We’ll Always Find a Way

Tonight I finished watching Steven Universe. I cried because it was the end of something magnificent, beautiful, and original. I started watching the series only a few weeks ago with my kindergartner daughter and we promised not to watch any of it without the other. This quickly became a personal challenge, because I fell hard for this little work of visual and narrative art, told 11.5 minutes at a time. But I kept my end of the bargain, and it became a wonderful shared piece of culture for my kid and myself.

My 3-year-old son fell for it because, well, it’s a cartoon with sight gags, action, wonderfully catchy music, and a striking visual style that’s more detailed than it looks. My wife fell for the show for reasons that many adults (and me) surely do: the characters are richly developed and experience change over the course of five seasons. The overarching story and many smaller plots deal with complex emotional situations, evolving relationships, and heavy existential questions.

I love that Steven seeks to resolve conflict by also seeking to understand his opponents. I love the occasional homage to other TV shows (particularly some animated classics). I love the love-personified that is Garnet. I love that while most of the Crystal Gems have weapons, Steven has a shield. I love Connie, and Lion, and yeah, eventually Lars, too. I love the way music and dance are woven into the fabric of the show and its imaginative world. I love that such a deep, artful piece of entertainment could survive for five seasons on the Cartoon Network.

There’s supposed to be a made-for-TV movie this fall, and I will try to be optimistic about it. I’m not sure what story is left to tell after the finale of season five, but I’m so into Steven Universe after inhaling it that I’ll trust show creator Rebecca Sugar to deliver something meaningful. After all, she’s why the people of this world believe in Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl…

…and Steven.

Peaky Blinders

Netflix, making creative use of the word “original”, has acquired the first two series of period gangster drama Peaky Blinders. The show (so far in series 1, anyway) follows the ambitious rise of gang leader Tommy Shelby in 1919’s Birmingham. The acting is terrific (always a fan of Cillian Murphy), but the structure of the episodes and much of the show’s production (from the music to the just-out-of-film-school aesthetic) feels clunky. Peaky Blinders may be the UK equivalent of Hell on Wheels with a better cast, and a high-level story interesting enough for me to keep watching. It also has binge-watchability working in its favor at the moment, something I’ve written about before.

black and white and Rome all over

As much as I love to cook, the main reason I’ve been such a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain is his writing. I’ve never eaten food prepared by the guy, but I’ve consumed his words on many occasions, and they’re almost always fantastic. I’m also a huge fan of his show No Reservations on the Travel Channel. Here my love for food and travel mixes with my love of good film making as his crew has continued to push the boundaries of documentary television production.

With the love of his writing and No Reservations in mind, Mr. Bourdain’s post today about the upcoming Rome episode is outstanding. The episode could end up being a flop, but reading about it was entertainment on its own. The care for detail, nerdy film references, the willingness to take risks even while riding high in critical acclaim, all rendered expertly in words that were a joy to read.

But I have a feeling the episode won’t be a flop. I’m quite looking forward to it.

Conan Stands Up

Oh man. I hope he doesn’t fade away from television or entertainment, or whatever. But I’m so glad to read Conan’s statement (through the New York Times) regarding NBC’s bone-headed move to shift the late night schedule around.

I’ll watch Conan on any network, any time slot, and I respect his decision not to participate in the sinking of a great ship as executed by an aimless network with a management team that seams to be as creative as GM’s design department.

Conan’s Road to the Tonight Show

The New York Times‘ “Magazine Preview” has a long and excellent article on Conan O’Brien and his journey to his new nightly gig. The whole piece is a nice collection of anecdotes, interview quotes, and narrative, along with the typically great photography I’ve come to expect of the Times. Here’s one of my favorite nuggets:

“Music and comedy are so linked,” O’Brien said earlier, as he walked up and down the halls of his offices, playing one of his many guitars. “The rhythm of comedy is con­nected to the rhythm of music. They’re both about creating tension and knowing when to let it go. I’m always surprised when somebody funny is not musical.”

Kornheiser Chunks

Holy hand grenade, what glorious news: Monday Night Football is ditching the lamentably awful Tony Kornheiser in favor of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden.

I think even Dennis Miller would have been a welcome substitute, but this will certainly do much better.