Quick hits on some of my favorite 2018 movies, music, television, books, theater, and experiences. Happy 2019!
Archive for TV
Making television is fun, especially when you’re also making miracles.
NBC’s George to the Rescue is more than just an Emmy-winning human interest/home renovation TV series. It’s a living, breathing organism greater than the sum of its hearts. While nobody has a bigger heart than our peerless leader, George Oliphant, our team’s collective heartbeat is what makes this little show the biggest miracle I’ll ever be a part of.
Eight seasons of surprises, smiles, and tears reveal how passion and purpose can dramatically enrich countless lives. To date, we’ve spearheaded and showcased nearly ninety transformations in ten states for deserving families facing physical, emotional, financial, and spatial hardships. These families often include public servants who regularly give back to their respective communities. Whether supporting a three-time Purple Heart recipient in Compton, a loving mother/teacher battling ALS, or a recently paralyzed olympic gold medalist, every new George to the Rescue story extends a professional narrative that feels uniquely personal.
Although our remarkably lean and scrappy production team faces budgetary, manpower, and technical challenges, our desire to illuminate goodness consistently drives us towards greatness. Accolades are humbling (our recent trip to the national Daytime Emmys felt like Gonzaga’s bittersweet 2017 Final Four appearance), but belonging to such an eclectic and inclusive workplace family is a special gift.
Gifts are really what make the magic happen. Substantial donations of materials, talent, and time (from local/loyal contractors, designers, town officials, suppliers, and viewers) help create reality TV that’s surreal. Unrivaled generosity and selflessness allow us to simultaneously build lasting experiences, homes, and relationships.
It sometimes feels like I have a symbiotic relationship with this endeavor. I joined as a 2010 summer intern, just as George to the Rescue was transitioning from an existing show segment to a standalone program. Since being hired as the production assistant in 2011, I’ve gradually evolved into a self-sufficient producer and adult. George, my production mentor/supervisor (Andrew Scerbo), our resourceful editors, steadfast executives, and visionary shooters have taught me more about creativity, empathy, leadership, self-reflection, and willpower than I could ever imagine. I try to appreciate, apply, and spread their values every single day. I know I’ll continue to do so for the rest of my career and life.
While it’s impossible to foresee how much longer my George to the Rescue run will continue, I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to make meaningful entertainment that illuminates humanity’s most essential values – compassion and togetherness. This rare ability to positively influence culture is hard to walk away from.
The best first job I’ll ever have will surely be a tough act to follow.
A few scorching observations from this week’s “Ride Along” to Malebolge and back:
1. Still not an occupation.
2. Chemistry as a metaphor is just a lame simile.
3. Shouts to all of Ben’s former teachers who were most definitely watching their newly famous former student call them hags (paraphrasing) on one of network TV’s most enduring programs (while “running through the halls of high school” faster than John Mayer runs from the fact he once penned this euphorically nostalgic song).
4. Ben blaming that Ricky Rubio-esque jumper on his button-down may have murdered fellow Hoosier Jimmy Chitwood.
5. I’m making eye contact with you too, Lace!
6. “Hi kids. Are you having fun during your reality television-induced abandonment?”
7. Poor Man’s Noah Emmerich SLAYS as dystopian Dr. Love.
8. Shushanna speaks English?!
9. On a scale of 1-Carrie’s Mom:
Abandoning your two little girls for a dating show = Carrie’s Mom
Only acknowledging their existence out of pure desperation = 7.5
Comparing them to other contestants’ dogs = 7.0
10. “If it was never new, and it never gets old, it’s a song from Amos Lee’s bizarro private concert during The Bachelor’s 20th season’s second episode.” – Llewyn Davis
11. I obviously chose “LB” in my first ever suicide pool. Blessing in disguise. My fickle heart wasn’t built for this show.
12. See y’all next week?
Before watching last night’s Kansas vs. Oklahoma triple overtime classic, I spent two full hours ingesting my very first episode of THE BACHELOR.
A few quick takeaways:
1. I’ve been wasting way too much time consuming obscure/prestige “Peak TV” cable/streaming dramas (such as Sundance’s riveting German spy thriller DEUTSCHLAND 83).
2. “Twin” isn’t an occupation (unless you’re 1997-2007/2015 Torii Hunter).
3. Don’t ritually sacrifice bread when it can be easily shared with a less fortunate mini-horse.
4. Faux humility is more irritating (and insulting) than shameless arrogance.
5. Never name your daughter “Lauren.”
6. Can’t wait ’til next week.
Keeping up with “Peak TV” is starting to feel more and more like a second job.
While consuming immense amounts of quality programming part-time can often be more stressful than making it full-time (heartwarming human interest/home renovation shows don’t produce themselves), I wouldn’t have it any other way.
‘Tis the season for Top 10 lists, so I hope you enjoy this labor of love.
10. Transparent – TV’s most dysfunctional family is slightly less fun this time around. It’s nearly impossible for the rest of Season 2 to live up to its raucously affecting premiere. Jay Duplass is officially my favorite Duplass (sorry, Mark!).
9. You’re the Worst – “To be a slave to an idea of coolness is why some of your friends never grow and in the end are actually less themselves, and counter intuitively live less authentic lives than the buyers-in.”
My very favorite 2015 quote appears in YTW’s strongest episode to date. With unprecedented emotional/narrative focus on mental health, FXX’s best began provoking as many discussions as laughs. It should be the network’s signature series. Will anyone catch up before Season 3?
8. Rectify – A series so self-aware of its methodical pace that one of the season’s emotional climaxes occurs while the audience and protagonist are literally watching paint dry. Sold yet? Rectify revolves around a recently released inmate, but seeing breakout supporting characters (especially Clayne Crawford’s Ted Jr.) also seek redemption has been truly extraordinary.
6. Show Me a Hero – David Simon’s soul-crushing HBO miniseries deserves The Wire-esque praise and scrutiny. Let’s not wait eight years to talk about it. Something tells me True Detective’s Frank Semyon would’ve loved this far superior exploration of city planning’s complexities and mundanities.
5. Halt and Catch Fire – My favorite 2015 binge. As James Poniewozik articulates, this series legitimately fills some Mad Men voids. Mackenzie Davis is such a magnetic performer. When AMC eventually decides to Ctrl+Alt+Del (likely after next season), I can’t wait to see where she lands next.
4. Better Call Saul – While somehow/simultaneously honoring and enriching its predecessor’s legacy, this Breaking Bad spin-off has been taken for granted. Tonal inconsistency plagues so many shows, but Better Call Saul’s comedic and dramatic depth help showcase (and justify) Bob Odenkirk’s leading chops. And he isn’t alone.
3. Mad Men – Form-fitting end of a classic television era. While I believed this series would conclude at Glen Bishop’s funeral (with Matthew Weiner concurrently burying both of his babies), Don Draper’s spiritual quest leaves me at peace with a drama that routinely illuminates how the pursuit of clarity often breeds ambiguity.
2. The Leftovers
Justin Theroux is one of the most interesting TV stars of our time (friendly reminder that the dude wrote Zoolander 2). His unrivaled physical and emotional reactivity are rooted in vulnerability. I’ll never forget what Jovan Adepo, Amy Brenneman, Kevin Carroll, Carrie Coon, Ann Dowd, Christopher Eccleston, Liv Tyler, Regina King, and others excavate from Theroux (& Damon Lindelof) during this tonal experiment’s sophomore/penultimate run.
Casting Eddie Winslow as a seer foreshadowed this remarkable season’s thesis (Family MATTERS) in the same way Theroux’s “Homeward Bound” karaoke session underscores the deeper meaning of Kevin Garvey’s journey (he must take on Simon & Garfunkel’s irreplicable harmonies in order to find harmony).
I would’ve been just fine with Lindelof dropping his mic after a masterful season finale that couldn’t have been more hilariously dark and optimistically cynical. This, “No Room at the Inn,” and “International Assassin” are all-timers.
2014’s best show got even better by drawing more from No Country For Old Men than its Coen namesake. Few shows radiate more visual (and casting) confidence. Although Fargo is a fully actualized breath of fresh, Midwestern air, it’s truly out of this world (in more ways than one).
First alternates: The Grinder, Nathan For You
Honorable Mentions: The Americans, Broad City, Catastrophe, Daredevil, Deutschland 83, Humans, Fear the Walking Dead, Fresh Off The Boat, Game of Thrones, Girls, Inside Amy Schumer, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, The Knick, Project Greenlight, Making a Murderer, Master of None, Masters of Sex, Mr. Robot, New Girl, Orange is the New Black, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Real Time with Bill Maher, Red Oaks, Silicon Valley, Scrotal Recall, The Carmichael Show, Togetherness, True Detective*, Undateable Live, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
*Farrell and McAdams (plus Pizzolatto shamelessly throwing shade at Fukanaga) made this dumpster fire Californoir worth watching
All-Bank First Team: Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Nathan Fielder (Nathan For You), Oscar Isaac (Show Me a Hero), Justin Theroux (The Leftovers)
All-Bank Second Team: Chris Diamantopoulos (Silicon Valley), Kerry Bishé & Mackenzie Davis (Halt and Catch Fire), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)
Unsung Heroes: Clayne Crawford (Rectify), Daniel Ings (Scrotal Recall), Joshua Leonard (Togetherness), Nick Sando (Orange is the New Black), Martin Wallström (Mr. Robot), Collette Wolfe (You’re the Worst)
Rookies of the Year: Munro Graham (Game of Thrones flasher), Connor Kalopsis (The Grinder), Trevor Larcom (True Detective)
There’s Always Next Year (Stuff I Couldn’t Get To): Empire, Hannibal, Narcos, Parks and Recreation, Penny Dreadful, Veep, The Returned (Season 2), Review, and MANY more.