October 21, 2020

A favourite of mine David Letterman returned to Australian screens on Netflix with season 3 of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. The show has proven a mixed bag, fans of Letterman’s acerbic wit don’t know what to make of him fawning over Kim Kardashian, the gentle kinder and yes older Dave make you miss that smart alec Hoosier but what remains is someone with a fervent curiosity who wants you to see the whole individual. I also enjoy watching Dave now in his 70s find ways to relate to people younger than him simply through curiosity and common ground. Maybe some interviews go on too long but I still think this is a good show, that David Letterman is a national treasure and has a way of getting to things in an interview that others may have missed.

There were four episodes, the weakest is Kim Kardashian, she’s enjoying being at the height of her powers, the audience is packed with her crowd and she’s maybe ready to have one over Letterman but she gets him to open up and talk about the time she was robbed and show that there is always a human being at the centre of a headline and lest we forget it. His goal and her vulnerability is admirable.

The interview with Robert Downey Jr is polished with some Hollywood flair. RDJ is on and ready to have a laugh but also talk about his past. It’s the closest to what we might have expected, The Late Show but longer and on location with an entertaining star.

The one with Lizzo is great in watching how the two connect to each other and talk careers and families. A highlight is Lizzo telling Dave not to be so hard on himself with his rapping.

But the greatest episode is easily the one with Dave Chappelle. an artistic and witty figure who is arguably the greatest stand-up comedian working today. Dave probes him here but it is Chappelle who makes the show so special in light of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter. I absolutely agree with everything he says about community, about how we are all victims of prejudice but some more often than others and how we have to all come together to fix our problems. The people of Yellow Springs, Ohio should be proud of themselves too. They take care of each other, such communities are special.

-Lloyd Marken


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A couple of years ago I heard about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, those who spoke about it really seemed to dig it but in an age of disparate audiences I alas was a Netflix customer and Mrs Maisel was available on streaming service Amazon Prime in Australia. With so much content to choose from in the world I decided I could make do without Mrs Maisel.

How wrong I was.

The show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a delight, I easily feel it is one of the best shows I’ve seen in the past three years of its run, but this is not a show that should come billed as the best show on TV. A label that misleads and heightens expectations. What makes The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel so good is the way it grows on you and the way it builds to jokes.

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But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, what the hell is the show about? We meet the newly minted Mrs. Maisel at her wedding reception in the mid 1950s. She’s holding court doing a speech, it’s a big reception, she regales us with tales of the courtship of her husband while she was at college. We learn a lot in that opening scene, we learn Midge as we will come to know comes from a well off family, is educated, likes to perform to an audience and is a passionate individual not ready to conform to society’s expectations and always up for a laugh. Its important that we meet Midge right at this moment in her life. This is supposed to be her crowning achievement, she’s graduated, gotten married to a good man and is going to pump out 3 kids by 30 and be a good mother and wife in a well to do family. Except well none of that is going to happen and what is going to help this young, intelligent, witty and ambitious woman survive the ordeals ahead is everything we see she is in these opening moments.

Midge is going to be a stand-up comic and God help me I know this is true – she is going to be a star. To become the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge’s life possibly has to get blown up because without that she doesn’t come to realise she has been living a lie and possibly the biggest lie of them all that she is happy in a life that she was not meant to live.

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I don’t want to give too much away but Midge’s husband walks out on her and the first season is about dealing with the repercussions of that. We meet both families and their friends and personalities of the late 1950s underground comic scene (fyi Luke Kirby as Lenny Bruce is brilliant). You can tell a lot about a show by how much energy is put into the supporting characters. People with one scene that serve a purpose are given wit and charm and a whole lived in history thanks to the writing and the wonderful performers. There are throw away scenes that are some of the best in the series and then other laughs that make you nod and reflect yes that’s so much like so and so.

Out of the terrific ensemble cast, I want to give a shout out to Marin Hinkle as Midge’s mother Rose who is so subtle in her delivery. However even more than that, this show made me realise how much of a national treasure Tony Shalhoub is. I first noticed Shalhoub years ago as a tough FBI agent in The Siege (a change of pace for him as he was already established as a comedy sitcom star) and then I saw him as a laid back space travelling actor in Galaxy Quest. Here… he is Dad and he makes you smile and cry in equal measure. Like all fathers he is far from perfect, but he’s pretty close if you know what I mean. Hinkle and him give gravitas to scenes that are elevated by their presence and deliver pitch perfect comic timing to all the others.

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Lead Rachel Brosnahan as Midge had been cast in some prominent roles in House of Cards and The Blacklist but here she gets to be the star and she makes the most of it. Midge is not perfect, she likes the spotlight a bit too much and drinking might be an issue down the road but for the most part she is quick witted, resilient, optimistic and giving to others. Something that I admire deeply about her is how she stands up for herself and keeps pursuing goals. You can’t make it in this business if you can’t roll with some heavy punches.

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I think what I love most about the show is at the centre of it are two women with an impossible big dream who chase it because they’ve got nothing to lose. Alex Borstein plays Susie Myerson who sees Midge perform stand-up comedy and decides to become her manager although she’s never been a manager before in her life. The juxtaposition of these two is regularly played up in the show with great results. Midge is well dressed in fashionable outfits and has her looks regularly commented upon. Susie dresses like a man and gets mistaken for one or even just ignored. Midge comes from a lot and is about to lose a lot of it forcing her to show a new independence she has always inherently had. Susie has come from nothing and so had nothing to lose but upsets the stability of the life she had established for herself by deciding to chase something larger. They’re both betting on the other to come through for them in a big way and they’re doing it because they believe in each other and doesn’t that just make your heart soar.

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The most recent season three ended with a setback for the two as they looked up at a plane rising into the New York skyline with their dreams seemingly on board leaving with it. All I could think was, “they’ll be okay, they’re gonna make it, they’re together.’

The production values are big for a TV show and there are lots of neat ways they frame things, take for example how a trip from New York to Paris is represented. The sound track is wonderful, fans of The Gilmore Girls (a show I missed but had a well off family at the centre of it, whip smart dialogue and establishing tracking shots that panned around a set and was also run by Amy Sherman Palladino) will recognise the work of the Palladinos here (her husband Daniel works on her shows too) but I think this might even be a show for people who didn’t appreciate Gilmore Girls.

There are flaws, Midge’s children only seem to be around when it is important to the plot, sometimes I wonder if favorite characters are consistently drawn or if we spend a little too many episodes in a setting because they’ve shelled out the budget for it and damnit now they’re going to make the most out of it. Catskills and Miami anyone?

Yet it is a series that grows on you, pays off little bread crumbs it left for you a million years ago. Truths that rarely go spoken but give so much satisfaction when they’re said at the height of a pivotal scene by a character. Sometimes this show is so good it warms your heart-it really does. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is my favourite TV show and you should definitely see it.

-Lloyd Marken


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The 25th of April is a sacred day in Australia. It is in remembrance of Australian and New Zealand soldiers lost in war, a reminder to help and honour all veterans, those of them still with us, and their families and to remember always that there is no glory in war –  Only loss. The day is borne out of the first day of the Gallipoli landings in 1915, appropriately the beginning of a failed military campaign, just one part of the Great War that forever marked a generation and left repercussions that have been felt down throughout the 20th century. It is a day of significance and remembrance to be spent solemnly.

The next day is the 26th of April and it holds significance too. On that day another generation would be called to sacrifice themselves in a huge undertaking that if it did not kill them outright would forever leave its mark. Thousands who through their efforts saved thousands more – maybe millions. In the Ukraine, in Russia, in greater Europe, throughout the rest of the world how much do we stop and think of the Heroes of Chernobyl?

What really grabbed me and held me were the incredible stories of the human beings who lived through it, and who suffered and sacrificed to save the people that they loved, to save their countrymen and to save a continent, and continued to do so, against odds that were startling and kept getting worse. I was so moved by it. It was like I had discovered a war that people just hadn’t really depicted, and I became obsessed.” -Craig Mazin

The five part mini-series from HBO and Sky UK, written by Craig Mazin a graduate of Princeton and the writer of the Hangover sequels may not be a perfectly written series. Despite strong critical notices and ratings, there have been dissenters no doubt put off by the slow pacing and the stories of some characters. It can be a bit of a slog at times, composite characters standing in for the nuanced reality of multiple individuals, and thematic points hammered home in the dialogue.

Yet the story of Chernobyl is remarkable and Mazin has articulated a fascination he had about two things. Firstly the power dynamics of a communist society that allows for such a disaster to take place and is not well placed to react quickly to it. Secondly, the communal and bitterly stoic nature of the people of the Soviet Union. As Mazin has pointed out in interviews, maybe only the Soviet people could have dealt with such a disaster this way. The two world wars, Stalin and Chernobyl. It was a hard century for the Soviet Union and the Ukraine took more than its fair share. Mazin knows this and knows it well.

The lesson of Chernobyl isn’t that modern nuclear power is dangerous. The lesson is that lying, arrogance, and suppression of criticism are dangerous.” –Craig Mazin

The series starts off in the morning of the 26th of April, 1986 when all hell broke loose except people didn’t quite react like it had. The first episode is about that first morning, reactor workers scrambling around their damaged facility not wanting to believe what is really happening, firemen arriving on site with no protective gear and locals gathered on a bridge looking at the impressive blue light in the sky.

Subsequent episodes spread out the timeframe and show the longer ongoing implications and developments. I was reminded of Tom Clancy and his everyman hero Jack Ryan in the situation faced by Valery Legasov as played by Jared Harris. A mid-level civil servant with some intelligence forced to communicate what is really going on during a crisis to foolhardy men of power. The character of Emily Watson’s Ulana Khomyuk gets similar scenes but isn’t flown in to Chernobyl via helicopter which is more akin to a Jack Ryan tale. There are a lot of stories and characters in Chernobyl; some may resonate more than others. Liquidators cleaning up the countryside afterwards, workers volunteering or “volunteering” for dangerous tasks, soldiers drinking their vodka straight, scientists and politicians smoking cigarettes in dimly lit rooms debating what is the next solution before it’s too late, wives relying on their wits and courage to be reunited with their radiation stricken husbands only to…

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Some subplots may resonate more than others but the tragedy of Chernobyl reveals the character of a people that are long overdue for some recognition in facing the greatest man-made catastrophe in human history. The relationship at the heart of the story is the one between the pragmatic party man Boris Shcherbina in charge of the whole operation and played by Stellan Skarsgard and Harris’s scientist Legasov who is just trying to do the right thing. Their growing respect and understanding of the other and what they do is the best relationship depicted in the series. Emily Watson gives another great performance and as does the rest of the cast, in episode four she delivers a line about Chernobyl that kind of breaks your heart.

The filmmakers seem invested in practicality as much as possible, including shooting in Lithuania at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant which resembled very much the appearance of Chernobyl itself. As a child of the 1980s I was enthralled by how much the lighting and colour grading of the series resembles film form that period.

Barring two significant sequences too, it feels very much like the shot composition and editing is very similar to that time period as well so that any variation from it has an impact and is in service to the story being told. One is a drone aerial shot that would have been done via helicopter or crane back in the day to reveal the evacuation of Pripyat. By making that choice it reminds that time has passed on and allows to move out from close ups in a way not possible when being done any other way. The second involves a 90 second sequence shot in real time that will not be spoiled here. All episodes are directed by Johan Renck who made his bones on several prestige television series and music videos; Chernobyl suggests more big things to come.

The series will not be for everyone, not least of which are due to some harrowing hospital scenes but if Chernobyl touches you it definitely leaves its mark.

-Lloyd Marken

P.S. I would recommend the podcast by Craig Mazin and Peter Sagal as well. The first episode can be found here.




We find ourselves at a funny crossroads with the end of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. Letterman seems to have enjoyed himself and there’s been enough that long term fans can insist he’s brought something good to the table. Yet the idea that Letterman has maybe added something new to his substantial legacy would be a stretch at best. The two late night talk shows he did were very different beasts to this program designed to entertain every minute they were on air (whether they did or didn’t) and paced to reflect this while still padding out with formula wherever you could since the workload was so high you had to have some reliable mainstays. It is not surprising to find myself wistfully missing the band, the sketches and the up to date nature of that program to comment on whatever was making headlines at the time. On the other hand Letterman can do great interviews and the long leisurely pace of his Netflix show showed potential for deeper conversations. The remotes also showed great promise to have Letterman out in the field but as the show went on this aspect more and more seemed an afterthought or a side dish that deserved to be the main. By the way let me just say that I really enjoyed the opening theme tune by the always great Paul Schaeffer.

I started this program happy with the Obama episode but looking forward to his conversations outside his comfort zone with Malala Yousafzai and maybe Jay-Z. Looking back the obvious candidates bore better episodes President Obama and George Clooney remain probably the best episodes. Malala Yousafzai delivered what I was hoping for, of challenging Dave and I hope to see more of this in the future but Jay-Z was not as good and Tina Fey was mostly entertaining because of her considerable talent. Going into the last episode I decided Howard Stern’s antagonistic needling would probably make for a good episode if not terribly original.

Stern is on point throughout, I enjoyed the relaxed way he asked Dave about his Netflix show at the end of it but Stern surprisingly got serious about his own childhood and about the apologies he owed Letterman and others. It was honest and vulnerable and showed growth but it didn’t necessarily make for good entertainment with Stern even suggesting at one point I can get the Fartman costume in five minutes if this is bad addressing the audience. Stern a contemporary of Dave’s is still in the game I guess and still ‘hot’. It made me reflect on how after all the fanfare during Dave’s victory lap in 2015 that he is maybe a little out of the loop calling on favours to have people show up for this show.

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I don’t want to beat on the show, I’m a fan and this was a perfectly good hour of viewing for me with Stern who is such a talent. But its interesting to note that what followed in the form of a bonus episode prepared by Netflix where Jerry Seinfeld and Dave sat down at an industry event as two of their stars and just chatted was far more entertaining and showed a more traditional filming dynamic. They threw back and forth at considerable pace, telling the other about the greatness of their work and vehemently denying it themselves, obviously prepared with some jokes which they fired off but also building to off the cuff remarks however the conversation threw them. At one point Jerry told Letterman he did not want to talk about his kids but he give him one thing a minute later. At another point Letterman talked about the kindness of a baseball player saying good day to him in the VIP part of the crowd. Seinfeld said that was nice of the baseball player but as Letterman insisted the significance of the nature of the gesture the former sitcom star let slip that he’s not doing this past the VIP area concluding “You’re David Letterman, you idiot.” The crowd erupted.

Watching Letterman with Stern and Seinfeld shows he can still improvise something on the spot and riff with the best after coming across unmatched with Fey. I saw him on Seth Meyers the other day and some of it was downright odd as he presented a tick in a snaplock bag from his back, so absurd I’m sure some fans of his 80s work were pleased but he also told some good jokes. So we know Letterman is still sharp and funny and under the right circumstances prickly and dignified. We know he’s earnest and curious and wanting to do good in the world. We know he can still get things out of people and can make a fascinating chat in the long time format of these interviews.

So what’s next? Come back and do another 6 or 10 episodes next year. Interview people like Amal Clooney, Donald Glover, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Ryan Coogler, Kumail Nunjiani, Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyongo, Jordan Peele, Greta Gerwig, Patty Jenkins, or Elizabeth Warren. Maybe that’s a little celebrity heavy or whatever but just for starters. Do the remotes with those people, go with them somewhere or watch them interact with their family or crews. Go to India and look at Turbines, go wherever you like, interview whoever you like and try to change the world for the better. Because I love you Dave and I was happy to have you back and I hope to see you again soon but there’s a few things we could improve upon for next year.

-Lloyd Marken


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A funny thing happened in Episode 5 of David Letterman’s new show, on Netflix, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. The man who’s verbally sparred with pundits, network executives, movie stars, politicians and fellow comedians just ceded territory to his guest. This is no loss or embarrassment for the 70 year old because his guest was Tina Fey and Letterman adores Fey. Not for her beauty which is striking, not for her kindness to him (Letterman distrusts gushers), but because as far as he’s concerned this is one the funniest people doing comedy today. Letterman did not deign to pass a torch to any of the many late night hosts upon his retirement the way Carson did for him but here you can’t help but notice who owns the stage in this exchange. Both come across as funny and intelligent but Fey shines and Letterman wisely doesn’t put up a fight. She won’t even let him win a point for saying one of her most recent skits was good. She deconstructs what was missing to applause. There’s nothing pathetic in this either, he states his opinions and gets quite a few laughs just by being himself but he’s delighted by how funny and intelligent she is and isn’t looking take any moment away from her.

Maybe his deference comes in this, as a liberal who has grown personally and politically in recent years and is constantly striving to create a better world with what little time he has left and worries about his young son. Maybe in Fey, Letterman thinks maybe the world will be alright and he’s not alone. Tina Fey is the gold standard of established female former SNL alumni. She’s done her own show, got some hit movies under her belt and is now doing a musical of her classic Mean Girls. She’s also a Mum and Letterman always fascinated by child rearing compares notes with his guest which is nice.

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A lot of media buzz has been created by a moment where Letterman says he doesn’t know why he didn’t have more female writers on his show and offers maybe he didn’t believe they wanted to do his show. Fey who was one of the presenters when he retired, when he was awarded the Kennedy Centers Honours and the Mark Twain prize looks him in the eye and says but they did. If you’ve read The Last Giant of Late Night: Letterman by Jason Zinoman you’ll appreciate the history behind this moment. She’s not being disrespectful but she’s being direct and Letterman concedes he was ignorant. I think its important to note that this is not really a personal criticism so much as a principled statement. At this point Fey is discussing real benefits that came about as the writers rooms she’s worked in have become more diverse. Letterman seems to be in agreement and the show ends with Fey saying I can’t believe I got to meet you let alone talk to you. Yet she is maybe at the height of her powers and he is maybe past them and no kind words from either can mask that.


The remote in this episode is even odder than the one from Jay-Z previously. After talking about Fey’s days at Second City in Chicago Letterman asks for a recommendation of where to eat in the Windy City. So he meets Blues legend Buddy Guy at The Athenian where they talk a little over roast chicken slathered over some chips. Letterman wisely advices Guy not to think too hard on where the grease comes from. Then Letterman takes in a performance in a club with Guy and Paul Schaeffer on the keyboards. It’s nice to see Schaeffer again and Guy has an interesting story in himself but the whole thing feels unrelated and under explored for what it is. I don’t know now what to expect with the impending finale with Howard Stern but I hope the remote actually has something to do with Howard Stern!

For me the best thing about this episode besides Fey herself is this, I would say Fey at times seems to be intensely feeling some emotions that she keeps a handle on. Letterman gets her to talk about things in the long format, about her family, about the construction of comedy performance and I don’t know if others would’ve been successful in eliciting such a powerful hour of conversation out of her. Maybe but he did. He’s still got something to offer.

-Lloyd Marken


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I was interested to what would happen in episode 4 of the new David Letterman show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction where he was to interview rapper Jay-Z. I don’t know Jay-Z or a lot about his genre of music. I also didn’t recall interviews between the two on The Late Show. To me it seemed like this was an opportunity for Letterman again to push outside his boundaries a little in away that interviews with Tina Fey, George Clooney, President Barack Obama and Howard Stern would not offer. Jay-Z is one of the biggest entertainers in the world and so its no surprise to find out that he was on Letterman back in the day but none of these talks seemed to have become the stuff of legend the way say ones with Stern did.

This new show disappoints and satisfies in equal measure then from what I was hoping for. For starters Jay-Z is warm, funny and thoughtful as an interview subject and he’s got a story or two to tell. Learning about Jay-Z’s life is the highlight of the program as he looks back on a father who wasn’t around, a mother who couldn’t be true to her own sexuality and a teenage boy selling crack after growing up in poverty. Music saved Jay-Z but its also interesting to note lots of people who helped him along the way. Now he is using his weight to look out for people not given enough opportunities or are treated unfairly from the justice system. If you’re inclined to argue that a justice system will target communities where crime is prolific not race I don’t think Jay-Z particularly cares. He’s offering scholarships for young people poor but smart. He’s asking does the punishment fit the crime and then fighting for those where he sees it isn’t. I’m happy to see that too.

But if you were looking to get an insight into the world of rap you will be sorely disappointed. Letterman discusses how complex the music is and Jay-Z discusses how putting something together is just like writing jokes for a stand-up. A few songs are discussed but they’re not played, something that would upset the flow of the show I admit. Also when Obama’s speeches or Clooney’s film clips weren’t shown in previous minds I didn’t mind because I knew what they were talking about but whereas here my own ignorance meant I was disappointed not to be showed more.

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Also in those episodes the remotes fitted nicely into articulating an aspect of the main guest. Here we go to Shangri-La studios and talk to producer Rick Rubin on a day where they doing some recording with singer Madison Ward. Two things stood out immediately, Rubin gives Dave’s beard a run for its money and two you can be an older gentleman in shorts striking a yoga pose. I’m just sayin’. Rubin is a legend in his own right and could easily be the subject of his own show and Ward has a first rate voice. While Jay-Z discusses the artistic process of producer and singer, its obvious this is intended to give us a demonstration of it. It also perhaps hint that whatever the genre of music or the background of the artist the point of music is always the same. That’s a lovely sentiment and some of the remote is nicely edited together and the lyrics of the closing song (beautifully dueted by Ward and Lukas Nelson) echoes some of what has been discussed by Letterman and Jay-Z.

Yet you might not even be aware after watching it of Rubin having been co-founder of Def Jam records which Jay-Z would go on to become President of. You will however be painfully aware of Letterman’s high school romance with an English girl as being one of the coolest things that ever happened to him in the same hour of television where he discusses marital infidelity. Regina you’re a saint. As interesting as some of this was I can’t help think of how much more effective it would have been if we’d been in the recording studio with an actual hip-hop artist. To me the discussion of the music is where this episode misses the mark.

The show closes strongly when Letterman discusses his own transgressions and then asks Jay-Z if any of this sounds familiar. Jay-Z gives a good but perfunctory answer and they move on to another topic and then Jay-Z further articulates how you’ve got to be better than the worst you’ve done. Unprompted he owns up more to his regrets and the lessons he took from them. Some of the lessons Jay-Z is trying to learn are ones we could all learn from about how to put away ego and fear and be good to others. Letterman (who never gives easy praise) says he loves him and they shake hands. Missed opportunity or not, the show does have it’s moments.

-Lloyd Marken


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I was looking forward to Malala Yousafzai appearing on David Letterman’s new Netflix show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction and as far as the reasons why I was not disappointed. Letterman is talking to a woman of a different age about important issue and for the first time. That means there is no established rapport and there may even be disagreements and that was one of the strengths of this episode.

Malala for example points out to Letterman things happen in other cities than New York and that she doesn’t like pizza amongst other things. With his target a polite and dignified person to interview, Dave plays the long game and brings out a little of her humour and makes her feel awkward in a good way like the way she challenges some of his presumptions. One of the most telling moments is when Dave pushes past her modesty to insist everything happens for a reason and she is doing good important work that will change many lives. We also find out that she is playing cricket at Oxford and that one of the world’s most famous students can sometimes start late on getting to work on assessment.

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This is the girl who was shot by the Taliban, she’s more than that of course and this episode is a great way to learn about her as a person but Letterman as he did with wounded veterans has a way of getting to the guts of a moment in someone’s life that changes everything. As someone who was fascinated by his own quintuple bypass he has a way of breaking down the remarkable work that goes into recovering from such an injury as having a bullet go through your face and shoulder. This is Dave at his most powerful and in his search for answers and freewheeling musing he draws out what Malala really things about her own experience and where she wants to go next.

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Perhaps still needing a moment where he chats to a man closer to his age, Letterman has fish and chips with Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai, an advocate in his own right. This was a nice moment where her Dad has a different recollection of things showing more concern for his daughter’s safety and more pride in her courage than she can but I couldn’t help but wonder again (following on from George Clooney’s Mum and sister not saying much last episode), where is Mum? The other remote in this episode has Letterman following around a group of visiting high school students checking out the campus of Oxford led by Malala as a student representative. Letterman acts the clown quite a bit eventually winning over the kids with his unapologetic dagginess and Yousafzai playing a good straight woman to his routine. Letterman always cool by being uncool. The ironic detachment of the 1980s gone though replaced by an earnestness for the next generation to be left a better world.  He jokes in the opening monologue  that you can’t get much older than me. This is one of the best remotes of the series and what a shocker actually features the guest herself.

This was a strong episode and again I would encourage them to return for a second season with more guests like this. In the episode Malala talks about her home in Swat Valley and that one day she would like to return but there would be issues. Since the airing of this episode Malala went back to Pakistan for the first time.

-Lloyd Marken


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David Letterman returns with his second episode of a 6 part series of interviews My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with celebrities he admires. Most he’s interviewed before but now he’s doing it in long form like Charlie Rose freed from the format of the ironically named “talk show” where interviewees were geared towards 8 minute bits that had no room to breath and had to constantly be full of rip-artee. Of course the well known truth is that quiet can be pretty damn engaging and Letterman seems to be enjoying himself in this new format. The people he is interviewing are well versed in engaging people too, George Clooney his latest interviewee by those standards must be the amateur of the group. Letterman always a performer who wants to be within in his comfort zone has assembled a roster of familiar faces. I would have for example loved him to interview instead Clooney’s wife, human right lawyer Amal Alamuddin which would have been a first but the two old guys looking back format still works a treat.

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A fascinating subtext not to underlined too heavily is that George’s father Nick Clooney had the kind of career Letterman might have if not for the courage and support of his first wife Michelle Cook and perhaps the untimely death of his father Harry. That’s not fair to Nick Clooney actually whom first and foremost was a journalist and made a pretty damn good career out of it too, Letterman who went farther with comedy would not have had the career Nick Clooney had if he’d stayed in Indiana as a broadcaster. Similarities with George himself are in abundance as well, George Clooney is a father at the same age as Letterman became one, they’re both liberals, they’re both from the mid-west and they’re both wise-asses. As conversation pieces for fans there are some fascinating revelations, George Clooney would put pebbles in his shoes as a young Catholic boy when he didn’t tell his priest about all of his sins. David mentioned his father went to AA later in life and it helped because it allowed him to perform as well as deal with his disease. These are touching moments that speak to the nature of these men. David has a good nose for this stuff, seeing an old poster of Nick Clooney in his Kentucky home he points out that the visage is a dead ringer for George.

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Speaking of the Clooney home, Letterman visits George’s parents and sister who have taken in a refugee from Iraq, Hazim Avdal. Hazim seems to have been coached with his answers but there is no denying the weight of what he experienced.  He’s asked at one point would he ever back to his home town to which he informs there is no town left only mass graves. Later we see him in a nice house next to a river, the kind of house we would all like to live in. This young man has been given tremendous help but after all that he went through my heart swells to see him living in such a peaceful part of the world. He is working hard at university and when asked would he like to become an American citizen almost out of deference for people’s prejudices he simply says that he loves America and that that would be wonderful but something he does not take for granted. Through Hazim, Letterman is showing what can be gained from opening up to help others, not closing off to help ourselves. It is of course a lot more complicated than that and we have borders for reasons but by presenting a human face to such tragedies we can be reminded of much.

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I would have preferred a little bit more of a chat with Nina and Ada Clooney but I am tickled pink by the immaculate way former beauty pageant champ Nina holds up a tablet for the camera as George and Amal skype everybody in Kentucky. Not having Amal and George actually there in Kentucky feels like a massive missed opportunity, to see George a son interact with his family but it allows the focus to remain on Hazim and to reveal the nature of the people who raised George Clooney into the kind of man that would try to help genocide in Africa at the same time that he gets together with a friend to invest in a house tequila.

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Families are fascinating, Letterman consistently turns to child rearing for conversation in interviews and with new Dad Clooney this seems more than appropriate. Letterman who has a checkered past with good women whom he owes a great deal to tellingly describes that you can say you love your mother or you love your wife but when my kid was born I felt it well up inside of him effortlessly. These moments of candour remain why you tune in to such a show.

I still would have liked to see George with his whole family, I think Letterman understands this missed opportunity too because they do a remote at LAX with just George and Dave. It’s funny, its cute, it bookends the episode nicely. It’s another strong episode but I keep on coming back to the idea that Dave should be talking to new people and maybe people that will challenge him. Perhaps this is why I am most interested to see what happens next month with the guest for that episode being Malala Yousafzai.

-Lloyd Marken

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Star Trek: Discovery returned back to our screens earlier this month and in anticipation I put together a Top 5 of things I was looking forward to being further developed following the mid-season hiatus. Star Trek: Discovery grows from strength to strength despite my concerns. It may not play as Trek for hardcore fans and it has a few flaws that need to be ironed out but it proved one of the more entertaining shows making their debut last year and I look forward to further adventures.

I am super pleased to have contributed another Top 5 to Heavy in what is so far turning out to be monthly thing. I wish I could be more prolific but alas the day job keeps me busy. To check out the post click here and please feel free to leave a comment there if you want.

Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I have been fortunate to have a few things published there.

-Lloyd Marken



One of the best things I enjoyed watching on Netflix last year was the series Five Came Back. Based off the book by Mark Harris, the series recounts the experiences of five legendary Hollywood directors throughout their service in World War II. It is one of the most fascinating and moving stories I got to watch and hope you will get a chance to enjoy it too. I think sometimes I struggle to find the right way to review something I enjoyed so much but feel free to check it out at

Based out of Victoria, Buzz Magazine was one the longest running street press magazines in Australia being published in print from 1993 to 2010. Some fine writers have worked for Buzz over the years and gone onto successful careers in media since and there is simply no way to measure the contribution the mag made to local music over its print run. With such words and minimal advertising on the website the impression could be taken that Buzz is now semi-retired. Yet the site is quite prolific with new write-ups on a daily basis, the ongoing interest of fans old and new and contributions from some very talented people indeed.

-Lloyd Marken