If there's one thing that Joel Hodgson and his friends at Mystery Science Theater 3000 absolutely, positively did that was smart when they brought back the show, it was this: their timing could not have been better.

In these dark times (spoiler! stay away from parts of this blog if politics causes you to break out in hives or panic attacks), nothing could be more welcome than a show about some wiseguys making cracks about movies. No one could have predicted that everything would turn to crap at precisely the moment when people needed to laugh, but, then again--when is there a time when people don't need a good show?

Don't believe the haters--it's a great show. When they make another season, it'll get even better.

I'll tell you something for nothing, though--the MST3K swag gets better and better. That's my mug up there--no handle, rough surfaces, raised letters--it's as if they knew what I like (ew!). What a mug! Couldn't be happier, couldn't be more pleased to know that at least one thing is right in the world.

Live Stream Mystery Science Theater 3000 on April 9

In a world full of crappy news, this is a bright, shining beacon of hope. Mystery Science Theater 3000 returns with a new season of experiments on Netflix.

1. The preview screening of Experiment 1101 will be available to stream starting at 12:01 AM PT on SUNDAY, APRIL 9th, 2017 [this is only for MST3K "backers" who pledged $25 or more to finance the return of the show].

2. All release times – including the release of the new season on Netflix on April 14th – will be on PACIFIC TIME, not on EASTERN TIME.

Not everyone is getting the e-mails, so pass this along. If you didn't pledge money when the show was coming back, don't worry--you'll get to see the results on Netflix. Watching on Netflix makes sense because, in the old days, and I'm talking to all of you younger folks out there, it was a pain in the rear to program VCRs. I had one that was flaky on me, and I liked to get the whole two hour show on one VHS tape for quality purposes I don't understand right now.

Looks like something magical to me is about to happen.

Can VEEP Still be a Relief in Weary Times?

It used to be fun to watch VEEP because you just knew that the real thing wasn't as awful or as cynical as what you were seeing on television.


Holy mother of God, it's like a version of reality we all wish we were living. The real thing is so much more awful, so much more venal that it is impossible to overstate just how horrible things have become.

Can a show that shows us a funny way of looking into the political and social lives of selfish people survive in an era when the real thing is more of a farce than what's written as fiction? Well, if they have been working their asses off, sure. It's entirely possible for art to transcend reality if people have put in the effort. This is a show where people have been doing that so why not?

Mary Tyler Moore 1936-2017

mary tyler moore.jpg

It would appear that 2017 is going to be just as much of an asshole as 2016:

Mary Tyler Moore, the Oscar-nominated actress best known for her roles in the television sitcoms "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," has died. She was 80.
"Today, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine," her publicist, Mara Buxbaum, told ABC News. "A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile."
Moore's portrayal of the single career woman Mary Richards in her eponymous 1970s show arrived alongside the Women's Movement, making her a role model for generations of women, even though Moore didn't consider herself a feminist. The show, which centered on Richards' work as a producer in a fictional Minneapolis newsroom and her life as a single woman, earned 29 Emmy Awards, the most for any scripted series until "Frasier" won its 30th Emmy.

I grew up in Minnesota, and the iconic image of Moore throwing her beret into the air on the Nicollet Mall is a timeless piece of television history. 

Comedy Central Fired the Wrong Guy

Larry Wilmore's The Nightly Show was never supposed to be as huge as The Colbert Report. To expect that would be unfair since much of the staff went with Stephen Colbert to the Late Show. Wilmore was an important voice for people who we don't hear from enough in the culture. He did everything the right way and there is nothing to criticize him for. No matter how underwhelming his numbers, he did not deserve to be fired before Trevor Noah:

Comedy Central announced Monday it is canceling Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show, and the last episode will air on Thursday. Comedy Central President Kent Alterman said the show has not been resonating with the network’s audience. “Even though we’ve given it a year and a half, we’ve been hoping against hope that it would start to click with our audience, but it hasn’t happened and we haven’t seen evidence of it happening,” Alterman said. Wilmore recently headlined the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where he was roundly criticized for using the n-word. Rory Albanese, a comedian who works on the show, tweeted Monday morning: “I’m very proud to have been a part of a show that has been funny, diverse & extremely necessary.”

Noah is the one who doesn't "resonate" with viewers. Why is he being given a pass?

When was the last time anything on the Daily Show was worth blogging about? For me, there has been a glaring omission from the political discussion ever since Jon Stewart stepped down. At least Wilmore understood American politics.

The Tonight Show is Unwatchable

I promise you one glittering, unfettered hot take and only one. The Tonight Show under Jimmy Fallon is infantile and unwatchable.

I realize that this is not a popular opinion, nor will it win me any special acclaim. I also realize that it is based on a very subjective understanding of the medium of television. The Tonight Show was pretty unwatchable under Jay Leno because he played it as the alternative to all of that "mean comedy" that was out there; it was temporarily smart and funny under Conan O'Brien. It went back to being "YouTube" friendly for about a minute under Jay when he took the show away from Conan. Since having it taken away and given to Jimmy Fallon, the show is a childish, ridiculous piece of flaming shit. The show does better in the ratings than Stephen Colbert because nobody wants to watch smart TV anymore.

That's my hot take. And I can remember when Johnny Carson was never there during his last three years because he didn't give a shit. So don't think this is a post like that. The good old days for the Tonight Show ran briefly from the late 1960s until about 1985 or so, and then it went into receivership until Carson was tired of making all that money.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 at San Diego Comic-Con

Well, I won't be in San Diego this weekend, but I will be Earth-bound and dreaming of what's to come from the reboot of MST3K.

This Saturday! Join @JoelGHodgson & the new cast of @MST3K in San Diego for panels, signings & more @Comic_Con!

The wait is driving me a little crazy, but I'm super psyched to have the show back.

Comedians Have to Apologize For Everything Now

Maria Bamford's new show Lady Dynamite is getting a lot of write-ups on the websites that contain information that I sometimes use while blogging:

Conventional wisdom would have it that crippling mental illness isn't a good subject for a sitcom. But there's nothing conventional about Maria Bamford's brand of comedy. Fans of her stand-up and such through-the-rabbit hole projects like 2012's Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special—  in which the 45-year-old comedian performs a taped set for just her parents in their living room — know that she isn't afraid to tap into very dark, very personal places in her work. So when Bamford announced she was developing a sitcom for Netflix that would touch on her career struggles in Hollywood and stints in psychiatric hospitals to treat a bipolar disorder, you expected something different. And Lady Dynamite, which toggles between our heroine trying to land acting gigs in Hollywood and her time in a mental hospital in her real-life hometown of Duluth, Minnesota (and premieres in full tomorrow night on the streaming service), could not be a better introduction to her ability to slide between sunny absurdity and depressive reality in a blink.

It sounds like a great show in the making, and I'll definitely watch it. But I hate Rolling Stone and I am sorry I linked to them. At the end of the article, poor Maria has to get her apologies in early:

"I had wanted to go very dark for the dark moments. Just, you know, minutes of silence passing. That's how it truly is — these unbearable moments. But who knows if that makes for good television," she says with a laugh. "I mean, people die from illnesses like these. I was a little worried about that, so I hope it turned out to be respectful as well [as funny]. And if it isn't, I apologize, I apologize, I apologize. I apologize right up front for everything I've done and will do."

The truly daunting thing that comedians do nowadays is tell jokes and try to get shows on the air. No one has a sense of humor about anything anymore. The Internet amplifies the voices of people who are outraged. I'm fine with all of that--I run my own website so I can't ban myself and I can't stop showing up for work, so there's that. The real problem is when someone organizes a boycott of everything you say or do--that's not fun. It's almost better to be ignored and have no one read what you're writing, but I have no opinions about that.

Kevin Smith Might Reboot Buckaroo Banzai

Oh, my:

The cinema of the 1980s produced a lot of ambitiously strange genre fiction, but only one movie of that era (or any era) starred a particle physicist who's also a race car driver, rock star, and neurosurgeon: W.D. Richter's 1984 B-movie masterwork The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. It's a beloved-but-obscure cult hit, but it might be getting a high-profile reboot if Kevin Smith has his way. The writer, director, and podcaster told listeners of his Hollywood Babble-On podcast that he and MGM are developing a TV version of the story.

It apparently stemmed from Smith's recent turn directing an episode of the CW's The Flash. "Doin' that has opened up weird doors," Smith said in the podcast. "MGM said, 'Hey, we hear that you like Buckaroo Banzai.' ... So they called my agent and they were like, 'We think we'd like to talk to him about — y'know, we did — with Fargo, we took Fargo and turned it into a TV show and it's won awards and shit.' They were like, 'We have another property that we wanna do that with, and we were wondering if he's interested and has ever heard of Buckaroo Banzai.'"

He said he was interested, it having been a childhood favorite of his, and now he and MGM are apparently about to "take it out and try to find a home for it." Smith wants it to include the original cast — which featured Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, and a young Jeff Goldblum — as villains, and wants the first season to reinterpret the plot of the movie before a second season that would go in a new direction. For those who disdain the idea of Smith helming this project, just remember the words of Buckaroo: "Don't be mean. We don't have to be mean. 'Cause remember: No matter where you go, there you are."

There's only one way to go with this--no self-referential bullshit. This is material that cannot be aware of itself. It has to be done straight and it has to take itself way too seriously. Anything else--anything coy, sly, satirical or winking at the audience through a busted-down fourth wall--and you've ruined it.

MTV Never Had a Clue About Anything Important

The idea that MTV had an understanding of American musical culture or the arts in general is laughable. You only had to live through the 1980s to know this:

With the benefit of hindsight, 1991 was a watershed year for rock music. That was the year of Pearl Jam’s Ten and Nirvana’s Nevermind. A documentary released in 1992 even referred to it as The Year Punk Broke. The alternative revolution was just entering its golden age, as evidenced by the popularity of the inaugural Lollapalooza. But MTV’s Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren did not have the benefit of hindsight when they made a recap special called The Year In Rock: 1991, a long-forgotten program that has resurfaced, thanks to Reddit. What did Loder and Soren see when they looked back over the previous 12 months? “A pretty bad year” of slumping album sales and half-empty concert tours. Pearl Jam is not mentioned in the special, and Nirvana is relegated to a spotlight on new artists, alongside Color Me Badd and Marky Mark. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is briefly used to accompany a segment about the Persian Gulf War.

Because MTV was situated in the Northeast of the United States, everything that it did was based on pressure from record companies. American music has always had a regional flavor, and that was ignored by the cultural elites based in New York City. If a certain label wanted an artist to break, they would put heavy pressure on MTV to play their video and on New York based publications to provide positive coverage. This could also mean gaining favorable coverage through what was loosely termed "MTV News" by making the artist available for exclusive material. If you deliver content, you can demand that it gets airtime. And if you were in the business of keeping these people happy, why wouldn't you look up the sales information and run with that? There was no alternative back then--you took what the labels handed you and you dealt with it. Now, you can tell them to fuck off. 

Remember when Pidlar made a video with Nick Offerman? That's a video you would never have seen on MTV in the 1990s. Good God, they were so prudish it was a wonder anything made it onto the air.

I am so glad I ignored MTV for all of those years. It's always a shock for me to go and find the "official" video for songs from the 1980s and 1990s that I liked; I never had a chance to see any of that stuff because I couldn't be bothered to engage "music television" at all. And, yes, MTV's 120 Minutes was a joke then and it's a joke now.

This Poor Kid

Isn't it time to ban the Disney Channel?

Debby Ryan, the 22-year-old star of Disney Channel show Jessie, was arrested for drunk driving in Los Angeles last week, TMZ revealed Wednesday. She reportedly hit another car, causing the other driver an injury. Authorities only charged her with a misdemeanor because the injury of the other driver was minor and Ryan only blew a .11 on a breathalyzer test.

The only reason why I even know who Debby Ryan is stems from the fact that I have children. And if you're like me, you watch what they watch so you can have an understanding of what it is they like. I did that then and I do that now--how did you think I ended up being an expert on Pokemon?

Plus, I was a stay-at-home dad when the kids were watching shows where Ryan appeared and I've always been uncomfortable watching what the Disney channel did with her as a performer.  Suffice it to say, they used to dress her to hide her figure. This was another example of cashing in on how a young girl looked without noticing that this is a really creepy thing to do because it tends to screw people up and make their lives unbearable.

The Disney Channel was happy to put her on television but refused to let her look like an actual person--kinda like what happened when Ariel Winter would show up in public to promote Modern Famly. They were happy with the fact that these actresses looked sexy but they were unwilling to be honest about it, and they weren't ready to deal with body shaming issues and things of that nature. In effect, they went with what they knew and they left these young women to deal with the consequences.

Does that mean Debby Ryan is screwed up? No, and this could be a one-off sort of thing. But, if you look back at all of the actors and actresses that have been eaten up by the tween show phenomenon, it's not hard to guess how this plays out. Yeah, I would regulate tween shows (they make 40 of these in a year? Really?) and I would make it so that there was a support mechanism in place to help young performers. And no kid of mine would ever be allowed within a thousand yards of whoever runs this industry.

Louis CK Loses Millions

Someday, we'll all brag about how we paid for Horace and Pete, even though nobody's been buying the show:

As often happens with the web, there’s good news and bad news as television shifts online. The spirit of the age tells us that everyone should go it alone, that entrepreneurial individualism is more important than being part of a larger team, that we all need to unbundle.

But Louis C.K. has learned the hard way that it doesn’t always work. Even with a series that’s smart, well-acted, topical, and ambitious.

C.K.’s show “Horace and Pete” is about as close to the classic American theater of Eugene O’Neill as television offers. Taking place in a century-old, family-run Brooklyn bar, it’s a show in which politics, class, race, gender, gentrification, tradition, family turmoil, and various painful aspects of the generation gap are worked out in natural, unforced ways. The kind of conflicts and honest talk that a lot of shows wait half an hour to build to come every few minutes on “Horace and Pete.” It features actors as good as Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda, Edie Falco, and Jessica Lange. And while it’s certainly not a comedy, it’s often funny in a kind of uncomfortable and revealing way. (The bar’s policy of charging hipsters more for their drinks is one of several brilliant bits.) It makes a barroom-set show as good as “Cheers” look shallow.

It even has an intermission.

But C.K. has apparently lost millions on the show, which costs about $500,000 per episode to make. He sells his standup performances as audio files online – you can buy his Madison Square Garden show, for instance, from his website for anything from $1 to $85. Episodes of “Horace and Pete” costs between $2 and $5 apiece. And not enough people bought them.

Vulture doesn’t sound terribly sympathetic:

Not one to suffer silently, Louis C.K. went ahead and spread his financial burdens around on The Howard Stern Show today, revealing that making Horace and Pete left him several million dollars in debt. Basically, his debt is our bad, C.K. explained, because fewer people bought the show than C.K. was (literally) banking on.

So what went wrong? According to Variety, it turns out C.K. turned down a chance to offer the show to FX – where he has a first-look deal — for financing, hoping that his own visibility on television and on his site would drive traffic. He’s one of the biggest stars in comedy, but apparently it’s not enough to make a show with sets, actors – a piece of theater – pay for itself.

Louis isn't a businessman--he's a content creator. He's really good at it! People should give him lots of money to make things! Someone should have given him better business advice. You can't leave yourself exposed like this in a business run by thieves and vicious throat-stabbing ghouls. Television is an industry where decency and ethics are killed simply because they showed up to work one day.

And it really is too bad--when someone takes a big risk, there should be a government program that kicks in and helps them out. PBS should buy Horace and Pete and run it, warts and all, and not send any notes.

I got all of those sad E-mails, asking me to buy Horace and Pete. I'm sorry! I had shit to do. I feel bad now.

Archer Season Seven

Honestly, they can do another twenty of these:

Ever since the sharp left turn that was Vice, which transformed the spy outfit formerly known as ISIS into a wacky, cocaine-munching drug cartel, FX’s animated spy-comedyArcher always keeps its fans on edge. The creative nimbleness is thanks to Adam Reed, the breezy southerner at the helm of one of television’s funniest shows. And Season 7, which premieres March 31, is like nothing Archer adherents have seen before.

Whereas Vice was a tribute to Miami Vice, uprooting Sterling Archer and Co. from their workplace/case of the week confines, the latest iteration was inspired by ’80s detective series’ like Magnum P.I. and The Rockford Files, as well as Hollywood noirs in the vein ofSunset Boulevard. All the usual suspects are back, and this time, after being blacklisted by the CIA, they’ve relocated to sunny Los Angeles and set up a private detective agency dubbed The Figgis Agency.

“I’ve probably only been to L.A. five times!” says Reed. “[EP] Matt Thompson and I spent a couple of days driving around Los Angeles with a map of the stars’ homes. FX has a private eye on retainer—as a TV consultant, not as an actual private eye—but it’s this grizzled guy who was a private eye in the ’80s. They tried to set it up so we could do a ride-along with him, but it never ended up happening! We were so ready, had our bags packed and everything.”

So far, I've seen the bit where they re-do the opening credits of Magnum P.I. and it's hilarious. I cannot wait for Archer (and I cannot wait for another season of Bojack Horseman, either).

Moonbeam City

Oh, darn it:

Comedy Central viewers may want to sit down for this news: When it returns with new episodes circa September 2016, South Park will no longer be followed by Moonbeam City, the hyper-stylized, hyper-violent, ’80s-themed cop show parody created and executive produced by Scott Gairdner. Comedy Central hasgiven the animated series the boot after just one season and 10 deliberately tacky and over-the-top episodes. The network unveiled its list of renewals yesterday, and Moonbeam City was conspicuously absent; barring some kind of miraculous revival in some other venue, the show’s wild, coked-up ride appears to have been short-lived.

The culprit? Those darned ratings. Turns out, there just weren’t enough viewers who wanted to see what Archer might look like as filtered through the Reagan-era aesthetic of Patrick Nagel. At least not enough to sustain a weekly series: Though it garnered what Deadline is calling “a cult following,” Moonbeam City was only able to hold onto about 20 percent of South Park’s lead-in, not enough to save its own porcelain-colored, scarf-draped neck. The cast and crew of the series should not despair, however, as the post-South Park time slot has been something of a basic cable Bermuda Triangle, devouring show after quirky show.

I had hoped for another season of Moonbeam City. I think I've only seen four of the ten episodes, and they were uneven but promising. I was hoping that the creators could settle things down and really get into the characters, which is what drives these shows (and what makes Archer such a gem).

Someone should really pick this up (FX?). It's a fantastic concept and the design discipline that went into the show is very worthwhile. They could dial back the violence and make it a little more satirical and I think it would work just fine. But, what do I know? I'm the jackass who couldn't get past the dolphin episode.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 11

Don't read this if you haven't seen the 11th Episode of Season Six titled "Knots Untie."

My recap on this is way, way late and I apologize for that. I'm impressed so far with the quality of the show and I am not going to sit and snipe away at the comic or the show--what's the point of all of that? The Walking Dead is a show that is too busy changing to care whether or not people are still mad about Andrea. This was a transitional episode that attempted to introduce a whole new world--a bigger one--while adding in some more characters. The cast of the show is now about as big as the story can handle.

This is the episode where we get to see the Hilltop community. The set they've built is stunning--what other TV show would do something like this?

Michonne appears to be the new "Andrea" and that's the main story so far--the evolution of the characters and the possibility that we will see more insight into their personal lives. Basic human needs are being met, even if there is a food shortage. The existential threat of 10,000 walkers has faded into the past. There's another herd of about 5,000 walkers out there--when will they stumble back towards the survivors? When will they appear? The conflicts that will arise between the good guys and the bad guys will inform the rest of this season and set things up for what I think will be the final season--the seventh season that will begin airing this fall. If they do an eighth season, it will probably cover material that the comic book hasn't--meaning, it will follow the example set by Game of Thrones and give people something they haven't already ingested.

This episode can be measured in melodrama. Abraham is a morose fellow, but he gets laughs with the best product placement in the show's history (do people still use Bisquick?). Glenn and Maggie are hopeful because they've just rescued the best baby doctor still alive. Jesus is going to be trusted, but only barely. Daryl does not have enough to do, as usual. Rick has ended the Ricktatorship and turned things over to Maggie. And opening up the carotid artery of your adversary rates a "what?" when done in public.

We know there's an evil mastermind called Negan out there, and we finally get an idea as to what he's about. He's explained here as an extoritionist. The Hilltop compound is a neighborhood grocery store and Negan is the mobbed up guy who comes in, beats someone to death "right off the bat," and collects his protection money. Rick and the survivors are the vigilantes who are going to take him on and put a stop to the injustice. This is the deal they make, and it's the best one out there. This means that someone in the group of survivors is going to have to be sacrificed for the food they need from the Hilltop group.

Maggie emerges as a the leader that Deanna groomed her to become. Rick knows it, and defers to her because he knows what he's good at. He's the military and Maggie is the civilian, and, in America, it works better if you have the civilians telling the armed forces what to do. She negotiates with the creepy and date-rapey Gregory, who acts like a diffident Humanities professor trying to sleep with a grad student. And Maggie, as the grad student, knows how to flip the tables and get what she wants, which is a significant amount of food and the chance to help Rick sell the plan to get rid of Negan to the survivors.

All of the foreshadowing done on behalf of Abraham--who is torn between leaving Rosita and taking up with Sasha--means that someone's heart is going to be broken. I still maintain, though, that Daryl will meet the end of Negan's bat, not Glenn. It's also possible that Abraham will step in and take Glenn's place so that someone can have some happiness. The speech between the two of them in this episode makes that scenario a little more likely.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 10

Don't read this until you've seen episode 10, "The Next World."

Somehow, the gang figured out how to remove several thousand zombie carcasses and find the breathing space necessary to repair the walls and expand the size of the Alexandria Safe Zone. For budgetary purposes, this makes sense. There are bound to be a few more large, expensive sets in the future, but this is now home for Rick and the survivors. A lot has been invested in giving them some measure of stability. They have the basics. Electricity, running water, and relative safety and security are their hard won prizes, even if the supplies are running out.

We have moved ahead several weeks in the time line, and this means that there's a routine now. People have had a chance to calm down, assess their losses, and start living with one another. It's a shame that we didn't see more normalcy among the other characters (you see Tara's arm, briefly, and little else, and that's a shame because the dynamic between her and Dr. Denise looks like fodder for a few more storylines involving gate guard Eugene and whoever else). As soon as a routine sets in on the Walking Dead, critics begin complaining about how the show is boring. I suppose that's the inevitable backlash that's going to build between now and the appearance of Negan in the finale. We're a few weeks away from that, however.

This week's show was an expanded supply run that allowed Daryl and Rick time to bond over music Daryl doesn't want to hear and drive fast on abandoned roads in a nice Cadillac (if I have that wrong, sorry, but it looked like a Caddy to me). Rick talks about "the law of averages" and it looks like they are able to luck out. However, their luck seems to change when they run into the other character everyone's been waiting for, named Jesus by his friends (Daryl is contemptuous of the name, of course). The other storyline centers around Carl and Enid being teenagers in the woods. They won't show a love scene, so they showed us comic books and crabby, moody repartee instead. This all leads to Carl avoiding Michonne and Spencer, who are out looking for one particular walker to put down and bury, properly. Nothing could be more obvious than the fact that they carve a D into a tree when their mission ends.

Adding someone as pivotal as Jesus to the knowledge base of the survivors is what is going to drive the majority of the upcoming episodes, I believe. Jesus is given nearly magical powers as far as fighting ability and deception. He's practically a ninja in uncomfortable clothes as depicted here. All of this makes sense because he represents the comic book arc that everyone has been waiting for.

When you combine the Hilltop people with Rick's survivors, you end up with a very large and potent group of characters that are inevitably going to face off against Negan and his followers. I suppose this is a hamfisted way of settling in behind the story arc that carries the comics forward. There should be enough tricks and turns ahead to throw everyone else off. My belief is that we're going to set up Daryl's death in the weeks ahead.

How do I know Daryl is going to die and that everyone is going to riot? I don't, but that's my guess. The show followed through and removed Jessie from the mix; to follow through and get rid of Glenn in the comic book way would be too obvious. That's why I don't think Glenn will die in the end. I think the show will remix Daryl in his place. I also think Maggie will end up being the leader of the Hilltop community and Glenn will play a supporting role once her baby is born.

The show could use Abraham as a stand-in for Glenn, but I think that because Daryl actually killed Negan's men, the writing is on the wall.

And, yes, we get a wide shot of the additional names added to the memorial on the wall. The episode also teases the notion that Jesus is going to "expand" their world. I'm curious as to what that means. How big will the Hilltop community be and how man Saviors are there? Will the Saviors be more skilled and lethal than the Governor's Woodbury group? We know that Deanna told them that Northern Virginia had been depopulated, and then we discovered ten thousand walkers bottled up in a quarry. What else was misunderstood about life in that neck of the woods?

I don't know what to make of the dynamic between Carl and Enid. This is more of that annoying Emo stuff that will inspire countless think pieces on how the show should remove everyone who's a teenager from the cast. There's also some foreshadowing of a long supply run by Tara and Heath--was that a throwaway or will we see a rescue mission that will involve the loss of more characters?

Oh, and, the elephant in the room. People are freaking out because Michonne and Rick had sex. So what? It's a great thing, and normalcy means the characters look for comfort with one another. I would expect that Abraham and Sasha have gotten cozy with one another, and maybe a few other characters have found some comfort with one another. It's perfectly natural and an interesting way of remixing Michonne and Andrea as Rick's post-Jessie love interest.

This was another strong episode, one that followed up last week's episode with what everyone hates about the show--a lack of an immediate human threat and normalcy among survivors. There are some great stories to tell before we get to the end of this season, one which, if they do it right, will break a lot of hearts. It may be obvious to think that Daryl is headed for certain doom, but that's my guess right now.

Elitism on Television

Well, if this isn't elitism, what is?
For the first time in more than a decade, a single network had all 10 of the highest-rated programs on TV last week. And, proving once and for all that you and everyone you know are completely, irreversibly out of touch with the wider TV-watching public, that network was somehow CBS.
“Well, sure, Big Bang Theory,” you mumble to yourself, confident that you have a weak but stable grasp on the actual shape of the world. But you’ve already forgotten the network’s top-rated show, NCIS, which has been on the air for 13 years of uninterrupted unsub-hunting, and which pulled in almost 17 million viewers last Tuesday. That’s followed by Big Bang, which laugh-tracked its way to 16.2, and the Republican debates, broadcast from the alternate universe where Donald Trump is considered a credible frontrunner for the leadership of the free world.
After that, there are two more NCIS shows, a venerable bright spot in 60 Minutes, and Madam Secretary. That’s right, Madam Secretary. Do you even know who’s in that, let alone what it’s about? You don’t, do you? You think it might be a blonde woman, but at this point, who can be sure which one? (It’s Téa Leoni, but we’re not saying whether we had to look it up.) But millions of people tune in to it every week, apparently, those same millions you share the roads and the supermarket aisles with every day. They’re all around you, watching Blue Bloods and Life In Pieces. And, as it’s becoming increasingly clear, what with the network’s total domination of this week’s ratings: they’re multiplying.
The problem here is that television ratings matter a lot less now. It's getting to be impossible to see how a free, over-the-air network can continue to put an hour of scripted television on the air each week and attract enough viewers to maintain the advertising revenue needed to stay afloat. But all the other networks aren't CBS, which is surviving in large part because it has figured something out about the viewing habits of older Americans. They like shows with strong female characters and reliable male supporting characters.

Basically, we're not quitting on network television like the other age groups. I watch two of the shows mentioned above, and they're okay, but not great. The really good television happens on pay cable networks or places like AMC, TNT, and FX. And I say that as someone who has watched every episode of Rizzoli & Isles on purpose. 

If you're not watching Rizzoli & Isles for Bruce McGill, you're wrong. He's one of the best actors on television and they don't give him enough to do. But, what they do give him is better than a star turn almost everywhere else. This is a show that should be on CBS because it follows exactly the same procedural arc found on all their shows. McGill portrays a character people are going to keep watching. And if you had told me that Donnie Wahlberg was going to become a stellar actor in his own right, I would have laughed at you. But, the fact remains that the other Wahlberg has more range than his more famous brother. They are surrounded by strong female characters and support them with their abilities. What's not to like?

It's all about the writing with these shows. It's better than expected and it sustains these shows, week after week. The business people have to figure out how to make this work, and they need to look at what CBS is doing in order to create and develop quality scripted dramas. CBS is putting a great deal of quality on the air. In my mind, CBS is doing exactly what TNT decided to do years ago.

You may not be thrilled with it, you may not see it as essential viewing, but the overall quality of their programming is much higher than it used to be and you can see that being used to full effect on Madam Secretary. The sets are high end, the production values are excellent, and the writing is smart and doesn't insult anyone's intelligence. I'm not thrilled with the show's inability to find anything for Tim Daly to do, but it's not as if the whole thing falls down like wet cardboard every week. Someone has figured out that people will watch quality shows. How hard is that to figure out?

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 9

There are spoilers ahead, so don't read this until you have seen the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead.

Now, having gotten that out of the way, did you notice how the release of the first four minutes of this episode made everything seem as if everything was about to turn bad for Sasha and Abraham? And if you weren't expecting the return of the rocket propelled grenade launcher that Abraham found, well, I don't blame you. This is a show you can't go to sleep on.

This was a strong episode--much stronger than expected. And the best thing you can say about this episode is that they got the band back together. The worst thing you can say is that it was a mistake to get rid of Alexandra Breckenridge. Everyone knew that Jessie was doomed and so it was not a surprise when she succumbed to the walker herd along with her sons. It wouldn't have made a difference as to whether or not Jessie allowed Sam to leave with Father Gabriel. Her son Ron had been harboring a blood lust against Rick and Carl for a long time. At some point, he was going to snap and try to kill Carl again. Now you know why Michonne is one of the most indispensable characters.

I thought that they were going to remix Jessie with Andrea and make her the version of Andrea that survived Seasons 3, but oh well. Now I read that they're bringing in Alicia Witt. Well, if you already had Breckenridge, why did you need to bring in Witt? I guess we'll never know.

The use of the flashback to Carol's terrorizing of Sam was done to demonstrate that she is due for something awful. This was her way of trying to toughen up Sam to the realities of the world at a time when she and Rick and Daryl didn't trust the Alexandrians. Carol has always been about tough love with regards to kids. She made an honest effort to bring Sam into the present. Instead, it caused him to freeze as they were trying to move through the herd. This could have been done to show that Carol is culpable for the deaths of Sam and Jessie but not Ron. Ron was on his own separate path and his death had everything to do with his inability to process his father's death. Rick's act of killing his father was legitimate. Now you have to make up your mind as to whether or not Carol should have frightened Sam and whether that was justified. The Anderson family is no more. This is one of two moral quandaries introduced over the last few episodes.

The other quandary centers around Morgan and his inability to kill living people. His choices didn't lead to anyone's death, just the temporary escape of the Wolf. Again, we come back around to Carol. She doesn't hesitate this time--she kills the Wolf without reservation, wisely taking custody of the only gun and separating herself from Morgan so that she can do what needs to be done. Morgan, on the other hand, is not broken by what happened. He joins in the fight and he gets past the moment where he realized that he could have ended up being responsible for the death of Dr. Denise. There were at least four redemption moments in this episode. Enid came out of her shell to help Glenn save Maggie, and there was a moment each for Father Gabriel, for Dr. Denise and for Eugene, so can Morgan be too far behind? The survivors are about to be confronted by the worst villain yet. How does Morgan change his fate? Or is he now too far gone? Your morals aren't going to survive the zombie apocalypse for very long.


Let's not minimize Rick's speech to Carl. This is an opposite speech, different from Carl's monologue when Rick collapsed after the fall of the prison. Rick is mirroring what Carl said but there is no recrimination. He goes all the way back to the pilot and talks about waking up in the hospital. He has a whole world to show Carl but we know what has happened to it. Rick is not dwelling on that--he just wants to keep trying to show Carl what the world could be like. He has hope now that they came together and defeated the walker herd. I think this is where the show really shifts from being about surviving to thriving and to confronting the human threat. This season will be the start of a story arc that does exactly that.

The act of getting the band back together gives us something rare for the Walking Dead. We get to see something incredible and rare. We get to see a moment of triumph for the group of survivors. Everyone pulls together and goes on a walker-killing rampage. It's a methodical elimination of the threat, one that starts small and builds momentum through example. Rick unleashes his rage, and everyone sees it, just like other soldiers will stop retreating and rally around a leader who is fighting back. This is a definite war movie moment set against a vastly different backdrop. You see nameless Alexandrians come out of their shelters and fight. You see Eugene give a monologue about not being able to take a day off. You see Glenn rally to save Maggie and then he, himself gets saved a second time by Abraham (the first time being outside of the prison).

Everything culminates in fire. Daryl sets the lake on fire and it consumes the rest of the walker herd. Fire is the only thing that can save the Alexandria Safe Zone, and now they have hundreds of bodies that need to be burned and disposed of. It seems like they're leaning towards rebuilding Alexandria. If so, why? For the running water and the convenience of suburban living? If anything, they need to look for a new compound to fortify and live in because Alexandria is now a tomb. How do you make everything work for you when what you need is a fortress, not a compound?

And is there anything more badass than Daryl setting a lake on fire?

Imagine The Walking Dead Without Carol

A wonderful revelation happened recently:
ANDREW LINCOLN [to MELISSA McBRIDE]: You had a close shave in season 3.McBRIDE: I feel like I always have a close shave. 
LINCOLN: Yeah, but do you remember, with Sarah Wayne Callies [who played Lori]? She fought for you.
McBRIDE: She did? I didn’t hear that.
LINCOLN: Did you not know?
McBRIDE: I didn’t know that.
LINCOLN: It was the episode when Lori and T-Dog die. But for a few weeks it was going to be Carol and Lori. And Sarah, in her good grace and class, stepped in and said, “That’s a terrible mistake.” And so she knew that she was going, but she fought for you to stay.
McBRIDE: I did not know that. I’m going to faint.
McBRIDE: Get her on the phone!
LINCOLN: Yeah, there you go.
When I think back to Seasons 5 and 6, not to mention this past season--without Carol, the story lines would be radically different. If you want to point to one of the real genre-shifting roles played by women on television, there should be a special award given to Melissa McBride for Carol Peletier. The fact that she has never won an Emmy is a travesty. She has redefined how to be a complex, evolving anti-hero female on television.

As we approach the back eight, starting on Sunday night, I have to wonder--are they going to bring Carol back into a major narrative? For a while there, she disappeared along with Aaron. I have to believe that there's a lot more we need to see from these characters. 


Put an End to the Daily Show Already

Really, really remarkable:

This is an election year in which a racist billionaire and a democratic socialist, both prone to rants, are somehow viable candidates for their respective parties’ nominations. This is exactly the kind of news cycle that makes for great political satire. Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Trevor Noah should be having a season for the ages. So why isn’t it? How did this program go from being one of the most vital things on television to being a pleasant also-ran? Slate’s TV criticWilla Paskin has been pondering this state of events, and she delivers her verdict in an editorial called “Why Are Americans Ignoring Trevor Noah?” As that title indicates, Paskin lays the blame for The Daily Show’s slide into irrelevance at the feet of the show’s current host, Trevor Noah, who has perhaps overcompensated in his efforts to distinguish himself from his cranky, deeply committed predecessor, Jon Stewart. According to Paskin, Stewart “turned himself gray trying to rain sanity, silliness, and outrage on the hypocrisy, mendacity, and idiocy that is our political discourse.”
But Noah is a different kind of comedian and a different kind of host, and under his leadership, The Daily Show has been aiming for young male viewers who are not particularly well informed or even that concerned about current politics. Paskin argues that the affable, breezy Noah is not capable of the kind of sharp political satire currently being produced by more experienced TV hosts like Larry Wilmore. Here, she unfavorably compares The Daily Show’s funny but disposable take on the Flint, Michigan water crisis to The Nightly Show’s more cutting commentary on the same events. To be fair, Paskin admits that Noah is still learning the ropes: “The four months Noah has been in charge of The Daily Showis nothing.” But the article does express some real concern that the show has become neutered at the worst possible time. “You still may laugh,” Paskin writes, “but an inessential Daily Show is a real loss.”

At some point, we're going to find ourselves in Springtime and the Daily Show will continue to be completely irrelevant to the political discussion in the United States of America. An executive at Comedy Central will snap his or her fingers and come to the realization that they picked a good guy to follow Jon Stewart. They just didn't pick the right guy.

This summer, someone will hand Stewart a big bag of money. Come back for the election, they'll say. Will he take the bag of money and slide back into the chair while they look for a real replacement? I have no idea. But if they want to make The Daily Show relevant again, they'll have to bring back Stewart so that he can restore the show to some semblance of watchable again, and they'll have to find the right host to take over permanently. If they don't find that person, and, really, it should have been Samantha Bee, then just end the thing already. Comedy Central screwed up, big time.

Trevor Noah was the right pick in every sense of the word, except one. He had no idea what makes the Daily Show essential to American political discourse.