Inside Television with Alan Sepinwall
Theon goes home, Tyrion makes a move and Arya makes a friend
A review of tonight's "Game of Thrones" coming up just as soon as I've got armor on...
The 'Tiny Furniture' director talks about her comedy of sexual misadventure in Brooklyn
When I first sat down to watch HBO's new comedy series "Girls," I didn't know what to expect. I hadn't at that point seen the movie "Tiny Furniture," which, like "Girls," was written by, directed by and starring Lena Dunham. The actors were mostly unknowns, and though Judd Apatow was attached as a producer, I assumed with his feature career he wasn't going to be nearly as hands-on as he was with "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared" a decade ago.
But the series — in which Dunham plays Hannah Horvath, a wannabe writer struggling with work, sex, friendship and money in Brooklyn — wowed me from the start. I'll have a review closer to the premiere (next Sunday at 10:30), but by the time I was done with the first three episodes I knew I wanted to talk to Dunham, and with her showrunning partner Jenni Konner, whose career started as a writer on "Undeclared."
Though he'd probably still prefer you get to the end of a season before passing judgment
As you know if you've been reading me for more than five seconds, I think "The Wire" is the best drama to ever air on television. I'm also an enormous fan of the rest of David Simon's oeuvre, all the way from his book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," all the way up through "Tremé," which will be back on HBO this fall.
But I was very disheartened to read yesterday's New York Times interview with Simon, in which he seemed to suggest there was a right and a wrong way to watch his shows, and he disapproved of anyone doing it the wrong way. This passage seemed particularly contentious, to both myself and a lot of people I follow in Twitter, be they fellow TV critics or other TV showrunners who are fans of "The Wire."
Edie Falco dramedy much improved after shaking things up
For the two-plus seasons I watched "Nurse Jackie," it was a show with a tremendous lead performance by Edie Falco, a bunch of well-etched supporting characters played by Merritt Wever, Anna Deavere Smith and Peter Facinelli (among others) and a reliably black comic sensibility that could deftly turn on a dime for more serious moment. But it was also a show that, like Jackie — a painkiller addict concealing her addiction, an extramarital affair and any number of other secrets — stubbornly, proudly in denial of the need to change things up even a little. Consequences seemed to hurtle at Jackie with regularity, but they were always quickly dodged.
After a while, that refusal to shake things up and force Jackie to deal with the wreck her life had become forced me to quit the show cold turkey. After I left, things got even worse on the no-consequences front, as last season's finale (which I later watched on a "Even you won't believe they did this" recommendation from a friend) went out of its way to tease anyone who thought comeuppance was coming. On the personal front, right when Jackie was on the verge of confessing her adultery to husband Kevin (Dominic Fumusa), he admitted an affair to her, allowing her to hypocritically reclaim the moral high ground, while at work, Ms. Akalitus (Smith) threw Jackie's drug test in the trash to protect her.
But sometime between that finale and the fourth season premiere (Sunday at 9 p.m.), "Jackie" co-creators Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem appear to have had a moment of clarity and realized that if their show kept running in place, it would suffer a slow, mediocre death. "Nurse Jackie" season 4 is all consequences, all the time — and is much, much more satisfying overall as a result.
Tracy regains his sense of smell, Jenna pranks the writers and Jack mentors Pete
A quick review of last night's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I quote myself talking to Bruce Willis...
What did everybody think of the new ABC drama?
Okay, I've already published my review of ABC's "Scandal" and interviewed producers Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers. Now it's your turn. What did everybody think of the new drama? Do you truly understand what it means to be a gladiator in a suit, or do you think the client of the week should've just hired a traditional law firm? Did you enjoy Rhimes' trademark dialogue in a non-medical context? (And did Josh Malina and Liza Weil — both veterans of other rapid-fire banter-loving writers — work well with Rhimes' rhythms?) Are you happy to see Tony Goldwyn acting again, or did the stuff in the White House seem too much? Were you distracted by Henry Ian Cusick's true "wandering accent," or would it have been more distracting if he'd sounded mega-Scottish and called everyone "brutha"? And how about that Kerry Washington?
Have at it. Don't think I'm going to do weekly write-ups. I learned my lesson after a while with "Grey's Anatomy" that Rhimes' shows and I get along much better when I'm not reviewing every episode of them.
Figures from Becca's past return to cause tension in the present
I haven't written about "Missing" since the series debuted. Based on your comments at the time, and on the show's dwindling ratings, I'm guessing most of you haven't been watching it. But I did have one thing I wanted to discuss about tonight's episode, and how it ties back to something from the pilot, coming up just as soon as I have a butler...
A Ken Burns parody turns into a poignant Troy and Abed friendship story
A review of tonight's "Community" coming up just as soon as I buy a thumb icon at the app store...
Can a quirky cult comedy defeat a great big zombie hit?
Okay, it's finals time for Hulu's Best in Show, and it's come down to "Community" vs. "The Walking Dead." Two shows with incredibly rabid fans. Two shows where the showrunners have been very present in the world of social media (though at the moment Dan Harmon's attentions may be otherwise occupied.) One's a cult comedy that's still barely hanging on at its current network, while the other is by far the biggest hit in its channel's history.
Like I said in my Hulu blurb, I pegged "Community" as last year's favorite before "Chuck" took it out, and I pegged it as this year's favorite as well. But Glen Mazzara and "The Walking Dead" fans have been pretty relentless over the last month (in the extremely early going, "TWD" is way ahead in the votes), and neither outcome would surprise me.
So go vote if you want, and we'll be back next week to see if the zombie show could take out the comedy that once did a zombie episode.
Late '50s period drama has impressive production design, shaky characters and stories
As a technical achievement, Starz's "Magic City" is terribly impressive. Set in and around a Miami resort hotel in 1959, the drama has the same eye for period detail of "Mad Men," but on a far bigger scale. The sets are huge and lavish, the scenes bustling with extras all decked out in their '50s finest. And the visual splendor extends beyond the sets and costumes. There's a scene in the series' premiere episode(*) where hotel owner Ike Evans visits the home of his gangster business partner Ben Diamond that practically looks like it was filmed in Technicolor. In a later episode, Ike retreats from the debauchery on Ben's party boat in a shot that looks like he's just caught the last boat out of Hell.
(*) The "official" premiere is Friday night at 10, but Starz already aired the first episode last week after the Spartacus finale, and the first three episodes are already available online.
So, yes, "Magic City" is gorgeous to look at. Creator Mitch Glazer grew up in Miami Beach during this period, where his father was an electrical engineer for a hotel like Ike's Miramar Playa, and he's recreated the era beautifully.
As a narrative achievement, though, "Magic City" is a mess, filled with paper-thin characters and clichéd dialogue and storylines. If not for the appealing lead performance by Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Ike, large stretches of the series would be unwatchable, even with all the lovely visuals.