Monday, November 25, 2013

Spunky Bean's EJ Feddes talks about the best things on TV right now

Today EJ Feddes, a writer for the pop culture website, Spunky Bean, stopped by to talk about writing, pop culture, and what to watch this season.

TL: Tell me more about the site http://www.spunkybean.comEJF: Spunkybean.com used to be described as “a zesty pop-culture stew”, but I think we’ve sort of dropped that. Years ago, I was writing analyses of LOST episodes and sending them to my friends every week. One of them sent it to a co-worker who sent it to her cousin who sent it to his college roommate, and I ended up making friends with some other TV-obsessed bloggers and we ended up launching a site together. It went live in late 2007, just as the Writers’ Strike started. Let the record show that this is the worst possible time to launch a website covering television.

Six years later, we’re still chugging along. We still focus mostly on TV, but we get into other fields too. We’ve got recaps, analysis, comedy pieces, basically celebration of things we like. I’ve been working on a book idea that’s an autobiography of a fictitious TV producer, and I’m going to be serializing that on the site, probably starting next year. The site lets me do a lot of different kinds of writing, and it’s been a lot of fun.

TL: What's the best advice you've ever received about writing?EJF: My buddy Larry Young (He's a writer that I had been a fan of for years, and then I ended up becoming real-life friends with him through spunkybean and the power of LOST), always says "Write the thing that only you can write". Whenever I don't follow this dictum, I always feel a little bit guilty.

TL: What TV shows are you excited about this season and why?EJF: Since I spend most of my available time talking about TV shows that excite me, I’ll just limit my choices to things that are currently in season rather than doing a wide-ranging look at everything I’ve seen this year. And I'll stick to three because otherwise we'll be here all day.

Parks and Recreation is, I think, the best comedy on TV. It is a legitimate delight, and what really impresses me now is that it’s reached the point when most great sitcoms start to fall apart. This is Season Six, and it’s rare for a network comedy to keep up a level of quality for that long. Even Parks’ spiritual predecessor, The Office, had started to lose its way by Season Five. It’s still the show I look most forward to every week.

Sons of Anarchy is not for everybody. If somebody doesn’t watch Mad Men or Breaking Bad, I think it’s OK to tell them that they’re wrong. If they don’t watch Sons of Anarchy, that’s a valid life choice. It can be overwrought and sometimes shocking for the sake of being shocking. But every year I’m in awe of how Kurt Sutter structures a season. This year there was a character that had been built up to be the major threat for the season and he had these long-running schemes. Four episodes in, he gets killed and it doesn’t seem like there’s any way for all these disparate plot threats to come together. And then you hit the two-thirds mark of the season and suddenly you can see the road map and it makes perfect sense, but you never would have thought of it yourself. There’s this moment every season when you see it coming together, and it’s really exciting.

Then there’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, which is a fake talk show (spun off from the podcast of the same name) on IFC. The thing I love about it is the way it seems to come from a place where there are no bad ideas. I’m in an Improv group, and the first thing you learn is “Yes, and…”, and it feels like CBB is built entirely on that principle. There are bits that are wonderful, and it seems like the only way they come to fruition is if somebody in the writers’ room says “What if Scott talks to a ladder” and then they try to make that idea work instead of dismissing it as silly. It makes for a very weird show, but it’s so much fun to watch.

Spunkybean is on Facebook and Twitter @spunkybean, and Ej can be found @ejfeddes. 

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