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THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE: MARCH MADNESS

Follow the Tournament Here!

Round 2

iZombie

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vs

Powers

POWERS

 

It is with great pleasure that I kick Powers the funk out of this bracket. Goodbye Powers!

It’s just that the nicest thing I can say about Powers is that it’s one notch higher than unwatchable. The second episode isn’t as carried away with pointless details as the pilot, but it still suffers from major structural deficiencies. Now, I’m not talking surface level flaws like plot holes, how boring it is, or the actions of the characters don’t make any sense (though it has these kinds of problems in spades.) Even the greatest shows of all time have these kinds of flaws. But those shows also have structural integrity, which makes those common storytelling issues almost imperceptible. What great (or just good) shows do, and what Powers fails to do, is structure a story and present it in an important and compelling way. This extends to all key elements: plot, characters, script, etc. Without adequate structure, there can be no deeper meaning than what is explicitly going on.  That is how the premise of this show can be so interesting, yet in practice, falls flat on its face. In the right hands, a show about the people who share a world with superheroes can be great. (What you should be watching are Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Agent Carter.) Powers has yet to convince me that anything that is happening actually matters. It isn’t saying anything, and it feels so pointless.

Which brings me to the winner of this round, iZombie, why it won, and what makes it a better show. In its second episode, iZombie took the opportunity to build the framework for how this show will work. It did this by figuring out its strengths and what model works best for said strengths. The premise follows a formula: Most of the key characters have a specific roles to play (the weird but understanding confidant, the take-me-seriously ’cause I’m new but really a nice guy cop… I’m still not sure what the roommate’s role is though.) Regardless this show has figured out more by the second episode than many shows do by the end of their first season. Figuring out the point of each character is step-one to giving them something meaningful to do. The second episode isn’t as fun or as kitschy as the pilot, but that just means Rob Thomas and co. aren’t over relying on the premise to drive the show.  If you don’t like quips, how Liv Moore experiences and learns by eating other people’s brains (and personalities,) interesting characters or the level-one dark humor of the show, check out no because this show is not for you. This show, unlike Powers, uses structure to say something about what it means to be human. Which is why it moves on to round 3 and Powers should head back to the writer’s room and kill itself figure itself out.

 

CONGRATUALTIONS iZOMBIE! NEXT TIME WE LOOK AT BLOODLINE VS BIG TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, FL.

 

The Super Hero Hour Hour 3/27

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On this particular episode of the Super Hero Hour Hour, Ryan and Mike discuss the merits of The Flash. They also discuss Arrow, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., iZombie, Powers and The Walking Dead. Is that enough for you? It should be. Don’t be greedy. Enjoy the show-eedy.

PopFilter Versus: Runaways

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The Taste Buds continue (and wrap up) their journey through the works of Brian K. Vaughan with his Marvel series, Runaways. Jason gives his thoughts on a series aimed at kids, and what his own personal future with comics will be.

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE: MARCH MADNESS

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE:

MARCH MADNESS

 Follow the tournament here!

Round 3

THE UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT

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VS

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH

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RYAN: With no one proving themselves trustworthy enough to select the two shows that will make it into the final round of the March Madness Television Tournament (patent not pending, if you want it take it), PopFilter has decided that two writers must make this lofty decision together, culminating in a final with all four judges picking the winner. Mike, you and I have been given the insane task of choosing who will move from this round, and into the finals, between The Last Man on Earth and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Correct me if I’m wrong, but when we were handed the assignment of picking the one television show the public should watch out of everything that debuted in March of 2015, didn’t you think that we would all decide on some mediocre bullshit we could all barely get behind? I mean – it’s March for fuck’s sake.

Tina Fey vs. Lord/Miller. Ellie Kemper vs. Will Forte. One of the most insane premises for a comedy of all time vs. the other most insane premise for a comedy of all time. Two laugh-filled shows that rarely feel like they are cheating their respective tones or characters in order to get a cheap laugh, something that you can’t say about the Lord/Miller directed movies, or even 30 Rock. Where do we go from here? Can you feel yourself leaning one way or the other and, if so, are you even able to describe why, or are we just working with pangs in your gut?

MIKE: If we followed the pangs in my gut, all we would be doing is eating $147.38 worth of sushi right now. Which might be what I just did to avoid having to make this decision. ($5 rolls at Kumo Sushi on 7th!). I wasn’t prepared for this, at this point in the year, to have to decide which one of my favorite new shows is shot in the back of the head. This isn’t fair Ryan. It just… isn’t fair.

But enough wishy-washy dilly-dallying, someone’s gotta die today. What makes both of these shows so great, so strong, is that in this era of a wide return to cutesy vibes or safe premises, they buck that and say fuck that trend. Not only do both The Last Man on Earth and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt deliver on premises that should be dead on arrival, they’re not afraid of digging deep into the dark pathos that exist within their characters. And I don’t mean dark like other shows where they’re not afraid to “swear” or “get nasty”, or dark like You’re the Worst where all the characters are all selfish pricks, or dark like It’s Always Sunny where all the characters are all … selfish… pricks… In the pilot of Last Man,  Forte is haunted by horrific loneliness and barely dodges suicide, while in the first ep of Kimmy, it straight-up says that the mole women were all sex slaves and her PTSD remains a constant. And these are pilots for fuck’s sake– the thing you show to a network to get the show picked up because people will hop on board. At the same time, both of these shows are fucking hilarious. Not only are they both lead by strong voices behind the scenes, they both know the true weight of their respective shows is on their leads. And I think that’s where the real fight is: Kemper and Forte. And as much as I love Forte, and as much as I think he’s pushing the stereotypical man-child in deeper directions, I have to say the things Kemper does as Kimmy are constantly snort-inducing while remaining unbelievably, devastatingly human. I think The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is pulling ahead.

RYAN: Hoo boy. We might have a problem here. Let me see if I can convince you that you’re completely valid opinion is dead fucking wrong, despite Schmidt being pretty wonderful. I’ll attempt to do this by only using the evidence you have presented.

Evidence A: The Last Man on Earth isn’t just pushing the stereotypical man-child in deeper directions. It’s redefining it, while defining it, and basically providing the final statement in a genre that has ruled comedy for the last decade or so. It’s post-modern, pre-modern and modern all at the same time. We never get to see what Forte’s character’s life was like before the apocalypse, but it’s pretty easy to imagine that he was a productive member of society, forced into his man-child ways due to loneliness and desperation, as opposed to weed and lack of ambition. This allows us to relate to this type of character on a level we never have before, instead of just pointing and laughing at the clown. This is the kind of thing that gives a show the ability to be both of its time and timeless, with our generation able to enjoy the commentary or reflection of the comedy that’s come before it, while future generations can enjoy it aside from that.

Evidence B: Both shows do have dark premises, and both do dig, but Last Man does it sooner into it’s first season, and more effectively. It’s important to remember that this battle involves the first three episodes of the shows, and I don’t think Schmidt really felt comfortable balancing the light and the dark until episode 6 or so. Last Man immediately does both at the same time. Little throwaway scenes with Forte sitting a pool filled with margarita, or lying in front of a pitching machine in a full suit of armor, make you point and laugh at the clown, and then realize that’s exactly what you would be doing if you were in his situation, and then feel horrible because his hilarious, awesome life is also one of the saddest in all of pop culture history.

Evidence C: OK, this one isn’t based on anything you said, but on the podcast we talked about whether or not the third episode of Last Man was going to have to pull Kristen Schaal’s character out of the bitchy shrew tailspin the show had already thrown her in. The third episode did a little bit to make her human, at least in Forte’s eyes, but didn’t betray her character. She was still a bitchy shrew. And it was awesome and hilarious.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt did so many things great. It’s awesome to have that distant feeling that somehow we’re getting bonus episodes of 30 Rock. But Last Man is on its way to being historically great, and these first three episodes stand up against the first three episodes of any classic comedy.

MIKE: See if it was the first two episodes up against each other, I could probably more easily agree with you. I think Kimmy kept pushing and growing in the third ep, but Last Man felt predictable in a way. While it was nice to see Forte view Schaal as a human, but all the beats (though funny) were what you could expect. If this was another show that might not be a big deal, but the bar Last Man set for itself in those first two episodes was insanely high– to be that dark, that experimental, and still that accessible for the normal shlubs who want to watch a silly sitcom to forget their day woes. The third episode just didn’t live up to what the first two declared. I don’t think it was bad in any way, but I had hoped it would keep pushing in unexpected ways. I will say this is the best January Jones has ever acted, in literally anything. That chick is the worst. And here… she was aight. I also think it’s unfair to say Kimmy is worthwhile only because it feels like extra 30 Rock episodes. The connection and atmosphere are obviously there, but I think  Kimmy creates a strong voice of its own quick. But that’s another conversation.

Because we unfortunately can’t have a tie, this piece is already longer than any Filterino is used to reading, I’ll concede that the first 3 Last Man eps take the first 3 Kimmy. But that’s with the asterisk of the first two doing the heaviest of lifting. I challenge us to battle out the complete seasons of both when Last Man wraps up. Phil Miller may be moving on this round, but we’re all winners for being able to watch these weird and fucking wonderful shows.

NEXT in MARCH MADNESS:

WHO WILL WIN THE BRACKET AND TAKE IT ALL HOME?!?!!

(AFTER A FEW MORE EARLY ROUNDS OF COURSE)

 

PopFilter Podcast Episode 189

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This week, the taste buds build a mountainous monument to the most iconic TV cops of our time. They also dig into Kendrick Lamar’s latest in “To Pimp a Butterfly” as well as the classic documentary “The Thin Blue Line”. Not enough goodness? Okay, fine. They ALSO play the newest game ever to be created.

It’s great and if you don’t think so, you’re a smelly wiener.

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE: MARCH MADNESS

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE:

MARCH MADNESS

 Follow the tournament here!

Round 1

ONE BIG HAPPY

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VS

iZOMBIE

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            On paper, the winner of this battle was obvious. Even if One Big Happy was an awful throwback sitcom, it had to be better than iZombie. Right? Produced by Ellen, created by one of her main writers, and starring the effervescently hilarious Elisha Cuthbert, One Big Happy plants its flag firmly in the growing category of, “this is what a family is now motherfuckers” sitcoms. iZombie is: A- another fucking zombie entity, B- “adapted” from a comic, which here means the title was taken and almost everything else dropped, and C- the kiss of death—a goddamn police procedural. No matter how bad One Big Happy could be I was certain it would skate by the quickly drowning iZombie. I’m a fucking idiot.

There’s something off throughout the pilot of OBH. It’s not just that none of them are sure exactly how to read the jokes, and the director seemingly took the first pass and moved on. It’s not just that the one Ellen joke thrown in here, they all pause and comes THIS close to winking at the audience for how fucking great they think it is (though to be fair, after a minute of watching this show, one Ellen joke is showing a lot of restraint). It’s not just that every other line is exposition-ally telling us who the characters are instead of just trusting us to pick up their super original personalities. It’s not just that most of the actors seems like they’ve been Photoshopped into the scene with each other, rather than actually responding and reacting to one another. Wait… it’s that last one. If I had to pick the biggest glaring flaw, it’s the complete lack of chemistry between any of the characters. Even my main squeeze Elisha can’t make it gel with her costars. She’s selling the jokes, and at times had me, but the minute there’s verbal interaction, everyone becomes wooden, like 4th graders on the opening night of Midsummer Night’s Dream. The one exception is Kelly Brook, as Prudence, the British bombshell Cuthbert’s best friend and straight baby daddy hooks up with. Prudence as character is generic and stupid, Kelly Brook as Prudence breathes a life into her and forces the other characters to fucking look her in the eyes and react. And not just to the naked scenes.

I know we’ve said it before, but damn it, we’ll say it again. Laugh tracks must die. And unless they figure out a way to make them work without a laugh track, multi-cam sitcoms need to die. Every year a different writer/actor/producer says how much they loved multi-cams growing up, and how some of the best shows EVER have been multi-cams. This is true. But some of the best novels ever were written with quill, and that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do so in this day and age. The rhythms are off, the characters ring false, and the shows look cheap. Put multi-cam in the fucking ground for good Big TV.

iZombie on the other hand is a phenomenal pilot. It knows exactly what it wants to do and say, and executes it by the end of the episode rather than the end of the first season like most shows. To get a more in depth take on the show, listen to this week’s Super Hero Hour Hour here. iZombie moves on to the final four!!

NEXT in ROUND ONE:

NETFLIX’S BLOODLINE TAKES ON COMEDY CENTRAL’S BIG TIME IN HOLLYWOOD!

 

The Super Hero Hour Hour 3/20

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On this episode of the SHHH, Ryan and Mike take an in-depth look at iZombie. They also discuss all of the other crazy comic based shows because, ya know, it’s kind of their specialty.

PopFilter Versus: Songs That We’re Embarrassed We Like

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Around the YPF offices,  the phrase “guilty pleasure” is an anathema. If you like something, it means you can defend it, and therefore it isn’t not bad, and no guilt should be felt when laughed at. The people who laugh are dweebs, and just don’t get it. Which makes this episode of Versus a tricky one, as Ryan, Mike, and Jason count down the top 5 songs that they’re embarrassed to like. Check it out!

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE: MARCH MADNESS

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE:

MARCH MADNESS

 Follow the tournament here!

Round 2

AMERICAN CRIME

American-Crime_aTV-fest_0

VS

THE UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT

unbreakable-kimmy-schmidtI can’t believe Round 2 of the bracket is already here, and I can’t believe these two shows are pitted against each other. It seems like just yesterday that The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was cast off from NBC and swooped up by Netflix, and that American Crime was just a commercial we were inundated with saying that it’s somehow connected to Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, and Scandal. They all probably have the same producers or something, but I’d like to think the network is just letting you know it’s also a drama and there’s no point in resisting.

 The similarities between the first two episodes of Kimmy and AC are pretty surprising when you think about it, given one is about an optimistic ex-cult member trying to find her path in the Big Apple, and the other is essentially Crash: The TV Series. But both are trying to say something about the vast human experience while telling a much smaller story. Both second episodes dodge the normal pattern of a TV show, which is to say essentially giving us a different version of the pilot. Surprisingly enough, Kimmy comes closer to this trend than Crime, when Kimmy raps up the events from the first episode in a dialogue with herself (and it’s hilarious). Other than that both shows push their respective stories forward, assuming you’re smart enough to remember what happened in the previous episode. Both shows also deal with race and stereotypes fairly head on. Sure, Kimmy plays the stereotypes for laughs and by its second episode slowly pushes against them while so far American Crime is saying every stereotype your conservative grandma believes about other races is true. But most importantly, both shows (in one way or another) talk about whether any of us can be the perfect foot slut, and if it’s okay if we are. Again, Kimmy deals with this conundrum of living up to other people’s expectations versus your own abilities with a joke (where the aforementioned phrase ‘foot slut’ comes from), and American Crime deals with a (sort of) similar issue when a father decides he might not care his daughter is in a coma because it turns out she might have slept with two guys willingly. Sounds convoluted and ludicrous? It was.

Okay, these shows are nothing alike. I don’t know if you could tell I was reaching up there, but I was. While they’re both telling those focused human stories I mentioned, Kimmy’s is a personal tale of growth and adulthood after a traumatic experience focused on one character’s point of view. Everyone else populates the world for her to push off of and learn from, and though I’m sure they’ll also grow to be more than foils or joke-machines, it isn’t really necessary right now. American Crime is definitely an ensemble piece, with the various characters all revolving around the murder and sexual assault of a young husband and wife in Modesto, California (for those of you who don’t know, Modesto is like a shittier Fresno). If both shows want to discuss trauma, it seems this far in their respective runs that Kimmy is saying you can’t ignore it but you can overcome, and American Crime is saying everybody is the absolute worst so why bother about anything. By having the white characters be just as awful as the minority characters, maybe the showrunners think they’re saying something unique or potent about race relations in the country, but when there’s a scene where Felicity Huffman refuses to deal with a detective because she’s black and she’s also the closest thing we have to a protagonist, I’m not sure where this show is going. And it’s not like Huffman is just in the antihero role, unlikable but relatable/fantasy-enacting for the viewer. I think she’s supposed to be relatable, and she’s in full on racist robot mode in every scene she’s in. If the show floated on better dialogue, or wanted to say something other than we sure are all different or horrible, it could be interesting. But it doesn’t attempt to say anything we haven’t heard before. Go watch the horrible Oscar-winner Crash, and you’ll have wasted less time than trying to get through this whole season. And believe me, you’ll have fucking wasted your time.

American Crime isn’t a procedural, but that does not automatically make it a better drama. And it isn’t. Because it’s not trying to actually be a better drama, it’s just trying to appear to be. Visually, it’s one of the more intriguing shows on network TV but the shaky cuts and chopped edits quickly become old and gimmicky when they’re no longer servicing the characters’ mental states. The first couple of times the following scene’s dialogue are heard over someone walking down a hall, or looking into space, it helps quicken the pace that helps it from being over-bloated. But then when it keeps happening, you realize they’re doing it for that exact reason instead of de-bloating their show. Which is lazy choice, not an artistic one. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt isn’t a perfect show, but it’s definitely not a lazy one. The rhythm and flow of jokes (not to mention quality), and the darker issues that are being dealt with underneath the happy sheen are cutting an awesome niche for Kimmy, and that’s just taking the first two episodes into account. It’s baffling to me that there are so many think pieces discussing how Kimmy deals with race when it’s not a show that’s pretending to be about that at all. It’s a story following one character’s journey, it doesn’t speak for every issue out there while it does acknowledge issues exist. Meanwhile, American Crime is think piece-less, and really could use the magnifying glass held up to it. I’m afraid too many people will be tricked into thinking prestige drama by the trapping and ignore the hollow bullshit underneath. Without a doubt, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt moves on.

NEXT in ROUND 2:

POWERS TAKES ON WHO KNOWS YET?!?!?!

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE: MARCH MADNESS

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE:

MARCH MADNESS

 

Follow the tournament here!

Round 1

POWERS

POWERSvs

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THE ROYALS

 

Hoo boy. In a tournament that has so far seen decent shows like Battle Creek and The Returned already shown the door because of the high quality of shows in March thus far, we now have to deal with this. Based on how the bracket works, either Powers or The Royals will move on to Round 2. Hoo boy.

 

On the most recent episode of the internet’s hippest new podcast, The Super Hero Hour Hour, Mike and I spent a long time digging for the merits of Powers. The show actually does have a lot on its mind – far too much, really – and it’s unfortunately buried under a complete lack of knowledge of how to be a show. The pilot is all over the place, and there’s no better example of this than its lead character Christian Walker. Walker is a detective in the Powers Division of the city police force, which means he works on cases that have to do with super powered heroes and villains. It seems like he’d be perfect for the role, seeing as he used to be one of the superheroes in a world that isn’t sure if they should treat these “powers” as heroes, celebrities, or destroyers of the city. It’s a pretty great premise, and one that is perfect for the era we live in: a look at the people underneath all of the people we pay millions of dollars every summer to watch. Walker is written (and performed by Sharlto Copley) in such a way where it seems like his current power is severe schizophrenia, switching from McNulty to Wolverine to Ari Gold to Clark Kent and back, sometimes within the same scene. There may be so much on the minds of television writers in regard to skewering/deconstructing the superhero genre that they imploded the show. Powers is yet another show that shot its entire season all at once, so it can’t learn from the internet/audience/critical reaction as it moves on, but there’s still hope that once it gets all of its exposition out of the way, it will settle down a little. As it stands now, though, this is a confused, confusing, pretty horrible pilot.

 

But then there’s The Royals. It’s as if Bravo realized that it can’t make a show called The Real Housewives of Buckingham Palace, so they shit out the next best thing. And that pitch may sound interesting to you, even if just a trashy, only-when-I-call-in-sick kind of watchable way. But whatever juice that premise may have had, the showrunners drain it as soon as possible, worried that American audiences won’t be able to make the leap to watching anything remotely resembling British culture. It’s fun for all of about six minutes, before you realize that the fun isn’t just had at the royal family’s expense (which is fine), but it’s at the expense of you the viewer. It’s a little insulting, but it’s mostly just boring, the one thing a show called The Royal, starring Elizabeth Hurley as the queen of England, and airing on E!, can’t ever afford to be.


I can’t choose a winner based on which show I think will be better some day. All I can go on is the first hour of Powers versus the first hour of The Royals. But even based on that, somehow Powers moves on because it’s at least trying something, as opposed to actively trying to do less than nothing. It’s not based on which show will be better someday, but it probably worked out that way.

– Ryan Haley

 

NEXT: MORE COMIC BOOK ACTION, WHEN iZOMBIE

TAKES ON ONE BIG HAPPY!!!

PopFilter Podcast Episode 188

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This week, Jason and Ryan discuss the merits of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as well as Chris Rock’s latest in Top 5. They also build a mountain in honor of film’s greatest comedic leading ladies. And Mike is dead. And they also let the world know what stupid stuff they need to Settle Down about!

It is, without question, one of the finest podcasts to be released in the last decade if you allow for the elasticity of the word “decade”.

The Super Hero Hour Hour 3/13

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Play

Powers has arrived, and Mike and Ryan are here…just to talk about the first episode. They also go over their feelings on binge watching, and have updates about the newest episodes of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and The Walking Dead.

PopFilter Versus: Mixtape 2014

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The final (we swear this time) entry into the 2014 podcast series is here! We wrap up the lengthy discussion of last year by letting our hair down, filling some punch bowls, and dancing our little hearts out. Listen in as Jason, Mike, and Ryan put together the perfect mixtape capturing the year that was 2014.

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE: MARCH MADNESS

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE:

MARCH MADNESS

 

Follow the tournament here!

Round 2

 

BATTLE CREEK

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vs

the-last-man-earth-nouvelle-bande-annonce_cover

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH

 

Most show ideas shit out a pilot, just to spend the first half of the season or so trying to shape that pile into something resembling the creator’s initial dream. The second episode of Battle Creek makes the whole enterprise seem different than that. After creating a pilot that worked far better than anyone would have expected, the second episode feels like everyone involved is sort of scrambling to remember/recreate whatever worked so well. And to be totally honest, they do a pretty good job of clouding that feeling, and proving how well the show works, or at least how well it could work in the future.

 

The episode finds the small town detective (Dean Winter) and the big time FBI agent (Josh Duhamel) attempting to take down the city’s kingpin. The gimmick here, is that the city’s kingpin is the kingpin of syrup. The gimmick layered on top of that gimmick is that the episode spends its entire run time attempting to solve the case with all of the same strategies and seriousness needed for hardcore drug dealers. It has every reason to be horrible, but Battle Creek succeeds because of its ability to know exactly when to push on the comedy pedal, or push on the action/drama/procedural pedal. The comedy is never that funny, and the drama is never that dramatic, but it almost doesn’t matter. The way it deftly blurs the lines is equally respectable and entertaining in it’s own right.
So, it’s with a heavy heart that we let Battle Creek know that it is up against The Last Man on Earth, which followed up its revolutionary pilot with a second episode that was only slightly less revolutionary. If the first episode left us baffled by both its literal and figurative balls, the second episode confirms that not only has Lord/Miller (soon that slash will be unnecessary, and we’ll all just bow down to Lord Miller) figured out how this show is going to be funny, but also how it’s going to make each and every one of us feel like we already know what it’s like to be the last man or woman on Earth. Much has already been said of Kristen Schaal’s screeching nag of a character, and what that means about women on TV. It’s obviously too early to accuse the show of being misogynistic, but the way that the show handles Schaal in the third episode could dictate whether this show makes it to Round 4, or gets the boot. As of now, it’s officially in the Final Four.

 

– Ryan Haley

 

NEXT: ANOTHER ROUND 2 BATTLE, AS AMERICAN CRIME TAKES ON THE UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT!!!

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE: MARCH MADNESS

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE:

MARCH MADNESS

THE UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT

VS

doodoo

THE RETURNED

Follow the tournament here!

A&E decides to stay in the deep end of the drama pool and swim with some of the darker sides of humanity with “The Returned”. Netflix continues to find ways to meld drama, comedy and humanity with “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”. I guess, if pressed, that is what some asshole might say about this battle. And while they wouldn’t necessarily be incorrect, there is a little bit more to discuss.

With “The Returned”, A&E is asking you to buy into a world where four years after a community-altering accident kills 32 residents, some of them start returning. They all come back the same age they left and have no idea that four years has elapsed, why things are different and all have pretty good mouth-agape, shocked faces. The premise itself is pretty damned interesting and the writers seem to be content asking more questions than they answer, which sounds like a knock but absolutely isn’t. In this first episode of the American remake, they set you up to understand a few of the families while revealing enough of the townsfolk to make you think they’re going to be able to delve into some pretty deep recesses of the town itself. The story lines are convoluted to the point that you are anxious to see what happens next without feeling completely lost.

And then there’s the acting. Oh boy. This cast is not without talent, but there seems to be no chemistry between anyone. The closest the cast comes to gelling is when one of the titular “returned” is physically haunting his girlfriend. In his mind, they’re obviously still together. In hers, he’s been dead for four years so fucking give her a break already. They yell and scream through a door and, though it might be the most over the top acting moment, it is the height of making you believe that any two people on this show actually and passionately miss anyone else. Sadly, most of the acting is an attempt at subtlety that unintentionally settles at a shockingly cold apathy to the seemingly miraculous goings on at hand.

And then there’s “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”. Ellie Kemper is a delight. Even when she’s playing full crazy pants, she finds a way to let her natural light shine through. The show, much like “The Returned” finds characters that are time capsules. And while the titular unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is aware that time has passed, she has no idea how to deal with it. All of this pathos is delivered with a beautifully effortless comedic timing that Kemper as well as her supporting players also bring to the screen.

It’s always going to be tough to compare an hour-long drama with a 30-minute comedy, but it’s not all that gut-wrenching here. “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” does all of the things right that “The Returned” is too self-serious to realize. “The Returned” had a well-conceived pilot that fell short. “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was a tight 30 that made Matt Lauer funny. And that’s not easy. Advantage: Kimmy Schmidt.

 

– Jason R. Noble

 

PopFilter Podcast Episode 187

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On this, the “on a mother f***ing cop” episode of the PopFilter Podcast, the taste buds build a mountain in honor of Madonna to the 4 most amazing pop star of the 1980’s. They then discuss the merits of Madonna’s new album, “Rebel Heart” as well as Fox’s latest show in “The Last Man on Earth”. One went over well and the other made the buds think they should have built the mountain in someone else’s honor. What does that mean?!

Listen and find out, nerdo.

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE: MARCH MADNESS

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE:

MARCH MADNESS

DIG

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AMERICAN CRIME

 

Dig is USA’s attempt at the big leagues, in the hopes that they have produced their own True Detective. They have blown the bank for this miniseries in a gamble to establish themselves as a serious television network. But the pilot episode has a few problems. It comes in at a whopping 1:05, which is at least 20 minutes too long. The episode spends too much time with unnecessarily elements of the story. They simply had to introduce narrative threads (i.e. the lead character’s troubled past or a nefarious plot to imitate armageddon) and then get on with the things pilots are suppose to do. Instead these things kept getting revisited for no reason and only served to convolute the rest of the story. Game of Throne’s pilot episode is an extreme example of how to get this kind of thing right. The first 5 minutes of the pilot were about the white walkers; then the white walkers weren’t mentioned again for almost a season and a half. GOT knew it had to introduce magical elements as part of the universe right off the bat, but didn’t become bogged down by it. The show moved the hell on. This is something the other show in this round,  American Crime, did quite well. It barely scratched the surface of the issues it will deal with because it’s too busy setting up its world, introducing its characters and establishing its conflicts #justpilotthings. This is an ABC show, but it mercifully doesn’t feel like one. I don’t mean this to put down that network, but that ABC has a distinct fingerprint I don’t see on this show. The performances of Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton breath life into their characters, bringing them out of the two-dimensional world of caricatures, which can happen when race gets brought up as an issue (see Crash.)

 

Dig might have stumbled in their first episode, and may ultimately get it together to be a good show. I see potential, but in the pilot’s ability to tell a streamlined story is wanting. This round goes to American Crime.

 

-Stephanie Rose

Super Hero Hour Hour 3/6

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This week, Ryan and Mike discuss the return of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I hate when they talk about that. Do you know what it’s like to type a letter and then a period and then a letter and then a period and so on, and so forth, and so on, and so forth. It. Is. Bull. Honky.

Also, they discuss Gotham and The Walking Dead. So there’s that.

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE: MARCH MADNESS

THE 2015 POPFILTER TV CHALLENGE:

MARCH MADNESS

CSI: CYBER

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THE LAST MAN ON EARTH

Follow the tournament here!

It can’t be a shock as to which of these two shows will be moving on. I could try and be coy about it throughout this article, trying to feed you a ‘fair and balanced until the very end’ façade, but come on. Come. On. #Comethefuckon. Reading the battle above you knew who would be moving on. Even if this was your first time on YourPopFilter, and had no idea how biased against CSI properties we are, or how biased for Will Forte/Kristin Schaal/Lord+Miller properties we are. You’d know. The Last Man on Earth is moving on in the bracket. No duh. Now let’s talk about why.

     CSI: CYBER is another notch in the belt of the CSI: Universe, an ever-growing but never-changing world filled with awful dialogue, shallow plotlines, barley two-dimensional characters, and slumming actors (who are spending screen time with people who fell into acting seemingly by accident. What does CYBER do that the other CSI shows don’t? Well, it doesn’t pin its hackneyed ragtag team of law enforcers to any one particular city, letting Avery Ryan (Patricia Arquette) et al. run from city to city to city to city to city all in a short 44 minute block. Does this vast expanse of locational options shake things up? Not in the slightest, because the real setting here is the digital space, my friends. Does your blender have a digitized clock on it? Then at some point a cyber terrorist (or ‘black hat hacker’) will use it to BLEND YOUR VERY HANDS OFF. Because that’s how connected and scary the digi-world is. This show comes off like a senior citizen heard the phrase “the internet of things” and gave themselves a heart attack thinking of all the worst (insane) possible scenarios that could occur.

Beware the Blender

Beware the Blender

Actually, the forced hand blending would be way more entertaining than the international interweb baby kidnapping/selling ring is. I don’t want to get into detail and explain why everything that happened in this convoluted networked kidnapping is impossible and ludicrous, but let’s just say it all depends on using junkies (who are tracked with GPS) to kidnap babies after weeks of learning the babies habits. An actual thing that was said on this show, “They obviously have been watching to learn the baby’s habits.” While we’re on the topic, let’s discuss more of the witty repartee strewn throughout this show. Part of the “serialized” portion of this show is assimilating newcomer Brody Nelson (Shad Moss, formerly BowWow, formerly Lil BowWow) into the FBI hackgroup. He’s a former black hat hacker who’s joining the white hats instead of going to prison (or something like that). See Patricia Arquette was attacked by a hacker in 80s (or “back at the beginning of the internet”), which caused her to lose her psychology practice, and even lead to the death of one of her patients. Get it? You shouldn’t, because it’s fucking dumb! Now she runs around the country catching hackers and turning them into a force for good, all the while hunting the original hacker. BowWow is one of those turned hackers, but boy oh boy does he have a chip on his shoulder. When fat, nerdy hacker condescends to speak to him, BowWow replies, “Chubby, I’m not your braces. Keep your name outchyo mouth”. These hackers know how to burn one another! He also explains his situation to cute/punk girl hacker by telling her he wants to, “Hack for good, prove my worth.”

The arrows are red with your blood

The arrows are red with your blood

I could break down how dumb this dialogue is for each and every character, but that sounds awful. Okay one more. When searching for the junkie kidnappers, Agent Avery Ryan (classic FBI name generator), states, “Evolutionary survival skills will instinctively take them to higher ground.” And that’s when the show gets interesting! Because you thought you were watching CSI: CYBER, but you’ve in fact been watching CSI: C.Y.B.E.R., which is a detective show about a robot passing off as human tracking down humans committing electronic crimes. This also explains the shaky zoom in/zoom out that occurs throughout the show, as well as the the random CGI to show flashbacks/computers, and especially the nonstop dubstep-light. It’s all because Avery Ryan is a robot!

Season Finale Spoilers

Season Finale Spoilers

I’m convinced Patrcia Arquetee signed off on this show because she thought Linklater was never going to fucking finish editing Boyhood, let alone that she’d win an Oscar for it. That’s the only thing that makes any sense. But instead of elevating the trash heap with her acting, she sinks to its level withouth ever fully seeming comfortable with it. SO everything she says comes out wooden, and as previously mentioned, robotically. The one doing the elevating here is The Dawson, who has recently decided he should get good acting. (Check out Power/Rangers). Van Der Beek knows the exact level of camp and seriousness to bring to a role, and does so in this show as requisite ex-soldier on the team. His character is such an uber-cop that when a car (with a baby in it) crashes into water (implausibly) it’s evident he’ll be diving into the lake after it, even though we didn’t even know he was chasing said car. That’s the kind of show CSI: C.Y.B.E.R. is.

The Last Man on Earth is an inventive, original, and funny sitcom that’s not afraid to get hopeless in it’s initial few minutes. If you enjoy watching something that stars two unique, charming individuals that’s steered by two other unique, charming individuals—check it out. Does it have some rocky gender stuff to work out? Certainly. Does Kristin Schaal elevate what could be a cookie-cutter sitcom nag wife to something hilarious and better? You fucking know it. Forte and Schaal’s characters will grow into true foils for each other, reflecting all of the good and bad within the other. Just give it some time. As I said in the beginning, The Last Man on Earth moves on in the bracket!

-Mike Gravagno

 

NEXT: AMERICAN CRIME vs. DIG

PopFilter Versus: Best Male Performances of 2014

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I know, I know. We promised we were done talking about 2014. I mean, it’s March– what more could we say?! Well, digging through some backlogs and shoddy organization from Rachel we’ve discovered some lost episodes. Not long lost, just short lost. But here’s the companion piece to the Best Female Performances of 2014 from a few weeks ago. So take a listen to the top choices for the Best Male Performances of 2014!