Monday, September 24. 2012
Television, 2012 - Snark Never Dies Posted by Ancient of Days in TV at 23:53
I wasn't going to write one of these this year, but Sideshow asked for it, so you all get to suffer - because it's time once again for my annual pre-snark of all the new filth hitting the airwaves this year. Since I'm late getting it out this year, I'm also including a special section called "OK, My Bad", where I retract some of the snark I dished out prior to 2011. Continue reading "Television, 2012 - Snark Never Dies"
Thursday, August 9. 2012
...is that it's terribly difficult to write in the margins.
Tuesday, September 13. 2011
Yep, it's that time of year again - the time when I mount my annual pre-snark of all the new shows starting this year, instead of renewing anything I'd actually like to watch. Continue reading "Television, 2011"
Saturday, September 18. 2010
Pete mentioned this week that he wanted me to do another post on what's coming out on television this fall, so here it is. Continue reading "Television, 2010"
Saturday, August 7. 2010
I owe my sister an apology. At the beginning, I had no interest in watching Lost. I dislike shows which build mystery upon mystery, which may or may not be explained in the future, usually because they aren’t to even the smallest degree of satisfaction. Usually what seems to happen is that the writers have no explanation for the mystery when they create it, and then a few years down the road they have a checklist of things they need to explain and begin introducing the answers in a rote fashion. It’s unsatisfying. But my wife wanted to watch the show, so I started renting the DVD’s and I watched them with her. And I’ll admit, the acting was very compelling. So was the musical score. But for three seasons, I couldn’t say I liked Lost. I liked certain elements of the show, Locke’s story in particular, but taken all together, I could not enjoy the show wholly, because I was sure that the mysteries had no explanations, and the writers were just making it up as they went.
Then came fourth season, and “The Constant.” I already liked Desmond’s story, and like most people, I find “The Constant” to be one of the most compelling hours of Lost. I let my guard down a little after that, and a little more at the end of season four when Penny and Desmond were reunited. I liked that their reunion wasn’t pushed off to the end of the show. It gave me hope that the show wasn’t going to end with the feeling that each box was being checked on the way out. And then I heard an interview with Cuse and Lindelof where they said that they had planned the end of the show from season one. They knew their story. It didn’t look like they were going to be giving us another disjointed final season with nonsense answers coming fast and furious to explain the inexplicable. They knew why everything had happened and what it meant to the greater story. From then on, I let myself enjoy the show. Season five was a blast. And I was excited for through a good part of season six.
My sister, on the other hand, maintained her skepticism. She maintained a distance from the show, waiting to see how it turned out. It would either be great or a great failure, but we wouldn’t know until the show was over. I did my best to convince her to just go with it, to have faith in the executive producers, but she didn’t budge. And then, when the show was over, I turned into an apologist, explaining why the lack of explanations made sense within the theme of faith without knowledge. If everything was known on Lost there would be no need for the kind of faith represented in Lost. But, I should have maintained my skepticism. Maybe things weren’t explained for a reason, but much of what was explained was done as if from a checklist or was terribly unsatisfying. While many of the smaller stories within Lost were compelling and moving, the overall narrative of Lost is unsatisifying.
Not all of Lost turned out bad. The Giacchino scores were beautiful. The acting was terrific. And small parts of the story along the way were very compelling. The story of Locke and the hatch was incredible. His struggle with believing in a greater purpose while confronted by facts that seemed to indicate that everything happening was a joke played upon him by scientists at the Dharma initiative and ultimately the universe was painful to watch. In the first season he is a man confident, a man of faith. In the second season, this erodes, and doubt is eating him up alive. Terry O’Quinn does a magnificent job. His doubt is magnified by the appearance of Henry Gale whom Sayid tortures, but plays head games with Locke. Michael Emerson is similarly terrific as an actor, and whenever he and Terry O’Quinn are on the screen, one cannot look away.
And one of the fascinating things the writers did on Lost was to play with the narrative structure. The flashbacks were a brilliant idea. The audience got to learn about these new characters in two different settings, and one seemed pertinent to the other. The second episode was called “Tabula Rasa” and the show posits the question whether or not one really could get a clean slate. Or does all of the baggage that accompanies each person cause him or her to continue making the same mistakes over and over again? Does free will enable us to change ourselves, or do we, like Sisyphus, continue futilely in the same self-destructive habits? Can Sayid stop torturing? Can Kate stop running? The flashbacks show us who the characters were before coming to the island and the difficulty of changing ourselves even when our entire life situation has changed.
And as for the finale, “The End,” it was a very emotional episode. I think most people would have a difficult time not getting a little choked up at some point in the episode. You have the reunions of Claire and Charlie and of James and Juliet. These were both powerful scenes. And of course, you have the end itself, mirroring the opening, with Jack dying there on the beach with Vincent beside him. These were all very moving scenes, which brought tears to the eyes of many a Lostie.
But I come not to praise Lost but to bury it.
Much of what the show did was set up incredible mysteries. Some of them were fairly simple: How did polar bears get on an island in the middle of the Pacific? Some were considerably more esoteric: What is the significance of Aaron?
I bring up this second, because it serves to illustrate one of the points where Lost goes wrong. The Thursday before the finale, Lindelof and Cuse were interviewed and fans all over the country watched the interview live in theaters. (I was one of them.) They talked a little bit about the problem of meeting fan expectations, because the fans do come up with their own ideas about what is going on with the show. And when fan expectations are subverted, people don’t always react favorably.
They told the story of a reporter who asked them if they were going to reveal in the finale why Aaron is so important, or was that one of the things they didn’t have time to put in the finale. Strangely, they thought they’d already answered the question. And they explained to her that Aaron wasn’t special, that the man who told Claire that she must raise Aaron was a fraud, which we learned in season two. The reporter apparently couldn’t accept this explanation, and the executive producers chuckled a bit about how fan expectation sometimes prevents the fans from accepting the story as told.
But she’s right, and they are wrong. And what they show here is that the show is largely just a bunch of red herrings and meaningless segues that don’t actually have any bearing upon the story as a whole. This is bad writing, and let me explain why. We are expected to believe that a fake psychic, who makes his money running a con basically, decided to give Claire her money back and act scared about Aaron for no good reason. This is no way to run a psychic con. You want to make money not give it back. But maybe he had a moment of conscience. Let’s just pretend he does, though we have no reason to believe he has. So that’s why he gave her the money back. But then, he apparently takes to stalking Claire by phone telling her that she must not give Aaron up for adoption or else it will be disastrous. He must not be raised by “another.” And he takes this ruse (remember, he’s not psychic) so far as to arrange a flight for her to L.A. to give the child to a couple there (who may or may not have been waiting for her.) If Aaron isn’t special, and if this man isn’t having any visions, why is he carrying on like this? There is no explanation. The whole story about Aaron being special is a tempest in a teapot. It amounts to nothing. One can do away with the whole psychic story and it changes nothing except removes the intriguing mystery that kept us coming back for more. That makes the mystery a ploy, not an actual plot point; it’s a trick to keep the audience coming back. We are wondering why Aaron is special and what it means if Kate is raising him rather than Claire. We needn’t have bothered. It didn’t mean anything. It just kept us around for another season.
This is a cheat. The writers have misled the audience to keep them coming back, as if their writing is only a marketing ploy. I would venture to say that much of season six serves the same purpose. Many of the things introduced in season six, which as first might seem to lead us to answers lead us to nothing of the kind. The writers try to immunize themselves from this accusation by having Mother tell us that no answers would satisfy us and would in fact only lead to more questions, but that’s a cop-out (“Across The Sea”). It’s their story. If they don’t have satisfactory answers to the questions they’ve put before the audience, then they’ve written a poor story. At times it has been said or implied that there could be multiple explanations to the strange goings on of the show, but I submit that it is not the duty of the viewer to come up with an explanation for the shows strange happenings; it is for the writers. When the show is done, I want to contemplate what I think the show is telling me about life, the nature of humanity and how we ought to live, and not why the Man in Black needed someone else to kill Jacob. If at the end of the tale, I’m left as an apologist explaining gaps in the story, then it wasn’t told well. It’s got me thinking about all the wrong things.
I mentioned that the “flash sideways” is a cheat, and that’s because largely it doesn’t make any sense. From the very beginning of the “flash sideways” we see the island sunk. This is not from any character perspective, and doesn’t seem to be anything that anyone aboard the plane would know about. This is just another lie to the audience to make them think they are watching a world in which the Incident did not happen, that the island has been destroyed and so no crash occurs. And while we quickly realize this isn’t the world we know, we don’t know why. I’ve heard explanations for the sunken island posited on various podcasts, but I find them lacking. Also, as a watcher, I don’t consider it my opinion to try to square the story. I consider that the writers’ responsibility. It’s not the only part of the “flash sideways” that doesn’t make any sense, either. Since this turns out to be a part of the afterlife for all these people to meet up, why do they make so much of their lives different and yet the same? Some people die in the afterlife, like Keamy. How does that happen? Where does he go now, the after afterlife? Why don’t the Koreans speak English in the afterlife, and why aren’t they married? Why is Aaron a baby again and being born again. Theoretically he lived a full life in the “real world” after the events of the show, but for the afterlife he has to be born again? It’s icky if you think about it. Where did Jack’s son come from? In fact, the list of questions is so long that I’ll stop here, but it makes absolutely no sense from start to finish. It’s just a big red herring, a giant lie to the audience and a whole host of little ones. I call foul on the “flash sideways”.
Likewise, the temple is a cheat, but for different reasons. It’s a placeholder. The time in the temple gives the audience very few of the answers for which it was hungry after five years of seemingly inexplicable occurrences. I was very excited to be getting into the temple, and it seemed we’d finally find out what the Others were all about and why they were so devoted to Jacob. It didn’t come at first, but while my friends were getting impatient I was excited still to see where things were going. Boy do I feel sheepish! We learned nothing from the temple. It just set up people for the Man in Black to kill, I guess because we weren’t ready to kill any of the main characters yet.
It seemed at first we might learn something about the illness that seemed to have changed Rousseau’s friends and husband. We know after his time in the temple he was ready to kill her, and it certainly seemed that this was because the Smoke Monster had changed them somehow. (I had thought they’d died and unburied dead persons could be perverted by the Man in Black. This would have explained quite a few things, but turned out not to have anything to do with anything.) When Sayid had died and come back, it seemed that he’d gotten that same sickness. He was listless, and the Others seemed to believe that he’d been changed somehow. But he’s able to shake it off and sacrifice himself for his friends, and I guess he only thought he was bad because he believed the press about himself. What? That’s it? We learn nothing really then about what happened to Rousseau’s crew, why they went crazy and why her husband wanted to kill her. The temple gave us nothing but a show of Smokey’s power, which we already had a pretty good idea of already.
While many of the Others died, some of them went with Man in Black, for their own survival. Among them were Cindy and the two children from the plane who had gone with her. It was good to see Cindy again. We hadn’t seen her since season three. Like an idiot, totally unaware of what I’d been watching all this time, I thought we’d finally learn why she and the children accepted life among the Others so easily. I was sure this would give us some insight into the Others. At this point, one should consider me something of a half-wit, because of course we learn nothing about that situation.
Also surviving the attack were the main cast, and Alanna, Ben, Frank, and Miles. I was glad that Alanna was still around, because we’d seen Jacob come to her. Learning about her would give us some insight into Jacob and what this show was really about. We were teased with a little more of her back story, and we learned that she was going to protect the “candidates.” But that back story was only five minutes. We learned nothing more. In fact, she didn’t make it to the end, because she Artzted herself (that is, blew herself up with dynamite.) And so we learned nothing more about Jacob or his relationship to her.
Uh oh. I’ve gotten off point. Alanna and Cindy weren’t so much cheats as just obnoxious that nothing was told the audience. But that’s not really the point of this post.
Of course, to be fair, not all of season six’s failures were cheats. Some of the problem is that the writers didn’t make for themselves a compelling way to reveal some of the island’s secrets. One of the early mysteries was the whispering that scared Sayid in the jungle and sometimes seemed to presage some event. The whispering would start when Walt would appear to Shannon (why Shannon of all people?) and got really going right before she died. In fact, the whispering was really going right before she died, and not only she and Sayid heard it, but the Tailies, who were running scared and had just lost another member to the Others, heard it too and were spooked. This contributed to Ana Lucia killing Shannon. In season six, we learned what those whispers were. In a very brief scene, the dead Michael confirms for Hurley that the whispers are dead people trapped on the island. The moment couldn’t have been less climactic. And then the show went on, while the writers checked off a box on their list.
I could go on and on. I really could. We still have no idea why the Others were kidnapping people, not really, or why Jacob would want them to do so. But I have one more post about this show, and then I’m done with it, except I have to watch it back through once with my wife who missed the sixth season while she was in Iraq. My next post about the show will be about faith and Lost.
I’m done apologizing for the show. The writers cheated us. I’ve not written about each example, but Aaron is a good one. Much of what went on during the show was just about keeping the audience coming back for the craziness, to find out what was really going on. After the show, many are still trying to figure it out. Me? I don’t care. I want a story to tell me about the human experience. At moments Lost does that, but ruins it by making us try to figure out what happened on the show at all. The writers have cheated us, and I’m done with Lost. My sister was right. I should have maintained my skepticism.
I’m sorry, Meatloaf. I should have listened to you.
Thursday, May 27. 2010
If you're following me on 750words.com, you probably found out that I missed a day. I do have a reason: I was rewriting the following 750words post to make it a full-fledged article for the blog. The original wasn't nearly as coherent as this, hopefully this is the first "pay-off" from my 750words.com experiment. Note that this will "spoil" for anyone who hasn't seen the Lost series finale.
Continue reading "Why I Missed a Day"
Monday, May 10. 2010
The Two Cathedrals of Blasphemy and Ego Posted by The Fox in TV at 15:02
Originally, I had typed up some comments to send to TrekWest5 regarding the West Wing season 2 finale, “Two Cathedrals”. But they were quickly turning into a “dissertation” akin to my screed against ST:TNG’s “Homeward” and I wished to spare you all my ire. After all, it’s a much-loved episode. The writing, acting, and directing are all quite powerful. And yet, I find them unsettling, and not at all in a good way. Whereas Peter and his guest host, Joey, find the show a powerful statement about faith, I find it to be quite the opposite. “Two Cathedrals” is a script full of blasphemy and a president’s ego, not about his coming to grips with the tragedies in his life. And it only goes to show why Josiah Bartlet, while a charismatic figure, is ultimately an unlikeable one.
I must disagree with Peter and Joey’s assessment of Bartlet’s angry railing against G-d. This is not mere questioning of his faith; he goes far beyond that. He curses G-d. He hurls epithets at him. He is not seeking answers to the question: “Why do good people suffer?” And I was shocked to hear it replayed on the podcast. These are words that I do not think should have been written, even for the sake of fiction. Cursing G-d is no light thing. I thought for sure Joey would have been troubled by this scene rather than calling it a “tribute to personal faith.”
Bartlet has blasphemed G-d. Exodus 22.27 (28 in Christian translations) commands: “You shall not revile G-d, and you shall not curse a leader among your people.” Leviticus 24.15 likewise commands: “And to the Children of Israel you shall speak, saying: Any man who will blaspheme his G-d shall bear his sin….”
This is not a light thing the President has done. In The Path of the Righteous Gentile, blasphemy is described this way:
“Blasphemy is the act of cursing the Creator. It is a deed so indescribably heinous that the Talmud, whenever referring to blasphemy, calls it by the euphemistic term 'blessing G-d,' to avoid directly expressing the idea of cursing G-d, the Father of all.”
Rabbi S.R. Hirsch reflects this abhorrence for blasphemy in his book on the philosophy of Torah laws when in his chapter discussing blasphemy he prints the pertinent verses but refuses to discuss them further: “Here would be the place to deal with the most abhorrent of crimes, blasphemy, but the author recoils with horror from doing so.”
Does this mean that one cannot question his faith or question G-d? The two are not related. Questioning G-d does not require cursing him. The two are wholly separate acts. The whole book of Job wrestles with the question why good people sometimes suffer. But the line between the question and cursing G-d is clearly drawn: “His wife said to him, ‘Do you still maintain your wholesomeness? Blaspheme G-d and die! Job said to her, ‘You talk as any impious woman might talk. Furthermore, shall we accept the good from G-d and not accept the bad?’ Despite everything, Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2.9-10.) And then in beginning in the third chapter, Job questions why such bad things have befallen him. The difference between questioning G-d and cursing Him could not be made more clear. The epithets hurled by Josiah Bartlet at G-d fall into the latter camp.
But in the end, it will be argued, regardless of how it was done the president’s faith in G-d was restored, and that’s the important thing. However it happened, it happened. The critic may even admit that the president was a bit disrespectful, but he will say that it all worked out in the end. He will likely say that I am wound too tightly, that I take things too seriously and that this is just a television show. To which I say, some things are to be taken seriously, that G-d is holy, and some things are not said even in jest.
But further, I will say that the president’s faith in G-d wasn’t restored. What he achieved was faith in himself. That’s what the end of the show was about. Yes, Mrs. Landingham (and therefore Bartlet) pointed out that G-d doesn’t send drunk drivers. Good, he stopped blaming G-d. But that is quickly set aside for the president to pump himself. He starts by remembering others have it worse than he does, but quickly turns it into a political speech. All these suffering people, they are the reason why he must run again, so that he can save them. They need him and his genius mind. They need his compassion. Forget that the president is again avoiding the issue that he has denied the voters a clear choice for themselves. Forget also that in his second term, that brilliant mind of his is likely to be mush. None of that matters, because he is so important. As if the world would barely be able to go on without him. Look at him in the cathedral proudly telling G-d of his great accomplishments. He offsets his great deeds with the tragedies inflicted by G-d. This man is all ego. (And someone will say, “What a president with an ego?” Good point.) Note his conclusion to his tirade against G-d: “You get Hoynes.” As if he can stick G-d with the lesser man. Hubris.
And if I let myself, I could really get going here. But this ultimately is just a television show. I’m not bothered by a character with ego. We can learn a lot from such stories. But blasphemy is something else. In the end, I cannot like this episode. It confuses the difference between expressing sadness and anger and cursing G-d. When I’m arguing with my wife, I don’t hit her. When I don’t understand why life is hard, I don’t curse G-d.
1. Clorfene, Chaim and Yakov Rogalsky. The Path of the Righteous Gentile. Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers Ltd, 1987. p. 74.
2. Hirsch, Rabbi Samson Raphael. Horeb: A Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances. New York: Soncino Press, 2002. (Original 1837.) p. 452.
Tuesday, April 27. 2010
Theories and questions in a conversation between myself and AoD. Please join in using the comments. Everything below the fold will spoil LOST up to the episode that aired on April 20th, so be forewarned. Please don't post anything from tonight's episode. We'll create a new thread for that. Continue reading "LOST Q&A "
Monday, April 26. 2010
I can't remember which one of you I was talking to that asserted that we don't know what the island is yet. In a recent interview given by Damon Lindelof, he said this question had been answered. While Mr. Lindelof didn't actually tell WHEN it had been answered, I'm quite confident that it came to us in "Ab Aeterno", as Richard and Jacob were talking about the nature of the Island, Jacob, and The Great Deceiver. Holding a wine bottle, Jacob tells Richard Alpert:
"Think of this wine as what you keep calling hell...there's many other names for it too--malevolence, evil, darkness, and here it is, swirling around in the bottle unable to get out because if it did, it would spread. The cork is this island. And it's the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs."
You can find more at Lostpedia's entry on Ab Aeterno.
Friday, February 6. 2009
If you did, and you didn't catch/understand/recognize the name that Creed mentioned to Andy, follow below the fold. Continue reading "Did You Watch "The Office"?"
Thursday, November 20. 2008
In the Season Two finale of The West Wing, President Bartlet is overcome by memories of his late secretary, Mrs. Landingham, as her funeral approaches. As he ponders his political future amid scandal, he has a vision of Mrs. Landingham in the Oval Office, advising him to run for reelection. With her encouragement, and Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits serving as the soundtrack, Bartlet summons the courage to seek a second term.(http://www.sheknows.com/articles/806665.htm)
I miss shows that were actually GOOD.
Saturday, October 25. 2008
Friday, October 10. 2008
Thursday, July 17. 2008
In the past few months, I may have suggested to some of you that Bones was a TV show you should be watching. I believe I even told MG that it was better than a lot of the stuff I was already watching.
Well, I have just finished Season 03 of Bones, and I'd like to officially and publicly withdraw anything positive I may have said about this show. I cannot believe that they thought people would just accept their proposed "conclusion" to the season-long serial killer story line, and I will not be watching it if it returns to television this fall. It's AMAZING how quickly they were able to ruin this gem.
If you had already started watching it on my recommendation, I apologize and suggest you redirect those energies elsewhere. I don't think anyone could find it a satisfying conclusion to what should have been a great TV show.
Friday, July 11. 2008
Remember: The first episode of Dr. Horrible's Sing-along blog starts on Tuesday, 15 JUL 2008.
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