People often talk about movies or TV shows being “critic proof”—they can succeed despite bad reviews. But whether or not critics have much bottom-line impact, they’re part of a more important conversation: What does it mean that we like what we like? (Alyssa Rosenberg hosts.)
Spoiler alert! On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Sean dive deep into the infamous “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones. How did the climactic scene compare to the book? Has the show done a disservice to the character of Catelyn? They discuss how GoT portrays spectacle and extreme violence on a limited budget, compare Walder Frey and Craster, and analyze the series’ portrayal of the evils of war. Turning to Sunday night’s other prestige drama, they wonder whether Mad Men is stuck in a rut and guess where the show will go next.
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Noreen compare New Girl creator Liz Meriwether with Girls creator Lena Dunham, especially in terms of their presentation of sex on TV. Alyssa describes how New Girl has grown on her despite her apprehensions about star Zooey Deschanel. She also discusses Mindy Kaling’s show The Mindy Project. Why are the breakout characters on the new crop of female-centric comedies mostly male? Is charm on the decline among men? Is the “unromantic comedy” on the rise? Are traditional romantic comedies bad for women? Turning back to New Girl, they suggest that romcoms could succeed by becoming more realistic about love and life.
On Critic Proof, Alyssa talks to Marc about his article on the possible end of blogging. They compare their respective experiences with the medium, focusing on the unique relationship blogging creates with readers. Is blogging a sustainable profession, or does it inevitably produce burnout? And is it especially hazardous for women? Turning to the NBA, they discuss Jason Collins’s decision to come out of the closet. Why has it taken so long for professional sports to catch up to the rest of the culture?
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Scott start by discussing the season premiere of Game of Thrones. Is the show just too complicated for the average viewer to follow? Alyssa thinks the show has responded intelligently to criticism of its frequent female nudity. Is it possible to imagine a happy ending to George R. R. Martin’s bleak fantasy landscape? Next, Alyssa explains why Mad Men is trying her patience. Has the show been about feminism all along? And what should we hope to see in the new season? [Spoilers throughout.]
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Nick dissect South by Southwest. Nick describes how the experience of SXSW is that of constantly being sold to. Alyssa notes that even in the “interactive” world of tech, being face to face matters. What are the politics of the conference? Does anyone still care about not selling out? Alyssa wonders whether people who are excited to be cultural consumers also want to be customers. Plus: The best places to eat in Austin.
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Emily compare two TV shows about Washington, House of Cards and Scandal. They explain how they came around to Scandal. They discuss the show’s sex scenes and handling of race, which seem edgy by network television standards, and ponder whether it will go off the rails. Turning to House of Cards, Alyssa explains why she’s been underwhelmed by the much-hyped Netflix drama. Does either show capture DC journalism accurately? And why is it so hard to write a compelling show about politics? (Spoilers throughout.)
On Critic Proof, Alyssa talks to Michael about race on television. Michael discovers that HBO’s Girls isn’t just for girls, and Alyssa argues that Lena Dunham’s not racist, but her show’s first season had a race problem. Alyssa argues that better racial portrayals would lead to TV that is more interesting, and Michael is skeptical that writers should worry about their audience’s self-esteem. Is shallow criticism trivializing the charge of racism? In closing, Michael and Alyssa applaud Donald Glover’s appearance on Girls as a black Republican.
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Swin start off with the new TV season: Alyssa explains why she’s fascinated by The Americans, starring Keri Russell as a KGB spy, and why Ray Donovan isn’t actually about what Showtime wants you to think it’s about. Swin makes the case against 1600 Penn. Is there a backlash brewing against graphic on-screen violence? Turning to the Oscar race, Swin thinks Killer Joe was woefully overlooked, and they debate the controversy over the depiction of torture in Zero Dark Thirty. Laying Best Picture odds, Swin explains why he hated Lincoln. They close with predictions for the acting categories.
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Maureen discuss the shocking season finale of Sons of Anarchy. Alyssa praises the show’s female characters, but Maureen raises some concerns. Maureen suggests that TV shows need to maintain a certain level of credibility, citing Homeland as another example of a show that tries her patience. Alyssa bemoans how exhausting and unnecessarily complex TV dramas are becoming, which leads to a discussion of how procedurals could be reinvigorated. Finally, they explore how the British model of shorter seasons allows for more flexible storytelling.
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Kevin Fallon talk about TV and movies. They begin by reviewing Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, and noting how the villain Silva (played by Javier Bardem) uses his sexuality against Bond. Alyssa and Kevin disagree on whether The Avengers is art, but agree that action movies are getting better. Looking ahead to the Oscars, they predict that many of their favorite movies, like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Red Hook Summer, will go unmentioned. They close by anticipating the death of drama on network television, and urging everyone to watch Nashville on ABC. (Contains spoilers)
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Jamelle discuss the news that Disney is buying Lucasfilm and planning new Star Wars films. Will they respect the canon established by the Expanded Universe novels? They both hope to see women and minorities have more prominent roles in the series. Alyssa thinks the new films could reflect current events, while Jamelle says the focus needs to be on storytelling. Would Star Wars work better as a TV show? They regret how the prequels condescended to children and recall how they enjoyed the original films as kids. Who should direct the new movies? Finally, Alyssa hopes Disney will respect the franchise’s continuity, and Jamelle hopes for a rerelease of the pre-Special Edition original trilogy.
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Adam take on the factual implausibilities and emotional strengths of Showtime’s Homeland, the cheesy pleasures of ABC’s military drama Last Resort, and Scandal main character Olivia Pope, a groundbreaking black female lead on television. Are these shows doing something fundamentally new with characters of color?