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Friday, Jan 22, 2010
The new green-screened epic debuting on Starz may well go down as the TV series with more nudity, blood, and sex than any other in the history of television. It may also be the worst big budget series ever made.

If you were to ask someone what words first spring to mind after watching the two debut episodes, they would not be the ones that you would associate with great television. Instead of great acting, great writing, and compelling production values, with Spartacus you can’t think of much beyond nudity, the irresponsible use of CGI, cardboardish writing, and blood. Lots of blood. Titanic quantities of blood. In fact, there is so much blood that it is hard not to think of the famous Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which copius amounts of blood spew from one severed arm and leg after another in absurd quanities. Was blood eve intended to be the major component of any series?


So what descriptive terms spring to mind when thinking of Spartacus?


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Thursday, Jan 21, 2010

Another night, another round of morbid auditions. Welcome to Orlando and, yes, it was a Mickey Mouse operation from the get-go. The producers tonight tried to hook us with a fiasco, a flamboyant fella named Theo who wore a cape and had glued several nickels around his right eye and sang Pat Benatar, who has been mercilessly butchered in this young season. It’s only four shows into the new Idol, and the formula is already pretty nauseating with the farcical auditions toggling with semi-talented dreamers who have a heart-wrenching story at home.


Put your hands together for Broadway darling Kristin Chenoweth of Wicked fame. The story tonight was that Kara and Kristin were BFFs, throwing a sorority girl party at the judges table, hanging all over each other and laughing constantly. Not to get all Captain Kirk on you, but I liked Kristin better with green skin. She was barely present tonight, by the way, disappearing midway through the show without a trace. When she did speak to the contestants, her voice suggested that she should have played one of the munchkins in Wicked rather than the witch.


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Wednesday, Jan 20, 2010

Last week’s American Idol auditions in Atlanta gave us a reminder of how bizarre things can get when DVRs, Twitter, and YouTube mix with the nation’s collective impulse to latch on to a single cultural moment, no matter how asinine. It also demonstrated, much to the delight of Fox and the Idol producers, that people are paying attention to and talking about this season in the early going. Within minutes of “General” Larry Platt’s “Pants on the Ground” performance, hordes of dorm-boys around the country rushed to their guitars and camcorders to be the first to have a Dave Matthews-style “Pants on the Ground” cover up on YouTube. By morning, thousands of people had changed their Facebook statuses to “Pants on the Ground”, the most number of spontaneous status updates since Obama won. The next night, Jimmy Fallon performed a sober version of the song as Neil Young, and by the time Brett Favre sang it in the locker room after thumping the Cowboys on Sunday, the joke had run its course and “Pants on the Ground” fatigue had started to take hold.


Surprisingly, there was no mention of the General or his song on tonight’s episode, the third auditions show, this time from Chicago featuring guest judge Shania Twain. Thankfully, Twain was a much more constructive critic than previous guest celebs Posh Spice and Mary J. Blige. She didn’t yield to the temptation of a summative “That don’t impress me much” although she did tell one contestant that he had “a beautiful bottom end”, and you could sense Mutt Lange armageddoning it at home. The singer in question was an 20-year-old Asian undergrad named John Park, one of the few hopefuls worth a damn tonight, and even he was fairly lifeless.


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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 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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