Devin walks me through a therapy session as we unpack the current state of Saturday Night Live.
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- Political satire (0:00 – 19:30)
- Alec Baldwin (19:30 – 27:00)
- Weekend Update (27:00 – 38:00)
- Pete Davidson (38:00 – 46:00)
- Mark’s theory on hosts (46:00 – 50:00)
- Why we keep watching (50:00 – End)
Some sketches we discussed:
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: Leslie Jones triumphs over the haters by being who she is.
The first monologue of this current season of Saturday Night Live began in fairly typical fashion. Host Margot Robbie looked ecstatic as she smoothly navigated her first few jokes and an appearance by Kenan Thompson, who joked that he’s been on the show for so long that he “slept like a baby” the night before the premiere. (Actually, I doubt that was a joke. Side note: I hope Kenan never leaves SNL. He’s a treasure.)
Then Leslie Jones arrived onstage, and the crowd exploded.
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.
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.
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.
Judd Apatow’s filmmaking style is either generous or lazy, depending on your vantage point. To a one, his movies run too long, with individual scenes stretching past their comedy expiration time, zany supporting players and celebrity cameos filling out (or overstuffing) the ensemble, ideas and themes and conventions and subversions jockeying for space. You leave one of his movies feeling sated – sometimes satisfyingly so, but other times like the feeling you get when you eat a little too much, a little too fast.
This comedy of excess makes for an awkward fit with the simultaneous goal of launching a young up-and-comer’s career as a movie star. The rise of Amy Schumer – as an actress, a character, a persona and a brand – is one of the big stories of Trainwreck, Apatow’s fifth directorial feature.
This week on the M&M Report, Devin and I welcomed returning guest Kevin Werner to discuss the fourth season of Veep, which ended its ten-episode run on HBO this past Sunday at 10:30.
We talked about the highs (Jonah and Richard, the cult of Tom James, the plight of Catherine Meyer) and the lows (fuzzy electoral math, overly dense finale plots) of this season, and we touched on our expectations for the next one, the first under replacement showrunner David Mandel.
The show’s creator Armando Iannucci is moving on from the show. He explained why in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. Another piece worth your time: former senior adviser to the president Dan Pfeiffer argues on Grantland that Veep is America’s most realistic show about politics.
Last time Kevin joined us, we talked House of Cards (or rather, Kevin and Devin talked House of Cards while I frowned in the corner).
Devin and I last discussed Veep during its third season in 2014.
Note: Devin and I are testing out a new M&M Report approach: one topic per episode. This week’s entire podcast is about Veep, with spoilers aplenty. Tune in next time for more.
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.
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.
Saddled with the unreasonable task of attracting an audience in a toxic timeslot (Tuesdays at 9:30pm) with little promotion, ABC’s Trophy Wife was doomed to fail from a commercial standpoint. As of two weeks ago, it did – the network announced that it had cancelled the show after its first season of 22 episodes.
From a creative standpoint, the show seemed doomed to fail based on title alone. The idea that in 2014, a physically fit young woman who marries an older man could be described with a phrase as derogatory as “trophy wife” gave no one optimism that Trophy Wife would be a show worth championing. Yet the show quickly established that the title is an ironic commentary on the assumptions that people would make about Malin Akerman’s title character based on her appearance. Irony doesn’t always translate well into casual conversation, and indeed, when I tell people I like a show called Trophy Wife, I frequently get looks that would be more appropriate if I had just said that I willingly stepped in dog waste.
But enough about the title. Let’s talk about the show. It was a good one, and I’m going to miss it. I can imagine an alternate reality in which this show became a timeslot complement to ABC’s relatively highly-rated Modern Family and survived for four or five seasons of gleeful hijinks before retreating to a lifetime of syndication on cable. That would have been a far more appropriate fate for a show that married traditional sitcom standards with a modern perspective on family life as well as Modern Family at its very best. Not everything worked – some of Kate’s ongoing struggles to prove that she’s a worthy parent grew repetitive, Jackie’s antics often strained credulity, and Natalie Morales’ Meg usually seemed like an enjoyable character who belonged on a different show. But when it worked, and it frequently did, Trophy Wife showed far more promise than any other new comedy on the networks this season, save Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Enlisted.