Category Archives: TV Club

What Should a Dramatization of the Trump Era Look Like?

As a pop culture junkie living through the first-ever reality star President, I’ve spent maybe a little too much time wondering what the inevitable series of political biopics and miniseries about the Trump Era and all of the events surrounding it will look like.

With the shortening of the news cycle, so much has happened this year that we’ve already forgotten about (Trump was impeached in January) let alone before he even took office (the Access Hollywood tape). In my eyes, a sweeping, well-done narrative would actually be both enlightening and engrossing, not to mention the fun there is in dream-casting. (Patti Lupone as Nancy Pelosi? Allegra Edwards as Kayleigh McEnany or Ivanka? Holland Taylor as Hillary?)

However, it would be too easy to go into parodic territory. Long before Trump came down the escalator, when he still hosted The Apprentice, people did bad impersonations of him, telling friends, “You’re fired,” across the table at dinner parties. (Guilty.) This has only increased since he took office. But it’s not funny anymore.

It’s one thing to impersonate a guy with funny hair who hosts a successful reality competition show who says incendiary things on cable news but mostly stays away. It’s another thing to impersonate the President on Saturday Night Live, or a talk show, or at a dinner party, who makes fun of disabled people, disrespects war heroes, refuses to attend the funeral of civil rights icons, and basically violates everything to do with common decency and respect in the name of America First.

Regardless of what policies you support or which party you’re registered with, the research and statistics show that Trump has not made America great again. He has done everything in his power to ignore the coronavirus pandemic and act like we’ve defeated it when it’s only getting worse while working to undo the legacy of presidents before him.

At this point, to portray Trump in any fashion is to perpetuate his image and legacy. From a practical, artistic standpoint, it’s impossible to do a portrayal or impersonation of Trump and have it taken seriously at this point. Even if Daniel Day Lewis did his method acting most, we’d all still laugh at it because that’s what we’ve been trained to do since 2015–laugh at the “orange man” so you don’t take him seriously and notice what he’s actually doing. From a political standpoint, to keep impersonating Trump is dangerous. It contributes to mythmaking, positive or negative, and no good can come of that.

So to answer the central question posed in this post’s title, what should a dramatization of the Trump Era look like? We’re getting our first taste very soon. Showtime announced this week their new miniseries, The Comey Rule, and yes, it looks as gross and trite as it sounds.

With Jeff Daniels as the eponymous James Comey and Brendan Gleeson doing his damndest to “seriously” portray Trump, The Comey Rule seems to be prestige television’s answer to my question. However, I would argue that building off of what I’ve stated above, Trump should be entirely absent from any dramatizations of the Trump era.

The Comey Rule is a bad idea for lots of reasons (least of which it seems to ignore the Hillary Clinton mess entirely and start with Trump in the White House?). But the story could easily be told without Trump in it at all. (No shade to Gleeson, who is a fine actor.) But if this is a taste of the kind of stories Hollywood thinks we should tell about the Trump era, I’ll pass.


Read more about The Comey Rule here: James Comey is no hero and Showtime’s The Comey Rule won’t change that


Recommendation of the Week: Hillary

There are still a few days left in Women’s History Month, so we may as well recognize the woman who came closest to breaking that “highest and hardest glass ceiling” by winning the popular vote in 2016.

The new docuseries Hillary on Hulu examines Hillary Rodham Clinton with unprecedented access and provides new insight into her political campaigns, career, and private life. Regardless of what you think of Hillary as a person, she has paved the way for future female leaders and that deserves credit.

Read more of my thoughts on the docuseries for Culturess.


Recommendation of the Week: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Okay, so my recommendation for you this week isn’t exactly new. In fact, Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered on the long-departed The WB network nearly a quarter of a century ago. Buffy is by no means a perfect show and it hasn’t aged well in some ways (it is painfully white), but it is nonetheless extremely meaningful to television, the first show to blend genre and mythos with humanity in such a thoughtful way.

Because of this, Buffy is the perfect show to binge right now while self-isolating, or while dealing with generalized anxiety around the Covid-19 crisis. Whether you’re looking for catharsis or escapism, Buffy Summers is your girl. Read more of my thoughts at Culturess.


Recommendation of the Week: Shrill


Shrill‘s newest season dropped January 24 on Hulu. In the current media landscape with more content than ever before, it can be easy to miss shows, even ones that are as good as Aidy Bryant and Lindy West’s love child. If you haven’t yet watched Shrill, now is the time to dive in, with the first two episodes of the series available to watch for free on YouTube for a limited time.

I wrote a full review of the season for Culturess (spoiler–I loved it) and a personal essay about the second season’s WAHAM episode. Take a look and let me know what you think of Annie’s continued adventures.


Recommendation of the Week: In Praise of “Special’s” Codependent Mother-Son Relationship

For anyone who has a really close relationship with their mom, especially if they are queer and/or disabled, the new Netflix series Special will hit close to home. The show centers on Ryan (Ryan O’Connell), a young gay man with cerebral palsy learning how to live independently and truthfully. O’Connell also wrote and directed the series which is loosely based on his own life.

There are so many things to love about this show:  Punam Patel’s performance as the loving and vivacious Kim, Ryan’s mile-a-minute puns, or the sweet budding romance between Ryan and Carey (Augustus Prew). But what really resonated the most with me is the close relationship between Ryan and his mother, Karen (Jessica Hecht). At the beginning of the series, Ryan still lives at home with his mom. He doesn’t date. He’s beginning a new internship (which appears to be his first job ever). He still regularly needs help from his mom due to his disability. But his mom is also overprotective and afraid to let him leave.

As the series continues, Ryan moves out and they each gain a bit of independence from each other. His mom begins to date, though secretly behind Ryan’s back because she’s afraid of how he’ll take it, and Ryan is learning how to do more things on his own. The fifth episode told from Karen’s perspective is a high point of the series, showing the way women and mothers take on the emotional labor in families as caretakers not just for their children, but also for everyone around them.

I don’t have anything as serious as cerebral palsy, but I have several chronic illnesses that also caused my mother and I to have a similar relationship growing up as Ryan and Karen’s. I lived with my parents until the age of 25 (at which point, I moved in with my sister–baby steps). I didn’t have a place of my own until I was 27. Now that my mom is gone and I’ve been forced to gain independence from her, I can see that she was pretty overprotective about a lot of things. While I understand why, I also can’t help but look around at my peer group and see how things were different for them, or even how my siblings were treated differently (hello, curfew). I wish I could watch Special with her. It serves as a love letter to these very specific codependent mother-child relationships and how they can shape the lives of both involved.

Special hasn’t been renewed yet. The episodes are 15 minutes each and there are only eight, so you can watch the whole thing in the amount of time it takes to watch a movie. The writing is out of this world and there are so many good, heartfelt, and hilarious moments. So what are you waiting for?


Happy Birthday, Buffy

This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you’re a nerd on the Internet, you might’ve seen a think piece or two about it. For those of you who weren’t aware of this milestone or the show itself, Buffy began as a high school drama masquerading as a supernatural monster-of-the-week escapade. Creator Joss Whedon (who went on to make some movies you may have heard of like The Avengers), came up with the a superpowered girl to challenge the stereotype of the blonde cheerleader who always died in horror movies.

This trope was played up throughout the show with frequent baddies being surprised that Buffy was the “one girl in all the world” with the power to kill vampires and other “forces of darkness.” The show used this frequent surprise as a subversion and statement on ’90s girl power, flaunting Buffy’s strength. Within the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy was always the strongest person around and would find a way to defeat evil, even when fighting a god.

Of course, Buffy didn’t do it alone. Unlike hypermasculine superheroes such as Batman, Buffy always had her friends who worked with her to plan, research, and fight. This collectivism was uniquely feminine and uniquely Buffy.

For me personally, Buffy was all-consuming for me when I first binge-watched it in 2003. I had never seen a television show that had a girl at the center of it, let alone a girl who was superpowered and in a world full of smart and funny people. Buffy quickly became my hero at a time in my life when I needed her most.

Buffy, the show and the character, will always be close to my heart. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve read the criticisms and agree it has issues of diversity and some of the sex and gender storylines could have been better. But without Buffy, there would be no Veronica Mars or Pretty Little Liars, just to name a few. When asked what my favorite television show is, I answer Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I often get a laugh, like it’s a guilty pleasure show. Buffy is a show that should be taken seriously, though, and those who laugh likely do not understand how important this show is for representation of women in the media. My favorite superhero isn’t Superman, Iron-Man, or Batman, but Buffy. “She saved the world. A lot” all while showing that being a strong woman does not necessarily mean being masculine or self-sacrificial or lonely.

All that said, Happy Birthday, Buffy.


Farewell, Leslie Knope, and Thanks for Everything

Dear Leslie Knope,

You don’t know me but I’m very familiar with your work. For the past 6 years, I’ve watched in awe as you have worked tirelessly to better your crazy little town of Pawnee, Indiana–not unlike my own hometown. Tonight, that all comes to an end (at least, until I delve into my Netflix queue again) and I just wanted to take a minute to say thanks.

First, thank you for introducing me to the world you live in. I won’t just miss you, but also your friends and the family you’ve built in the Parks and Recreation department. Donna and her unending love for her Benz. Tom and his many pursuits of both businesses and the ladies. Andy and April’s weirdly perfect loving relationship. Chris and Ann’s unending support for those around them (who I’ve already made my peace with). Ben’s love of the calzone. Ron Effing Swanson. All of these people go into making Pawnee, and you, the wonderful thing I’ve born witness to for the past 6 years.

Oh, and Jerry/Garry/Larry/Terry I guess. Whatever.

Second, thank you for being one of the first blatantly feminist characters I ever saw on television. I’ll never forget being introduced to the Pawnee Goddesses and wishing I could go back in time to when I was a kid and be a member of that troop. I loved that you considered not dating Dave because he didn’t know enough about the female political icons who adorned your office. The fact that you eventually became friends with Madeleine Albright was amazing. Thank you for slamming the media about the way women in politics are treated.

In short, Leslie, thank you for being you. You showed me that it’s OK to make mistakes and have flaws as long as you care passionately and never give up. We can use more women–people–like you in the world and you have undoubtedly inspired countless young women to speak a little louder, push a little harder, and down some whipped cream unabashedly.

I like you and I love you. And I will miss you, Leslie. I can’t wait to see what you do next.


The series finale of Parks and Recreation airs tonight on NBC at 10/9c.

SNL 40: Growing Up a Comedy Nerd

In case you’re like most of the world and haven’t been watching NBC for the past few weeks, Saturday Night Live aired its 3.5 hour-long 40th anniversary special last night. The show was about 2 hours too long, but it was a fun tour de force for those who made SNL history and those who simply watched it.

Lorne Michaels explained that they invited anyone who ever hosted, was a musical guest, or was in the cast for at least a year. So, yeah, it was a big night (Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Laraine Newman, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, etc., etc.). Unlike normal SNL episodes where audience gags had random people in the crowd, last night’s audience gags would have Bradley Cooper and Chris Lowell giggling in the background, or Jon Lovitz the ghost watching on.

Overall, the whole thing was fun, but kind of one big circle jerk. One thing about SNL is it’s always had to balance its New York audience and the need to appeal to a wider, mass audience. Last night was no different. There was a long, sentimental montage about New York and 9/11 within the first hour of the show that, while appreciated, is still a bit boring for someone whose never lived outside of Oklahoma (or even been to New York). And then there were the jokes themselves.

I guess I was surprised that pretty much every single sketch was about SNL itself, which feels a bit like a missed opportunity considering all of the great talent there. Yes, it was a dream come true to have Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Jane Curtin behind the Update desk, but it would have been even better to hear them tell actual Update jokes for the full segment rather than tell a few throwaway masturbatory SNL jokes for 2 minutes.

Perhaps the weirdest part of the night was Eddie Murphy. SNL made such a big deal about bringing Eddie Murphy back for the first time since he left 30 years ago, I had pretty high expectations (along with a lot of other people, I presume). Before he came on, Chris Rock gave a full Eddie Murphy sermon, talking about how Eddie saved the show when it was near cancellation in the non-Lorne years and how there would never be a next-Eddie Murphy. All for Eddie Murphy to walk out and say, “Yeah, this is cool,” then be disappointed that they didn’t cut to commercial break sooner. Considering the show was at quite a lull then, it would have been nice if Murphy could’ve saved the 40th special, too, or at least act like he cared as much as Chris Rock.

All that said, last night was still fun to watch because it reminded me how much the show means to me and to a lot of other people. Throughout the special, they aired montages of old sketches and reduxed old sketches. Even the sketches I didn’t watch live were so immortal, I grew up with them (The Land Shark, Bass-o-matic, Mr. Bill to name a few). It was fun to relive every aspect of SNL history and rekindle my love for the show that started as a young child (probably too young–I remember singing the Ambiguously Gay Duo theme song on the playground without really getting the joke).

In short, SNL was my primary education in comedy, and last night was like the best family reunion ever–a little awkward at times when your weird uncle shows up late and drunk (I’m looking at you, Chevy), but you’re still glad you went.

Now go YouTube clips from last night, because I can’t pick just one to embed here.

Did you watch? I’d like to know what you think.


Recommendation of the Week: The Fall

Police procedurals about white male serial killers murdering white women are a dime-a-dozen these days. Shows that were once inventive and the best of the genre are either over or tired (Law & Order, CSI, etc.).

Enter The Fall, a British drama about two hunters, a serial killer, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), and the police officer, Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), trying to catch him. The beautiful Belfast, Ireland provides an antithetical backdrop for the horrific crimes. Additionally, Gibson must battle sexism, politics, and her own psyche as she closes in on the killer.

Don’t expect any stereotypically dramatic scenes of frustration or fear from Anderson’s Gibson as she solves the crime. Gibson is completely in control of her emotions, of her surroundings, of her sexuality at any given time. Gillian Anderson gives a quiet and subtle performance of a complex woman who understands the implications of what it means to be a woman in power who shows her emotions.

Contrary to many similar shows, the identity of the killer is not a secret to the viewer. We get to know the criminal as well as the police. Spector is a husband and father. He works as a bereavement counselor. He’s handsome and charming. …he also stalks and kills young women. The Fall utilizes Jamie Dornan’s physicality and good looks as a way to mess with the viewers’ perceptions. Many scenes with Dornan have no dialogue and are acted entirely through facial expressions.

The second season of The Fall dropped on Netflix Friday. The whole series is only 11 episodes so you can easily binge-watch it before Fifty Shades of Grey comes out on Valentine’s Day. It is unknown as to whether there will be a third season.

Have you already watched The Fall? Just now starting? Hurry up and finish. I need to talk about that ending.