Stuff I Liked To Watch In 2015


The End of the Tour — You don’t need to have read anything by David Foster Wallace to enjoy this movie, but you may well decide you want to by the end. I will never be reading a 1000-page novel, by anybody, but I did rush out to buy two collections of Wallace’s essays, many of which can be accessed at Open Culture. Read “Big Red Son” about the Adult Video Awards in Las Vegas from Consider the Lobster & Other Essays, and “Shipping Out: On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise.” Jesse Eisenberg is of course always excellent, but Jason Segel’s performance was a revelation. He made me cry.

Spy — Not enough people saw this hilarious Melissa McCarthy vehicle. It is silly and clever, and the supporting cast should be given a special Oscar and chained together for all eternity and forced to make more movies together. “Spy” is stuffed with nonsensical bits of business and kooky dialogue while also being a pretty decent spy thriller. (The fight scene in the kitchen works on every level.) This is great writing, great editing, and it turns out Rose Byrne and Peter Serafinowicz (Aldo, like the shoe store in the mall) can also make me weep.

What We Do in the ShadowsI’ve already written how much I love this movie. (Jemaine from ‘Flight of the Conchords’ sends up the vampire genre.) This is just a reminder for you to put it in the queue.


“Review” on Comedy Central — Andy Daly stars as professional critic Forrest MacNeil who provides reviews of real-life experiences. MacNeil has zero insight concerning the runaway calamity that is his life (and his reality show) and thus no tools for making the necessary adjustments. Bleak, dark, and delightful. (Second season just ended.)

“Comedy Bang! Bang!” On IFC — I was devastated when “band leader” Reggie Watts left the show, but the new guy, recording artist Kid Cudi, turns out to be an excellent fit. Who knew? He’s been acting for a few years but the rhythm and tone of this show are so wildly off-kilter. This can’t be an easy slot to slip into, but Cudi is making it his own.

Documentary Now! — Also on IFC. Fred Armisen and Bill Hader turn their talents to faux documentaries, including “Sandy Passage,” their take on “Grey Gardens.” (See image.)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO — People got quite panicky when both Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart deserted the political satire/watchdog scene, leaving their shows in capable but just-not-the-same hands. Who knew that John Oliver (a Brit no less) would be stepping into the breach with his new show, drilling down on one important topic per week, inspiring action, and effecting real change around the country, all while being his usual goofy self. Locals were particularly gratified when his chosen topic one week was the folly of tax-payer funded sports stadiums! Thank you Mr. Oliver! His show returns in February.

“The Brain with David Eagleman” on PBS — Fascinating science here. Make sure you watch the final episode. It will freak . . . you . . . out.

See The New York Times for their ‘Best TV shows of 2015’ list. They include “The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt” which I’m just starting and it is sublime.

(Seen here: l. to r. Fred Armisen, Bill Hader.)

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