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10 Hits and Misses in Gotham’s First Five Episodes

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Fox’s Gotham has been running for a few weeks now, and it’s off to a bittersweet start. The Batman show without Batman serves as a prequel to the mythology we know.

There’s a lot to like in Gotham. It looks great, shot in New York and enhanced with seamless visual effects. The performances are solid, often transcending weak scripts.

But overall, Gotham suffers from an identity crisis. This show can’t decide what it’s trying to be. One scene evokes the grounded tone of The Dark Knight. The next evokes the camp of 1966. Here are 10 hits and misses in Gotham’s first five episodes.

5. Miss: Fish Mooney

The Portrayal: Jada Pinkett Smith lends the series its greatest star power. Her character, underworld player Fish Mooney, was conceived for the series as a new addition to the Batman mythology. Mooney serves as a lieutenant in the Falcone crime family. She despises her boss and aspires to replace him as the dominant figure in Gotham’s underworld.

Why It’s a Miss: It’s fitting that Fish Mooney was created uniquely for this show, because she personifies its tonal inconsistency. It’s unclear whether we’re meant to root for her or against her. In one scene, she’s ordering the brutal torture and execution of police officers, as if it’s no big deal. In the next, she’s helplessly browbeat by Falcone and proven largely impotent. Pinkett Smith chews the scenery, evoking the camp of the 1960s television show. Her portrayal has been described as an “Eartha Kitt impersonation.”

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10 Ways to Avoid Regretting Your Wedding

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The average wedding in America costs roughly $30,000. Egged on by countless wedding TV shows, magazines, and websites, people throw what appear to be pseudo star-studded events that aim to rival the kind of blow-out parties you only see in movies. In the end you wind up with one night of clouded memories, a ton of photos, and a group of hungover people hovering over breakfast in the hotel lobby the next day. The bills may last you months, even upwards of a year. And for what? To make your grandmother happy? Because you really liked that episode of My Fair WeddingYou can have a great, regret-free wedding without sacrificing yourself to the Wedding Idol. Here’s how.

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The Wasted Women of Star Trek, Part 2: Deanna Troi

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Ash Freeman

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See The Wasted Women of Star Trek, Part 1: Tasha Yar

Oh, Deanna… where to start?

Deanna Troi is often thought of as a relic of the feel-good, new-agey late 1980s. Although the necessity for psychological treatment is imperative to military personnel who suffer from trauma, Troi’s role was more or less a shoulder to cry on when she wasn’t stating the obvious. Or being forcibly impregnated. Or raped, mentally or physically. Pretty much every crappy thing you could do to a female character, Troi had it happen to her, besides being killed outright.

While also being “fanservice.” Wikipedia:

Fan service (ファンサービス fan sābisu), fanservice, or service cut (サービスカット sābisu katto), is a term originating from anime and manga fandom for material in a series which is intentionally added to please the audience. It is about “servicing” the fan - giving the fans “exactly what they want”. Fan service usually refers to “gratuitous titillation“, but can also refer to intertextual references to other series.

Dead Troi

No, wait, they killed her in the alternate future of “All Good Things…”. Crap.

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Disney’s Wilderness Years, Part 2: How The Studio Navigated The Hit-Or-Miss 1980s

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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For the past few weeks, we’ve looked at the company Walt Disney built and how it has survived over the decades. We talked about how the studio reflected the can-do spirit that beat the Great Depression in the 1930s, as well as how World War II affected Disney. We’ve also discussed the changing world of the 1950s and how Disney reflected it, and we looked at Walt’s seven most radical ideas from the 60s.

Last week, we delved into what I call Disney’s wilderness years – the period after Walt’s death when the company had exhausted all of its founder’s projects and its output suffered creatively. We looked at the 1970s and how Disney reflected the both the general malaise and the leadership crisis the country faced.

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Ross Douthat Loves Lena Dunham for All the Wrong Reasons

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Conservative columnist Ross Douthat has declared his love for Lena Dunham. It hardly comes as a surprise that a New York Times writer, even one who dwells to the right of the aisle, would find the Girls prodigy appealing. What makes Douthat’s devotion disturbing is that he has managed to transform a goddess chained to a slew of liberal causes into a sacrificial lamb for conservative culture. In his struggle to do so, his misses the mark in what could have been one of the most culturally relevant critiques of Girls to date.

The critic defends Dunham’s showpiece Girls, writing,

She’s making a show for liberals that, merely by being realistic, sharp-edge, complicated, almost gives cultural conservatism its due. 

It’s a seemingly ironic observation, based in the idea that Girls “often portrays young-liberal-urbanite life the way, well, many reactionaries see it…” That is, a subculture on the verge of self-destruction due to excessive amounts of what sociologist Robert Bellah dubbed, “the view that the key to the good life lies almost exclusively in self-discovery, self-actualization, the cultivation of the unique and holy You.”

In other words, as Gawker so simply put it:

He likes watching the show because it allows him to feel superior to Dunham and her fellow sluts.

By employing a rote, traditionalist perspective, Douthat argued himself into a hole, turning his love into judgement and burying his point in poorly-worded theory and equally bad theology.

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The 10 Most Unexpectedly Original Male TV Characters of All Time

Monday, October 6th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

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Every now and then it happens. And when it does, it’s like magic, taking producers, writers, even the actors themselves by surprise. We’re talking about those characters, usually supporting characters, on television shows to whom not much consideration may have been given when the shows they co-starred in were in development but who ended up practically taking them over.

You likely know who they are, or at least some of them. The star’s best friend, the odd man out, the kid brother. They were intended by writers as foils for the star, or straight men, or characters from which story springboards might happen. For a while, they might chug along in the background; popping into a scene and popping out. Delivering a punch line or tickling the star’s conscience. Then, for no special reason, the spotlight might shine on them for an episode and something happens. At home, viewers sit up in their easy chairs or delay that trip to the bathroom. Something about how the co-star has delivered his lines or used body language has cast a new light on his character. With his new side revealed, creative possibilities emerge. Writers and producers take notice and the order goes out to shove a little more action in the co-star’s direction. In following episodes, the same thing happens again. Sometimes the transformation can take place within the pilot season, sometimes more gradually over many seasons; but however it happens, lightning has struck and television has an unforgettable character, one that can often make or break a series. Remove him, and the series loses much of its energy.

This phenomenon used to happen more often in the “golden age of television” when studios were cranking out dozens of new series every year covering every genre (although westerns predominated). Moreover, a full season might have more than 33 episodes a year (instead of the measly 13 or 22 that today’s shows boast) to develop plots and flesh out characters. Finally, even the worst performing shows of the past routinely drew millions more viewers than the most popular of today’s programs.

But what does it take for such breakout characters to make a top ten list? Characters like Happy Days‘ Fonzie don’t make the grade. Popular as they might have been, they never progressed beyond vehicles for punch lines or never developed in any kind of meaningful three dimensional way. Real breakout characters have to feature a number of positive qualities. First, they have to come from nowhere, virtually unexpected even by their creators and the writers of the show. Second, they have to have depth of personality, a quality that might develop over a number of episodes (but not too many!). Third, the actors portraying them have to possess the innate qualities of talent, personality, and maybe a certain amount of unconscious actualization, to bring an essential cipher to life.

10) John Locke

At first the character of John Locke (played by Terry O’Quinn) seemed like nothing special. Just another unlucky passenger aboard Oceanic flight 815. Then, in the first episode of Lost, the plane crashed on a mysterious desert island and Locke joined the survivors as they wrestled with figuring out where they were, running from invisible monsters, and learning about each other. In his early scenes, Locke hung back from the more aggressive survivors until episode three when viewers were shocked to discover that Locke had been handicapped and confined to a wheelchair when he boarded the doomed flight. But since the first episode on the island, he’d been walking around normally! What was that all about? Viewers were instantly hooked as Locke put most other characters on the show in the shade. The mystery of how he could walk while on the island was one that would unfold slowly as the series progressed, along with other idiosyncrasies all adding up to one of the most intriguing characters in recent TV history.

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Is Jon Stewart Much More Annoying Than Bill Maher?

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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“What Makes Jon Stewart More Insufferable Than Bill Maher,” from October 3:

Recently four members of that least-recognized Indian tribe “Redskins Nation” agreed to participate in a Daily Show segment discussing the controversy surrounding their team name. Their conversation with comedian Jason Jones was stretching into its third hour when eight Native American activists were suddenly brought out. The newcomers became vitriolic and one fan left the set crying, saying later that she’d felt threatened.

The Washingtonians told the Washington Post that they would have gladly agreed to debate a group of the Indians, but the show had said no such confrontation would occur. The producers lied, sprang an ambush, and laughed at the acrimony that followed.

If this doesn’t feel like déjà vu, then it should. The Daily Show lies all the time. Once a clever romp through the evening news, the show has become a tedious exercise in ideological anthem playing. Its purpose is the same as that of Neil deGrasse Tyson: to present neatly edited vignettes that assure elites of their mammoth intellectual superiority over the Fox News crowd. Satirists are supposed to poke fun at the cultural consensus; the Daily Showruthlessly enforces it, seeking out and destroying anyone who ventures outside its bounds. Its host Jon Stewart is a pathetic devotee of hegemonic center-left opinion who uses dishonest techniques to portray himself as the last honest man. Its in-studio audience is the world’s most annoying echo chamber.

Read the whole thing.

Related this weekend, Mediaite reports on a heated exchange on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday. Maher and Sam Harris Vs. Ben Affleck and Nicholas Kristof on Islam:

Ben AffleckBill Maher,Nicholas Kristol,Michael Steele, and author Sam Harris got into what could only be described as a tumultuous continuation of Maher’s comments on Islam from last week, with Maher and Affleck tearing into each other over the influence of fundamentalists in the Muslim community.

“We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where criticism of the religion gets conflated with bigotry towards muslims as people,” Harris began. “It’s intellectually ridiculous.”

“Hold on — are you the person who officially understands the codified doctrine of Islam?” Affleck, on the show to promote his movie Gone Girl, interrupted, and argued that criticizing Islam, as Maher and Harris were doing it, was “gross and racist. It’s like saying, ‘Oh, you shifty Jew!’”

Explicit language warning for video clip on next page:

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When Did The Simpsons Jump the Shark?

Monday, September 29th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

Speculation from last year when producers teased that the start of the 26th season would include the death of a major character:

So who died? A very disappointing pay-off today, as The Daily Mail reports:

 

It has been almost a year of anxious speculation.

But when the moment came for a ‘major character’ on The Simpsons to be killed off, viewers were less than impressed.

It was Krusty The Clown’s father, Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky.

Which character would you have axed instead? Or is the show just long passed its expiration date? When did you stop watching? Can you pinpoint the season when the show went off the rails?

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The Real President Appeared on The Good Wife Last Night

Monday, September 29th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

I haven’t seen this show yet but Dave Forsmark tells me it’s much better than House of Cards. Hat tip: Weekly Standard.

I made the case in January here that Jarrett isn’t merely the “senior adviser” to the president but the one making the consequential foreign, legislative, and strategic decisions.

What do you think? If she’s not the one most influencing the administration’s policies then who is? And how should they be defeated?

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Why Star Trek: The Next Generation Is Great in Spite of Being Mostly Terrible

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 - by Ash Freeman

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Star Trek: The Next Generation is, undeniably, one of the greatest sci-fi shows in the history of the genre.

But it wasn’t perfect.

So when did it start to slide in quality anyway?

It didn’t start out that good — let’s be real.

Like many productions, TNG stumbled in its early seasons, regularly. As the show found itself, it began to consistently display the storytelling and endearing characters it would be known for even today…at around Season 3. Hell, the most famous episodes of the series, “The Best of Both Worlds” Parts 1 and 2, ended said season. But before that? It was hit or miss, and often the latter.

Season 1 is especially egregious, containing the worst good-to-mediocre/terrible ratio in the entire series. Yes, that is including the often (justifiably) maligned Season 7, generally the point where most shows have definitely passed their high point anyway. What set Season 1 apart from arguably more inferior seasons is the sheer volume of crap they had to crank out before they hit their stride.

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Top 10 Reasons to Get Excited About Star Wars Rebels

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Before Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the only fresh on-screen Star Wars content fans had to cling to was The Clone Wars animated series on the Cartoon Network. The show was hit or miss over its five aired seasons, occasionally hitting the right tone, but too often floundering with lame characters and boring stories.

Season Five particularly lagged with back-to-back four-episode story arcs centered around the misadventures of child padawans and astromech droids. Four. Episodes. It was ridiculous and indicative of the show’s tendency to skew too far from the recipe which makes Star Wars work.

The announcement of Disney’s acquisition came as Season Five concluded. Not long after, The Clone Wars was abruptly cancelled. Fans feared that might be the end of Star Wars on television.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the new Lucasfilm to announce Star Wars Rebels, a new animated series set to air in October on Disney XD. Here are 10 reasons to get excited about this new Star Wars television show.

#10. The Return of Kenobi

Occurring in the timeline between Episodes III and IV of the film saga, Star Wars Rebels benefits from an era fertile for storytelling. The series deals with the initial sparks of rebellion which eventually foment into the Rebel Alliance seen in A New Hope.

During this time period, we know that Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has exiled himself to the desert world of Tatooine to keep a close watch over the growth of Luke Skywalker. Fans have long wondered whether those years between defeating Vader on the slopes of Mustafar and seeking passage to Alderaan were spent meditating peacefully in his Jundland hovel or engaged in a more active role in galactic affairs.

This trailer for Rebels seems to indicate the latter. There’s something about this version of Kenobi, the hermit Ben draped in Jedi robe while graying in the beard, which excites more than his Clone Wars iteration.

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Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Bang! You’re Dead’ Reveals Life in Human ‘Vegetables’

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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Since it first aired in 1961, one particular episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents has lingered in the minds of millions of Americans:

The episode “Bang! You’re Dead,” which originally aired in 1961 and can be viewed in full online, tracks an afternoon of agonizing roulette. A young boy replaces the toy gun in his holster with the real revolver he finds in his uncle’s suitcase, which he partially loads with live rounds. For a pulse-pounding afternoon, the boy waltzes around town, slipping through each townsperson’s grip as he plays cowboy. “Stick ’em up!” he orders. Friends and neighbors all bashfully obey, teasing out the boy’s joke—and the audience’s horror.

Hitchock directed this episode himself, and it shows.

Not only because it’s a primer in the use of story-boarding and editing to induce tension in viewers, but because, as an Englishman, Hitchcock no doubt looked down on America’s gun culture as crude, juvenile and deeply dangerous.

Another educated guess:

“Bang!” is Hitchcock’s self-imposed penance for widely criticized scenes in two of his films.

Francois Truffaut denounced the shocking bus bombing scene in Sabotage (1936).

Others condemned the climactic scene in the original The Man Who Knew Too Much, in which a phalanx of unarmed English “bobbies” is unsentimentally shot down in one pitiless sweep.

(Note: Hitchcock’s contempt for the police would make a rapper blush; I’ve always wondered if his justification for that disdain was just a self-serving, apocryphal alibi.)

(And this isn’t the place to do much more than note in passing that the villains in both films were anarchists — the “Muslim terrorists” of Hitchcock’s childhood, but largely anachronistic by the 1930s.)

In any event, it speaks volumes about the power of “Bang! You’re Dead” that that particular 50+ year old, 30-minute long TV episode was chosen as the key component of a potentially game-changing medical experiment.

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WKRP in Cincinnati Finally Arrives on DVD, Music Intact

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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WKRP in Cincinnati was one of my favorite shows growing up, but it never got a proper VHS release, much less DVD or Blu-Ray. The reason was the music rights, and the popular music of the time was integral to the show. WKRP was shot on video, which at the time was the cheaper medium for acquiring music rights — but they also expired more quickly. The result was that in order to make the show available for sale to consumers, the producers would have to pay a lot of money to a lot of bands.

The result was butchered episodes using generic music instead of the real thing.

A new DVD box set popped up in my Amazon recommendations for pre-order not long ago, but the official description didn’t settle my only question: Would it have the original music?

Now we have an answer:

On Oct. 28, Shout! Factory will release the first complete series-spanning WKRP DVD set, with its original soundtrack gloriously restored. (Orders through the Shout! Factory site get early delivery on Sept. 23.) The 13-disc set will include not only new bonus features (including a 2014 panel discussion with members of the cast and crew), but actual songs by a staggeringly broad range of artists including Captain Beefheart, Elvis Costello, the Rolling Stones, Luther Vandross, Ray Charles, the Sir Douglas Quintet, and Huey Lewis & the News. Somewhere in sitcom heaven Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap are exchanging cool ’70s-hipster handshakes.

All right my children. This is WKRP in Cincinnati with more music and Les Nessman.

AND ANOTHER THING: There’s no “Mary Ann or Ginger” debate between Jennifer and Bailey. It’s Bailey, all the way.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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HBO’s Terror at the Mall: The Right Film at the Right Time

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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As the world’s attention is focused on ISIS, it’s easy for many to neglect the threat posed by their brethren in less-covered parts of the globe.

It’s also easy for many to dismiss the growth of al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa as a regional threat, even as Americans in Uganda were warned by the U.S. Embassy to shelter in place over the weekend because of an imminent threat from Al-Shabaab. “We remain vigilant to the possibility that some of the attack cell could still be at large, but we believe that it is appropriate to rescind the guidance to shelter-in-place,” the Embassy said Sunday. “We urge, however, that all U.S. citizens maintain heightened security awareness and continue to monitor email and news outlets for any updates.”

It could also be easy for some to assume that Al-Shabaab is significantly degraded after a U.S. airstrike on Labor Day killed its leader Godane, instead of noting how quickly they moved new leadership into place and renewed their fidelity to al-Qaeda.

That’s why the HBO documentary Terror at the Mall, which premiered on the cable network Monday night, is so important.

The Westgate mall in Nairobi, with its patrons a truly globalized mix of races, creeds, nationalities, and ages, was a microcosm of the greater al-Qaeda target. On Sept. 21, 2013, Al-Shabaab moved in on their target. Sixty-seven people were killed and nearly 200 wounded.

British documentary producer and director Dan Reed has experience showing the brutality of terrorism: 2009′s Terror in Mumbai and 2003′s Terror in Moscow.

In Terror at the Mall, he painstakingly pieced together footage from more than 100 security cameras around Westgate as well as the still photos of renowned Reuters war photographer Goran Tomašević, who gives the story behind some of his famous photos from that day. We also see him, in full combat photography gear, drift through security camera footage with plainclothes police as the bullets fly.

Reed sits down with some of the survivors seen in the footage, including Niall Saville, who was eating lunch at a patio restaurant when the attack began. His wife, Moon Hee, is badly wounded and he drags her into the restaurant and behind the counter as a security camera looks on. A terrorist eventually discovers the pair and shoots Saville. The couple lay on the ground in a pool of blood, the husband trying to stay conscious as his wife dies.

In the large adjoining supermarket, Nakumatt, we see a heroic man get ripped by bullets for venturing out into the aisles to get a bottle of water for a wounded man. We hear from his savior, who admits he learned how to put life-saving pressure on the wounds from watching movies. We hear the stories of the mothers with children who went grocery shopping that day only to cower behind the meat counter in a last-ditch effort to stay alive. An Al-Shabaab terrorist comes by and sprays customers with bullets as they try to shield their children.

Katherine Walton, who hid her three children under a mall kiosk table, speaks of her immediate realization that as an American, as a Christian, she would be a prime target for the terrorists. Another survivor from the supermarket recounts that one of the Al-Shabaab members asked a Kenyan mother if she was Muslim or Christian; she replied she was Christian and was immediately shot to death.

Some of the terror was out of the reach of security cameras, like the massacre at a children’s cooking competition on the roof of the parking garage. A few of the hostages were released after telling the terrorists that they were Muslim, but Muslims were also among the dead. Radio host Ruhila Adatia-Sood was one of three pregnant women killed that day.

The film also highlights the people who came to help, including businessman Abdul Haji, who grabbed his gun and joined plainclothes policemen trying to rescue survivors in the mall (he admits he didn’t have many rounds that day, but stresses it’s accuracy that matters most). The disorganized response of Kenyan authorities, including soldiers accidentally shooting at survivors and killing Kenyan policemen, underscores the tragedy.

It concludes with Al-Shabaab’s “message to unbelievers”: “God willing, there will be more Westgates. We have hundreds more volunteers.”

Terror at theMall is stark, unflinching, bloody and terrifying. It also couldn’t be a more chilling reminder at a more important time. It’s not about pundit commentary and lets the footage speak for itself. It will stay with you for a long time. And in a terror fight that has seen its share of fair-weather commitment, that is needed.

“We don’t know each other, we all come from different communities,” recalled survivor Valentine Kadzo, who hid under the kiosk with Walton. “But at that time we were one.”

And that’s exactly the approach we need to take in confronting the growth of Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Al-Shabaab.

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15 Songs Millennials Must Listen to in Order to Understand the 1980s

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

You’ve seen Thriller and heard all about Madonna, but what do you really know about the decade that ushered in the millennial generation? Think the era of scrunchies, boom boxes, pump sneakers and DeLoreans was just a fad? Think again. Some of the 1990s’ greatest pop culture trends were birthed in the millieu of Reaganomics, cable television, and a music video-loaded MTV.

15. Culture Club – “Karma Chameleon”

The ’80s was the decade of John Waters, the B-52s and all things camp coming to fruition. Decked out in eyeliner, lipstick and braids, Boy George popularized the aesthetic of this gay subculture with a poppy little tune about conflicted relationships. As for the music video, where better to set a gay guy’s love song in the ’80s than an 1870s riverboat called the “Chameleon” where a cheating gambler’s karma comes back to haunt him? Dude, it’s the ’80s: “Don’t ask, don’t tell” started here.

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Top 10 Best Animated TV Shows of All Time

Monday, September 15th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

Animation consisting of individual, hand drawn panels, photographed and run sequentially as a strip of film has been with us since the start of the film industry beginning with Little Nemo in 1911 and Gertie the Dinosaur in 1914. Using that same technique, the production process quickly evolved with studios of artists working together to produce longer and more elaborate cartoons reaching its climax with Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie in 1928. Soon, almost every movie studio had its animation department cranking out short subjects for display ahead of their main features including Warner Bros., MGM, and Columbia. But it was Disney who took the next great leap by producing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, a feature length cartoon that became a hit for the fledgling studio.

Such was where the state of animation remained until the next breakthrough took place. It happened when MGM animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera figured out a way to make cartoons cheaply enough to be profitable for television. Pioneering limited animation, they cut corners in the production process by reducing the number of cells per movement and using repetitive backgrounds among other techniques. That way, the two were able to come up with the Huckleberry Hound Show for the NBC television network in 1958. It was a success and soon after, the studio expanded its format into half hour shows until shattering another barrier in 1960 with the premier of The Flintstones on ABC. Following up on that show’s ratings success, the studio produced one classic half hour show after another so that for years, Hanna-Barbera dominated the field of TV animation.

But that begs the question: what makes for a hit animated show? The answer is the same as it is for any medium from novels to movies: a solid plot, well-rounded characterizations, and a good story with an identifiable beginning, middle, and end. And in the case of animation, instead of actors who can bring characters to life, good voice artists are a must. With those criteria in mind, as well as longevity, entertainment value, and originality, and a 30 minute format to fully develop those elements, the following list of the top ten best cartoon shows of all time has been chosen.

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116 Articles Exploring American Culture by Chris Queen

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

With Herman Cain

(Chris with Herman Cain at Smart Girl Summit, which he wrote about here.)

Back in May I edited together “10 of Chris Queen’s Greatest Hits,” a collection featuring several of my favorite pieces exemplifying the output from one of PJ Lifestyle’s strongest contributors. Today I offer a broader survey of Chris’s work. Here are links to some of his best articles across many subjects. If you haven’t yet discovered Chris’s thoughtful writing and warm spirit then here’s your place to dive in. Here are pieces going back to 2011. Also take a look at my article from last weekend, an open list-letter to Chris offering ideas in our Walt Disney research: “Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution.”

The South

  1. 10 Bands That Define Southern Rock
  2. What Do Southerners Think of Paula Deen?
  3. Hollywood’s Terrible Southern Accent Syndrome
  4. Smearing the South: First Honey Boo-Boo, Now ‘The Angry Ginger’?
  5. The Southern Tourism War of 2013: Enterprise, AL vs. Covington, GA
  6. Paula Deen’s Turnaround
  7. 3 Great Southern Novels You Probably Haven’t Read…Yet…
  8. Southerners Read The Bible More Than Any Other Area Of The Country
  9. 10 Things Everybody Gets Wrong About The South
  10. 14 Fascinating Inventors and Innovators from the South
  11. The 10 Most Overrated Destinations in the South
  12. The 10 Most Underrated Destinations in the South
  13. 10 Decadent Classic Southern Dishes

Disney: The Man, The Films, The Company, The Theme Parks

  1. The Ten Things You Must Do at Disney World
  2. Walt Disney’s 5 Greatest Innovations
  3. The 10 Best Disney Songs by the Sherman Brothers
  4. Disney’s Rich Ross: The Rise And Fall Of An Entertainment Mogul
  5. The Pixar Canon: 4 Misses And 8 Hits
  6. No Redheaded Stepchild: Brave Innovations Pay Off for Pixar
  7. It’s So Good To Be Bad: What Drives the Disney Villain Fascination?
  8. The Most Controversial Disney Classic You Probably Forgot
  9. 10 Must-Read Books for Disney Nerds
  10. Walt Disney’s Fascinating Political Journey
  11. 5 Examples of the Value of Faith in Disney’s Classic Films
  12. How Disney Culture Values Excellence
  13. 5 Disney Films That Define Key Family Values
  14. Patriotism, Disney Style
  15. Walt Disney’s Optimistic Futurism
  16. Horizons: Walt Disney’s Lost Futuristic Legacy
  17. Forgotten Walt Disney World: River Country
  18. Roy Disney: The Not-So-Silent Partner
  19. Forgotten Walt Disney World: Discovery Island
  20. Forgotten Walt Disney World: If You Had Wings
  21. Walt Disney’s ‘Boys’: Beautiful Music, Brotherly Disharmony
  22. How Interactive Lines at Disney’s Parks Make Waiting For Rides Not So Bad
  23. The 5 Most Underrated Walt Disney World Experiences
  24. The 5 Most Overrated Experiences at Walt Disney World
  25. Disney Parks’ Fascinating Running Subculture
  26. Has Disney World Fulfilled Walt’s Dreams For His Florida Project?
  27. Happy Birthday, Mickey Mouse!
  28. RIP, Diane Disney Miller
  29. The Top 5 Christmas Season Traditions At Walt Disney World
  30. The Disney Family’s Real Life Soap Opera
  31. 3 Ways Walt Disney World Can Improve Transportation Around The Resort
  32. Disney’s Tasty, Controversial Turkey Legs
  33. Debunking the Disney Disinformation
  34. 5 Attractions I Wish Were Still At Walt Disney World
  35. How Glenn Beck Wants to Shape the Culture
  36. 5 Underrated Disney World Attractions You Shouldn’t Skip
  37. 10 Books Every Disney Fan Should Read
  38. Disney and the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, Part 1: ‘The Kind Of Service We Can Offer’
  39. Part 2: ‘Something No One Has Seen Or Done Before’
  40. Part 3: ‘I Won’t Open The Fair Without That Exhibit!’
  41. Part 4: ‘At The Intersection Of Commerce And Progress’
  42. Part 5: ‘It Says Something Very Nice’
  43. Part 6: ‘A Living Blueprint Of The Future’
  44. Mary Blair: Unsung Disney Artist
  45. 10 Free Ways To Have Fun At Walt Disney World
  46. The 10 Most Overrated Disney Animated Films
  47. The 10 Most Underrated Disney Animated Films
  48. 10 Ideas For How I’d Build A Star Wars Land At Walt Disney World
  49. The 10 Most Overrated Live-Action Disney Films
  50. The 10 Most Underrated Live-Action Disney Films

TV

  1. Recreating the ’60s: Mad Men and Its Pale Imitators
  2. Five Reasons Why I Love To Watch BBC America On The Telly
  3. Person Of Interest and the Paranoia of the Digital Age
  4. Forgotten Christmas: Five Lesser-Known Holiday Specials
  5. Five TV Shows That Didn’t Get the Chance They Deserved
  6. Reimagining Fairy Tales: Grimm, Once Upon A Time and Their Modern Spin On Fantasy
  7. ‘When The **** Hits The Fan’: The Eccentrics of Doomsday Preppers
  8. How the History Channel Transformed into Conspiracy Theory Central
  9. 5 Scenarios You Can Always Expect on Hell’s Kitchen
  10. Jack’s Back! 5 Reasons to Get Excited About 24: Live Another Day
  11. 6 Contestants To Watch On The New Season Of MasterChef
  12. The 10 Funniest Episodes of Seinfeld
  13. 10 Observations from Season 12 of Hell’s Kitchen
  14. 12 Questions with Monti Carlo, MasterChef Season 3 Star and Host of Make My Food Famous

Books

  1. Book Review: The Forest of Assassins by David Forsmark and Timothy Imholt
  2. Hope & Change… And Disinformation & Glasnost
  3. Book Review: It’s Kind Of A Cute Story, by Rolly Crump & Jeff Heimbuch
  4. Book Review: Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms
  5. A New Way Of Looking At The Civil War

Self-Improvement

  1. How I Lost 25 Pounds without Having to Run

Movies

  1. Essential Christmas: The 10 Best Holiday Specials And Movies
  2. 5 Reasons Why I Can’t Wait For Skyfall, The New James Bond Movie
  3. Oscar’s Only Human: The 10 Biggest Academy Awards Blunders
  4. The 5 Best and 5 Worst James Bond Theme Songs
  5. 4 Surprises from the Academy Awards
  6. Robin Williams’ 10 Best Performances

Music

  1. 5 Reasons Why I Always Say I’ll Never Watch The Grammys Again
  2. The Civil Wars: The Power of Music and the Hope of Restoration
  3. Meet The Least Likely Songwriter to Have A Top Ten Hit
  4. It’s Time For Christian Music Artists To Step Up Their Creative Game
  5. 4 Quick Observations from the Grammy Awards
  6. What’s Wrong with Country Music Today?
  7. 9 Questions On Music And Faith With Singer-Songwriter Melanie Penn

Exploring the Judeo-Christian Values in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania:

  1. The Spiritual Journey Of Billy Corgan
  2. Yes, There Are Judeo-Christian Values in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 1: The Seeker
  3. Yes, There Are Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 2: The Name
  4. Yes, There Are Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 3: The Dispenser of Wisdom
  5. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 4: The Unfaithful Lover
  6. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 5: Hope From Despair
  7. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 6: Unfailing Love
  8. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 7: Repentance
  9. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 8: The Way
  10. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 9: Faith
  11. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 10: Contentment
  12. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 11: The Lost Son
  13. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 12: In The Presence Of God
  14. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 13: Freedom

Religion in America

  1. How Far Should Churches Go to Appeal to Men?
  2. The Difference Between Happiness and Joy
  3. Finding Mr. Righteous: A Single Christian Guy’s Perspective
  4. 15 Questions About the Challenge of Finding Mr. Righteous
  5. Sean Astin Opens Up About His Faith
  6. 5 Idols that God’s Followers Allow to Get in the Way of Their Relationship with Him

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10 Reasons Why I Will Forever Love Joan Rivers

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

I pushed off the idea of writing this article when I first heard that Joan Rivers, one of my comic icons, was rushed to the hospital after a botched outpatient procedure last week. I didn’t want to think about having to say goodbye to Joan, to bid farewell to yet another icon of an age gone by, a powerhouse who managed to be a cultural force until her last breath. The only solace we can muster is in knowing that, for these ten reasons at least, Joan’s memory will be a blessing.

10. Joan never grew old or gave up.

At 81, she was as attuned to pop culture, politics, and current events as a 20 year old. A self-made fashionista, the comedian never retired, sat in a chair, or gave in to technology. Joan will forever be a role model to women who refuse to trade style for a shapeless moo-moo and an office chair for a rocking chair. In her later years she paired up with Melissa, illustrating that mothers and daughters really can work together and get along. She was a modern Bubbe, surrounded by her children and grandchildren as she took the world by storm.

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12 Questions with Monti Carlo, MasterChef Season 3 Star and Host of Make My Food Famous

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I recently had the incredible privilege of interviewing my all-time favorite MasterChef contestant, Season 3′s Top 5 finalist Monti Carlo. (Yes, Monti’s my favorite even though Season 4′s Jessie hails from my hometown.) She’s a really cool lady and a true inspiration. She dished on her days on MasterChef, the joys of motherhood, and her new show Make My Food Famous, which debuts this weekend on FYI.

1. What can you tell us about the new show?

I’m so stoked to be hosting Make My Food Famous! It’s a competitive cooking show filmed in some of the best restaurants in the country. Three home cooks get to battle it out in a professional kitchen to get their original recipe on a renowned chef’s menu. The pilot airs this Sunday August 31st on A&E’s FYI Network at 10PM ET/PT, though you should check your local listings since air times are subject to change. It was shot in Manhattan Beach, California, at Michelin-starred chef David LeFevre’s incredible MB Post.

Chef LeFevre has worked with some of modern cuisine’s culinary giants like Ferran Adria and Charlie Trotter. To impress this man enough to showcase your creation on his menu is an almost impossible feat. To do it as a home cook is a near miracle. The show isn’t just for foodies and culinary enthusiasts. It’s also for people that get a kick out of watching someone hustle to make their dreams come true. It is truly inspirational!

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‘MythBusters’ Drops Kari, Grant and Tory

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Discovery Channel’s lone remaining science series, MythBusters, has lost 60% of its cast. The show announced Thursday night that that episode would be the last to feature Kari Byron, Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara.

MythBusters started out with just the two main cast members, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, special effects gurus who used their science knowledge and engineering chops to test common pop culture myths. The show was fine in those early days, but MythBusters really took off when it grew to the current cast. The trio joined the full cast of MythBusters 10 years ago.  They brought a new chemistry to the show, and Byron brought a little nerd sex appeal too.

Now the era of five hosts busting multiple myths per show is over. And it sounds like money is at the root.

“I guess you guys are finding out the news right about now. After a decade of theMythBusters, we are no longer with the show,” Kari said in a series of tweets. “Thank you to all the fans who have supported us. The show is taking a new direction. It was an amazing run. I learned so much about myself and the world. I love you all @MythBusters. I am sad for an ending but there will be exciting new adventures for us.”

Chances are, budget cuts are to blame. Discovery Channel has all but dropped science programming in favor of reality shows about gold and cars, bogus documentaries about sharks, along with its survival hit Naked and Afraid. The reduced MythBusters probably isn’t going to last long now.
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Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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How Big Government Ruined Parks and Recreation

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

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It’s official: Parks and Recreation’s love affair with big government has ruined the show. Over its six seasons (which I admit I binge-watched like a strung-out coke fiend), Parks and Rec has devolved from incisive comedy into aggressively unfunny propaganda.

When we first met her, the show’s central character, Leslie Knope, was a masterpiece of observational humor, a lonely career bureaucrat with delusions of grandeur and a fetish for protocol. She was over-the-top, but at the same time anyone who had ever navigated the infuriating upper echelons of the DMV or city hall had met someone exactly like her — chipper, litigious, and maddeningly disconnected from reality.

The fun they made of her was genius. The pilot’s opening scenes showed her shoving a sleeping drunk out of a playground slide while declaring, “It’s a great time to be a woman in politics.” Her bright-eyed interviews were expertly undermined by intercut depictions of the meaningless drudge work that defines a job in small-town government. Poehler’s humorless smile, her expressions of officious solemnity, were masterfully executed — mockumentary at its finest.

Then slowly, slowly, the creative team let their inchoate political theories eclipse their comedic sense of truth. The creators had started out with fly-on-the wall research at real-life city council meetings, insightfully mocking the morass of self-importance and illogic that results when people get together to plan other people’s lives for them. But as that experience faded from memory, the writers replaced it with a dogmatic fantasy world based on the unexamined conviction that everyone needs a hyper-attentive government mommy. That’s when Leslie Knope became a hero, and Parks and Rec became about as entertaining as a health code referendum.

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10 Observations from Season 12 of Hell’s Kitchen

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I’ve been a fan of Hell’s Kitchen from its first season. There are certain elements of the show that viewers can see coming from the start – and perhaps those elements lend a comforting familiarity year in and year out — but the mix of personalities keeps the show fresh and fun.

This season, the show’s twelfth, was the best and most interesting yet. The producers must have chosen to focus less on outsized characters and more on genuine talent, because we saw less of the tabloid drama to which we’ve grown accustomed over the last few seasons.

Here are ten observations I’ve made about this season, and each of them play a role in why I love Hell’s Kitchen so much. Check them out…

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10. The Chefs Struggled With Even The Simplest Dishes.

I’d love to see the bill for how much food goes to waste on Hell’s Kitchen. Gordon Ramsay has such exacting standards that he has no compunction about throwing food away if it doesn’t meet those ideals.

This season was no exception, as it seemed like the chefs struggled with even the simplest of dishes. Overcooked scallops, raw halibut, ruined Beef Wellingtons, unseasoned risottos – one by one, these disgusting dishes went into the trash bins. As the season went on, the condition of the food barely got better.

One would think that, after a dozen seasons, the chefs would bone up on Hell’s Kitchen staples before going on the show. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and we witness the same mistakes year in and year out.

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11 Lessons About Religion I’ve Learned from Pop Culture Polytheism

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

11. A conscious awareness of God is intrinsic to human nature.

Tara Brach recently told the story of a four year old who was excited to have alone time with his new baby sister. When he finally got to the side of her crib, he asked her, “Tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” If we didn’t have a conscious awareness of God, we wouldn’t be striving so hard to find Him in everything from houses of worship to fictional characters on the big screen. Don’t let atheists fool you; they might not believe in a God in the sky, but they’re worshiping something, nevertheless, whether its money, power, or simply themselves.

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Robin Williams’ 10 Best Performances

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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The world mourns the passing of one of the truest talents of all time – Robin Williams. The Juilliard-trained comedian and actor won an Oscar, two Emmys, five Grammys, and — dearest to me — became a Disney Legend in 2009. Williams made his struggles with depression and addiction public, yet he was unable to overcome them. But here at PJ Lifestyle, we’re going to celebrate his life. Here are Robin Williams’ ten best performances. I hope you’ll take as much comfort in these wonderful moments as I have.

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10. The Crazy Ones (2013-2014)

One of the most underrated television series of the past season paired Williams with Sarah Michelle Gellar as father-and-daughter partners in an advertising agency. The Crazy Ones featured a terrific ensemble, sharp writing, and plenty of space for Williams to let loose. Williams had his best moments on the show when he had the chance to blend his trademark humor with sweet sentiment (as in the clip above). He couldn’t have a much better alter ego than the character of Simon Roberts — he and the writers even made recovery from addiction a huge part of the character. The Crazy Ones showed such promise, and it’s such a shame that CBS didn’t see fit to give it a second chance.

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