Monday, July 29, 2013

"It's Embarrassing": Putting A Cap On The Kaelses & Sarrises Question

"So, kids: which one of you is gonna blog about this?"

Brett Martin's book has elicited a number of “Ready, aye, ready!” responses from paid critics. My desire to add to the fray has dropped correspondingly, so I'll post some links to well-written pieces, then conclude with my own clipped, but assuredly super-deep, thoughts on the matter:

We can all agree The Sopranos was “great television”: so why isn't that other HBO series from the same decade similarly lauded? Emily Nussbaum posits that critical neglect of Sex & The City is all due to “a misunderstanding stemming from an unexamined hierarchy.”

Hmm. Maybe, maybe not. To my mind Nussbaum too briefly comments on one critical aspect to viewer appraisal: the deleterious effect a bad episode — never mind a run of bad episodes — can have on the entire enterprise. Jerry Seinfeld understood (and adroitly dodged) this phenomenon, and sums it up best: “A small amount of too much spoils the whole thing.”

But getting back to the business of “unexamined hierarchies,” some gamers (who dearly love the art-form) want to know: “Where's Gaming's Roger Ebert?” John Teti (who also loves the art-form) has an answer: “Gaming's Roger Ebert is never going to show up. And it doesn't matter.” Teti's observations are smart, snappy, irreverent, fabulously wide-ranging and (I think) spot-on. Bottom line? “Enough with the 'When are we going to have a ____ of the games?' horseshit. It's embarrassing.”

Indeed. Look, I understand why writing something for pro publication is a different beast from the on-line racket. If you think you're up for it, or even wonder about it, go ahead and do it. But if you're a reader wondering when it's finally going to show up on your shelf, odds are you're already missing the best there is. Last year, when I finally got around to viewing Carnivale I tucked into Todd VanDerWerff's frame-by-frame analysis of the individual episodes. Man, Kael and Ebert have nothing on that dude, and frankly, it's not a feat either of them could have managed without the internet.

Looking for more? There's always (!) Ian Grey's adulation of the under-appreciated Star Trek: Voyager. Or, for a sense of time and place, and the tectonic consciousness upheaval that a perfectly executed television episode can trigger, check out A-J Aronstein's (porridge titled, but otherwise killer piece) 'All In The Family' And The First Gay Sit-com Character. Aronstein is clearly a sharp cat: no doubt he's got other essays he could put between hard-covers. I'm happier reading it on-line, frankly, where I can check the video clips.

I'm with Teti: forget the Kaelses and Sarrises. I've already got too many hardcover books. And if the internet ever craps out, I won't be reaching for criticism anyway.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

TV's Kaelses and Sarriseses

I'm gone fishin', so this week's post is a gimme. Back next week.

Pro TV critics are (mostly) governed by two questions: 1) why should we watch this show? 2) why are we still watching this show? This leads to effective of-the-moment reading, but rarely to the sort of writing one returns to once a show has expired.Nobody wants to put that between hardcovers, especially not the writers.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Whither Television's Kaelses and Sarriseses?

I have a confession to make: I've yet to see the concluding episode of The Sopranos.

I stopped watching sometime in the fourth season — not because I lost interest, but because life got in the way. My daughters were getting older and staying up later, and weren't yet old enough to process all those cutaway shots of Tony exercising employer's privilege with his strippers (to take just one 'for instance'), so the family television was devoted to other shows and movies, until such a time as my wife and I could return to watching the morally awkward stuff.

But then The Wire came along, and several other pretty-good shows, and . . . I did lose interest. With Gandolfini's death, it's back, kind of. Who knows? Someday I might yet finish watching The Sopranos, but there's no point making any promises. I've still got Breaking Bad and three more seasons of Mad Men to catch up on.

But I'm gratified to know I am not alone: Terry Teachout admits the same. And he's actually paid to watch and write about this stuff. So, in answer to Ken Tucker's (rhetorical) question: “Who have been television's Pauline Kaels, its Andrew Sarrises?”: no-one, of course. And there are several very good reasons for this absence of Elite Critical Consideration Sandwiched Between Hardcovers — besides the (to understate the case) marathoner's commitment required of such a task — which I will address in a piecemeal manner, until I conclude with the obvious counter-observation (“Check teh interwebz, stoopid!”).

If I never watch it, will it never end?

Friday, July 05, 2013

This Week's Distractions

I'm only semi-appreciative of what J.D. Salinger has brought (thus far) to the literary table, so I don't much trouble myself with the speculation that surrounds his silent years. Ron Rosenbaum is always worth reading, however, and he crosses the threshold of the Ramakrishnah-Vivekananda Center of New York searching for clues as to what preoccupied the (ostensibly) productive writer's intellectual life. Now I have preoccupations of my own — thank you, Mr. Rosenbaum.

“Dated” SF movies have their own peculiar charms. So, has Mad Max aged well? How about The Road Warrior? How about Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome? (Don't answer that last question . . . rhetorical, you know.) What makes a movie — particularly SF movies — look dated?

"Does this look . . . date me?"