Review: House of Cards, Seasons 1-2

hocThis is a big show. I’ve heard about it from many sources before I started, and I must admit that the hype did not prepare me in the slightest. I believe this is one of the most amazing political shows since The West Wing, though I wouldn’t say it shares the tone or optimism of Aaron Sorkin’s classic. Quite the contrary, this is a bleak look at American politics that takes your idea of what politics and personal morality is an twists it into a system where only perception matters. However, no matter how absurd the plots and politics get I can’t deny the genuine portrayal of corruption in both what a character could be and what a person could be made to be comfortable with. This is a show which allows you the chance to truly relate with devils, and I can’t praise the acting and the writers enough. Continue reading

Review: Supergirl, Season 1

SupergirlAs a fan of all things superhero, it’s no surprise I picked up Supergirl when it came time for her TV debut. The show has some things going for it. It’s cute and the characters are enjoyable, but it isn’t thick on deeper content and struggles on a more meaningful level. I think the show takes its family friendly vibe a bit too seriously and could stand to pull a few of the cliched flowers out of its climactic dialogue.

When I started this show, I immediately fell in love with Kara. She does cute and awkward as good as the best of them and I immediately related to her want to be something more than her adorable but mild-mannered life. But that is the only character I can say I have real feelings for, all the character work done in Supergirl gives you real attachment to the characters. Even though there are many cliche’s interwoven into the dialogue, I find myself smiling through the cringe even in these moments and really rooting for a top quality cast. Continue reading

90s Kid’s TV Shows: Why My Childhood Was Better Than Yours

“Music these days is awful. It’s much worse than it used to be.”

“I only like movies made before 1985. Modern films are stupid.”

“Back in my day, food was good and nurturing. It gave us energy. Not like today’s food. You can’t chop wood with a belly full of McNuggets.”

You’ve heard the arguments. Perhaps while at Applebee’s with your moderately hipster friend who takes pleasure in critiquing the barely audible background music. Perhaps on an international flight when your seat-neighbor insists on critiquing your television show selection instead of watching his own screen. Or perhaps at the movie theater when you accidentally sit in front of the loud and opinionated older couple who thought Moonrise Kingdom didn’t appropriately represent the Cub Scouts of America. It’s difficult to escape the judgmental gaze of haters of modernity.

What makes such pretentiousness so frustrating is its commitment to tunnel-visioned subjectivity. First, many of these opinions are fueled by the same visceral nostalgia that connects today’s youth with modern pop culture. You may appreciate The Dick Van Dyke Show (which is a wonderful show), but is your love inspired by the brilliance of Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, and Mary Tyler Moore? Or is it fueled by the fact that The Dick Van Dyke Show reminds you of childhood memories? Though they are not mutually exclusive, there is a difference between nostalgia and critical thought.

Even if hipsters, older generations, and the overly opinionated can swallow the red pill and bypass the temptation to limit criticism to new media, their perspectives of pop culture timelines are often distorted. Pitbull, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift might not create the most poetically inspired albums, but post-Y2K years are not the only years with arguably bad music. Both Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” and Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart” were 90s Billboard hits; “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey was a 70s disco success; and Patti Page’s “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?” reached the top of the charts in the 1950s. But a nostalgia-infused lens either eliminates such songs from memory or persuades its wearer that hits like “I Write the Songs” by Barry Manilow—”I write the songs that make the whole world sing / I write the songs of love and special things”—are examples of profound lyricism.

There is one specific type of media, however, that I believe has declined in quality since the 90s.

While all decades contain examples of poor programming, the 90s was the best decade for kid’s television. Television shows for children and tweens had not yet reached their potential before 1990, and shows created after 1999 have been, with several exceptions, meaningless and uninspired. The sighs of relief as our computers continued to operate on January 1, 2000 signaled the beginning of over a decade of mediocre programming for kids.

The 90s played host to a variety of intelligent and unique shows for children and young teenagers. Shows like Hey Arnold! and Recess meaningfully and unpatronizingly highlighted the nuances of life as a kid. The protagonists of these shows offered children understandable and often humorous environments in which to consider more profound topics, concepts like divorce, obscenity, multiculturalism, and gender stereotypes. Even secondary characters like Stoop Kid and Swinger Girl, while simple in some ways, contained layers of relatable emotions.

Though not all 90s kid’s shows offered the readily applicable morals of Hey Arnold!, most shows of the decade had something unique to offer. For many, any lack of obvious morality was made up for with bold originality. CatDog featured an anatomically confusing pair of protagonists and an instantly classic theme song; Dexter’s Laboratory introduced an array of fascinating secondary characters and was nominated for four consecutive Primetime Emmys; and The Powerpuff Girls parodied gendered superheroes and had Mojo Jojo.

Wishbone, The Magic School Bus, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and Bill Nye, the Science Guy set the standard for educational entertainmentAll That was one of the first sketch comedy shows for kids. Rugrats and Doug became archetypes of kindhearted media for kids. The Big Comfy Couch championed a new generation of imaginative, small-set children’s shows. Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain uniquely combined academia, pop culture, slapstick comedy, and satire. Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? brought the horror genre to kids in a way that has not been done since. Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon peaked in the 90s. And even Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, arguably the best of the Power Rangers franchise, existed in the 90s.

Compare these shows with modern entertainment like Dave the BarbarianBrandy & Mr. Whiskers, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and you may notice the difference. While modern music, film, and television programming for adults and older youth are as inspired now as they were in the past, kid’s television shows are not.