The Moderate Binge

Veep, HBO
While the first season of the Julia Louis-Dreyfus starrer, Veep sang, its second season reordered itself with such cutting abandon that it found its footing to be sharply tuned brilliance. Episode after episode of Armando Iannucci’s HBO comedy sizzles with Louis-Dreyfus’ comedic brilliance, reminding you why she’s one of the few Seinfeldians to have a robust and worthy career after the show about nothing. Between the superb acting, writing, and occasional improvising, and its all-too-stellar supporting cast (Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky, Matt Walsh, Sufe Bradshaw, to name a few), the comically inhumane emotional prattling that seems to swing politics into lurching motion is set ablaze with hilarious fury. No one cuts half so well into the withering miserytrain that is American politics like Iannucci and Louis-Dreyfus. A dream team of ineffectiveness and bitterly narcissistic meanness, there is nothing about Veep that isn’t must-watch making for comedy fans out there.

House of Lies, Showtime
Take one part Jean-Ralphio, one part Veronica Mars, two parts guest star, and a shitton of batshit crazy manipulation and you have House of Lies. The Showtime Don Cheadle starrer is awash in all the brash machinations of the makers and breakers of our modern society, and shines a light on just how horrible us humans can be. The humor of self-loathing liars is a particularly audacious and enjoyable breed. Kristen Bell’s Jeannie pushes hard against Cheadle’s Marty, especially in season two, but not without the requisite and refreshingly honest style with which it presents its terribleness in words. Words make, change, and break the game when in the right-wrong hands (mainly Marty’s) and it is a delightfully sinking ship of humility, or lack thereof. Plus who doesn’t love a little bit more Ben Schwartz (a.k.a. the aforementioned Ralphio) on their television? Everyone: the answer is everyone loves to have a little bit more Ben Schwartz on their TV.

Bored to Death, HBO
Jonathan Ames’ comedic crime/mystery series starring Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis, and Ted Danson is a delight, plain and simple. With the help of three wildly narcissistic lead characters, the struggling-writer-turned-double-life-leading-detective schtick plays out with quirky abandon, and features a ton of hilarious gaffe-ing to boot. Blunders and internal plunders alike punctuate the three seasons, and make a case for the hilarious after-affects of self-obsession and constant-validation folks of a certain style oft crave. To say nothing of all the Brooklyn jokes. Oh so many Brooklyn jokes. As a former New Yorker, I like this.

Dancing on the Edge, Cinemax
The ambitious and beautiful miniseries Dancing on the Edge features luscious backdrops, beautiful costumes, buoyant and bouncy jazz music in addition to the acting charms of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew Goode, and John Goodman (there’s even a wee bit of the underutilized Jenna Coleman of Doctor Who fame). Though a bit spotty in places, Dancing on the Edge actually benefits from a binge-watch rather than a regular viewing. It is ambitious in its goal of decoding how casually imbued 1933 London was with racism, classicism, and anti-Semitism — basically all of the bad isms — and who ominously pulls the strings behind such no-good, very bad-ness. Though not wholly successful — it’s trying to push in so many moving, complicated parts — it is worth a watch if for nothing more than how enjoyable its actors are. It’s television Pop Rocks.

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