Fall TV 2015: Moguls, Moppets, Muppets and Murder

Empire

Fall TV is upon us, and the broadcast networks still exist! I watched two Fox shows and two ABC shows that premiered this week. Here are some thoughts, from favorite to least favorite.

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Emmy Predictions 2015: Don’t Hold Your Breath

This post took ten minutes to write. I went down this list of Emmy nominations, thought for a moment and then picked the nominee I could most easily imagine winning the award on tonight’s Andy Samberg-hosted telecast, which airs at 8pm on Fox. I didn’t double back and reconsider my choices, and I don’t apologize for any outlandish or unlikely picks. If I had to do it all over again, I might make different predictions. But I don’t, so I won’t.

See you back here tomorrow when we find out how well I did.

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“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”: Shifting Sands

Biden

As I wrote when The Late Show with Stephen Colbert premiered last Tuesday — was it really such a short time ago? — late-night shows are evolving creatures. To judge them on their first episode is the equivalent of evaluating a new employee on his first day of work. To judge them after two weeks still isn’t entirely fair, but the nine Late Show episodes that have aired so far give a slightly more accurate picture of what the appeals and setbacks of this show are, might be and could become.

The standard caveat with the analysis that follows: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert will almost certainly look very different in six months’ time. Many of the people involved with making the show likely already have a sense of its flaws, even if they haven’t come up with practical fixes yet. These opinions are subject to change without warning.

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“BoJack Horseman”: Sad Horse

Bojack (left, voiced by Will Arnett) and Diane (right, voiced by Alison Brie) in Netflix's "BoJack Horseman." Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Bojack (left, voiced by Will Arnett) and Diane (right, voiced by Alison Brie) in Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman.” Photo courtesy of Netflix.

BoJack Horseman is about BoJack Horseman, the washed-up star of a popular 90s sitcom who lives in Los Angeles, spending his days grappling with the reality of his dwindling fame and chronically minimal self-esteem. He has a cavernous home, a loyal roommate, an enterprising agent, no friends, inconsistent job prospects and a streak of self-destructive behavior that keeps his closest acquaintances and confidants at a remove. He’s sad, lonely, bitter, sarcastic, self-serving, unfaithful and deeply, painfully, perpetually depressed.

If he were the subject of a live-action comedy or drama, you might find him deplorable, or at least unwatchable. But the key is, he’s not just a man. He’s also a horse. And the show around him is a horse of a different color.

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The M&M Report: “The End of the Tour”

On this M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I discussed James Ponsoldt’s drama The End of the Tour, starring Jason Segel as the author David Foster Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky. We both enjoyed the movie, even though we were uncomfortable with the idea of a mainstream movie about a man who likely would have abhorred the concept of a mainstream movie about himself!

Peruse the M&M Report category page for previous episodes of the podcast. Thanks for listening!

This is Not a Review of Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” Debut

Jeb

Midway through the first episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the host did a bit in which he both satirized the media’s obsessive coverage of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and admitted that he’s powerless to avoid doing his own obsessive coverage. Colbert promised his audience he would only eat one Oreo, symbolizing one Trump joke. But the Oreos were so enticing, and the pleasure from ingesting them so rewarding, that he couldn’t help but indulge in one, then another, then half the box at once, and then a second box.

This bit was superficially about Trump, but it’s also a symbol of what Colbert’s trying to do, and what he’ll have to do, with this new show. For nine years on Comedy Central, Colbert cultivated an unprecedented strain of politically-infused comedy so draining that he’s told multiple interviewers that he had planned to leave the show even if CBS hadn’t come calling. But replacing David Letterman, in timeslot if not in substance, is an opportunity for Colbert to flex different muscles and achieve a childhood dream.

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Stepping Back from the VMAs, Maybe Forever

Kanye

I’ve spent all week trying to avoid finding something nice to say about this year’s VMAs.

I watched this year’s show live through the MTV app on my iPhone. By the end, I had a headache, but I couldn’t tell if it came from the small screen or the sugar high. The show was an overcaffeinated mess, drunk on its own excess and obsessed with its own artifice. There were missed cues, bum notes, off-color asides and racist undertones. What appeared spontaneous also felt calculated. What appeared calculated also felt cliched.

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