Girls was the first series that Dear Television ever covered. It lost its way a little bit, but I returned this week, five seasons in, to write about maybe the best set of episodes the show has ever produced.
“But Girls is where this started for us, and so, as we come to the end of a triumphant fifth season and look to the upcoming final run of this show, I have been looking back at our own relationship to it. Because it is a relationship. I was just lecturing a roomful of undergraduates — who are in the midst of watching The Wire for my intro media studies course — sounding half-crazed, I think, about how television series like these are important if only because they constitute an actual part of our lives. Because of their seriality, because of the attention they demand, because of the commitment we give to the best of them, they end up constituting an element, however small, of the way we live our lives day to day — and that’s whether we watch week to week or binge to catch up. More so than most other art forms, TV is the one we integrate into our existence.”
“400 Blowies: Girls‘ Coming of Age, Finally”
Before we get into this week’s writing: I’m starting an email newsletter! It’ll feature links to my work, links to other writing I admire, but, more specifically, it’ll feature essays about TV and a range of other subjects that don’t make it into the pages of DearTV. If you’re interested, subscribe here. The first installment ought to hit the stands next week.
Meanwhile, in this week’s Dear Television, I wrote about The Americans, Showtime’s hammy Billions, and how unusual it is for series of this era to think about marital fidelity.
“It’s easy to show why the relationship between a faithful partner and a cheating partner is complex. It’s much more difficult to show why and how a marriage is complex if nobody is cuckolding anybody else. There are ways of being faithful that are more interesting than the well-trod plot points of a marriage undone by infidelity. And there are other ways to be unfaithful that don’t involve hookers or handsome young men at the country club. Don’t get me wrong, Billions isn’t going to win any Peabody Awards, but it’s managed to become one of the most vital — or at least imaginative — shows about marriage on TV.”
“High Fidelity: The Marriages of Billions and The Americans“
I wrote, with Lili Loofbourow, about the series finale of FX’s extraordinary historical drama, American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson. Specifically, I wrote about how specific this unusual show was to its medium:
“For all of the echoing of Victorian historicity that one may find in The People v. OJ Simpson, it is so very very much a television series. More than that even, it is so very very much a work of audiovisual media. Ask even a casual viewer to name something distinctive about this show. What will they notice? Maybe they’ll notice the occasionally heretical sound cues. ‘Fight the Power’ as the jury protests. ‘Sabotage’ during the Bronco chase. The non-triumphant half of ‘Feeling Good’ as Clark and Darden exit stage left. They might be nauseated or exhilarated by the constant movement of Murphy’s whip-panning, crash-zooming camera. They might — as Sarah and I did when the show first premiered — remark upon the electrical zap of recognizable nineties actors playing recognizable nineties icons. They might even notice the way this show creates drama, suspense even, by inverting the resonance of the cliffhanger to play with our anticipation of things we already know will happen. These cues connote some of the “slight historicity” that Dames attributes to the show’s Victorian inheritance, but they are unmistakably televisual (or, at least, cinematic) sparks.”
“The Making of OJ Simpson”