The Limitations of Mockery and the Adventure of Authenticity

Tim Heidecker in ‘The Comedy.’ 

“Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us.” These chilling words are part of a valuable exposé written in the New York Times by Christy Wampole. Her piece ‘How to Live Without Irony‘ bears witness to a generational descent into routine insincerity.

Mockery on the other hand can be direct at times- a dagger shoved into one person by another- but at its core, it is not so different from insincerity. Both are often a piece of armor used for self-preservation, a way to flee human connection by focusing on the other as a caricature while exempting one’s self from the same level of scrutiny. I look around and am encouraged, because it seems even secular culture is growing weary of mockery taken to the extreme.

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The Half-Yearly Report: 2010′s Best Movies and TV Shows (So Far)

Ewan McGregor in ‘The Ghost Writer’

by Guest Contributor Brian Robinson

My goodness, here we are again already! It’s June, and we already have 6 months’ worth of entertainment to talk about. And what a year it’s been! Or more accurately, what a CRAPPY year it’s been! Now, I am aware that if you look at the entertainment reports we have done over the life of this blog you will see that the “Crappy Year” theme has been rather prominent. But, man, do they ever make it easy to keep that theme current.

It’s interesting, but ever since moving back to Los Angeles in 2007, I have met and been around more people in the creative part of the entertainment industry. I have met writers, comedians, producers, technicians, actors and even a newscaster. And when we do talk about what the entertainment industry is doing and where it’s headed, they are no more enthusiastic than we consumers of their (collective) product. That should tell us all something: if the creators are not enthused about the creations, then why should we be?

But, let us focus on the positive! Not every release this year has been at the level of a ‘Marmaduke’ or ‘Letters to Juliet.’ There have actually been some things worth seeking out:

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Misguided Outrage: Christians vs. Comedy Central’s Jesus Show

Comedy Central is developing a new show called ‘JC.’ The pitch from the network’s website describes it as “a half-hour animated show about JC (Jesus Christ) wanting to escape his father’s enormous shadow and to live life in NYC as a regular guy. A lot has changed in 2000 years and he is the ultimate fish out of water. Meanwhile his all-powerful yet apathetic father would rather be playing video games than listening to JC recount his life in the city.”

Some Christians are pre-emptively protesting the show, and have begun an online campaign against Comedy Central. Of course, all of this just means people are objecting to the idea of something without even having seen it. Well, I find these Christian protests to be offensive to my Christian faith.

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Conan O’ Brien: Don’t Be Cynical

Everyone knows the finale of Conan O’ Brien’s Tonight Show happened about a month ago. I’m a longtime fan, but to be honest, I paid better attention back when Conan was in the late night slot (when I used to be able to stay up past midnight without falling asleep on the couch). As the late night feud between NBC, Conan and Leno cools off, I’ve found myself thinking back to Conan’s classy, uplifting and emotional closing speech from his final Tonight Show episode.

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The Inspirational Life (and Film) of Temple Grandin

Photo Credit: HBO Films

by Guest Contributor Brian Robinson

About a week ago I was tooling around on my cable system, and I came upon an HBO movie that I knew about, but really had no interest in specifically. The movie is called ‘Temple Grandin’ starring Claire Danes, and it’s one of those typical biopics that often show up on TV. I am a sucker for biopics. I love to learn something about a person that I have never heard of who is notable for one reason or another, and this movie fits that bill in every way.

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Best.Shows.Ever

McNulty and Bunk, from ‘The Wire.’ Photo Credit: HBO

by Guest Contributor Brian Robinson

Last night I was taking in another season of the brilliant British series  “Prime Suspect”, starring Helen ( “The Queen”) Mirren. Its one of those series that is kind of precursor to American series like  “The Closer” or  “Saving Grace” that have strong, but troubled women at the heart of the show. In the case of Mirren’s crime-fighting character, Supr Tennyson (for the moment, but she’s definitely headed for a demotion), is as flawed as any real human being which certainly adds to the fullness of character and makes her decisions seem as 50/50 as they might in real life — you don’t get the sense she can never go wrong. And that makes for some great drama.

It got me thinking, what are some of the best TV series/mini-series of the past decade or so? Yeah, we can always go back to  “MASH” or  “Roots” to name some well made shows, but I think in the past decade or so, with the rise of Pay Cable TV networks like Showtime and HBO, shows have the opportunity to go to another level of entertainment and craft. Its hard to compare shows like  “Dexter” or  “Damages”  to  “Hunter” or  “Hart to Hart” when trying to think of which shows are more entertaining/meaningful than others; with the freedom of language and theme that the pay channels allow, its a tough comparison to make.

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David Simon: The Truth is Vanishing As Newspapers Die

David Simon (The Wire) talks to Mark Lawsonphoto © 2009 CompletelyNovel | more info (via: Wylio)
 
David Simon is one of my heroes. With his partner Ed Burns, he wrote and produced the best piece of entertainment I have ever experienced with HBO’s The Wire. If you haven’t seen this series from start to finish (which is the only way to appreciate what the show actually is), then get to your Netflix queue immediately and start adding discs. The Wire is art: a snapshot of America in decline that is tough, complex, poetic and educational, and is filled with brilliant storytelling and a cast of characters so delicately constructed- they feel like family after five seasons. 

Simon served for years as a journalist with the Baltimore Sun. Now he churns out masterpieces like The Wire and Generation Kill, and is ramping up another series to be set in post-Katrina New Orleans. Simon continues to write columns for venues like the Washington Post. And his latest is a doozy.

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