When you watch Stranger Things, you are immediately transported into a relic of the 1980s. It was a time when adventure was sought out, science was deemed cool and heroism was somewhat synonymous with nerdiness. We are introduced to our heros — four boys around ten years old who strive for scientific exploration, fantastical adventure and unbreakable friendship — and, as viewers, immediately become attached to them. From the beginning of the first episode, there is an underlying element of supernaturalness that becomes much more overt later in the hour. However, unlike most shows for which the basis of the storyline is made up of supernatural events, this show isn’t nauseatingly cheesy or predictable.
As someone who watches comedy TV a lot — and I mean a lot — I’ve found that there’s one key ingredient in creating a successful TV comedy: don’t make your show based on a funny plot; make it based on funny characters. Write good characters, and the good plots will come. The Detour, created by The Daily Show power couple Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, completely fails this litmus test for a sustainable, quality TV comedy. The new TBS series follows a family of four attempting to drive to a relaxing beach vacation, finding themselves embroiled in misadventure after misadventure. To make things more complicated, father Nate Parker (Jones) recently lost his job at a nefarious biopharmaceutical company and keeps this hidden from his family, paving the way for even more clandestine antics as he tries to frame his ex-employer for unethical behavior.
David Lawrence is a film and television composer, songwriter and producer whose score and song credits include the American Pie films, the High School Musical series, and the forthcoming HBO documentary, Becoming Mike Nichols. The Sun spoke with Lawrence in anticipation of his visit this Friday about movie music, the process of scoring and Frank Sinatra. The Sun: There are so many people who write music to be a pop hit or for the radio. Was it your goal to write television theme music or soundtrack music? David Lawrence: I went to conservatory in New York.
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.