"Inside Amy Schumer" (
As before, the subject is largely sex -- the series' very title is a porn trope -- a subject much, even too much, on the minds of people who make television. But where sex as depicted or exploited on most TV shows tends to feel forced, added on, farcical, juvenile, gratuitous or actually, if non-explicitly, pornographic, "Schumer" takes it as a kind of sociopolitical riddle that lies at the heart of gender roles, power relations, self-esteem and much seemingly unrelated human activity. Like Louis C.K., she's interested in people and how they are -- the interview segments, on the street, or sitting down with a chosen subject, are funny but also genuinely curious -- and like "Louis," this is a show that goes intelligently to extremes; it is outrageous, in a mature way. It is true that the younger generations speak of sexual parts and practices with a heedlessness older generations might find alarming, though should not find surprising given that they have grown up on a diet of cable television, hip-hop and Internet pornography: porn, sister, it's just a click away, click away, click away. But that sort of openness doesn't make sex any less confusing -- possibly the more so, since there's so much of it so flagrantly about.
The new season begins with an all-male focus group analyzing the last season, in which every comment goes back to the star's personal appearance ("She looked better in the stand-up for sure, but then there were just way, way hotter chicks in the skits") and whether she'd be worth sleeping with. ("If nobody knew" is the consensus; the kicker is that she's pleased.) Occasionally the points are obvious -- Schumer as a Maria Sharapova type ("I think the most incredible part of Schumeranka's game is how she manages to be so thin and still have such large breasts") -- but even the less subtle sketches are well-executed, and more often Schumer and her writers (women and men under head writer Jessi Klein) take the material down side roads, to where the strangest and most surreal ends contain an uncomfortable truth.
In a variation on a sketch from last season (which is also a kind of version of the pre-Python "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch), a group of women negatively one-up one another: "I was cyber-bullying my niece on
"Yesterday after I knelt on my gerbil to hear what sound it would make, I ate a whole ball of mozzarella like it was a peach," says another woman. "I'm so bad."
Schumer: "Two weeks ago when I was having -- well there's no term for how late term of an abortion this was -- anyhoo, I literally ate an entire bucket of wings and chased it with a 16-ounce lobster. I'm like, why am I still eating for two -- I'm so bad.... Do you think I'm a monster?"
"You're not bad, you're stick thin."
A satire of
The film is inspirational -- "Believe in one another," says the coach, "talk to another, communicate" -- without being unrealistic; these characters navigate their future one day at a time. "Hopes and dreams, they can let you down," says a player cut from the team. One deals with an absent father, another with an alcoholic mother, a third with parents who love but expect little from him. Yet it's also a story of mentors, and teammates, and adults who parent kids when their own parents aren't up to it. (The team's coach and assistant coaches all work full-time elsewhere, as a policeman, a stone cutter and a parson.) "I know that some people say that the Medora basketball team sucks," says one kid. "I don't really care. It's our basketball team. Basketball is really all we have." A climactic game is tremendously exciting, and like the rest of the film, beautifully photographed, with an eye for humble domestic details, the local landscape, the weather, the air.
"Hannibal Buress: Live from Chicago" (Comedy Central, Saturday). The recurring character Buress plays on "Broad City," Ilana Glazer's boyfriend of convenience, a dentist laid back sometimes nearly to invisibility, is not the lively person onstage in this fleet stand-up special, a follow-up to 2012's "Animal Furnace." Formerly on staff at
The confusion doesn't matter much, because Graham Yost, expertly channeling Leonard's mix of action and comedy, has created a series as tense to watch as it is comfortable to inhabit. Smart casting helps: This season we've had