Culture & Conversation

Posts from the ‘TV’ category

Downhill for Downton?

When they kissed the night before their wedding, Lady Mary opened her eyes – a broadly announced sign of bad luck. In the opening hours of Downton Abbey’s third season, yet another fiasco befell the long-simmering romance between the eldest sister and Matthew Crawley. The day was saved, but the sound of society wedding bells could not out-chime the death knell for Downton.

Maximus Mayhem

The odds weren’t favourable when the New Zealand-produced Spartacus first swaggered into the cut-throat arena of primetime drama a couple of years back. In fact, this…

Not so Smooth

The Johnny Carson-style one hour late night talk show is obsolete. Its ratings keep going down, the median age of viewers (55 for Letterman, 56 for Leno) is going up, and the next time your friend asks you if you saw what happened last night on anyone’s late night show, it’ll be the first in a while. Granted, the musical performances on Jimmy Fallon are an exception, going viral regularly, and if the show were only 30 minutes a night and focused on music, people might watch the whole thing. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report have been a significant part of the cultural conversation for almost a decade now, but would they still be relevant if they were an hour long and unfocused, rather than with half as long and with a narrow subject matter?


Breaking good

A long time ago on a planet far, far away, the Andy Griffith Show ruled the universe. Largely forgotten today, Griffith’s Sherriff Taylor was the last man standing before the rebels of the 1960s ripped the dark star of moral certitude to shreds.


Never say never

Over a decade ago I read Robert Bly’s The Sibling Society and thought, damn, I better grow up. Around that same time, Sharon Hyman put her camera on a tripod, stared into the lens, and asked the very legitimate question: What does it mean to grow up and why aren’t I doing it? Never married, childless, with no discernable career, still renting, she possessed none of the conventional “markers” of adulthood. She was the arrivist who never quite got there. As she says at one point to the camera, “There are early bloomers, there are late bloomers, and then there are the never bloomers.”

Much Ado about Downton Abbey

As Shakespeare demonstrated, historical fiction is always about the present. For a prime example of the genre’s paradox, look no further than Downton Abbey. Set in a Yorkshire castle before, during and after the First World War, this gorgeous upstairs-downstairs saga is really about social change, especially the fragility of the 1%.

RIP Springfield, D’oh!

In the early ‘90s, The Simpsons was the most important show on TV. Primetime’s first cartoon series furnished my generation’s lexicon with quotables, broadened our range…