I don’t do a lot of TV recaps, because like the heathen that I am, I tend to watch the new episodes in a lovely bundle, at my own convenience. I also do not normally posses the elusive “writing bug,” but it has bitten me now, and I am grateful.
Despite all of its flaws, and there are many of them, I can’t hate The Newsroom because I realize that it’s much more than its sense of self-importance, or the intellectual hockey, or how he uses girls for the LOL effect.¹ And though it tends to make its characters unrealistically stupid or out-of-touch for the sake of comedy, it does hit the nail on the head sometimes. Which is to say, it pinpoints focuses our attention on important issues, even though they are from the past, and shows us how great news—the real, gritty kind—can be. Also, some of the characters are quite intriguing and enjoyable to watch.
There are a number of basic spoilers here, but I urge you to still watch it because it a beautiful thing to see onscreen.
In this week’s episode, “Bullies,” Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) visits a psychiatrist for some help with insomnia, which he suspects is the cause of his flubbed lines and his calling himself some other person’s name on-air. (A recap detailing all Idiotic Incidents in episode 6, courtesy of SF Weekly.) He gets there with his incredibly witty bodyguard, assigned by the network’s insurance company after he received a death threat, only to find that the shrink he was paying for four years has died two years ago. His practice taken over by his 29-year-old son. Will is reluctant, but relents, as they try to get to the bottom of his lack of sleep.
Whew. There is a flashback of the last few days, and it’s a heartbreaking reveal. Will hates it when people are scared of him, and we find out why. As a victim of child abuse and domestic violence, he is “hard-wired” to hate bullies and in turn, hates to be thought of as one. And yet, his lack of sleep seems to point out that he has been stomping around like a big bully, too.
Without giving too much away, he rails on Sutton Wall, Rick Santorum’s campaign adviser, who is openly gay and black. Will asserts at the irony of this as Santorum is notoriously anti-gay and latches onto Wall like a Rottweiler. Wall is possibly inspired by Robert Traynham, who is an openly gay, black former aide of Santorum, and his brush with Chris Matthews. The fictional Wall thundered:
“I am more than one thing! How dare you reduce me to the color of my skin or my sexual orientation. There are people who look just like me, thousands and thousands who died for the freedom to define their own lives for themselves. How dare you presume to decide what I think is important.
I am not defined by my blackness. I am not defined by my gayness. And if that doesn’t fit your narrow expectation of who I’m supposed to be, I don’t give a damn, because I am not defined by you, either.”
Another stellar subplot involves Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn), whom we have seen just a little of in the past few episodes. In “Bullies,” she shines. Replacing Elliot as the host for his night show, she makes a colossal mistake on-air with a Japanese rep of TEPCO, as she forces him to reveal to the public what he had privately shared with her, off the record, as Will had unwisely advised. She even breaks into Japanese during the broadcast, causing Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) and Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) to blow their respective gaskets. Sloan’s altercation with Charlie is one of the more thrilling moments of the show, with a distraught Sloan ending it outstandingly with “Don’t call me girl, sir.”
She is suspended with pay, and further upset when she learns that the rep she had spoken to, who was a good friend, had resigned from his post in shame, apologizing to his family and his country, in typical Japanese fashion. Despite being suspended, Sloan feels responsible for her friend’s resignation and asks how she could fix everything.
Charlie finds a way out: Sloan will apologize on air for mixing up the Japanese when she attempted to bypass the translator and speak to the rep directly on air. It is an error that is easy to make for someone with subpar Japanese, but a hard mistake to admit to when your Japanese is fluent and excellent, as Sloan’s is. It’s a moving moment when she realizes that she would have to deny all her achievements—of which she was shown to be most proud, in the earlier episodes—and admit to spreading “incorrect” information to save the TEPCO rep’s job and the network’s reputation.
I look forward to a new episode of The Newsroom every week, because although there are some sentimental moments that are so distracting that they pull you out of the whole situation, I know that Sorkin will deliver stories of the fall and triumphs of the human spirit. I know that he has made these stories out of love and yearning for what America could possibly be.
More of this, please.
¹ For all his brilliance, Sorkin does not know seem to know how to write great women characters, or that he keeps them there for (unnecessary) comic relief. These are Peabody-wielding, PhD-swinging HBICs, and you mean to tell me that they can’t send a private email from a Blackberry without broadcasting it to the whole company. Or that they take “You’re expanding” as a dig at their weight gain? No.
When Maggie (Allison Pill) mistakes Georgia the country for Georgia the state, it’s a little endearing, but thinking that LOL means “lots of love” is a little hard to believe. Sure, she was just an intern mistakenly promoted to Will’s assistant, and then promoted as an assistant producer, but I’d like to think that she’s smarter than that.
I have a ton to say about HBO series, Girls, the seeming T.V. underdog turned sensation. What is it about this show that has drawn the attention of so many people, even those that are outside of its apparent demographic. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about Girls, heard them talk about it, and I have always wanted to talk about it myself.
The first thing people ask you about Girls is if you like it. There is an extreme polarizing reaction to the show—dividing camps between people who love it and people who absolutely despise it. Rarely have people fallen on the exact, thin divisive line of “it’s okay,” and people who do say this often lean towards one reaction.
The second thing people ask other people about Girls is, “So which one are you?” That’s probably the hardest thing to answer accurately, because they are all awful and freely picking one to embody yourself is a hard and unattractive decision. They are awful, though, in the way that you get, in the way that you can maybe sympathize with. What I see when I see the Girls girls are the worst versions of ourselves, the parts that we try to hide or deny, amplifed and glaring on your T.V. screen for half an hour each week.
We get to know the self-absorbed best friends and roommates: shrill, uptight Marnie and perennially unemployed Hannah (played by Lena Dunham, the twenty-six-year-old female creator of the show—but that’s another story) who recurring character, Elijah, said that were cut from the same selfish cloth. Marnie is fickle and juvenile, though she likes to think of herself as grown up. Hannah seems to have very little self-worth, and likes to pretend she knows what she’s doing when what she really is is lost.
There’s well-traveled, liberated, reformed wild child Jessa who gets by as a good looking nanny with very little to lose. Then, there’s Jessa’s cousin: sheltered, inexperienced Shoshanna, who dubbed her virgin self a Samantha Jones. (Shoshanna is actually not that mean. She is very, very endearing, and I think I would want to be her the most.) These people seem to be oblivious to their own flaws, which is what I find a little hard to believe. But, people do have their own blind spots; it’s just so hard for me to believe that theirs can be as glaring and obvious as they are.
There’s very little that’s aspirational about the Girls characters, but I think that’s why I like them so much. A lot of people have been put off by this plain Jane, awkward version of the New Yorkian stories that HBO seems to make every once in a while, but I like it because it makes you uncomfortable in a way that’s not horrific, but just earnest and real—shame and secrets shoved right up there in your face.
I love it because it gets to the meat of things, even though the truth is often awkward and strange and horrible, instead of beating around the bush for oh, I don’t know, seven seasons. Do I like the “ugly people sex”? Of course not, but it’s a part of the show and it works because it exposes everything, much like how every ugly thing about these people are exposed, too.
Another thing that I really like about Girls, as a show, is that they make no excuses for the awfulness of their characters. It really doesn’t care if you end up liking them or hating them for what they do. What happens is that you develop some empathy or compassion for some of them, because you’ve been there, too. Maybe not in exactly the same situations, but maybe steeped in the same feelings. I find that, as we see more episodes of Girls, their characters enough space and enough layers to be believable as people.
I saw episode 7, “Welcome to Bushwick a.ka. The Crackcident,” last night. I have never been to a warehouse party in Bushwick, but I roared with laughter and I felt for them. Maybe because I’ve done things that I’m not proud of. Maybe also because I have felt as betrayed, as wounded, as discarded, and as embarrassed as they have. Not in the same exact way—I have never faceplanted the pavement falling off the front wheel of a bicycle—but in a way that’s enough.
Plus, it was way funny.
Girls is more than just “Sex and the City for ugly people,” and it’s hardly the voice of our generation. What it is is a damn good show where we see lost twenty-somethings, in their complexity and depth, unafraid to show the ugly, broken bits that a lot of us would love to hide instead. It’s too early to tell what kind of people they are, but each week, another layer is uncovered. Right now, it’s about horrible people-in a real sense, not in a Joffrey Baratheon sense–that you end up rooting for because, sometimes, you can actually see them (secretly) as you.
March closed with a screenwriting workshop, led by Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, who’s now a supervising producer for CSI:NY. I’ve never watched an episode of CSI:NY and I tend to shy away from programs like that (which are called procedurals) because I tend to favor character-driven shows. The real reason why we even went to that two-day workshop was because Aaron Thomas was a staff writer for Friday Night Lights, even writing two episodes during his stint.
It’s been almost a week since we left that workshop and I don’t even have notes or a vague idea for a story. It’s kind of depressing. Watching behind-the-scenes footage and extras on DVDs made me really want to be a part of something so completely collaborative, like television. In particular, the footage from the LOST DVDs that featured the writer’s room and a big binder of notes they kept for six season’s worth of continuity. It seemed like such a great thing to be a part of, especially someone like me, a big fan of television.
Aaron talked about the structure of a procedural—an episodic series divided into twenty-two or so 40-minute, goal-oriented episodes—and we sort of got to write the teaser (the segment at the beginning, before the credits, where the main premise of the episode is revealed) and Act One (the first seven-or-so-minute chunk before a commercial break) collectively.
It was hard to get a general concensus, because everyone had their own ideas that they seemed to fixate on. I kind of just quietly sniggered and sighed, being in the midst of a lot of professional writers and such who already worked for local networks. It seemed unnecessary to speak just so I could complain about ideas instead of being constructive. Anyway, most of what they threw around and played with were not my cup of tea. I already saw the disparity between the shows that are locally produced (telenovelas, the kind of humor they liked, etc.) and the shows that I enjoyed, and it made me sad that it didn’t seem like they intersected at all.
Because a really big part of me wants to work in television, but it doesn’t seem like local television has room for the shows that I want to make.
I am moved by series that center on coming-of-age, especially those that confront issues in a raw and honest way. I love it when shows speak to me through the characters, genuinely and believably. I love the brutality of feelings, the tragicomedy of high school, the overwhelming weight of things that matter now.
To tell you the truth, I have no idea what I used to be really sad about when I had been growing up. But we get hurt as we grow older, and we heal. We forget, or we think we forget.
These shows that I love so much, they’re reminders of the things that had mattered in the moment, and how intensely they felt to us at the time. I think I want to create stories that allows people to look back on—or experience at once!—these growing pains. To take those hurts and feelings of weightlessness, and preserve them in stories people can look back on, alone, together or apart. To remember, and maybe to forget. To detach or reacquaint ourselves with the very things that first taught us how to feel.
I digress, because I sought out to write about the workshop and how different it is where he is from (Los Angeles) and how it works here in Manila. But, I ended up talking about feelings and growing up, and that’s what I would love to write about. That, or something else wholly consuming, a web of stories, characters, and relationships that you grow and fall in love with.
I’m not interested in pushing the drama to ridiculous points to rake in ratings, and maybe that’s where I would falter if I worked here. I’m interested in making stories and using television as a way to share them with people. Sadly, it feels as though there is little room in the Philippines—maybe the world—for this kind of creating and collaboration.
I want to have a voice, but I’m not exactly sure where to start.
I rarely ever write about television anymore—or any form of popular culture, for that matter—and I don’t necessarily engage in fandom as much either, but I’ve been faithfully watching something kind of vapid with my sister. This week, Pretty Little Liars‘ second season came to a close. And now you know why I have been painfully carrying this obsession. And now I am going to take a break and write about this dumb show that I love watching so much.
Ministry Work (and Wood Textures)
I don’t get to do a lot of ministry work anymore, so when someone contacted me to design something for CCF, I got excited. After a bit of bumps, I was able to layout a few pages and I made a cover for the materials. This isn’t the final design, though, but I’m posting it because I’m kinda liking the pretty lightbulb (c/o Jeanine Garcia!) with that wood texture.
Television: Watching and Writing About It
Currently spazzing over LOST and a few comedies (e.g. Community, Modern Family, Parks & Recreation). Also getting into animated series (e.g. Ugly Americans, Archer) and this HBO series called How To Make It In America. I know, I’m a little bit crazy but I really can’t say ‘no’ to good T.V.! Sometimes, I can’t even say it to bad T.V. but that’s beside the point.
However, I still do love my old favorites, so I wrote a piece on New Slang about Jordan Catalano and Brian Krakow. Please read it, if you please!
To be honest, the whole thing kind of felt a little exclusive (as in… excluding a lot of us, LOL. Just kidding. But I felt a little alienated is all, I guess), but I was with great people, and there was great music, and there were great films. So more or less, I had an O.K. time. :)
Making a Blue Roast video… Or trying to. Stay tuned for it!
I already posted one over here, but it’s so fun to use to write or draw with. Try it!
My friend Carla found this little gem and gave it to me. I was super happy because I’ve never seen a license plate with my name on it (I usually end up getting ‘Samantha,’ which is my second name). So, thanks, Carla! I really love it so much, I could cry.
You could say that, at one point in my life, I was a pretty big Gleek. I can’t help it; the show has appeal. It’s like High School Musical, but with songs I already know, sung by mostly good self-deprecating teenagers and also, it has Jane Lynch. Glee has been on hiatus for months now, and will be until April, so in some weird, desperate need to get a fix, I started watching reruns. And as I watched it again, I stood by as what seemed to be the most promising show in television today crumbled right before my very eyes.
To say that Glee is a terrible show is unfair, because it does have its merits. But Glee capitalizes on the knowledge that their songs are catchy and their leads, attractive. The ensemble cast is funny enough, the milieu is safe enough (Come on, who doesn’t like a good coming-of-age setting?), and the song choices are also pretty palatable to the ear. The show is so complacent in its obvious appeal that it neglects real and solid character and plot development. The characters are caricatures that exist only to sing and make jokes, and to sometimes add in a few minor plot points, some of which seem to have no bearing, at all, to the general, encompassing story, and are not even referenced again.
The characters are vague and stereotypical, it’s easy to write in whatever sort of personality to them, making it convenient for the writers to put in whatever sort of tension that they need to keep things interesting. In “Mash-Up,” the show introduces the Rachel/Puck angle… and abandons it, completely. It makes you root for Will and Emma, because Emma is likable and Will’s conniving wife, Terry, is her complete foil and has no redeeming qualities to her, whatsoever.
This wouldn’t be such a problem, since good, well-sung songs and humor seem like sound qualities to build a show on. But because it seems that Glee is trying to make a connection with the actual, alienated teenagers that they try to portray. These characters exist for the audience to be able to relate to them. But the problem is that there is no consistency to their characters and the things that they do. The third episode, “Acafellas,” which aired prior to Kurt’s coming out to his father in “Preggers,” shows us that his father disapproves of his homosexuality (he took away his car!), but we see them bonding the episode after, and beyond, particularly in epsiode 8, “Wheels.” Jane Lynch’s character, Sue Sylvester, is portrayed as a jerkface but humanizes her in the same episode by giving her a sister with Down syndrome, and then the show steals back the humanity almost instantaneously when Sue sabotages the Glee club by leaking their set list to their competitors in “Hairography,” just because she can.
Glee is funny, and I really do admire this kind of humor, having been a fan of creator, Ryan Murphy’s previous teen-oriented series, Popular. But it seems like the show often overshoots and misses the mark. Buried in the songs and the jokes are “heartfelt” and “touching” scenes end up seeming like affectations. It seems like the show’s creators know where they want the show to go, but add so much extraneous details that cause it to look overworked, uninspired and just messy. They tackle issues such as premarital sex, disabilities, popularity and infidelity, but they take them so very lightly. These issues are usually approached humorously, and it is unnerving because there is a certain disconnect, with what it seems they are trying to do — which is communicate and connect with their audience.
There is also very little extended narrative, and it bases the progression of the story on what would likely be the most well-received stories. As if to say, “Never mind the already established relationships and backstories, we give the audience what they want.” And it’s just so messy. It feels, to me, that the awards that Glee has won are premature. There is a lot of space for Glee to grow, and I do think that it has potential, but I don’t think they deserve their awards just yet.
I’m still going to be watching, because I’m a sucker for musicals (and Lea Michele is fantastic as Rachel Berry). Hopefully things will turn up, by the time the show starts up again, because I genuinely think that Glee could be much, much better than what it is now.
And this scene from Community‘s 18th episode, “Basic Genealogy,” just because it’s funny and timely:
capped by JP del Mundo
Pierce: It’s okay, it’s okay. Let it out.
Jeff: We always used to watch the shows she wanted to watch. I hate Glee.
Pierce: Eh, I’m not crazy about Glee either.
Jeff: I hate it. I don’t understand the appeal at all.