Love pop culture but have no friends to talk to? 'The Approval Matrix' is for you

Monday, 11 August 2014 09:31 PM Written by 

approval matrix

Sundance TV's "The Approval Matrix" (11 tonight) is a pop culture chat show for viewers who don't have any friends to talk with about popular American culture.

Adapted from a New York magazine feature, the 30-minute show is essentially an opportunity to eavesdrop on conversations about pop culture among a crew of culture makers and critics.

Or as friend-of-Tuned-In-Journal Legal Eagle said, "It's like sitting around with you and your friends talking about TV, which I do because I love you, but I don't understand why anyone else would do that."

Read more after the jump. ...

In an episode made available for review host Neal Brennan leads panelists Whitney Cummings ("Whitney), Willie Geist ("Today"), pop culture commentator Julie Klausner and TV Guide TV critic (and Tuned In Journal role model since 1989) Matt Roush in a conversation about whether we are truly living in the Golden Age of Television.

Brennan introduces a topic represented by a wooden block that he places on the matrix which has axes that go from despicable to brilliant and lowbrow to highbrow. This sets the conversation in motion with panelists arguing against Brennan's pronouncements, which sometimes seem intentionally contrarian.

He argues that "Louie" is not funny ("like the kale of television") and that shame-casting (e.g. producers of "Saturday Night Live" adding a black female actress due to Internet outrage) is "lowbrow and despicable."

"You're telling Van Gogh to paint with more green," Brennan says, but he's quick to add, "I believe in affirmative action in everything except art."

It's actually not a bad conversation. Provocative and occasionally insightful -- except with Whitney Cummings brays with laughter -- "The Approval Matrix" is like "The McLaughlin Group" for pop culture junkies.

But as a piece of TV goes, "The Approval Matrix" begins with unintentional hilarity.

Brennan, a writer for "Chappelle's Show" and director for "Inside Amy Schumer," is framed by the camera in such a way, and holds his elbows pinned to his body, that his hands -- thumb and index finger perpetually pinched together -- look like a cross between those of a baby T-rex and the Kristen Wiig "SNL" character Dooneese from "The Lawrence Welk Show." It's an odd combo of a bad camera shot and uncomfortable body language that adds up to an unfortunate opening to the program.

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