James Poniewozik

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For 579 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 2.4 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

James Poniewozik's Scores

Average review score: 65
Highest review score: 100 Girls: Season 1
Lowest review score: 0 Dads: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 61 out of 579
579 tv reviews
    • 67 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The writing is uneven... but the idea is audacious enough to keep you following the loose threads.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    If you don't want or need to be surprised, it's a pretty well-paced, gorgeously shot and fast-moving pilot, and Maggie Q, who is practically computer-designed to play the role, seems worth all the publicity investment The CW has placed in her.
    • Time
    • 60 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Divorce is not as dewy-eyed as its forebear, not as fresh in its material, and in its first outings, not as consistently funny. But it can be a caustic pleasure, a chaser, heavy on the bitters, to Carrie’s fruity cosmo.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    It’s an ambitious, if not entirely coherent, sci-fi shoot-’em-up that questions nihilistic entertainment impulses while indulging them.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    There are at least the slivers of promise that the show could get better. Neff is amiably charming, Dillahunt and Plimpton give their characters a realism that belies the pilot's often-contemptuous jokes, and maybe 20% of the first episode shows a sweet-heartedness that rises above the easy white-trash humor.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The cast is startlingly good... given that the actors have to deliver lines like "I think we're looking at a four-dimensional object--in three- dimensional space!"
    • 74 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Cinema Verite is not a bad movie at all but its failing is an ironic one: it smooths out the messiness and non sequiturs of real life to fit its story into a neat feature-film arc.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The pilot is aiming for a balance of dark humor, heart and flat-out funny that it doesn't quite manage.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    You may feel the faith-and-family themes could be handled better on cable--mainly because they have been.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    But after five episodes, Ray Donovan is still some good performances in search of a show. It feels made up of pieces of other antihero dramas--a little Sopranos here, a little Brotherhood there, even a little Entourage around the edges. Ray is so far too much a cipher to be an engaging focal character, and his flaws and failings are those of so many middle-aged cable ass-kickers in the past decade.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Rock Center may not be a ratings smash, and not all of its experiments may work. But the good news is, Williams and Stewart can both keep their day jobs.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The comedy has all the ingredients, and Greer is perfectly cast... The problem so far is the writing. The jokes in the pilot were broader and more obviously than I'd have hoped, but the big isssue is that the writers need to find the right balance for Becky.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The premiere episode strains the hardest for relevance. ... The revival is steadier in the next two episodes, where it settles into its nimble mode of zingers, farce and slapstick. This is the sort of sitcom where, if two people walk into a fancy automated shower, you know they will get trapped in it. There’s a comfort in that. The show also retains its core dynamic.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    It’s a familiar theme, but thrillingly executed in the early going.... Like many streaming series, though, it seems to be marking time in the middle (Amazon previewed six of 10 episodes for critics), as the characters try to escape Belize and the plot tosses them among so many frying pans and fires that the whole thing threatens to overcook.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The narrative gymnastics make the first half-hour of Quantico pass quickly and entertainingly. Too much of this, though, keeps you from investing much in the characters.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    There are problems to work out; none of the cast really pops in the first episode, and I wish they hadn't given the competitors the help of a carpenter, which loses the hands-on, who-stole-my-glue-gun drama of Runway. But the show has good bones. There's nothing wrong with it a little furniture rearrangement wouldn't fix.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Justice's legal cases are not especially shocking or original, and the supporting characters are empty suits. But it's fascinating to watch for its style.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    As an actual network drama--for me, the most important test--it relies too much on conventional showbiz plotlines and characters for me to get invested in it.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The biggest weakness of Bloodline is that the characters are types, straight down the line: the hardass dad, the soft-hearted mom, the peacemaker, the black sheep. And the scripts don’t do much to round them out.... They’re well-played types at least.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Sometimes unwieldy, sometimes beautiful, Parade’s End is--like the turbulent new order it ushers in--a bit of a mess, with no easily identifiable good guys. This miniseries doesn’t tell you how to feel, and it’s not exactly bursting with charming, loveable characters. But there’s a poignance to its story of people realizing their orderly parade is breaking up all around them.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Political Animals, an inconsistent, sometimes ludicrous, but also juicily fun political soap, is about something that ultimately makes for better TV: the idea of Hillary Clinton.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    I found parts of this series I could get invested in. You might find even more. Just don't go in expecting more than heck on wheels.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    It's an all-around high-class production. And yet, after watching two episodes, I had much the same thought I did after seeing a few minutes in May: the show basically seems like a stretched-out Law & Order episode.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Its early episodes are a mix of power and disappointment.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Grandfathered is as winningly cast as “The Grinder”--Mr. Stamos manages to be smarmy and charming at the same time--but its supporting characters need development.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Promisingly, the pilot of Red Band (like Glee‘s) has a ton of voice, but its tone wobbles wildly as it overcorrects away from sentimentality and then straight into it.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Sleepy Hollow got my attention, but I’m not yet sure if it’s good, ridiculous, good but ridiculous, or good because it’s ridiculous.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The humor is minutely observed, but the improv reminds you how much nonactor Jerry Seinfeld benefited from comic backup and tight scripts.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The new episodes don’t have the old complexity, messiness and poignance. They don’t inspire the wild excitement of having no idea what’s going to come on the screen next. They don’t have that electric sense of experimenting on the fly. And they don’t seem to do what Harmon had them do, what Community itself did, which is: grow.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    This is war as it happened, brutal and random, and in re-creating it Brothers captures viscerally the extraordinary sacrifice of a generation of ordinary men. ... But unlike [Saving Private Ryan], which bared its fictional GIs' souls, Brothers fatally neglects to turn its cast into distinguishable characters.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The reason to stick with it is to see if this ambitious but self-conscious series becomes more than the sum of its affectations--flat line readings, characters with names like Mr. Smooth, precious tilted-camera shots to remind you how weird it all is.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    It's almost a non-premise sitcom, whose main attraction is how well the vocal actors bounce its digressive dialogue off each other. I did laugh at the pilot, if not as much as I wanted to, so I'll put this one on probation, and hope.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The best reason to stick with Alpha House so far is that its ideas are stronger than its execution.... If Trudeau wants to argue, say, that today’s GOP is hypocritical, extreme, or dangerous, that’s fine--that’s satire--but it would be stronger and funnier if it engaged with a non-caricature version of the party.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Tara has the potential to be a great comedy about identity, but it needs to be less self-conscious about its strangeness.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Its milieu is esoteric even by Bravo standards: unpaid work facilitating the sale of aesthetic goods for staggering sums of money. Carpentry, it is not.
    • 44 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    If the writing can rise to [Harrison's and Hall's] performances, The Loop could take flight.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The character-building, unfortunately, is far weaker than the world-building. The dialogue is often B-movie grade, and Juliana and Frank, the closest thing the ensemble has to leads, are dull and dour.... That said, I finished six episodes eager to see the last four. High Castle is at least addictive as a mystery.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    I feel that there's a really good dark comedy about the decline of the American dream struggling to emerge from the often-forced plots.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The series doesn’t waste much time, plunging ahead with unremarkable dialogue but effective plotting, and establishing quickly that no one is safe and you should take little for granted.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Ballers is hardly a must-watch yet, and the early episodes rely on a lot of familiar problems-of-fame stories. But it has potential.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The series’ latter section grows darker and gets rushed, losing any nuance or idiosyncrasy in exposition-heavy dialogue. It’s stronger when it filters history through personal stories.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    While Ms. Paulson and Mr. Peters commit to their characters’ belief in their own derangements, Cult ends up rendering all political sides as caricatures.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Deftly written, Joey sets up running gags and delayed payoffs with the precision of the special forces laying mines, much as Friends did. No, exactly as Friends did, and that's a problem. It reminds us that five-sixths of the Dream Team is missing. And where Joey does change, it's abruptly and implausibly.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    A blinged-out tour of the lifestyle of the rich and (for now) famous, Entourage is a funny but familiar diversion, lacking the darkness and edge that have distinguished HBO's best series.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    After the promising first episode, Baskets wanders, becoming a sour, rambling sendup of strip-mall American life.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The episode is occasionally funny--John Hodgman and Jenny Slate are well-cast as Russ’ friends and sounding boards--but more often it’s mean and miserable.... Stick with Married, though, and it gets better--which is to say that Russ and Lina begin to turn into people.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The pilot of Revolution comes across better than either of the aforementioned shows [FlashForward and The Event], but there are still too many forgettable characters, stock scenes and flat patches of dialogue.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    By the third hour, I can’t say I was in love with The Newsroom at last. But I felt like I was finally seeing the better version of itself that it could have been.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 58 James Poniewozik
    Ten years ago, Southland would have seemed revolutionary on TV. But now it does feel like network playing catch-up with cable.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 58 James Poniewozik
    Eastbound & Down, is a funny show if you don't expect too much.
    • 50 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Not that there’s anything wrong with talk, even if Chelsea wants to be seen as something different. Ms. Handler seemed more at ease chatting with her guests--and often interrupting them--than reading the show’s protesting-too-much mission statement.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    In the pilot I saw no emotion, so much as situations recognizable as "scenarios you set up when you want to generate emotion": e.g., the interminable cruise vacation Sean and his fiancee take to get you invested in them before her disappearance. The debut delivers the "high-octane" much better.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    There’s potential here for a sharp sitcom about a man who’s kept aging but stopped growing. But too often Sex&Drugs shares Johnny’s arrested development, at the expense of both relevance and comedy.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    What it needs to make it a lasting family comedy and not a VH1 special is heart and a sense of its characters as individuals. It shows signs of the former, but the latter gets lost in the deafeningly loud pilot and the pop-culture-reference humor.
    • 45 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    It’s too moody and self-serious for a pulpy action show in which monsters dissolve into hot sparks when stabbed. Part of the problem is the script, and part is performance; the dialogue is sometimes written more sassily than it’s delivered.
    • 53 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Hannah's normalcy is refreshing, and it keeps the show light and funny. But it also makes her seem a little dull and shallow.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    There’s a well-intentioned flatness to the money-changes-everything stories so far.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The show still has the moments of off-the-cuff comedy and guilelessness that made the first season fun to watch, if not exactly a parade of role models.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    It's competent. It also seems a little familiar and unnecessary.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    It’s not badly written at all; there are tour de force bursts of monologue and magma blasts of white-collar rage. But it is very written, very writerly; the only thing organic in this high-end suburb is the Whole Foods
    • 68 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    When it’s good--well, it’s still often pretty bad, but it’s also gorgeous and appealingly weird.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Sun, a series adaptation of a British miniseries (which also starred Mark Strong) is, after the two episodes I’ve seen, a unremarkable in itself: a paint-by-the-numbers serious-cable series where all the numbers indicate a shade of black.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    It still remains to be seen what it looks like as a series; with some stronger writing and deeper character work, it could build on its math-superpower idea to make something intriguing and emotional.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    From the mood lighting and stirring music to the hot-button story lines to the characters' arias on the august legacy of their show, Sorkin makes running a comedy program seem like negotiating an arms treaty.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The pilot of Minority Report, which will have its premiere on Monday on Fox, jettisons everything disturbing and thought-provoking about the film to turn it into a humdrum, slickly bland crime procedural.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Alcatraz's early crime stories are competent enough, in a moody, achey, men-gone-wrong kind of way. But there's a coldness to the show, and no sense that these are characters I want to invest in and spend time getting to know.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The premiere left the Why?--that is, the show’s purpose and point of view--unanswered.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The three episodes NBC screened, especially the two past the pilot, aren’t bad, really; they’re studiously un-bad to the point of blandness. The supporting characters are thin types.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Ten Years Later, with its adults now playing adults, is less emotionally rooted and its parody more scattershot.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    While tonight’s first episode of Rake (the only one given critics, besides an earlier version of the pilot that was remade since last spring) is--well, rakishly--amusing, it’s not really enough to give a sense of what kind of show this will be, and whether it’s worth sticking with.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The episodes sometimes veer into contempt for the characters. There’s a deeper pathos to Miranda’s situation, but the season doesn’t delve deeply into that until late, by which time haters will have long since backed off.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The tumult of Henry VIII's reign, especially the schism between him and the Catholic Church, is rich material, and the soap opera of his multiple wives is naturally absorbing: it's just a crime that Showtime couldn't do better with the material than the thinly written eye candy it came up with.
    • 44 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    It's sometimes broadly funny and sometimes broadly bad.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    There's something missing from this postapocalyptic drama, namely, a realistic feeling of apocalypse.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The Palin's in Sarah Palin's Alaska is a possessive. But you could be forgiven for suspecting it's really a contraction--Sarah Palin Is Alaska--or for wondering if someone is hoping for a spin-off: Sarah Palin's America.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Discovery feels like it’s adrift between the adventure-of-the-week format of its network-TV predecessors and the kind of complex serial favored by cable and streaming.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    It was half appealing, with strong chemistry between Kat Dennings​ and Beth Behrs, and half awful, with some egregiously clunky one-liners and borderline (or over the border) offensive ethnic caricatures.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Banshee's not a terrible show. At times it can be entertaining. But at best it's terribly, entertainingly superfluous.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    With writing and directing by Neil Jordan and Irons in the lead, it has pedigree and promise. And yet The Borgias, besides the glaring Tudors parallels, is one of those shows that seems like it might actually be better if it were worse.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Fallon's monologue was understandably nervous and unremarkable joke-wise, but there were glimmers of potential.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The message, overall--insofar as you can take a message from one episode of a talk show, which you can't--is that Conan the show is not so much about a reinvention of the talk show form as a restoration of Conan.
    • 42 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Katie may not be as successful as Oprah, but she does, whatever you think of this format, seem immediately comfortable in it, cracking unguarded jokes but also owning her celebrity.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Like many of ABC's post-Lost attempts at serials, this one has a great premise with tremendous potential, but I wish more attention had been paid to fleshing out the characters and generally bringing a fresher voice to the dialogue.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    There are some funny set pieces in the pilot, and enough fruitful interactions with the patients and their troublesome owners that I could see this show developing into a kind of Scrubs with rabies shots, if the characters can develop beyond the familiar menagerie we start out with.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The problem for GCB is that it hasn't yet figured out a way to be a soap that spoofs superficiality without being superficial itself.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    While I like how Lee's laid-back style translates to a police drama, there's not enough here to separate the show from the umpteen other slightly-quirky-guy-solves-crimes cable dramas.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The combination has potential, but the execution, while offering glimpses into a fascinating subculture, is sluggish and unfocused.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    It’s fine for a story of broad scope to take its time setting the table, but it needs to hook you on character in the meantime. Only Franklin’s story really does, and that’s almost entirely on the strength of Mr. Idris’s controlled charisma.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The first two episodes of The Muppets, which has its debut on Tuesday, are sometimes funny and have flashes of the original’s charm. But they also reflect a definition of “adult” that could stand to grow up.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    It simply too often feels like an unconvincing portrait of poverty and the Gallaghers, like an English council-estate family plopped in the Midwest. The next two episodes depart more from the original, and suggest the series may find its own voice; on the other hand, they're not nearly as well written.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Throughout, BrainDead has the goofy-A-student vibe of a particularly saucy public-radio show. The other parts of this mash-up are weaker. The sci-fi plotting is perfunctory. Ms. Winstead is charming, but Laurel is conceived mainly as an audience surrogate, there to roll her eyes for us at the egos in Washington. The pols, like Tony Shalhoub’s boorish Republican senator, are flat characters even before they come down with brain-bugs.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    As a glorified romance novel, it's perfectly fine, but don't expect Shakespeare.
    • 59 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Louis-Dreyfus... has a bittersweet charm (and, yes, she can sing), but it's lost amid wacky-neighbor jokes and slapstick.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    A globe-spanning series that offers in ambition, action and visual panache what it lacks in coherence, fleshed-out characters and plausible dialogue.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The N.W.A. episode, for all its flaws, adapts a larger-than-life genre in larger-than-life style. The other episodes just make it smaller, all lyrics and no voice.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Entourage continues to coast in the same zone of amiable purposelessness in which it's spent the last few seasons.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Da Vinci’s Demons [is] not a terrible show, nor a terribly good one, but a peculiar hybrid invention whose parts don’t match and that never quite takes flight.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    while the opening episodes set up this material, they don't do much with it, getting bogged down in a sensationalistic, but not especially well-plotted, child-prostitution story.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Season 2 loses the novelty of the show’s first outing and highlights the weaknesses.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    For every genuinely surprising image or premise, another is creepy in exactly the way you would expect it to be. ... For a show that prides itself on strangeness, it is the most conventional HBO drama in years.

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