This Spring, “Dear Television” will be covering Broad City every week for Talking Points Memo‘s brand-new culture vertical, The Slice! Lili Loofbourow and I took the first shift, writing about the baffling treatment of “rape culture” in the season two premiere:

“Gray areas aside, the question in this episode is less about what Abbi does or doesn’t do than it is about how we read Ilana’s initially scandalized reaction. Is the show endorsing Ilana’s feminism, or is the show making fun of feminist killjoys who talk about rape culture at dinner parties?”

“Silly Feminists!”


This weekend, I saw Interstellar, and I saw Beyonce’s new video for “7/11.” One of them I couldn’t stop thinking about. So here’s my piece for Slate about why I find a little more hope in Beyonce’s hand-held, participatory digital aesthetic than I do in Christopher Nolan’s big-screen throwback.

“‘7/11′ is already made of GIFs; it Vines itself. When she claps on the balcony or twerks on the chair in the bathroom, the looped image comes built into the texture of the video. ‘7/11′ is a series of pre-manipulated moments, moves and visual non sequiturs that you immediately want to see again in part because you’ve already seen them rewound and repeated before your eyes. If you’ve watched ‘7/11′ once, you’ve watched it at least twice.”

“Is Beyonce the Future of Digital Cinema?”


I’ve inaugurated a new Dear Television feature for The Los Angeles Review of Books. “Necro-streaming” is the watching of a television show’s remaining episodes after it’s been canceled. Today, I wrote about Selfie, Freaks and Geeks, and the mercifully un-canceled Jane the Virgin.

“But there is something lovable about a piece of culture whose life was so awkward and brief. Something worth pausing over about a show that stands up briefly only to be toppled. This is a nasty business, this pilot season — everything I’ve just said above totally erases what I’m sure is the total agony of being a writer or performer on one of these shows — but there’s something precious about the feeling of loyalty that begins to catch in your throat only to be swallowed back down.”

“Necro-streaming: Notes on Watching a Dead Show”


Jane Hu and I wrote a recap/review of all of the new network sitcoms—A to ZBlack-ishManhattan Love StoryMulaneySelfie—for Dear Television at The Los Angeles Review of Books. We talked about narrative trickery, gay panic, and, of course, the ubiquity of cellphone slapstick on TV:

“Phil: It really just ends up seeming like a show about Love in The Time of Texting featuring characters who have the technological agility of grandparents. What’s your take on these works of art in the age of whatever?

Jane: When did the cellphone become the primary motivator of plot in television? Or has this, in a sense, always been the case? (I’ve been watching a lot of Louis Feuillade, aka-early-silent-serials, recently and wow does he place pressure on the telephone.) As a very brilliant supervisor of mine once asked: do we use the phone to talk to one another, or do we talk to one another in order to use the telephone?”

“Fall Sitcoms: A Dear TV Rundown”



I watch a lot of Home and Garden Television. So do you, probably. Here’s a piece I wrote for Pacific Standard on why HGTV shows are like crime procedurals, why “character” doesn’t always mean what we think it means, and why “open concept” doesn’t just refer to upgraded kitchens anymore:

“The ungenerous way of characterizing this would be to say that HGTV is selling a capitalist fantasia that would be severely complicated, even frequently unspooled, if it were to be extended past the space of the episode. The generous way of characterizing this, though, is that HGTV is not interested in progress—only process. Indeed, it’s not invalidating the former critique to say that, just like Law and Order and CSI, these shows are procedurals.”

“Open Concept: Why do so many people watch HGTV?”


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