Thankful

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One of the essential functions of popular culture is to provide relief from the stresses of everyday life. Another is to offer thrills, joy and insights from unfamiliar perspectives. Here’s a sampling of moments from this year that accomplished those goals for me. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Things I Loved This Year: Schur Thing

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: praise for a TV creator who’s doing all the right things.

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Michael Schur earned an express pass to the TV Pantheon on the strength of Parks and Recreation, the NBC sitcom he created with Greg Daniels of The Office. But his subsequent efforts have only strengthened his claim to the title of one of the century’s most influential, successful and inventive creators.

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2015 in Review: Great Episodes, July to December

My look back at the year in TV continues with episodes that aired between July and December. As I said in yesterday’s post for January to June episodes, I somewhat arbitrarily chose not to include episodes of shows that appeared on my Top 10 list. If I had, I might have included the Fargo thriller “Rhinoceros”; the Review stunners “William Tell, Grant a Wish, Rowboat” and “Happiness, Pillow Fight, Imaginary Friend”; the poignant “Parents,” perceptive “Ladies and Gentleman” and romantic “Mornings” from Master of None; and pretty much every episode of The Leftovers season two.

Another note: this list is by no means comprehensive. There are plenty of TV shows and episodes I liked this year that I didn’t include on this list, and there are many times more TV shows and episodes that I would have liked had I the time and energy to watch them. If your favorites aren’t on here, you either experienced something great that I haven’t yet, or we have different tastes. Both are more than acceptable.

And in case you missed them, read my ten favorite shows of 2015 and the first half of this great episodes collection.

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Comedy Glue: Underappreciated Actors Holding Their Shows Together

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been superb on Veep this season. The same goes for T.J. Miller on Silicon Valley, Louis C.K. on Louie, Abbi Jacobson & Ilana Glazer on Broad City and Andre Braugher on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. This isn’t news. It’s worth remarking upon the fact that all of these actors are great and explicating the reasons why. But in the rush to praise the stars of these shows, it’s possible to do a disservice to the cast members with lower billing. Looking at the lower portions of the rosters and finding the gems separates the outstanding ensemble comedies from the ones that rest on the charms of their lead performer. Below, I’ve picked one cast member from each of the five comedies mentioned above who gives that show a subtle but welcome dose of comedy in an unexpected or underappreciated way. Continue reading

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”: Cop Rock

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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.

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Thanks

Thanksgiving

The world gives us lots to be cynical about every day. But today’s Thanksgiving, so I want to take a brief pause from frustration, indifference and indignation to marvel at the treasures on our massive pop culture landscape. Here’s a look at some of the pop culture (and pop culture criticism) that I’m thankful for right now:

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Five Quick Reactions to the 2014 Emmy Nominations

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After an entire TV season of speculation, the 2014 Primetime Emmy nominations were finally announced at the ungodly hour of 5:30am Pacific Thursday morning. (Perks of being on the East coast: waking up was no big deal!) As usual, the nominations provoked a mixture of reactions: surprise, resignation, disapproval, even bitterness. As Alan Sepinwall put it in his pessimistic but reasoned analysis, the television business is evolving too quickly for the Emmys to keep up, especially given that the TV Academy has a history of being slow to adjust to major changes in the industry. With a higher volume and wider array of TV shows than ever before, some quality shows are always going to get left behind. But when the Emmys continue to make apologies for shows that they previously loved, it’s worth wondering how long these awards can stay relevant.

Below, here are five of my thoughts about the nominations list. For more on the list’s weirder surprises, here’s my USA Today article from Thursday. For my dream ballots, click here and here.

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