Category Archives: Television

Girls

girls

Have thirty minutes? You should watch the premiere episode of Girls from Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow. It aired on HBO this week and chances are you didn’t see it. But thanks to YouTube and bad ratings, now you can.

For a pilot episode, it’s very good. There is depth to the characters, we get a clear sense of story and plot, and we know where the show is heading. It’s not the most laugh-out-loud comedy or the best drama, but it has a strong voice and a crystal clear point of view. I think most of the backlash for Girls stems from old people just not getting it. This is an honest show from a young comic about living in New York after college. This is not Sex and the City (which is handled nicely with a tip of the cap in the pilot) and it’s certainly not Friends.

Whether viewers want to admit or acknowledge, Girls is painfully accurate in all it’s cringe-inducing moments. Yes, twenty-somethings leech money off their parents like it’s their birth rite. Yes, girls sleep around and have self-esteem problems. Yes, friends are can be assholes. This is the new Big City dream for thousands of college graduates every year. Move to New York from wherever, try to pursue your dreams while being subsidized by family members, and hope the free ride doesn’t end before you get your shit together.

My favorite scene is the opener where Hannah’s parents break the news they are cutting her off. In typical millennial fashion, she doesn’t know how to handle it and reverts to defending everything she’s not in hopes of becoming who she wants to be. Hannah can’t fathom that her parents are cutting her off; she’s not addicted to pills and doesn’t have abortions! They should be congratulating her and giving her more money as a reward! It’s a symptom of modern youth–entitlement mixed with financial irresponsibility and a lack of understanding on how to become an adult*. Hannah wants the life but as she suggests, she needs to live it first.

*[Rather than critics bashing a television show over this fact, they should examine this problem in the real world.]

My guess is that Girls will only get one season unless it picks up steam or HBO gives it time to grow. And that’s sad. Not because Girls is like, OMG my new favy show, but because it’s different. It’s telling a real and different narrative, a kind that rarely makes it on to television. It addresses topics that girls really talk about whether you want to admit it or not, and not in an exploitative way.

Most TV is bullshit. It’s escape and entertainment and for most of America, a way to reinforce stupidity. But if shows like Mad Men, The Wire and Louie have taught us anything, television can also be smart, ambitious and challenging. Characters don’t have to be likable to be successful. Thought-provocation shouldn’t be a negative reaction. If a show like Girls can’t make it on HBO, then it probably can’t make it anywhere and that’s not good thing for television or our culture.

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The Avalanche Point: Rachel Bilson’s Rap

My eyes say yes. My ears say no.

Almost four years ago Natalie Portman and The Lonely Island created a SNL Digital Short rap parody. It was great mostly because the humor was raw, it was unexpected for Portman to deliver the hardcore rhymes, and hip-hop had really never been lampooned by a female like that before. It became one of the most successful viral videos of all time (fresh off the success of “Lazy Sunday”). Unfortunately since then, we’ve been forced to endure hundreds of shitty rip-off videos of the same premise–someone famous going against type to show they have a sense of humor and/or humanize them. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t. The latest victim is Rachel Bilson. Continue reading

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The Avalanche Point: Rachel Bilson's Rap

Almost four years ago Natalie Portman and The Lonely Island created a SNL Digital Short rap parody. It was great mostly because the humor was raw, it was unexpected for Portman to deliver the hardcore rhymes, and hip-hop had really never been lampooned by a female like that before. It became one of the most successful viral videos of all time (fresh off the success of “Lazy Sunday”). Unfortunately since then, we’ve been forced to endure hundreds of shitty rip-off videos of the same premise–someone famous going against type to show they have a sense of humor and/or humanize them. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t. The latest victim is Rachel Bilson.

My eyes say yes. My ears say no.

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Skins

If you haven’t seen Skins yet, surely you’ve heard the faux outrage over the new MTV teen soap opera pilfered from England. It’s kids! Doing drugs! Having sex! Oh my!

I’ve watched the first three episodes, and my takeaway: the show just isn’t very good. Sure, it’s supposed to be edgy and shocking and ‘real’, but once you get past the first swear word and veiled glimpse of nudity, there’s really not much there. Weak storytelling, shallow characters, no sense of place, poor writing and tired plots. Most critics have agreed that the American version pales in comparison to the English original. (Don’t they always? The bigger question might be why we continue to steal British shows and water them down for domestic audiences.) Sponsors have made news by pulling spots off of the show. Claims of child pornography have been thrown around. It’s been great publicity for the show, all but nullifying the point of protesting the show.

It’s very simple. If you want Skins to go away, stop talking about it. Don’t watch it. Bad ratings kill shows faster that controversy.

Three episodes have aired. We get it. All sizzle, no steak. When stuff like this goes down, it only reaffirms my belief that the majority of people in this country are just dumb. In the big picture of life, who gives a shit about Skins? It’s a TV show, and a fundamentally bad one, not so much for it’s content, but for it’s failure of concept. MTV’s previous attempt at an original teen comedy–The Hard Times of RJ Berger–was far more successful and enjoyable.

If people are naive enough to believe that the characters in Skins are an accurate representation of today’s youth, then good for them. Ignorance must truly be bliss. Of course teens get laid and experiment with drugs and use foul language, but they also have parents, go to school, study, play sports and care about their future. Skins is entertainment–escapism for teens who know what real life is like. If adults can’t tell the difference between TV and reality, well then they’re the ones who are fucked.

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An Old-Fashioned Episode of South Park

Where's my creme fraiche?!?

After a three-week “Coon & Friends” detour, South Park returned this week to their bread and butter–skewering pop culture and current events with hilarious satire–and Wednesday’s season finale was right up my deep fryer. Randy becomes obsessed with cooking and all of the popular shows on TV like Top Chef, Throwdown with Bobby Flay and Hell’s Kitchen. It becomes such a problem that Sharon has an affair with her Shake Weight in an awesomely perverted subplot. Really, just go watch the episode.

I’ve always loved South Park because they just call bullshit on everything. And really, the whole ‘cooking as entertainment’ thing has gotten a little out of control. Seeing Randy jerk off to Guy Fieri and his tender ribs is the most accurate portrayal of “foodies” to date. Hearing him talk dirty on the phone to the food-sex operator is basically the equivalent of what Giada and Paula and Rachel do on TV everyday. De-glaze me, baby! People who watch these food porn shows and think they can become an Iron Chef are delusional. There’s no need to get hard over lobster foam and a goat cheese-heirloom tomato fritata and an interpretation of deconstructed nothing. Really, no one cares. Continue reading

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The League: Losing Streak

The League

Placed on IR

The League had such potential. A comedy about fantasy football on FX? Brotastic! After a promising first couple episodes, I expected the characters to develop and for the writers to get more sophisticated with their fantasy humor and story lines. I’ve stuck with the show so far, but like Ryan Grant, The League was hurt early and now out for the season.

My biggest beef is that on paper, this show should be amazing. Really, how hard is it to write a 22 minute comedy with talented actors centered around a fantasy football league? The problem is two fold: the writers are trying too hard and at the same time not trying hard enough. First, the producers have never made it absolutely clear whether this is a show about a group of friends who happen to play fantasy football, or die-hard fantasy players that happen to be friends. From what I’ve seen in season two, it’s obviously the former, and with that, they’re just pushing too hard for comedy, forcing jokes and hurting the end product. The introduction of Ruckson’s brother-in-law; great, a new character to change the dynamic, but he was way over the top and a parody of a wild in-law. Continue reading

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Partly Cloudy in Philadelphia

The Gang.

Is it me or is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia just not funny anymore?

Somehow in the past five years, FX’s little show about four unlikeable losers has gone from an underground cult hit to a mainstream success complete with live show tours and fans with no sense of humor quoting dialogue to look hip. Unfortunately, Roy Halladay is the best thing going for the city of brotherly love right now.

When It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia first came on the air, it was fresh, dark and really funny. Watching the misadventures of Dennis, Charlie, Dee and Mac was a weekly event for me, laughing out loud at several jokes per episode.”Dee and Dennis’ Mom Is Dead” is one of my favorite episodes of TV. The fact that the ensemble cast write, direct and act in each episode made the show very tight and there’s a great sense of pride in ownership. Continue reading

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