James McNamara

James McNamara

James McNamara is an Australian television writer based in Los Angeles. His television work includes comedy and drama writers rooms for the Academy Award-winning See-Saw Films, Matchbox Pictures/NBC Universal, Foxtel, ABC, Porchlight Films, and Endemol Shine, and developing shows for Goalpost Pictures and Playmaker Media/Sony Pictures. McNamara received ABR’s third Ian Potter Foundation Fellowship for his long-form essay, ‘The Golden Age of Television?’ (ABR, April 2015), praised by Clive James as ‘a global contribution to cultural analysis’. McNamara’s essays and criticism have also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Times Literary Supplement, and The Spectator.

Born in Western Australia in 1982, McNamara received degrees in English and Law from the University of Western Australia, graduated in screenwriting from AFTRS, and holds a doctorate in English from Oxford, where he was a Clarendon Scholar. Before becoming a writer, McNamara was a litigator specialising in international disputes at a top-tier US law firm. He was recently named a BAFTA LA Newcomer. 

'The drama of it: Television comedy's new aesthetic' by James McNamara

June-July 2018, no. 402 25 May 2018
Listen to this essay read by the author. Since I wrote about the golden age of television for ABR’s first film and television issue in 2015, the medium has evolved. Streaming has roared to prominence, with online services like Netflix disrupting television’s form and market as dramatically as cable did to broadcast television in the early 2000s. But where the stars of the cable era were dra ... (read more)

Note from the guest editor - James McNamara

June-July 2018, no. 402 24 May 2018
Welcome to ABR’s second film and television issue! Our first, in 2015, examined the brooding era of television drama. In our second we turn to film, celebrating the stellar movies of past decades with an exciting survey of readers, commentators, and industry professionals, while also looking at the immense changes in film today. In recent months, the #MeToo movement has deposed Hollywood mogul ... (read more)

James McNamara reviews 'How Not To Be A Boy' by Robert Webb and 'This Is Going To Hurt: Secret diaries of a junior doctor' by Adam Kay

December 2017, no. 397 24 November 2017
James McNamara reviews 'How Not To Be A Boy' by Robert Webb and 'This Is Going To Hurt: Secret diaries of a junior doctor' by Adam Kay
The literary world too often disdains comedy writing as unserious. It rarely features in our grander prizes, and is usually relegated to literature’s cheap seats. This is, of course, silly. Great comedy can make as many grave points about humanity as realist fiction. You just get to laugh along the way. Two crackling literary memoirs by comedians show this seriousness of purpose. Robert Webb is ... (read more)

James McNamara reviews 'Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus' by Matt Taibbi and 'How The Hell Did This Happen? The Election of 2016' by P.J. O’Rourke

May 2017, no. 391 21 April 2017
James McNamara reviews 'Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus' by Matt Taibbi and 'How The Hell Did This Happen? The Election of 2016' by P.J. O’Rourke
Beneath a frantic veneer of normalcy, American politics is not okay. It is as if Punch and Judy have careened out of a dive bar, tripped down the rabbit hole, smashed head-first through the looking glass, and found themselves running all three branches of government. Core to this is that unlikely combination of words, President Donald Trump. ... (read more)

James McNamara reviews 'Television: A Biography' by David Thomson

March 2017, no. 389 28 February 2017
James McNamara reviews 'Television: A Biography' by David Thomson
Great books have been written on television. David Thomson’s Television: A biography is not among them. This surprises me, because Thomson is one of America’s most lauded film critics. To have his thoughts on television over the sweep of its history, viewed through his decades of experience, seemed a boon to me – a critic born in 1982. But Television judges its subject too harshly in a study ... (read more)

The Crown (Netflix)

ABR Arts 12 December 2016
The Crown (Netflix)
When a friend suggested over dinner that I watch Netflix’s The Crown, I responded with an earthier version of ‘Ten hours about an unelected monarch? Nope.’ It made sense, of course, for the US streaming giant to drop $100ish million on a television drama about Her Maj: Wolf Hall did well, Downton Abbey was finished, and America had just gone all King George and elected a lunatic in a golden ... (read more)

James McNamara reviews 'The Sellout' by Paul Beatty

December 2016, no. 387 25 November 2016
James McNamara reviews 'The Sellout' by Paul Beatty
The morning after the US election, Los Angeles was still. Usually a roar of noise, my city was stunned silent. As I spoke with distraught friends and colleagues, the fact that our West Hollywood polling place had been in a funeral home now seemed prescient: it felt like a wake. Donald Trump, who ran a vile campaign that – amongst innumerable barbarisms – suborned sexual assault, abused minorit ... (read more)

James McNamara reviews 'Dark Money: The hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right' by Jane Mayer

October 2016, no. 385 23 September 2016
James McNamara reviews 'Dark Money: The hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right' by Jane Mayer
When I arrived in America, green card in hand, I soon got down to my favourite pastime: discussing politics over grain-based liquor. I was surprised to find that President Barack Obama was widely reviled. I had spent the previous decade in England and Australia where, in my experience, Obama was considered a decent president or, at least, a decent man. Not, it would seem, in the United States. Th ... (read more)

The Night Of (HBO)

ABR Arts 09 September 2016
The Night Of (HBO)
Over the past fifteen years, television has steadily eclipsed film as the medium for prestige drama. US cable network HBO has been central to this, producing shows (The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones) that, in visual sophistication and narrative scope, helped transform television into art. HBO's new eight-part mini-series, The Night Of, sustains that high standard. Exemplifying the talent-shi ... (read more)

James McNamara reviews 'The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 3: 1926-1929' edited by Rena Sanderson, Sandra Spanier, and Robert W. Trogdon

August 2016, no. 383 21 July 2016
James McNamara reviews 'The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 3: 1926-1929' edited by Rena Sanderson, Sandra Spanier, and Robert W. Trogdon
If your Friday night companion was to slap the table, spill your pint, and announce to the bar: 'I'm going to collect every single letter Hemingway wrote, and put them in a book! Lots of books!' you might be forgiven for suggesting that your chum's next moves be a warm lamb sandwich and a taxi home to bed. ... (read more)
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