Links to my work, media and podcast appearances, plus news on my book Burn It Down

Hi! I have been an entertainment critic and a journalist for a long time, and these days I am a Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair (thus feel free to address me as Baroness Von Ryan). I’m also the author of the book Burn It Down: Power, Complicity and a Call for Change in Hollywood, which came out June 6.

The book is my reaction to and examination of the trends that produced #MeToo and various racial reckonings as well as the labor unrest gripping Hollywood during Hot Strike Summer. For the book, I interviewed more than 150 people at all levels of the industry, and did several deep dives on troubled productions and franchises — reporting that illuminates how entrenched the biggest problems are.

The chapter on serious problems at the hit TV show Lost and its “poisonous culture” was excerpted by Vanity Fair (there’s a longer version of this chapter in the book). The week that Lost excerpt came out was a wild, tumultuous ride, and I’m beyond grateful that the great folks at the ATX TV Festival gave a panel to myself and writer/creators Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Melinda Hsu Taylor (both were sources for that chapter and many other parts of the book), so we could process the whole thing. On that panel, which is available via the TV Campfire podcast, we talked about the polar bear in the room, but also about industry change and the strikes and so much more. It was a singular moment and I was thrilled to share that moment with the ATX family. 

In any event, Burn It Down is a look at how much has changed in the American TV and film industries and how much hasn’t, and it delves into why some problems remain stubbornly persistent. That said, a number of industry people are working to reform Hollywood on many different fronts, and I’m happy to say that I spoke to dozens of those brave, persistent, amusing and intelligent folks. 

The day the book came out, I published this piece on Charisma Carpenter, Cordelia Chase (her Buffy and Angel character), and why the way they carried themselves in life and on screen got me through some incredibly hard times. I’m so, so proud of this essay and thrilled that Roxane Gay and Meg Pillow of The Audacity published it (read The Audacity, it rules!).   

I’m excited to say that the book (which is available via Bookshop, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all other audiobook and book retailers) hit the New York Times best-seller list (twice!) and the Los Angeles Times best-seller lists. Publishers Weekly, in its review, said the book “makes a convincing case for rebooting Hollywood.”

Here’s some of the coverage of the book that I enjoyed a whole bunch:

Here’s selection of radio/podcast/video appearances (and the podcasts are generally available on most if not all leading podcast platforms):

Also, I just about died (in a good way!) when this feedback from Kerry Washington came across my Instagram feed. If you find the type too small to read, she called it “great reading to contextualize this necessary strike” and “Fascinating. Devastating. Important.” Wow! 

If you want to know more about the book, what I’m watching and what I’m thinking about, I have an extremely sporadic email newsletter. Please sign up for Burner Account today! It is free! In the newsletter, I have shared thoughts on how a new book by Alan Sepinwall highlights what is unique and often the best thing about the TV medium, the passing of Sinéad O’Connor, the death of Twitter, Dark Winds, Rutherford Falls, For All Mankind and Star Trek: Picard, among other topics. By the way, here are the main places that the book and I exist online, so far anyway! 

The rest of this post features a selection of criticism and reporting from the past decade that I really love and want to share with you. That’s what you find when you read on — thanks for visiting, and enjoy! 

Continue reading Links to my work, media and podcast appearances, plus news on my book Burn It Down

One year of Burn It Down (plus an LA event!)

Hello! First up, a couple of interviews (and an event) I’d like to draw your attention to. Then I’m going to share a few thoughts on one year of Burn It Down (now out in paperback!) existing in the world. 

A number of folks asked me during the past year when I’d have a book event in Los Angeles. The stars did not align to make that happen until this week — and it’s happening! 

The great people at Women In Film LA put together an event to celebrate the paperback publication of Burn It Down: Power, Complicity and a Call for Change in Hollywood. This free shindig will take place 7 p.m. Thursday, June 13, and it’ll consist of two things: a panel conversation and a book signing. 

I feel enormously fortunate to be sharing the stage at Groundfloor LA on Thursday with these industry folks:

Kether Donohue: Actor, producer, singer/songwriter, voice actor; You’re the Worst, Grease Live, B Positive, Star Trek: Lower Decks, among other credits. 

Melinda Hsu: Showrunner, creator, director, writer, producer; Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Lost, Medium and The Vampire Diaries, among other credits; creator of the Lead With Kindness podcast and management training seminar.

Shernold Edwards: Former executive, creator, writer, producer; Station 19, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, All Rise, Anne with an E, Haven and Sleepy Hollow, among other credits. 

Maikiko James: Senior Director of Programs, Women In Film LA; Maikiko oversees WIF LA’s member programs including Fellowships, Emerging Careers, and the WIF/Black List Episodic Lab. She co-founded INSIGHT, a WIF community for women of color in entertainment, in 2018.

After the panel, I’ll sign books (books will be for sale on site, but if you want to bring a book you already own, I’ll sign those too). As noted, the event at Groundfloor LA in Downtown LA is free, and you can register to reserve your spot at this link

The interviews I’d like to draw your attention to: This long chat with Cole Haddon of the excellent newsletter 5AM StoryTalk, in which I talk about a lot of things related to the writing of and the reception to the book. I also lay out my Grand Unified Theory of the Art vs. the Artist — and this is one excerpt from that section of the talk (the type in green is me expanding on that part of the chat on my Instagram Stories):

I also recently did this fun podcast with Danielle Turchiano of Made Possible by Pop Culture. It’s available on all podcast platforms and on Youtube as well. (If you crave more conversations that feature me talking about entertainment industry issues and/or my book, there are lots more listed here.)

So! One year ago this month, my first book came out. I am the first person to discover that writing a book is hard. Probably you’ve never seen any author complain at any point in time ever, because writing a book is easy. 

Hahahaha nope. It’s hard. It’s like having a kid or getting hitched — whatever you think it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be different than that, in good ways and less good ways, in unpredictable and incredible ways. As in those other life situations, you can’t be prepared for a lot of the things that happen, but as you try your best, you usually learn a great deal along the way. 

Anyway, yeah, it wasn’t easy (though there were some high points, mainly involving getting to interview many, many badass humans, and there was also some surreal/weirdly funny shit that happened during those 2-3 years). But by the end of the process, I was in thousand-yard-stare mode, focused on pulling the dang thing over the finish line. By the end, these were the two hopes I had the energy left to carry: I wanted to not get sued, and I wanted to be proud of my first book. Anything else was gravy. 

Looking good on both of fronts. And also… my friends, in the past year, there has been So. Much. Gravy. 

Continue reading One year of Burn It Down (plus an LA event!)

Books. Bakes. Battlestar Galactica. (Recent Work and Upcoming Funtimes)

Hello! It’s been a while. One big reason is that it’s now gardening season and I spend every spare minute doing dirt-based outdoor therapy in my yard. I’m having a lot of fun with it, while also dodging a massive brood of dazed cicadas, who are truly one of evolution’s weirder tangents. (By the way, if you want pics of the garden or clues about other things I’m thinking about, I post images of my beautiful flower babies on my Instagram stories frequently. Day to day, you can usually find me there or on Bluesky. I’m pretty much off Twitter, and though I post on Threads occasionally, I do not like Threads; there, I said it! Almost everything about the design and user experience of Threads is irritating to me; of course, if you love it, I’m glad for you.). 

Anyway! I’ve also managed to do some work this year. And here are a few links and thoughts about those recent pieces, plus an update on what’s to come. (Cylon foreshadowing: I have a plan!)

First up, for Vanity Fair, I compiled a list of fantastic shows that probably got lost in the shuffle during the cicada-like proliferation of TV in the past decade. Line of Duty is the centerpiece of the list, and I have so much more I could say about that excellent drama. But instead I’ll point you to this interview that 5AM StoryTalk writer/creator Cole Haddon did with Jed Mercurio, the man behind Line of Duty, Bodyguard and many other compelling programs.

Arthur Hastings of Line of Duty: Incredible representation for irritable Irish Catholics who yell “Mother of God!” all the time! Especially when so many of the people around them do not live up to their stated ethical codes!

In the interview, Mercurio talks about being the working-class son of immigrants, and that gets at something I think about a lot:

Continue reading Books. Bakes. Battlestar Galactica. (Recent Work and Upcoming Funtimes)

My Top TV and Films of 2021

Hello! It’s too late to post my favorite TV shows and films of 2021, because it’s now 2022 and no one cares! Or maybe someone cares. In any event, it pleases me to post this information and at least give my WordPress skills a workout.

Normally I write A Whole Thing about what the year in TV meant to me, yada yada. Who has the energy? I don’t! Whatever energy I do have is going into writing a book. I am excited to bring Burn It Down into the world and I am focusing on almost nothing else for the next several months. I am nervous about writing my first book, and the world continues to be A Lot, but I have a new mantra from Gerri:

Here are the usual rules about why some shows/films are not on the lists below. It is possible that: 

  • I didn’t have time to get to it.
  • I sampled it and didn’t like it as much as you did.
  • I tried it and strongly disliked it. What were they thinking?
  • I’m a cruel hellbeast determined to bring pain and suffering to the world. (This is probably the reason.)

Three lists coming at you: My Top 10 TV Shows (the best of the best in a very strong year!), My Top 10 Movies, and a longer Top 40 TV Shows roster (there was so much variety in what was good this year. Sincere thanks to everyone who worked hard to make good shit during a very hard time).

Continue reading My Top TV and Films of 2021

The Top TV Shows of 2020

I love reading critics’s end-of-year lists and, because I’m a nerd, I also enjoy making lists of things I should check out (at this point, my Things to Watch Google Doc is one of history’s greatest epics). It’s weird how other critics’ lists are correct and the lists I post annually are also perfectly correct.

But my lists are the most right!  

Before I get to the core of this post, I want to mention that I’m moderating a Better Off Ted reunion for charity on Dec. 27. Stop by if you care to — it should be fun! (Of course, for Veridian employees, this event is a mandatory training session.)

All right, as usual, you could make a pretty good Top 10 list of things I have only seen part of or have not seen at all. Not sure if you were aware of this fact, but there is a lot of #content out there. 

So this list, especially given how often quarantine brain derailed me this year, is not comprehensive. I’m sure, in the next week or two, I’ll watch more things I wish I’d included. Regardless, I’m glad for the existence of all these shows — and movies, documentaries, multi-part documentaries, films-that-are-probably-not-TV, TV-that-might-be-movies and documentary-scripted hybrids, plus unicorns that are also 10-hour films, etc.

Two omissions from these lists that were still important parts of my 2020 viewing experience: The Great British Baking Show (which goes by the nickname GBBO in its original habitat) and the Great Canadian Baking Show. I’d like to unburden myself a bit regarding both of those programs. A bit later in this post, I delve into how what’s good about them relates to key aspects of my favorite scripted programs of 2020. Skip ahead to the lists if you don’t want to wade through this part! 

Continue reading The Top TV Shows of 2020

The 101 Best TV Shows of the Decade: The Definitive List You’ve Been Waiting For

This is my personal list of the top 100 101* programs of the decade. 

I only considered programs that premiered after January 1, 2010. If you get mad about an omission, there’s a 98% chance that the show you’re cranky about premiered before that date. I’m almost annoyed at myself for imposing that limitation, because it means I can’t include Men of a Certain Age, which is so, so great (and which premiered in December 2009). But that’s the rule I decided on, so it is what it is. 

Here’s what I decided not to consider for the list: Commentary programs (like “Full Frontal”), documentaries, comedy specials or any kind of reality TV. Though I didn’t set out to exclude it, I also ended up without any shows primarily aimed at kids. No hate for any of these genres: I just ended up organically focusing on the kinds of scripted storytelling I love. 

So this list consists of scripted TV released in the last decade that I saw and liked enough overall to put it on this list. My best-of-the-decade roster would have been much longer if I could have put selected seasons of some shows on it. But I went with the “all or nothing” approach. There are shows below that had occasional dips in quality, but they also had something special, were pretty consistently good and/or had a number of excellent or great runs during their lifespans, so they made the cut. And of course some of these programs are notably more ambitious than others! But they each brought something special to the game and I am glad I watched them all. 

I wonder if you will be able to tell what my all-time fave of the decade is. And by the way, if you want more recommendations, here are my lists of the best TV of 2019 and the best TV of 2018. There are yet more best-of lists at the end of this post.

Where to see these shows depends on what country you live in and what company has the rights to a particular show at a given point in time. Given that those circumstances can and do change, I’d consult if you want to know where to find all this delicious content. 

I watched a lot of TV in the past decade. A lot. Probably more than is strictly advisable. No regrets. This is the best of what I saw.  Let’s get into it, shall we?

Continue reading The 101 Best TV Shows of the Decade: The Definitive List You’ve Been Waiting For

The Top TV Shows of 2019

This is a love story. 

Television, there’s too much of you. Stop. But also, don’t. 

I didn’t do individual writeups of each show on this list, as I did with my 2018 list, in part because this was a looong year and I still have a lot of things to get done before 2019 calls it a day. OK, fine, that’s partly a dodge. I am pretty busy, but even if I wasn’t, the truth is, penning 40 41* individual writeups is challenging. Fun fact: Writing short is often harder than writing long. It’s true. 

You may assume that every show on this list will bring you joy for a distinct and delightful array of reasons. Watch them all. 

A few bits of houskeeping: One reason I’ve posted this list is to draw your attention to something completely unrelated (I guess this is my version of a pop-up ad?).  Feel free to skip ahead to the list(s) if that’s the only #content you desire.

The documentary This Changes Everything (which is already available to rent/buy on various platforms) arrives on Starz on Dec. 16. I would love it if you watched it, and not just because I’m in it (stone-cold humblebrag, Mo! Wow! This is the real brag: Someone said that I sort of serve as the Neville Longbottom of the film and I have never felt more profoundly complimented. I recently re-read the entire Harry Potter book cycle, and Neville and Luna Lovegood are kind of the best. Also, the fact that Hermione ends up with Ron is one of the great literary catastrophes of our age, but that’s not the topic at hand right now.) 

This Changes Everything systematically (and entertainingly and thoughtfully, in my opinion) takes on the issues of institutional and informal exclusion, bias and sexism in Hollywood. It contains a lot of useful facts and figures but also a bracing array of interviews with top actresses and directors. And yes, I’d say all these positive things even if the film wasn’t the reason I became best friends with Yara Shahidi and Meryl Streep. (This is a lie. We are not friends. Let me dream.) Here are some critics’ takes on TCE in case you want to read up on it before deciding whether to check it out. 

Back to the list! Yearly whine: These are not all the shows I watched. I viewed part or all of many more programs. These are the ones I deemed worthy of being on this long (and yet difficult to pare down) list.

If I wrote about a show this year, I’ve linked to that piece within the list. And if you want to know where to stream any of the shows below (that information can be confusing and non-intuitive), or you just want to know where to find obscure gems like Rubicon and Slings & Arrows), I find Just Watch quite helpful on that topic.

Here are the house rules on why some shows are not on the list:

  • I didn’t have time to get to it.
  • I sampled it and didn’t like it as much as you did.
  • I tried it and strongly disliked it. What were they thinking?
  • I’m a cruel hellbeast determined to bring pain and suffering to the world. (This is probably the reason.)

The Best

As you already know, Fleabag was the best TV program of 2019. Kneel

My 2019 Top 10 (in alphabetical order)

Better Things, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Fleabag, The Good Fight, The Good Place, Lucifer, One Day at a Time, Schitt’s Creek, Succession, Watchmen.

The Top 41* Television Programs of 2019 (in alphabetical order)

*Update on Dec. 31, 2019: When first published, this roster had 40 shows, but I’ve now added The Expanse, which released its fourth season 10 days after this list came out. Around the middle of the show’s second season, I fell behind on The Expanse, in large part due to Peak TV glut and various other time-devouring commitments. Fortunately I’ve had time lately to get caught up, and we finished Season 4 on Dec. 31, 2019. It’s a late-breaking and deserving addition to the list!

Continue reading The Top TV Shows of 2019

Through the Looking Glass: A Lost Retrospective Podcast

Hello! I am very excited to share this with you. This fall, Tara Bennett and I co-hosted a Lost retrospective podcast for SyfyWire. The six-part podcast explored the show’s impact, influence and legacy through a series of conversations with special guests. We’d love it if you checked out all six parts, but if I may be so bold, you’re really going to want to hear the season finale.

Continue reading Through the Looking Glass: A Lost Retrospective Podcast

‘Slings & Arrows’ Arrives on Acorn: Why You Should Watch

“Slings & Arrows” arrives on Acorn’s streaming service on Monday, Nov. 4, which should be a national holiday in North America, probably.

I wrote about “Slings,” the great Canadian series, twice about a decade ago. The first piece I’m republishing below is from 2008 and is an overview written on the occasion of the show’s DVD box-set release. The second story, from 2007, focuses on the third and final season. Each season is only six episodes long, which may well be a selling point for many folks overwhelmed by #content.

If you’ve never seen the show, you can read the first few paragraphs of the first piece safely. There are a few mild spoilers in these pieces but 1. They shouldn’t interfere with your enjoyment of “Slings” in any way, if the show ends up being your kind of thing and 2. I’ve marked where to stop reading the first piece if you’d rather go in knowing nothing.

You should definitely go in knowing that I love “Slings & Arrows” and that I consider it one of the great unheralded gems of the last couple of decades. It’s lovingly knowing about how hard (and how joyous) it can be to create good art, it’s often quite funny, it’s genuinely moving at times, and it features fine performances from Paul Gross, Rachel McAdams, Luke Kirby, Mark McKinney, Sarah Polley, Colm Feore, Stephen Ouimette, William Hutt, Don McKellar and many others.

A note about its arrival on Acorn: Season 1 arrives Nov. 4, Season 2 shows up Nov. 25 and Season 3 hits the service Dec. 16. And I know there are now approximately eight million streaming services vying for your money, but if you like U.K. TV, consider signing up for Acorn. It’s particularly strong on British TV and, in general, shows in which people wear sweaters while drinking tea or solving crimes (or both).

Acorn’s press release reminds me that New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum called “Slings” “the single best TV show about theater ever made,” and she is correct. That said, it’s about more than just theater; it’s really about why people choose to pursue creative endeavors, despite how hard those paths usually are. “Slings” blends smart satire and humane insight in equal measures, and that is a genuinely hard thing to do. A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted about this Acorn release and the love for the show remains strong.

The below was first published Feb. 5, 2007:

The strike by Hollywood writers may be over soon — and hooray for that. But there’s been one benefit to this otherwise frustrating TV drought — it’s given us a chance to catch up on some worthy programs via DVD. And “Slings & Arrows” may be the ideal viewing choice for these waning days of the strike.

Each season of the Canadian series, which concerns the backstage drama at a Shakespeare theater festival, is only six episodes long, and all three seasons were released in one boxed set by Acorn Media on Feb. 5. The handsome and handy set includes a brand-new disc of extras, but never mind them (the extras aren’t great, though the extended versions of some episodes are a nice plus).

The play’s the thing, or rather the New Burbage Festival’s often-hapless attempts to stage the Bard’s classics — that’s the main attraction. (There’s more on the show here.)

“Slings,” which has given showcases to actors such as Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook”), Sarah Polley (the writer/director of “Away From Her”) and Canadian stage legend William Hutt, is set in New Burbage’s rehearsal spaces, offices and pubs. And no TV show has ever done a better job of demonstrating why otherwise sane people are willing to risk their relationships, their financial health and their sanity, all for the love of the theater.

Those who wrote and performed “Slings” show a palpable love for language and the magic of the stage. And there are fascinating insights into what goes into creating a terrific performance. 

Continue reading ‘Slings & Arrows’ Arrives on Acorn: Why You Should Watch

See You On the Other Side: My Battlestar Galactica Post-Finale Interviews and Review

This piece was originally published March 14, 2009. The publication I worked for then let the post lapse into the void. But there were many copies.

Can you believe it’s really over? I can’t either. Before accepting that fact, let’s talk and think and write about the finale way too much. Here goes…

Part 1: The interview with Moore

MR: I think one thing that threw me about the finale was that it was hopeful.

RDM: [laughs] There were a fair number of people that were prepared for the most nihilistic [finale ever].

MR: “You’re going to kill them all, aren’t you!?”

RDM: I know.

MR: It’s the ultimate sucker punch of “Battlestar Galactica” — that it ends on a hopeful note.

RDM: Yeah, it’s true. It’s the final twist. The final twist is — that it’s all OK. 

MR: Talk to me about that whole second Earth thing. That kind of gave me pause me when I saw it.

RDM: It was built into the show when we decided to get to Earth. This was always the plan – the plan was to get to Earth, have it be a cinder, and then go, “God, where now?” And take the audience on this other journey and make them forget about that and not think about it. Because the concept of the show was to search for a place called Earth.

So we wanted to give that to you before you expected it and make it a downer and [have you go,] “Oh shoot, now what?” And now you’re really adrift. [The intention was] to put the audience with the characters, where they were really adrift and not hoping that anything better was going to happen.

And at the very last, at the very end, to then have a moment of hope, to have something to hang on to, and to give them the thing that they had quested for for so long, and to give that to the audience too.

MR: And so it’s as if this Earth is an homage to the other Earth, the first one.

RDM: I thought there was something interesting about that. This isn’t the original Earth. We’re actually [living on] an homage, as you said, to the original Earth. They come here and try to learn a lesson from the original Earth and make this Earth a better story.

MR: So the question is, did they learn their lesson?

RDM: Exactly. And the show could not answer that. It didn’t feel right for the show, like [happens] with so many things, to give a definitive answer to that. Any more than the show said, “This is the answer to terrorism, this is the answer to Iraq, these are the answers to security and freedom.” It gets to a place where you have an opportunity and you have a hope, but you couldn’t definitively say, “It’s going to be OK.”

MR: I went back and watched the closing moments of “Crossroads, Part 2” again, and the final image is of a planet that looks a lot like Earth. How does that fit in to what we see in “Daybreak”? Can you walk me through that?

RDM: That was all specifically thought out. The planet that you see at the end of “Crossroads” is this planet that we stand on. It has the North American continent and the South American [continent], it’s very clear, we wanted it to be visually easy to identify for everybody.

Kara takes them to both Earths, as a matter of fact. She takes them to the original Earth, which, when we showed it in Revelations, we were careful to never quite be able to identify the land masses from orbit. We wanted you to accept it as Earth, and most people assumed it was this Earth, but we didn’t want to flat out mislead you, so we didn’t want to have it look like North America too.

MR: So Kara comes back in “Crossroads,” she says, “I’ve been to Earth”…

RDM: She had been to that Earth. The original Earth.

MR: The crispy Earth.

RDM: She guided the fleet to get there. She takes us to that. That’s part of her experience that she remembers. She remembers traveling there, seeing there, and comes back to the fleet saying, “I know how to get to that place.”

In the finale, she makes an intuitive leap connecting the music as coordinates, enters the into the jump computer and those coordinates take us to the second Earth, this place.

MR: It was a little bit of a fakeout, you have to admit.

RDM: Yeah, we did a head fake. But I don’t think it crosses the line, I don’t think it’s unduly misleading. I think you accept it as you go along. And clearly [we] wanted people to draw the connection that it was going to be this Earth, but we also didn’t put anything in the show that prevented us from doing the finale the way we wanted to.

Continue reading See You On the Other Side: My Battlestar Galactica Post-Finale Interviews and Review