Making the world a better place, one show at a time.

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I guess you would like to know a little bit about the person making all these proclamations upon good taste and horrid characters. I'm Andrea and when I was 15 I fell in love. An hour after meeting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was forever altered in the way only love can, and I never questioned for one minute afterwards that television offered me an amazing chance to experience lives and moments that I could never imagine. So now, when I'm not getting distracted by my real life, I write about TV. I also read, am finishing a Master's degree in English Literature, travel, am attempting to learn vegan cooking, am the 5th of 6 children, and drive my roommate nuts by constantly cleaning our already clean apartment. Now that we're old friends, time for you to take my opinions as the be all and end all.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fictional Throwdown: Personal Attributes and Up-Bringing

Welcome to the first category of Fictional Throwdown. So what can these boys do?

Our First Competitor: Sam Winchester

Sam may very well be the anti-christ, and dude I’m not kidding. Sam was marked at six-months old to lead a demon army. At this point it isn’t quite (explicitly) established whether Sam was chosen because of his powers, or he has powers because he was chosen. Sam does not utilize his powers because he thinks they/their source is evil, but because of other characters on Supernatural we know what his powers are. He has premonitions, can control others' actions (first through words, then just through thought), project images into others' minds, move objects/material with his mind, stop someone heart by touching them, incredible strength, electrocution, and last but not least he can summon and control demons. Okay, not too bad. But powers aren’t everything. Sam, just as a human being, is a total badass. No joke, badass. He is a weapons expert, agile and determined in hand to hand combat (he’s a bit rusty in the pilot episode where Dean kicks his ass, but don’t be fooled), quick-thinking and adapts to his situation, knows Latin, prays daily (I’m not being a goody-two-shoes, this is made explicitly important on the show), can hold his liquor, has a collage education (which he utilizes), and can break into any building (either with a lock pick or charisma). In addition to all this, Sam’s greatest asset is his experience. After their mother was murdered in a house fire set by a demon, Sam and his brother Dean were raised by their father John (the wondrous Jeffery Dean Morgan) to fight the forces of evil. On the show it's called being a hunter, but Sam and Dean were raised to be a warriors. Sam has had roughly 15-20 years of training and field-work: his record of saved lives, atrocities avoided, and evil things killed or exorcised testifies to his skill and accomplishment. The possibility is open that he may be evil (I don’t think he is, and will address this under “Character/Moral Understanding), but I repeat; badass.

Our Second Competitor: Peter Petrelli

Funny enough, there isn’t a simple word for Peter’s natural power. I guess you would say Peter is an empath (this is not actually a noun). Peter’s power is to absorb the powers of those he comes in contact with. In two seasons Peter has accumulated quite a few talents. Lets list them and the origin: flight (Nathan), prediction/painting talent (Isaac), cellular regeneration (Claire), time stopping and traveling (Hiro), mind reading (Matt), telekinesis (Sylar), freezing (Sylar), invisibility (Claude), strength (Nicki/Jessica), nuclear-ism (Ted), observation (Mr. Deverauex), electricity (Elle), persuasion (Mrs. Petrelli*). (*Okay, this hasn’t actually been revealed yet, but there is no way Peter wouldn’t have his mother’s power, and I’m fairly sure this is her power.) These are all that I can think of, and according to Mrs. Petrelli Peter is the most powerful of all the heroes, so I think you get the point with this list. Peter is a very powerful being, but for all his strengths, he has some crippling weaknesses. There are two limitations to Peter’s power. First of all those he comes in contact with limit him. Since the powers he uses all come from sources outside of him, he can only have powers that others have. He will not increase in power by spontaneously generating abilities. Secondly, he is limited by his ability to recognize and use appropriately the power he absorbs. Claude taught him a great deal about controlling his abilities, but he simply hasn’t had enough practice. He took on Sylar, but wasn’t able to fight and control his own abilities at the same time, so he exploded anyway and couldn’t fly away. Furthermore, Peter isn’t depicted to have any important attributes aside from his powers. His heart, his innate empathy with the human condition (which makes him loving and loyal), is his only quality that seems to be of any importance, and even that is the natural reflection of his meta-natural power. Maybe Peter’s most obvious defect is that he was not raised to be a leader/fighter. Everyone assumed that Nathan would be the savior and the brothers were raised accordingly. Peter has emerged as the more powerful sibling, but Peter has only been using his powers and fighting the good fight for roughly six months. Peter is hindered by both his inexperience with his powers, but also his lingering discomfort with understanding himself differently than the way in which he was raised.

Up Next: Character/Moral Understanding

The TV Girl

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One Tree Hill (4.5): Lets Do the Time Warp.

I have moved from vaguely annoyed to irate. Last night’s episode was a continuous flash back taking place three years before the present action; those college years between Season Four and Season Five. We learned many interesting things, but it was difficult for me to pay attention to any of it for one reason. THE I-PHONE DID NOT EXIST THREE YEARS AGO! If it did, it was a proto-type in a test-center somewhere in California, not available for retail sale to assistant basketball coaches.

This show has always been flexible with time, so now I have to go through a chronological comparison. Seasons One and Two equaled one year of time (their junior year of high school), and Seasons Three and Four were one more year (their senior year). Therefore, the year on the show would actually be two years behind real time. The graduation episode aired in May 2007, but according to their internal timeline they would have been the class of 2005. Skipping over four years would make it 2009 for them. A flash back from 2009 to three years before would make it 2006. Therefore, NO I-PHONE! If someone wants to claim that their graduation date should be counted in real time (2007), then skipping ahead four years would make it 2011, and a three year flashback would take place in 2008. If this were true, then it would be conceivable that Lucas would own an i-Phone. But for this to be true, the premier of OTH would have to be set two years ahead of its real time air-date, which I don’t believe happened. I want someone fired over this. It is more than sloppy; it is an unbelievably unnecessary error. I understand that shows receive funding from companies, but when they use a product that has a very definite (and well publicized) release date, they destroy the suspension of disbelief. There will always be a viewer cranky enough to go through all the logistics I have to figure out what year it should be on the show in comparison to what year it is in reality-land. I could have spent this time dissecting the actual episode, I could have enjoyed the episode, but I was, and am, so irritated that I have been propelled down this thought path in the first place because someone is not paying enough attention to their job.

Okay, I’ve taken a few deep breaths, and can move on. I got the answer to my question from last week. We know what happened between Peyton and Lucas, and I have to wonder if she isn’t better off without him. First of all, you don’t propose because everyone around you is married. Second, you don’t propose because you feel like you are drifting away from each other. Third, and most importantly, if the one you propose to have perfectly legitimate reasons for saying “not now” (which is not the same as “no”), reasons like age, lack of defined careers or finished education, and conflicting opinions on where to live, then you listen to that person and respect their position, but you stick it out and fight for them. How is it possible that Lucas thought he wanted to be engaged immediately when at the first sign of difficulty he completely bailed on Peyton? Of course there is a male-ego thing involved here, but what a pansy! Who gives up like that? Why would she say yes to someone who behaves that way? Throwing your hands up like a total bitch means that your proposal wasn’t genuine in the first place, so you get no sympathy. (Side-note: now that we know Lucas was the one who gave Lindsay the bamboo in the first place, Lindsay giving it to Peyton is passive-aggressive BS.)

Apparently I’m mad about more than the chronology, but there is always next week. I am hopeful that Brooke gets a new love-interest soon, because I would hate to see her reduced to the meta-narrator. And I am eagerly awaiting the reveal that the nanny is bonkers.

The TV Girl

Rock of Love II: When Channel Surfing Goes Terribly Wrong

Ummm... All I can say is there must be some understaffed gentlemen's clubs in the world.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fictional Throwdown: The Matchup; Sam Winchester vs Peter Petrelli

In a fight who would win: Sam Winchester or Peter Petrelli? To answer this important question, and to prove why it is an important question, I need to retrace the steps I took to form it.

The starting point of all my intellectual speculation is Gilmore Girls. I watched this show on and off when it aired. I went through periods where I didn’t miss a single episode, and then I went through periods where I didn’t watch at all, and didn’t really care. Years passed but Lorelai and Rory didn’t really change, so it was fairly easy to pick-up and leave off at will. But I have a pretty good grasp of the show as a whole.

The second part is my attachment to three shows: Supernatural, Heroes, and Friday Night Lights. What these three shows have in common is that they star, or guest feature, one of Rory’s ex-boyfrineds. Jared Padalecki plays Sam Winchester on Supernatural, but before that he was Dean (I know, confusing because his bro on Supernatural is named Dean, but bear with me), Rory’s first boyfriend, whom she left for Jess (sort of a matter of debate). Dean got married, but he still loved Rory and they eventually slept together while he was still married. Milo Ventimiglia played Jess, who eventually left the show to star in a spin-off that never happened, and then made occasional appearances later on (kind of as Rory’s moral compass, which I found strange). Little Milo moved on (first to a show that was quickly cancelled called the Bedford Diaries, which also starred Penn Badgley of Gossip Girl) to become Peter Petrelli, the power absorbing murse on Heroes. Rory’s final major boyfriend was Logan (Matt Czuchry), the rich kid whose proposal she (stupidly) rejected in the second to last episode of the series. As I’ve already mentioned he has been doing a guest spot on Friday Night Lights. Logan is not really a part of my current thought process, but I felt unfair leaving him out. Obviously, it’s good to be Rory Gilmore’s ex; you don’t end up with a crazy mother-in-law, and you get to move on to badass shows.

The third step is actually tiny threads of thought that combined in the fourth step. When you see an actor you know from one show on a different show, it is only natural to compare the two characters, which in bits and pieces I did with both Jared Padalecki and Milo Ventimiglia.
I was initially reluctant to watch Supernatural, one because I don’t actually like scary things (I don’t watch horror movies anymore), and two because Jared was so entrenched in my mind as Rory’s Dean. Dean was the perfect high school boyfriend, sweet, attentive, considerate. He was hardworking, and just a decent guy. I wasn’t too pleased with the extramarital affair, and think that was a mistake on the writer’s part, but I digress. I just wasn’t prepared to see him fighting the forces of evil and all that, but one episode was enough to prevent me from sleeping for three nights, and to completely suck me into this show. And as time has gone on this show has become a larger and larger part of my viewing-life. I think about it more than any normal healthy person should, but I make no apologies for my obsession. And though Sam Winchester is a far cry from his previous character, I adore him. Sometimes you meet a character who gets a raw deal, but reacts so badly it makes you just want to punch them. On the rare occasion though you meet a character who gets an unbelievably raw deal, but reacts with such courage and determination that it makes you want to give them a hug. Sam deserves a hug. Can I be in mortal peril, please? Okay, not really.
Despite my previous criticism of Heroes, I am a big fan. My friend Luke’s endorsement, and boredom over the summer, convinced me to watch Season One, and I fell in love. Not with everything about the show (Ali Larter must die), but Peter, among others, stole my heart. Peter (and I really am talking about Season One, since Season Two is another issue) is so much different than Jess; selfless, loving, and stable, whereas Jess damaged, caustic, and indifferent (okay I really can’t forgive him for leaving Rory without saying anything, not even good-bye). Peter’s heart drives, and grounds, the show; he saves the world by making those around him better people, convincing them to sacrifice for what is right. Peter, in Season Two, seems a bit more like Jess; limited in his scope of comprehension and making moral pronouncements without authority. I still love Peter, and genuinely hope that the (possible) mistakes in Season Two will be rectified in Season Three.

The last step happened this morning. I switched on the TV this morning while I was eating my breakfast, and what popped up but a rerun of Gilmore Girls from the time of both Dean and Jess (it was the post-Dean breakup episode, he was returning things to her house). Looking at the screen I wondered why Sam was letting this little girl push him around, and if he had known then what he knows now Rory wouldn’t have dared to do what she did. (Can you tell I hadn’t had my coffee yet?) And as the opening credits played and as I blended characters past with characters present (this is where step three and step four collided) the question sprang into my head.

So, in a fight who would win: Sam Winchester or Peter Petrelli?

I intend to find an answer, but there are quite a few variables. You may think there is an obvious victor, but the more I think about it, the more complicated it gets. So I am going to break down the competitors over multiple entries. A winner can’t be decided without looking at all the facts. The categories are: personal attributes (including upbringing), character/moral understanding, and back-up. Let the games begin.

Note:
Please notice that acting talent is not a competitive category. This is an entirely speculative enterprise, so lets have fun with it.

The TV Girl

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ace Of Cakes: I Heart Geof!

Ace of Cakes is one of the three reality shows I indulge in. Amazing cakes and odd-ball bakers, how could I resist? But hands down Geof is my favorite baker on the show. He is one of the few people on TV that I would like to meet in really life. I think he would be fun to have a beer with.

The TV Girl

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friday Night Lights (9/9.5): And Now We Know; Don’t Steal Money From Meth-Heads.

Oh, a Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) heavy episode and I couldn’t be happier, even though what happened wasn’t so pleasant. While I always thought it was a well-known fact that you shouldn’t steal from drug dealers, no one told Tim Riggins. While the actual theft took place in the previous episode, the consequences played out last night, and considering that the meth dealer in question is shit-can crazy, it could have been so much worse for Tim. But, why can’t Billy (Derek Phillips) act like an adult until Tim is about to get killed? I really want Billy to just get it together. More importantly, how can Lyla (Minka Kelly) say she has no feelings for Tim when she, again, bails him out of trouble. And come on, he pulled out all the horrifying clich├ęs to tell her that he loves her and she just walks away? Tim gets an A for effort, and Lila gets an F for lying. I just hope Jesus-boy (Matt Czuchry) doesn’t get too hurt when she eventually ends up back with Tim. Now, does Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) still get to have the ex-girlfriend righteous indignation? I think that enough time has passed, and it is not Tim’s fault that she lost Landry (Jesse Plemons), so girl needs to let go of her anger. She keeps up blaming Tim for everything then she will become embittered like her mom, and she deserves better than that.

Speaking of Landry, Jean cracked me up. I know Landry is just trying to make Tyra jealous (and man did she take the bait), but he needs to give Jean some credit for taking an interest in Crucifictorious. And for showing her interest in front of the bozo-brigade, aka the Team, she deserves at least a date, if not a real chance. Landry needs to see that Tyra has residual Tim issues, so he should maybe take stock of his options.

On the unfunny side things: Smash Williams (Gaius Charles) keep your mouth shut! Hasn’t this kid figured out that (apparently) everyone in Texas, aside from the main characters of Dillon, is a raging racist? This is, for me, one of the less realistic elements of the show. My friend Marcey was watching with me last night, and she assured me that the show’s presentation of this issue is rather accurate, but I don’t quite buy it. Even so, he is not doing his sister any favors by shooting his mouth off at every turn, and wasn’t he trying to protect his sister in the first place? I can’t wait for next week, because I want to see what Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) is going to do with him suspended.

I said in my last entry about FNL that I missed Jason (Scott Porter). His return was better than I could have ever hoped for. No one gives an inspirational speech like Jason Street. I cheered out loud when he convinced that guy to buy the truck. Hell, I wanted to buy the truck. I am so glad to see Jason successful at something other than football, because he is too strong a person to remain self-pitying and lost for too long.

I understand why there isn’t a game in every episode, but I need my Panthers fix. Is it Friday yet?

Final Thoughts:

If you’ve never seen this show, I should say something about the format. It is shot using three cameras running simultaneously, so the angle of scene will move unexpectedly. It doesn’t look smooth and polished like other shows. This jumping around can take some getting used to, but the more you watch the more you see that every single shoot is crafted towards a specific purpose. If they aren’t showing a character’s face it’s for a reason.

I am not pointing out any note-worthy performances because FNL has the best cast on TV, hands-down, without a doubt, no argument. Every single person who appears on screen is amazing. I really have no way of describing how good these people are. Watch, and be blown away.

The TV Girl

Chuck (7.5): Emotional Constipation and Fake Fish...

There were two episodes of Chuck on Thursday night, and they were the last new episodes we will have until the Writer’s Strike ends. Given that fact, I am kind of upset that they aired both eps on one night, and not even Chuck’s regular night (Monday by the way). There were so many good things about these two episodes I think I might end up writing a novel here.

“Chuck vs The Undercover Lover”

Before I say anything else: all male strip poker? That was not what I was expecting.

I think that in this episode Morgan really came into his own. I like Morgan, but he became more than just Chuck’s best friend in his self-appointed role as “retail therapist.” Lester (Vik Sahay) and Jeff (Scott Krinsky) are just enough random/weird comic relief for the show, so I’m happy that Morgan is developing into a more independent character.

Since this episode focused on Casey, Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski)’s involvement was mitigated, and I think is a better balance than some of the other episodes. A huge part of the show is the romantic plot between Sarah and Chuck, and since that relationship won’t really change/move forward for a while (Writer’s Strike or not) the show could easily become pedantic. But by equalizing Sarah and Casey there is less of a chance for that.

I do have a criticism. The Casey/Ilsa story was fun, and Chuck’s determination to give it a happy ending was really sweet. It is a testament to what a good person Chuck is that he wants Casey to be happy. But having Casablanca actually playing during the first parting scene was overkill. Anyone watching who didn’t know what the plotline was based on, or the Ilsa reference, wouldn’t understand based on the snippet showing on a screen in the background, and those of us who understand are offended that the writers think so little of us.

Question: why were all of those Russians so short?

“Chuck vs The Marlin”

Woo-hoo for Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Awesome (Ryan McPartlin)! While I can’t personally understand why any woman would want to marry a guy like that, I am so happy for Ellie because now she doesn’t have to get drunk and sleep in the same bed as Morgan ever again. And Chuck knows that someone is always protecting her, so he has less to worry about. A very good think for my little Chuck, who just has too much on his plate.

And again, my slight problem with Sarah. I like her because Chuck likes her, but as explicitly stated in a previous episode, Chuck doesn’t actually know anything real about her. He knows that she is an excellent CIA agent, but his feelings for her seem odd to say the least, because they don’t have any honest emotional connection. Her desire to protect the life Chuck leads, separately from protecting his life as the Intersect, makes me like her more, but she hasn’t won me over yet.

There was something missing in this episode, and I just can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it is just knowing that there won’t be new episodes for the foreseeable future, or that the format was different (trying to follow a single thread from multiple perspectives). I don’t quite know, but I have a vaguely disappointed feeling.

Shout Outs:
Little Things to Know that Make Watching Better

Casey’s ex is Ivana Milicevic, better known as skank-bag extraordinaire from Love Actually, Casino Royale, and Just Like Heaven. Her standout performance for me was her appearance on one episode of Buffy tVS Season Six as Riely's wife. I knew I was in for something good when she appeared.

The TV Girl

Friday, January 25, 2008

Veronica Mars (9.5): Was it worth it (Season One)?

KP (http://asiankp.blogspot.com) asked me to write about Veronica Mars, specifically she ask me “was it worth it?” As everyone should know, Veronica Mars was cancelled at the end of its third season (May 2007), and I have to say, that was a sad day in my life. But, the fact that the show is over kind of gives me a little leeway, because I don’t have to be as careful about giving something away. I’m not going give just a plot summary, but I won’t check myself the way I would with an ongoing show. (Its killing me not to talk about Battlestar Galactic, but two very good friends haven’t seen Season Three and I don’t want to give it away for them. I have to figure out what I am going to do.) Also, since it is completed, I can answer KP’s question in three parts, one answer for each season. Each season was distinct, but they were not equal, and since all are out on DVD, you really can pick and choose what you want to watch (as if you don’t have that option already).

Season One of Veronica Mars was univocally worth it. I’ll give you my top five reasons why Season One is a standard by which all other television should be judged.

One: Veronica (Kristin Bell)
You know how watching House is in the end just watching Hugh Laurie be awesome, well Veronica Mars is kind of an analogous situation. All of the actors in Season One (and when I write about Season Two the distinction will become apparent) were good, some where really good. But Kristin Bell is fantastic. She lives and breathes her character so well that I never feel like she’s acting. Her performance isn’t lazy I-don’t-want-to-bother-acting acting, it is though out, determined but delicate, and respectful of the character. And the character requires nuance and love. Veronica is compelling but complicated. Season One relies on narrated flashbacks to fill in the back-story and the back-story necessitates Season One. (Tangent: Veronica Mars uses voice over for narration, and everyone should notice how it works, because then it will be very clear why the opining voice-over on Grey’s Anatomy is so very, very, very annoying.) Veronica is caught between the life she had before her best friend was murdered and the life she leads in reaction to that event. She is very intelligent, and though she has a strong sense of self, she struggles because she learns faster than she grows. Her maturity is tempered by her age, so she isn’t a smarmy know-it-all. She fails, and she gets it wrong sometimes.

Two: Wallace (Percy Daggs III)
Wallace is Veronica’s new best friend, whom she meets in the first episode. Wallace is kind, loyal, and social. On the outside he is the opposite of misanthropic, untrusting Veronica. His friendship keeps her both sane and honest. It is one of the few (if maybe only) portrayals of friendship between a heterosexual man and woman that never becomes romantic. Their friendship is better than any romantic relationship could be; demonstrating the Aristotelian principle that friendship is the highest form of love.

Three: The Plotting
Season One is immensely well plotted. There is one main premise; who murdered Lily? In addition there are two main sub-premises; where is Veronica’s mom and who date-raped Veronica? The answers to these three questions are intricately connected, and investigation into one leads to information about the others. The show is subtle and requires work. The viewer has to pay attention and process information at the same time as the characters. Rob Thomas (not the tool from the tool-band) created the show as whole season, not piece by piece, therefore there aren’t loose ends at the end. The plots fit together, and the viewer can logically deduce anything that is not explicated by a character.

Four: Mr. Mars (Enrico Colantoni)
I admit that I am a sucker for daddy-daughter storylines, but the relationship between Veronica and her father Keith is truthful and beautiful. Keith admires and encourages his daughter, but he struggles with his desire to protect her, and suffers when she deceives or defies him, as teenagers often do. Because his wife left, he is the sole parent, so at times he is in the awkward position of chastising and comforting simultaneously. Furthermore, Keith must act as a model for Veronica. His professional life is profoundly effected by Lily’s murder, and he must demonstrate to his daughter how to accept adversity with good-humor and resilience. He is motivated by his profound love for his child and always acts towards giving her a good life. Keith is one of the top five TV parents, if not the number one.

Five: The Humor
The themes of the show are grim; a young woman’s murder, infidelity, broken families, revenge, sexual assault, mental instability, racism. But the show is not depressing because the underlying assumption is that life is comic, not tragic. The show exists because wrong can be righted, human beings can endure and heal, and what is good will ultimately prevail. From this basis organic humor develops. While there is quick banter and comfortable repartee Veronica Mars is witty in a traditional sense. The dialogue is surprising and allows for connected movement between disparate ideas because the characters have a large world-view, and therefore their conversation encompasses more than their immediate perceptions. It is the natural wit of intelligent people, not the artifical wit of pop-culture drones. There are comic relief characters as well; Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) and Sheriff Lamb (Michael Muhney), and they are genius. Neither one is very smart, and both are kind of jerks, but they aren’t cartoonish, and both brighten any scene they grace.

I don’t think this even scratches the surface of my love for the first season of Veronica Mars. There are so many other elements that make this show not only worth watching, but necessary to watch. I hope this is enough to pique the interest of the unconverted, and for those of you who have seen it, I hope I did VM justice.

Shout Outs:
Little Things to Know that Make Watching Better

There are kind of too many of these to do. Kristin Bell has moved on to both Heroes and Gossip Girl. Jason Dorhing (my beloved Logan, and I don’t know how I wrote this whole thing without talking about him, but I have two more, so don’t worry, I’ll get to him) is on the CBS vampire drama Moonlight. Alona Tal (Meg) was on a few episodes of Supernatural. Kyle Gallner (Beaver) has appeared on many shows, including an episode of Bones and on (the detested) Smallville. Amanda Seyfried (Lily) is in the movie Mean Girls and on the show Big Love, as well as an episode of House. Max Greenfield (Dept. Leo) joined Ugly Betty. And Harry Hamlin, enough said.

Final Thought:
One of the joys of doing this is that I am learning about the way I watch TV. In the comments on my posts you can see KP and I are exchanging opinions on craft (also go to her blog to read one of the funniest evaluations of actors). I can tell a good actor from a bad one, and I appreciate talent when it’s available. But performance has really not been something I concentrate on too much; I am more attracted to story/character/themes. But KP is right; if I don’t pay attention to performance I am separating form from content, and I am a better-trained English major than that. I started here, and from now on I will make an effort to evaluate craft in respect to the shows I write about.

The TV Girl

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Tudors: I Was So Wrong!

This is what happened.  I watched The Tudors via Netflix, and so I watched the disks I was sent and wrote up what I thought and that was it.  Well, it turns out that there was one more episode, which I found out when another disk arrived in the mail.  It may be early for me to be recanting, but I was wrong: DO NOT WATCH THIS SHOW!  The season finale was disturbing, and borderline sick.  In one hour they undid any good they had built up in the previous episodes, and in the last scene crossed the line of decency (even for a cable show).  Please, please, stay away from this show. 

I'm now going to take my tenth shower, maybe soon I can cleanse myself of that last episode.

I am so sorry everyone.

The TV Girl

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Smallville (0): Please Explain

So I just have to ask: WHO WATCHES THIS SHOW AND WHY IS IT STILL ON?

One Tree Hill (5.5): Sexual Favors for Career Advancement, That Can’t Be Right?

I have followed the Tree Hillers fairly consistently, but not with utter devotion, since they arrived four seasons ago. If your looking for soapy drama, you could do worse. I am really impressed that the show creators had enough sense to skip over college, where most teen-based shows meet their very grizzly demise. Since it is one of the few shows on with a new episode that isn’t the very hated humiliation fest on Fox, there is no harm in talking about it.

We all should pause and bask in the glory that is K-Fed on primetime. Actor the guy is not, but I am wondering if he was actually singing, because if so, he could be a fairly pedestrian alt/rock singer. Anyone get a Daughtery vibe? This is not to endorse him as a visionary talent, just saying that rap might not have been his forte, and don’t we all deserve a second chance?

I have believed for a while, and now I am convinced that Skills (Antwon Tanner) is one of the overlooked comic geniuses of TV. There is nothing brilliant about his lines, but his delivery is phenomenal. More screen time for him would do wonders to balance the melodrama, which thankfully has toned down this season, but more Skills couldn’t hurt. Bring on the funny.

I have to wonder with Haley (Bethany Joy Galeotti); was Nathan (James Lafferty) trying to bring back the mullet? Doesn’t matter now, but what would it have been like if the show went in that direction? Maybe the return of Uncle Cooper (Michael Trucco) and the NASCAR circuit?

I have rooted for Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) and Peyton (Hilarie Burton) from moment one. I never like Lucas and Brooke (Sophia Bush), and didn’t watch the show during the actors’ real-life divorce because it just seemed weird and voyeuristic. Did I miss the moment when they explained why Peyton and Lucas aren’t together anymore? Am I simply to understand “life took them in separate directions?” Or is the marriage proposal teaser really a flashback? Since I have no doubt that Lindsey (couldn’t find her name on IMBd) will be out of the picture in the relatively near future, Lucas and Peyton will be reunited, and all will be righted in the One Tree world, I hope Lindsay goes out with some fireworks. I don’t know, fake pregnancy, uber-crazy destructive meltdown, arson, death, whatever. I don't want the melodrama to completely disappear. I hate seeing Peyton and Lucas apart, but I love the road to reconciliation.

But what must be addressed, more than maybe anything that transpired between 8 and 9 PM CTZ on The CW Network, is the horribly clique but fantastic Mouth (Lee Norris) and his boss storyline. Lets all say it together: sexual harassment lawsuit. This may be filed by Mouth when he eventually gets fired, or by the as yet unnamed coworker who gets beaten out for a job because the other guy is doing the boss. Either way, I am waiting with baited breath for this courtroom battle. And I don’t know if my reception is bad, but Alice (also not on IMBd) is not that hot, and doesn’t really look old enough to qualify as a cougar, but I’m splitting hairs. Mouth should know that having sex with the boss never ends well. I think it’s going to be fun to watch him learn his lesson.

Shout Outs:
Little Things to Know That Make Watching Better

This might not be fair, since he hasn’t been on the show since the beginning of the fourth season, but I mentioned Nathan’s Uncle Cooper, who is none other than the detested Sam Anders on Battlestar Galactica. As far a quality of show goes, he’s moved up in the world (even out to others worlds, hehehe), but quality of character is a whole other issue.

Final Thoughts:

I know I have seen the actress playing Lindsey, but I couldn’t find her name, and I can’t remember where I saw her. It’s driving me nuts.

The TV Girl

The Rating System: What Kind of Show Am I Talking About

So my dear friend KP has brought to my attention, via her comments on my posts, that I am not really making any distinction in the types of shows I’m writing about. Since I began this endeavor saying that there is a degree of quality to TV, then I should really be clear about what I think the quality is of the given show I’m writing about. It is really easy for me to take very seriously things that aren’t worth that much thought, so to check myself, and to make it easier for you, I have decided to make the rating system.

The Guilty-Pleasure: 3
A show that you know you shouldn’t watch, but you do.

The Why-Not: 4
A show that you spend a weekend with; your not sorry you watched it, but won’t re-watch it.

The Entertaining: 5
A show that is fun to watch but you shouldn’t take too seriously.

The Decent: 6
A show that has really good elements, but it doesn’t hold your interest over a long period of time.

The Good: 7
A show that is well done overall, but it doesn’t hurt if you miss it.

The Excellent: 8
A show that both deals with and leads you to think about more serious themes/issues, and you follow regularly. This doesn’t mean that it has to be all self-aware and dramatic in treatment, actually it’s usually better when it isn’t.

The Amazing: 9
A show that is so well done, interesting, and heart-capturing you never want to miss it.

The Life-Changing: 10
A show that is so amazing it well, changes your life.

These categories are not set in stone: I may find someday there are more; there are times when they shift and change over the course of a show; and almost every show has that one episode that defies expectation and precedent. But from now on I will put my rating next to the show title in the title of each entry. If there are any disagreements with my categorization of a show I would love to hear it (since virtue untested isn’t virtue at all).

The TV Girl

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heroes: Season Two Was Awful, What Do We Do Now?

Anyone going to argue that “Volume II” was horrendous? Anyone? Anyone? Didn’t think so. So many things were so bad, its like I don’t know where to start, or even if I should. Ok, I will.

The first thing that has to be said; waste of new talent! David Anders and Kristen Bell, two of the fraking best actors to grace the small screen and they were totally ridiculous. I was so happy to see David Anders as not a bad guy (I loved, loved, loved Sark, but I can watch Alias reruns for that), but it was like they had to make him a bad guy, like they couldn’t help themselves. They wanted to keep Hiro morally pure and Adam as the villain, but Hiro acted like a p.o.s and the whole locking the villain in a coffin thing was a total copout. Can you tell I’m angry? And then there is my Veronica. I still can’t really process that Veronica Mars was cancelled, and so I greatly anticipated Miss Bell’s arrival on Heroes. Aside from her amazing kiss with Peter, Elle was boring. (And that kiss showed just how boring the little bar hussy was.) There is enough Daddy-issue wining going on with Claire and HRG, so I couldn’t care less about what Bob did to Elle. They had a chance to have an amazing female character and instead they decided to have a crazy Claire.

Opposed to new characters that could have been great, there are the completely useless new characters. There was no reason for Maya and Alejandro, DL’s extended family, the Irish, and Bob. All these storylines were repetitive. What was the point of diverting attention from characters we actually know and love for the half-baked and redundant? Peter should be having a genuine crisis of conscience being locked up and befriending Adam, but Caitlin is the most important person in the human race?!? Matt’s dad takes Molly hostage, but he’s not really the dangerous one? There is no difference between reincarnation and regeneration? Killer eye sludge? Montreal?

This doesn’t scratch the surface of my displeasure. The logical loop created by Hiro’s Japanese vacation is so annoying it makes me see red. The complete disregard of the moral and philosophical issues that made “Volume I” interesting just makes me sad.

The real question for all of us viewers is; what do we do now? When the next volume starts, most likely in the fall, is there real hope that Heroes can pull itself together and be the show we all fell in love with. I think we can only answer this question if we know what we loved in the first place. For me, and I think for most people, it was the complicated relationships between the characters; Nathan and Peter, Matt and his wife, Hiro and Ando. The strengths and weakness of these interactions made Heroes more than an action show. For me, if Nathan is really dead then I will stop watching. I am not a fan of keeping characters that are useless, but Nathan’s moral ambivalence in tension with Peter’s empathy drove the show. If Nathan is really dead (but with the Claire’s blood thing, no one is really dead, AHHH!) then Heroes will have betrayed its premise of being a character based show, and when shows betray the audience, the audience should repay in kind.

The TV Girl

Friday Night Lights: Special Shout Out

Special Shout Out:
Little Things to Know That Makes Watching Better

This is a bit out of the ordinary, but I just had to share. I was watching the second season of Supernatural last night (more on that at another time) and there was not one, but two Friday Night Lights alums! Sam (Jared Padalecki)'s doomed girlfriend Jessica, who died in the first episode, was alive in the Its-a-Wonderful-Life type episode, and she is played by none other than Adrianne Palicki, who is Dillon TX's amazing Miss Tyra Collette. Jessica's death always makes me want to cry for Sam, but now it is so much worse. And in the next episode who should appear as Sam killing psychic Jake but Aldis Hodge, who as Ray "Voodoo" Tatum tried to take QB1 from Matt Saracen. I don't know which of his characters I dislike more. Okay thats not true, since I really do have to dislike more the guy who severed Sam's spinal chord and open a gate to hell.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Tudors: So when does historical inaccuracy turn into fiction?

In the name of a good story, how important is accuracy? Maybe the real question is what am I sacrificing to watch beautiful men take their shirts off? I swear I’m not talking about porn. I pondered these questions as I spent a very lazy Saturday with the first season of The Tudors (Showtime). I don’t claim to be any kind of Early Modern historian, but I know enough about the order of events, and what I don’t know I can glean from Wikipedia. There is allot to like about The Tudors, so I will try to contain my crankiness, and focus on the positive. One of the main things I like is that The Tudors refrained from cursing for a few episodes. After a while, you stop listening to characters when every other word they use is f**k (hint, hint Weeds). When Henry (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) swears at Catherine (Maria Doyle Kennedy) we see that there has been a radical shift in his character and that we have been watching it slowly take place. This kind of attention indicates that the show is crafted around its subject matter; the whole court is innuendo and evasion; nothing is said directly until it manifests itself in action. I like that what they are doing they are doing well. Another intriguing facet is that the only really sympathetic characters (by this I mean portrayed as actually good people) are Queen Catherine, and Sir Thomas More (Jeremy Northam). Both are given grace and dignity most versions of the Tudor era don’t grant.

Okay, enough playing nice. Princess Margaret (Gabrielle Anwar)’s storyline can’t claim to be just imaginative interpretation of events; it is just fiction. But it is entertaining and intriguing fiction. The relationship between Margaret and Suffolk (Henry Cavill) was great. They had amazing chemistry, and yeah, she murdered the King of Portugal to marry Suffolk, but she never becomes a raving lunatic caricature. He cheats on her all over the place, but he loves her as far as his own limitations allow. I actually felt genuinely sorry for both of them when she died. Despite all this, The Tudors’ version of Margaret is so divergent from history that it is really difficult to retain my suspension of disbelief. Why have that hideous voice-over about “the heart of the story” at the beginning of the credits when what follows is a story, not the story?

Essentially it is the lack of long term planning on the part of show creators/producers/whomever that bothers me. Henry VIII can only be a hot young man for so long, and depending on how far the show is willing and able to follow the dynasty, they are going to run into a huge problem in treating one of the monumental conflict of Queen Elizabeth I’s life: her execution of her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. Since it is doubtful the show will get to that point I should probably leave off my musings and enjoy the show. I can’t deny that I’m enthralled by it. But I had the same problem with Rome (I will be watching the second season next week). I couldn’t stop watching, even though there were points were I thought the names and the graffiti were the only things remotely truthful about the show. So is history just not interesting enough? I don’t know what kind of answer I would get from the series creator.

I guess if the good outweighs the bad, as in the case of The Tudors, I can sacrifice quite a bit.

The TV Girl

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Friday Night Lights: Living in Texas Should Be This Good

If your not watching Friday Night Lights, you should be. For beginners I would suggest going to E-Online’s “Watch With Kristin” column because she had a great article on which characters from FNL resemble other iconic TV characters, and she is fairly spot-on. If you don’t know anything about the show, or how to get into it, her advice will help. I rely on her for all my gossip and predictions. But, back to my point. Two days ago Tim Riggins went to tell Lila Garity that he still loves her, he brought her flowers, but she was kissing another guy (who happened to be Logan from Gilmore Girls, but anyway). Tim and Lila are meant to be together, and not because they are sweet and perfect. If you want that look to Matt and Julie of season one, but on to Matt in a minute. Tim and Lila are the couple that need each other because their lives just aren’t right without each other. Now, she cheated on Jason with Tim (and I have to say that I have never been Jason’s biggest fan, but these couple weeks without him, or with just a role on appearance, have made me realize that he brings a lot to the show, and I miss him.) and Tim is not the most responsible, or sober, guy, but they have a Buffy and Angel kind of necessity to them. The thing is, there isn’t otherworldy drama imposed upon them. They are real, flawed human beings. I can’t wait for next week, when (according to the preview) Riggins does declare himself. Everything is working against this kid, I love to see him fighting for something.
But Matt Saracen, how do I feel about you? The return of Landry/Matt banter was so welcome I could have cried. One of my favorite things about television is guy relationships and Landry/Matt are like in my top five favorite bromances of all time. How could Landry not know Matt was getting a whole lotta lovin from Carlotta? (Did anyone else question the ethics of an in-home care nurse having sex with the grandson of her patient, because I sure did.) The fact that Landry didn’t know anything about what Matt was doing really solidifies in my mind that Matt/Carlotta was not a good thing. I don’t want him back with Julie (she is kind of driving me nuts) and the cheerleader earlier this season was annoying, so maybe Matt should concentrate on football for a while.
I’m still pondering what I think about Smash and Noelle. It’s a tougher situation, and I hope they don’t just drop the storyline entirely.

Shout Outs:

Besides our old Gilmore friend Logan, a Veronica Mars alum grace FNL. And that was Weevil. I really hope that this guy can move out of what seems to be type-casting, because he is really funny. Even if he was playing the same kind of character, it was really good to see him.

Welcome TV Lovers

It was brought to my attention by many people that I know more about television shows than any healthy person should, and that I like fictional characters more than I like most actual human beings. Therefore, welcome to The TV Girl, where I will share with the world the hidden depths of shows you think you know, the joy of shows that make your week worth it, and the shows you missed. There are of course different types of shows; the guilty-pleasure, the distraction, the enjoyable, the fun, the decent, the good, the better, the amazing, and the life-changing. I have favorites in all categories, but I don't discriminate against a show just because it isn't in the same league as another.
I know that there is a writer's strike on, so this may seem like a really odd time to start a page about television. While I won't be able to write about season finales in the foreseeable future, but for me this is the perfect time to start. First, I have the time to talk about the shows that may have long since passed but are still very much alive in my heart (Buffy will never die for me). Second I get to catch up on shows that conflicted or broadcast on networks I don't have. I'm old-school, bunny-ears and a VCR, so TV on DVD and free online shows have really improved my existence.
There is something you everyone should know before they give me any more of their time. The shows I love, I love and I stick with them. The shows I ignore, I ignore and I have no guilt about it whatsoever. Aside from the occasional rant, I don't devote any attention to Grey's Anatomy ( I dabble in Private Practice for Chris Lowell), Desperate Housewives, Lost, any CSI's, most procedurals, most reality, and any game shows (don't fool yourself American Idol and Dancing With the Stars are game shows). In the end most things come down to taste, but there is so much TV out there to love I am not going to waste my time with what doesn't appeal to my taste, and you shouldn't either. For lover's of the above shows, I hope someone writes a page for you.

The TV Girl

Why Slackers and Losers Rock My Socks:

There are two shows that started in the fall of 2007 (this whole Writer’s Strike thing makes it hard to talk about seasons, since if there are not new episodes then the season is over and that technically makes Fall 2007 last season) that kind of caught my attention, and over time captured my heart: Chuck (NBC) and Reaper (The CW). I don’t know about anyone else, but I own up to the special place in my heart for underachievers. We all tear-up during the final game of inspirational sports movies, so don’t pretend you don’t root for the underdog as well. The tears I’ve shed watching these two shows have been tears of laughter. But, becoming attached to these shows got me thinking about why I would connect with these characters. I am a fairly upstanding person; I am a grad student, have a part-time job as a receptionist, pay rent, bill, and taxes, and I overall live a life at the level of functionality that is expected of someone my age. So what is my interest in two guys who are kind of losers? (Feel free at this point to have your own “aren’t girls always interested in losers” thought.)
Both shows started out with potential; their pilot episodes are good, but not spectacular. I actually had the rerun of Reaper’s pilot on last night, and it was great to see just how far they’ve come in so few episodes. And, I have to admit that the premise of each show is fairly ridiculous: computer geek becomes most important national intelligence resource because of an e-mail and his incredible memory (Chuck); shiftless minimum wage worker was sold before birth to the Devil and must be his bounty-hunter (Reaper). But watching, there is something undeniably attractive about these shows (and I’m not just talking about the adorableness of the leading men).
The first thing I noticed was the respective work places. Chuck’s Buy More is the fictionalized Best Buy, and Reaper’s The Work Bench is the Home Depot of the future, where they sell literally everything, all under the name of “home improvement.” You have a serious case of denial if you can’t see that these kinds of stores are taking over the world, and even if you don’t work there, you shop there. I know I do; Best Buy has great prices (I got the first two seasons of Bones for 40 bucks a couple weeks ago). Its nice to know that, at least in TV-land, it is much harder to work there than to shop there. The indignities the characters suffer working in such places are the kind everyone can relate to, without being that kind of over-the-top, for-the-love-of-pete-just-quit, stuff that happens on The Office (not knocking The Office, but that is for another article). Harry Tang’s maniacal torture of Chuck (Zachary Levi) while they were both vying for the assistant manager position was the funniest portrayal of a little man complex I have ever seen (and to find out later that Big Mike, the manager, was sleeping with Tang’s wife was priceless). Sam’s (Brett Harrison) manager at The Work Bench, Ted, is equally as ludicrous, but Sock (Tyler Labine) and Ben’s (Rick Gonzalez) pranks are so great that you want Ted to do more idiotic things so that they will have to get back at him. Chuck and Sam have something at their crummy jobs that we all wish we had at our crummy jobs (past or current): comrades. Chuck and Sam are fighting in the suburban equivalent of trench-warfare (I’m going to refrain from going into who the enemy is, management or costumer) and the only way to survive is with a loyal band of fellow fighters. Chuck’s other Nerd-Herders, and his best friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez) on the sales floor make the circumstances tolerable for Chuck, who by all rights should have a better life, while at the same time display the level of dysfunction necessary to remain sane in such a mundane job. It’s the same situation with Sock and Ben, but Sam has the extra bonus that they know about his after work activities, and help him; Chuck has to maintain two lives in order to protect both those he cares about and the governments secrets. These friendships subtly indicate that monetary success is not the measure of achievement, but it isn’t preachy. Both shows have confidence in the viewer’s ability to understand that friends who have each others backs is more rewarding than a fancy job.
I continued watching Chuck and Reaper because there is more going on than job related foibles. Both shows are about growing up, and taking responsibility for ones life and choices. Our culture is accepting a prolonged teenage-mentality for men. It’s more and more acceptable for men in their early twenties to live at home, or with multiple roommates in the same boat, and to spend more time figuring it out, or finding their path, or choosing a career. Both Chuck and Sam are aware they are part of the man/boy category and it is kind of the core struggle for them. For those of us who have already made these steps towards adulthood watching shows that deal with this is both relieving and reassuring. I connect with Chuck and Sam because I am young enough to still question my choices, but old enough to know that they are my responsibility to make. But, because the characters are older, and not actually teens, they have a more humorous outlook on their situation. Neither show delves into melodrama so often equated with the difficulties of maturity. Even when it is life-or-death (bombs, escaped souls), Chuck and Sam don’t indulge in self-pity or wining; neither allows for Dawson’s Creek syndrome. I love teen melodrama, but it would be very annoying for men in their twenties to act in such a way. Chuck and Sam are trying to become adults, in admittedly unconventional circumstances, but they don’t ask for pity. I root for them, and laugh with them, each week because even though they are starting a bit later, they are growing into good people. Growing up is funny, and laughing with Chuck and Sam helps me laugh at myself.


Shout-Outs:
Little Things to Know that Make Watching Better

Josh Schwartz, who created and produced The O.C., created and produces Chuck, and he did an amazing homage to his deceased show in the Halloween episode. Mr. Schwartz recreated Ryan and Marissa’s New Year’s Eve scene from Season One with Chuck and Morgan. The music, the movement, the lines, all identical, all brilliant. Brett Harrison was on The O.C. very briefly in season one as Summer’s love-interest (Seth and Sandy didn’t find him very funny). Also, Melinda Clarke (The O.C.’s badass Julie Cooper) guest starred as the Devil’s mistress on a recent episode of Reaper.

Adam Baldwin (Chuck’s Agent Casey) is my beloved Jayne from Firefly. I can’t help but smile every time I see him (even when he was a serial killer on Bones).

My heart skipped when Valarie Rae Miller (Original Cindy, of Dark Angel fame) snapped at Sock in the pilot of Reaper. Her smarts and sass have been sorely missed, and I hope they do more with her character on this show.


Final Thought:
How did I mention Bones two times in an article about entirely different shows?


Next On The TV Girl: Heroes Season Two- what was it really, and what do we do now?

The TV Girl