Review: “UnREAL” is the most surprising show of the summer

So first of all, a big middle finger to Lifetime for producing such an entertaining show as “UnREAL”. In an age of Too Much Good TV, there were still several networks I could count on for not making it even harder than it already was to watch all the shows I wanted to consume. Lifetime sat happily in that particular part of the television spectrum, but now, I have to pay attention to their output as well thanks to this excellent show. Thanks a freakin’ lot, Lifetime. What’s next? Will HGTV suddenly greenlight a scripted, post-apocalyptic tale about irradiated designers called “Dystaupian”? Read More »

Review: Season 2 of “Review” solidifies the show’s place in the current pantheon of great TV

Let’s get this clear up front: “Review” was one of my very favorite shows of 2014, and I was OK with never seeing another episode of it again.

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Review: Five thoughts about “Ant-Man”

I’m not a movie critic by any stretch of the imagination, but I wanted to jot down a few thoughts about Marvel’s latest movie, “Ant-Man.” Five thoughts, to be precise.

1) First off, it’s a welcome de-escalation of stakes. That doesn’t mean what happens isn’t important, but there’s a localization of the action that is a much needed tonic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Much like TV shows that think they have to consistently go darker or more convoluted the longer they go, so too was the MCU in danger of dropping universe-shattering plots into every movie. After a while, audiences get numb to that level of threat. Having smaller conflicts that occasionally erupt into enormous ones will add variety to the films and make those truly epic encounters count.

2) The scene in which Ant-Man and Yellojacket face off inside a briefcase falling to earth represents one of the most creative action sequences in the MCU’s run to date. It MIGHT be the most creative, but I don’t want to overreact so close to seeing it. It didn’t quite have the visceral nature of the elevator fight in “Winter Soldier” or the sheer “oh my god I’m seeing a splash page come to life” of the assembled one-shot in “The Avengers,” but it’s safe to say we’ve never seen anything like this briefcase sequence before. As Marvel dips into new characters, hopefully it will allow for visual sequences like this that make each part of the overall saga its own. (And if they all use songs by The Cure, I’m OK with that. I bet you could build a successful action sequence in “Doctor Strange” edited around “Charlotte Sometimes.”)

3) I’m torn on Hope’s role in this film. I get that Hank Pym is keeping her out of action due to the trauma of losing Janet van Dyne, but the mid-credits stinger just made me wish they had activated Evangeline Lilly more in this film. “It’s about time” is a meta wink at Marvel’s own inability to truly create a cast of credible female superheroes, but also doesn’t erase the fact that Hope did very little other than complain about having nothing to do. While she does help the heist, I wished “Ant-Man” had found a way to note Hank’s idiocy AND let her kick some ass as The Wasp.

4) Michael Peña had the thirty-five best lines of this film. He literally did nothing wrong in the entire film. In fact, he was so good, I want him to be the one to eventually explain Infinity Stones once and for all via the method employed in this film. You can’t tell me you’d rather hear James Brolin talk about the Infinity Gauntlet than Michael Peña’s rendition via a guy who knew a girl who knew a guy who knew Howard The Duck.

5) While it might seem like a carbon-copy of the recent “X-Men” films, I wouldn’t mind some MCU films set throughout the 20th century after watching the opening scene of “Ant-Man.” Much like the “Star Wars” Anthology series, these wouldn’t have to necessarily connect with the current storylines but rather just provided an entry point to characters and stories that might not work in the present day. Given how freakishly good the de-aging of Michael Douglas looked (we’ve come a long ass way from “TRON: Legacy”), you wouldn’t even have to recast younger versions of existing characters. And hey, if you want to do Scott Lang’s origin story, you can always use Paul Rudd, because he never ages and probably has a picture of himself hidden away in order to maintain his youthful glow.

Review: Season 6 of “Community”

I don’t have a “complicated” history with “Community” so much as an erratic one. “Complicated” would imply that I’ve wrestled with the show and its overall meaning and how it fits into my overall world experience. That was never this show for me, although it certainly was for its rabid fan base, including fellow critics. I watched every episode of the show, even though I rarely found more than a third of episodes in any season particularly good. If I had to break it down, on average my opinion fell nicely into thirds: I either loved it, found it passable, or straight up hated it. There was no way to predict how I would feel going into any particular episode, which is probably why I watched every single one: It was the scratch lottery of TV shows. Read More »

“Rectify” season three review: Stepping into the light

There’s a moment in the season three premiere of “Rectify” (Thursday, July 9, 10 pm, SundanceTV) that sums up its unique place in the current television landscape. As he has done so many times before, protagonist Daniel Holden finds himself in a perfectly ordinary situation. One might even call it a dull situation. It’s either a moment one might take for granted or simply not view as important. But to Daniel, the moment is almost overwhelming in its beauty, despite the seemingly insurmountable amount of pain that he’s in.

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Plot versus story, redux

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When it comes to TV, plot is not important.

That thought rang out while watching the fourth episode of this season of “Orange Is The New Black” the other night. (Yes, I’m “behind,” or whatever that means in the days of bingewatching. Whatever.) Very little has technically “happened” this season, but I have really loved it so far. No two shows do plot the same, but to be sure, no matter what program it is, it’s always and ever the least important aspect of what makes it successful.

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The Heart Over The Head

Part of why I stopped writing so many episodic recaps was functional: The pace at which I was writing them outstripped my desire to keep doing them. But part of it was also due to that fact that I couldn’t do the type of writing I always wanted to do, because so much of that subgenre of television criticism accentuates what happened and what might happen versus what any of it actually means. That’s not all episodic recap culture, to be sure, and the best balance both worlds. I tried to do my best in balancing that, but it’s really easy to speculate since it’s hard to disprove that in the moment. Read More »

The difference between joy and relief in the modern TV landscape

Savoring is the new binging.

Well, it would be if I were Emperor Of Pop Culture. But since that position doesn’t exist, and since I probably wouldn’t have the savvy or martial forces to capture such a title, bingewatching is the predominant way many people currently consume television. It’s a little strange to step back and think about how seismic “House Of Cards” was during its first season, and here we are two scant years later with bingewatching part of the “normal” way people watch shows. From catching up with past seasons or simply consuming a Netflix/Hulu series in a single sitting, bingewatching is here to stay.

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All Art Was Not Made For You

It’s 2015, yet we still need to disabuse some of the notion that not all art is made for them.

I’m writing in this in the wake of James Poniewozik’s excellent piece today about the “Not For Me” moment in television viewing. He says a lot of things I wish I had said first, but didn’t say first, so credit where credit is due. But I want to take things just a step further, since it really can’t be said enough: We are at a time and place in which shows aren’t merely watched, but cultural battlelines are actually drawn. People are mad about “Game of Thrones.” People are mad about people who are mad about “Game Of Thrones.” Take “Game of Thrones” and apply it to dozens of other shows, whichever one happens to be stoking the flame of our current attention-deficit disorder culture. (Remember when “The Interview” was going to take down Western Civilization for a hot second?) Read More »

Introducing The TV Thunderdome

I generally don’t comment upon ad campaigns for television shows, since I’m into reviewing shows, not promos. A skillful promo can be made for a crappy show, and the reverse is also true. (That first FOX promo for “Enlisted” was so bad it probably killed the show before it even aired.) Talking about a promo that originally aired over two months ago for programs that have since ended their respective seasons might seem odd at best and downright lazy at worst, but allow me this late exception all the same.

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