So, the Primetime Emmys are tonight. Which means that the big question for the home audience is: how to you watch both the Emmys and the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad? My plan: watch the Emmys live until the first commercial break after 9:25 to allow Breaking Bad sufficient time to buffer for commercials, then watch Breaking Bad, and then, reduced to a pile of mush, have a drink and then either watch the rest of the Emmys on DVR or, with mind blown, look up the results later.

And so, here briefly, are some of my picks. These are not predictions of who will win (which I leave to the experts at Kremlinology Acadameyology, but who I would vote for if I had a hammer ballot.

The Acadamey’s complete list of nominees.

Lead Actress in a Drama. Claire Danes, Homeland. However ridiculous the plot of the tail end of the second season became, Danes still gives one of the strongest, craziest performances on screen. Elisabeth Moss is a solid choice, too, for a season where she got to play Peggy as confident and independent, making some bad late night choices, and then having a major relationship forced on her again. Did I just talk myself into making a better case for Moss? Perhaps.

Lead Actor in a Drama. Jon Hamm, Mad Men. In six years of nominations, Jon Hamm has never won an Emmy for playing Don Draper, and that doesn’t seem right. This year, he got to play a Don Draper falling apart in various ways. Perhaps Hamm’s increased visibility as a comic actor in contemporary films shows that he is giving a very carefully crafted performance as Draper, and he’s not just a stoic handsome man. Of course, Bryan Cranston is giving one of television’s great all-time performance as Walter White, and he had a terrific submission episode in “Say My Name.”

Supporting Actress in a Drama. Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad. In Breaking Bad’s season 5, Gunn delivered a great performance through subtle reactions as well as major breakdowns. Emilia Clarke also had some huge moments in the third season of Game of Thrones, but Breaking Bad is a far more focused show than Game of Thrones, and Gunn has the opportunity to do more nuance.

Supporting Actor in a Drama. Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad. Given all of the options, I might go with Nikolai Coster-Waldau for Game of Thrones, where he had the opportunity to develop Jaime Lannister into a sympathetic character. But the world-weary, competent, tough, and devoted Mike Ehrmentraut came to life as a character. Aaron Paul, Mandy Patinkin, and Peter Dinklage are all fine choices, too.

Writing for a Drama Series George Mastras, Breaking Bad. Dead Freight, The Rains of Castamere, Q&A, and Say My Name were all tremendous episodes. But I think the most surprising and shocking twist to happen in any of these was in Dead Freight. And leading up to that, it was just a great heist caper, and who doesn’t love a caper?

Directing for a Drama Series Michelle MacLaren, Breaking Bad. Three words: Crystal Blue Persuasion.

Drama Series Game of Thrones. If the entire fifth season of Breaking Bad was Emmy-eligible this year, I would no doubt pic it. But Game of Thrones this season pulled together to not only just put some of the most compelling moments from A Song of Ice and Fire on screen, but do it in a way that made the sprawling story coherent and engaging. Aside from Dead Freight, did any other show on television have bigger episode outs than season 3 of Game of Thrones? The episode that ended with the Hold Steady singing “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” over the credits was nothing compared to the episode that ended with silence. The penultimate episode of the season went even farther with that big event than the book’s craziness. Sure, I still think that Breaking Bad is the overall best show on television, but season 3 of Game of Thrones is not only huge with story and character, but executed nearly flawlessly.

Lead Actress in a Comedy. Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation. Sure, I think that season two of Enlightened was one of the best shows on television in this past year, and that Laura Dern made the show work. But Poehler has been consistently great on Parks and Rec and the stuff with Leslie and Ben was perfect.

Lead Actor in a Comedy. Louis C.K., Louie. I just wrote and deleted Alec Baldwin’s name. Jack Donaghy is one of the most compelling comedic characters in television history, and in this last season he had great things to do. But thinking about what Louis C.K. does throughout the third season of Louie, particularly int he Late Show arc, who is better at reacting on camera? Because he’s effectively playing himself, C.K. might not be as recognized for doing so much interesting work in front of the camera, but what he’s doing is powerful and effective. if subtle.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Anna Chlumsky, Veep. Not much to say about this, because I’ve given up on Modern Family and Glee and never seen Nurse Jackie. So between, Jane Krakowski and Chlumsky, I’d go with Chlumsky.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Adam Driver, Girls. I could give this to Bill Hader for Stefon playing Donald Duck having night terrors, but Adam Driver brings so much nuance and depth to the fictional Adam. Fictional Adam is creepy, but rarely unrelatable. Few other actors may not have been able to find the humanity in the character.

Directing in a Comedy. Louis C.K., Louie. I find it difficult to decide between the two “auteurs” here, but would give a slight edge to Louis over Lena.

Writing in a Comedy “Last Lunch”, 30 Rock. I find it difficult to have particularly strong feelings about picking a winner in this category, because although two 30 Rock scripts were nominated, I think that the preceding episode, “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World” had a better script. I don’t think that this was the best episode of Louis, and no script from Parks and Rec, Veep or Enlightened was among the year’s best?

Comedy Series 30 Rock. I know that Girls and Louie are artier and have a wider range of emotion, but nothing on television was consistently funnier than 30 Rock in its final season. And what’s the point of a best comedy if not to be funny?

Reality Competition Program The Amazing Race. It’s not that TAR has gotten out of the rut it;s been in for a while, it’s that all the other series are falling into similar ruts (hello Top Chef) or just unwatchably boring (The Voice). Finally being shot in HD, TAR at least looks great, even if the structure of the race itself has become stale.

Writing for a Variety Series The Daily Show. (See below)

Variety Series. The Colbert Report. Which is better written and which is the best variety series? It’s a toss-up. Having John Oliver sit in for Jon Stewart might highlight the strength of the writing of TDS, while Colbert should at some point beat the mothership for best series. Both shows are putting together great material four nights a week, many weeks of the year.

One of my favorite things that I’ve read in the last couple of years was Nathan Rabin’s reporting for the AV Club from the Gathering of the Juggalos, Insane Clown Posse’s summer festival in Cave-In-Rock, Illinois. Drop a snarky music critic in the horrocore rap band’s festival in the middle of nowhere to perform some pop anthropology and you get internet gold.

See, e.g. When Juggalos Attack (2010) Strange times at the 2012 Gathering Of The Juggalos
, and his Interview with Violent J of Insane Clown Posse.

I was very excited for Rabin to expand his reporting into book form, and really get in depth into the stories of the Juggalos, the common themes, and how they all connected. You Don’t Know Me but You Don’t Like Me is not that book.

Instead of the pop anthropology I was expecting, Rabin wrote a much more personal book, a memoir about his experiences immersing in the cultures of Phishheads and Juggalos, as well as his struggles with coping with newly-diagnosed bipolar disorder.

What struck me so much about You Don’t Know Me is how narrowly I avoided becoming a Phish phan. (Is that a term? If it isn’t, why not? Too obvious?)

Back when I was in high school, Phish was ascendant, and one summer, I went to a summer program at Amherst College, where I took music and SAT prep classes and had a lot of fun. Some of the other kids turned me on to Phish, and I dug the combination of catchy choruses, long inventive jams, and the combination of serious and silly lyrics.

The friend and neighbor who drove me to school most days once she had a car kept Rift in her car and it was a frequent soundtrack. But without having any reason to dive into the deep end of fan culture and go to shows, I occasionally listened to a couple of albums, a couple of tapes and was enough aware of the band without becoming a real fan.

In college, I discovered Agents of Good Roots, a band whose music fell squarely between the jam band scene and the indie rock scene. So they shared a lot of fan culture from jam band fans, borrowing the ethos of concert recording and tape trading, but with more brevity of songwriting and without as much of the dirty hippie element to the fan base. They were too jazzy and jammy to succeed in the mainstream and too punk to catch on in the jam band scene. But they hit right in the sweet spot of my musical taste. Because of those shared elements of fan culture and fan overlap, I appreciated a lot of the elements of Phish’s culture.

But unlike Rabin, who got into Phish through his wife, I didn’t have a catalyst to dive in. But, I can see how if I had that guide into the scene I could have appreciated the scene and the music. Without a reason to, I never felt a deep emotional or intellectual connection to their music. But if I was dating a Phish fan, I would be jamming out to the tastiest live jams and grooving on Mike Gordon’s five-string bass solos. OK, maybe not the bass solos.

The common thread throughout Rabin’s books is about how much Americans can be looking for community. Today, thanks to cheap communications and travel, we often create those communities these days based more on common interests than on geography. So, the Phish fans can find each other and meet up in the Lot before the show. Fans travel across the country to Comic Con in San Diego to dress up in costume and hang out with the tribe of fans. Internet communities become real-life communities. Juggalos get together for a few special days out of the year to spray Faygo on each other and listen to their favorite Psychopathic Records acts.

I hesitate to criticize You Don’t Know Me, But You Don’t Like Me too much because it ultimately is such a personal and intimate book. I feel like I know way more about Rabin’s headspace than I ever expected to, but I recognize many similar neuroses and anxieties that I have. Mine aren’t as amplified by the various cocktails of illicit drugs and mind-altering substances that Rabin documented using in the book, but I imagine that I wouldn’t have reacted to those in a similar way. Although he does provide comprehensive and useful histories of the two bands, Rabin’s book doesn’t go into much greater depth about the subcultures than his reporting for the AV Club. Rather, that additional depth is very personal.

Since launching earlier today, Rob Thomas’s Kickstarter campaign to film a Veronica Mars movie has already raised more than half of its $2 million budget.

Richard Lawson at the Atlantic Wire has a provocative and interesting response. He is upset that Kickstarter is commerce masquerading as charity: Anyone Know of a Better Charity Than the ‘Veronica Mars’ Movie?

Another part of my revulsion is, yes, likely to do with the simple fact that art-related Kickstarter campaigns strip away the pretense that art and commerce aren’t inextricably linked. Money has always been part of the commercial art game, but the budgeting and haggling is usually done out of view, by a few select professionals. Kickstarter, though, puts the economic reality right out in the light for all to see. Someone like Amanda Palmer is essentially telling us that she doesn’t want to work on spec, so if we want to hear something new, we have to pay in advance.

The response is not surprising, after all, these are wealthy and successful people begging for money. But this should lead to art that feels more personal and less commercial. Ultimately, that may be better for art, culture and entertainment as a whole.

Instead of cheapening art and entertainment to ask fans to support it, this actually addresses a severe market failure in the entertainment industry.

Many fans of an artist, film or TV show are fanatical and passionate, not simply casual viewers. People dress up for conventions, buy ancillary merchandise, and create fan web sites. And in many cases, there are artistic endeavors that have small audiences, but those audiences are very passionate.

While millions of movie viewers are willing to spend $10 to see The Avengers or The Hunger Games, there is a demand curve. The most ardent fans would be willing to pay hundreds of dollars to see the movie, while many casual viewers will not consider going to the movie if their local theater raises the price of a ticket from $10 to $11.

The traditional film financing system does not have a market to test the demand. Given the number of people who watched Veronica Mars on UPN, there’s no way that Warner Brothers would finance a Veronica Mars film if the only metric to test its success is in selling regular price movie tickets. But the Veronica Mars fans are more passionate that, on average, many would be willing to pay more than the regular price of a ticket to see the film.

Is it really so distasteful that the market is enabling creators to make films that thousands of people are willing to spend $100 and more to love rather than entertainment dumbed down and/or inoffensive enough that the requisite millions of people will be willing to spend $10, but no more, to merely watch? True, money is not the best arbiter of quality — reporting on a film’s success based on the amount of money it takes in at the box office shouldn’t make sense outside of the pages of Variety — but that individuals are willing to spend more does and should show that the fans are passionate.

By solving this market failure, Kickstarter (and Indiegogo et. al.) are making a more efficient arts marketplace, which should please both fans and creators. By connecting creators directly with the fans, the fans know that the money that they’re spending on entertainment is going directly and proportionally to the people who are creating that entertainment.

In the thrilling conclusion to our pop culture panel discussion on this new(ish) TV season, I chat with Amy Watts and Dan Suitor about the shows that we’re most excited to see return. And they’re all on Sunday night.

Wall Street Journal: The Making of TV’s Hottest Drama

Here’s a quick list of organizations that are helping out in communities hit by Hurricane Sandy here in the New York/New Jersey area.


New York City:


Staten Island

And here are some more comprehensive lists of resources and especially opportunities to volunteer, from Brooklyn Heights Blog and Manhattan Users Guide.


Here’s a quick list of organizations that are helping out in communities hit by Hurricane Sandy here in the New York/New Jersey area.

Before getting back into nerding out on music, television, and pop culture, please volunteer and/or donate:


New York City:


Staten Island

And here are some more comprehensive lists of resources and especially opportunities to volunteer, from Brooklyn Heights Blog and Manhattan Users Guide.

The Buzz Rant & Rave Podcast is back! And we’re even back with a good one. I chatted with David Obuchowski and Michael Lengel about their new band Distant Correspondent and the group’s upcoming debut album. The podcast includes a listen to the full track of “Badlands.”

Distant Correspondent on the Web:
Distant Correspondent on Facebook
@distantcorr (Twitter)

Related bands:
Goes Cube
Meanwhile, back in Communist Russia


I very vividly remember sitting at home on a Sunday night in 1996, during my senior year of high school and listening to WNEW while doing homework. At that point WNEW was still a rock station and Sunday nights were one of the few times that a freeform radio show played on a major commercial radio station. Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight show was a true old-school freeform radio show and always interesting, fun and often exciting to hear. Scelsa hosted an in-studio concert and interview with a young band from North Carolina promoting their first eponymous album on an indie label. That band was Ben Folds Five.

Of all of the artists that I’ve listened to in the course of my musical enjoyment, a very few stand out as ones that I both vividly remember hearing for the first time and continue to enjoy. And that radio appearance completely sold me on Ben Folds Five, because they were doing something unique and uniquely targeted to me: a piano trio playing a mix of pop music with solid melodies combined with a true punk energy and youthful collegiate humor.

I still love that first Ben Folds Five album. But after “Brick” became a massive hit and after I was underwhelmed by The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, they played a fairly low-energy set to headline Spring Fling at Tufts, they dropped off of my radar. And then most people’s radars, since the band broke up in 2000.

But when I heard about the band getting together for a reunion earlier this year, I went back into listening to the band, and remembered what it was that I appreciated about their music, and think that it’s still there. The piano pop punk rock works for me. And since their first reunion show would be in Hunter, NY, I decided to brave the hippies at Mountain Jam to see Ben Folds Five again.

And it was a great set, in large part because it was a set that was perfectly engineered for a reunion show. No new songs, just the hits and fan favorites.

Here’s Jackson Cannery from the Hunter show:

(And yes, if you carefully watch those videos captured from the webcast of the Mountain Jam show, you will see me in the audience.)

Ben Folds Five’s new album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind is a mixed bag. It is somewhat more mature than the first couple of Ben Folds Five records, but part of the appeal of those early records was their lack of maturity. This is not an album review, so I’m not going to go through the album in great detail, but the high points include the Nick Hornby penned lyrics to the title track and Draw a Crowd, as well as the video for the first single, which combines Folds and Fraggles:

HBO may be the only network that had three members of the pantheon of great television dramas of the 21st Century running concurrently at the same time, namely The Sopranos, Deadwood and The Wire.

The Sopranos was a massive breakout hit. I caught up with the first few seasons on DVD (rented from a video store) and then subscribed to HBO to watch the final few. It was hard to avoid hearing about who got whacked (at least engaged in pop culture in the New York area, at least). With Deadwood, I caught an episode here and there on HBO and loved the rhythms of the dialogue. Being somewhere in the middle of the story, I had no idea what was going on, but Al Swearengen is one of the most indelible characters to hit the small screen, and David Milch’s language takes a little bit to adjust to, but it draws you into a very different world. In 2007, I put Deadwood Season 1 Disc 1 into my Netflix cue and watched the first few episodes.

The next disc I had in my queue was The Wire, Season 1 Disc 1. I had not heard about the Wire at all in its first few seasons, but at the time had been starting to hear that The Wire was the best show of all time. After watching the opening scene of the first episode, I was hooked. I forgot about Deadwood and watched the four seasons on DVD as quickly as I could — breaking down and buying the seasons 3 and 4 sets, because waiting for Netflix to deliver the discs was too slow. Deadwood fell by the wayside.

Last year, Alan Sepinwall started blogging season 1 as his summer blog rematch project. I started in weekly, but quickly fell behind and eventually gave up.

When I was in elementary school, I kept starting to read the Chronicles of Narnia a few times, which resulted in me reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe a few times and never finishing the series. I don’t think that going on in Deadwood is going to be nearly as frustrating. After all, the first episode uses “cocksucker” a lot more than C.S. Lewis used in his entire life.

So here is take three of watching Deadwood. Please join us for the journey.

Inform your dealers and whores of my credit and pour me a goddamn drink. Let’s dive into episode one after the jump…Continue reading