Q. You really, really, really like “Gentleman Jack.” OK, we get it. Maybe it’s time to recommend some other shows, too?
A. I do recommend a lot of shows — I mean, like, say, maybe more than 100 every year. I have a good time watching as many as I can from among the more than 500 new annual releases, to report what I’ve seen to readers. Ask me for something to watch — and listen to me natter on for much too long, leaping from one title to another.
But you raise a question about the role of a critic. I think most critics have a few favorites to which they give a little extra love. I take a particular pleasure in giving attention to series that I think are worthy, but that don’t seem to be getting enough notice or viewership. HBO’s “Gentleman Jack” is exactly that kind of unrecognized gem for me, largely thanks to the phenomenal lead performance by Suranne Jones as a lesbian in the early 19th century. That she was not nominated for an Emmy is another one for the TV award’s Hall of Shame.
“Gentleman Jack” is far from the first show I’ve avidly encouraged. I’m also doing all I can to get audiences to see the low-key, intimate HBO comedy-drama called “Somebody Somewhere,” starring Bridget Everett, as well as Peacock’s “We Are Lady Parts,” about Muslim women in London forming a punk band. I’ve yet to hear complaints about either show, both of which ought to be — but, most likely won’t be — on this year’s Emmy nominations list.
One of my biggest, most sustained pushes was behind NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” a 2006-11 show that was constantly on the verge of cancellation. It seemed so strange to me that the show wasn’t a hit, given its extraordinary acting and its small-town Texas portraiture. In retrospect, I think the show was too sincere for a lot of viewers who want black comedy mixed in with their drama, and I also think too many people wrongly believed the show was about football. It was as much about football as “Ted Lasso” is about soccer.
I also urged viewers to watch “Freaks and Geeks” back in 1999. NBC was making it very hard to find the show, and it drove me crazy. Readers then as now were looking for something unusual and good, and there it was, in primetime — but still no one could find it. In March 2000, I wrote a long piece called “Save this FREAKS show,” urging readers to find the 1980s-set series before it was too late. The day the article appeared, I got a call from series creator Judd Apatow to commiserate, which was an honor, but a sad one; he should not have needed to spend time trying to make up for the network’s failings.
Other shows I’ve gotten behind in a big way: “The Knick” with Clive Owen and Andre Holland as surgeons in 1900 New York; “High Maintenance,” a collection of short stories linked by a weed dealer in New York City; “Man Seeking Woman,” a single-in-the-city comedy in which metaphors become real; “The Bisexual,” about a lesbian who has to come out all over again; “Lodge 49,” the sweetly optimistic tale of a down-and-out surfer; and more, many more, including “Arrested Development” and “The Comeback” before they gained post-run fame. I’ve seen other TV critics make noise in favor of “Halt and Catch Fire,” “The Leftovers,” “Bates Motel,” and “Hannibal.” Generally speaking, we love doing it. It’s a satisfying part of the job.