Five Things I Am Into Right Now, October 2015

Downton Abbey Season 3You 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

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Five Things I Am Into Right Now, October 2014

It's The Great PumpkinSo 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?”

“Well, it’s…”

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

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, October 2013

HalloweenEvery 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.

Sigh.

Here are the five things I am into this month… Continue reading

Downton Abbey as Art: Some Thoughts on the Great Series

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