TV postsThursday August 06, 2015
Let Us Now Praise a Funny Man
Some encomiums and links on the way out, as Jon Stewart hosts his final “Daily Show” tonight ...
“He is not so much pro-left as he is anti-bullshit.”
--David Remnick, “Exit, Stage Left,” in The New Yorker
“The narrative you helped give us, to navigate the madness that is this world, cannot be overstated.”
-- J.J. Abrams on “The Daily Show” last week
“He says he's just a comedian but he's more than a comedian and I think he knows that. I spent three decades-plus doing network news but if you ask me today, what do I pay more attention to, John Oliver and Jon Stewart or the evening newscast, it's not close. I get much more out of Oliver and Stewart when he's cooking than I do out of those formulaic 22-minute newscasts.”
--Jeff Greenfield, in “Jon Stewart, Sarcastic Critic of Politics and Media, Is Signing Off,” in The New York Times
“Only Megyn Kelly and her ilk will breathe a sigh of relief when he’s gone.”
-- Charles Kaiser, “Jon Stewart made sense of the insanity all around us,” Columbia Journalism Review
“You had the guts to address yourself in the mirror, and say, 'Jon? It's not working.' For 17 years you've banged yourself against this desk, and we've all watched this trainwreck go on. You never found your voice, you never found your audience, you don't know what the fuck you're talking about.”
-- Will Ferrell on “The Daily Show” in March
Louis C.K. Prefigures the Lesson of 'Inside Out' by Two Years
The lesson is in the final third of the video, but the whole thing is worth it:
My review of “Inside Out.”
Comparing Louis C.K. to Proust.
The Limits of Revenge: The Fifth Season Finale of 'Game of Thrones'
The fifth season finale of “Game of Thrones” was all about the hollowness of revenge (warning: spoilers ahead):
- Arya Stark finally gets Meryn Trant alone, No. 1 on her hate parade (“You were the first person on my list, you know?” she says), and plucks out his eyes and slits his throat. For this she goes blind.
- Brienne of Tarth finally gets revenge on Stannis Baratheon for the shadow-killing of his brother three seasons ago. But by then he's a defeated, wounded man, slumped against a tree. Worse, by taking a revenge that doesn't need taking, she misses her chance to help her charge, Sansa Stark, who is still imprisoned by her husband, Ramsay Bolton, and who instead jumps (seemingly) to her death.
- And we finally get revenge on Cersei Lannister, who has wreaked havoc on the show with a small, contempuous smile for the past five seasons. After her son Joffrey died, and before Ramsay took over the slot, she was No. 1 on our hate parade. Oh, to see her humiliated by the people of King's Landing! Well, in this episode, we finally get to see it. And it's awful.
In some ways, this is the most underappreciated aspect of HBO's show. the characters change; they can be redeemed in our eyes. Who, for instance, didn't want Jamie Lannister dead after the very first episode? Over time, he's become a favorite.
That said, the final death in the episode made me want to take revenge: on George R.R. Martin or the show's producers. Someone. It's not that I was a huge fan of Jon (“Winter is cooming”) Snow or his storyline. The opposite, really. But I endured his trials and tribulations because I figured it was going to lead somewhere. It seemed like it was important even as it bored me to death. I mean, what was all that “Kill the boy” talk a few weeks back? Maester Aemon essentially tells Jon to make the difficult decision, he does, he pushes it through (and surivives it: wildlings and white walkers, all), only to get the shiv for it. And this is what Sam wants to be? A maester who gives crappy advice? Shame. Shame. Shame.
Cersei being prepped for the Walk of Shame.
David Letterman: Puncturing the Culture Rather than Propping It Up
I think The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum describes his revolutionary appeal to my generation better than anyone:
For more than thirty years, David Letterman has been the guy working the talk-show host. But he's never hidden how tricky it is to move those levers, which has been his appeal to fans: in a job made for smoothies, he's kept showing us his flaws, those spikes of anger and anxiety, almost despite himself. Now that Letterman's a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it's become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist. His manner suggested that TV could puncture the culture rather than prop it up. My friends, particularly the guys, became his acolytes, quoting his catchphrases (“They pelted us with rocks and garbage”) and copying his deadpan affect.
The whole piece, “Good Night: David Letterman's last weeks,” can be found in the latest New Yorker. Or here.
I missed that first show, but not much from that first year.
They're Not Crying; They're Saying 'Daaaaaaave'
I haven't written much about the retirement of David Letterman, which officially began today, mostly because I haven't really watched his show for the last 20 years or so. But in the 1980s, when he was on after Johnny Carson and I was just starting college, he was our guy. He was the first one to mock the thing he was on. Applause seemed something to endure impatiently rather than bask in. He said “Ladies and Gentlemen” with bite. He did riffs on sports phrases: “For those of you scoring at home.” Or my personal favorite: “They're not booing; they're saving Daaaaaaave.”
I still remember an early bit, The Museum of the Hard to Believe, which included “the guy who refused to see 'E.T.' no matter what his friends said.” The dude just stood there with arms folded, shaking his head quietly. That was my intro to Chris Elliott, who would become a Letterman staple.
I'd forgotten the bit below until reminded by my friend Kevin Featherly. It's basically Dave doing Michael Moore three years before Michael Moore. The balls that guy had:
The last month has been a parade of stars getting visibly verklempt before Dave: Norm Macdonald (great standup routine, too); Adam Sandler; Chris Elliott; Jimmy Kimmel; Ray Romano. It's been quite touching. But they're not crying, ladies and gentlemen; they're saying “Daaaaaave.”