Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Sick of the shipping or "burst the URST already"

As a writer and a TV watcher, I am extremely ambivalent about 'ships. Human relationships are a very natural thing to write about and when ships are done well they can keep people tuning in week after least until they get sick of the soap opera.

But after watching some episodes of Castle (allowed to be mentioned in this blog because it stars sci fi/fantasy god Nathan Fillion - have I noted lately that they cancelled Firefly?) I declare myself officially over ships for ships sake. If, 20 years later, they're still comparing shows to Moonlighting, something is very very wrong.

The problem of course is not ships per se. The problem is that writers don't seem able to write good, believable, romantic relationships. Anyone who watched the painful decline of Lois and Clark after the writers decided that a romantic relationship meant their new combined IQs must be half their individual pre-relationship ones will know the awful truth that TV writers are unwilling or unable to write relationships. So we get the same tired old device of initial dislike combined with sexual tension, relationship development, relationship reversal, relationship rebuliding and the tired old treadmill of "will-they-won't-they".

Clark Kent and Lana Lang should have met, dated and broken up like normal people instead of making us endure 7 seasons of whiny emo angst; Mulder and Scully should have just gotten together in Season 6; after three years together, Max and Liz should have just bloody consummated; and if Chuck and Sarah are not a couple in Season 3 I think that, combined with the Subway product placement, might just make me turn off for good.

Even worse is when writers push a ship just because a show should have one and now we're back to Castle. If your characters have no chemistry, you should acknowledge it and move on.

So, I've decided to help TV writers by compiling a list of of good, bad ships and will-they-won't-they's that should remain will nots. Have I got it right? Let me know. Kyle and Amanda have, you will note, made both the best and worst lists after consultation with the brains trust. And Press Gang should be nowhere near this blog but I don't care: Spike and Lynda were the best ship of my adolescence (and possibly my adulthood should I ever have the courage to admit it). Oh, and Bones is so wonderfully ridiculous it deserves to be on the fantasy list despite its genre.

Best Ship
Spike/Lynda (Press Gang)
Mulder/Scully (X Files)
Tom Paris/B'Elanna Torres (Voyager)
Sarah/Chuck (Chuck)
Kyle/Amanda (Kyle XY)
Buffy/Angel (Buffy)
Apollo/ Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica)
Sheridan/ Delenn (Babylon 5)
Max/Logan (Dark Angel)
Sookie Stackhouse/Bill Compton (True Blood)

Should remain/have remained friends
Booth/Brennan (Bones)
Max/Alec (Dark Angel)
Doctor/Rose (Doctor Who)

Worst ship
Gwen/Captain Jack (Torchwood)
Gwen/Owen (Torchwood)
Castle/Beckett (yawn) (Castle)
Seven/Chakhotay (Voyager)
Baltar and Six (Battlestar Galactica)
Kyle/Amanda (Kyle XY)
Clark Kent/Lois Lane (Smallville)
Lex Luthor/Lana Lang (Smallville)

How right/wrong am I? Who have I missed Have your say below.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Chuck me Tuesdays: Chuck versus the Alma Mater

Score: A

Adore him or despise him, Bryce Larkin is an integral part of Chuck and this is the episode where we get the background we’ve been waiting for. Wondering why Bryce got Chuck kicked out of Stanford? (sip). It’s all here, it all makes sense, and it turns Chuck’s perception of his life upside down.

The good
“It was the worst day of my life, getting kicked out of here.” – Chuck.

Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski continue to impress with their acting and this was no exception. How can a show that, at its core, is quite silly contain so many great actors that portray ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances so well? The simple fact is that there are very few shows on at the moment where the acting is to this standard.

The bad
The B plot (that’s B for Buy More) is usually loosely-related to the main plot but if there are links between them in this episode, it escaped me. It was obviously superfluous to the main plot and it showed.

The Professor’s death was played for laughs but just made Chuck look stupid. Which he’s not.

The Chuckalicious
“You can’t put him out in the field; he won’t survive.”

For all its silliness, Chuck does serious emotion exceptionally well by avoiding melodrama. And in case you missed the point:

Life is not a TV show. People all around us have their own lives and we’re often radically unaware of what’s really going on inside them.

Life is not a soap opera. When our lives are affected by other people’s decisions, we don’t have serious emotionally-searing conversations where our well-structured monologues express everything we’re feeling and we come to realise why people did the things they did. Sometimes they disappear from our lives. Sometimes we never get the chance to ask and even if we do, we choose not to. We may never have that conversation or ever understand what really happened. After 5 years, Chuck actually got some answers. And that, is awesome.

The geekalicious
If Chuck can be said to have an arc, albeit one based on character development rather than plotting, than this is an arc episode. Not much for the geeks apart from multiple Lord of the Rings references in the B plot, including the “one remote to control them all". Morgan refers to himself and Chuck as Frodo and Sam and to Harry Tang as the Dark Lord Sauron.

During the channel-changing competition in the Buy More, The O.C. season 2 is referenced and Lester says, "underrated". The O.C was created by Chuck creator, Josh Schwartz.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

TV Heaven

Well, if you like genre television then the next month or two is the one to watch. How things perform overseas determines whether we get these shows down south, but with a few new Australian free-to-air channels devoted to genre shows things are definitely looking brighter for us Antipodeans.

Here's a list of what's on now or is starting soon:

True Blood Season 2 - one of the best shows on television at the moment, True Blood Season 1 did very well in Aus and so we'll definitely be seeing Season 2 here soon. It's on US screens as we speak

Burn Notice Season 3 - technically speaking not sci-fi/fantasy so it hasn't been mentioned on this blog before. This spy show is most notable for its subtle humour, bad ass lead, and great action sequences not to mention the fact that it's filmed like a 1970s police procedural. If you want to remember what shows looked like before we subverted the gaze, tune in. From a feminist perspective, it's quite fascinating. Season 3 is showing in the States now.

Supernatural Season 5 - Starts Sept 10th and after the awesome awesomeness that was the Season 4 finale, I'm actually looking forward to it. Quite a bit.

Fringe Season 2 - I have to mention it because like Lost this inexplicably popular show is not going anywhere. Season 2 starts on Sept 17th but, like it's sister show, I would imagine we'll be seeing Season 6 before you know it. And I imagine it'll make about as much sense.

Flash Forward - brand new sci-fi show starting in the States on Sept 24. Based on the novel, the show's premise is that a mysterious global event causes everyone to simultaneously experience, for two minutes and seventeen seconds, his or her life six months in the future. When it is over, many are dead in accidents involving vehicles, aircraft, and any other device needing human control. Everyone who survived is left wondering if what they saw will actually happen.

Smallville Season 9 - Nine seasons (and Firefly was cancelled!). Starts Sept 25th. Prepare for "Superman, the Retirement Years" in late 2010.

Dollhouse Season 2 - Arguably the most intelligent show on TV at the moment, with the possible exception of True Blood, Dollhouse got picked up for a second season despite low ratings because, well, an enraged Whedon fan is not something Fox wants to see again. Starts Sept 25.

Sanctuary Season 2 - My ambivalence about Torchwood Vancouver won't stop me from tuning in on Oct 9. Amanda Tapping is just that good.

Stargate Universe - Meh. Didn't the writers once make fun of networks producing "younger, edgier" versions of shows. Oh well, if I watched every painful episode of Atlantis, I can tune in to this in October. After watching this scene from the SG-1 episode '200' again. And again. And again...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Chuck me Tuesdays: Chuck versus the Sandworm

Score: A-

Trust. Who do we trust? Why do we trust them? Who is worthy of our loyalty and …oh hang on…just a moment…yep, it’s another trust episode and so soon after the first.

Chuck’s tendency to trust people gets him into trouble again when he tries to help an escaped CIA asset who’s accused of murdering his handlers. One of the few episodes where the B plot (that’s B for Buy More) is more interesting than the main plot, ‘Chuck versus the Sandworm’ has Chuck realising that the excitement of his new career is not worth sacrificing the things he used to value.

The good
42 minutes and 15 seconds, Awesome and Morgan’s “adult” conversation, and roast beef on a deserted island.

The bad
Lazlo’s motivation. What was it? I don’t know. If you do, let me know, because I get that he was deliberately manipulating Chuck but why did he need to go through all that when all he wanted to do was blow something up? And at what point did he decide on his (remarkably convoluted) plan.

Did I mention the plot was remarkably convoluted? ‘Cause it was.

Oh, and the ejection seat? Back off the slapstick guys; it’s just silly.

The Chuckalicious
“Would you like to see my snake?” Awesome’s Halloween costume as Adam sent hormones soaring and his sheer lack of embarrassment at being practically naked sold the scene. This guy is truly the anti-Chuck.

How can you not love a Dune reference? It takes a lot to make me laugh out loud but Chuck’s, “Hello, it’s a Sandworm. Shai-Hulud to be exact,” was the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time.

The bromance scene between Chuck and Morgan at the party was (for those unaware) word-for-word, shot-for-shot a Ryan and Marissa scene from the OC. Putting two males who aren’t romantically involved in it was “champagne comedy”.

The geekalicious

Star Trek, Star Wars and Bond. The every day geeks had a field day with this one. The more sophisticated geeks (hey, I’m writing this so I can say what I want) love the Dune references. Chuck and Morgan go to the Halloween party as Shai-Hulud and is that a Dune poster I spot in Chuck’s bedroom?

Tang's middle name is Tiberius (a more obscure Star Trek reference)

The Herder's self-destruct stopped on 007 following a succession of Goldfinger and other Bond references.

Sarah dressed up as Princess Leia from Return of the Jedi and Chuck as Hans Solo (although that photo was fake)

When Laszlo reveals the Home Theatre room can access Air Force command channels, he asks Chuck "How about a game of Thermonuclear War?" a reference to the old 80s film, ‘War Games’.