Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Television’

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Screwball comedy for the 21st century

October 12, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television No Comments →

Fourteen-year-old Kimmy is abducted in front of her house by a cult leader. She spends the next 15 years in an underground bunker with the Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne and three other women, believing that the world has ended and they’re the only survivors. One day the “Mole Women” are rescued, and Kimmy has to start her life over in a world where “phones look like cameras and even policemen have tattoos.”

It’s a good premise for a drama about how much America has changed in the last decade and a half, about shifting social norms, sexual mores and racial identity. Its protagonist could be a woman who must confront her emotional trauma, make up for lost time, and come to terms with a society that views her as a victim and a freak. Writers could really do something with that material. Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, creators of the now-classic 30 Rock, have covered all these themes, but gone even farther. They have written and produced what may be the funniest sitcom of the year.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

You’re the Worst is the romantic comedy for people who loathe romantic comedies

October 05, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television No Comments →

This is the least NSFW scene we could find.

The first time we see Jimmy Shive-Overly, he is taking pictures of his genitals with those cute disposable “Help us make memories” cameras at the wedding reception of his ex-girlfriend. (Hire a photographer, people. It’s bad enough that we have to sit through your boring two-hour video before dinner is served). He proceeds to get himself thrown out of the reception. The first time we see Gretchen Cutler, she is stealing one of the wedding gifts at the same reception, thinking that it is a food processor (Tough luck: it’s a blender). The two meet while waiting for a taxi, and having nothing better to do, they go back to his place.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

What TV shows do CEOs watch? Deutschland 83, Narcos and others

September 28, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 1 Comment →

Based on these recommendations, I looked up Deutschland 83, a German mini-series by Anna and Joerg Winger that aired on the Sundance channel. I started watching the first episode late at night, which was a terrible mistake because it makes a compelling argument for abandoning sleep.

Deutschland 83 invites comparison with The Americans: both shows are set in the early 1980s and their protagonists are Communist moles working in the West. They also feature a lot of pop music from the ’80s, though Deutschland 83 leans towards the cheerful Eurotrashy synth-pop that was presumably popular behind the Iron Curtain. The opening theme is “Major Tom,” Peter Schilling’s tinny rejoinder to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” and if you guessed that Nena’s “99 Luftballons” would be in there, how clever you are. On the other hand, the show also uses New Order and The Cure, and you can guess what happens next based on the musical cues. (They’re playing “Our love’s in jeopardy”… could it be that their love is in jeopardy?)

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

TV Therapy: Watch your way to better mental health

September 18, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 2 Comments →


Are you anxious, stressed-out, neurotic? Are you haunted by the past, overwhelmed by the present, and worried about the future? Do you fear that you are losing your grip, your hair, or your mind? In short, are you a normal person?

The solution I prescribe is not only simple and accessible, but it’s entertaining and slots perfectly into your schedule. I recommend you watch television. Thanks to technology, watching TV is no longer an activity that requires you to plonk yourself in front of the set at a specific time. You can watch TV anytime, anywhere, as long as you are not driving a car, operating heavy machinery, or crossing the street. You can watch shows on an old-school TV set, on a computer screen, on a tablet, on a phone. If you’re extremely busy, you can watch a few minutes between appointments. If the traffic is bad enough, you can watch an entire season of Jonathan Norrell and Mr Strange or Silicon Valley while sitting in a car.

Here are five very common situations and the TV shows that might make you feel less wretched about being in those situations. If they don’t work, at least you will be diverted or distracted. (In which case I recommend reading 19th century Russian novels. Not only are they magnificent, but they will make your life seem cheerful in comparison.)

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

Mr Robot: The show that hacked the news

September 11, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Technology, Television 2 Comments →

The revolution is being televised, in the form of a cyber-thriller on the previously unheralded USA Network. Written and produced by Sam Esmail, Mr Robot is so plugged into the zeitgeist that you could watch it instead of the nightly news. In the series premiere, an anarchist group called fsociety hacks into a conglomerate’s systems and makes confidential information available to the public. In the real world, a website for cheaters was hacked and sensitive personal information made available to the public.

The airing of Mr Robot’s season one finale was postponed because of its distressing similarity to an actual event: the on-air murder of two journalists in Virginia. This is not the first time that the real world has borrowed its script from television. Sixteen years ago, an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer was pulled from the air because it featured a student who was apparently planning mass murder. The episode had been shot before the Columbine massacre, but was delayed due to concerns about school violence.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

Going Clear: How to make tax-free billions in the religion business

September 04, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Money, Television 3 Comments →

L. Ron Hubbard was a prolific science-fiction writer of the 1940s and 50s who wanted more than the dollar per word he was paid for his pulp novels. It occurred to him that the fastest way to gain fame, fortune and power was to start his own religion. This was well within the skill set of a man who’d published over a thousand novels about space aliens with superpowers (Anyone see Battlefield: Earth?). Hubbard wrote a book called Dianetics, which became the founding text of Scientology.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief is the fascinating HBO documentary about the religion founded by L. Ron Hubbard. Writer-director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side; Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God) looks into the personal history of the founding father, who styled himself “Commodore” because he had served in the navy during World War II (and was relieved of his command when he mistakenly shelled Mexico). Gibney traces the rise of the cult, talks to high-profile apostates such as filmmaker Paul Haggis (Crash) and high-ranking ex-members of the cult, and also answers the question, “Why did Tom Cruise suddenly divorce Nicole Kidman?” One of the documentary’s producers is Lawrence Wright, author of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief. Wright mentions his fascination with religion, why people choose to believe what they believe, and their crushing certainty that eliminates all doubt.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.