Fifteen years ago, Firefly premiered.
And slightly under fifteen years ago, it ended.
Fifteen years ago, Firefly premiered.
And slightly under fifteen years ago, it ended.
It’s that time of year again. The time when rich people gather into a big ballroom and repeatedly pat themselves on the back. The time when awards are handed out to people based on quality and also how much money they spent on campaigning. The time when a host makes some modestly humorous jokes and then disappears after the first twenty minutes. (Okay, I don’t expect much “modesty” from Stephen Colbert these days. But hey, twenty minutes.)
In June 1998, Time Magazine published an issue with a most unusual cover. The image displayed the pictured heads of four women: Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and… Ally McBeal. The first three heads were printed in black-and-white, the fourth in full color. Beneath the picture of McBeal were printed three boldened words: “Is Feminism Dead?”
As a kid, I was afraid of everything.
That might sound like an exaggeration, but only because you didn’t know me as a kid. So let me clarify: As a kid, I was afraid of everything.
[Writer: Tim Minear | Director: Marita Grabiak | Aired: 3/19/2004 ]
“Buh… Buh… Buh-bye!” – Jaye
When the term “Generation Y” was coined in the early 1990s, it mostly functioned as a placeholder. The “Generation X” phase was over, and a new label was needed for the children and teens fast aging towards a new millennium. So naturally, we simply chose to follow the alphabet.
Two events recently occurred in the world of pop-culture that, on the surface, appear very similar.
The first instance occurred last week, when controversy ignited surrounding the upcoming Hellboy film. Ed Skrein, a white actor, had been cast as Ben Daimio, a character who (in the comics) has an Asian-American heritage. This hearkened back to the uproar that occurred just last month, when Mandy Patinkin, also a white actor, was announced as the replacement for the African-American star of the Broadway play Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. In response to these respective outcries, both actors have stepped down from their roles.
By the time she was first approached to run the all-new CW Network, Dawn Ostroff had thirty years of media experience behind her – twenty in radio news (where she had started work as a teenager), and another ten in television. In 1996, she had joined Lifetime, a network with programming aimed at women, and presided over successful shows like Any Day Now and The Division. In 2002, she left her post to become President of UPN. And when the struggling UPN was merged with the WB into a shiny new network, CBS President Les Moonves chose her to lead the way.
When he was first introduced back in 1986, the Tick was designed as a superhero parody – a deconstruction of the familiar tropes and clichés typically associated with the comic book brand. It was a tone that continued in the popular 1990s animated series, and in the early 2000s with the short-lived live-action series (which I wrote about earlier this week). Now, Ben Edlund and Amazon have brought us a new Tick – only this time (dramatic pause) it’s different.
“Gravity. It’s a harsh mistress.” – The Tick (after falling down an elevator shaft)
Superheroes are everywhere these days, aren’t they? The summer movie season is flooded with capes-and-tights blockbusters. A heroic new TV series seems to debut every few weeks. They appear on all sorts of merchandise, ranging from backpacks and T-shirts to pencils and toothbrushes. And hey, sometimes they even appear in comic books.
“Y’know,” a friend once told me, “there really aren’t that many days of summer vacation.”
[Writers: Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts | Director: Todd Holland | Aired: 4/1/2004 ]
“I’m a puppet.” – Jaye
“Pink Flamingos” was the last episode of Wonderfalls to air on Fox before the network cancelled it. This may sound startling, given that it’s only the second episode in the lineup. But “Pink Flamingos” actually was the fourth episode to air, even though it takes place chronologically before “Karma Chameleon” and “Wound-Up Penguin.”
It might not seem like the biggest deal, but jumping straight from the pilot to “Karma Chameleon” ignores an important stepping stone in the development of Wonderfalls. “Wax Lion” may have established the premise of the series, but “Pink Flamingos” is the first episode to put that premise into action.
[Writers: Todd Holland & Bryan Fuller | Director: Todd Holland | Aired: 3/12/2004 ]
“You can’t talk. You don’t have a larynx. If you don’t have a larynx, you can’t talk. Got it? You can’t talk!” – Jaye
In retrospect, it never had a chance.
Wonderfalls was originally slated to debut on FOX in the fall of 2003. The pilot had been shot several months prior, and was all set to see the light of day. During the brief window between the summer press tour and the fall premieres, it looked like Bryan Fuller’s strange but delightful new show would be a commercial success, and compensate for the previous season’s cancellation of Firefly.
My first regular series for Critically Touched was Freaks and Geeks, which I pitched to Mike in the waning days of 2012. It was and remains a wonderful show, albeit an awfully short-lived one – I reviewed all 18 episodes in the space of just six months.
[Writer: John Sacret Young & Josh Singer | Director: Christopher Misiano | Aired: 5/19/2004 ]
“Today’s priority is not world peace.” – Leo
Since John Wells took the reins from Aaron Sorkin at the start of this season, we’ve watched him tug them this way and that. At various points in Season Five, The West Wing has been a bipartisan political drama, a romantic soap opera, an examination of Bush-era policies, a pulp novel, and even (shudder) a documentary. There hasn’t been a consistent tone, or even a consistent arc for the show to use as a guidepost. The season wanted to be too many things, and ultimately, it didn’t succeed at very many of them.
Just a brief mention of the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer film will likely cause shoulders to shudder and faces to wince. While the Buffy TV series is a landmark accomplishment of story and character, the film which inspired it is generally dismissed as silly and pointless. Many Buffy fans haven’t even watched it. Joss Whedon doesn’t even regard it as canonical to the series, and he’s the guy who wrote it.
You like good TV, don’t you? I mean, you obviously do, or else you wouldn’t be on this site. We at Critically Touched write a lot about good TV, and great TV, and all the TV in between. Rarely, however, do we take the time to write about bad TV.
Hi, gang! Jeremy here.
First, the bad news. As some of you may have already noticed, MikeJer’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer reviews are no longer available to view on this site. Sadly, all the Buffy reviews have been removed from Critically Touched. The decision to do this was entirely Mike’s – he has decided to fully move on from Critically Touched, in an effort to focus on other life endeavors.
As a young child, I didn’t play with many action figures – at least, not from the world of superheroes. Though I obsessed over Superman and Batman from a youthful age, my familiarity with them was limited to comic books and cartoons. I never owned a Superman cape, nor a remote-controlled Batmobile, and my playtime implements were mostly limited to matchbox cars and little plastic farm animals. (The cows crossed the road, forcing the drivers to veer left. It’s more fun than it sounds.)
Continue reading ““The Many Lives of Catwoman” Shines a Light on DC’s Best Anti-Heroine”
[Writer: Peter Noah | Director: Christopher Misiano | Aired: 5/12/2004 ]
“The only dishonor might be not to try.” – Kate
Most folks don’t watch The West Wing for half-baked operatic romances. Most folks don’t watch it for thin, didactic exploration of Middle Eastern conflicts. And most folks certainly don’t watch it for confusing, poorly-told stories about half-baked operatic romances and thin, didactic exploration of Middle Eastern conflicts.
And yet… “Gaza.”
Continue reading “West Wing 5×21: Gaza”
I make fun of the Emmy Awards a lot, and with good reason. They constantly pick the same shows over and over. They fail to recognize many of television’s greatest and most laudable shows. They constantly change their own voting rules, to the point that it all currently amounts to little more than a popularity contest. And when all is said and done, they’re just another awards ceremony in which Hollywood congratulates Hollywood for being Hollywood.
Continue reading “The 2017 Emmy Nominees Are Surprising… But Not Shocking”
In the fifty-five years since his debut, Spider-Man has been both insider and outsider. He is Marvel Comics’ most recognizable superhero, yet he is largely disconnected from the publisher’s greater Universe. Outside of the Marvel Team-Up series (which paired him with other heroes in every issue), he has mostly worked as a loner, web-slinging his way through a more earthbound sector of comics than the Avengers or the X-Men.
Continue reading “Reviewing All the Spider-Man Films”
[Writer: Carol Flint, Debora Cahn, Mark Goffman | Director: Julie Hébert | Aired: 4/28/2004 ]
“On a need-to-know basis, who needs to know this much.” – Bartlet
“No Exit” deserved better.
Coming near the end of The West Wing’s most troubled season, it is designed as an antidote to the year’s earlier missteps. It clearly wants to take the show in a fresh new direction. And it wants to tell a compelling story at the same time.
Continue reading “West Wing 5×20: No Exit”
People sometimes ask me: “How do you know so much about television?” (Well, technically, they ask “Why do you know so much about television?”) Truth be told, I was not born with a silver remote in my mouth. I accumulated this knowledge through reading. Lots of reading.
Continue reading “8 Books for the TV Addict”
“I used to be passionate, inspired, alive. Now, I’m mostly just hungry. And… a zombie. So there’s that.” – Liv
Full disclosure: I’ve never been a fan of zombie fiction. The horror genre has delivered a seemingly never-ending string of vampires, mummies, and werewolves, and while plenty of ghoul-centric books, films, and TV shows have been spookily entertaining, zombie-centric stories, with their moaning, groaning, brain-chewing antagonists, have always struck me as repulsive. Continue reading “Get Onboard: iZombie”
[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Richard Schiff | Aired: 4/21/2004 ]
“It’d be nice to roll back that tide, wouldn’t it?” – Bartlet
Writing in the Wall Street Journal in December 2013, Peggy Noonan referred to something she called “West Wing Disease.”
“Young staffers grew up watching that show,” she said, “and getting a very romantic and specific sense of how government works.” The show’s tight focus on the White House, she theorized, made it seem that the White House was the government, and disregarded the various complex and interconnecting agencies that surrounded it. Continue reading “West Wing 5×19: Talking Points”
[Writer: Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsiao, Dug Chamberlin, Chris Webb (Screenplay); John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Ash Brannon, Andrew Stanton (Story) | Director: John Lasseter | Released: 11/24/1999 ]
“But they forget you.” – Jessie
It’s hard to remember in an age where every popular film must be repeated (or remade, or rebooted, or reinterpreted), but there was a time when animated sequels were never all that special. Following the commercial fizzling of The Rescuers Down Under, Disney decided that audiences weren’t all that interested seeing what happens after “happily ever after.” A few years later, they found an outlet for follow-up films in home media, and began producing direct-to-video sequels and threequels to films ranging from Aladdin to Tarzan to Beauty and the Beast. Some of these films weren’t bad (Cinderella III, for example, is among the most entertaining animated Disney films of the 2000s), but most were made on the cheap, with lackluster writing and animation, designed to catch the eye of the excitable child and soothe the mind of the exhausted parent.
When Pixar broke into the feature-film arena, it was very much the underdog to Disney’s mighty Mouse. But Toy Story proved to be a hit with audiences and critics, and gave the CG studio ample opportunity to grow and develop their ideas. Their next attempt, A Bug’s Life, was competent but unremarkable, and a few cynical minds began to wonder if Pixar hadn’t simply gotten lucky in its first time out of the gate. These fears were not quelled when Pixar announced that its next theatrical film would be… a sequel to Toy Story.
Continue reading “Toy Story 2”
[Writer: Lauren Schmidt | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 3/31/2004 ]
“ZZZZZZZZZZZZ” – Me
You love CJ Cregg, right? I mean, of course you do. Everyone loves CJ Cregg. She’s wonderful. She may well be The West Wing’s most popular character, and is easily one of its most likable.
But this raises a question: Why are CJ-centric episodes so consistently bad?
Continue reading “West Wing 5×18: Access”
[Writer: Debora Cahn | Director: Jessica Yu | Aired: 3/24/2004 ]
“Oh, my God. You’re putting my mother’s cats on the Supreme Court.” – Donna
“The Supremes” is the standard by which every post-Sorkin episode is measured. It’s a Season Five episode that’s liked even by Season Five’s biggest detractors. In terms of fan favoritism, it’s among the most popular episodes in the entire series.
So, is it ironic that I find it a little overrated?
Continue reading “West Wing 5×17: The Supremes”
Pop quiz: When was the last time you watched an episode of I Love Lucy?
How about an episode of Perry Mason? Or Maude? Or Magnum, P.I.?
Continue reading “Classic TV is Dying Out. Can It Be Saved?”
Great pilots can be a mixed blessing.
It’s certainly important for a TV series to establish itself in its very first episode, the better to hook viewers in for the long haul. And given the many moving parts involved in crafting a new series – from characters to plot to tone to production – it’s always something of a wonder when a show hits the ground running in its very first episode. Continue reading “15 Years Later, the “Kim Possible” Pilot is Still Fantastic”