Thursday, June 30, 2011

The 2011 Re-Watch: Everwood "We Hold these Truths" Review

The 4th of July will be celebrated on Monday, so what better way to prepare for the holiday weekend than by watching Everwood's "We Hold these Truths" with its flashbacks to a fateful 4th of July day that revealed the truth behind Colin's car accident? "We Hold these Truths" isn't about the 4th of July holiday though (it just provides comedic material for Tom Amandes' Harold Abbott). It's about hidden truths and the emergence of those truths along with the guilt that accompanies said truths (truth is the word of the day in The Foot). More importantly, the episode's about Colin Hart--who is he? why should we care about him? why should we care about his relationship with Amy or friendship with Bright or his relationship with the town? "The Doctor Is In" focused on the doctor. "We Hold these Truths" is about the patient.

Colin Hart's the golden boy of Everwood, the kind of kid who would be paid three weeks for two weeks worth of lawn work because of his natural charm. He was all-state in football. The town adores him. Colin dated the daughter of one of the most respected married couples in Everwood--Rose and Harold. He's a great son, friend, boyfriend and neighbor. He's a teenager, though, so he occassionally he swipes alcohol from his father and takes the new truck for a joy ride with Bright; however, those decisions don't stem from rebellion as much as a drive to live life to the fullest--to take advantage of every second of breath one inhales and exhales. The two decisions, the liquor and swiping the truck keys, ultimately lead to his comatose but the flashbacks unearth a truth that Bright kept hidden from his family, the Harts and the authorities--he was behind the wheel when the truck crash and he blames himself entirely for Colin's coma.

Before the crash, Bright told his friend that he shouldn't drive because he felt drunk from the liquor they drank during the 4th of July picnic. Colin pressures his friend into driving the new truck around and Bright relents. Bright's the reasonable person throughout their seasons. Colin's impulsive. He uses his charm, his way with words, to assure Bright that nothing bad will happen. Bright believes him, and then something bad happens. The flashbacks explain why Bright's been distant from Colin, the accident and why he opted against going to Denver with his sister. The surgery, though, changes Bright and he confesses the truth to his father and then the Harts.

Amy harbors guilt from the day of the accident as well. The girl's been a constant presence in Colin's life since the accident, and she always believed that someone would be able to fix the only boy she loved. She told Colin that she loved him on a pristine summer's day at Buck's Rock--a place where most people's doubts about the existence of a higher power are erased because of its beauty, as Irv describes it. Colin didn't respond to her confession of love. Instead, he swam away. This decision created a fight he was unaware of. Amy ignored him on the 4th of July and she believes that Colin left the picnic because he was running away from her. Amy feels responsible for the accident. Ephram softly explains that he, too, felt responsible for his mother's accident for some time but he realized that he tried to rationalize an irrational thing--that, in the end, it was what it was--an accident. He defends Colin's lack of "I love you" by explaining it's hard to say what one feels even when one wants to say it. Amy, in her own way, thanks Ephram for being with her. She notes that of all the people she's known throughout her life, none showed up--only Ephram.

Colin's awakening means more than just two characters getting their friend and boyfriend back (respectively). It represents a chance for forgiveness and redemption. They need Colin to come back for more reasons than the obvious, which is good storytelling. The arc, as I wrote about last week, is more ambitious than 'brilliant brain surgeon performs medical miracle on comatose teenager," which I'll write about more as the season continues. As of the seventh episode, Andy performs successful surgey that involved the removal of two bone chips from the brain stem. The outlook's optimistic. Colin's probably going to wake up but no one can predict how he'll be when he wakes up.

Now, doctor and patient are united for good or ill. Presently, Andy Brown's the hero--the white knight who came from Manhattan to perform a miracle on the golden boy of Everwood. Harold quietly thanks Andy. Amy hugs and kisses the doctor. Andy plays a game of clue with his son before they return home, after Andy explains that he was afraid of failing his son if the surgery went badly. His goal to be a father and doctor's working splendidly; however, it's only the seventh episode and the season has many episodes left.

"We Hold these Truths" closes with a flashback. The story returns to Buck's Road where Bright, Amy and Colin lay in the sun. The Abbott siblings worry about being late for dinner. Amy remarks that she and Bright don't have all day to lay in the sun. Colin responds, "sure we do." The line suggests we enjoy life as much as we can while we're blessed to be alive, that a perfect day (as Irv described a day at Buck's Road) has a timeless quality that allows three friends to sit in the sun nothing to do but live and enjoy life.

The episode's excellent--one of the best in the series. It's a great introduction for Colin Hart and its expertly told story that adds more depth to the main arc of the season. The performances are understated, which has always been a strength of the series. Berlanti and his writers were great with subtext as were the actors. In any scene, so much is conveyed without much dialogue. And the season just gets better from here.

Joan Binder Weiss wrote the episode. Jason Moore directed it.

UP NEXT: "Till Death Do Us Part"--Andy feels the pain of his wife's death even more on their wedding anniversy. He also helps the reverend deal with a food allergy days before the annual Hope sermon. Ephram and Amy kiss (and she also waits for news on Colin's awakening). Rose wants Harold to learn salsa with her.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Dawson's Creek "Baby" Review

Any time two or three characters have deep issues with the other, the show runner will build an episode around those conflicts being dealt with in one setting. For example, Boy Meets World built an episode around Shawn, Cory and Mr. Feeny in the mountains for the weekend, which allowed Shawn and Feeny to work out their differences and understand one another. The formula doesn't change regardless of the series--conflict, understanding, catharsis. Sometimes the stories are crutches, sometimes they aren't. Sometimes the stories exist for the viewer to understand one of the characters better. Whereas before the character might've been written without depth or nuance, the character might emerge as a fully-formed character with more layers than the viewer would've guessed.

Grams is one such character who benefits from this kind of story in "Baby." Until this episode, Grams has been portrayed as a racist, religious fundamentalist with no more depth than a blade of grass. In her previous brief scenes, she judged the Potters as bad people because of their poverty and interracial relationships. She judged her granddaughter for her lack of faith in God, and she judged her relationship with Dawson because he's a teenage boy with no control over his hormones. Grams spied on Jen from the window with mistrustful glances then timed her interruptions when Dawson tried to kiss his girlfriend goodbye. She was the token curmudgeonly grandmother until she opted against judging Gail for her adultery, and until she gave Dawson solace and counsel--the potential for someone more sympathetic and relatable.

"Hurricane" had two scenes with Bodie, Bessie and Grams to show the conflict between the characters. Grams doesn't approve of their co-habitation out-of-wedlock nor their baby-to-be conceived out of wedlock nor of their interracial relationship. The very pregnant Bessie's only a week away from her due date when "Baby" begins, which means she'll give birth by episode's end because TV producers and writers love early labor and the craziness that emerges from such a scenario. Indeed, Bessie goes into labor as soon as Bodie leaves Capeside for the day on a business venture. The only paramedic in town's occupied with a multi-car pile up on the expressway. The Potter sisters had to row to Leery Manor to use the phone because the Potter phone's disconnected. The lack of a paramedic and the presence of two teenagers transforms Leery Manor into an island--an island in need of an RN with forty years of experience.

The one person Bessie doesn't want to see during her labor is the only person who can deliver the baby in a safe and timely manner. Whatever resentments Bessie has for Grams must be quelled for her safety as well as her baby's, which is what Grams tells her to do when Bessie calls Joey "Judas" for requesting her help. Grams takes control of the room. She soothes Bessie, orders the teenagers around to fetch various items and slaps Dawson in the face when he and his camera annoy her. Grams transforms into a benevolent being. Of course, transforms is the wrong word to use because Grams always possessed their benevolent traits--we just saw her through the lens of characters who clashed with her. Jen alarms Bessie when she notices the amount of blood on the blanket. Grams orders her granddaughter to quit second-guessing her and to keep such observations to herself--that she'll best help by following orders. And when Bessie's tired and full of fear, she convinces the mother-to-be to recite the Lord's Prayer. The power of prayer and her sister's hand in her own gives her enough strength to push one last time, and then, baby Alexander's part of the world. The relationship between Grams and Bessie changed, for the better.

The story allows Jen and Grams to understand one another as well. The two clashed over religious beliefs, and their different lifestyles clashed. They're equally enigmatic to one another. Jen just doesn't understand her grandmother. The experience with Bessie helps Jen to understand her Grams more--she's a strong, capable independent and caring woman. The woman wants what's best for her granddaughter and what's best for others. Grams has her beliefs but she's not racist nor does she spit upon those poorer than she. She's a good woman, and that's the point of the A story in "Baby." The episode's necessary for Grams because, without it, she doesn't become as awesome as she is for the rest of the series.

In the B story, the relationship between Pacey and Tamra ends. The rumors about teacher and student after a kid smoking in the stall overheard Pacey openly discussing the relationship with Dawson. Pacey falls on the sword, though, when Tamara's brought before the school board for questioning. Tamara escapes from the relationship unscathed and, soon, she'll be out of Capeside. Pacey's sad because he opened his mouth. He's also sad because his first relationship's done and his first love's leaving his life and his town. The beats should be more effective but they aren't. Williamson and his writers did a poor job with the story. I never cared about Tamara nor her relationship with Pacey. Pacey's only been defined by his relationship with Tamara, which hurts the character and the audience investment in it. Now that Ms. Jacobs is out of the story, Pacey starts to become the great character he's remembered as.

Some Other Thoughts:

-The resident soulmates don't have much story in "Baby." Joey remembers her mother during Bessie's labor. Dawson comforts her. The two have great material in the seventh episode of the season though.

-Anytime one of the teenagers experiences angst, grunge rock's the soundtrack. It's not effective. Whenever I hear it, it makes me laugh because it's ridiculous.

-Jon Harmon Feldman

UP NEXT: "Detention"--Dawson, Joey, Jen and Pacey spend their Saturday in detention. The school trouble-maker, Abby Morgan, creates drama when she convinces the foursome to play a game of truth-or-dare. People will kiss. Dawson will go insane because someone calls him an oompa-loopma.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

True Blood "She's Not There" Review

If True Blood's nominated for another Outstanding Drama award in the Emmy's then I'll have no choice but to imitate Sean Maher's Simon Tam and utter the words "this is what going mad must feel like" because True Blood's among the worst series on television. The fact that people must pay to watch the channel that broadcasts the series doesn't make True Blood a quality series bursting with award potential. The first eight minutes of the fourth season were so bad that I'm stunned Syfy hasn't sued because those first eight minutes were Syfy quality--yes, Syfy quality.

Season 4 moved the narrative forward 12.5 months. Bill's the King. Eric bought Sookie's home. Jason's a police officer. Tara's a cage fighter in New Orleans. Andy's addicted to V. Lafayette can't shake the magic stuff. Terry and Arelene's baby rips the heads off dolls (and yes I remember who the father of the baby is). Jessia and Hoyt experience domestic problems because of their newfound domesticity. Hoyt's mother and Tommy have their own subplot somehow. Sam found three kindred spirits who shape-shift, and together they shift into horses and gallop around Bon Temps. Crystal's family rely on Jason for food and house repairs until they lock him in a broken freezer. Oh, and Sookie returned from fairyland, unaware of the changes in her own town (also the fairy stuff is atrocious).

The good: the narrative moved nearly a year, which guarantees change. The bad: the episode.

The heroine of the story, Sookie, spends the majority of the episode watching television in her old house. I understand the reason because the episode's about what happened she was not in Bon Temps. Regardless, Sookie has no discernible arc for the season besides her usual role in the love triangle (and yeah the fairy nonsense isn't going away but the seeds for that arc were unoriginal and uninspired--what's the difference between Sookie wanting to save the humans from the fairys and Sookie wanting to save the humans from bull-jawn in season 2?). Sookie used to be a great character until she became a passive character with no personal arc. The love triangle might be more tolerable if the two vampires hadn't willfully taken advantage of their powers and manipulated the girl's thinking in an attempt to make her love them. Why should I care about Bill and Eric when both are bastards?

True Blood has too many characters and half of their characters aren't interesting enough to steal away screen time from the more interesting characters. Of course, the more interesting characters are involved in stories that I have no interest in like love triangles and power plays in the political vampire sub-culture of Bon Temps. Alan Ball and his writers (and Charlaine Harris doesn't escape blame as author of the books) spend too much time setting up stories that will most likely mean nothing when season four ends in the fall. The only thing that happens in these arcs is character assassination--like Sam, who ended season three by shooting Tommy in the back, and who opens the season openly resenting the man he failed to kill and, seemingly, will try to murder again. His arc last season involved his shape-shifting roots but that went nowhere; his arc, in season four, involves other shape-shifters who will either fade into irrelevancy OR get killed by Sam.

Lafayette's involved in the damn witchcraft arc. In season two, Tara found herself in the Maryann arc. In season three, the vampires and Sookie were involved in the Russell arc. Both were miserable arcs that seemingly wouldn't end. The witchcraft arc is going to be terrible. As soon as the leader of the coven resurrected the bird, I knew the arc would be a disaster. The addition of Fiona Shaw as the Big Bad received some critical praise because of her name--her performance could be worse than Michelle Forbes' run as Maryanne in season two. The character, at the very least, seems worse than Maryanne. Lafayette obviously has some wiccan spirit within him that I have no interest in the show exploring but they will...they will.

The other characters will have their screen time in stories unrelated to the larger arcs in the season. Jessica's poised to explore her vampiric nature in a potentially interesting storyline except her exploration will create problems between she and Hoyt, and the couple were broken up for the majority of season three so the show seemingly won't cover new ground with them. Tara's living under a false identity in New Orleans and she's involved in a lesbian relationship. The girl has no interest in returning to Bon Temps, though her success as a kickboxer/cage fighter probably will come in handy when the witches take too much control of Bon Temps.

The reveal of Bill-as-King wasn't a jaw-dropping surprise. If one's supposed to wonder how he became the King, I don't know why. Bill's the chivalrous vampire with a heart-of-gold. Of course he'll become king over Eric, who angered the vampire community one too many times. Bill seemingly enjoys his newfound powers. At the very least, the change will make Bill a more interesting and dynamic character than who he's been for the previous three seasons. The change also adds a new wrinkle to he and Eric's rivalry but, again, I don't care about the love triangle.

"She's Not There" is an awful episode. Everything I dislike about the show remains the same. At this point, the show is what it is and its fanbase is what it is. I won't write about the entire season--I'll just complain about the same things week after week. I'm writing about the second episode because of its availability on HBO Go. I might write about the season finale. The season premiere set up too many stories and, thus, sacrificed a cohesive story so I'll see if season two tells any kind of singular story.

True Blood veteran Alexander Woo penned the episode; Michael Lehman directed it.


Friday, June 24, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Monty Python's Flying Circus "Owl-Stretching Time"

Sometimes, a Monty Python Flying Circus is just about teeth and poking fun at the British army's slogan. Not every episode will launch me into thinking about the allusions to Nietzsche and Marx and their respective philosophies. More often than not, I usually just enjoy Monty Python for the laughs and entertainment the troupe readily delivers in every episode. "Owl-Stretching Time" is quite literally about teeth and the no-nonsense British army. Roland Barthes argued that the author is dead but I have no interest in arguing that the episode's about much larger issues beyond teeth and poking fun at an army slogan.

"Owl-Stretching Time" has two of my all-time favorite sketches in the entire series. The troupe never stopped experimenting with genres or styles. The trees episode had three sketches completely different from the other with various uses of an actual punch line. The owl episode has an actual beginning, middle and end. The last two sketches put the button on the episode, so to speak. The episode opens with a title card that reads: "Episode Arthur--Part 7" and then cuts to Eric Idle--he's playing a guitar and singing. Another title card appears, reading, "It's a Man's Life in the Cardiff Rooms, Libya."

The colonel I wrote about last week makes his debut in the episode as he warns the producers to not make fun of the "It's a Man Life" slogan again or he'll be forced to stop the show pre-maturely. The colonel's one of a few characters who commentates directly on the show as it's happening. The episode features two other characters with one line each who then whine about only having one line when another character makes fun of said one line. The colonel holds episodes together because he constantly reminds the actors and the audience how silly the show is. His issues with silliness have zero influence because silliness follows his interjections almost always. His last scene in episode four is followed by the infamous fresh fruit sketch, which is notable because the colonel blatantly ordered the producers to cease making fun of the army. Incredulously, he wonders why the episode's not about teeth as originally advertised.

And, really, "Owl-Stretching Time" isn't about teeth. The episode ends after a sketch about rival dentists in search for certain fillings. Why? It doesn't matter because it's awesome. The sight of Terry Jones carrying a bazooka on his shoulder in his pursuit to find fillings makes the entire premise worth. The troupe doesn't have much to say about the army either besides their overt accusations that the army bans laughter and jocularity. The BDA sketch combines elements from James Bond and other spy/espionage movies with trademark double-crosses complete with the reveal of the evil mastermind and his white cat all while set within the safe confines of a book store. Adjectives fly at the screen before the sketch, highlighting what readers will find within the pages of the book. The troupe, though, shows that conspiratorial intrigue between rival dentists doesn't happen in pulp novels or other books BUT WITHIN THE BOOKSTORE ITSELF.

The joy in Flying Circus isn't the meaning behind the sketches, of course. The joy, entertainment and fun one finds in the series comes from the acting, the clever wordplay and ridiculous sketches the Pythons brainstormed and executed. The fresh fruit sketch's so great because of its nonsensical silliness. John Cleese goes nuts for the entire five minutes, only varying his degree of insanity when another character in the sketch drops the name of a fruit and Cleese FREAKS OUT. The sketch is utterly absurd and fantastic because of its absurdity. Cleese's character teaches his students how to defend themselves against fresh fruit. The student play the role of the aggressor and Cleese shows how to defend oneself: either shoot the person, drop a 16 ton on him or unleash a tiger.

Subsequently, the BDA sketch shines because of the concept and the acting. I love the casual double-crosses, the innocent and inquisitive Arthur (played by Eric Idle), the pauses in action so Cleese can confirm or deny something to Arthur, the reveal of Graham Chapman's villain as he strokes Flubsy, his white cat, then shoots the cat because it doesn't respond to a question (one of my all-time favorite deliveries is delivered by Chapman in this sequence--"that'll teach you to play hard to get. There, poor Flubsy's dead. And never called me mother"). The sketch ends just as The Big Cheese releases the gas that will kill the dentists because it's 1 in the afternoon and time for lunch. See, the episode's about teeth.

One last thing before I end the post--I love the first sketches with the edible art, especially Michael Palin's art critic character. Rather than describe it, I'll embed the clip for all to enjoy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-watch: Everwood "The Doctor Is In" Review

When Andy and Julia had their conversation about Everwood, Julia told her husband that he'd need to stop being the big city doctor so he could perform miracles for the small town people because they need miracles too. The insular community of Everwood sometimes is a doctor's best friend or worst enemy, depending on the situation. Andy's gotten to know the town's prejudices and small minded-ness in a short time span because of medical cases he was directly involved in or defending. The town can be utterly unforgiving.

In Manhattan, Andy Brown moved from patient to patient without taking the time to know the person he'd be performing brain surgery on. He couldn't afford to let himself think of the people he'd be affecting if he failed. If he fails to perform successful surgery on a beloved person of Everwood then he'll have to face his failure and the grief and pain he caused people because of his failure. Specifically, with Colin Hart, he'll not only let down his son but also the Abbotts, the Harts and Colin most importantly. Colin's the golden boy of the town so the entire town will look at Andy differently.

"The Doctor Is In" truly begins one of the great arcs in television drama history and, certainly, the best arc in the four seasons of Everwood. The episode ends without a decision regarding surgery but it successfully establishes the stakes for the characters. For Andy, it's about the outcome and he never thought about the outcome in Manhattan because he never thought about the patients in terms of their life with family and friends because brain surgery becomes more daunting. For Amy, it's about the life or death for the only boy she's ever loved. The girl become catatonic when she realized that Colin would never come back to her without surgery. For Harold, it's about what his heart-broken daughter deserves, what he deserves and what every other doctor deserves because Andy's been blessed with a rare surgical gift and it'd be a blatant waste of God-given ability to opt against performing a surgery that he'll succeed with. For the Harts, it's about their son's quality of life or the possibility of death if the risky surgery fails.

Andy declines to perform the surgery though he tells his son that the Harts declined to take the chance with surgery. The truth emerges, and Andy's forced to confront his own neurosis over the surgery. He consults Dr. Trott, Everwood's favorite traveling psychologist, about his fears and doubts. Trott offers little helpful advice, only imparting a weird 'welcome to the human race, Dr. Brown' when Andy admits that being a father and a small town doctor's harder than he expected because each case is much more personal. Of course, advice was secondary in his meeting with Dr. Trott. Andy needed someone to talk to and he couldn't honestly express his feelings to ANYONE in Everwood because people are too invested in Colin Hart or Amy and won't see clearly without bias. Once he discussed his concerns and worries with a neutral party, he could move onto what he was seemingly put on earth to do, which is save Colin Hart.

The arc's truly just beginning so I don't want to write too much about where it goes but I enjoyed the foreshadowing in this episode. Andy's not a stupid man. As high as the highs get are as low as the lows get. I wrote about how masterfully Kevin Williamson and Joss Whedon structure their big arcs in past posts. The same mastery applies to Berlanti and his writers. "The Doctor Is In" deals with the initial stages of the arc--the decision, establishing the stakes for the major characters in the narrative. The seventh episode, "We Hold These Truths," finally introduces the audience to Colin and shows his relationship with Amy and his friendship with Bright.

Season 1 is about to become outstanding.

Some Other Thoughts:

-Dr. Abbott feuds with Dr. Trott throughout the episode. Harold's issues with the psychologist pays off comically in a future episode. Harold's issue with her isn't personal; rather, he dislikes how her Winnebago takes up two spots (one of the spots is his). He has issue with how he perceives she enables the citizens of Everwood. For instance, his nurse Louise stands up to him after she visits with Dr. Trott. Louise explains that she wasn't hired to make coffee nor re-arrange chairs. She is his nurse and would like to be treated as such. Tom Amandes, it should go without saying, is spectacular throughout the scene.

-Speaking of Louise, Jan Broberg deserves credit for her performance as Dr. Abbott's timid nurse. Tim Minear said that actors and actresses like Jan Broberg (he didn't actually use Jan's name) make the difference in an episode because they hold a series together. Now, Louise remained in the series all four seasons and Minear meant actors who are brought in for a scene or two (but two important scenes). Still, Jan's great throughout the series and I may not write much about Louise over the course of season one so I wanted to spotlight her for a moment.

-Delia loses her only friend in the episode. Magilla's shipped to a boy's school in a bizarre C story. Magilla was born with ambiguous genitalia so his parents reared him as a boy but his play dates with Delia brought out his feminine side and his parents flipped. Andy wants to help but the parents don't want help. It's just told oddly with no resolution or "message" that stories like these have in family dramas.

-Bright's consistently disinterested in Colin's case. He barely visits and he won't bother eating dinner with the Harts to help his sister out. One wonders why. We know that Bright was the passenger and that he doesn't remember anything which makes his lack of interest in his best friend's life odd. I write that fully knowing the revelation in episode seven. I figured I'd point out some smaller seeds planted in the episode as well as previous ones.

-Ephram's assumed the role of white knight with Amy--he wants to care for her and protect her. He wrote a song for her because she told him that only Colin brought her flowers when she had recitals. Ephram wanted to bring her something so he brought her music. It's a sweet scene.

-Vanessa Taylor wrote the episode. She hasn't written much television since Everwood. Her name's popped up in the spec market scene though and her movie's in pre-production now. Vanessa was a reliable Everwood scribe until she left after season two. Stephen Gyllenhall directed the episode.

UP NEXT: "We Hold these Truths"--As Andy performs surgery on Colin, flashbacks reveal what happened on that 4th of July day. Meanwhile, Ephram helps Amy during her waiting-room vigil.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thoughts on The Killing, Treme & Staffing Season

The solstice happened yesterday, which means it's summer and the day is Wednesday. I have no series to write about. Instead, I'll write about various happenings in the TV landscape.

-Staffing season for the 2011-2012 TV season is complete. Nellie Andreeva wrote a "Staff Season Highlights" article for Of interest to me were the addition of Michelle Fazekas and Tara Butters as consulting producers for Hawaii Five-O. The writing team created The CW's Reaper then worked on the second season of Dollhouse. Andreeva reported that writers were split in drama. Some opted for riskier new series like Once Upon a Time and Pan-Am while other writers played it safe--opting for standard, safe procedurals. It would've been nice if Hollywood released the complete writing staff for TV series because I'm interested in knowing the specific writers responsible for 22 episodes (or 13). Oh well. I'll learn each writer once the Fall TV season kicks off in September.

-The comment section for the article was more interesting than the article itself. The comments went into the reality of the staffing season--how it's 80% friends hiring friends followed by 10% hack writers landing jobs because of previous credits and another 10% just lucking out. The commenters were mostly aspiring TV writers who swore they weren't bitter. The discussion didn't have any groundbreaking inside info into the inner-workings of Hollywood though. TV executives and producers prefer safety to risk. They'd rather trust a multi-millionaire project in the hands of established veterans of TV rather than baby writers. Show runners hire friends rather than baby writers. If the 2011-2012 season has as many bad shows as 10-11 then maybe more baby writers should be given a chance.

-The reaction to The Killing finale could be described as being over the top. At the end of the day, The Killing's a TV show with a fictional story populated with fictional characters. People have written many words that criticize Veena Sud and question the AMC brand because The Killing betrayed its viewers but, again, it's a TV show. Any one who wants to know how the Dutch concluded the story easily can. I understand people's rage over investing 13 weeks into a show that ended with a cliffhanger with zero resolution for any of its characters. If the show had as many bumps as viewers and critics said they did then why did they expect a 13th hour episode that transformed The Killing into an all-timer? I enjoyed Dan Fienberg's contrarian view on the Firewall & Iceberg podcast--what made the viewer expect to know the identity of the killer by season's end? Sure it's a logical conclusion to a season of television but when the narrative spanned only thirteen days then it's seemingly unrealistic for a case to be resolved in that amount of time. People need to calm down, but if the finale took the heat off of the LOST series finale, then continue to complain.

-The second season of Treme's been very good. Sunday's George Pelecanos' penned episode ended with yet another shocking death and ruminated on what the identity of New Orleans is. Is it crime-filled, full of violence and, therefore, bad? Is it the good city populated with talented musicians and artists? I have no answers for those questions. I've enjoyed the musical performances tremendously in the second season. I've enjoyed the storyline with Antoine as he deals with his band and teaches school children how to play music. I like how Simon, Overmyer, Bourdain and his other writers are content to show characters hanging around, creating or playing music or cooking food or celebrating Mardi Gras. The show's audience is very small but it received a third season order earlier in the year. By now, every Simon fan hoping for another The Wire abandoned ship but Treme's worth your time.

-That's about it. I don't watch much summer TV series except for HBO. I'll probably write about the True Blood season premiere and the second episode because HBO Go will have it. I'll write about the final season of Entourage. I'll post other content that won't be episode reviews. And, as always, the Summer Re-Watch continues with Dawson's Creek, Everwood and Monty Python's Flying Circus.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-watch: Dawson's Creek "Hurricane" Review

Dawson and Jen were fighting when I randomly decided to watch Dawson's Creek on TBS in the spring or summer of 2003. As I recalled in the pilot write-up, I knew plenty about the show beforehand because the Kevin Williamson biography had the episode descriptions for the first two seasons. "Hurricane" had five minutes to engage my attention before I switched the channel, and Katie Holmes engaged my attention. Following Dawson and Jen's fight, Dawson finds Joey hiding in the closet. The rest of the scene's unspectacular. Dawson bitches about his life and his mother. Joey uses the "mother card" and reminds Dawson that he's blessed to have his mother, and for one of the seven times in the entire series, Dawson's speechless. Joey doesn't have a story in the episode either--she just drifts from storyline to storyline. She's so pretty during the entire season and that's why 15 year old me stuck around.

TheWB and The CW borrowed from the concept of "Hurricane." Of course, I'm sure Williamson borrowed from other series. The basic story is, a hurricane's heading towards Capeside and every notable character finds shelter in the Leery residence (except for Pacey, Doug and Tamara). The episode's in the top three of season one episodes because it establishes characters in a way the previous four episodes hadn't--it's more effective than the pilot in world building. The characters are confined in one house with secrets and prejudices concealed within the hearts and minds of those characters. The hurricane storm isn't the only hurricane in Capeside, and the storm won't be as destructive as the metaphorical hurricane descending upon Leery manor.

Dawson assures his mother that he's prepared for Hurricane Bob. Bob, of course, is the name of the co-anchor Gale's been sleeping with when she's not sleeping with her husband. The name startles her and essentially forces her into admittance of the truth. Well, Dawson's passive-aggressive strategy forces his mother into admitting the truth to her husband. Dawson offers cryptic comments and accusatory stares at his mother. So, Gale finds courage and confesses her adultery to her husband. Her explanation's long and self-involved. If the writers wanted the audience to feel sympathy for her then they failed miserably. Gale explains how her life achieved perfection and, well, that's it. The affair destroyed her perfect life and now she seeks perfection yet again. What the hell kind of explanation is that? Considering her son's a selfish, self-involved individual then it makes sense that he got those traits from one of his parents.

Hurricane Bob destroys their relationship more than the actual Hurricane Christopher could. Mitch tells his wife about how he made the decision to love her when he first met her because love's a decision one makes (how Erich Fromm of him). As quickly as he decided to love her is as quick his decision was to hate her. Mitch leaves for awhile as Gale cries. Meanwhile, Grams (in her first redeeming moment of the series) offers advice to Dawson in the face of the storm which just moved into his life--buy a large umbrella. And she also tells Dawson that forgiveness is one of God's most wonderful gifts--with forgiveness comes understanding.

The advice extends to Dawson's drama with Jen. Throughout the episode, he treated her badly because he hadn't gotten over her confession about her old life in New York. With his parents' marriage crumbling before his eyes, Dawson decides NOT to burn his bridge with Jen. He apologizes to her and explains that he took his anger out on her that should've been directed at his mother. The two relate on how sex doesn't equal happiness--that it can bring pain. When she forgives him, he finally begins to learn and understand. As for his parents, that storyline continues well into season two. Mitch returns to the house. They sit in silence outside.

Pacey, Doug and Tamara spend the day in Tamara's luxurious house on the coast (a high school English teacher makes THAT much?). Obviously, this is the first episode with Doug Witter. Throughout the series, Pacey suggests his brother's a homosexual and Doug denies it. Pacey uses the homosexual lie when Doug's clearly trying to woo Tamara into a courtship. The purpose of the B story isn't some weird brotherly feud for the affections of an older woman but, rather, the deepening of Pacey and Tamara's relationship--she declines Doug's offer to have dinner because she's involved with someone else. The reason for this is, the honeymoon's going to end in episode six when the high school learns of the student-teacher sexual relationship. Again, it's a misguided effort to cultivate sympathy and investment in a misguided storyline.

"Hurricane" moves Mitch & Gail's storyline forward and even Bessie's with Bodhi and Grams (Grams holds prejudices about the race of the child and the immorality of having a baby out of of course Grams will deliver her baby next week); however, besides Pacey, nothing happens with the Capeside teens. Dawson pouts. Jen and Joey wait patiently for Dawson's bad mood to pass. At the end, Joey wishes that she could return to her childhood for one night to remove herself from the drama of everyday life. Dawson indulges her and they reenact the third act of JAWS. The characters talk about the past when they need to confront the future.

Kevin Williamson & Dana Baretta wrote the episode; Lou Antonio directed it.

UP NEXT: "Baby"--Bessie goes into labor and Grams becomes an unlikely ally in the delivery; the school finds out about Pacey and Tamara.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Game of Thrones "Fire and Blood" Review

"Fire and Blood" almost entirely sets up the second season. The grief process for the Starks lasts only a handful of scenes before the various stories progress like Arya's boy disguise as she heads North, Snow's departure to North of the Wall, Robb and his banner men's plans for continued war, Sansa and the seeds of who she'll be forced to become if she hopes to have her revenge on Joffrey.

The handful of scenes dealing with Ned's death are the strongest of the episode, especially the scene with Bran and Rickon--the implications and possible foreshadowing excite me as a geek. The youngest children of the Stark family had the same dream of their father residing in the tombs of Winterfell where Lyanna, Brandon and the rest of the Stark family's bodies rest for eternity. Bran's dreams about the three-eyed raven were about the impending death of his father--the raven's the messenger in Westeros. What does it mean that the youngest children dreamed the future? Who knows. Arya, meanwhile, shifts into survival mode. Her hair's cut. She's hidden amongst boys as they head for The Wall. Sansa's the lone Stark in King's Landing and Joffrey treats her terribly. He forces her to look upon her father's severed head on a spike, and has a guard strike her in the face but his cruel treatment of her awakens the dormant Stark nature in her. She wonders aloud how Joffrey would like his head severed by her brother, and he's visibly shaken by the suggestion (as he always is when violence momentarily confronts him). Robb slashes at a tree and swears to kill the entire Lannister family as his mother embraces him. Snow tried to leave the Night's Watch, and would have if Sam and his other friends hadn't persuaded him to return. Jon wanted to stab Joffrey in the throat. He's needed in the Night's Watch, though, because a war North of the Wall looms and Commander Mormont won't be a sitting duck.

Stories need inciting incidents. Any introductory creative writing class teaches that lesson. The first season had several inciting incidents but none involved the Stark children. Robb sat around Winterfell. Arya and Sansa sat around King's Landing (well Arya learned from Syrio how to sword fight). Bran recovered from his fall. Rickon sat around off-screen. Jon sat around The Wall, waiting to take his oaths so he could become a ranger and fight. The death of their father is the inciting incident for the Stark children and their arcs, which seemingly will span for the entirety of A Song of Ice and Fire. No matter how young they are, they're ready because they hail from the North and Starks are built to endure the winter (and remember, it is coming).

Meanwhile, the Lannisters face trouble as a result of Joffrey's impulsive decision to behead Ned Stark. Jaime's men scattered following their defeat at Riverrun, and Jaime's subsequent capture. Stannis and Renly Baratheon have men in arms waging war in the south, ready to challenge Joffrey's throne. With Ned alive, Tywin could've brokered peace. Now, it is madness. The solution is to regroup, which means Tyrion will serve as Hand of the King in Tywin's stead. The war will be long. Tyrion's job is to manage though he might not play by the rules in King's Landing. Cersei learned of her brother's capture as Lanciel awaited to have sex with his cousin (she really gets around in her own family). Jaime admitted his part in Bran's fall to Catelyn, though he opted against explaining why he pushed the seven year old from the window. The Lannisters are in a weak spot; Robb's winning the war but his victory won't be so neat and clean.

Of course, with all of those words written for the Starks and Lannisters, Daenerys owned the episode in her story across the Narrow Sea. The girl lost her baby and her husband because the witch wanted revenge for the harm the Doth Raki inflicted on her people and her temple. Dany had the witch killed, and ended her husband's life because he was brain-dead. Never forget that she's from the blood of Dragons, and the dragon eggs finally hatched after she spent the night in the fire as her husband became ash. I speculated that Dany would become as badass as another blonde on TV and her destiny as a strong woman to be feared by powerful men is forming. The dragons have returned to Westeros. The image of a naked Dany, covered in soot and ash as her dragons kept close to her body is the most spectacular image of the series thus far--an image that represents the transformation Dany experienced from her days in Pentos until she had men swear their loyalties and lives as she stood, naked and strong with three dragons on her body.

Do not fuck with Daenerys Targaryen.

Some other thoughts:

-I thoroughly enjoyed the scene with Pycelle and the scene with Littlefinger and Varys. The scenes were about the roles they play. Pycelle plays the part of a feeble, weak old man when, in fact, he's an old man whose spry. Littlefinger and Varys swear their loyalties to the king but that, too, is part of their roles.

-I began reading "A Game of Thrones" earlier in the week. As expected, I'm enjoying the book even more than the series. I wrote about how characters had one or two scenes or none at all in episodes, and those scenes can be brief. In the books, it's different--scenes don't need to fit within a hour structure. For instance, the tombs were introduced in the season finale whereas the tombs were introduced much earlier in the books and it was more satisfying in the books (but still great in the show). When the second season begins, I'll have read each book but the last one (which won't be out) so the weekly reviews will be much different from the season one reviews but I won't spoil anything for non-readers.

-David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wrote "Fire and Blood." I have tremendous respect and admiration for the writing team because adapting the book couldn't have been easy nor writing eight of the ten episodes of the series by themselves (well episode 7 was co-written with Jane Espenson). Alan Taylor directed the episode.

-I loved the entire season. Any one interested in the series should certainly watch the DVDs. I'd recommend reading the books if one doesn't want to wait until the DVDs are released. The story's spectacularly dense. The history's so rich and Westeros is populated with characters as different as human beings in our real life. I haven't had as much fun watching a series since LOST ended. Yes, A Song of Ice and Fire is that damn good.


Friday, June 17, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-watch: Monty Python's Flying Circus "How to Recognize Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away" Review

"How to Recognize Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away" highlights only the larch throughout the half-hour. Why? Who knows. The show returns to the narrator who identifies a photographed tree as a larch. In another sketch, children are asked if they could identify a tree in a photograph as a larch but that sketch transitions into "Nudge, Nudge." The larch is a valued wood because of its tough, durable qualities. Plus, it's waterproof. In central Europe, the larch is one of the best materials for building homes and structures from the foundation. Perhaps, the troupe chose to emphasize the larch because the tree reflected the core traits and characteristics of the six men responsible for the series--tough and durable. The episode itself is a huge building block in Monty Python's history. So, why not emphasize Europe's most beloved tree as a symbol for the show itself and its future?

The Pythons had grand ambitions that were larger than 'let's making a silly sketch show.' The troupe aimed to transcend the genre, to be something that England couldn't avoid. Throughout the series, they parody law enforcement, the queen and parliament but none of that happens in episode three. The Pythons show their ability to transcend any kind of label or genre in the third episode. Episode #3 features three of Monty Python's most popular sketches--Dim of the Yard, Bicycle Repairman and Nudge, Nudge. The three sketches have little in common but their massive appeal and success for the last 41 years. Dim of the Yard ends with a musical number; Bicycle Repairman reverses the tropes of the superhero story (specifically, superman); Nudge, Nudge is an exploration of class through language and etiquette. The Pythons interest were endless. In the first two episodes, they proved their adeptness with long-form sketch narratives, tropes, reversals, parody, etc. "How to Recognize Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away" shows his diverse Monty Python could be if in the mood.

The courtroom sketch, which ends with Dim's musical number, begins with histrionics as the prisoner delivers a soliloquy about freedom to the courtroom. It's a stirring monologue which invokes philosophical principles, Greek mythology and the language of the romantic poets. The judge mutters that it's only a bloody parking offense but the prisoner and his legal team fight for freedom as if the guillotine awaited him should the defendant be guilty. The witnesses range from a babbling middle-aged women who just gossips about people, a man in a coffin whose not-quite-dead-but-close-to-dead who then dies mid-examination and the French clergyman, noble and statesman Cardinal Richelieu (as a character witness). Richelieu describes the prisoner as a wonderful man so the counsel requests clemency for the defendant. Dim of the Yard arrives to reveal that Richelieu's no other than Ron Higgins, professional Cardinal Richelieu impersonator (he tricks Higgins into admitting that Richelieu died, therefore he's too deceased to be a character witness). The court praises Dim and the judge wonders why he's nothing more than a police man. Cue the song-and-dance about what Dim would be if he were not in the CID. The counsel ends the sketch when he sings his own song about what'd be if not a barrister, and the armored knight bludgeons him in the head with a fish.

The armored knight with the fish is a presence throughout the series in the same role as Chapman's Colonel in later episodes. His colonel ends sketches when they become too silly. The knight ends sketches when someone takes over a sketch and ruins it. I'd like to write more thoughtfully about the courtroom scene but the meaning puzzles me so I'll only offer that it's a means to the song-and-dance end and nothing more.

The bicycle repairman takes place in an alternate universe where every man is a superman. The supermen of this town can save the world but they can't fix their bicycles. The repair man's an anonymous man who dresses the part and dazzles the other men with his ability to repair bicycles. He'll fix a bike whenever it's broken or menaced by international communism. Perhaps, bicycle repair man was created as an anti-communist symbol because of the presence of supermen though the idea of Nietzsche’s Superman closely related with Nazi philosophy. The repairman's secret identity is the everyman, though, and communism, in Karl Marx's manifesto, sought to reward the everyman equally but men were corrupted. Communism became an oppressive ideology. The repair man's a figure of hope--of one who possesses the tools to fix a broken idea.

Eric Idle's Nudge, Nudge sketch explores class through language and etiquette. Terry Jones' character's a dignified Briton, with the values one expects from a dignified Briton. Idle's character from a lower class and lacks any kind of etiquette. The sketch builds toward the punchline (a theme in the episode). There isn't much to analyze about the class differences because they stand out due to Idle's heightened performance. The sketch builds toward that punchline in which the curious, seemingly experienced lower class individual reveals that he asked invasive questions because he wants to know what sex is like.

The dirty fork sketch employs a similar structure--the joke of the sketch is the punchline, and that punchlines are quite lazy crutches to lean on as a comedian writer. The dirty fork sketch is fantastic because of the heighten emotions of the wait staff and the owners as all lose their minds over one dirty fork. Those heightened emotions unify the episode as each major sketch features characters who go insane over seemingly small things like a parking offense.

And as always, Flying Circus is brilliant in its subtle structures, themes, ideas and arguments about government, class, language etc.

UP NEXT: "Owl-Stretching Time"


Thursday, June 16, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-watch: Everwood "Deer God" Review

New shows produce numerous scripts before the pilot airs--scripts that retain elements of the pilot so new viewers can join the show a few weeks after the premiere. Writers want to generate stories and suchIt's common for episodes to air out of production order if one episode works more than another. The most important thing for new television shows is building an audience through strong storytelling. According to the production code, "Deer God" aired in its intended order but the episode would've worked as the second, third, or fourth one of the series but it'd be a bad choice for a second, third or fourth episode because "Deer God" is the weakest episode of the season so far, and one of the weaker episodes of the season.

The problem with "Deer God" is its repetition--there's nothing new throughout the episode. Ephram's mad at his father for moving them into Everwood. He and Andy fight. Ephram accepts that his old home with his mother is gone, just like the doe's home was ruined by the father. The episode recycled its beats from previous episodes so it's kind of boring and unexciting--like the writer's room just went through the motions while breaking the story.

The A story is worthwhile at its core. Ephram has no sense of belonging in Everwood. Andy forced him to move to Everwood. His life's been turned upside down since the death of his mother. He has no friends besides Amy. When the doe shows up in the Everwood kitchen, Ephram relates to the deer's plight. The animal's as lost as Ephram, and he wants to help bring the deer back to his home. During that journey, Ephram may find what he's looking for--comfort or closure or some sort of stability. But, really, if the doe returns home then maybe Ephram will one day return to his true home in New York City. Father and son argue throughout the hike about the usual things they argue about. Ephram resents Andy's attempts to become his son's friend while remaining an authoritative parental figure. One week they understand each other; the next they don't. It's the formula for the season.

Ephram, Andy and the doe reach the protected wildlife reserve only to find that a fire ruined the doe's home. Ephram cries and yells about how the doe's home is ruined. Andy assures his son that the doe will find a new home and be okay--that he'll be okay in his new home. Ephram sobs and only says that he wants to go back. Andy embraces him and echoes those sentiments but their old life's gone now, and they have to survive and live somewhere else. The moment's actually catharsis for Ephram because he needed to accept Everwood as his new home. My issue with the A story is its heavy-handedness. The stuff with the doe and the burnt forest is overkill. Audiences are smarter than networks think--"Deer God" isn't exactly as Marcel Proust novel so it's unnecessary to hold the audience's hand but, for whatever reason, the hand was held.

Ephram's arc through the episode results in a moment of clarity. He explains to Amy that he needed to climb a mountain to understand that his home's gone forever, and that he understands Colin is her home so his adolescent jealousy won't interfere with his father helping Colin. He asked Andy to look at Colin and Andy will. Ephram and Amy's friendship is in flux yet again because of Ephram's decision to lie but he's in a better place than he's been since the series began, and that's something.

Other Thoughts:

-I'm a huge fan of the C story which finds Harold scheming to alert Andy of the medical award he received from the state of Colorado. The scene of the episode's between Amy and Harold when she accuses her father of having a boy crush on the bearded doctor across the street, to which Harold responds that his issue with Dr. Brown's neither flirtatious nor rivalry. Tom Amandes' delivery of that line is tremendous. It's as good as his line in "The Great Doctor Brown" when he rants about the patients who made up excuses so Andy could treat them. Andy never sees the write-up in The Pine Cone. Poor Dr. Abbott.

-In the B story, Delia tries to find proof that God exists after Magilla laughs at her for believing in God. She tries to find proof through cookies and a glass. Edna takes her to a rabbi but his answer's too theological for a little girl to understand. She searches for God because she worries about where her mom is if heaven doesn't exist. She finds her proof when Edna informs her that they rode 80 miles on fumes. Delia finds a parallel between the Hanukkah story with the oil and the gas tank. Before her proof, Edna assures her that her mother's with her at all times, which brings Delia comfort. It's a nice story.

-Michael Green wrote the episode; Arlene Sanford directed it. Michael Green co-wrote The Green Lantern with Everwood creator Greg Berlanti and two other gentlemen. I've expressed my reservations about Green Lantern because two of No Ordinary Family's creative minds worked on The Green Lantern. Movie could be terrible.

UP NEXT: "The Doctor Is In"--a traveling psychologist arrives in Everwood and Andy seeks her out as he tries to decide whether or not to perform risky surgery on Colin Hart. Delia's forbidden to hang out with Magilla.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-watch: Dawson's Creek "Discovery" Review

Dawson's constructed reality falls apart in "Discovery"--his mother's in an affair with her co-anchor, his girlfriend's not the virgin he thought she was, and his best male friend's having sex with the English teacher at Capeside High. Considering Dawson judges everyone's worth as it measures up to his own life, he doesn't react well to the sudden changes in his life. Upon learning that Joey kept the affair secret from him, he pushes his best friend and future soulmate out of his life. With Jen, he says the right things but his accusatory and judgmental glances reveal his true opinion of the girl he described as perfect throughout the series. With his mother, he gives off "I want to murder you" vibes outside of Leery manor before he marches off to Joey's without so much as a hint that he knows his mother's secret.

Joey explains Dawson's behavior to Jen when she solicits advice from the forehead's dearest and oldest friend. Dawson's the classic only child who pouts when things don't go his way (pout's putting it nicely, Joey). More so, Dawson's as inexperienced as a teenager can be. According to Joey, he looked like a fourth grader until his puberty hit within the last twelve months. Jen's experience in New York threatens him. Dawson's not so much a puritan from the 18th century as he's afraid of his own inexperience. And, he's a teenager. Though he might have the vocabulary of a graduate student, he's just a teenager whose unable to deal with his emotions in a mature, adult way. The boy's only 15 years old. So, yes, he has impossible expectations for the people in his life but he's an idiot teenager who reacts with his heart rather than his reason because his brain's still developing those mature responses. Dawson retreats into himself because he cannot talk to anyone around him.

Jen tries to discuss her past with him in an honest way because she honestly has pleasant regard for him. Her attempts are met with those accusatory and judgmental glances. Dawson's anger stems from his feelings toward his mother as much as it stems from the truth of Jen's past; however, maybe Dawson's angry at her because she rejected his sexual advances earlier. His behavior was a response to Pacey's admittance that he's in an affair with Tamara. Dawson tries to remove his girlfriend's bra but she stops him. The moment passes without incident though, so it's a weak argument.

Sex as taboo is actually the theme of the episode. Pacey wonders why the classic literature books portray sex negatively. In books, characters who have sex either die or become ostracized from their society. In this show, the same happens or will happen to those who have sexual intercourse with the opposite sex. Pacey argues that sex is a beautiful thing between two humans, which it is; however, perception and context usually creates trouble for sexual partners. Pacey and Tamara are doomed because he's a student and she's a teacher. Gale's adultery betrays the vows and laws of marriage (Dawson's Creek, of course, never portrayed sex positively though, even when it was perfectly legal). I'm never sure what the writers intended during these episode because their convictions lack...conviction. Pacey's criticisms of the portrayals of sex supposedly reflects two of the arcs but the circumstances and context couldn't be more different from the novels Pacey uses as evidence to support his argument. But maybe it's as simple as, times haven't changed.

The resolution in "Discovery" is non-existent. The only relationship resolved in the 44 minutes is Dawson and Joey's relationship. This isn't a criticism--just an observation. The adultery arc will pay off in the very next episode. Dawson and Jen will talk in that episode too. This episode's about tearing apart Dawson's happy and oblivious existence but it also begins to build towards a romance between Joey and Dawson. Their scene at the end's an elaborate metaphor about how they were together in a past life, and Joey wonders if they could be together again. In time, Potter.

Jon Harmon Feldman wrote the episode; Steve Miner directed it.

UP NEXT: "Hurricane"--several characters take refuge in the Leery house as a giant hurricane moves inland. Mitch learns of his wife's infidelity, Dawson acts like an ass towards Jen and Pacey's brother wants to ask Tamara out. "Hurricane" is the first episode I ever saw.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Game Of Thrones "Baelor" Review

The finality of death's the most prominent theme throughout the episode, and the entire season. Specifically, "Baelor" brings death center stage as various characters confront their possible imminent death. In Dothraki land, the scratch Drogo received in his fight festered and the once powerful Khal waited to die. In the Lannister camp, Tywin sent Tyrion into battle on the front lines with the wildings because he wants his son dead. Tyrion requests his whore weep when he dies, and she reminds him that he won't know if she did because he'll be dead. Ned Stark sits in a dark dungeon, waiting to be sentenced by King Joffrey and the rest of the puppets in King's Landing. All the while, huge armies wait to fight. Men wait to die in battle. Robb sent 2,000 bannermen to their graves so that he could capture Jaime Lannister and beat his army at the River.

Does the threat of death change any of the characters? Well, yes. Ned sees his youngest daughter, Arya, perched on a statue. She watches her father and he sees her. Ned told Varys that he'd rather die than cop to a family who crippled his son and killed innocents. As a soldier, he's learned how to die. Varys wonders aloud how precious the lives of his daughters are. Ned loves his children all the same and especially his daughters. The sight of Arya, alone and dirty, pierces Ned's heart. In front of the citizens of King's Landing, Cersei, Joffrey and the Council, he confesses to his crime of treason and readily accepts his fate; however, Joffrey describes the hearts of women as soft, and anyone guilty of treason will pay with their heads. Joffrey orders Ned's death. Sansa fates. One of Ned's few loyal men hides Arya's face in his chest as her father's executed just feet from her. Oaths and honor, as we know, don't have meaning anymore. The frame went black before the credits rolled to the sounds of somber, mournful music. You win or you die.

Ned's death shocked me for maybe four minutes until I remembered the series of books that follow "A Game Of Thrones" (note, everyone, how I quoted the title within the context of the book series rather than as the name of the show--for whatever reason, educated critics who are paid much more money than me quote any title willy-nilly even though it's wrong to do so. Italicize or underline series titles and quote the individual episodes (or in my case leave the series title alone because of laziness)--it's not quantum physics or Calculus III...anyone who took English 101 should know this). Ned's death is the pebble that hits a large pond, whose ripples will be felt by the fish swimming beneath the surface. Catelyn's old friend whose name I, of course, forgot described Robb, Theon and the bannermen as rebels against the crown. Of course they are. Circumstances change the roles of individuals in Westeros and in real life. Ripples travel more slowly in Westeros but news will reach Robb, Catelyn and the rest of the Winterfell faithful. I know they'll want vengeance. I know that Jaime's life will be more threatened by Joffrey's moment of stupidity.

When Ned heared that his son went to arms in an effort to rescue him, Ned responded simply, "He's only a boy." And, to reiterate, circumstances change people and their roles. Circumstances have forced Robb to become a man, to represent Westeros and to become the man of his father's house. He possesses more wherewithal than Tywin expected. The 2,000 men move irked the elder Lannister because he didn't expect it. More so, it looks like Robb will continue to outwit and out move the army of 30,000 strong. Robb rejected Jaime's offer to settle the differences between the family because he knew Jaime would win because it'd be Jaime's way. His other siblings will also be forced to grow up as a result of these circumstances, and they already have actually. 10 year old Bran's running Winterfell. Arya's been forced to survive on her own, and live a life far beyond more suitable to someone much older than she. This is what's most interesting about the story--these Stark children, their call to duty and their forced growth. I look forward to where the story takes them, how they'll grow and how they'll persevere.

Tyrion remains the same with his seemingly imminent death. Bronn gets him a whore. Tyrion has sex, drinks and converses. The whore's different from the Roz's of Westeros. The woman has a mysterious past and a foreign accent. I wonder if she's Dothraki. Tyrion described his first love and how his brother and father humiliated him through the experience. Jaime hired men to stage a rape. Tyrion saved the day and fell in love with the girl. The next day they married, and then he learned that she was a whore, that Jaime and Tywin planned the thing because Tyrion needed to have sex. He was embarrassed. The woman made him feel like a man rather than the Imp. The scene successfully made me dislike Jaime more than I already do, and I had tremendous sympathy for Tyrion. His story added depth to his familial relationships as well his own self. It helped explain the enigma that is Tyrion Lannister.

Meanwhile, Daenerys made a dangerous decision to save her husband's life. She ordered for the witch to perform blood magic. Drogo's death meant that she and her son would be killed because prestige and honor has no place in Dothraki land (but it has no place in King's Landing either--there's a seminar paper in there about savagery and civility, and the deconstruction of that binary (and yes, actual deconstruction--not the deconstruction that critics and pop-culture writers throw around willy-nilly). Dany goes into labor as the witch performs her magic on the Khal. Strange, demonic sounds can be heard from the tent and Jorah worries that Dany caused more harm--he wishes he and she fled from camp.

I have no idea what to expect from the season finale. I've quit blind speculation because I'm shooting arrows in the dark. I didn't expect King Robert to die and certainly not Ned Stark. I only speculate that the season finale will be amazing because this show is amazing.

Other Thoughts:

-As Ned walked towards the Baelor (or whatever the hell it's called), the people of King's Landing spat at him and hit him with rocks. The images reminded me of Jesus walking with his cross towards his public execution. Also, the image of Dany fleeing with her child reminded me of Mary and Joseph fleeing to Jerusalem for two years with Jesus. Maybe it's coincidence. Maybe not. While Ned wasn't a king, he represented honor and loyalty. He preached non-violence, and he saved the life of the kid who executed him. I'd expound on it more but the hour's late, and I'd have to think it out more and provide evidence to support my thesis.

-I decided to purchase the first four books on Friday. I love the series, and I need to delve deeper into the characters and the world of Westeros. The first season's roughly 540 pages (script pages mind you) while the book's in the neighborhood of 740+ pages, and the second book's over 1,000. Benioff and Weiss admitted they needed to change things, omit other portions of the book and I like the series so much that I need the complete and total story. I never liked abridged versions of books because those versions truncate the story. I love a good book more than the best television show so I'm excited for A Song of Fire and Ice. My favorite book of all-time in War & Peace so the size of these books is fine by me.

-Maisie Williams broke my heart during the final scene. I choked back a sob. Speaking of actors and actresses, Peter Dinklage already deserved an emmy for his performance and his scene in which he deliver his monologue solidified that thought.

-Sean Bean's a damn talented actor. I'll miss his presence on the show because he brought nobility to a world that lacks it. Bean had chemistry with every actor in the series. His task to portray a virtuous, honorable man isn't easy and he nailed it.

-At The Wall, Aemon revealed his Tangaryan lineage and he gave Snow ambiguous advice about how to respond to Robb's call to arms. Commander Mormont gave Snow the Mormont family sword. Also, the commander sent the d-bag who bullied Snow and Sam to deliver the hand to Joffrey's throne. Again, if Joffrey flinched at the sound of a sword's rattle then he will shit his pants when the white walkers show up.

-Catelyn sold her daughter to pay a bridge toll. Arya's destined to be betrothed to the spawn of the master of the bridge toll. Robb also has to marry one of the daughter's should he survive.

-It comes to my attention that I didn't make a big enough deal about Ned's death but I'm the same guy who was disappointed in Kingda Ka, and I understand who the actual protagonists of A Song of Fire and Ice are.

-David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wrote the episode; Alan Taylor directed it.


Friday, June 10, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-watch: Monty Python's Flying Circus "Sex and Violence"

I wrote about the first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus a few months ago because I love the series. I thoroughly enjoyed writing about "Whither Canada?" and assumed I'd write about the series more but I wrote about medicore network television series instead. As I brainstormed content for the summer months, I somehow forgot about Monty Python's Flying Circus. So, now, Flying Circus joins the summer re-watch rotation. I plan on writing about the first series (or season) because it's only seven episodes (and I've only six more to write about). You can read my post on "Whither Canada?" by clicking this very sentence you just finished reading.

Monty Python's Flying Circus is deceptive in a way. Beneath the absurdity, non-sequitors and stream-of-consciousness is structure and linear meaning. "Whither Canada?" was about artist pretension. "Sex and Violence" is about the reversal of one's identity. Yes, the episode's very silly. There are silly sketches but the episode's about the reversal of one's identity nonetheless. Sheep want to be birds. Men want to be mice. A poet wants his working class son to join him in the arts trade. Arthur Pewty wants to become an active husband rather than the passive one who allowed his wife to fornicate with other men, including the marriage counselor the two went for counseling. Queen Victoria's not the regal figure depicted in the history books. Rather, she's a character from a 1930s slapstick silent film--creating mischief and high jinks in the royal backyard. The Queen enjoyed hose tricks more than ruling the majority of the rest of the world.

Stream-of-consciousness storytelling's bound to fail without structure and purpose. Flying Circus would've been a mess in the hands of other people but Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam were men with television writing experience. Some of the Pythons wrote for The Frost Report. Before TV, some wrote for radio programs in England. Stories and sketches fall apart without structure, and episodes fall apart without structure. I know the Monty Python writing process happened in groups rather than a whole. Whether they collectively discussed themes, I do not know and their DVD and oral history book doesn't delve very deeply into the writing process. Chapman and Cleese wrote together. Jones and Palin wrote together. Idle and Gilliam worked alone--Idle on sketches, Gilliam on his animation. The six Pythons must've communicated with one another about theme because every episode's about something.

The Flying sheep sketch portrays a group of sheep through the eyes of their American farmer, played by Graham Chapman. The sheep operate under the belief that they are, in fact, birds. The belief comes from Harold, the most dangerous and clever of the sheep. Harold aspires to be more than a simple sheep whose life consists of standing around for a few months before being eaten. Such a life's depressing for ambitious sheep so Harold told his sheep that they could fly like the birds. A tourist, whom the farmer's speaking with, wonders why Harold's not removed from the farm. The farmer explains, there are enormous commercial possibilities if Harold succeeds. The sketch transitions into two Frenchmen demonstrating the benefits of ovine aviation and that transitions into an interview with a man who has three buttocks'. The sheep sketch combines spectacle with Animal Farm. The sheep walk on their hind legs, mimicking birds and the farmer counts on the spectacle of flying sheep so he won't re-reverse the sheep's identity. All the while, the sheep experience faster deaths than if they stood around then were eaten months later. Perhaps Harold the sheep's a symbol of megalomania who harms his people (or sheep) instead of helping them.

Arthur Pewty and his wife, Deidre, went to a marriage counselor because of Deidre's infidelity. Pewty's one of the many representations of pathetic, British middle class life that Python satirizes throughout Flying Circus. He commands no respect, has no presence or authoritative figure in English society. Pewty drifts like a plastic bag in the wind because no one notices or cares enough to take the bag from the wind. As Arthur describes he and his wife's marriage, Idle's counselor seduces the woman and soon he and Deidre fool around behind a screen in his office. Pewty leaves only to return after a mysterious southerner urges him to fight for himself, to hold his head up high. Arthur declares that he's been pushed around long enough, that at last he's finally embracing his masculinity. He marches into the office, demands his wife leave with him, the counselor tells him to go away and Pewty immediately returns to his shell.

These two sketches are about man or animal's inability to overcome one's self. In the case of the sheep, it's matter of a nature and biology. Sheep cannot physically overcome their physiology. In the case of Arthur Pewty, he cannot overcome his cowardice because of his cowardice. He's his own worst enemy. The final sketch of the episode is about the mouse problem in England. Some men want to be mice. The premise of the sketch is silly and the social commentary emerges as one watches the sketch progress. The mouse men in England are homosexuals. The sketch is about the repression of their sexual nature; however, the sketch could be interpreted as something silly about bestiality. The characters talk a whole lot about being sexually attracted to mice, and beastiality was and is a taboo in England. It could be both. Near the end, the interviewer interviews working-class English men (portrayed by the Pythons of course) who express hatred and disgust for the men who desire to be mice. Graham Chapman was a homosexual, and I wonder if his own experiences led to the mouse problem sketch. If he and Cleese didn't write it then nevermind--it's probably about bestiality.

"Sex and Violence" has both sex and violence. The sex is only sex appeal, though, courtesy of Carol Cleveland while the violence comes from the sketch in which Terry Jones brutally murders mice using mallets in an attempt to make music with their squeaks. The episode has its bizarre short sketches that are inserted seemingly willy-nilly. "Sex and Violence" is brilliantly written though. The sketches are clever. The humor's great. It really is a pleasure to re-watch the Flying Circus because it's timeless.

UP NEXT: "How to recognize different types of tree from quite a long way away"


Thursday, June 9, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-watch: Everwood "The Kissing Bridge" Review

Irv explains that small towns change in the same ways large cities do. Buildings change. People change. The last nostalgic structure in Everwood is The Kissing Bridge. The Kissing Bridge is Everwood's symbol of innocence. Once upon a time, two lovers on opposite ends of the town built a bridge connecting the two sides so they could share their first kiss. For years, couples went to the kissing bridge for an important landmark in their relationship. But what happens when the wood's rotting and the structure's weak and dangerous? The teaser concludes with boy falling through a hole in the bridge, landing in the water running beneath it. The bridge isn't safe and should be torn down. The teenagers in Everwood don't merely kiss on dates, either. Buildings change. People change. Times change.

An STD spreads throughout County High, and Andy convinces Harold to help him combat the spread with a healthy dose of knowledge and awareness. Harold reluctantly agrees to help after he diagnoses one of his female teenage patients with an STD. The doctors approach the school board, headed by Rose, to make the parents of County High students aware of the situation. It's standard. Andy notes that no vaccines exist for several STDs, so the best medicine he can use is education. He rocks the boat, though, when he requests the entire sexual education curriculum be changed. Andy's reminded of the town's small mindedness. One member of the school board reminds Andy that he's in Everwood, not Manhattan. Andy unleashes more statistics about how 1 in 10 children under 13 years of age will engage in sexual activity, and 1 in 4 will contract a sexually transmitted disease. The truth is, parents' children are having sex. Either the parents can wax poetic about the good old days and pretend it isn't happening, or teach their children how to be safe so they avoid death. Everwood doesn't have the funds to change the curriculum. Instead, Andy and Harold volunteered their services to educate the County High students.

Like last week, the story essentially ends halfway through the episode. Everwood's family-drama elements usually happen in their medical cases of the week. Everwood's job, on some level, is to educate families watching and raise issues for family discussion. The educational sessions with the doctors receive twenty five seconds of screen-time. The last two scenes involves the doctors with their respective sons. Andy tells Ephram a story about a patient he had named Alfie. Alfie was 17 years old and the doctors were perplexed by his illness. Weeks later, Alfie died then his disease got a name--AIDS. Andy just wants his son to be careful because he can't afford to lose someone he loves. The scene's not only an extension of the STD story--it progresses the relationship between father and son. On their trip to Denver, Harold gave Andy advice about being a father before being his son's friend. Andy just wants to know when he's doing the right thing for his son so he can continue doing the right thing. Ephram promises to let his dad know.

Harold and Bright have an honest conversation about sex and STDs. Harold's worried his son gave the two girls their STD. Bright didn't because he's a virgin, and he hasn't done much else. Harold's relieved. The two scenes with fathers and sons shows the importance of honest communication between a parent and his or her son or daughter. The town's doctors influence isn't as large as one would hope. Parents are the most important role models for their children. It's the job of the parent to educate their child and to keep he or she safe.

"The Kissing Bridge" is a strong episode for the Abbott family, who finally emerge in the series as a collective whole rather than splintered parts in their individual narratives. The dinner scene's among the best scenes in the four seasons of the show. Harold announces that he'll deliver a presentation on sex ed. Tom Amandes is fantastic throughout the scene as Harold learns that Bright dated the two girls who tested positive for an STD. The scene works because the family dinner table shows the close, tight-knit relationship the Abbotts have. On the way to Denver to pick up Amy and Ephram, Harold talks about never letting the child know a parent worried but he immediately hugs his daughter and expresses relief that his daughter's safe--it's the kind of father he is. He may not be eager to lecture about sex in front of other parents' teenagers but he's always there for his children, which is most important.

My favorite story in the episode is Edna's. The Kissing Bridge is a significant Everwood landmark for her. When she hears the town wants to bulldoze it, she becomes pissed. Her anger's directed at Irv, Brenda Baxworth and anyone else talks about the bridge even if they're trying to save it. Edna's story's so strong because it deals with the death of her first husband, Hal Sr. Her second marriage with Irv just two months following Hal Sr's death created a discord between mother and son. Harold never understood it nor condoned it. Edna thinks about her first husband constantly when news breaks that the bridge will be torn down because she and Hal Sr shared their first kiss there; he proposed to her at the bridge; she told him about her pregnancy with Hal Jr at the bridge. The kissing bridge represents the last vestige of her relationship with her first husband, and when it's gone, she'll feel that he's really gone. She loved him so much, and she tells Harold before she blows the bridge up. The story's about delayed grief. It's not about moving on because one never does move on after a loved one passes. And that's what makes the story stand out. Irv tells her that he'll hold her and comfort her even if she's sad about the man she loved before him.

Change isn't always about moving on. It can be about adapting. Andy had to adapt to life without his wife. Harold had to adapt to another doctor in town. Edna had to adapt to life without her husband when she wanted live more than ever despite the town's judgments. The town will adapt to life without its symbol of innocence as well as the loss of other iconic buildings. It's about adaptation and surviving.

Other Thoughts:

-Ephram and Amy's the same old, same old. He's mad at her because she's not in love with him, then he journeys three hours with her so she can ask Colin to a dance.

-Delia and Magilla continue as friends, even though he ignores her in public. Of course, he's a child. Delia comes over his house and he reveals his chest of dolls. Yep, the Magilla story will get weirder.

-Rina Mimoun wrote the episode. She became the show runner during seasons three and four. I always wanted to ask her why she spent episode after episode on Anne Heche and that nonsense romance. I won't buy the DVD because of that arc. Michael Schultz directed it. He directed a few more episodes of the series.

UP NEXT: "Deer God"--Ephram helps a deer return to his home in the wilderness, with the help of Andy. Delia questions the existence of God.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Hell Happened with Wasteland?

Wasteland aired three episodes on ABC before the network cancelled the series. Originally, the ABC executives softened the blow with the promise that Wasteland would return after significant re-tooling. The series never returned, and no one remembers the series except for me and those who worked on the show. When the show premiered in 1999, I was 12 years old. I never actually watched a single episode because I only watched WWF television until 2001 when I began watching one hour scripted dramas on a regular basis. I knew about Wasteland because my parents bought me an unauthorized biography of Kevin Williamson. The book chronicled each project Williamson had been involved in through 2000 (when the book published). Wasteland occupied a small space in the biography. The section had a summary and biographies for the characters, and maybe episode descriptions. Williamson had high hopes the series. He perceived Wasteland as his opportunity to move beyond the stories of teenage adolescence and to grow as a writer. If he succeeded in his transition then why did Wasteland fail? More importantly, is Wasteland any different from Dawson's Creek besides its setting?

Wasteland follows a sextet of 20-somethings who live in Manhattan. The characters are neurotic and lost. Dawnie, the main character of Wasteland, is a 27 year old graduate student who's writing a thesis on the new "lost generation." She theorizes that post-college people experience a second coming-of-age, that their actions stem from a fear-based existence, that the Internet and cell-phones have created a non-communicative generation. Dawnie pitches her thesis to her professor, a quietly intense man who's both bemused and dubious about the thesis subject. And, really, the thesis is weak. The subject doesn't reflect her generation as much as it reflects her individually. Dawnie constructs fantasies when she's too scared to take action. The fantasies involve her having sex with any man she sees on the street. The girl's looking for purpose and direction. Her world's flipped when her ex boyfriend, Ty, re-enters her life. The former couple parted ways because she wouldn't put out and he slept with nearly every girl in college. Dawnie and Ty briefly make up, have sex and then part ways but not before Dawnie and Ty relate about their second coming-of-age.

Besides the bonds of friendship, change unites the six characters in Wasteland. The pretty southern bell, Samantha, wants her former boyfriend, Vandy (or is it Vince? I read a draft before some the network or Williamson changed things) to change, to find direction and purpose beyond his pipe-dream of becoming a professional musician. Her influence in his life motivated him to quit drinking because he wants to change for her. Russ, the successful soap star and closeted homosexual, fears the kind of change that will happen to him when emerges from the closet. The fear cripples him but he opens up about his sexuality and his love for his old roommate, Ty, by the end of the episode. His best friend, Jessie (the Jen to Russ' Jack), is obsessed with the dating scene. The character has no clearly defined personal arc. She's essentially Jen Lindley as a 27 year old but with a healthier sense of self.

Wasteland really was just Dawson's Creek if the Creek characters were in their mid-to-late twenties with careers. Dawnie's what Dawson would've been had he majored in sociology or anthropology (the latter is her program I think). The first two seasons of Dawson's Creek were framed around Dawson's perception and idea of life, people and relationships. In the same way, the stories are filtered through Dawnie's damn thesis. Maybe the series would've lasted longer on US television if Williamson and his writers wrote more interesting, complex stories about 20somethings. These characters define themselves by their romantic relationships and assess their self-worth through them or lack of them. If Williamson wanted to grow as a writer, he should've a created a show with the anti-WB formula.

The descriptions for future episodes never strayed far from the premise or storytelling established in the pilot. Jesse would meet Adam Scott's Coffee Boy character. Ty and Dawnie would examine their relationship and what went wrong in subsequent episodes. There would double-date stories. Sam and Vince spent a night together in her office because the pilot revived a once dead romance. They would move closer together as Ty and Dawnie moved further apart. Jesse and Coffee Boy date, break-up, date, break-up. Russ openly dates other men. Vandy and Dawnie become a couple (and here I thought Vandy and Vince were the same characters). The girls have a wild night out. Russ struggles to tell his parents about his sexuality. Episode after episode recycled plots and never aspired to be anything more than a generic TV show about 20somethings with uninteresting love lives.

Following Wasteland's failure, Williamson focused on projects with teenage characters. He created TheWB's Glory Days, which lasted 10 episodes. A few years later, he created Hidden Palms for The CW but it lasted only a few episodes. He found success with The Vampire Diaires. He developed The Secret Circle so he's the force he was ten years ago before Wasteland failed. He understands the teenage voice and he connects with that audience, which is fine. Vampire Diaires is a fun, exciting show.

Wasteland had one major success. Kevin Williamson hired Damon Lindelof as a staff writer. Near the end of production, every writer had been fired but Lindelof remained so he had a credit on two or three of the final Wasteland episodes. The experience helped him land a job on Chasing Jordan with Carlton Cuse. When he left that show, he developed and co-created LOST with JJ Abrams. As terrible as some TV can be, it can be a launching pad for one of Hollywood's greatest writers.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch--Dawson's Creek "Kiss" Review

The idea, or the illusion, of romance motivates the core four teenage characters of Dawson's Creek in "Kiss." Dawson, naturally, watches an old romantic movie with Joey. The two engage in an argument about the viability and reality of romance in contemporary American culture. Dawson believes in romance and its power and influence over women. Joey believes Hollywood created romance--that the romantic images and scenes across the history of cinema happened in less than romantic circumstances like the 22nd take when the actress is cranky and the actor disinterested. Her disillusionment with romance disappoints and saddens Dawson. He's convinced that someone will sweep off her feet and that she'll long for a romantic kiss only seen in movies. And someone will, in this very episode, and one scene will even re-create a scene that Joey insulted.

Dawson, the overzealous believer in love and romance, wants to plan the perfect kiss for Jen. The self-absorbed teen won't settle for a mere kiss. Dawson actively seeks to stage a kiss the way any Hollywood director stages a kiss in a film. Joey tells her best friend that he's delusional and suggests he simply kiss her. Dawson believes in the magic he witnesses on screen though so he rejects Joey's suggestion. By episode's end, he'll learn that he cannot manufacture romance but he lands the kiss anyway. Dawson's masterplan includes manipulation of the moment through the guise of filming his movie's final scene at The Ruins, a romantic spot in Capeside with a sense of Greek history. Dawson aims to bridge fiction with reality to prove romance can be created. Where will be the proof be? His camcorder. Naturally, the plan blows up in his face. When Jen spots the recording camera, Dawson looks guilty. He launches into a monologue about his insecurities around her, his insane plans designed to romance her in spite of his flaws, and how his plans backfire and will continue to backfire since it's a vicious cycle. Soon, he and Jen must hide because a car down closes--Dawson thinks The Ruins' owner returned. They hide. They kiss.

Over the course of Williamson's two seasons running the series, the teenagers talk a lot about their self-awareness. One character even utters a line about the subtext rapidly becoming text. So far, no subtext exists in Dawson's Creek. Maybe Williamson didn't trust the audience or maybe TheWB didn't. The lack of subtext creates confusion for the viewer. In the last two episodes, Dawson's gotten away with reprehensible behavior. By "gotten away," I mean he's won the heart of the girl of his dreams. Did Williamson and his writers want to send the message that one only needs to publicly embarrass a kill and try to violate her privacy to win the girl? Should the lead character, the heart of the story, display such behavior?

More confusing is this: Dawson explains what dramatic tension is to the rest of Mr. Gold's class when they struggle with a scene in their Helmets of Glory script. Dawson explains that any story should be about the underdog, not the golden boy, and that the underdog needs to overcome some internal conflict inside himself. The audience needs to care about the character and his goals. For the majority of the A story, we're led to believe Dawson wants to create romance because he's a romantic. At the 11th hour, we learn that Dawson's insecure about kissing Jen and that he creates situations as a safety net for himself, which would be fine if Dawson didn't preach an entirely different message throughout the previous three acts. It's annoying storytelling because Williamson and his writers violated their own rule. Dawson's not the underdog because Jen chose him in "Dance." Dawson is THE golden boy as Joey argued in "Pilot." He's only the underdog in a high school film class and who really cares about that?

I forgot how Joey Potter shines throughout the first season because she becomes unwatchable during the final two seasons of the show (and, well, the entire series becomes unwatchable then). Williamson successfully applied the rules of basic story structure to Joey and not Dawson. She's the underdog girl from a broken family. She's not middle class compared to the upper middle class residents that dominate the properties in Capeside. She's in love with her best friend whose currently infatuated with the new, exciting girl from New York. Joey grounds the series. The reason she's dubious about romance is because her father cheated on her mother, and it destroyed her. She's seen how unromantic "love" can be yet she’s young enough to love her best friend and soul mate. She's young enough to get swept away by the son of a wealthy couple only stopping by Capeside for a few days, and she's also young enough to lie about her life, her family, and her financial situation.

Anderson Crawford, the rich boy just visiting, introduces Joey to romance and its potential. Romance can't be created. It happens naturally. Joey briefly lives another life because she believes she's not worthwhile or attractive to Anderson if she's honest about her circumstances but it's a fairly insignificant part of the story. Joey began the episode as a jaded, cynical teenager with jaded, cynical ideas about love but then she and Anderson kiss, and it changes her. She smiles and glows for a moment. Joey tosses his number because a relationship can't be built on a lie but she won't be so jaded about the power of a kiss.

Other Thoughts:

-Pacey and Tamara have sex and Dawson's camcorder records the act. They were the two who came to The Ruins when Dawson and Jen hid. I never had interest in this story as a dumb teenager and I have even less interest in it now. Pacey's more interesting when Tamara's out of the picture, which will be soon. As much as I dislike the story line, Joshua Jackson showed his acting chops when he acknowledges that he’s a virgin.

-Joey and Anderson nearly kiss on the beach in a scene that's nearly identical to the scene she and Dawson watched in the teaser.

-Dawson saves the Helmets Of Glory shoot when he shows Cliff and Nellie how to successfully track a shot without a shaky camera. Dawson worked as Nellie's PA because he wants to officially join the class, and that's his test. My film classes never involved the actual production of a movie. Of course, Capeside High resembles a college campus more than a high school one but every fictional high school campus resembles a campus.

-Jen reveals a deep sadness while she shoots the final scene of Dawson's horror movie. Dawson praises the acting but she's not acting. I forget how much time the show spends on her issues in season one but I know season two devotes a decent chunk of time. Dawson, of course, is the White Knight.

-The first season boasts a truly great writing staff. Rob Thomas, who created Veronica Mars, wrote "Kiss." Thomas also co-created Party Down. He developed the new 90210. Michael Uno directed it.

UP NEXT: "Discovery." Dawson learns about his mother's adulterous affair and turns to Jen when he learns Joey knew about the affair; however, Jen offers no solace when she opens up about her own past.


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.