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Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010

There are those out there who prefer the audition shows to the actual American Idol competition, and tonight’s first live broadcast, on which the Top 24 girls competed, proved that those audition lovers might be on to something this time. Oh, yes, it’s ladies night, oh, what a night… if you enjoy maudlin, uninspired singing over lugubrious arrangements, followed by awkward prattle from the judges. It was a very disappointing night from the girls, especially since the ladies are, by and large, a far stronger collective than the boys and Simon had made news this week by predicting that one of the girls would win the whole thing. And what’s up with the tacky set changes, with the judges sitting in front of an under-the-sea backdrop that cuts out the audience?  Boo. Then again, perhaps that nautical motif is appropriate, if only because the evening indeed felt like watching a sinking ship. In any case, here are the evening’s awards:


Best performance: It’s tough to come up with anything here, as none of the 12 singers flashed anything truly special. The night was dominated by mid-tempo songs and, call it nerves, every performance was oddly distant. I’ll give last night’s edge to Ashley Rodriguez’s version of Leona Lewis’s “Happy”, although with reservations. She’s one of the only girls who has the chops, the performance skill, and the presence to be taken seriously as a potential star. If anything, she pushed a little hard last night; if she relaxes, she’ll be a standout. Runner-up: Crystal Bowersox has a chance to catch fire. Advice: Lose the harmonica. She can’t really play it, and it just got in the way when she needs to be leaning into that mike and belting with power.



Tagged as: american idol
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Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010

This is the first Olympics that I have viewed in a post-Tivo world. The DVR is such an omni-present part of my TV viewing experience that I am now finding myself struggling to view the Olympics without mediation by my Tivo. Like so much about the Olympics, though, I am torn about how Tivo affects it.


The biggest problem is also the greatest strength—the ability to fast-forward. Once you start picking and choosing your way through a five-hour portion of Olympic coverage, it becomes very clear just how little you care about most of what is going on. In most cases, it simply is not compelling to watch a bunch of people who you do not know engage in the same task over and over again. You sit and watch the clock as various people ski down a hill (or, even more identical, race down a bobsled or luge course), wondering what you are supposed to be looking for. The carefully-packaged back-stories are only provided for people who will medal or crash… oh, or Americans—is our narcissism any clearer than in how we cover the Olympics? But without these segments, the actual competition is meaningless.


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Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010

So, it has been over a week since my last contribution to this blog, and I am going to put blame where blame is due – the Olympics.  I have been obsessing majorly over the Olympics throughout the past ten days, and, as they wind down here throughout the week, I want to record the duality of my feelings toward them (and, particularly, NBC’s coverage of them). Yesterday, I looked at the good. Today, the bad…


Like a gassy, bloated cow, NBC’s coverage of the Olympics continues to trudge forward toward its predictable end. Complemented by the talking puppets of the Today Show, NBC’s exhaustive (and exhausting, in most cases) coverage of various events spans many, many hours on many, many channels.


The biggest problem with the coverage is how thoroughly sanitized it is. The majority of the events are shown many hours after they occur, making the entire primetime broadcast a really compelling viewing experience… FOR MY GRANDMA!  I mean, apart from the rare event taking place late into the evening, isn’t anyone who really cares about Lindsey Vonn’s gold medal pursuit going to look on the million websites where this information is readily available in real-time?


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Monday, Feb 22, 2010
Most people know 24 as a taut thrill ride in real time. But there is a seamier side of the show that caters to the unfulfilled fantasy lives of our nation’s foreign policy and national security policymakers.

It’s a foreign policy nightmare. A country with a radical Islamic government that hates the U.S. is developing a nuclear weapons capability. Nukes and terrorists are pretty scary on their own; combine the two and it’s time to hide in the bunker. If only our enemies would talk to us. We could work it out.


But wait. What’s that you say?  An American President is sitting down right now with the leader of this Islamic Republic? They’re not only talking, but they’re within striking distance of an agreement to end the rogue weapons program. All they need is to agree on the composition of an international inspection regime. Furious international diplomacy ensues – and an accord is reached. There will be peace in the Middle East.


Clearly, this is the crowning achievement of the Obama Administration. The culmination of its stated policy of engagement with our enemies. Oh, wait. It’s not the Obama Administration talking to Iran. It’s the Taylor Administration talking to the Islamic Republic of Kamistan – no, you won’t find it on a map – in the first episode of this season of 24. In the real world, Iran is still charging ahead with its nuclear program and thumbing its nose at any proposed compromise.


Tagged as: 24
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Monday, Feb 22, 2010

So, it has been over a week since my last contribution to this blog, and I am going to put blame where blame is due—the Olympics. I have been obsessing majorly over the Olympics throughout the past ten days, and, as they wind down here throughout the week, I want to record the duality of my feelings toward them (and, particularly, NBC’s coverage of them). Today, the good…


The Olympics are thoroughly compelling, both as emotional and physical drama. From the little-seen hockey games that must be sought out on CNBC to the ratings-grabbing figure skating competitions, from the slow-moving cross country skiing to the adrenaline-rush of short-track speed skating, the Olympics are engaging, appointment television. The commentators for the individual events are complemented by the recorded pieces giving more detailed background about particular athletes, and they combine to give real substance to the experience of watching an event.


Tagged as: olympics, nbc
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