Stephen Colbert: Super Bowl Fumble, Sanders Touchdown

Colbert Ball.jpg

On Sunday night, Stephen Colbert became the first host in the history of late-night TV to do a show immediately after the Super Bowl. That he and his team fumbled the gig should come as little surprise.

The post-Super Bowl slot has been a mixed blessing of late. Ratings for whatever show follows the nation’s most-watched television event¬†of each year inevitably spike on that Sunday night, but the bump for subsequent episodes is far less substantial, even non-existent. Creatively speaking, most Super Bowl episodes are burdened with such high expectations from audiences and network executives that they’re more concerned with being big and loud than being good. By the end of an exhausting Super Bowl game and halftime show, the last thing most people want to do is keep their brain turned on for one to two more hours of programming, even if they keep their televisions on in an act of sheer inertia.

On top of all those built-in obstacles, Stephen Colbert’s¬†The Late Show is uniquely unsuited to the task of following up the most expensive, expansive spectacle in American pop culture. Continue reading

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2015 in Review: My Ten (Okay, Eleven) Favorite TV Shows

Leftovers

Diversity of many varieties was on the brain for many spheres of television this year. Network executives, showrunners, critics and audiences alike engaged in thoughtful discourse about what it means to make diverse television in 2015. There are more places than ever to watch TV, and more places than ever to distribute it. It makes logical sense that TV offerings this year would touch on a wider range of issues, feature a wider range of character types and demographics and explore a wider range of stories and universes than ever before.

But with great power comes great responsibility. My favorite shows in 2015 were the ones that used the expanding boundaries of what’s possible on television to their fullest advantage, crafting rich and surprising worlds, telling stories that dovetail with the themes, ideas and controversies guiding our daily lives. In relatively arbitrary order of preference (who’s to say whether a dark comedy about an animated horse is superior to one of the most beloved drama series of all time?), here are my ten favorite shows of 2015.

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The M&M Report: #JonVoyage to Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show”

Colbert

This week on the M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I discussed the end of Jon Stewart’s remarkable, influential 16-year run on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with returning guest Jonathan Connelly. We talked about the impact Stewart’s had on his successors and proteges, the influence and limitations of his rhetoric on the “real world” and what we can expect from a post-Jon Stewart future.

You can watch Jon Stewart’s final episode in its entirety on Comedy Central’s web site.

Last time Jon was on the podcast, we reviewed Madame Secretary. Listen closely to the first minute of this week’s episode for an update on our relationship with that CBS drama.

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

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”: The Not-Daily Show

John OliverThe last two minutes of the July 26 episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver might have been surprising to people who have heard about the show but never watched it. As the 17-minute piece on mandatory minimum sentencing laws drew to a close, Oliver delivered an impassioned plea to viewers to consider the issue and its implications. Even as a devoted fan of the show, I kept waiting for Oliver to punctuate the earnest moment with levity. But he never did, and his show is all the better for it.

It’s impossible to write about¬†Last Week Tonight¬†on the Internet without drawing accusations of clickbait, as his clips are designed, as if genetically, to feed the media beast in a way that even the best of Jon Stewart never matched. But if you dig deeper than the superficial weekly recap below an embedded YouTube clip, if you watch that YouTube clip and pay attention to the care and detail that goes into crafting a¬†Last Week Tonight segment, you realize that people are clicking not because media outlets are telling them to, but because the show rewards their clicks with substance, style and sincerity.

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2014 in Review: Television is a Beautiful Mess

Transparent

When Breaking Bad departed from television in a trail of crystal blue persuasion last September, television lost its center of gravity. At the time, this development seemed troubling. Without a consensus show around which to rally on social media, television fans and critics alike had to search elsewhere to find a show worthy of their devoted attention and undying affection. But a year removed from Walter White’s final blaze of glory, the loss of Breaking Bad seems more like a gift.

The consensus about this year’s television is that there is no consensus. Continue reading