Archive for the Uncategorized Category

May and June 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on June 19, 2019 by Tom Steward

New Blog 5.1

The worst ending to a TV series since Seinfeld? I hate to break it to you all but that was the ending of Seinfeld.

The Bachelorette sinks to new low as their clip show shows clips from their clip show.

Robert Mueller’s televised press conference was very “There’s money in the banana stand.”

Following the exit of Lisa Vanderpump from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills expect the next season to play out like The Death of Stalin.

90-Day Fiance has exhausted its spin-off possibilities to the point where the only format left is a reality show about Americans getting married to someone who has 90 days to live.

Texicanas is a “Previously On …” segment that never ends.

DuckTales is a reboot of something from your childhood that actually improves your nostalgia for it.

I would not be at all surprised to find out that The Real Housewives of New York were all inmates in an open asylum.

Elementary has made it impossible for me to see Sherlock Holmes as anything other than a New Yorker and Dr. Watson as anything other than a woman of color.

Having just written and produced a show that involved research of 80s cop shows, I now realize that the title sequences of police dramas in this era set an impossibly high standard for the episodes to follow.

New Blog 5.2

Jenna Elfman’s casting in Fear the Walking Dead seems to have infected the show with a late 90s feel.

HBO Original Series are like Real Housewives Reunions. You know before they start that they’re not going to end well.

Arguably you’re not part of the quality TV elite until you feature an episode that seems like a dream but turns out not to be. Welcome to the club, Barry!

It’s not often that a great show suffers for trying to do justice to its ensemble, but the finale of Veep finally managed it.

With its regular skewering of everything British and San Diegan, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver feels like local television to me.

When I saw what went into making the final season of Game of Thrones in The Last Watch, I felt like Clipton at the end of The Bridge on The River Kwai.

The trailer for Star Trek: Picard dropped and its vineyard setting made me wonder whether it was about the wine-tasting road-trip than Jean-Luc and Riker took before Will married Deanna Troi.

CBS announced it will soon start airing The Good Fight from the beginning. There are as yet no plans to do the same with other All Access shows like Star Trek and The Twilight Zone.

With Jon Stewart’s testimony securing a successful vote in Congress, we’re faced with the reality that the demographic most able to effect governmental change are retired TV stars.

Hannah was making out with so many people in one episode of The Bachelorette that I genuinely thought Jason Voorhees was going to smash through a window and machete her.

New Blog 5.3

 

 

The success of Deadwood: The Movie prompts calls for John from Cincinnati: The Explanation.

The Hills and Beverly Hills 90210 return to TV screens this Summer which coincides with the announcement that my wife is now the control experiment for all Nielsen ratings.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah revealed that Bernie Sanders used to have his own TV show where he frequently insulted his guests. Now I know why the Bernie Bros voted for Trump.

Thus far in his career Robert De Niro has only ever been out of his depth playing Frankenstein’s Monster and Robert Mueller.

The low ratings of The 73rd Tony Awards on CBS may have something to do with the fact that its core audience also watched the 1st Tony Awards on CBS.

Dead to Me should win the Emmy for “Best TV Series … Until A Bunch of Better Stuff Comes Along.”

With its rapid season turnover, Married at First Sight will soon be responsible for more weddings than a cult.

With Poppy Montgomery’s TV career heading out to sea every six or so years and then returning to shore, her new project Reef Break is the perfect marriage of content and form.

Constance Wu took to Twitter to clarify a series of negative tweets about the renewal of Fresh Off The Boat, claiming that people had mistook her meaning by understanding exactly what she meant.

The ending of Killing Eve Season Two was the non-verbal equivalent of looking into camera and saying the title of the show.

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March and April 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2019 by Tom Steward

New Blog 4.1

I’m not saying the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver plagiarized this blog but …

Watching TV with Americans (April 28, 2011): “Kris Kardashian on morning food show Rachael Ray getting a round of applause for adding parmesan cheese to Pasta Primavera. I still don’t know why.”

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (March 10, 2019): “And Now … Rachael Ray’s Audience Really Likes Cheese.”

… you do the math and/or maths.

Even though I’m content to show my son Peppa Pig, there is absolutely no excuse for the fat-shaming of Daddy Pig.

The writing on Game of Thrones has become as clunky as the gears in its title sequence.

If I learnt anything from Leaving Neverland and Surviving R. Kelly it’s that pedophiles have a history of acting exactly like you might imagine a pedophile would.

Henry Winkler returns to TV every couple of decades to remind us that television acting is an art form unlike any other kind of performance

Veep rivals Revenge Of The Sith in its haste to match up the political world of its final minutes to the one we’re all familiar with.

If you like spy fiction and hate people, Killing Eve is the show for you.

I’m watching Beverly Hills 90210 re-runs in the wake of Luke Perry’s death and realizing that the show was the missing link between the two eras of television.

New Blog 4.2

Mexican Dynasties has everything its American reality counterparts are sorely missing; a working-class perspective and a likable group of rich people at the heart of the show.

This season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills began in the middle as if it was a Scorsese film. But with a canine MacGuffin driving the story, it’s actually pure Hitchcock.

Those who prophesized the death of network television must have been chastened to learn that Netflix is almost entirely bankrolled by an old NBC primetime sitcom.

Luann from The Real Housewives of New York is living in a musical theatre version of the post-release scenes from The Shawshank Redemption.

90-Day Fiance’s Ashley keeps leaving her husband Jay at the side of the road like she’s just remembered he’s Dr. David Banner.

I wish that Married at First Sight swapped penultimate episodes with The Walking Dead this season so that the heads of the experts were put on spikes and the couples of Hilltop, The Kingdom, Alexandria and Oceanside got to reminisce about their month-old honeymoons with each other in a shotgun shack.

The in-room availability of HGTV was legitimately a consideration when my wife and I booked an overnight hotel stay in Las Vegas.

Game of Thrones cast a shadow over television fandom as large as the one we don’t see in the battle scenes.

The aspirations of the Vanderpump Rules cast have gone from the pipe dreams of acting and modelling to the more attainable goals of becoming a New York Times bestselling author and owner of a top LA bar destination.

It’s not dropping a long-awaited HBO movie trailer, it’s dropping the f-bomb the trailer can’t do without.

It was revealed that David Milch has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. For a man who made it impossible for actors to remember their dialogue, it seems the cruel, vengeful poetry of his writing has finally and tragically entered his life.

New Blog 4.3

90-Day Fiance has added yet another spin-off where its stars watch the spin-off they’re not in.

The Twilight Zone should do an episode about a TV network that’s not on TV where it’s always the 1960s.

I genuinely thought when Ne-Ne threw camera people out of her closet in The Real Housewives of Atlanta, it’s because she was harboring a fugitive R. Kelly in there.

Just as Bond 25 hired Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge to salvage its script, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker should put Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan on the payroll to resurrect Carrie Fisher.

Where do shows go when they get cancelled by Netflix?

What would HBO do without podcasts? I suppose all their original series would be based on drivetime morning radio shows.

Normally TV shows become their own fan fiction when they stay on the air too long but Killing Eve has found a way to make this the crux of the story.

The 60 Minutes special on R. Kelly had about as much new footage as the average episode of The Dog Whisperer.

There are so many female assassins on TV, they should unionize.

What I’m saying is: The writing is as bad as the lighting.

 

Christmas and New Year

Posted in Uncategorized on March 2, 2019 by Tom Steward

New Blog 3.2

Bandersnatch is such a radical piece of television storytelling that it doesn’t play on any of my devices.

I like to think of A Very English Scandal as the third in the Paddington trilogy.

Kim Bodnia is the unlikely TV sex symbol of our generation. He stands on the shoulders on Daniel Benzali and Dennis Franz, which can’t be fun for any of them.

The Academy hands out Oscars to television actors and TV movies. They should cut out the middleman and give them to TV shows next year.

Least liked Bond Girl becomes most famous Real Housewife.

Jussie Smollett leaves Empire for scripted reality spin-off.

The instant gratification of Killing Eve reminds me how little time we have for a new show to grow on us.

Dario Cecchini is the “Whaboom” of the Top Chef universe.

Crashing is just Rocky for comedians, right down to the hat.

Historically, GEICO has had a better hit rate on sketch comedy than SNL, and more subtly integrated product placement.

FX has cornered the market on languid anti-comedies that may or may not have something to do with Louis C.K.

With Married at First Sight and Surviving R. Kelly, Lifetime proves it loves shows about men getting away with mentally abusing women.

The Simpsons episode on To Kill a Mockingbird made the case for Go Set a Watchman without even mentioning the sequel.

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Not only is Last Week Tonight the best investigative journalism on TV, it’s also a transatlantic reboot of The Soup.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is perilously close to joining the ranks of the bad television it routinely parodies.

I don’t want to keep going on and on about how futile it is to DVR R-rated movies broadcast by TV stations but I’ve recorded the entire Rambo franchise three separate times now and the film closest to the original theatrical version was in Spanish.

The Bachelor’s celebrity fanbase seems to consist entirely of the American comedy elite.

Doctor Who: Resolution was so unremarkable, it’s the best special they’ve done in years.

Americans watching Season 3 of Poldark must think all Britons are pathologically suspicious of European politics and determined to cut ties with the continent at any cost.

Last Call with Carson Daly cancelled. In other news, headline surely from past suddenly appears incongruously in present day.

Netflix demonstrates to broadcast networks how to put theatre on TV by recording a piece of theatre and showing it on TV.

National Geographic and The History Channel are staking their future on original dramatic television in the hope that one day they will be even less educational than TLC.

I was in the UK just long enough to see a David Bowie documentary on the BBC. You know, a weekend.

Netflix gang-cancels its Marvel shows as Thanos joins the corporate board.

Outlander continues to refuse to recast its rapidly ageing leads. Even ex-cast members can only join other shows as the older versions of their characters.

New Blog 3.4

The “shocking” finale of this season of The Bachelor is him marrying social media.

By the time my son graduates college, Conan will be a Vine.

Do we really need a Sopranos prequel movie? I feel like The Real Housewives of New Jersey already exhausted the franchise.

PBS Kids’ Let’s Go Luna is absolutely unassailable in every regard other than how long it took to appear.

NBC’s tribute to the Elvis ’68 Comeback Special seemed more like a compilation of all those moments from The Bachelor where the couple enter a room and someone you’ve never heard of is singing.

Proven Innocent promoted its Pilot the day after it aired with a video telling viewers what they had missed because Kelsey Grammer.

Good Girls is really implausible. Christina Hendricks couldn’t get away with a masked robbery. I could draw her body from memory right now.

A lot of the shows my son watches are on Noggin. If only I knew what Noggin was.

After years of fucking around with style, The Walking Dead has finally settled on a silent movie melodrama approach. And I could not be enjoying it more.

Fresh Off The Boat addressed the topic of people within minority groups not liking each other personally. It’s a triumph in representation to have enough people from the same minority on screen to do that storyline.

It was announced that Elementary will end in 2019, leaving a gap in the market for a sleuth-led police procedural or show about an unorthodox genius who works within conformist institutions.

 

 

 

 

November 2018

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2018 by Tom Steward

New Blog 2.1

It’s difficult to watch Making a Murderer Part 2 in a political vacuum. Everything in it seems to be the inevitable outcome of a Republican state legislature wielding power unfettered.

Andrew Lincoln’s exits from The Walking Dead and Teachers were identical in every conceivable way.

Peppa Pig is one of the best satires of the modern British middle-classes that exists in TV. Americans can find out more about us a nation than they would in a decade of Downton.

Outlander is a high-concept show in its post-concept period. Discuss.

The Conners needs to look worse. I’m really missing the blurriness around the edges that was the hallmark of Roseanne and blue-collar sitcoms since time immemorial.

I’m suspicious that 90 Day Fiancé is a soft open for the new Twilight Zone with its storyline about a robot and his mail-order bride.

I watched a Thomas & Friends episode where the (somehow American) tank engine was enslaved in the Yorkshire equivalent of Terminus from The Walking Dead Season 5.

Bravo attempts to sell LA Times’ Dirty John to its viewers as a Real Housewives of Orange County spin-off.

I’m happy that Doctor Who is just a TV show again.

The Deuce is notable in David Simon’s canon for having his worst and best dialogue in the same episode.

New Blog 2.2

The documentary Jonestown: Terror in the Jungle felt like an unmade horror movie. Except the movie would have ended with the survivors escaping the jungle to find out it was just 2018 America all along.

Never DVR an R-rated movie playing on AMC ever again. That’s not advice. I’m just putting it online so you can remind me.

Someone should remind Vicki Gunvalson that the last time someone did a face-morphing montage on a national TV series was Roseanne Barr. And she thought she was indispensable to her show too.

Fresh Off the Boat is the perfect ABC sitcom. It’s set in the past, highlights Americans of color and kicked its creator off the show after one season.

I would not be surprised if it was revealed that Married at First Sight: Honeymoon Island was filmed in a park.

AMC is trying to convince us that turning old or out-of-favor shows into TV movies is something that has not been done before.

Given that it was the last thing we saw Anthony Bourdain do before he disappeared from our TV screens forever, I’d like to try and make “eating eggs with John Lurie” become the new “sleeping with the fishes”.

I get the logic of playing The Godfather movies all day long on Thanksgiving. It’s families eating large amounts of food while tearing their delicate fabric apart in a matter of hours … watching classic American cinema on TV!

Hans Zimmer’s work on The Simpson seems to consist mostly of self-pastiche.

Flipping Out has been cancelled. If a jerk boss fires you and there are no cameras to cover it, does it count?

New Blog 2.3

Alec Baldwin once again celebrated getting a network talk show by making it impossible for them to air it.

Calling a TV show Timeless is really just asking for the network to cancel you.

Conservatives picking fights with Saturday Night Live and CNN is a case of biting the hand that hands you an election.

TV lost The Bachelor mansion to fire. And the Bachelor in Paradise beach to crabs.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC could have doubled as The Today Show Veterans Day Parade.

Those retro-futurist Mickey Mouse cartoons seem to have been created to alienate kids from 1 to 92.

Love After Lockup seems to be targeted at viewers who find 90 Day Fiancé bland and underwhelming.

A Million Little Things is to This is Us what Donovan is to Bob Dylan. This is Us is Dylan’s Christmas Album.

George H. W. Bush was a pioneer in television. He trashed The Simpsons years before anyone else did.

I saw a commercial for a product called Egglettes where you break an egg into an egg-shaped mold and then boil it in a pan of hot water. I think it’s a shell corporation.

The Keeping up with the Kardashians episode where a pregnant Khloe finds out her child’s father has been cheating on her was the best reboot of 24 yet.

Seeing movie stars on TV is still a bit like seeing Diana Ross in coach.

Orson Welles’ film The Other Side of Wind premiering on Netflix is the Video Killed The Radio Star moment of 21st Century television.

October 2018

Posted in Uncategorized on October 18, 2018 by Tom Steward

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The Walking Dead and Doctor Who are TV series that had been rendered all-but unwatchable by the egos of their male showrunners. They have been redeemed by placing women at the helm of the program.

James Franco may be a PR problem for HBO’s The Deuce but as it stands they can only do without one of him.

The Simpsons really comes through for its milestones.

Eli Roth’s History of Horror documentary is as deceptively intelligent as his fictional horror filmmaking.

CNN don’t seem to get that Anthony Bourdain’s genius was his self-effacement. The posthumous re-branding of Parts Unknown as a coded suicide note is not only distasteful but also unravels his legacy.

Big Mouth on Netflix is the only puberty story I have ever related to. We live in a post-cartoon era where TV animation has become synonymous with social realism and its documentary counterparts are openly bullshit.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver makes us all look bad. For even trying to be funny and say things. Especially if you’re trying to do so on a weekly basis.

There is a sub-genre of restaurant commercials that makes food look like open wounds.

Married at First Sight is the TV equivalent of foreplay. Content and form are utterly diverged.

It’s culturally necessary for some variant of 90 Day Fiancé to be on the air all year round. Every relationship in that show is a microcosm of the American struggle for dominance and subjugation.

New Blog 1.2

I’ve never missed a show more than Better Call Saul and never wanted there to be more episodes of a show less.

It’s difficult to predict who will exert the greatest influence over American politics in the coming years but a list of the least popular Saturday Night Live guest stars might not be a bad place to start.

Halloween is upon us so it’s time to start watching horror movie franchises out-of-order and without key installments.

Sesame Street is a show about dysfunction and vices. And that they’re ok in moderation. No other children’s show has ever gone there.

Is there anyone out there who still genuinely believes that the Real Housewives spontaneously decide to take a vacation with all the current cast members every year at exactly the same point in each season … with an itinerary that just happens to incorporate all the sponsors of the program and an unlimited budget that directly contradicts the facts of many of their financial situations?

Somehow NYPD Blue without Andy Sipowicz is more unthinkable than Roseanne without Roseanne.

I’m in a play about Telenovelas and we’ve been asking our audiences to name TV shows they watch with their loved ones. Somebody responded “Ed Sullivan”. This should tell you all you need to know about the vitality of regional theatre audiences.

Fall is when episodes of Frasier magically turn into quadrants of holiday-themed movies on your DVR.

The Kardashians seem to do more social interventions than O.J. and Kanye combined!

I dig Curious George. Not because I’m a father of a young boy. I actively choose to watch it. It’s really good.

New Blog 1.3

Television adaptations of podcasts have either got a long way to go or never will.

James Gandolfini’s son Michael is playing a character in The Deuce who in all ways resembles Tony Soprano’s son because apparently David Simon shows are getting too easy to follow.

I don’t know why Marriage Boot Camp on WeTV always looks like a seventh generation Widescreen VHS copy on my TV. But no show on any other network does.

I’m not exactly clued up on what the prevailing moral of Pinkalicious and Peterrific is supposed to be, but it does seem to legitimize ruining everyone else’s day with your own sense of entitlement.

Whatever they’re paying Martin Short to do The Cat in the Hat on PBS Kids is not enough: Fact.

I think all that’s keeping me watching FX these days is the prospects of seeing post-credits sequences of Avengers movies as the DVR recording of something else starts.

The Better Call Saul Season 4 Finale is the only Abba jukebox musical I’m interested in there being in the world.

Modern Family has been back on TV for a month. I have literally heard nothing about this.

I’m not ready to celebrate the return of Chris Hardwick or the anniversary of Bill Maher. I don’t think either have been sufficiently exonerated for me to party with them just yet.

I wonder what will “end with Season 3” next …

Peak Hours (Part 5)

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, TV Acting, TV Criticism, TV History, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2017 by Tom Steward

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Twin Peaks features the most food and drink of any non-culinary show on television. The original series became synonymous with references to “damn fine coffee” and “cherry pie” and not an episode went by without food or beverage items being the focal point of at least one scene. It was a mechanism by which the show could conceal (at least temporarily) its dark heart. What little joy was experienced by the characters of Twin Peaks always centered on eating and drinking and it was prominently placed during their moments of redemption. So what does The Return add to the menu?

In short, something seems to have gone wrong with food and drink. A weakness for shop-bought lattes condemns a young couple to a gruesome death at the hands of an inter-dimensional demon. The contents of a deep fat fryer are just as likely to contain firearms as sticks of potato. More importantly, the quality of Norma’s pies is in jeopardy after her Double R Diner is franchised. The respite that a good meal washed down once provided from the violence and chaos in the town of Twin Peaks looks to have disappeared. Now it seems to be a harbinger.

Oranges in The Godfather and eggs in The Sopranos. Here the mere fact of opening a bag or pouring a glass of something can get you killed. Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s junk-obsessed assassins suffer demises as messy as their diets. Diane and Sarah Palmer, who are human manifestations of tragedy in this reiteration, are cosmically corrupted in a deep well of dependence drinking. To consume was once a pure act of pleasure, one that transcended the sickness of the world around it. Now it seems more like a symptom of the world’s illnesses that then attack the consumer.

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Lynch and Frost developed an orthodoxy based on an inverted snobbery idealizing American junk and diner fare. Now they seem to find something inherently toxic about such diets. Their attitudes towards food are, once again, translated through the body of Dale Cooper. Reborn into the (noticeably paunchy) body of the “manufactured” Dougie Jones, Dale rediscovers his love for coffee and pie with an infantile simplicity that seems to represent a desire to return to the roots of classic American dining. Another storyline featuring a beloved character from the original series puts a socio-economic spin on some of the same thoughts.

Yes, Norma now has a chain of Double R diners across the country. But rather than sacrifice the quality and authenticity of her pie recipes, Norma opts out of ownership to retain control over the original location. A re-telling of the origin story of the McDonald’s franchise with a (far) happier ending for the lineage of home-style cooking in America, it seems that Lynch and Frost’s malaise at the state of American food is tied up with a protest against the forces of corporate capitalism which dilute and disturb its uncomplicated bliss. Although David Lynch loves his Big Boy!

Maybe nostalgia is the difference. When Sinclair (memorably played by the buffoonish Tom Sizemore) tries to bribe Dougie to conceal his part in insurance fraud, he takes his co-worker to a coffee shop in the lobby of a Vegas business complex that seems to have been transported back into the 1950s. The waitresses have mid-century hair and uniforms, pies are on display stands, and your gal promises to bring a piece to your table while you enjoy your coffee. Clearly this is nothing like the Starbucks shacks that would really inhabit such spaces, yet there we are.

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In other parts of the show, it appears that Lynch and Frost have simply become more modern and mature in their tastes. Dougie Jones’ primal relationship with food and drink passes off such predilections as childish folly, while Lynch himself (in the barest of guises as FBI director Gordon Cole) swigs fine Bordeaux and one of Dougie’s co-workers finds a green tea latte a perfectly acceptable substitute for a decent cup of coffee. There are many commentaries on the cultural changes that have taken place since original airing, but democratization of fine food and drink is perhaps the most telling.

There’s a lot of talk about The Return missing so many qualities from the original. The truth is much more complicated. The themes and preoccupations of Twin Peaks are largely present but register differently, and this is true of food and drink. In food language, you might call it “elevated”.

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The Schmidt Girl

Posted in American TV Shows, Behind-The-Scenes, Internet TV, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2016 by Tom Steward

Netflix is a revolution in television delivery, but the same can’t be said for content. Until very recently, that is. The ability to watch an entire season of a program as soon it was released made dramas like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards seem tremendously interesting and complex. But if the same derivative, underwritten and overacted series were offered as weekly recurring fare, they would simply never invite comparison to the original dramatic achievements of HBO, FX and AMC (ranked in order and not accidentally, by the way) or even video-on-demand rivals (and successors) Amazon Prime and Hulu. But now Netflix has something that can genuinely rival the very best of television. It’s not a drama nor did it begin life on the web. In fact, it’s a series that remains indebted to its pre-history as a major network show and its esteemed lineage in television.

unbreakable

Mr. and Mrs. Robot

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a sitcom originally developed by NBC that was eventually sold to Netflix following concerns about the network’s intentions for and confidence in the project. Created by 30 Rock alumni Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, it also features many of the cast from the endlessly brilliant sitcom that savaged the world of network television. Part of the success of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is its elevation to star billing of actors who were bit players in NBC’s now sadly-burst bubble of sitcom genius in the noughties and its strategic placing of the legends of that era on a dream subs bench of scene-stealers. Ellie Kemper, who played the naïve receptionist Erin in The Office, is the titular character here, and Titus Burgess, seen as PA D’Fwan in the weak Bravo parody episodes of 30 Rock, looms large as roommate Titus (Andromedon) with Tina Fey and Jane Krakowski foils.

Whoever at NBC made Tina Fey look elsewhere for a home deserves a sitcom to be written about them but since Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was conceived within network censorship standards, it streamed on Netflix with little of the obscenity you might expect from a service that competes with unregulated cable and VOD. Again, this quirk is crucial to the appeal of the series. It developed a family audience because of its (surface) suitability to all viewers which only served to reinforce an already-existing sweet, sentimental streak that is much rarer in the adult sitcom domain than in network primetime. The calibre and reputation of antecedent 30 Rock precedes Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but doesn’t eclipse it. As innovative and creative as it was, 30 Rock was looking back to something that had been lost, whether in TV or the culture, while its successor seems rooted in the problems of our times.

But Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt builds on what 30 Rock did to make live-action sitcom a limitless art form, something that previously had only been achieved and been possible in animated comedy. Nothing is too far, near, high or low for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Cartoons, meta-musicals and puppets are not out of place here. Lowest-common-denominator gags and obscure, elitist sniggers sit side-by-side in a harmony that never looks imbalanced. There are a whole bunch of sub-worlds which permeate whole episodes and seasons, from a counter-factual Great American Songbook to realities intruding on other TV universes. Find me another sitcom that could make Mad Men’s Don Draper and The Reverend Wayne Gary Wayne the same person. And that’s before taking into account what the show has to say about the world we live in, be it auto-tuned viral videos of human atrocity or the ubiquity of Robert Durst as an urban pedestrian.

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Mama Dolmio

So why do I think of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as the bedfellow of series like The Sopranos, Deadwood or Breaking Bad? Sure, they all have sitcom-like elements but that’s not the reason. It’s because these shows are the only points of comparison for the kind of in-depth archetype-deconstruction, devastating cultural commentary, and sublime stylistic reinvention that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt achieves in the sitcom genre. The only antipathy the show has engendered has come with its sophisticated signification of social caricatures – mainly racial and ethnic – which, even though any shortcomings are quickly asked-and-answered, seem to convey actual racism to some viewers. Whereas typically such problems are a result of the laziness of the writing, in this instance it is a testament to how complex and multi-faceted the show’s representations of stereotype and cultural attitudes are. This is not sitcom doing good badly; it’s a sitcom raising the bar on what’s good.

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