Underrated/Overrated: A fitting tribute with 'History of the Eagles,' but let's ease up on the rock reunions

There's a lot of pop culture to sort through week after week. Times staff writer Chris Barton offers his take on what's up and what's down in music, movies, television and just about anything else out there that's worth considering.



'Very Semi-Serious'

A scene from "Very Semi-Serious."
A scene from "Very Semi-Serious." (HBO)

For those familiar with New Yorker magazine, the incidental cartoons run a gamut not unlike a "Saturday Night Live" episode — funny, clever, topical and, as once lampooned in "Seinfeld," entirely incomprehensible. But as shown in this charming documentary, those in-page interludes of single-panel entertainment amid highbrow journalism are created and curated by actual humans, many of whom queue up in the hall for audience with cartoon editor Robert Mankoff in a personal, almost quaint meeting of the strange alchemy of cartoons and the even stranger personalities of those who create them.

'History of the Eagles'

Glen Frey, left, and Joe Walsh of the Eagles perform during "History of the Eagles Live In Concert" in Nashville, Tenn.
Glen Frey, left, and Joe Walsh of the Eagles perform during "History of the Eagles Live In Concert" in Nashville, Tenn. (Rick Diamond / Getty Images)

In the wake of the death of Eagles singer and guitarist Glenn Frey at 67 last week, there may be no more fitting tribute than settling in for a few hours with this revealing two-part documentary, which offers a surprisingly unflinching glimpse at the history of success and dysfunction behind one of the biggest bands the U.S. has produced. Of course, all that talent is on display as well, particularly in a disarmingly opening scene of note-perfect backstage harmony of a band at its peak, but it's that balance of outsize talent and ego that made the Eagles — and Frey — in a class by themselves.


'Making a Murderer'

Steven Avery's booking photo.
Steven Avery's booking photo. (Netflix)

In the future, everyone convicted of a crime under suspicious circumstances will be the subject of a wildly popular (if mostly plodding and overlong) documentary — if the accused is lucky, anyway. Not to diminish the circumstances surrounding the controversial case of Steven Avery, but there's something off-putting about a national obsession erupting around a case that has been, for want of a better way of putting it, edited for television. Innocent people should never languish behind bars, but something may be amiss in our legal system if the interest television is our last, best hope for justice.

Reunion fever

Led Zeppelin photographed in 1969.
Led Zeppelin photographed in 1969. (Atlantic Records)

Just as Hollywood is addicted to familiar faces and repeating franchises, the music industry has an increasing addiction to nostalgia with high-profile reunion tours becoming the standard move, even in previously more outsider genres such as metal, hip-hop and indie rock. Not to say a reunited Guns 'N Roses, LCD Soundsystem and, most niche-focused, Wolf Parade, won't deliver a perhaps slower, somewhat paunchier simulacrum of their original thrills, but don't firmly broken-up acts such as the never-and-please-stop-asking Led Zeppelin and the Smiths grow in stature for existing solely in one specific time?