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by Elizabeth Wiggins

8 Jul 2010


According to its slogan, TNT knows drama, and in the summer it does viewers a tremendous favor by producing new, original one-hour dramas. TNT’s dramas tend to cover known ground: crime procedurals, medical dramas, and tales of redemption. As an added bonus, these shows star relatively famous people – Kyra Sedgwick, Holly Hunter, Jada Pinkett Smith, Timothy Hutton – as captivating, specially skilled protagonists. Production values are relatively high, the acting is OK, and the stories are average, if generally unremarkable.

The newest addition to this family of dramas is Memphis Beat, a crime procedural that co-stars Jason Lee and the city of Memphis.Results, as they say, are varied.

There is potential here. While it’s certainly odd for anyone raised on Kevin Smith movies or My Name is Earl fans to see Jason Lee play a cop, he really is trying to bring Detective Dwight Hendricks to life. The problem is, neither Lee nor the audience seem to know who Hendricks is. Nor does anyone really seem to know what this show is or what it wants to be. This problem, which runs throughout Memphis Beat and works its way down into its core, is the key factor holding the show back from being good. When viewers don’t know why they should care, they generally don’t.

by Beth Greaves

6 Jul 2010


Family Guy is not what you think. That is, it isn’t if you think what I thought at first: a crude, tactless and brutal cartoon made solely to satisfy a primal juvenile need to laugh at the offensive. No. That is not Family Guy. Is Family Guy crude, tactless, brutal, offensive and juvenile? Often, yes. However, there is something much deeper going on.

To bristle at the ugly stereotypes perpetuated by this cartoon is natural. I cringe at their sly Jews, their effeminate homosexuals and every other offensive stererotype the show parades in front of us. Yet it’s not done in this manner out of racist or homophobic spite. It’s not a marketing tool to brainwash the public with xenophobia.

by Elizabeth Wiggins

2 Jul 2010


The phrase “the art world” can conjure vague, non-specific images: galleries, standing still and speaking in hushed tones, wine, pretension, and climate controlled rooms. For many, “art” in the “high art” sense is not a part of day-to-day life, except on the rare occasions a nearby city has an interesting or controversial exhibit, or when we’re invited to a friend’s art school graduation, and on such occasions, we take the time to browse and ponder art affixed to walls, pedestals, hanging from ceilings… 

Regular exposure to such “institutionalized” art requires, for many, the concentrated effort to go off the beaten path. Luckily for those whose museum attendance record is somewhat lacking, Bravo’s Work of Art: The Next Great Artist brings that world into our living rooms in a recognizable, Bravo-styled format (Work of Art follows the successful Project Runway/Top Chef reality competition template).  What results is an art competition that marries the highbrow world of finer things with the lowbrow world of reality television for a slightly dramatic, generally pleasant evening of television.

by Crispin Kott

23 Jun 2010


William Shatner’s delivery has long been an over-tapped well of material for hack stand-up comics. But while Captain Kirk has gone under the microscope, his co-stars have often escaped similar scrutiny. For the purposes of this review, the regular crew of the Enterprise gets a pass. After all, they crammed a five year mission into just three seasons of television. Plus, a measured critique would also have to include Chekov’s wig and Spock’s goatee.

Instead, let’s focus on the co-stars, many of whom clearly relished their roles as intergalactic rogues, vagabonds and ragamuffins. So much scenery was chewed by bit players between 1966-69, it’s no wonder the series was forced off the air.

by Elizabeth Wiggins

21 Jun 2010


A tense moment in The Real Housewives of New Jersey

Growing up in New Jersey, jammed all the way out on the East Coast and in between a bunch of people, it’s hard to imagine what life is like in the rest of America. In school, the memorization of the capitals of other states mostly seems like an act of politeness. Sure, the capital of Wyoming is Cheyenne, but it’s not like that knowledge is being stored for an actual trip there. This dynamic of awareness of other place ‘out there’ and standoffishness (who cares?) works in both directions; while New Jerseyans have trouble imagining life elsewhere, the population west of the Delaware River has some ideas about how things go in New Jersey that relate to big hair and strong accents. Until recently, this was all residents of New Jersey had to worry about when defending themselves throughout the United States and abroad. However, the recent focus on New Jersey as a site to mine for reality television gold raises some questions about the tension between celebrating a local identity and engaging in troubling self-parody.

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The Eye of Lenzi: "Gang War in Milan" and "Spasmo"

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