Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How I Met Your Mother "Legendaddy" Review

NOTE: Posts will be more sporadic or non-existent for a little while. If I write about an episode, it won't be immediately after it airs.

Maybe 21 minutes is too short a time-frame for an episode like "Legendaddy." Many "serious" episodes of sitcoms fall flat because the writers simply don't have the time to make the story as heartfelt and meaningful as they want. Even if the preceding episodes set the character up for whatever moment that character's experiencing in the episode, the actual experience might fail because 21 minutes is an awfully short time for a story.

"Legendaddy" wanted to be a defining episode for Barney Stinson. The search for his father has been his arc for season six. Unfortunately, the character of Barney rarely works well with such emotional stories because he's more cartoonish than believable, relatable 30-something year old. His character works whenever he's removed from these types of moments. Now, the writers needed to give Barney growth as a character because he's increasingly uninteresting as the episodes and seasons pass. Whenever Barney's confronted with personal issues in his life, he behaves like a child. "Legendaddy" clearly linked Barney's behavior with his life without a father but now's the time for Barney to begin the transformation process, and it will happen in the future because HIMYM is an American sitcom produced by CBS studios. I just want the journey to the reconciliation to be interesting and without the tired cliches that we see in these kinds of plots. Currently, the fractured relationship between Barney and Jerry is about as interesting as drywall.

The conflict throughout the episode involved how Jerry was absent for the majority of his son's life. Understandably, Barney's had trouble dealing with that truth. Without his father, he didn't learn simple things like using a tool to fix an object or take down an object. Barney struggled when he learned that his father re-married and had two children of his own, including an 11 year old boy (and also, curiously enough, a college aged daughter--more on that later). His resentment of his father spoke volumes when he lashed out on his son in a 11 year old way. Barney's arrested development emerges in the worst possible moments. All throughout the episode, Jerry tried to fix his broken relationship with his son with no success. The writers tried to explain why Jerry remained absent in Barney's life without the audience turning on the character. We learned that Barney's mother banned Jerry from seeing his son because he drank too much, did too many drugs. The explanation doesn't shed light on why Jerry never contacted his son once he cleaned up his life, considering the two live 10 minutes from one another. The show missed an opportunity by choosing to have Barney grieve over the loss of a childhood that his father had no hopes being a part of because he was unfit to care for his child, and his mother would never allow the two to spend time together. The gold in the storyline is the years when Jerry chose not to make the 10 minute trip to re-connect with his son.

Father and son have a nice moment near the end of the episode when Jerry teaches Barney how to use a screwdriver but the relationship's far from healed. It will be though. Again, this is a CBS sitcom and the writers need to save the happy stuff for May sweeps; however, many of the beats felt forced. Lithgow sometimes seemed out of touch with his character like he wasn't sure how to play certain scenes. As good as NPH can be, he seemed like he overacted some scenes.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Man Vs. Wild "Malaysian Archipelago" Review

Bear Grylls took on an archipelago of islands off the coast of Borneo, in between the Philippines and Malaysia. Island episodes in both Man Vs. Wild and Survivorman always seemed more joyous to the hosts than the other episodes. I remember that Les Stroud had such a good time in one Island survival experience that I doubt the man wanted to return home. The stakes of island survival experience are always murky in Man Vs. Wild. The key to survival's food and water. Food's easier to find and hunt than water but fresh water sources reside somewhere on the island. There are a few scenes when it seems like Bear's trying to force the stakes of the situation. He continuously draws comparisons to Robinson Crusoe. Bear talks about his family much more, as if he's never going to return from his island isolation.

Sometimes, it's nice to see Bear thrive in his environment though. With the skill of Bear Grylls, an island survival scenario's in his wheelhouse. Anywho, let it begin:

-Bear's in a helicopter. He's going to sky dive. As per usual, danger surrounds his jump. The islands are surrounded by a coral reef as large as the country of Australia. Bear worries about landing on the coral reef and being destroyed. He aims for the deeper water. Upon landing, he explains the importance of carefully trekking along the reef. If one cuts his or her self then expect bad times. Bear successfully makes it to the island coast. Now, he has a few islands to choose form. Bear explains that he can easily swim to another island if the materials, possible food and water are scarce in his current island locale. Before swimming to another island willy-nilly, he advises any survivor to climb to the highest ground, so he or she can get a great view of the entire area.

-As always, a few moment exists in every episode that separates Bear from the normal person. I've long maintained that I'd die imitating the majority of Bear's survival techniques because he's Bear Grylls. Let me tell you, friends and well-wishers: I could not even climb to the top of this island successfully. The rock faces are not ideal for rock or mountain climbers because of its design. Bear tests the various vines hanging down from the top of the island. He finds two strong vines that he can climb up. Bear advises one to use one's feet to push the body further. Curiously, he doesn't put much emphasis on upper-body strength. Now, I had enough trouble climbing ropes in freshman gym class because I was the size of a safety pin in my early teenage years. I've since ceased looking like a safety pin and more like a normal male; however, I'd simply swim from island-to-island willy-nilly because my upper-body strength would betray me halfway through the climb. Bear even says that you're committed once you begin the climb.

-Bear eventually swims to what he calls Pig Island because of the abundant wild hog population. Before that, he builds his shelter with a roof and gutter system because the gutters can collect fresh rain water for him to drink. Since an island's so small, it makes sense to set up shelters and camps because rescue will usually be drawn by signal fire. Rarely do people find rescue on a man-made raft in the middle of the ocean. So, Bear sets up camp and the signal fire. Afterwards, the hunt's on for food. He builds a fire over the ocean for night fishing. He easily catches some dinner.

-The next morning, his search for food intensifies. He travels to Pig Island, builds a trap to capture the foot of any wandering hog. Bear finds a hog calmly walking around, and Bear naturally begins stalking the hog, hoping that it hits the trap. The hog walks into the trap. Bear quickly stabs the hog in the heart, killing the animal instantly. The hunt's less brutal than Bear's hunt of a wild pig in Alabama. Bear stabs the hog behind a bush rather than in clear view of the camera. Bear looks uncomfortable but acknowledges that it's an act of survival, and the pig will provide plenty of food and energy for the future.

-Bear cooks parts of the hog, smokes other parts to make into jerky. Soon, he's full and laying next to the ocean. He talks about the lack of companionship when one's alone, and how he longs for companionship. The next morning, he awakes to a magnificent rainfall. Bear prayed for rain because of the suffocating heat and humidity. Bear's always amazed by how re-invigorating nature can be. Bear searches for a fresh water source because the existence of fresh water's the difference between survival and death. He finds a fresh water source on pig island. Shortly thereafter, he spots a boat in the ocean, signaling rescue.

-I'd be remiss if I ignored his spear fishing exploits. He caught a crayfish that absolutely brightened his day. Bear also spoke of his family and how they have hold-your-breath-under-water contests, so Bear once again talked about how important it is to think of family in a survival situation.

Anywho, it was a good episode. It's nice to see Bear enjoy somewhat of a break that island survival offers. Of course, I doubt that I would have such an easy time stranded on an island because I am not Bear Grylls. I appreciate that these episodes give the illusion of ease on an island though.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Community "Custody Law and Eastern European Democracy" Review

The most critically acclaimed sitcoms of the last six years have one thing in common: they're like live-action versions of The Simpsons. Follow me for a bit, if you will. The Simpsons combines comedy with lovable and familiar characters. The town of Springfield's populated with endearing and funny character who the audience loves to spend time with once a week. The adventures of the people of Springfield can be surreal, zany or heartfelt. The show blends multiple genres.

Community reminds me of The Simpsons. Dan Harmon understands that good characters enhance the quality of a show. Community's full of wonderful characters. The core study group grounds the show while the supporting characters allows the writers to take the shows to places like paintball battles and rocket ships. One week, an episode's completely surreal. Another week, an episode's grounded in character and heart. "Custody Law and Eastern European Democracy" was the latter episode. Now, each episode of Community balances its surreal, absurd brand of comedy with honest, heartfelt character development because that IS Community. It's not really a balancing act as much as it's the show's identity.

Senor Chang's the craziest character in the series. Critics complained during the early part of season 1 that Chang's too abrasive. They argued the abrasiveness didn't mesh with the dynamics of the other characters. Of course, the abrasiveness of Chang and his insanity is the point of the character. The A story revolved around the possibility of Chang as the father of Shirley's baby. Shirly wants to forget that Chang was ever involved. She tries to get Chang to forfeit his parental rights because she wants her new life with Andre to be perfect. The fun of the Chang story is, Harmon and his writers never try to explain or justify Chang's behavior. Chang proudly tells Jeff that he's nuts. His insanity explains his behavior. Whether or not that satisfies fans is their problem. People might want an explanation for Chang's insanity but it's pointless. The emotional crutch during the A story (the chance that Chang actually wanted to be a father) is discarded almost immediately. As Andre explains, being a good father's more than simply dressing the part. Chang never learns a lesson, even after framing Jeff for kidnapping. But, again, he's insane.

Meanwhile, Britta had the hots for Troy and Abed's new friend, Lukka. Lukka, from The Balkans, plays video games with Troy and Abed. They want Britta as far from Lukka as possible because she always ruins their friendships with their friends. Britta can't help herself though. Soon, she and Lukka are making out on his couch until he kills the mood by describing the brutal murders he committed in defense of his homeland. From there, Britta tries to end Troy and Abed's friendship with Lukka because he's a war criminal. The Lukka angle isn't the heart of the story, though. He's just there for laughs. The story's about Britta's relationship with Troy and Abed, about her insecurity with failure in her relationships with men, about her desire not to ruin things. Troy an Abed assure her that she doesn't ruin a thing before she ruins the ending to a movie the two guys want to watch. The point, she can't ruin her relationship with those two. She needed to hear that. There's been a certain sadness attached to Britta throughout the season, so this felt good.

Community's on a spectacular run of good to great episodes. Each episode never leaves me disappointed. The actors know their characters so well, the writers know this world so well that each week is a pleasure to watch. The dialogue's clever and witty. The casting director obviously watched Dollhouse when Enver Gjokai used an Eastern European accent for the initial episodes so that director knows talent. I loved the shirt that Abed made after the paintball battle that read "It's All Downhill From Here." I once wrote a rant about critics who complained that Community will always suffer because of how good "Modern Warfare" is. Anywho, great episode.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What is the Best Buffy Teaser? Part 6B

NOTE: I can't finish the Best Buffy Teaser this week. Hopefully, I'll have all of season seven written by Monday. I promise a full week of posts though. Tomorrow and Friday will be reviews for Community and Man Vs. Wild. Also, every season six cast photo so today's post is sans photograph. Try to deal, my massive readership.

"Dead Things"--Written By Steven S. DeKnight; Directed By James A. Contner

The sounds of rough sex are heard as the camera moves through Spike's crypt. The camera finds Buffy and Spike post-coital. The two engage in a nice conversation until Spike goes all Dawson on Buffy and seeks to confirm that they're having a nice conversation. Immediately, Buffy retreats into "You Disgust Me" mode. Well, really, Spike kills the mood when he compares Buffy to an animal. Spike fancies Buffy as anything other than human, and that rightfully disgusts her. She leaves after Spike dangles handcuffs in front of her, asking if she trusts him. She says never. Meanwhile, the Trio's arc becomes darker. Warren, Jonathan and Andrew get a mystical device that makes any girl their willing sex slave. Warren knows exactly who he'll use it on.

The Spuffy romance, at this juncture, is being shoved down the throats of the audience. Many loved it. A small minority exists that dislikes Spuffy. I'm among them. Anywho, the purpose of their scene is to show how dependent Buffy's becoming on Spike. The sexual relationship's getting darker. Spike wants it to become darker but he also wants a genuine relationship with the girl. It's just a weird relationship. Buffy's just so...un-Buffy throughout much of the season. Tara tells her that she's normal, that nothing's wrong so the story can't really make sense of her behavior. I digress. The point, their scene deepens the weirdness. The Trio's scene plants the seed for the eventual darkness they'll fall into. "Dead Things" makes them a significantly more serious group of villains. Warren's creepy plans toward women are, well, creepy. I feel like I'm rambling.

"Older and Far Away"--Written By Drew Z. Greenberg; Directed By Michael E. Gershman

As Buffy packs weapons into a bag, she apologizes to Dawn for bailing on a sisters-only night with one another. Buffy's been bailing a lot lately and the guilt's building up in her mind. Dawn assures her sister that she's understands, that it's cool; however, it is not as Dawn's facial expressions convey. During their exchange, one wonders whether Buffy's making an excuse to see Spike because of the vague way she explains the demon that Spike told her about. But she does fight a large demon who decides to camp out in the sword he used upon being stabbed. Hijinks will soon ensue.

Dawn's been abandoned lately by her supporting cast. She's feeling lonely. The teaser reminds one of how isolated she's been in her own house, which is important for what Dawn does in the first act. The sword demon sets up the monster-of-the-week story. It's sort of throw-back. The A personal arc is established along with the demon of the week.

"As You Were"--Written & Directed By Douglas Petrie

Todd, the manager of the Doublemeat Palace, lectures Buffy about the political game that exists in moving up in the ranks of the Doublemeat Palace. Buffy listens as she scraps grease. Soon, Todd leaves. Buffy laments how she'll work at this place for a long time. Later, in the graveyard, she fights a vampire; however, the vampire doesn't want to bite her because she smells like Doublemeat Palace. Buffy stakes the vamp. She then smells herself and, again, laments.

Buffy's in a rut. The Doublemeat Palace is basically rock-bottom for her. The fact that vamps don't want to bite her because she eats that fast food is even worse. She needs a pick-me-up--someone to remind how awesome she is. Todd and the vampire did not help her. The teaser sets things up nicely for Riley's return to Sunnydale. Buffy needs someone like him.

"Hell's Bells"--Written By Rebecca Rand Kirschner; Directed By David Solomon

Buffy and Willow stare in horror at their own reflections because of how ugly their bridesmaid dresses are (actually, Willow is Xander's Best Man). The girls discuss how stressed Xander and Anya are. They compare the rehearsal dinner to a zoo. Xander's in the midst of dealing with his family. The Harris' dislike Anya's demon. His parent's terrible marriage is directly in his face in the teaser. Xander hopes nothing can stop the wedding. Cut to an old man emerging from a portal to, presumably, stop the wedding.

I hate this episode. There's nothing good about it, including the teaser. I didn't care to see Xander's family. I enjoyed them more off-screen in stories Xander told. Buffy and Willow basically lay out what to expect during their expositional dialogue. Blah.

"Normal Again"--Written By Diego Guiterrez; Directed By Rick Rosenthal

Buffy walks around the outside of The Trio's Lair. In the basement, Jonathan's sick with guilt about murdering Warren's ex-girlfriend. Warren just wants to get rid of Buffy. Andrew summons a demon. Buffy and the demon fight. The demon stabs Buffy. Buffy screams as doctors, nurses and aids tend to her. Huh?

"Normal Again" is one of the most debated episodes in the series. Discussion of the entire episode's for another time though. Joss, of course, offered the best explanation for the episode so maybe you should just read that. Anywho, this teaser has one hell of a hook (the sudden shift in reality). The lack of good hooks during season six is astounding. Maybe the writers were coasting like an NBA team during the regular season, just hoping the loyal fans would stick around no matter how bad the episodes were. Aside from the hook, Buffy's closer to finding the residence of the Trio. Warren's more and more dangerous.

"Entropy"--Written By Drew Z. Greenberg; Directed By James A. Contner

Warren, Jonathan and Andrew chase two vampires on ATVs. The Trio's armed with stakes and other weaponry. They want the disk that the vamps possess. The ATVs crash. Hope is lost until Buffy begins fighting the vampires in the distance. Warren quietly walks towards the fight, picks up the disk and leaves. Buffy continues fighting. Spike shows up, lifts the second vampire up and dangles him as he tries to discuss their relationship. Buffy doesn't have any interest in Spike's threats. She knows that her friends will love her regardless. Meanwhile, Xander sits alone in his apartment with a beer then he takes a walk. Anya emerges from the bushes, looking hurt.

Spike's used his relationship with Buffy in many twisted, hurtful ways. Now, Buffy feels secure with her friends that she doesn't worry about the truth. Spike wants to know why she won't sleep with him again if she doesn't care about her friends' opinion. Simply, she doesn't love him. Of course, around 40 minutes of story is left to tell. Buffy will have to deal with the fallout from her friends (well Xander) as well as Spike sleeping with Anya in one fell swoop. The teaser plants the seeds for those major plot points in the episode. The fall out from "Hell's Bell" is addressed in the episode as well. Anya was MIA during #617. Neither character's handling the failed marriage well.

"Seeing Red"--Written By Steven S. DeKnight; Directed By Michael Gershman

Willow and Tara are in bed, naked and happy following their reunion. The conversation shifts to Buffy, who hadn't returned home after The Magic Box fun in "Entropy." Willow's concerned as well as curious. She wonders why she reacted so hurt to Spike being with Anya. Tara tells Willow the truth about Buffy and Spike. Willow's sort of speechless but she's concerned. She wants to find Buffy because she thinks her best friend needs someone to talk to; however, Buffy's not in her room. Willow and Dawn talk about Buffy in the hall. Willow tries to explain how people get when they have such strong feelings for another person. Dawn becomes super excited when she sees that Willow and Tara are back together. Meanwhile, Buffy found the Trio's lair. Unfortunately, she's too late and they bailed. Warren left multiple large blades that would kill Buffy though. When Buffy escapes the house, she sees that her jacket's been cut. That's gonna cost Warren.

The teaser's entirely about Willow and her season-long detachment from people. Her commitment and love for Tara's on display at the beginning as well. It's one of Joss' cruelest trailers actually given what happens in the final scene. Willow might think she's recovered but the Willow we see is that detached, distant Willow. Her line to Dawn about how people get when they have strong feelings for one another is strong foreshadow. Willow means that people get crazy. Meanwhile, Buffy's actively pursuing the trio. Things will get worse.

"Villains"--Written By Marti Noxon; Directed By David Solomon

An ambulance arrives at the Summers house because Warren shot Buffy. The medics tend to Buffy. Xander's worried and jumpy. The medics tell him to calm down. Meanwhile, Willow furiously uses magicks in an attempt to restore Tara's life (a stray bullet went through Tara's chest and Buffy fandom would never be the same again). Osiris refuses to bring Tara back for Willow because they cannot mess with the natural deaths. Willow wonders how a shooting can be considered natural. Osiris bails after Willow's force actually kills him. Uh-oh.

"Villains" is an insane episode. The teaser deals with the immediate aftermath of "Seeing Red." Buffy's in poor shape and Tara's dead. Most importantly, Dark Willow's born. She is wild.

"Two To Go"--Written By Douglas Petrie; Directed By Bill L. Norton

Buffy, Xander and Anya are in pursuit of Willow, who just ripped the skin off of Warren, killing him. Xander's sickened, unable to comprehend that his Willow killed someone (though he believes Warren deserved his fate--a killer just getting started), unable to get the stench of death out of his nostrils. Anya teleports to the prison to, hopefully, get Jonathan and Andrew out of his prison before Willow kills them both. Buffy races ahead of Xander as well. Xander remains, disappointed and frustrated that he can't help his best friend.

Buffy and Anya are more business-like than Xander. Xander's having trouble coping with the recent string of events. It's important to show Xander this way as it sets up his powerful scene with Willow in "Grave." Xander, as always, thinks with his heart. Buffy's in slayer mode. Xander's simply trying to understand everything.

"Grave"--Written By David Fury; Directed By James A. Contner

Giles returned with power to subdue Dark Willow for a short period of time. He tries to talk some sense into her, tries to help her. Willow only remembers their conversation in "Flooded" about her abilities as a witch. She's turned pro, and she's eager to inflict pain on Giles.

Giles' return in "Two To Go" is so badass. Unfortunately, that happened in "Two To Go." Willow's on a destructive path that might very well result in her death. Giles wants to save her from such a fate. Buffy does as well. Willow wants to kill though.

AND THE WINNER OF THE BEST BUFFY TEASER FROM SEASON SIX IS..."Flooded." Damn right "Flooded" won. Nothing represents the season quite like "Flooded." It's all leaky pipes and wasted potential.

And here's a list in descending order (remember, no teaser for "Once More, With Feeling"): 21. "Doublemeat Palace" 20. "Wrecked" 19. "Smashed" 18. "Hell's Bells" 17. "Dead Things" 16. "Gone" 15. "As You Were" 14. "Bargaining Part 1" 13. "Life Serial" 12. "Tabula Rasa" 11. "Older and Far Away" 10. "All The Way" 9. "Entropy" 8. "Bargaining Part 2" 7. "Grave" 6. "Afterlife" 5. "Two To Go" 4. "Normal Again" 3. "Villains" 2. "Seeing Red" 1. "Flooded"


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Chicago Code "The Gold Coin Kid" Review

Heather Mitchell, during a Q&A on Twitter about "The Gold Coin Kid," told one person that TCC wants to bridge the gap between procedural cop dramas and serialized cop dramas. Since the "Pilot," each episode has walked the line between procedural and serialized. So far, it hasn't been so good. The problem with procedurals is the emphasis on the case and the guest star of the week. An audience must be invested in both the character and the case. More often than not, the writers don't successfully tell those case-of-the-week stories. TCC had a great case-of-the-week a few weeks ago but the last few have been poor or bad. Any series will ultimately benefit from emphasis on the core characters rather than disposable, tertiary guest characters that will be forgotten the day after the episode airs.

"The Gold Coin Kid" didn't pull The Chicago Code from the slump they've been in since the second episode, though more things developed in the personal lives of the characters. For instance, the case-of-the-week revolved around a high-class whore house. A rich family with ties to the mayor requested an immediate police investigation regarding the OD of their son because they were convinced it was murder. The case leads Jarek and Caleb to the high-class whore house. As per usual, the various twists and turns of a procedural police case occurred. But the case isn't really worth talking about in the grand narrative of the show.

Jarek and Caleb finally began communicating during their investigation--communicating about their personal lives. Jarek never trusts any of his partners. He illegally looked at Caleb's file and purposely asked questions that would get Caleb to admit that he applied for the FBI. Jarek doesn't want a FBI wanna-be by his side because he questions their dedication and toughness of the Chicago streets. Caleb proves himself during the investigation though. Teresa reminded Jarek that even he considered Caleb a capable and smart partner before he lifted Caleb's file and learned about the FBI. Though Caleb seeks a position in the bureau, his dedications to the streets of Chicago is better than the majority of other cops portrayed on the show thus far. Caleb willingly disobeys Teresa's order when he sees that Jarek's determined to bring down the brothel. The decision costs Caleb two weeks of pay and gives him a black spot on his resume. When Caleb learns that Jarek and Teresa planned the entire thing (suspensions included), he loses it a bit. After all, Caleb proved his mettle to his partner and, in turn, his partner couldn't be honest or truthful. He thinks he deserves more honesty from his partner, the kind of honesty that Jarek's fiancé doesn't get. And that's what sort of sends Jarek over-the-edge--that Caleb knows about the cheating. The two are on equal playing ground though, which is a small theme in the episode as well. It's important for these characters to deepen, especially in a cop drama. It's a decent start for these two.

Meanwhile, Teresa's battled with the corruption in Chicago extends beyond Alderman Gibbons. Her force needs new radios but the mayor continues to tell her that the budget won't allow for new radios. Teresa has to work for the radios, which means bending for what the mayor wants. She removes Jarek and Caleb from the whore house case because of the mayor's ties with the rich patrons of those clubs. Of course, she's sly herself in good way. I argued that she and Gibbons are two sides of the same coin, and I continue to believe that. She goes under the heads of the corrupted to accomplish real good in her city. She uses suave diplomacy as well as Gibbons. Teresa possesses the tools to go toe-to-toe with Gibbons and that's important. Her story is a reminder of that.

Vonda took the hit for Moosekian after he failed to pat down an armed suspect that nearly ended terribly. Vonda only did it so Moosekian would be less eager to throw her off the task force because she's Jarek's niece. Also, she and Isaac seem to have a little something going on between the two. He took her to dinner and she did not tell her uncle who her date is.

I enjoyed the episode. The Chicago Code hasn't won me over completely. I'm eager for the serialized elements to take over, though. The show's sort of boring right now.

Heather Mitchell wrote the episode. Lesli Linka-Glatter directed it.


Monday, March 14, 2011

What is the Best Buffy Teaser? Part 6A

NOTE: Not that anyone cares but The Chicago Code review won't post until tomorrow afternoon.

In other news, this is the last week for the Best Buffy Teaser search. Indeed, a winner will be crowned on Friday. Today, it's all about the first twelve episodes of season six. While I planned to write about each season in one complete post, the realities of life interfered. No one likes reading 4500+ words in one fell swoop either so maybe it's a blessing. The plan is to post 6B on Wednesday then 7A and 7B on Thursday & Friday respectively. Anywho...

Season Six of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer--it is a season that continues to divide fans as it did during its original airing. Personally, I loathe the season. It's my least favorite season in the Whedonverse. The fun from the previous five seasons completely disappeared. Joss Whedon and Marti Noxon decided that the fanbase needed stories about the perils of entering adulthood, about the grim reality of post-adolescent existence. Buffy wages battle only occasionally during season six. The larger fight involves bills, plumbing, other utilities, working in a job one hates, etc. In theory, such battles have potential in a long-form narrative such as BtVS. After all, those things will always be part of an adult's life. Whedon portrayed high school extremely well throughout the first three seasons of the show but portrayals of adult life weren't nearly as well done as the high school years (Joss' other show at the time, ANGEL, had been dealing with similar themes of adulthood much more successfully).

Season 6 is just a depressing 900+ minutes of television. The passionate season six defenders will tell you that the depression of the season was exactly the point. Hell, even Joss maintains that perspective. The issues aren't solely about the loss of fun and rise in depression/misery in the individual episodes. Large chunks of the season feel lazy and uninspired such as Willow's addiction arc, the Buffy/Spike (damn right it's an ordinary and clichéd romance) and Dawn's rebellion. It's strange because the writers room remained largely the same except for the addition of Drew Z. Greenberg and he had zero power to influence a drastic change in the stories. For years, Marti Noxon received the majority of blame for the decrease in quality, though Joss maintained that he remained as involved in Buffy as he's always been (even with ANGEL and Firefly to run). Maybe the writers had simply run out of gas after five furious seasons. Season 5 is the natural conclusion of Buffy's story, in my opinion. The season ended on such a high note. Maybe the writers experienced something similar to a Super Bowl hangover. No writer would readily admit exhaustion and fatigue but I'm hesitant to blame a group of the most talented writers in television suddenly becoming less than great for two seasons. And maybe Joss was too stretched but ANGEL was tremendous in its final three seasons and Firefly's a contemporary television classic that continues to inspire weekly reviews from critics such as Alan Sepinwall and Jeff Jensen.

Season 6 has tremendous issues. The fan community will always fight about it. Blame will be thrown around. I know I won't end the debate so allow me to transition into the season six teasers.



"Bargaining"--Written By Marti Noxon; Directed By David Grossman

Spike, Tara, Xander, Anya, Giles and Willow are in the graveyard, fighting a band of vampires. Willow's on top of a crypt, overseeing the action and communicating with the other Scoobies through her mind. The Buffy-bot joins in the fight. The vampires are defeated. Buffy-bot malfunctions. The gang are reminded that the only real Buffy is Buffy.

The Scooby gang miss the Slayer; however, the gang isn't using the bot because of how much they miss her. They need to keep the demons and vampires in check. If they find out the Slayer's dead then Sunnydale becomes much worse. Amazingly, the gang struggled more against vampires with Willow's psychic help than they did when it was Xander, Giles and Willow fighting the vamps, alone, during season five. There isn't much to talk about within the teaser though. We see that Willow's powers continue to evolve, that Spike continues to fight with the gang even though he's evil. Besides that, it's a matter of "when will the real Buffy be back?"

"Bargaining Part 2"--Written By David Fury; Directed By David Grossman

The Buffy-bot is surrounded by the biker gang and she's close to a system failure. Meanwhile, Xander picks Willow up from the ground. Willow's out of sorts because of the resurrection spell and, oh yeah, a snake came out of her mouth. The Scoobies are also running because the demon biker gang took control of the town once they discovered that Buffy was a robot. Six feet below the ground, Buffy wakes in a coffin, tries to scream but only emits a dry gasp. She's buried alive.

This is the second part of a two parter so it picks up immediately from the end of part one but it sets up the episodes as a singular story with Buffy's awakening at the end of the teaser. Willow felt the effects of communicating with some serious dark magicks, which is a theme of the season.

"Afterlife"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By David Solomon

Xander, Anya, Willow and Tara walk through the streets of Sunnydale, aware that Buffy is alive, that the spell worked. They're trying to find her as quickly as possible. They talk about how different Buffy seemed but Willow is convinced that Buffy just came from a hell dimension. Anya thinks Buffy's broken though. The gang's worried that their Buffy is more dangerous. Meanwhile, Dawn brings Buffy home but Buffy only looks lost and empty.

"Afterlife" is one of the better season six episodes because it deals immediately with Buffy's state post-resurrection. The central question is raised by the group--is she broken? Furthermore, was she ripped from a hell dimension? It's a character-driven episode that proudly establishes itself as such an episode in the teaser. While the gang frets about Buffy's state of mind and being, Buffy just looks lost and empty standing with Dawn. The biggest question: why?

"Flooded"--Written By Douglas Petrie & Jane Espenson; Directed By Douglas Petrie

Buffy's in a dark, creepy space. She moves forward slowly. The sounds of dripping water and groans can be heard. Turns out, Buffy's in her basement and she's trying to fix a leaky pipe. Dawn tries to convince Buffy to call a plumber. Unfortunately, Willow and Tara spent all of the Summers money (infuriating...why haven't more fans written essays about this?). Buffy temporarily fixes the pipe then water bursts from every pipe.

This teaser essentially represents the entirety of the sixth season. Instead of approaching a demon in the sewers, it's just leaky pipes. To quote Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that. Also, it's the front-runner to advance into the final round.

"Life Serial"--Written By David Fury & Jane Espenson; Directed By Nick Marck

Buffy returns from her visit with Angel; however, she declines to comment on the time they spent together. She brought fried chicken but Willow, Tara, Giles and Dawn have eaten dinner already. Tara, naturally, asks for a piece because Buffy looks bummed. The conversation shifts to Buffy's plans. Specifically, her plans for the rest of her life. Buffy hadn't thought much about it. She agrees to attend classes with Tara and Willow. She'll audit the rest of the semester until registration. Buffy asks for Giles opinion on everything. Meanwhile, the Trio discuss how to make the slayer vulnerable since she always has a plan. The Trio, by the way, are three nerds who decided to take over Sunnydale on a whim. Warren designed a vehicle that will mess with Buffy from afar. They are testing her to see what they're up against.

The writers are consistently good with juxtaposition in their teasers. While the Trio thinks Buffy always has a plan, she's currently searching for one in her life. The discussion at the dinner table doesn't extend into the season. She does everything she talks about in "Life Serial" so the teaser's setting up the A story in the guise of a season-long Buffy arc (of course her arc is that she has no plans for her life). Also, the Trio's being played for laughs so far but Warren's evil undercurrents are on display as he explains the purpose of the truck and tech inside the truck. Jonathan and Andrew might not be problem but Warren will be.

"All The Way"--Written By Steven S. DeKnight; Directed By David Solomon

The Magic Box is full of trick-or-treaters and customers looking for a bargain. Xander fails to impress a child with his pirate impersonation. Willow fawns over a little girl in a witch costume. Dawn complains about Halloween and steals from the store. In the basement of The Magic Box, Buffy and Spike awkwardly converse with one another. Spike continues to lust after her while Buffy's strangely intrigued by him. They discuss patrolling. Upstairs, Buffy tells Giles that she'll patrol rather than bag but Giles explains that if anything supernatural happens on Halloween, it'll happen to the Scoobies. Crazy old men with knives is another matter though. The teaser cuts to one such old man who brandishes a knife while watching the various trick-or-treaters.

The damn Spuffy sexual tension isn't going away. This time, Buffy shows a strange curiosity during a charged moment in the basement. Their scene is set-up for the next episode. Dawn's scene in the teaser isn't much, considering this is her episode. Her brief scene shows her as a girl who is clearly not a child. The scene with the old man is pure misdirection for misdirection's sake. Not much happening in the "All The Way" teaser though.

"Once More, With Feeling"--Written & Directed By Joss Whedon

There is NO TEASER. Those are actually the first words in the shooting script because no teaser exists for the musical episode.

"Tabula Rasa"--Written By Rebecca Rand Kirschner; Directed By David Grossman

Buffy's patrolling. A shadowy figure follows her. The figure is Spike. The show briefly morphs into Dawson's Creek as Spike, in the Dawson role, whines about how he and Buffy need to talk about their kiss. Buffy wants to forget about the kiss. A loan shark (literally) shows up with two vamps. Spike owes him something--kittens, I believe. There's a brief fight. Spike disappears. Buffy thinks to herself, it'd be much simpler if she stopped saving his life all of the time.

This teaser focuses on the kiss that ended the musical episode. Buffy's not ready to deal with the fact she has some kind of feeling for Spike while he's all too eager to do more with her. The loan shark sets up the B story but this is nothing special. Moving on.

"Smashed"--Written By Drew Z. Greenberg; Directed By Turi Meyer

Buffy breaks up a mugging in the alley. She thought a middle-aged couple were about to be murdered by vampires. Spike arrives and bludgeons the muggers which sets off the chip in his head. The couple leaves. The muggers flee. Spike wants to kiss her. Buffy has no interest despite kissing him at the end of the past two episodes. Spike accuses her of being a tease. He tells her that he's all she has (and thus begins the weird sadomasochistic/verbally and emotionally abusive element of the relationship). Meanwhile, Willow's sad because Tara left the house. She decides to bring Amy back from being a rat so she isn't alone.

Overall, "Smashed" is one of the worst 43 minutes of this show. The teaser isn't terrible. I liked the mugging and Buffy's reaction but it goes downhill once Spike arrives and once Willow brings human Amy back. Story-wise, it doesn't pick up until the first act. The teaser doesn't give one hint about what the episode will be about. It's just more sexual tension between Buffy and Spike. There's always been something disturbing about Spike's interest in Buffy. His comment about her loneliness only adds to the disturbing nature. He's preying on her weakness.

"Wrecked"--Written By Marti Noxon; Directed By David Solomon

Dawn and Tara awake in an empty house. Both are concerned about Willow and Buffy. Meanwhile, Buffy awakes in the nude next to a naked Spike. She's horrified.

If "Smashed" was about the fun of dangerous activities then "Wrecked" is about consequences and regrets. Buffy's reaction upon waking up essentially conveys that sense of regret. The episode opens on the two most innocent characters, Tara and Dawn. They are also the two characters who will be most hurt by the actions of Willow and Buffy so it begins with an emotional hook.

"Gone"--Written & Directed By David Fury

Buffy and Dawn are clearing Willow's room of anything magic related. Willow hit rock-bottom with her addiction to magic in "Wrecked" and now she's coming clean. Buffy explains to Dawn that even their mother's fertility god statue must go because any temptation might cause her to give into the addiction. Meanwhile, the Trio experiment with an indivisible ray gun. It works. Warren thinks the gun makes the trio unstoppable.

Buffy's talking about herself as well as Willow when she explains temptation to Dawn. Buffy's not eager to repeat sex with Spike because she hates herself for doing it. Willow's beginning the path to recover though she has a long road to travel. The Trio scene sets up the A story. It features a top five worst scene in the show's history.

"Doublemeat Palace"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By Nick Marck

Xander, Anya and Willow engage in exposition about Warren and The Trio. Anya worries that Buffy will be late for her first day. The three transition their conversation into the work force. Anya calls the workers the tools that shape America. Enter Buffy, wearing her fast food uniform, feeling like a tool.

Boy this is a bad stretch of episodes. Real life re-enters the picture. Buffy becomes an employee of the Doublemeat Palace. Nothing else happens. Xander dismisses the trio as a threat. That's it.

Episodes 13-22 will post on Wednesday.


Friday, March 11, 2011

How Small is John Adams High on Boy Meets World?

It's March. Nearly every TV show's airing reruns until April. While I could watch an old episode of television and write about it under the Classic TV Show feature, I'd rather write Random Thoughts though. Of course, no one reads Random Thoughts so this preamble's rather unnecessary.

-I'm currently watching Boy Meets World for the fourth time in less than a year. Right now, it's the second season. The second season is the best year of the show. The Topanga nonsense doesn't begin for another season. Shawn's life isn't complete shit. Eric's a serious character. Amy's a sane woman. Feeney actually has a role in the show that makes sense. As I rode the 21 bus on my way home, I naturally began thinking about Chubby's and John Adams High School. Both are signature sets during seasons two through five. Chubby's is the hip place to eat where only students of John Adams High hang out. No matter how young they are, they will always be in Chubby's after hours. What's interesting is who hangs out at Chubby's. The age group changes each season as the core characters grow. How small is John Adams High? Ignore the fact that it appears the school has one hallway, two classrooms and only a men's room. The seventh grade class seemingly consists of only 12-15 boys and girls. How localized is the student body? I went to a high school in the suburbs with other people who came from different suburbs. Considering BMW takes place in Philly, the class size should be similar in size to the other high schools; however, the 7th grade strike consists of only 15-20 students. The school election shares those numbers. Cory frets about getting invited to a popular party; however, only dorks are invited. The actual party happens at Chubby's with Shawn. Between the two parties, there are only 15-20 students. With those numbers, the school can easily get away with just two faculty members and two classes. The show suggests that every student lives within a 2 mile radius of Chubby's because every one from class hangs out at the place whenever Cory and Shawn go there. Topanga's merely the best student out of a mere 19 other students. Any teacher can mentor the gang without ignoring other students because of the size of the class is so small. Well, I have nothing left to write about Boy Meets World for now.

-Michael Chiklis will star on a CBS comedy in the fall if the show's picked up. That news makes the cancellation of No Ordinary Family a lock. Interestingly, other folks who write about NOF have somehow talked themselves into wanting a second season of the show. In fact, it seems every AV Club writers wants whatever show they're writing about to continue. They somehow talk themselves into the show like the Pittsburgh Pirates talk themselves into 162 game seasons every year. Think long and hard before declaring that you want a second season of No Ordinary Family. Sure, the occasional average episode pops up but the show is awful. I have zero interest in spending another 13 episodes or 20-22 episodes with the Powell family and the terrible villains.

-Real World: Las Vegas began on Wednesday. I'm not sure I'll watch the entire season. The first episode was really uninteresting. The show established a will-they-or-won't-they with the two most unlikable people in the house. I don't care whether or not Adam and Nany hook up. I don't know why anyone else would. The only person I'd watch the show for is Heather. She's adorably cute. But the season's poised for irritating drama

-I thought about writing something about a great screenwriter tonight--sort of continuing my Great Screenwriter series I began and abandoned during the summer. I can simply write about screenwriting in the random thoughts post. I think everyone who loved Toy Story 3 should download Creative Screenwriting's Oscar Panel podcast with the nominated screenwriters. Michael Arndt somehow added more meaning to the story after he talked about the end of the story. He's one of those screenwriters that will teach one something new about screenwriting anytime he discusses his movies.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Man Vs. Wild "Borneo Jungle" Review

Bear Grylls decided to conquer one of the toughest environments on the planet--the Borneo Jungle of Malaysia. Jungle episodes are always good because they're the most taxing ones for Bear. Jungles are harsh environments that always brings Bear to the brink of frustration. They're humid, rainy, full of bright colored species with no names and inhabitable grounds for shelter. Any human being in a civilized environment becomes miserable during a humid summer's day. Imagine the relentless humidity while you're trying to survive. It would lead to plenty of FML status updates on facebook (but no one could use facebook in the jungle). From the minute Bear hits the ground, he's facing an uphill battle even though he travels downhill for the rest of the episode.

-Predictably enough, Bear's helicopter cannot land anywhere on the jungle surface because it's a jungle. Of course Bear has a super difficult task to get down to the floor. He repels from the helicopter (nothing new) but he has to land directly on a tree--a mistake could result in the helicopter crashing or Bear being impaled by a branch. After successfully landing on the tree, he uses strong vines to climb down onto the jungle surface. As he descends, Bear describes the strain and stress on his arm muscles. The strain and stress on those muscles is a theme throughout the episode because the jungle, in case I failed convey it properly, is a harsh, tough environment to travel and survive in.

-On the jungle floor, Bear tells the audience to head downhill. The objective is to find a river or stream. Civilized communities live in the valleys or along the shore so one's best chance for rescue is with water. Bear later informs the audience that traveling along riverbeds is much easier than the surface. The pace will be slow because of the various rocks in the river as well as the force of the stream but the jungle's much more a killer.

-Borneo's famous for its caves system. Many cave systems haven't been explored or mapped yet. Bear decides to explore one of the caves of Borneo. The descent isn't for the weak of heart or those who fear heights. Along the way, Bear gathered some strong vines for the descent. He created a makeshift harness using the vines. On the cave floor, he comes across one of those bright-colored critters with no names. Bear moves away quickly, uninterested in poison. Bear's already mindful of the smallest cuts in the jungle because of the quick infection rate. The humidity is not the body's friend. Also, Bear gathered materials for a long-lasting torch that the military use on the ground. Once the torch is lighted, he explores. The caves are so quiet compared to the jungle. Bear's sort of disconcerted by the change. Naturally, ominous music is cued. The caves aren't very interesting. Bear eats small bird eggs for protein. He hopes to find a stream or river at the end of the cave. If not, he'll retrace his steps. Fortunately, he finds a river.

-The fun begins once he reaches the water. He and his crew deal with large boulders, powerful waterfalls and rocks on all sides. I'm sure the water's a relief though because Bear constantly travels in long-sleeves and long pants. Anyone should in a jungle environment because something's bound to latch onto the skin and cause some type of infection or sickness. Bear's watchful of leeches because those small bites could become very bad. When a leech gets him, he finds a plant that will restore his blood coagulation. Later, he's bitten by a non-venomous snake when he captures it for dinner. He uses something from within the tree that will act as a mild anti-septic. Nature is really amazing.

-Bear spends most of the episode in the water. When he's not in the water, he's walking through torrential downpours that damages his morale. He explains that he's fighting the jungle by telling himself that he can, he can, he can continue. Survival's very much a mental thing. Fortunately, the rain stops long enough for Bear to build a nest in the trees to sleep in. He also builds a trap that yields nothing as far as fish for breakfast. While resting in his nest, he explains why he feels a certain kinsmanship for orangutans.

-On the final day, Bear builds his own raft. The raft is not sturdy. If you've ever seen previous episodes involving the construction of a boat or raft then you know Bear always build fragile floating devices. He did use strong bamboo though. This time, the raft doesn't fall apart and it does lead him to rescue but he has a few scares during the trip down the river.

Overall, it was another solid episode of the show. Man Vs. Wild never produces any bad episodes. I enjoy every episode. This season has been less insane than season five but Bear can't fight crocs and sharks weekly.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What is the Best Buffy Teaser From Season Five (Part Two)?

As promised, here is part two (or 5B) of the Best Buffy Teaser search. Enjoy.

"Blood Ties"--Written By Steven S. DeKnight; Directed By Michael Gershman

Conversation between the Scoobies in the "Blood Ties" teaser darts between Buffy's 20th birthday party, her reluctance to celebrate, Glory, the new information the council gave them about her being a god, how she's always on brink of insanity (to which Xander remarks: "And the fun keeps on leaving!" I love that line), The Key, the desire of Willow and Xander to know more about The Key, until Buffy reveals that Dawn is The Key. Then: Glory kills some knights who want to find and kill The Key. Indeed, the fun keeps on leaving.

The initial scene covers a lot of plot and story but Buffy's writers were so good at wrapping exposition in sparkling dialogue. Glory's scene introduces yet another threat and more displays of her incredible godly power. How will Buffy stop her?

"Crush"--Written By David Fury; Directed By Dan Attias

Spike's been in love with Buffy since "Out of My Mind" so in this teaser he tries to flirt with and charm Buffy at The Bronze. He fails. Xander insults him. Elsewhere, there's more Glory talk. Willow has had headaches because of her teleportation spells she used to discover more about the hellgod. More flirting happens between Buffy and Ben. We cut to an arriving train with only one arrival because that arriving passenger killed all the other passengers. Hm. Who could that be?

The scene at The Bronze is a welcome break from the intensity of the last few episodes. Buffy speaks for the audience when she says that she needs a break from the Glory stuff. There's some fun writing when Xander skirts around using Glory's name right as Ben shows up because Ben is Glory and Glory is Ben (though Xander will have hard time understanding that).

And who the devil is in that train? Who else but Drusilla, fresh from being torched in LA by Angel.

"I Was Made To Love You"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By James A. Contner

Buffy feels disgusted by the fact that Spike wants her. Any synonym for disgusted works for her. Buffy rants as she trains, which adds to the force of her kicks and punches. Xander's in the suit taking the brunt of Buffy's frustrations. The conversation switches to Buffy's cynicism abut love, her feelings that she's doomed to never love, that she always pushes men away because she's strong. Should she change? Xander jokes that living on a Hellmouth is a terrible place to build anything. Naturally, we next meet a woman who came to Sunnydale to find true love.

Love is the theme of this episode. Buffy's suffering from post-Riley blues. She's appalled that Spike would have any kind of sexual feeling for her. As per usual, Xander's there to cheer Buffy up as he has whenever she's down in the dumps. He's the heart of the group, after all. Meanwhile, the arrival of April makes us wonder who this bright, hopeful woman is.

"The Body"--Written & Directed By Joss Whedon

Buffy walks into her house, notices the flowers and is encouraged to see that good men still exist. She calls upstairs to see if her mom wants her to pick Dawn up from school. No answer. Buffy doesn't see the haunting image in the backround of Joyce lying on the couch, not moving. She turns to the family room and wonders what her mother's doing. Buffy recognizes that her mom's not moving and she's definitely not sleep. Buffy calls out, "Mom? Mom? Mommy..." and her voice shifts to that of a child's when she uses the word mommy.

"The Body" is a devastating episode of television. Joss captured the immediate experience of losing a loved one so well. The teaser, a repeat of the the last scene in "I Was Made To Love You" is as devastating as the rest of the episode. Buffy is a show that deals with demons, vampires and horror each week, yet the most haunting image in the series is the shot of Joyce sprawled on the couch, dead. The shot's more haunting and surprising because its composition: Joyce is out of focus and almost out of frame, so it catches the viewer by surprise. Sarah Michelle Gellar gives a devastating performance. Honest, heart wrenching, unflinching in its realistic portrayal of loss.

"Forever"--Written & Directed By Marti Noxon

"The Body" showed the immediate experience of a loved one's death. "Forever" opens with the next part of the process: the burial. Buffy needs to choose a coffin, and she can't really handle the choice, especially not with Dawn's rambling about finding a coffin their mother would like.

The scene's really about what's not said by the Summers sisters. Dawn openly grieves. Buffy doesn't. She needs to take care of business without falling apart. The teaser clearly shows two sisters who aren't connected at all in their grief, and they need each other, because it's only them now.

"Intervention"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By Michael Gershman

Giles, Buffy and Dawn are cleaning up after dinner. Following the cleaning, Giles suggests that he and Buffy resume their regular training schedule. Buffy balks. She's unsure if she wants to continue training because she worries about what being a slayer is doing to her. She feels like a stone. The word love feels foreign to her. She pushed Riley away. She's not sure if her mother knew how much she was loved. Giles suggests that he and she take a few days in the wilderness for a quest--it helps slayers re-focus and it teaches the slayer more about her role. Meanwhile, Warren delivers Spike his Buffy-bot.

The first part of the Giles-Buffy scene focuses on issues that Buffy's been dealing with the last few episodes. It allows the show to move forward without being disrespectful to the previous two episodes. But a big bad remains in town and the slayer needs to be in top form. The second part of the scene sets the plot up. She and Giles are going out in the wilderness for some First Slayer fun.

"Tough Love"--Written By Rebecca Kirshner; Directed By David Grossman

Buffy decides to leave college before the semester's through because she's dealing with too much to worry about school. Meanwhile, Ben loses his job because he hadn't shown up for two weeks on account of Glory taking over for those two weeks. Ben grows increasingly frustrated with Glory because she's messing up his life. As he packs his bags, Glory takes over again.

Not much going on in this one, though we do see the growing animosity Ben has for Glory. That's important for the end game. And we learned that Buffy loved her poetry class.

"Spiral"--Written By Steven S. DeKnight; Directed By James A. Contner

The episode picks up from the end of "Tough Love" when Glory destroyed the wall and a brain-sucked Tara ratted Dawn out as The Key. Buffy and Dawn run across campus. Glory follows in murderous pursuit until a bus hits her. That's when Ben takes over, which gives the Summer sisters time to run. Ben's a real threat, though, because if he's with Buffy and Dawn, Glory's only a transformation away.

"The Weight of the World"--Written By Doug Petrie; Directed By David Solomon

Glory feels different at the start of this episode. She feels no desire to murder anyone. She has Dawn, i.e. The Key, which is something she has wanted for an eternity. Something's off, though. Meanwhile, Buffy's catatonic after losing Dawn to Glory. So, we know the stakes: the Scoobies need to bring Buffy back before Glory regains her desire to use Dawn to open the portal. Convenient time for the hellgod's humanity to get to her, no?

"The Gift"--Written & Directed By Joss Whedon

A terrified kid confronts a savage vampire behind The Magic Box. The vampire threatens to kill the kid as the kid pleas for his life. Buffy shows up. She briefly engages in conversation with the vampire. He's never heard of the slayer. They fight. Buffy quickly dusts the vamp. Buffy remarks that it's been awhile since she met a vampire who didn't know her. The kid asks her how she did that. She tells him that it's what she does. The kid (or teen rather) says, "but you're just a girl." Buffy responds with, "That's what I keep saying."

During the original broadcast, the Previously On was a montage of the previous five seasons. This teaser restates the show's mission statement. It's a sequel to the "Prophecy Girl" teaser. And, like in "Prophecy Girl", Buffy will again die.

AND THE WINNER OF THE BEST BUFFY TEASER FROM SEASON FIVE IS..."The Body." Season 5's teasers are consistently good throughout but nothing beats "The Body." It should've won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing but it was a WB show so it didn't. The teaser is so sad, so honest and so devastating. It sets the tone for the ensuing 43 minutes. It's heartbreaking when SMG's voice becomes so little.

Here's a list of how I rank the teasers in descending order: 22. "Listening To Fear" 21. "Into The Woods" 20. "Shadow" 19. "Tough Love" 18. "Out of My Mind" 17. "The Replacement" 16. "Triangle" 15. "Buffy vs. Dracula" 14. "Spiral" 13. "Real Me" 12. "No Place Like Home" 11. "The Weight of the World" 10. "I Was Made To Love You" 9. "Blood Ties" 8. "Crush" 7. "Forever" 6. "Fool for Love" 5. "Family" 4. "Checkpoint" 3. "Intervention" 2. "The Gift" 1. "The Body"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What is the Best Buffy Teaser from Season Five (Part 1)?

Season 5 of Buffy is intense. The safe confines and security of one's youth begin to fall away as the Scoobies deal with adult issues. Specifically, Buffy deals with the most difficult experience in her life--the death of her mother. She also loses Riley and finds herself as Dawn's sole protector once her mother dies. Buffy learns more about the slayer's nature. Is the slayer just a killer? If death is her gift, what exactly does that mean?

The tone of the series becomes darker, more serious than in the previous four seasons. Buffy's absolutely the central focus of the season because each episode's leading her towards her sacrifice in "The Gift." Critics and fans worried that Joss was spread too thin between two shows but season five of Buffy showcases excellent storytelling and provides one an education in exceptional arcing. Five years as slayer combined with personal heartbreaks make Buffy a worn-out girl by the end of the season. Each episode presents more challenges and emotional conflicts for the girl. Sometimes I wonder how the series would've been remembered if it ended with season five because of how exceptional the story is. The first five seasons feature a genuine and natural beginning, middle and end. Nonetheless, the series produced two more seasons but those are posts for another day.

On Friday, I named "The Harsh Light of Day" the winner of the Best Buffy Teaser of Season 4. It joins "Prophecy Girl, "When She Was Bad," and "The Wish" in the final round. The season five teasers are busier (for a lack of a better word). Many episodes dive into the story immediately, with significant scenes involving the significant character and story beats. It's not the straight-forward set-up/hook (though the set-up/hook for each episode remains because, well, it IS the teaser...TV hadn't abandoned the teaser for a first act YET).

Also, season five's teasers will be broken into two parts. Part 2 posts tomorrow.



"Buffy Vs. Dracula"--Written By Marti Noxon; Directed By David Solomon

Buffy lies awake in bed next to a sleeping Riley. She's wide-eyed and restless. She eyes Riley then makes a decision. She quietly climbs out of bed. We cut to the graveyard where she's chasing a big, bad vampire like "a leopard springing after its prey." Buffy beats the vampire up before staking him. She returns to bed with Riley.

In the fourth act of the episode, we have the answer that the teaser poses: why is Buffy sneaking out to slay? Buffy confesses to Giles that she's been going out more to slay. The First Slayer left her influence on Buffy after "Restless". "Restless" raised many questions in Buffy's mind about the role and the identity of the slayer. The writers immediately state that the idea of the slayer, the history and role of one, will be a prominent theme during the fifth season. What better vampire to bring to Sunnydale in the first episode than Dracula? He can tell her all about slayerdom.

Obviously, Buffy's actions in the teaser are unusual. She's always hunted and slayed because it's her sacred birthright, but she never went out to kill for the fun and thrill of it. So, the teaser wants the audience to wonder: why is Buffy behaving this way? Additionally, Buffy's separation from Riley in her slayer life cannot be ignored. The girl loved to tag-team slay with Angel but she quietly sneaks away while Riley's sleep.

"Real Me"--Written By David Fury; Directed By David Grossman

In a gym, Giles speaks softly and hypnotically to Buffy. Her eyes are closed, deep in concentration as Giles tells her, "you are the center of the world. And within you, there is the core of your being...of what you are...find it...breathe into it...focus inward...Let the world fall away...fall away...fall aw--" Buffy's eyes open and she flips herself into a hand stand. She remains in the position until a certain someone ruins the crystal pile. Buffy crashes to the floor, looks up to find her sister. Dawn wonders when they can go.

In the commentary for the episode, David Fury said he wanted to show Buffy tapping into the spiritual side of the slayer. At the end of "Buffy vs. Dracula," Buffy asks Giles to be her Watcher again because there's so much she needs to know. This marks the first time since season three that Giles actually puts her through training. It's the most beautifully shot teaser thus far in the entire series. Narratively, it reinforces the season-long theme introduced in the season premiere. Also, Buffy has a little sister now.

"The Replacement"--Written Jane Espenson; Directed James A. Contner

Buffy, Riley, Xander and Anya hang in Xander's basement, watching kung-fu movies. Buffy's absorbed in her history book. Xander tries to offer food but the cat peed on the hot plate, though "spaghetti-O's are one fluff cycle away from lukewarm goodness." Xander's parents argue upstairs. Xander considers finding a new place to live. Soon, Buffy perks up and she nit-picks the fight scenes in the kung-fu movie. Riley, a little rankled, tells Buffy that she's not on slayer duty all of the time. More fighting from upstairs as Xander squirms. Buffy insists that Riley would nit-pick an army movie done wrong like how Willow nitpicks witch movies. After all, "no one uses a cauldron anymore." Cut to, of course, a demon named Toth, who uses a cauldron. Naturally, he wants to kill the slayer but what demon or vamp doesn't want to do that?

Also, Xander's life is an utter mess. The latter drives "The Replacement". So we see Xander's messy life, more Buffy/Riley bickering, and clever "in" to the demon of the week.

"Out of My Mind"--Written By Rebecca Rand Kirschner; Directed By David Grossman

In the graveyard, Buffy waits for a vampire to rise. When she senses one, she lunges toward the vampire, but when she does, Riley comes out of nowhere to fight the vampire. Buffy stands, dumbfounded. Riley easily kicks the vampire's ass. Soon, Spike arrives for a spot of violence before bed-time. Buffy eventually stakes the vampire. She scolds Spike and almost scolds Riley but she bites her tongue; however, Spike (the keen observer of human behavior) notices that Buffy's not happy to see Riley there. Buffy doesn't make a big deal. She only tells him that she doesn't like him patrolling alone. They leave. Spike threatens to kill Buffy but the threat loses its might when he falls into an empty grave.

The quasi-triangle between Riley, Spike and Buffy sort of begins in the teaser. Spike realizes he loves the slayer by episode's end. The teaser teases the tension in Buffy and Riley's relationship, said tension being his struggles to deal Buffy's amazing strength and skill. Riley's in an even more delicate position because the drugs he used to receive from The Initiative are no longer available so, soon, he'll be a normal guy fighting vamps--a thought that concerns Buffy. This is Riley's episode. These issues dominate his arc.

"No Place Like Home"--Written By Douglas Petrie; Directed By David Solomon

Three monks frantically run away from something dangerous. The monks are in a frantic state because they need to protect The Key. As they perform the ritual, a thunderous boom continues. The door blasts open and all hell breaks loose but the powerful entity remains unseen by the viewer.

We cut to Buffy staking a vampire in an abandoned lot. A security guard shows up and politely asks Buffy to leave, explaining that he broke up a rave last night. He wants no raves, mistaking that she came for a rave. Buffy feigns disappointment. Before she leaves, the guard tells her not to forget her glowing orb. Ooo a glowing orb. He asks her what it is. Buffy will tell him when she knows.

The teaser introduces the concept of The Key and the season's Big Bad, who is in murderous pursuit of The Key. What is The Key? How about the orb? There's your episode.

"Family"--Written & Directed By Joss Whedon

Willows asks Tara to tell her a story, so Tara tells her the tale of a lonely kitten. The lonely kitten was swooped up by a man and taken to the pound. The tale ends with the kitten being taken home by nice people. After the tale, Willow wants to sleep, but Tara wants to research spells in an effort to assist the Scoobies because she never feels useful. Willow tells Tara that she's essential. Talk turns the factory and the ongoing Big Bad investigation. Willow figures she'd call if she did. In Buffy's house, Buffy tells Giles the truth about Dawn, how she's the Key, how the monks created her for Buffy to protect. Buffy struggles with the overwhelming truth. She remembers when her dad left, Dawn cried for a week, except she didn't, because she wasn't there. Dawn didn't exist then, but she did. The takeaway is Buffy's determination to protect her sister. Buffy doesn't want the others to know yet. She also expects Glory, the Big Bad, to come after them. Cut to Glory emerging from a pile of rubble and she's upset.

Audiences weren't in love with Tara quite yet so Joss wrote an episode to make the audience love Tara as much as Willow loves her. Tara's story about the kitten is basically her family history. She was lost and alone until Willow found her. Tara's concerns about her place in the group sets-up the touching denouement of the episode when the Scoobies defend Tara against her family because she's part of their family. Speaking of family, Buffy received a shocking truth about her little sister but she immediately recognizes that Dawn remains part of her family, and she'll protect her. SMG is superb in the scene.

"Fool For Love"--Written By Douglas Petrie; Directed By Nick Marck

Buffy fights a retro-looking vampire in the cemetery. She quips and puns until the vampire counters her move and drives the stake into her gut. Uh-oh.

Simple and effective. Buffy's barely had trouble fighting vampires in her job as a slayer but she makes a mistake and nearly pays for it. This is the inciting incident that drives "Fool For Love." How do slayers lose? Sometimes, the inciting incidents don't happen until the first act, but Petrie had to get to it quick. There's lots to do in "Fool For Love".

"Shadow"--Written By David Fury; Directed By James A. Contner

Buffy and Dawn wait in the hospital waiting room while their mother undergoes a CAT scan. Dawn's very worried. Buffy tries to soothe her sister. Meanwhile, the other Scoobies prepare for the grand re-opening of The Magic Box under Rupert Giles' ownership. Xander tells Giles that Riley blew a tomb up all by his lone wolf lonesome, rendering the help he, Willow and Anya meant to provide a waste of time. The gang begins researching Glory. Xander suspects she lives in some kind of sewer, or condemned church or rat-infected warehouse. Of course she doesn't, and the next scene shows Glory living in a luxurious space. Glory wants to do a spell that will tell her where The Key is. Where will she buy her supplies? The Magic Box!

This teaser splits between two ongoing stories: Joyce's persistent illness, and Glory's persistent threat to Buffy, Dawn, the Scoobies, and Sunnydale. Will Glory meet Buffy's friends? If so, what will happen? Also, what's going on with Joyce?

"Listening To Fear"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By David Solomon

The Summers women spend time together in the hospital room. Dawn eats jello. The doctor tells Joyce that her surgery's scheduled the day after tomorrow at 10AM. Joyce dreads spending two more days in the hospital. Buffy remains with her mom. explaining that Riley's on slayer duty. He's not. Xander, Willow, Giles do the slaying while Riley has his arm drained by a vampire.

The teaser includes necessary details for the MoTW such as Joyce's fatigue and the two day surgery wait. Riley's no-showed, which will inevitably make its way back to Buffy via her friends.

"Into The Woods"--Written & Directed By Marti Noxon

The teaser includes the old TV standby of the main characters waiting in the hospital for news of another character's fate. You had to wait until the commercials were over to learn Joyce's fate. She lives, of course. The scene offers a mini-preview of "The Body". The scene is tense, full of fear and anticipation, and real.

The inciting incident for the episode doesn't happen until half-way through the first act.

"Triangle"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By Christopher Hibler

Anya loves Xander so much, and she wants a "big bomb clock with big flashing lights" if he ever decides to leave her. Oh, she won't get that. Xander misses Riley, and he hopes Buffy does well. The teaser cuts to Buffy in a convent, which is a less inspired piece of writing than it probably seemed in the room.

It's a funny, heart-warming teaser that highlights Xander's and Anya's affection for one another. And it sort of teases the B story of Buffy wanting secure happiness for her friends' love lives.

"Checkpoint"--Written By Jane Espenson & Douglas Petrie; Directed By Nick Marck

Giles causes mild hysteria when he announces that the Watcher's Council has helpful information about Glory. Buffy hates them for what they did to her in "Helpless". Anya doesn't trust them because she's an ex-demon. Buffy doesn't want them to know that Dawn's the key; but the Scoobies need help.

Glory, meanwhile, sucked the brain of an innocent mailman. That's how she restores her energy. Her minions informed her that those damn Signs of Alignment have quickened. The time for They key is now.

At Glory's, the woman's sweating and in bad shape until she brain-sucks an innocent mailman. The brain-suck restores her energy. Her minions inform her that the signs of alignment are moving faster than expected. If she plans to use the Key, she must act quickly. Glory suspects the slayer knows.

It's a busy teaser at over five minutes long, but it is effective. The dialogue reminds the viewer about where the group stands with the council, who the key is, what it is that Glory wants, and even sets up the comedy part of the episode with Anya's council interactions. Sometimes one knows a show and its world so well that you forget the writers had to thrown in broad expositional reminders for newer viewers.

Remember, PART 2 will post tomorrow, friends and well-wishers.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Chicago Code "O'Craley's Cow" Review

Maybe I had a bad day today, which is affecting my thoughts on The Chicago Code but I enjoyed the last 8 minutes I saw of the CAA final so my day isn't limiting my enjoyment of all television. After a spectacular pilot, I've disliked each of the following episodes more and more. "O'Craley's Cow" further decreased my enjoyment of the show. Now, procedural cop dramas have never been in my wheelhouse. The "Pilot" gave the impression that The Chicago Code had more ambition that the typical network drama. I believe Shawn Ryan and the writers had more ambition, and maybe the rest of the season will be better than the recent string of episodes; however, it's a troubling trend. Tonight's episode was the most formulaic and uninteresting one of the series.

Teresa was involved in the most frustrating story of the episode. Terriers' own Rockmund Dunbar couldn't even save the trainwreck of the B story because he was saddled with a character common in the procedural world. I always wonder why characters who clearly violate and break the law are dumbstruck when they get in trouble for breaking said law. Dunbar's character, Robert, is married to Teresa's sister-in-law so Teresa had a personal connection to Robert's plight. The story's good in theory, too. It has potential on the white board and in the outline. Maybe the direction was unfocused or lacked confidence. The story made Teresa face issues that she's fought others in Chicago for. Issues such as bribery and cover-up. Would Teresa sacrifice her own integrity as well as her force for her family? Obviously, Teresa couldn't make that decision because she'd lose the trust of the audience. If she sacrificed her principles for family, it wouldn't make her more interesting or complex. It'd just make her inconsistent and unlikable. The writers didn't travel down that road. Teresa makes an equally hard choice in her decision not to help her sister and brother-in-law out of a messy situation.

I disliked the guest characters because their motivations and actions felt false. It felt like their motivations came from the plot rather than the character. Robert told his wife and Teresa that he took the money for house payments and to make up for money he lost in stock. Such truths don't evoke sympathy for a character. The episode wanted sympathy based on Beals' acting. It just fell flat. I didn't care whether or not Robert went to federal prison or how the incident would fracture Teresa's relationship with her them. I just didn't care about the story at all.

In the A story, a local youth preaching the word of God was murdered in Chinatown. Jarek and Caleb were on the case. Jarek had history with the unofficial mayor of Chinatown after a murder went unsolved five years ago because the "mayor" covered up the tracks of the killer to protect his people. The story was simple enough. African-American youths terrorized and robbed a few elderly Asian women in the neighborhood so the neighborhood retaliated by murdering someone they thought was involved in the attack. Mr. Lao (portrayed by LOST's own Francois Chao), the "mayor," doesn't part with information easily. The conflict makes it easy for characters to yell and behave in heightened ways but, again, the emotion felt forced. Lao clearly killed the youth based on his race. He's arrested but he'll be set free once he gives Jarek the name of the man who killed the woman and child five years ago (the case Jarek was never able to solve because of Lao). The story didn't really accomplish anything. Sure Jarek solved the case he couldn't five years ago. One of the guest characters received emotional closure about his wife and child. Overall, though, the story didn't do anything long-term for Jarek or Caleb.

Caleb tried to woo a pretty nurse named Natalie but she's reluctant to date a police officer after her experience informing the wives of two dead cops about their husbands death. Again, the motivation for Natalie seems somehow off. Nothing felt natural in "O'Craley's Cow."

Meanwhile, the undercover cop arc with Liam's getting worse by the week. It's so contrived and lazy. After talking with Jarek, Liam decides to follow the crew and take illegal side gigs. His gig involves burning a house down. Of course, a body's discovered at the scene and he decides the job is making him a killer but Jarek reminds him of the sacrifices of the job. The story of the undercover cop-who-goes-too-deep is a tired story. It's been done many times each and every decade, in both film and television. I want more imagination.

Overall, the episode has a few issues that may or may not be corrected in the episodes to come. TCC's starting to slump. Hopefully, they avoid a 2011 Villanova slump. The characters seemed weaker this week all-around. Maybe the story dictated it or maybe the show's becoming a more traditional, forgettable cop drama. I trust that it's not because of Shawn Ryan and Tim Minear.

Other notes:

-Jarek asked Lao about the electromagnetic occurrences in a security camera. I guess any time an actor involved in LOST appears on any other show, there will be a LOST reference. It makes sense. LOST is the greatest television show ever produced.

-Kevin Townsley wrote the episode. Clark Johnson directed it. Better luck next time.


Friday, March 4, 2011

What is the Best Buffy Teaser From Season Four?

The fourth season of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer marks a significant transition for the show from the high school years to the college years. College tests the friends' friendships and forms new identities. The Scoobies battle a paramilitary group called The Initiative--a group that performs wild experiments on demons. Dr. Walsh evidently loved Mary Shelley's Frankenstein maybe too much. Angel and Cordelia left Sunnydale for the happy streets of Los Angeles. Buffy finds herself in a relationship with a new man. Willow finds herself in love with a woman mid-way through the season after Oz' heartbreaking departure.

Season 4 is widely panned by Buffy fans because of the Initiative arc. While The Initiative arc itself isn't very memorable, season 4 is the last relatively "light" season before the gloominess of the final three seasons of the show. The tone and feel of the season isn't much different from the first three seasons of the show. The season features some of the best individual episodes in the series like "Hush," "Fear, Itself," "Restless," and "Who Are You?" Most importantly, the show hadn't lost its sense of fun yet (the show doesn't lose its sense of fun until the sixth season by the way). If the sixth season has its fervent supporters then the fourth season deserves its fervent supporters because season six is largely terrible

Of course, the central focus of today's post isn't the quality of the totality of season four but, rather, its teasers. Specifically, in this search for the best Buffy teaser of the series, which teaser stands-out from the fourth season? It's been a few weeks since the last Best Buffy Teaser post. A refresher: "Prophecy Girl," "When She Was Bad," and "The Wish" advanced into the finals of the tournament. So, this begs the question...



"The Freshman"--Written & Directed By Joss Whedon

Buffy's worried and unsettled about college. As she and Willow await a vampire to rise, Willow assists Buffy with her course selection because Buffy waited until the last minute to schedule her courses. Each course that Willow suggests causes Buffy to hesitate. Willow insists that it's prudent to have a plan, which Buffy agrees with; however, the summer's been hectic with the slaying and she lost track of time. As Willow and Buffy converse about the important of preparation, the vampire rises from the grave and silently prepares to attack the unsuspecting girls. Once he sees the arsenal of weapons, he flees. Buffy wonders if the vamp will ever rise.

The teaser's fairly quiet for a season opener. The teasers for the last two premieres show an out-of-sorts Buffy. "The Freshman" continues that, which Joss shows via Buffy's feelings about college, her worries about the adjustment period, her restlessness, and how her anxiety affects her slaying duties as evidenced by the vamp escaping without a stake in his heart. This theme continues throughout the episode--Buffy's self-doubt in the face of a whole new environment.

We also see a reversal. Willow's a the super-confident college girl. Buffy isn't. The Sunnydale High days are over for Willow Rosenberg. Additionally, we learn that Buffy and Willow have different rooms (thus roommates) and that Buffy needs protect her slayer secret again. Great stuff.

"Living Conditions"--Written By Marti Noxon; Directed By David Grossman

Oh, the college roommate. There are horror stories about college roommates so of course the show would address the roommate story. Kathy was introduced in the first episode but she had one scene in "The Freshman." The teaser for this episode establishes the Buffy-Kathy dynamic. The women have nothing in common. Kathy listens to Cher constantly. She insists that Buffy write her calls down so she knows how much of the phone bill to pay. Kathy questions Buffy about her milk-use. All the while, Buffy's trying to escape so she can patrol. She eventually does and rants about Kathy to Willow. Buffy tries to convince herself that Kathy's likable, that college is a time-of-change etc. Willow mentions that her roommate is challenging too. Soon, the girls part ways for the night as a demon cowers in the bushes.

The series never explains why Buffy and Willow didn't room together from the start. I assume the writers simply wanted to tell a roommate story, and Buffy/Willow apart made that story possible. There's nothing too terrible about Kathy. She's just an irritating personality with OCD elements. Buffy describes her as someone from the world of Mom-donia. Kathy's odd behavior is eventually explained. The demon in the bushes is involved in the A story. The teaser's rather lackluster though besides Willow and Buffy's brief comments about their place in the feminist movement. I love Willow's "Did we not put the Grrr in girl?" line.

"The Harsh Light of Day"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By James A. Contner

In The Bronze, Buffy and Willow converse about Parker--the guy Buffy's having lusty feelings for. Willow wonders why Buffy doesn't turn around to look at him. Buffy chose to watch Parker in the reflection. Buffy's not interested in crowding him at The Bronze, considering how much time the two spent with another during the week. Parker joins the table and offers to walk Buffy home. Later, outside, Oz and the band are packing their gear up for a trip to LA. Harmony approaches Willow. The two former classmates chat for a bit, update one another and then Harmony vamps out to show Willow how much she's really changed.

Buffy's feelings for Parker are important to establish in the teaser because of how badly burned she is by the guy at the end. The girl has lingering wounds from Angel's abrupt departure after graduation. Parker's more than just a simple guy to her. He represents her post-Angel life. He represents the possibility for Buffy to love someone who isn't the vampire-with-a-soul. Meanwhile, the teaser sets up Oz' involvement in ANGEL's "In The Dark." So, it's a busy teaser. Plus, Harmony's return sets up a certain other vampire's return to Sunnydale.

"Fear, Itself"--Written By David Fury; Directed By Tucker Gates

Buffy's in a post-Parker funk. The Scoobies are gathered in Xander's basement, preparing for their Halloween fun. Xander planned movies, unaware that the college folk planned on attending a Halloween frat party. The knowledge only adds to Xander's insecurity about his place amongst his college-going friends. Buffy leaves. On her walk home, she punches a human-in-demon costume. He wonders what's wrong with her. Buffy wonders the same.

The teaser establishes two fundamental issues for the episode--Buffy and Xander's loneliness though Xander hides his behind humor. The central setting for the episode is established (the Halloween frat party). It's enjoyable as well, especially the banter about the pumpkins and the video mix-ups (Fantasia instead of Phantasm). I love this show.

"Beer Bad"--Written By Tracey Forbes; Directed By David Solomon

Buffy remains consumed by thoughts of Parker even though he's a lousy dude. In the graveyard, Buffy saves Parker's life from ferocious vampires. Parker asks for Buffy's forgiveness as he owes her his life; however, it's a dream, and Dr. Walsh explains how the ego and the id battle when a person cannot have what they want all the time. The conflict between the ego and the id manifests itself in dreams, which is what Buffy's exactly doing. Her next dream involves a shirt-less Parker, ice cream and make-up sex.

This is the third consecutive Parker-dominated teaser. Luckily, the Parker arc ends in "Beer Bad". The teaser establishes that Buffy needs to find someway to get over the guy. While Walsh explains Buffy's dreams as a way for the psyche to give Buffy what she wants, I'll argue that her dreams reveal how badly Buffy needs to move past Parker. With that clear, the events of "Beer Bad" are natural from a Buffy-Parker perspective.

"Wild At Heart"--Written By Marti Noxon; Directed By David Grossman

The script reads: "A pastoral campus tableau. Students sitting on benches talking, looking at a kiosk, milling about." Soon, Buffy's flying through the campus, running from a vampire. Buffy and the vamp reach a secluded area where Buffy turns the tables on the predator. She dispatches the vamp quickly though she's perturbed that the vamp didn't acknowledge her painstakingly thought-out plan. In the distance, Spike watches and issues a threat through monologue but he's soon interrupted by a taser blow. He's whisked away by men in military fatigues.

It's a short teaser to show that Spike hasn't left town, that the military guys we've seen around the campus, most recently in "Fear, Itself", know and have interest in demons. I enjoy the meta-ness of Buffy's pun-filled dialogue as well. Unfortunately, this won't win Best Teaser of Season 4. "Wild At Heart" is all about Oz and Willow and the teaser features neither character.

"The Initiative"--Written By Douglas Petrie; Directed By James A. Contner

Riley, Forrest and, eventually, Graham sit at a table in the cafeteria. The characters look at all of those cute girls populating the cafeteria, in various stages of getting lunch. Forrest hopes that half-as-many cute girls in the cafeteria come to their party. Riley, meanwhile, is uninterested until Buffy pops up in the cafeteria though he argues he's not interested in her because she's always in another world during their conversations; however, Forrest has no issues with the girl looks-wise. Riley doesn't deny her physical appearance. Forrest argues that many guys would like to get their hands on her. The teaser cuts to Spike who, in his sedated state, mumbles words about killing the slayer. He's in laboratory--a place that is seemingly endless.

This is a wonderful teaser. It features some great physical comedy from Sarah Michelle Gellar as she tries to get her lunch together. Contner directed the episode so well. Mark J. Goldman edited it excellently and it's excellently written. This teaser marks the first time that characters outside of the Scoobies commented on Buffy so it's fun to hear the opinions on Buffy from characters who aren't aware of her life or job. The teaser nicely sets up Riley's attraction to the slayer even though his actual lines conflict with obvious attraction. Plus, there's more mystery with Spike's new home.

"Pangs"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By Michael Lange

Buffy saves a young woman from a vampire attack. The vampire bitches and moans about how great life was on campus before the slayer arrived as a college student. Buffy's satisfied that she's made life miserable for the vamps. She dusts him and leaves. In the shadows, Angel lurks. Buffy has a sensation that she's being watched. She walks off though, unresolved.

The purpose of the teaser: Angels' back! The two characters still share a connection even when the one is unaware of the other's presence.

"Something Blue"--Written By Tracey Forbes; Directed By Nick Marck

Willow walks around Oz' empty room, looking at his belongings he left behind when he left town suddenly. Willow still feels pain. The next day, Riley and Buffy plan a picnic together. Riley tells Buffy that he practices conversations with her because she's like an oral exam (it's a compliment though). Buffy melts when Riley describes her as beautiful. Later, on patrol, Buffy expresses momentary hesitation because Riley's not making her miserable--she feels like something's missing. Besides that, Riley's what she needs. While Buffy's excited about a new guy in her life, Willow walks beside her a wounded lady.

This is a comedy episode in which magic up-ends character and relationship dynamics. We need to see where Riley and Buffy are as a couple for a later scene involving her and Spike as an engaged couple. Willow's heartbreak drives the episode. Relationships are painful, especially when they end.

"Hush"--Written & Directed By Joss Whedon

Dr. Walsh opens the episode with a lecture about communication--the importance of actual communication, inspired by the moment and not the idea. She wants Buffy to take part in a demonstration about thoughts and experiences that we don't have words for. Soon, Buffy and Riley are making out and the sun goes down. Buffy hears a young girl singing ominous lyrics then she sees a hideous face with a hideous grin and she wakes up. After class, Buffy and Riley discuss their plans for the evening. Both have to cover for what they'll actually be doing. They nearly kiss until Buffy ruins the mood.

Of course, the scene dominated by the theme of communication would be followed by two characters lying to one another about their plans. This is "Hush" after all--the episode with 29 minutes of silence. Joss argues that people begin communicating when they stop talking. Buffy and Riley are prime examples as no communication exists between the two--it's just wasteful words (or noise).

"Doomed"--Written By Marti Noxon & David Fury & Jane Espenson; Directed By James A. Contner

"Hush" ends with Buffy and Riley in silence. They have their voices back and the ability to communicate but neither can. "Doomed" begins with their conversation. Riley's never heard of the slayer while Buffy figured out The Initiative already. Buffy suggests the two spend some time apart to assess the situation. Soon, an earthquake hits; however, Buffy's skeptical that it's an actual earthquake and, instead, another apocalypse.

"Doomed" obviously had to unpack the events of "Hush" before it could move onto its story. It's dominated by exposition. The earthquake portends some apocalyptic hijinx.

"A New Man"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By Michael Gershman

The teaser opens with Buffy and Riley kissing in her dorm room. "Like good cocoa, it's both and hot sweet". That's from Espenson's script. Anyway, Willow interrupted them to bring Buffy to her surprise birthday party. Nothing terrible happens on Buffy's birthday this season.

"The I In Team"--Written By David Fury; Directed By James A. Contner

Willow, Xander and Anya are gathered in Xander's basement, playing poker. The trio discuss Buffy, Riley and The Initiative. Xander doesn't trust them because no one knows what they're up to. Willow thinks they're good because they are anti-demon. Buffy isn't at the poker game due to her activities with Riley and The Initiative.

She's training with The Initiative. It took Forrest and Graham 47 minutes to track her and only 28 seconds to neutralize the two guys. Riley's proud; however, Dr. Walsh isn't as taken with Buffy as the rest. She looks "cold as ice" as she watches Buffy with Riley.

"The I in Team" kicks The Initiative arc into high gear. Xander's the voice of the audience, untrustworthy of the group as a whole. The teaser shows that Buffy is more separate from her friends. That's never good for Buffy. Something's not right with these demon-fighters.

"Goodbye Iowa"--Written By Marti Noxon; Directed By David Solomon

Buffy briefs Giles, Willow, Xander, Spike and Anya about the death trap that Dr. Walsh put her into. Spike casts suspicion on Riley as a co-conspirator in the "Make Buffy Dead" assignment but Buffy believes Riley's innocent because Maggie kept Riley far away from the assignment. The Scoobies aren't safe because of the info they have about The Initiative. Maggie made it clear she's hiding something as she attempted to murder Buffy for asking too many questions. Her secret, of course, is Adam.

A very plot-driven teaser for a Riley-centric episode. After all, there are so many questions about Mr. Riley Finn. We meet Adam-The Initiative's mad experiment free to roam the town of Sunnydale.

"This Year's Girl"--Written By Douglas Petrie; Directed By Michael Gershman

Buffy and Faith put clean sheets on Buffy's bed. The two discuss the pleasant smell of clean sheets--like summer. Buffy glances at a clock on the wall and insists she has to leave. Faith understands, "Little sis is coming. I know. So much to do before she gets here." The bed's finished but blood begins dripping onto the white sheet. Faith wonders whether Buffy will ever take the knife out of her gut. Instead, Buffy drives the knife further into Faith's gut. In the hospital, Faith reacts to that visceral dream as she heart rate jumps for a second before returning to normal. She lays there, comatose.

Besides foreshadowing Dawn in season five, the teaser lets the audience know that Faith is back and she hasn't forgotten about Buffy stabbing her even as she lies in a coma. It's a teaser full of symbolism and foreshadow. I bet Joss wrote it.

"Who Are You?"--Written & Directed By Joss Whedon

"Who Are You?" is the second part of "This Year's Girl." In past seasons, the second parter's teaser is short. The trend continues. Faith's unconscious body is removed from the Summers household; however, Faith switched bodies with Buffy so it's actually Buffy in Faith's body and vice-versa. A detective describes Faith as "definitely dangerous." Oh, if he only knew.

The teaser reminds the audience of the body switch. Buffy is Faith and Faith is Buffy. There's a sense of tension and dread, because Faith is capable of doing anything.

"Superstar"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By David Grossman

The Scoobies fight a snarling vampire. Buffy's flanked by another vamp. She dusts one. The other disappears. The Scoobies investigate a crypt where they find five vampires sloppily drinking from a human being. The gang realize task is too tough and they need someone else--and that someone Jonathan, who lives in a mansion.

Well, obviously, something's not right with reality if Jonathan's the key to fighting evil in Sunnydale. The teaser successfully sets up the "What the hell?!?" element. That's about it. Willow has a great line about vampires and napkins after watching five vampires sloppily drinking a victim's blood: "I don't care if it is an orgy of death. There's still such a thing as a napkin."

"Where The Wild Things Are"--Written By Tracey Forbes; Directed By David Solomon

The sex episode. Buffy and Riley meet a vampire/demon tag-team while on patrol. They choose to have sex instead of tell Giles about what they find. And they don't stop having sex for most of the episode.

We all know that slaying can make some slayers horny (to use Faith's words). Buffy and Riley are so consumed by physical attraction that everything else becomes secondary, which is unusual for Buffy.  So, what's going on? Is it connected to the odd tag team? Of course.

"New Moon Rising"--Written By Marti Noxon; Directed By James A. Contner

I like when Buffy's writers took a generalized type of exposition and swiftly turned it into something more personal like in this episode's teaser when the Scoobies speculate why evil activity is low (a Big Evil is looming). Something important is brewing, Giles asserts, and then Oz shows up, back in Sunnydale, at the worst time for Willow. She's in love with Tara. We see her affection in Willow's effort to make Tara feel part of the gang at Giles'. The writing cleverly disguises Oz's return. Leave it to Joss to bring Oz back at the exact wrong time for Willow.

"The Yoko Factor"--Written By Douglas Petrie; Directed By David Grossman

Colonel McNamara of The Initiative updates Ward about Buffy and The Initiative. Both want Riley on their side. Neither particularly fears Buffy because she's "just a girl." Cut to Spike, telling Adam that Buffy's far more than just a girl. He promises that Adam will be dead if he doesn't take Buffy seriously. Spike wants Adam to be ready for Buffy. Adam very much is.

The teaser's a table-setter for the two part resolution of the season-long Initiative arc. One evil side underestimates Buffy while the other expects violence from Buffy. Never underestimate Buffy Summers because she'll kick your ass. She's the greatest.

"Primeval"--Written By David Fury; Directed By James A. Contner

Again, the second part of a two-parter is rarely long. Riley's in Adam's lair because Dr. Walsh implanted a behavior modifier in him that strips him of power. Adam calls him his brother because Maggie had great plans for the both of them.

The teaser comments on the surprise ending of "The Yoko Factor" and explains the truth of the situation--that Riley's a slave to a chip in his body. One wonders what plans Adam has but that's for the rest of the episode.

"Restless"--Written & Directed By Joss Whedon

Oh, "Restless." What an episode. An all-timer. The teaser opens as Riley prepares to depart for a de-briefing. Joyce finally meets him. He leaves. Xander brings in popcorn. He, Buffy, Willow and Giles prepare to watch a movie as a reward for beating the government. No one thinks they can sleep; however, once the movie begins, all are asleep.

This is the first time we see what happens after a huge battle with the Big Bad. The Scoobies try to relax and sleep. Of course, this time, the gang has some side-effects from the mojo they used to help them in their fight. They awoke something primal and that primal entity will meet them in their dreams. Besides the sleeping part, Riley confirms that The Initiative, in its evil-form, is done.

AND THE WINNER OF THE BEST BUFFY TEASER FROM SEASON FOUR IS..."The Harsh Light of Day." Why? I don't know. This format is a way for me to write about each teaser.

Here's a list in descending order: 22. "Superstar" 21. "Beer Bad" 20. "A New Man" 19. "Where The Wild Things Are" 18. "Who Are You?" 17. "Wild At Heart" 16. "Primeval" 15. "Doomed" 14. "Pangs" 13. "Living Conditions" 12. "The Yoko Factor" 11. "The Freshman" 10. "The I in Team" 9. "Goodbye Iowa" 8. "Restless" 7. "Something Blue" 6. "This Year's Girl" 5. "Hush" 4. "Fear, Itself" 3. "New Moon Rising" 2. "The Initiative" 1. "Harsh Light of Day"

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.