Saturday, January 22, 2005

Oh, and God help me, I'm considering buying the first season of MacGyver on DVD.
If I gave these entries titles, this one would probably be called "Reinventing the Wheel." (Which is why I don't give these entries titles, I have to say.)

The Hallmark Channel has revived the tradition of the NBC Mystery Movie Wheel with their Hallmark Channel Mystery Movies on Friday nights. (The NBC Wheel thing was a series of weekly TV movies, rotating through three different characters, so each character would feature every third week. Columbo was the only major success to come from the wheel, although other "spokes" included Banacek, McCloud, McMillan and Wife, and quite possibly Quincy, before it became a weekly series. Thanks to the format of the wheel, Universal was able to produce a limited number of quality Columbo movies every year, without having to hope the network found times to run them, and without wearing the concept out by trying to force a new story every week.)

The Hallmark movies feature Kellie Martin as a crimesolving photographer, John Laroquette as a crimesolving lawyer, and Lea Thompson as a crimesolving suburban housewife and former government agent. Now, so far, I haven't seen any of them, although I did kind of zip through the first Kellie Martin Mystery Woman movie, and I did record the first of Lea Thompson's Jane Doe movies last night. From what I can tell, they're aimed at the same audience as Matlock, Murder, She's Old, and the Dick Van Dyke crime doctor show, Prognosis: Murder. Which is good, because there isn't a whole lot of TV out there for that all-important 45-dead demographic.

And yet... While it's clear that I'm not the intended audience for these movies (I think CSI is way too TV-fake and self-conscious, and it's way more stylish than these ones), I'm sort of intrigued by them. Part of it is the rotating format; I like the idea of a series of TV movies that happen regularly, rather than a weekly series or movies that crop up whenever. Part of it is a certain affection for Lea Thompson and Kellie Martin. But mostly... No, wait. I think those are the only two reasons. But they're good enough for me right now.

Let's see, what else... Return of both Stargate series to SciFi last night. To a certain degree, I think I'm enjoying Atlantis a little more than SG-1 at this point. No surprise, this puts me at odds with the general Stargate fandom hive-mind, but screw 'em. I'm always drawn in by the thrill of the new. SG-1 has been around long enough that it feels so familiar, whereas Atlantis, I'm still getting to know everyone. (Of course, next year, with Richard Dean Anderson gone, Ben Browder in, and Amanda Tapping in a reduced role, SG-1 may feel a lot more new and fresh, too...)

And Battlestar: Galactica continues to be great. Last night, original series star Richard Hatch showed up in a guest role and didn't suck. Which, I'm sure, the longtime fans of the orignal series--both of them--were really upset about, because it distances the new show even further from the original.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Yahoo! News - "Idol" Opens with a Bang

Apparently, people aren't sticking around to watch Alias after Lost after all. Shoot.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Not feeling much like writing today. (My doctor doubled the dose of my pseudotumor medication, which tended to have a sedative effect anyway. Now, hopefully just while I get used to the new higher dose, I'm walking around like a freaking zombie.) However, I feel it's my duty to point out that the biggest whiners in the world, Jonathan and Victoria, were eliminated from the Amazing Race last night. So all is well with the world.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Star Wars: Collecting | Darth Tater & Wookiee Soaker: New Star Wars Toys

When I was a kid, I had a pretty big collection of Star Wars toys. Don't have any now, and no interest in getting any (although the ones they make now are cooler). However, if I were going to get one, it would be Darth Tater...
Yahoo! News - Drama Pilots Taking Off at ABC

Nice to see TV taking the true lessons of success to heart. For example, since the two biggest success stories in terms of drama this year are Lost and Suburban Housewives, it's clear that audiences were starved for innovative, well-written dramas that explored original, unique territory instead of just being obvious attempts to replicate successful formulas (yes, CSI and Law & Order, I'm talking to you).

So, for next year, ABC is hoping to expand on that success by... commissioning a pilot about suburban housewives who solve mysteries. Again. And UPN has something called Triangle in the works, which SciFi's website describes like this:

UPN has given the go-ahead to Triangle, from executive producers John Sakmar and Kerry Lenhart, which begins when the wife of a young doctor mysteriously disappears while they're on their honeymoon. In order to find out what happened, he stays on the island and begins to treat the residents and visitors, the trade paper reported.

Monday, January 17, 2005

So, since the third season ended up on everyone's "Best of 2004" lists, I decided to check out the fourth season of 24. And, after four hours, I'm out. (I had given up on the series about 2/3 of the way through the second season, but, for some reason, bought the third on DVD. An impulse, really. But I've only seen a few episodes of it so far. And I won't be buying Season 4...)

Now, this season has been getting some flack for featuring a Muslim family as part of an Islamic terrorist cell. Apparently, the Islamic Anti-Defamation League (not their real name) is concerned that if every single Arab character in this season of 24 is a terrorist, it might send the wrong message, and reinforce popularly-held if incorrect stereotypes. And they're right, of course, although that's not why I'm bailing so soon.

No, I'm bailing because I can't enjoy the series. It's entirely possible that if I could ignore the politics, it would be a perfectly acceptable piece of escapism. (Although I doubt it; it was already getting pretty stupid in Hour 3, when in order to stall a terrorist suspect, hero Jack Bauer stages a fake convenience-store robbery/hostage crisis.) No, the thing is this: the subtext is all about how due process and human rights are just useless--or, worse, a hinderance--when it comes to dealing with them Furrin Turrists. (Read it like a mumbling, barely literate, probably not sober Texan, and it'll make sense). Early on, the Counter Terrorist Unit is making no headway in questioning a suspect using traditional methods, so what does Bauer do? Shoots the guy in the knee. Maybe just the leg. Either way, bullets, lower extremity, pain... you get the message. And the guy spills his guts. (Not literally, though that might have been the next step.) You see? You see how dealing with the Turrrists like anything better than animals just won't work? You see how we need extreme measures to get what we need?

So Bauer and a by-the-book CTU operative go after another suspect, only when Bauer is ready to do something else illegal--I don't even remember what, at this point--his partner handcuffs him. And promptly gets shot and killed by the Turrrist. And Bauer can't get immediately after him, because he is literally handcuffed by the establishment, and needs to get free first. (Can anyone hear the waves lapping against the shores of Guantanamo Bay?)

Meanwhile, the Turrrrrists have kidnapped the Secretary of Defense, and plan on putting him on trial for war crimes--something the US would never submit to in the real world, so such things must be the acts of outlaws--and the Secretary keeps shouting about how he is the Secretary of Defense of the Unites States of America, like the constant reinforcement of that is enough to convince us that he shouldn't be held accountable for his actions. (I mean, I'm not saying that our officials should be kidnapped by criminals, but I think it's telling that the show threatens to put the Secretary on trial in public, instead of just threatening to kill him. As if the message is that holding the government of the US accountable could only be the actions of terrorists.)

I kept hoping to enjoy 24, because it's by the folks who made La Femme Nikita, a show I really liked. Ironically, Nikita was all about people who were drafted into some sort of extra-governmental counter-intelligence/counterterrorism agency that completely dehumanized its operatives. It stripped them of their rights as individuals, doing whatever it needed to do to achieve its ends, no matter who was trampled on as a result, and the main characters constantly fought against that. And the difference between 24 and Nikita is that in Nikita, the counterterrorists were the bad guys.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Okay, I'm writing this Saturday afternoon; no idea when Blogger's blog-by-mail feature will actually post it.  Just so you know.
Last night saw the SciFi Channel premiere of the new Battlestar Galactica, which is way, way better than anything called Battlestar Galactica has any right to be.  Of course, regular readers will know I was pretty impressed by the miniseries, and I had heard that the series kept the quality up, but it's nice to actually see that turning out to be the case.  I've actually read comments online from fans of the original show--there are some, it seems--who claim that they will absolutely not be watching this new version, because it's so completely different from the original.  Their loss; the original was crap, and this so isn't, it's like it needs a special license to use the same name.
Don't get me wrong; this isn't the greatest show ever produced for TV.  Not even the greatest show currently on (that would probably be Carnivale, on HBO).  But after six hours, I'd put it on the same level as a Lost or Desperate Housewives, easy.  It gets points for creating three-dimensional characters and putting them in situations without easy solutions.  It actually looks like it's going to be about something with subtext, with themes that resonate all too well with our post-9/11 world.  It appears to be dealing with politics and religion and war and genuine human emotion, all wrapped up in some pretty cool visual effects.  All in all, I'm even less encouraged to leave the house on Fridays than I had been before.
I should point out that I did faithfully watch the original series, when it came on.  It was in 1978 or whenever, and I was nine years old, and a huge Star Wars fan, so when something that looked a lot like Star Wars came on TV, I watched it, as you do.  As an adult, however, I can't watch those episodes.  I just can't.  It's not that the production is so much of its time; so are Columbo episodes, and the Avengers, and the Prisoner, and Rockford Files, and... and... and... It's just that it's not good.  It's all the usual crap: good guys constantly coming out unscathed against overwhelming odds (because they were fighting the slowest robots in creation), planets which just happen to be just like the Old West or the Middle Ages, just because those stock sets existed on the Universal backlot, coupled with really boring characters.
(Oh, my favorite objection to the new series is the changing of Starbuck from a man to a woman, because--and the DVD has some fat guy at a convention actually saying this--his appeal was in the fact that he was a cigar-smoking womanizer.  Now, I did watch the original series, and I've rewatched episodes in recent years, so I know I speak the truth when I point out that the "womanizer" had a steady girlfriend throughout the whole series.  Yeah, there was talk about what a roguish cad he was, and how he wouldn't settle down... but he pretty much was.  So much for what fans want.)
I don't know; much as I still love the things I loved as a kid, maybe I'm more open-minded than the average fan.  I mean, I'm not upset that the new Battlestar Galactica isn't a stupid craptacular like the original, and I could care less about who is wearing Green Lantern's ring.  (I also don't care that the new Doctor Who doesn't wear a hat.)  I want things that spark the same levels of enjoyment that my childhood favorites did, but I also recognize that I'm a different person now, and that I'm not going to be entertained in exactly the same way by exactly the same sorts of things.
New episodes of Canterbury Tales, Teen Titans, At Home with the Braithwaites, and MI-5 tonight...