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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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New Trailer: Will SyFy’s 12 Monkeys TV Show Live Up to the Cult Classic Film?

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Movie Trailer Review

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10 Reasons to Give Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a Chance

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has taken a lot of flak, even before it premiered. PJM’s own Scott Ott declared “no interest” in the series despite loving its source material. I confess to holding my own doubts regarding a superhero show without superheroes. However, unlike Ott, I was willing to give the series a chance. After watching the first season in its entirety, I’m glad I did. Here are 10 reasons to take a look at Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

10. Cinematic Action

Certain shows have come along in recent years to demonstrate that the small screen can nonetheless explode with cinematic action. Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica comes to mind, a genre show which looked better than many films from past years.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes a similar case for the possibilities of televised entertainment. In essence, it’s an international spy thriller, much of which takes place in the enormous aircraft our heroes call home. The special effects, while lackluster here and there, largely do justice to their Marvel cinematic pedigree.

Now if we can just get a live-action Star Wars series, life will be good.

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What TV Shows Were the Most Ahead of Their Time?

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out Monday’s question “Is The Prisoner Actually a Continuation of Secret Agent?,” Tuesday’s question: “Is The Prisoner TV’s Greatest Cult Classic?,” Wednesday’s question:What Are the Top 5 Episodes of The Prisoner? and Francis Poretto’s great essay. “Escaping The Village: Freedom And The Prisoner.”

Andrew X, yesterday:

You want “ahead-of-its-time”? “Ahead-of-its-time???

Take a look at this episode list for ‘Max Headroom’.

Max Headroom [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Headroom_(TV_series)]

When the show debuted in 1985 (UK), the computer mouse had been on market just one year. Windows, in so far as it existed, was a DOS interface. Few knew what a modem was, and a standard one would probably load this web page in about six hours. Cell phones for millionaires were the size of a brick. (Cue ‘Wall Street’ beach scene ref.) The Internet was eight years away.

Read that list, then let’s talk about “ahead-of-its-time”.

MaxHeadroom_Comp_anim

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What Are the Top 5 Episodes of The Prisoner?

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out Monday’s question “Is The Prisoner Actually a Continuation of Secret Agent?,” yesterday’s question: “Is The Prisoner TV’s Greatest Cult Classic?“ and Francis Poretto’s great essay Tuesday: Escaping The Village: Freedom And The Prisoner

“The Chimes of Big Ben”?

“Many Happy Returns”?

“Hammer Into Anvil”?

Here’s a full episode list via Wikipedia

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Is The Prisoner TV’s Greatest Cult Classic?

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out yesterday’s question “Is The Prisoner Actually a Continuation of Secret Agent?” and Francis Poretto’s great essay today: Escaping The Village: Freedom And The Prisoner

Other potential out-there shows that might top The Prisoner?

Is Twin Peaks better?

What about Lost?

Or is The Prisoner without peer?

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Escaping The Village: Freedom And The Prisoner

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 - by Francis W. Porretto

Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner, a 17-part serial of which he was the star and one of the writers and directors, is one of the great cultural legacies of the late Sixties for several reasons:

  • Its portrayal of “The Village,” a synthesis of the ideal English seaside resort with the total-surveillance nightmare of Orwell’s 1984;
  • The varied and ingenious series of trials of his intellect, his ingenuity , and his integrity to which McGoohan’s unnamed protagonist was put;
  • The exceptional quality of the scripting and acting throughout;
  • The care put into retaining the key ambiguities, which was apparently one of McGoohan’s priorities.

Nothing quite brings home the uniqueness of the series as powerfully as that last point, which is heated to a rolling boil in Episodes 16 and 17, co-starring the immortal Leo McKern.

McGoohan once said that the key theme of The Prisoner is that “Freedom is a myth”:

Interviewer Warner Troyer: This is a kind of banal question I guess, but if you could leave one sentence or phrase or paragraph in the head of everyone who watched The Prisoner series – the whole series – one thing for them to carry around for a while when it was over, what would it be?

McGoohan: Be seeing you.

This was an invocation of The Village’s relentless surveillance of Number Six, for whom The Village was putatively created as a place of confinement and trial.

McGoohan’s perspective on freedom-as-myth partakes critically of the concept of purposeful self-command as the negation of freedom. This is underlined by contrast: through the condemnation, in the final episode, of Number 48 — “uncoordinated youth; rebelling against nothing it can define,” — and Number 2 (Leo McKern) — “an established member, turning upon and biting the hand that feeds him.”‘ For all revolts against control will be either thematic or unthematic. In the former case, the rebel defies an external locus of control; in the latter, there is none. The sole unaddressed alternative is internal control: self-command in obedience to values and priorities one enforces upon oneself.

In this regard, let us hearken back to episode 16, in which McKern’s Number Two strains to break Number Six’s will at long last, and pays dearly for it:

Number Two: Why did you resign?

Number Six: For peace.

Number Two: What peace?

Number Six: Peace of mind.

It seems that McGoohan, in couching the line that way, was emphasizing that the point of Number Six’s resistance was merely to reaffirm his will to resist: a rebellion against external control whose aim was solely to break that will. The theme is freedom and only freedom… but Number Six’s self-command, which he has asserted throughout and against which he will not rebel, remains in place.

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Is The Prisoner Actually a Continuation of Secret Agent?

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

An email received on Sunday from one of the most thoughtful commenters at PJ Lifestyle:

A friend and I were just debating this – is the television show The Prisoner actually the continuation of the show Secret Agent Man?  We both finally decided, yes it is.

Regards,

Allston

We’re going to talk more about The Prisoner, one of TV’s most innovative cult classics, this week at PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates. What are some more of the mysteries and questions about the show you want to discuss?

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The 10 Funniest Episodes Of Seinfeld

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

10seinfeld-cityroom-superJumbo

Twenty-five years ago this month, a sitcom pilot entitled The Seinfeld Chronicles debuted on NBC. A year later, the network gave the show, retitled Seinfeld, a try. Unlike today, NBC nurtured the series and let it build a following. Today many critics and fans see Seinfeld as a high water mark in television comedy, and in honor of its 25th anniversary, here are the ten funniest episodes.

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10. “The Puffy Shirt”

By its fifth season, Seinfeld was at a bit of a crossroad. The fourth season had raised the bar creatively (one of the show’s writers referred to it as “our Sgt. Pepper year”), and the show was more popular than ever. Could they top themselves? After an uneven debut, the season’s second outing, “The Puffy Shirt,” showed that the team had plenty of creativity left in them.

In this episode, Jerry politely agrees with Kramer’s “low-talking” fashion designer girlfriend, not hearing what she said. Next thing he knows, he’s stuck wearing one of her creations on the Today show – a ridiculous pirate-inspired puffy shirt.

Naturally, Jerry embarrasses himself on national television, and the design goes nowhere. But in between are some memorable moments – Jerry whining, “But I don’t want to be a pirate,” Bryant Gumbel’s incredulous reaction to Jerry’s shirt, and two homeless men in the final scene wearing the shirts that have been donated to charity. “The Puffy Shirt” proved that the series still had plenty of life in it.

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10 Ways ’90s Pop Culture Destroyed the American Male

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. If guys didn’t look like heroin-addicted street dwellers…

Before committing suicide, musician Kurt Cobain copyrighted the grunge look that came to define Gen-X/millennial crossovers in the ’90s. A reaction to the preppie style made famous by ’80s yuppies, grunge involved a level of disheveled that transcended even the dirtiest of ’60s hippie looks. Grunge trademarks included wrinkled, untucked clothing complemented by greasy, knotted hair and an expression best defined as heroin chic. The style depicted an “I don’t care” attitude that took punk’s anti-authoritarian attitude to a darker, more disengaged level. Grunge became the look of resigned defeat among American males.

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The 10 Most Obnoxious, Overrated Alien Cultures in Star Trek

Friday, July 11th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

10. The Romulans

What exactly do the Romulans have that justifies their defining quality, their arrogance? They’re among the most boring species in all of Trek, the kind of evil twin to the Vulcans, known for their deceitful and warlike nature.

Their only redeeming feature seems to be how cool and genuinely intimidating their warbird ships are:

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Don’t Miss FX’s TV-Version of Fargo

Friday, July 11th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

FargoLogo

I’ve had so much to say about so many things that I haven’t had a chance to put up a quick review of the TV version of Fargo recently on FX.  I’m afraid a lot of people who would have loved this show might have missed it on the first go round. The problem was, the first episode was delightfully complex and murderous, a really good imitation of the tone and content of the original (great) Coen Brothers movie of the same name. But there was so much in the pilot that, almost by necessity, the second and third episodes felt as if they fell off a little. I know a few people who stopped watching at this point. A mistake, it turns out. The show climbed right back to the level of the first episode and then continued to get better and better until it was absolutely spectacular.

The show really managed to capture the Fargo tone of foul crime in the good-natured heartland. Great plotting, great dialogue, great characters played by great actors. Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton were absolutely wonderful — their characters both so villainous in such different ways that their interaction became kind of a running meditation on the nature of evil. Not as much flash and dazzle as True Detective but far, far better on the crime story fundamentals. A really gripping ride. 

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Reality TV’s 10 Biggest Lies About America

Sunday, July 6th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Americans are all obese.

From the messy buildup in the fat folds of Mama June’s neck (affectionately known to her children as “neck crud”) to Honey’s proclivity for bathing in mayonnaise, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo embodies the myth that everyone in America weighs a minimum of 300 pounds. One of the best episodes involves Mama June dumping a 5 pound bag of sugar into 2 gallons of lemon juice in order to make homemade lemonade. For the record, 64% of Americans are not obese. But with shows like HHere Comes Honey Boo Boo, The Biggest Loser, Extreme Weight Loss, Shedding for the Wedding, Thintervention, Dance Your A** Off, Celebrity Fit Club, I Used To Be Fat, and Ruby, we’re just a bunch of big, fat Americans.

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8 Great Movies and 1 Rotten TV Show You Can’t Watch on Netflix Anymore

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

8. Live And Let Die

Is the first Bond movie with Roger Moore the best one in which he starred? Was it all downhill from here? I tend to think so. Moore took over the series from Sean Connery with this fun 1973 spy thriller set in New Orleans and featuring a blaxploitation and Black Panther-inspired villains. My friend Chris Queen included the theme song on his list of best Bond songs in 2012:

Paul and Linda McCartney banged out a unique title tune for 1973’s Live And Let Die. While previous 007 themes fell into more of an easy listening vein, “Live And Let Die” blends bracing rock and intense orchestration by Beatles producer George Martin, who scored the film.

According to The Billboard Book Of Number Two Singles, Wings almost missed out on the chance to record it, and subsequently the producers almost missed out on the song itself. Martin recalled that when he played the Wings track for producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli, they complimented Martin on the song and asked who should record it.

The producers suggested future disco diva Thelma Houston, and otherwise insisted that a black woman perform the song because of the film’s New Orleans setting. Martin and McCartney held firm that there would be no song if Wings couldn’t perform it. Looking back nearly 40 years later, it’s hard to imagine anyone but McCartney belting those immortal words, “Live And Let Die.”

Did the Bond films just get too silly with Moore? Are they better when there’s more of a balance between tough spy action and the occasional jokes and clever gadgets?

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What Is the Most Shocking Crime Drama on TV Today?

Monday, June 30th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. For this week’s debates we’re going to focus on crime in fiction.

From Dave Swindle:

So I had a few list articles the past few days and I’d like to use them as a catalyst to launch a few weeks of debates and discussions about crime in popular culture. At the PJ Tatler:

30 Books For Defeating Valerie Jarrett’s Cult of Political Criminals

In the article I concluded with talking about how the books themes all come together in President Jarrett’s favorite TV show, Scandal. Then on Saturday at PJ Lifestyle, I concluded this piece excerpting from the conclusion to explain why I considered it #1 on the list:

The 10 Most Terrible, Overrated Shows on Netflix Streaming You Must Avoid

On my list I named many shows that start with small crimes and then have to progressively up the ante to keep viewers engaged. But there’s loads of TV today that I haven’t seen. Maybe there are others worse? What shows today do you think have transgressed too many moral lines and descended to trash?

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The 10 Most Terrible, Overrated Shows on Netflix Streaming You Must Avoid

Saturday, June 28th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

10. Amish Mafia

I think it’s with Amish Mafia that the “reality TV” trend jumped the shark. It was at this point that premises for shows had to start becoming so outlandish and ridiculous that viewers could no longer be expected to put up with the charade that they’re watching something “real.” With Amish Mafia the show has to be upfront about the fact that the footage is all actually “reenactments.” It’s the TV version of non-alcoholic beer.

The show’s amusing novelty — hearing the Pennsylvania Dutch spoken by some Amish subtitled and saying thuggish things — wears off quick.

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The 10 Rules for British Period Dramas on TV

Monday, June 23rd, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

From Downton Abbey to Call the Midwife, British TV has been on fire lately — and American audiences are burning for more. If you’re an incurable addict like me, you’ve probably noticed a few trends, however. In my mind, they contribute to the comfortable familiarity of the British period drama — you might not know where the next plot twist will take you, but you always know where it’s all going in the end. I’ve cracked the code so you don’t have to. Probably a verbatim copy of the rules handed out to producers and writers once they pass their British TV No Spoilers Security Clearance, here are my 10 Rules for British Period Dramas on TV.

Be warned: that means pretty much every piece of this blog post is a spoiler.

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The Top 10 Influences that Made the Baby Boomers Who They Are

Saturday, June 21st, 2014 - by Don Sucher

10. Howdy Doody

I can hear you… “What? Are you nuts? How can you put a puppet on a list of the greatest influences on our nation’s largest, and presently most influential, generation?”

Well, ignoring the fact that Howdy Doody was not a” puppet” (he was a marionette), having Howdy Doody on the list makes perfect sense. The baby boomers are what sociologists call “a cohort group” — i.e., a group of people who share, and are bound together by, a common set of experiences during a defined period.

What was the first shared experience that the boomers – the cohort group born between 1946 and 1964 – uniquely had in common? Watching TV. And what was their earliest shared favorite television program? Howdy Doody. I rest my case.

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The 10 Most Underrated TV Comedies of All Time

Friday, June 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Sullivan and Son

This working class comedy executive-produced by Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley is fraught with all the non-PC ethnic and sexual humor you’d hear in a working class, Irish-Korean, middle-American bar like the one in the show. Created by Korean American actor/comedian Steve Byrne and Cheers writer Rob Long, the TBS sitcom reminds you that some jokes are still OK to crack. The stellar cast features Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) and comic genius Brian Doyle-Murray, along with Christine Ebersole and Owen Benjamin, who portray the drop-dead hysterical mother-son dependent duo Carol and Owen Walsh. 

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The 10 Most Cringe-Worthy TV Flops

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

We’ve all heard of the horrors of Cop Rock and Manimal, but after receiving a reader tip on one of their worst TV shows of all time, I did some digging and uncovered these utterly classic samples of bad television that would make great material for Joel McHale or the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

10. Bucky and Pepito (1959)

Produced by Sam Singer, “The Ed Wood of Animation,” Bucky and Pepito was a typical story of an “ambitious” white cowboy and his “lazy” (literally, they sing about it in the theme song) Mexican buddy trolling the old west on a zero budget. According to Toonopedia, “Cartoon historian Harry McCracken once said the pair ‘set a standard for awfulness that no contemporary TV cartoon has managed to surpass. They were great at what they did, which was being bad.’” Thanks to Bucky and Pepito, cartoonists have debated creating a Sam Singer Award for truly bad animation.

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NBC Declares Jerusalem Television’s City of Gold

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
DIG

The show’s creator, Israeli-turned-Hollywood golden child, Gideon Raff.

The Jerusalem Post reports that NBC will begin shooting a new action-adventure series, Dig, in Jerusalem this week:

Israel’s capital city is slated to play a central role in storyline of the series that portrays FBI agents uncovering a conspiracy of the Old City while investigating the murder of an American archaeologist.

…”The filming of “Dig” will be a boon for the production industry in Jerusalem, drawing more of them to come film here, create new jobs and encourage investments in the city,” Bennett added.

NBC’s first large-scale production filmed in Jerusalem, will reportedly be broadcast in the United States at the end of 2014.

While American versions of Israeli shows (In Therapy and Homeland, another creation by Dig’s Gideon Raff, come to mind) have made their way to the small screen, this will be the first time an American television show is shot in Israel. According to the Wall Street Journal,  Dig was co-developed by Keshet Media Group, an Israeli media company, and is expected to make its premiere on the USA Network, with a possible second run on SyFy.

“When we combine Hollywood’s creative potential with Jerusalem’s historic backdrop, it will result in the ability to connect hundreds of millions of viewers around the world to this unique and beautiful city. There is an undeniable inspiration and creative energy in Jerusalem, which is why it has become a center for international film production,” said Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, in a statement.

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Jane the Virgin: The CW’s Take on ‘Immaculate’ Conception

Sunday, June 1st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The CW is planning to add Jane the Virgin to its fall lineup. Based on a Venezuelan telenovela of the same name, Jane the Virgin is about an intentionally virginal girl who is “accidentally artificially inseminated” by her OB-GYN:

Jane stars Gina Rodriguez (Filly Brown) as a hard-working, devout Latina who is kind of hoping her boyfriend proposes — though she’s a little worried he’ll get down on one knee so she’ll finally agree to do the deed. When a mix-up at the OB-GYN leads to that artificial insemination plot line, Jane must choose whether to keep the baby — and whether to let the handsome father into her life.

Aside from containing a number of Spanish stereotypes, including the paranoid grandmother putting the fear of God into her pre-teen daughter (“Once you lose your virginity, you can never go back!“) to a cast of overtly sexualized Latinas, the show appears to be a platform for some long overdue, serious conversation regarding abortion. However, the show sounds eerily like one of the most famously influential and revered plot lines in the West’s repertoire, leaving one to wonder how a primarily Protestant audience might handle a story that’s been a hit in a Catholic country.

When it comes to the primarily pathetic representation of Latinas on television (does Sofia Vergara have to do it all?) at least Jane the Virgin appears to lack the typical trashiness of Devious Maids.

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6 Contestants To Watch On The New Season Of MasterChef

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

501-001-masterchef-top-30-compete-photos-lightbox-tbd

My favorite summer television indulgence is back! Season 5 of MasterChef made its debut on Memorial Day. And while the show promises the same excitement and inspiration as the previous four seasons, we saw some changes in the premiere.

First off, judge/host Graham Elliot showed off the results of 155 pounds of weight loss. Secondly, the competition began with the top 30 home cooks – no “audition” episodes. The format change dropped viewers right into the heart of the action from the start.

In the premiere episode, the judges – Elliot, Joe Bastianich, and Gordon Ramsay, whittled the competition down to 22. They eliminated two contestants during the cooking process. The first 17 chefs made the cut on the first elimination test, while four of the remaining nine had to endure another challege – with tighter rules and cooking alongside Gordon Ramsay – to earn their aprons.

The Top 22 come from all over the country (I enjoyed hearing so many Southern accents) and all walks of life – including one competitor who worked as a dancer in a “gentlemen’s club.” But a few in particular stand out to me – I claim these as six to watch throughout the season, because they promise to bring heart and drama to an already exciting competition. Take a look…

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The #1 Reason We Watch Call the Midwife

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

This past Sunday, American audiences finally had their chance to wave goodbye to Nurse Jenny Lee, the lead character in the famed Masterpiece series Call the Midwife. However sad it may be, the departure of the show’s Hollywood-bound lead actress Jessica Raine was, ironically, in no way a traumatic one.

Most American shows die when their lead actor disappears. Dan Stevens’ untimely departure from Downton Abbey still enrages fans over a year later. Yet, while Nurse Jenny Lee will be a much missed character, fans are far from outraged at her departure. Perhaps this is because Call the Midwife was never just about Jennifer (Lee) Worth, but about the many lives she encountered and a profession that is finally being given the credit it so sorely deserves. But there is more to the massive success of what began as a 6-episode BBC show about nursing in mid-century London’s bombed-out East End than giving credit where credit is due.

In an era of roughshod marketing tactics and semiotic overload, Call the Midwife, with its pure, heartfelt approach to the vicissitudes of life, is therapeutic television. We are a desensitized audience: No one cries when a pregnant mother is stabbed to death on Game of Thrones. Yet, everyone, including the burly guys on set, shed a tear at every birth on Call the Midwife. We are treated to an East End rife with chamber pots, not sexy chamber maids, and yet audiences are drawn to the show in droves. We love the midwives, even when they are dressed in habits and wimples; they are the ideal face of medicine, mother, and God in an era when we’ve been taught to doubt all three. Like a nurse checking our pulse, Call the Midwife reminds us that we are human after all, and perhaps not as sick as we’ve been led to believe.

And yet, while TV execs struggle with sex and violence in the name of Tweet power, they remain blind to Call the Midwife’s axiom for success: There is powerful endurance in simple truth. Call the Midwife will survive without the character of Jenny Lee because the show has embraced Jennifer Worth’s own mystical sense of timelessness. It is the stuff that fueled her memoirs of both London’s East End and her time as a nurse caring for the dying. Brilliantly captured in the season finale, this sense of the eternal in both life and death is what makes Call the Midwife a healing balm of a show and transcendental television in its finest form. Forget bloody battles and wild, nameless sex. Call the Midwife empowers its audience with the strength to face, not escape, life’s pressures, and the faith to believe that while “weeping may happen for a night, joy breaks forth in the morning.”

Now and then in life, love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind, and filling them with radiance. Once in a while you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul, all unprepared, by assault.

Jennifer Worth

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