A Desperate Prediction

Bree and Justin (and Andrew)
Even though I read stuff like SpoilerFix and this hasn’t showed up, I’m predicting that on Desperate Housewives when it comes down to the Bree vs. Andrew storyline (for those not familiar or caught-up with the show, Bree’s son Andrew is trying to become emancipated because she’s conservative and somewhat homophobic), Andrew’s boyfriend Justin (who determined he was gay after he madeout with Gabrielle Soleiz and didn’t feel a thing for her) is going to come to Bree’s defense.

Why would Justin want to date someone as evil and scheming as Andrew? Sure, Bree hasn’t been the best mother to him, but Andrew is getting downright evil now. In Sunday’s episode he told Bree that if she didn’t let him go, he would accuse her of sexually molesting him as a child. Yes, Andrew may be hot, but that wears off after a while. You can tell in the scene after Andrew threatens Bree when Justin turns around, his sympathies are with Bree, not his boyfriend.

So I am predicting that whenever this storyline resolves itself, that Justin will somehow intervene and testify against Andrew on Bree’s behalf or something like that. The gays are good people (despite what Andrew may lead people to believe), and I think in the end Justin will come through.

Getting Lost

Locke fighting Ethan
In my continuing effort to succumb to popular and mainstream television culture (see: Desperate Housewives, The West Wing), I’ve added Lost to the list of current TV shows that I am now going to follow.

I all started sometime in the fall when Molly made a comment about how a friend had gotten (or was getting) her to watch the show. Shortly thereafter I read in Entertainment Weekly that Lost was a cross between Twin Peaks and The X-Files. I must admit — my curiosity was piqued at that time.

I resisted, however, and didn’t even add Lost to my Netflix queue.

Time went on and it seemed that more and more people recommended Lost to me. Then when I was in Minnesota for x-mas, I found that my sister, brother, and sister’s boyfriend were totally obsessed with the show. One thing to know about my sister is that she is probably the most frugal person I know. She never buys anything — except for season one of Lost. The fact that my sister paid money for the show really impressed me, though I must admit that I don’t really trust her taste in TV/movies (see: Friends, Notting Hill, The Wedding Planner, [anything w/Julia Roberts], and other romantic comedy-type things).

Like I said, though, the fact she bought it definitely made me a little more interested. I started looking around for the best deal on season one that I could find. Best Buy had it (on sale) for $39.99, Amazon had it for $38.99, and SecondSpin had it for $34.99 (used). Then I went to the Seattle Tower Records store and found it for $39.99. Now I know that isn’t a great deal, but the thing is, Tower is always wayyy overpriced since it’s slightly more independent than other stores. The fact that it was on sale at Tower convinced me that destiny was somehow leading me to Lost, so I picked it up.

I must also add that in addition to all of this peer-pressure or whatever, I was also interested in watching Lost because I absolutely love Terry O’Quinn, who plays John Locke. He played pretty major (though not starring) roles in both Millennium and Harsh Realm. I think he’s a great actor. He delivers lines slowly, but intensely, and is always able to channel some sort of sinister calmness. While his character on Lost isn’t very different from other characters I’ve seen him play, Locke quickly became my favorite character — and the most interesting.

On Sunday night I finished watching season one and also watched the first episode of season two. I am hooked.

What impressed me most about Lost are the character studies. Although this became a little formulaic after the first few episodes, each week does a flash back to the life of one of the people on the island to show how things were before they became stranded. Of course, everyone has an interesting and often sketchy background, but the characters are also pretty in-depth and three-dimensional.

At first I was disappointed, for example, with the stereotypical portrayal of Koreans via Jin and Sun. Jin was the dominating, verbally-abusive husband, and Sun was the submissive, quiet Asian wife. While I guess these stereotypes aren’t really prevalent on television in the U.S. anyway, I just felt like they were a little too cookie-cutter. But then we learn that Sun was learning English and planned to leave Jin, and that Jin, too, had intentions of leaving behind their stressful life in Korea and start anew in the Los Angeles, and that his father really wasn’t dead, and so on and so forth. What originally appeared to be a pretty simple and uninteresting relationship developed into something much more volatile and interesting.

The same can be said for pretty much every character on Lost, though I never felt it sunk to the “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and “Everyone is complex and broken on the inside” cliché that it definitely could have turned into. And with a bunch of the characters, you are always sort of left to kept guessing as to whether they are really “good” or “bad” (obviously not that simple…), or people switch allegiances — things are always kept interesting.

In that sense, Lost reminds me of a reality show. It’s a study of what happens when you take a diverse group of people (and Lost may indeed have one of the most diverse casts that I’ve seen), throw them on an island, and see how they fend for themselves. Leaders will emerge, alliances will be made, promises will be broken, supplies will become short, etc. etc. From what I can tell, Lost nails this aspect really well. I remember reading somewhere that a majority of the writers have some sort of sociology background — and that fact totally shines through.

As for my thoughts on what happened during season one:

The saddest moment for me was when Michael accused Jin of burning the raft and in order to defend him, Sun speaks English in order to stand up for him. Up until that point, Jin thought that he was an outsider (in the fact that he couldn’t communicate with the rest of the islanders) along with his wife Jin. Upon learning that she speaks English and is one of “them,” he is completely isolated (from a language perspective) from everyone else. I imagine he must have felt very lonely and I can understand why he felt betrayed — manifested through anger — by Sun.

I loved the moment when Hurley (I think?) made some comment like, “And there is a huge monster in the woods but nobody seems to be mentioning that…” I figured the statement could be interpreted two ways: either it was a self-reflexive joke by the writers commenting on the fact that there are so many story lines going on that they sort of forgot about or put the monster on the backburner, or for people are in denial or magically forgot about the monster. Personally, of course, I like the idea of it being a self-reflexive comment, but who knows.

Speaking of Hurley, that “dude” pisses me off. He’s always making annoying comments and simple-minded observations and has just way too casual of an attitude about everything. (With the exception, of course, of the aforementioned statement about the monster.)

My favorite back-story has been Kate’s. She’s probably the most mysterious of the main characters so every little bit of information we can get is great.

My favorite storyline has been trying to figure out what is up with Danielle a.k.a. “The French Woman.” I was really pissed off when, in the last episode or so of season one, Charlie keeps making comments about how nuts and insane she is. Well duh — if you were stuck on an island for sixteen years or whatever and you heard voices of “others” who stole you baby at one point, you might be a little crazy, too. I think there is more going on with her than just delusion, and hopefully we’ll see her some more in season two.

What impresses me most about the people on the island is their ability to kiss-and-makeup, or whatever. Despite the fact that they are constantly fighting with one another, they are always able to overcome those little fights for the greater good. Jin and Michael, for example, hated each other for most of the season, then toward the end with Jin helps Michael on the second raft, they become really close. I think that’s awesome, and really gives me hope about humanity.

Since finishing season one, I’ve managed to go through three episodes of season two (thank you iTunes for selling episodes!!). The pacing is a little different than season one, I’ve noticed.

For example, in the first episode of season two we see Jack go down into the hatch and encounter Desmond. For the next two episodes, we see the scenes leading up to that repeated. So it’s like after episode one, episodes two and three jump back a bit and overlap. Conceptually it’s a cool idea, but it makes the action feel a little stilted, to me.

Furthermore, it seems like during season one pretty much all of the islanders were together at some point (with the exception of people being kidnapped or going off on solitary adventures). So far in season two, we have three sets of people: Jack, Kate, and Lock in the hatch; Michael, Sawyer, and Jin either in the ocean or “jailed” by some new characters; and the rest of the islanders in the caves or at the beach.

I know that all of this adds to the story complexity of the show and should add to the dramatic tension, but when you have three storylines going, plus the flashbacks, I feel like there isn’t enough justice done to everything that is happening. I’m not sure what the solution would be, but the concurrent storytelling just feels too busy to me.

That said, I’m excited to see how the season unfolds. Twin Peaks definitely crashed during season two, but Lost doesn’t seem to be going that direction. By always introducing new secrets and complicating the mythology of the series, Lost seems to be going more the way of X-Files, but with much better character interaction and character-driven storylines.

Serenity Just Now

Serenity logo
(I was joking the other day about how nearly every article I’ve read about the new Joss Whedon movie Serenity somehow incorporates the phrase “serenity now!” in the headline… and now here I am hopping on the bandwagon. Oh well.)

Thanks to Ahe’s mini-review of Serenity earlier in my blog, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the movie’s release. I wasn’t a hardcore-enough fan to go see it opening night, but I did catch it this afternoon, and I must say that I thoroughly loved it.

I am curious, however, about the reaction of people who didn’t watch Firefly the television show. While the movie does, for the most part, stand on its own, as Ahe noted:

… you don’t need to have seen the series to understand what’s going on, although, it does help… especially since two of the characters are basically no longer part of the crew… you understand who they *were* and why they matter.

There are two deaths in the film. One of them was ho-hum for me, but the second one was a pretty big deal. And I’m not sure that the second one would have been a big deal had I not known that person via the television show. (The first character’s death is somewhat expected since that character was pretty minor in the television show, as well.)

Slate had an article the other day, “Joss Whedon: Why he should stick to television,” that I must say I agree with wholeheartedly. Although that headline sorta suggests that the writer (Seth Stevenson) thought Serenity sucked, that’s not the case. Like Ahe’s point above, Stevenson notes that without the emotional background given by the television show, the movie isn’t quite the same.

In one of the last posts on my old website, I wrote about “The Joys of Mythology.” Here are some relevant excerpts:

the deeper and more complex something is, the more rewarding it is to be totally immersed in it… david lynch has said that he loves doing television shows (despite the fact that they always get canceled [see twin peaks, on the air, and hotel room]) because he doesn’t like the two or three hour time you have in films. he likes to create the universe and play there. he likes the stories.

Basically, I wish that filmmakers like Whedon and Lynch would follow Stevenson’s advice and, rather than make films in which they have to cut out a lot of richness, tried pitching some ideas to HBO or something instead of ruthless networks that cancel their shows prematurely and without mercy. As much as I loved the film version of Mulholland Drive, I cannot help but wonder what would’ve happened in the world Lynch created had ABC picked up the pilot. (Back story: Mulholland Drive originally started off as a pilot television show — approximately the first hour-and-a-half/two-hours of the movie. After ABC decided they didn’t want the show, the French company Canal Plus decided to give Lynch the money he needed to finish the film.)

Since it’s too late for shows like Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, I guess the best we can hope for are more movies. Things were left pretty wide open at the end of Serenity, and I am willing to bet that Whedon is already working on a sequel (now let’s hope that the film makes enough money to convince the studios that it’d be a worthwhile investment).

So I would recommend checking out Serenity — even if you haven’t watched Firefly. After seeing the movie I can almost guarantee that you will want to go back and checkout the series on DVD. The two together create an emotionally rich and complex world that is truly worth experiencing.

Wait, Worry: The Time Is Near: Part One

Millennium Season 3
When it comes to the television show Millennium, there seem to be two camps (the “owls” and the “roosters” perhaps?): one group thinks that during season two when Glen Morgan and James Wong took over executive production (because series creator Chris Carter was focusing on Fight the Future [the X-Files movie]) the show went downhill and got too bizarre (e.g. Millennium Group as a conspiracy group trying to bring about the apocalypse, numerous episodes featuring the music of Bobby Darin, etc.); the other group thinks that season two is the best of the three seasons, and that Carter’s decision to basically “fire” Morgan and Wong so he could work on season three was a mistake.

I am certainly in the second camp: season two of Millennium remains one of the best seasons of television ever. For me, it’s right up there with Angel season four (when the world goes to hell — literally).

Season three, for me, occupies a weird place in my heart. When Millennium first aired in 1996 (because it was basically considered a spin-off of The X-Files), and wasn’t very impressed. I only watched for a few weeks, and then stopped. Between the first and third seasons, however, I started watching Twin Peaks and would like to think that my taste in television became a little more developed. When season three of Millennium started, I decided to give the show another chance. I even posted to the alt.tv.twin-peaks newsgroup about this decision back in 1998.

Needless to say, season three got me hooked. Ever since Fox started releasing The X-Files on DVD I eagerly waited for Millennium to follow. Watching season one with “new eyes” only cemented my love of the show. Season two, which I hadn’t seen until I watched it on DVD last fall totally blew me away.

The Ouroboros from the Millennium Logo
And now, here I am, coming full-circle (like the Ouroboros from the Millennium logo) and watching the season that started it all.

I’m struck by how much the season started off like X-Files — Frank Black mirrors Fox Mulder as Emma Hollis mirrors Dana Scully. It’s really quite bizarre. I guess Chris Carter loves stories about the FBI or something? Thankfully, after a few so-so/blah episodes, the season picks up and finds its own ground again.

Here are my episode-by-episode thoughts. I am currently a little over half-way through the third season, so look for part two to come later.

“The Innocents” & “Exegesis” (two-part season premiere) — Basically, this episode ignores everything that happened in season two. We see that Frank Black has moved to Washington, D.C. and that he is consulting with the FBI, but we don’t find out what ever happened with the outbreak of the Marburg virus, why Frank’s hair is no longer grey (which it turned to at the end of season two due to the traumatic death of his wife), etc. Instead, we get a group of random FBI people investigating a downed airliner in what feels more like an X-Files episode than a Millennium one — a conspiracy to kill possibly cloned little girls who have the ability to do remote viewing. What is going o here?? I think when I started re-watching the show I missed these two episodes, because if I watched then, I may very well have given up again.

“TEOTWAWKI” — This episode I do remember from before, and it did strike me as very cool. At a large computer company in Washington (hmm… probably a thinly veiled reference to another company…) there are some high-level people who fear that when the year 2000 rolls around, the “Y2k Bug” would cause a total breakdown of society. When one of the children of these guys finds out and freaks out, badness ensues. I gotta say, I love the slight twist at the end (in regard to Brant’s death). I also loved remembering all of the Y2K paranoia going on before the turn of the century — this episode does a great job at capturing that.

“Closure” — This episode was pretty so-so, but I’m glad that it gave us a chance to learn a little about Emma’s background. She was just sort of plopped into the first episode and somewhere I think she became Frank Black’s partner (though this is never explicitly explained, as far as I remember), so as a major character she does deserve an episode dedicated to explaining her interest in violent crimes.

“… Thirteen Years Later” — I tend to hate it when dark shows attempt to break format and do something lighter. I know most fans love the Jose Chung episodes of X-Files and Millennium, but I always thought they were stupid. Further, when The X-Files really tried to lighten things up during seasons six and seven, I was thoroughly annoyed. Buffy‘s campy episodes were okay because it fit the format of the show, but when Angel tried to go really light (i.e. the fifth season’s Halloween party episode), I groaned. “… Thirteen Years Later” is another Millennium attempt at being campy, I think. The episode is about a movie reenactment of a case that Frank Black solved thirteen years ago. The band KISS makes a cameo appearance and the person you don’t expect ends up being the murderer — big surprise.

“Skull and Bones” — To be honest, I need to re-watch this episode because it left me rather confused. Basically, it is about the Millennium Group covering up information about people they or the government or someone had murdered because those people knew things they shouldn’t, caused too many problems, etc. The episode also explains what happens to Cheryl Andrews, a Millennium Group member that was somewhat of a reoccurring character during seasons one and two.

“Through a Glass, Darkly” — First, I love the title of this episode. Second, I love this episode. It is probably one of my favorite Millennium episodes and I distinctly remember it from when I watched the show on TV. This episode is about a child molester who is released from prison in a small town and has to deal with townspeople hating him and general witch-hunt type activity. Of course, at the end there is a huge twist that I doubt anyone can say they saw coming, and really pays off.

“Human Essence” — This is yet another X-Files-like episode about heroin in Vancouver that turns people into monsters. It’s another Emma-focused episode (we learn that she has a half-sister, etc.), so that is cool. But ultimately, I wasn’t a fan of this one. First, I’m not sure why they chose to have the tainted heroin in Vancouver or why Emma’s half-sister lives there. I mean, it’s a minor point and don’t get me wrong, Vancouver is a cool city and it’s neat to set an episode there, but why does the only one during the show’s run set in Canada deal with drugs? I’m not sure. Then, the whole thing about the Chinese scientist who is tainting was strange too — especially since he worked for the U.S. DEA. Ultimately, I think the episode is probably about some conspiracy in which the U.S. government is experimenting with mind altering substances in order to either control people or use them for war, so they sent someone outside of the country to work on it… but still, this isn’t explicitly laid out (and not that it needs to be explicit, necessarily — it’s just that the intention is poorly conveyed in the episode) so in the end, you are like, “Huh?” (in a bad way — not in a, “Wow, I need to reflect” way).

“Omerta” — Ugh, another let’s-try-to-be-light episode. It aired the week before Christmas, so I guess the creators can be like, “Oh, well it’s Christmas season so we have to do something light and cute.” “Omerta” involves a mafia guy who was supposedly killed 10 years prior but then suddenly shows up and it turns out that two mute women in the woods kept him alive and hidden all this time. Obviously, the two women are supposed to be angels.

“Borrowed Time” — Thank god for this episode. I swear, after “Human Essence” and “Omerta” I was about ready to reconsider my praise for the show. I was tempted to write a blog entry about how terrible the third season of Millennium was and how it just tried to copy The X-Files and that I was really sad and so on. But then came “Borrowed Time.” I remember watching this years ago and maybe even crying at the end. The title refers to people who have somehow escaped death (like Frank’s daughter Jordan — who survived meningitis in season one and the Marburg virus in season two) whose “borrowed time” is being collected and given to others who, in the future, will die of freak accidents. Eric Mabius’ character, who takes the time, is probably an angel of sorts. Somehow this episode captures death so softly and in such a touching way.

“Collateral Damage” — I already blogged about this episode the other day, so this will repeat some of what I mentioned there. This episode is great because freaking Art Bell was in it!! Playing himself!! Sorry, but I still cannot get over the coolness of that fact. Then you have Spike from Buffy (well, not Spike as Spike but James Marsters) and, get this, Jacinda from Real World: London! As for the rest of the episode, I love the character of Peter Watts and so the fact this episode sort of dealt with him and his family was cool. The conspiracy stuff in the episode was great, too. During the Golf War, did the military have soldiers test chemical weapons? Is that what Gulf War Syndrome is really about? One of my favorite lines from the episode deals with the effects of war on soldiers when a doctor at Walter Reed is talking to Frank Black:

Uh, each war has its own syndrome. World War II, it was shell shock. Vietnam was post-traumatic stress disorder. The Gulf War gave us, uh, paranoia, I guess.

Since the episode dealt directly with the Marburg virus, I did hope that we’d learn more about what happened between season two and season three, but I guess that is what the next episode was for…

“The Sound of Snow” — Finally, we find out what happens after season two. This episode is about a woman in Seattle who makes cassette tapes with “white noise” on them that cause people to hallucinate their greatest fears/things they feel guilty about. When Frank hears the tapes, he starts having flashbacks to the outbreak of the virus and the vaccine that he and Peter Watts received and the immense guilt he feels about the death of his wife, Catherine. The first half of the episode of pretty straightforward — Frank investigates two deaths in which people received the tapes. You wouldn’t tell from the beginning that by the end of the episode it’d turn into a “mythology” one, which is cool, I think. (One of the things that got old with The X-Files is that there was a strong delineation between a “monster of the week” episode and a “mythology” episode — events from one never crossed into the other.) I’m not sure that the episode resolved all of my issues/questions about season two, but at least it attempted to give closure. The guest appears of Megan Gallagher playing Catherine was great. It really is too bad that was killed off in season two.

“Antipas” — The return of Lucy Butler (as played by Sarah-Jane Redmond)! Lucy Butler is my, and many other fans I am sure, favorite guest character on Millennium. We first met her during the two-part “Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions” & “Lamentation” episodes of season one when she was somehow the killer of Frank’s best friend Bob Bletcher. We then met her again during one of my all-time favorite Millennium episodes, “A Room With No View” when she kidnapped teenagers with bright futures and tortured them by playing the song “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat incessantly. In “Antipas,” Lucy is the nanny for the attorney general of Wisconsin (who is planning to run for governor). The episode starts with Emma investigating a case in which she has no leads on. Frank notices the words “Saint/PA” written on a note in one of the photographs. He decodes it as an anagram for “antipas” which leads him to the Antipas Gardens on the estate of the Wisconsin Attorney General’s mansion. There he finds Lucy Butler, who he believes has been leaving clues for Frank so that he can find her here (he uncovers numerous other crime scene photos what have the word “antipas” contained in them somewhere). Frank and Lucy many antagonistic encounters, including a “dream” Frank has in which Lucy is essentially raping him — which is then turned around into Frank raping Lucy after he has her arrested and she demands a rape kit and a paternity test. After two more deaths (the attorney general and his wife), strange encounters in the Antipas Gardens (a maze, of sorts), Frank hits Lucy with a car, killing “their” baby and leaving Lucy in the hospital. When he confronts her in the final scene to tell her that he’s not afraid of her, she makes a vague threat toward Frank’s daughter Jordan.

… So that does it for the first half of season two. I have nine episodes to go and then it’s all over, sadly enough. After I finish those I’ll do a similar recap and my thoughts on the season and the series in general.

Collateral Damage

James Marsters as Spike and Art Bell
Consider this to be an “introduction” to the forthcoming episode-by-episode review of Millennium season 3.

Last night I watched the episode “Collateral Damage.” Right now I won’t go into an actual review of the episode. I just wanted to mention that the episode guest starred James Marsters (looking very Spike [from Buffy]) and Art Bell (weekend host and creator of Coast To Coast AM).

In the episode, James played a somewhat crazy Gulf War veteran who called into Art’s show. After he kidnaps the daughter of a member of the Millennium Group, Frank Black enlists the help of Art Bell to help apprehend him.

It was crazy wild to see Art. And they included the Coast theme song during the episode!!

Missing Miss Ellie

Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie
Yesterday, Barbara Bel Geddes, who plays Miss Ellie on Dallas died. I find this sad for a few reasons.

First (and this could be a happy reason?), Dallas season 3 just came out on Tuesday. It is kinda cool that she survived to see season 3, but sad at the same time that people will be reminded of how great of an actress and character she played, she is no longer with us.

Second, she is probably one of the strongest characters on the show. In one of the early episodes of season 1 or 2 she has a discussion with Pam or Sue Ellen (I honestly cannot remember which one…) about infidelity. Miss Ellie admits that her husband, Jock, had cheated on her on occasion and whenever she did, she slapped him with a belt or something to set him straight. It’s hard to really express the spirit of the scene without watching it again, but I just remember being really moved by her strength and refusal to put up with shit from her husband.

Miss Ellie, mother of the notorious J.R. and totally likable Bobby, was a great mother and stopped at nothing to keep her family together. Whenever the brothers had issues with their wives (which was quite often), Miss Ellie almost always took the side of the woman (she was a great defender of both Pam and Sue Ellen), while at the same time slowly trying to show her sons how great their wives were.

A true matriarch and she will be missed.

Finally, I must note that I, of course, started watching Dallas season 3 yesterday and am, of course, loving it. I’ll try to post some thoughts as the season progresses.

Disconnected

Ron Reagan Jr.
I was very sad to find out yesterday that MSNBC‘s television show Connected Coast to Coast with Ron Reagan (and this annoying conservative named Monica Crowley) is being canceled. The network is adding Rita Cosby (who used to have a show on FOX News of all places) to the lineup and Reagan is getting bumped. (Personally, I was hoping The Abrams Report would get booted — all the show does is sensationalize court cases.)

In my anger and sadness, I sent off an email to the Connected producers. You can too at connected@msnbc.com.

Here is my email:

Subject: where is connected going?

i just saw that there is a new lineup starting on monday and was sad to see that connected coast to coast is no longer scheduled for the afternoons.

is the show totally going away? what will happen to ron reagan? it was nice to have a liberal commentator for a change (matthews isn’t much of a liberal anymore, and olberman is more straight-news than commentary).

also, being from seattle it was cool to see someone from the pacific northwest with a show (since it seems everyone else is from the east coast or los angeles).

is there any chance getting connected back?

I’m not sure that my email was effective as it could have been, or that I necessarily contacted the appropriate people — maybe this is something I can investigate more, later. All I know is that I truly and sad that Reagan is being “disconnected.”

Upcoming Fall Goodness

Within the next few months there are going to be a lot of exciting things for me to buy. I keep forgetting what comes out when, so in an effort to remind myself, I am posting the dates that these exciting things are being released to I can head over to Best Buy (or wherever else) and get them hot off the shelves.

Month Day Exciting Thing
August 9 Dallas season 3
August 16 Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
August 30 Plans by Death Cab For Cutie
August 30 Nip/Tuck season 2
September 6 Millennium season 3
September 13 Goo deluxe reissue by Sonic Youth
September 13 Takk by Sigur Rós
October 11 Arrested Development season 2

One-and-a-Half Seasons Into West Wing

It’s been over a week since I last got my West Wing fix, so I’m feeling the need to do something West Wing related until my friend returns from vacation and I can resume season two (so far we’re about eight episodes into that season). As promised, here are some of my thoughts about things that have happened so far:

The Evil Vice President

Don’t worry, I already know that he’s going to be gone sometime soon so if you mention it I won’t be shocked. I just get bad vibes from him. Maybe it’s the southern Texas thing? I don’t know. He just seems slimy. Oh, and I hated it when he yelled at CJ in season one. Don’t mess with her!

The Story About the Man and the River

At the end of the episode about capital punishment, Bartlet’s priest tells him the story about the man who lived by a flooding river and that man’s belief in God. Thanks to the episode summary for “Take This Sabbath Day” on TV.com:

You know, you remind me of the man that lived by the river. He heard a radio report that the river was going to rush up and flood the town. And that all the residents should evacuate their homes. But the man said, ‘I’m religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.’ The waters rose up. A guy in a row boat came along and he shouted, ‘Hey, hey you! You in there. The town is flooding. Let me take you to safety.’ But the man shouted back, ‘I’m religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.’ A helicopter was hovering overhead. And a guy with a megaphone shouted, ‘Hey you, you down there. The town is flooding. Let me drop this ladder and I’ll take you to safety.’ But the man shouted back that he was religious, that he prayed, that God loved him and that God will take him to safety. Well… the man drowned. And standing at the gates of St. Peter, he demanded an audience with God. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘I’m a religious man, I pray. I thought you loved me. Why did this happen?’ God said, ‘I sent you a radio report, a helicopter, and a guy in a rowboat. What the hell are you doing here?’

The priest says it reminds him of Bartlet because Bartlet mentions that he “prayed for wisdom,” to which the father seems rather annoyed because “God” had sent Barlet a priest, a rabbi (from Toby’s synagogue), and a Quaker (Joey Lucas), yet in the end Barlet decided not to step in and save the man’s life. As an atheist, it really struck me because it proved to me how Christians (among others) are always praying for signs and whatnot even though the answer is right in front of them — they just don’t want to accept it or want something more glorious and foreboding.

Soap Opera Instincts: Zoe and Charlie

I could tell that they were gonna get together during the episode in which Bartlet was cooking chili and Zoe had Charlie taste it. I think watching soap operas makes me either really good at knowing when writers are trying to get people together, or (and maybe more likely), they make me assume that everyone is going to hookup.

The NSA and Osama bin Laden

I loved how during the season premier of season two (“In the Shadow of Two Gunmen”) the National Security Advisor (played by Anna Deavere Smith, who spoke/performed at my college a few years back) was more worried about Osama bin Laden in October 2000 than the real National Security Advisor (Condoleezza Rice) until Sept. 11. Actually, I don’t “love” that fact — it freaks me out that writers and people making a fictional television show might’ve been more alert and aware of the real dangers facing the U.S. than the Bush administration.

I Never Liked Mandy

Even though I feel like I should support Moira Kelly since she was in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (playing Donna after Lara Flynn Boyle decided not to do the movie — what’s with lame actresses playing Donna???), I just hated her character… and I loved the fact that she was a regular cast member in season one and then just sorta disappeared when season two came along. I have tons of theories on what happened to her (amnesia, drugged and abducted, she was really a spy, etc. — see, soap opera influence here!!), and since we never find out, I’ll let my imagination run wild.

Marathon Watching and Hair

It was funny to see people’s hair change overnight when I watched the first season’s finale followed immediately by the second season’s premier. Rob Lowe‘s hair change was especially noticeable.

Paging Dr. Laura

In “The Midterms” there is a “doctor” named Dr. Jenna Jacobs who has a Ph.D. in English Literature (which is a very nice degree, I might add), but passes herself off as a psychologist or something a la “Dr.” Laura Schlessinger who passes herself off as a psychologist/therapist/etc. despite the fact her degree is in physiology. Both of the women (in the show and the real Dr. Laura) have conservative call-in radio shows. It was cool to see that real-world tie-in.

… But I Got One Tie-In Wrong

I assumed that the Ainsley Hayes character (especially based on her appearance — tall, blonde, leggy, etc. — and her opinions) would parallel the evil right-wing conservative author Ann Coulter. Turns out I was wrong and Ainsley is a cool person, after all.

Winging It

Press Secretary CJ Cregg
So in addition to Buffy and Angel and The L Word and The X-Files and The Simple Life and Millennium and Dallas and Dynasty and Firefly and Nip/Tuck and The Surreal Life and Queer as Folk and Sex and the City and others I am probably forgetting, for someone who “doesn’t watch TV” (and I really don’t!! only TV on DVD), I sure have a lot of television shows I am obsessed with.

Add to that: The West Wing.

A couple of weeks ago one of my friends (who is a huge fan of the show) mentioned that he thought I would like it. I’ve always been leery of contemporary network television, but for some reason I figured I would listen to him. He brought over season one on DVD and after watching the first episode with him, I was hooked.

Last Sunday we did an 11-episode marathon, finishing season one and getting two episodes into season two. I haven’t watched any episodes since Sunday, and I’m definitely going through withdrawal, though I doubt I’ll watch any more episodes until Friday, at the earliest — what to do??

I think what I love about the show is that it’s a combination of two things I love: politics and media. I’m a total news geek, so not only do a lot of the story lines ring true (either inspired by or based on real events), but then we see how the behind-the-scenes people have to deal with the media fall-out.

Due to that media aspect of the show, CJ Cregg is by far my favorite character. I just love her energy, her coldness (but at the same time her vulnerability), her tallness, her dry sense of humor — everything about her. And despite the fact she makes out with that reporter Danny Concannon in season one, I still think/hope she is a lesbian (how that would do anything for me, I don’t know — I just want her to be a lesbian for some reason).

My second favorite character is Leo McGarry. He is so calm and collected, it’s just awesome. Especially during season one when those goddamn conservatives are going after him for his previous drug and alcohol abuse — he reacts to things so well and is so dignified.

Also, I hate it when Leo and CJ fight — which they have done a few times. It kills me. I would rather that they make babies (even though it would ruin my CJ-as-a-lesbian thing).

Watching the show also makes me wonder if the current administration (or an administration in the future) shouldn’t turn the Oval Office into a reality show. I mean, people are already cynical and disillusioned with the American government, so why not give it a more human face? Frankly, I am really surprised that the popularity of The West Wing hasn’t made the American public, in general, more interested in politics.

Starting a new television obsession is going to be a daunting task, I know… and the fact that it is currently on network television almost makes me tempted to watch it live (which would make it the first television show that I watch during it’s actual season since The X-Files back in 2000). I know that the upcoming season will see a new president come in, so that might be a good time to start watching. I’m not sure. We’ll see how I feel after seasons two and three and four (which are all available on DVD now).