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Josh Reviews TV: The Book!

October 20th, 2017

I love reading TV critic Alan Sepinwall’s work; I have followed his on-line writing for years.  I loved his book, The Revolution was Televised, which analyzed twelve dramas that, in Mr. Sepinwall’s estimation, changed the face of television in the 21st century.

And so I was eager to read Mr. Sepinwall’s next book, co-written with fellow TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz, TV: The Book.

In this fantastic book, published in 2016, Mr. Sepinwall and Mr. Zoller Seitz set out to identify what they feel are the 100 greatest scripted American TV shows in history.

I knew I would love this book right away from the very first chapter, in which Mr. Sepinwall & Mr. Zoller Seitz lay out, in wonderfully geeky levels of detail, the systems by which they analyzed and ranked hundreds of TV shows they loved in order to boil them down to this list of 100.  In broad strokes, they evaluated TV shows based on: innovation, influence, consistency, performance, storytelling, and the quality of the show at its peek.  Right here at the beginning, Mr. Sepinwall and Mr. Zoller Seitz describe how they wrestled with the challenges of comparing shows that ran for only one season with shows that ran for many years; with how to compare shows that were great at times but terrible at others with shows that were more consistent but without those highest highs; with how to compare comedies to dramas; with why they limited their list to scripted shows, and to American shows only.  I immediately fell in love with the care and detail, and the systematic approach these two TV critics used to create their list.

What makes up the bulk of the rest of the book is their list of 100, with brief essays written about each show.  (The top five get more lengthy analyses.)  Reading this book was an absolute delight.  I loved reading their essays about shows that I knew and loved and, as with The Revolution was Televised, I found I also enjoyed reading about shows that I’d never seen, as their their passionate descriptions of those shows made me want to track them down without delay.

The best chapter in the book is the second chapter, titled “The Great Debate,” in which we follow a back-and-forth GChat conversation between Mr. Sepinwall and Mr. Zoller Seitz, as they take the shows that wound up in a five-way tie for first place based on their systems, and debate which show should be number one.  I absolutely loved reading this debate/argument.  It was a hoot reading them discuss and consider, weighing the many relative merits of each of the five shows.  (Their finalists were: The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Revolution Was Televised

June 26th, 2017

I am an enormous fan of television critic Alan Sepinwall, who I first started reading when he began writing for the sadly now-defunct Hitfix.com.  Mr. Sepinwall’s writings currently appear on Uproxx.com, and I read his column multiple times a week.  Mr. Sepinwall is an extraordinarily astute critic and a terrific writer.  He was an early champion of the style of writing weekly reviews of TV shows on-line, and when I’m watching a great show I love to follow up my viewings by reading Mr. Sepinwall’s comments and analysis.

I was aware that Mr. Sepinwall had written a few books, and I’m thrilled that I finally made time to read The Revolution was Televised.  This 2012 book, updated in 2015, analyzes twelve dramas that, in Mr. Sepinwall’s estimation, changed the face of television in the 21st century.  These TV shows are: Oz, The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad.

Each show gets its own chapter in the book, in which Mr. Sepinwall details the history of the development of the show and analyzes the factors that made it so special, memorable, and influential.  Each chapter is well-researched and filled with insightful interviews with that show’s key creative players.

Mr. Sepinwall is a wonderful writer, and his love for TV and for these particular shows pours off of every page.  It makes the book a delight to read.  Many of the shows featured in this book are shows that I know and love, such as The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad.  It’s a super-fun trip down memory lane to read those chapters, to relive the great moments from those shows and to read all about how they came to be.

I particularly loved the chapter about David Simon’s masterpiece The Wire.  I think this is truly the greatest TV show ever made.  I am fond of telling friends that The Wire ruined the rest of TV for me forever (because nothing could ever be as good) and that’s not far from the truth!  Mr. Sepinwall provides a lot of fascinating information about the road that led Mr. Simon to creating The Wire, and we get a lot of juicy quotes direct from the endlessly-interesting Mr. Simon’s mouth about the show.  I’m pleased Mr. Sepinwall highlighted the all “fuck” scene from season one (truly a milestone in TV history), and even more pleased that Mr. Sepinwall identified the show’s shift of focus in season two to be the moment that The Wire became “a work of enduring literature.”  Suddenly we all discovered that The Wire wasn’t just about the characters introduced in season … [continued]