Channel Surfing #4: My Week in TV – Gravity Falls, Sharon Van Etten, Reign

A quick collection of things that I’m finding fascinating, frustrating and fun on TV this past week. 

What’s happening on Gravity Falls?

Normally, when I do a round of Channel Surfing, I start by bemoaning that a once loved show has started showing signs of decay. This time I’m going to start by celebrating an already delightful show for steadily improving from its first season to its second. Gravity Falls is an animated series created by Alex Hirsch that airs on the Disney Channel (or Disney XD – the Disney conglomerate has a weird way of airing TV shows, sometimes months will go by without new episodes airing at all and sometimes an episode airs on one channel and then the next episode airs on the other – but I digress). Yes, it’s a kid’s show but it’s a kid’s show that has been heavily inspired by adult material: The Simpsons (most notably and obviously), Twin Peaks, The X-Files, old B-movies, among others. The show surrounds the Pines twins, Dipper and Mabel, who have come to stay with their old, bitter great-uncle, Grunkle Stan. Grunkle Stan owns and operates a tourist destination/hall of oddities called The Mystery Shack. You see, lots of very strange things happen in the town of Gravity Falls and Grunkle Stan intends to make a few bucks off of all the weirdness. The twins get thrown right into the thick of it, living and working at the Mystery Shack, solving mysteries, happening upon gnomes and monsters and clues and cyphers on an daily basis. The strangeness of Gravity Falls becomes a kind of new normal for the kids and they grow to love the town as much as they grow to love Stan. At the end of season one, they decide to stick around.

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Channel Surfing 3 – My Week in TV : Justified, Comedy Central’s Review, Music Videos and other odds and ends

A quick collection of things that I’m finding fascinating, frustrating and fun on TV this past week. 

What the heck happened to Justified?

When I think about Justified in its prime I think fondly back to season 2 when a shrewd Mags Bennett and her bumbling sons tried to expand their marijuana business with Raylan Givens breathing down their necks. Season 2 expanded on the world of Harlan County while also creating a central, overarching storyline that all but did away with the more standalone cases of Season 1. Season 2 felt fresh, exciting and created characters as rich and complicated as the central ones. By establishing a criminal family that had a history in the area as well as a past that crossed Raylan’s own, the show found a groove that it hasn’t found since.

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Reign and the Joys of Communal TV Watching

Recently, this piece on Slate talked about the rise of “viewing parties”, screening TV shows with a community of like-minded fans. It seems strange to me that this is considered a “new” thing and I don’t totally buy into it. Nor do I buy into the notion that television viewing has become more solitary with the rise of Netflix and the DVR. It has changed “appointment viewing”, sure, and the way we view communally (see the explosion of tweets when a particularly popular show is on) but I don’t think viewing has become more solitary. In fact, traditionally, I think TV viewing was always considered fairly communal and family-centered. Or, at least that’s what I gather from watching The Wonder Years. Continue reading