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If you aren’t watching it, you might want to catch up. The characterization has improved remarkably, and as of the end of the season the plot is equally enjoyable. We’ve taken a heavy turn into the SF. Also, Brad Anderson is producing and directing a bunch of episodes, and he is one creepy director.

Spoilers follow in the form of transcribed newspaper headlines, cause we couldn’t resist freeze framing.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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Looking back, I never did talk about Fringe outside of some RPG wanking. That was because I wasn’t that enchanted with the show. John Noble is a superior being, and his Walter Bishop is a great TV character, but I found Anna Torv to be fairly dull and uninteresting. Her FBI agent was bland and played the victim a bit too much for my tastes.

As of the 11th episode, “Bound,” things changed. Agent Dunham… let’s say she revealed her inner badass rather than claiming her characterization changed, because I haven’t gone back and watched the early episodes to see if I missed something. She is now really interesting, because we’re seeing this vast well of anger inside her, which she mostly has to keep repressed. But man, it comes out sometimes. She is ruthless without being apologetic and without making a big deal of it.

This means I want to see what she does next. It also heightens the importance of the problems she’s facing. Boring characters can’t support epic threats, in the same way that bland villains can’t support epic heroes. So this is all very good.

Meanwhile, John Noble is still awesome, and the plot has taken a giant hiccup forward with “Ability,” the most recent episode. Odd as this may seem for a J. J. Abrams show, we have been provided with a basket of answers. And more questions, because it’s still Abrams, but the outline of the season makes sense.

Oh yeah. And there was a Jonathan Carroll reference in the last episode.

So: if you had been dissing Fringe, it might be worth another look. I’m not saying great, because not great, but way better than it started.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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If we lived in the future, AMC would put every episode of The Prisoner up for free viewing. There, isn’t that nice? I strongly recommend this if you’ve never seen it; it’s a perfect marriage of surrealism, British spy drama, and anti-authoritarianism.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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Other than that the showrunner is a geek’s geek, who has credits in RPGs, comics, and of course television in the last year, how did I like the show?

… that was way too overworked a sentence for the sake of a couple of cheap jokes. I want to put semi-colons in it, but I can’t figure out where.

Anyway, how’s Leverage? Well, it’s not great television so far. Five episodes in, and I can’t say I have a strong emotional attachment to any of the characters. I say so far because I think the potential exists — Timothy Hutton’s a solid actor and there’s backstory to be developed there, and I’ve seen Gina Bellman dig out emotional grounding from a character who’s way more superficial than Sophie. So I think there’s potential. But it’s also the case that the characters are currently collections of quirks; in the introductory sequences, we saw what they could do rather than who they were.

Which is OK! I mean, there’s a hacker and a combat specialist and a cat burglar and an actor and a plotter, which is cool. It’s not great television, but it is great fun, and I gotta say everyone’s clearly relishing their characters. Plus the con jobs are marvelous. Rogers is doing a great job with the narrative conceits, and the mini-flashbacks to reveal how a con worked are perfect. You get a nice juicy heist every week. I also like the structure a lot: the first con always breaks down, and Nate always has to think on his feet to get out on top.

We’re also getting some subtle, which is one of the other reasons I said “so far” above. There was a nice bit in “The Bank Job,” the most recent episode, where the wrong two characters are forced to pretend to be FBI agents. They’re really bad at it. For the first five seconds, I was all “oh god that’s bad acting, this is terrible,” until I realized “wait, that’s awesome acting, it’s the characters who can’t pull that off.” So I appreciated that. There is somewhat of a roleplaying game sensibility to this sucker, as S. pointed out in reference to the characters, and which also shows itself in the zeal with which the characters get put into bad situations.

Disgression begins:

Christian Kane looked familiar for a while to me; the other night, I was watching old Angel episodes. Right! He’s Lindsey from Wolfram & Hart, the mostly evil lawyer. But it does not end there, because you know who else shows up as a Wolfram & Hart lawyer? Daniel Dae Kim, who is probably better known for playing a supreme badass on Lost. It’s almost as if actors wind up appearing on multiple shows during the course of their careers.

Leverage is on my Tivo and it’s likely to stay there. Recommended.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

Not Right

Oct. 31st, 2008 11:58 am
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Things that I find disturbing in this post:

  • The idea of an Anita Blake TV show
  • Glen Morgan producing it
  • IFC broadcasting it
  • “It’s a sexier Buffy The Vampire Slayer.”

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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(Not Fringeworthy, that’s different.)

Use Nemesis, which is fairly simple and free. A couple of nomenclature changes — Madness Meters are Stability Meters, and most difficulties are fairly low. Things are weird but not alien weird. The Unnatural track is the Fringe track. Trump dice are likewise Fringe dice.

There is no supernatural, but there is fringe science, obviously. Those versed in fringe science might go above 5d in a given stat. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nina turned out to have 6d in Body, and Dr. Bishop has 6d Mind. Perhaps more.

Regular combat still exists. Right now the show looks more procedural than actiony, which means firearms should be deadly, which I think they are in Nemesis. However, the interesting combat scenes are scientific. This works more or less like regular combat.

1. Declare your character’s action. The show’s set up with one main scientist, which works fine — everyone else does supporting actions, which feed back into the scientist’s work, giving him bonus dice.

2. Roll the appropriate dice pool. Narrate accordingly. Sometimes it’s going to be science skill vs. science skill (can we figure out how to undo this dimensional transposition before it explodes in downtown Boston?), and sometimes it’d be science skill vs. something else. I think the whole tank scene in the pilot was vs. tactics, for example.

3. Damage is to be contemplated. Could be physical. Could be time ebbing away. Possibly losing a fight results in Stability Meter checks. Mostly I think I like time passing; a lot of this stuff is going to be mad science on the clock, since it’s a procedural show. So it’s… when you run out of wound boxes, you’re out of time or the experiment failed.

You don’t have weapons. You have centrifuges, which get statted up the same way.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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And the WGA more or less won. It’s been really interesting to watch; this is the first US strike I’m aware of in which the PR battle was fought on blogs. And when you get right down to it, the writers make a living writing persuasive prose, so it’s not entirely surprising that the PR went well. On the other hand, it’s also the case that this strike didn’t affect the majority of the public in the way that, say, a garbage collection strike does. That helped PR too.

Still, the next time the Teamsters strike, they ought to get the WGA to help out with their PR work. It’d be interesting to see if the same PR strategy works. You get so much mileage in this sort of struggle when people see you as a human being.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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Voting seems to have about come to a close, so let’s see what we have.

First off, I totaled up our punches throughout the course of the season — five points to the person on top, four to the #2 slot, etc., etc. Mohinder and Matt each got 4.5 points the week they were tied. The sibs each got 2 points once. Our top eight looks like this:

West (26)
Mohinder (21.5)
Bob (16)
Maya (14)
Elle (11)
Matt (10.5)
Adam (10)
Angela (10)

There’s a huge dropoff after that, so I won’t bother with anyone else. We had a lot of West and Bob hating early on; West redeemed himself a fair bit over the course of the season, and Bob became a much more interesting character. If I were doing my own season-long list, Bob would certainly drop off it.

You guys have the following top five, with a tie in the last slot:

Maya (18)
Mohinder (12)
West (8)
Peter (7)
Elle (6)
Matt (6)

Awfully similar, except no Bob hate. And we dislike West a ton more than you do. CREEPY STALKER DUDE. Oh, and Peter pretty clearly did himself no favors by hanging out with insipid Irish gangsters for half the season followed by a nice stint as Adam’s pet. But man… he was too boring to punch in the face.

Tune in next year when we do the same sort of thing!

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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This is the eleventh and most likely the last PITF Index for Season 2 of Heroes, the superhero TV show where punching people in the face didn’t actually happen this episode.

Face-punch count: 0. Lotta powers, though.

Not your usual PITF Index after the cut.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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Everyone except Susan, who discovered Blackpool, is fired. Completely fired. A BBC mystery miniseries in which the actors periodically burst into popular song? Or, more exactly, popular song bursts onto the soundtrack and the actors sing along, like demented British karaoke? This sits right smack on my sweet spot and whispers sweet nothings into my ears. It’s the love child of Dennis Potter and, I dunno, something a lot more lighthearted than Dennis Potter.

Also, David Tennant.

Here’s David Tennant with “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” For walking! Here he is singing “Walk Tall”, along with Sarah Parrish. And David Morrissey singing “You Can Get It If You Really Want”.

This is entertainment. I have ordered the DVDs from Amazon UK.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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This is the tenth PITF Index for Season 2 of Heroes, the superhero TV show where punching people in the face will last as long as someone’s writing the screenplay.

Face-punch count: 1. It might have been more but you know, it’s not like Monica’s powers could actually help her in a fight or anything. If only she’d seen some old martial arts footage… oh wait.

PITF Index after the cut.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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This is the ninth PITF Index for Season 2 of Heroes, the superhero TV show where punching people in the face is the raison d’etre, full stop.

Face-punch count: 0. Apparently we’ve escalated to more serious forms of facial violence.

PITF Index after the cut.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

Studio 60

Nov. 26th, 2007 06:47 pm
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I just finished watching the first season of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I hadn’t expected brilliance; I’d watched enough of it the first time round to know I was buying some pretty flawed television. It was no Sports Night or even West Wing. But I am a sucker for Sorkin, and in this case I figured I’d get a ton of interesting insight into watching him fail fairly noisily.

It took me the whole season to figure out what was wrong with the show. Not, parenthetically, that there wasn’t a lot that was right. Matthew Perry was great. I like Sorkin dialogue. I liked a bunch of the characters, even the minor ones, some of whom had their arcs and character development sadly cut short when the show ended. Oh, and I really liked Mark McKinney. Man, what a deadpan. And Steven Weber! There’s a show waiting to be made about his character. More on that later.

Lance Mannion had a lot to say about Studio 60 while it was running, and a lot of the stuff he says about why it failed is accurate. I think the comedy was better than he gave it credit for, but I’m picking nits at that point. Sarah Paulson was in fact sorely miscast and abused as a stand-in for Sorkin’s own love life; the whole show moved kind of slowly; enough with the rants about Christianity already. Sheesh.

But he missed the big thing. (Come on. The whole point of blogging is to talk about why the clever person over there is wrong. It only lacks class when you don’t give them credit for clever.)

The real, deep problem with the show is that network comedy sketch shows are about the most unimportant thing on television these days, and Sorkin wanted to do a show about a very important network comedy sketch show. It’s all over the show; the characters treat Studio 60 as if it were the arbiter of cool. Sorkin is writing a world in which everyone in America, not to mention Afghanistan, cares a lot about late night network television.

I can’t name a single Saturday Night Live cast member except for those Lonely Planet guys, and that’s cause of YouTube. OK, I cheated and peeked — Maya Rudolph’s name rang a bell. But SNL is not, in fact, making what one could call an impact on pop culture these days.

So the premise is flawed, and as a result all the storylines — nearly without exception — feel slightly off. It starts out with the story about how Danny and Matt rejoin the show. Realistically, if a couple of SNL vets came back to run SNL again after winning a WGA award for Best Screenplay, the story is about how they’ve lost their career in a big way. Not in this universe.

This continues. Reporters flock to the stage doors, high-powered lawyers hang around the set because it’s so damned compelling, and major reporters push to do big stories on the show. It doesn’t ring true, because it’s all predicated on the idea that Studio 60 really, really matters.

If the show had been set in 1980 or so, it would have worked. Sadly, Sorkin needs his current events. C’est la vie.

The good show that sort of lurked at the edges of this one is the Jack Rudolph drama about a seriously competent network executive who has to grapple with the changing face of media. I want to see Stephen Weber figuring out how to use the Internet to sell his shows. I want to see him using the Internet to create his shows. NBS as the network which breaks with tradition and puts user-created content on prime-time television? Sure, why not? It’s the Sorkin universe. Weirder things happen. But make the stories about…

All the stuff that pisses Sorkin off. He’s always sneering at bloggers in his scripts. So that one is probably a lost cause.

Still, it was interesting to watch him trip up. I’d certainly recommend the DVDs for anyone who’s into that sort of thing. Also there’re more than a couple great bits.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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This is the eight PITF Index for Season 2 of Heroes, the superhero TV show where punching people in the face is not always successful.

Face-punch count: 1, plus an attempted face-punch. Can’t punch what you literally can’t hit.

PITF Index after the cut.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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This is the seventh PITF Index for Season 2 of Heroes, the superhero TV show where punching people in the face is what it’s all about.

Face-punch count: 2. No quips. Badass episode.

PITF Index after the cut.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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This is the sixth PITF Index for Season 2 of Heroes, the superhero TV show where punching people in the face is normative behavior.

Face-punch count: 4. Counting backhands.

PITF Index after the cut.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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I paraphrase his remarks on Heroes. What he actually said was “romance isn’t a natural fit for us,” and “We took too long to get to the big-picture story,” and “We made a mistake.” I.e.: the Claire storyline sucked, and the meandering around sucked, and season 2 in general has not been good.

This is true. I noted a while back that the problem with season 2 was that it’s very much like season 1. That worked for season 1, because they were introducing the world and building our relationships with the characters. But now we have relationships, and we are unhappy to see them neglected while yet more characters are introduced.

There appears, however, to be hope.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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I’m finding the WGA strike really interesting, for reasons above and beyond the obvious fact that it affects a lot of my entertainment. (Equal link doctrine: here’s the AMPTP home page so you can read up on the other side’s viewpoint.) Perhaps predictably, screenwriters like to write, and that means there’re a lot of screenwriters with blogs, and that means this is going to be a heavily blogged strike. This is only appropriate given that the major sticking point is residual income for Internet-distributed television and film.

Worthwhile blogs on the strike include United Hollywood (a strike-specific blog), John August, The Artful Writer, Kung Fu Monkey, Jane Espenson, and I’m sure there are dozens more. Nikki Finke is not a screenwriter but what else is a Hollywood blogger going to be writing about?

It’s not just that they’re being pretty candid and frank about their opinions on the whole thing; it’s the arguments getting underway in various comment sections. The effect of this strike on non-writers will be significant — set dressers, location scouts, etc., etc are all gonna be out of work if this goes on very long. Those people aren’t shy about expressing their opinions by any means.

So what I’m seeing is evolving labor relations in the field of intellectual property, weighted towards the question of Internet rights, with a hefty dose of class consciousness included on the side. And it’s playing out in real time where I can see it. Yeah, interesting.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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This is the fifth PITF Index for Season 2 of Heroes, the superhero TV show where punching people in the face is a way to say howdy.

Face-punch count: lots. There was a fight and we lost count.

PITF Index after the cut.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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I know, I know. There was hot food last night and and and the writing sucks so it’s not compelling, there, I said it.

We’ll catch up on Friday and Saturday. Promise.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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