Monthly Archives: September 2014


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?”


I’m back at “Dear Television” proselytizing Amazon’s terrific new series, Transparent and creator Jill Soloway’s next-level revisions of the ensemble family dramedy form:

“As the camera spins and cuts around the large table, the siblings build what is recognizable as the shorthand of familial intimacy. They finish each others’ sentences, they don’t respect each others’ physical space, they tease, they coddle. But as the speed of the cuts and pans increase and the siblings’ faces become slashed with barbecue sauce like the sets of a samurai film, this intimacy begins to feel barbaric, bullying even. This is the ensemble as perpetual motion machine, the family as out-of-control whirligig.”

“That’s Not the Way it Feels: Transparent’s Ensemble” 


I wrote a short piece for Slate on comedy, cruelty, plastic surgery, and the hilarious, semi-tragic Late Period of the late Joan Rivers.

“The central irony of Rivers’ face, as it’s evolved over the years, is that the more artificial and mask-like her appearance became, the fewer and fewer shits she seemed to give about what anybody thought of her. Writing about Rivers’ face work, Roger Ebert said, ‘I think it’s wrong for most people. But show business is cruel and eats its old, and you do what you have to do.’ To think of her surgeries as necessary, as tithes demanded and paid, is to get a vivid reminder of what Hollywood does even to women who are not sex symbols.”

“The Fall and Rise of Joan Rivers”