What within us creates nostalgia? Is Generation Y really so sentimental for wholesome childhood values in our current world of corruption and needless distaste? The cynic in me says no; it is not nostalgia, but narcissism that fuels the contemporary wave of childhood reboots—from this year’s Grease revamp to the upcoming Gilmore Girls reunion—so that we might relive adolescent comfort from behind a knowing smirk that the world is not quite so upbeat after all.
A show whose politics are as progressive as Transparent always confronts the potential for indulgence. The showrunners’ own progressiveness can blind them. They can fall into a self-congratulatory hole, where once they dare to be politically savvy, they don’t bother to dare anymore. But Transparent, whose subject matter really is as progressive as they come, never stops daring. Rather than offering flat characters solely defined by their marginalization, we are given real people who struggle with their identity and who, like all of us, often feel unfulfilled, question themselves, and fear the future.
2015 was truly a great year for television. Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu released a slew of original programming, veteran series came to an end, and consistent fan favorites delivered exciting new seasons. Check out what the Buffer Editors loved to (perhaps binge) watch this past year.
“The past three seasons have been very dark,” they said. “For this season, we’ll use a lighter tone,” they said. They lied. Working on the fourth season of Arrow, the writers and executive producers decided to sprinkle the show with less doom and gloom than in previous seasons. Not only did they have these self-imposed restrictions (or delusions), but they also had to create a plot captivating enough to let their audience forget the overhyped and utterly lackluster third season, with its glamorous promise of a great villain and its failure to deliver on that promise. Yet, with these high hurdles in place, nothing stopped them from creating the mesmerizing midseason finale, “Dark Waters,” and boy did I forget season three! Continue reading Diving Into “Dark Waters”
The basic conceit of Agent X was interesting enough: it followed the story of a secret agent at the vice-president’s disposal who quietly dealt with matters of great importance, crises both foreign and domestic. This rich premise provided ample room for exploring a myriad of settings and storylines, as well as for defeating an unlimited number of adversaries. The American version of James Bond, Agent X could have worked well as a slick TV adaptation of cinema’s iconic 007. But alas, it turned out that James Bond’s American cousin was predictable to the point of boredom and was quickly and unceremoniously cancelled.
Every year there are two or three promising new sci-fi series that sputter out before finishing their first season. Thanks to some notable failures such as Almost Human, Caprica and even longer lasting shows like Defiance which didn’t maintain the necessary viewership to be successful, television currently lacks a new large-scale science fiction drama that delivers. SyFy’s new show The Expanse, based on the acclaimed novels by James A. Corey, hopes to become the experience we have all been waiting for. Epic worlds, the vastness of space, a compelling story of humanity: The Expanse may succeed in creating and exploring all of these things. Yet although this new show offers an intriguing variety of characters in uniquely detailed worlds, it’s difficult to tell from an uneven and at times confusing pilot if they will combine effectively to create an epic saga.
Ah, the Holidays. A time to indulge in stale cookies and bad eggnog, and watch endless reruns of tired Christmas classics. This year, in the same spirit of mediocre holiday entertainment, comes A Very Murray Christmas. The Christmas special, recently released on Netflix, is directed by Sofia Coppola, and stars, of course, Bill Murray. Murray, along with a gaggle of famous friends, try to recreate old timey holiday variety shows, with a contemporary spin. Unfortunately, this star-studded affair lacks any Christmas magic. Continue reading A Very (Un)Murray Christmas
Recently the Princeton Buffer editors sat down with A. O. Scott, co-chief film critic (along with Manohla Dargis) at The New York Times. We asked him what it’s like at the Times, what a film critic does for fun, and what the future holds for him. Along the way we also discovered why our favorite movie reviewer prefers Spock to Kirk and why he thinks the job of a film critic is to be wrong.
In Part One of our interview, Scott talks about why he left graduate school, why he became a film critic, and why a new generation of film reviewers has given the profession new life. In Part Two Scott shares his personal likes and dislikes, his appreciation of cinema as a window on the world, and his secret to Better Living Through Criticism—the title of his new book coming out in February 2016.
In Part 2 of our interview with The New York Times film critic A. O. Scott, he answers some quick “lightening round” questions on his favorite (and not so favorite) characters and movies, before sharing with us his thoughts on the art of criticism. For more of our conversation, see Interview with A. O. Scott: Part 1.
Season three of Comedy Central’s Nathan for You is now in full swing. The premise of this hilarious reality TV series is simple: comedian Nathan Fielder is a business consultant who comes up with hair-brained schemes to help actual small businesses. For instance, at the end of episode six of season three, Nathan convinces the owner of a struggling travel agency to upsell funeral services, exploiting the untapped customer base of older people. Unsurprisingly, this plan, along with most of Nathan’s creative ideas, backfires. There are still several episodes left in this season, but the initial verdict is in: the third installation is a hit.
Sword fights, intrigue, superpowers, and opium. These are the cornerstones of Into the Badlands, the new and intriguing dystopian martial arts drama on AMC, which is very loosely based on the classic Chinese tale Journey to the West. For a network that has produced such hit shows as Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead, a foray into the martial arts genre is an interesting choice. Into the Badlands is a story of a man and his charge journeying, against all odds, in search of both escape from their pasts and enlightenment into the true nature of what surrounds them. And that is a tale I very much want to watch unfold in this grim, ruthless expanse of a possible future.
When a show has been running for over 52 years, it’s not necessarily a bad idea to make an episode that shakes up the format once in a while. Breaking with the traditional format prevents a series from becoming stale. That’s what writer Mark Gatiss tries to do with “Sleep No More,”an episode that takes the form of found footage put together by Gagan Rasmussen (Reece Shearsmith), inventor of Morpheus and sole surviving crewmember on the Le Verrier lab in orbit around Neptune. Morpheus is a device that replaces a month’s worth of sleep with just five minutes spent inside the Morpheus machine, invented primarily to allow laborers to work longer shifts. The Doctor’s response to Rasmussen’s Morpheus machine is characteristically flamboyant: “Congratulations, Professor! You’ve revolutionized the labor market! You’ve conquered nature! You’ve also created an abomination.” Our response to “Sleep No More” parallels the Doctor’s response to Morpheus. Congratulations, Gatiss! You’ve revolutionized the episode format! You’ve conquered repetition! You’ve also created an abomination.