Mad Men has been a strange, amusing series, replete with historic moments like JFK’s assassination and the moon landing, full of smoking and daytime drinking, and loads of human foibles, chief among them our ability to compartmentalize (and I’m not just talking about Dick Whitman). Beyond the character arcs and season-long plot points are some meta-analyses of the show that have kept me watching, fascinated. I’ve posted before about how I see Dick/Don as a kind of trans narrative but there are other interesting interpretations of the show, like the limited ranges of success, nay, life, for women in the characters of Betty, Joan, and Peggy (and how they differ from what we know will be the options for Sally), the clash of generations over cultural meaning and production (“What is the Carousel?”), and ultimately, where is meaning itself? That’s the question Dick/Don has been asking at least since he accidentally blew up his commanding officer in Korea, and perhaps since his youth at the brothel after his mother died. While Dick/Don in last night’s penultimate episode seemed to be finally coming to terms with an answer for himself, we the audience are in full-plummet mode as the series finale looms. Read More…
One of the biggest badass characters on television is leaving next week and I couldn’t be more heartbroken about it. It’s not just that Sandra Oh is arguably the best actor on Grey’s Anatomy (or broadcast television for that matter), it’s that the character she plays, Cristina Yang, has been an unsung feminist presence in a series often marked by obsession about heterosexual relationships and the men that inhabit them. Dr. Yang had been through bad relationships, abandonment at the altar (“It’s not that Burke broke up with me, it’s how he broke up with me.”), and an on-again, off-again affair with the chief of surgery, but she leaves the narrative at the top of her game, prioritizing her own needs, and inspiring other surgeons in her field. But let me get more specific about the aspects of Cristina that I adore so much, and thus the reasons I’ll miss seeing her around the hospital.
1. Her self confidence has never wavered—She started as an intern with the others, but came out of the gate maximizing her procedures hours and stating what kind of surgeon she would be. Maybe Izzy floated around not knowing which sub-specialty to take up and maybe George was trying to listen to his heart to figure himself out and maybe Meredith was fighting the shadow of her eponymous mother, but Cristina was all focus, all the time. Read More…
I’ve made some semi-serious predictions for the past few years, often involving Sarah Palin (but not this year, darn it!). As in previous years, I’ll stick mostly to political stuff and some popular culture territory. So let me go out on a limb once again and make a few bold statements that are probably not true but whatever. Nothiing is really true on the internet, right? Except Buzzfeed.
It’s the beginning of the end for the NFL as we know it—Between the increasing evidence that even high school football causes irreversible brain injuries, that crowds are thinning out at team stadiums because ticket prices are too high, cities pushing back against the extravagant costs of building new playing fields, and a slew of bad publicity that players and coaching staffs are mean even to each other, we could be seeing the end of the machismo of this monopoly group. Just yesterday, Jovan Belcher’s mother filed a lawsuit against the Kansas City Chiefs that they knew he was ill from repeated head injuries well before Belcher killed his girlfriend and himself last year. This is not even the beginning of a wave of suits against NFL clubs, given that the NFL just settled a class-action lawsuit in 2013 (which left many people unsatisfied) for hundreds of millions a dollars, nor is it the start of gruesome violence committed by former and current players suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. As one NFL official put it in the recounting done by Frontline last year, “If only one mother in ten decides she won’t let her son play football, that’s the end of the NFL.” Read More…
The characters are dropping like flies, with few people left standing. At the Emmy Awards last Sunday Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn were giving viewers hints about the series’ last episode. Words like “apocalypse” and “Greek tragedy” have been bandied about, suggesting there are many more fatalities to come, in one last 48-minute episode. Seeing as Heisenberg left his drink on the bar after watching Charlie Rose (who doesn’t get livid at Charlie Rose? Amiright?), we may even tally Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz among the dead by series’ end. So what are the remaining possibilities for our band of nerdy thugs, white supremacists, and broken family members? Read More…
SPOILER ALERT: This is all speculation, so feel free to read ahead with no spoilers!
Tonight’s the night. This Sunday, once the domain of Murder, She Wrote and Touched by an Angel, and now the showcase for Breaking Bad, this Sunday we get to see what comes of a certain DEA’s toilet time revelation. I’m talking about Hank, of course, intrepid brother-in-law to Walter White, whose descent into darkness as response to his sudden sense of mortality has been the main story. We have watched, over the last few years, an emotionally shut down and foreclosed man become the antagonist of the series. Walter has gotten better taste in cars, but other than that, he’s also become a meth mass marketer, a master manipulator, and an unchecked murderer.
The last eight episodes start airing tonight. Thankfully this is AMC, and not an instant boxed set of a season vis a vis Netflix. I will likely scream at the television upon seeing each week’s cliffhanger, but I’ll love Vince Gilligan for it. So just for fun some thoughts on what may flicker across the screen during season 6: Read More…
Let’s pretend violence is incomprehensible. Let’s pretend that the problem with guns isn’t about a lack of background checks or the extreme availability of weapons but with crazed madmen and an unabridged desire to kill people. Let’s pretend there is no relationship between NRA public relations and gun lobbying on Capitol Hill and the fact that Congress refuses to change gun laws even though 92 percent of Americans want to see universal background checks.
Let’s pretend that bombing the finish line of a marathon is a great time to check to make sure that Tagg Romney is okay. Let’s pretend that the well funded news machine isn’t in competition with people’s photos posted on Twitter and Instagram. Let’s pretend that it’s okay to put out any garbage about the calamity still happening in Beantown and call it news–unchecked, unverified, unconnected with any journalistic integrity. Let’s pretend that social media doesn’t morph into one huge trigger for the survivors of 9/11, Newtown, Aurora, the London Underground, or the Madrid bombings. Let’s pretend though that the sight of blood on the sidewalk in those Twitter photos is even more gruesome to American viewers because our regular news is so sanitized, while bombings are a near-daily occurrence in places all over the world.
Let’s pretend that we’re not about to descend into politicized name-calling from both parties about Patriot Day and intelligence failures and President Obama’s failures as a leader. Let’s pretend that there won’t be spotlighted Senate hearings at taxpayer expense to examine how bombs could go off on US soil while we were celebrating achievement and American exceptionalism. Let’s pretend we’ll have a helpful conversation about violence and what fuels such anger among some people that they would take to calculating explosions at a sporting event. Let’s pretend those conversations will get us anywhere better as a people.
Let’s pretend this will never happen again. Let’s pretend we can avoid telling our kids about what happened today, lest their worlds be interrupted by bombs and selfishness and dismemberment and bloody shards of glass. Let’s pretend we have some hope of healing and not descending into finger-pointing and a series of cruel memes on the Internet.
Let’s pretend it’s yesterday, or the day before PanAm 103 exploded in the air over Scotland. Let’s pretend we can stay in the 5 minutes after we woke up this morning where all we were thinking about was our first cup of coffee and the lovely feeling of hot water streaming out of the shower. Let’s pretend we can turn off news of this tragedy and just look out at the spring day and the tulips across the street even if all we can muster is a weak smile.
Let’s pretend these families will find solace and recovery and strength from their communities, and when they lobby their elected leaders to improve the lives of the rest of us, that we listen to them because they earned their position of advocacy in the hardest way.
Let’s pretend to be a country with interest in each other.
And maybe then we can move on to someplace new.
This originally appeared on I Fry Mine in Butter in 2010.
In a world where there were three television networks, people watched them.
Here are a few finale viewing numbers from years past:
M*A*S*H, 1983: 105.9 million viewers
Roots (mini-series), 1977: 36.38 million households
Cheers, 1993: 80.4 million viewers
Friends, 2004: 52.5 millions viewers
The Cosby Show, 1992: 44.4 million viewers
Last week, Lost’s series finale garnered 13.5 million viewers, and still it seemed like everyone and their neighbor had glued their eyes to their flatscreens. It pales in comparison to most Super Bowl games and any time Michael Jackson gave an interview. And it should be noted that the season 1 finale of Lost attracted more than 20 million viewers, so the show had definitely seen a decline of its viewership. But Nielsen numbers be damned, whatever happened to cult favorites?
Jericho, the terrible post-apocalyptic, conspiracy theorist’s daydream came back to television after a fan campaign roared its demands to the network, and got a whole 7 more episodes before it was canceled again.
So color me confused that FlashForward was canceled last week due to low ratings, even as it was at least as watchable—in my humble opinion—as V. And here’s where I get a little steamed: I know we’re going to be left hanging, forever. After I’ve dedicated significant attention to Charlie and Mark and Dmitri and Lloyd, to wrapping my brain around seeing things in the future that can’t have happened without seeing them in the future, and to remembering which agent is a double agent, which strings on Mark’s board lead where, and that we still don’t really know who D. Gibbons is. Even if some of the dialogue is stilted or some of the acting a bit forced and strident, I didn’t watch the show thinking “I bet they’re all in purgatory and waiting to die.” If I want to watch that crap I’ll rent Heaven Can Wait again. Ain’t nothing like a little Dyan Cannon screaming her guilty head off. Hell, I’d even watch The Heavenly Kid over again before I’d spend 5 years combing through Lost. (For the record, I gave up on the series after a few episodes into season 2.) Read More…
Author’s note: This post originally appeared on I Fry Mine in Butter in June 2011.
Feeling somewhat blue in the doldrums of summer reruns and the NFL off season, I gladly tuned in last year to see the then-new show, Royal Pains. It was about an E.R. doctor who gets unjustly fired from his job for helping a sicker but less wealthy patient, and winds up going into extremely private practice for the extremely wealthy in the Hamptons, New York. Catch the irony there? It’s subtle, I know.
It was enjoyable enough, with Mark Feuerstein as the good doctor Hank Lawson (son of being lawful, get it?), Paolo Costanzo as his well intentioned, extremely frustrating brother Evan, and Reshma Shetty as Divya Katdare, a woman of Indian heritage who secretly becomes a physician’s assistant, hiding her vocation from her family. Watching through the season, it was her character who supported the brothers through Evan’s monotony of stupid schemes—how his character didn’t take the grand prize in the Darwin Awards, I have no idea—and Hank’s challenging sense of insecurity to become the backbone of “Hank Med,” Evan’s stupid name for the practice. She reminded me a bit of Stephanie Zimbalist in Remington Steele, although Hank was by most measures not a complete charlatan.
Then the fall rolled around and I took in the premiere of The Good Wife,which I’ve written about on here twice now. And lo and behold, in the midst of the fictional Florrick Sex Scandal of 2009, there’s a cutting-edge investigator at the defense attorney firm: an Indian woman, Kalinda Sharma, played by Archie Panjabi. Wait a minute, my brain fired at me. Is this just coincidence? What’s going on here with the sidekickery? Read More…
Author’s note: This is reblogged from I Fry Mine in Butter, from June 2011 when I originally wrote it.
I was still a teenager when Law & Order started on NBC, and while I liked it just fine, I don’t remember being immediately taken with it. Actually, it seemed a bit like one of my boyfriends, the first of three Scotts I dated in high school and college—fairly likable, but I wondered about how long it would last. Law & Order, on the other hand, grew on me over time; I may not have caught each and every episode as they aired that first season, but I would read the tiny printed previews in my parents’ TVGuide and remember to watch. Hey, it was 1990, after all, and the newspaper’s television guide was often wrong. Oh, life was so hard.
I wanted to know what was up with Ben Stone, the ADA who seemed a little, well, crazy. Robinette was the cool and collected one, often mediating between Stone and Adam Schiff, the District Attorney. Every episode the cops were nearly precognitive, until the attorney’s office took over and had to deal with the technicalities that threatened to have the case for the people thrown out. It was as if Giuliani’s New York weren’t even possible because these criminals knew it was a cakewalk. Still, with a little bit of magic and finesse, and a hell of a lot of drinks over what I can only presume were extremely old bottles of scotch, Schiff got his convictions. Or at least very intimidating plea bargains. Read More…
I do love a good police procedural. I got hooked on them somewhere around Hill Street Blues which uncoincidentally is about the same time I became addicted to hospital shows (thank you, St. Elsewhere). These were character-driven, with short arcs of crime stories interspersed with longer relationship arcs of the ensemble characters, and the latter knew to never really upstage the former. Yes, we knew all about Jessica Fletcher’s life, but we really were invested in her solving another murder. Priorities, people.
No show cast this balance better than the flagship Dick Wolf production Law & Order. We even had the episodic plots carved out for us with the now-iconic metal staccato sound. Were there plot repeats over the 19-year run for the series? Of course there were, but who would have noticed were it not for the omnipresent reruns on A&E and TNT? Read More…