Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.
Fresh Off the Boat
If you’re only looking at new shows, fall 2015 television is looking pretty grim. But that would mean ignoring all of last year’s newcomers, now entering their second seasons more confident than ever. There’s Empire, there’s black-ish, and finally, there’s Fresh Off the Boat. Eddie Huang may no longer be the show’s narrator, but otherwise, the show’s sophomore outing feels like a heightened version of itself, demonstrating Nahnatchka Khan’s mastery of the dynamic between each of her characters—but especially Louis and Jessica Huang, who Randall Park and Constance Wu have crafted into the comic, and emotional, anchors of the show. Also, seeing the kid from True Detective back in comedy mode is hilarious, albeit unintentionally so. — Alison Herman, Associate Editor
Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah’s New Gigs
This week I’ve started belatedly watching The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as well as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. I wouldn’t say that either are exactly smooth as polished glass yet, but that’s what makes them fun to watch. There’s an element of risk and a freshness to watching both hosts get acquainted with their new gigs that’s renewed my waning interest in late-night talk TV. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large
I Lost it at the Video Store by Tom Roston / The Gag Man by Matthew Dessem
Okay, let’s get this disclosure right out of the way: both of these books are published by The Critical Press, which is publishing my own new book in November. So disregard if you want to, but know that part of the reason I pitched a book to them was because I visited their website, saw books like this on their slate, and said, “Oh, yes, I wanna be a part of that.” I Lost it at the Video Store is subtitled “a filmmakers’ oral history of a vanished era,” and it tells the story of how the introduction of the video store—offering immediate access to old movies, a fact of life today but a revolution circa 1980—not only changed how movies were digested, but how they were made. The anecdotes and analysis offered up by Roston’s all-star cast (including Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Joe Swanberg, Nicole Holofcener, and Alex Ross Perry) are informative—I, for one, was unaware of how the business models afforded by video sales basically funded the ‘90s indie movement—and it’s a hell of a good resource (I’ve already used it in two pieces). But it’s also just a fun read, for movie buffs who remember that era, or our younger counterparts who can’t imagine what all the fuss is about.
Dessem’s The Gag Man takes a much smaller focus, looking not an era but at a single person—and not a terribly well known one, either. But Clyde Bruckman was something of a Zelig figure in classic comedy, writing and occasionally directing for such legends as Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, and the Three Stooges. Bruckman was a talented, complicated, and troubled guy, and in his own subtle way, Dessem makes this not just one man’s story, but that of an entire industry that’s never quite taken proper care of those who built it. The stories are entertaining and the research is astonishing (Dessem is a good old-fashioned library deep-diver, and he unearths some fascinating tidbits), but it’s also a marvelously human story, and its heart-wrenching conclusion frankly clobbered me. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor
This fall’s new TV slate has been very disappointing so far, but things are looking up now that more and more of last year’s hits are coming back. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the show that figured out how to blend sitcom and procedural tropes, returned Sunday night. Contrary to what the Andy Samberg-centric ads suggest, Nine-Nine is one of the best ensemble comedies coming out of network TV. With the premiere successfully landing last season’s cliffhanger finale without missing a beat —Fox spoiled the surprise in the promos, but it’s still great— the show is poised to bring in more laughs. The 99 should become a regular part of your TV diet, if it isn’t already. — Michael Epstein, Editorial Apprentice
Lately, each week seems to bring a new Britpop anniversary or reunion. So it’s been on my mind, and recently I’ve been revisiting Elastica — not just the killer singles (“Connection,” “Stutter”) or even their whole self-titled 1995 debut, but also their long-delayed second and final album, The Menace. For the most part, their songs are the kind of defiantly cocksure dance-party rock that we still don’t hear enough of, especially from female-fronted bands. There’s even a surprisingly enjoyable cover of Trio’s “Da Da Da,” which goes to show you that Justine Frischmann really could pull off anything. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief
As Alison Herman pointed out in her review, Difficult People could potentially alienate people who don’t find rattling off pop cultural factoids to be a fulfilling sport. It is, indeed, bait for the exact people who’ll be reviewing it — but it’s bait I’ll so gladly take. Both the enlistment of awesome guest stars (Kate McKinnon as a magician who blends her act with a sobriety pep talk! Debbie Harry as a random coke dealer!) and Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner’s uniquely bombastic chemistry ensure that the “best friends v. the world” sitcom structure doesn’t go stale here. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor