"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: matt zoller seitz

If I Had My Druthers, There Would Be No World Hunger

Matt Zoller Seitz is a gifted and engaging critic of popular culture. Today, he starts writing about TV for New York magazine. Here’s a piece he wrote in 2010 about The Larry Sanders Show, a Bronx Banter favorite if there ever was one:

If one were to make a list of the most influential TV series that almost nobody watched, HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show would be at the top. During its 1992-1998 run, it never got the industry accolades fans felt it deserved, and although it routinely ended up on critics’ year-end Top 10 lists, it got a meager handful of Emmy nominations and just three awards, a paltry number for a series that was often called the best thing on TV. And it rarely drew more than a couple million viewers per episode, a decent number for a premium channel in the pre-Sopranos era, but puny by broadcast network standards.

History, on the other hand, has rendered a glowing verdict. Created by actor-writer Garry Shandling and Dennis Klein, The Larry Sanders Show changed the look and feel of TV comedy. Its influence was felt almost immediately, and its impact continues to resonate. Although it wasn’t the first half-hour series to strip-mine the comedy of embarrassment, affect a laid-back, naturalistic style, or do without a score or a laugh track (except in the talk show sequences), the program’s combination of these elements was so distinctive that they amounted to a new template—one that subsequent programs borrowed and customized. From actor-writer-producer Ken Finkleman’s seriocomic Canadian series The Newsroom through the British and American versions of The Office and NBC’s current hit 30 Rock, which often feels like Larry Sanders played at double-speed, the series evokes that apocryphal line about Velvet Underground: Three thousand people bought their first album, and every one of them started a band.

Million Dollar Movie


Check out the first part of a video essay series on Steven Spielberg. From Matt Zoller Seitz, Ali Arikan, and Serena Bramble.

Million Dollar Movie

Check out this good list of film criticism 101 from Matt Zoller Seitz.

Here’s one I’d include:

Didn't Need No Welfare State

“All in the Family” debuted 40 years ago today. Over at Salon.com, Matt Zoller Seitz writes about why the show still matters:

TV today is inhospitable to series like “All in the Family.” This is only partly due to TV’s splintering from a handful of channels into hundreds. An equal or larger part of the blame can be laid at the feet of broadcast network executives and their marketers, who figured out (sometime in the late ‘80s) that they could make more ad money by junking the “Big Tent” model and appealing to white college graduates with loads of disposable income – a description that rules out anyone who looks or sounds like a character from “All in the Family” (even Mike or Gloria). Except for certain corners of cable – specifically channels that thrive on shows about violent crime and/or revolve around working-class or poor characters – you don’t hear people talking about race, class, religion or politics unless the dialogue is jocular and sarcastic and “just kidding” (like the banter on “Glee” and “Community”) or the earnest centerpiece of a Very Special Episode. And can you remember the last time a broadcast network built a sitcom around fiftysomething, pear-shaped, working-class married people — of any color? Pretty much every modern sitcom lead is under 40 (or trying hard to look it) and fashionably thin or buff.

Since the early ’80s, the networks have done their best to gentrify prime time, banishing demographically déclassé characters and subjects while retaining elements that marketers call “sexy” (code for “flashily empty”). Little remains of Lear’s legacy but cursing, innuendo, and the sound of flushing toilets. The template for most modern network sitcoms is “Friends” — which, contrary to the “Seinfeld” mantra, truly was a Show about Nothing. Modern network sitcoms are mostly about dating, parenthood and office politics; they deal with hot-button issues in a glancing, glib way if they address them at all. Some are lame. Some are amusing. A few are brilliant. None is the equal of “All in the Family.” Those were the days.

They’re Playing Our Song

There is a lovely piece by Matt Zoller Seitz over at Salon about the music and movies he shared with his wife, who died at 35:

I’m listening to Jen’s favorite album, Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks,” as I write this, for the first time since 2006…

When I met Jen, I respected but didn’t like Dylan. She could quote the lyrics to many of his best-known songs the way a preacher quotes the Bible. The first time she put on “Blood on the Tracks” in her dorm room — on the evening of our first date, after eating Chinese food and then going to see “Eat a Bowl of Tea,” a film I have not yet revisited — she moseyed around the room singing along with the first song on the album, “Tangled Up in Blue.”

When she saw me trying not to wince, she said, “What, you don’t like this?”

“I like his lyrics, but I’m not sure they’re as deep as people say, and I don’t like his voice,” I said. “He can’t sing. He sounds like a Muppet.”

“You don’t listen to Dylan because you want to rate his technique or pick out holes in his argument or figure out what the message is,” she said, caressing the air with her piano hands. “It’s about the words he uses and how he sings them, and the rhythm. It’s him saying, ‘All right, let’s go here now,’ and you saying, ‘OK, fine, let’s.’ He’s just a guy with a guitar talking to you. Bob Dylan can sing. He just doesn’t sing the way you think a singer is supposed to sound. The title isn’t about a train. The tracks are the album tracks. He’s spilling his blood here.”

There was a knock on the door — a roommate returning a book. Jen moved to answer it, touching my shoulder as she passed.

“Just clear your head and listen to the music,” she said, “and see what happens.”

[Photo Credit: Nathan Makan]

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