Archive for the ‘TV/Movies’ Category

Shallow Thoughts on Raganarok, Guardians of the Galaxy 2

May 21, 2018

So, quite a while ago I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2. More recently, I watched Thor: Ragnarok. The biggest thing they have in common, other than both being Marvel movies, and Ragnarok seemingly aiming to be more of the space opera/comedy sort of movie that GotG is, is that I fell asleep during both of them. This doesn’t mean that they’re bad movies. It doesn’t mean that they were boring movies. If I watch movies — or almost anything — after eating, I fall asleep during them. What it does mean, though, is that unlike other movies and shows I’ve talked about I missed significant parts of the movie, which could have an impact on my impressions of the movie if I had managed to stay awake. So I’ll have to watch them both again at some point, and might say more about them when I do so. Since that’s not likely to be any time soon given my huge backlog of movies and TV shows to watch, I think I’ll talk a little bit about them now. But, yeah, it’s gonna be a shallow analysis, so much so that I don’t think that there’ll be any real spoilers of consequence. Okay, maybe one.

The big problem I had with GotG 2 is that it really, really tried to do too much. There were a ton of interpersonal issues all going on at the same time, with Starlord and his father, Starlord and Rocket, Starlord and Gamora, Gamora and Nebula, Drax and Mantis, and probably one or two more that I’m forgetting. And this might be manageable if the movie focused on resolving those things. But it doesn’t. Comedy was a big part of the first movie’s success, so they have to do comedy, too. And action was as well, so they have to do action. Stuffing all of that together has the emotions of the movie lurching like a drunken sailor between drama, action and comedy, with deep and emotional scenes being immediately interrupted with comedy, just because it seemed like the movie felt it had gone too long without comedy, and then an action scene being tossed in for pretty much the same reason. It was often jarring and ruined the mood. Don’t get me wrong; the comedy and action were competently done. But it all seemed like it was stuffed into the movie to be there rather than flowing naturally from the movie itself.

Which is pretty much my impression of Ragnarok, to be honest. The comedy not only didn’t seem to work for a character like Thor, it also seemed forced, with the sequences, particularly early in the movie, being there just to have a GotG type comedy scene. Take the scene where Thor is chained up and “interrogating” Surtur. That Thor might try such a move is reasonable. That Thor would have that interrupted by his rotating out of sight of Surtur is something better suited to Starlord than to Thor. That that was overdone was, again, more something that would happen in a GotG movie and not in line with the humour of the previous Thor movies. Thor making the quip while summoning his hammer fit with Thor … but it not appearing was more of a Starlord thing than a Thor thing, although it could work. But the long delay is, again, more in line with Starlord than with Thor. And so is Thor being totally discombobulated by Doctor Strange’s constant magical hopping around. I preferred the Thor humour where he shows up at the battle, crushes the big rock monster, and then asks if anyone else wants to try. Treating Thor like Starlord isn’t how I’d like to see that franchise go.

I didn’t really mind Valkyrie that much, and certainly less than the reaction from some corners of the Internet suggested, but then again I slept through the middle where she might have been her most annoying, so that might change. As for GotG 2, I did like Mantis, but thought the link between her and Drax was rushed.

Again, as I said, I’ll have to watch the two of them again to get a real impression of them, but for now my feelings on them is … meh.

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Thoughts on ReBoot …

May 14, 2018

So, I had bought this series years ago, and remembered watching it at some point, and also remembered it disappointing me, even though I couldn’t remember why. And I know that it wasn’t because the series ended on a cliffhanger, because I had completely forgotten that it ended on a cliffhanger. So what was it that disappointed me? After watching it this time … I can’t remember. I definitely feel that I enjoyed it far more this time around than the last time.

Like with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I think being in the right mindset is important here. This is not a standard action cartoon about what might happen inside a computer, with computer-type naming and events and things happening based on that. This is, instead, a parody cartoon that uses the setting of inside a computer and playing games to parody and reference everything that they can possibly reference. The games, obviously, are generally direct parodies of something, and not always games (they do movies and cartoons a couple of times as well), but they also do parodies inside the actual world, creating binomes that reference Star Trek, for example, and even having a sitcom parody in one episode. The whole point of the series is to parody these things and to have a reasonably interesting plot, but again focusing more on the parody and less on the plots will work out far better for you.

This is especially true since ReBoot suffers the same problem that Beast Wars and Beast Machines suffered from: the seasons were too short to really do a lot of character and plot development. ReBoot had generally shorter seasons than even Beast Machines, and also tried to run a couple of complete arcs back-to-back — rather than at the same time — in a season. This often left little time to develop the new arc before it was sprung upon the viewer. There were a number of occasions where I started watching an episode and had to check to see if I had missed some episodes or something, because the main plot of the episode seemed to come out of nowhere and yet was presented as if we should all pretty much know what was going on. The worst of this was with Daemon, the supervirus. While looking it up on TV Tropes revealed that she had been hinted at earlier, we do pretty much go from the end of one arc to, in the next episode, being fully engaged with Daemon in battle, which was jarring.

It didn’t help that I didn’t care for her as a villain. I found her French accent to be annoying, and really, really wanted someone to resist the “Word” simply because they found her voice so annoying that they couldn’t stand listening to it long enough to actually get converted. And while the conversion story arc could work if it was longer, that no one — or almost no one, perhaps — could resist it made it far too powerful and turned the good guys to her side far, far too easily. It wasn’t even insidious. She didn’t even really have to have great plans or anything, since the power was so overwhelming. She was essentially a villain with an overwhelming power that can eventually be resisted but who ends up getting defeated by a bigger plot contrivance than her original power, and only after Daemon has put herself out of play with the self-destruct/destroy the Net gambit. And since that wasn’t built to that well in the arc, it comes out of nowhere and is resolved in one or two short episodes, which is hardly fitting for a threat of that magnitude.

That being said, the regular villains were interesting. Megabyte was an excellent “manipulative yet powerful” opponent, while Hexadecimal did a good job as the “extremely powerful yet crazy” alternate villain. I think her conversion and heroic sacrifice for the love of Bob was way too quick, and think it would have gone better if it had played off of the time she almost won and yet bailed on her plan because it would leave everything locked in order and have her realize, at the end, that everyone wants to live and that’s worth sacrificing even herself for, seeing the artistry in everyone and wanting to preserve that. And about the only other thing I can say about Megabyte is that there should have been even more of him than there was.

The same thing, interestingly, applies to Bob. Despite him getting to do the main voiceover in the first season or seasons, he really isn’t the main driving force in the series. That’s generally Dot. He basically is the person who is supposed to go in and play games, but Dot and Enzo are there almost as often as he is and play as big a role — if not a bigger one — than he does. And in the direct confrontations with Megabyte, Dot is definitely in the lead, as seen in the episode where she convinces Megabyte’s subjects to give her their PIDs so that they can be freed, and the whole arc there is about her having to overcome her fugue when those PIDs are stolen by Megabyte. Bob does little for the early seasons, disappears in the middle, and then has a bit of an arc at the end, but it would be safe to say that Dot is more the main character of the series than Bob is. And this impression is only heightened by the fact that Dot, in general, is and is animated as more attractive/sexy than Mouse, whose characterization is based around the flirty and free female archetype.

Enzo/Matrix is, generally, an annoying character. As a young sprite, he had the whole “annoying young character who bugs all of them and keeps getting into trouble” archetype down flat, which was, well, annoying. The best time for him was when Bob was fired into the Web by Megabyte right after making Enzo a Guardian recruit, and Enzo had to defend the system from games. At that point, he finally realized that these things weren’t just fun and were serious business, and had to drop his Scrappy-like confidence that he could beat any user that came along. And then he lost a game, and ended up as the grimdark Matrix. Which would have been less annoying, except that Matrix was too grimdark and distrusting, and so he went around annoying people with that and, thus, ended up being annoying himself. To the show’s credit, it called him out on that on a number of occasions, with an arc about him being afraid that he’d be no better than Megabyte, and with AndrAIa constantly calling him out when he was being an unreasonable jerk, which made him tolerable, at least.

And I think Adult AndrAIa is my favourite character, and not because of her outfit. She was a genuinely nice and caring person who still didn’t take crap from people, and was competent and tough as well (sometimes too much, like Dot). That’s how she can get away with calling Matrix out for being a jerk, because in general she still was far more considerate of others than Matrix, but wasn’t willing to let niceness get in the way of doing what needed to be done. Her child version had far too much hero worship of Enzo, and so was just annoying.

Hack and Slash were really annoying when they worked for Megabyte, because their silliness clashed with his urbane menace. When they converted to working for Dot and Bob, they worked so much better. The mad scientist who worked for Megabyte worked better as a henchman, able to keep the menace while still allowing opportunities for comic relief.

The show was done by the same people who did Beast Wars/Beast Machines, and it shows. Megatron in Beast Wars is far closer to Megabyte than he is to G1 Megatron, and voice actors get reused for various parts. Also, a lot of the episode structure and musical stings get reused, so I couldn’t help but be reminded of Beast Wars while watching it. I wonder if people who saw ReBoot first felt the same way about Beast Wars.

At the end of the day, the series is entertaining but, in general, is just too short. Things keep ending far before you think they should, and that includes the series, since it ends up a major cliffhanger. But it’s still worth watching if you can get into the right mindset. I’m almost certainly going to watch this again at some point.

Thoughts on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)

May 7, 2018

When I first bought the entire set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and started briefly watching it, I was disappointed in it. This time, when I started watching it, I wasn’t disappointed … and couldn’t remember or figure out what had disappointed me the first time. I was even actually enjoying. So what changed?

I think that this time it really hit me that this was not a standard action cartoon. This was definitely far more of a parody or even comedy cartoon than an action-adventure cartoon with some humour thrown in, which was made especially evident by how often and how easily the show broke the fourth wall, making references to things like episodes — and often doing that to lampshade some of the goofier elements — and even directly addressing the audience at times (and even lampshading that). In general, it seems to me that the show was not really meant to be taken seriously, and so the viewer should spend more time following the jokes and less time worrying about the plot, villain plots, or action.

What this meant is that the show was at its best when it was goofy, but not stupid, and those tended to be the seasons and episodes that I enjoyed the most. In season 4, however, it seems to me that far too many of the episodes were just plain stupid, which meant that I didn’t enjoy that season at all. Unfortunately, it was one of the longer seasons, which really started to sour me on the series. Season five seemed to be better, but then it ran into the problem that the sort of goofy humour that made the show so enjoyable for the first few seasons really ended up getting repetitive. They often made the exact same fourth wall breaking humour and goofy jokes, and so they weren’t as funny anymore. Thus, while the series was more fun it was also more repetitive, and so a little boring.

So it’s no wonder that seasons 8 – 10 — also known as the “Red Sky” seasons — decided to try something different, and so be more serious, more dark, and so more arcs instead of one-shot episodes. Unfortunately, if they were going to do that it would have been better to do it in a longer season — like season 4 — when they had the time to do arcs and add some serious elements while leaving room for one-shot goofy episodes and humour so that the shift wouldn’t be so pronounced. I mean, they even stopped joking about pizza in those last seasons, and added so many arcs that in general they couldn’t properly develop or resolve them, like the new mutations of the turtles that kinda came out of nowhere, lingered for a few episodes (mostly as a way of getting them out of trouble), and then was resolved except for a minor subplot with Leonardo being mutated into a mindless monster, which was resolved within two episodes. Eight episode seasons were not enough to make this sort of switch and carry through on all the issues that they raised. If you combine all three, you had 23 episodes which would be enough, but the seasons weren’t written that way and so really do come across as three linked but distinct seasons of about eight episodes each, which meant rushed plotlines and arcs, which weren’t all that great.

It also lost some of the characters that made the first few seasons fun, like Irma. I didn’t realize before how important a character Irma was to the show until I watched it this time. She provided someone for April to talk to — especially once Irma found out about the turtles –, added some comic relief, and provided the view of the ordinary person (since April was too focused on getting a story to do that). And, eventually, April was mostly sidelined as well, in favour of Carter, who was annoying and pretty much did the same sort of things that Donatello did, unlike April who had skills they lacked. I didn’t really miss Burne and Vernon, especially since Vernon worked really badly as a foil for April because while he was ambitious he was too cowardly to really want to seek out the big stories that April was constantly chasing, and so was mostly just annoying, and Burne didn’t really have any sort of character whatsoever, and just became more unreasonable as the series went on.

It was also too late to introduce the turtles being met with such suspicion and distrust. At least when Dregg was introduced their opposition to him could have raised some hackles, but still the humans hating them so much and Raphael hating them back — while in character for him — developed too quickly to make sense and really work. And they didn’t have time to develop that while developing everything else and adding new characters on top of that.

What this meant was that in the last seasons I just wanted to get through them so that I could finish it all off and be done with it. That’s not the sort of experience I was hoping for. While I enjoyed the first three seasons, from season four onwards I didn’t enjoy the series that much, and ended up actively disliking it at the end. Thus, while it’s possible that I’ll rewatch this series, it won’t be until I’ve rewatched almost everything else I own.

Thoughts on “House of Demons”

April 9, 2018

So, when I made my original purchase of three horror movies, I thought that they were essentially B-movies. That turned out to be a bit of an incorrect assumption, but my expectation was that maybe they’d be clunkers, but maybe they’d be interesting. And as it turns out, I actually somewhat liked both “Living Among Us” and “Family Possessions”.

Well, two out of three isn’t bad.

Again, this is a recent movie and I will be spoiling the plot in detail, so I’ll continue below the fold:

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Thoughts on “Family Possessions”

April 2, 2018

So, the second horror movie that I watched was “Family Possessions”. Again, this is a relatively recent movie and I’m going to talk about the plot in detail, so I’ll continue below the fold:

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If not for you …

March 28, 2018

In “Nine Princes in Amber”, the first book in the Amber series by Roger Zelazny, Eric of Amber says this to his brother Corwin: “I might have pardoned him, save for your present recommendation”. He goes on to say that because Corwin wanted their brother Random spared, it had to be for some ulterior motive, so Eric couldn’t trust that recommendation.

I now feel the same way about “Ready Player One”.

I heard about the book from numerous sources. Despite being in the age range to get the nostalgia hit, it didn’t seem to me like a book that I’d want to read. And after giving up on popular sci-fi — and pretty much any sci-fi — after the whole Hugo Awards thing and my assessment that the winners in 2016 were at best mediocre, I certainly wasn’t inclined to try out something else that some people liked and some people griped about.

But P.Z. Myers hates it.

Now, this is not the first time Myers has griped about it, and it’s not the case that I’d do anything or seek out something just because Myers hates it, because if you look up the word “curmudgeon” in the dictionary you’ll probably see his picture (or Jerry Coyne’s, which makes it all the more ironic that they even dislike each other). If I tried everything he hated I’d never get done. But in the latest post he linked to another post talking about other people disliking it:

Let’s not beat around the bush: Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is a circle jerk of male geek culture sustained over a grueling 400 pages.

Well, now I’m interested, just to see what it did to tick them off so much (despite her later commenting that there’s nothing wrong with a movie about that, despite the harsh response). So, I bought it, and I’m going to read it. I’m going to read it with the same attitude as I read all of those Hugo nominees from 2016, and attempt to give an objective assessment of how good or bad it is. I could think it terrible. I could think it great. I’m expecting to find it “Meh”. But we’ll see. And it’s filling up the Amazon free shipping for the Infinity War TPB, which I’m looking forward to reading after really enjoying Infinity Gauntlet. So, there’s that.

But let me talk about the rest of Jess Joho’s article above, because her main point is indeed less that “Ready Player One”‘s focus is bad, and more that it leaves out all of the girl pop culture from the same time periods, and goes on to suggest things that could be done to make up the gap:

That why everything from Transformers to The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can get reimagined with CGI reverence — but the idea of a blockbuster live-action American Girl Dolls or The Powerpuff Girls franchise sounds laughable.

So, why did those two specific things get their movies? Well, let’s start with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. See, the reason it got reimagined might have something to do with the fact that in 1990 it actually had a live action movie, that was successful enough to spawn two sequels. If you were looking for something from that era to reboot as a live action movie, that one was a pretty good bet, especially after Transformers worked. And for Transformers, it was actually still running incarnations of the cartoons up until 2006 (the first movie was made in 2007). Oh, and it had a theatrical movie, too, which was poorly received at the time but has gone on to be a cult classic. So if you were going to try out a couple of old cartoons to turn them into modern movies, these were pretty good bets for having, you know, actually been movies at some point.

But it’s far more enlightening to look at what she left out. She left out the G.I. Joe movies, and since Transformers and G.I. Joe were both Hasbro products, it only makes sense that they’d try those two, and also explains what she finds inexplicable that the “Battleship” board game would get a movie before the “girl” movies she wants. And given that Hasbro is involved, we might want to ask about a Jem and the Holograms movie … except that it had one, which was poorly received, and so didn’t get a second movie even though they clearly planned for a sequel and even planned for a potential crossover with G.I. Joe and the Transformers, which was killed by how poorly the Jem movie did. Wonder why she left that one out. And she could have asked about “My Little Pony” … except that it got a theatrical release in 2017. Again, wonder why she left that one out. So far, her post is more noteworthy for what she ignores than for what she says.

So let’s look at her seven suggestions:

1. An HBO The Baby-Sitters Club mini-series

The original #girlbosses, Baby-Sitters Club is lowkey one of the most enduring feminist staples of girlhood. Long before Time’s Up made pay equity a central cultural conversation, these young entrepreneurs were making business plans and getting ****ing paid. Yes, there was a 1995 movie, but the time is ripe for a reboot (Hollywood loves those!). So we propose HBO takes this on to deliver a Big Little Lies for the younger generation.

I’ve heard of this series. I’m not sure how it would work on HBO, given that it’s not likely to be a deep or complicated story, and if they made it that way it would probably end up a lot like the Jem movie. And it also had a movie. Still, it’s hard to see this one working in the same way as Transformers or TMNT did, because Michael Bay took the source material and built a somewhat credible set of action movies out of it, which meant it had an audience beyond those who wanted to watch it out of nostalgia (and good thing, because Transformers, at least, for the most part ignored what made the original shows so interesting and so killed most people’s nostalgia anyway).

2. A live-action Sailor Moon franchise

Sailor Moon was the ’90s kid Saturday morning cartoon blast in the face of lady power. Aside from being a radical school girl who could turn into a magical goddamn moon princess, she also taught us about the enduring power of female friendship. We’re envisioning something that’s Sucker Punch levels of extra — only without all the gross male gaze-y bullshit.

I watched this show. I liked it (Sailor Mercury was my favourite). I think it would make a crap live action movie. First, because it was an anime, and unlike cartoons anime tends to stretch their storylines out over an entire season and so it’s hard to isolate a storyline that can fit nicely into one movie (and a planned trilogy can fall apart if it isn’t done right, like Jem and the Holograms) and second because it’s a magical girl story and I think that would be hard to pull off credibly in live action. I suspect that such a movie would turn into some kind of action movie a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I don’t think would please any audience that might be inclined to see it.

3. Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy

This Victorian-era fantasy trilogy is not only beautifully written, but one of the starkest YA portrayals of how girls must navigate complicated relationships to power, patriarchy, and friendship. We got pretty close to seeing them made into movies when Icon Productions licensed it in 2006. Then nothing happened… until the company recently relinquished the rights — leaving it totally open for grabs (are you listening, Warner Bros.?!)

The what now? I’ve never heard of this, and if you’re looking to get comparisons to Transformers and the like you’d think I’d have heard of it, having heard of the first two and Powerpuff Girls …

4. A feminist reboot of Life-Size

Who could forget Trya Banks’ acting debut in 2000 as a Barbie brought to life. But while the original Disney movie played Eve’s inability to perform Barbie’s many jobs (doctor, astronaut, lawyer, etc) for laughs, there’s a real metaphor there. There are endless possibilities in a feminist reboot that actually critiques the cultural messages we send young girls through marketing and toys. And, yeah, we know: a sequel was actually announced. But we want less made-for-TV Life-Size 2, and more of a wide theatrical release for Life-Size: The Reckoning.

Well, at least it being from 2000 explains why I’ve never heard of it … but it also doesn’t make it fit the sort of nostalgia narrative that the other series hit.

5. The Song of the Lioness series, or anything from the Tortall Universe

Wouldn’t you know it — here’s another beloved, classic female-oriented YA series that almost got made into a movie, and then didn’t. But for the love of god, if we can get an Eragon movie and two Percy Jackson movies made, then I think we can spare one measly Hollywood adaptation to Tamora Pierce. This book follows the story of Alanna of Trebond, a noble girl that disguises herself as a boy so she can train to become a knight.

Seriously: everyone wants this adapted, for too many reasons to count. Just call Maisie Williams and tell her to clear her schedule already.

I guess I’m not everyone, because I could care less. Mostly because I have no idea what it is or was. Then again, the same could be said for Eragon or Percy Jackson … but then I didn’t watch those either and they clearly don’t have the same cultural cache as the things she originally talked about.

6. A Daria movie that isn’t a joke

Do we even need to defend this? The fake College Humor trailer for a live-action Daria starring Aubrey Plaza basically did the work for us. And it feels like a sin that no one’s taken up the task of turning that dream into a reality. I mean, we can all agree that Daria is an icon for apathetic millennials everywhere, regardless of gender — right?

I’ve heard of Daria, watched it, liked it. Am not convinced that you can turn it into a movie, although a live action series could work. Still, it might be worth someone taking a stab at it, but on the other hand it’s not like anyone tried to do a reboot movie of Beavis and Butthead yet, either.

7. Skip the Bright sequel, and make Tithe instead

Bright already felt pretty much like a really bad, racist knock-off of Tithe, a well-respected YA novel that brought fairies into cityscapes. Holly Black’s Tithe didn’t originate the gritty urban fairytale genre, but it grounded it in girlhood experiences through protagonist Kaye Fierch. You can find Kaye struggling to reconcile with her musician mother’s unconventional lifestyle, while also dealing with hangovers from a night out partying with the faery folk in their (literal) underground bars. Think Lord of the Rings if it was dropped into the Gossip Girl universe (and a lot less reductive.)

The what now? I haven’t heard of either … and I’ve heard of “Sweet Valley High”.

Okay, what’s clear is that Joho is really simply posting a list of things she wants to see made into movies or TV series or whatever, but that don’t really have any kind of logical link to the male geek culture nostalgia movies and shows that have been made. While I think it intentional, the main reason to gripe about male geek culture being made is that she thinks that making arguments like that are more likely to get attention than simple arguments about how good this series would be if it was made into a movie. It also lets her hide behind the excuse of sexism if they don’t get made or if they are made and fail, without her ever having to admit that it wasn’t a good idea in the first place. So we can see that people are using the excuse of sexism to argue for personal preferences as opposed to things that really highlight sexism, ignoring things that would cast doubt on the sexism interpretation and hyping up the parts that neatly fit that narrative. This clutters the landscape and makes it hard for us to know when things are really sexist and when it’s just a result of personal preferences that aren’t shared by most people and so don’t have an audience. There’s no real consideration of who the audience might be or if that sort of thing can work. This results in people demanding that customers who are not interested in those things buy it anyway in the name of fighting sexism even though the intended audience itself won’t buy enough of it to make it work. This, of course, is very, very bad for any media that actually listens to them.

And remember, I liked some of these things, and still am wary about trying to find a way to give her what she wants (because I think we can’t). If she can’t appeal on the basis of there being enough of an intended audience to make that work, we should not let her get away with appealing to how important it is to women to do it.

Thoughts on “Living Among Us”

March 19, 2018

So, as I said at the end of my thoughts on Jem, I was going to talk about some other things for the next little while. What happened was that I was browsing in Walmart and saw some cheap horror movies on DVD that I thought sounded interesting. I didn’t think much of them at the time, and figured they’d be like the old, schlocky B-movies but, hey, they cost about $10 and might be interesting. So, I bought three and as of the time I write this, I’ve watched all of them, and have things to say about all of them, which is what I’m going to do for the next little while. And this worked out so well that I went back and bought some more — which I haven’t watched yet — specifically to talk about on the blog and generate content for the blog. So you’re going to see a number of these for a while.

The interesting thing is that after I watched each of the movies, I went and looked online for reviews to see what people thought of them. In general, the reactions were quite positive, and far more positive than I’m going to be about them. It seems that these aren’t, in general, considered cheap movies that do some kind of horror, but are taken seriously as being innovative or strongly artistic. Given that, my looking at them in-depth seems far more reasonable and far less unfair than it might have seemed at first.

Since these are relatively recent and I’m going to provide massive spoilers as I talk about the plot, I’ll continue below the fold:

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New Thoughts …

March 12, 2018

So, I’ve spent a number of weeks watching half-hour TV shows and giving my thoughts on them. However, I can only watch full series of half-hour shows right now, and I’ve been having a hard time finding new half-hour shows to watch. And I’ve either already talked about the shows that I own, or they aren’t all that interesting. So, what to do? And then it hit me: cartoons! I have a number of cartoons that I’ve either never watched or that I’ve watched but haven’t really explored or talked about, and since I’ve been wanting to watch them anyway, this is the perfect time to do that and comment on them or comment on them in at least a little more depth than I have before. And so, given that, the first one I’m going to talk about is …

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Final Thoughts on Wings

March 5, 2018

So, at the end of it all, Wings was a well-crafted sitcom.

It’s interesting to note that it did the same thing with its Casanova character — Brian — as Cheers did with Sam. Despite them both being headlining characters, they ended up as secondary characters, and both spent time wondering about whether their womanizing ways were good or whether they were missing out on things with it. However, the difference here is that Sam, as the owner of the bar, had a solid role, while Brian lost his completely. The problem was that the womanizing, I think, gets old and boring — how many jokes can you make about someone being able to pick up women? — and the other thing Brian had was his constant desire to scam and manipulate people … but that role in Wings was taken by Roy. So if you wanted to run jokes where someone manipulates people in a way that benefits the manipulator and hurts those manipulated, you went to Rot, and if you wanted someone to use manipulation to make things right, you went to Roy as well. That left Brian with little to do. His irresponsibility was old and annoying at that point in the show, his womanizing was as well, and his manipulation was inferior to Roy’s. It’s no wonder, then, that he gets less prominent towards the end, and is mostly used as a secondary character or as Joe’s brother.

I didn’t care for the show making Antonio and Casey to be such complete losers by the end of the show, especially when it came to dating. Casey was far too attractive to have that much trouble getting dates, and Antonio had been established as being able to attract some dates when he was being nice. And since he had been attracted to Casey, when she was that desperate it would seem to suggest them pairing up. For her, at least, it would have been better to have her dating heavily, looking for a replacement for her husband so that she could get back the life she had. Then you could mix it up with her dating guys who were insanely odd, and her dating men that would be perfect for her but her screwing it up in various ways. This could have given her some other storylines to work with while still allowing for her to at least occasionally dip into into lamenting that she can’t find a good man. As for Antonio, keeping him as a struggling everyman who never really got ahead but won on occasion would have allowed for the complaints but would have left him as less of a complete loser, and so more relatable.

That being said, though, Wings works as a standard sitcom. It’s funny and the plots are generally not too contrived, or if they are the contrivances can be accepted as they generally fit with the characters and what they’d do and how they’d react. I enjoyed watching it and will probably watch it again at some point.

First Thoughts on “Wings”

February 12, 2018

So, I should be just about finishing Season 4 of Wings, and so am about half-way through. When I talked about Frasier, I noted that Frasier wasn’t a typical sitcom, having a bit of a different structure and thus being able to do different things than a normal sitcom would. Wings … is pretty much a typical sitcom.

This isn’t a bad thing. Wings is, in fact, a pretty well-executed and entertaining typical sitcom. It has the typical mix of odd and zany characters and uses the airport and small town situation to generate standard comedy storylines when appropriate and different ones as per the situation. It’s usually at least mildly humourous and is entertaining in general.

That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its issues. One of the bigger problems with it is that to contrast the steady and reliable Joe they have the roguish and spontaneous Brian, and their clashes drive a lot of the humour. This is good. The problem is that Brian isn’t the standard “willing to lie and cheat to get what he wants” character, but instead seems to be someone who revels in lying and taking advantage of people. He does so even when it would be easier for him to just be honest and get things the honest way, and his first inclination is always to scam people. He has more in common with Harry the con man from Cheers than he does with the typical rogue characters like Sam from Cheers, and he’s only slightly more moral than Roy is, who is established as a terrible person who scams and takes advantage of them with no remorse. Brian gets a few instances where he can be said to have a “heart of gold”, as he definitely cares a lot for Helen and even Joe, but overall he seems to be someone who is totally in it for himself and willing to scam anyone to get what he wants. This makes him an unsympathetic character.

This also bleeds over into their overly aggressive female characters, like Helen and Alex. Now, I really do like Helen. But she is presented as having a really bad temper, and acts out on it often with little consequences. After she and Joe break up, she gets upset and drives her Jeep into his office, destroying it. She then acts like his asking her to pay for the deductible is unreasonable, despite the fact that she had left him for over ten months, and he didn’t tell her that he was seeing someone else because her life in New York was miserable but she wouldn’t have come back if she had known that he was seeing someone else, which everyone acknowledges. Yes, she was hurt, but this was one instance where Joe was lying to her that wasn’t for his own self-interest or convenience, and Helen doesn’t really acknowledge that there. Overall, her personality is abrasive but we’re supposed to like her anyway. The same thing applies — but even more so — to Alex. Yes, Brian and Joe act very immature towards her — and overly so, because she’s not that much better looking than the other women they’ve dated — but she’s pretty abrasive from the start and Brian even gets derailed into being more sexist than he might be expected to be to give her a chance to react badly to it (we expect it from Roy, but no one needs a reason to dislike Roy). There are some instances where Alex softens a bit, but she’s still pretty annoying.

And it’s a good thing that Wings isn’t more than a typical sitcom, because it tends to screw it up royally when it does. Between seasons 3 and 4, they try for a multi-episode arc, where Helen finds out that she was accepted as part of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the gang decides to fly her out to watch it, the plane crashes, they get rescued, and Joe has to resurrect the business and get himself a plane. The problem is that everything is so contrived that it’s unbelievable: Helen happens to run into the guy after ruining his jacket, berates him for not responding to her audition tape, he says that it was good but that they had lost the label, then their second cello can’t perform and Helen is offered the spot, and they are playing the precise piece that is her warm-up piece, no one can make it but then there’s a string of events so that everyone can make it, there’s a string of improbable failures that cause the crash and then more things that make their situation extremely dire … for less than a minute as they are conveniently rescued by the Coast Guard, and then Joe has to wade through problems getting a plane, but then his is salvaged, and then somehow they repair it and get back into business. To be honest, I kept waiting for them to reveal it as a dream because it was so contrived, and every minute that they didn’t just made it less and less entertaining.

Beyond that, though, the characters and interactions work. The sibling rivalry between Brian and Joe works based on their personalities and histories, and it is established early that they can be remarkably immature about it. Lowell is a generally lovable idiot, Antonio works as a semi-competent and somewhat lovable loser, Roy works as a foil, and Fay works as a pleasant and eccentric person who can play dumb when necessary but also smart to buttress jokes at Lowell’s expense. The mix allows for various jokes to be made in various situations, with characters often trading off roles in a way that could be seen as out of character but end up fitting in with the characters. So far, it’s entertaining enough, although I can generally read through it.