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Monthly Archives: October 2012

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What’s Wrong with Futurama?

Here’s a more direct approach to the problem than mine.

It’s been happening ever since the first movie with the whole flimsy Nigerian scammer plotline, but since the show rose from the grave on Comedy Central, it’s permeated it to the core. The problem is that the show has taken a bizarre need to shoehorn literal “8 months ago” references and plot points for just about every single episode. Last week, it was the Mayan apocalypse (and, to a lesser extent, TRON Legacy).

Now that I think about it, yes, the topical references are much more out of control. That may be a function of moving to Comedy Central. It might even be a note from CC that Futurama should be more like The Daily Show.

Or maybe it’s just insecurity. The Futurama producers are old. They’re insecure about being able to hold on to younger viewers. And they also futurama sucksseem to feel the need to “say something”. Decision 3012, like the farting robots and flag burning episodes, came out of that.

But “Ripped from the Headlines” isn’t what’s really wrong with Futurama. It’s a symptom that the show has no ideas. It has “big ideas” for pulling off Science Fiction concepts that play with time and space. And those make the show seem like it’s worth watching. As with The Thief of Baghead, the show occasionally even uses them to add an interesting plot element to a show. Those are the few good episodes.

Futurama has no ideas. It has no ideas what to do with its characters. They’re here. They do the same monotonously wacky things in every episode. They’re frozen leftovers from the show as it used to be going through their routines.

Futurama has no idea how to tell a story. It takes a sitcom plot, a cheesy adventure show plot or resorts to the Simpsons’ usual “Homer gets a wacky new job” plot. The last episode about Leela’s mother was a sitcom plot. It was bad because it was sitcom plot dressed up with aliens. When the plot sucks, the show sucks.

This is why Futurama is dead. The occasional big concept makes it briefly look smart and clever, but the show is still dead. Its characters are a bunch of tics. Its plots are taken from old sitcom episodes. Its characters behave like they’re on an 80’s sitcom.

Watching Futurama, like the Simpsons, is a reminder of a show that ran on creative energy before it ran out.

Revolution is Not Revolting

Revolution has its problems, most of them involving its whiny protagonist, but it’s still about the only drama worth watching on television. The concept is big and it’s easy to question the details, the lack of modern firearms in the vicinity of Chicago, but it’s also the only show that is taking some actual risks.

On Monday at 10, what used to be a prime hour for dramas, Revolution is up against the bland Hawaii 5-0 and the nearly as bland as Castle. Revolution has its flaws, but it’s not another of the watered down crime dramas or worse hospital dramas cluttering up the networks. It steps outside the box the way that a few shows like Lost and 24 have done.

Revolution is ambitious. It doesn’t come close to living up to those ambitions, but it’s the only series making an effort to open up another world and push beyond the formula of what a network series is supposed to be. It’s the kind of show that SyFy would never budget for and that network television has been wary of.

Can a post-apocalyptic drama with horses and saber fights make it on network television? I don’t know. But considering the complete lack of Science Fiction, even on the SyFy Channel, I’m willing to give Revolution a chance.

The first two Eric Kripke written episodes have been good, for all their logical flaws. The episodes written by Monica Owusu-Breen (No Quarter) and Anne Cofell Saunders (Plague Dogs) have hovered near the terrible range. I haven’t seen Soul Train yet and I’ll see if it breaks the cycle.

Revolution is probably doomed, even on NBC, but it’s also the only thing on NBC’s programming wasteland worth watching.

Wing Commander + Privateer = Star Citizen

Obviously there’s a dose of Heinlein in this too. I won’t quibble over details, just show the trailer. Anyone who has played the first two Wing Commander games will recognize elements from them in the trailer.

Kickstarter and its cousins have certainly helped bring back some classic games. And that’s good.

And now the quibbling. How exactly is the MMO + single player aspect going to work. Is the MMO the Privateer part while Squadron 42 is the Wing Commander part?

And Chris Roberts doesn’t have the best track record. Not when Wing Commander 2 was the last good Wing Commander game, followed by FMV abortions starring Mark Hamill, followed by Starlancer and Freelancer, both of which were poor copies of Wing Commander and Privateer. But on the other hand the engine looks shiny and the idea seems promising.

So let’s dream. Let’s dream big.

Why I Like The Neighbors

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The writing is bad and the concept is uninspiring. The Neighbors is not watchable because it’s well written. It’s watchable because a cast of seasoned professionals wades through bad writing and has fun doing it.

The Neighbors is watchable for the same reason that another “Aliens come to Earth” TV show, Third Rock from the Sun, was watchable. Third Rock from the Sun was watchable and sometimes unwatchable, because John Lithgow dived into the material, got it into his teeth and chewed on it.

The Neighbors doesn’t have that kind of overacting, instead it has Doug Jones wading affably through the worst lines and Lenny Venito, Jami Gertz and Toks Olagundoye joining him. And all of them take the ridiculous material completely seriously. And somehow ridiculously, it works.

It works because the actors dive into it until the joke isn’t the punchline, but the way that everyone is running around and having fun with the ridiculous material.

The writing on The Neighbors is terrible, but writing only matters so much in comedy. Arrested Development had great writing, but was hardly ever funny because it spent too much time thinking about the joke. The Neighbors is the joke. It’s a show about ridiculous people acting ridiculously and it works.

It works for the same reason that Jerry Stiller on Seinfeld worked. Stiller’s character was supposed to be a bald repressed man living in fear of his wife. He was supposed to be an older version of George. On paper that’s a great joke. It’s the kind of joke that Arrested Development would have lived off for years. But nobody was laughing. Instead Jerry Stiller began screaming and hitting George. And that was funny. It wasn’t funny because Frank Constanza was well written, he often wasn’t, but because the whole thing was ridiculous.

The Neighbors is ridiculous.

I Have No Opinion on This

Except that Bruce Willis calling himself a working class 007 tips off just how much this franchise has changed.

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