Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The 2012 Summer Re-Watch: Dawson's Creek "A Perfect Wedding" Review

Andie and Pacey stories come from a place of conflict, usually harmless, but conflict nonetheless. They acted like a couple from a 1950s romantic comedy before "The Dance." They verbally sparred over everything. Now, at episode 18, they've been together for several months, found a good dynamic, weathered certain bad storms, and reveled in the good times. The Capeside teens help the Icehouse cater a wedding. Andie argues against the institution of marriage, labeling it 'antiquated,' that people possess the agency to choose to be together for the rest of their lives and need not holy bonds of matrimony. The symbol of the wedding and the other bits of symbolism throughout the ceremony are entirely empty, according to Andie. So, Pacey offers his pay if he successfully changes Andie's mind about the holy sacrament of matrimony.

Empty symbolism and loaded symbolism are opposites, of course, and one's able to learn more about the characters through this opposition. Andie's opinion is a way to make these themes overt throughout the episode, just like Andie's ideas about the psychic made the themes of "Psychic Friends" overt and important for the rest of the characters even if they were unaware of the theme, because they're not supposed to be 'in' on the theme; that's not how life works.

Mr. Potter's back in Capeside. Immediately, Bessie tells Joey about a plan to turn a significant profit for the Ice House. For Bessie, her father is a symbol of stability and productivity, despite the time he spent in prison. The idea to cater weddings represents a new dawn for the Ice House, a way to emerge from crippling debt, and a way to reform the family in a way it hasn't been together since the death of Bessie and Joey's mother. Joey wonders if her father's full of empty sentiments and ideas as well as this symbol of stability. Joey needs to work through the issues she has with her father. The wedding stresses her out because the Ice House depends on its success, and the Ice House never catered before. Capeside is still a small town, insular, populated by people with their own prejudices, and Mr. Potter's return from prison is met with low opinions by the townspeople, which stresses Joey out more. Jack calms her down while Dawson watches enviously until Jack tells him that Joey needs her soul mate to help her through the mess.

Dawson spent much of the episode with women who either were afraid to love or eager to love again. The women included the bride-to-be and Gail, his mother. Dawson screened Creek Daze for his mother, which she complimented, and the experience somehow committed her to winning Mitch back. The wedding seemed a perfect place for Gail to win Mitch back because a wedding symbolizes the most holy of commitments; however, Mitch has his own symbol of independence in his date with Ms. Kennedy. Mitch's date symbolizes his own process of moving on and away from Gail, in Gail's view; of course, Dawson perceives the matter differently, as a symbol of Mitch wanting his wife to become jealous, as a sort of game he's playing to hurt his wife the way she hurt him by sleeping with her co-anchor. Dawson is unable to help his mom and the bride-to-be. He stands and watches Jack save a marriage, and he stands and watches his mom sit alone while Mitch romances the evil substitute teacher who ripped Dawson's film.

Dawson doesn't fail Joey, though, which is meant to solidify their fate as soul mates. Joey's overheard by her father worrying about the town's opinion of the return of the man who cheated on his sick wife and who dealt drugs, leaving two daughters in the lurch in prison. Dawson doubts Joey wants his help after he learns about her dad's return from Jack. Joey's emotions are complex and difficult to express. Dawson catches her in a vulnerable moment, not long after she'd been crying, and he verbalizes the emotions she's had trouble verbalizing, because he gets her. Joey fears being hurt by her father again, but Dawson assures her she needn't be afraid because her dad is back and a better man than before, that she possesses incredible strength, that she's allowed to be afraid and find comfort in her family, because her family is back. And, he adds, she'll always have him. Their talk is heartfelt and sweet, one of the last genuinely felt scenes between the characters in the series. The courage she finds from Dawson's words compels her to communicate honestly with her father. Father and daughter reconcile, and she wants to show him off to Capeside, but he's afraid of public opinion. Near the wedding's end, she sees her father walk into the dance room in a splendid tux. They dance. You see, he just wasn't ready to be seen (though I'm sure that wasn't the intent but considering what comes after then maybe one should take all of Mike Potter's scenes literally).

Dawson and Joey slow dance after their dances with their respective parents. The overanalyzation goes away once they're in each other's arms. Joey simply tells her soul mate how she feels about him because of how he's treated her for sixteen years. "I love you, Dawson," Joey says. Dawson responds with an "I love you." They kiss. They're back together again. Dawson may not understand anything about the world, but we're to understand his understanding of Joey Potter. In rare moments, their connection works. Rare is the key word. Symbolism disappears in the final act once the characters communicate. Once they do, good things happen.

But there are only four episodes left, so moments of happiness seem to be just moments, temporary, bound to change.

Other Thoughts:

-Andie confesses to secretly loving weddings. She and Pacey are mostly occupied with fixing the top part of a wedding cake. Pacey keeps his pay. Absolutely no drama happens between them, which was nice.

-Abby Morgan dies after falling several feet into the bay. Jen witnesses the fall and recovers the body. Jen randomly wants to hang out with Abby because no one invited her to cater the wedding, and the writers needed Jen to become unstable again. Abby's last lines are about how she'll always be unhappy. I'll write much more about Abby and Jen next week.

-Mike White wrote the episode. Greg Prange directed it.

UP NEXT: "Rest in Peace, Abby Morgan"--Abby's death shocks Capeside; Jen denounces God in front of Grams; Andie's asked to give the eulogy because Mrs. Morgan gave her a ride home one time. Watch it on Netflix, Streampix, or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYJAnDEvUtA


Monday, July 30, 2012

Alphas "The Quick and The Dead" Review

Ever wonder what a random blogger thinks about your favorite show? Well, wonder no more. During the slow summer months, I'll tune into random shows and write about them. This continues with tonight's episode of Alphas, a show on Syfy that I actually watch!

I bet Alphas is the series NBC wanted to make and, perhaps, regrets passing on in favor of Tim Kring's Heroes. The story is old now, but Alphas went through various stages of development through the years before landing on the desk of a Syfy executive (maybe Sci-Fi depending on how long ago this happened). I remember reading about NBC's interest in the show before eventually passing. Last summer, during the build-up to Alphas, I thought nothing of the premise because so many superhero-based shows failed. TV writers couldn't crack the formula for how to make a superhero drama work on a weekly basis. Heroes and No Ordinary Family destroyed my interest in shows about super-powered people; however, Alphas surprised me when I tuned in week after week. I learned superhero shows could work--just keep them away from NBC and ABC.

Alphas episodes were engaging week after week. The Alpha-of-the-week usually stood out. The core characters are written well. The universe is well-established. I groaned when the show introduced secret prisons for Alphas, because they caused horrible flashbacks of Heroes, but the prisons aren't groan-worthy. Season 1 didn't dwell on an ongoing narrative; in fact, the Stanton Parrish arc wasn't introduced until the season 1 finale. So, season 1 consisted of stand-alone episodes that were a joy to watch. (Of course, each episode served to build the mythology of the show as a variety of Alphas were explored).

Season 2 started last week with a traditional premiere episode. Dr. Rosen dealt with the fallout from his worldwide confession about Alphas and how they, you know, actually exist. The government kept him locked away in a mental institution. The team was split apart. Hicks and Bill continued to work for the government. The others struggled without their guide. By premiere's end, the team was back together, but they're fractured now.

The team reassembles in their office, now occupied by a group of government workers who don't respect Gary's refrigerator shelf. A bit of a power struggle develops between Bill and Dr. Rosen. Hicks is secretly sleeping with Dr. Rosen's duplicitous daughter, who's working with the villain Stanton Parrish. Hicks' trysts with Dani affects Nina, his ex-girlfriend who 'pushed' him last season. They're separation sent Nina down a path of destruction. She steals original Van Gogh art and pushes attractive men into sleeping with her and then forgetting her. Rachel's more-or-less arcless because Dr. Rosen helped bring back the equilibrium she desperately needs to survive and thrive on a day-to-day basis.

The team's distracted for a bit by C. Thomas Howell's Eli, an Alpha cursed with super speed, which caused a rapid aging process. The 22 year old looks like he's in his late 40s. He kills a man and almost kills another man, both of whom were involved in the creation of this ability in Eli. Eli wanted to see remorse from the people who ruined his life, but neither offered remorse. One died, the other was saved by the Alphas in the nick of time. Dr. Rosen promised to help Eli, but Eli was shot to death when he threatened both Rosens' lives with a knife. There were conflicts between Bill and Dr. Rosen during the hunt for Eli. Eli's death had a ripple effect on Dr. Rosen and Nina. Nina felt disheartened that another Alpha died on Dr. Rosen's watch while Dr. Rosen shared the same feelings. Rosen wants to help Alphas, not hurt them. Parrish is the age-old Alpha who wants to incite civil war between Alphas and humans. Dr. Rosen wants peace.

The most compelling aspect of season 2 is the lack of cohesion in the team. Hicks can't focus. Bill's heart is more troublesome. Gary's on edge, less cooperative than last season, throwing contents in the refrigerators at co-workers, yelling and such. Nina's pushing everyone she meets. She'd push for a free refill even if she's already guaranteed a free refill. Rachel's fragility keeps her separated from the team, as Bill dismisses her ability to function after they uncover a dead body. Dr. Rosen can't keep his team together, so how can he avoid war between Alphas and humans--this seems to be the main focus of the season.

Pain and hurt feelings are already prevalent just two episodes into the season. Dani's an important character to watch because she's tied into three major characters. Dr. Rosen doesn't know she's working with Parrish, nor does Cameron. Dani's not painted in black or white colors. The character has depth. She loves and cares for Dr. Rosen, as he's her father, and she loves and cares for Cameron. Her sexual relationship threatens Parrish's plans, but she's unwilling to leave him, so even when she's revealed to the team as an accomplice of Stanton's, we've seen her redemptive quality. As always in fiction, the most redemptive quality a person can possess is the ability to love, for love transcends and transforms a person. Nina could be healed through love. She spins out of control when Cameron informs her of his love for another. What will change when Dr. Rosen learns of his daughter's betrayal?

Beyond Stanton Parrish and the personal relationships in Alphas, I don't have much else to write. There are plenty of episodes left and many things yet to happen. Alphas is the best show on Syfy as well as one of the best overall on TV, network and cable. It's worth catching up on. Summer Glau's episode is a must-see, and she'll be back for three episodes this season. So yeah.

Other Thoughts:

-The theme song is so awesome.

-Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer are co-producers. I saw their credits last week and had flashbacks of No Ordinary Family, a truly awful show that aired during the 2010-2011 TV season. Marc Guggenheim, who worked on the show, said the audience wasn't ready for NOF. No, that wasn't the problem, Guggenheim. Your show absolutely sucked. Don't act like you worked on a brilliant-but-cancelled show. People started watching, realized NOF was horrible, and smartly stopped wasting ther time. I, of course, continued watching and writing about the show because I enjoyed ripping it every week.

-That's all. Good night.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The 2012 Summer Re-Watch: Everwood "No Sure Thing" Review

I wrote about teenagers and sex once already in a Dawson's Creek post for "Sex, She Wrote." The WB loved their shows to tell stories about teenagers having sex for the first time. The mandate allowed Brenda Hampton write even more insufferable dialogue and make horrible creative choices like marry off Lucy so she can have sex and then the whole family can talk about Lucy marrying because of sex and what they think of Lucy marrying to have sex and Lucy will deny AND confirm at the same time marrying for sex. No WB shows were preachy like 7th Heaven. Everwood shared a night with 7th Heaven its first two years, and watching the show was like drinking a cure, because everything 7th Heaven tried to be, Everwood excelled at.

"No Sure Thing" is the equivalent of a SexEd course on primetime television; however, when Treat Williams and his beard, along with the talented Greg Smith, Emily Vancamp, and Debra Mooney, are carrying the episode, any preachiness or school room-type atmosphere disappears. I considered writing about Friday Night Light's "I Think We Should Have Sex" several months ago as a way to explore the depiction of sex on TV. I'd love to praise "No Sure Thing" for handling the topic of sex as deftly and maturely as FNL, but it doesn't. Last week's episode bugged me because it resembled a horrible Lifetime movie. "No Sure Thing" resembles a slightly less awful Lifetime episode. The show was geared towards family and teens, so most of the scenes basically instruct parents and child on how to deal with the uncomfortable topic of sex.

Educating the viewer isn't wrong, but the viewer can be educated in more original ways. Everwood tries to bring 'edge' to the series in the Ephram storyline, but he's still face-to-face with his father in a scene that Everwood seems to suggest should be common in most households. The series produced a far better episode about sex in season three, titled "Need To Know." The writers probably learned from the mistakes of "No Sure Thing." Andy and Amy's scene about birth control is a FYI scene full of facts and questions and affirmations. Amy repeatedly says she's ready to have sex, to take birth control, knows the risks, etc. She even threatens Andy by telling him she'll go to Denver for Planned Parenthood birth control prescription, which is an overt way of warning the parents watching that if they don't address sex and protection with their child, he or she could be at Planned Parenthood RIGHT NOW getting condoms and birth control. Andy does blood work on her because he plans on writing a prescription to her.

Edna catches wind of the secret doctor's appointment when she hears from a lab about Amy's blood work. Doctor and nurse argue about the ethical code of treating someone's daughter without their knowledge, someone's granddaughter in the very practice the grandmother works, and Andy threatens to fire her if she discusses Amy's medical case outside of the office with Harold. Andy's always going to piss people off with his decisions as a doctor. Andy treats people, every kind of person, no matter how controversial treatment can be, and he gets hell for it. Edna directs her rage towards Andy as parent and attempts to get him to think about how he'd feel if Ephram went to Harold in secret. Andy flatly states that Ephram is not having sex yet; therefore, it is not an issue. Oh, Andy. You fool of a bearded took.

Of course, Ephram's having sex, and of course Andy will piece together the clues just in time for a verbal throwdown in the Brown Kitchen. "No Sure Thing" advises against arrogance. Don't be the arrogant parent whose confident and self-assured enough to think little Nadezhda or little Rusty isn't buying condoms or getting under the covers with the dickhead kid from down the block. If you are, you're arrogance will bite you. Ephram lied to his father about a poker game because Madison's roommate left town for the weekend, and Bright told Ephram that 'roommate is out of town' is code for fornication. Ephram fails. Madison kicks him out when she learns what kind of bad advice he took from Bright. The next day, Andy runs into Bright and Harold at the market, where he learns Ephram never played poker and then pieces everything together: Ephram might be having sex.

Andy barely heard Ephram about the poker game because he was nervous about asking his kids if they'd mind Linda sleeping over. Amy, Ephram and Andy all have sex on their minds. Andy wants to take the next step with Linda because he loves her. Ephram's a teenage boy. Amy wants to get the experience over with because she's resigned herself to disappointment because Colin's not alive anymore, and she always wanted her first time to be with him. The differences between maturity and immaturity in regards to love are as wide as the distance between Mercury and Jupiter. Linda scares herself away from intimacy with Andy, unwilling to potentially cause more pain to him and his family if her disease worsens, but Andy knows the risks and wouldn't take it if he didn't feel his relationship with Linda was worth it. The teenagers are oblivious to risks. They simply have raging hormones.

The risks and consequences of sex are the ones the adults are concerned about their children knowing. One's loss of virginity is depicted as a tragic event, full of regret and pain, and a spontaneous reaction to stimuli, not an act thought through and weighed. Madison, young as she is, emphasizes the necessity for the experience to be special. Amy's opinion would horrify her grandmother; she just wants to get it over with, like it's a scary rollercoaster she needs to conquer. "Everything changes" opines Irv in the narration, after a couple has sex, and Amy and Ephram haven't processed that. If Amy slept with Tommy, it'd probably worsen her condition. She doesn't because he confessed his dealings of drugs. Ephram eventually copulates with Madison, a day after an embarrassing moment during a physical makeout session, in his car, which is parked at The Point, an iconic place for Everwood teens much like Ephram and Madison, where everything will change for Ephram and Madison eventually.

Each story has its great moment, though. The sex ed aspect is a bit much, but Everwood found the heart in all of their stories. For Amy's, it's the moment when she tears up at the thought of her first time being without Colin. For Andy, it's his impassioned speech to Linda about taking a risk. For Ephram, it's when Madison tells him about her first time and how badly the experience made her feel, to which Ephram responds by telling her he wanted to be there for because he can't stand the thought of her unhappiness. As a whole, the difference between "No Sure Thing" and its sequel "Need To Know" is characterization. Moments of frankness with sexuality feels forced between characters whereas the moments are natural within the storytelling. Maybe The WB wanted an episode about teenage sex, but the writers weren't ready, and therefore missed. So, anyway, watch "Need To Know."

Other Thoughts:

-Amy's clued into Tommy's hobby, so it shouldn't be too long before the relationship goes to a bad place.

-Amy said she had a date with Orlando Bloom in response to Tommy's question about her plans for Saturday. Wow. 8 years goes by and an Orlando Bloom reference seems dated. What fictional teenage girl would dream of a date with Orlando in 2012?

-Bright's line about thanking God and praying not to screw up when a girl agrees to sex was awesome. Bright's used in small doses. Chris Pratt always stole his few scenes. No wonder he's a star now.

UP NEXT: "The L Word"--Ephram tells Madison he loves her. Uh-oh. Watch the episode on Amazon.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Whedonverse Classic #9: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer's "Gingerbread"

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer's third season is awesome. There is no bad episode. Sure, some episodes are weaker, but the weaker ones still have insanely good dialogue, terrific character interaction, inspired B and C stories, and an effective A story. Season 3 has many of my favorite Buffy episodes. My parents bought me this season eight or nine years ago in a Center City Borders, which was my first Buffy DVD. I purchased season three after hearing about the quality and watching "Lover's Walk" on an early Sunday morning, like 4AM, while my dad and brother hung out.

The one episode I don't think about often is "Gingerbread," which is why I chose to write about the episode today. Nearly every season three episode is great-to-classic. "Gingerbread" hangs out alone on the playground, though, kicking at random rocks, with its hands dug deep in its pocket, while the cool kids play together. The presence of Willow's mother is enough for me to write at least four paragraphs, because she's never seen again. The first two acts touch on interesting ideas about people's reaction to violence, the misunderstanding of youth culture, etc. The formation of MOO seems like a commentary on folk like the PTC, who attempt to govern what people watch and how parents should police what their children watch. "Gingerbread" is a Buffy episode, first and foremost, so one knows the demon will appear eventually and the good guys will win. The writers were a bit ambitious because the differing tones don't reconcile, and the parts are greater than the whole.

Initially, "Gingerbread" seems focused on portraying mother-daughter relationships; however, Joss Whedon ran Buffy, and he never settled for simple storytelling. Whedon, according to his former employees, pushed and pushed and pushed, in the room, until they wrung every last bit of potential from a story. So, mother-daughter relationship dynamics are introduced in the teaser. Joyce finds the murdered children on the playground and alerts her friends. Soon, the whole town knows. The weirdness of Sunnydale suddenly becomes the hot topic at a local government meeting. Witches become suspects in the murder because a witch’s symbol was found on the corpses. Willow, Amy and Michael are singled out by the town. Other teenagers turn on their peers. A hysteria of misunderstanding and prejudice takes over the town. Joyce judges Buffy's slayer duties; Mrs. Rosenberg judges Willow's witchcraft. Neither understands their daughter's "hobby." The misunderstanding and rush to judgment has nearly fatal consequences.

The witches are the persecuted group in "Gingerbread," but any number of groups could stand in for the witches. This episode portrays a group of parents who react to them and react badly. None think about their actions, they just act because someone needs to act for the sake of the children. The witches represent an Other. The idea of the Other is frightening to other people, and history's most tragic events happened because of reaction to the Other. Shakespeare's The Tempest is a terrific play about post-colonial Otherness. Prospero is banished to an island where he turns the native Caliban into a slave and kills his mother Sycorax. Shakespeare could've been writing about post-colonialism or anticipating it, but I won't reiterate my senior seminar final in a post about "Gingerbread." The point is Joyce and Mrs. Rosenberg and the rest of the town want to burn that which isn't understood, that which is dangerous. The Catholic church used to burn books deemed harmful to the population. MOO resides in the same neighborhood.

The disconnect and divide between parent and child is another component of the episode. One wonders how crisis could've been averted if the mothers sat down with Buffy and Willow in an attempt to understand their lives. The argument against this idea is the presence of a demon who's able to brainwash parents through the image of innocent children. The image of the innocent child evokes the most primal parental instinct: to protect his or her child at all costs. Whedon, St. John and Espensen basically turned parental love on its head: to protect the innocent children, the parents are willing to kill their own. Of course, Joyce is the only one who's being brainwashed, so her insults towards Buffy's supernatural calling isn't really her; however, Mrs. Rosenberg is never brainwashed and barely devotes time to understanding the daughter she barely knows.

Mrs. Rosenberg is an analytical woman, an academic who co-authors papers on mysticism and youth culture. Willow's examined like a book of text. The theories of great academic minds run through Mrs. Rosenberg's heads when she sits down to discuss witchcraft with her daughter. She argues a point about why Willow's involved in witchcraft and supports her argument with textual evidence. Unfortunately, Willow isn't a book of text, which is critical theory has its rightful place in the underbelly of English programs across the globe. Willow's barely worth a two page double-spaced paper in her mother's eyes. Joyce tells her that Willow is a witch. Well, then, Willow is a witch and must be burned! Amy and Willow are tied to stakes. Buffy, too, after an unfortunate run-in with her mom in the homestead.

The betrayal Willow experiences doesn't affect her. The next scene is a cute one between Buffy and Willow in which they try to reverse the rat spell Amy cast on herself. Buffy says something about her mother's behavior post-demon influence, but both are content helping Amy. Aside from Joyce, parents don't shape their children in Buffy. The family is the Scoobies. In season five, Buffy makes a stand for Tara against her family by telling them Tara's with her real family. The Whedonverse embraces the idea that people don't need to be blood-related to be family. Willow's got her friends, her boyfriend, and Giles, and they are the only people she needs.

Angel and Buffy have the best conversation in the episode. The conversation highlights one of the most important statements Whedon wanted to leave with the audience. I mean, ANGEL concludes on the same idea Angel tells Buffy in this conversation. Buffy feels lousy because her mother wondered what point slaying has when townspeople continue to die. Essentially, Buffy questions the purpose of slaying, of trying to beat evil, when evil keeps coming. Buffy's question translate to the real world when one thinks about going on despite the disappointments and rejections of life, loss and sadness, hardships and all. Angel explains why she needs to fight regardless of whether she wins or not: "We never will [win]. That's not why we fight. We do it 'cause there's things worth fighting for."

Whedonverse Classic is about highlighting ignored or forgotten episodes of Buffy and ANGEL. My thoughts invariably turn towards why I continue re-watching these shows after numerous re-watches. Angel's scene in "Gingerbread" is another reason why I'm attached to this world. One of the greatest scenes in ANGEL is when Angel describes his epiphany to Kate, which touches on what he tells Buffy. Never giving up, doing the right things even if people ignore you or hurt you or tell you it's not worth it or you're not worth anything, is a profoundly powerful message. The idea has existential roots (Joss was influenced by Sartre's Nausea, so of course I also read it). It's sort of like Sisyphus and the rock. One might see incredible meaningless in Sisyphus' task or one might see profound meaning, a hero even. Joss Whedon saw the hero and created a world full of them, and that's why I'll always keep watching the show, and why I'll always urge people to watch Buffy and ANGEL if they haven't. These shows could profoundly affect your life.

So, let me conclude on Angel's epiphany from "Epiphany." I sort of wandered away from "Gingerbread.” Oh well.
"Well, I guess I kinda worked it out. If there's no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters then all that matters is what we do. 'Cause that's all there is. What we do. Now. Today. I fought for so long, for redemption, for a reward, and finally just to beat the other guy, but I never got it...not all of it. All I wanna do is help. I wanna help because, I don't think people should suffer as they do. Because, if there's no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The 2012 Summer Re-Watch: Dawson's Creek "Psychic Friends" Review

Season 2 is a season of discovery for the Capeside teenagers. Season 1 never stretched beyond the love triangle and a harmlessly entertaining Pacey Witter Story, or two scenes with the Leery parents. With a second season comes more expectations and a desire to know more: more about the individual characters, and the expectations for the stories to build and evolve from their adolescent beginnings. Pacey's defined more thoroughly, and the writers avoided defining through his relationship; Jen suffered an identity crisis but has slowly become a confident and independent women; the two characters who need definition on their own are so close to running back into each other's arms because life without the other hasn't been what either thought.

The problem everyone runs into growing up is lack of answers to a myriad number of questions from "Why doesn't Girl A like me like I like her?" to "What is the meaning of life?" Joey thought her plan to grow beyond Dawson would work, but now she regrets even saying she needed to find herself. What, exactly, did she need to find? So, she chews on her lip a great deal during "Psychic Friends" and furrows her brow and generally thinks a lot. Apparently, she's only thinking about kisses and how she misses them, but your blogger prefers to think Joey's in deep existential thought about existence, about an eternal question that will seemingly never be solved. The characters, even Joey, concern themselves with the former question rather than the latter; however, each one converses with the psychic who came into town for whatever Capeside festival happened during the episode. The psychic, you see, has the answers to the questions no one else has, not even Mitch Leery.

The Dawson's Creek psychic is a complete and total plot device just as the tertiary character Cliff Manchester is. "Psychic Friends" is a transition episode. The psychic is vital to set-up the final five episodes of the season. A little more creativity and thought could've made the psychic an unnecessary addition to the episode, but her presence ties into the second paragraph discussion. For $5, she'll tell Joey and Andie their futures. For no fee whatsoever, Dawson and Pacey get a look at their own future. What's interesting about the fortune telling is the way it contradicts with what the characters thought previously; or, rather, they misinterpret the psychic's reading. People have a bad habit of hearing only what they want to hear. Joey wants a kiss and so when she hears a tall, dark man will enter her life she believes the man represents romance and many kisses. Likewise, Andie hears her past will haunt her and becomes freaked. Pacey's told he wears a mask and is nothing more than a scared little boy. For Dawson, the reverse happens: he thinks one way and he learns the opposite is actually true.

The teens' misreadings of their readings is the most inspired part of the episode, aside from a number of visually awesome scenes. Teenagers are taught to anticipate the future, to believe in it and anticipate it, because the best is yet to come. The psychic is a representation of that thought. Andie expects the world, to hear she's going to become the first female president of the United States or a political titan. Andie's a true believer. Her friends are full of doubt. The audience is left to interpret the legitimacy of the psychic. She stumbles into a fact about Joey's life in her first scene. By the end, she seemingly disappears from where she sat, as if she traveled through time and space to read people for $5 in Capeside, Mass. Of course, if you're a romantic, she traveled through space and time to tell Dawson that 'that which is lost can be found again,' i.e. there's a future for him and Joey.

The psychic is a mostly annoying plot device. The writers, until the end of the series, regardless of show runner, never integrated psychics and magic, any type of new age thing, nor anything supernatural. The idea developed, was executed, and left for the audience to digest. Immediately, in this episode, the writers felt the need to foreshadow the final five episodes. Andie's family history hasn't been dealt with. Will it? Yes, according to the psychic. Joey's going to encounter a tall, dark man in her life. Is it Cliff Manchester or someone else? The mystery man is her father, who's at her doorstep when she comes back from across the creek. Are Joey and Dawson soul mates in not only this life but past lives, destined to be together, because they surround one another? Who knows. Is Pacey's transformation permanent or as vulnerable as mask, able to be taken off and thrown away? How much has he changed? The writers wanted to remind the viewer of arcs before the momentous final five episodes of season 2. Jen is off in the distance because I don't think
Williamson ever figured out (more on that in two weeks).

"Psychic Friends" possesses tremendous charm. I think the return of the flutes is responsible for the charming quality. The outdoor setting is part of the charm, too. The action takes place during the festival. Joey and Jack display her portraits. Dawson assists the new film teacher and successful Hollywood writer set-up a silent movie tent. Pacey portrays a loathsome safety dog. Jen and her Grams wander around and deal with a flirtatious older gentleman named Witt. The day is gray and seems windy, sort of uncomfortable to be out all day but not bad enough that a good hat and coat won't keep one warm; it's like my ideal day. The characters sit around and drink hot cocoa or stand around. Kevin Williamson must've brought the festival out from his imagination: it's the quintessential small town festival on a quintessential small town day. I would attend this kind of festival.

The drama isn't loud or dressed in vibrant colors. Dawson doesn't insult everyone who cared about him. Nothing like that. When something happens, it's handled well, perhaps because the setting is outdoors, and people wouldn't fall into histrionics in public. Dawson's subdued throughout the episode. Subdued Dawson results in a subdued show. Whenever he's not making a scene, no scenes are made. Dawson's sad because he loves Joey, and she doesn't love him. Creek Daze finished post, so he devoted his energy to kissing the ass of the film teacher/movie writer and thinking about reaction to the film. Naturally, his dreams are dashed. Mitch, who's now subbing for a Capeside teacher, wonders when his optimistic son embraced pessimism. Dawson believes in realism now. His reality is one without Joey. Thus, he's been hardened, and it wouldn't take many viewings of Clint Eastwood movies to transform him from a Capra fanboy into a grizzled and despondent Eastwood fan.

Dawson keeps the pain inside and elects not to use the mood to ruin anyone else's day. Creek Daze misses badly with the film teacher/screenwriter. She criticizes the writing, direction, and tells him to forget about his Hollywood dreams. The woman's brutally honest and failed to recognize the age and experience of Dawson Leery. He's not a 30-something year old screenwriter in Hollywood; he's a teenager who just completed his second movie. I doubt any successful screenwriter wrote a script Hollywood couldn't pass up at age sixteen. Dawson needed to be kicked some more, though, and hurting him through his true first love, movies, was an effective choice. Dawson leaves the scene of the brutal takedown and sees his friends smiling and laughing without him. The short scene reminded me of Chekov's "Gooseberries" and a character who observes how the happy could only be happy because they're unaware of the unhappy. His eyes glisten with tears and the physical effect of watching Joey embrace Jack is expressed on his face, a mixture of pain and hopelessness. The eternal optimist wants to crawl into bed and shut off the world.

Dawson doesn't know the thoughts which flow through Joey like the Liffey, of how close she feels to Dawson, of the past and being unable to remember why she ever broke up with him. Cliff Manchester helps her figure out her feelings for Dawson because, he, the plot device, had a relationship just like Dawson and Joey and ruined it, and now wonders why he did, especially because the reasons that made him end things have all disappeared from his mind without a trace. Dawson gazes longingly at a picture of Joey on his nightstand, picks up the phone and dials her house before hanging up. Meanwhile, Joey stands below, gazing up, before turning away. Neither knows why they're apart anymore, but neither is able make the move to make them be one again. Perhaps it's the wounds from the break-up, which causes a hesitance and a desire not to feel that pain again. Joey feels afraid she'll lose him; Dawson's possibly renewed by the words of the psychic that what was lost can be found again. A reconciliation of sorts will need to happen. But, of course, the first reconciliation needs to happen between daughter and father.

Mr. Potter's back.

Other Thoughts:

-Grams is ready to date again, to live life, etc. I'm disappointed the writers chose not to focus on post-Gramps life and instead focused on Jen trying to win Dawson back. Grams small moment of reflection on her life without her husband was moving and gracefully played by Mary-Beth Piel. When the show hits bottom in season six, her and Joshua Jackson are the only ones bringing dignity to the show.

-Cliff Manchester is a photography student who photographs Joey and is interested in Jack. Joey thinks he'll bring romance to her life. The photography scene is the highlight of season 2. Holmes is equally sexy, coy, playful, innocent, and energetic. No wonder she was the darling of the late 90s. The girl was (and is) smashing. Late 90s Katie Holmes will always have a place in my heart. Track down Part 3 of "Psychic Friends" on YouTube and become drunk on the wine of Katie Holmes' loveliness (hat tip to Tolstoy for that one).

-Meredith Monroe and Josh Jackson weren't given great material this week. The McPhee family history continues to be discussed, and there are hints Andie is about to crack. Each week, Pacey's the great boyfriend who talks Andie down from the ledge. Rinse and repeat.

-The teaser features a dream sequence in which Jack's the celebrated director whom Spielberg hires and Joey confirms Dawson's worst fears: that she prefers Jack to him, and that Dawson's never been her type. Van Der Beek has one of his worst acting moments on the show when Dawson wakes up.

-Jack freaks out when he learns about Cliff's interest in him. Joey's so blasé about it that she immediately apologizes when she realizes her insensitivity. Joey and Jack are so sweet together in their last scene. Jack gives her the kiss she wants, on the forehead, and she basically snuggles with him on a step outside of the art area. Joey Potter shines in "Psychic Friends."

-Dana Baratta wrote the episode. Patrick Norris directed it.

UP NEXT: "A Perfect Wedding"--The Ice House hosts a wedding. Joey worries about her father being seen in public. Dawson worries about his mom when Mitch shows up with Miss Kennedy, the film teacher/screenwriter. Watch it on Netflix, Streampix, or YouTube.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Political Animals "Second Time Around" Review

I can't write about Political Animals anymore.

I doubt anyone reading will actually care about me choosing not to write about Political Animals anymore. I had reservations about the show last week but decided to put it aside and just write. I didn't really look forward to tonight's episode. I'm re-reading Tolstoy's War & Peace, and I would've rather read the book. I'm a man of my word, though, and I wanted to watch Political Animals in hopes the old Berlanti magic would be present.

The old Berlanti magic was not present. Aside from a scene in which I thought about how TJ was like Ephram, if Ephram had been a tortured homosexual addict, Political Animals had more in common with Brothers & Sisters and Dirty Sexy Money than his charming WB dramas. I ignored the similarities to the former shows in last week's review because I stubbornly wanted to see what I wanted to see. I can't ignore the soap opera tropes, not after the episode opened with Elaine and Bud engaged in a scene seen so many times before on daytime soaps. I wanted the episode to end immediately. Alas, it had just begun.

"Second Time Around' makes its theme abundantly clear. The title comes from a scene between Nana and TJ as they choose a song to sing together at Doug's engagement party. The song they choose is about love being easier the second time around. Anything, theoretically, is easier the second time around. War & Peace is an easier read the second time around. I know the characters and where the story goes. I notice the details more. For Elaine, specifically, love with Bud could be easier the second time around and running for president of the United States as well. Elaine's lived and learned and turned those experiences into strengths that helped her win America's hearts and positions in the government far beyond what political men would think a woman could achieve.

The political aspect of the series is not badly written. I'd be on board with a series that mostly followed Elaine's political career. The scene in Iran, with Bud freeing the hostages, wasn't astounding, but it was better than Doug and his fiancée arguing about a party, or TJ stealing a check from his grandmother. A deep exploration of Elaine the politician is worth writing about, but the series is too interested in superfluous stories. Yes, some people probably enjoy the TMZ aspect to the story; of the "royal" American family who find themselves in the headlines daily. Not me. The tonal imbalance is distracting. In one scene, Elaine chewed out the vice president for telling the press about Bud's secret meeting in Iran. In the next, Doug's pleasuring his fiancée before they get into a spat about the engagement party. The fiancée dismisses the Iran situation as if it's the equivalent of a hall being double booked or some such nonsense. I can't care about a threatened engagement party in the same way I'd care about threatened innocent people.

Of course, Political Animals lacks any suspense because of the parallel between the Hammonds and the Clintons. Bud would fly out of Iran with the hostages because Bill Clinton flew out of North Korea with the hostages. Elaine would learn the truth about the affair Bud had with a woman because Hillary learned the truth about the affair Bill had with Monia Lewinsky. I watched Moneyball this afternoon and felt the same lack of suspense because of my memory of the actual A's (I was 15 during 2002). Moneyball is well-done, very manipulative, a magnificently done Hollywood movie that has the audience in the palm of its hand without the audience realizing just how they're being manipulated. Stories can still be effective even when the audience is aware of what happened beforehand. Execution matters the most. Moneyball is excellently executed. Political Animals is not.

The principal characters are doing things for the second time in "Second Time Around." I covered Elaine's arc through the episode. Susan Berg is covering the Hammonds AGAIN. TJ is doing blow AGAIN. Bud is being diplomatic AGAIN. Is the process easier for any of them? No, in the case of TJ, who falls into complete soap opera drug addiction complete with attempted fraud. Susan Berg seems changed after being spurned and cheated on in love, but she's more drawn to Bud possibly sleeping with a freed hostage than she is about simply getting background for her story. Bud needs to avoid making the same mistakes if he wants to restore his image, repair his reputation, and re-build his relationship with Elaine, the only girl he's loved. So, you see, the "Pilot" established Elaine; the second episode establishes the other characters more thoroughly. All need to avoid the mistakes of their past. And, naturally, none seem destined to succeed. Susan's going to break Elaine's trust; TJ's already relapsed; Bud's the same old horndog. The only character growing is Elaine.

If the characters were placed in more original situations and circumstances, I'd feel more inclined to spend an hour on Sunday nights and another hour plus writing about Political Animals. None of the characters except for the women, minus the fiancée, are likable, which may be the point. The mission statement of the show is about removing men from the herd. Certainly, the storylines aren't interesting. I feel as if I'm going to ramble on about various parts of the show until my eyes are blood shot. Instead, I'm going to gracefully wrap up the review by wishing everyone a pleasant week and to please check back to The Foot on Tuesday for fun times in Capeside.

Good night.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Lost Girl "Midnight Lamp" Review

Ah, Lost Girl, it's been awhile. Some months have passed. I haven't changed much. Lost Girl hasn't changed much. TV With The Foot hasn't changed much. Actually, one of those previous three sentences is false. Lost Girl's not too different from the show I stopped writing about after "Bloodlines." Until #213 on Monday night, which was actually aired in 2011 in Canada, Lost Girl hadn't departed from the season 1 formula. Sure, the new Ash created new problems for Bo to work around, but Bo and Kenzi continued solving individual mysteries every week. Trick maintained the bar. Dyson and Hale provided support when needed. New characters were introduced. Lauren got a new love interest. The most enjoyable episode, by far, was the body-swapping one, which reeked of "Spin The Bottle" and "Tabula Rasa" so much that I felt nostalgic and even somewhat bad for feeling indifferent about Lost Girl for a decent stretch of time.

#213 was what Lost Girl needed, and "Midnight Lamp" was a damn good follow-up to it. Genre shows become infinitely better when the show-runner commits to the serialized side of the show. Inevitably, a genre show will embrace its serialized side, and fandom gets more passionate and involved and attached. #213, which had a title I know but I prefer referring to the production code, was a huge download. It brought up the old war between light and dark fae, brought the grouda and the naga to the forefront, made Bo a champion of heroic proportions, contextualized Lachlan's behavior and motives. Generally, it provided focus for a season that has lacked focus.

Around episode ten or eleven, I wondered where exactly season two was headed. The continuing storylines were Dyson and Ciara's relationship and Bo and Lauren's weird relationship, which became complicated by the existence of her comatose and cursed girlfriend, Nadia. The Lauren storyline allowed the show to explore the servitude aspect of the light fae. Bo had problems with the fact of Lauren's role as slave to both Ashes. The Bo-Lauren storyline worked on two levels: the tortured lover level and the selfless hero level, meaning Bo wanted to help Lauren wake Nadia, but helping her would cripple whatever they shared between each other; however, helping her could bring Lauren freedom. The arc concluded during Bo's birthday episode; she succeeded in freeing Lauren and waking Nadia, but the night ended with her, alone. And then Lauren left town. Bo and Dyson dealt with their issues in the early part of the season in a series of episodes that dragged whenever Bo and Dyson dealt with their issues.

Kenzi and Hale always bantered in Trick's bar. The chemistry built every single week. Things seemed bound to escalate when Kenzi got a look at Hale's abs. Season 2 seemed to be about people in love and people not in love. The stakes weren't high or even present. Any weekly case dangers Bo faced would be averted by episode's end. Such a theme isn't the most engrossing to watch. The characters are well-written, well-drawn, and worth watching on a weekly basis. I didn't actively hate the focus on love; I simply wondered where the season was going because it seemed to have as much purpose as a rock falling down a hill.

Trick's trip through a trance gave the season definition and direction. The Blood King past of Trick's returned in furious fashion. In the real world, Dyson fully understood the extent of the deal he made with the Norn, which plunged him into even deeper melancholia. Bo found the heads of the Ash and learned about the side no one knows about him. Kenzi's childhood crush swooped into town, swept her up, got her to curl her hair, be as tender as we've ever seen, and then put in the position to follow the boy she wish never moved away. Bo learned she needed to save the world. Trick learned tapping into blood magic leaves a trace the hungriest grouda uses to become again. In 42 or so minutes, Lost Girl had a season on its hand that didn't hinge on courtships or heart-breaks but on the fate of the world and saving it; you know, embracing what every good genre show embraces.

Earlier, I read TWoP's forum about Lost Girl and learned how Lost Girl prepared for a 13 episode season and received 22 episodes instead. #213 did feel especially like a finale, with its cliff-hangers and promise of Bo the champion. I felt curious about #214. Would the narrative move forward or stall? The narrative moves forward but with the speed of a snail. The episode's really, really cool. The take on the 'genie lamp' from lore is an example of Lost Girl at its best: when it re-invents what we've seen so many times before in new, imaginative and innovative ways. Once Upon a Time aims to re-imagine what we've seen before and disappoints most of the time in their re-imagining; Grimm is much closer to Lost Girl in successfully re-imagining what we've seen before.

Lost Girl's creativity is my favorite part of the show. Their characters possess a quirkiness not seen often in American TV. I'll watch random procedurals and think the principal characters are copies of procedural characters that came before. Ryan, Bo's new love interest, is the type of character only a genre show could create. He makes things like magic lamps and straps that make him indestructible. His personality is as large as the province of Alberta. A flaw in the episode was Boxen's reliance on romantic comedy tropes, of two attractive people who have obvious chemistry being held apart because one of them is too neurotic or inexplicably put off by the other person. Bo treats the idea of time spent with Ryan as unbearable, but Anna Silk's never had more chemistry with an actor, besides Ksenia Solo of course. Watching her and Kris Holden-Reid together is never fun. Bo and Ryan, though, are explosive together. They're brought together inside of the magic lamp, the coolest magic lamp ever I'll add. This lamp revealed Ryan's character and was a catalyst in the impending war. So, it wasn't just a cool play toy; it was a great addition to the mythology.

I'm going to write about the Lost Girl season finale in two months. I wanted to check in. Had I done so two weeks ago, I might've criticized the show a bit more, but the last two episodes were great.
An added bonus: I review shows on a daily basis pretty much. If you stumble on this review, you can review and criticize my movies. Tell your friends. Watch below!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thoughts on 2012 Emmy Nominations

The 2012 Emmys were announced this morning in Los Angeles. I'm indifferent about the Emmys. I dislike all award shows actually. Since I write about TV alot in the blog, I figure I'd offer some brief thoughts about which shows the Emmys recognized in their nominations.

-Mad Men leads all nominations with 17, which is disappointing. Mad Men had a terrific season and all, but the Emmys need to get their heads out the tunnel and recognize other shows. Most egregious is the Outstanding Writing Category in which Mad Men received three nominations for three separate episodes. The show boasts terrific writing. Come on though, Academy, more shows deserved recognition for writing. Nominate Mad Men for one writing award. One nomination tells people that the show has quality writing. Homeland and Downton Abbey are the other shows recognized for Outstanding Writing. It's foolish to expect the Emmys to accurately represent all of TV in their show. They can still ignore network shows and nominate two other shows besides Mad Men.

-On Twitter, someone opined that the category for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series should've been the category for Outstanding Comedy Series, or something like that. I don't understand how the Academy differentiates between the two. TV is a writer's medium. Why nominate two Parks & Rec writers and not the entire show? How is excellent writing not rewarded with an Outstanding Comedy Series nomination? HBO's Veep earned an Outstanding Comedy Series nomination but failed to be nominated for writing. I don't get it. The Academy recognized Community with nominating Chris McKenna for writing "Remedial Chaos Theory." What prevented Community from receiving an Outstanding Comedy series nomination?

-The nomination process is full of flaws anyway. TV shows submit one episode of 12 or 13 or 22. The judges evaluate the show on the one episode. Veep probably sent a better episode of their show than Parks & Rec for Comedy Series. How is a show evaluated by one episode alone? I watched an episode of Eureka and got slammed for judging it by one episode. I suppose the submitted episode is representative of the show as a whole. I have no idea. A whole season of a show should be watched and assessed and then nominated.

-I look for the nominees of writing and directing first and also editing, cinematogaphry. I'm indifferent towards the acting awards. Popular culture values actors and actresses way too much. I'd like to see Larry David or Louis C.K. win, though. I'm confused about Kathy Bates' nomination. I assume she could submit a tape of her watering a garden and the Academy would nominate her on name alone. Harry's Law is a rote procedural. Many actresses could portray her character well and be ignored because that actress wouldn't be Kathy Bates.

-The gist of this is the Emmys are a bunch of bullshit--that won't shock anyone. I perused the nominees for outstanding guest actor or actress in a series, and they're all 'name' actors. The Emmys will never recognize a Mary Jon Nelson or anyone who isn't Jon Hamm or Joan Cusack.

-That is all. I hope no one watches the broadcast.

The 2012 Summer Re-Watch: Everwood "Forget Me Not" Review

Irv tells us what young people in love tend to do: forget. Young people in love forget about family, friends, and even themselves. The loved one becomes their whole universe. Everyone else falls away. TV writers also forget when they introduce new characters, new stories, and get distracted. They forget old relationships and old stories. "Forget Me Not" is as much an episode about how newfound love has damaged other areas of Andy, Ephram, and Amy's lives as an episode about the writers remembering the friendship between Andy and Nina, and the friendship between Amy and Ephram.

I re-watched the final two seasons of Everwood last fall. I remembered how prominent Nina became in the show, so the recent stretch in season two where Nina disappeared struck me as odd. Of course, it shouldn't have, because the character lacks a prominent role in seasons one and two. Everwood needs Scott Wolf to turn Nina into an important character worth her own storytime. Still, her absence was strange. The holiday episode passed without Nina. I can't recall the last time we saw her. The audience is a bit like Andy, then, because he doesn't realize how long it's been since he's seen her until Harold basically says, "Hey Andy, it's been a long time since you've seen Nina. Work on that." Perhaps the writers room randomly realized the lack of Nina and then broke a story for her ASAP. Nina didn't stop existing off-screen. Sam's still a handful to deal with. She's working more shifts at Mama Joy's and took a job as an evening telemarketer to make ends meet. Carl's still gone; in fact, the former couple's on the precipice of divorce. Andy is ignorant to it all, which creates a rift between the friendly neighbors. Nina takes Sam to Harold for a doctor's appointment in hopes Andy will realize how distant he and she have become.

Andy realizes the issues at hand after the enlightening chat with Harold over Mama Joy lunch. Harold, a rational man, advises Andy to make amends by being a friend: cook a few meals, baby-sit Sam, etc. Help without being asked to help, in other words. Andy doesn't listen. Part of the character's charm is his grandiose gestures of romance and/or friendship. Andy cooks a chicken smothered in garlic that Nina didn't ask for; volunteers Madison to baby-sit Sam for a night and then proudly stands before Nina, confident of his great friendship and well-meaning intentions. Nina sends Sam to bed before telling Andy to shove the chicken up his ass. Andy's a brilliant neurosurgeon, but he's an idiot most of the time. His years as a neurosurgeon conditioned him to treat relationships like patients, which doesn't work in day-to-day life. There aren't set directions for fixing a friendship like there is for fixing a part of the brain. What Andy perceives as a warm gesture of friendship actually hurts him because his perception is wrong. He's clinical and cold in his approach, but he's well-meaning; he simply gets it wrong. Andy always needs someone to tell him where he went wrong and how to fix it. This person is usually Nina. Without her, he's screwed.
Linda steers Andy in the right direction by reminding him friendship is coming over to drink and coffee and listen to a friend. Being There for a friend is the most important act of friendship. Andy decides to go over after his date's over to apologize; however, they soon meet when Sam took the car keys out of a sleeping Nina's pocket book and crashed it into a pole. Nina blames herself; Andy blames himself for forgetting about her while she performed the duties of three people. The friends don't have a long conversation about what happened between them. Andy shuts up, hugs her for awhile, and tell her he's not leaving, because he's her friend and the hospital is where he needs to be right now.

A similar situation happens between Ephram and Amy. Bad grades on an essay for Spanish class motivates the two to pair up for extra credit. The former friends need to make an authentic Mexican dinner for the entire class. The project forces them to spend a good deal of time with each other before the weekend ends. Ephram's already in a bad mood after Madison lied to him about a love song he wrote for her. Amy and Tommy fight after Tommy learns she went to his house and lied to his mother about the reason she stopped by. As always, Ephram and Amy take out their personal hurts and frustrations on one another. Old tensions boil to the surface. Amy's pissed he left her for Bright's friendship and even madder he dropped out her life just when her life fell apart and she lost her home and sense of self. Ephram's mad because she disappears whenever a boy gives her the time of day. Amy makes a dig at Ephram being a worthless high school boy in Madison's eyes, and Ephram retorts by calling Tommy Tommy Crackhead and lets her have it by telling her how pathetic she is for throwing her family away for a boy.

Ephram and Amy brush aside the ugly parts of their argument during their reconciliation scene. The ugly parts are the most interesting parts of the argument. Amy addresses why she's behaved as she has in a refreshingly honest scene. Ephram shouldn't be crucified for disappearing during her crisis, because she pushed him away, as she pushed away her entire family. Amy's behavior is rooted in her grief for Colin rather than an all-consuming love for Tommy. Tommy makes her feel better temporarily, but he's an after-thought during her cathartic yelling match with Ephram (cathartic because she finally says she things she repressed). Amy's self-critical, evidenced in the letter she sends her father following the birthday dinner she missed. Amy feels shamefully bad about her forgetfulness because of the hurt she inflicted on her father's soul. Amy didn't want to forget him; she just did and she explains the lack of thought as a pattern she's developed of messing up. Harold reads her letter, a sadness overwhelming his face, and he tucks the letter away as he sits down for a movie with Rose and Bright.

Ephram doesn't learn anything. Whereas his father and former crush re-learned the value of conscious and active thought about the people they love and cherish, Ephram learns his song did IN FACT suck. Madison actually boosts Ephram's ego by writing lyrics for the song. Lyric writing took her whole day which explains why she didn't return his numerous phone calls. I had a new thought about Ephram and Madison, knowing where the relationship goes. The relationship seems destined to fail and viewed through such a lens it becomes about 2% more interesting. Madison feels overwhelmed by Ephram's commitment and activity in their courtship. Ephram promises to only give 850% of his energy, and Madison bites her lower ship before nodding that such commitment is acceptable. The age thing is the zebra in the department store, though.
Despite the kisses and dates and songs, they're just wrong for one another. Love is blind, though.
In fact, the three central characters of "Forget Me Not" forget about friends, family, and themselves, not knowing the people they forget everyone for will be people they, in fact, will forget about in time.

Other Thoughts:

-Delia is the ignored member of the Brown family now. Ephram barely hangs around the house. Delia states how she liked it more when Ephram and Madison hated each other. Me too, kiddo.

-Tommy swears he's reformed and no longer a drug addict. Tommy's a liar. Ephram spotted him dealing to Madison's band members. Tommy's Blackberry goes off constantly. The most damning evidence against him is the mere fact he's able to afford a blackberry for Amy. Amy doesn't know. Stay tuned.

-Wendy Mericle and Patrick Sean Smith wrote "Forget Me Not." Michael Schultz directed it.

UP NEXT: "No Sure Thing"--Sex is on the minds of Ephram, Amy and Andy. Watch it on Amazon.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Whedonverse Classic #8: ANGEL's "She"

Whedonverse Classic continues somewhat differently today. Instead of highlighting an overlooked or forgotten episode of Buffy or ANGEL, I re-visited the worst episode in ANGEL's history, Bai Ling's "She." Whenever Bai Ling guest stars in a TV show, chances are the episode will soon become the worst episode produced by the show. Bai Ling ruined a friend of mine's week with her turn in the Jack's Tattoos episode of LOST ("Stranger in a Strange Land). I decided to re-visit this episode in hopes it'd become my second least favorite episode of ANGEL.

"She" remains my least favorite episode of the series. As soon as the funny dancing ends, the episode goes straight to the dump. The first post-dance scene involves a guy who makes the mistake of opening a box. In a few seconds, his eyes explode and he's burned alive. The image is an impressive hook. In fact, "She" doesn't lack good ideas. The execution is off. David Greenwalt & Marti Noxon co-wrote the episode. Greenwalt directed it. I'm still confused how the episode missed when the co-creator wrote and directed it, with the help of one of Buffy's superstar writers. I think Joss has a story credit for "She" as well. Your humble blogger won't claim to know what ailed the episode twelve years ago nor even bother to claim he's found a solution to the problems in the episode. I mean, what's the point? I don't think anyone besides me, at this very instant in time, is thinking about "She," especially the big guys and gal behind "She." Joss is working on Wastelanders in rainy London; Greenwalt is working on season two of Grimm; Noxon's writing and producing somewhere (still Glee?).

Somewhat telling is an interview former ANGEL writer-producer Tim Minear gave to Fandom years ago. The interview is available to read on Minear's website. It's part of a four part interview in which Minear talks about every episode of season one. Minear's insights are fantastic, so, indeed, it's telling when the compliments he pours on "She" ignore the actual plot of the episode. Minear highlighted the cell-phone scene between Angel and Cordelia, and complimented Greenwalt for doing the best directorial job of the season. Story-wise, the staff wanted to find a woman who would work well with Angel. I assume they thought of Bai Ling's character first and then filled in the details of her story and why she's in Los Angeles. Most importantly, they needed to figure out what part of her attracted Angel to her.

The demons introduced in "She" are thin metaphors for female genital mutilation in foreign countries who engage in the practice so the females will be more "marriageable." Jhiera and her demons emit heat from their bodies. Each female demon has a strip of raised ridges along their spine that is the core of their "desires and passions." It is their "Ko." The oppressive male demons from their dimension want to remove the ko. Jhiera is an ancient demon goddess who helps them escape to Los Angeles. Angel follows her after the trail of burned bodies and learns the truth about what's going on. Jhiera doesn't trust him and uses her power of seduction to 'slow him down' as it were. He's a male and she doesn't trust him. Angel's not entirely sympathetic to her either. Jhiera can live with collateral damage. Angel can't, and he won't accept folk like Jhiera who will throw away a life to save one. Jhiera throws the freedom thing in his face. Angel tells her to fight, but he'll stop her the day she crosses the line. Jhiera seemingly never crosses the line because she's never seen again.

The best parts of the episode exist outside of the A story. Cordelia's party in the teaser is an all-time great sequence in the show. (I adopted Wesley's style of dance for a high school homecoming dance, but I doubt anyone is interested in finding out more about THAT story). Wesley comes to the office the following morning, sheepish and vulnerable, because his financial situation is a mess, and tears up when Angel offers him a job. Weak, sheepish and vulnerable Wesley is one of my favorite sides of the character. Throughout the episode, he goes out of his way to kiss up to the boss. Cordelia constantly tells him he doesn't need to kiss ass to stick around. One assumes The Watcher's Council influenced Wesley's behavior in the work-place. From what we saw in season three of Buffy, Wesley was a horrible Watcher, probably walked on egg shells from the time he made Head Boy at the Academy to the day he was fired, plus, his upbringing in merry England was the stuff of nightmares, as his overbearing father hurt his son's sense of self-worth daily. Kierkegaard wrote, "“What if everything in the world were a misunderstanding, what if laughter were really tears?” Laughing at Wesley and his quirks is easy in "She" but the behavior comes from a place of tragedy.

The best parts of the A story, of which there are few, involve the tone and spirit more than the actual mechanics of plot. The A story incorporates ANGEL's greatest strength, which was portraying that fuzzy gray area, this real world where easy answers aren't readily available, where morals are as murky as the sewer water Angel steps in as he traverses the city by day. Angel agrees the innocent need protection but not when the protection involves innocents, like Wesley and Cordelia. Jhiera's like a super hero goddess from a bygone era, an era in which figures on the street weren't worth a damn when it meant saving a city from destruction, or saving the world. She sees the world in absolutes. Angel doesn't. Angel's someone who understands Jhiera, though. No character in the Buffyverse understands The Fight more than Angel; the day-to-day fight that lacks glory and accolades. Jhiera thinks nothing of innocent civilians, but Angel considers them daily, because he got a second chance to atone for his sins; if he got a chance, innocent people should have much more than that and should not get caught up in supernatural nonsense. Angel's personal mission statement shows up throughout the season like when he chooses not to save Fred in "A Hole In The World" and during his fight with Hamilton in the finale. "She" succeeds in the A story because of the show's emphasis of the tone and spirit of the show; it's mission statement, in other words.

"She" is an episode best watched once during one's initial viewing of the show. I actually skipped over "She" during my weekly viewings with a friend. I told her the 44 minutes weren't worth it. Of course, since this is ANGEL, there are enjoyable moments, but the parts don't add up to a memorable whole.

"She" is terrible.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The 2012 Summer Re-Watch: Dawson's Creek "Be Careful What You Wish For" Review

Dawson Leery played the role of generally affable and good guy during last week's dramatic two-part saga about Jack McPhee's sexuality. The character was downright likable, a fine example of how the main character of a teenage melodrama should be portrayed on a week-to-week basis. "Be Careful What You Wish For" disposes of the good-natured Dawson by the end of the teaser. Dawson's full of anxiety over his sixteenth birthday and worries about the lack of progress he's made in a year in any area of his life. Pacey advises Dawson to settle down. Dawson ignores him as he drones on about playing things right with Joey during the Jack saga. The admirable Dawson from the last two weeks truly had a personal agenda; so in essence, Dawson was exactly the same as he played the role of platonic friend. The games are over for Leery now: on the day which marks his sixteenth birthday, Dawson will win back the girl he lost ten episodes ago!

Dawson fails miserably, of course. Dawson and Joey take a walk around the docks where The Icehouse is located. He buys her a cup of roasted peanuts. The two talk about the past and the present. Dawson reminds Joey of his dedication to 'get back' what they lost after the school dance. Joey impressively dodges the innuendo and manages to remind Dawson that the light is and will remain red for the time being. Dawson doesn't throw his cup of roasted peanuts into the water and call Joey a harlot, but he succeeds in being cruel to her in a less dramatic way. Basically, he tells us she's stupid if she doesn't understand they're meant to be together. Two minutes before, when their conversation was friendly, Dawson praised snow for its hopeful quality. Before he storms off, he stresses to Joey to not expect snow on this day. Ah, Dawson, such a shitty friend.

The rejection Dawson receives is the topping on a lousy birthday for him. Mitch cooked him breakfast, which Dawson enjoyed, until Gail and Mitch went to the porch to scold each other about the things they do wrong. Dawson can't rely on his two friends, Pacey and Jen, because Pacey's involved in a life-changing romance with Andie, and Jen's always dating someone, which leaves Dawson alone. His parents' separation isolates him from them because he feels torn between both. Dawson lets his impressions and judgments bubble and boil in his head until they pour out of him in a drunken monologue at his surprise birthday party.
Dawson's friends and family care deeply about him. Their love for him is much better than the character deserves. After all, he's vindictive and manipulative. Dawson's comfortable killing a person with his words. Joey plans a surprise birthday party for her friend and soul mate. Joey actively questions the decision after her terrible walk with him. Why would Dawson want his party planned by someone he hates? Joey shakes her head, moves on, and finishes the preparations. Meanwhile, Pacey took Andie and Dawson out for a night until they needed to return for the party. Dawson, naturally, is miserable. Andie's not miserable because her doctor prescribed a night of imperfection. The trio goes to a bar. Andie teaches Dawson about the Id and how good it feels to ignore the Id and act out for a night, society and everything else be damned. So, the two friends drink coke and rums all night. Dawson and Andie sing a blues song about their pitiful and pathetic lives. The night couldn't have gone worse for Pacey. Alcohol gives Dawson an unhealthy dose of courage, but it's the kind of courage that motivates Dawson to insult every person who loves him and cares about him.

Leery Manor is full of family, friends and well-wishers. Upstairs, Jack is kissing Abby Morgan. Downstairs, Dawson bursts through the door, aware of the surprise awaiting him, and instantly climbs a table to dance on it. Joey intervenes and rushes him upstairs before his parents catch their sixteen year old son drunk. Dawson and Joey find Jack and Abby kissing. Dawson laughs and sings ANOTHER blues song about Jack. A brief aside: Dawson's a complete ass in "Be Careful What You Wish For" but Van Der Beek's performance has never been more enjoyable. The singing and general theatrics of drunk Dawson is one of the reasons "Be Careful What You Wish For" is a top seven episode of Dawson's Creek. What I'm about to write about is one of my favorite scenes in DC history. It is the quintessence of Dawson Leery. Gail innocently asks her son to blow out the candles on his cake and make a wish. Oh, Dawson makes a wish; he wishes for everyone in his life to not be the people they are presently. He calls out his mom for sleeping with her co-anchor; he calls out his dad for not getting a job; he calls out Pacey for being happy and living a life that's not worse than his own (yes really); he calls out Jen for being a whore with a revolving door of boyfriends; he calls out his Joey for needing to find herself, looks for her around the kitchen, makes fun of her choice again, forcefully kisses her, and then winds up with his face buried in cake.

Dawson's full of remorse and regret later, praying to no one in particular except Andie, who's puking into a toilet behind him, that he'll have friends when he wakes in the morning. Dawson WILL have friends in the morning because he's a fictional character and the team of writers didn't see Dawson how their audience saw him. Anyone would tell Dawson to piss off in actual, day-to-day life, because it's not worth wasting time on someone who constantly looks down on and belittles you. Dawson sobs about his loneliness to Joey. Joey doesn't tell Dawson he hurt her because he conditioned her to feel like the guilty party, especially after their break-up. Dawson whines about Joey leaving him for Jack. Joey reiterates her reason to experience life without Dawson, how she needed to find out where she began and ended without him, and Jack happened to be part of this experience.

The ending of "Be Careful What You Wish For" is a low moment for the series. Considering what came before, it should not have ended with Joey telling a suddenly asleep Dawson that she loves him too, nor should the scene have been completed by an image of falling snow, which is the symbol of hope for Dawson. Of course, the character needs hope, because he thinks his life is complete shit, which is why he acted out. Mitch and Gail acknowledge Dawson's not mature enough to handle a new car. Dawson's not mature enough to handle romance, though--this aspect of the character's never explored. Notably, the episode ends as Dawson wants. He has Joey, he just doesn't know it. Thankfully, six episodes remain for Dawson and Joey to re-figure things out again.

Other Thoughts:
-Abby tests Jack's sexuality as they wait for Dawson to arrive. They kissed because Jack felt drawn by what she said to him about human sexuality. Simply, she helped him feel less alone. Jack explains the kiss as meaning nothing to Joey, who witnessed it, by explaining how Abby affected him with her words. Jack admits his biggest fear now: being alone. Joey understands and forgives. The story is well done.

-Jen and Ty broke up. I thought the two broke up last episode. Nothing about this arc worked. It is best to move on and forget about it. The show will.

-It's worth noting Andie's not medicated. Her night was wild and uninhibited, and her first drunken thoughts were about her messed up family. Something's going to give real soon.

-Heidi Ferrer wrote the script, her lone credit of the series. David Semel directed it.

UP NEXT: "Psychic Friends"--A movie studio executive gives Dawson's film a scathing review; a psychic tells Joey and Andie stuff. Watch it on Netflix, Streampix, or YouTube.


Monday, July 16, 2012

G4 & LOST: Why You Should Watch (or Re-Watch) The Show

G4 will air the entire series of LOST, starting tonight at 8PM Eastern. Each Monday night, G4 will air four episodes until "The End." I love LOST. Love is actually too weak a word to describe my feelings toward the show. The problems and issues that many fans had with the show I never had. If anything, I'm a LOST apologist, but I think the series had few problems. I either pushed people away from the show by my never-ending praise of it, or I pushed people towards the show with the goal to find all the faults and then tell me about said faults. During a stretch in college, people on my floor came to my room to watch, knowing how devoted a fan I was, but I couldn't stand to watch the show with people. One time, during season five, someone came into the room to watch and wondered how polar bears can live on a tropical island. The first criticism of the show always involves the polar bears, so I set my friend straight. Soon, no one bothered coming to the room to watch. Another time, in the lounge area, a girl told anyone around that John Locke wasn't John Locke. I think the comment inspired a multi-paragraph rant from me in my then-blog Jacob's Foot. Of course, the girl turned out to be right. I'm not beyond admitting I could be insufferable about LOST.

Amazingly, I've barely re-watched the series since "The End." I re-watched season six, read a bunch of screenplays from the show, and consumed any new footage Damon and Carlton decided to shoot for a DVD or San Diego Comic Con. I didn't do a series re-watch. I stopped talking about the show and writing about it for the most part, except for instances where I needed to write about it, like the aforementioned Marble Rye comic con video. I've re-watched seasons of the show numerous times during those long and seemingly unending hiatuses. I know the show backwards and forewards. I once completed a "Name every LOST episode title" quiz on Sporcle in a quick amount of time. If you peruse the archives of the blog, you'll find a lot of LOST content. I wrote about every episode in season five and six. I wrote about random episodes during 2009 as part of my "LOST episode of the Day" series. My series finale review is the longest single piece of writing I've ever done. LOST is a show worth watch and re-watching.

Today, I'm providing a short list for why one should watch (or re-watch) the series. TV hasn't produced a series as original and innovative as LOST since, well, LOST premiered in 2004. Here it goes:

1. Forget Everything You Heard About The Show: Last night's The Simpsons repeat on FOX had the story of Homer watching a show called Stranded; it's a spoof of LOST. Homer becomes obsessed with finding out the answers to the mysteries of LOST; he even keeps notes in a notebook. If anything, I'm sure folk who haven't watched LOST heard about the lack of payoff to the mysteries and blah blah blah. Well, friends and well-wishers, answers to the mysteries don't really matter. I've written many times about 'Who gives a shit if ________ isn't answered?' What people don't emphasize enough is the story. Doc Jensen's the lone writer on the internet who watched the show the way I watched it, who understood what I understood, and so on. Anyway, the point is: forget about the mysteries and focus on the characters and the story. By series end, LOST told an amazing story, and I wouldn't want people to miss that because they care more about why polar bears are walking around the Island. I once reminded people in a column for my old campus newspaper that LOST isn't a math problem to be solved. Remember that.

2. The Show is Incredibly Fun: Indeed, I've never had as much fun watching a show as I had watching LOST. The cliff-hangers are awesome. The storytelling is amazing. The action is terrific. I envy those who will experience LOST for the first time. Not even Joss Whedon consistently blew the doors off of a finale like Damon and Carlton could in LOST season finales.

3. The First Ten Episodes are Near-Perfection: Damon and Carlton compared the early episodes of LOST to New Yorker short stories. Neither were confident, especially Damon who called in Carlton to help during the series, about LOST lasting beyond their initial run of episodes. Damon wanted to tell the best stories he could. He succeeded. The first ten are amongst my favorite episodes of television ever. If LOST had been cancelled, it'd be considered a brilliant series.

4. The Series Doesn't Drop Off after The First Ten: No, indeed, it does not. The show only gets better actually. You'll learn more about each character. The story deepens. New characters are added. The mythology deepens. Some of the best characters aren't introduced until season two. Damon and Carlton got rid of things that weren't working and focused on more of what was working. Damon's critical of the cage arc in early season three but even those episodes have golden moments. LOST rarely disappointed me.

5. The Story & The Characters: Simply, LOST is a story about a bunch of lost souls who need to fix themselves. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll feel. Indeed, most importantly, you'll feel. David Foster Wallace said, “Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being.” That's what LOST is really about, and that's why you should watch (or re-watch) this amazing series.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Political Animals "Pilot" Review

Everwood and Jack & Bobby were two great series created by Greg Berlanti nine and ten years ago, respectively. I watched those series during my very impressionable early teenage years, which shaped my tastes and interests greatly. Greg Berlanti became as important a creator for young and inspiring writer Chris as Joss Whedon and Kevin Williamson. I had no intention of watching or writing about Political Animals until I learned that Greg Berlanti created and actively involved himself in the mini-series. Berlanti's become a powerful figure in the TV business since his early days on Dawson's Creek. I mistakenly watched No Ordinary Family for a season because Berlanti was attached as a co-creator. Berlanti attached himself to shows like JJ Abrams. So, I tuned into Political Animals, hoping to find the old Berlanti magic.

Political Animals is closer to Jack & Bobby than Everwood. Everwood told the story of a family who moved to New York after the death of the wife/mother and proceeded to tell a terrific story about friendship, family and community. Jack & Bobby followed two brothers, one of whom would become President of the United States. The WB cancelled Jack & Bobby after a season. The season had tons of idealistic optimism, though. Greg Berlanti's an optimist when he's writing about politics. Political Animals follows the Hammond family, closely modeled on the Clintons, as the matriarch works for the man she lost to in the primaries as his secretary of state. I won't drill into your head about how real life and fiction marry like the rest of the internet. Yes, it's like Hillary and Barack. Anyway, the Hammonds are a hotbed for the gossip-hungry media. Former president Bud Hammond is a sex-addict who continues to sleep with any girl he speaks to; brothers Douglas and TJ are opposites--Doug works with Elaine, our protagonist, and is engaged and generally has it together, while TJ is a drug-addict who attempted suicide six months ago.

Elaine is a tremendous character and watching her made me want to learn more about Hillary Clinton's life. I was very young during the Clinton era. I cared about wrestling. I didn't know how to divide fractions. I had a crush on a girl with strawberry blonde hair. I'm not a source for comparisons between fiction Hillary and real Hillary. I quite liked Elaine after the episode ended at 11:24pm. There were several terrific scenes which showcased the character. The first occurred at teaser's end when she declared her intention to divorce Bud. The second occurred when she explained her resolve to Susan Berg, the reporter who won a Pulitzer by ruining the Hammond marriage in the late 90s, because the speech emphasized the essential components of the character: the world is full of failure and pain but good, and even perfect, moments happen few and far between the miserable parts, but one need to keep going to reach those rare moments. The third scene occurred when she verbally dismantled Susan's ethical code after the report of her son's attempted suicide leaked, less than 34 hours after Susan swore the story wouldn't see a newsstand. The second scene displayed Elaine's excellent political savvy; the third scene displayed Elaine the mother, the protector, the human, what she is when she's stripped down and distant from her career as diplomat and secretary of state. The fourth scene essentially closes the episode, sums up what we've seen and what we know about Elaine. Elaine compliments elephants for being big and fearsome but gentle, for being a matriarchal society, and for kicking the males the hell out of the herd when it's time to mate.

The "Pilot" is all about Elaine. Berlanti makes sure the audience knows who she is and what she's about by the time the episode concludes. She handles a family crisis and a political crisis in 48 hours and manages to make significant progress with both. The Iranian hostage situation was pulled from the headlines, albeit with changes. We learn about the President keeping details of the situation secret from Elaine; however, everyone's basically playing her. Susan Berg is always after a story. Her ex-husband Bud showers her with compliments, but he's aiming to become politically relevant again after the divorce hurt his image, so a late-afternoon tryst with his wife is a means to be used to save the three Iranian-American journalists sentenced for execution in mere hours. Her mother tells her she's not president because men don't want to sleep with her. Elaine's always fighting.

The relationship set-up between Elaine and Susan was very good, and it has potential to blossom into the core relationship of the show. Elaine and Bud will be a focal point as well as her relationships with her sons. Elaine and Susan aren't too different, though. The women have an enlightening conversation on a plane ride about Susan's book, a book which aimed to own the word 'bitch' again--indeed, a feminist text trying to take back feminism. Susan is being pushed out by a young and beautiful brunette in the office; her editor boyfriend is a piece of shit who chooses the job over intimate trust. Both possess the tenacity and fortitude to make difficult decisions and deal with the consequences. Both have a heart too. Bud tells his ex-wife about the love he had for her heart; Susan actually apologizes for the leak, seems to feel genuinely bad; and when pressed for the truth about why she's sad, she tells her just-now ex-boyfriend that she's more upset he stuck in his dick in another woman. Perceptions exist that both are made of stone and as cold and brutal as a Siberian summer, but in quiet moments, removed from the media, both are vulnerable. They cry, and it's okay that they cry.

Political Animals biggest strength is Elaine. The show has weaknesses. Berlanti isn't afraid to introduce uninteresting melodramatic soapy plot twists. I'm re-watching and reviewing Everwood on Thursdays and so I've been ranting about a stretch of a season two that shows off Berlanti's fondness for unnecessary melodramatics. In fact, I ranted about a lazy approach to bulimia on Thursday. Doug's fiancée is bulimic. The execution of the story is crucial. TJ is a wild child who snorts cocaine during family dinners. I expect more nonsense melodrama to unfold in the next five episodes. Berlanti usually nails the human moments in his show, though. He told The Daily Beast that Political Animals is the most personal story he's told since Everwood. Everwood was a special show. I don't know how Political Animals will look after five more weeks, but it started off well.

Sigourney Weaver and Carla Gugino were terrific. I wondered about Gugino because Entourage wrote a terrible character for her and, thus, did not impress. With Berlanti behind the computer, she's going to excel.

I'm going to write about the show weekly. Greg Berlanti wrote and directed the "Pilot."


About The Foot

My photo
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.