Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (Image: Syfy)

Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Sunday, July 31. All times are Eastern.

Top picks

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (Syfy, 8 p.m.): We have no one to blame for this but ourselves. When the first Sharknado appeared on our screens, it was an absolute delight, full of intentional and unintentional badness that came together to create something beautiful. And then when Sharknado 2: The Second One appeared, it still had that nutso energy, even though it showed an unhealthy fondness for celebrity cameos and a strange belief that Tara Reid was leading lady material. Then came Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, which proceeded to double down on both of those things, bury itself under product placement, throw the fate of one of its “stars” to the internet wolves, and—most offensively—find a part for Ann Coulter that didn’t end in her vivid dismemberment. At this point there seemed nowhere else for shark-filled tornadoes to go, and the hope was that the series would disappear up its own increasingly self-referential ass.


No such luck, as we all kept tuning in and playing along on Twitter. Now it’s not just a trilogy; it’s a franchise, and one that feels comfortable cribbing from one of science fiction’s most storied franchises that only recently returned to grace. The pen of Thunder “It’s My Real Name” Levin now gives us Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, and with it Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, and a legion of stunt-casted pre-chum waging their latest battle against the bastard love child of ichthyology and meteorology. Caroline Framke finally gave up on the series after the third installment—her exact words were “blatantly manipulative… calculated and joyless”—so Les Chappell is strapping on the robotic chainsaw hand to see if the series can achieve its previous ludicrous speed or find even lower points to reach.

Preacher (AMC, 9 p.m.): A show that goes as insane as Preacher has in its first season is a show worth celebrating. This first season has been a treat in a slow summer with the level of crazy elements that it’s introduced—vampires with a fondness for drugs, chainsaw- and coffee-can-toting angels, shotgun-carrying Jackie Earle Haley wiping out alternative-energy executives, Eugene heading to hell with one word—and the possibilities of what could happen in tonight’s finale have us positively giddy. Zack Handlen is more restrained, saying “There’s no guarantee that the payoff next week will be everything we’re looking for, but there’s enough reason to trust that it could be.” C’mon, Zack, be optimistic!

The Jim Gaffigan Show (TV Land, 10 p.m.): In tonight’s episode, “He Said She Said,” Jim and Jeannie get into a big fight and have to determine what they are truly in conflict about. Given that this episode title shares the name of a 1991 romantic comedy starring Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Perkins, perhaps it turns out that, like in that movie, the differences are based on politics and a talk show is the answer.

Premieres and finales

The Circus: Inside The Greatest Political Show On Earth (Showtime, 8 p.m.): The insane slouch towards Bethlehem that is the 2016 election is ready to kick into full gear, but Showtime’s documentary series gets a bit of a break, wrapping up its pair of convention coverage episodes before returning in the fall for regular installments. We should all be so lucky to get away from this for a few weeks.


Teen Choice Awards 2016 (Fox, 8 p.m.): Some of our What’s On Tonight brethren would probably have made this a top pick, given that John Cena is hosting the ceremony (along with actress/recording artist Victoria Justice). We, on the other hand, do not understand the appeal of wrestling at all, and therefore this show and all other WWE-related programming will be condemned to remain in a less prestigious section of Sunday’s What’s On Tonight. Apparently tonight Justin Timberlake will be recognized with the Decade Award “for his constant evolution as an artist over the last 10 years.” We hope he takes the time in his speech to single out his work in The Love Guru and Yogi Bear.

Food Paradise International (Travel, 8 p.m.): The second season continues the search for the world’s most exotic foods, and it’s opening up with “Seafood Paradise.” It’s a safe bet that wherever they’re going, Rio De Janeiro is probably not on the list.


Jeff Ross Presents: Roast Battle, Live Finals (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.): For the live finals of Roast Battle, filmed at Montreal’s Just For Laughs comedy festival, Jeff Ross and Brian Moses present a “bracket-style insult-comedy Thunderdome event” that pits comedians against each other with increasingly savage barbs. No word on if they’re promising a Fury Road-themed sequel.

Regular coverage

The Night Of (HBO, 9 p.m.)

Power (Starz, 9 p.m.)

Vice Principals (HBO, 10:30 p.m.)

Streaming pick

Sharknado (Netflix, Hulu Plus): Yes, we were pretty mean to the Sharknado franchise in our top pick entry, but we do have legitimate affection for the first installment. It’s a perfect storm (pun intended) of everything that makes bad cinema good: ludicrous plotting, wooden acting, shoddy CGI, and the cognitive dissonance of being a knowingly terrible film that somehow still takes what it’s doing seriously and comes across as an even bigger joke because of it.


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