James Poniewozik
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For 410 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 41% higher than the average critic
  • 4% same as the average critic
  • 55% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 1.6 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

James Poniewozik's Scores

Average review score: 63
Highest review score: 100 Game of Thrones: Season 4
Lowest review score: 0 The Playboy Club: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 49 out of 410
410 tv reviews
    • 92 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    Astonishing. ... The Shield did what network cop shows have lately abandoned: it created a richly imagined world with continuing story lines, driven by L.A.'s roiling racial politics--achieving a payoff far bigger than solving the murder of the week.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    In looks and structure, Arrested Development is like a 30-min. drama, just a hilarious one. In most network sitcoms nowadays, the wisecracking characters are aware that they're being funny. The oblivious Bluths are funny despite themselves.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    It will repay you with a brutal but eloquent story that's finally less about how men fight and die than what happens to them when they fight and survive. It will show you how character and sheer, unfair randomness combine to produce cruelty or decency. And it will make you feel deeply for the men who return.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    I can't recommend the series highly enough, particularly for the phenomenal performances by Lewis and Danes.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    It's raw, audacious, nuanced and richly, often excruciatingly funny.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    HBO’s fantasy series is as stirring in its action, as rich in characters, and more sweeping in scope as ever.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    [Louie] was and remains one of the best on TV--in any given week, maybe the best, period.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 91 James Poniewozik
    There's plenty of action, suspense and sci-fi stuff in Torchwood: COE, but what makes it an unmissable event is how well it sets up its dilemma--a classic conflict over whether the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few--and how maturely it deals with both the morality and the politics of the premise.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 91 James Poniewozik
    It all makes for a rich, captivating series to look at. And listen to. Even, or especially, when it's not saying anything at all.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 91 James Poniewozik
    The changes that have come to Mad Men can be discomfiting to watch. But they're rich with possibility.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The most distinctive, addictive new TV series this season. As an old-fashioned thriller, it's relentless, tense and deliciously paranoiac, with more twists than a Twizzler. But it's also boldly different.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    [The Wire's] attention to detail, plus a vast canvas of characters, makes for a dense boulder of a story that moves creakily for the first couple of hours. But once it gets rolling, it's irresistible because of the humanity creator-writer David Simon finds in his characters.
    • 98 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    They have done what many well-intentioned socially minded writers have tried and failed at: written a story that is about social systems, in all their complexity, yet made it human, funny and most important of all, rivetingly entertaining.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It's worth the effort, not because The Wire is good for you but because it is fantastic entertainment.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It's ironic that NBC's most original sitcom in years is a remake, but who cares? The Office is a daring, unflinching take on very American workplace tensions.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Funny, probing and unsentimental, House may shock the systems of viewers used to sweetie M.D.s like ER's Dr. Carter. But as an honest look at techno-medicine and the prerogatives of genius, it's a tonic.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Thus begins the final season of a cerebral space opera that asks what it means to be human.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    This is law drama such as Boston Legal's David E. Kelley can only dream about.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It is not just one of the most moving but also one of the funniest shows you will see this year: a sort of post-9/11 M*A*S*H.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Secrets, threats, Viagra--Big Love was always going to be interesting TV, but what makes it first-rate drama is how confidently it moves past exoticism to the ordinary universals of family life.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It's a drama that has chosen the slow burn over the flashy explosion, and it's all the hotter for that choice.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Rapper Sean Combs holds his own as ambitious son Walter Lee Jr., but Phylicia Rashad is devastating as a matriarch trying to hold her family together when a dream deferred turns dangerous.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Colbert is the series' rock, and a straightman contrast to the constantly yammering Person, his driver. As the stoic enigma and the hopped-up smart-ass speed through the desert landscape, you could almost take Kill for a surreal road comedy.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The early episodes of season three, though, find SoA retaining what there was to love about it--the well-drawn characters, including the strong women in SAMCRO and its orbit--while expanding the show as well.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    A top-flight cast, including Lizzy Caplan and Martin Starr (and this season, Megan Mullally, stepping in for Lynch), who make the show's scripts play like improv. Above all, the show's ambition to be both raunchily funny and emotionally real to characters who are watching their dreams get older one day at a time.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    This is the funniest sitcom pilot of the fall.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Like a good whiskey, it's rough and smooth in all the right ways. By a few episodes in, you'll want to order it by the case.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    I've seen two weeks of the season, and so far I'm rapt. In Treatment may be in uncharted ground with its new, original stories, but it remains a show that rewards patience, and patients.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Watching Game of Thrones is like falling into a gorgeous, stained tapestry. This epic, unflinching fantasy noir takes our preconceptions of chivalry, nobility and magic and gets medieval on them.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    By combining the traditional elements of spy dramas (and spy parodies) with office comedy, this look inside the halls of ISIS manages to be both an effective spoof and an effective character sitcom.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The BBC's The Hour, the best new show this summer.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Sherlock, which impresses again in the three-episode season that returns on PBS.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It's all breathtaking in much the way that you'd suspect.
    • 98 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    A satisfying, touching and excruciatingly funny severance package.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It’s a beautiful downer, a perceptive and acute one, whose empathy distinguishes it from some of its peers.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It’s a sumptuous pleasure to go through one doorway and another, feeling all the while the dawning knowledge that someday we will turn a corner, and come to the last.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    By the standards of most TV crime stories, the meditative Rectify may instead seem like too little. But it’s entrancing at showing how, in some circumstances, just getting through a day is drama enough.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    [A] haunting, creepy, and beautiful French series
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It's an absorbing, beautifully acted story about science, emerging feminism and American culture. But it's also a gamble on the idea that great TV drama can involve stakes that are not sharpened to pointy tips.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It’s not that that second What It’s About--the emotional heart of The Americans--is better, more noble than the first. But it’s the difference between an exciting thriller premise that flames out fast and a story with lasting power--demonstrates better than ever.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    A TV series that’s well-made, thought-provoking, deeply moving.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Silicon Valley is the funniest out-of-the-box pay cable comedy in a good while.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 83 James Poniewozik
    Daisies has a timeless, picture-book look. It could be set today, in the '30s, in the '70s or in any other decade fond of saturated color. Like Chuck herself, it's a perfect candidate for a second chance: as glowing and lovable as the day we first met it.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 83 James Poniewozik
    The premise of ABC's Life on Mars is ludicrous but irresistible.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Kids are drawn by the show's loopy slapstick, grownups by its dry (so to speak) wit.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    An improbable, heart-pounding and-tugging mix of fantastical '60s spy chic and emotionally realistic drama ... Ridiculous, over the top but unashamed, it manages to thrill and win our hearts.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    At least in the first four hours... the show reminds us of the intense thrills it can provide even without threatening to blow up the entire planet.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The funniest new sitcom of the spring ... What makes Universe funny and not just wacky is that it uses the qualities that endeared viewers to Richter's Late Night persona--the affable, moon-faced cynic--making the character the kind of sweet but snarky dreamer you would want in the next cubicle.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Deadwood is not the next Sopranos. Everyone likes Italian food, whereas this is beef jerky--slow chewing, an acquired taste but substantial. Sometimes Milch's Shakespearean ambitions get away from him, and the story can drag. But the acting is strong.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    A witty, mature drama that can hit both the chest and the heart.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The O.C. looks to have enough heart, talent and wit to generate a few seasons' worth of luxurious suds.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Big Love quickly settles you into its odd setting. The particulars of the Henricksons' lives--their intrigues and secrecy, yes, but also their familiar family dynamics and sincere faith--are presented, simply and unpatronizingly, as the reality of the show's universe.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The dialogue's still pulpy, but its action story is the bomb.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Shot intimately with handheld camera, it's a moving but unsentimental celebration of community, of pulling together not just because it's right but also because it's necessary.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The show is filled with Lettermanesque non sequiturs and '70s pop-culture arcana... but it has heart too.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The morals of this provocative show are as intriguing as its cases.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The realism doesn't extend to the exaggerated characters and plots, but if you focus on the sharp dialogue (and aren't an easily worried parent), these students earn a solid ... B.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The pilot... iis actually the least funny of the three episodes I saw; in the other two, "Sarah" and the other characters are much better developed and the stories hang together better. Still, it's an acquired tastelessness.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It's far-fetched. It's outlandish. You will think you are too smart to get suckered in by it, but give it a few minutes and you will be proved wrong.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It's also, judging by the pilot, flawlessly art-directed, full of well-chosen period music and--for a drama about a country searching for its bearings in its bicentennial year--a lot of fun.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The five episodes NBC sent out don't, to my eye, reach the heights Chuck hit toward the end of its season 2 run. But after a major change in the show's premise--rather than being a sad sack nerd dragged into the spy-life, Chuck is now a certified ass-kicker, thanks to getting some superpowered brainwaves--the show successfully changes gears while keeping everything that's best about it.
    • 53 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Packing a sharp designer shiv, this clever saga of haves vs. have-mores proves the East Coast can be as enjoyably sudsy as the West.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    High School Musical 2's audience already knows how this movie ends. But they'll watch and re-watch because it has such an unembarrassed good time getting there.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It's true that Mad Men is deliciously curated, from the omnipresent cigarettes to the rocket-cone brassieres (and casual sexism) to the cool modernist sets. But the subtle, deliberately paced drama has a wider sense of history.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It's an uneven Coen Brothers--like mix of dark comedy and darker moral drama, but Cranston is amazing as a desperate, conflicted gangsta-nerd.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    This My Name Is Girl concept may be outlandish, but Ex List is also fresh and raunchily funny (there's a scene in the pilot comparing feminine waxing choices to historical figures--the "Hitler," the "Gandhi") and Reaser is winning and adorable.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    All this has the potential to be a little corny, but Ladies' is that rare show that manages to be uncynical without being cloying.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Interspersed with cover songs, Spectacle is an engaging showcase for a curious mind.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Bored to Death is good, very good--but it's pilot isn't, so it wouldn't be terrible to miss it or see it late.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    I will say that the show really has a handle now on Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), who comes across as an overzealous but sympathetic bureaucrat, not a ninny. That it is doing an excellent job of finding things for its supporting characters to do, suggesting it may someday have the bench strength of a show like "The Office. "
    • 78 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    While it's not as knock-your-socks-off as the pilot (while retaining some of the same problems), it continues to show why, at its best, this is the freshest and most joyful new show of the year.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Parenthood shows a funny, affecting, distinctive voice that you'll want to keep listening to.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    As a whole, Treme is a kind of intimate, loose, indie-film version of TV, its various stories almost an anthology connected by musical moments.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The clever, engaging script and Blonsky's performance--plus the refreshing idea of a teen drama not entirely populated by assembly-line pinups--promise a summer diversion with a little more than usual dramatic meat on its bones.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The first episode is, maybe to grab the young-guy audience, heavier on the sexplay and lighter on the laughs. But two or three episodes in, the characters and dynamics come together, and the show really begins to kill. Literally and figuratively, but mostly figuratively.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The result is a new-style western that's both entertaining and as mesmerizing as Givens' cold-blooded speech to the crook with the scattergun.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Rubicon is not a show for the impatience, and it has the kind of ambitions that could set viewers up for a letdown. But so far, I admire its intelligence.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    I hope it's not an old-man thing to say, and that you don't have to be an old man to appreciate it, but the truth that Men understands is that just getting through the day is drama enough. Here's looking forward to another year.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Like its characters themselves, Terriers has higher aims, but its appeal comes from being likeable and familiar. It balances its running storyline with individual cases, carried largely by Logue and Raymond-James' charm.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    If The Walking Dead can build on its promise and run with these ideas, along with unflinching gross-out thrills, it can tell a doomsday story with all the things zombies crave: brains, guts and heart.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Some elements are so Showtime-comedy-like (the eccentric teen child, e.g.) as to seem a little repetitive. But the show depends above all on Laura Linney's performance, and so far it's entrancing.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It starts and finishes strong, and in between, it passed the most important test this non-boxing-fan could hold it to: when I finished one episode, I immediately wanted to put another in.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    On paper, it sounds like another sitcom dedicated to the tired idea that relationships are forced on men like collars on dogs, the leashes held by annoying, fun-killing women. And yet I enjoyed the show more watching it than I find I am describing it.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The first two new episodes are better focused and often affecting but don't quite cohere, possibly in part because of the mop-up work left after the whirlwind of season four. The third episode sent to critics, however, is one of the strongest the show has done in a while, possibly since the excellent third season.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The Killing itself is a slow burn, or rather drizzle. Three episodes in, I can tell you that I'm drawn in by the characters and eager to see a fourth; I can't guess whether the story is finally going to be satisfying, and the show is deliberate and sparing in parceling out details on the case.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The second season, beginning in 2006, about a year after the last, will probably not change minds among lovers or haters. There's somewhat more capital-D drama to the early episodes.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    If Downton's staging and dialogue can be too on-the-nose, the characters are still drawn with great subtlety.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Yes, satirizing the suburbs is an age-old theme in entertainment, but Suburgatory feels like it's thought through what specifically there is to say about the burbs of 2011. And so far, I like the way it says it.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    There's a sweet, good-hearted minuteness of observation to the show, which manages to work in middle-of-the-night wakings and diaper changes without going for obvious gags.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Prohibition provides a detailed, engaging postmortem of a very, very bad idea.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Luck too is far from perfect, but I found a lot to love in its rough edges.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Awake manages something impressive: it focuses unflinchingly on the subject of loss, yet manages to be not a downer or painful to watch, but moving, absorbing and even hopeful.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    A low-key but moving documentary about these two low-key people and their moving struggle.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The people around Jackie made me stick with this show even when its main storyline was going nowhere, but now that it's committed to really engaging with its title character, it's become appointment TV for me again.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It is, in other words, one more cable reality show about fabulous women. But in this case, the same old reality show is a refreshing change.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Nashville's was the one that made me most excited to see more episodes of the series and see how its world unfolds.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    As a documentary, Vito is fairly straightforward, but by finding a thread connecting Russo's life, his passions and his times, it manages to be something more.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    While it's a rough, sometimes grim, process, it feels that much more well-earned when, at the end of the first episode, one student, Bobby–who struggled to speak for himself in mock interviews–visits a future class to report that he's held a carpentry job for a month.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    In its early hours, Last Resort lays in enough plot and character provisions to potentially last a long, long journey.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    So far it works.... Asylum feels like a more focused, if equally frenetic, screamfest. It's also gorgeously realized.

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