Over/Underrated 2012 – Part Eight

8 Jan

Brook is pulling a double shift tonight for tonight’s better-late-than-never installment of over/underrated (don’t worry, I’m not still eating birthday cake). Enjoy!


Taylor Swift

In October, Taylor Swift released her fourth studio album, Red. I hate to admit it, but I hauled myself to Target to buy the actual CD. Yes, I realize there’s more self-preservation in downloading it, but in my defense, the album had been out for a few weeks before I actually got it. Honest! And besides, this is the circle of trust. Right…? I am nothing if not a sucker for a bad pop song. And the girl has those, in spades. Please don’t judge, but I digress. Swift has a mediocre voice at best, but she writes her own music and plays instruments which automatically makes her light years more talented than most of her contemporaries. The problem is that she’s being compared to predecessors way out of her league…predecessors not even playing the same game…predecessors like Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell. If anyone is a fan of Love Actually, they will remember that Joni Mitchell taught Alan Rickman’s “cold, English wife how to feel.” That being said, the most Taylor Swift has taught anyone is to sit coyly by on the sidelines hoping the guy of their dreams will take notice and whisk them away to the prom. The only problem is that Swift has been going to prom since 2008. I realize she began her career as a teenager, so songs about young love make sense. But songs of young love have morphed into songs about young love broken up. And as we grow up, we learn that airing one’s dirty laundry in public isn’t always the best option. Apparently Swift never got the memo, and she’s laughing her blissfully ignorant self all the way to the bank. The only thing I know for sure is that if I were a guy, I’d never, ever, ever, ever date Taylor Swift.
— Brook




The Newsroom

 The reviews of HBO’s newest scripted drama have been mixed at best and abysmal at worst. Following an Oscar win for best adapted screenplay for The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin became an unlikely whipping post as critics called his writing style on the show condescending and accused him of “self-plagiarizing.” In Sorkin’s defense, he is arguably one of the best entertainment writers of our time. In addition to The Social Network, he is the genius behind The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (a brilliant TV show that came to an untimely end), Charlie Wilson’s War, and The American President. 

The Newsroom, Sorkin’s latest project, follows a cable network news team after the highly publicized meltdown of their anchor. When a college student asks “what makes America the greatest country in the world,” Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) proceeds to give her whiplash from verbal assault as he recounts all the ways in which referring to America as “great” in any way is a bogus assertion. The show comes nicely full circle when, in the season finale, said co-ed applies for and nabs an internship with McAvoy’s show.

Many say McAvoy’s meltdown mirrors exactly the meltdown shown in the opening of Studio 60. While it may be true that there are similarities that run through all of Sorkin’s works, to call it “self-plagiarizing” is absurd. We live in a time where there is almost nothing new under the sun. Any movie that comes out is either an adaptation of a novel or comic book. All sit-coms are Friends reincarnated. It’s a time of constant recycling, especially if an idea sold big the first time around. At least Sorkin is playing off his own work, instead of hovering over the carcass of someone else’s work like a hungry, washed up, has-been buzzard looking for a comeback at any price.  The kicker is Sorkin never left.

As for his condescending tone, I couldn’t disagree more. It only sounds condescending to people who want to sit at the cool table but end up having to eat in a bathroom stall alone because everyone knows they don’t belong at the cool table. And instead of opening a book, they hurl insults…they call a show condescending to mask the fact that in the first five minutes of the show, 10 new words were used that they’ve never heard. It’s the same reason other great shows like Arrested Development can’t survive on the air…especially not on network television. Americans are lazy, and God forbid we use our brains when we turn on the television, which has basically become a zombie apocalypse of reality TV. The Newsroom is one show that shines brightly and proves that not all of us are willing to waste away in self-complacency.
— Brook



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