television

Storyboard TV

by on Feb.05, 2010, under television

A friend emailed to ask me to help promote something, so here goes:

Storyboard TV, an online community of scriptwriters, producers, and tv enthusiasts, launched its website this week with a script competition awarding $5,000 to the writer with the best pilot for a television drama. At storyboardtv.com, writers can share scripts for original shows with their potential audience members, while soliciting feedback and gauging enthusiasm for their story. Membership to Storyboard TV is free and open to all, and all members will be able to read, critique, and vote on their favorite pilots.

More about Storyboard TV:
Storyboard TV believes in the power of the television drama to document, enhance, and transform people’s lives for the better. Storyboard TV’s mission is to move show selection and pre-production away from the networks and directly to the web. Established in 2009, Storyboard TV endeavors to cultivate new writers and TV scripts, to nurture the connection between the scriptwriter and the fan, and to shepherd new television drama into production during the Internet age.

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Dollhouse: The End.

by on Jan.30, 2010, under television

Dollhouse was the anti-Battlestar Galactica.

Dollhouse couldn’t have been anything good as regular episodic TV, as evidenced by the mostly crappy starts to both of its short seasons, but it turned out pretty great once it began to ignore all of those requirements and focused on building a single, long plot arc culminating in a thoroughly satisfying finale. In fact, looking back from the finale makes me think of the whole show as rather better than it probably was on average. They made me care what happened to Topher. That took some doing.

Battlestar was entirely plotted, a single continuous fabric of narrative that started to unravel as it approached its finale. In fact, its finale was so godawful that it ruined all of what came before it for me.

Part of the difference, I suppose, is that Dollhouse gave up on mystery by its midway point. Epitaph One, the conclusion to season 1, told us exactly what was in store and pretty much what it meant. Season 2 gave us more context and background, but based its climax on its characters. Battlestar, on the other hand, multiplied its mysteries season by season, and then at the end waved them all away with a completely bogus explanation.

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Glee Episode 7: “Throwdown”

by on Nov.28, 2009, under music, television

I’m still getting caught up on Glee. Episode 7, while entertaining enough, has a number of flaws that highlight what the show does so well.

1: You can have too much of a good thing. Jane Lynch is one of the best things about the show. But her over-the-top villainy plays better as a force of nature than in sustained interactions with other characters. An episode like Preggers, where the Glee club’s success threatens Sue’s television perch, uses her centrally without overdoing it, but Throwdown puts her and Mr. Shuster in continuous battle, which taxes the necessary suspension of disbelief. In general, the adult world outside of Will Shuster is so absurd that it needs to be secondary to the fortunes of the Glee club, and the show works best when it uses the adult world as the B plot or makes Will overwhelmingly central.

2. Narrow your focus. Sue’s exploitation of the minority students’ alienation was tonally inconsistent. The satire of “minority status” was too absurd in its broadness to be pointed, and came off as mushy and hesitant. Glee hasn’t entirely found its voice with regards to satire; this is most clearly found in the attempts to soften Terri even as she moves forward her fabricated pregnancy and baby-switching plot. With Terri, I’m glad to see that the show doesn’t want to treat her as an outright villain, unsympathetically desperate in her baby-madness; with a one-episode theme, however, it’s better to stake out your target more clearly.

2. Glee it up. Too many of the songs in this episode were solo numbers with only incidental choral touches. Consider “Hate On Me”:

There’s no doubt that Amber Riley’s Mercedes can deliver the goods, but solo performances weaken the show. We’ve already seen her do “Bust Your Windows” on her own. The show does a good job of pairing pop songs with the characters’ emotional states, but it only soars when they get their peers to join them in their heightened, musical state. To me, that’s the central proposition of Glee, the truth of which Rachel tries to persuade Quinn in this episode: we all know how much it hurts; you’re not alone.

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Hoary Old Joke

by on Nov.02, 2009, under television

This, while funny, is not new:

Here’s Steve Allen doing exactly the same joke more than 50 years ago:

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Dollhouse: That Was Better

by on Oct.24, 2009, under television

Well, we were promised an improvement this week and we got it. There are several obvious reasons for that improvement: the complete absence of Tahmoh Penikett, who’s been seemingly at a loss this season about what to do with his character; the near-absence of Eliza Dushku; the uninterrupted focus on one story rather than the usual TV convention of breaking the week into A and B stories; the fact that that story built on a larger continuing arc rather than trying to be wholly self-contained.

Most of all, though, it succeeded because it gave the characters conflicts (in which they must resolve two competing, incompatible desires) rather than merely challenges (in which the achievement of an uncomplicated desire is blocked by some external obstacle). There’s a pretty low ceiling on how interesting one can make a mere obstacle. (Okay, there’s Iago. Still.) It was a real risk to center that conflict on Fran Kranz, who I wouldn’t have thought capable of shouldering an episode based on his overly ticcy work last season, but he absolutely pulled it off.

As a side note, if Dichen Lachman and Enver Gjokaj don’t get leading roles in something good based on their work on this show, there’s something seriously wrong with the world’s casting agents.

I read that we’ll see the next six episodes over three weeks in December, and the last three who knows when. Maybe next summer.

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Things That Are Too Popular and Established For Me To Claim Discovery But That I Just Found Out About Within the Last Two Months and Like A Lot

by on Oct.23, 2009, under Comics, television

1.

Sons of Anarchy

2.

Fables

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Dexter: Bah

by on Oct.19, 2009, under television

Back when Dexter first started to air, it was a flawed show made watchable by Michael C. Hall’s riveting enactment of a truly creepy main character. In order to appear normal without ever needing to have sex, Dexter had chosen a girlfriend who’d been a victim of repeated rape. He was truly fascinated with the Ice Truck Killer, who was in turn fascinated with him. You could read the bafflement on Hall’s face when Dexter was forced to deal with ordinary social problems, and veiled menace or murderous glee the rest of the time. Sure, most of the other actors stank and the dialogue was often clunky at best, but Hall was in almost every scene and he made up for it.

Now it feels like Hall is phoning it in, and I don’t blame him. His writers have turned his character from a sociopath into an otherwise normal suburban guy with a nasty hobby. In the first season Dexter was detached enough from human morality to hesitate genuinely over the question of whether or not to kill his adopted sister. Now he loves his boring-ass family and has no interest at all in the serial killer stalking his city (when he should be obsessed with the guy’s track record). They killed off the egregiously bad actor who played the brawny black sergeant guy but then replaced him with the equally bad actor who plays Deborah’s pot-bellied-yet-supposedly-hot partner. I don’t care about the one office romance. I don’t care about the other office romance. I don’t care about the third office romance. Frankly, I don’t think the writers care either. By far the most compelling actor on the show right now is John Lithgow, and it’s clear his character is the only one the writers are interested in. But he’s not in many scenes each episode.

Each of the last two seasons was a step down from the one before, and this one has now gone a step too far down for me to follow.

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Momcore and Maul

by on Oct.10, 2009, under television

Big Josh’s latest story has put me in a murderous mind. The joke of Josh’s story, as I see it, is that blood and entertainment aren’t new friends in our fallen age; that we aren’t much nastier than we ever were, but that we’ve always been nasty. Granting that, what are the uses of nastiness specific to our age?

A call-in Leverage thread over at John Rogers’ joint zeroes in on a form of violence whose star is rising right now. He calls it “momcore,” and since the thread in question contains a lot of other Leverage questions to wade through before you get to the momcore bit, I’ll reproduce almost the whole “longish ranty bit” in toto after the jump.

(continue reading…)

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Dollhouse: Um….

by on Oct.09, 2009, under television

Okay, clearly we’re not going to get the Epitaph One future, and that’s a big letdown. Details like the “remote wipe” would mean a lot more if we knew that Topher’s improvising with these things eventually leads to the apocalypse. We’re apparently stuck with this client-of-the-week BS that isn’t any good, even given the Enver Gjokaj showcase. We should be far past the point where we need it driven home that the Dollhouse is sociopathic—especially as hamfistedly as was done this week.

As commenter Karen wrote on Alan Sepinwall’s blog after last week’s  episode: This is Joss Whedon’s Studio 60. I’ve held on this long out of loyalty, but it may be time to let go.

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I Could Watch This Again and Again

by on Oct.06, 2009, under television

And have. What really makes it is the parrot’s giant shit-eating grin.

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