I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution is a collection of 32 brilliant, generous essays, most of which have been previously published by The New Yorker, where Nussbaum is a TV critic ... Nussbaum's essays aren't merely moralizing, though they can fit into the genre of 'The Thing You Thought Was Bad Is Actually Good' essays, or the slightly rarer converse, 'The Thing You Thought Was Good Is Actually Bad' essays, which lose value quickly unless the writer is able to significantly engage with the artwork in its own right, outside of its role as a David or a Goliath. Nussbaum's do. They are marbled with her thinking about prestige and power and gender and taste, but they are also funny ... It's thrilling to watch Nussbaum stake the slick misogyny of True Detective, or the cloying phoniness of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as she insists implicitly and explicitly that TV should be mind-expanding, complex, generous, and, above all, have things to say about who we are and what we want ... But what about the people who make TV? Here, she is not so certain. The collection's one new piece of writing...is a queasy, poignant 50-page consideration of the question: 'What should we do with the art of terrible men?' ... Here, her ambivalence is more affecting than the gleaming certainty of prior chapters. The essay functions as a kind of eulogy: not for the men, but for the things we had the privilege of loving uncomplicatedly, before we were forced to know better.
Throughout I Like to Watch, Nussbaum dedicates a rectifying amount of space to shows by, for, and about women. She takes much deserved deep dives into series that may not otherwise be taken seriously ... Above all, Nussbaum has elevated the work of women like few other television critics have. Her feminist lens does not limit her brilliance as a critic—it is instead a significant source of that brilliance ... I Like to Watch creates a new canon and celebrates a more inclusive notion of quality, beyond the confines of 'prestige' ... as essential a critical companion as any of [Pauline] Kael’s books, and it establishes its author as Kael’s peer and heir—whether Nussbaum agrees or not.
What Nussbaum does is thrillingly different; she treats television as art in its own right — not the kind of rarefied, fragile museum piece that requires you to handle it with a hushed reverence and kid gloves, but a robust, roiling form that can take whatever you throw its way ... though I Like to Watch is mostly a selection of Nussbaum’s reviews and profiles over the years, you can see how the residue of that 'drunken cultural brawl' still seems to animate her ... confident, dauntless criticism — smart and spiky, brilliantly sure of itself and the medium it depicts. But as appealing and seductive as it is, it lugs some of its own baggage too. Nussbaum reacts to a gendered cultural hierarchy by deploying the weapons of that hierarchy against it: a certain combativeness, a bold swagger. It’s a feminism steeped in the toughen-up language of cultural libertarianism ... As ardent as Nussbaum’s critical responses are, she also knows that art and our judgments of it aren’t necessarily chiseled in stone; there’s a contingency that can be inevitable and even potent, should we choose to accept it.
Nussbaum’s essays are at once brainy and so well written that I found myself stopping not only to ponder the ideas but to savor her prose. She writes like an angel infected with the sportive spirit of a mischievous imp ... Nussbaum is fond of word play and startling paradoxes ... Her prose succeeds in creating an easy intimacy that feels like conversation. Reviewing is personal for her, and she’s present in the writing ... Agreeing or disagreeing with Nussbaum, however, is beside the point. I Like To Watch is a must-read for everyone obsessed with the relationship between politics and American culture.
Nussbaum’s once-iconoclastic views have become mainstream. That obnoxious guy who used to brag that he didn’t own a TV can now be seen holding court over cocktails about how you must watch Fleabag. (Really though: You must!) ... Emily Nussbaum won the argument. Now what? ... Over and over, Nussbaum pushes back against a hierarchy that rewards dramas centered on men and hyperbolically masculine pursuits (dealing drugs, being a cop, committing murders, having sex with beautiful women) and shoves comedies and whatever scans as 'female' to the side. Nussbaum both punctures the often-inflated praise around male narratives peppered with 'interchangeable female corpses' and elevates the stories of women that are frequently neglected ... Nussbaum’s writing consistently comes back to the question of 'whose stories carried weight . . . what kind of creativity counted as ambitious, and who . . . deserved attention . . . Whose story counted as universal?' To that end, Nussbaum writes not just about the shows themselves but the people with the power to determine whose shows get made and seen at all.
...[an] insightful, thought-provoking collection of essays ... It seems fitting that Nussbaum begins her entertaining collection with a new essay entitled 'The Big Picture: How Buffy the Vampire Slayer Turned Me into a TV Critic.' Here she contrasts that show with the cultural impact of The Sopranos ... It’s also here, in this first essay, that Nussbaum reveals her own model of criticism: 'It’s about celebrating what never stops changing.' Whether you’ve long been a TV fan or you’ve recently found yourself returning to this fascinating medium for long binge-watching sessions, this is a book you won’t want to miss.
The title alone indicates that [Nussbaum] doesn’t discriminate based on which TV shows get the best ratings. She writes compelling arguments in favor of under-appreciated shows, like Jane the Virgin, which a colleague once told her was a guilty pleasure show. Perhaps her most admirable content appears in essays like her piece on the #MeToo movement, 'Confessions of the Human Shield,' in which she spits the question right out: 'What should we do with the art of terrible men?' ... She’s hilarious and sincere, and even if you don’t agree with her about a review (as this writer felt about her pan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) her collection is simply fun to read ... TV is personal. And, what’s hard for a critic is that most people in America watch it and would die defending their favorite characters. While her pieces are smart, and certainly exude the New Yorker’s cerebral palate, Nussbaum writes for the fans, no matter what type of television is their jam.
Nussbaum’s witty, whip-smart writing...has breathed new life into the art of criticism itself at a time when fan blogs and websites such as Rotten Tomatoes were starting to make critics seem redundant ... Nussbaum’s chatty, unpretentious style is a big part of her appeal. When she throws around terms like 'auteurist,' it’s devoid of the snobbishness she’s made it her mandate to slay ... Equally enjoyable is her obvious thrill at the serendipity of her position amidst the embarrassment of riches that constitutes the contemporary TV landscape ... the book’s long, thoughtful essay on the #MeToo movement is a highlight. Nussbaum isn’t afraid to be transparent as she grapples with the fall of her erstwhile heroes ... I Like to Watch...indelibly captures the arc and spirit of TV’s thrilling, two-decades-long (and counting) coming-out party.
Emily Nussbaum is insightful and engaging in this collection ... Clearly, readers are in the hands of an expert with a deep understanding and appreciation of what she considers an American art form ... Less compelling is Nussbaum’s chapter on the gory, NBC crime drama Hannibal, which she finds 'gloriously strange and profound in the realm of opera and poetry,' but is almost as unreadable as the show is unwatchable ... Yet even when writing about shows which viewers may never have watched or liked, Nussbaum is thought-provoking. And she is especially acute in identifying the failings of hit series[.]
...offers an expansive collection of writing that captures the artistically evolving spirit of current TV ... Assembled together, the author’s essays and reviews reveal her vast interests and unpretentious tastes as well as her keen insights into what’s phony. She seems equally appreciative of gold-standard dramatic series like The Sopranosand the pleasurable indulgences of “unscripted” reality shows such as Vanderpump Rules. We are currently living in what many consider the golden age of TV...and Nussbaum has proven to be a shrewd, highly reliable source for evaluating this rapidly progressing medium ... Sharp, insightful writing that firmly positions Nussbaum as one of the leading TV critics of our time.