TV

120 articles
Avatar_57x57

Fifteen Years of the Salto Mortale

On Johnny Carson, a cold man in a hot seat.

Avatar_57x57

The Early David Letterman 1967-1980

“Every Sunday at my house … we watched The Ed Sullivan Show…. Whether we enjoyed it or not. That was my first lesson in show business. I don’t think anybody in the house particularly enjoyed it. We just watched it. Maybe that’s the purpose of television. You just turn it on and watch it whether you want to or not.”

Avatar_57x57

I Am Large, I Contain Multitudes

A profile of Roseanne Barr and her multiple personalities.

Avatar_57x57

Mr. Hannah Montana’s Achy Broken Heart

A melancholic Billy Ray Cyrus on the trauma of being the father of a famous 18-year-old girl, his friendship with Kurt Cobain, and his favorite mullet nicknames (Kentucky Waterfall and Missouri Compromise).

Avatar_57x57

The Sports Cable Bubble

How cable sports channels extort hundreds of dollars per year out of every cable subscriber for programming that less than 10% regularly watch.

Avatar_57x57

2 Good 2 Be 4Gotten

An oral history of Freaks and Geeks.

Avatar_57x57

This Is Amazing!

A profile of Huell Howser, the happiest man on TV.

Avatar_57x57

"I Pretty Much Wanted to Die"

The many reasons Lost shouldn’t have happened.

Avatar_57x57

Larry Hagman's Curtain Call

A profile of the late actor.

Avatar_57x57

Light Entertainment

An essay on Jimmy Savile, British television and child sexual abuse.

Avatar_57x57

Interview: Nick Offerman

A conversation with Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation.

Avatar_57x57

"The Best TV Show That's Ever Been"

An oral history of Cheers.

Avatar_57x57

The Perfect Level of Fame

A day at the mall with the cast of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

Avatar_57x57

The New New Girl

A profile of Mindy Kaling.

Avatar_57x57

Why America’s Funniest Home Videos Won’t Die

The secret is an exclusive 22-year-old archive of viewer-submitted clips.

Avatar_57x57

Rachel Maddow's Quiet War

An ode to the MSNBC anchor.

Avatar_57x57

Mr. Anderson Cooper, Superstar

A profile from Cooper’s early days an an anchor.

Avatar_57x57

The Dweebs on the Bus

The taming of the political reporter.

Avatar_57x57

Aaron Sorkin Works His Way Through the Crisis

A profile of the screenwriter in the aftermath of a personal meltdown and a national tragedy.
Avatar_57x57

'Is He Happy? Is He All Right?'

A profile of Larry King at the height of his fame and on the heels of his sixth divorce.

Avatar_57x57

A Dog Named Humphrey

The author recounts playing herself – best-selling author Sloane Crosley – on an episode of “Gossip Girl.”

Avatar_57x57

The Anchor

A profile of Univision’s Jorge Ramos.

Avatar_57x57

The Sorkin Way

On the set of Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO show The Newsroom.

Avatar_57x57

Why Dick Clark Can't Say 'So Long.'

At 67, the American Bandstand icon remains “one hard-working mother.”

Avatar_57x57

Truth or Consequences

The story behind the story that ended Dan Rather’s career.

Avatar_57x57

Ink, Inc.

How reality TV has changed tattooing.

Tattoos and tattoo artists have an undeniable power to attract, repulse, and intimidate. But when confronted with all this life and color, reality TV steamrolls it into the familiar “drama” of preening divas and wounded pride. “Everybody thinks they’re gonna change it,” said Anna Paige, an artist who said she’d turned down her chance at TV stardom. “Everybody thinks they’re gonna have some power.” But wait, isn’t she profiting from tattooing’s mass appeal? “I would have made money anyway.”

Avatar_57x57

It’s Different for 'Girls'

A profile of 25-year-old Lena Dunham, showrunner and star of HBO’s Girls.

Avatar_57x57

The Family Hour

An oral history of The Sopranos.

Avatar_57x57

The Jimmy McNulty Gambit

Jimmy McNulty, Mike Daisey, and the problems with skirting the system to get to the greater truth.

Avatar_57x57

It's Saturday Night!

An oral history of Saturday Night Live.

Part of our guide to SNL for Slate.
Avatar_57x57

Victoria Jackson's Excellent Tea Party Adventure

How one of the most maligned cast members in SNL history ended up a talking head on Fox News.

Avatar_57x57

Streaming Dreams

On YouTube’s shift towards professionally created content.

Avatar_57x57

The Writearound: Louis C.K.

A conversation with the comedian.
JW: You’ve talked about how you’ve had to explain moral lessons to your daughters, but do it in an inarticulate, catchy way. It’s almost as though you’re writing material for them. What’s the place of morality and ethics in your comedy? I think those are questions people live with all the time, and I think there’s a lazy not answering of them now, everyone sheepishly goes, “Oh, I’m just not doing it, I’m not doing the right thing.” There are people that really live by doing the right thing, but I don’t know what that is, I’m really curious about that. I’m really curious about what people think they’re doing when they’re doing something evil, casually.
Avatar_57x57

How Many Stephen Colberts Are There?

A suburban dad. A fictional television blowhard. And now a political money launderer. How one funny guy became three.
Avatar_57x57

China TV Grows Racy, and Gets a Chaperon

On “If You Are the One”, the smash hit Chinese dating show that raised the ire of censors.

Avatar_57x57

Stumptown Girl

A profile of Carrie Brownstein, riot grrrl and creator of Portlandia.

Avatar_57x57

The Beguiling Tough Love of ‘Enlightened’

Enlightened is probably the sharpest satire of modern white-collar work since the original British version of The Office, and its skewering of this world intertwines with its portrait of individual personalities so deftly that you can’t separate them. Creator Mike White captures the unsettling blandness of office protocol, politics and jargon, from the chill that workers feel when Human Resources calls them out of the blue to the impressive-sounding word salad labels that the company gives to its departments and projects. (The experimental department to which the newly demoted Amy is assigned is called “Cogentiva.”)
Avatar_57x57

Crass Warfare

Why Whitney is Lucy, only less lovable:

This may sound like blasphemy to anyone who loves Lucille Ball, the woman who pioneered the classic joke rhythms that Whitney Cummings so klutzily mimics. Cummings has none of Ball’s shining charisma or her buzz of anarchy. Yet she does share Lucy’s rictus grin, her toddler-like foot-stamping tantrums, and especially her Hobbesian view of heterosexual relationships as a combat zone of pranks, bets, and manipulation from below. “This is war,” Whitney announces, before declaring yet another crazy scheme to undercut her boyfriend, and it might as well be the series’ catchphrase.

Avatar_57x57

The Glory of Oprah

A profile of the talk queen.

Avatar_57x57

Interview: Eddie Murphy

It's a glorious thing, hearing Eddie Murphy say "fuck" again. Few people ever said it better – and down here in the basement of the stone-and-marble mansion he built on a Beverly Hills cliff, it's coming from his lips often enough to make Shrek blush. "Come on, motherfucker," Murphy shouts, over the throb of James Brown's "Hot Pants" on a formidable sound system.
Avatar_57x57

SNL's Darrell Hammond Reveals Cutting, Abuse

GROSS: Let me stop there. You're talking about cutting yourself ... HAMMOND: Yeah. GROSS: ..with a razor. HAMMOND: Mm-hmm. GROSS: So I interrupted you. You're saying it does what? HAMMOND: Well, it creates a smaller, more manageable crisis than the one that has you gripping the carpet.
Avatar_57x57

I Want My MTV

An excerpt from a new oral history of MTV.

Avatar_57x57

Group Portrait With Television

The story of the Delmar family, told through what they watch on TV.

Avatar_57x57

Peyton's Place

When your house is the set of One Tree Hill:

On one shoot, I remember, I'd been confused about where they needed to set up (confession: hungover), and as a result neglected to clean the bedroom. Later, a crew guy—the same one who'd told me about Blue Velvet—said, "I'm not used to picking up other people's underwear." I felt like saying, Then don't go into their bedrooms at nine o'clock in the morning! Except… he was paying to be in my bedroom.
Avatar_57x57

The Eternal Adolescence of Beavis and Butt-Head

A profile of Mike Judge, creator of the now-resuscitated Beavis and Butthead.

Avatar_57x57

And… Scene.

An oral history of the Upright Citizens Brigade.

Avatar_57x57

Jon Stewart and the Burden of History

A profile of the comedian who’s “not so funny anymore”:

Jon Stewart has made a career of avoiding "Whooo" humor. He has flattered the prejudices of his audience, but he has always been funny, and he has always made them laugh. At the Juan Williams taping, however, at least half of Stewart's jokes elicited the sound of Whooo! instead of the sound of laughter. He's been able to concentrate his comedy into a kind of shorthand — a pause, or a raised eyebrow, is often all that is necessary now — but a stranger not cued to laugh could be forgiven for not laughing, indeed for thinking that what was going on in front of him was not comedy at all but rather high-toned journalism with a sense of humor. Which might be how Jon Stewart wants it by now.

Avatar_57x57

The Writearound: Vanessa Grigoriadis

An interview with Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone writer Vanessa Grigoriadis on the finer points of celebrity profiling.

Avatar_57x57

The Pinup of Williamsburg

A profile of Zooey Deschanel.

Avatar_57x57

Zombies Are So Hot Right Now

On the fascination, from Hollywood to Atlanta, with zombies.

Avatar_57x57

Sex & Death in the Afternoon

An oral history of the soap opera.

Avatar_57x57
Avatar_57x57

Dada’s Boy

On the life and career of Chris Farley.

Avatar_57x57

An Oral History of the Rise and Fall (and Rise) of "The Dana Carvey Show"

Smigel: Louis comes up with, "What if he says, 'I'm the nurturing president,'and I've developed the ability to breastfeed!" And I'm like, "Yeah, that's great! And then let's have him open the shirt and he's got eight nipples and he can breastfeed dogs and cats." Colbert: We had already lost a lot of sponsors. [Starts singing] It's a beautiful root beer day, the folks from Mug Root Beer have agreed to stay. But you better not breastfeed any puppies today, or you sure as hell will be on your way. So be careful you little punk, Dana Carvey! Even I think it's odd I remember all of the lyrics. I am very impressive...remembering reasons why shows I'm on failed.
Avatar_57x57

Meet the Original JWoww and Snooki, Would-Be Stars of Bridge & Tunnel

The failure of MTV’s Staten Island-based reality show and the fate of its cast members:

While Bridge & Tunnel hangs in programming purgatory, the DeBartolis are hamstrung by Draconian network contracts that reportedly don't allow them to have agents or managers or even talk about any of this publicly for five years. So while JWoww shills her own black bronzer line and Snooki slams into Italian police cars for $100,000 an episode, Gabriella and Brianna have been working respectively as a secretary and a pizza-order girl in Staten Island. The papers they signed as passports off Staten Island are effectively keeping them there.

Avatar_57x57

Random Roles: Bronson Pinchot

The former Perfect Strangers star cheerfully slags Tom Cruise, Eddie Murphy and Denzel Washington, among others.

Avatar_57x57

Very Deep in America

On Friday Night Lights as book, film, and TV show.

Avatar_57x57

When Reality-TV Fame Runs Dry

Less than half a decade after The Hills brought them massive celebrity, Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt are broke and his living in his parent’s vacation house. Their onscreen relationship was mostly fake, but the reality, as their current situation attests, was far worse:

By the end of 2009 (and the show’s fifth season), their lives seemed insane. Instead of riding bikes, Spencer was holding guns. Heidi’s plastic surgeries gave her a distorted quality, but she vowed to have more. Spencer grew a thick beard, became obsessed with crystals, and was eventually told to leave the series. There were daily updates on gossip sites about them “living in squalor,” publicly feuding with their families, and attacking The Hills producers (or claiming The Hills producers attacked them). By the time they announced they were (fake) splitting, followed by Spencer threatening to release various sex tapes, and Heidi (fake) filing for divorce, it seemed like they had ventured into, at best,Joaquin Phoenix-like, life-as-performance-art notoriety and, at worst, truly bleakStar 80 territory that could end with one or both of them dead.

Avatar_57x57

Birth of an MTV Nation

An oral history.

Tom Freston: We knew we needed a real signature piece that would look different from everything else on TV. We also knew that we had no money. So we went to NASA and got the man-on-the-moon footage, which is public domain. We put our logo on the flag and some music under it. We thought that was sort of a rock ’n’ roll attitude: “Let’s take man’s greatest moment technologically, and rip it off.”

Avatar_57x57

Hack Work

On Rupert Murdoch and the tabloid culture he created in the U.K.

Avatar_57x57

The Pirate

A profile of Rupert Murdoch from 1995, as he fought monopoly charges in the U.S. and U.K. and prepared to expand his empire into China.

Murdoch is a pirate; he will cunningly circumvent rules, and sometimes principles, to get his way, as his recent adventures in China demonstrate.

Avatar_57x57

The Raging Septuagenarian

A profile of Rupert Murdoch, written before his empire began to crumble.

Avatar_57x57

Weekend At Kermie's: The Muppets' Strange Life After Death

To this day, no one (outside of the movie's own crew) knows how the Muppets rode bicycles in The Great Muppet Caper, the classic Henson movie from 1981. In that scene, Kermit stands up on one frog-leg on the seat of his bicycle to impress Miss Piggy, and then the whole gang joins them on their bikes, doing circles and figure eights, singing “Couldn’t We Ride?” It's a wonderful piece of filmmaking, and still a complete delight to watch because the effect relied on the ingenuity and bravado of the puppeteers and crew, not CGI wizardry. Contrast the joy and ebullience of this scene to the elegant chiaroscuro slickness of the post-Henson Muppet Christmas Carol in which we see old fogies Statler and Waldorf, as the Marley brothers, floating in mid air. No viewer is impressed; no one really thinks about it at all. And that's because when a then 29-year-old Brian Henson directed that film, he threw the rules out the window. Statler and Waldorf “float” because Goelz and Nelson, the men working the old guys, were standing behind them during filming and then were removed in post production. It’s an elegant fix—a cutting of the Gordian knot—but it is a complete break with an aesthetic 35 years in the making.
Avatar_57x57

Did Nancy Grace, TV Crimebuster, Muddy Her Myth?

Because of what happened in Georgia, Ms. Grace has said over and over, she knows firsthand how the system favors hardened criminals over victims. It is the foundation of her judicial philosophy, her motivation in life, her casus belli. And much of it isn’t true.
Avatar_57x57

Magicland

On the oeuvre of Glenn Beck:

"The undisputed high point of Beck’s tenure in Baltimore was an elaborate prank built around a nonexistent theme park. The idea was to run a promotional campaign for the fictional grand opening of the world’s first air-conditioned underground amusement park, called Magicland. According to Beck and Gray, it was being completed just outside Baltimore. During the build-up, the two created an intricate and convincing radio world of theme-park jingles and promotions, which were rolled out in a slow buildup to the nonexistent park’s grand opening… On the day Magicland was supposed to throw open its air-conditioned doors, Beck and Gray took calls from enraged listeners who tried to find the park and failed. Among the disappointed and enraged was a woman who had canceled a no-refund cruise to attend the event." — from Alexander Zaitchik’s Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance

Avatar_57x57

The Celebrity Rehab of Dr. Drew

Dr. Drew has turned addiction television into a mini-empire, offering treatment and cameras to celebrities who have fallen far enough to take the bait.  His motivations, he insists, are pure:

Whether the doctor purposefully cultivates his celebrity stature for noble means or wittingly invites it because he himself likes being in the spotlight, he is operating on the assumption that his empathetic brand of TV will breed empathy instead of the more likely outcome, that it will just breed more TV.

Avatar_57x57

Simpson Family Values

An oral history of The Simpsons.

Avatar_57x57

America's Favorite Talking Head

On the relationship between Keith Olbermann and the camera.

Avatar_57x57

Inside Al Jazeera

The year of the revolution, from behind the camera.

Avatar_57x57

The Elephant in the Green Room

The circus Roger Ailes created at Fox News made his network $900 million last year. But it may have lost him something more important: the next election.

Avatar_57x57

And I Should Know

“Winning” in Hollywood means not just power, money, and complimentary smoked-salmon pizza, but also that everyone around you fails just as you are peaking.
Avatar_57x57

One-Man Show

Louis C.K. has a deal unlike anyone else’s on TV: his network, FX, has no approval rights and offers no notes. He is also the show’s lone writer, editor, director, and star. A profile.

Avatar_57x57

The Mourning Anchor

On the talent, ego, and late father of Bryant Gumbel.

Avatar_57x57

The News Merchant

A profile of Larry Garrison, the man who “gets paid to bring tabloid stories to TV news programs.”

Avatar_57x57

First Banana

A profile of Steve Carell, whose last appearance as Michael Scott in The Office airs tonight.

Avatar_57x57

The Straight Dope

An interview with David Simon, creator of The Wire.

Avatar_57x57

Interview: Norm MacDonald

It’s like when they fucking show—I know nothing about plays and shit, but sometimes they’ll show a play on TV, and it’s fucking shit, because you’re like, “What the fuck, am I supposed to think that’s a moon?” Like it’s a cardboard moon or some shit.
Avatar_57x57

A Simple Medium

On Chuck Lorre, creator of the #1 (Two and a Half Men) and #2 comedy on American television, former cruise ship guitarist, composer of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song, and recently antagonist of Charlie Sheen.

Avatar_57x57

The Misfit

On David Milch; Yale fraternity brother of George W. Bush, literature professor, longtime junkie, creator of NYPD Blue, Deadwood (which was in production when this profile was written), and the forthcoming racetrack-set HBO series Luck.

Avatar_57x57

Tween on the Screen

How Dennis from Head of the Class grew up to be the Aaron Sorkin of tween television.

Avatar_57x57

Anchor Woman

A profile of a pre-30 Rock Tina Fey.

Avatar_57x57

Hitting Bottom

Is Dr. Drew’s “Celebrity Rehab” therapy or tabloid voyeurism?

Avatar_57x57

Latter-Day Saints

On Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and their new Broadway musical about Mormons, which “may just be their highest artistic achievement yet.”

Avatar_57x57

Interview: David Wain

The comedian and veteran of MTV’s The State on a peculiar brand of stardom. “Often people would be like, I’m such a big fan of your work. I think you’re amazing. I want to have a career like yours. And I’m like, great, can you buy me a slice of pizza?”

Avatar_57x57

Comedy Isn't Funny

SNL in its grim twentieth season through the lens of first (and only) year cast-member Janeane Garofalo.

Avatar_57x57

Conan 2.0

When Conan O’Brien left NBC, he agreed to stay off TV for months and stay quiet about the network and its executives. The agreement contained no mention of social media, however. On the origins of a digital renaissance.

Avatar_57x57

Why Does Roger Ailes Hate America?

A profile of Roger Ailes, CEO of Fox News.

Avatar_57x57

The Goat Boy Rises

On the late comedian Bill Hicks, just as a performance on Letterman is deemed unfit for network TV.

Avatar_57x57

Wake Up, Geek Culture, Time To Die

On how 21st century culture shifts killed the nerd and what lies ahead.

Avatar_57x57

Interview: Bob Rafelson

An interview with mind behind both Five Easy Pieces and The Monkees.

Avatar_57x57

13 Ways of Looking at Liz Lemon

Thoughts on an emerging brand of feminism and the ridiculousness of claiming that Tina Fey is unattractive.

Avatar_57x57

Angry Middle-Aged Man

A profile of Larry David, with a focus on his years as a struggling stand-up. “I was hoping that somehow I could get some kind of cult following and get by with that.”

Avatar_57x57

What Killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones?

In Detroit, the aftermath of a reality-TV SWAT raid that killed a sleeping seven-year-old.

Avatar_57x57

Bravo L’Artiste

A review of several books on Rupert Murdoch first criticizes the authors for not grasping the many sides of their subject, then offers a thesis of its own. He’s “not so much a man, or a cultural force, as a portrait of the modern world.”

Avatar_57x57

The Early Woody Allen 1952-1971

The young Woody Allen writes jokes for supper club comedians, decides he will never make it as a performer and then does, idolizes and is snubbed by Mort Sahl, and develops the comic persona which will make him a star.

Avatar_57x57

The Unsocial Network

Behind the scenes of Conan vs. Leno. An excerpt from The War for Late Night.

Avatar_57x57

Studio Kabul

On the set of Afghanistan’s first soap opera and at home with its cast.

Avatar_57x57

Violence, Nudity, Adult Content

As CEO of HBO, Chris Albrecht was responsible for putting The Wire, The Sopranos, and Sex and the City on the air. Then he choked his girlfriend outside a Vegas casino, got fired, and took a job running Starz.

Avatar_57x57

Ray Gosling: “I Just Said It”

Why did a veteran BBC on-air personality confess on camera to a mercy killing he did not commit?

Avatar_57x57

Bring It On Home

Behind the scenes with Kenny Powers, on set filming the 2nd run of Eastbound & Down, probably the only American TV series that would set an entire season in Mexico.

Avatar_57x57

Monday Night Football’s Hail Mary

Ten years ago, a pair of legendary TV executives decided it was time to change the formula for football broadcasting. One bet on Dennis Miller. The other bankrolled Vince McMahon and the XFL.

Avatar_57x57

America Is a Joke

A profile of Jon Stewart, who’s now run The Daily Show for more than a decade.

Avatar_57x57

David Gergen, Master of the Game

A profile of the man who helped invent the modern art of presidential spin and came to embody the blurry line between journalist and government official.

Avatar_57x57

Islam’s Answer to MTV

A new Egyptian TV channel called 4Shbab—“for youth” in Arabic—aims to get young people interested in Islam through music videos and reality shows.

Avatar_57x57

The Comedian’s Comedian’s Comedian

A profile of Garry Shandling.

Avatar_57x57

I Was with Coco

A writer for Conan O’Brien on how The Tonight Show really ended and on how his boss got screwed.

Avatar_57x57

The Networker

Saad Mohseni, Afghanistan’s first media mogul and a business partner of Rupert Murdoch, produces everything from nightly news broadcasts to the controversial Afghan version of American Idol.

Avatar_57x57

The Hit Parade

Clay Shirky, writing in 1999 on the Web eclipsing TV’s reach: “We will always have massive media, but the days of mass media are over, killed by the explosion of possibility and torn into a thousand niches.”

Avatar_57x57

Prodigal Son

Is Mike Huckabee the GOP’s best hope in 2012? Mike Huckabee’s not so sure.

Avatar_57x57

Hot Air

Why don’t TV weathermen believe in climate change?

Avatar_57x57

Candidate With A Diff’rence

In 2003, Gary Coleman ran for governor of California. But what he really wanted was to have never come to Hollywood in the first place.

Avatar_57x57

Death on the CNN Curve

The nation watched live as Robert O’Donnell rescued Baby Jessica from that well in Texas in October, 1987. Then they stopped watching, and Robert O’Donnell was lost without the attention.

Avatar_57x57

Not TV

How HBO went from sitcoms starring Delta Burke and O.J. Simpson to The Wire. The view from a former HBO employee who witnessed the channel’s rise to prominence firsthand.

Avatar_57x57

Tonight on Dateline This Man Will Die

Bill Conradt, a well-known prosecutor, never showed up at the house in Murphy, Texas, where police and a crew from NBC’s To Catch a Predator were waiting. So they, along with a SWAT team, went to Conradt.

Avatar_57x57

The Most Hated Name in News

Al-Jazeera English dominated the international coverage of the 2008-2009 Gaza war. And now it’s poised to invade North America.

Avatar_57x57

Obsessed With As The World Turns

“As a middle-aged queer, I could not break cover. And, as a middle-aged black man, I was embarrassed that these white boys from this melodrama mattered to me anyway.”

Avatar_57x57

¿Qué Pasa, Lou?

According to Lou Dobbs, we’re wrong about his stance on illegal immigrants, wrong about why he quit CNN, and wrong about his presidential aspirations. Well, we might actually be right about that last thing.

Avatar_57x57

Glenn Beck, Inc.

“I could give a flying crap about the political process,” Beck says. Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously. And he’s very good at it: Beck pulled in $32 million in the last year.

Avatar_57x57

After the Flood

A review of Treme, the new HBO show about post-Katrina New Orleans from David Simon, creator of The Wire. “The series virtually prohibits you from loving it,” Franklin writes, “while asking you to value it.”