Development, Unarrested

After almost five years of waiting, fans of the Fox semi-hit turned massive cult phenomena Arrested Development were finally validated for their years of wishing. Countless blogs from nearly every pop culture outlet have begged for the return of the sitcom, now counted among the best in history, and for the first time have received some validation. Last week several members of the cast and crew let it slip that not only would the long-anticipated Arrested Development movie be released, but a fourth season (on a network that has yet to be decided) will preclude the release of the film.

Mitchell Hurwitz, the creator of Arrested Development, is widely believed to be somewhat of a “mad genius” when it comes to writing and showrunning. Hardcore AD viewers and cast members often rally behind Hurwitz’s mysterious brilliance, but what’s to stop fans from thinking that in a post-AD world - a world that’s given Hurwitz plenty of chances to re-do Arrested Development - how can he return to the heights he achieved once before?

The short of it is, that without his now legendary cast of characters and corners to cut, Hurwitz is struggling from too much freedom. Even Running Wilde, in its trivial run, still had a touch of madness to it, albeit too little to sustain the show. The second Hurwitz is thrown back into a hole that’s too deep to escape from, the madness will return. So long as Hurwitz has no idea where he’s going - Arrested Development will still be great.

For most fans, just the thought of getting to see Jason Bateman, David Cross, and everyone else (there is seriously not one dud in the entire cast) return to the screen is enough of a driving force for the show’s triumphant return. Arrested Development has proven over the course of the last five years that it doesn’t deserve to be filed away as a cautionary tale, it deserves a proper ending. An ending that only Mitch Hurwitz and the cast have the ability to deliver.

With all the influence it’s had over the sitcom genre (30 Rock, Community, and Party Down are three examples of shows directly influenced by AD) fans are certainly aching for a glamorous return. Somewhat in the vein of Futurama’s ludicrously tongue-in-cheek post-hiatus return to regular programming, we’re certainly expecting some subtle-but-not-really jabs at FOX. Comebacks are rarely done well, but Hurwitz is certainly jaded enough to have spent the last however many years cooking up how he’s going to rub the big wigs nose in it.

Yet, in the digital age, over-hyping could easily hamper any anticipated event. The funny thing about it is the premiere is, is that it may actually be the first time a large portion - maybe even a majority of viewers - get to watch episodes in the standard week-to-week format. The cult following built online and through the DVDs are some of their strongest and most outspoken fans; fans who probably didn’t catch them during the original run. It’s this big machine that just keeps feeding itself and producing more and more fans and more and more interest in the upcoming (finger’s crossed?) debut.

Watching the Bluth family became an addiction for fans, so the tendency for hyperbole is apt, as is the need to critique everything we see. To be able to watch them in a serialized manner rather than week-to-week definitely rewards the viewer, as it is often hard to immerse yourself fully into the rhythm of AD until well into an episode, even without commercials. The idea of only watching episodes one at a time, especially since today’s fans likely saw them for the first time via DVD box sets or repeated online viewing, seems miserable. An Arrested Development watch party leading up to the premiere may be ideal for the fans to be in the correct mindset for the fresh batch of episodes.

Arrested Development’s influence on the modern day was both overt and subtle. The blogosphere never misses a chance to tout the series’ incredible cleverness and ruthless wit, as well as trudge through the “cancelled before its time” mud. Fans of Arrested Development have never allowed it to fade from memory. The show earned a firm place among the lexicon of millions of deeply committed fanboys, on whose strength and resilience the show has finally found new life. Hulu, Netflix, Twitter, blogs the world over, fan pages and watch parties have given the show a depth and meaning that became so far-reaching that it has come full circle. The tension has built so much that is has finally snapped. Ten episodes and a movie to close of one of the most inescapable chapters in American pop culture.

By Mitch McCann and Greg Bright

Fade to Black: The ‘Slow Burn’ of Rescue Me

While critics doubted a masculine dramedy based around the events of September 11th could sustain itself, Allowing FX to put all their faith behind creators Denis Leary and Peter Tolan to deliver them their next big hit. For those who have stuck with the series (now one of FX’s longest) it has done just that. At the expense of more than a handful of characters and the occasional rehashed monologue, it has sustained the fire it began all the way back in 2004.

Unseen on almost any other series before it, Rescue Me featured a kind of ripcord drama that energized viewers, tugged at heart strings, and in its hay-day, delivered some seriously breathtaking television. A truly sobering series with subtle pay offs, Rescue Me never gave an inch - it took one. One step forward, three steps back.

As a serialized drama that not only grappled with, but frequented the subjects of loss, alcoholism, homophobia, racism, and the attacks of September 11th, Rescue Me followed Denis Leary as balls to the wall, daredevil firefighter Tommy Gavin as he tried to hold himself together against all odds, and then watched him slide when he couldn’t.

Perhaps what is most surprising about the show, is that despite the its physical presence being repeatedly shaken by tragedy, reconciliation, heartbreak and utter collapse, its emotional core never wavered. Rescue Me is ultimately about what it means to be connected to another human being and what happens when those lines are blurred and crossed.

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 drew closer, it became increasingly clear that the public had dealt with it in their own time, and what Rescue Me once considered its central tenet - the aftermath of the attacks and Tommy’s struggle with them - became a well they returned to too often. The creators, like the firefighters, used 9/11 as a mask for the problems underneath. Fine television is rarely able to be stretched out over seven seasons, and Rescue Me was no exception.

Following the lives of the Gavin family and 62 Truck from what is likely the most tumultuous start in any series’ history to an ultimately satisfying climax was one of the most rewarding and painful experiences of my life. Even after everything that Leary took from his viewers, emotionally or otherwise, he delivered in the end. Tommy Gavin came through for us all one final time.

By Mitch McCann

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Awkward | TV Review


After their terribly misguided foray into scripted television with Skins, I had to see what MTV would do with their second attempt, Awkward. A show about a high school sophomore girl who slips and falls in her bathroom and it is mistaken for a suicide attempt.


Like all MTV shows, the emphasis is not on doing anything new or original, just repackaging what others have already done to try and make a quick buck. The show has all the stereotypes of a John Hughes film, parents who don’t get you, boys who like you but won’t date you because you’re in a different social clique, and rumors get started about you that aren’t true but none of the spunk that made them classics. 


On a positive note, the show does make you feel for the main character, Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards), mostly do to Rickards quirky charisma and overall the show does seem to have an energy about it. I just wish they wouldn’t waste the energy on worthless cliche plot elements and horrible attempts to understand the dynamic of female relationships and just have fun because, really, all a high school student wants to do is have fun.


Review by Greg Bright

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Weeds and Louie | TV Catch Up

At the end of what was originally supposed to be its final season, Weeds left us with Nancy surrendering herself for the good of her family. It was the perfect end to a very uneven season (to put it lightly) and really was the perfect way to end the show, Nancy taking the fall for something she didn’t do, to save her family, because in the end, Nancy is always trying to protect her family, much to the chagrin of her family. But alas, here we are in season 7 and 2 episodes in, it has been much like the 6th, trying just a tad too hard.  

 

Instead of showing us the trial, we start three years later and with Nancy getting released from prison. In it’s first scene, the show has already copped out. Instead of showing us the fun of a trial and how the rest of the family copes without having Nancy around to guide them, we just start when they are reunited three years later, and Nancy is able to, you guessed it, sell marijuana again. 7 seasons in, murder, imprisonment, you name it, Nancy has been a part of it, hell she’s been a part of a Mexican drug cartel and yet all she wants to do is sell marijuana? It’s amazing how little Nancy has developed. She has gone from one of the finest actresses on TV to an annoyance.  

 

If you’re like me, you’ll keep watching, hoping for the moments, flashes really, of the old brilliance of the show, but if you’ve just been watching on Netflix, I urge you to stop at season 5, its final great season. 

 


On the surface, Louie should be a horrible show. It’s about a fat, balding white single father who doesn’t really do much except raise his children, and be depressed when they aren’t around. But yet it’s one of the best and funniest shows on TV and it all comes back to Louis C.K who directs, writes and edits every single episode himself. He has no interest in sugar coating anything. His daughter tells her she likes living with her mom more, so when she turns her back he flips her off. It’s absurd yes but really it’s what he wants to do. He knows it’s not her fault, she’s just being honest but god damn it it hurt him, so he takes it out on her when she isn’t looking.   

 

It’s absurd but honest, and that’s what the show is all about, venting the frustrations of being a shitty but loving single father. All the headaches that come with it, the financials concerns, other kids’ parents, the depression, and the loneliness. It’s all there, and since it’s Louis C.K. you know he’ll make it as funny as humanly possible. A show that is not to be missed.

Reviews by Greg Bright

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Are Conservatives Strangling America’s Best Sitcom?

Modern Family's undeniable appeal as an American sitcom has only been bolstered by its mass appeal to “Middle America.” However, as the sitcom enters its jogging days and episodes reach a relative plateau, it's time for the writers to take a stand.

While ABC may be content with having a confident juggernaut to reign in the Two And A Half Men audiences left adrift by the recent debauchery, those who are hungry for the heights achieved during the first season know this most recent batch of episodes just won’t cut it. Largely in part due to the shows very limited scope of vision and the complacent nature of settling for limited story for the sake of expanding old material. (i.e., Jay is old/Gloria isn’t, Phil is oddly effeminate and hilariously oblivious, and is Luke still an idiot or adorably self-aware?)

My issue this time around lies with the portion of the family who receives the least attention…or maybe just a different KIND of attention. Mitchell and Cam, the gay couple, are being written into stagnant roles due to their…proclivities?

However, the gay taboo is beginning to grow old. Those friendly to the LGBT cause feel an obligation to include it, and the rest feel the opposite. As if for some reason including two girls kissing is some how provocative or too racy for (primetime) television. A campaign was launched online demanding a smooch between the two, as the other pairs in the sitcom PDA is now commonplace. (Even Ed O’Neill gets a peck or two at Sofía Vergara every so often.)

Sitcoms seem to take one side of the coin or the other. You either include a token gay character(s) to allow access to that side of comedy, (while allowing for constant comedic relief to allow your more stuffy viewers to laugh around the subject) or you make it specifically about being gay. For some reason it’s like you have to be either Will & Grace or The Office. Maybe this is an unfair perspective when examining primetime, but it is certainly the line Modern Family is juggling.

Not to speak ill of the writers, you might even say they deserve to be commended for creating and (somewhat) developing not one, but a couple of strong, gay central characters. But like I said before, as Modern Family settles into the routine that will be repeated over the course of its numerous seasons to come, the writers must not become complacent in allowing Mitchell and Cam to provide stereotypically gay, almost slapstick, comedic relief. These actors are both very deserving of their roles and if given the chance, can be developed into something other than the Will & Grace model of humor.

The mere fact that this taboo exists is a stain upon our society. Even the idea that “gay” characters must somehow be handled or written differently than “straight” characters is preposterous, but as long as Americans remain ignorant to their very core this conversation, sadly, is one that has to be had. In living rooms and in script meetings.

All I’m asking is that we not invent a character’s fear of public affection in order to write an entire episode every time two dudes want to kiss one another (‘The Kiss’.) I’m pretty sure (Emmy award-winning) Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson can lock lips for 2 seconds while the middle of the country closes their eyes to what is truly a Modern Family.

Entertainment Editor’s Note 4/5



We are a nation founded on convenience. Ever since Native Americans first started stepping on our toes by trying to continue occupying this great land, we have been hunting down every conceivable inconvenience with a persistence that would make a cockroach roll its eyes. Need a high-risk loan for twin jet-skis? How about a blanket with sleeves? Cheap labor overseas? You got it.

Most of our waking hours are spent making things more convenient for ourselves. The people that disrupt those notions the least are called our friends. The rest will politely apologize with, “I’m sorry for any inconvenience.” We even have a national “Thanksgiving” holiday to celebrate convenience, followed by Christmas gifts to fill the gaps with conveniences we’re not willing pay for ourselves. Nurseries, boarding schools, and nursing homes are filled with our inconveniences, and we’ll make sure to visit them at our own convenience.

This becomes a common theme in all of our most popular entertainment. TLC seemingly prides itself in reality programming geared towards incredibly inconvenient situations like “600 Pound Mom,” “Little People, Big World,” and “Police Women of Broward County.” You want to watch your terrible commercial-free television in the shower? There’s an app for that.

While I overuse the word “convenient,” devoid of any synonyms, I wonder if we’ll ever possess the capacity to make everyone’s situation livable. Until Jesus throws back the curtain to set things straight, we’ll have to settle for mystery in death, hormones, and anti-depressant medication. How convenient.

(Source: dailyernebraskan.com)

Canndid Cameras With Mitch McCann | Vol. 1

I’m Mitch, one of two columnists (the other being the dashing Mr. Greg Bright) who will be sharing our sometimes radical, other times boring, but hopefully always original take on television in the modern age.

This week I thought I’d use my space here to explore something I usually just ponder to myself until impressionist/comedic genius Dana Carvey discussed it during his hosting slot last week on Saturday Night Live.

‘SNL’ may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s even long been a staple of the times to talk about how (this cast) sucks, how it isn’t as good as (that year) or (that cast.) That perhaps sometime around Adam Sandler’s time on the show, or maybe before Molly Shannon left, was SNL’s last “hay-day”, or could it be the Mike Myers years? Shit, now I can’t remember.

Somewhere amongst the harping of these old fuddy-duddies, there may lie a grain of truth, but in an age where everything is single camera this, Chuck Lorre that, C.S.I. here, Law and Order there, it seems traditions - like those ingrained in America’s Saturday nights - may be more important than ever.

Somewhere along the line, fans of late night live television were lost in the shuffle of a Jimmy Fallon with a severe case of the giggles, a cast who - for lack of a Will Ferrell - allowed Bush to be played by a different individual every episode, and controversial (while simultaneously lack luster) performances by musical guests and celebrity hosts alike. It seemed clear to everyone watching that the show was no longer the Saturday Night Live they remember.

I can’t tell you how many ‘Simpsons’ episodes I’ve thought “there’s no way Matt Groening saw that.” Matt Stone and Trey Parker must have days where they look at their script for next week episode of ‘South Park’ and think, “you know, there isn’t really much here,” shrug, and then make the damn thing anyway. But in a way, isn’t that what makes the shows what they are? Epic episodes parodying everything you’ll ever learn about in high school, while mocking its own (and your own) existence?

My head swirls when I try to fathom what these fossils of a slightly different time are doing for today’s average television viewer. Simply modern day relics of a time when Nirvana was on the radio, gas was under two dollars, and the President haggled with the nation over the definition of the word ‘is.’ But nostalgia doesn’t quite cover it. SNL, The Simpsons, and South Park aren’t quite lost to previous generations, but they aren’t adjusting as well as one would hope either.

Back to what I suppose was the intended genesis of this diatribe, programs like SNL and The Simpsons embody the tumultuous state of popular culture. And while it may make me yet another brick in the wall, it seems to me that being aware of that, this latest Saturday Night Live cast has begun to turn it around. Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, even down through newcomer Jay Pharoah, have continued, or maybe renewed, the sense that both they and the audience are part of something special, and the SNL stage remains the dream of nearly every young comedic star working today.

In moments where society is at its most impressionable, the turning points of a generation, running commentary on pop culture will carry us through. So even when Seth MacFarlane drops the comedic ball every once in awhile, hopefully there will always be another foul-mouthed, witty so-and-so to pick it up.