Tag Archives: drama

‘Twin Peaks’: What A Brief, Strange Trip It’s Been

Better twenty-three years late than never. (That’s how the saying goes, right?) It certainly applies to my latest foray into cult television, Twin Peaks. I was a wee tot when the series first aired, but the Internet gods preserved it for me.

On the surface, Twin Peaks is a murder mystery/cop drama set amidst the pines of the Pacific Northwest. Following the death of Laura Palmer, special agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) comes to the aid of local law enforcement. Other notable characters like Audrey Horne, the Log Lady, and Garland Briggs round out the quirky band of townsfolk who help (and sometimes hinder) the investigation. The deeper the law men delve into the secrets of Laura Palmer and her loved ones, the further the show strays from its original format.

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 12.01.58 AM

Here we see David Lynch and Kyle MacLachlan giving their enthusiastic approval for ‘Twin Peaks’.

Stylistically, Twin Peaks is perhaps the most complex show I’ve seen. Creator and director David Lynch teases viewers with abstract scenes of scarlet drapery and distorted conversations, but he doesn’t fully indulge them until the  end of the series. What he consistently delivers, however, is a combination of parody and pastiche. Overwrought portrayals of love and loss call soap operas to mind, while Angelo Badalamenti‘s jukebox score lends a distinctly retro feel. In turn, these elements find harmony amongst snappy dialogue, shared secrets, and cups of coffee.

What I love most about Twin Peaks–aside from dorky dreamboat Dale Cooper–is its commitment to weirdness. Watching via Netflix, I almost could not believe it had ever aired on network television. The premise of the show is palatable enough; primetime is saturated with dramas that depict similar situations. But the show’s intent can be challenging to navigate.

One could reasonably approach the soapy scenarios with an earnest mindset. Yet, it seems more likely that Twin Peaks is an exercise in the uncanny. Often the characters are caricatures and the subjects are clichés; this only seems obvious when contrasted with scenes that break from convention. (In other words, it takes a giant in a red room to suggest that there is more than meets the eye.) Viewers must possess a fair amount of patience and mental acuity to stick with a show that leaves so much room for interpretation. If one is a fan of the cerebral and the supernatural, however, the journey is well worth it.

 

Note: Both seasons of Twin Peaks are available on Netflix streaming.

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The Fast Food Age Of Television

Recently I got a little nostalgic for 2005 era Grey’s Anatomy. I enjoyed the first three seasons while navigating the deluge of college flashbacks associated with the show. And then something weird started to happen. I found myself getting angry at Grey’s and its perennially dour cast of characters.

These eyes emote for no man.

These eyes emote for no man.

Now that I’m half way through season 5, I find my interest in the show again waning just as it did when I first watched. It could have something to do with the loss of all my favorite characters. Kate Walsh’s delicious Addison Montgomery made the transition to her own spin-off and Isaiah Washington’s Preston Burke proved to be a better person than the actor playing him. Against these fantastic actors, Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey seems bland and whiny. And at some point I realized I can’t remember anything that happened in more than the last three episodes. Not that it matters because whatever happened three episodes ago was like nine plot twists prior. Who can keep track of all that betrayal?

And I find myself agreeing with Soren Bowie. I’m an unapologetic viewer of The Vampire Diaries and a full ten-year veteran of Smallville. These shows, while delightful, resemble the kind of generic fast food-style processing we’ve come to expect from network television’s corniest modern dramas.

Like fast food, this kind of television is good for momentary elation with zero effort. And like the most delicious chain restaurant items (looking at you Arby’s #14 with large curly fries and a massive sweet tea) it makes me bloat… emotionally.

Let me be clear that while Grey’s Anatomy is taking the big hits today, I’m talking about character mysteries like Lost/Revolution, teen dramas a la Glee, police procedurals, medical dramas, all reality television, and everything on the CW.

Emotion As Consumer Product

Drama is what you get when characters you care about face challenges that can meaningfully change their lives. The operative words there are care and meaningful. Grey’s Anatomy, a show that I hate the idea of almost as much as I love watching, covered a single year in its first four seasons. In that time the doctors of Seattle Grace Hospital experienced an impossible amount of drama:

  • 4 Marriages ended
  • Titular character Meredith Grey died.
  • Titular character Meredith Grey came back to life.
  • Everyone got syphilis
  • Doctors Grey, Yang, Bailey, Weber and Burke received life-threatening/life-saving surgery
  • Both of Meredith’s mothers, George’s father, Izzie’s Fiance, Chief Weber’s niece and a million patients died
  • Seattle Grace Hospital experienced its first shooting
  • Seattle Grace Hospital was bombed
  • One character had a child
  • Every character failed at a stable relationship. Every one.

Those are the highlights of what had to be the hardest year in Seattle’s history… until the next year. At some point there’s a second hospital shooting and a plane crash, but I’m only in season 5 and all the characters I liked were smart enough to get out. My other favorite show, The Vampire Diaries (TVD), is the same way. The first two seasons cover a single year… which means everyone’s parents and relatives die in like an 18 month span.

These folks are the casualties of dramatic tension. Every episode of TVD is the most intense episode of the series. It’s like in Office Space when Peter tells his therapist that every day is the worst day of his life. It’s unnatural, wrong and like the therapist, we the attentive audience, have a heart attack over it.

A Distinct Lack Of Critical Acclaim

If you don't know why this is here, you need to pay better attention

If you don’t know why this guy is here, you need to pay better attention

Many of these shows will get nods, critical reception, and an Emmy here or there during their first or even second season. These kinds of shows generally have one trick; their gripping character conflicts and betrayals. And we eat that up for a while. But after a couple days eating the Arby’s Philly Ultimate Angus you realize you’re kind of a shitty person. During its first season Desperate Housewives won 6 Emmy’s, two Golden Globes, two Screen Actor’s Guild awards and was the 4th most popular show on television in 2004.

That’s as many Emmy’s as friends Keith Szarabajka‘s had killed by the Joker! That’s nine spots higher than Lost during its premier season, and we were obsessed with that shit! It’s seven spots higher than CBS’s freak-unkillable-juggernaut Two And A Half Men. And in spite of all of that, by the end of its 8 seasons it had lost more than half of its viewers.

To be fair, 8 seasons (or 9 in Grey’s case) is rough. Even the best shows experience attrition over time. Still, Bryan Cranston over at Breaking Bad is pulling down almost as many Emmy’s as seasons of his show. The dad from Malcolm In The Middle is the only man to ever win 3 in a row because his show has more than one gimmick. Also because it’s a fascinating deconstruction of becoming a villain. And he crushed it in Drive… but I’m sticking by the gimmick comment.

Immediate Satisfaction Without Long-term Nutrition

After 4 years of The Vampire Diaries, I can say that I have no idea what the story is. I know that it’s about vampires in Virginia, but the reversals, betrayals, and surprises happen with such frequency that I only have a vague sense of the the story. Above I mentioned that only one child had been born in Grey’s. That’s because, of the 5 seasons I’ve watched so far, no one has gotten married and stayed married. No one has decided to have kids (unless it turns out they are infertile, have HIV, they lose the baby, or it somehow threatens their life) because there are no stable home lives.

Nothing in these shows matter because it’s all going to be different in seemingly random ways 3-5 episodes later. And we (by which I mean me) are not in it for the story.

Sated But Never Satisfied

Anyone that has ever cooked an amazing meal and shared it with someone knows how supremely satisfying it is. Aside from using quality, non-pink-goo components for your dinner, there is a sense of accomplishment and pride. These are things we can’t get from fast food. Things that, based on my varied fast food career, not even the employees get from fast food. And while it’s true being sated but never satisfied aptly describes all of TVD’s characters, I’m talking about us.

Fast food does its job. You go from hungry to full in less time than you had to talk to the person who made it, but its a forgettable experience.

These shows are the most selfish endeavor. Not only because all the characters do the most selfish things in the name of love. Not because of the false expectations I fear these shows teach our youth about living relationships. Not because we probably deserve better for all the money we spend. It’s because, in the face of all of that, we can’t stop.

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Recaps & Ramblings

I wasn’t really sure what to write about this week; I didn’t have a super-stellar idea for an article, so I thought I might just talk a bit about what’s going on in some of my favorite, and possibly NEW favorite shows, and offer my thoughts and musings.  Potential spoilers lie within.

Arrow

Arrow [source: megavideozer.com]

Honestly, I’ve only seen the first episode of this (the lack of cable television make it difficult to watch things on a regular basis), but it seems like it has potential. I know TJ has talked about it, but I thought I might offer some additional words. I was skeptical about the show at first because Justin Hartley wasn’t playing Green Arrow, but the new guy, Stephen Amell, seems like he might be okay. His acting comes across as a tad stiff sometimes, but hopefully he’ll grow out of that. Actually, I’m still warming up to most of the cast. It may take a few more episodes.

The stunts and fights have been pretty on-key, and his archery skills aren’t too shabby either, making for the potential of a great Green Arrow. There’s hints towards key characters, mainly Deathstroke, and they’re done very subtly, hinting that the writing might be pretty decent. And I’m stoked to see how John Barrowman’s character is going to fit into the mix. This show may end up being a new regular of mine.

Dexter

Dexter [source: wikia.nocookie.net]

I knew after last season’s ending that this season was just going to be amazing right from the beginning– it’s delivered. I mean, Deb figures out pretty much everything before the first episode ends. Well, the basics anyway. Sure, she took 6 seasons, but whatever, she knows–and there’s no going back now. This means Dexter has to be more restrained and a lot more careful with his kills because she is watching him like a hawk. It’s going to be incredibly tough for him, but I think he can pull it off. Just thinking about the tricks he might pull to get a kill gives me goosebumps. Also a plus, Ray Stevenson, aka “the good Punisher,” is on the show this season as the potential main bad guy, which means he has work. And that always makes me happy. I still have yet to see the latest two episodes, but I’m sure that they are incredible.

 

Supernatural

Supernatural [source: wikipedia.com]

This show just gets stranger and stranger, which I guess works for a show of its nature. The first five seasons had this huge story arc involving their dad, the yellow-eyed demon, and the Devil, all of which lead up to the apocalypse. After that, it’s pretty much gone on a season-by-season basis with tie-ins here and there, possibly leading up to something big. Not quite sure.

Series creator, Eric Kripke, only planned for fives seasons, so after the fifth ended and CW wanted more he handed over story control to someone else and became an executive producer. That might have something to do with the new weirdness. Season six was about Castiel‘s search for Purgatory, then finding and absorbing it to become “God,” then things got out of control so he tried to put it back but the Leviathan got out, and that’s where season seven took off. Seven was all about Leviathan and the brothers stopping them from using humans as a continual food source. Well they stopped Leviathan, but Dean and Castiel ended up in Purgatory and that brings us to the current season. Dean gets out (because it seems that neither Hell or Purgatory can hold Dean) by making buddies with a vampire and hitches a ride though some portal, but Castiel doesn’t escape. Apparently he’s dead, but probably not. It’s possible Dean may have left him there.

Sam tried to live a normal life and Dean got pissed because he didn’t try to find him, but they got over it. There was also an auction where some creepy old guy bought Mjolnir with five-eighths of a virgin, which I just shook my head at. (I thought you had to be worthy of it to possess it, but apparently you can buy it at auction. I’m gonna check eBay.) I hope this season doesn’t turn into a confusing ball of “When is this getting cancelled?”

Finally, my favorite:

Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy [source: Collider.com]

By far, the best show on television. Hands down. And I know that I’ve already talked once about the show this season, but I have to speak again. I just finished the past week’s episode (“Small World”), and eagerly await my chance to watch this week’s episode (“Toad’s Wild Ride”), and let me just say that my mind has been blown once again by this show’s awesomeness. First off, the title “Small World” makes me happy. If it had not been titled as such, then it should have been titled “Opie’s Redemption.” Because that was the best thing about this episode, payback for Opie’s murder. I breathed a sigh of relief when it all went down and smiled devilishly when it was over. Does make me slightly sadistic? Some more stuff happened that was also pretty damn good, including a total WTF ending, but the redemption part was the best. I can’t wait to see where this season is going.

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The Drama of Yelp

Since the beginning of existence, humans have taken themselves too seriously. And now that everyone is on the Internet, we’ve taken things to the next level. With the cloak of reasonable anonymity, people feel free to spew all kinds of crud for the world to read. And they have an opinion on EVERYTHING.

But, familiarity doesn’t change much. Even an acquaintance will break it down and keep it real for you…whether you asked or not.

I’m sure ancient Facebook archives read something like this:

9:36 a.m. Thag paint cave.

“Look at Thag! Thag kill saber-tooth tiger with stick, so no kill woman! Yay, Thag!”

9:37 a.m. Comment on paint cave from Crog

“Thag no kill saber-tooth tiger with stick. Too mean. Use rock, instead. Rock better. Thag bad for use stick. Crog make sure Thag thrown out of gated community and no use clubhouse pool anymore.” 

We complain about it, but on the whole, we’ve embraced the new brashness while crying for civility. Businesses have cropped up based on this new standard, and now it’s almost unthinkable that people would not speak their minds on any given subject.

By User:ZyMOS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes this is good, and sometimes this is bad.

For instance, there’s Yelp, which describes itself as “the fun and easy way to find and talk about great (and not so great) local businesses.”

The site can be quite helpful in selecting a restaurant, picking a new doctor, or any number of different services. The idea is folks review stuff, and other people read those reviews to decide whether or not they want to patronize the establishment. Good idea, really.

But, since people inevitably take themselves too seriously, many of the reviews are full of DRAMA.

You know I’m right!

Joe Plummer knew it, too. That’s probably why he made Real Actors Read Yelp Reviews ™, a couple of videos with real DRAMA.

 

Of course, some of the reviews are just funny on purpose. To those Yelpers I say, “Bravo!”

 

 

I can’t wait for more in this series!

 

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