Episode 78: “Oh, the Muppets. They happened.”

The Overthinkers look back at the naughties. Or the aughties. Or whatever you call them.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Jordan Stokes to overthink the decade at its close, addressing the defects of memory and nostalgia while recapping trends in music, television, and movies.

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Download Episode 78 (MP3)

10 Comments on “Episode 78: “Oh, the Muppets. They happened.””

  1. Megan from Lombard #

    the podcast was amsusing to listen to.

    I do believe that there has been a general shift to less exposition and more quick scenes with action/things blowing up. That only helps to fuel the ADD/short attention span that TV has generated with the flashing images and quick pace to the point where if something does hold our attention for more than ten seconds then our attention is looking for something else to hold it.


  2. Johann #

    Excellent podcast, guys!

    Regarding the decade of franchise movies and sequels:
    I have the feeling that this is part of a larger (pop) cultural phenomenon, because when you look at music, the last decade was full of remixes, mash-ups and cover version, all of which are also essentially something that has been there before, just in a different form. Going back to movies, I think that one of the reasons that these franchise movies (or movies which you’ve actually already seen, sort of) is that in the last decade, people more than ever wanted predictability and certainty, and were less open to surprises than in the decade of the 90s. And I think that has to do with 9/11, which was a really huge “surprise” – a horrific event that pretty much came out of nowhere and whose shockwaves we can still feel, almost a decade after it.
    In contrast, the 90s started off with the Cold War being over, and everyone partying – with the result that people where much more open to surprises and new things in general during the 90s, I would say.

    I also gotta say one thing about foreign movies (foreign to you Americans, that is): In Europe, in many countries all foreign (in this case, American) movies are dubbed, and they do it quite well. (Of course, many movie lovers with some language skills prefer the original version – or even if you don’t speak the language, a lot of people prefer subtitles over the dubbed version.) So I’m not sure about your argument (I think it was Pete who said it), that you don’t see a lot of foreign movies because they are not in your native language: If that were the case, American movies wouldn’t be so successful in continental Europe. I would be interested in what you think other reasons could be that European films receive so little attention in the US – even by pop culture addicts like you.


  3. petrlesy #


    here are two links i felt should be posted

    online petition to stop uwe boll from futher directing

    and the mentioned video “we didn’t start the flame war”

    btw. lately i encountered three completely unrelated people claiming that comments on articles and videos on the internet are horrible, two actually used the phrase: “to lose faith in humanity”
    i would just like to express here my humble disagreement, i’m big fan of uncensored anonymous discussion, i love reading comments and consider them a modern day folklore (don’t know the proper english term for anonymous contribution to the culture)

    regarding sequels, i thought about it quite a lot and have to go with “it matters” – if there originally is a story for more than one movie, then the sequels might be good (obvious examples are the book series adaptations)
    on the other hand, when they start working on the story for sequel only after the first flick is successful, then the sequel will !almost! always suck (although huge amounts of money might help)

    @Johann – well, generally there is much less explosions in european movies…


  4. lee OTI Staff #

    “We Didn’t Start the Flame War” = made of win, especially the Admiral Ackbar ASCII art. Just watch it if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

    Re: trilogies, it’s worth bringing up this “Trilogy Rating Chart” that was circulating around the interwebs a while back:


    According to this chart, 10 of the 21 trilogies represented got better with the second movie, then declined for the 3rd (Star Wars, Terminator, Godfather, etc.). 10 declined after the first, and one held steady (Lord of the Rings). This is obviously far from an exhaustive list, but interesting nonetheless.


  5. Gab #

    Best: College, for myriad reasons.

    Worst: Sarah Palin, also for myriad reasons.

    Although I could take a line out of Mark’s book and say a best AND worst would be social networking sites (and I’d include with them the potential discussion pages and forums and whatnot they come with sometimes for, lo, myriad reasons).

    Okay, Wrather, I’m gonna let you finish… But I gotta say, thinking Spears’s music has more melody than Swift’s is TOTALLY subjective. I don’t think you and I will ever agree on Taylor. I myself think HER music has more melody and musicality than Spears’s does because Spears’s songs are more formulaic and predictable, in my own opinion. They go verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge-that-is-actually-the-chorus-in-different-words, trivial keychange, chorus until fadeout/cutoff. I, at least, care IMMENSELY about your opinion on Swift, if only because it’s different from mine. Given the choice, I’d also prefer to listen to Christina Aguilera above all of them, probably, but if it’s among Spears, Cyrus, and Swift, I’d pick Swift in a heartbeat. And I could argue (more) about the lyrics themselves, too, but you didn’t talk about those, so I won’t. Anyhoo… Agree to disagree, or keep going? I’m game for either. ;p

    My excitement about sequels goes on a case-by-case basis. For example, I was totally excited when I heard another _Toy Story_ was coming out (and look forward to the third, too) but I’m not at all interested in seeing the second _Boondock Saints_ movie. I can’t say which came first, but somewhere along the way, studios realized people are good with sequels and franchizes recently, so movies are WRITTEN as fodder for sequels and such. Case in point: The first PotC movie was entitled _Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl_ instead of just plain old _Pirates of the Caribbean_ specifically so that they could see how well it did (in terms of $$$- quality is not an objective of capitalist corporations, it’s profit) and make more movies if it did well enough. Writing is left at least semi-ambiguous at the end very, very deliberately. Again, I don’t know if the writing or the consumer mindset changed first, but yeah…

    Steve was on Dancing With the Stars! He was damn adorable, too.

    Stokes, et. al., may I jump in with my own opinion about _Lost_? I wouldn’t presume to speak for Shana.


  6. Dan From Canada #

    I was all set to write out a big response on the subject of sequels, but then Gab went and got pretty much to the meat of it in just a few sentences. It seems to me that it used to be the case that a film was made, start to finish, and then when it did well, someone decided they could get the lightning to strike again, sometimes successfully (T2, arguably the best movie sequel ever made as compared to its original) and sometimes not (Highlander 2 really ought to have never happened. Sometimes I delude myself into believeing that it didn’t) but it was never (well, it was rarely) the original intention to make multiple movies. I’m hard pressed to think of many sequels in the past few years that weren’t obviously being planned for or set up during the first movie.

    I find it interesting that Gab would point specifically to Boondock Saints 2 as a sequel to be -not- excited for, since it’s also one of the very few sequels out recently that I don’t think was planned in advance. (Also one I was quite excited about, on the grounds of how completely awesome the original was in a lot of ways)

    Also to Johann, I think there’s a disconnect in your logic about foriegn films. The issue I have there is that while English is not the first language of many EUropean countries you are VASTLY more likely to find an average european whose native language is non-english also being fluent or near-fluent in english. The reverse in the United States is not true at all. Spanish is about the only foriegn language “widely” spoken in the US, and it’s predominantly mexican spanish, which is as to spain spanish as canadian french is to france french, which is to say, similar, but not actually that close.

    So an english-made american film going to Europe is going to be popular among a) Euros who speak English (which is a LOT of them) and then secondarily b)Euros who don’t mind dubs and c) Euros who don’t mind subtitles.

    A non-english made european film going to America pretty much only hits people who are okay with dubs or subtitles, and since American dubbing is not the best (Watch some north american anime some time, you’ll see what I mean) that leaves subtitled movies.

    The issue I think America has with subtitles is that for one, north america is completely used to the fact that it considers itself the cultural and entertainment capital of the world. The vast majority of media, film, television, music, is made by americans in america for consumption by americans, and why would I see a movie in some other language where I have to somehow manage to watch -and- read to see what’s going on, when there are hundreds of choices here with people I know and obsess over about simple concepts I understand? Add in the fact that a lot of people I know actually -do- profess to have a lot of trouble following subtitles (Not because of a literacy issue, but because, being so unused to subtitled movies [And in Europe I gather people are much more used to them] they just aren’t used to the process of reading/watching with simultaneity) and you can see where an american movie is going to do much better in general outside america than a non-american movie is going to do in general inside america.


  7. Gab #

    @Dan: You mean I was actually SUCCINCT for a bloody change? Ee-GADS, I must have been channeling someone else…

    My reason for not being excited for another _Boodock Saints_ stems from what you said, actually: it was pretty well-finished, not WRITTEN for a sequel. And the first was awesome in its own right in a way that just doesn’t ask for a sequel. I can’t really put it into perfect words, but I just couldn’t help but groan when I found out about it, and the trailer made me cringe because it looks, to me, at least, like the cleverness and awesomeness and depth of the first one is going to be totally lost in this one. I guess I’d probably like it as a popcorn flick, but not as a _Boodock Saints_ flick, if that makes sense: I’m easily entertained (or NOT), but I can do it on different levels.

    This is why I enjoyed TS as an action flick but loathed it as a Terminator one, Lee. ;p


  8. Dan From Canada #

    There are a lot of movies that had sequels/franchises made that really worked better as stand alone movies. As well as Boondock Saints, I’d point to the Matrix and Saw. Both were, in my opinion, severely worsened by association to crappy sequels.

    We need more movies like Fight Club, where they make a new and novel idea, which is original, entertaining, and well made, then they pat themselves on the back for being successful, and move on to something else.


  9. Gab #

    I haven’t heard anything about a sequel to _Independence Day_ yet… ;p


  10. HBomb #

    RE: Desperate Housewives good writing. I actually just bitched to my friend who writes for them because I didn’t like last week’s episode. You have to give the actors credit though because the creator constantly changes his mind on where he wants to go so half the dialogue is pretty much improvised. Look at me being all pretentious speaking as if I know the industry :-P


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