The phrase “mic drop” was invented for the last three minutes of HBO’s six-episode documentary series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. For five episodes and most of the sixth, the New York real-estate magnate Durst spent the majority of his screentime reasserting his innocence in the three separate murder allegations that have been dogging him for more than a decade. Then the screen goes black, a title card explains that Bob is headed to the bathroom, and all hell breaks loose.
Viewers watching The Jinx as it unspooled over six weeks last February and March got to see that moment without knowing what would happen. I didn’t have that luxury, as I didn’t start the series when it originally aired and then couldn’t avoid the barrage of spoilers and interview coverage in the days following the finale. Had I not known what was coming, I might have had nightmares about the final sequence. Even with the foreknowledge, the moment took my breath away.
Some of 2015’s buzziest dramas stumbled when they were expected to soar. True Detective followed up a thrilling first season with a turgid retread. Game of Thrones tested viewers’ patience with an uncomfortable rape scene. The Walking Dead “killed” a fan favorite character just long enough to convince people he had actually died before bringing him back to life.
Defying the trend is HBO’s The Leftovers, whose second season has delivered one extraordinary episode after another. Read the rest of my essay at The Week.
This list is exactly what it looks like: a list of one great episode in each of twenty shows that I watched this year. I could have filled the entire list with episodes of The Americans and Hannibal, but I decided to impose a limit of one episode per show. This list is different from a list of my favorite TV shows of the year, though there’s plenty of overlap between the two. And if it’s not on this list, I either didn’t like it, liked it but preferred other things, or didn’t watch it.
And now, in chronological order, twenty of my favorite TV episodes of 2014.
The story on Serial began with a meditation on the malleability of the truth and ended with a much better-informed meditation on the malleability on the truth. The story of Serial began as a humble This American Life spinoff and ended as a phenomenon of iTunes sales, Slate thinkpieces and metapodcasts. In between, this unique marriage of TV crime drama tropes and investigative reporting instincts led listeners on a journey that plumbed the baffling depths of the American criminal justice system, exposed the blurry line between unbiased reporting and biased speculation, and asserted the audio podcast as a viable storytelling medium. Oh, and Mail Kimp exists.
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.
Presenting the second half of my mock ballot for tomorrow’s Emmy nominations. I’m looking forward to seeing the majority of my hopes crushed in favor of mediocre or unsurprising choices. But that’s the game Emmy fans play. Check out the first part of my ballot for my thoughts on the supporting categories.
Without further ado, the nominations are…
Click here to listen to Episode 24 of The M&M Report.
Spring break is over, and The M&M Report is back! This week, Devin Mitchell and I discussed and debated Fox’s little-seen, critically acclaimed comedy Enlisted. Is the show on par with the best of network comedy, or is it merely a promising freshman with room to grow? We attempted to answer these questions and more.
After that, Devin and I returned to True Detective. We discussed the first four episodes a few weeks ago, and now we’ve got thoughts on the first season as a whole. Bonus: we make our dream picks for the cast of season 2.
Next week, we’ll be back with more pop culture commentary. Thanks for listening!
If there’s an Emmy for starting conversations and stirring debates, True Detective has it in the bag.
The first season of True Detective, HBO’s eight-part anthology series set in the Louisiana bayou and starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, became such a lightning rod for the first few months of 2014 that the final episode, which aired on Sunday night, could not possibly have lived up to the anticipation and enthusiasm. When the series began, much of the praise was focused on the performances, with McConaughey cementing his recent cinematic resurgence and Harrelson quietly matching him in sheer intensity and charisma. By the end, the discussions had shifted to issues of race, gender, serialized storytelling and thematic priorities.
The show’s merits are a separate, though related, issue. The finale confirmed that series writer Nic Pizzollatto was far less interested in constructing and then unraveling an intricate mystery than he was in observing the evolution of two characters over nearly two tumultuous decades. For fans who were hoping for and expecting a mythologically charged payoff, the result must have seemed disappointing. But for people who were content to dig into the opposing moral philosophies and questionable fashion choices of Detectives Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Harrelson), the season delivered.
Listen to Episode 21 of The M&M Report here.
This week on The M&M Report, Devin and I looked at the two shows that serve as bookends for Girls on HBO’s Sunday night lineup. True Detective and Looking are both worth your time if you’re looking for relatively new shows to start watching, and we discussed their merits as well some of the criticisms that have been leveled against each.
After that, we went to the movies to discuss Philomena, perhaps the most obscure of this year’s nine nominees for Best Picture at the Oscars. We both liked the film with some reservations, but we enjoyed discussing it nonetheless.
Next week, we’ll be tackling the subject that has had people at AU and around the nation buzzing with enthusiasm: the Netflix drama House of Cards. Special guest Leah Dolittle will join us to discuss what the show does right and wrong, and why it’s become so popular in such a short amount of time. Devin and I will also review the first week of Jimmy Fallon’s stint as host of The Tonight Show.
Until next time…thanks for listening!
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