Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
Film
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA


cover art

Summer Heights High

Cast: Chris Lilley, Elida Brereton, Stan Roach, David Lennie

(HBO)

30


Summer Heights High HBO


High school as a bastion of comical coming of age nightmares—now there’s something original. Or how about the one man show in which a talented foreign actor takes on every role as part of some sketch/skit style spoof? If both of those ideas seem overplayed, then you have yet to see this sensational HBO import starring Australia’s Chris Lilley. Actually his second stint in the mock-documentary format, the talented chameleon essays the series three primary characters—the two faced Ja’mie King, the narcissistic Mr. G, and troublemaker Jonah Takula—and, with interaction between other performers, brings the realities of the Hell known as higher education to ludicrous, loony light. Bill Gibron





cover art

The Soup

Cast: Joel McHale

(E! Entertainment; US: 1 Jul 2004)

29


The Soup E! Entertainment Television


To watch The Soup—the E! Network’s weekly roundup of pop culture “news” and clips from a wide array of truly awful programming—is to witness television talking to itself in a self-referential sweat-soaked fever dream just before it begins to convulse in its death throes. Hosted with glib, winking incredulity by comedian Joel McHale, the show is an endless parade of high level, meta-absurdity as the bottomless trough of bad television is tapped to its very dregs and trotted out for condemnation and celebration. Essential by the very virtue of the inessentialness of its fodder, The Soup is the only truly appointment worthy viewing left on the dial. Jake Meaney





cover art

The Rachel Maddow Show

Cast: Rachel Maddow
Regular airtime: Weeknights, 9pm

(MSNBC; US: 8 Sep 2008)

28


The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC


After decades of shtick heavy right wing pundits, it’s only fair that the left get their televisual due—and no one does liberal snark better than MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. It was only a matter of time before the Air America radio host replaced underachieving talking heads like Dan Abrams and Joe Scarborough as part of the post-Chris Matthews/Keith Olbermann news block. And with regular features like “Talk Me Down” (in which a guest tries to calm Rachel’s spin anxiety) and “Ms. Information” (focusing on underreported stories), her irreverent approach to the day’s headlines make for wonderfully acerbic viewing. Bill Gibron





cover art

Life on Mars

Cast: John Simm, Philip Glenister, Liz White

(BBC; US: 9 Jan 2006)

27


Life on Mars BBC America


At 16 episodes, the original Life on Mars ran far too short. Worst of all, the series ends by opening up, not closing off, metaphysical possibilities. Sam Tyler’s (John Simm) weekly intonation about being “mad, in a coma, or back in time” notwithstanding, the finale raises other ideas, notably that he’s native to 1973. And by the time he jumps into the blue and “returns” to Manchester in the ‘70s, anything seems possible. We’ll never know, and more’s the pity. Shaun Huston





cover art

Project Runway

Season Three Finale
Cast: Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn
Regular airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm ET

(Bravo; US: 18 Oct 2006)

Review [22.Oct.2006]

26


Project Runway Bravo


The exciting thing about most reality shows is the manufactured drama of “real situations”, but Project Runway is truly all about the clothes and the talent. The mix of designers was odd this time; most were talented to a degree, but there was no one who stood out as fiercely as last season’s Christian Siriano. Still, the final five had a ridiculous amount of ability between them. A late season dose of trying to inject some villiany aside (which I hope the producers realize didn’t work), this continues to be one of the few reality shows worth watching. Aaron Marsh





cover art

Fringe

Series Premiere
Cast: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Kirk Acevedo, Blair Brown
Regular airtime: Tuesdays, 8pm ET

(Fox; US: 9 Sep 2008)

25


Fringe Fox


The networks’ best new series was Fringe, a J.J. Abrams vehicle with another big conspiracy and some crazy twists. Does this sound familiar? There are some major difference, however. There’s an ongoing story, but the style is more reminiscent of The X-Files than Alias or Lost. Most episodes are one-off tales covering a nasty aspect of “fringe science”. Anna Torv does a nice job as the lead Olivia Dunham, but the breakout role is John Noble’s seriously off-kilter Walter Bishop. With Joshua Jackson (Pacey!) and The Wire‘s Lance Reddick in the cast, there’s plenty to like each week. We still don’t know much about “The Pattern”, but the small hints offer lots of promise for the rest of the season. Dan Heaton





cover art

The Amazing Race

Cast: Phil Keoghan
Regular airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm ET

(CBS)

Review [2.Nov.2007]
Review [21.Sep.2006]
Review [2.May.2005]

24


The Amazing Race CBS


In its early days, it was impossible to expect that CBS’ reality gem would last 13 seasons. Although the latest incarnations were not the series’ best, they still maintain enough memorable teams and exciting tasks to keep us watching. The 12th season had an entirely likable final three, which has never happened. This included the grandpa/grandson team Don and Nick, who blew by the arrogant young teams to make the last leg. The 13th entry included Andrew and Dan, two completely inept frat guys who bungled their way through each task but somehow reached the finish line.  Neither team won the million, but both kept us entertained each week and showed why The Amazing Race still delivers great fun. Dan Heaton





cover art

Doctor Who

Cast: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper
Regular airtime: Fridays, 9pm ET

(The Sci-Fi Channel)

Review [12.Apr.2006]

23


Dr. Who BBC America


This year, The Dr. and Donna visited the Titanic and Pompeii, helped Agatha Christie, and had a “sliding door” vision of what might have been, but it was the battle against the Daleks that kept the series gripping. Most sci-fi shows have apocalyptic storylines, but Dr. Who‘s season-end story excelled where others fail. The two-part closer brought back old characters, united all the different factions of the Dr.‘s world, and forever altered the landscape of the series. Most of all, the series—with tongue planted firmly in cheek—made viewers think about what it means to be human. Michael Abernethy





cover art

South Park

Cast: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes, Gracie Lazar, Mona Marshall
Regular airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm

(Comedy Central)

Review [18.Oct.2006]
Review [26.Oct.2005]

22


South Park Comedy Central


Diminished ratings or creative atrophy keep most shows from reaching their 12th seasons. And when a show does survive past 12, the age lines show. Take any recent episode of The Simpsons as ample evidence. South Park’s 12th season, on the other hand, was fantastic. While not quite up to the level of the past few years, it contained two of the series’ most inspired episodes. Take “Tonsil Trouble,” a brilliant episode that’s ample AIDS jokes stretch even South Park’s limits of good taste, but that manages to redeem itself with a devastating closing sight gag. “The China Problem” isn’t quite so perfect, but its disturbingly literal take on fanboys’ accusations of raped childhoods at the hands of George Lucas should live on as one of the most disgusting, and hilarious, moments in the series’ history. All in all, it was a season to remember. As Cartman might say, “I’m not just sure, I’m HIV-positive.” Nav Purewal





cover art

The Simpsons

Cast: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria
Regular airtime: Sundays, 8:00pm

(Fox)

Review [26.May.2005]
Review [31.Dec.1994]

21


The Simpsons Fox


What is there to say about The Simpsons that haven’t been said over its 20 seasons? It’s become just as important as the nightly news and its commanding relevancy, contrary to critical belief, has not slowed down a bit. Staying up to date with current issues and the world at large, Homer & the Gang have been informing us through comedy of many of the world’s tragedies—an enormous achievement in itself. John Bohannon



Tagged as: adam arkin | adam baldwin | adewale akinnuoye-agbaje | adrian grenier | aidan gillen | alec baldwin | alexander skarsgård | alyson hannigan | anna friel | anna paquin | anna torv | b.j. novak | benito martinez | billie piper | billy lush | blair brown | brooke langton | catherine dent | cch pounder | chance kelly | chi mcbride | christina hendricks | christopher eccleston | cobie smulders | damian lewis | dan castellaneta | daniel dae kim | danny devito | david rees snell | david zayas | dean winters | debbi mazar | dominic monaghan | dominic west | edward james olmos | elisabeth moss | elizabeth mitchell | erik king | evangeline lilly | frankie faison | gail simmons | glenn close | glenn howerton | grace park | gracie lazar | hank azaria | harold perrineau | harry shearer | heidi klum | isaac hayes | jack mcbrayer | james ransone | james remar | jamie bamber | jane krakowski | jason segal | jay karnes | jenna fischer | jennifer carpenter | jeremy piven | jerry ferrara | john doman | john krasinski | john noble | john simm | john slattery | jon hamm | jon huertas | jon stewart | jorge garcia | josh holloway | josh radnor | joshua gomez | joshua jackson | julie benz | julie kavner | kaitlin olson | katee sackhoff | katie lee joel | kenneth johnson | kevin connolly | kevin dillon | kirk acevedo | kristin chenoweth | lance reddick | laura weedman | lauren velez | lee pace | lee tergesen | lena headey | lewis black | maggie siff | mary mcdonnell | matt stone | matt walsh | matthew fox | michael c. hall | michael chiklis | michael emerson | michael jace | michael raymond-james | mo rocca | mona marshall | nancy cartwright | nancy wells | naveen andrews | neil patrick harris | phil keoghan | philip glenister | rachel dratch | rachel maddow | rainn wilson | richard t. jones | robin weigert | rudy reyes | rutina wesley | ryan kwanten | sarah lancaster | sarah shahi | scott adsit | stacey grenrock-woods | stark sands | steve carell | steve corell | steven colbert | summer glau | terry o'quinn | the daily show with jon stewart | thomas dekker | tim gunn | tina fey | tom colicchio | tracy morgan | trey parker | tricia helfer | vincent kartheiser | walton goggins | yeardley smith | yunjin kim | yvonne strahovski | zachary levi
Related Articles
By PopMatters Staff
16 Jan 2013
Thanks to imports and cable channel choices, the year in TV was very interesting indeed. Where else can classical detectives meet with their updated complements, or sullen 20-somethings smirk at their ancient societal/criminal betters? Oh, and don't forget squid.
By PopMatters Staff
10 Jan 2012
The small screen offers up the usual suspects, proving once again that, with a few exceptions, what's good on today's prime time schedule will stay that way until the next best-of list.
By PopMatters Staff
7 Jan 2010
Aside from one or two new shows, this look at the Best of TV 2009 seems awfully familiar. A look at early '60s admen? A practically incomprehensible drama about an island of airplane crash castaways? The Americanization of a UK workplace comedy? That definitely rings a bell.
21 Jul 2005
While Stewart makes no bones about his own preferences, Republicans, Democrats, and reporters all come in for the same rowdy treatment.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.