Staff Picks: Nick Jonas, Alex Calder, and Los Angeles in TV Dramedies

Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

Nick Jonas’ “Jealous”

Nick Jonas is my favorite type 1 diabetic in pop culture, and in this moving song that plays every time I go to the gym, he sings about how he would love a piece of cake but some other dude is already on it. I cannot wait to sing it at karaoke because it’s in my range. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor


“Juke and Opal”

I’m getting down to crunch time on my upcoming book about Richard Pryor, which I don’t mention as a clumsy plug (but as long as we’re acknowledging it, well, here) but to explain why Richard Pryor stuff keeps showing up in my staff picks—plainly put, most of what I’m putting in front of my eyeballs these days is Pryor-related. But even if your knowledge of Mr. Pryor is casual at best, I’d encourage you to check out something I watched, and re-watched, and analyzed, and watched again this week: “Juke and Opal,” a ten-minute sketch from Lily Tomlin’s 1973 special Lily, which is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen on television, and probably the finest acting Pryor ever did. As a struggling junkie visiting his favorite lady in her soul food restaurant, Pryor conveys the warmth, the humor, the pain, and the raw humanity of his best work; he makes you laugh, and he breaks your heart. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor


 

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Sam + Diane 4eva

Look, it took me two years to watch the first ten episodes of Cheers. It wasn’t until the end of the first season, when Sam and Diane finally get together, that I felt like I could really commit. Now this show — with its cheesy audience laughter and tired jokes about Coach being dense — has become a nightly bedtime ritual underneath the covers. Blame the mind-numbingly cold weather, or maybe just blame Ted Danson for being such a ’70s dreamboat. — Jillian Mapes, Music Editor 


Strange Dreams by Alex Calder

Alex Calder was the drummer for Mac DeMarco’s old band, Makeout Videotape, and it’s pretty obvious on his full-length debut, Strange Dreams. That’s not to say Calder apes DeMarco entirely, but that he shares a similar sensibility for eerie guitar jangles that contrast sharply with his sometimes-falsetto harmonies. Anyway, this whole album is good, but I particularly enjoy it because, while playing it at my coffee shop day job, a woman approached me, frowning at our lack of whipped cream, and asked what this “awful music” was we were playing. “Maybe you should play some classical music, some nice folk,” she said, sipping her hot chocolate as she wondered why all wasn’t as she hoped in the world. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice


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EMA: I Wanna Destroy at MoMA PS1

It seemed fitting that on Sunday, one of the winter’s coldest days so far in New York, EMA welcomed us into her living room. Well, really, it was a giant heated tent outside PS1, where she set up a couch and surrounded herself with various ephemera for a four-hour performance that juxtaposed live music and sound art with an Oculus Rift-based virtual reality experience. By appearing both in person and as an avatar, reading notes from family and reproducing them on the screen, EMA further riffed on the ideas about the physical and virtual selves that define her fascinating 2014 album, The Future’s Void. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief


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Stacey D’Erasmo’s Wonderland

Wonderland is one of the better novels about music I’ve read. The story of a 40-something ’90s rocker on her comeback tour in Europe, it soars most in scenes where music is composed, imagined, and performed. All the trappings of the medium-famous rock star’s life, from booze-addled road rendezvouses to tear-stained “band meetings,” missing drug stashes, and summits with important rock stars and hangers-on are treated seriously rather than snarkily, in beautifully-composed scenes. I’m going to miss Anna, the red-headed chanteuse who narrates the book, when I finish the final pages. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large


 

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A Fuzzy Los Angeles in TV Dramedies Beginning with “T”

With its constant sunlight, Los Angeles can provide a deceptive sense of timelessness to its residents. You forget life is passing (or sometimes even happening) until you read it in the ways your body has changed, or in the odd new relationships you end up in. The paralytic sunburn of L.A. life is at once pleasant and unnerving, and I’ve loved the ways that both Transparent and Togetherness have portrayed this (admittedly very bourgeois) false sense of suspended existence, as it relates to middle-aged characters who are struggling to reconcile physical aging with emotional stuntedness. Then, of course, there’s the winsome lifestyle porn factor; as someone who grew up in L.A. and is now enduring another East Coast winter, there’s nothing as satisfying as a weekly 30-minute window into stunning L.A. stagnation. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor