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Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Review: Shark Tank, “Season 4 Week 4”

October 8, 2012 1 comment

Two or three different shows exist within Shark Tank, and a solid episode uses its segmented structure to balance and benefit from the strengths of each. “Season 4 Week 4” follows this approach, with the contrast standing out most sharply between the first and last segments.

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Studs’ Place offers a little-seen angle on a medium and an icon

September 11, 2012 1 comment

Last week I was fortunate to attend the Museum of Broadcast Communications’ screening of Studs’ Place, a short-lived TV program from 1950-51 starring an ensemble led by Chicago media icon Studs Terkel. Over at This Was Television, I’ve written a reflection on the show and how it fits with Studs’s legacy and with the history of television’s earliest days:

It’s impossible to grow up in Chicago in the 20th century, as I did, without at least glimpsing the legacy of Louis “Studs” Terkel, even if it’s only his vapor trails in your periphery. As beloved by his adopted hometown as any local media figure anywhere in America, the mononymous Studs was a broadcasting fixture for half a century, inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame posthumously in 2009. He was a prolific author, oral historian, and champion of economic justice. He was a scene-stealing sportswriter in John Sayles’s 1988 film Eight Men Out.

He was also, briefly, a TV star.

Continue reading at This Was Television.

Why the urge to align with the good guys persists, even when the good guys don’t

May 25, 2012 1 comment

Alyssa Rosenberg has a characteristically thoughtful post on the trend of TV shows which return to the clear designations of good guys and bad guys. It’s got me thinking about how some of my favorite characters who fit this bill actively serve as anti-anti-heroes within their own morally grey universes.

Sometimes we need the stark simplicity of white hats and black hats—if only to remind us of the first principles on each side, the values that continue to give “good” and “evil” meaning and set the boundaries inside which the grey areas exist. Just as we instinctively search our stories for the people to root for, sometimes, so too do those stories’ inhabitants.

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Mad Men: “Christmas Waltz” – The Kinsey Fail

May 22, 2012 1 comment

The bad news is, the senior partners here at the Barker Chappell Daglas Reviewing Firm must forego our holiday bonuses this year. Turns out there’s not as much money in writing online for free as you’d think.

The good news is, that won’t diminish our commitment to bring you our takes on this week’s episode! Put a quarter in the jukebox, don your best Jimmy Durante fedora, and enjoy this week’s installment of the Mad Men roundtable review after the jump.

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Categories: Pop Culture, TV

Firing up the USA Show Generator 8000

Common Law, the latest model from USA’s light-hearted-mismatched-buddy-based-professional-procedural factory, rolls off the assembly line tonight at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. CST). You can read more about it, and the network’s model, in this CNN story that quotes noted USA Network scholar and friend of the blog Cory “Coriander” Barker.

We here at The Vast Wasteland are much more interested in the future than the past. That’s why our crack staff of intrepid reporters have dug up these synopses of upcoming USA Network hits. Get ready to enjoy them on a Saturday early afternoon when you’ve flipped through like a dozen channels already and why the hell not land on this.

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Categories: Humor, Pop Culture, TV

Northwestern MBA students put the “fun” in fundamental economics

This weekend I had the pleasure to attend “Special K!” an all-singing, all-dancing affair mounted by students at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Now, I got a lot out of business school – but I also attended part-time, and didn’t absorb the enviable level of culture and camaraderie on display here. And I sure never partook in any project quite so exuberant as this.

Before the show, I wrote about the show, and its three-decade history of entertaining Evanston, for Gapers Block:

Let’s face it: When you think of mirth, excitement, and song-and-dance numbers, you think of MBAs.

At least, that’s the hope of the more than 80 Northwestern graduate students behind the comic variety show Special K! Produced and performed by matriculators at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, the revue hits the stage this week at the Norris University Center in Evanston. Nightly shows were from May 2-5, with two shows tonight. The assemblage of amusements — including live-action and digital skits, song parodies, a short film, and a riff on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment — represents the culmination of months of extracurricular work.

Continue reading at Gapers Block.

What The Avengers can teach you about writing

May 4, 2012 1 comment

Facing a writer’s block the size of Galactus? Flummoxed by a project as tricky as Loki? Perhaps my new piece for Ragan.com, excerpted below, can help:

As a writer, you probably think your job doesn’t share too much in common with the work of a team of spandex-clad super-beings who protect the world against megalomaniacal trickster fiends. And most likely, you’re 90 percent right (give or take your comfort with spandex).

Believe it or not, we can all learn a few things from “The Avengers.” With Marvel Comics’ premier supergroup hitting American movie theaters on May 4, those lessons are front and center. Here are a few nuggets of professional advice courtesy of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

To discover these world-and-prose-saving tips from Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, and more, continue reading at Ragan’s PR Daily.

The shared M.O. of The Cabin In The Woods and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Having experienced them both for the first time recently, I can confidently say that My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is an awful lot like Cabin In The Woods.

Stay with me on this.

(WARNING: Spoilers after the jump for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Also for the cabin thing.)

Cabin In The Wood / My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

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Après The Raven, le déluge

Feeding moviegoers’ insatiable desire to see 19th century American icons become gothic-horror action heroes (no, really, that’s apparently a thing now), next weekend sees the opening of The Raven. If you haven’t scratched your heads at/laughed yourself silly over the ads yetThe Raven stars John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe. In it, the author who’s often credited with helping to invent the detective story must match wits with a serial killer who bases his crimes on Poe’s canon.

If The Raven is a smash hit at the box office—just…okay, come on guys, stop laughing, I’m trying to make a point—if it’s a hit,you can be certain Hollywood will crank it through the Idea Replicate-O-Tron 8000 and “reimagine” other famous authors grappling with their creations. Before they do, a few humble suggestions/predictions.

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Mad Men blogging at The Vast Wasteland – and around the web

As you can clearly see, updates to this side of the site have been, er, sparse so far this year. I hope to rectify that soon, pending a couple of ongoing projects. But in the meantime, much of my writing each week is being spent with the Barker Chappell Daglas Reviewing Firm: critical discussions of each week’s Mad Men episode, in the the form of a roundtable with my friends Cory Barker of TV Surveillance and Les Chappell of A Helpless Compiler. We’re taking turns hosting each week’s full discussion on our respective blogs, and you can find each week’s review (or my excerpts thereof) at The Vast Wasteland.

Below the jump, an excerpt of my take on the April 15 episode, “Signal 30”:

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Categories: Pop Culture, TV Tags: ,