James Poniewozik
Select another critic »
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
    • 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.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The writing is uneven... but the idea is audacious enough to keep you following the loose threads.
    • 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.
    • 44 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    If the writing can rise to [Harrison's and Hall's] performances, The Loop could take flight.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    You may feel the faith-and-family themes could be handled better on cable--mainly because they have been.
    • 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!"
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    Its early episodes are a mix of power and disappointment.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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
    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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 58 James Poniewozik
    Eastbound & Down, is a funny show if you don't expect too much.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    There's something missing from this postapocalyptic drama, namely, a realistic feeling of apocalypse.
    • 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.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    As a glorified romance novel, it's perfectly fine, but don't expect Shakespeare.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Fallon's monologue was understandably nervous and unremarkable joke-wise, but there were glimmers of potential.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    It's competent. It also seems a little familiar and unnecessary.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Life's Too Short can be uncomfortably funny in a familiar way, and if you're OK with the familiarity, you might like it well enough. But the problem with the humor of discomfort, which Gervais pioneered with distinction, is that it doesn't last long when it becomes a comfort zone.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 44 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    It's sometimes broadly funny and sometimes broadly bad.
    • 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.
    • 46 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    While I was creeped out by the way Honey Boo Boo was framing the family and presenting them to us, I couldn't help loving the Thompsons themselves.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    There’s a well-intentioned flatness to the money-changes-everything stories so far.
    • 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.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    What the network is positioning Satisfaction as, and what it feels like it should be, is a morally complex story of two people experimenting with what makes them happy, the TV equivalent of a ‘70s adult-relationship movie. And for maybe a half-hour, the pilot feels like that.... And the back half of Satisfaction‘s premiere seems to lose its nerve.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 42 James Poniewozik
    It was back to what could largely have been a Leno monologue from before The Jay Leno Show, right down to a set of jokes about the previous Presidential administration.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 42 James Poniewozik
    If you expect it to be good--then yes, it's as disappointing as the summer movie it follows. If you think of it as a kid-oriented spin-off product--well, it still suffers from characters with all the vibrancy and pizazz of a PowerPoint marketing plan.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 42 James Poniewozik
    True Blood makes little effort to rethink genre conventions.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 42 James Poniewozik
    As with any knockoff, the onus is on The Fashion Show to offer something different and better, and so far it does neither.
    • 45 Metascore
    • 42 James Poniewozik
    This Prisoner is visually stunning and risk-taking but not a satisfying rethinking.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 42 James Poniewozik
    NBC has been telling us all summer, was "comedy at 10," not simply a second Tonight Show. Instead, what we got was a monologue, a couple taped comedy bits, an interview, a musical act, another interview and Headlines.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    The staff is well cast. .... But in portraying its one-dimensional teens, a surly lot of vipers and nitwits, Boston needs remedial ed.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    There are no aliens, no teleporters and no lasers. And sadly--given creator Joss Whedon's track record with Buffy the Vampire Slayer--no laughs or thrills.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    As with many other instances of men sharing their feelings, Love is better in theory than in practice.
    • 35 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    In the end, both [CBS' and ABC's Pope] movies stick to what viewers can agree on (commies and Nazis, bad; love, good), while skipping much of the Pope's sometimes polarizing tenure as a leader.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    The problem is, where Hugh Laurie's Gregory House is a hilarious character study, Stark--while played with ebullient aggression by Woods--is just another tool in a suit, and neither the characters, the stories nor the writing rise near House's level.
    • 50 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    Its visuals are gorgeous and its mystical glimpses tantalizing, but its transcendence is more asserted than earned. We sinful mortals still want prosaic things like a story.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    This sometimes thought-provoking drama may be too familiar and slack for all but the most spy-struck.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    The ideas in The Goode Family are promising, and the era of green consciousness and Hope and Change would seem to provide a target-rich environment. The problem is that the family seems missing from this family comedy: the satire is so pointed and obvious that it gets in the way of developing the Goodes as people--when it doesn't sabotage the characters altogether.
    • 46 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    Secret Girlfriend is just too clumsy, and not funny enough. Part of the problem is the format.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    Hot in Cleveland, in other words, is like an artificially created rerun, as if someone discovered the masters of a sitcom that had been locked up in a vault since 1987. And I don't mean that in a good way.
    • 28 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    Sadowski, recast in the role of Henry, has better delivery and chemistry with Shatner. And the show may well please fans of throwback insult comedies, longing for the days of The Ropers and C.P.O. Sharkey. But why anyone needed to buy the rights to a Twitter feed to base a sitcom on the concept "Cranky Old Man Makes Wisecracks" is beyond me.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    The show seems sympathetic to them as far as it goes, but the fat humor is just predictable and lame.
    • 36 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    It could work with better writing and a more grounded characterization, but instead the show just lurches between tones, and the lead performance, between Smits having a lark as a rascally rebel and Smits in high-dudgeon mode
    • 49 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    V may be giving us more aliens, but I'm still looking for the people.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    In practice, Off the Map plays like a rote example of "It's _____, but set in _______!" school of programming, in which the background is much more interesting than the foreground.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    Her character, a hard-drinking, pistol-packing liberal with a lot to say about how the legal system is stacked against the average guy, is as outsized a figure as you'd expect, but Bates manages to ground her in reality. But she's surrounded by thinner-than-thin supporting characters: loopy coworkers, arrogant legal adversaries and clients who are the kind of caricatures of Troubled Urban Street Youth that, I guess, are supposed to not be offensive as long as your legal drama is taking their side.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    Even on the level of it's-just-entertainment, Camelot is exceedingly silly.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    You might watch Teen Wolf and find a diverting if familiar, brooding teen drama, and that's fine. I found myself watching it and thinking: I want my MTV.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    What we lose in the US Free Agents pilot is the sense of emotional commitment to the situations of the characters.
    • 59 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    If the story-through-backstory becomes more compelling, and in the process Bridget and Siobhan become well-enough developed to give Gellar something to do, Ringer might turn around. So far, though, it's just twice as much of a disappointing thing.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    It also has hints--just hints--of a fascinating show about the implications of technology and the limits of knowledge. But I don't know if it really wants to, or will be allowed to, become that more interesting show.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    The movie seems to want to make a larger point about modern politics from the way Palin's nomination was used by the flagging McCain campaign--as a shiny object to "change the narrative" and shift the buzz from Barack Obama--but the movie itself gets distracted by its own shiny object, Palin.
    • 33 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    If you can say that Bristol Palin: Life's a Tripp is about anything, it's about being on the reality show Bristol Palin: Life's a Tripp.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    For now this show is much more normal--read: mediocre--than it seems to think it is.

Top Trailers