TV link-blogging: ‘Community,’ Katie Couric & January Jones

Senior Television Writer
06.07.11 22 Comments

I’m in LA for a few days to attend some meetings, conduct an interview or two, etc., and all that traveling (plus the summer TV season still getting out of first gear) means that posting will be light for much of this week. I’ll still hit all the usual stuff (“Men of a Certain Age” tomorrow, “Deadwood” Thursday, “Doctor Who”(*) and the Sunday shows over the weekend, etc.), but other things may slip through the cracks.

(*) For those who’ve wondered about the lack of a “Doctor Who” review over the weekend (and who don’t follow me on Twitter, where I already explained it), I decided to skip “The Almost People” for two reasons: 1)I didn’t enjoy the episode very much, and 2)Because BBC America decided to take a week off for Memorial Day weekend while BBC in the UK did not, “The Almost People” review would have gone up after the mid-season finale had already aired in Britain, and keeping the discussion free of spoilers was going to be far more trouble than it was worth.

Since I have a few minutes before I have to head out into LA traffic, I figured I would do a little link-blogging this morning:

First up is part 1 of Todd VanDerWerff’s epic 4-part interview with “Community” creator Dan Harmon. Well, “interview” doesn’t seem like the right word. Rather, it’s Todd turning on his recorder and mostly just hanging back and letting Harmon talk at length (I believe the entire affair lasted four and a half hours) about the thought process that went into the making of each episode of season 2. I’m not saying Harmon puts more thought into his show than other comedy showrunners, but I think he thinks more about the meaning of what he’s doing more than all but a handful, if that. He also pays an awful lot of attention to what both fans and critics say (in the interview, he mentions my reaction to “Basic Rocket Science”), and it’s interesting to see how much that drives him. Often times, a TV creator as passionate and strong-willed as Harmon will basically tune out all the audience feedback, or at least not let it influence creative decisions, but Harmon and the other “Community” writers very much feed off of what’s written about them.

Second, while I was flying yesterday, Katie Couric officially closed her deal to host a syndicated talk show on ABC. Linda Holmes notes the incredible difficulty that anyone has at making a daytime talk show work, while James Poniewozik has a thoughtful take on whether a daytime talk show will turn out to be a better fit for Couric than anchoring CBS’ evening newscast. I remain of the opinion that leaving “Today” was the worst decision of Couric’s career – that that format was so perfectly-tailored to her versatility, and also made the whole hard/soft news dichotomy that she dealt with at CBS, and will deal with on the talk show irrelevant – and that in a business that wasn’t determined so much by ego, Couric should have just considered going back there to replace Meredith Viera. Oh, well. She’ll be very well-compensated for this, whether it works or not.

Finally, as discussed in an impromptu segment on last night’s podcast, I saw “X-Men: First Class” over the weekend and really liked it. I don’t have time for a full review, but our own Drew McWeeny has already written two of them – one with his first reaction, the second with more detailed analysis that you should probably only read after you’ve seen it – and I agree with most of what he wrote, particularly about how well Matthew Vaughn fused Connery-era James Bond with an X-Men story, and about how fantastic Michael Fassbender is as Magneto. The podcast discussion was mainly about January Jones, who unfortunately doesn’t come off very well in the movie. (Though both Drew and Fienberg argue that she’s not really asked to do anything but look good in a variety of sexy outfits.) In my “Mad Men” reviews, I often struggle with how effective I find Jones as an actress versus how much of Betty Draper is something constructed by others (Matt Weiner’s scripts making her a chilly/quiet character, the wardrobe and hairstyling giving her the look, etc.). Ultimately, I would say we’ve seen enough examples (the Italy trip, “The Gypsy and the Hobo”) that Jones is contributing something significant beyond her appearance to that character, but I don’t think her performance as Emma Frost will be a positive for her in this debate.

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