‘Community’ Comes Back Tonight!

I think Community is probably one of the most genius shows ever made. It capitalizes on the intertextuality that so pervades our culture right now and rewards its viewers with sly references and long-running gags. The commentary it makes on pop culture and the state of television today, as well as the historical tradition of the medium, is sharp, witty, and never fails to make me laugh. If you aren’t watching it, you should be. Seriously. To give you a brief sample of its amazingness, here are twelve seconds of delight that make me laugh every time:

This cult hit has a hugely dedicated fan base, a fan base that has been eagerly anticipating the season four premiere, airing tonight, specifically because of a big change. Dan Harmon, the show’s creator and brilliant showrunner for the past three years, has been replaced by veteran sitcom producers David Guarascio and Moses Port (Just Shoot Me!, The IT CrowdAliens in America, Happy Endings). I’m not questioning the ability of these two men, but I do have concerns about how well they will be able to fill the massive shoes left by Harmon, and if their take on the show will ever be able to capture the essence of what Community really is.

So with tonight’s premiere finally upon us, I’d love to know what you think of it. Check out this review, which identifies some of the problems with the episode, but also encourages us to go easy on Guarascio and Port as they undertake this incredibly intimidating project. Let’s just hope they get into their groove and guide us through Six Seasons and a Movie.

‘Community’: The New Regime
Liz Medendorp @ PopMatters

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The new episode, airing 7 February, ends with a general nod to fans’ concerns when Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) announces, “I don’t know why I was so worried about change; this year is gonna be great!” But the episode that precedes, while mostly maintaining the zany antics and genre-bending tendencies so characteristic of the show, seems subdued and ultimately fails to give reason for the dean’s prediction.

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Why Did Smash Crash and Burn?

Smash had a very promising start, with a great pilot that got us all hooked and excited to see where the show would go. Unfortunately, it didn’t go anywhere. Quickly devolving into uninteresting side plots and melodramatic characterizations, this show simply lost track of what it was meant to be: a story about producing a Broadway show.

Viewers who are interested in the premise of Smash have no desire to see the show be more about the often times ridiculous behaviors of the various characters, but instead about the actual production, about Marilyn Monroe, and about breathing life into her story through song and dance. While some element of the drama behind the drama is of course a necessary part of such a story, Smash has, it seems, totally lost sight of the actual Broadway production.

Check out this great (although somewhat lengthy) article on the various elements of the production of Smash‘s first season that seems to have created the perfect storm, dooming this promising series to becoming a joke.

How “Smash” Became TV’s Biggest Train Wreck
Kate Arthur @ BuzzFeed

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Smash was supposed to be the show that saved NBC — but people laughed at it instead. How did it all go so wrong?

A year ago, Smash began its first season on NBC, critically praised andexceedingly hyped, with the well-funded backing of the network and its chairman, Robert Greenblatt, who considered the musical drama his pet project. Steven Spielberg had dreamed up the concept, and his DreamWorks TV was behind it.

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‘Sleep Tight’ Put Me to Sleep

The new movie from Jaume Balagueró, the director of REC and REC 2, was a bit of a disappointment. Sleep Tight moves incredibly slowly, building the suspense in an admittedly effective way, but the pacing of the film in general kept it from really grabbing my attention. Any momentum that is gradually gathered throughout the film fizzles out after the sort of pseudo-climax 2/3 of the way in, and it goes back to a slow, drawn-out resolution that only grips you again in the final moments.

130202-sleeptightThe first 10-15 minutes are especially yawn-worthy, simply depicting the mundane tasks of apartment building manager César’s (Louis Tosar) life and routine. Some may say that this is an artistic choice, made in order to get the viewer into the mindset of our anti-protagonist, but for me the fact that it was so boring led to the exact opposite effect: I had almost no investment in César because he seemed so gorram boring. Really, the entire first half of the film almost put me to sleep.

The worst thing about this kind of approach to exposition used in Sleep Tight is the fact that it violates the contract with the audience. All screenwriters should be aware that the first ten minutes (or pages) of a movie are the most important–this is where you grab your viewer’s attention and give them the information they need to make the decision to invest the next 90 or so minutes of their life on this film. By the end of those ten minutes, then, the viewer should know the genre, who they are rooting for (the protagonist), the main conflict, and what the main character’s motivations are. Now, some element of mystery can still be maintained, but without these key elements, your audience is likely to get bored, preventing them from getting invested in the characters and the story.

And therein lies Sleep Tight‘s primary failing: César’s motivation is not only difficult to decipher in those first scenes, but even when it is explicitly stated by the end of the film, it convoluted and unrelatable. As I have discussed before, if you’re making your protagonist a “bad guy,” his motivation is the most essential part of his character, as the audience needs to be able to relate to it and even share in justifying his actions because of it.

Check out this review of Sleep Tight that discusses both its successes and its failings. What did you think of this new movie from Balagueró?

‘Sleep Tight’s Slow-Moving Suspense is a Snooze
Liz Medendorp @ PopMatters

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From the director of REC comes a slow burning suspenseful story of mental illness and clandestine abuse that leaves you with a skeevy feeling.

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