Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: The Best of Television

With movies like The Hobbit and Les Misérables ruining what were once perfectly good books, there is no doubt that Television is in a new golden age. Here are ten shows that best capture the spirit of these times.

Community


TV's funniest comedy also featured the most engaging behind the scenes dramas as series creator Dan Harmon (Heatvision and Jack) went head to head with Chevy Chase (Spies Like Us) over petty, personal drama while the students at Greendale Community College learned to forgive each other for petty, personal drama. The show returns in February with new show runners Sam Simon, Frank Darabont, and Allan Burns.

Wilfred


The line between fantasy and reality has never been as thin as in Wilfred's twisted world. The second season made the normal seem weird and the weird normal as the eponymous giant, talking dog (Jason Gann) accompanied Ryan (Elijah Wood) on an even crazier series of philosophical adventures. What is Wilfred? Is he us?

Peep Show



Matt King has said that he would like to see what Super Hans is up to in his 70s. I don't think anyone would object to another thirty years of Peep Show.

Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23



The best new show on television comes from a former Undergrads/Malcolm in the Middle/American Dad writer Nahnatchka Khan. Krysten Ritter (The Bitch) plays the real life version of Roger the Alien. Ray Ford plays Luther, the best read character on television since Omar Little.

Louie



Despite a brutal take on motherhood in its first season, Louie couldn't confront his father. Something about facing the penis what made you is scarier than replacing David Letterman. Probably because late night talk shows are outdated and seem simple, like something you could hire to entertain children at a party. Fathers are even scarier than a date with Parker Posey. Louie even went to China.

Skins


The last series of Skins is the best argument for assisted suicide. For years, each new series piled on more unbelievable melodrama. However, in its final run Skins pulled no punches killing a main character early, instead of the penultimate episode (seriously, their finales were always like funerals).

The Simpsons


The Simpsons can still keep pace with anything else on TV. Every few years someone mentions how The Simpsons isn't as good as it used to be. Nowadays, critics are sometimes willing to concede that there are good episodes up to the 15th season, which means they're only overlooking 38% of the show (plus, a kickass movie). I blame it on laziness. Otherwise, they would have seen 2012's season finale ‘Lisa Goes Gaga’ and realized they had wasted their lives on lesser television.

Breaking Bad



This season on Breaking Bad, the episode Dead Freight fulfills the grandest of all cinematic accomplishments: a great train robbery. Long straight lines make for wonderful perspective shots, and the rhytmic pounding of machinery is the stuff of cinema in its purest form. Viva Vertov! Too bad the first half of the season was a coronation ceremony for Hank (Dean Norris) as the world's most oblivious DEA agent.

American Horror Story



The horror genre has been in such a slump for years, between lame monsters of the week and uncomfortable torture films that would make zombie cannibals vomit with shame. Combining every horror cliche all at once and in every episode, AHS has finally created something that TV has never seen: a genuinely frightening horror series. Take that Stephen King.

30 Rock


Liz Lemon finally got married, dummies. And it wasn't a big hairy deal. I don't know, actually, they may have advertised the hell out of it. I don't actually have a TV.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Great Deku Tree


Written with Katie Jahner.

Top 10 Dan Bern Songs (Videos)

Songwriter Dan Bern released a new album, Drifter, featuring the musical talents of Common RotationDrifter is Dan's first studio album since 2006’s Breathe. In the meantime, there have been live records, children’s records, books, and even feature films. To celebrate the new stuff, and introduce any first timers to his material, here is a “best of” Dan Bern, complete with videos.

Jerusalem


Jerusalem is Dan’s biggest crowd pleaser and probably most requested song. Even casual listeners appreciate its hopeful message of olives and messianic prophecy fulfillment. Even though he officially renounced the title a few years back, word is that the man still gets nervous around Roman carpenters. Like all of Dan’s great songs, there are laughs, love on the brink, and inter-stellar travel.

Chelsea Hotel



Every folk singer has to have a song about the Chelsea Hotel. The nicest thing about this one is no messy divorce weeping and classier sex than a sad blowjob. Dan’s Chelsea Hotel is a momentary respite between one heartbreak and the next. There ’ s sadness on the horizon, but the moment is perfect in its ephemerality.

Tiger Woods



Dan’s biggest hit and a novelty song that defies novelty. It became relevant again when Tiger was all over the news for his philandering. However, as a track one, side one of a debut record it really shows a lot of... well, balls.

Mexican Vacation



Many of Dan’s songs tell intricate and science-fiction-y stories. Set far into the future, Mexican Vacation has mutants, slavery, love on the run, and West Virginia.

Beautiful Ride



Dan has a decent amount of soundtrack work, especially with filmmaker Jake Kasdan. From their collaboration Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, a Dan Bern song plays as the curation closes. There is no better way to end a movie.

President



During the runup to the 2004 presidential election, Dan came out hard against Bush. As a matter of fact, Dan protested Bush before it was cool to protest Bush. In addition, he lays out an agenda that would still be ambitious today considering how far America has regressed culturally. In a shameless bit of self promotion, here is the music video I made for that great song, replete with all the things people who supported Bush hate the most: nudity, drugs, and vulgarity.

Thanksgiving Day Parade



The best folk songs deal in metaphor so thick it takes Sean Wilentz to deconstruct them. Or you can take them at face value and relive someone’s Manhattan Thanksgiving. What good is a metaphor anyway when our imaginations are limited by our environments.

Party by Myself



Another song from the new record and a Dan Bern classic that has previously not appeared on any official album. Recommended beverage accompaniment: whiskey and despair.

Hen Party



Dan recently celebrated the birth of a child, Lulu Bern, and recorded an album of children’s songs. Each one as weird as they are unforgettable.

A Day at the Ballgame


A story about every major league game anyone has ever attended. Baseball features minimally.

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