You always got the feeling that Julian Fellowes was winging it with Downton Abbey.
Oh, for the first season and the spectacular second season he knew exactly what he was aiming for and doing (I’ve written about the show a few times on this site, like here), but for all the years after that there was this general feeling (at least for me) of someone improving on a world stage. (“Do you like this? No? Maybe this? Okay, we’ll do this for a bit.”) And whenever he hits a roadblock, he jumps forward in time; like a reset button.
I’ve been watching the new season and while I felt everything after the second season was pretty weak, this final year is just… okay, I have to say, boring and lazy.
There. I said it. And I feel so better afterwards. Is Fellows so done with his juggernaut that he just wants it over? There is no real action or point so far to the season. He erases major plot points with a simple conversation (this is where the lazy bit comes in, things just happen and life moves on), and nothing really seems to move forward. Soap operas are not this bad. In a way, the show has almost become a parody of itself.
There are things I will always like about Downton Abbey (some of the characters, the period it is taking part) and things I will never understand (the series has jumped forward about 20 years since it’s beginning and no one has freaking aged!), but at least, for all its faults, it was in the hands of Fellows and he is a really good screenwriter.
Now, I just see him as a good screenwriter who is very tired. A lot of fans are going to be very disappointed. I hate to say it, but it’s true. Maybe the second half of the final season will erase my concerns, but right now I see it going out with something less than a grand whimper- a reluctant shrug.
Okay, onto five things I am actually enjoying right now. Continue reading
So I have to accept the fact my kids are not going to be into the Peanuts. I truly see the generational gap there. While I can write a post dissecting the interworking genius of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (which I did do here), my kids would rather watch something else.
Actually, my son had a really good answer for not wanting to watch the show. He said they used bad language. Which is true, if you consider the word “stupid” a bad word, as we try to do in our house.
And while my son loves looking at my old comics (especially Calvin & Hobbes), he has no interest in looking at Peanuts. So while I’m busy each year collecting the complete works (thanks to the releases by Fantagraphics Books), my old paperback copies sit gathering dust on his shelves. Once I tried reading him the books and he was startled by them.
“Why are they so mean to Charlie Brown?”
Now how would you answer that? Is it funny to be mean to someone? Are we laughing at a child’s pain? In our age of fighting bullying, is Charlie Brown a victim? Granted, in the later years of Schulz’s writing, Charlie Brown took a back seat and much of his torture disappeared (usually everything seemed to be about Rerun), but it is there in the early years tenfold.
In the next year we’ll be getting a new Charlie Brown movie. The trailer looks beautiful, but I wonder how they will handle this stuff. It could either be a rebirth for the franchise or the final nail in the coffin. When Charles Schulz died he made it very clear he wanted everything to stop after his passing. His family seems to have done everything possible to keep it going though; yet, a part of me believes Schulz had it right. Especially now.
Now on to my October list! Continue reading
Every year around this time I always wish I had musical talent. Why? Because Halloween is a surefire money opportunity for a creative songwriter.
See, across this country, from kids to adults, people have Halloween parties, but there is no real Halloween music to play. Oh, there is “Thriller” by Michael Jackson and the awful “Monster Mash,” but what is there after that? Dance remixes of famous horror movie themes?… That’s not good enough!
And that is when an enterprising music genius steps in.
You make a CD that is family friendly, has some fun danceable tracks (maybe comes with its own dance move), add enough references to Halloween memories to stir a heartfelt response (think any classic Christmas song, most are built around memories) and you will be cashing a big check once a year for decades to come.
Sadly, I don’t have music talent and the extent of my songwriting skills only brings up corny titles like “I Want My Mummy” and “Do the Frankenstein Shuffle.” That is just embarrassing. It is even more embarrassing because I am literary enough to know Frankenstein is the doctor not the monster.
Here are the five things I am into this month… Continue reading
What inspired me to write my editorial this week, “The Happy Anglophile,” is that I am in the process of editing two different books- A Jane Austen Daydream (to be published in April by Madison Street Publishing) and Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare (which I am self-publishing and sharing the experience via posts, like this one where I discuss my great new cover artist). They are both very British books; one putting the spotlight on Miss Austen, the other trying to capture the world and vibe of Sherlock Holmes.
Not bad for a kid from Michigan, eh?
And it doesn’t stop there! I’ve been thinking about writing a post on a controversial belief I have on Shakespeare next week, and I have been debating myself for months on writing on my love of PG Wodehouse and Douglas Adams (I should have done the Douglas Adams one nearer his Birthday… damn).
Anyway, looking back over the blog, my anglophile-tendencies have been on display ever since I started writing, from books to movies to television to music. For your reading pleasure this weekend here are links to some of my more popular posts on my favorite second home.
I’ve been doing this blog for over a year now, but this is the very first time I’ve taken a request.
See, last week I did two pieces about being a nerd, humourously claiming the title another blogger decided to put on me. And in one of those pieces I made a comment about SyFy’s new Battlestar Galactica (the most recent version, not the old one I will reference below), even hinting at the idea of writing a blog entry about the show.
It was supposed to be a joke, nothing I was really planning to do; yet, I received numerous requests in comments and over twitter to do it. As @Safireblade commented:
“Well, get to work on the Battlestar Galactica post… Chop chop!”
How could I say no to that? But I have to admit this is a tricky thing for me to do. Just ask a film critic and they will understand- is it easier to write a bad review or a good review? See, as a lover of storytelling, the idea of breaking down what I consider almost a perfect show feels a little… well… sacrilegious. Continue reading
I have never understood why we readers treat literature so poorly.
We confine our classics to cheap paperbacks, five-dollar hard copies, bulk versions, and we throw them in bargain bins alongside fake biographies of yesterday’s celebrities.
Worse, sometimes we even add zombies to them…
Why aren’t readers more shocked by this treatment? These are our Rembrandts, our Van Goghs, our Monets. Basically, the classic books are what makes literature art, and yet we treat them so utterly, utterly horribly. Its like we take them for granted; we even dare write in their margins and use highlighters on them! (Okay, I did that too in college, but you get where I am going with this.) Continue reading
One of my big complaints I had when I lived in Los Angeles was that you did not feel the changing of the seasons.
See, for me the changes in the weather around me helps me stay focused, it gives me a sense of urgency from day to day. In other words, I feel time more and I can feel it slipping away as well. This is not a bad thing, it just means I feel like I live life a little more when I feel those differences as compared to when I live in an environment where everything is the same every freaking day.
Of course, where can you go to complain about the weather?
Fall is one of my favorite seasons and this October is living up to that with a lot of favorites falling in my list. (Oh, and the fact my novel A Jane Austen Daydream has been signed to be ePublished sometime in the future doesn’t hurt either). Continue reading
Sometimes I feel guilty when I write something.
It happens. I am only human, but whenever I write an editorial it is coming first and foremost from a good place. Usually my negativity, when it is presented, is because I believe there are better ways that things can be done (the bad in a way acting as an introduction to me explaining why I am giving the advice in the first place). I have never written a negative post for the sake of attacking. I’m not wired like that.
Basically, I just want to put in my two cents … Which, in a way, is the entire point of having a blog, right?
I’ll get to my apologies in a bit. Let’s start with the love…
I would estimate that when it comes to TV, PBS makes up 85 percent of all of the television my family watches. From PBS Kids in the morning (my son loves Super Why, Dinosaur Train, and especially Wild Kratts) to History Detectives, Masterpiece Theater, Great Performances, Ken Burns documentaries… Well, the list can go on and on and my DVR is full of just that one station.
Yes, PBS owns my DVR. Continue reading
Television is rarely art.
A big part of that is because of how it is made, this is especially true in America.
American television is a business model made out of light entertainment, with the hope of reaching as much of the viewing population as possible. While a creator may start with the spark of an idea, it is in the manufacturing of that idea where the art is lost; and business men take over, hoping to stretch an idea out for as long as possible, generating the highest quota of viewers and advertising sales. And through this process sadly creators can disappear (Consider Dan Harmon and Community, which I wrote about here), walking away (or forced away) from their own creations, their own babies.
To understand what I mean about art, consider one important element that makes a good novel art. It is not merely the initial idea, but the follow through from the beginning to the end, everything coming together to make a wonderful perfected whole, like a present with a bow on top. Television doesn’t have that, especially in America, and it is rare that any writer or even creator know what they are working towards. Don’t believe me? Remember when they gave an end date for the show Lost and everyone thought that was revolutionary?
So while a show might have a few great episodes, a few great seasons, it is rare you can step back and look at a complete package and say that is a well-told story from beginning to end. Continue reading