Category Archives: Televison

Dear Heroes: STFU

It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that there are a lot of things wrong with NBC’s Heroes.  However, I would like to inform the writers of something which they seem to be so painfully and almost insultingly unaware of that the mere mentioning of it could cause them to suffer a massive coronary.  So, dear Heroes writers, prepare yourselves.  Are you ready?  Because here it is:

WOMEN READ COMIC BOOKS.

I know, I know, it’s a shock to the system.  Try to contain yourselves.  Oh, but wait, there’s more:

ATTRACTIVE WOMEN READ COMIC BOOKS.

Obviously, these two facts alone are so foreign to you that I should give you some time to recover before I even mention the fact that attractive women also draw and write comic books.

claire-in-comic-book-storeYou see, I understand that you think there is so much inherent comedy in having the sultry, underage, former cheerleader Claire wander into a comic book store a few episode ago to the welcoming sentence of “Well, we don’t get many girls in here” (har har har).  But then to have her come back in last night’s episode to apply for a job in said comic book store because “Every guy in here has been staring at you since you came in, you’ll definitely sell comics” sort of made me want to rip your forehead open and eat what’s left of your brains so that I could absorb the power of being able to write 7th grade fan fiction.

Why are there never any women in your comic book store, Heroes?  Is it so incomprehensible to you that women read comics, too?  That we might KNOW that Wednesday is new comic day?  That, perhaps, women are nerds, too?  Come to think of it, how come none of the women on the show have ever had Isaac’s seemingly ubiquitous future-telling-comic-book-art-drawing power?

Heroes, I want you to think about your audience.  This is a show that 15 year old me would have loved.  This was a 15 year old who watched Seaquest DSV even after they went forward in time and the show got all Lucas-centric;  a 15 year old who walked 1.5 miles to downtown Bethesda to get comic books on Saturdays; who helped her father bag and tag 15 long boxes of comics; who wrote DS9 and X-Men fan fiction; who subscribed to Wizard and dutifully looked up the value of every book in her collection every month.  This 15 year old still exists out there somewhere.  This 15 year old is probably a girl.  You are alienating this 15 year old by insinuating that girls don’t read comics, and that hot girls in comic book stores are only there as nerd bait.

This isn’t a feminist issue, this is an issue of reality.  The reality is that today, in 2009, women are major contributors to the comic industry, and the science fiction and fantasy genres as a whole.  So please, Heroes, just STFU.

Love always,

DB

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Sci-Fi Television Friday: Dollhouse

Last week I promised to talk about Dollhouse in today’s post.  At the time, I thought I needed another episode to figure out what I think about it.  After watching the 3rd episode last Friday, I fully admit I still don’t know what I think about it.

I am usually a fan of all things Whedon.  But, admittedly, these things usually fall into one of two categories for me:

1) Things I love unconditionally from the beginning to the end (Buffy, Dr. Horrible, Astonishing X-Men).
2) Things it takes me a while to warm up to, but I end up loving as unconditionally as the others (Angel, Firefly, Fray).

I’m beginning to think that Dollhouse may fall into the latter category.

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For those not in the know, Dollhouse centers around a secret agency that provides “actives” for hire.  These actives are young men and women whose previous personality and memories have been erased, and can be programmed with various new personalities and skill sets for whatever the client desires (only to be wiped clean again after the engagement ends).

dollhousedushkuEliza Dushku plays Echo, the dollhouse’s post popular active.  I loved Dushku on Buffy and in Bring It On, but sometimes she just falls a little flat for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating Cheetos, but her acting sometimes leaves something to be desired.  I’m not sure yet if this is a result of the character herself, or of Dushku’s actual ability to play something other than “bad/tough girl”.  I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that playing someone whose mind is wiped constantly and has no base personality of her own may be affecting the acting.  Maybe it will get better as the character develops.  What can I say?  I’m a cockeyed Whedon optimist.

The show benefits greatly from a good supporting cast.  Battlestar Galactica‘s Tahmoh Penikett plays FBI agent Paul Ballard, who is on the trail of the mysterious and elusive dollhouse.  I love Penikett on BSG and I love him on Dollhouse.  I find his good-boy grittiness really appealing, and it also provides a necessary ground to reality for the show.

Angel alumna Amy Acker plays the dollhouse’s resident doctor, and she’s probably my favourite thing about the show.  And that’s not just because I miss Fred.  Ok, it’s a little because I miss Fred.  Dr Claire Saunders was disfigured in a battle with a renegade “doll”, Alpha, whose plot is still thickening.  Her disillusionment with the dollhouse and its services is palpable, and makes for subtle intensity that helps make the characters who aren’t “dolls” a little more layered and empathetic in contrast to the mind-wiped actives.

Also good are Harry Lennix as Echo’s handler, Boyd, and Fran Kranz as Topher, the child-like genius who wipes and programs the dolls.  Topher is the conduit for most of Whedon’s signature wit and one-liners.  Which brings me to another good point, Dollhouse isn’t the fanciful romp of puns and one-liners that Whedon is known for.  It’s darker, and those expecting a typical Whedon script may find themselves disoriented.  I fully admit I may be one of those people.

dollhousecastI’m willing to give this show a good, long chance.  I know Whedon doesn’t work in one-shots.  Instead, his shows are better suited to the sort of storytelling found in a good comic book arc.  However, I hope the show abandons the “find a reason to get Dushku in a skimpy outfit while holding a gun” method of storytelling soon.  I believe this could have the potential for some amazing opportunities for Dushku to prove she’s more than the “bad/tough girl”, except that the show seems bent on getting her into the bad/tough girl characters as often as possible.  The first three episodes have featured her as a party girl on a motorcycle, a tough-as-nails hostage negotiator, a outdoorsy-tough chick (who then ends up being hunted by her date), and a backup singer for an R&B pop princess.  Let someone come in and hire Echo to be an undercover Mennonite, or an uber-feminine WASP or something.   I  understand the inherent sexuality involved in a show that’s about people for hire, but I don’t see why they can’t expand on the idea to feature clients who have other things in mind. Basically, I’d just like to see Echo/Dushku as someone that doesn’t require leather pants and a .38 to get the job done.

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Sci-Fi Television Friday

Fridays in my house have rapidly become a sanctuary for science fiction.  With Battlestar Galactica wrapping up in break-neck, bullet-in-the-back-of-the-head-exposition-pace, and Joss Whedon’s newest trust exercise with network television, Dollhouse, it’s become harder and harder for me to justify having a social life.  Thank goddess for Hulu, is all I’m saying.

I got turned on to Battlestar Galactica a few years ago while dating a game developer.  I was intrigued at seeing what Ron Moore was making of the (sometimes painfully) campy 1970’s series.  As a kid, I was a big (and possibly the only) fan of Star Trek: DS9. I had a portable CD player shaped like the U.S.S. Defiant.  Yes, I was a nerd, thanks.  Anyway, the point being that I was open to see what Ron Moore was working on with BSG.  I’ll say it right now, I’m not a fan of the original BSG.  I appreciate it’s place in lexicon of sci-fi culture, but it always reeked a little Land of the Lost for me.  battlestar-galactica-20070118014017592

At first glance, I thought Moore’s re-imagining was taking itself just a bit too seriously.  And I still hold to that 1,267 glances later.  BSG is dark.  And I love it.  I love a show that isn’t afraid to kill off its characters with little to no build up or remorse.  I love that there is no real sense of “right” and “wrong”.  The moral and political gray areas in the show make it more real than shows without spaceships and sexy blonde robot ladies, which, let’s face it, are a nice bonus.

The humor is there.  But, to paraphrase co-executive producer Jane Espenson (of Buffy and Firefly fame), the humor is so dark you can’t see it against a black background.  Most of it comes through via Gaius Baltar, swarmily and wonderfully played by actor James Callis (I’ll be honest, I believed Callis was Alexander Siddig aka Dr. Julian Bashir for an entire season.  I firmly believe this was a manifestation of my childhood crush on Dr. Bashir.  See? Nerd.)  There’s also a large arc involving Lucy Lawless (of Xena fame), a woman whose comedy stylings I find to be extremely underrated.

battlestar_galactica_last_supper1The show is in it’s final 4 or 5 episodes now, at the end of the fourth season.  I’ve heard several complaints about how the ending is not living up to the series.  But, in my opinion, no ending will live up to fan expectations for this series.  Personally, I have no problem is a show takes itself a little too seriously, but when the fans can’t take things with a grain of salt, it makes me a little cranky. There are limitations to storytelling on television, and sometimes writers write themselves into corners.  It happens, even on the best of shows. Suck it up and enjoy the ride.  Or just go watch Lost.

This is not a show you can just jump into head first.  Start with the mini-series, invest some time and energy into the DVDs.  And make sure you give yourself sanity breaks.  Too much BSG might make you require an SSRI.  But, on the plus side, hot robot ladies, yeah?

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Stay tuned next Sci Fi Friday for my take on Dollhouse.  I need at least another episode of it to decide how I feel.

–DB

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