Archive for TV

Mad Guys: Bill Simmons is Don Draper


Bill Simmons won’t be your white whale. While today’s ESPN isn’t 1970′s McCann Erickson, The Sports Guy and Mad Men‘s Don Draper would much rather be captains of their own murky fates.

Simmons walking away from his current Skipper isn’t so different from Draper walking out (and driving off) on his new one. Simmons’s September departure and Mad Men‘s May 17th series finale will each mark the end of distinct eras that these iconic (and egocentric) wordsmiths have cultivated and personified. 

Like Draper at SCDP, Simmons helped construct a successful empire by creating demand for feelings and insights people didn’t know they couldn’t live without. Regardless of whether you believe happiness is “a moment before you need more happiness” or simply another Boston sports championship, it’s becoming more transparent that both brand builders are really chasing elusive fulfillment. Despite boundless resources at their disposal, fulfillment is surprisingly harder to define and attain.

Although Simmons and Draper are self-made, neither would have reached their creative potential without an audience, infrastructure, and charming, white haired mentorship (John Walsh is Bert Cooper/Roger Sterling). 

ESPN and McCann will survive (I’m happy to report the latter has continued to thrive), but solutions can be tricky to visualize after the loss of a true visionary. Especially when they resurface. Only time will tell if standout Grantland staffers including “television analyst” Andy Greenwald embrace cultural shift like Ted Chaough, or pull a Peggy Olsen and take change in stride.

While Don Draper has plenty of experience in burying the past, this is uncharted territory for Clairvoyant Bill. Where will post-Grantland and 30 for 30 life lead him next? Fox Sports, Turner, and Tommy Heinsohn’s seat all sound alluring, but Clairvoyant Bank is calling BS. 

After all, “you’re born alone, you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts.” But Bill Simmons won’t forget. He’s “living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.”

Except the one he’s going to make for himself.

Fans will eagerly hitchhike beside him until he gets there.




Bank’s Favorite TV of 2014

I consumed an absurd (and moderately embarrassing) amount of television in 2014. Hope y’all enjoy my self-indulgent Top 10 list.

*Note: I am not Alan Sepinwall. I couldn’t possibly watch everything. These are merely my favorites.

*Another Note: Some foreign shows originally aired in previous years, but were domestically released in 2014.

10. New Girl 

This reliably competent sitcom reached new heights by becoming more confidently ridiculous and self-aware then ever before. “Tran” needs a spinoff.

9. You’re the Worst 

Who knew raunchiness could be so charming, cute, and meaningful? The show Millenials (man, I loathe that word) need to be watching.

8. Black Mirror 

The trippiest thing I’ve seen since Phish’s 2013 “Tahoe Tweezer.” I’ll never forget episodes 1 and 3. You simply can’t un-see this show, and that’s the thematically fitting point.

7. Nathan For You

No comedy makes me laugh harder. Nathan Fielder’s awkwardness is unrivaled. His genius may be as well.

6. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Instead of hosting a reflective, week-capping Colbert/Stewart highlight reel, John Oliver routinely advances the narrative by calling attention to issues we didn’t know we wanted to care about. Comedy Central should never have let Oliver slip away, but we’re all fortunate that he did.

5. Rectify

This Sundance drama is so beautifully contemplative that it’s almost meditative. Flawless second season. Aden Young’s performance is evolving into an all-timer.

4. The Returned

The most gripping foreign series I’ve ever seen. Leftovers-esque, but its opposite plot is far more conventionally engaging (in a great way). Merci, France.

3. True Detective

Never stop rambling about stars and time, McConaughey. Television as a director’s medium is ironically the best thing that’s ever happened to great actors and writers. The Light is most definitely winning. We all are.

2. Transparent

Deeply affecting on so many levels. Viewers will catch on/up after this first season bags all the awards it deserves. A perfectly named series, though Amazon’s masterpiece is equally transcendent. 

1. Fargo

When reminiscing about his iconic rock band’s emergence, Keith Richards said “The Beatles kicked the door open, and we zoomed in after them and held it open.”

If True Detective’s Rust Cohle and Marty Hart were Lennon-McCartney, Fargo certainly followed with a landmark, Stones-like arrival in the television landscape. No 2014 series established and owned its world like FX’s greatest creative triumph did.

Let’s hope the True Detective/Fargo debate rages on in 2015. The anthology series door has certainly been kicked open, and I can’t wait to see what’s on the other side.


 Cheers to 2015.


Honorable Mentions: The AmericansBoardwalk EmpireGame of Thrones, Girls, The Honourable WomanThe Leftovers, Mad Men, Masters of Sex, The Newsroom, Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black, Silicon Valley, Every scene on The Bridge feat. Matthew Lillard

All-Bank First Team: Matthew McConaughey (True Detective), Martin Freeman (Fargo), Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent), Aya Cash & Chris Geere (You’re the Worst)

All-Bank Unsung Heroes Team: Olivia Munn & Thomas Sadowski (The Newsroom), Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones, Orphan Black, Nashville, that weird Chanel No. 5 commercial with Gisele), Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire, True Detective), Marc Pickering (Boardwalk Empire), Adelaide Clemens (Rectify)

Rookie of the Year: Allison Tolman (Fargo)

Shit List: The Affair, House of Cards BBQ-centric episode

The Guilty Writers’ Room

I wish I enjoyed The Leftovers half as much as I admire it. If this were the case, however, I’d be missing out on precisely what makes the series unlike anything that’s ever aired on American television.

Like the enigmatic HBO drama’s chain-smoking Guilty Remnant, its writers’ room is unequivocally apathetic towards being lauded, loved, or even understood. Showrunner Damon Lindelof didn’t need a notepad and Sharpie to spell out how he’s moved on from LOST, but his collaboration with novelist Tom Perrotta is a tonal testament to what happens when seeking approval and/or redemption is disregarded in the pursuit of emptiness. It’s quite rare when the only thing you’ve come to expect from a show is that it expects nothing from you in return. The GR doesn’t want protection any more than the “GWR” (Guilty Writers’ Room) wants your weekly water cooler affection. Still, the inability to discern whether this seemingly unapologetic indifference is always intentional makes the series as frustrating as it is fascinating. Wanting to care about the characters is easy. Determining exactly why you should is what makes engaging with this story such a complex struggle.

Huffington Post TV critic Maureen Ryan asserts “Each character is stranded in his or her own bubble of sadness, but most of these bubbles are indistinguishable from each other, and the unrelentingly dour tone of the story makes it all too easy to tune out. It won’t be the first or last show to make this mistake, but those making The Leftovers seem to think that profundity is best expressed through unrelenting misery.” With Mad Men’s final seven episodes on pop culture’s horizon, perhaps it’s finally time for Don Draper to pass the torch and begin sharing some of his burden. I hear misery loves Sunday night company.

Protagonist Kevin Garvey may (or may not) be losing his mind, but Lindelof seems more comfortable within his own reality than ever before. Even when it feels like he may be blowing secondhand cigarette smoke up our asses. Was Holy Wayne more than just another Theresa Caputo? Will Reverend Matt’s steadfast faith pay off as well as his roulette bender paid out? Could the May 1972 National Geographic reveal any more about October 14th’s Sudden Departure than it can about the true identity of the Yellow King?

True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto may have subverted fan expectations by personally calling attention to them, but Leftovers’ scribes would sooner sign up for a woodsy stoning than acknowledge clues to a mystery they’ve never even feigned interest in solving (though the season finale’s director is apparently more outspoken). Something tells me the immortal Rust Cohle would fit in nicely with the Mapleton Police Department. Although here, Darkness has rigged the game.

With ten episodes in the books (Perrotta’s source material has officially run its narrative course) and at least one more season on the way, I’ve long given up on comprehending what The Leftovers really means. I’m far too busy interpreting how it makes me feel. And even more so, what it doesn’t. Max Richter’s soaring score is ironically most evocative when juxtaposed with imagery that leaves you feeling numb (Reverend Matt watching the GR paint over his church and Gladys’s incinerator-bound corpse come to mind). Amy Brenneman’s stoic performance burns hottest when fueled by Justin Theroux’s raw kineticism (sadly neither performer can save Chris Zylka from turning Tom Garvey into this show’s Chris Brody). It’s these bizarre contrasts that keep me coming back for more.

But how much longer can Lindelof, Perrotta, and Co. sustain this level of melancholic melodrama? Although HBO and PETA have proven to be more tolerant of dead dogs than dead horses, viewers will inevitably grow restless. The GR cruelly used dummies to make Mapleton “remember,” but it’ll likely be the GWR’s brilliance that keeps us in a James Blake-induced trance. The Leftovers’ debut season was many things, but it certainly wasn’t forgettable.



57th Annual New York Emmy Awards

It was such an honor to represent my incredible colleagues at the 57th Annual New York Emmy Awards. George to the Rescue truly embodies the spirit of those it represents and serves, and I couldn’t be prouder of our second consecutive win.

Thank y’all for your continued support. Especially Phil & Debbi (my parents). Their hard work has allowed me to play for a living. I (gratefully) think about this every single day.

Talk Stoop Interviews

Been shooting some fun interviews for NBC/USA Network’s Talk Stoop with Cat Greenleaf. Links below!

Oliver Stone

Ian McKellen

Patrick Stewart

Justin Long

Ron Perlman

Katey Sagal

Ethan Hawke

John McEnroe

Steve Coogan

Geoffrey Rush