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?
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Beavis & Butt-head have returned to television after a nearly 15 year respite. Highland High’s favorite students haven’t changed all that much, which is fairly comforting. Yet, as welcome a presence as MTV’s witless and unwitting arbiters of taste may be, these two idiots have yet to repeat the sound and fury that accompanied their original run in the mid-‘90s.
With so much “reality”-based drivel having set a not-so-lofty standard, perhaps we’ve all grown a little too accustomed to shock factor television. Furthermore, Beavis and Butt-head paved the way for even more outrageous prime-time and cable network cartoons that tackle hot button topics of the day. Since Beavis & Butt-head dropped out of sight, shows like South Park and Family Guy have more than picked up the slack with off-color hilarity and social commentary.
At one point in the FX cartoon Archer, Lana, a co-worker of the titular character, snaps at him: “I’m sick of you getting the best assignments just because your mother’s the boss. Do you know what that’s like?”
His reply: “Besides awesome?”
In the space of a week, AMC’s The Killing was renewed for a second season and wrapped up its first season. And the conclusion was mightily unsatisfying. Most TV critics and discerning viewers gave this show a shot based on both its pedigree and its strong start. AMC has launched a small group of highly intelligent original series over the past few years, including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and the unjustly-ignored, now-canceled Rubicon. At first, The Killing seemed to fit right in with that lineup. It was dark and uncompromising, purporting to follow a murder investigation over the long term, with each episode covering another day in the case. But the show wasn’t just going to stay with our intrepid detectives, the dour Linden (Mireille Enos) and the twitchy Holder (Joel Kinnaman). It was also going to follow the mayoral campaign of Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell), the candidate in whose car Rosie Larson’s body was discovered. Most importantly, the show was also going to track the grief process of Rosie’s family, as they first learned of her death, through the funeral arrangements, and going forward.
This all worked beautifully for the first three or four episodes of the show. But things started to go astray in the middle of the season, as the detectives circled around Rosie’s teacher Bennet Ahmed (Malcolm David McLaren), a Muslim with a thing for pretty young students. Ahmed’s alibi for the night of Rosie’s death didn’t add up, but viewers knew that he wasn’t going to be the killer. So we spent a whole chunk of episodes as the show tried to convince us that it really was him, only to find out that of course it wasn’t. Things picked up again as the series entered its final stretch, with plot twists that seemed organic and actual headway being made in the case. An episode-long detour in the 11th episode, “Missing”, turned out to be valuable character development time as Linden and Holder spent the day searching for Linden’s truant teenage son. “Missing” was a great episode, far removed from the main premise of the show, and it would’ve fit nicely about halfway through the season to help us get to know our leads better. But coming two episodes away from the season finale, it almost felt like too little, too late.
I read a quote once that I now am unable to find via the usually helpful Google search, but the gist of it was, “One should never feel guilty about pleasure.” I want to say that the quote is from Mae West, but that might just be wishful thinking. Anyway, while I want to agree with the spirit of that quote, I feel too much embarrassment about some of my television choices to fully accept that mantra.
There are many shows I’m not exactly proud to say that I watch, but none that cause me quite as much shame as Degrassi: The Next Generation. This reigns supreme as my guilty pleasure, beating out such favorites as The Real Housewives franchise, Jersey Shore and even House Hunters: International, for a variety of reasons. First and the most obvious, it’s a show that revolves around kids aged 13 to 17 and I am a grown woman of 21. Second, the plotlines consist of the stuff you’d expect to see in bad ‘70s after school specials (were there good after school specials? Probably not). And third, on a good day the acting can only be described as mediocre.