rachelmanija: (Default)
( Apr. 2nd, 2017 10:44 am)
After not watching much TV for two years, I actually caught up on a couple shows. However, all are best left unspoiled, in some cases for everything but the premise.

Which shows would you like me to make spoilery discussion posts on? Feel free to talk about or rec/anti-rec them in comments to this post, but only in a non-spoilery manner.

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 76


Which TV show would you like me to post on?

View Answers

Legion
18 (23.7%)

The Good Place
34 (44.7%)

Better Call Saul (Season one)
7 (9.2%)

Killjoys
14 (18.4%)

11.22.63
3 (3.9%)

Tags:
On the excellent rec of [personal profile] egelantier, who has a better (non-spoilery) intro with photos., I recently watched a 54-episode Chinese historical drama, Nirvana in Fire (Lang Ya Bang). It was awesome.

The plot is very complex, but it's basically the wuxia version of The Count of Monte Cristo. Twelve years before the story begins, the crown prince, his general, and the general's military genius teenage prodigy son, Lin Shu, went to fight on the emperor's behalf. Something went horribly wrong, and they were falsely accused of starting a rebellion. The paranoid emperor had them all killed, along with their 70,000-man army. Now it's a completely taboo topic which no one even dares to mention to the emperor.

But Lin Shu is not dead! Exactly. Due to a near-death experience, he survived at the cost of his martial arts skills, his physical strength and health, and his entire previous body and face. No longer the strong warrior he was, he is now completely unrecognizable, an extremely beautiful but physically weak strategist dying of magical consumption. Going by the name of Mei Changsu (also Mr. Su), he returns to the capital to clear the name of the supposed rebels, bring down the two princes currently maneuvering for the throne, institute his own former best friend (the disfavored Prince Jing) as the crown prince, and restore justice, set up good rule, and get revenge.

He does this by means of incredibly intricate plotting and the power of the sarcastic eyebrow lift. Here is a typical moment: Mei Changsu is smarter than you.

Mei Changsu/Lin Shu is a fascinating character whose motivations are slowly revealed over the course of the story. I don't want to spoil what's going on with him other than what I already said (and some of it is a matter of interpretation) but in addition to being really fun to watch (his body language is amazing), there's a lot more to him than the perfect genius who immediately meets the eye. If you're interested in issues of identity, I'll just say that there's a lot to enjoy in that direction. His refusal to tell almost anybody - including his former best friend - who he really is, even if they guess and confront him, starts out seeming to have legit plot reasons, but ends up clearly being much more about his psychology. It's frustrating to watch at times, but also really interesting and uncompromising.

On a less elevated level, his illness provides an immense amount of satisfying hurt-comfort carried to sometimes hilarious extremes, as literally everyone in his vicinity gets sucked into worrying about his health, helping him walk, providing him with fur cloaks and fluffy blankets because as apparently everyone knows and is very very concerned about, his health is very delicate and he cannot take the cold. (At one point he actually has an enemy providing him with fluffy blankets.) Also, he has really beautiful hands and a great array of sarcastic/cranky/smug glances.

But this is really an ensemble story, and it has a huge array of fascinating characters, all with their own motivations and stories. Just a few of my favorites were Consort Jing, Prince Jing's 50-something mother, who has spent nearly her entire life locked in the palace but slowly reveals a talent for intrigue which is the match of Mei Changsu's own and probably better in some ways; a pair of very different warrior women, one a general and one a sort of ninja detective, who served together in the army and whom I shipped; Mei Changsu's teenage bodyguard Fei Liu, who is developmentally disabled but great at kung fu, and has a really sweet relatationship with Mei Changsu which gets more and more heartbreaking as his death gets more imminent and Fei Liu can't accept or even really understand it; the antagonist Prince Yu, who is not a nice guy at all but has understandable motivations and solid, loving relationships with his equally scheming mother and concubine/strategic advisor; Mei Changsu's kung fu doctor buddy who turns up in the last five episodes and completely steals the show.

I could go on and on. I had to stop myself or I'd name twenty favorites. In general, I liked the large number of badass middle-aged moms and the multiple interesting and important mother-son relationships, which made a nice change from western media's ubiquitous daddy issues. Though there are also a lot of daddy issues. The emperor is terrible but a really great character and gave one of my favorite performances. He's responsible for all his own woes and a lot of everyone else's too, but if I had to sit there and watch all that scheming, I'd probably start throwing paperweights too.

The story is structured as a lot of careful set-up and dramatic or funny character bits (punctuated by kung fu battles - I swear, there must have been some contractual thing saying that no more than five episodes could go by without an attack by flying ninjas) building to spectacular pay-offs; the pay-offs are sprinkled throughout the story, but more frequent in the second half. I thought it got better and better as it went along, so if you're potentially interested, I would keep going for a while even if it's confusing/slow at first.

I think everyone who might possibly have any interest should watch it so I can talk about some spoilery aspects. The first episode was really confusing and the series picked up a lot as it went along and I started figuring out who everyone was (and stopped thinking stuff like, "Is that the favored prince, the disfavored prince, or the non-prince dude whose status I'm uncertain of, and is he talking to his girlfriend, his advisor, or his sister?" It doesn't help that a lot of people have multiple names.

Maybe you could start with episode two. I think most of what happens in episode one just sets up some stuff. Skip this paragraph if you don't want to be spoiled, read it if you might skip episode one. There are two contenders for the throne, the Crown Prince (a total tool) and Prince Yu, and that younger Prince Jing is not considered a contender. Mei Changsu is associated with Langya Hall (a sort of martial arts and strategy consulting firm)which puts out the Langya List (a sort of Forbes List of great martial artists, strategists, and rich people), and comes to the capital under the easily broken identity of "Mr. Su." (Most people investigate him, quickly find that he's really Mei Changsu, the brilliant strategist ("The Divine Talent"), and don't think to look farther.) As Lin Shu (aka Xiao Shu), he was engaged to the general and princess Nihuang, and was best friends with Prince Jing (Jingyan).

The only person who knows that Mr. Su/Mei Changsu is actually Lin Shu is General Meng, who helps him find an appropriate mansion and build a secret passageway so Mei Changsu can meet with Prince Jing (aka Jingyan). This leads to this hilarious exchange:

General Meng: "The passage is ready. Now you may have your secret midnight rendezvous with Prince Jing."

Mei Changsu: "Could you try phrasing that differently?"

(If you legit ship them, there is plenty to support that and it's really angsty and epic. I had what seems to be a minority ship, which was Mei Changsu/Lin Chen, the late-appearing doctor buddy who is the one person who actually calls him on all his asshole behavior and is the only person other than Fei Liu who ever gets him to smile. I liked his relationship with Nihuang, his ex-fiancee, but I couldn't ship it because even though she does extract a few hugs from him, they are hilariously awkward. He pats her on the back like he has no idea what he's supposed to do in such a bizarre situation. That had to be deliberate, because he otherwise uses his hands so beautifully that they sometimes distracted me from reading the subtitles. And while I'm on shipping, Nihuang and Xia Dong would do a lot better with each other.)

If I have sold you on starting, I suggest using the handy photographic character guide and some patience. The show is really rewarding once you get your bearings.

Watch on Viki

Watch on Youtube

Character guide with photos.

Has anyone seen this? I would love to discuss some spoilery aspects, but only if you've seen the whole thing.
On behalf of a friend:

"Can you think of any US or British TV shows in which characters from two different worlds [ie, settings - not literally worlds necessarily] are introduced separately and then blended together over time? Also, shows in which there are two permanent geographical settings? Any genre will do."

(He doesn't mean two settings as in "some action takes place in the office, and some takes place at home." He means something like, "Half the show is set in San Francisco, and the other half is set in Antarctica/Los Angeles/outer space.")

The only one I could think of offhand was Due South, but I think only the pilot has two settings. I am now thinking of Lost, in which the two settings are the island/everywhere else.
Tags:
I am looking for recommendations for feminist TV shows with lots of action and women kicking ass, preferably physically. Preferably fantasy or sf. Please read the qualifications carefully before making your recommendations:

1. TV shows. Not movies. I don't care whether they're live action or animation.

2. Please do not rec the following shows [SUBJECT TO BEING ADDED TO], because I have already seen them: Veronica Mars, Buffy, Firefly, X-Files, Spooks/MI-5, Ultraviolet, Avatar, Dr. Who, Alias, Xena, La Femme Nikita, Farscape, Neon Genesis Evangelion, X/1999, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Escaflowne, Read or Die, Fushigi Yuugi, Fullmetal Alchemist and all incarnations of Star Trek.

I attempted to watch but was bored by or not in the mood for all the Stargates and Battlestar Galactica. And I'm looking for something more kickass and less cute, ie, not Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, etc.

3. The women must actually kick ass, not merely be the main character. A female main character who is magic or prophetic and is surrounded by hot guys who love her and kick ass for her, while excellent in their own way, is not what I'm looking for. For example, most fantasy shoujo series do not have the female lead doing much battling herself, even though she's the heroine and the story is about her.

4. The female lead or female characters must not be secondary to the male characters, or inferior in skills the show considers to be important. For instance, there is a very cool kick-ass woman in Gundam Wing. But she is a secondary character. Also, in a show about piloting giant robots, the women who pilot the giant robots only pilot the inferior type of giant robots, or are not as skilled as the male pilots. Any show along those lines does not qualify REGARDLESS of how cool and kickass some of its female characters are anyway.

5. Must be, in some way, available in English or with English subtitles. If it's not officially available, telling me where I could find it would be helpful.

6. The female characters must not be mostly naked much of the time.

7. Giant robots, guns, swords, and martial arts would be a huge plus. I realize that shows like Cagney and Lacey would probably qualify, but I'm looking for something a bit more fun and modern.

8. If you're going to recommend old American TV series, please try to recall if, along with women kicking ass, there was also obnoxious amounts of sexist joking. If so, don't rec.

9. You have to tell me what the show you're reccing is about and why it might qualify, or your rec will be totally meaningless to me.
Tags:
I am looking for recommendations for feminist TV shows with lots of action and women kicking ass, preferably physically. Preferably fantasy or sf. Please read the qualifications carefully before making your recommendations:

1. TV shows. Not movies. I don't care whether they're live action or animation.

2. Please do not rec the following shows [SUBJECT TO BEING ADDED TO], because I have already seen them: Veronica Mars, Buffy, Firefly, X-Files, Spooks/MI-5, Ultraviolet, Avatar, Dr. Who, Alias, Xena, La Femme Nikita, Farscape, Neon Genesis Evangelion, X/1999, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Escaflowne, Read or Die, Fushigi Yuugi, Fullmetal Alchemist and all incarnations of Star Trek.

I attempted to watch but was bored by or not in the mood for all the Stargates and Battlestar Galactica. And I'm looking for something more kickass and less cute, ie, not Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, etc.

3. The women must actually kick ass, not merely be the main character. A female main character who is magic or prophetic and is surrounded by hot guys who love her and kick ass for her, while excellent in their own way, is not what I'm looking for. For example, most fantasy shoujo series do not have the female lead doing much battling herself, even though she's the heroine and the story is about her.

4. The female lead or female characters must not be secondary to the male characters, or inferior in skills the show considers to be important. For instance, there is a very cool kick-ass woman in Gundam Wing. But she is a secondary character. Also, in a show about piloting giant robots, the women who pilot the giant robots only pilot the inferior type of giant robots, or are not as skilled as the male pilots. Any show along those lines does not qualify REGARDLESS of how cool and kickass some of its female characters are anyway.

5. Must be, in some way, available in English or with English subtitles. If it's not officially available, telling me where I could find it would be helpful.

6. The female characters must not be mostly naked much of the time.

7. Giant robots, guns, swords, and martial arts would be a huge plus. I realize that shows like Cagney and Lacey would probably qualify, but I'm looking for something a bit more fun and modern.

8. If you're going to recommend old American TV series, please try to recall if, along with women kicking ass, there was also obnoxious amounts of sexist joking. If so, don't rec.

9. You have to tell me what the show you're reccing is about and why it might qualify, or your rec will be totally meaningless to me.
I am having a hard tine getting net access, so I am way behind in recording what has been going on. Expect some out of order reports as I catch up.

A couple nights ago Stephanie and I were tired, so we decided to spend a quiet night in the hotel watching DVDs. But before putting in a DVD, we decided to check out Japanese TV. Two DVD-less hours later, we went to sleep. This is what we saw-- all in Japanese, but I translated a bit:

1. An international women's shot-put competition, held in Osaka. This was pretty amazing. I had previously not known what shot-put is: it's a very heavy-looking metal ball on a long wire, which you spin around your head until it spins you in a tight circle, heels digging a hole into the earth, and then release it to fly some ridiculous distance away. Those women were really built on the upper body, and it was great to watch.

ETA: Stephanie says that's actually the hammer throw.

(Speaking of women's upper bodies, a number of people at the con seemed quite hypnotized by mine, due to the spectacular outfit I had previously purchased in Harajuku and wore to the con. Several men asked to take my picture (and some women did too) and some of those asked if they could post it on their home page. Due to a language barrier, I momentarily thought one of them was asking if he could use it as a model for a figurine, but alas, no-- he just belonged to a figurine club and was indicating the home page on its business card.)

2. A sushi-eating contest. The contestants, three men, one of whom had matching green clothes, and hair, consumed plate after plate of conveyer-belt sushi in a leisurely fashion, with a loud DOING every time they finished a piece.

(We had conveyer belt sushi for lunch today. It was delicious! The sushi chefs stood in the middle of an enormous conveyer belt, bellowing (in Japanese) "Two uni for number thirty-nine!" HAIIIII!!!" My favorites were lush salmon striped in orange-pink and white like rock strata, a very nice tamago (egg omelet cooked in dashi), and cold but still fine and sweet unagi (sea eel-- not to be confused, as I did once, with usagi (rabbit.)

I did not care for the disturbingly cartilageneous crab salad or the natto roll, though Stephanie enjoyed both! A roll involving some fish and salmon eggs was also very good, and probably the first time I've enjoyed salmon eggs. We also got some nice broiled salmon-- finished by a chef with a blowtorch in either hand.)

3. An episode of an anime series I like, Naruto. It was the conclusion of the post-timeskip Sakura puppet battle of DOOM. Nothing can shamelessly break your heart like anime, and I especially liked the image of the lonely little boy with puppet jutsu, creating two life-size parent puppets after his own parents had died, and using magic marionette strings to make them embrace him. Awww!

4. A competitive glass-blowing show, in the style of "Top Chef" or "American Idol." This was fantastic and I think would do very well in American remake (probably in the works right now.) Four glass-blowes, three men and a woman, were first assigned to create donburi-- rice bowls-- in glass. One made an eel bowl, one made pork cutlets (tonkatsu) that doubled as a money box, one did a mixed one that doubled as a jewelry set (shrimp brooch, ginger rose ring, salmon egg bead necklace, etc.)

The last two continued to the final round, where they were tasked to create a goldfish bowl like none other. The methods were amazing, and the results were spectacular: the man did a fisherman's net with a crayfish peeking out inside a gold swirly bowl, all in a moat-dish with guppies in it. The woman did a three-tier planet thing with rings of Saturn! I kind of preferred his, but hers was the most spectacular and she won--Japan's newest Top Glassblower!
I am having a hard tine getting net access, so I am way behind in recording what has been going on. Expect some out of order reports as I catch up.

A couple nights ago Stephanie and I were tired, so we decided to spend a quiet night in the hotel watching DVDs. But before putting in a DVD, we decided to check out Japanese TV. Two DVD-less hours later, we went to sleep. This is what we saw-- all in Japanese, but I translated a bit:

1. An international women's shot-put competition, held in Osaka. This was pretty amazing. I had previously not known what shot-put is: it's a very heavy-looking metal ball on a long wire, which you spin around your head until it spins you in a tight circle, heels digging a hole into the earth, and then release it to fly some ridiculous distance away. Those women were really built on the upper body, and it was great to watch.

ETA: Stephanie says that's actually the hammer throw.

(Speaking of women's upper bodies, a number of people at the con seemed quite hypnotized by mine, due to the spectacular outfit I had previously purchased in Harajuku and wore to the con. Several men asked to take my picture (and some women did too) and some of those asked if they could post it on their home page. Due to a language barrier, I momentarily thought one of them was asking if he could use it as a model for a figurine, but alas, no-- he just belonged to a figurine club and was indicating the home page on its business card.)

2. A sushi-eating contest. The contestants, three men, one of whom had matching green clothes, and hair, consumed plate after plate of conveyer-belt sushi in a leisurely fashion, with a loud DOING every time they finished a piece.

(We had conveyer belt sushi for lunch today. It was delicious! The sushi chefs stood in the middle of an enormous conveyer belt, bellowing (in Japanese) "Two uni for number thirty-nine!" HAIIIII!!!" My favorites were lush salmon striped in orange-pink and white like rock strata, a very nice tamago (egg omelet cooked in dashi), and cold but still fine and sweet unagi (sea eel-- not to be confused, as I did once, with usagi (rabbit.)

I did not care for the disturbingly cartilageneous crab salad or the natto roll, though Stephanie enjoyed both! A roll involving some fish and salmon eggs was also very good, and probably the first time I've enjoyed salmon eggs. We also got some nice broiled salmon-- finished by a chef with a blowtorch in either hand.)

3. An episode of an anime series I like, Naruto. It was the conclusion of the post-timeskip Sakura puppet battle of DOOM. Nothing can shamelessly break your heart like anime, and I especially liked the image of the lonely little boy with puppet jutsu, creating two life-size parent puppets after his own parents had died, and using magic marionette strings to make them embrace him. Awww!

4. A competitive glass-blowing show, in the style of "Top Chef" or "American Idol." This was fantastic and I think would do very well in American remake (probably in the works right now.) Four glass-blowes, three men and a woman, were first assigned to create donburi-- rice bowls-- in glass. One made an eel bowl, one made pork cutlets (tonkatsu) that doubled as a money box, one did a mixed one that doubled as a jewelry set (shrimp brooch, ginger rose ring, salmon egg bead necklace, etc.)

The last two continued to the final round, where they were tasked to create a goldfish bowl like none other. The methods were amazing, and the results were spectacular: the man did a fisherman's net with a crayfish peeking out inside a gold swirly bowl, all in a moat-dish with guppies in it. The woman did a three-tier planet thing with rings of Saturn! I kind of preferred his, but hers was the most spectacular and she won--Japan's newest Top Glassblower!
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Aug. 19th, 2007 10:55 am)
After several recommendations, I watched an episode, the one where the hero's bounty-hunter girlfriend gets hired by a fugitive to clear his name.

The premise of the show is that the hero (whose name, like everyone else's, I've forgotten) was an American covert op who got a "burn notice"-- someone planted evidence to make him look unreliable, and he was summarily fired. Now he's stuck in Miami, doing odd jobs and trying to find out who burned him and why.

I liked this but didn't love it; I'd watch more episodes and see if it grows on me. I think my biggest problem with it was that though I enjoyed the bright, snappy tone, which also influenced many stylistic choices which I also liked, such as the voice-over infodumps on covert ops and the freeze-frames, I would like the show better if its tone was more serious. To me, the premise begs for angst. But there was no angst. Alas.

Though I liked the character of the ex-girlfriend, I was freaked out by the fact that she was in extremely revealing outfits for much of the show, and appeared to weigh eleven pounds. You could count her ribs, and see the outline of her sternum. I realize that some women are like that naturally, but with the prevalence of anorexia and "starvation is better" beauty standards in Hollywood, it creeped me out.
Tags:
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Aug. 19th, 2007 10:55 am)
After several recommendations, I watched an episode, the one where the hero's bounty-hunter girlfriend gets hired by a fugitive to clear his name.

The premise of the show is that the hero (whose name, like everyone else's, I've forgotten) was an American covert op who got a "burn notice"-- someone planted evidence to make him look unreliable, and he was summarily fired. Now he's stuck in Miami, doing odd jobs and trying to find out who burned him and why.

I liked this but didn't love it; I'd watch more episodes and see if it grows on me. I think my biggest problem with it was that though I enjoyed the bright, snappy tone, which also influenced many stylistic choices which I also liked, such as the voice-over infodumps on covert ops and the freeze-frames, I would like the show better if its tone was more serious. To me, the premise begs for angst. But there was no angst. Alas.

Though I liked the character of the ex-girlfriend, I was freaked out by the fact that she was in extremely revealing outfits for much of the show, and appeared to weigh eleven pounds. You could count her ribs, and see the outline of her sternum. I realize that some women are like that naturally, but with the prevalence of anorexia and "starvation is better" beauty standards in Hollywood, it creeped me out.
Tags:
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Aug. 15th, 2007 02:33 pm)
So, I need to write a couple spec scripts, one each for children's and prime-time TV. These scripts must be for American shows which are currently airing (ie, not cancelled) on American TV. They must be sf, fantasy, cross-genre, or action-adventure.

(If the one other TV professional here happens to know what execs are sick of and what they'd like to see more of, or if actually non-American shows that have aired in the US (like Naruto or Spooks/MI-5) are OK, please chime in!)

ETA: To clarify what a spec script is for: it's to demonstrate that I can write for a certain genre and capture the voices of existing characters. It's not to try to get a job on that particular TV series the spec is written for.

The problem is that a number of sf shows airing now are very arc-heavy, and it's hard to write a spec for, say, Heroes, that won't instantly become obsolete.

Naturally, I am holding a totally scientific poll to find out what people are especially into, and to get recs I might not have thought of.

[Poll #1039801]
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Aug. 15th, 2007 02:33 pm)
So, I need to write a couple spec scripts, one each for children's and prime-time TV. These scripts must be for American shows which are currently airing (ie, not cancelled) on American TV. They must be sf, fantasy, cross-genre, or action-adventure.

(If the one other TV professional here happens to know what execs are sick of and what they'd like to see more of, or if actually non-American shows that have aired in the US (like Naruto or Spooks/MI-5) are OK, please chime in!)

ETA: To clarify what a spec script is for: it's to demonstrate that I can write for a certain genre and capture the voices of existing characters. It's not to try to get a job on that particular TV series the spec is written for.

The problem is that a number of sf shows airing now are very arc-heavy, and it's hard to write a spec for, say, Heroes, that won't instantly become obsolete.

Naturally, I am holding a totally scientific poll to find out what people are especially into, and to get recs I might not have thought of.

[Poll #1039801]
Danger UXB is a British TV show about the bomb squad during the Blitz. I watched the first two episodes. I liked the atmosphere of dread during the defusing, and the short lifespan of the bomb squad hanging over everyone's heads, but the characters didn't much grab me and the only significant female character was such a caricature of a nymphomaniac that I was seriously expecting her to suddenly vamp out and suck the life blood from the hero while she was wriggling all over him during an air raid, explaining that bombs made her all... you know... excited. EW.

Cracker is a mystery/cop show starring Robbie Coltrane and-- the reason I tried it-- Christopher Eccleston. I couldn't even get through all of the first episode, but maybe I was in the wrong mood. It wasn't bad or anything, I was just totally uninterested... again, perhaps that was me, not the show.

I think I'm in the mood for something lively and fun, or possibly super-angsty and intense, or very action-y. Or all of the above, which would be Naruto.

I can't watch season two of Doctor Who because my local video store doesn't have it, and Netflix has pulled it due to a violent scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre getting spliced into their copies. Oops. I do have Sandbaggers in my queue, and also Joan of Arcadia, La Femme Nikita, Alias, Dead Like Me, The 4400, and Scrubs. Any suggestions for prioritizing, or of other TV shows I should be flixing, either live-action or anime?
Tags:
Danger UXB is a British TV show about the bomb squad during the Blitz. I watched the first two episodes. I liked the atmosphere of dread during the defusing, and the short lifespan of the bomb squad hanging over everyone's heads, but the characters didn't much grab me and the only significant female character was such a caricature of a nymphomaniac that I was seriously expecting her to suddenly vamp out and suck the life blood from the hero while she was wriggling all over him during an air raid, explaining that bombs made her all... you know... excited. EW.

Cracker is a mystery/cop show starring Robbie Coltrane and-- the reason I tried it-- Christopher Eccleston. I couldn't even get through all of the first episode, but maybe I was in the wrong mood. It wasn't bad or anything, I was just totally uninterested... again, perhaps that was me, not the show.

I think I'm in the mood for something lively and fun, or possibly super-angsty and intense, or very action-y. Or all of the above, which would be Naruto.

I can't watch season two of Doctor Who because my local video store doesn't have it, and Netflix has pulled it due to a violent scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre getting spliced into their copies. Oops. I do have Sandbaggers in my queue, and also Joan of Arcadia, La Femme Nikita, Alias, Dead Like Me, The 4400, and Scrubs. Any suggestions for prioritizing, or of other TV shows I should be flixing, either live-action or anime?
Tags:
Just finished the season. That was fabulous. I loved the chemistry between the Doctor and Rose, much of the dialogue was hilarious, and not only did I love many of the supporting characters, I loved the way so many ordinary people, when put on the spot, discovered hidden capabilities for heroism or, in some cases-- think finger-snap-- truly astounding stupidity.

Also, there were more middle-aged and older women on this show in significant roles than in any other sf TV show I've ever seen, and I really appreciated that. (DS9 had some, but they all seemed to be muttering crones.) Plus the only sf TV show I've ever seen with a canonically bisexual male character, and even a male-male kiss! And speaking of more characters one never sees on sf TV, an Indian woman with a big gun! Christopher Eccleston whacking himself in the face while pretending to fight off a detached plastic arm! London in the Blitz! The Tardis! An attempt to evade a Dalek by running upstairs! Let's just say there was much to love.

I think my favorite episodes were The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, and the final episodes. ETA: And Father's Day! And, for an honorable mention, Dalek! But I now wonder if I will like the second season anywhere near as much.

Spoilers for entire first season )
Just finished the season. That was fabulous. I loved the chemistry between the Doctor and Rose, much of the dialogue was hilarious, and not only did I love many of the supporting characters, I loved the way so many ordinary people, when put on the spot, discovered hidden capabilities for heroism or, in some cases-- think finger-snap-- truly astounding stupidity.

Also, there were more middle-aged and older women on this show in significant roles than in any other sf TV show I've ever seen, and I really appreciated that. (DS9 had some, but they all seemed to be muttering crones.) Plus the only sf TV show I've ever seen with a canonically bisexual male character, and even a male-male kiss! And speaking of more characters one never sees on sf TV, an Indian woman with a big gun! Christopher Eccleston whacking himself in the face while pretending to fight off a detached plastic arm! London in the Blitz! The Tardis! An attempt to evade a Dalek by running upstairs! Let's just say there was much to love.

I think my favorite episodes were The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, and the final episodes. ETA: And Father's Day! And, for an honorable mention, Dalek! But I now wonder if I will like the second season anywhere near as much.

Spoilers for entire first season )
Thanks to the one-three punch of Casino Royale, MI-5/Spooks, and a re-read of Tim Powers' Declare, I am now obsessed with spies, secret agents, moles, and all things deceptive and paranoid. Recommend me some good books (fiction or non), movies, TV shows, or other media about spies.

I already have Sandbaggers in my Netflix queue, and have read (but not really understood) Stoppard's Hapgood. I have never read John LeCarre or any of the other spying classics (so recs of specific books rather than general recs of an author would be good.) I am particularly taken by the angst of spying, the paranoia, the confusion between persona and identity, and the possibility of agents becoming so doubled, tripled, or quadrupled that no one really knows what side they're on, including themselves.

I've read enough about the Enigma machine to be interested, but is there a book about it that isn't incomprehensibly technical?

Finally, is there any good history on early spying, like pre-twentieth century?

ETA: During a recent visit to Costco, during which Dad used his wife's card since he didn't have his own with him (which you're not supposed to do there), he confessed that while he was living at the ashram, a combination of boredom and LeCarre had gotten him so obsessed with spies that he used to pretend to be one and see how far he could sneak through low-level security without actually displaying his ID. Damn, I wish I'd known that two years ago; I would have definitely mentioned it in All the Fishes Come Home to Roost. My father, the secret agent, slipping undetected through life.
Thanks to the one-three punch of Casino Royale, MI-5/Spooks, and a re-read of Tim Powers' Declare, I am now obsessed with spies, secret agents, moles, and all things deceptive and paranoid. Recommend me some good books (fiction or non), movies, TV shows, or other media about spies.

I already have Sandbaggers in my Netflix queue, and have read (but not really understood) Stoppard's Hapgood. I have never read John LeCarre or any of the other spying classics (so recs of specific books rather than general recs of an author would be good.) I am particularly taken by the angst of spying, the paranoia, the confusion between persona and identity, and the possibility of agents becoming so doubled, tripled, or quadrupled that no one really knows what side they're on, including themselves.

I've read enough about the Enigma machine to be interested, but is there a book about it that isn't incomprehensibly technical?

Finally, is there any good history on early spying, like pre-twentieth century?

ETA: During a recent visit to Costco, during which Dad used his wife's card since he didn't have his own with him (which you're not supposed to do there), he confessed that while he was living at the ashram, a combination of boredom and LeCarre had gotten him so obsessed with spies that he used to pretend to be one and see how far he could sneak through low-level security without actually displaying his ID. Damn, I wish I'd known that two years ago; I would have definitely mentioned it in All the Fishes Come Home to Roost. My father, the secret agent, slipping undetected through life.
This is Part II of a post on casting. Please take a look at Part I if you haven't read it already, as I will refer back to it.

Today I’m looking at the different types of stories, and how the type of story interacts with the type of casting. Again, I am specifically discussing visual media, though some of the issues are applicable to the written word as well.

I am assuming here that a multiracial cast is a desirable outcome. This does not mean that a monoracial cast is necessarily bad. Some types of stories and settings demand them: most of August Wilson’s gorgeous black history cycle, for instance, or a movie set somewhere where absolutely everyone is white, perhaps a small town in Utah. However, for the purposes of the discussion, I’m going to assume that we’re talking about works that don’t fall into those categories. (If the race of every character is essential to the story and written into the script, there are no race-related casting decisions to discuss.)

I am also not going to attempt to cover every possible type of story, just a few that highlight particular issues in casting.

Remember what I wrote about choice? That every single tiny detail in a TV show, play, or movie was the result of someone's (usually the director's) conscious choice to put it there? That every detail has a reason for existing, and is supposed to convey something to the audience?

That goes for casting too. Actors are cast very deliberately, to convey qualities that the director wants to be conveyed. The way they look is a big part of that, as is the way they speak and the audience's prior knowledge of them. (Some roles play off of a star's existing image; some roles are cast with an unknown so the audience will have no preconceived notions about the actor, but will only see the role.) So when you see a movie that is entirely white when nothing in the script demands that, it's because someone decided to make it that way. If you see a movie that is multiracial, it's because someone decided to make it that way.

Contemporary dramas, historicals, remakes of old racist stories, and fantasy and sf )
This is Part II of a post on casting. Please take a look at Part I if you haven't read it already, as I will refer back to it.

Today I’m looking at the different types of stories, and how the type of story interacts with the type of casting. Again, I am specifically discussing visual media, though some of the issues are applicable to the written word as well.

I am assuming here that a multiracial cast is a desirable outcome. This does not mean that a monoracial cast is necessarily bad. Some types of stories and settings demand them: most of August Wilson’s gorgeous black history cycle, for instance, or a movie set somewhere where absolutely everyone is white, perhaps a small town in Utah. However, for the purposes of the discussion, I’m going to assume that we’re talking about works that don’t fall into those categories. (If the race of every character is essential to the story and written into the script, there are no race-related casting decisions to discuss.)

I am also not going to attempt to cover every possible type of story, just a few that highlight particular issues in casting.

Remember what I wrote about choice? That every single tiny detail in a TV show, play, or movie was the result of someone's (usually the director's) conscious choice to put it there? That every detail has a reason for existing, and is supposed to convey something to the audience?

That goes for casting too. Actors are cast very deliberately, to convey qualities that the director wants to be conveyed. The way they look is a big part of that, as is the way they speak and the audience's prior knowledge of them. (Some roles play off of a star's existing image; some roles are cast with an unknown so the audience will have no preconceived notions about the actor, but will only see the role.) So when you see a movie that is entirely white when nothing in the script demands that, it's because someone decided to make it that way. If you see a movie that is multiracial, it's because someone decided to make it that way.

Contemporary dramas, historicals, remakes of old racist stories, and fantasy and sf )
Welcome to International Blog Against Racism Week!

If you would like to participate, here's what to do:

1. Announce the week in your blog.

2. Switch your default icon to either an official IBAS icon, or one which you feel is appropriate. To get an official IBAS icon, you may modify one of yours yourself or ask someone to do so, or ask [livejournal.com profile] oyceter to do so as she has agreed to make a custom one for everyone who asks, or go to her LJ and take one of the general-use ones she put up.

3. Post about race and/or racism: in media, in life, in the news, personal experiences, writing characters of a race that isn't yours, portrayals of race on TV, review a book on the subject, etc.

Basically, the idea is that by fostering open discussion right now, future discussions will be less fraught and everyone will feel more comfortable talking about the subject.

There are a number of discussions going on at the moment regarding the portrayal of race in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I cannot comment on that movie, because I haven’t seen it. This post is about multicultural casting in general, by which I mean both the issue of writing roles for and casting minorities (as opposed to not writing about and casting them), and how doing so may or may not be done in a stereotypical manner.

My intent is to demystify the process by which dramatic media (plays, TV shows, and theatre) end up with the casts that they end up with, and in which minority actors end up playing memorable and unique characters, or are forgotten in the background, or play embarrassing stereotypes.

Once I get past the introduction and begin to discuss methods of casting, I will touch upon all the relevant issues: artistic, practical, and political.

(I will discuss similar issues in prose fiction in a different post.)

This is a subject which is quite complex and interesting, both artistically and politically, but which tends to generate discussions in which more heat than light is shed. However, I hope we can get past our natural defensiveness regarding a touchy subject, and actually talk about the issues at hand without insulting each other or resorting to straw-man arguments like, “You’re saying that a movie is racist unless 51% of the cast is black.”

I have faith that all my regular readers can do that. However, posts on touchy subjects tend to attract drive-by commenters. In the Pirates debate, I was particularly startled by several totally non-sequitor anti-Semitic remarks like it's like some of the Jewish people thinking that all white people are neo nazi supremecists because EVERYTHING in some way comes back to anti-semitism. and our teacher was so Jewish even the Jewish kids thought she was weird. Not to mention the astonishing display of chutzpah by the latter commenter, who attempted to prove that she was not only not racist, but had been oppressed more than anyone ever, by claiming that her ancestors had been oppressed by slaves.

Given that, let me give fair warning to anyone who might drive by: any comments along those lines will not be deleted, but will be mercilessly mocked and preserved for all eternity, so little children who pass by will cry out, “Dear God, what is that thing?!”

Before I start, I will address a couple of points in advance, as they will certainly be brought up in comments if I don’t, and they tend to drown out discussion of more interesting issues.

(Note that I am mostly referring to American media, because that's what I'm most familiar with. The default for a hero in India, say, is not a white man, but an Indian man. If you are not American, please mentally substitute locally discriminated-against groups where appropriate. Also, while I am primarily talking about racial minorities, much of this is also applicable to women and non-racial minorities.)

1. Why should a movie have to put in a minority actor, solely for the sake of having a minority?

Why should the default be that everyone is white? Seriously: why?

If the story is intended to be realistic, most places and eras were not entirely white; if the story is fantasy, then why must an entirely made-up world be inhabited solely by white people?

2. Movies and TV are just entertainment. Please don’t ruin my light entertainment by forcing it to make a political statement by casting minority actors.

Why should entertainment be any less entertaining because there are minority actors onscreen?

Why shouldn’t minority audiences be able to enjoy light and fluffy entertainment that shows people like them, and isn’t spoiled for them by the inclusion of insulting stereotypes about them?

Finally, racial stereotypes, like non-racial stereotypes, are boring and predictable. If you avoid them, your work will be more entertaining, not less.

3. If you’re white and you write about minorities, you get criticized for stereotyping. If you leave them out, you get criticized for that. You can’t win!

Yes, this is a touchy area. Minority writers also get criticized no matter what they do. (If a minority writer writes about her own group, she may be criticized for making them look bad, or look unrealistically good, or by failing to address every possible angle, or of locking herself into a ghetto. If she doesn’t write about her own group, then she’s contributing to the lack of portrayals of that group.) Also, no matter how well anyone writes, they will get at least one bad review. No one is immune from criticism, nor should expect to be.

But if you make a good-faith effort to be inclusive and not be stereotypical, some people will appreciate it. Also, you will be helping to change the climate that causes so much criticism. A big reason why roles for minorities attract disproportionate criticism is that minorities are disproportionately underrepresented onscreen. Write more good minority roles, and eventually the sheer mass of them will cause each individual one to be less weighted.

4. But the movie just happened to be cast that way. No one sat down and decided to be racist, it just coincidentally happened that the Jewish characters were all greedy, the Hispanic ones all spoke in bad English, the Asians were sexless geeks, and the white characters were articulate, smart, sexy, and heroic!

It is quite possible that no one decided to be racist. However, movies do not descend from Heaven, untouched by human hands.

Every single thing in a movie is there because someone decided to put it there, and they decided to put it there for a reason. The choice to put a vase of flowers on the table, the choice to make them roses, the choice to make the roses red: there was a reason for all of that, whether thematic, plot-related, character-related, or because they harmonized visually with the heroine’s dress. And a human being also deliberately chose to either write in characters of a certain ethnicity, or cast them that way.

Now, it may be that no one thought of the implications of the greedy Jews, etc. Maybe they made the Jews greedy because of an unconscious assumption that Jews are greedy, not an active hatred of Jews. Or maybe they live under a rock and had never heard that Jews are frequently stereotyped as moneygrubbers. However, the result is the same. This is why it’s good to be aware of the implications of the choices we make. If we don’t ever question our assumptions, we may end up making statements we don’t mean to make, and be boring and stereotypical to boot.

(This doesn’t mean that you can never write a Jewish character who’s greedy, but that you should be aware that it’s a stereotype and have a reason for doing it anyway, and execute that reason well.)

5. What, I’m not allowed to enjoy anything unless it passes a political correctness litmus test?

Not at all. It is perfectly legitimate to have differing opinions on whether or not a work is racist or otherwise offensive, unless it’s something like Mein Kampf.

Also, we all love works which contain opinions or representations that we disagree with, whether it’s film noir where every woman is either an evil whore or an innocent victim, or a charming romantic comedy with a bit of vicious anti-Semitism thrown in as comic relief. It is perfectly possible to love a work and still be capable of seeing and discussing flaws in it, whether those flaws are artistic or political.

I will now discuss several different methods of casting, with particular reference to the various iterations of Star Trek.

Black Klingons, Asian Computer Geeks, and Lt. Al Giardello )
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