Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Television’

The Knick: Medicine is scarier than zombies

December 12, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Television No Comments →


There are no zombies crashing through the windows or serial killers cooking heart tartare in The Knick, probably the most horrifying show on television. Steven Soderbergh’s hospital drama has no need for bloodsucking monsters to act as metaphors for the human condition. In The Knick, the monster IS the human condition, death is the inevitable ending, and in 1900, it seems the merciful alternative to hospital treatment.

Read our TV column The Binge, every Friday at Business World.

The Binge, our column on TV, starts tomorrow

December 04, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Television No Comments →

Cats watching TV

This year we realized we watch at least as much television (though not on television) as film, so we figured we’d write about it. The Binge appears every Friday at BusinessWorld.

* * * * *

I watch a lot of television, but I haven’t always respected the medium. Even if it taught me English (Sesame Street) and science (reruns of old Star Trek episodes) and gave me a world-view (Woody Allen movies at 10 am on RPN-9), I regarded it as the poor, déclassé cousin of Film. Film aspired to Art and should be taken seriously; TV was the babysitter and the background noise at lunch.

Something changed in the last decade or so: television became great. I am referring to American cable television, although free TV has lately showed signs of ambition. Cable is subscription-based, unlike free TV which depends on advertising to survive. This means cable is comparatively free of the burden of generating high ratings. Its creator-producers—“showrunners”—can worry less about pleasing their target demographics and focus more on executing their vision for their project. They can be Auteurs.

* * * * *

Read our column at BusinessWorld.

Want some pi? The Count recites it to the 10,000th digit

December 04, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Television No Comments →

Drive co-workers insane!

The Philippine-American War and the cocaine shortage in 1900s New York in The Knick

October 21, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Philippine Reference Alert, Television 2 Comments →

Clive Owen in The Knick: Not for the faint-hearted.

We’ve been enjoying Steven Soderbergh’s series The Knick, about the staff of the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York in the 1900s (In case you thought it was about one New York basketball player). Inasmuch as one can enjoy a series that is so brutal. The Knick stars Clive Owen as Dr. John Thackery, a brilliant surgeon who develops many ground-breaking techniques and is tireless in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. He’s also a cokehead, though it must be noted that cocaine was legal at the time and was used for medical procedures (and as an ingredient in Coca-Cola).

Towards the end of the first season, Dr. Thackery has a personal crisis: there’s a cocaine shortage in New York. The US is at war in the Philippines, and its cargo ships are under attack so shipments from China can’t reach America. (Wait, isn’t coca from South America?)

The Knick makes us happy to be living in the 21st century. Early 20th C medicine was positively medieval. How anyone survived the ministrations of doctors is beyond us.

Rating: Brutal, possibly great, enthusiastically recommended.

Warning: Lots of gore. You want fun gore, go watch The Strain. The gore here is grim and unforgiving.


Reminder: We called dibs on Cary Joji Fukunaga.

August 27, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 7 Comments →

While everyone is gushing over Cary Joji Fukunaga at the Emmys, here is proof that we saw him first, before True Detective, just before Jane Eyre. True, it was while we were googling Michael Fassbender, but the point is, dibs dibs dibs.

We know someone who went to school with him, but she did not call dibs because that would’ve been embarrassing.

Of course this means about as much as our friend declaring that he saw Jason Momoa first, during the Baywatch Hawaii era, thus admitting that he watched Baywatch Hawaii.

Thanks to avignon for the alert.

Girls and Advertorials

August 26, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 6 Comments →

Lena Dunham in Girls

Girls grew on us. When we started watching Lena Dunham’s HBO series a couple of years ago we found it irritating—all those self-obsessed, privileged, whiny 22-year-olds—and alarming. By the third episode we were hooked and by the fourth we were quoting it like Whit Stillman movies (“I’m not on Facebook.” “You’re so fucking classy.”). We like it because the characters can be awful and gross, make stupid choices, embarrass themselves, but manage to go on living. Also, the show is funny and sometimes moving, it messes with audience expectations by making the chubby Hannah (Lena Dunham) get naked the most, and the conventionally pretty Marnie (Allison Williams) is the most messed-up character. Yeah, let the beautiful one suffer. The breakout star of Girls is Adam Driver, who plays Adam, who started out weird and repulsive but turns out to be a man of integrity; he seems to be in every movie being made, including the next Star Wars.

Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham and Allison Williams

In the third season, Hannah finally gets a proper job writing for GQ. Except that she’s not in the Editorial section of that literary institution but in Advertorial—the section where you get tricked into reading articles only to find that they’re ads for the sponsors. She’s making real money and getting many freebies, but there is the very real possibility that she’ll wake up years in the future and realize that she hasn’t written the things she wanted to write because she was getting paid so well writing about department stores and mineral supplements and so on. Aha! We know exactly what that’s like.

We’ve done lots of advertorials, and they pay many times what we get paid for writing the things that we love. Wait, a hundred times zero is still zero—well, we got paid enough to pay the rent and utilities, while the best stuff we’ve ever written makes bupkis. We didn’t hate what we were writing advertorials about, but we didn’t love them, either. We loved being able to pay the rent and utilities and buy cat food. Fine, we also liked flying business class to Melbourne and drinking champagne in the sponsor’s lounge and watching the Australian Open finals from the front row. It’s one of those galling compromises grown-ups have to make. Write what you need to write to pay the bills; find a way to write what you love. And don’t fool yourself about the true nature of the work.

The real question is, What isn’t an advertorial these days?

So here’s this blog’s policy on advertorials. We get invited to a lot of events, and some of our friends are publicists. We write up the event if we found it interesting; other times we find we have nothing to say so we don’t write it up. Usually we mention if we were invited by the publicist or the sponsor. If we get paid to promote a product, we’ll indicate that the post was sponsored. In case anyone’s wondering.