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I Like to Watch

Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution
Written by: Emily Nussbaum
Narrated by: Emily Nussbaum
Length: 13 hrs and 42 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

“Emily Nussbaum is the perfect critic - smart, engaging, funny, generous, and insightful.” (David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon)

From her creation of the “Approval Matrix” in New York magazine in 2004 to her Pulitzer Prize-winning columns for The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum has argued for a new way of looking at TV. In this collection, including two never-before-published essays, Nussbaum writes about her passion for television, beginning with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show that set her on a fresh intellectual path. She explores the rise of the female screwup, how fans warp the shows they love, the messy power of sexual violence on TV, and the year that jokes helped elect a reality television president. 

There are three big profiles of television showrunners - Kenya Barris, Jenji Kohan, and Ryan Murphy - as well as examinations of the legacies of Norman Lear and Joan Rivers. The audiobook also includes a major new essay written during the year of #MeToo, wrestling with the question of what to do when the artist you love is a monster.

More than a collection of reviews, the audiobook makes a case for toppling the status anxiety that has long haunted the “idiot box”, even as it transformed. Through it all, Nussbaum recounts her fervent search, over 15 years, for a new kind of criticism, one that resists the false hierarchy that elevates one kind of culture (violent, dramatic, gritty) over another (joyful, funny, stylized). I Like to Watch traces her own struggle to punch through stifling notions of “prestige television”, searching for a more expansive, more embracing vision of artistic ambition - one that acknowledges many types of beauty and complexity and opens to more varied voices. It’s an audiobook that celebrates television as television, even as each year warps the definition of just what that might mean.

Advance praise for I Like to Watch:

“This collection, including some powerful new work, proves once and for all that there’s no better American critic of anything than Emily Nussbaum. But I Like to Watch turns out to be even greater than the sum of its brilliant parts - it’s the most incisive, intimate, entertaining, authoritative guide to the shows of this golden television age.”(Kurt Andersen, author of Fantasyland)

“Reading Emily Nussbaum makes us smarter not just about what we watch, but about how we live, what we love, and who we are. I Like to Watch is a joy.” (Rebecca Traister)

©2019 Emily Nussbaum (P)2019 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“You’ll be delighted.... Nussbaum’s essay about men, art, and the #MeToo movement is alone worth the price of the book.” (The Washington Post)

“Sometimes I’ll just be sitting around, reading something this woman’s written, and I’ll actually think, Why doesn’t somebody just put all of Emily Nussbaum’s writing into a book? And now somebody has! Except I Like to Watch is more than I knew I wanted. It’s got some of the Nussbaum hits (on The Sopranos, on Girls, on Joan Rivers, on Vanderpump Rules, for starters). But it’s also more: a work of sustained philosophical argument (What is television?) and resonant personal reflection (What does fandom cost?). It’s a book by a critic who loves an art form ardently and remains committed to both questioning the people who make the art and interrogating the ardor itself.” (Wesley Morris, critic at large, The New York Times)

“Taken together, the pieces in I Like to Watch form a searching, brilliant history of American attraction, repulsion, and fascination in the era of peak TV. The book assembles a picture, alive with rigor and pleasure, that only Nussbaum could paint of a medium that has risen and transformed into a high-culture institution that’s also an ever-shifting experiment about scorn and anxiety and desire. We’re lucky to have this record of it, as well as this casual reminder that criticism, at its very best, is an irreplaceable thrill.” (Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror)

What members say

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  • Kindle/Audible Customer
  • 2019-07-05

Yes, this is worth a credit! 💯

I’ve had the audiobook literally two days, and I’ve now listened to almost all of it. I absolutely see myself listening to it again, especially as I choose what shows to watch or to watch again through her critic’s eye. Some shows she loves - Girls, for example. I had a hard time getting beyond one episode for some reason; now that I’ve listened to Emily, I have a better idea why and I’m willing to go back. Her pieces on Joan Rivers and the Marvelous Mrs Maisel were especially insightful. Listen to this book for insight into American culture, politics, art, gender, and yes, even just for entertainment. It’s a great guide to TV - some shows better than others - that is an instant classic.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-07-15

An excellent collection of criticism

Emily Nussbaum's book features detailed analysis of culturally significant television shows and strong insight into the medium as a whole. Her essays also trace a unique history of television, especially over the last two decades of major changes for consumers and producers. The narration is solid, maintaining a nice flow that can be difficult to achieve in non-fiction audiobooks.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • SusanV
  • 2019-07-01

Smart, Smart, Smart

Smart and engaging from a great writer and brilliant contemporary thinker. Read by the author who has a lovely alto voice.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • AS
  • 2019-08-14

A must for tv watchers

If you want to understand television in the 21st century and how it fits into the history of the medium, and you want to read exacting criticism of your favorite shows, this is your book. Great collection of essays by a superb critic.

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  • J Brown Strabley
  • 2019-08-14

I don’t.

This was a fantastically good production. The essays were interesting and compelling and kept me interested even though there were many shows that I haven’t seen and will not watch. The author’s honesty about artists and heroes and bad men was about the most cogent essay I have encountered on the topic. While I don’t think she manages to be completely undogmatic in the whole of her narrative, when it comes to “me too” she gives an insider’s account that is also an examination of her own grappling with art and in a way, guilt. On a lighter side, I now have a note on my phone with a list of shows that should keep me glued for longer than I’d like. Winter is coming. I enjoyed every minute of listening to this book.

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  • Hoapili
  • 2019-08-05

Writing worth reading, whether you or not you like to watch

I missed a lot of the tv reviewed here, but it didn’t matter. Nussbsum’s review are valuable social critiques more generally and her writing is exceptional. I like to listen!

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  • JMcBride
  • 2019-07-25

Interesting pretty quick read

For those who have read Nussbaum’s NY reviews, this is just a collection of them. I didn’t pay enough attention in ordering and thought there would be some new material here. That’s on me and I still found her takes on last 20 years of TV a pleasant read. The Middle and interview with Jenji Kohan were personal highlights. Each chapter is a distinct review so was able to skip past those of shows never watched/cared for.