Over/Underrated 2013: Part Three

3 Jan

Overrated

The 20/20 Experience

–Brook (@brooklynhofstad)

For all the hype it got, the second coming of Christ will pale in comparison to Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience.

Before die hard *NSYNCers demand my head, let me just say: I am one of you! My bedroom would’ve been plastered in posters of Justin, JC, Chris, Joey and Lance if my dad would’ve let me hang stuff on my walls. He never did, but the fact remains I’ll go to my grave proclaiming *NSYNC was and always will be the superior boyband, which is an argument I seem destined to have for all eternity given that my bestie is all “BSB 4 EVA” (who knows what I ever saw in her). I digress…

The point is I was waiting with bated breath for his follow up to FutureSex/LoveSounds, arguably one of the best albums in the last ten years. After seven years of frenzied anticipation, I was let down.

Don’t get me wrong. The 20/20 Experience is fine. Kind of like when you really want Starbucks but the only option is Caribou. You know…fine…

Actually, some of the songs are pretty good like “Suit & Tie” from part 1 and “TKO” from part 2. Sure those songs are singles, but I maintain they were chosen as singles for a reason…they’re the strongest tracks and probably the best representation for how JT wants to be seen as an artist.

I also like Amnesia from part 2, but only because it is seriously reminiscent of *NSYNC at the height of their popularity. There’s a “Gone”-esque feeling to the song, and when I listen to it, I literally hear smooth, five-part harmonies. But since JT is trying hard to distance himself from his boyband past, he probably wouldn’t be too thrilled to hear me say that.

That’s just the problem. He’s trying so hard to distance himself from the thing that made him so great in the first place. I can understand and even appreciate an artist wanting to grow and evolve, but it can’t come at the cost of why fans love them.

FutureSex/LoveSounds was a fun, young record made by a fun, young guy. It was full of jams made equally for a night at the club or a drive with the windows down.

He said The 20/20 Experience was more about spending time with that one special person, which makes sense because he’s married now. And I suppose it’s true because when I listen to it, I don’t want to go to the club. I want to turn on the 6:30 news and be in bed by 9.

That being said, it’s also difficult to appreciate something when it’s constantly being pushed in your face. What with the Justin Timberweek on Jimmy Fallon and the SNL hosting and the Target commercials and the 20 minute performance at the VMAs, it was hard not feel beaten over the head with it especially since it was broken into two albums.

For what it’s worth, all of those things are great if the record can live up to them. The issue here is that what might’ve been the second coming was simply just another solo project from an ex-boybander.

2020

Underrated

Mom

–Andrea (@prettyandink)

I’m not going to lie. When I first watched the pilot for CBS’s sitcom Mom, I was actually sort of offended. I had high hopes for the show, given that I respect Anna Faris and Allison Janney’s acting chops, but I was beyond letdown by what the pilot had to offer. Did you know that it’s fun to ridicule alcoholics? Teen pregnancy: hilarious, right? Still not laughing? Ok fine, how about teaching your elementary-aged child to beat up a prostitute in Grand Theft Auto? Good stuff.

Call me square, but I take all of the above issues very seriously. Some things just aren’t meant to be funny. But, I have a rule when it comes to watching new television shows: never judge the series based on the pilot alone. Nearly all of my favorite television shows had pilots that were mediocre at best. Thank goodness I have that rule, because otherwise I would’ve missed out on some of the zaniest comedy available this season.

While it’s true the show’s stance on moral issues continues to be questionable, Anna Faris’s Christy never once claims to be doing things right. Instead what we see is a flawed character trying to make the best out of the wrong choices she’s made in her life. Faris has the art of deadpanning down to a science, and her comedic timing is near perfect, but it’s Janney who really steals the show. I always knew Janney was funny (Juno, anyone?), but she shines as Christy’s mother Bonnie, the only person worse at being a parent than Christy herself.

Bonnie is the type of character who says what everyone wants to say, but feels is too impolite to actually udder. She faces her challenges with blunt honesty, and is the first person to admit that she is nowhere near perfect. Her character played by any other actress would come off as a crass caricature of a woman who never should have been a mother; Janney makes her lovable for her imperfections, and painfully real.

If I remember one scene from a comedy this television season, it will be the immaculate one in which Janney’s Bonnie plays the role of jilted lover, satisfyingly bringing her ex-fling to his knees (literally) by making him watch as she slowly and strategically smashes each and every one of his beloved (and expensive) bottles of wine. This scene was acted to perfection, and I laughed so hard I cried. The only problem is that due to Mom‘s lack of  buzz and acclaim (the show was snubbed by the Golden Globes, but did manage to garner a People’s Choice nomination), I may have to continue to laugh alone.

Mom

On Pointe

Breaking Bad

–Brook

If there ever could be an empirical test devised for naming the absolute best television drama, Breaking Bad would be the hands down winner. Since no such test exists, I guess you’ll have to take my word for it.

I can’t delve much into details since Andrea hasn’t finished the show yet, but suffice it to say that Breaking Bad is a slow burn that builds to an almost unbearable climax (we’re talking storytelling here…get your mind out of the gutter).

While I was watching the season 3 episode “One Minute,” I think my heart stopped beating for the last five minutes. Rare is the time TV evokes that type of response, and Breaking Bad did it more than once (think the pool scene at Don Eladio’s Mexican villa in season 4).

Vince Gilligan and his team did what the Dexter team could not (or would not) do. They took their antihero and made him the all-out, no holds barred villain. In the end, Dexter is a man seeking salvation any way he can find it. He is tortured by his “dark passenger.” Not Walter White. By the end of Breaking Bad, you’re no longer rooting for Walter White. Jesse Pinkman, maybe. But not Walter.

Vince Gilligan said he wanted to turn Mr. Chips into Scarface, and after watching the entire series, I think Walt was Scarface all along and any Mr. Chips in his personality was a facade.

The show stands as a stark metaphor for drugs and their ability to rip a person’s life apart. And just because you don’t *use* the drugs doesn’t make you any less susceptible to their influence. As for the one junkie in the main cast, Jesse is one of the most relatable and least despicable characters. Despite his demons, he the most pure hearted and innocent. “We flipped a coin…Coin flip is sacred,” he reminded Walt and reminded the audience of his childlike worldview.

Even though it’s over, the good news is the spinoff series. If Better Call Saul is even half as good, fans are in for a treat. As if Bob Odenkirk reprising his role as fan favorite Saul Goodman, the incredibly competent lawyer with a malfunctioning moral compass, wasn’t enough, Gilligan has promised that Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul will make cameo appearances.

Just be sure to have a bucket of your favorite, fast-food chicken on hand for the premier.

breaking-bad-fly-worst

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One Response to “Over/Underrated 2013: Part Three”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Over/Underrated 2015 – Honorable Mentions | prettyandink - April 22, 2016

    […] could it not be? After all, Breaking Bad was deemed Absolute Best Drama by my fair Bestie only a couple years ago. A spinoff show helmed by the same geniuses (Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould), and centered on one […]

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