Archive for the ‘TV/Movies’ Category

Still Further Thoughts on Cheers (End Season 8)

November 6, 2017

Cheers got much, much better after Diane left.

A big part of this is because of what I touched on at the end of Season 5, as the Sam and Diane relationship overly dominated the show and wasn’t all that interesting to start with. As the show went along, the secondary characters became more and more important and also more and more interesting. With the Sam and Diane romance out of the way, there was more time available to explore these characters and tell stories featuring them. So we could focus on Frasier and Lilith getting married and having a child, Cliff’s mother moving to Florida and him finding romance with someone as mail-focused as he was, on Woody and his relationship with the absolutely spoiled sweet Kelly and a bit more on Carla to take her from the snarky tramp to having a bit more depth to her. About the only secondary character who doesn’t really get a chance to shine is Norm, but his big story arcs — his love for his wife and the details of his career — were pretty much settled before this. As he strikes up an early friendship with Rebecca, he turns into the perfect supporting character for all the storylines, as he’s pretty much the only character that everyone in the bar gets along with. Even his painting business is best used to set-up storylines for other characters.

With the big romance out of the way, the relationship between Rebecca and Sam can take a back seat to the other stories. Sam is indeed trying to pursue her, but it isn’t the main relationship drama of the show. This means that while it can be the main plot of an episode, it can also be a B-plot or even merely a complication. Even the triangle with Robin is less one of actual love and more of mutual jealousy. So this allows the plot to have more elements because they don’t have to play out the typical atypical dramatic romance plot. I actually really like Rebecca’s ploy when Sam finally corners her: agree, but refuse to participate. Not only does this show cleverness on her part, it also reveals that Sam doesn’t just want sex, but instead wants eager participation. If she’s just going to be passive about it, he’s not interested. This actually expands his character from the simple lothario to someone with a bit more depth. This is also revealed when at one point when Rebecca was devastated, he started to make a move on her and when she was somewhat responding, he decides not to take advantage of her, leaves, and calls her from the lobby so that he could still support her while not risking seducing her. When Rebecca insists that it wouldn’t happen, he asks her to check her bra, and when she does she asks “How did you do that?”, not knowing how he could do whatever it was while they were simply hugging on the sofa, which a) keeps his “ladies man” image alive, b) shows that he’s right to not want to stay because he’d probably seduce her and c) is actually funny.

I also liked how when they first met Rebecca gives a big smile of attraction and interest and only turns cold after he tries to hit on her.

As the series goes along, Rebecca becomes more of a loser. Up until Season 9, she hadn’t lost all of her competence and strength, but more and more she was screwing things up and had a disastrous personal life. I don’t mind the disastrous personal life, but think that her incompetence works better when it’s played up as book smarts vs street smarts rather than her just being, as she herself puts it, too dumb to live.

Speaking of that, at one point I was washing dishes and wondering what Robin Colcord saw in her that made him interested in her, and then remembered the ending — that I hadn’t seen the episode of yet — of that and noted what, indeed, he was after. But at the start of Season 9, he seemingly really does love her. We’ll have to see how that plays out (I already know the ending, but want to see how it gets there).

Ultimately, at this point Cheers is actually entertaining most of the time.

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Further Thoughts on Cheers (End Season 5)

October 23, 2017

So, the first five seasons of Cheers is dominated by the Sam and Diane relationship. Which is unfortunate, because this arc is the least interesting out of the ones they had, featuring the least interesting characters — at least at the time — and is also filled with nonsense in an attempt to wring dramatic tension out of the relationship.

At the end of Season 3, Diane is proposed to by Frasier, accepts, and then tries to call Sam to, it seems, get him to admit his feelings for her and/or talk her out of it. When Sam finds out about the upcoming marriage, he rushes off to Italy to try to stop the wedding. The arc ends at the beginning of Season 4 with Diane having left Frasier at the altar, and Sam having had to go through a number of trials to stop a wedding that never happened. And both Sam and Diane are quite aware that the other did that.

So how come they don’t get together after that? At that point, neither of them can really deny their feelings for each other, and there isn’t even a real explanation of them thinking that the passion was there but that the relationship wouldn’t work. Even then it’s clear that they aren’t going to be able to move on any time soon, and so at a minimum Diane probably should have stayed away from the bar and gotten a job somewhere else. But none of that happens because the show can’t let that happen, but there’s really no way to top this when it comes to their relationship. If this event didn’t convince them to get married or at least get back together, it seems that nothing could. And yet they still have to play this tired arc out and try to keep the tension in this relationship going somehow.

After a full season of this, they have Sam date a politician, who says that she wants marriage. This triggers Sam to think about marriage, and ultimately to ask Diane to marry him, who initially says “No” and then reconsiders, only for Sam to withdraw the offer. Not only is this in and of itself mostly ridiculous, it leads to Diane adopting the very annoying trait of consistently insisting that Sam is going to ask her again while Sam vehemently denies it. And the worst part of it is that given what has gone on before we know that Diane is right, but she’s being very smug and annoying about it. In an episode where Diane smugly insists that he will ask her that day, he does … and she says “No” again. At which point, they probably should just give it up, but instead they go to court and the judge insists that Sam propose in order to not be charged, which he does, she accepts, and they head to the end of the season planning a wedding. Which was also stupid, as it never really resolves why Diane said “No” the other times.

But since they don’t get married at the end of the season, you’d think that what makes them break up would follow from that, right? Nope … well, at least not directly. What happens is that Diane’s first fiance Sumner conveniently comes back right before the wedding — I think it was in the season finale — and says that he’s sent Diane’s book to an editor friend of his who thinks that it might be worth publishing, but only if Diane finishes it. He later confirms that it would be published, setting up a situation where it is believed that Diane has to choose between marrying Sam now or finishing the book. Sam convinces her — over her protests — to take the time to finish the book, which just happens to involve her going to Sumner’s cottage somewhere for six months. Diane insists that she’ll return, but she never does and the book deal ends up falling through. Diane is hinted at having gone to Hollywood to write for TV, probably a comment on Shelley Long focusing on making movies after that point.

But here’s why this really doesn’t work for me: bringing Sumner in at that point was just too convenient. Everyone should have suspected that he was doing this to try to break Sam and Diane up and possibly make a move on her himself. That he happens to send her novel off at pretty much the same time as he found out about the wedding and happens to send it to a friend who happens to think it will work and it just so happens that he has a secluded place available for her to work is an awful lot of happens to absorb, and yet no one questions his motives. If this had been set up more episodes in advance where there would have been time to question and verify what was happening, this would have worked out so much better. As it stands, it really looked to me like Sam and Diane got suckered by Sumner.

You can argue that Shelley Long’s decision to leave came too late to really do that sort of set-up, but then all they needed to do was have Sam or Diane have doubts about what her consistent “Nos” meant. Even if they had to leave the door open for her to return, this could have easily been resolved with her deciding that she needed more meditation time and then resolving that either way at the beginning of this season. As it stands, it’s a nonsensical ending to a nonsensical and boring story arc.

This is not helped by Diane being Flanderized a bit and becoming more annoying because of it. She always did have a streak of thinking that she was smarter and better than she really was, but she was always presented as being cultured and, for the most part, having some talent but ruining it by being overly ambitious and thus complicating everything. In Season 5, she’s far less competent and far more often overlooks failings that she really should have been able to spot. For example, in one episode she is trying out for ballet and gets a bad review of her abilities. To be nice, Frasier changes the recommendations to be more flattering, which ends up prompting her to barge in and try out for a professional ballet troupe to follow her dream, but Sam and Frasier stop her before she can make a fool out of herself. The problem is that she had a video of it, which makes everyone in the bar laugh at how ridiculous she looks. It’s perfectly reasonable for her to not see how her dancing really looks while dancing it, so that’s fine. But she watches it with them. And despite her having to know what the dance should look like, she thinks she did well, and it’s only when they tell her that they faked the review that she realizes otherwise. Well, sure, she might decide to trust the famous teacher over her own opinion, especially when that tells her what she wants to hear … but Diane had shown some self-awareness in the past, and this just sails right on past it. We might be able to believe that she could delude herself that badly about writing or poetry — although in those cases given how she does immerse herself in those media she’d likely be more derivative and think herself creative than be really, really bad — but with this she really should have known better.

And it isn’t even funny.

However, Cheers can be clever at times, and by now we’re starting to see its strength, which is its characters. Sam and Diane as characters work so much better when they are supporting the other characters and not hogging the spotlight. The relationship between Frasier and Lilith is much, much more interesting that the one between Sam and Diane. After starting from a disastrous first date, they end up on a show together, and Diane realizes that Frasier is in love with Lilith. Given her nature, she decides to intervene and tell Lilith about it, and then try to make her over in order to attract Frasier. What’s wonderful here is that when Diane tells Lilith that Frasier is in love with her, Lilith’s immediate reaction is that she’s not the type of pretty girl that people fall in love with, which made me immediately react with puzzlement. This seemed to come out of nowhere, and Bebe Neuwirth is a very attractive woman. But this results in Fridge Brilliance when you realize that the person who, so far, has made the biggest deal out of her looks is … Lilith. Diane simply says that she needs to dress better and use more … some makeup. Frasier, when he badmouths her, tends to talk about how cold and emotionally repressed she is, not about how unattractive she is, and give his personality he wouldn’t have asked her out the first time if he didn’t find her attractive. And if anyone else comments on that, it’s as a quick aside. Thus, it’s easy to imagine that she might have been awkward as a teen, and to avoid the teasing retreated to what she was better than most people at, which was things that involved intelligence, and thus cultivated the ideal intellectual manner, including the look. Since she wasn’t surprised that Frasier asked her out the first time, she had to think that her peers at least wanted to have sex with her, but could have fobbed it off as being the result of a male dominated field and her being one of the few women available. Her cold manner and aggressive intellectualism — worse than Frasier at lot of the time, who is pretty bad at it himself — would make most men not want to pursue a relationship with her, justifying her comment, and we can note that that is indeed what Frasier dislikes about her, and her more open style of dress and reaction to his flirting is probably more responsible for what gets his attention than simply that she looked hot. This underlying dynamic makes the relationship a lot more interesting than the shallow — and quickly dropped — idea of the cultured vs the everyday clash of Diane and Sam.

What the later seasons did better was avoid the split between the moral cultured class and the immoral or amoral working class. When Norm finds out that the person he is up against for a promotion is sleeping with the boss’ wife, while Diane is clearly opposed to him using that to get the promotion, Carla is also strongly opposed and Sam is uncertain about doing that as well. It’s pretty much left to Cliff to push for Norm doing it, and even here there isn’t a clear right answer.

That Norm doesn’t do it leads to another example of the importance of character. After he choose not to do it, the boss tells him that the reason Norm lost the promotion to the other person was that Norm’s wife Vera didn’t fit in with the other wives. Vera really wanted him to get the promotion so that they could buy a house. Norm is outraged and ends up quitting, and then has to tell his wife what happened. While he says that he plans to tell her the truth, he can’t hurt her that way, and so ends up accepting all the blame himself, proving that he really loves her despite his constant comments about her. This character development only carries on later when Diane tries to help Norm get noticed at a new job and get a promotion, and after his colleague steals Norm’s — bad, as it turns out — idea Norm finally says that he doesn’t want to big a big shot and just wants to be a worker drone, and is happy that way.

Woody makes a better replacement for Coach — the actor passed away in Season 3, I think — because as someone who is young you can maintain the naivete and stupidity without ever having to use the character as a mentor, which works against that. And Carla’s sniping got old, as it seems that pretty much everything she said was a snipe and it often interrupted the show to try to get in some cheap humour, which hurt her as a character.

So far Cheers is still “Okay”. Sometimes it’s clever and sometimes monumentally stupid. As I go on into season six, I’m finding that there’s more clever and less stupid, which is a good thing.

First Thoughts on Cheers …

October 2, 2017

So, the next half-hour series that I’ve decided to watch is Cheers, which I picked up for a reasonable price assuming that I watched through the entire series at least once. I’m at the beginning of Season 3, and so far I can say that it’s … okay.

As a show, it sometimes has some humour that works, and the characters are — or at least can be — interesting at times. The show is good in that it sets up character and plot points as throw-aways in some episodes that end up paying off later. Unfortunately, many of those plot and character points aren’t all that interesting, and since the previous points were throw-aways it can be hard to remember that they happened when they come up, a problem that would be made worse if you were only watching once a week instead of about a season a week like I do. In essence, it seems like it was in at the beginning of using continuity in shows and even in comedies to make a better show, but later shows have done a much better job incorporating that than it did, so it looks a little hollow today, like an attempt to do things like that but a refusal to commit to doing that. Which, to be fair, is indeed probably what it was.

The show’s main premise is the introduction of the intellectual, cultured and upper-class Diane Chambers into the working-class bar of Cheers, and the clash that produces. This leads to a lot of banter between her and Carla and Sam, and a little with the other patrons, although most of them are more pleasantly disposed towards her than Carla and Sam at least pretend to be. These snarky and sniping interactions — which, of course, persist even when Sam and Diane are dating — work best when Diane gives as good as she gets, which she starts doing after only a couple of episodes, otherwise it can feel like everyone is ganging up on her. And even then Carla’s sniping is so constant that it is often distracting, and so you just want her to shut up and let the episode get one with … whatever it is that it is supposed to be doing.

This is helped along by my finding Diane to be the most sympathetic character in the show, which is a big problem since the reason for that is that Diane seems to be the only character who actually cares about other people and tries to do the right thing most of the time, and is often opposed by the other characters in that. This ends up giving the impression that Diane is actually moral and the others are amoral at best and immoral at worst. Diane, then, is often seen as trying to care about and reach out to the other characters with them at best taking advantage of that and at worst insulting her for that. As an example, at one point Sam forces Diane and Carla to sit together to try to learn to get along, and Carla spins a tale about Sam being the father of one of her children, and Diane is deeply moved and sympathetic and tries to help … and Carla laughs at her behind her back that she believed that story. How can anyone not feel for Diane and be annoyed or even angry at Carla for that?

Ultimately, what the show ends up doing is setting up a divide where Diane is the good and moral person and the rest of the bar are unapologetically immoral much of the time. Sam is set up as her “different worlds” love interest, a womanizer who nevertheless “falls in love” with Diane. If you are going to do that, generally you set the womanizer up as someone who is willing to manipulate women into having sex with them, but at least won’t take advantage of the main heroine when she is vulnerable, so in at least some instances putting feelings over sex. Sam, in the first season, knowingly is at least willing to take advantage of Diane when she is emotionally vulnerable, and while they hint that it’s because he knows of no other way to deal with women that is never brought up again and, in general, is proven false with Carla. As for Carla herself, she has a small subplot where she ends up getting seduced by her ex-husband who gets her pregnant again so she sets out to seduce a socially awkward bar patron and then tries to convince him that he is actually the father of her child, which he does believe at first. She shows no remorse over this and refuses to even tell him until Diane browbeats her into it. When the guy is, understandably, upset and refuses to marry her — remember, they only had a one-night stand and he was only going to marry her because of the child — at which point Sam tries to convince him to marry her anyway for some reason, even going so far as to insist that if the guy doesn’t marry her, Sam will … which Sam clearly never meant to do, since the guy does walk out and he is quite reluctant to do so, even before she lets him off the hook.

How can you consider any of these actions — and therefore these characters — moral?

The problem is that this breaks down the traditional “upper crust vs working class” divide down along moral lines. Diane is our first and most prominent representative of that class, and she seems to genuinely care about other people and generally acts morally all the time, while the representatives of the working class are generally seem as petty and self-interested/self-centered, not willing to think about how their actions will affect other people and, in general, not caring about that either. Many episodes end up with Diane trying to browbeat them into caring about such things. When Coach’s friend dies and Coach finds out — from Sam — that he had slept with Coach’s wife, and at the memorial when all of his other friends confessed the same thing, even though Coach makes an impassioned speech about forgiving failings he gets swept up in the fervor of burning the person’s standie in effigy, and it is Diane singing “Amazing Grace” that calms everyone down at the end. In another incident, Norm is faced with a woman client who is attracted to him soon after reconciling with his wife, and the entire bar pretty much tries to shame him into going for it … except for Diane, who discourages it and is in fact quite disappointed when it looks like Norm was going to go for it. Even on a practical level, why would Norm do that soon after reconciling with his wife and being happier when he was back with her? If this had been done while they were separated, Diane’s objections would have been ridiculous, but it happening soon after they reconciled makes the temptation seem ridiculous. So what we end up with is a false divide between the upper-crust and the working class where the working class ends up on the immoral side, and this is consistently done throughout the first couple of seasons. The upper-crust, represented by Diane, is moral, while the working class is not.

The thing is, the “upper crust vs working class” conflict only really works when their various sensibilities are different, and it isn’t clear which one is inherently better than the other. In general, the working class tend towards the practical, the immediate, the short-term, and the in-group, while the upper-crust tends towards the abstract and the expansive. If the characters are moral, the working class tends towards helping out and supporting their friends in practical ways without worrying about any other main principle than “That’s my friend” while the upper-crust tends towards general principles. The episode where the bar patrons were worried about the bar drawing in more gay people and so becoming a gay bar while Diane was upset at the discrimination is actually not an unreasonable conflict, at least in terms of appealing to the stereotypes of working class vs upper crust. But most of the conflicts — including that one — are only superficially at best about that sort of moral divide, most often coming across as the working class being morally wrong and Diane — and by extension, the upper crust — being morally right. Sure, moral sensibilities have changed but did anyone ever think that sleeping with another woman right after reconciling with your wife or tricking someone into marriage by deliberating seducing them and deceiving them into thinking that your child by another man was theirs morally right? For the most part, pretty much all of these are at least cases where by precedent we should be inclined towards thinking that the people on the working class side are taking the morally wrong side, and they’d need to do much more to make this more morally complicated to avoid that distinction.

When they do create that divide, things work. But even here Diane is presented as more reasonable than they are. In one episode, Diane wants to watch an opera and when the others don’t want to watch it, harangues them over her giving their things a chance but them not giving hers a chance, and they try for about two seconds and switch back. Sure, Diane was an idiot to suggest the entire multi-hour Ring of the Nibelung opera, but they could have at least let her watch it since the framing was that she really wanted to watch it because it was a unique experience. While having one character always being in the right could make you really hate that character, here I, at least, end up liking her to the detriment of the others because she demonstrates good qualities and seems to be always right, and always right in a way that aligns with her character as presented and the others are wrong in a way that aligns with their characters as presented. And that makes me dislike the working class characters.

I’m also not that interested in the relationship between Sam and Diane. I found the case where they get together and then break up at the end of the season problematic, mostly because they need to bring Diane back to the show and to do that they have Sam return to the bottle, which I thought was a bit out of character for him, given how long he had been off the bottle, and that he didn’t need to get drunk to do the womanizing that he had fallen back into. But the problem had to be big enough to convince Diane to come back to a place that she refused to come back to, and so he had to be drunk and, to make that dramatic, she had to have a nervous breakdown. They just didn’t seem that close to me, and Diane didn’t have that problem when her fiance left her without a word leaving her alone and without a job. So it came across as a way to break them up dramatically and then get them back together, which didn’t really work for me.

That being said, the show is still okay. I’ll probably get through it, but I don’t like it as much as I liked “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”.

Thoughts on Beast Wars and Beast Machines

September 25, 2017

So, the last segment of my spin through Transformers was the CGI-based series “Beast Wars” and “Beast Machines”. For the most part, I think both of these series were definitely hampered by a move to short, 13-episode series from a longer Season 1 of “Beast Wars”, although “Beast Machines” suffered more than “Beast Wars” did.

While the post-movie Transformers cartoon definitely tried to take on more mature and darker topics than the original cartoon, these series went even further, although oddly while they were definitely more serious they weren’t typically darker overall, at least in “Beast Wars”. There was still a huge sense of fun that the post-movie cartoons seemed to lack, and that was also more absent in “Beast Machines”. So ultimately it started down a path of having more detailed and involved plots and characterizations and character arcs, which worked really well. And they both tended to not only have these be more detailed, but also to have more of them, and to have them all going on at the same time, which allowed for them to advance multiple arcs in the same episode while the overall episode focused on one of them or, at times, none of them.

The thing is that if you’re going to do that many involved and detailed arcs all going on at the same time, you really need the time to develop them all. In the first season of “Beast Wars”, there were enough episodes and few enough arcs that this could be done. But when the seasons shortened to 13 episodes, there wasn’t enough time to develop them all and still develop and resolve the main plot for the season. Season 2 of “Beast Wars” didn’t suffer from this as much, because it could utilize what was developed in the first season. But the third season struggled a lot more with this, ending up with a number of arcs that seemed rushed — Tigerhawk, for example, resolves the Tigertron/Air Razer kidnapping plotline by his showing up to fulfill some kind of prophecy in one episode and then dying the next — which really hurt those arcs. The Dinobot clone is another example. After the wonderfully done death of Dinobot earlier, this whole arc would have to be handled carefully, but it could have been done, especially given its ending. But the clone wasn’t properly developed and there wasn’t room to really go into detail with it, so instead the whole thing seems less than monumental. At least it didn’t feel like it ruined that original wonderful arc, but it certainly was far less than it could have been and seemed almost superfluous.

“Beast Machines”, however, suffers the most from this. For the most part, this series can’t utilize what happened in “Beast Wars” because it’s a new series, back on Cybertron. It also has a mystery to resolve and a clash between the organic and technological to resolve, as well as a number of character arcs. And it has to do it in … 26 episodes. It fails to do that, and in so doing makes many of the arcs seem rushed and, ultimately, unsatisfying, as well as a bit confusing. For example, the arc of Tankor really being Rhinox and then setting out to trick Megatron and Optimus Primal into destroying each other and the organics that Optimus was protecting or trying to revive is a good one … that is hampered by there not being time to show Rhinox developing his hatred of organics or, in fact, actually explaining it, and then Rhinox is defeated after only a few short episodes, which then loses the series an interesting antagonist. And then his redemption arc takes place in a short scene in the first episode of the next season. At that point, the arc really seems like a waste.

And this happened to so many arcs, even ones that carried on throughout both seasons. Black Arachnia’s attempts to restore Silverbolt and, once that happened, having to deal with his guilt and cynicism. Cheetor’s development into a more mature leader. Optimus’ growing obsession and mysticism. They even manage a late romance for Rattrap … started and resolved in the last couple of episodes and that ties too conveniently into the plot of the last few episodes. These ideas were all good and could have been great … but they simply weren’t developed enough and so in general come across a bit flat.

“Beast Wars”, though, is still a pretty good series, especially in the first season to season and a half. “Beast Machines”, though, is merely okay and a lot of that comes from it being a continuation from characters that we already know and like. It was worth watching, though.

Post Transformers: The Movie World

September 18, 2017

So, what struck me about the Transformers cartoon post-“The Movie” is how unlike pretty much every other series that I’ve watched — which to be fair is pretty much G1 and Beast Wars — the most interesting and driving personal conflict in the series wasn’t Galvatron vs Rodimus Prime. For the most part, any real conflict or rivalry they had was shallowly done, if at all, and not a major factor in the series. On the other hand, the conflict between Cyclonus and Ultra Magnus got more direct play and was the more interesting conflict. How did this happen?

First, Galvatron in that cartoon was absolutely insane, which was noted by the characters on numerous occasions. He didn’t have the megalomania and overall evil of, say, G1 Megatron or Beast Wars Megatron, with them being evil and having mental tics but being, overall, competent and manipulative villains. While both had a temper and definitely didn’t brook betrayal or treachery — at least against them — and often went out of their way to repay perceived or real slights, they in general were still competent and not as much of a danger to their own side as they were to the enemy. Far too often, Galvatron’s competence vanished leaving him with only power to recommend him, power that he sometimes used against his own allies in his zeal to destroy the Autobots, as was noted in “Webworld”, the episode where Cyclonus ends up having him committed in an attempt to restore his sanity so that he can more effectively lead the Decepticons. Overall, this led to a general overarching impression and plot where we have the Decepticon lieutenants — particularly Cyclonus — having to work with and work around an unstable Galvatron, made all the worse for Cyclonus because he was the one who set out to recover Galvatron, seeing him as the last hope the Decepticons had after their defeat by the Autobots. Having to admit that his revered leader wasn’t really helping in “Webworld” struck deep at him and brought home to the audience just how serious Galvatron’s insanity really was.

And this can be an interesting line to take, focusing on the Decepticons reacting to an unstable leader who nevertheless is powerful enough that he can’t just be done away with and who is enough of a figurehead that the Decepticons will automatically rally to him for the most part, whereas without him the Decepticons might fall back into fighting amongst themselves again. The problem is that this sort of storyline tends to shift the focus a lot to Cyclonus, and away from Galvatron as leader. But then maybe they could have set up a conflict between Cyclonus and Rodimus Prime, but that didn’t work for two reasons.

First, Rodimus Prime wasn’t all that impressive as Autobot leader. They deliberately set him up as the inexperienced and reluctant leader, not someone who had sought it out and someone who was more impulsive than a good leader should be. And, again, this could work. But it works best against a strong Decepticon leader, one who can try to manipulate those impulsive tendencies and doubts and force Rodimus to overcome them to oppose him, like Beast Wars Megatron. Galvatron is not that sort of Decepticon leader, and Cyclonus is in general too Lawful to pursue those courses most of the time as well. So with nothing to play off of Rodimus comes across as an ineffective leader, not as a worthy leader growing into the role. Second, Rodimus doesn’t have anything that lets us see him as the natural or superior Autobot leader. He is handed the leadership for being the “Chosen One”, but aside from that he’s singularly unimpressive as leader. He doesn’t have Optimus Prime’s or Optimus Primal’s inherent leadership ability and charisma. He doesn’t embody the Autobot principles like Optimus Prime did (sometimes not seeing to care about making peace and peace conferences, for example). He’s not as physically impressive as Optimus Prime and Optimus Primal were relative to the other characters; Ultra Magnus and Springer, for example, seem more overall physically impressive. He’s not regarded as the most skilled fighter on his team, like Optimus Prime and Optimus Primal were; Grimlock and Ultra Magnus are likely better fighters. He doesn’t even have a unique and impressive weapon or abilities like Optimus Prime — his laser rifle — and Optimus Primal — flight — had. So outside of the Matrix choosing him for some reason, we have no idea why he should be leader.

Second, the better counterpart to Cyclonus is clearly Ultra Magnus. As was lampshaded in one episode, Cyclonus and Ultra Magnus are mirror images of each other. Alignment-wise, we have Lawful Evil and Lawful Good. Both of them are dedicated to their leaders … or, at least, Ultra Magnus was to Optimus Prime, although he can be a bit frustrated by Rodimus Prime at times. And, heck, both of them are frustrated by and often have to work around the leadership failings of their leaders. However, neither of them have any interest in leading themselves. The conflict between them and the “Enemy Mine” situations they sometimes enter into is indeed a good conflict between similar yet strikingly different characters. Their conflict is interesting, and any attempt to slide that over to Rodimus would only create a conflict that was less interesting by contrast.

So, what we have is a series where both leaders aren’t the sorts of characters that can carry the main conflict of the series or being the main focus of the series, while their lieutenants in general were. It’s no wonder that, at least to me, some of the more interesting episodes are the ones that focus on Cyclonus and Ultra Magnus and their conflicts with each other, and not on Galvatron and Rodimus Prime.

Reactions …

September 8, 2017

So, I was watching Chuck Sonnenburg’s review of Technobabylon and had an interesting reaction to it. At one point, the two detective characters are investigating the murder of a married couple, and a flashback shows that the couple is a same-sex couple. And I found myself rolling my eyes and thinking “Of course”, in precisely the same way that I react to clearly pandering attempts to appeal to vocal minority/special interest groups. Except … that wasn’t an obvious case of that. Sure, it’s clearly an attempt to portray that sort of relationship, but since those things happen having it just be in the story shouldn’t have been enough to trigger that sort of reaction. Now, later, Chuck talks about how one of the characters is trans, Asian, lesbian and probably one or two other things as well, which does justify that sort of reaction, but why was I reacting to that there? I’d never played the game and there wasn’t anything that really stood out before that, and my reaction to the revelation that the lesbian character was a lesbian only garnered a “Huh” reaction, so why did that jump out at me? I won’t give myself credit for having seen the obvious pattern and so came to the right conclusion from the subtle signs, so why did I react that way when, objectively, I had no reason to?

I think the reaction comes from the current context around discussions of these sorts of issues. Currently, any game that isn’t seen as being “diverse” enough is criticized, and any game or media that is seen as “inclusive” is praised for being that rarest of the rare and doing something great and modern and sticking it to the Gamergaters and all of that crap. Sure, many of the sites I read — who for the most part aren’t gaming focused, interestingly enough — take on that mindset so I see it more often than a Not-So-Casual Gamer should, but it’s still prevalent in the media and in the discourse. And thus when I see something like that appearing in a game or other work my first reaction is to think that it’s there only to appeal to that market, stifle those criticisms, or because the designers or studios are led by SJW-types who think it is important to make sure that’s in there. And that might be unfair, but more often than not, given the state we’re in, it’s also often right.

And I think this sort of backlash explains some of the public reactions to recent movies and games and the like. From what I can tell, “Wonder Woman” didn’t get the same sort of backlash that the revamped “Ghostbusters” did, and when it did it was more from the women who were going on about how “empowered” it made them feel and somehow knowing what men had been feeling all this time — when most men generally didn’t feel anything like that from the male-led movies — than criticism over it being a female-led movie. And the strongest reactions I’ve seen to “Ghost in the Shell” are from the Social Justice side criticizing it for “white-washing” a character that might well have been white originally, not from people complaining that it had a female lead. Besides Sony and the producers/directors doubling-down on the sexism claims, I think one of the main reasons for the difference in reaction is that neither of those could be seen as pandering. If DC was going to start up a DCCU and do a Justice League movie, Wonder Woman had to be there and had to get a movie of her own. And Ghost in the Shell had always had a female lead, so the adaptation doing that only made sense. But when Ghostbusters did it, there was no reason to think that it wasn’t just pandering, and given the context it seemed pretty likely that that was the reason for it … which may or may not have been the case originally. So the same thing applies to my reaction: I had no reason to think that it wasn’t pandering, so it immediately struck me as pandering given the context that pandering is seen as a good thing by so many people.

So, it seems to me that saturating the landscape with these comments and criticisms and demands is a bad thing, and so the people who actually want more diversity in games would do themselves a huge favour by being more selective when they talk about this. The problem is that if they don’t talk about these things, no one will hear about them and so no one will do anything about them. So they’d have to walk a fine line between mentioning it enough and loudly enough that people will pay attention to them and being so loud and constant that they annoy people. However, I can say that this quote from a review by Carolyn Petit of Tacoma at “Feminist Frequency” is absolutely not the way to go about it:

Tacoma feels bold not just in its speculation about technological advancements, but also in its assumption of a present in which stories with a cast of six people and nary a straight white man in sight can elevate everyone’s humanity. So often when I express the need for broader, better representations in games, I’m met with a response that’s some sarcastic variation on “Sure, why don’t we make a game about a queer black Muslim bisexual trans woman?” As if such a character is inherently less human, less deserving of being the center of a story than a straight white cis man.

Tacoma features a black woman, a Muslim woman, and a queer Asian man, among others, and the humanity of every character is incidental, fully assumed and fully granted by each of the others; the game is full of conflict but none of that conflict is rooted in the specifics of anyone’s gender, race, or sexuality. The game envisions a future in which discussions like the one I’m having right now no longer need to happen, because everyone’s humanity is fully recognized. I look forward to the day when we no longer need to praise a game, film, or TV show simply for who it dares to be about, but although Tacoma imagines such a day, and although we need visions of what that day might look like, we’re not there yet.

A review that is praising diversity in a game for deliberately excluding white men is not, in fact, going to help. First, it’s going to draw attention to that fact, which will lead people to think that it’s pandering. Second, it’s highlighting there not being any white males as a benefit, which strikes against diversity. And third, the over-the-top praise for doing gives an incentive for game companies to do it and thus pander to these interests, giving an inherent reason to think that the company really is just pandering. All in all, all this will do is get people to notice these things and roll their eyes at the shameless pandering.

And the sad thing is that I expect that if I had simply picked up and played Tacoma — which I haven’t — without reading the view I wouldn’t have noticed that there wasn’t a white male character, and if I had it wouldn’t have bothered me, and that that would hold true for a large number of gamers. After all, it didn’t bother me in Fatal Frame, or with the female characters I played in Mass Effect, Dragon Age, The Old Republic and, well, most games I play, and I don’t recall there being this reaction to those games or to Silent Hill 3, which had Heather as the main character. Outside of this context, if the game and/or characters are good few people will care if they are a white male or whatever. It’s when the context is poisoned by either the game or the media making a big deal out of it that it starts to look like pandering and the seams start to appear.

Even if they aren’t there.

Thoughts on “Transformers: The Movie”

September 4, 2017

So, not all that long ago I decided to clean out my closets, which included my collection of DVDs and VHS tapes. In doing so, I tossed out all of my old VHS tapes — since many of them just aren’t playable anymore — and decided to replace them — if I hadn’t already — with DVD or Blu-Ray versions. One of those tapes was “Transformers: The Movie”. And now that I’ve shifted to watching half-hour shows in the evenings, I thought it’d be fun to watch the original cartoon series up to the point of the movie, watch the movie, and then continue on with the rest of the cartoon, as well as “Beast Wars” and “Beast Machines”. I’m now past the point of “Transformers: The Movie”.

The movie was definitely pretty dark and brutal. The first scene is Unicron destroying an entire planet, and we don’t get the “great disturbance” and quick kaboom of Star Wars. We see the inhabitants see Unicron start his attack, panic, try to flee, and even have a ship sucked in with a screaming inhabitant. Then, from there, after a little light banter and plot setting, Ironhide, Prowl, Brawn and Ratchet, at least, are killed in a Decepticon attack … and Ironhide gets deliberately slaughtered by Megatron while trying to make a last ditch effort to stop him from ambushing Autobot City. And then there’s the big opening battle, where a number of characters on both sides are killed, and Optimus Prime and Megatron are both gravely wounded. Then, Optimus Prime dies. Then, Megatron and some other Decepticons are left to die to light Astrotrain’s load. Starscream is eventually destroyed by Megatron. Then Unicron attacks the moon bases and seemingly kills Jazz, Cliffjumper, Bumblebee and Spike. Later, Ultra Magnus is killed by the Decepticons. We see Kranix and an unnamed bot killed by Sharkticons. Eventually, we see inside Unicron and see other bots dissolved in the equivalent of stomach acid before Spike and the others are rescued. Cybertron is decimated by Unicron’s attack.

Now, Transformers was on when I was in grade school. It ran at lunch time and often it was shown at school during lunch. Thus, we can imagine that a lot of relatively young children liked the series and would want to see the movie. All of this was likely to leave them utterly devastated. I believe that Chuck Sonnenberg once commented in one of his reviews that the death of Optimus Prime left children crying, and I can imagine that a number of scenes left them that way, especially since many of them seem to be deliberately crafted to provoke that. While the scenes are well done, this “kill ’em all” approach might not have been a good one for a work that they had to know would largely draw children. A number of parents who took their kids to see the movie, I imagine, were regretting that they did so.

The movie itself, though, is fairly well done, and is pretty well paced. Things move from scene to scene quickly so that you can just follow it along without getting bored or distracted. The fight scenes have the right sort of tension and drama to them, and are written for the most part to take advantage of the typical heroes vs villains sort of conflict. Plot elements are not deep but weave into the events fairly seamlessly and quickly. It’s a movie that I could pretty much watch from start to finish without ever being tempted to read while it was on.

If there is a criticism, though, it’s that the new characters aren’t very well developed at all. Sure, we get some hints as to their personalities and goals, but I have watched all of the cartoon and so know the characters already and still felt that they were two-dimensional, if that. There are flashes of character development, but nothing major and nothing at all outside of Kup, Arcee and Hot Rod. Rodimus Prime is introduced too late to really get character development, and Wheelie and Wreck-Gar get none and only seem to appear as plot devices to get the heroes to the next stage. Given how many fan favourite characters were unceremoniously killed to be replaced by these, the lack of character development makes that a poor trade. But the Dinobots almost make up for that themselves, especially Grimlock.

Overall, it’s actually a pretty good movie, and despite its dark tone seems to capture a lot of the elements of the original cartoon while completely shaking up the status quo. The series that follows this is at least starting off much more dark as well, with the Decepticons fighting over scraps of Energon, but while the shift is there at least some of the main elements seem to be intact. I definitely enjoyed watching it.

Final Thoughts on Sabrina the Teenage Witch

August 21, 2017

So, I finished watching the entire series of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”. And at the end of the day, I quite enjoyed it.

The main reason is that while it is often very, very, very stupid, and most of Sabrina’s problems are mostly caused by her essentially not learning the lessons she should have learned from previous episodes, the show is, in general, just plain fun and doesn’t take itself all that seriously. I can compare it to sitcoms like, say, “Three’s Company” (although some might not find that a compliment). But, in general, those are sitcoms that are just built around madcap adventures that happen to befall the characters, and if the characters actually learned from previous episodes that wouldn’t happen anymore. So just as Jack and Janet really should just talk to each other instead of trying to hide things from each other and other people, Sabrina really should learn to a) think more carefully before she uses magic to fix something and b) tell her aunts about it when things go wrong, because they are going to find out and, well, she usually needs them to tell her how to fix the problem before it becomes an utter disaster anyway. But I’m willing to be more forgiving of a sitcom than I would be of something else, precisely because the fun would be ruined if they actually did. And, to its credit, the show lampshades this frequently.

There’s also another incidence where the show seems to drop something that wasn’t really working. In season 7, Sabrina graduates from college and sets out to get a job as a reporter, with no success. However, Morgan used something Sabrina had written as a entry to a contest for a hip entertainment magazine called “Scorch”, and wins the contest. This starts off a chain of events that has Sabrina actually ending up working for them despite them thinking of her as, well, essentially a “square” while she sees them and the magazine as not being serious journalism.

Now, clearly the intent here would be to have a situation where the different personalities clashed and so provided conflict, but with the ability to present a nice and simple moral that Sabrina needs to lighten up and they need to take things more seriously. But it just never worked at all. Part of the issue is that Sabrina had already been doing an intern on a paper in season 6, and the boss Mike — played by George Wendt of Cheers fame — had provided an excellent example of the right sort of boss there: he was often nonplussed by Sabrina’s over-enthusiastic personality, but under it all he was a bit of a softie and kinda on her side. Her boss at Scorch (Annie) on the other hand is against Sabrina from the start, mostly because Sabrina was chosen by the publisher despite the fact that Annie disliked her. There’s nothing there, then, to contradict the idea that she was only tolerating Sabrina until she could get a chance to fire her, which was brought up in the final episode with Scorch. Also, in order for the clash to work we needed to see them as somewhat frivolous and not serious, so that Sabrina’s idea that they were slacking had at least some justification. But if you liked Sabrina and her personality — and if you watched her for six seasons you probably did — it was going to be difficult to not agree with her about them and that this is more flash than substance. Add in that most of her co-workers didn’t like her most of the time and jumped to conclusions about her while trying to compete with her for things like covers, and we aren’t likely to like any of the characters at Scorch, which is going to make it difficult for us to tolerate the interactions there, which were a big part of the first half of the season.

However, at about that point they … jettisoned it completely. Sabrina gets all nervous about her performance review, Annie reveals that she now has the ability to fire Sabrina if she doesn’t like the review, Sabrina takes on a spell to make her not make any mistakes, which makes her annoyingly perfect and meddling, Annie fires her for that, Sabrina makes her cases for staying, Annie seems to relent … and Sabrina then immediately goes off griping about how she doesn’t deserve to be treated this way and quits, moving on to do freelancing. Since Scorch figured prominently in the credits, they probably didn’t plan on ditching it this way, and on reflection even the sudden shift seems like a move to drop it even though the original plan would have been to keep her working there. Maybe they saw it wasn’t working, or maybe people didn’t like it, or maybe they just decided that they needed to drop it to have the time to focus on other things, but whatever the reason, like reducing Libby and Sabrina’s fighting over Harvey this move improved the show immensely.

There were also a large number of celebrities featured on the show, and it seems to me that what Scorch added was an easy way to work them into the show. Still, they managed to do it without Scorch and Scorch itself was annoying enough to not be worth keeping.

Typically at the end and the last seasons of shows I end up getting tired of the show and wanting it to end because I have another show in mind and want to get on to that one. That didn’t happen here. In fact, I suspect that I could just start re-watching it again immediately, as I kinda missed it the next day I came to watch something else (Transformers, actually). That almost never happens for me. The only time I can really remember it happening was, I think, with Deep Space 9. And the reason is because the show is just fun to watch. And since I had a hard time reading while watching it, I also managed to, for the most part actually watch it. It’s not a great show, and I could tear it to pieces if I wanted to go all SF Debris on it, but it’s just so much fun that I’m willing to forgive it.

Why Doesn’t Sabrina Count as a Role Model for Girls?

August 16, 2017

As you might be aware, I’m currently watching “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”. And it’s interesting to note that it was a remarkably successful series. It ran for seven seasons and spawned a relatively successful cartoon spin-off. It also managed to outperform a number of male-led contemporaries. And it ended in 2003, so it hasn’t been that long since it was on.

And yet, when people are talking about the need for female role models, they neither mention the series as being an example of a series that worked, nor suggest reviving it to be that series that girls purportedly need. Instead, all the talk is about there not being any such examples and for the need to convert all of the male-led series to female-led ones to promote “diversity” and “inclusion”. Why is that?

In a comment on my post about a female Doctor Who, Nate suggests that what they want is a cultural institution, or at least to have something with that sort of name recognition. However, given its long prominence in Archie Comics, Sabrina has that name recognition, and there are a number of other characters and series that also have that that they could promote, and yet they still don’t. Sure, Sabrina isn’t as well-known as The Doctor, but nothing is, and that hasn’t stopped them trying to convert less well-known properties (like Thor). So I think that there is a simpler interpretation here: they don’t push for these things because they aren’t aware that they exist.

A lot of the recent pushes seem to have something in common: a link to popular culture. When Doctor Who was just a show for science fiction nerds and nerd culture was something to be mocked and avoided, there wasn’t a huge push to make it diverse, or criticisms of its diversity. Sure, they existed, but in general they were small comments inside the science fiction community. But once nerd culture started to become “popular”, then the criticisms started. But those criticisms, then, came from people who were mostly inside pop culture but weren’t at all inside nerd or science fiction culture. Thus, the people complaining about it were people who in general didn’t care for science fiction, fantasy, superheroes, video games, and so on, but were instead people jumping onto the new big thing and criticizing it for not being exactly what they wanted it to be. But their criticisms were, therefore, always shallow criticisms, as they only had a shallow understanding of the field, and so didn’t know what things already existed that they might have liked better. They only got what had broad appeal and then criticized the entire genre for not having things that appealed to them specifically.

This explains why no one is talking about “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, even though most of them can cite “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, despite the fact that the two series ran at the same time (Sabrina ran from 1996 – 2003, while Buffy ran from 1997 – 2003). Sure, Sabrina is more obscure, but many of these people consider themselves to be insiders who are doing massive amounts of research and making strong, facts-based arguments, and so you’d think they’d come across it at some point. This also explains why Anita Sarkeesian’s research is so shallow and ignores things like Fatal Frame, Silent Hill III (which is the game that Silent Hill: Revelation is based on), Suikoden III, Final Fantasy X-2 and the female City Elf storyline in Dragon Age while being cited by her fans as, well, actually having in-depth knowledge of video games based on stringent research. What gets referenced in pop culture gets noted, and anything else is ignored because it doesn’t exist for them.

Thus nerd culture was criticized as soon as it entered the sphere of pop culture. Never mind that the people criticizing it had no idea what it actually was or entailed; instead, they took the things they had seen as the totality of the field and praised and criticized it accordingly. The same thing happened to anime when it was in vogue, and also spawned the criticisms of violence in video games and the criticisms of hard rock/heavy metal music. In all cases, a bunch of ill-informed people took on what they were now noticing because it was becoming more mainstream.

This explains why most of the attempts to create these new “inclusive” works tend to fail miserably. The people advocating for them are not, in general, people who actually like those things or people who know a lot about the genres, but are instead bandwagon-jumpers demanding that the bandwagon take them where they want to go instead of where most of the others want to go. If they manage to get there, they find that almost everyone else has gotten off already and so it’s not popular anymore … and that it was popular was the only thing that attracted them to it in the first place. Thus, people attempting to follow their directions end up losing their core audience — who were interested in the field in general — while ultimately losing the fickle “Pop Culture Warriors” who didn’t actually like those sorts of works in the first place. If these people liked those genres and simply wanted to add a few more “inclusivity” elements, that wouldn’t be a problem, but they don’t and so don’t know anything about it, and so end up trying to remake it into what they think they want … but which they don’t really want.

You could easily remake “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, either as a teen comedy, or a normal sitcom, or as horror. That no one even bothers to think of it suggests that they aren’t creative and don’t know what they’re talking about. Either way, these are not the sort of people you should let tell you how to write your stories.

First Thoughts on “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”

August 7, 2017

Maybe I shouldn’t admit to it, but I’ve started watching “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” after picking it up on DVD. At some point, I was reminded that the show existed, and remember watching it off-and-on while it was being broadcast, and finding it entertaining. I went to Amazon and found a collection of the complete series — all seven seasons — for a reasonable price, although it wasn’t exactly cheap. I watched a couple of other things first — I was worried for a while that I wouldn’t be able to just watch it and in the summer there are times when I want all the lights off to keep things cooler — but then decided to just give it a try.

I’m actually really enjoying it. In fact, right now the most annoying thing about it is that the pacing of the show is so good that I have a really hard time reading while watching it, which means that my re-reading of “The Tamuli” is going really, really slowly. While it being a half-hour show certainly helps with that, I think it’s more that when you look up to see what’s going on — inspired by something loud or exploding — the show just keeps moving from scene to scene to scene, one right after the other, so there’s no real downtime that would make you look down again and get caught up in the book.

I think that one of the reasons I liked it was because of its “Multiple Demographic Appeal”. From the TV Tropes entry:

Multiple Demographic Appeal: In her autobiography, Melissa Joan Hart describes the show as this. Younger kids would love the magic, teenagers would relate to Sabrina’s problems fitting in, red-blooded males would enjoy the pretty female cast, and the magic would also appeal to older viewers nostalgic for Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie.

But I also think the show does some things that make a female protagonist more generally appealing, and also manages to avoid some of the more annoying teen sitcom tropes. What’s good about the show is that while pretty much all of the main protagonists are female — except for Salem — the show isn’t really about female protagonists. While the viewpoint character is female and often the show is indeed clear about that, the problems that Sabrina has to deal with aren’t particularly female-oriented. Almost all of her “normal teen” issues are issues that pretty much all teens can relate to, and her fantastical problems also tend to be mostly neutral. Even if someone wouldn’t, say, want to go to the club with all available guys, even guys will understand wanting to go to a place with attractive, dateable people. So, again, while the perspective was female, there weren’t all that many cases where men and boys couldn’t relate to what was going on.

The show starts by setting up the typical “Betty and Veronica” situation with the standard “Veronica is an unsympathetic Alpha Bitch who is just there to annoy and clash with our nice heroine” with Libby. However, physically Libby is no where near as attractive as Sabrina is. The typical situation has the ordinary Betty compared with the more exotic and exciting Veronica, but while Libby is at least in theory richer than Sabrina, she just can’t compete with Sabrina on anything important. Sabrina is more attractive than Libby, nicer than Libby and more compatible with Harvey than Libby, and Harvey isn’t presented as someone that can be impressed by money (a nice car, maybe). To the show’s credit, either they always intended this or they realized it was happening really quickly and this line is quickly dropped, with Libby still trying on occasion but usually only when she has some kind of in, and Harvey makes it clear that he isn’t really interested. At first, he doesn’t notice how mean Libby is because she’s always nice to him, and then later falls into some of her traps because he can’t say “No” or is generally clueless, and then later makes it directly clear that he isn’t interested. Libby remains an antagonist for the first three seasons, but isn’t taken seriously as a romantic rival very often past the first half of season one.

It also manages to avoid the oh-so-common “Incredibly attractive female lead/sidekick can’t get a date because she’s not attractive enough”. Both Jenny and Valerie are attractive, although not as attractive as Sabrina is (Melissa Joan Hart, at the time, was incredibly attractive, even for a TV star). And they are both presented as girls who have a hard time getting dates. But usually it wasn’t their attractiveness that caused the issue. Jenny was eccentric, and seemingly in response to getting ostracized — mostly by other girls — for those traits, embraced the eccentricity and became almost an early hipster, embracing the things that were non-standard and rejecting out of hand those that were popular and making that an important part of her identity, which made her really annoying at times. Valerie had a strong underlying desire to be popular, but had crippling self-esteem issues. When Sabrina changes herself into a boy to see what Harvey was thinking when she wasn’t around, Sabrina “dates” Valerie — to keep Harvey from doing it — and notes that Valerie messes up by spending so much time talking about how no one wants to date her and how she never gets second dates, which Sabrina herself notes is a bad idea (and Valerie does the same thing on a “date” with Harvey). So it’s less their looks and more their personalities that are responsible for them not getting dates. And both are given guys who are interested in them. Jenny gets one on the trip to Salem and Valerie has a boyfriend for a couple of episodes and has a requited crush on Gordie. This allows the show to still play up them being dateless while allowing for episodes where they, for example, double date.

The show is a lot like “Charmed” in a lot of ways, but especially in how most of Sabrina’s problems come from her not learning the lessons she learned in previous episodes and doing something stupid with her magic, and not learning from previous episodes that hiding it from her aunts only makes it worse, especially since she often needs their help to fix the things she’s screwed up. But the show lampshades that on occasion and I’m more willing to forgive that in a sitcom than I am in an action-drama. The show can be incredible stupid at times, though, both with entire episodes and with sequences inside episodes.

I also like the Canadian references tossed in, likely due to Caroline Rhea — who played Hilda — being Canadian. While they name drop it on occasion, Hilda gets deported back to the “Northern part of the realm” for speaking too much like a Canadian, and I think the national anthem was the Canadian one. It’s fun for them to do that, and allows them to appeal to a shared audience with things that if you don’t know Canada won’t seem out of place.

Ultimately, I’m finding it entertaining, although Season 4 is starting a bit rough. But I should be able to go through it and will likely watch it again at some point.