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Critic Emily Nussbaum on the charms of modern television-watching.

When television critic Emily Nussbaum was a young girl in Scarsdale, New York, she would watch TV sitting cross-legged on the floor, getting up to change the channel to watch shows like Sesame Street. It was what she describes as a “classic ’70s TV-watching experience.”

These days, Nussbaum, the Pulitzer Prize-winning television critic for the New Yorker, is more likely to stream shows on her phone. Over the past 50 years, she says, “TV has transformed as much as I have.”

A populist at heart, Nussbaum believes in engaging viewers, which anyone who follows her on Twitter will know. (She also invented New York magazine’s “Approval Matrix” in 2004, rating cultural touchstones of the moment in chart form.) In her work, she examines a wide range of shows and asks viewers to challenge their expectations of television, pressing them to examine why they like what they do, and what our preferences — for The Sopranos, for instance, featuring white men, action, and drama — mean. She is skeptical of lauded shows like HBO’s True Detective, skewering it for its exclusion of fleshed-out female characters, while she elevates series such as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Sex and the City, which she argues are underappreciated or, worse, vilified because of their glittery facades.

In her first collection, I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution, Nussbaum presents more than two decades of keen and earnest essays, most previously published in New York magazine and the New Yorker, as well as two previously unpublished pieces. The book, she says, was inspired when a colleague told her she considered Jane the Virgin

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