Archive | June, 2012

Summer TV Series: A Barren Wasteland or A Lost Treasure Trove

26 Jun

Now coming from Australia, I have a very confused concept of summer TV. In Australia over the Christmas holidays TV really couldn’t be worse. The TV series that usually screen over the summer in the US actually tend to screen in Australia over the second ratings season beginning in August so once it gets to Australian summer there really is absolutely nothing on except for ‘Carols By Candlelight’ which is so terrible, I’ve been known to god forbid, read a book to avoid it. The only good thing about summer TV in Australia is that broadcasters replace their usual painful news shows like ‘A Current Affair’ and ‘Today Tonight’ with reruns of ‘The Nanny’ and ‘The Simpsons’.

But now that I have been ushered into the download age and tragically no longer even have free to air, I am now encountering what the Americans understand as summer TV. As strange as it sounds those crazy people over in American TV land actually have money to make TV programs particularly for the summer season and lost without my usual favorites I am mining the depths of what the 2012 US Summer season has to offer.

Now the thing to do when when choosing a new summer TV show is to understand, this is not ratings season TV, the actors aren’t recognizable, the rules aren’t as clear and anything is possible, the good and the bad and the truly terrible. But given there is very little point wasting your time on the really bad TV, I am going to take you through my quality and not so quality picks for summer TV 2012.

First up, ‘The Glades’ with Australian actor Matt Passmore, a quirky cop show about an antagonistic detective whose solves crimes in the hot sexy heat of the Florida Glades.  Not nearly as inspiring as ‘The Mentalist’ but with a similar bite, Matt Passmore’s Jim Longworth is both funny and drool worthy and the show has a great romantic sub plot to boot.  Underdeveloped and a little lacking in an important overarching storyline, it isn’t perfect but it’s addictive.

Another show which is perhaps a cut about the rest is the Canadian cop show ‘Rookie Blue’. it’s ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ of cop shows about a group naive sexually active rookie cops. ‘Rookie Blue’ is sexy and touching and has it’s own romantic flagship couple to rival Meridith and Derek in the pairing of the beautiful and naive Andy McNally rookie extraordinaire and the soulful and brooding Sam Swarek a bad ass rogue cop who looks great without a shirt. One of my favorite shows, summer or not Rookie Blue is a real naughty pleasure.

Another less impressive offering is ABC Family’s Bunheads. From the creator of ‘Gilmore Girls’ Amy Sherman Palladino, I like this show for the dialogue but little else. This show seems seriously lost in plot and not in a ‘I don’t know what will happen’ kind of way in an ‘I don’t care what will happen’ kind of way. This show seemingly has no rule book and it seriously needs one. The small town thing is not getting me in and neither is the young ballet dancers. This show needs a jolt of drama stat as it is already stale. To be fare ‘Gilmore Girls’ suffered from these exact same problems but not this early in the season. Give it go but if it doesn’t pick up, give up.

Now my last offering for the summer TV schedule is ‘True Blood’, arguably the the most universally popular choice, though starting to dwindle a little in popularity in its later seasons.  It might surprise some to think of True Blood as summer TV but it has been ever since it’s second season. it is incredibly gripping if not rather irritating in its romance plot lines. Side note: I really, really wanted Sookie and Erik to get together in the 4th season but making that happen by making Eric lose his memory and removing everything about him that made him cool was not a good way to do it. The reason you want your protagonist to get together with a bad boy is because they are a bad boy. You don’t sit there wishing you could change everything about them so the character can be with them, you want to see the sexy explosion that is a hero – villain pairing.

Anyway moving on from that, season 5 is shaping up quite well especially because it has separated Bill and Eric from Sookie and is starting to pursue the Sookie – Alcide sexual tension which is a nice change of pace from the vampire angle. And what with Sookie killing Alcide’s old girlfriend Debbie at the end of last season the pairing looks to be filled with obvious dark emotional complications which is what ‘True Blood’ does best.

So there you have it, four summer series with much to offer, from vampires to ballet dancers. My honorable mentions include the USA series ‘Suits’ which can be summed up as fabulously good looking lawyers playing power games, good watching though takes itself a touch too seriously. ‘Necessary Roughness’ about a sports therapist that helps athletes over come their emotional trauma’s to get back in the game, it has its moments but lacks punch. And ‘Jane By Design’ a super sweet series about a teenager masquerading as an adult to be an executive assistant as a fashion house. Keep an eye out of Jane’s best friend, a way more attractive underager than Justin Bieber if you ask me.

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Girls: Does It Live Up To The Hype?

24 Jun

There is something about ‘Girls’ the new HBO comedy from Executive Producer Judd Apatow and created/writer/star Lena Durham that doesn’t appeal on first viewing. I am not afraid to say that I didn’t like ‘Girls’ after a first saw it. It was weird, it was indulgent and it was kind of grossly sexist. Who were these ‘Girls’ to let the men in their lives treat them this way. For something that was praised as the new ‘Sex and the City’ these women certainly weren’t the sexually adventurous strong empowered women I was expecting. They were easily manipulated self obsessed girls who don’t know what they want or how to take care of themselves.

My original reaction to ‘Girls’ was disgust, how dare this show disgrace the women of my generation with this depiction. I am 24 the same age as the ‘Girls’ and am far more together and self possessed than any of them and so is everyone else I know. But the more I watched and the more honestly I thought about myself and the girls I know, the more I thought, crap, I may not like it but this girl probably is voice of her generation, my generation.

Many critics have reacted quite viciously to ‘Girls’ saying that it is indulgent, the characters are unlikable and that the all white cast demonstrates an underlying racism. Which is all true, except for the racism which I think is just case of a writer, writing what they know. Is it more or less racist to create characters of a different race just to fill a race quota? But moving on from that, while these criticisms are correct what people are missing, in fact what I missed first up, is that Lena Durham is not saying that these characters are great role models or even worthwhile human beings, she is just calling it like she sees it.

She is showing us characters that are realistic to her vision of the world and the more I look at her vision the more I am convinced that it is pretty accurate. The way that Hannah lets Adam treat her is very similar to the way I let my first boyfriends treat me. The way that Marnie tries to control her life and her boyfriend who she really has no feelings for also reminds me of me. In fact what all these characters remind me of is the stupid things that would be adults do when they are trying to be grown ups.

The minute that you turn 18 you are supposed to be an adult but unfortunately very few of us are there yet and given that many of us live at home for longer, the real push into adulthood tends to come a lot later. Usually when we move out. Girls is all about this push and the bad choices people make the first time they do anything. Like your first real love, your first housemate, your first real job, your first time and just generally trying to escape from narcissistic adolescence into becoming the person you are meant to be. You are bound to make mistakes and they aren’t going to be the pretty sanitized mistakes of “Friends” or other commercial TV universes they are going to be dirty, ridiculous and mentally unstable. I didn’t want to see it at first but I made many of these mistakes myself.

‘Girls’ gives us all of this and more allowing us to see the unlikeable narcissistic fools, that lets face it we all were once, behaving badly and learning lessons and making more mistakes, while at the same time being utterly hilarious. ‘Girls’ is something new and something real, though you may not like what you see, you know you recognise it. Does ‘Girls’ live up to the hype, your damn right it does.

MARGARET in one line

12 Jun

Okay, I have a confession to make… I am writing a novel. Even though it’s been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, and I’m really enjoying the process, I find myself not really talking about it. It feels a bit wanky and self-important and of course leads to the inevitable question: ‘So what’s it about?’ to which I always answer ‘ummm…’. I could sit down and talk about it for hours, but I can’t really sum it up in one sentence. I got to about the halfway point last week when I reached a halt. I felt lost the midst of all these chapters and words and ideas. I felt that if I couldn’t sum the whole thing up in one succinct sentence then it must just be a big mess. The one-liner is something that was heavily pushed during my screenwriting course. We spent hours trying to make a one liner before we even begun writing the script. For example: ‘By playing God do you become the Devil?’. By the end of the course one-liner become like a currency, students swapped them back and forth to compare scripts and ideas. So, when I realised there was no one-liner for me I thought this could only mean goodbye to my half-written novel.

And then I watched Margaret. Sure you can sum up the story in one line ‘A teenage girl contributes to a fatal bus crash which leads to a moral crisis’ but really, that doesn’t do the story justice. That doesn’t capture the themes and questions that this film raises.

The beauty of this film is that isn’t just about the one event. We don’t just see the parts of Lisa, the protagonist, life which are directly affected by the accident. We see every part of her life and the things that affect her, we see her school life, her sexual awakenings, her reaction to her mums new boyfriend, the hurt she causes a boy who has a crush on her. And we also see the landscape this is taking place, the city of New York, the climate at school with students still reeling from the terrorist attacks (this was shot in 2005, but that’s another story). We see differing point of view around Lisa too, her mother, the victims best friend. In other words this film doesn’t abide by any of the ‘rules’ I learnt in screenwriting class.

I read this interview with director Kenneth Lonergan. He says:

‘If you can say it in a sentence, why spend two and a half, three hours putting it in a film or play’

So, thanks to Lonergan, I’ve embraced not having a one-liner. I’ve relaxed and allowed the story to be what it is. Maybe I’ll finish this thing after all.

 

 

 

NEW GIRL or How Zooey Deschanel is Killing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl with Cupcakes and Sunshine

2 Jun

Wait, what? Isn’t Zooey Deschanel the embodiment of the manic pixie dream girl? In some ways, yes, which is exactly why what she is doing is so sneaky and underhanded and, dare I say it, empowering.

Take 500 days of Summer. The ultimate pixie dream girl setup. Sweet, fun, beautiful girl comes meets downtrodden melancholy man and literally turns his life into a musical number (ugh). But then, something is wrong. All is not what it seems. By the end we realize that the man was seeing it exactly what he wanted in her (the MPDG) but wasn’t seeing what she really was: moody, sometimes rude and really only using him for sex. She wasn’t going to save him at all but instead break his heart and make everything far worse. He literally couldn’t see past the fantasy.  The funny thing Zooey was still known as the manic pixie, everyone seemed to disregard the second half of the film too. For example, this article here, although their description of the Manic Pixie Dream Guy is priceless.

Okay. I’ll admit it. I have been avoiding New Girl all year. Walking through St Kilda and seeing a row of yellow flags with Zooey’s face and the slogan ‘Adorkable’ was intensely irritating. And the idea of a show based on her being the embodiment of twee while looking for a man seemed grating. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a grown woman putting on a poofy dress and acting like an eight year old girl. But one fateful evening (last week) I caught the last fifteen minutes of the show on my sisters shitty little TV and I was hooked. Somehow she was being adorkable and I was loving it and I didn’t know why. And then I realized one of the steps was missing, she was being the ‘manic pixie dream girl’, she was coming into the lives of three sad jaded men, and she was intensely irritating all of them. Really, after all, she was subverting the role again. For example, in the third episode, she is taken along to a wedding as a pretend date of one of her new housemates. She is fun and silly and looks beautiful in a tiny dress. She points out that she is wearing her childhood pink slinky boxers to fit into the dress. So far, so twee. But by the third act she is drunk and sitting in the bathroom sink cutting the boxers off with a knife (they were cutting off the blood supply to her legs) while wearing false teeth and talking in a fake hillbilly voice. Oh. She manages to take the manic pixie into reality where it is super weird, somewhat annoying and definitely by no means anyone’s dream girl.