Friday, July 30, 2010

The Foot: Seven Business Days of Whedon concludes

Seven Business Days of Whedon concludes today. We had fun, didn't we? We did. Many words were written about television shows that ended 6-8 years ago. It was fun battling the increasingly horrible Quad Blog server as I tried to insert pictures into the post. No one will forget the blissful day I spent over 45 minutes inserting 19 photographs for ANGEL. Each time I'd click on what needed to be clicked an error message would pop up. Moments later, it would work and then break down just as I submitted. Fun times.

There are a few options for the conclusion of Seven Business Days of Whedon. The first, naturally, is to rank the 100 greatest Whedon characters. I estimate a 30,000 word count for such a post. The second, talk about some of Joss Whedon's greatest writing achievments. Myself and the readers would have to forget about the episodes I wrote about yesterday so that the content would feel fresh and new. The third, I embed a few videos. I think the third option is the most pleasant of the three.

My plan all along was to conclude the exciting week and two days with a riveting entry about Joss Whedon's scripts; however, I stepped on my own plan yesterday and Monday by writing all I can write about Joss Whedon episodes. Also, WordPress is nonsense and putting a screenplay excerpt into block quote is not worth the trouble WordPress will put me through.

I have scoured the interweb for five awesome clips from any Joss Whedon show or movie and only found two because every video is a lame fanmade video. I promise that there will be zero lame four minute fan made videos about the Buffy/Spike relationship or any fanmade videos about how they think Xander and Dawn would be just swell together.

NPH/FELICIA DAY DUET

My favorite song in Dr. Horrible. The funniest person in the scene is Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer.



RIVER DESTROYS THE REAVERS

Whedon said if Serenity wanted to accomplish anything, it was the shot of River at the end of the fight. Of course that shot isn't in the youtube clip. Do watch. Summer Glau's outstanding. Pay attention to the one-er. Joss said he just can't stay away from super-powerful and strong women.



Unfortunately, wordpress does not have hulu-embed capabilities so I can only link additonal video. Seven Business Days of Whedon is having as bad of a finale as Boy Meets World. I am not proud.

http://www.hulu.com/firefly

http://www.hulu.com/buffy-the-vampire-slayer

http://www.hulu.com/angel

http://www.hulu.com/dollhouse

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Foot: The Top 19 Buffy Episodes

There are many iconic scenes in Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. The opening scene of the series is iconic, when the pretty blond girl turns around and reveals she is a vampire to her date. In that scene Joss broke genre conventions. There is the image of Buffy, in her prom dress, ready to save the world. Very iconic. As for The Foot, one scene has always stood out. The scene is not included amongst the various iconic moments but the scene says so much about the heart of Buffy. The scene occurs during season two's "Lie To Me," a Joss Whedon episode. Buffy's old friend visits her; however, he's dying and wants eternal life. He makes a deal with Spike and Dru to turn him if he brings along some more people for the duo to feed on. Spike and Dru aren't the big bad in this episode. The big bad is Buffy's old friend and the experience blindsides her. She waits with Giles in the cemetary and they share this discussion

BUFFY

Well, does it ever get easy?


Ford BURSTS from the grave, a snarling VAMPIRE, and lunges at Buffy -- who plants a stake firmly in his chest. She doesn't even look as he explodes into dust.


GILES

You mean life?


BUFFY

Yeah. Does it get easy?


GILES

What do you want me to say.

She thinks about it a moment.


BUFFY

Lie to me.


GILES

Yes. It's terribly simple.


As they start out of the graveyard:


GILES

The good-guys are stalwart and true.

The bad-guys are easily distinguished

by their pointy horns or black hats and

we always defeat them and save the day.

Nobody ever dies…and everybody lives

happily ever after.


BLACK OUT.


BUFFY (O.S.)

(with weary affection)

Liar.


END OF SHOW


The dialogue says so much about the series and what she'll experience as she grows older; and the scene says so much about life, about growing up, the uncertainty, the fears. Buffy was about much more than just vampires. It ranks number three on my favorite tv shows of all-time. These nineteen episodes should give readers an idea of what made Buffy great.

*Favorite episodes might change over time

THE TOP NINETEEN EPISODES OF BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

19. Fear, Itself (Written By David Fury; Directed By Tucker Gates)

Fear, Itself is season four's Halloween episode. Buffy's sad and fears being alone because of a boy, Xander fears being left out because he's not in college, Oz fears he can't control his lycanthrophy, and Willow fears she can't control her magic. All of these fears manifest during a frat house's Halloween party where a fear demon preys on people's fear. So, Xander becomes invisible. Oz can't control his lycanthropy, Willow can't control her magic, and Buffy's alone. Meanwhile, Anya (in her bunny costume) and Giles team up to save the frat and the group from whatever's happening inside. They do save the day and the fear demon, who seems so large, is actually revealed to be very small. The symbolism isn't subtle but it works. "Fear, Itself" does what Buffy does so well: take real life problems and illuminate them through the supernatural. This is Buffy's best Halloween episode.

18. Angel (Written By David Greenwalt; Directed By Scott Brazil)

For six episodes, Angel has been the mysterious guy who helps Buffy out or warns her that trouble lurks. Buffy grows more and more attracted to him as time goes by. She's interested him, and he's interested in her, but when they almost kiss, he vamps. Buffy freaks and doesn't know what to do. Should she kill him? She is the Slayer. Buffy doesn't know about the curse or his soul, though. This episode gives us Angel's backstory for the first time and reveals, among other things, his connection with Darla, and her, Darla's, motivations for wanting Buffy dead. She's jealous. An epic, soapy romance between a slayer and vampire begins in this one. The image of her cross burning his chest when they kiss for the first time is mirrored seven years later in "Beneath You".

17. Innocence (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

One of the most popular episodes of the entire series. I might be committing a crime by ranking it as low as seventeen but, hey, "Innocence" is included in the Best of Buffy. Whedon said this episode accomplished everything he wanted the show to be. He wanted to tell stories that were personal and larger-than-life. When parents tell their teenage children that sex changes everything, it really does in Sunnydale. Angel becomes Angelus after experiencing true happiness with Buffy. Angelus is as cruel as a young girl's worst nightmare is after sex, using Buffy's innocence to humiliate her. Buffy needs to work out her intense and complicated personal issues while knowing that she needs to kill Angelus. If you watch "Innocence" for the first time and don't like it, you likely won't like the rest of the series.

16. Once More, With Feeling (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

I wrote about this already on Monday. Joss didn't just make the musical for the sake of making a musical. The episode is a game-changer for the season. Buffy and Spike kiss. Xander and Anya aren't as ready as they seem for marriage. Tara learns Willow altered her memory. There's many fun songs as well. And it's a musical.

15. No Place Like Home (Written By Douglas Petrie; Directed By David Solomon)

This season five episode introduced the season's big bad and the thing that she's looking for that would destroy the world, and it explains where Dawn came from, but it doesn't explain why Joyce is sick, which is the one thing Buffy wanted to find out and destroy by the end of the episode. The end of this episode always moves me, especially the scene between Buffy and the monk. Sarah Michelle Gellar was amazing.

14. The Zeppo (Written By Dan Vebber; Directed By James Whitmore Jr.)

I didn't write about Dan Vebber in yesterday's post because he wrote only two episodes; however, both of his episodes are among these nineteen episodes. "The Zeppo" is the first and shows us things from Xander Harris' perspective. It's a big one for Xander. He saves the world and loses his virginity, but no one will ever know. This episode is among the funniest in the series. The title comes from Zeppo Marx, the most forgotten member of the Marx Brothers.

13. Lie To Me (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

Joss has said that "Innocence" made him realize what he could storywise in Buffy, but "Lie To Me" is an essential early episode that departed from the kinds of episodes the writers broke in season one and early season two. It's almost a prelude to "Innocence". Someone from Buffy's past visits her, but he changed, and Buffy never expected it, as I summarized above. "Lie To Me" departs from the binary good/evil dichotomy and anticipates a more ambivalent story.

12. The Wish (Written By Marti Noxon; Directed By David Greenwalt)

Everyone loves "The Wish" because it shows us the very opposite of the series we love. A bitter Cordy accidentally tells a vengeance demon that she wished Buffy never came to Sunnydale. Anya, the vengeance demon, grants her wish. And a Sunnydale-less Buffy and a friend-less Buffy is not good for anyone.

11. Lover's Walk (Written By Dan Vebber; Directed By David Semel)

"Lover's Walk" is hilarious and I laugh every time I watch it. Dru broke up with Spike, so Spike's a mess, but because he's Spike, he bounces back pretty quick; however, he leaves everyone else's love lives worse. The old rumor is that Joss did page one rewrites for both of Vebber's episodes. That seems right.

10. Passion (Written By Ty King; Directed By Michael E. Gershman)

"Passion" is the closest the show has come to a forty-four minute slasher movie. Angelis is at his most poetic evil in the episode, stalking and tormenting Buffy, killing Giles' sweetheart, and telling Joyce about Buffy sleeping with him. A brilliant, game-changing, series-changing episode.

9. The Body (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

Joss wanted to capture the reality of losing a loved one. He succeeded. It is sad, existential, depressing, but excellently written, directed, and act. Sarah deserved an Emmy. You may never watch it again after the first time.

8. Graduation Day Pts 1&2 (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

The Scoobies say goodbye to high school with an epic fight against a giant snake. There are flaming arrows! What doesn't happen in this episode? I wrote more about the episode here.

7. Selfless (Written By Drew Goddard; Directed By David Solomon)

Who is Anya? She's not a vengeance demon and she's not Xander's wife. Where does she belong? "Selfless" gives us Anya's glorious origin story, plus one song, as she tries to figure out her place in the world. Plus, five seasons later, the infamous "kick his ass" returns as a (minor) plot point.

6. Prophecy Girl (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

I think this episode is the first one that actualizes the potential of the series. Buffy's incredibly heroic in this one, faces death and dies at age 16 before Xander saves her life. There are other moments of bravery too. Xander's brave when he tells Buffy how he feels about her, but she doesn't feel the same way, for example. She defeats The Master. I adore

5. Becoming Pts. 1&2 (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

"Becoming" is action-packed, full of emotion, heart, torture, suspense, life-or-death stakes, discoveries, payoffs, and character choices that ripples into later seasons. Joss Whedon at his best.

4. Hush (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

"Hush" reminds one how much people may still communicate without words. As Joss said, people start communicating when they stop talking. "Hush" gives us iconic villains, operatic drama, comedy, and true episodic triumph.

3. Conversations With Dead People (Written By Drew Goddard Goddard & Jane Espensen; Directed By Nick Marck)

Different characters talk to different dead people. I think "Conversations With Dead People" is the last truly great Buffy episode. Some season seven episodes post-"Conversations..." are good, but none reach, not even the series finale, what this episode reaches. "Hush" highlights how people begin communicating when they stop talking. "Conversations With Dead People" shows something different: it's this idea that people, especially Buffy, can only open up to those they don't know and those who don't know you. This episode also introduces Buffy's final Big Bad. Joss wrote the Buffy act.

2. Restless (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

I called this episode an English major's dream in the past. Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles fall asleep after their big battle against The Initiative. They all dream. The narrative turns inward. It foreshadows Buffy's death, Dawn's arrival, and the importance of the First Slayer. The episode is silly, surreal, artistic, deep, dramatic, personal, philosophical, and unlike many other episodes of television.

1. The Gift (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

The series' 100th episode and the last episode of TheWB era. Whedon said he wrote "The Gift" as a series finale and, later, he admitted that he thinks of it as the perfect ending to the character and the character. I agree. "The Gift" is perfect. This is Buffy at its best, and Joss at his best. The closest he comes to matching the quality of "The Gift" isn't until "A Hole in the World". If you've never seen the show before, I wouldn't dare spoil this special, special episode.

TOMORROW: Seven Business Days of Whedon concludes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Foot: The Writers

Seven Business Days of Whedon continues with a look at the writers Whedon assembled for his four television shows and the influence and impact they've had in the fandom and on the legacy of these shows.

Joss Whedon is the first to admit that television writing is a collaborative effort. The stories of the lone writer, sitting in front of a desk, isolated from the world remains a foreign thing in the television industry. The tortured writer image does not exist in the world of television. In TV, there is a writer's room where a group of writers, along with the showrunner and/or creator, figure out the stories of the season. Many storytellers exist in television. The majority of writers enter a world that they did not create and must prove that they can capture the voice of the show as well as the voice of every single character. It's like a professional musician who plays bass for Taylor Swift. Musicians, writers and all creative types want to write their own music, stories, etc and have 100% total ownership of their product but that is tough. Of course, playing bass in Taylor Swift or writing for a television show is not the easiest task on the planet.

While I remain unaware of the journey of someone who plays an instrument for someone like Katy Perry or Taylor Swift, I know enough about the journey of a television writer. The journey should begin in the city of Los Angeles as an assistant of some type though that is not the lone way of going about such a career. The absolute beginning is a spec script. A writer usually has to write a spec script. The spec script usually should be for a series that aired during the last official television season. So, for instance, if you wanted to write a spec script it'd have to be for Dexter, Mad Men; however, opinion exists that a screenwriter should avoid the popular series and instead focus on a series that just began. Once that happens, someone with influence has to read it and, usually, many spec scripts are written before the writer receives any attention unless your name is Drew Goddard. Hopefully, the spec catches the eye of a showrunner who wants to staff said writer.

Every writer I'm about to list, obviously, are good enough to be staffed. Many of these writers, after their time in the Whedonverse, went on to create their own shows or become showrunners or became co-executive producers. Whedon assembled so many great writers throughout the years and without these people, his television series' wouldn't be the same.

Now, writers rooms are run differently depending on a variety of factors. For example, the LOST writers room would break stories so minutely that every piece of action and dialogue was known before the actual script was written, at least that is what Damon and Carlton say. And, of course, writers would be assigned a certain episode if those particular writers were great with Sawyer episodes or Hurley episodes.

A Drew Z. Greenberg commentary gave curious fans a glimpse into the process for the writers on Buffy. In his commentary, Drew said that the story was broken by the group, then, when one writer was sent off to write a draft, that writer was allowed to color the details and whatnot. Also, most season one and two writers will be left out because Joss said his fingerprints are all over each episode from the first two years and only two remained for the long-term: Marti Noxon and David Greenwalt. Let's talk screenwriters now!

DAVID FURY

Best Episodes: Helpless; Choices; Fear, Itself; Crush; Grave; Awakening, Peace Out, Destiny, You're Welcome

Fury began his Buffy career as a freelance writer with his wife. He wrote one episode with his fish, received another freelance gig solo with "Helpless" and then Whedon hired him full-time as a staff writer. He wrote some terrific episodes that are listed above. "Fear, Itself" is a Halloween tradition in The Foot. "Choices" really captures the feelings of high school seniors who are about to graduate. I read a few of David Fury's scripts. He's a very matter-of-fact writer. He takes care of the needs of the scene. He isn't flashy but he's an excellent screenwriter. And he was a big part of two excellent ANGEL seasons.

After Buffy and ANGEL, he joined the season one LOST writers staff and wrote two of the greatest LOST episodes. I'll ignore how he fought Damon Lindelof on the 'Island heals Locke' twist and I'll ignore his regrettable choice to attack the show after leaving. He left the show for 24 and he remained with the show until the series ended in May. His work on Buffy and ANGEL is great and worth checking out. Joss let him direct a few episodes as well.

DOUGLAS PETRIE

Best Episodes: Enemies; The Initiative; The Yoko Factor; No Place Like Home; Fool For Love; The Weight of the World; Beneath You; The Trial

Petrie joined the show in the third season. He was a co-executive producer and he directed a few episodes. Petrie's episode commentaries are really good and informative. He has a lot of energy on the bonus features of DVDs so I imagine he was a high energy guy in the writer's room. He got a lot of 'game changing' episodes that combined big plot stuff with big character stuff as you can see above.

One of the most famous Petrie stories in the fandom is the original conclusion he wrote for "Beneath You" that Joss would make him re-write. Petrie felt uncomfortable portraying Spike as the hero unlike the majority of the writers who were gaga for the platinum blond. Debate has surfaced regarding the final scene in that episode. Spuffy fans love the re-write. Anti-spuffy people hate the re-write and wished Petrie's version remained. Many television shows would not cause such a stir with a re-write as re-writes are common practice nor would most fans know the writing staff as well. This is why the Whedonverse is so unique.

JANE ESPENSEN

Best Episodes: Band Candy; Earshot; The Harsh Light of Day; Pangs; The Replacement; Triangle; I Was Made To Love You; Intervention; Afterlife; Conversations With Dead People; Guise Will Be Guise; Shindig

Jane Espensen was with Buffy for as long as Petrie and Fury. She wrote 23 episodes. As evidenced, she wrote some really good ones. She's one of my favorite screenwriters because she devotes time to helping young aspiring writers through her blog. She offers tips and advice about spec scripts. She talks about her experiences with Joss, the writers room and how the experiences helped her become a better writer. She wrote the best comedic episodes of the show, and some strong dramatic ones.

DAVID GREENWALT

Best Episodes: Angel; School Hard; Faith, Hope and Trick; Homecoming; I Will Remember You; To Shanshu in LA; Judgement; Dear Boy; Happy Anniversary; Dead End; Sleep Tight

Greenwalt was with Joss during Buffy's first season and was crucial in the show's development. Greenwalt's directed a bunch of episodes as well. He wrote some of the wittiest Buffy episodes and he had the knack for writing some dark episodes of ANGEL and some thoughtful affairs as well. His most underrated episode is Happy Anniversary, a Lorne/Angel adventure and it has one of my all-time favorite scenes when Lorne helps a broken-hearted man feel better. God bless Andy Hallett (who passed away in 2009 and portrayed Lorne). Greenwalt is awesome.

MARTI NOXON

Best Episodes: Surprise; Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; I Only Have Eyes For You; Dead Man's Party; The Wish; The Prom; Wild At Heart; Buffy Vs. Dracula; Into The Woods; Forever; Conversations With Dead People

Marti Noxon has her share of critics because of seasons six and seven but she was an integral part in the series and helped the Joss run the show in those last two years. She joined the show either at the end of season one or the beginning of season two. She wrote some of the series' most famous episodes like "The Wish" and "Surprise" and co-wrote "Conversations With Dead People." She always offered insightful thoughts into the world of Buffy on DVD features.

DREW GODDARD

Best Episodes: Selfless; Conversations With Dead People; Never Leave Me; Lineage, Damage; Why We Fight; Origin

Goddard is one of the fans' favorite writers and he's one of my favorite writers. There was a fight between the Buffy and ANGEL offices for his talents after they read his infamous Six Feet Under spec script. He breathed some much needed life into Buffy in season seven. In "Selfless," a plot point that was seemingly forgotten re-emerged. Goddard admits Joss re-wrote some scenes because Goddard was too wordy in his first ever television script. Goddard joined ANGEL for its final year and delivered the superb "Linage." Goddard wrote a freelance script for LOST during its first season and joined the staff in season three. He wrote Cloverfield. He's best friends with JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon. He co-wrote Cabin In The Woods with Joss and directed the movie. He wrote the Alias series finale. Goddard believes in the importance of an insane/action packed teaser. His description of the Six Feet Under teaser he wrote sounds insane and the teaser caught the eye of Marti Noxon who hired him. I read the script for "Outlaws" a few weeks ago. It's one thing to watch the teaser and a different experience reading the teaser. The teaser for his episode of LOST, "Outlaws," is fantastic on the page and much more gripping than the filmed version (and the filmed version is great). His scripts are worth checking out as well as his commentary tracks.

Rebecca Rand-Kirschner

Best Episodes: Out Of My Mind; Tabula Rasa; Help; Potential

Kirschner spent three years writing for the show. Most fans love "Tabula Rasa" and the end of "Potential". "Help" and "Out Of My Find" are decent episodes. "Help" aims for the sad.

STEVEN S. DEKNIGHT

Best Episodes: Spiral; Deep Down; Apocalypse, Nowish; Awakening; Release; Inside Out; Hell Bound; Destiny; Why We Fight; Shells; The Target

The first Dollhouse mention! DeKnight wrote for three of the four Whedon shows. His best work is on ANGEL. I used to message him questions on myspace a few years ago and he was nice enough to respond to each question. DeKnight is one of my favorite screenwriters. The guy writes the best fight scenes. No writer comes close. Not even Joss. DeKnight's responsible for the three-act fight in 'Destiny' and the great winnebago fight in "Spiral." If I ever write an action sequence or fight scene, I'm modeling it off of DeKnight's style. He also wrote some great, dark episodes of ANGEL. "The Target" is a top 3 season 1 dollhouse episode and an episode he directed as well. He taught ESL in Japan as he searched for a job in screenwriting. I, too, have contemplated life abroad as a teacher. Anywho, check out his episodes, folks. He also created Starz's Spartacus series.

TIM MINEAR

Best Episodes: Hero; Somnabulist; Sanctuary; Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?; Darla; The Trial; Reprise; Epiphany; Through The Looking Glass; Billy; Lullaby; A New World; Benediction; Home; Bushwhacked; Out Of Gas; The Message; Omega; Belle Chose; Getting Closer

Minear just accepted my friend request on Facebook. Thank you! Minear rarely wrote a poor episode. He was one of the most consistent writers. He understood ANGEL the best, I think, though there are several other writers who really knew how to write for ANGEL. His Firefly work is out of this world good. He also ran the show with Joss. The quality of Minear's work remained on Dollhouse and he infuriated the fanbase when he explained why he killed Summer Glau's character. Minear's commentaries are a treat to listen to. It's safe to say that I recommend you read or watch his episodes. Thank you.

JEFFREY BELL

Best Episodes: Billy; Forgiving; A New World; Habeas Corpses; Players; The Magic Bullet; The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco; Not Fade Away

Bell ran ANGEL for the final two seasons. He was promoted after Minear left and David Simkins left. Minear left for Firefly and Simkins didn't gel with the show. Bell co-write and directed the finale.

MERE SMITH

Best Episodes: Untouched; Fredless; Birthday; Loyalty; Ground State; Orpheus

I'm unsure why she left the show after season four and more unsure about where she went afterwards but she wrote my favorite Fred episode as well as the great "Orpheus."

ELIZABETH CRAFT & SARAH FAIN

Best Episodes: Soulless; Players; Shiny Happy People; Underneath

They were part of the great fourth and fifth seasons of ANGEL. After ANGEL, they worked for a number of genre shows, including The Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, and The 100. Shawn Ryan hired them to write for The Shield after ANGEL ended.

BEN EDLUND

Best Episodes: Jaynestown; Time Bomb; Smile Time, Sacrifice; Life of the Party

He created The Tick before Joss and Minear hired him for Firefly. His episodes rank among the most beloved by fans. My favorite episode he wrote is "Time Bomb"--a complicated, time-bendy story that's all about Illyria. Really funny, smart writer and he understood Firefly and ANGEL really well. Also, his season five Lorne episode is delightful.

DREW Z. GREENBERG

Best Episodes: Safe; Entropy; Him

Drew wrote some solid episodes. I have a soft spot "Him".  "Safe" is his best in my opinion but I read "Safe" had a ton of rewrites. I'd love to know more about that. He joined Buffy in season six year. I think he's most proud of season seven's "The Killer in Me". You may hear him discuss the episode on its commentary track.

JED WHEDON & MAURISSA TANCHAROEN

Best Episodes: Epitaph One; Belonging; The Attic; Epitaph Two: The Return. Also co-wrote Dr. Horrible.

Jed and Mo wrote solely for Dollhouse and now run Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. "Belonging" is an all-timer.

JOSE MOLINA

Best Episodes: Ariel; Trash

Molina only wrote two episodes of Firefly before the show was cancelled. "Ariel" is fantastic and "Trash" has more Christina Hendricks as Saffron. He's given great interviews about the creative process of Firefly and his own process of writing his two episodes. He co-hosts the great writing podcast Children of Tendu with Javier Grillo-Marxuach.

I think that about covers what I wanted to cover. I'm sure there's a glaring omission from the list that I'll never forgive myself for missing but I included the core group of Buffy and ANGEL writers who made the show shine.

Check out buffyworld.com where you can find the shooting script for every single Buffy episode.

Tomorrow: The top 19 Buffy episodes.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Foot: Best of ANGEL

Seven Business Days of Whedon continues with the top twelve ANGEL episodes. Talk about cutting to the chase.

ANGEL is my second favorite show of all-time, right behind LOST. ANGEL did not have a poor season besides the first season but Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt were unsure about the creative direction of the show for most of that season. They are quoted as saying they figured things out by "Hero," but I disagree.

Whedon wanted to give Boreanaz his own show after seeing the performance he gave in "I Only Have Eyes For You," a season two Buffy episode. He and David Greenwalt developed the series together and agreed they wanted ANGEL to be more adult than Buffy and more ambivalent. The demons weren't black and white evil in LA. Whedon wanted ANGEL to capture the post-college experience of young adults. What I like most about ANGEL are the prevailing themes in the show of atonement, forgiveness, redemption, doing good, etc. Angel's a character who never quits seeking atonement. The characters in ANGEL are united in their desire to help the helpless.

The characters are the strongest part of the show. The show was initially conceived as a film-noirish, detective show in which Angel, Cordelia and Doyle would solve a case each and every week but that concept didn't work well in the Buffyverse because fans were too attached to the characters. The show abandoned the detective cases for storytelling fans were familiar with on Buffy. Joss and Greenwalt realized they didn't need complex stories coming from out of the Angel offices though they thought the stories would come from the case; the stories could come out of the characters already established and the few new characters the show introduced.

Creatively, things took off for the show at the end of season one when they brought back Darla (Julie Benz). Season two is about Angel and Darla and then it becomes a story about Angel's path to the dark side, and his eventual journey back to the good side and into the good graces of his friends whom he hurt very deeply when he went solo because of his obsession with Darla. The show found itself an identity and every character had an identity. All of the essential characters entered into the story by season's end. Lorne (Andy Hallett) is introduced in the premiere, Fred (Amy Acker) is introduced during the Pylea arc and Gunn is introduced in season one's "War Zone." Once the writers had their world and characters established, the show absolutely took off. Seasons three and four demolish seasons six and seven of Buffy (both aired at the same time). While the quality of Buffy diminished, the quality of ANGEL just improved every single week. The show was so tightly constructed and plotted. Season four spans a period of just 2-3 weeks.

And season five, the show's last season, maybe the show's strongest season. TheWB wanted ANGEL to abandon the serialized style that dominated season four because they wanted new viewers to understand the story if they were interested in tuning in. The writers moved the characters into the evil law firm Wolfram & Hart which provided a wealth of story as shades of grey became the dominant theme of the season. How much good could the characters do in a place that isn't designed for good?

Whedon asked TheWB head, Jordan Levin, for an early renewal but Levin balked and swiftly cancelled the show. Of course, Levin lost his job very soon afterwards and the new boss said if Joss had waited a few more weeks, ANGEL would've gotten its sixth season.

It's truly a terrific series. I understand that Netflix added the entire series to instantly watch. While I recommend those with netflix take advantage of the opportunity to watch the whole series, I mostly recommend those with netflix to check out, at least, one of the fourteen episodes I rank.

Note: I forgot about season two's Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been? but I am now too frustrated with wordpress to switch everything around. Thank you. Good day.

THE TOP 14 ANGEL EPISODES

14. Destiny (Written By David Fury & Steven S. DeKnight; Directed By Skip Schoolnik)

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The Shanshu prophecy returns in this episode, just in time for Spike to become a real boy. After seven episodes where he was incorporeal, Spike opens a piece of mail and becomes corporeal for the first time since he burned up in the hellmouth. The firm goes insane so Angel and Spike are told that two vampires with a soul upsets the balance. One will need to drink from the Cup of Perpetual Torment to restore order and determine the true champion as well as find out who will be Shanshued once the final battle has been fought. It's all a con set up by Lindsay, who returns for the first time since "Dead End." The episode has a near three act fight between Spike and Angel. It's fantastic.

13. Awakening (Written By David Fury & Steven S. DeKnight; Directed By James A. Contner)

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The episode is a jaw-dropper. I don't want to say too much should anyone venture to watch this season four episode. I sat with my jaw dropped after the episode ended. It's a brilliantly plotted episode and would've loved to be in the writer's room as they broke this one.

12. Spin The Bottle (Written&Directed By Joss Whedon)

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Sure this episode is a retread of Buffy's "Tabula Rasa" but the episode is so much fun. The characters revert to their teenage personas which means a return of classic bitchy Cordelia.

11. Damage (Written By Steven S. DeKnight & Drew Goddard; Directed By David Fury)

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In the series finale of Buffy, every potential slayer becomes a slayer thanks to Willow's magic. This episode is about one of those Slayers who was already severely damaged and it's an episode about being a victim. Angel would like to try to save Dana from herself but Andrew and the new slayers take her to England to be trained by the new Watchers council. Outstanding episode.

10. The Trial (Written By Douglas Petrie & Tim Minear; Directed By Bruce Seth Green)

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Darla was dying from a disease before the Master sired her 400 years ago. Naturally, in her second life, she is still dying and Angel wants to save her. This is sort of like Sysyphus and the rock in that Angel completes difficult trials only to be told that Darla's been given her second life. Of course, we'll later learn that the life he earned is his son's. Julie Benz is so good in this episode and she even sings. David Greenwalt wrote the story for this; also, this one of the first episodes of ANGEL that made me realize how good the show is. Yes.

9. Reprise (Written By Tim Minear; Directed By James Whitmore Jr.)

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A season two episode in which Angel is still after Darla, who is a vampire again by the way. Angel prevents a ritual from being performed at a Wolfram and Hart gig. Angel's plan is to go to the home office to finish off the law firm but the home office is just earth and this revelation sends Angel into despair. The elevator scene between Holland and Angel is among the series best as Holland points out the ugliness of humanity. Soon after, he goes to Darla and the two have sex. Meanwhile, Kate is fired, Wesley gets dumped and Cordy will find herself in some trouble.

8. A Hole In The World (Written & Directed By Joss Whedon)

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Winifred Burkle dies and Illyria is born. I love how the episode is shot as well as the love all of the male characters have for Fred as they try to save her life. There are so many good scenes and great bonding between Angel and Spike. One of Joss' best episodes.

7. Not Fade Away (Written by Jeffrey Bell & Joss Whedon; Directed By Jeffrey Bell)

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The final episode of ANGEL is satisfying. There are many callbacks. Connor and Angel are finally experiencing a good father/son relationship. Spike's poetry is actually cheered. Gunn goes back to his old neighborhood to help Anne. Wesley dies in the finale in one of the saddest scenes in all of the whedonverse thanks to Illyria becoming Fred as Wesley dies. And nothing tops the final moment: our gang fighting because the fight never stops.

6. Sleep Tight (Written By David Greenwalt; Directed By Terrence O'Hara)

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The saddest episode of ANGEL. Holtz kidnaps Connor and escapes into a hell dimension. Wesley betrays Angel and actually takes Connor's son first and then his throat is slit by Justine.

5. Lineage (Written By Drew Goddard; Directed By Jefferson Kibbee)

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Throughout the series, we've known that Wesley's relationship with his father wasn't good. In this, his father visits and he continually insults his own son. Later, Wolfram&Hart is attacked by cyborgs and that Wesley's father is seemingly behind it. Wesley takes the insults from his father throughout but shoots him without hesitation when he threatens Fred's life. His father is revealed to be a robot as well. The episode ends with Wesley calling his actual father and his dad is as cruel as ever. Any episode that focuses on Wesley is usually great because of how talented an actor Alexis Denisof is and the story in "Lineage" is very strong and very sad.

4. Smile Time (Written & Directed By Ben Edlund)

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Puppet Angel. It's the funniest episode of the series and an absolute delight to watch.

3. Epiphany (Written By Tim Minear; Directed By Thomas J. Wright)

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"Epiphany" has my all-time favorite ANGEL scene where Angel tells Kate that "if nothing we do matters then all that matters is what we do." Angel has an epiphany after a moment of perfect despair with Darla. He saves the day and begins the process of being forgiven by his friends. It's also the last Kate episode. Kate, by the way, was an awful, awful character.

2. Home (Written & Directed By Tim Minear)

"Home" had to accomplish a few things: move the characters into Wolfram & Hart, write out Cordelia and resolve the Angel/Connor storyline. The episode is well-done on all fronts. The conclusion of the Angel/Connor storyline is particularly touching. Connor is pretty much beyond saving after everything he's experienced. Angel is reluctant to sign a contract with Wolfram&Hart until he sees the state his son is in. Connor's ready to kill himself, Cordelia and all the customers in the store he's taken over. Angel arrives and the two talk and fight. David Boreanaz and Vincent Kartheiser are excellent during the entire scene. The context of the scene is tough to convey considering the space but believe me when I write Minear manages to include a season's worth of emotional conflict into seven minutes. It's remarkable and the prophecy "the father will kill the son" comes true. Powerful stuff.

1. You're Welcome (Written & Directed By David Fury)

The 100th episode and Cordy's goodbye episode. It's moving and it sets the stage for the final episodes of ANGEL. Cordy asks the Powers for one last favor: help Angel rediscover his purpose. Angel does. They finally kiss and, by episode's end, we learn that Cordelia died. What an episode.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Foot: The Top Eight Episodes Directed By Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon spoke about the perception of writers as directors some years ago with Candace Havens. Many Hollywood bigwigs scoff at the idea of a writer directing his or her own work, especially in the world of feature film where the director is king and a screenwriter's script bears little resemblence to the original product after the re-writers and script doctoring. Whedon understood this because he spent many years as one of Hollywood's script doctors. Among his script-doctor credits are Toy Story and Speed. His experiences with his Buffy, The Vampire Slayer screenplay and Alien Resurrection also taught him about the power of the director in feature film Hollywood. Fran Kuzui, director of the feature film Buffy, did not understand the script and mis-interpreted it completely. Kuzui transformed the story into a broad comedy and thought Joss' intent was a pop-culture commentary on how people think about vampires. She was wrong. Joss watched as his screenplay became increasingly foreign from the script that he sold. For Alien Ressurection, Whedon wrote two different versions. One without Ripley and the other with. The studio initially accepted the Ripley-less version of Alien 4 because she died in the third Alien movie; however, the studio eventually panicked because they worried about the box office appeal of an Alien sans Ripley. Whedon said the final product is weak because of numerous rewriters, bad direction, bad production design, etc.When Gail Berman wanted Buffy to become a television series, Whedon was skeptical because his grandfather and father worked as television writers for their whole life and Joss' dream was independent filmmaking. He wanted to be a great indie filmmaker but he eventually thought about his experiences in feature film, and he now sought creative control over his own stories and agreed to turn Buffy into a television series. He shot a short "pilot" that TheWB bought and picked up for 12 episodes for mid-season. Thus began Joss Whedon's life as a director.

As showrunner, Buffy was his world entirely. The studio let him run the show as he wanted to. Joss didn't direct an episode of Buffy until the season one finale. He used most of the season as his own film school where he could learn how to direct. Once he felt ready, he directed his first of many, many television episodes.

The world of television directing is not as glamorous as feature film. TV directors are anonymous people and unnoticed by the television audience. If you asked someone about who directed episode five or episode twelve of their favorite show, chances are he or she will not know. In the world of genre television, the fanboys and fangirls are much more aware of the production crew than fans of procedural drams or family dramas or half-hour sitcoms. Ask any diehard fan of the whedonverse about David Solomon or James Contner and they'll probably be able to tell you their thoughts on those directors and the episodes they directed. The same knowledge exists in the LOST community where fans are as big a fans of Jack Bender, Stephen Williams, Paul Edwards, Tucker Gates, etc as they are fans of Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz.

Joss Whedon is a very talented director. Whedon's one of the rare directors who finds himself in the news when he announces he'll direct an episode of The Office or Glee because he's Joss Whedon. He took full advantage of what he could do with Buffy. He wasn't satisfied with settling into the the forumla of episodic direction. Whedon pushed and expanded the boundaries of what a television director could do because they were his shows. If he wanted to direct a musical, he did.

One of the many great things about watching a Joss Whedon show is witnessing the progression of his directorial talents. He's never satisfied and always looks for something new to do. During the commentary for the Buffy series finale, he expresses regret about how he directed the finale. Time constraints forced him to shoot a very conventional episode from a directing standpoint and plenty of the action sequences were shot by second-unit director David Solomon. Whedon's directed many episodes of his own television show with the most being Buffy and he's accomplished some fantastic things with Buffy.

Of course, Joss wrote every episode he directed besides a season two ANGEL episode. Don't worry, though, because I separated the writing from the directing since there is a post entirely about his writing coming this week. This post focuses on the best eight episodes Whedon directed. Many non-fans will even recognize the bulk of these episodes because of the publicity the shows received because of the episodes themselves and what Joss accomplished with them. Before I rank, I must say that Joss Whedon is going to own The Avengers. Have no fear with him behind the camera, folks.

THE TOP EIGHT EPISODES DIRECTED BY JOSS WHEDON

8. Prophecy Girl

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Want to watch Joss' rookie debut as a director? Here it is. This episode elevated the show into cult status. In the years to come, Joss would really hone his craft but this episode is a terrific debut. He needed to remind the viewers that Buffy's not simply a superhero in a sixteen year old girl's body; she's a sixteen year old girl first and foremost and she doesn't want to die.

7. Serenity (Pilot)

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An 88 minute introduction into the world of Firefly. The episode is masterfully shot and features tremendous performances from his ensemble. My favorite sequence is the tracking shot with Simon after Mal tells him Kaylee is dead.

6. The Gift

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You'll see this episode again in two other lists this week. "The Gift" builds to one moment which is Buffy's death and the way it builds is wonderfully done. Joss got so many good performances from his cast and scenes like the one between Buffy and Spike in her house or the one between Dawn and Buffy at the end warrants the episode's spot on the list.

5. Once More, With Feeling

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I'm sure the cast and crew had a hellish time making this as it was sandwiched in the shooting schedule of season six. The cast would shoot other episodes while rehearsing for this one but it's one hell of a feat to shoot a musical on a network tv series. It's a Joss Whedon tour-de-force with many of the tricks Joss loves doing like long one-ers among others.

4. Graduation Day Pts. 1&2

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It feels like a feature film and the run-time is feature film length. Yes, Becoming Pts 1&2 is the same length as Graduation Day but Graduation Day feels more cinematic which is something I always admire in television. Jack Bender is the king of the cinematic television episode. I digress. The scene between Buffy and Angel, when Angel feeds on her, is enough for this episode to be no.4 but Whedon and his crew kicked some ass with this episode. There's flaming arrows and a huge snake and the school is destroyed plus there is a dynamite fight between Faith and Buffy. This episode is tied with "The Gift" for the most epic Buffy episode in the series episode.

3. The Body

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One of the most unique episodes of Buffy. There's no music because Joss wanted to capture what it's actually like to experience the death of a loved one and he does a very good job of capturing that experience. He doesn't let the audience escape from what the characters are going through.

2. Restless

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An episode that's been described as Lynchian. I think this episode should be taught in film classes or, rather, classes about directing. It's very sophisticated direction. It's shot totally different from any other episode of Buffy. There's an homage to Apocalypse Now and Death Of A Salesman. He hasn't directed anything remotely close since but I hope he returns to this style one day.

1. Hush

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It's basically a silent movie. To get the most out of the actors, the actors spoke the dialogue and it was later muted in post-production. The point: 29 minutes of silence. I love how The Gentlemen are shot. I love the classic silent horror movie atmosphere that exists in some sequences like the Tara chase and Olivia at the window. I wanted to focus on the most innovative and interesting episodes he's done from a directing standpoint so some very quality Joss episodes were left out. No ANGEL or Dollhouse made the cut though "Waiting In The Wings" deserves an honorable mention.

TOMORROW: The Best ANGEL episodes

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

Friday, July 23, 2010

Life After Jacob's Foot: The Absolute Best of Firefly

Like I did during LOST's run, I've read countless interviews with Joss or listened to his commentary tracks or any other interview he's done. Surprisingly, I was unaware of Firefly's existence until I read the chapter in an unofficial Joss Whedon biography. The concept sounded intriguing but I neither understood nor appreciated Firefly until I watched the show. The show began re-running on SciFi a few years ago (maybe 2005) so I began watching it. I watched one episode and disliked the quality of the episode's look. I enjoyed the Pilot. There are moments in the pilot that will simply hook a new viewer to the show. Sudden emotion; very powerful and very direct. I'm thinking of the trick Mal plays on Simon, the doctor who is new to the ship and on the run from the Alliance after rescuing his sister from the Academy, regarding Kaylee's death. She was hit by a bullet shot from an undercover Alliance agent's gun, treated by Simon and she does live which is something we discover when there's a sensational tracking shot of an anguished Simon running to the infirmary to check on her. When Simon arrives, he finds Kaylee up and talking with a ton of life in her. I also think of the moment when we meet River and we find out the contents of the package aren't a what but a who. Lacking a credit card, I quickly persuaded persons who do to order me the DVD stat on amazon.com. The DVDs came in the mail. I watched the entire series. Following "Objects In Space," I said to myself, "Joss did it again."

Firefly, as I mentioned briefly yesterday, is a gem of a series. Anyone who watched Serenity, the movie, received a brief glimpse into the world of Firefly but Serenity is no Firefly. Serenity can't take us to the many planets or give a certain character a centric story besides Mal. Serenity is a great movie but if you want the story of these people, you've gotta watch Firefly.

The entire series is worth watching numerous times. I also enjoy reading the shooting scripts which are available on FireflyWikki; however, it would be a cop-out to rank all fourteen episodes of the series. The goal of the rankings is to name the five very best episodes of the series, to single out the episodes that capture the spirit and execute the show's unique vision and stories best. With that said, let me end the preamble and enter into the world of episodic television rankings:

THE FIVE ABSOLUTE BEST 44 MINUTES OF FIREFLY

5. EPISODE 107--JAYNESTOWN (WRITTEN BY BED EDLUND; DIRECTED BY MARITA GRABIAK)

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Jayne is the antagonist on Serenity. He exists to create conflict. He's a man entirely out for himself. In this episode, some cargo needs to be transported from Canton. Jayne is worried because he's not well liked by the Magistrate because of something that happened a few years ago. Jayne and his crew stole money but, while leaving, the flying craft was hit and quickly losing fuel. Jayne had to drop the money and the Mudders viewed Jayne Cobb as a hero. The Magistrate tried to take the money from them but they rioted and were able to keep the money. Canton is a place that sells mud and the working class refer to themselves as The Mudders. It is a place that stinks and another reminder to Simon of how far from civilized life he is and he thinks he's going mad when he sees a mud statue of Jayne because, after all, he described Jayne as a man-ape thing but admitted an ape is more trained than Jayne.

Jayne resists the idea that he's a hero because he knows he is not a hero; however, he slowly embraces the idea until the truth comes out about how he threw a man out before the money. One Mudder, Meadows, doesn't waver in his admiration for Jayne and takes the bullet for him. Jayne doesn't understand why Meadows would do that. Mal tells him that it's not about Jayne, that it's about what the Mudders needed. Jayne still doesn't understand.

The heart of the story involves that idea of what people need. Book needs the bible and its teachings even though he admits that the bible is broken. The important thing to him is that the bible fixed him. This is what he tells River. Simon tells Kaylee that he needs to continue being proper because being proper is the only thread he has, besides his sister, from the life he left behind for her.

Jaynestown is a meditation on the idea of heroism and the importance of faith. It's also a very, very funny episode.

4. EPISODE 109--ARIEL (WRITTEN BY JOSE MOLINA; DIRECTED BY ALLAN KROEKER)

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The episode in which Jayne betrays Simon and River. The Hands of Blue cause some chaos. And, yes, this is episode with the infamous airlock scene.

After struggling to appear as a buyer of mud because the Foreman couldn't know the true intentions of Mal and his crew in "Jaynestown," Simon becomes a criminal mastermind of sorts. Serenity travels to the central planet Ariel. The central planets are booming with Alliance folk. Simon's actual plan involves running tests on his sister to find out exactly what's going on with her and to determine what the Academy did to her. The plan is tricky because they need to be kind of dead to access the area where they need to go. Also, Jayne is with them and responsible for them while Mal, Zoe, Wash and Kaylee steal some pricey medicine.

The central focus of the story becomes Jayne's betrayal. The betrayal caught me by surprise when I first watched it because I did not expect it. The previous episodes made it clear that Jayne had no use for the Tams but, still...damn. Jayne doesn't hold the same principles that Mal does. When Mal saves River and Simon from being burned at the stake, he simply explains it with this: "you're on my crew." Jayne is not that man. Any way in which he can help himself, he will help himself. The Tams have a large sum attached to their capture. Jayne creates a whole mess of chaos because crazy Hands of Blue will kill whoever they meet on their path to getting River back. As for River, she's a mystery at this point in the show but this episode clearly shows that her head was being messed with. River is a genius. River also terrifies Jayne. The situation Jayne creates is eventually resolved. The Alliance looking for them is not, of course, but the crew makes it out of Ariel safely.

"Ariel" is an excellent Simon episode. He tells Jayne, after Jayne is hurt, that he'll never hurt Jayne while he is a patient under his care, and he cares so much for River. The episode also showcases Mal's enormous loyalty. Rather than write about it, watch it.



3. EPISODE 106-OUR MRS. REYNOLDS (WRITTEN BY JOSS WHEDON; DIRECTED BY VONDIE CURTIS HALL









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The funniest episode of the series. The episode introduces Saffron, portrayed by the awesome Christina Hendricks (of Mad Men fame now). This is a good Mal episode because we learn a lot about him through Saffron. He ends up married to her after saving a town from bandits; however, by episode's end, the marriage was just a way for Saffron to put them in harm's way. Mal is the opposite of Jayne because Jayne just wants to have his way with her. Mal refuses to take advantage of Saffron. He feels uncomfortable by how subserviant she is. It's all an act, of course, but Mal doesn't know it until he's passed out after one hell of a seduction by Saffron and she begins her true plan. We learn about Mal's life before the Browncoats and before Serenity. Saffron opens him up in ways no one else can besides maybe Inara and, later, River. For an anti-hero, Mal has many virtues and they are on display.

The episode is the funniest episode Joss Whedon has ever written. The scene between Saffron and Wash, when she has to knock him out and begins a seduction attempt, is brilliant.

2. EPISODE 108--OUT OF GAS (WRITTEN BY TIM MINEAR; DIRECTED BY DAVID SOLOMON)

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"Out Of Gas" is an origin story. Using the words 'origin story' is odd considering Firefly is not a comic book and the words are usually reserved for the comic book world. The words work to sum up "Out Of Gas." We learn how the crew came together on Serenity and we learn how important these people are to Mal. Every single one of them. We also see just how much he loves Serenity. The final scene of the episode features Mal being wowed by Serenity even though the dealer thinks Serenity is a piece of trash.

The story is non-linear and the A story and the episode opens with a wounded Mal, near death, in a ship with no oxygen and no crew (because he sent them to safety) ready to die and go down with his ship. 'Out of Gas' emphasizes one of the most consistent theme throughout every Whedon story: family doesn't have to be just blood. The crew is Mal's family and Serenity is home. Serenity saved him from a very dark place.

"Out Of Gas" is one of Minear's finest hours and the same goes for David Solomon who has been with Joss through every series as a director and producer.

1. EPISODE 114--OBJECTS IN SPACE (WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY JOSS WHEDON)

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My absolute favorite episode of Firefly. I love the character River and this is her episode. I love the commentary for this episode as well. Joss convinced me to read Sartre after I finished listening to him speak about the episode. "Objects In Space" is a very philosophical episode that deals exclusively with existentialist philosophy. The conversations between Jubal Early and River Tam highlight this.

A bounty hunter comes aboard Serenity for River. He takes Simon hostage but River saves the crew and her own brother from Jubal Early. She also sends him out, alone, into space. Before Jubal Early arrives, River has another violent episode which brings up the debate of whether or not to kick her and Simon off of the ship because of the problem River has been. River is just very damaged because what the Academy did and she's psychic so her thoughts have been scrambled because she's been scrambled. Serenity, the movie, will heal River. This episode is the one in which everyone accepts her. Most importantly, Mal accepts her. There's a great piece of info at the end of the Serenity commentary (the love discussion) when Nathan Fillion wondered how to play the scene and, later, he told Joss that all he did was look into Summer Glau's eyes and he know how to play the scene. To clarify: there is no romantic relationship between the two. It's platonic.

This episode begins the removal of the many layers that make up River Tam and it is an outstanding, outstanding episode.

ON MONDAY: The Best Directed-By-Joss Whedon Episodes!

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Life After Jacob's Foot: The Week of Whedon BEGINS

Welcome to the Week of Whedon + 2 days, friends and well-wishers.



The week will be grand fun. So fun that you will want to Charleston.

It is no secret that I'm a Joss Whedon fan. I began watching Buffy in the early aughts and then I began watching ANGEL. I had a fairly unorthodox approach to both shows. I bought season three of Buffy on DVD before seeing any other season. I watched ANGEL out of order. During its original run on theWB, I'd tune in every Halloween because I thought Buffy was the perfect show for one to embrace the Halloween spirit. I believe the only Halloween episode I caught was season four's "Fear, Itself," a favorite of mine. I also watched "Hush" when it originally aired but that's about it. The series ended and I would catch the odd repeat Saturday afternoons on FOX or some insane hour like 3AM on FOX. I enjoyed what I saw immensely. I researched the show and saw that season three is considered the best season of Buffy. I nearly purchased season six first. Thank the Smoke Monster that I didn't (that is just an expression--LOST was 2 years away from existing).

I loved season three and eventually bought every season but the first. Meanwhile, I became a huge ANGEL fan after seeing "Orpheus" repeat on TheWB combined with how much I enjoyed the odd rerun I saw on FOX.

The ANGEL journey is much more out of order than Buffy. Season five began on TheWB so I began watching it while catching repeats every day on TNT after I returned from Carroll. I had the experience of knowing major plot points but unaware of how the show arrived at those plot points so it was fun, believe it or not. ANGEL quickly vaulted over Buffy as my favorite Joss Whedon show. Of course, much of ANGEL's credit goes to David Greenwalt, Tim Minear, Jeff Bell and Steven S. DeKnight. Whedon has said that he was involved with ANGEL as much as he was with Buffy, that he read every single script. I believe that but I think it's wrong to throw praise at Joss for a show whose vision and identity was largely shaped by David Greenwalt, Tim Minear, Jeff Bell, Mere Smith, Steven S. DeKnight, Shawn Ryan and David Fury. Joss deserves his due praise and credit for ANGEL because he co-created the show with Greenwalt but Greenwalt ran the show on a day-to-day basis.

ANGEL always seemed like the stepchild show for Joss. He'll never love a show as much as he loves Buffy though he loved Firefly so much that he made it into a movie with the help of some friends at Universal. There are groups of fans who think Joss didn't understand or, rather, know how to write for ANGEL which is a bold statement in and of itself to suggest Joss didn't understand one of his own shows. His episodes had a different tone than most of ANGEL. He usually wrote stand-alone episodes like "Spin The Bottle" and "Waiting In The Wings."

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The big episodes of ANGEL were always reserved for Greenwalt before he left or for Minear or Bell or DeKnight. Joss did write the season five premiere, an episode that set the stage for the Wolfram & Hart era and he wrote a key season five episode when Fred dies but even "A Hole In The World" gets criticized for the Buffy-ness in the dialogue and the Buffy tone of the episode.

The quality of ANGEL never declined like the quality of Buffy did during the UPN years (seasons six and seven). Many, many fans blame Marti Noxon for destroying the seasons. Many fans point to Joss' focus on Firefly combined with Marti Noxon running the show with a less-involved Joss. The truth is hard to find because Joss and Marti refuse to agree with the opinion of many fans and no fans were in the writer's room on a day-to-day basis to figure out what the heck happened to the show. The duo defend many of the questionable things in both seasons passionately particularly the Spike/Buffy relationship and all of the nonsense that brought us. The same essential group of writers remained until the end, the same group that are responsible for the best Buffy season in season three and two strong seasons in four and five. Marti hired one of the most popular and best writers in the Whedon world--Drew Goddard--for season seven but he was a lone figure in a ship that had sunk and, somehow, managed to sink even further. It was like they were trapped in the box in the ocean that Connor trapped Angel in at the end of season three. Drew Goddard was not their Wesley, who pulled Angel from the depths and saved his unlife. The final two seasons of Buffy are a mystery that will remain unresolved.

In the commentary for "Chosen," the series finale of Buffy, Joss talks about exhaustion and how he's not beaming about the work he did for the finale. A few days ago, Marti basically said the Buffy writers were tired and, possibly, ran out of stories to tell. No matter how bad the last two seasons of the show are, they do not diminish the first five seasons of the show. Joss did some amazing work during the first five years of Buffy and he did some great work in season six like the musical but those seasons are, largely, trainwrecks. Buffy did change television and the thought behind what television could accomplish. In a commentary for Reptile Boy, Greenwalt talks about the days when hour-dramas could only be serious but Joss changed that. He not only broke genre conventions but he broke the rules. He mixed drama, comedy, horror. He helped secure the credibility of TheWB network. The most defining part of the first five seasons are the stories, the weekly episodes. The season long arcs are great too but young, aspiring screenwriters can learn a ton by watching the episodes and listening to commentary tracks. The one thing you'll always hear is the importance of the story with Joss. He doesn't care for a lot of cool things happening in an episode if there's no story. "Innocence" is one of the best examples. The story is simple: a girl sleeps with her boyfriend for the first time and he's a bad guy the morning after. Of course, in Joss' show, the boyfriend becomes a soulless vampire.

The same structure and focus existed in ANGEL and, certainly, in Firefly. Firefly is a gem of a show. The fourteen episodes are a joy to watch with the exception being "Heart Of Gold." If Buffy had to suffer in quality because of Firefly then the trade-off is worth it. Joss attributes the quality of the show to the circumstances surrounding the production of the show. They were in constant threat of cancellation so they put everything on the table. Joss' devotion to Firefly is admirable. The man created nine distinct characters, characters who were fully developed with plenty of depth. Whedon said he had five years of the show planned and I believe him. Firefly is a show about the people in between the heroes. Normal folks like us. Joss took his love for the movie to the big screen after FOX cancelled it. He assembled one of the greatest casts ever with the help of his casting director. He was wise and let Tim Minear run the show with him. He had the eye to cast the lovely Christina Hendricks as Saffron. Some of Joss' best work is, no doubt, on Firefly.

He returned to ANGEL after the end of Firefly and Buffy. Jordan Levin would cancel ANGEL and Joss disappeared from television for a few years. During the writer's strike in 2008, he came up with Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. It won an emmy and starred NPH, Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day. He co-wrote it with his sister-in-law and two brothers. He wrote the music and directed it. The web short won an emmy. He also brainstormed Dollhouse during this period of time, while eating lunch with Eliza Dusku. Dollhouse is a different show though it features many familiar Whedon elements. It is a story about people, identity. The first season is fairly uneven but the second season is one heck of a story. Like Firefly, the show didn't stand much of a chance at getting a third so Joss and his group of writers that included Tim Minear left everything on the table for season two. The season had a slow start but kicked into full gear by episode four, a brilliant Sierra episode and the show doesn't slow down until the last credit is shown.

Of course, during these projects, Joss began writing the season eight Buffy comic and overseeing the ANGEL: After The Fall comics.



He wrote a few x-men comics too, but years earlier. The season eight Buffy comics are wrapping up right now. I have not kept up with the comics because I've never been a comic guy. But Joss delivered a moving story, in issue five, about an unknown slayer who dies. The story for ANGEL was also riveting as we were told that Fred wasn't absolutely gone and that ANGEL became human. Also, speaking of comics, he wrote the Fray comics about a slayer in the future and he oversaw a few Firefly comics.

His next project is supposed to be Cabin In The Woods but no one is sure whether or not MGM will ever release it. He co-wrote the movie with writer/director Drew Goddard.

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He's signed on to direct The Avengers.

Before I discovered Joss Whedon's shows, I wanted to be a feature film screenwriter and I wanted to write horror because Kevin Williamson did. Whedon, and all of the writers he hired, showed me the possibilities of television writing and made me want to become a television writer.

The time is right spend a week and a two days compiling lists for the best of Joss Whedon. Tomorrow, the top five Firefly episodes will be counted down in numerical order from five to one. A list of Dollhouse episodes will not be done because The Foot hasn't rewatched the show nearly as many times as Buffy, ANGEL and Firefly have been re-watched. In fact, I've seen the second season just once because it's not out on DVD and I haven't re-watched season one entirely. Yes.

TOMORROW: The Best Episodes of Firefly!

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

Joss Whedon as Numfar:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Life After Jacob's Foot: If the Flyers kept Randy Jones, do they win the Cup? YES.

Some will consider me insane. Others will not even deem what I'm about write with a response, instead making fun of the statement I'm about to release to the world. The statement is this:

If Paul Holmgren kept Randy Jones, the 2009-2010 Philadelphia Flyers would be Stanley Cup champions of hockey.



I made this statement in my head upon reading about Danny Syvret signing with the Ducks. If you recall, Jones was traded because of Danny Syvret. The problem Homer had this season was an inability to find two decent third line bluelines. We learned the Flyers could no doubt compete with the Chicago Blackhawks. We also learned they lacked the depth needed to knock off the Blackhawks. They were very, very close. I recall the poor play of the defense in Game 5 and the subsequent exhaustion in the final game of the series. As many fans know, this is because Laviolette and the coaches had zero confidence in Bartulus, Kraijeck and Parent. There's a few schools of thought regarding this predicament. I myself wondered whether or not the trio would've played better had Laviolette and Homer sent them out there instead of giving the top four massive ice time. The results could've been favorable and Pronger could've avoided his nightmarish Game 5.

Randy Jones is a solid NHL defenseman. I'm not going to argue that he's a 2nd line blueliner. I'm just going to argue that he's better than every 3rd line blueliner the Flyers used in the playoffs. He could've reduced the ice time of the big four thus preserving their freshness for the backend of the Cup finals when many players admitted that they were so tired (after game 6 of course). He would've helped the problem that Homer just spent about 6 million dollars to fix. Yes, the Flyers would have won the Cup if Randy Jones wasn't waived

Also, I will ignore the money he was making. Thank you.

This piece of writing has been brought to you by a lack of anything else to write about.

Tomorrow begins The Week of Whedon + 2 days (or as we in The Foot refer to it: Seven BusinessDays of Whedon). During those 7 days, I will mostly rank episodes from all four series the man has created as well as rank the best writers he brought in to his shows and rank the best Whedon directed episodes.

The San Diego Comic Con begins tomorrow. There is no LOST panel. Jeff Jensen of EW.com will moderate a panel with JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon. Expect links to reports from that because Joss is awesome, and I'm a supporter of JJ Abrams because of his contribution to LOST in the early days before he gave full rein to Damon Lindelof who then brought in Carlton Cuse.

So, yes, The Foot will be a happenin' place.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

Monday, July 19, 2010

Life After Jacob's Foot: The Return of Jacob's Foot

Well, it's a sad day for Flyers nation because Simon Gagne has been traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning. It seems reasonable to assume Homer will use the cap space to sign the man who lost his job to Kari Lehtonen. No, that is not a ringing endorsement. Trust me. I had Kari Lehtonen on my fantasy hockey team for a season. Bad times. The man I refer to is Marty Turco.

Gagne was the longest tenured Flyer and the 2nd longest tenured Philadelphia athlete. Simply, Simon Gagne is awesome. I had to offer a small portion of today's blog to Simon Gagne. Fans could argue that without Gagne returning in Game 4 of the semis against Boston that history would not have been made. Without Gagne's amazing game 6 OT goal in the eastern conference finals, there would be no game 7 against Tampa Bay in 2004.

All we fans can hope for is that Homer finally devotes himself to understanding the cap because the dude has traded a huge amount of offense in the last year and a half to create cap space. Thankfully one of those deals landed the team Pronger. But I'm still not a fan of Upshall for Carcillo. Also, this quote from Raw Charge does not make one feel any better about getting Matt Walker and his 1.7 million dollar cap-hit plus the knowledge that he'll just be waived to create more cap-space.
" Walker is solid but not flashy... Yet he's overpaid while the Bolts have a load of defensemen in the system just waiting to prove themselves. For the Flyers to take Walker and his $1.7 Million per-year contract off the Bolts hands is breathtaking... Especially while wanting o clear cap space."

Check out Post Collegiate Apocalypse for more Simon Gagne stuff.



Anywho, I write in here today because I have a happy announcement. There is a good chance the only one delighted by the announcement is me, the announcer. It is safe to say that The Foot has not been the same since LOST has ended. I know I gained a new reader or two since LOST ended because there was nothing to write about. I'm not Jeff Jensen and I do not have a long theory about how the Island had a flashforward 2,000 years before the characters arrived on the Island. As any loyal reader knows, I loathe the world of LOST theorists. In fact, I've barely surfed LOST message boards since the show ended. I wrote my 10,000 word finale piece and decided to let it be for awhile. I have not even been on pins and needles awaiting Damon and Carlton to end their radio silence. I may've sent Damon a tweet asking about the duration of radio silence but I have not experienced the feelings I felt after every season, and that is because of the conclusion. There were no insane cliffhangers. I'm happy with how the series ended and the story that Damon, Carlton and all of the writers told.

Obviously, the announcement involves LOST. I pre-ordered the final season on DVD last night with an Amazon giftcard. I even spent extra cash because I want the DVD on the day it is released. I know I said that Jacob's Foot is no more; however, I lied. Jacob's Foot has one last thing left to do and that is review the DVD. This DVD review will not be your typical DVD review. My initial plan has the review broken into four parts. Perhaps I will write about the entire season again, using the complete knowledge I have of the sideways. I will surely review all four commentaries in the format of an episode review like I did for the "Because You Left" commentary. I will review the bonus features and the deleted scenes. I look forward to the scene cut from "What They Died For" in which Claire defiantly stands up to MIB. I will review the LOST: On Location(s) because I'm a huge fan of that feature.

But, really, Jacob's Foot has always been a place where I could write 4,000 words on an original episode. Jacob's Foot, in all actuality, captured my experience of watching LOST as a fan. As all LOST aficionados know, the DVD features the final original piece of storytelling from Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. The title is "The New Man In Charge." It is 12 minutes of film devoted to Hurley and Ben's life on the Island after Jack died and the Ajira plane left. Entertainment Weekly released a still in their latest issue. Here is the picture:

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Michael Emerson told EW's Adam B. Vary that Ben is going to Dharma installations and closing them down. Emerson notes that there are surprises and answers given in the 12 minutes. For the final time, I will watch original LOST content and then write about it and then post it to Quad Blogs. Anyone who wonders if I can write 4,000 words on 12 minutes, the answer is yes because I wrote over 1,000 for a webisode last year during the hiatus. I promise the big verbose entries are on the horizon.

In 1 month, Jacob's Foot returns for the final time and will be around for as much time I need to cover all of the DVD and any interviews Damon and Carlton might give.

Until then, expect the usual nonsense in the spinoff of Jacob's Foot. I'm planning a Week of Whedon. I'm still unsure about reviewing Mad Men. Every now and then, I'll chime in about the current seasons of True Blood and Entourage.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Life After Jacob's Foot: Great Characters of All-Time

The greatest characters of all-time. Who are they? Why are they considered among the greats? There are many, friends and well-wishers of Quad Blogs. The landscape of great characters is so vast that it is impossible to rank them in numerical order. The public loves lists and The Foot loves lists. There are pros and cons to lists. I specifically remember, in my days as overlord of the Entertainment Section before I earned a college degree and left the school, making lists quite a bit if there was any leftover space in the section. Just don't rank the Disney movies, folks, because that is dangerous minefield.

People will bicker at each other and at the overlord of the list/rankings. People will show zero appreciation for classic animated films and would rather celebrate an average animated Pixar film like Cars. In the middle of the night, or more like a Saturday after when the humble rankings creator is home for a home-cooked meal and a decent nights sleep in his own bed, will conspirators tamper with the rankings and insert CARS over classic animated Disney films from a bygone era. THAT is the danger of lists; however, rankings and lists can be blissful. Example: the great LOST rankings that was a staple of my LOST experience for years.

But ranking the greatest characters in numerical order for the sake of a list is not the best way to approach the greatest characters. What The Foot will do is simply state whom these characters are and why over a period of two months of TWENTY TWO YEARS. All characters are welcome! It is the exact motto of goody USA Network. The Foot will mostly focus on characters from television though characters from movies and books will be included every now and then. In fact, without further ado, the first character I will highlight comes from a feature film..

THE GREATEST CHARACTERS OF ALL-TIME

SHORTY FROM SCARY MOVIE, WELCOME TO THE FOOT'S GREATEST CHARACTERS OF ALL TIME!

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I abused caps lock above. I apologize. Shorty, portrayed by Marlon Wayans, is barely discussed when people talk great characters. What isn't great about Shorty? The only class that matters to him is lunch. He's able to bond with the psycho killer when every other character fails to. His final line is: "Wanna hit this bleep?" as his bullet wound will actually allow those to smoke marijuana. He's not exactly Falstaff but he's a moron and makes people laugh.

And now, to quote Jermaine Jackson's hit song "Let's Get Serious," let's get serious:

CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS from the TV series Firefly

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Created by Joss Whedon, Mal fought against the Alliance with the Browncoats. The Battle of Serenity Valley changed his world. His side lost and he decided to live as far away from the Alliance as he could. He bought an old transport ship that many people considered junk but it wasn't junk to him. She is Serenity. He lost his faith in God after the Battle of Serenity Valley. He steals from the rich, sells to the poor but has a tremendous amount of loyalty. If you're on his crew, he'll always have your back. Indeed, his crew became a family. It is here where I turn it over to Joss Whedon himself.

This quote comes from the good folks at FireflyWikki.com as well as The Browncoats Website:
Why do you think that Mal's blend of harshness and undying loyalty to his crew make him such an appealing character to fans of the show?

Mal’s a leader. People respond to a leader because, quite frankly, they want to be led. A leader is somebody who does not always do what’s likeable and has to make decisions nobody else wants to make, and that’s the kind of character Mal is. He’s also clearly somebody who’s in pain - which people, I think, both respect and want to protect him from - and he’s somebody who is not cut and dried and noble - he has a good quirk to him, a sense of whimsy, which is something that people also look for. The other thing about being a leader is loyalty to the crew is your first command; it’s your first priority. Mal could not be a leader if his crew didn’t know that what he was trying to do was keep them alive and whole and that he would never abandon them. He’s not just out for himself no matter how many times he’s going to tell you that he is.

Here are some essential Mal episodes to watch, even though the entire series is essential Mal.

Out Of Gas: the ship is abandoned and running out of oxygen. Mal refuses to leave his ship. The audience gets flashbacks of when and where, and how, Mal assembled his crew. It's all about Mal and his love for his crew and his love for Serenity.

Serenity (The Pilot AND The Movie): The movie is a story that is mostly Mal's and River's. River will get her time in the sun sooner or later as a great character of all-time. The pilot, as a pilot is supposed to do, is a microcosm of the series and the pilot showcases the essential qualities and characteristics of all nine regulars but the episode deals a whole lot with the central character. It's one hell of a pilot. By far, Joss' best.

RECOMMENDATIONS THURSDAYS!

Recommendations Thursdays. How does that roll off of the tongue? Meet a new weekly feature here in The Foot. It's a spinoff of the beloved feature that used to be a staple of my fake online radio show, on the old websit. Recommendations made a cameo in The Foot two weeks ago only because there was no decent segue for promoting FX's Louie. Consider this the triumphant premiere of what will soon take the internet and its bandwith by storm.

I will list three recommendations each and every week, I think. This depends on whether or not the debut is a trainwreck. It certainly won't be long-winded.

1.) First and foremost, read and experience Dinosaur Wednesday right here at Quad Blogs. Where else will you find the cast of the old and beloved sitcom, Dinosaurs, battling with vicious dinosaurs? In fact, read PCA every day because there is new content each and every day.

2.) Last night while perusing the joblo.com message boards, I happened upon a thread about how Variety's senior TV critic attacked joblo.com because one of the reviewers liked The Last Airbender. Variety's critic couldn't believe a studio would stoop so low for positive reviews; however, he did not anticipate Joblo himself commenting on the article. Joblo stood up for his website, stated the facts about the success, popularity and respect of the site. Variety's critic, being a massive so and so, refused to concede and looked like a fool.

Visit joblo.com for all of your movie news. They've done great work keeping me updated on the happenings of Scream 4. The Scream franchise is my favorite horror franchise and the reason. Additionally, they provided the news that Michael Giacchino would score the remake of the Swedish vampire film Let The Right One In. The remake is entitled Let Me In.

3.) I think everyone should eat smoked blue marlin before dining on authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken. Why? It's absolute bliss. I only suggest the smoked blue marlin because one will appreciate the amazing quality of the authentic jerk chicken much more. Of course, this recommendation requires people to travel into Jamaica. It simply will not work if you aren't in the country of Jamaica.

I'm leaning towards describing this as a trainwreck.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.