Archive for the 'Television' Category

Gore Vidal Has Left the Stage 1925 – 2012

August 2nd, 2012

Charles McGrath’s New York Times obituary for Gore Vidal calls him “the elegant, acerbic all-around man of letters who presided with a certain relish over what he declared to be the end of American civilization.”

For anyone who has read Vidal’s work with delight and care, it is hard to believe that Vidal saw the United States as possessing a civilization that could end. Power, yes: the nation has great power, wielded without regret and directed anywhere those who possess it choose. But the USA, a civilized nation? Debatable, as Vidal saw it.

That the country could at times be a great deal of fun, or at least amusing, and a pre-eminent provider of entertainment — that Vidal would agree with, laughing all the while. Like Aaron Burr, who as protagonist opened Vidal’s extended fictional portrait of the carpeted halls of power, he enjoyed himself, and laughed more than most — at the nation, at us, at the power brokers and even at himself.

His wide-ranging body of work is like no other, as we see in his obituary. He had the courage of his convictions, or perhaps the courage of one born into the families that determine our national and personal fates, but who was fated by his lesser status among them — relatively poor, proudly sexually transgressive, highly educated in the arts, aesthetics and intellectual analysis — never to be a serious political player himself. He therefore had nothing to lose from honesty, and he was openly, aggressively, fluidly, sexual at a time when few could afford to be, and he wrote non-fiction and outrageous comic fiction both with post-gender attitude.

Narratives of Empire, his heptalogy of historical novels published between 1968 and 2000, traces the United States from the Age of Burr through the Age of Mass Media. Itreveals more than many non-fiction histories about how power is inherited, used, and guarded in America. These seven novels of our national political life bristle with ideas and even historical facts that were not discussed — or admitted to — by either critics or historians, by and large, and certainly not by politicians.

Vidal compared himself on at least one occasion to an obvious precursor: historian Henry Adams, who as the grandson and great-grandson of American presidents was present not only in the hallways of power but also in the homes where the power brokers lived and socialized. Adams’s influence was not always positive: in 1876, Vidal avenged his precursor’s personal prejudice against President Ulysses Grant in a way that was unworthy of most of his historical work — mean, petty, nasty, and a historical lie.

Like Adams, Vidal will probably be less remembered for Narratives of Empire than for his lesser achievements – theater, film, and television appearances, feuds with other writers. Adams is most often remembered today for the rather historically irrelevant cultural musings of Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres and for his highly selective personal memoir The Education of Henry Adams. While Education is empty of his wife’s suicide and the decades they were together, and leaves out his D.C. salon and ever-changing circle of ‘nieces’, it is worth reading, if only for Adams’s account of being private secretary to his father, Francis Adams, who as minister of the Mission to St. James in London was appointed by Lincoln to ensure that Britain never recognize the Confederacy. But Adams’s grand works are his histories of the Jefferson and Madison administrations, and possibly “Napoleon I At San Domingo” (in Adams’s Collected Essays, 1891), the most clear-eyed and even admiring assessment written by a white American historian in the nineteenth century of General Toussaint Louverture and of what the San Domingan revolution meant for the history of the United States.

These two writers offer a grand composite vision of the history of the United States. They were there, and if they weren’t there, their relatives were. They brought us their visions of our shared past; they have themselves become part of the historical record.

Biblio:

Gore Vidal’s Narratives of Empire, which I list in historical order, not in the order they were published: Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Empire, Hollywood, Washington D.C., The Golden Age.

Henry Adams’s Collected Essays; History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson; History of the United States of America During the Administrations of James Madison; The Education of Henry Adams.

Comicon 2010 round-up and wrap-up, Saturday, Sunday

July 26th, 2010

Continuing the Comicon 2010 report from the previous post….

Saturday: I had some thoughts of seeing the Chuck panel, as I was there early enough, but early enough for the panel and early enough for the line are two different things and the line for Ballroom 20 was beyond insane, so I decided to go over to the Indigo Ballroom in the Hilton which is generally less impacted and see the program track there.  En route, I witnessed the line for Hall H, where the movie panels go on.  It had overflowed it’s already insane bounds and gone over across the street, wrapped around the park where the Clash of the Titans games promos were set up and extended into another dimension I think.  The games in the park were all nice: You could have your face painted and have a picture taken in cut-outs as one of Medusa’s victims, you could bounce on a giant trampoline (which did a number on my knee last year at con), you could play boffer wars in a bouncy arena, and you could even climb a rock wall with a cable safety harness.  Almost no one was playing the games, preferring to stand in line, so I decided I’d try the rock wall, which was free.  Unfortunately, I’d sprained my LCL a few months ago and about ten feet up the rock wall I felt it complain so I wussed out.  The guy who was supervising the wall looked more approving after I compared knee surgery scars with him.  In any case, I got a souvenir fan in place of a shield or a medusa headdress and went on to the line for the Indigo Ballroom, which was fortunately short.

I was there in time for the panel for Leverage, which I’d only vaguely heard of.  They had free MASTERMIND and GRIFTER T-shirts.  I took MASTERMIND, of course.  The room was packed and I had an extremely excited fifty-something fangirl next to me who was sqeeing with delight over seeing her favorite actors, one of whom I then noted was Christian Kane who I’d previously seen on Angel and who mentioned that he has a new music debut on iTunes of some song played on the show (explaining why his character Lindsay on Angel went off with a guitar at one point–they were incorporating a talent of the actor into the character) Wil Wheaton was also playing this seasons’ guest villain, Chaos. It looks like a great show, and has a nice simple premise: a gang of modern-day Robin Hoods pulling a heist each week against some bad guys who deserve to get ripped off and then have their money given to charity.  I now have to set my DVR for another show.

Next was the Venture Brothers panel.  It’s a fun cartoon I’ve watched some episodes of and I’ll probably watch a few more.  The actors on the panel were entertaining and generally gonzo, as one might expect.

Then came the Sanctuary panel.  I’ve enjoyed the show, and the panel was enjoyable as well.  They talked a good bit about the Bollywood dance that figured into the last season finale, and also mentioned how they’ve set up a charity which has been helping various groups around the world.  The guy next to me started recording the whole show on his camera, but it wasn’t going to be an unsteady shot, because he’d brought an actual tripod.  I looked around and he wasn’t the only one.

Then came the panel for The Guild, who could teach the rest of Hollywood something serious about work ethic and how to please your fans.  Aside from being at their booth throughout the con with all the actors present doing continuous signings from what I could see, they started the panel with the producer thanking all the fans and telling some production details that were genuinely interesting (as opposed to the twaddle from the guy for the Falling Skies panel, for example).  They then introduced the actors and segued neatly to showing the third episode the current season because they assumed everyone had watched the first two.  I hadn’t, but I can remedy that now, it was fun to see Wil Wheaton back as the villain Faux who had ended up as Codex’s love interest at the end of last season.  They then gave out buttons with the bodice ripper painting of Codex and Faux shown in the episode as a funny bit.  Then, when you wouldn’t think they could top that, they said they’d show the fourth episode, though the editing wasn’t quite done.  So we start into a nice seen with Codex and Zaboo in her bedroom which suddenly organically turns into a Bollywood extravaganza called “Game On.”

Wow.  That was some serious showmanship, and not just for the music video, which was amazing, but for the reveal to the fans.  Obviously they planned this well in advance and I’m pleased to see it such a success.

The guy with the tripod then packed up and left, but I then stayed around to watch a bit of the Community panel.  It was fun and whacky and basically what you’d expect for a comedy set in a community college with Chevy Chase as one of the professors, but after getting a free community college membership card with a discount for buying the DVD, I decided I was tired of sitting and so left too, going back to the convention center to see the art show, which was underwhelming, and more of the art on in the dealer’s room, which was not.

One artist I should point out to everyone is Echo Chernik.  She does some amazing art nouveau illustrations.  Another is Jeremy Bastain who does the Cursed Pirate Girl comics.

I then picked up with Albert and a couple of his friends and we went to Dick’s Last Resort which was a good deal of fun, especially since they were into the Comicon spirit and the waiters were in costume.  Ours was dressed as a white Mr. T with a Brooklyn accent, which was entertaining, and the food was good.  Pete, who’d joined us for dinner late, told us about the really cool Tron set-up they’d had off-site from the convention center.  I wish I’d been able to see it, but there’s always too much stuff to see, but what he showed me on his camera was pretty amazing.  We ate and ordered too much, which in hindsight we shouldn’t have because the next stop was the House of Blues where one of my publishers, SmartPop, had invited us to a party.  There was a buffet with too much delicious food, and also copies of their latest essay anthology A Taste of True Blood which the editor, Leah Wilson, was signing for all the guests.  There was fun talk about anthologies and the usual convention party fun.

Sunday: The last day of the con, I decided to catch Ann and Jeff Vandermeer‘s panel where they talked about upcoming projects, including steam punk anthologies and various curious and whimsical things.  I then did the dealers room floor, snagging up various things that caught my eye as purchases for the final day sales and also getting the final day swag.

The most interesting/fun bit of swag came in the WETA Workshop booth where a guy got up on a chair and announced that in partnership with TheOneRing.net were doing a trivia contest based on The Hobbit. Now, I pride myself on having a semi-eidetic memory, so I thought my chances of winning something with trivia from a book I’d read over thirty years ago were not half bad if I played my cards right.  After flubbing one question, I got called on for another, wanting the names of two of the swords Bilbo found in the troll’s hoard.  Now, if I racked my brains I might have been able to recall the fancy elven names, but they just asked for names, so I immediately gave the orcish ones: “Biter and Beater!”  The Weta guy looked at me as if I’d gone slightly mad since he was reading the card and those were not the names he was looking at but I just grinned and nodded to the OneRing guy for arbitration, and he admitted that those indeed were two of the names for the swords.  Not the names they were looking for, but names from the book.  I was asked if I knew the elven name, which I didn’t, but a guy next to me did: “Glamdring and Orcrist!”  The OneRing guy decided that that question was sufficient to advance us both to the finals after we’d answered a couple other questions.

The final round was me, a woman, the elven scholar guy, and a kid who I expected had read the book recently.  The elven scholar won the first question, selecting a miniature shield as his prize, the kid then correctly said that Gandalf had asked for red wine in Bilbo’s house and got the map of New Zealand as Middle Earth, and I then answered the next question correctly and got my choice of fancy rubber Hobbit ears or a red T-shirt for TheOneRing.net with the slogon “Talk Nerdy to Me.”  I’m not much of a cosplayer, but a T-shirt in my size?  Excellent.

After that, Albert gave me a ride to the airport and my friend Michael picked me up.  All in all an excellent Comicon.

Comicon 2010 round-up and wrap-up, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

July 26th, 2010

I’m just back from the San Diego Comicon 2010.

I had considered doing a daily blog post and update, but that way lay madness or at least sleep deprivation and less con, so I’ll just do it now.

First off, a broad generalization: This appears to be a banner year for zombies and a notable year for family togetherness, and yes, we’re talking at the same time too.

Now on to specifics, in order of occurrence, not importance. I flew down Wednesday and was picked up by my friend Albert who was my guest for the con and in turn whose house guest I was. He’d already picked up our badges and since the airport was so close to the convention center, we hopped back and I got to see the last hour of preview night, whereupon I saw simultaneously the most impressive thing I saw at the con and the least impressive thing which were one and the same. The most impressive thing was the throne of Odin from the upcoming Thor movie. It’s this grand extravaganza that looks somewhat like a giant gold sword hilt (riffing, I think, on Odin supposedly having a sword suspended over his throne a la Damocles) with amazing Norse knotwork and steps and the impression that there were supposed to be valkyries perched all over portions of it like the Rockettes. However, on the throne itself was this cheap gold lame cushion that looked like it came from a ’70s porno. My guess is that Odin is going to wear some amazing fur cape and the set designer said not to bother because no one would ever see it, but it’s also going to be seen in thousands of photos as people lined up to take their pictures in it.

Regardless, I stopped by a few booths, notably Kingdom of Loathing and Girl Genius, picking up a few item cards at the first for my in-game clanmates and saying “hi” to the Foglios at the other.  The hall then closed and Albert and I went over to the bar at the Sheraton Suites to meet up with my friend Allison Lonsdale as well as her friends J. and Mel who do the Two Lumps webcomic.  Allison gave me the CD of “Live at Lestat’s” which I’d pre-ordered many years ago–and which she was glad to finally have out–and we had a good time (apart from my garlic intolerance and the unadvertised surprise garlic in the risotto, but they brought me mammoth coconut shrimp instead, so it all worked out).

Thursday we went to the con and I went off to The Power of Myth panel, which was an author track panel moderated by Maryelizabeth Hart of Mysterious Galaxy.  The room was packed to the point of them turning people away and there were a number of interesting panelists, including my friend Seanan McGuire, and my friend and editor Esther Friesner who had been flown out for the con.  It was a very fun panel and moreover informative, with Seanan mentioning the Romany legend that a certain type of fey creature was known to steal your baking stone if you displeased it which had been modernized in her grandmother’s retelling to stealing your microwave.  Michael Scott also made mention of the fascinating and tragic detail that there were entire villages in Ireland that had lost their native folklore due to the inhabitants dying during the Potato Famine or emigrating to America.  However, when they emigrated, they brought the folklore with them.

After the panel I caught up with Esther and set up to meet with her for dinner.  I then looked at the program guide and decided that there was nothing else in particular I wanted to see that day so I decided to pace the floor of the dealers room to see everything, something I hadn’t done in years since it’s the size of two and a half football fields.  But I did it.

Walking the floor made me conclude that this is the year of the zombie.  There were enormous displays for The Walking Dead, both the original comic series and the new AMC adaptation.  I was able to gather that it follows some small-time sheriff’s officer who’s injured in a shoot-out then wakes up in a hospital after the zombie plague is already in full swing, a la 28 Days, but it also has the heartwarming family angle where he’s out to track down his wife and son and rescue them from the zombies.  There were also zombies visible in the large booth for a video game called Dead Speed which appears to involve some bad-ass in motorcycle leathers, zombie card and dice games for sale from Steve Jackson Games, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies stuff at dozens of booths.

There was also more heartwarming family stuff in the form of No Ordinary Family which postulates that somewhat dumpy looking bald guy, played by Michael Chiklis, is married to super-hot MILF Julie Benz, and they have a boy and a girl, and then they’re in a plane which is caught in some super-uber-phlebotinum storm while they’re flying, which is pretty much the same origin story as The Fantastic Four.  Michael Chiklis even played The Thing in The Fantastic Four, so it’s really not a surprise that he gets the super-strength power.  Julie Benz’s Milf gets the Flash’s superspeed power, which is also reminiscent of The Incredibles.  To be different (for certain values of different) the daughter gets telepathy and the slacker son gets super-genius calculator powers.  I’m certain it’s hearwarming but it sure looks derivative.

I then got together with Esther for dinner and we went to the Gaslamp Strip Club which is so named because you grill your own steaks, which was good and fun.  After that I linked up with Albert and we hit Extraordinary Desserts, which were beautiful but too sweet for my taste, and went to the “From Dusk Till Shaun” party being hosted at El Camino on India Street.  It was the place that had previously been The Airport Lounge and it was kind of sad to see the 60-70s “golden age of air travel” be replaced by an admittedly cool Mexican bar.  I saw my friend Storm who I hadn’t seen in a year and it was then time to call it a night.

Friday The day began with the panel I was on, again hosted by Maryelizabeth, With Great Power Come Great Stories.  I was there representing for Wild Cards, as were Carolyn Spector and surprise extra guest Paul Cornell.  The room was about two-thirds full, but would have had more people if the interminable line for ballroom 20 weren’t routinely barring access to the rest of the hall.  One of the panelists was even late because of it.  Regardless, the panel went well, and I got the closing remark, “But sometimes you need to use the insanity widget,” which Maryelizabeth then echoed as a good final line and adjourned us to the signing area.

After the signing, Carolyn and I went to The Field and had lunch, talked Wild Cards and writing in general, and had a good time, then went back to the convention center and went around the dealer’s room until my feet got too sore and I went off to see a panel and sit down.

While I would have liked to see the True Blood panel, the line for it was insane and the main point was to get off my feet.  They’d also cross-programmed it with another vampires-and-werewolves show I also like called Being Human, but as that’s from Britain and didn’t have banners over half the convention center advertising it, I assumed it would be less impacted and I could sit down immediately.  I was right.

I got in for the tail end of Teen Wolf. No, not the Teen Wolf with Back to the Future made them release it anyway, and not the cartoon version either.  Well, yeah, sort of, but it looked like with this remake, they planned to play it straight and it looked reasonably cool.

This was then followed by the panel for Falling Skies, or as I called it afterward “In Which Stephen Spielberg Phones It In.”  How do I explain it?  Let’s see….  Take War of the Worlds and file the serial numbers off (it’s in public domain, but the last version bombed, so you don’t want to be associated with that) and cross-pollinate it with some patriotism lifted from Independence Day by making your protagonist an American history professor who specializes in the Revolutionary War and is thus is filled with idealistic hope that a small band of insurgents can continually frustrate and annoy an invading army until their intergalactic homeworld eventually suffers an economic collapse and the funding for the invasion of earth is yanked.  Or something like that.  This role is being played by Noah Wylie, an actor I usually enjoy and who was very earnestly trying to sell his new series, but the story about his character’s wife being dead, two of his sons being around, and the third son being kidnapped by the aliens for “mysterious purposes”?  (Hint: These “mysterious purposes” are invariably hybridizing humans with aliens, which he would know if he were a professor of pop culture and were thus genre savvy.)

Like The Walking Dead, the story picks up several months after the invasion, but instead of having the collapse of society glossed over by means of a convenient coma, we have this grave-voiced little girl telling us that the aliens “did not want to be friends” as a voice-over to crayon drawings of bug-eyed green men with gnashing razor-sharp teeth.  I’m about to wonder if the sheriff and the history professor shouldn’t team up and go deal with the zombies and the aliens together when the Q&A begins and this breathless woman asks the producer where they came up with the brilliant idea of explaining the invasion via the little girl’s drawings, and I’m thinking, um, it’s on tv tropes.org and it’s called a “nightmare fuel coloring book.” I could almost forgive the woman for the ditzy question when the producer opened his mouth and started blowing colored smoke about it being something Stephen Spielberg invented from his amazing creative genius, as opposed to it being a standard film convention of the genre, and you always give the dire exposition to little girls instead of little boys if you can help it because little girls are perceived as inherently more innocent and the contrast is automatically viewed as creepier.  Duh.

Then the panel was over and there was a short wait for Being Human to start.  Unlike most there, I had not yet illegally downloaded the whole second season to watch it, but I still enjoyed the panel and the actors.  There was also an interesting mention that while the BBC show is continuing, there will be an American version started up on the SyFy channel and the producer hoped we’d watch both so he’d get more residuals.

I then went and caught dinner with Albert and his friend Andrew, who’s also a housemate.  We hit the Dublin Square and had dinner and drinks with a blogger who was covering the con, after which we called it an early night in preparation for Saturday.

Spoilers: or, The Joy of Reading and Viewing Without Preconceptions

March 4th, 2009

Some folk cannot abide spoilers–it ruins a book for them–while others read for process not goal and therefore do not mind spoilers.  Now, it makes no never mind to me whether a person hates spoilers, or doesn’t mind spoilers, or checks ahead to see who lives and who dies because the anticipation is killing them.  As I say, let a person be the reader they want to be.

As for me, I personally prefer to read or view for the first time without knowing what is going to happen;  I like to experience the plot “in real time” with all the surprises, setbacks, revelations and shocks that may entail.  I enjoy the experience of my own reactions, and if I really really like a book or film I will read/see it again, which provides yet another experience, the experience of watching the known story unfold and anticipating or recognizing the way the narrative builds and twists.

Others will approach the reading (viewing) experience differently, and that’s as it should be. Continue Reading »

The Fox in the Dollhouse

February 14th, 2009

After attending Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse panel at last year’s Comicon, I was eagerly awaiting the premiere.  So were friends, and there was even a party with a showing of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog to get us in the mood for more Joss goodness.  And then….

Well, while I don’t want to give any spoilers, Fox has put Dollhouse alongside The Sarah Connor Chronicles in what makes sense as a scifi block, but had promos with Summer Glau and Eliza Dushku that, if the sound were turned off, looked pretty much like 976 commercials:  “SciFi girls want to talk to you.  Just call them.  They’re waiting….”

Regardless, there was talk at the party about how Fox had asked for revision up on revision so that the first few episodes had been turned into something other than what Joss was wanting.  Something with more cop drama and explosions.  But since I can’t really discuss the truth of this without spoilers, they’ll be there after the fold:

Continue Reading »

Forthcoming Vampire Films – London Times

August 17th, 2008

This article deals with vampires in the movie versions only, even if the movies mentioned were adapted from original novels.  It includes a brief chronology of vampires on film which can be a quickie refresher for those who have read any or all of the books published on this subject, and watched all the films.  Oddly, Buffy’s not mentioned.

This forthcoming film sounds interesting, so I’ll be watching out for it:

Meanwhile, although the vampire in Let the Right One In is altogether more dangerous, she symbolises as much the dark side of the human psyche as an external threat. “I was thinking about these two characters as though they are mirrors,” Alfredson, the director, says. “She is everything that he is not. She is awake when he is asleep: he is very afraid, she is very brave; she is strong, he is weak; she’s dark, he is blond. She is everything that he would need to be to survive. They are two sides of the same coin.”

The vampire craze shows no signs of abating. An English language remake of Let the Right One In has been announced. With three remaining books in the Twilight saga, there is potential for a vampire franchise. And although the Twilight books series is complete, Nash reveals that “Stephenie does have the bare bones of a chapter of a book provisionally titled Midnight Sun, which is the Twilight story but from the point of view of the vampire not the human girl”.

  Love, C.

Comicon International 2008 — Dr. Horrible, The Dark Knight, and me

July 30th, 2008

Back from Comicon. Also back from Westercon. Thoughts….

First off…wow. Comicon was amazing. In over twenty years of attending, Comicon’s managed to outdo itself again, mostly by dint of those who came, both industry types and fans. I don’t know how many, but numbers of over 200,000 were rumored and probably underestimated.

Second thought, what’s up with the art shows at all the cons? At Comicon, I saw more winged kittens in the art show than superheroes, or for that matter, any comic book characters. Yes, I understand the cottage industry of marketing to dragon and cat fetishists, but seeing the same dracokitty art recycled from Westercon to Comicon was surreal given the difference of the rest of the convention.

Continue Reading »

Whedon Returns, With Dushko, With “Dollhouse”

November 1st, 2007

[ Whedon’s new Fox series, called Dollhouse, stars Miss Eliza Dushku, best known as Faith to you Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. And this show isn’t just a pilot. It’s already been given a seven-episode commitment by Fox. Woo!

Here’s how Fox describes the series:

Echo (Eliza Dushku) [is] a young woman who is literally everybody’s fantasy. She is one of a group of men and women who can be imprinted with personality packages, including memories, skills, language—even muscle memory—for different assignments. The assignments can be romantic, adventurous, outlandish, uplifting, sexual and/or very illegal. When not imprinted with a personality package, Echo and the others are basically mind-wiped, living like children in a futuristic dorm/lab dubbed the Dollhouse, with no memory of their assignments—or of much else. The show revolves around the childlike Echo’s burgeoning self-awareness, and her desire to know who she was before, a desire that begins to seep into her various imprinted personalities and puts her in danger both in the field and in the closely monitored confines of the Dollhouse.

So, how did Dollhouse come about? When will it start, given the impending strike? And what are the chances a few Buffy alums might make it onto the show? To find out, read on for my exclusive one-on-one Q&As with creator and executive producer Joss Whedon and star and producer Eliza Dushku. (Pinch me.) You honestly won’t believe how fast this all happened, or where the idea first began! ]

Far more here, including the Q&A with Whedon.

http://www.eonline.com/gossip/kristin/detail/index.jsp?uuid=972f7d73-e0a2-43ea-abad-0abf6afba1f3&sid=fd-hot3-txt

The discussion about Dollhouse on Feminist SF – The Blog has raised some issues.

http://blogs.feministsf.net/

For example, this, written by Ide Cyan:

[ "Even creepier is the fact that these “childlike” characters, mind-wiped and “imprinted” to be anyone’s fantasy, obviously do not have the ability to consent to these jobs, thus turning any sexual assignments into rape." ]

Myself, I’ve always myself a bad taste re what has looked like Whedon’s predeliction for girly sex-bots and other perfect and perfectly compliant female forms, as they recurred more often than seemed seemly on Buffy, and he included one in Serenity.

Love, C.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Season 8

April 3rd, 2007

It’s a comic book.  Season 8, I mean.

Today’s U.K. Guardian tells us all about it.

 [ “Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, has launched “season eight” of Buffy – not as a TV series, but as a comic. There have been other Buffy-related comics since the TV show finished, but this is “canon“, the official Whedonesque version of events post-season seven. In America, the first instalment, from Dark Horse Comics, sold out in a matter of days.” ]

After reading the description of this first installment of “Season 8″ this reader thought it sounded so dreadful that it is just as well the thing sold out and she shall never see it in this life.  If she’s good.  Not bad.

In other tenuously related Buffy news, Jane Epson, on her website, passes on the information that Danny Strong, who played Jonathan Levinson in the nerd trio that constituted Buffy’s Season 6 Big Bad, has sold a script to HBO.  The project is a movie about the 2000 U.S. election, focusing on the month during which the dems challenged the pubs, and what happened.  It is to be directed by Sydney Pollock.

Love, C.

The Serious Business of Funny Stuff

February 19th, 2007

Thalia weeps while Melpomene is still no doubt staring glazedly at the screen, giggling uncomfortably.  I must rant while this is all fresh in my mind.

I just had the instructional if less than pleasureable experience of watching The Half Hour News Hour on Fox News.  It’s supposed to be comedy, but about the only thing funny about it was the unintended irony of it actually addressing news-worthy subjects, such as global warming and candidates for the 2008 presidential race, contrasting rather sharply with the “straight” news item that followed, more breathless coverage of the death of Anna Nicole Smith, who died, like, a week ago.  This is more coverage than they did for the death of Gerald Ford or for that matter, Saddam Hussein.

For those uninitiated, THHNH was created by Joel Surnow, who also created 24, about my favorite suspense spy thriller show.   THHNH is Fox News’ answer to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show & The Colbert Report.  It’s supposed to be right wing comedy, but only comes off, at best, as embarrassingly lame playground humor.  This is not because there isn’t anything funny on the left, but because there are certain rules of comedy that must be respected if it is to have any hope of success, and for Thalia’s sake, I learned these on the playground.  And while I have a rather liberal bias myself, I’m more offended by bad right wing comedy than the idea of right wing comedy period.

So lo, I call upon Thalia, Muse of Comedy, to help me to best iterate the Rules of Comedy and the various infractions thereof, as evidenced by the first painful episode of THHNH:

I. Thou shalt not laugh at thy own jokes (This be a lesser sin if they be funny, but a mortal sin if they be not)

Perhaps the gravest sin of THHNH is the laugh track.  It’s bad, the laughs are obviously recycled from a tape, but worst of all, they follow lame jokes.  If a joke doesn’t fly or otherwise dies, you can recover by simply skipping on to the next one, but if you insist that it was supposed to be a joke by laughing at yourself–or having your canned laughter laugh for you–then your audience can’t simply ignore it.

II. Jests be as birds–smile gaily when they fly, look grave when they fall flat, then move on to the next.

It’s acceptable for comedians to smile and nod after delivering a punchline and pause for laughter, but if no one smiles, laughs, cheers or otherwise signals their appreciation, simply move on.  Really.  Honestly.

THHNH is obviously hobbled by not having a live studio audience; the actors have nothing to play against except each other and their own tin ears.

Maybe this will improve.  Somehow I doubt it.

III. The Joke of the Day is best fresh from the Marketplace, not day-old, week-old, month-old or worse.  This be because the News of the Day oft be a wittier jester than thee.

Let’s see, example from THHNH: joke about Britney Spears shaving her crotch.  A throwaway gag, hardly lingered over, but far less funny than the simple fact that yesterday Britney Spears shaved her head.

This could be followed by gags about Sinead O’Connor (the last female singer who did such a thing), jokes about K-Fed’s reaction (ex-husbands are always funny), or just random bald jokes made safe because of the simple fact that Britney Spears is a woman who shaved her head by choice, not a guy who went bald.  The news is its own amusement.

IV. Whether low and base or high and refined, a jest must relate to its subject.

The best example of this from THHNH: There was a long and extended (and generally tiresome) bit of business about Barrack Obama having a (completely fictional) magazine devoted to him and his life, with this as the knee-slapper: It’s called B.O. magazine!

The trouble with this is that the relation of the gag is tenuous at best and is a pretty thin thread to hang the rest of the segment upon, especially since Senator Obama isn’t noted for any body odor.  Worse, the joke could have been used effectively if used as part of a gag about “What sort of parents name their child ‘Barrack Hussein Obama’?” with a back and forth answering that “Barrack” is a fairly ordinary name in some parts of the world (Barruch in Hebrew) and that the parents had no way of looking into the future and knowing that “Hussein” and “Obama” might one day have unpleasant associations, with the final zinger: “What sort of parent sends their child to elementary school with the initials ‘B.O.’?” and a response about “Well, fortunately for Senator Obama, he attended elementary school in Indonesia” followed by a bit of business about the lengths parents have to go to to protection their children after unfortunate naming choices.

V.  Do not tackle the Unspeakable Taboo unless guarded by the Aegis of Truth and armed with the Sword of Hilarity!

Okay, case in point: THHNH had a mostly forgettable and boring running gag about environmentalist actor Ed Begley coming to the studio in his electric car, having it run out of juice, refueling it with human waste (I’m not making this up), having it run out of “gas,” then getting picked up as a homeless person and thrown in prison where rival gangs were fighting over him.  “As a center for prison basketball?” (Begley is notably tall)  No, for something else….

Yes, a long running gag is finally ended by a prison rape joke.  And it’s unforgiveable because, instead of having any degree of truth or even poetic justice, it’s just a sadistic fantasy.  And this is the last gag of the whole stinking show.

VI. Thou Shalt Not Open with Thy Strongest Joke or Thy Claim to Fame and follow with something banal

The best bit in the whole show was the opening act, the already leaked skit with Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter as President and VP in 2009.  I’d actually thought it was rather lame one the whole (though Limbaugh did deliver a good line about being upset that Pelosi had his phone number), but really, that was it?  Two famous right wing personalities as guest stars followed by four comics I’ve not only never heard of, but who had considerably less flair and stage presense than Limbaugh?

Good gods.

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