Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SWF Seeks Decent TV Recap Site

I wrote a blog a while ago regarding the demise of the Television Without Pity website. The nice thing is that people are reading it and people are agreeing with me.

Lately, I've had some downtime at work and have been reading old recaps. I've tried to read the new ones but I'm finding them increasingly sloppy and dull. I'm disappointed in the writers I used to enjoy. M. Giant, for example, has been assigned to The Office. This should be a good thing but, unfortunately, he seems a little bored by the show. I've enjoyed his recaps of 24 and Six Feet Under in the past and he's funny. He always had just the right amount of snark to be witty but not enough to seem cruel. However, his recaps of The Office are, frankly, boring. I'm disappointed. One of my favourite things to do at work when I have a break is read about my TV shows. Entertainment Weekly has a pretty decent TV Watch column that recaps shows but like TWOP, it's hit and miss. Their Office recaps leave a lot to be desired, mixing up cutesy with entertaining. The writer, Whitney Pastorak likes to refer to readers with annoying terms like Binder Clips. That gets old really quickly. Also, Whitney also doesn't always seem to watch the same show as the rest of us and her recaps often miss the funniest moments of the episode as well as not finding it funny when it is.

So, I turn to TWOP for a recap instead. Unfortunately, lately, it's a little like reading a synopsis of the show with none of the witty snark I once loved about this site. Yes, I want to know what happened on the episode but I've previously relied on the recap writers to laugh about or be annoyed about the show with us. Where's the clever humour that we used to get?

Speaking of Television About Pity, I think it's time for Jacob to get a better editor. I don't watch Ugly Betty regularly but I like to follow it if I miss it anyway. It's a cute show. Entertainment Weekly has stopped including the show on their TV Watch. I missed an episode and thought I'd turn to TWOP for their recaplet, just to see what I'd missed. I didn't want the full recap, I just wanted to know, in a nutshell, what had happened. Unfortunately, it lead to this recaplet (you might have to click on the URL at the top of the page to get the recaplet in a nutshell to which I'm referring). I've never been a fan of Jacob's recaps, I think he waffles and has pretentions that he's writing great literature. However, he used to be a little better edited so that his soapbox speeches and monologues about being gay weren't so blatant. We get it, Jacob. You're gay. You're proud. How exciting for you. Could we now have a recap in which we don't have to read about it AND in which we can actually understand what you're saying about the show? You want to grandstand, do it on your own blog. Let us read a recap of a TV show on Television Without Pity, ok?

Yes, I'm a little bitter. As I mentioned in my original post, I used to want to write for this show. Part of the reason I thought about doing a TV blog in the first place was to give back from the days I'd loved TWOP. Yet I don't want to copy them or do recaps of my own because it was once an original idea and I don't like to steal ideas like that.

I think my biggest problem with TWOP is that they don't always replace recappers when it's time. Occasionally, a recapper gets burned out and it shows in their writing. The recapper still stays on a show but the readers become subject to venomous and hate-filled posts about a show that really isn't that bad. As I pointed out before, there's a fine line between snark and bitterness. This reluctance to replace recappers has been going on even prior to Bravo's buyout of the site.

The best example is the former recapper known as Pamie. She was a recapper for Gilmore Girls. I've been reading past recaps since I'm rewatching the show and I have to say, she went from being funny to just being tiresome. In the beginning, she loved the show and her recaps were fresh, funny and well-observed. Somewhere around the third or fourth season, her love turned to hate and we readers were subjected to recaps in which she complained she was bored. These recaps became filled with important details from Pamie's life such as what was in her handbag, what music she was putting on her iPod and the inane and dull details of her upcoming wedding. She would give us this information under the guise that the show was too boring to recap.

The thing is like every job, if you hate it that much then leave. Seriously. The culmination of Pamie's loathing came during a recap for a Gilmore Girls episode in which she bitterly informed readers that she'd received a lot of emails that irritated her, that complained about her recaps. She even posted a couple of the emails which, for the most part, were dead-on in their accuracy and were polite and extremely kind. Unfortunately, rather than face the truth about her writing, Pamie launched into a recap that she wrote in two parts- her own embittered, dull and cruel writing and the voice of Stac(e)y, a fictional fangirl who adored the show. The problem was that Stac(e)y was an insult to all of the readers: She spoke in fangirl talk, using acronyms, exclamation points, and text speak. She gushed about the show and provided a thinly veiled cover for Pamie's own bitterness. It was insulting to the readers and rather than provide a snarky and clever retort as I think Pamie intended, it made her look ridiculous and proved that she could not take criticism. She finally 'left' her job a couple of recaps later under the pretense that she was too busy. My opinion is that the editors FINALLY realized it was time for her to move on. They were a little late; Pamie's moderate success as a novelist and screenwriter had allowed her ego to grow to the point where I think they couldn't control her. I could be wrong but read the recaps and you'll see what I mean.

Yet this inability to take criticism is echoed throughout the site, from Jacob's recaps to the forums. For a site that takes pride in mocking the work of other writers and loves the freedom of speech, the forums certainly don't reflect that. Forum posters are strictly bound to rules they must follow in order to be 'permitted' to participate. They can't insult or mock the writers because otherwise they'll be banned. The forums are so heavily moderated that it is impossible to have a good discussion about a show anymore.

I know I said most of this before in my earlier post but I've had a lot of supportive emails from people who've found me and agree with me. While I think the Bravo takeover drained the soul from the site completely, I think it was already in a decline before. The Bravo buyout hasn't done them any favours, it's a mishmash of videos and blogs that are hard to get through. They recently completely irritated me by listing "Love Actually" as one of their worst Christmas movies. "Love Actually" is fantastic. It's funny, poignant and brilliantly poignant. The ensemble cast is smooth and the moment where Andrew Lincoln's character holds the posters up for Kiera Knightly's character to tell her he loves her is one of the sweetiest non-sappy moments in any romantic comedy.

This post is really not to serve any purpose but to rant about the lack of decent TV recaps on the web anymore. If anyone has another site to point me to, I'd greatly appreciate it. I really want to break up with Television Without Pity because it just doesn't fill my compulsion to follow up on my TV shows anymore. I know TV is a vice but it's a vice I love. I love to talk about it, read about it and learn about it. I used to love to read the recaps but that love is fading fast and I don't want to lose it completely.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment or complain; I promise not to be passive-agressive and write a post mocking you for it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Knowing the Truth About Denny Helps...Just a Little

I cheated. I know why Izzie is seeing Denny on Grey's Anatomy. I'm glad I cheated. I can't say it makes it much better but it helped. A lot.

I read a lot of entertainment news. I try to avoid spoilers unless they're staring me in the face. That happened today. I went on Entertainment Weekly's website to see which movies were opening this weekend and there it was, the Michael Ausiello scoop on why Denny is back on Grey's. If you don't want to know, don't read any further because I'm going to spoil it. But I guarantee, if you do know, it will make it slightly more bearable.

That's what happened for me tonight. According to Ausiello, Izzie has some kind of brain problem that isn't a tumour but, rather, some form of aneurysm that causes her to see visions of Denny when it acts up. Knowing this made the show suddenly more bearable. It doesn't mean I like Izzie because, as I've said before, I don't. I've tried. It's not happening.

But it gives the sudden appearance of Denny a somewhat logical explanation which sometimes I don't need but when it comes to TV shows, sometimes I need those. It doesn't mean I think it was a good idea to bring Jeffrey Dean Morgan back to play Denny yet again. Surely there must be some other show he can go be killed on; he's got quite a history, what with his turns as Dead Hero on Grey's, Weeds, Supernatural and in the movie "P.S., I Love You."

But at least it means that Grey's isn't strolling into CBS's Ghost-Whispery territory. That's something, at least.

I'm not going to change my mind about the way this season is going though. Tonight's episode didn't make me happy. I don't like that there's suddenly a magical vent in Seattle Grace that brings a sudden calm and need for kissing. There's enough places that inspire the need for kissing in that hospital already, we definitely don't need another one. I don't like that Dr. Hunt has now completely gone from being Interesting New Guy Who Might Actually Do Something Other than Make Out with Another Doctor to being New Guy Who's Already Kissing Another Doctor. I don't like that Erica Hahn left Seattle Grace because Callie couldn't completely commit to being gay and yet has been replaced by the ultra-annoying, Sadie. Especially when I can't help but notice that occasionally in an effort to be sexy, Melissa George can look remarkably like a hamster.

I also don't like the new heart surgeon with Aspergers because I think the actress is overdoing the disorder. Aspergers is a very mild form of autism but it is not autism. Asperger's sufferers are usually highly functional. As far as I know, it doesn't make the afflicted person lose all humanity and blurt out inappropriate statistics related to organ donation in front of an obviously suffering family. Yes, the need to concentrate on statistics might be there and that the usual filter that prevents people from put their foot in their mouth is lacking but it doesn't make the person forget how to be human and ignore every obvious clue that the family is not ready to hear the diagnosis, especially in such a cruel and heartless manner. Also, if she was that incapable of understanding humans, how did she make it through med school? I get that she's the best of the best BECAUSE she's so focused on the science and facts of medicine but I doubt a doctor like that would be interacting with patients when it's clearly offensive and rude to the patients. Yes, understanding disabilities and treating those with disabilities no differently to non-disabled people is important but when it comes to causing borderline emotional harm or devastation to a family, I think it's time to get her off the floor. I'm proud of Meredith for kicking her out of the room. I'm actually proud of Meredith for the way she's grown this season, actually, even if she and Derek have almost no screen time anymore.

And as for Lexie and Sloan, well, I went from thinking Lexie was just a complete drip to now thinking she needs to go away. I feel like this season, the writers are not watching the same show that we are. It's painfully obvious that Callie and Sloan are good for one another. They're good at sex, they're good at being friends. That's an obvious pairing. But no, for some reason, the writers keep throwing Lexie at us, even though she's served no purpose whatsoever other than whiny annoyance. They've now forced Sloane and Lexie together. My suspicion is because they think it's a bit naughty and slightly sensational. It is not. It is contrived and forced. There is NO reason that the two would go together other than the fact that it gives yet another reason for Mark and Derek to go back to being foes rather than friends. The renewing of their friendship has been one of the best things on Grey's over the last season.

But apparently, friends are no longer the in-things on the show, anyway. After all, Meredith and Christina are bickering because of a contrived little detail. Last week, Meredith reacted to the fact that Christina knew the interns were being self-mutiliating idiots with a very human reaction: Shock. She had no time to think: "Oooh, must stick to the code. Must protect friend." She merely reacted to the news as anyone would. This has now caused friction in the friendship because Christina feels betrayed. Well, yeah, I'm sure that would happen but in the first season, Meredith stole Christina's surgery because she was sleeping with Derek and yet the two became best friends right afterwards. Christina, usually the cool-headed one, logical and sensible, is not acting like Christina. She's acting like Izzie and I don't like that.

There were moments I did like, moments that are classic Grey's: The scene in which the younger sister has to talk to her brain-dead older sister was classically heartbreaking. The awesomeness of Miranda Bailey never fails to impress. The scene in which the woman realized she could talk again. These are the good parts that make Grey's good. They may not be very realistic but they're good TV. If we could just do away with the pesky doctors and their overblown personal issues, it'd be good again.

I'm ignoring Denny's presence now. It was actually quite easy tonight. I find that if I mentally just ignore the scenes with Denny and Izzie, it makes the show much better. Even though I know why Denny's back, doesn't mean I want to watch Izzie having 'fantastic sex' with him. That's just stupid. We get that Izzie always manages to have "mind-blowing sex". Really. It's not the first time. We get it. She likes sex. Now stop showing us. Now that we know Denny isn't really there makes it even more disturbing. Surely SOMEONE has to notice she thinks she's having sex with a ghost. But, wait, this is Grey's. No one notices anything until the writers thinks it's time.

Which leads me to suggest that maybe, instead of waiting until February to explain Denny's presence, maybe they should do it now. I know I'm not alone in hating the storyline but at least, now, because I know the reason, it's more tolerable. It's already gone on too long. It's time to end it. Now.

So, apparently, I now have a weekly Grey's blog. I'm hoping the show will redeem itself next year. I have a few weeks off before it's back on the air. Maybe with the new year will come a new faith in the writers. Maybe it'll make me like seeing Denny.

But then again, probably not.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

So...About "Heroes"...

I blogged about Heroes before. I'm trying so hard to stick with this show because once in a while it does something smart, like cast Seth Green and Breckin Meyer as comic book geeks. I try to pretend I'm not a geek but, frankly, the older I get, the geekier I become. I love Iron Man, I love The Sandman and I enjoy going to Comic-con. That's as close to a confession as you're ever going to get.

So, I keep watching this show. I actually enjoyed the episode a couple of weeks ago in which Hiro spirit-walked or whatever to a year earlier. It was nice to see the show and cast acting like the past year never happened. I think it might have been a metaphor, I'm not sure.

But now, we're back to the present (fortunately NOT to the future, that plot device seems to on hold for now, thankfully). And I'm still slightly baffled. I usually like to let my imagination go and ignore things that defy reality on TV. But now, along with Grey's Ghost Whispery Anatomy, I'm getting really, really fed up with shows that assume we'll go along for the ride even though we know we're being screwed around.

Heroes, for example. I know, I know, it's fantasy. I'm ok with that. I'm not ok with stupid plot devices that defy the conventions of superheroes in a realistic world. They make me ask questions such as:

1)An eclipse that lasts two hours....really? Also, how come none of the Heroes figured out the connection but a comic book geek does it without any cerebral effort?

2) The comic book, 9th Wonders: Last week, I wondered who was mysteriously still drawing it now Isaac Mendez is dead. Then we find out that Isaac apparently published enough issues to cover the events of almost two entire seasons that occured AFTER HE WAS DEAD. Now, if you were a person who could see the future and knew you were gonna die, would you really spend the time until that death drawing comic books? I mean, I know V.C. Andrews has had a lot of new books since "she" died but there's a whole ghost writing thing going on there. What would be cool if Isaac was ghost writing them. I mean, really ghost writing them. I liked Isaac. He was much better to watch paint than Arthur Petrelli.

3) Why is Hiro still around? Really? Why couldn't Arthur eat his powers the way he did to Peter? He did that head-sucking thing, couldn't he just remove the powers completely? Why, oh why, have we been reduced to watching Hiro doing the pee-pee dance and eating chicken and waffles?
And how come all it takes for Hiro to time travel is to screw up his face and he can do it? He did that for hours in the first episode of the show and nothing happens. Now, Ando tells him that's all he has to do and YATTA!: Hiro time travels?

4) What happened to Hayden Panettiere's acting? I think she used to be fairly good. Now she's painful. That scene last week with Noah in which she played Buffy to Noah's Giles was painful. We get it, she's a tough girl. She's angry at Noah but, dude, seriously? He's TRYING TO STOP THE BAD MEN. Claire ran away and ended up almost being puppet-mastered in her attempts and she IS a Hero. Noah has no abilities and managed to slice Sylar's throat with his sheer Noah-ness. Noah would work well with Jack Bauer.

5) Why is Mohinder still on the show? He's always been annoying. He was interesting when he had to observe the Heroes while remaining merely human. Now he's gone all scaley and buggy, he's vile. And why is he pining after Maya? Seriously, she's gone. We were HAPPY when she went away. Please, please, Mohinder, go away and do NOT make us watch any more Maya story lines.

6) Matt Parkman: Greg Grunberg, I liked you on Alias. I liked you as Dead Pilot on "Lost". I even liked you on Felicity. But please, please, please, either grow a personality or leave. I liked the turtle. I liked that you even said "high five, turtle" because you're cute and funny and sweet. But your character is useless. Your reaction to Daphne's crutches was just plain dumb. "What are those for" or whatever it was you actually said? Really? How were you ever a cop? And why do you look like you have something in your ear whenever you try to read someone's mind?

7) Sylar: Are you good or bad? Because I can't tell. I think that might be the point but it'd be better if it wasn't in five minute increments. Also, are you SO dumb you believed Arthur Petrelli and his attempts to manipulate you? Go back to Noah- you two made an awesome team. I hope you did kill Elle though. I like Veronica Mars but I just watched "Pulse" and I'm beginning to question Kristen Bell's script choosing abilities. Granted, this could have been a good role and she does ok with it but, well, the role is annoying. She was much more interesting in her first episode when she appeared to be unbalanced and slightly crazy. Now she's just annoying.

9) How come the Haitian's presence prevents the Heroes powers from working and yet Nathan was able to use his Super Flying Ability to push the Haitian's evil brother into a car? Also, if the Haitian hadn't found Nathan and Peter in the jungle last week, how were they planning on finding him? Were they going to walk around Haiti and say "We're looking for The Haitian"? Uh, yeah, I would like to have known how that would have gone.

10) Where's Mr. Muggles? Just wondering. I liked him.

I could go on for hours. Obviously, the show is not making me happy. I'd like some feedback on my questions. I'm sure I'm just being obtuse and not getting the deepness that I'm supposed to. However, I find myself watching the show and being very irritated during and afterwards. This is not good. I watch it right after Prison Break which, for all it's absurdity, is still terribly fun and entertaining. That's way more than I can say about Heroes, right now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh, Grey's, What are you DOING?

On a normal Friday morning, my routine is normally pretty standard. I go to work. Since I'm an early-bird, I'm usually in early enough that I can write one of my daily blogs and, occasionally, throw one out to my Captain TV blog. I'm a TV junkie. I like to write about my shows whenever the urge hits.

Except tonight, since I'm in the EST viewing area, I've already watched Grey's Anatomy. And now I'm even more worried than I was last week.

This is supposed to be a general TV blog but it seems to be turning into a Grey's Anatomy worry-fest. Normally, I'd be writing about all the shows I love, shows I can't miss on a weekly basis. Normally I'd wait for the Grey Matter blog to show up, to make sense of the show I just watched. But tonight, I can't. I'm too agitated. Picture me pacing up and down, up and down. That's why I'm writing this, fresh after watching the latest episode.

The reasons I used to love Grey's are myriad. They are a collective of wishes and hopes for the show. But, in essence, here are the reasons I liked the show and believed in it:

  • Because Meredith and Derek were really good together and as soon as they started acting like grown-ups, I knew it would work out.

  • George will always be a bit of a wuss but he has a good heart and it always shows through in the end.

  • Alex Karev is a tough guy with a heart of stone but he is just waiting for the perfect moment for the stone to dissolve and he'll reveal the fact that he is a softy at heart.

  • Because I want Callie Torrez to realize she is worth so much more than George or Hahn and that she and Mark Sloan will flirt but never quite declare the fact that they are perfect together.

  • Bailey is always be the smart, amazing, cool force that keeps Seattle Grace running and keeps the surgeries treacherous, tough but always possible.

  • Because Izzie will always annoy me but she always have moments in which I actually like her.

  • Because I believed Meredith and Christina's friendship would be the ship to weather all Grey's storms, whether ferry-boat disasters, near-bomb experiences, bad relationship choices and bad, stupid, contrived stupid-intern-created surgeries.

Now, most of those will happen and have happened. And Shonda and her gang could pull the show back to reality and make it happen. But, after tonight, the last three on my list....well, I'm a little skeptical.

Izzie Stephens is seeing ghosts. No, correction, a ghost. She's seeing Denny, played by the excellent Jeffrey Dean Morgan (who really needs to find a gig in which he's not dead, dying, or a ghost). At the moment, we don't know if she's sick, crazy or she's seeing what is really there.

Here's the thing. I don't care. Denny died. I liked him while he was alive. He made me smile and cry. Then he died. I moved on. Izzie did too. She moved on to George. She ruined his marriage. She gave the mass amounts of inheritance that Denny left her to Seattle Grace, a sign that she'd moved on. Then she continued her move forward towards Alex, another troubled soul. That wasn't so bad. I like Alex. I think he's interesting because we don't know that much about him and he has these moments in which he's a nice guy. They might be mere moments but they're enough to keep us fascinated. Izzie liked him too. She'd moved past Denny.

And, then, BAM! Hey, look, Denny's back! He's hot. He's in his white t-shirt. He's having sex with Izzie. He patiently smiles while she goes off to sleep with Alex. He's perfect.

But he's still dead. He died with dignity and poignancy. He's been revived in flashbacks and (near)death experiences. But he's dead. Until now. Now he's free to make Izzie moan like a porno and make her ignore the career that could lift her up from the depths of her grief.

Yet, that's not the worst part. The worst part of the show is suddenly my very favourite relationship is in jeopardy. Yes, Meredith and Christina are not getting along. And I'm furious.

Let it be known that I hate fan-fiction. Let it be known that slash fiction, erotica, and non-canon pairings make me cringe. I find it a poor substitute for reality. My Meredith and Christina never became a pairing in my mind, never was it more than what it was on the show: A friendship that was real, true and relatable.

And thus, tonight, I wanted to throw the remote at the TV. I HATE that suddenly, the 'you're my person' relationship has been ruined by the need for shock value, by the need to boost the ratings. Yes, I know Melissa George has a nice accent and that, by many, she's considered sexy. I know that the show isn't as exciting as it was because it's no longer a new show and has become a habit and a routine for Thursday Night TV watchers.

Who cares? I, for one, salute routine. I love the fact that I make sure I have my glass of red wine and my cosy couch in order to fully enjoy my Grey's Anatomy. I watched Alias. I tried to like Melissa George on that show, to try to distance myself from the fact that she'd married Vaughn after he'd thought Sydney was dead. I knew she'd turn out to be evil and she was, naturally. I liked being right.

And now she's on Grey's and, sadly, I don't care. I really wanted her to die onscreen tonight. I really wanted her to be the brave step that the writers were taking to pare down their desperate efforts to throw as many characters at us as they could, to try to make one of them stick.

None of them are sticking. Not even Kevin McKidd. I liked his character at first. I liked that he stapled his own leg closed. I like that he made out with Christina, just because. And then he came back and there was a Before and an After and I was a little worried. Then the writer's gave him a personality: He was the doctor that didn't like the soap-opera of Seattle Grace. He was the doctor that wanted to help the patients.

Yeah...that lasted for a week. Now he's sitting on Christina's stoop, waiting to kiss her again. I HATE that he's already succumbed to the fact that no (featured) Grey's doctor is irrisistable, that he must plant on his lips on Dr. Yang, A.S.A.P.

Don't get me wrong: I haven't given up on Grey's. I don't even want to. I love my Thursday nights; I love the catharsis I feel in watching the doctors screw up both professionally and personally. But one thing I could count on is that Christina and Meredith were the solid relationship on the show. That they were both screwed up just enought that they could talk to each other, rely on each other. But tonight, even that is in doubt and it scares me even more than the Return of Dead Denny does.

I don't understand why the writers can't just go with something when it's successful without wanting more. I don't understand why Seattle Grace can't have even but a few weeks in which they actually practice real medicine. I hate that the interns were stupid. I hate that Meredith and Christina are fighting. I hate that Izzie is talking to a dead man and we're supposed to just go with it.

Most of all, I hate that the one constant bright spot in my TV viewing week is tarnished by its own quest to shock, excite and gather viewers due to Blatant Writing Acts of Stupidity. I don't care why Denny is back. I just want him to go away. I want Sadie and the rest of the stupid interns to go away, to fade into the background in which they belong. Most of all, I want the show to give Sloan the storyline he richly deserves, to give Callie a chance at happiness and to show us that Christina, Meredith and Derek can all be friends because they're grown ups.

Ok, so I know it's TV and, thus, true grown-ups don't exist. But I can dream. And if dreaming means that Grey's loses its ghosts and gives LIVE characters a chance at having an on-screen personality that isn't tied to sex, sexual preference, or willingness to perform in the On-Call room, then I won't give up. Yet.

You can make Izzie nuts, you can make Denny real again, you can make him a mystical, Twilight-esque love (complete with allergic reaction from all sane adults who have read the insipid Stephanie Meyer series) But if you really destroy the Christina-Meredith "You're my Person" relationship then that's it.... I can't watch anymore. That's the relationship that resonates. That's the one that we get. Because when we're as mental and nuts as we can be, it's the friends who are there to pick up the pieces that matter. And Christina and Meredith are those friends, they're the ones who never fail one another, no matter how many stupid death-defying interns try to interfere. Don't make me worry about Bailey either. She's our rock. She's the force that guides us through the storm. She's an excellent General Surgeon. She almost gave up her marriage for that and now we're supposed to believe she's suddenly bored, even though the chief is letting her do domino procedures?

Also, let's not discuss the fecal transplant storyline. That goes back to the need for shock value except it doesn't really shock, it's just disgusting. I think it was supposed to be funny because there are people who always find poop funny. I, for one, don't. I do NOT want to think about that poor woman having to have poop go through her nose. Can we not find a better medical storyline than that? Seriously?

Don't desert us now, Shonda and the gang. Please. Don't be a Stephanie Meyer, falling in love with your fictional character (Denny) and unable to give him the dignity he deserves. Instead, let him go. Let Izzie move back to life. Death is hard but it's final. Disappointment and disillusion linger. Forever. Remember that.

Just give us back the Grey's that we love. Exorcise the ghosts. Clean up Seattle-Grace. It's ok. We don't mind. Seriously. Denny can Rest in Peace. We've already dealt with his death a couple of times. It's time you did too. Seriously.

Private Practice: No more TiVo for you!

I find there's a slow progression to breaking up with a TV show. If you're a TV junkie like me, TV shows are a little like a good relationship. When it's good, it's good and when it's bad, it's like a beatrayal. I've broken up with a few long-term-relationship shows before. I was with ER for almost 8 years before the African episodes with Benton and Carter made me realize I was too bored and unfulfilled to keep watching it. I broke up with Lost once because it irritated me and made me angry. I gave it another chance after hearing so many people tell me how amazing the finale of Season 2 was. Right now, I'm back on with Lost- I hope it's a lasting relationship this time.

At the moment, I'm going through a breakup with Private Practice. I gave it two seasons. Mostly, I watched it because I liked Addison Montgomery, who'd brought a spark into the walls of Seattle Grace on Grey's Anatomy. I also watched it because I love Taye Diggs. He's nice to look at, his voice is like velvet and I find him dynamically interesting. Usually. The final icing on the cake was Paul Adelstein who I had LOVED as Agent Kellerman on Prison Break. Agent Kellerman was awesome. He would have worked really well with Jack Bauer. If Jack Bauer was slightly evil. I'm hoping that he comes back to Prison Break. It would add to the ludicrously fun silliness of the show.

I've been trying to have faith in Shonda Rhimes.Greys had me a little worried last year but I trusted and believed and it got better again. Lately, Grey's is frightening me with it's potential-shark-jumping silliness (Read my previous blog for my take on that). But I believed in Shonda. She'd given me one show that I devoured weekly, loving the soapy-steam of Seattle Grace. I followed her to Private Practice. It was slower than Grey's, the doctors more grown-up, the slightly-cliche California hippy-chic setting cleaner and less messy than Grey's.

The thing was it wasn't really the Addison I'd loved on Grey's. She lost a lot of her steel and fire, she whined. She'd always been a grown-up on Grey's, her skill, expertise and no-nonsense attitude making her into a great doctor who cared but not too much. She started mooning over a man immediately as soon as she left Seattle Grace. She didn't fit. Kate Walsh didn't fit. The private practice itself, Oceanside Wellness, was annoying and filled with characters who were supposed to be quirky but turned out to be irritating. Most of the time I found myself wondering exactly how Violet the psychiatrist managed to get a license to practice because she's crazier and more unbalanced than most of her patients. Paul Adelstein's character was formerly addicted to internet chat rooms where he set up dates with women because he was supposed to be pathetically lovelorn. He's the pediatrician. I don't know if I'd want my kid to see him.

The first season was somewhat entertaining if a little uneven. I didn't really like any of the doctors much but I wanted to be as addicted as I was to Grey's.

So I started watching the second season and, well, frankly, I'm bored. I'm so bored with the routine of sex-scenes-in-the-beginning, bickering in the middle, sappy at the end. I hate the doctors, even Addison at times. I don't care about them. I've given it five episodes now and I'm done. The show is boring. Nothing happens. I don't care about any of those people. In fact, part of me sort of wants an earthquake episode in which Oceanside Wellness gets swept into the murky grey of the Pacific Ocean. They're terrible doctors. They come and go as they please. They have sex a lot. I have no problem with sex but I at least want to care about the characters so I'm happy for them. I like Addison's boyfriend, not as a character but because he's played by David Sutcliffe who was Christopher from Gilmore Girls.

At this point, I feel as though should be pointing out tips for improving it, finding ways to make it more enjoyable. But I can't. It's the type of TV viewing situation in which it's better to just put it out of it's misery. However, I would like to propose the following:

  • Paul Adelstein goes back to Prison Break and has a spin off with William Fichner as "Mahone and Kellerman: Agents of Doom" (or something to that effect).

  • Addison goes back to Seattle Grace, exorcises Denny and gets rid of all the new interns except Lexi. She sits Lexi down, lectures her on how pathetic and whiny she is and how she needs to grow a backbone. Lexi, in turn, gives Meredith a few pointers and the two sisters actually get along as well as co-existing. She also develops a specialty in Cardiothorasics so we can stop having heart surgeons who leave or have Aspergers.

  • Taye Diggs and David Sutcliffe should get a new script that is funny and suits them both. They should invite Jeffrey Dean Morgan to join them. As a living character. Who does not die. And then comes back again. Several times.

  • Chris Lowell should go back to Veronica Mars. Which would mean reviving the show. Which would be fantastic.
Everyone else can find their own projects. I like Audra McDonald so I'd be ok with her going elsewhere. Amy Brenneman has never been my favourite and Tim Daly is too smarmy for my tastes, no matter what role he's in.

But in the immediate future, it's time for me to break up with the show. I find that if you record a show and then make excuses for not watching it, it's time to face reality and give it up. That's how I feel about Private Practice. Maybe if Shonda lets it go with whatever dignity it can gather (though it's low on that in the first place), she can turn her attention back to Grey's and stop the gathering storm of mystical silliness that is gathering there. What I don't get is that this show gets to stay on the air and Pushing Daisies is in jeopardy. There's something not quite right about that.

But then, if TV executives listend to the fans, we'd have a lot more good TV and a lot less crap. And we can't have that now, can we?

Friday, November 14, 2008

[Ghost] Whispery Worries about Grey's Anatomy

Last week, I was a little hard on Izzie Stephens. It doesn't change the fact that I find her to be an annoying character and that Katherine Heigl just isn't my favourite actress but I was hard on her.

This week, I'm going to be a little hard on Grey's Anatomy. Call it tough love. To be fair, I usually read the recaps on Entertainment Weekly's TV watch as well as the Grey Matter blog by the writers of each episode. I haven't done that yet and so my opinion is based purely on what I'm seeing on the show, rather on where they're trying to take it.

The thing with Grey's is that it's always been one of those shows that never quite stayed on the line of reality and often ventured into rather silly territory yet because of the writing and the acting, I never minded. I know it has a lot of soap-opera moments. I know that no hospital would really permit residents and interns to go at it like rabbits in the on-call room. I know that most hospitals have a lot more doctors and that their love lives are not nearly as interesting as those on Grey's.

But some of my favourite episodes have been the ones that have been a little unrealistic but still excellently done. The End of the World...As We Know It are two of the best episodes of TV ever. The bomb, the tension, the drumbeats...all executed brilliantly.

Ok, so last year with the ferry boat crash and Meredith's dying-and-seeing-ghosts worried me a little but I trusted Shonda Rhimes and her staff to bring it back to reality and, to be fair, they did. The show came back down to earth and though there were still some not-so-great-storylines, they weren't enough to worry me.

Until now. Last night's episode has me worried. Izzie's seeing Denny again. I won't go into a tirade of why they can't just let Denny be gone. I liked him as a character but I'd actually much rather see Kyle Chandler as a ghost because I liked his snarky-yet-sensible attitude a lot. But then that wouldn't mean that Kyle Chandler had time to make Grey's episodes which would mean Friday Night Lights wasn't in production...which would be a very, very bad thing. Friday Night Lights is fantastic TV, worth all of the praise that's heaped on it. If you haven't watch it, run out and rent it. Now. It's that good.

But Denny's not gone. He's back. He's a ghost. I don't like that because Grey's while a little far-fetched, has never gone into that weird ghost-whispery territory aside from the Ferry Faux Pas episodes. Now it's going there. I don't know if it means Izzie has a brain tumour that's giving her visions, he's really there or she's going nuts but I don't like that Denny is walking the walls of Seattle Grace again because it just doesn't fit the show. I also don't want some contrived plot line in which we discover Denny isn't dead. But since no one else seems to see Denny, I don't think that's likely. Worst of all would be if Shonda was trying to go for a 'it's really happening because sometimes magical things happen' because that isn't the Grey's we love either.

The show is about our motley crew of residents, flawed and imperfect and yet still fun and interesting to watch. The show is about the relationships of those people. It's not a show about ghosts. I haven't bothered to read the spoilers about future episodes but I'm sure there's a reason Izzie is seeing Denny. And it's going to bother no matter what it is because I already don't like Izzie. She always gets the silly story lines. That's not her fault but she never reacts well to them and I end up not liking her. Don't give me another reason to not like her. Let's just let her concentrate on being a decent doctor. She's definitely not that at the moment. She's too busy crying all over her patients to actually practice medicine.

And then there's the interns. I get that they're not getting the hands-on experience they want. But what I don't get is that no one has done anything realistic about it. Lexi and her band of newbie doctors are angry and upset that Christina and their residents aren't letting them do anything, aren't teaching them anything. So instead of the sensible route, perhaps going to Bailey, the beacon of all things Reasonable and Sensible at Seattle Grace and telling her that they really want to learn but their residents are being selfish bastards, they decide to cut themselves and give themselves I.V.'s.

Ok, so there's always been a lack of common sense at Seattle Grace Hospital. I get that. I get that's why it always takes characters so long to find out things that we, the viewers, know. Like George and Meredith, George and Izzie, Meredith and Derek. Like why Mark Sloan doesn't lock the door while having sex with Callie. Things like that.

But I don't like to throw that common sense out of the window completely and that's what I'm having to do. Next week, they supposedly take out an intern's appendix because he doesn't need it. In the classic words of Grey's Anatomy, Seriously? Seriously? Why. Doesn't. Anyone. Just. Tell. The. Truth.

I get it. It wouldn't make for good TV if those interns just confessed their frustration and, perhaps, got the residents into trouble. I get that they're terrified of Dr. Yang but they are mutiliating themselves. Last week, Lexi stole corpses so they could practice medicine. The residents, Alex, Izzie and Christina stole them from the interns so they could hone their skills. Bailey found the residents and yet Lexi didn't speak up. She didn't say WHY they wanted to use the corpses.

I know there's drama and then I know there's TV drama. But there's also the phenomenom of jumping the shark in TV drama. And while I was willing to be patient last year, it was because I had no reason to not trust Grey's to get back on track. This season it was on track and suddenly, it looks as though the train that is Grey's Anatomy is about to jump the track and find a new way to move. The trouble is that the track keeps things going and without it, there's a crash in store.

The last straw is Sadie, "Die" to Meredith's "Death". I hate her. I know she's supposed to give us information about Meredith's past. I know she's supposed to be a plot device to show us another more jealous side of Christina. I know she's supposed to shake things up. But she's like an anvil. She walks in, so cool, so irritating and so extraneously. She's a wild one. We get it. The scene in which she slices her own back was ridiculous. Ok, so she's a tough cookie but we have one of those. Our new Dr. Hunt already stapled his own leg, he's enough of a tough-guy for the show. We don't need a tough chick. I think dark and twisty is fine enough. Let's learn more about the characters we have without introducing even more plot-devices, uh, I mean characters. Please, Oh Great Writers of Grey's, please. Reign it in now. Please don't fall for the mistaken belief that you can bring in even more viewers by 'taking it up a notch.' Remember us loyal and faithful viewers who love the show as it is.

I want to be wrong. Oh, how I want to be wrong. But as soon as Izzie reached out and touched Denny and then kissed him, I felt a strange, gnawing dread grow within me. I've felt it before and it's never good. It usually leads to Entertainment Weekly covers in which they say things like "What Happened to [This Show]" and "Can [This Show] be saved. I know I have to intrinsicly trust Shonda and her gang and that's what I'd like to do.

It's just this isn't Ghost Whisperer and it's not a J.J. Abrams show. I don't want any more Denny no matter how likeable he is. He's gone. Let him be gone. Please, show, don't jump the shark. Let my suddenly wavering trust in the show be wrong.

I really hope I'm wrong.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm Afraid for Dexter Morgan

So, I'm a fan of Dexter. I've already done a regular blog post about the show which you can read here . However, since this is a TV blog, I will limit my musings strictly to the show.

I must confess, I sometimes am an episode or two behind schedule since I have to rely on someone else's TiVo to capture them. Yes, Captain Monkeypants still does not own cable but, instead, has a rabbit-ear antenna. The reason for this is that I love TV and I love to watch it. TV is not only entertaining but also the worlds' best procrastination method. Long story short, if I had cable, I would do a lot less writing and a lot more couch-potato-ing. The only way to control my TV addiction is to not tempt myself with the source. Of course, this is limited to my own apartment. If I go elsewhere to watch cable, that's just fine. Rationalization=less guilt. Moving on...

So, back to Dexter. This, to me, is one of the best shows on TV. As I mentioned in my other post, I've read the books and though I tend to always favour the written word over the visual interpretation, Dexter is an exception. That's not to say the books, by Jeff Lindsay, aren't good because they are. After all they did create the character.

It's just that Michael C. Hall is Dexter Morgan and trying to read the books without picturing him that way now is absolutely impossible. The character is one of the most layered and interesting on TV, now and ever. He appeals to that darkness in all of us and though we all know killing is wrong, bad, a sin and all that, there's just something amazingly compelling about watching Dexter choose his victims and prey upon them. I find myself favouring the episodes in which Dexter commits his signature serial-killer acts of murder on the victims he stalks.

In his defense, Dexter is no cold-blooded killer. Well, ok, so he actually is and he doesn't claim otherwise. He's a sociopath who can't feel emotion but he fakes it well. But our Dexter isn't as much like that as he claims. He feels enough affection for the people in his life that he likes- his sister, Deb, his fiancee, Rita and her children- that it could actually be confused for love.

Yet when it comes down to it, he needs to kill. It's a bloodthirsty voice in his soul that cannot be satiated. He calls it his Dark Passenger. It is this which leads him to seek out the guiltiest and cruelest of criminals in the sultry landscape of Miami, Florida. He stalks them, makes sure they're guilty and when the time is right, he pounces, cleanly killing them and disposing of their bodies.

Dexter has had a little trouble in the past. The messy ties he has to others tend to get in the way. The body parts of his victims were discovered during season 2 and Dexter had to play a tricky and dangerous game to not get caught.

He's a master of avoiding consequences, a genius, even. His lack of messy emotional investment in life means that he can observe and study others. He can see their weaknesses and he can see their strengths. It is this which makes him a master of the kill, a genius manipulator who never seems guilty.

This season, I'm worried about Dexter. He's leading himself to believe he has found a friend, an assistant D.A., Miguel Prada, who has the same bloodthirsty urge for justice as Dexter but without the stomach for killing. Together, they are a perfect team: Miguel does the research, delivers the 'package' and Dexter kills him.

It seems like the perfect arrangement but past experience should teach Dexter to be very cautious. Last season, there was Lila, a crazy artist who thought she could manipulate Dexter. He fell for her at first until he realized how dangerous she was. Naturally, she is no longer around.

This season, I feel guilty again for wanting someone to die. Ok, it's a TV show but it still pulls at the dark passenger within us all, part of the reason Dexter is so popular. We can't kill, we wouldn't kill but it doesn't mean we can't get a secret, ominous thrill out of watching Dexter neatly murder his victims without a hint of regret. And so I find myself hoping that Dexter's new friend, Miguel, doesn't last a long time. I don't like that there is someone else who thinks he knows Dexter. I'm afraid he's going to screw things up. I'm afraid he will make Dexter sloppy. I almost feel like Dexter is cheating on us, his secret, silent audience, by sharing his hobby with Miguel.

Most of all, I don't trust Miguel. He's too slick, too slimy. Something about him worries me. Yet Dexter seems ok, truly believing he's found a friend. He thought that before, with Lila, a big mistake. In his urge to connect with people, to feel as though he's in control, Dexter is very vulnerable, an ironic twist considering his socipathic, violent nature. He wants to be loved so maybe it will rub off and he will feel that love back. He wants to connect with Miguel and be friends because that's what normal people do and, for all of his nighttime butchery, Dexter has always wanted to be normal as well as seem normal.

And I know this is random musing because the show has already been written and filmed and the ending will come, regardless of what I think. However, I can't help but hope that it means Miguel Prada will go away. More than that, I hope that Dexter will see the light from the darkness within and realize that he works best alone. I could be wrong and a partnership will be born but I doubt it. Dexter Morgan is a loner and sooner or later, I think he'll find a way to cut himself loose from Miguel.

And I can't wait to watch it happen.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Why I Despise Izzie Stevens...

I love Grey's Anatomy. It's gone through some growing pains over the past three seasons but I've never had an urge to stop watching. I find it compelling. The writing is good. I care about the characters, well, most of them, anyway.

Ok, so there are flaws, most evident in the slightly self-indulgent grandiose Ferry Disaster episodes. Those were bad. Meredith seeing dead people was not something to which Grey's should have resorted. I know some people dislike Meredith. I, however, love Meredith because in all her dark twistiness, she's layered. She has issues but she knows it. She makes an attempt to confront those issues. Both the writing for the character and the actress, Ellen Pompeo, make her a very three dimensional character.

The rest of the cast also adds to the quality of the show. Chandra Wilson deserves her own mention because she's awesome. Her portrayal of Miranda Bailey should be winning Emmys every year because every year, she gets better and more brilliant.

The only character I don't like is Izzie Stevens. And I have tried. Oh, have I tried.

I find myself actually wanting to smack her, to tell her to shut her self-righteous trap and butt the hell out quite often. I find myself wondering how she always manages to find redemption even though she commits horribly selfish acts and delivers tongue lashings to the people who don't deserve them.

I suppose some might say that it's the sign of a good show that I have such a strong reaction to the character. I suppose it is. I just don't think the show means for me to hate Izzie. I think I'm supposed to like her. I just can't. She lectures everyone when they screw up, treats them like dirt for making a mistake and yet when she does it, she's forgiven.

Take last night's episode, for example. I've been waiting SO long for Dr. Hahn to find out that Izzie stole a heart for her beloved Denny from a man with two kids who had been waiting a while for it. Denny didn't want the heart, he only let Izzie cut his LVAD wire and steal the heart because she had a breakdown in front of him about how she NEEDED him to live because she'd die without him, blah-blah-how-romantic-blah. Even her empassioned speech to Denny was selfish. Not "I need you to live because I want you to be happy, I want you to have a chance to run again and live a life without being reliant on heart machines" but "I need you to live because I cannot survive without you".

Denny only gave in because Denny was a good guy. He didn't condone her to steal the heart because he wanted to live, only because he couldn't bear to see her in such pain. I liked Denny. He could have done SO much better than Izzie.

And so Izzie stole a heart. And though she was suspended and lectured and put on probation, she wasn't fired. She was let off the hook because she was an intern, because her superiors didn't stop her when they saw her falling for Denny, because she deserved another chance to learn from her mistake.

I'm not saying people don't deserve chances but I do think Seattle Grace should be watching Izzie more closely. Since the Denny Debacle, she's done some pretty awful stuff. She slept with George and then claimed to fall in love with him, splitting up a marriage that could have been good, if a little rocky at times. Not only did she condone George cheating on his wife but she acted like a prize witch to Callie, said wife of George. Never did Izzie try to get to know Callie, to find out why George liked her.

Then there was the deer. Izzie took her new interns and had them save a deer. No one seemed to find out about this or do anything about this.

And then there's the emotional involvement. For example, the case in which Bailey was doing the domino kidney surgery. Izzie was working with a father-son pair. They were having issues and Izzie decided to get involved. She didn't try to find out why the son disliked his father, why the son had reservations about giving his father a piece of himself. Instead, she immediately jumped in, assumed the son was wrong and acted extremely unprofessional. As usual.

I HATE how she lectures everyone on their faults and yet, no one cares. I HATE how she's always trying to make Meredith and Cristina accept her as one of them and yet she's constantly judges them for things she doesn't agree with. (Anyone remember the episode where she found out about Meredith and Derek and she kept, self-righteously (of course) saying "karma" over and over. Again, shut up, Izzie and mind your own business). She wants to be friends with them but when they try to reach out to them, she doesn't reach back. Last night, for example, Meredith tried to talk to her about Denny and be a friend and Izzie pushed her away. Again.

I was hoping that Hahn would do more than yell at the chief about Izzie. I was hoping she'd do...something. I don't know what, honestly. I just wanted someone to yank Izzie up, pull her out of her Denny-laced brooding and hold her truly responsible. Ok, so we heard her say "it was my fault". Yet she wasn't paralyzed because of her guilt, she was paralyzed because of Denny. She was unable to help the poor guy she stole the heart from because she kept feeling the pain again of Denny's death. Naturally, in the end, she came through, yelling at the guy to survive, which worked. It seemed like she did it so she could move past Denny, not because she wanted to help the guy who was there because she'd stolen the heart that could have saved his life.

Some of it is the writing for the character. Some of it is because I just don't like her. Some of it is Katherine Heigl. She just doesn't seem to like Izzie much herself. You can almost tell she's not happy with what she has to do on screen. A good actor can take any role and make it good even if they don't like what their character does. Sarah Michelle Geller's portrayal of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a prime example. Buffy could be extremely self-righteous and unlikeable but she was still the heroine and in the end, you always rooted for her. Kristin Bell is another example. She shines on Heroes even when her role is beyond silly. She was fantastic as Veronica Mars even when she wasn't doing very likeable things. Lauren Graham as Lorelie Gilmore is probably the best example yet. Loralie could be selfish, petty, rude and childish and yet I always loved her anyway, just as everyone else on the show did.

I'm not saying Katherine isn't a good actress. She has her moments though I'm not with the group that thinks are Izzie-histronics are good (her "Do this for me!" speech to Denny being the best example); to me they are overdone. I like her when she's a little realistically nuts, like the episode where she goes nuts about Christmas and in which she, Meredith, George and Doc, the dog, end the episode lying beneath the tree. I like Izzie then.

But lately, those moments are few and I find myself hoping that Katherine Heigl pisses off the writers again so Shonda gets rid of her She prides herself of being blunt and outspoken but when it comes down to it, she really should think before she opens her mouth in public.

I do hate that Dr. Hahn is gone because ABC doesn't like to show lesbians on TV. They just made her interesting. They just made it possible for SOMEONE to hold Izzie Stevens accountable for her selfishness. I like that Dr. Hahn fought for her patients. In a few episodes, Brooke Smith has made me like her slightly mean, very condescending, newly gay character with some short but strong moments on screen. Four seasons into Greys and I still despise Izzie.

I'll miss Dr. Hahn when she was just getting interesting. Perhaps the network can order Shonda to fire Katherine next and then, finally, they could stop making poor Jeffrey Dean Morgan who plays Denny come on screen for a few saintly moments.

I liked Denny when he was alive. Dead, he's just annoying. Then again, that's probably Izzie's fault.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What Now, Rory Gilmore?

I was a fan of Gilmore Girls. I picked up it up somewhere around season 4 though so I can't claim to be a die-hard fan or a fan from the beginning. Back in Season 2, when I was living in L.A., I went on a tour of Warner Bros. and they let us wander around the soundstage that doubled as Emily and Richard's fancy Hartford Mansion. I did not appreciate that because I was irritated that there wasn't more Buffy or Angel stuff included in the tour or more movie-type stuff. At the time, "Stars Hollow" (the centre of the backlot tour at Warners) was decorated with 'a thousand yellow daisies.' At the time, I had no idea what that meant. I was bored. Bring on the Buffy.

And then, on a whim, I decided to try renting the seasons from Netflix, just to see what the fuss was about. It didn't take much to get me hooked. It was a good show and Lauren Graham's portrayal of Lorelie was amazing. I loved the relationship between Lorelei and Rory. I loved Luke. I fell under the spell of Stars Hollow and, like so many others, I wanted to move there. It was a quirky little place, full of charm and personality. I never could figure out how that store that just sold cat-stuff managed to stay there without going out of business and how no-one pelted popcorn at Lorelie and Rory when they insisted on being loud at the Read, White and Blue bookstore's movie nights but it was a wistful place that helped me escape for an hour on Tuesdays.

I liked how the show never went for the pretty, polished happy ending. Lorelei never could get it together with Luke enough to live happily ever after, at least during the run of the show. Rory made mistakes and didn't take the easy path. Emily and Richard, Lorelei's rich, upper-class parents, never had that moment of revelation where they truly forgave Lorelei for getting pregnant at 16 and running away from home to raise Rory alone.

There were flaws during the run of the show, flaws which increased as the seasons went on. Jess, played by Milo Ventimiglia (pre-Heroes) was irritating and annoying. His Rebel Without a Cause was just a plot device to help Rory grow during season 2 though, in later seasons, he did pop up to provide some much needed, blunt advice to Rory when she most needed a slap in later seasons.

When the creators of the show, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, decided to leave, something to do with contact disputes, during season 6, the show took a dip. In my opinion, season 6 was the worst (though I'm sure there are MANY who would disagree). Season 6, to me, was the Palladino's way of saying, "think you can do this without us, huh? Well, let's screw up the story as much as possible." And so the season ended with Luke and Lorelei having a fight, and Lorelei hopping into bed with her former flame, ruining the absolute best non-mother-daughter relationship on the show.

I hated season 6. I hated that suddenly Luke had a secret daughter who was irritatingly like Rory had been as a child. I hated that Rory went from being a sweet girl to being a prize brat to being a sweet girl again in the same season. The boat-stealing incident was a stupid plot device though it did its job in driving the mother/daughter apart for a few episodes. Most of all I hated that Luke became a wimp, terrified of Lorelei and unable to be honest. I hated that Lorelei and Luke couldn't have a normal conversation anymore.

You get the idea. So, by season 7, there wasn't much to be done. I actually enjoyed that season because it quietly tried to undo all of the damage the Palladino's had recently done. It ended with the hope of Luke and Lorelei. It ended with Rory taking a stand, not settling into the easy life but trying to make her path.

Her path is one that I couldn't help ponder last night after the election. You see, Rory went to join Barack Obama in the beginning of his campaign to run for president. It was before he was the Democratic nominee, when the hope of a historic change in regime was just a dream.

And now Barack Obama will be president. And though it's happening in the real world, as a fan of the fictional, I'm curious to know what Rory is doing now. Is she still staying with Obama? Was he so impressed with her journalism skills he took her along for the entire campaign? Is she going to help him now he's in the White House?

Did she decide to continue her quest to become the next Christiane Amanpour, an international news correspondent?

Did she leave half-way through and move back to Stars Hollow? Are she and Lorelei grabbing daily coffee at Luke's Diner?

I know it doesn't matter. I know it's fiction. I know the show is over. Yet, it was the kind of show that crawled under my skin and became part of my life. It's been a couple of years since it ended and I still miss the Gilmore women and the charm of Stars Hollow. I would love to know what they're doing now, not the actors but the characters.

And I know the election will have a big impact on history and that the country is about to change. Yet at the moment, I can't help but think of Rory Gilmore and wonder what she and Lorelei did on Election Night. When McCain conceded and Obama spoke, would she have been there?

It was a whimsical world but it was a good one.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Beautiful Ridiculousness of "Prison Break"

I'm a fan of "Prison Break." For the second and third season, I wasn't sure I could admit that out loud. Now the show is in the fourth season and I'm extremely proud to admit that I watch the show. I can't help myself. I look forward to it every Monday. I record "Heroes" and watch "Prison Break". For the past two seasons, it was the other way around. '

The reason is simple: Unlike "Heroes", "Prison Break" has taken a right turn at reality and just plunged itself, blissfully, off into the ridiculous. It has no pretentions of being high art, it holds no claims at reality. It has simply given in to the ludicrous nature it was born with and gone along for the ride.

Season one was interesting. The premise was simple: A very intelligent architect, Michael Scofield, landed himself in jail in a quest to break his death-row-interred brother, Lincoln Burrows, out of jail. The architect had actually designed the prison that held his brother prisoner and so he had the blueprints. In a very artistic manner, he managed to have key elements of those blue prints tatooed onto his skin so that at every crucial turn he had the next part of the escape plan at hand. Or on his back. Or his neck. You get the idea.

Very long and twisty story short, Michael succeeded. He broke Lincoln out of jail. In the meantime, a motley crew joined them ranging from the sweetly innocent-but-framed Sucre to the deliciously psychopathic T-Bag, a pedeophilic sociopath with a photographic memory. Hands were lost, secondary characters died but, in the end of that first season, the brothers were free.

You might wonder how "Prison Break" could continue after the aforementioned prison break had occured. You weren't alone. In truth, it didn't continue very well. The second season considered of a lot of running from the law. It did introduce a new character, Agent Mahone, played by the excellent William Fichner. Granted, his character was so irritatingly brilliant he could practically telepathically link to Michael Scofield's brilliance but he was interesting. But the show grew silly in its attempts to remain viable, tossing big deaths and other story stretchers in an attempt to keep the audience. In the end, I think the writers must have recognized how redundant it was to have a show titled "Prison Break" which featured characters and a plot that had escaped their confines.

So they did what any self-respecting writers/show runners did: They orchestrated a plot that wound the main character back in jail along with several of his former prisonmates. This time, it was Lincoln Burrows who had to break his brother, Mr. Scofield, out of jail. Voila! Prison Break II.

Except it didn't work. The circumstances had moved beyond a clever stretch of reality to completely fictional and unrelatable. Lincoln Burrows had consistently proved the fact that he was good for little except smashing, punching and destroying things. He was just not smart enough to get Michael out without Michael telling him what to do. He always bungled everything. Somehow, by the end of the show, almost every major character was either in prison or trying to break the inmates out. Naturally, they succeeded because "Failed Prison Break" wouldn't exactly be an appealing name for the show, would it?

Enter season four. It is a season in which the decapitated suddenly have their heads again and gunshot victim recovers enough the next day enough to climb ladders, dig holes and lift a REALLY heavy pipe almost entirely by himself. It is a season in which the writers/creators/directors recognize that Lincoln Burrows is not terribly smart but is REALLY good at using an axe/his fists/a car...whatever violent means it takes for him to achive his goal. And, finally, it is a season in which the bad guys get their due, the good guys slowly but surely die heroically and in which there is no prison break scheduled at all. How can you not love it?

Ok...It may sound silly but, trust me, it's fun. Ok, so Michael Scofield and the formerly decapitated Sarah Tancredi- the love of his life- have WAY less chemistry than Michael and his former cell mate, the aptly named sweet Sucre or even, cringe, Michael and Lincoln but at least they're trying. This season the show revolves around the Little Black Book to end all little black books, Scylla, encrypted on some kind of storage device. Michael and Lincoln have been recruited along with all of the other previous regulars (hereafter known as Team Brilliant made up of Michael, Lincoln, Sucre, Bellick (a former corrections guard from the original prison), Agent Mahone and a bunch of other familiar faces), to find Scylla for Homeland Security. Or something like that.

I knew the show was going to be entertaining from the day they introduced the Fabulous Magical Electronic Device. Said device managed to conveniently suck up all electronic data within a ten feet radius. Thus, if the device was planted within ten feet of Scylla, it would absorb all of Scylla's data and feed it to Team Brilliant's laptop. It was ludicrous. It was silly.

It was fabulous. It was then that I realized the show had thrown all reality, plausability and reason out of the window and didn't care one bit.

And neither did I. There are gaping plot holes and gratuitious violence galore. And it's beautiful. Just tonight, Sucre managed to recover from a near-fatal gunshot wound enough to crawl down into pipes with his brofriend, Michael. Sucre managed to climb ladders, lift a super heavy pipe, make a hole with a sledgehammer and do all kinds of physical activity that normal gunshot victims couldn't have even comprehended.

You might think, after reading my "Heroes" post, how I could possibly enjoy such silliness. But as I said earlier, it's because "Prison Break" doesn't try to resonate anymore. It doesn't have to. By deserting its redundant premise, it's become something that "Heroes" wants to be: Entertaining. "Heroes" is agonizing in its earnest attempts to try to reach fans, to reach out to those comic book/graphic novel fans who like a side of super with their hero. It still strives to stay within the guidelines of lore and myth; to pay attention to the rules of the superhero universe. And it's failing. Because try as it might, "Heroes" is boring. One of the appeals of great superheroes like Batman or, one of my personal favourites, Iron Man, is that they were normal, flawed humans who had to WORK at being a hero. There was no dithering. There was no grand analysis of why they should be a hero or villain. There was no misleading attempt to lure readers into thinking their villain was a hero or vice-versa. The story and progression was natural, not overly manufactured and fabricated like "Heroes".

And this is why "Prison Break" has become great. It has taken a hero (Michael Scofield) made him brilliant and flawed. He has a nemesis or two (T-Bag, Gretchen, General Baldy, Giant Evil Agent who Kills Everything in Sight (and who used to be married to Bailey on Grey's Anatomy, on a side note). He has a delicate, yet damaged love (Sarah Tancredi) , a hulk of a brother who might be quite dumb but is fiercely loyal (Lincon Burrows) . In fact, any one who knows our hero can't help but be loyal. This is why his former nemesis, Agent Mahone, the fatally flawed, most nuanced character on the show, is now working with our hero. He has a sidekick (Sucre). Truth be told, Michael Scofield represents the evolution of the superhero: strong but vulnerable, brilliant, pretty and sporting his Blue Steel gaze that always shows he's one step ahead on his enemies.

The show might be silly. It might be unbelievable. Yet therein lies it's beauty: It does what any TV should do. It entertains and, for one hour on every Monday night, it lifts me from the comparatively dull universe of my life and throws me into one in which is silly, ludicrous, daft and unbelievable. But, most of all, it's fun and, for one hour, it's a place to which it's worth venturing. Because when all reason has been thrown out of the window, there's no limit to where it will go next.

And that's what keeps me watching.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Confusing World of "Heroes"

So...I was a fan of NBC's Heroes. I say 'was' because...I was. I admit, it took me about five episodes of the first season to get into it but I kept coming back and then it got good. Really good. Like...must be home on Monday nights to watch it good.

The second season was kind of silly but I watched it. When it was halted by the writer's strike, I was left wanting more.

And now it's back. I missed the first five episodes but I caught up this past week and, I admit, I'm not sure if I'm going to keep going.

There's an article in this weeks' Entertainment Weekly that details what they think is wrong with the show and how to save it. Mostly, they're right. Yet they don't point out what I think is a major flaw: the confusion about who's a hero and who's a villain.

I think I might have figured it out. I think that Tough Claire and her gang of merry, super gifted, men from the future are villains. But I'm not sure because they seem to be trying to stop Peter. And when it comes to Peter Petrelli, I am stumped. There were two Peters. One was future Peter, one was present Peter. They both wanted to save the world but apparently it gets destroyed because of Peter...Future Peter (I think). Except I think that Peter didn't mean to destroy the world. Which should make him a hero. Except people like Matt Parkman think he needs to be stopped. Parkman is, let's face it, a tad extranous these days anyway. I like him and I like his turtle but he's really not much use and hasn't been for a while. But I thought Parkman was good which would make Peter bad. And Parkman's super fast-future-wife, Daphne, is trying to stop Peter. Which makes her a hero. She's working with Tough Claire and co. so...they are heroes?

You see my confusion? It all goes back to Peter Petrelli. I don't get him. He always seems so earnest but then he does something dumb like take Sylar's-tinged-with-evil power even though he knows it's probably not good to do so. And why did he do that, anyway? It was supposed to help him figure out how things worked, all their pieces. Then again, if I were in the Heroes universe, I'd probably want that power too- it'd make the line between heroes/villains WAY less confusing. Except...Peter already can read minds, become invisible, fly, live forever, use telekineses, start fires with his hands, etc. Wouldn't those powers combined make it fairly easy to figure out what was going on? And he's already been in contact with Sylar before so...why didn't he have his powers before. He can absorb other heroes' powers just by touching them so....

Also, if that's his way of getting his powers, shouldn't he have been able to fight his father's power-sucking-hug by taking his father's power at the same time?

And then there's Claire. I'll ignore the fact that poor Haydn Panetierre is WAY out of her element in the future scenes. She is about as convincing as playing Tough Future Claire as Keanu Reeves is at doing Shakespeare. (I like Keanu...but, well, he's no Kenneth Branaugh- that's all I'm trying to say). Future Claire is ridiculous. They darkened her hair, slicked it back and now she's supposed to be an emotionless robot. It's just not working.

At the moment, the only things that are working are Jack Coleman (Noah) and Zachary Quinto (Sylar). Their partnership was awesome- funny and clever and just what the show needed. David Anders (the late Adam) was also fantastic because he, too, had fun and you could see it.

And maybe that's what's wrong with the show. No one's having fun anymore. No one's realistic, anymore. The first season was awesome because it gave us a fairly believable universe in which ordinary people discovered they had extraordinary gifts. They lived in the world we live in. Then came time-travel and the show started to try to make comic-book plots. Now, it's all a comic-book-esque show with nothing left that makes us relate. The time jumping is confusing, the characters are WAY too many and way too one-dimensional and they keep stealing plot devices from other sources as well as themselves. Mohinder as a giant bug? Really? Claire as Trinity from the Matrix? Really? Parkman spirit walking? Really? Buffy did that WAY better when she met the spirit of the first's been done before. In fact, most of it has.

And Hiro...the first true breakout star from the show. He was goofy, funny, geeky and cute. Now he's a cliche. We get it, he represents fanboys and geeks worldwide. We get that he reads comics. But if he says "Nemesis!" one more time to Daphne, that's it, I can't watch anymore. He's become ridiculous and unnecessary. Adam should have killed him and been done with it. Even Ando is more interesting merely because he gets nothing but abuse and scorn from Hiro but he's always there for his friend, anyway.

What it comes down to is the same thing that kills most good TV shows eventually; they can't stick with what made a show popular in the first place, they always have to try to make it bigger, to get even higher ratings, to be more talked about. The network and creators can't accept that a show is fine as it is; they always have to overshoot. It happens to the best of them. Sometimes, a show corrects itself mid-course (see Lost as an example), sometimes it just goes so downhill, people can't watch. Because for every second and third season of a show that was great in its first, there's a new show that's premiering that's better and it's only a matter of times before the fans leave.

I only hope Heroes comes back swinging.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Demise of Television Without Pity

Once upon a time, there was a website that used to recap television. It was a website that had some attitude, a healthy amount of perspective and some very funny, if blunt, opinions of the best shows on TV. It was a site in which a collective of writers covered select TV shows and did a thorough recap of each episode, peppered with snark and sarcasm and a healthy dose of realistic editorial opinion. It was a site for which TV loving writers would have loved to write, especially those writers, like myself, who can objectively and sarcastically talk about TV shows, beloved or not.

There were some flaws, naturally. Some of the writers were much better than others. The collective of writers were a little clique, their FAQ proving that they didn't take well to outsiders and didn't care to. The forums were too heavily moderated, almost communistic in some of the ways in which comments were censored. Sometimes their writers were downright cruel to the readers who criticized them, coming across as petty and mean rather than snarky and funny. But, aside from all that, it was a fun, entertaining website in which one could easily get lost in reading the witty, funny and mostly dead-on recaps of television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, America's Top Model, etc. They were always shows that would have the type of following to seek out recaps, shows that were so good they deserved a recap, even when they had bad episodes, or shows so bad that they simply had to be recapped in all their cheesy nonsense.

The site was Televison without Pity (TWOP for short), once glorious, now a commerical site in which the snark is lost in the glitz of Bravo Television.

But let's back up to the glory days. The site was founded by three individuals, known on TWOP as Sars, Wing Chun and Glark. They built the site based on their original effort, Mighty Big TV, a site originally built entirely around one TV show: Dawson's Creek. Mighty Big TV eventually became TWOP. The site was tightly run, the recaps well edited and mostly hilarious. The forums would entice undercover Hollywood players like Aaron Sorkin who would defend his show. There were interviews with writers of TV shows, humble, well-written interviews in which you'd actually learn about a show. It was evident that those that worked for TWOP loved their job, even when they were assigned awful TV shows to recap. Though other sites sprung up, most notably TWOP Sucks, that would bash TWOP and its writers, these sites did little except emphasize the point that TWOP had become a pop culture must, a place for TV lovers to congregate, virtually and it the case of events like TARCON (The Amazing Race Conventions), in reality too.

And then, the site was sold to Bravo. It was most likely financially a smart business choice for the founders. After all, what had begun as a blog had become a viable business. It hosted advertising, so there was definitely some profit being made as well as a store that sold TV gear, referencing obscure moments in TV. Yet, Bravo came calling and it's likely a lot of money was offered. To founders like Sars, Wing Chun and Glark, there probably seemed little to lose. They would make money, the writers would be guaranteed payment and the responsibility would be off their shoulders.

Bravo took over and one year later, Sars, Wing Chun and Glark left the site. There is little to be discovered about their departure, whether it was part of the original buyout contract or whether the site went so far from the original conception that they were disgusted enough to take their big checks and leave. It doesn't really matter. What does matter is that Bravo's takeover of TWOP has killed the site in almost every way that matters.

Certainly, the site still exists and the archive of recaps is still there. The writers still recap the shows still airing that they recapped before the buyout. Yet now, there are recaps for shows that the original site didn't acknowledge, shows like So You Think You Can Dance, Law and Order: SVU and The Biggest Loser. There are many more photos and images. There is much more advertising. There is a spin off called Movies Without Pity. There are videos now. All in all, it's very glossy and shiny. It looks like a big budget site.

But the heart is gone. The soul of TWOP has fled, perhaps with the founders, perhaps when the contract with Bravo was signed. Some of the writers from the glory days are there, like Jacob and Couch Baron. But without the editing and tight reign of Sars and co., they have also declined. Jacob, always prone to waffling, has become boring. He has always brought the fact that he is a gay man into his recaps, often a tiresome aside, but nowadays, it has become the forefront of the majority of his recaps. We get it. We get that there is homosexuality on TV. But it would also be nice to read about the show instead of the recapper's issue with Americas acceptance of homosexuality (His American Idol recaps and Ugly Betty recaps especially). Jacob has started loving the sight of his own words and without a strong editor to reign him in, he's become pompous, irritating and unreadable. Couch Baron, still one of the strongest writers on the site, has become lazy. His perceptions are still sharp but without editing he, too, often rambles and sometimes its hard to get through the recaps of shows like Heroes. The writing is no longer snarky, it's just outright mean. There are now many Weecaps, shorter versions of recaps that basically give the episode in a nutshell. The site used to nail much of why a show was silly, Clifford the Big Red Ball from Alias is still one of the funniest references ever. But those references and recaps are few and far between these days. The effort to get a recap up quickly means that editing in minimal and there are grammatical, spelling, punctuation and factual errors in many of the recaps that are published.

The forums have grown worse. They are more heavily moderated than ever. The moderators have the right to delete a post, commenters must carefully phrase emails so they're not accused of flaming someone just because they don't agree. They are no longer fun to read and it's often hard to remember they're there anymore. The number of posts has declined dramatically and it's hard to find a reason to visit anymore.

Bravo attempted to get more people onto the TWOP site by hosting the TV Bigshot game in which participants attempted to create a TV network and picked shows to air. Points were assigned based on a show's ratings; if your network owned a show that did well in the ratings, you won points. It was a good idea, in theory. In reality, it was a game that wasn't well moderated; the rules would change, the points were miscalculated and the top scorers were always the same. Players would attempt to use strategy to pick their shows and then, because of a 'server error' or other such excuse, points for the week weren't calculated, thus ensuring no way to climb up in the rankings. As seems to be the case of the new TWOP site, it looked pretty on the outside but it lacked substance and guidance from within.

TWOP remains. It is still a place to read a decent recap or two; Drunken Bee's Friday Night Lights recaps are examples of beautiful, lyrical writing, especially the early episodes. Yet because there is no soul, the site seems empty. The personality is gone, clouded by corporate commercialism. Though it's still a site to read about TV, it has lost the sheen of talent that made it great and given way to a gloss that makes it mediocre. It's always a shame when greatness falls, even when it's just a site for television geeks and in the case of Television Without Pity, greatness has fallen far.