Archive for the ‘Round-Up’ Category

That Was The Geek That Was

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Idol is a day later this week, so in the meantime, some thoughts on the past few days’ geek TV highlights. Spoilers follow for Dollhouse, Battlestar Galactica and Heroes.

doll-house

Dollhouse: It has been pre-ordained that episode six was ‘the good one’. The Dollhouse press tour has been assuring us, “We know this is a programme only a blinkered Browncoat could love, but we promise we’ll give you legitimate cause to like it if we last until episode six”.

It’s a weaselly strategy to rely on the indiscrimate dedication of die-hards to excuse a show’s creative failure. It’s also a doomed strategy, especially when your ‘game changer’ episode goes up against the Battlestar Galactica finale.

Inevitably all the people who were saying that Dollhouse was awesome from the get-go are now shifting their positions slightly to say that Dollhouse is awesome as of now. But did episode six really push Dollhouse from ‘joyless vanity project’ to ‘entertaining genre show’?

Honestly? Not yet, no. But there were two elements that helped elevate episode six. First of all, it was an ‘arc’ episode, dedicated to giving some much-needed context to the show’s unpalatable sex-puppet premise. Second, it balanced out Eliza Dushku’s glossily varnished wood with a few more interesting textures. Most of the characters are still so loathsome that the show remains a tough taste to acquire, and it’s a bad sign when the comic relief character with all the Joss Whedon dialogue is the creepiest rapist at Rape-o-tech, but it was good for the show to spend a little more time filling in the colours of the supporting cast.

The trouble is, I suspect that next week we’ll be right back to another rapetastic woman-in-peril plot with Dushku at its centre. Not that we got away without a woman-in-peril story this week - in fact there were two women in peril; one raped, the other merely forced to perform sex acts as part of her programming, and then threatened with rape. Rape is drama, you know? Delicious, exploitative drama.

toasterBattlestar Galactica: There has been plenty of eye-rolling about the BSG finale. I only came to the show in the last few months, and I have to admit that I thought the ending was… consistent. I’m surprised that people were expecting anything more from it, but then BSG has been a rather brilliantly executed shell game from the start, and the secret of a good shell game is that the audience always believes it’s not going to get ripped off. Now there are articles arguing that BSG is one of the greatest TV shows ever made - some people still don’t know their watch is missing.

For months I’ve seen people discussing who or what the Cylon god was going to be, as if they thought the show was going to offer them a sci-fi explanation, to which my response was, “why can’t it just be God”? Guess what? Turns out it’s just God. So I wasn’t disappointed with the BSG finale, but I also wasn’t invested in the idea that the episode would be a codex to unravel all the mysteries. BSG was a show that made everything up on the fly. Its philosophical trappings were never more than brightly coloured bunting, and there was never a consistent ideology informing the whole thing. It was a dumb show that convinced a lot of people that it was smart.

The great nerd hope ended with a whimper. No thrilling space battle, no satisfying answers, and no impressive death count. The villains found a few interesting ways to kill themselves, and the heroes went running through the long grass. As for Kara Thrace, the undead tomboy and much-vaunted harbinger of death; it turned out she was aaaaall a dreeeam.

heroes-tins

Heroes: Like Dollhouse, this was a pre-ordained turning point for the series - producer Bryan Fuller’s first chance to re-impose himself on the series since he left at the end of season one. I may be falling into the same hopeless blinkered trap as the Whedonistas, but I have to admit, I enjoyed it. It’s the first episode of Heroes in a long, long time that I’ve watched without having to roll my eyes or feel insulted.

Here’s why it worked:

  • For the first time in a story called ‘Fugitives’, there was solid pacing and a sense of tension arising from the characters being, ooh, fugitives.
  • No Sylar; no Claire. Not that I dislike either character, but they both get far too much attention, especially Sylar, who ought to be kept in a glass case marked ‘in case of lull’. The show has a stupidly big cast. It needs to strike a better balance. This episode did that.
  • Speaking of which; they culled the cast. Tracy Strauss made the big pointless sacrifice - two Ali Larters down, one to go - and Daphne got a touching send-off. Along the way, both characters remembered their personalities and their previously established relationships - as, in fact, did everyone in the story! Oh, context, how we have missed you!
  • They also brought back some of the cast, but in a good way. We all knew Rebel would turn out to be Micah, but seeing him and Janice back in the show gives us a sense of a rounded universe. Consequences, there you are! Were you off larking about with context?
  • The baby Parkman story could have been a disaster - the comedy misadventures of Hiro and Ando tend to wear a little thin - but this time around there was actual humour. I smiled! And Hiro got one of his powers back, which is good and proper. No powers is dull. Too much power is dull. A little power is just right.
  • The biggest surprise of the episode, though, was that Peter got to be heroic. In a show called Heroes, someone got to be the hero - without doing anything dumb or inexplicable. Somehow this felt like a watershed moment.

Remember when you used to like watching Heroes? We may have just travelled in time. Look out for exploding cities.

Round-Up: Bears, Bourne, Brokeback & Breastaurants

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

polar-bear

ITEM: The above bears floating down the Thames are a rather splendid little art project designed to raise awareness for a new TV show. Sorry; they’re to raise awareness that the ice-caps are melting. But we already knew that, so it’s really just to pimp a TV show. It is marvellous, though.

ITEM: Matt Damon is still whingeing on about how he doesn’t like James Bond. “They could never make a James Bond movie like any of the Bourne films, because Bond is an imperialist, misogynist sociopath who goes around bedding women and swilling martinis and killing people. He’s repulsive.” Given that James Bond thoroughly spanks Jason Bourne’s buttocks at the box office, I think he’s worried that people aren’t being properly repulsed. Touchy-feely Hollywood hippy.

brokeback

ITEM: Do homophobic IMDB users vote down gay films that raise their heads too high above the parapet? AwardsDaily seems to think so, pointing out that since Milk got its Oscar nomination for Best Picture it has racked up a surprising number of ‘1 out of 10′ votes. The same thing happened to Brokeback Mountain three years ago; more than 8% of Brokeback votes give it a ‘1′, forcing it out of the Top 250. Milk may go the same way - in the last week it fell 40 places at a time when most Best Picture nominees tend to see a bump.

It’s notable that there aren’t any other gay movies in the Top 250 - unless you count Rope, The Wizard of Oz or Lord of the Rings - but honestly, there aren’t many gay movies that should be. Some people make good films and some people make gay films, but rarely does anyone manage to do both. Milk and Brokeback Mountain are two laudable exceptions to the rule.

ITEM: Speaking of which, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has announced its nominees for its annual Media Awards. As usual, there haven’t really enough positive gay representations in the media in the past year to make the list convincing. It’s not often you see the word ‘Torchwood’ appearing under the header ‘Outstanding Television Drama’.

ITEM: Hooters, the world’s most famous breastaurant, faces fresh challenges in Texas from new rivals such as Twin Peaks and Bone Daddy’s. I don’t really  care, I just like that someone has coined the word ‘breastaurant’. My question is, when are they going to create a man-candy version of Hooters? They can call it Peccadillo. I give that idea freely unto the world.

ITEM: Your Wikipedia link for the day: exploding animals - where the categories ‘Animals’ and ‘Explosions’ meet.