The Ten Biggest Pop Culture Disappointments of 2011

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With the end of the year approaching, it’s time to look back on the the things that 2011 brought us. I’ll be doing some “best of” posts later, but before we can unwrap our presents under the tree, we have to count the lumps of coal in our stockings.

I’ll remember 2011 for lots of great things: the stellar third season of Parks and Recreation; the hilariously vulgar Bridesmaids; the best album of Matthew Good’s solo career, Lights of Endangered Species; the phrase “Trent Reznor, Academy Award winner” becoming unironic. But unfortunately, I’m also going to remember it for the ways in which it disappointed me. We’ll take a look at the ten biggest pop culture disappointments of 2011 after the jump. More

Thoughts on NBC’s Midseason Schedule and the Benching of Community

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NBC recently released an outline of its midseason schedule, and it has a notable omission: Community is not on the network’s midseason schedule, being replaced by a returning 30 Rock. Understandably, many fans are disappointed, especially considering that critical punching bag Whitney is being left on the schedule. (Less understandably, some fans are outraged, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) However, I think this is actually a wise business decision for NBC. I’ll explain why after the jump. More

Kicking the Habit: Why It’s Easy to Give Up on Some TV Shows and Hard to Give Up on Others

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As you may have noticed, I stopped writing about Wilfred a couple of weeks ago, not because I stopped watching, but because I couldn’t bring myself to care enough about it to put my fingers to the keyboard and type 400+ words about it. The show has thus far been a mixed bag. I like the concept, and Jason Gann and Elijah Wood have great comic chemistry, but the execution usually falls flat. For that reason, I’ve voiced my disappointment about the show in various fora, both on- and offline. But to my dismay, in those fora, I’ve been met with the question: “So why are you still watching?”

My knee-jerk reaction, if I’d chosen to express it, would have been, “Why the hell do you care? It’s none of your business why I do what I do.” In many cases, being asked why one is still watching is a way to dismiss legitimate complaints as mindless kvetching from the peanut gallery, and it detracts from valuable discussions of a critical nature.

However, I still think it’s a valid question. Though TV viewers are far from the hyperrational model of Homo Economicus espoused by the mathematically-inclined, they don’t subject themselves to torture for no good reason. It’s therefore odd that so many people watch TV shows and perpetually complain about how awful they are (the cathartic benefit of complaining aside, of course). In the case of Wilfred, I can provide reasons for why I’m still watching: I like the ideas, I like the cast, and I think the show has the potential to improve. I stuck with Traffic Light for its entire run for similar reasons, despite the fact that the show almost never made me laugh:1 I loved its low-key vibe, and I sensed the possibility of improvement in its future (which never came because the show was cancelled. Oh well.)

But what about shows that have been running for a long time, or shows that used to entertain me, but no longer do? In those cases, the “I think it’ll get better argument” doesn’t work as well. I watch a surprising number of series like that. I recently realized that fact when I noticed that three of the series that I wrote about in my “Five Shows That Should Have Been Cancelled” post (henceforth referred to as “RR1”) a few weeks ago were also mentioned in my “Epic Fail” post (henceforth referred to as “RR2”) from last summer. In other words, this past season, I watched three series that I had vowed to abandon. After some self-reflection, I’ve been able to put some explanations for my TV watching habits to words. I can speak only for my personal experience, but I hope that the readers of this blog will be able to relate. After the jump, I’ll take a look at some TV shows that I’ve given up on or tried to give up on, as well as how fandom, critics, and other external factors may have affected my perceptions of those programmes. More

The 2010-2011 Refrigerator Rants End-of-Season Awards

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With the 2010-2011 television season more or less over and summer TV about to begin or recently having begun, it’s time to take a look back at the best that the past year brought us.

Before we dive in, I have to make one thing clear: I don’t watch most television shows, and I barely watch any cable television. I do watch a lot of television on the whole, but not nearly enough to make a fair assessment of what was truly the “best.” For that reason, the awards will be skewed towards the shows that I watch. So don’t go crying about my failure to include The Good Wife, Mad Men, or Friday Night Lights. I don’t watch those shows. With that mind, let’s get started! More

Five Shows That Should Have Been Cancelled

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The 2010-2011 television season is more or less over now, barring some shows that will continue into the summer (such as The Killing). So it seems like an appropriate time to take a look back at this season and try to speculate about what will happen in the next one. Over the next couple of weeks or so, I’ll be writing a series of entries about this past television season. First up: shows that should have been cancelled.

Let’s forget about ratings for a minute. Let’s forget about advertising, profits, and business. Based on quality alone, some shows just deserve to die. Maybe it’s because they’ve gone on for too long. Maybe it’s because they were never good to begin with. Or maybe it’s because they’ve changed for the worse. After the break, we’re going to take a look at 5 shows that really didn’t deserve to be renewed for another season. More

Episode Review: Community, S2E24, For A Few Paintballs More

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Well, Community’s writing staff may not know how to write a season, but they sure know how to end one. “For A Few Paintballs More” was a very fun half-hour, and it was definitely the first good episode since “Intro to Political Science.” Some more thoughts about this episode and the season as a whole after the jump. More

Episode Review: Community, S2E23, A Fist Full of Paintballs

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Oh Community, you had me fooled for a second there. You made me think that you were getting good again. And then you brought back the Pierce storyline.

Before I launch into an explanation of why this episode both entertained and infuriated me, I need to say two things. 1) Credit where credit is due. I went into this episode expecting a load of irritating meta-references to last year’s paintball adventure, but instead, we got something that stood on its own as a relatively entertaining piece of television (at least for the first half, but I’m getting ahead of myself). If Community lasts several more seasons, paintball could end up being a tradition, like the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends. 2) I’ve been harsh on this season of Community, and with good reason. I’m not going to mince words: a lot of this season has sucked, plain and simple. But that doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of praising the show when it does something well. With that in mind, I’m going to offer what I think is a fair assessment of this episode after the jump. More

Episode Review: Community, S2E22, Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts

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Surprise, surprise! I didn’t hate “Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts.” In fact, I didn’t even dislike it. That’s not to say that it was a great episode or even a good one – I didn’t laugh at all – but for the first time in a couple of months, Community didn’t fill me with barely repressed rage. More

Episode Review: Community, S2E21, Paradigms of Human Memory

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Last week’s special review format didn’t turn out as well as I’d intended, so I’m back to doing a regular write-up this week.

It’s no secret that I’ve been disappointed in Community’s post-Christmas run, and by now, any goodwill that I felt built up by the run of 4 or 5 really strong episodes before the winter break has been eroded. The characters have become unlikeable, the humour has become lazy, and the tone has become smug and ironic.1 But every once in a while, the old Community will peek through, and I’ll get a flash of the kind of show that Community was in its brilliant first season. There were a lot of those flashes in “Paradigms of Human Memory,” all of them in the various flashback clips.

In contrast to the pointless documentary episode or the pretentious, self-congratulatory dreck that was “Critical Film Studies,” a live-action clip show comprised of brand new clips was an experiment that could have been worth exploring. It could have been a fun way to show little snippets of the study group’s past activities and let the viewers fill in the blanks. And true to my expectations, this episode soared almost any time it showed a flashback clip. But for a clip show to work, the present-day framing device has to be enjoyable to watch, and this episode’s present-day scenes were cringeworthy. They amplified tenfold everything I’ve come to hate about Community: the snotty attitude; the jokes with predictable punchlines; the complete lack of camaraderie between the characters; and the over-reliance on meta humour. Without the flashback clips, this would have been, without a doubt, the worst episode that Community has ever produced. More

Episode Review: Community, S2E20, Competitive Wine Tasting

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Merve: Dear readers, welcome to the new Community review format.

Community: Hey! Wait! What the hell? Why are you writing your review like a script?

Merve: I’m being “meta.” See how clever I am?

Community: Um…

Merve: So, what’s up with you this week?

Community: Well, I’m not nearly as pretentious as I was last time I was on the air, so that’s a relief for you, I guess. I mean, it’s not my fault you’re too much of a philistine to understand my brilliant, deep character development and my satirical examination of popular culture.

Merve: What else?

Community: I’m not very funny this week. You can see most of my punchlines coming from a mile away. Also, everyone’s acting like a dick. More

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