A SHOW YOU THOUGHT YOU WOULDN'T LIKE, BUT ENDED UP LOVING.
Last year, if I had been asked what show I would 'never' watch, I would have said American Idol. Idol stood out in my mind as the epitome of horrible music and teeny-bopperness.
But then something horrible happened.
Daniel DVR'd the new season.
(reenactment - the names have not been changed to protect the innocent)
Beth: What the heck is this on our DVR?
Daniel: I think we should watch it this year.
Beth: ..... (waits for the punch line)
Daniel: (pushes play)
Beth: (still waiting for punch line)
It was funny. I had to give it that. And in between the funny parts were some good parts. I was impressed and not-so-impressed and wow'd a couple of times. Plus, we loved watching Steven Tyler and J Lo, and making fun of Randy and Ryan Seacrest. By the time the Hollywood Rounds started I had to admit that I geniunelly liked American Idol.
Maybe it's because I had never watched it before, or because this season has good talent or because J Lo is just so darn pretty, but we both watch it every week. We've voted. We've crossed our fingers for our favorites and been shocked when those favorites get the boot.
Looking back now, I'm not sure why I ever thought I'd dislike this show. Music, singing in particular, is a giant part of who I am. So a giant national talent show should have been right up my alley. Granted, in the end, I suppose it will probably just end up being a Giant Popularity contest, but I suppose that's what being an entertainer is all about.
When I think about the amount of time I poured over the "Favorite Episode" category of this challenge, the time spent on my Least Favorite episode is kind of laughable. I read the prompt, thought for approximately 2 seconds, and said "Runaway Bride."
Ah, the dreaded* Christmas Special.
And what did the Creepy Robot Santa-Mask people bring us this year?
I will just say it. I've been gone for a long time just because I'm lazy. Now I'm back in business and ready to make some progress on these days of TV.
When I first saw this Challenge, I immediately said Vincent & The Doctor from Series 5 of Dr. Who. I was completely prepared to write about this scary, sweet and sad episode about the Doctor and Amy traveling back to meet Vincent Van Goth (they pronounce it goth like the people who wear black clothes all the time. Heehee). It had one of my favorite lines "Bowties are cool," my favorite Doctor (Matt Smith, I admit it), a cameo by Bill Nighy, and just a really beautiful story.
But then Daniel and I watched David Tennant's last episode and in traditional "goodbye style" he revisited some characters from previous storylines. When he visited one character, I started crying and couldn't stop, and although it seems like a lot of my reactions to Dr. Who involve me weeping uncontrollably, I did realize that my favorite episode seems to actually be a two parter called Human Nature and Family of Blood.
This is the hardest challenge yet. I cannot think of a show I do not like right now.
I can think of some shows that are not very good, and some shows that I have chosen not to watch, but is there a show that really provokes my complete and utter distaste? There are certainly some shows that make me cringe at the very thought of them (Outsourced, Wife-Swap, Undercover Boss), but since I don't watch them, I feel it would be wrong for me to judge.
Grah! What should I choose???
I'm closing my eyes. I'm thinking back, back into my past. Back into my repressed television horror story memories....
Ah. There it is.
I had forgotten...
Walker, Texas Ranger.
(I like my heroes tougher than this, but it looks like I'm out of luck.)
For a good portion of my life, Walker Texas Ranger was just one of those shows that I knew was on, but had blissfully never watched. Never watched, that is, until my cousin landed a role as an extra for one of the episodes. The night it aired, the family gathered around the television and I have to confess I was not prepared for the immediate cheese that started spewing everywhere. Not only was the story not very good, but its prim "moralyness" made me feel like I was watching some sort of Focus on the Family educational video. Finally at the very end of the episode, my cousin's scene was on. He was on for aproximately 5 seconds. WTF?! I had just sat through an HOUR of hell for 5 seconds of my cousin's face? Seriously?
One year ago, my favorite show of all time was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I'd watched every season multiple times, owned action figures, had autographed pictures on my walls. If someone had asked me what was the best show ever, the first season of Buffy would already have been in my hands to let them borrow.
In April though, I noticed Neil Gaiman twittering a lot about a certain program and how excited he was for it. So I asked Daniel if he might be interested in watching the new season of Doctor Who. Daniel was game, and we set our DVR to record. I didn't know it then, but I had just taken my first step in becoming a traitor.
We really knew nothing at all about the show other than the basic premise. The Doctor travels through time with his "companion," a human girl who goes on adventures with him. We had heard that this season would be a good one to start on because it was also the start of a start of a new Doctor. A new Doctor? It didn't make a ton of sense to me, but Wikipedia told us that Doctor Who had been played by eleven different actors, and that each time they were ready for a new guy to take over, the Doctor would just "regenerate into the next one." Maybe soap operas should take notice??
We watched the first episode of the new season and loved it. The new Doctor was adorable and I was totally loving his "companion" Amy. She was hilarious and really pretty too. :-) The writing and directing were great and the special effects were actually done well. I ended up watching that first episode twice because I couldn't wait for Saturday to watch the next episode. After that Saturday, waiting became almost unbearable.
That was when we discovered Netflix had instant streaming of the first 4 seasons/series.* We started watching Series 1 and met a different Doctor with a different companion, and we were just as enchanted. By the time Series 2 had ended I had laughed, screamed, and cried so much that Daniel was convinced I would run out of tears.
We started on Series 3 just about the time that Series 5 ended in real-time. Again, more tears came (more than ever, Daniel had been wrong), but more smiles too. We were both just glad to have two more series left before we were caught up. We'd have more Doctor to keep us company til December, when the "Christmas Special" would air.
Christmas Eve came, and we were more than ready for some Doctor Who. We had finished Series 4 at the end of November and it had been a long month without the Doctor. My mom totally delivered on the "Always Gets Me Exactly the Right Christmas Present," too. I happily unwrapped the 5th Season of Doctor Who; I couldn't wait till I got time to re-watch. On Christmas Day, though, we were ready for some new Who. Late that night, Daniel, his family and I watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special "A Christmas Carol." My face was a one giant smile. Watching Matt Smith bumble around everywhere, popping up in the past to convince the space-age Scrooge to save a spaceship full of people (including Amy), I suddenly thought, "This is my favorite show."
I knew it was true.
This brilliant, sweet, funny, frightening, gloriously wacky show is everything I love about television, about telling stories, about being human, and about finding the people you love and holding them close. My favorite. My show. My Doctor.
So now you know why I feel guilty. Why I've branded myself a traitor. In less than a year's time, I've fallen for someone else. I've cheated. Me! Ms. No-Sympathy-for-Cheaters Beth. But although I feel guilty, I can't go back; I don't want to. So I'd like to apologize, Buffy. I still love you and always will, I'm just not the same person I was. Now I'm someone who's met the Doctor.
P.S. If it's any consolation, I like this opening sequence a lot more than the actual one. ;-)
*Doctor Who has actually been around since the 60's, but after a hiatus in the 80s and 90s, they brought back the show in 2005. That was called Series 1 and moved on from there.
If I had been participating in this challenge in early November, I would have said that the best "new" show from 2010 was probably AMC's The Walking Dead. Good acting, nice plot lines, zombies; it pretty much has everything that makes a show good (emphasis on the zombies). But on Thanksgiving Day (oh-so-thankful), I found my REAL favorite new show of the year, which surprisingly had no zombies at all.
This three episode series was produced by Steven Moffat (whom you will soon will be hearing more of) and originally aired on the BBC over the summer. Then PBS's Masterpiece Mystery series snatched it up and made it a part of their Sunday evenings. On that Thanksgiving, we were trying to find something to watch with Daniel's parents and I suggested we watch the long-ago DVR'd Masterpiece Mystery I had never bothered to watch. What followed was an entire family completely engrossed in a roller-coaster adventure of a show!
The premise asks the question "What would it be like if Sherlock Holmes was solving cases in modern times?" The answer is, "Badassness."
This Sherlock Holmes, played by the marvelous Benedict Cumberbatch, uses text messages, emails, and even has his own blog.* When John Watson (Martin Freeman...who I LOVE), a returning Afghan war vet (the original Watson was actually a vet of the SAME war) is introduced to Sherlock as someone looking for a roommate, the unlikely pair take up residence at 221B Baker Street (heehee) and start solving crimes. There are plenty more throwbacks to the old stories: Mrs. Hudson is now the Landlady, not the housekeeper; Inspector Lestrade is now Dectective Lestrade, and infamous Moriarty is just as up-to-date as Sherlock.
"Conan Doyle's stories were never about frock coats and gas light; they're about brilliant detection, dreadful villains and blood-curdling crimes — and frankly, to hell with the crinoline. Other detectives have cases, Sherlock Holmes has adventures, and that's what matters". - Stephen Moffatt
The three episodes are immensely fun to watch and re-watch. The best part of the entire show is watching the friendship develop between John & Sherlock. You can see that John is going to be what keeps Sherlock grounded, and Sherlock will be what keeps John going. It's the original Bromance!
(wonder how many fan-fiction shipper sites are out there already...)
Can't wait till later this year when the next three episode series debuts!
One More Thing (Not really Television Related): I have to admit that I was never a Sherlock Holmes fan. When I was young, mysteries never gripped me the way fantasy did, so I mostly left them alone. Two series made me a Holmes fan though. One, Laurie R. King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice which is the first of a series about a young woman, Mary Russell, who becomes Sherlock's protege. And two, the Enola Holmes children's book series by Nancy Springer. Enola happens to be Sherlock's sister, and just as capable at handling mysteries as her older brother. I highly recommend them both.
I have to thank Linda Holmes from NPR's pop culture blog, MonkeySee, for today's choice. Without her constantly writing about, talking about and daily professing her love for Community, I never would have started watching. So thank you, Linda. Because of you, I now watch a quirky little show that pulls out so many jokes I have trouble remembering which one made me start laughing in the first place.
For the uninitiated, Community is about a group of Community College students who end up in the same study group. Everyone is completely different, but they all end up becoming close friends anyway.
So why do I love it? I'll start counting the ways:
1. Adorable Opening.
Seriously, cute song, cute fortune-telling device from childhood (or from yesterday...I like to fold paper), and cute drawings. LOVE. IT.
2. The Peeps.
Aside from the opening, I also love the characters. There is a lawyer has-been, a former Peace Core member, a divorced mom, a 'moist towelette tycoon', a football player, an aspiring film director, and an overachiever. Trying to spend time writing about each character individually has been hard for me though. I know what really makes this show click are the characters interacting with each other. Actually, I probably should remember this show for the "Best Ensemble" choice. So instead of me explaining to you who everyone is, blah blah blah, I'm just going to show you this clip from the episode Cooperative Calligraphy.
*And for all of my anal friends who need more explanation than that, here's Wikipedia's link to Community's characters.
3. Theme Episodes!
You really only have to watch the promos for upcoming episodes of this show to know why I love it. THEME EPISODES. And unlike Glee, their theme episodes don't suck! Last season the episode "Modern Warfare" used a paintball fight to parody every awesome action movie ever.
At Christmas, the entire episode was done in Claymation.
And, as if I wasn't in love with them already, this year's Halloween party turned everyone into zombies. ZOMBIES!
4. Heart! (Blub Blub Blub)
The best comedy sitcoms are the ones that make you cry sometimes, and Community possesses the unique ability to do just that. These goofball characters care about each other, and although they may do some not-so-nice things in the course of each episode, there is always a sense of good-natured fun. In the Christmas episode, Ahmed is heartbroken because his mom won't be there to watch Rudolph this year, but he eventually realizes that his friends are his family. And that's what's best about this show. Friends becoming family.
"But," you tell me, "I'm still not sure if I should start watching Community."
This one took me a long time to think about (which probably doesn't bode well for all the others to come). I knew I could go one or two ways on it. I could go the obvious, Joss Whedon route (Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse), or I could not be so predictable and think of something else. In light of the fact that all my friends already think that Joss Whedon's shows all could have used another chance (especially Firefly), I thought back through the annals of TV angst and remembered a show whose cancellation had me furious.
This show had it all. Unique time-period, diverse mythology, talented-cast, excellent writing, and a great opening:
The basic premise of the show (thanks to Wikipedia):
The two seasons of Carnivàle take place in the Depression-era dust bowl between 1934 and 1935, and consist of two main plotlines that slowly converge. The first involves a young man with strange healing powers named Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl), who joins a traveling carnival when it passes near his home in Milfay, Oklahoma. Soon thereafter, Ben begins having surreal dreams and visions, which set him on the trail of a man named Henry Scudder, a drifter who crossed paths with the carnival many years before, and who apparently possessed unusual abilities similar to Ben's own.
The second plotline revolves around a Father Coughlin-esque Methodist preacher, Brother Justin Crowe (Clancy Brown), who lives with his sister Iris in California. He shares Ben's prophetic dreams and slowly discovers the extent of his own unearthly powers, which include bending human beings to his will and making their sins and greatest evils manifest as terrifying visions. Certain that he is doing God's work, Brother Justin fully devotes himself to his religious duties, not realizing that his ultimate nemesis Ben Hawkins and the carnival are inexorably drawing closer.
This was not a show that was running out of (good) ideas anytime in the future. The plot lines were so intricately developed they boggled my mind, setting up a really big mythology that expanded more each episode. Plus, each supporting character had his or her own story that could have supported a television show on its own.
Samson (Michael J. Anderson) - The dwarf manager of the Carnivale, who was tough as nails, but had a heart of gold when it came to his people.
Jonesy (Tim DeKay) - The ex-baseball player with a big heart, and Samson's right-hand-man.
Sophie (Clea DuVall) - The fortune-teller, who becomes even more special (and mysterious) as the series progresses.
Dora and Libby Dreifus (Amanda Aday and Carla Gallo) - The Cooch girls. In one of the scariest episodes (Babylon), the cooch dance drives a zombie-like bunch of miners (not the brain eating kind) into a very frightening frenzy.
Iris (Amy Madigan) - The all-to-creepy sister of Brother Justin who makes me wonder about sibling love (yuck).
Varlyn Stroud (John Carroll Lynch) - The convict who, after hearing Brother Justin preach on the radio, becomes a deadly apostle.
And of course, every traveling show needs its freaks:
Carnivale had everything going for it. Wonderful acting, great stories, and most importantly, it was on the right network. HBO. HBO wasn't the kind of network that gave shows the boot before their time. Watching a show on HBO meant that it would be there until the story was done. So when, at the end of Season 2, the show left on one of the craziest cliffhangers imaginable, I wasn't at all worried that I wouldn't be able to see how it turned out. It never occured to me that they would not bring it back.
But HBO had other plans, mostly involving not spending any more money on one of my favorite shows.
The Man: 1 Beth: 0
Don't let this stop you from checking the show out though. The first two seasons are absolutely amazing, and although you'll be super pissed off after you watch the last one (because you won't get to know how things end), I'd say it's worth it just to have experienced a truly original series.
Around mid-December, my best friend Brenda shot me an email asking if I'd be willing to participate in a blogging challenge. For the next 30 days, my blog would center around a series of 30 subjects, regarding my favorite (and least favorite) television shows.
Day 01 - A show that should never have been canceled
Day 02 - A show that you wish more people were watching (currently on)
Day 03 - Your favorite new show (started in the year 2010)
Day 04 - Your favorite show ever
Day 05 - A show you hate (or dislike very much)
Day 06 - Favorite episode of your favorite TV show
Day 07 - Least favorite episode of your favorite TV show
Day 08 - Best twist in a series
Day 09 - Best scene ever
Day 10 - A show you thought you wouldn't like (or hated) but ended up loving
Day 11 - A show that disappointed you
Day 12 - An episode you have never grown tired of...
Day 13 - Favorite childhood show
Day 14 - Favorite male character
Day 15 - Favorite female character
Day 16 - Your guilty pleasure show
Day 17 - Favorite mini series
Day 18 - Favorite title sequence
Day 19 - Best TV show ensemble cast
Day 20 - Favorite kiss
Day 21 - Favorite relationship (romantic, friendship child/parent)
Day 22 - Favorite series finale
Day 23 - Most annoying character
Day 24 - Best quote
Day 25 - A show you plan on watching, but haven't gotten around to yet (old or new)
Day 26 - Season finale failure
Day 27 - Best pilot episode
Day 28 - First TV show obsession
Day 29 - Current TV show obsession
Day 30 - Saddest character death
Well, as any regular reader of my blog might gather (all two or three of you), I'm not really great at updating regularly (as the last two months prove), and my history with writing about TV is pretty much nill. Honestly, as far as this blog is concerned, I've tended to shy away from television shows and written about books or movies instead. But it's a new year, and I think I've given television a raw deal. So, with a few changes to the categories and a big change to the process, I said yes.
So for the next 30 posts* (or a bit more if I go off subject), I'm inviting you into the world of the television I enjoy (or enjoyed) watching. Maybe I'll convert you to a diehard fan of a certain show, or maybe I'll make you steer clear. What I hope most of all, though, is that this process helps me remember what a great art form (and entertainment vehicle) the Boob Tube can be.
I'll also be linking to my other friend's blogs who are also participating. They watch way more TV than I do and have much better answers (I already know this), and are much funnier than I am too, so I highly recommend checking them out when you get totally bored with me. ;-)
My cool friends who do a much better job than me at this: