2006-01-13 : Some remarks, mostly re: media

1. I just bought the first half of Battlestar Galactica season 2 on DVD, knowing full well that in another 6-8 months I'm probably going to have to buy it again when I buy all of season 2. Why? Because it is AWESOME.

2. ...But not quite as awesome as Veronica Mars.

3. Speaking of Veronica Mars and Dashiell Hammett (I just read Red Harvest), I watched a few episodes of Monk, and you know what? Detective fiction has ruined me for mystery fiction. I watch Monk and I'm like, "what, the guy's big sin is that he killed someone? Pfeh, some big sin, show me his SOUL. And Monk's big virtue is that he's smarter than everybody? Good grief. Where's Monk's moral authority? Where's his moral compromise? Where's the moral content AT ALL?"

4. Question: House M.D., does it count as detective fiction (again, NOT mystery fiction)? Answer: yes, but it's a bit tortured into that shape. I only wish that the show could be more about the humanity between House and his patients than about the humanity between House and the other hospital people - so it's like detective fiction where what matters is between the detectives, not between the detective and the victims and criminals. Oh well, still a great show.

However, and I don't know about all hospitals, but in the hospital I work in a) there are far fewer glass walls, and b) there's far less cleavage.

5. I wish the Forge had marginalia. Particularly, I like Ron's counterfactual use of "almost," as though you could compare two things that both didn't happen and say "this one didn't happen more than the other one; the other one also didn't happen, but it less didn't happen." I don't think he's wrong - far from it - I just like it. It tickles my word use funnybone.

6. Damn Veronica Mars is good TV. At least season 1 is. Who here's watched it?

1. On 2006-01-13, Matt Wilson said:

I tried House for a few eps, but it didn't seem to be developing him and the stories were kind of tediously repetitive in their "big twist" at the end. Has that changed? I'd give it another shot on your recommendation.

Love the VM. We're catching up on Season 2 now via reruns. It's many adjectives of cool, like insightful and clever and heartwarming and heartbreaking.

And you know how I feel about the BSG. I'm a crack addict for that show.

Also with the detective fiction. Once I discovered Chandler, I read all his stuff pretty much uninterrupted.


2. On 2006-01-13, Vincent said:

Veronica Mars season 2 is good? I feared that it wouldn't be - season 1 did such a wicked good job resolving that I feared there wouldn't be enough meat left.

I'm phobic about that with TV series, though. I ALWAYS worry that that's the case.

House: yeah. After several episodes the characters kick in, and good. It's about what's going on in the hospital though, not about the patients, so the show has this kind of disjoint to it.


3. On 2006-01-13, ScottM said:

I'm enjoying the Battlestar, but don't watch enough TV for too many other shows.  Many completely unrelated people all seem to enjoy Veronica Mars though, so maybe it's worth checking out.

I have no idea what it's about, though.  What's the setting and situation?


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This makes...
MB go "Think Buffy, sans supernatural stuff."*

*click in for more

4. On 2006-01-13, Jon Hastings said:


The second season of Veronica Mars is, IMO, not quite as focused as the first season, but it is still quite good.  The second season episodes lack the rather tight structure of the ones from the first season (one stand-alone mystery + some stuff about the Lily Kane murder).  A friend of mine remarked that these second season episodes were a lot like ones from our PTA game: sprawling, with plot threads going all over the place.  The stand-alone mysteries in the second season take a definite backseat to the continuing plot stuff.

My one major gripe about the second season, is that (at least so far) there hasn't been enough of Jason Dohring (Logan).  On the other hand, Teddy Dunn (Duncan Kane), who was kind of boring in the first season (IMO), is a lot better this time around.



5. On 2006-01-13, Brendan said:

Veronica Mars is excellent.  I cringed at the premise and the network, but I gave it a chance because Rob Thomas made Cupid (ABC, 1998, cancelled after nine episodes; I am reasonably sure I was its entire audience) and wrote some great YA books, particularly Rats Saw God.  It was a good decision.

Season two is equal to season one in terms of net quality, I think, but a couple recent plot twists feel like bad GM fiat.  If anybody's curious, I'll spoil in marginalia.


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This makes...
BL go "Cupid!"*
BA go "Whoo!"*
JZ go "Me too!"*

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6. On 2006-01-13, Vincent said:

ScottM: Veronica Mars' setting is a Southern California town with a hardcore wealth gap between its rich zip codes and its poor ones.

I'm not going to detail its situation, as it's large and includes lots of characters, all very nicely entangled. Veronica's a high school student, her best friend was murdered a year ago, and she needs to find out why and by whom.

The show's about the social, moral and personal sacrifices she makes - and refuses to make - in order to learn the truth. Solid detective fiction territory.


7. On 2006-01-13, John Laviolette said:

I haven't watched it, because I barely get broadcast tv, sos I didn't know anything about it. I caught something like five minutes of it recently, but didn't know enough of the backstory to get into it and get hooked.

So, the tv shows I've been watching are Smallville and Supernatural, both of which are flawed. Smallville had some great episodes early on: it's probably the first version of the Superman mythos to actually give him any depth. However, lately the characters have been making the same mistakes over and over and it's starting to annoy me. Supernatural annoys me, too, because I can see what they *could* do to do the show right, and so far they haven't. But I'm cutting them slack because they just got started.

You know what the *best* tv right now is? Better than BSG? The 2005 season of Doctor Who. The writers did an amazing job on boiling away most of the cheese and revealing the powerful moral message that was deep inside the Doctor all along. I've hooked a couple people who never liked the old Doctor on Christopher Eccleston's version of the Doctor.

Best Doctor Who quote: "This is my life... It's not fun, it's not smart, it's just standing up and making a decision because nobody else will."


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AJN go "Hell yeah! And..."*

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8. On 2006-01-13, TonyLB said:

For what it's worth, there is some depth in Monk, but it doesn't reveal itself in a single episode.

Basically, Monk is a broken man, in just about every way.  In a given episode he is either going to rail against that and try to function normally, or he is going to accept himself and work to make a life within his limitations.  I have seldom seen him do both in one show ... he's usually in one mode or another, and the character depth comes from noticing the pattern of when he is in one mode, and when another.

So, IMHO, the reason the show is fluff isn't that Monk only has those two modes ... it's that either mode is pursuing a fatal goal:  the writers show no intention whatsoever of having him become more functional or more resigned to his limits in any important way, so there's no character arc.

Thanks for the reviews on Veronica Mars, folks.  It's off to Netflix I go, right now.


9. On 2006-01-13, MikeC said:

I'd love to watch VM, but to my immense annoyance it's doesn't show any signs of appearing on Region 2 DVD. I suppose they think nobody over here has heard of it, and I suppose they'd be right, but if they'd just put some promo material out featuring Joss Whedon's "BEST SHOW EVER!!!" quote they'd do pretty good business with us EuroWhedonites and get the word-of-mouth rolling.

BSG (season 1) was eminently watchable, and I bought the DVD, but I don't think I'd describe it as "awesome". My main reservations:

a) Not enough variation in tone or colour - it feels kind of dark grey, everywhere, all the time. Maybe an artifact of watching several eps at a time on DVD rather than spaced out on TV.

b) Fear of Twin Peaks Syndrome - lots of weird stuff happening and no great confidence that the writers will ever tie it together into a convincing "Aha, so THAT's what it's all about" moment.

c) I could never quite get over my "but... but that's just STUPID!" reaction to the "there are only N models of Cylon" thing.


10. On 2006-01-14, mayuran said:

all of those shows are pretty good ones.

1) VM's second year has a slight flavour of "network interference" hanging around it - with cameos from Americas Top Models, Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith and other folks pulling you out of the world created in the first year. The best thing about it is that Veronica makes bad decisions all the time, and tends to do horrible things to other people, based on her own desires or pettiness (and somethings to help folks, but not always). No other show about teenagers even bothers to have its characters deal with the repurcussions of their actions in a serious way.

2) Battlestar I dread will be killed by its creators' lack of a plan for what is going on. There has been a bit of "padding" in season 2, but other times they quickly jump straight into the action.

3) House is Sherlock Holmes in a hospital, with other characters serving as his collective Dr. Watson. I watched it a lot last year but haven't tried it much lately - the internal case plots have too much of a predictable arc, and I have to at least enjoy the mystery as much as the detective. I do see the characters growing and developing (and yes, the cleavage and celebrity cameos and ultra modern hospital designs are clearly hollywood at work).

4) Have any of you tried "The Shield"? it's America's second best police show, and is always about moral compromises and the suffering that follows.


11. On 2006-01-14, Charles said:

I have confidence in the BSG creators to have a reasonable semblance of a plan, and they've been doing some pretty nice pulling together of stuff 2nd season.

I have a vision of the end of 3rd season BSG, but I'll put it in a side thing as I have a vague feeling that it might be vaguely spoilery to someone who hasn't seen 2nd season (no actual spoilers, but...).


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This makes...
CS go "My vision"*
JCL go "why third season?"*
CS go "Slow pace (spoilers)"*
KM go "Yeah"*
XP go "Totally agree"*

*click in for more

12. On 2006-01-14, Judd said:

I just borrowed BSG, seasons 1 and 2 from Rob on DVD and Janaki and I are stunned at how awesome it is.  Third disk, first season and there hasn't been a weak show yet.

It threatens to creep up on The Wire as my favorite show ever.


13. On 2006-01-16, James Nostack said:

Am I alone in thinking that Veronica Mars is unwatchably, wincingly bad?  I'm not sure if it's the acting, or the script's dialogue, or the overall Cheese Factor, but I have trouble staying in the room when it's on.  (I'm saying this based on a few episodes of this season; maybe it was better before?)

I scoffed at Battlestar Galactica when it first came out, but I'm beginning to like it more and more.  I feel the same way about Project Runway.

Also—as a guilty pleasure, I like "Teen Titans."  If nothing else, it makes good use of color and has a catchy theme song.


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WMW go "TT music. Oh yeah."*

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14. On 2006-01-16, James Holloway said:

Monk: is an interesting example, because the point is not to have a story with a moral element. The point is to watch Tony Shalhoub clown, Ted Levine growl at people, etc. The mysteries are these super contrived setpieces and the characters never significantly develop; they're just meant to serve as a frame to put Shalhoub in more ludicrously awkward positions so we can enjoy watching him do his thing.

And if what you want is either a story about morality and judgment, that is to say a story in the classic crime drama tradition, or a story about an actual person who actually suffers from OCD ... it is not either of those things.

The Shield: I second this recommendation.


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MSM go "How will Monk wince this week?"*
JEH go "Yeah, exactly"*

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15. On 2006-01-26, Uruush said:

I'm about done with the first season of VM.  Not only is it really good, it's really good from the very first episode.  That's not necessarily the case for a lot of the better televsion shows.  If anyone out there hasn't watched it, catch the first episode.  If you like it, keep watching, it doesn't get any better or worse, except that you feel more emotional attachement to the characters over time, obviously.  If you don't care for it, you can probably stop right there.


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