For the sixth year in a row, Devin and I react to the Oscars telecast minutes after it ends.
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: a weird scene from a weird season of a weird show.
Many of the most satisfying television moments bring you into an unfamiliar world and ask you to draw conclusions, a task that’s often futile. Mr. Robot did that a few times this year, none more memorable than the scene in which a sullen young girl sat in front of an antiquated computer screen and asked Angela (Portia Doubleday) if she’s ever cried during sex. What was the purpose of that question, and the others she asked? Why was a young girl delivering them? Why didn’t Whiterose (B.D. Wong) invest in some more era-appropriate technology?
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.
Devin and I took to our microphones right after the 2016 Emmy Awards ended for a discussion of a surprisingly enjoyable telecast. We also reveal the winner of our 2016 Emmy pool, a race more hotly contested than any on the Emmys themselves.
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.