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Wednesday, Jan 20, 2010

Last week’s American Idol auditions in Atlanta gave us a reminder of how bizarre things can get when DVRs, Twitter, and YouTube mix with the nation’s collective impulse to latch on to a single cultural moment, no matter how asinine. It also demonstrated, much to the delight of Fox and the Idol producers, that people are paying attention to and talking about this season in the early going. Within minutes of “General” Larry Platt’s “Pants on the Ground” performance, hordes of dorm-boys around the country rushed to their guitars and camcorders to be the first to have a Dave Matthews-style “Pants on the Ground” cover up on YouTube. By morning, thousands of people had changed their Facebook statuses to “Pants on the Ground”, the most number of spontaneous status updates since Obama won. The next night, Jimmy Fallon performed a sober version of the song as Neil Young, and by the time Brett Favre sang it in the locker room after thumping the Cowboys on Sunday, the joke had run its course and “Pants on the Ground” fatigue had started to take hold.


Surprisingly, there was no mention of the General or his song on tonight’s episode, the third auditions show, this time from Chicago featuring guest judge Shania Twain. Thankfully, Twain was a much more constructive critic than previous guest celebs Posh Spice and Mary J. Blige. She didn’t yield to the temptation of a summative “That don’t impress me much” although she did tell one contestant that he had “a beautiful bottom end”, and you could sense Mutt Lange armageddoning it at home. The singer in question was an 20-year-old Asian undergrad named John Park, one of the few hopefuls worth a damn tonight, and even he was fairly lifeless.


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Tuesday, Jan 19, 2010
My thoughts as a new season of 24 begins on Fox.

I realize that by the time this blog is posted, most people reading this (including myself) will probably be four hours into the eighth season of 24. I am sure that there will be some dire situation involving the President and members of his/her family/staff, a real/fictional foreign country (depending on how poorly the writers plan on portraying its government), and a crisis of epic proportions. All of this will obviously cause Jack Bauer to return reluctantly to serve his country. Along the way, my guess is that he will deal with the difficult issues of whether national security justifies torture and whether it is possible to have a personal and professional life simultaneously.


I typically am excited about a new season of 24 and enjoy how it ushers in the Spring TV season. Over the past few seasons as the DVR has become a bigger factor in governing my relationship with TV series, I find myself often falling a few hours behind; however, once I start watching, there is always enough going on to propel me forward. In short, 24 has never gotten to the point where it felt like a chore to watch (except for the season that I skipped… Jack has a brother?).


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Monday, Jan 18, 2010
Despite a slow beginning Dollhouse has become an absolutely brilliant series

Suddenly, though not entirely unexpectedly, Dollhouse has become the best show on TV.  


Let me repeat that: Dollhouse is—albeit briefly—the best show on TV.


This assertion comes with a couple of qualifiers. First, this factors in the end of Season Three of Mad Men and considers only the last half of Season Two of Dollhouse. But is it becoming clear that the postmortem of Dollhouse will show that this was a series that took a long time to get underway—not least because of meddling by Fox in the initial concept of the show—but that when it finally did, it became something truly magnificent. Sadly, of the 26 episodes that will comprise the entire series, its full potential was shown only in the remarkable DVD-only Season One episode “Epitaph One” and the final seven episodes of Season Two.


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Monday, Jan 18, 2010
"Under this roof we are all the same... we are all people color!"

I literally choked when Florida delivered the lines: “What do you mean ‘Our time of life’. You forget: You people don’t never know how old we are. That kills you, don’t it!” Ester Rolle delivers this line so gloatingly that I literally curled over ROFLMAO! Florida had shown up all in sorts of trouble and Maude made it her busy-ness to find out. Maude was constantly projecting her own menopause onto others, and wringing it in to explain what appeared inexplicable to her. Turns out, Florida’s husband had gotten a second job and was keen to keep to his wife at home, like white folks do.


That’s what makes Maude so interesting—the show took every ditch and vibe with its racial jokes as a means to challenge stereotypes. And like this episode, many of the jokes were delivered by whites and blacks, and in mixed company, quite unlike the show’s predecessor, All in the Family, and quite more poignantly than its sisters, the direct spin-off Good Times, as well as The Jeffersons. In so doing, the storylines of Maude really pressed our culture to face some of its darkest secrets around gender, age, and class. As it turns out, these three tropes of modernity are inseparable and must be examined together. Sure, its complicated. Often we talk about race, but what we really mean is class. Or then there’s the very real gender component to everything in modern life, so much so that the reality is that women on Earth are still poorer than men as a whole. Indeed, it’s complicated. Fortunately, shows like Maude made us laugh so hard we cried. We may have even shed a tear or two over our own hypocrisy. And then, well, then there’s Maude herself.


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Saturday, Jan 16, 2010
Project Runway kicks off its new season.

Season 7 of Project Runway is, as the title suggests, back to New York. That declaration seems to be the show’s attempt to erase the sins of the previous Los Angeles-set season, or perhaps simply to pretend that it was all part of some bleary, barely-remembered Hollywood bender.


I live in L.A., so I’m not one of those people who believes that the city is a cultural black hole that swallows up everything good and pure in the world. Still, it was good to see the new crop of designers arrayed on the rooftop of the Atlas apartments in Manhattan and sewing away furiously in the familiar Parson’s workroom. If nothing else, we are at least spared the sight of Tim Gunn in beachwear this season. (By which I mean, sans tie.)


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