Review of Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas (2018)

Moving picture, 5.0 hours – previously

Seen in 2020.

Review refers to the first two seasons.

When I saw the first season of this show in weekly excerpts on Youtube, I thought it relied too heavily on interviews, generally the worst part of The Daily Show (1996) in every one of its incarnations. When I saw it again, as uncut episodes back to back, published during protests over the murder of George Floyd at the close of the second season, it became apparent that the interviews were all filmed at the outset and edited piece by piece into the entire season, with greater care than I had understood. It’s the The Wire (2002) of TDS offshoots.

I like Cenac’s mellow, wholesome style as a comedian, though his studio-interlude skits in this show are a bit hit-and-miss. He’s a very good anchor, carrying the overarching narrative that distinguishes Problem Areas from the episodic and more energetic Last Week Tonight (2014) (whose host worked as an executive producer on Problem Areas) or Patriot Act (2018). At times, in his efforts to take the edge off this greater weight, Cenac steeps to the general zaniness of The Break (2018); this is especially true of the recurring, animated “modest proposal” segments, neatly voiced by Nicola Barber but rarely well written. The warm colours and rounded iconography are a nice touch.

References here: The Break (2018).

moving picture non-fiction series