Call Me Emmy: The Best in Comedy


Awards don’t affect the way I watch television or my appreciation for the shows I like. They serve a particular function in the entertainment community and another one for viewers who want to see their favorite programs recognized, but by and large, complaining that a particular show hasn’t won a particular award is a fool’s errand. It’s better to acknowledge the deficit and simply continue liking the show. Give it your own personal award, so to speak.

That being said, it’s always nice when award nominations line up with your personal picks. In that spirit, I’ve come up with my preferred list of Emmy nominations. The actual list will be released on July 18th, and it will substantially different. I’m not paid to watch television. I can only watch what I have time to watch, so I can’t nominate undoubtedly high-quality shows like Game of Thrones, Enlightened, 30 Rock, Girls or Boardwalk Empire, just to name a few. In other cases, I can’t nominate a particular show because I haven’t seen the current season, as with The Office, Louie, Homeland and The Walking Dead.

Consider this a highly personal Emmy list and (hopefully) an entertaining read. What would your list look like? If you have the time or energy, write your own list and post it in the comments! I’m curious.

Here’s what the Emmy nominations would look like if I chose them. I’ve also distinguished my favorite in each category in bold print.

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“The Heat”: Delightful, Imperfect, Progressive

The Heat

Confession: I’ve never seen Bridesmaids. But after seeing director Paul Feig’s follow-up The Heat, with a screenplay by Parks and Recreation writer Katie Dippold, I feel inclined to take a look at this wildly popular and reportedly raunchy blockbuster. The Heat is a very funny movie, but it’s not just a very funny movie. It also does a lot to exterminate the absurd argument that “women can’t be funny,” and introduces two characters who subvert the archetypes that even the best Hollywood movies often can’t avoid.

Plus, it’s a buddy comedy about women. How rare is that? Pretty rare.

Here are three reasons to check out The Heat, which is far from perfect but consistently enjoyable nonetheless:

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“Man of Steel”: Truth, Justice and Lots of Explosions


In its first half, Man of Steel builds a world of intriguing mythological import. In its second half, Man of Steel tears that world down in a pileup of fiery explosions and collapsing buildings. Director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer have reinvented Superman for a generation that prefers its superheroes to have one foot in our world and the other in a universe of fantasy and mythology, but they’ve fallen prey to the increasingly dispiriting trend of mistaking bigger for better. For all that this Superman reboot accomplishes in resetting a creatively tricky big-screen franchise, the film is also unnecessarily joyless and stubbornly formulaic.

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Critics I Admire


Am I a film critic? A TV critic? A music critic? A pop culture critic? An entertainment critic? A journalist?

I don’t know. I certainly have an appetite for writing in those modes, as evidenced by the content on this blog. And I certainly have an appetite for reading work by people who can use those titles in the professional sense. I don’t really know at what point a person crosses over from “fan” to “critic.” Roger Ebert once said that the best way to become a critic is to call yourself one. I’d like to think that much of my writing is critical, at the very least.

But enough about my existential crisis. The purpose of this blog post, and many more like it, is to provide with you some context about my inspirations and idol in the field I’m currently pursuing as a potential career. Twenty years ago, this list would have been confined to writers who worked in print publications that I had access to or television programs I watched, but the Internet has opened the doors for hundreds of smart, thoughtful writers to contribute to our ever-expanding exploration of pop culture and its impact on our lives.

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World War B Minus

World War Z

Let’s get this out of the way first: World War Z, directed by Marc Forster and written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof, is not the zombie apocalypse-level disaster that production stories like this have suggested it would be. What a relief.

That said, World War Z is far from a great movie. In fact, it falls into a perilous middle ground of adequacy and competency. On one hand, the movie’s action sequences, particularly in the second half, are appropriately tense and well-choreographed, and the story is surprisingly coherent for a movie with so many mid-production rewrites. On the other hand, the characters are so shoddily developed that it’s difficult to feel sympathy for anyone, and the zombies never achieve the level of menace that they ought to given the global nature of the onscreen disaster. The result is a consistently entertaining but empty blockbuster. Hardly earthshattering.

Keep reading for more of my spoiler-free review. (Spoiler alert: zombies ahoy!)

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“The Voice” is better than “American Idol”…except when it’s not.


American Idol reached a rather unfortunate milestone this year. For the first time in the show’s twelve-year history, it was not the most-watched American television program of the season. By some measures, it wasn’t even the most-watched singing competition series. That honor goes to The Voice, a show currently surrounded by positive buzz that nonetheless fails to measure up to its aging predecessor in at least one important area: producing viable commercial recording stars and high-quality musical talents.

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Good Shows You’re Probably Not Watching: “Hannibal”


In movies and TV shows, violence is often entertaining. In real life, though, violence can be grisly, horrifying, brutal, uncompromising, disturbing and even melancholy.

We (and I mean consumers of American entertainment as a whole, not so much a particular group of people) are often too lenient about the violence in entertainment. Many shows use violence as shorthand for suspense or action without thinking about the emotional ramifications for the people witnessing the violence. There’s been a lot of talk recently about this phenomenon in big summer action movies like Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel, both of which end with large-scale disaster setpieces that claim countless lives offscreen without ever dealing with the consequences of such mass murder. In the TV realm, much of the conversation has been centered around the booming genre of serial-killer shows, among them veterans like Dexter and Criminal Minds as well as newcomers like The Following and Bates Motel. The question becomes: how many more times do we want to see a beheading or a stabbing on our television screens, especially when it’s just going to be used as the impetus for a tired detective plot?

(For those of you who haven’t seen this show yet – and given the low ratings, many of you fall into that camp – feel free to keep reading as long as you don’t mind reading a few brief plot details. I promise reading this review won’t spoil your enjoyment of the show in any way.)

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The Summer Speed-Watch: “Arrested Development,” Season One


I didn’t love Arrested Development right away.

(If you’re invested in me loving the show, don’t worry: this story has a happy ending.)

I watched the pilot and nearly got whiplash trying to keep track of all of the characters and the intricately plotted storyline. This show is complicated, I thought to myself. And it is! But now I see: that’s what it makes it great.

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The Summer Speed-Watch: “Louie,” Season One


Louie breaks many of television’s most basic rules. Rather than maintaining a consistent structure, each episode assumes its own shape. Some episodes contain two separate stories of equal length tangentially linked by a common theme; others contain one long story and one short one, or just one episode-long story. Some episodes contain long stretches of Louis C.K.’s stand-up routine, which often serves as the origin point for the narrative stories that follow; others episodes isolate the stand-up at the beginning and end, or leave it out altogether.

And the stories themselves are far from traditional. Sometimes they’re just comic larks, as when one of Louie’s bad dates ends with the woman bailing out into a nearby helicopter. Other times, they’re observant commentaries on Louie’s psyche, as when Louie and fellow single parent Pamela confess the worst thoughts they’ve had about their children. And sometimes they’re somewhere in between, as in the remarkably strange episode “God,” when young Louie has a traumatic experience in his Catholic school. You never know what you’re going to get.

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