Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Retro Remote

Monday, March 3 2014

‘Quantum Leap’ and the Denial of Meaning

Grand "explanations" are simple, it's actions and decisions that are complex. Quantum Leap treated ordinary people's problems as the real matters of cosmic importance.


Wednesday, December 18 2013

Why Does TV Betray Us So, Every Christmas?

Some TV shows just aren’t willing to launch themselves into Christmas joy without also considering the validity of the Grinch's perspective.


Thursday, October 3 2013

Back Away Slowly, Walter White, Sgt. Suzanne ‘Pepper’ Anderson’s Got Her Own Big Gun

Unassuming high school chemistry teacher faced with insurmountable medical expenses turns to manufacturing illegal drugs to make ends meet? Sorry Bryan Cranston, Angie Dickinson and William Shatner got there first.


Monday, July 29 2013

Forget the Brooding ‘Man of Steel’, Here Are Five Ways to Have Fun with a Lighter, Brighter Superman

Man of Steel was more concerned with surly brooding than Superman's more endearing traits. I think we (and Superman) should lighten up.


Tuesday, May 28 2013

Superman and the War Against Anachronism

The impulse is to "update" Superman, to make him "relevant". But what could be more deadening than making an enduring cultural icon "relevant" to passing trends?


Monday, February 25 2013

Retro Future: Reviving ‘Have Gun—Will Travel’ and ‘The Rifleman’

It looks like classic TV Westerns "Have Gun -- Will Travel" and "The Rifleman" might be on their way back to screens. Any chance the 30-minute drama might make a return, too?


Tuesday, February 12 2013

A Blackly Sardonic Telling of Abe Lincoln: ‘Crime Classics, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln’

You think Steven Spielberg's Lincoln is compelling? Try upping the ante with Crime Classics: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.


Sunday, December 9 2012

Love-Drenched Gunfighters in ‘The Guns of Will Sonnett’

For a couple of rough 'n tough gunfighters, these guys sure do talk about love a lot.


Wednesday, August 8 2012

The Three Stooges’ Chaotic Neutrality in ‘I Can Hardly Wait’

I Can Hardly Wait stretches the Three Stooges' "chaotic neutral" alignment into an uncomfortable fever dream of pointless violence with an undertone of sadistic cruelty. A failed Stoogesperiment in literary naturalism? or just a bad day?


Thursday, May 31 2012

No Contract for Old Men: 5 ‘Old Folks’ in Pop Culture That Are 5Xs Tougher Than You

It'd be a shame if the endless emphasis on youth results in a lack of "grown-up" concerns in pop culture. Here are five examples of the old kicking ass and refusing to give way to the young in mainstream pop culture.


Wednesday, March 28 2012

Go Play in Traffic: 5 Movies About Kids That Are Better Than ‘Hugo’ and ‘True Grit’

Precocious cherubs and wise-beyond-their-years savants are a Hollywood staple, but they don't really reflect the state of actually being a kid. Here are a five good, great, or interesting films that are far more effective in portraying that being a kid is a really weird thing to be.


Thursday, February 2 2012

Kafka Noir: ‘The Sickroom’ and ‘A Country Doctor’

Serge Marcotte's The Sickroom compresses Franz Kafka's A Country Doctor into a nightmarish rush of hard-boiled film noir cynicism that, like all the best literary adaptations, is simultaneously faithful and unique.


Tuesday, October 25 2011

Tough Guys Recite: The 5 Best Poetry Spittin’ TV Characters

Every generic hero on TV can finish a poetic quotation or identify a poignant quatrain (down to the line numbers). But few can spit Tennyson or Yeats with such venom as these guys.


Thursday, October 6 2011

Jean-Teddy Filippe’s ‘Forbidden Files’: Found Footage Lost (and Found Again)

Oddly missing in histories of the "found footage" genre, Jean-Teddy Filippe's "Forbidden Files" offers intriguing glimpses at horror and fantasy flickering into an uneasy camcorder reality, ten years before The Blair Witch Project made it fashionable (and lame).


Thursday, July 28 2011

Robot Dreams: ‘Transformers’ and ‘Sex Kittens Go to College’

Retro Remote nominates Sex Kittens Go to College as Transformers' true precursor. The problem with Tranformers-type franchises is that the criticisms can only annoy people by reminding them of what they have chosen to ignore.


Thursday, May 19 2011

Killing Osama bin Laden and David Mamet’s Special Ops Drama, ‘The Unit’

Viewing the world through a haze of vaguely remembered TV shows, tough-guy dialogue and TV jingles, the news about Osama bin Laden’s death quickly turned thoughts to The Unit, the TV series created by once-great writer David Mamet.


Wednesday, March 30 2011

Betty Boop and Bimbo Get Into a Sexual Tangle in ‘Barnacle Bill’

The Fleischer Studios' Betty Boop cartoon Barnacle Bill embraces the pleasures of the perpetrator far more than the fate of the victim, where a cute cartoon pup gets to be a sexual predator and stoke our prurient interest in the 'joy of punishment'.


Monday, February 21 2011

What ‘La Femme Nikita’ Has to Say about Egypt and Former President Hosni Mubarek

La Femme Nikita's miserable and corrupted world of moral dead zones and US-sanctioned torture forces its hero to make a real-world choice between pragmatic collusion or principled, perhaps doomed, resistance.


Monday, January 10 2011

Frankie Goes to Hollywood & Gets There Behind the ‘Wheel’ of a Classic Commodore 64

'Frankie Goes to Hollywood' on the Commodore 64 is a surrealist nightmare in 16 colours, where GTA-style freeform roaming rules, and the band's sexual imagery forms a hedonistic scavenger hunt for aponia, the Epicurean absence of pain.


Tuesday, November 9 2010

Paul Robeson: A Resonant Voice That Will Never Be Fully Silenced

Modern day 'political' celebrities can't hold a candle to Paul Robeson, who always flaunted his politics even when it was perhaps most dangerous to do so.


Friday, October 22 2010

Prime-Time Nuclear Destruction: ‘Medic’, ‘A Flash of Darkness’

When it comes to prime-time half-hour visions of nuclear destruction, there's none better than Medic episode, 'A Flash of Darkness' from Valentine's Day 1955, a surprisingly bleak eruption of nuclear despair.


Thursday, September 16 2010

Can You Imagine Standing in Line Just for a Newspaper?

'Suddenly and with little warning: STRIKE!' So began a 17-day newspaper delivery strike that prevented newspapers from getting to newsstands and doorsteps, as immortalised in the 1945 short, 17 Days: The Story of Newspaper History in the Making.


Monday, August 9 2010

‘Leave It to Beaver’ Is Probably Closer to Real Life for People Today Than Many Would Admit

Leave It to Beaver's problem is not that it no longer fits modern social concerns, but that it does so too blatantly. God forbid a modern hipster should let loose a chuckle and thus irrefutably acknowledge dull suburban ambitions!


Wednesday, June 30 2010

The Seven-Layered Arsenic Cake of Madame LaFarge and Other Crime Classics

Crime Classics, a 1953 CBS ‘true crime’ radio series, seems to be something of a slap in the face to audiences’ sense of identification and notions of self-importance, presenting a vision of a callous and petty world where the individual matters little, and their thoughts and feelings matter less.


Tuesday, May 25 2010

Pete Seeger’s ‘Rainbow Quest’: The Anti-TV, TV

Somewhat awkward, clunky and charming on his TV show, Pete Seeger seemed to trust the viewers in the same way he recognised that TV's priorities don't represent the priorities of the people he meets in his travels.


Wednesday, April 28 2010

Robert Culp: From ‘I Spy’ to ‘Hickey & Boggs’

Robert Culp and Bill Cosby's wit and warmth in I Spy also established a foundation of fragility and fatalism for Culp's despairing Hickey & Boggs.


Wednesday, March 24 2010

Beyond Barthes: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker, Wrestlemania XXV

If any wrestling match has crossed over to the emotional realm, it's the epic bout between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, but is it enough to bring sensitivity to professional wrestling?


Sunday, February 14 2010

The Simpsons, ‘Radio Bart’ Part 2: ‘Ace in the Hole’ and Jessica McCllure

'Radio Bart' may not offer any solutions, but it manages to compress an extraordinary amount of media history, compassion, manipulation and cynicism into a sharp, quick and funny 20-minutes or so.


Wednesday, February 3 2010

The Simpsons, ‘Radio Bart’ Part 1: Floyd Collins and Kathy Fiscus

'Radio Bart' draws on 70 years of media history to position itself in that uneasy mix of altruism, morbid curiosity and callous self-interest.


Sunday, January 3 2010

This New Year’s Eve Really Did End with a Bang

Nothing like spending New Year's Eve with couple of white guys pretending to be black guys during a war-time year worthy of blowing its own brains out.


Wednesday, November 11 2009

The Prisoner: ‘Fall Out’

The Prisoner's unapologetic payoff of surrealism and absurdism heads into that artistic realm where meaning is defined more by resonance than by immediately identifiable relevance.


Monday, October 19 2009

Pete Kelly’s Blues

Jack Webb's glum radio series 'Pete Kelly's Blues' is a sigh of a tribute to the roaring '20s, a melancholic parade of blistering jazz and the pointlessness of its own nostalgia.


Tuesday, September 22 2009

The Frontier Doctor’s Fancy ‘Queen of the Cimarron’

Frontier Doctor's church-prescribing gumdrop-toting hero comes face to face with the unthinkable: a tough-talkin' hard-done bad-girl with money on her mind (gulp).


Wednesday, August 26 2009

All in the Family: Gloria Sings the Blues

Where a thousand stone-faced social dramas have despaired over the decay of interpersonal relations and marital unity, this is the interpersonal angst of an Ingmar Bergman movie saved by a sitcom ending and a live studio audience.


Monday, July 20 2009

In the Wrestling Ring with Ric Flair, Where ‘Evil is the Natural Climate’

Ric Flair epitomizes Roland Barthes' 'perfect bastard', adopting a cowardly and devious state of jerkdom, elevating his coarse existence into some quasi-mythological state of being.


Wednesday, June 17 2009

‘Have Gun - Will Travel’: Return to Fort Benjamin

With attempted justifications of military torture on our minds, Retro Remote heads back to the '50s TV Western to find a surprisingly tough moral stance on the U.S. military's destruction of human dignity and dehumanisation of 'enemy combatants'.


Thursday, May 7 2009

Gidget’s ‘Dear Diary—et al.’ – and All that May Imply

As things start getting a little steamy, Retro Remote 'sinks into nothingness' trying to mix Gidget and some serious film theory.


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