 feet, braved temps as low as -65 degrees Fahrenheit and speeds of 95 miles per hour, traveled more than 250 miles, and fell to back down to Earth, but the resulting video is entertaining and beautiful nonetheless.
FX's new comedy block of Married and You're the Worst needs work
The indie-as-F duo tackles two very different relationship extremes; Married is about a married couple, and You're the Worst is about a prolonged one-night stand. Both shows have their ups and downs—just like relationships OMG!—though Married, with its outstanding cast of Nat Faxon, Judy Greer, Jenny Slate, John Hodgman, and Brett Gelman, is a better bet than the raunchy and thin You're the Worst. We always expect the best out of FX, but for now, it's a wait-and-see situation for these two.
The Divide wants to offer a gray look at the justice system, but isn't as subtle as it thinks it is (yet)
WEtv's first scripted drama takes on death row exoneration with an Innocence Project-esque group looking into the murder of a black family at the hands of two white men. The show's racial politics promise to be its most interesting element, and Wednesday's two-episode premiere put them front and center a number of times. However, The Divide's mostly un-nuanced characters—everyone's pretty much either a desperate "I didn't do it" criminal or a righteous crusader working toward their idea of "justice"—threaten to make the show too melodramatic and drag down an otherwise interesting premise.
Halt and Catch Fire fizzles out with a ridiculous love scene
This incredibly stupid moment should be scrubbed from existence forever so we can all remember Lee Pace more fondly. But until that happens, this will be the dumbest thing you see on TV all year. (h/t to Warming Glow for the video!)
VH1's Dating Naked
As if dating shows weren't already gross enough! The series premiere of the let-it-all-hang-out reality show yielded plenty of awkwardness as couples went on their first naked dates and bared all, from their insecurities to their there terrible person-ness to their butts.
What's on YOUR list of TV loves and hates this week? Barton's heartbreaking turn on Masters of Sex? Chris the Farmer's exit from The Bachelorette? The debut of Hulu's Hotwives of Orlando? Teen Wolf's latest Share your own FTWs and WTFs in the comments!