Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Best of Television 2012: Mayan Apocalypse Edition

NOTE: This piece was originally published on Critics at Large on December 13, 2012. If you wish to comment, please do so on that page.

Stephen Colbert's election coverage is just one of many high points of the year in television

As the nights grow longer and the days grow colder, December typically marks the time when we all reflect on the year that was. But this year, with the Mayan-prophesied end of days just eight days away, we perhaps have more reason than ever to look back. With everyone from the Vatican to NASA remaining resolutely sceptical, many are still counting down to December 21, 2012. (December 21 is also the day that Resident Evil: Retribution comes out on Blu-ray – so clearly portents of doom lurk everywhere!)

But whether or not there will actually be a 2013, the time seems right for me to share all those moments of 2012 that made me grateful to own a television. While the new fall season has a few bright spots (I would include ABC’s musical/drama Nashville in that short list), TV’s very best moments of 2012 were found in its continuing shows. And so, in honour of what may be the last eight days of human existence, here are eight shows (in no particular order) that you may want to check out before our world (perhaps) comes to an explosive end.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Revolution Was Televised: Alan Sepinwall's Take On TV’s New Golden Age

NOTE: This piece was originally published on Critics at Large on December 6, 2012. If you wish to comment, please do so on that page.

It has become almost cliché in some circles to proclaim that television – American television in particular – has never been better. Quality television is no longer, as it was for decades, confined to BBC adaptations of Jane Austen or Masterpiece Theatre on PBS. In the past fifteen years, television has grown into a genuinely popular art form, finally embracing all of its strengths as a medium: the ability to tell long, complicated stories rich in complex characters, compelling writing, and morally and narratively risky storylines. With new technological innovations (DVDs, Netflix, DirecTV) and the rise of the new business models that came with satellite TV and the ever-expanding cable universe, television is no longer a disposable medium. Shows are produced not only to be watched, but to be re-watched. We used to rent the shows we watched, but now we can literally own them. Television series like The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Breaking Bad actually reward our attention, instead of discouraging it. The more you watch these shows, the richer they become. The impact of these shows successes – both artistically and commercially – is being felt across the whole television universe, and that story is far from over. That television has decidedly entered a new Golden Age is apparent to all of us who love the medium – what is less talked about is that TV criticism has grown up just as much in that same period. This new age of television has been paralleled by the rise of new and exciting forms of writing about television – and Alan Sepinwall is among the best of the new breed.

In his new book, The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever, Sepinwall takes on the last fifteen years of television, and promises to tell “the story of that transformation in both the medium and how we saw it, through the prism of the best and/or most important shows of the era.” There are few people as perfectly situated to tell that story as Alan Sepinwall, and the book delivers what he promises and more. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

New from C@L Books – Past Tense, Forever Present: Remembering 9/11
The ramifications of 9/11 are still being felt today. And those ramifications will continue to be felt for generations to come. Everyone's world changed irrevocably on that morning. Eleven years later wars are still being fought as a result and nut cases who think it was an inside job continue to spout their poison. Twenty-five, fifty, one hundred years from now, someone will still be looking at the historical and political meaning of this tragedy.

Critics at Large (under the imprint C@L Books) is thrilled to announce the publication is our very first e-book single: Past Tense, Forever Present: Remembering 9/11. Edited by David Churchill, and with original water colours by Andrew Dupuis illustrating the collection's evocative themes, the book includes seven newly revised versions of essays first published on the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and four entirely new pieces written specifically for this publication.

These eleven essays look at 9/11 from a cultural perspective, examining its impact on the arts, social media, and on our lives as arts journalists caught up in the horrible calamity of that day.

Authors include: David Churchill, Mark Clamen, John Corcelli, Kevin Courrier, Susan Green, Deirdre Kelly, Mari-Beth Slade, Andrew Dupuis, David Kidney, Shlomo Schwartzberg, and Steve Vineberg.

The e-book is now available on Amazon for immediate download to Kindle, and will soon be available on Kobo. Both are priced at only 99 cents.