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Television

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Illustrations: Carolyn Figel

What we miss out on when we demand fealty to a certain on-screen aesthetic

Being a woman in America can feel like riding a defective bicycle. You pedal and start to work up some speed, get up momentum until you’re sailing and the sweatiest effort is over — and then something in the mechanics catches, a spring or a wonk in the chain, and the thing stops and hurls you over the handlebars. After you’ve caught your breath, you grimly realize you have to start the work all over again.

Over the past four years, women have surged into Congress — only to get more scrutiny for their looks than when there were fewer…

A pre-#MeToo show about survival has exactly the right spirit for 2020 — and offers some hope, too

Photo: Universal Television/Getty Images

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was a show made for dark times. When it premiered in 2015, its premise — Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) a teenage girl held underground by a John Jamelske-esque kidnapper, escapes and moves to New York City, still with the mindset of a small child — sounded like a mean-spirited rape joke. Laughing at what happened to Kimmy was cruel; laughing at her was worse. …

Column

You can’t sleep on KBO if you’re as horny for sports as I have been

Banners showing faces of fans are placed in the seating area of Happy Dream Ballpark during a baseball game in South Korea.
Banners showing faces of fans are placed in the seating area of Happy Dream Ballpark during a baseball game in South Korea.
Photo: Jong Hyun Kim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The pregame

Being a sports fan is its own form of voluntary jet lag. I live on the East Coast, so I know all about the NBA, the NFL, and Major League Baseball starting prime-time games too late and deliberately impinging upon my dad hours. On sportsless days, I’m in bed by 9:30 and asleep by 10. It keeps me beautiful. When sports are around, I violate that self-imposed curfew, because, like LeBron James, I will die for sports in general, which is neat, because American team owners are about to ask their players to do just that. …

The much-beloved NBC sitcom was hailed for its rosy vision of government. Now, it returns to a world where the bad people are in charge.

Photo: NBC/Getty Images

It seems ludicrous, looking back, that we ever believed life could work like Parks and Recreation. The NBC sitcom, which aired from 2009 to 2015, was much beloved in its day — hailed for its “brilliant, confident liberalism” and relentless idealism, a show in which optimism was cool and hard work led to “happiness and success and achieving great things.” …

The iconic film ‘Grey Gardens’ was the original ‘Real Housewives’

Little’ Edith Bouvier Beale, a cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, at home with her mother, ‘Big Edie’ in Grey Gardens, a run-down mansion in East Hampton, New York, circa 1975. Photo: Tom Wargacki/Getty Images

The average person thinks of reality television as a relatively recent (and mostly tasteless) phenomenon. Most would cite The Real World, which began airing in 1992, as the first of the genre. But I’d argue that an iconic documentary from 1975 invented reality TV as we know it today. If anything, it exposes how thin the line is separating documentaries and what we consider trash television.

I’m talking about Grey Gardens, the seminal documentary about an eccentric mother-daughter pair who share a charming worldview and complicated relationship to reality. A single anecdote from the film proves my point. While walking…

The Whiplash Decade

Remember when you could actually laugh at a president?

Illustration: Brennon Leman

This piece is part of the The Whiplash Decade, a package on the wild ride that was the 2010s.

The 2010s was the decade political comedy became unwatchable. I turned it off, not as a conscious decision, but as a result of politics fatigue. At the beginning of the decade, when I was still in college, forming my opinions about the world, I looked to comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as political authorities. …

From ‘Wild Wild Country’ to ‘Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator,’ the streaming giant practically invented the docuseries

Images courtesy of Netflix

Eva Orner, the Oscar-winning producer of Taxi To the Dark Side and director of a just-released documentary, Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator, remembers a time when people didn’t exactly find her career thrilling.

“Twenty years ago when you were at a party and people said, ‘So what do you do?’ and I’d say, ‘I make documentaries,’ they’d kind of just back away slowly,” she says. “Now it’s like, ‘Oh my god, I only watch documentaries!’”

That cultural shift is good news for Orner and for her new film, a damning indictment of Bikram Choudhury, the hot yoga pioneer and sexual predator…

Mediocre shows won’t cut it as the world’s biggest streaming company faces more competition

Paul Rudd, Aisling Bea in “Living With Yourself.” Credit: Netflix

Last year, in August, I settled in with a smile to watch Disenchantment, Netflix’s satirical fantasy sitcom from Simpsons creator Matt Groening. I imagined it would skewer the popular fantasy genre as a hilarious satire of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings sword-and-sorcery tropes, with characters every bit as memorable as Marge Simpson and Krusty the Clown.

And so I spent the morning on Netflix, watching the first few episodes, expecting greatness. I chuckled a few times during the pilot, mostly at an elf character named Shocko (the joke is that he’s always shocked). But as I made…

Despite industry snubs, the Starz series continues to be a ratings hit, thanks largely to Black viewers

Credit: Starz

I did lots of shushing during our Power viewing party on Saturday night. My sister, a few friends, and I decided to get together for the midseason finale; some of us like to yell at the TV when we’re not sure if our favorite characters are going to end up dead, in prison, or (gasp!) broke. But I didn’t want to miss a word — it’s the final season after all, and the episode was sure to feature a big whodunit cliffhanger that will leave us thirsting until the show returns in January for the final five episodes of the…

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