Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Two

4 Jan

Overrated

Taylor Swift’s 1989 Tour

– Brook (@brooklynhofstad)

There were precious few things in 2015 to which I was looking more forward than Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour. And there were precious few things in 2015 by which I was more thoroughly disappointed.

I’m an unabashed TSwift fan. I love her style (no pun intended). I love her wholesome, girl-next-door image. And god, do I love her catchy-as-hell hooks.

As I sat waiting for the reigning pop princess to take the stage, to say I was as excited as little Ralphie when he opened his Red Rider BB Gun is a gross understatement. I was waiting with bated breath for what was surely going to be the highlight of my year.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Long gone is the relatable girl who wrote love songs akin to fairy tales. As Swift went from teen sensation to savvy media mogul, her songs evolved, too. She’s all grown up now, which is great — her fans grew up, too, and they appreciate the more mature material. The only problem is that in her attempt to be seen as sexpot goddess, she completely lost everything that made her great.

Unlike former teen queen, Britney Spears, Swift doesn’t dance. Well, she tries. And aside from approximately three songs in her two-hour set, she doesn’t play instruments in her live shows anymore. So, what’s the biggest music star in the world to do? You guessed it. She pulled a page from her supermodel besties, and spends almost her entire show strutting about the stage in her fiercest runway walk.

Don’t get me wrong. She NAILS the walk. She’s waifish and has legs for days. She couldn’t look more at home than if she was Giselle incarnate. It just gets a little old after about two-and-a-half songs, and aside from glitzy lights, it’s the sole trick she employs to whip the audience into a frenzy.

And when she opens her mouth to converse with her adoring fans, she squanders an opportunity to really connect with the audience by channeling that girl with whom we all fell in love. Instead it’s little more than rehearsed, canned lines about how unfairly she’s been treated in the media.

Swift is all pop and no country now. And her live show dazzles in technicolor. It’s clear we’re in Oz now, with no hope of going home soon. And I was Dorothy, just clicking my heels, albeit to the beat of her insanely popular music.

1989

Underrated

Life in Pieces

– Andrea (@prettyandink

If you’re a television devotee like yours truly, you know that comedies always get the short end of the stick. While actors are quick to say that performing in a drama is easy, and that comedy is the true art form, it’s always the dramas that get the acclaim. Watch any award show and you’ll know that it’s true. The comedy awards are presented first, with very little pomp and circumstance. The true glory is saved for the dramas. 

It was no surprise to me, then, that when I was reviewing lists of the top new shows of 2015, Life in Pieces was frequently omitted. It wasn’t a surprise, but it was a shame.

Life in Pieces is the best network comedy to hit the airwaves since Modern Family debuted in 2009. While it’s inevitable that viewers will draw comparisons between the two sitcoms (both are about large, close knit families just trying to get through the trials and tribulations of life), to say that Life in Pieces is recycled material would be false.

One of the things that makes Life in Pieces most unique is its formatting. Instead of the standard sitcom format of using the entire half-hour episode to tackle a singular problem/event/misunderstanding, Life in Pieces divides its 30 minute time slot to tell four separate stories about the different branches of the Short family. Sometimes these vignettes are tied together around a common theme (Christmas, for example), and sometimes they don’t relate at all. Skeptics might worry that this format would make the storytelling disjointed, but what it actually does is serve as a reminder that while families may be close, they do not experience life events simultaneously. Letting each member of the Short family tackle his/her own issues separate from the other family members not only makes the show interesting; it also makes the show relatable.

Distinctive formatting aside, Life in Pieces is one of those rare comedies that is actually funny. It’s that exceptional magic of brilliant storytelling combined with a stellar cast, many of whom are experienced actors who seem to have finally found their niche. I’ve watched Zoe Lister-Jones shine in shows like Whitney and Friends with Better Lives, but unfortunately the writing on those shows didn’t live up to her talent. Now, though, as Jen Short, the writers have created a layer of softness around Lister-Jones’ patented sarcasm and pointed delivery, making her one of the show’s breakout stars. Right alongside her as one of the show’s highlights is Thomas Sadoski. Sadowski was one of the best parts of HBO’s The Newsroom, and while his character this time around isn’t as intellectual or fast-talking as Don Keefer, his humor is just as dry and his romantic efforts just as endearing. While Lister-Jones and Sadoski could easily carry a show on their own, they are hardly alone in the stellar ensemble that also includes Colin Hanks, Betsy Brandt, James Brolin, and Dianne Wiest. Throw in a hysterical-in-its-absurdity recurring guest role by Jordan Peele, and you’ve got primetime comedy gold. 

Life in Pieces may have been snubbed by the Golden Globes this awards season, but it was thankfully picked up for a 22 full-episode season by CBS. If it’s not already on your DVR lineup, do yourself a favor and start 2016 right by making this show a top priority. You can thank me later.

LiP

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