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by Robert Moore

22 Aug 2011

Highpoint Number 1: Game of Thrones and the Shows of April

On 31 March 2011, if asked to grade the 2010-2011 television season, I would have been hard-pressed to give it much above a C.  Perhaps a C+ at best. The season hitherto had not been without some highpoints, many enumerated in previous installments in this countdown. But all in all, it had been a fairly undistinguished season. Most of the new shows were not successful and several had been out and out disappointments. A couple had been outstanding newcomers, like The Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, and Raising Hope, while one of the very best new shows, Terrierson F/X, had been a ratings bomb of the first order. All things considered, on the eve of April’s Fools Day, the 2010-2011 season was more bust than boom.

Then came April. Several shows returned to start their new seasons (Treme and Doctor Who), which helped improve things a bit. Above all, though, it was a string of outstanding new series that elevated the television landscape: HBO’s Game of Thrones, Starz’s The Borgias, AMC’s The Killing, and HBO’s miniseries Mildred Pierce. As a group these shows raised the season’s grade up to at least a B+. Rarely have so many outstanding series debuted so late in a television season.

by Robert Moore

19 Aug 2011

Highpoint Number 2: Film Directors Invade Television

Three television series and one mini-series debuted in the 2010-2011 season with executive producers who were also notable film directors: The Walking Dead (Frank Darabont), Boardwalk Empire (Martin Scorsese), The Borgias (Neil Jordan), and Mildred Pierce (Todd Haynes). Important directors working in television is not without precedent. Steven Spielberg, David Lynch, and James Cameron have all worked in television, but never before have four such important directors all invaded the medium at the same time.

The degree to which Scorsese is involved with the actual production of Boardwalk Empire is not clear. He did direct the all-important first episode, perhaps the only episode of any series in which the director plays a role as important as the writers. The director of the initial episode of any series is responsible for creating its shooting bible, which establishes the look and feel of a show. TV directors like David Nutter and Jeffrey Reiner are sought out to direct series’ pilots because they excel at creating the look of a show.

by Michelle Welch

15 Aug 2011

At the same time a handful of friends Tweeted and updated their Facebook statuses to celebrate the premiere of TeenNick’s The 90s Are All That lineup recently, I was stabbed with my millionth pang of regret that I still can’t afford cable television. As a 23-year-old with an entry-level job, a loan repayment schedule, some credit debt, and a cat to feed, my budget simply cannot account for pricey cable television bills. Thus, I make do with Netflix and an Internet connection, having learned in college the key to any broke couch potato’s comfort in a cable-less lifestyle is to embrace a wireless router.

Although not currently airing during the midnight to 4AM block, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, easily the most iconic series from Nickelodeon’s golden era, is slated to return to the airwaves in a future cycle of programming. But take it from me, you need look no further than YouTube. Therefore, I invite you to join me in revisiting ten classic, creepy Are You Afraid of the Dark? episodes, if not from the comfort of a big orange couch in front of a television, then at least with the lights turned off (it aids the YouTube picture quality).

by Robert Moore

11 Aug 2011

High Point Number 3: Justified Comes of Age

Justified, which debuted in 2010, was a good show straight out of the gate, with Timothy Olyphant as US Marshal Raylan Givens instantly one of the most appealing lead characters on TV, and Wayne Goggins as Appalachian petty criminal Boyd Crowder one of the most compelling and complex supporting characters. But as so often happens with shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Buffy, The X-Files, Farscape, and many others, it was in the second season that Justified became something extraordinary.

The American television industry has been notorious for focusing on the “haves” in American life rather than the “have nots”. Nearly every show on broadcast television deals with the lives of people who are a bit better off than the majority of Americans. And shows that focus on the lower middle class, like the recently ended Friday Night Lights or the comedy classic Freaks and Geeks, are exceptions to the rule. Justified is likewise an exception, in this case not merely focusing on the lower middle class but also on the poor in one of the most economically blighted areas of the United States, the coal mining region of Eastern Kentucky.

by Robert Moore

9 Aug 2011

Friday Night Lights

High Point Number 4: A Fond Farewell to Friday Night Lights and Smallville

It may seem a tad eccentric to pair Friday Night Lights and Smallville. After all, Friday Night Lights was—despite being almost completely snubbed by both viewers and the Emmys during most of its run—one of the great series of the past decade, while Smallville was merely a competent reworking of the Superman story, focusing on his small town roots. But both shows had passionate if small fan bases and the departure of each leaves a gap that is not likely to be filled any time soon.

Friday Night Lights’s story is both tragic and triumphant. When I saw its first season, I was stunned by its quality, the brilliance of its camera work, the outstanding writing, and the astonishingly gifted cast. I told friends that it was one of the best shows on TV, and that it was going to win a huge number of Emmys. I believed Kyle Chandler (who played Coach Eric Taylor on the show) was a lock to win Best Actor and Connie Britton was equally certain to win Best Actress. And at bare minimum Taylor Kitsch, Zach Gilford, and Adrianne Palicki were certain to get Emmy noms for their supporting roles.

When the Emmys came around and the show failed to receive anynominations, I was flabbergasted. Today the results seem absurd. While The Sopranos deserved its Best Drama nomination, the other four—Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes, House M.D., and Boston Legal—were so clearly inferior to Friday Night Lights that its failure to receive a nomination is unfathomable.

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article