Archive for June, 2010

Can Steve Carell’s Departure Reinvigorate The Office?

On Monday Steve Carell restated his intent to leave The Office when his contract ends after next season. This could, of course, be a negotiating ploy, but Carell is, by pretty much all accounts, a class act—it seems more likely that he’s just being honest when he says it’s time for his run to end. He also seemed very confident that the show could go on without him: “The show is great, and the ensemble is so strong, and the writers are great, so it’s just one part of that ensemble drifting off. They’ve incorporated so many new characters and so many new, great storylines that I have no doubt it’ll continue as strong if not stronger than ever.”

Now, it’s hard to think of any examples of this actually working; that is, of a star leaving a show, only to see that show improve. Most of the obvious examples of cast replacement (Jon Lovitz for Phil Hartman on NewsRadio, Megan Mullally for Jane Lynch on Party Down, the two Darrens on Bewitched, the Tori Era on Saved by the Bell) were done with secondary characters, and even the best of these were only moderate successes. Continue reading

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Louie: The Life and Stand-Up Of Louis C.K.

As most dedicated Seinfeld fans know, the initial concept for what would become one of the best live-action sitcoms of all-time was an exploration of how comics get their material. The pilot episode was edited such that the action cut back and forth between Jerry’s life and Jerry on stage. And while the next few episodes maintained this format, the stand-up segments of the show were gradually scaled back, soon only appearing at the beginning and end of every episode, then only the beginning, and by the end of the show’s run not at all. By that point, of course, the show had evolved into the “show about nothing”—as opposed to a study of the life of a comic—that we all know and love.

Last night’s premiere of Louie on FX, though, is almost a look at what that initial concept could have looked like. Whereas Seinfeld quickly abandoned the stand-up conceit in favor a more general sitcom formula—with secondary characters and sets and cohesive plots—Louie’s first two episodes show no traces of those things. Instead we see C.K. play a man named “Louis C.K.” who, like the real C.K., is divorced with two kids who attend public school, lives in New York City, and works as a stand-up comedian. We see him on stage performing, and then we see little short films or vignettes that flesh out the ideas he talks about on stage. In some ways, it’s kind of like that old Comedy Central show Pulp Comics, except not awful. Continue reading

Top 173 Things in History: #76. Treaty of Tordesillas

Ever since the start of the World Cup, I’ve been waiting for a showdown between Spain and Portugal. But my two-and-a-half weeks of impatience doesn’t even compare to how long the Portuguese have waited for this: It is a chance at revenge 516 years in the making.

It was this month in 1494 that Portugal and Spain decided to update their global colonial claims with the Treaty of Tordesillas, which in principle divided the world between the two Iberian nations. I know, heady stuff, but it’s not like it wasn’t somewhat justified at the time. Columbus had just reached the New World under Spain’s flag, and Prince Henry the Navigator–arguably one of European history’s most famous princes*–had established a strong exploratory culture in Portugal earlier in the century. Amerigo Vespucci, like Columbus an Italian, sailed for the Portuguese and was the first to discover that this South America continent was pretty big, at least from north to south. Continue reading

On Mutual Experience

Mutual experience* presents a paradox.

*Mutual experience, simply put for purposes of this post, is doing the same thing as someone else. It could be simultaneous (e.g. riding a roller coaster with a friend) or temporally divided (e.g. reading a novel after a friend has read it).

There is little in life that is a more consistent source of pleasure than mutual beneficial experience. It explains the joy in reading old yearbook entries (where friends write of inside jokes) and the pleasure of jogging our memories with a friend or lover over a pleasant past mutual experience.** The pleasure of mutual experience is behind the nauseating (to me, but pleasing to many others) back-and-forth over travel experiences.

**It may be more than momentary. One study has shown that couples’ reminiscences of events of shared laughter improve overall satisfaction with their relations.

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Monday Medley

What we read while not writing anything….

  • The New York Times Magazine’s profile on David Mitchell is one of our favorite features on one of one of us’s favorite authors. Our favorite part from Wyatt Mason’s look at Mitchell: “When writing is great, Mitchell told me of the books he loved as a reader, ‘your mind is nowhere else but in this world that started off in the mind of another human being. There are two miracles at work here. One, that someone thought of that world and people in the first place. And the second, that there’s this means of transmitting it. Just little ink marks on squashed wood fiber. Bloody amazing.'”
  • Last week we linked to Philadelphia Magazine‘s profile of Buzz Bissinger, which asked why the former Pulitzer Prize winner was so angry. This week, we link to Bissinger’s own indirect response from The New Republic, in which he explains why he loves Twitter: “I am an angry man, which is one of the reasons I have resumed therapy and take four different pharmaceuticals. I wake up angry, stay angry during the day except to my dog and children, and go to bed angry at night. Most of my anger amounted to a running dialogue of abuse and self-abuse while working alone at home. But with Twitter, I now had an outlet.”

Monday Medley

What we read while our goals were mysteriously disallowed…

Dear World…

Among the myriad readers of John S’s critique of soccer (and to a lesser extent Tim’s) was good old America, who was upset it was brought into the fold so often during the rebuttals in the comments. So America decided to defend itself, in short, epistolary form.

Dear World,

We call it soccer. Deal with it.

Love,

America

*** Continue reading