Act Four Live: Pop culture with Alyssa Rosenberg (June 18)

Jun 18, 2019

When the credits come up at the movies, the pages in a book run out, or the last commercial rolls over the end of a television episode, the story might be over. But the discussion is just getting started. Here at Act Four, we’ll get together every week to talk about the best (and worst) in pop culture. We’ll also try to sort out why the stories we love mean so much to us, and what they mean for the rest of the world.

Greetings, everyone! How are your Tuesdays? Thanks for your patience with our unusual schedule this week; my kiddo and I were traveling yesterday for family reasons, which went fine other than when said toddler decided that the best thing in the world would be to try to lunge for Sen. Bernie Sanders' sleeve while we were lining up to board the plane. Let's dive in. What's been on your minds?

It feels like "Big Little Lies" has gone full camp and I'm not sure I'm there for it. I wasn't the biggest fan of Season One anyhow. It feels in S2 though that the director never said to any of the actresses, "Maybe deal it back a bit" since they are at 11 on any emotion at any time. I don't know what consequences of Bonnie's push since law enforcement in Renata's storyline makes no sense so unsure how law enforcement works in this universe.

I will confess that I was extremely anti- a second season of "Big Little Lies," and yet have entirely changed my mind after watching the first three episodes of this season, which were made available to us in the form of screeners. You've raised two separate issues here, and I'll deal with the last first.

I actually think that Renata's storyline makes perfectly reasonable legal sense! Insider trading is illegal, and civil actions in insider trading cases are very common. In the context of the show, Gordon Klein has been arrested for insider trading, and he is preparing his family for what he believes to be inevitable civil suits against the family that will likely filed against them. Nothing about this is out of the ordinary.

I would think that Bonnie is probably at risk of manslaughter charges, since she intervened to keep Perry from beating Celeste to death. That's a serious charge, and could definitely involve her doing jail time! I think the show has amped this up fairly successfully by suggesting that the lie is what's going to eat everyone alive; if the characters had told the truth at the time, this might have been resolved differently.

In terms of the camp, I don't actually think the show is that over the top this season. I appreciate Meryl Streep's performance as Perry's mother, which is decidedly weird, but in a specific, deeply human way, not necessarily a campy, absurd one.

Quantum of Solace is a movie I've seen like 3 times and still had no clue what was going on throughout the whole movie. Still is had one good sequence when James Bond first arrives in Bolivia. He's meet at the airport by the local MI5 field agent (Gemma Arterton) and she says their "cover" is their teachers on sabbatical and takes to a dingy hostel and he instead refuses and takes them to a grand high-end 4-star hotel and they end up in bed together. This kind of showed me what I was want from 007 movie. Spy thriller with violence fights or action set piece are hardly unique, but Bond is a secret agent going around the world in luxury and playfully seducing beautiful women. It's what James Bond is so why not just own and to heck with "realism"

Yeah, I absolutely enjoy this aspect of Bond movies (or the Mission Impossible movies in their current incarnation as well). A franchise like this lives or dies on a certain deliciousness, and while I think that they've done a nice job adding a little bit of grit to the Bond movies in decent years, they've preserved a distinct sense of style along the way. Grit and style can, of course, enhance each other when kept in the proper proportion.

My niece just graduated from high school, and I must say she and her friends seem giggly and funny and hard-working and busy and frankly much better behaved than teenagers of my generation (the 80s). Granted, these aren't the mean streets of LA, but still . . . let's give them some credit.

I don't know if you read my column on "Euphoria" last Friday, but my strong tendency is to rely on data rather than anecdata when deciding whether or not a show like this actually represents "kids today," writ broadly. Sure, I've heard from people who, say, saw "Beautiful Boy," or know a teenager who is in trouble, and is thus eager to say that the Kids Are Not Doing well. But by the standards "Euphoria" set for that metric -- in other words, whether a show that features constant teen drinking, drug abuse and risky sex actually represents the experiences of a majority of teenagers -- that's simply not the case. There is absolutely no doubt that there are teenagers in every generation who use substances in ways that harm them, or have sex that harms them physically or emotionally. Thus it has ever been, thus it ever will be. But *on the whole*, teenagers are having less sex and using fewer substances than their predecessors.

Now, that's not to say that there aren't problems that are distinct to teenagers in this generation. I definitely never had to deal with the prospect of being radicalized by YouTube. College pressure was intense when I was in high school, and it's only gotten worse. The economic prospects for high school students, and with them, the prospects of hitting other milestones like marriage and having kids, are not exactly dandy. A show that addressed issues like these might be more representative of what's going on with teenagers today. But I suspect it also might hit so close to home, in a way that "Euphoria" doesn't, that it would be unwatchable for a lot of people.

I haven't really follow the claims of historical inaccuracies with Netflix's "Central Park jogger" case, but we're been here before with Ava DuVernay with "Selma." I thought her making Pres. Lyndon Johnson into more antagonist fit into her message that the powerful is always going to be against you and you have to take it the people and the streets which I don't totally agree with since President Storm Thurman isn't going to sign into law a civil right bill no matter how much protesting happens in the street. The "sausage making" or "horse-trading" are a lot more boring.

I think it's probably worth noting that Ava DuVernay, with both "Selma" and "When They See Us," is making fictionalized accounts of actual events. We can definitely argue about the choices of interpretation she makes and their consequences, but I think some people, Linda Fairstein included, have missed that in this form, it's permissible for DuVernay to depart from the facts in a way it wouldn't be if she was making a documentary.

I get insider trading is illegal, but FBI wouldn't go to local coffeehouse instead of contacting his attorney for him to surrender and he'd be out on bail the same day instead of orange jump suit.

Okay, sure, fine, but these are dramatic details, rather than things that call into question what the basic penalties are for various crimes in the world.

Preferring Tuesday more than Monday now? I can't think of big TV show which airs on Monday night.

Oh, I actually think Sunday is the marquee night for television now, at least for major cable shows.

I thought they did a nice job with the reboot (and returning to Bravo from Momtime didn't hurt). PR is one of the very few reality shows I watch because it shows some of the creative process in a very TV friendly way. I think besides the new Gunn/Klum show on Amazon there's at least another fashion show coming. Are we looking at a fashion glut?

I don't know that two shows constitutes a glut, though maybe "Queer Eye" counts as a fashion show for you? I'm all for anything that helps people understand what goes into creating clothes; it's the sort of subject that is far too often treated as simply too feminine to be taken seriously, when in fact, fashion has a huge influence of public life and public perception. That said, if we're going to have a boom in fashion shows, I want Heather and Jessica from GoFugYourself to get their own show.

Can you answer a question that has eluded an answer on other online forums? The Legend bar at the bottom of the TV Grid notes, "No Stars: not rated". Does this mean they couldn't find 'anyone' to rate/review it, including Rotten Tomatoes or other such sites? Or does it mean that the movie is so poor, that it doesn't even rate one star ("poor")? The TV Grid is admittedly sourced from a third party. I'm just curious because I've found "unrated" movies to be extremely poor, and don't even bother. But if the answer is the former, I'll have to reconsider! Thanks Alyssa!

Hmmm, I don't know the answer to this question, and because I'm based in the Opinions section rather than the newsroom, I don't have any involvement in the production of the TV grid. If you email me at, I can follow up on this for you, but it'll probably take some emailing around the newsroom.

Tuesday is already the heaviest day for WaPo chats, while without you there are only two on Monday.

I do stay on Monday whenever possible. As I've mentioned here before, I've been dealing with a series of family emergencies. This Monday, I was traveling to deal with one of them. It's not going to be a regular thing, but it was necessary in this instance.

It seems when Lucy Florres made her allegations, she was booked on every cable news show within 5 minutes. Why aren't the family of Eric Logan being ignored?

I think there are a couple of things going on here. First, Flores is an elected official, and she's based in Nevada, which is a fairly significant media market. She also came forward in a piece for the Cut, which is part of New York Magazine, which has an incredibly effective public relations department; I'm sure that before the piece ran, they had plans to pitch it, and her, to a lot of networks.

I also suspect that Logan's family will end up doing more major media. His death was fairly recent, and they're not based in a major media market; the story will take time to go national, and then there will be logistics involved in getting his family connected to reporters and networks.

If there's a bias at work here, it's towards logistical ease.

I think I miss the plot through line of the mysterious bullying in the first grade.

I don't want to spoil anything, but we'll get some elementary school drama in the episode airing this weekend.

I see so many For Your Consideration ads and articles about predicting Emmy nominees despite the fact that I haven't watched the show in many years and most of the shows I watch regularly aren't nominated which is something of an interest killer. But in the purpose of promoting programs and celebrating the form, what are the best alternatives?

You might look at the Television Critics Association Awards, which my colleagues and I vote for; I think we tend to come up with some quirky nominees and honorees, and to be less swayed by network campaigns.

The response to the police shooting in South Bend is kind of weird. It feels like he'll be spending more time with the African Americans of South Carolina than the African Americans of South Bend.

We'll certainly have to see how this plays out, given other issues with Buttigieg and the South Bend police.

Am I the only person for whom this is one of the highlights of my TV viewing year? My love of Broadway plays and musicals goes all the way back to when scenes/numbers would be shown live on "The Toast of the Town" (later the Ed Sullivan Show).

You're not! There was definitely a poster in here last week talking about how delightful they find the Tonys. In general, I think it's worth it to invest in the awards shows that you care about and to set aside the ones that drive you nuts. Some bodies of voters are going to share your tastes and incentives about what to honor, some of them very much are not. They're not some objective determinant of greatness. It's completely fine to watch the awards shows that you feel share your values, and to skip or heckle the ones that you think are dramatically misguided. It's always a good thing to know more about who gets to vote and what tends to drive their taste in nominations and awards.

Was glad to see CBS airing some of their ironically named "All Access" shows on broadcast even if it costs us some naughty words. Do you think they'll do the same with Star Trek and their other shows, if any?

It'll be interesting to see how "The Good Fight" does on CBS; so far, it seems to have improved on re-runs of other shows, though not to have been a huge breakout hit yet. I do think it makes a lot of business sense to re-run the shows that initially air on CBS All Access as a potential way to hook new viewers who will be eager to get the next season of the show sooner than they would be able to if they merely waited for the re-runs.

Wasn't expecting that since it didn't get posted. I have a quibble with your answer. I don't think I was worried about being triggered. That has a particular meaning to me, involving a flashback to upset from the past. When I was doing legal work for the clients at the Aids clinic, I wasn't that deeply enmeshed. Couldn't be. You can't allow yourself to be that emotional when it will get in the way of doing the work. And sometimes that meant, just sitting next to a client's bed and listening to him for a while, and sometimes it meant getting a woman to tell me exactly how little contact her ex had ever had with his child, but I still had my professional role as protection. And that is what I think was bothering me about seeing the movie: seeing that situation when I had no professional barrier to protect my emotions and no outlet to provide actual help, as limited as it was. Anyway, I have, at least, had a chance to spend some time thinking about and remembering those clients and some of them still make me smile. And others, I just remember that I was there to sit with them when it didn't look like anyone else had the time.

Oh, I didn't mean to suggest that you were triggered in the clinical sense, just that it's okay to decide that something is not for you, given other experiences you've had. Everything you've said here makes sense to me!

The latest season of the "Inspector Morse" prequel "Endeavour" is back, now set in mid-1969. Kind of a shock to see a police officer with mustache, sideburns and slightly longer hair, compared to previous seasons, although presumably the hair and makeup people are sticklers for authenticity (this being a British production). Will you watch?

Probably not, though I'd be curious to hear you make the case for why I should!

The best things about them, for me, is 1) They don't try too hard with unfunny patter and "skits and, 2) there's a real family feel to the proceedings, not so much of the Balkanization you get with Emmys and Oscars. Oh, and 3) They don't give the bum's rush to winners who aren't "big" names.

This is an excellent point. I'll highlight it in this week's newsletter.

Are you as psyched as I am??? Hope my expectations aren't so high as to wind up disappointed that they weren't met.

I am both extremely excited for "Downton Abbey," and setting my expectations such that I think I probably can't be disappointed. As long as Edith gets to continue to be awesome and happy, the Dowager Countess gets to continue to be snippy, and the whole thing continues to look like a jillion bucks, I am pretty sure I will be happy!

Considering he'll be leading 4 Avator sequels, do you think America is ready for ear of Sam Worthington?

Given how completely anonymous he's become in the years since, he how much his projects have thudded, I think the answer is: probably not. That said, he's going to be covered up in a lot of CGI, so it may not matter that he's so completely bland.

Okay, folks, I gotta jet. But see you here next week for more "Big Little Lies," more summer movies, etc.

In This Chat
Alyssa Rosenberg
Alyssa Rosenberg blogs about pop culture for The Washington Post's Opinions section.
Recent Chats
  • Next: