I leave tomorrow for two weeks at the Television Critics Association press tour, the twice-annual event at which the networks present all of their new shows to us and we get to ask a lot of questions about them (Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall and NPR’s Linda Holmes have written the two classic explanations of how the press tour really works). Blogging will continue apace, with a higher-than-usual concentration of reporting out of the panels and some breaks while I go off to stockpile interviews for the fall. This post will act as an open thread for any requests you have for coverage of upcoming shows or questions you are eager to have answered from my post in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton.
And with that out of the way, here is the Friday Five, the guide to what I am reading, watching, etc., and what might pop up in posts in the weeks to come.
1. “NCIS: New Orleans”: The “NCIS” franchise, of which this show is the third installment, is always the prime example writers cite when they wonder why critics do not expend nearly as much ink on the shows Americans actually watch as they do on comparatively cult hits like “Game of Thrones” or genuine cult hits like “Girls.”
“NCIS” was one of the shows I binge-watched back when I graduated from college and got cable for the first time, and “NCIS: New Orleans” is a great example of why the formula is so satisfying. The show assembles strong older actors, in this case Scott Bakula and the always-welcome C.C.H. Pounder, and gives them younger co-stars who range from spunky to strong and silent to bounce off of. This time, CBS added second lines and vieux carres to the mix. It’s not revolutionary, but man is it purely pleasurable.
2. and 3. “Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan,” by Herbert Bix, and “Retribution,” by Max Hastings: I stumbled onto “Retribution” purely by accident, but reading it, I recognized how little I knew about the Pacific theater in World War II or Hirohito, who lead Japan into the conflict and managed to maintain his position after it was concluded. “Retribution” is the better read, balanced with wonderful anecdotes from participants in all parts of the conflict. It is the first book that made me understand why folks get obsessed with naval strategy. And while “Hirohito” is not quite as spritely, it makes the psychological dynamics of Japanese decision-making much more comprehensible, if not sympathetic.
4. “Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed: I will admit, I held off on Strayed’s memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in part out of “Eat, Pray, Love” fatigue. But once the trailer for the Reese Witherspoon adaptation of the book dropped, I decided to pick up a copy, mostly because the clip is so oriented toward words and journaling. My own West Coast odyssey will involve a lot more sitting in ballroom chairs than hiking, sadly, but I promise to report back.
5. “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight,” directed by Richard Linklater: As preparation for moderating an event with Linklater in Washington this week, I rewatched a great deal of his back catalog (if you have missed “Bernie” for some reason, get thee to Netflix immediately), including his trilogy about Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delphy). Like “Boyhood,” which opens nationwide next week, these movies are about time, but they are also a study in expectations and the choices adults make about parenting and their own pleasure. If you are waiting for “Boyhood” to get to your market, the “Before” trilogy is perfect, heartbreaking preparation.