There is just over 24 hours left to go in the Cultural Catchup Project’s Reader’s Choice poll to decide which show I will be watching first, and it’s not quite coming down to the wire. As it stands, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel have a commanding lead with 42% of the votes, doubling the nearest competitor (The Shield) which is down to 21%. The Sopranos and Newsradio (at 19% and 18% respectively) are in a close battle for 2nd, but have very little chance at catching up to the leader at this stage in the game.
Now, however, is your chance to vote or try to change the course of history (or, more accurately, to potentially sway this meaningless poll in your favour). While I considered a run-off vote to give those the 3rd/4th place shows’ voters a chance to recast for one of the other series, I don’t have the time to pull that off properly, so I’ll leave it up to those who aren’t having the poll go your way: if you want to change the result, tell your Twitter followers or reach out to someone who has a lot of Twitter followers and try to pull the poll in your favour.
I am at the mercy of your democratic choice, and look forward to the results, whatever they may be. So, vote away, and I’ll be posting the results early Friday morning – the poll closes at 11:59pm ET tomorrow, April 8th.
The 2010 Cultural Catchup Project: Reader’s Choice
April 3rd, 2010
Over the past twelve months, I have been collecting various TV on DVD sets. This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon: I tend to impulse purchase a lot of television series on DVD due to various sales, and doing so has led me to discover shows like How I Met Your Mother, which I picked up for $22 one summer and led to the show becoming one of my personal favourites.
However, the sets I’ve been collecting as of late have been for a different purpose: rather than purchasing them to discover something new, the sets were purchased to “catch up” on something old. As I’ve written about in the past, I really only started watching television regularly in 2004, which meant that there were quite a large number of shows which started before that date which I never got around to watching.
This means that I have what I would call television blind spots, popular or critically-acclaimed series that I simply haven’t seen enough of in order to reference them. Now, it’s impossible to avoid having some blind spots, especially from a historical perspective; I know that I’m not going to be able to catch up on all of the sitcoms and police dramas from the 70s and 80s, so I will leave that to those more interested in those eras. However, as someone really interested in the more recent rise of the serial drama series and who feels like they missed out on some great television in the 1990s, there are certain blind spots that have proven problematic. I had to avoid reading Decade in Review pieces in order to evade spoilers, I’ve missed out on the true impact of certain guest acting gigs for former cast members, and I’ve had to deal with being a television critic and a television scholar who hasn’t watched these iconic (or at least “important”) television series. While I’m thankful that neither scholars or critics have ostracized me as a result of these unfortunate grievances – often because they too have embarrassing blind spots – I think it’s time I did something about it.
So in the next four months, as I transition from the end of my Master’s Degree at Acadia University to the beginning of my PhD at the University of Wisconsin Madison, I’m going to eliminate these blind spots. I’ve got five series on hand that I want to try to get through before August rolls around, and my plan is as follows:
Focus on a single show at a time (with one exception).
Watch the show(s) at whatever pace works with my schedule
Write about the show(s) each weekend
Now, in terms of #3, I don’t intend on reviewing every episode – while I might review a single season if I’ve got enough to say about it, and I might even focus on a particular episode if it’s considered especially noteworthy, my goal is to make observations about the shows as a whole. Sometimes these could be analysis of how effective certain stories are or my opinion regarding certain characters, and other times they could focus on narrative form and structure or more “academic” subjects of analysis. Sometimes they might be observations about the show itself, and sometimes they might be observations about watching the show, or observations about watching the show after having evaded spoilers for so long. I want to keep things pretty open because there is some interesting diversity amongst and within these series, and I want to be able to respond to them contextually if at all possible. I’m even open to writing two pieces on a single weekend if it better reflects my viewing experience.
However, while my most recent catchup projects (Big Love, Breaking Bad, Fringe) were chosen due to their pending returns, I don’t particularly have an opinion on which show I watch first in this instance: all of the shows have already ended their seasons, and if I’ve managed to avoid substantial spoilers for this long I don’t think that a few more months is going to kill me. As a result, rather than picking one at random, I’ve decided to let my readers (and those who get to this piece through my attempts to widen the voting pool) choose what they want me to watch first.
Newsradio (1995-1999) Why I Haven’t Watched It: I know almost nothing about the show, if we’re being honest: I knew it had Phil Hartman in it, but it was “before my time” television wise – picked up the Complete Series for $30 sometime last year, been collecting dust ever since.
The Shield (2002-2008) Why I Haven’t Watched It: The show wasn’t airing in Canada when it began, and FX’s low profile kept it from my radar up until a few years ago. I’ve been slowly collecting DVD sets on the cheap, and just finished off the collection this past fall.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) Why I Haven’t Watched It: Firefly was my first real experience with Whedon, and I don’t really know why – I’ve seen “Once More With Feeling,” and I’ve seen bits and pieces of other episodes, but I was always too cheap to buy the DVDs and catch up…until this Winter.
Angel (1999-2004) Why I Haven’t Watched It: Considering that I haven’t watched Buffy, I always felt that watching Angel would probably be a bad move.
Note: I am under the impression from previous discussions that it is best to watch Buffy and Angel chronologically, so I’m including them as a single poll option. However, otherwise, things are pretty straightforward: tell me what you think I should watch, and you might have the pleasure of reading analysis of that show every weekend for the foreseeable future. If you want to expand on your vote, I think PollDaddy has a comment option, but also feel free to expand on your choice (and try to influence others in the same direction, if you so choose) in the comments section on this post. Do make sure to vote in the poll as well, though, as I will not be taking comments into account when I make my decision – democracy rules.
The poll will be open until Thursday, April 8th, at 11:59pm Eastern Time – this will give me time to watch and write about the show’s Pilot for Saturday in order to kickstart the 2010 CCP (Cultural Catchup Project).
I, like I presume many others, presumed that this week’s episode title was about tiny drops of water falling from one’s eyes, alluding somewhat ironically to Gemma’s enormously emotional moment at the end of the season premiere. But in defying expectations, at least my own, the episode reveals that the real irony is not in falsely downplaying the emotional impact of the event, but rather the dichotomy between physical and emotional repercussions.
It is, in fact, a magical day to be alive, for everyone except for our heroine, Gemma. If there was ever any question about whether we are rooting for Gemma, “Small Tears” put it to rest: the entire fate of SAMCRO and the weight of this moment is placed on her shoulders, an unfair burden for anyone (even our less than ethical matriarch) to bear. We pity Gemma in some respects, and in others we respect her for refusing to allow pity to turn into anger at the Aryans, and more importantly to turn into revenge. It is no coincidence that the fallout from Gemma’s ordeal comes complete with a storyline about the danger of revenge killings, and the bloody mess that comes with it.
And if there’s anything that Sons of Anarchy wants to remind us of as the second season opens, it’s that nothing in the world of SAMCRO heals on its own.
There’s a pretty common element in nearly every review of Showtime’s new “comedy” (I’ll get to that distinction in a second), and it’s something that I can’t really speak to. Sepinwall and Fienberg both have thoughts on how Edie Falco, who earned numerous accolades for her role as Carmela Soprano on HBO’s hit drama series The Sopranos, adapts to a very different role, but I don’t really know how different it is. As I’ve blogged about before, The Sopranos remains my biggest and perhaps most detrimental blind spot in terms of the television in the last decade: not willing to shell out for the expensive DVDs, I’ve been left not quite understanding what David Chase’s show really meant outside of being able to know that his training did Matthew Weiner well (Mad Men). And now, with Falco moving on to star in Nurse Jackie, it’s quite a similar situation: I don’t precisely understand what Falco did before, but certainly that experience hasn’t lessened her ability as an actress.
This isn’t a comedy by traditional standards, but for Showtime it’s pretty well par for the course: debuting after Weeds (a show that has become more and more dramatic as time’s gone by) and in the wake of United States of Tara (which always veered closer to drama than comedy), the show is nonetheless a viable comic vehicle while maintaining a more dramatic core. The reason is that either in comedy or in drama, both of which we see in the premiere, the show remains starkly human. Jackie is ultimately driven by saving people, and perhaps her greatest fault is that her efforts to save herself take the form of far more destructive behaviour than and other her unethical practices done within the context of her job.
It’s the right recipe for the series, placing a conflicted and complicated protagonist in a situation where both her cynicism and her optimism are continually tested, although I don’t think anyone could argue it is a particularly unique one. That said, the pilot demonstrates a keen sense of this character, brought to life with strength by Falco, and the universe she inhabits, which is what any pilot is supposed to do.
This will be brief, as I am entering an extremely hectic period in terms of work and the like, but I thought I’d react to this evening’s Screen Actors Guild Awards from a Television (series) perspective. It may only be an hour in, but all six major television awards have been given out, so let’s take a look at the trends.
Best Actor – James Gandolfini (The Sopranos)
Best Actress – Edie Falco (The Sopranos)
Best Ensemble – The Sopranos
Well, there’s not much room for analysis here: while the Golden Globes might not have been feeling the love for the departing HBO drama, the SAG was certainly feeling reflective when they handed out their awards. I hate to continue to see Michael C. Hall lose awards for his fantastic portrayal, but it’s hard to argue with any of these winners. The only thing I would have liked to see what some love for Mad Men, but the nominations alone indicate that people are paying attention. The series also recently picked up a DGA win for Alan Taylor’s work on the pilot, so its future remains bright.
Best Actor – Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Best Actress – Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Best Ensemble – The Office
It looked as if two series might be completing a sweep of the awards, but it was not to be: despite having the best male and female performers of the year, it was the expansive and diverse Office cast which took home their second straight trophy for Best Ensemble. I’m happy for them, honestly, as they remain an extremely good cast as a whole – however, I also hate to see 30 Rock, which is also a great ensemble, get hung out to dry just a little. Apparently Baldwin wasn’t even at the ceremony, which is a disappointment; Fey was, however, and was as self-deprecating as ever.
At a certain point, though, she’s going to have to drop the charade and fess up to being pretty damn good. She’s now won two major acting awards, so it’s not as if there is nothing to back up such claims. It is also telling that this is an award from actors; she is well respected in all guild circles, mind you, but for the actors to embrace her this fully demonstrates her genuine likability. It’s awards buzz like this which will ultimately get the show renewed for a third season, especially when you consider that NBC was the first network to ditch pilot season.
For the full list of Screen Actors Guild Award winners in Film, Television and TV Movies, click here.
All in all, a decent set of winners, none of whom make me want to wretch. This makes for a good awards show, and I can sleep well tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll be back with some brief thoughts on Lost, and then watch for reviews of House’s first new episode in quite some time, ABC’s new drama Eli Stone, and of course Lost’s fourth season premiere. So stay tuned!
I watched Friday Night Lights last evening, but I felt too ill to really put my thoughts onto paper. Suffice to say that I agree with Sepinwall in that any show in its right mind would not put Tim Riggins’ fingerprints on a gun and have him steal a load of cash just after it got dragged down from a frustrating murder storyline. The rest of the episode I think I enjoyed more than Alan did, but on the whole it feels like we’re going in circles. And, in the preview for next week, did they seriously show Tim Riggins going after LYLA again? That just feels unnecessary.
But, either way, let’s settle into the big TV story this weekend: The now truncated and airing on multiple stations Golden Globes: News Conference Edition. It’s been a wild ride of sorts, and now comes word that the press conference won’t be picketed as it will be aired on multiple networks and not just on NBC. Variety has the full (And ludicrously complicated) story, but the end result is the same: TV personalities will be announcing the winners in an hour-long block at 9pm EST tomorrow. This should be an interesting experience, but since stars will be able to attend (due to the lack of pickets) there might be some excitement. I’ll look at drama nominees today, and comedy tomorrow. And maybe some film predictions – I’m weak like that.
Damages [Predicted Winner]
Mad Men [Myles’ Choice]
It’s the biggest TV award of the evening, really, and it’s one that is kind of tough to decide. The two network series are more or less out of contention, their popularity being their only saving grace in an environment that likes new series. Big Love and The Tudors are just not quite unique enough to stand out, and Damages is buzzworthy due to strong performances and a compelling narrative. It also has the most nominations out of any show, although an upset is always possible. Meanwhile, what is lacks in star power Mad Men makes up with quality and a strong awards push – it’s both my choice and a potential spoiler.
Best Actor in a Drama Series
Michael C. Hall [Dexter] [Predicted Winner / Myles’ Choice]
Jon Hamm [Mad Men]
Hugh Laurie [House]
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers [The Tudors]
Bill Paxton [Big Love]
This is a category that comes down to two people, really, with Jon Hamm just being too much of an unknown to really break through against two heavyweights. Hugh Laurie has won the award already, while Hall has been criminally unrepresented for his fantastic work on Dexter. It is my hope, and my prediction, that this is rectified by the HFPA, and hopefully it can wake up Emmy to his genius. Seriously, Emmys, James Spader? However, you just watch: the Globe will go to Bill Paxton, who isn’t wholly undeserving but still, just to spite me.