It’s been a really busy couple of weeks in TV between upfronts and finale season and it would take a long time to write extensive pieces about every big TV moment of the past month, but I did want to weigh in on how a few (very different) shows chose to wrap up their respective seasons. So here it goes….
Every day this week, the internet has been filled with ripples of buzz for shows that won’t premiere for at least four more months–that’s the fun of network upfronts!
Look, with TV having changed so drastically in the past few years, a lot of people have all but written of network TV. Some days, I feel like one of them. But in an age of streaming and DVR, TV has lost that special experience of joint enjoyment that is most readily facilitated through network television. So, in a sense, I’m still rooting for them because I’m a fan of that type of shared experience.
22 episode seasons seem crazy long in this new TV frontier but there is something still appealing about them. Sure, when they’re bad, 22 episodes can seem awfully arduous, but all those extra hours give shows the chance to craft actual episodes. To take risks here and there. I’m not the first person to make this observation, I’ll admit, but I agree with the chorus of other critics who still see the value of network television, even in a vastly transformed landscape.
I’m going to try my best to keep this review in check and make it about the finale without going off on tangents about the series in its entirety (Warning: I will fail). There have been plenty of pieces written about the legacy of the show, its high and lows points and so on and so forth, so I’ll spare you another retread .However, if you haven’t read my work before, I should at least say this: I’m a huge fan of The Good Wife. For its first five seasons, it was easily one of the top five shows on television in my book, with seasons two and five in particular being two of my favorites seasons of anything ever.
Yes, like many of you, I loved The Good Wife for the way it combined the legal procedural format with engrossing serialized stories full of sex, lies, politics and all of the other best kinds of melodrama. I love that it was, in many ways, a high-brow show produced for the CBS masses. It used its “case-of-the-week” format to thoughtfully probe topics ranging from technology to national security, guns, gender politics, activism and innumerable other notable subjects.
Even when the show was off its game, it was still full of impossibly watchable characters and whip-smart dialogue that intrigued and humored me enough to forgive its many narrative missteps in its later seasons. I think pushing Alicia into politics was an all around terrible decisions for the show (with ramifications that echoed through to the end) but “Oppo Research” (and many others from season six) is fantastic television.
But I’m getting dangerously close to a tangent. Let’s get to it: what did I think of the finale?
The most successful comedy of my lifetime (and one of the most successful of all time) was about “nothing.” And even the several comedies that have come since have made sure the “something” they were about mostly amounted to nothing. To be sure, they had nothing to do with race, politics, religion or any of the other uncomfortable topics you can imagine.
It’s not hard to understand why most shows would stay away from these topics; not only are they divisive, they’re incredibly hard to squeeze humor out of in a sitcom format. Many have tried and most have failed. So most don’t try anymore.
One of the rare exceptions to that is ABC’s blackish which, like The Carmichael Show, follows the life of a modern day African American family that frequently gets into discussions about a whole host of timely political and social issues. Blackish certainly has its defenders, but I’ve watched most of its hot button episodes dealing with everything from the “n-word” to spanking, church and “the nod” (although admittedly I never got around to watching the much-heralded episode about a racially motivated police shooting) and was pretty underwhelmed with the results. I feel like it gets a lot of credit just for “going there” when so many others won’t but they seem to only be interested in dealing with these topics on a kindergarten level. Which is fine, but between that approach and the fact that I find both Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross’s characters consistently irritating, the show just isn’t for me.
But The Carmichael Show definitely is.
As treacherous as spin-offs can be, it’s still not hard to understand why AMC would want to venture down that road with Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Most weeks that it airs, TWD is the number one show on television and, thought it started out with just a cult following, Breaking Bad ended its reign as a bonafide cultural phenomenon with universal fan and critical praise. And with Netflix, the show’s staying power in the collective cultural consciousness continues to be pretty impressive.
With one having just finished its second season and the other one just starting theirs, Better Call Saul stands as a modest hit for the network that earns pretty consistent critical praise while Fear The Walking Dead brings in much more impressive numbers but seems to have been welcomed by bored eyerolls, more than anything. The most recent outing of Fear entitled “Blood in the Streets” was probably my favorite episode to date but I can’t deny that the show’s been a borefest for much of its first ten episodes. Of course, it’s no surprise that a show spun off from a problematic mothership that has often shown shades of greatness one week while slipping into longs ruts of tedious misery would be crippled with even more severe problems. Saul, on the other hand, was spun off from the one of the greatest shows of all time….which is a blessing and curse as far as the lense with which I and many others watch it through is concerned. It’s a very good show much of the time, but it’s not without its problems. Here are some of the ways the shows have soared and failed in a few key areas.
First and foremost, it’s important to note that in its second season, the theme song to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt continues to be a triumph of the human spirit. And criminally catchy.
For this reason, it’s next to impossible to not go into an episode of Kimmy without a big grin on your face. Rapid-fire punchlines, glorious 90s nostalgia and the show’s irresistible sweetness are sure to keep it there.
Is Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt a perfect show? No, but I’m happy to report that through its second season, it gets even closer to the mark.
WARNING: The following piece features spoilers from the first five episodes of The Path
Religion is hard.
In real life, obviously, there is probably no greater lightning rod than religion. It is simultaneously responsible for some of the greatest movements of peace and destruction in all of human history.
It’s also hard for TV. While faith is very much a part of the fabric of this nation through the years and including modern times, it’s very rare that a fair and accurate depiction is featured on television. There are the occasional caricatures (which is fair game; as a Christian I can certainly attest that some professing Christians certainly go out of their way to inspire mockery) and perhaps a few touchy-feely platitudes during “a very special episode,” but God is far more absent on our TVs than one might expect given the religious makeup of the U.S.
I guess it’s not hard to understand why. Religion is, after all, more than a little polarizing. Still, polarizing and difficult topics ranging from politics to race to rape and other forms of violence are explored fairly regularly on programs these days; but religion still seems very rare.
I think one of the main reasons is probably because of how incredibly difficult it is to depict something like faith. Many have tried and most have failed which is what makes The Path a refreshing surprise made all the more surprising by the fact that the show takes on the trickiest form of religion of all: a cult.
Hey guys, I’m Mark Gray.
Welcome to Untempered Television.
This is, in a sense, the same Untempered Television that some of you may remember from awhile back. I’m the same guy and all that.
But this Untempered TV is also going to be pretty different.
The story goes like this. I’ve loved TV for a long time and enjoy reading a plethora of TV critics and decided one day that I wanted to throw my voice into the mix. But the problem was, I didn’t just throw my voice into the mix, I threw my entire self into it.
I started running Untempered Television with an unbelievable intensity that no sane person could keep up with. It wasn’t my real job, I didn’t get paid for it, and although I ran Google Ads, I certainly spent a lot more money than I made. And I devoted every free second to writing post after post after post, updating the site several times a day most days. I did episode reviews, harassed networks for early pilot screeners (I’m surprised FOX didn’t take out a restraining order after the number of times I begged for the Gotham screener…which they did send me after all) and ended up turning something that I love into this laborious unforgiving grind that consumed my every waking moment.
When I was officially burnt out, I floated the idea of downsizing the site and doing maybe one post a week, but the fact of the matter is, I was too exhausted to keep it going in any capacity. So I shut it down and have only been sharing my TV thoughts through tweets for the past year or so.
During that time, I’ve certainly missed running the site and I’ve thought about bringing it back a number of different times but because of how out of control I let it get last time around, I was a little freaked out at the thought of it. But then I figured, why not do it again, but this time, do it completely different?
I don’t talk about my day job much from my Untempered Television related accounts, but a little ways into running the original site, things took a turn in my career. I spent several months clinging on for dear life at a company that was going under until eventually I lost my job and had no real plans for the future. Part of me wanted the website to be my way of getting noticed. Maybe someone would see my writing, like it, and suddenly I’d be a professional TV critic overnight. I thought the best way to get noticed was by churning out as much content as humanly possible, not considering the fact that my content would often suffer when I was valuing quantity over quality. I never really stopped to ask the question, do I really have anything to say about this? If it was popular and timely, I was writing about it, no matter how many other posts I had soldiered through that day!
That’s not what this site is going to be.
Nor is it going to be a site where I consider the most controversial and sensationalized way to say something just to drive traffic. After the How I Met Your Mother finale, I wrote a fairly brutal review just completely ripping apart every issue that I had with the episode and final season as a whole. As a long time fan who felt pissed off and betrayed, it felt great. And it was real and genuine and it was my most-viewed post by a wide margin. I’ll be honest, I tried to infuse later posts with some artificial snark and sarcasm to match the wit of that post, but it wasn’t honest so it didn’t work nearly as well. I, thankfully, didn’t indulge in that too often but it happened. With my job situation so crappy, I was writing out of desperation. Writing with this burning frustration to be noticed.
The other thing that this site isn’t going to be is just a bunch of reviews like the last one mainly was. I’m not killing myself to view every pilot and finale and post weekly episode reviews of every single show I can lay my eyes on. I want this to be a site where the writing is birthed out of my love for television, not my desire to churn out as many posts as I can. So instead of that type of content, I’ll be posting twice a week most weeks (again, I’m not torturing myself with imaginary obligations here so there may be off days), with new content on Tuesday and Thursday.
Some of these posts will look like a standard review, I suppose (still figuring it out), but more often than not, they’ll just be observations and musings better suited to spark conversation about the medium we all love. Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing a piece about Hulu’s The Path while Thursday’s post will be about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
With this layout, I’ll be able to deliver better content and make this site what it should have been all along. Just something fun to do on the side where I can connect with fellow TV lovers. I’m doing it free this time around so there’s still a .wordpress in the address and there’s no google ads or anything like that. It’s not sexy or anything, it’s just a dude writing about TV for the sake of writing about TV. I mean, I’d still consider an offer if someone stumbled across this site and decided they wanted to pay me for content, but I’m at a great job now and things are good so I don’t need some dangling carrot to motivate me other than my love of television. And since I’ll be devoting a lot less time to whoring myself across the internet in a desperate attempt for more views, feel free to share anything you deem worthwhile. I’d love to drive people to this blog, not to get rich or discovered or anything dumb, but just because I’d love the feedback from people who savor a great TV show (or detest a bad one) as much as I do.
For those who feel like this was the longest, most pretentious and self-absorbed introduction to a blog that you’ve ever seen, I don’t blame you. You might be right. Most people don’t care about anything I just wrote. So how about I just shut up and get to talking TV? Looking forward to you talking back.
See ya tomorrow!