In the pilot episode of Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy, the director of Borat and former Seinfeld writer timidly asks a reformed Liberian warlord known as General Butt Naked, “What does human flesh taste like?”
The General answers that it tastes like pork. This is the moment when a two-drink minimum seems like a great idea.
There is way too much television content out there right now. While this could be an understatement, consider the following: “Comedians portraying a fictional version of themselves” is now a comedy subgenre. At least five of these shows have premiered since 2010, and there are probably more examples if you stretch the definition a bit. All are set in urban environments and feature a famous comedian playing a not-yet-famous performer who is unlucky in love and life, and probably depressed as a result.
These shows are meta as hell, but they still expect the audience to empathize with the characters as if they were not just stand-ins for the comedians. It seems doubtful anyone would have understood how this could become a trend as recently as ten years ago, but now standup is practically a stepping stone to creating dramedies, not helming a sitcom. Comedians are now expected to be auteurs.
Aziz Ansari’s Master of None returned with a new season a few days ago, and it feels most akin to the show that truly started this trend, Louis CK’s Louie. CK and Ansari both masterfully channel the same, neverending frustration of searching for a perfect partner, while also paying tribute the hilarious oddities and breathtaking beauty offered by Manhattan’s diverse expanse.
Aside from my Abercrombie #8 perfume, Gilmore Saturdays were perhaps the most defining aspect of my early teenage years. In 2004, I was 12 and had just transferred to a new school. My less-than-stellar adjustment to this foreign environment prompted my interest in the more naïve and enjoyable world of Stars Hollow. Every Saturday, three consecutive reruns of Gilmore Girls aired from 7 to 10 pm. My dad ordered pizza and watched with me. Like any good father, he was Team Dean.
Eventually, as I came into my own, Gilmore Saturdays became a thing of the past, but my love and affection for the characters did not wane. I loyally collected every season of the show on DVD and faithfully watched every episode over and over again. To this day, after a frustrating week, I always return to the show as a sort of medicine.
There have been a lot of different takes on the revival. I do not pretend to stand apart from the thousands of other fan girls (and guys) who waited with bated breath and took to Twitter immediately following those final four words. My sentiments are surely repetitive and have already been proclaimed through eloquent think pieces and less eloquent social media posts. During a time when the term ‘echo chamber’ takes on increasingly polarizing meaning, there is none more righteous or as passionate as that which Gilmore fans inhabit.
The best part of riding a roller coaster is often the first lift hill. While waiting in a way-too-long queue, the anticipation for the ride only simmers because the mind is restless and bored. Is this terrible wait time-to-ride time ratio even worth it? Yet, somehow, during that slow climb to the first drop, excitement builds exponentially. All of the sudden, the brain thinks, “This is really happening and holy shit, it looks incredibly dangerous.” The imminent thrills are typically right in front of the riders, in plain sight, but that does not take away from the natural release of endorphins that occurs when the coaster lets gravity take over. After that drop, it does not matter if some of the loops and bunny hills cannot compare to the very start of the ride because the initial acceleration was strong enough to carry everyone to end so fast that they barely noticed. The only people who get off of roller coasters without a smile on their faces are the ones who should not have gotten on the ride in the first place.
What that gratuitous, paragraph-long allegory is trying to say is this: the experience of watching a great television drama is a lot like riding a roller coaster over the course of days, weeks, months, or years, depending on whether the viewer was on the train at the beginning or just binged it all on Netflix during one rainy weekend. Mr. Robot’s first season was a near-perfect thrill ride, much like the Coney Island Cyclone often present in the background, and its promise of more crazy loops and fun drops in the future seemed like a sure thing. Unfortunately, the second season did not deliver smooth navigation through inversions and instead opted to jerk the audience sideways through a series fits and starts.
The thing about Netflix original programming is — well, first of all, it’s mostly great. But the thing about it is, sometimes you spend a weekend binging a show, and you love it, and then you completely forget it exists for a year, until the next season comes out. That’s kind of what happened to me and Narcos (the one about the cocaine).
But, because Netflix is kind and generous, they’ve blessed us with a brand new season on Labor Day Weekend. Of all weekends! You know, in case you needed that third day for your binge (but like, honestly, who needs that?). And the thing about Narcos — which is about Pablo Escobar vs. the DEA and the Colombian government, if you needed a refresher and/or didn’t really pay attention to the English subtitles and couldn’t pick up on all the other context clues, is that it takes place mostly in the 1970s and ‘80s, when Escobar was a) alive and b) in charge of basically all the cocaine in the world.
“Hey, have you seen The Wire? No? It’s the best show ever.”
If you’ve ever debated the best shows on television, you’ve probably had some iteration of this conversation. And you know what, that person was right: The Wire was the best show on television. While titles like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos may be popping into your head, the fervent devotees are quick to note the series that depicts an unflinching portrait of Baltimore is undeniably the best. I’d argue its construction is the closest anyone has come to putting a novel on television.
Now, unpopular opinion alert: Orange is the New Black just stood atop a cafeteria table and silently declared itself the best show currently on “television.” It did so by following the blueprint laid out by The Wire.
Let me start off with a simple sentiment: if you’re not watching Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, you’re doing it all wrong. Netflix has been nailing it with their original programming and OITNB may be their best series yet. It’s dramatic, it’s hilarious, it has forbidden love, a guy named “Pornstache,” a theme song by Regina Spektor and a cast that is freakin’ adorable on Instagram… basically, everything it takes to make a show critically acclaimed and popularly successful.
It feels like everyone is talking about OITNB (or maybe I just feel that way because I’m talking about it all the time to anyone who will listen), and for good reason. There’s a ton of interesting discourse to be had regarding the criminal justice system, the prison system, the LGBT community, the dynamics between inmates and correctional officers in a women’s prison, et cetera, et cetera. But the real draw of this show is its characters. I could write odes to the adorable, lovesick CO John Bennett and rants about the psycho, Jesus-obsessed Pennsatucky and essays on the enigma that is Crazy Eyes. But what’s even more entertaining than the characters themselves is their relationships with one another. The show explores so many different facets of female relationships. There are romances, there are fuck buddies, but most of all there are some truly awesome besties in Litchfield Federal Prison. Here are some of OITNB’s most excellent womances (like a bromance, but for girls. Get it?):