Just Survive Somehow ⎯ The Walking Dead S06E02 Review


Beware of undead spoilers!

After five seasons of AMC’s The Walking Dead, it’s easy to feel desensitized to the walkers. While they’re frightening in large numbers, the initial shock of their existence has worn off, despite the ever-increasing gore factor as the undead continue to decompose. In contrast to the in medias res opening of last week’s season premiere, this episode begins with a quieter type of horror sequence as we saw glimpses of Enid’s backstory. The recurring sound of distant thunder, the walkers groaning off-screen, and watching Enid wander silently alone through the world effectively revisit the isolation and dread that made the pilot so gripping.

After we see a traumatized Enid finally reach Alexandria, the opening credits run and we’re back in the present day: most of The Group’s star characters – Rick, Daryl, Michonne, Glenn – are out herding zombies, so the first third of the episode hovers over those remaining at Alexandria. About thirteen minutes in, I started to wonder: where’s the action? After the premiere, which felt essentially like a ninety-minute trailer for the second episode and ended on the blaring-horn cliffhanger, I was expecting to be dropped immediately into zombie-filled chaos this week. Just as I began questioning the episode’s pace, though, we see Shelly cut down by the Wolf with a machete, and the attack on Alexandria begins swiftly.

This is especially not great news for Denise, who has replaced Pete as Alexandria’s doctor. She went to medical school and planned to become a surgeon, but after she started having panic attacks she switched to psychiatry. As she says to Tara and Eugene, “I’m here now, and I only kind of want to throw up.” She jokes about being pretty sure she can’t kill Tara while diagnosing her headache. Obviously, this heightens the dramatic potential when the Wolf attack begins. Surely this will go badly.

Soon enough, Denise, Tara, and Eugene are standing together over an injured woman, Holly, who is dying due to internal bleeding. Denise knows this, but she lacks confidence in her surgery skills and hesitates out of fear. Tara reminds Denise that everyone is there to help each other. “Help her!” she shouts. Eugene steps forward, awkward and emotional, and delivers one of the weightiest lines of the episode: “You don’t want to be a coward. I know.”

It’s a tense and powerful scene. Eugene is now a fan favorite, but no one – least of all Eugene – has forgotten that he became a part of this group by lying in order to save himself and letting others risk (and lose) their own lives for him. When he finally confessed the truth in season five, Tara was one of the first to defend him. Having been given a second chance, Eugene rose above his mistakes, saving Tara after she was injured and knocked unconscious in the warehouse. On that same run, Nicholas’ cowardice got Noah killed, but despite that – and his trying to kill Glenn at the end of season five – our protagonists are cautiously giving him the opportunity to redeem himself, too. As Maggie said in the premiere, Tara was also on the “opposite side of the fence” once, when the Governor attacked the prison and killed Hershel. All of this now informs their short exchange over the dying woman, in which the show forces another character to face the question: how will you choose to respond to your fear? Tara and Eugene are the perfect characters to help Denise in this moment, as they know what it feels like to make the wrong choice.

While the scene in the infirmary is moving and significant for the characters involved, Carol and Morgan are the two characters really showcased in this episode. Many fans and critics spent the summer speculating over a potential ideological face-off between Morgan and Rick. Perhaps that is yet to come, and it was certainly touched upon in the premiere as the two discussed Rick’s executing Pete for being a killer. “I’m a killer, Rick,” Morgan points out. “I am and you are, too.” Yet in this episode, Carol and Morgan’s were the clearly conflicting viewpoints. The contrast of these two is quite interesting, as they seem to stand on two sides of a fine line. Both are skilled fighters and courageously take action whenever necessary, but Carol kills attackers without hesitation while Morgan prefers beating them up to instill fear while letting them live. As characters, they are opposite responses to Enid’s mantra, represented by the recurring “JSS” markings in the beginning: just survive somehow. That is a central question of the show: to what extent are the characters willing to go in the same of survival? Which lines are acceptable to cross, and which are not? Can you be merciful without being weak?

And do Carol and Morgan take their respective approaches too far? Is Carol too quick to kill? Is Morgan too merciful, even in the face of such brutal, senseless killers as the Wolves? Sometimes the show doesn’t allow us the luxury of pondering such questions; certainly, Carol’s grit and willingness to kill without delay has saved The Group before, most notably at Terminus. But Morgan’s character may open up a conversation on the show about what that does to a person, and whether it’s always necessary or worth the cost. Of course, Morgan letting those few Wolves live – and escape with a gun – promises to cause problems in the future. Maybe it will also provide some further exploration of the consequences of Morgan’s no-kill policy. But I have a feeling that next week’s episode will be another walker-palooza. Let’s not forget about the herd now heading straight back toward Alexandria.


  • I loved the scene between Maggie and Deanna outside the walls. Maggie demonstrates strength and kindness as she looks steadily at Deanna, reminds her of what matters, and hands her a shovel. “There’ll be some sore backs and tired feet,” Maggie says. “That’s how you know you’ve put in a hard day’s work.” Ah, it’s like Hershel’s still with us.
  • Wolf attack = time to kill off all the unnecessary Alexandria extras!
  • Hopefully this episode will finally put to rest the “Can we trust Rick’s group?” questions from the Alexandrians. They’re clearly the only ones prepared to respond to such an attack. Well, Aaron can hold his own, but he’s always been one of the few competent (read: least annoying) Alexandrians.
  • Why did Carol have to kill the Wolf who was already subdued and bound by Morgan and Fr. Gabriel? Wouldn’t it be useful to keep one for questioning?
  • “Maybe we can share the church,” Tara suggests to Eugene when he expresses his desire to use it for a lab or game room. Fr. Gabriel’s easy to hate, but I appreciate Tara’s non-partisan defense. We also got a glimpse into potential redemption for Fr. Gabriel in this episode. I hope they do something interesting with his character.

Bad Life Lessons I Learned from “How I Met Your Mother”

[This article contains LOTS of spoilers about the HIMYM season finale.]

A Google search turns up plenty of lists online with titles like “Life Lessons Learned from How I Met Your Mother.” While some talk about how the show taught them to trust that things will work out or to give things they previously didn’t like another try, others are compilations of lines or morals from episodes that honestly sound more like something you’d read on the inside of a Dove chocolate wrapper: “Perfect isn’t always perfect” is one example, or “Things happen for a reason,” or, my personal (least) favorite: “Don’t chase after things that don’t work. Let the universe take over.”

Now that the finale has aired, I thought I’d reflect on some of the bad life lessons the show teaches us. I’ve written before about why I think Ted Mosby is in fact quite the immoral antihero. I’ve also previously argued that the show falsely presents true romantic love as marked by perfection and ease: our soul mates, guided by “the Universe,” come to us ready-made as everything we could ever want, and they are the ultimate source of our happiness and fulfillment in life. Now that the show has come to a close, I’d like to explore and expand on these and some other bad lessons it teaches us about what we should expect from romance and life in general.

I’ve watched every season of HIMYM, and I don’t categorically dislike the show. HIMYM has several pros going for it, such as its unique premise and talented cast. There are also, admittedly, some good messages that can be gleaned from the show: that nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m., for instance, or that marriage can be a good and happy thing (a message that’s rather counter-cultural these days as our society delays or dismisses marriage and often praises hyper-sexuality over monogamy). I actually found this article more difficult to write than I thought it would be because of the good things the show has to offer. If it were all bad, it would be easy to dismiss. It’s deceptive mixture of good and bad makes it, I believe, all the more dangerous, because it is easier to be fooled into believing some of the bad lessons it tries to teach us.

I understand that it’s a sitcom and that much of the humor is intentionally ridiculous (e.g., the cockamouse). But HIMYM chooses to, at times, live in a gray area between comedy and drama, and it has received praised it for its willingness to address darker issues (such as the death of Marshall’s father in Season 6). Because of this, I feel the show gives its audience the freedom to dismiss the not-so-serious stuff as simple comedy but also the right to take the serious stuff, well, seriously. The show treats its defining themes—finding your way in life and finding true love—seriously, so I treat them seriously, too.

(I write this article assuming that most readers are familiar with the show, and I sometimes reference characters or events without giving detailed background information. If you get lost, you’ll find the HIMYM Wiki helpful.)

Like a lot of people, I was pretty shocked when what I had considered to be one of the more outlandish theories about how the show would end turned out to be true: Barney and Robin divorce shortly after their wedding, the Mother (whose name is revealed to be Tracy McConnell) dies of an anonymous illness several years after meeting Ted and bearing his children, and the closing scene of the show is Ted (true to form) returning to Robin. The finale, then, pretty strongly supports one of the more prominent Bad Life Lessons woven throughout the series:

Bad Life Lesson #1: Love is something that happens to us: it is a powerful, uncontrollable, external force that influences us whether we want it to or not, and it is defined by feeling rather than action.

In the first episode of Season 8, “Farhampton,” Klaus (Victoria’s ex-fiancée) tells Ted that he’ll know he’s found his soul mate because the realization of it will hit him instantaneously. You see, it is impossible for a person to become your soul mate over time, and anyone besides “the one” will only ever be, at best, your Almost Soul Mate.

Marshall and Lily have a moment like this, as we learn during their telling of how they met in the Season 3 episode “How I Met Everyone Else.” “It was love at first sight,” they coo in unison.

Ted seems to have a similar moment with Tracy when we finally see them meet on the train platform, but he also has lightning-bolt moments with both Victoria and (most notably post-finale) Robin.

In reality, love is not an external force that influences our lives and our choices. Love is a choice. Love is committing to someone in spite of all of their imperfections and shortcomings (as well as your own). Love is choosing to be faithful to someone for a lifetime, no matter what happens. Sometimes being loving means going through the motions of love, even when you don’t feel giddy or carefree, even when things aren’t easy. There’s a line from one of my favorite films, Paris, je t’aime, that speaks to this: upon learning that his wife has terminal cancer, one of the characters abandons his plan to run off with his mistress and decides that he must support his wife in her final months. “By acting like a man in love,” the narrator says, “he became a man in love again.”

Love is not a force that exerts power over us; love is something we choose to do, and that’s what makes it powerful. It is the choice to love and commit to someone that gives the relationship value. My husband, as he does so many things, once put it best: “I know you’re the person I’m meant to be with because you’re the person I decided to be with.”

While Marshall and Lily’s relationship gets lots of praise from critics, it still relies upon the belief in love at first sight and discovering soul mate status in an instant. I actually came to see a lot of merit in Barney and Robin’s relationship, especially compared to Ted’s quest for a soul mate. In Barney and Robin, the show portrays two people who like each other, have a lot in common, and navigate the transition from friendship to romance. It’s clear from Season 1 that they’re a good match (I re-watched the first time they played laser tag together, and it’s still very endearing). Their love is not defined by a lightning-bolt moment of realization; rather, they get to know each other, discern feelings, and eventually get married. Barney’s character growth is the most distinctive over the course of the show, and because of this I came to find him more admirable than Ted (who is just as selfish and promiscuous throughout the show as Barney ever was). Barney realizes that he needs to change something about himself in order to pursue a meaningful relationship with Robin, and he makes a visible effort to do so.

However, the finale reveals that the writers’ intended endgame was for Ted to be with Robin. Ted never fully let go of his feelings for Robin (no matter how many times he—or the audience—thought he did), a fact that his children immediately discern. After finally getting to the moment in his story when he meets Tracy, we return to the year 2030. Ted’s daughter Penny tells him, “I don’t buy it. That is not the reason you made us listen to this…You made us sit down and listen to the story about how you met Mom. Yet Mom’s hardly in the story. No. This is a story about how you’re totally in love with Aunt Robin.” I appreciate that the writers included this because it’s actually quite self-aware on their part. A problem I’ve had with the show for a while is that Tracy is hardly present in a story that’s supposed to be about her, and Ted spends much more time recounting to his children his complicated romantic history with Robin, a woman who is definitively not their mother, as established by the pilot episode. I’m glad that the show finally addressed this, but I’m still disappointed with the ending. Ted’s children ultimately prompt him to return to Robin, who is still single after her divorce, and act on the feelings he clearly still has for her.

The fact that Ted returns to Robin in the end places emphasis back on their relationship, implying that the lightning-bolt moment when he sees her across the bar at the beginning of the series is the onset of true love. In “The End of the Aisle,” Ted tries to calm Robin down before her wedding to Barney as she is having second thoughts, saying that her relationship with Barney doesn’t make sense. In retrospect, Ted’s speech to her seems to apply more to him: “But love doesn’t make sense! You can’t logic your way into or out of it; love is totally nonsensical. But we have to keep doing it, or else we’re lost and love is dead and humanity should just pack it in. Because love is the best thing we do. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s just true. You love Barney. And he loves you. And that doesn’t have to make sense to make sense.” Ted and Robin don’t make sense in a couple of key ways: they want different things out of life, and she rejected him several times throughout the series.

If love is a force we can’t control that prompts us to pursue a relationship even if it doesn’t “make sense,” this explains why Ted has never been able to fully shake his feelings for Robin, to the point that even when he sits down to tell his kids a story about their mother he ends up unintentionally talking mostly about Robin instead. The final scene of the show depicts Ted standing outside Robin’s apartment, holding a blue French horn, (presumably) the same one he stole from a restaurant to impress her on their first date twenty-five years earlier. This makes it seem like even Ted’s relationship with the mother of his children is, like his relationship with Victoria and all the other women he’s loved along the way, just another denial of his deeper, irrevocable love for Robin, and the Universe (that is, the writers) had to kill Tracy just to get her out of the way of Ted’s greater destiny.

This ending negates any growth or maturation Ted undergoes up until this point in order to let go of Robin, the woman who represents everything he thought he wanted in a mate; as he tells her in this season’s “Sunrise” episode, “There’s no Top Five [women for me], Robin. There’s just a Top One, and it’s you.” Shortly after saying this, Ted appears to make a conscious decision to finally let Robin go, but again, the end of the finale undercuts this. It also diminishes the significance of his relationship with Tracy and makes her seem more like a means to fulfilling another life goal for Ted: having children (it was revealed that Robin is infertile in an earlier season).

At the risk of sounding heartless, I was hoping that the Mother would end up dead or dying in 2030, but not because I wanted Ted and Robin to be together. I wanted to see a character experience an enduring cost in exchange for attaining something good in life instead of just temporary struggle before getting everything he or she wants, which leads to the next Bad Life Lesson:

Bad Life Lesson #2: “If you’re really honest with yourself about what you want out of life, life will give it to you.”

That is one of Future Ted’s quotes (and worse pieces of parental advice, I have to say) from the end of Season 2, and  this sentiment proves very true for Ted in the end. His nine-year quest to find a mate was hardly a “long, difficult road,” as he says in the finale’s last few minutes. Long, maybe, but difficult? He screwed around with a bunch of beautiful women until magically finding his perfect spouse who provides him with the family he always wanted. Indeed, Tracy was so perfect for him, I didn’t want them to have a completely happy ending because it would have solidified the show’s wrong and cliché messages about love (which I’ve already touched on in my previous articles): that we are all destined to meet a perfect-for-us soul mate, or that said soul mate will fulfill our every desire and be the source of all of our happiness. Finally, if meeting his wife and living happily ever after was the end of Ted’s story, it would have further idolized romantic love and romantic partners. As Marshall says in Season 2, “the one” is the girl you can look at “knowing she’s all you really want out of life.” Oh, boy.

Related to Bad Life Lesson #2 is Bad Life Lesson #3: “The Universe” has a grand plan for your life, the focal point of which is finding your soul mate.

I wanted the show to explore how to move forward when your ideal life plan is legitimately disrupted, how to find joy and peace in the midst of truly sad circumstances, and what that would mean in light of all of Ted’s talk about trusting that “the Universe” has a grand plan and that we should simply expect to get everything we want.

Before the finale, all of the characters were poised to achieve everything they hoped to achieve, with their lives turning out exactly how they hoped they would: career success, wealth, fame, and blissful family lives. While I’m glad on one level that the show did not conform to the cliché ending I was expecting, the finale, in its way, still ends with the ultimate no-cost scenario for the protagonist: Ted gets his wife, his two kids, his enormous house in the suburbs, and his original and most enduring love, Robin.

To be honest, I had so many issues with the show to begin with that it’s unlikely I would have found any ending completely satisfying, and the ending I wanted was probably too tall an order for a single, albeit hour-long, finale. As James Poniewozik says in his piece on TIME: “Intellectually, maybe [the show’s] destination did make sense. Couples do divorce…People take years to find themselves, people drift apart and come back together, people die too soon. A great series could tell those stories and lay out those complicated, hard truths. The problem is, that is not the series that How I Met Your Mother was for the previous nine years. It was just the series it tried to force itself to be for its last hour.”

A more optimistic reading of the finale is that it did convey the message that, in spite of unexpected tragedy, we can eventually heal, move on, and maybe even find love again, as Tracy did with Ted (after her boyfriend, whom we learn of in “How Your Mother Met Me,” died) and then Ted did with Robin (after Tracy died). Jessica Goodman adopts this view on The Huffington Post: “The whole nine seasons became one long tale about moving on from loss, accepting growth in pain, the reality of friends drifting apart and the negation of ‘one true loves.’ Ted didn’t have one true love. He had two, maybe more. May we all be so lucky.” I think the argument that the show actually negates the notion of “one true loves” is better made with Tracy’s example: she had Max, her boyfriend from years before she met Ted, who died tragically. Convinced she had already found and lost her soul mate, Tracy held back on opening herself up to love until just before meeting Ted. However, as Ted’s daughter points out in the final minutes of the finale, the whole point of Ted’s story is that he “totally, totally, TOTALLY [has] the hots for Aunt Robin.”

Overall, Poniewozik is more correct, I think: the finale does not change the overarching messages of the entire show, as much as it may attempt to. With the shift of focus back to Ted and Robin and the kids’ sharp insight into Ted’s underlying feelings for Robin, the driving narrative of being with “the one” still holds up amidst the rushed and stunning events of the final episode.

Now, I might more easily accept Goodman’s interpretation if the show had not invested so much in developing Barney as a character and Barney and Robin as a couple. Poniewozik posits in his article that Robin was not ready for marriage at all, and others say that Barney and Robin simply “don’t really make sense together .” While it’s true that Barney’s history as a manipulative womanizer and Robin’s aversion to marriage and family made it surprising that these two would end up marrying each other, the writers did a good job of making sure that surprise did not feel unrealistic as we watched their relationship grow and develop over time. Quickly divorcing them for no better reason than “We’re not happy” (which really translates to “My job is stressful and you can’t update your blog as often as you’d like, so…wanna get divorced?”) resulted in a jarring about-face for both characters, and it does a disservice to one of the more true-to-life romantic relationships on the show. The flimsy reasons for ending their relationship only further demonstrate that the writers just needed to make Robin available for Ted.

I am also unimpressed with Barney’s other surprise: a love child born when he impregnates a girl during his attempt to have a “perfect month,” in which he sleeps with thirty-one women in thirty-one days. Finding “true love” in his love for his daughter after divorcing Robin and reverting back to his old ways feels more like a thrown-together consolation prize for viewers than a legitimate resolution to his character arc.

There is much more I could say about bad lessons HIMYM teaches us about life and love, as well as other flaws I see in both the finale and the show as a whole (you should see my notes for this article). Alyson Hannigan said that the finale answered questions “you didn’t know you had—or never knew to ask.” Given the cruelty with which the writers treat Tracy, the acrobatic leaps they take in order to get Ted back on Robin’s doorstep, and the undoing of all the good they drew out of Barney, I’m left feeling more like the finale disappointed me in ways I never knew it could.

From Death to Life, Not Rot to Sanitation: Part 2

Three weeks ago I wrote about Christians having to live with TV and pop culture that is frankly yucky. I said that even though pop culture is often disgusting and rotten, Christians who are moving from death to life in Christ have to engage with it because 1. there is some good in it still and 2. they do not really have a choice not to have some level of interaction with it. In a discussion on Facebook, someone pointed out that I focused too much on tolerating evil than on moving toward good. Here I want to properly emphasize why Christians should learn to deal with stuff that is yucky and gross: the point is not merely to prolong our existence but to endure long enough to introduce what is truly good, free of taint and impurity. With that, I will turn once again to the video game Fallout 3. Continue reading From Death to Life, Not Rot to Sanitation: Part 2

Christians and Television: From Death to Life, Not Rot to Sanitation

A cadaver in a lab is no more alive than a corpse in a ditch, though it may smell a little less. In the end, both are buried. Rot looks alive compared to the sanitized corpse because rot is life that feeds on death, but sanitation’s sanctity is ultimately worth something. Because Christians identify with Christ’s resurrection as well as his death, merely sanitizing a corpse dignifies it but fails to perform the necessary resurrection from death to life. Continue reading Christians and Television: From Death to Life, Not Rot to Sanitation

In Praise of “Yes Minister”

I have been putting up a lot of serious posts, so I wanted to do something a little lighter: a TV show recommendation. In this case it’s a British political sitcom from the 1980s. (The minister in question is a government minister, not a pastor.) It’s Yes Minister, written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, and it even had a sequel show Yes, Prime Minister when the title minister takes a role in government that I am presently forgetting. In any case, it is intelligent TV and you will laugh your way to a better understanding of the ins and outs of government. Continue reading In Praise of “Yes Minister”

You, Me and Television: “Fringe” and Human Nature

Despite the downsides of television, and the fact that we probably don’t need to be watching more, small screen narratives offer profound insight on the human condition.

Before the birth of “TV,” 18th Century British author Samuel Johnson once argued that a story was only truly superior if it was a faithful “mirror of nature.” He said:

Nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of general nature. Particular manners can be known to few, and therefore few only can judge how nearly they are copied. The irregular combinations of fanciful invention may delight awhile . . . but the pleasure of sudden wonder is soon exhausted, and the mind can only repose on the stability of truth.

If television is a medium for stories, Johnson’s argument applies to what is displayed on the tube. Many of us enjoy watching Glee, for example, for its glamour and musical skill. But unless we spot in the characters something that matches our own human experience, fanciful invention will sooner or later cease to inspire us. This is perhaps the reason, as adults, we are unable to watch the cartoons of our youth. Looney Toons, somewhere along the way, ceased to inspire our imaginations. Our life experiences made us too large for the sort of entertainment it offers.

Yet despite entertainment purposes, television can offer rare moments of truth that challenge us intellectually and morally.

Take last week’s episode of Fringe, for example. For all its scientific intrigue and suspense, the relationship between main character Walter Bishop and antagonist Dr. Alistair Peck makes it one of the best of the season.

Their shared position as great men of science, and Walter’s personal experiences, allows Walter the ability to identify with Peck and his desire to resurrect his fiancé through the means of science. Unlike the government agents who merely seek to thwart Peck’s intentions, Walter is the only person capable of connecting to him, and consequently, the only one able to articulate the moral challenges that stem from his desire.

Tim Grierson from New York Magazine’s “Vulture” comments:

The two actors made [the story] riveting, particularly when Walter confronted Peck man-to-man. In their exchange, where Walter warned Peck that changing the past only leads to more problems, Fringe had one of those rare moments where you got the sense that Walter was talking to someone at his own level. Perhaps not surprisingly, that kinship inspired this devoted man of science to admit to Peck that his rescuing of the alternate-universe Peter made him believe in God for the first time.

The scene is embedded below:

Moments like this are compelling not because Walter expresses what might be the beginnings of faith in God, but because his struggle between human loss and his human limitations are brought to light in a way that every viewer can understand.

Walter also recognizes that there are boundaries to human ambition within science, especially when it comes to human lives. This particular theme cycles again and again throughout the series and it is one we as viewers should grapple with as we live in a culture steeped in scientific aspirations.

But even while entrenched within a plot beyond many of our own personal experiences, we see a familiar struggle fixed in human relationships and sacrificial love for those dearest to us.

As I continue to watch, I am amazed to what depth writers will take their viewers. This may be a result of the fact that, as Dylan Peterson says, “America runs on Jesus.” Yet apart from an explicit Christian context, in order to be “good art,” to tell good stories, television shows must truthfully mirror life.

It must depict humanity’s most basic needs and desires by telling stories we can all relate to. Shows like Fringe remind us of what it means to be human.

Television may be bad for my health, but excellent scripts? Good for my humanity.

Photo by Brandon King. ‘

The Funny, the Serious and the Social: A Reflection from the Leno/Conan Controversy

It’s been an odd couple of weeks in the news recently, with a number of articles and video segments frantically reporting on the Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno fiasco. “I’m with Coco” fans’ dreams for the future of The Tonight Show were laid to rest when NBC executives officially announced a little over a week ago that they planned to send him and his crew packing. In short: there has been much hype surrounding the Late Night controversy. And not only in the media. The public itself tuned its attention to entertainment’s greatest foible with much fervor.

During his last week on The Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien repeatedly reminded his audience that more important things were going on in the world. But his comments didn’t quell any of the attention directed at The Tonight Show tempest. Despite the fact that, ultimately, Late Night timeslots don’t matter: if the Late Night fiasco isn’t important, how is it that so many people are upset about NBC’s decision? Why on earth does it matter?

To answer these questions, I turned to the endless supply of opinion articles to see what others were saying about Late Night television as a whole. Few have anything to say on The Tonight Show situation in light of its “comedic” or “social” significance. But some have implied that comedy, as a genre, has social persuasion, while also arguing that the fight over Late Night isn’t worth the hubbub due to its current state of mediocrity.

Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe, for instance, writes that Late Night television in its prime had been about social gatherings, community and really stylish entertainment:

There was a time when the whole post-prime-time TV world, ruled by Johnny Carson . . . seemed to have a tinge of glamour. It seemed like a time for adults who had a martini or two in them, with an almost rat-pack feel underneath the network TV restraint of the era.

In accordance with the fact that Late Night television in the golden days had been full of experimentation, originality and creativity, Late Night fashioned a culture that united friends and family beneath the banner of comedy. Late Night television, beginning with Johnny Carson, inspired a whole generation of young people and revolutionized what people talked about around the watercooler.

Yet, for decades prior to Johnny Carson, (and sadly, after him) comedy has largely been a mediocre thing. This problem isn’t new. In 1887 a writer for the New York Times claimed that in his day, contemporary theatrical comedy was “a poor thing.”

This unknown writer adds that “American comedies have generally been feeble and often witless. The truth of life eluded [them].” What is important about his comment is the implication that good comedy reveals something true about humanity and about life on a general scale: “the abundant humor of the play is founded on whims and eccentricities of humanity that are known and understood by everybody.” Recognition and shared experience belongs to comedy.

Why on earth would anyone care about NBC shifting Conan? We care, because, like Shakespeare’s Feste or Touchstone, Conan the court jester reveals truths about our culture and about ourselves. That Tonight Show hour gives us space to laugh about life, and gain perspective over situations and drama we often take too seriously.

Not only do they give us relief from our day-to-day lives, Conan and Johnny Carson inspires us.  Time notes that “Carson was just the right mix of ingenuous Midwesterner and urban sophisticate.” Likewise, O’Brien’s humor is both professional and familiar. He was somehow able to mix the fine things of life with the everyday. Conan, “the smartest guy in the room,” who always lets us in on the joke, reminds us that if we work hard and are kind “amazing things will happen.”

Ultimately, we humans have a natural bent towards comedy. We don’t always have the most sophisticated humor at times, but our basic desire and need to laugh is part of enjoying—and dealing with—life. Why we laugh, furthermore, springs out of our thought, the shape of our culture, our personal experience and perspective, especially as it pertains to our relationships with one another. Comedy personally impacts us because—even if only for a few moments—we gain a slightly new perspective, or familiar insight, on ourselves. ‘

So Say We All:
Battlestar Galactica Is the Best Show on Television

A shockingly large segment of the population suffers from the delusion that all artistic judgments are subjective. For instance, when confronted with a claim such as “John Singer Sargent is the greatest painter of the 20th century”, they believe that what is being presented is an assertion of opinion rather than a statement of fact. They do not realize that to agree is to be in possession of a correct judgment while to disagree is to simply be wrong.
Similarly, some people may attempt to dispute the indisputable fact that Battlestar Galactica is the greatest series currently on television and is, in my respects, one of the greatest shows ever. These self-deceived folks generally fall into two categories: those who have seen the show yet disagree (hence, exhibiting an inability to recognize the sublime) or those who have not yet seen the show and remain skeptical that such a claim could be true.
Rather than attempting to educated the first group–which would require more time and patience than I possess–I will focus on explaining to the second group what they are missing.
BSG is the best sci-fi show on television–ever: The paucity of good sci-fi on television becomes apparent when you consider the competition. When the Boston Globe put together a list of The Top 50 Sci-Fi Shows of All Time, they had to pad it with other genres (e.g., superhero: Batman, Adventures of Superman, Wonder Woman), series that were forgettable even when they originally aired (The Greatest American Hero, Nowhere Man), and shows no one has ever heard of (Space 1999, That Was Then) in order to come up with fifty.
The Globe ranks Star Trek as #1 and bumps BSG to #2. And indeed, the most serious challenger to BSG would appear to be the original Star Trek. But the cultural phenomenon spawned by Star Trek–rather than the series itself–is what is most interesting about that series and will continue to be its most lasting legacy; the culture of Trekkies is far more significant than any of the episodes featuring Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. The original has also been eclipsed by its successor, Star Trek: The Next Generation–another show that, while worthy in some respects, cannot compete with BSG.

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Battlestar Galactica Is the Best Show on Television