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What’s new in TV

From left: Bill Hader, Tim Robinson, and Jeremy Strong. Collage by Vivienne Freeman.

Being in Los Angeles, many of us are very close to the film industry, and as an aspiring filmmaker, I want to take a moment to celebrate the recent wins (at least in my books) on TV. So much television comes out every year, and the film bros and execs of the world will tell you that most of it’s junk, but if you can create something that speaks to someone, it’s definitely worth existing. It doesn’t even have to be a complex conversation; good fun and meaningless comedy can speak to someone (it’s me, they are talking to me). In the words of actor/director, Jermaine Clement: “The world needs stupid sh*t.”

2023 was a big year for “dramedies,” as both Jesse Armstrong’s “SUCCESSION" and Bill Hader's "BARRY” came to an end. Both shows ran for four seasons, and both wrapped up on May 28. Each show was iconic in its own right but could not tell drastically different stories with strangely similar characters.

SUCCESSION follows the Roy family, who are a parody of the real-life Murdochs (the family that owns the company FOX News). The whole show is basically about who will take over the company when big daddy Logan Roy (Brian Cox) dies. It’s incredibly captivating! Even if you have no understanding of business whatsoever, you can get enough of a sense of what’s going on. Even if you don’t catch on, the funny quips from the characters and the insane fights they get into is enough to entertain any TV watcher. It’s regarded as a modern masterpiece, and is absolutely worth a watch. The final season is tragic and hilarious and I found myself crying, laughing, confused, on the edge of my seat, and admittedly yelling at my computer.

Bill Hader is mostly known as a comedian and was the star of what some call the golden age of SNL. Real funny guy, but somehow he managed to direct and star in one of the most weird and messed up drama-comedies I’ve seen in awhile. BARRY follows hitman Barry Berkman in his journey of self-discovery, self-preservation, and self-destruction, as he tries to become an actor. He’s a mess of a main character, but so is everyone else in the show. Hader masters the flawed, anti-hero protagonist, and it’s really impressive. The twists that the story takes are frankly exhilarating and the people you meet along the way can range from charming and hilarious to absolute monsters, however practically everyone is a balanced mix of both.

I mentioned SNL, the longest running sketch comedy show, a controversial but nevertheless indisputably iconic piece of ongoing comedy. Well, Lorne Michaels isn’t the only one pumping out the jokes: Tim Robinson’s “I Think You Should Leave” just came out with its third season. Each episode is about fifteen minutes long, and all seasons are streaming on Netflix. If you like awkward, bizarre/surreal, or just plain silly comedy, you’ll get a laugh out of this show. That video of the guy who sounds like he’s about to implode going “Are you sure about that? Are you sure about that?” is actually from the show! It’s hilarious and I would urge everyone to watch at least one episode, then another, then another, then finish the whole show.

All this TV talk does remind me of all the hard work that goes into making this stuff! When you think about it, it starts to feels like execs and producers would have nothing to produce, directors would have nothing to direct, actors would have no lines, editors would have nothing to edit, camera, sound and lighting would have nothing to light and record if not for the invaluable work of the Writers Guild of America. It starts to feel like that because it’s entirely true, there would absolutely be no TV if not for writers. Oh? And what’s that? They want to get rid of the writers? Then how are you going to make, you know, TV? Well, the answer is, you won’t. Money has been corrupting the arts for its entire existence. The top dogs want to squeeze as much out of the fewest people possible, so they can make just enough content for pennies on the dollar. This is only going to lead to untrained, overworked employees who won’t have any job stability. If WGA cannot get what they are asking for (basic workers’ rights), all TV will be made by soulless robots, out-of-touch rich kids, and gig workers. What. A. Nightmare. Please support WGA in their fight for fair pay, job security, and respect! Have a great summer, enjoy all the TV that comes out, and remember who made it for you.

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