Zooey Deschanel is the beauty queen of quirk. There are those who find it “adorkable”, and those who have disdain for the New Girl star’s overabundance of peculiarity. It’s true that the dial on the Quirk Meter is bent to full capacity and – oh wait - the springs have popped loose. Just watch her in interviews speaking in lilting stops and starts, or in the films (500) Days of Summer, Almost Famous or Elf where the line blurs between Deschanel the person and her characters; they are one and the same. With her trademark fringe of dark brown bangs, and round, blameless eyes she executes the weirdness well. Her delivery is deadpan but without the element of surprise because with Deschanel we know what’s coming: some declaration of what makes her atypical (Let me fill you in: it’s everything).
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I am currently making an effort to watch Fringe, which is streaming on Amazon Prime (and probably Netflix). By currently, I mean at this moment—it’s on in the background as I write this.
I began my interaction with Fringe when it premiered five years ago; as a Lost fanatic, I was drawn to the JJ-Abram-ness of the enterprise. I dutifully watched through the middle of the first season, then just never came back.
As a viewer of serials, I find myself incredibly impatient with procedurals, and while even in those early episodes I could sense elements of The X-Files in Fringe’s blend of procedural and serial, it just didn’t take. There were just too many episodes that began with someone turning into a pile of slime.
The new season of The Walking Dead has, if possible, been overshadowed by its incredible surge in ratings. One reason for this trend is that the ratings truly are incredible. In terms of total viewers, the first two seasons were impressive for cable—averaging 5.24 and 6.90 million viewers, respectively. Despite off-screen production turmoil—news stories chronicled the battle for AMC’s funds among its various series, particularly with respect to the enormous cost of Mad Men in relation to its inferior ratings—ratings went up during and between seasons.
However, the beginning of the third season last month saw an incredible jump, with the premiere drawing 10.87 million viewers, including an unbelievable (it’s true, it’s on Wikipedia!) 5.4 million viewers in the coveted 18-49 demo, with the number growing even larger when factoring in re-airings, DVR viewership, etc. It’s amazing how impressive these numbers are, as these demo numbers (which it has basically maintained through the first half of the current half-season) are higher than any broadcast demo numbers, outside of football.
“You look like a celebrity,” murmurs Ulfah, looking over Tiara’s new photos. “Good Tiar,” she goes on, as he watches her and cools himself with a red paper fan, “You’ve really become a woman.” In the next moment of Tales of the Waria, Ulfah speaks directly to the camera, the same red fan now fluttering at the edge of her frame. “When I see Tiara’s photos, I feel sad,” she says, “But what can I do? That’s my son.” Premiering on PBS’ Global Voices on 3 June, Kathy Huang’s documentary presents a series of similarly complicated relationships, between couples as well as parents and children. At least one complication has to do with the fact that they live in Makassar, Indonesia, the country that’s home to the world’s largest Muslim population. “Before Islam came here to South Sulawesi, there were men who dressed like women,” explains Tiara. “They were trusted to take care of the king.” Today, such men—known as waria—live in between. “Most warias don’t want a sex change operation because of the teachings of Islam,” Tiara goes on, applying makeup in hopes of changing the look of her “chubby cheeks.” She doesn’t want surgery, she says, “But I do want my face to be more beautiful.”
By the fifth season of a series, no matter the pedigree of the showrunner or writing staff, a certain level of predictability sets in. Whether the series follows the careful formula of most procedurals (like CSI or virtually everything else on CBS), or the predictable unpredictability of more ambitious series (like The Walking Dead or Boardwalk Empire), we can begin to get a sense of where the writers will take us and how the actors will interpret their characters.
With the premiere date for the fifth season of Mad Men rapidly approaching, I want to put some of these predictions out there for your perusal. Some are locks, some are larks. Here goes:
// Moving Pixels
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