Wednesday, June 29, 2011

People Are People

Looks like my new foil has decided to slink away. Dammit, Ndroid!

Peter: Dude! If you read the blog, then you KNOW I mostly rant! Hopefully I'll have some stuff upcoming that's more to your liking, so stick around.

Cory: Appreciate the comments greatly. I'm going to ponder a writing and not a ranting topic in the next little while, but I've got a few things in the pipeline. I'll do it, though! And also, I do wish Josh Friedman would blog more. Although you can count him in amongst the successful showrunners, he's also had ridiculous struggles and when those we consider successful highlight those struggles, it does mean something. Most recently, of course, his show didn't get ordered. Which was insanely wrong.

Spicy Salmon:
The energy here should be focused on continuing to keep amazingly talented female genre writers on the front burner and not getting disproportionately angry over a joke.

Ah. I see. You're of the "it HAD to be a joke" school, because nobody would ever say that seriously. And because I take umbrage at the article, I am disproportionately angry? How do you figure? Did it occur to you that Elizabeth Perle isn't a deft enough writer to actually MAKE that joke and get away with it? Because she isn't. She thinks she's more clever than she really is. She gave herself a forum to actually make a point and she chose the coward's way out, instead attempting to prop herself up as a zany geek girl. Her list was pretty offensive and believe me, I'm not the only female TeeVee writer who felt that way. So are we ALL disproportionately angry, then? Or have we tried to make a mark in this business and found it an uphill battle when the executives and showrunners settle on an Approved Female Genre Writer and if they don't get her, they don't hire one? This goes much deeper than simply the singling out of one writer. And like I said in the post, who it is continues to be irrelevant. Because if you talk about male genre writers, you absolutely do NOT land on only one name. So someone's not paying attention.

Getting annoyed with this bullshit is kinda the point. Getting annoyed with it and explaining WHY it's annoying is doing exactly what you want -- shining a light on the problem. Because even a JOKE from someone with far more skill than Elizabeth Perle is an issue. There's more than a kernel of truth in that joke. I wish you'd be able to see that. But there's also another issue that goes beyond this, and it has more to do with women CREATING shows and not just being on staff. As limited as the opportunities are for women to write for other peoples' shows, those chances are even slimmer that they will get the chance to develop their own voices and create their own shows. So to a certain degree, their subservience to the male showrunner is still intact. I would like to say more on voice and the divide between creating and staffing but I shan't, because I will likely get myself into trouble. Suffice to say that if you want to become a TeeVee writer (and I don't know why ANYONE would jump into this pool right now), make sure that no matter WHAT, you continue to develop your voice. Don't rely on staffing to last forever. And don't think that if you work your way up to co-executive producer and are given the chance to do a pilot, that your voice hasn't been muted by your years of mimicking the voice of someone else's show. In other words, just stay vigilant. The audience will thank you.

Dan, regarding River Song: Yes, well said. That's why I like her, too.

This should be my last bit on Doctor Who. And a lot of what I'm talking about in these posts, while specific to Doctor Who, also has relevance towards television in general. While inspiration is a beautiful thing, just going with your gut and not exploring the effects that has on story isn't optimal. But neither is beating your idea to a bloody pulp by over-analyzing it and then throwing it out because you've forced it to not work. I don't like either way of working, nor do I respond very well when the shows I watch go too far down one of those roads.

I think Moffat is going too far down the former road, and I think he does that because he is the Scottish (he's Scottish, right?) version of a Native American trickster. He's clever and by GOD he will show you HOW clever. Clever isn't a bad thing but it can be destructive if that's all you're offering but the show and characters demand more.

Moffat doesn't develop characters. He reinforces them. In the case of Sherlock Holmes, he has two marvelous characters with whom to do this. He also has a throughline -- a big old puzzle, which Moffat clearly adores. There's nothing wrong with a writer who loves puzzles. And there's nothing wrong with the way he reinforces the character on Sherlock, because it's three episodes. I love how he cleverly reinvented Sherlock Holmes while staying true to who Holmes and Watson are. The little tweaks are wonderful. And he's blessed with two astoundingly great actors. There's a bit of cheeky reverence to his Sherlock, an appreciation of what Holmes has meant to literature and England more specifically.

Then why doesn't ANY of that exist in his Doctor Who?

As beloved as Sherlock Holmes has been over two centuries, Doctor Who is the television age's version of Sherlock Holmes. I honestly think that if you're British, your favorite Doctor's picture is embossed on your passport. People grew up with this series. They stuck with it through the rough times. And when it came back via Russell Davies, it was shiny and breathless in its dramatic potential. Finally, the effects had risen to the level of the setting. Daleks weren't made out of cardboard. The TARDIS could actually FLY. And the structure of the show, so simple with so much room for complexity, could take on modern storytelling.

Davies made that happen. He rebooted the Doctor as a modern hero, but he was also conscious of the history of the series. So much, in fact, that he continuously brought it back. The genius of Doctor Who is really in the simplicity of its premise, and the ever-changing companions allow the show to always come into the modern age. With Davies, there were three very modern -- but very different -- women. All had different strengths and weaknesses, and all affected the Doctor in very different ways.

Then Moffat arrived, bringing his giddy love for puzzles but revealing either a disdain or lack of interest in developing characters. For me, that's the real puzzle. There's some tricky stuff there that I don't think Moffat's aware of, stuff that Davies was able to navigate almost effortlessly. The world revolves around the Doctor. He's larger than life, of course, greater than great. He can do everything, and he wants to take you along on the ride. Everybody his companions meet, all the people who know the Doctor, are infatuated with him. How could you not be? So there's a trick to keeping the characters in his orbit but also slightly separate. They have to, at their core, remain their own people. This is as much for them as is it for the Doctor. We saw the evidence of this in The Waters of Mars. The Doctor tries to make a go of it on his own, but he can't. He's not capable of traveling without a human by his side because he turns into a monster. But he's conflicted because when he DOES have people around, he turns THEM into monsters. Hence the whole traveling alone thing.

This is the central conflict that eventually destroys the 10th Doctor. Each of his three companions affects him. He loses each of them in different ways. It's that kind of complexity that builds up to that great scene with Wilf, and the Doctor's rage at having to sacrifice himself for Wilf. Even thought for a brief moment the Doctor thought he could cheat death, in the end he couldn't. He was not, after all, a god.

Davies ended this storyline but it's not as if he didn't give Moffat plenty to play with. Unfortunately, Moffat either had no interest in playing with it, or just didn't pay attention. Because he's treading the same ground Davies walked and he's not doing it in an interesting way. It's as if he literally has NO idea that Davies already explored these themes with the Tenth Doctor. In the mid-season finale, Moffat has River Song say that the Doctor will never rise so high or fall so far. Erm, except that he already did. Splendidly. Gut-wrenchingly. And the Doctor was told so by his greatest enemy, as his humans friends (and Jack) were ready to blow everything up at his command.

While Davies wasn't perfect, it's annoying that so many people remind you of that. It's as if his imperfections negate everything that he did right. Honestly, I don't get it. Nor do I get the reverence for what Moffat's doing. I feel like Moffat has taken a deck of Doctor Who playing cards and keeps playing 52 pick-up with them. There are no throughlines. There are no character arcs. There are MOMENTS that are potentially great but a potentially great moment must evolve into an actual great moment in order to be, you know, GREAT. And just having potential doesn't make something worthwhile if it's never delivered upon.

The final reveal of who River Song is... eh. I don't have a strong feeling one way or the other about it, except to say that if Moffat's only interest in River Song was in her true identity, then he never really got the appeal of the character.

There's a lot of great TeeVee out there. At this particular moment, nothing is greater for me than Men Of A Certain Age, that show nobody is watching because the network (while saying over and over that they support the show) keeps farting out a few episodes every six months or so, then pretends surprise when nobody watches it. Even DVRs have a hard time keeping up. This show is letter-perfect. It's about very real characters who are insanely interesting, but because they aren't crime-fighting lawyers, former spies or some version of a cop, nobody gives a shit. That translates to TeeVee not giving a shit about putting regular dramas on. Which is a self-fulfilling prophecy, TeeVee viewers.

You know what other show doesn't do awesome in the ratings? The most perfect show that has never taken one wrong step -- Breaking Bad. This is a sneaky show. It draws in people who only love crime dramas, but it's not actually a crime drama. It's Men Of A Certain Age with meth. But some people have apparently gotten wise to the fact that it's simply a well told character drama and they'd rather watch something else. Not Men Of A Certain Age, of course, and definitely not Friday Night Lights. Shows that are just about people? What the fuck, right?

I say this going into development season, where we are all coming up with our stupid light crime dramas because nobody can sell a straight drama anymore. BECAUSE YOU ASSHOLES WON'T WATCH THEM.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Clone Army

Elizabeth Perle calls herself a professional word jedi, indicating that she is a geek writer. With this stated, she writes an article on the Huffington Post, wherein she bemoans the fallacy that All Things Geek means Boys. It's a pretty good article, even though she disagrees that mainstreaming geek culture won't be the death of it. Because while mainstreaming culture and bringing it (finally) to the laggards makes people lots of money and gives Access Hollywood something to cover, it does indeed murder inventiveness and individuality. She certainly hits the high point, which is that there are women who love genre, too, and how's about tossing them a bone every now and then? However, then she says something that just blows the whole thing out of the fucking water:

Hire Jane Espenson to write all the things. Or create an army of Jane Espenson clones to do so. If this is not technologically possible, you can settle for hiring more female writers, producers, show runners, and directors, in general.

I'm sorry, WHAT? THE? FUCK?

Elizabeth Perle, Goddammit, are you INSANE? I mean, REALLY? Look, just take Jane Espenson right out of the equation. Replace her name with "Approved Female Genre Writer." So now what we have is giving ALL the work to ONE PERSON because of COURSE this ONE PERSON is the ONLY WOMAN who can be trusted to write genre. But hey, if that's impossible (and so far, it doesn't seem to be), then we'll "settle for" hiring LESSER female writers. While not ideal, if that's all we can get, then that's what we'll take.

I would expect this from a clueless guy (not that all guys are clueless, but you know there are many). But a female self-described geek? No. Elizabeth Perle is contributing to the culture of inequality by picking ONE name out of a hat because that ONE woman is the ONLY one who can be trusted to write genre. What a fucking insult to the women who have written, CREATED and RUN TeeVee shows!!!!

But her list doesn't get much better:
Bring back Buffy. Okay don't. Okay do. No, don't. Um. We're conflicted, okay?

OR -- and maybe THIS is a stretch -- actually put on shows like Buffy. They're out there. So are the women who want to create them, but if Elizabeth's assumption that Approved Female Genre Writer as the only go-to writer holds true, then it logically follows that none of these women is going to get her shot. Also, Buffy was created by a man. So was Veronica Mars. So was Mad Men. But then that's a whole other issue, and one Elizabeth Perle doesn't feel strong enough to tackle.

Discover the female George Lucas. Or Kevin Smith. Or Simon Pegg. Or Seth Green. She's out there, but no one is paying attention.

Irony. Yeah, nobody's paying attention. But let's take a slightly different angle on this thing. There's a division happening in TeeVee right now. There are people who make their living on writing staffs, and then there are people who make their living selling shows. And of course, there's going to be overlap primarily because agents negotiate nice deals for their clients when they are upper level and get on shows. They get development as part of their deal. So a writer on a show will also be writing a pilot. But let's say that as an upper-level writer (male or female, doesn't much matter at this stage), you've gotten to that level by being on staffs. Maybe a bunch of different staffs, maybe just the one. While you had better Goddam know what you're doing after all that time, there's also the question of whether or not you've been able to develop your voice. And based on pilots I've seen and read, it's something that should be discussed.

So rather than focusing in on one Approved Female Genre Writer whose name you've seen on your television screen, why not do some digging and find out who is creating shows? Who's selling pilots at the expense of a life on a writing staff?

No, I'm seriously asking you, WHO IS DOING THAT? Because as we had better be aware, 99.999% of all TeeVee shows are created by men. And since 99.999% of all writing staffs are male, it sure makes sense that someone as jedi-tastic as Elizabeth Perle has only heard of Jane Espenson.

There's a lot of jabber in the comments about for whom these shows were created. While it's true that TeeVee writers have to think about where they're likely to sell a project, shows are rarely born out of a desire to target only a certain segment of the population. There's a point at which a show must be allowed to create itself, before the writer steps in to harness it. You can tell when shows haven't been given this freedom, and then you can tell when they have.

But I guess the majority of America just doesn't give a shit, and writers are falling victim to that. There are SO many levels you have to get through before you can sell a show. Every level, every gatekeeper, changes your idea. It's a fine line between giving the buyers what they want and keeping your vision intact. And it's quite a different line than that which staff writers walk.

This brings me to the few TeeVee pilots I've seen. I watched three, none of which got on the air. The first was Wonder Woman.

(waiting patiently for the howls to die down)

Yes, I saw it. It's not great. But it's interesting to note why. There's no point of view. David Kelley just seemed a bit lost. He has NO familiarity with the genre, and that comes through constantly, as he tries to update, dismiss and reinvent it -- ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Not surprisingly, this doesn't work. At the end of the day, Diana Prince and Wonder Woman get totally and completely lost. It doesn't seem as if Kelley set out to entertain ANYONE. He doesn't seem inspired by the material or by any thematic content. It's not really a good thing when you don't have any idea what drew the writer to the project. Maybe he wanted to stretch himself. I don't know. He's trying, but he just doesn't quite get there.

I also watched Locke & Key, and you are very very sad that this didn't make the cut. The reason appears to be one of programming -- where does Fox put it? There are kids in it, and it's also really scary. Flummoxed! But also Goddam stupid. They found a place to put the dinosaur show, which has kids in it and is also scary. Not picking up Locke & Key is a mistake to me because it's an awesome pilot. Weird and spooky and cool and visual. A real shame.

Also in the "real shame" category is 17th Precinct, which is one of the best pilots I've seen in a long, long time. Admittedly, the best pilots I've seen don't always turn out to be huge smash successes. I'll direct you towards Miracles, which is one of my favorite pilots of all time. Or American Gothic, which was SO taken apart by CBS.

An awful lot of genre shows plain forget about the world-building. Some urban fantasy shows seem to believe that because the shows are set in the present day and on Earth, no world-building is necessary. This is bullshit, and it's why most genre shows don't hold my interest. And no, I won't tell you which ones they are. But regardless of what others think, world-building is crucial. Ron Moore does this flawlessly. He did it on Battlestar Galactica and Caprica, and he does it here. 17th Precinct is an immersive experience and its construction is meticulous. It's our world, only magic developed instead of science. It's SUCH a simple premise but apparently the fucking testing said it was too confusing. Look, testing audience, you are assholes for not liking this show. For killing this show. I don't know how the show was viewed internally and if NBC didn't like it, I don't want to know. I hope they're all totally depressed over there that this show didn't get on.

What's weird is, urban fantasy is SO popular in fiction right now. I realize there's a big disconnect between People Who Read and People Who Watch, but when a network gets a show like THIS, they would be doing the world a favor by putting it on.

Not only is the premise clear and concise, but anyone who's ever seen a procedural should just flat-out understand this show. So I have to think that the grunts doing the testing really fucked this up. The characters are real and terrific and the ending, which the entire pilot story works towards, takes the premise of the show and tweaks it so that you know INSTANTLY what the series will be. I mean, it couldn't be any fucking CLEARER. It's so organic and beautifully delivered.

Ron Moore wants to entertain the audience. He wants to give them something to root for, and something to fear. The way he builds the pilot story to its surprising conclusion is fucking masterful. And I felt his enthusiasm throughout. He has no interest in hiding anything from the audience. He doesn't care if they sit there afterwards and go, "Wow, you're really clever!"

He's not Steven Moffat.

It's a real shame that Locke & Key and 17th Precinct fell victim to pilot season. They deserved SO much better.

Speaking of Steven Moffat, I'll have a bit more on Who next and also will address a few comments. Just wanted to get this one out!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Oh, boy...

Which you may recognize as a quote from America's response to Doctor Who. Well. There WERE similarities.

Anyway, I am working on another post that will include my upcoming viewing of the midseason finale, which I won't see until Saturday. But there have been several comments from mostly new people and rather than make the next post eighty-seven thousand words long, I'll hastily respond here.

This is a rant not a review.

This is a blog, not a review site. You obviously have never been here. All I do is rant. So your criticism is unwarranted.

Ndroid, as far as I can tell a first-time reader, initially posted this:
What a load of old tripe! To present a woman marrying and having a kid is not to say, in giant capital letters, THIS IS ALL A WOMAN CAN EVER DO OR BE. In fact, Amy Pond is the first woman in forty-odd years of Who companions to go through marriage and childbirth and stay on board the Tardis - she's a modern woman who's having it all. How is that "horrifically misogynistic"?

Fair enough, there are plenty of people who dislike Amy (I think she's great, myself) but to imagine that it's sexist to give her experiences that a great many (most?) women live through is just absurd. The purpose of fantasy is to make us think anew about the stuff we take for granted. On that score Moffat is doing a great job.

And obviously, old friend, you are entitled to your opinion. However, starting out with "what a load of old tripe" isn't exactly a pathway to a successful back and forth. As far as I know, you've never been here before. Therefore, I didn't know you existed until now. So coming in here like I offended you on purpose may not be the best path to travel. If it wasn't clear that I was stating MY opinion on MY blog, then let it be now.

Here's the part I'm loathe to get into. As you later tell me that you're a dude, guess what -- you don't get to decide what I find misogynistic. You just don't. You don't get to tell a black person what is or is not racist. And if you ARE a black person, or any minority, then you should REALLY get this. Whether or not YOU find it misogynistic is YOUR business, and you have every right to state that opinion. However, you do NOT have the right to tell ME what's sexist and what isn't. You SO DO NOT it's not even funny.

It's funny that you mention Rory, because I utterly adore him. He's so clearly the best character on the show (next to River). In fact, if it became the River and Rory show, I'd be all in. I love that Amy and Rory are married, although I do wish Moffat had given us more character development (particularly on Amy's side) to tell us WHY they're together. As far as two characters having enough of an internal life to justify their marriage, well... I just don't see it. So you see, I actually want MORE of their marriage and their relationship. My comment about Amy being married had, in fact, nothing to do with the awesomeness of Rory. Instead, it had to do with the rather Bechdellian concept of a female character who can't exist outside the approved female parameters, i.e., marriage and children.

Two of the best characters to EVER be on my television were Eric and Tami Taylor. Yes, A MARRIED COUPLE. WHO HAD KIDS. But neither character was handcuffed by marriage OR children. In fact, just as in life, they were ENRICHED. They both had very vivid points of view that sometimes clashed but even when they fought, they did so in a realistic way. They were never presented as the greatest fantasy couple the world has ever known. They were REAL, and they were wonderful. The difference between the Taylors and Rory and Amy is in the character development. The mere FACT that Amy is married, or that she is pregnant, is not the problem. The marriage has its own issues which have more to do with Moffat's underbaked character development than with anything else. The pregnancy, on the other hand, is the same sad old "women in refrigerators" bullshit that has become so mocked and so tired throughout science fiction. Talk about a TROPE! Inevitably, writers who run out of ideas turn towards a wooman's womb. And lest you think I am singularly opposed to pregnancy in genre, let me point you to one of my favorite movies of all time -- Rosemary's Baby. Rosemary is, in many ways, a victim. However, she's an INTERESTING one. She's well written. The story is fantastic. Everyone around her is well written.

Buffy never went the marriage/pregnancy route but I thought the last two seasons of the show were awful because they lost sight of who Buffy was. So even though they didn't knock her up, I STILL DIDN'T LIKE IT. It is not sexist to have Amy get married or get pregnant, but it IS sexist the way Moffat is doing it. And lest we forget, this is the second time Amy's been pregnant, even if the first was some fantasy. It's a little creepy, the way Moffat keeps knocking up this pretty young woman.

Now, about sexism. The short-sighted think that Mad Men is sexist because of how the women are treated. But since that's how women really WERE treated back then, it isn't sexist or misogynistic. The CHARACTERS are, and that's a hell of a lot different than the WRITER being so. Interestingly, Matt Weiner has talked about how he considers Mad Men a science fiction show, because it allows us to use a different time to tell stories about our present.

I doubt you've seen Strangers When We Meet (mostly because it's been out of print GODDAMMIT) but it's a Kim Novak-Kirk Douglas film from the 60s. They are both suburbanites living in Brentwood who meet each other while dropping their kids off at the bus stop and start an affair. It's a fantastic movie and what struck me most about it was how the Kim Novak character MUST have been a model for Betty Draper. She's NOT happy as the wife and mother but it's the early 60s, so she's living a life of quiet desperation. She's a sex object to men. Even Kirk Douglas idealizes her. It's a pretty astounding character and while the men in the movie are misogynistic towards her, the omniscient point of view is not. I watched it for the second time with a group of guys and all of them said it was the most misogynistic movie they'd ever seen. Quite a surprising response, and proof that they never understood that character, or what the movie was actually saying. And these are guys who will happily watch movies about vaginas who eat men and not find THAT misogynistic.

I get that you don't like Amy as a character, and that's fair enough. You think she's a shrill harpy, I think she's a likeable character who isn't overawed by what she sees. But to extend your dislike into a massively generalisation about Moffatt being "misogynist" because the character doesn't conform to your tastes is completely unfair.

It WOULD be, if that's what anyone was doing. But just because you are incapable of seeing misogyny doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I am not extending my dislike of Moffat into misogyny, nor am I grasping at excuses for why I hate it. The misogyny is simply the final straw. I started last season loving the first episode, then it slid into boredom and confusion. As you mention down below, Amy as "the girl who didn't make sense" didn't make sense to ME because when you are just introducing a character, it flies in the face of reason to create a character who doesn't make sense. The companion is the audience's point of view into the Doctor and his larger world. No wonder I was confused and taken out of the story! I didn't know who Amy was to begin with, so then how do I know how she DOESN'T make sense? I don't. Because there's no way for me to know that. It really says more about how conditioned people are to accept shiny things that you're defending this.

Then there's Amy as the girl who waited. Not a bad concept on its face, but waiting isn't exactly the most proactive thing a character can do. Maybe this is believable in life but drama is heightened, and I don't tune in to watch passivity. But maybe you do.

My comment about "having it all" wasn't meant entirely seriously but I repeat, why should Amy NOT have life experiences that many, or most, women undergo? Isn't it interesting to have a married couple aboard the Tardis? I'm a man - I think Rory is fantastic, an honourable and understated guy who has grown just as much as Mickey did. Or would you prefer women to be kicked out of the door as soon as they're married off (farewell Leela, enjoy life tidying the commune, Jo Grant)? You're indulging in a weird reverse sexism that says male characters are free to be themselves but women characters must represent an ideal for all womankind or stand as evidence of the writer's appalling attitudes to women.

What do you do for a living? Simplify? See above.

Why shouldn't a sudden and completely unexpected birth scene be horrifying? Most women WOULD be horrified to suddenly find themselves in labour when they didn't even know they were pregnant. That's not a comment on pregnancy and women's self-image - it's a comment on flesh avatars, the teleportation of consciousness and other fantastical ideas.The job of the show is to be exciting and surprising, not to second-guess itself and run through the potential objections of people who seek out subtexts that aren't there. Newsflash: women get pregnant, even in Tardises.


You can't keep redoing unrequited love in the Tardis, or dreams of escape. They get boring. The show needed something new. Martha was a medical student and a black Briton but both of those attributes were forgotten after a handful of episodes whereupon she was reduced to a complete drip mooning over the Doctor in ways which were (to me, but what do I know) rather less respectful of women in general than Amy's behaviour.

Martha walked the Earth for A YEAR. Martha is an understandable character, and while her mooning over the Doctor was not particularly attractive, that's kind of what made her interesting. Because she DID have attributes that were not perfect. Hell, they ALL did. Rose wanted adventure to a fault. Donna was shallow and obnoxious. What they all ALSO had was a character arc. Rose finally found what she wanted, but it was ripped away from her. Martha woke up and realized that she couldn't run away from her life. And Donna had the biggest tragedy of all -- she found who she was, and it was taken away without her knowing, without her having had those experiences. But these are all subtleties that Davies did well, and I know that his particular style was not everybody's cup of tea. But do you see how I can say that and allow you to have YOUR opinion without just trashing it and telling you that you're wrong? You didn't see all of that. I did. So how about it, Ndroid or whoever you are hiding behind that moniker? Want to play nice?

The instances you cite of Moffat writing the other female characters badly - i.e. in ways you personally dislike - are pretty thin stuff but I would point out that in the two-parter, a family and kids are what Donna AND HER MALE PARTNER, A MAN OF THE MALE GENDER, both want. The point being made is not "women just want a husband and kids", it is "humans are caught between the need for stability and a desire for adventure, and the achievement of one leaves us hungry for the other." I'd argue that that is the secret of Doctor Who's appeal.

And I'd argue that there are very good ways to do that, and lousy, horrible, misogynistic ways to do that. I choose the latter.

So no, Amy is a real character - she's just not to your taste. Your "self-centred and petulant" is my "confident and sarcastic". If her pregnancy is a plot device then so is every pregnancy in fiction, in which case what are you saying? Pregnancy is bad?

Are you just being disingenuous, or are you REALLY this clueless? Hoping for the former, dreading the latter.

This is A LOT more complex than you're making it out to be, even though you want to put me into some little feminist box. I don't fit in there, pal. And it might behoove you to not assume things like that. You have very strong opinions that don't seem to have room for anyone else's. If you wrote this on YOUR blog, I might read it but then because I disagree so vehemently, I would not respond. Because what would be the point? One side arguing against another never brings those two sides together. But you are affronted, so you come into MY house and tell me I'm wrong. You don't just share your opinion. You flat-out tell me that I'm wrong, and you insinuate (oh, yes, YOU DO) that it's my raging feminism or whatever that's blinding me. Because there can't be any way that I am seeing what I see. You are the High King of Drama and you make the rules.

I have only censored two comments since I've had this blog. Well, two comments and all that weird Chinese spam that was happening for awhile. One comment was just nasty shit and another was a personal threat. That's my wall. However, I think it would be nice in a sort of fluffy way if people who posted here had something to say other than "You're wrong." I'll keep posting your comments, of course, unless they turn into Chinese spam. You seem like a smart, if somewhat pissed off, guy. But some acknowledgement that this is my sandbox would be really sweet of you.

You just do NOT get to decide what I -- a woman -- find misogynistic. You don't. Ironically enough, my bigger issue with Moffat is his storytelling. But I'll save that for next time.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The new Doctor Who review

It's a testament to how far Doctor Who has fallen in my estimation that I didn't torrent last week's episode and instead chose to watch it on shitty Time Warner cable, with BBC America's hacktastic "editors" deciding where to stick act outs. Sadly, their chop-sockying isn't ruining my appreciation for the show because this year, same as last year, the show is bad (with a few exceptions -- dug the season opener, and Neil Gaiman's episode proved that the show doesn't have to suck if some deft writing and a love for something other than wowing an audience with puzzles is involved). But this year it's bad in a different way. Because THIS year, Steven Moffat has to write A WHOLE NEW SEASON for a WOMAN.

And I'm sure he sat there and went, "How the fuck do I do THAT? I already made her an adorable little girl. Everyone likes little girls. I made her a mini-skirt wearing hottie. Ditto. I made everyone love her, because who doesn't love a hottie who used to be an adorable little girl? But now it's another year. I married her off, of course, because HELLO, she's a WOMAN, that's what she's FOR. But the trouble is, she still has to travel with the Doctor. Luckily I can bring Rory along, because EVERYBODY KNOWS that no self-respecting husband would just let his wife trot off on her own, even someone as sweet as Rory. But I'm still stuck with Amy freaking Pond, who has already fulfilled one of her major womanly duties by marrying. I guess the only other thing I can do is start digging into that womb. Because aside from being a good wife, what IS a woman FOR? We all know that if a woman doesn't spit out kids she's not much of a woman. It's just going to be hard in the TARDIS and all, traveling through space and whatnot, but it obviously has to happen because there's nothing else to do with the old girl. I guess I'll science fantasy it all up, do my typical lazy, sloppy retconning -- oh! This flesh episode! I can do it in that one! And if I make sure Matt Smith talks a mile a minute, which isn't hard because that is what I've spent a season beating into him, then he can blah-blah-blah and nobody will question it. I AM A FUCKING GENIUS! Now Amy can FINALLY have the kid she's supposed to have because she's a woman and it can be all important and stuff because it's science fantasy and I'm quite certain that NOBODY in the HISTORY of GENRE has EVER used a woman's womb as something QUITE so important. It'll be like she was a queen back in the day or summat, like Anne Boleyn (STUPID woman, just have a BOY, you silly old cow) or any of them, really, because all they had to do was produce a fucking HEIR so the MEN could get ON with the business of running the WORLD. Yes, Amy's baby will be SPECIAL -- MY GOD SERIOUSLY I AM A GENIUS OF GENIUS PROPORTIONS -- and the best thing is -- YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS, MY DEVOTED FANBASE -- the Doctor will know all of this (I mean, HE'S THE DOCTOR AND A MAN AFTER ALL) but he won't tell her because it's inevitable anyway and she's a woman with her girl head so why bother her with it, so he won't tell her and then she'll wake up and be SO FUCKING PREGNANT and it'll be like that episode of Mad Men where Betty Draper gave birth. Because I am BETTER than Matt Weiner, who was just doing something stupid like showing how horrific giving birth was back in the Sixties and continuing to develop this female character who people seem to like for some reason, but she's a horrible mother and a terrible wife so I don't get it. But mine is better, because it's SPACE! And people will FIGHT over Amy Pond and although the person putting these words into my horrifically misogynistic mouth hasn't seen the latest episode yet, she will say that I'll probably wreck River Song too because HELLO, woman."

QED, motherfucker.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Crowded House

Rather than making any comments on the new fall TeeVee season, I'm hoping to shine a small pinlight on the shows that didn't get picked up. I'll do that after I read all the danged things. I may be able to see a few, but it'll mostly be based on what I read. When I read them. Cough.

Just a general note on the pickups: Mostly they make sense. While networks aren't going to stretch themselves all THAT much, they didn't play it as safe as they usually do. I don't get the sense that these new dramas are as craven an attempt to cash in on something as they've been in the past. So hopefully these shows will continue to be creator-driven. We'll see.

One thing that's happened already, however, is that ABC has cut the orders of several of its new shows. Mostly notably they've cut the order of The River to seven episodes. The River is one of the few pilots I've read thus far and you are NOT going to be happy that they've decided to parse out only seven episodes. The River is one of those shows that demands to be lived in and you just can't do that in only seven episodes, especially if you've planned an actual SERIES. If The River had been designed as a miniseries, then fine. Terrific. But this is bothersome. Because why even order series if you're not going to at least PRETEND to commit to them? If you check out the comments sections of any TeeVee blogs mentioning this, you'll see a variation on "Well, I'm not going to watch THAT." So the suits' decision to cut the order becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

People who actually pay attention to TeeVee shows (in other words, NOT THE DESIRED DEMOGRAPHIC) have gotten wise to these shenanigans, and they aren't gonna play anymore. And who can fucking blame them? Why the networks don't look at their business model and realize that there IS room for limited series and miniseries is a total mystery to me. Is it about the ad rates? Are they screwing the advertisers over by cutting the orders of these shows AFTER upfronts? I have no idea. But if a network can't even commit to a show that they just ordered, then why should the audience?

They shouldn't.

So what are the alternatives? Cable, obviously, is a big one. Because cable is not in the habit of suddenly shortening orders, or canceling shows midway through a season. Even if a cable show isn't going to be renewed, they at least finish out the order. I say "not in the habit," however, because since all these cable networks are owned by network networks, who's to say this won't change in the future? I hope it doesn't, but the way corporate America is consuming us whole must give us pause.

There aren't truly other alternatives yet, not anything that's mainstream enough to make a cultural impact. But that doesn't mean that potential alternatives should be ignored. And something that seems to be gaining steam in the DIY market is Kickstarter. There are a lot of dumb-ass things on Kickstarter, but there are a lot of awesome things, too. If you haven't heard of Kickstarter, it's a site that facilitates crowd-funded projects. Anything from art projects to innovative products to short films to fashion lines. If it's a creative endeavor, it may likely be a Kickstarter project. What happens is, there are different levels of funding for every project. For example, say some filmmakers want to make a short film. They have a budget that they need to raise via Kickstarter. They produce a presentation, which tells potential investors about their goal. It's a pitch, basically. The monetary goal is divided into different tiers. Maybe you like the idea but can afford to pledge only ten bucks. Five hundred people can pledge ten bucks to fund the project. But maybe you've got a hundred bucks. Fifty people can pledge a hundred bucks and they get something in return. A copy of the film, perhaps. Or you're some rich fuck and you, along with five other people, pledge a thousand dollars to the project. For that you get to go to the set. You get an autographed script. A blow job. Whatever. If all the slots are filled, then the project is fully funded and it's a go. If the pledge amount is NOT met, then nobody pays anything.

Tell me that isn't fucking cool. It doesn't require corporate suits making arbitrary decisions that only have to do with business. You, the creator, are presenting YOUR VISION to an audience and they either buy it, or they don't. Kind of how it should work, right? No middle men involved there. If enough people are interested in your project, it will be funded. And who owns it? YOU DO. No strings attached.

Why is this interesting for television? Because there is a TeeVee pitch on Kickstarter -- a genre show called Divine. And the creative team behind Divine isn't made up of a bunch of starry-eyed dreamers. These are people with a lot of experience in TeeVee. Not only that, but they have a star/co-creator with genre cred -- Misha Collins, who excellently played angel Castiel on Supernatural. They made an initial outlay of their own cash to shoot two episodes of the show. With those in post, they want to raise enough money to shoot the next four episodes, which would comprise the pilot.

They also include a presentation, explaining what kind of a show they're making and what their goal would be. What's most interesting to me about this particular project is that they aren't setting out to just make a TeeVee show that coincidentally will be shown on the Interwebs. They want to make a show that will be watched on phones, waiting for subways, at coffee shops. Not the way God intended television to be watched but let's face it, this is a new way to do something that used to work -- serials. Make a show that the casual viewer can watch on his phone while he's waiting for his latte? Perfect. Serials were hugely successful back in the day (i.e., a time where things were a fuckload better than they are now). Serials keep people coming back because they are compulsively watchable, and they tease in a much more natural way than a forty-minute drama does. Three, five or seven minutes is the perfect amount of time for a serial.

The Divine team knows this. What they hoped to receive to fund their project (the filming of their pilot) was $10,000. They reached that goal in 17 days. What they got was over $20,000, thanks to 365 donors. The pledge amounts ranged from $10 to $10,000. The actual pledges ranged from $10 to $1000. the majority of the money was pledged by people making $10 to $100. Think about that for a minute -- they fully funded their initial project -- twice -- by being smart about it.

So if you came across a television show concept that you thought was great and you could contribute by pledging $10, would you? You know EXACTLY what you're getting. There will be no corporate interference. Your show won't get canceled before you've seen it. You've paid money and you will get precisely what you paid for.

If that's not the essence of capitalism, I don't know what is.

Now obviously, this doesn't translate to people making a living. And that is generally the thing that makes people think this is not ever going to make a difference. But just because it's not perfect now, that's no reason to think that in the future, as more and more people edge towards crowd-sourcing and funding, the creative folk won't be able to make a living. The more crowd-sourced product is out there, the more word of mouth it will get. It'll grow, if it deserves to, and and maybe there's a future in which we the audience become used to paying for our entertainment in a different way than we do now. The old business model needs to change. It's funneling too much money towards middle management and corporate CEOs. That's the way things are structured now so that's how the game must be played, but there's no harm in exploring other avenues. We may be rewarded in the long run.

Good luck, Divine team!

I was going to rant about an article I read, but I'm going to save it for another post. That's just me being lazy.