I'm a pop culture enthusiast with oft-encyclopedic knowledge of current entertainment. I like to say my primary relationship in my twenties was with television. Because of that, specific TV shows have come to define phases of my life. When I remember my college years, it's with the tone of both The Good Wife's postmodern feminism and Gossip Girl's fashionable exclusivity. High school is about the personality and creativity of Project Runway, in conjunction with the jerk appeasement of House's minions. These shows had a prevalent influence on the way I thought about culture and what story was capable of as an art form. They taught me about what's possible when a show has a strong voice - from its writing to its aesthetics.
So it was with more than a little shock that I realized four of the most influential shows of my millennial adult life are coming to an end in 2019:
My Jewish sisters created a masterpiece of unpredictable comedy. It's hard convincing people to watch this show - remember how the premiere had Abby Skyping with a mid-coitus Ilana? But it was that precise sense of sexual freedom, coupled with what is almost a neo-hippy free love, that somehow, magically, appealed to every walk of life. It's such a sweet show. It's also authentic and a great example of a small story having big payoff. Like You're the Worst, Broad City has distinct characters whose actions and decisions are always based in their uniqueness. The comedy petered off somewhat in the last couple of seasons, but I will never not be grateful for this clip:
Straight up: I haven't watched CXG with any real consistency since Season 2. When the show started it felt like all of my insecurities and idiosyncrasies had been copied and pasted onto the screen. But as it progressed and Rebecca Bunch's antics were less slice-of-life and more melodrama, the "crazy" became less and less nuanced and I didn't feel the need to watch every episode as soon as it was available. Nonetheless, I still think of this show as a sample of how autobiographical work has to push the envelope in order to develop into something new. (Don't ask me about the finale, my brain is refusing to process it.)
YOU'RE THE WORST
The huge draw of this bad-people-dating-each-other show was the writing (duh) and how each character was super distinct, articulate and terrible in his or her own way. There was a little bit of superiority baked in, since we're obviously better than the characters we're watching. But one of the things this show did best was the one-upmanship. Scenarios getting bigger and bigger, more and more ridiculous. It was massively entertaining. But somewhere around the focus on Gretchen's mental health and Lindsay's solo "abobo" decision, the show started trying to one-up itself, which ended up being its undoing. The finale, though, was satisfying in ways that the last couple of seasons weren't.
GAME OF THRONES
Last but not least, the juggernaut that took over the world. It was not easy to love this show. It was long, there was a gigantic map I was supposed to understand, my loved ones died all the time, and I didn't care about the same things everyone else on this planet cared about. (See: After Ned Stark, Catelyn- and Robb's deaths didn't feel monumental, the rape scenes felt par for the course and a weird thing to get stuck on, the boobies were unremarkable.) But it's an epic story. We make allowances for ambition. After sludging through the past couple years, Season 7 picked up the pace and promised delivery on many, many story threads. Season 8 starts this Sunday and man, am I ready for the catharsis of conclusion.
As entertainment these shows provided escapism, of course - good laughs and good suspense in turn, occasionally at the same time. But for me they were also a workshop on how to make things matter. One of the aspects of writing I struggle with the most is making people care about your characters and what happens to them. Maybe I'll throw in a dragon or a musical number next time, see how it feels.
Thoughts with Alisa
Current writing on pop culture. Also known as my post-graduate school writing motivation.