Archive for the ‘television’ tag
Good criticism expands on and explains clearly the work it critiques. It brings a deeper understanding of the subject by virtue of contextualizing it in a world a a consumer of the work under review probably rarely notices, and may not even fully comprehend.
I’d say by that definition James Bowman’s essay on the recently concluded television series Breaking Bad is quite good criticism. I watched the show from start to finish, even when I found it’s painful plot points made me want to stop. And while at the end, I felt satisfied, I didn’t fully comprehend. Bowman’s contextualization is hugely useful in this regard:
All of us are uneasily aware that beneath the good civilizational order in which most readers of these pages and viewers of the show continue to live their lives there is a dark alternative where old rules dominate, the Enlightenment’s recurring bad dream just waiting for the opportunity to reassert itself. Ironically, it is Walt’s Enlightenment credentials as a man of science that are his entrance ticket to this new state of nature.
(via Ross Douthat)
I didn’t post this — which is frequently headlined as PBS running “commercials” — when I first saw it because it’s news (and not firm) and I don’t really think it’s worth my time to put news here. But this isn’t getting covered widely and it has the potential to be the worst thing to ever happen to American TV. I am concerned.
If you’re curious, the logic is thus: because PBS is the best thing on American TV — and there’s not room to debate that — even a modest debasement in the name of commerce is far worse than, say, the History Channel becoming an abomination before history and intelligence.
That said, this does explain the new structure of some Frontline episodes and NOVA scienceNOW. And if you’re an American and don’t know what I’m talking about, shame on you.
Massively funny and surprising AMA on reddit. (If you aren’t aware, Ken Jennings is the winningest contestant from the American quiz show Jeopardy!, he recently lost three games to an IBM-made computer system called Watson.)
Adam Gopnik does a laudatory job cataloging and categorizing the works of those who aim to explain our current relationship to technology. Offering blows against both the unbridled pessimism of Nick Carr (a “better-never” in Gopnik’s words), and the unbridled optimism of Clay Shirky (a “never-better”), he gives the critical distance all great literary reviews should. The third group Gopnik names, the “ever-wasers”, are the most interesting and least discussed. Consider this point:
Everything that is said about the Internet’s destruction of “interiority” was said for decades about television, and just as loudly.
(via Austin Kleon)
Every year, I can tell Mad Men is back on the air by a small spike in traffic to this post. Daniel Mendelsohn’s take on the show is more thorough, and more mixed, but this paragraph nails why I stopped watching:
Worst of all—in a drama with aspirations to treating social and historical “issues”—the show is melodramatic rather than dramatic. By this I mean that it proceeds, for the most part, like a soap opera, serially (and often unbelievably) generating, and then resolving, successive personal crises (adulteries, abortions, premarital pregnancies, interracial affairs, alcoholism and drug addiction, etc.), rather than exploring, by means of believable conflicts between personality and situation, the contemporary social and cultural phenomena it regards with such fascination: sexism, misogyny, social hypocrisy, racism, the counterculture, and so forth.
A charming essay by Ken Jennings:
Indeed, playing against Watson turned out to be a lot like any other Jeopardy! game, though out of the corner of my eye I could see that the middle player had a plasma screen for a face. Watson has lots in common with a top-ranked human Jeopardy! player: It’s very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman.
Troy Patterson pretty much nails what’s great about the best new show on American TV:
It is as if, beneath the anger that every good comedian must cultivate and cherish, he’s achieved a kind of philosophical peace. Having meditated on the world’s absurd injustices, he greets them with absurdity in kind. In all, the outlook qualifies him as a kind of existential hero.
I noticed that my recent Netflix activity shows a heavy bias for full television seasons over two-hour movies. It brought to mind something Jason Kottke discussed a few months back:
Megamovies take television seriously as a medium. They have dramatic arcs that last longer than single episodes or seasons. … They’re shot cinematically and utilize good actors. Plot details sprawl out over multiple episodes, with viewers sometimes having to wait weeks to fit what might have seemed a throwaway line into the larger narrative puzzle.
Episodes of these megamovies, Canby argued presciently, are best watched in bunches, so that the parts more easily make the whole in the viewer’s mind. For many, bingeing on entire seasons on DVD or downloaded via iTunes has become the preferred way to watch these shows. If stamina and non-televisual responsibilities weren’t an issue, it would be preferable to watch these shows in one sitting, as one does with a movie.
I’ve never seen anything Tyler Perry’s done — I keep meaning to but not doing it — but what little I’ve seen leaves me desperately curious about what his goals are. When linking to an annoyingly superficial article I begrudgingly read — if you won’t let me see your whole article on a single page, I’ll generally not read it — MOLT said this:
“Tyler Perry is simply reflecting the thinking of a lot of uneducated, working-class African-Americans.” Anecdotally, I know that sentence to be untrue, I work with plenty of educated African-Americans who love Perry, but ever since we moved to Atlanta, the center of his “empire,” I’ve been fascinated by him. His show “House of Payne” comes on 2-3 times a day here on a local affiliate and it is amazingly bad. It is quite literally the TV equivalent of a train wreck and I can’t look away. The man is a genius. He filmed 100 episodes of the show in a year, doing almost 3 a week so that he could get into syndication faster and make the real money. The cast was showing up to the set and seeing their dialogue for the first time on the day they were filming. And believe me, you can tell. Horrible acting, dreadful writing (not, mind you, horrible actors or writers, but people being asked to do the impossible) - you would think it was farce if it didn’t take itself so seriously. The man is making money hand over fist and seems to be a gaming the system to perfection.
(Can you tell I’m trying to clean out my really old tabs?)
You can read it as either a sign that NBC is desperate, or that they’re the boldest network in adapting to a changing media climate, but report are that they’re going to give the last hour of weekday primetime (10 on the coasts, 9 in the middle) to Jay Leno.
That’s my response to this thoroughly boring etymology of the word.
The origins of “meh” are murky, but the term grew in popularity after being used in a 2001 episode of “The Simpsons” in which Homer suggests a day trip to his children Bart and Lisa.
“They both just reply ‘meh’ and keep watching TV,” said Cormac McKeown, head of content at Collins Dictionaries.
(via Mr. Coates)
Without question the critical consensus is that with The Sopranos and The Wire off the air, Mad Men is the best thing around. I’ve always had mixed feelings about it myself, but I’m glad simply to read someone (at length) discuss the show without slavishly showing their good tastes by being a fan. Perhaps the best bit:
Whether one finds all of this claustrophobic and ludicrous or tightly wound and compelling depends very heavily on one’s opinion of Don Draper. Draper, as written, is a kind of social savant. He knows how to act in every emergency. He deploys strategic fits of temper to attain his ends. He’s catnip to women. As played by Jon Hamm, though, his manner hardly matches his activities. … Draper is supposed to have a deep secret, but it would make sense only if that secret were his weakness – fearfulness or femininity – instead of the show’s anticlimactic revelation that his mother was a whore and he picked up another man’s identity on the battlefield in Korea: bizarre Gothicisms that belong to some other series. One never sees hunger or anger in Hamm’s eyes, only the misery of the hunted fox. Either he is playing the hero as a schlub in deference to a 21st-century idea of masculinity as fundamentally hollow and sham, or he’s completely underequipped to convey male menace.
A very interesting daily chart from The Economist. The basic analysis:
Those [children of international parents] craving an unhealthy diet should make for America, where more than half of the expat parents said that their children had eaten more junk food since relocating. Keen gamers should consider China and Canada, whereas telly addicts should nag their parents to move to the United Arab Emirates or India.
There’s nothing too remarkable in Gizmodo’s interview with Alton Brown. They breifly discuss his new show — Feasting on Waves — and talk at length about the technology he used while filming it. So, I guess the point is that I’m mostly just linking to this because Alton Brown is cool.
If, like me, you’ve always wondered what technological wizardry allows for The Daily Show’s impressive ability to amass clips of political and media foibles, the answer is: very little. An explanation from a former researcher:
It’s literally 15 rack-mounted TiVos of various models, many from the pre-Series 2 era. Some Philips boxes, some Sonys. And because there’s a limited number of remote codes, when a staffer operates one, he has to hold the remote directly against that box’s IR receiver so that the beam doesn’t hit any of the other boxes (i.e., so he’s not inadvertently controlling multiple boxes at once). No joke!
(via Boing Boing)
PBS is planning to drop Mr. Roger’ Neighborhood from the list of programs it regularly beams to member stations (who themselves decide when and if to air it). This fact yielded a good bit of nostalgia among those over 20, and a petition based primarily on that nostalgia.
Noticing the undeniable fandom of the critical class, Vulture has added AMC’s Mad Men to their list of television shows you should watch:
…by now you’re feeling that oppressive sense, delivered by critics and laysnobs alike, that if you aren’t watching Mad Men you’re out of touch with all that is good in our culture. That means Mad Men is officially a Show You Should Watch™ (or SYSW for short), following in the proud footsteps of The Wire, The Sopranos, and Arrested Development.