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.
More as the story develops…
In our discussion last week about Community‘s upcoming move to Friday nights we confidently predicted that, despite swirling rumors, we saw no reason why Dan Harmon would not return as Community showrunner. Perhaps we should have been more precise with our diction. What we meant was that we saw no reason why Harmon would choose not to return. The idea that NBC/Sony would not bring him back never crossed our minds. So while we still stand by what we wrote last week we were shocked and dismayed (like everyone else) when we learned over the weekend that Harmon was replaced as showrunner and essentially fired from his own show (however, unlike everyone else, we read the news on our phone during a bachelor party in Chicago, after sleeping off the night before).
More: examining the body, looking for a motivation…
We’re going to warn you right off the bat that this is probably going to be the most subjective SNL recap we’ve yet written. So if you like your SNL analysis free of emotional attachment, well, then you should look somewhere else (we’re sure the web might offer one, maybe two, other options), because, unfortunately, as we watched this last SNL, hosted by legendary cast member Dana Carvey, our reaction was intrinsically bound up in how we’ve watched this show since childhood, and how the this particular episode made us reexamine and reassess our feelings about the show, Dana Carvey and his SNL era. So, at the extreme risk of being self-indulgent, here we go.
Read on: We mourn our youth and ask the question: who is Dana Carvey?
One of our consistently most popular posts is our review of January Jones’ turn as host of SNL from November of 2009, titled January Jones Was the Worst Host Ever on the Worst Episode of ‘SNL’ Ever, so it’s not surprising that among today’s top search terms is “january jones worst host.” But we’re not going to talk about how terrible she was that night (we’ve spent enough time on that), nor are we going to discuss how horrible we thought she was on Mad Men. No, today we’re going to talk about an upcoming January Jones project that we fear might be just as bad.
Earlier this week the first images from X-Men: First Class surfaced, featuring January Jones as the White Queen Emma Frost, and it doesn’t look promising. To Jones’ credit, the whole photo is panic-inducing, not just her part of it (although the look on her face doesn’t help).
To be fair, director Matthew Vaughn has shot back asserting that this is an unofficial photo that does not reflect the look of the film. Which is somewhat reassuring. Still, that doesn’t make us comfortable with the idea of Jones as Frost, and nor does it assuage our concern that once again an X-Men movie has chosen to neglect the many proven storylines in favor of a hodgepodge of plot points and characters from the comics combined with an original narrative. It just seems silly to disregard so many revered and beloved stories. And by setting this film in the 60s, and including characters who appear in the other films or are related to characters in the other films, it totally confuses the cinematic timeline. We won’t get into the geeky specifics here, but this is why bringing a comic book to the screen can be so complicated. In the comic book world super heroes really don’t age, so it’s no big deal for someone to look the same in 1965 as they do in 2005. But it becomes much trickier with movies, and we think setting this film decades before the previous X-Men films invites too many contradictions. But we’ll just have to wait until June to find out.
And come back here then to read our review, “January Jones Was the Worst Actress in the Worst X-Men Film Ever.”
Sesame Street has long been in the pop culture parody business; in fact that’s basically it’s whole model, come up with concepts that will educate children but also entertain adults. But lately, they’re becoming kings of the genre, with Mad Men, 30 Rock and, most recently, True Blood parodies. And now they’ve moved even further from the mainstream with their version of Old Spice’s “Smell Like a Man” campaign:
Between Grover and Justine Bateman we’re feeling really uncool.
Next up, no doubt, is the Sad Elmo campaign. Or maybe Cigar Kermit.
Not that Jane Lynch was sub-par in her first (of hopefully many) outing as host of SNL, quite the contrary, but it’s that, once again, the material failed to live up to the vast talents of the host. It’s confusing, bewildering and frustrating that they keep wasting their resources. Perhaps, as we felt with the Zach Galifianakis show last season, the writing staff is actually less motivated by a talented host; they rely on the host to elevate the material, so what they deliver is second-rate. It’s just a theory, and probably misguided and misinformed, but you also can’t ignore the body of evidence, because, while this week’s show was better than last week, it wasn’t a great improvement. We saw plenty of Jane Lynch (and plenty of wigs), but nothing truly memorable.
Read on: Gilly on Glee? Is that all you got? Also: who did SNL rip-off this week?
And apparently three-year olds can’t be exposed to breasts but they can watch a parody of a show that is ostensibly an excuse for soft-core porn. I guess this spoof of True Blood is one of those segments that’s really for the adults, because it’s be a sad state of affairs if today’s parents let their kids see Stephen Moyer’s penis, but not the suggestion of Katy Perry’s cleavage.
To be fair, this follows in the proud tradition of Sesame Street’s 30 Rock and Mad Men parodies, two series that are also NSFC. And they really captured Anna Paquin’s essence.
(what a few days for Sesame Street, ehhh?)
The Emmy’s were handed out three nights ago, and in the internet world that’s about the equivalent of a fortnight, and everyone who can say it better than me has already said it better than me. But, just to put it on the permanent record, and to get us ready for the impending fall TV season, we thought we’d follow-up with a few humble thoughts of our own, in concise bullet-point form:
- Loved the opening bit, even if it was somewhat of a rehash of 6-Bee‘s glee club rendition of “We’re Not Going to Take It,” a performance that we still giddily cue up on our screen on a regular basis (as well as an audio version on our iPod). But with Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, Joel McHale, Jorge Garcia AND Tim Gunn it was like the Ocean’s 11 all-star version of the original Late Night piece, and it truly demanded some freak out control. Our worlds colliding, but in an amazing way.
- Speaking of Jon Hamm, now that his comedic genius has finally been exposed to a wide audience (30 Rock is still critically adored but commercially ignored, his appearances in viral videos only legitimately reach a small segment of the online viewing public, and even two turns hosting SNL don’t necessarily make you a household name these days), can we start having him be funny full-time? He’s so gifted, and so natural, it honestly feels like a waste forcing him to be so stoic and dour and cold on Mad Men (and we know we sound like a broken record on this, but we’re going to keep bring it up until it happens. Or until Mad Men becomes a farcical satire. Maybe in season 5). Sure, he’s magnetic, sexy and mysterious on the AMC drama, but it’s when he’s allowed to do comedy that he truly lights up. But after being seen dancing like an idiot on HDTVs all across the country maybe someone will give him a chance to headline a comedy. Perhaps something in the Apatowian genre. I think that’s a hit.
In yesterday’s SNL appetizer post I surmised that last night’s show had a 50% chance of being funny. However, immediately after making this less than bold proclamation I realized that I should have at least given the odds at 51%, and more accurately probably around 75%. With SNL returning after a week off, having proven they perform best with a little rest, and under the capable reigns of Jon Hamm, the odds were certainly in their favor.
And had I thought it through yesterday and gone with the 75% estimation I would have been right, as about 3/4 of the show was (surprisingly or unsurprisingly, I’ll let you decide) solid. From the moment Hamm stepped out onto the stage for his monologue you knew you were in good hands (sorta like the way I feel during the opening credits of any Quentin Tarantino movie). Obviously the easy thing to do here would be to compare Hamm’s hosting performance to that of his Mad Men co-star, Ms. January Jones. Of course, that’s entirely unfair, because Jones was clearly over-matched and out of her element, and Hamm has already demonstrated his hosting prowess. There’s really no reason to compare a Picasso to a Bazooka Joe comic. We already know which is going to come out on top (well, I guess in that scenario it depends on the criterion, if we’re talking about which is the superior work of art or which serves as a better gum wrapper. But I digress). However, we’ll indulge that comparison briefly, because, like Jones’, Hamm’s monologue employed some Mad Men parody, and to far better results than the “Mad Mennies” bit in Jones’ monologue. As Hamm’s big break has been his role as the mysterious, stoic Don Draper, he showed some clips from his earlier “roles,” but in each of these Hamm maintains the personality of the debonair Draper. The first clip, a Saved by the Bell parody titled “Late for Class,” was the best (if only for the spot-on opening credits. Oh, the early 90s!), but the second, Hamm on QVC giving Kristen Wiig the same tough love treatment that Don gives Betty Draper, and the last, Hamm as Draper doing Def Comedy Jam, were nearly as good. By the time Hamm said “stick around, we’ll be right back,” he didn’t need to. We were sold.
Read on: A funny and incisive cold opening?! Pork and Champagne?! Serigo?! Plus: the bottom 25th percentile.
There were a few shows I watched as an eight year-old that I probably shouldn’t have been allowed to view. WWF(E) Monday Night Raw. Probably not Married with Children. Definitely not Silk Stalkings (although it proved popular among the whole family. Except that we all watched in separate rooms). Sometimes 20/20. But one show that aired in the 10pm slot that I think was okay for me, even then, was The Commish. Why I was watching ABC at 10pm on Saturday nights at that time I’m not sure (perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Growing Pains anchored the two-hour comedy block and failed “TGIF” spin-off “I love Saturday Night.” Yes, that’s definitely it), but despite dealing in serious crimes The Commish was a show that (I think) had a soft touch and a real heart.
It’s hard to believe that before Michael Chiklis starred as a bad-ass shady cop on The Shield, looking like a cross between Bruce Willis and Andrew Zimmern, he played a doughy, lovable, balding police commissioner of a sleepy town in upstate NY, whose biggest problem was finding his pen
(as it turns out, the network was unsure about casting Chiklis, and apparently later asked him to stuff his shirt and not shave his head in order to look older/schlubbier. TV magic!)
Keep reading: Lieutenant Cyd Madision AND Stephen J. Cannell!