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Monday, Jul 20, 2009

On a dark night in 1965, a busload of Scottish children is driving down a deserted road. The bus comes to a stop and the children nervously get out. A bright light appears in the sky and the children go towards it. As they get closer one child runs away unnoticed. The light gets brighter and suddenly the night is dark again and the other children have vanished.


Switch to a bright sunny day in 2009. Children are playing in the park or at school recess. Then they suddenly stop everything and are frozen in place. Frantic parents and teachers desperately try to find out what’s wrong but the children are mute and immobile. After a few moments they say in a flat voice “We are coming” over and over. Then it stops as suddenly as it started and the children resume what they were doing completely unaware of what has happened. It all happens at the exact time to every child in the world.


Now of course as anyone who’s been watching the Torchwood series knows, that the obvious thing for the British government to do at this point is to call the Torchwood team and ask them to sort it all out. But not this time since it turns out that the government has a secret that they want kept very badly. So the Prime Minister (Nicholas Farrell) wants all evidence of the secret to be literally wiped out and instructs a senior civil servant, Mr. Frobisher (Peter Capaldi) to make sure it happens.


Tagged as: doctor who, torchwood
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Friday, Jul 17, 2009

The History Channel is about to launch a new series focusing on the somewhat unpromising subject of a pawnshop. The series goes by the rather prurient but, I suppose, amusing moniker of Pawn Stars and features three generations working together in the pawn business, a business that served as the main form of credit in the United States until about 1950 and remains one of the oldest forms of banking.  This particular business is apparently the only family-run pawnshop in Los Angeles and indeed the family tensions and camaraderie make up a large part of the premiere episode. Thus the History Channel enters the world of (quasi-) reality TV in a manner in which only The History Channel could—mixing family and business dynamics with a genuine interest in historical artifacts.

Richard Harrison (often simply called “the Old Man”) started his “Gold & Silver Pawn Shop” in 1988 after losing millions in real estate. He dresses, at least for the credits, as an underachieving mob boss and because of his poor eyesight (presumably) he squints no end. Supposedly, he assesses the value of any piece of merchandise with remarkable exactitude (at least according to the press material) but in this episode he is exposed as having made a rather serious gaffe—he priced a Carson City coin worth roughly $500 at a mere $50 because he could not accurately read the back of the coin. His son and grandson finally convince him to visit the eye doctor but he insists on driving to the appointment!


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Monday, Jun 29, 2009
It's 10 p.m. -- do you know where your teenager is? The parents of NYC Prep probably don't.

On NYC Prep it’s not enough just to be rich.


Taylor, the lone public school student among the private school elite of the new Bravo reality show, would easily be the queen bee in any other corner of the world. But she’s cast in the role of the striver here, the Jenny Humphrey trying to keep up with a group of unfathomably wealthy teens for whom trivial things like credit card limits, curfews and parents just don’t exist.


Taylor and her frenemies cruise from one New York hotspot to another, BlackBerrys surgically attached to their hands. Though one of the girls emphatically proclaims her hatred for Gossip Girl, these kids revel in living out every cliché the fictional series has introduced to the masses.


With his Peter Frampton haircut and husky mumble, Nate Archibald clone Sebastian is a magnet for unsuspecting teenage girls. Just one hair flip and they treat him like a long-lost Jonas brother. PC, Chuck Bass surrogate and real-life step-grandson of the woman who created Sesame Street, provides a tutorial on how this society works: it’s all about money and connections. He’s got them; the rest of us don’t.


Tagged as: nyc prep
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Wednesday, Jun 3, 2009
Jon and Kate Plus Eight has never been more compelling -- but that's not necessarily a good thing.

Jon and Kate Plus Eight used to be the kind of show you could watch without really watching.


After mastering the basics—Pennsylvania parents Jon and Kate Gosselin had twins and then, hoping for just one more, ended up with sextuplets—the rest of the show passed in a blur of cuteness and crocodile tears. Toss in a few infidelity rumors, however, and suddenly you’ve got must-see TV.


As hard as it was to watch last week’s season premiere, it was just as hard to look away. At their best, Jon and Kate never seemed to be the most loving couple in the world but now they’re absolutely frigid. They abandoned tag-team confessionals for solo appearances on the Couch of Exposition. In between awkward silences, Jon and Kate worked their way through at least a few of the twelve stages of grief over their shattered relationship.


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Monday, May 18, 2009
Prison Break wrapped up its fourth and final season on Friday. Here's what happened for those of you who tuned out long ago from one of television's most entertaining (and definitely its most ridiculous) action shows.

Prison Break is over. Three seasons after Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) successfully broke his falsely accused brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) out of Fox River Penitentiary, and two seasons after creators originally intended the show to end, it’s done. Well, mostly. Word is that they’ve cooked up one more two-hour special that takes place between the end of the last episode and it’s “4 Years Later” epilogue. But for all intents and purposes, the show wrapped up on Friday night.


Some people have complained that the show lost its momentum in the second season, as the characters got out of prison and separated. Others thought it jumped the shark in the third season, when most of the characters ended up in another prison, this time in Panama. “It got completely ridiculous!” they shout. I submit that the show was always completely ridiculous and that they’re remembering season one through rose-colored glasses. Look, I’ll admit that the twist at the end of season two that put them back in prison was over-the-top silly, but that was the point where I decided to mostly stop worrying about the logic of the show and just enjoy the twisty thrills it provided on a week-to-week basis. Clearly they had to come up with something when Fox renewed the show past the second season, so they completely embraced the pulp fiction/1940s movie serial-style action that was always bubbling under the surface. Prison Break always packed in the thrills and suspense, and they always knew when to ratchet up the action. This kept the show as an exciting guilty pleasure even when it bent over backwards with the twists.


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