Wednesday, August 27, 2008


For the last few months, I've been enjoying Reaper on reruns, a show about a boy whose soul was sold to the devil by his parents -- or was it? Wink, wink. I know, it doesn't sound very promising, and the first four or five episodes weren't that great, but show after show, the writers have really beefed it up so that there's a real nice minty enjoyment after-buzz.

Like Buffy, Farscape, Firefly, this show works because of the little details. I wasn't at all surprised that Kevin Smith is a consultant. This show walks on Smith's kind of dialog and trademark characters like Sock and Gladys, the demon who works out of the DMV. Of course, none of this would work without the excellent acting. Ray Wise is fun as the devil. Ken Marino is fantastic as the sweet, gay demon with a heart of evil. And Tyler Labine really knows how to stay on this side of obnoxious.

It's at heart a very old-fashioned show. Actions have consequences -- I mean, that doesn't even happen in real life. When Ben tries to defraud the government by taking money for a Green-card marriage, not only is he caught, but he goes to jail. The writers don't create some cute, impossible situation to rescue him. They just give him a "Go Straight To Jail" card. Excellent. And the writers know how to do it right: no tedious trial scene, no moral lectures, no jail scenes! So refreshing. Anyway, to continue with another obligatory example, when Steve, the reformed demon, tries to take the devil down through Ghandi-like methods, he's rewarded and sent to heaven. All this makes Reaper strangely more modern than anything going. I mean, it's so old-fashioned, like Biblical old-fashioned, it's new. I like that.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mad Men?

So I've watched four episodes of season two and I'm exasperated. I'd like to say it's just lost a little momentum, but I can't, because it's like the show's a completely different show. I know the writers are attempting to portray morass but that's no excuse for putting people to sleep. And I mean, literally putting people to sleep. And not just people, but insomniacs. And look -- we get the ad business now. We get that Don is brilliant at his job. That was all in season one, so what's the point of making 80% of each show the JOB? You want to make this Bewitched without the laughs? (BTW, there are some pretty scary similarities between bosses Tate and Sterling. Actually, now that I think of it, there are a lot of similarities between Mad Men and Bewitched: the chiseled, dark features of Draper and Stevens, the cute blonde wives, booze, booze, and more booze, nice period cars.)

The first three shows have been like very dull John Updike short stories, with a good dose of bad Mary McCarthy. Speaking of Mary McCarthy -- where did all the interesting women go? Swinging girl artist, Midge? Department store heiress Rachael, S&M inspired Dr. Guttman? And where the hell is Joan? How and when did she become the latest victim of the Body Snatchers?

There are some good developments but are they developments or just moments? Like making Don a bit more dirtier. His sexual assault on tough broad Bobbie in "The Benefactor" was shocking. And having him send a book to Rachael was interesting (although it isn't clear that it is to Rachael -- could be a red herring -- but that's what I'm betting). I guess being married to a woman you can't relate to is tough. Especially when she's a nutcase like Betty.

Okay. Maybe Betty isn't a nutcase. But what a control freak. Her cold mother act gives blondes a bad name. And what's with the sexual power plays? Are the writers going to reward her and turn her loose in the big city as a Cosmo Girl or are they going to punish her with rape? Well, the creator is male so I have a feeling it's not going to be Sex and the City for Betty. Maybe the best we'll get is Betty Does Boston.

So you get the feeling I don't exactly like Betty? Okay, again, I get the part about Betty being a little girl in a woman's body. Maybe it's just January Jones. I think that if a better actress were in the role, an actress with the power of Juliette Binoche or Judy Davis, I'd be able to enjoy the Betty development more. You just don't get much inner-life moments with Jones. She just does "I'm so unhappy". Well, so am I! At least you have a nice kitchen. You should see my 1970s disaster. And -- you have a maid! This is about as much sympathy as Jones solicits. Sorry.

Anyway, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that Don, Joan, and Mr. Boss Sterling will get their lives back. Soon. Please.

Friday, August 22, 2008

So Universal

I've watched soap operas and dramas from a lot of countries, and I've noticed that whether you're watching a soap from the US, France, Germany, Korea, Japan, there are certain words and phrases that keep coming up over and over again. Here's my list. The phrases in bold are the most frequent, by my count.

Trust me. (If said in the US, or any other Western country, "trust me" is a code for "run away". In Korean soaps, if someone says "trust me", you probably should.)
I'm in love with you.
It's my life!
I love you/her/him.
I hate you/her/him!
She's beautiful!
You're fired!
I understand.
You have cancer.
I'll make your life hell!
Shut up!
Why are you doing this?
I can't believe this!
I'll call you later.
I'm leaving the country. (Usually to study. Not applicable to the US.)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympics! Opening Ceremony

It was an opening ceremony only a communist country could pull off. And it was totally awesome. And I mean awesome, which the Oxford American Dictionary says means "extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear." I thought the ceremony was part Cirque du Soleil, part military display, and part historic fantasy. Watching it on TV was so overwhelming -- I can't imagine what it must have been like in the actual Bird's Nest. I loved all the little touches, like having the athletes track color across the huge paper.

I suppose it was also an opening ceremony only China could pull off. Thousands of years of Confucianism making even a small child fully aware of his position and obligation in society. Mentally and physically aware of the person next to you, keeping the appropriate distance, subconsciously aware of the levels of respect due to each body. The power of the Chinese philosophy you could see in the flowing display of bodies, like seeing the Emperor of Qin's terracotta soldiers come to life, breathing and moving with discipline and grace. But the cost? Rigid hierarchy promotes bullying and places too much burden on top of those on the bottom of the pyramid. China is the one country where the suicide of women outpaces the suicide of men. Suppression of individual desire is devastating to the human soul.

The worst part of the ceremony? Listening to Bob Costas and Matt Lauer. You have the almost holy aspect of the Chinese presentation, and then you had the juvenile boys' comments of Costas and Lauer -- they really disgraced themselves during the parade of athletes. They just couldn't help themselves, smirking at the Hungarian team's outfits, making snide comment after comment about the African outfits. If the comments had been at least intelligent, I could have lived with it, but it was just the stupid giggling jokes of pre-teens. Terry Wogan on Eurovision was more intelligent. I can't wait for that generation of cynical male commentators to die out.

Which makes me really miss Jim McKay and the old ABC Sports. He had so much heart and so much joy — a real respect for people and their passions. Come back, Jim McKay! Come back! We need you! You're our only hope!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Doctor Who Regeneration

Just watched the season finale. I found it entertaining, fun, and ... unsatisfying. I loved seeing the old Captain Harkness back. At the thought of three versions of the Doctor running around, he blurts out, "I can't tell you what I'm thinking about!" Exterminated by the Daleks and he still can't help thinking ...

I also loved Doctor/Donna. I didn't like the way they got rid of her, though. Too cruel. Too easy.

And giving Rose her very own "Grows Old Like A Human!" Doctor to play doctor with? I'm thinking ... yuk.

And it was sad seeing Harriet go.

And what's with all that loud, OTT dramatic, sentimental music?

And why did the end have to be so depressing?

I guess that's the crux of my dissatisfaction. I'm just not liking Russell T. Davies's universe. This whole thing about the Doctor being lonely. Oh, so lonely. This whole thing about the Doctor being the only Time Lord (well, there is the psycho Time Lord running around). Davies has turned Doctor Who into The Wanderer. Someone/something EPIC. The lone cowboy/samurai, the only law left in the wilderness. I liked him as an eccentric. Epic is boring. Epic is narrow. Epic is a male invention. Glorifying maleness. BTW, I'm really getting tired of women drooling over the Doctor. It just turns Doctor Who into a geek fantasy. He's not all that. Wouldn't it be great if it turns out the Doctor is suffering from an ego-maniacal condition and that when he snaps out of it, he'll realize the universe is full of nice Time Lords who are more than willing to be friends with him?