Sunday, April 14, 2013

TV Report

I don't really have a ton to say on this one, but I did want to add that I'm really enjoying Hannibal. Very stylish, very engrossing, and I'm already a fan of Mads Mikkelsen, so I like the casting (Hugh Dancy's good on it and Laurence Fishburne is great in everything). I know it's not highly-rated (what on NBC is?), but I hope it sticks around a bit.

What I do find interesting is that a lot of the things critics are praising Hannibal for (stylish-looking, well-cast, modernized prequel) are the same things they're excoriating Bates Motel for (which I would also consider a stylish-looking, well-cast, modernized prequel). I enjoy that show, too, especially how completely it's decided to go off the rails but still just plow ahead. I also like how both shows don't pretend that we the audience don't know that its main characters are murderers (or future murderers) and instead play with the iconography of something long-established in pop culture. I like Bates Motel as a bizarre re-interpretation of Psycho (by way of The Wicker Man, apparently) rather than a straight prequel. Already been done, so why do it again?

I do think it's hilarious how both shows are messing with the minds of people who tiresomely demand some kind of adherence to continuity. But you know that always makes me laugh. I still don't buy "this thing is not that thing" as a legitimate criticism of quality, sorry.

:: I have every episode so far of Vikings and Top of the Lake on my TiVo. I need to sit and watch them, but I'm wondering now if I should just wait until they're over and watch them all at once. I enjoy binge-watching as much as I enjoy watching week-to-week, and hate reading arrogant people bleating on about which one is, I don't know, the morally superior viewing or whatever.

:: I don't, however, like the week-to-week waiting to find out who gets eliminated on this cycle of Hell's Kitchen. It needs the short-term conclusion every week. It's been almost a week now, and I don't even remember who's actually up for elimination. Look, these shows are not cultural events, they're just ephemeral ways to waste a Tuesday night. The momentum doesn't carry week-to-week anymore, so just give us the payoff and stop putting it off for a week. I don't care by the time next week starts.

:: So, so happy Game of Thrones is back. Besides being a very entertaining show, it's very interesting to see where and what they cut and/or delay for later in order to have a linear narrative. I think it's a good lesson in the different experiences of reading a novel versus watching serialized television. It also shows that you can still tell a good story without having to hew too closely to exactly what's on the page if it isn't going to work as a piece of visual entertainment. A lot of chapters in the Song of Ice and Fire series are less things happening than people talking to each other about things that just happened or might happen, which isn't visually stimulating on the screen. I don't need every word to feel complete. If I did, I'd read them again.

:: Three weeks in, and I still haven't watched Doctor Who. The first three episodes of are on my TiVo, but I'm kind of dreading them. At least Amy Pond is over, but this Clara person hasn't been much better so far, and I'm sort of sick of Stephen Moffat's take on the whole thing. Like I said last year, I don't want to sit and whine about how I'm not enjoying this show right now, because it's frustrating to write and boring to read when I could just as easily not be watching it, but... well, I'll catch up and one day it'll be a different Doctor and a different showrunner and I'll hopefully be happier.

:: Castle may be the show I used to adore again in many ways, but that doesn't forgive that ridiculous Irish mob episode a few weeks ago. Yeah, I saw The Departed, too. (I also saw Taken, but that episode was much more tongue-in-cheek, at least.)

:: I saw How to Live with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life). Eh. I thought the reviews were hilariously over the top. The AV Club, for example, seems to just get pissed off at anything that dares to not constantly reinvent television. Pick your battles, guys. Your expectations for a show like this are too high. It's not an abomination, it's just nothing special and not very funny. I know, snark is easier to write, but then you have to be the asshole who takes something that doesn't try very hard and pretend it was aiming to be the new Arrested Development rather than taking it for the modest filler it is, and you just look like an asshole. But yeah, snark on. Doesn't take much effort, after all.

:: How did I turn into a person who watches Shark Tank? Or Storage Wars? Or Dance Moms? Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just reminds me that I'm not 25 anymore, you know?


Tallulah Morehead said...

I am also enjoying Hannibal, which is a damn sight better than the last Hannibal movie, Hannibal Rising.

Bates Motel however, is quite another matter. Even a casual visitor to my home, there but for a few minutes, will pick up that I am a serious fan of Psycho. They will notice all the Psycho movies on the DVD shelves (If they're very, very nice, I'll show them one of my old VHS copies of Psycho, the one which is signed right on the casette itself by Janet Leigh), my hardcover copies of all 3 of Robert Bloch's Psycho novels (And if they're sharp eyed, they'll notice several other Bloch books, including his memoirs), My two different editions of Stephen Rebello's Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, and my hardcover copy of Janet Leigh's book on making Psychpo (and my dozens of books on Hitchcock, and my Hitchcock autograph from when we met in 1972), my "Norman Bates Acton Figure" which stands before my Statue of Liberty model in the same exact pose, only holding a butcher knife instead of a torch, and the framed photos on my living room wall, one of me standing below the "Bates Motel No Vacancy" sign with the "No" unillumiated of course, and the one of me standing on Norman Bates's front porch, daring to knock on his front door. Serious Psycho fan here, and I've stopped watching Bates Motel altogether, though I had been looking forward to it. Not only was it a Psycho prequel (despite being apparently set in a much later era than that of Norman Bates's youth, which would have been in the late 1940s in the movie, and the late 1920s in the novel), and Carlton Cuse, who kept me happy on Lost for 6 years, is one of the co-creators.

I watched the pilot and did not like what they'd done to it, and as it's continued I've gone from disliking it to actively hating it. Although it was giving Norman Bates, the QUINTESSENTIAL only child, a brother that tore it for me, the whole thing is wrong. Their attempt to rip off Twin Peaks is all wrong, wrong, wrong. Norman needs a NORMAL town to contrast with his weirdeness. Now Norman is just one more weird person among dozens in "The Town That Isn't Named Fairvale". (These people would set the life of Henry VIII in Malibu.) That Vera Farmiga looks and sounds exactly like Felicity Huffman, whom I'd grown really, really tired of on Desperate Housewives, did not help one bit. Nor did shunting off Robert Bloch's credit to the end titles in TINY print make me more inclined to be charitable to it. (Hannibal credits Thomas Harris in the opening credits, where his credit belongs.)

So I've stopped watching Bates Motel rather than watch and be annoyed by how much I hate it every week. I have Smash for that. Hannibal I'll keep watching. And I'm all caught up on my Doctor Who, but then I fail to share your antipathy for Moffett's version of the show.

Meanwhile, tomorrow we learn who shot JR, and actually finished him off this time. The Dallas revival got everything right (Even if it's conveniently forgotten that on the original series it eventually turned out that Cliff Barnes was really John Ross's father, so for folks who remember the original series in more detail than these writers do, John Ross just married his sister), Bates Motel gets everything wrong.

John Ross Ewing married his sister? What is this? Bates Motel?

SamuraiFrog said...

To this day, I've never actually seen Dallas. Too young when it was originally on. I've also never seen Twin Peaks, which I keep thinking I want to get to...

That is an aspect that bothers me re: Bates Motel is the lack of upfront credit for Robert Bloch. If they want to rip it off and play off the familiar elements of it, they can at least move the credit into the damn opening. It's not like anyone watching it would be unaware of its existence, so why shunt it into the back?

Tallulah Morehead said...

My love of Dallas is not necessarily defensible. It's terrific, A-quality trash. And the revival is solidly built on love for the original. There's 14 seasons of the original, plus two or three TV movie continuations in between the original series and the revival, as well as an excellent, stand-alone TV movie Dallas: The Early Years, about the youth of Jock Ewing, Miss Ellie, and Digger Barnes, so "catching up" is a marathon task, though if you fall for JR's wicked charms, it becomes addictive. It's a soap opera, but a great one (Though it has some rotten seasons, most-notoriously the season that ended up with Dead Bobby alive in the shower, where they palm off an entire terrible season as a dream).

Just starting it at the beginning of the revival won't do it, because much of it is built on everyone's feelngs about having JR back on TV, and if you've never seen JR in action before and don't already love this monstrous, charming scoundrel, there's no emotional weight to the revival.

Like I said, the prequel movie Dallas: The Early Years is stand-alone film. While it's dramatization of the roots of the Barnes-Ewing Feud means more if you know the characters and the feud from the series, it can be watched by itself, a complete story, and is quite enjoyable. Just no JR, except for near the end, where he's a small boy.

Twin Peaks you should clear your schedule and watch. There's only two seasons, so it's not a months-long committement like Dallas would be. And I think you'd LOVE it! I think that if you watch the two-hour pilot of Twin Peaks, you will not be able to resist watching all of it. Mind you, it's not for folks who want everything, or indeed anything, tied up in neat bows, with logic and believability intact. But it is wonderful, hypnotic and crazy-good. I've watched the entire series multiple times. It's just weird (I mean REALLY, REALLY WEIRD) in great ways.

Bloch's credit-placement on Bates Motel is shameful.