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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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Friday, Feb 5, 2010
Modern Family is more than just a very funny show. It also takes a step toward rescuing the sitcom family from the mean-spirited vein it has been stuck in for more than a decade.

The sitcom is experiencing a revival. Every broadcast network has a night devoted to the half-hour genre that had been left for dead just a few years ago. NBC has its uncomfortable workplaces, CBS is home to the spawn of Friends, and Fox has its animation broods. This year, ABC jumped back into the sitcom game as well. Most of their offerings are middling at best, but there is one standout: Modern Family


It is the story of three families—a May-December multicultural couple raising her child, a gay couple with an adopted daughter, and a nuclear unit with two parents and three kids—that all happen to be branches of a larger extended family. The December patriarch of the first family is also the father of one parent from each of the other families. Don’t worry, it is not as complicated as I made it sound. 
 
What is so refreshing about Modern Family is that it manages to be about a family where the individuals actually care about each other in a believable, non-cloying way. It avoids both the saccharine triteness of yore and the ugly animosity that has marked recent clans. For many years, I thought the live-action family sitcom was all but extinct. Turns out it was just waiting to evolve.


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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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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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