Oh John Carroll

Tag: av club

Go read this excellent piece by William Hughes at The AV Club:

I began to notice that my reactions to pop culture had changed, in some ways drastically. I picked up a nasty aversion (which has lessened over time) to ambulances or heavy breathing, both of which could send me into memory-tinged panic attacks. Podcasters making jokes about strokes or embolisms would force my hands into fists. But more than that, I became horribly conscious of death in the media I consumed, and how often it was employed as a plot device for cheap effect.

So, this is fun: a hearing test to see how old your ears are. Make sure you listen with headphones, and bump up the quality to 1080p. Otherwise, you’ll mistake YouTube’s standard compression for your ears being 50 years old. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…

Not The Waltons →

The AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff wrote the article I’ve been tossing around in my head, as he details the strong similarities between the first three seasons of Bob’s Burgers and The Simpsons:

Yet in its third season, Bob’s Burgers has found another level beyond even those first two years, to the point where it’s routinely the show on television I look forward to the most. It’s so enjoyable that most weeks, I simply turn off all critical faculties and let it wash over me. And the series almost always rewards that impulse, coming up with hilariously funny television that also possesses some of the sharpest storytelling on the program guide. When I reviewed the pilot, I compared Bob’s Burgers to some of the previous animated series from creator Loren Bouchard (specifically Dr. Katz and Home Movies), as well as King Of The Hill, the prior home of executive producer and co-developer Jim Dauterive. Yet the older the show gets, the less it reminds me of any of those series and the more it puts me in mind of an even larger target in the hearts of pop-culture fans: those first three seasons of The Simpsons, when the series made at least somewhat of an attempt to take place in something like our reality.

The show is incredibly funny, but I’m consistently surprised and engaged by the stories and the depth of the characters.  One of the great signs of a show like this: the characters can pair off in any fashion and it not only works, but goes to surprising places.  This weekend’s most recent episode is a great example of this: Louise is the wild card — your Kramer, Charlie, Abed, etc. — but goes against type as she falls for a boy band member at a concert.

Diminutive Canadian →

The AV Club’s Nathan Rabin reviews the series finale of Comedy Central’s excellent Nathan For You.  If you’re not watching this, you should be.  I think the last new shows I stumped for this hard were Community and Arrested Development.  Not bad company, eh?

Elusive And Sadly Ephemeral →

Tasha Robinson interviews Aziz Ansari for The AV Club.  In honor of Valentine’s Day, it’s all about love:

At recent shows, I’ve been reading audience volunteers’ text messages, and it’s the most interesting thing to me. It’s so personal. You can see the ebbs and flows of a whole relationship over the course of 10 to 15 short sentences. You also see how these unofficial rules about waiting to text, not sending a second text before hearing back from the first, etc., are so widespread, and so adopted by our culture. I read this one guy’s texts where he texted a girl once and then texted again an hour later, after she didn’t respond. There were audible gasps in the audience when I read that. The fact that that provoked that kind of reaction fascinating to me. So many people are dealing with that nonsense, and from doing shows about it, it seems like a there is a lot of frustration, and many people are just sick of that shit, and wish they could just spend more time with people in person.

I haven’t had the chance to see his Buried Alive show, and yet I’m already looking forward to his next hour.

In Defense of Slow TV

The AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff wonders if Netflix’s new programming strategy — namely, premiering entire seasons of new shows like House of Cards at the same time — will kill the “golden age” of television:

Shortly after the 30 Rock finale aired, I was talking with someone who’s around a decade younger than me. “I’m glad it’s ending!” he said. When I asked why, he said that he likes to watch things all at once, and now that the show was over, he could binge on it over the course of a week or two. Now that the story was “complete,” it was finally time to watch 30 Rock without having to wait. The marathon—of a season or a whole series—had become essentially the only way he watched television, and that was how he preferred it. Sitting and watching one episode per week was, to him at least, for suckers, for people who were tied too closely to the old ways of doing business, and weren’t ready for the wave that was coming to wash away TV as we know it.

Needless to say, as someone who edits and writes for a section that lives and dies by the weekly TV review, I take the opposite point of view, and not just because I’ve written before about the pleasures of “slow TV.”

While VanDerWerff is primarily concerned with how TV shows differ when premiered as weekly episodes, or as entire chunks of story, I’m interested in how this “binge” viewing will happen without a build-up of interest.

I haven’t yet watched House of Cards, and wonder if or when I will.  Part of the allure of “binge viewing” is having a number of friends/peers/writers recommend something to you: as the number of recommendations grow, so too does the expectation that this show will be worth watching.  But such recommendations typically grow over time: initial reviews, followed by live viewers, followed by people who record episodes, followed by people who take a chance on the first season DVD set.

The potential downside I see to premiering a show like House of Cards all at once is that many of us will look around and wonder who’s jumping in the pool first.  Certainly, there are plenty of people who have decided to take a chance on the show, and have likely stuck with it longer than they would have if it aired on a weekly basis.  But given that the general reaction has been mixed, where does the show go from here?  I doubt the early reviews have built up interest — if anything, interest in the show has taken a hit since it’s been released.  Will those initial viewers be around when the second season is released?  Will there be a clamor for the show to return, or will it simply be forgotten?

Writing What He Damn Well Pleases →

I’m amazed that I have to write the words “in defense of George Saunders,” but Adrian Chen wrote a stupid piece for Gawker (so stupid that I won’t even bother linking to it), so Kevin McFarland knocked the ball off the tee for AV Club.

The Best of Newbridge →

Nathan Rabin interviews Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster for The AV Club, asking them to talk about their three favorite episodes of Best Show Gems:

Because there will be these moments where we’re talking about calls, and we will start laughing, and then say, “That’s maybe the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” That’s the highest praise, in a way. Where it’s like, “Can you believe we might have thought of the dumbest idea yet on this phone call? We just created something so stupid.” [Laughs.] There’s a new level of stupid out there now that we just gave birth to.

Best Show Gems is a “best of” podcast for The Best Show on WFMU.  Best Show Gems is a great place to start with the Best Show if you’re not already a listener.

You’ll Tweet Your Eye Out

A Christmas Story 2 has been all over the web this week.  I’ve followed the story, but not by choice: everyone seems to be writing about it, whether it’s a news site I read or a friend I follow on Twitter.  Even I got in on the act today (as I drafted this post), jokingly wondering which cable network might air the direct-to-DVD “film.”

Joking aside, though, I was curious about the “Why now?” question.  A Christmas Story has been popular as long as I can remember, and has only grown in popularity as I’ve aged.  I’m not surprised that the rights owners would want to capitalize on the film — in fact, what intrigued me is that they waited so long.

A Christmas Story was not an immediate hit, which is certainly why it wasn’t sequelized in the aftermath of its release, when the film’s stars could have conceivably participated.  But it certainly could have been cashed in on during the 90’s or Aughts.  This seems at least ten years too late, right?

But the timing, in fact, is perfect.  A Christmas Story 2 was never going to be an accepted film, let alone a popular one.  Sure, there will be a small minority who will actively anticipate this film, and an even smaller group of that minority will enjoy and defend it.  It may even be aired on a cable network during the holidays once or twice.  Maybe it could receive its own ironic marathon, bringing my aforementioned joke to fruition.

But the film is being released now because a machine exists to broadcast it to the masses.  Sites like The AV Club and Collider and their ilk hate on it because it’s another post to add to their tally.  It’s a pageview grab.  And rather than make a film that could go to theaters and flop (because no one wants to choose to see A Christmas Story 2, let alone in a public setting), Warner Bros. has chosen to make the gag gift of the year.

I imagine that far too many of us will see A Christmas Story 2 at our holiday gatherings this year.  Everyone around us will laugh.  Some will even pop the disc in and watch a bit, or all, of it.

But a few of us will realize, “Oh, yes, this is exactly how it was supposed to happen.”

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