Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Suggestion For Canceled TV Shows

Even though I'm about to write about television here, I really don't watch much of it...well, not much in the way of TV series that is.  My television is generally off most of my day only to be turned on if there's a DVD movie I want to watch or cable has some interesting movie playing.  I think sitcoms are unfunny, "reality" shows are boring and sometimes I wonder if there are more doctors and cops on TV than in real life.

That's not to say that there aren't TV series I like a lot and I am absolutely hooked on but, like what radio talk show callers often say, that isn't what I wanted to write about.

Ever since Babylon Five introduced something called a "story arc" into television series, the major and not-so-major television networks fell in love with it.  A "story arc" means that a series is working its way to the actual conclusion of an ongoing story as opposed to showing "episodes" of a day in the lives of its characters.  The syndicated science fiction show set on a large space station, Babylon Five, did that as well but underneath there was another, continuing story going on.  The producers of that show allowed six seasons to tell that story and when it concluded so did the series. They did make some TV movies to show a bit of what happened after the story was over but there was no "new adventures" for the show to continue on. It was done.  No more.

The first to try out this new approach to series television was The X-Files.  Their approach was two-fold:  there were programs that dealt with an ongoing conspiracy to be solved, but they peppered in stand-alone episodes along the way.  Fans of the show referred to the first as 'myth' shows and the others as 'monster' shows and it allowed the network playing the program to renew it until it lost enough audience that it wasn't making the money for the network than it once did and they canceled it.

The next TV show to do the story arc was on a small, fledgling network and the show was the TV version of the film, Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  The movie was a one joke pony where the joke was that a pretty little airhead of a cheerleader ends up being a formidable weapon against a vampire plague just getting going.  The television version of it took that premise and allowed the characters in it to grow and change into something far more interesting than the film.  Its ongoing story was the quest to find and destroy the source of the vampire plague and when they...or rather, she...did that, the series ended.

LOST made a go of it too but for that one success there were tons of other series that tried this style of television series making and failed  -- most of the time leaving the fans of the canceled shows hanging, never to know the outcome of their story arcs.  I'm one of the frustrated ones too since I like those series and tend to watch them all (although LOST kind of lost me).

I have a suggestion for the studios that create these shows and the networks that air them:  Be kind to your fans and at least wrap the show up when you cancel one of the continuing story series.  Dollhouse was able to do that and so can you.

Go on, please -- make a movie that ends the story that you just cut off.  It doesn't even have to take up time on your schedule, a DVD would do the trick for us who were into it enough to care about it. I would love to find out if they freed Kidnapped's abducted US Senator's wife.  Or who won the battle between regular humans and the new humanoid species of Prey.  Did we succeed or fail in fighting off the underwater 'invasion of the pod people' aliens of Invasion?  What exactly was that new creature discovered in Surface?  What did finally happen to the survivors of the nuclear attack who lived in Jericho?  Just to name a few, including what new future did humanity see in the second worldwide blackout of the just-cancelled FlashForward?

Help us out here, networks - don't leave us dangling in the wind like this.  It just might make you some extra money too.

The Spy (Franchise) That Thrilled Me

I was first introduced to 007 back in my youth and sort of backwards.  I had discovered and was hooked on the American TV version of James Bond first - The Man from UNCLE - and a friend said that I should give the inspiration for the TV show a look and see if I liked it as well.  I went out to do just that and found a local movie theater that was playing the first three Bond films as a triple feature. I had no idea what was about to hit me.  After the mini-marathon, I came out with one unshakeable truth for me:  UNCLE I liked but James Bond was The Man.

As I explained to my oldest son once when he asked me why I got excited about a new Bond picture, this was a new thing when it started out.  Spies in the movies before this were disreputable characters, kind of sleazy and no one you'd want to hang with for any amount of time.  Espionage was portrayed as dirty but necessary work done by dirty, untrustworthy people. 

James Bond changed all that.  British previews of Bond movies described him as a "gentleman spy" but he was more than that.  He was cool.  He got to do cool things with even cooler stuff.  When he took a woman to his bed, you knew it was for sex and it was pretty straight forward for its time about it too.  When a bad guy needed killing, he had a license to do it.

What I also explained to my Star Wars fan son was that these movies were our "ooh, aah" flicks just like Star Wars was for him.  The stories, the villians and the sets were all bigger than life and full of things we'd never seen before like a yacht that could load a nuclear missile from underneath it and an inactive volcano hollowed out to become a launching site for spaceships. The Bond women were drop dead gorgeous. Even the secret gadgets the movie writer created for the films weren't enough -- if there was something even cooler that actually existed (like one-man jet packs and helicopters, guns that fired small rockets instead of bullets, even the first water Jet Ski) it was in a Bond movie as well.

When the Bond bug hit me, I went down hard.  I set about to read everything I could about him, including successfully completing my goal of reading every single 007 book Ian Fleming had written.  When there wasn't a new movie, there was plenty of Bond-like TV shows around at the time to fill the gap like The Man from UNCLE, Mission: Impossible, I-Spy, The Avengers to even comic takes on the genre like Get Smart! 

A little sidebar about those Fleming books:  Even if you've seen every James Bond movie made you can still go back and read the original books.  The two things are completely different animals:  the stories are different, the plots are fact, most of the time the only thing the movies and books share are the titles of them and the names of the characters.
I even have a personal best to brag on when it comes to Bond -- I have seen EVERY James Bond movie in a movie theater. OK, yes I am that old.

James Bond changed over the years from being spy stories that introduced you to exotic storylines, villians and locales to evolve into more action-oriented flicks.  He's had different faces as well as the actors who played him came and went.  Now Bond has been rebooted almost entirely: gone are most of the gadgets and the familiar catch phrases, no more one liners as he disposes of the baddies, he's less suave and more in-your-face brutal and cold as a bath of ice cubes.  He's also more no-nonsense and you can pretty much drop the word "superspy" when describing him.  He makes mistakes, couldn't care less if his drink is shaken or stirred, gets into more trouble with his British Secret Service employer and when he hits or gets hit by something now his clothes shred, he gets dirty, he bleeds and he can be hurt.

One thing that hasn't changed is that it's all still guaranteed to be quite a thrill ride.

I can barely wait for the next one.....

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Welcome to my new blog

To keep my other blog from mixing subject matter, I'll be using Ranting Liberally for politics and this one for my thoughts about TV, movies and popular culture.  If you follow my politics blog, I hope you'll follow this one as well.  Tell your friends!