Goodwill: Where Rollerblades go to die.
First, some context: we are not especially devoted Seth MacFarlane fans. For a time we watched Family Guy semi-regularly and certainly were a part of that groundswell that helped resurrect the show from its premature grave. But do we consider ourselves MacFarlane evangelists or advocates? Not at all. We still haven’t seen Ted, and are not exceptionally eager to do so. We rarely watch American Dad and we can’t say for sure that we’ve ever caught an episode of The Cleveland Show. We were, however, impressed with his performance hosting the SNL premiere, and it demonstrated that not only could he do funny voices and write an off-color (and oft-humorous) joke, but he could also perform, and perform live, which is not always second nature for a writer-producer-voice actor. Did that mean we were thrilled to learn he was tapped to host this year’s Oscars? No, not really. We thought it was somewhat a knee-jerk, ill-advised decision (probably due, paradoxically, to his mess-up when presenting at the 2012 Emmys). But we knew, at least, that he could hold his own on stage, singing, dancing, cracking wise, and thinking on his feet. Was he going to offend some people? Probably. But that would come with the territory. Wouldn’t that be by design? If you wanted someone with only a love of musical theater and a flair for singing and dancing, then wouldn’t you just turn to Billy Crystal for a record 74th time? So, with Seth MacFarlane, that’s the package, that’s the deal (a faustian bargain, depending on your point of view): some dick and fart jokes and some mildly anti-Semitic and racist humor mixed with some sprinkles of old Broadway.
So were we surprised that MacFarlarne’s hosting turn this past Sunday night was met with a mix of disappointment and outright scorn? No, not at all. That was to be expected. But, after seeing the show, we were taken aback at the amount of criticism leveled at MacFarlane because, frankly, for someone who trades in abortion jokes and greased up deaf guys, we found his material relatively mild. It was almost as if we were watching a different show, different from the one that so much of the (tweeting) public found so repugnant, so misogynistic and racist and base. And, to our surprise, we found ourselves in MacFarlane’s corner. Not because we found his turn especially remarkable. But because it wasn’t that bad. And, more importantly, it wasn’t that vile.
There is no middle ground.
We’ve been diligently posting remixed Newsroom opening credits over on our sister site A Newsroom A Day, and we thought we would be remiss if we didn’t share today’s entry here. We think this is our favorite one so far, although it makes us miss Game of Thrones oh so much.
And while we’re on the subject of Game of Thrones mash-ups, we’d also be remiss if we didn’t use this opportunity to point you towards this brilliant GoT meets Parks and Recreation illustration done by our very close personal friend Steve Ponzo.
And, sadly, winter is coming.
As promised, we’re going to quickly dip our toes into the somewhat toxic pool of The Newsroom analysis. Like with any review or analysis, anything we say is ultimately futile and inconsequential, because, in the end, it’s not going to change the way you feel about the show, and it’s certainly not going to alter Aaron Sorkin’s vision or persuade him to reconsider his writing style. But in the case of The Newsroom, anything we say, any argument we make, feels especially meaningless in the wake of all the criticism and (less so) praise it’s received. But, hell, let’s be a Greater Fool and try anyway.
Let’s just say out of the gate that we like the show, and while that might put us in the minority we stand by our verdict. But what’s interesting or pertinent to us is not so much that we like it – or if it’s “good,” assuming there’s some kind of objective rubric which can calculate a show’s quality (which there’s not) – it’s the question of whether or not the show is worth watching. And we think the answer is: absolutely. Doesn’t that fact that the show seems to be so reviled (or snickered at) in so many corners yet still watched obsessively indicate there’s something of worth there? Certainly, The Newsroom doesn’t garner the same level of propulsive minute-by-minute Twitter reaction on Sunday evenings as Breaking Bad (nor does it come close to the AMC show’s unanimous, breathless praise), but it’s definitely one of the most talked about shows, even if much of that talk comes with head shaking, finger wagging and head scratching. And if the show was bad, unrelentingly terrible, it wouldn’t have lasted, or at least the discussion would have quieted down. We can’t imagine that if Work It had not been canceled after one week the din about its repugnancy would have continued. We would have had our fun and then watched it fade away, nary giving it another thought. But with The Newsroom the debate continued for ten episodes, and seemed to increase as we approached the season finale. Clearly, people were entertained by the show. Which, we certainly concede, isn’t necessarily the same as enjoying the show.
We joke a lot on this blog about people ripping us off – Stephen Colbert, Entertainment Weekly, Paul F. Tompkins (which resulted in a bitter Twitter feud) – but when were never as wounded as we were when we saw a new Vulture post presenting their “Map of the Comedy Zeitgeist.” Why did we find this so alarming, so soul crushing? Well, because it’s essentially an updated (and much, much prettier) version of our Judd Apatow Chart, which we used to launch this blog those three years ago. Sure, the idea that there are these overlapping connections in the comedy world, most of which are tethered to the likes of Apatow, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, and Paul Rudd, has been oft-explored for several years now. But never before has there been a graphic representation that feels so close to ours, so similar (and yet so much more visually appealing). Thus, we will not rest until we receive the credit we are due. In protest we will continue to read, appreciate and occasionally steal from Vulture.
Are we being paranoid? Hyperbolizing? Take a look and you decide.
Last Monday on the WTF podcast host Marc Maron presented his riveting interview with comedy legend Gallagher, which finally gave us the impetus to listen to the much buzzed about podcast. The interview, which ended early when Gallagher took offense to Maron’s “douchey” tone (as Gallagher’s manager later described it) and stormed off, was truly a fascinating discussion about comedy, even with Gallagher’s digressions about photons and electrons. We enjoyed the interview so much that we wrote about it here last week (we also basically report on any half-way relevant Gallagher news), which is why today’s search term is “gallagher wtf.”
But the best part about that interview is that it introduced us to the world of the WTF podcasts, the archives of which are packed with even more interesting, enlightening, insightful interviews about comedy. We soon downloaded the WTF app to our Droid and while spending 2 hours in traffic one day and an 1 1/2 hours the next we consumed Maron’s discussions with the likes of Dave Foley, A.D. Miles, Rob Corddry, and Ken Jeong. They were all no holds barred interviews that touched as much on the principles of comedy as much as they did on personal foibles, psychological defects and inner demons. Basically, comedians are fucked up. But on WTF they’re completely open and honest about it, simultaneously making the world of comedy both appealing and repulsive. But, like the podcast, there never seems to be a dull moment.
We could also sing the praises of Maron, but we’ll leave that to this New York Times profile. So instead we’ll add that we’re psyched to listen to his interviews with Judd Apatow, David Cross, Adam McKay, Ira Glass and Mike Birbiglia. Meanwhile, you should go to the WTF website or iTunes and subscribe to the podcast immediately. AND if you still need some convincing, here’s a few recent interviews that we really enjoyed:
Say what you want about Gallagher, that he’s a homophobic, racist, sexist, xenophobe, sure, but he’s also a first-rate entertainer. And he can also be immensely entertaining, as we found out in the latest WTF Podcast with Marc Maron. Listen at your own peril.
We’ve admitted to having a soft spot for Gallagher, having vivid memories of watching his stand up specials that were replayed on Vh1 in the early 90s, and, in fact, seeing him live when he played Westbury Music Fair in the late 90s (and he was totally generous about autographing the t-shirt we had our parents buy us). While we certainly don’t agree with his politics, or really any of his views in general, we still think he’s gotten somewhat of a raw deal, at least in terms of the perception of his career. He might be hanging on now, truly a lion in winter, and his act might have gone off the rails, but there’s no denying he was a star for a time, and that few comedians have achieved the degree of success that he did. And, in fact, his most popular bit was his undoing, as the watermelon smashing Sledge-O-Matic routine has unfortunately come to define him (well, maybe until now), obscuring the more creative, cerebral parts of his act.
It’s doubtful we’ll ever witness a full-fledged Gallagher comeback. By now he seems to have lost or screw or two. Or perhaps he was always missing a couple, but their absence just manifested itself in less crazy and bitter ways. But at least we know that if our car ever gets stuck on a bridge that Gallagher has our back.
Going to go a little outside the box with this today’s search term, “jgl snl,” which, of course, refers to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s hosting turn on SNL from the 2009-2010 season. But what we’re interested in right now is not JGL’s sketch comedy work, but, rather, his appearance on last night’s Golden Globes. Or should we say his appearance during his appearance on last night’s Golden Globes. We watched him introduce the clip reel for Inception and remarked to ourselves that his head looked extremely large. Or his body looked extremely small. Or a little of both. Either way, the proportions seemed off. And we found later that we were not alone, our thoughts articulated perfectly by Videogum:
We can’t knock his hustle, but clearly it wasn’t just us. But, hey, YOU DECIDE.
And, guess what, this does tie into “snl” after all, because we had the exact same thoughts about Paul Rudd when he recently briefly appeared in-between Paul McCartney performances on hosted SNL. And, trust us, we’re not trying to be mean here. There are very few dudes we like more than Paul Rudd (see the previous post). But, like JGL, he just looked a little…off.Vodpod videos no longer available.
Somebody get those guys a grilled chicken and fresh mozzarella sandwich! (because we’re eating one of those right now and it’s really good)