I’m on a bit of a hiatus from online writing this month while I’m traveling to visit family and do some research, but, this week, Meredith Blake of The Los Angeles Times was nice enough to interview me for a post-Emmy nomination think piece. But even better is that she quoted me right next to Diane Lockhart herself, Christine Baranski! For the win.
I’ll be back soon with new Dear Television and a few other projects.
I wrote about the Mad Men midseason finale for “Dear Television” at The Los Angeles Review of Books. Essay contains references to carousels, family tables, sausages, Ida Blankenship, and the way that this joyful, hilarious episode filled me with dread:
“So, to recap, in four seasons, Don’s argument on behalf of advertising has gone from There’s something missing in the world that you’re uniquely able to provide to You need something to do to occupy your time until you die on your couch. The content of the ads is immaterial, it’s the structure and ritual that keeps these people alive. After a certain point, it doesn’t matter who you work for: stopping is the enemy.”
“She’s an Astronaut”
I wrote a review of The Maya Rudolph Show for The Los Angeles Review of Books that covers topics as wide-ranging as Rudolph’s Prince cover band, the ubiquity of Fred Armisen, and nostalgia for Saturday Night Live:
“Jimmy plays more characters than Jay, Seth is maybe a little more buttoned-down than Conan, and Colbert will likely create a more welcoming space for guests than Dave, but these are all tonal shifts, not structural ones. Pope Francis seems like a way chiller bro than Pope Benedict, but he’s still exorcising people, he’s still cracking down on feminist nuns, the Catholic Church is still the Catholic Church, and The Tonight Show is still The Tonight Show. The new guard may feel new, but the thing they’re guarding is basically unchanged.
So, perhaps as a safety valve for any revolutionary energy NBC might have sitting around unused, perhaps to atone for a total makeover between 11:30 and 1:30 that included not a single woman or person of color outside of the house band, or perhaps simply because Lorne Michaels gets what Lorne Michaels wants these days, we have The Maya Rudolph Show.”
“Saturday Night Lost: On Maya Rudolph and SNL Nostalgia”
I wrote about all the motherless children of Mad Men‘s “The Runaways” for Dear Television at The Los Angeles Review of Books:
“Nothing is new, there is no rebirth, the frontier is a dream, the second wife is the same as the first, the new agency is the same as the old agency, Bobby’s nightmares are the same as his sister’s. Don told both Peggy and Lane about how easy it is to start over. Has it been easy for them? There’s no future, just a bunch of cowboys, prophets, and children playing in the yard, out of sight of their mothers.”
“Only Mothers Left Alive”
And now Mad Men is back. I’ll be covering it weekly for Dear Television, and I started out this week by writing about the show’s obsession with spaces. Particularly, the airplane:
“So it’s not insignificant that the big, emotionally-freighted set-piece of ‘Time Zones’ occurs at 30,000 feet in TWA first-class…Tight quarters, nighttime, brushed shoulders, the curve of the fuselage pushing people together, the air literally re-pressurized — this is one of few spaces where we have to act like this type of exaggerated and immediate intimacy is normal.”
“Plane in Vain”
So, Game of Thrones is back, and I’ve been writing quite a lot about it. First, for Dear Television, I covered Arya Stark’s revenge plot and the idea of marginality on the show:
“Game of Thrones isn’t brave because it kills its protagonists. It’s brave because it doesn’t have any.”
“Arya Stark, FTW”
And then, this week, in my debut essay for The Daily Beast, I wrote about That Thing That Happened To That One Character and the afterlives of TV deaths:
“While the loss of a major character obviously places a limit on narrative—one less character, one less narrative arc, one less set of possible combinations—these shows have become uncommonly invested in the possibilities opened up by an abrupt exit.”
“Life After TV Death”
This past week, David Letterman, my favorite talk show host ever, and probably one of my favorite media personalities, announced that he’d retire next year. I wrote a piece for Slate about why Ellen Degeneres would be a worthy, even perfect, successor:
“There are no jokes on Letterman. His monologues from the desk are networks of inference, nudge, and innuendo. Watch him even now: He’s barely articulate, but he is communicating. The anachronistic gesture of drinking from the desk—it’s 11:30, time for a drink, but Letterman, unlike us, is still at work!—showcases, above all, the chaotic potential of television at that time of night. There is no “after hours” on network television. There is no time when it’s-just-you-and-me. But there is, as Letterman knows, the possibility of faking it.”
“Dancing and Drinking the Late Night Away”