We’re living through the Melamedassance.

You can’t throw a stone or turn on an indie movie or TV show without hearing the silky, booming voice (and then seeing the flecked, impeccably groomed beard) of one Fred Melamed. Ever since In A World… came out a few years ago, the alt-comedy community has been casting him as Stern, Overpowering Male Figure in everything. New Girl and Casual stand out to me, since I watch those shows regularly, but his IMDb page is bursting at its electronic seams. He’s cornered the market.

Which is why his role in Lady Dynamite is so refreshing. He’s a Male Figure, sure, but he’s neither Stern nor Overpowering. In fact, the show plays with the implicit gravitas of his voice and forces him into a role you wouldn’t expect. He is Bruce-Ben Bacharach, agent and fanboy to Maria Bamford, and it’s utterly delightful. The dignity he oozes in literally every other part he’s done is completely erased here, and what’s left is a nervous, bumbling, obsequious, occasionally high-pitched (read: tenor) man who’s still figuring out his shit. He’s a terrible agent.

Melamed is also my favorite part of Lady Dynamite, which I hate to say I found both hit and miss. I love Bamford deeply, and I echo nearly every comedian’s sentiments when I say that she’s one of the most brilliant standups alive — seriously, go see her, it’ll change your life and your perception of how vocal chords work — but as I’ve said about other brilliant standups, sometimes the stage is their best medium for a reason. Bamford knows herself incredibly well, and knows what she’s capable of handling — which is actually something she addresses really poignantly in the show, about how it’s okay to say no to gigs — and I completely get why she took this opportunity to make a show. But the way her mind works is almost too complex, too multi-dimensional, too far-reaching to fit within the confines of a TV series. There’s nothing that can do justice to her comedic genius besides standup.

Admittedly, the subject matter she chose to cover didn’t make it easy. She decided to explore her own journey with mental illness, an incredibly brave and important selection, and aspects of the show were incredibly enlightening. I loved, for example, how the lighting, tone and wardrobe of the show changed according to which stage of her life she was in. Back in Minnesota, going through her lowest bouts of mania, the screen and her pajamas were every shade of grey. In LA, in her high points of mania, the colors seemed exaggerated, as did her smiles and her hair and even the enthusiasm with which she spoke. In present-day LA, everything evened out. But switching between these three timelines got confusing very quickly, especially because Bamford played herself in all three scenarios. I’m glad she did, but because she’s got this incredibly youthful face and presence, it was difficult to tell which storylines preceded the other, and therefore if she was still experiencing a manic episode.

Netflix also didn’t bestow the show with a huge budget, which is unfortunate because I think it would have been beneficial to have a little more money, especially considering the scope of the storytelling. A lot of scenes fell flat because of bad CGI, giving the show an undeserved campy feel. Bamford deserves better than that, as evidenced by the huge number of guest stars who obviously weren’t doing the work for money — Mary Kay Place and Ed Begley, Jr. played her parents, Ana Gasteyer played another agent, Lennon Parham and Bridget Everett played her “friends,” Jason Mantzoukas and Jenny Slate played therapists, Mo Collins played her sister, Dean Cain and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson played love interests. The list goes on. I think she also deserved to give some of the good lines to herself. On stage, she has such a singular presence, but on the show she’s basically a straight woman to the zany antics of those around her. Ólafsson, as her boyfriend, seems to be the only one who’s more grounded than she is, which is maybe why they’re perfect for each other. He lets her be the funny one.

“Loaf Coach” is my favorite episode of the lot, since it contains appearances from the very precious Mantzoukas and Slate. It also made me laugh aloud more than other installments, which is unfortunate. Bamford live makes you laugh and gasp on a loop — it’s a visceral experience. I wanted more of that from her TV show, but most of what I got was a few chuckles and sighs. Maybe Season 2 will be better.

I still think Charlie Sheen should’ve thrown out a first pitch.

Wouldn’t it have been delightful? I mean, I completely get why the Indians didn’t allow it to happen. He’s a perpetual liability, and the organization is already dealing with the fact that it’s got the most racist mascot and logo in baseball. Plus, from the Cubs’ perspective, who knows what would have happened? If Wild Thing had been allowed to toss one instead of [wow, I remember zero of the Progressive Field first-pitch throwers from the World Series and I was literally paid to watch all seven games], maybe history would have taken a different turn. Maybe Cubs fans would still be in their perpetual state of dissatisfaction instead of uncomfortably struggling with the feeling of “winning.” Hey, winning! This paragraph has come full circle.

Sidebar: I may not remember the names of the people who threw the first pitch at the four Cleveland home games during the Fall Classic, but I damn well remember the guy who sang the National Anthem a bunch of times at Dodger Stadium during the postseason. I love him. Francis Scott Key may not have known it, but he was writing “The Star-Spangled Banner” for Keith Williams Jr. to completely slay in 2016. Watch him and try not to feel American as hell.

Anyway. The point of this blog post is for me to tell you that I watched Major League for the first time in the same year that the Indians went to the World Series, and that’s a fun coincidence. I’d say I’m sorry they didn’t win, but I’m not, because I was rooting for the Cubs. (Though it was either team’s to lose by Game 7, and both should be wholly proud of the way they played. Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp, maaaaaaan.) And the more specific point of this blog post is for me to praise the hell out of Sheen’s “Wild Thing” hair. What a masterpiece. You can see the lightning-shaped buzz peeking out from underneath his despicable Chief Wahoo cap. Please disregard the incredibly bigoted fan costumes, if you can.

Major League is an exemplary product of its late-80s time for many reasons. One, its stars — Sheen, Dennis Haysbert, Wesley Snipes, Tom Berenger, to name a few — are at their peak and have since… well, you know. Maybe that’s unfair to say of Haysbert or Berenger. But they’re all deeply unrecognizable. Two — and this is something I can get behind — the Yanks are the enemies! Three, the topic of athletes cheating plays a prominent role, which grounds the otherwise very absurd film in something seriously real and dark about baseball. Unfortunately, and fourth, the movie shrugs off of sexism, as Berenger’s Jake Taylor courts Rene Russo’s Lynn by stalking her, yet it’s supposed to be romantic. We’re used to this by now.

But, like … it’s silly. Bob Uecker is in it. That’s fun. So is Neil Flynn. You’ll laugh, and you’ll love baseball more for not being quite as stupid as it used to be, and you’ll wish for better walk-up music from your team, and you’ll check your calendar to see how soon Opening Day is.

Hi. I’m a Rory.

I’ve been called a Miranda before. I’ve admitted to disliking Hannah the least. I’ve fantasized about growing up to be Ilana. But the truth is, I am a bona fide Rory.

Given the direction of 2016 Rory’s life in “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,” this admission isn’t exactly something I’m proud of. In talking with friends about the four new Netflix episodes, I found their opinions (and those of the internet) were almost unanimous — the whiny-but-tolerable qualities Rory possessed in the original series (2000-07) have been comically magnified over the past nine years, and she’s mutated into an insufferable adult.

I don’t disagree. 32-year-old Rory claims to be a journalist, but she’s coasting on praise from one New Yorker byline. She takes a stab at a thinkpiece for GQ, but she backs out after missing the point of the piece entirely and fumbling her way into a one-night stand. She asks for a meeting with the eponymous head of Sandee Says (a clickbait media outlet that’s been pursuing her), expecting it to be an ego boost and a sure thing, but she can’t generate a single pitch for the site. Oh, and she’s also stringing along some guy, Paul, who deserves much better than a woman who keeps forgetting to break up with him and is still involved with her engaged, overseas ex. She’s a spoiled brat.

All this after being raised with supportive friends and family and financial privilege, graduating Valedictorian from Chilton, ascending to Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Daily News and reporting on Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign trail immediately after college. Rory had so much potential. You’d think she would have made something of herself.

You’d think I would have, too.

Growing up, I made friends that I’m still close to and had parents that put my needs before theirs. I was Valedictorian of my middle school class and attended a prestigious college prep high school. I double-majored in Mass Communications and Linguistics and was the Arts and Entertainment Editor of my college paper. My first job out of college was as a TV critic. There was a path, somehow, and I was following it.

And then, I don’t know … I wasn’t. The recession happened, a layoff happened, a tech job emerged, said tech job with a salary and benefits was taken, and five years later I found myself restless. Or, rather, I had been restless the whole time, but I finally admitted it. I decided to leave the Bay Area and move to New York, hoping the restlessness would morph into productivity.

It’s been two years, and it still hasn’t. I’m 29. The only job I’ve been able to get here is the one I currently have — I’m a copy editor. I earn a very modest hourly wage that forces me to drain my savings in order to live comfortably, I work night and weekend shifts that almost completely negate my social life, and I’ve had to rely on Obamacare because I’m considered a seasonal (read: part-time) employee.

I’m not asking for pity here; I know if I did, my membership card to the Ungrateful Club would arrive yesterday in the mail. I’m grateful to be employed, grateful to live in this absurd metropolis and even more grateful to have the aforementioned savings. I’m not asking for help or advice, either; I’ve received plenty of it, mostly in the form of links to job listings and “informational interviews” that generations ahead of me have insisted upon over the years.

Watching Rory biff it in those meetings hit really close to home. I’ve been in that room, with those people, with that fear and insecurity. I, too, thought I could float along on my intelligence, my conversational charm and my handful of “impressive” Huffington Post bylines. But that shiny teenage cockiness dulls exponentially when you spend your twenties letting your resume gather dust. (Then again, I also spent my twenties being in my twenties. That’s not such a bad thing, considering I hardly spent my teens being a teen.)

I’m a Rory because I, too, marched blindly into the abstract “Plan A” of journalism. Except journalism wasn’t my “Plan A.” I didn’t even have a plan, lowercase, let alone an uppercase one with a letter affixed to it. Entering college, I was told I’d be good at journalism. I ended up being decent at it, but mostly I was just better at it than math or biology or clarinet or grilling meats or snowboarding, and it never occurred to me to just try something completely different. I liked the idea of being good at journalism, and I assumed I’d always be good at it because being good at stuff was what I was good at. “Being good at being good at stuff” isn’t a life skill, though; it’s a way to get A’s in high school.

I gravitated towards Arts writing in college because I liked movies and music more than politics, and those were my choices when I applied for the paper. Arts also allowed me to say what I thought without having to listen to what other people thought, i.e. “interview sources,” i.e. “avoid most phone conversations.” I churned out a couple of reviews that I’m still proud of, but I often felt like a fraud for getting free concert tickets while my fellow writers, editors and photographers were pulling all-nighters to cover City Council meetings and student government elections.

Honestly, I didn’t even think beyond the actual word “journalism.” I definitely had no “Plan B,” because I didn’t think I had to. I still don’t have one. I don’t think Rory did — or does — either. We’re both floating, unmotivated, unable to kick our own asses, unable to find creative fulfillment because we’d have to take a risk and be bad at something in order for the good to emerge. We’re also unqualified for a lot of the jobs that we’re trying to apply for now, because in college, we envisioned careers that don’t really exist anymore. As frustrating as Rory was for most “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” viewers to take in, I felt relieved knowing my true kindred spirit — albeit a fragile fictional one — is out there.

Of course, given that she’s fictional, she also comes with her own convenient plot twist and resolution: an unplanned pregnancy (which, ironically, could have been prevented with “Plan B”) and a book. I’m not in the market for a baby, but I have been mulling over the idea of a book. Maybe I can draw some inspiration from my soulless sister. We’ll see. (Don’t ask me about it.)

You might know a Rory. You might know me. You might feel the urge to give us help or advice because you’re nice and you think we have potential.

Thank you, but don’t. We’ve been hearing that word, potential, our whole lives, and we’re sick of the pressure that comes with it. If we ask for help, that means we trust you, and we will ask.

We need to know that we’re mediocre at most things, and we need to just be mediocre. We need to fuck up. No one has let us fuck up before. Fucking up is perfectly fine. Turns out we’re good at fucking up because we’re good at being good at stuff. How’s that for a plot twist?

Oh, and if you’re wondering, Team Jess ‘til I die.

The Lobster

I tend to avoid blockbuster-franchise-superhero-sequel movies for the same reason I avoid chain stores — they have enough money, what’s my $20 to them? I’d rather support a mom-and-pop establishment. Of course, there are a couple exceptions to my rule — the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, Chipotle before the germs — but for the most part, I hashtag-shop-small.

Oh, also, you don’t need a shit-ton of money to make a great movie. Case in point: Batman vs. Superman was a $250 million punchline, whereas The Lobster was a $4.5 million work of art.

If you liked 1984, and/or the concept of a dystopian future, you’ll like this movie. I’m certain it’s a direct correlation. In The Lobster, there are a certain, very specific set of rules that people follow, and they’re incredibly fucked up, but those rules actually break your (the viewer’s) thinking habits. It’s a fun paradox and a mind-bending couple of hours.

The Lobster is a lush movie about an empty world. The purpose of life is to find a partner, full stop. Single people are given 45 days to do so in a sterile, hotel-like environment; if they don’t, they’re surgically turned into the animal of their choice. Singles tend to pair up on the basis of shared superficial traits, like speech impediments, since they have no time to form meaningful connections. Singles can also extend their stays in the hotel by venturing out and killing escapees, who live on the lam and extoll the virtues of loner-dom.

The story revolves around bespectacled David (Colin Farrell, who continues to surprise me with his versatility), whose animal of choice — the lobster — contrasts starkly with the mammals that most people select. He seems to have a higher intelligence and tolerance for stupidity than everyone else, making his existence a pretty pathetic one. His friends (John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw, both heartbreaking), however, are worse off because they’re so submerged in their fates that they can’t see life any other way. His love interests (Angeliki Papoulia, Rachel Weisz) are arguably more evolved than he is, and they inspire him to see more than what’s there.

Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that the ending makes you consider a really difficult question (Consider the Lobster, if you will): Is it better to live life alone, or with a partner? Maybe the answer is obvious in those terms, but considering how partners are chosen, you might surprise yourself with your revised answer. Would you want to be with someone forever who has the same physical weakness or psychological tendency as you do? What kind of life could you build together? Would either of you actually change or grow? By posing these questions in the surreal world, the writers (Yorgos Lanthimos, who also directed, and Efthymis Filippou) make the real one seem … pleasant. Almost.

Love (Season 1)

Judd Apatow shows and movies have always had a way of making me feel uneasy. Even the really great ones, like Freaks and Geeks. There’s something so piercingly real about everything he touches. It’s hard to purely enjoy his comedy because it’s rooted in something too accurate not to relate to.

I didn’t entirely identify with the characters in Love, but I did so enough to feel guilty about it. It’s the story of a really new relationship between Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust), whose chemistry I didn’t really buy but whose individual performances I enjoyed thoroughly. Mickey is selfish and deeply unlikable (as was Britta on Community, for which she’s probably most known) but Jacobs really commits to it, clearly drawing from real experience with at least one genuine asshole. The character makes poor, immature decisions in almost every aspect of her life — doing drugs and dumb dudes, to name the obvious — so it’s hard to see why Gus even likes her.

But where Mickey at least knows how to have a good time, Gus kind of doesn’t. He’s got cool friends, but he himself is very vanilla, very conflict-averse, very low-risk. Had he been played by a different actor, I probably wouldn’t have liked him, either, but Rust holds a special place in my heart, thanks to this occasional brilliant feature on Comedy Bang! Bang!

Anyway. Somehow, these two find each other and attempt to incorporate each other into their lives. It’s mostly unsuccessful, and because of that, I actually take issue with the title of the show itself. There’s a clear affection there, but it’s not love. It’s curiosity. I admire the show for eliminating the romantic idealism that runs rampant through non-Apatow shows and movies — something Apatow seems hell-bent on destroying — but I actually think there has to be some of that there for a relationship to work, on-screen or not. Mickey and Gus are annoyed with each other most of the time. They only marginally enjoy each other’s company. One or both of them is depressed. Their communication skills are appalling, though the show does address the newfound frustrations and challenges of when and how to text someone you’re interested in.

The undeniable bright spots are Mickey’s roommate, Bertie (Claudia O’Dougherty), and Gus’ silly group of friends. Most of these people are also CBB regulars, which is why I was so happy to see them — and disappointed not to see more of them. I haven’t yet made up my mind if I’ll check in on Season 2 of this show, because it didn’t give me enough to hook into. I wanted to love Love, but… you know.

Steel Magnolias

I was talking to my grandma several months ago, and she said she came across Steel Magnolias whilst flipping through the channels. She’d seen it before, but the feel-good powers were so strong that she stopped flipping and watched it again. That was recommendation enough for me, since she’s a tough critic (and a tough cookie).

The feel-good powers are indeed strong enough to endure across 27 years (though the whitewashedness of the cast really does not hold up, but I’ll get to that later). This is a story about female friendship and community in the South, at once wholly foreign and completely relatable. It’s a study in longevity through insanely human bouts of fickleness and big hair. The gals will annoy the shit out of you, but you’d probably want all of them on your side for any occasion.

Julia Roberts is Shelby, the belle of the group who also happens to have diabetes. She struggles to be seen as more than a delicate flower, but she’s also grateful for the protection she receives from everyone. Roberts acts the hell out of this role, particularly in scenes involving diabetic shock. (One scene in particular has no sound, which is downright haunting.) She has a real mother, M’Lynn (Sally Field), as well three self-appointed mothers in town beautician Truvy (Dolly Parton), former town first lady Clairee (Olympia Dukakis) and town nincompoop Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine). There’s also town newcomer Annelle (Darryl Hannah), who becomes Truvy’s apprentice and hanger-on.

The dudes in this movie — Sam Shepard, Dylan McDermott, Tom Skerritt — are all great, but they’re secondary to the estrogen pumping through each frame. These women know everything about each other, for better or worse. They gossip about each other and about others in the town. They prioritize their appearances over their comfort. And they have opinions about every move and decision that anyone makes. Perhaps “annoying” is an understatement.

But with their lives being so narrow, so focused on the small world that is their Louisiana town, it’s hard to imagine them paying attention to anything or anyone else. Because they know each other so well, and spend so much time together, they know perfectly how to tear each other down and lift each other up. Ouiser is more of an expert at the former, whereas Truvy dominates the latter. MacLaine is acerbic, providing most of the film’s funniest moments. And Parton, despite her best attempts to portray someone shallow, bleeds genuine encouragement. She’ll make you cry.

I mentioned above that this movie is whiter than white. It’s jarring. (There’s actually an all-black version of it, too, which I should watch.) At Shelby and Jackson’s (McDermott) wedding, a glorious affair, there’s one very strategically placed black couple in attendance. I had a hard time believing any of the main characters would have black friends, despite their generally welcome attitudes, which is a giant depressing shame. I can’t bring myself to commend the feeble attempt at inclusion, either. 1989 was still backwards. So that part won’t make you feel good.

Deep, profound, honest friendship will, though. It’ll make you think about your own friends, and how annoyingly lovable you’d all be if you were portrayed in a play (Robert Harling wrote the original) or on the big screen. Watch and weep, friends.