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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Awake on an Island

The series premier of "Awake" was last Thursday. Maybe you watched it. But you probably didn't because it was on NBC and created by the same guy who did "Lone Star." I watched it a about a week ago. I'd like to say it was because I'm special got a screener, but in reality it was because NBC discreetly tossed it online weeks ago.

I enjoyed it for the most part, but it left me a little cold for some reason. Then I read the A.V. Club's review which pretty much nailed the problem down. I bolded the end for emphasis.

Todd VanDerWerff: The pilot episode of Awake, airing tonight, is a great piece of televised art. The script is witty, warm, and soulful. The performances—particularly from lead Jason Isaacs—are delicate and almost perfect. David Slade’s direction conveys the emotional world of the show so well that you could watch it on mute and grasp most of what’s going on. In particular, Slade’s use of color—of reds and greens and blues, meant to boil the show’s complicated premise down into a visual aesthetic—is so wonderful that a whole article (or two) could be written about how he suggests places where realities overlap and intertwine, just through placement of a red scarf. At the end of the episode, you’ll leave feeling like you’ve seen something unique and wonderful, something worth watching every week in an increasingly crowded television landscape.
Then, next week, the show turns into a fairly standard cop drama with a twist.

Now obviously, I haven't seen this week's episode but I thought that even the pilot episode was too much of a "fairly standard cop drama with a twist." The concept of waking up in two disparate timelines is a fascinating, if not wholly original concept. But what got me so excited for the show was how deeply the trailer made it appear that the show would probe the emotional impact of this.

The trailer essentially has every emotional highpoint of the first episode cut closely together with a rather lovely song (it's called "To Build a Home," by the Cinematic Orchestra). The ending of the trailer is essentially the ending of the first episode and brings the whole concept of this splintered worlds' emotional impact on Detective Michael Britten's to a wonderful conclusion.

The rest of the episode, however? Pretty much a cop drama.

And this particular shortcoming of "Awake," got me thinking about larger trends in television and other arts…which got me thinking about "Lost," because how couldn't it?

I think "Lost" succeeded where other shows with high supernatural concepts have failed simply because of "Lost's" setting. The Island on "Lost" was crucially important not just to the show's ever-expanding mythology but also to the creative process of the show, itself.

The alien-ness of the tropical locale combined with the Damon Lindelof, J.J. Abrams and later Carlton Cuse's commitment to the weird and supernatural created an almost unique fictional environment. It was the kind of environment in which no cliché or stock shorelines could come readily available to the writer's minds. Sure, "Lost" featured it's share of cliché and stock elements like archetypical characters and the occasional descent into Nikki and Paulo diamond-stealing nonsense, but it was almost never based purely on setting because the writers had almost no other examples of setting to pull from.

If the "Lost" writers were running low on ideas about a show set on a supernatural Island, they had no other tired storylines from other shows about supernatural islands to pull from: no story about the Smoke Monster going through puberty or the polar bear accidentally smothering it's young. The problem with "Awake," however, is that Kyle Killen and his team of writers DO have the ability to pull from other ideas involving police officers floating around in the collective unconscious.

It's highly unlikely then that they will be able to pull off something that is equally satisfying as an exploration of death, apparent supernatural miracles and/or mental ailments while still never succumbing to the police procedural staleness.

Having said all that though…still give "Awake" a shot. The emotional points hinted at in the trailer resound strongly enough in the first episode to guarantee your devoted viewership for at least a few weeks. And if we're really nice to NBC they might let "Community" live to see season four.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The NBA List of Reasonable Point Guard Satisfaction


When I was in middle school, I had my growth spurt when all of the girls did. Aside from bruising my ego a little bit, this meant one thing: I got to play center during basketball. There is almost noting quite like the satisfaction from using one's superior height to throw one's opponents around like children...or Chris Bosh.

Then everyone else caught up. I hung around my 5'10 frame and everyone else started to look like they were on growth hormone. Suddenly 6'4 was the new 5'10 and I went from being Carlos Boozer to Larry Hughes. I was never able to adjust to my role on the court and so I fulfilled my destiny as a hateful fat loser who made fun of LeBron James on twitter instead of actually playing basketball.

But one thing I took away from my experience on the hardwood (aside from the hateful fat loser thing) was a fascination with point guards. When my size forced me to move to the back court, I realized just how difficult a position it was. People take for granted even the ability to competently dribble a basketball without glancing down to look at it every few seconds.

So watching the point guard renaissance this season has been particularly enjoyable for me. And it inspired me to do a little research into just how strong the point guard position in the NBA is. It's easily the nerdiest thing I've done….in the past three days.

I've compiled lists of starters from every position (please note the word "starters," as I have not had time to evaluate the performance of bench players) and have attempted to identify how many teams are at least REASONABLY SATISFIED with the play of the player at that starting position. Then I identified players from those lists who could at least make an argument towards being the best player at that position in the league.

What I concluded is that not only does the point guard position boast the deepest pool of reasonably satisfactory starters, but also has the most candidates for best player at the position.

Check out my wildly unscientific findings and let me know how wrong I am in the comments section.

P.S. I chose the picture at the top because it combines my three favorite things: Kyrie Irving, New Jersey prep schools and not being sued for copyright infringement.

Point Guards

Reasonably Satisfactory
24. D.J. Augustin
23. Jarrett Jack
22. Rodney Stuckey
21. Jason Kidd

Above Average
20. Darren Collison
19. Jose Calderon
18. Mike Conley
17. Ty Lawson

Very Good or Shows Plenty of Potential
16. Tyreke Evans
15. Jrue Holliday
14. Kyle Lowry
13. Brandon Jennings
12. Jeremy Lin

All-Star Level
11. John Wall
10. Ricky Rubio
9. Kyrie Irving
8. Steph Curry

Best in the League Candidate
7. Rajon Rondo
6. Tony Parker
5. Steve Nash
4. Deron Williams
3. Russell Westbrook
2. Chris Paul
1. Derrick Rose

Shooting Guards

Reasonably Satisfactory
15. Marcus Thornton
14. DeMar DeRozan
13. Jason Richardson

Above Average
12. Landry Fields
11. Nick Young
10. Ben Gordon
9. Chauncey Billups
8. Arron Afflalo

Very Good or Shows Plenty of Potential
7. Kevin Martin
6. Paul George
5. Ray Allen

All-Star Level
4. Joe Johnson
3. Monta Ellis

Best in the League Candidate
2. Kobe Bryant
1. Dwyane Wade

Small Forwards

Reasonably Satisfactory
12. Caron Butler
11. Gerald Wallace
10. Shawn Marion

Very Good or Shows Plenty of Potential
9. Danny Granger
8. Luol Deng
7. Andre Igudola
6. Danilo Gallinari
5. Rudy Gay

All-Star Level
4. Paul Pierce
3. Carmelo Anthony

Best in the League Candidate
2. Kevin Durant
1. LeBron James

Power Forwards

Reasonably Satisfactory
20. Kris Humphries
19. Antawn Jamison
18. David West

Above Average
17. Paul Millsap
16. David Lee
15. Serge Ibaka
14. Luis Schola

Very Good or Shows Plenty of Potential
13. Zach Randolph
12. Carlos Boozer
11. Tim Duncan
10. Kevin Garnett

All-Star Level
9. Andrea Bargnani
8. Josh Smith
7. Chris Bosh
6. Amare Stoudemire

Best in the League Candiate
5. Blake Griffin
4. LaMarcus Aldridge
3. Pau Gasol
2. Dirk Nowitzki
1. Kevin Love

Center

Reasonably Satisfactory
16. Emeka Okafor
15. Deandre Jordan
14. Spencer Hawes

Above Average
13. Joakim Noah
12. JaVale McGee
11. Marcin Gortat

Very Good or Shows Plenty of Potential
10. DeMarcus Cousins
9. Greg Monroe
8. Andrew Bogut
7. Anderson Varejao

All-Star Level
6. Tyson Chandler
5. Roy Hibbert
4. Al Jefferson
3. Marc Gasol
2. Andrew Bynum

Best in the League Candidate
1. Dwight Howard

Saturday, December 10, 2011

All You Need is Love 2011

Occasional bouts of murderous rage aside, I'm usually a pretty positive guy. And every year, during the holiday season, I like to call attention to certain bits of culture I have absolutely, 100%, unreservedly, want-to-take-it-behind-a-middle-school-and-get-it-pregant loved.


I've done this two years now and and have decided to keep the good times rolling. I know the format is a bit intimidating but peruse it at your leisure and let me know in the comment section if I should try something new next year. Thanks for reading, all, and enjoy the rest of your 2011!


"Breaking Bad"

"I am the one who knocks." - Walter White (Bryan Cranston)

I figured I should start with Breaking Bad so I could explain the "rules" of the column a little bit. Whenever possible I try to get specific with my picks. For instance, I like to highlight performances or directors when referencing TV shows or movies. But occasionally when something exhibits pure ownage like season four of "Breaking Bad," I just have to honor the show itself. Having said that: how good was "Breaking Bad" in 2011? You know the answer if you watch the show...and if you don't watch, then I hope you're enjoying your self-imposed cultural outcasting. One aspect that sticks out to me about "Breaking Bad" is its incredible and versatile pacing. For the past three years, "Breaking Bad" has taken three different but equally effective approaches to story-telling. Season 2 was bookended by poignant and horrifying black and white images and had a real sense of predetermination, to the point where its conclusion felt inevitable but unexpected. Season three was really improvisational and was essentially split into two halves, each of which defied expectations. And season four? Season four was just the slow burn. I imagine the experience of watching season four on DVD straight-through would be like having a noose around your neck tighten, tighten and tighten ever so slowly before turning into a giant coma and biting your face off. And speaking of face-off, here is a link to a spoilery YouTube video for you to enjoy.


Foster the People - "Pumped Up Kicks"

"Better run, better run, outrun my gun."

The best pop song about a violent school-shooting ever. You know something had to beat P.O.D.'s "Youth of the Nation" eventually.


"Moneyball"

"How can you not get romantic about baseball?"- Billy Beane (Brad Pitt)

"Moneyball" is one of my absolute favorite books but truly seemed unfilmable. The whole idea is to strip away the sentimentality of performances in favor of the cold hard truth of statistics. How can one translate that to an inherently sentimental and shiny medium like movies? Pretty easily, as it turns out. Brad Pitt is a wonderful Billy Beane and Jonah Hill makes the best of his fat nerd-ness one last time. Bennet Miller's movie taps into an interesting aspect of "Moneyball" that only exists in hindsight. It's possible to be the absolute best at what you do, make all the right decisions and still somehow never win. It weirdly reminds me of "Amadeus" in that regard. Good stuff.


Smodcast Network

"Have a week!"

I've written about the smart business model of Kevin Smith's podcast before, but it's time to make my unabashed love more explicit. Filmmaker Kevin Smith and his producer friend Scott Mosier created a weekly podcast back in 2007 where they talked about whatever popped into their heads (usually boners and/or Hitler) and it was captivating. I believe the podcast over any other medium captures the intimacy that all other media strives for. It's the equivalent of being involved in a conversation with close friends where you just happen to say nothing. The advent of the 24-hour podcast network has brought even more gems including Smith's ongoing conversations with his wife and shows like Hollywood Babble-On and Tell 'Em Steve-Dave.


FX Comedies

"I made a decent penny in boiled denims." - Hoss Bonaventure a.k.a Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day) on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

All I can say is thank God FX President John Landgraf greenlit "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" all those years ago. It's opened the floodgates for shows like "Archer" and "Louie." "Sunny" and "Archer" are an impressive 1-2 punch that make me laugh harder than any other hour on television. "Louie" is a very impressive Charlie Kaufmanesque dramedy that is accomplishing things the television medium has never seen. I know it's kind of a cheat to include them all under one entry but there is not much to say beyond "they make me laugh."


George R.R. Martin ("Game of Thrones," "A Dance with Dragons")

"What do we say to the God of Death? Not today." - Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou)

I didn't really want to watch Game of Thrones. I'm not really a fantasy person per sé. I enjoy The Lord of the Rings (definitely the movies, and the books to a slightly lesser extent). I played Warhammer for years. If you don't know what Warhammer is, Google at your own risk. But for whatever reason, the commercials and promotional materials were doing absolutely nothing for me. I even paid a visit to the HBO store last spring and was disgusted to find costumes and props from the show on display. "Ughh. Why couldn't it have been Boardwalk Empire or something cool?" If I could go back in time and choke myself to death for even entertaining that thought I would. I loved Game of Thrones. I loved Game of Thrones so much it was frightening. Every moment of the week that I was not watching Game of Thrones was a waste. Near the end of the season, I got my girlfriend to watch it and rewatched all the episodes with her. Then about a month ago, I watched all the episodes for the third time. Game of Thrones may not have been the best show of the year (though it was close) but it was certainly my favorite. Then I read the books over the summer. Holy shit. I blew through books one through four over the summer, then finished book five in the fall. Now that the dust of my obsession has settled (don't worry, I still check out several articles on A Wiki of Ice and Fire every day just to stay sharp) I can safely say that I may have never enjoyed any book/TV show/movie/album/play more in my life. I could expand upon the reasons why but I still have 14 other entries to get to. Just trust me. Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire is good.


Adele - "Someone Like You"

"Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead."

Oh Adele, you horrible, horrible bitch. You and this song exist just to make me cry. The SNL video below has it right: this song is just a bullet filled with sadness shot directly through your heart.


Micahel Fassbender and James McAvoy (Magneto and Professor X in "X-Men: First Class")

"We have it in us to be better men." Charles Xavier (James McAvoy)

"We already are." - Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbener)

Sometimes I think Great Britain has an inexhaustible supply of badasses. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart did an exemplary job in portraying Magneto and Professor X, respectively, in the original X-Men series. They did so well that one would imagine that when it came time for the inevitable prequel, director Matthew Vaughn would take a look around and realize "oh wait, I forgot that it's impossible to replace two Shakespearian-trained, multiple-award winning ballers." But nope, Britain is just able to fire up its fresh young actor pods (they look like the eggs in "Aliens") and spit out two immensely talented and handsome young chaps. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are not only perfect for their roles (Fassbender in particular looks creepily like McKellen) but have effortless and even exciting chemistry. All I can ever really ask for from a movie is to see one convincing relationship onscreen. X-Men: First Class gave me this with a heaping of not-so-subtle homoeroticism. Mission accomplished.


Fucked Up - "Queen of Hearts"

"Hello, my name is David. Your name is Veronica. Let's be together, let's fall in love."

Christ, this song is song. Well the entirety of Fucked Up's third album "David Comes to Life is excellent but...oh man, this song. This song to me sounds like the purest expression of love I can possibly imagine. Love isn't a hipster girl with an acoustic, love is an obese, bearded and shirtless Canadian man screaming desperate pleas into a microphone while walls and walls and walls of guitars crash all around him. A writer on A.V Club (I can't remember who it was so I'm linking to the whole website, which you should be reading every day anyway) said that even if "David Comes to Life" was just 59 straight minutes of the guitars running scales in the last minute of "Queen of Hearts," it would still be the best album of 2011. I'm inclined to agree.


Dead Island Trailer

Speaking of awesome songs. I'm torn between "Queen of Hearts" and the somber piano piece from this trailer as my favorite song of the year. Seriously. When I first it, I figured the marketing company behind the trailer just had someone record a long-known Mozart creation. As it turns out, it's just an original creation from a composer named Giles Lamb, who you know from: likely nothing. Somebody nab a profile with this guy quick because he is going to Giacchino the fuck out of all of us in 2012. Music aside, the rest of the trailer is fascinating and bold. Want to kill some zombies? Great! You just have to watch this family be killed by their undead daughter first. I never ended up playing Dead Island but heard it was a bit of a disappointment. That makes sense. I can't imagine clearing the bar the trailer sets.


Childish Gambino - "CAMP"

"Rap's stepfather: you hate me but you will respect."

For the majority of 2011, I wasn't really in a rap mood. I think I just started to fall out of love with the genre. The problem is that it just requires too much focus for me. Music is a background activity in my life. I'll listen to it in conjunction with something else. I'm actually listening to Fucked Up as I write this now. And rap demands your attention. You have to listen closely to the lyrics or your'e left in the dust. And the whole genre is so self-referential that if you don't hear a rap song for two months, all of a sudden you begin to sound like your grandfather. "Who is this Big Sean fellow that Nicki Minaj is grinding on and why won't he get off my damn lawn?" But in many ways Childish Gambino felt like a fresh start in 2011. Granted his nerdy style isn't anything groundbreaking but his rhymes were simple, accessible and just a lot of fun. I've listened to CAMP is already one of my most listened-to albums of the year and it's only been out for about a month. Nice work, Troy Barnes.


"Chopped"

"I'm sorry, but you've been chopped." - Ted Allen

Everybody's pop culture palette must include a handful of "main events" surrounded by a collection of background noise or "I'll watch it when it's on" fare. "Chopped" is the king of "when it's on" entertainment. If I'm flipping through channels and "Chopped" is on, I almost have no choice but to watch it. The format is consistent, the tension is strangely high and the food looks fantastic. Plus, my all-time favorite contestant made his triumphant return this year and won the competition after a devastating loss in the dessert round last year and...oh my God I sound ridiculous.


Damian Lewis and Claire Danes (Nicholas Brody and Carrie Mathison in "Homeland")

"I'm gonna be alone my whole life, aren't I?" Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes)

Saying that "Homeland" was the best new show of the season is a little like saying Heinrich Himmler was the nicest of the Nazis...it can kind of seem like a meaningless back-handed compliment. But I have a hard-time believing that "Homeland" would be anything but the best new show of the season in absolutely any season. It's rather similar to "Game of Thrones" in that it comes out of the gates confident and swinging, like its entering its fourth season and not its first. Part of this is probably because creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa are already familiar with both solid post 9/11 espionage thrillers (seasons one and five of "24") and awful post 9/11 espionage thrillers (every other season of "24"). But it's also because they found two of Hollywood's most under appreciated actors who absolutely deserved an hour-long drama to finally showcase their ability in Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. Claire Danes is always watchable in anything (she's a weirdly captivating Juliet in Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet") and Damian Lewis once redefined the concept of badassery as Major Winters in "Band of Brothers." They both inhabit their characters beautifully and maintain solid chemistry despite sharing shockingly little screen time.


"Drive" Soundtrack

"There's something inside you. It's hard to explain." - Kavinsky

I think 2011 proved definitely that a good movie can become a great movie merely through a soundtrack. I know Ryan Gosling is dreamy and all and "Drive" provides some violent flare but the movie was style over the substance...in the best way possible. And 95% of that style comes from the soundtrack (3% is the font choices and 2% Albert Brooks). The heavy synths and angelic choruses un-ironically celebrate the '80s and provide an intriguing discord to what's appearing onscreen. I heard "Drive" compared to "Pulp Fiction" more than once this year, and while I think that comparison is a little absurd ("Pulp Fiction" is one of the best five movies of the last 30 years. "Drive" might crack the top five of this year), they do share uniquely stylish soundtracks. I imagine any "Drive" parodies out there will be made 100-times easier by the immanently recognizable music.


"Misfits"

"A bunch of young offenders develop super powers and not one of us think to use them to commit crime? Shame on us." - Nathan Young (Robert Sheehan)

Great Britain gets "Misfits." The U.S. gets "Heroes." It's enough to make me want to time travel back to the late 1700s and halt the Revolution. Seriously though, American TV needs to get its shit together. The U.S. is still the king of western entertainment but if even cable channels are going to be slaves to censors (and let's be real: the FCC is the largest organization devoted chiefly to censorship on the planet) it's not going to stay on the throne for long. "Misfits" is more entertaining than 97% of all American shows because of its dogged support of the ugly. The characters are realistic and captivating because of their ugliness and shortcomings (they're not necessarily physically ugly, but they probably would have a hard time cracking an American network TV shows). The situations they are thrust in are as grungy and realistic as a show about superpowers can provide. It's a riotously funny show that also holds up to scrutiny, maybe not necessarily literary scrutiny but at least logical scrutiny. Hallucinogenic drugs cause opposite of their powers? That makes sense. The storm gave powers to a gorilla too? That makes sense.


"Justified"

"I had every intention of living a simple life." - Mags Bennet (Margo Martindale)

A lot of attention was given this TV season to the once-in-a-lifetime awesome showdown between Walter White and Gus Fring on "Breaking Bad." It was undoubtedly the coolest mano-a-mano on TV this year and maybe even the past several years. But unfortunately I think it made us forget just how awesome the matchup between Raylan Givens and Mags Bennett was on "Justified" this year. I didn't watch season 1 of "Justified." I actually only watched season two because I needed something to review for The Post (which is also the only reason I gave "Game of Thrones" a shot). Thank God, I happened to luck into a show that reached its full potential the moment I started to pay attention to it. Season two of "Justified" has a great sense of history and consequently a great sense of consequence. And Margo Martindale is a phenomenal enough actress to just step onscreen during episode one and immediately convince us that she is the latest and most dangerous soldier in a long series conflicts between between the Givens and the Bennetts. The right amount of violence hits hard on television...as does family drama. Season two of "Justifed" was the perfect recipe of each.


Nicki Minaj - "Super Bass"

"Don't you hear that heartbeat coming your way?"

I'm a sucker for songs that recast the human heart as a percussion instrument. Therefore, it's impossible for me not to get excited when Nicki asks about that old "boom da boom da boom boom bass." I'm not sure "Super Bass" is the best representation of Ms. Minaj's talents (count me among the crew that wished she would, you know, rap more on her first album) but it is an undeniably joyful pop song...which is all the radio really ever needs.


The Book of Mormon Soundtrack

"Hasa diga Ebowai."

Like pretty much everyone else, I was dying to see Trey Parker and Matt Stone's first Broadway foray but didn't have the money or luck to. Luckily there was a cheaper option: the soundtrack. "The Book of Mormon: soundtrack is quite cinematic and gives the listener about as clear a picture of the overall plot as possible. There is a real sense of direction throughout each song, to the point where there is almost no point in picking or choosing specific songs. Just listen to the whole thing and be told a story. And what an awesome story it is! "The Book of Mormon" is hysterical, catchy and surprisingly touching...or at least the soundtrack is. I get teary eyed every time the Africans sing the opposite of "Hasa diga Ebowai" (shame on you if you don't know what that means). Here's to hoping that I see the actual play next year so "The Book of Mormon" can have an encore on "All You Need is Love 2012."


Andy Serkis (as Caesar in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes")

"No."

Because everyone loves monkeys. And nobody likes to see actors onscreen.


Parks and Recreation

"Give me all the bacon and eggs you have." Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman)

I considered an NBC comedy section simliar to my FX comedy section but "The Office's" truly spectacular dive bomb into mediocrity made that impossible. So then I thought about pairing "Parks and Rec" with "Community" but even that didn't seem fair to how truly fantastic I believe season three of "Parks and Recreation" was. TV comedies are getting better at marrying heart with humor. I would even say that the American version of "The Office" and "South Park" were at the forefront of this. But "Parks and REc" now stands alone in its ability to put its viewers through the emotional ringer. The cast in the best on TV: comedy, drama or otherwise. Ron Swanson continues to be a once-in-a-generation gem of a character. The world of Pawnee continues to get larger and richer and "Parks and Rec" just gets better and better.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dead Island...No, the Other One


I'm going to do my best to keep this one short because my recent blog outputs have been unforgivably verbose. Plus, I need to maintain my busy schedule of sitting on my couch and staring at the wall.

Yep, it's winter intercession. I probably should be doing something productive with my time but a confluence of events that include both my Athens' jobs being unavailable and me not fully understanding the concept of an application deadline have left me stranded in the homeland, Twinsburg, Ohio. And oh has it been boring. But one of the bright spots came this past Sunday with the midseason finale of "The Walking Dead."

I really like "The Walking Dead." But I'm starting to feel like I might be the only person on the planet who still does . My TV critic go-tos, Alan Sepinwall and the A.V. Club have both been lukewarm toward season 2. Ken Tucker at EW and Andy Greenwald at Grantland have downright hated it. And the commenters on all four websites have me fearing for creator and exec-producer Robert Kirkman's safety.


A lot of what the critics say does have merit but I'm started to get a little frustrated with the moving critical target on this show.

Season one of "The Walking Dead" was for the most part, a mess. Over an abbreviated six episodes, a very large unruly cast of characters ran around Atlanta from location to location with shifting sets of motivations. I think the producers felt the pressure to make a good impression with only six episodes and overextended themselves, producing a sense of chaos instead of excitement. Critics pointed this out and rightfully so.

Season two slowed things down considerably with the characters settling on a farm that was largely untouched by the zombie apocalypse. The new setting solved the schizophrenic pacing problems of the first season and has given the characters some space to breathe and interact with each other.

This is where I depart from most critics of the show. Most of them say that yes, it's nice that things have slowed down but it has only revealed that the characters aren't worth following. Some have even opined for the more frenetic zombie-killing porn aspect of the first season. I cry bullshit and for two reasons.

1. Desensitization - The last thing this TV show needs is for its audience to become desensitized to the undead violence its peddling. By kill #3 in most zombie movies, the audience has already become acclimated to the violence and decapitating hundreds of
reanimated corpses becomes no different than euthanizing cattle. "The Walking Dead" has done a great job of keeping its audience (or maybe just me) viscerally frightened and repulsed a the sight of a decaying corpse stumbling around. And the "Walking Dead" has been around for 10+ hours already where most zombie movies are only two hours. Also, if season four of "Breaking Bad" taught us anything it's that a slow burn to an explosive conclusion can be immensely satisfying on cable. It would mean the death of the show for the producers to go "Fuck it, we're not that good at characterization...let's try our hand at zombie-killing porn." We'd all be desensitized within three weeks and the same critics who called for the show to embrace its bloodlust more would say that it had gone too far and now needs to be off the air. But what about their difficulties with characterization...

2. They're Archetypes, Stupid - We get spoiled with TV shows such as "The Sopranos" or "Breaking Bad" and their characters who are so realistically human that we often forget that 98% of all characters who have ever appeared on television are broadly drawn people with a few outsized, exaggerated traits. "The Walking Dead" doesn't have characters as rich as Walter White or Tony Soprano but there is no shame in that. What season two has revealed is that the show has wisely abandoned the ambition to live up to characters in all-time classic cable shows. Instead, it has aimed its sights slightly lower, at an all-time classic network show. "The Walking Dead" is striving to be "Lost."

The characters on "Lost" were not real human beings, they were archetypes. Jack was a generic man of science. Locke was the man of faith. Sawyer was the wild card. Ben was the creepy Machiavellian genius we've all known at some point or another. Occasionally, they would transcend their prescribed roles, but for the most part they represented concepts larger than themselves.

Let's look for a moment at the characters on "The Walking Dead" then. Rick and Shane clearly have a poor man's version of Jack and Locke going where Rick represents morality and Shane represents the sheer desire to survive. They're actually kind of analogous to Piggy and Jack from Lord of the Flies (another classic that "Lost" drew from) as well. Daryl is a Sawyerian wild card as well. Carl represents the old word and how it can potentially be corrupted by this new one. Carol is the capital "M" Mother (and a shitty one at that, mind you). Andrea is a Juliet or Kate-modeled "tough chick." Dale is Rose and Bernard or the wizened elder whose intellectualism is of little use in this new world of physicality. And Glenn? Well Glenn just rocks. Keep doing what you do, dude.

"Lost" was a critical darling from moment one, and while that enthusiasm waned in later years, the reasoning behind it was never "the characters aren't vividly crafted enough."

The more I think about it the more "The Walking Dead" and "Lost" are similar. TWD has replaced "Lost" as the show that people continue to bitch about but refuse to stop watching. They both feature archetypical characters reacting to supernatural events and they both feature a fair share of mysteries. The mysteries on "Lost" are well known and numerous but TWD is building up an impressive roster of them with Merle's disappearance, Jenner's words to Rick and oh year, WHY ARE THE DEAD WALKING THE EARTH?

Anywho, I've prattled on too long. Let me know how wrong or right I am in the comments section.

P.S. SPOILER ALERT. While my brother and I were watching the midseason finale of TWD, my mom was upstairs watching an episode of "The Next Iron Chef" on Food Network. She came down afterward.
Mom: "They chopped Chef Samuelson on 'The Next Iron Chef.'"
Me: "A little girl got shot in the face on 'The Walking Dead.'"
Mom: "Oh. I guess your news is worse."

P.P.S. I started reading the "Walking Dead" comic books recently and...oh man, I don't know if I could possibly hate them more. All I can say is that if there are any fanboys out there who say the show is ruining the book's richly drawn characters, they need to go to a hospital immediately and have the 4 lb. tumor of stupid removed from their brain.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gimme Some Rope, Tie Me to Dream


"Community" isn't my TV favorite comedy of all time. "Arrested Development" is unquestionably more brilliant. "Scrubs" cracked the "goofy-group-of-strangers-as-family" code far earlier and more effectively than "Community." Hell, I don't even think "Community" is the best comedy currently on television. "Parks and Recreation" probably has the crown. But even "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" has been more consistent. "Sunny's" FX mates, Archer and Louie would also ultimately finish ahead of "Community" in a top ten list for me (and that top ten is probably coming later this year, by the way).


But since you're observant reader, you notice that I'm not writing about any of those shows right now. I'm writing about "Community." Part of that is due to some unfortunate timing. NBC in its infinite wisdom, struck "Community" from its midseason schedule. The show will probably be able to finish out its excellent third season but its long-term prospects with the peacock don't look as sunny. So I felt compelled to write a little about network TV's strangest experiment beyond the obligatory #savecommunity and #sixseasonsandamovie hashtag. The other reason for this post, however, is just that it's overdue.


I got a little bored this finals week so instead of studying for finals I watched the most recent episode, "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux," three times. Every time I marvel at its absolute ridiculousness as Greendale College's becomes an ambiguously gay Francis Ford Coppola/Martin Sheen/Colonel Kurtz hybrid monster while directing a commercial for the school. I enjoyed it so much that I thought I would try to fit it into my own personal pantheon of great "Community" episodes. And as I researched past episodes, I realized just how many truly great episodes of TV "Community" has produced.


While "Community" would probably not ultimately crack a top ten list of my favorite TV comedies, if I were to make a list of my favorite comedic episodes ever I would have a hard time finding room for anything that WASN'T "Community." I don't what it is about Dan Harmon's creation that lends it to such brilliant individual episodes that transcend the possibilities of his show's own framework and the expectations of network television in general. The simple answer might be that "Community" swings for the fences in certain high-concept episodes like "Modern Warfare" and "Epidemiology." But my eventual top ten list doesn't feature those episodes. It actually features as many "normal" episodes as it does high-concept ones. So, no, I don't get why Community has been able to kick so much ass in certain episodes but I'm certainly not complaining. Here is my full list. Let me know what I got wrong in the comments section.


10. Physical Education

There is a moment at the end of this episode that encapsulates modern culture more than anything else I've ever seen. Jeff Winger is in love with billiards. But his old school phys-ed coach dismisses his skills because he is too enthralled with the style of the "sport," jeans, leather jackets and a Winger-ian grin. So the climax involves Winger challengers his teacher to a game while wearing the customary gym shorts and t-shirt. But the coach still thinks that Winger is still somehow creating some sort of ironic fashion statement so the two men strip down to nothing and battle like B.C. Greco-Roman wrestlers. The scene of two naked men playing billiards says more about style vs. substance (a.k.a. the chief bugaboo of hipster culture) than anything I've ever seen.



9. Cooperative Caligraphy

This is the bottle episode that a character (Abed, who else) openly acknowledges that it's a bottle episode. Every group needs an Abed who fully understands that reality is just a farce and is only meaningful when every aspect of your existence can be repackaged into several seasons of 18-24 episodes each. Also: Annie's Boobs.


8. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

This is kind of the antithesis to the Christmas episode where the group remains in a room and we get to see where their imaginations go. In this episode, the group remains in the room and we don't follow their imaginative paths of claymation whimsy. But somehow the stakes are incredibly higher. Actually, that's the part that I like about this episode. The writers establish from the first scene that the stakes are nothing short of the death of a peripheral character. And somehow it's not absurd in the slightest. It's the world most intense game of D&D ever where the group playing actually doesn't really care about D&D. It's also a testament to the sheer power of dialog.


7. Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design

I have no deep philosophical interpretation of this episode. Because blanket fort.


6. For a Few Paintballs More

You know what really bugs me? When "The Incredibles" is classified as a comedy. Look, I know it's a cartoon and I know it's pretty funny but "The Incredibles" is nothing short of the best action film of the past decade. I feel the same way about all the "Community" paintball episodes, especially "For a Few Paintballs More." Of course, there are a lot of ridiculous elements in "For a Few Paintballs Mores." chief among them the fact that there is a school-wide paintball war. But that doesn't change the fact that it is just straight badass. Abed-as-Han-Solo making out with Annie as orange paint rains down upon them is a stunningly beautiful shot. And the final story of Pierce's redemption of Greendale's triumph is actually quite thrilling. It would have made an excellent series finale but it also wouldn't have brought us episodes like...


5. Documentary Filmmaking: Redux

So this is where this episode ends up in the pantheon. Everything about this one is just genius. Annie's stockholm syndrome. Jeff "becoming" a bald man, Greendale's most famous alum, Luis Guzman, coming home. But it would amount to nothing without Jim Rash's weirdly incredibly layered performance as Dean Pelton. Every time I've watched this I've started laughing once he turns up with a gravelly voice and hoodie and no shirt, and don't stop laughing until the final frame of the episode.


4. Contemporary American Poultry

This is the moment I knew "Community" was a show for me. Only a show as warped as this one could pull off such a flawless parody of a 21-year-old mob movie and American classic this effectively. Given the option of watching this episode or "Goodfellas," I would almost always watch this episode. It all wouldn't matter, however, without that final tender scene with Jeff and Abed. The U.S Autism and Aspberger Association really needs to send Dan Harmon some kind of award.


3. Remedial Chaos Theory

This is the crown-jewel of season three so far. Wired's recent (and excellent) profile of Dan Harmon reveals just how much effort and thought he and the writing staff put into each episode. Harmon even creates little circles for each character's arc for every episode. Per Wired:

Harmon calls his circles embryos—they contain all the elements needed for a satisfying story—and he uses them to map out nearly every turn on Community, from throwaway gags to entire seasons. If a plot doesn’t follow these steps, the embryo is invalid, and he starts over. To this day, Harmon still studies each film and TV show he watches, searching for his algorithm underneath, checking to see if the theory is airtight. “I can’t not see that circle,” he says. “It’s tattooed on my brain.”

That must mean that for this episode, Harmon created 49 circles for seven characters in seven timelines. That kind of effort for a half-hour network sitcom that only 3.5 million people regularly watch is astounding. Of course, it would mean nothing if the effort sucked. Each timeline brilliantly and usually quite accurately shows the results of what happens when a particular member of a group is absent, even if for only two minutes. That the story reaches a satisfying and total conclusion with seven different stories set in different universes is astonishing. Also, it's just damn funny.


2. Mixology Certification

"You were talking about the same bar?!?!?!" See: "Physical Education", "commenting on hipster culture."


1. Critical Film Studies

"Conversation was invented by humans to conceal reality. We use it to sweet talk away around natural selection."

When I saw NBC advertising for the "Pulp Fiction" episode of "Community," I was positive that it would be my favorite episode ever. It ended up being my favorite episode ever but it had almost nothing to do with "Pulp Fiction," and it's all because of several scenes of dialog that contain no score and almost no jokes. Abed convinces Jeff that he got to be an extra on the set of his favorite show "Cougar Town." While filming he developed an alter-ego named Chet and immediately constructed an entire life story for Chet. But once filming is done, Abed's reality is thrown into crisis. How can Chet still be if filming stops...and conversely, how could Abed ever be is all Abed cares about is television and all television shows one day stop filming. So Abed becomes Chet. Chet and Jeff have a conversation in which Jeff gets into some deep shit. Jeff feels like he has gotten a huge emotional weight off of his chest but of course it turns out that Abed was only "doing" another movie, this time a scene form "My Dinner with Andre." Jeff feels betrayed and viciously attacks Abed for his inability to connect with another human being without the context of pop culture. I watch this scene all the time now because I very much identify with Abed. And now that we live in a time where we can watch pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want, I think more and more people are beginning to identify with Abed. So is that time that we spend in front of the television or computer screen real? Can it be a shared experience for communities to interact with, or is it just indulging meaningless fantasies that are only robbing us of our time here on earth? And if we have a meaningful experience with someone else with pop culture as the basis, does it demean or degrade it? These are some of the most fascinating questions we can ask ourselves in this era of media saturation and I will always pinpoint those two quiet scenes with two characters at a restaurant as the moment that society finally asked those questions in the most eloquent, entertaining and ultimately most meta way possible.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

May the Black Turtleneck Retire to the Rafters of Our Apple-Shaped Hearts

Image via Jonathan Mark

I just wrote 500 words on the death of Steve Jobs. Then I deleted them.

God, they sucked, they just sucked. I don't know where I wanted to take it. I suppose it was a eulogy of sorts. But I didn't know Steve Jobs. Me writing a eulogy for Steve Jobs would be about as illustrative as Steve Jobs writing a eulogy for me.

"Well, his name was Alec Bojalad. Those are some two pretty weird names. I bet people mispronounced them all the time. I'm sure Alec was quite disappointed on those occasions...and ummm...hmm, what else? There is a lot of seemingly homophobic content on his Facebook page. I think he's just joking with his friends but you never know. It's just as likely that he was actually gay I suppose and just had to overcompensate for his feelings with offensive jokes and comments. So...in conclusion: let's all honor Alec Bojalad, a gay youth with a funny name!"

- Steve Jobs writing for The Wall Street Journal

So instead of a eulogy, let's take this opportunity to talk about death, itself.

Wait...where are you all going?

There is a surefire way to tell exactly how important and influential someone is after they die. Measure how long it takes on your social networks and the comment sections you frequent for what I like to call the "what about Africa?" comments to start rolling in. The "what about Africa" comments are pretty much what they sound like. Example (that I made up but you will still probably encounter verbatim sooner or later):

I am getting reall sik (sic) of everybody talking about this (INSERT CELEBRITY/PUBLIC FIGURE HERE) dood. ITS JUST 1 PERSON!!! Dont u kno that there are people dieing in Africa?

At some point this sentiment will constitute 35% of all online interactions regarding Steve Jobs' death. We will measure just how valued Steve Jobs was to planet Earth based on how long it takes to get to that 35%. In Jobs' case, I imagine it's going to be quite a while.

I feel confident in this assessment, but I am still trying to reconcile how I feel about the "what about Africa?" crowd. I have always reacted to celebrity deaths. I don't want to say reacted "strongly" because I don't really react strongly to anything (seriously, ask my poor girlfriend). But the deaths of pretty, successful famous strangers have always stuck in my mind much longer and more prominently than the deaths of millions upon millions of non-famous anonymous individuals.

I am not entirely sure why this is the case. The best I can figure is that it's because I am so plugged into pop culture and become so attached to the characters and personas they portray. And any good artist should be able to become a mirror for his or her audience. In the case of non-actors or artists, it can be sobering to have one significant case of a talented and capable individual still succumbing to the inevitable. So essentially when I see that Heath Ledger died I think "William in A Knight's Tale was just like me and now he's dead. Oh God, I'm next." And when I see that Steve Jobs died I think "He was way, way, way, way better and more important than I'll ever be and he still died. Christ, there's no escaping it, is there?"

It is a quite narcissistic worldview and I do feel some measure of guilt when I come up against the "what about Africa?" folks. I don't know what the demographic of this group is but I would guess that they've spent a lot less time watching TV than I have. I also suspect, however, that they are not that different from me.

Everyone fears their own demise (except for Jedi, of course, Jedi fear nothing). And everyone obsesses over this fear first and foremost through the deaths of others. We all obsess and despair over the deaths of others we know...but after that we split into those two camps: those who first and foremost mourn the loss of the well known people they've never met and those who mourn the loss of little known people they've never met.

So when the "what about Africa?" folks feel that enough time has passed to start drawing people's attention away from Steve Jobs to the rest of the suffering world, let them, "celebrity death" folks. And be patient with the "celebrity death" people for now, "what about Africa?" homies - they are just trying to come to grips with their own eventual demise...just like you will be soon enough. There is no sense in fighting each other over what amounts to the only common fear you both share.

After all, a wise man once said that "remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose."

Who was that? Oh, right.


One last note.

You've probably seen this image by now.

In my opinion, it is one of the lulziest moments in the history of the internet but it also represents the moment where we finally just have to break up with the Westboro Baptist Church. I know we've all had fun being outraged by these people but this might be their biggest stretch yet. At this point they're going to picket Fred Phelps funeral after he dies (that has to be coming up soon, right?)

So can we all agree to just ignore them? Finally? Please? Pretty pretty please? And ignore is not even a strong enough word. Megan Phelps and company would probably enjoy being ignored. What we all need to do is agree, as a global society that they just don't exist.

Nobody talk to the Phelps, nobody talk about the Phelps. They do not register in our visual or auditory spectrums anymore. Even if they exist, in theory, it is only some sort of alternate dimension that no known human sense has access to.

If they are at your own mother's funeral, three inches in your face - screaming about the status of her soul- you do not hear that. If the spit from their mouths fly into your eyes, do not wipe them out, even if it stings. There is no spit in your eye because the Westboro Baptist Church doesn't exist.

If you are at a food court in a Kansas mall and Fred Phelps, himself, stands over you and rests his penis on your shoulder, do not call the cops. Do not react. Do not do anything but continue to eat your high-sodium food. Fred Phelps doesn't exist.

The media will not cover the Westboro Baptist Church, the federal government will shred their birth certificates. The Westboro Baptist Church will not exist. And then...maybe then we can have a god damn funeral in peace.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Too Late, Too Early, Right on Time

I think I speak for all of us when I say that critics completely represent my views in their totality regarding every movie, TV show, album, song or book I've ever seen.

Now that I can hear all of your collective Vader-like screams of "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" I've realized that I may be in the minority on this. Oh well.


Anywho, I am one of eleven people on the planet who still values critical consensus as a legitimate measure of something's quality (along with box office gross and number of fart jokes), so I spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing what goes into creating that consensus. And here is my controversial finding: there is always a consensus.

The internet has time and time again that all critics not named "Armond White" have generally the same opinions and thoughts regarding what they're reviewing. Now that your "NOOO!" scream has died out, I can hear your exasperated sigh: "Come on now, Alec, that can't be true. I just googled 'Rotten Tomatoes 50% scores' and see that Tron Legacy split critical opinion almost exactly with 110 critics recommending the film and 111 critics not."

It is true that some films, TV shows and albums receive mixed reviews, but if you just glance over to the right of Tron Legacy you will see that under "critical consensus" the Rotten Tomatoes editors have written:

Tron Legacy boasts dazzling visuals, but its human characters and story get lost amidst its state-of-the-art production design.

That is what the critics have (correctly) declared Tron Legacy to be. They have come to the consensus over exactly what kind of film Tron Legacy is....and half of them think that that makes it a film worthy of your time and money, while the other half would probably have you seek out more sophisticated fare.

There will never be a day when every critic in the country comes to a wildly different conclusion over a piece of art. Owen Glieberman at EW is not going to interpret Tron Legacy as an allegory of the working class's uprisings in 1930's Ukraine while Roger Ebert sees it as a shot for shot remake of Freddy Got Fingered. There will almost always be a general consensus.

Now what I want to know is how often these consensuses are correct....and by "correct," I mean "in line with what I think." I believe, for the most part, they are but, in the case of serialized entertainment (TV shows with multiple seasons and to a lesser extent albums from pop artists) not always at the right time.

Let me explain. Critics will come to consensus regarding something's quality but not at the exact right moment that they are trying to pinpoint. This means declaring that a show is the best show on TV during season three...when it really earned that title in season two. Or it means calling a band's first album a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, only to have that band top it handily on their second attempt.

So I've compiled a little list of TV shows and musicians who critics have been too late, too early or right on time in their collective opinions of. I am not tackling movies, yet because unless they are part of a series critical consensus is reached once and rarely changes over time.

MUSIC


Too Late: Fucked Up
Album #2 - The Chemistry of Common Life, Meta Critic Score - 85
Album #3 - David Comes to Life, Meta Critic Score - 86

Why critics were too late: I'm actually listening to David Comes to Life as I write this and it was my inspiration for writing this post. I love David Comes to Life and I think it will end up being my favorite album of 2011 (at least until I hear this shit). But I must admit to being a little taken aback by the critical response. In my opinion, music critics are correct in asserting that David Comes to Life is Fucked Up's best album, but I think they are exaggerating the band's supposed transformation into an indie force to be reckoned with. David Comes to Life isn't Fucked Up's big coming out party because 2008's The Chemistry of Common Life already was.

Too Early: Arcade Fire
Album #1 - Funeral, Meta Critic Score - 90
Album #2 - Neon Bible, Meta Critic Score - 87

Why critics were too early: Oh boy. Let's tread carefully here because if I don't say what I'm about to say as delicately as possible, I may be cast out of pop culture journalism forever. Funeral is a great album but Neon Bible is better...and so is The Suburbs. When something so fresh and exciting bursts onto the scene I know it can be hard to temper one's enthusiasm. Funeral is an undeniably wonderful and even whimsical introduction to one of humankind's great bands. But it sounds just like that: an introduction. It doesn't sound as sharp as I think Win Butler and Co.wanted them to be. Neon Bible and The Suburbs feel more like the official Arcade Fire business cards that all 9,238 of their members would be happy to hand out at some social engagement. If Neon Bible, Funeral and The Suburbs all came out at the same time, what would critics say was the best? The correct answer is anything but Funeral. But music critics had already exhausted every superlative in their thesaurus by the time Neon Bible came out that it just felt redundant to call it genius again.

Right on Time: Kanye West
Albums #1-4 - Average Meta Critic Score - 82
Album #5 - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Average Meta Critic Score - 94

Why critics were right on time: Here is kind of the opposite example of Arcade Fire. Critics could have called any Kanye album leading up to Fantasy his seminal work and a touchstone of modern hip hop. And indeed many of them did, but one gets the sense that most critics were holding out for that one last bit to click in place, the place where Kanye's ego, talent and current emotional status all combine into one molotov cocktail of pure amazing. When that moment came along in the guise of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, critics finally let loose their unadulterated enthusiasm for both the album and Kanye's decade of sustained excellence.

TELEVISION


Too Late: Breaking Bad
Season 2 Meta Critic Score: 85
Season 3 Meta Critic Score: 89

Why critics were too late: As things stand right now, Breaking Bad is the best show on TV (or at the very least the best drama on TV). And to television critic's credit, the general consensus recognizes this. Unfortunately, it took the critical mass one season too long to come to this conclusion. Even Alan Sepinwall, who is the finest television critic in the history of the medium argues that season three is where Breaking Bad is inducted into the TV pantheon. But Breaking Bad didn't make the jump in season two, as the current critical narrative suggest, but rather in season two. The two seasons are at least on equal footing but in my mind, season two even surpasses its more popular follow-up. Season three is a testament to creator Vince Gilligan's improvisational skill, moving along at a natural and exciting pace like a excellent jazz composition that just happened to be punctuated with several murders. But season two is a more complete and consistent vision in which every possible moment connects to every other moment in impossibly complex and emotionally devastating ways. I guess what I'm saying is that you should watch Breaking Bad.

Too Early: Lost
Season 4 Meta Critic Score: 87
Season 5 Meta Critic Score: 78

Why critics were too early: I wish Meta Critic had scores for Lost season 1 because I'm certain they would be in the 90s. I know it might be hard to remember now but Lost was one of the "buzziest" shows of all time. Critics were so intoxicated with the shows zeitgeist potential that they were tripping over themselves to declare it one of network's TV's finest triumphs. Then in subsequent seasons (particularly following season 3) Lost actually became network TV's finest triumphs, to which the critics responded "y r yooo foggots stil watching that gay show?!!?!>!!1" Ok, maybe that response isn't just from the critics but that is what many of them were articulating, only with better grammar. See, the early response to Lost wasn't just over what J.J Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Co. were producing onscreen but also for the potential of what might be onscreen later on in the show's run. Now I would argue that once Lost had an end date set, the show's quality skyrocketed as the writers could move from "potential" to "substance." And that substance included three seasons of pure sci-fi genius. Unfortunately, the fact that there was any sort of substance or resolution began to drag down Lost's critical consensus because they preferred the resolutions in their minds to the resolutions that Lost had finally committed to film. Season 5 of Lost is one of the 10 best TV seasons of the past 10 years...and it also has the lowest Meta Critic ranking of anything on this page.

Right on Time: Justified
Season 1 Meta Critic Score: 81
Season 2 Meta Critic Score: 91

Why critics were right on time: I'll make a confession here: I've not watched season 1 of Justified all the way through. It's definitely a good season of TV but when I sat down to watch it my dance card was already full of shows demanding my attention and Justified was only politely asking my attention, not grabbing my eyeballs and stapling them to my laptop. Then I sat down to review season two for the Post. Consider my eyes stapled from that moment on. The jump in quality from season one to season two of Justifed is the first time I can remember reading about the concept of the "jump" in critical essays. And they were completely, ahem, Justified.

So now I turn it over to you, friends and countrymen. What shows, music artists and maybe even film directors did critical consensus get right too late, too early or right on time?