By Jaime Weinman - Saturday, March 23, 2013 - 0 Comments
Fights, werewolves, a heroine whose power is sexiness: no wonder Lost Girl is a hit
Here’s one kind of television that Canadians may be doing better than Americans: titillating fantasy with lots of fights, stylized sets and people in monster makeup. The show that offers this kind of wildness is Lost Girl, the story of a beautiful succubus (Anna Silk) solving supernatural mysteries that is completing its third season on Showcase and has just been picked up for a fourth. It’s been one of the Canadian channel’s highest-rated shows since it began in 2010, consistently winning its time slot on the Syfy network in the U.S. And instead of a serious genre show, it’s what writer and current showrunner Emily Andras calls “a world of mermaids and werewolves and sex manatees.”
Executive producer Jay Firestone says he started developing the show several years ago when friends pointed out that TV had nothing like Buffy the Vampire Slayer anymore. When he set out with writer-creator Michelle Lovretta to change that, he found that a lot of networks thought the idea of a girl-power fantasy show was “old news. I got one network executive telling me the show was too much like Witchblade, a show that didn’t last.”
Networks wouldn’t have been so dismissive of this kind of show in the ’90s, when the first-run syndication market and a proliferation of cable networks created a demand for low-budget action shows that made up with humour what they lacked in money: Buffy and Xena: Warrior Princess were two of the most popular. But in today’s TV world, science fiction tends to be quite dark and serious, like Battlestar Galactica. “A lot of incredible genre stuff is quite earnest right now,” Andras says, and even shows that could be campy, like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, are basically solemn.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, March 22, 2013 at 5:07 PM - 0 Comments
In some ways, Matt Seitz’s review of David Mamet’s Phil Spector (premiering Sunday on HBO) says a lot of what I was going to say. And this article from the L.A. Times has given us a look at Mamet’s distortions of fact, not to mention his reduction of Lana Clarkson to nearly a non-person, in his attempt to argue that Spector was railroaded. I’m still going to try and find some words for it. Lurking somewhere in this basically unsatisfying movie, there’s a potentially interesting two-character play; nearly all the best scenes are set in Phil Spector’s house, and feature Al Pacino ranting and raving while Helen Mirren, as Linda Kenney Baden, tries to bring him down to earth. It’s not the freshest Mamet dialogue, and the tension that should develop between the actors isn’t really there. But it works all right as a series of sketches with Pacino as the comic and Mirren as the straight woman, though even in these scenes you feel like the deck is being stacked in favour of Spector: he may be crazy, but he’s the only person in the movie who’s having any fun, so how can we not root for him?
But this is not a play, it’s a 90-minute TV movie, and so we get a law procedural on top of the two-character play. Lots of discussion about guns and bullets and plastic dummies and putting people on the Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 11:38 AM - 0 Comments
You don’t know how much fun it is to see the Tonight Show wars starting up again. I know that it’s a legacy franchise that is more talked about than watched – remember back in 2010, when so many Conan supporters never watched him until they knew he was leaving – but the position of Tonight host still carries a certain prestige and recognition, and nothing gets people more interested in TV inside-baseball stuff. The best part is, once people start leaking Tonight rumours to the press, more and more rumours are sure to follow; it’s a snowball effect. So the earlier leaks about a plan to replace Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon in 2014 were followed by yesterday’s Bill Carter article, where his sources tell him that Fallon is going to move The Tonight Show back to New York for the first time since the early years of Johnny Carson.
The leak is, in part, meant to demonstrate the depth of commitment NBC has to the move: if they’re working on a new studio in New York, as Carter is informed, then they must really mean business – though on the other hand, they built a big new studio for Conan O’Brien, and look how that turned out. Still, the one thing about moving the show to New York is that it would permanently divorce it from the Leno years, in a way that didn’t happen when O’Brien moved from New York to Los Angeles. Leno is famous for disliking New York (Carter’s sources have claimed that he thinks of New York as Letterman’s town, and hasn’t been able to perform at his best there since the days when he was on the Letterman show). You could cynically say that Fallon has to stay in New York to prevent Leno from following him there. Also, staying in New York might enable Lorne Michaels, Fallon’s patron, mentor and producer, to have more of an active role in the new show; Michaels was not allowed to produce O’Brien’s Tonight Show.
By Manisha Krishnan - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 3:13 PM - 0 Comments
And it’s not just because, as a friend said, “they all look like aliens,” or the fact that I’m losing brain cells by the second watching the show. It’s more that the constant barrage of immaturity and nastiness — scripted or not — is infuriating and, as Ioulia points out in episode 7, kind of boring. If I’m going to watch a show with high school themes, it should really be Glee.
This week picks up in Toronto, where Jody is still judging Top Chef Canada.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 1:44 PM - 0 Comments
I haven’t had much to say about Girls lately, though I liked the early episodes very much. The show still has many impressive and beautiful moments, but in some ways it’s more of a dark relationship drama than a social comedy, and when it went that way it didn’t hold my interest the way Enlightened did. (Maybe liking Enlightened became my hipster alternative to watching Girls. Though I should say I know a guy who loves Girls but can’t watch Enlightened because he finds Laura Dern’s character too annoying. I guess it’s a matter of what kind of annoyingness you identify with more.) There is no such thing as a show you have to have a strong opinion about, and while Girls is often held up as a love-it-or-hate it kind of show, I’m think the wishy-washy alternative of not loving or hating it is still available to many.
There is a lot of loving or hating of Girls going on out there, though, and I wanted to say a little something about the backlash against the show. After the initial backlash for being too white and insular started to fade a bit, the second season backlash has been very vocal and even personal – there are few shows that have inspired as many angry comments sections on as many publications as this one. There have been many explanations for this, and I’m sure each one can apply to some haters of the show: dislike of the people the show deals with; resentment that it’s being held up by the media as a portrait of a particular generation; greater tolerance for self-indulgent male filmmakers like Louis C.K. than self-indulgent female filmmakers; resentment that Dunham hasn’t “paid her dues.” And yes, there are sexist commenters, though I do think they seem to be outweighed by the people who just hate all the characters. Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 12:49 PM - 0 Comments
A friend pointed me to the (long, long) opening credits of this unsold pilot from 1984. Even as a veteran sniffer-outer of TV cheese, I had not known about this one: Aaron Spelling came up with a two-hour pilot for ABC about beautiful women who work by day as aerobics instructors, but work by night as secret agents, riding motorcycles and helicopters and blowing things up with booby-trapped lipsticks. All under the supervision of their tough-but-fair house mother Polly Bergen, and set to a New Wave-ish theme song. Yet ABC turned it down and burned it off as a TV movie. You never know what foolproof ideas those networks will reject.
Believe it or not, there is a little bit of actual serious TV history that goes with this jaw-droppingly ridiculous clip. 1984 was a period of transition for all three of the old networks, as they were in the process of clearing out the shows and programming strategies that had worked for them in the late ’70s, and transitioning into new strategies to deal with increased competition (from cable and home video). ABC Continue…
By Colin Horgan - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 10:59 AM - 0 Comments
TV Questions: Colin Horgan on HBO’s Girls
How much can you ask of other people?
There was a moment, a few episodes ago, when Hannah called her parents after visiting Jessa’s dad, when everything between them seemed to finally be on the right path. She told them she loved them, unreservedly, and her mother’s eventual skepticism that Hannah was really after some money seemed at the time to be almost a kind of an endearing parental dismissal – certainly not one with any overtly negative undertones. Like a joke, basically. Now, though, it looks a bit different.
Hannah, stuck and unable to complete the work on her book for which she’s already been paid an advance, calls her dad to ask for the money to pay it back, lest she produces nothing and is sued. She wants to be free of the money issue to “restore a little freedom” to her writing process. But her dad is immediately hostile. “You know, Hannah, I keep trying but you keep making me feel jerked around,” he seethes down the phone. “Jerked around how?” she asks. “Manipulated. That’s the way I feel, very manipulated,” he explains. “I stick up for you to your mother and you make me look like a fool.”
By Jessica Allen - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 7:17 AM - 0 Comments
He said, she said: talking points on season 2 of the hit HBO show
He said, she said is a discourse on the second season of Girls from two points of view. (Find previous conversations here.)
Episode summary: In the season finale, Hannah finds herself unable to meet her ebook deadline and reaches out to her father for help. But he suspects she’s up to her old shenanigans and being manipulative. Marnie confronts Charlie about being in love with him and Charlie admits that he still loves her. Ray accepts a promotion to manage a new location of the Grumpy Cafe to try and impress Shosh. But it’s not enough and Shosh breaks up with Ray. Hannah, who is in the middle of an OCD spell, calls Adam, who is trashing the boat he is building in the middle of his apartment. He races to her apartment in the middle of the night, shirtless.
She said: Well, if we can start with the end first, I feel like a lot of people are going to have trouble with the fact that Adam literally comes to rescue Hannah. I wonder if there will be people who suggest that they just lost all sorts of credibility by suggesting that in the end, all we want is to be rescued. But I have to admit, I did not take that scene as a man rescuing a woman. For me, it was an intimiate scene of friendship, and I didn’t find it to be sexualized. He’s odd. She’s odd. And their reunion had nothing to do with gender. Or maybe it did. Maybe I’m so brainwashed by the establishment that I can’t even see it. You know the recent cover story of Maclean’s about the CEO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, and her new book? I was talking with the story’s writer and I said something like, ‘I have never in my life even aspired to be the CEO of a company.’ And she said that was the very premise of Sandberg’s book: I’ve been brainwashed to think that it’s not even a possibility for me, as a woman. And at first I thought, Yeah, maybe. But after considering the idea, well, no, I don’t think so. And the most important people in my life, they don’t aspire to be the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company either. I don’t know those people, and I’m not sure that I’d want to. I’m really getting off topic here.
By Colin Horgan - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 2:07 PM - 0 Comments
Colin Horgan on a bleak vision of manhood
There’s an unanswered question lingering throughout HBO’s Girls, and it is this: What does manhood look like?
Near the end of the latest episode, Hannah Horvath’s ex-boyfriend, Adam, carries out what has almost universally been interpreted as a derogatory sex act on his new girlfriend, Natalia. It seemed like a new low for the program, and perhaps a new low for Adam, too – though far from a wholly unexpected one, as in the past his rough sexual escapades were fully revealed. Back then, however, it was different. Hannah was a willing partner in Adam’s sexual fantasies as a kind of neutral observer, so we laughed along at what seemed harmless, if bizarre and slightly pornographic, behaviour from a comfortable distance. This was different.
If Girls purports to speak to the zeitgeist, bottling for mass consumption some truths about the young adult generation living in the now, then it must be telling us something about the boys out there, too – or, at least, how the girls see those guys. The vision we’re offered is somewhat bleak. Adam is aggressive and manic; Ray is a kind of aging depressive; Charlie is successful, but a pushover; Thomas-John (when he was around) was an egomaniac; and Booth Jonathan was a self-aggrandizing art snob with marginal talent. At the same time, it’s difficult to pity them. They’re middle-class white guys in New York City. A familiar question applies to them as equally as it does to the girls: How bad can things really be?
Kind of bad, actually, within the appropriate context.
Early in season 2, Adam won’t let Hannah leave him initially, saying that “as a man living my man life… my desire for you cannot be repressed, and to quit this pursuit would be to shirk self respect and abandon my own manhood.” He’s apparently not really joking. Is that what it is to be a man? Maybe.
In a later episode, after Shoshanna presses for Ray to be more of a man, he attempts to prove it by helping Adam (unsuccessfully) return a violent stolen dog to its owner on Staten Island. On the way there, they discuss women, blocking the “the best” ones off into two big groups – those under 18 and those over 40 – as being the best at relationships. What makes them so good? The young ones, according to Ray, “maintain enough insecurity to be vulnerable,” and the older ones “don’t have these bullshit expectations of what a relationship needs to be or doesn’t need to be.”
And though Charlie, Thomas-John and Booth Jonathan aren’t there to commiserate, one might imagine they’d feel about the same. Charlie can’t seem to figure out how to please either of the girls he’s been with (Marnie, his ex-girlfriend, explicitly comments on his lack of manliness in the first season). Thomas-John, though a bit older, eludes boyish tendencies from the moment he’s introduced – just a big kid who likes prostitutes because they’re nice to him. And Booth Jonathan doesn’t seem to care about women much at all, keeping them on constant rotation, and treating each new one an assistant or employee.
In short, the guys are happiest when the women in their lives expect little or nothing from them, and when there’s little or no expectation of mutual interaction or trust. Put more bluntly, faced with the women, they just don’t know what to do with them. So, they debase and dismiss, categorizing as if browsing videos in a porno shop.
There’s this bit in Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides that I keep thinking about when I watch Girls. It’s where the narrator describes how he and the other neighbourhood boys would read aloud from Cecelia Lisbon’s stolen diary in the months following her death (she’s the first to go, her four sisters survive her for a short time). Cecelia wrote about her sisters, and gradually, Eugenides’ narrator tells us, the boys “came to hold collective memories of times we hadn’t experienced… We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together.”
“We knew that the girls were our twins,” he says, “that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.”
This is a strikingly different vision of women than the one the men of Girls have. As someone suggested to me recently, it might be due to the fact that none of guys and girls on Girls are really friends – instead, they interact at almost all times within the confines of sexual relationships, sticking to their gendered corners. Ray is only friends with the girls because he was Charlie’s pal, who dated Marnie, and brought him in. Adam only spends time with Ray because of Shoshanna’s questioned Ray’s capabilities, and their interaction ends over a disagreement about Hannah. There are always these same dividing lines everywhere.
It’s perhaps noteworthy, too, in a larger sense, that interactions at a distance aren’t out of the ordinary for this generation, exposed more than ever before to self-curated, manufactured images of the opposite sex by way of web profiles constructed with the requisite kitsch filter. In contrast, the boys in the Virgin Suicides weren’t dealing with a projected image at all – it was the real deal. And so, there was a level of empathy achieved. This, perhaps, is a key to what the men of Girls are really searching for to unlock manhood.
But it takes two to tango, so we’re inevitably left with the question of what this image of manhood might tell us about the women here. Girls is a show written from a girl’s perspective, so the lack of meaningful engagement between the two sexes apart from when they actually have sex with one another, hints at a two-sided problem – particularly if we were to listen to the Naomi Wolfes of the world, from whom we learned that mass culture ensures that “no matter how assertive” a woman may be, “her private submission to control is what makes her desirable.” This has a ring of familiarity when it comes to the girls on Girls, and, perhaps recognizing this innately – or having been taught it – it’s small wonder that they, too, seem generally incapable of showing empathy for the men. For, why would they?
So, back to Adam and his dominant sex episode with Natalia, interpreted as one of the darkest moments of the series so far. Dark in its explicit nature, yes, but equally dark in the kernel of general truth it, like many of the things on Girls, might have spoken at the same time. These are currently not two interacting sexes, but two operating in mutual exclusion, seeing each other as a distant Other, attempting to equally assert a notion of gender or personhood that, in this state, neither of them can ever truly fulfill.
By macleans.ca - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 11:05 AM - 0 Comments
Is Friday night’s reign as the TV “death slot” coming to an end?
When ABC announced that the comedy Happy Endings was being moved to Friday nights, most observers assumed that was the end for the critically acclaimed show; Friday night in television is known as the “death slot.” Happy Endings, which begins its Friday run on March 29, is the latest in a long line of shows that have been banished to Friday night, and fans have learned to dread it: when the sci-fi show Fringe was moved to the slot a few years ago, the network made a joke of it with the advertising tag line: “You may think Friday night is dead, but we’re going to re-animate it.” Today, that scenario might be coming true; in an era when most nights of TV are in trouble, the worst night of the week may not be quite so bad.
Because Friday is a night when few people stay home to watch TV, networks rarely program their most promising shows there: when CSI became an unexpected hit on Fridays, the network moved it to another day. Otherwise, Friday night, which formerly played host to megahits like Dallas and The Dukes of Hazzard, is now a place for shows that aren’t doing well, or don’t require much promotion; Stephen Bowie, a TV historian who runs the Classic TV History blog, says networks may have decided this was a night when “the most desirable audience was out partying.” But recently, some success stories have emerged. Grimm, a supernatural mystery on NBC, is one of the network’s few popular scripted shows, and Shark Tank, ABC’s remake of a reality franchise that has already appeared in Canada as Dragons’ Den, has seen its Friday ratings go up every season.
What does it take to succeed on Fridays? It may help to appeal to people who are most likely to be home: children. One of the last successful and profitable Friday lineups was ABC’s “TGIF” in the 1990s, where writers were asked to make shows for kids and their parents. Michael Price, a writer and producer for The Simpsons who wrote for the ABC comedy Teen Angel, recalls, “We all knew going in that it was specifically a TGIF show, meant to complement the established TGIF shows,” such as Boy Meets World. And the writers tried to please themselves while “always keeping in mind that we were a show aimed at the whole family.”
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 7:00 PM - 0 Comments
Tim Goodman of the Hollywood Reporter has been offering suggestions to the broadcast networks of what they can do to stave off their impending doom. First he suggested that NBC turn itself into a cable network, simply accepting the fact that low ratings are the new normal and operating the way a cable network does. Then he argued that the network model needs a Steve Jobs type of visionary to change it from the ground up. Now he’s suggesting that networks should pledge, in advance, that they will let certain shows they believe in run for a full season, so that we can get into these shows without fear that they’ll disappear too early.
Now, I’m all for giving advice to the broadcast networks – I do it myself, constantly and smugly – but I don’t think these ideas would probably work. When it comes to adopting the cable model, what basic cable networks have going for them above all is not their willingness to take risks, nor their ability to greenlight personal shows, nor even their greater freedom on language (broadcast networks pretty much pulled even with cable long ago when it comes to bloodshed). Their biggest advantages are, one, they have a revenue stream based on people who buy their service as part of a package, whether they want to watch the channel or not; and two, they don’t have to program a full week of original material to make money. The biggest adjustment cable people make when they move to broadcast, and the thing that trips them up the most, is that they have to put on so much original programming. Some of it is good, some of it is terrible, some of it is in-between, but it all has to go on the air.
By Manisha Krishnan - Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 2:20 PM - 0 Comments
This week’s Housewives begins with a coincidence that would only ever occur on reality TV.
Mary’s agent informs her that she’ll be kicking off a press tour to promote her album and the first stop is — gasp — Toronto. This, of course, aligns perfectly with Jody’s TO trip to guest judge Top Chef Canada.
Out of the kindness of her heart, or maybe because she just wants friends, Mary invites Robin to sing background vocals during her performance of Hero on Global Toronto’s Morning Show.
Robin replies, “That would be the most exciting thing ever in my life.”
Really? I thought these women were meant to be Oprah rich.
By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 11:13 AM - 0 Comments
Everyone’s always talking about movie continuations of cancelled TV series. Mostly Arrested Development, where the team recently revealed that they don’t have a script or a studio, but they continue to tell us that the Netflix episodes are leading into this unmade movie. But the creator and star of Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell, are taking a more sensible tack: they’re telling fans that they can have a movie if they help finance it.
In one of the most ambitious Kickstarter projects to date, Thomas and Bell are trying to raise $2 million to help defray the cost of making the film. Warner Brothers, which owns the show but expressed doubts about whether there’s a market for such a movie (the disappointing box-office of Serenity was probably a big blow to other cult TV shows trying to get movies made), has agreed to make the film if they can reach their fundraising goal. I suppose even a low-budget film would wind up costing the studio more than what they raise on Kickstarter, if you include all the costs that go into production, marketing and distribution – but meeting the Kickstarter goal would help reduce the studio’s risk; it would also prove, maybe even more importantly, that there are people out there who like Veronica Mars so much that they’re willing to pay money for it, a much better sign for a movie than people who are willing to watch it for free.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 7:00 AM - 0 Comments
… and for good reason, as Jaime Weinman explains
Nostalgia for 1990s kids’ shows is big today, but there’s been comparatively little attention paid to perhaps the biggest ’90s hit of all: Ren & Stimpy, the creation of Canadian cartoonist John Kricfalusi. Its original run, from 1991 to 1996, established cable TV as a major outlet for smart cartoons. “People just love the subversive brilliance of it,” says Thad Komorowski, a U.S. animation blogger who has just written a book about the show, called Sick Little Monkeys. With ’90s nostalgia sites like Buzzfeed choosing to focus on more child-friendly shows like Rugrats, the new book might be the best way to remember how large a big dumb cat and an angry chihuahua loom in animation history.
Kricfalusi founded Spumco, Ren & Stimpy’s production company, after working on shows like Fonz and the Happy Days Gang where everything was done in the least creative way. “Layout artists just photocopied model sheets and cut and pasted them into new positions,” recalls Canadian animator Mark Mayerson. Film archivist Reg Hartt adds that by the ’90s, outsourcing had created a system where “animation, ink and paint and everything else was scattered around the world.” Though not easy to work for, Kricfalusi became a refuge for people who hated those compromises as much as he did. “He wanted it to look great,” says Canadian cartoonist Bob Jaques, who supervised the animation for many Ren & Stimpy cartoons. “Other studios did not care what the work looked like as long as it was good enough to broadcast.”
When Ren & Stimpy premiered, adults and children alike became fans of Kricfalusi’s attempt to revive wild physical acting. Even The Simpsons, which started the season before, depended more on writing than animation, but Mayerson says Kricfalusi “rejected the idea of stock poses.” Instead, Jaques says, “actions and acting were, as much as possible, tailor-made,” with stories told more through drawings than dialogue. The book chronicles how new techniques in animation and painting were used to create episodes like “Stimpy’s Invention” (with the “happy, happy, joy, joy!” song that became a ’90s catchphrase).
By Jessica Allen - Monday, March 11, 2013 at 12:34 PM - 0 Comments
He said, she said: talking points on season 2, episode 9
He said, she said is a discourse on the second season of Girls from two points of view. (Find previous conversations here.)
Hannah is anxious over her ebook deadline–and the fact that her editor has encouraged her to ‘make stuff up’ in order to make the project more sexy. Her OCD flares up and ends up landing her in the emergency room, with no pants on. Adam does his best to keep his behaviour in check to impress his new girlfriend. But after he sees Hannah on the street, old habits return. Shoshannah is filled with guilt after making out with a door man. Marnie sings what is supposed to be a celebratory song at a party Charlie is throwing at his new company. Charlie is annoyed, but ends up having relations with Marnie in his office.
She said: In my mind, there were three unwatchable scenes in this episode–maybe four. First, when Hannah sticks the Q-Tip into her ear; second, Marnie singing; third, Adam having sex; and fourth; Hannah sticking a Q-Tip into the other ear.
He said: God that was gross. Just disgusting.
She said: Very disturbing. I feel disturbed. Do you think Adam is purposefully trying to push his new girlfriend away, after seeing Hannah?
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, March 11, 2013 at 10:55 AM - 0 Comments
Because there are certain things you can’t get away with saying or doing in ad-supported TV, the medium has often used genre stories, like fantasy and science fiction, to say those things covertly. And another fertile ground for hidden meanings is the period piece, where M*A*S*H could tell Vietnam stories at a time when Vietnam was still off-limits outside the news. One thing about The Americans, a period piece and a sort of genre piece (the espionage thriller form that shows like 24 and Homeland have helped to codify for modern TV), is how it uses its genre trappings and ’80s setting to deal with things that another drama – a modern-dress show, a realistic show – probably couldn’t.
On the level of genre entertainment, The Americans is a suspense piece about Russian spies with perfect American accents, and since people like Matthew Rhys are taking American actors’ jobs with their perfect American accents, it’s not such a fantasy – it can happen here. On the emotional level, it’s a show about marriage, where the missions teach the characters something about the secrets, lies and differences of opinion inherent in making a marriage work. The mission in episode # 5, for example, is explicitly set up to be about the issue of how much married people should tell each other and how much they should trust each other, and episode # 6 is all about the dangers of trusting anyone – your spouse, strangers in cars, lovers, governments. (If there’s one thing TV has taught us, is that you can’t handle a case effectively if you cannot somehow connect it to your personal life.) But like many good period pieces, it has a resonance beyond its own time and place. For one thing, it works surprisingly well as a War on Terror story. Or if you don’t want to get that specific, as a story that deals with some of the security issues that are on our minds today, but that would be impossible in a modern setting, or without the slightly campy trappings of the period thriller form.
When I say you couldn’t do The Americans in a modern setting, I mean you probably couldn’t get away with it. The basic idea of the show is to tell a national-security story from the point of view of the enemy, and not just the enemy, but the enemy within: people whose mission is to fulfil our worst paranoid fears by infiltrating our society and working to take it down. (In TV’s best bipartisan tradition, Continue…
By Colin Horgan - Monday, March 11, 2013 at 10:19 AM - 0 Comments
TV Questions: Colin Horgan on HBO’s Girls
When is it OK to admit to what you want?
There’s probably a very simple reason Hannah hasn’t written the kind of thing David was expecting in her e-book. During a visit for an update on her progress, he tells her bluntly he stopped reading her pages, and wonders aloud what happened to all the “sexual sadness”. Hannah sits across from him, apparently unwilling to explain the situation. Her sexual sadness – or at least, the interesting part of it, I guess – walked out the door accompanied by two police offers earlier this season, and is now dating a pretty clean cut girl named Natalia.
In fact, we’d just seen him, moments earlier, preparing to sleep with Natalia for the first time, and unlike Hannah, she has a few boundaries – including, we learn, not doing it immediately, but rather taking things fairly slowly. And we know, even as Adam agrees to them, that it’s going to be a problem. Eventually. Still, Adam and Nat seem still quite taken with each other when, a day or so later, she invites him to a party her newly-engaged friend (who, it turns out, is a real jerk – she tells Nat that Adam looks like Peter Pan), and confirms to him that he’s her “boyfriend.” Adam, who earlier this year, disputed actually putting a label on his relationship with Hannah, is happy with the term. But at the party, he realizes Nat’s world is pretty different, her friends cut from a different cloth than he. So, he steps out to get some air, and runs into Hannah.
She’s not wearing any pants.
By Manisha Krishnan - Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 1:01 PM - 0 Comments
There’s something about Mary Zilba and it’s really, really unfortunate.
This week, the Housewives gang up on the soft-spoken pop star even more as it becomes crystal clear that Jody is winning the war between the two of them.
First we’re taken back to Q4 Ristorante where Amanda’s birthday is just getting heated.
Ronnie and Jody attempt to rehash drama from earlier in the night, but Mary, forever trying to be the bigger person says she “will not go there.”
Jody snidely replies, “You’re talking with your mouth full and that really bugs me.”
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
He said, she said: talking points on Girls, season 2, episode 8
He said, she said is a discourse on the second season of Girls from two points of view. (Find previous conversations here.)
Marnie learns from Shoshannah and Ray that Charlie has found success after selling an App. Shoshannah is feeling socially restless after spending a summer with Ray. Adam attends an AA meeting and winds up going on a date with another attendee’s daughter. And Hannah has OCD.
She said: I’ve heard from a few people that they didn’t like this episode, but I kind of loved it!
He said: I think they didn’t like it because it was very uncomfortable. I think you see pretty much all the characters acting out their turmoil in very ugly ways.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 10:23 AM - 0 Comments
Yes, I know, it’s early to speculate about the future of Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon on the basis of some unsourced rumours. And I also know that the story of a network trying to replace Jay Leno with a younger man has already played out, and remakes are never as much fun. But while I have no idea if the linked story is real or just a rumour somebody put out to see how the public would react, it’s a given that the network will try to replace Leno with Fallon at some point, and now is as good a time as any to discuss how the situation differs from the situation in that long-ago, far-away time when Heroes was still on television.
Leno remains, to the consternation of many (including me, I’m afraid), the #1 late-night host: #1 in viewers, #1 in 18-49. Jimmy Kimmel hasn’t changed that, not yet anyway. He just seems to be the default choice for many people – particularly, I suspect, people who like topical humour but aren’t liberals. Leno carries on that old tradition of delivering the day’s news in humorous form and with no partisan edge (or any edge) to it. That gave him an advantage over Conan O’Brien, who’s never been very interested in political humour; one reason affiliate stations preferred Leno was that his show was a better fit with the 11 o’clock news, because viewers would watch the news and then wait around to hear Leno’s jokes about the news they had just heard. He’s the late-night comic for the old media viewers, and there are still enough of those viewers to keep him in business.
On the other hand, Leno’s position now is probably less secure than it was back when O’Brien was taking over. Back then, the network promised O’Brien the job five years in advance, probably hoping or expecting that Leno’s ratings would decline by the time he left. Instead, he remained popular enough that there were competing offers for him, particularly at ABC, which was considering bringing Leno in at 11:30 and bumping Kimmel to 12:30. Jeff Zucker panicked and did whatever it could to keep Leno from defecting, and the solution he came up with was the crazy 10:00 experiment. (Which, by the way, looks a lot Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 10:18 AM - 0 Comments
This piece, “If people talked about Seinfeld like they talk about Girls“, has gotten a lot of positive attention, but I think there’s a flaw in the point it’s making. It’s trying to apply these criticisms to Seinfeld to show how ridiculous they are, and how the people who make them about Girls are applying a double standard. But most of these criticisms are perfectly legitimate criticisms to make about either show. And in fact, people did make most of these criticisms about Seinfeld at the time. Jerry is too much of an annoying, ordinary-looking twerp to get so many beautiful women; the characters are selfish jerks; nothing happens – these sound like my father’s reasons for not liking Seinfeld. They don’t apply if you find the show funny, as many millions of people did, but they’re not self-evidently silly.
So I think the author is almost proving the opposite of the point he’s trying to make. Because most of these anti-Girls arguments are ones that people would naturally make about a comedy they don’t like, and because they make just as much sense from the point of view of someone who doesn’t like Seinfeld, the piece suggests that there isn’t as much of a double standard as the writer thinks.
I’m not denying that there are people who would be less rough on Girls if it were Boys. But unlikable characters, lack of plot, and self-indulgence are open to criticism in any comedy with selfish characters, small-scale stories, and a creator/star. It’s just a question of whether we thought it worked or not, and then the question is why we thought that way. Maybe we thought the characters were selfish without being funny, or they crossed certain boundaries that separate selfish from hateful (as the Seinfeld characters arguably did in the finale). But this is where the disagreements take place, not on whether the objection itself is illegitimate. If the show is not amusing to you, then, yes, the characters will come off as “selfish, petty narcissists.”
There is one argument that I think the article scores a direct and solid hit against, and that is the argument about nepotism. That argument has always been absurd, since it has nothing to do with the quality of the work we see, and so it is exposed as absurd when he notes that Julia Louis-Dreyfus also has a rich relative most of us have never heard of. That’s a good comeback. But for the rest, I think it rests on the fallacy that a) People didn’t make these criticisms about Seinfeld (when they did) and b) There is never a good reason to make these criticisms (when there is).
Update: Kelli Marshall has gathered some examples of actual ’90s Seinfeld-bashing. Quotes like “Seinfeld is the worst, last gasp of Reaganite, grasping, materialistic, narcissistic, banal self-absorption” and “Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine never spoke for my New York.”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Fox News is betting a kinder, gentler approach will rescue it from its ratings slump
Is Fox News going liberal? Probably not, but there have been signs that it’s going soft. Ever since America’s most Republican-friendly cable network suffered major embarrassments during the 2012 presidential election, culminating in the now-famous image of Karl Rove refusing to admit that President Barack Obama had carried Ohio, the network has been subtly changing its image. Founder Roger Ailes had already moved Fox away from the fire-and-brimstone tone it took in the early years of the Obama presidency, when Glenn Beck was one of its stars. But in 2013, the signs of squishiness have been even more unmistakable.
The most high-profile change at the network came when it parted ways with Sarah Palin, who had been pontificating there ever since she stepped down as Alaska governor. In her place, Ailes has been signing up people who are, by his standards, moderates: people like former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, an affable pro-choice Republican who managed to get elected in one of America’s bluest states. Another recent signing was 2012 vanity candidate Herman Cain, a black Republican who is well liked by the likes of Jon Stewart. Even some of Fox’s regulars are recasting themselves in a less right-wing mould, like Bill O’Reilly, whose recent books like Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy are almost apolitical. “If they dropped Hannity,” says John Hawkins, editor of Right Wing News, “the network would be more fairly described as middle-of-the-road than conservative.”
“I think the moderation is cosmetic only,” scoffs Ellen Brodsky, who writes for News Hounds, a liberal site devoted to monitoring Fox News. “They got rid of the crazies who were embarrassing them but underneath, they’re as seriously anti-Obama, anti-Democratic, anti-liberal as ever.” But at Fox, even cosmetic moderation is a shift, especially on issues like immigration. Days after the election, Hannity announced on Fox News’s radio division that he had “evolved” on the issue and now supports a path to citizenship for law-abiding undocumented immigrants. Ailes set down the new party line by telling the New Republic, “I think the word ‘illegal immigration’ is a false name,” even though he’d previously hired an enthusiastic user of the term, Lou Dobbs.
By Aaron Hutchins - Monday, March 4, 2013 at 8:28 AM - 0 Comments
By Colin Horgan - Monday, March 4, 2013 at 7:04 AM - 0 Comments
Colin Horgan on the latest episode of Lena Dunham’s HBO series
Colin Horgan is watching Season 2 of Girls and asking questions about it here each Monday.
How do you know when you’ve got it together?
As Quiz Kid Donnie Smith told Thurston in P.T. Anderson’s 1999 Magnolia, “We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.” Donnie’s past is full of memories from his days as the smartest winningest kid on Quiz Kid Challenge. But those days of success are long gone. He didn’t use the opportunity to his advantage, and instead finds himself a depressed grown up, just a bad electronics store employee and bumbling would-be robber. It’s a sad case. Hannah Horvath, this young potential voice of a generation, is perhaps fighting off the fear of a similar fate – one where all that potential goes nowhere because she can’t get it together – but in so doing welcomes back an old foe: her obsessive compulsive disorder.
By Jessica Allen - Friday, March 1, 2013 at 5:12 PM - 0 Comments
Should Seth MacFarlane apologize to everybody else?
I have mixed feeling today about Anne Hathaway. I wrote before the Academy Awards aired on Sunday that if she won the Oscar I would leave the comforts of my couch and take the opportunity to have a washroom break during her acceptance speech so as to avoid another cringe-worthy ode to Acting and being an Actor and Acting.
But five days of Hathaway hatred has left me wanting to hunker down with the enthusiastic thespian and watch Actors Acting in films, like Julius Caesar, for example, and pat her back and say, Well, at least you love something.
There was a reason that theatre kid irked you in high school. He or she took a vocation–that is, for many, tantamount to entertainment–and elevated it to a life-affirming art. I remember the theatre kid at my high school. He actually made his own Phantom of the Opera mask and wore it along with a black cape to a school dance. Most dismissed him–but that may also have been on account of him standing up in biology class and announcing that he wouldn’t take part in the comparative anatomy component because Evolution was hogwash.