TV

The Best of the Year in Television 2014

The Best of the Year in Television 2014

Another phenomenal year on the small screen, and thankfully not one where we can come even close to being comprehensive. Series that’ve gotten raves that we’re waiting to binge on would be The Good Wife, The Americans, and You’re the Worst. Here’s our best shot at rounding up what we’ve watched this year. I had some serious help with this (ht McD, EKR, HE).

Top Twelve Television Series of 2014

12. Parenthood. The Bravermans didn’t make it terribly easy to keep watching this year–what with the Joel and Julia debacle–but even after four-plus years, the show can still bring the waterworks like…

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My Way is a “Crap Song”: Reflections on Regret

My Way is a “Crap Song”: Reflections on Regret

Say what? I was out for a jog this week and I had to stop, take out my earbuds to squeegee out my ears with my fingers, hit rewind, and hear that again. Did Ira Glass just disparage Frank Sinatra? Ira Glass is the creator and executive producer of NPR’s weekly podcast “This American Life”. I was made privy to this can’t-miss weekly series by this Mockingbird post a while back, and I’ve been riveted every week since.

Each week’s podcast features 3 segments of real life Americana stories that are centered on a basic (and usually innocuous) theme. The December…

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When Balance Becomes a Weapon (Women, You Can Have It All!)

When Balance Becomes a Weapon (Women, You Can Have It All!)

Not often do I get the opportunity to quote my dad on matters other than Alabama football and Fox News, but lately I’ve been turning over in my head two of his favorite axioms: Life isn’t fair and Everybody just CALM DOWN!

I grew up under the constant admonition of that first phrase: the awareness that the world doesn’t always work according to the balance and order I think it should have; that even if I do the right thing it doesn’t mean everyone else will; that, ultimately, there are no guarantees. But I also grew up under the reign of…

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Chris Rock Deconstructs Our Very Serious Commitments

Chris Rock Deconstructs Our Very Serious Commitments

Looking through Andrew Sullivan’s blog The Dish yesterday, I came across a pretty interesting two-part post on comedy. The first quoted a Chris Rock interview from Vulture, in which he talks about not playing colleges:

Q: You recently hosted Saturday Night Live, and in the monologue, where you were talking about the opening of One World Trade, my wife and I both felt just like you: No way are we going into that building. But you look online the next morning, and some people were offended and accused you of disparaging the 9/11 victims. The political correctness that was thought to be dead is now—

A: Oh,…

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Bill Burr, the Boss of Comedians in Cars

Bill Burr, the Boss of Comedians in Cars

Jerry Seinfeld’s web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, is now in its fifth season. After four hit-or-miss seasons, the show really is getting better, and Seinfeld had one his most interesting guests recently: Bill Burr. One thing I love about the episode is the chemistry between Burr and Seinfeld. By the end of the episode they literally didn’t want to end it, and neither did I. Plus Burr had some gem riffs/monologues and one-liners. Seinfeld had his share, too.

Something I love about really great comics is that they “get it,” at least implicitly. They’re perceptive about life and human nature, and they are…

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Idols of Nostalgia and the Downfall of Doc Huxtable

Idols of Nostalgia and the Downfall of Doc Huxtable

It’s hard to cross the Internet these days without reading an update on Bill Cosby’s falling star. As of this writing, a planned NBC comeback sitcom has been cancelled, and other new initiatives (like an ill-conceived social media meme push) have been met with anger and sarcasm. Perhaps most salient: TV Land has quietly stopped airing reruns of The Cosby Show, the sitcom that rocketed Bill Cosby to the national spotlight in the 80s. I missed the golden years of Dr. Huxtable and clan on The Cosby Show, so I’ve been discovering in tandem the tremendous legacy of hope that was Cosby’s acting work…

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HBO’s State of Play, Season Two, Episode One – The Science of Happiness

HBO’s State of Play, Season Two, Episode One – The Science of Happiness

Mockingbird favorite Peter Berg (creator, NBC’s Friday Night Lights series, co-creator HBO’s The Leftovers) is back with another season of State of Play.  This season will be a four-part documentary series that goes behind the scenes of the “football life”. In episode one, “Happiness”, Berg features three prominent NFL players and how they have struggled to find happiness after their professional football careers. Berg also interviews a number of high profile psychologists who break down the “science” of happiness.

Berg’s results are mixed. Happiness in a post-NFL life is achieved (according to Berg’s panel of professionals) by finding a combination of…

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The Trivial Pursuits of Lena Dunham

The Trivial Pursuits of Lena Dunham

In one of the final chapters of Lena Dunham’s new memoir Not That Kind of Girl, entitled “Therapy & Me”, Lena describes her first anxiety-ridden experience of sitting down as a germophobic, obsessive-compulsive nine-year-old with a prospective shrink. It is a “quirky, self-destructive Lena” moment, like so many moments in her book, and her show Girls, and so it would be nearly unremarkable if it weren’t for the subtext:

The first doctor, a violet-haired grandma-aged woman with a German surname, asks me a few simple questions and then invites me to play with the toys scattered across her floor. She sits…

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The Uncertain Lessons of Lie Witness News

The Uncertain Lessons of Lie Witness News

We haven’t done a straight social science post in a while, so here goes. The Pacific Standard published a goldmine of fallibility and low anthropology last week in David Dunning’s not-so-subtly titled “We Are All Confident Idiots,” ht TB. Dunning, a professor at Cornell, takes as his jumping off point the brilliant “Lie Witness News” segments that Jimmy Kimmel does on his late-night show, where street respondents fake knowledge about a fictitious subject rather than admit they don’t know, or aren’t aware of something. It’s hilarious… until you realize that you do the exact same thing, all the time. Just yesterday…

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On TV: The Boardwalk Empire Series Finale and the Warning Label on the Side Panel of the American Dream

On TV: The Boardwalk Empire Series Finale and the Warning Label on the Side Panel of the American Dream

The fifth and final season of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire concluded last week. It ends having not quite the widespread appeal of The Sopranos or Game of Thrones, but the reviews were strong, due largely to how well the show balanced a fictionalized morality tale with an historical account of the emergence of the American gangster during the Prohibition era. BE centers around the rise of Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) to prominence as the preeminent bootlegger in Atlanta City in the early 1920’s. The Nucky Thompson character is based on real life gangster Nucky Johnson who was an associate of Al…

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Even Batman Had a Great Grandmother: The Historical Backdrop of Gotham

Even Batman Had a Great Grandmother: The Historical Backdrop of Gotham

Of all the shows in this season’s fall lineup, the last one I expected to love was Gotham. But I do. I love it. And not because I am a Batman fan. And not because Jada Pinkett Smith is incredible. But because I think Gotham points us beyond the everyday superhero story to something about ourselves.

If you are not familiar, Gotham is basically the back story of BruceWayne/Batman. In the first episode we meet the child Bruce Wayne at the moment he witnesses his parents being killed. It is as tragic and painful as it sounds. In all of these…

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A Conference Week Ends: Lila, Marshmallows, the Human Condition, and Epistomological Courage

A Conference Week Ends: Lila, Marshmallows, the Human Condition, and Epistomological Courage

1. Lots of interesting news on the how-can-we-be-sure-God-exists front. We’ve had our own part of that conversation, highlighting our own favorite Atheists and the hip trend of flogging Dawkins (dibs on Flogging Dawkins as a band name!). If the patterns are to be believed, it seems that the trajectory is toward a more humble, less aggressive atheism that acknowledges its own non-rational presuppositions. And humility is good for everybody, theist and atheist alike. Gary Gutting over at the New York Times sums up his series of interviews with religious philosophers, and while the ending seems disjointed (I’m an agnostic Catholic?), the middle is helpful:

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