Maybe it's last week's column on criticism, or maybe it's because I'm able to write, gloriously alone, at Cartel Coffee in downtown Phoenix, without the ever present threat of my daughter waking up from her nap, but for this week at least, I'm an optimist. I'm cheery and well-fed, and I've got caffeine careening through my veins, so here's a list of what I'm really liking about television right now.
1. Maya Rudolph on Up All Night. If I can slip into fawning sycophancy for a moment, Maya Rudolph is so awesome, you guys. I've had a crush on her since her SNL days. First, she's hot, or at least she is to me. Second, she's in some sort of nebulous long-term relationship with my favorite director, P.T. Anderson. I hope beyond hope those two are good parents, because what sort of ultra-talented progeny could they produce? Third, she was part of the most disturbing/hilarious sex scene in cinematic history in MacGruber. (Here's the link to a clip on the AV Club, which isn't exactly NSFW, but not exactly SFW, either. I mean, it's an incredibly unappealing sex scene, but it's still a sex scene.)
I don't think she's ever had a role that utilized her talents to the extent Up All Night does. Not to slight Will Arnett or Christina Applegate (okay, maybe Applegate), but Maya is carrying this show right now as a Tyra Banks/Oprah hybrid talk show host.
2. New Girl on FOX. Are we supposed to capitalize FOX? I'm confused about this.
Anyway, as I mentioned last week, I'm really enjoying Max Greenfield (aka "Smirky"). When the series started, it seemed like his character would be a prototypical bro, but they've been giving him some layers in recent episodes, and the guy has serious comedic chops. Overall, New Girl isn't on par with some of the other great comedies on right now (more on that in a bit), but between Greenfield and fan-boy favorite Zooey Deschanel, it has enough going to keep me coming back.
3. Homeland on Showtime. Yes, it's really good, okay, and it's getting better with each week. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW, COMMENTOR JOHH JOHNSON!?!
4. South Park's 15th season. For some reason (not actually technically having cable), I didn't even realize the second half of South Park's 15th season was running until last week, after which I binged on episodes 8-12.
I've written at length about Trey Parker and Matt Stone's rise to genius, their daring dives into Hollywood, puppetry, and Broadway, but it all comes back to South Park, and this season has been the most consistently brilliant of their career. What stands out especially was their two-part episode, which wrapped the first-half finale ("You're Getting Old") with the second-half premiere ("Ass Burgers"). I'd count these two episodes as the best in the show's history, a beautifully sad and poignant examination of cynicism. I can't tell you how much I admire these guys. Between Trey and Matt and Louis C.K., comedy is being taken in mind-blowing directions.
5. All the other great comedies I've always loved. Beyond South Park and Louie, it's sometimes difficult to wrap my mind around how many great comedies are on television right now. Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Up All Night, Modern Family, The League...if any of these had been on a decade ago, they would've been second only to Arrested Development. What's more, I'm sure there are a few more I haven't had the chance to see, imports like the original The Office that aren't readily available on our shores yet. It was canceled far too early, but AD laid the foundation for what we're experiencing now.
6. Football. With the rise of flashy air attacks and upstart teams like the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers, the NFL season has been great. College football isn't quite as joyous, what with the Penn State debacle and the ongoing sinister autocracy of the NCAA and BCS. I realize it's been even worse for U of A fans after this disappointing year, but I have to tell you: it's a blast being an Oregon Ducks fan right now. Last season's march to the national championship was a blast, but this team has been even more fun to watch, from beating the hated (and rising) Huskies for the 8th straight time to backup quarterback Bryan Bennett faking out cameramen and running all over ASU in one of my favorite games as an Oregon fan.
I realize we've had our differences, Tucson. I know some of you cheered when Dennis Dixon's torn ACL derailed our championship hopes in 2007, and pelted our cheerleaders with water bottles after that overtime game a couple years ago. I propose we set our differences aside and begin a new chapter of mutual Pac-12 love. Just root for us against Stanford, please, and I promise I'll cheer on Wildcats basketball all next spring (except, you know, against the Ducks). Deal? Deal.