Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reviews: HBO's freshman comedies "Veep" and "Girls"


"Veep": Take political satire at its finest and combine it with expertly crafted cringe-worthy comedy, and you get this fantastic series that is not only a great vehicle for star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but a fantastic showcase for its ensemble, consisting of Anna Chlumsky and Tony Hale among others. The show's complete apathy for politics and anything associated with it is well earned in the misfit characters' low ranking jobs, and combined with Armando Iannucci's love of vulgarity, makes for great bits of absurd dialogue like "I'll redact your fuckin' face!" The show didn't always hit home runs in the laughter department, but its literal home runs, like the "Baseball" episode, proved the show was firing on all cylinders the more its ensemble cast worked together to make it out of a high-profile but low-status event without a scandal on their heels. Concluding this write-up is a paragraph from the notes I took while watching the pilot, which nicely sums up the series and its view of politics: "Vice President has her Chief of Staff sign card of condolence to Senator’s widow for her by making a writing motion in the air – all in front of the Chair of the American Foundation for Developmental Disabilities, who she is meeting with after using the word “retard” in a public address" Great show, can't wait to see it come back - and hopefully with at least a couple more episodes next season.


"Girls": As Lena Dunham pointed out, "Girls" in an appropriately ironic title for her show - its characters, despite having such a specific worldview, are so self-important that one of them may even feel as if they are, to borrow a phrase from Hannah Horvath, "the voice of [their] generation." Said specific worldview is not easy in the slightest do sort through and decipher. Meeting these characters and observing their world for the first time is very jarring, and upon first viewing the pilot of this show was certainly polarizing; as many people hated this show as the ones who loved it, and initially I counted myself among the former. Through the next couple of episodes, we were able to more clearly see what the series was saying about life, the universe, and its characters. In fact, there probably isn't another show, at least one this good, that had a better sense of self - what it was, where it was going, what it meant, and even why it meant. Through the ten episodes we saw the appropriate amount of growth in its characters - we learned that Adam is more than just a shirtless creep and that Shoshanna is more than just a ditzy cartoon that might actually fit in better with George and Tessa Altman in Chatswin. Hannah's growth throughout the season was also pretty much spot on, for her specifically but also for any person in that stage of their life. Hannah wants so badly to grow up, but the kind of life that comes with being an adult, and thus is able to provide material for her book, is the same one that so often comes crashing down on her and leaving her in desperate need of help. Real life is all she wants, but real life is so much harder than stealing money her parents left for the hotel's housekeeping or continually having Marnie bail her out on rent. The last few minutes of the finale, as Hannah heads home on the subway, has her purse stolen, and sits on the beach at Coney Island to eat cake, is just a brilliantly interesting bit of television, and man, did I end up liking this show more than I ever thought I would.

Ann Curry forced out of Today show: a return to first place?


A lot of people have been comparing the recent rumours that Ann Curry will be forced out of her job as  co-anchor on NBC's "Today" to the predicament Conan O'Brien found himself in back in January 2010. Curry and O'Brien, both established NBC personalities, spent years waiting to take a job that as it turns out was never really given to them. Both were paid large sums of money to walk away from NBC altogether. And at their helms, both took shows that had for years been outrating their competitors by comfortable margins into second place.

But the clearest similarity I can see is that both O'Brien and Curry were wrongly promoted to jobs they were ill-suited for.