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Entries in TV (271)


Black History Month: The Rise of Taraji 

Our Oscary spotlight on Black History Month continues with Matthew Eng on the currently very hot Taraji P. Henson

It’s one thing to nab yourself a lead role on a juicy, mega-hit network drama with a mind-blowing, week-to-week ratings surge. But to be the undeniable breakout star of said TV show, to act circles around your leading man and everyone else on screen, to inspire tepid critics to unanimously single out your performance, to remain the number one (some would say only) reason to tune in, and to snatch yourself an actual catchphrase within the pilot? That’s a whole other heap of achievements entirely.

Taraji P. Henson is having a great year, which is an especially exciting thing to write, because, to my mind, few working actresses (much less working actresses of color) deserve it more. Henson’s such a reliably loose, shrewd, and engrossing performer that she carries a certain kind of built-in assurance for audiences: no matter the part or project, you can be sure that at least one professional has showed up to work and you better believe she will be giving it her absolute all. This kind of noticeable, on-camera go-for-broke-ness can often be applied for better and worse, but Taraji’s almost certainly in the former camp; she knows when to reign it in and how to modulate this quality from scene-to-scene and film-to-film, while remaining an exciting and involving on-screen presence.

It’s strange then and somewhat disappointing that the performance for which Henson received her first and (so far) only Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is, in many ways, one of her most boring. Had Oscar voters not seen through the fraudulent "supporting" campaign for Kate Winslet, Taraji might not have been there at all for this true-blue supporting performance...

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Emmy's New Rulings Are Game-Changers

After years of gripes about tv shows "gaming" the system to get more nominations - like Downton Abbey pretending it was a miniseries before it was a series and True Detective pretending it was a regular series instead of a miniseries or Joan Cusack pretending she was a "guest" on Shameless for years on while starring in every episode - suddenly things have changed. Next year's Emmy races in both Drama and Comedy will be forced to look very different. And I'm not just talking about Breaking Bad finally being out of the way (thank God!)

The big changes and the one show most affected after the jump...

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Have You Seen "The Fall"?

A wee break from Oscar talk since a few of you will surely need it.

I bingewatched The Fall this weekend a serial killer drama from Northern Ireland and tweeted this... 

 I thought it was *so* good (despite a molasses slow first episode) with intoxicatingly subtle handling of its relatively blunt ideas and horrific storyline. I particularly loved its very confrontational finger to the audience in a videotaped sequence from the serial killer (that'd be Jamie Dornan as the Belfast Strangler though that's not a spoiler since we know who the killer immediately) and Anderson's completely self-possessed intimidating performance... there's not a single moment where she's asking for audience favor and her Detective Super Intendent is ice cold.

Because I don't follow TV closely I ask those of you who do: was this not eligible for Emmys? I'm noticing it had no Emmy or even BTCA attention, not even for Jamie Dornan (who received some overseas nominations) or the superb Gillian Anderson (who, like Marisa Tomei, just keeps getting better looking with age). Is this just not well loved or widely seen? I understand there's no official word on a Season 3 yet. That's the danger of bingewatching I suppose unless a show is already off the end and you know when the end is coming.


Looking For Truth: Out of the City

Manuel here to offer this week's Looking recap filtered through a decidedly ranty diatribe on LGBT representation.

I was looking for glimpses of the city that had formed me. I didn’t hold out hope that a Hollywood product would show me anything I recognized beyond a consumer gay culture satisfied with glossy representations as a sign of progress. - Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

I couldn't let this week's recap go by without addressing that New Inquiry piece published last week about Looking which opens with a Rent anecdote and that quote above.

Sycamore's framing tells us everything about what I've elsewhere called "the burden of representation"; notice that every sentence starts with an authoritative "I" that is supposed to function as both a composite of those "I"s that Looking and the homonormative gay industrial complex displaces but which nevertheless points us to an individuality that would (and does) refuse an acknowledgement from such a representational vantage point. There is no hope that mainstream representations would present anything Sycamore would recognize; this is both the foundational claim and foregone conclusion of the piece. [More...]


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Freakshow, Anthology Escape Clauses, and Forgotten Endings

a belated goodbye

Here's how you know a show has lost you: when you forget that you didn't finish watching it. I was faithfully tuning into American Horror Story this past season, and just like every season, I lost interest without realizing I'd lost interest before the finale. It's rather like a tire slowly deflating rather than blowing flat with that horrible disorienting noise.

In the case of Freakshow my attentions were interrupted by Oscar nominations and then awards shows and then Sundance. When I got done with all of that it took me a full two weeks to remember that Freakshow was still sitting there on the DVR waiting. In many ways Freakshow was the best looking season of AHS with the most promising first chapters. But it suffers as Vulture correctly observed from a horrifically ill advised finale, particularly its entire final sequence on Elsa's post-Freakshow career. That was the worst kind of television writing, really: nonsensical, unearned, aggravatingly ignorant of what came before it and beholden to an agenda (Jessica Lange Worship) that the text can't support or in this case actively fought against for an entire season.


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Netflix Sneak: "Bloodline" with Kyle Chandler & Sissy Spacek

Last week here in Manhattan The Film Experience was invited to attend a very exclusive special screening and dinner for Netflix's new series Bloodline. How did they know we had a thing for Kyle Chandler and Sissy Spacek? Even more mysterious: How did they know about our deep abiding love for Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Finneran, two Tony-winning Broadway musical comedy sensations who are surprising but great choices to play husband & wife in a swampy thriller / family drama / murder mystery fusion. 

The storyline concerns the Raeburn family, a rich Southern Florida clan who own and run a very lucrative beachfront hotel. In the premiere episode the parents (Sam Shephard and Sissy Spacek) are celebrating an anniversary and home come there four adult children played by Kyle Chandler, Linda Cardellini, Norbert Leo Butz, and their eldest and most troubled prodigal son Ben Mendelsohn. (Mendelsohn's management team might want to look into a curveball next time he takes a role because seeing his face is now already shorthand for TROUBLE!)


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Looking Down the Road: So This Is Goodbye

Manuel here, braving a sick day bringing you a short and sweet recap from this week's SanFran shenanigans. Even if this week’s episode of Looking hadn’t ended with one of my favorite college-throwback songs I overplayed during many a heartbreak (that entire EP is to die for!), “Looking Down the Road” would have easily become my favorite season 2 episode so far. I wish I weren't so indisposed otherwise I rattle off an endless valentine to this episode which saw itself resetting (or re-directing) our three main leads lives with Dom and Lynn's relationship seemingly at an end, Kevin and Patrick's affair finally buckling under its own platonic weight and Agustin landing a job alongside Eddie at the trans center.


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