Taylor Swift set us up to talk about the music video for “Bad Blood” for two full weeks before it premiered during last Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards. Despite Swift’s stacked Rolodex and the overstimulating aesthetics of the video, though, I’d much rather talk about something most people seem to have ignored: Kendrick Lamar’s guest verses.
First of all, it’s worth stepping back and realizing that ten years ago, Taylor Swift released a charming, low-key country single called “Tim McGraw,” and no one had the slightest idea who Kendrick Lamar was. (The top-selling rappers of that year were 50 Cent and some guy named Kanye West. If only we knew then what we know now.) Even at the onset of Kendrick Lamar’s rise to the top of the rap game, it was unthinkable that he would appear on the fourth single from any pop star’s new album. It was also unthinkable that Taylor Swift could be called, without irony or qualification, a “pop star,” as she is today.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a consistently good sitcom that’s almost always just shy of greatness. Two seasons in, executive producers Michael Schur and Dan Goor haven’t quite re-created the magic of Parks and Recreation season 2, even with many of the same structural elements in place. But they’ve created a fun world that retains the potential to grow into something more profound. If it doesn’t, it’s still really funny, especially when Andre Braugher is onscreen.
(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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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.
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.
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.
Photo by Mariemaye, Wikimedia Commons
The Wrap reported last night that Marvel is eyeing Ava DuVernay (late of Selma, one of last year’s eight Oscar-nominated Best Pictures) to direct one of its “diverse superhero movies,” either Black Panther or Captain Marvel. Here are some thoughts, exasperated and intrigued alike, about this news.
Ban the phrase “diverse superhero movies” immediately.
To invoke a graduation speech cliche, the dictionary defines the adjective “diverse” as “including representatives from more than one social, cultural, or economic group, especially members of ethnic or religious minority groups.” “Diverse” is not a stand-in for “nonwhite.” Genuine diversity encompasses a variety of groups or ideas. Marvel’s terminology classifies movies with nonwhite, nonmale leads as diverse. It’s great that Marvel wants to make movies about nonwhite, nonmale superheroes. It’d be even better if they acknowledged that diversity describes a particular collective body of work, not a halfhearted nod to institutionally disenfranchised minorities.