James Poniewozik
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For 430 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 1.8 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

James Poniewozik's Scores

Average review score: 63
Highest review score: 100 Louie: Season 4
Lowest review score: 0 Dads: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 50 out of 430
430 tv reviews
    • 98 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    A satisfying, touching and excruciatingly funny severance package.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    HBO’s fantasy series is as stirring in its action, as rich in characters, and more sweeping in scope as ever.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    [Louie] was and remains one of the best on TV--in any given week, maybe the best, period.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    This is law drama such as Boston Legal's David E. Kelley can only dream about.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 91 James Poniewozik
    The changes that have come to Mad Men can be discomfiting to watch. But they're rich with possibility.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    I can't recommend the series highly enough, particularly for the phenomenal performances by Lewis and Danes.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    [A] haunting, creepy, and beautiful French series
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It’s a beautiful downer, a perceptive and acute one, whose empathy distinguishes it from some of its peers.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It's all breathtaking in much the way that you'd suspect.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Sherlock, which impresses again in the three-episode season that returns on PBS.
    • 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.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    The dialogue is at times stagey, and the characters are defined almost entirely through their addictions. But for this last, reality has to share the blame.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    It's worth hopping on this poetic, profane story of frontier money lust before it rides into the sunset.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    It's a drama of chance with enough charm to roll the dice on.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    It's worth the effort, not because The Wire is good for you but because it is fantastic entertainment.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    It's raw, audacious, nuanced and richly, often excruciatingly funny.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Often True Detective is too much about the performances–there’s something very actorly about it, setting up McConaughey in particular with set pieces and monologues that, while exquisitely written on the page and probably potent Emmy-bait, would be twice as effective if there were half as many.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Prohibition provides a detailed, engaging postmortem of a very, very bad idea.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    This is the funniest sitcom pilot of the fall.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Thus begins the final season of a cerebral space opera that asks what it means to be human.
    • 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
    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.
    • 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.
    • 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
    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.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    [A] captivating, slow-burn emotional mystery.
    • 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.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 75 James Poniewozik
    Like a successful patient, the show has learned and grown, becoming more reliably compelling.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The Killing itself is a slow burn, or rather drizzle. Three episodes in, I can tell you that I'm drawn in by the characters and eager to see a fourth; I can't guess whether the story is finally going to be satisfying, and the show is deliberate and sparing in parceling out details on the case.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The second season, beginning in 2006, about a year after the last, will probably not change minds among lovers or haters. There's somewhat more capital-D drama to the early episodes.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    I'm interested but not engrossed, though it offers the potential for a change-up in the Dexter storyline.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The early episodes of season three, though, find SoA retaining what there was to love about it--the well-drawn characters, including the strong women in SAMCRO and its orbit--while expanding the show as well.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Silicon Valley is the funniest out-of-the-box pay cable comedy in a good while.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    There’s a lot of thread here, and less time than usual to knit. In the first three hours anyway, there’s too much Empire, too little Boardwalk.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    A TV series that’s well-made, thought-provoking, deeply moving.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    The tense pilot suggests the series has a few twists up its sleeve and a cast up to the challenge.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    A low-key but moving documentary about these two low-key people and their moving struggle.
    • 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.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Curb, meanwhile, stopped being appointment viewing for me a couple seasons ago, but it threatens to become so again.
    • 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.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 75 James Poniewozik
    There are signs that the premise may not sustain for long (the title, after all, gives it only a week), but it still shows that a good pratfall is the universal language.
    • 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.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    This is all a long way of saying I'm glad to see that, in SoA's fourth-season debut, the show hasn't just returned to its setting of Charming, California. It also returns, slowly, to Jax's realization that he doesn't want his life to be Abel's, and that he wants a way out.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The BBC's The Hour, the best new show this summer.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    In the three episodes sent to critics in advance, Community sounds like itself again.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    The Walking Dead is starting season 2 much more strongly than it ended season 1.
    • 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.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 67 James Poniewozik
    In the early Season 2 episodes, the strain shows in the songs, which service the plot but aren't as memorable as the old ones. But the scripts are as funny and tightly written as ever.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Francis needs a stronger nemesis, if not for the sake of justice then for the sake of excitement. And House of Cards would be a greater show if it had characters who were people more than game pieces. Still, on its limited terms, it’s absorbing to watch as a story of, in Underwood’s preferred metaphor, the climb up Washington’s “food chain,” one with two kinds of creature: hogs at the trough, and hogs to the slaughter.
    • 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
    • 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.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Especially in the pilot, Scrubs is burdened with every gimmick that Ally McBeal and its offspring have used to simulate comedy--fantasy scenes, gratuitous sex jokes and sound effects. ... But the show also has a dry, unjaded humor.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    It's not essential anymore, but it's still welcome.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    The series is no longer about the Osbournes, heavy-metal Munsters. It's about the Osbournes, stars of The Osbournes. If watching the family become mainstream media stars is not as weirdly fun as the first season was, it's intriguing in its own way.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    It slowly develops into an engrossing look at the methodical nature of police work and the limits of individualism.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    [Joan is] the most extraordinarily average teen to crop up on a TV show in years--yet after a few episodes, you realize you would watch her story even if God stopped showing up.

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