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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Please Tell Me You’re Watching: Life Unexpected

“Pilot” “Home Inspected” “Rent Uncollected” “Bong Intercepted” “Turtle Undefeated”

Because I am slowly but surely falling in love with this show.

First of all, do you see how pretty my city is? If I wasn’t actually living in Portland at the moment I would be so homesick seeing all the shots of the bridges and downtown and the tree-lined streets. How can you not be jealous?

Hometown pride bragging aside, Life Unexpected seems to be on its way towards becoming a delightful and heartwarming family-drama. 15-year-old Lux (Brittany Robertson) is placed in the custody of her birth parents Cate (Shiri Appleby), a radio personality, and Baze (Kristoffer Polaha), a bar owner, after the court rejects her petition to become an emancipated minor. In the first five episodes we have met the extended family: Lux’s boyfriend Bug and best friend Natasha; Cate’s radio co-host and secret/not-so-secret fiancĂ© Ryan (Kerr Smith), her many-times married mother, and her ego-maniacal sister; Baze’s long-time friend Math, who teaches at Lux’s school, his employee/friend Jamie, and his affluent parents with whom he has a bit of a strained relationship.

One of the best aspects of this show is that all of the characters are flawed but not in the aren’t-we-so-quirky way. As much as Lux wants the parents she suddenly has in her life, she is understandably hesitant to trust the people who gave her up at birth, and she is only just becoming aware that the defense tactics she employed to keep herself safe and sane in the foster-care system have consequences when applied to people who care about her and are trying to do what is best for her. Cate often blunders into upsetting Lux, her insecurity and long-term habit of avoiding personal attachment spurring her into overcompensating behavior and artless choices. Baze is the maturity-deprived man-child that our society is breeding like rabbits, but the responsibility of sudden paternity has impressed upon him the need to grow up, which will probably be a long process. Lux is resourceful and independent, but she has as much growing to do as her parents, whom it would be easy to deride for their imperfection. On both sides of the familial equation is the most important attribute: effort. All of them want to be a family, so they try again after each setback. And effort is what real families need to survive.

Of course, Life Unexpected is young and new. There is always the possibility that these characters won’t grow, that repetitive storylines will sink the series into stagnation, and that everyone will be exposed as ultimately selfish and weak. But growing pains and fine-tuning notwithstanding, all indications are that this show can be enjoyable and interesting for the foreseeable future.

The TV Girl

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Top 5 Favorite: TV Meta-Reality

The prevalence and relevance of pop-culture references is a badge of honor for many TV shows; both helping to confirm that the created-reality of fiction is approximate to the real-reality it mirrors, as well as distinguishing the characters who are aware of topics and trends from those who aren’t. I have a special place in my heart for the moments when TV characters talk about actual TV shows, because it can be such a wonderful moment of meta-reality, fiction that incorporates fiction that is really created in the real world.

Sheldon, The Big Bang Theory

The geek-gods of TBBT talk about TV and movies quite a bit, but in last night’s episode (The Large Hadron Collision) Sheldon truly outdid himself. Angry with Leonard for planning to take Penny to Switzerland to see the world-famous super-collider, Sheldon responds to Leonard’s invitation to play a car game with the suggestion that Sheldon will name famous traitors throughout history and Leonard can rank them in order of the heinousness of their crimes. In the second round Sheldon offers Rupert Murdoch, Darth Vader, and Leonard. When Leonard asks Sheldon why Rupert Murdoch is on the list, Sheldon’s answer is simple: “He owns Fox and Fox cancelled Firefly.” In his unbelievably crazy way, Sheldon spoke up for all of us who are still holding a grudge (7 years later) against network buffoonery that deprived the world of more outlaws-in-space glory, and all it takes to make this case is a fictional character commenting on a real person’s treatment of fictional characters.

Dwight, The Office

Near the end of Season 3 Michael assumes that he will be getting a promotion to the corporate office in New York that he, and others, are interviewing for. Therefore, because he is the smartest man ever, he bids farewell to his Scranton-based employees and names Dwight as his successor. Dwight now has a problem, namely, who will be his number 2? But have you forgotten that Dwight is always prepared? He knows whom he wants to do for him what he did for Michael: “My ideal number 2? Jack Bauer. But he is overqualified, … and fictional, … and unavailable.” How brilliant is this? Not only do we find out that Dwight watches 24, but we as an audience get to imagine Kiefer Sutherland in a mustard-yellow short-sleeved button-up shirt, and because the small scene is so well written, with “fictional” as the middle disqualification, it takes us just the barest second to realize that a fictional character is recognizing the fictional nature of a character on another real TV show.

Giles, Buffy

Somewhere in Season 5 (I can’t remember where exactly, but now I will start re-watching from the beginning in order to figure it out), the Scooby-Gang poses a question to their fearless guider: “how bored were you last year?” Giles’ response has become one of the most memorable of Buffy lines: “I watched Passions with Spike.” This is the most un-Giles-like Giles-statement in the entire series, and is an amazing example of using fiction to illuminate other fiction: we know just how lost Giles was without a job (either as librarian or Watcher) because he spent his time watching the ridiculous dregs of daytime television. With one line, anyone who has seen even two seconds of Passions, THE WORST SOAP OPERA EVER, immediately recognizes that Giles was in the depths of one of the scariest existential crises in Buffy.

Lester, Chuck

As a show Chuck is riddled with sly in-jokes, allusion to TV and movies, and tributes to geek-dom. Personally, I love the scene in Season 1 where Morgan and Lester are playing the “name-that-show” game on the TVs at the Buy-More. During the battle-royal, both need only a brief glimpse to correctly identify their target. They name each show so quickly that I missed it the first time I saw the episode, but Lester takes a second to comment on one of his answers: “The O.C. Season 2, highly underrated.” More than a beautifully self-serving defense of another of Chuck producer Josh Shwartz’s shows, Lester’s fandom gives a funny little bit of dimension to the character that up to that point was just kind of creepy.

Abed, Community

Abed is obsessed with TV and movies, to the point where he recasts his friends in “roles” from whichever show/movie he is currently fixated on. At first I found the whole conceit a bit off-putting, it seemed like it could be a comedy-version of Dawson Leary’s immensely annoying movie addiction, but I was totally wrong. As a character Abed allows Community to both discuss objectively and participate subjectively in the nature of created reality. A fictional character is told by other fictional characters that he is confusing fiction with reality, but his awareness of the difference of between other-created-reality and his own real-created-reality forces the audience to ponder whether Abed is very confused, or much smarter than the rest of us. And them. See?

Honorable Mention:

Quinn, Daria
On a road trip with Daria to bail Jane, Trent, and the rest of Mystic Spiral out of a small-town jail, Quinn says one of those things that makes us realize that she isn’t all bad: “We can be home in time to watch Buffy.”

The TV Girl

Monday, February 8, 2010

Please Tell Me You're Watching: Castle

Sometimes someone else says (most) of what you want to say before you get around to saying it, therefore, I would like to direct your attention to TWoP's article on Castle, one of the most entertaining shows on TV currently.

(Click on the post title.)

The TV Girl

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chuck: God I Love This Season!

“Chuck vs the Pink Slip,” “Chuck vs the Three Words,” “Chuck vs the Angel de la Muerte,” “Chuck vs Operation Awesome,” Chuck vs First Class”

Just to get my piddley complaints out of the way, I must say that I miss Anna (Julia Ling) and I am sorry Emmett (Tony Hale) got shot in the face in the first episode (even though he was a total wanker). But I think that we can all live with these losses.

Okay, now to get my minor quibbles out of the way. I know that no true Chuck fan is supposed to say this, but I don’t like Sarah very much, and kind of hope that Chuck ends up with a much better girl, therefore, all of the state-of-our-relationship-talk/profession/rambling in the first two episodes was kind of boring to me (really, how many times can Chuck tell Sarah that he is in love with her!). I won’t harp on this too much, since I am know I am in a very small minority here of people who think Sarah is an emotional barnacle who messes up her job on far too many occasions. I enjoyed the 3rd, 4th, and 5th episodes where there were far fewer declarations of undying devotion and much more super badass spy-ness/retail misery.

Spy-ness/retail misery that involved Armand Assante as the funniest 3rd World dictator ever, a little more of Casey’s background, the most pathetic fight-club in history (started in the Buy More by Jeff and Lester, of course), and multiple in-flight battles where Chuck held his own.

Chuck being given a bit of independence is what is a huge part of what is making this season so good. Two seasons was about as far as they could keep up Chuck-as-idiot-savant-on-a-leash shtick, so it was about time the government trained him up and required him to live up to his potential (in all senses). The more-confident-and-capable-Chuck might give Casey and Sarah less to do as his handlers, but the possibility that Chuck will get to someday use his sweet nunchuck moves kind of makes up for that. I never thought I would say this about anyone who played Superman (my least favorite super-hero), but Brandon Routh’s Daniel Shaw might be just what this show needed: an outsider to set Team Bartowski in place for a future on more equal footing. But, Chuck will still barely hold a gun, so it isn’t like he has changed that much.

For me, the best thing about this season is that it has shown Awesome as more of a fallible person. Completely unable to lie and susceptible to fear in the face of danger, when kidnapped Awesome proves to be simply a decent guy who just wants to do his job, take care of his wife and take a ride on a stationary bike. It was nice to see the admiration grow between Awesome and Chuck as each recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of the other.

Keep it up Chuck!

The TV Girl

Monday, February 1, 2010

Top 5 Favorite: Couples

The Doomed: The Depressing Endings of the Couples I Wanted So Much to Make It.

I think that I’m cursed, because if I root for a couple it is like they HAVE to break-up, or someone has to die, or something. So this list isn’t nearly all of the unsuccessful romances I have witnessed and mourned over the years, but it is a sample of the ones I find particularly unfair.

Willow Rosenberg and Oz, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In all fairness, every couple in the Buffy/Angel-world ended in a way that ranged from terrible (Xander and Cordelia) to tragic (Wesley and Fred), and I feel so sorry for all of them (except for Riley, because he was kind of lame, and my sister will kill me if I express any sympathy for him, she really hated him). For me the one that really hurt was Willow and Oz, because after all their cuteness (he first notices her when she is dressed as an Eskimo!), Willow couldn’t forgive Oz for the same thing that he forgave her for. As a viewer I would like to just have the finality of death (character or series) rather than the lingering disappointment of an inglorious end to a wonderful relationship full of wit and mutual respect. On the other hand, maybe I shouldn’t be so sad, since Tara was the love of Willow’s life, but I would counter that as a couple Willow and Tara were very deeply in love, but boring, while Willow and Oz were both in love and fun.

Daria Morgendorffer and Tom Sloan, Daria
Don’t you dare try and tell me that Daria is just a cartoon, because I shed legitimate tears every single time I watch the series finale and Daria breaks up with Tom. They might be 2-dimesnional, but Daria and Tom were the intellectually matched and temperamentally complementary couple that rarely (Loch Ness Monster-type rare) happens in high school. Tom brought Daria out of her shell a bit, patiently persuading her into interacting with the world, and Daria curtailed Tom’s potential for pretension, keeping him honest and grounded. Therefore I find it even more distressing that they break-up for entirely legitimate reasons (they are going different colleges), because I can’t even block the sadness with righteous indignation over the logic. Like Veronica and Logan (see below), I believe after college Daria and Tom got back together, got married, and had attractive and sarcastic babies.

Chris and Jal, Skins
I have to tell you that Chris dies in the second to final episode of Series 2, and in the next Jal aborts their baby. You should know up front, the spear you see hurts less as they say. The majority of Chris and Jal’s relationship takes place in one episode (Series 2, Episode 5, “Chris”) in which rather a lot of time passes, so in that one episode they not only get together, but Chris cheats on Jal with his ex Angie (skank), and Jal finds out that she is pregnant but doesn’t tell Chris about it when she takes him back. Given all this you might question my judgment for putting them on this list, but trust me that in the short time that Chris and Jal have together the love of each makes the other a better person: Jal give Chris both the encouragement he needs to take responsibility for himself and the forgiveness he needs when he fails, while Chris breaks through Jal's family-disappointment-induced isolation and pessimism. Chris’s storyboard of Jal’s importance to him is both sincere and endearing, Jal’s agony over her pregnancy and subsequent choice is terribly compounded by first her fear of loosing Chris and then his death, Chris’s private tears after Jal tells him that she intends to terminate her pregnancy are a heartbreaking expression of how much he loves her, and Jal’s honest and hope-filled eulogy at Chris’s funeral demonstrates how much she has changed. Chris and Jal are the kind of couple about which people would say, “it is better to have loved and lost.”

Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls, Veronica Mars
This is a perspective thing. In my heart, someday in the future of Neptune California Veronica and Logan find their way back to each other. As far as actually produced television episodes tell us, the last we see of LoVe was a longing look passing between the two as he apologizes for beating the crizap out of her current boyfriend Piz in the name of defending her honor. I should take my terminology from the source itself. Logan describes their relationship better than I could: epic.

Kara “Starbuck” Thrace and Lee “Apollo” Adama, Battlestar Galactica
Similar to Buffy/Angel, BSG seemed to be littered with broken-hearts and battered connections, and the human/not-human question diminished the already fairly low odds for a happy ending: Roslin takes her last breath resting her head on Bill’s shoulder; Cally and the Chief were a mutually abusive mess before she got tossed out of the airlock by Tory; and “dysfunctional” doesn’t even begin to describe Tigh and Ellen. Therefore, I can’t say that I was surprised that Kara died for the second time in the series finale. Furthermore, the simple fact is that Lee and Kara really never had any chance (their first kiss took place while her fiancĂ©, his brother, was passed out drunk on the couch), so it would have been somewhat disingenuous for them to have the same future as Helo and Athena, but I still wanted that for them. Despite his perpetual identity crisis and her un-paralleled self-destruction, Lee and Kara remained devoted and caring to one another; friends in a way that neither was with their spouse, able to empathize or admonish as the situation called for.

The TV Girl