I’ve blogged a lot about Kickstarter, from the Kickstarter we ran at Phoenix Online for Cognition, to my submission for a Kickstarter panel at PAX East, to the incredible ride that was the Double Fine Kickstarter, the one that changed everything. I’ve overall found Kickstarter to be a fantastic thing, a great way for independent, creative projects to get their start, to get support, to make things happen for people & groups who otherwise might not be able to pursue these projects.
Which is why the Penny Arcade Kickstart to remove ads from their site pisses me right the hell off. Read more
Last night, Brandon and I happened to catch an episode of the new TBS sitcom called “Men at Work.” You may recognize the name from the absolutely relentness plugging that’s been going on for the show. It wasn’t a show we
sought out, but it came on after a repeat of The Office, so we sat through it.
And ugh. This piece of crap cannot be cancelled fast enough. Cliched writing, characters, stock jokes, and plots. Ripping off better shows. The only reason anyone is saying this is the guy’s version of Sex and the City HAS to be because that’s something the marketing for this show came up with, because it’s nothing like that at all, apart from having four male characters in one show. Read more
Me: *bitch bitch rant rant*
Brandon: “We hate this show now, don’t we?”
Me: “Yep, pretty much.”
Brandon: “We’re still gonna watch it though, right?”
Me: “At least until the end of the season.”
In its tradition of bringing public attention to tense matters facing high school students today, Glee explored a new dark side of teen bullying and homophobia: teen suicide as a result of bullying for one’s non-heterosexuality.
A long time ago on a blog far, far away — or, in May of 2009 on my previous (and short-lived) blog Jump the Snark, I blogged about the pilot of Glee*. Such promise, such fun, such a great pilot that looked like it couldn’t possibly stand a chance because it was all about the outcasts and losers and they were singing.
Nearly three years later, here we are, and Glee is so damn popular it’s finally inspired another musical show, Smash. (I’ve got this pilot recorded, but haven’t yet watched it, so I can’t and won’t yet comment on what I think of it.) Beyond all expectation, Glee not only survived, it thrived! So I should be rejoicing, right? The Have Nots finally Have! Except that in the process, Glee has become just plain awful.
The things that are wrong with the show have been described at length in a number of places around the internet and in news media in general. And I agree with just about all of them. At its root, to my eyes and ears, the problem is this: the show lost its heart, forgot what it was about, and overwhelmingly assumes and expects its audience to be resoundingly stupid. Characters and plots alike have no consistency, and both jump out at opposing and unbelievable extremes. And while both have moments of brilliance, they far too often fall into mockable parody and unfulfilled potential.
Let’s take Quinn. In the pilot episode, she was head cheerleader, most popular girl, and broke stereotypes by choosing to be chaste, breaking off make-out sessions with Finn to pray. An interesting twist, though one soon abandoned when we learn the good Christian Cheerleader slept with her boyfriend’s best friend and got pregnant. Quinn’s pregnancy, I would argue, is one of the more interesting plotlines in Season 1, and we see the girl at the top of the world fall to the very bottom, and make the brave (and often unexplored on TV) choice to give her baby up for adoption. Her relationships with everyone in her life are affected — her parents kick her out, Finn dumps her, Puck matures (to a degree), Mercedes becomes a good friend, Sue
Sylvester kicks her off the squad, Quinn finds friendship, support, and comfort from the Glee kids, even using the vestiges of her power to help them out more than once. Then in Season 2…just about all of that may as well have never happened. She’s shallow, she’s still a cheater, she has no discernible relationship with Mercedes at all. The girl she asked to be present for her ordeal of childbirth, the girl who invited her into her home, and they have zero conversations! Rather than maintaining Quinn’s maturation, or intentionally contrasting it’s absence with her obsession at reclaiming her former glory, she’s just another inconsistent character whose extremes continue to make no sense in Season 3, where yet more interesting ideas are wasted on her by having her slate cleaned in the end once again.
Rachel and Finn are a ridiculous and pointless on-and-off couple, similarly never showing they can stick to personal goals for more than a few episodes (Rachel’s Season 2 pledge to herself to focus on becoming a star rather than on getting Finn back is abandoned almost as soon as she finishes singing “Firework”). Will Schuester is likewise flung far and wide and irritatingly so by the whims of each week’s plot. Santana, Brittany, and Kurt show some possibly the most promise on their respective journeys as lesbian, bisexual, and gay male, and have rightly gotten the show a lot of attention for their stories. These are often well-done, if not perfect (but then, characters really should have flaws and theirs are at least mostly consistent) (mean-spirited cruelty, stupidity, and self-righteousness, respectively). But the biggest problem character, in my opinion, is Sue Sylvester.
Sue was a great villain in Season 1. Outlandish villainy and great one-liner insults played straight-faced by a woman intensely focused on herself and success at what she did. A single soft spot, her sister who has Down syndrome, humanizes her and introduces her second soft spot, a student named Becky who likewise has DS and becomes her…well, lead minion, really. (And actually I find her relationship with Becky to continue to be interesting and hilarious: Becky’s actress is great, their Dr. Evil and No. 2-esque pairing is really amusing, and it’s an interesting and rather bold choice to have a character with DS not be a good guy. Becky’s vicious! And connected!) In the finale, we see another secret weakness in Sue’s armor — it’s okay for her to beat up on Glee, but when other people threaten her school? Hell, no! Those are HER victims, dammit. She votes for them at regionals, and when they don’t place, she arranges to have the club kept around anyways, because what’s the good of being a villain if you’ve got no nemesis?
After that, it’s all downhill. Sue becomes an abusive bully who should’ve been fired a hundred times over for her inappropriate, physically threatening (not to mention emotionally abusing) behavior towards students, coworkers, and superiors alike. She has physically assaulted students on her and with items that could be classified as weapons. And her ‘ridiculous’ plotlines have only gotten worse as well — marrying herself? Really? Season 3 has only made it worse, most recently, in the episode “The Spanish Teacher,” when she had a talk with teenaged male high school students about donating
sperm because she was seeking to be artificially inseminated. And when her inappropriate behavior is later brought up by the guidance counselor Emma? It’s only about that she said the same to Will, to whom Emma is now engaged! Why hasn’t this woman been fired several times over?! And arrested, for that matter. It’s been proven as well by that same episode that she doesn’t have tenure, her lame blackmail on Figgins has been a dead-in-the-water plot since sometime in Season 2 at the latest. Why is a show that has done some ground-breaking and wonderful anti-bullying storylines completely ignoring the biggest bully character in their cast?
Also? The songs are over-autotuned! These kids have talent, let them show it already!
I may finish out this season, but at this point I’m not sure if I’ll bother coming back to it next year. They lost the heart that gave them such promise back in Episode 1. Their cover of Don’t Stop Believin’ was and still is great, and the moment it created in the pilot episode was fantastic. It’ll always take me back. But the show has lost that direction and that core in a shower of ridiculous glitter-bombed extremes.
And that’s my rant, on Glee!
*Comments are now disabled there, and there’s no sense in following it as I don’t post there anymore. So, comment here and follow this blog, if you are inclined towards either.
I finally saw the movie Bridesmaids last week. Brandon and I were both fairly excited to see it at last, having heard so much about how it was hilarious, etc, all summer when it was released. It stars a number of talented and funny ladies. It had a premise we can all relate to–the stress of being in a wedding, planning things, spending money you may not have, and dealing with the rest of life at the same time.
It should have been so good, but I sit here now wondering what the hell everyone saw in this movie. Look, I know we’d all love a female version of The Hangover. It was a really funny movie. And it was way better than this drivel, so why was everyone rushing to hand out that title to Bridesmaids?
The sequence in the movie that clearly had THE most thought put into it in terms of the steps to the joke, the build-up of the joke, and the “payoff” of the joke was the food poisoning joke. Yep, that’s the one where every pukes or sh*ts themselves in a ritzy fancy dress shop. Yep. THAT is the joke that had the most attention given to it. That should tell you something about how “good” the rest of the movie is.
The main character, the Maid of Honor played by Kristen Wiig, is a mess of a woman who at no point both realizes she’s a wretched person who got herself into her own hole and tries to dig up out of it. When Melissa McCarthy’s character shows up to literally slap some sense into her, Wiig seems to understand that she is where is because she hasn’t done anything to prevent it at this point. (A few things were not her fault: the food poisoning was not her fault but the restaurant’s; and I’d say her acting out on a plane when the Rival Bridesmaid gave her some unidentified pills and scotch to relax is at the very least shared blame.) She’s driven away her friends, lost her job, her apartment, everything because she’s let it happen to her without trying to change and do better. So in a tried-but-true pacing challenge, what she should do here is go to her estranged BFF who’s getting married (who booted her from both her life and wedding and rightly so) and apologize profusely, right? Or at least do something to make up for it? Hey, she’s a baker, maybe she should, y’know, bake the wedding cake free of charge! That would be a good start on making up for what’s happened.
Instead, she bakes a cute little cake for the Nice Guy she slept with and then blew off. And…drives by his house a lot. And…that’s it. That’s ALL she does to try for redemption. Makes a passing gesture to the person she knows the least and owes the least to of all the people she’s been wretched towards. She does NOTHING to make amends to her friend who’s getting married. Except for when the wedding day comes and the Rival shows up not knowing where the Bride is, and Wiig harasses the Nice Guy (he’s a cop) into helping her find the friend at…her own apartment. The Bride was at her apartment. No calling, no checking, I realize it was meant to be a joke, but seriously? Are you freaking kidding me??
One review I read afterwards claimed this movie gave some kind of insight into how women really act around each other, that the idea was we’re just as raunchy and gross as boys when there aren’t any boys around. Sorry to disappoint, but we’re not. Oh, maybe some ladies are, it takes all types, but generally speaking? Almost NOTHING in this movie represents how women act around each other and how we treat each other. In fact, I’d hope this movie represents not a shred of how anyone treats each other ever, quite frankly.
The female Hangover may yet come, but this, folks, was not it. It wasn’t even close. It was a poor comedy and a poor movie, and we can do better, ladies. And gents.
A busy few weeks have happened, so here’s me catching up on Terra Nova.
Episode 3, the one about the virus that erased people’s memories? Actually wasn’t as terrible as I anticipated. Now, I’m not sure how accurate the science of this virus is (my guess, not very!), but here’s how it went: a scientist with not-Alzheimer’s (because why use a perfectly real disease that’s universally recognized as tragic and whose symptoms are very well known when you can make up one just like and give it a fake name?) is tampering with gene therapy to cure his condition at an outpost. It doesn’t work–the virus he creates regresses a person to a previous time in their life and then starts bringing them further and further back from there until they’re hysterical and then catatonic. Or something. I just realized they kept saying it affected short term memory first, but then how was everyone not acting like they were in Memento?
Doctor Wife gets whammied, as does her old college boyfriend Malcolm (let’s just call him Old Flame, shall we?), and General Toughguy. Cop Dad (who, FYI, has a cold, and in case you forget that when he shows no symptoms at all, he’ll remind you with horribly fake sneezes when the plot demands it) goes to find them when they don’t return from inspecting this outpost. Long story short, his cold is somehow incubating him from getting this virus, and they can then manufacture a cure for not-Alzheimer’s.
Gee, if only the common cold could cure regular Alzheimer’s, maybe science isn’t trying hard enough! Ugh.
So, I asked Brandon (my boyfriend, and a science guy) if this was likely to really work. In theory, he said, yes, because if you’ve got a cold then your body is primed to fight off sickness with T-cells and white blood cells riding high. I’m pretty sure the disease itself was still a load of bullshit, and how does one reverse brain damage like that anyways? But, I give them points for it kinda sorta being true, and also for NOT letting Doctor Wife magically get her memories back when Cop Dad returned her wedding ring to her. Smaller bonus points for Toughguy going Apocalypse Now on Terra Nova itself, thinking he was back in the ‘Nam (or future equivalent).
There was a side story about Rebellious Teen kissing Troublemaker Orphan then telling he really wanted to get his future girlfriend to Terra Nova. Since conflict doesn’t exist on this show, she was totally okay with all of this and hooked him up with a sketchy dude who claims to know how to get people here. No one seems interested in asking HOW. But we the audience know (a) because it’s obvious and (b) because the denoument of the episode shows Sketchy Joe (that’s his name now) taking to the Sixers about getting a girl from the future here. Because, duh, they obviously have some kind of gate of their own. This isn’t confirmed yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. So this storyline, which was given all of, hm, two minutes of screentime (Teen Wangst does not count towards that total), was the most interesting and lasting plot in the entire episode.
Episode 4, “The Runaway,” wasn’t great. Now, I’ve read a few reviews that are saying this episode was good because we found out more about the Sixers. We did, but we really didn’t. I personally learned their leader’s name is Mira, not Mila, and that they live in trees. Oh, and they send moppets to do their dirty work.
So the Moppet is a runaway, supposedly, who wants to go back to Earth. She in truth is here to find something in Mira’s old house, some weird glass-ish looking box thing that has no discernible opening mechanism. Puzzle box time! But she’s doing this because Mira has said her Moppet Brother will be harmed if she doesn’t. Cop Dad hunts down the unfindable Sixers somehow, gets caught in a trap, and wakes up in a big treehouse. Mira says some cryptic stuff but never actually tells him anything. All we do is get more confirmation that Sixers don’t like the General, and that Terra Nova’s purpose is something other than what everyone’s been told. WELL, DUH. Thanks for restating what we already learned in the pilot, jackass. Cop Dad asks what this is and because the plot requires he remain in the dark until sweeps, Mira only says “You’ll see.” Then lets him and Moppet Brother go free. The Moppets are adopted by some other nameless woman which means we’ll never see them again.
Obviously, I find it an irritating problem that we learned nothing new at all. Mira and the Sixers had weird war paint on for some reason, and the Moppet’s poor excuse for “character development” was speaking with poor grammar and constantly telling us things she didn’t like. “Don’t like combs,” “don’t like chases,” “don’t like bad men,”– yeah, I “don’t like” your shitty excuses for lines! Girls her age can in fact speak in full sentences, writers! This is not making a character three-dimensional and interesting!
In the end, Cop Dad doesn’t tell Toughguy that Mira mentioned Terra Nova being a fortress lies. But why? Why doesn’t he tell him? What reason has Cop Dad got to not trust Toughguy, the man who let him live and gave him a job and has been nothing but great to him, other than a vague, unhelpful statement made by a woman who threatens kids into doing her bidding? None! He has no reason to hide anything from this man, other than that being what happens at this point in a completely predictable narrative.
Oh, and there’s a throwaway waste of time plot about Hermione not liking blood and her military boyfriend being more outdated than any reference I can possibly make by using terms like ‘courting’ and ‘call upon’. It’s called dating, Chivalrous Dumbass, and you were already in the middle of doing that, so why are you asking now? Was that intended to be him saying let’s make it Facebook official? Chivalrous Dumbass is too long. We’ll just call him White Knight, ’cause that’s the role he’s been given.
As Brandon put it, one thing that’s wrong with Terra Nova’s storytelling is that it’s the opposite of what LOST did right (mostly). LOST would tell you just enough of the story, show you just enough of the story, and not show you what you didn’t need to see. Terra Nova does exactly the opposite of all those things.
First things first: title cards/sequences are very important. They need to be interesting, speak to the content and character of the show, and do something to hook you. The trend of the last five years or so has gone from credits sequence to title cards. Though it started prior to LOST, I believe LOST is what made this so very popular. Among the shows that do this well: LOST, Supernatural, and Gossip Girl. Each very different (heck, Supernatural’s changes each year, and that’s one of the best things about it), but simple, to the point, and you get a pretty good idea what the show is about.
On the flipside, check out the nine seconds of suck that Terra Nova has come up with. Okay, I know you guys put most of your money into your dino CGI (and definitely not into actors, writers, directors, cinematography, etc), but this is embarrassing. This isn’t much better than what someone could’ve come up with in the mid-90’s. I actually burst out laughing when I saw this! And it’s not the family walking shot–that’s fine, if not terribly inspired. The CGI of Pangaea reforming is obviously a graphic you tossed off to some student intern to complete, and then forgot to have someone else make it look good before you threw it up on screen.
Moving on, we get into the story. Remember how I got irritated at the overused call-out to Chaos Theory and stepping on a
In Episode 2, we appropriately have two big ones! First up, birds aren’t scary! I admit I’ve never seen Hitchcock’s The Birds, but I have no doubt it managed to make birds terrifying in ways this episode did not. Birds, on their own, just aren’t scary. Visually-speaking, that is. If a real eagle or hawk or owl was diving for my face, yeah, I’d be scared as hell. But the things we’re shown here just aren’t hitting that note, and here’s why: they are poorly-implemented CGI. Good CGI implementation means you can’t even tell that’s what it is, because they make the interaction of CGI and humans intricate and hands-on. These birds just dive bomb at people and those people fall over. Uh…seriously? This one guy flips ass over tea kettle in a crowd scene from a bird diving at him. It’s far too ridiculous to be realistic, and I never bought into the premise that these birds killed three armed guards in the opener.
Second, the eventual fix for this situation is stolen from a number of sci-fi movies, but among them is Mega-shark vs. Giant Octopus.
Great schlock for a drinking game, but something you want to draw parralels to on your prime time network show? Nope! The trope is this, that they can lead these millions of breeding birds away by reproducing their pheromones, spraying it and getting them to follow Pied Piper-style to a new breeding ground (because Terra Nova was built on their previous breeding ground). And it freaking works. Man, I sure hope THAT spot isn’t one they decide they want to settle on later.
The pheromone science storyline is…aggravating. Whatever movie or TV show dreamed it up first may have done it well, but it’s become a laughing stock of a trope at this point, and it’s use, especially this early on, does not reassure me that this show will improve.
One of the other two biggest issues with this episode is that all of the really interesting scenes take place off-camera. Cop Dad needs to go hunt down some samples of the supposedly-killer birds so they can be studied, so he and the Colonel head on out in the rainy night and…well, I guess that went just fine, ’cause they’re back and they’ve got some birds. Okay, uh, sure. Well, back to the humdrum of the market scene with Teen Boy and Every Girl and oh noes! The birds are attacking en masse, flipping over soldiers with nary a dive bomb! Every one ducks under cover while this happen, and we cut to commercial on people huddling for safety. When we come back, there’s…oh. There are no birds of the dozens who filled the air before in sight, crisis averted, and though there were some scraps and awesome prat falls, no one is dead. Guess they found a way to clear them out pretty easily after all.
Well, now Jim & the Colonel need to start spraying the pheromones, driving off into the brush and leading a flock of instantly horny-for-this-ATV bird reptiles with them. But will it work? Where will they lead them? How will they get back, surround by such deadly avians? This is going to be some tense driving…oh. Uh, nevermind. They’re back now, I guess that was no problem at all.
Terra Nova, I don’t know if you know this, but…you’re a show about people trying to live in a world of dinosaurs. HAVE SOME ACTION SCENES ON CAMERA.
And finally, the pseudo-science continues to be full of crap. Terra Nova was intentionally settled on a spot where they found thousands upon thousands of egg shell fragments in the dirt, because it made the soil fertile. They assumed that whatever laid these thousands of eggs had moved on. I’m no scientist, and you seem to have a few supposedly smart ones on your staff, so if even I think that’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard all episode (prior to the pheromone plan, of course), you’ve been duped by a resume full of lies, my friend. Additionally, no one’s come up with a better tire that’s more resistant to plot-contrived flats by 2149? And it bears repeating, three armed men can’t stop these bird-reptiles from plucking out their eyes and killing them?
You know, here’s the real problem with Terra Nova so far. It’s plot twists are completely unoriginal. We need a flat tire to be what strands our pre-credits victims in the forest? Why not have one of the birds fly at the vehicle and bring it to a halt? Why not have a Sixer attack leave them bereft of transportation, and thereby forward two plots? Actually, make that one plot, because the A-plot of this episode has no signs of bearing any thing to come in the future, except that World’s Worst Scientist wants to steal away Doctor Wife from Cop Dad, which was the B-plot at best and in no way thematically reflected in the A-plot. Interrupted sexy times for Cop Dad and Doctor Wife lead to discovering the reptile birds…and not, y’know, science or anything.
But hey, maybe they wanted to take it easy in the first couple of episodes. Not get too plot-arc heavy because it’s a prime time show on Fox, and shows that display intelligence early on die quickly on this network. Maybe come Episode 3, we can finally sink our teeth into something new and interesting and…
“While investigating radio silence at a nearby outpost, Elisabeth, Jim, Malcolm and Taylor discover an outbreak of a mysterious and fatal virus that causes memory loss.”