Friday, March 29, 2013

10 Reasons to Watch Happy Endings


       ABC has become the new NBC. A year ago, the peacock network infamously jerked around the cult favorite TV show Community by putting it on indefinite hiatus, then bringing it back and renewing it for a fourth season, only to fire its creator and creative mastermind Dan Harmon and push back its premiere from an already-late October date to February. The network’s behavior displayed an open disregard for fan opinion and the show itself and with brand new show-runners on board, it apparently just hasn’t been the same, though personally, I think the show dropped off well before Harmon left and NBC started messing with its schedule.

       How does this relate to ABC? Well, let’s start with a show called Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23. Starring Krysten Ritter as a con-artist and party girl in New York City who strikes up a unique friendship with her new roommate, it was supposedly a pretty damn good show, albeit with a small fanbase, and had started to hit its stride when ABC abruptly, though not unexpectedly, pulled it from their schedule with eight episodes left in the season, announcing that it was officially canceled not long afterwards. To be fair, the show had pretty ugly ratings, but what do you expect to happen when you not only air episodes out of order, but multiple seasons simultaneously?  The cancellation of Apt. 23 naturally prompted fears regarding the fate of its constant Tuesday night companion, the slightly-higher-rated and excellent Happy Endings. Like Apt. 23, the kinda-sorta Friends-esque comedy aired episodes out-of-order (including having a “lost” episode) and has experienced a roller-coaster ride when it comes to scheduling, frequently getting preempted or yanked for little apparent reason, adding an additional timeslot in the same week, airing multiple episodes a day and getting cut out of the March schedule to make room for Dancing with the Stars. Eventually, the show mysteriously vanished from TV after its back-to-back January 29th episodes before the network finally told everyone that it had been moved to Friday nights (a.k.a. where TV shows go to die) in favor of reality shows Celebrity Wife Swap and The Taste and wouldn’t be returning until March 29th.

        I understand that TV is a business, and the networks can only be expected to do so much when a show does pulls in crappy ratings; one silver lining of NBC being so incompetent they can’t even beat Univision anymore is that shows like Community, Parks and Rec. and even 30 Rock, when it was still around, have likely only survived for as long as they have because there isn’t anything better to put in their place, and at least they have hardcore, devoted fans. I get the sense, though, that ABC might not be quite as patient or have such low standards. The fact that the network has started a “save the show” campaign (either a comforting or cynical move, depending on how you look at it) and that it’s only one season away from syndication gives me some hope that Happy Endings might get one last renewal, but if more people don’t start tuning in, which seems unlikely to happen given the timeslot, it’s headed straight toward cancellation.

        If you’re one of the many, many people who hasn’t seen Happy Endings, you should know that it’s an ah-mah-zing show. Revolving around a group of friends in the nicer side of urban Chicago, it brings consistent laughs and features one of the best (and most unheralded) casts in any comedy – or any kind of show, for that matter – working on TV today. Even better, it’s never too late to jump on the bandwagon, and its return at 8:00 PM EST tonight provides a perfect opening for newcomers. So, without further ado, here are ten reasons why you should tune in (I apologize in advance for the wall of text):

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Radical and Ingenious Feminism of Gone Girl



Just cast her already, will you?

              Reading Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s feverishly hyped, midnight-dark page-turner of a psychological thriller that was released in 2012 to thunderous critical acclaim, is like being in a particularly volatile relationship (not that I claim to be an expert or even a competent individual in such things). It starts out promising enough, a little tentative yet still enjoyable, until something unexpected happens, like a punch to the gut, and you start to think that maybe, just maybe, this could be the real thing. Either way, you’re sucked in; the ship has officially left the harbor. What follows is a whirlwind of emotion, ranging from hold-your-breath suspense to cathartic glee to soul-melting heartache and, most vividly for me, red-hot, all-consuming RAGE, that leaves you feeling dazed, giddy and more than a little exhausted.

               You may not be able to tell from the above description, but I absolutely loved Gone Girl, almost to the point of unhealthy obsession. Packed with mind-blowing twists and turns, memorable characters, witty dialogue and astute (often scathing) observations of relationships, social politics and the media in 21st century America, this is the rare bestseller that is as original, thought-provoking and brilliantly composed as it is addictive. However, what firmly elevates the novel above your everyday pulp noir is its clever subversion of gender stereotypes. In short, besides being just a damn good book, Gone Girl is fiercely, at times belligerently feminist, an uncompromising “fuck you” to the contemporary patriarchy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Looking Ahead: The 2013 Movie Season


        It’s that time of the year again, folks! 2013 has entered its third month, and while some may already be sick of this calendar year (President Obama, prominent and respected athletes, dying rich people), for most of us, it feels like it’s just getting started. What better way to get excited for this year than to take a look at all the tasty cinematic treats lying in store for us? Spring looks like a barren wasteland as usual, but once you hit May (or even April, if you’re feeling optimistic), there should be a ton of awesome films coming your way. Because everyone on the planet probably already has the big blockbusters circled and bolded on their calendars (Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug are my two personal must-sees), it seems only proper to shine a spotlight on some promising and intriguing movies that might not be on your radar yet:

Release Date: August 9
Plot: According to IMDb, Matt Damon is a man on a mission for equality in a future (the year 2159, to be precise) where the wealthy now dwell in a space station, leaving the rest of humanity to live out their no-doubt miserable lives on a ruined Earth.
Why You Should Pay Attention: Okay, fine, this movie isn’t exactly going to sneak up on anyone, but it’s not as much of a sure-fire blockbuster juggernaut as, say, Iron Man 3 or Catching Fire, so it still seems worth mentioning here. Directed by Neill Blomkamp, whose first feature-length film District 9 was a surprise commercial hit and got a wholly deserved Best Picture nomination back in 2009, this sci-fi thriller sounds like it’ll be along the same lines. Hopefully, this means we can expect some gritty, gruesome action scenes, a decidedly realist/documentary-like filming style and an intelligent storyline that uses its high-concept premise as a parable for real-world, topical issues – in this case, the significant wealth gap in between the haves and have nots. It also gives us the immensely talented trio of Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and District 9 breakout Sharlto Copley. If Blomkamp’s second offering is as smart, original and entertaining as his first, then Elysium should be well worth the four year wait in between.

Besides, Matt Damon wouldn’t go bald for just any movie, right?

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Lady in the High Tower


             To put it lightly, this has been a rough time for feminists. Yes, we have made significant progress since the Mad Men Era (aka the 1960s, when people still legitimately believed that schizophrenia and autism were caused by negligent parenting), but misogyny remains sadly prevalent in our allegedly post-feminist society, as evidenced by various recent events. First, there was the Sandra Fluke-Rush Limbaugh controversy, which really hasn’t gotten any less infuriating over time. Then, we had the even more B.S. “legitimate rape” comments from (ex-)Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin and this quote from author Bret Easton Ellis, among various other sexism-related controversies. And just last week, the Oscars were greeted with outrage over host Seth MacFarlane’s intentionally provocative “We Saw Your Boobs” bit, in which an all-gay male choir sang about female nudity in movies.

             I could fill a novella with my feelings about the reaction to MacFarlane’s joke, which, in all honesty, bothered me infinitely more than the joke itself. Don’t get me wrong: “We Saw Your Boobs” is of questionable taste at best, and if anything, the response to it shows that it failed to get across whatever satirical point MacFarlane was trying to make. But maybe because I’ve watched way too many talk shows (where this brand of comedy is more or less the norm) or maybe because, even though I don’t care for his work in general, I genuinely wanted MacFarlane to succeed as Oscar host (partly since everyone else, for whatever reason, wanted him to fail), I can’t force myself to share the sense of moral indignation that lit up the Internet after the ceremony. Were some of the jokes offensive? Probably. Did all of them land? Definitely not. Worst Oscar host ever? Do you even remember James Franco and Anne Hathaway? This is a textbook example of the penchant for hyperbole that characterizes the Internet Age – everything is either the best thing ever or a crime against humanity, and everyone is either a “perfect human being” or an insufferable dickwad. Although I would never deny anyone’s right to be offended, at a certain point, I feel like you have to be able to say, “That was distasteful” and move on - or at least provide some insightful, introspective commentary to go along with your self-righteous moralizing. Personally, I would rather spend my time ranting about the aforementioned Sandra Fluke episode or even the ludicrous comments that have been made about Best Actress nominee Quvanzhan√© Wallis (one of which was, to be fair, followed up by a rare public apology that actually seems sincere), but then again, I'm not going to stop people from expressing their own thoughts and opinions.