The M&M Report: “Master of None” and “The Americans”

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Devin and I discuss our conflicted reactions to Master of None season two (0:00-26:45). Then we spar (as only we can) over The Americans season five (26:45-end).

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The M&M Report: “Win It All” and the State of the Movie Industry

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Win It All is the latest gripping drama from writer-director Joe Swanberg and writer-star Jake Johnson; you can stream it on Netflix now. It’s good.

Meanwhile, what does the recent explosion of content coming from streaming services mean for more traditional creators and distributors of pop culture? We don’t have all the answers, but we make a few guesses.

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Jimmy Fallon Wants America Back, and Lorne Michaels Might Help Him Get It

The Saturday Night Live season that will go down in history as the one that made President Donald Trump very upset might end with an episode hosted by the celebrity perhaps most closely associated with the phenomenon of normalizing Trump’s behavior.

Three episodes remain in the 42nd season of SNL, but there’s a strike-shaped cloud hanging over them. Should that cloud burst on May 2 and stick around for a couple weeks, the season will have ended with this Saturday’s episode, hosted by Jimmy Fallon with music from One Direction runaway Harry Styles.

When Fallon last hosted SNL in December 2013, he was riding high — believe it or not — from a wave of critical praise for his work hosting NBC’s Late Night, which came to an end two months later. He’d been tapped a few months earlier to take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno. That news was met with widespread approval from fans and critics alike.

Those days are but a distant memory now. Until recently, Fallon bested his late-night rivals by a wide margin in the ratings, but the Twittersphere and its associated ephemera quickly grew tired of his show’s zany antics and sycophantic interviews, which come at the expense of intellectual depth and emotional range. Adding fuel to the fire, Fallon also made several unsavory appearances in the tabloids, with admittedly sketchy reports suggesting his drinking and partying contributed to a string of high-profile injuries.

But nothing drew more online outrage than Fallon’s fawning conversation with Donald Trump on Sept. 15, 2016, less than two months before the most consequential presidential election in modern history. The amiable host’s hair-ruffling has been litigated ad nauseum in the weeks and months since, and rightfully so. Fallon’s indiscriminate, hyperbolic enthusiasm for all of his guests quickly turns sour and repulsive when future heads of state are involved.

The rest is history. Donald Trump won the election, one year after hosting his own controversial episode of SNL. (I had plenty of thoughts about that at the time, and most of them remain.) At least one voter was quoted in the New York Times pointing to Trump’s appearance on Fallon’s show as an appealing example of a “humble” moment for the 45th president, who is anything but. Fallon dodged the criticism while tipsy during a TMZ interview, and while giggly on SNL in October, when Tina Fey ribbed him in character for the hair moment during an ill-advised, unfunny Weekend Update cameo. Also in character, Fallon smiled and read his next line: “I did it one time! Get off my bra strap, cool police.”

Then in January, he hosted the Golden Globe Awards, tossing off a few Trump-related softballs before launching into an extended impression of Chris Rock. During an interview with Seth Meyers on The Tonight Show, Meyers let him off the hook for the hair controversy, and once again Fallon said nothing. He does not appear to have learned any lessons.

This Saturday, that may change. No one has said so on the record, but Fallon’s hosting appearance seems very much like Lorne Michaels, who executive produces both SNL and Fallon’s show, trying to help shore up Fallon’s ratings against surging timeslot competitor Stephen Colbert. At the very least, Michaels is giving Fallon an opportunity to change the narrative around his persona.

Can Fallon pull it off? It’s doubtful. Judging by recent shows, the current mood at SNL appears to be one of sustained antipathy for the confounding realities of the political moment. At least publicly, Fallon doesn’t share such passions, and will likely push for broader, sillier material. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If Fallon wants to be truly apolitical, booking presidential candidates on his talk show doesn’t make much sense. If he wants to atone for his perceived sins in the eyes of those who turned against him, a cynical attempt to rewrite the narrative might prove too craven to be effective. And if he wants simply to turn away from the turbulence and move on to a new chapter, well, he’s not the only one.

Things I Loved This Year: Why Do You Ask?

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.

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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?

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Things I Loved This Year: The Kids Are More Than Alright

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: kids!

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You never want to admit when a child actor isn’t quite cutting it. I wouldn’t want to be the director on a set with a kid who just can’t nail the take, or isn’t quite right for the role. It’s one thing to tell a full-grown adult that they missed the mark — most of them can take it. But a child? What kind of monster tells a child they’re just not good enough?

Luckily, this year, I don’t have to wrestle with that moral dilemma. There were so many great kids on TV this year! Here are a few.

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The M&M Report: 2016 in Review

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Devin and I reflected on a turbulent year for world affairs and a fruitful year for pop culture in the final M&M Report of 2016. Thanks to all who have listened this year. See you in 2017!

Timecodes

Frank Ocean’s Blond (0:00-9:40)

the Longform podcast (9:40-18:15)

Atlanta (18:15-33:40)

O.J.: Made in America (33:40-42:20)

The Lobster (42:20-47:30)

Hell or High Water (47:30-54:50)

Moonlight (54:50-End)

PROGRAMMING NOTE: We’ve made a behind-the-scenes change. If you haven’t done so already, you need to RE-SUBSCRIBE to the podcast on iTunes or the podcast provider of your choice in order to receive new episodes in your feed. We know this extra step is time-consuming, but we’re excited about what it means for the future of the podcast. Tell your friends! (And if you’ve already done it once, no need to do it again.)

The M&M Report: Peak TV

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PROGRAMMING NOTE: We’ve made a behind-the-scenes change. If you’re already subscribed to The M&M Report on iTunes or the podcast provider of your choice, you need to RE-SUBSCRIBE in order to receive new episodes in your feed. We know this extra step will be annoying, but we’re excited about what it means for the future of the podcast. Tell your friends!

On this episode, Devin and I pondered the perils and pleasures of Peak TV. We start by defining it with the help of comments from FX president John Landgraf, and then we examine how the phenomenon has affected our viewing habits, the creative forces that shape those habits and the business forces that have allowed Peak TV to flourish. This New York Magazine feature on the subject is worth reading, either as a precursor or a follow-up.

Listen here. And please subscribe!