Film critic Tom Shales once referred to a Batman sequel as a “wanging, clanging calliope from hell”. I often get the same impression from television ads, as I fumble for my remote’s ‘mute’ button before the onslaught begins. Yet every once in a great while, an ad will rise above the white noise and actually transcend the fetid swamp of commercial television. Consider the magical 90 seconds of Oreo’s “Wonderfilled” ad that debuted during a recent episode of Mad Men.
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Warning: I’m about to become a prude.
As everyone knows, Seth McFarlane set off a major media fire storm with his recent Oscar telecast hosting duties. Perhaps his most “irreverent” or “offensive” moment (check your pleasure) was his musical ode to naked breasts in the movies, “We Saw Your Boobs”.
And, yes, it was silly and totally sophomoric and didn’t show a lot of respect for the purpose of the evening, but the criticism it drew for days after, to me, largely missed the bigger issue.
Ironically, at a time when most businesses and corporations are doing there best to discourage interoffice dating and fraternization, and sexual harassment is still a hot button topic—still being defined and still devolving into a series of angry “he said/she said” confrontations—television can’t seem to get enough of love in the workplace.
For decades now, we’ve seen an endless parade of television series—both comedy and drama—that have as their one overarching theme: When are these two going to finally get together?
Recently we were back in that time of year when TV hits a dry spell: the infamous Winter Hiatus, when no new episodes are aired from about mid-December to mid-January. If you’re anything like me, you’re anxious for things to start up again, growing bored out of your mind watching the only things available to you: reruns, holiday specials you’ve seen dozens of times, and drawn-out New Year’s Eve shows. Why must we endure this dearth of good television precisely during that time of year when pretty much everyone has time off?
Television networks have basically always run on the same schedule, with breaks during the summer (an even longer dry spell) and winter months. Traditionally, these times of the year are simply expected to draw fewer viewers. The reasoning here is sound, in that no network wants to air a new episode when people are more likely to be visiting with relatives or traveling than watching TV, but is that really the case anymore?
After the winter finalé of Once Upon a Time, I am left with both hope and skepticism. While this latest episode managed to retain a sense of cohesion and resolved a few of the perplexing concepts of the plot, quite a few issues with this popular series still remain. Despite some mediocre acting, a scattered and sometimes illogical trajectory, an overwhelming abundance of characters and unclear character motivations, Once Upon a Time still keeps me coming back for more. But why? What is it about this world of fairy tale (and Disney, and Arthurian, and Gothic novel) characters that remains so compelling?