Commentary

Entertainment Weekly

I check in on Entertainment Weekly every now and again because I enjoy high-ish musings on lowdown culture. Indeed, although there are about a gazillion media around these days -- magazines, Web sites, TV and cable shows, tabloids -- all trodding the same already dirty, dirty celebrity ground, EW has a somewhat elevated take. Often, the mag's reviews, charticles and infographics are kinda smart without the snark. Also, it's not that calendar-dependent. Though the cover offers Hiro of ''Heroes'' swinging a Samurai sword, in honor of that show's second season debut last week, and there's also a ''what to watch'' section covering that particular week, much of the analytical stuff holds for months.

For example, bound inside this issue is a ''collector's edition'' in the form of a minimagazine celebrating the 20th anniversary of "Star Trek: the Next Generation." The cover lines boast ''Exclusive Oral History" and ''The 10 Best Episodes.'' The minimag is a nice little piece of work about the first show with a fully diverse cast in TV history. It's filled with nuggets like this, about the design of the show's bridge (which itself has spawned the design for countless hedge fund offices.): a designer says that ''Gene [Roddenberry, the show's legendary creator] did not want people hunched over computer consoles. He wanted it to look more like a living room than the IBM center."

Also timelessly interesting, in a six-degrees-of-separation-type way, is a chart illustrating how the stars of ''Saved by the Bell'' are tied to eight of this years Emmy's winners. It's amazing that a hideously simplistic and paper-thin TV show about American high school life in the early '90s (featuring the nerd, the jock, the hot girl, etc.) could have such nostalgic resonance, and produce so many future stars who worked with other stars, although they are all no doubt mortified by their early '90s hair. (Of course, in the area of embarrassment, there's more than hair: good girl Elizabeth Berkley briefly went the route of soft porn with the movie ''Showgirls,'' and Dustin Diamond, who played prime nerd ''Screech,'' also came out with a sex video to pay his mortgage.) On the chart, how Diamond is actually four people away from "Extras'" creator Ricky Gervais, by way of Tori Spelling, is a thing of beauty to contemplate.

And you'll never get as in-depth a piece in "praise of naked fight scenes'' (as in the "Borat" movie) anywhere else.''Historically speaking, naked fighting is as old as humanity itself,"notes the article.''Around the time of Christ, Celtic warriors battled unclothed.'' Hmm. So the idea has legs -- it's so not ''five minutes ago.''

In the world of music, there's an interesting piece on the Kanye West/50 Cent showdown (50 promised to retire if Kanye West's new CD, ''Graduation'' sold better than his own, ''Curtis.'') It was a great publicity stunt, of course, which boosted sales for both debuts -- so much so that ole' Fitty seems to have retracted the ultimatum.

The section ''Hit List,'' which has gone through a few authors and is now written by Scott Brown, seems to be a hit-and-miss affair from week to week. This week, the funniest line is No.10: ''Charlie Sheen says he feels like a 'leper' next to 'handsome' Mario Lopez." (Everybody experimented with leprosy in the '80s! Wasn't such a big deal!) Well, and no. 4 is pretty amusing, too: To reports that "Shakira [is] taking Intro to Western Civilization at UCLA," the response is: "It's research for her rump-shaking new single, 'Chomsky Don't Lie.'"

See, I told you it's U of Chicago-style pop culture analysis to everyone else's Big 10 party school.

MAG STATS

Published by: Time, Inc.

Frequency: Weekly (duh)

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