A Lot of TV Talk

I haven’t written a blog post since last year! Wowza!

I wish I could recount more travels all over this fine world, but not every month can be a worldly excavation. As it so happens, I still find myself without employment. I’ve gone through cycles of being depressed about it, being upset that no one responds to my many emails, and then getting empowered and deciding I should take it in to my own hands and stalk companies on LinkedIn. At the moment I’m staying optimistic that my current course of action will result in a steady paycheck again.

The funny thing? I don’t at all regret quitting my comfortable job in a corporate office. It helps that I’m young and single, with no pets and little debt. I happen to be good at rationing money, and over time that resulted in a comfortable bank balance. I think, as a creative type with an English degree that dreams of making movies for a living, I’ve always expected ridiculous financial hardships. My current situation is entirely my own doing, and living in Nashville is definitely easier on the wallet than many cities would be.

What have I been doing with this ungodly amount of free time? You name it, I’ve probably done it. Unless what you’re thinking of involves putting saddles on wild animals while they slumber. That’s still on the to-do list.

I’ve watched a lot of TV and movies. A lot a lot. In our age of digital media, it’s almost stupid easy to become absorbed in a show and watch the days fly by, but I’m at least indulging with a bit of self-restraint. It helps that TV is an area I would love to work in someday; it sort of feels like I’m doing career research when I write out the plot points of an episode of The Sopranos.

Since quitting my job, I’ve devoured all of Friday Night Lights, both seasons of Homeland, the first season of American Horror Story, and am now up to my neck in season three of Battlestar Galactica.

Friday Night Lights is amazing and is one of the most true to life shows I’ve ever seen. Brilliantly written and acted, along with an unconventional style of shooting unrehearsed scenes with two and sometimes three cameras. It makes it feel almost like a documentary. Being a native Texan, I can relate to a lot of elements of this show’s characters, despite the fact that my hometown is actually quite large and cultured in contrast to Dillon’s tiny redneck feel.

I went home to Plano, Texas, for a week and a half for Christmas (one perk of unemployment is being able to go home for long periods of time) and took advantage of my parents’ cable to watch both seasons of Homeland. The show deals with suspense better than any I’ve seen. As a die-hard Mad Men fan, I initially felt that I owed it to Don Draper to hate Homeland for breaking the Emmy streak, but upon watching that impeccable first season, I understand how it did it. In my opinion the second was just as good, though the central romance got a little annoying (that tends to be the case with me, though. Buffy and Angel never did it for me either. What does that say about me?).

But here’s what I really wanted to talk about: American Horror Story. Season 1 spoilers follow.

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On Reddit a few months ago, when American Horror Story first came to Netflix, someone posted asking if it was good. I thought that was silly, since how easy is it to sit down and watch it when you already have access to it? Upon watching it, though, I found myself wondering the same thing. Is it good?

I love the horror genre. Combine it with comedy and you get gems like Shaun of the Dead and Slither. On its own you can get fun social commentary in the form of shambling zombies. Or you could make slasher films blatantly condemning teenage promiscuity. Or you could just have a good old-fashioned monster movie. I’m a big sucker for monster movies.

Despite my interest, I had missed American Horror Story when it first aired on TV. When I discovered it was on Netflix I thought I should give it a go. What resulted was a frustrating experience that led to me swearing off any subsequent seasons. After the pilot had me yelling “NO!” at the TV, I thought I had better keep notes on why it bugged me so much. As I pointed out, my watching TV feels like research into the minds of people doing jobs I want to do. So why not learn from what not to do, even if it’s not nearly as much fun as what to do.

First of all, it was created by the guys that made Nip/Tuck and Glee. I never watched Nip/Tuck and have only seen enough of Glee to know I’m not a “gleetard” (worst name for fans ever?). These guys decided they would make a horror show, and they thought they would be so ballsy as to call it “American Horror Story”. It’s a bold title. It says that 1) they’re telling a uniquely American story 2) horror is the defining characteristic of this story and 3) it’s vague enough that it fits perfectly with the point of the show, which is that each season is its own little horror mini-series. That’s a great idea, I love that idea.

It almost seems like because these guys made Glee, they feel like they have so much cred in the gay community that they can then just be downright hateful towards gay people on this, their new show – even though season 1 takes place in Los Angeles. Connie Britton is one of the stars of this season, and since I’d just come to it from Friday Night Lights – where Connie Britton portrays one of the best TV mothers ever – I was excited. My elation soon subsided as I realized they were wasting her talent. They also managed to bastardize a lot of famous horror movies into their show in an attempt to stay true to the horror element. You could say they’re paying homage, but it never felt that way to me.

Tate, the kid that sits around with Vera Farmiga’s painfully-emo younger sister, shot up a high school and then killed himself in the house, meaning he’ll live forever within its confines. But he doesn’t know he’s dead, and also he’s a friendly ghost that just wants to cheer up young Farmiga. So basically his character is Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense combined with Casper. He doesn’t remember the school shooting because it’s too painful, but killing countless inhabitants in the haunted house is totally cool by him.

There are countless instances of weird things happening and then we cut to a different scene and no one follows up on what happened. A nurse gives Connie Britton an ultrasound, only to find that the baby in her belly has hooves. So the nurse, instead of saying anything, faints. A few episodes later we see the nurse again, who’s quit the hospital and now sits in a giant Catholic church, because what she saw was just that scary. Except that Connie Britton and her husband didn’t see it and apparently the nurse that completed the ultrasound didn’t find it odd either. Also, that sub-plot is The Omen.

It’s not all horrible. The music, I thought, was pretty good throughout. The opening intro is pretty cool, with a weird use of music and giant fonts. The Halloween episode was fantastic, which might be expected considering the horror. They managed to avoid the use of cliched creepy kids through most of the season, even if two red-headed kids from the 70s kept annoyingly appearing just to bounce balls and stare at people with their mouths open.

Okay. I’ll stop ranting.

My point in doing this is that I feel like the Glee guys don’t respect the genre, and you can feel it. It’s all silly goofiness to them, especially sub-plots like Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet appearing as an idiotic version of Bloody Mary (called “the piggyman”. Goodness that’s dumb). I’m not saying showrunners have to treat genre TV with a deathly seriousness, but explanations of the supernatural elements so haphazardly tossed around is always appreciated.

The season ends on an oddly happy note. In fact, it ends very happily. The whole family is dead, doomed to live in the house forever, but they don’t care because at least they have each other. Their stupid ghost brains seem to have forgotten that at that point there were 11 episodes recounting how much the three of them don’t get along and actually hate each other.

Now I’m watching Battlestar Galactica. Since I’ve long been the guy proselytizing for people to read The Forever War and similar intelligent sci-fi, it’s kind of absurd that it took me this long to watch BSG. Let’s just say, even though I’m not yet to the end of the series, it is amazing. It treats the sci-fi genre just how it should be treated, as a way to remove us from our time and tell stories that pertain to us as humans despite the otherworldly setting. There aren’t whole episodes talking about making the evil Cylons because who cares? Just like how Looper skips over the intricacies of time travel in favor of the story’s momentum, the sci-fi elements set the stage for our characters to move and talk and do things. Because good stories are about characters.

Ron Moore, the creator of BSG, clearly loves sci-fi, but he also loves his characters. The Glee guys don’t love horror, and I guarantee they don’t love their characters. No one could love those characters.

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~ by Jon C. Forisha on January 20, 2013.

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