James Poniewozik

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For 525 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 42% higher than the average critic
  • 5% same as the average critic
  • 53% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 2 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

James Poniewozik's Scores

Average review score: 64
Highest review score: 100 Transparent: Season 2
Lowest review score: 0 Dads: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 55 out of 525
525 tv reviews
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    It's raw, audacious, nuanced and richly, often excruciatingly funny.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    It is still a magnificent beast: bold, confident and venturing off in new directions.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    Season two broadens its focus to the vast extended Pfefferman mishpocheh: children, in-laws, exes and long-gone ancestors. And it’s all the richer for it.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    I can't recommend the series highly enough, particularly for the phenomenal performances by Lewis and Danes.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    Dry and offbeat, with an immediate, original voice, this comedy is a back-roads drive through the expansive territory between rags and riches.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    Master of None, the year’s best comedy straight out of the gate, is a lot of things.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    As the pressure rises, The Americans, already one of TV’s most astute shows about marriage, also becomes more and more a show about parenting and how parents invest themselves in their children.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    Each episode is tightly, often ingeniously plotted; they range from sweet romance to urban satire to comedies of manners, and each delivers more depth of character than TV episodes three times as long.
    • 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.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    The key to Angels is that it is realistic and fantastic at once--a miraculous event in mundane circumstances, like a biblical visitation--and Nichols' movie-series is appropriately epic and gritty.
    • 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.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    [Louie] was and remains one of the best on TV--in any given week, maybe the best, period.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 91 James Poniewozik
    The changes that have come to Mad Men can be discomfiting to watch. But they're rich with possibility.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    A TV series that’s well-made, thought-provoking, deeply moving.
    • 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.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Silicon Valley is the funniest out-of-the-box pay cable comedy in a good while.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    UnREAL remains one of TV’s most sharp-minded and -tongued escapes, a heart-shaped box full of chocolate and razor blades.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    In a way, the show is both complement and antithesis to the true-crime phenomena The Jinx and Serial; rather than attempt closure and a solution, it cares far more about how people live with the unknown.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    This is the funniest sitcom pilot of the fall.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It’s a beautiful downer, a perceptive and acute one, whose empathy distinguishes it from some of its peers.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    There is, as in live theater, the occasional hesitance over a line, and the first episode relies on melodramatic twists that don’t always feel earned. But when it really gathers steam--nearly any time Mr. Alda opens his mouth, and especially in his scenes with Ms. Falco--it’s like little else on TV. (If it can be said, technically, to be TV at all.)
    • 90 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The show acquits itself well. Despite the audience’s knowledge that the former football star Orenthal James Simpson will be found not guilty (history is not a spoiler, sorry), the series is absorbing, infuriating and, yes, thoroughly entertaining.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The confidence and adventurousness of Louie‘s experiments are still present, but reined in and focused.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    [A] tense and exquisite limited series on HBO. ... The later episodes become a more conventional legal story, as Stone patches together a defense, and the case becomes Nancy Grace-ified in the media. There are nods to TV legal series throughout.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Thus begins the final season of a cerebral space opera that asks what it means to be human.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    I recommend it heartily: Mark Rylance is spectacular as Cromwell, bringing subtlety and melancholy to a man who was more of a bulldog in real life (as Hans Holbein the Younger painted him), but conveying the terrifying efficiency of his mind all the same.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Lady Dynamite has its own bizarre-sincere voice and its own dream logic. It’s something else, in a good way: a journey to the center of Ms. Bamford’s mind that dives through fantasy after loopy fantasy and emerges with something real.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The BBC's The Hour, the best new show this summer.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It's worth the effort, not because The Wire is good for you but because it is fantastic entertainment.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Sherlock, which impresses again in the three-episode season that returns on PBS.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The absurdist comedy and hallucinatory visuals match the series’ take on Hollywood as a reality-distortion field. But the series never takes an attitude of easy superiority to its showbiz characters. At heart, BoJack Horseman is a comedy about lonely people (and animals) who are never by themselves. That melancholy spirit comes through beautifully in the stunning fourth episode of the new season.
    • 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 Americans has created a crowded bulletin board of characters and subplots, and this new season struggles to pin the yarn to connect them all. But each resonates with the others, like movements in a melancholy symphony.
    • 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.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    This reality series/teen show is a thousand times realer, factually and emotionally, than Big Brother and Dawson's Creek put together.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Granted, being the best prime-time soap in years ... is like being the best ski slope in Florida. But this smart, spooky, sly sudser is not just the best of its breed. It's a breed apart, as much Chinatown as Dallas.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Fresh Off the Boat is damn funny--–but not only funny and not cheaply funny. Three episodes in, it’s the best broadcast comedy of the new season, a daring but good-hearted sitcom about the complexities of identity–-about not only being different but being different from the different.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Its fifth season is in fine, familiar form.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    This is law drama such as Boston Legal's David E. Kelley can only dream about.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The Returned is mesmerizing television.... The first three new episodes complicate the plot more than advance it.... But the questions are tantalizing. Like HBO’s “The Leftovers,” this is a gorgeous, full-hearted drama about grief, rich with metaphor.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It's all breathtaking in much the way that you'd suspect.
    • 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.
    • 98 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    A satisfying, touching and excruciatingly funny severance package.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The 2016 presidential campaign has yet to produce a distinctive comedy voice, but Ms. Bee made a bold early case that it could be hers.
    • 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.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 83 James Poniewozik
    The premise of ABC's Life on Mars is ludicrous but irresistible.
    • 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.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Manhattan has a feel both for the rush of scientific discovery and for the often-difficult personalities drawn to it. In this war story, the most fascinating battles are among allies.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The Knick has become much more than another tortured-genius antihero story. It has developed a sprawl reminiscent of HBO’s “Deadwood,” stretching to the mansion and the gutter with equal familiarity.... Despite the often dark outlook, there’s also a sense of awe at the analog machinery of life.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The charming pilot swerves quickly from the expected Bravo-reality-show-catfight scenario and becomes something more complicated and rewarding: a good-hearted comedy about an extended family (including Pete’s two ex-wives) figuring out how to make itself work on the fly.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Cheerfully cynical yet with a sincere appetite for the game, The Circus is both a document and an example of the superficiality of today’s elections. It may not be a three-dimensional picture, but it’s a vivid one.
    • 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.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The casting is strong all around, which helps pull the series through its weaker stretches, when it does start to drift into a morality play or an overwrought junkie melodrama.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    There’s a certain amount of melodrama in the premiere (which is all that was previewed for critics), but the beginning fits a fair amount of nuance into a package that could have been a soapbox. Ireland in particular gives Christine fine shading, and the way that race plays into the story--and into Adam’s career ambitions--feels more natural than engineered.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    So far it works.... Asylum feels like a more focused, if equally frenetic, screamfest. It's also gorgeously realized.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The Carmichael Show consistently feels surprising, not formulaic, partly because of the talent assembled, partly because of Mr. Carmichael’s comic philosophy of prodding his audience.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It now has a compelling subject, the emergence, through modem clicks and whistles, of the wired Internet era we live in. Like many a good period piece, it’s really our own origin story.
    • 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.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Even the best version of The Leftovers, if it proves a complete creative success, will not be a show for everyone. Yet it believes fervently, messily, heartbreakingly, that even two percent of everyone means more than you can imagine.
    • 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.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Racy, amiable and honest, Catastrophe doesn’t feel the need to amp up its story with surprises either. It just does the exact thing it’s supposed to.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    There is no roadmap for this kind of show, and it could easily fall apart quickly. But I will say this for The Last Man on Earth: it does not seem like the sort of thing that would be a primetime network sitcom. And that’s precisely why it should be one.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Smart fun from the start, managing impressive spectacle even if it doesn’t have the visual firepower of the most epic Thrones episodes.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    What works about The Honorable Woman is how well its particular story and larger themes echo each other: trust and mistrust, hope and disappointment, resentment and revenge, repeating for generations.
    • 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.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Interspersed with cover songs, Spectacle is an engaging showcase for a curious mind.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    For an airy, refreshing summer diversion, you need no more. What distinguishes the show is how national identity is baked into the concept. It presents a firm, if tongue in cheek, notion of Britishness as something you can feel and taste, but something that is evolving as well.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It’s sadder and funnier, welling over with feeling. It’s insightful not just about marriage but friendship.... The cast is uniformly strong, but Ms. Lynskey is just staggering.
    • 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.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Love is a funny, winning version of the format, and the casting is spot on. Ms. Jacobs’s Mickey has a prickly melancholy, like a more naturalistic version of her Britta Perry from “Community.” Mr. Rust is well-cast to nerd-connoisseur type.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    This brilliantly executed concept--the title, the casting, the squiggly tornado CGI--was the most delicious chum, and we are creatures of instinct.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    On its own, the show’s concept might have just been a throwaway 30 Rock subplot; what sustains it is how it applies the concept of unbreakability beyond Kimmy. Each character is a survivor.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.

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