Adventures in Cultural Consumption:
Girls: Watched the finale last night. Not particularly impressed, for at least two reasons:
1. I'm tired of ironic or unexpected twists on season finale tropes: "oh, we'll have a wedding, but it's not going to be like, a cliché season-ending wedding, you know?" And when Adam (Adam?) walked out into the street, it was obvious he was going to be hit by a car.
2. I've reached my limit of half-hour single-camera comedies that are not particularly funny. I blame The Office's baleful influence: the average 'high-brow' comedy is now a collection of awkward moments, character tics, and personal confessions masquerading as character development. The humor, when it exists, seems perfectly content to walk all over the line separating good, sophisticated humor from bad or low humor. A joke is a joke, apparently.
3. The vocabulary of cultural criticism has become impoverished. AVClub, Vulture, etc, have no way of discussing the quality of a TV show--even in a lengthy recap--apart from repeating the elements of the plot and giving a general opinion about whether they liked the particular episode or not. This form of criticism privileges things that are not especially sophisticated--continuity and callbacks to elements from previous episodes. To get a sense of why these are not especially sophisticated, it would be odd to praise a novelist for remembering on page 800 something that happened earlier on page 150. (There are complicating factors for season-to-season comparisons of TV shows, but the praise Girls is getting for remembering conversations two episodes ago do not merit this exception.) It's not even necessary to maintain these two elements: How I Met Your Mother has retconned multiple aspects of its story and is still praised for its callbacks. The end result of this process is an inability to explain why things are good or bad.
3a. Insomuch as there's a unifying critical category, it's realism: a piece of culture is better the more it approximates reality. But 'reality' in this instance just means verisimilitude: there's no requirement to have any sort of insight into that reality, only to represent it as faithfully as possible. That seems to be setting the bar too low.