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Daily Reads: ‘The Simpsons’ Classic Era Myth, Why We Need ‘Black-ish’ and More

Daily Reads: 'The Simpsons' Classic Era Myth, Why We Need 'Black-ish' and More

Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross



Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential
news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. “The Simpsons” Classic Era Myth. Some would limit “The Simpsons'” peak years to the first 8 or 9 seasons, while others would extend that to season 10, 11 or 12. Yet when former “The Simpsons” showrunners Matt Selman and David Mirkin and current showrunner Al Jean talked to Vulture’s David Jesse Fox, they all questioned exactly what defined “classic” for the show, and whether or not that had more to do with certain fans’ age than the actual quality of certain seasons.

AJ: Well, I personally don’t know what a “classic” means. It seems to me that it is whenever you left for college. And by the way, whatever bar there is, it’s moved so many times. And again, I was there then, and I’ve been here the whole time. We do it the same way. Shows now make me laugh just as much as shows then.
MS: Plus, it’s like Al was saying, every fan has their own personal experience. You have an entry point in your life, and it’s natural that you’re going to have an exit point. And we have people whose entry point is episode 300, and then they get tired of it in episode 450, and that’s pretty good. Those are the classics to them. One of my kids is in the fifth grade, and it seems that’s when a lot of young people discover the show. And I am the coolest dad in the fifth-grade class right now. But they don’t know what those classics are. Read more.

2. David Thomson on “The Biographical Dictionary of Film.” David Thomson’s “The Biographical Dictionary of Film” has been an essential book about cinema since 1971, and with every updated edition it becomes a more complete portrait of Thomson’s sensibility. Glenn Kenny of RogerEbert.com interviewed Thomson about the difficulty of returning to the Dictionary after his massive project “The Big Screen,” his relationship with filmmaker James Toback, and his reputation as an argument starter.

 do some of these reactions throw you for a loop?Well, as we’ve established, the book is meant to stir people up. And if it stirs them up and if they take a jab at me, I can’t be surprised. I think the critics should be content to be criticized. This isn’t an orderly, serene book. I agree that it has some of the appearance of that. But if you get into it, I think you’ll find that it is the opposite. And if people argue with it and fight with it, and get infuriated with it, it doesn’t throw me for a loop. No. I wish there was a forum for a more sort of regular discourse about it. Read more.

3. “Gotham” in the Wake of Ferguson. The new Batman prequel show “Gotham” shows future police commissioner James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) struggling with doing the right thing in a crime-ridden city. Any new cop show or movie is going to come under new scrutiny in the wake of Ferguson, but Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post writes that Gordon might be the model for a better cop.

Gordon tortures himself when a situation gets so far out of control that deadly force comes into it. When Bullock kills a suspect in the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne (Grayson McCouch and Brette Taylor), Gordon feels guilty even though he did not pull the trigger. And when it turns out that the man was framed, Gordon’s instinct is to find the real killer, while Bullock wants to leave the case alone, both for the sake of his own reputation and for Gotham’s sense that the Wayne’s murderer is safely beyond reach. Later, when Carmine Falcone orders Gordon to kill the Penguin, Gordon fakes the murder, hoping that his deception will satisfy Falcone and his kindness will neutralize Penguin. The episode suggests that it may not have been the right choice. Read more.

4.  The Keepers and Sleepers of the Fall Season. Writing about new shows each TV season can be difficult, given how everyone usually flocks to the same shows out the game and others take time to find their voice. Accordingly, NPR’s Linda Holmes found a handful of shows outside of immediate standouts like “Black-ish” and “Transparent,” including a few shows that didn’t have great pilots but show promise.

One is ABC’s “Selfie.” Hear me out! Despite its terrible title and overly intrusive use of onscreen doodads to denote the social media life of heroine Eliza Dooley, and despite an absolutely disgusting vomiting sequence that never should have made it into a show you’re trying to sell to a new audience, the second half of the “Selfie” pilot, featuring the enormously appealing Karen Gillan and John Cho, begins to feel modestly alive. That may seem like a deep cut disguised as a pat on the back, but “alive” is mostly what this particular show needs to work. They don’t have the rhythm yet, but the pieces are there to make a good show. Read more.

 5. Why We Need “Black-ish.” Alessandra Stanley’s New York Times article on Shonda Rhimes was appalling for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the condescension to and reduction of black women. That’s why Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post finds the new ABC comedy “Black-ish” so well-timed. It’s not just very funny, but it’s also a very smart show about how race is perceived, and how African-Americans have to navigate it.

Anderson’s character is one of the few African-Americans in a senior position at his firm, and as such, he’s constantly called upon to code-switch and calibrate just how black he can be in a given situation. A few months ago, BuzzFeed published a hilarious/sad list called “31 Things You Have to Deal With as the Only Black Person in Your Office,” and I get the impression that Andre could have written it. Andre probably would love to spend all his work-oriented mental energy on doing his actual work, but he doesn’t have that luxury. Shonda Rhimes would probably like to be asked how her creative process, which Emily Nussbaum explores in a great recent post, differs from that of Aaron Sorkin or David Simon, but Rhimes doesn’t have that luxury. Read more.

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