Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Why I Love T.V.

At this trying time, post-writers strike, when we are still, for the most part, patiently waiting for our beloved shows to come back, it is easy to forget why we love t.v. so much.  We watch American Idol and reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in order to get by, but really we don’t feel that magic of T.V. that certain shows give.  Do you remember the first show you really truly fell in love with?  Like you just loved the characters so much, you felt like you really knew them.  Maybe it was All in the Family or Happy Days, maybe it was Dallas or Dynasty, maybe it was Beverly Hills 90210 or Friends, in any case, I’m sure all of you, even those that say they don’t love t.v. (mom) have a show that you really loved at some point, a show you didn’t miss and a show that you were sad about it ending.  

For me that has happened numerous times.  I love television, both good and bad (I’m big enough to see that there’s a place for good t.v. and bad t.v.), but every once in a while a show comes along that jumps out above and beyond just a passing liking of a show.  Every once in a while I get a Friends or a 90210, a Dawson’s Creek or a Veronica Mars, a show that combines true life with fiction seamlessly, that makes me laugh and cry.  I’ll let you in on a secret I’m loath to share, the shows I love almost always have an epic romance.  They almost always have the Ross and Rachel, Pacey and Joey (that was the real romance of that show), Veronica and Logan kind of relationships.  I am a sucker for romance on screen, in my real life I can’t stand it, but on screen I love it.  
Over the course of the strike, I’ve been trying to find some way to cope with a lack of scripted television (seeing as I can’t stand most reality t.v. it has been a tough couple of months for me), so the other day I decided to give a show a try that had been recommended to me over and over again.  Yes, I’ve finally really given The Office a shot.  I think I was originally turned off by it because I tend to not think that Steve Carrell is as funny as everyone else does.  I mean, I think he’s funny, just not as funny as everyone else thinks he is.  It really comes down to romance, why I even gave it a try, or rather it really came down to Pam and Jim, why I gave it a try.  Like I said, I’m a big fan of romance, and it actually pains me to know that I’m missing out on a great romantic story arc that people talk about and I can’t contribute anything.  I’m aware that this is totally crazy, that I feel like I must watch a show to not feel left out, but I can’t help it. 
So yeah, I have fallen completely in love with The Office (and John Krasinski) because really, it’s got that thing that great shows have.  It has flawed (and sometimes completely ridiculous) but lovable characters.  It’s got simple but intriguing story lines that come from an organic place within the characters situations.  And, like the best comedies, it doesn’t really have a plot.  The problem with most comedies today is that they are too high concept; the best comedies, like Seinfeld, Friends, All in the Family, and Cheers are very low concept.  Seinfeld: show about nothing, Friends:  Six friends, All in the Family: a dysfunctional Family (Arrested Development also does this well), Cheers: people in a bar.  There really aren’t any stories that need to be told because of the concept of the show.  Unlike, recently, shows like Carpoolers or Cavemen or How I Met Your Mother or Two and a Half Men.  The fact that these shows have complex plot lines means that there is less time to be funny.  Leave the complex plots to Lost and let the situation and characters be funny.  The Office (and yes, the British version is still amazing) is simple (it’s about people in an office), it’s funny (characters are funny and get themselves into funny situations) and it’s relatable (who hasn’t worked in an office like Dunder-Mifflin or had a boss like Michael Scott?).  The basic tenet of comedy is to hire funny people and give them a forum to be funny but also to tug the heartstrings when need be.  Who didn’t tear up when Ross and Rachel broke up?  Who didn’t crack up when Sammy Davis kissed Archie Bunker?  It’s the line between these two things that make comedy great and memorable, and it is these things that launch the classic shows into posterity.
Peace, Love, and The Office,
Julia  

April 4, 2008 Posted by | Comedy, Culture, Friends, Hollywood, Television, Veronica Mars | 1 Comment

Must See T.V.

Oh it gives me a little bit of heartache to quote the slogan from the
good old days of NBC. I have to say, I credit ‘Must See T.V.’ with my
passion for television. I remember a time when I watched every show
on NBC’s prime time lineup. Now though, the network that does it for
me is ABC. Everything is cyclical in the Entertainment Industry so
we’ll see who comes out on top next, but right now ABC is knocking
them out of the park. But I know that you all have lives and don’t
watch all the new shows that air. That’s why you know me. And I’m
here to give you the scoop on all the new shows. So here it goes,
these are my reviews for the new season.

Let’s start with the non-ABC shows and we’ll move into ABC towards the
end. First there’s ‘Back To You,’ the new sit com with Kelsey
Grammar and Patricia Heaton. Now, it’s not news that these two are
fantastic. And this show is very good. My personal opinion is that
there hasn’t been a truly great sit com since Friends started sucking
in about season 6. I don’t know if the comedies themselves aren’t
that good, or if I’ve just tired of hearing a laugh track (I’m pretty
sure it’s the former as I’ve been watching and cracking up at friends
dvds all week), but I’m not a big fan of the live audience sit coms.
In fact, most shows that are deemed ‘comedy’ on T.V. right now, I’m
not all that fond of. I haven’t gotten into The Office, I don’t watch
30 Rock, I’m not a religious Ugly Betty fan, I’ve never made it
through Two and a Half Men. It’s not that I don’t think that these
are good shows. They all are, I know that, but I just enjoy the humor
that comes from shows like Grey’s Anatomy. I mean humor is so much
sweeter in the face of drama. So ‘Back to You’ is good, but I’m not
going to watch it. Fox needs some edgy stuff…they need a new 90210.

CBS is too depressing to talk about. Basically they’ve got CSI
(a.k.a. the show about death that wouldn’t die), Survivor, and that’s
it.

But speaking of 90210 (the show that made me love T.V.), I’ve found a
new teen drama to fulfill my teen drama addiction. It’s on the CW.
It’s called Gossip Girl. Now, I’ll give you the fact that I’m a total
sucker for a good teen drama, and I’ve been addicted to most of them.
Starting with 90210 when I was in the third grade, followed by
Dawson’s Creek, The O.C., and Veronica Mars (but I don’t necessarily
count that as teen drama). Gossip Girl combines a sort of Cruel
Intentions kind of feel with an O.C. kind of proclivity for fist
fighting and rich people drama. And how do I love the rich teenagers
have drama. Of course, Gossip Girl is about rich New Yorkers as
opposed to rich Southern California teenagers, but that makes for a
nice change of scenery. (plus, we’re running out of rich
neighborhoods to set these things in). Anyway, Gossip Girl is my new
addiction…and as a plus Kristen Bell (from Veronica Mars) does the
voice over which makes me miss Veronica Mars a little less.

NBC is in a bit better boat then CBS in that it’s got some good
returning shows: the office, my name is earl, 30 Rock and Heroes. I
didn’t watch Chuck, one of the new ones, but I’ve heard that it’s
okay, but not one to watch every week. And they have the Bionic
Woman, which I’m boycotting on principle. Basically, it looks shitty
and they hired Isaiah Washington (who was fired from Grey’s Anatomy
for calling his co-star a Faggot). I won’t ever watch anything with
Isaiah Washington again because of that and I kind of want to hug
Stephen McPherson (the president of ABC) for firing him. It’s taken
us a while, but it looks like Hollywood is finally publicly supporting
the gay rights.

Now for ABC. There’s a lot to talk about on this network so let’s go
by day, starting with Monday Nights. So I’m not a big reality fan but
mondays have Dancing with the Stars and the Bachelor…I don’t watch
that so don’t ask me. But my oh my, how did I love the pilot of
Samantha Who? It’s restoring my faith in comedy. Sure this isn’t a
four camera, live audience comedy, but it’s hilarious and I love it.
I mean, it’s not shocking that Christina Applegate is in a good show,
but the supporting cast needs credit because they’re hilarious too.

Tuesday nights I’m not too fond of. Cavemen, the show based on the
geico Caveman commericals, doesn’t really strike my fancy, though I’ve
heard that it’s interesting and touches on interesting race issues.
However, ABC has made it less risque after the pilot got criticism,
saying it was too edgy. They’ve taken the good out of it though.
Tuesdays is also home to Carpoolers, the Jerry O’Connell show. I want
to support it because Jerry O’Connell is a really nice guy, but it
doesn’t interest me.

Now Wednesdays are when it really starts getting good. Wednesdays at
8 ABC’s got Pushing Daisies. I’m not completely sold on this show,
but I’ve watched every episode. I’m not quite sure what that means.
Here’s the deal. I’m not addicted, it’s not a must see yet, but it’s
new, it’s different, it’s totally refreshing. Plus, Kristin Chenoweth
is in it and I love her. And she sang in last weeks episode. I would
watch it every week if that was a guarantee. All in all, I give this
a thumbs up, but the jury’s still out on the second thumbs up.

At 9 pm we’ve got Private Practice. I feel the same way about this
that I do about Pushing Daisies. It’s good. I’ve watched every
episode, but I’m not hooked. I love Kate Walsh. I love Addison
Montgomery. I love Tim Daly, Taye Diggs, Amy Brenneman and I love the
L.A. setting. It’s not a must see yet. But they just need a good
hook and I’ll be hooked. As of now, I’ll keep watching.

10 pm Wednesday nights has been a nice surprise. I’ll admit I was
skeptical about Dirty Sexy Money. It’s filmed at Paramount, and the
people who work on it won’t let the tours on the set…that’s usually
indicative of people being too uptight, and thus, crappy shows.
People who take everything too seriously usually end up producing
crap…you’ve got to be able to make fun of yourself. I’ve enjoyed
Dirty Sexy Money because of it’s trashiness. Again, we’ve got the
rich people with problems scenario, which I love. But I have to say,
the story lines that got me were the ones with Stephen Baldwin and the
transvestite having and affair, and the one about the daughter being a
shitty actress. That’s a poignant story line if you work in Hollywood
and see all these rich people with know talent (Paris Hilton) running
around pretending to be actresses. It’s pretty beautiful, and you’ve
got to get humor where you can. So thumbs up on Dirty Sexy Money, but
I won’t be sad if I miss an episode.

Now Thursdays are my favorite day because of Grey’s Anatomy. Of
course, Ugly Betty leads in. It’s a great show…I don’t watch it.
Grey’s Anatomy is awesome and I’m loving the new season. I love the
new dynamics with the interns having interns now. I love that George
is still and intern. I love that Meredith’s sister is there and the
girl who plays her is amazing. I’m just having a big love fest with
Grey’s. After Grey’s Anatomy is Big Shots. I have to say this is the
big disappointment of the season. The cast is phenomenal and when
they were at the press tour just chatting they were absolutely
hilarious, but the show is lacking a little. I don’t know if it’s
just new, so it’s not tight yet, or if the writing itself is actually
lacking, but there seems to be something missing from Big Shots.
Plus, it’s pretty obviously supposed to be a male Sex and the City,
but that doesn’t really work because the whole point of Sex in the
City was that it was showing women that it was okay to be a sexually
active, sexually aware female. But that’s already okay for men. I
don’t know, there’s just something not entirely right about Big Shots.
Maybe it’ll get better, but for now, I’m skipping it.

In conclusion, Gossip Girl is my new must see, Samantha Who? is my new
must see. I’m liking Pushing Daisies (in fact, I’m watching it right
now). I’m liking Private Practice. I’m liking Dirty Sexy Money (and
all of the crew has email addresses like
dirtysexyjuju@gmail.com……which I love). Still loving the Grey’s.

And I’m loving Showtime….Weeds, Californication and Dexter are the
best on Television…but I know most people don’t get showtime so I
won’t really talk about them. If you have showtime and aren’t
watching these shows, you’re wasting your money.

Peace, Love, and Welcome to the New Season,
Julia

P.S. Two in one day….I’m pretty impressive.

October 18, 2007 Posted by | Gay/Lesbian, Grey's Anatomy, Hollywood, Sex and the City, Television, Veronica Mars | Leave a comment

Up Front Season

So a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how hard it is when you and
your favorite t.v. show break up, and a few months ago I was writing
about awards show season and how it is my favorite time of year.
Well, right now we’re in my least favorite time of year.  It’s called
Up Fronts and they hurt me.

Basically, up fronts are where each network goes to new york and
announces their fall lineup.  Then, advertisers buy advertising space
from the shows that they want to advertise on.  And that shit can be
expensive.  A 30 second spot on the series finale of friends was
something like $500,000.

The Up Fronts are the time of year when I remember much of what
television is actually about.  It’s not about the great writing and
great acting, it’s not the complex story lines involving multiple
flawed, but charmingly loveable characters.  Nope, now is the time of
year that reminds me that television is about ratings because ratings
equal more advertisers and more advertisers equal more money.

So the shows with the not great ratings (a.k.a. the good ones) are
usually cancelled this time of year, and thus this is my least
favorite time of year.  Not only am I reminded that this business is,
in fact, a business, and as such, great works of art are often tossed
by the wayside for hopes of a bigger paycheck.

The fact of the matter is that many times the networks get it wrong.
They cancel shows that then go on to sell millions of DVD’s, they
don’t give shows time to come into their own (because sometimes it
takes a little while to really get the swing of things…look at the
first season of Gilmore Girls or even Friends, it takes them about a
season before they really hit their stride).  I mean, shows like My
So-Called Life or Freaks and Geeks are now lauded as some of the best
shows of all time, but they didn’t make it past one season.  Bosom
Buddies only lasted two seasons and is now known as Tom Hanks’ first
real start in the business (and they sell millions of DVD’s).

So this week, instead of breaking up with my t.v. shows where you’re
certain that though it hurts right now, it’s for the best, I have my
shows ripped from me.  Basically, it’s like that break up that comes
out of nowhere.  That break up where all of a sudden ‘it’s not you,
it’s me’ and ‘I’m just really busy right now’ and you’re left in
shock, not really knowing where to look or what to do with your hands.

That’s right folks, this week is the week where Julia’s heart get’s
ripped out because I have to part with shows I’m not yet ready to let
go of.  This season has been the most brutal because after this past
weeks up fronts I was left with one, that’s right one, show left on
network television.  Studio 60, which had been put on hiatus a few
months ago, has been officially cancelled and yes, there are still 4
mystery episodes that may or may not be aired (but will hopefully
appear on the DVD).  And most painful of all, my favorite show,
Veronica Mars, was cancelled as well.  So it seems that the shows that
don’t play it safe this season are the ones that will no longer be
airing.  And as much as I try to be optimistic before the up
fronts…as much as I try to have faith in the industry that I am a
part of, this week usually takes a little peice of my youthful hope, a
little peice of my innocence.

The one ray of light is that there will be a new show on the horizon.
A new pilot, that will capture my heart and mind, that will marry
great acting with great writing…and hopefully, hopefully will not
get cancelled in just one or two seasons.

Peace, Love, and Up Fronts,

Julia

June 14, 2007 Posted by | Grey's Anatomy, Hollywood, Studio 60, Television, Veronica Mars | Leave a comment

Best of the Best…The Last Crusade.

Ok Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls.  Here it is.  The moment you’ve all been waiting for.  The final Chapter in my three part series about the best shows on Television. 

The last show, in my opinion, is the best show on T.V. right now.  That’s right I said it.  It’s the best show on any channel.  I don’t care if it’s Weeds, The Sopranos, Dexter, The L Word, Lost or any of the shows I’ve mentioned previously.  This is the best show on T.V. right now.  I’m pretty sure none of you watch it.  I’m pretty sure none of you have even heard of it, but now you’ll get to know how great little shows that no one watches can be.

So, I’m sure a few people who have heard me rant about this show before know I’m talking about VERONICA MARS.  It airs on Tuesday’s at 9 on the CW (watch it tonight).  And it’s unbelievably good.  There’s great writing, great acting, and great cinematography.  It’s tightly put together, and it doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

So Veronica is possibly the best female character to ever grace Television.  She’s amazingly smart.  She is constantly outsmarting everyone around her.  And she totally plays up the blonde thing to her advantage.  Basically, Veronica Mars is played by Kristen Bell (who no one has heard of, but, mark my words, she’s going to be a huge movie star…and she’ll win oscars cause she’s an unbeliveably talented actress).  Kristen Bell is little, as are most actress’ in Hollywood, and by little I mean 5’2″ or so and she’s cute and blonde.  They definitely work the Buffy the Vampire Slayer angle on Veronica Mars.  It’s the mold-breaking kind of thing where they cast a little blonde girl as the ass kicking protagonist.  Now, Veronica is no Buffy.  She doesn’t have superhuman strength, or amazing fighting ability, but she’s got a supersleuth prowess and a dog named Backup. 

Where I think Veronica Mars succeeds over a show like Buffy (which I love) is that Veronica isn’t a superhero.  She’s just a really really smart girl who outwits even the best of opponents.  Much like Shaggy, Scooby and the gang she outwits the bumbling local sheriff on a pretty much weekly basis.  But she also has outsmarted the FBI, the dean of students at her college, and she even pulls one on her P.I. dad every now and again. 

What I love most about Veronica Mars is that it plays with literary and film conventions.  It is constantly drawing on the Nancy Drew convention of the teenage girl detective, but Veronica is so much cooler and smarter than Nancy Drew.  It also plays on the Philip Marlowe/Sam Spade sort of Film Noir detective genre. 

They use a lot of low camera angles.  Veronica narrates the story (like in all Noir movies).  They have a great use of lighting: the slatted blinds creating shadows across the room, etc.  And the thing that’s great is that they constantly reference the fact that the characters know they are working much like those old noir classics.  People are constantly calling Veronica ‘Nancy Drew.’  She, at one point, tells someone who she to look up Encyclopedia Brown to help them because ‘I hear he’s good.’ 

Veronica, as a character, works so well because, not only is she smart, but she snarky, she’s sarcastic, and she’s got a great supporting cast.

Veronica and Keith Mars (her dad) have been voted the best onscreen father daughter duo by almost every magazine.  Enrico Colantoni (Galaxyquest, Just Shoot Me) brings his comedy background and the moments between Keith and Veronica are some of the best in the show.  They depend on each other, they love each other, and when they fight…they fight.  But the best is when they work cases together, they are unstoppable.  They outsmart everyone and always catch their man…well, almost always. 

Jason Dohring as Veronica’s on again off again bad boy boyfriend is absolute perfection.  He is dark, he is brooding, he loves Veronica, and he’s just as absurdly stubborn as she is.  Jason is a great actor (watch for him because he’ll be the next Ryan Gosling…aka, the guy who is a little under the radar, but takes amazing movie roles and is amazing in them) and Logan is the bad boy you wish all bad boys could be. 

Mac, the computer wiz, often referred to as the Q to Veronica’s Bond, played by Tina Majorino (Napoleon Dynamite) is absolute perfection.  She’s the computer wiz with a heart…and some great storylines. 

My criteria for what makes a good show is great writing and great acting. I’ve established that the acting is great, but the writing is even better (and that’s saying something).  The way they weave together the seasons smaller mysteries with the larger overarching mystery is something that leaves me in awe every single week.  I love that they learned a lesson from the Twin Peaks mistake and actually solve the big cases.  The first two seasons were year long mysteries, but they wanted to shake things up this year so there are two big mysteries and five episodes that don’t have an overarching mystery.  Now, riddle me this.  Isn’t it better to have a show that isn’t afraid to break from it’s normal routine than a show that just let’s it same old routine get old?   Wasn’t that the problem with the last few seasons of Friends…it got old, and really, who cared?  No offense to Lost fans, but that’s what seems to be happening on that show right now.  No one wants a big mystery with no pay off.  And you have to give a little pay off. 

Well, Veronica pays off.  The mysteries are solved.  The thing that always amazes me is how entangled the writers allow everything to get, before ripping it all apart to reveal the end of the mystery.

The last thing I’m going to talk about, and I’ll cut myself off after this because I could go on talking about this show forever, is the grittiness of the show.  The first season starts off with Veronica in high school.  And it is unlike any other high school t.v. show.  There’s murder, there’s intrigue, and in the first episode we find out Veronica was raped.  No other show starts off with their main character admitting that she’d been raped.  That is a huge theme in the show, but it’s not the only dark theme.  Veronica’s an outsider…no one likes her in high school and she’s not making too many friends in college either.  But the thing I love about her is that she’s real.  She’s been burned by people who loved her and she’s got major walls and defenses.

Every character in this show is totally flawed.  And flawed characters are the best because, you know what, people are flawed.  They’re fucked up and they do fucked up things to each other and Veronica Mars doesn’t shy away from that.  And that, my friends is why it’s so great.

Alright everyone, set your TiVos, find the CW, and prepare for an hour of awesome T.V.

Love,

Julia

June 14, 2007 Posted by | Hollywood, Television, Veronica Mars | Leave a comment