autographedcat: (Dayna Larger)

A few months ago, we had a member of the group I hang out with on Facebook leave the group because he wanted to avoid spoilers1 for Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead.  Since the latter show just ended its half-season and is going on hiatus, he rejoined the group and announced he had returned.  I replied “Welcome back!” and then, as I reflexively do whenever I say those two words, appended “Your dreams were your ticket out.”  It’s just a thing I do.

Somehow, the juxtaposition of the theme from Welcome Back, Kotter and Breaking Bad stayed in my head, and a few minutes later I posted this:

For your consideration:

A 1970s era remake of “Breaking Bad” starring Gabe Kaplan and Ron Palillo.

One commenter noted that Ron Palillo sadly passed away not too long ago; I was aware of that, but somehow it was much funnier to me that our Jesse substitute was Horshack rather than any of the other Sweathogs.23 And, really, it might have ended there, but my friend Joey chimed in “With a theme by John Sebastian”.

At first, I tried to imagine how Sebastian might render Dave Porter’s brilliant Breaking Bad theme, but then I realised I was coming at it backwards.  The following just wrote itself:

Breaking Bad 
Your cancer was just an excuse
Breaking Bad
You always wanted to slip the noose

Well your dreams never were what you’d hoped they’d be
Now you’re out on the res in an old RV

Who’d have thought they’d come true
(Who’d have thought they’d come true)
Crystalised in ice blue
(Crystalised in ice blue)

Well, he’ll prob’ly wind up dead
‘Cause he’s in over his head
Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad, Breaking Bad, Breaking Bad

I really haven’t a clue what to do with this idea, but it’s continuing to entertain me.

  1. The longruning debate over when its okay to post spoilers into an open space continues to weary me, since, as I’ve posted about multiple times, it’s largely a question of manners

  2. I later decided that Vinnie and Epstein would be Badger and Skinny Pete, respectively.  Mr. Woodman is Gus Fring. Not sure there’s a good analogue in this scenario for Freddie. 

  3. ETA:  No, Boom-boom Washington is Skinny Pete.  Vinnie is Combo.  That works better. 

Mirrored from Home of the Autographed Cat.

autographedcat: (Default)
No theme this week. Just a selection of good reads from the previous week.

Friday Five: Good Reads | Home of the Autographed Cat
autographedcat: (doctor who - big damn heroes)

Today is Thanksgiving in the US, and we’ve been enjoying the first day of our long weekend with lots of good food and a mini-marathon of Doctor Who.

I’ve always been a huge Doctor Who fan, dating back to when I was a kid.  My room looked like a Doctor Who museum gift shop exploded in it.  I watched every episode, read every book, and bought every poster and collectable I could get my hands on.  Doctor Who fandom in the 1980s was a pretty small group in the US, but we were die-hard.

When the show relaunched in 2005, I was elated, and it once again became appointment television.  Up until the middle of season six or so, at least.  But something about the tenor of the developing storyline with Amy, Rory, and River was bothering me.  It just didn’t feel right;1  I still can’t really articulate it, the whole story that was developing over the beginning of season 6 just didn’t sit well with me.

There wasn’t a breaking point; there wasn’t a moment where I threw down the remote and said “That’s it, I’m done!”2  But something was corrupted in my download of the subsequent episode, and I needed to go and re-download it3 and then we got distracted with this thing and that thing and….the next thing I knew, time had passed and we still hadn’t gone back to pick it up.  The things I was hearing about the developing storylines didn’t actually make me feel like I wanted to come back to it, either.  I did watch “Asylum of the Daleks” with runnerwolf, and the Christmas special “The Snowmen”, because those were setting up the new companion.  The first just refreshed my annoyance with the Rory/Amy storyline, and the second I liked well enough to say I wanted to watch the series again, but not so much that I immediately made room in my schedule for it.

Then, this last week, they aired the 50th Anniversary episode.

I had been keeping an eye on the lead up to the festivities, but I figured I’d wait and see what they actually did with it before committing to watching it.  Multi-Doctor stories are tricky at the best of times, and I was a bit wary of what they might do with it.  But after it aired I heard nothing but good things4, so I pulled it down and we settled in to watch it on Monday night.

To say I loved it would be an understatement.  I’d been intending all week to write a more detailed reaction to it, but this was an episode that felt so perfectly right to me, with the right balance in tone between funny and serious, paid the right nods of respect to the classic series, and managed to hit a big reset button on some of the recent continuity in such a way that preserved the effect while lifting the staggering burden from the Doctor’s shoulders so that he can move on without being blithe and simply deciding to ignore the monumental consequences of his actions.5

The net result of this has been a revitalisation of my interest in the adventures of the good Doctor, so today we settled down over our Thanksgiving dinner to start watching again.  We’re not going back to where we left off — I’m still not entirely ready to watch the rest of the Ponds’s saga — but we did pick up with “The Bells of Saint John”, which was the first proper episode featuring Clara as a companion.  We got through four of them today, which is rather a lot in one stretch for us any more, and I’m finding myself quite engaged.  Some of this is due to Clara herself.  She really reminds me more of an old-school companion in her relationship to the Doctor, and she’s smart and very capable.  The details of her unfolding mystery are interesting enough, but mostly I just like her personality.

We expect to watch the remaining four episodes we’re behind on over the weekend.  I hope everyone had a wonderful day, and that, regardless of whether you are in the US or not, that you spent it enjoying life with people  you love.

  1. I expressed this to my friend Jeff, who has been my best friend since we were twelve and is also a devoted fan of the show.  He said, “I’m sorry you don’t like them.” and I explained that it wasn’t that I disliked them.  I loved Amy and Rory to death, and what I didn’t like was what was being DONE to them. 

  2. In fact, the last episode we watched was “The Doctor’s Wife” by Neil Gaiman, which I loved to bits. 

  3. I still download the episodes off the underwebs.  I don’t trust BBCA not to make a dog’s breakfast out of the episodes cutting them down for time, after the travesty of their edits on “The Eleventh Hour”. 

  4. Even Zander Nyrond, who has been a bitter critic of the new series, wrote “that actually wasn’t bad. I shall probably watch it again, and who knows, it might even make “rather good.”" 

  5. Doctor Who has never been the world’s most continuity-conscious shows in the best of times, but there are some elements you really do have to resolve on screen. 

Mirrored from Home of the Autographed Cat.

autographedcat: (Dayna Larger)

Because we watch TV on the TiVo, we rarely actually see commercials, but a recent ad by cognac giant Hennessey caught my ear,1 mostly due to their slogan juxtaposed with traditional disclaimers that accompany alcohol advertising on television in the US.

Please drink responsibly.

I’m not entirely certain those three directions are entirely compatible with one another.  Just sayin’…

  1. The text on the screen was just the first two lines.  The voice-over contained all three. 

Mirrored from Home of the Autographed Cat.

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Many years ago, I saw a commercial on BBC America for a television show called Coupling.  The commercial made it look like a good laugh, so kitanzi and I decided to give it a look, and completely fell in love with it.  It was quirky, it was funny, it was full of highly entertaining characters, and it very quickly became my favourite situation comedy of all time.  We bought the seasons on DVD, and showed them to pretty much anyone who would sit still for them, to the extent that I can still probably recite entire episodes of the first season from having seen them so many times.  (With only a couple of exceptions, everyone we showed it too also loved it too.)

In 2003, NBC announced they were going to launch a US remake of the show, with an all new cast but retaining the show’s creator and principle writer, Stephen Moffatt (who is now much more widely known for his work on Doctor Who).  We greeted this news with a fair bit of trepidation; the show starred absolutely no one anyone had ever heard of, and the track record of remaking quintessentially British shows in America wasn’t very good in recent years1.  Still, it did have the original writers working on it, and they were putting a lot of effort into promoting it.  How bad could it possibly be?

Fifteen minutes into the first episode, we had our verdict.  It could be very, very bad indeed.  The episode was pretty much a complete script-lift of the first episode of the UK show, which made already inevitable comparisons to the original impossible to avoid.  The dialogue was like a poorly fitted suit, and the actors looked physically uncomfortable with the material.  Every single joke fell flat, and the whole exercise was suffused with a general sense of wrongness.  By the first commercial, we’d pretty much made our judgement, switched it off, and watched the first season of the UK show on DVD again just to wash the taste out of our mouths.  Apparently, that was a pretty universal reaction to the show; it was cancelled after 10 episodes, and is referenced today primarily as a cautionary tale.

Until recently, this would be the end of the story.  I certainly had no reason to revisit my opinion of a terrible TV show with no redeeming qualities 10 years after it aired, did I?   Prior to this year, I’d have scoffed at the notion, and often did.  The US version of Coupling was a punchline, a story to tell children in order to make them behave.  What could inspire me to watch that travesty?

Oddly enough, two other shows sparked my curiosity.  Eureka and Better Off Ted.

I’d heard a lot of good things about Eureka when it was on the air, but I never got around to watching it.  It was another one of those shows that friends and other people who’s taste I generally trust would say generally positive things about, but never so much to make me actually watch it.  I caught one of the Christmas episodes at my mom’s house, and she said a lot of nice things about the show, and I knew that Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton both had recurring roles in later years, which piqued my interest, but not enough to drop into a show I’d never watched in the middle of its fourth season.  When we moved in with runningwolf, it turned out it was one of her favourite shows and she suggested it as a dinnertime viewing selection, so we started with it from season one and it quickly became our go-to programme to watch together.  We’ve gotten up to the last season and I know I’ll be a bit sad to see the end of it, but I’m very grateful to have experienced it.

Better Off Ted was a criminally short-lived comedy that I first heard about from markbernstein.  It got two half-seasons on ABC, and while it was well received by critics, no one watched it and it died of low ratings.  Because of Mark’s recommendation2, I had added it to my Netflix queue as a thing to watch one day, and a couple of weeks ago, when kitanzi suggested we watch “something funny”, I pulled it up and said “I hear this is good.  Give it a try?”  It was a good choice.  Better Off Ted‘s absurdist satire is right up my alley, and watching it now, long after its exit from the airwaves, I can only wonder how badly it must have been promoted to have not taken off.  Terrific cast, snappy writing, and innovative breaking of the fourth wall.  If you’ve not seen this show, go watch it.  It’s worth your time.

As I often do when watching some new show that I hadn’t seen before, I glanced through IMDB to see what else I might have seen various actors in.  Sometimes I just do this because they look vaguely familiar, and sometimes because I figure if I like someone in something I might like them in something else.  And it was here that I discovered that Tim Harrington, who plays the lead in Better Off Ted, was also Steve in the US version of Coupling.  And not only that, but Colin Ferguson  who plays the lead in Eurkea, was Patrick.

“Wow,” I thought.   We’d not heard of either of them when that aired.  I wonder if it would be interesting to rewatch that, just to see those two in it now that we know who they are?

I resisted this notion for a while.  I mean, that show as terrible.  Everyone knows that.  And watching actors you like in a painfully bad production is never fun.  Is it?

I decided to test the notion.  Searching around the dark corners of the underweb, I found the 10 episodes of Coupling US, which had been capped from a European cable channel called Canal+, complete with, of all things, subtitles in Swedish.  I decided that if I was going to review this, I was going to commit to it, and watch all ten episodes, rather than just bailing on it like I did the first time.  I’m glad I did, because the first three episodes are still painful.  Each was a remake of an episode of the UK series, and they suffer from the same problems I’d observed in my first viewing of the pilot ten years ago:  bad timing, poor execution, and generally flat lifeless storytelling.

But in the fourth episode, something amazing happened.  Rather than being a forklift of an existing episode, it was an entirely original script.  With dialogue written for them, the actors for the first time looked comfortable in their roles, the jokes popped, and I found myself genuinely laughing at the show for the first time.   Given the freedom to create their own parts rather than simply copying their British counterparts, the show relaxed and started to gel into something that could stand apart from its origins.  Tim Harrington’s Steve isn’t nearly so flustered and panicked as Jack Davenport’s, and Colin Ferguson’s Patrick isn’t quite as thick as Ben Miles3.  Christopher Moynihan’s Jeff lacks the fundamental weirdness that Richard Coyle possessed, but manages to bring the part a certain self-awareness that humanises the part, while Lindsay Price’s Jane is more grounded (and, in many ways, more predatory) than Gina Bellman.   Rena Sofer manages to play Susan as less uptight and a bit more wounded, and while Sonya Walger never really did manage to do much with the part of Sally, there were signs she was developing into a more interesting character too, particularly in the Christmas episode.  By the time the final episode rolled around, I found I was genuinely enjoying the show – not as a remake of the original, but as something new that had striking similarities to the programme which inspired it, but which nevertheless stood on its own.

I’m not going to try and convince you that the US remake of Coupling was great.  It suffers from a lot of the problems that all sitcoms do, and is wildly uneven, especially when it tries to go back to the recycled scripts well in episodes like “Foreign Affairs” (which lifts from “The Girl With Two Breasts”) or “Dressed”, but even those have enough new material mixed in that they aren’t entirely unbearable.  As a series, it doesn’t approach the genius of its predecessor  but there are individual episodes which indicate that given enough time to find it’s own rhythm and its own voice, it could have been a fine series in its own right.


1And Coupling is in many ways quintessentially British.  A common reaction to it when we were first watching it was “You’d never get away with that on American television.”

2Aside from Better Off Ted, Mark turned me onto So You Think You Can Dance and The Big Bang Theory.  As a result, I value Mark’s recommendations very highly.

3Its amusing, at times, to imagine that Steve and Patrick here are in fact younger versions of Ted Crisp and Jack Carter.  It doesn’t really hold up in the long run, but it’s still funny.

Mirrored from Home of the Autographed Cat.

autographedcat: (Default)

Last night, an event occurred on a popular television show.  Because the television show is based on a popular book, many people knew the event was going to occur.  Many people, who had not read the popular books, were unaware of the impending event and were surprised.  Many people who had read the popular books wanted to talk about the event, now that it had finally happened.  Many people who watch the popular television but watch it time-shifted rather than live were startled when suddenly, without warning, the Internet lost its mind and Twitter violently exploded.

This morning, I made a post on a Facebook group where I am a moderator.  Anticipating that the above was going to be the topic of spirited conversation, I said the following:

Careful with the <popular television show> spoilers, guys.

If you’re behind on the series, read comments at your own risk. Try and keep spoilers out of main posts, so people can decide whether or not to read them.

General spoiler etiquette says you should give at least a week of courtesy after an episode airs, because many people watch the show on DVRs or other time-shifting methods.

I thought (and still think) that this was a perfectly reasonable set of guidelines.  The subject wasn’t declared off-topic, nor were people asked to avoid spoilers entirely.  I asked folks to try and put the spoilers in the comments rather than the main post, so people trying to avoid them would have an easier time1, and asked people who wanted to avoid them to be careful and stay out of the comments threads of posts about the show so they could avoid them more easily, and put a reasonable time limit for this particular courtesy to be in effect.

And yet…

Among the reactions I got to this request included:

  • “People who have not see it read Facebook at their own risk.”
  • “This episode is a little different because people who have seen it really want to talk about it.”
  • “People who don’t want spoilers should read the books.”
  • “I don’t think you should ever have spoilers ever, no matter how old the thing in question is”
  • “Once you see the episode, you will probable do what most people did and post about it immediately.”
  •  ”A lot of TV shows and (especially) films come out at different times. Japan doesn’t get Star Trek until September, Man of Steel; August. Having them spoiled because people think that they’ve been ‘out long enough’ sucks.”
  • “[By] that logic, we can never talk about tv shows or movies.”
  • “Sorry but there WILL be spoilers on the Internet (shocking, I know) and some of us feel the [group] is the only place we can share these things.”
  • “[Some studies show that] people seem to enjoy stuff more if they know what’s gonna happen. Therefore, if you come across a spoiler? You’re welcome. LOL”
  • “I think people are all too damn sensitive.”
  • “I made a point of being discreet when Avengers, Iron Man 3,Star Trek, Harry Potter, The Hobbit came out [in the UK] first, is the consensus that when the next blockbuster is released I shouldn’t be constrained?”

Seriously, the tone of some commentators suggested they were only moments away from painting themselves blue and declaring “They can take away our spoiler posts, but they’ll never take away our FREEDOM!”2

I’m not personally put out by spoilers, and that goes doubly so in this case, where I’ve read the books the television programme is based on and have therefore been in the camp of folks waiting for the inevitable event to occur.  But how I feel about spoilers isn’t really the point.  Nor, if I’m honest, is how you feel about spoilers the point.

The point is that when we all are existing here in public, as a community, we have a moral obligation to be considerate of the thoughts and feelings of other people who are participating in that same community.  As Kurt Vonnegut so memorably says, “ There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

It’s a little bit inconvenient to make sure you put your comments behind cut-tags or outside of the main body of a post to ensure that other folks won’t trip over it.  And it’s a little bit inconvenient to have to carefully navigate through online discussion forums to make sure you don’t read something you didn’t want to, because you haven’t had a chance to see the latest thing everyone’s talking about.  And it’s inconvenient that at some point, we all decide it’s been out long enough for everyone to discuss it freely without worrying that someone hasn’t seen it yet, because there’s only so long you can keep on your guard.

These little inconveniences that we all put up with for the sake of a more gentle and kind society?  Gentle reader, they are called manners.

And I, for one, am in favour of them.


1 It’s worth noting that Facebook is singularly bad for this, because of the way it displays posts and comments.  But this was about best efforts, and there’s only so much you can do.

2 Those so inclined might wish to revisit just how well that worked out for Mr. Wallace.  (Spoiler:  Not well)

Mirrored from Home of the Autographed Cat.

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Day 17 - Favorite mini series

While lots of mini-series have been made in recent years, they always seem to be an artifact of the past to me. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, a number of Big Event™ mini-series captured the public imagination. Roots, The Winds of War, Shogun, The Thorn Birds, The Blue and the Grey, the list was endless and unrelenting. Without watching a single frame of these, you knew two things for certain: everyone was going to be talking about them, and sooner or later Richard Chamberlain was likely to show up.

Of course, these epic "TV Events" aren't the only mini-series. Cable has used the format to great effect to tell stories too large do in a single movie. HBO recently spent over $200 million on The Pacific, a sprawling World War II historical drama, and before that produced the award-winning Band of Brothers to tell the story of that war's European theatre. Back in 2000, the Sci-Fi channel did what David Lynch wasn't allowed to do 15 years previously: take six hours to bring Frank Herbert's Dune to the screen.

But this is a post about favourites, and if I had to choose a favourite mini-series of all time, I'm going to go with the 1994 adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand. The Stand is my favourite of King's novels, and it really needed the broad canvas of a mini-series to do it justice. The cast is stellar, including Gary Sinese, one of my favourite actors, along with Molly Ringwald, Ruby Dee, Matt Frewer, Ray Walston, and other notables. Up to this point, most adaptations of King's work were somewhat regrettable, with a couple of odd exceptions, but The Stand was a truly stunning piece of work, and still holds up as a quality production 15 years later. You can get it on DVD. I recommend it.

Honourable mention: Neverwhere, produced for the BBC from a script by Neil Gaiman. It took forever for this to come out on DVD, but it was worth the wait. A great deal of Gaiman's vision didn't make it to the screen (and can be found restored in the subsequent novel), but the potential can be seen, and it still feels like a Gaiman story brought to life. Again, recommended.

More questions to come. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting opinion about television from me... )
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If A TV Show Turns 50 And No One Notices... : NPR
The theme song to TV's My Three Sons is a tune all but guaranteed to start your toes tapping — and it may even conjure up long-dormant images of the animated opening credits, where cartoon toes were actually tapping.

There's value in old shows like that one, not just because the best of them were and are entertaining but because they provide a snapshot of what we were, what we accepted and what, in some cases, we aspired to become.

I mention this not because of a general wave of nostalgia, but because of a very specific wave: Last Wednesday, My Three Sons, a gentle ABC sitcom starring Fred MacMurray as a single father raising three boys, turned 50 years old. I would say it celebrated its golden anniversary, except I couldn't find any celebration.
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Day 16 - Your guilty pleasure show

I pondered this one all weekend, and to be honest, I don't have one.  More to the point, I can't really think of a show that I consider a "guilty pleasure".

On the other hand, I've never been a big fan of the concept of "guilty pleasures" anyway.  I'm enough of a hedonist that I tend not to feel guilty about my pleasures, whatever they might be, and I'm enough of an iconoclast that I don't tend to get too put out if I have personal tastes that don't dovetail neatly with the rest of society.

I really don't have a good answer for this one, guys. I'm not ashamed of any of the media I consume, and I think that you can't really call it a *guilty* pleasure without that.

I'll try and do better with the next one.

More questions to come. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting opinion about television from me... )
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Local boy paid to blow stuff up - ::
When he was young, Tory Belleci would decorate his Monterey home for Halloween with severed limbs and human statues that would come alive to frighten trick-or-treaters.

Fourth of July was also a big holiday, when Tory and his father Andy Belleci would glue fireworks to wooden planks that shot off sparks and flares in all directions.

But one special-effects stunt involving explosives nearly landed Belleci in jail — and when he got a second chance, he wound up having success in television on the show "MythBusters."
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Day 15 - Favorite female character

Wow. This one is hard. ("That's what SHE said..." "Shut up.")

Even if I limit this to favourite female character in a show I'm currently watching, it's a hard choice. Alyson Hannigan's sweetly sexy Lily on How I Met Your Mother, Kaley Cuoco's down-to-earth Penny on The Big Bang Theory. Jayma Mays's neurotic Emma on Glee, Tiffani Thiessen's sensible Elizabeth on White Collar...There's a lot to choose from.

In the end, though, I'm going to pick Stana Katic's Detective Kate Beckett on ABC's Castle. Katic's Beckett is smart, tough, and drop-dead gorgeous. The chemistry between her and Nathan Fillion's Richard Castle is incredible, and she's capable of saying more with a look than anyone on television. I've seen Beckett and Castle have entire conversations without speaking a word, which is really awesome.

I considered who I might pick if I opened this up to female characters from any show ever, but I don't think I could begin to narrow it down to a top 10, let alone a single favourite. So I'll stick with my self-imposed limitation of choosing from things I'm currently watching. Because it's my journal, and I'm allowed to do that. :)

More questions to come. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting opinion about television from me... )
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Day 14 - Favorite male character

If I'd been keeping up with this and written t his back when I first started this "one month" meme *mumble* months ago, I'd have had an entirely different answer to this question, but I've since acquired a new obsession favourite TV show, namely USA Network's White Collar

Which brings me to Neal Caffrey.

The short premise of the show is "He's a charming con-man with a heart of gold. He's the FBI agent who put him in prison. They fight crime!" Specifically, they fight the kind of high-stakes, big money crimes that you'd expect the "white collar' division of the FBI to tackle: art heists, stock swindles, counterfeiting, etc. The sorts of crimes that Neal specialised in, and quite often ends up going undercover to help solve, because he moves easily in that world.

I like Neal Caffrey because he has style. He dresses well, he's charming, extremely intelligent and well-spoken, has a wicked sense of humour, a great sense of fun and adventure, and a taste for the finer things in life. I remarked recently to [ profile] kitanzi that I often "aspired to a level of sophistication that I do not always possess.", and this is a character that embodies all of those traits that I admire and covet. (Well, except for the "criminal" part of it. But, hey, nobody's perfect.)

I will even admit that he directly inspired me to take a critical look at my own personal sartorial style and make some needed changes. So this show has done me a great deal of personal psychic good.

If you're not watching White Collar, do give it a try. Many of the things I love about the show (particularly the relationship between Neal and FBI Agent Peter Burke, Burke's relationship with his wife Elizabeth, the amazingly crisp dialogue, the fantastic undercover heist plots, and the narrative sub-plot that runs throughout the entire show) lie outside the scope of this entry. But it's hands-down my favourite show on television, and USA just announced that it is being renewed for a 3rd season. I recommend it highly to anyone.

More questions to come. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting opinion about television from me... )
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Day 13 - Favourite childhood show

It's hard to pick just one show, as I was one of those kids in the TV age who grew up on the stuff. Also, where precisely would the dividing line be between childhood and not-childhood shows.

But thinking of it, there's a show I remember quite fondly. It debuted when I was 10, and I watched it on and off for a number of years: PBS's kid's science programme 3-2-1 Contact

3-2-1 Contact was a magazine style program, with several (often related) segments dealing with science and nature. It also contained a running serial detective series with three kids, who would get caught up in various little mysteries, and solve them using some science trick or another:

Not sure how well they hold up after 30 years, though it was a bit of fun to rewatch these clips. Sadly, it doesn't appear that this show has ever been released on DVD. C'mon, CTW, let's see some love for the classics! :)

More questions to come. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting opinion about television from me... )
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Day 12 - An episode you’ve watched more than 5 times

There's a lot of episodes I've watched more than five times. I've always been one to revisit books, movies, and TV series that I really enjoy.

But the single episode of a TV series I've likely watched more times than any other, hands down, is the episode "Inferno' from Coupling. This is largely because [ profile] kitanzi and I tend to try and hook anyone who will sit still long enough on the show, and partly because it contains one of the greatest comedy rants of all time:

In all seriousness, if you've never seen Coupling, you should give it a try. Smart, snappy, and funny: everything you could ever ask from a situation comedy.

More questions to come. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting opinion about television from me... )
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Day 11 - A show that disappointed you

I hadn't forgotten this, but this question had me stumped. The truth is that I couldn't think of a single show that I'd call disappointing, at least in the sense of "I was really looking forward to this and it turned out to be meh." Certainly there are shows that went in directions that disappointed me: House leaps to mind as a show that I loved, and which eventually chased me away with the direction it was going. (I've been told it got better, but I've not bothered trying to find out.)

I think the closest I can come up with for a show that disappointed me on the offset was Ricky Gervais's The Office. When it first started airing over here, it was being lauded in commercials as the best new comedy in ages and a brilliant satire. So I decided to check it out, and found it dreadfully, sometimes painfully, unfunny. I've liked Gervais in other things, so it's not just his sense of humour not connecting with me, but I really couldn't get into it. After three different episodes completely failing to amuse me, I gave it up. (I have no opinion on the US version with Steve Carrell, etc, as I've never watched it either.)

I promise more regular updates as we delve into somewhat easier questions. :)

More questions to come. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting opinion about television from me... )
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Day 10 - A show you thought you wouldn't like but ended up loving

It was at the Dead Dog dinner at OVFF that we found ourselves sharing a table with our good friend [ profile] markbernstein, and the animated conversion turned its way to television, as it does. We listed the various things we were watching, and Mark began to enthusiastically tell us about his favourite show, So You Think You Can Dance

I have to admit, I was sceptical. I'm not a big fan of "reality Tv' as a genre; while I admit some are less tawdry than others, they all seem to have the same sort of backbiting commentary and bitter factionalism, which honestly I tend not to find entertaining over long stretches of time. But Mark insisted that SYTYCD had a different tone and that we should give it a try. That week was going to be the first episode with the Top 20 from that season (season 6), and thus would be a good point to jump on. So when we got home, we thought "well, why not" and punched it up on the Tivo, determined to at least give it a fair viewing before writing it off.

I wasn't surprised to find it mildly entertaining. Good dance is always fun to watch, and the mix of styles (both in the variety of performers and the variety of choreography) kept it from developing any sense of sameness, and if nothing else, it was (to steal [ profile] kitanzi's phrase) "pretty people doing pretty things', which isn't a bad way to spend a couple of hours when nothing else is on.

I was surprised to see how quickly we both got invested in the show and the contestants. From the first episode, we were already noting our favourites, and as the weeks passed, we got more and more connected to these people. We were actually disappointed when one of "our" dancers went home, and before we knew it, it went from "something to fill the slow season" to "must-see TV". I even ditched a standing engagement so we could watch the season finale live and actually vote, something we didn't do up to that point (usually we were watching the episodes 24 hours after they aired.) The first week after the finale, we had pangs of withdrawal, because our new favourite show wasn't on, and we eagerly looked forward to the start of Season 7 (just recently completed).

I've given a lot of thought to why this show has managed to capture my heart, when no other show like it has been able. I'm not that big a dance fan1; if it were merely the form of art, I'd expect myself to like American Idol, and I don't. There's nothing particularly novel about the format, which has been used on everything from Vatican City Idol to The Belgian Congo's Got Talent, none of which lured me in.

I think the big difference for me is how overwhelmingly positive the whole show is. None of the judges are snarky for the sake of being snarky; they genuinely critique the performances2, giving praise when its merited and criticism when it's needed, but there's no viciousness in their remarks. More to the point, the competitors seem to genuinely like each other. You can see them turning into a company by the middle of the season. They support each other, cheer each other on, and get emotional when one of them has to go. The whole thing is just uplifting in tone, and the world needs more of that.

I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mark, without whom I would likely never have taken a moment to consider watching this show. I'm already looking forward to Season 8!

1Well, I wasn't then, at least. It's grown rather a bit on me.
2I've done competition theatre. I know the difference.

More questions to come. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting opinion about television from me... )
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A while back, I started on an ambitious thirty-day meme about television. I had every intention to follow it through to the bitter end, but then Jenna got sick, and I got distracted, and never got myself tracted again. But I didn't forget about it, and I figure I'll pick it up where I left off. If you missed the beginning of this, there's links to the previous entries behind the cut-tag at the end of the post.

Day 09 - Best scene ever

This is insanely difficult to pin down. There are scenes that are great because they're funny, and scenes that are great because they're poignant or profound.

But I if I have to pick just one, I'm going to go with the scene between Mal and Simon at the end of the Firefly pilot, "Serenity" (not to be confused with the Fireflymovie of the same title):

SIMON You need me to look at that?
MAL Just a graze.
SIMON (a beat, then) So where do you plan on dumping us?
MAL There's places you might be safe. You want the truth, though, you're probably safer on the move. (turns to him) And we never stop moving.
SIMON I'm confused. No wait -- I think maybe you're confused.
MAL It may have become apparent to you, the ship could use a medic. You ain't weak. I don't know how bright you are, top three percent, but you ain't weak and that's not nothing. You live by my rule, keep your sister from doing anything crazy, you could maybe find a place here. 'Til you find a better.
SIMON I'm trying to put this as delicately as I can... How do I know you won't kill me in my sleep?
MAL You don't know me, son. So let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing me, and you'll be armed.
SIMON (smiles) Are you always this sentimental?
MAL I had a good day.
SIMON You had the law on you, criminals and savages... half the people on the ship have been shot or wounded including yourself, and you're harbouring known fugitives.
MAL (looks out at the black sky) We're still flying.
SIMON That's not much.
MAL (almost to himself) It's enough.

More questions to come. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting opinion about television from me... )
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From [ profile] aiela , via [ profile] madlori , the 30-Day TV Meme.

Day 08 - A show everyone should watch

Well, obviously, any of the shows I watch i think others should, because I think they're awesome. But to pick one is hard.

I'm going to go with Mythbusters, which is hardly in dire need of a ratings boost, but has many qualities that I really like. It's a lot of fun, and it shows practical science (and the scientific method) as something that's enormously cool. Even when they go in with expectations of results, they let the data speak for itself. And when their methods are flawed and the fans call them on it, they revisit their work in many cases.

Most science documentaries operate under the assumption that if you're watching it, you already think science is cool. Mythbusters is populist science taken the extreme, and it's something I think everyone can get something out of,

More questions to come. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting opinion about television from me... )
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From [ profile] aiela , via [ profile] madlori , the 30-Day TV Meme.

Day 07 - Least favorite episode of your favorite t.v show

While coming up with a favourite Doctor Who, episode was hard, this one is easy. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of bad Doctor Who episodes. Even forgiving the budgetary restraints that they had to work with, and being as kind and generous as possible, there's still a lot of stories that weren't very good, went on too long, contained glaring continuity holes, and all the other nonsense that separates the good from the poor. (While watching the DW: Confidential for a recent episode, [ profile] kitanzi saw a clip from 1970's "The Silurians", laughed out loud at the rubber-suit alien and said "C'mon, they weren't even trying!")

For all that, however, in this particular case, one episode does stand out to me as the nadir that Doctor Who was capable of on a given day. An episode so notable for its awfulness that even to this day, thirty years after it first aired, [ profile] hejira2006 and I will say "Well, that was bad. But it wasn't nearly as bad as 'The Horns of Nimon'.

I wish I could find a clip of Graham Crowden mincing through the halls of the spaceship, calling out "Lord Nimon! Lord Niiiiiiimon!" to give you an illustration of just how absurd this one was. (No offense to Crowden, who has done good work elsewhere, most notably in Waiting for God, which I rather enjoyed.) It may not be the very worst of Doctor Who, but it's an exemplar to stand in for the worst the show has to offer.

(I did find this one clip, from a fellow who seems to be arguing tongue-in-cheek for the opposite viewpoint. I Include it here in the interest of fairness, and to let you see both the Crowden scene mentioned above, and just how awful the minotaur costume was, even by the standards of 1979 BBC production budgets.)

More questions to come. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting opinion about television from me... )
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From [ profile] aiela , via [ profile] madlori , the 30-Day TV Meme.

Day 06 - Favourite episode of your favourite t.v show

I'm really struggling with this one. As [ profile] redaxe noted, if a show is your favourite, there's not likely to be one single episode that stands head and shoulders above the rest. In my case, having declared my favourite show to be Doctor Who, I have over 30 years worth of episodes to choose from. I think it would be hard to nail down my favourite episode from each Doctor, but I'll try...

(Yes, I'm cheating. It's my journal. I get to make the rules.)

William Hartnell (1963-1966): An Unearthly Child
The episode that set the whole thing in motion, introducing us to the mysterious Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and the TARDIS. The show would later develop a huge and cumbersome mythology, but what this episode gave us was character and mystery. (Technically, this is part one of the first 4 part serial, which includes a trip back in time to visit cavemen, but let's just pretend it isn't. It holds up better that way.

Patrick Troughton (1966-1969): The Web of Fear
I've actually only seen the one episode of this, as the remainder are lost (along with the great majority of Troughton's run, alas), but it was my favourite story from my favourite Doctor. I don't recall now if the Yeti are the only recurring monster to only be encountered by a single Doctor, but something about them captured my imagination. This story also introduced UNIT, which was to play a major role in the adventures of the third and fourth Doctors.

Jon Pertwee (1970-1974): The Daemons
This one had everything. The Master in top form, played by the incomparable Roger Delgado. A quiet English village where a mysterious cult is meddling in dark occult forces, which ultimately (of course) turn out to be alien in nature. The unflappable Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who confronted with a living gargoyle, calmly orders, "Sergeant. Chap with wings. Five rounds rapid." This serial had everything I loved about the Pertwee era of the programme.

Tom Baker (1975-1981): The Pyramids of Mars
Every time I think I've picked a favourite episode from this series, I change my mind. While, unlike most American viewers, Tom Baker isn't my personal favourite, he's the image most over here are familiar with if they know the series at all, and over seven years he did a lot of great stories. I'm going to finally settle on this one, which has a lot of fun with trippy Egyptian mythology motifs, and features some of the best Sarah Jane Smith moments the series had to offer.

Peter Davison (1982-1984): The Caves of Androzani
Sadly, Davison's best turn in the role was his last, in a stellar script by Robert Holmes that played to all his strengths in the role. (Davison said, in fact, that if he'd gotten more scripts of this quality, he might have stayed for a fourth season.)

Colin Baker (1984-1986): The Two Doctors
Honestly, there's not a lot of great Colin Baker stories to choose from. This wasn't really a high point in the series, as it was constantly on the verge of cancellation, and Baker's Doctor never really seemed to gel for me. (It's a pity. I've met Colin Baker and he's a lovely man.) I picked this one not because it's a superior story, because it's a relatively pedestrian effort for a writer as good as Robert Holmes, but it does feature Patrick Troughton reprising his role as the second Doctor, and so I'm choosing it for sentimental reasons. (I note with amusement that this is the third consecutive Robert Holmes story I've chosen...)

Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989): Ghost Light
As with Baker, McCoy never got a lot of good scripts to work with, but story editor Andrew Cartmel had ambitions that were never realized (for good or ill, its hard to say). Ghost Light is a trippy episode featuring one of McCoy's best performances. This story was the penultimate episode broadcast in the original series run.

Paul McGann (1997): The TV Movie
There are problems with the movie. It has some questionable continuity assertions, most of which fandom has decided to collectively ignore, and the actual plot (involving an unlikely Eric Roberts as the Master) is regrettable. But none of that should take away from Paul McGann, whose sole foray as the Doctor on the screen hinted at what might have been. This was a pilot project to relaunch the series in collaboration with FoX-TV, but it never went anywhere. (After seeing how they handled Firefly, I can't say I'm terribly unhappy.)

(Since this is an essay on TV, I'm not considering McGann's extensive "radio" work, but he recorded several seasons worth of audio adventures for Big Finish, and that canon contains many stories superior to this one.)

Christopher Eccleston (2005): The Empty Child
The highest point in the first season of the relaunch, Stephan Moffatt contributes the first in a series of brilliant stories that would ultimately win him the head writer position when Russell T. Davies departed. No obvious alien menace here, just creepy zombie children in gas masks, the ongoing London Blitz, and introducing the roguish Captain Jack Harkness, a character so popular he'd not only recur, but get spun off into his own series, Torchwood. At the time of its airing, this was only the third Doctor Who story in twenty-seven seasons which did not feature a single death of a character. 'Just this once,' the Doctor cries exuberantly, 'Everybody lives!'

David Tennant (2006-2009): Blink
Another Moffatt script, easily the best single episode of the new series and arguably the best Doctor Who story ever, Blink was a triumph of taut, scary storytelling using the time honoured DW motif of 'innocuous everyday thing becomes an object of fear'. The Doctor himself is notably absent from much of the story, which revolves around the delightful character of Sally Sparrow, who I for one would just as happily traded for any of Tennant's three regular companions. The Weeping Angels are wickedly effective as the monsters, and the resolution is wonderful. Tight writing and great acting make this a must-see episode.

Matt Smith (2010- ):  (no entry)
It's too early to pick a favourite eleventh Doctor story. Of the first half-dozen I've seen, I've liked some more than others, and some less than others, and there were none I'd find no fault in. What I can say without reservation is, despite my scepticism, Matt Smith's take on the character of the Doctor is brilliant, and he can just play the part for several years as far as I'm concerned. I'm utterly in love with Karen Gillan (down boy) as Amy, and I fear from the hints being dropped about her as the season-arc progresses that she may be yet another one-season companion, but I'm hoping not. Regardless, the part is in good hands, and I couldn't be more pleased with the latest incarnation of our hero.

So there you have it, then. Ten actors playing one part, and ten episodes of one of the greatest and longest-running science fiction epics in television history. If you're not familiar with the history of the series and wanted an overview, you could do worse than the episodes I've chosen, I think.

More questions to come. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting opinion about television from me... )


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