Features and criticism

I’m an experienced, digital-savvy writer with years of experience synthesizing often complex topics on deadline with a clear, conversational voice.

Since 2003 I’ve contributed a broad variety of stories to the L.A. Times’ arts and entertainment coverage while also acting as the paper’s jazz critic for over 10 years. In 2016, I made a shift toward TV with various forms of features, commentary and reviews. I also write a long-running weekly column Overrated/Underrated, which has been syndicated in a few newspapers around the country. Which is nice.

Here are a few samples, in addition to these rounded up by that paper where I work.

(Note: With regard to the above image, I’m pretty sure that 97.6% of the time my critical personality runs far closer to Bugs than Daffy.)

  • Commentary and cultural perspective

Overrated/Underrated (2009-2019)
A weekly, sometimes syndicated column where I mouthed off about pop culture. The whole mess ended with a farewell edition here in June of 2019
2019201820172016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013, pt 1, pt. 2 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009

Recap and analysis: ‘Game of Thrones’, the final season
Ep. 1 | Ep. 2| Ep. 3 preview: Who will die? | Ep. 3 | Ep. 4 | Ep. 5 preview: This won’t end well | Ep. 5 | Seven futile hopes for the finale | Ep. 6: No one’s very happy

A look back at the year that was in stand-up comedy
Three names that broke ground in comedy in 2019: Hannah Gadsby, Drew Michael, and Donald Trump  (Dec. 22, 2018)

I also looked at how charged the Oscars felt in 2017 and how they do/don’t matter. 
Overrated/Underrated: Oscars 2017 have never mattered less yet continue to stand for more (Feb. 25, 2017)

…and before that, I thought about a bit of an existential crisis on the impact of social media on the very idea of over- and underrating things. 
After a year of hot takes and backlashes, what are we doing here? (Dec. 15, 2016)

This column first stretched out and walked around as a full-length essay about the artists that have reached a plane beyond criticism. 
Pop culture’s sacred cows: Just dare to dis them (May 16, 2014)

  • Sports and Pop Culture

How do the Rams fit into L.A.’s pop cultural fabric? It’s complicated (Feb 1, 2019)

How does the NFL keep ratings up despite on- and off-field issues? Speed is the thing (Dec. 29)

Jemele Hill remains a socially conscious voice for sports in the Showtime documentary ‘Shut Up and Dribble’ (Nov. 3)

The World Cup lives up to its billing with far-reaching appeal — even for neutrals (July 2)

To watch or not to watch: Notes from an ambivalent Patriots fan as the Super Bowl approaches (Feb. 2, 2018)

  • TV and Comedy Reviews

Review: ‘Deadwood: The Movie’ closes out a beloved series on a bittersweet note (May 30, 2019)

Review: Hulu’s ‘Shrill’ offers rare pleasures on the strength of Aidy Bryant (March 14, 2019)

Review: Few surprises in Nathan Fillion’s ‘The Rookie’ (Oct. 16)

Review: Flight of the Conchords in joyful live special that reflects a sillier, more innocent time (Oct. 4)

Jon Stewart defends Samantha Bee, challenges his audience in return to stand-up in San Francisco (June 4)

The Trump era may have raised the stakes, but comedy (and Clusterfest) goes on (June 3)

Roseanne Barr leaves her Trump-tweeting behind (somewhat) in a stand-up stop in Vegas (May 5)

White House Correspondents’ Dinner and the ‘Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump’: What a difference seven years make (April 30)

Do you believe in magic? Then ‘Deception’ might be the illusionist cop show you crave (March 10)

Mindy Kaling’s new show ‘Champions’ feels like a victory  (March 8)

Lord knows, by-the-book sitcom ‘Living Biblically’ could use more laughs (Feb. 25)

Amazon’s ‘Absentia’ puts Stana Katic back in action (Feb. 1, 2018)

Judd Apatow turns his attention to the Avett Brothers for ‘Make It Last’ (Jan. 29, 2018)

In the dark world of ‘Black Mirror,’ the brightest moments stand out (Dec. 27, 2017)

Talking unicorns and Chris Meloni make ‘Happy’ a weirdly dark ride (Dec. 6, 2017)

Hulu’s ‘Too Funny to Fail’ looks at the legacy of the doomed ‘Dana Carvey Show’ (Oct. 20, 2017)

‘Spielberg’ dives deep into the filmmaker’s venerated career (Oct. 7, 2017)

The troubling surveillance state of Jeremy Piven’s tech visionary in ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’ (Sept. 30, 2017)

Seth MacFarlane’s ‘Star Trek’ homage ‘The Orville’ has a mixed-up mission (Sept. 10, 2017)

  • TV and Comedy Features

By design, ‘Lodge 49’ is the ‘least aspirational show on TV’ (August 9, 2019)

‘BoJack Horseman’ co-creator Lisa Hanawalt flies high with the surreal ‘Tuca & Bertie’ (May 3, 2019)

‘Game of Thrones’ is blockbuster TV. Why it may be the last of its kind (April 12, 2019)

The odds for 7 shows vying to become heirs to ‘Game of Thrones’ (April 12, 2019)

‘Abby’s’ heads outside to shake-up the typical sitcom (March 27, 2019)

The creators of ‘High Maintenance’ traffic in human connection (March 16, 2019)

‘Bodega Boys’ Desus and Mero make the leap to Showtime in new late-night shows (Feb. 21, 2019)

An absurdist yet pointed look at ’80s Wall Street in Showtime’s ‘Black Monday’ (Jan. 18, 2019)

The Woolsey Fire hits close to home in making the upcoming TruTV comedy, ‘Tacoma FD’ (Nov. 23)

Sundance Now launches its first scripted podcast with ‘Exeter’ (Oct. 25)

The midterms are the message for podcast-turned-HBO-series ‘Pod Save America’ (Oct. 12)

Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph examine the realities of long-term love with ‘Forever’ (Sept. 14)

Stop feeling bad, NBC’s new ‘I Feel Bad’ will do it for you (Sept. 13)

For creators of HBO’s unpredictable ‘Animals,’ the goal is to draw you in (Aug. 31)

Inside the Laugh Factory’s Comedy Camp, where comics help kids spin darkness into laughter (Aug. 17)

Jodie Whittaker meets the Comic-Con masses as ‘Doctor Who’ enters a new era (July 19)

In ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ a revolution is reflected at different points (July 12)

Bobcat Goldthwait stays true to his roots with TruTV’s ‘Misfits and Monsters’ (July 6)

Taylor Sheridan and Kevin Costner examine another dark side of the West in ‘Yellowstone’ (June 20)

‘Sex and the City’ at 20: How the HBO series revolutionized TV (June 1)

With a lineup led by Jon Stewart, Clusterfest proves comedy is more relevant than rock (May 31)

‘Roseanne’ cancellation a blow to ABC, but network praised for swift action (May 29)

Everything old continues to be new again at the TV Upfronts (May 18)

Wyatt Cenac returns to TV political comedy with the unconventional ‘Problem Areas’ (May 11)

The second season of the otherworldly ‘Legion’ finds an unlikely home in Los Angeles (May 8)

The stars of ‘Westworld’ on how a futuristic series grew more timely in the era of ‘#metoo’ (April 20)

Bill Hader breaks out of the ‘SNL’ mold with the surprisingly, satisfyingly dark ‘Barry’ (March 24)

Sarah Silverman on leaving her bubble for ‘I Love You, America’ (Dec. 8, 2017)

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s new action-comedy ‘Future Man’ happily draws from the past (Nov. 10, 2017)

The ‘American Horror Story’ cast gets a taste of its own medicine at Roanoke maze at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (Sept. 26, 2017)

On Camera: Stephen Colbert on his love for ‘Stranger Things’ and his promise of nudity at Sunday’s Emmys (Sept. 12, 2017)

Trump coverage goes dark as news networks and the nation gather around the eclipse (Aug. 21, 2017)

At Comic-Con, California Treasurer John Chiang helps explain what infrastructure repair has to do with superhero movies (July 24, 2017)

With Sean Spicer’s possible retreat from on-camera briefings, will comedy be the same? (June 2, 2017)

What ‘SNL’s’ coast-to-coast live experiment says about our streaming habits, second screens and the Trump factor (April 14, 2017)

Judd Apatow and Pete Holmes get real about comedy in HBO series ‘Crashing’ (Feb. 17, 2017)

‘Planet Earth II’ is sci-fi, drama and thriller wrapped in a nature show (Feb. 16, 2017)

From refugee camp to Hollywood: Brothers who write for CBS comedy ‘The Great Indoors’ on their journey and the immigration ban (Feb. 4, 2017)

Morley Safer dies at 84: A reluctant voice on camera, he helped change television news (May 19, 2016)
I grew up watching 60 Minutes, then I wrote an A-1 obituary for one of its key figures.

‘Idol’ vs. ‘Voice’ (Summer 2012)
I recapped ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice’ in 2012 and compared the best contenders. I made fun of both equally, which shows a kind of journalistic impartiality

Showtracker: Season five of ‘The Wire’ (2008)
Humbly attempting to cover the end of, okay, the best TV drama of all time. Mistakes were made, but fun was had.

More interviews and features: Melissa McCarthyOn set with Showtime’s ‘I’m Dying Up Here’ Sebastian Maniscalco and the Comedy Store, Catastrophe’s’ Rob Delaney‘Me, Myself, and I’Questions from the ‘Game of Thrones’ finale, Recap: ‘Game of Thrones’Emmy nominations: ‘SNL’ and late-night comedy nodsViceland’s ‘What Would Diplo Do?’, Obituary: Gwen Ifill,  ‘Big Little Lies’Super Bowl LI, ‘Lemony Snicket’, The Summer OlympicsBill Simmons ‘Any Given Wednesday‘, Documentary Now!’

  • Music Criticism

Commentary: Hugh Hefner left a problematic legacy, but his Playboy Jazz Festival endures (Sept. 30, 2017)

In tense times, Godspeed You! Black Emperor sounds hopeful on ‘Luciferian Towers’ (Sept. 20, 2017)

Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington cross the generational divide at the Hollywood Bowl (Aug. 24, 2017)

Transcending genre labels, Vijay Iyer leads the Ojai Music Festival toward bold new territory (June 12, 2017)

Appreciation: Vocalist Al Jarreau ventured further than his smooth reputation (Feb. 13, 2017)

Live review: Radiohead reflects on a timeless body of work at the Shrine (Aug. 5, 2016)
Thinking  about how some bands don’t sound dated.

Appreciation: Jazz musician Charlie Haden spoke for beauty (July 12, 2014)
Charlie Haden called me one day to talk music — but his career said so much more.

Jazz review: Charlie Haden speaks volumes at REDCAT (Dec. 11, 2013)
I reviewed a poignant show with a jazz master as his body fails him. A strange honor.

Review: ‘Holding It Down’ awakens us to veterans’ dreams (Sept. 10, 2013)
Pianist Vijay Iyer with wordsmith Mike Ladd, making important music.

‘Blurred Lines’ verdict: In jazz, the vibe is everything (March 13, 2015)
What does Robin Thicke have to do with jazz? Not a lot, which is sort of the point.

Critic’s Notebook: San Francisco turns the sound up on jazz (Jan. 26, 2013)
This little thing landed on A-1, as in the front page. This may be bragging.

Critic’s Notebook: Vince Guaraldi’s ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ score is a gift (Nov. 24, 2012)
Proud to have written about the music that got me into this mess.

Notebook: The groove where jazz and dance music meet (Aug. 26, 2012)
EDM, as the kids say, is colliding with jazz. And it is good.

Critic’s Notebook: Cutting edge jazz is missing at the Bowl (July 17, 2011)
I bark at the whirlwind. Here’s where I told L.A. Phil they weren’t booking enough new jazz.

  • Music Features

Sharon Van Etten changes up the psychology of her songwriting on ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ (Jan 18, 2019)

With ‘Sleep Well Beast,’ the National brings new layers to gloom and heartache (Oct. 10, 2017)

Ojai Music Festival expands its eclectic vision under the eye of Vijay Iyer (June 2, 2017)

Norah Jones looks back toward a familiar sound on new album (Oct. 7, 2016)
When you can call Wayne Shorter and Brian Blade for your album, you do.

Five songs proving David Bowie can’t be captured in five songs (Jan. 11, 2016)
Where were you when David Bowie fell to earth? I was here.

Kamasi Washington expands jazz’s boundaries with ‘The Epic’ (May 4, 2015)
Something is happening with music in Los Angeles. This guy is near the center of it.

‘Mistaken for Strangers’: Matt, Tom Berninger on the not-National doc (April 25, 2014)
I also like The National, and their strange little movie.

Wayne Shorter marks his 80th, but is far from ‘finished’  (Aug. 24, 2013)
Talking to a great like Wayne Shorter is a little like a carnival ride.

When you say ‘jazz,’ Nicholas Payton hears BAM (April 27, 2013)
A profoundly talented trumpeter talks about some serious issues with jazz.

SFJAZZ Center plays another bold riff  (Jan. 5, 2013)
This ran in Sunday’s Calendar section, and Chicago Tribune seemed to like it too.

Jazz Bakery finalizes deal for new home in Culver City (Jan 13, 2011)
Breaking! News! At the time, anyway.

Jazz echoes through the ribs of the Blue Whale (Oct. 22, 2010)
An unconventional space opens in Little Tokyo–and becomes the hottest room in town.

Finding jazz at a cool price: Alternative jazz venues in L.A. (Aug. 22, 2009)
There’s always good music to be had if you know where to look.

Playboy Jazz Festival plays to a wide audience (June 10, 2009)
In which I wonder why Playboy books so much smooth jazz. It’s okay, we’re friends now

Other interviews: El VyNels Cline, Robert Glasper, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, The Bad Plus, Ambrose Akinmusire, Vijay Iyer, Norah JonesMedeski Martin and Wood, Christian Scott, Robert Glasper, Esperanza SpaldingCharlie Hunter, Skerik, Bill Cosby, Anthony Wilson, Gerald Wilson, Calexico, Sparklehorse

More reviews and features: Spiritualized, Cecile McLorin Salvant,  Wayne ShorterThe Grammys: New voices in jazz Appreciation: Dave Brubeck,  Atoms for Peace, Medeski Martin and Wood, Keith Jarrett, ‘Joni’s Jazz’, Allman Brothers, Robert GlasperObituary: Chico Hamilton,  Herbie Hancock, Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran, Playboy Jazz Festival, Angel City Jazz Festival, Ornette Coleman, Esperanza Spalding, Sonny Rollins, Ambrose Akinmusire

Album reviewsRadiohead, Pearl Jam, Fela Kuti, Dawn of Midi, Solo piano albums 2013, Best jazz of 2012, Miles Davis: Live in Europe 1969, Fred Hersch and live albums of 2012,

  • Movies

You know Hollywood is serious about stopping Trump when they call in the Avengers (Oct. 5, 2016)
‘Will & Grace,’ Joss Whedon and Shonda Rhimes take election year stands.

Don Cheadle makes his Miles Davis film ‘feel like Miles’ and not just be about Miles (Dec. 29, 2016)

Playing Chet Baker in ‘Born to be Blue’ was an unexpected second chance for Ethan Hawke (Dec. 29, 2016)

  • Arts

For some time I was the daily blogger for the Times’ arts and culture blog Culture Monster, which has sadly been lost to the dustbin of Internet history after various site redesigns. There’s a small collection of posts to be found here

A complicated canopy for Siqueros ‘America Tropical’ set to rise (April 24, 2012)

Bone flutes found in Germany point to roots of creativity (May 19, 2012)

  • Local entertainment

Amusing asides (Jan. 25, 2007)
A Calendar Weekend cover story on the alternative comedy scene in L.A., written long, long ago

Beyond last call (Nov 9, 2006)
Another cover story on places for after hours dining in Los Angeles. Service!

  • Travel

Get out of town: Reno, Nevada (Feb. 21, 2008)
I like Reno.

But wait, there’s more — Just ask Google. Or that paper where I work.

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