Monday, November 1, 2010

Notes on Pop Culture: Hamm on Lackluster 'SNL,' Stewart's Rally for the Sane Middle, 'Grey's' Goes Documentary-Style

Jon Hamm Does His Best with Lackluster SNL Skits

The faux Back to the Future screen tests and the YouTube victim skits were moderately amusing but other than those sketches, the Saturday Night Live writers sure let the earnest Jon Hamm down with the material they gave him. Hamm did a great Robin Williams impression and his best with the Auto-Tune crying bit, (which, incidentally made me think of the folks who put crying Don Draper images into all different scenes, like BuzzFeed’s “Things That Make Don Draper Cry” post and the web site devoted to “Sad Don Draper”) 

But overall, I was left wondering what is going on there at SNL and why so many of the sketches have been falling flat lately. They’ve certainly been proving the truth in the adage: “Comedy is hard.” There’s a reason why Modern Family is such a gem; it’s reliably funny.

Those of you who caught SNL this weekend care to weigh in?

Stewart's Rally for Sanity & Promoting the Middle

Let’s not mince words: The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart leans toward the liberal side of things, but he’s unafraid to call both sides of the political aisle to task for being idiotic, close-minded or full of vapid talking points. (See his pointed interview with President Obama last week, in which he called the president "dude.")

But that being said, his satirical rally in Washington, D.C. over the weekend was but one more step in Stewart’s long-running campaign against the promotion of explicitly partisan, divisive, shouting verbiage on cable TV, initially commenced with his broadside against the CNN political talk show Crossfire in 2004 when he asked, “Why do we have to fight?” Stewart proceeded to skewer the show -- as well as shows like it -- in front of its gobsmacked hosts, saying, “Stop hurting America.” Some folks actually credited Stewart’s appearance that night with killing Crossfire.

This past weekend, Stewart’s passionate argument -- that fighting and yelling and not listening to someone who doesn’t agree with you, as well as the media’s decision to spotlight those rhetorically warring folks -- took a fleshy form when hundreds of thousands of people showed up at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to cheer in agreement with his declaration that both liberals and conservatives are doing nothing for those folks in the middle, where most Americans fall, ideologically. During the rally, Stewart said, “. . . [W]e can have animus and not be enemies . . . If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

And I, as a writer who tries to play it down the middle ideologically, embrace this kind of argument and actively seek out the folks who try to provide provocative, thought-provoking, intelligent discussions about politics, like you'd find with Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe.

Grey’s Anatomy Goes Documentary-Style

I was intrigued by the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy which was seen through the objective eyes of a documentary film crew and provided viewers a fresh perspective on how the mass shooting, which capped the previous season, continues to having deeply-ingrained, lingering impact on the characters. (My review of the episode on CliqueClack TV can be found here.)

Aside from one episode, this season, overall, has been strong and eminently patient as thin layers of characters are being lifted away, revealing new and interesting things about each one. Such was the case with Avery's scenes this past week, which were heads and shoulders better than the cheap storyline he was given where he bared his chest in order to exploit a superior’s physical attraction to him in order to get preferential treatment for surgeries. (That, along with the silly Callie-Arizona who’s a better lesbian storyline, was grating.)

Previews for this week’s episode promise more on Cristina’s slow emotional recovery. To have had Cristina just snap out of it and *poof* be all better, would’ve been a lot easier, and a lot of lesser shows would’ve stooped to that, fearful that the audience quickly would tire of seeing a mopey Cristina. But it wouldn’t have been all believable. (For example, I don't buy that one afternoon in the elevator with the Chief would've erased the impact of nearly dying in an elevator for Alex.) Taking the once fearless, hardcore surgeon and having her declare how frightened she is, having her withdraw from the very thing that gave her a reason to get up in the morning, has been extremely well done.

What do you think about Grey’s thus far?

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