March 2015 Media Round-up (TV)

Shows I kept current with: Banana, Barely Famous, Broad City, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Childrens Hospital, Community, Elementary, Girls, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, iZombie, Jane the Virgin, Kroll Show, New Girl, One Big Happy, Shameless, Sirens (US), The Americans, The Flash, The Good Wife, The Last Man on Earth, The Mindy Project, The Musketeers, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Non-current shows watched: House of Lies (season 2, episodes 1-3, probably not going to watch more), Gilmore Girls (season 3, episodes 17-19)

Shows dropped: Fresh Off the Boat (after episode 7), Man Seeking Woman (after episode 6; revisited for episode 9, but was not completely won over), Young Drunk Punk (after a not especially impressive pilot)


Things of note but not necessarily recommendations:


  • #SixSeasonsAndAMovie1 is probably the worst thing that could have happened to Community. Had the show been cancelled after season 3, it could have joined Firefly, Arrested Development, Freaks and Geeks, etc. in the pantheon of tragically-cancelled-before-their-time TV shows with (obnoxious) proselytizing fans. People would keep “discovering” Community years later and get outraged about how mainstream audiences didn’t understand its unique brilliance and the networks fucked it over and the fact that it didn’t get more than three seasons is a Great Tragedy.
  • Then we got season 4, and it was awful. It’s hard to say how exactly, because none of the episodes were that memorable and I definitely don’t want to rewatch them, but part of it may have been an over-reliance on callback humor and pop culture references—attempts to recapture what made the first three seasons great without really understanding that those were just surface-level aspects of the writing. Great episodes of Community didn’t just namedrop movie titles/characters/etc., but synthesized those references into something new and interesting that had comedic value beyond just making the audience feel clever for getting the reference. But season 4 was also notably not run by Dan Harmon2, so if the show had been cancelled after that, it at least would have strengthened Harmon’s status as a Visionary, fans could have still been self-righteous, and Community would still have achieved that legendary tragically cancelled status, just with an asterisk attached to season 4.
  • Seemingly against all odds, the show got renewed for a season 5 with Harmon back at the helm. Within the show, season 4 was treated as “the gas leak year.” The thing is, though, season 5 was actually…not that much better than season 4. It had its moments, but overall it just felt kind of empty and tired. And so it was a relief when NBC announced its cancellation, because the show felt truly done, after three mostly brilliant seasons and two mostly mediocre seasons. And very few sitcoms make it past three seasons without a noticeable decline in quality in any of the subsequent seasons; all sitcoms3 should probably receive mercy killings after five seasons.
  • But no, Community has been resurrected on Yahoo! Screen for a sixth season. I can’t not watch it, because of all the goodwill I still have stored from the first three seasons4, but it really is not worth it. The show has never been super interested in realism, but the characters’ choices generally felt grounded in some sort of reality beyond sitcom plotting (more on that in The Mindy Project) which is probably a large part of what made the sillier/weirder stuff work. At this point, though, the justifications for keeping all of the characters at Greendale feel perfunctory, and the interactions between the characters seem more dependent on plot mechanics than personalities. The departures of Donald Glover and Yvette Nicole Brown certainly don’t help (we’re pretty okay with the lack of Chevy Chase, though). It’s unclear what the show would have to do at this point to convince me that it was worth getting renewed, but it hasn’t happened yet.


  • Okay, this one is a recommendation. I’ve been pretty tired of the over-saturation of zombies in pop culture for the past few years, so keep that in mind. The premise of this show (loosely based on a comic book series, apparently) is that this med student, Liv, gets turned into a zombie and starts working at the morgue to get free brains. Eating brains gives her access to some of the victims’ memories and abilities, and naturally, crime-fighting ensues. So yeah, not the most original premise; Tru Calling, Pushing Daisies, Ghost Whisperer, Chuck, etc. have all been there in some way or another with varying levels of success. But at least so far, iZombie has done a great job exploring the implications of its premise beyond just the quirky procedural aspect; we get to see the protagonist’s friends and family trying to cope with her sudden unexplained change from a highly motivated, career-driven person to an aimless mess (after becoming a zombie, she quits her residency, dumps her fiancé, avoids social events). Liv’s boss at the morgue figures out that she’s a zombie and is utterly delighted, which is itself an utter delight to watch. And since this is a Rob Thomas5 show, there’s a solid amount of banter and snark.

Kroll Show

  • Kroll Show ended its three season run last week, and it was a weird, uneven, often gross, more than occasionally brilliant ride. It’s difficult to describe a sketch show and do any sort of justice to it, since so much of what makes sketch comedy work (or not) is specificity—in terms of delivery, phrasing, body language, costuming, etc. One of the ways in which Kroll Show distinguishes itself from sketch shows like Key & Peele and Inside Amy Schumer6 is world-building; most of the sketches take place in the same universe and end up intersecting with each other in unexpected ways as the show goes on. Some of the recurring sketches are painfully unfunny to me7, but the show totally makes up for it with good shit like Rich Dicks and Wheels Ontario.

The Mindy Project

  • I watched three seasons of this show, desperately wanting to like it, because Mindy Kaling is totally charming in her memoir and interviews. If it gets renewed for a fourth season, I will hopefully have the willpower to quit. There are certain aspects of the show that work really well; you can expect a lot of quality one-liners per episode, the guest star casting is generally on point, and Mindy’s wardrobe is enviable. BUT:
    • The characterizations are pretty inconsistent and mostly subject to the whims of the plot. A lot of occurrences of the weak sitcom trope of introducing a character trait that hasn’t been seen before in order to advance the plot of that particular episode and then never showing that trait again. Also, a lot of characters lying or withholding information or doing uncharacteristically ~wacky~ things for no reason other than to advance the plot. If we judge each individual episode of The Mindy Project as a farce, then that sort of plotting is almost elegant, but it doesn’t work super well with its serialized nature.
    • All of the regular characters other than Mindy, Danny, and Peter are super broad. Specifically Morgan. It may be that Mindy Kaling and I just have different senses of humor, but man, the character of Morgan doesn’t work for me at all, and she seems (at least, from the way his presence on the show has changed over the seasons) to think of him as the break-out star.
    • The build-up to the Mindy/Danny pairing was handled so well, but now that they’re actually together, the power dynamic of their relationship is kind of uncomfortable. Danny is a weird combination of disrespectful and patronizing in a way that wasn’t that big of a deal when they were just co-workers who gave each other shit, but doesn’t really work in the context of a committed relationship. Like, he sabotaged her application to a fellowship at Stanford because he thought that she was just using it as a ploy to get him to propose. Even though he fixes his mistake by the end of the episode, can we really root for that relationship?


[1] Initially exclaimed by Abed in the season 2 episode “Paradigms of Human Memory” about the NBC drama The Cape, which in fact lasted 10 episodes and was promptly forgotten, this became a rallying cry of Community fans, as the show constantly seemed on the verge of cancellation.^
[2] Creator and showrunner for the first three seasons. Fired for being difficult to work with, I think?^
[3] It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the only exception that comes to mind.^
[4] Similarly, I will still watch Apatow and Apatow-adjacent comedies because of Freaks and Geeks, even though they have disappointed me so many times by now.^
[5] The Veronica Mars and Party Down guy.^
[6] Both solid shows that are probably more consistent and certainly more Culturally Significant than Kroll Show.^
[7] Comedy is subjective, obviously, and no one really wants to hear that something they find funny is “unfunny” without any qualifications, because that often comes across as you finding them dumb for laughing at it, so I’m trying to be more sensitive? Unless we’re talking about like Two and a Half Men, in which case, you probably are dumb for laughing at it.^


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