Over/Underrated 2012 – Part Three

3 Jan


Britney Spears as a Judge on The X Factor

Let me start by clarifying: Back in the 90s, I wanted to be Britney Spears when I grew up. She had everything: the perfect body, hit records, and Justin Timberlake as a boyfriend. Of course, all good things must come to an end, including Britney’s sanity. I watched in horror with the rest of the world as she cheated on J.T., got married and divorced (twice), shaved her head, and lost every shred of credibility and dignity she once possessed. I also watched, equally horrified, as she tried time and time again to have a comeback and shoot herself back into pop culture’s good graces. How does the saying go? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice… Point being, I’ve watched Spears try and fail to be relevant more times than Taylor Swift has written a breakup anthem. Eventually I stopped caring, which is why in the summer of 2012 when it was announced that Spears was to be a judge on the singing competition show The X Factor, I responded with a barely audible, “meh.” While I was less than enthused about the news, Brit’s employment was all the entertainment news outlets could talk about. After all that, and in despite of Fox’s best efforts to drum up excitement about the potential for another Britney Breakdown, the season premiere ratings were less than stellar and Spears’ seat on The X Factor judging panel is in question for season three. See America? I told you so.



Boardwalk Empire

It seems odd to call a show that has over 30 Prime Time Emmy nominations underrated. While all the nominations are well deserved, I held my breath with a disbelieving audience as Empire killed off its arguably most compelling character, Jimmy Darmody, at the end of season two. I thought that would be a nail in the coffin from which Empire could not recover. Yet the third season of the Prohibition-era HBO drama in no way felt like it was grappling for direction following the death of Nucky Thompson’s progeny-turned-nemesis. Just the opposite. A turf war of relentless momentum, season three found Nucky going toe-to-toe with everyone from his brother to Italian gangster, Gyp Rosetti. As Nucky’s house of cards began to crumble around him, we began to feel sorry for him again, especially following the tragic end of his mistress, Billie Kent. That mushy feeling didn’t last long however, after Owen Slater showed up at the Thompson abode in a wooden crate after being revealed as Margaret Thompson’s baby daddy.

As Nucky proved “you can’t be half a gangster,” it’s hard to believe that with drama chops like Steve Buscemi’s, he’s still appearing in bad comedies. Bobby Cannavale gave an impressive turn as Rosetti, a likes-to-be-strangled-when-he-cums gangster who has it out for Nucky and his operation. Rosetti meets his own unpleasant end while mocking Thompson in a sing-song version of “Barney Google with the goo goo googly eyes.” Perhaps the two most unsung stars of the show are Michael Stuhlbarg as Arnold Rothstein and Jack Huston as Richard Harrow. Stuhlbarg’s Rothstein, the man who rigged the 1919 World Series, is cool and calculated with just the right amount of sinister and sociopath thrown in. Huston’s Richard Harrow is a fan favorite and became a hero after going on a vigilante rampage, killing Rosetti’s men camped out at the Artemis Club just to save Darmody’s young son, Tommy.

Season three ended in an absolute bloodbath, and Nucky did get his hands dirty. He is full-fledged gangster now and seems as hell bent as ever not lose his position of power. He knows he can no longer be a schmoozing public figure. Yet with all the excitement that was season three, I’ll be disappointed if the show becomes a revolving door of gangsters challenging Nucky’s claim to the East Coast. This season, Boardwalk Empire showed a knack for story telling and an unwillingness to take the easy way out. However, it would be even more impressive if they can do it again next season.
— Brook



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