James Poniewozik

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For 565 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 42% higher than the average critic
  • 4% same as the average critic
  • 54% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 2.1 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

James Poniewozik's Scores

Average review score: 65
Highest review score: 100 Game of Thrones: Season 4
Lowest review score: 0 Dads: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 58 out of 565
565 tv reviews
    • 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.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The new “One Day at a Time,” arriving on Friday, is lively and full of voice, a rare reboot that’s better than the original. It’s a throwback in the best sense, to an era of mainstream, socially engaged kitchen-sink sitcoms.
    • 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.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    This is the same wry, peripatetic series at heart, a vision of urban life as a web of stories connected by wisps of smoke.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    A tender, occasionally funny, often moving entertainment about the grieving process.
    • 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.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The morals of this provocative show are as intriguing as its cases.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Prohibition provides a detailed, engaging postmortem of a very, very bad idea.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It's intriguing and promising that season four kicks off with another detour–this time into the past–that connects to Harlan County here and now.
    • 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.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The show becomes more engrossing as is spins out from her story, fleshing out the inmates, their backstories, and their alliances. You may come for the culture-clash cringe-comedy; it’s the real human stories that will have you captivated.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    While Broad City is not heartwarming comedy, there’s an undertone of need and connection between them that helps their friendship make sense: Ilana needs Abbi’s dependability, Abbi needs Ilana to give her a kick into gear. Together, they give the early episodes an off-kilter sense of fun that recommends sticking around for more. Broad City is not the next Louie yet, nor should it try to be, but it’s a promising version of itself.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The first hour works its way efficiently through an economy-size box of tissues with cleverly turned dialogue and well-inhabited performances.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    What’s most compelling about The Bridge is that it emphasizes not the psychology or forensics of the case but its context.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The show’s story lines--money problems, childhood rebellions--are what you might see on any animated family show. The difference is, F for Family treats these issues as if they’re real and lasting. It’s still a comedy, rude, raunchy and not entirely original, but it has heft and heart.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Typical of the Netflix large-portions ethos, a few of the new episodes are too long, and compared with the lapidary early seasons, they feel diluted. Still, Black Mirror hasn’t lost its currency.
    • 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.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It’s serious and it can be stark, but it’s also funny and brisk, a coming-of-age story with a sense of adventure.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Fortunately, as reminders of one’s inexorable mortality go, First Day of Camp is good fun. Like the original (set on the last day of summer camp), it’s a machine constructed of pop parodies and well-curated period references (“He’s a total fox, like a young Larry Wilcox!”) that conceals an actual beating heart.
    • 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.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The dialogue's still pulpy, but its action story is the bomb.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Over the first four episodes, Family Tree doesn’t have the gut-busting, excruciatingly funny moments of Guest’s movies--no Stonehenge here--but it adds a warmth to the usual pathos of his characters, and O’Dowd’s hangdog charm is a good match for the story.
    • 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.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It’s the idiosyncratic story of an idiosyncratic Los Angeles family that shows how idiosyncrasy has become a formula itself. But this is a well-executed version, which becomes more than the sum of its quirks.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It's not a movie for music geeks, in the sense of unpacking the band's influences or closely analyzing how their songs worked. Instead it links the music to the members' stories, trying to capture how the electricity of the group's personalities created art. It's not a revelation, but it's an intimate story of the band.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It’s very good, a swift-moving crime thriller that also takes the time to measure the effects of the crime on Tony and Emily’s marriage, their state of mind, and the lives of the French townspeople who were drawn into the investigation and may be again.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    In the three episodes sent to critics in advance, Community sounds like itself again.
    • 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.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The Dust Bowl is a powerful documentary about what human efforts can achieve and what short-term thinking can wreak.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    In each one [hour] that we do see, there’s a sense of urgency in the face of change, of characters figuring they have maybe one more chance to get themselves where they want to be.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    At its best--and the first three episodes of the season among the show’s best--Amy Schumer’s comedy is often intensely about herself.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Gotham is not reinventing the dark cop show, or the dystopian drama, or the superhero genre. But it combines them in a way that’s invigorating–and, honestly, it’s probably better than a new series with this built-in fanbase needed to be.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It has a chance to crossbreed the better angels of character drama with devilish genre splatter. Within its oversize color panels there’s some hard-boiled philosophy about trying to be good in a world of sin. And there’s little on TV quite like its fallen world.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The Leftovers appears no more interested than before in answering big questions about the Departure. But it goes nowhere beautifully.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It makes for a slow but haunting last beginning. The final overture is well-orchestrated by Weiner.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The first newscast did feel simultaneously long and breathless, maybe because there was little to vary it or break up the topic segments.... But it was a funny, confident start.
    • 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.
    • 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. "
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Humans is a less ambitious production than “Westworld.” But its more pedestrian nature--it’s domestic drama merged with a sci-fi thriller--also makes it more emotionally effective.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Catastrophe has the raw honesty of a mom on her second martini at a play date. It’s also--time-strapped parents take note--a refreshingly brisk six episodes. Even at that, some subplots feel extraneous, and like the first season, the second ends on a dissonant cliffhanger.
    • 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.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    House of Cards isn't wholly original. But it is supremely confident.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The opposition is less well-drawn.... But the plot advances, slowly and inexorably as the gears of bureaucracy, and Hero‘s emotional power builds as it focuses on the townhouses’ new residents and the initiative’s power to change their lives.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    As the series itself develops (it was somewhere in episode 3 that I really got on board), all these broad-strokes characters add together into a more complex whole.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It de-emphasizes what I thought was worst about the original–the shooting-fish-in-an-aquarium reality-TV satire–and builds on what was best: Lisa Kudrow’s microcalibrated performance, and its cringe-making yet sympathetic depiction of an actress, now around 50, trying to make it in an industry that stamps a sell-by date on women.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The result is the most promising show in years for Starz, which since Party Down’s glory days has focused on blood-heavy spectacles like Spartacus and Black Sails or morose antihero dramas like Boss and Magic City.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    That JJ has cerebral palsy, which keeps him from speaking, as well as limits his obscene gestures, is what makes ABC’s Speechless distinctive. That he’s a flawed kid with a flawed family in a reasonably funny sitcom is what makes Speechless good, rather than simply worthy. ... But by the end of its first episode, Speechless establishes one important indicator of a new sitcom’s potential. It has a voice.
    • 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.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Overall, the remake, whose producers include Mr. Burton and Mark M. Wolper (whose father, David L. Wolper, produced the original “Roots”), ably polishes the story for a new audience that might find the old production dated and slow.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    While The Roosevelts is, yes, long and at points fast-forwardable, in its best moments it gives human breath to a well-covered period of history, all in service of an idea: showing the ways that, through these generation, America matured and changed.
    • 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.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Like the dystopian British anthology Black Mirror, Humans is a sci-fi premise smartly reimagined for our own age of tech outsourcing.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    A low-key but moving documentary about these two low-key people and their moving struggle.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Younger sells it through Foster’s agile charm and its refusal to make any of its characters into punching bags. (TV Land sent out the full season for review; I’ve seen five episodes.) Like its protagonist, the ideas behind Younger have been around the block a few times. But it doesn’t show its age at all.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Refreshingly, Looking doesn’t contort itself to create a character to represent every different aspect of “the gay experience.”
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    [A] captivating, slow-burn emotional mystery.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Luck too is far from perfect, but I found a lot to love in its rough edges.
    • 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.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Beyond the cat-and-mouse international intrigue, which deepens after the pilot, The Americans has an absorbing personal story to tell--one as familiar yet unusual as its aliens-among-us protagonists.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Its world-building is so strong there’s too much material: the episodes tend to run near a full hour and yet feel jam-packed.... Even if it sometimes builds soapboxes and strawmen (Taryn Manning’s Pennsatucky sometimes exists to be a fake-toothed mouthpiece for Ignorant Conservative America), it remains as fresh and interesting as when it began.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Parenthood shows a funny, affecting, distinctive voice that you'll want to keep listening to.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    MasterChef Jr. is the most delightful, cathartic reality competition on TV because it lets you see contestants taking unsullied pleasure in what they can do.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    But for [Diane] and for this improbable but promising spinoff--it ends up being an invigorating new start.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It’s a first draft told by a first responder, with no time for niceties. But it is deepened and rounded out by some remarkable supporting performances, especially a fantastic Jim Parsons as Tommy, a warmhearted activist volunteer.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Brooklyn Nine-Nine is easily the fall’s strongest comedy pilot, clever, appealing, feeling thought-through and lived in after only a half-hour.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It offers a quiet, empathetic picture from the perspective of Romney and his family of what it’s like for a human being to experience the glare of a modern media campaign and to offer himself up for rejection, twice.
    • 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.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The Witness films are interesting not just for the external drama but the internal stories of the photographers, who try to explain what led them to seek out this thrilling but potentially deadly work.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The premiere episode is emotional but controlled.... But at its most affecting it’s about something that can’t be massaged and mediated: a woman trying to live an honest life with her family, trying to close the decades-long distance between her self-image and her self presentation.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Even when it’s boring, it’s absorbing, like an art video playing in the lobby of a boutique hotel.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    There’s enough talent and intensity here for me to step behind the tent flap, to see if all this can cohere into something super freaky.

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