Culture Crash 18-34: The Joys of ‘Junk Food TV’

Culture Crash Logo

 

Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

When people talk about television, there’s generally a skew toward prestige TV. We discuss the achievements of Breaking Bad, LOST and Orange is the New Black, we marveled at the talent of Sterling K. Brown and Elisabeth Moss… and deservedly so! Those shows and actors are incredible and they have entertained many of us for hours on end with their high concepts and thoughtfulness. But there’s another brand of TV that’s easy to overlook, what I call junk food TV. In this comparison, those prestige shows are your nice dinners out: they’re prepared with care by professionals. This junk food TV is what you reach for when you just need something easy and fast and delicious.

For me, it’s MTV’s The Challenge. I’ve watched it for years- I know the running resentments and simmering dramas. I enjoy the athletic challenges, the backstabbing of the votes. It’s pure entertainment. For others, this is the role that Riverdale, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, or heck, even Family Feud hold.

Lately, my wife has come home and decompressed from hectic days by watching Nailed It on Netflix. Nailed It is a show where home bakers try imitating complicated recipes made by professionals, who make decadent desserts look easy. They typically fail spectacularly, and everyone has fun laughing and commiserating with each other. It’s fun, it’s light, it’s enjoyable.

Not every day can be a day when I feel up to the emotional weight of watching an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale or The Leftovers. Sometimes, I need to relax by flipping on The Challenge and watching 30-somethings try to race across platforms 20 feet over water and then vote their friends into elimination challenges. That’s just the way it is.

Junk food TV rarely wins awards or gets celebrated, but sometimes it’s what allows us to relax on a Tuesday night, and that’s worth appreciating.

I’m Evan Rook. 

Culture Crash 18-17: Netflix’s Battle Against Film Traditionalists

Culture Crash Logo

 

Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture.  What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

In recent years, Netflix has become a major player in the film  industry. They have used festivals as the launching pad for their buzzier titles like the animal-rights movie Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerwitz Stories. Last year, Netflix also made a big splash by acquiring one of Sundance’s biggest hits, Mudbound, which was eventually nominated for four Oscars.

But now comes the pushback: This year, the Cannes film festival announced Netflix films wouldn’t be considered for the fest’s top prize. Director Steven Spielberg said he considers Netflix movies to be made-for-TV and nothing more.

And now, the battle is on. Shortly after the Cannes announcement, Netflix announced they wouldn’t bother to bring any movies to the festival if they aren’t in contention for the highest honors. Since that announcement, film lovers have been thrown in the middle of the Video-On-Demand vs. Theater debate.

Does a movie lose merit if it doesn’t run in theaters around the country? Is a Netflix-release good for consumers, since they can watch, say, Will Smith’s latest film, Bright, in the comfort of their own homes? Or is it bad, since it loses some of that essential community feeling that comes with seeing a smash hit movie like last year’s Get Out or this year’s A Quiet Place with a packed audience?

Right now, it seems opinion is split. Of course, seeing a movie in a theater can be a transformative experience. The screen is huge, the sound is turned all the way up, and that means more immersion in the spectacle. But as theaters have gotten more and more expensive, you can also understand why many people prefer catching the latest releases on their couch. Plus, Netflix’s model has opened the doors for filmmakers who wouldn’t have a place at the big-budget-mega-studios.

Ultimately, the battle has only really just begun. It’s Netflix vs. film traditionalists and as for which side will win out in the end? Well, only time will tell.

I’m Evan Rook.

Coming Up On Viewpoints 18-17

vprlogo

 

Our Right to Privacy in the Social Media Age

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal rocked Facebook, many of us have been left questioning what our right to privacy looks like in an increasingly digital world. When it comes to social media, who owns what information, and how do we assert the rights we do have? We talk to a professor of law about the legal issues associated with all those online profiles.

Religion In America’s Prisons

Since the beginning of the US prison system, religion has been suggested as a way to help rehabilitate criminals. We talk to Tanya Erzen, a professor of religion, about why that is and what role prison ministries play in the lives on inmates.

Culture Crash: Netflix’s Battle Against Film Traditionalists

Netflix is becoming a bigger and bigger player in the film world, which is leaving a bad taste in some people’s mouths. We look at the arguments for and against Netflix as a film distributor.

Culture Crash 18-10: Hulu’s Big Push

Culture Crash Logo

 

For years, Netflix has been the top destination for streaming TV. The service dominates conversation and the culture, thanks in large part to hit shows like Stranger Things and Narcos.

But lately Hulu has been making more and more noise in the streaming space, and has the results to back it up. While Netflix has popularity, Hulu has accolades. Netflix’s blockbusters have never made much noise at awards shows and while they may be well-reviewed, the hype always seems to fade.

Hulu, on the other hand, is the exclusive owner of The Handmaid’s Tale, the drama that has swept every awards show in the past year and picked up rave reviews along the way. Now, Hulu has launched the ambitious show The Looming Tower, based on the non-fiction Puiltizer Prize-winning book of the same name by Lawrence Wright about the rise of Al Qaeda and the events leading up to 9/11 . And soon, Hulu will premier Castle Rock, their answer to Stranger Things that takes an episodic look at the Stephen King universe.

But the appeal of Hulu goes far beyond just their original series. Over the course of a few years, Hulu has amassed by far the best catalogue of older shows. This used to be Netflix’s bread-and-butter but over time, Netflix has lost shows and Hulu has gained them. Hulu now offers the ability to binge-watch game-changers of yesteryear like Seinfeld, Buffy the Vampie Slayer, Lost, ER, and many other primetime classics. Plus, Hulu is still the only streamer that has the option to watch current seasons of TV shows-like This is Us-as they air week-to-week.

It used to be that Netflix was the premiere choice for streaming TV. Now, though, things aren’t so simple. If you’re looking for a way to watch your old favorites and critically lauded current shows, the numbers suggest that Hulu’s may actually be your best option. But, take it from me, pay the extra $4 for the commercial-free plan. While paying extra money is a pain, Hulu’s so-called “limited commercials” plan is an even bigger one.

I’m Evan Rook.

Culture Crash 17-53: Dark

Culture Crash Logo

 

Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine american culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

Foreign language media is not most of our bread-and-butter. Every year at the Oscars or Emmys, most of us watch the reel of movies or shows from other countries unaware of any of the titles flashing across the screen.

Netflix is trying to change that, at least slightly, with their latest blockbuster series, “Dark.”

“Dark” is a fascinating sci-fi mind-bender.  It is probably misserved a little by the easy comparisons to “Stranger Things”—both shows feature disappearing children and kids riding bikes into forests.

But that’s really where the similarities stop-where “Stranger Things” would lovably reference “Risky Business” or “ET”, “Dark” opts to instead deal with heavier fare- like what our place is in the world and whether we have free will.

“Dark” is a masterpiece of atmospheric dread, the music and cinematography give it incredible production value and the show manages to cross, pollinate time travel with local-gossip and generations-old grudges in a really compelling way.

If you love shows that make you think, and media that provide no easy answers, “Dark” may be the show for you.

It’s German-language origins do mean you’ll have to rely on subtitles or a English dubbed version that is far from perfect.

Some people prefer to watch it in its original German with English subtitles, I opted to use both the English dubbed track and the English subtitles, helping me keep track of exactly what is being said.

While the subtitles and dubbing can be a little bit of a distraction, “Dark” is so good that you quickly forget about all that because you’re just so absorbed in the drama.

Season one of “Dark” is now streaming on Netflix. a second season has already been confirmed.

I’m Evan Rook.

Coming up on Viewpoints Show 17-53

vprlogo

 

Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Every New Year’s Eve, millions of Americans make resolutions. And most of the time, we struggle to live them out through January. We talk to an expert in the field of habit-making to talk about how we can make our resolutions last all year round.

Staying In and Ringing in the New Year

Some people don’t always feel up to the hustle and bustle of spending New Year’s Eve out at a big party or a bar. We discuss ways you can make the night a special one without spending a fortune or staying out way too late.

Culture Crash: Dark

Netflix has a new binge-worthy show called Dark. The German-language show involves time travel, family drama, a small town, and a lot of mind-bending sci-fi.

Culture Crash 17-41: Netflix’s Mindhunter

Culture Crash Logo

 

Stay in the loop! Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook! Subscribe and review on iTunes!