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Monday, Feb 1, 2010
After a spectacular first season and disappointing second season, what will we see in the third season of FX’s Damages?

I queued up the third-season premiere of FX’s Damages earlier this evening with a good bit of uncertainty. Part of this uncertainty was because, despite my appreciation of its taut first season, the second left me completely cold. Even after watching the enjoyable and promising start to the new season, I still cannot remember the events that unfolded in the final episodes of season two. Seriously, where did Timothy Olyphant’s character go? And how did Ellen end up in the DA’s office? And what happened to all those characters we spent season two learning about? William Hurt, are you in prison? These are all questions that I once learned the answers to (and that, yes, I know, I could look up online in ten seconds), but it feels like a major problem that nothing has yet jogged my memory.


Fortunately, I think this only says profoundly negative things about last season and leaves me still jazzed about the apparent resurgence onscreen here at the start of the new season. The fresh start brings with it a new cast of characters (and, more importantly, a new group of actors). On paper, I find Lily Tomlin and Campbell Scott less appealing than Olyphant and Hurt from last season, but, if the premiere is any indication, the new crop of actors has been given a better storyline to function within (and Martin Short’s character echoes Zeljko Ivanek’s Emmy-winning performance from season one). Glenn Close remains arresting as Patty Hewes, and Rose Byrne plays Ellen with a newly found confidence which suits her better than the furtive glances and double-crosses of the ill-conceived undercover storyline of season two (if I wanted to watch Alias, I have the DVDs).


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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 11, 2010
'American Idol' has always had an uncomfortable relationship with its gay contestants. Maybe that will change now that they have the woman who had the most dignified public coming out in the history of TV at the judges table.

The most popular TV show in America is back this week. There are two things I know about this season. First, Ellen DeGeneres will be joining the panel as a judge starting Hollywood week. Second, some of the participants in this singing contest will be gay. If past history is any guide, those contestants will stay officially in the closet while on the show. 
 
It started on season one when Jim Verraros removed any mention of being gay from his show profile. Clay Aiken took second place in season two, but did not talk about his sexuality until five years later. During season seven, we had David Hernandez, whose exit coincided with pictures of him stripping. And, of course, last season gave us Adam Lambert. None of them were ever out on the show itself.


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Saturday, Jan 9, 2010
Thoughts on Big Love as its fourth season kicks off on HBO.

The fourth season of Big Love began on Sunday, January 10, and, as I sat down to watch the season premiere, I realized, unexpectedly, that I was very excited.  Perhaps it is because of the brutally cold weather outside, or because nothing “real” has aired since mid-December, but I was really, really excited.  The surprise I felt was due to my ambivalence toward the first two seasons of the show; however, after a strike-lengthened hiatus, last year’s third season was easily the best.


From the first episode, Big Love’s cast immediately stands out as a major reason to give it a chance.  Bill Paxton gives a career-best performance as Bill Henrickson, and his wives – played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, and Ginnifer Goodwin – are even more compelling actors.  I found the plotting of the first two seasons often ponderous, and I really doubted the ability of showrunners Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer to tell a coherent story.  The third season, though, found the show cohering in a way that it never had before and upping the stakes considerably, tackling topics such as abortion, ex-communication, divorce, and murder in ways that had noticeable consequences on the characters.  By finally allowing things to happen – rather than showing how all the characters remained the same despite the turmoil surrounding them – the show took important steps forward and, significantly, allowed its characters to start to grow and change in realistic ways.


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Monday, Jan 4, 2010
TNA's live broadcast against WWE on January 4 could be a turning point for American TV wrestling. One shot alone won't make it through the WWE's bovine skull, but at least someone's started firing.

It’s finally here! All over the place in the mainstream media, fawning fans of various shows have finally declared television to have officially achieved the status of capital-A Art, with a new era of greatness spilling out of our screens and ushering in a future of digital, LCD, 16:9-enhanced cultural prestige. Phew, that’s a relief. Now I can happily expand my cultural horizons every gosh-dern day without actually having to do anything (except maybe buy a set-top box).


Really, it all sounds a little more like the epoch of an obsessive cultural need for narcissistic self-validation (look Ma, watching TV makes me feel important!)—even a quick look back through history will see modern television repeating many of the high-points, and replicating many of the sins, of its past. Yes, The Wire really is great; but Art is discussed, not declared, and television’s been art for as long as it’s also been trash.


So, while some will still be patting themselves on the back for having watched The Sopranos all by themselves and without any help at all from the big kids, I’m still just as interested in trash and what’s going to happen on Mondays nights in wrestling. Yup, rasslin’. In fact, in the spirit of this great new media dawn we’re facing, I’m going to declare it a cultural turning point: TNA vs WWE on January 4, 2010.


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