“Cable television is a disease. I have it now, and that means I also have the TV listings in my bookmarks and that’s a problem. TV is for the one-hour toast-inhaling impasse you have in between working and going out, or hangovers/the flu. That’s IT! TV is so good now but it’s never stopped being the fucking worst.” I wrote that for VICE a year ago and, yeah, I was wrong. Maybe “mostly” wrong: TV created a renaissance for itself, in content and delivery—let’s call it post-TV—but watching shows on trad-TV or not, if watched passively or by rote, is still the fucking worst. So I was like half wrong?
Television has gone from 99 percent daggy to the medium that feels most expansive and inclusive (I’d make a lemonade-bet that there is more diversity of people and genres across a cache of your fave shows than your iTunes library or w/e), and the medium that collective-cultural life, one zillion smug tweets, and a TV-recap-industrial-complex all orbit around, while the novel moves further out into darkness (remember, “For every reader who dies today, a viewer is born,” wrote Papa Franzen, forever ago; remember, The Flamethrowers got less attention than Badger’s Star Trek scene in Breaking Bad).
We’re in the weird sort-of midst of the “fall season,” where previews and reviews and finales and premieres are happening all at once, which seems to be a just-fine whistle stop on the milk run toward whole seasons of TV being available all at once, Netflix-style. So, here, some select-selections from the lineup of brand new shows where the rubric for inclusion is about as sophisticated as “what I feel like” and, you know, what might turn out to be good. TV party tonight! TV party tonight! TV party tonight!
This will air after the bandage-dress murder-mystery Revenge on Sunday nights, making for a soapy-intrigue rock-block, its stories told in smooth foreheads and low voices. But whereRevenge is about high stakes in the Hamptons, Betrayal seems to be about lower stakes in… where, Chicago maybe? Or is everything “Chicago” to me because I love The League so much?
The good-bad factor of these drama-camp shows seems determined by their self-awareness: take 90210, original edish, which did it just right. However, the pilot-watching experience of Betrayal was a little bit like, say, trying to pay attention to your friend, who you love, when they call you too late for advice because they’re going through some twitchy pseudo-crisis, the details and import of which you can’t really grasp, and then they talk about their job for two hours and then are obviously just bored and mousing around on their laptop, and when they finally say “Anyway, what do you think?” you just have no idea.
Two crucial, potential problems with this show: Every guy on Betrayal is identical in his handsome brown-haired man-ness, and, if Betrayal is intended to get on Revenge’s level they’re going to need a fun-proxy for Nolan, who is what Prince would be like if he could write code and was more into cravats. I believe in Betrayal but it’s also, like, give me something to hold on to.
Masters of Sex
Will Lizzy Caplan finally get a long-term thing to be cool in? Will a show about the science of sex be great or embarrassing? Is the title a joke or for serious?
James Spader stars in this TV show about a guy with a black hat. The hat is magic! When you put it on, you make meth almost perfectly. JK. James Spader already occupies three or four distinct roles in the culture: the forever-avatar of darksided 1980s prep (please refer to Pretty in Pink and Less Than Zero and the way he wears a loose, linen jacket; please also note that James Spader’s middle name is allegedly “Todd”); a persistent sexual obsession to the kind of girl for whom Secretary and maybe even White Palace is canon; and as the rare man whose natural, regular aging and every-guy-pattern hair loss was taken as an affront to his audience who I guess spend a lot of time wondering why he isn’t hot anymore (c’mon, though—he totally is).
The Blacklistis supposed to be the best new danger-drama, but the pilot suggests that the show might be great with the big cinematic stuff and the high-precision-bad-guys and not much in the way of attendant levels of detail and characterization. In a post-TV (post-Breaking-Bad-TV?) viewing era, even a casual audience chewing almonds in front of iTunes wants completion and consistency, to feel led. Like, how about a one-liner to square the adoption sub-plot, or a meta-textual acknowledgment of how doyviously the good-and-evil, pretty-lithe-FBI-agent-with-great-shimmery-gloss-and-James-Spader dynamic is being set up? I’ll go with any guns-and-‘splosions scenario that I’m told is believable, because I don’t know if it is or isn’t, but I do know what people would and wouldn’t say and do to each other under quotidian circumstances, and I care. Is this why girls like Law and Order so much?
Two perfect things so far about this Parks and Rec-y work-friends-cum-cop show, c/o Parks and Recreation’s Michael Schur and Dan Goor: one, Chelsea Peretti is allowed to just kind of be, which is a really nice and kind and smart idea, like, it gives me The Hope, and the writing toys with the required sitcom confines just enough that it feels actually funny and actually surprising but not like it’s going to get cancelled immediately. I think that combination is the Hollywood Iditarod? Like, can you give the first two episodes of a Fox show a trophy? Where do I mail it?
Super Fun Night
This is the Rebel Wilson comedy that is about three supposed girl-losers who spend every Friday night in their apartment with their “indoor faces” (which is a really ace update to “radio face,” thanks for that, TV). However, this posse includes a lesbionic tennis instructor who wears five-years-ago American Apparel and no makeup and her gym bag to the club, which makes me think that she has some new, needed perspective, apart from what the rest of us in our careful, muted separates understand to be real and true, and there is a nervous office almost-alpha who will be pitched against the Rebel-hero until they come to some always-temporary non-resolution. It is pretty broad and wacky and props-based, unfortunately, and also unfortunately the only new comedy that is specifically about young women, even though Girls and The Mindy Project and New Girl would seem encouraging of more like it. Unless those are points against, like, “We got ‘girls’ covered” or something? Yurgh.
What is usually missing from The Girl Experience in every medium is the singular, feelings-y soft stuff. New Girl does this in a good way, like, when Zooey D is in an emotional valley where only jammies and Taylor Swift can offer comfort and wholeness. This “soft stuff” is both the center of, and a meditation on, an aspect of the female point-of-view that is more than any other kept out of popular culture, I think both by women who know it to be threateningly vulnerable and undermining and too complex to do properly or without overwhelming criticism, and by men, who see it as one-dimensionally vulnerable and undermining and not that complex at all. Like, New Girl basically had to devote an episode to how Jess wearing polka-dots wasn’t making an anti-feminist statement. Of course nobody wants to get into the real-realness of how dark and subjugating and powerless life can feel unless it’s done within the acceptable and existing strictures. (P.S.: New Girl is actually Girls, and Girls is basically Louie.) Also, shows about women’s lives almost never include stuff about money, even though financial anxiety is the most common, inclusive scenario possible to get comedy from. Sooooo to circle waaaaaay back to where I started: maybe Super Fun Night, since its premise is about three chicks who have basically abandoned traditional and contemporary modes of femininity in order to hang out together and be anxious and lovelorn, could get into some of the ideas that other shows about women kind of leave out. If you want, I mean, w/e.
This is Stephen Merchant’s show about moving to LA and being bad at meeting women and is maybe like Entourage but more explicitly cringier? Because I think you were supposed to think that Entourage was really cool? (P.S., I love Entourage. Eeeee! *runs away*)
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