Friday, April 26, 2013

TV For Dummies

This isn't so much going to be a blog post as it is a public service announcement. Or a dictionary, really. For people who don't know any television jargon. So read on and learn some English that you can use in conversation with me. 

Series- if you don't know what this is, we have a problem. However, there is an added definition that I wouldn't blame you for not knowing (theoretically. In reality I blame everyone for not knowing everything about TV). In British television, a series is what we Americans call a season. Example: There have been two series of Sherlock, and the fandom explodes on a daily basis waiting for the third.

Series Premiere- the first episode of the show, aka the pilot. Often, TV shows have unaired pilots that never see the light of day. Sometimes it's because they have to recast, sometimes it's because the plot needs to be tweaked. Or almost completely redone, as was the case with The Big Bang Theory.

Season Premiere- the first episode of the season. It usually introduces the season's arc (see below), both in plot and character development.

Season Finale- the last episode of the season. Usually, something really big happens in a season finale. People die (sort of like basically every season finale of Supernatural), people leave (I'm still mad at Angel for the third season finale of Buffy), people survive (you go Kristina Braverman!), and companions leave and Doctors regenerate (Ten and Rose, come back to me! Oh, wait, you are!). 

Series Finale- the last episode of a show. You'll probably cry in happiness and scream from sheer grief. If you're not doing either of those, you're living your life wrong. Unless you're watching the series finale of Political Animals, which is probably the point at which you should be yelling at the TV, "GODDAMMIT, why weren't you renewed?!"

Ships/Shipping/Shipper- A ship is short for "relationship." Shipping is also a verb. For example, I ship Buffy and Angel, the ship of all ships (no, seriously, they started the concept of hardcore shipping). When Spike came along and Buffy became romantic with him, the first shipping wars ensued. A shipping war usually involves shippers (people who ship) yelling at each other on the Internets about why their ship is better and using gifs like this to express their emotions:

OTP- One True Pairing. This is your ship of all ships. Usually, people who say they have one OTP are lying. Like me. Right now, my OTP is Destiel (Dean and Castiel on Supernatural). But on any given day, my OTP is also Bangel, Spuffy, Fresley, Victor/Sierra, Dean/Lisa, Ten/Rose, Eleven/Rose, WilTara, WillOz, and Janto. It really just depends on my mood.

BroTP- This is a non-romantic One True Pairing. The "Bro" stands for bromance, or bros. Example: Charlie Bradbury and Dean Winchester (Winbury) are my brotp. Again, you can have more than one. Again, if you say you have only one, you're probably lying. Booth and Sweets are also my brotp. So are Sam and Dean, Emily and Nolan, McSteamy and McDreamy. I also have real life brotp's, like Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins, and Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki.

Christmas Special- This is a "British thing" in which they air longer episodes of their TV shows on Christmas and call them special. Do watch them. Do not call them season finales. Example: This year's Doctor Who Christmas special was terrible, and Steven Moffat should step down as showrunner (that bit at the end was just an added opinion).

Arcs- character development or plot that is spread out for more than one episode, usually three or four, up to a whole season (the latter is also known as the season arc). Example: Every season of Buffy had a Big Bad that was utilized as the season-long plot arc.

Standalones- these are episodes that can be watched regardless of your knowledge of the season's arc. You can turn the TV on, flip to an episode, and understand 95% of it without knowing anything about the show. Although again, if you're watching random TV, what are you doing? Would you just pick up a book and open it to page 394 and start reading?

In conclusion, things that we have learned today: television terms, and that Emily has a deep, passionate- one might say insane- love for all things TV. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Joss, You Beautiful Badass

I never really understood, until a few years ago. What is it about superhero movies that has crowds rushing to the theater at midnight every time one comes out? Why do they get so much attention? Why is it that even not-comic-book-obsessed, "normal" people love these movies?

I'm sure that part of it is because they're usually released in the summer, a time when hordes of people have nothing to do with their life. Another part is that statistically (don't quote me on this, I haven't actually done any research), 99% of human beings have an undeniable attraction to beings that have superpowers or super martial arts skills, especially when they're damn good-looking. Or when they're Scarlett Johansson. 

I used to think these were the basic reasons why the superhero franchise made so much money. But I know now that it goes deeper than that.

Audiences want characters. They've moved past going to see a movie that solves a mystery, kills off the bad guy, and ends with the hero kissing the girl he saved (don't get me wrong, sometimes they still want that too). They want what they're getting on TV these days- a focus on character development. They want people, real people who struggle and get hurt and die and, at the same time, save the day. They don't just want superheroes anymore- they want people who develop, who they can get to know and relate to. The closest an audience can get to characters who exhibit these traits without spending hours on a TV show are the superhero trilogies and franchises that have rabidly taken over Hollywood.

Now, I'm not talking about series like Twilight that contain stalker boyfriends and a female protagonist who's as shallow as an episode of reality television. I'm talking The Dark Knight trilogy, the X-Men movies, even the new Spider-Man. I'm talking Die Hard, a trilogy that, in the past 6 years, released two more movies about John McClane, the bad-ass New York cop who saves America, and the world, from destruction via terrorists. Interestingly enough, even just one of the two latest movies- take your pick- develops its lead character more than any of the first three combined. 

What I'm really talking about, as you've probably gathered from the post title, is Joss Whedon, whose bottom line has always been characters, characters, characters. Joss Whedon, who, with BuffyAngelFirefly, and later on, Dollhouse, is in fact the showrunner who got audiences hooked on character development. At a time when audiences are craving superheroes who are real, Joss came to the big screen (for the first time since Serenity) with Avengers- with characters his audience shrieks for more of. Sure, these characters had major screen time before Joss came into the picture, but it was he who transformed them into people.

It was Joss who made Avengers into the biggest movie of all time. It was Joss who made these superheroes into one of the most beloved fandoms on Tumblr. He wrote Loki's character and directed the incredible Tom Hiddleston in such a way that fans don't know whether they want to give Loki a cup of tea and hug him, or stab him with his own scepter. Joss utilized one elegant, simple scene with Natasha Romanoff to re-introduce her character and to show the world that women are not to be fucked with. With Joss's writing, we finally, finally (one finally for each terrible Hulk movie) got a Bruce Banner who both tugged at our heartstrings and made us laugh. And it was Joss's directing that put Pepper Potts in a pair of cut-offs discussing business barefoot with her boyfriend, Tony Stark, instead of placing her in a dark alley waiting to be saved by Iron Man. 

Human. Real. That's what an audience wants, and ironically, it's what superhero movies give them. 

In conclusion, Hulk SMASH.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Can you hear them singing?

It's no secret- or surprise- to anyone that Saturday night's episode of Doctor Who had me crying. And no, it wasn't just because of Eleven's speech at the end. Don't get me wrong. His speech- and, to a lesser extent, Clara's- were heart-wrenching. But that's not it.

It's because after two and a half seasons that kept the fans waiting, Doctor Who is finally back. With Neil Cross writing and Farren Blackburn directing, not only did Matt Smith finally achieve his potential as The Doctor, the show also returned to its core. Going to an alien world. Exploring. Running into trouble. Saving the day and learning a lesson. If you go back to the episode and pay attention to the credits, you'll notice that Steven Moffat did not write this episode. Yes, he still runs the show (which is the reason why the episode wasn't perfect, see below), but without his words or vision running the episode, the show and The Doctor were finally able to be who they are. 

Don't get me wrong. Steven Moffat has some chops. I have nothing but respect for what he does. He wrote The Pandorica Opens, A Christmas Carol, and The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe. What made this latest episode hit so hard- at least partly- was a combination of elements from these three episodes: respectively, the ferocity of The Doctor as he calls out to beings who want to destroy everything he wants to protect; the sociological and poignant aspect of a people coming together and singing for their lives; the emotion that leads The Doctor to cry, that shows us how, sometimes, despite his two beating hearts, he is just so very human.

This is what made David Tennant so all-powerful, so moving, as The Doctor. The combination of his strength and weakness was written superbly by Russell T. Davies and his writing crew, and was portrayed without fault by Tennant. I have no doubt that Moffat has a grasp on The Doctor's characteristics, but unlike Davies, he doesn't know how to put them together to make the man. In one episode, Neil Cross succeeded where Moffat failed- for over two seasons- by writing a complete character for Matt Smith to play.

There are still issues. As a friend of mine says, the show has gotten too big for its britches. I believe that this critique should be directed at Steven Moffat, as he is the one who turned Doctor Who into somewhat of a joke. From the time he took over after the last special of the 4th series, there's always been some mystery, always a twist, that leaves the audience with a plot so convoluted it a) leaves out important character development, and b) tends to make the writers forget about smaller continuity details (aka plot holes), which has the fans (aka me) ecstatically pointing them out on the internet and longing for the days of Davies.

I believe that this is what will happen with Clara Oswin Oswald. Moffat clearly has a plan for this character's storyline, but I predict that important aspects like character development and continuity will be left by the wayside. That's why, as much as I loved The Rings of Akhaten, the parts of the episode that dealt with the mystery of Clara didn't hold any interest for me. What held interest for me was the child who needed help, The Doctor's philosophy on saving people and the development we finally saw in his speech and his sacrifice, and the companion who took part in the action and helped save the day.

"Did you know- in nine hundred years of time and space I've never met anyone who wasn't important before." The entire point of Doctor Who, for me, is that every human being is special, and you don't need to be surrounded by mystery to be special enough for The Doctor. Here's to hoping Steven Moffat will one day internalize that and continue to bring the show back to what it was. (If you scroll down a bit and look to the right, you'll see a picture of me in which I am not holding my breath.)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why You Should Watch: Beauty and the Beast

Okay, so it's got mistakes. All first seasons do. In fact, I don't think I've ever watched a freshman run that doesn't have flaws (other than Firefly, and good luck to you if you ever set out to beat that). But it's solid. It's good, and it has a chance to become great. 

Flaws: The show seems to think that it's in its second or third season. There are too many complicated character and plot arcs going on. A freshman run should have one, maybe two, season-long arcs. For example, the first seasons of Buffy and Supernatural do really well by having a bunch of stand-alone episodes and ensuring that their arcs- respectively, killing the Master, and finding John Winchester and Azazel- don't take over the show. Multiple complex arcs in a first season can overshadow the subtle character development that needs to take place, which is, to an extent, what's happening in Beauty and the Beast so far. 

Another flaw is how quickly the writers have gotten their belle and her beast to fall in love and be together. It took Buffy 22 episodes (a season and a half) to have sex with Angel. The Doctor and Rose only kissed four seasons into the Doctor Who reboot. It took Booth and Brennan six seasons to come together on Bones. Writers, you have to keep the romance suspenseful and in danger. Your audience doesn't want to be bored. 

With all that, I am still saying that you should watch this show. Yes, their characters were brought together too soon, but regardless, Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan have a wonderfully alluring chemistry together. J.T., played by Austin Basis, is hilariously witty (and loyal), and Evan Marks, played by Max Brown, the token British actor every American show needs, only adds to the cast as the mysterious medical examiner.

Plot-wise, the Meerfield arc is intriguing and keeps me hooked- I'm still wondering about the first scene of the show, and what exactly happened to Cat's mother.  I'm dying to know the extent of Vincent's mutation and what the military did to him. In addition to all this, each episode also has a crime of the week- ranging from mildly interesting to OMG WHODUNIT- to keep the momentum going. 

Character-wise, Vincent is tortured enough for me to empathize and want better for him, but he doesn't brood to the point where you want to shake him (cough as-much-as-I-love-you Angel* cough). Cat is steely and strong, a character any writer would be proud of. She's not the type to fall simpering to the ground when the going gets tough (cough especially-this-season Elena** cough). There are a couple of characters I don't like, but the only show I've ever watched that has a flawless character list is, again, Firefly

Beauty and the Beast has a lot of potential for character depth that an audience can just sink into, and well-paced plot that they can enjoyably keep up with. So go watch. And if none of that swayed any of you to watch the show...well, this show is on the CW. These actors are HOT. 

(Yep, there it is. The sound of my audience scrambling to download all the episodes of Beauty and the Beast that have aired so far.)

*Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel
**The Vampire Diaries