Sunday, September 21, 2014

Short form TV diary.

I realized I haven't written in this blog for a whole year. A lot has happened. Well, not really. But I watched a lot of TV.

Lost Girl--a new season started. I was loving it so much I rewatched it from the beginning and luxuriated in what a great show it is and I was so happy. Towards the end of the season, they killed off a character in such a stupid way that it ruined the whole show for me, but I'll probably get over it.

I also found this amazing website, mehlsbells, that writes about the show. Melanie is a filmmaker so she doesn't just review the episodes and do meta, she also talks about the editing and camera angles and things like that, and she points out things the show does to save money. I'm making it sound boring but it is really interesting to learn about and see the show from that perspective.

Speaking of, and this is all out of order, but this summer I watched Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe. I love it so much that I already watched all the episodes two or three times. It is about 7 years old and British, and it always starts with the tagline, "I'm Charlie Brooker and you're watching Screenwipe, a program all about television."

Image description: a man fucking a TV. Image description: the way I feel 100% of the time.

I guess the show is known for Charlie's angry reviews and criticisms of famous people, but the best parts are the educational parts, like when he explains how much a TV show costs, who works on it, and why people who are making TV shows have to make a lot of compromises. It all has kind of a whiny tone, because that's the tone of the show, but it's not at all just a show about reviews or complaining. Also, there are a lot of guests on the show who talk about pretty much every subject, like why "science" on TV is not scientific, the best credit sequences of all time, kids' shows they ironically watch, and how TV reporters have changed.

Charlie's actual reviews are nothing to sneeze at, of course; they're some of the funniest reviews I've ever seen. He comes at the most inconsequentially bad shows with an attitude of frothing, inarticulate rage which is especially funny because it isn't very convincing. He usually starts smiling a little bit, and basically comes off as very nice when he isn't yelling.

I tried to watch some of his more recent shows, like Newswipe, and that particular brand of comedy just stopped. It was watchable, but I was really disappointed because I enjoyed the persona so much. I guess a lot of angry nerds are mad at him for not being angry anymore, but honestly he never seemed genuinely angry to me, just very committed and over the top in his humor? So I don't think it can really have to do with him mellowing out or becoming a less angry person. I don't know what happened, but at least I'll always have Screenwipe.

Anyway, back to the spring.

Dracula. I watched a tiny bit of this show. It was terrible, terrible, terrible. I also tried to watch Penny Dreadful, also at Clayton's suggestion. I liked when Frankenstein and the monster seemed like they were going to make out but I just couldn't stick around very long. I feel like Clayton has almost never recommended a good TV show to me. I think he's the person who originally got me to watch Grimm! And Clayton, if you are reading this, we were supposed to talk on the phone ONE WEEK AGO!

Dead Like Me. I marathoned this show while playing 2048. It's very good. I love all the characters, the style, acting, writing, blah blah. It's weird because it is older than Wonderfalls, I think, and you remember my complaints about Wonderfalls. Actually, I think Bryan Fuller had to leave this show in a really awful way only a few episodes in, so I should be mad and think that the rest of the show sucks and doesn't live up to the first few episodes, but I am just a philistine and I really like it. The movie is fucking horrible though. Don't do that to yourself, ever.

Sometimes I pretend that Mason and Daisy are Josh and me even though we aren't funny or attractive. ACCEPTABLE!

American Horror Story. I regret watching season three.

Adventure Time. I got really into this show! I love the art style, the music, the characters, and the humor. I love when the episodes end on a really strange beat--that might be my favorite thing about the show. I also got really sick and spent several days in a haze of Bubbline fanfiction on tumblr. I wrote meta, recorded a cover of "Oh Bubblegum" trying to sound like Olivia Olson, and then returned to my day to day life.

Aside from the Bubbline-related episodes, my favorite is "Dream of Love," where an elderly, tiny elephant and a pig fall in love with each other and everyone yells at them for holding hands and kissing in public--not because they are different species, but just because people think public displays of affection are gross. The couple start making out in different places like sandwiches, a baby carriage, and a projector. At the climax of the episode they are separated and start bellowing out a song that has lyrics like, "In my dreams, your love is just a dream to me, but in my heart it lives and breathes and grows!" while the pig is drinking at a bar and the elephant is baking a pie. Okay that summary pretty much contains why I love the show, although you might need to see the art and hear the performances to understand what's so awesome about it.

Sleepy Hollow. This show is wonderful. It sucks when I review something I watched such a long time ago, because it's not really fresh in my mind, and I wish I was able to write a lot about this show. It's about a cop named Abbie who lives in Sleepy Hollow and then Ichabod Crane comes to the present day and acts really angry about the fact that he has to pay $1.99 for donuts. He and Abbie are a delight. So is ORLANDO JONES, whose character name I forget, but he loves being on Sleepy Hollow so much that the background of his tumblr is a picture of him, Abbie, and Ichabod in front of an American flag.

The show is genuinely really scary sometimes and also funny, and has wonderful characters. When I complain about Nick being bland on Grimm and how he's not a real character...well, I am just thinking of characters like the ones in Sleepy Hollow. Abbie has been in way fewer episodes of TV than Nick Burkhardt, but I am so much more excited about her and could tell you so much more about her than I could about Nick. Same goes for every main character, except stupid Katrina--well, that's not true, she is dumb compared to the other characters, but she is still more interesting than Nick Burkhardt.

Also, Sleepy Hollow has a lot more female characters, and black and Asian characters, than most TV shows. That's another thing that makes it more interesting to watch and it is starting up again in ONLY TWO DAYS!!!

Teen Wolf. Never admirable, always watchable. Plus Shelley Hennig, who I used to have a crush on in The Secret Circle--the show I could never remember anything about except that it had hot girls in it?--has ambled over to here and is making out with Stiles and acting in a way that I can claim is crypto-disabled, which is good, because if she was canonically disabled, she'd be a villain.

Community. The REAL season four was great! Shame on you, other season four! (Just kidding, I barely even watched it, except like 3 episodes where the plot of EVERY episode was "Abed compares something to a TV show or movie! Look! This is exactly like Community actually is, except for being well written and doing a good job with the characters!")

Now, this is probably just about half the shows I watched, so I got to dig around in my brain a little.

Drunk History was as good as last year--maybe even more consistently good. It's a really fun show.

I watched Catherine, which isn't actually a real TV show--it's on YouTube--but I like it. Yet I am too lazy to even look up the link for you. You'll just have to do your own Googling. I am a monster.

Broad City. This is a comedy show with maybe 10 episodes about two friends, Abby and Ilana, who live in New York. Again, this is something I remember really liking but it's been such a long time that I don't remember that much about it. Fuck my life! Hannibal Buress is also in it, playing a dentist who is in love with Ilana. By the way, Ilana is one of the most attractive women I've ever seen. I think I might not have found it that funny in the first few episodes but it really picked up. Only quote I remember:

Hannibal Buress: I'm at the dog shelter.
Ilana: When are you going to get your own dog?
Hannibal Buress: I could never subject a dog to the crazy life of a dentist.

Now I am remembering a lot more great dentistry moments in the show. Cool! Maybe I should rewatch it.

Hannibal. I can't believe I was talking about Hannibal Buress but I forgot this show! Okay, I'm going to say the first season was AMAZING but then, like, something happened? Okay warning you should stop reading if you don't want me to post an awesome gory screencap from Hannibal.

First of all, what's kind of exciting about this show is that we have a mentally ill, crazy, crypto-Autistic main character who everyone sort of suspects is a serial killer, but he's not, he's actually super ethical--but all the doubts that other people have about him and all the doubts he has about himself contribute to him being the perfect patsy for an actual serial killer. I know I know, I'm about to say a Bryan Fuller show is realistic, but just shut up okay, I feel like it is a realistic portrayal of mental disability and violence, i.e. that mentally disabled people are seen as violent because of stereotypes, but meanwhile, we actually are disproportionately victims because we're more vulnerable and we're also taught to be more compliant and doubt ourselves and stuff. Good job Bryan Fuller!

I also like that he changed some of the male characters from the books to be female in the show so there would be more female characters.

And most of all (well, maybe not most of all) I love the gore and what Fuller calls "purpleness." We're supposed to believe that there are about one billion really artistic serial killers who do things like killing people and then taking their lungs out and putting their lungs on their back to look like wings:

Or killing people and then turning their bodies into a giant totem pole thing. Or taking diabetic people, putting them into comas, and planting them in a garden and growing plants in them. It is awesome. There was only one scene in the show that actually grossed me out, otherwise all the murders were so dreamlike and just super Bryan Fuller that they were nothing but cool.

The second season wasn't bad or anything but it just didn't appeal to me the same way. First of all, they had understandably moved on from the plot of the first season which, like I said, was very meaningful and exciting to me. So it got more boring. Also Caroline Dhavernas, who I've mentioned I love, was acting really DUMB in season two. No Caroline Dhavernas! Don't do it! Here's a screencap I took of her looking really wonderful though:

And she was walking some dogs too.

I liked it, but I DIDN'T like her being so stupid and also the show just got a lot less case of the week which made me sad because I really liked all the gory art murders so much! Oh well. It's not that I won't watch the show anymore or something but it was just crazy how fast it went from being something I absolutely ADORED and was obsessed with, to something that was just like "well it looks good, good actors, Bryan Fuller, okay."

Orange is the New Black. I'm not sure I reviewed this last year. I love it. It's a great show. I wish I had a husband so I could break up with him for Samira Wiley. But I'm getting tired of writing this post and how short form is it anyway?

Image description: the scrollbar. This post is really fucking long is what I'm trying to say.

Orphan Black. Holy shit am I forgetting a lot of shows! It just means I'm really lucky to have watched so many amazing things this year. Okay at this point I'm going to have to come back to some of these because I'm BURNED OUT.

The Michael J. Fox Show. YES did you know someone could have a disability and be on a TV show and make jokes about it?? YES!!!! But why didn't they do anything else in the show? Like there was literally an episode about how the mom and dad don't want their, like, 17-year-old daughter to take an art class where she draws pictures of nude men. Or maybe she was taking photos, I don't remember, but it just made it seem like the show was taking place in the 1920s and basically everything seems very unoriginal except for the concept. Even though I did really appreciate the concept.

Those are all the shows I can remember right now that I watched this year. I only watched like 18 of them, so I really need to step up my game. Gross.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Unthinkable Faces: Grimm as usual

I hate Grimm. The worst show in the world, yet I watch and watch it. It's certainly not addictive or "so bad it's good" or anything. It's just that hating Grimm has become such a consistent part of my identity. I found an old half-finished post about how terrible it is, and it is just as true in September as it was in April.

It's my fault for tagging my hate but oh my gosh, I just had another interaction on tumblr with someone who likes Grimm. I posted complaining about all the retcons, and they replied that these were not retcons but an example of how good the show is at character development.

I mean, okay, you can argue that some things are character development (even though I'd say they're probably not because they're so badly telegraphed, and it just comes off like the writers forgot what a character was supposed to be like).  But you sure can't construe it that way when two characters who were never dating talk about "getting back together."

And aside from character inconsistency, there is just so much sheer laziness and refusal to do worldbuilding of any kind.  Like, let's talk about the voge.  If you don't watch Grimm, why are you reading this post, but also, the voge is when Wesen (monster people) show their monster face, enabling Nick to realize what they are.

At first, the whole point of Nick's powers is that he can see the monster faces when Wesen are feeling emotional. Other Wesen can see it too.  That's the voge, and humans can't see it. Then it got inconvenient that humans can't see it, so they said there's a different kind of voge where the Wesen can intentionally show their faces to humans, but they're not supposed to because it will make people go insane. This gradually bled into Wesen voging for humans all the time and absolutely no humans ever going insane.

Now that I describe this, it sounds a little silly because if it happened on a good show, I wouldn't care.  Even if they completely retconned characters on a good show, I'd probably be the one on tumblr trying to explain why this was just really subtle and complex character development.  What's the difference?  Grimm not only is lazily written, everything about it is lazy to the point that I can't understand why anyone would like anything about it.


1. The nonexistent concept.  Grimm tried to start out with the idea that fairy tale monsters are based on real creatures, which is acceptable enough, but they immediately dropped the fairy tale angle and ended up with a confusing and boring as hell concept: some people aren't human, which in most cases literally just means that their face turns into a CGI wolf, witch, sheep, dragon, tapeworm, etc.  A few of them have superpowers, like the dragon people can breathe fire.  They're also supposed to have personality traits associated with the kind of monster they are, but a lot of them don't.  Also, there are "the Royals" who are a bunch of humans in France who are important for some reason, and there are also "the Resistance" who fight against the Royals.

There is nothing appealing about any of this.  The Wesen usually don't have interesting powers, and their monster faces look horrible; at times they're hilarious, at other times just sort of ugly and awkward looking.  One of the times I laughed the hardest was when Monroe and Rosalee (the only two semi-likable characters in the show) solemnly put on their wolf and fox faces at a Wesen funeral.  Now, Monroe sure doesn't look like a wolf, but that's not as funny as the fact that Rosalee looks like a stuffed animal, AND that this is supposed to be a serious and touching moment.

I read the AV Club recaps for Grimm and the commentariat always seem pretty clear on the fact that this show isn't great.  Where I differ from them is that they think it can be fixed.  They're always saying things like, "The concept is good, if they would just execute it better or do more worldbuilding or..." no.  Just no.  It's a show about people's faces turning into ugly CGI monsters.

While we're on the subject, I would like to compare Grimm to Lost Girl, which everyone who's anyone knows is one of my favorite shows.  Lost Girl is cheesy and like Grimm it has a lot of retcons, involving both characters and worldbuilding.  Both are supernatural detective shows that include basically any mythological creature they want to, and also make them up.  Somehow, this is a good quality on Lost Girl and a minus when it comes to Grimm.  Everything in Lost Girl is just so...lush, I guess is the word?  They have no money but every time the characters go into a new environment or a new kind of magical creature is introduced, it's colorful and surreal, sometimes haunting or funny or both.  In Grimm, every new character is just some dick whose face turns into an eagle.

It's hard to imagine what Grimm would be like if everything but the concept was good. I can't help but feel that no amount of consistency or creativity with the genre elements could ever do anything and Grimm's only hope of salvation is to focus on having good characters.  Which brings me to...

2. Nonexistent characters.  Let me tell you what I know about Nick Burkhardt, the main character on Grimm.  He is a police detective.  He is a Grimm.  He grew up thinking he was an orphan and being raised by his aunt.  He lives with his girlfriend Juliette, in a big house that somehow only has one bedroom.

Since Nick doesn't seem to have any strong interests or issues or personality traits, I guess I can characterize him as calm, well-adjusted, and dull, but I don't think the show was necessarily going for that, they just never gave him any personality traits.

Juliette and Hank have the dubious honor of being less boring than Nick, but still boring compared to any reasonable standard of what characters should be like.

Monroe is the breakout character because he's almost the only defined character on the show--he's a wolfman who used to eat animals (and maybe people, but that was retconned) but now devotes himself to fixing clocks and making elaborate Halloween decorations.  The implication is that Monroe's bloodthirsty urges get channeled into these geeky pursuits, which he throws himself into with a creepy, but cute, intensity.  It's all clever and original, and Silas Weir Mitchell is perfect as Monroe.  The fox apothecary Rosalee is better than Juliette, Hank, and Nick, but not as good as Monroe, although she has the potential to be if the show spent more time on her.  It feels like Monroe and Rosalee are from a different show, one where characters are actually developed and not just woodenly moving through one stupid plot after another.

The result of all this is that I only care what happens to Monroe and Rosalee; Nick, Hank, and Juliette could all get blown up by a bomb and my only reaction would be happiness that Monroe and Rosalee had become the main characters in the show.

3.  If blandness was an extreme sport...well, blandness is an extreme sport, because this show exists.  If there's even a brief possibility of a character or situation not being bland, they jump in there and beat it to death.

I remember a while ago there was a scene where Monroe is trying to ask Rosalee to move in with him, but instead of asking he just keeps awkwardly talking about how small her apartment is and how his house is much bigger and has a lot more room for her stuff.  Rosalee is pretending to have no idea what he's talking about--"So, you want me to keep my clothes at your house?" while Monroe gets more and more nervous.

Watching this scene, I was feeling as usual like Monroe and Rosalee come from another show.  It was like they even had different writers writing their dialogue instead of the boring, obvious dialogue that usually comes out of Grimm characters' mouths.  As if someone had heard my thoughts, the following exchange then happened:



(A random man approaches them in the restaurant.)

Man: Hey Monroe! You are just so amazing and wonderful.  Excuse me, Rosalee, I just want you to know how WONDERFUL Monroe is.  He fixed my antique watch!  Bye, Monroe. You're so great!

(The random man leaves to become the victim of the week.)

It was like the spirit of the show came down all, "What?  This scene doesn't suck enough!  Everything that didn't suck up until now has to be averted in the last minute of the scene."

In no particular order I will list some of the bland events that have happened in this fucking show:

I. The endless parade of male-on-female violence.  I'm not saying it shouldn't be portrayed but it's done in such a stock way, as if "a man beats his wife" is the only development the characters need.  On top of that, they will have the man be a wolf or lion while the woman is a mouse, sheep, rabbit, etc.

The problem is, Wesen aren't very open to interspecies relationships, and prey tend to avoid predators.  So the existence of so many lion/mouse, wolf/sheep couples doesn't really fit with the way they portray Wesen, because those relationships would be discouraged.

Now, I think you could create a story of an abusive Wesen who intentionally chooses a partner of a different species, in the hopes of isolating her from her family and community. Or a mouse who marries a lion over her family's objections, and then he becomes abusive and it's really hard because she has no social support. But I don't think Grimm is going for this--they genuinely don't think any farther than, "A man is abusing a woman.  He's a scary dragon and she's a pigeon.  Great work you guys we can all go home."

II. When Nick and Juliette can't sleep in the same bed because she has amnesia, he sleeps on the couch.  Even though they own an entire house together, apparently there is only one bedroom, and also they don't even have any sheets or blankets that they can put on the couch.  This may seem like a nitpicky thing to complain about, but to my mind it shows just how lazy the writers are. They had to make Nick sleep on the couch because that is the most clich├ęd possible way to show that a couple are having problems.

III. Juliette wearing so much makeup in bed.

IV. Juliette getting so dressed up for work when she is a veterinarian.

V. There was this episode where a bunch of Wesen beat someone up outside a diner and the only person who witnesses it is a black teenage boy. He tells his white girlfriend that he wants to go to the police, and she replies, "No, the police won't be on your side...not in this neighborhood." Is it me or does this seem like the show is trying to avoid being "political" by implying that police don't discriminate against black people, but only against "people who live in bad neighborhoods?" That white people and black people who "live in bad neighborhoods" are equally affected, as shown by the white girl actually being less trusting of the police than the black guy, and having to tell him to be cautious of the police?

Of course, she was wrong since this is a fantasy show and the police are perfectly nice, but then why even bring up the subject in the first place? I guess this is the standard in mainstream TV where you have to avoid 90% of real life issues even though it makes everything confusing and boring--but like, why did they even start to mention it but then cloak it in such a weird way? Bland Attack.

VI. Blah blah I'm bored of writing about this.

I will just discuss Monroe's profession, although I may have posted about it before. Monroe is introduced as a wolfman who--surprise!--fixes clocks for a living and is an adorable nerd. It's so complicated and cute how he has to manage his desire to be a good, adorably, nerdy person with the evil wolfpeople he comes from, whose lifestyle he has abandoned.

But then we find out Monroe's dad also fixes clocks and I think he's from a long line of wolfmen who did the same job.

Um, okay?

But also Monroe's parents are supposed to be old school because they freaked out about him dating a fox person.

WHO CARES. Anyway, Grimm is just terrible and it makes me so disappointed to think of all the great shows that are being canceled when this PAP is on television every week, just making a mockery of everything.

Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: The Harlequin by Laurell K. Hamilton

I've never read any books in this series (I found this one by the side of the road) and I was expecting it to be a trashy fantasy/horror book or a trashy romance book or both.  What I wasn't expecting was that it would be the weirdest book I've ever read.

I have to say that I'm not including unpublished books written by teenagers.  If another kid handed me their book on the bus on a field trip in 9th grade, this would be EXACTLY what I was expecting.  It just makes no fucking sense as an actual published book written by an adult, and that has nothing to do with being cheesy or trashy--it's like when you're doing NaNoWriMo and you just write as much as possible about any random subject you can think of, just to take up space.

Most egregiously, The Harlequin is supposed to be about the Harlequin, which are some super scary secret vampires who have decided they want to hurt Anita Blake and all of her boyfriends, but for the first half of the book, LKH can barely bring herself to write a few sentences about the Harlequin even though Anita and her boyfriends are supposedly in great danger.

Anita Blake is this Mary Sue lady who is a human but not, also sort of a werewolf/werehyena/werelion/wereleopard but she never actually transforms because her body hasn't decided what kind of animal it's going to turn into.  She has a psychic link with a lot of her boyfriends, including Jean-Claude the vampire, Richard the werewolf, and Micah the wereleopard.  She also needs to have sex with several people a day or she will die and so will 2 of her boyfriends (Nathaniel the wereleopard and Damian the vampire).  There's also a part about how she has to eat food or she'll die but someone will have to inform Laurell K. Hamilton that this isn't a power.

Oops, I just found this half-finished review six months later, so I will have to try to remember what the book was about. I think Anita might have a house and a job, but in this book she was staying at Jean-Claude's giant mansion, which I think might be under his nightclub, but I can't remember. The plot of the first half of the book is something like this:

1)Anita finds out that the Harlequin are after her?? Whatever.

2)Anita goes to the movies with Nathaniel. They run into some people who saw them performing at a sex club. Anita has a really long conversation with Nathaniel about the fake name he gave those people. Then, Anita finds a mask in the bathroom which is a message from the Harlequin that they are spying on her, but that they won't use any magic on her.

3)Then, for about a billion chapters, Nathaniel, who is a masochist, wants Anita to top him and she doesn't want to. Nathaniel acts like he is going to break up with her if she doesn't do what he wants. He seems like a real asshole but the book doesn't even acknowledge what an asshole he is and just says he is an adorable woobie. Also, practically everyone keeps asking them about it so Nathaniel and Anita have to describe in painstaking detail about how Anita isn't being GGG.

4)Then for a long time the book is about Richard, the werewolf. He hates being a werewolf and he hates that Anita has other boyfriends! What in the world? How could you date someone who has 5+ boyfriends and do nothing but complain about how you want her to have only one boyfriend? Especially if she needs to have sex multiple times a day or she'll die. At this point if you care about being monogamous you need to date someone else.

5)Occasionally, the characters get unusually emotional. Like, Anita gets really attracted to her own boyfriend. Or Richard gets really mad. Then everyone is like, "IT'S THE HARLEQUIN! They said they wouldn't do anything to us but they are controlling our emotions!" But you guys, you are acting normal. Richard is always mad and Anita is always attracted to her boyfriends because there needs to be a lot of sex in the book because of the type of book it is.

6)Jean-Claude has a million bodyguards at his house and one of them was saying Anita was hot and she was mad about it--this whole thing took a fair amount of time--and then maybe he turned evil. Anita mentioned how this girl had kind of a grumpy expression, and later that girl randomly turned evil. I don't remember. Apparently this book is infamous because Anita has a guy killed for refusing to have sex with her, and I do remember that part, but like, it honestly wasn't that notable compared to the rest of the book.

7)When Anita was complaining about the bodyguard, she really wanted us to know that he was Asian. She said something like, "His mom was Chinese and his dad was Japanese. I wondered how they felt about his rude behavior."

8)There was a sex scene with the following line: "He smelled smoky, not like cigarettes, but wood smoke, and salt, like some food that had been smoked and salted, until the meat was flavored and tender and so ready to eat." Yes, he was sexy because he smelled like cooked meat. That is my jam as well.

9)Eventually they had a showdown with the Harlequin but who cares. The book was 30% Nathaniel wanted Anita to top him, 30% Richard was jealous, 30% a lot of dramatic stuff happened at a hospital and everyone almost died, and in the final 10% of the book the Harlequin stuff happened.

10)Also, there is this sexy werelion who Anita is drawn to even though he's evil. He is really into Cookie Monster so he dyes his hair the same color as Cookie Monster and he has a tattoo of him. I know this sounds like a manic pixie dream lion but I promise, it was supposed to be edgy and evil that this all powerful beast is sitting around watching Sesame Street.

And that's what you missed in The Harlequin.