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Solving ‘The Night Of': Things go from bad to worse in ‘A Dark Crate’

07.25.16 at 1:33 am ET
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Hello, Michael K. Williams. (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

Hello, Michael K. Williams. (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

OK … stay with me.

I say this for two reasons:

  1. After an all-time great premiere episode, the last two weeks of “The Night Of” have been slow for the type of show we assume we’ve been watching: a week-to-week procedural. It should be obvious by now that it is only a procedural in the sense that we’re dealing with crime and those who investigate it.  What gets wrapped up in 60 minutes of “Law & Order: SVU” or “Criminal Minds” is going to take eight weeks to solve on HBO.
  2. The fun part of watching and conversing about a show like “The Night Of” is exploring all of the ins and outs. Dissecting the influences is more than half the battle; you have to stick with it.

Last week, I drew some heavy comparisons to Season 1 of the This American Life podcast “Serial.”  After a slow-burn episode like “A Dark Crate,” there is an even more apt comparison to draw in how we are consuming this show.

I, like many other people in the Fall of 2014, discovered the “Serial” podcast in mid-October.  Patton Oswalt — a writer/comedian and cultural commenter/big deal on Twitter — was going Tweet happy about it, so I decided to check it out.  At that point, there were four episodes already released, so I was able to binge through nearly half the season in an afternoon. I was left more than enough time to get thoroughly hooked and re-listen several times before new episodes debuted.

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New ‘Seinfeldia’ book is porn for ‘Seinfeld’ fans

07.22.16 at 12:14 pm ET
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Getty Images

Getty Images

When Jerry Seinfeld was asked a few years ago what TV shows he watches, he said, “I don’t watch that much television. I was television.”

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s book, Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything proves this was true to some extent.

If you’re a die-hard “Seinfeld” fan, you probably already know all the stuff in this book. But if you’re a younger or more casual fan, or you just get off on reading about the show, then this book is for you.

The book is basically a complete history of the show. It begins with Larry David and Seinfeld realizing their funny back-and-forth in a deli could be a television show and goes all the way up to the hoopla surrounding the finale a decade later. It explains the origins of “yada yada yada,” the Soup Nazi, Susan’s death, Elaine’s “little kicks” dance, the J. Peterman Reality Tour, and even the development of the theme song.

It also details all the ways in which the show almost died on the vine and what it almost was before it fully developed into what we know today. Elaine wasn’t even going to be a character at first and it was originally going to be called “The Seinfeld Chronicles.” 

Some of my favorite “Seinfeld” moments not mentioned in this book: When Kramer starts Kramerica Industries and hires his own intern, the whole “Merv Griffin Show” episode, George’s answering machine song and one of the greatest scenes in television history: when Kramer unfolds his coffee table book about coffee tables into a coffee table.

Eventually “Seinfeld” will be irrelevant to a generation so far removed it can’t relate to it at all, but the the main point of this book is the show is still a dominant force in pop culture almost thirty years after it debuted. 

Heavy on nostalgia, this will make you want to go back and watch the show over again. When Armstrong recounts the extreme public interest in the finale and that episode’s enormous viewership, it’s easy to see how Seinfeld can make the case that he was, in fact, television.

Solid book. I’d give it a B.

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‘Cold Water’ bangs and begs the question: Can Justin Bieber, Diplo and MØ keep up with themselves?

07.22.16 at 11:27 am ET
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Late Thursday night, Major Lazer released “Cold Water,” a summer anthem candidate featuring Justin Bieber and MØ on vocals.

Long story short, it’s great and it brings to light one interesting point: All three of these artists might have set the bar impossibly high for projects involving one another. “Cold Water” is going to be played nonstop for the next two to six months, yet it isn’t even close to the best of what’s become a growing list of hits made involving at least two of Diplo, Bieber and MØ. That’s absolutely fine.

The creme de la creme is “Where are Ü Now,” which Diplo and Skrillex put out last summer as Jack Ü with Bieber. Right up there with it is “Lean On” from Major Lazer (of which Diplo is one third), MØ and DJ Snake. Not to be forgotten, however, is MØ and Diplo’s “Kamikaze” or “XXX 88,” the first song the two did together.

“Cold Water” is going to be gigantic because Diplo, Bieber and MØ have become the James Franco, Seth Rogen and (insert third “Freaks and Geeks” cast member) of pop music: People just want them to do stuff together and it’s going to be beloved no matter what. It’s also written by Ed Sheeran and Benny Blanco, with whom Bieber had major success on last year’s “Love Yourself.”

Much like “Love Yourself,” this song kind of plays it down the middle. There’s no mucked-up-Bieber-turned-dolphin-sounding hook like in “Where Are Ü Now.” There’s no immediately memorable riff like in “Lean On” or “Kamikaze.” In fact, there’s no break at all from the first chorus to the second verse or from the second chorus to the bridge. In that respect, production and dance breaks can’t carry the day the way they can in so many of Diplo’s hits. Bieber’s vocal performance has to support the song and absolutely does. This is maybe 100 times the performance that he turns in on “Where Are Ü Now,” a far superior song.

In fact, MØ’s bridge might actually be the most “produced”-sounding part of the song. Often times artists sound better with other singers providing harmonies. Diplo knows MØ’s voice is too unique for that method, so what you get is a bridge dripping wet with MØ’s vocals. It’s the best part of the song.

The lack of shiny objects in “Cold Water” isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it just means it’s not going to blow you away on the early listens. Yet it also means that this crew is capable of moving even closer to formulaic Top 40 and it working, because this song 100 percent works.

In summary, Diplo + Bieber, MØ or both of them = fire flames city. You’ll enjoy your weekend because these three just made damn sure of it.

Read More: Diplo, Justin Bieber, MO,

In defense of Ween

07.20.16 at 12:19 pm ET
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This blog exists because if people are nerds about sports, they’re probably nerds about other things. My love of sports is relatively healthy. My love of pop music might kill me.

One of the best things about Twitter is finding people who share your tastes. My middle school days of being obsessed with Metallica have provided me more than enough information to shake my head at followers who tell me “… And Justice For All” is a great album. Because musical taste is purely subjective, any “take” is tolerated and can be thoroughly dissected.

(Well, mostly any take. “Rap music just isn’t music!” is a not-so-smart way of accidentally declaring you’re kind of racist. Just say you don’t like it.)

Yet of all the different artists one can discuss and argue about on Twitter, there is one that blows them all out of the water on the polarizing scale:

ween

Ween was and is weird. From a musical (and perhaps also drug) standpoint, the duo of Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo (a.k.a. Gene and Dean Ween, respectively, a.k.a. Gener and Deaner, respectively) did everything.

They made albums on a four-track cassette recorder. They used out-of-time drums in place of traditional instrumental fills. They did intentionally bad a cappella. They played around with pitching voices up and down in ways that would make the Beatles regret ever introducing the trick. They made grand, polished albums. They wrote the ultimate Phish song (see below). They made an entire golden age country album featuring a song that is, by all accounts, a celebration of a random homosexual man. They mocked the living hell out of Thin Lizzy.

The average non-Ween-fan has definitely heard Ween before. If they don’t know them from Phish’s cover of “Roses are Free,” they know them from having heard “Voodoo Lady” in “Road Trip” or “Ocean Man” in “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

But of all the things Ween did, they didn’t suck. They were extremely versatile. Listen to “Don’t Laugh (I Love You),” then “Freedom of ’76″ and then “Back to Basom.” In three songs, you’re taken on a journey from drum machine hell to falsetto purgatory and finally to Mellotron and synth heaven.

After starting out in the mid-80s and putting out 11 non-live albums from 1990 through 2007, Ween broke up in 2012 when Freeman announced that was no longer Gener, a move that was linked to both his burgeoning sobriety and his desire for a solo career. Last year, the band began announcing reunion shows, and on Wednesday it was announced that they’ll play Boston’s House of Blues in August. They’ve amassed enough of a catalogue (and a loyal enough cult following) that they can pretty much play whatever they want.

There’s nothing wrong with weird. The world is a better place with Ween in it.

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Video: Christian Fauria takes us inside his ‘Bachelorette’ party

07.19.16 at 9:00 am ET
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If you listen to Ordway, Merloni & Fauria, you are probably aware that Christian is a big fan of “The Bachelorette,” that he and his wife host viewing parties, and that he is the only guy at those parties.

On Monday night, Christian decided to take us inside one of those parties through the magic of Facebook live, and we got to meet his special guest — Rhode Island native Jared Haibon, who was on season 11 of “The Bachelorette.”

Check out the videos below:


A photo posted by Jared Haibon (@jaredhaibon) on

Read More: Christian Fauria, the bachelorette,
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