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

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Washington, DC, United States
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.

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Week-Long Fling: Doctor Who Seasons 1-3

It really only took me seven days to watch 3 seasons of this show. Isn’t funemployment grand?

My sister rented Season 1 of Torchwood and I watched it with her, and found myself intrigued enough not only to watch Season 2 with her, but also to watch all of the new Doctor Who available on Netflix Watch Instantly. (I am waiting for Season 4 in the mail.) More than anything, I avoided this particular franchise of geek-dom because the fans frighten me. They seem to be particularly, um, intense. (That really isn’t a very nice thing to say, but have you read some of those fan-sites? And in all fairness, I am nervous about most of the fans of shows I love. Those Supernatural people are terrifying.)

But I don’t watch that much of anything that doesn’t hold my attention in some way. (Don’t be fooled, I give up on shows that bore me.) I have been immensely entertained this last week. Honestly, I want to be a writer for this show, just so that I would get to write some really ridiculous stuff and make other people say it. It looks like fun. I think I would have the Doctor go meet Michaelangelo.

For those of you who have no idea what this show is about here is my simple summary. Don’t laugh, because before I actually watched, people would try to explain it to me, and I wouldn’t have any idea what they were taking about. The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords, an alien race with two hearts that live exceptionally long lives and can travel in both time and space using biological machines called TARDISes. When mortally injured, instead of dying, the Doctor regenerates into a new physiognomy, but is still the same person (pretty much), hence the seven actors who played the character in the original run of the series, and the two actors (so far) in the current series. He is the last because his race was destroyed in order to end the Time War with the Daleks, who were also entirely destroyed, except that a few survived and show up every so often. Therefore, lonely and just a bit guilty, the Doctor travels around time and space with a human female companion, meeting famous figures of human history and foiling the evil plots of destruction-bent alien races. Okay, that is the best I can do explaining the premise.

In Season One Christopher Eccleston plays the Doctor with a great deal of charm and gusto. The Doctor is regenerated into David Tennant at the very end of Season One, and he plays it just the slightest bit darker; still bright and appealing, but with a more dangerous edge. Billie Piper plays his companion Rose Tyler for Seasons One and Two, before she is trapped on an alternate Earth because a doorway between the parallel realties must be closed. Even though Rose is more sweet and loyal than particularly interesting, Rose’s “death” is actually quite sad, and made me cry. I much prefer Freema Agyeman’s medical student Martha Jones, the companion of Season 3. Rose was just a bit too lost for me. She lacked her own purpose, making her a somewhat flat character. Martha, on the other hand, was more fully developed as a person, more well rounded as a character. I wanted the Doctor to love Martha Jones. Maybe it was just that Rose seemed so much to belong to/with the Christopher Eccleston Doctor and less so the David Tennant Doctor, or maybe that Martha was funny and smart and loved him so much that it felt wrong for her to get hurt. It was so sad in “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood” that while human he fell in love with someone else and Martha had to accept it.

I wonder how I will feel about Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) as the companion in Season 4?

The ultimately redeeming factor of this show is that everyone seems to know just how hokey it is. It doesn’t feel like anyone is trying to pass this show off as deep, tragic, or relevant. The writers and actors seem to so enthusiastically embrace a spirit of light-hearted fun that the show is silly and engaging, rather than self-important or abrasive.

For me, one of the really fun things about this show is that it is kind of parade of “I’ve seen that person before.” In the sense of adjusting to David Tennant, that was kind of difficult for me. (It took a few episodes for me to stop holding my breath for him to be evil.) But otherwise the rotating door of guest stars is great: Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes both appear in very a-typical roles, Ian Holm and John Simm (from the BBC mini-series State of Play, which is much much much better than the American movie) are both fantastic as stages of the Master, ZoĆ« Wanamaker is delightfully devious as Cassandra, and even though the Doctor looses faith in her, I would vote for Penelope Wilton’s Harriet Jones. Almost every episode had someone I recognized, turning the viewing experience into a little bit of a game, without being all ostentatious about it (30 Rock I am talking about you). This show does make me wonder just how many British people are named Jones…

I will say that I am super annoyed that Jack is (or at least maybe is) the Face of Boe. That head is gigantic, how is Jack supposed to turn into that? For some reason, I find this little, possible, detail rather irksome.

If you are looking for some enjoyable science fiction that does not leave you with that horrible damn-the-universe-is-super-depressing feeling, this is your stuff. Want to ponder the mystery of human nature, then watch Battlestar Galactica.

The TV Girl

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer Suggestion: Legend of the Seeker

Hulu might have done me a great disservice, making so much TV so readily available. I have to believe that the only reason that I watched an entire season of a Saturday afternoon syndicated series is that it was all there right in front of me with just the click of the mouse. Otherwise I might have to do some soul searching.

I might have to do that anyway, because I immensely enjoyed Legend of the Seeker.

There is nothing terribly ground breaking about this show. The adventures of Richard, (the first true Seeker in a thousand years) Kalin (the Confessor pledged to protect him) and Zed (the Wizard guiding him) employ most of the tenants of fantasy/hero-quest stories: the emergence of a hero who didn’t know he was one; love that cannot be express because it will be a detriment to the greater good; a villain attempting world-domination; wise-cracking side-kicks/friends; detours due to mistaken identities, lost weapons, temporary capture, double-crosses, prophecies, spells and enchantments; and random people with all kinds of special powers.

Even though you can guess what will happen next (and might occasionally be thinking that you have seen the same thing a million times already), and most of the dialogue is slightly ridiculous, there is an infectious zeal in the show. You want sweet and noble (but not smug or goody-two-shoes-boring) Richard to vanquish the almost cartoonishly villainous Darkn Rahl with the Sword of Truth. You kind of can’t help laughing along with Zed’s bad jokes. Kalin’s semi-angsty intensity can get a bit irritating, but she makes up for it by being all knife-wieldy and having the ability of mass murdering with her mind (but yes, she is one of the good guys). Without the perceived and highly debatable metaphysical depth of something like Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time, this show is freed from any self-importance or weighty “mythology.” Therefore the viewer is given a chance to enjoy fast-paced and funny little stories interspersed with decently choreographed fight scenes, without being bored by pedantic metaphor.

I have to admit that I found the final episode of the season a bit anti-climactic. Sometimes that is the way of things; is the epic battle ever really all that epic? Granting that, I was still a bit disappointed, and am hoping that they do something really cool in the coming season to make up for it.

Okay, planning to watch the upcoming season means it is definitely time for some soul-searching.

The TV Girl

Summer Suggestions: Fringe

Sometimes it is nice to be wrong.

It is no secret that I have a somewhat strained relationship with J.J. Abrams. I cannot truly dislike someone who gave me Felicity and (the first two seasons of) Alias but I would rather be stuck in a room with a rampaging chimp than watch an entire episode of Lost.

So a couple of months ago I was struck by some serious nostalgia and borrowed Dawson’s Creek from a friend and all my love for Pacey came flooding back. As I rode the tide I decided to give Fringe a chance and watched all the episodes available online at the time. I was interested, but not quite hooked. There were many elements I enjoyed, but once bitten twice shy, so I was resistant to growing too attached. A while ago, trolling Hulu for something to watch, I decided to catch up on the end of the season. (Star Trek softened me up a lot on my Abrams issues.)

And I am so glad I did.

There is two big reveals in the season finale: one very personal, one very universal. The personal one an observant viewer will have guessed based on hints throughout the season, but even if you know what it is, the moment is still so poignant it will make you cry. The universal one is genuinely surprising and I can only hope is handled with delicacy and thought in the coming season.

The joy of joys on Fringe is Walter Bishop (John Noble), the mentally unstable, genius-man-child, scientist. While keeping dark secrets from his past, because he cannot remember, (but we know he remembers more than he is admitting to) Walter explains unimaginable scientific phenomenon, usually through some association to his favorite foods. It is hysterical and tragic all at the same time.

The slow progression of healing between Walter and his son Peter (Joshua Jackson) is heartwarming without being overtly manipulative or soppy. Peter has lived a life of duplicity and avoiding responsibility, due in large part to his anger at what he perceives as his father’s abandonment, but week by week he grows to see his father more as a person and less as a monster. The lovely symmetry is (of course) as he must act more like the parent Peter becomes a better child.

Olivia Dunahm (Anna Trov) took a while to grow on me. Initially she behaves very much like the beautiful-but-brilliant-and-tough-as-nail-with-emotional-complications type of female law enforcement agent that litters the TV landscape at the moment. Once the storyline involving her former partner wraps up and her unintentional involvement in “The Pattern” begins to be revealed she emerges as more of a character and less of a type. Her cool and slightly sarcastic persona plays really well with her boss (Lance Reddick) as well as with fellow FBI agent Charlie.

The death of this show will be ANY attempt to unite Peter and Olivia in a romantic relationship. Not only do the actors not have that kind of chemistry whatsoever, but also considering the “history” between Walter and Olivia, it would be really ridiculous for any sort of functional romance between her and his son. I vote for Peter and Astrid, the FBI agent who assists Walter in his lab.

Unlike with other shows, the best I can hope for is that Fringe will maintain internal logical consistency, because I doubt it will ever actually make sense. I don’t grope around for “big answers” in the way I did during the last season of Battlestar Galactica, leaving me free to just enjoy the scary stories and light banter.

This show will be near the top of my viewing schedule in the fall.

The TV Girl