Deadshirt Is Watching… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: Major Lazer, Mad Men, and Last Week Tonight!
Cameron DeOrdio is watching…
Last Week Tonight
Season 2, Episode 11
Sundays at 11 p.m. on HBO
In this week’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver continued to make his case for a comedy news show that is wholly different from The Daily Show’s recaps and The Colbert Report’s punditry. Oliver is, perhaps more now than in his first season, establishing Last Week Tonight’s position as a comedy news magazine, which has arguably been the aim from the start, given its Sunday night time slot. Three weeks after airing an interview with Edward Snowden that put issues of privacy and liberty in terms Oliver hoped Americans would understand—the safety and sanctity of the nation’s dick pics—Oliver spent a majority of this week’s episode taking on another thorny political issue: sweatshops.
Noting it’s an issue “from the nineties we all wished would go away, like Donny Wahlberg,” Oliver tackles exploitative labor practices in the fashion world with his trademark feigned disbelief and willingness to take scenarios to their logical conclusion with, shall we say, imaginative visual aid (but more on that in the Episode Highlight). While it’s not quite investigative journalism—though the show does sometimes dip its toes in those waters—it is a level of reporting beyond what you may expect from a stand-up behind a desk.
While sweatshops were this week’s “cover story,” Oliver also does a fantastic job pointing out the absurdity of politicians’ steadfast refusal to use the word “genocide” to describe the racially motivated slaughter of Armenians in Turkey in 1915. Other shows may have stopped at noting that in 2007, Sen. Barack Obama spoke strongly against the genocide, while every year since his promotion, President Barack Obama has released the same carefully worded statement directing readers to his past position on the matter in an attempt to avoid angering an allied state. It’s that extra level of research—and the extra level of absurdity it contributes—that sets Last Week Tonight apart from other comedy news programs. (That is not, of course, to say that the painstaking searching for and editing of video clips Jon Stewart’s team goes through isn’t crazy-intensive.) That difference further lends to the sense that Oliver’s topics are more evergreen, more magazine-y than Stewart’s. This show’s niche is brand new, as far as I know, and I’m excited to see it continue to develop.
Episode Highlight: Oliver’s comparison of fast fashion’s complete lack of supply chain oversight to food: “I told someone who may have told someone else to get the most food they could for the cheapest price. And they did that. Now, I do have strict policies in place. I told them not to spit on that food or to rub their balls on that food, and I’ve trusted them to abide by that. So I want you to look at the suspiciously cheap food that lands on your desk tomorrow, and I want you to fucking eat it. And if you’re thinking, ‘Well I can’t do that; I don’t know where it came from. What if someone rubbed their balls on it?’ Then I don’t know what to tell you.” This segued into a fashion show pairing models in fast fashion with “frighteningly cheap” food platters intended for fast fashion CEOs to eat.
Tyler Austin is Watching…
Season 7, Episode 11: “Time and Life”
Sundays at 10 on AMC
Mad Men is coming to a close. Like spying the last sip at the bottom of the whiskey bottle, we can see the end of the game nearing. Tonight’s episode started much like the others of these final seven: Don’s still using patio furniture in his living room, Joan’s still seeing wealthy property developer so-and-so Richard (the suave-as-all-hell Bruce Greenwood), and Pete’s still being generally abrasive and anxious in every direction. The status quo, more or less.
The show spent the past few episodes establishing the new normal of the agency under the thumb of vindictive uber-agency overlords McCann Erickson, and things felt good, too. Sure, Don is crumbling on the inside, unable to grasp any kind of lasting happiness in his personal life, but that’s old news. But Don losing control of his own professional career? This is borderline unprecedented. He’s flown close to the sun before with his wings crafted of charming gravitas, but he’s always ultimately held his own.
Roger opens one seemingly innocuous letter that should have resulted in one innocuous firing, and suddenly the whole agency is officially disappeared in a puff of smoke. McCann Erickson has cancelled their lease and will officially be absorbing the agency. No more Time and Life building, no more independence, and no more Sterling Cooper & Partners. However, the bulk of this episode had the partners of SC&P scrambling to capture that dissipating smoke. As futile and impossible as that task seems they really had me believing they might do it. Eighteen million is a lot of money to simply throw out the window; McCann must be able to see the reason in that.
Don gets himself wound up to make his company saving pitch, but is shut down before he can even turn his first poster board. He and the partners have the news broken to them. They’ve all “died and gone to advertising heaven.” Big name brands are danced in front of their eyes, and that’s all she wrote. But, hey, they went down fighting.
Don, a man who couldn’t even fathom his own future a couple episodes ago, has now had his path laid in front of him for at least the next four years. I doubt that sits well for long.
Episode Highlight: Over in creative, Peggy finally confronted something terrible of her own: the past. Admitting, if only to Stan, that she had a child who she’d given up for adoption and never met was a huge step. And in her own Peggy-way, it was actually kind of nice. She truly has followed Don’s lead in so many ways and, she’s now surpassing him in nearly every way. (This includes dealing with life-stunning emotional baggage even sooner. Yay for Peggy!)
Follow Tyler at @TyLAustin!
Adam Pelta-Pauls is watching…
Major Lazer [Animation Domination]
Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2: “Bad Seed,” “Escape from Rave Island”
Thursdays at Midnight on FXX
I have to admit, I have a certain soft spot for “stonervision” TV shows, especially cartoons. I’m an Aqua Teen fan, an avid Metalocalypse, Rick & Morty, and China, IL viewer, and I await the next season of The Venture Brothers with bated breath. So when I heard they’d made a cartoon, in the now-ubiquitous 15-minute format, out of Diplo’s Jamaican dancehall hero, I jumped right on board.
Here’s the issue: the late night cartoon landscape is so thoroughly dominated by Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block that it’s hard to break into the scene these days. That 10pm-4am time slot was monopolized by Williams Street shows for years, until other networks finally figured out how much money they were making on it. Now the market is so flush with new and constantly-changing animated material that sifting through it can be like trying to pick a favorite K-pop artist.
What initially drew me to Major Lazer were the artists who’d signed on to the project. The show features Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in the title role, as well as John Boyega (the first face of New Star Wars) and J.K. Simmons (once Jonah Jameson) as recurring characters, along with the promise of guest appearances by such names as Andy Samberg and Charli XCX.
The first episode, “Bad Seed,” features neither Simmons nor Boyega, but it does include a huge chunk of new, original music. Indeed, the episode is more of a twelve-minute operetta about marijuana than anything else. And that music? It’s BUMPIN’. Trinidad James makes a guest appearance as the spirit of the laced weed, and it’s his vocals that take Penny (Angela Trimbur) down the rabbit hole of her bad trip, while the show’s eighties retro visuals do some pretty impressive (and hilarious) work. Unfortunately, the jamming soundtrack does not make up for the show’s general lack of a heart. It’s a fact that’s felt a little more acutely in the second episode, where there’s no new music to cover the plot holes. Boyega’s token hacker character, Blkmrkt, makes an appearance, and there are a handful of topical jokes about contemporary party culture scattered throughout, but the story was mostly nonsensical, and spun its wheels till the time ran out, really.
For Major Lazer to stand out from the crowd, it needs to add some substance to its dialogue. Yes, most stonervision shows have plot lines that are nonsense, but I prefer my nonsense to at least have a direction. The Venture Brothers, for example, could have been nothing more than a vaguely Johnny Quest-themed ultraviolence showcase, but it’s become one of the most engrossing cartoons on television because it decided to put its creativity to work. Yes, Major Lazer’s animation makes it look like a bootlegged Jamaican G.I. Joe ripoff, and yes, that’s funny on its own, but that’s one joke, and the show doesn’t do anything with it. If FXX wants Major Lazer to compete with the big dogs at Adult Swim, the Major’s really gonna have to step up his game.
Episode Highlight: The visuals that this show employs are some of the most original visual comedy I’ve seen in a cartoon in a while. Highlights include a narrated text conversation with emojis and a cruise liner made out of mutated ravers.