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To be clear: I have not watched "Journey's End" yet, because [ profile] bibliolicious is out at a gig this evening. But I wouldn't wish to deprive anyone of poll-clicking fun, and anyway I'm planning to pretty much avoid the internet for the next 24 hours, so:

[Poll #1218259]

Feel free to link to your Who posts in the comments. Actually, that would be really helpful, because by the time I get around to watching the episode any relevant posts will probably be buried at about skip=300, and thus difficult to find.


Jun. 14th, 2008 07:54 pm
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RTD wrote a good episode!

Don't Stop

Dec. 21st, 2006 06:32 pm
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For those who haven't seen it yet (and I know there are West Wing fans on my friendslist who haven't seen it yet), I give you [ profile] grahamsleight's latest piece at Strange Horizons:
It's absolutely clear to me that the true predecessor of The West Wing, the great science-fiction show that ended its seven-season run this spring, is the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
(Actually, SH reviews has had a good week this week, and I'd hate for good reviews to go unread just because it's almost Christmas, so here are links to the others: Dan Hartland on Alexander C. Irvine's collection Pictures From An Expedition; Paul Kincaid on Paul Auster's short novel Travels in the Scriptorium; and Nic Clarke on Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's latest anthology, Salon Fantastique. And of course there's been a story and a poem and a (christmas) article as well. Enjoy! And, you know, post comments. There, not here.)
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So, OUSFG has an award. This is its second year. It's voted on by the membership, and given to the best speculative fiction book receiving its first UK mass-market paperback publication in the preceding academic year. This is actually fairly straightforward--it's for books students will be able to find and afford. Last year Coalescent by Stephen Baxter won. The current shortlist is:
Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others (January 2005)
Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (September 2005)
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (February 2005)
Ian McDonald, River of Gods (April 2005)
Audrey Niffenegger, The Time-Traveler's Wife (January 2005)
Some notes: it's obviously not just for science fiction; it's obviously not just for novels; and goddamn, that's a hell of a list.

I mention this because this evening there is a balloon-debate discussion meeting, starting at 8pm, in the Lady Brodie Room in St Hilda's College, which means I'm going to have to decide how to rank them. And man, that's hard.

(On the subject of St Hilda's deciding to admit men ... I don't know what the reasoning behind the decision was, but I'm somewhat surprised that it happened, and it seems a bit of a shame, really.)

(And just to leave on a controversial note: I've finally got around to watching Deadwood--I'm about halfway through the first season at the moment--and I'm not terribly impressed. I think partly it's how stylised everything is; the dialogue bears as little resemblance to how people actually talk as that in The West Wing or Buffy, but where those shows were consciously presenting its characters as smarter-than-life Deadwood is constantly at pains to tell you how Real it is, how True To Life. The style doesn't mesh with the content, for me, in other words. Of course, that could just be a fancy excuse made up to cover the fact that I find all the characters except Jane excruciatingly boring; the episodes I've enjoyed most so far have been when circumstances have forced them to do something, as in, say, 'Plague'.)

EDIT: the ranking determined by the panel, in reverse order:
5. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
4. Cloud Atlas
3. The Time-Traveler's Wife
2. River of Gods
1. Stories of Your Life and Others
And those placings were almost all hotly contested. It'll be interesting to see whether the official result (announced Saturday) is the same or not.
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Your show had a ranting Trig.

That is all.
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not in bullets this time )

All the other posts ever:
[ profile] palatinate here.
[ profile] iainjclark here.
[ profile] nhw here.
[ profile] apotropaism here.
[ profile] communicator here.
[ profile] surliminal here.
[ profile] blackbeltbarbie here.
[ profile] andrewducker here.
[ profile] ang_grrr here.
[ profile] pikelet here.
[ profile] wg here.

(And people wonder why I'm still watching.)

EDIT: O anonymous adder of tags: "flocking"?
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Watching the season two finale of Battlestar Galactica today, I couldn't help thinking of a scene from Angel's second season. It's the one in 'Epiphany' where Angel, full of guilt and remorse and not knowing what to do next, has a sit-down chat with Lorne in Caritas. "I don't know how to get back," says Angel, and Lorne replies, "Well, that's the thing--you don't. You go on to the new place. Wherever that is." Actually, what I was really thinking of was not that scene, but what David Hines said about it:
*Exactly* right.

Dramatic television characters are like chess pieces. If you want to continuously develop one's position, you have to keep moving him to new places. If you just shuffle him back and forth between the same two squares, he's not actually going anywhere ... and you're wasting turn after turn.
(As an aside, I miss David Hines. He regularly and then semi-regularly posted reviews of Buffy and Angel to Usenet from about mid-s2 of the former to mid-s3 of the latter, and is still one of the sharpest and most entertaining tv critics I've read--even when I think he's being completely crackers. His take on the first half of Angel's second season, for instance, is definitive, and he was good on Buffy when it was good and when it wasn't. Sadly I haven't seen him review anything for several years.)

Anyway, I think Hines is spot-on about character-shuffling as a trap that so many long-running tv shows fall into; one of the reasons I like Angel so much, despite its faults, is that it avoided that trap, more or less. But watching 'Lay Down Your Burdens', the observation came back to me, because Galactica's writers seem to have gone a bit too far in the opposite direction.

the spoilery bit )
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Sports Night, if you haven't heard of it, is the show Aaron Sorkin created before The West Wing. It was a half-hour show set backstage at a late-night cable show called, yes, Sports Night, and ran between 1998 and 2000. Thanks to the kindness of [ profile] lamentables, I've been gradually working my way through it over the past couple of months.

Now, I knew from a certain episode of The West Wing that Sorkin seemed to be a space fan, but I was still taken a bit by surprise by 'The Sweet Smell of Air'. Dana Whitaker, the producer of Sports Night, wants to discuss a potential Michael Jordan interview with her boss, the managing editor Isaac Jaffe:
DANA: Hi, Isaac--

ISAAC: Hi. Dana, listen to this, this is fantastic. [reads from magazine] "Bioengineering might one day create living creatures adapted to survival in space."


ISAAC: Space birds.

DANA: ... OK.

ISAAC: Don't you wanna know how they're gonna fly without air?

DANA: Uh ... OK.

ISAAC: It says here they're gonna fly on sunlight.

DANA: ... So, we got this Michael Jordan offer ...

ISAAC: And further out where the sunlight grows weaker, they're gonna bioengineer a squid.

DANA: ... Squid?
Read more... )

Reports that Aaron Sorkin is a Stephen Baxter fan remain unconfirmed.

The Debate

Nov. 29th, 2005 10:24 pm
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I've been watching a lot of The West Wing over the past couple of months. I had basically given up in disgust at the end of season five, on the grounds that the show had become a pale shadow of its former, Aaron Sorkin-helmed self: less nuanced, more sensationalist. But [ profile] grahamsleight was braver than me and bought the season six DVDs, and watched them, and said they were a return to form. So when he lent them to me, I watched them as well.

It wasn't a return to form. Not really. The plotlines had all the hallmarks of John Wells' fondness for melodrama. The president has an MS episode! But that's not enough, so he has it during a foreign visit! But that's not enough, so he has it during a visit to China! But that's not enough, so he's paralysed from the waist down! And so it went. More importantly, the heart of the show, the stories about the processes of government and democracy, were still missing.

Around midseason, however, the show starts to change dramatically. Not in quality--at least, not at first--but in format. Faced with the reality that US presidents can only serve for two terms, the writers started laying the groundwork for the next presidency. The Republican primaries we didn't see much of, and what we did was straightforward; there was a clear frontrunner from the start, California Senator Arnold Vinick. The Democratic primaries were dealt with in much more detail, not least because half the existing White House staff somehow ended up involved. The eventual nominee was never really in doubt: Congressman Matthew Santos, from Texas. But getting there was, increasingly, fun.

It still wasn't The West Wing; the show alternated between episodes set on the campaign trail and episodes set in the White House, and that latter group were for the most part pathetic. But you can see why. Aaron Sorkin wrote virtually every episode of the first four seasons of The West Wing, and those he didn't write he at least had a hand in breaking or editing. Nobody else on the writing staff could write like he did; nobody else could write to the format he created. So it's not surprising that the episodes in the new format, with new characters, were better. They simply allowed the writers to play to their strengths. By the end of season six, The West Wing wasn't back, but it was at least watchable again.

So now we come to season seven. And I think I might be addicted.

Season seven discards the old format almost entirely, and the vestigal remains are still pretty embarrassing. In its place, we get a story about an election campaign--from the point of view of both camps. It makes you realise how little of Bartlet's re-election campaign we saw in season four. Not that that's a bad thing--it was right for Aaron Sorkin's show. But the shift in focus now has given the show its dynamism back. It is that rare thing, a format reboot that works.

The reason it works is largely because both candidates are interesting and well thought-out characters. It helps that the actors playing them are Alan Alda (Vinick) and Jimmy Smits (Santos), but more than that it's the differences between them that sell the campaign. The Democrats' original reaction to Arnie Vinick, in season six, amused me mightily, because basically it boiled down to "we're fucked, aren't we?" There's a scene where Leo, gloomily, tells Josh they've got nobody who can beat him; that he'll go into the town halls and blow them all away "and seem smarter and more honest than any Republican they've ever seen--because he is." And that's about as far as they get with their planning. I love the idea that the Democrats just don't know how to deal with a Republican just because he makes sense. And Vinick does make sense, on a lot of things; he's a moderate, and even when you disagree with him the writers let him argue his position with some intelligence. The contrast to the straw-man Dubya clone that Bartlet ran against couldn't be clearer.

Santos, meanwhile, is the idealistic, somewhat inexperienced liberal. But he's also the candidate who's served in the military, and continues to be listed in the reserves. He's the candidate who believes that life begins at conception; he's not against legal abortion, but he wants it to be much rarer than it is. He's the candidate that goes to church. The result is a campaign where neither candidate has a lock on support from their own base, and the battlelines are far more fluid than they usually are--where everything is up for grabs. (That the Santos campaign hires Janeane Garofalo as a staffer Does Not Hurt.)

And then comes the seventh episode, the one I've just watched. 'The Debate'. Now, I loved the previous debate episode, 'Game On'. I bounce with glee to see Bartlet trounce his opponent ("… I'm supposed to be using this time for a question, so here it is: can we have it back, please?") And the setup for this one--a live episode--sounded more than a little like a stunt. But in the event, although neither actor is perfect (Smits stumbles more than Alda) as a piece of television, it is utterly brilliant. And as a piece of The West Wing it's not bad either, because it's got that old idealism, that old championing of debate.

The candidates walk on stage, and the chairman spends five minutes explaining the rules. Then Vinick suggests that they junk them, and have a real debate. No two-minute speeches followed by one-minute rebuttals; just a moderated debate. Santos agrees--he'd have to, but you suspect he does it because he's raring for it too. And they talk about … everything, pretty much. Education. Healthcare. The death penalty (perfectly). Third world debt. Climate change. The value of liberalism. And you find yourself agreeing with one or the other, or disagreeing but at least being able to see why they think that. During his preamble, the chairman asks for the audience to be quiet, saying that at the end they can give democracy a round of applause. At the end, you want to. That's what The West Wing has always been about: and if they can keep that spirit, even with new characters, even in this new format, I'll keep watching.

I suspect they won't be able to, of course. They're dragging the campaign out, running it in slower than real time, and you have to suspect that one of the reasons they're doing so is that they know they're on to a good thing, and they're not looking forward to going back to the old format. Because after the election, what else can they do? It's a sobering thought. And even in the meantime, it's not as consistent or sophisticated as Aaron Sorkin's show was; the first three episodes of the season are stellar, but the second three are all fairly seriously flawed, in various ways. But by and large it's a show worth watching, worth talking and thinking about--a show that once again feels aspirational, that makes you wish the world really worked this way--and by and large, that's enough.

(And I'd vote Santos, but it's a harder call than you might think.)
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'BBC to screen 'Doctor Who for adults' as new spin-off show':
The new programme will be called Torchwood (an anagram of Doctor Who) and will follow a crack team investigating alien activities and crime in modern-day Britain.

It will feature in its starring role John Barrowman, who played Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and who will play the same character in Torchwood.


[Davies] said: "Torchwood will be a dark, clever, wild, sexy, British crime/sci-fi paranoid thriller cop show with a sense of humour - the X Files meets This Life,"
According to the BBC page, we can expect this next summer, on BBC3. I will spend most of the time between now and then boggling.

EDIT: Private texts made public, episode 632:

[ profile] coalescent: They're making a Doctor Who spinoff.
[ profile] immortalradical: ... please tell me it's not called 'At Home With The Slitheen'
[ profile] coalescent: It's the Captain Jack show.
[ profile] immortalradical: Why do you tell me these things?
[ profile] coalescent: They're calling it Who for adults.
[ profile] immortalradical: STOP IT!
[ profile] coalescent: "No. They won't see this coming."
[ profile] immortalradical: Captain Jack - he so gritty!
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If I have to wait this long for my fix of Veronica Mars each week, I might get cranky.

Read more... )
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It would not be an exaggeration to say that I'd been dreading the season premiere of Veronica Mars as much as I'd been looking forward to it.

Spoilers below, obviously.

Read more... )

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