Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

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Wednesday

22

July 2015

0

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UnReal Is The Perfect Summer TV Show

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture

There are two types of shows that air in the summer. There’s summer TV and shows that happen to air in the summer. Six Feet Under is a summer TV show. True Detective is a show that airs in the summer. Rescue Me is a summer TV show. Masters of Sex is a show that airs in the summer. Burn Notice is a summer TV show. Rectify is a show that airs in the summer.

You might be confused with what the difference is, especially since none of these shows really have anything in common with each other. There’s really only one word that makes a TV show that airs in the summer, a summer TV show. Fun.

It’s hard to imagine summer TV being what it is now without Six Feet Under, which aired in the infant stages of cable television’s rise to power. Back in a day when channels like HBO protected their especially quirky shows by airing in them in the broadcast TV offseason, a show about a family that ran a funeral home could plant its dark comedic roots without being slaughtered by the likes of an ER or a CSI.

That’s less important nowadays when the overwhelming majority of shows that anyone cares to talk about air on cable anyway, but summer TV has always maintained a niche that at least in theory separates itself from the rest of the year. I doubt it’s a coincidence that Netflix drops all the Orange is the New Black episodes in the summer months, when everyone craves something a little lighter than say, House of Cards.

Which isn’t to say that dramedies don’t air at all times of the year. Only that they flourish in the months when the days are long and people tune in at night to see something with a little more flair than a conventional drama, perhaps with a margarita or a Corona. This year’s line-up is packed with shows, but not necessarily many that fit the label I’ve described besides OINTB, which caters to the binge watchers.

I don’t think it should be too surprising to see Lifetime produce a hit scripted drama. After all, History managed it with Vikings. Fifteen years ago, the notion that AMC was capable of producing one of the most successful shows of all time was laughable. Turns out, the channel didn’t even need to stray very far for its core philosophy either.

UnReal is about the behind the scenes madness of a Bachelor stand in show called Everlasting. As you can probably imagine, the show is heavy on the melodrama. What was really shocking is how well that worked.

UnReal’s best asset is its cast. Shiri Appleby does a marvelous job playing the enigmatic lead Rachel, whose shadiness goes well beyond the point of absurdity. I can think of about a hundred ways in which her character could ruin the whole show, but Appleby keeps her grounded enough to make it all work.

House of Cards alum Constance Zimmer is also superb, though it takes a minute to fully comprehend how an actress so misused on a Netflix show could then be properly utilized on a Lifetime scripted drama. Craig Bierko, who played one of my least favorite characters on Boston Legal (one of my all time favorite shows), also plays his part to perfection.

What makes UnReal so satisfying? The show isn’t afraid to be what it is, a scripted drama about a reality show that’s lauded as a joke that airs on a network that also happens to be lauded as a joke. One might say UnReal itself was in on the joke.

It’s a show that’s self aware of the medium it exists in. It knows it can get away with wildly outlandish plots and dreamy sequences played to the tune of a Lifetime TV movie. UnReal isn’t trying to be anything else, which is perhaps why it succeeds. It’s a genuinely original idea in a world that’s starving for ideas to the point where it brought back Coach and Prison Break.

The true appeal lies with UnReal’s delivery. It could survive on being “so bad it’s good,” like the recent A Deadly Adoption Lifetime TV movie starring Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig. Instead, it uses its quality cast and lets them run wild in the absurdist playground.

Which is what makes a perfect summer TV show. Six Feet Under’s black humor would’ve worked at any point in the year, but it felt especially delectable when the weather melts away your other worries. The fact that it airs on a Monday might matter during the fall months, but here it carries the “c’est la vie” mentality that makes it all the more refreshing. An excuse to have a glass of wine at 10 pm on a Monday and a good one at that!

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Sunday

11

January 2015

7

COMMENTS

Pedophilia Accusations Undermine the Brilliant Performances in Sia’s “Elastic Heart”

Written by , Posted in Blog

While music videos experienced a bit of a dry lull between their banishment from MTV and the rise of YouTube, the medium has shown it still has the capacity to be relevant in mainstream popular culture. Well-constructed videos frequently get millions of hits and can work wonders for the artists’ careers. In less than a year, Sia’s “Chandelier” music video has close to half a billion views. One might argue that this exposure is worth far more than MTV ever was, considering you can purchase the song with the click of a button while you’re watching the video.

“Chandelier” was an accomplishment more for its risk than anything else. The video cast then eleven year old Maddie Ziegler, known for the Lifetime series Dance Moms, a reality show known more for its argumentative spinster star than the actual dancing. For close to four minutes, Ziegler carries the video with a mesmerizing performance through a decrepit building in a nude leotard, a performance that has won numerous awards.

For Sia’s follow up video, it made perfect sense to bring Ziegler back into the fold. The young performer has demonstrated artistic maturity well beyond her years. It would have been a mistake to cast her alone once again. Ziegler needed a partner to differentiate the video from “Chandelier.” Enter Shia LaBeouf.

The video for “Elastic Heart” is much more minimalistic than “Chandelier” and features Ziegler and LaBeouf cage fighting for close to five minutes. Ziegler once again dons the nude leotard, which looks a bit dirtier than before, while LaBeouf wears nude briefs that are effective in their goal to make the Even Stevens, a show that ended its run before Ziegler’s first birthday, star appear naked. The video has drawn criticisms for its romantic elements between the 28-year-old movie star and the 12-year-old reality television star. A certain word has been thrown out there especially.

Pedophilia.

The outcry has been enough for Sia to respond publicly, via Twitter . Both the outrage and the public apology have the same unfortunate result. It undermines the brilliant performances given from two unlikely sources.

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LaBeouf’s struggles have been well documented. From plagiarism to arrests to paper bags, LaBeouf is clearly a troubled man. But unlike other child stars like Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes, he hasn’t let that affect his work. As shown in the recent film Fury, LaBeouf still lands top roles alongside other A List actors. Why? Because despite how bizarre he’s become, the man is still immensely talented.

Both performers deserve ample amounts of praise for their work in “Elastic Heart.” Ziegler once again shines, shedding the trashy cable reality show image to outshine a man who’s shared the screen with the likes of Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas, Cate Blanchett, and Optimus Prime. LaBeouf manages to hold his own against the far superior dancer while delivering the emotional intensity that channels his own personal demons. To denounce this as pedophilia is insulting to both of these performers, whose combined efforts could very well make this the most relevant music video of all of 2015 despite its release in the first week of the new year.

Part of this falls on Sia, who should never have apologized. There’s nothing explicitly sexual about the video. Yes, it’s weird that LaBeouf is more than double the age of the girl who’s jumping on his back while he’s wearing a dirty speedo. But art is often weird and the natural inclination to apologize for that which draws discomfort should be repressed. We shouldn’t undermine the work of one girl primed for stardom and a man who wants to show the world he still has something to offer. Perhaps Sia should’ve listened to her own lyrics and let her thick skin deflect the unfair criticisms levied against this work of brilliance.

Success stories like Maddie Ziegler are rare. Reality TV stars typically don’t amount to much. But this is a girl whose talent transcends her age and we should applaud that rather than express concern that she’s making hissing noises at Shia LeBeouf. Anyone who wants to find genuine cause for concern for Maddie’s wellbeing should watch Dance Moms, where she experiences far more dangerous situations each episode.

Ziegler and LaBeouf should be applauded for showing the world why music videos are still worth watching. No one should apologize for the fact that two performers delivered a work of art that defied their ages and backgrounds. The only real concern is that this might be the apex of their careers. Sia should appreciate that instead of catering to the PC police.

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