Kathryn VanArendonk

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For 49 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 38% higher than the average critic
  • 10% same as the average critic
  • 52% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 2.3 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

Kathryn VanArendonk's Scores

Average review score: 66
Highest review score: 100 Planet Earth II: Season 1
Lowest review score: 30 Black Mirror: Season 5
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 49
  2. Negative: 2 out of 49
49 tv reviews
    • tbd Metascore
    • 60 Kathryn VanArendonk
    There is a clear sense that several different pieces have been sewn together to create the end result, and they don’t always fit together as smoothly as they could. ... And when things don’t gel with a particular guest, they really just do not gel. When they do, though, Good Talk shifts from a strange and sometimes frustratingly messy talk show into something that looks more like two master fencers really enjoying a chance to spar.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 50 Kathryn VanArendonk
    I did not know about the story of Eli Cohen before watching The Spy, and so for that, I’m glad I did see it. I know more about history than I did before. I only wish The Spy had done a little more to shade in some subtle colors within its stark, blunt outline.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 Kathryn VanArendonk
    The best part of the series is not that we recognize Homelander as a twisted, perverted Captain America knockoff. The best part is that we also immediately recognize the real-world corollary for Madelyn Stillwell, with her corporate greed, her desperation to keep this organization within her control, and her laser focus on public image.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 Kathryn VanArendonk
    The best Veronica has been since its 2004 debut.
    • 56 Metascore
    • 40 Kathryn VanArendonk
    The trouble with the U.S. Love Island, at least so far, is that, in spite of all the pressure from unknowable producers who insert dramatic twists whenever they can, in spite of the inherent drama of being trapped together in a villa, and in spite of the most effective Love Island premise — which is that couples have to sleep in a bed together even though they barely know each other — nothing interesting happens. The betrayals are low-key.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 Kathryn VanArendonk
    It’s intentionally full of contradictions, and Ansari has no interest in trying to resolve them. Right Now feels like a reckoning because it feels like an hour of Ansari, actively and sometimes futilely and often hilariously, attempting to wrestle with what it means to be an artist in the world right now. I’m not sure that it matters much that the result is a tangle of contradictions and generalizations and personal stories; the tangle is carefully choreographed, and the contradictions are intentional. This version of reckoning is less about answers, and more about the process of posing them.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 40 Kathryn VanArendonk
    In its first three episodes, City on a Hill doesn’t quite manage to sketch out the broad institutional framework that underpins a show like The Wire, and it also fails to make any of its primary characters especially endearing in a way that buys the show time for the rest of its mechanisms to click into place.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 50 Kathryn VanArendonk
    There are a handful of scenes where the writing, acting, and gutsiness of the underlying story cohere into something raw and striking and well made. In other moments, though, Tales of the City feels like a rough draft, both bloated and aimless.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 30 Kathryn VanArendonk
    The three new episodes of Black Mirror are almost universally dumb. ... Season five is a mess, and nothing about it suggests that Black Mirror retains its original, unnerving insight into the ever-blurring borders between the digital and the human.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 70 Kathryn VanArendonk
    Even though the major pieces are there — Aziraphale, Crowley, Satan, God, apocalypse — the minor bits aren’t magical enough on their own. It doesn’t quite pull together as a great, glorious, goofy Almighty plan. But it is still fun, and stylish, and it has enough of the book’s original quirky spark to feel worthwhile.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 60 Kathryn VanArendonk
    Sadly, I also came away from the first four episodes of The Spanish Princess with the sense that its hats have been crafted with more care than its characters. A few of them do spring to life with more persuasive detail than the others. ... Try as it might, it can’t help slipping back into the story we already know, and although the result is still entertaining, it’s also less original than I might’ve hoped.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 70 Kathryn VanArendonk
    As a whole first season, though, those pieces add up to something a little uncanny, a series that feels both highly considered and also weirdly underbaked.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 70 Kathryn VanArendonk
    On the whole ... the deliberately clashing elements of Gentleman Jack are the things that make it work.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 Kathryn VanArendonk
    Ramy is a funny and sharp and specific comedy, but what makes it shine is the way it starts with a story about a young Muslim man, but then pushes beyond a simple depiction of his life. Ramy is about Muslim representation, yes — but it’s also something stranger and more ambiguous and more mannered, so much more than just a mirror held up to one man’s life.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 90 Kathryn VanArendonk
    What makes this premiere work is the way it combines necessary plot milestones with sequences of straightforward indulgence. ... The Game of Thrones premiere gives me hope that this final season will be a return to what made the series work so well at the start.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 50 Kathryn VanArendonk
    It is not a very good game, neither difficult nor surprising, and its mechanics are so simple that I’m not sure game is even the right term. Nor is it a very good show; it’s the opposite of engrossing, instead leading you to constantly wonder how much of it is produced and whether the wolf Grylls “fights” is actually anything close to a “wolf.” But to say that it is simply “not very good” doesn’t feel right either. ... I can’t say I wasn’t entertained. I was.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 80 Kathryn VanArendonk
    With a full half-hour and a bigger budget, Special could go from being a great if slightly-too-scant story to something really magical.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 Kathryn VanArendonk
    Veep is still as hilariously cutting as ever. Its performances are fantastic, its rhythm and density are unparalleled, and its sense of the absurd is still sharp, especially in moments where it mocks political events. ... The Jonah plotline is hard to stomach--because it’s meant to be that way--and yet the rest of its stories feel like they’re playing by political rules. That doesn’t make Veep any less watchable.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 60 Kathryn VanArendonk
    Early wobbliness aside, Abby’s is not a show to dismiss. There is so much potential in its creators and cast (Neil Flynn is so good as Fred), and even though its experiment doesn’t seem to have come together quite yet, there is a well-established history of comedies like this that have taken some time to find themselves.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 80 Kathryn VanArendonk
    I continue to be impressed with how it balances its many stories, how thoughtful and fully formed each of its characters are, and how it somehow still manages to take unbelievable, impossible plot twists and tie them together so neatly with the dramas of a typical life.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 40 Kathryn VanArendonk
    Nothing about Mental Samurai feels fresh or notable. At least Lowe makes for a strong game show host, full of enthusiasm and delight and empathetic sadness when appropriate. ... But Mental Samurai never elevates itself above “people sit in a moving robot arm thingy and answer questions.”
    • tbd Metascore
    • 40 Kathryn VanArendonk
    Too often, though, Growing is an exercise in well-trodden territory. In spite of showing off her own skin, and in spite of how personal this special is, Schumer’s revelations rarely get past the superficial.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 80 Kathryn VanArendonk
    Season four of Billions charts a middle path, shifting around enough of its usual architecture to feel fresh, while also continuing to follow most of its original characters and stories. ... It’s fun to keep the game board mostly the same while swapping all the usual allegiances. It’s especially satisfying to watch Chuck and Bobby scheme together.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 80 Kathryn VanArendonk
    The show’s flexible, seemingly effortless dodges between the silly and the serious feel true to the experience of being alive today, truer than I would’ve thought possible. For a show as intensely rooted in the Political Now as any fictional show could possibly be, that’s an impressive feat.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 70 Kathryn VanArendonk
    There’s something charming about its happy-go-lucky sweetness, and it’s a relief to watch a show aim at goofy fun and actually hit its target. But it’s also a show where most the recent cultural reference is a DVD copy of You’ve Got Mail, some of the jokes feel dated, and the settings (whether Paris, Moscow, or a random European farmhouse) look like hand-me-down locations from the first Bourne movie.
    • tbd Metascore
    • 80 Kathryn VanArendonk
    The breadth [of the casting] is good because it makes the show better. Although the episodes follow the same format of drinks, dinner, and a potential after-dinner drink, cutting between five different dates, the rhythm and tone of each is distinct. The tensions and intimacies are different. ... The show feels spare and casual, and although there are absolutely some moments of tension, it is mostly concerned with having a chill, nice time.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 Kathryn VanArendonk
    It’s a great show, both surprising and affecting, and it neatly dodges the standard tropes of its familiar premise. By the end, Russian Doll builds to a climactic discovery that involves Nadia reconsidering her past, sorting through her childhood and her relationship with her mother without ever collapsing into a simple reductionist takeaway.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Kathryn VanArendonk
    It knows itself. It tells episode-level stories well. Its biggest arcs make sense, and its smallest arcs are impressively effective. If the middle bits are a little foggy--how anything connects to anything else, the realm of the possible versus the impossible, what stage of a quest they’re on at any particular moment--it never seems to matter much. The Magicians charges ahead with gusto and style anyhow, staying both dark and effervescent.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Kathryn VanArendonk
    Brooklyn Nine-Nine is still unmistakably itself.
    • 36 Metascore
    • 60 Kathryn VanArendonk
    The Masked Singer is weirder, sillier, and stupider than [other singing reality] shows. It may also be more entertaining than them. It’s definitely more inane. ... The Masked Singer’s weakness is its judging panel, who are frequently billed as “detectives,” and who approach their jobs with all the insight and acumen of an America’s Next Top Model contestant trying to decipher the Tyra Mail.

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