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

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Mar 4, 2010
When NBC moved Jay Leno to ten, the network thought it was going to change the very face of TV. The goals in developing Jerry Seinfeld's The Marriage Ref were undoubtedly more modest. But Jerry may yet succeed where Jay failed.

The post-mortem on the Jay Leno failure has been extensive. According to pretty much everyone, the 10 o’clock hour is safe for scripted drama again. Already the Law and Order and CSI clones are flooding into the networks for this development season. All is right in the world. 


Or maybe not. As the goofy closing ceremony of the otherwise stellar Vancouver Olympics ended abruptly on NBC, the network unveiled its latest effort to revolutionize almost-late-night TV: The Marriage Ref.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Mar 3, 2010

Will this season be looked at, months or years from now, as the one that killed American Idol?  Certainly, the writing is on the wall, given the heavy drudge of this season’s pacing, with Ellen’s squirmy rephrasing of the other judges’ opinions, the mind-numbing domination of the judges’ endless blathering, and the cold, ugly set redesign.  None of that would necessarily put a stake in Idol’s heart if they had found a group of singers worth celebrating, but so far we’ve watched a lifeless, forgettable group of pretenders get dismantled by the judges, who seem beside themselves with disappointment.  How long before all of this collective headshaking leads to a ratings plunge?  It’s still too early to tell, but Idol already took a thumping from the Olympics, the first time another show has whipped Idol in six years.  At this point, it’s unthinkable that the show can survive next year without Simon, but that’s a point that may prove irrelevant if it can’t even outlive the Paula era. 


Speaking of those singers, last week the voters got it half right while jettisoning two boys and two girls, cutting the field to a cool 20.  The good news:  Gone are Tyler Grady and Janell Wheeler, low-grade vocalists with no chance anyway.  The bad news:  Ashley Rodriquez got no love from voters (although she did from me last week).  I revisited her performance of “Happy” two dozen times, running it through my pitch-checking software and bringing in a team of PhDs to analyze tone, intonation, rhythmic integrity, fluency, breath control, articulation, diction, phrasing, dynamics, etc.  Rodriguez’s performance was imperfect but very solid.  However, between Simon’s critique (the only negative one among the four) and perhaps the failure of Rodriguez’s overall stage appeal to resonate with callers, off she goes.  Where was Ashley’s Latin support, by the way?  Apparently, the same place Joe Munoz’s was.  Joe didn’t deserve to leave this early either, even if he wasn’t a likely Top Tenner (or tenor); he was one of the few bright spots from last week.


But, hey, voter chaos and injustice is all part of the fun.  And you never know about the Vote for the Worst factor.  The show’s producers have dismissed the effect of VFTW, a website that encourages people to call in and vote for the show’s worst singers in order to spoil the show and frustrate its fans by evicting a more deserving singer.  Such juvenile perversity is sadly pathetic, obviously; Vote for the Worst is comprised of the same miserable dregs who in high school tried to elect an unlikely class president in order to embarrass the earnest and humiliate the unsuspecting.  Perhaps Idol reps are correct that VFTW has little impact, but the group takes credit for the Sanjaya aberration in Season Six and Kris Allen’s win over Adam Lambert last year, and the popularity of VFTW’s website is proof enough that plenty of bitter folks out there are motivated to the point of obsession by the disruption of anything popular.  In any case, here are last night’s awards:


Best Curveball:  The boy-girl switcheroo.  It was announced that Crystal Bowersox was hospitalized (she’s diabetic, but it’s unclear exactly what happened), causing the show to call a late audible and flip-flop the boys to Tuesday and the girls to Wednesday.  The boys battled it mostly to a draw on short rest.


Best Pariah:  The guitar.  Three pervious axe-wielders went stringless last night—Mike Lynche, Andrew Garcia, and Lee Dewyze all sang for the first time without their guitars.  The move worked best for Lynche, who covered James Brown and exhibited far more flash and charisma than last week.  A guitar looks odd around the neck of an NFL defensive tackle like Lynche, anyway, and while Big Mike can’t bring as much soul as the Godfather, he came closer to finding a style and voice that could move a crowd.


Worst Performance:  Todrick Hall’s abysmal version of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” was his second harebrained rearrangement in as many weeks.  Hall is a gifted vocalist and mover, but he’s exposing a fatal flaw: Crap taste.  He’ll be lucky to survive this week’s cuts.


Biggest Letdown: Casey James was a snooze.  He showed up with a Stratocaster, playing sloppy runs through thick flanger effects, but he sang Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be” like he was half-asleep, as was much of the audience.  It was a pretty weak vocal, and James did not attack either the microphone or the guitar with any real swagger or rock-star magnetism.


Best Judging Moment:  Putting a kink on the VFTW mentality, Simon praised Tim Urban, the season’s longest odds.  Urban has awkward instincts as a vocalist, but Simon was right about his improvement and attitude.  He wasn’t the worst of the night, which, for Urban, counts as a victory.


Heatseeker:  Alex Lambert.  This guy is turning into the boys’ most likeable contestant.  The smoky-soul tone, the bashful sincerity, the mullet—it’s not hard to imagine the Uggs Nation rallying behind the Little Lamb. 


Weirdest Contestant:  Jermaine Sellers.  After his version of Marvin’s “What’s Going On”, during which he just couldn’t resist those falsetto screams, Simon told him he thought he was likely to be voted off.  “I know God!” Sellers protested.  Simon’s return was perfect:  “Don’t even bother with the phoneline then”.


One Judge Too Many: 4.


Most Overrated:  Lee Dewyze.  Are they serious about this dude?  Sure, he has a strong, recordable voice with a decent range and a rock edge, perfect for pedestrian sludge-bore malaise-rock.  Besides his predisposition for pitchiness, Dewyze has the charisma of Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest after the lobotomy.  Sure, Chris Daughtry sells records, but he always cultivated a marketable style (and sang with control).  Remarkably, Dewyze was given the pimp spot last night and received uniformly high praise from the judges.  Look for that bubble to burst.


Biggest Bust So Far:  Andrew Garcia was the frontrunner at the Caesar’s Palace sportsbook before the Top 24 started competing, but his stock is now crashing hard.  His attempt at soul crooning last night was a close-to-awful bore.  Voters have started to realize that Garcia doesn’t much look like a star, and last night he didn’t sound like one either.  PS: Enough already with talking about the brilliance of his “Straight Up” cover.  At this rate, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t come out with a version of “Rush, Rush” next week.  Better yet, do you think MC Skat Kat is available?


Next: The girls tonight.  Will Crystal make it?


Tagged as: american idol
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Mar 1, 2010

Like most shows on Comedy Central that aren’t fake newscasts, The Sarah Silverman Program has aired quite sporadically since its 2007 premiere, with hiatuses that can times last longer than a year. But regardless of its spotty production history, it’s a quality program.


If it’s your thing, that is. It certainly isn’t for everyone. Although Sarah Silverman is approaching 40, her sense of humor is perpetually eight years old, but I mean that in the best way possible. She can also be quite offensive, so if you’re sensitive about that kind of stuff, maybe you should stay away.


Whether or not you find the following joke hilarious will probably be a tell tale sign of whether this is something to add to your DVR schedule:


Sarah approaches a series of political campaign posters for the mayoral candidate Terry Grossnickle. Always up for some mischief, she breaks out a pen and says something along the lines of, “Grossnickle? This is too easy.”


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Feb 26, 2010
Big changes ahead for Season 6

Since it premiered on the WB (now the CW) in 2005, Supernatural has been largely a cult favorite. Despite the fact that it is one of the network’s highest rated shows, it has consistently been beaten in the ratings by its Thursday night competition. However, everything from comic books, novels, calendars, trading cards, shot glasses, and a fantasy role-player game has been created for its devoted fanbase. The love of its fans has even been controversially parodied by the show in reference to the fictional Carver Edlund’s Supernatural book series featured in recent episodes.


Series creator and current show-runner Eric Kripke has said in the past that he intended this current season to be Supernatural’s last, and the show dealt with the storyline that the apocalypse is approaching. However, ratings for the show are up, so it was announced that the CW is renewing Supernatural for a sixth season this fall.


But how will the show continue? Writer Sera Gamble revealed to the Chicago Tribune that the apocalypse plot would end this season, so that storyline won’t be dragged out any longer. Not to mention that Entertainment Weekly broke the news that Kripke is leaving his show-runner status to Gamble, possibly changing the show for better or worse. Meanwhile the show’s fans seem to be divided into two camps, those who feel that the show has run out of ideas and “jumped the shark” (as a recent episode was sarcastically named), and those who feel that the show is at its creative peak, thanks in part to the addition of new characters.


Whatever happens, some interesting television is ahead when Supernatural returns from a hiatus on March 25.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Feb 25, 2010

After what was generally perceived as a lackluster performance from the girls on Tuesday, the Top 12 boys took the stage last night in hopes of infusing American Idol’s ninth season with some excitement and energy going forward. Unfortunately, at least half of these guys bombed. However, a few came out firing, with the kinds of song selections and lively performances that suggest high stakes and last chances, a marked difference from the girls the night before. The boys’ stories were already tangled with drama, given the plot twists associated with Mike Lynche (reportedly kicked off, but apparently not), Tim Urban (a last-second replacement for Chris Golightly, who was kicked off for (allegedly) lying on his application about a recording contract), and Todrick Hall (criticized last week for (allegedly) abandoning his childrens theatre company, leaving several kids and parents with unrefunded fees). Simon was in a particularly nasty mood last night, thank god, and he unloaded ruthlessly on almost all of these guys, but there were sings of life in this particular minefield. The awards:


Best Performance:  Cay-Jay!  Should we just give him this thing now?  Andrew Garcia may have been the frontrunner going into the evening, but Casey James‘s breezy version of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” made him the early man to beat. His performance was nothing earth-shaking—what might have been nerves translated into uncontrollable smiling—but James has a clean, pure tenor, and he corners a market like no one else on the show. Much has been made of Kara’s crush on Casey, and certainly James’s looks aren’t going to hurt him at the polls, although that Lady-and-the-Tramp hairstyle was a tad rigorous last night.


Tagged as: american idol
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.