TV postsWednesday September 25, 2013
The Lessons of 'Star Wars,' Doofus Edition
Courtesy of “Breaking Bad,” season 3, episode 9: “Kafkaesque,” written by Peter Gould and George Mastras:
Jesse: What's the point of being an outlaw when you got responsibilities?
Badger (thoughtful): Darth Vader had responsibilities. He was responsible for the Death Star.
Skinny Pete: True that. Two of them bitches.
God, I laughed.
P and I have been playing catch-up with “Breaking Bad” and are now in season 5. We hope to be done before the final show so we can watch it with all y'all.
More thoughts later. I'm not as enamored of the show as some, but then some think it's the best show ever and that spot has been taken.
Here's the scene:
Say Kids, What Time Is It?
“Howdy Doody was the sub-basement of a Shirley Temple movie. It was about a marionette—and not a very good one ... if you wanted to be kind about it, you'd say it would be amateur hour, but why be kind about it? It was something that couldn't get into a Shirley Temple movie, but its advantage was that it was in an advertising medium, and you didn't have to be so good because you weren't asking people to leave their houses and go and buy a ticket; you were simply there, you were a delivery system for advertising, and you were operating in perfect harmony with a generation that was appalled by its lack of access to the real power vectors in the world; and I'll just repeat that because one day soon, everyone's going to want to know the history of the war babies and the baby boomers, and why most of us acted in a culturally dysfunctional way, and the answer is that as children we felt we were marionettes and we were appalled by our lack of access to the real power vectors of the world. The H-bomb of it, the Winston Churchill of it, the coal miner of it, and, through no action of our own, but just mysteriously and magically we got sat in front of these boxes, which spoke to us to perfection. Here you are, a little Howdy Doody marionette.”
-- George W.S. Trow, ”My Pilgrim's Progress: Media Studies 1950-1998,“ pp. 133-34
On the Final Episode of 'The Office'
Over on the Atlantic site, Kevin Craft has a nice piece on the final episode of the NBC series “The Office”: why it was once great, why it couldn't remain so:
Set in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in the sales office of a nearly obsolete paper company, the show's characters at first didn't develop as much as stagnate. Like their dead-end jobs and the dead-end lives that inevitably spring from such jobs, these people were just passing time, one prolonged meeting at a time. Just as reality television soothes a viewer's inner narcissist by telling stories of even more pronounced narcissists wreaking havoc on their surroundings, The Office made its audience feel better about their professional lives by showcasing a workplace with even drabber décor and more grating coworkers. ...
The original theme it explored—office work sucks—is only funny if the characters never grow. What made the early episodes so dryly funny and morbidly relatable was that the seasons and the names of the meetings changed, but the paper-pushing remained the same. Just-another-cog-in-the-wheel syndrome only engenders pathos if the wheel spins indefinitely and the cogs stay put. But writers can only use constructed bonding experiences, like an awkward sexual harassment training session or an impromptu “Office Olympics,” so many times to illustrate the lengths to which white-collar drones will go to survive another excruciating day. In television, things have to change.
“...the lengths to which white-collar drones will go to survive another excruciating day.” Nice.
Patricia and I watched the final episode last night but it was a bit too sweet for me. And it wasn't like the final episode of the British “Office,” in which Ricky Gervais gave you a cherry on top (Tim and Dawn finally getting together) of the shit sundae he'd been serving all that time (every other excruciatingly brilliant episode). No, this was just too sweet. A happy ending for everyone. Right? Doesn't everyone get what they want? Jim takes the dream job and gets out of Scranton (with his family, of course); Pam paints murals; Dwight gets to be office manager (and, in the only brilliant touch of the last season brilliant touch, he also becomes assistant to the assistant to the regional manager, or the direct report of his own direct report). Erin finds her parents, Andy finds fame (or infamy), Stanley gets to kick back away from everybody.
I'm with Kevin Craft here. I wanted more fourth-wall moments at the end. How did it feel once the cameras went away? How did it feel once they showed up in the first place? That's something “The Office” never really dealt with. Was it easier surviving another excruciating day because you were being filmed doing it? Did that make it seem relevant? Like you had an audience that most of us don't have? Did that change the behavior of the people there? Give me some Heisenberg principle, kids.
I know. Network TV. But we're not getting any younger. Or smarter.
Even so, farewell “Office.” You were my last network show.
Jeff Wells Goes 'Lincoln' on Bendedict Cumberbatch
The only serious standout element in JJ Abrams‘ Star Trek Into Darkness, the only thing that makes you sit up and go “whoa, wait…this is good,” is the lead villain performance by Benedict Cumberbatch. The poor guy has a somewhat oddly shaped face and weird demon-cat eyes so he’ll never play the good guy, but he’s a serious world-class actor with a kind of young Richard Burton quality and an energy field that just grabs hold and lifts all boats.
Right. And apparently Clint Eastwood's adam's apple was too big and three guitar/one drum groups were on the way out.
Did Wells not see him in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”? Cumberbatch was one of the few good guys in that film. Or the BBC's “Sherlock Holmes,” where he plays, you know, Sherlock Holmes? I.e., the greatest fictional detective ever? That's right, Batman. Take a back-bat-seat.
Plus, whether Wells wants to believe it or not, the chicks dig him.
The beauty of the Intenet. Even on a day when you have nothing to say, someone gives you something to say.
Mad Men Myself
That's supposed to be me in the center there. A couple of things wrong with it. The clothing options at the “Mad Men Yourself” site didn't really include anything I would wear (bike gear, T-shirts, etc.), so I'm stuck with this. They did have a kind of suit-vest thing, and I often wear sweater vests at work, even post-Rick Santorum, so that probably would've been the best choice; but I was putting this together with Patricia, who, I believe, is anti-sweater vest and chose the outfit she preferred on me rather than what I would wear. Men everywhere, mad or not, nod in understanding.
I'm also not that tall (although maybe on a Hollywood set?), and I don't drink much soda anymore (coffee, beer), and I mostly read the newspaper online.
But the biggest problem? I'm facing the wrong way. Joan's behind me. That's just wrong. To quote Truman Capote in “The Muses Are Heard”:
A tall, striking blonde, Miss Ryan was wearing a low strapless dress that hugged her curves cleverly; and as she swayed down the aisle, masculine eyes swerved in her direction like flowers turning toward the sun.
I'm a flower that's turned away from the sun.
The new season begins tonight. It's 1968 apparently. Wonder when Don's going to stop using Vitalis. Wonder when he's going to get muttonchop sideburns and a flowered shirt with wide collars. Wonder how he's going to try to hang on as the world, particularly the advertising world, gets younger.
That's been the appeal of “Mad Men” for me since the second season. We know what's going to happen but we don't know what's going to happen to them. We want to warn them about the future because we can't warn ourselves about our own.