Television to Watch for in Winter 2014

Posted on January 3, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Yes, I want you to limit everyone in the family’s screen time, even when it’s cold out.  But there’s something to reward you — some great stuff to watch for your select television time.

Returning favorites:

communityCommunity: Creator Dan Harmon is back, which is very good news for the mega-fans of this meta-comedy.

Episodes: The wickedly funny Showtime series about English writers who come to Los Angeles is back with a reunited Beverly and Sean dealing with their star — Matt LeBlanc in a hilarious version of himself — in a career slump.

Switched at Birth: “Breaking Bad’s” R.J. Mitte joins the cast as a possible love interest for Daphne and Sandra Bernhard shows up as a mentor for Bay.

Downton Abbey: Six months after the birth of her baby and the death of her husband, Lady Mary and her family struggle with financial and emotional upheavals as the Jazz age and its upheavals dawn.

Sherlock: Benedict Cumberbatch returns for three 90-minute mysteries.

Justified: Sheriff Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) copes with first-time fatherhood and trouble with his frenemy Boyd.

Intriguing newcomers:

RAKETrue Detective: Real-life pals Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey star in this dark crime drama as Louisiana state cops on the hunt for a serial killer over a 17-year period.

Being Mary Jane: The always-watchable Gabrielle Union takes the title character from made-for-TV movie to series as a news anchor whose personal life can get chaotic.

Rake: Greg Kinnear plays a top criminal defense trial lawyer who has a lot of problems outside the courtroom, including IRS trouble and a gambling addiction.  This is the US version of a hugely popular Australian series.

Under the Gunn: “Project Runway” mentor Tim Gunn and two of the series’ most creative designers, Mondo and Anya star in a new fashion competition series.

Star-Crossed: Alien teenagers infiltrate a small-town high school and hotness ensues.

 

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The “Veronica Mars” Movie Trailer Looks Great!

Posted on January 3, 2014 at 11:12 am

The Kickstarter-financed update to the beloved television series looks wonderful — a great combination of letting the main character grow up (she’s a lawyer now) but giving her a reason to go home and interact with the characters from her high school days.  Well done!

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Big Bang Theory en Francais est Magnifique!

Posted on January 3, 2014 at 8:00 am

big-bang-theory-posterSalon has an article about the success of American television series in France.

It’s hard to underestimate the impact of “Friends” in paving the way for “The Big Bang Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother,” not just in terms of structure but international appeal. Throughout the ’90s, the show was so popular with viewers abroad that foreign policy advisers felt it was helping warm foreigners’ views toward Americans, furthering American global influence. Harvard scholar Joseph Nye coined the term “soft power” in 1989, arguing that American culture and values “remain attractive,” even when our governments prove internationally unpopular.

“Friends” has been key to the changing marketplace of global television. Research from Kaplan International in 2012 showed that “Friends” was the most popular show in helping foreigners learn English, with 26% of English students saying that watching episodes of the program helped them pick up on American idioms.

The program is so embedded in how foreigners understand English that Kaplan’s Martin Hofschroer claimed he once heard his Arab cab driver use Chandler Bing’s famous catchphrase. While stuck in New York’s infamous auto congestion, his cabbie shouted, “Could there be any more traffic?”

Because “The Big Bang Theory” is similarly popular with French speakers, some professors are even integrating it into the classroom.

I like to think that the idea of brilliant characters who understand the mysteries of the universe but struggle with relationships has universal appeal.  And I like even better the idea that it is what we laugh at that brings us together.

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Limiting Screentime

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 3:59 pm

It’s a challenge to keep kids away from television and computers and tablets and smartphones, especially in the winter when they are indoors much of the time, and when they’re out of school.  And it is a challenge to make sure they get the most out of the time they do spend on media.  The Chicago Sun-Times has some great advice from the wonderful Nicole Dreiske, founder of the Chicago-based International Children’s Media Center, which offers workshops and festivals for teachers, parents and children that promote constructive screen engagement.

“It doesn’t matter how many opportunities kids have to interface with screens, parents are still the most important people in their lives, and the holidays are a time for family.”

Building a positive relationship between parents and children around screen time is an achievable goal, Dreiske contends, one that could result in less tension with children over media and gaming choices and time limits.

A mistake parents make, she said, is that they put themselves solely in the position of the “media warden, trying to monitor all the media coming into the home and that’s never going to work,” Dreiske says.

A more constructive approach is to give children an opportunity to talk about what they’re watching.

I’m honored that this website was one of the resources she recommended for parents.  Many thanks!

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Worst Movies of 2013 — Round-Up

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 8:00 am

the-counselor-posterThanks to New York Magazine’s Vulture column for including my thoughts in the round-up of the worst films of 2013.  Here’s the consolidated list.

As always, there are some movies that end up on both best and worst lists, notably “The Counselor” and “To the Wonder.”  But that’s part of the fun of end of year lists!

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