Friday, December 31, 2010

In Memoriam 2010: 8 People and Their Impact

As 2010 comes to a close, I wanted to post something about the year as a whole - a Top 10 list, or a retrospective of some of my favorite things from this year.

Well, I couldn't for the life of me put anything together.  So instead, I'm going the slightly depressing route and honoring a few of the pop culture-related people who passed away this year.  Being relatively young, I'm still in a place where a lot of celebrity deaths don't impact me that much, and it always makes me feel a touch disrespectful.  But I don't want to pen some generic praise to people who weren't on my radar, just for the sake of it.  So instead, I give you a collection of eight people who passed away in 2010 who had a true impact on my life, through the magic of pop culture and entertainment.


I. JAIME ESCALANTE (March 30, 2010)
Inspiring teacher movies can get a bit schmaltzy and trite, but Stand and Deliver (1988) wormed its way into my heart and refuses to leave.  It's the true story of a teacher in a Los Angeles barrio who gets his failing math students to pass the AP Calculus exam, with only "ganas" on their side - sheer determination.  

The man who inspired the story, Jaime Escalante, passed away in March of this year after struggling with bladder cancer.  I still cry when I watch the above video clip.  The movie had a profound impact on my youth, and I wholeheartedly subscribe to the philosophy of "ganas."  I cannot even think of this man's actions without tearing up.  He took each of his students' lives and changed every single one of them for the better.  Rest in peace, Kimo.

II. DIXIE CARTER (April 10, 2010)
I only have vague memories of watching Designing Women growing up, but after revisiting Dixie's role on the show, I can wholeheartedly say that I wish I could be the age I am now and watch the show as it aired.  Julia Sugarbaker is an imposing tower of a woman, and it seems every episode she was delivering a long-winded rant defending her point of view and verbally dressing down her opponent.  She was opinionated, sharp-tongued, and unapologetic - in short, a great lady to have on TV.  

Dixie Carter took a character who was boorish and rambling on the page, and made her a hilarious and loveable woman who you always rooted for, no matter what.  She also must have had lungs of steel.  I wish I could deliver a biting diatribe like this lady.  Just, genius.

If you haven't seen A League of Their Own, stop reading this right now and go fix that situation.  Starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna, it tells the story of a women's baseball league in the 1940s while the men were at war.  The film centers around Dottie Hinson, a naturally gifted catcher who's wise enough to understand that some things, like family, are more important than baseball.  

Oh, I love this movie with all my being.  So when I heard that Dottie Kamenshek, the real-life inspiration for Dottie Hinson, passed away this year, a little piece of my heart broke.  Kamenshek played for the women's league for ten seasons with amazing stats, and was actually recruited for a men's team as well, but turned them down. I have a massive amount of love for her simply for a) kicking ass in a man's sport, and b) inadvertently inspiring one of my favorite movies of all time.

IV. RUE MCLANAHAN (June 3, 2010)
There is no way I can explain how awesome Rue McLanahan is.  And, thanks to Golden Girls reruns resurfacing for my generation, I don't think I have to.  Have some Blanche, and be thankful for this divine woman having graced our televisions.

V. MITCH MILLER (July 31, 2010)
I think I may be the only person under the age of 50 who knows who Mitch Miller is.  For everyone reading this who is not a subscriber to AARP, I'll fill you in: he's a band leader who conducted an all-male choir in the 50s.  His albums always encouraged you to "Sing Along with Mitch!" and, being a very vocal child, this was right up my alley.  So, every Christmas consisted of at least one spin of the Mitch Miller album and my poor 8-year-old brain trying to remember all the lyrics so I could properly belt them out.

VI. TONY CURTIS (September 29, 2010) 
Some Like It Hot is perhaps the best comedy of all time.  It seriously is still hilarious, even though it's over 50 years old now.  Part of the hilarity is Tony Curtis playing a saxophone player who dresses in drag and joins a women's band to avoid being caught by the mob.  His turn as both "Joe" and "Josephine" while simultaneously trying to woo Marilyn Monroe's character is just fantastic.  I highly recommend the movie, even if you shy away from black-and-white films.  This one's great.

VII. IRVIN KERSHNER (November 27, 2010)
Kershner took Star Wars out of Lucas' somewhat incapable hands and made sure Empire Strikes Back kicked the ten kinds of ass that it does.  His work on the film makes me love him for giving Star Wars fans a shred of hope for the objective quality of the saga.  Star Wars was a big part of my introduction into pop culture nerd-dom, so I owe it to Irvin Kershner for giving me one of the best sequels I could ever watch. 


VIII. BLAKE EDWARDS (December 15, 2010)
I love Blake Edwards for having directed to the screen Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Pink Panther series, and Victor/Victoria.  His sense of humor is impeccably silly, and even though it's been ages since I've seen the original Pink Panther movies, I still quote the part about the minkey.  

There you have it.  These fine individuals, through the simple power of pop culture, had a great impact on my life, and I'm proud to honor them here.  They may be gone, but their imprint on the world of entertainment is immortalized forever.

Monday, December 27, 2010

10 Things: Glee Wishlist

Oof, this is late. But, as promised, I give you DR SHE BLOGGO's Glee Wishlist. Now, I've seen a lot of these things floating around and I'd like to stretch mine a little bit. I complain on a fairly regular basis about lack of screentime, issues with continuity, characterization failures, anti-feminism, and poor execution. So, I'm going to try and avoid those things in my Wishlist.

Instead, I offer you some other wishes that I don't blab about quite as often. Right on? Right on.


I. Kevin McHale sings the Beatles' "Let it Be." I fail to see how this hasn't happened yet, frankly. Kevin auditioned with this song, and from the 15 seconds they gave us, I just want to cry with how damn pretty it is. We've already seen four other audition songs used in the show (Lea's, Amber's, Matt's, and Jayma's) - but not Kevin's. It is some consolation that he's started singing it live at charity events, but I'm greedy. I want a full, HQ, magical, lovely, beautiful Kevin-y version I can play endlessly into my ears. Please?

II. Brad Falchuk and Joss Whedon direct more episodes. Yes, Ryan Murphy got an Emmy for direction, but for my money, Falchuk and Whedon have demonstrated better skills with the show and its characters. Brad directed quite a bit in Season 1, yet has only directed one episode so far in Season 2 - "Audition" - and it was perhaps the best directed of the season. I want him directing again, and soon! And anytime we can get Joss around, I think the show improves by at least 50%. Just so long as he doesn't kill off any beloved characters.

III. Meet the Families! These kids are crazy, screwed-up, loveable, earnest, and damn talented. I want to see where they come from. ALL OF THEM. Not just Kurt, Finn, and Quinn - as much as I do love Burt, Carole, and the serious WASP-y dysfunction of Russell and Judy Fabray. I just want to also see Tina's parents, and Santana's home life,
and Artie's mom who survived their car accident, and what kind of family Mercedes has that would let a kicked-out pregnant teenager live in their home. Everybody! Just think of the awesome casting opportunities! Furthermore, it is a CRIME that we haven't met Rachel's gay dads yet. A CRIME. Because any two people who join forces to create a Rachel Berry deserve to be known, in all their glory. Either show them, or make them the most epic offscreen parents of legendary proportions.

IV. Bring back Victor Garber. In an off-shoot of my third wish, I must specify my hope for Will's dad to come back. Remember how he was struggling with being a good father and the masculinity associated with courage? And how he decided to go back to law school well into his 50s? Well, it might be a good time to bring the Original Mr. Schuester back in the picture, considering how much of a sad lost soul his son is right now. Also, we had Victor Garber on Glee and didn't have him sing? Travesty!

V. Girl rap. The boys have gotten quite a bit of rap from the beginning, and yet the girls haven't gone much out of the Pop/Showtune genre (I am decidedly not counting Gwyneth Paltrow's turn at "F*** You"). Granted, there aren't many female rappers out there, but to me that's all the more reason to feature it on the show. Bring out a little Lauryn Hill, or Mary J. Blige, or Queen Latifah, or hey, how about that lady that's been on the show already - Eve! I would die for a little "Doo Wop (That Thing)" or "Just Fine" or "Ladies First." Or hell, have a girl do a men's rap song. I want to be floored by somebody's secret rapping skills - who would it be? Naya? Amber? Dianna? We can only hope.

VI. A viable storyline for Terri. It hurts my heart to see Jessalyn Gilsig's name in the credits every single week and NEVER SEE HER FACE AT ALL. Since Babygate, she has shown up in the most extraneous, repetitive, and underdeveloped ways, and it annoys me. Either use her well, or just cut her loose. You're wasting her talent, and pissing us all off. There's plenty of things you can do with Terri Schuester that don't involve her failed marriage and hysterical pregnancy. Please do them, show - and without villainizing her.

VII. Let's be friends! There are three consistent dynamics on Glee: rival, lover
(potential, former, or current), or ignored. This fact is more apparent than ever, since the show's two tentpole friendships used to be Kurt/Mercedes and Brittany/Santana, and they hardly spend any time onscreen together now. Friendship fail! I want them back! And I also want them to shake it up! What happens when Tina and Santana interact? How about Mercedes and Artie? Brittany and Rachel? Quinn and Kurt? Kurt and Puck? Brittany and Finn? Quinn and Artie? Show me interesting duos! Not to mention, I will campaign for the revival of Rachel and Quinn's aborted friendship until the show leaves my television. Glee has missed the boat on some seriously awesome dynamics, and I want them to rectify that. In sum: friendships just need to be represented, and represented well.

VIII. I want the crazy acapella background music back! Like a big dork, that was one of the first things I loved about Glee - the dizzying "bum-bum-bum" choir voices acting as the show's score. (I know, I know; were my eyes open?) Where has it gone? Luckily, after a little research, I discovered you can listen on YouTube. It's genius, and I want it back.

IX. Birthdays. This is arguably the most insignificant of my wishes, but I'm listing it anyways. I seriously want to know all the characters' birthdays. All we know is that Rachel Berry's is December 18th. I want the rest! And a million extra points if their traits match the horoscope descriptions, too. I don't care if there's any actual iota of truth to zodiac signs; I find it endlessly fascinating. /nerdwish

X. Spread the Wealth. Perhaps the broadest, and most important wish of all. I want to love everybody. I want solos for everybody. I want interesting, meaningful relationships for everybody. I want compelling hardships and triumphs for everybody. I care about the Glee club as a whole and also in its individual parts. Don't screw with that. There's plenty of drama, comedy, storyline, and singing to go around. Ensemble should not be this difficult, guys. I know every actor on that show is damn talented. Now show me.


There you have it! Agree, disagree, or whatnot - respectfully! And as always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pop Culture Christmas Haul

Predictably, at least 50% of my Christmas presents are pop culture-related, so I thought I'd share this year's load - a veritable treasure trove! Among the lovely gifts I received:

- DVDs of Mulan, Date Night, The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, and Season 4 of 30 Rock
- magazines devoted entirely to Glee and Joss Whedon (nerd alert!)
- the book "30 Rock and Philosophy," Star Wars playing cards and a WMHS t-shirt (courtesy of my BFF)
- the kickoff of my record collection, including the likes of Nat King Cole and Barbra Streisand (I have old people taste in music; don't hate)
As you can see, Christmastime just increases my pop culture nerdiness. My loved ones are only encouraging me! And I love them for it.

(And yes, I took a nap in the pile of my opened presents. If you've never done it before, I highly recommend it. It increases Christmas contentment by at least 50%.)

Anybody get any good additions to their pop culture collections?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Winter Holiday

Well, it's Christmas Eve, and frankly, I wanted to post a nice long "10 Things on my Glee Christmas Wishlist," but I ran out of time. I'm already in my holiday PJs, immensely happy to be celebrating with my family and friends, and so the "10 Things" will have to wait. Plus I still have wrapping to do. Ugh.

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope your holiday is cozy and happy and spent with everything wonderful about your life. If you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a lovely weekend, and are lucky enough to be surrounded with love on a non-holiday basis.

I know I've gathered a few more readers in the past week or so, and I also want to thank you for coming here and reading my silly thoughts about pop culture. After the holidays die down I'll be much better at updating regularly!


P.S. I'm not a particularly religious person, but even if you remove all the Christianity from A Charlie Brown Christmas, a good message remains, for Christmastime as well as year-round:

"On Earth, peace; goodwill toward men."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tina Cohen-Chang: Sneaky Awesome

Today, ladies and gentle-readers, I'm here to talk about Tina Cohen-Chang. Because dammit, someone has to!

Yes, that was a not-so-subtle jab at this poor character's lack of screentime. But I'm sure I'll rant about that in a minute. Before I devote myself fully to that little bit of outrage, I'd like to first say:

How awesome is Tina Cohen-Chang? It struck me the other day, that within the context of the show, Tina might be the best character. As in, if I went to McKinley High, I'm pretty sure I'd wanna hang out with Tina. She was totally chill with Rachel stomping all over her West Side Story solo, and fully admitted her voice wasn't right for the song. She's gotten very few solos in general, and has never made a stink about who sang what. If I recall correctly, she hasn't been too awful to Rachel Berry (correct me if I'm wrong!) and she hasn't shown any hostility towards the football players or popular kids either.

She lays low, keeps her head down, and enjoys Glee for what it's given her. But - she doesn't let people walk over her. She broke up with Artie because he ultimately wasn't a good boyfriend to her, and gave him a piece of her mind when he told her he didn't like how she dressed. In fact, she's perhaps the true feminist on Glee - her rant about being a righteous blade of equality remains one of my favorite things on the show. She also has cornered the angle on a woman's healthy appreciation of sex, as seen in "Never Been Kissed."

But perhaps the thing that strikes me most about Tina Cohen-Chang is that she is the sole character who hasn't flipped out over popularity. Every other Glee club member - perhaps with the exception of Mike - has had a crisis of popularity: Puck dated Mercedes to get his status back. Quinn made the Glist, and blackmailed Santana to reclaim Head Cheerio. Finn has picked football over Glee countless times. Sam was initially hesitant to even join Glee, and Brittany and Santana only joined at first to spy for Sue. Rachel made the "Run Joey Run" video. Artie joined the football team, and Mercedes and Kurt joined the Cheerios. It seems like each character has had a crisis of identity and makes a desperate attempt to rehabilitate their image.

Tina, however, is the only character that has had a crisis of identity forced upon her: when Figgins told her she was not allowed to dress in her style. And rather than trying to adjust her image and be something she's not, she instead blackmailed her high school principal into letting her be herself.

Can I get a round of applause for Tina Cohen-Chang? Seriously. Way to be way more awesome than your peers, at least in that respect.

Of course, all this awesomeness can probably be attributed the fact that the writers have paid very little attention to Tina's character, despite the fact that she was one of the original Glee members. The second the writers give her a storyline, she'll probably act like a crazypants, and all this awesomeness might go straight out the window.

This does not diminish my wish for a Tina storyline, however - especially one independent of her relationships with Artie and Mike. The glimpses we've seen of her are interesting - I'm particularly intrigued by the fact that she was the first character to start crying in two similar instances: when Bryan Ryan threatened to ruin their dreams, and when Glee club was in danger of being absolved at the end of Season 1. I love the brief bit of character continuity there (!) and it makes me want to know more about Tina. She's definitely not the first character I would have predicted to burst into tears, but I love that she is.

I also love that she sings a lot of the closing "Kumbaya"-type songs at the ends of episodes, particularly her participation in "True Colors," "One of Us," and "Dog Days Are Over." Which leads me to my next bit: there are three Broadway performers in this cast. Jenna Ushkowitz is one of them. Why the HELL has she not had more solos? I mean, really. There's little excuse for both this and the character's lack of screentime. I used to be far more lenient about unbalanced storylines in Season 1 - it was still early, and I figured we'd get to more secondary characters soon enough. But guess what, guys. It's Season 2. We have had 32 episodes to get to know Tina Cohen-Chang, and the fact that we still really haven't is just a shame.

I'm also a bit tired of the bullshit excuse that storylines aren't distributed equally because the quality of acting amongst the cast is not equal. I'll be upfront: I usually see this argument in reference to Chris Colfer being heads-and-shoulders above everyone else in acting skill. Now, let me get this straight: I do not, by any means, deny Chris Colfer's acting abilities. His performances, comedic, dramatic, and musical, are all astounding. He's a genius, and anyone who doesn't think so should probably have their eyes checked.

But he's not a black hole, guys. His talent, nor anyone else's, does not suck up all the other cast's talents. They still exist, and can co-exist -
having a Kurt-centric story does not mean other characters cannot be developed simultaneously! Each of the cast members is at least capable of carrying their own storylines. In fact, I've found Jenna Ushkowitz herself to have a particular knack for comedy. She's 3 for 3 on comedic rants - one to Artie on her righteous blade of equality, one to Figgins about Asian vampires, and one to Mike about chicken feet. You really can't go wrong giving a rant to the Ush. (Yes, I'm giving her a nickname. Deal with it!)

In short: Tina Cohen-Chang is awesome, as is the lady who plays her, and sometimes we, as well as the writers, need a little reminding. Here's hoping for more Tina in future episodes, yes yes!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Glee Character Approval Ratings, part trois

Hello, merry readers! It's been a week since I've posted - what a delinquent I've become! I must make it up to you, first in the form of an updated chart of Glee Character Approval Ratings.


Things of note: Brittany continues to lead the pack in likeability, with Kurt not too far behind. But lo! Mike Chang has skyrocketed into Top 3 material! He has slowly and steadily climbed in recent weeks! Quinn's ascent has slowed some, perhaps due to her sudden gooey romance with Sam.

I also want to point out that due to mere coincidence, Sue and Tina currently share the same likeability rating, as do Santana and Emma. I'm not sure what to make of that, on a grander scale, but it makes me giggle. Puck is pulling himself up by his bootstraps after his big "Never Been Kissed" drop, and Will ups and downs more than a yo-yo in the hands of a six-year-old. I refuse to take sides in the Finchel break-up, so Finn and Rachel's changes have been the same in recent weeks, and they currently sit right back at 0, where they started the season. That's fitting, I guess.

Again, these are all my silly opinions based on how much I approve of certain characters on an episode-to-episode basis. I'm not quite sure how Artie managed to sneak into 5th place though. I remember being a little mad at him lately. Oh well.

I promise I'll be back again before another week crawls by! Glee fans, look for an update on Quinn Fabray, and little ode to Tina Cohen-Chang. And if I get really ambitious, I might tackle some shipping woes. But those usually end in me wanting to chuck things at the wall, so for the safety of my possessions, I might have to refrain.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The RBI Report: "A Very Glee Christmas"

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was the last new episode of Glee we'll experience until February! Luckily, it ended on a high note. "A Very Glee Christmas" was everything I expected from a Christmas episode: campy, heartwarming, and most importantly, highlighting the true meaning of Christmas - giving!

So, forgive me, guys. I'm a holiday nerd. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Festivus, or whatever - this time of the year makes me freakishly happy. It's hard for even Glee to screw that up for me. To the RBI Report!

"A Very Glee Christmas," written by Ian Brennan, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.

The centerpiece of this episode dealt with Brittany's residual childhood belief in Santa Claus, which I think was an intelligent idea. Can any reasonable human being seriously NOT grin like an idiot watching Heather Morris' precious little face light up when she's talking about Santa's magic? I defy anyone to not crack a smile. It's the most heartwarming thing ever. Brittany's adorableness is like the heavy-hitting trump card the Glee writers always have in their back pocket. And I, for one, don't mind. I also don't mind any plotline that highlights Artie's sweet side, because I just cannot take another episode of him being a jerk. Hear that, writers?

I must also take a second to applaud the show's continued lovely portral of Shannon Beiste. I thought her stint as Santa Claus wouldn't really be in a context other than, "Oh, that's sweet," but the character's sensitive and kind nature once again shone through. I was so thrilled to see Brittany and Coach Beiste interacting in a meaningful way, especially considering Brittany inadvertently accused her of sexual harrassment earlier this season. Beiste's take on "Santy Clause" was almost as cute and honest as Brittany's enthusiasm for the mall Santa who may or may not have smelled like McDonalds.

The episode's true gimmick was in the parallels of Sue Sylvester to the infamous Grinch. Sure, it was on-the-nose and cheesy, but I don't care. I love the Grinch, and I don't mind if Glee wants to re-enact the Cindy-Lou-Who scenes with Sue Sylvester in green face paint. I mean, it gave us Becky as the most adorable Rein-dog ever, so I can't complain. All of it was worth it, of course, to see Sue's heart grow three sizes that day when she heard the Glee club singing "Welcome Christmas," which totally made me tear up. (I told you. Holiday nerd.)

Walking the tightrope between good and bad is always challenging when writing characters like Sue, or Terri, or Quinn, or Puck. Glee hasn't always handled it well, but I think their best example is indeed Sue. My favorite Sue moments are usually her being hilariously awful, but I can't help but always remember that she voted for New Directions at Regionals last year. She's just a big ol' softie, and I want them to continue to do right by her character.
Only Sue Sylvester can make me say, "Aww," in response to the phrase, "Nah, I just hate you," and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I was truly blind-sided by the reveal of Artie's walking contraption, and I'm curious to see what they'll do from there. Artie wouldn't be Artie without his wheelchair, and as much as I would like to see him happily fulfilling his dream of dancing, I do love that little element of tragedy in his development. And it's always nice to see characters being happy with who they are, even if it's a struggle. That's what makes it compelling.

But, I'm not goint to nitpick the creative decision because mostly, I like how well the scenario was handled. I love that they let us see Tina's reaction specifically, and let that be a moment, considering her previous interactions with Artie. I love that Brittany was so excited, and the way Quinn said it was a Christmas miracle like she's not as much of a believer as we'd thought. (Am I reading too much into that? Yes? Oh, okay.) I also love, so very very much, that Coach Beiste made Brittany's Christmas wish come true. I cannot even express how much I love that Brittany's wish was for something impossibly selfless, and Beiste matched her selflessness by putting forth a tremendous amount of money (I'm assuming) to make that happen for her. Get on out of here, you guys, here be my two favorite characters!

Other character interactions I enjoyed: I always love a good Will/Rachel dynamic, and I love anytime Sue talks to Emma. (She called her Elmo. ELMO.) Lauren Zises continues to be a scene-stealer, and I kind of want them to develop something between her and Puck. So sue me. The only character interaction I missed was Brittany and Santana. It used to be that you couldn't see one without the other in a two-shot, and while I do appreciate independent character development, I'm sad that their freakishly functional little unit has been splintering.

The other character interaction I'm not particularly interested in seeing right now is (sigh) Finn and Rachel. I know, I know: broken record. Granted, I did discover tonight that I like their duets better when they're not together, no matter how awkward it was to sing "Last Christmas" in the tree yard. The thing that got my goat a little bit was how pathetic Rachel was this episode. On paper, it makes sense. Rachel loves Finn desperately, and will do anything to get him back. Okay. But give the girl a little self-respect, puh-leeeeeze. We know she has it, in every other area of her life. This is why Rachel-in-love never interests me, because she seems to keep no dignity when she's head-over-heels. And it's only funny when she's in Mr. Schue's kitchen making him dinner like a creepo. I'm tired of saying to the television, "Oh, honey, no..."

The other thing that riles me up a bit about the "Finchel" dynamic is Finn's somewhat high-and-mighty "I got cheated on!" rebuttal. On the one hand: yes. Yes, I agree, writers. Finn got cheated on twice and that's got to damage his ego a bit. I applaud this little bit of character detail here that actual hearkens back to episodes previous! Writers paying attention to their characters' histories is always a good thing.


THIS, you guys pay attention to? The fact that Finn got cheated on twice? But no mention of Puck and Quinn giving up a baby, or Quinn giving up said baby to Rachel's birth mother who rejected her, or Brittany and Santana dealing with some level of apparent separation, or Artie dealing with his insecurities about losing his girlfriend to a dancer, or Santana having gotten a boob job, or Mercedes dealing with her best friend attending a new school, or even just the fact that Finn cheated on Quinn twice with Rachel herself? Countless plotlines with amazing potential have been dropped without any fanfare whatsoever on this show, and yet THIS little not-quite-objective detail is the bit of character development the show's giving us right now. And it's mostly there just to justify a Finchel breakup and make us feel sorry for Finn and angry at Rachel, who, while having made some bad choices, deserves better treatment from both the characters and the writers.

Yes, writers paying attention to their characters' histories is a good thing. But writers paying attention to only some of their characters' histories is not. It's all or nothing, Glee. If you're going to half-ass it, I expect better.

Anyways. Despite that little hiccup, I rather enjoyed the Christmas episode, Grinchy parts and all. Over the break, I hope you guys stick around even though there won't be any new episodes for me to review. I never shut up about Glee, so check back in every once in awhile and hopefully there'll be something new up. Also, I'm considering getting a Tumblr, so that could be a fun new development. Stay tuned!

Now, I'm going to go listen to "Welcome Christmas" and grin like the big ol' holiday nerd I am. Happy holidays to you and yours, no matter what you celebrate!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Has Glee Jumped The (Gay) Shark?

This post could therefore also be called "Has Glee jumped the dolphin?" But you get my point. For some reason, people love to talk about shows jumping sharks. I, for one, think it's silly. Firstly, calling it "jumping the shark" is about as dumb as Fonzie actually jumping that shark, and endlessly discussing if shows have indeed "jumped the shark" is about as pointless as Fonzie wearing a leather jacket whilst on water skis.

For those not in the know, "jumping the shark" refers to a moment in a TV show's history where something absurd or awful happens within the show's storylines (like that time Fonzie from Happy Days jumped over a shark on water skis). From then on out, the show completely loses all credibility and is never recovered from said moment. According to Jon Hein, the man who popularized the term, "It's a moment. A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now's all downhill. Some call it the climax. We call it 'Jumping the Shark.' From that moment on, the program will simply never be the same."

Well, I'm here to pooh-pooh the theory. Perhaps I'm a far-too loyal TV viewer, but it strikes me absurd to just write off a show after a small bout of clunky creative handling. Of course, this stubborn faithfulness has led to me doggedly wincing through the second season of Lost, the third and fourth seasons of Grey's Anatomy, the seventh season of Gilmore Girls, and the sixth season - minus the musical episode! - of Scrubs. (I still shudder any time I think about Locke pushing that damn button or that time Izzie had to resuscitate a deer.)

But I think that it's largely unfair to say that none of those shows got any better after their alleged "jump the shark" moments. You can't just write off a show like that. Grey's Anatomy is currently better than it has been in years (thanks to killing off a large quantity of characters, natch) and Scrubs' musical episode is one of the best the show ever did - even after it had reportedly begun to run out of steam. And don't forget Lost's amazing revitalization at the end of Season 3, simply by constructing the show in a new way. People are too quick to box a television series in and say, "After (fill in the blank with slightly less-than-stellar storyline) happened, it was just all downhill from there." It's more often than not just a matter of opinion. Seriously, I've heard people say that Friends jumped the shark after Ross and Rachel got together. The first time. In Season 2. Really, guys? You wanna tell me that one of the most beloved shows on television was all downhill from Seasons 3 through 10? Uh, okay.

So, of course, what with its endless parade of guest stars, glaring continuity flaws, and the producers' tendency to play with the characters' story arcs like they were pretending to be Godzilla in a ballpit at McDonalds, Glee has come under fire for having jumped the shark, not even a full ten episodes into Season 2.


I know I give the show a lot of shit, but the truth is, I don't think it's jumped the shark. Even if I really believed in the concept of "jumping the shark," I still wouldn't really apply it to Glee's current situation.

The fact of the matter is that Glee has always been plagued with problems. I remember watching the final moments of "Sectionals," almost a year ago exactly, and thinking, "That was really awesome. There have been some continuity and character consistency issues so far, but I can't wait for the creators to look at the critical reaction and tidy them up a bit. The Back 9's gonna be so great!"

Boy, was I surprised. Because no one fussed over the little things in the first 13 episodes. Everyone said "OMG SINGING!!!!1!!!1!" and RBI said, "I KNOW, RIGHT?!" and then continued their proceedings in the McDonalds ballpit, completely unawares. Then they added guest stars and tribute episodes and a thick layer of heavy-handed themes and called it a day. Oh, you can imagine my horror when "Hell-O" aired after months of anticipation. I was not a happy camper. (At some point I plan on retroactively reviewing Season 1, and oh, just you wait for when I get to "Hell-O." Just you wait.)

So if you just now want to say that Glee's gone downhill, you've only just begun looking at the show realistically. Truthfully, the main problems I have with the show have been there since Day 1 and will continue to be there until Ryan Murphy fires all his regulars and hires anew. I love the First 13 as much as the next Gleek (there's something so charmingly days-gone-by about them) but I find it unfortunate that we hold them to some gold standard because we think the show has lost something. And maybe it has, tonally, or thematically, or whatever. But in terms of execution? The First 13 is not perfect.

This is not to say that I think the show has always been "this," or "that." The thing about TV shows is this: they change. And they are allowed to change. The First 13 episodes are allowed to be about one thing, and the Back 9 are about to be about this whole other thing, and Season 2 is more than welcome to be about something else entirely. Season 1 is allowed to be more about Finn and Rachel, and Season 2 is allowed to have more Kurt, Brittany, and Santana. I can't hate a TV show for changing.

I just want any and all changes to be done well. And with Glee? It's always a crapshoot. The only thing that Glee is, consistently, is inconsistent. The show is like cotton candy laced with crack. It is what it always has been, and always will be. As a fan, I think it's silly to say it's "lost that magic" or "isn't as good as it used to be." Sure, the show may take a misstep or two (or six), but I don't see Rachel Berry on water-skis jumping over a dolphin, so until then, I'm with Glee for the long haul: for better, and for maddeningly and frustratingly worse. Because somehow it always gets better again. And that's the beauty of television, and the true argument against the shark-jump. It can always get better again.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

ANTM Cycle 15: Did it live up to expectation?

Back in September, I posted my hopes and dreams for a kickass cycle of America's Next Top Model. The involvement of Italian Vogue and the proclaimed "high fashion cycle" had me excited for something new and far less cheesy and commercial than recent cycles.

Well, last night was the finale, and the winner was crowned, so I feel obligated to reflect. If you haven't seen the episode, read no further! There be spoilers!

So, as mentioned, this cycle held a lot of promise. Tyra seemed to cut back on weird random CGI effects, cheesy gimmicks, lackluster guests, and trying to make "smize" happen.

Most of these things stayed true throughout Cycle 15. We got more "high fashion" photoshoots, and Tyra seemed to really care about recreating real-life situations than living in her weird little Top Model glam bubble. Imagine that: the models' house in Milan was NOT an ode to glittery excess, and more like an actual model's apartment! I think that was my favorite part of the whole cycle, and the girls still bitched about the modesty of the abode. Sigh.

Tyra even beefed up the model know-how: she gave the girls one-on-one help with their portfolios, and arranged for them to meet with representatives from Versace. We got some heavyweight guest judges, from Diane Von Furstenberg (I would like her to read me bedtime stories) to Zac Posen to Roberto Cavalli, and even (this cycle's buzz word!) Patrick DeMarchelier, all of whom gave good advice to each of the girls. The best part? These were people that even I had heard of, and I'm no fashion student! (Seriously, I'm petrified of buying skinny jeans.)

But, does this all add up to a successful cycle? I'm hesitant to say yes. As much I do like this season's winner, Ann, I'm unsure her victory was entirely fair. It almost seemed like Tyra was under specific instruction to deliver Ann directly to the doorstep of Italian Vogue without any obstacle. The conspiracy theorist in me is just too cynical to think that this girl actually merited five first call-outs in a row, and no one ever breathed a word of concern about her raggedy presentation, mumbling commentary, and awkward runway walk - not to mention her complete inability to be commercial.

I don't want to come off as an Ann hater. She was a charming sort of underdog, with her gangly appearance, goofy jokes, and go-with-the-flow attitude. But I think she's exactly that: an underdog. Yet, it felt like Tyra was shoving her down my throat as someone to watch out for. Call me crazy, but giving first call-out to the same girl for the first five photoshoots is just unwarranted, for any girl. (Also, boring.) I would have liked Ann of my own accord, without everyone in the competition pointing at her and saying "OH MY GOD FLAWLESS PHOTOS." It was never Ann herself, but rather the cycle's treatment of her that made me want to dislike the poor girl.

The truth of the matter is that Ann has The Look. She's stunning in full makeup and in front of the camera. You can't fake that, and I wish that Tyra & Co. were just upfront about this fact. I wish that Tyra had just said, "Look. Ann is exactly what Italian Vogue is looking for. Models don't need to speak, have a personality, or present themselves particularly well, as long as they deliver flawless photos. The proof is in the pudding." I would have been okay with that.

But instead, the judges just glossed over Ann's shortcomings and tried to play up everyone else's. Poor Jane got a "no personality" edit and Chelsey got an "ambitious bitch" edit... neither were entirely warranted, I believe. In the finale, I personally felt that Chelsey had the better runway walk, the better CoverGirl photo, and the better sense of business etiquette in her meeting with the rep from IMG. But Ann has The Look, and in the Italian Vogue cycle, that trumps all.

I don't mean to detract from Ann's victory. She'll be stunning on the pages of Italian Vogue, and I hope she has a great career. Also, I would love an original Ann drawing, like the Napkin Last Supper she drew during hers and Jane's amazing Loser's Night of Vodka and Chinese Food! I would also settle for a fried Oreo, her apparent culinary specialty.

But I don't like feeling that her win was manipulated. Vogue is Vogue, and Ann is perfect for them. And this season was not about CoverGirl, or Seventeen magazine, or being relatable, or selling a product on camera. It was about Vogue, and Vogue's involvement in the show has made it more legitimate than it's been in years - so it was definitely a success on that front. I guess, at the end of the day, I have to thank them for that, outcome be damned.

(But somehow Tyra still managed to wreak havoc with her "Model Madness" moving editorial.)

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