Bleep On, Bleep Off: Kanye West and “Censorship”

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 17:  Rapper Kanye West performs onstage during the 2015 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 17, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/BMA2015/Getty Images for dcp)

(Photo by Kevin Winter/BMA2015/Getty Images for dcp)

Kanye West closed Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards with a medley of his current hit “All Day” and his two year-old album cut “Black Skinhead.” The performance elicited boos in the room and online, for different reasons. The audience objected to the introductory remarks from pop culture pariahs Kendall and Kylie Jenner and the blinding light that radiated from West’s stage setup, obscuring the performance from view.

Viewers at home objected to ABC’s decision to bleep out substantial portions of the audio from the performance. Such bleeps typically cover words the FCC has deemed profane. In this case, the bleeps covered entire verses of West’s two songs. The biggest ironies: the people let at least two swears slip amid the reckless bleeping.

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Goodbye, Dave

Letterman2

David Letterman signed off without a tear in his eye or a break in his voice. The final hour-and-change looked back fondly on some of the silliest highlights of Letterman’s television career and ignored most of the darkness that sometimes pervaded the legendary host’s broadcasts.

It was exactly right.

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“Saturday Night Live”: 40 Years of Nights

Monologue
A year ago at this time, I wrote a blog post addressing Saturday Night Live‘s frustrating lack of commitment to diversity, exemplified by a sketch in which Kerry Washington played several prominent black female celebrities capped off by a title card backhandedly apologizing for the show’s dearth of nonwhite performers.

During the season finale and throughout this anniversary season, the story was different. Perfect? Of course not. But diverse voices in front of and behind the camera were one of the factors that made this season of SNL a significant improvement on the last few.

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The M&M (Written) Report: Discussing “Person to Person” person to person

Courtesy of AMC

Courtesy of AMC

Here’s my conversation with Devin Mitchell about “Person to Person,” the series finale of Mad Men.

Mark: Before we start our deep dive into “Person to Person,” the series finale of Mad Men, let’s get a few caveats out of the way. Here are mine:

  1. Regardless of my positive or negative reactions to this episode of television, I love and respect Mad Men, and I’m very sad it’s over.
  2. There are no right answers. Even if Matthew Weiner were to give twelve interviews today explaining all of his decisions, what’s onscreen is up to each viewer’s interpretation.
  3. I don’t like Coke. Or drink soda, ever.

Devin, feel free to add any of your own caveats to my list. Before you do, I’ll offer some insight into my first reactions at the end of last night’s episode. I was moved to tears several times. I laughed out loud four or five times, sometimes at a funny line of dialogue, sometimes at the prospect of the show ending in twenty — no, fifteen! — minutes. I definitely laughed at the Coke ad, though I wasn’t sure why and I’m still not.

The key takeaway is that nearly all of my reactions to this ambiguous, unusual episode of television were emotional. The intellectual responses came later, especially when I logged onto Twitter. But for a few moments, I was happy to care only about how the episode made me feel, not what it was trying to say.

Your turn, Devin. What were your visceral reactions to the finale? And where do you want to begin discussing specifics?

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“Mad Men”: Rewatching and Reliving “The Suitcase”

Suitcase2

The series finale of Mad Men starts in just over four hours on the East coast. This show is one of my favorites, to say the least. I started watching the first season while the fourth season was airing, which means I saw some reactions to “The Suitcase” months before I finally got to see it for myself.

“The Suitcase” is the seventh episode of the fourth season, and the show’s 46th episode overall. Written by series creator Matthew Weiner and directed by Jennifer Getzinger, it comes at the precise midway point of the series, though when it aired, Weiner hadn’t set the end date or even renewed his agreement with AMC. It’s widely considered the best episode of the show’s run.

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“Avengers: Age of Ultron”: Do Less

Avengers

Age of Ultron is a fine title, but I might have called the Avengers sequel Age of A Lot. There’s a lot happening in this movie. A lot of characters, a lot of intersecting storylines, a lot of pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo, a lot of special effects, a lot of action, a lot of incident, a lot of a lot. Meanwhile, in short supply: imagination, variation, respite.

I enjoyed watching it, but I haven’t really enjoyed thinking about it afterwards. Mostly because I’m not sure my brain can handle the convoluted machinations that drive nearly every scene of this ultra- (ultron?)-long, ultra-confusing behemoth. It doesn’t need a little less talk and a lot more action – it needs a little less of all of the above.

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Revive a Show at Your Own Peril

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Fox canceled The Mindy Project last week, just in time for its upfront presentation to advertisers on Monday. It took less than a week for the other shoe to drop. Hulu announced today that the show will return on its streaming service for a whopping 26 episodes – twice the number it likely would have gotten had Fox renewed it.

Fans of The Mindy Project likely have reason to rejoice. Especially given that the show has been a work in progress from the start, the assurance of more than two dozens episodes gives showrunner and star Mindy Kaling more creative freedom than she might have had under the authority of a broadcast network. Reviews of the show’s third season were the show’s most positive yet, and a fourth promises more of the same appealing qualities that solidified the show’s fanbase.

And yet, something about this news rubs me the wrong way – not the Mindy Project part, but the idea of un-canceling a TV show. For a while, the phenomenon of un-cancellation was a novelty reserved for the most unusual circumstances – Arrested Development on Netflix, Community on Yahoo. Netflix’s decision to pick up a fourth season of AMC’s flailing drama The Killing was one of the opening salvos in what has been twelve months of enthusiastic press releases and nostalgic listicles touting the returns of long-dead and not-so-long-dead shows.

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