"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the
- The Great Gatsby, F.
I used to
look forward to the arrival of fall because it meant a new school year: new
classes and teachers, new clothes and new school supplies. Until a few years
ago, September felt like the start of everything.
I'm an adult (or at least an "adult"), and fall doesn't hold quite as
many beginnings. I work year round, I'm not a teacher or a parent, and no one
is paying for my new fall wardrobe but me. Perhaps saddest of all, these days I
rarely have an excuse to make a Staples run. But there is one thing that has
always made the fall new and exciting, something I haven't had to give up as
I've gotten older. Fall still means new TV.
there isn't new TV year round these days. Between summer seasons, mid-season
replacements, winter premieres...there rarely comes a time when there's nothing
new to watch. Doctor Who fans even get a new episode on Christmas
each year. But there's nothing quite like that mad rush of fresh programming
each September and October--the excitement of a cliffhanger resolved, the
anticipation of a new series from a writer or actor you like, the expansion of
familiar universes and the discovery of new ones, and all of that potential for
starts all over again.
something especially exciting about a single night of TV coming together—and
even more so when it all happens on one network. NBC does a pretty solid job
with their Thursday nights (certain Whitneys not withstanding), but
they're breaking that party up a little this year, moving Community to
Friday—where it probably won't do any better, but can at least run through its
ordered episodes without tanking the network on a big night—and suddenly FOX's
new Tuesday night has become my most anticipated evening of the week.
already a big fan of the tragically under-watched Raising Hope and
the funny, distinct New Girl, which will be heading off the 8
o'clock and 9 o'clock hours respectively, and Mindy Kaling (her wildly
incorrect feelings about Walter White aside) is basically my hero/role
model/spirit animal/queen in every way, so I've been excited for The
Mindy Project since it was first mentioned as a
several years ago. I didn't really know much about Ben and Kate,
the 8:30pm show, but if the cast (Dakota Johnson, who played my personal
favorite character in The Social Network, Oscar Winner Nat Faxon,
plus the adorable kid who proclaimed "we bought a zoo!" in, uh, We
Bought a Zoo) wasn't enough to convince me it was worth a shot, the word
coming out of this year's TCA Press Tour was that the pilot is strong and the
creators seemed to know what they were doing. Practically an unheard of
pilots are notoriously difficult. Great situation comedy, after all, often
comes from a familiarity with the situation. A pilot is about establishing that
situation, though, introducing the audience to the characters and setting and
premise. I tend to find pilots better when I revisit them, once I know what I’m
dealing with. Sure it’s funny to watch Nick Miller put on a fake accent to
drunk dial his ex-girlfriend in the New
Girl pilot, but it’s funnier once you really know who Nick Miller is. It’s
funnier when you’ve heard the break-up poetry he wrote about that same
ex-girlfriend. I’m not saying that there are no great comedy pilots (hi, Arrested Development), just that a pilot
is not necessarily indicative of the show to come.
not too concerned when I tell you that I didn’t love the pilot for The Mindy Project (which is currently
available streaming on Hulu). I
liked it, I have very high hopes for the series and I won’t be surprised if it
meets them, but I didn’t fall head-over-heels for this first episode.
biggest failing is that it’s very difficult to introduce that many characters
in 22 minutes. Of course there’s Mindy, who is understandably the most
developed character at this point, but you also have Danny (played by the
immensely lovable Chris Messina) the gruff and antagonistic love interest, and
Jeremy (Ed Weeks), the flirtations bad-boy love interest. Then there’s Gwen
(Anna Camp!!!!), the put-together best friend, Betsy and Shauna (Zoe Jarman and
Amanda Setton), the quirky assistants and Dr. Schulman (Stephen Tobolowsky),
the waffling boss. And guest stars! Ed Helms as a blind date and Bill Hader as
an ex-boyfriend. Plus a patient-of-the-week. Right now these characters don’t
feel like much more than sketches—and rough ones at that. I look forward to
getting to know them better, but I don’t know them yet.
were strong and smart—I’m still laughing at Mindy’s line about moving forward
in her life through spinning—and the basic premise, of a woman trying to
improve herself, is loose enough to drive stories without consuming them. And
I’m a sucker for an antagonistic friendship slow-burning into a love story,
which is almost certainly where Mindy and Danny are headed in the long run. The Mindy Project’s potential is
significant. It just doesn’t quite meet it in the pilot.
Ben and Kate (also available streaming), felt more
developed. In 22 minutes the pilot establishes backstory, characters and
relationships, gets in several good jokes and a couple of capers, and sets
itself up for future stories. (There’s also some truly excellent physical
comedy from Dakota Johnson in the tag.) After watching The Mindy Project I felt like I knew Mindy. After watching Ben and Kate I felt like I knew Ben and
Kate and BJ and Tommy and Maddie.
The Mindy Project and Ben and Kate don’t necessarily seem like shows that have much in
common (though both pilots feature their main characters landing in swimming
pools), but they do feel like they fit together, especially in the larger FOX
Tuesday comedy block, where Raising Hope
is a very funny show about a family of oddballs raising a kid, and New Girl is a very funny show about
single thirty-somethings raising each other.
like FOX is developing a solid voice and vision for Tuesday night, pairing
shows that flatter each other without seeming like carbon copies—unlike, say,
Friday nights on NBC, where Community is
pairing with Whitney. It makes
Tuesdays feel like an event to look forward to each week, and an excuse to lose
the remote for a couple of hours.
still a few weeks before the TV season really gets started, before it gets
crisp in the fall, but I’m itching for it the way I did for all those first
days of school. It may not require a new wardrobe, but hey, TV doesn’t assign
homework either. PSA: I saw these pilots at a screening FOX put together, which was followed by a live (simulcast) Q&A with the casts of all 4 Tuesday night shows. You can watch that Q&A here and I highly recommend it. No one really bothers to answer the questions, but they're all very funny and charming and Max Greenfield and Jake Johnson should be given their own talk-show or something.
When I wrote about the pilot of Bunheads three months ago, I mentioned that I was thinking about
taking up the subject weekly, reviewing the new episodes as they aired. And
then I didn’t do that.
I’ve got a good reason, though.
Each week, as the thoroughly oddball first season of Bunheads progressed, I found myself more
and more in love with the show, and less and less interested in breaking it
down. Bunheads contained everything I
was hoping for when I first heard about it and then some: the familiar warmth
and humor of Gilmore Girls, its own
unique sensibility, and the comfortable feeling of coming home after a long
Bunheads is not Gilmore Girls, but it’s probably never
going to stop inviting comparisons. I don’t think there was a single episode of
this first season (or half season? Summer season? ABC Family has been a bit
confusing on this matter) that didn’t feature at least one former Gilmore Girls actor. There was Kelly
Bishop, of course, appearing in most but not all of the episodes, but also Todd
Lowe, Sean Gunn, Rose Abdoo, Chris Eigman, Alex Borstein, Gregg Henry…I’m
probably forgetting some. (And while we’re here, can I say I’m hoping to see
Yanic Truesdale, Liza Weil and Keiko Agena at some point.)
And it makes sense that Amy Sherman-Palladino would bring
back so many familiar faces. She writes wordy, witty dialogue that must, due to
the time constraints of the medium, be delivered at an almost insane pace; it’s
only logical that she would bring in actors who already know how to handle her
words. But she didn’t do the easy thing, letting the familiar faces do
necessary character work. The faces were familiar, but the characters were
not. Gregg Henry’s Rico could not have been further from his Mitchum
Huntzberger, and I would heartily disagree with those who seem to think Fanny
Flowers is just a replicated Emily Gilmore. She may have Emily’s command, but
not her world-view.
I called the series “oddball” earlier, so maybe I should
Whether it was a defeatist environmental ballet ending in
the death of nature or an angsty/angry teen dancing furiously to “Istanbul Not
Constantinople,” a mis-matched Fred and Ginger performing in a crowded bar or
an entire production of The Nutcracker
collapsing after a mass-macing, the dance numbers on the show were consistent
only in how bizarre they were. (The Fred and Ginger dance was preceded by a
public confession of teenage like set to “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” which
seems like relevant information.)
Then there was the way the show kept twisting off in new
directions. What first seemed like a series about a woman finding love for the
first time in her life after an impulsive decision to marry her stalker quickly
revealed itself to be a series about a woman finding commitment for the first
time in her life after her impulsive marriage ends when she finds herself
widowed 17 hours in.
And then it took about 5 episodes for the show to establish
its basic premise, that Michelle, after years of failing to commit to anything
but a transient life, failing to establish the dance career she could have had
if she hadn’t kept running away from her life, would finally find herself able
to settle down as a teacher to a new generation of aspiring dancers.
Amy Sherman-Palladino’s plots have always moved at about
1/100th the pace of her dialogue, but Bunheads seemed to take that to a new level, with weeks going by in
which Michelle grieved and poured wine into decanters and marveled about the
strange little town she had landed in, but nothing really happened.
It never really bothered me, though. There was just
something so pleasant about spending an hour every week in Paradise
(California). I said above that it felt like coming home from a long vacation
and I don’t think I can come up with a better way to describe it. Things have
changed—the characters and the sets and many of the actors, but also, of
course, me—but the foundation is the same. The voice. Week after week I
responded emotionally to the show, not critically. I could see that it had
flaws, of course, but that didn’t make me love it any less. If it were possible
to give a show a great big hug I would be hugging the crap out of this one.
And I think my emotional point of view is a good thing. I
founded this blog on the basis of sharing enthusiasm (“out of control
enthusiasm,” actually) for television. I founded it because I love television.
It is my default setting. And I can gape at my screen every Sunday night,
astonished by all the moving pieces that make Breaking Bad a Truly Great show, the kind of show that will be
dissected and studied and acclaimed for decades, probably, and yes, I can get
very emotionally invested, at least in Jesse Pinkman’s fate. But the way I love
a show like Breaking Bad is never
going to be quite like the way I love a show like Bunheads or Gilmore Girls,
it’s never going to be that deep, hearty love.
Let's talk about The Newsroom and let's talk about Girls.
I wanted to like HBO's The Newsroom. Even as the pans started piling up (none of which I've read yet, by the way, though the general sentiments surrounding the show are hard to avoid when you almost exclusively follow television critics on twitter, as I do), I wanted to love it. Because I do love so much of what Aaron Sorkin has done, The West Wing and Sports Night, The Social Network and The American President...I even love a good bit of Studio 60, though I can see its many failings, and because I read the pilot script months ago and I liked what I read.
But then I sat down to actually watch the episode.
Here's the thing: I didn't dislike everything about it. I like most of the cast, though I don't necessarily like most of the characters, and I like the Sorkin-y verbal rhythms, that stylized speechifying he's known for. I love Jim Harper, with his brains and his fumbling and his earnest sense of responsibility in journalism, and the last half hour of the pilot, when they actually start reporting the news, is invigorating. Most of the episode coasts on condescension, though, and I'm the person being condescended to.
See I'm female. I'm also young. Aaron Sorkin's writing is full of young women, like Natalie on Sports Night or Donna on The West Wing, like Lucy on Studio 60 and now Maggie on The Newsroom. And these young women have a lot in common. They're all beautiful and fiery and intelligent and funny, in many ways they're great characters--they all also work directly under men who are, so the narrative tells us, more intelligent. Men who can teach them things. (To be fair, Jeremy wasn't technically Natalie's professional superior on Sports Night, except in the way most of the stories played out.) These men are also generally their romantic interests. And this is only the beginning of the way that Aaron Sorkin talks down to his female characters.
The Newsroom opens with its main character, Jeff Daniels' Will McAvoy, participating in a college seminar event, going off on a rant about all the ways that America is not the greatest country in the world. It's a long rant and its overloaded with Sorkin-iness, from its lists of statistics (including the percentage of Americans who believe in angels, which I know he referenced on Studio 60 and probably elsewhere) to its turn towards sentimentality and nostalgia at the midpoint, and it's all inspired by a question from a girl in the audience, a young college student.
This rant is supposed to be the inciting incident of the show, the moment that turns Will McAvoy, the "Jay Leno of news," into a journalist with a mission statement. Here he's supposed to realize that he can't be great if he walks the fine line between two sides of any opinion. Mostly though, he just comes across as a mean old man. His rant is not really delivered to the room or to the world at large, it's directed at this young woman, a college sophomore, someone he calls "sorority girl" and a member of "the worst period generation period ever period."
Hey, that's my generation.
Aaron Sorkin's never had a great relationship with the internet--the fact that he won about a zillion awards for writing "the facebook movie" is actually quite ironic. (If you want the whole backstory I'd suggest a google search for "Aaron Sorkin" and "Television Without Pity.") The pilot for The Newsroom, though, is littered with references to Twitter and YouTube, blogging and Wikipedia, as if someone reminded him that, hey, this show is supposed to be set in 2010--YEAH, 2010!--and these sites play a vital role in the way journalism works now/then.
There's a character on the show, Sam Waterston's older, drunk network executive Charlie Skinner, who gives a speech to a young woman (of course) working in the newsroom about how she should be tweeting about what she's witnessing, the impressive broadcast that News Night with Will McAvoy is putting out. He tells her everything she should be saying, a full Sorkin speech, and she responds with a line about how you only get 140 characters. Sorkin shows always have white-haired men like this delivering speeches like this, but I think this may be the first time I've seen that character as a Sorkin surrogate--there's always a Sorkin surrogate or twelve, too--the man getting left behind as the world moves on without him. On The Newsroom, though, the goal is to embrace Charlie Skinner's journalistic values, to cling to the way things were before. The Newsroom wants to drag journalism back into its golden age, not look forward to whatever is next--even if that may be better.
The Newsroom, of course, is taking the Sunday night time slot vacated, a week ago, by the first season of Girls.
"I think I may be the voice of my generation," said Hannah Horvath in the most noted scene of Girls' pilot. "Or at least a voice. Of a generation." And then she fell on the floor.
Much has been said about this line since Girls premiered three months ago. A lot of people took it way too seriously--in spite of the fact that Hannah was falling-on-the-floor stoned when she said it--and believed it was a point that Lena Dunham, the creator and star, was trying to make, believed that Dunham created the show as a universal representation of Sorkin's so-called "worst period generation period ever period." I took it somewhat differently.
I talked, when the show first premiered, about the fact that I found Hannah very relatable, and I stand by that, but I wouldn't begin to think she'd be relatable to everyone. I happen to share a situation with the Girls, I'm the same age and race and gender and in the same city, I have many of the same aspirations and almost all of the same bad habits (not the drugs though, Mom and Dad, I promise!). I have referred to Hannah Horvath as my worst self several times over the last few months and I've meant it. It's probably why I have a much easier time sympathizing with these ladies than most seem to.
But I also don't think Girls really expects you to sympathize with Hannah et al. Or at least, I don't think Girls expects you to sympathize with them any more than you're supposed to sympathize with the male characters.
The show did something very specific in that it built its ensemble out from Hannah. You get to know her first and you get to know her best, but as the season progresses you get to know Marnie and then Jessa and then Shoshanna (though not enough Shoshanna! Petition for more Shoshanna in season 2!), and then you get to know Charlie and then Adam--Adam, who I tossed off with "'I wouldn't take shit from my parents, they're buffoons, but my grandma gives me $800 a month,' he says, and that pretty much tells you what you need to know" in reviewing the pilot. How wrong I was!--and even, a little bit, Ray (petition for more Ray in season 2!). It's not a show about a generation, it's a show about people.
Girls contains infinite individual worlds, but its characters have trouble seeing past the walls of their own lives, even as they orbit each other, which is why Marnie doesn't step foot in Charlie's apartment until after they've broken up, and why it takes more than half the season for the audience to learn anything real about Adam--Hannah doesn't even know anything real about Adam.
But is anyone not consumed by their own internal dramas? Is Will McAvoy not so distracted by his ex-girlfriend that he loses focus during a seminar? Or fails to notice that his staff doesn't like him/his assistant isn't really his assistant so much as an intern he believed to be his assistant/someone whose name he doesn't know is writing a blog under his name? The Newsroom wants you to believe selfishness is generational. It's not. It's universal.
You can't make TV shows about perfect people, because they wouldn't be interesting, and you can't make TV shows about imperfect people and tell you they're perfect people, because they wouldn't be honest. I think this is my biggest problem with The Newsroom. It wants you to see Will McAvoy as a hero, a great man stepping out from behind the non-partisan, non-opinionated wall he's been hiding behind to report the news (because in an Aaron Sorkin show the stakes, whether you have the nuclear launch codes or are trying to get a late night sketch show on the air, can never be high enough), despite the fact that they can't even be bothered to portray him as a good man. Girls, meanwhile, is a show about exclusively imperfect people, all of them stumbling constantly over their own imperfections, none of them ever really changing that much. You get to know more about them and maybe the way you see them shifts, but they themselves stay the same.
Right now I plan to keep watching The Newsroom, because I don't believe in judging a show exclusively by its pilot, and because, as I said, there is stuff going on that I like. Maybe something will change my overall opinion of the show--I certainly hope so.
Warning: Here be spoilers for the Bunheads pilot. If you haven't watched it yet, read at your own risk. (If you want to watch it, it's currently free on iTunes.)
The first time I watched the Bunheads pilot, I watched emotionally, not critically. I've talked before about my relationship with Gilmore Girls and my excitement for this new show from Amy Sherman-Palladino, long one of my writing heroes, and I think even if I had tried to watch critically I would have failed. Bunheads is going to be my show this summer. Even if it were to suck it would probably be my show.
But guess what? It doesn't suck!
In fact, it's wonderful. Quick-witted and talky, funny and a little cynical, but not excessively cynical. Much like its predecessor, it looks like it plans to balance stories between its adult characters and its teen characters, so there's something for everyone, and everything is set to a Sam Phillips score; even the cues will take you back to Stars Hollow.
If there's one constant in Amy Sherman-Palladino's writing it's the exploration of relationships between women. That's not to say that she can't tell a good story about men and women--up until she intentionally ran everything into the ground, Gilmore Girls always told strong stories about Lorelai and Luke, and if you ever want to watch me sob hysterically all you need do is show me a scene between Lorelai and Richard--but the central relationships in Gilmore Girls were between Lorelai and Rory and Lorelai and Emily, and the central relationship of The Return of Jezebel James was between Sarah and Coco. If nothing else, this leads to series that consistently slay the Bechdel test--for every conversation Lorelai and Rory had about Luke and Dean and Logan and Max and Jess and Christopher, they had a million more about Rory's future, about Emily and Richard, about school and work and what cuisine was on the menu at Al's Pancake World that week.
At first Bunheads seems to be setting up a story about a woman who falls in love with her husband after she marries him, with a side of teaching precocious teens how to dance, but as the episode progresses, and in particular in the last five minutes, it becomes clear that Bunheads is not a show about Michelle (Sutton Foster) and Hubbell (Alan Ruck), the relationship at the center of this show is between Michelle and Fanny (Kelly Bishop), her new mother-in-law.
In that final scene, as Michelle and Fanny do shots at the local bar, they discuss Hubbell, yes, but mostly they talk about missed opportunities, dreams that didn't come true either because life or a lack of focus got in the way. These women are both living their lives full of regret, as Sherman-Palladino beautifully illustrates in earlier moments of quiet, such as the scene where Michelle drinks a beer on the walk-way outside her apartment, the Vegas strip glittering in the distance behind her complex, or the scene where Fanny dances before the mirror in her empty dance studio, then offers herself a little nod as if to say, "that was okay." The two women find uneasy common ground in their shared failures.
And then they dance together.
It's an ecstatic moment, the tension between them breaks and they let loose a little, and it's almost immediately cut short by the revelation, in the last moments of the episode, that Hubbell, out searching for his wife and mother, has been in some sort of accident, and the implication that he has died.
As a pilot, this episode has to do a lot of maneuvering. When the series starts Michelle lives in Vegas and knows Hubbell as little more than a harmless stalker who brings her shoes and buys her dinner once a month, but within the first ten minutes she's had what she sees as her final chance at her dream shot down, gotten drunk over another dinner with her stalker and found herself married and en route to Paradise. Literally.
Paradise, California, doesn't seem all that different from Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow, Connecticut, with its nosey eccentrics. The residents have a warm sort of crazy--Michelle jokes that Truly (Stacey Oristano), Hubbell's ex, has "driving-cross-country-in-diapers-to-kill-you potential," but she mostly comes across as overly-emotional, and Oristano, who was so excellent in a more dramatic role on Friday Night Lights, delivers some of the best line-readings of the episode--much like the denizens of Stars Hollow, but they've got a more relaxed attitude than Taylor Doose and his town meetings. And hey, Stars Hollow had a movie theatre...part-time.
And while the pilot effectively sets up Bunheads' setting and its characters--I haven't even touched on the four teenage ballerinas that make up the younger spectrum of the ensemble--its final twist leaves me curious to see what the rest of the series will look like. This is a place-setting pilot, not one that establishes a template for the series. In the past, Sherman-Palladino has often written towards character and location more than she has toward plot, and I suspect this show will continue along that pattern, but the pilot was very much about putting the pieces on the board. You think that Michelle's decision to marry Hubbell and leave her life in Vegas behind is the catalyst for the series, but in actuality the catalyst doesn't come until those final moments--we don't yet know what to expect from this show.
I'm excited to find out, though. The patter of Sherman-Palladino's dialogue is familiar, the quick-witted oddball characters are, too, but she's telling a different story here. Gilmore Girls was very much about a woman whose life revolved around her daughter, but Michelle's life revolves around Michelle. Gilmore Girls begins just as Lorelai is starting to live her own life again, separate from the one she's had with Rory, while Bunheads is beginning with Michelle learning to let others in, whether that's developing a friendship with Fanny--and, I hope I hope, Truly, just because I found her to be so enjoyable--or becoming a mentor to the girls. There are a lot of stories in those relationships, and I look forward to watching them unfold.
Of the four teenage girls, only two stand out especially in the pilot, Sasha with her technique and her disinterest, and Boo with her enthusiasm and uncertainty. I look forward to seeing Melanie and Ginny develop as well.
Oristano's Truly is so different from the stripper-turned-mother that she played on Friday Night Lights, but I already love her nearly as much. She's very funny without being too broad.
Familiar faces from Gilmore Girls include Alex Borstein as the prostitute who lives next door to Michelle in Vegas (she played Drella the harpist and Miss Celine the stylist, and was originally cast as Sookie, but had to drop out due to her commitment to MadTV), Rose Abdoo as the owner of Sparkles (Gypsy the mechanic) and, of course, Kelly Bishop.
Hubbell's proposal by way of extended Godzilla metaphor is beautiful, and does a lot to overcome his initial portrayal as a stalker. The fact that he's played by Alan Ruck helps, too.
This Vulture interview with Amy Sherman-Palladino did a lot to remind me how much I love her. It's worth a read.
I'm thinking about covering this show on a week-to-week basis. Would that be of interest to anyone?
I spent the spring of 2008 studying abroad in London. It was an excellent semester, one of those life-changing experiences that taught me about the world, about myself, about growing up and surviving on my own, and I wouldn't trade that semester for anything. It was also a three month period in which I allowed myself to be almost completely consumed by Doctor Who fandom.
This was in the fourth series of the show, the last full year with David Tennant and Russel T. Davies, with Catherine Tate as the Doctor's (best?) companion Donna and periodic appearances by various ex-residents of the TARDIS, most notably Billie Piper's Rose Tyler, one of my all-time favorite television characters, whose tragic exit from the series at the end of its second year still leaves me a bit heart-achey. The show was having a truly fantastic season, and for the first time I could watch it on my TV every Saturday, in its first run, in its country of origin. This often involved acrobatic feats--to achieve anything resembling a clear picture I had to carry the antenna around the room, hoisting it into the air, balancing on one leg, standing on chairs and occasionally tables, and readjusting any time the wind changed, not to mention terrifying the relative strangers I called flatmates--but it was thrilling. My show. Live.
But by the time series 4 came to an end, late in July of that year, I had been home for a couple of months. The show was still excellent, and my love for it hadn't changed, but the thrill of being right there was gone. After a particularly emotional finale I was drained. I couldn't even think about the show. A friend diagnosed me with "fandom burnout."
Even our hobbies--maybe especially our hobbies--can be exhausting. Caring about something with enthusiasm--which is, as you know, my modus operandi--requires effort, time, emotion. I may prefer the exhaustion of a marathon viewing or a long conversation about character motivation to the exhaustion of homework or a long night at the office, but that doesn't mean it doesn't wear me out. It's possible to burn out on the stuff that gives us pleasure.
So I was a little relieved as this latest TV season started to run down a few weeks ago. Sure there are still a couple episodes of Girls left, and Mad Men finishes its season this Sunday, but I'm not struggling to get through overloaded Thursday nights anymore. Keeping up with everything I watch, as much as I love it, can start to feel like a full-time job.
Now, though, it's summer. There's still television to watch--you already know how excited I am for Bunheads, and even more so now that I've seen the outstanding pilot--and I do plan on watching The Wire, continuing with a very slow O.C. rewatch I've been working on for months, and probably taking up some sort of project with my roommate--last year we rewatched all of Scrubs, but we haven't yet made any decisions about this summer--but I also plan to step away from the screen a bit. Spend my evenings at the gym, or curled up with books. Use the weekends to explore the city a little more. I have plans for this summer and they don't include spending all of my time awash in the artificial glow of the TV.
I think it's good to take a break, even from the things you love. It's healing, refreshing, and when you come back after some time away there's a new enthusiasm. I will be thrilled when TV comes back in the fall, not just because I'm waiting to see how various cliff-hangers turn out, but because I genuinely love television, especially in that first rush of new episodes, new stories, new time-slots and series and characters that arrives each fall. Come September I'll be burnt out on summer (and hopefully not too sun-burnt), ready to dive in with all new fall TV (spoiler alert: I'm going to be obsessed with The Mindy Project).
For now I'm going to relax a little. I'm going to listen to "Call Me Maybe" very loudly on repeat as I train my body to run more than a quarter-mile at a time, and I'm going to spend some sticky Saturday afternoons in Central Park with a book and a bottle of water. That seems like the best possible cure for TV burnout.
The idea behind this blog was always practice. I want to be a better writer, and I want to be a better critical writer, and I am madly, passionately enthusiastic about television. Logically, those things intersect at a blog about television.
But there's more that goes into TV criticism than just watching a lot of TV, you have to have some sort of foundation to build on, and increasingly I've been feeling like, if I ever want to be taken seriously as a television critic, I need to build up that foundation. So this summer, as the scripted television season dies down (mostly), I'm going to take on a viewing project.
I've narrowed my list to three possible options, and I'd like you to help me pick!
The Sopranos: The series is iconic, and from everything I've read, a lot of current television storytelling owes a debt to this show.
The Simpsons: I've seen episodes, as well as the movie, but so much comedy traces back to Springfield and I don't really have a working knowledge of the world. (I probably wouldn't make it through the whole series, but I could at least make a dent.)
The Wire: It's largely considered to be the greatest drama series of the last decade, and I can easily get my hands on the complete series on DVD.
So opinions? Whatever I choose to watch will probably come up in posts to East Cupcake, so drop me a comment.