Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 16 - Your guilty pleasure show.

I've been thinking of this one off and on since I first started this meme, and have finally come to the conclusion that I will refrain from answering, based on principle. I hate the term "guilty pleasure" whether it refers to TV, movies, books, or any other kind of entertainment. There's a connotation that something should be "worthy" of having attention bestowed upon it, that, for instance, a TV show should be "good," however one defines that, and if it's not, then one should feel guilty for enjoying it.

I think I first had an aversion to the term when I started seeing it in conjunction with genre shows; SF shows with small followings referred to as "guilty pleasures," as though we were all hiding in our homes, curtains securely drawn, hoping the neighbors wouldn't come by and see us watching a show about aliens or robots or monsters. Worse than just watching, enjoying. "Guilty pleasure" is just another way of expressing genre bias most of the time, whatever that genre may be - no one ever refers to a straight-forward drama as a guilty pleasure. It's always SF or fantasy or reality or silly comedy.

I figure that if something entertains you, then you shouldn't feel guilty about it. There are lots of different reasons for watching a TV show - the genre, the writing, the stories, characters, actors, mise-en-scène, the music, some combination thereof, the whole package - and whatever those reasons may be, they're legitimate enough to spend your time on. Why feel guilty about that? Why apologize for liking something? I don't watch any TV shows out of a sense of obligation - once I feel that way, I stop watching - I watch because I enjoy them. Even if one show isn't as objectively "good" as something else - which can be hard to determine - that doesn't mean it still can't be entertaining. I don't have any guilty pleasures. I'm happy to admit to everything I watch, and don't care what anyone else feels about it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 15 - Favorite female character.

What's there to say? Most awesome female character ever.

The runners-up:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 14 - Favorite male character.

While there are plenty of male characters whom I've loved and whom I've even primarily watched a show for, I've never been invested in a character like Spike. This particular character archetype is probably my favorite when it comes to male characters, just because I think it lends itself so well to drama; there's nothing like a long redemption arc to pull you in.

The runners-up:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 13 - Favorite childhood show(s).

Okay, I kinda cheated; I made this favorite childhood shows instead of just show. There was no way I could pick just one, though; it was hard enough cutting it down to a top five, and leaving out shows like Get Smart and Sightings. I tried to keep myself to the years five through eight or so, and I think that the above list really does explain a lot.

When I used to come home from kindergarten, the essential dilemma that always confronted me was: would I watch The Addams Family, or The Super Mario Brothers Show? They were on at the same time, and most of the week TAF won, but on Fridays, TSMBS would have Legend of Zelda cartoons, and I ALWAYS watched those. (I actually found the entire Legend of Zelda cartoon collection a couple years ago and bought it and ran out of the store because obviously it couldn't be real, right? They couldn't actually have put THE BEST CARTOON EVER on DVD, right?) Sadly, when I think about it, Thundercats is the only show up there in which I wasn't invested in some ship (and that might just be me not remembering, and not that there wasn't one). Gomez and Morticia, Tony and Angela, Scrooge McDuck and his Lady Love Whose Name I Have Forgotten*, and yes, Link and Zelda. OMG, I remember watching the episode when Link turns invisible and Zelda gets worried and they end up kissing at the end, crouched on the floor about eight inches in front of the TV, FREAKING OUT, and guys, if I had had the ability/knowledge to tape things at the age of five, and had been able to tape that, and had been able to rewatch it whenever? IDEK.

*I still have a Duck Tales sticker book that includes a story of Scrooge and his Lady Love and it was kind of a big deal when I ended up finding the important relationship stickers. I remember my dad driving me to a couple different grocery stores and being so excited to come home and put them in the book and being so scared that I would somehow lose them between the store and the house. I am sometimes legit sad when I look at that book and see that I was only a handful of stickers shy of filling it completely in. I was so close!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 12 - An episode you've watched more than 5 times.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - 5x07 - "Fool for Love."

The aforementioned episode Fool for Love was only the fourth episode of Buffy I'd ever seen up to that point, when I was a freshman at USC (oh my God, that was ten years ago). I had mostly started watching it because there was nothing else on, and after this? I was in love. With the show, and with Spike. This is just a great, great episode from every single perspective, and is definitely my favorite of the series. It's an origin story, a significant step in Buffy and Spike's relationship, and one of the most potent expressions of one of the show's most important themes: that the Slayer is caught between two worlds, that in fighting to vanquish evil cannot help but be touched by that evil herself.

(ETA: Whoa, I have, like, no Buffy icons. I need to rectify that.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I've spent the last half-hour or so reading this, and it's been awhile since something reduced me to the kind of weak-kneed tears you have to just put your head down and weather: MetaFilter commenters in DC and New York club together to save a pair of visiting Russian students from falling into the hands of sex-traffickers. I can't imagine what it would have felt like to have followed this thread in real-time yesterday. (I was relating this story to Sarah and choked up again just talking about it.)

Also, this may not seem like it belongs in the same post, but it DOES, because this post is about JOY. Glee Cast - "Bad Romance"
Day 11 - A show that disappointed you.

Look, I really liked Heroes. A lot. I made desktops, I made banners, I read fanfiction, I read meta, I went out and bought the S1 DVDs the very first day they went on sale. I thought this might be my Next Big Show.

And...well, this show was probably hardest hit by the writer's strike. I gave it the benefit of the doubt. Waited for it to come back. still fizzled. But once Bryan Fuller came back to the show after Pushing Daisies got canceled, S3 kind of picked up and I thought maybe the show would get back to its feet and figure some things out.

And...S4 sucked. And then it got canceled. I'll probably eventually finish watching it when the DVDs come out and I can get them from the library, but I'm in no big hurry; all I really care about is seeing how Bennet and Claire turn out.

This show just...they never knew what to do after the first season. They didn't know how to evolve the characters, let them change and develop new and different relationships with each other; they didn't know that the fans weren't clamoring for season-long arcs to just be more and more dire (last season we threatened blowing up NYC, now we have to blow up THE WHOLE WORLD!), just to make sense; they didn't know how to introduce new characters without giving them the full-on Fred S3 Angel treatment (isn't this the greatest character ever DON'T YOU LOVE THEM YES YES LOVE THEM); everything that a show has to do, and usually does, to succeed past the first season, they didn't do. Most shows grow so far past what you see in S1, and change and mature, and Heroes never could. It's disappointing.
Day 10 - A show you thought you wouldn't like but ended up loving.

It took me awhile to even remember why I started watching Babylon 5. I must have been at the library, wandering around the TV section, and whatever disc I had been hoping to check out next must have been gone. I have read about Babylon 5 for years, usually in the context that it was better than whatever else I was watching. "Oh, Babylon 5 did this so much better." "I remember when Babylon 5 had a similar episode but of course they pulled it off." There was always a lot of talk about how the show had been intricately planned out from the beginning, all five seasons, every major arc and plot all ready set up and just awaiting its time to be unleashed.

And I remember always thinking...yeah. I'm sure. When this show aired, there weren't many arc shows - everyone always made a big deal about XF's mythology and they only aired four or five mytharc episodes a season. I'm sure it's the same deal with B5, and it's just not going to hold up when most shows nowadays are very arc-driven, so B5 won't be that big a deal. Besides, I doubt the effects hold up at all, and the production design won't be up to my current standards; oh, it might be okay, but that's probably it.

You know. That snobby response I have to anything that's popular independent of my involvement?

Anyway, yeah, pleasantly surprised. No, the effects haven't quite held up, although they're already miles better in S2 than they were in S1. But yeah...this is pretty much the most arc-driven show I've ever watched. Every episode bleeds into the next, builds on the next. Continuity is very carefully kept track of, and there's not an idle comment. I've already seen things vaguely hinted at in episode three or four pay off in episode thirty. Even episodes that at first glance seem to just be a stand-alone end up advancing the overall plot either by theme, individual plot point, B-story, runner, or even just what headline is on the newspaper an extra is reading.

And, funnily enough, the best actors on the show are the ones covered in alien makeup - they get the most profound and dramatic material to deal with and acquit themselves wonderfully. There have been some real goosebump scenes, some really great lines of dialogue. The other actors have occasional leaden moments, and there've been a few clunkers as far as individual episodes and moments go, but by and large I've been pretty impressed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 09 - Best scene ever.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I'm about 95% sure that Catherine got me sick through the internet. (I admit a slim 5% chance that it was the plague-ridden first graders I subbed for last week.) I haven't been on the computer much, because that would mean I'd have to walk downstairs, which would mean that at some point, inevitably, I'd have to walk back upstairs. Which wasn't happening for a few days. I'm on the mend, though, so that's good.

Day 07 - Least favorite episode of your favorite TV show.

For The X-Files, that would be "The Field Where I Died." I know there were worse episodes, and that's not having even watched the last season. But TFWID just pissed me off. It was kind of a cool concept ruined in its execution, and there was a strong sense of being told how we were supposed to feel about Mulder and Scully's relationship from two writers who were soon to leave the show (again). I hated that one actress's stupid voice, and Mulder's dumb, "You were there too, Scully, except that you were a dude," and it's actually been like twelve or thirteen years since I watched it last and I don't actually remember that much. It was bad.

For Battlestar, that would be "The Woman King." Ugh. Like, on the one hand, I know that the subplot that was going to drive a lot of this episode ended up getting cut and they kind of had to throw something together, but on the other hand, that happens in TV; I know that the network threw out a Buffy script just before they were set to shoot, and Doug Petrie ended up writing "Fool For Love," my favorite episode of the series, in 48 hours, so it can be done. It was just a mess of an episode, and kind of insulting, and no one was in character, and they absolutely wasted Bruce Davison.

Day 08 - A show everyone should watch.

I still haven't watched the third season, in my quest to make sure some shows don't end too soon - I still have new Deadwood to watch! This is just a great, great show. It's as filthy and depraved as you might expect from an HBO show about the Wild West, and yet many characters, even the lawless cutthroats, have their own particular brand of honor that you can't help but root for them. The dialogue is marvelous - rich, unexpected, and such a wealth of cursing! Beautiful sets and costumes, wonderful work with the camera, and one of the deepest, most fantastic casts I've seen.

I mean, how can you not love this show?:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 06 - Favorite episode of your favorite TV show.

Since I had two favorite shows, I had to pick two favorite episodes.

Post-Modern Prometheus! I really don't know what to say about it that I haven't already. It's pretty much perfect. I love the following: black and white cinematography, Cher, the Frankenstein take-off, message of acceptance, dancing, Cher, "What's not to love?", John O'Hurley, Mulder getting drugged, Cher, and dancing.

This episode, you guys. There isn't a moment that I feel like fast-forwarding, a beat that feels wrong, a single actor that isn't at the top of their game. The action is so well-paced, the special effects are amazing, the music is perfectionary. And the last seven minutes are killer - I never fail to get a little misty at Tigh and Starbuck's just numbed reactions being back on the Galactica. When Bill tells Tigh, "You did it. You brought them home," and Tigh chokes out, "Not all of them," that's pretty much the theme of the show.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 05 - A show you hate.

This one was tough. Usually if a show's not doing it for me, I just quit watching it. I pride myself on not being one of those angry, bitter people who invariably post incessantly about a show they profess to hate yet continue to avidly watch every week. You know the ones. "I tuned in again and it still sucks! I hate every character, they're all pale shadows of their formerly wonderful selves! If only I could write for the show, I'd do this and this and this! And then it would be perfect!" I don't do that.

The most I could muster up for any show I watched at one point and then quit watching was indifference, or disappointment. But hate?

And then it hit me.

I've watched exactly one episode of Two and a Half Men, back at UT, in TV writing class; someone was writing an episode for the comedy half of the semester, and I felt I should see at least a single episode to have some basis for my critique, to be a little more familiar with the show. I don't think I ever even smiled, let alone laughed. 2.5Men wouldn't necessarily earn any of my ire just for being an unfunny sitcom; there are a lot of those. What irritates me about it, what really just enrages me, is the fact that it is so very popular.

Popular! One of the highest-rated shows on TV! And it's awful! And I just think of all the really, really great shows that I've loved that have been canceled after two seasons, or one, or half of one, and how great they were, and brilliant and awesome, and no one watched them because they were all off watching stupid shit like 2.5Men. I mean, seriously.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day 04 - Your favorite show ever.

I went back and forth. If I picked BSG, I felt like I was betraying my childhood; if I picked XF, I felt like I was living in the past. They're both my favorite show ever, for different reasons. XF because it was the show that informed all of my dramatic sensibilities, the first show whose fandom I entered, the first show that I was crazy over; BSG because it's the best show I've ever watched, because I learned how to be a writer while I watched it and I'll always connect the two in my mind. When XF ended (for me, at any rate; I still have yet to watch S9 beyond the finale), I was certain that I would never find another show to make me feel the way I did for XF. I had several shows after that I loved and that meant a lot - Buffy and Angel, Arrested Development - but nothing that was quite the same. That BSG made me feel the same way that XF did when I was a kid means there's no way to put one above the other. It's a tie!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 3: Your favorite new show (aired this TV season).

I'm one of the apparently very few people who liked and was satisfied with the Battlestar finale, but even I was skeptical about Caprica at first. This doubt was not assuaged by the pilot, which was rocky, overwritten, and not particularly compelling for all that there were a few nice moments. But the first nine episodes of the show proper got better every week, until the mid-season finale made it clear that this was going to be a show that while very different from Battlestar was still able to compete with it. This is less a show about how the Cylons were made and more about why they decided to destroy humanity; that said, for as dark as it can be, it's also a very human show. A lot of the time when I watch TV, characters do mean, dumb, ignorant things for no other reason than to further the plot, or because it seems that no one knows how to write a flawed yet sympathetic character. Not so with Caprica - they all have problems, and everyone seems emotionally stunted in one way or another, yet they're all so wonderfully real and human that it can be difficult to watch, knowing that they're all going to die.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 2: A show that you wish more people were watching.

To continue with my theme of shows headed by strong female characters, I really love Olivia Dunham. She's fearless, awesome, smart; she doesn't have break-downs or emotional outbursts; she gets shit done even when it's not always the most "dramatic" or TV-conventional way of doing it. But that's not the only reason I love Fringe; it juggles stand-alones and mytharc episodes with ease, the cast has terrific chemistry, John Noble is a riot, there's actual continuity - not just plot, but character - from week to week and even season to season. Most of all, I love how pretty this show is. It's just so pretty. Good cinematography goes a long way with me. To demonstrate, here's a picspam from the last episode I watched.

Note: these aren't retouched in any way. They're not cropped; these are the exact framings. I just resized them. No color work, no light effects, no textures, nothing.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I love TV memes! I found this one today. First up:

1. A show that never should have been canceled.

This was such a great show. Oh, it wasn't perfect, and there were moments and characters that weren't my fave, but by and large it delivered, week after week. Helmed by an incredibly strong female protagonist, this show wasn't afraid to change up its premise, explore the kinds of storytelling you don't normally see with genre TV, and take characters to darker places than they usually go. It was smart, inventive, fun - awesome, in a word. I still miss it.

The meme in its entirety, which I'm putting here for reference, and also if anyone else wants to do it.

Day 01 - A show that never should have been canceled.
Day 02 - A show that you wish more people were watching.
Day 03 - Your favorite new show (aired this TV season).
Day 04 - Your favorite show ever.
Day 05 - A show you hate.
Day 06 - Favorite episode of your favorite TV show.
Day 07 - Least favorite episode of your favorite TV show.
Day 08 - A show everyone should watch.
Day 09 - Best scene ever.
Day 10 - A show you thought you wouldn't like but ended up loving.
Day 11 - A show that disappointed you.
Day 12 - An episode you've watched more than 5 times.
Day 13 - Favorite childhood show.
Day 14 - Favorite male character.
Day 15 - Favorite female character.
Day 16 - Your guilty pleasure show.
Day 17 - Favorite mini series.
Day 18 - Favorite title sequence.
Day 19 - Best TV show cast.
Day 20 - Favorite kiss.
Day 21 - Favorite ship.
Day 22 - Favorite series finale.
Day 23 - Most annoying character.
Day 24 - Best quote.
Day 25 - A show you plan on watching (old or new).
Day 26 - OMG WTF? Season finale.
Day 27 - Best pilot episode.
Day 28 - First TV show obsession.
Day 29 - Current TV show obsession.
Day 30 - Saddest character death.

Monday, May 3, 2010

New April Media.

16. Antony and Cleopatra, Colleen McCullough. 4-6.
17. Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman. 4-11.
18. The Children of Men, P.D. James. 4-15.
19. Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. 4-21.
20. Beauty, Robin McKinley. 4-25.
21. All Together Dead, Charlaine Harris. 4-26.

13. Zombieland (2009). 4-1.
14. Bright Star (2009). 4-5.
15. In the Loop (2009). 4-10.
16. How To Train Your Dragon (2010). 4-20.
17. Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death. 4-24.

Television Episodes
142. Babylon 5 - 1x21 - “The Quality of Mercy.” 4-1.
143. Babylon 5 - 1x22 - “Chrysalis.” 4-2.
144. Babylon 5 - 2x01 - “Points of Departure.” 4-2.
145. Babylon 5 - 2x02 - “Revelations.” 4-2.
146. Babylon 5 - 2x03 - “The Geometry of Shadows.” 4-3.
147. Babylon 5 - 2x04 - “A Distant Star.” 4-4.
148. Glee - 1x14 - “Hell-o.” 4-13.
149. Modern Family - 1x19 - “Benched.” 4-14.
150. The Office - 6x07 - “Koi Pond.” 4-15.
151. Babylon 5 - 2x05 - “The Long Dark.” 4-19.
152. Glee - 1x15 - “The Power of Madonna.” 4-21.
153. The Office - 6x20 - “Secretary’s Day.” 4-23.
154. 30 Rock - 4x17 - “Lee Marvin vs. Derek Jeter.” 4-23.
155. 30 Rock - 4x18 - “Khonani.” 4-24.
156. Glee - 1x16 - “Home.” 4-27.
157. Modern Family - 1x20 - “Travels with Scott.” 4-28.
158. The Office - 6x21- “Body Language.” 4-29.
159. 30 Rock - 4x19 - “Argus.” 4-29.
160. Fringe - 2x11 - “Unearthed.” 4-30.

Less new TV this month, for a couple reasons. One, I was writing a lot, or coming home and reading instead of watching TV. Two, I rewatched a lot of TV - Caprica, S1 of Terminator, the highlights of S3 of BSG. Three, I decided that it's not that big a deal if I don't make 500 new episodes, same as I won't get to 100 new movies; it's just a list, a way of keeping track, and I like that part of it, not so much the specific number.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Eh, never mind the previous. After hemming and hawing, I finally told myself that it's just money, and submitted them both. I mean, what else am I gonna spend it on? Probably crap I don't need. So.

Ha, so, two weeks ago I was looking for something under my bed and pulled out this book: How To Write a Movie In 21 Days. I must have either bought it for a class at USC and never read it once it became clear that we would never be asked about it (I learned my lesson and quit buying books until an assignment actually showed up on the syllabus), or someone, probably one of my mom's friends, gave it to me as a gift. To say I never read it is an understatement. Anyway, I sat down and flipped through it, laughing, like, write a movie in 21 days? Come on. That's unpossible. It takes me at least three or four months to write a movie; I'd be lucky to come up with the outline in just three or four weeks.

But I kind of kept thinking about it. That sounds like a challenge! That sounds like that book is questioning my honor! I read the first part. Right off the bat, there were exercises - write for eight minutes about your movie's theme, write for three minutes about a location and everything in it, write for ten minutes about meeting your main character for the first time - and I would just read past them, and then later on the page would be an admonition to not just read! If you haven't done the exercise yet, do it now!! And I started to feel...guilty. Like the teacher was at the front of the classroom, giving an assignment, and I was just doodling in the back. Then I told myself, I just finished a screenplay! I don't have any ideas ready to go! It takes me a long time to prepare; I have to profile characters, and outline plots, and come up with scenes, and maybe even research.

And then my brain reminded me of my aborted NaNoWriMo project from two years ago, that I had continued to sort of spin around in my head on and off - meaning, on about once a month or so - since then. So I sat down and did the exercises, and remembered some things, and made up others. And when I got to the page that told me to start writing the actual script - ten pages in two hours, no less (it takes a week to write ten pages! what is this book thinking?) - I decided to go for it. What can it hurt? It'll just be a crappy first draft, but it'll be something I can look at for revision, and any scripts in my back pocket, no matter how rough, are good things. Two days later, I have the first thirty pages.

It's kinda weird, writing like that. I'm not used to it. I'm used to sitting down with my notebook and carefully writing three or four scenes over the space of an afternoon, writing by hand, measuring out each scene, really thinking about it, only writing after I've conceptualized each scene in my head - played it out like an internal movie, seen how my actors move through it, heard the dialogue. To just sit down and go for it? I mean, I've done it before, when I reworked an entire draft in a single day for a class, which meant rewriting the first act and writing the rest of the film from scratch, but that was different as I'd had two semesters working on that project already, so I knew a lot about the characters and plot, et cetera.

But you know what? It works. Not for anything other than a first draft, mind you - you just have to plan more than that if you're going to work in subplots and foreshadowing and have scenes that start late and end early - but for just getting something there? Something that you can then later look at and evaluate and rewrite? It works. And it's actually kind of exciting.