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.
“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?
Debra L. Lee, chairperson and CEO of Black Entertainment Television Networks, discussed her highly successful career in entertainment Monday in the Alice Statler Auditorium. Lee — who was named one of the 100 most powerful women in entertainment by “The Hollywood Reporter,” addressed BET Networks’ unique position as a source of black entertainment. “We’re BET — we’re different, and we should do things that other networks won’t cover or won’t put on the air,” Lee said. “Covering stories that no one else does — whether it’s Katrina 10 Years Later: Through Hell in High Water, an O.J. [Simpson] story or a documentary on Muhammad Ali and how he influenced hip hop — is, for sure, part of BET’s mandate.”
Lee also mentioned Madiba — a six-part miniseries on the life of Nelson Mandela which will air later this year — as evidence of BET’s commitment to “telling stories differently.”
“It’s the first time a black director [Kevin Hooks] has told the story of Nelson Mandela,” she said. “That may make a difference compared to having white directors tell Mandela’s story.”
Lee broached recent criticisms of the entertainment industry for its lack of black entertainment.
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.
When I went home for winter break and saw The Prince Who Turns Into A Frog broadcasting on television for the twentieth time since its first airing in 2005, I still felt the nostalgia that only certain dramas can evoke in me. The plot is quite cliché and unrealistic at times, but it is one of those classic dramas that unknowingly makes you accept the impossible for the hour that it broadcasts just so you can immerse yourself in the romantic fantasy of the drama. As expected, The Prince Who Turns Into A Frog revolves around the love story between a poor girl and a rich man – you know the gist. But their relationship is actually much more complicated than you think, with Shan Jun Hao, the CEO of a hotel chain, constantly getting into accidents and losing his memory and Ye Tian Yu, an ambitious gold digger, falling in love with the contrived identity she gave Jun Hao when he first loses his memory. Not to mention, Jun Hao was already engaged with his childhood friend Fan Yun Xi when he falls in love with Tian Yu after Tian Yu takes care of him while he remains clueless about his own past.
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.
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.