SD-86ed

Word on the street is that “Alias” has been cancelled and will stop airing next May. Now, my show-cancelling and band-breaking-up powers may be legendary, but I’m not taking the blame for this one. I’m 99.9% sure I didn’t get Jennifer Garner pregnant. And I didn’t force Vaughn to leave the show, and I didn’t make J.J. Abrams get all distracted with “Lost.” But just to be safe, I’ll avoid watching “Lost” until it’s had a little bit more time and the first big backlash starts.

I can’t see getting all that upset about the show’s getting cancelled. I just got into it recently, but I could still tell that it was starting to wear out its welcome. And giving it until the end(-ish) of the season instead of yanking it immediately, gives them the chance to make a real close to it. According to the article, they’ve got something big planned.

In other news, here’s a fun fact: there are several cities called “Atlanta” in the US. The one in Idaho is apparently the one that’s having 30-degree highs all this week. Here in Georgia, it’s been around 60. Still chilly though! Or at least, I imagine it would be if I’d ever left my parents’ house. Skip wants me to go out with him for all the day-after-Thanksgiving sales, but I’m resistant. We’ve done that before, and the traffic is nuts and the crowds are unreasonable. And we never end up buying anything, somehow, even if we stay out the entire day. I think I’m doing my Christmas shopping online this year.

Wycked Sceptre

I watched the first disc of “Arrested Development” last night while failing to adjust to Eastern Daylight Time. Good show, as everybody knows by now, and it already made some of the later episodes funnier because of backwards references. It’s a little easier to see how daunting the continuity of the show was/is for attracting new viewers.

One thing that annoyed me, though: a “behind the scenes” documentary as an extra feature on the first disc. This is going to be seen as blasphemy by my peer group, but: sometimes I wish David Cross would just shut the hell up. The documentary has a bit where the other cast members all talk about how funny he is, and then a little while later they talk to him and he goes on this rant about how commercial television demands the show be 20 minutes so they can get 10 minutes of advertising into each episode.

Well that’s a damn shame, Dave. Just think how many more times you could do the same gay-guy-in-denial joke if you just had those extra 5-10 minutes. You know the one — it’s the one-note gimmick your entire “Arrested Development” character is based on, and the same joke you did about a dozen times in “Mr. Show.”

Yes, the guy is extremely funny. Or if he’s not, he at least knows really well how to get carried by genius-level funny people, because he’s been on two of the most brilliant shows ever. But he also comes across as being like the kid who’s gotten told by one too many adults that he’s “gifted.” The other people on the AD documentary are firm but gracious when they talk about the show and how it was handled; Cross goes on rants. And the only problem I have with that is that he’s in my opinion the least funny member of the ensemble — still funny, especially in the mole suit, but he stands out as too showy for a series where everyone else manages to be simultaneoulsy absurd and subtle.

Granted, it says a lot about the quality of “Arrested Development” that my biggest complaint is a member of the cast who’s extremely funny but too grand-standing. But when everybody else seems to have a healthier take on the situation, and he goes off on these predictable “Blame Fox!” and “Stupid Middle America!” type rants, he just comes across as obnoxious as the characters he did on “Mr. Show.”

I Ache With Embarrasment!

An hour of “Arrested Development” and the eternal shame that comes from coming in too late to fandom over a television series.

Any other show would’ve settled with just the jet pants instructional video and left that as high comedy. But they just keep going. My favorite gag is when they suspected some kind of listening device in the board room, and had a shot with the boom mic in the frame. Or the Pretty Woman bit where Rita grabs for the star. Or how Dave Thomas’ “fags” gets bleeped out when he’s talking about his cigarettes. Or how he knows how to read Rita’s hand turkey drawing.

Now I’m going to get a corndog cross with all the crucifixins.

He Knocked Me Up and Left Me With a Subscription to Hockey Trends Magazine

Other subscriptions Sydney had to cancel: The American Journal of Stubble, and Bland Quarterly.

There’s some videogame website whose motto is “A moment enjoyed is never wasted,” and that’s been a useful rationalization for a while, but there’s no way I can justify my total lack of activity yesterday. I didn’t even manage to accomplish anything for my Sims. So I officially completely and totally wasted the day of October 16, 2005. Closest I came to an achievement was finally finishing that Terry Pratchett book (which was good but not particularly memorable).

All my time-wasting culminated in four straight hours of “Alias” reruns. Season 4 is like “Alias” on Paxil: the highs and lows are evened out, and it’s going forward as competent, dependable television. There are still solid episodes that are actually really good — the one with the ex-Soviet terrorist group training its agents in a simulated American suburban neighborhood was a well-done standalone episode. And last night I finally saw the episode where Sydney gets buried alive and Marshall has to gouge out the eyes of a bad guy with a spork; that was a good one. There’s just not much of the “oh hell no they didn’t just do that” anymore, although they seem to be taking steps in that direction by having Joel Grey as a Sloane look-alike.

Season 5 I’m still not sure about. I was really happy to see Fred show up, especially as a bad guy, and especially in what looks like it’s going to be a recurring part (at least until the next episode). They’re trying hard to get us interested in the two new characters who’re supposed to carry the series now, but it’s just not working yet. Granted, it’s better than the previous week’s, which had the action-packed climax on a plane with the super fighting team of a pregnant woman, a chubby guy, and a man in his early 50s taking on a terrorist cell. (But having the device turn out to be a body, not a bomb, was a nice touch).

I’m sure I’ll keep up with it at least until TNT starts showing the zombie episodes. After that, though, the new ones are going to have to pull off something pretty remarkable to keep me interested.

Imaginary Prom Dates

I wrote another thing for SFist that’s up now; they’re getting lighter and lighter, I’ve noticed. This week I’m going to some big robot convention in San Jose, hopefully I’ll be able to get something more substantial from that instead of just letting Eve do the research while I add TV references.

And it turns out I need help with the TV references as well. I found out this week that for years I’d been mis-remembering the most important thing to any Generation X aspiring trendy hipster: Brady Bunch trivia. See, I always thought that when Jan made up the name of her imaginary boyfriend, she chose “Ron Glass“. And I always thought that was awesome. What better way to get attention away from Marcia and stick it to your uptight mom and homo dad, than show up at the big dance with a black man 20 years your senior?

And then when she showed up with the big black afro wig, that just knocked it over the top. Jan had gone past living out some predictable mid-70’s white girl Mandingo fantasy, and had blossomed into a true nubian princess.

But I was looking around the web, and it turns out the name she picked was George Glass. Who’s way more boring. Still, it turns out he was an associate producer for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? which I guess is kind of funny.

Do you like magic? No. I LOVE it.

Haw haw haw! Fooled you! The Terry Pratchett book signing was last week! So here I sit with a still-unsigned copy of Good Omens and apparently the onset of some degenerative brain disease. Hopefully nobody tried to go on the basis of that blog entry. And if you did, hopefully you didn’t drag somebody out of work and halfway across the city for a no-show. I’m feeling like such a moron I’m going to do the rest of this one like Jackie Harvey from The Outside Scoop.

Item! People have been saying that “Arrested Development” is great for a long time now but I never believed it. Even after watching their little mini-marathon a while back with Martin Short on it (which was damn funny, I don’t care what anybody says). But after watching last night’s episode (“For British Eyes Only”), I’ve finally come around to realizing this is the best comedy on TV.

I mean, I could watch 30 minutes just of Portia di Rossi doing the chicken dance and still be plenty entertained, but they actually add jokes and stuff. “Has anyone in this family even seen a chicken?” The Rumsfeld/Hussein photo. Dave Thomas giving an international phone number via flash cards. Wee Britian and the Itsy Bitsy IRA. “At that moment he was struck by something from his childhood.” “I think they came for the free chicken,” and then the people all bend over for the chicken feed! And all that was before “We’re not here to talk nonsense to Bob Loblaw.” I don’t care if I am coming late to the party asking if I can play too; this is awesome.

Item! I was watching “The Daily Show” tonight and was reminded of why I don’t shave. I end up looking like a cross between John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, and Ed Helms. Eh, whatever. Considering the alternative, I guess I’ll put up with the Daily Show comments for a while. Better than being called “distinguished,” which I actually was called and which everybody know just means “old.”

Item! Serenity opens this weekend! I’m totally going to see it! If it’s not sold out and there’s not a long line! I just don’t know what to dress up as, since there’s no equivalent of Boba Fett, and Blue Sun T-shirts are just played out.

Item! Mike Doughty formerly of Soul Coughing is still playing at The Independent this weekend, this time I swear to God I got the date right. I’m going to see that too!

Item! My second post for SFist is up today. The usual day for these things is Friday, but it turned out there were enough news links from the past couple of days to fill up a column. Plus, they’re kind of fun to write.

Remixed, Remastered, and Bewildered

Rum, Sodomy, and the LashA while ago, my hero and name-dropping victim Steve Purcell was talking about some toys he’d seen at a store and said, “I liked them so much, I wished I hadn’t bought them already so I could buy them again.” Today I got to do exactly that, because of the media companies who’ve hatched an evil scheme to make me spend more of my money.

First I was at the Best Buy looking for We Love Katamari, but apparently Best Buy doesn’t love it as much as everyone else, because they weren’t selling it yet. But luckily for Bandai, they had the first of the new Cowboy Bebop Remix DVDs. This is the same as the earlier DVDs that I’ve already bought and watched repeatedly, it just remasters the audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 and adds some commentaries from the voice actors.

Of course I had to get it, partly because the audio is such a big deal on the series, and I’m looking forward to hearing it in surround sound. But mostly for the I-liked-it-so-much-I-want-to-buy-it-again factor. It’s not just the best anime I’ve ever seen, and it’s not just the best animated series I’ve ever seen, it’s one of the best television series of any kind that I’ve ever seen. The music is phenomenal, the setting is cool, the tone is just right and manages to swing between the genuinely scary, moving, and funny. And a couple of the episodes have actually made me cry (which isn’t that big a feat, I guess, but it’s still worth pointing out). At least the first DVD has five episodes on it, instead of the four that was on the first issue — I’m hoping that this means there are fewer discs for me to have to get this go-round.

And I can more than make up for that by buying all of the Pogues albums a third time. I wasn’t aware that there was even a division called “Warner Strategic Marketing,” but it’s an apt name because I feel like I’ve been the victim of a surgical strike. I first bought the Pogues albums on cassette when I was at school in Athens; I think CDs were a real luxury at the time. I upgraded to getting them all on CD, but could never find two of their EPs — “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah” (which has an awesome cover of the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” on it), and “Poguetry in Motion” (which has “Rainy Night in Soho”, one of my favorite Pogues songs) — on anything other than tape. The re-issues have those EPs on them, some of them the first ever released on CD, so as a completist I’ve got to get them.

I didn’t do the math correctly in my head, because the bill at Amoeba ended up being 90 bucks. Ouch. (I also got The Best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds so that I’ll finally have a copy of “Red Right Hand”). And I didn’t even bother getting the two post-Shane MacGowan albums, or the new Ultimate Collection album. And I don’t even listen to the Pogues that much anymore. But at least I can stop thinking I need to keep an eye out for “Poguetry in Motion” every time I go into a used record store. So it’s paying extra for peace of mind.

That Cheese Aspect

Well, dang. I finished watching the rest of “Firefly.” I can see how the early adopters, and the cast and crew, were upset at its cancellation. But if I were looking to be quoted in trade papers, I would call it “a flawed gem.” A lot of it is just brilliant, and a good bit of it has potential but was badly handled. And there’s this layer of smarm underneath that bugs me.
Continue reading “That Cheese Aspect”

Serenity

I was looking for something to fill the Sydney Bristow-shaped hole in my heart, and I found Serenity. Err, “Firefly.”

Mac got me the DVDs a while ago, and we’d planned to watch them together but either forgot or got distracted by “NewsRadio” and World of Warcraft. I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying the series. I’d seen the show before, of course — I’m realizing that of the seven I’ve seen on the DVDs so far, there’s only one that I hadn’t seen when it was originally aired. They just didn’t stick with me, for various reasons.

One is that it’s full-to-bursting with Whedonisms, and a little of that goes a long way. When high-school-to-college-aged characters use little catch-phrases and wry self-aware commentary, it’s endearing because that’s how nerdy outcast high-school-to-college-aged people talk. When gruff-but-lovable outlaws do it, it just comes across as fey. That tone of “look at me! look at how clever I am!” was just a little overwhelming when I first saw it.

And that carried over into everything, which was reason two. Having no sound in space bugged me because it was accurate, but too self-aware accurate. It’s a very minor thing, but it just came across as “yes we’re making an adventure sci-fi show but we’re defying convention because we know that there’s no sound in space because we’re so smart.” Yes, the silence seemed smug. That’s probably more a sign that I was burned out on “Buffy” and “Angel,” but there it is. What was more troubling was how they kept doing the shaky-zoom-cam thing with digital shots, which was a gimmicky effect that was the equivalent of lens flare for the late-90’s-early-00’s. (Attack of the Clones used it too, and I hated it.)

And the last is Fox’s fault, apparently, because of the way they presented it. The first episode aired is definitely not the strongest and doesn’t give as good a first impression. And it’s only by seeing the episodes in the order in which they were intended to be seen that the whole thing comes together. The characters really become characters, and their conversations seem less like overly self-conscious attempts to be clever and more like the way these people would actually talk to each other. The attempts at intrigue were deftly inserted, and weren’t as ham-handed as they’d seemed watching bits and pieces out of order with commercial breaks. The characters do stop being one-note, and the relationships do develop realistically.

And there’s continuity! They pick up a herd of cattle at the end of one episode, and they drop them off at the beginning of the next!

So the fans can wail and gnash that the show got cancelled, but I’m looking forward to two more discs and the episodes that I haven’t seen yet because they were never aired. Maybe things will change dramatically once I see it develop more, but at the moment I’m not all that upset that it got cancelled. It just feels more like a story arc than an ongoing series; I don’t particularly care how this world develops, I just want to know what happens to the characters. I want a story with a beginning, middle, and end — the kind of story you’d find not in a series, but, say, a movie.

And I don’t care what Joss Whedon says; the show is such a rip-off of “Cowboy Bebop.” Even if they didn’t intend it to be. Seeing as how “Cowboy Bebop” is one of my favorite television series of all time, that’s high praise, not a criticism.