Saturday, June 25, 2011

TV's Best and Worst of 2010-2011

I finally have some down time today to compose my thoughts about last year’s TV season. Of course, I’m way behind here, and the fall line ups have already been announced – but for posterity, or perhaps just because I feel like it today, I’m going to pontificate about the many, many hours of TV I watched this past year. It’s going to be my own mini-Emmys.


HANDS DOWN the best show I’ve been following on TV this year. Superb acting by the entire cast, excellent writing, interesting cinematography.

MOST FUN – Castle

This is the show I looked forward to the most after The Good Wife. Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion have finally gelled, and the supporting cast has settled into their roles well. The writing is spotty week to week, but they clearly have fun with themselves and don’t take the plots too seriously. As a result, it’s easier to enjoy as a serial crime series than its competition. Tends to run formula - campy, campy, campy, SERIOUS episode, back to campy for a while etc., but it's been an enjoyable ride. Nice season finale too.

MOST IMPROVED – Big Bang Theory

This little gem had a quirky and interesting start, but last year fell into to what I like to call “The Sheldon Show” to the point it was getting pretty lame. With the introduction of larger roles for Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik, it’s gone back to the ensemble formula which is much, much funnier.


Beyond the schmaltzy House-Cuddy relationship that went down this season, you end by cutting tumors out of your own leg after ingesting experimental drugs barely tested on rats? Where has this show gone, really? It’s boring me a lot. Other than some interesting writing choices for Wilson and Cuddy centered episodes this season, it’s lost a lot of its initial magic.

JUST AIIGHT FOR ME – American Idol

While you can argue the talent was better this year, the judging pool was fairly worthless. I cannot believe that no one on this show uttered a single constructive criticism to Scotty the entire season when he clearly needed it. And no negative comments apparently means that you now win this show. I’m even more convinced the thing is rigged when the first year you let 15 year olds compete, the two that make the cut make it to the finale…in a large part because you didn’t critique them all season because “they’re young” yet rip apart the 20+ year olds.

GUILTY PLEASURES – Hellcats & Covert Affairs

It’s all about the eye candy. Terrible writing for the most part on both shows, but really, really nice looking people. And the production value of both have some flair - the dance scenes from Hellcats were fun to watch, and the action sequences in Covert Affairs look much better than you’d expect for TV stunt work.

MOST OVER-RATED – Modern Family

Don’t get me wrong, I dig Modern Family. It’s legitimately funny….sometimes. My problems with it lies in the way the characters sort out according to gender politics. The Pritchet crew is clearly the “masculine” force in the show, while their significant others are the “feminine” counterpoint. The fact that two of those SOs are men, and are frequently satirized for being too feminine makes me a little squeamish as a gender scholar. I should probably write a longer post on this at some point.

DOWNWARD SPIRAL OF SUCKAGE – Brothers & Sisters and Grey’s Anatomy

It’s a tie. I already ranted about Grey’s, so let me rant about Brothers & Sisters – a show that used to be an interesting character study in family dynamics has now become a trite construct whereby each episode revolves around people not being able to communicate effectively at all. And while it was interesting at first to think there was a “lost child” in there somewhere, now the lineage of the entire family just keeps getting called into question. It’s tired, and it’s clear the actors are tired of it…so, I was not particularly surprised to see it won’t be returning next fall. Unfortunately, Grey’s is. With the lamest season ever (and a terrible season finale – I know, I said I wouldn’t watch it, but I thought they might pull it out like last year. No luck.).

NEEDED TO BE CANCELED – One Tree Hill and Smallville

While I’m a bit nostalgic about the cancelation of two shows dear to my heart that have been a large part of my research on teen television, they really, really had worn out their welcome.

And that's all for post (when I get around to it) will be the battle of more comic book movies.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Battle of Two Comic Books (on Screen)

Helllllllo all my readers – you thought I’d died, didn’t you? No worries. I am the first to admit that I am a completely sporadic blogger, prone to long hiatuses and silence should I be terribly busy, distracted, or simply not have much to say. But I’ve had some time to think the past few weeks, so I have a couple gems to kick out over the next couple days. The first will be my pro/con rundown of two major comic book films in the past month – Thor and X-Men First Class.

Now for those who don’t regularly follow Popademic, you should know that I am a comic book lover at heart – but I’m not really a comic book reader. How does that work? Well, as a media scholar, my interest in comic books is pretty restricted to how they are manipulated from print into mediated stories (via TV or film, which are more my specialty than print). So, that being said, here’s my take on two comic book blockbusters of the summer so far:

THOR (Pros & Cons)

PRO – It was really pretty. Loved the CGI imaginary worlds.
PRO – Chris Hemsworth & Natalie Portman. Eye-candy galore and super cute rapport. As a bonus, Anthony Hopkins didn’t totally suck. Liked seeing Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd in something akin to his Good Will Hunting role, with a little less arrogance.
PRO – Some fun humor and quippy one-liners (as a result of Kenneth Branagh directing?)

CON – I was frequently bored. This is never a good thing for your film.
CON – The entire cast of supporting characters was under-developed and boring. In fact, I’m positive in the comic book Thor MUST be on Earth WAY longer than it seems like it takes in the film, because the whole romantic relationship with Natalie Portman takes all of a hot minute before he’s sent back home.
CON – As a counterbalance to the previous pro, the script as a whole pretty much sucked. Good actors saved some terrible dialogue from being generally abhorrent.

X-Men First Class (Pros & Cons)

PRO – I was mostly never bored. There’s one part (I won’t spoil it) that had me really bored. It had to do with the junior recruits.
PRO – I am a BIG fan of comic book films that tease out interesting and complicated relationships between men. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender did an amazing job here keeping me glued to the screen.
PRO – Kevin Bacon was a FABULOUS bad guy! Really hit that line between crazy/evil/deranged yet thinks he’s rational quite well. And January Jones was pretty intense (and hot) too.
PRO – LOVED the cameo by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

CON – The kiddies. Most of them couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag.
CON – Plot holes…like a lot of them. Of course, I empathize with the fact that when you have to write Prof. X, it’s a fine line because really he could totally do just about anything he wants, but the film made him seem weak in ways I didn’t appreciate as an X-Men fan. Also, silly things like – we dropped the sonar kid in the water and never got him back but 20 minutes later he flies out of the water? How does that work exactly since in order for him to fly before he had to be pushed off a building? Or really, if you want to go there, why is Kevin Bacon even bothering with this stupid plan when really he could just absorb the nuclear bomb energy and wipe out the world – which is what he clearly wants to do, yet, in a convoluted fashion he waits for humans to do it? The same humans he’s anxious to annihilate?
CON – Whoever was on the Beast’s makeup team should have been fired. That weird Planet of the Apes in blue crap was so awful I audibly gasped in the theatre. And I was not alone. Two comic book nerds were with me and were like, “dude, that is UNCOOL.”

So there you have it. I’ll be interested to see what the rest of the summer comic book line-up has in store.