“Trophy Wife”: One-Season Wonder

Trophy Wife

Saddled with the unreasonable task of attracting an audience in a toxic timeslot (Tuesdays at 9:30pm) with little promotion, ABC’s Trophy Wife was doomed to fail from a commercial standpoint. As of two weeks ago, it did – the network announced that it had cancelled the show after its first season of 22 episodes.

From a creative standpoint, the show seemed doomed to fail based on title alone. The idea that in 2014, a physically fit young woman who marries an older man could be described with a phrase as derogatory as “trophy wife” gave no one optimism that Trophy Wife would be a show worth championing. Yet the show quickly established that the title is an ironic commentary on the assumptions that people would make about Malin Akerman’s title character based on her appearance. Irony doesn’t always translate well into casual conversation, and indeed, when I tell people I like a show called Trophy Wife, I frequently get looks that would be more appropriate if I had just said that I willingly stepped in dog waste.

But enough about the title. Let’s talk about the show. It was a good one, and I’m going to miss it. I can imagine an alternate reality in which this show became a timeslot complement to ABC’s relatively highly-rated Modern Family and survived for four or five seasons of gleeful hijinks before retreating to a lifetime of syndication on cable. That would have been a far more appropriate fate for a show that married traditional sitcom standards with a modern perspective on family life as well as Modern Family at its very best. Not everything worked – some of Kate’s ongoing struggles to prove that she’s a worthy parent grew repetitive, Jackie’s antics often strained credulity, and Natalie Morales’ Meg usually seemed like an enjoyable character who belonged on a different show. But when it worked, and it frequently did, Trophy Wife showed far more promise than any other new comedy on the networks this season, save Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Enlisted.

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Damon Lindelof and the Mysteries of Television Mystery

Lindelof

I just read an excellent New York Times Magazine profile of Damon Lindelof, and I have a few thoughts about it.

1. The profile describes Lindelof’s tumultuous experience with the fans of Lost, the show he co-created and ran for all of its much-scrutinized run. For years, Lindelof endured outraged cries from devoted fans of the show who felt that the series finale failed to wrap up the mysteries the show had allegedly set out to solve. The feedback turned so sour that Lindelof deleted his Twitter account with a flourish on October 14th, 2013, explaining later that the resurgence of negativity that followed the polarizing Breaking Bad series finale left him feeling psychologically battered.

I never watched Lost to solve the mysteries. I was certainly interested in finding answers, and I enjoyed delving into Jeff Jensen’s exhaustive analyses for Entertainment Weekly, but when it came time to watch the finale, I was far more invested in where the characters would find themselves at the end of the episode, and how the journeys we’d watched unfold for six years would conclude. I realize I’m in the minority, and that the frustrating banality of the Smoke Monster, the Whispers and the Magic Cork left people frustrated to the point of dismissing the entire show. I think that’s an unfair response, given that the show always cared about people as much as it did smoke and mirrors. I was glad I’d spent six years with Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Hurley, Ben, Juliet and the dozens of other characters who popped in and out. It’s not wrong to want more from a show famous for its mysteries, but it’s also not right to condemn the creator for having other ideas about how he wanted his show to end. There’s no use crucifying Lindelof for “wasting our time.” That we were invested in the first place means that he was doing his job right for quite a while, and that counts for something.

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The M&M Report, Episode 32: When Hollywood Meets Reality

Bert Cooper

Listen to this week’s episode here.

This week on The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I discuss the recent controversy involving Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday’s assertion that Hollywood movies contribute to the culture that allowed an incident like last Friday’s shooting at UCSB to take place. We talked about Seth Rogen’s unfortunate response to the piece and debated whether Hornaday’s arguments of causation were valid and productive.

After that, we reviewed Jon Favreau’s food dramedy Chef, which made us very hungry indeed.

Finally, we took a look back at the first part of the final season of AMC’s Mad Men. We couldn’t come to a consensus on the musical number in the season finale, but we liked the rest of it quite a bit.

Come back soon for our thoughts on Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, summer movies and much more. Thanks for listening!

Click through for the time breakdown.

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“Happy” Trails: Can’t Bring Me Down

Happy

It might seem crazy, what I’m ’bout to say: you might be hearing Pharrell’s “Happy” for a long time to come.

After ten weeks at number one, the buoyant “Despicable Me 2” theme song bowed out of the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 to make room for John Legend’s “All of Me” on May 10th. Nonetheless, the song crossed over from “big hit” to “phenomenon” right around the beginning of March, when Pharrell performed the track on the Oscars, rousing the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Meryl Streep from their seats and charming a global audience with the song’s infectious energy. It’s only grown in ubiquity since – tribute videos, a charming cover by Majesty Rose on American Idol, even the source of some teary-eyed musing on Oprah. (The song even played a role in an overseas issue of free speech, as a group of Iranian youths were arrested for posting a video of themselves dancing to the song last week.)

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“Mad Men”: Give Elisabeth Moss an Emmy Already!

Mad Men

Mad Men has never won an award for Lead or Supporting Actor or Actress at the Primetime Emmy Awards. That one of the greatest television programs in recent and not-so-recent memory might leave the air without ever receiving industry recognition for the brilliance of its sterling cast is nothing short of a pop-culture injustice.

Much of the discussion of the acting on Mad Men stops and ends with Jon Hamm, for understandable and honorable reasons. Hamm is a force to be reckoned with, conveying dozens of emotions with a single facial gesture and portraying states of embattled loneliness and embittered aggression with equal force. His Carousel and Hershey speeches (in the pilot and the sixth season finale, respectively) rank among the most memorable, poignant, layered dramatic moments in the show’s seven-season run. There’s also the not-insignificant matter of Hamm’s dazzling good looks, which enhance the irony of Don Draper’s interior turmoil hiding behind the facade of a confident heartthrob.

But Hamm is just one piece of a much larger ensemble.

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“Saturday Night Live” Season 39: The Night Shift

Kendrick

Another season of Saturday Night Live concluded on May 17 with a returning sketch in which Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong play retired porn stars advertising a luxury item for a quick buck. The sketch played, in some ways, as a microcosm of season 39. It was intermittently hilarious with an arguably unnecessary cameo appearance and a sense that these characters came back out of obligation rather than inspiration. It was SNL in a nutshell.

It’s not criticism to point out that Saturday Night Live is an inconsistent show. Some episodes are better than others, but few are uniformly perfect. Some sketches work, others don’t. Some cast members jell immediately, others take time, and still others never find their corner. Some recurring bits remain funny with repetition, others fall flat as they grow older. The appeal of Saturday Night Live is in the pursuit, not the attainment, of perfection. I watch each episode looking for the moments that I’ll remember in five to ten years, even while I’m fully aware that I’ll forget most of the show within a few weeks.

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“X-Men: Days of Future Past”: Back to the Future

Days of Future Past

Midway through X-Men: Days of Future Past, the seventh in a seemingly inexhaustible series of movies derived from Stan Lee’s X-Men comics, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Professor X (James McAvoy) are under threat from a group of men with guns in a high-security prison facility embedded deep below the Pentagon. They’re flanked by Quicksilver (Evan Peters), an upstart blessed with the power of unparalleled expedience. When it becomes clear that Magneto’s metal-bending and Professor X’s mind-melting won’t be enough to stop the suits from gunning them down, Quicksilver rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.

The result is the movie’s most wonderful sequence, a dazzling and witty exploration of a superhero’s power rendered with panache and style by director Bryan Singer. Time slows down so that the only thing moving at normal human speed is Quicksilver, who trots around the room rearranging the floating objects. With a flourish, he positions the bullets away from Magneto and Professor X, balls a man’s outstretched hand into a fist and even takes a moment to taste-test some soup. When Quicksilver is done, the scene snaps like a rubber band back into place, and the action resumes.

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