AV Club

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jason Schwartzman & Russell Simmons

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jason Schwartzman
Guests: 
Russell Simmons
Guests: 
Michael Pena
Guests: 
Todd VanDerWerff

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Jason Schwartzman: Advice from Bill Murray, Dealing with Loss, and His Love for "Bored to Death"

As Jason Schwartzman tells it, he got into acting by accident. He was a teenager, and a drummer in a band. He had no particular cinematic aspirations when he was asked to audition for the role of prep student Max Fischer in Wes Anderson's second feature film, Rushmore. But he went in to read for the role, and you can guess what happened next.

Schwartzman has popped up in almost every film directed by Anderson since then, and they co-wrote The Darjeeling Limited with Schwartzman's cousin Roman Coppola. He's also starred in the wonderful and weird HBO series Bored to Death, about a decidedly amateur private detective, and been in movies like I Heart Huckabees and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Most recently, he appears in Wes Anderson's newest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. He also co-created the web series Mozart in the Jungle, which stars Gael Garcia Bernal.

Schwartzman sits down with us to talk about his acting lessons from Bill Murray and Wes Anderson on the set of Rushmore, dealing with death and loss on- and off-screen, and working on Bored to Death, the project that made him excited to get up every morning (even when it'd been a very late night).

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Spring TV Recommendations: Silicon Valley and The Americans

It's spring premiere season, and there's a lot of great TV to choose from. You probably already have your DVRs set for Mad Men and Game of Thrones, but there's a couple of other shows you shouldn't miss.

The AV Club’s TV editor Todd VanDerWerff joins us to share his favorite shows airing right now -- Mike Judge's new HBO comedy Silicon Valley, and the consistently excellent series about Soviets, The Americans.

Silicon Valley airs Sunday nights at 10pm on HBO.
The Americans airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on FX.

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The Part: Michael Peña on the role that changed everything

It's time for a new series on Bullseye. Becoming an actor isn't easy. Getting cast in your first role is a huge challenge. But even then, it’s sometimes YEARS before actors land a role that get them noticed. It's The Part.

Michael Peña stars in a new biopic about the labor organizer Cesar Chavez. It portrays Chavez as a civil rights activist and organizer who's balancing those jobs with the responsibilities he has at home, and it's a weighty role.

Peña has been acting in movies for two decades now. For a long time, even if the casting directors liked his performances, he was only offered small roles. Gang member #1. Cop #3. They were characters with no backstory, narrow emotional range, and usually just a couple of lines.

That changed when he was cast in Crash, which went on to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. Peña shares a few of the emotionally-charged scenes from the role that changed everything.

Peña's new movie Cesar Chavez is in theaters now.

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Slowing Down "Rush": Russell Simmons on Building Hip Hop, Authenticity, and Finding Stillness

Russell Simmons is one of the few people that can honestly say he helped build hip hop. He was an entrepreneur early on, promoting parties and hustling fake cocaine when he was still a college student in the late 1970s. He was there one night at the Charles Gallery, when the headliner DJ Easy G brought on a local rapper, and Simmons felt Eddie Cheeba work the crowd into a frenzy.

It was his first real introduction to hip hop, and he could see that it would be more than just a passing fad. He went on to co-found the music label Def Jam Recordings with Rick Rubin and build a roster of hugely successful hip hop artists, starting with a teenage LL Cool J and the punk rock-turned-hip hop group The Beastie Boys. Simmons worked hard to build sustainable brands for his artists, and took pride in their authenticity. And he wasn't content to focus on music -- his ambition led him to create an empire, expanding into fashion, television, film, journalism, finance, and philanthropy.

Simmons' abundance of energy helped earn him the nickname "Rush", but he says he owes much of his success to inner tranquility and stillness. He's practiced yoga and meditation for over fifteen years, and in his new book, Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple, Simmons seeks to "demystify" meditation for the average person, and explain its link to personal and professional growth.

He joins us to talk about the pivotal moment that he heard Eddie Cheeba and found himself sold on hip hop, building Def Jam, leaving drugs behind for yoga and meditation and finding inner stillness.

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The Outshot: Louis Jordan and the Origins of Rock and Roll

Everyone knows that rock music came from the blues, right? Well, that's definitely part of the story. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Jesse shares his love for Louis Jordan, the "Grandfather of Rock 'n' Roll".

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Nicole Holofcener, Brad Bell, Jane Espenson

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Guests: 
Nicole Holofcener
Guests: 
Brad Bell
Guests: 
Jane Espenson
Guests: 
Erik Adams

“Human Behavior is Entertaining”: Writer and Director Nicole Holofcener on Enough Said and Creating Realistic Film

The writer and director Nicole Holofcener projects are specific, personal and character-driven, and always feature strong female leads. Her fifth feature film, Enough Said, is no exception and stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener and the late James Gandolfini in one of his final film roles.

Holofcener's films (which include Lovely and Amazing and Friends with Money) show characters as real people: self-interested, jealous, regretful, loving, but not always likable. Enough Said was purposefully designed to be a more mainstream film than Holofcener's earlier work, but it packs no less of an emotional punch. The movie is about two divorcees, both with teenage daughters, who are facing loneliness and the fraught relationships with and memories of exes.

Holofcener sat down with us recently to talk about divorce, perceptions about men and women as funny people, and how hard it is to make friends as an adult.

Enough Said is now in theaters nationwide.

Related:
Julia Louis-Dreyfus

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The AV Club's Erik Adams Makes the Case for Fall TV: "Trophy Wife" and "China, IL"

The AV Club's Associate Editor Erik Adams knows that, just as a book shouldn't be judged by its cover, a television show shouldn't be judged by its title. His picks for shows to give a chance this fall are Trophy Wife and China, IL.

Both shows have an impressive acting pedigree, whether it's Trophy Wife's Bradley Whitford, Marcia Gay Harden, and Malin Akerman (as the show's titular spouse) or China, IL's Greta Gerwig and the incomparable Hulk Hogan.

Trophy Wife airs Tuesday nights at 9:30/8:30c on ABC.
The second season of China, IL airs Sundays on Cartoon Network's [adult swim].

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Brad Bell and Jane Espenson on Gay Marriage, Crowdfunding and Creating "Husbands"

A few years ago, the TV writer Jane Espenson was browsing YouTube when she came across a video she loved. It was recorded with a webcam and was a response to Carrie Prejean, a contestant in the Miss USA pageant who gave a particularly inarticulate answer to a judge's question about gay marriage. The video was from "Cheeks", the alter-ego of Brad Bell, and it was the thing that sparked a partnership between Bell and Espenson and a web series called Husbands.

Bell co-created the show with Espenson, a former writer and producer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Caprica. Husbands follows two gay men who get married in Las Vegas on a whim – and stay married to avoid damaging the argument for marriage equality.

Bell and Espenson talked to us about dealing with the stereotypes of gay men and their relationships, their writing partnership, and why and how to make crowdfunding work.

New episodes of season three of Husbands arrive Thursdays on CWSeed.

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The Outshot: The Spirit of Sir John Soane

Sir John Soane was an important 18th century English architect, but that's not really why Jesse is so taken with his house. It's an incredible physical legacy of a man and his many interests.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Aisha Tyler, Bilal Oliver, God on Sports

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Aisha Tyler
Guests: 
Bilal Oliver
Guests: 
Seth Morris
Guests: 
Marah Eakin
Guests: 
Nathan Rabin

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The AV Club's All-Time Favorites: Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" and Warren Zevon's "Stand in the Fire"

The AV Club's Music Editor Marah Eakin and Head Writer Nathan Rabin discuss a few of their all-time favorite albums. Marah is a fan of the layered, sampled feel of Fleetwood Mac's post-Rumors album, Tusk. Nathan Rabin suggests a listen to Warren Zevon's intimate but ferocious live album Stand in the Fire.

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Aisha Tyler: Actress, Comedian, and Former Third-Grade Maypole

Like a lot of funny people, Aisha Tyler often found herself on the outside looking in as a kid. She was the only black girl in her school and thought of herself as kind of a geek... Standing six-feet tall by third grade didn't help things, either. Ultimately, feeling out of place gave her the feeling that she could survive anything -- and the confidence to pursue performance. She's since performed stand up, hosted E!'s Talk Soup, appeared on CSI, 24, Friends...and even competed on an episode of Jeopardy.

She also has a starring role on the FX animated series Archer, where she voices Lana Kane, a beautiful and brilliant secret agent who plays the straight man to her idiot co-workers.

Aisha joins us to talk about her choice to do comedy in her own voice, the challenges of voice acting, and about living a real-life version of Fame in high school.

Archer airs on Thursdays at 10/9c on FX. The show is in its fourth season; it was just renewed for a fifth. Aisha will host The CW’s reboot of Whose Line Is It Anyway? this summer. You can also catch Aisha at a performance of Archer Live!.

This interview originally aired in January 2012.

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Comedy: An Excerpt from The Last Testament: A Memoir By God

You'd think that God would be pretty focused on the choice of a new Pope right about now. But might some of that attention be diverted to.... spring training? Has the Almighty ever swayed athletic outcomes? Does He care for sports at all? Get the straight truth from The Man Himself (as relayed to David Javerbaum). The answer may surprise you.

This excerpt is from The Last Testament: A Memoir By God, with David Javerbaum.
David Javerbaum is an Emmy-winning comedy writer and former executive producer of The Daily Show. You can see more of his work with God on Twitter @TheTweetofGod.

Our voice of God is provided by comedian Seth Morris, who is also on Twitter at @SethISMorris.

This segment originally aired in April 2012.

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Bilal and His Unique Blend of Soul, Hip-Hop, and Jazz

Here's one way a musical artist can succeed: artist records album, sends it off to the label, label rejects album, album is leaked online, fans and critics love album, artist goes independent.

That's exactly what happened to jazz and soul singer Bilal, who wanted to follow up his debut album, 1st Born Second, with something a little more experimental. That album (titled Love For Sale) was never officially released, which left a nine-year gap between his debut record and his second album, Airtight's Revenge. That album earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

The wait between Bilal albums this time around is a little more manageable: his new album, A Love Surreal, was just released last week. It's a beautiful, headspinning collision between 1960s soul and modern hip-hop, sounding like neither the past or the present.

We spoke with Bilal back in 2010 right around when Airtight's Revenge was released. Bilal talked to us about his high school identity, growing up with jazz music, and his choice to go wild on Jay Leno.

Bilal's new album, A Love Surreal, is available now.

This interview originally aired in September 2010.

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The Outshot: The Cold Open

Looking for the perfect cold open? Jesse's found it. Newsradio. Season 2, Episode 9.

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Bullseye: Kurt Andersen, Ari Graynor, Chris Fairbanks

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Kurt Andersen
Guests: 
Ari Graynor
Guests: 
Chris Fairbanks
Guests: 
Keith Phipps
Guests: 
Marah Eakin

Our show is guest hosted this week by Jordan Morris. Jesse Thorn will return next week. Check out more from Jordan on the podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go! or on his blog.


Music and a Movie with Keith Phipps and Marah Eakin

AV Club editor Keith Phipps recommends Quadrophenia, a film based on the rock opera of the same name by The Who. Music Editor Marah Eakin recommends the single I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons.

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Kurt Andersen’s True Believers

Kurt Andersen is the host of Studio 360, co-founder of the satirical Spy Magazine and a novelist. He brought his love of research and cultural criticism to bear when he penned the new novel True Believers, the story of a high profile lawyer who steps away from a nomination to the Supreme Court. True Believers follows her on a quest to piece together a mysterious episode in her childhood during the Cold War and the age of the spy novel.

Andersen fondly recalls his own childhood interests in espionage, and he discusses the leap of faith required for a trained journalist to stop doing research and begin trusting the imagination. The end result is a novel which weaves together generational politics, 1960s counter-culture, and a children's game that becomes all too real.

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MaxFunCon 2012, photo by liezelwashere

Comedian Chris Fairbanks on Being Mugged

Ever had a neighborly mugging experience? Comedian and artist Chris Fairbanks knows what it’s like. He told us this story at the fourth annual Max Fun Con.

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For a Good Time, Call... Ari Graynor

Ari Graynor plays a lot of outrageous, messy roles -- she was a self-destructive college student on The Sopranos, and she played a drunken best friend in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist -- but her characters have heart and a kind of innocence.

The same is true of her most recent role of Katie Steele, the brash-yet-vulnerable young Manhattanite who runs a phone sex line in the new movie For a Good Time, Call. The film is in select theaters nationwide this week.

Ari talks to us about the 80s films that inspired her, the story's depiction of female friendship, and the strange intimacy and appeal of phone sex.

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The Outshot: No Use for a Name

Jordan shares his passion for the music of the late Tony Sly, of punk band No Use for a Name.

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Got a favorite band you want to spread the word about? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.

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Bullseye: Jeff and Steve McDonald of Redd Kross, Matt Braunger, and Todd Barry

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jeff McDonald
Guests: 
Steve McDonald
Guests: 
Matt Braunger
Guests: 
Scott Tobias
Guests: 
Nathan Rabin

Our show is guest hosted this week by Jordan Morris! Jesse Thorn will return next week. Check out more from Jordan on the podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go! or on his blog.


Jackie Siegel in The Queen of Versailles

Movie Recommendations from The AV Club

Our culture gurus over at The AV Club delve into film this week: head writer Nathan Rabin suggests the documentary The Queen of Versailles, which follows a billionaire’s family (and their undoing) in the wake of the economic crisis. Film editor Scott Tobias thinks you should look into two classic films, Body and Soul and Force of Evil, both written by screenwriter Abraham Polonsky.

The Queen of Versailles is now in theaters nationwide. Force of Evil and Body and Soul are both available on Blu-Ray and DVD.

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Jeff and Steve McDonald of Redd Kross: Music as Pornography, A Lost Decade, and Punk Rock

What do The Partridge Family, Black Sabbath, and David Bowie all have in common? They all nurtured the music- and pop culture-obsessed minds behind the punk band Redd Kross. Brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald started the band as kids in the late 1970s, growing up in Hawthorne, California near a burgeoning LA punk rock scene.

The band flew mostly under the radar of mainstream culture, but found a devoted fan base and was hugely influential to the punk, grunge, and indie rock scenes. Kurt Cobain regularly included their songs on his mix tapes, and they've been name-checked by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Stephen Malkmus of Pavement, and even Joe Elliott of Def Leppard.

They've just released their first album in fifteen years, called Researching the Blues.

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Comedian Todd Barry on Germaphobia

You think you’ve got issues? Todd Barry might give you a run for your money.

Todd Barry is a NYC-based veteran comedian. You can see him regularly at venues across the country. He collects mundane quotes, misprinted receipts, and subversive Tweets. His new stand up album, Super Crazy, is out now.

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Comedian Matt Braunger on Hangover Foods and Growing Up in Portland

Matt Braunger began his career as an actor and stumbled into comedy, but now is known for both -- he’s been a feature performer on MADtv and toured the country with his standup, and he’s scored a recurring role as the genial, dorky neighbor on NBC’s Up All Night.

He talks to us about growing up in Portland and creating his own blend of stand-up comedy -- observational stories, mixed in with fanciful musings. His new stand up album and DVD special, both entitled Shovel Fighter, are out now.

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The Outshot: Tenacious D and Rize of the Fenix

Our guest host Jordan Morris recommends the duo Tenacious D, for both their comedy and musical prowess, and their new album Rize Of The Fenix .

Got a favorite musical comedy album? Share it on the the MaxFun forum by picking your own Outshot.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Scott Aukerman, Mark Duplass, and David Rees

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Scott Aukerman
Guests: 
Mark Duplass
Guests: 
David Rees
Guests: 
Tasha Robinson
Guests: 
Keith Phipps

AV Club Culture Recommendations

This week's pop culture picks come to us from The AV Club's Keith Phipps and Tasha Robinson, who share a few of their all-time favorites. Tasha talks up Richard Adams' fantasy novel Watership Down -- a book which, if you weren't already forced to read it in high school, is well worth a look. Keith meanwhile shines a light on perhaps the least renowned of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, Duck, You Sucker! (also known as A Fistful of Dynamite or Once Upon A Time... The Revolution!), in which the Italian master of the gunslinger casts his gaze on the tale of Zapata.

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Scott Aukerman, Host of Comedy Bang! Bang!

Scott Aukerman is a writer and the host of Comedy Bang! Bang!, formerly known as Comedy Death-Ray. The show began in 2002 as a comedy pub night in Los Angeles, and is now one of the landmark shows at L.A.'s UCB Theater. In 2009, Scott took many of the show's best regular characters and comics with him into a radio environment, launching Comedy Death-Ray Radio on Indie 103.1, and setting the template for what would become one of the internet's premiere comedy podcasts. Comedy Bang! Bang! is now the flagship show on Aukerman's Earwolf podcast network. This month the show made the leap into another medium entirely: as a darkly satirical late night television talk show.

Scott sat down with us to discuss the move to TV, his early years in Hollywood as a sketch writer on HBO's Mr. Show with Bob & David, and the strange business of getting paid to do work that's never produced. Comedy Bang! Bang! airs Friday nights at 10PM on IFC.

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Artisanal Pencil Sharpening, with David Rees

Pencil sharpener David Rees was long trapped in an awful job as a satirical cartoonist until he just couldn't take it anymore. In 2010, Rees decided to get back in touch with on old-school writing instrument and took up artisanal pencil sharpening as a profession. His new book, How To Sharpen Pencils, was released earlier this year, and he's now demonstrated his old-fashioned technique in bookstores across the country. David joins us this week to discuss the lost art of pencil sharpening, and treats us to a chapter reading from his book.

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Actor & Filmmaker Mark Duplass

Mark Duplass is an actor, writer, director, musician, and a man who can be described as having many irons in the fire. He's the star of two films currently in theaters, Your Sister's Sister and Safety Not Guaranteed, with a third film, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, that he wrote and directed alongside his creative partner (and brother) Jay, due later this summer. The Do-Deca-Pentathlon will be the second Duplass Brothers film to hit screens this year, following the brothers' biggest film to date: Jeff, Who Lives At Home, with Jason Segel and Ed Helms. And as if all that weren't enough, you might know Mark best from his starring role as Pete on the FX comedy series The League, which will be back for a fourth season in the fall.

Mark joins us to discuss the way his musical past has influenced his tendencies as a filmmaker, and why he's not worried about taking his projects to total perfection.
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The Outshot: Digable Planets’ Blowout Comb

For The Outshot this week, Jesse highlights the relaxed, harmonious hip hop sound of Digable Planets' revolutionary but commercially disastrous 1994 record Blowout Comb.

Got a cultural gem of your own? Set the record straight by picking your own Outshot on the MaxFun Forum.

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Chris Lilley Interview on AVclub.com

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Last week on Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, we had Chris Lilley on to talk about Summer Heights High and Angry Boys.

The AV Club has kindly put the transcript up on their site with a foreward by, who else, Jesse Thorn. Go read it!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: The AV Club, Dan Deacon, Downton Abbey and Chris Lilley

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Hugh Bonneville
Guests: 
Dan Stevens
Guests: 
Joanne Froggatt
Guests: 
Chris Lilley
Guests: 
Dan Deacon
Guests: 
Tasha Robinson
Guests: 
Josh Modell

This week! The AV Club: Tasha Robinson and Josh Modell of The AV Club join us to recommend the thriller Contagion, out on DVD, and Daniel Handler's new novel Why We Broke Up. (Embed or share)

Dan Deacon with "The Song That Changed My Life": Baltimore-based musician Dan Deacon talks about why a player piano composition by Conlon Nancarrow changed his life and the way he made music. (Embed or share)

Downton Abbey: Hugh Bonneville, Dan Stevens and Joanne Froggatt from the totally unstuffy costume drama Downton Abbey talk about the peerage system, upstairs and downstairs love affairs that make us swoon, and the show's bridge between the old customs and modernity. The second season of the show begins airing January 8th on PBS's Masterpiece. (Embed or share)

Chris Lilley, Creator of Angry Boys: Chris Lilley, the very funny Australian comedian and showrunner, talks about his new series Angry Boys. The show pushes boundaries with his faux-documentary of characters in different stages of life and scenes of adolescent torment. Lilley plays six characters, both male and female and occasionally side by side, in sort of a natural continuation of his work in the acclaimed show Summer Heights High. You can catch Angry Boys on HBO on Sunday nights. (Embed or share)

The Outshot: And we close with The Outshot -- Jesse's pick for this week, the anthem "F--- 'Em" from Bay Area rapper E-40. (Embed or share)

You can subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or the RSS feed -- stay tuned for next week's Bullseye!

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Culture: AV Club Picks for December 2011 on The Sound of Young America

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One of Tasha's picks: Director Miranda July's film The Future
Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Keith Phipps
Guests: 
Tasha Robinson

Our friends from the AV Club join us to share their top picks for this month. Editor Keith Phipps and Associate Editor Tasha Robinson tell us what's good.

Tasha's Picks

Keith's Picks

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Culture: AV Club Picks Fall TV on The Sound of Young America

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Todd VanDerWerff
Guests: 
Erik Adams

The Fall TV season is fully underway and although there have been a few misses there's no shortage of good if not great programming. The Onion's AV Club TV Editor Todd VanDerWerff and Assistant Editor Erik Adams give the run down.

  • Homeland-Sundays on Showtime 10PM ET/PT:A CIA drama with a female anti-hero, chronicles the often wonky politics of working for the CIA.
  • 2 Broke Girls-Mondays on CBS 8:30/7:30c: Two girls in their twenties sitcom, different backgrounds collide while working at the same restaurant.
  • American Horror Story-Wednesdays on FX 10/9c: Family moves into a haunted house. From the creators of Glee.
  • Up All Night-Wednesdays on NBC 8/7c: New parents work out the kinks while Will Arnett's character is a stay at home dad. Also starring Maya Rudolph.
  • The New Girl - Tuesdays on FOX 9/8c: Zooey Deschanel stars as a girl getting over a surprise breakup, and shows off her physical comedy skills.
  • Pan Am-Sundays on NBC 10/9c Period drama surrounding the world famous airline, focusing on the pilots and stewardesses of the jet-set era.
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