Who stands to inherit Norman Lear’s socially-conscious mantle? Consider these five current TV provocateurs
Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, episode 1: John Gallagher, Jr., Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill. John P. Johnson
Renowned for his fanciful dialogue – dubbed “SorkinSpeak” – Aaron Sorkin currently holds heat among Hollywood scribes. One of few scriptwriters to switch between film (Moneyball, The Social Network) and TV (Sports Night, The West Wing), he unfailingly wears his liberal heart on his sleeve in every project. In his latest TV vehicle, the HBO drama The Newsroom, Sorkin’s central character is news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), a moderate Republican who speaks and acts exactly like a Democrat.
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant once again satirize showbiz with a mockumentary starring little person actor Warwick Davis as a fictionalized version of himself, with Gervais and Merchant as themselves in small roles, along with a whole range of celebrity cameos.
Life's Too Short
Ricky Gervais loves cheeky and topical. Post-The Office, he’s delivered the HBO programs Extras and The Ricky Gervais Show, an animated series designed to introduce the world to the slow-witted Karl Pilkington. Height jokes flew freely on his HBO show Life’s Too Short, starring the diminutive actor Warrick Davis as a fictionalized version of himself. On his next series, Derek, Gervais plays the title character – a dense, possibly mentally challenged man who works in a retirement home and lives with his mother. Yes, it’s a comedy.
The half-hour comedy, Modern Family, takes an honest and often hilarious look at the composition and complexity of family life in 2009. Hopper Stone
It took a while for Steven Levitan to turn groundbreaker. The Chicago native cut his teeth writing for nineties-era comedy fare like Wings, Greg the Bunny and The Critic before partnering with TV veteran Christopher Lloyd to reimagine the American family unit on Modern Family. The Levitan method involves mining laughs from a sly merge of stereotype and reality. Sometimes the resident gay couple Mitchell and Cam are stereotypically swish and sometimes they’re a tough-love parenting unit (and in case you haven’t heard, they’re expecting another child!).
Samantha Bee, Stephanie Anne Mills and Ken Finkleman star in Good God.
Where would Canadian TV be without Ken Finkleman? The creator and star of the original version of The Newsroom – the last CBC show to take sharp aim at the CBC itself – Finkleman has returned to his TV alter ego of vainglorious TV producer George Findlay on the sharp cable comedy Good God. In this setup, George takes up with an old flame whose media-baron father installs him as the head of a conservative news channel called Right News (a thinly disguised version of Sun News). Does the channel’s mission statement run against George’s own personal values? Sure, but the money is great.
Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham, and Zosia Mamet in Girls. JOJO WHILDEN
Let’s forget Sex and the City ever happened. The fearless Lena Dunham reimagined the single-woman-in-New-York scenario for the much-lauded Girls and also took on the lead role. Her aimless twentysomething Hannah Horvath did not live in a penthouse, wear Manolo Blahniks or date Mr. Big. Instead, Hannah had to deal with the more pressing problems of dashed career dreams (even getting fired from her unpaid internship), money woes, needy friends and a slacker bordering on comatose boyfriend. Welcome to the real world.