TV Love

These are posts and reviews about TV shows that I love.

Space Opera Love (Part One of Three)

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I have loved Space Opera since I was three.

That was when the original Star Trek series aired on one of the only two channels that were available in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1966, and it was something we, as a family watched. I remember my mother being certain that the sight of one alien in the closing credits (Balok from The Corbomite Maneuver) would scare me too much, so she charged my sisters with distracting me so I wouldn’t see it.

Of course, when I finally did, I wasn’t bothered at all.

Star Trek truly entered my consciousness in the Seventies during first run syndication after school. When I rediscovered it, I would race home and hope it was one I hadn’t seen yet. Not that it mattered. I watched them over and over, poring over every detail, memorizing the look, the ideas, the performances. I tried over and over to build the Enterprise with my Lego. And this was back in the day when there weren’t any specially shaped blocks, just flat bits, rectangles and squares. My love for the show just continued to grow. (more…)

Where You Lead, I Will Follow

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Gilmore Girls was recently added to U.S. Netflix, and it has been getting a great deal of press in the last week or so. It’s great to see one of my favourite shows recognized. There was even a piece on Wired today, talking about how the show is one that cries out to be binge-watched. Which is true. I’m doing it myself again, on DVD. I bought them all at one point when they were on sale at HMV. I had started about a year or two ago, but lost the thread and, since it had been so long, I had to start over.

If you haven’t watched it, do. It’s one of the best written, best acted shows to come out in the the last fifteen years. Characters you fall in love with, dialogue that crackles with life and pop culture references; practically demanding that you pay attention and even then, requiring more than one viewing to catch it all.

It’s nice to pop into Stars Hollow again for a nice, extended, 7 season visit.

The Inherently Hopeless Premise

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I wrote a cranky Facebook status last week about Once Upon a Time. Even though I enjoyed it at first, before it began to go off the rails, it started off with what I like to call the Inherently Hopeless Premise.

You know it. What it means is that the show revolves around solving some mystery or a group of characters trying to make a specific thing happen. But the problem is, if you base your story on that, on the resolution of one specific problem, then you’ve set it up so that you can’t resolve the basic issue without ending the show.

Take Once Upon a Time. The premise is that all the characters from our favoutire fairy tales live in a small town with no memory of who they really are. The evil Queen cursed them all and they are doomed to live with no knowledge of their true nature. The heroine is an outsider who is actually the child of Snow White and Prince Charming who was sent to our world to save her. So, the premise is to defeat the Queen and reverse the curse, freeing everyone. Do you see the problem here? If you break the curse, no show. So, you’re left with a bunch of characters trying to achieve something they can never achieve. Which I find incredibly frustrating. And the show is doing exactly what I was afraid of, leaving the spunky and fantastic heroine never really achieving anything.

There have been many examples of the IHP.  Battlestar Galactica in both the original and rebooted versions. Though the reboot made good on its promise and resolved the IHP in the end. One of the main reasons I never watched Lost was that when I heard about it, it struck me as an IHP. Bunch of people crash on an island, are trying to get home. If they do get home, show’s over. And since most shows are intended to last up to seven years or more, that’s seven years of dangling that carrot in front of the audience’s nose. I wasn’t buying it. Now, I’m told they did transcend their premise and venture into other territory, but I couldn’t make it past that initial reaction.

Think of some of the shows you’ve loved. Examples of things I have loved that didn’t start from an IHP are things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Good Wife or the Star Trek series. Buffy’s mission was an ongoing one. There was a seasonal Big Bad, but you knew that though the BB would terrorize her world for a season, she would kick ass and the season would end with the premise resolved. The Good Wife has become one of my favourite shows. Even though it was fairly high concept (who is the woman standing beside the political figure mired in scandal) it was never an IHP. It’s a premise that mines character and situation and builds compelling stories from there.

Even something classic like Bewitched. Samantha’s a witch, Darrin knows and she wants to live her life with him in  his world. There’s no prescribed endpoint that the story says the character has to get to and therefore, the stories can go anywhere and there can be gains and losses and forward movement.

I got too tired of the Queen on Once Upon a Time always coming out on top, because if she ever lost, the whole premise of the show collapses. Not that it’s impossible to deal with. There are all kinds of interesting stories you could tell if you broke the curse. What do these characters do when they know who they are?  But the producers have to be willing to chuck the premise and have a plan that goes beyond it.

It’s a fine line when writing. With a novel, it has the benefit of being finite. The premise needs to be resolved in the book itself, or in the three books of a trilogy or however many volumes the opus contains.

You have an endpoint and you write to it. But with a series, it has to go on and if you base it on that one specific problem with the one specific resolution, you better have an amazing way to get me to that endpoint without frustration.

Firefly

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Just finished re-watching the series last night. Sometimes I just need to take it out and immerse myself in it again, like reading one of my favourite books again.

I am the first to admit that I had no love for this show when it actually aired. If I had been a Nielsen rating family, I would’ve had a direct hand in its demise. And that is partially at the hands of the network for ditching the original pilot and going with The Train Job as the introduction to the show. Now, TTJ is a great episode, once you know the universe you’re in. But, at the time, it left me cold.

It wasn’t until several years ago when Space was running a marathon on a three day weekend that I curled up and actually watched episodes of the series and fell in love.

It’s such a distinct, specific universe, and the cast were fantastic together. I have said many times how I am a sucker for stories that revolve around an invented family, a group of people that come together and bond as a unit. Firefly is one of the best examples of this and Joss Whedon does it well. There are great ideas in the series and it’s a joy for me to sit and immerse myself in that world again.

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