Over/Underrated 2013: Part Two

2 Jan

Overrated

Duck Dynasty

–Andrea (@prettyandink)

In 2012 when I asked my brother-in-law what he wanted for Christmas, he told me “Season One of Duck Dynasty.” I said, “Come again?” It’s hard to believe that it’s only been one year since I was blissfully unaware of Phil, Si and the whole rest of the Clampett Robertson clan.

The Robertson’s fall under that most-hated category of celebrities: People Who Are Famous for No Reason. Successful business owners they may be (the Robertson’s gained their wealth by starting a duck call company called Duck Commander), but that’s hardly a reason to have their own television show. I can think of countless companies I’d rather see behind-the-scenes of than one as narrow in scope as theirs.

Deserving or not, Duck Dynasty has skyrocketed to success in the past year, shattering cable records and making the A&E show the most-watched nonfiction cable series in history. The question I still am failing to answer is, “Why?” As far as I can tell, the show is about a bunch of rednecks who sit around and do redneck things. Oh, and sometimes they talk about their business. The appeal of such a show is lost on me.

Perhaps it’s because the show hits too close to home. I do hail from a suburb that has been stereotyped on more than one occasion as “redneck.” If I wanted to watch rednecks doing redneck things, I’d just pop into my local Wal-Mart. Hence the reason I don’t go to Wal-Mart.

My own qualms with rednecks aside, we are in the middle of what could arguably be called the best era in television history. Ever. The amount of smart, quality programming available at a moment’s notice is greater now than it ever has been before. With shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones pushing boundaries and redefining the standard of “good” TV, I fail to understand why someone would choose to watch something as limiting in caliber and content as Duck Dynasty.

As I prepare to conclude this entry, I feel I would be remiss in not at least mentioning the recent Phil Robertson controversy. You know, the one where some hick said misguided homophobic comments and for two seconds A&E had a backbone and fired said hick until they realized he was part of their huge cash cow and changed their minds. Way to take a stand, A&E. I would prefer not to delve into the issues at work here (freedom of speech, tolerance of beliefs different from our own, etc.), because I feel like everything I would have to say has already been said far more eloquently by far more intelligent people than I (like here and here, for example). Instead, all I’ll say is that Duck Dynasty provides fodder to the image that people here in ‘Murika are ignorant and complacent with a low standard of understanding and acceptance.

On a personal level, I’m embarrassed to be placed in the same broad category of “American” as the Robertson family. On an entertainment level, Duck Dynasty isn’t worth my TiVo space, and it certainly isn’t worth my viewing time.

Duck Dynasty

Underrated

Jack Huston

–Brook (@brooklynhofstad)

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

Any fan of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire knows the prohibition-era drama never shies away from doing the unthinkable. When Nucky shot fan favorite Jimmy Darmody at the end of season 2, many wondered how the show would fare without him.

Not only has the show continued but it has also quietly garnered critical praise, especially for Jack Huston‘s gut-wrenching portrayal of Richard Harrow. In Boardwalk Empire, there is no shortage of over-the-top performances (think Bobby Cannavale‘s Gyp Roestti and Michael Stuhlbarg‘s Arnold Rothstein). Yet, instead of being campy, Huston made the audience feel real empathy as Harrow searched for normalcy.

With an appearance akin to Frankenstein’s monster, Harrow’s face was as intimidating as his gun-wielding abilities. The marksman-turned assassin-turned almost family man was originally only supposed to have a five-episode arc, but Huston’s deft ability to make the audience feel Harrow’s pain likely led to him becoming a series regular.

Despite his frightening visage (and penchant for dealing bloody death), Harrow was the show’s most gentle character. When it seemed he was this close to the life he always wanted, fans were forced yet again to say goodbye to a beloved character.

A member of an acting dynasty, (Jack Huston is the nephew of Angelica Huston and Danny Huston) he seems almost born for period dramas. But if his portrayal of Harrow is any indication we’ve only just begun to see the breadth Huston can bring to a character in any genre.

If you’re like me, and your TV dance card is already pretty full, you can see him in Kill Your Darlings and American Hustle, in lieu of watching Boardwalk Empire (although, you really should).

How Jack Huston isn’t a household name is beyond me. Someone get the guy an Emmy nod already! Or at least his own show!

JH

Off the Mark

Once Upon a Time

–Andrea

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

I cannot express to you, dear readers, how sad it makes me to be including what I once considered one of the best shows on television (and one of 2012’s Underrated highlights) on this list of things that just weren’t quite right in 2013. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the show, but the magic of Storybrooke has faded considerably. (Seriously, the puns related to this show are just too easy.)

It’s difficult to say just what, exactly, is causing Once to lose its luster. Perhaps it’s because the magic has literally left Storybrooke, with the bulk of season three’s episodes taking place on Neverland. Gone are the majority of the show’s characters, including some major fan favorites like Lee Arenberg’s Grumpy or Emilie de Ravin’s Belle. Plus, what the hell happened to Ruby? These characters may be considered minor characters, but the relationships between and the mixing of fairy tales is what made the show so appealing to me in the first place.

I could perhaps deal with the diminished appearances of half the cast if the plot at least continued to be strong, but the number of WTF moments Once brought to viewers in 2013 is almost too numerous to count. Cora finds a way to make spinning gold and Rumplestiltskin look sexy? Snow White is a murderer? Rumplestiltskin is Henry’s grandfather? The Evil Queen was destined to fall in love with Robin Hood? A man made of wood is “killed” by a taser? And did I mention that Peter Pan is Rumplestiltskin’s Papa? I’m all about stretching the imagination, but at some point logic needs to present itself, even within the boundaries of a magical world.

While frustrated with the ending of season two and the start of season three, I’m not quite willing to abandon the Jolly Roger ship just yet. The midseason finale of Once led me to believe that I’ll once again be seeing those minor characters that I’ve been missing so much, and coming full circle with Emma once again not realizing/remembering that she’s the Savior is an intriguing concept. If the rest of season three continues to be void of Peter Pan’s atrocious teeth and amps up the appearances of one dangerously charming Captain Hook, then Once stands a chance at redeeming itself, and I truly hope it does. Until the remaining episodes air, I’ll just be over here sprinkling pixie dust. After all, if Once has taught me anything, it’s that believing in hope is the most powerful magic of all.

OUAT

 

 

 

 

 

 

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