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July 2016

Colbert’s Convention Coverage is A+, So Just Give Him A Break!

Last week’s Republican National Convention was a goldmine of sorts for the late-night comedy set (and understandably so, given…you know…everything). Several shows, like “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” went live on one or all of the nights of the convention to offer the most up-to-the-minute skewering of the speeches and happenings in Cleveland. The consistently brilliant “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” did two episodes last week as well as additional online content to cover the whole event. Even the Weekend Update guys from “Saturday Night Live” stepped away from their summer-long vacation to offer a special Update segment that wasn’t even on a Saturday! While all of these late-night funny people provided their own enjoyable coverage of the RNC and all of its mildly horrifying wonders, there was one late-night personality that shone a little brighter than the rest. That person is Stephen Colbert.

 

Like “The Daily Show” and “Late Night,” Colbert’s “The Late Show” went live throughout the week to catch every moment of the RNC as it was happening, and did so with fantastic results. From the much-needed return of Jon Stewart and “The Colbert Report’s” “The Word” to a spot-on impression of Melania Trump by the amazing Laura Benanti, Colbert’s RNC coverage provided equal amounts of fun and thoughtfulness, a perfect palate cleanser to the gloom and doom that prevailed at the actual event.

 

These moments of greatness couldn’t have come at a better time for Colbert, with recent hurtful questions about whether or not James Corden, who follows Colbert each night with “The Late Late Show,” could potentially take over “The Late Show,” which unfortunately hasn’t been kicking much butt in the ratings, becoming a hot topic. Colbert has had a somewhat rough road to travel since becoming host of “The Late Show,” something that I think is a little ridiculous.

 

When Colbert took over “The Late Show” in fall of 2015, there seemed to be an immense amount of expectation and pressure placed on him to be an immediate hit and a true competitor with Jimmy Fallon‘s “Tonight Show” juggernaut. He hasn’t exactly achieved either of those goals and as a result people seem to be consistently trying to predict his downfall, which I think is hugely unfair. Colbert brings a much different energy to the late night talk show format than Fallon, or even Corden. Those two rely on clips with viral potential, pushing celebrities to smash eggs on their heads or sing along with their own hits in a car in the hopes that people will watch and share with their friends, family and followers. Much of the time it works but there are plenty of people out there, myself included, who are often looking for something a little more serious with their humor, something that’s a bit more grounded in reality. That’s exactly the kind of content that people like Colbert (and Seth Meyers) provide. It’s not better or worse; it’s just different. And different is necessary.

 

So stop being difficult with Colbert, people! Be cool (don’t be all, like, uncool) and check out his (again, live) coverage of this week’s Democratic National Convention. If his RNC stuff was any indication, his DNC stuff will be excellent as well.

 

What do you think of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”? Did you enjoy his RNC coverage? Wish Colbert would bring back Chrisitanne Aman-purr? Me too, dear reader. Me too. Share all of your thoughts in monologue form in the comments. But before you do that, let me impart on you this final, very important thought:

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Some Thoughts On After Shows, Or Why Can’t We Just Leave Well Enough Alone?

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“Hacking Robot,” the new “Mr. Robot” aftershow. Photo by Jenn Murphy

This past Wednesday night I excitedly watched the season premiere of what I consider to be the best new show of last year, “Mr. Robot.” It was excellent; just as twisty and turn-y and dark as the first season with its fair share of new, very intriguing developments. But just as it ended, just as I was preparing to individually dive deep into what I had just seen and start to form my own opinions on how the season would unfold, I was interrupted by “Hacking Robot,” the new “Mr. Robot” after show.

 

The after show, a program immediately following a new episode of a series where members of the cast and creative team convene to basically discuss what viewers just saw, seems to be the latest development in a new TV viewing culture where people crave instant gratification. It falls right in line with binge-watching and the post-mortem articles and think pieces that populate many a pop culture site in a new episode’s aftermath.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’ve been known to read my fair share of articles about my favorite shows, but I like to read them only when I have a reasonable amount of distance from the episode I just viewed. Let’s say, a day or two. To me, that’s enough time to process, enough time to think for myself before someone else (be it a writer or a showrunner) tells me what’s actually going on. This is why I’m not the biggest fan of aftershows.

 

I get their purpose in some regards (it’s always fun to get a behind-the-scenes look) but to me a show like “Mr. Robot,” a show that thrives on darkness and mystery, can potentially lose some of its edge, some of its intrigue, when viewers immediately get to see what’s behind the curtain. For starters, immediately seeing the actors out of character, laughing and joking with one another and a jovial host, takes a little away from the heaviness of what I just saw them do in-character. It’s a large part of why I didn’t watch “After the Black,” the “Orphan Black” aftershow that began following the series’ most recent season. “Orphan Black” makes it so easy to forget that Tatiana Maslany is playing so many different characters that to then see her, as herself, talking about all of those characters would be, at least to me, a little jarring and mildly disappointing.

 

It also brings in the fandom element, something else that always makes me a little uncomfortable. I consider myself a big fan of many things, but do I consider myself a part of any particular fandoms? No. There’s a certain stigma attached to the idea of a fandom, a group of people that are just a little too invested in a piece of entertainment. They can get to be a bit excessive and these after shows thrive on that excessiveness. They want people to come up with things like “ship” names and develop attachments to outlandish theories that may not even exist within the true reality of the show. If they didn’t then what would be the point of an after show that delves into those things at all? I’m all about fan involvement, but I still like there to be a line between myself and the people that create the shows and entertainment that I love.

 

At the end of the day, I’m not too worried about “Hacking Robot” changing my thoughts on “Mr. Robot,” especially because it’s only airing after the premiere and the season finale. I know it’s for a certain group of fans, and they’ll definitely eat it up. I just hope that after shows don’t become the norm. I like my TV like I like my “Mr. Robot” main character Elliot Alderson: dark, detached and deeply mysterious.

 

What do you think? Love a good after show? Wish they’d just go away? Wish I’d just go away? Nah, man. Just like the titular Mr. Robot, I’m here forever. Or at least until Elliot gets his act together. Now go back to analyzing last Thursday’s Emmy nominations, but of course remember…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

 

 

5(ish) Perfectly Pop Culture-y Beach Reads

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Photo by Jenn Murphy

When I’m not watching TV or movies (or writing about watching TV and movies), I can often be found reading. I know, shocking, right? A writer who likes to read! Revolutionary. But seriously, if I don’t have any other significant responsibilities, I can often read two-to-three books in a given week. (Or, at least, two-to-three good books. Good is an important element to the whole operation.) That number goes up even more in the summertime, when long car/train/airplane rides and trips to the beach require wifi-free entertainment. So I thought I’d compile five(ish) of my favorite pop culture-focused books from the last several years for you to peruse and enjoy next time you have a day at the beach, or a day inside on the couch. I don’t know your life.

 

1) “Live From New York: The Complete Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests” by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

In case it wasn’t glaringly obvious by my semi-regular posts about “SNL,” I’m a huge fan. I just find it so fascinating; the origins, the development, the week-to-week process that keeps the show going, the behind the scenes gossip: the whole shebang. And this book covers it all and then some. It’s essentially an oral history of the entire run of the show and features commentary from just about everyone you would want to hear from on the subject. The page count (800, to be exact) might seem daunting for a summer read, but the conversational style of the writing keeps it fast-paced an exciting. Plus, it’s all about “SNL.” There’s nothing about that show that’s boring.

 

2) “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” and “Why Not Me?” by Mindy Kaling

I just realized how insane it is that I have yet to really talk about my love of Mindy Kaling on this blog. She’s one of my top heroes and dream best friends (right up there with Tina Fey and Rashida Jones) and I’m a big ‘ol fan of basically every big thing she’s done, from her time on “The Office” to “The Mindy Project.” Since my chances of meeting her and actually becoming her friend in real life are extremely slim, her books, a collection of memoir-like essays and other fun pieces, are about as close as I’ll probably get. Kaling’s voice is evident and clear throughout both “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” and “Why Not Me?” and it makes both books feel like you’re just having a conversation with a good friend. I know I said at the top that I was only going to list five books, but these two should basically be a package deal. Get into it.

 

3) “The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built” by Jack Viertel

If you, like me, want an inside track into the various formulas and themes that are ever-present in an American musical, then this is the perfect book for you. This book digs deep, going through all of the elements of a typical musical and dissecting each one with great, thoughtful detail, including examples of each element from some of the greatest shows of our time. Not only will it make you want to put your favorite Broadway cast albums on repeat, but it’ll make you think differently about the songs found in those musicals and their purpose in relation to the overall show. And don’t worry, it talks about “Hamilton” too.

 

4) “Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy” by Judd Apatow

I’ve always been one to love a good conversation and this book is full of them. Apatow, a comedy god himself, sat down and interviewed a multitude of brilliant people in comedy, including the likes of Chris Rock and Amy Schumer. The conversations run the gamut, from the more expected talk about comedy and what it means to be funny to more unexpected things about life that can get pretty deep. It’s endlessly fascinating and eye-opening and definitely worth your while. (Fun Fact: A few years ago I saw the play “Lucky Guy” starring Tom Hanks on Broadway. Sitting four rows in front of me? Steven Spielberg. Sitting one row in front of him? Judd Apatow. I got to watch them have a conversation during the intermission and I may have cried a little. No biggie.)

 

5) “The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year” by Andy Cohen

If you too are overly invested in the happenings of “Bravo-leberties” (or celebrities from shows on the Bravo TV network) then this is the book for you. (For me, it’s “The Real Housewives of NYC” and the “Million Dollar Listing New York” guys. And the people from “Below Deck.” It’s fine. I don’t have a problem.) “The Andy Cohen Diaries” chronicles a year in the life of Andy Cohen (duh), executive producer of “The Real Housewives” franchise, executive producer and host of “Watch What Happens Live” and basically the face of Bravo. Cohen is a very busy man and this book reflects that, detailing his many days of meetings and tapings of “WWHL,” with a ridiculous amount of celebrity run-ins peppered throughout. There’s enough juicy gossip and dish to keep you intrigued for an entire summer and, if you finished the book and are in need of more, have no fear: Cohen announced earlier this year that a second volume of “The Andy Cohen” diaries, titled “Superficial” will come out on November 15.

 

So there you have it, folks! Five delightfully fun books to keep you reading this summer, plus one extra because I like you all so much. I hope you enjoy them all!

 

Any thoughts on the books I listed above? Have any other pop culture-y beach reads to add? Think reading is for tools? Well you’re wrong, reading is awesome and for winners. You’re for tools. Share you’re thoughts in the comments. Unless you’re a tool. Then get the heck outta here. Oh, also?

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

 

Gettin’ Patriotic for the Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is only a day away, which means that it’s time to think about everything that makes America worth celebrating. Things that immediately come to mind for me are the movie “Dreamgirls” (always the movie “Dreamgirls”), the fact that Mac n’ Cheetos now exist (I tried them for the first time today and they are spectacular) and the super funny “SNL” sketch featured above.

 

In the sketch, the brilliant Maya Rudolph (whose new show “Maya and Marty” was recently featured on the blog) goes way overboard on a performance of the National Anthem, serving up enough drama and intensity to match the likes of Jennifer Holliday. And that’s saying a lot. (Look at me, bringing it back to “Dreamgirls.” I have a gift for it.) Overall the sketch is extremely fun and a perfect way to get into the “Amurrica” spirit on a day when it is most definitely needed.

 

Rudolph churned out many great moments like that in her time at “SNL”, from the “Bronx Beat” ladies she used to do with Amy Poehler to one of my favorite sketches of all time, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Laughs” a prank show hosted by acclaimed poet Maya Angelou. To this day my Dad and I still ask one another if something was an “act of malice” or an “act of whimsy.” It’s a timeless and hilarious sketch that will stay in your mind once you’ve watched it. Trust me. I wouldn’t lie to you.

 

If you’re looking for something this Fourth that’s a little more serious and old-school, then I would suggest Ray Charles‘ soulful rendition of “America the Beautiful.” I grew up with Charles’ music playing in my Dad’s car and his version of this song always stuck with me. It captures American pride, but not the annoying kind that makes you want to roll your eyes and walk away. Again, trust me. I got’chu.

 

Thoughts on the clips shared above? Have a particular video that gets you in the patriotic spirit? Wanna know where to get the best illegal fireworks? I wouldn’t know, because I’m not an INSANE person and I like having all 10 of my fingers. For the first two though, leave your thoughts in the comments. And, before you leave to go shopping for cookout supplies (or to get some Mac n’ Cheetos, which I highly recommend), remember…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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