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Monday, Jan 18, 2010
Despite a slow beginning Dollhouse has become an absolutely brilliant series

Suddenly, though not entirely unexpectedly, Dollhouse has become the best show on TV.  


Let me repeat that: Dollhouse is—albeit briefly—the best show on TV.


This assertion comes with a couple of qualifiers. First, this factors in the end of Season Three of Mad Men and considers only the last half of Season Two of Dollhouse. But is it becoming clear that the postmortem of Dollhouse will show that this was a series that took a long time to get underway—not least because of meddling by Fox in the initial concept of the show—but that when it finally did, it became something truly magnificent. Sadly, of the 26 episodes that will comprise the entire series, its full potential was shown only in the remarkable DVD-only Season One episode “Epitaph One” and the final seven episodes of Season Two.


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Monday, Jan 18, 2010
"Under this roof we are all the same... we are all people color!"

I literally choked when Florida delivered the lines: “What do you mean ‘Our time of life’. You forget: You people don’t never know how old we are. That kills you, don’t it!” Ester Rolle delivers this line so gloatingly that I literally curled over ROFLMAO! Florida had shown up all in sorts of trouble and Maude made it her busy-ness to find out. Maude was constantly projecting her own menopause onto others, and wringing it in to explain what appeared inexplicable to her. Turns out, Florida’s husband had gotten a second job and was keen to keep to his wife at home, like white folks do.


That’s what makes Maude so interesting—the show took every ditch and vibe with its racial jokes as a means to challenge stereotypes. And like this episode, many of the jokes were delivered by whites and blacks, and in mixed company, quite unlike the show’s predecessor, All in the Family, and quite more poignantly than its sisters, the direct spin-off Good Times, as well as The Jeffersons. In so doing, the storylines of Maude really pressed our culture to face some of its darkest secrets around gender, age, and class. As it turns out, these three tropes of modernity are inseparable and must be examined together. Sure, its complicated. Often we talk about race, but what we really mean is class. Or then there’s the very real gender component to everything in modern life, so much so that the reality is that women on Earth are still poorer than men as a whole. Indeed, it’s complicated. Fortunately, shows like Maude made us laugh so hard we cried. We may have even shed a tear or two over our own hypocrisy. And then, well, then there’s Maude herself.


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Saturday, Jan 16, 2010
Project Runway kicks off its new season.

Season 7 of Project Runway is, as the title suggests, back to New York. That declaration seems to be the show’s attempt to erase the sins of the previous Los Angeles-set season, or perhaps simply to pretend that it was all part of some bleary, barely-remembered Hollywood bender.


I live in L.A., so I’m not one of those people who believes that the city is a cultural black hole that swallows up everything good and pure in the world. Still, it was good to see the new crop of designers arrayed on the rooftop of the Atlas apartments in Manhattan and sewing away furiously in the familiar Parson’s workroom. If nothing else, we are at least spared the sight of Tim Gunn in beachwear this season. (By which I mean, sans tie.)


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Thursday, Jan 14, 2010

The American Idol auditions moved to Atlanta on Wednesday, and the producers eased up on the personal stories of overcoming hardships and, while they were at it, cut from the show all but a few decent auditions. Instead the episode was an unremitting parade of yokels and loose cannons handpicked by the show not as legitimate contenders but as sure meltdowns and freakshows, propped up as easy targets in front of the judges, who in turn pummeled them with uproarious guffaws.


The most shamefully manufactured humiliation was at the expense of a simple little country fellow named Jason, who claimed he had “almost died” three times, each scenario given Unsolved Mysteries-style dramatization spoofs. The guy couldn’t remember how to start the Garth Brooks song he’d planned to sing, and the judges made him stand there for several minutes while they cracked each other up trying top each others’ putdowns, playing the dozens with a guy who had no interest in keeping up. It was a cheap shot in letting the poor bastard get that far.


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Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010

American Idol, the phenom that helped to forever define musical milieu and cultural temperature of the aughts, returned Tuesday night for its first episode of the teens and hit the ground running in hopes of proving that the show still has legs amid steadily falling ratings, the disappearance of its worst but most car-crash-fascinating judge and, just announced this week, the end-of-season skedaddle of head judge Simon Cowell. The show shakes things up this year—Randy Jackson promises “interesting wrinkles”, quite a commitment, but one of them, of course, is Paula’s replacement, the sweet and likeable Ellen Degeneres, whose experience evaluating music mostly involves dancing in the aisles during her talk show.


Bringing in Ellen is like having Dennis Miller provide color commentary for Monday Night Football, and part of the fun this season will be in seeing if her seat at the table turns out to be the payoff the show badly needs. Ellen hasn’t arrived yet, however; Tuesday’s airing gave us highlights and humiliations from one of the show’s massive auditions, this one in Boston. Instead, an emaciated Victoria Beckham, sat in as a fourth judge, cocking an odd stare at contestants. She was a fairly good Paula stand-in, offering the same sort of sympathetic support that Paula was famous for, perhaps because both Paula and Posh suffer from the sneaking self-awareness that they themselves can’t actually sing.


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