Five Years of PopMatters: Television

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.

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.





'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.


Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.


3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".


'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

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