Romy Shiller

Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

TV Review: True Blood Season 7 – Series Finale

In review, TV on September 18, 2014 at 9:02 am

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[spoilers – you have been warned]

About: True Blood is an American television drama series created and produced by Alan Ball. It is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, detailing the co-existence of vampires and humans in Bon Temps, a fictional, small town in northwestern Louisiana. The series centers on the adventures of Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic waitress with an otherworldly quality.

I keep writing about the television series ‘True Blood’ and now that the series is completely over, I am a bit melancholy. It had gone downhill, I’m sorry to say. Variety says; People can debate when True Blood’s creative rigor mortis officially set in but suffice it to say this once-significant and hugely lucrative HBO series limps into its seventh and final season looking pretty anemic.

The presumption is that you know the show and characters.

As I’ve said, the metaphors for the vampire are clear: Ideas such as eternal youth, beauty, strength and never ‘dying’ – in the sense of being gone forever are prominent. The vampire embodies the cultural desire for youth [creams, Botox, plastic surgery etc.] and strength [gyms] in addition to other things.

The show explores several contemporary issues, such as the struggle for equal rights, discrimination and violence against minorities and homosexuals, the problems of drug addiction, the power of faith and religion, the control/influence of the media, the quest for identity, and the importance of family.

‘True Blood’ ended weeks ago and I cannot stop thinking about it because I am still so pissed off. Vampire Bill chooses ‘true death’ to let Sookie, his love, have a baby with a hypothetical human person. A friend of mine made the point that Bill was selfish in asking Sookie to kill him and good riddance to him. I can see that but a show that is subversive to begin with should let him ‘live,’ love, and be the prick that he is. If Sookie does not hate him, let her be with him, I say. The International Business Times notes; Sookie’s love life has been a main focus throughout the seven seasons of “True Blood,” and it will continue to be as the final season winds down. To create a fake, noble martyr is worse than death frankly. Let her get in vitro fertilization and be with him. Who even knows if she can conceive a child? Look, sometimes we make questionable choices – I’ve made several – but I would not change them for anything.

Alcide’s death hardly put a dent in Sookie who slept with Bill almost immediately. Nice, eh? They deserve each other, really. TV Line says; Proving that she really didn’t care about Alcide — at least not nearly as much as she claimed — Sookie rushed to Chez Compton, clad in naught but a short nightgown, and ended the episode with a good old-fashioned hump sesh by the fireplace. It was a reunion we all knew was inevitable, and I definitely enjoyed the delicious Season 1 undertones, but I honestly didn’t expect Sookie and Bill to go all in (tee hee!) so quickly. Considering her ex-boyfriend’s body is barely even cold yet, I think a kiss would have been enough to whet the appetites of thirsty Bill-Sookie shippers.

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Entertainment Weekly says; Bill tells Sookie that dying of Hep-V has made him feel more human than when he was human, and he wants to be reunited with his family. Staying with her, he’d be denying her children (has he not heard of sperm donors or adoption?), and he finally admits she’s not the only weak one: As long as he’s on the planet, he can’t not be with her either because he loves her too much. The twist is one you feel foolish for not seeing coming: Bill asks Sookie to use her one-time fairy light ball to kill him. By showing him the true death, she’d be setting them both free—she’d just be normal and vampires would no longer be lining up at her door.

In general things were tied up pretty neatly *yawn. * I’m glad Eric chose to live, Jessica and Hoyt celebrate ‘true love’ with marriage, Sam leaves town to be with his baby… Did I want something radical? Probably and at the least I wanted something unique. All these things are lovely but kind of unoriginal. Now things do not necessarily need to be original but a show that most often bends the rules should not suddenly conform to them.

Series finales are often polarizing says Entertainment Weekly, and True Blood’s will likely divide fans between those who are satisfied with a happy ending and those who want an hour of TV that leaves their hearts in their throats and their butts on the edge of their seats. The final season has been about getting back to the characters and letting them have time to actually sit and talk to one another. That’s a lot of what they did this hour, for better or worse.

IGN reports on the ‘blah’ season: Some of the more bemusing elements of Season 7 came from the main roster deaths, where we saw extremely unceremonious exits for Alcide and Tara (who got splattered off-screen within the first few seconds of the premiere). Alcide’s death at the hands of the angry Bon Temps gathering was more or less done to illustrate the point that no one, not even Sookie, cared about him all that much. It was basically an unspoken truth that Sookie and Alcide (who’d never been given much more than “protective” in the character department) were a bore and that she was meant for someone else. Which was possibly meant to inform Bill’s decision to die later in the season, but all it did was demonstrate how unconscionably fickle Sookie was.

I wanted the end of the series to reflect the irreverent attitude it used to have. It metaphorically and literally dealt with racy and controversial issues. It was unique in that regard. I feel that the end was very conventional.

The Television Show Orange is the New Black

In 3rd Wave Feminism, review, TV on July 7, 2014 at 8:39 am

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About: [from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia] Orange Is the New Black is an American comedy-drama series created by Jenji Kohan and first released on Netflix on July 11, 2013.The series, produced by Tilted Productions in association with Lionsgate Television, is based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, about her experiences in prison. The second season premiered on June 6, 2014 at 3:00 am EST. The series has been renewed for a third season.

Plot: [from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia] The series revolves around Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a bisexual woman living in New York City who is sentenced to 15 months in a women’s federal prisonfor transporting a suitcase full of drug money to her former girlfriend, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), who is an international drug smuggler/mule. The offense occurred ten years prior to the start of the series, and in that time Piper had moved on to a quiet, law-abiding life among New York’s upper middle class. While in prison, Piper is reunited with Alex (who was in prison before Piper but then grassed on her so they could be together), and they re-examine their relationship and deal with their fellow inmates.

This show is much more than just good and I’ll tell you why in a bit. I’ll just say, Orange is the New Black is revolutionary. Usual representations of girls in prison are clichéd, unrealistic porno versions. This commentary assumes you know the story and are familiar with the characters.

In the book by the head of women’s studies at South Carolina University, 3rd Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts It In A Box, I am called a 3rd Wave Feminist so this article is filtered through a 3rd Wave Feminist sensibility:

In contrast to first-wave feminism, which focused on the right of a woman to vote, and second-wave feminism, which was centered around equality in the workplace and the fight for reproductive rights, third-wave feminism was mostly about fishnet stockings, excessive wordiness, and the belief that lesbian erotica is somehow empowering… a third-wave feminist would frequently tell everyone within earshot that she is a bitch and a slut.

  • Uncylopedia

Season 2 fleshes out most of the characters by providing back-story – we find why they are in prison. I call Season 2 the season of pain. We see so much anguish or despair or trauma. Morello loses Christopher, Poussey lost the love of her life in Germany, Piper’s grandmother… Elderly inmate with dementia will likely die, Suzanne is majorly manipulated by her mother figure — Vee, Mendoza was domestically abused, Rosa is dying of cancer. The first season focused on Piper and while she is still a focus, the other characters are given more screen-time in the new season.

Piper’s arc is fabulous. She starts out as a timid, straight, princess and becomes a bad-ass, dyke-hero. Her addiction to Alex is classic and I want them to end up together. My feeling is that Piper is a very layered character. She has integrity. When she initially learns that Alex was responsible for her being in jail, she owns up to her crime and still chooses Alex, not Larry, to be her lover. When Alex plays her AGAIN in court in Season 2 we still route for them.

Kate Mulgrew as Galina ‘Red’ Reznikov and Lorraine Toussaint as Vee Parker are formidable adversaries. There is so much age-ism in popular entertainment that showing older capable, independent and fabulous women is unique.

Red and Vee are presented as tough women who have lots of street smarts. Because they are older, they have experience with unusual people and events. They bring this experience to prison life and create lives for themselves, which are less of a knee-jerk reaction and much more deliberate strategy.

Orange is the New Black is revolutionary because it challenges and re-defines power, voice, sexuality, aging and gender-roles in addition to much more. I still believe that straight men are getting off to the girl-on-girl action but this action looks very different here. Bringing sexuality into a new realm is so liberating.

Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset, a transgender character – is sexy and smart. How many times has a trans character been represented on TV? Her presence is very important. She is accepted by the other inmates, has family struggles and in Season 1 – hormone pill issues. It is wonderful that she is complex and layered.

Lea Delaria as Big Boo is likewise quite amazing. She plays a very out-there bull dyke. To show a large woman taking care of her own desire is very new. Her sex-contest in Season 2 with Natasha Lyonne as Nicky Nicols puts the power of female sexuality on an amazing level and puts the idea of ‘power’ squarely in female terms.

Sexuality in Orange is the New Black does not speak to the male voyeur, it speaks to a Queer, female audience. When I use the term ‘Queer’ I mean ‘Twisted’ or norm-challenged. Sure, the women who watch the show might be gay, bi, straight, trans-gendered etc. but their commonality is a new lens, a new way of watching TV. Men also experience a new lens but the meanings here differ. A different kind of pornography is enabled for many men and for many women.

I once wrote an article about straight women desiring gay male characters in the television show Queer As Folk. I know that an intended audience often over-laps with an unexpected one – that is probably happening here. I do believe that straight men are watching the show. I would be surprised to learn that they are the intended audience.

We are not used to these images of women. Most of these women do not need men to feel beautiful or have sex. Many of these women do not participate in beauty or dominant sex culture. Many of the women swear, are big, are unkempt, fight, are loud and have opinions. So you see, even if straight men are using the show as pornography, it is subversive pornography. These aren’t beauty queens [but some are – eg. Lorna Morello] enacting male versions of what women do together. These are women owning power, voice and sexuality. There is strength here. There is freedom.

Another important part of this wave of feminism is sex-positivity, a celebration of sexuality as a positive aspect of life, with a broader definition of what sex means and what oppression and empowerment may imply in the context of sex… many third-wave feminists challenge existing beliefs that participants in pornography and sex work are always being exploited.

– Today’s Feminism: A Brief Look at Third-Wave Feminism

We do not see women as victims here. That does not mean everything is a bed of roses. Even roses have thorns but you never see a ‘woe is me’ or ‘why me?’ mentality. Piper often will say that she is responsible for being in prison. Sure some women cry, some are beat-up…this is living in the world and having sucky experiences.

Uzo Aduba as Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren is absolutely ‘played’ by Vee and is very distressed about it. The event says much more about Vee actually. Many of the women here have had horrid experiences.

There is a difference between ‘being a victim’ and ‘being victimized. A friend noted a distinction I thought was apt: ‘holding onto a frame of mind where one sees oneself as a victim.’ Being ‘played’ is not the same as being a victim. Suzanne was victimized by Vee but she is not a victim. She, like many women, is a survivor.

This television show empowers women. It is hopeful and embodies an alternative way of ‘being.’ Orange Is the New Black moves beyond ‘entertainment’ by including alternative representations of women. In my mind, this is not only phenomenal but very, very important.

ROMY SHILLER is a pop culture critic and a 3rd wave feminist. She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing.
website: http://romyshiller.com/

American Idol: Season 13

In review, TV on May 29, 2014 at 8:51 am

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ABOUT: American Idol, subtitled The Search for a Superstar for the first season, is a reality television singing competition created by Simon Fuller and produced by 19 Entertainment, and distributed by FremantleMedia North America. It began airing on Fox on June 11, 2002, as an addition to the Idol franchise based on the UK show Pop Idol, and has since become one of the most successful shows in the history of American television. It was the most watched TV series from 2005 to 2011 in the Nielsen ratings, and it is the only program to have been number one for seven consecutive seasons.

So, I’m watching American Idol [2014] AGAIN. I am kind of addicted to this show and watch it every year. At the end of the show I’m usually frustrated with the votes but hey, this is a democracy and not a dictatorship – the opportunity to hear outstanding voices is worth everything to me.

There are auditions the first few weeks. This gives the viewing audience a chance to get familiar with the judges and contestants. The judges this season are; J-Lo [returning after an absence last season], Keith Urban [returning] and Harry Connick, Jr. [new]. Veteran judge, Randy Jackson, is the mentor this year. At the very beginning, I thought they would be boring and dry. I was wrong. They have great chemistry and their critiques are extremely professional. They are entertaining and Harry Connick, Jr. is hysterical – really! As a judge though, I cannot stand him. He is too harsh, critical and negative.

The goal of the first round of auditions is to get a ‘gold ticket to Hollywood.’ ‘Hollywood Week’ has more, intensive auditions. They start out at over 200 contestants and are whittled down to 30. These top 30 audition usually in Las Vegas. Not this year, however! The last 2 males are voted upon to see who will take the last spot in the top 30. The final auditions are live, voting shows. Now we get a top13.

Standout female: Jena Irene

Standout male: Caleb Johnson

The singing nights are great but the elimination nights are tense. The judges have one ‘save’ per season but they seem to wait until a truly amazing contestant might leave. When a contestant is voted out, they ‘sing for their life.’ I kind of think that usually this is futile, as the ‘save’ won’t be used. They eventually used the ‘save’ on Sam – a teenage heartthrob. Yikes.

Caleb should win. He is an authentic rock-star whose voice is far superior to any of the other contestants. He was called ‘sexy’ by J-Lo and a ‘slow motion air bag’ by Keith Urban.

The vibe this year was more positive than usual – between the judges and between the contestants. There was a marked emphasis on social media – Facebook and Twitter. Ryan Seacrest, the host, was constantly taking ‘selfies.’ During the Top 3 show they had the DJs ‘The Chainsmokers’ perform their hit ‘Selfie.’ The show obviously wants to be relevant to young viewers. When the contestants were eliminated their image was deleted on a screen like the kids who died in ‘The Hunger Games.’ It all seems very manipulative to me.

Anyways… the move beyond a singing competition is obvious. The context for the show now is mainstream pop-culture. I really don’t think anything on television can be ‘pure’ – especially when ratings are involved. I also do not believe that there is ‘reality’ on ‘Reality TV.’

In an article I wrote on the television show, Big Brother called ‘Big Bother’ I say: Ideas of ‘the real’ we hold are very interesting to me on many levels. Reality television exemplifies a level that suggests that if an actual person, not an actor, says or does certain things, it is fact and genuine. Things like editing or producing are invisible. I was in a mini-documentary (“Modern documentaries have some overlap with television forms, with the development of “reality television” that occasionally verges on the documentary…Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia) and sure what I chose to say came from my own mind but I had no choice in what was used, I had no say in how it was put together and it followed a predetermined aesthetic in keeping with the news-show airing it (even though the fabulous woman filming it had her own style). I would gladly do it again and was asked to be in a feature-length film documentary, but I am under no false illusion here. Even documentaries are ‘unreal.’

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C.J. Harris (far right) went home. From left to right: Caleb, Alex, Jessica, Sam, Jena, C.J.

The top 5: Caleb, Jena, Sam, Alex and Jessica.

So, my earlier standout female: Jena Irene and standout male: Caleb Johnson are in the finale, competing against one another. [Should I say ‘told you so’?] They are both so good it really doesn’t matter who wins. Not like when Adam Lambert lost to Chris whatshisname – oh, don’t get me started…

Caleb Johnson – the rocker – won. For the first time, I would have been pleased in each case.

 

Dexter -The Dark-Side: A Sneak-Peek

In review, TV on October 1, 2013 at 8:29 am

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About: Dexter is an American television drama series. The series centers on Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a blood spatter pattern analyst for a fictional Miami Metro Police Department (based on the real life Miami-Dade Police Department) who also leads a secret life as a serial killer. Set in Miami, the show’s first season was largely based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004), the first of the Dexter series novels by Jeff Lindsay. It was adapted for television by screenwriter James Manos, J., who wrote the first episode. Subsequent seasons have evolved independently of Lindsay’s works.

In February 2008, reruns (edited down to a TV-14 rating) began to air on CBS, although the reruns on CBS ended after one run of the first season. The series has enjoyed wide critical acclaim and popularity. Season 4 aired its season finale on December 13, 2009 to a record-breaking audience of 2.6 million viewers, making it the most-watched original series episode ever on Showtime. Michael C. Hall has received several awards and nominations for his portrayal of Dexter, including a Golden Globe. On November 18, 2011, it was announced that Dexter had been renewed for two more seasons. Season 7 premiered on September 30, 2012. The Season 8 premiere was the most watched Dexter episode ever with over 3 million viewers.

In January 2013, Showtime announced that season 8 premiere of Dexter was moved up from its originally planned airing in the fall to June 30. In April 2013, following ongoing fan speculations, Showtime announced that season eight would be the final season of Dexter.

I’ve been thinking – again. I was re-watching the entire Dexter series and wondered at our fascination with serial killers and meth cooks [Breaking Bad]. Dexter, a blood spatter analyst for Miami metro, often shares his dark thoughts with viewers, allowing fans of the show to delve deeper into the mind of the meticulous serial killer played by Michael C. Hall. Because Dexter only chooses to kill other psychopaths, he has good characteristics as well as the obvious negative characteristic of being a psychopath himself.

We watch horror films, ride on roller-coasters, bungee-jump… We get scared but we are safe – maybe that’s it. We can sneak a peek at the dark-side but we are not implicated. The rush of adrenaline or a racing heart is real but the threat is not. Glorifying darkness is certainly not ideal but it is far from unusual. Good vs. bad is a staple in film or television and while rooting for the ‘bad’ to win might feel suspect, it is common.

Halloween is itself a celebration of the dark – with lots of candy. We have created a scary day. Costumes run the gamut – from witches, ghosts, bandits etc. but these are pretend and we take part in the pretense. It isn’t as though we need to negotiate real witches and ghosts, right?

Dexter says, “I just know there’s something dark in me and I hide it. I certainly don’t talk about it, but it’s there always, this Dark Passenger. And when he’s driving, I feel alive, half sick with the thrill of complete wrongness. I don’t fight him, I don’t want to. He’s all I’ve got.

Initially, there seems to be a good reason and motive for Walter in Breaking Bad and Dexter’s dark deeds. Walter discovers he has cancer and does not want medical bills to be a burden on his family. Eventually he has more than enough money but he chooses to keep cooking. Dexter witnessed his mother’s bloody murder and only kills murderous criminals who slip through the penal system. While he does not experience a sense of conflict, he is cast as an avenging angel and the show suggests that he is righting a wrong.

Lately, a theme I‘ve noticed is the ‘family.’ Dexter and Walter have families: wife and kids – so there is an attempt to neutralize the darkness. The darkness does not go away but it is couched, normalized. Making the darkness palatable and taking it away from gritty reality keeps the viewer identifying with an unsavory character. His deeds might be foreign but his life is familiar, even utopian.

Walt in Breaking Bad loses his family and the show becomes even darker and Walt extremely dark. Dexter wants to create a new family and the show becomes lighter.

At the start of the show, Dexter marries Rita who has 2 kids from a previous marriage. Together they have Harrison but the serial killer, Trinity, kills Rita. Eventually, Dexter finds a mate and mother for Harrison in serial killer, Hannah. She is a stronger draw than his ‘Dark Passenger’ or urge to kill. He is apparently cured from darkness by a blond [read: light] murderess and mother figure. He always said that his Dark Passenger was born with his mother’s murder so it is fitting that a mother figure cures him. He also has a surrogate mother in therapist, Vogel who is murdered by her actual son who calls Dexter ‘the wrong son’ chosen by his mother. Maybe the entire final season should be called ‘Mother.’

The final season of Dexter puts obstacles in the way of his and Hannah’s being together – a Marshall is searching for her and a big storm is approaching – but that is the main focus, the obstacles are necessary dramatic devices.

[ending alert – I give nothing away but…] The series finale gets all moral. Dexter pays big time. Darkness is karma here. This ending seems uber-contrary to the entire series. A show that celebrates a serial killer needs to satisfy it’s fan-base by maintaining focus and consistency. The series finale did neither. Yes, it was shocking but it was hardly consistent.

True Blood: Season 6

In review, TV on September 3, 2013 at 7:43 am

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About: True Blood is an American television drama series created and produced by Alan Ball. It is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, detailing the co-existence of vampires and humans in Bon Temps, a fictional, small town in northwestern Louisiana. The series centers on the adventures of Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic waitress with an otherworldly quality.

[Spoilers]

I adore this TV show and wrote about it last year. The presumption is that you know the show and characters.

As I’ve said, the metaphors for the vampire are clear: Ideas such as eternal youth, beauty, strength and never ‘dying’ – in the sense of being gone forever are prominent. The vampire embodies the cultural desire for youth [creams, Botox, plastic surgery etc.] and strength [gyms] in addition to other things.

The show explores several contemporary issues, such as the struggle for equal rights, discrimination and violence against minorities and homosexuals, the problems of drug addiction, the power of faith and religion, the control/influence of the media, the quest for identity, and the importance of family.

Sookie says that Billith isn’t Bill and eventually stakes him in the first episode – to no avail. We’re not in Kansas anymore, eh? Stephen Moyer who plays Bill, directed this episode. That must have been challenging because his character is not the same as it was so he had to think about many things. Great job!

·      Sidebar or Gossip: Stephen Moyer [Bill] is married to Anna Paquin [Sookie]. They recently had twins.

Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin take their babies to the doctors office in Beverly Hills

Rutger Hauer plays Sookie and Jason’s fairy grandfather. Rutger Hauer. I cannot even begin to describe how brilliant this is.

Rutger

The entire Fairy/Vampire hybrid thing is odd but to me, strange is good. Fairy/Vampires can walk in the daylight but at least they don’t sparkle. Evil-then good-then bad Warlo is one of those. Too bad he turned out all evil – he was cute. Meanwhile, on the fairy plane, Warlow again shows his true colors, smacking, choking and generally menacing Sookie when she asks if he’d mind terribly dating her for a while before they marry.

 

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Is it just me or was the season very soft-core porn? No judgment here – just sayin.’ For example, Sookie having her way with a tied-up Warlo, Jessica doing it with the vamp with a conscience…

Eric meets the sun or does he? Pam is on her way, I bet she rescues him.Eventually, all of the fae blood that the vampires drank wears off. A bummer, sure, but not a life-and-death kinda big deal if they’re indoors when they resume being creatures of (only) the night. Unfortunately, Eric just happens to be nude sunbathing in his native Sweden at the time, and trapped outside, he appears to go up in flames.

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The ending felt very 1950s aesthetic-wise. Did you see the dress Sookie was wearing? I’m glad she’s all lovey-dovey with Alcide. I hoped they’d get together but now that Bill is back in the picture… Sookie and Alcide are just beginning to recover from the amnesia that seemed to make them both forget how into each other they once were.

1950s

So Bill renounced Lilith and his old self again. Kind of. Now he’s a famous vampire best-selling author. Bill is the author of a bestseller about the Governor’s invention of hep V.

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We are left with a new threat. In scarier news, packs of hep V-infected vampires are on the prowl and using small towns like Bon Temps as buffet lines.

On Facebook my friend Liorah said “I’m pretty sure the entire writing staff of True Blood was tripping this whole season.” That might be the best way to wrap-up the season.

American Idol Season 12 –Television Review

In review, TV on June 4, 2013 at 6:38 pm

 

 

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ABOUT: American Idol, subtitled The Search for a Superstar for the first season, is a reality television singing competition created by Simon Fuller and produced by 19 Entertainment, and distributed by FremantleMedia North America. It began airing on Fox on June 11, 2002, as an addition to the Idol franchise based on the UK show Pop Idol, and has since become one of the most successful shows in the history of American television. It was the most watched TV series from 2005 to 2011 in the Nielsen ratings, and it is the only program to have been number one for seven consecutive seasons.

 

I was going to boycott this show because of the Adam Lambert fiasco – he lost to a much less talented person – [RANT HERE ]

 

I continued to watch every season. Yup.

 

 

[Other seasons: Season 9 , Season 10]

 

 

 

Captain’s Log – maybe not

 

 

Auditions:  This year (Season 12) the judges are; Grammy Award winner, veteran Randy ‘Dog’Jackson, New Zealand-born Australian country music singer or Mr. Kidman – Keith Urban, Trinidadian-born American rapperNicki Minaj and American singer and Diva – Mariah Carey – it doesn’t matter what she says, her approval is God-Like [even though she is far from my style].

 

 

Nicki Minaj was a big problem for me initially, and I found myself wishing they’d bring back last year’s judges, JLo and Steve Tyler. However, Nicki Minaj champions those who are different, outsiders, odd-ones, ‘mutant’ (X-Men) and while she is obnoxious, irritating and too opinionated she is an important departure for American Idol.

 

 

I like that Simon Cowell is out of the mix. The comments feel more hopeful, constructive, and inspiring really. While his cranky attitude was fun to watch…he was too harsh on the contestants.

 

 

The initial auditions are a mixture of the ludicrous and the brilliant singers.

 

Top of Form

 

Bottom of Form

 

 

For those of you that don’t know, the goal of these auditions is to get a gold ticket to Hollywood and to endure yet another round of auditions. I get exhausted just watching them – pass the beer and nachos please.

 

 

Hollywood Week: This year the contestants are separated: one-week boys and one-week girls. Further, there is a group audition and contestants usually pick their group. This year the producers chose for them. Initially, this caused distress as most of the contestants already chose their groups but eventually it seemed to work out.

 

 

The contestants are so hopeful, but most of them will be cut. I remember this one guy from last year that came back. He was talented and gorgeous but his attitude sucked – he has not changed much. I am so tempted to say that he’ll probably win because with few exceptions, I’m usually disappointed (not last year though) – we’ll see.

 

 

The second week was the girls. Um, wow.

 

 

So we have the top 20 boys and the top 20 girls. Now they’re all off to Vegas for more auditions. Too many auditions.

 

 

Vegas: I lied. Not really, they changed things this year. It’s like watching the final show but with more cuts. The term they use is “sudden death.” During the show there are 2 cuts per week. Here, 20 sing and 10 are cut per week. There are 2 weeks of this and if I do the math correctly [I’m the worst at math] the top 20 should remain. They form the American Idol contestants.

 

 

A girl named Amber sang and I got goose bumps. I never get goose bumps. Ever. Anyhow, she made it into the top 20. There are so many female talents this year – how will anyone go home?

 

 

The boys are not so good this year. My least favorite was cut – thank goodness. Watching the show will not be torture now. Curtis or Vincent is the best male performer – hands down.

 

 

FLAW – The arbitrary division of contestants into male and female. A few males stayed who were much worse than some females that went home. Suckage.

 

The Show – Brutal Cuts. First Week (No: I don’t have a life.): One night 10 females sing, 5 will go home. The next night 10 males sing, 5 will go home. On the third night we find out who is in the top 10. My top 2 females are Amber and Kree. My top 2 males are Curtis and Vincent. Fingers and toes crossed. I hate this show. I love this show.

 

 

So my top 2 females made it into the top 10. Curtis made it but Vincent didn’t. Vincent is probably the best. Oh, well. Not to be bitter, but I’m used to this by now.

 

 

Second Week: One night all top 10 sing and the next night are cuts. Angela reigns on the singing night – she is Whitney-esque. There is a theme every week. This week’s theme is past Idol contestant songs.

 

 

Watching the show for 2 nights instead of 3 feels less pathetic even though I rationalize it as pop culture work. I could be at a bar like normal people.

 

 

Results: Well, that was dramatic! The judges have 1 ‘save’ all season. That is, they can save 1 contestant from going home. They cannot predict who will be in jeopardy in the future, so they have to use it wisely. The person with the least votes, who might leave, sings for his/her life with the hope that the ‘save’ will be used on them. The bottom 2 were presented. Curtis was one of them and Niki Minaj said if he goes home so will she.

 

 

The bottom, the one who would go home if they were not saved was revealed. It was Curtis! Shock. He sang for his life, and was not saved. He left the competition. To be frank, the females are so much better that I really didn’t care. I also have a sneaking suspicion that Niki Minaj will stay put.

 

 

Third Week: Theme – Beatles Songs. Lazaro who looks like Ricky Ricardo and has a major speech impediment but sings flawlessly, is the worst. He cries upon hearing the judges comments.

 

 

Results: Paul Jolley is sent home. He has the best skin ever. I usually really want touch his cheeks. This is a singing competition…singing.

 

 

Fourth Week: Theme – Songs and Artists from Detroit [think Motown, Madonna etc.]

 

 

Results: Devin Velez went home. He was good and should have stayed. Lazaro should have left but this is not only a singing competition and Lazaro seems to tug at American votes. [I was going to say ‘hearts’ but that made me sick].

 

 

 

Fifth Week: Theme – Rock. Lazaro sang a Queen song. Suckage! Apart from thinking ofFreddie Mercury here, I think of Adam Lambert: In my article People seem to abhor ‘difference’ about Idol Season 8.

 

 

I say, “I can’t be the only one who thought, when Adam and Kris sang with Queen guy, that Adam was much better suited to the style. If asked, I believe he should fill in the void left by Freddie Mercury. Honestly.”

 

Results: Burnell Taylor went home which was actually quite sad. He is an unbelievable singer and many of the judges and contestants cried. I felt their pain. I am just going to say that yes, it is absolutely important to show a disabled person like Lazaro on a popular reality television show but his singing voice does not match the brilliance of the others. That is why I was so angry when Kris Allen beat Adam Lambert.

 

 

Sixth Week: [Can you say ‘marathon?’] The finalists took on songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, as well as a song they wish they wrote. Amber is my favorite contestant but I highly doubt she’ll win. If Kree wins I’ll be glad. Kree has great ‘real’ energy and a fabulous voice. She is mostly a ‘country singer’, which isn’t my thing, however, mega talent is present. If Angie wins, the mainstream triumphs – again. She has a great voice and is pretty but generic in my view [She looks likeMiley Cyrus, whom I can’t stand so I might be biased here]. If Lazaro wins…

 

 

Results: The bottom 2 contestants were Lazaro [the worst] and Amber [the best]. I was tense because I know how this usually goes down. Thankfully, Lazaro Arbos left.

 

 

Seventh Week: The 5 remaining women did one song from the year they were born and 1 song by a diva. Kree was the best but Amber’s final song by Barbra Streisand was phenomenal.

 

 

Results: Janelle Arthur left – I thought she should. Kree was in the bottom 2 – yup.

 

 

Eighth Week: The contestants picked one song of their choice and a ‘one hit wonder.’ I think Amber was the best. She chose a Celine Dion song [Don’t like  Celine but the song showed off Amber’s range] and McArthur Park, picked up by Donna Summers.

 

 

 

Results: Amber and Candice were in the bottom 2 but neither left because the show had added an extra week thinking that the judges would use the ‘save.’ Confusing but phew.

 

 

Ninth Week Results: My favorite, Amber Holcomb, left. I expected that she would go – my favorite usually does – but I was still disappointed.

 

 

Tenth Week: The last show before the finale and America will vote upon who is in it. The remaining 3 contestants sang 3 songs each: 1 chosen by Jimmy Iovine [show mentor], 1 chosen by the judges, 1 chosen by the Idol production team [I guess the producers?]. Candice clearly won the night but you never know with the votes.

 

 

Results: Candice and Kree are in the finale. Yay!!!!!! Angie left, which was very surprising to many. I was more relieved than I thought I’d be. Angie seemed to me to be very manufactured and commercial – qualities that I figured the American public would like. I am so glad to be mistaken here. Kree and Candice are nice, real and physically large. If either wins I’ll be fine with it.

 

 

 

Finale: I decided that weeks of watching this TV show deserved champagne, so I opened the small extra bottle I had at the back of my fridge. I had it since the Oscars.

 

 

The 2 finalists, Kree Harrison and Candice Glover, sang 3 songs each. 1. Chosen by series creator Simon Fuller 2. The song they would release if they won 3. Their favorite song from the season. Candice’s favorite song was spectacular – ‘I Who Have Nothing” by Tom Jones.

 

 

Results: The American Idol is…Candice Glover.

 

 

 

We found out that judge Randy Jackson was leaving. This marks the end of an era – he was the last original judge left.

 

 

Funny, Nicki Minaj turned out to be the best judge this year. Her ‘in your face’ comments were usually entertaining, quite professional and right on the mark. She was followed in the ‘best judge’ category by Randy Jackson who knows the ropes, then Keith Urban who seemed to know quite a bit and far behind the rest was Mariah Carey who kept citing a Twitter hash tag.

 

 

Even though the talent this year was phenomenal, the show felt lackluster. Now I despise showy, Vegas-y programs so I’m not suggesting that, but in previous years big stars mentored the wannabes. This year they had only one.

 

Next year, I might skip this show. Sure. I hear that Adam Lambert might be a judge. If so….I’m so going to watch.

 

TV Review – ‘The Walking Dead’ and our fascination with zombies

In review, TV on April 26, 2013 at 7:26 am

[published  April 17, 2013]

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[spoilers]

About: The Walking Dead is an American horror drama television series developed by Frank Darabont. It is based on the comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. The series stars Andrew Lincoln as sheriff’s deputy Rick Grime, who awakens from a coma to find a post-apocalyptic world dominated by flesh-eating “walkers”, resembling zombies. He sets out to find his family and encounters many other survivors along the way. The eponymous title of the series refers to the survivors, and not the zombies.

I rented the television series The Walking Dead as a part of Zombie [pop culture] research – I really wasn’t going to write about it here. “What more is there to say?” I thought. It is a fact that zombies are a big pop culture draw.

However, I thought about this ‘draw.’ Vampires are sexier, smarter, faster etc. It is quite straightforward for me to understand this fascination. So why zombies who are ugly, dumb, slow etc.? The comparison is a good one. Both die as human and transform into other humanoid forms. Both feed on humans and animals…The metaphors for the vampire come quickly – eternal youth, beauty, strength – never ‘dying’ – in the sense of being gone forever. In both cases, death in the traditional sense is circumvented.

So, I looked at our fascination with zombies. Zombies stop at nothing to get what they want – food/flesh. Regardless of imminent threat or danger they persist.  Not because they know better, they simply don’t care. If we need to confront our worst fear that would be it. There is no ‘desire’ here, on our part – the cultural desire for youth [creams, Botox, plastic surgery etc.] or strength [gyms] – there is just threat and fight. There is a fear. Additionally, there is the anxiety of becoming one and losing self.

There is a lot to confront here. A lot of it is psychological: The whole “maybe suicide is a valid option” thing, morals changing because of circumstance – “kill or be killed”, for one… Predators in the television show are also human eg. The Governor.

There is so much gore. Entrails, brains, blood, guts, and amputations…the squirm factor is exquisite.

I like this television series for many reasons. Firstly, there is an arc to the characters – most develop over time and learn something about who they are and their world. Also, certain high-profile deaths are shocking and unexpected. This is unique and other television shows usually keep their stars around, you know?

Unfortunately, I think I can predict the hook-ups but you never know: Daryl [I have a major crush on him] and Carol. Rick and Beth – Carl might get jealous because he has a crush on Beth, he also has to deal with someone taking the place of his mother … Carl is a very complex character actually. I imagine that his arc, over time, might be very special.

The actor interviews are some of the best I’ve ever heard and some of the actors have English accents. I did not know that: Rick, The Governor and Maggie…

The series has been well received and has received many award nominations including ones for the Writers Guild of America Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series (Drama). The series has also attained strong Nielsen ratings, surpassing various records for a cable series, including receiving 12.4 million viewers for its season three finale to become the most-watched drama series telecast in basic cable history.

It was announced on December 21, 2012 that The Walking Dead has been renewed for a fourth season

A conversation with a real Mad Man

In News, TV on January 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm

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‘Mad Men’ television show opening credits:

About:  Mad Men is an American dramatic television series. The series airs on Sunday evenings on the American cable network AMC and is produced by Lionsgate Television. It premiered on July 19, 2007, concluded its fifth season on June 10, 2012, and has been renewed for a sixth season.

I absolutely adore the television series Mad Men. The series has won several awards, including fifteen Emmys and four Golden Globes. It is a 1960s drama set in fictional advertising agencies called Sterling Cooper on Madison Avenue in New York City, and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

The aesthetic of the show is great – I feel propelled to the 60s. The style of clothes, hair, furniture… The seemingly endless amount of liquor and cigarettes. The loose morals.  The goal to get the account or the girl. Women are bigger, curvier, sexier.

I had the opportunity to ask a real Mad Man a few questions. His name is Marty Baker and I was impressed with his candor and amazing sense of humor. He is a dashing, chivalrous, charming older man  – they just don’t make them like that nowadays.

Marty Baker has a unique ‘insider’ perspective on a very popular television show. Marty embodies an aspect of pop culture history. He lived what is now a fabulous story:

 

Romy: First of all Marty, I want to thank you for agreeing to do this interview.

Marty: My pleasure to travel down memory lane with you.

R: What year[s] did you work as an advertising guy? What were your responsibilities?

M: I started at BBDO (Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborne) in 1953 in the mailroom after college at $29.50 per week gross which going to 40 hours gave me a gross of $35.  Was living at home where I gave my Dad $10 weekly.

Worked up to Assistant Account Executive. Then went to Ogilvy & Mather as an Account Executive around 1956 to work on Schenley Whiskey, Christian Bros, Wines & Schwepes Tonic.  In 1959 I was recruited to Doyle, Dane Bernbach as a Senior Account Executive.  In those days, Ogilvy and DDB were the hottest creative shops in the USA…if not the world!

In the 14 years I was there I worked up to Sr. Vice President, Management Supervisor.  I was, what was later called, “A Suit”.  I handled US Rubber, Keds Sneakers, Uniroyal Tires, Royal Golf Equipment, Lees Carpets, Ponderosa Steak Houses, Seagrams plus a few other accounts.

R: What do you like about the series ‘Mad Men?’

M: How can I count the ways? It brings me back to the “good old days” hearing expressions and seeing actions that really take me back!  All portrayed is very accurate except they don’t really show what mavericks and characters some top and not so top creative types were.  Also, tensions between creative types and account types were always there.  I was often told that if I was good to my wife and kids as I was to my creative teams I would win Husband and Father of the year Awards! 

Love the clothing, cars etc.

R: Can you tell me which expressions and/or actions you resonated with?

M: “Entertaining clients.” Strategizing on presentations.

R: What don’t you like about the series ‘Mad Men?’

M: We had more indiscriminate sex than they suggest.  Remember, the Pill became popular just a few years earlier so the ladies could relax and the guys could enjoy!  No HIV then just VD which was easily handled.  Also, tremendous amount of entertaining of clients or being entertained by print, & broadcast media.

R: Did “entertaining” include sex? If so, would escorts be provided? What was standard “entertaining” practice?

M: Most entertaining involved dinner, shows & sporting events.  Some may have provided escorts or access to houses like Polly Adler’s but I never did it.  On a business trip to San Francisco a client sales manager took me to a top college football game and then suggested that we could meet for “dinner and …” with a couple of lovely ladies but I declined.  I always preferred finding my own!

R: Were there office romances? Did men have sex with their secretaries? Were you aware of extra marital affairs? How rampant were these?

M: Not infrequent at all! One of our vice-presidents told his wife that he had a late night meeting with a difficult client. (I did this more times than I can remember.)

About 8:30 that evening, his wife was flipping channels on the TV to see if anything interested her.  She happened to pause on the baseball game – which she never watched – and was about to change channels when the camera zoomed into the stands and showed a couple in hot embrace and kiss…they came up for air…and there was her hubby.

I had several affairs over the years but only once with my own secretary.  Much less complicated with someone else’s or with other gals in the agency.

R: Are there similarities between the television show ‘Mad Men’ and what you experienced? If so, please elaborate on the similarities. Did you smoke? Drink? Wear hats?

M: OMG!

I always wore a felt hat, sometimes called a Fedora with a colorful, little feather thing in the hatband on the left side.  In the summer I wore a straw hat.  Hats began to go out of style when Kennedy was elected.  He was the first President to go hat-less and the hat industry hated him!

Watching the show startles me to realize that all of us smoked EVERYWHERE!  At a desk, conference table, restaurant, athletic events, in bed…both before & after!  It was unthinkable to answer a phone and not light up!

I don’t recall having liquor so readily available in our offices…and as the guy handling liquor accounts I sure would have them.  Always had samples but seldom drank in office.  However, drinking with clients, among us in various lounges and on business trips was rampant.  Lots happened!

A few were true alcoholics.  One of my first bosses, a brilliant man who wasn’t worth a damn in the morning but after three Martinis at lunch was incredibly good died at age 45 with cirrhosis of the liver.

R: There have been so many shifts since that time – which shift has made an impression on you?

M: The truly brilliant creative guys like David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach had their most notable successes working from their gut…not from focus groups like political parties do.  Clients could CYA if they reached decisions based on research so they wouldn’t have to take the blame if it didn’t work out.

R: What does CYA stand for?

M: Cover Your Ass.

R: Were there any black writers? Any female writers?

M: I never saw a black writer…many female writers…very few female art directors.  The only black of any sex I can recall was a man, Clarence Holt, who worked at BBDO as the “negro market specialist”.  I always thought that was a laugh!  Here was a black that graduated from an Ivy League school, dressed in Brooks Brothers clothing and lived in lily-white New Canaan, Conn.

R: Marty, we are very privileged to have your account of an extraordinary time and situation. Thank you so much!

M: My pleasure, Romy! 

 

True Blood – A delicious wait – TV Review

In review, TV on September 3, 2012 at 10:25 am

My piece assumes you watch True Blood and know the characters. It is full of spoilers because I have watched the entire season and freely discuss it. You have been warned.

The True Blood finale means that I’ll have to wait many months for a new episode. Aside from Bill going over to the dark side, will Sookie be bit by Bill or that air-monster thing? At least I can watch the Emmys and hope to glimpse the stars; Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard…

Inside TV says that it does not understand why this crowd pleaser — and superior actors like Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer — are ignored. It did get four nominations, for best craft services food or something (we’re kidding, but you get our resentment).

True Blood has 4 Emmy Nominations this year:

  • Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama – Alfre Woodard
  • Outstanding Art Direction For A Single-Camera Series – “Beautifully Broken”
  • Outstanding Makeup For A Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) – “9 Crimes”
  • Outstanding Sound Editing For A Series – “Hitting the Ground”

I am team Eric by the way.

I didn’t believe that Bill was really bad. Maybe he was faking it so that he could eventually bring the evil vamps down – wish fulfillment? He did ALMOST drink Lilith’s blood for a few episodes and he was mean to Jessica and he did come up with the idea of blowing up the True Blood factories so that vampires could feed off of humans but…

The finale did seal the deal on his descent though. I mean, he did drink the entire vial of Lilith’s blood – die, and rise as an uber-vamp. He also spurned Sookie beforehand.

There are so many yummy subplots here. There is the whole Russell was surprisingly alive-ish and wanted to walk in daylight thing. He was more powerful than many faeries combined. His true-death by Eric solved a potentially very complicated story-line. Shifters are being killed. Vampires are either main-steaming or religious. Faeries are club-fiends. Tara was made into a vampire. The wolves need a pack-leader…

I love this stuff.  Most vampires are incredibly entertaining to me – not Edward or Bella in the Twilight saga or The Vampire Diaries television show – although I would happily munch on the uber-gorgeous Ian Somerhalder. I am a fan of Anne Rice’s vampires and I proudly own the box-set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

via Anne Rice  on Facebook: True Blood has its season finale tonight. The Newsroom comes on HBO right after. Then over on BBC America, there is Copper, the brilliant crime show set in New York in the 1860′s. Just a great night for television.

And indeed we are in a new Golden Age of Television today with some of the best mini series and series ever seen.

The Emmys are on ABC, September 23rd.

‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Spins Emmy Nominations – TV Review

In review, TV on August 23, 2012 at 9:00 am

The last episode of So You Think You Can Dance [SYTYCD] featured Mia Michaels’ Emmy-award winning choreography for the show. Mia’s website states: From stage to screen, Mia has turned dance into inspired and unique works of passion and beauty. She has rendered her unique style and vision of the craft, which is sought after by other innovators, from celebrities and recording artists to dance companies and educational institutions.

2011 Emmy Winner – “So You Think You Can Dance” FOX
2010 Emmy Winner – “So You Think You Can Dance” FOX
2008 Emmy Nominee – “So You Think You Can Dance” – “Mercy” FOX
2007 Emmy Winner – “So You Think You Can Dance” – “Calling You” FOX
2004 Emmy Nominee – Celine in Las Vegas: Opening Night Live CBS
2003 & 2004 American Choreography Award Nominee

Yes, she is phenomenal. The thing about her routines is that no two are alike. Other dancers in other seasons have danced these routines but repeating this choreography with new dancers is bold and fresh in my book. Cole Horibe is my favorite dancer this year. In Mia’s routine ‘Addiction’ he was so psychotic and scary.

He is like a ninja who can dance.

Obviously, the show is spinning its current Emmy nominations. SYTYCD is nominated for an Emmy in several categories this year including; Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Reality – Competition Program, Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality – Competition Program, Outstanding Choreography, and Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction For A Variety Series.

I watched the Olympics this year and I am absolutely convinced that the dancers on this show are graceful athletes. The Emmys are on ABC, September 23rd.

Source: Emmys

addendum – Cole said this on Facebook:

When I received the “Addiction” challenge, I wasn’t sure how to approach the character, addiction, as it isn’t really a character–it’s a proliferation of neuropeptides (artificially-induced, in the worst cases), which the body then craves more of. It’s a thing. As an actor, I’m accustomed to portraying people. People have emotions, psychology, history, etc., all attributes that a thing–addiction–does not have.

I began investigating different possibilities, experimenting first with a highly sadistic approach, then shifting to a more maleficent approach. But I realized addiction per se is devoid of emotion; it doesn’t take pleasure in the harm of others–it doesn’t care. It just does. So that became my job: to just do and destroy uncaringly.The next challenge that then manifested within this challenge was not becoming a completely “dead” and lifeless performer, as it would translate poorly on stage and especially in a dance performance. I would have zero stage presence and completely disappear as a performer.

The approach that I found satisfactory at the time was in keeping my objective running strongly through my mind, but disallowing it to percolate to the surface, so to speak–to not allow it to register on my face. When I dance (usually during performances exclusively), I like to keep an inner monologue running in my mind–a mindalogue, if you will. In this instance, my primary thought was, disturbingly, “I’m going to kill you.” But with little emotional motivation and mostly instinctual impulses. If you watched it, I hope you could see not merely a completely empty, lifeless shell, but rather a hollow, non-human vessel–neither good nor evil per se–but with a maleficent intent.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zc_LaKEsTxs

Lindsay & Cole – Mia Addiction Routine – SYTYCD S9 (Top 14)