Let me just start by saying that I actually hate romance, and I don't discriminate. I hate romance film, romance books, and romance television shows: the tacky plot, the cringe writing, the insufferable characters. But, to be transparent, I watch every single teeny-bopper love triangle show on the market.

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Photo by David Balev-Unsplash

Everything in life is funny.

Remember that the next time you feel creeping alarm about climate change, impeachment proceedings, or Brexit. As George Carlin once said, "There's a humorous side to every situation. The challenge is to find it." But in the age of Twitter and op-eds about bad dates with comedians, it's hard to keep track of what's funny and what's cringey. In the last decade, we've been treated to all variations. From critics lamenting that Hannah Gadsby's emotional comedy isn't "real" stand-up to Dave Chappelle returning to say exactly what's on his mind regardless of the political climate, our cultural understanding of what constitutes comedy is currently in flux.

Is Mike Birbiglia's vulnerability funny? Is Bo Burnham's peppy musical satire funny? We're saying yes. Why? On the enduring power of comedy, American humorist Mark Twain once said, "Humor must not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever"–which is lovely, but Richard Pryor frankly put it better when he said, "Two things people throughout history have had in common are hatred and humor. I am proud that I have been able to use humor to lesson people's hatred."

That is to say: Some comedic talents have shone undeniable light upon our existential dread, and for that we're thankful.

Hannah Gadsby, "Nanette"


Can We Please Stop Casting Bland White Guys as Lead Characters?

Netflix's "Daybreak" features its blandest character

Netflix's new series, Daybreak, sells itself as a post-apocalyptic teenage Rashomon (the Japanese classic told in divergent perspectives), with a sequence of characters in the trailer each claiming to be the real protagonist.

At its best, the show does capture some of this appeal. It almost makes up for the lack of believable dialogue, compelling world-building, or competent portrayal of youth culture by having a diverse array of vibrant characters—like Wesley Fist, the gay black samurai whose story is narrated by Wu Tang's RZA. But ultimately, the claim that these characters have equal weight is undermined by the show's insistent focus on Colin Ford as "just Josh."

He's the bland white guy at the center of the story, because that's something Netflix thinks we need. Prior to the apocalypse, he was just a C-student, a recent transfer from Toronto who claimed to only like food from The Cheesecake Factory. He's continually mistaken for "tennis Josh, little Josh with the big truck, gay Josh, and other gay Josh," to which his friends respond that he's "just Josh." His love interest, Sam Dean (a deliberate nod to Colin Ford's stint on Supernatural?) describes him as "terrifically uncomplicated."

After the bombs drop and all the adults are wiped out, Josh's wilderness skills make him a hot commodity, but it all just reads as an excuse to cast the blandest possible white guy and force all the more interesting characters into orbit around him.

As a bland white boy myself, can we please just stop?

There's no need to plaster on a confused approximation of wokeness (no, Daybreak, you can't say "Todd Altman self-identifies his gender as a seahorse" in a hip, accepting way…) and qualify your main character's bland whiteness by saying "but he's supposed to be boring!" What you can do is skip all that by ditching the bland white guy character in the first place.

While Sam Dean—a blonde, sex-positive Pollyanna with an English accent and a heavy dose of damsel in distress—is a shade more interesting than "just Josh," they could both be removed from the show without losing much value. But nope. Daybreak makes them the center of the whole world.

I mean, there's a turf war for control of hellscape-LA, with cliquish tribes—a la The Warriors—all vying for power. That's pretty fun. And, oh boy! There are even a handful of novel, dynamic characters who are engaging enough to warrant a focus in that unfolding war. Yay! But no. The show insists that Josh's quest to rescue Sam is the really important story.

Why? Josh just sucks. He feels bad that, pre-apocalypse, he called Sam a sl*t, and he wants to save her so he can win her back. Why should we root for that? He called her a sl*t because she's too cool for him—and she's barely cool. He's the blandest flavor of cottage cheese in a toxic-masculine shell. Even if Colin Ford delivered a stellar performance, it's hard to see how this sh*tty character would be salvageable, let alone worthy of the central role. And Colin Ford is faaaar from stellar...

So, Netflix. Do better. You seem to have the freedom to green-light whatever you want, so why keep centering your stories on the same lame characters? Why is a WASPy half-nerd white guy still the default? Speaking on behalf of us all, even we're bored of us by now.

Photo by Sq Lim (Unsplash)

We are not worthy of dogs.

They're loving, funny, loyal, and perfectly compatible with our desire to document and post everything on the Internet. In fact, one might argue that the Internet's surplus of dog and cat videos is one of the best things about living in our technologically overloaded 21st century. Their excesses of fluff and wide-eyed, unconditional love are salves for all our human faults.

In honor of #InternationalDogDay, here are seven of the best dog videos of all time.

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The Office

Netflix comedy-bingers are being forced to diversify their comedy diets.

Despite the streaming platform's multi-million dollar deal to keep Friends, Netflix couldn't pull the same strings for the NBC classic The Office. Many fans took to Twitter to vent their dismay, while others praised the Lord, because maybe now people will stop basing their entire personalities on the show.

It's true; there are worthwhile shows other than The Office to fill the void of your empty, meaningless soul. Branch out and explore comedies old and the new! Find new friends through a fictional program! And finally, learn to let go when your imaginary friends outgrow you.

Mike Schur's Staples:

If you're truly an Office fan, then you will have checked out Mike Schur's other ingenious comedy projects. If not, then you're a fraud.

Parks and Recreation

This show is the obvious and safest choice to fill the The Office void in your life. With Parks and Rec, you won't miss the spectacular mockumentary format and the odd but lovable relationships that blossom in the workplace environment. Even better, the show is also set in the Middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. just like The Office!

Parks and Recreation: Chris Pratt Explains The Series In 30 Seconds | Entertainment Weeklywww.youtube.com

Runtime: 125 episodes of approximately 22 minutes.

The Good Place

Mike Schur debuted without his writing partner, Greg Daniels, as the only showrunner for The Good Place. The original sitcom king, Ted Danson, flourishes as the "architect" of the version of heaven Ellen Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) is accidentally placed in. Just when the show gets good, it gets better in ways one would never expect. Enjoy!

Runtime: 39 episodes of approximately 22 minutes. More episodes are coming.

An Oldie, But A Goodie:


Kids these days don't know about the Holy Grail of TV comedy. Ted Danson played the cultural phenomenon Sam Malone, a Red Sox relief pitcher who owned the bar, Cheers! This show practically founded the "will they, won't they" narrative with Sam's iconic on-and-off relationship with Diane (played by Shelley Long), a graduate psychology student turned barmaid. Cheers! became one of the first American sitcoms to explore love and loss while redefining the notion of family— it's simple and epic.

Cheers intro songwww.youtube.com

Runtime: 275 episodes of 30 minutes.

Netflix Originals

You'll never have to worry about Netflix originals disappearing off the platform. Choose one of their many original comedies to enjoy, and then petition after Netflix cancels it.

Grace and Frankie

Imagine, your husband of over 40 years takes you out to dinner with his longtime law partner and his partner's wife. You and the wife are hopeful and confident your husbands are going to announce their retirement. Instead, they tell their wives they are leaving them, for each other.

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin shine as Grace and Frankie, the two wives in their '70s who have no one in their lives who understand their situation except each other. It's an absurd and hilarious effort to showcase the trials of aging women in the modern era, changing family dynamics, and sisterhood.

Grace and Frankie | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflixwww.youtube.com

Runtime: 65 episodes of a variation of 25-35 minutes. More episodes to come.

Big Mouth

You know that American Doll puberty book you read when you were 12? No? Does that only apply to women? Well, try to imagine a puberty book that came to life as an animated show starring John Mulaney and Nick Kroll. Are you intrigued? Are you already invested? I thought so. Also, Maya Rudolph voices the Hormone Monstress—I probably should've started with that.

Big Mouth | official trailer (2017)www.youtube.com

Runtime: 21 episodes of a variation of 25-46 minutes. More episodes to come.

American Vandal

American Vandal took mockumentaries to a whole new level by deep diving into the world of high school investigative journalism. The show kicks off with the trial of Dylan Maxwell, a troubled high school senior, who is accused of vandalizing 27 vehicles with phallic images (dicks). The true crime satire showcases what it's really like to be a teen today, using social media to propel the story forward in a ridiculous fashion. Netflix may have cancelled the show after its second season, but American Vandal has already earned its cult status.

American Vandal | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflixwww.youtube.com

Runtime: 16 episodes of a variation of 25-42 minutes.

If you have a half-baked, tired idea for a movie or TV show of any kind, Netflix would probably be interested in making it and making it fast.

In 2018, the streaming giant released nearly 1500 hours of original content, and at the pace they're going, that number is only going to increase in 2019. Their original content strategy appears to revolve around one simple hierarchy: quantity over quality. With far and away the most options of any streaming platform, Netflix apparently thinks that the way to make a hit show is to make every show. Whatever you're looking to put on and ignore while you cook dinner or try to fall asleep, Netflix has it!

One of Netflix's newest original offerings, Trinkets, is thankfully about something other than superheroes. But that's not to say it isn't trying hard to engage in another one of today's hottest trends: the teen coming-of-age story. Between Big Mouth, PEN15, Eighth Grade, Sex Education, and Booksmart, the hormonal adolescent is having a moment on the big and small screens. Trinkets offers an age-old premise: 16-year-old Elodie (played by Brianna Hildebrand) is forced to move to a new town and a new school after the death of her mother, joining her previously-distant father and his new family in their idyllic American home. And she's, of course, pretty angsty about it all. The show diverges slightly from this familiar set-up when it's quickly revealed that Elodie is gay and a kleptomaniac. The show's action focuses primarily on the unlikely friends Elodie finds in her Shoplifters Anonymous group, two fellow high schoolers named Tabitha (Quintessa Swindell) and Moe (Kiana Madeira).

The idea of kleptomania as a psychological affliction and coping mechanism is relatively fresh territory for a show to explore, and while Tabitha and Moe are, for the most part, exhausting teenage stereotypes of the cool girl and the tough girl, their friendship with Elodie offers several sweet and genuine moments. Additionally, the inclusion of live performances from magnetic singer/songwriter Kat Cunning, who played Sabine, were definite highlights. Unfortunately, the show stumbles over itself at almost every other turn. The shoplifting that brought the girls together soon becomes a peripheral issue, with little of the story centering on it after the first few episodes. Additionally, the audience gets very little psychological exploration of what drives the girls to stealing, more often showing it as a cheeky form of recreation than an affliction. Instead, many of the show's most dramatic moments develop from Tabitha's abusive relationship with an almost laughably archetypal jock/bully named Brady (Brandon Butler).

The exploration of domestic abuse in high school relationships could be a poignant and important choice of subject matter, but Brady is so obviously evil and toxic that the portrayal of his abuse strikes a tired note of irredeemable movie monster. Rarely are abusers as overtly violent and manipulative as Brady is presented to be, and while cases of abuse like the one shown do decidedly exist in the real world, one can't help but think that Trinkets wasted an opportunity to portray the nuances, grey areas, and uncertainties that are so much more often part of toxic relationships.

In fact, Trinkets primarily deals in binaries and cliches throughout its first season. Elodie spins off cliche angsty teenager lines, like "I'm not hungry" and "I don't know. Out," to her well-meaning but largely clueless father. Moe (far and away the strongest actor in the series) is saddled with a tired storyline about a hard-working mother and deadbeat Dad, whose absence, of course, makes it hard for her to get close to anyone. Tabitha's father is present but a philanderer, and her mother is often too vapid to notice her daughter's unhappiness. We've seen it all a thousand times.

As the series rambles on mediocrely enough, there is a brief glimmer of well-crafted plot that almost makes up for the lackluster acting and lazy script writing: The girls, intending to retrieve something of Tabitha's from the glove box, impulsively take Brady's car for a joy ride, ultimately resulting in Elodie experiencing flashbacks to the car accident that killed her mother, causing her to wreck the car. Frantic, the trio push the car into a lake. As the girls are united by their escalating stealing problems, one thinks for a moment that the series could head somewhere interesting and even thrilling. But soon, the car is largely forgotten, only to be brought back in the final episode when Brady works out the laughably obvious string of clues pointing to Tabitha stealing the car. Faced with police intervention, the girls hardly react.

If all this wasn't disappointing enough, as Tabitha finally breaks free from Brady's grasp, she falls almost immediately into the arms of an absurdly handsome bartender from the girl's SA group. Obviously and boringly presented as the "good guy" to Brady's "bad guy," Luca (Henry Zaga) is a one-dimensional character robbed of what could be his most interesting trait: the fact that he is actively pursuing a teenager as a grown man. As a bartender, Luca has to be at least 21, and through the few brief mentions of his past, it's implied that he's not particularly new to adulthood, putting him somewhere in his mid-twenties. We see Tabitha turn 17 in the fourth episode, meaning that, legally speaking, Luca is a predator. But not only is this never a plot point, it's never even mentioned. In fact, age seems to be bizarrely besides the point throughout the series. The girls' frequent a dive bar, drink in public several times, and Elodie's eventual love interest, a chaotic but beautiful singer named Sabine, is quite obviously also a full blown adult. And once again, the age difference is never mentioned. It's as if the creators of Trinkets really wanted to make a show about young adulthood, but in order to pander to the trend of adolescent films and movies, they crammed a story about 20-somethings into the fluorescent halls of a public school, added a few parental conflicts, and shot it into the ether.

To be clear, the infuriating reason to harp so long about what Trinkets wasn't is because it almost lived up to its potential. Everything needed for a moving, poignant teen drama was part of the equation, but the creative team seemed to rush the math, ending up with a sum that just didn't add up. Trinkets' problem doesn't come across as one of talent or concept but of execution, making it feel likely that Netflix's quantity over quality MO is to blame for wasting what could have been an effective and moving look into the psychology of adolescent grief. But the show serves as serviceable background noise, offering familiar themes you can plug your attention in and out of without missing much while you fold laundry and scroll on social media. Maybe it doesn't matter that a clever concept was squandered by cliches and lazy choices—Netflix knows we're only half watching.