Peak TV Junkies,
It’s funny that Willa is so concerned about Syd being hurt, when I’ve always felt by far the most sympathy on that show for Rabbi Raquel, who’s had her heart broken, like, five different times by Josh. So my rankings of least to most abhorrent would probably be Sarah (Tammy’s awful in her own way and has a harem of ex-wives), Ali (I like Syd, but she’s also had a lifetime to get to know Ali; none of what happened there could have been a surprise), then Josh. The show also establishes reasons we should feel occasional empathy for each of them, but when someone tells me they don’t care how artfully the show tells its stories because they hate the three Pfefferman sibs, I can’t exactly blame them. The show doesn’t make it easy.
As for great scenes and moments, how much time ya got? I was actually doing an Americans set visit when the tooth-pulling scene was filmed. It will surprise none of you, but may surprise some of the people reading this, when I say that watching TV shows in production can be a staggering bore, but it was clear even watching from Video Village as the scene was being done piecemeal that Keri Russell was going to a very hardcore place for this. (No teeth were actually pulled, but if they had been, I wouldn’t have been surprised.)
My favorite moment of the year was Peggy’s strut down the halls of McCann, sunglasses guarding her hungover eyes, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, Bert Cooper’s tentacle porn painting under her arm. That’s the kind of moment I point to when people ask me why I love TV so much: nearly a decade in the making, as Matt Weiner and Elisabeth Moss built Peggy up brick by brick from the clumsy church mouse she was in the pilot to the devourer of worlds we saw there. (If some real-life Bert Cooper type doesn’t already have that shot framed on his wall, I’ll eat my hat.)
Other great moments (sure to be woefully incomplete): the stunningly vicious (and stunningly filmed) Nola/Burton fight from Cinemax’s great pulp drama Banshee, Ilana on Broad City doing an upside-down twerk at the thought of Abbi getting to peg Jeremy; the recitation of all of Jonah’s horrible nicknames (the Cloud Botherer, Hagrid’s Nutsack, Supercalifragilisticexpicalidickcheese) on Veep; Raylan and Boyd’s final Justified conversation; the realization of why Laurie on The Leftovers had to keep washing her car; Matt Damon vs. Effie Brown on Project Greenlight; the “terries” sketch from Key & Peele’s great final season; the recreation of Lee J. Cobb’s 12 Angry Men breakdown in Inside Amy Schumer’s amazing parody of it; the Darlene revelation on Mr. Robot (a case of a show hiding one surprise by blatantly telegraphing another); Jonathan Banks bellowing, “I BROKE MY BOY!!!” on Better Call Saul; Gordon’s innocent suggestion to Donna about having another kid in the Halt and Catch Fire finale; Pamela having her way with Louie on Louie; and the entire zombie invasion sequence in the “Hardhome” episode of Game of Thrones, which left me dazed in the way that all of my favorite TV moments do.
It’s funny: that was probably the greatest set piece of any Game of Thrones episode to date, but it was part of what was easily the weakest season of that show so far. I don’t know how much of the blame goes to the source material (much to the irritation of some of the show’s fans, I haven’t read the books) and how much is on the choices of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, but large swaths of this season didn’t work at all. Yet at its best, in scenes like the Hardhome invasion or Cersei’s walk of shame, almost nothing on TV can touch it.
Which brings up another question you can answer in between your Pfefferman power rankings and your own great moment lists: Would you rather watch a show that’s consistently very good but rarely better or one that’s wildly uneven but capable of occasional bursts of utter genius?
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