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L.A. Times’ Mary McNamara Wins Pulitzer for Criticism

L.A. Times' Mary McNamara Wins Pulitzer for Criticism

The Los Angeles Times television critic Mary McNamara won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism today, after being nominated in both 2013 and 2014. Also recognized were the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis (also nominated in 2013) and the Village Voice’s Stephanie Zacharek — the second year in a row, and only the second time since at least 1995, that all three finalists have been women, and the first time they’ve all been critics of visual media.

McNamara, who has been writing for the Times for 17 years, is also the author of the Hollywood-themed mysteries “The Starlet” and “Oscar Season.” The complete list of her Pulitzer-winning articles is here, but we’ve selected a few choice excerpts from her continually great and ever-expanding body of work:

On “Orange Is the New Black” and the increase in women’s stories on TV:

Much has been made over the recent
increase of female leads in television.
Certainly, the great exodus from film 
to television began with women. When she couldn’t find roles in movies, Sally Field came to television, as did Glenn
Close, Holly Hunter, Kyra Sedgwick,
Mary-Louise Parker and Geena Davis.
Women still working prolifically in film soon
followed — Laura Linney, Toni Collette, Anna
Paquin, Kathy Bates, Melissa McCarthy. 
Their presence is not just a question of
gender equity. As any good sociologist might
have foreseen, this shift has changed how
television tells stories, often blurring the lines
between comedy and drama, between satire
and pathos.


On the end of “The Colbert Report”:

The performance was so spot on that Colbert the performer quickly became virtually indistinguishable from his creation. For years, many viewers, and some guests, were not quite sure if “The Colbert Report” was a send-up of right-wing politics and the cult of personality or an example of it. And that, of course, is the mark of truly brilliant satire: The baffled pause in which the audience is forced to think. About what is real, what is outrageous, and how often the two words refer to the same thing. 

How streaming and binge-watching are changing the way we view TV:

The show runner for “The Walking Dead” at the time, [Glen] Mazzara had called me to say in
the nicest way possible that it would be really
great if television critics would stop comparing television to film and novels as if the comparison in itself were some huge compliment.
Television was an independent art form, he
said, and should be judged on its own terms.
But those terms were changing. Technology had granted the medium both a flexibility
and a permanence it had lacked before. The
idea that people could now watch a show in its
entirety, that they could take entire seasons with them when they traveled and collect
their favorites for further viewing, offered
television writers a shot at something historically reserved for an anointed few: legacy. 

Why network TV is beating cable when it comes to diversity:

The recent boom in television began when taste-makers decided that television could be “smart.” For years, “The Sopranos” was the only exception to the pat proclamation among the elite that TV was for idiots and shut-ins. Shows like “The Wire” and “Friday Night
Lights” received similar dispensation, but
it really wasn’t until “Mad Men” that popular opinion began to turn. Yet even as many
broadcast network shows also shone with fine
performances and great writing, the snobbishness continued, perfectly encapsulated
in the term “prestige” drama. “
Prestige” is just a half-step away from “elite,” and our nation’s president notwithstanding, we all know what color “elite” is. As alarming as this may be, it does present a fine, and much needed, opportunity for the
broadcast networks to finally pull out from
cable’s shadow. For years, the Big Four tried to
chase HBO and then Showtime by upping the
violence, the sex and the profanity. 
Instead, it may turn out that populism is
the answer. The stories television, broadcast
and cable, tells still represent only a narrow
band of its audience.
 

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