While I think any regular readers of the blog will acknowledge that my capacity to separate myself from writing about television is limited to the point that any attempt to suggest a long-term vacation from Cultural Learnings is futile, the lack of new television and the increase in time spent celebrating Christmas with the family will mean that I (like just about every critic) will be taking some time off over the next few weeks.
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a most happy of holidays, and hope that the season brings you everything you wish it to. I’ll likely be back with some “Year in Cultural Learnings” thoughts before the New Year (like I said, vacation fail), but it’s been a great year here at the blog and I want to thank all of you for reading, commenting, and contributing to an ongoing dialogue on the fantastic medium of television.
So, I’m off for the holidays, but I do want to be able to offer one last bit of reading. As such, here’s some links to my big features over the past few weeks, along with some added context on the lists involved. It’s a chance to catch up if you didn’t see the lists the first time through, or a chance to revisit them when annoying relatives have you locked in a back room afraid to venture forward.
[I’ll mention at this point that I certainly wasn’t the only person making lists this year, and media scholar Chris Becker has been doing an amazing job keeping up with the various lists at News for TV Majors.]
However, first I want to point out the relatively new “Articles” tab in the header above. This leads to (surprise!) Cultural Learnings’ collection of articles, where some of my more substantial or theoretical posts on television can be found. These range from the early months of the blog (where I coined the phrase sci-futility to describe the inevitable ratings decline of then-hit Heroes) to just a few days ago (when I made my yearly attempt to connect a major motion picture to television), so there’s plenty of reading material if you’re new to the blog and wondering if I ever do anything but review individual episodes.
This six-part series should really be titled “Television, the Aughts and Us” considering the great number of comments the pieces received. It was great to be able to get some other opinions on the various subjects, especially when it came to something like Part Five (which focused on the role of torrents in the consumption of television in the decade). While I framed the pieces as an individual experience in order to account for my critical blind spots (The Sopranos, The Shield, etc.), it’s important to get a diverse range of perspectives in order to really understand the decade. As a result, the comments have in many ways become part of the pieces, so I want to thank my various co-authors in pulling everything together.
Part One (featuring 24, Alias and Gilmore Girls)
Part Two (featuring The O.C., Veronica Mars and Friday Night Lights)
Part Three (featuring Lost, Battlestar Galactica and Mad Men)
Part Four (featuring Survivor, The Amazing Race)
Part Five (featuring The Office, Arrested Development, and How I Met Your Mother)
Part Six (featuring The Wire)
Posting this series over three days created some backlash, especially when my Episodes list was posted independently to Fark.com and led to a large number of comments about various unrepresented shows. And the nature of making three lists simultaneously meant that I was making some concessions. I didn’t put Zack Gilford onto my performers list, or “The Son” into my episodes list, because Friday Night Lights was making the shows list despite only airing about 9 episodes in the calendar year on the strength of that episode. I knew Battlestar Galactica wasn’t making my shows list, so I chose to represent the show through its finale (which I am aware I liked more than most) because it felt the most representative of its polarizing season.
And there were other decisions that were influenced by my current frustrations with certain series. It’s hard to laud How I Met Your Mother when I’m just getting past the show’s treatment of Barney and Robin’s relationship, and as much as House’s season finale was a great movie-esque two hours of television the fact that the rest of the season has entirely ignored its implications sort of dampens its effectiveness. And attempting to create an objective bubble around these shows or these episodes would defeat the whole point of this list: they’re my opinions, and if I didn’t use my subjectivity in making these lists why would I even bother?
Which is why I loved seeing the feedback on Fark, and the feedback in the comments section, because mine is but one opinion. It was a great year in television, and the more perspectives we get on that the better.
The 10 Performers of the Year
The 10 Episodes of the Year
The 10 Shows of the Year
Thanks everyone for reading, and all the best over the holidays! I’ll likely be back for a few comments on Doctor Who: The End of Time over the break, and as always you can find me on Twitter if you somehow after reading all of this want to read more of what I have to say. All the best to you and yours this holiday season.