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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A Failed Review – Shackleton

Thursday 17 January, 2013

It was a dark and stormy night. The winds were howling, the rain was peltering and reverberating against the windows, and the temperature was bitterly cold.

Luckily we have central heating, so it wasn’t too long until that last point no longer bothered us.

Anyway, so, I came to add Shackleton on to my LoveFilm list through my Paul McGann catalogue. It’s obviously not part of my Classic Movie Quest, so this excuse for a review won’t be all that comprehensive.

Here’s what I was expecting:

An early 20th century voyage told with accuracy and finesse fit for such a true story. A tightly executed narrative and quality acting the directors of Master and Commander would be envious of. And Paul McGann.

Here’s what I found:

An early 20th century voyage told with some accuracy and embellishments fit for a dramatic reading. A decently executed narrative that was somewhat spoiled by subplots, quality acting from very good but not very high billed actors. And no Paul McGann.

There’d been a mix up on the LoveFilm site. Paul McGann was listed in the credits instead of his brother Mark, who played Second Officer Tom Crean.

My biggest problem with this “film”, is that it’s actually split into two parts, in the same way the Hallmark miniseries version of The Titanic is. The acting is very good, a very high standard from all of them. The budget must have been a brilliant one because the camera work was excellent, the quality of the film was excellent, the scenic shots were amazing and I’m not actually sure the actors didn’t end up stranded in the south pole for real. I’ve seen a lot worse when it comes to mini series.

But the subplots and slow beginning almost made me give up before it really got started. I understand there must have been a back story to show how Shackleton got established again, what exactly drove him to go on a second expedition… but at the same time, I was hoping for something a bit more like Master and Commander (I don’t know why and I blame myself for the notion) where we’d get the backstory as the movie went on, rather than see half of the backstory on screen and build up from there. Because that took up about a good 50 minutes at the beginning, and the film overall is 3 hours and 15 minutes long, approximately.

And then there’s the affair. I didn’t know much beyond the basics of Shackleton before watching this film, but I didn’t know anything about an affair with an “up and coming” actress. A bit of a google later, and I can’t find anything about an affair outside of this production. If that was a way to show that his home life was in shambles, I feel like it’s a bit of a cheap shot. We saw glimpses of his home life, was that really needed to drive the point home? Or was it put in for a bit of a dramatic flair? To give it a bit more of a hollywood feel, maybe?

The last twenty minutes, though, that’s where I was sat on the metaphorical edge of my proverbial seat. The men were split up into three groups, their desperation was believable. All that they went through in the latter half of the film, especially those last 20 minutes, was what I imagine a failed expedition to be like. But they didn’t give up, as is historically accurate.

Shackleton didn’t give up, and the rest of the men had no choice but to survive one day at a time whilst they waited. And the film showed that brilliantly. The actors really did the real men justice.

Which is why I’d recommend this film/mini series. Because it is good, when it comes to the important parts.

It’s just got a few parts that are superfluous in the long run that people might want to fast forward through.


The Terrible Twos!

Thursday 22 November, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me
Happy Birthday To Me
Happy Birthday to I Once Was a Twenty-Something Journalism Student!
Happy Birthday To Me

Image

Now, like I said last year, it’s not actually my birthday, it’s the blog’s birthday. Two years ago today, I started this blog so that I could throw all of my journalistic-styled stuff somewhere that didn’t belong on my personal blog. This year has been a bit of a stop-start station, because of that project that took up my free time, health problems and all the rest in between.

I had planned to get going again in October, but health problems got in the way and continue to get in the way. It was a miracle I was able to stick with Asexuality Awareness Week, and even then you’ll notice the absence on the wednesday.

But here marks the start of a new year, on the blog’s 2nd birthday.

It’s been a good two years so far, and despite all obstacles that might get in the way, I don’t plan to abandon ship just yet.

So here’s to many more years filled with asexual awareness, disabled awareness, your run of the mill ramblings, reviews that may or may not actually qualify as reviews and so much more.

You’ve been a good reader and I’ve been A Failed Journalist!

-AFJ-


Mis-Communication

Saturday 30 July, 2011

I shall tell you all a story… with no twist in it’s tale whatsoever.

No. This tale practically goes nowhere, and barely highlights any points, morally or otherwise, i’d even attempt to make.

I once had a friend who liked Paul Bettany. For those who don’t know who that is, he’s an actor. IMDB him. She liked him a fair amount, but not obsessively so. She had your average fangirl-esque crush on him, without the wall sized posters on the walls. Whenever she mentioned him, I’d repeatedly ask “And who’s that again?”.

She’d reply “He’s the guy in Wimbledon!” and I’d just kind of look at her, sometimes doing the plane-over-the-head motion with accompanied sound affect. I’m not one for RomComs. Then sometimes she’d say “He was in A Knight’s Tale! He was the naked one!”

Which, if I didn’t already have it down in my “No” pile, pretty much secured it’s place there. Naked people? Big No for me.

At various points during our friendship, I’d mention a film I kind of liked called Gangster Number 1. “I don’t know who the main guy is, but he’s really blonde!” I’d say. She had no interest in seeing it because, well, British Gangster Films weren’t really her area. Fine by me, I don’t like RomComs.

Shortly before our friendship was well and truly drying up, she put Wimbledon on her computer one night when I slept over, as something we could fall asleep to. I must have seen some of it, because I’m an insomniac and wouldn’t have fallen asleep so early in the film not to remember any of it, but there we have it. I don’t remember any of it. Was he naked in that too? I might have been too traumatised to remember it, if that’s the case.

Either way, I didn’t register the character in my mind and still at that point, the name Paul Bettany meant little or even nothing to me.

Fast forward three years later. For a few years at that point, my parents had raved about a film called Master and Commander. The first time I watched it, I saw a very bad bit in it and took an instant disliking to it. After a while and much insistence from my parents, I read up on it and found that it had quite a lot in common with a favourite series of mine called Hornblower.

In fact it wasn’t just a coincidence, the books were inspired by the book series of Hornblower, and the movie was influenced in the way of set design, costumes and naval interactions that the books didn’t cover, by the television series.

So I watched it a second time. I like Age of Sail, I like Hornblower and i’d already learnt from another film that one bad bit of a movie does not a full opinion make. And, well, I loved it. It is now a firm favourite of mine.

But the second time I watched it, I spent a good twenty minutes wondering where the hell I’d seen the doctor from. I recognised his face a teeny tiny bit but he just looked too different from anything in my memory to put a name to his face. So I IMDB’d him.

Paul Bettany. Did the name ring a bell? Not really, no. I mean there was something there, in the back of my mind, tinkling a little bit, but it was no Fire Alarm. And somehow my mind failed to register the words “Wimbledon” and “A Knight’s Tale” on the list, so my mind was still floundering until I caught “Gangster No. 1”.

Even to this day I still have no Idea how he went from The Super Blonde, Couch Obsessed, Shifty Looking Gangster to The Auburn Haired, Soft Spoken, Gentle Yet Dangerous, Fighting Naturalist, Doctor Stephen Maturin. My mind? It was boggled.

Then I watched the movie again and I was sat there thinking “Paul Bettany…” and suddenly, that name had too many familiar leaves to it in my tree-like brain to only be from Gangster No. 1. Yes, I did like that film, Yes I did mention that film a few times. But there was something more to his name. This is how my mind works.

So I IMDB’d him again and spotted A Knight’s Tale. And then it hit me! I recognised his face from Gangster No. 1, but I knew his name from my old friend! That’s why the name was more of a bigger deal than his face. I never put The Super Blonde Gangster together with the name Paul Bettany, cos I never found out his name. Or if I did, it never registered with me.

Sometimes I am oblivious, it happens.

Fast Forward 8 months later. I happen to be working my way through films that Alan Tudyk is in. Alan Tudyk, of Firefly and Death at a Funeral fame, is in A Knight’s Tale. Well, with a nice mixture of actors such as Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany and Heath Ledger, and a few years between the first watching and that moment in time, I decided to go for it. I already found a new favourite film in Master and Commander, right? So maybe I was wrong with A Knight’s Tale upon first watch.

More accurately, I was 14 years old and looking forward to either the Summer or Christmas Holidays so much that when the opportunity arose to leave the classroom after the register was taken, I took it and left the room after the first five minutes.

Even by my standards, that’s not giving it much of a chance.

Well, one thing to be noted, Paul Bettany is very much naked a couple of times in that film. Oh, you don’t see much by Offensive Standards, no. Just a little bit too much by my own. If Paul Bettany was a little less naked in that film, i’d give it a 10 out of 10.

Which kind of proves some sort of point. Sometimes, I should listen to my friends when they rave about films (or particular actors from films) I might like. More often than not, they’ll be wrong, but sometimes it’s worth humoring them. And I only say that because in my experience, More Often Than Not, they are wrong. I know what I like and I have no intention of broadening my horizons.

I’ve spent 22 years disliking most RomComs and films where characters are terminally ill. That’s not going to change, because the messages and ideologies of these films equally aren’t going to change. But that’s a rant for another entry.

So yeah. Three cheers for Paul Bettany, IMDB and Friendships of the past.