Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Notes on Pop Culture: Some Favorite TV Shows, Magazines & Articles from Past Week

Now that it’s summer and things, pop culture-wise, tend to wind down a bit -- particularly when it comes to fresh TV programming -- I’m bringing back my favorite picks of the week, pop culture/politics items I’ve enjoyed over the past week.


Image credit: USA
Covert Affairs: Still Light, Still Fun

I get bored easily with stupid TV shows and hardly ever watch anything reality-based, preferring, instead, scripted television, usually of the darker and heavier variety. The comedy programs to which I gravitate usually have some heft and/or intelligence to them because I loathe stupid, forced crap which simply bugs the heck out of me.

I would’ve thought that by now, I would’ve grown tired of USA’s Alias Lite, its summer CIA fare Covert Affairs, about rookie CIA agent Annie Walker who has a big heart, a killer smile, a quick mind and a powerful take-down. But Covert Affairs’ sophomore season has been solid, entertaining and enjoyable.

The show is populated by plenty of actors you’ve seen before – Peter Gallagher (Rescue Me, The O.C.), Kari Matchett (24, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Invasion), Anne Dudek (House, Big Love, Mad Men), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes) and Gregory Itzin (24, Big Love, The Mentalist) – and boasts two breakout stars, Piper Perabo, who’s positively charming as Annie, and Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty) as Annie’s wise mentor, Auggie Anderson.

Covert Affairs isn’t filled with a heavy mythology that sometimes bogged down Alias, and it doesn’t insult your intelligence either. The latest episode, which featured Mark Moses (Desperate Housewives, Mad Men) as a guest star, was a good example of how Covert Affairs balances its spy intrigue with a light touch. (See my review of it on CliqueClack TV.) 

Image credit: TNT

Men of a Certain Age: Ray Romano Packed a Powerful Emotional Punch in Second Season

The TNT drama Men of a Certain Age had its finale this week, capping a strong second season that brought each of the three, middle-aged, down-to-earth main characters down different paths than one might have envisioned for them.

Ray Romano’s Joe took a detour from his rekindled dream of joining the senior [golfing] tour to traverse down a rather dark road by doing some freelance bookmaking on the side (poaching clients from his own cancer-addled bookie, then thinking twice about it and giving up being a bookie altogether). Just as Andre Braugher’s Owen finally seemed to be gaining in confidence as he took over the helm of his father’s car dealership, he was plagued by panic attacks. Meanwhile Scott Bakula’s Terry -- the Zen, surfer dude aspiring actor closing in on age 50 -- has settled down, taken a full-time job and no longer wants to play the field and sleep with everything that moves; he actually wants an adult relationship with a woman his own age.

This past season Romano stood out as a revelation.


EW’s Potter Issue

Love, love, LOVED this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly dedicated to all things Harry Potter. A fan’s delight, the package provides all manner of cool trivia about the $2 billion film series, which comes to a close on July 15 when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 hits the theaters.

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, this is a must read.

FYI -- My pop culture column over on Modern Mom this week focuses on the wonderful message about the importance of parents and parent-like role models that the Potter series has given my three resident Potter-heads.

New Yorker Fiction Issue

I rarely buy the New Yorker. But when I stopped by my local independent bookstore – yes, an actual brick and mortar store -- seeking a periodical to bring on the airplane during my family’s trip to Orlando (and our pilgrimage to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios), I impulsively picked up the June 13 & 20 Summer Fiction issue and wound up reading quite a bit of it, including the odd little story, “Home” by George Saunders and Lauren Groff’s “Above and Below.”

New York Times & Politicians' Kids

Frank Bruni penned a provocative essay for the New York Times this past weekend in which he suggested that politicians stop parading their families around as presidential campaign props and then turn around and declare them off-limits for other people to discuss. Citing the Obamas’ desire to keep their daughters “off limits” to the media, Bruni said the Obamas also try to have things both ways. “That’s one of the problems with converting progeny into props,” he said. “It has a facile, cheap tinge.”

Citing other presidential candidates who’ve also brought their children on the campaign trail, Bruni is not a fan of the practice. “Because so many politicians make such a studied pose out of their parenthood, it’s fair to point out that jumping into the fray of a national campaign and hauling the clan into an unforgiving spotlight don’t necessarily do children any favors, especially if they’re young,” he wrote. “For all the candidates chatter about building a better tomorrow for their kids, they may be building a worse today.”

Image credits: USA, TNT, Entertainment Weekly.

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