Oh John Carroll

Tag: television (page 1 of 3)

The New Yorker‘s Emily Nussbaum wrote a great piece about the underrated It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia:

“Always Sunny” isn’t always so self-referential: while it cannibalizes genres, it doesn’t have the abstraction of, say, NBC’s “Community.” But there was something cathartic about seeing the show address, with pride and self-loathing, its own unwillingness to be easily loved. It’s not as if dark shows can’t be popular: “Seinfeld” was a hit, after all. Yet, as impressive as “Seinfeld” was, it had no muck in it. It was icy and calculated, with its anger banked. In part, this was because of who the members of the “Seinfeld” gang were: educated Manhattanites with safety nets. In contrast, the “Always Sunny” characters are gutter punks—mostly Irish-Catholic drunks, although the twins grew up rich, with a Nazi grandfather—with no skills, intractable addictions, terrible families, and little capacity to get anywhere except the Jersey Shore, where they end up fighting over a “rum ham.” They’re not fun drunks: they’re scary, sad ones.

Film Crit Hulk at Badass Digest explains why.

Deadspin’s Greg Howard explains how great NBC’s coverage of the Premier League is.

Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times interviewed dozens of current and former Saturday Night Live cast members about the experience of auditioning for — and eventually joining — the show.

Neat. Click the donate button.

At Sports On Earth, Patrick Hruby writes about the insane pricing that drives sports on cable television:

Here’s how it works: About 100 million households that get pay television also get ESPN (and in many cases, some or all of its spinoff networks) as part of their basic cable package. According to SNL Kagan and Barclays Capital estimates cited by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, ESPN charges cable and satellite companies a monthly $5.06 affiliate fee per subscriber. (The spinoffs cost extra: ESPN2, for instance, has a monthly $0.67 affiliate fee.) Do a bit of quick math — 100 million subscribers x $5.06 affiliate fee x 12 months — and voila, you’ve just surpassed a cool $6 billion. Much of that coming from suckers consumers who neither use nor care about your product, a business model that New York Times writer Adam Davison calls “one of the most clever in our modern economy,” others call a “sports tax” and the rest of the athletic world is rushing to cash in on.

Lacey Rose profiles previous and current Community show runner Dan Harmon for The Hollywood Reporter:

Asked about his recurring foot-in-mouth disease, Harmon grows serious. “I’ve always needed to express myself to strangers in order to feel OK about myself,” he begins. But the desire — need, even — to air his feelings and frustrations, often at the expense of others, runs deeper: “If I’m feeling pain inside, I say what I’m feeling; and when I say it in the way that I say it, it makes people laugh, and then that makes the pain go away,” he adds. “So whether it’s through blogging or talking into a microphone, it’s the thing that keeps me sane. I really look at it as a form of therapy.”

This is a great story about one of the more fascinating guys in Hollywood. Under his watch, Community was the most interesting sitcom on television, and his podcast Harmontown is equally engaging and interesting. I can’t wait to see what he does in his new/old/unique role.

Jay Rosen explains why he’s done criticizing CNN:

David Carr, media columnist for the New York Times, once wrote: “By marketing itself as the most trusted name in news, CNN is and should be held to a higher standard.” I once thought that way too. But now I realize that not enough people join in Carr’s belief, inside or outside CNN. And without it there’s no traction.

I remember a time when CNN was the least embarrassing news network. Does that make me an old man?

Access Memories

(I missed the last two episodes of Mad Men while away on vacation, so I’m a little late to writing about this.  If you’re further behind me, you may want to stop reading now — that is, if you’re the type of viewer who tries to avoid anything and everything.)

I’ve noticed a lot of people have come to hate the flashbacks on Mad Men.  While I never agreed with those critics, I certainly understood their criticism, and imagined myself eventually agreeing with them.  In short, they argued that in addition to becoming boring and/or repetitive, Don’s flashbacks were also unfair.  We didn’t receive this access to any other character, they argued.

I suppose the main reason I never came around to this side was that I never found such flashbacks boring.  I liked the way each season seemed to focus on one particular time in Don’s young life: it was realistic to me that he’d dwell on different moments at different times in his life.  This show isn’t Lost, after all.  But I certainly couldn’t argue much with the idea that we had unfair access to Don.  The best reason I could come up with was, “He’s the main character!”  But that’s not a very interesting blog post, and hypocritical coming from someone who tends to think of Peggy and Sally and Pete as Don’s equals in terms of importance to the story Mad Men is telling.

But the concluding episodes of season six were a good reminder of why we have access to Don and no one else: Don’s a liar.  Sure, everyone on Mad Men has told a lie at some point (many, really), but no one else is so fundamentally untrustworthy when it comes to the story of his life.  Well, except for Bob Benson, but I suspect we all agree that a new character doesn’t enter a story and have the structure re-built to incorporate him.  Bob, as we now know, is a part of Pete’s story.  We don’t have access to Pete’s memories because we’ve learned we can trust what we hear about Pete’s life story.  Viewers don’t need flashbacks when they can trust what they learn from conversation and context.

Don’s flashbacks, then, became not just ways to learn about his past, but ways to learn about his future.  Indeed, they literally burst out of him in the final episode, prompting him to punch a minister and tell a true story during an ad pitch to Hershey’s.  What’s so exciting about these moments — and the final one, when Don brings his children to his childhood home — is how they reflect both a potential change in character and storytelling.  Will season 7 have any flashbacks?  I imagine it won’t, at least so far as Don continues down this more honest path he’s struck out on.  The character is in control, rendering access to memories necessary or unnecessary.

Those are great.  Those are beautiful.

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