Alyssa Rosenberg hosts conversations on movies, TV shows and other pop culture phenomena.
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?
Alyssa and June tackle LGBT representation on television this fall. They debate the portrayal of lesbians on the new sitcom The New Normal. Alyssa wonders why gay people only hang out with straight people on TV. June explains why Lost Girl is the only fantasy show she likes, and Alyssa announces her favorite new character on TV. How great is The L.A. Complex? Finally, June and Alyssa review the progress LGBT characters have made so far.
On Critic Proof, Alyssa and Willa dive into the new television season, where women are rising and men are falling. They agree that Guys With Kids is lame and lazy, but are cautiously optimistic about Matthew Perry’s Go On. Why can’t NBC get its act together? Willa can’t believe that Revolution manages to make the post-apocalypse boring. They analyze Homeland, where Claire Danes portrays possibly the greatest female character of our era. Do fans of shows like Breaking Bad get overly obsessed with “plausibility”? Plus: A spoiler-filled discussion of Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl.
On the debut episode of Critic Proof, Alyssa and Todd recount their experience at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Los Angeles. They preview the upcoming TV season, listing the best and worst new shows. Why is it so hard to make a good sitcom? Or a good network drama, for that matter? The two compare the business models of Hulu and Netflix as they compete to bring movies and TV to the Internet. Finally, they discuss why Breaking Bad fans are so critical of Skyler White, while her meth-dealing husband gets a pass (includes spoilers).