Alyssa Rosenberg hosts conversations on movies, TV shows and other pop culture phenomena.
On a spoiler-filled episode of Critic Proof, Alyssa and Sean voice their disappointment with the series finale of Breaking Bad. Alyssa suggests that the finale is an example of why television is seen more as entertainment than great art. What was the point of introducing neo-Nazis into the story? Alyssa and Sean praise the show’s visual ambitions, which are more reminiscent of comic books than other prestige TV dramas, but they mock the finale’s use of Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” to spell out exactly what Walter White is thinking. Finally, Sean considers whether the show’s critics have gotten too moralistic.
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Scott dissect the shocking Breaking Bad episode “Ozymandias” (contains spoilers). Why are some viewers still rooting for Walter White? They compare Skyler with Carmella Soprano, and Breaking Bad and The Sopranos more generally. What will the show’s ending say about Breaking Bad‘s moral universe? Moving on to the new TV season, Alyssa and Scott eviscerate Dads but are optimistic about Brooklyn Nine-Nine. They discuss whether Masters of Sex represents an evolution of the prestige drama, and close by offering some recommendations for other new shows to watch.
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Emily talk about why Sex and the City deserves to be considered part of the golden age of television. Is Carrie Bradshaw an antihero like Tony Soprano? Was the show glamorizing the wealthy Manhattan lifestyle, or satirizing it? Why has mocking SATC fans become a trope on HBO’s The Newsroom and Girls? Did the show have to end with true love prevailing? Alyssa argues that the show is more generous to its male characters than many prestige dramas are to their female characters. Emily talks about how the show grew on her and encourages skeptics to give it a chance.
On Critic Proof, Alyssa asks Marc about his recent article on the looming “Daddy Wars.” Why aren’t men having the same conversation as women about having it all? They explore how sitcoms portray fatherhood, and focus in particular on the tragedy of 30 Rock‘s Jack Donaghy. In the wake of James Gandolfini’s recent death, they discuss the complex depiction of fatherhood on The Sopranos. Finally, they consider Don Draper’s parenting skills in the just-concluded sixth season of Mad Men. (contains spoilers)
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Sonny talk Man of Steel (includes spoilers) and offer an intellectual defense of Zack Snyder, the film’s much-maligned director. They discuss what Man of Steel gets right about female characters, and whether mass-casualty action sequences have gotten out of hand. Can Hollywood drop the three-part origin story and start telling superhero stories in better ways? Plus: Could patrons like Samsung and Megan Ellison make pop culture more interesting?
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.