More TV baby blues
The nonstop circus of electronic entertainment in 2017
Last night I had a dream that I died twice yesterday/But I woke up still not dead again today.
I like the laid-back defiance in those lines from Willie Nelson’s recent song about bogus reports of his “death” recurring on the Internet and elsewhere. And the song also appeals to me as a down-home rejoinder to the 24/7 foggy-bottom hullabaloo generated through the collective clamor of electronic entertainment and social media.
And in a year of reality-TV politics, social media quagmires, fake news, etc., “Still Not Dead” (from the 2017 album God’s Problem Child) strikes me as one of the special high points of the year’s entertainment, or at least the seemingly ubiquitous waves of it that reach us through digital and electronic media.
Around this time last year, I was mulling over the year’s TV-centric matters, and much of what I singled out back then continues to loom large in this version of those musings. Bob Odenkirk and Better Call Saul, the late-night-show monologues of Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers, the commentaries and reportage of Rachel Maddow, et al., on MSNBC, the gravity of John Oliver’s “comic” insights on Last Week Tonight, the near-poetic partnership of Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow (“Kruk & Kuip”) on broadcasts of Giants baseball, the epic ballet of Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, etc. For me, they were all top-of-the-list again for rewarding viewing in 2017.
Which is not to say that the two years have been identical. After all, 2016 was shanghaied by (among other things) marathon televisual electioneering of a particularly dismal sort, while 2017 has been dry-gulched by a ramshackle political circus of predatory clowns and lethal buffoons. And on the plus side, in the theater of NBA basketball, the 2017-18 season is shaping up as a festival of young teams and new stars adapting their own versions of Warriors-style play.
I’m not even going to try to come up with a comprehensive “Best 10” list here, mostly because of the abundance of interesting-sounding shows and series that I haven’t, by choice or by chance, been able to see. But, in the interests of year-end ruminations, I will offer up a decidedly personal top 10 just for the sake of the conversation.
1. Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live
2. The Dave Rawlings Machine performing on Bluegrass Underground (PBS)
3. Damnation (USA Network), a very promising new show about union activists and strike breakers during the Great Depression
4. The Mick (Fox), mostly for Kaitlin Olson (the lone female regular in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) in an offbeat variation on sitcom
5. Anthony Scaramucci
6. Alec Baldwin and Anthony Atamanuik doing face-warping parodies of Donald Trump (but how do you parody a parody?—no one does it better, or more scathingly, than 45). Still, Baldwin’s opening moves on SNL were brilliant, and Atamanuik has the benefit of an inspired talk-show concept on Comedy Central’s The President Show (Side note: Jason Ross, former CN&R colleague and editor, has writer/producer credits on 15 episodes of the latter.)
7. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, etc., seen in close-up on the news, and betraying unmistakable signs of vulpine calculation, and perhaps worse
8. Trump Speaks—if need be, change the channel, or hit the mute button and take stock of the behavior of the supporters, stooges and dignitaries who are visible behind him
9. The woman in that late-night commercial for the Color Doctor blood pressure gadget—she pauses mid-sentence to brush back a lock of her imperfectly coiffed hair, and then continues quite convincingly with her urgent, busy, eager-to-help pitch
10. Lauren Martinez, Action News Now—looks and sounds like the real deal to me