Sunday, May 29, 2016

2016 Radio Disney Music Awards Reviewed

Ummm...I literally don't even know how to quote this to begin with.

What is it? The Disney Channel awards presentation show, and the only serious and true competition to the KCAs. Unlike the KCAs however it is not a live event as discussed in detail below.
Where did it air? Well it's the Radio Disney Music Awards so it might have aired on some sort of Disney-owned Channel....
Who stars in it? There are multiple presenters and multiple awards recipients so it's all over the place to the point where it's not even worth contemplating lest you explode your brain. The most heavily advertised and promoted presenters were Katherine McNamara and...I don't even know enough of her name to even look it up, but it doesn't matter because both of them ended up being on the show for literally less than five minutes, what a ripoff.
Why did we review it? Because it's the only thing Disney Channel has ever had that's even remotely close to the KCAs.

So I have to address one thing straight away - yeah, this is almost a whole solid month after the RDMAs premiered - which was back on May 1, and this is already May 28, Memorial Day Weekend. Back when the RDMAs premiered it was actually snowing (at least where I live - yeah I more than kind of want to move to where it's actually warm) and just this morning the neighborhood swimming pool just opened for the first time this season. Part of it's laziness, part of it's things come up and again part of it is that I'm just now finally catching up to not being sick anymore (that whole trilogy review special with Undateabale-Crowded-Grandfathered? That was supposed to happen before the KCAs even. It was supposed to happen the same week as the Mysteries of Laura reviewed to form an actual quartet, not have this one thing over here and then a few months later we get these three reviews and then all of a sudden Criminal Minds Beyond Friggin' Borders thrown in too. Hell there's a lot of stuff actually relevant to the title of this blog you see every time you open it up that we still need to catch up on - more Stuck in the Middle, Backstage, Mako Mermaids, School of Rock, The Loud House, stuff Mike wants to do...yeah it's been piling up.)

Anyway let's pretend it's still May 1 and instead of rushing to the pool and waiting for it to open we're staring out our window and going yup, I wished we lived in a warmer place. 

Now there are awards given to kidcoms and kid-dramas at the "big adult shows" like the Daytime TV Awards and the Emmys and etc., but the KCAs and the RDMAs are kind of seen as the real battleground for which kidcoms and the small handful of kid-dramas fight for recognition. At least in the eyes of the demos they fight for - really, the KCAs and RDMAs really don't strike me as having any real legitimacy with the "adults" that people (whether they be actors, producers, writers, reviewers, what have you) have to go to in turn beg for legitimacy in their craft. And both Nickelodeon and Disney Channel are just fine with that - they're spectacles first and foremost to just keep getting that demo glued to the TV sets, or even more importantly get them hyped for Nickelodeon and Disney Channel-owned properties. Nowhere is this any more blatant than the KCAs, which is nothing more but a two-hour commercial for Nickelodeon shows and movies that Nickelodeon itself either sponsors/produces or in turn have sponsored the KCAs for further exposure and showering Nick's parent company CBS-Viacom for dollars - the sequel to TMNT (I don't know if it's TMNT 2, or 6, or even 5 which is what the stylized TMNT logo itself seems to be suggesting, conveniently forgetting there was a CGI-only movie, although it seems the whole world has forgotten about that anyway) of course being Nick's own property (fun fact: Nick owns TMNT "in perpetuity" along with Power Rangers) of which you can tell by having an admittedly kinda-cool action scene in the middle of their awards show. Of course, on the flip side you have the whole intro action sequence featuring Star Wars, fully owned by Nickelodeon's arch-rival Disney and featuring for the first time in KCA history the KCA's host killing a guy (or woman, which I suppose is within the theoretical now but yeah we all know it's supposed to be a guy in that suit, nor does it take away from the fact that Blake Shelton killed a guy as part of his KCA hosting duties). Of course that happened because Disney is all too happy to dump a bunch of money right at the feet of their own arch-rivals if it means another opportunity to remind the audience of this franchise that literally everybody in the entire world has seen a dozen times over and went online and bought the BB-8 remote control toy which will literally be the only time in their lives they shop from Sharper Image or Sky Mall. 

But for all the blatant commercialism, to the point where it's obvious even to the youngest, most naive viewer that they're watching a two-hour commercial for the very network that's hosting it, for all of Blake Shelton killing a guy, you can't deny the KCA's have panache. It's the one thing they're really known for, it's the one thing they're really good at, it's the one thing that makes the KCAs otherwise stand out and even make dignified actors and actresses with a boatload of awards big enough they can actually go out and buy a boat like Emma Stone and Robert Downey Jr. revert to their tween and teenaged selves and let their inner child completely take over and realize that there's something about this carefree nostalgia where, yeah, being a teen isn't a cakewalk but there's a ton of fun about being a kid too. Mike especially, and I a little bit, talked about the KCA's glory days when we reviewed the '16 model.  In fact I really should bug Mike to do a full-blown essay about it. Yeah, sure, the '16 awards may have phoned it in but the KCAs were such a massive spectacle to begin with even phoning it in means bringing something worthwhile to the table if you want to pretend to have any sort of street cred with the demo at all. Yeah, the execs may have a poor opinion about kids, even teen kids and young people in general, and their naivete (I've read some blind items about some ABC/Disney execs meeting with Shay Mitchell and Troian Bellisario and basically asking them why aren't they with their parents, particularly Troian's well-established dad, and both of these women are 30 years old - and yeah I should stop randomly name-dropping Troian before it becomes a problem and Patrick J. Adams puts his boot up my ass) but they still realize if you don't bring the slime, you're wasting our time. We got a bunch of slime being shot everywhere. We got, um, some sort of lame slime booth thing that was even lamer than last year's "slime car wash" (remember '13's freakin' slime rodeo?) Weren't we promised some sort of slime drone or something? Well at least we got some Super Mario Bros. thingie with the Game Shakers cast. We got a pretty cool DNCE performance that puts Katy Perry and her left shark to shame (note to self: stop name-dropping Troian Bellisario and stop referencing dank memes). We got a pretty cool live-performance commercial for TMNT Whatever Number It Is Now. We got Blake Shelton killing a guy. My point is, the Nick execs know that they need to put on a show, that the KCAs themselves legitimately constitute a show within itself. It's entertaining to watch even if you don't care about the awards given out, or to whom they're given out. And that phoning it in or not, this is an art they've perfected since well before either Mike or I could even comprehend the visuals and the information going on, particularly in Mike's case since it predates him even being born. The KCAs, for that matter, predate most of its very own live audience and award recipients being born, even the older teens. It predates KCA winners Taylor Swift and Emma Stone being born.

Then you have the Radio Disney Music Awards and even if it tried it can't be much more of such a stark study in contrast. Let's start with how long they've been going at it - the RDMAs were officially established with the 2013 awards - yes, that's right, the RDMAs are barely older than Girl Meets World. It's only six months older than Sabrina Carpenter's entire career on Disney Channel given that she was in that one episode of Austin & Ally - actually, by technicality Sabrina Carpenter's Disney Channel career is actually older as they would've filmed the episode back in February. This is only the fourth RDMA Awards Show period. And unless you were watching the RDMAs on Watch Disney Channel back in '13 (and by that, they had a smattering of performances from the show made available on the app) or you were there as part of the live audience you'd have no idea what was actually going on as they never even bothered to televise it. I simply can't comprehend how bizarre that is, especially given how massively hyped it was on Disney Channel itself. So this makes it only the third RDMA awards show ever to be actually televised. 

And then we have the fundamental difference in how they're even televised. Nickelodeon famously televises the KCAs live, and with no tape delay given that it's produced on the West Coast through a single feed (though I doubt they'd resort to NBC's insanity and do the whole thing over again regardless). So what you see at the KCAs, even on television, is happening "raw" although there are indeed mechanisms in place so that Nick can cut to a different camera and/or host if something upsetting happens (usually upsetting to the wallets of the sponsors or Nick itself). Nick even goes so far as to have a "pre-launch" show that's also live. Perhaps it's a sign of Disney's infamous controlling reputation but the RDMAs are actually filmed the day before - the preceding Saturday, April 30 - and then aired the next day through massive tape delay (at that point becoming no different than a scripted episode already in the can). I remember either last year or the first televised airing they tried a pre-launch show (and trust me, every time I watch I get jealous of how they get to feel comfortable in short-sleeves and v-necks without any coats that time of year) but this year other than reading about the coverage on Just Jared Jr. or Twist Magazine, I don't remember any pre-launch events televised. I certainly would've spotted it on the channel guide and recorded it on my DVR. Maybe it's a minor gripe, but it does feel like it takes away a lot of the "oomph" and even the specialness when you know everything's been pre-recorded, especially given that the KCAs are live. You'll note we covered the KCAs as they aired (or tried to, given how I was sick already back then). With the RDMAs, a lot of the enthusiasm to cover the events as they're televised just evaporated. Most people who care hit the 'net and read about the results and the winners from the RDMA's own website (or most likely from the social media of the nominees they actually care about) right after the actual event back on April 30, or even as it was happening (again, this whole social media thing that apparently Disney Channel doesn't quite understand yet).

And there's comparing the events themselves. Again, the KCAs are a legit spectacle in their own right, even if it's still just a two-hour, live-performance commercial. You're going to get a guarantee that slime will be involved. The RDMAs are...a lot less imaginative. Since the RDMAs are strictly a music awards show and no TV series have anything at stake to claim, the focus is on music which means...a lot of live music performances. Some you'll be really enthusiastic about because they're artists you care about. Some...not so much (seriously, how many of us were super-excited about opening number Our House by Flo'Rida?) And, ummm...that's pretty much it. You have your favorite Disney Channel stars like Dove Cameron and Ryan McCartan...stand there and spend ten seconds introducing the next act (Hailee Steinfeld and a medley of her best hits). Or randomly having Allyson Stoner - an actress who doesn't have a job with the network anymore as far as I'm aware given Phineas and Ferb's finale (and they have to go back to mention Camp Rock as her most prominent Disney Channel role) accompanied by Mark Friggin' Cuban for some bizarre reason (Disney/ABC sure loves kissing up to him for some unfathomable reason - perhaps because for some equally unfathomable reason Shark Tank actually happens to be one of their few successful shows that isn't Shondaland or Modern Family. Seriously I saw a few episodes of Shark Tank and my reaction still remains this is somehow considered valid entertainment?) Oh, and Mark sure loves emphasizing how he owns the Dallas Mavericks! 

The only thing even remotely on the level of the KCAs is how they had Mark and Allyson introduce the category Best Fans - and when I was hoping, hey cool, maybe they had a special fan picked out somewhere, maybe this special boy or girl sent in some audition tape or something - but nope, they're going by the broadest of all generalities. The "nominees" are Beliebers (a fandom I was pretty sure was damn near extinct by this point), Directioners (again, a fandom that has pretty much imploded since Zayn left and has slowly been rebuilding), Harmonizers and Swifties - and except for Fifth Harmony and evergreen TayTay, these are all things that strongly indicate Disney, Disney Channel, Radio Disney and the RDMAs really being stuck in a 2013-14 pop culture mentality at best (BTW Harmonizers won and given that I think Camila, Dinah Jane, Ally, Normani and Lauren are collectively the hottest women on Earth and possibly all of history I'm not complaining - but it's still odd for an artist or artist group to go up stage and accept an award explicitly and specifically meant to be awarded to their fandom). You can even tell it's difficult for Dinah Jane to resolve in her very acceptance speech that this is an award for Fifth Harmony and...wait, it's really an award for the fans? But for us too?

It's not an odd category in the slightest - in fact it's a brilliant idea, it's just boggled up so impressively ineptly. What should be an opportunity to pluck a luck fan and bring her or him right onto the RDMA stage is instead just another opportunity for an artist or artist group to yet again inflate an award count, and on something so almost impossibly intangible to boot. 

They also had Rachel Platten introduce a segment about endangered funding for children's arts programs, particularly music programs, and the Give a Note Foundation helping to correct this through outside monetary sources - and about how the foundation has given the task of surprising students at school about the program and its funds to Justin Bieber. Again, this is very 2013-14 thinking (really 2012-13 with Bieber). Rachel Platten herself would've been a much better choice, as is any given member of 5H if not the whole group, or Meghan Trainor, or hell Disney Channel's own Sofia Carson or Sabrina Carpenter. Trust me, Sabrina Carpenter resonates much better with middle and younger high school students than Justin Bieber, whose biggest fanbase is now aging into college or even graduate school at this point (if they're even still fans) and his career arguably being a shadow of what it once was, even if it's on another upswing (and let's face it it's mostly for Love Yourself which I'll admit is a really catchy tune). I mean, seriously, having Rachel Platten go to these schools herself is such a no-brainer. Why is Disney Channel so attached to Justin Bieber? His connection with Selena was severed long ago. Selena's connection with Disney was severed long ago at this point. There are much fresher artists out there that resonate more with the kids these days. Many of these artists were at this awards show. Many of these artists are Disney Channel employees.

Of course that's going to be sprinkled throughout the show in rather annoying fashion (again, the KCAs would've just lumped this into a single segment). Really, the only other thing that really tries to stand out at the level of the KCAs are the segments right before and right after a commercial break - what's commonly known in the industry as "bumper segments" - where often times they try to cram in "interesting" content to make sure you'll pay attention at least during the first commercial and hopefully pay attention throughout so you won't miss the return bumper (as is what they're doing here) - but also often other times just cram in disposable content to serve as nothing more but a signal that the commercial break is approaching, that this is where you get your fast forward buttons ready. Consequently, a lot of people (both viewers and marketing and advertising execs that run both the advertisement airwaves and, consequently and ultimately, the Nielsen Corp.) also treat it as disposable. And in all honesty - yeah, the content the RDMAs is shoving here is pretty damn disposable. Like they have Pete Wentz and Andy Hurley of Fall Out Boy have a little segment before the awards they're nominated for (and yes, as in the Pete Wentz who is also playing himself as a minor recurring character on arch-rival Nick's School of Rock) where they ask him what Ardy (the name for the Mickey Mouse guy in the RDMA statue) is listening to, and Pete Wentz guesses it's a podcast, and all I have to say is Debby did it better.

Or Mark Cuban pretending to be excited about Ariana Grande.

Oh, and they make a big deal of the RDMAs being "hosted" by Shadowhunters stars Katherine McNamara (who, yeah, given she's a redhead I have to admit a strong liking to her and hey she graduated from Drexel University at the age of 17) and Emeraude Toubia (yeah I have an easier time pronouncing and spelling Troian Bellisario) and here we are at the 30 minute mark and both of those two actresses have appeared on the RDMAs so far for a total of less than five seconds as we get just their headshots of them sitting in the audience. In fact at this point it's Jordan Fisher of Teen Beach and Liv and Maddie fame and Sonika Vaid of American Idol hosting, and while they may have been mentioned as being a part of the RDMAs you'd naturally think they'd be both up as nominees given that they're both strongly known for being recording artists (and since I already admitted my liking for KatMac I might as well further admit that Sonika is ridiculously pretty too). BTW they're introducing Freshest New Artist which Kelsei Ballerini won. Oh, and some random guy in a suit shows up right behind Jordan when Kelsei's already making her acceptance speech, makes me wonder if like some sort of threat notice came from nowhere. And then right as soon as Kelsei's done they have Dan + Shay, and again, you're going to assume oh they're nominees but nope they're hosting and introducing again (not an award, Ariana Grande's Dangerous Woman if you're wondering). The actual "hosts" advertised for the awards ceremony are still just watching from the seats like everyone else. I guess it's a minor thing to nitpick, even if all, but again, it just seems so bizarre. Everything about the RDMAs seems so bizarrely and poorly organized and conceived compared to the KCAs, even the laziest of KCAs.

I have to admit though, even sitting here with the weather warm enough to keep the windows open, that fur coat Ari's wearing looks really damn comfy.

You can read the watermark to figure out where this image is from! 

In fact the whole champagne-colored, sparkly-theme contrast with the dark yet sharp colors just makes the whole performance feel very comfy which...I don't know if that's the actual effect they're going for.

Anyway, blah blah blah commercial break blah blah blah a commercial for Captain America: Civil War after the actual commercial break. Then Skai Jackson (who has to be one of the youngest to be a presenter at these things) and Zack Lavine (if you don't know who he is Google it) introduce introduce the Heroes for Change award and Thank God this one actually features young people actually doing things, not the complete and total BS awarding "hero" awards to friggin' Shakira (and Gwen Stefani for this year). And at least they were nice enough to let the kids introduce the next act by Jordan Smith. Oh and speaking of Gwen Stefani winning her whatever for change award, yeah, they really don't explain what it is that makes Gwen Stefani more of someone who's been changing the world for good than any other celebrity or recording artist (like, say, literally everybody else that has been on this awards show so far, and especially to say nothing of Rachel Platten whose song have actually managed to, you know, inspire people). I really don't get what the point of this is, to just give yet even more fawning over not only celebs, but specifically huge-name celebs like Shakira and Gwen Stefani, for giving back to their communities in ways they don't even really tell us about and are super-vague about. That's another clear thing where Nickelodeon has a distinctive advantage over Disney Channel - they've got the HALO Awards which actually recognizes actual teens doing actual things. And yes, the RDMAs did just get done doing that too, but it just seems bizarre if not outright insulting to have these teens (and pre-pre-teen on one case) be recognized and then shove them off so the RDMAs can go, ok, let's all recognize Gwen Stefani for being a hero for, uh, something.

There's another commercial break and then oh hey remember Ashley Tisdale?  Pepperidge Farm remembers, or something. She introduces Sabrina Carpenter, Sofia Carson and Laura Marano in "three of your favorite Disney Channel stars brought together in a way only Disney Channel can," except they're not really together they're just three separate performances just without any interruption in between (except there's actually a pretty clear pause between Laura's and Sofia's performances) and wow that thing Laura is wearing looks kitschy as hell.

It's like the Austin & Ally writers are in charge of her wardrobe now.

And no, your eyes don't deceive you. Those are glowing LEDs on there. Strategically placed glowing LEDs.

Oh hey, remember that they were supposed to be doing something with the Biebs and some high school's music program? Yeah I already forgot about that too. Justin walks into this music class while they're in the middle of a lesson, talks about how their music program is having trouble and apparently the solution to their funding woes is to play "Love Yourself." Yes, I know the program that arranged for it (I already forgot what it is and I'm too lazy to scroll up) will provide actual money but it just seems kind of odd - well, ok, granted the students appreciate it but standing in the middle of class and playing "Love Yourself" isn't going to make money magically appear. this point the whole damn "review" is just going to be a summary of all of the presenters that are left, and since this review is already in desperate need of some editorial shrinkage I'm just going to shove them over into "Stray Observations" AV Club/Mike-style for those of you genuinely curious. So let's just fast-forward straight to the very last award where finally we have KatMac and...Enuaaaaah What's Her Face, I'm sorry. It literally took me weeks - and a pronunciation/spelling guide that I found on a super-fan's YouTube account - just to be able to say and spell Troian Bellisario. Enuaude...yeah, it's hopeless right now. You know who I mean and deepest apologies for...sigh, What's Your Face. Anyway for all the hype they received for the promos for the RDMAs here they are in very quite literally the last five minutes of the whole damn show, just before DNCE's big finale number. It's...exactly as standard as all the other presenters aside from Laura and Vanessa's transparent attempt at "sibling rivalry" and the Andy Hurley vs. Animal drum solo battle. They're presenting Best Music Group and its won by Fifth Harmony (their first and only legitimate award of the show - I'm sorry, but it's still just cheesy to accept an award for your fandom) and other than having no less than seven extremely and ridiculously beautiful and gorgeous women on stage at the same time it's...exactly as no less or more remarkable than almost all the other award presentations (again, excepting the Andy Hurley vs. Animal drum battle which is the absolute closest this thing ever came to capturing the same spectacle at the KCAs). 

And we have our very last thing, the child cast of Black'ish introducing DNCE for the show's closeout performance of Cake by the Ocean which is exactly how the KCAs closed out this year. Yes, it's one thing to try to be like the KCAs, it's another thing to just freakin' copy them. And yes, I know DNCE is a hot act right now and Cake by the Ocean is a hot song right now (actually, I would personally vote both DNCE as new artist group of the year and CbtO as best new song of the year, believe it or not) so the chances of "convergence of coincidental similarities" is going to be exceedingly high, if not obligatory. The only difference is that at the RDMAs Joe Jonas sung in front of a large screen projection with a bunch of colored blocks going just up and down making for both a very weird and very boring game of Tetris, until it just freezes at the end so you can't tell if that's intentional or a legitimate computer bug, and at the KCAs Joe Jonas sung on top of a giant cake, considering this is a cake-themed song, with dancers hanging from the friggin' air

And that's really what it boils down to. For all its self-congratulatory jerking around and its blatant commercialism, the KCAs at least have to be respected as fun entertainment and something worth looking forward to. It's very legitimately an event in of itself, with unique features to offer for Nickelodeon fans and just fans of kidcoms or youth-oriented entertainment in general (hopefully I didn't just imply that myself being way aged out of that demo is creepy for liking this). You not only get to see your favorite stars, but they network actually throws them into fun and entertaining situations. It really does end up being an episode of a show itself. 

The RDMAs on the other hand, well...they really are geared towards the super-fans. And not necessarily the super-fans of the network, but of whatever artist or actor you happen to like. You tune in to see him or her, see if they win (or cheat by checking out social media) and then you can just tune out. Yes, it's got entertaining performances, but I wouldn't blame you if you just decide seeing the Vevo upload of the original music video on YouTube is the exact same experience. Other than's every bit as, well, boring as the Oscars (I seriously don't get Oscar buzz, I'd much rather just wait for all of the winners to be immediately spoon-fed to me on the morning talk shows. I don't have time to spend, what, two, three hours doing nothing more but watching a bunch of names being announced and a bunch of tributes that I can either watch later or quite frankly just don't care about). 

Given that this is an awards show, and that unlike the KCAs it's playing the whole awards show angle very, very straight, it's kind of hard to grade on any sort of semblance of fairness. Given that, I've said my piece on the RDMAs vs. the KCAs, I'll see if I can get Mike to chime in, and you can read about other miscellaneous observations and if you're curious about all the other presentations, performances and awards below.

But I guess I can still give an MVP?

Awards MVP: Believe it or not Ariana Grande because I liked how cozy her performance was. Maybe even Gwen Stefani as a runner-up.

Stray Observations

 - some things I didn't think were important enough to mention in the main body, which was already in desperate need of a trim and shrinkage - two artists (it's not that I don't know who they are it's just that I forgot who they were, I remember one of them is actually someone I follow on Twitter) introduced the Radio Disney Country Music Awards (yes Radio Disney has a separate country music station now) and Maddie and Tae won both best Country Music Artist and Best Country Music Song, and Ashley Benson introduced the final Justin Bieber thing if you're also curious about that (and I'm sorry but she was really looking like that spotlight was really shining right in her eye, or something). Also some actresses from Nashville were with some girl who won some "Be a Star" contest from that Star Stable thing introduced a Kelsei Ballerini/Daya mashup. Yeah, that happened - but it was a lot nicer than what I feared it would be, and a lot closer to what I thought the Sabs/Sofia/Laura thing was gonna be. Also I guess Star Stable can't be that bad if it features a secret UFO crash site.Also, there are now two artists (Kelsei Ballerini and Ruth B) who have songs about Peter Pan out at the same time. 

 - Forever in Your Mind (you know, that group that includes Naldo from Best Friends Whenever) introduced Best Female Artist and Selena Gomez won (she couldn't come in person because of her tour so she submitted a video acceptance speech instead. Also she's friggin' holding her Ardy in the acceptance video so it's pretty obvious they knew about this waaaaay ahead of time). 

 - Cameron Boyce and "Latin YouTube Pop Sensation" Sofia Reyes introduced Zara Larsson. And, ah hell, if it's not too sexist to admit Zara Larsson is a hottie.

 - Ben Savage "repped for the dads" and introduced "RDMA additional winners" (yes that's seriously the category, the official "we're not even trying anymore let's wrap it up" category) and there's only one way to describe Ben's introduction:

- As for the "RDMA additional winners" themselves (basically everybody who won the most popular votes for whatever categories online, as described by Ben up there) they include Tori Kelly for Breakout Artist of the Year, Taylor Swift for Bestest Song of the year in the form of Bad Blood (a very odd choice actually considering, well, it's so 2015 and TayTay's come out with a whole bunch new songs for, you know, this actual year); Justin Bieber for Best Lip Sync Song in What Do You Mean?; Becky G for Artist With Best Style; One Direction for Best Crush Song in Perfect; Meghan Trainor for Song that Makes you Happy in Better When I'm Dancing (presented by Goldfish!) "and for a full list of winners go to the RDMA website!" Ok....

- Oh God they actually called Alli Simpson an "Australian Social Media Influencer." If you want to know what a "Social Media Influencer" is read this, this or if you happen to side with Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel against Gawker and aren't too butthurt about MTV no longer having anything to do with music videos, this. (Alli Simpson is also a radio host for Radio Disney itself, so it's rather odd they don't introduce her as such and instead go with...this). Anyway she's introducing the third and final segment of Justin Bieber going into this school and standing around and playing acoustic versions of his hits, and they try to have one of the girls in the music class try to perform a solo for him. But she gets so choked up about being in the Bieb's presence, and to tell you the truth, it just can't help but be absolutely adorable, especially when Biebs gives her a hug and tries to help her out. Biebs then announces that Radio Disney and the music program thingie they teamed up with will donate $10,000 to the music program - granted, that's enough to keep the program running (for maybe an academic year? A few months?) but it's a drop in the bucket over what's needed long-term. If everybody in the country donated a dime, a shiny-headed Roosevelt, that would be well over $300,000 to put into a music program - potentially enough to keep said program running for all four years of a student's high school experience, or much, much more (I'll admit I have no idea how expensive a typical high school music program is). If everybody in the country just donated a single, solitary dollar, that would be enough to virtually keep any given school music program running indefinitely (or alternatively, build a small-scale school district in its entirety).

 - Ok we finally have Pete Wentz and Andy Hurley presenting and as soon as Pete talks about Andy being the greatest drummer in the world we have this segment with Animal from The Muppets interrupting. BTW, ABC's The Muppets has been canceled, and the world and even franchise itself is better for it. The greatest contribution that show actually gave to the world? It's right here, playing out right now at the RDMAs with a promised drum solo battle between Animal and Andy Hurley - but not before Pete finishes introducing Best "Anthem" Song which is won by Sabs for Eyes Wide Open (admittedly one of the best songs she's done so far). The Andy Hurley/Animal drum solo battle (or "Man Vs. Animal" battle, haha) had some stuff going for it - it was kind of-sort of Guitar Hero-ish, or at least as far as they can make it on this stage, and hey I like the "Man vs. Animal" font. And yeah, I know being a Muppet they probably have the drum solo version of lip syncing to pass for Animal, but hey it's still an impressive drum solo (and really is it any more "fake" than at least some of the performances Disney Channel has pulled in the past, if not at these very RDMAs?) Pete declares the drum battle a tie despite Animal literally smoking himself out. Sabrina actually seems shocked to be sharing the stage with a smoking Muppet.

 - Laura and Vanessa Marano present together introducing "RDMA Hero Award Recipient" Gwen Stefani. They have this sisterly faux-bicker fight before pulling the opps the whole country is watching us including our mom! trope thing over who's actually going to introduce Gwen. At the very least someone managed to get Laura out of that...whatever the hell she was wearing for her "Boombox" performance. Gwen Stefani's actual performance was...kind of weird, with a bunch of random skaters on the stage (which I guess isn't all that weird anymore) and...a bunch of Gwen Stefani heads randomly flying in a tunnel on the big-screen projection. Yeah that's legit creepy, yo. The song itself, I really like - for all my bitchin' and gripin' about why Gwen Stefani just randomly got this Hero award (oh, and it's something that they've loudly advertised well in advance of the awards so itself so it's not like there's even any suspense there) I've been a big fan of both Stefani and No Doubt since back when No Doubt was first blowing up on the charts (man I'm old) although I'm really, really not too fond of when the band just freshly broke up and Stefani was really trying to figure out what her style and genre should be as a solo act (I for one am glad B-A-N-A-N-A-S and Hollaback Girl are all but completely forgotten).

 - What me whip/Watch me Ne-ne has to be the absolute worst song of 2015-16 and a legitimate bane against humanity.

 - Becky G's dropping the code word for the Radio Disney contest, uh, thingie (the contest likely has to be long-over by now) and the codeword for the Play It Forward sweepstakes Real creative there, but then again I suppose that's the point.

 - Yes, they replaced Cake by the Ocean's "hot damn" with "oh man." Honestly, the change makes zero creative/artistic change whatsoever. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

We've re-enabled anonymous, unregistered commenting on this blog!

For the first time since October or so of last year, this blog will now allow anonymous, unregistered commenting. Please note that this is not the same as no-questions-asked commenting. If you've been following this blog since the beginning, you'll know that I did a review of Last Man Standing - and got massively trolled for it in the anonymous comment second (despite the fact that I had positively rated the episode in question, but we are pretty much talking the same exact demo/crowd that very enthusiastically rallies for Trump and threatens physical violence against people who do otherwise, after all) to the point where I just decided, the hell with it, if you want to comment you can make a fucking Google account to do it with, it's not that hard to do.

Well, I've decided 1.) enough time has passed, 2.) apparently people are too genuinely lazy to do it, and 3.) it'll give me a greater handle on what my actual readership is (beyond the five or six of you that I honestly suspect/actually do know of) as well as expose me to greater feedback on how to do things. So you can now post anonymously and without having to register in the slightest. But again, that doesn't mean you can post anything scott-free, no questions asked.

For starters this is a trial run and I have no problem making users have to use registered Google accounts again. Second, I'm trying some of the administration/moderator features - this means every comment that you want to post will need approval by a moderator (me or Mike) first before getting posted - and that goes for everybody whether registered or not (that's just how the feature works, it's all on or all off). This means if you want to troll me about how much I suck because I hate Last Man Standing or think Trump is a schmuck and you want to personally insult me, you're wasting keystrokes because your comment will never see the light of day. 

Other than that, have at it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders Reviewed: The Matchmaker (S1E9)

Yeah, forget about whether or not this episode sucks too much to deserve to be quoted, this episode is just too fucking creepy to deserve a quotation. This episode is literally about carefully watching a teenaged girl get destroyed in a manner that can still be both rated TV-MA for broadcast (which in reality is equivalent to less than PG-13 and therefore meaningless) and in a way that still comes up with some bullshit "happy" ending that still can't undo the fact that a teenaged girl effectively got destroyed, and Islamo-phobia. Fuck that shit. I ain't elevating a quote about that to header status.

What is it? Hour-long (44 minute) single-cam crime procedural WITH A (international) TWEEEST!
Where did it air? CBS, the network with the acronym that speaks for itself (say it out loud slowly)
Who stars in it? Gary Sinise doing the Gary Sinise-on-CBS thing, some other peeps, that one girl who played Meadow, Taylor's best friend on Haunted Hathaways, for this one episode.
Why did we review it? Just like with Minority Report, it just looked so fucking derpy I just wanted to see if and how bad it ended up being. The fact that Meadow happens to be in it is a happy coincidence that makes it marginally and tangentially related to this blog.

So yeah, again, for the fourth time in a row we're veering away from our usual material from Nickelodeon and Disney Channel to review something decidedly and markedly different. During the four out of five total times so far we've went "off-network," it was at least still tangentially related to what we usually review here (The Mysteries of Laura, Undateable, Crowded and Grandfathered - all of which prominently featured a prominent actor of Nickelodeon and Disney Channel fame - with the one and first time that still doesn't match, Minority Report, just being so bad I just wanted to use the then-very-much-young blog as a convenient platform to rant about it). I guess I could still justify it as being part four/five out of the "Where are they now?" tour that unofficially began with Mysteries of Laura and officially with Undateable, since the actress who played Meadow, Taylor's best friend from The Haunted Hathaways, plays a central role in the episode, but, eh, who are we kidding. This is just another instance of something grabbing my sheer curiosity, for good or bad, and I'm just using the blog as a platform and opportunity to explore/rant about it.

Criminal Minds is such a popular and well-known show (and really, the title kind of gives it away anyway) that I don't think I need to spend much on summarizing: it's about a criminal investigative group that, um,investigates crime. Duh. The big "gimmick" with Criminal Minds (after all, these procedurals usually have one, especially the team-centric ones on CBS) is that, where CSI focuses on the physical forensics of investigation, CI focuses on the psychological forensics - i.e., criminal profiling (an extremely controversial science, as it should be - in fact criminal profiling is outright ruled inadmissible as evidence in a criminal investigation in many jurisdictions across the country, something that started happening a bit before mainline-CI even premiered). CI: Beyond Borders is...well, again, the title more or less gives it away. It's CI, but, um, beyond borders with an international team capable of going wherever the hell the writing staff feels like they should be going based on whatever locale sounds the sexiest for that episode. This particular episode focuses on a girl played by aforementioned Meadow actress Juliete Angelo who is basically seduced by an ISIS/ISIL terrorist (for the purposes of this review I'll just refer to them as ISIL from now on - yes I accept the official state department line, plus I'm of the movement to try to reclaim Isis as a girl's name and not as the label for what amounts to 21st century suicidal Nazis) and duped into becoming a potential suicide bomber herself - and given that both ISIL and the "phenomenon" of Western girls being seduced to join ISIL are hot topics in Western media right now, it's hard to not confront these issues head on and, yes, expect a lot of my infamous barely tangential rants in this one. In fact perhaps this whole exercise is to just compile a whole bunch of them together. And why waste time? Let's jump right into that straight away!

First I want to address just how "common" the issue of random American/Western teenage girls defecting to ISIL to become terror brides or worse, actual terrorists and suicide bombers themselves. As your common sense is hopefully telling you right now, it's exceedingly uncommon - for the few parents reading this (I suspect probably one of my old teachers and/or professors reading this blog out of pity) you have a far greater chance of winning a nine-figure Mega Millions jackpot plus having your daughter get a full-ride scholarship to an Ivy League school plus graduating from said school to get immediately recruited by the CIA to become real-life female Jason Bourne (or real-life KC Cooper if you will), then have a movie made about her life ("Better than Bourne!" exclaims the Chicago Sun-Times) then to worry about her being seduced by some ISIL turd and then turned into a suicide bomber and have to learn about her death through NBC Nightly News. For starters, the number of Western teens defecting to ISIL, regardless of the background of those teens to begin with (that's usually an influencing factor, but in the larger scheme of things the "threat" isn't even large enough to open that can of worms for discussion) is estimated to be about 200 or so total of both sexes, but extremely, overwhelmingly favoring males. This is 200 teens and young adults out of the entire population of the Western World - the combined 600 million population of the United States, Canada and Western Europe (and at least 100 million more if you include South America, a very large part of the world the affairs of ISIL seem extremely little concerned about). I don't know how many of those people would be teens and/or young adults per se, but I don't think just halving that number - 300 million (roughly equal to the total population of the U.S. period) tweens, teens and young adults - is an unreasonable number - and in fact it's probably closer to 400 million. So that's 200 young potentially murderous morons among a population equal to the total population of the U.S., Canada, and probably a whole 'nuther Western European country on top of that. You very literally have a greater chance of winning Powerball and Mega Millions multiple times consecutively then worry about your daughter joining ISIL.

And even if she does join ISIL, if it's any small consolation the chances of her actually being killed are very slim - in fact the chances of her returning and coming right back home are actually really great. You see, as it turns out ISIL kinda sorta has a very fundamental and deep-running hatred of women and tends to treat them very, very horrible. As in, they're literally committing crimes against humanity directed at teenaged women. Fighting for the "fundamental right" for men to commit literal crimes against humanity against any-aged woman, but teenaged women in particular, whenever they happen to feel like it is one of the very foundations upon which ISIL is founded upon. Even if for whatever reason or somehow a teenaged girl feigns ignorance of this, once she actually encounters ISIL she discovers right right quick that ISIL is a very horrible group of people to be associated with for anyone, but for women and particularly teenaged women especially. Even if a teenaged girl "joins" ISIL, most of the time they're either caught before they can go in "too deep" or get enough of a taste of the real ISIL to turn around on their own volition before that point. The number of Western women of any age or Western teenaged girls specifically who have actually managed to "legitimately join ISIL" is, speaking strictly realistically here, as high as "just high enough so that you can count them on one hand" to as low as exactly one, and in that case it was of a teenaged girl who had been successfully seduced by an ISIL sympathizer and consequently stabbed her mom to death in her home - in Denmark. 

So yeah, out of all of that, of all these stories of ISIL "terror brides" who are mass-murdering and blowing themselves up in the name of more mass-murder, we have exactly one verifiable case of that happening, and it was a single non-suicide bombing stabbing murder, and didn't even happen in actual ISIL! Two, if you count the female half of the San Bernandino shooters as a Western woman. We also have maybe verifiable reports of a middle-aged-ish British blonde woman who may have participated in ISIL-sponsored mass murder in sub-Sahara Africa and may either still be alive, may have sacrificed herself while in the act of mass-murder (whether blowing herself up or being shot and killed in the act) or may in fact been killed by her own ISIL "allies" (again, murdering any woman on the basis of just feeling like it is practically a national sport in ISIL) and the sister of the Paris attacks mastermind who blew herself up in order to kill...a police dog. That's pretty much the entirety of verifiable ISIL-sponsored attacks committed by women, period, and only half of them - two of the whole whopping four- have been committed by women who were actually born and raised in the Western world. For those of you who are betting on there being a greater statistical probability of ISIL-sponsored terror attacks being carried out by women of "terrorist descent" (click the link before you start accusing me of anything, please), keep in mind that those also amount to a whole whopping two in the entirety of the Western World. In conclusion, grow up and stop worrying about ISIL stealing our daughters, or women becoming terrorists period, regardless of their creed, ethnicity or background. Speaking strictly statistically it might as well not even exist.

Now, that's not to say that there haven't been acts of terror and mass-murder committed by women in actual ISIL-held territories, although that's a particularly tragic story in of itself as the reports I've heard indicated that the vast majority of female terrorists committing suicide bombing within actual ISIL-disputed territories (in fact these reports seem to indicate it might as well be 100%) are the result of said young women basically being brutalized and literally tortured through rape until they've completely lost all sense of self-worth and therefore it becomes easy to talk them into becoming suicide bombers. I really, absolutely don't know how else to emphasize how much, on a deep fundamental level, ISIL hates and actively despises women. I don't think it's any exaggeration at all to claim that at least certain elements of ISIL, highly influential elements of ISIL no less, actively want to bring about the literal extinction of women, and they simply do not care about the implications regarding that and the extinction of the rest of the human race, including the ISIL state itself.

Also note that I've been talking about ISIL specifically - NOT Muslims, or Arabs, or anybody by religious or ethnic lines. Let me make it clear - ISIL is not an Islamic organization. Not any more than Nazi Germany was a Catholic state (it wasn't, in case that wasn't intrinsically clear). To even use "Islamic" in the name "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/the Levante" is at best a misnomer playing into ISIL's own propaganda (but since it's the term mostly familiar to this blog's audience I'm kind of stuck using it - although in the actual Middle East and North Africa, the preferred term to use by ISIL's Islamic and non-Islamic Arabic enemies (and needless to say there's a lot of them) is Dahes  - which not only sounds very close to Daesh, which is what ISIL translates to in Arabic, but also just coincidentally and conveniently is the Arabic word for, well, roughly, "asshole infidels" which fits ISIL to a T. Remember, something like 99.9998% of all the victims of ISIL are Muslims and/or Arabs themselves, including ISIL's female victims. The horrific crimes ISIL committed against humanity and women in particular are so bad it's actually inspired the Peshmerga women of Kurdistan to form their own army to fight ISIL, literally out of fear of their very own lives otherwise. 

That said, preventing these asshole infidels from even contacting our teen girls and from even using social media period is still very important to the point where it's a valid strategic goal in fighting ISIL, and I've been advocating heavy use of outright, absolute and literal total cyber-war against ISIL to include everything from hacking and blocking their Twitter accounts to just simply finding the physical locations of where these Twitter accounts are originating from - and then dispatching a few F-15s to there and drop a few GPS-guided bombs on them, which will naturally stop their attempts to seduce teen girls in creepy fashion right real quick.

But almost as dangerous as ISIL actively recruiting and stealing away our teenaged women is the media's obsession with this "phenomenon." Anything involving teen girls, and especially the idea of putting said teen girls in mortal danger and especially the idea of these teen girls outright committing suicide and mass murder at the exact same time is the perfect storm to create mass hysteria - in fact I can't think of any more perfect recipe that will create mass hysteria in America almost literally immediately than headlines along the line of YOUR DAUGHTER WILL DIE A TERRORIST AS SHE BLOWS HERSELF UP TO KILL GOD-FEARING PATRIOTIC AMERICANS, p.s it's probably your fault for raising her to be a God-hating murderous terrorist pinko Commie and the whole country hopes you and your family will be reunited with her in Hell.

That headline will probably be repeated verbatim in an actual New York Post edition some time in the future, by the way. Image from HuffPo because there's no way I'm going to give the New York Post traffic of any sort. Doing so is more un-American than ISIL.

Of course, the reason why the mass media is so obsessed with Teen ISIL suicidal terror-brides is, well, sadly demonstrated perhaps by the mere fact that the New York Post even exists - mass hysteria is the bread and butter of the news media and it makes having to sell their news, regardless of the format or end-price for the consumer and regardless of how reckless and outright dangerous feeding this mass hysteria is, virtually effortless (and this type of show - "maximum-shock" crime/procedural drama - trades in exactly the same sensationalism, especially when it comes to this type of show on CBS). In fact, there's this new show on FOX called Houdini & Doyle - yes, someone thought it would be a good idea to team up history's greatest magician and the creator of Sherlock Holmes into a buddy-cop procedural - and to their credit and despite the throwaway, doomed-from-the-start freakin' May premiere date, it's surprisingly entertaining and I might actually miss this show once it's gone forever in a few weeks - anyway, their most recent episode very succinctly exactly explains why this type of mass hysteria is outright dangerous (you can see the episode in its entirety for free, here, well, at least for the first few weeks after this post's initial publication date while this show is still a thing, period - so say until August-ish 2016).

So, yeah.... That's just over 2,300 words so far (about the length of a feature-length magazine article) and I haven't even pressed play on the episode to be reviewed yet. Yeah. I told you this was going to be even more rant-y than usual, just given the nature of why I'm reviewing this in the first place, and this is by far my most politicized post on this blog so far. But this is still first, foremost and only a review blog of some sort at least so I guess I better shut up and press that play button.

Over 68 million Americans leave the safety of our borders every year - when danger strikes, the FBI's International Response Team is called to action, as every episode of CSI: BB opens up. Of course the implication here is if you leave America YOU MIGHT FREAKIN' DIE! (from a teen ISIL suicide bride WHO HAPPENS TO BE YOUR OWN DAUGHTER!)  The episode opens up in Turkey with Meadow (yeah that's what I'm a-gonna call her for the whole episode, even though the actual character's name is...I dunno *checks the link to Juliete's IMDb profile that I posted in this very review earlier before all that heavy ranting*...Emma Peters. Ok, I can alternatively call her Peyton then) hopping out of a cab and absorbing all the sights and sounds of being in a foreign land and damnit I don't know why but the episode is already giving me a very uncomfortable, xenophobic/ethnophobic vibe. I can't explain it exactly - it's almost as if the show wants us to think that this land is extremely and inherently hostile to Americans, and yet at the same time is already actively seducing this girl to be hostile to her own home country even and in fact especially at the cost of her own life. 

Ok it's yet another rant time, although hopefully a short one - but after 15 years (actually much longer) the whole obsession with the Middle East and Arabs being our inherent enemy, like literal 21st century suicidal Nazis (see ranting about ISIL above to see what actual 21st century suicidal Nazis would be like - and yes I know they also happen to be Arab and in the Middle East but beyond the point) is getting to be not only very tiring but very creepy. TV shows like this suggest that the proper way to live as an American is to live exactly like we had been on September 12, 2001 and to do that nonstop for the rest of eternity. Ugh.

Ok so it turns out Meadow (yeah I'm sticking with that) is in Turkey specifically to visit her "boyfriend" which means, yup, it's as an absolute a straight-line to the (il)logical conclusion of teen ISIL suicide terror bride mass hysteria fear-mongering as you can possibly draw with a NASA precision ruler. Oh, and then she gets kidnapped (off-screen, all we hear is a recording) and we go to our IRT and Gary Sinise who's obvious worst life choice is leaving CSI: New York as he clearly misses the CBS action show life. 

To shorten what's already becoming a ludicrously long review about not much at all, pretty much the "techie"/"procedural" parts of the show can be summed up thusly:

For the record, it amazes me that Troian Bellisario's dad does this for a living to the point where he can buy Troian Bellisario a television career. But seriously, I think Troian Bellisario is a great actress I just wanted an excuse to name-drop her.

It turns out Meadow is trying to find this exchange student she fell in love with back at school who, well, whether or not she tracked her down to Turkey or was just simply duped into coming there is ambiguous even for our investigative heroes at this point. Also, this show is now one of three where it has a positively-portrayed main character female redhead, and considering that the other two are How I Met Your Mother and...freakin' Jessie, I guess I'm forced to give kudos for that (oh, and Mad Men, almost forgot about that one). 

Love is very powerful, especially first love, it's an impulsive force. This is yet another thing that tends to get handled to varying degrees of success/ineptitude in popular media. Yes, on the face of it that statement is true, but...the most successful TV shows/movies to explore it, well, actually bother to explore it  (one of the best explorations of that subject I've yet seen in a TV show actually just happens to be what is effectively the series finale of 100 Things to Do Before High School - damn you, Nickelodeon, for canceling that show!) - the least successful ones basically just use it as a plot/motivation excuse for something else, and in a way that just hurries it along to get to the big action/dramatically exploitative scenes - like this one! And speaking of exploitation they go straight to the point of OMG Meadow I mean Emma might have turned terrorist! (actually they're thinking Meadow er Emma is being held for sexual exploitation which...well, yeah, that's no freakin' improvement). 

The parts of the show that can't be summed up with handy YouTube videos poking at this genre's neophyte attitude towards how the Internet actually works can be laconically summed up as being not only uncomfortably exploitative (as in, I'm starting to wonder if I'm watching a Serbian's misinterpretation of a Quentin Tarantino film) but ludicrously so (again, Serbian misinterpreting Tarantino). Again, the IRT has concluded that Emma is being sexually exploited against her will and we soon find out that is not far from the truth at all (and again, sadly, it's not far from the truth of what actually happens to teen girls who do end up at the hands of ISIL, willingly or unwillingly). 

Whether or not this will unseat Undateable's then-short reign as worst thing ever reviewed on this blog has yet to be seen, but six minutes in, just before the actual intro credits and it's already by far the creepiest thing we've ever reviewed on this blog. And we've reviewed a show that has slut-shamed Suite Life on Deck-era Bailey Pickett, and also reviewed Family Guy.

As soon as we get back from commercial we have an image of a mosque and Sinise quoting a Turkish proverb: Those who have never been burned by the sun will know the value of shadow. I'm not sure what to make of that in whatever context it's even trying to establish, other than it's just making it even more creepy (the phrase being written in Turkish across the screen...just makes it creepy, sorry). And the creepiness is two-fold here: the thought of Meadow from The Haunted Hathaways being tied up and raped and eventually brainwashed into being a suicide bomber, and how the show seems to be suggesting that yeah, of course this is what they do in the Middle East, it's like their national past-time! I'm just at a loss for words and just shocked that this is what is popular on American television? Again, it's just straight-line base feeding into not even our deepest fears, but in fact our most shallow ones - the thought of seeing our female loved-ones be destroyed, both figuratively and literally (and just to be clear, sex crime and especially rape qualify as being literally destroyed, I've seen the results first-hand and you can go back to my Debby's DUI post if you want to know what I mean), to the point where it's so horrific it paralyzes people who aren't even directly associated with the victims, and Islamo-phobia. I mean, there's just no other way around it. The entire appeal of this episode is entirely revolved around seeing a teenaged women be destroyed, and Islamo-phobia. Not rescuing said teen girl from being destroyed, and certainly not in combating Islamo-phobia. No, we're watching this episode very specifically to see a teen girl get destroyed, and to engage in Islamo-phobia. 

We're introduced to the IRT's Turkish attache, and the missattribute a quote to Terminator 2. Hey guess what the idea of fate not being written yet and there being no fate that we ourselves don't determine way predates anything Arnold and James Cameron ever collaborated on (in fact it goes back at least to Greek antiquity). I actually appreciate the attempt at levity - and I'll even admit both the quip and the reaction to the revelation of the source comes off as actually realistic and natural - but sometimes a realistic, natural reaction just comes off as lame and cheesy and just sucks. Literally - well, still figuratively - but it doesn't just suck the tension out of the moment, but the seriousness - and not the seriousness the scriptwriter is aiming for, the seriousness of how this audience is taking the episode as a whole. I mean, it's so conspicuous I legitimately don't know if it's a sign of bad writing or actually a sign of good writing.

Now, there are attempts to actually address the issue of Islamo-phobia (basically xeno/ethno-phobia in general) but they come off as very pat and After School Special-like (or perhaps Girl Meets World-like - ayoh!). And it's more than undone by the sheer creepiness that follow's Emma's predicament. I mean, again, we're witnessing a teenaged girl get psychologically tortured, face sexual assault and rape, and in the culmination of the process at least get psychologically destroyed and in the end narrowly avert getting literally destroyed, by a bomb she wears.

Ewwww ewwww ewwwww ewwwwww ewwwwwww.

Look, another thing - I really like Gary Sinise. He's done legitimately admirable things, both on the large screen, the small screen and very far away from the screen. He's a possible candidate to have his portrait in the dictionary next to the entry "Stand-Up Guy." I like him so much that the episode isn't coloring my view of him at all, but still, this episode is creepy. Ewwwww.

Naturally Emma's would-be boyfriend Emir is both safe and innocent and the whole reason why he beat up a guy at school that resulted in his expulsion was because he was defending Emma's honor - because the boy had been using racial slurs against her and, oh yeah, physically assaulting her. "Defending Emma's honor isn't exactly how school administrators put it." Yeah, well, physically harassing a teenage girl isn't exactly on the list of "permissible activities" in any American school, either. When this episode tries to not be creepy, it's just conventionally awkward. And engaging in more hokey tech BS.

Lots of hokey tech BS with extremely questionable basis in reality. Enough to make Q-branch from a Roger Moore-era Bond film blush. And enough faux-"badass" fights to make Daniel Craig-era Bond blush.

Before we get into the final scene where we have Emma wear a suicide vest, yes of course we have to drive home the fact that she's also in danger of becoming a sexual slave too. Again, this is actually not far from the truth - but this is still far from trying to really expose the evils of ISIL towards women and their heinous sex crimes and murder of Islamic and Arab women and how they want to do the same to Western women, and more about the voyeurism of, well, I think I said watching a teenage girl get destroyed enough times in this review already.

And again, more lip service to the effect of not ALL Muslims are terrorists that does little to assuage the tone of the rest of the episode that says otherwise. 

Ummm...ok. Wow. Ummm....

I really, really am starting to run out of words. At this point, 29 minutes in (DVR recording with full commercial breaks) now they really are starting to suggest as much as broadcast TV is allow to suggest of Emma being sexually exploited and raped as part of torture and sadism, including having her clothing forcibly removed on-camera (including as much toplessness as said broadcast TV will allow), while she suffers verbal beratement.

Yeah. I in good consciousness can't...just.... Yeah this is hard for me to even freakin' type at this point. I mean, at least a good part of me in all good consciousness can't condone this type of narrative construction aiming almost strictly and solely at prurient destructive voyeurism of a teenage girl (I don't know how hold Juliete is in real life, just that she's been in Haunted Hathaways and another short-lived show, Malibu Country, since 2013) and while a part of me just wants to tell that other part to grow the hell up it doesn't remove the fact that it's creepy and disturbing enough to just make watching the show extremely uncomfortable. 

And the thing is, beyond the creepiness and discomfort, the actual dramatic tension really isn't much existent at all. When we're not seeing a teenage girl go through various progress towards being freakin' destroyed, we see a bunch of guys and two women just dick around and fill out a 44-minute run time. We're thrown a curve ball of a dead girl's body that may or may not be Emma's (obviously just halfway in it's not) and seeing yet another girl (and yes a redhead one but that's not the point) lying face-down dead is just making it increasingly disgusting. Again, it'd be excusable if the show had earned it - and so far it hasn't, not when it's just the whole fucking point of the episode to begin with.

We now encounter the show's big twist - Emma is in fact being held captive but a clearly Western, non-Muslim woman who is proceeding to emotionally and psychologically destroy Emma further. It turns out this woman is the head of a Western security consulting group whose main clients are none other than MI6 and the CIA, so it's needless to say it's strange she's actually helping terrorists (or what your actual reaction should be, WHAT A TWEEST!) She informs Emma that Emir is dead, in order to prep her to turn her into a suicide bomber. At this point I'm betting she's trying to use Emma and her now-murdered doppelganger in "false flag" suicide attacks to ensure her anti-terror consulting business is booming (bad pun I know). It also turns out that she'd been an interrogator at Abu Grahib and various classified CIA blacksites, so they speculate that doling out such depravity had made her in turn simply depraved - and hey, to the episode's credit there is a whole bunch of legitimacy in that. Also, profit motivation (it always is).

The scene where the IRT confronts Crazy British Bitch is as every bit as exceedingly ludicrous as the rest of the episode has been, but unlike the rest of the episode and the creepy treatment of teen girls this whole scene just veers straight into cheesy-dialogue, mustache-twirling-villainess comedy down to including the most famous quote from Josef Freakin' Stalin. Oh, and a little rubbing in the American Revolution into British noses for good measure.

Remember, TV-MA stands for Mature Audiences Only!

So yeah, now Emma is being set up to be a suicide bomber and to assassinate an ambassador who's a major player in uniting Iraq and Turkey to go load up some F-15s and bomb a whole bunch of ISIL asshole infidels before they can keep doing the one thing ISIL asshole infidels are interested in doing at, spreading the absolute most of human misery that they can. We get a really creepy shot of Emma being dressed and prepared for her "mission" (yeah pretty much nearly everything involving poor Meadow is creepy here) and she's given a purse with a bomb and a push-button trigger while the IRT guys and two women just stand around the embassy looking as if they have nothing better to do but dick around. And then the most ridiculous showdown happens with Gary Sinise staring down a teenage girl dressed like she's late to a Young Republicans convention, and then they have a ridiculous exchange of dialogue where Sinise tries to prove to Emma that Emir is still alive, and fortunately they're smart enough to actually bring Emir so that there's undeniable proof he's alive, unfortunately they also brought with them a real dumbass of an "elite military sniper" who ignores a post-prod voice-over telling him to not shoot the teenage girl, so said sniper shoots at the teenage girl anyway (I should note that the camera focuses on Sinise who then turns his head to the sniper so it looks like his own body language is contradicting his verbal orders, hooray consistency!), forcing Emir to take the bullet for her - but fortunately he's smart enough to wear a bullet-proof vest! Yeah, sure. Also I'd like to note that in real life, unless someone was smart enough to give Emir what's known as "Level III" body armor (basically reserved for stationary, elite snipers like aforementioned dumbass and bomb disposal guys) the bullet of a high-powered sniper rifle would likely penetrate right through Emir's vest, kill him, then pass right through his body to kill Emma - and then pass right through her body to kill Sinise but well that kind of nitpicking is just piling on at this point. But yeah, Emir's still alive, Emma's still alive and through that she helps the IRT round up all the terrorists including Crazy British Bitch, and everyone has a happy ending where Emma is reunited with her family and Emir and pretends that she wasn't at all emotionally and psychologically destroyed, sexually abused, and very nearly both blown up and shot at.  And of course, let's go home. Yes, let's. Back to Nickelodeon and Disney Channel and question whether it's worth venturing out ever again (seriously, this type of super-creepy TV on broadcast is a reason why I have great difficulty even venturing back to broadcast TV and away from Nick and Disney after my cancer and breakup...and yet I love watching Game of Thrones, Justified, Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos. Go figure). 

Episode Grade: I don't know what to freakin' think here. This episode (and the show presumably) is very singular-focused, and it's focused on elements that, well, I just don't find to be compelling or entertaining television, or television that's even comfortable to watch in any way, or for that matter that television that's good to make you feel uncomfortable (in the way say South Park can do). Quite honestly, this episode is incredibly exploitative and otherwise just pure, unadulterated bullshit. I think I'm going to have to give it the AV Club Gentleman's F, which depending on what interpretation you follow is either a C- or a D- (maybe I'll split the difference and give it a D+?)

Episode MVP: Juliete Angelo has a surprising amount of screen time in this episode - in fact probably more than absolutely anybody else in this episode, including Sinise. Plus, she doesn't do too bad a job in her role per se, especially the tense emotional parts, so I suppose that makes her MVP by default. That, and I'm awarding co-MVP status to Jenna C. Johnson whose sole contribution to the episode is to provide a headshot and to lie face-down on some extremely uncomfortable-looking stone steps and pretend to be dead. Also, hell with it, I'm awarding triple-co-MVP status to Troian Bellisario just because I feel like it. I've awarded Episode MVP to actresses who have nothing to do with the episodes being reviewed and to co-hosts of YouTube parody channels including one called Regular Car Reviews, so why the hell not?

Troian Bellisario


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