Discover more from Pop Culture Brain
Joe Rogan apologizes for racial slurs
And at least one big trailer will drop at the Super Bowl
What to know:
Spotify pulls 70 Joe Rogan episodes, host apologizes for using the N-word, Spotify CEO apologizes to employees… What a mess! Spotify has no one to blame but itself for this, as they went in to business while these episodes sat in Rogan’s archive. Did they not vet all the episodes? Meanwhile, the Rock says he wasn’t aware of Rogan’s N-word usage when he defended him, and Yellowjackets lead Melanie Lynskey fired off a brutal tweet in Rogan’s direction. 🔈
It’s time to retire the Razzies forever… The Razzie nominations were released today (because the Oscar noms are tomorrow!) — and I’d like to take this time to remind everyone that the Razzies are trash. In the age of social media shit-talking and IMDB/RottenTomatoes review bombing, do we still need this mean-spirited “award” show? It was funny for a little while, but our culture is so toxic now — why should we go out of our way to celebrate that? 👎
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power trailer to debut at the Super Bowl… Finally, a worthy Super Bowl trailer. It feels like in the last few years there have been fewer and fewer big Hollywood trailers at the Super Bowl. I’m glad Amazon is ponying up for the big splash. 💍
Jeremy Renner making Disney+ home renovation show aptly titled Rennervations… That sounds like a fake show the 30 Rock writers came up with, but OK, if you say so Disney. 🏡
Foo Fighters to stream free concert after the Super Bowl… Put this on after your dad complains about the halftime show 🏈
Steven Soderbergh can’t see himself directing a superhero movie because “there’s no f***ing”… I mean, he’s not wrong 👀
What’s new this week:
Kimi — Feb 10 | HBO Max thriller film | 🍅
I Want You Back — Feb 11 | Amazon rom-com film | 🍅
Inventing Anna — Feb 11 | Netflix drama miniseries | 🍅
Bel-Air — Feb 13 | Peacock drama series | 🍅
Super Bowl LVI — Feb 13 | NBC sporting event
For more pop culture news, discussion, and what-to-watch recommendations subscribe to my pals over on the Kickball Friends podcast. 🎙
What to watch:
Station Eleven is an undeniable masterpiece. It is the best new show or movie currently available to watch on a major streaming service — and the competition isn’t even close. Save for perhaps Atlanta, there is no other show as willing to take risks, as nimble in its storytelling, and as humane and anathema to cliché as this.
Maybe you’ve heard about this pandemic show that was shot and aired during a pandemic? Series creator Patrick Somerville developed the show and started shooting before March 2020 but then uncannily and quite eerily, his fictional pandemic show (based on Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel) started mirroring the real world. Or maybe the real world started mirroring his show? Either way, it makes for uncomfortable viewing — at first. Let’s be clear, Contagion this is not. Station Eleven above all else has compassion for its characters and a beating heart that believes in the good of humanity. By the season’s end, the journey through the trauma of a devastating pandemic is more than worth it — but at first, it is painful and unsettling. Don’t let the idea of watching a pandemic in a pandemic scare you off of this beautiful series, but also understand that it isn’t all butterflies and rainbows either.
That balance of the bad and the good, of death and life, of surrender and survival is exactly the point of Station Eleven. Again and again, Somerville revisits this theme of perseverance amid devastation — and he always points to art as the savior that pulls us through. Music, poetry, theater, books; this show was made by people who love the arts and uphold its value even among the darkest settings. That’s what sets Station Eleven apart, among many other things, it doesn’t rely on tired apocalypse tropes. It is the anti-Walking Dead. It steers out of death and violence—when it can—and into salvation and community. It teaches us to trust our fellow man, we may need them.
How Somerville and the brilliant cast pulls this off is the real magic trick. Like the way Somerville banishes apocalypse clichés so go the familiar TV structures. We bounce around timelines with ease and sophistication. Side characters get standalone episodes (a TV practice pretty common these days) but they pay off in shocking and heart rending ways. You know how great episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld seem to pull together disparate storylines into one perfect interconnected ending? Station Eleven does that over 10 episodes. It’s a feat of writing and structure that makes complete sense when you remember it came from someone who wrote on The Leftovers.
I want to go into loving detail about the entire cast, but it is absolutely necessary to mention Mackenzie Davis, Himesh Patel, Danielle Deadwyler, and David Wilmot. Maybe you’ve seen them before and even liked them. (Davis had a star-making turn on the under-appreciated Halt and Catch Fire.) After Station Eleven, you will never forget them. The entire cast of actors rise to the challenge of this material with the exact amount of humanity demanded of them and then some.
There are 559 English-language scripted TV series right now. Meaning, there is Station Eleven and then there are 558 others. Whatever is at the top of your list to watch next, move it down, put Station Eleven in its place.