When David Letterman first announced his plans to retire from The Late Show a few months ago, I was somewhat surprised but not initially devastated. In the back of my mind, I knew that he was in his late 60s, that he had outlasted Jay Leno as the final member of his generation still hosting a late-night talk show, and that he’d be hanging it up sooner rather than later. But I still wasn’t ready. Now that he has officially wrapped up his show with his Wednesday, 20 May broadcast, I, like the other fans who grew up watching him every night, am bracing for life without Dave.
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Despite the absence of the witches, wizards and magic, the everyday drama of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy seemed destined to be more difficult to adapt than Harry Potter. Still, it was only a matter of time before the novel made the jump, and while the serialized TV format fits Rowling’s writing far better than the Hollywood blockbuster ever did, the results are a mixed bag.
Though one of the defining characteristics of “The Golden Age” of television is that standout serialized storytelling no longer belongs exclusively to cable providers, it’s hard to argue that HBO hasn’t maintained its status at the top of the class. With a reputation forged on the critical acclaim of David Simon’s The Wire, hardened through six seasons of The Sopranos, and now emboldened by the most successful fantasy adaption since Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, HBO has gone from strength to strength.
A man stands alone, wearing a designer suit and a shit-eating grin. An anonymous skyline occupies the backdrop behind him, imposed on a green screen. On occasion, some scuzzy-looking dude wearing a bikini top pops into frame. For over ten years, that has been the vehicle that delivers bite-sized pieces of TV at its trashiest right into your home, sealed with a snarky one-liner and a kiss.
Shonda Rhimes’ How to Get Away With Murder is a show with a lot of hype behind it, and rightly so. It’s hard to deny the series’ first season didn’t make a strong impression. It threw together an awesome and diverse cast, a fun episodic formula, and a serialized mystery that definitely hangs with the best of them.
That said, it was How to Get Away With Murder’s blend of contemporary college drama and sprawling murder-mystery that stuck with me the most, because it evoked a fascinating set of similarities to Donna Tartt’s seminal campus-murder novel, The Secret History.