Saturday, May 22, 2010

TV Report: The Good Guys

I thought it was funny. I'm the first to admit it was dumb, but it was dumb in a funny, flashy way. It's amusing kitsch; the pilot episode never really rose above the gimmickry--one cop stuck in the 80s, one cop trying to be a model of 21st Century procedure--but for a summer series, it really only needs to be a light, enjoyable hour, and that's what it was for me. (And, honestly, that's all it is). It'll be a fun time-waster on a Monday night. And I thought Bradley Whitford--an actor I usually hate--was hilarious.

These Are Points in Its Favor, Dude

FRIEND: Have you noticed that since Doctor Who has come back, the show hasn't gone to London or Cardiff at all, and the Doctor's never mentioned Rose once?

ME: Yes, I did. Refreshing, isn't it?

(Also: Wheeee! Silurians!)

Ice and Fire Recasting

Man, after coming up with a great cast for HBO's A Game of Thrones--a cast which featured two pieces of my dream cast, Peter Dinklage as my favorite character Tyrion and Sean Bean as Becca's favorite character Ned Stark--it sucks to hear that they've had to recast a couple of roles from the pilot. Jennifer Ehle is, sadly, no longer playing Catelyn Stark, and now it's been announced that Tamzin Merchant is not going to play Daenerys, my second favorite character, on the series. That wouldn't have disappointed me until recently; I'd never heard of her, but now having seen her excellently play Catherine Howard on The Tudors, I think she would've made an amazing Daenerys. I'm really bummed about that.

I've not heard of the actress replacing her--a stage actress who hasn't done much TV--but nonetheless I'm sure they've cast her because she's good. I just can't wait to see how this turns out as a series.

Related: I didn't know until recently that George R.R. Martin had been taking an active role in the writing and production of the series. I hate to sound like one of the people endlessly complaining for the next book, but I am starting to take Jaquandor's view (and he hasn't been complaining, either) that A Song of Ice and Fire will never actually be finished.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Good Day to Be a Geek

30 years ago today, Pac-Man was released...

and so was The Empire Strikes Back.

Sounds like a damn good day to me.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lost vs. Muppets, Round 3

Pepe, Bobo, Big Mean Carl and, um, Hector audition for the role of the smoke monster on Lost.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Stage Is Set

If the internet is anything to go by (and I'm not sure it ever is), I was in the minority in really enjoying last week's episode of Lost, "Across the Sea," which necessarily humanized the two sides of the conflict--showing Jacob and the Man in Black as people who once loved each other and who were, in their own way, also pawns of the Island--and cemented just how much agency and free will play a role in the action instead of something stuffy and hackneyed like fate.

I still maintain that it was a necessary episode; we needed to see it when we saw it, to strengthen and lend meaning to some of the things that happened in last night's episode. I know there are a lot of people who are pissed off that everything right now isn't answers, answers, answers, but part of the brilliance of Lost is that it's as much about its characters as it is about its plot, and I commend Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof for keeping true to their vision and trying to find an elegant solution--we need closure on the characters as much as we need closure on the whys and hows.

What exactly is the problem with Lost? I think it's triumph--that the drama is so character-driven that we really feel invested in them as people--has also been its cross to bear. Even during the period of time when I just hated the show (most of the third and all of the fourth season), a lot of it was because I couldn't handle the coldness and cruelty that characters were being subjected to. It just got to be too much to deal with, and it was like sensory overload. It wasn't the mystery or the clues or the lack of answers that got to me, it was the meanness that felt like it was creeping in.

However, I do think that Cuse and Lindelof have inadvertently brought a lot of the criticism on themselves. (What's disappointing is that, knowing them, they'll blame the audience for watching the show "wrong.") They set themselves up for it by implying that there were these big, dramatic answers for everything. Look, I remain firmly convinced that there was no grand design in place for Lost and that, for some time, they were making it up as they went along. And that's fine; sometimes, it takes a while to find the direction of the story. But after a while, the audience can feel like they're being strung along if mysteries are ignored for too long, and that was certainly the case here.

Granted, ABC didn't help the situation. Remember back in the third seasons when ABC kept promising answers on seemingly every episode? "Tonight, the mystery of Jack's tattoo revealed!" The problem is, a lot of the deep mysteries that were set up turned out to have fairly mundane and obvious conclusions--in some cases, conclusions that couldn't possibly satisfy an audience that had been set up to believe that there was going to be some kind of earth-shattering pattern to everything that happened. Cuse and Lindelof and ABC played to that too often, I think, and let some mysteries be dragged on too long. Fans seemed almost conditioned by this to look for clues in everything--wait, Locke likes mustard on his hot dogs? OMG, what could this mean for the Island?!--because the show itself was just too coy.

I don't think this is to the detriment of the show. I do think, though, it'll play better on DVD when the answers aren't coming weeks and months and years at a time. But I do think the coyness, the sense that there was some kind of grand design that we couldn't even comprehend, the anticipation of it all, has bred a lot of impatience in the audience over the past few years. And it's too bad, because I think there are people who are so pissed off at the whole enterprise that they're missing what has been an intricate set-up to what, perhaps, is going to be an elegant end to what has been one of the best TV series of the 21st century.

I thought "What They Died For" was a nice set up. We're now poised for the finale, in both universes. I have faith that what is important will be resolved; I wasn't one of those people who thought the sideways universe was just time-wasting filler, and I can't wait to see how this all pays off. They've got a feature-length finale for us, and I have faith that everything will come together in the end. That's how it should be.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

And Suddenly, a Pangolin

To Clarify

I write this blog for me. This blog was not started to be "important" or to only focus on any one thing. This blog is me, venting to the void of the internet about whatever the hell I feel like venting.

So if I want to be disappointed that a TV show I love is getting canceled, I'll do that. It may not seem "important" to you, but I really don't care. I'm disappointed that something that brings me joy will no longer be around to do so. It may not affect you. Again, I really don't care. It's something I wanted to write about, so I did it.

Does it mean that I think it's "important"? No. I'm not foolish enough to think that I'm doing anything here for anyone's benefit, education, or edification. That people enjoy this blog is awesome, and surprising, and rewarding. But I'm not doing this blog for those reasons. I'm doing this blog because I love doing it. Frankly, the only person I care about entertaining is my wife.

So, being irritated that Heroes is leaving the air? Hey, that's my life. I don't think it's any more important than other things going on in the world of politics and social problems, but my whole life is not politics and social problems. I have enough anger and annoyance for all of those things. So if you think I'm wasting my time talking about the personal disappointment that my Monday nights are a fraction less enjoyable, that's your own problem. I really, really don't care.

Got that? Good. Let's move forward.

Happy 40th Birthday, Tina Fey!

If America Is So Ashamed of Its Own Racism, Maybe It Should Stop Writing It Into Policy

:: I just saw an item on the news that one of the many pro-conservative changes Texas wants made to the history texts is the replacement of "slave trade" with the euphemism "Atlantic Triangle trade." Because, apparently, the use of that euphemism magically makes the whole thing no longer about slavery.

This is the only reason you could have to make such a demand, isn't it? That you want to hide America's past involvement in the slave trade. Except that you can't hide it, because so much of America's history takes place in a past where it was legal to own other human beings. And where the highest court in the land enforced the notion that people could be property. And where an entire war was fought between states in order to protect the rights of white people to own black people. And America lives in a present where civil rights--the idea, codified in our own founding documents, that everyone is equal under the law--still have to be protected and fought for.

Texas wants to obscure these facts by hiding them with euphemisms. Because it's ashamed of a past that is long over and from which we need to move forward. Our past involvement in slavery is fact. What matters now is whether we decide it's the only thing that defines us, or whether we shake our heads at past mistakes and vow never to let such shames shape our present. Texas is apparently unwilling to move on. Their response to our slave-owning past is not "It was a the shame of a nation, but we have to resolve never to value human life so little again," but rather "Hey, come on, it wasn't that bad."

:: There's also some flap here in Illinois because the Highland Park High School girls' basketball team's trip to Arizona has been canceled by the school board. In part it's a protest of the new pro-racial profiling law, and in part they're saying that it raises safety concerns. Let's face it, the reactions have been pretty predictable along social and racial lines. And we're hearing the usual pie-in-the-sky idealism of "There are no politics in sports" and the typical proto-fascist defense of "If you're not guilty, why do you care?" There are so many people in this country who foolishly believe nothing that happens in politics really affects their lives. They think political stands and safety concerns shouldn't bother anyone, and it's generally because they're so comfortable they can't imagine anyone else being in a different position.

Personally, I support Highland Park High School's decision. If they don't think they can guarantee the safety of all of their students, then that's rightfully their first concern. It's not their fault that Arizona decided to legalize racial profiling and make it legal for the police to harass Hispanics.

:: I got into a discussion recently on my Formspring page with someone about the law in Arizona and whether or not it encouraged racial profiling. He was actually interested in having a discussion and not getting into an argument, which was a nice change of pace for me. He felt that Arizona was only trying to enforce federal law, and I understand that point of view. There's no denying that America has a problem with people who are here illegally, and I think it's a problem we need to fix. I just don't think the way to do it is to open the door to legalized harassment and an assumption that every Hispanic person in America is here illegally.

I was thinking about the infamous Dred Scott decision, something I hope kids learn about before Texas inevitably has it euphemised out of the texts. In 1857, the Supreme Court decided that African slaves imported into the US, and their descendants, were not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States. So, even if you were a free person, you could never be a citizen and were not entitled to protection under the law (or recourse to sue in court). So what was to stop you from being run down, captured, and sold into slavery because of the suspicion that you were an escaped slave? And what do you think caused people to suspect that? Could it be the mere fact of the color of your skin?

That was a dehumanizing decision, and that's how I feel about the law in Arizona. The same way the Dred Scott decision made it legal to treat all black people, free or otherwise, as merely lost property, this law in Arizona makes it legal to treat all Hispanic people, citizens or otherwise, as assumed criminals.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Suck It, NBC

I've got to say, I feel for you Law & Order fans out there. I'm not into the show myself, but I know what it's like to have one of your favorite shows canceled out from under you. After all, I'm a science fiction fan, and pretty much every skiffy series I've ever loved has been canceled out from under me.

Case in point: Heroes.

I can't believe that, thanks to the whole Jay Leno's created in the 10pm time slot, NBC is coming back with 13 new series for the 2010-2011 season and can't find any room for Heroes. This is a network in total desperation, and it can't just renew the show?

Now, granted, I know its ratings are nowhere near what they once were. I know a lot of people who actively hate it. But damn it, I enjoyed that show, even when it was bad. I guess it was a combination of two factors--first, I stopped expecting the show to make sense and just focused on the characters I particularly enjoyed. And second, I grew up reading Chris Claremont's Uncanny X-Men, so I'm used to superhero dramas that are endless soap operas. Either way, I liked the show, and I don't care that you didn't. You can watch something else, then. I liked Heroes.

And that's actually part of what irritated me with Heroes: the massive online hatred of it. I think one of the better aspects of being a genre fan at this point in history is that there's so much genre TV and film available that you don't have to like everything, or even see everything. You can pick and choose. We don't all have to watch Heroes because there are no other genre shows on TV so this is our only choice.


What I guess I'm saying is, if you actively campaigned to get Heroes taken off the air, or you ran entire series on your blogs (and some people did) devoted to talking about how awful Heroes was and how you wish you didn't have to watch it any more: please go fuck yourself with a rake. Go watch Battlestar Galactica rip off Farscape or masturbate to your Firefly DVDs some more and just ignore Heroes. Hey, I thought Terminator Salvation was stupid, too. But you know what? I just didn't watch it. I wasn't happy when it got canceled: it made no impact on me, because I didn't watch it.

I hate Chuck, by the way. So do I spend my time watching every episode and complaining about it? No: I just don't watch it.

End rant.

Seriously, I'm going to miss Heroes. I am. I know it wasn't everything it could've been, but neither are a lot of shows. But it was a show I liked.

Thanks for nothing, NBC. And you'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath waiting for the "possible" Heroes movie to wrap things up. I'm actually not unhappy with where Heroes ended, anyway.

Oh, and one more bit of NBC douchebaggery while I'm venting. I think Parks and Recreation is the funniest of its Thursday night comedies right now. Amy Poehler is pregnant again, so instead of taking the summer off and resuming filming when her pregnancy would've been impossible to hide, the crew and cast kept on working through what would've been their break so they could film as much of the third season as possible before Poehler started to show too much. Their reward for such hard work and dedication? NBC isn't airing the show until spring 2011. Nice.

All-Purpose Criticism for Any SNL Sketch Kristen Wiig Stars In

"Oh, I get it, she's socially awkward and she doesn't realize it. Ha fucking ha, give me the remote, I'm fast-forwarding past this."

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ronnie James Dio 1942-2010

Has It Been 20 Years?

"Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it." -- Jim Henson, 24 September 1936 - 16 May 1990

Over on my Muppet Music Tumblr, I'm posting clips of the Jim Henson Memorial Service.

Song of the Week: "The Rainbow Connection"

The Return of the Turtle

Splotchy and I collaborated on a third turtle strip. Love it. He knows comedy.