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Daily Reads: When Supporting Character Take Over TV Shows, Why ‘Empire’ Is the Blockbuster TV Needs, and More

Daily Reads: When Supporting Character Take Over TV Shows, Why 'Empire' Is the Blockbuster TV Needs, and More

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

1. Best Supporting Character Episodes. Mike’s soliloquy on “Better Call Saul” prompted Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff to pick his favorite episodes focusing on supporting players.

The supporting-character showcase can be particularly fruitful on a show with voiceover narration. Take, for instance, “My So-Called Life.” In this episode, the narration shifts from protagonist Angela (Claire Danes) to her neighbor, the frustrated, nerdy Brian Krakow (Devon Gummersall). The series delves into his agonizing crush on Angela — who basically doesn’t know he exists — while also digging into the life of a teenage boy who’s not one of the popular kids. It all concludes at a high school dance that’s equal parts freeing and heartrending, as Brian pines for Angela, who pines for another, all while an entirely different girl has her heart broken by Brian. Ah, high school. Read more.

2. Best in Show at T/F. True/False Film Festival 2015 has wrapped, and the Columbia Daily Tribune’s Asher Gelzer-Govatos has some awards to hand out to this year’s films.

Best Breakthrough Film: Khalik Allah, a photographer and director from New York City, has made a few short or smaller documentaries before but “Field Niggas” is his breakthrough work, clocking in at just longer than an hour. It carries the weight of a film twice that long, though, and signals Allah as an aesthetic force to watch. He weaves the faces of people on one street corner in Harlem with the sounds of their voices, thrown out of sync. The result is a hypnotic piece of filmmaking that undermines stereotypical portrayals of poverty and argues for the recognition of human dignity. Read more.

3. The Fight for Diversity on TV. The Native American storyline on “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has been controversial. Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post tries to weigh Tina Fey and company’s defense with the criticisms.

But Hill’s critique raises an important question for people who want to advocate for diversity in television. On the face of it, Fey and Carlock have done exactly what they were supposed to. They hired people of color to write on their show, and rather than set them to writing exclusively white characters, they changed the show to provide more outlets for their staff’s expertise and life experiences. Read more.

4. Shadow of a Doubt. The new documentary “Merchants of Doubt” looks at how scientific knowledge like climate change can be denied. Anthony Kaufman of Science and Film spoke with Richard B. Rood, the professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Michigan about the political argument behind it.

SSF: Is there any data anywhere that suggests that global temperatures, on average, have not increased over the last 100 years?

RR: No, there is no credible data that suggests that global temperatures have not increased. If you look at the observations of surface data — and when we’re talking about global warming, we’re talking about surface temperature, including ocean and ice—all of the evidence is of a warming planet. If you look at just air temperature, which is not really the best individual measure to look at because there’s more variability, you’ll see it jumping up and down. But all of the evidence is that the planet has been warming for the last 150 years. And the last 30 years, I’d argue, is taking place at a rate that is accelerating faster compared with the previous 100 years.

SSF: The hypocrisy of the climate change deniers is very funny, because first, they’ll say, there’s no warming. And then they’ll say, okay, if there’s warming, it’s not bad.

RR: That’s why it’s a political argument as opposed to a knowledge-based argument. Read more.

5. “Empire” as a Blockbuster. Fox’s show “Empire” isn’t just the blockbuster TV wants, but the one it needs. Grantland’s Andy Greenwald writes:

This is why it’s important for all involved to remember the central reason for Empire’s tremendous success: It’s actually great! I’m bewildered by the need I see everywhere to contextualize affection for this show — calling it “ridiculous or tut-tutting its bizarrely bullish view of the music industry. “Empire” is the rare TV series — be it comedy or drama, network or cable — with complete pitch control. It walks a fine line between glamorous excess and emotional sincerity, and it does it in Cookie’s 6-inch heels without ever wobbling once. Read more.

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