Five Years of PopMatters: Television

[1 December 2004]

By PopMatters Staff

In the last five years, that love-to-hate-it and still-ubiquitous medium, television, has seen a dizzying number of changes. Network television has lost tons of ground to cable (as the recent Emmy Awards can attest). Audiences are turning more and more to the cable news networks for information, while those networks slide further and further towards tabloid journalism to maintain ratings. We’ve seen the possible beginnings of the death of the sitcom, while one-hour crime dramas continue to captivate. And of course, there’s the dubious rise of that most sycophantic and puerile form of voyeurism, reality TV. Finally, the most enduring visual moment of the last five years, the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, are impossible to imagine separated from their context of TV.

Television continues to be a captivating window into our world, for better or for worse, and throughout all these shifts and events, PopMatters has worked to keep readers informed of what’s going on in the strange universe of the boob tube. Under the guidance of editor Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters has given readers plenty of reason to pause, to stop and consider what it is we’re watching and the implications of the messages we receive. With a dense archive of intelligent criticism under its belt, the PopMatters Television section is a great place to turn for a sense of televised recent history and media culture.

PopMatters Editors’ Picks

Watching Ellie
Review by Kevin Devine
Devine’s review is a fine example of how PopMatters gives writers freedom to be creative and funny in their work.

Embedded TV
Feature by Cynthia Fuchs
The conflict in Iraq and television coverage of Operation: Iraqi Freedom are among the most historical events of the last five years. Fuchs provides a clear-eyed look at television representation of the real, messy world of war, giving readers a sober view of distinctions between fact and mediated reality.

Arrested Development
Review by Stephen Kelly
This example of a straight television review displays how the critical analysis of our reviewers often separate the substance from the hype. It also shows the general expertise of our writers, who speak knowledgably about their topics.

Band of Brothers
Review by Mike Ward
Here’s an excellent example of how PopMatters reviews can offer cultural analysis in the context of discussing a specific product. Ward’s examination of how and why audiences continue to engage with historical war fiction in a post-9/11 environment is astute and well-focused.

C.S.I.: Miami / C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation
Review by Cynthia Fuchs
In analyzing character, tone, and setting, Fuchs provides insight into the things that make a great show click, and offers a compelling reason why it’s difficult to duplicate this formula in spin-offs.

Malcolm in the Middle
Review by John G. Nettles
This is a good example of a PopMatters writer using a review to make an insightful commentary on larger social issues. Nettles takes the example of Malcolm in the Middle and other Fox family sitcoms to discuss how media depictions of the nuclear family have changed — and how some things haven’t changed at all.

Queer as Folk
Review by Michael Abernethy
A fine example of a well-researched and intelligent review, Abernethy displays PopMatters’ commitment to cross-cultural analysis. His take on the at-odds critics of this show is careful and precise, and he offers persuasive analysis of the show’s true content as well as the problems it engenders.

Star Trek
Review by Rachel Hyland
Taking on one of the most sacred cows in television land is no small task, but Hyland goes for it big time, choosing to look at Star Trek‘s entire franchise. Her criticisms of the various series are pointed and well thought out, while her fan’s reasoning for the show’s success is fair, witty, and engaging.

Review by Cynthia Fuchs
Being able to offer negative criticism is relatively simple, but what Fuchs does here in showing how the theme of superficiality can wind up being superficial itself is balance the substance against the sensationalism, and she cuts a narrow path between the two to reveal a show’s internal weaknesses and critical failings.

Model Minority
Feature by David Leonard
This expose of submerged racism is a wonderful piece that shows how PopMatters writers approach popular culture with a sense of history and awareness. Of all the various media pieces that looked at Hung’s 15 minutes, this is one of the most intelligent and thought provoking.

Male Bashing on TV
Feature by Michael Abernethy
Abernethy provides some funny, sarcastic, and thought provoking comments on this little-discussed phenomenon. Again, PopMatters scores by tackling larger issues in the media world and how they reflect on our culture.

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