Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Doctor Who and the Spin-offs

So why do I like The Sarah Jane Adventures but loathe Torchwood? And I was really excited about Torchwood when I first heard about it. Captain Jack Harkness in his own show? Bring it on! I loved the fun, naughty, sexually omnivorious alien. When Captain Jack finds out his naked body is going on air to zillions of viewers, what does he say? "Ladies, your ratings just went up." I loved it.

So what happened to Captain Jack? Torchwood happened. Ugly, human-hating Torchwood. That incessant, constant, nauseating drumbeat of "It's us! We humans are our worst enemy!" The aliens aren't even any fun. Torchwood was supposed to be grown-up Dr. Who. Who wants a grown-up Dr. Who? Look, if you want to go the way of Buffy, Farscape, Firefly, you're going to have to up the ante -- like get some imagination. And throwing in sex scenes isn't grown-up. And, listen, outside of Captain Jack, I really don't want to see the cast having sex.

Now what I like about Sarah Jane is that since it's aimed at kiddies, they haven't tried too hard. You don't see the writers angsting and thinking above themselves. Instead, it's a show the gods of Light Entertainment would approve of. And, of course, you have Elizabeth Sladen. And the writers have let Elizabeth Sladen do her Sarah Jane thing. They haven't tried to transform her into some modern Freudian creature of the dark like they did to Captain Jack. They just let her be what she's supposed to be, the hero. It was nice that they let her be so clueless to human relationships that when her adopted alien son rants about how out of place he feels at school, she does an "Oh, well, better luck next time" instead of explaining that feeling alien and out of place is a teenage rite. And she's right, aliens are much more interesting so forget human psychology. In many ways, Sarah Jane is now more the Doctor than the Doctor. They've inadvertently put his real soul into Sarah Jane -- god only knows what's in the current Doctor. After all, the Doctor was originally an alien who liked being around humans. Not a human who thinks he's an alien.

It's amazing what a good cast does for a show. The cast is good in Sarah Jane. Not really good at all on Torchwood. By that I mean there isn't any charisma, any spark of life. Partly, that's the writing, but partly, that's just miscasting. Like if they were going to change Captain Jack that much, they might as well have cast a completely different actor. It's just not John Barrowman anymore.

As for the core, Dr. Who, I basically like it. But here's where I think Russell T. Davis goes wrong: in the human relationship department. I know he's trying to get to the heart and soul of the Doctor, how his vagabond life affects the humans and aliens around him. But it's just too persistent and heavy handed. Like every show. Over and over again. And not Mike Leigh subtle but Steven Spielberg orchestra pouncing spectacle.

And why are they always in England? On or above the earth? I get it that the Doctor is a terraophile but come on! Let's use the tardis for a little bit more fun than lame time travel around the earth. Well, they did do a dimensional thing but it was STILL on the earth.

And if they're sooooo keen on doing a romance on the Doctor, BRING BACK ROMANA. (I adored Lalla Ward's Romana.) A nice, feisty, acid-tongued Romana. (I'm sick of the goofy, cutesy girl companions of late.) I'd love to hear how she's been getting along since going off into the other universe.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Prime Time or Snore Time

Ugly Betty: snore
Gene Simmons as Amanda's daddy? Come on. How stupid is that? Not as stupid as Amanda channeling Gene Simmons. The writers have pretty much sucked the life out of every character. Only Hilda is still first season Ugly Betty. Ana Ortiz will not let Hilda die. Well, in the common vernacular -- you go, girl. Love her new hair.

Whoops. Almost forgot Judith Light. She's pretty fantastic too. But then, she always is. Totally underrated actor. Made even Tony Danza look good. Now that's an actor.

Would love to see the original Colombian version. How soon did they lose the plot?

Lost: snore
I played an online video game, trying to win bucks on, the entire episode. Is this turning into a Linus vs. Widmore schtick? Is this turning into another Alias disappointment?

30 Rock: maybe it hasn't jumped the shark?

That graph charting the gross factor from human actors to CGI characters was so right. When I watched the show, I thought the writers had come up with the whole idea. But no. I've been put right. This is a well known hypothesis. It even has a name: The Uncanny Valley. Did they use this Wiki graph? I have to concede points to the writers for introducing the graph in such a laugh-outloud way. The Amadeus reference was a little tedious. But the cracks at corporate America were nice and sparky. I'd probably slap someone who offered me that much money, too.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Some Housewives

I'm ashamed to admit that I've been unable to turn away from The Real Housewives of New York City. It's like watching a nest of vipers -- unhealthily mesmerizing. I keep expecting David Attenborough to pop up with a commentary. The rivalry between Jill and Ramona is like a real-life enactment of E.F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia rivalry. Only it's Mapp and Mapp, and since it's real people acting so absurd, not that funny. I mean, come on -- grow up.

BTW, I'm worried about little Francois. The poor tyke looks like all life has been slowly leeched out of him. Maybe a bout of public school and a good game of dodgeball will fix him up. Or a real male role model. I sometimes think there should be a Big Brother/Little Brother (or Sister) program for rich kids. There are very disturbing similarities between the very rich and the very poor. Extremes in the human race are very disturbing. So is inbreeding.

Please feel free to take the "Most Disturbing" poll.

Friday, April 11, 2008

They Use Soup: Throwing Up in Hollywood

Way back when, it sometimes happened in the movies, a girl turning green and then quickly, discreetly running to the bathroom, with an urgent closing of the door. And maybe some muted noise. This was the subtle way of telling the audience that the girl is pregnant. Turn the clock and it became the ick factor that got teenage boys (and Boy Men) laughing. Now it's become a shorthand for the Serious Emotional Moment. You don't think Angel's Connor has emotional depth? Have him upchuck after seeing "Daddy's Birthday" marked on a calendar, the words lovingly encased in a red heart. See how much he wants a daddy? A normal home? Want to show how horrible cancer is? Have a bald-headed person throw up in someone's arms. Want a bonding moment in Sex and the City? Have Charlotte and hubby upchuck in tandem an outrageously expensive dinner -- and don't forget to throw in the diarrhea, the cherry on the cake.

(Apparently the preferred fake vomit is canned vegetable soup. I always thought the thing looked foul, even heated up.)

Now what's the correlation between sex and vomit? Both involve projectile bodily fluids, yes. But hasn't the rise in the Vomit Moment gone hand in hand with the rise in the fuck scene? Both involve the pre-coital moment, the post-coital moment, and lots and lots of sound. Easy, brain-dead story telling for the cloning generation. The beauty of the Vomit Moment, unlike the fuck scene, is that you don't need plot development. In fact, development spoils the Vomit Moment. The more unexpected, the more sudden, the better. No warning. You must not give the viewer time to zap to another channel. If you do, you're an amateur, a poseur. You do not understand the essence of the Vomit Moment.

I really, really don't like to see vomit. For me, projectile vomiting is what strobe lighting is for epileptics. It really makes me sick and then I have to run to the bathroom. And there is no reason to be so graphic. What are we going to see next? People literally crapping? I'm begging Hollywood to give out warnings. Like you know how they have codes for violence and strong language? Let's add VM.

Of course what infects the movies infects the theater. God of Carnage, a play by Yasmina Reza which is currently playing in London, has a surprise Vomit Moment. Well, it was a surprise until everyone started talking about it. Now, the plays a critical success. So be scared. Be very scared. There's no place to hide. Vomit is everywhere.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jon Stewart vs Bill Maher poll

I like both guys and it's great there's room for them both in the small world of television. Jon Stewart is like the likable, goofy frat guy, eager to please. Very cute puppy dog. Bill Maher is more like your bitter, acerbic cousin, the one who comes to the family reunion even though he hates the idea of family and reunion. Stewart delivers his act with a look on his face that says, "You're going to really like this one -- it's so cute!" Maher is just a simple ranter. His guests are on his show just so he can have a wall to hit his head on. I have to admit, I'm drawn to the ranter.

The poll is to your right. You can vote for both.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Star Trek Psychodelica

Watching the scrubbed up version of the original Star Trek on HDTV is distracting. Things pop out. Like the red stars in space. And the bold color choices on the Enterprise -- green walls adjacent to blue. Pink table tops. And everything's so clean. You can't even enjoy seeing Kirk getting beat up in the engine room because suddenly the stunt guy is all too clear. William Shatner against the wall -- much taller stunt guy being thrown around -- back to Shatner in the close up -- back to stunt guy cracking punches.

Changing the subject -- I wonder what they were feeding the extras. Sexual tension should have been given a permanent credit line. So why was the second generation Star Trek so dead? And creepy. The only time anyone was getting excited was in the virtual reality room. (Shudder, shudder). You can just imagine what the sex lives of the writers were like.