A&E, Biography Channel And Entertainment Weekly Team Up For Pop Culture Series
Pop Culture Detours – By George McGowan
If you like your pop culture in small doses, cable network A&E has been broadcasting an interesting series of short documentaries on a variety of pop culture moments. The idea for this series- called “Cultureshock” – came from Morgan Spurlock, the documentarian most famous for his 2004 movie “Super Size Me” in which he spent 30 days eating McDonald’s food and documented its effects on his health. It should be noted right up front that since his production company was tapped to create this series, Spurlock has admitted to improper sexual relations with women in his past and has resigned from his position with the company. Nevertheless, the series he co-created (he also directed one of the installments) is an interesting look at pop culture events in our recent history.
Cultureshock opens with “Michael Jackson’s Final Curtain Call,” a look at the last moments of Michael Jackson’s life and career. how his death was covered by the press, and how it affected fans worldwide. Other episodes cover the influence of Chris Rock, the rise of “trash TV” (think Jerry Springer), and the phenomenon of the Osbourne family’s TV show and its progeny. Hey, did you know that the Osbournes have another daughter, Aimee, who chose not to appear on their show? Good for her.
My favorite episode of the series is “Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary” which profiles the classic and short-lived TV show of that name. Even though “Freaks and Geeks” was cancelled after just one season, the series holds the unique position of still ranking high on Time Magazine’s Greatest 100 Television Shows of All Time. The series launched the careers of Seth Rogan, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, Busy Philipps, James Franco, and several others. The documentary does a wonderful job of presenting the thoughts and remembrances of these actors as well as the series creators, Paul Feig (who has gone on to direct “Bridesmaids” and the all-female “Ghostbusters”) and Judd Apatow (who has gone on to write, direct and produce many hit Hollywood comedies over the years). The documentary also shares a bit of the inside story of why the series, which was a big favorite of TV critics, was ultimately cancelled by NBC (boos to TV executive Garth Ancier).
If you haven’t seen or heard about “Freaks and Geeks,” it was a wonderful TV show full of heart and soul. You could call it one of the first “dramedy” series, as it captured the high school years at their wonderful heights and at their shocking lows. It had complex and complicated characters, wonderful acting, and great story lines. By all accounts, it was way ahead of its time for a network television series. It has influenced most everything that came after it, and if it had aired in the “internet age” it would have been blogged about and recapped and discussed to death, possibly ruining it for all of us who loved it. So, let’s thank our lucky stars that it was made at exactly the right time for exactly the right reasons and still exists both online and on DVD for everyone to re-watch and enjoy, forever. Long live “Freaks and Geeks!”