David Foster Wallace Reviews Contemporary Television Shows

Emily in Paris

When the written word is inevitably replaced with emoticons or, for the lazy, “emoji’s”, this show will be on every channel, at every hour, constantly drilling you with empty entertainment, hoping your attention holds long enough for the obviously positioned product placement to take hold of your now mushy brain. Emily in Paris has the nutritional value of lettuce and its bland taste as well. Zero stars.


Although I once predicted this very entertainment landscape we are currently in¹, I don’t think I quite expected the degree to which we as a society would be meta-watching television. This show evokes the narrative spirit and visual aesthetic of numerous celebrated television sitcoms that came before it and in an added layer of self referential fun, WandaVision, itself, is a show watched by the characters in WandaVision. I’m more impressed by its audacity than its content. Three stars.

Ted Lasso

Not to harp too much on my own arguments on the matter, but in ten half-hour episodes, Ted Lasso manages to completed unravel my fears of living in a (excuse my french) post-modern, cynical world. This show manages to have the laughing power of a well timed fart and the emotional resonance of a loving, warm hug. I applaud its cast and will recommend this show to anyone I come into contact with in the future². Four and half stars.

Tucker Carlson Tonight

While contemporary television has expanded the reaches of artistic creativity and storytelling, Tucker Carlson Tonight shows us the drawbacks of the medium. At the risk of sounding complementary, Tucker Carlson (and the folks at Fox News for that matter) have figured out the delicate balance between reporting the news and shamelessly creating a false reality. The constant incredulity on Tucker’s face should be enough for any sane, level-headed person to quickly change the channel. Half star.

I May Destroy You

I unequivocally adored this show. Its commitment to reality and truth, no matter how bleak and tragic the subject matter, made me want to leap for joy. Four Stars.

90 Day Fiancé

I feel ashamed to admit that after viewing the first episode I found myself wanting to learn more about each couple. This type of content is designed to wash over your mind as you rest on the couch, waiting for the night to inevitably end, giving you a brief break from the unrelenting day-to-day occupational drudgery. It’s sugar for your brain. Incredibly addictive, but if you have too much, also corrosive. Two and a half stars.

Tiger King

On one hand Tiger King embodies the very result of an increasingly vapid and fame obsessed culture but on the other hand, it’s tremendous fun. The larger than life characters, mind blowing revelations, and moronic criminal behavior is what makes this piece of non-fiction incredibly enjoyable. Three Stars.

This is Us

Televised fiction, particularly drama (or in this case melodrama) has diminishing returns when it balloons to a mass scale. However, I do see the value for your average Joe Briefcase to watch a show intended to shove emotion in your face so that he can, even for an hour, remember to empathize with someone other than himself. Two stars.

The Late Late Show With James Corden

I often wonder about those who regularly tune into this clearly obvious false depiction of human interaction. They must come for its anesthetic properties or, perhaps, its bubblegum pop view of the world. It’s the type of entertainment that corporations use to no-so-subtly sell and market celebrities to the American people. You think O.J. Simpson would’ve been acquitted had he not been beloved by society? One Star.

Nathan For You

As a fiction writer this is not just food, but an IV of nourishment. This is straight-to-the-veins human research that predatory writers like me crave. The conceit of the show is tricking salt-of-the-earth small business owners into getting seemingly good natured capitalistic help from the epitome of a perceived American³, white-bread host, Nathan Fielder, only to be a victim of his outlandish and absurd suggestions, to our giddy delight. It’s the type of humor that transcends pain. The segment in which Nathan wears a chili-filled fat suit to discreetly sell chili to sport patrons is the hardest I’ve ever laughed and probably ever will. I watched all seasons within a weekend and will be watching again very soon. Five Stars.

The Circle

I was so put off by this dystopian nightmare of a reality show that I couldn’t get past the first five minutes. Therefore, I can’t, in good conscience, rate a show that I cannot watch. 

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  1. David Foster Wallace, “E Unibus Pluram.” 1990.
  2. This, obviously, is a joke, as I am, of course, deceased.
  3. Nathan Fielder is Canadian⁴
  4. I understand that Canada is in North America, thus negating the need to clarify above, but “American” refers to the colloquial usage of the term, i.e. a United States citizen.

Julien Perez: I’m a writer and video editor based out of LA and I tend to write pieces that discuss/parody entertainment in various ways. Twitter: @Julienlperez

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