[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Christopher Misiano | Aired: 11/3/2004 ]
“It’s that little burst of warmth before you freeze to death.” – CJ
“Third-Day Story” is a step up from the first two episodes of The West Wing’s sixth season. That’s not saying a great deal, but it’s worth acknowledging. As the show shucks off the effects of the wrong-headed Israel/Palestine arc, it tries to return to its baseline status quo – but the results, especially in the early going, are mixed.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×03: Third-Day Story”
[Writer: John Wells | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 10/27/2004 ]
“Sir, should we be here?” – Josh
About the best thing that can be said about “The Birnam Wood” is that it’s not nearly as self-aggrandizing as it could have been. The episode could have been an exercise in pompous polemic, the sort of all-too-important speechifying that doomed the worst of the Sorkin episodes. But John Wells (who wrote this episode, in addition to the preceding “Memorial Day” and “NSF Thurmont”) keeps the drama toned-down and evenly moderated. Attempts at political grandstanding are few and far between.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×02: The Birnam Wood”
When it comes to essays, journals, and thinkpieces, few TV shows have as vast a catalog as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Countless books have been published which dig into the characters and themes of the show. The series itself was a trailblazer for the current wave of analytical online TV recaps, paving the way for essays about quality shows ranging from Breaking Bad to The Leftovers. And, lest we forget, this very website owes its existence to the intricacies of the Buffyverse.
Continue reading ““Slayers & Vampires” is an Engrossing History of Buffy and Angel”
Welcome, one and all, to 2018.
It was almost a year ago that Mike contacted me and asked if I would like to take over as administrator of Critically Touched. As a regular writer and contributor to this website for several years, I was thrilled to accept his offer. But at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I could properly sustain my usual level of writing while also presiding over the site and forum itself (free server notwithstanding), in addition to keeping up the continual strains of college life and adulthood.
Continue reading “Happy New Year 2018”
2017 may have at last been the year in which quantity overtook quality.
With over 500 shows airing this year, across more networks and streaming platforms than ever before, the world of television is bursting at the seams. And the effects were clear: This year saw multiple networks (WGN, A&E, Cinemax) get pushed out of the scripted-TV business by sheer force of competition. There was a narrowly-averted writers’ strike, attributed largely to the evolving nature of the business. And some of the best shows on television slipped between the cracks unnoticed, with viewership numbers that scored in the mere six-digits.
Continue reading “The Top 15 TV Shows of 2017”
I wasn’t sure if I’d have the strength to finish this guide. Studio 60 takes a lot out of a guy, particularly when he reviews 11 episodes in one go. But I’ve been watching a lot of Saturday Night Live lately, and it’s reminded me that – even after all these decades, and even in a largely uneven season – sketch comedy can still bring joy to the world. It can bring laughter to us when we most need it.
Continue reading “A Complete Guide to Studio 60 (Part 2)”
Hollywood’s not in the best of states lately. It seems like every day brings forth a new accusation, and a new revelation that one of our favorite actors is in fact a sleazy scumbag. (To use the family-friendly terms.) The industry seems rattled like never before, and we’re all left wondering where all the chaos will lead.
But in the meantime, it can be healthy to ignore the chaos in the film industry, and focus instead on… um, the film industry.
Continue reading “The 10 Best Films of 2017”
Judging by the box-office returns, I’m guessing that some of you went to see The Last Jedi this past weekend. I’ve got some thoughts on the film, and will divulge them in a moment – although know that they come with FULL SPOILERS for the entire film. You’ve been warned…
Continue reading ““The Last Jedi” is the Best Star Wars Film Since 1980″
After weeks of swirling rumors, the news has finally been confirmed: Disney is buying 20th Century Fox.
The mouse-eared media giant announced its plans yesterday to buy out one of its chief cinematic rivals, acquiring the rights to the X-Men, Avatar, The Simpsons,, and a slew of other TV and film properties in the process. The cost for this maneuver? A little over $52 billion.
Continue reading “The Mouse and the Fox: Some Thoughts on the New Disney Deal”
In the vast and intertangled web of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor often feels like the family’s unloved stepchild. And it’s not very hard to see why. While Captain America and Iron Man represent different ideals of the American Dream (one personifying it, the other living it), Thor both figuratively and literally exists on a whole other world. His story is rooted in Norse mythology, and dabbles heavily in the realm of gods and goddesses. It’s hardly the sort of fodder one would expect from a superhero, particularly one who helms a blockbuster franchise.
Continue reading “The “Thor” Trilogy is Eventually Worthy”
Upon first hearing the premise of Coco, my mind immediately responded: “That sounds a lot like The Book of Life.”
It was a snap judgment, but not an entirely groundless one. Pixar’s latest animated film shares a number of elements in common with Life, which was still relatively fresh in my mind (the film was released in 2014) when I saw the first Coco trailer. The perceived lack of originality concerned me, as Coco is one of the few non-sequel films in the current Pixar cycle. (We’ve just come off Finding Dory and Cars 3; next up will be The Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4.)
Continue reading ““Coco” Review: Music in the Bones”
When it comes to children’s entertainment, merchandise is king. How successful your movie is depends largely on how well it can sell toys. Warner Animation neglected this fact in the late ‘90s when they produced Quest for Camelot and The Iron Giant. Neither film was marketed very well, and neither had a very compelling toy line. Unsurprisingly, both bombed at the box office. Nowadays, Warner Animation makes most of their animated films about Lego characters. Lesson learned.
Continue reading “Was the “Cars” Trilogy Just a Six-Hour Toy Commercial?”
I usually like to post TV or film retrospectives on major anniversaries, but sometimes I get impatient. The fiftieth anniversary of Planet of the Apes won’t be celebrated until early next year, but I’m too giddy to keep my damn dirty paws off this franchise until then. Besides, the post here doesn’t directly deal with the original Planet of the Apes; instead, I’m using it to discuss a remarkable film trilogy which drew to a close earlier this year.
But let’s start at the beginning. The original Planet of the Apes hit theaters in February 1968. Produced by Arthur P. Jacobs and cowritten by the great Rod Serling, the film introduced viewers to a barbaric planet populated by (what else?) apes, and the unfortunate astronauts who crash-landed on its surface.
Continue reading “The “Planet of the Apes” Trilogy is a Remake Done Right”
Before the story even starts, Happy Death Day has let its viewers in on the joke.
The movie opens with the familiar orbiting globe of Universal, the studio which distributed the film. Then it abruptly resets, and begins displaying the globe again. Then another reset, and we finally get the complete logo.
Continue reading ““Happy Death Day” Review: Die, Die Again”
[Writer: John Wells | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 10/20/2004 ]
“Everyone disagrees with your assessment.” – Leo
When trying to persuade someone to watch the post-Sorkin seasons of The West Wing, I typically offer some standby words of encouragement: “Season Five is pretty rough. But stick with it. The show gets back on its feet in Season Six.”
And it does! The sixth season of The West Wing returns the show to its revered status as one of television’s most complex and riveting dramas. Except… it doesn’t do it right away.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×01: NSF Thurmont”
Fifteen years ago, Firefly premiered.
And slightly under fifteen years ago, it ended.
Continue reading “Reviewing the Later Seasons of Firefly”
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.)
Continue reading “Emmys 2017: Which Shows Will Win?”
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?”
Continue reading “Was Ally McBeal a Feminist Icon?”
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.
Continue reading ““IT” Was More Than Just a Scary Clown”
[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.
Continue reading “Wonderfalls 1×03: Karma Chameleon”
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.
Continue reading “Whitewashing… Or Is It?”
[By Jeremy Grayson]
At long last, here’s the third quarter of this historical opus. Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already, and then come back here. I’ll wait. I’m the patient type.
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.
Continue reading “A Brief Unauthorized History of The CW (Part 3)”
[By Jeremy Grayson]
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.
Continue reading “The New “Tick” Dares to be Different”
[By Jeremy Grayson]
“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.
Continue reading “The First Live-Action “Tick” was Cancelled Too SPOON”
[By Jeremy Grayson]
“Y’know,” a friend once told me, “there really aren’t that many days of summer vacation.”
Continue reading ““Phineas and Ferb” was Formula Storytelling at Its Finest”
[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.
Continue reading “Wonderfalls 1×02: Pink Flamingos”
[Review by Jeremy Grayson]
[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.
Continue reading “Wonderfalls 1×01: Wax Lion”
[By Jeremy Grayson]
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.
Continue reading “CT Reviews: Wonderfalls”
[Review by Jeremy Grayson]
[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.
Continue reading “West Wing 5×22: Memorial Day”
[Written by Jeremy Grayson]
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.
Continue reading “The “Buffy” Film, 25 Years Later”