The Super Bowl was overshadowed again by its heavily hyped commercials, with advertisers paying about $2.6 million per ad this year in order to broadcast them to a large audience. While some ads are interesting, funny, weird, flashy or just stupid, they all serve as an example of what advertisers think will gather attention and money from consumers.
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The sitcom is experiencing a revival. Every broadcast network has a night devoted to the half-hour genre that had been left for dead just a few years ago. NBC has its uncomfortable workplaces, CBS is home to the spawn of Friends, and Fox has its animation broods. This year, ABC jumped back into the sitcom game as well. Most of their offerings are middling at best, but there is one standout: Modern Family.
It is the story of three families—a May-December multicultural couple raising her child, a gay couple with an adopted daughter, and a nuclear unit with two parents and three kids—that all happen to be branches of a larger extended family. The December patriarch of the first family is also the father of one parent from each of the other families. Don’t worry, it is not as complicated as I made it sound.
What is so refreshing about Modern Family is that it manages to be about a family where the individuals actually care about each other in a believable, non-cloying way. It avoids both the saccharine triteness of yore and the ugly animosity that has marked recent clans. For many years, I thought the live-action family sitcom was all but extinct. Turns out it was just waiting to evolve.
Oh, Randall, I know that you asked me to remain on hold while I wait to be transferred to the Service Signal Department, but I know that whoever is on the other end will just make me answer all the same security questions and repeat the same troubleshooting steps as you did. And I wish I believed that nice woman’s voice on the recording when she tells me that a team member will be with me shortly, but she has now said that more than 50 times.
So I am writing this blog. I like television… obviously, I watch a lot of it (I write for blog called Channel Surfing, for God’s sake), but I really do enjoy the time I spend watching it. I enjoy thinking about how creators like Joss Whedon, Matt Weiner, Aaron Sorkin, and David Shore construct their series. I enjoy how a character develops over episodes and eventually across seasons into something potentially more satisfying and rounded than a movie, or even a book, could possibly achieve.
Tonight was a sort of clean-up show that revisited clips from the audition shows that didn’t make the cuts in previous weeks. It was the last episode before “Hollywood Week”, when the actual singing competition finally gets underway and Ellen Degeneres arrives to, presumably, shake things up. Ads previewing next week promised the “most intense” Hollywood cuts ever, with even Ellen looking pissed off. Ryan Seacrest declared that the Season 9 pack might be Idol‘s most talented ever—he says that every year—but that they’ve “never broken down like this before”. So if you haven’t gotten quite enough of close-ups of crying jags, you’re in luck again next week.
Tonight’s catch-all show was a chance to get acquainted with more of the faces we’ll see in Hollywood, so the episode was mercifully light on the joke auditions, geared instead toward viewers who like American Idol as a showcase for actual talent. We have to this point been offered a limited view of the audition’s most promising singers, as the first three weeks maintained a focus on rotten-apple rejects and smirkable misfits, a parade that has proven to profitably extend the show’s season. Among the tryouts’ legitimate singers, the auditions almost exclusively focus on those candidates who have compelling stories of overcoming adversity. As a result, we have perhaps met just half of those who will end up in the Top 24 with a legitimate shot at becoming the next American Idol.
In the Terminator franchise, the moment in time that the hero seeks to undo is the moment that Skynet becomes “self aware”, when technology suddenly makes the leap into having a consciousness of its subservience to mankind and decides to stage a slave rebellion. I fear that my television fun will soon be ruined as Snooki 2.0 suddenly learns words like “cache” and avoids the burnt umber spray tan setting, opting instead for something that looks like it could actually be produced by exposure to sunlight. We are reaching the terrifying moment where Jersey Shore understands itself.
It’s true that, as the New Yorker notes, the pleasure derived from Jersey Shore is tainted with anthropological condescension, but that seems far more sensible to me that ironic adulation. Of course, we want to part the bushes and peer into the world of “Guidos and Guidettes” who string one clubbing night to another, skirmish in violent turf wars, and wring dramatic tensions from hooking up. Honestly, at their age, I can’t say that I did much more than go to concerts and classes, do harder drugs, and have casual sex, the only difference being that I had a reading list.
Frankly, I’m glad that Pauly D doesn’t talk about Foucault and listen to the Fall. These kids are brash, directionless thrill seekers. Most people in their 20s are mistake factories, prone to perpetually misread the significance of life events, their place in the cosmos, and the stability and veracity of their choices and feelings. (Whereas people in their 30s understand that they are repeating the mistakes of their 20s.) The Jersey Shore kids simply represent a very specific subgenre of a more general category: partiers.
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