When you talk [in interviews] about the shows that have been especially important to you, you always mention Buffy, My So-Called Life, and Freaks and Geeks. Do you think there’s anything to be said about the fact that these are all teen shows, or at least shows about teenagers?
Yes! I actually have this theory that I’ve never written up: that teenage girls and middle-aged men are the source of the best modern television. They’re both emotionally labile figures going through a period of identity formation. They’re angry and horny and they bridle at the dullness of social conformity. They’re unnerved by the way their bodies are changing. They feel like the world is ending.
Those two iconic figures both been the central characters in a lot of the best shows—the cable masculinity dramas (The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood,Breaking Bad) and the shows you mention, which are less often considered key to the Golden Age of TV [in the late ’90s]. But they should be, both because these shows are wonderful and because they were stealthily revolutionary, modeling all sorts of important things: They mixed comedy and drama with a free hand; they treated family and romantic drama with sophistication (rather than melodrama or sentimentality); and, just in general, they were shows that managed to be humane without being sappy. Two of them also only lasted one season, in an only-the-good-die-young sort of way, so it seems particularly important to bring them up, so they don’t disappear.
Although some of this is just personal taste, and yes, for whatever reason, I’ve always liked smart teen stuff.
From Why Can’t I Be You: Emily Nussbaum, over at Rookie. Emily Nussbaum is currently one of my top five favorite people with opinions, and I love this interview with her, especially this part, for obvious reasons.