Book-ending our vacation, I wrote for Dear Television at The LA Review of Books about the other show of the summer: USA’s Mr. Robot. Specifically, I wrote about the concept of the “cinematic” on TV and about why everyone wants to list this show’s influences.

“But, where this [SPOILER REDACTED] could be a huge, devastating problem, I think there’s a way to imagine that this particular debt and Esmail’s management of it are what make Mr. Robot genuinely great. There’s no anxiety to this influence; just preternatural chill. Thrill, even. The show luxuriates in its stolen goods, pays for hot dogs with marked bills, leaves a trail of cryptic clues for the rookie detective. Like the best serial killers, Mr. Robot wants to get caught.”

“Original Programming: On Mr. Robot


I’m thrilled to be a part of this Antenna forum on Lifetime’s UnReal, organized by Jason Mittell, and featuring Kathleen Battles, Christine Becker, Melissa Lenos, Myles McNutt, Dana Och, and Kristen Warner.  We talk about genre, romance, legitimation, and why TV doesn’t need to be “The New Novel” to be worth our time.



I wrote, for Dear Television at The LA Review of Books, about the Lifetime network’s stupendous new show UnREAL, the reality TV world that it depicts, and the idea of being a “creator” in the world of television:

“What does it mean to be a feminist and participate in this kind of catastrophic gender spectacle? Is that even possible? Is this Roxane Gay’s “Bad Feminism,” or is it just bad feminism? As Mark Harris notes, reality TV of this ilk feels wrong, but where do we locate that wrongness? For a show about who’s literally responsible for TV like this, responsibility remains an open question onUnREAL. If this series ends with Quinn firing a pistol at the screen a la The Great Train Robbery, I’ll be delighted, but I don’t know if that’s where we’re going. In Greek mythology, the gods can be reprehensible, but so can their mortal foils. That’s just how things work: the gods sitting on their couch, watching the narratives they set into motion play out.”

“Gods and Bachelors: On Lifetime’s UnREAL


Sarah Mesle and I are posting weekly conversations about the second season of HBO’s True Detective. Topics covered include: sadness, disappointment, hair braids, the US Women’s National Team, Game of Thrones, Disney’s Robin Hood, Antigone, Chinatown, and how much we miss Top of the Lake. The first three conversations are below:

Season 2, Episode 1: “Happy Father’s Day!”

Season 2, Episode 2: “Midnight Dreary”

Season 2, Episode 3: “Mad Pitz: Fury Road”



So, Mad Men‘s finally over, and so too are my episode reviews. (This is not the last I’ll be writing about this show.) In any case, I closed up shop going point/counterpoint with Lili Loofbourow for Dear TV at The Los Angeles Review of Books:

“So here’s my thing: I can’t talk about this ending yet. I have things to say, lots of them, but I don’t know what they are. This is a television series that I’ve experienced — and re-experienced several times in its entirety — as a fluid, living thing over the past eight years, and all of a sudden it’s ground to a halt, the weight of seven seasons of detail has spilled out all over the place, there’s lawnmowers and chip-and-dips and Mark Rothko paintings everywhere. As the man says, ‘A lot has happened.'”

“The Waste Land”


I’m skipping next week, so this is my last weekly review of Mad Men before the series finale. As such, I endeavored to make one last big stand in my years-long effort to show that Don Draper is not the protagonist of Mad Men:

“I mentioned this last week, but, when we talk about this era of television production, we talk about an era dominated by shows that are themselves dominated by male anti-heroes. But anyone who’s actually viewed and loved these shows knows that they don’t actually work that way. Mad Men isn’t dominated by Don Draper any more than Jaws is dominated by the shark. What makes these shows great is what grows up to surround the anti-hero. These guys are anti-heroic in that they’re bad and quasi-villainous, but they’re also anti-heroic inasmuch as they’re surrounded by heroes far more compelling than they are. We all want to know what happens with the shark, but the real action is on the boat.”

“Age of Olson”


For Dear Television at The Los Angeles Review of Books, I wrote about repetition, novelty, Peggy, Stan, and the strange artful history of cursing on Mad Men:

“Don turns to him and says, ‘Why are you cursing?’ It’s a peak moment of Weird Ginsberg, but it’s also one of the show’s great sly acknowledgments of cultural and generational drift. Don Draper’s workplace suddenly becomes a place where people curse freely. Don can’t even tell what’s not authentic about the music he’s hearing, but that inauthenticity is literally painful to Ginsberg. The f-word is the harbinger of a particular doom for Don Draper.”

“Not Safe for Work: Mad Men‘s Art of Cursing”


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