About ten minutes into the review screening of the surprisingly moving and not-so-surprisingly entertaining Glee concert movie, I whispered to the Gleek I was allowed to bring, “This is gayer than a leather man in an Easter bonnet.” The hit TV show about a high school show choir from which the concert movie sprang is also pretty gay, not just because it features a half dozen gay or bisexual characters, but because it’s unabashedly flamboyant, over-dramatic, ironic, heartfelt, and camp. And this is all a good thing: despite its inconsistencies and missteps, Glee is fabulous TV.
But the concert movie (which is inexplicably and unnecessarily in 3-D) goes beyond just re-staging performances of some of the shows most famous numbers; much of the film is about Glee’s fans, or Gleeks. While, yes, there are straight male fans of Glee (or so I’ve heard), most Gleeks are women, especially young ones, and gay men. This is pretty clear from interviews of concert goers and shots of them dancing and cheering. But the in-depth interviews of three Gleeks which run through the whole film are not focused on stuff like “OMG! BLAINE IS SO CUTE!” Rather, they are about how the show has inspired them.
One of the three is a young gay man, but the other two are just as queer – they’re just as different. Reed, the gay man, was bullied in school, and he learned from the character of Kurt (Chris Colfer) to be proud of who he was, even if he was alone. Janae, a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, isolated herself from the world until she met Heather Morris (who plays Brittany), whose kindness inspired her to be a better person and try to inspire others. And the third, Josey, is a cheerleader – “a real life Cheerio,” referencing the nickname for cheerleaders in Glee — who is also a dwarf. She is one of the most popular kids at her school, both in spite of and because of her difference.
The central conceit of Glee is the celebration of, the owning of your own difference. It would seem self-congratulatory of Glee’s producers to show how profoundly affected its fans were (see, for example, the Justin Bieber and Hannah Montana movies) if the effects were not so profoundly moving.
Oh, and the concert? That’s pretty great, too. One of the most common and pointed criticism of Glee is the overuse of the computer program Autotune to fix the pitch of any off-key singing from the cast. No one, especially not high school students, sound that good all of the time. It was hard for me to tell if the live singing was autotuned, but it didn’t seem to be lip-synced, which, to me, matters more. The best singers – Lea Michele (Rachel), Amber Riley (Mercedes), Colfer, Kevin McHale (Arties), and Darren Criss (Blaine) – sound great, even when they’re dancing. But the weaker singers, in particular Cory Monteith (Finn) and Diana Agron (Quinn), are conveniently overshadowed by the music, which seemed to have been deliberately amped up to drown out their vocals.
As in the TV show, the group numbers in the film tend to be more spectacular than the solos (though Riley and Michele’s are both stunning). Both the opener, their signature version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” and the closer, a recreation of their inspired rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” showcase great choreography and cast chemistry. The three songs Criss and his army of a capella singing, perfectly synched back-up dancers are given in the middle of the film are another highlight, as they were in the show last year.
That Criss’s Blaine, who plays Kurt’s boyfriend, is now a teen heartthrob makes me hopeful. But not as hopeful, even overjoyed, as I felt hearing the screening audience’s reaction to Reed saying that he is now proud to say that he’s gay. Three-quarters of the theater were kids from Chula Vista High School. They cheered for Reed.
Glee: The 3-D Concert Movie
Directed by Kevin Tancharoen
Starring Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, and Cory Monteith
At your local multiplex
Here’s the second of my five Golden Teddy posts. I’ve done my Most Excellence in Music post, and to come are Most Excellence in Stuff, Most Excellence in Writing, and Most Excellence in Film. The second will probably come in late January, because most of the good movies from 2010 haven’t played here yet. I’ll do Stuff and Writing today or tomorrow. (I changed Most Excellence in Books to Most Excellence in Writing, because I haven’t read that many books this year, and I seem to have short-shrifted stories, articles, and poems in the past.)
Anyway, here’s the TV!
And please note: I watch a lot of TV, but I don’t watch a lot of what’s on. So, I don’t have an opinion about a lot of things — like The Real Housewives of [Insert City Here],The A List, CSI: [Insert City Here], or anything animated, because while I almost always like The Simpsons, I almost never like Family Guy or Southpark — and thus, they won’t win any awards.
Most Excellence in Being Exactly What You Are and Nothing Else
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmC77zrxkjg]Smallville. I’ve watched almost every episode of Smallville, and I’ve been watching since its premiere ten years ago. I stopped for a bit somewhere in the middle, when it got really silly and strangely focused on Lana Lang’s occult powers, but I returned three years ago when other DC ‘verse folk showed up. It got geekier, more myth-y, campier, and simply more fun. Now, in its last year, Smallville is all about Clark and Lois and their destiny. It’s all going somewhere, and it’s doing it as if the show were a filmed comic book. It’s one of the shows that I’m most excited to see on the list of stuff the TiVo has recorded. I love this fan-made promo video for the final season.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJk6b3kAvME]True Blood. The first season was awesome in its shocking blood, sex, and astronomical production values, and the second season was pulpy but unsatisfying and sorta, well, bad. But this past season, the third, True Blood went back to being great at being what it is: blood, sex, astronomical production values, and a coherent, engrossing through-line that made you want to keep watching. And there are two reasons: Joe Manganiello, who was so hot that it was hard to sit still watching him on screen, and Denis O’Hare, whose uber-baddy was camptastically evil.
Most Excellence in Filthy, Gorgeous Camp … and Sadness
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQT4yvkNR_U]Spartacus: Blood and Sand. I have no problem admitting that I started watching Spartacus because I’d heard there were lots of naked gladiators in it. And there are. But it was also insanely entertaining, in 300 meets Rome kind of way: So much blood, so much sex, so many shots of Lucy Lawless’s breasts, so many discussions about honor, so very little subtlety. And Andy Whitfield, who played the titular character, is such an amazingly hot and fierce (in the gay and traditional definitions) action hero. It is deeply awful that promptly after becoming world famous for this role he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and blarg, the role has been recast with some guy who will never be as awesome.
Most Excellence in Scaring the Living Poo Out of Me
The Walking Dead. Like vampires, zombies have gone high-brow in the last decade. Danny Boyle started it with 28 Days Later, and now we have a high-art cable show on the same network as Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The pilot of The Walking Dead is easily one of the scariest and creepiest 90 minutes of televisual entertainment I’ve ever encountered. I’ve heard complaints that after the first couple episodes, the show got boring. As far as I can tell, “boring” means that the show didn’t focus solely on blowing the heads off of zombies but rather on the human emotional upheaval of the apocalypse, which The Walking Dead does much better than Battlestar Galatica ever could. The acting and writing are as good as anything else on the air right now, and the action — of which there is a lot — is intense and often brilliantly directed. As you can see from the clip here.
Most Excellence in Wrongness (Comedy)
Raising Hope. I liked My Name Is Earl, but there was something a bit mean-spirited about it; the characters, despite Earl’s desire to do the right thing, were deep-down not very good people. Raising Hope, which has the same creator and which is set in the same town, uses white trash humor a bit more humanely and lovingly. At the heart of the show is family, love, and responsibility. And it’s crazy, crazy funny.
Most Excellence in Wrongness (Drama)
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RB8t0CCZB4]Breaking Bad. Since the premise of show is watching when, how, and why people “break bad” — become criminals, do terrible things, compromise their ethics and morals — I shouldn’t be surprised by the number of times I screech “Oh, no!” when I’m watching Breaking Bad. The one here is the most epic. Lawd. It’s really hard to watch. I’m not even sure if it’s entertaining. But it’s damn good drama. That said, I’m probably only watching it because my dissertation is about meth, and so is this show.
Most Excellent Endings
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEqcMPsUqQ8]Lost. While no series finale can touch the last episode of Six Feet Under — which I think should be used as the definition of “sublime” — the finale of Lost is one of the few that actually both ends a story and does it in a satisfying, emotionally rewarding way. It took me a while to comprehend it fully how it worked, but the ingenious duel storylines of the last season, one of which only in hindsight took place in a sort of Purgatory, allowed a mysterious build-up of catharsis that I had only experienced while reading great novels. I wept in the same way I did after reading the last page of Atonement.
Most Excellently Awful, Sharp-Jumping, Are-You-Fucking-Kidding-Me?! Ending
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qesx7T6s6_o]Project Runway. After three months of watching Mondo make exquisite, artful, original and deeply personal women’s clothes and also watching Gretchen making dreadful clothes inspired by Joni Mitchell album covers from the late 70s, it was, to say the least, appalling to watch Gretchen win Project Runway. It was one of the best seasons in a while: drama, drama, drama, and some cool clothes, too. But in Mondo being robbed, it was the first time that someone truly, truly undeserving won.
Most Excellence in Being Dreadfully Awful
Fox News. What’s that sound? It’s all 73 of my readers saying “duh.” All you need to know about how evil of this station is in the survey that showed that its viewers are the most misinformed compared to viewers of MSNBC and CNN. And how did Fox’s spokesperson respond? By attacking the authors of the study because they’re researchers at the University of Maryland. Cuz it’s a party school! As if that has anything to do with whether the methods of the researchers are valid. If the researchers were from Harvard? Liberal! If they were from Oxford? European! If they were from Bob Jones University? Silence. Based on the amount of partisanship, cynicism, anger, and discursive evil it has wrought, Fox News is the single worst thing to happen to the American polity since Watergate.
Most Excellence in Pointing Out How Dreadfully Awful Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC Are
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JnDY2Gv5YQ]Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. And I don’t even watch their shows; I just watch the clips when they’re posted on Facebook. Sadly, as good as Stewart and Colbert are at shredding into tiny, tiny, tiny pieces the falsities and cynicism of Fox News, nothing changes. Everyone with a clue knows that Fox News is not news, but rather hateful, dishonest propaganda. And everyone who wants to hear only what makes uneducated white Christians feel good about themselves will happily watch Fox and believe whatever they’re told.
Most Excellent Topic of Argument for Pop Culture-Minded Grad Students (that isn’t Black Swan)
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTnwv2NN-DI]Glee. Some people love it, some people hate it, a lot of people thought this season isn’t as good or consistent as last season (as if it was ever consistent), and I love how it makes people fight about art, drama, and the representation of gays and lesbians on TV. Queeny and manipulative and damaged and funny, Kurt is all sorts of problematic, and so are his storylines, and I love when people get all indignant about Kurt, pro or con. Also: It’s fun to watch people trash Glee in total and thoughtlessly expose their either external or internal homophobia. And by “fun,” I mean “depressing and useful.” Also: This clip shows the cutest, gayest, and most subversive thing I’ve seen on network TV in a long time.
Most Excellence in Continued Excellence (Drama)
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkCzGBK3aWY]Mad Men. I don’t think there’s any debate about this being the best season since the first. I can quibble about some odd dramatic transitions, or lack thereof, particularly in the moment when Don decided to stop, or curtail, his drinking, for that scene was never shown. And I found his journaling a tad weird. But “The Suitcase” was the best episode of the entire series, and the drama of Anna’s death, Don’s quick and weird engagement with his toothy secretary, Roger’s disastrous lies, and Peggy being Peggy created an emotional roller coaster for both Don and the audience. You get why he drinks.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGnjj6pbU9E]The Good Wife. There are two shows that when I see them in my TiVo list, I get excited: Smallville and The Good Wife. Clearly, I like a lot of TV, but when it comes to pure entertainment, The Good Wife does it without being shocking, depressing, or challenging. These are all qualities that I like in a show, but sometimes you just want a procedural/soap opera that is well-acted, well-written, and not insulting to your intelligence (unlike every other legal procedural on network television.)
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGoI1eW9zvs]Fringe. While there’s not too much competition right now, even if there were some competition, it’s still the best sci-fi on TV. And it got so much better this year for three reasons: 1) Taking the drama to the parallel universe, which is so Crisis on Infinite Earths; 2) Giving us Walternate and Fauxlivia, roles that give two of our heroes the opportunity to play slightly different versions of one character, which leads to some superheroic acting; 2) Joshua Jackson being all Joshua Jacksony — Yum.
Most Excellence in Continued Excellence (Comedy)
30 Rock. It’s beginning to have that not-so-fresh feeling, but the satire is still genius. Explaining comedy is hard. Here’s a clip.
Modern Family. For the same reason as last year: incredibly funny and not mean. 1/2 Arrested Development, 1/4 All in the Family, and 1/4 Leave it to Beaver. And we have a clip to prove it.
Parks & Recreation. It’s almost as good as The Office was when that show was at its best. I’m worried about the new presence of Rob Lowe, who I’ve always found to be incredibly unctuous, but Parks & Rec wonderfully uncynical, openhearted, and silly. Clip!
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX15Le48jLs]“The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” by Tegan and Sara. I heard this on NPR last week in a review of the Christmas song collection Gift Wrapped II: Snowed In. I think the songwas meant to be twee, but Tegan and Sara’s somewhat flat delivery makes it just creepy. Granted, it’s not as creepy or wrong as the entire oeuvre of the Chipmunks.
Most Excellence in Creepy Topical-But-True-ness
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uelHwf8o7_U]“Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna. The 2010 “My Name Is Luka,” “Love the Way You Lie” became the Official Serious Song of the Year by being, yes, insanely catchy and well-made and about domestic violence, but also by having the current most famous victim of domestic violence sing the hook. Rihanna, who thankfully has emerged by her poisonous relationship with Chris Brown as an even bigger and better star, sings that searing, haunting chorus with way too much wink and wisdom. Watching her do it in the extraordinary and oddly hot (heh) video makes it clear she knows exactly what she’s doing and what it all means. Also, Eminem’s rapping on this song is fucking awesome.
Most Excellent Use of the Words “Ohio” and “Bees” in a Lyric
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfySK7CLEEg]“Bloodbuzz Ohio” by The National. “I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees” is simply one of the great lyrics ever. I have no idea what this song is about, and the video is just as opaque. Two of the comments on YouTube discuss possibilities: “The director’s instructions appear to have been ‘act like you’re 70 and maybe a little bit drunk.'” And: “Private eye Matt sets out to solve the murder of a wealthy heiress but gets distracted by a lovely park, some booze and a neat song. Finally he’s fired from the case and does a little dance.” “Bloodbuzz Ohio” is my favorite song on The National’s “High Violet,” which came out this year and didn’t do what “Boxer” had a few years ago. It underwhelmed, mostly because, I think, it didn’t take the band anywhere new. It’s good, but it’s not a revelation.
Most Excellence in Autotune for Good
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbZcYy6AAGg]“Umbrella/Singin’ In the Rain” by the Cast of Glee, but mostly Gwyneth Paltrow and Matthew Morrison. Aside from being inconsistent in its quality, and inconsistent in its characterizations, perhaps the biggest complaint about Glee is the extraordinary overuse of autotune to correct the pitch of the majority of the singers and their singing. I assume that this is done mostly because there simply isn’t enough rehearsal time to get these songs right; they’re making a 40-minute musical in 10 days, and that’s hard work. Of course, the seasoned Broadway pros like Lea Michelle, Matthew Morrison, and guest stars like Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel don’t sound like they’ve been altered. They can sing on pitch at will. But not so much Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, and guest stars like Gwyneth Paltrow. Some people loathed Gwyneth’s episode, but I’m with the many who loved it. And I loved what they did with this number. It’s ingenious, even if it is mostly an engineering marvel.
Most Excellence in Using Autotune for Evil
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cn1XTUyzBB0]Taylor Swift. All you need to know about how much of Taylor Swift’s actual voice appears on her recordings can be found in this terrifying live performance, a duet with a clearly astonished Stevie Nicks. I won’t embed an actual Taylor Swift song, because they make my head hurt.
Most Excellence in Not Being But Sounding A Lot Like the Strokes
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qY–Yu4kzz0]“Animal” by Neon Trees. When I first heard this song, I thought that the Strokes had gotten back together and started working with Dr. Luke or something. It’s super poppy but the lead singer sounds like Julian Casablancas and the guitars are soooo New York in 2001. Rockin’.
Most Excellence in Gummy Bears, Whipped Cream, and Snoop Dogg
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F57P9C4SAW4]“California Gurls” by Katy Perry. I loathed Katy Perry, and then this song warmed my heart. Even though it’s pretty clear that the real California is not much of a dream anymore, this insanely joyful, giddy, ridiculous song just makes me happy. And there’s the video. WTF. Dancing gummy bears, whipped cream cone bras, and a pimped out Snoop Dogg make it one of the more ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. I have no idea what the Candyland stuff has to do with California, but whatevs.
Most Excellence in Channeling James Brown
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwnefUaKCbc]“Tightrope” by Janelle Monae. This is the best dance video in, like, forever. Well, okay, since “Single Ladies,” which really isn’t that long ago. But this is a much more populist video; it’s about dancing for your life and your sanity, while “Single Ladies” is about Beyonce and her backup dancers being amazing. I mean: Dude. Look at them go. You just gotta love Miss Monae. Her album is a schizophrenic wonder-wheel, and this is the best tune by far. What a freaky genius.
Most Excellence in Being a Most Excellent Album
My top five:
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpsTxeYFJrY]Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson: Original Cast Recording by Michael Friedman. Okay, yeah, Michael is one of my best friends, but I’m not one to promote my friends’ work unless it’s damn good. This is rock musical at its best: The show is the most subversive and relevant piece of theater I’ve seen in God-knows-how-long, and Michael’s music and lyrics are hilarious, brainy, catchy, profound, and often much more moving than you could possibly imagine a post-modern comedy about Andrew Jackson could be.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pZkZguPAPs]Gorilla Manor by Local Natives. Exquisite harmonies, melodies, and guitar work. It’s sorta perfect. I heard that our local show, which I missed because it sold out while I was waiting for someone to decided whether to go with me, took a turn for the douche, but I’m not one to refuse love for a band because of its fans.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBhdIcb84Hw]The Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green. Pop/soul deliciousness.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uayey2PSGpA]My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West. The lyrics are Allen Ginsburg meets Richard Pryor, and the music is perhaps the apex of post-modern musical pastiche, and the whole thing is some sort of insane, ego-fighting-the-id masterpiece. Also, it’s a party album. Team Kanye.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L6ZFhZVOx0]The Suburbs by Arcade Fire. I don’t think The Suburbs is better than Arcade Fire’s previous albums Funeral and Neon Bible, but it’s still one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, easily. I don’t think any other band is making big, important, dense, and political albums like Arcade Fire, which is simply the best rock act making records right now. Like Neon Bible, The Suburbs isn’t really fun; it can be a tad depressing, since the subjects of the songs are things like sprawl and ennui. But in its darkness, it’s engrossing and populist and beautiful and mostly superbly crafted, like a Scorsese movie.
Five Most Excellent Honorably Mentioned Albums
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e0u11rgd9Q]Contra by Vampire Weekend. More of the same — as in awesome, smart, African-beated rock and roll — from my favorite nerds.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCo-U6war6c]Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You. by Lightspeed Champion. I think I’m the only person I know who knows who this guy is. Well, me and my brother, who gave me the album. Brit pop-rock (and he’s American!), FTW.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHv0jW4p_xA]Night Work by Scissor Sisters. Disco! Disco! Disco!
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5gQidrzojU]This Is Happening! by LCD Soundsystem. No one fuses electronica and rock better than James Murphy, and his lyrics are as funny as they are surprisingly poetic.
Most Excellence in Being a Most Excellent Song
My top five, in alphabetical order:
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4306i99LMXo]“Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. It’s hipster folkies embodying Johnny and June Carter Cash. If you don’t love this song, you have no soul.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLJf9qJHR3E]“Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons. I like to pretend that this song is about the end of a gay relationship, but it’s probably not. Still, it’s a sing-along, banjo-stomp, folk-rock masterpiece, and it’s made these guys big stars. Yay!
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X23xo0Htl8]“The Saddest Song” by Ben Walker and the cast of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Even though this is very much a “book” song, it’s searing; if you replaced the historical specifics of the 1830s with some stuff from, say, the last year, the song could be about Obama. And it’s catchy, to say the least. And it has just a dab of Evita-ish rhythms to get at the queen in me.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98WtmW-lfeE][youtube:”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E46BhMIRujI”]“Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry, as performed by both Perry and Darren Criss on “Glee.” I think this is the best pop song of the year. It’s about joy and nostalgia and love. And sex. And when Darren Criss sang it on Glee — brilliantly, and better than Perry, and with an a capella back-up — it became a teen fantasy for every gay kid who ever struggled, alone and dejected, through high school. If only I’d been serenaded by someone like Criss, or, hell, just someone…
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1Fqn9du7xo]“Whataya Want From Me?” by Adam Lambert. Written by Pink and performed by Lambert like the song is eating his soul, it’s the best track on For Your Entertainment and a damn awesome fighting-with-your-lover song.
Five Most Excellent Honorably Mentioned Singles
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xT6cdfP_cM]“Drunk Girls” by LCD Soundsystem. Hilarious.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc0mxOXbWIU]“Fuck You” by Cee Lo. Also hilarious. Not hilarious: The wretched “clean” version of the song where “fuck” is replaced with “forget.” Hideous. Fuck the FCC.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SR6iYWJxHqs]“Grenade” by Bruno Mars. Now that’s love.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouwCWDbBskU]“POWER” by Kanye West. Gadzooks. Now that’s how to produced a hip-hop song. Insane.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdUvaIV0t7E]“Schizophrenia” by Jukebox the Ghost. Ben Folds on speed. Fabulous. I wholeheartedly agree with the commenter on YouTube who wrote, “Why doesn’t this have a gajillion views already? It’s better than sex.”
A couple people pointed out some stuff that I should have included. I listened, thought, and agreed.
TWO MORE MOST EXCELLENT ALBUMS
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcNo07Xp8aQ]Body Talk by Robyn. Robyn put out three albums this year, Body Talk Part 1, Body Talk Part 2, and Body Talk Part 3, also known simply as Body Talk, and this last one compiles the best stuff from Parts 1 and 2 along with a few new tunes. I was underwhelmed by 1 and 2; there were some great songs, but there was also some filler that bored me. I didn’t know about Part 3 until my friend Allen told me about it after this post went up, and I listened to it yesterday, like, five times, and it doesn’t have problems of 1 and 2. Part 3 is a collection of nearly perfect dance-pop songs. Robyn’s lyrics are veer back and forth from humor to deep pain, and everything is catchier than the flu. “Dancing On My Own,” for example, is already some sort of classic.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzWQSabtWLs]Queen of Denmark by John Grant. Well. OMG. A link to this song was left in the Facebook comments about this post, and I was floored. Grant’s voice is utterly haunting, and the songs are in some David Bowie / Elton John / Jens Lekman / Rufus Wainwright land where I want to move and retire. It’s a ridiculously beautiful album.
Sorry for the delay. I’ve been busy. And this is the embarrassing Golden Teddy Award, because it shows just how much TV I watch.
Most Excellence In Happy Endings
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBqvznPZ49s]Southland. The best new show of 2009, Southland was canceled not because of bad ratings but because it was too “gritty” for a 9pm time-slot, and NBC had given 10pm every day of the week to Jay Leno. (Yeah, that worked out.) Southland ended up on TNT, which is a cable channel, which means it can be as gritty as they want it to be. It’s easily one of the best cops shows I’ve ever seen. Plus, it has Ben McKenzie, who makes my knees weak. And having a complex gay cop played by the complex character actor Michael Cudlitz helps a lot.
Most Excellent Show About A Vampire
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETxEcWFMU1s]The Glenn Beck Program. Okay, I don’t actually watch Glenn Beck. But he’s a vampire. And an evil one. Unlike the more complex ones in…
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-rUvpGEAYU]True Blood. As gruesome police procedurals like CSI were to the mid-00s, vampires were to 2008 and 2009. True Blood is the only good thing to come of this trend. And while it’s not “good” in the way that, say, Mad Men or Buffy the Vampire Slayer are, since it’s not really about anything other than what it is, it’s very good at what it is: Pulp. Sex, violence, comedy, love, and utter ridiculousness. It’s really, really fun.
Most Excellence In Family Fare
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aSzTVrP5FQ]Modern Family. It’s rather hard to take something as cliched as the family sitcom and make it relevant and new and laugh-out-loud funny, but Modern Family does it. It has the absurdity of Arrested Development and 30 Rock, but it’s actually real — these people could and do exist. More or less. And it’s not mean, unlike so many other family sitcoms have been. These people love each other, even when they’re angry. It reminds me of Roseanne in that way. Also in the ways that there are complex gay people in it.
Most Excellence In Being 30 Rock But Set At the Monsanto Corporation
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z2MjAcd3Ys]Better Off Ted. This show is ridiculously funny, an amazingly well-made absurdist satire of the modern corporation.
Most Excellent Show That Revolves Around One Excellent Performance
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_OtrYgMnCU]The Good Wife. Like The Closer, a close second in this category, the lead actress and her well-written lines take a rather cliched premise, in this case a woman lawyer going back to work after being a housewife, and turns it into something that transcends the genre. Julianna Margulies is AMAZING.
Most Excellence In Starting Out Very Bad, Getting Canceled, and Getting Really Good
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39VBKg6Mqm0]Dollhouse. The first season was so, so, so very bad, but I was determined to stick with it, since Joss Whedon has never done me wrong before. And when it came back, shockingly, for a second season, it got better. But when Fox cancelled it, it got awesome. Once there was an ending in sight, they knew what to do. And they’re doing it with all the teh-awesome-ness available. Smartly, they’ve tamped down anything having to with Eliza Dushku’s supposed acting versatility and ramped up Olivia Williams and Fran Kranz, who are both fabulous.
Most Excellence in Starting Out “Meh” And Then Getting Really Good
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGfm16rgmLU]Parks & Recreation. This is Part 1 of “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful.” Three of people I was friendly with in college produce, write, or star in it, and I’m jealous that they’re rich and famous. But, damn, this is a funny show. Of course, it helps to have Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari, who are comedy geniuses.
Most Excellence In Wish Fulfillment
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNSF-IlfWLo]Glee. The plots are absurd, but watching outcast fags and drama geeks get to be stars makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. The musical numbers are wonderful (as is the auto-tune!) and Jane Lynch is the best villain on TV.
Most Excellence In Guilty Pleasure
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsuXLIaci8g]Smallville. This show also has benefited from seeing an end. It’s still not good — cheesy, badly acted low-budget silliness — but knowing the Lois (Erica Durance, who I ♥) and Clark are eventually going to end up together and stop living in Smallville gives the narrative some traction.
Most Excellence In OMG THIS IS SO BAD!!!!
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vT6S54bXgOE]The Beautiful Life. Honestly, I have never seen anything worse on television. Ever.
Most Excellence in Continuing Excellence
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_7Zzb-t9Lc]Mad Men. Every year, we get 13 Cheever short stories brought to life. It is the best show on cable, and one of the best things every put on TV. They have no censors, as clearly evidenced by this scene. Wow.
30 Rock. Comedy gold!
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p_Emf6ayoE]Lost. They know where it’s going. Still the best show on network television.