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Time for our 17th annual PopShots Underrated/Overrated List, brought to you by the good people at Black Phoenix Alchemy labs, makers of the world’s only line of H.P. Lovecraft-inspired fragrances. Be sure to try the Cthulhu body mist: “A hellishly dark aquatic scent, evocative of madness, crushing black waters, and the brooding eternal evil that lies beneath the waves.” You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. Hey, we take our corporate sponsors where we can get ‘em.


Longtime readers will recall that the PopShots Underrated/Overrated List was established in 1986 by CBS newsman Dan Rather, who wanted to express his conviction that being beat up by a madman screaming “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” was an Overrated Experience. Since then we’ve carried on the tradition by calling attention to that which is praiseworthy, and calling bullshit on that which sucks. OK, roll tape.


Overrated Movie Director: David Lynch
How this clown gets away with it, I’ll never know. Lynch has somehow created the impression that he is a unique visionary, and that no one makes movies quite like his, when actually anyone could make movies exactly like his. Just write down some weird things, some disgusting things, and some pretentious things, then jettison all authentic emotion and fill the rest with empty style and violence. Mitigating factor: According to the IMDB.com trivia files, Lynch is an Eagle Scout. Nothing wrong with that.


Underrated Website: IMDB.com
Actually, IMDB.com (The Internet Movie Database) is wildly and deservedly popular, but it’s still impossible to overstate its insane greatness. Thanks to IMDB.com, I am the undisputed master of naming obscure character actors in old movies. Friends and family simply squeal with delight when I shout out “John C. McGinley!” or “Joaquim de Almeida!” in the middle of a quiet dialogue scene. They are awed at the breadth of my knowledge, and shower me with appropriate offerings of popcorn. Mitigating factor: The daily news section is syndicated from the infamously lame World Entertainment News Network, which adheres to a strict editorial standard of making shit up.


Overrated Greatest Band in the World: Pearl Jam.
This came up the other day, some random publication I can’t remember crowned Pearl Jam as the best working rock band on the planet. I immediately rattled off 6,833 better working bands, right off the top of my head, a process that took up much of last week. But man, it was worth it. There’s a theory among physicists that when Pearl Jam first performed publicly, the matter/anti-matter reaction of such breathtakingly boring rock music with such towering self-seriousness actually shifted our reality into a Bizarro alternate universe wherein the world’s crappiest rock band is voted the greatest. This also explains the success of Jewel. Mitigating factor: They picked a pretty good fight with Ticketmaster, and that company is The Devil.


Underrated TV Show: NYPD Blue Reruns
You know who’s a pretty great actor? Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Yeah, that’s right, the kid from Saved by the Bell. Don’t believe me? Check out Season Ten, all of it. He goes toe-to-toe with the formidable Dennis Franz, and is Sipowicz’s best partner since David Caruso’s famous flame-out. Still don’t believe me? All right, tough guy. Behind metal shop, after sixth period. Be there. Mitigating factor: Himbo Henry Simmons as Detective Baldwin Jones, the worst piece of beefcake casting since the Beach Boys put John Stamos in their Kokomo video.


Overrated Screenwriter: David Mamet.
How is it that Mamet’s stilted, stylized, self-conscious dialogue is somehow considered brilliant? The guy writes incredibly well-structured stories and has a totally unique approach to what my Marxist-Feminist lesbian cultural studies professor, on whom I had a huge and hopeless crush, used to call diegetic discipline. But he torpedoes it all with that bizarre, affected dialogue and terrible directing of his actors. I think Mamet gets a critical pass on this because he’s smarter than just about anyone willing to call him on it, including me. But I’m not afraid. Metal shop, Dave. Sixth period. Mitigating factor: Mamet frequently collaborates with Renaissance Man Ricky Jay, possibly the coolest cat on the planet.


Underrated Actress: Selma Blair.
Hoo boy, do I love me some Selma Blair. There was a period of time a few years ago where, every single night for about three weeks, I dreamt about having coffee with her at a Starbucks in Detroit. At first it was very exciting, but then she started asking all these personal questions, and it became kind of awkward. But I couldn’t break it off! Every night, there she was, like a psycho girlfriend. The last time we got together, she brought along the starting infield for the 1984 Detroit Tigers (Tom Brookens, Alan Trammel, Lou Whitaker and Darrel Evans). That’s when I knew I had to put an end to things. Broke her heart, poor thing. But she’s still the greatest, that’s all I’m trying to say. Mitigating Factor: Um, The Fog. Worst. Remake. Ever.


Well, that’s all the time we have. Please be sure to send your comments and suggestions for next year’s awards to this author c/o PopMatters.com, or come join our ongoing discussion at alt.rec.bite-my-ass-Eddie Vedder. Thank you and good night.

Glenn McDonald writes about popular culture from his home in lovely Chapel Hill, NC. His humor essays have been described as "grammatically consistent" and "remarkably frequent". He is editor of the Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me daily news quiz at NPR.org, and a film critic at the Raleigh News & Observer. He lives virtually at www.glenn-mcdonald.com.


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