Over/Underrated 2013: Part Five

5 Jan

Overrated

Forest Creatures (“The Fox”)

–Andrea (@prettyandink)

What does the fox say? It’s a question that up until recent months had never entered my psyche. There was never a fox in Old McDonald or on any episode of Sesame Street that I can recall, so to ponder what a fox might sound like was just something that had never occurred to me. To be honest, even if the question had by chance arrived in my mind, the answer would probably be “I don’t care.”

Now, thanks to Norwegian duo Ylvis, the question is followed in my mind by a series of electronica dance beats that then remain in my head for the rest of my waking day. What was originally created as a joke, “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say” became the top trending video of 2013. Throw in a little controversy (the song may or may not be a Norwegian phrase for smoking marijuana), an appearance on Glee, and you have yourself a “hit.” Now earworms are frustrating enough in themselves, but that frustration is amplified by the fact that the answer to the aforementioned question is still a resounding, “I don’t care.” No wait, I take it back. Now that I’ve been asked so many times, the answer is, “Who gives a flying fuck?”

It would be bad enough to be haunted by foxes on the radio airwaves, but this fall brought a bumper crop of forest creature related memorabilia to stores everywhere. There was an entire plate set with a fox design on them at Target. I saw several deer placemats, statues, etc. mixed in with the Thanksgiving decor at Michaels. Then there was my favorite one: a t-shirt featuring a squirrel on it at Old Navy. I don’t know about you, but when I think about the animals I’d like to have represented on my wardrobe, the mighty squirrel is not one of them.

I’d like to take this time to give retailers a word of advice. Stick with the one forest creature known to have positive connotations like wisdom democracy: the owl. They’re cute, friendly, and we all know what they say.

Underrated

Dean Norris

–Brook (@brooklynhofstad)

Over the summer I, like millions of other Americans, sat down to watch Under the Dome. With every new episode, I willed it not to sink to any new depths, but the creators seemed determined to explore just how bad a show could be and still get great ratings. Despite being the joke of summer 2013 programming, there was one consistent high point: Dean Norris as Big Jim Rennie.

Norris was also part of another TV drama. Maybe you’ve heard of it? On Breaking Bad he played Hank Schrader, brother-in-law and DEA agent to Bryan Cranston’s over-qualified Chemistry teacher turned meth cook turned drug king pin Walter White.

At first Hank seems like kind of a tool. He makes inappropriate jokes about women and ethnic minorities. He also seems to have questionable judgement (like the time he took Walter Jr. to the Crystal Palace and introduced him to prostitute/junkie Wendy).

Perhaps that was creator Vince Gilligan’s way of staying one step ahead of the audience. Maybe he was trying to make it seem like Agent Schrader wouldn’t be a threat to Walt if he ever found out about how Walt was spending his post-cancer diagnosis days.

But then all hell broke loose, and in a show rich with character development, one thing was certain: Even though Cranston won all the awards, Norris was equally successful in bringing a level of depth to Hank that few expected, and the game of cat and mouse between those two made for some of the best TV possibly ever.

Aaron Paul got a lot of credit as the supporting actor on the show, and it was well earned and definitely deserved. But in a show like Breaking Bad where ALL of the actors are so talented (except for maybe Betsy Brandt as Hank’s wife Marie), maybe we could spread the love?

Well, maybe he’ll get nominated for the final season of Breaking Bad (Hey, a girl can dream). If not, there’s always Under the Dome. Lord knows there’s no competition there.

DN

Off the Mark

The Following

–Brook

Fox’s The Following is just another example of a project that falls flat despite a talented cast.

From the brooding, alcoholic detective so affected by previous cases he’s unable to take basic care of himself to the multiple murders of young women (misogynistic much?), The Following is (sadly) a show steeped in cliche.

What’s even more disappointing about the Fox drama is that it was created by Kevin Williamson, a man once credited with breathing new life into the horror genre with his 1996 hit film, Scream.

The show’s premise is that imprisoned killer Joe Carroll has been able to convince his “followers” to commit a plethora of heinous crimes including kidnapping and murder. Detective Ryan Hardy is left trying to make heads or tails of the senseless acts of violence.

The plausibility of a cult leader brainwashing the masses isn’t totally out of the question, in fact, it’s a decent jumping off point for a television drama. There is a history of cult leaders preying on the weaknesses of others to achieve their own depraved ends (in no specific order): Charles Manson, David Koresh, Joseph Smith Jr., Jim Jones, Adolf Hitler, and Justin Bieber…just to name a few.

The problem with The Following is that it assumes the audience is just as week willed as Carroll’s acolytes. The show tries to class it up by rattling off gibberish about Edgar Allan Poe and the general populace’s desire to be part of something.

However, what is intended as brilliant commentary on the psyche of a serial killer comes across as hollow, and never really says anything meaningful about him or the society that equally created him and glorified him. I think Fox took for granted that no one would notice the show plays out as little more than an Intro to Gothic Lit class.

This is not to say that James Purefoy and Kevin Bacon as Carroll and Hardy respectively don’t play their parts brilliantly. On the contrary, great acting kept me watching the entire season when I might have otherwise given up.

There’s no denying that in this country we have issues with violence, and Hollywood capitalizes on that (and our obsession with serial killers) every day. The debate about whether Hollywood exploits our fears or simply gives us what we want will likely never be settled.

Season 2 of the Fox drama premieres on January 27th, and can I give you some advice? Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

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