Saturday, February 28, 2009

The future of TV is Comics??? Part II

I know I promised Part II weeks, seemingly months ago, so I apologize at the start.

To recap: there has always been an interesting relationship between comics and TV, starting first with adaptations of comics for the small screen and in recent years a cross-fertilization of talent. And while comic books have been a part of popular culture for decades, they have generally been cast aside and seen as irrelevant or even just kiddy literature. But the number of people in the television and movie industry that consider comic books as important sources of inspiration should make us all pause and wonder.

The real breakthrough in this comic/television development came just a few years ago when Joss Whedon and Dark Horse Comics announced they would be printing Buffy Season 8. This was a new start, as far as I can tell. Sure in the past TV and movies continued their stories in other forms - I think of the books and comic books written after both Star Trek and Star Wars were no longer on the small or big screen. But Whedon's Buffy Season 8 was different in that this was a canonical extension of the television series and was organized like a season with Whedon acting as executive producer. Each story arc would be written by a certain writer, ala episodes, and some of the talent Whedon brought to the project were the same writers he had hired for Buffy and Angel.

I should pause and rewind to another Whedon project that proceeded Buffy Season 8 and that was the prequel to the movie Serenity. This type of comic book prequel has been seen before and since, I think of Bryan Singer's Superman Return prequel comics. While this may be a stepping stone, the idea of a canonical extension of a TV series, not just for a few issues but for the long run is exciting and new!

When the project was announced there were lots of questions around how long Season 8 would last. And many people wanted to label each issue like an episode or each arc like an episode. Once the first arc was over it became clear that neither was true and one could not find a direct one-to-one relationship between issue or arc and episode.

Buffy Season 8 was a hit, both critically and within the mainstream media. It garnered a great deal of attention and buzz and sparked some other projects including a post-Angel series. Angel: After the Fall was not structured like Whedon's other project. Whedon helped break the overall story and served as a pseudo-executive producer but the actually working of the issues was given to a Scott Lynch, a comic writer who had been doing non-canonical Angel stories for several years. I will say this about the issues I've read so far, they are far from being bad, but they miss much of what I loved most about Angel. Recently, Farscape has entered this realm with Rockne writting a limited edition series that may lead into either more issues or leap back onto Sci-Fi with webisodes. Also, after the success of Buffy there had been talks to continue Veronica Mars and HBO's Carnivale in comics, but nothing has come of either of those projects.

But back to Buffy.... it's a little hard to write a review of these story arcs so I'll provide more of my general impressions. When Whedon wrote the Buffy-verse comic Fray he created a world where demons were everywhere and where there was but one slayer. Whedon had a problem though, when he ended Buffy the show because he had created a world were there were slayerS. And that is what this season is about, trying to link the world where slayers are everywhere to the future world where there is only one slayer per generation.

Whedon's wit and drama leap from the page, but I miss the actors. It just goes to prove that writing isn't everything. That being said, it is a true delight to "hear" these characters again. To imagine the exact way Xander would respond to someone calling him Sir when he prefers being Sgt Fury. The first arc definitely set the tone for the series, and that was Whedon's intention but I was far more impressed by the second arc written by comic veteran Brian K Vaughn. He nailed both Faith and Giles to perfection. I only hope that we get to hear his voice again and see those two characters.

My biggest complaint is the issue of timing. I read them as they come out, issue-by-issue and I know many fans have opted to read the trade paperbacks, getting arcs in one swoop. I've been tempted to go that route but I feel it will hurt my comic book fan street creds! I'm getting impatient with the overall story development, particularly when it concerns the big baddy of the season, Twilight. What I do like is the way they've managed to bring in old favorites and in new and surprising ways. The end of the each issue of the first arc was just one surprise after another. And the way the most recent Fray arc ended was a revelation too, but where is it all going. I trust Whedon to get us there, I just wish it was quicker.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gay is the New Slightly Retarded

Due to a complete lack of a social life that would normally occur on a Sunday night, I had the distinct honor of watching last night's 81st annual Academy Awards. Overall the award show was...ok. I was happy to see all the congrats given to the cast/crew/and India for Slumdog. Below I want to highlight my favorite comments from the show.

1) The clothes were ok....that's it. I didn't see anything TRULY awful or AMAZING.
2) What was with the musical tribute. Did ABC get into a room and think, how can we get Vanessa and Zack Efron into the show? OH I know a musical tribute they can sing to! Blah, i like musicals and Beyonce was fun, but overall it was unnecessary
3) Ben Stiller was hilarious. I am usually anti bit humor but I LOVE when Hollywood mocks itself
Overall it was quite entertaining to watch Ben Stiller mock Joaquin (who has either lost it or is doing a hilarious bit).
4) Why was there a vampire presenter? Look I love Twilight....Others will vouch but Robert Patterson did NOT deserve to present ANYTHING at the Oscars.
5) Heath's Family was sweet and I am glad that it didn't go way over
6) My favorite speech last night was from was the Screenwriter from Milk who had a lot to say about the rights of the gay population still be held back. It was a great speech and exponentially better than Sean Penn.
7) MY FAVORITE moment was the comedy montage with Seth Rogen and James Franco. I loved they mocked Franco playing gay. That little bit was so the highlight.
8) I liked the new presentation method. For those of you who didn't watch, instead of having one person present for the supporting actor/actress and actor/actress awards they had a bunch of previous winners. I liked how personal it was address each nominee from the heart rather than showing a clip from the movie. I am a fan.
9) Gay is the New Slightly Retarded.....well this comment honestly came from my husband. That was his response to Sean Penn winning....and for some extenct it is true.

Overall I liked the show....what were your thoughts?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Now THAT'S How You Do a Romantic Interest

I was really worried for a while there with Ugly Betty this season since the writers gave her Jesse, the douchey love interest. But now things are looking up! First Betty realized that Jesse was a self-absorbed jerkface, and NOW it seem like she's being paired up at YETI with the uber cute Matt.

And people, Matt is adorable. Quite possibly the cutest thing since Christopher Gorham. And that is saying something.

Check him out:

He looks like Josh Groban, but with less hair. I wonder if he's a good singer?

Anyhoodle, he's cute, tall, clearly likes our girl, babbles adorably, and is clearly somewhat geeky. So he meets all the TV Slut criteria for a romantic interest. Good for you, Matt! And thanks, writers! I'm always happy for a new ship to board and this one looks inviting.

Also, Molly: pregnant or has some life threatening illness? Her doctor's visit looked pretty serious, but obviously pregnancy is the first thing that comes to mind in a show like this. But I have a feeling it might be cancer or something like that...what do you think?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thoughts on the Latest BSG (spoilers for last week's episode within!)

Umm. What?

Ooooooh. Dude. That is…..woah. Also, ew!*

That was my reaction to last week’s Battlestar Gallactica. Because they pretty much laid everything out there; who created the Cylons, why the Final Five had been on Earth, why they had been interspersed in the fleet and kept a secret from the other models….yeah. The fact that it took me multiple viewings to get it might just be because I am kind of dumb, but we are talking about a lot of information here.

In case you’re still confused, I suggest you check out Jacob’s recaplet on TWOP (even though we are disagreeing on this season of Ugly Betty, he is still my go-to guy for BSG explanations).

And then! Right when I didn’t think it could get any crazier, they had JOHN HODGMAN (from The Daily Show and those Mac/PC commercials) show up as a brain surgeon. Ok. Random. And awesome.

Wait, wait. You want this guy to operate on my brain? This guy? No way, dude.

But just in case you’re worried that everything was answered in this episode, all I can say is “HAHAHAHA.” You didn’t really think they would do that, did you? We still don’t know who (or what) Starbuck is, or what is up with Daniel, the mysterious 7th model Cylon. Or know how everything will play out. Please be a happy ending, please be a happy ending, please be a happy ending…

If anyone has ever doubted that this is one of the best dramas ever on television, boy, were you wrong. And I find it interesting that we know that almost everything that has happened on this show occurred because Cavil decided to throw a tantrum because he wasn’t made the way he wanted. You know what, Cavil? Blow it out your ass. Nobody’s perfect.

* the ew comes from Cavil, who you remember screwed Ellen on New Caprica, and was essentially having some big oedipal moment by having sex with his mom. Since she created him and all the other 8 Cylon models. I KNOW.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Heroes with familiar faces

There have been some familiar faces cropping up on this volume of Heroes.

First: she was bitchy and useless on The West Wing, she was bitchy and made of awesome in The Cutting Edge, and I'm sure she'll be bitchy and something else on Heroes....yes, it's Moira Kelly!

Nice hair, Moira!

Second: You loved him as Justin on Aliens in America (at least you did if you were one of the 5 people who watched that show), and now he's kind of annoying and pointless as a sidekick to everyone's favorite serial's Dan Byrd!

File under things that make you go "awwww."

Finally, you know him from Damages and True Blood and pretty much every tv show ever made, the ubiquitous (and let's be honest, slightly creep looking) Zeljko Ivanek!

See? Slightly creepy, no?

Stay tuned to Heroes to discover who will be the next totally random guest star!

I miss Kristen Bell. I'm just sayin.

Monday, February 16, 2009

First Impressions of Dollhouse

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains information from the first episode of a new series, as well as some details gleaned from teh internets. You have been warned.


Witty dialogue, quirky and well-rounded characters, and plots that are a constant surprise - these are the staples of the Whedonverse. It should come as no surprise that I'm a fan. I own the box sets of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. I watched Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog when it first went online. I own t-shirts, graphic novels, refrigerator magnets. And I expected that Dollhouse would be another amazing Joss Whedon creation, and that I would have found a new obsession-worthy show.

A quick recap for those who don't know - Dollhouse tells the story of a company that combines all the convenience of a temp agency with all the evil of brainwashing supervillany. People "volunteer" to become Dolls, and have their personalities wiped out so that they can be reprogrammed to the client's specifications. Whether you need a biker chick in a super short skirt (I saw Eliza Dushku's butt!), an assassin or a hostage negotiator, The Dollhouse can provide. All for an unreasonable fee, of course. The protagonist is Echo, a Doll (aka "Active") who throws off the brainwashing and starts to become self-aware.

The season premiere last Friday was good ... but not great. Somehow, Dollhouse doesn't feel like a Joss Whedon project. There were no camera-angle shenanigans, no devastating one-liners, no sudden OMFG!!1!!one! moments. Apart from the science fiction theme, it could have been any other show on the market today. And maybe I missed it, but there was no hint in the first episode that Echo is becoming self-aware. Take that element away, and the show loses all value. Echo can't exactly go on a Hero's Journey if she can't even remember what she had for breakfast. I'm sure this theme will come to light in future episodes, but I would have expected Joss to toss in a teeny, tiny hint that would have me begging for more. I can't help but wonder if this show represents a compromise between Whedon-esque writing and the tastes of a more mainstream (read: mindless) audience.

Airbrushed or naturally perfect? Hard to say...

Still, the essential Joss-ness does peek through. The scene in which the main antagonist, federal agent Ballard, is called to task by his superiors, is brilliant. The dialogue from Ballard's meeting, where he's taking flak for pursuing rumors of The Dollhouse, is cut by images of Ballard in the boxing ring, fighting a much bigger opponent. As his superiors order Ballard to drop the case, Ballard in the ring turns it around and beats the shit out of the muscular, tattooed man he'd been fighting. The message is clear - Ballard will never, ever, ever give up. You kind of love him for it.

At the end of the day, I give Dollhouse a six out of ten. But only because I'm holding it to a higher standard. Joss, don't think that having Eliza Dushku and Amy Acker bat their eyelashes my way is enough to earn you a passing grade. Throw in a little James Marsters, though, and we'll talk.

Edward Cullen, eat your heart out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pillow vs Pillow - Crazy Awesome

Let me start by saying that Demetri Martin: Person is one of the funniest comedy specials I have ever seen. Martin takes illogical humor to its logical conclusion with his use of props, music, and whimsy. I also loved him as Seth Shapiro in the Fountains of Wayne music video for "Someone To Love," as a guest star on Flight of the Conchords, and as a Daily Show correspondent. So it's safe to assume that I greeted the premiere of his new show, Important Things with Demetri Martin, with high hopes.

Martin's humor is the kind that has to grow on you - sometimes you don't get it right away. Not because it's so complex, but because it's so simple. "I hate meeting babies," he'll say. And wait.

Even with my expectations (or perhaps because of them) it took me a few minutes to warm up to this show. Martin started with a pretty typical stand-up routine, and I found my hand straying to the clicker. But I stuck with it and soon he had moved on to great sketch comedy, hilarious illustrations, and my personal favorite - music. He played the guitar, harmonica, keyboard, tambourine and bells while flipping a chart with a series of increasingly random jokes. Classic.

So don't just give Important Things a chance. Give it about half an hour next Wednesday, 10:30 on Comedy Central. Or check it out online. You won't be sorry.

On the Fringe

I'm calling it right now.

This guy?

Totally up to no good. Check back in a few years to see if I'm right. He just seems shady.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Not Secret NOT Boyfriend of the Week

This guy.

I felt torn over this guy. For one, it seemed that the writers of Ugly Betty were setting him up to be the big love interest of Season 3. He lived in Betty's building, was a musician, was adorable, sensitive, all that hipster crap.

But here's the thing. I never really liked him. He only wanted to talk about himself, would constantly interrupt Betty, and in general just seemed like kind of a douchebag. So I was torn, because I wanted to trust the writers, but I really didn't like Jesse.

But then! Last night! I was vindicated! Because it turned out Jesse actually IS a jerk. That he DOES only want to talk about himself. And Betty figured it out! It's all part of her learning to live in the real world or some other blah blah moral.

So, Jesse from Ugly Betty, for being a self-absorbed jerk, you are the NOT Boyfriend of the Week. Good riddance.

PS: This of course has nothing to do with the actor playing Jesse (Val Emmich) whom I am sure if a lovely person and is, as I mentioned earlier, adorable.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

We Don't Need Another Hiro...

It's back! Heroes is back! It's been more than a month since we last saw our intrepid heroes, and from the looks of things, there were a lot of changes that took place. But for the most part, I would say they are good changes.

It seems that the show-runners were listening when everyone was writing and blogging about the ways to save Heroes. A lot of thing have changed for the better--no more annoying trips to the future, Maya's gone (hurray!), Bennet's motives are back to being shady, Mohinder is no longer the fly, and Hiro is adorable again! And maybe, just maybe, we'll see the return of Peter's emo bangs.

Over at Greg Beeman's blog (he's a producer/director of the show), he mentions how Tim Kring wanted this volume ("Fugitives") to act as a kind of reboot of the show, and I think as a whole they were successful. After the events of the last volume's finale, the characters have resumed something of a normal life; Peter is working as an EMT, Sylar is off on his own being eeeeeeevil (and hot!), Claire is looking at colleges and apparently pissing off the makeup department because dear god they made her up to look like a clown, Matt and Speed Racer Chick are living in semi-domestic bliss, and Hiro is the cutest thing on the earth again. Apparently he has decided to make himself a sidekick to Ando, now that Ando is the one with the powers, and set up a "lair" for the two of them in an old building. Cuteness!

Other shows have gone with the reboot idea, and I think it works in some ways, but fails in others. First, it's successful because the fans get what they have been clamoring. A return to what they have been craving. The show is simply better when we see the main characters as normal people, going about their lives, yet having these remarkable abilities. The first season was about ordinary people with extraordinary powers working to save the world. Hopefully, we'll see that again. Also, one of the most compelling parts of the first season was deducing exactly whose side Bennet was on; this volume looks to be proceeding along that vein. I never thought that Bennet would be working with Nathan to help round up the heroes, but it makes perfect sense. Well played show!

But the ways in which a reboot will inevitably be disappointing is that it means you are essentially asking your audience to forget everything that came before. If the characters are acting like the events of the last volume didn't happen, it makes us feel kind of cheated that we hung in there with the show.

But, hey, you gotta roll with the punches, and so far I am psyched for what the next volume will bring.

He's back, baby!