Devin and I untangle our recent lack of enthusiasm for TV and explore the current state creatively and commercially of the television landscape.
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: on three of the best “prestige” dramas, women rule the roost.
Better Call Saul and Mr. Robot are as driven by their respective leading men as shows can be, a fact the titles make abundantly clear. The Americans has a dual focus on its central couple. But on new seasons of each this year, the MVPs were the women.
Nothing against Bob Odenkirk or his character Saul Goodman, a slippery con man who’s constantly caught between good intentions and material desires. Nothing against Rami Malek, who brings aching vulnerability and disaffected sensitivity to the role of Elliott Alderson, a hacker struggling with mental illness and revolutionary impulses. And nothing against Matthew Rhys, who deserves far more than the one Emmy nomination he secured this year for the shape-shifting masterstrokes on display as Philip Jennings, the KGB operative who always has going straight deep in the back of his mind.
It’s safe to assume that Veep will be among the winners at tonight’s presentation of the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards. But who will join them? Below, my podcast partner Devin Mitchell and I offer our predictions, which range from bold to conservative, optimistic to resigned.
We’ll regroup on a new episode of The M&M Report later this week to discuss takeaways from the ceremony and the outcomes of our predictions. Subscribe to the podcast in advance!
(Note: Devin and I wrote these predictions separately and combined them into a single post. We differ a lot!)
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.
My favorite weekly game of the TV summer: guessing at what point in the cold open the producers of Mr. Robot will deploy the show’s gorgeous title card, and being wrong every time.
That impeccable command of timing is on display throughout one of the summer’s most unexpected TV pleasures. It’s surprising, given that creator Sam Esmail originally conceived the show’s narrative as a single feature film, and has said that the first season represents just the first 30 minutes of that movie. Having seen 90% of the first season, I’m hard pressed to imagine how a visual palette this stunning and a narrative structure this obtuse could make for a coherent feature film. Luckily, they never did.