I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution

I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution

From The New Yorker’s fiercely original, Pulitzer Prize–winning culture critic, a provocative collection of new and previously published essays arguing that we are what we watch.From her creation of the first “Approval Matrix” in New York magazine in 2004 to her Pulitzer Prize–winning columns for The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum has known all along that what we watch is who...

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Title:I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution
Author:Emily Nussbaum
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I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution Reviews

  • Trevor Groce

    Emily Nussbaum is the reason I flip to the back when I get my hands on The New Yorker. Each page offers insight and honest appraisals of many of the most important shows over the past two decades. Her love for television imbues every review with a sense of affection, even for the shows deemed a disappointment. Reading these reviews in proximity, along with some extended profiles and essays, reveals the depth of her genius and brings the reader up to speed on several aspects of the twists, turns,

    Emily Nussbaum is the reason I flip to the back when I get my hands on The New Yorker. Each page offers insight and honest appraisals of many of the most important shows over the past two decades. Her love for television imbues every review with a sense of affection, even for the shows deemed a disappointment. Reading these reviews in proximity, along with some extended profiles and essays, reveals the depth of her genius and brings the reader up to speed on several aspects of the twists, turns, and great leaps forward that have brought us to the fascinating television landscapes of today. Viewers left feeling empty after GOT ends will likely find a new fount of enthusiasm here, and expert tips for what show to go back and see with newly enlightened eyes. Highly recommended to even casual fans.

  • Beck

    "I Like to Watch" is a collection of lyrical, well argued essays written by The New Yorker’ s TV critic (and, as the cover notes, Pulitzer Prize winner), Emily Nussbaum. Like Nussbaum, I prefer TV to movies. i like how a story - and characters - can develop over multiple seasons, can change and morph into something new. That being said, I’m not a super fan - I don’t watch a whole lot of it. That didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this book, though. Even essays about shows I haven’t seen (e.g. True De

    "I Like to Watch" is a collection of lyrical, well argued essays written by The New Yorker’ s TV critic (and, as the cover notes, Pulitzer Prize winner), Emily Nussbaum. Like Nussbaum, I prefer TV to movies. i like how a story - and characters - can develop over multiple seasons, can change and morph into something new. That being said, I’m not a super fan - I don’t watch a whole lot of it. That didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this book, though. Even essays about shows I haven’t seen (e.g. True Detective) were fascinating - Nussbaum is a truly talented critic. I like how she wrestles with who deems culture to be “high” or “low,” as well as whether you are truly watching a show "wrong” if you’re not watching it how its creators intended. Her essay on #MeToo and “what [we should] do with the art of terrible men”, as she puts it, is excellent. (though since she is a self-professed Buffy lover (as am I), I did wish she’d also mentioned Joss Whedon and what you do when a bad man creates a strong role model for women.) Nussbaum grapples with her own culpability (she knew about the Louis CK story before it broke, although in fairness it was kind of an open secret), as well as how to move forward. I also loved her essay on Jessica Jones and Buffy’s sixth season (two of my favorite things), and how they both interrogate gaslighting, sexual violence, and resentful men, as well as her discussion of the bleakness of the Americans, and why it works. Thoughtful, engaging, and funny - highly recommended.

    Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for the advanced copy!

  • Andrew Barnes

    I Like to Watch is a culmination of 20+ years of revelatory television writing from Emily Nussbaum. The essays elevate the shows I’ve watched and love to greater heights. It makes me feel like an idiot for having missed others. Even when panning shows a love, I came away with a richer view of the show. Beautiful ruminations on why we watch and why television is enriching art and not the brain draining waste some dullards try and make it out to be.

  • Haley Hope Gillilan

    Emily is an OG TV critic. I loved reading all her essays all in one place, even if I hadn’t seen the show before. TV criticism is a pretty unique craft, and so I love seeing one of the best being able to create something like this. It’ll definitely serve as a cultural artifact, because in some of these Emily grapples with TV shows in real time, and others as they’ve aged in unexpected ways. Hopefully this is not the last of her essay anthologies!

  • Liz

    Via my book blog at

    I follow Emily Nussbaum's column in The New Yorker and her Twitter feed. The Twitter feed gives me AHA moments in her short bursts of comments on television programs that are hot in today's market. The longer New Yorker pieces are much more informative and give me things to chew over at a slower pace.

    EN's new book is a collection of published essays with two new ones and a great introduction to her genre of writing. I love that after Buffy

    Via my book blog at

    I follow Emily Nussbaum's column in The New Yorker and her Twitter feed. The Twitter feed gives me AHA moments in her short bursts of comments on television programs that are hot in today's market. The longer New Yorker pieces are much more informative and give me things to chew over at a slower pace.

    EN's new book is a collection of published essays with two new ones and a great introduction to her genre of writing. I love that after Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Nussbaum moves to The Sopranos, one of my favorite TV programs of all time. I never tire of hearing about David Chase, the show's creator. He comes from a part of New Jersey I am familiar with, and a time I remember well.

    Taking The Soprano viewpoint of television changing in the early 2000s, we move on to Sex and The City, The Wire, and then all that has come since that time. I am not fond of sit-coms, but I love the drama part of TV and still watch Law and Order: SVU and a few others. I must say that Netflix and Hulu are giving network television a good run for viewership, and I would extend that to app's where I can view international television programs. They are more interesting even though the narrative arc often follows the original NYPD Blue. I like procedural cop shows in any language.

    I appreciate Nussbaum's take on the predatory men who have become famous and are now slowly or very quickly losing their audiences, their companies, as in Weinstein's case, and making room for a healthier work environment for women.

    Emily Nussbaum is my TV guru, and I love this book. If you watch any television at all, you will enjoy her thoughtful commentary.

    Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for the ARC of this book (June 25).

  • Lissa

    To be honest, I don’t watch a ton of television, mostly because I have three kids that monopolize that time but I do love to read about pop culture. While I have not seen many of the shows she discusses, I did enjoy her take on the themes and subtle ideas presented in the different episodes. The essay about shows, such as South Park, that foretold the 2016 elections was mesmerizing and also horrifying. These were all solid essays and great critiques of recent and current television shows. I rece

    To be honest, I don’t watch a ton of television, mostly because I have three kids that monopolize that time but I do love to read about pop culture. While I have not seen many of the shows she discusses, I did enjoy her take on the themes and subtle ideas presented in the different episodes. The essay about shows, such as South Park, that foretold the 2016 elections was mesmerizing and also horrifying. These were all solid essays and great critiques of recent and current television shows. I received a complimentary ARC of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

  • Michael

    *Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the complimentary ARC in exchange for this review and forthcoming blog coverage.

    Collecting many of Emily Nussbaum's television recaps, essays, profiles and commentaries, including a good chunk of the pieces which won her the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2016, I Like to Watch is one critic's assessment of where the medium stands, as well as how it got there and where it's heading. The opener cites Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the show that first con

    *Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the complimentary ARC in exchange for this review and forthcoming blog coverage.

    Collecting many of Emily Nussbaum's television recaps, essays, profiles and commentaries, including a good chunk of the pieces which won her the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2016, I Like to Watch is one critic's assessment of where the medium stands, as well as how it got there and where it's heading. The opener cites Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the show that first consumed Nussbaum, but The Sopranos is the one that looms over the entire book. She assures readers that that HBO show is also a favorite of hers, but as the collection pushes on, her praise for it feels more customary and less heartfelt. Her heart lies with comedies; In one piece from 2008, she proclaims 30 Rock the best show on network television. In the introductory note to another, she heaps similar praise on Jane the Virgin. Nussbaum reliably backs up each stance she takes and, like any great critic, has the power to change your mind almost on the spot. (After reading "Cool Story, Bro," a merciless takedown of True Detective, I had to ask myself, "... Am I sure I actually like this show?") As someone hopelessly out of the television loop, I ended this collection excited for all the unseen material that lies ahead of me and motivated to get watching.

    NOTE: I advise spoiler-conscious readers to skip essays on shows they haven't seen but intend to. Nussbaum is prone to blithely discussing late-season plot points and twists.

  • Johannes

    Up until I read I Like to Watch, my favorite book on contemporary TV was Brett Martin’s Difficult Men, a study on the TV revolution that happened in roughly the first decade of the 2000s (Sopranos through Breaking Bad). Emily Nussbaum’s new collection is an excellent continuation, and at times correction, to the history of modern American television.

    Nussbaum is an observant critic who’s a lot of fun to spend time with. She can bring the snark when necessary, but one of the things I appreciate ab

    Up until I read I Like to Watch, my favorite book on contemporary TV was Brett Martin’s Difficult Men, a study on the TV revolution that happened in roughly the first decade of the 2000s (Sopranos through Breaking Bad). Emily Nussbaum’s new collection is an excellent continuation, and at times correction, to the history of modern American television.

    Nussbaum is an observant critic who’s a lot of fun to spend time with. She can bring the snark when necessary, but one of the things I appreciate about her is her ability to pick at something without tearing down. Even when she’s criticizing shows that I really enjoyed, I can’t help but admit that she makes very good points.

    While all essays on specific shows and profiles of showrunners were quite good, my favorite installments were her big picture takes, specifically her introduction to the book and her self-questioning essay on how to watch TV and film post-MeToo.

    I Like to Watch is a great read that will make you sound smarter the next time you're watching TV with a friend. Thanks to Random House and Netgalley for the ARC.

  • Kerri

    I'm a big TV fan (though not quite as thoroughly well-watched as some people) so I was super excited by the premise of Nussbaum's book. Collected essays (many pre-published) by the Pulitzer Prize winning critic delve into shows as seemingly disparate as they are connected: Sex & the City, Adventure Time, True Detective, 30 Rock, The Sopranos, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Girls, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and many, many more. While Nussbaum is undeniably a gifted writer and critic whose wor

    I'm a big TV fan (though not quite as thoroughly well-watched as some people) so I was super excited by the premise of Nussbaum's book. Collected essays (many pre-published) by the Pulitzer Prize winning critic delve into shows as seemingly disparate as they are connected: Sex & the City, Adventure Time, True Detective, 30 Rock, The Sopranos, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Girls, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and many, many more. While Nussbaum is undeniably a gifted writer and critic whose work makes for an enjoyable read, I think I was so would have enjoyed this slightly more if it had been filled with more new writing than a reprinting of old columns. While this never felt dated per se, I would have loved to read Nussbaum's thoughts on newer programming or, better yet, to have her talk about her own favorite shows and their impact (which she explicitly states this collection is not: this is what she considers her best works of criticism, not necessarily favorite programming.) Longer essays, too, like the ones on Louis CK, Kenya Barris and product placement were all well done, but in my opinion better suited as standalone pieces than part of a book. Overall, there were many essays here that I found entertaining (and I especially loved that you don't have to watch every show Nussbaum mentions to be able to enjoy the essays) but not necessarily illuminating. Here's hoping Nussbaum releases a personal essay collection tied to TV in the future; that I'd love to read

  • Glen

    I won this book i a goodreads drawing.

    Back in college, I took a class on popular culture. It was pretty interesting. We read a lot of stuff about television. For some reason, I remember an article written about the show, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. It was written, I think before 1990. I remember thinking it was an awful lot of effort for a show that most people didn't watch.

    Here we are in 2019. I open this book, and the whole thing is written almost exactly like that long ago article. Sho

    I won this book i a goodreads drawing.

    Back in college, I took a class on popular culture. It was pretty interesting. We read a lot of stuff about television. For some reason, I remember an article written about the show, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. It was written, I think before 1990. I remember thinking it was an awful lot of effort for a show that most people didn't watch.

    Here we are in 2019. I open this book, and the whole thing is written almost exactly like that long ago article. Shows how little things have really changed in TV. There's a lot written about Sopranos and Sex in the City, and Norman Lear is lionized.

    It's like reading 1980's analysis of newer programming. Odd, perhaps entertaining, but not especially enlightening.

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