James Poniewozik

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For 567 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 2.2 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

James Poniewozik's Scores

Average review score: 65
Highest review score: 100 Rectify: Season 4
Lowest review score: 0 I Wanna Marry Harry: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 58 out of 567
567 tv reviews
    • 99 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    Rectify, a drama entering its final season on SundanceTV on Wednesday, is exceptional in being concerned with what comes after prison, for ex-convicts, for their families, for an entire community.
    • 98 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    A satisfying, touching and excruciatingly funny severance package.
    • 98 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The Leftovers grasps an outlandish idea with absolute emotional commitment: The performances in this final run are spectacular throughout, but especially Ms. Coon’s and Mr. Theroux’s. The final season sometimes repeats the first two, from the use of dream imagery to specific story beats like a business trip Nora takes (recalling “Guest,” a Season 1 standout episode). Because it depends so much on callbacks, it’s designed more to cater to the show’s faithful than to expand its flock.
    • 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 Americans has created a crowded bulletin board of characters and subplots, and this new season struggles to pin the yarn to connect them all. But each resonates with the others, like movements in a melancholy symphony.
    • 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.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    Season two broadens its focus to the vast extended Pfefferman mishpocheh: children, in-laws, exes and long-gone ancestors. And it’s all the richer for it.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    The series’ nuanced depiction of espionage as grinding emotional labor is still enthralling.
    • 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
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    It is unflinching, vital and scary as hell.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    [A] haunting, creepy, and beautiful French series
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The confidence and adventurousness of Louie‘s experiments are still present, but reined in and focused.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    It is still a magnificent beast: bold, confident and venturing off in new directions.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    Master of None, the year’s best comedy straight out of the gate, is a lot of things.
    • 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
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    [A] tense and exquisite limited series on HBO. ... The later episodes become a more conventional legal story, as Stone patches together a defense, and the case becomes Nancy Grace-ified in the media. There are nods to TV legal series throughout.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    Dry and offbeat, with an immediate, original voice, this comedy is a back-roads drive through the expansive territory between rags and riches.
    • 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.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The show acquits itself well. Despite the audience’s knowledge that the former football star Orenthal James Simpson will be found not guilty (history is not a spoiler, sorry), the series is absorbing, infuriating and, yes, thoroughly entertaining.
    • 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
    In a way, the show is both complement and antithesis to the true-crime phenomena The Jinx and Serial; rather than attempt closure and a solution, it cares far more about how people live with the unknown.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The absurdist comedy and hallucinatory visuals match the series’ take on Hollywood as a reality-distortion field. But the series never takes an attitude of easy superiority to its showbiz characters. At heart, BoJack Horseman is a comedy about lonely people (and animals) who are never by themselves. That melancholy spirit comes through beautifully in the stunning fourth episode of the new season.
    • 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
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Fargo is becoming an expertly made meta-concoction, a remix of a remix. ... The effect of the casting [of Ewan McGregor as the two brothers] isn’t to show the brothers’ similarity, but how life and circumstance have shaped them so differently. It’s remarkable, and no mere stunt.
    • 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
    Its fifth season is in fine, familiar form.
    • 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
    • 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.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    UnREAL remains one of TV’s most sharp-minded and -tongued escapes, a heart-shaped box full of chocolate and razor blades.
    • 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
    • 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
    I recommend it heartily: Mark Rylance is spectacular as Cromwell, bringing subtlety and melancholy to a man who was more of a bulldog in real life (as Hans Holbein the Younger painted him), but conveying the terrifying efficiency of his mind all the same.
    • 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
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The Knick has become much more than another tortured-genius antihero story. It has developed a sprawl reminiscent of HBO’s “Deadwood,” stretching to the mansion and the gutter with equal familiarity.... Despite the often dark outlook, there’s also a sense of awe at the analog machinery of life.
    • 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
    • 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
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Lady Dynamite has its own bizarre-sincere voice and its own dream logic. It’s something else, in a good way: a journey to the center of Ms. Bamford’s mind that dives through fantasy after loopy fantasy and emerges with something real.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It’s arch, playful and pop literate. ... The rapid-fire jokes don’t all land, the supporting characters can be cartoonish and the satire didactic. The show’s strength is its confident, consistent voice.
    • 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.
    • 85 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.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Through the four episodes screened for critics, the season bursts with power and purpose but misses a spark of life. It plays like an earnestly acted position paper.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The 2016 presidential campaign has yet to produce a distinctive comedy voice, but Ms. Bee made a bold early case that it could be hers.
    • 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.
    • 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
    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.
    • 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.
    • 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
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It makes for a slow but haunting last beginning. The final overture is well-orchestrated by Weiner.
    • 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
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Racy, amiable and honest, Catastrophe doesn’t feel the need to amp up its story with surprises either. It just does the exact thing it’s supposed to.
    • 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.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    The new season takes time to reset, and the movement in the early episodes is slow. The character dynamics are solid, though, and the ’80s details continue to be spot on.
    • 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.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 100 James Poniewozik
    Legion presents a superhero drama as psychic journey, distinguishing itself in an overcrowded genre by setting its most compelling drama in its protagonist’s mind. It’s no ordinary comic-book show: it’s a head trip, and it’s spectacular.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    The Returned is mesmerizing television.... The first three new episodes complicate the plot more than advance it.... But the questions are tantalizing. Like HBO’s “The Leftovers,” this is a gorgeous, full-hearted drama about grief, rich with metaphor.
    • 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.

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