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by Martin Zeller-Jacques

14 Mar 2011


Boardwalk Empire

TV is better than film.  It’s almost become a truism that the best scripts, the best acting, and the best directing are deserting the multi-plexes for the freedom of the small screen.  Martin Scorcese is just the latest émigré to arrive at the shores of HBO, where he can tell the story of Boardwalk Empire on the sprawling canvas he wants. Glenn Close, forced out of her role in films as the one you hire when Meryl Streep isn’t available, has found a showcase for her talents on Damages.  A writer like Joss Whedon, dismayed at the film treatment of his vampire-slaying teen heroine, was able to resurrect the concept as one of the great TV series of all time. 

If TV is so much better than film, then what I’m about to suggest is going to sound a little strange: I want to see a lot more TV series cancelled after two seasons.

by Kate Dries

9 Mar 2011


The Bachelor

At first glance, Glee, the little show about a bunch of musical high school students that could, has very little in common with the money making machine that is The Bachelor. One is a scripted dramedy; the other, a heavy-on-the–schmaltz search for “love”, or something like it.

While I’d watched Glee since its premiere, it’s the 15th season of The Bachelor, and this is the first time I’ve ever remotely been interested in that particular quest for companionment. Watching real people live out fake relationships is, surprisingly, far less interesting to me than watching fake people pursue real relationships. But as both Season 2 of Glee and Season 15 of The Bachelor have waned on, I’ve realized that they share a striking similarity in the way each chooses to expose relationships. Both programs willingly fight against the old adage taught to good fiction writers: show, don’t tell.

by Melissa Crawley

8 Mar 2011


NeNe of The Real Housewives of Atlanta

Every reality TV show has an element of performance, but I always hope for an uncensored slice of life. The less than comfortable moments give the genre credibility and authenticity. We all know that it’s often messy behind the scenes of marriages and friendships. For me, part of the appeal of reality TV is that I get to witness the mess. But what happens when the mess becomes more about holding onto celebrity status than exploring the ups and downs of real life?

The Real Housewives of Atlanta, which recently finished its third season, is one reality series that has mastered the art of revealing how messy life can be behind the scenes. In this case, it’s a look at the lives of privileged women who, despite the smiley picture in the show’s opener, are rarely actual ‘Georgia peaches’. On the series, they attend social events, spend money and sometimes work. They also eat each other up and spit each other out. The women are alternatively best friends and mortal enemies, occasionally in the same episode.

by Kate Dries

2 Mar 2011


Parenthood, a decent show from NBC that has been generating medium-high heat this season, doesn’t hesitate to confront the mundane. Most problems, especially those involving family, are not exciting, sweeping affairs, but involve small fights that escalate because people just see things differently; Parenthood specializes in said fights.

The show, which PopMatters’ Daynah Burnett originally reviewed to low marks, has become markably better this season. The characters have developed into a relatively healthy family grappling with its fair share of normal and less than normal issues; Aspergers, unemployment and adultery are just some of them. But by far the most interesting hurdle in this second season for the Braverman family is addiction; most specifically, alcoholism.

by Nathan Pensky

28 Feb 2011


David Mitchell and Robert Webb, decapitated for Peep Show

1. Arrested Development, Season 1, Ep. 12 “The Marta Complex”—We’re just a couple of consenting adults getting a stew on.
The use of unlikely supporting players in Arrested Development sometimes made actual jokes unneeded. This show illustrated the fact that, given the right casting—say of Henry Winkler as a randy attorney—what is actually said is really beside the point. Take the above line about “stew”, which made an unlikely comedic genius of Carl Weathers. Mitch Herwig and his writing staff gloried in creating characters that are either terrible wastrels or obsessive misers, as if the existence of one somehow explains the other. Weathers’s character is the epitome of the miser impulse. He has an almost MacGyver-like talent for squeezing the most out of his immediate resources, usually by making “stew”. That he would not relax his miserdom when romancing a lady—in this case Lucille 2, a character that had another creative casting choice in Liza Minelli—effortlessly blends story with a hilarious stand-alone catch phrase.

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