Emily Nussbaum: I Like To Watch w/ Willa Paskin
Where: Books Are Magic
225 Smith St.
718-246-2665 Price: Free
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From her creation of the “Approval Matrix” in New York magazine in 2004 to her Pulitzer Prize-winning columns for The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum has argued for a new way of looking at TV. In this collection, including two never-before-published essays, Nussbaum writes about her passion for television, beginning with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show that set her on a fresh intellectual path. She explores the rise of the female screw-up, how fans warp the shows they love, the messy power of sexual violence on TV, and the year that jokes helped elect a reality-television president. There are three big profiles of television showrunners—Kenya Barris, Jenji Kohan, and Ryan Murphy—as well as examinations of the legacies of Norman Lear and Joan Rivers. The book also includes a major new essay written during the year of #MeToo, wrestling with the question of what to do when the artist you love is a monster.
More than a collection of reviews, the book makes a case for toppling the status anxiety that has long haunted the “idiot box,” even as it transformed. Through it all, Nussbaum recounts her fervent search, over fifteen years, for a new kind of criticism, one that resists the false hierarchy that elevates one kind of culture (violent, dramatic, gritty) over another (joyful, funny, stylized). I Like to Watch traces her own struggle to punch through stifling notions of “prestige television,” searching for a more expansive, more embracing vision of artistic ambition—one that acknowledges many types of beauty and complexity and opens to more varied voices. It’s a book that celebrates television as television, even as each year warps the definition of just what that might mean.
Emily Nussbaum has written for The New Yorker since 2011. She is the winner of the 2014 ASME for Columns and Commentary and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Previously, she was the TV critic and editor of the The Culture Pages for New York magazine, where she created the “Approval Matrix,” the playful culture charticle that to this day closes out each issue of New York. Nussbaum has previously written for The New York Times, Slate, and Lingua Franca. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Clive Thompson and their two children.
Willa Paskin is the TV critic at Slate and the host of the podcast Decoder Ring. She also likes Buffy (but mostly the parts with Angel).
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