James Poniewozik

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For 545 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: 64
Highest review score: 100 Louie: Season 4
Lowest review score: 0 Bridalplasty: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 56 out of 545
545 tv reviews
    • 75 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    The show continues striking a good balance with its moments of dark humor.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Supergirl is an average action show thus far, but its star is engaging.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    The biggest weakness of Bloodline is that the characters are types, straight down the line: the hardass dad, the soft-hearted mom, the peacemaker, the black sheep. And the scripts don’t do much to round them out.... They’re well-played types at least.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 30 James Poniewozik
    Campily depicting high school as a den of sluts and predators, Secret achieves the noble goal of making sex thoroughly unsexy.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    A pretty good sketch show.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Awake manages something impressive: it focuses unflinchingly on the subject of loss, yet manages to be not a downer or painful to watch, but moving, absorbing and even hopeful.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    While not as mind-blowing as the last season's finale (which had me finally buying into the show after a season on the fence), does a good enough job continuing to run with the parallel-universe scenario established toward the end of season one.
    • 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.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 75 James Poniewozik
    The new episodes quickly jump back in, with higher stakes and sharper jokes, and creator Josh Schwartz hasn't let the strike stop him from developing Chuck's character.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    The first episode is zippy, slick-looking, and Whedonistically funny. It also seems much more limited in its ambitions than Whedon’s past TV shows; it seems to be set up largely as a procedural in which the agents defuse various threats of the week.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    The dialogue's still pulpy, but its action story is the bomb.
    • 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.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 67 James Poniewozik
    But mostly, the show improved--in my eyes, anyway--by doing well enough by what was good about it that I could simply ignore the weaker stuff.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    So far, it's carried mostly on the scary-eyed charisma of Summer Glau as John's robo-protector. This grim Chronicles needs to put some flesh on its humans.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    The premise is different from Gilmore but the theme of starting over, the snappy dialogue and the offbeat charm are very similar.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    while the TV satire is far too broad, the dialogue is wittily written, and Matt LeBlanc--playing himself, inappropriately cast by the network to replace the elderly thespian who originated his role--turns out to be a pleasure to watch.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 60 James Poniewozik
    It’s an ambitious, if not entirely coherent, sci-fi shoot-’em-up that questions nihilistic entertainment impulses while indulging them.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 83 James Poniewozik
    The premise of ABC's Life on Mars is ludicrous but irresistible.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Refreshingly, Looking doesn’t contort itself to create a character to represent every different aspect of “the gay experience.”
    • 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.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    It’s often funny, but it’s not infallible. A lot of the first episode plays like a sketch-show bit that drags on too long, tees up giant stereotypes and goes for easy “Wouldn’t it be funny if Jesus did ____” gags.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    While not perfect, [it] manages to be both exciting and--if not exactly realistic--then at least reality-grounded.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Nip/Tuck is neither pretty nor perfect, but it is a provocative, painfully funny drama--warts and all.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    It now has a compelling subject, the emergence, through modem clicks and whistles, of the wired Internet era we live in. Like many a good period piece, it’s really our own origin story.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Smart fun from the start, managing impressive spectacle even if it doesn’t have the visual firepower of the most epic Thrones episodes.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Rather than titillate you with how dangerous Bob's life and position are, the show focuses on how sad, and oddly romantic, his torn-between-two-lovers situation is. And in the pilot, at least, it doers a very good job.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 67 James Poniewozik
    There are, maybe, some hopeful signs. The series seems to have given up on trying to create a bigger WMD for every season, which it needed to do. The political subplot—new president Cherry Jones wants a humanitarian invasion of a Darfur-like African country but is being undermined—is intriguing and a bit different for the show.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    Kids are drawn by the show's loopy slapstick, grownups by its dry (so to speak) wit.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    It's still an acerbically entertaining show that I'll keep watching for now because of the strong cast, because of its gift for the obscene bon mot (a Selina speech edited for political concerns by the White House is said to be "pencil-fucked"), and because I hope it will grow into something more distinctive.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Agent Carter‘s writing early on isn’t at the level of the best Marvel films, or even The CW’s new The Flash... But Atwell and the producers (including Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters of the late, clever Reaper) have made something entertaining and engaging enough that you don’t miss the superpowers and spandex.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 42 James Poniewozik
    True Blood makes little effort to rethink genre conventions.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Judged on its own, Confirmation is solidly in the middle range of meat-and-potatoes HBO historical movies. There’s nothing wrong with it, nor will it do much to surprise you. It tells a sober, linear story and doesn’t develop its characters beyond headline-news figures.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    There is no roadmap for this kind of show, and it could easily fall apart quickly. But I will say this for The Last Man on Earth: it does not seem like the sort of thing that would be a primetime network sitcom. And that’s precisely why it should be one.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 James Poniewozik
    There’s a certain amount of melodrama in the premiere (which is all that was previewed for critics), but the beginning fits a fair amount of nuance into a package that could have been a soapbox. Ireland in particular gives Christine fine shading, and the way that race plays into the story--and into Adam’s career ambitions--feels more natural than engineered.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    The writing is uniformly strong and Byrne excellent not only at reading Paul's dialogue but conveying what he's withholding--his true feelings about his patients, his inner turmoil over his disintegrating home life. But the storylines vary wildly from riveting to tedious.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Overall, the season stands up well next to any sitcom on the air now; a few episodes were meandering slogs, but a few others are among the funniest, best-executed sitcom episodes I’ve seen this season.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    It’s a potentially interesting way of dramatizing and heightening the state of small-town claustrophobia: what if this little place, which seemed like the whole world, suddenly essentially became the entire world?... That’s the biggest potential strength of Under the Dome. A weakness is that few of its characters are instantly memorable or distinctive; there’s a kind of generic, TV-commercial homogeneity to the Chester’s Mill we first see.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    It may well not be your thing, but if it is, the first four episodes of The Strain have enough stylish gore, enough well-paced mystery and little enough self-seriousness to keep you watching, giggling, through your fingers.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 90 James Poniewozik
    Secrets, threats, Viagra--Big Love was always going to be interesting TV, but what makes it first-rate drama is how confidently it moves past exoticism to the ordinary universals of family life.
    • 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.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    None of these [new sci-fi] series matches Lost's mix of character, wit and story, but the grim Invasion at least has the story part down, and keeps the horror at a nicely restrained simmer
    • 72 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    The overabundance of the first Late Show With Stephen Colbert may be a flaw then, but it’s also the best reason to be excited for the second, and the next hundred. This show may not completely know what it is yet, but it knows exactly who its host is: a smart, curious, playful entertainer who’s delighted to be there.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 67 James Poniewozik
    Because of Lewis' brilliant portrayal of the eccentric Charlie, the show is perfectly enjoyable. It's just not compelling, mainly because the ongoing story of Charlie's search for justice is so isolated from the rest of the show that it seems meant for bathroom and snack breaks.
    • 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. "
    • 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
    • 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.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    While the first two episodes of Portlandia are hit-and-miss, its good-natured satire generally hits, as they say, pretty close to home.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    It's all delightfully phony, but will win your faith on charm and panache.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    The Grinder is sharp enough as a showbiz sendup. (To its credit, the legal-drama-within-a-show would be entirely credible as one of the mediocre crop of new network series this fall.) But that element would wear thin pretty quick.
    • 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.
    • 45 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Good-hearted, eccentric and wry, Ride goes nowhere fast, but it has a fine time getting there.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    I’m less sure what the season will do with the potentially volatile racial themes the premiere hints at. But AHS seasons have always thrived on the philosophy of risk and excess. So far, the first episode of Coven is a stylish introduction (complete with black hats).
    • 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.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Though the first episodes of the season don’t find a lot of complexities in its characters (the rebel captain, the wicked chieftain, the feisty warrior-woman), it is animated by historical ideas.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    It can be claustrophobic; it can be, as Marc’s Twitter hater tells him in the first episode, “whiny.” But it can also be quite funny, as Maron’s instinctive kvetchiness runs up against the practicalities of life.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    As a straight-ahead sci-fi tale, it's engrossing: how is this happening, who is doing it to us, and how does it relate to Captain Jack's own blessing/curse of immortality? The social aspects, however, are handled more hamfistedly so far.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    A sharp if uneven Whitmanian sampler.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Penny Dreadful is, in a good way, reminiscent of a genre-bending graphic novel.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Within Falling Skies' limited ambitions is some decent popcorn entertainment.
    • 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.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    Fallon's monologue was understandably nervous and unremarkable joke-wise, but there were glimmers of potential.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 40 James Poniewozik
    As long as all you ask of it is more familiar twists and backstabbing, you’ll probably be happy with it. If you felt (like I did) that the series had said all it had to say after eight years, the reboot looks skippable.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 50 James Poniewozik
    The combination has potential, but the execution, while offering glimpses into a fascinating subculture, is sluggish and unfocused.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 75 James Poniewozik
    Its stripped-from-the-tabloids approach is nothing new, but it's well done, and a little familiarity won't hurt the show's chances.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 70 James Poniewozik
    Drive is an audacious, exhilarating enough concept, and its pace and writing snappy enough, to make you want to believe.

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