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Wednesday, Apr 14, 2010

Am I the only person who watches HGTV? My wife has dragged me into the world of HGTV very begrudgingly, and it is only after about a year of mostly scowling acceptance that I am prepared to, very sheepishly, admit that I am actually starting to enjoy it.


If you are not watching this channel, I would encourage you to at least check it out. It is filled with a variety of shows for viewers with various interests: homeowners will find shows advising them on how to improve their resale value, how to work on their landscape, or how to fix problems that arise; prospective buyers will find shows about people trying to decide what they value as they look for their first home; even renters will find shows about how to spruce up their rentals.


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Tuesday, Apr 13, 2010
We are all monsters, even if we don’t have fangs.

The dark things behind the veil communicate via the idiot box. For confirmation, ditch the shrieking ghost hunters and mediums, with their silly trailer campaigns splashed across TV schedules. Look no further than flat-share-horror Being Human. The first series sprung from something like the set up for a bad joke: a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost commune in a house somewhere in Bristol, first broadcast on niche, youth oriented channel BBC Three.


Where the first series saw each of the characters struggling to find their place in a world which can’t or won’t acknowledge them, the second finds them fighting to protect it. Gentle, geeky werewolf George (Russell Tovey, The History Boys,Dr. Who) continues as the beating heart of Being Human, as he struggles with the repercussions of a brutal murder he committed while transformed.


Charismatic vampire Mitchell (Aiden Turner, Desperate Romantics) finds himself adrift having controlled his cravings for blood, and vanquished, for the moment at least, the vampire hordes intent on taking over the world, led by Herrick (the excellent Jason Watkins). The apparent villain of this series is both more and less overt – craggy faced scientist Kemp, first seen as a psychiatrist at the end of series one (Donald Sumpter). He’s a trench-coat wearing, Van Helsing type monster hunter working with a shadowy figure whose identity and motives remain shrouded. By contrast, Herrick’s softly-spoken, inclusive middle-manager brand of villainy is one of the most interesting facets of the first series, reinforcing the intriguing idea of unimaginable terrors hidden in the mundane.


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Friday, Apr 9, 2010
Messy episode continues the apocalypse plot.

This week’s episode of “Supernatural” opened frantically, with Dean driving the Impala away from a mysterious possessed crowd that is around a burning barn. Just when it looks like he and a wounded Sam are surrounded, a holy water-spraying truck pulls up. It is being driven by a mystery man who is shouting exorcism incantations through a megaphone. Once the demons are gone, he identifies himself as Rob, a member of the “Sacrament Lutheran Militia”, who is trying to fend off the apocalypse.


A puzzled Sam and Dean then meet the fellow members of his group, a small town whose citizens know all about the end of days and demon hunting. Rob introduces them to David Gideon, the pistol-packing pastor. In turn he introduces them to his wife, Jane, son, Dylan, and daughter Leah, who is a prophet. Apparently, Leah received visions from angels who told the townspeople all about the impending apocalypse. These same visions told her where demons are and how to get rid of them, and in fact, there is some in the local woods at that moment. After the brothers and the townspeople destroy a demon hoard in a poorly shot battle at an abandoned house, Dylan oddly asks Sam and Dean for a ride. As the townspeople drive away, another possessed demon kills Dylan in a surprise attack.


This is when we start to see the even darker side of things, as Jane blames the Winchesters for her son’s death at his funeral. Then Leah convulses and predicts that Dylan will come back from the dead, resurrected after Heaven wins the battle and they, as the chosen people, live in paradise. However, if not everyone follows the angels’ strict moral guide, then the whole town is doomed. That night, Sam strikes up a friendship with Paul, a doubting bartender who criticizes the hypocritical nature of the people. When asked if he’s a believer, Sam says yes, but “God stopped caring a long time ago”.


He’s not the only one losing his faith, a drunken, then hung-over Castiel shows up at the boys’ hotel room. The only thing that remains unchanged about him is his troubles with cell phones. (“I don’t understand why you want me to say my name”, he says on a voicemail.) Castiel has big news: Leah is not a prophet. She’s actually one of the signs of the apocalypse, a false prophet known as “the whore of Babylon”. Her job is to use good intentions to drag good people down into Hell and the only way she can be defeated is to be stabbed with a Cypress branch by a “true servant of Heaven”. The only person befitting of that title there is Pastor Gideon.


Meanwhile, Leah tells the people that the angels are angry because someone is breaking the rules. She convinces Jane to kill Paul, but doesn’t stop there. Soon all of the “sinners” in town, including children, are thrown into a storage shed that she demands be set on fire. Pastor Gideon is starting to have doubts about her, so it really doesn’t take much effort for Sam, Dean, and Castiel to convince him of what he must do.


The three ambush Leah when she’s alone, but she escapes and turns the townspeople against them. This doesn’t last long, because everyone sees her super-human grip around Dean’s throat. Gasping for breath, he grasps the Cypress branch and kills her. Wondering why it happened, Sam asks Dean if he’s actually Michael. Dean says no, but he speeds off in the Impala.   


Nothing is mentioned for no reason on “Supernatural”, so when the “previously on” clip show reminded us about Lisa, Dean’s former girlfriend that he may or may have not gotten pregnant; I knew it was done for a reason. Dean showed up at her door and tells her, “When I do picture myself happy, it’s with you and the kid”. He warns her that some bad things are going to happen in the next couple of days, but not to worry because he is going to meet with some people that will make things okay for her and the boy. Therefore, I’m left wondering what that exactly means for next week’s show, the much hyped about hundredth episode.


While I’m glad to see the apocalypse plot advancing, several plot holes made this episode messy. What will happen to the townspeople? Why would the false prophet afflict such a small town? Why didn’t Dean choose to say goodbye to Ben? There were other weak moments, too. Dean annoyingly referred to God as a “deadbeat dad” again and the show’s lack of good lighting made some scenes hard to follow. Still, the episode made me anxious to see what happens next week.


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Thursday, Apr 8, 2010
All my serialized sci-fi shows seem to have turned into one-hour drama versions of choose-your-own-adventure books. I’m still trying to figure out if this is a cop-out or a stroke of genius. Maybe it’s both.

TV shows in their purest form offer an escape into another world. Suddenly, however, there is a mini-trend where shows are serving up multiple versions of the same world. It’s enough to give a viewer whiplash. I’m trying to figure out if it is lazy writing or brilliant twisty storytelling. Let’s look at three shows that are using this device right now before we decide.


Be warned: spoilers abound.


Tagged as: flashforward, fringe, lost
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Wednesday, Apr 7, 2010
On Tuesday, the Top Nine had the Lennon-McCartney songbook to choose from, a treasure trove just asking to be screwed up.

Well, Didi Benami is gone, which means, of course, that Ryan Seacrest can now formerly ask her out. American Idol has long been about ill-kept secrets, but Ryan’s crush on Didi was so obvious that I kept waiting for Simon to tell the two of them to get a room. Ryan’s frantic plea, “Sing for your life!” while the judges deliberated saving her with the special once-only grace card was telling enough, but when the judges let her elimination stand, Ryan looked like he himself had just been canned. “You are one brave woman”, he told Didi, and I thought he was going to propose right then and there.


Anyway, with Didi gone, the show got even more boy-heavy—just three girls left, and one of them, Katie, has been hanging by a thread the last couple of weeks. On Tuesday, the Top Nine had the Lennon-McCartney songbook to choose from, a treasure trove just asking to be screwed up. You likely remember Season 7 when they had contestants singing Beatles songs for two straight weeks, largely viewed at the time as a disaster. This time, they figured they’d have more success if they cut George’s songs, I suppose, since Beatles Night became Lennon/McCartney Night, with Sir Paul himself taping a good-luck message in his legendary winky, thumbs-up delivery. As it turned out, it was a night, like last week’s, that ratcheted up the competition with mostly solid performances. Let’s go to the board.


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