Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

Farewell, Dave

May 21, 2015

Dave

Tonight I said goodbye to my all-time favorite late night talk show host, David Letterman. The web and TV have been full of much-deserved tributes to Letterman in the lead-up to his final Late Show broadcast. Even though he wasn’t always the most watched or even most liked host, it’s nice to see all the appreciation for his absurdist humor and deliberately prickly demeanor.

Letterman leaves behind an incredible legacy, but his greatest contribution to late-night comedy is unfortunately the least emulated. Letterman’s show was smart. Not just because he was smart, but because he assumed his audience was too.

A perfect example of what set Dave apart from his competition can be seen in every opening monologue. Content-wise, there was little difference between Letterman’s openings and anyone else’s–same format, same cheesy and predictable punchlines, same shallow mockery of celebrities and politicians. The difference was that Dave knew these jokes were dumb, and he knew his audience knew it. Leno, Fallon, even Conan all tried to play these awful bits for big laughs. Dave knew better. He knew they were lame. He knew that making fun of Bill Clinton or Kim Kardashian was low-hanging fruit. If a joke didn’t hit, he’d just give a wry smirk and move on. In fact, he sometimes seemed to deliberately parody the format and style that he helped institutionalize.

Additionally, Letterman brought on smart guests and had smart interviews. Short of Sterwart and Colbert (who will be a more-than-worthy successor), no other host brought on more artists, political leaders, or writers. And even if it was just some Hollywood actor, Dave never let an interviewee get away with simply plugging their project.

My absolute favorite interview Dave ever did was with then-Presidential candidate George W. Bush. Letterman had been trying to get a Bush/Gore debate on his show for months. Supposedly Gore agreed to it immediately, but wound up appearing on the show alone. Eventually, a terribly unprepared Bush came on just a few weeks before the election.  I was 14 when I saw this broadcast, and it’s the exact moment when my political consciousness was born.

I could go on and talk about how much my sense of humor or taste in music was shaped by Dave. But I can’t imagine recreating ‘Will it Float?’ in the school cafeteria or being introduced to Warren Zevon because of Late Show are unique to me. Instead, I’d rather give credit to Dave for teaching me that there’s no need to dumb yourself down for anyone else’s sake; people are generally smart enough to figure things out. And if someone isn’t, the people who are probably think it’s hilarious.

Thanks, Dave.

Farewell, ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’

February 11, 2015

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As sad as I am to hear that Jon Stewart will be leaving The Daily Show, I have to admit it will be for the best. A long and successful career in satire is tricky, if not impossible. At best, you’re held in such high esteem that you become as institutionalized as the things you mock. At worst, you wind up Dennis Miller.

While I have no doubt that Stewart would have remained sharp, relevant, and truly funny on the show forever, I can’t fault him for wanting to depart while he’s on the top. Stewart leaves behind a phenomenal television legacy which has already been carried on by Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and Larry Wilmore.

From his statement on the show tonight, it’s clear that Stewart has some ideas for what’s next. I’m excited to see where his post-Daily Show career will go. As for ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,’ thanks for teaching America to take on politics and the news media with a critical eye. But more importantly, thanks for the laughs.

Here are a couple of my favorite tweets about Jon Stewart’s departure:

2015 Golden Globes Predictions

January 11, 2015

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I don’t really pay much attention to the Globes, but they’re a good predictor of Oscar winners, and you can’t go wrong with Tina and Amy. Might as well watch and take a stab at guessing the winners. I’ll update with actual winners and my overall accuracy as the night goes on…

Film

Nominee Ryan’s Pick Actual Winner
Best Motion Picture, Drama
Boyhood X  x
Foxcatcher
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Julianne Moore (Still Alice) X  x
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Jennifer Aniston (Cake)
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) X  x
Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
David Oyelowo (Selma)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)
Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Into the Woods
Birdman X
The Grand Budapest Hotel x
St. Vincent
Pride
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Julianne Moore (Maps to the Stars)
Amy Adams (Big Eyes)  x
Emily Blunt (Into the Woods) X
Helen Mirren (The Hundred Foot Journey)
Quvenzhané Wallis (Annie)
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Michael Keaton (Birdman) X x
Bill Murray (St. Vincent)
Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes)
Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice)
Best Animated Feature Film
The Lego Movie X
How to Train Your Dragon 2  x
Big Hero 6
The Book of Life
The Boxtrolls
Best Foreign Language Film
Ida X
Force Majeure
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
Tangerines
Leviathan  x
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)
Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) X x
Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)
Emma Stone (Birdman)
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
Robert Duvall (The Judge)
Edward Norton (Birdman)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) X  x
Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
Best Director – Motion Picture
Ava DuVernay (Selma)
Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman)
David Fincher (Gone Girl)
Richard Linklater (Boyhood) X x
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl)
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, et al (Birdman) X x
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Graham Moore (The Imitation Game)
Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Alexandre Desplat (The Imitation Game)
Johann Johannsson (The Theory of Everything) x
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross (Gone Girl)
Antonio Sanchez (Birdman) X
Hans Zimmer (Interstellar)
Best Original Song – Motion Picture
Big Eyes
Selma X x
Noah
Annie
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I

Television (more…)

Seth MacFarlane ripped us off!

December 23, 2012

So I’m watching a re-run of Family Guy on Adult Swim, and a bit they did seemed eerily familiar. The clip is set up with something like, ‘it’s worse than that time Darth Vader was a meter maid.” Then we see this:

Sorry for the poor quality; couldn’t find a legit version on-line.

The clip is from the episode ‘Mother Tucker,’ first aired on September 17th, 2006. The video below was made by me and my buddy Jeff in the summer of 2005 (granted it wasn’t posted until August 7th, 2006).

Only the greatest film ever made.

Did Seth MacFarlane rip us off? The similarities are striking. But you be the judge.

Okay, honestly, I have absolutely zero reason to believe that anyone working for Family Guy ever saw this video. And to be even more honest, their clip is far more funny than ours. I just wanted an excuse to post this video again. Good times.

An open letter to Ryan Murphy, co-creator of NBC’s “The New Normal”

September 11, 2012

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I’m eight minutes into the pilot episode of your new show, “The New Normal,” and I already hate it.

I get it: you want to make television that challenges the status-quo, that opens up conservative minds to new ideas, that provides positive role-models for people that society deems “different.” Mr. Murphy, your new show not only fails at these goals, but is doing more harm than good.

Mr. Murphy, congratulations on all your success. Some of it is well-deserved (Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story). Most of it, not so much (Glee). I know you and legion of fans try to praise the show’s diversity and how it handles tough issues, but all Glee is is a sterile world full of clichéd characters who are given just enough humanity for easily-entertained audiences to fall in love with them. Life-changing issues are brought before these characters and neatly wrapped up by each episode’s end. Don’t get me wrong—I see why it’s entertaining, it’s just not my thing. But can everyone just stop pretending that it’s anything more than a musical variety show with a positive, if incredibly preachy, social message?

So maybe it’s my own fault for expecting more out of “The New Normal,” but the pilot episode that you co-wrote and directed starts off with everything that’s wrong with Glee and only gets worse. Every bit of dialogue from the gay couple starts with reminding the audience just how gay they are, followed quickly with something endearing to make the audience love them. In fact, every character is written to constantly remind the audience exactly which archetype-turned-stereotype they’re supposed to be.

I’m not complaining that you, Mr. Murphy, are shoving some Hollywood, left-wing agenda down America’s throat. In fact, I’m usually totally fine with that. I just wish that you didn’t try so hard to make something look edgy and controversial, then go so far out of your way to water it down so it’s palatable for the widest range of network television viewers. Ambitious television and thought-provoking comedy needs to be offensive. Not offensive just for the sake of it, but for the sake of making the audience think about their own beliefs. “The Brady Bunch” and “All in the Family” were both great shows, but only one really confronted major issues in society. I just ask that you quit making the former and acting like it’s the latter.

The reason I want this show to be edgier is to live up to the controversy already behind it. An NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City is refusing to air the show, claiming that the “dialogue is excessively rude and crude; the scenes are too explicit and the stereotypes are offensive on all sides.” Okay, they may be right about that last point. And the station is owned by the Mormon Church, so this one affiliate’s decision shouldn’t be upsetting. But the fact that this story has made national headlines suggests that this show might actually try to break social norms. Instead it addresses important topics in only the most superficial way. American audiences have been fooled into watching yet another shitty, focus group tested half hour network sitcom, but get to smugly believe they’re participating in some groundbreaking television paradigm shift.

MV5BMTYwOTgwOTU2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDQ5NTU0OA@@._V1._SY317_CR1,0,214,317_Maybe my opinion was made worse by the fact that the show that came on right after yours was “Go On,” a surprisingly strong debut which perfectly balanced sharp comedy with genuine drama, much like “Scrubs” or “Community.” NBC really has had some of the greatest comedies ever, hasn’t it? I’m sorry “The New Normal” isn’t going to go down as one of them.

And it may be beside the point, but for the love of all that is holy, keep your cameraman’s finger off the goddamn zoom lever. I know the handheld, pseudo-documentary camera style is really popular, but unless Ellen Barkin is about to book punch someone, you’re overdoing it.

Having said that, nice job on (SPOILER ALERT) killing everyone off at the end of the first season of “American Horror Story.” Maybe I should hold out and see if that’s where you’re going with “The New Normal.” Or “Glee.”


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