Thoughts, notes, observations on the everyday nonsense of American Pop Culture from one of the most not-hip people on the face of the planet...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Let's take a moment to appreciate...Home Movies

Anyone who watches Adult Swim on Cartoon Network at least knows of "Home Movies" - but likely hasn't ever really watched it. Chronically misadvertised and overlooked, this little old show has really grown on me since Adult Swim started showing it daily of late.

The show was ahead of its time in 1999 when it was created for UPN. Sure, there were plenty of animated shows for adults, but they all were about adult themes. "Home Movies" was a sweet, simple show of sketchy quality that walked a fine line between children's cartoon, network sitcom and smarmy stand-up. Little surprise then that UPN killed it and it became an original flagship show for Adult Swim in 2001.

The show details the day-to-day life of frazzled and slightly alcoholic single mom Paula through the eyes (and amateur home movies) of her precocious 8-year-old son Brendon. In my opinion, however, it is the secondary characters like the socially-inept Coach McGuirk, smarty pants best friend Melissa and mumbly brain Jason that really bring in the laughs.

The show also has an incredible pedigree that if I had known about it initially, I would have paid more attention. Co-creator Loren Bouchard is the brain behind the similarly-ignored "Dr. Katz". Comedian/musician Brendon Small (in addition to co-creating the show) is head writer and voice of Brendon. There's Paula Poundstone, who writes and voices Paula. Not to mention frequent guest writer and voice Mitch Hedburg (RIP), who is always a favorite random character.

There aren't a ton of episodes and it isn't always easy to find, but I really urge anyone who likes the more traditional adult cartoons of the 1990s (as opposed to the newer high-concept stuff on Adult Swim) should check out "Home Movies". Despite it's annoying animation style (which improves in later episodes), the writing and voices bring about a very good show that didn't get its due.

Friday, January 06, 2006

2005 Retrospective: The Best Of

I know I have little to no credibility with my slipshod updating, but for better or worse, here’s the big list.

Best Album: “Get Behind Me Satan” – The White Stripes
I’m not sure how any critic could not rate this album at the top. The Stripes have evolved their already powerful sound into its best form yet, bringing out a cadre of sounds that made for one of the few albums this year that is actually good from beginning to end. From the hillbilly sound of “Little Ghost” to the Zeppelin-esque “Red Rain” and almost-emo “forever for Her (Is Over for Me)” – they pretty much covered their bases. Not to mention killer singles “Denial Twist”, “My Doorbell” and “Blue Orchid”. To that I say Kanye Who?

Best Single: “Gold Digger” – Kanye West
So not really. West also had a helluva year (again) by continuing to make catchy rap that actually has half a brain. His ode to materialism and alimony burned up the charts thanks to a bumping bass beat and Jamie Foxx’s channeling of Ray Charles…. but also had the most quotable lyrics of the year.

Best New Artist: John Legend
John Legend isn’t new to many of us (I remember him best from his work on Lauryn Hill’s first album), but he’s new to Grammy voters (and he won’t win). But Legend had a banner year, coming out with the chronically underrated Get Lifted and the incredible single (and Song of the Year nominee) “Ordinary People” – one of the best honest-to-God love songs out there this year. And he’s an Ohioan!

Best Movie: Brokeback Mountain
I’m sure anyone that hasn’t seen it is really sick of hearing about this movie, but know that the hype is 100% deserving. From the best (or should I say only?) acting of Heath Ledger to the absolutely superb script by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana (if you like The Last Picture Show or Lonesome Dove you’ll love this) and the sweeping vistas of the “title character” – it has ‘Oscar written all over it. And it deserves it.

(Note: Acting performances will get their due next month when we have the Oscar nominations)

Best Television Series: “Arrested Development”
Of course I’m going to say that. And why not? Just because a show doesn’t get good ratings doesn’t mean it isn’t incredible (if “My So-Called Life” was any example). AD has had its best season yet, making brilliant use of its multitalented cast, quirky guest stars and endless supply of inside jokes. With subplots (and everything is a subplot) ranging from Michael’s secretly mentally retarded girlfriend to Gob’s illegitimate son (Steve Holt!) and Lindsay’s horny pursuit of lawyer Bob Loblaw…. it’s been non-stop hilarity. If only it could stay that way.

Best Book: Ha! As if!
I really only read one new book this year. But damn Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was awesome.

Best Media Spectacle: Tom Cruise’s shenanigans
I hate celebrity gossip, but I’ve been admittedly quite transfixed by Cruise’s quick descent into pop culture jokedom. Is there nothing that crazy bastard won’t do? I hope not. And I hope America gives him the big hairy shaft when MI 3 comes out this summer.