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The Muppets returned to the televisions this week.

I didn’t watch it, because I don’t live in the USA. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as an American citizen, it’s this: just because you haven't actually seen a TV show or a film doesn’t mean you can’t criticize the content.

Sure. That’s what Franklin Graham and One Million Moms do.

Apparently they’re expecting lots of sex, drugs and full frontal nudity. I have a feeling it’s going to fall short of that mark – after all, this is ABC, not HBO.

On the other hand, if the promo material is anything to go by (and that is what these people are going by), The Muppets ain’t exactly a kids show, either. Even the producers have promoted it as a more “adult” show, which means edgy realism humor, uncomfortable relationship situations, double entendres and Grindr jokes, evidently.

None of which is a reason for ABC to cancel the show as Graham and 1MM are demanding. They generally demand the same of 85% of any given prime-time line-up, so it’s hard to take them seriously even before you factor in the fact they haven’t even watched the shows they want taken off the air.

Probably a more pertinent question is: is this really the Muppet show we want? (And by “we” I mean “me”, of course.)

Some of the more sober commentary I’ve read suggests that while the new show is clever and probably what the franchise needs to succeed in 2015, fans of the original show may find it jarring, if not sacrilege, or at least depressing.

For myself, I can tell you from the promo material that I’m not that enthralled with the new direction for a couple of reasons.

1. The mockumentary concept has been done to death (and just because they’re mocking the mocumentary concept doesn’t mean we need more of it). Even the idea of a mockumentary of a late night TV show isn't that original – The Larry Sanders Show covered this ground in the early 90s.

2. I don’t really want a Muppet show that goes for edgy realism or delves into their personal relationships. The Kermit/Miss Piggy angle of the original show was fun and made sense because it played to Piggy’s stage-diva character. Turning it into an ugly public tabloid drama with new girlfriend/ex-girlfriend tension doesn’t really entertain me or make me laugh.

Maybe all of this gels in the current jaded TV landscape. I don’t really watch much TV anyway, so that’s at least one reason for the disconnect here, I admit. Maybe Muppet fans who do watch lots of TV will get more out of the new show, or see the humor in it. Or maybe they’re just glad that the Muppets will be relevant to new generations of fans.

The thing is, they’re not the same Muppets I grew up with. The same characters, yes – but portrayed and presented in a much different way. Let me put it this way: as far as I know, the Muppets were always an all-ages proposition – that doesn’t mean it was just for kids, but that everyone who watched would get something out of it. Making it more “adult” alters that equation. Which might be fine except that the Muppets have always been marketed as being appropriate for kids. To suddenly bump them up to PG levels is inevitably going to confuse people.

It’s also fair to ask: is this what Jim Henson would have wanted? Lisa Henson thinks so, at least in terms of the Muppets being back on prime time and being popular again. But while Jim Henson always had something of a subversive streak to his work, he also understood the importance of subtlety.

Anyway, I'll be the first to admit my reservations don’t mean anything – as I say, I haven't seen the show, so I’m just kind of riffing and dithering here via a promo and second-hand info. And to be clear: even if it’s as bad as I imagine, I wouldn’t support a boycott like what Graham and 1MM are demanding.

Also, it’s not fair to judge a whole show on one episode. By some accounts, Episode 2 is a lot better than the premiere. So it could still grow into something that’s worthy of the Muppet legacy.

In any case, it does sound like one of those cases where parents should be given fair warning. If you already let yr kids watch (say) South Park, it’s probably a non-issue. If you keep them at the level of Pixar films or Frozen, you might want to dial up some parental supervision. Maybe a lot of the “adult” stuff will fly right over their little heads and they’ll just laugh at the silly bits. Still, I have my misgivings.

This is because I am old and decrepit, I know. Fair enough. I can’t say this is the Muppet show we need, but given the state of TV in 2015 – and the general culture of Fear, Hate and Cynicism that pretty much defines social media – maybe it’s the Muppet show we deserve.

It’s not easy being green,

This is dF

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[Via Matt Fraction]

There’s something marvelous about this. I gather in Old Days Of Televisions the networks would publish an industry programming report and hire an artist to do some cover art for one of the hot new shows that looked hip in a New Yorker/Village Voice kinda way rather than actually representing the show’s look.

Because there’s absolutely nothing here that gives you an idea of what The Monkees show would be like – apart maybe from “it’s about four guys in a rock group”, but that’s like promoting a show like Knight Rider with a cartoon of a guy driving a car. I mean, the guys in this picture could be the Beatles. Or the dozens of Beatles clones that emerged around that time.

Maybe that’s the whole point. It’s like if you took electromagnetic samples of Mickey, Davy, Mike and Peter’s souls and fed the data into a radioactive heat projector and seared the resulting image onto a wall, the very essence of the show is revealed: “Shameless Beatles Cash-In”.

Or something.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I love The Monkees – the show and the band. I don’t care what that does to my alt.cred.

Here we come,

This is dF
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ITEM: Sesame Workshop has struck a five-year deal with HBO that will bring first-run episodes of Sesame Street exclusively to HBO and its streaming outlets starting in the fall.

The interwub is duly freaking out and making jokes about Sesame Street having tons more sex, violence and naughty words.

One chief criticism of the deal is that it allows HBO to have exclusive first run of the new episodes for nine months, after which PBS can run them for free, which means only "privileged" kids who can afford cable will be able to watch the new episodes when they first come out.

Personally, I’m not convinced this in itself is a big deal. I get that Sesame Street is supposed to be for everyone, but the deal doesn’t mean you have to be able to afford premium cable to watch it. PBS still gets to run it, and it’s not like kids who have to wait for the PBS version will be at an educational disadvantage over the rich kids. (Also, a good chunk of the average “new” Sesame Street episode is already repeated material.)

Cory Doctorow can go on all he wants about “trickle-down kids TV”, but it’s a bad analogy. Trickle-down economics is a promise (not a guarantee) that concentrated wealth will eventually find its way to your wallet. Sesame Street is not leaving PBS, and poor kids will definitely see the new material eventually. As for his assertion that it will affect poor kids’ self-esteem by teaching them that rich kids get privileges they don’t – well, maybe, if yr mission as a parent is to teach yr pre-schooler about social class divisions, the evils of socioeconomic injustice and how awful rich people are and why we should hate them. (Personally I think kindergarten is a little early to be teaching them about the 1% and “Corporations Are People”, but I’m not a parent, so I don’t claim to be an expert here.)

So yeah, I think people are making a bigger deal out of that nine-month exclusivity window than it probably is.

That argument also ignores/glosses over the fact that Sesame Workshop has been struggling financially recently, and ultimately needed a more reliable and stable source of funding to keep doing what it does. Fans may treasure Sesame Street as a public-funded resource for poor kids, but it was created at a time when TV was a much different industry than it is now. If Sesame Street is going to survive in an age where more and more people watch TV shows via mobile devices and apps rather than buying DVDs (which is where Sesame Workshop got the majority of its funding in recent years), the old-school public-funded strategy isn't enough to sustain it – not unless Congress quadruples CPB’s budget, which ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

For me, there are two other angles to the deal that could create far bigger problems than rich kids getting first dibs on new material:

1. Getting funding from a media corporation instead of public sources could result in pressure from HBO suits to make Sesame Street and/or its spinoffs more commercial (as opposed to educational).

2. The deal could revive efforts by Republicans to cut funding for CPB now that supporters fans can’t use Sesame Street’s cultural value as a defense to keep it going.

Both are fair points. HBO execs might be smart enough not to mess with a winning formula, but there’s no guarantee that some nitwit won’t try to mess with it in the name of maximum ROI. In theory the wrath of social media may correct any bad ideas, but I think there’s a good chance Sesame Street is going to undergo some changes at HBO – some favorable, perhaps; some otherwise.

As for CPB, supporters could always argue that PBS needs to keep going to ensure Sesame Street can be viewed by millions of households that can’t afford even basic cable TV, let alone premium, but I’m sure at least some GOP congressthings are salivating at the prospect of putting CPB back on the chopping block.

I for one would hate to see CPB go. I think there’s great value in non-commercial radio and TV programs, and that’s been demonstrated not only by PBS and NPR, but also in other countries like the UK and Japan. Let’s admit, the only reason some Republicans want to get rid of CPB is because they think it’s a liberal indoctrination tool (this from the people whose idea of “fair and balanced” is Fox News). That’s as dumb a reason for axing CPB as the idea that cutting it would reduce the deficit (by saving the country a whopping $445 million a year out of a budget of $3.8 trillion).

Developing …

Street cred,

This is dF

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Well sure, how many times can he retire from The Daily Show?

You’ll be reading tons of dissections about him and his work at TDS and subsequent legacy over the next few days. Most will be favorable. Some will not be. Certainly no one at Fox News or CNBC is sorry to see him go.

You’ll also see a lot of digital ink about his final “bullshit is everywhere” speech. Other people may say what I’m about to say, but I’ll type it here since I got a blog to run here:

The real importance of that speech is that Stewart basically summed up the TDS mission statement and the reason for the format’s success.

That’s important to me because everyone makes hay about Stewart having more credibility than “real” journalists, which may be true. But a lot of people also make the mistake of equating what he did to actual journalism.

It never was. The objective of Stewart’s TDS – apart from topical comedy – was never to report news, but to ridicule the cable TV news format in order to demonstrate how badly “real” TV journalism was failing us at a time when we really needed it to serve as the Fourth Estate in the system of checks and balances it was intended to be.

Consider: most of the US govt's post-9/11 activities – Afghanistan, Iraq, the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, waterboarding, throwing Muslims off airplanes for being scary to white people, etc and so on – went more or less unquestioned by the mainstream broadcast media for quite some time. It took a comedy show to point out the dangerous absurdity of neocon government policy combined with an increasingly irresponsible Wall Street and a complacent (or in the case of Fox News, collaborative) media.

And TDS was so good at it that Stewart ended up having more credibility than the cable TV outlets he was ranting at, at least for his audience. That wasn’t a comment on his journo cred so much as it was a comment on how bad “real” broadcast journalism had become.

Which I think is why a lot of people have come to misunderstand what TDS was all about. That perceived credibility annoyed and worried conservatives who branded TDS as an exclusively liberal propaganda machine (which of course is a fairly easy claim to debunk). Meanwhile, liberals embraced Stewart as Chief Truthteller – except for the hardcore ones who felt Stewart wasn’t using his position to take down the real villains of the Bush/Cheney years and ensuring the destruction of the GOP.

He didn’t do that for a reason: it was never Stewart’s job (or intention) to spend his time settling the Left’s political scores. The primary goal of TDS was to make fun of broadcast media and how politicians in power use the poor state of TV journalism to their advantage.

Put another way, the basic mission of Stewart’s tenure at TDS was bullshit detection, with its sights set primarily on the Powers That Be. During the Bush/Cheney years, that meant Republicans and Fox News were going to be the primary targets. That’s not an agenda – that’s how political comedy works: yr targets are whoever is in charge at the time.

In that sense, Stewart’s success really has been a classic case of right place, right time. His take on TDS probably wouldn't have become what it did if Al Gore was POTUS and 9/11 never happened. Or maybe it would have. But let’s admit that Bush, Cheney and Fox gave Stewart a wealth of material to work with.

Anyway, it’s interesting that many people’s opinions on Stewart and TDS are based more on what they wanted TDS to be than what it actually is. Stewart never claimed to be a journalist, but people on both sides wanted to peg him as one for their own reasons. The Right wanted to brand him a journalist so they could hold him to journalism standards of objectivity (and thus go around claiming he was biased in favor of liberals as though (1) this actually mattered and (2) it wasn’t hypocritical coming from people who watch Fox News). The Left branded him a journalist because he was doing what they felt the “real” media ought to be doing: namely, calling the Bush/Cheney admin (and other politicians, as long as they were Republicans) on their bullshit.

What’s interesting, though, is that while TDS wasn’t journalism, its success has arguably reshaped his audience’s expectations of “real” TV journalism. Old People like me have always assumed that politicians lie to us constantly, and that broadcast media was generally failing to call them out on this (print media was another matter, but most people still get their news mainly from TV). For a lot of younger people, TDS was a revelation of sorts to the point that they felt TDS was the only “news” show telling them some kind of truth.

Result: they now expect “real” TV news to do the same – and with the same level of anger Stewart and his audience felt.

Is that “real” journalism? Maybe it is now. We had similar discussions ages ago when Hunter Thompson, Gay Talese and Tom Wolfe were defying the traditional rules of journalism. And in an age where people think Addicting Info and Newsmax count as journalism, maybe objective journalism really is dead now, and all “real” reporters will be angry partisan hacks out to settle scores.

I’d hate to think that’s the case. But I am old and decrepit and set in my ways. Which means I don’t happen to think one side of the sociopolitical spectrum has a monopoly on “The Truth”, and no responsible media outlet (blogs included) should pretend otherwise.

Still, Stewart did helpfully give us one last piece of worthwhile advice: “The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. If you smell something, say something.”

That doesn’t just apply to Fox News, iTunes user agreements or Wall Street bankers. It could also apply to hyperpartisan blogs or those stupid Facebook memes everyone keeps circulating no matter how many times Snopes debunks them.

Stewart has had a great run with his TDS bullshit detection service, and his influence cannot be understated (though it can certainly be overstated). I can’t say it’s made a huge difference in terms of forcing TV news to up its game, or helping to repair the Batshit Reality Schism we currently live in, but at least he helped some people see the absurdity of it all.


Meanwhile, I have no idea who Trevor Noah is, but I wish him the best of luck. It's good to know he won't be trying to copy Stewart's schtick. It will be interesting to see how many TDS fans hold that against him.

Yr moment of zen,

This is dF

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Yr Journalism-Is-Still-Dead lede of the day:

Okay, this is satire.

But it does seem to sum up how a lot of people feel about the news that (1) Brian Williams has been suspended from NBC News for making stuff up to boost his war correspondent cred or something, and (2) Jon Stewart is voluntarily quitting The Daily Show. It also highlights how a lot of those same people seem to think Williams and Stewart have the exact same job.

I’m exaggerating a little. I think. I can tell you my Facebook feed is filled with woe and wail about Stewart leaving, and how they hope his next gig is either an anchor position at Meet The Press (which almost actually sort of happened) or (oh please please please) a presidential campaign.

I think they’d be in for some bitter disappointment if he tried either, but it’s a moot point since I sincerely doubt he will.

Anyway, I find the dithering funny. As I’ve probably said before, the fact that Stewart is considered a more reliable source of news than actual newscasters – and would make a better presidential candidate than actual politicians – is symptomatic of the weird and sad times we live in. It's not about Stewart being better than existing newscasters and politicians so much as the existing newscasters and politicians being so awful and unreliable that almost anyone looks like a better alternative. 

True, you wouldn't have much to lose. But I don't think it would fix the overall problem with TV journalism and politics in general. If you seriously want Stewart to do real journalism or run for office, you don’t really want to fix what’s wrong with both – you just want better quality entertainment. It's like saying if TV news is a bad joke (which it is), the solution is better jokes.

On the other hand, if the only way big media companies will invest in TV journalism is if it’s designed as an entertainment program, then maybe the least they can hire professional entertainers. Maybe that’s as good as it gets now for TV journalism.

Maybe that’s why Williams made up that stuff about the helicopter ride – he just wanted to keep it entertaining. He did it for the fans. And this is the thanks he gets.

Some thanks.

Signing off,

This is dF

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And the part of the .44 Magnum will be played by …

Rod Serling tells you what’s up.

[Via I Belong To The ___ Generation]

Works every time,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
Would you like to see … A MENU?

Would you like to see… a menu?

[Via Hobo Lunchbox]

Shake hands with beef,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
And now here’s the original Six Million Dollar Man theme song.

By Dusty Springfield.


This is from the TV movie that served as the pilot for the actual show.

Obviously, they decided to go with a different theme for the series.

I think they made the right decision. Dusty Springfield is great and all, but I can’t imagine that song opening the show every week.

Catch him if you can,

This is dF

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ME: Hey Internet, I bet you don't have a video that includes Plasmatics, Andy Gibb and Marilyn McCoo together.

INTERNET: Well, as a matter of fact –

ME: AND features Wendy O. Williams being interviewed by Madame?

INTERNET: Here you go.

ME: Well, damn.

Also, if you’ve never seen someone carve a guitar with a chainsaw, now’s yr chance.

Solid gold indeed,

This is dF
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It might look like this.

Okay, not really.

But that was more or less the premise – two androids have a flying saucer that, like the TARDIS, can travel in time as well as space. They pick up a couple of Earthling kids for a joy ride, lose control of the saucer and go whipping back and forth to different periods of Earth’s history as they try to get the kids back home.

Hey, it’s from the Krofft brothers.

I remember liking it at the time. Of course, I was also in 5th grade, so I was pretty undemanding as a viewer.

Gotta go back in time,

This is dF
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You know by now that David Letterman announced his retirement. And while he won’t be leaving the air for at least another year, I might as well post this now.

For obvious reasons (location) I haven’t watched Letterman for a long time, apart from a short period where one local station struck a deal to run The Late Show for about a year.

But I was a regular viewer of Late Night since it started on NBC. I already knew Letterman from his stand-up act and his guest host slots on The Tonight Show. But Late Night brought something new to the table. I liked the offbeat “we’ll try anything” humor, the World’s Most Dangerous Band (as they were known before they became the CBS Orchestra), and the now-famous rapport between Dave and Paul Shaffer.

Lots has already been written on his career and his legacy. I’d recommend this Rolling Stone piece from a few years ago, which sums it up nicely.

For myself, I’d highlight the following:

1. Despite the fact that he desperately wanted the Tonight Show gig, I’m glad he didn’t get it. I doubt he would have been able to take the chances he did, and it's always possible he wouldn’t have bothered. He might have succeeded Johnny Carson, but he would have always been known as Carson’s replacement, rather than his equal.

2. He championed Warren Zevon. Points for that.

3. He championed lots of cool music, actually – Late Night and then The Late Show tended to showcase new and upcoming bands, as well as obscure veteran bands, that The Tonight Show wouldn’t touch until The Late Show made it cool.

4. He handled scandal better than just about anyone else – what little there was that he had. When he was blackmailed for cheating on his fiancé and sleeping with some staffers, he went proactive with it and handled it with as much class as anyone could in that situation. Anyone else would have tried to cover it up, blame the women or milk the sympathy/victim card. Letterman went straight to the police, then confessed and apologized to everyone. And the blackmailer went to jail. It doesn’t excuse Dave’s actions, but you have to admire the way he handled it.

The same goes for his retirement announcement, as NPR has pointed out. No press conference, no drama, no tabloid gossip – he just said it while they were taping. It was a typical Letterman move.

5. There was also the Bill Hicks episode, where he not only restored a deleted routine, but also brought on Hicks’ mother to personally apologize to her. Who else would do that?

6. Bob Rooney Day (who knows why I remember this – but I do).

Well, this list could go on, so I’ll stop here. (I know I should do ten, but the secret is knowing when to stop.)

As for Stephen Colbert being named as his replacement … I confess I’m surprised, if only because Colbert has proven his hosting chops by playing a fake character. That said, it’s not like I have any better suggestions. (Though I would have suggested Team Coco, personally – or maybe Craig Ferguson, though the ultra-late slot seems to fit him better.)

It will be interesting to see how Colbert does by being himself. But I expect some people will be disappointed. His fans may expect him to continue with the overt Republican-bashing – I doubt Colbert is going to make that a centerpiece of The Late Show (and I doubt Les Moonves would let him).

Real conservatives are of course very sad about Colbert getting the job (and by “sad” I mean “outraged at liberal CBS for endorsing Colbert’s ultra-liberal agenda gawdammit”). But these are the same people who never forgave Letterman for that Willow Palin joke.

As you might expect, I find it odd that some people think a late-night talk show has to pass some kind of political objectivity litmus test. And even if we accept the premise that Dave and The Late Show were liberally biased (with the caveat conservative pundits tend to assume everyone on TV who isn't on Fox News is a flaming liberal Communist), I’m not sure who they’d accept as a reasonable, fair replacement anyway. Papa Bear? Rush Limbaugh? Victoria Jackson?

Well, why not? While we’re at it, Paul Shaffer’s replacement could be Ted Nugent.

Admit it. You’d watch that, if only for the train-wreck value.

Meanwhile, there’s the much more pressing and important issue: who will replace Colbert on The Colbert Report?

There’s a long list of candidates. I’d like to see Samantha Bee take a shot, personally. But as it’s meant to be a parody of conservative talk shows, she should dye her hair blonde. For verisimilitude. 

Dave has left the building,

This is dF

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Just as I haven’t watched True Detective, I also am not watching the rebooted Cosmos (mainly because it’s not available here yet, and I don’t want to see it badly enough to resort to piracy – they’ll stick it on in-flight entertainment systems soon enough).

Much has been made about the fact that Creationists are displeased over the evolution bits – specifically, that evolution is presented as fact and not theory (which for Creationists means, “If it’s theoretical, that’s the same thing as saying you don't really know if it’s true, yr just choosing to pretend it’s true to further yr liberal atheist agenda, unlike us”).

No real surprise there – I remember when the original Cosmos aired (and Carl Sagan published the book of the same name), conservative Christians complained about the exact same thing.

So yeah, nothing new there.

But I did come across this story in which Fox affiliate KOKH (Fox 25) in Oklahoma City interrupted part of Cosmos to show a news promo – and it just happened to broadcast right before Neil deGrasse Tyson mentioned evolution.


Fox 25 claims it was a total accident. And the promoted comment at the bottom of that Ars Technica story suggests that it’s entirely possible that it was a legitimate goof.

On the other hand, as Ars Technica also points out, it’s a hell of a big coincidence to swallow when remembering that this happened in a state where Creationists have enough political sway that the state House of Representatives had just passed a bill that very week that would prevent school authorities from punishing a teacher who tries to “teach the controversy” – a bill that is based on a template from The Discovery Institute, the conservative Christian think tank that researches and promotes intelligent design.

So I’m not convinced it was all that “accidental” – although of course it’s perfectly conceivable that it was the act of a station employee and not a directive from upper management, if only because Fox 25 re-aired the episode the following Saturday.

Anyway, the only real reason I’m posting it is because it reminds me of how, when I used to have an apartment in mainland China just across the birder from Hong Kong, we could get TV signals from the two main broadcasters there: TVB and ATV. And whenever the news came on, and they started reporting a story on, say, Tibet, or the Dalai Lama, or Taiwan (which at the time was under the leadership of Chen Shui-bian, whose party advocates stronger independence from China), or anything negative about China, they would cut to local commercials until the story was over.

Because that’s what they do in China.

Not that there’s any comparison whatsoever between Oklahoma Creationists and mainland China. There isn’t.

I’m just saying, this reminded me of that.

Do the evolution,

This is dF

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I didn’t watch True Detective, because I don’t have cable TV.

But most of my stateside friends did. I know this because my Facebook and Tumblr feeds were full of memes about it. Especially the finale. Something about the Yellow King. Many were displeased.

Anyway, I came across a related passage in this post (which is actually more about Mad Men, which I also don’t watch) that I think is worth sharing. Here it is:

The reason this is on our minds is because of the True Detective finale, which, if you go by the online reaction is The Worst Thing Ever (until the internet decides on the next W.T.E.) and that reaction seems to be largely born out of several weeks of extreme over-analyzing and theorizing, none of which came true because none of it was ever the point of the story. This isn’t to say the True Detective finale – and the series as a whole – is above criticism. There were plenty of flaws. But most of the complaining has centered around how it didn’t pay off the dozens of fan theories that sprouted up in online commentary. We’re reaching a point where we can’t let the shows we love breathe and tell their story anymore. Hundreds of thousands of online commenters want to finish the story before the writers do. Then they criticize the writers for not telling the story they imagined was going to be told.

I’ve seen this sort of thing before. I picked up on it around the time that George Lucas wrapped up the Star Wars prequels, in which fans complained that Lucas ruined the character of Darth Vader by making him all emo and stuff instead of the ruthless bad-ass they thought he was. (Patton Oswalt has covered that ground pretty well.)

Of course you’d expect that for something as old and canonical as Star Wars. (To say nothing of comic-book characters that have been around at least 40 years.) And it’s only natural that it should happen with TV shows that thrive on mystery and build up to the Big Reveal. We’ve seen it before (who shot JR, who killed Laura Palmer, are the people in Lost already dead, etc). So it’s not necessarily new – we’re probably just more aware of it thanks to the magic of social media.

That said, social media also takes fan scrutiny to all-new levels, at least to the point where you can reinforce the validity of yr own guesswork to the point that yr convinced you’ve nailed it – which can make the actual ending that much more infuriating.

Still, it’s hard to say if we’re “reaching a point where we can’t let the shows we love breathe and tell their story anymore”. There’s a fine line between criticizing a finale because it didn’t deliver the ending you wanted and criticizing it because, by any standard, it was a crap ending.

I’m not sure which would apply to True Detective, since I didn’t watch it. Digital Spy has a good defense of it here if yr interested (there are spoilers, so beware if you haven't seen the show yet but plan to).

Anyway, I find it odd that so many people would obsess over a show to the degree that they’ll write their own ending and then resent the writers for not giving them story they wanted to hear.

But then I’m pretty passive when it comes to storytelling in any medium. For a start, I’m too lazy to overanalyze and overintellectualize minor details like color schemes. “The sofa cushions are purple. IT’S A CLUE!” That’s the kind of thing English Lit teachers used to push on me to make “classic” literature look a lot deeper than the actual author intended, which took the actual fun out of reading them. The same applies to TV shows.

Also, as far as I’m concerned, if you wrote a story and you want to tell it to me, you get to tell it the way you want to tell it. That doesn't mean I don’t try to critique it, or guess where it’s going. That’s part of the fun. But at the end of the day, it’s your story. If you want to surprise me, go right ahead. I’d rather you did, actually. If it sucks, then it sucks because it sucks, not because you told me a story I wasn’t expecting. In fact, what fun is that?

I’m not sure if this makes me the rule or the exception. But I’m pretty sure I don’t care.

Case closed,

This is dF

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And so we decided to cover the Daniel Boone TV show theme song for no real reason. Which is pretty much the same reason we do any song, so why not?

Note the creative license.

DISCLAIMER: This song is not historically accurate. But neither was the TV show, so why not?

Like this song? Why not down it and other fine lo-fi tracks from the official Banäna Deäthmüffins page on Soundcloud?

Also, be the first to "like" us on Facebook.

With an eye like an eagle,

This is dF

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Here’s what you missed:

Ye welcome,

Same time next year,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
They’re all dead.

Specifically, Russell Johnson, Dave Madden and Gary Grimshaw.

You’ve probably already seen a lot about Johnson, who of course is best known as the Professor from Gilligan’s Island. You may have also seen something about Madden, whose signature role was as Reuben Kincaid, the manager of the Partridge Family.

As for Grimshaw, you may not know him by name. But you probably recognize his iconic and influential poster work.

Arguably all three played an essential role in my pop-culture education – particularly Johnson, since I watched a lot more Gilligan’s Island than Partridge Family. (Also, I learned that if you were smart enough, you could make ANYTHING out of coconuts, palm fronds and seawater.)

That said, I liked Kincaid as a character. Also, you can’t ask for a greater name for a band manager.

I didn’t become aware of Grimshaw until later, but I love old poster art, and I like Grimshaw’s style, even if it is sometimes illegible.

Off the wall,

This is dF

defrog: (science!)
I understand a few of you are interested in this Doctor Who bloke.

As you may have heard in passing somewhere, the Doctor Who series is now 50 years old as of Saturday (albeit that includes 16 years of inactive service, interrupted once by Paul McGann in 1996).

And what with everyone posting all kinds of Doctor-Who related stuff (even Google and Yahoo are doing it), I thought I’d just toss in a link to this post about the Doctor Who novels:

They were really just novelizations of TV episodes. But when they started popping up in Waldenbooks in the early 80s – by which time Doctor Who was playing on my local PBS station – I ended up reading a lot of them. They were good research for earlier Doctor Who stories.

You see, children, back then we didn’t have these fancy YouTubes and on-demand TVs and Netflixes and Amazons that you have today. We didn’t even have DVD boxsets of TV shows. We had reruns. And in the case of Doctor Who, we didn’t even have that, because PBS generally does not do reruns. In Nashville, they started with Doctor No. 4, so if I wanted to watch any of the previous shows, there was really no way to do it. At all.

But I damn well could read them, thanks to the cheap Target novelizations of the episodes. That was my version of Catch-Up TV. And I have to say, they were well written – which is to say, they were quick and entertaining reads that delivered what my relatively undemanding 17-year-old self expected. I’m not sure what the current 48-year-old model of myself would make of them.

I could find out, except that I can’t remember if I ever kept any of them. If I did, they're buried in my mom’s storage shed along with all the other books I left behind when I moved to Hong Kong. I figure there’s a 60% chance they’re still there. And there’s a 42% chance that they’re still in readable condition.

There is another option: some of the novels have been reprinted by BBC Books, and a few bookstores in HK are carrying them. I’m tempted to get one and see what happens.

Back to the future,

This is dF

defrog: (onoes)
ITEM: There is talk that Preacher – the legendary comic book from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon – has been greenlighted for a TV series, or at least a pilot. There is no proof of this. But it could be a thing.

Fan reaction has been largely mixed to negative, with complaints centered on two elements: (1) it will be on AMC and (2) Seth Rogen has something to do with it.

I can kind of see the argument against AMC – essentially, Preacher pushed the boundaries so hard in terms of sex, violence and Christian blasphemy that basic cable simply can't do it justice in the same way that (say) HBO could. On the other hand, HBO entertained the idea of doing a series several years ago, but decided not to because it was too controversial. So if it’s too evil for HBO, I’m not sure how AMC will deal with it. 

Still, I think Preacher was so insane and extreme that no TV or film version could get away with staying that true to the source material. Even if the filmmakers wanted to, the studios would probably lose their nerve. So any TV series based on it is inevitably going to water it down a little. Whether that's a bad thing will depend on who ends up in charge of development, to what extent Ennis is involved, who ends up writing it, and who they cast for the key roles. 

Personally, I think gory violence will be no problem if The Walking Dead is anything to go by, and the sex doesn’t have to be that graphic to stay true to the book. As for the religious aspect, considering that Supernatural already has lasted eight seasons on free-to-air television with a Heaven/Hell war in which angels are bad-ass and God is a sort of absentee landlord/deadbeat dad, I don’t imagine Preacher will have all that much trouble outside of the usual activist groups. AMC will probably get more heat for Arse-Face. 

Some fans may argue that it’s the extreme nature of the comic that defines it, so you can’t justify toning it down. That’s probably true. But it’s also true that TV, film and comics are not interchangeable storytelling formats. Moreover, TV/film versions of comic books are not made solely for comics fans. They’re made for a broader audience. So there’s going to be trade-offs.

And they don’t have to be bad trade-offs. The obvious comparison is The Walking Dead. Some fans of the comic hate the TV version, but the show has been successful on its own terms. It’s a good example of how to translate a story from one format to another and make it work within the limitations of that format. (DISCLAIMER: I’ve never read the TWD comics, so I could very well be talking out of my ass here.)

So in the end, I think Preacher has potential to be a great show, even if it turns the volume down a little. It could also suck big bollocks, even if it follows the comics panel by panel. But that would be true no matter what cable TV channel was developing it. So we’ll see.

As for Seth Rogen … well, who knows? I’m not really a fan, and I didn’t really care for his take on the Green Hornet. But if he’s not involved in the acting or writing, I don't have a problem with it.

And it’s all speculation at this point anyway. So I can’t get too worked up over something about something that may not even happen in the first place.

Gone to Texas,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
Remember when Special Agent Dale Cooper sold out and did coffee commercials in Japan?

Let me refresh yr memory.

It’s a four-part mystery explained and wrapped up in two minutes – half of which is spent extolling the virtues of Georgia Coffee.

Now THAT’S storytelling.

And anyway, it makes about as much sense as Twin Peaks ever did.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was a huge fan of Twin Peaks when it aired. But it did kind of lose the plot a third of the way through Season 2. And the less said about Fire Walk With Me the better.

Still, I regard Agent Cooper as one of the greatest TV characters ever created.

FUN FACT: Georgia Coffee wasn’t happy with the results of this campaign. Consequently, plans for a second series of commercials were scrapped.

It’s true,

This is dF

defrog: (Mocata)
Recently spotted on the Facebooks:

It’s a fair question – at least if yr from the generation that actually grew up with Saturday morning cartoons and get nostalgic about it. That’s okay – I do it too.

The thing is, as always, it’s too easy to compare yr experience to the kids today and feel that something important has been lost. Just because it’s something important to you doesn’t mean it’s important to the next generation whose experience is completely different from yrs.

It pays to remember the context of Saturday Morning Cartoons, which is this:

There were only three TV networks at the time, and Saturday morning was the logical place to put new cartoon programming. A kid in the 70s had two main options for watching cartoons: (1) Saturday morning, or (2) whatever the indie UHF stations were showing after school, which in the 70s was mainly older syndicated Japanese shows like Battle Of The Planets, Speed Racer, Bullwinkle and all the Warner Bros toons that didn’t make the cut for the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner show on CBS. Otherwise, you were more likely to be watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island, Addams Family, The Munsters, and so on.

Saturday morning was when all the best and NEW cartoons were on. Sure, by the 80s you had new shows like GI Joe and Transformers and He-Man and Thundercats in the afternoons. But Saturday morning was like a ritual. We couldn’t wait for the new season to start so we could see what new cartoons would come our way. And it was a shared experience mainly because it was the only experience to be had – the only difference was which shows you watched (or which network you liked more).

What kids have today that we didn’t have is cartoons 24/7 or on-demand (provided they have cable and/or a broadband connection), and a more diverse range of toons to choose from (many of which are arguably better than a lot of the stuff they used to show in the 70s and 80s). You can get Blu-Ray box sets of full collections of various cartoon series and watch them whenever you want, or you can watch them on VOD if yr family can afford that service package. And thanks to social media, you can share yr love of them with other kids not only in yr school but anywhere in the world.

And let’s admit – if anyone from the Saturday Morning generation had been told this was the future, we would have drooled at the very thought.

So if the question is “Are the kids today missing something?” I’d say:

No. Ask them to trade the current situation for one morning a week of pre-programmed toons, and they’d tell you to go jump in the lake.

I’m paraphrasing, but you see what I’m saying.

PRODUCTION NOTE: And by the way, it's HANNA, not Hanna.

Overture, curtain, lights,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)

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