We need to talk about television 

Tuesday 4 July, 2017

As you know, I am an entertainment consumer buff. If I’m not watching films, I’m watching TV, if I’m not watching TV, I’m playing games, reading books or listening to audiobooks. I go through cycles and phases but I am always consuming media of some sort. When my health craps out, when I have the flu, when I’m brain tired but not body tired, I watch television. I don’t want to sound like a hipster, but I was marathonning tv shows before it became ~cool~, before the Netflix generation inherited the earth.

Here’s the problem, television keeps dissappointing me. It might just be me and maybe I have high standards, but there’s not many television shows made in the last 10, even 20, years that I have watched from start to finish, without either losing interest half way through or suffering through mediocre plotlines and self contained episodes until I can’t suffer anymore.

I could give you a whole list of the shows that have lost me or dissappointed me in my entire life time, but, in all honesty I just tried and I derailed and ranted and remembered how dissappointed in House I was and that spurred a very long entry on it’s own, and then had to go for a lie down.

So I’m going to just mention the last few series I had high hopes for, and try to keep it to the point.

But saying that, shall we get it out the way first? House. You know how I feel about this show and it’s downfall. It was the best thing on television… for all of 2 and a half years. It was everything I wanted from a show, I didn’t even realise it was what I wanted from a show. Murder mystery in a medical setting, because the disease is the murderer. House, like Holmes, has to work out the intricate web of lies and livestyles to figure out why the victim is the target, and who is trying to murder his patient. Sometimes he went wrong, and killed them faster, but usually, the man and his ducklings came through and saved the day. What more could you ask for!?

Well, consistency would have been good for a start. Then longevity. And a little less of the producer’s own fantasy wish fullfilment. I think it should have finished at the end of series 3, when something shifted the focus away from Patient of the Week and Clinic Patient of the Week, on to character drama. Yes, okay, we could have had a bit more about Wilson’s brother in the first series, but there is a middle ground between the strict procedural that left us wanting it was in the first series and the soap it turned during series 3.

I said I wasn’t going to go on about it, and I won’t. But I just really wanted to get that out. I loved House, then House changed, I feel not for the better, and then it dragged us through 5 more series until it ended.

Shortly after that was Alphas. I know, it was generally disliked by the masses. It was like X-Men, it was stereotypical, it had problematic casting by casting a british non-disabled guy to play an American 20-something autistic guy. But… for the first series it was quite good! It had me hook, line and sinker. I do love me some mutant powers and hey, X Men 3 was a botch-job, I had to get my Mutants Saving The Day fix somewhere. And then series 2 happened, and one character’s own personal problems and a love triangle drove one half of the plot, and the other half of the plot came from a personal vendetta characer arc that dragged on for far too long. It just lost what made it enjoyable in the first series. It did not surprise me that it didn’t get renewed for a 3rd series, though I am annoyed they messed with the airing of the second in the UK off the back of that decision. It also could have improved for series 3, with the feedback of what failed in series 2.

I was briefly into Rizzoli and Isles. I seem to be a sucker for any show that is even remotely Holmes and Waston-esque. Here we have Jane Rizzoli, a streetwise hard boiled egg of a Police Detective with her friend and colleague, Dr Maura Isles, an intelligent but socially-blind Cheif medical examiner, working together to solve Murders of the Week. It works very well, and should have remained a strong series despite set backs and personal tragedies, but the writing team behind the scenes changed hands and took the show in a different direction. Apparently, in response to the fan reaction supporting the idea of Jane and Maura becoming an item, they promptly wrote in male love interests for both characters to prevent anyone from doubting the two main character’s sexualities or romantic interests is anything but straight. Nothing is confirmed but the implications have been noted by better notekeepers than myself.

The introduction of the love interests wasn’t as much of a problem for me as obvious signs that the new writers had no idea or care for what came before their involvement. Jane had a dog called Jo Friday, the dog dissappeard off-screen, and eventually we got the bizarre explanation that Jo Friday wasn’t Jane’s to begin with and has been returned to her real owners, which the Mum keeps in touch with. Thank God that explanation was scrambled together, otherwise we might have thought they’d killed off Jane’s beloved pet dog in an arson attack on her flat. The same arson attack that led to her moving in with Maura, which fuelled the relationship rumours the writers became concerned about.

Maura had a tortoise. I don’t know what happened to the Tortoise.  Then we have Jane’s brother Frankie, which is short for Francesco. But you wouldn’t know it from the once-proud Italian-American mother suddenly calling her Italian-American son “Frances”, which just would not have happened in the earlier series. And all  sorts of other little details that were retconned or ignored or over-shadowed in favour of lazy writing, which was clearly starting to affect the actor’s ability to act.

One day I just stopped putting myself through it. Much like what I did with Person of Interest. Talking of…

Person of Interest was a flash in the pan in my eyes, but that might be due to the binge watching. I came to this party very late in the game. It was already on hiatus in America, and it was on Hiatus, from what I can gather, because it lost thousand of viewers over the course of series 4 and something was aired during a mid-season break that got higher ratings so the cast were waiting both to see if the first half of series 5 would be aired, and if it was, whether they would be in the second half. Added to that, the writer’s had admitted to losing interest in the show and did not want to complete it.

Going from series 3 to eventually seeing most of series 4, I can see why it lost viewers. This show, which started off brilliant and almost flawless, and with characters you can believe to be real people, changed into something else. It was a procedural with heart. Finch was the leader, a bruised and broken genius who lost his best friend before the start of the show. He follows the intel a highly intelligent machine gave him, and gave orders to his second in command, John. Along the way, after a lot of pain and anguish, they make trusted acquaintences with two new york coppers, Joss Carter and Lionel Fusco. For the first 2 series, Finch’s greatest enemy is a megalomanic sociopath with computer skills to rival him, she goes by the name of Root and she kidnaps him and terrorises him. John’s ability to take down the enemy for Finch and save people because that’s what good poeple do, Finch’s determination to save people because nobody else can, along with the goodness of Joss Carter and Fusco’s redeption of wanting to do good for Selfless reasons drove the series.

The series all fell apart when the writers dissolved the friendship between Reese and Finsh almost over night during series 3. I don’t like to talk about queer baiting because I still don’t really understand the phrase, but all the work put in to Finch’s past, the relationship parallels between a normal couple of Finch and Reese’s friendship, not to mention the looks between them that don’t seem within the normal paramaters of Friendship, it really feels like a plot bomb that was dropped was the end result of queer baiting and everything was retconned rom there. Then they turned Root from a very scary Baddie, to a redeemed saviour who had all the answers. Suddenly she was better at programming than Finch, a better shot than Reese, and it didn’t matter that she was practically sexually harassing late-joiner Shaw, she was what Shaw was somehow missing after years of working for the ISA. What the Machine was at the start was always going to change, but there’s very little reasoning as to why it had to involve Root being the Machine’s mouth piece over the more logical choice of Reese. Her redemption makes no sense either. It wasn’t like Fusco’s, slow, well written, with acknowledgement of his earlier wrong doings. Root’s is “Well she’s good now because that’s what The Machine wants, let’s forget she spent 2 whole days terrorising Finch, that’s all in the past now~!”

I stalled during watching series 4. I’ve now got 2 episodes of series 4 to watch before I can start series 5 and I just don’t really want to. The procedural element went, there was a lost plotline to do with a third party team getting revenge, and that didn’t really go anywhere, and it does seem to be the “Look at how brilliant Root is at everything” show. That’s not what I signed up for when I started watching the show.

The most recent dissappointment was The Flash. I really liked the first series. I’d been meaning to watch everything Super-hero related everything anyway, I was just waiting for the time to become available as well as the DVDs, then a friend lent me her boxset of The Flash. I watched all of the first series in 2 and a half days. I thought it was Brilliant, and it wonderfully filled in the holes that Person of Interest was leaving me with. It ended on a cliffhanger and I was dying to find out what happened next.

Series 2 did not have the same effect. It started off well enough but somewhere along the line, I think maybe with the Wells we grew to love to hate (and love again if you’re into that sort of thing) going, the dynamics of the show changed. It didn’t quite make the new mark, and the ending annoyed me. This show is superhero procedural with an over-shadowing arc with a Big Bad, much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer was, and as the procedural element was being drowned out by personal drama as the character dynamic shifted and changed, the over-shadowing arc dragged on rather than shone. And then Barry pulled a Barry and left us all wondering why we wasted 23 hours of our lives watching series 2, specifically the Ross and Rachel plot line of Barry and Iris. And then series 3 happened. I won’t get too far into series 3, I think spoiler warnings can sometimes extend to a whole year! But I think it started off weak, everything was a mess canonically and it didn’t make for good watching… besides Julian. That was a nice little gem on an otherwise pile of bricks. I know the fandom loved the Musical episode. I was impressed by the singing, I wasn’t impressed with the execution or arbitrary plot developments leading up to it so that they could have it in the first place.

“Once More With Feeling” it was not.

And the big bad of the series? Called it. Though not the reasonings behind it, because I couldn’t have guesed that mess in a millon years. To me, that part of canon made very little sense whatsoever.

What has happened to this show!? I can only hope, without sounding like i’m mis-quoting D:Ream, things will get better. Before the last episode, I thought if the ending crapped out, I wouldn’t be watching series 4. I’ve heard that Arrow fell in a similar way and redeemed itself during series 4 and came back stronger, so I’m willing to give the 4th series a go. But it has until the 3rd episode to pull me in as much as the first series did, an if it doesn’t, I’m out.

It seems to me that most of these series start with a very strong recipe. They know what they want out of the show, so they know what to put in the show, and then suddenly what they planned ran it’s course. So they throw in personal drama, they change the dynamic, they hope it’ll make their characters grow but put hardly any of the groundwork to make it work like it did in the first series. They guess their audience and half the time they guess wrong.

I’m show hopping right now. I’ve found watchable shows to watch, such as The Blacklist, but nothing that has grabbed in the way that House/Alphas/POI/Rizzoli and Isles/Sports Night/The West Wing/Sherlock/Breakout Kings/Law and Order: Criminal Intent did before their inevitable downfalls.

And that’s what I think about Television now, and televsion shows. It’s only so long until the new shows of today have their inevitable downfalls, so is there really any point in investing time into watching them?

I want to end this on a special mention of the series of long, film length episodes: Hornblower. That show, though it changed over the years, and one of my favourite characters got killed off, never dissappointed me. Upset me, yes, but not dissappointed.

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Sorkin Speculation: Revisited

Tuesday 24 January, 2012

On this date last year, I blogged about Aaron Sorkin’s news that he had written the pilot of a new show and was in the casting process. I then went on to speculate who might be casted into the show.

Well, since then, an explosion of new information came to light in the middle of December! There was nothing much beforehand, and nothing else since, but the information we now have, is enough to be going on with. Unfortunately, none of my speculated actors are on the cast list (yet) so I got that one (Or three, rather) wrong.

It’s exactly the premise Sorkin talked about on the news last year. Behind The Scenes Of A Show-within-a-show, like Sports Night and. to an extent, Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.

Surprisingly, or at least it is to me anyway, Jeff Daniels, of all people, is the star of the show! He’ll be playing the Main Character, Will – Who is The Anchor of the News Show. So basically he’s the Casey, for fellow Sports Night Fan’s Comparisons. He does like to recycle those names, doesn’t he? Was there a Will in Studio 60? I don’t think there was, was there?

Well, you know what they say, where there’s a Will, there’s a way. Studio 60 didn’t have a Will, I don’t think, so that’s probably why it got cancelled. No Way for it to be successful. Such a shame, I loved that show!

Anyway. Alongside Jeff Daniels will be Emily Mortimer, who I first recognise as being from Disney’s The Kid, and then also from The 51st State. Jane Fonda is a bizarre casting choice but I’ll save my comments until after I see the show. She’ll be playing the CEO of the Parent Company. There’s also a few actors name’s that I don’t recognise and then one that I am more surprised to read about than I was with Jeff Daniels. Sam Waterston!

He’ll be playing President of the News Network, Charlie Skinner. I think that will make him the Isaac Jaffe of the show, under the power of Jane Fonda’s Luther Sachs, for a Sports Night Comparison.

I am very shocked but quite looking forward to seeing Sam Waterston in this latest Sorkin show. Sam Waterston seems like a very serious television actor, and Sorkin has this talent for making drama and subtle comedy blend together that I can’t actually imagine what this show is going to be like anymore. It not only speaks volumes of the quality Sorkin wishes to uphold with this show, but also what the Network Executives expect from him. You don’t just put Sam Waterston in a show that you expect to flop. And lets face it, Sorkin doesn’t have the best track records with these kind of shows.

I blame the Networks. Sorkin doesn’t have the best personality in the world but he knows how to make a show and how to get the best out of his cast. The Network’s never seem to know how to deal with the kind of outcomes they have to deal with when it comes to him.

But back to the show and Sam Waterston. Here’s why it’s especially delightful for me to see Sam Waterston in a Sorkin Show, other than it’s Sam Waterston and he’s a bloody good actor. He is James Waterston’s Father. James Waterston played Gerard Pitts in Dead Poets Society. Josh Charles, who played Dan Rydell in Sports Night, played Knox Overstreet in Dead Poets Society. And last but not least, an episode of The West Wing, called Two Cathedrals, had parts that were filmed at the same school Dead Poets Society was filmed.

My mind is just one Undirected Labelled Graph when it comes to Sorkin, Dead Poets Society and, though I haven’t mentioned it, House.

In Short, Sorkin is going to be working with the father of an actor, who worked on a film with another actor, whose biggest role since that film was probably Sport’s Night. Complicated and Simple at the same time.

Anyway, back to the show! It’s scheduled to start showing in the US in the summer of this here 2012. Only god knows when us Brits will get it. Right now, it has a preliminary 10 episode run and anymore will be down to test screenings and viewer ratings.

I really hope this hits the television like The West Wing. They were fools to cancel Sports Night and Studio 60, they had so much potential for a five year run each. I don’t think Sorkin could take another “failure” in that style.

Hopefully Sorkin has found a working line and is aiming for it, because as good as his shows are, they’re no good if they get cancelled due to communication problems with the networks.

A very small snippet of the show can be found in the HBO trailer for 2012 here and more information about the show in general can be found on it’s Wiki page here.

I really can not wait to see this show! Here’s hoping us Brits aren’t left waiting for too long after the US airdate!


Sorkin Speculation

Monday 24 January, 2011

On the BBC news the other day, Aaron Sorkin was saying that, as much as he loved doing The Social Network, he’s going to be doing another show. He’s written the pilot and now he’s casting.

I am Very excited with this news. It’s going to be a mishmash of Sports Night meets The West Wing meets Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It’s going to be another show within a show, about people working within a news network. He said it’s based on CNN, but he replied a little bit too quickly for me to really believe that.

The thing is, I really hope he casts his so called Favourite Three.

These are Joshua Malina, who was in the movie adaption of Sorkin’s play “A Few Good Men”. Yeah, the YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH film. He was also Jeremy in Sports Night and Will Bailey in The West Wing.

Bradley Whitford, who, if I remember correctly, was in the actual theatre production of “A Few Good Men”. He was also Josh in The West Wing (DUH) and Danny in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

The last of The (speculated) Favourite Three is Matthew Perry. He went from Friends to The West Wing, playing Republican Joe Quincy, and then to Matt Albie in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Him and Aaron have a LOT in Common, and I believe he’d understand the more grittier of the things Sorkin can write.

These are all three people that aren’t working on anything else right now, or at least not anything big. Joshua Malina is in a very strange webseries called Backwash that isn’t available to watch outside of America.

He’s already tweeted a very strange tweet about trying to stop Bradley Whitford from getting a part in the new series. They’re friends so I’m taking that to mean that they’re actually going for the same part.

The thing is, I would love all these three people to be in this new series. I would also love more people from Sports Night and The West Wing to be in it too. Specifically Sabrina Lloyd and Allison Janney.

… The only person I wouldn’t be happy with getting a part in this new series would be Janel Moloney. Now don’t get me wrong, she’s a brilliant actress. She was fantastic as Donna. I LOVED Donna in The West Wing! And she was great as the Costume Assistant in Sports Night who gave Casey an ear full for taking credit for the clothes he wears. But if she does, I think it’ll shape a lot of what we expect to see from the characters if both her and Bradley Whitford are working together.

We’ve been there and we’ve done that, and some even bought the Tshirts. I know i’m getting ahead of myself, I’m getting ahead of Sorkin, too. But with every show, he brings something new. Something as fantastic as before but better, brighter. He one upped Sports Night with Studio 60. He’ll do it again with this, I know it.

I just hope he proves me wrong if Janel gets a part, even if I would prefer her to not.

Also a great person to have on this new show? Nathan Cordry. I say this purely because he was brilliant in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Very good at the comedy and the emotional. And very good looking.


Time for Another Unpopular Opinion

Wednesday 29 December, 2010

I don’t like Friends, and yes I do mean the big famous TV series from America. It lasted ten series, it starred six people, it was based in New York and it is loved by many, many people. I hate it… in that “Actually I quite like some episodes, maybe a whole series, but can’t stomach the over all premise of it” kind of way.

The truth is, I could analyse this show until i’m blue in the face. The characters, the interaction of the characters, why I like Chandler as much as I do, what I reckon was the ideals of the writer’s when they wrote the series the way they did, but I think that would make it look like I take the show a lot more seriously than intended.

Which is why I won’t bore anyone with my analyses.

Basically, I dislike nearly all of the characters. The only exception, like I said, is Chandler. I think it’s because i’ve known guys like Chandler and even I’m a bit like him at times even though I’m British and female. I can’t see any of these characters but Chandler surviving well in Real Life. They’re caricatures of people, they have to be, but they’re not portrayed consistently.

I hate that a lot of the episodes are based on whether people are having sex or not. I hate that a majority of the series is based on Ross and Rachel and their destructive Will They, Won’t They relationship. I hate Rachel.

I like some episodes of Series 1, most of series 2, half of series 4 and most of series 5. I dislike most of series 3. In my eyes, it goes down hill from series 5, but I don’t know why exactly.

I watch the episodes I like over and over again, but I get this sour taste in my mouth with episodes i’m not fond of, and i’m not fond of a LOT of episodes. I blame the characters and the continuity issues, but a lot of poeple would just say i’m fussy.

But I tell those people to go and watch Sports Night and get back to me. Because those are characters I can get behind and watch and believe. If the people who disagree with me disagree with that, then there’s no middle ground compromise and I’m clearly not cut out for Friends.

Maybe I do escapism all wrong…