What happens when you give comedians free reign for a 30-minute special? Utter absurdity. At least, that’s what the Netflix comedy special, The Characters, would suggest. The avant-garde experiment features eight lesser-known comedians who write and star in a 30-minute episode completely under their own creative control. The big twist?
“Not only do they talk about you as being the undisputed king of comedy, but your [work] is deeper and broader,” Charlie Rose declares at the beginning of a 30-minute interview with Louis C.K. “You could make comparisons to Lenny Bruce, to Bob Dylan … comparisons to a sort of philosopher-king.” Clearly anticipating some kind of credit for coining the term “philosopher-king,” the self-serious Rose awkwardly pushes the comedian for a response. Upon realizing the talk show host was, indeed, serious, C.K. replies, “I don’t know, man, I’m just a comedian … anything beyond that I always get a little uncomfortable.”
The interview dates back to May 2014, but that goofy exchange remains indicative of just how difficult it can be to define C.K.’s current position in pop culture. His latest offering, a series entitled Horace & Pete, does little to clarify what it means to be “just a comedian.” Set within a hundred year-old Brooklyn dive bar operated by — you guessed it — Horace (C.K. himself) and his brother Pete (Steve Buscemi), the series features the comedian pushing himself into more strictly dramatic territory and exploring new modes of independent production. Along for the ride is an embarrassingly talented supporting cast, counting among its ranks Jessica Lange, Edie Falco, Rebecca Hall and Alan Alda — who frequently steals the show as Uncle Pete, an aged, foul-mouthed bartender resentful of Brooklyn’s hipster invasion (amongst other things). Oh, and did I mention Paul Simon performs the show’s theme song?
Many thanks to the Internet, the television world and the desire for more cutting-edge content, binge-watching has become America’s pastime. For many, there is nothing more satisfying (yet also daunting) than spending hours on end watching a series, and then finally completing it. In the days before readily accessible media, it would take (literally) years to start and finish a television show. You also had to start it as soon as it was on air in order to ensure you didn’t miss a beat. Fans had to make sure their DVR was set (if they even had it) in the event they couldn’t work with a network’s agenda to get a show out.
For a network that gave us Black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat and Modern Family, a sitcom about a white Irish-Catholic family seems a little out of place. After all, this is 2016! Didn’t Shonda Rhimes promise to protect America from yet another all-white cast? Despite its first impression, the premise for The Real O’Neals tries to be more audacious that it initially appears. The series, which debuted earlier this month, follows the members of a supposedly perfect Christian family as they are forced to face circumstances that challenge their righteous — yet image-obsessed — lifestyle.
Call me a romantic, but I like my comedies funny and feel-good. Love fits the bill of funny (well, sometimes), but overall leaves you feeling pretty bad about people and love in general. Love tells the story of a man and a woman falling in love and the rough start of their relationship. “Rough start,” though, might be one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever written. We are introduced to Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust), our protagonists (but also antagonists, because they are their own worst enemies) as their lives fall into more of an abyss than usual.
Semi Chellas is a writer and co-executive producer for the acclaimed television series Mad Men. The Emmy-nominated writer studied English at Cornell as a Mellon fellow, and on March 10 will be returning to campus to speak at Klarman Hall. In anticipation of her lecture, “Telling Secrets: Notes from the Writers’ Room,” the Sun had a chance to speak with Chellas about her experiences writing for Mad Men and her opinions on the television industry in general. The Sun: What are the day-to-day operations like working in the writers’ room? Semi Chellas: There were about 10 to 12 people in the writing room, including two advertising people — i.e. not advertisers for the show but people who worked in advertising — [including] one that worked in advertising in the 60s.
I’ve been assimilating all my life, and so I’ll do what’s traditional and start off with a personal anecdote. A year ago, I was playing basketball with a friend of mine on the public court near an off-campus fraternity house. As four of its members were driving by, one of them yelled at me, “Jeremy Lin!” When that happened, I wasn’t offended that they forgot that Yao Ming had a way better record, or that I was actually Korean, and I wasn’t wondering why my friend, who was Polish, wasn’t called Marcin Gortat. To the contrary, I was much wiser than that. I’ve heard these “jokes” and others like them over and over again throughout my whole life.
Full House is back! Kind of. Fuller House, the modern day spin-off of the sitcom Full House, was released in full on Feb. 26 as a Netflix original series. The original cast members, with the exception of the Olsen twins, returned to reprise their roles.
The concept alone is strange enough — characters from the DC Universe band together to defeat an immortal mass murderer and save the future — but the execution of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is even worse. First, it is clearly a show aimed solely at fans of the CW’s other DC programs. The characters — minor figures in Arrow and The Flash — receive virtually no background in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’s pilot episode. Thus, the only way of knowing who they are or why they are of any importance is to watch a hundred episodes of previously aired television. Perhaps viewers would be able to overcome this crippling flaw if the characters were interesting enough to spark further research. However, the “Legends” chosen for the show are truly the dullest possible contenders.
The first episode of HBO’s Girls hotly anticipated season five is simply and ineptly named “Wedding Day.” A more fitting title may instead be “The Abominable Bridesmaids,” or “Rain on Her Wedding Parade,”or even perhaps most accurately, “Lives of 20-Somethings Go Off Like Bombs in Slow Motion (at a Wedding).”
Girls has been a staple of quirky feminist television since 2012, drawing much of its plot line from writer Lena Dunham’s own life experiences. Few other shows offer such powerful statements on the modern female existence, incorporating key elements on issues of self-image, body shaming in the social media and hard-hitting takes on women’s rights to services such as abortion. Naturally, the show has drawn several points of controversy — namely regarding its ethnic representation. In The Independent, Catherine Scott critiques both the writers and characters in the show in a scathing review, “What’s there to celebrate for feminism when black, Hispanic or Asian women are totally written out of a series that’s supposedly set in one of the most diverse cities on earth? But also, what’s there to celebrate for feminism when a show depicts four entirely self-interested young women and a lead character having the most depressing, disempowered sexual relationships imaginable?”
At the end of season four last year, audiences were left with a number of dilemmas spawning from the four main characters’ hectic personal relationships.