Sunday, February 24, 2013

Regrettable Television

I haven't been writing on my blog because I've been watching too much television: some of it very, very bad and some of it very, very good (which is also bad, in a way- as it sucks up time that could be better spent organising my laundry room or making scones or possibly writing blog posts.)
Let's have a look at some of the culprits.
1. Terra Nova- Reading a description of the basic plot outline, this show sounds like it was created with me in mind. Dystopian future? Time travel? Dinsosaurs? Produced by Steven Spielberg? Sign me up!
Sadly, "signing up" includes exposure to a thin plot propelled forward by painfully cheesy dialogue and the boring antics of surly, extremely well-groomed, attractive and completely predictable teenagers.  
"Disappointed" hardly covers this one.  I wanted to like it, but just couldn't. 
So,  I decided to try for "so bad that it's good"-style viewing. 
But it was a lost cause.
The network cancelled it, but that is too little, too late. Now not only is the Fox Entertainment  Group responsible for the horror that is Fox News,  it is also to blame for making me HATE a dystopian time-travel dinosaur show.
You have truly done an evil, evil thing, Fox.

2. Revolution- This is another show that seemed like it had been imagined as an early birthday gift/late Xmas present created specially for ME- a  dystopian post-apocalyptic future conspiracy extravaganza produced by JJ Abrams.
The basic premise is that quite suddenly,  all electronic devices stopped working (sort of like the EMP that wipes out everything in Dark Angel*).  Also, for some reason, internal combustion engines no longer work (this also happens in the excellent urban fantasy novels "Ariel" and "Elegy Beach"**) This is never explained, but one is left with the hope that it will be, as one man has a jump drive that supposedly holds the secret of why everything shut down and how to get it all back on again.
It all sounds great, but problems are evident 15 minutes into it. The action is set 15 years after the lights go out.  And this low-tech future is mostly inhabited by preternaturally attractive young people between the ages of 16 to 25.  They are all extremely well-groomed and recieve excellent dental care. (Who knew that you could get veneers on your teeth in the low-tech dystopian future?) 
They're so clean, despite the fact they have to wash up with a bucket of water heated up over a fire. 
And the clothes of these young subsistance-level farmers is so  fashionable, perfectly fitted and completely unworn.
And clean. 
Did I mention how damn clean the low-tech dystopian future is?
They are supposed to be running for their lives, but all manage to look as though they've just finished up a yoga class and are heading out for some sushi.
Now, I'm no snob.  Far from it. I love me some post-apocalyptic clichés. Give me a good fascist militia, a drunken  lowlife who is secretly super-awesome,  and a plucky tomboy who is good with a bow and I'm ready to go.
But somehow this show manages to make every  single trope of the genre boring and silly.  And that I cannot forgive.

3. All's Faire in Love- This is a movie, but I watched it on my television. So, it totally gets counted as "Regrettable Television".   Once again, it all looked good on paper. If this movie had an Ok Cupid profile, I totally would have dated the heck out of it.
 Get this: a romantic comedy filmed at the Michigan Renaissance Faire.
It had me at "Michigan Renaissance Faire".
Sadly, this review from Rotten Tomatoes about sums it up :"If you don't like the word 'penis' but crack up at the use of 'wang,' 'ding dong,' 'wenis' and 'wiener,' this is your movie."
Not to say there weren't a few good bits.  But it takes a LOT of good jokes to make up for the over-use of the word "wenis". 

4. Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace. This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen.  The only thing that could possible  make it worse would be the word "wenis".  In fact, if you changed the title to "Star Wars I: The Phantom Wenis"***, it probably would officially become the worst movie, ever.
At this point, you may be asking yourself why the hell I watched this.  As a crazed Star Wars fan since I was a sci-fi freak 12 year old back in 1977, I'd presumably seen this thing when it came out in 1999.
Well- it's like this: one evening, Mallory told me that she'd like the watch the Star Wars films. She hadn't seen them for a few years and hardly remembered them at all.  While Sev and I have often revisited IV, V and VI over the years, the twins had not really joined us. So, I thought it would  fun to have a SW marathon, starting with TPM and going on to the end.  But looking at sci-fi section of our dvd collection, I noticed something odd: films II through VI were there, but "Phantom Menace" wasn't.
I couldn't figure it out. 
Maybe I'd lent it to someone and forgot?
I put it out of my mind and ran upstairs to obtain a copy. (I will NOT say that I  downloaded it off the intwebz.  That is illegal and not something I would do. Probably.  Unless I was desperate.)
Then I settled down with Max, Sev and the twins to enjoy a fun movie night.
My happiness lasted... about three seconds.  That's when the scrolling intro text began. Also the questions. SO many questions: 
Trade routes?
What's next?  The Teapot Dome scandal? The War of 1812?  Is this History Channel? What's WRONG with you people?! You are limited only by your imagination in this outer-space fantasy world and you are giving me trade disputes, taxes and  blocades? I didn't like this in high school history class, so why do you think I would like it now? WHY?!

Also- Jar Jar Binks.

It took about 10 minutes of stunned misery before I suddenly remembered why I had no copy of this dvd on hand.  In fact, this was the result of a concious decision I made in  back in Burkina Faso in 2000 after watching the movie for the first time ever (on VHS tape, btw!!So retro!!).  I was SO bitterly disappointed and disgusted by it that I proclaimed that the film was not welcome in my home.  I banished it from my life and seldom thought of it ever again, except to occasionally mutter things like "Jar Jar Binks was created by demonic forces to destroy human souls."
My self-soothing mind-wipe was so effective that I didn't really conciously register the fact that, while I eventually upgraded all our Star Wars films to DVD versions, I never purchased SWI:TPM.
 Good call, in retrospect.
Why anybody thought it was a good plan to re-release it in 3D is anybody's guess****. 

I guess that's mostly it for bad television that I regret. Luckily, there was also some really good stuff.  And I promise you that the giood stuff is just as good as the bad stuff is bad. 
And that's saying something. 
If you follow me. 

So, my next post will be all about the really excellent stuff I've seen over the last two months: less complaining, far more rhapsodising.

* Dark Angel is one of my favorite sci-fi series, ever. And would look like "Citizen Kane" compared to "Revolution", if "Citizen Kane" had featured Jessica Alba as a genetically engineered super-soldier.

**Author Stephen Boyett posits the failure of all advanced technology.  This includes guns and  is caused by magic, which actually works. Fair enough. (Also: if you can, one day you should read "The Architect of Sleep"- his 1986 novel, which is almost impossible to find, but is one of my fave books, ever!)

***Alternate title proposed: "Star Wars I: The Wenis of Jar Jar Binks"

****Here's a great review from Wired

1 comment:

Tony McGowan said...

Beth,I'm with you all way on Terra Nova... I could only stomach half an hour of one single episode before reverting to my ipad. As for JJ Abrams' Revolution, it couldn't be any worse than The River from the makers of Paranormal Activity, which has to be one of the stupid series in recent times. I got so desperate recently for a half-decent sci-fi TV show that I started watching re-runs of Terminator: The Sarah Connnor Chronicles! And even that it's back to the Walking Dead and the melodrama of Fringe...