Tuesday, July 28, 2015

So much TV to watch: How to deal

This is a repost of an earlier thread about how to deal with all the TV there is to watch.

We're at a point in release beyond saturation where it's not just impossible for one human being to keep up with all the T on the airwaves, it's no longer possible to watch all the "Must Watch" shows out there.

Unless you're a professional TV writer, TV is a way to supplement your life and naturally it will be balanced with other time demands of your life.  You can adjust your answer accordingly if you fall under the category of aspiring professional, semi-professional or serious hobbyist, but unless you're veering into being irresponsible, we all have to abide by some sort of TV diet.

To compound the problem, we're living in a Golden Age of TV. As a result, there are going to be a great number of programs more worthy of your attention than programs you have time to watch.

But this isn't a curse. It's a blessing.  In contrast to people who say that TV is a waste of time and bad for your brain hi mom while praising other forms of art like cinema or live theater, I maintain that the capacity of TV to enrich you culturally, socially, and intellectually is greater than ever before. There's no greater evidence of that than the fact that the amount of enriching programs on the air exceeds our available time to watch them all.

So if you have to give up on some critically acclaimed program like Mad Men or Dexter to be able to keep up with Justified or Enlightened, it's still a win-win situation. The only danger you have of "losing"  as a TV watcher is if you don't use your TV diet to challenge yourself. If you watch a soap opera, reality TV show, a standard procedural, or a sitcom that doesn't push the boundaries (i.e. Two and a Half Men, According to Jim), a rerun of something you've already seen, then you are just using the medium as comfort food and  guilty of eroding your brain like your parents (if they were anything like mine when I was younger) accused you of.  Of course, the degree to which something like Grimm, Raising the Bar, Royal Pains, or Southland transcends the procedural or whether a certain reality TV show has merit, is up to you the viewer to justify. But that's part of the fun. I've never bought the argument that Happy Endings has merit beyond the standard sitcom, but I did enjoy the process of my fellow film critics slowly discovering that Happy Endings wasn't a typical sitcom (Cougar Town also falls into this category).

It's not just a blessing, but a challenge.  Sure, it is really easy to fall back on TV as comfort food. It takes a little effort for me to explore something new than to fall back on a rerun of Futurama, Archer or Newsradio which are instant gratification for me. In fact, since the era of YouTube, my attention span has significantly shortened to the degree to which an hour-long  drama can feel like something of a chore. A show like Homeland is so suspenseful that I have no trouble jumping on board, but I've also challenged myself with shows that might not be immediately as rewarding like Scandal, Revenge, or (the now defunct) Terra Nova to develop myself intellectually [edit: What was I thinking when I wrote of Scandal as challenging? Perhaps 12 Monkeys or Humans would be better recent examples]. With a show like Hell on Wheels, it paid off heavily [Sense8 and The Bridge are a couple other examples of shows paying off heavily if you get past the slow burn].

As for discarding shows, I've never seen an episode of Dexter, Friday Night Lights, and have missed large swaths of Mad Men and Breaking Bad but I don't consider myself the lesser for it as long as whatever I'm watching grows me as a TV watcher. Sure, it might hurt my ambitions as a professional TV reviewer [edit: I am now slightly semi-professional as a TV reviewer, but the same still applies as I have larger ambitions], but there's a wealth of material I'm already exploring.

Monday, July 13, 2015

If I had an Emmy Ballot: Lazy Comedy Picks

This is the comedy series of my lazy Emmy picks. As I said in my previous post, this is where I make decisions about what I would submit on an Emmy ballot without having seen everything. I wish I had time to fill in some of my opinions, but I'm writing so much over at Hidden Remote.

Best Series:
Last Man on Earth  (Fox)
Mom  (CBS)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)
Fresh off the Boat (ABC)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Modern Family (ABC)

Best Actor:
Will Forte, Last Man on Earth
John Cho, Selfie (ABC)
Jeffrey Tambour, Transparent* (Amazon)
Jay Harrington, Benched (USA)
Ty Burrell, Modern Family (ABC)
Ken Marino, Marry Me (NBC)

Best Actress:
Zoe Deschannel, New Girl (Fox)
Jane Fonda, Grace and Frankie  (Netflix)
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie 
Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
Anna Faris, Mom
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Best Aupporting Actor:
Hugh Laurie, Veep* (HBO)
Taran Killam, SNL 
Charlie Day, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia 
Titus Burges, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Sam Waterson, Grace and Frankie
Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation

Best Supporting Actress:
Constance Wu, Fresh off the Boat
Chelsea Peretti, Brooklyn Nine Nine
Carol Kane, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Judith Light, Transparent*
Ariel Winter, Modern Family
Julie Bowen, Modern Family

Best Guest Actor:
Paul Giamatti, Inside Amy Schumer
Jim Carrey, SNL
John Hamm, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Chris Dianotopolous. Silicon Valley
Oliver Platt, Modern Family
Paul Scheer, Fresh off the Boat

Best Guest Actress:
Vanessa Bayer, Portlandia (IFC)
Reese Witherspoon, SNL
Mary Steenburgen, Last Man on Earth
Mary Steenburgen, Togetherness
Natalie Morales, Parks and Recreation
Jennifer Hasty, Selfie

Best Directing:
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Inside Amy Schumer
A to Z (Fox)
Modern Family

Best Writing:
Archer (FX)
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Grace and Frankie
Last Man on Earth
Inside Amy Schumer
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

If I had an Emmy Ballot: Lazy Edition Drama Picks

I preface the word "Lazy" with my Emmy predictions because I can't watch everything so I'm making speculative picks based on what I know of a show from past seasons or have heard of it.

For instance, although I have only watched two or three whole episodes of Mad Men, I know that it's the show's last run and I like Jon Hamm and Christina Hendricks enough that I'd be happy to see them rewarded with Emmys despite the fact that I can't possibly judge their worthiness. Why don't I just watch Mad Men so I can definitively say whether they belong? My schedule is too busy to start watching every single TV series just for a simple personal blog entry.

In other cases, I like the idea of Downton Abbey as a show and I'm happy it's being watched. I just made a decision not to watch it because, like I said, so many hours in the day. At the same time, I can say without watching Mr Robot that it doesn't sound like a show I want to see rewarded, and while it's not a well-founded decision you should trust me on, them's the rules of this exercise.

Lastly, there are shows that I watched in past seasons that I didn't get around to watching this season. Synopses and previews have helped me determine whether these are shows I'd want rewarded. In the case of The Americans, I quit the show because I found Phil and Elizabeth's ability to fool everyone around then unrealistic. However, this season I heard from general buzz that their daughter Paige discovered their secret identities. Now that sounds like the show I was hoping for. Am I gonna go and backtrack through a season and a half? Hell no! The good news is that this not watching everything method is something you can all participate in, so here we go:

Best Series:
The Bridge (FX)
Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
The Americans (FX)*
Mad Men (AMC)*
Empire (Fox)
Boardwalk Empire  (HBO)
Good Wife (CBS)*

Best Actor:
Clive Owen, The Knick (Cinemax)
Terrence Howard, Empire
Jon Hamm, Mad Men*
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul (AMC)
Charlie Cox, Daredevil (Netflix)
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire

Best Actress:
Julianne Margulies, The Good Wife*
Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Dianne Kruger, The Bridge
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black*
Taraji P Henson, Empire
Hayley Atwell, Agent Carter

Best Supporting Actor:
Jeffrey Wright, Boardwalk Empire
Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline (Netflix)
Jussie Smollett, Empire
Andre Holland, The Knick
Nick Sandow, Orange is the New Black
Donal Logue, Gotham (Fox)

Best Supporting Actress:
Yael Stone, Orange is the New Black
Christina Hendrichs, Mad Men*
Katja Herbers, Manhattan (WGN)
Emily Mortimer, The Newsroom (HBO)
Deborah Ann Woll, Daredevil
Olivia Cook, Bates Motel (A&E)

Best Guest Actress:
Juliette Lewis, Wayward Pines (Fox)
Margo Martindale, The Americans
Franka Potente, The Bridge
Annaleigh Ashford, Masters of Sex
Barbara Rosenblat, Orange is the New Black
Alysia Reiner, Orange is the New Black

Best Guest Actor:
Pablo Schreiber, Orange is the New Black
Terrence Howard, Wayward Pines
Zeljko Ivanek, 12 Monkeys (SyFy)
Frank Langella, The Americans
Beau Bridges, Masters of Sex
F. Murray Abraham, Homeland*

Drama Writing
Good Wife*
The Americans
Orange is the New Black
Boardwalk Empire
Downton Abbey*

Orange is the New Black
Sense 8 (Netflix)
The Knick
Agent Carter
The Americans
Boardwalk Empire

An asterisk indicates a show I didn't actually see.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Links to all my work at Hidden Remote

Since May, I have been writing for Hidden Remote as a TV reviewer.

I have not been able to blog here as much but I will use this space to highlight the work I've been doing there.

First off, here is my author page.

I started out with an essay on breakout stars from the Spring of 2015 that follows off my annual Top 25 Characters posts. I included probable Emmy nominee Ben Mendelsohn from Bloodline, breakout scenery chewers Constance Wu and Taraji P Henson of Fresh off the Boat and Empire respectively, Anna Faris of Mom, Carol Kane of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Charlie Cox of Daredevil, Emily Hampshire of Schitt's Creek and Charlie Day of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Will Forte for Last Man on Earth and recurring star Adam Devine for Modern Family.

I then did a critical reassessment of the 2003 Daredevil in light of the successful Netflix series.

From there I reviewed 2 Broke Girls in the last two episodes of the season and had a lot of fun reviewing a show I feel has some redeeming qualities but is ultimately very crude and sloppy. In the second review, I had a lot of fun dissecting some of the bad jokes line-for-line.

After that, I looked at some of the Guest Stars You Didn't Know Were On It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I also did a Season 1 review of Sense8 which I found a highly ambitious and unconventional superhero show that had a very impressive commitment to being a global show.

Currently, I am reviewing the first season of The Brink on HBO and the second season of Halt and Catch Fire on AMC. The Brink is a show that I have fallen in love with after five episodes but it's been particularly jarring to see other critics in disagreement with me. One of the most exciting things about reviewing TV is that you form opinions in a vacuum and I had no idea that other critics wouldn't respond the same way as I did when I reviewed the show. Halt and Catch Fire is a show I pretty much gave up on first season but because of the convenience of the premiere date (and a connection to one of the show's executive producers), I decided to give it a second try and while the show isn't among my favorites this year, it has markedly improved.