The dark side of 21st Century TV comedy

Shows like BoJack Horseman, Fleabag and Veep show how modern TV comedies have embraced pain and grief, writes Jennifer Keishin Armstrong.

BoJack Horseman started off, quite deceptively, like just another animated show for adults. It’s about a man (a horse, actually) who’s stuck in the past, reliving his glory days as a sitcom star on a banal ’80s show called Horsin’ Around. BoJack is an addict, has lots of ill-advised sex, and seems depressed – classic signs of edgy 21st-Century adult animation, in line with classics of the genre like The Simpsons and Family Guy.


The coolest female characters on television

From chic Sylvie in Emily in Paris, to Sam in Better Things, unapologetic and flawed midlife women are ruling the small screen. We need more, argues Jennifer Keishin Armstrong.

Earlier this year, as the Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That…, sparked heated weekly debate over the lives of its 55-year-old characters, a meme blazed its way across the internet, shocking many in its wake: The Golden Girls, it reminded us, were the same age in the first season of their series as the Sex and the City women were in this reboot. It’s true: Dorothy, Rose and Blanche all indicate they’re in their 50s in the early episodes. And it’s a bracing realisation, because The Golden Girls has always been perceived as a show about “old ladies”– widows (and a divorcée) living out their waning years in Florida together.

Buzzfeed News

A Lot Of Old Sitcoms Don’t Hold Up. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” Does.

The rise of video streaming services has opened up a vast array of TV series’ back catalogs, and with it a debate: Just because we can mainline older shows, does that mean we should? There are more than enough new viewing options being produced (including an endless parade of reboots and revisionist remakes for the nostalgia-inclined) to keep anyone entertained. So why are Gen Z teenagers who weren’t alive in 1994 bingeing Friends on Netflix? And should someone stop them?

Lion’s Roar

Dan Harris is 10% Happier

Network anchor Dan Harris keeps his Buddhism real. His bestselling book and popular app offer down-to-earth wisdom and achievable goals. As Harris tells Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, he wants to help bring meditation from the fringes to the mainstream.

Lion’s Roar

How Mr. Rogers Taught Us to Love

While he was changing his tennis shoes, Mr. Rogers was quietly changing children’s lives — and ours as well. Jennifer Keishin Armstrong tells us about the man who used television to teach us to love ourselves. From the November 2019 issue of Lion’s Roar.

Vanity Fair

How Sex and the City Holds Up in the #MeToo Era

Sex and the City premiered on HBO 20 years ago today, staking its claim to a bold thesis: maybe women want sex as much as men do, and maybe they don’t need men for much else. This represented a huge shift at the end of the millennium, a time when sex was on everyone’s mind and newscast: Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s investigation into President Bill Clinton had just taken a prurient turn by focusing on Clinton’s sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and the nation was hanging on the intimate details. But the dominant narrative was still the tale of a powerful man taking advantage of a much younger woman.

The Washington Post

I thought I was a Brandon girl. But Luke Perry helped me realize all I really wanted was a Dylan McKay.

From the moment Luke Perry first appeared as Dylan McKay on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” he felt like the perfect pop song: You couldn’t believe you’d ever lived in a world where you hadn’t known of him. His impossibly chiseled cheekbones, throwback pompadour, sideburns and perpetual squint made every scene he was in look iconic. He spoke French, read Lord Byron for fun and surfed.

The Verge

Translating ‘Seinfeld’

Translator Sabine Sebastian tried to bring Seinfeld to Germans, yada yada yada, it flopped.

Like so many of Jerry Seinfeld’s girlfriends on Seinfeld, Dolores was TV-beautiful, with glossy, reddish-blond hair, big blue eyes, full lips, and impeccable bone structure. Most of Jerry’s girlfriends brought with them a joke about the trials of dating and/or the self-centeredness of Jerry’s character, and Dolores was no exception: Jerry very much wanted to sleep with her, but he hadn’t asked her name when they met, and by the time they went out, he was too embarrassed to admit he didn’t know it. He surreptitiously searched her purse for an ID, but came up short. He asked friends to introduce themselves to her, hoping she would introduce herself back; she didn’t.

Literary Hub

What Pop Stars Can Teach Writers About Failure

If you’re interested in having a commercial hit as an author, you’re interested in being something akin to a pop star. Pop stars are artists who, by happenstance or design, make something lots of people like, then dedicate themselves to reproducing that success at the behest of their corporate benefactors. Many find this process suffocating, since they are dynamic human beings who seek new experiences and expressions as they change, while the market demands they replicate the same fun trick they did that one time on their hit record. Successful pop stars must keep making the same thing, slightly differently each time, but not unrecognizably differently, or they must do something difficult and rare: come up with a totally new trick that people like just as much as the first one.

New York

What Would Sex and the City Look Like in 2018? The Show Writers Plot Out 6 Episodes

With Sex and the City celebrating the 20th anniversary of its premiere and almost every other old TV show getting a reboot, I couldn’t help but wonder: What would the story lines be if SATC returned in 2018? To find out, I canvassed show writers Jenny Bicks, Cindy Chupack, Amy B. Harris, Julie Rottenberg, and Elisa Zuritsky — all featured in my new cultural history of the show, Sex and the City and Us.

More Articles from Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Anne Hathaway Is Our Kind of Cool Girl (Refinery29)

The Best-Laid Wedding Plans (Altared)

Britney Spears Is a Feminist Issue (Bustle)

A Buddhist Chaplain Disrupts Suffering in Rikers Island (Lion’s Roar)

Buddha’s Champion: a profile of Robert Thurman (Lion’s Roar)

The Dark Side of 21st Century TV Comedy (BBC Culture)

Elaine Benes Is a Feminist Heroine (Dame)

From ‘Cop Rock’ to ‘Atlanta’: How Music TV Shows Went from Punchlines to Prestige Programs (Billboard)

A Gentleman in Moscow (Nob Hill Gazette)

The Greatest TV Shows Never Made (BBC Culture)

HBO Max’s ‘Gossip Girl’ Review: A Glittery Revival for the Instagram Era (The Wrap)

Hulu’s ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ Review: Will You Namaste for Nicole Kidman’s Inscrutable Wellness Guru? (The Wrap)

How Sex and the City Helped New York Recover After 9/11 (Town & Country)

How Trevor Noah Conquered U.S. Comedy (BBC Culture)

Mary Richards wasn’t trying to be a feminist icon. She would have marched anyway. (Washington Post)

Meet the Woman Who Invented ‘The Daily Show’ (Dame)

The Middle Way of Abortion (Lion’s Roar)

‘Mr. Corman’ Apple TV+ Review: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Taps Into Millennial Angst (The Wrap)

Outside the Box: series on TV from across the globe (BBC Culture)

Psychedelic Insight (Lion’s Roar)

Rock On (Northwestern)

‘Sex and the City’: A Global Revolution (BBC Culture)

‘Spring Breakers’: An Appreciation of the Movie-Length Meditation on Britney Spears (Billboard)

TV’s Transgender Revolution (BBC Culture)

What’s So Feminist About Liking Boy Bands? (Dame)

When Political Comedy Is a Case of Life or Death (BBC Culture)

Why Beyoncé Could Be the Next Bob Dylan (Billboard)

The Zen of Peter Coyote (Lion’s Roar)