Thursday, September 30, 2010

Appreciating Louis Theroux.

I just watched the latest documentary by Louis Theroux. It was about kids on medication in the United States. A well spent hour, if you ask me.

Anyway, you might remember him from Michael Moore's Tv Nation that ran in the mid nineties on NBC.

More than that he's known for his documentary series on the British BBC. Especially for his "Weird Weekends" series.

We have seen Louis for example with Neo-Nazis, with Fred Phelps, in jail, having a liposuction, as a WCW wrestler, in adult entertainment, trying to figure out women's bodybuilding, in Harlem...

Interesting stuff. Theroux has been willing to put himself in challenging and sometimes even funny situations.

But the reason I like him is because of his approach towards his subjects. That is that Louis is an exceptionally non-threatening, friendly and polite interviewer.

That's right. Non-threatening, friendly and polite.

I also like him because he's open-minded. He seems to be genuinely interested in different people and different phenomena. He likes to learn new things, and he doesn't come off as a judgemental person.

I think those qualities are rather rare in today's world coming from an entertainer. (he calls himself a presenter though)

What passes today as entertainment is basically opposite of what Theroux stands for.

Today's entertainment is mostly uninsightful and empty, not really interested in characters and real human beings, not interested in finding out anything new and not interested in being decent and dignified.

Worst of all, today's entertainment tends to be all about hype and zero about substance.

Theroux's shows are so refreshing because they don't have anything to do with hype. There's no unnecessary drama, there's nothing forced. Everything unfolds naturally. That's why his documentaries are usually compelling tv.

He doesn't know everything. But he wants to learn. He doesn't always understand. But he wants to try.

And more often than not, it pays off. One way or the other.

I just wish we could have more stuff like that on tv. More writers like him. Writers who'd be interested in learning new stuff. Writers who'd know that they don't know everything. Writers who knew that they have to respect us, human beings.

Well, at least we've got Louis Theroux.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How about showing some class on tv?

Another Chuck Lorre entry? Yes, but he unfortunately earned it. Let's take a look at what we have seen on his sitcoms lately.

Last week's Two and a Half Men episode: 16-year old kid has a threesome.

Last week's The Big Bang Theory: One of the guys uses a robot to masturbate.

This week's Mike & Molly. Discussion and 'jokes' about masturbation and oral sex.

This week's Two and A Half Men: Co-protagonist professes his love to his girlfriend but casually cheats her in the very same episode.

That's three different shows and four episodes in a row.

When you have that many sitcoms on air and almost all we get is stuff about sex and cheating then I guess you have to describe that as rather depressing.

I was especially disappointed in Mike & Molly. It's not exactly a good show and it may get cancelled, but it's nevertheless supposed to be good-hearted fun. Too bad it wasn't in that episode.

Alan cheating his girlfriend at the end of Monday's episode of 2 1/2 Men - what in the world was that?

You know, I'm not saying that you can't or aren't allowed to write about outrageous and raunchy stuff. Because South Park has managed to pull it off again and again and again.

The difference here of course is that while Trey Parker and Matt Stone have artistical integrity and ambition, Lorre and his folks are out there more or less to make an easy buck. (at least when it comes to 2 1/2 Men)

In a way it's amazing how on South Park you can even write an episode about queefs (google it if you don't know and want to know) and still come out smelling like roses.

But that's the way it is when you know what you're doing and you actually have something to say.

On the other hand, when you have no passion for what you're doing...

We can only hope that Chuck won't completely destroy his only good show, The Big Bang Theory.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Five characters make a modern family.

Okay, let's take another try with this subject matter. Hopefully it makes at least some sense this time.

So, I've been kinda disappointed that Modern Family won the Emmy for best comedy series.

I mean, yeah, the show can be pretty funny. The absurdist stuff definitely works. Eric Stonestreet is a treasure and Ty Burrell can be funny too. (especially in the moustache episode)

However, in my opinion the family part on the show doesn't work. Cameron and Mitchell with their adopted daughter is the only part that I find believable.

Other than that, I feel that the dynamics aren't there and the show even seems a bit dishonest to me. Especially when the writers try to pull off those emotional wraps and try to inject some meaning into those episodes.

It just doesn't feel like a real family nor does it feel like a real show to me.

But why is that so?

Well, I guess the biggest problem is that there are simply too many characters on the show:

Jay the dad, Gloria the mom, Manny the son, Mitchell the son and dad, Cameron the dad, Phil the dad and son, Claire the mom, Haley the daughter, Alex the daughter, Luke the son, Dylan the boyfriend...

It should have been pretty obvious that there's too much ground to cover here and it's almost impossible to pay attention to all those storylines at the same time.

In comparison, let's take a look at the casts of some other current popular and award winning family and "family" sitcoms.

The Simpsons: Homer is the dad, Marge the mom and Bart, Lisa and Maggie are the kids.

30 Rock: Alec Baldwin is the dad, Tina Fey plays the mom while Kenneth, Tracy and Jenna play the kids.

Entourage: Ari Gold is the "dad", Eric is the "mom", Vince and Johnny Drama are the kids and Turtle is the family pet.

All these shows have five main characters, and yet, Modern Family has ten.

When it comes to having characters on the show, you have to keep it relatively simple and not make it unnecessarily convoluted. That's why five characters is about right. Ten is simply way, way too many.

I mean, could you for example imagine five more main characters on Entourage? I don't think so.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why Law & Order wasn't any good.

I guess this is going to be yet another negative post but I don't think I have much of a choice here.

So why was this much revered show bad even though it went on for 20 years and even won Emmy awards? Well, that's because it had such an ass backwards premise, that is "let's convict the bad guys".

You might think that, "hey, wait a minute, that's a good premise". But it's not.

Notice that I'm not saying here that "let's _get_ the bad guys" is a bad concept itself. I'm just saying the "let's _convict_ the bad guys" is a bad concept.

The reason that I liked "let's get the bad guys" shows like 24, NYPD Blue, The Shield, Matlock and The Practice is that all of them (even The Shield) were about defending the weak and the innocent.

These shows would make you identify with the situations and the characters. Like in Matlock when a person was on trial for a murder that he or she didn't commit or when Vic Mackey showed sympathy for people in bad situations even though he didn't have to.

These shows had:
1) Interesting premises.
2) Stakes that were high.
3) You rooted for the characters.

Law & Order was a bad show for the same exact reasons :
1) It was way too much of a boring premise.
2) There was not much at stake.
3) It was impossible to root for our protagonists (prosecutors).

I mean, think about it. What is interesting about a show where you have the guilty party already locked up or about to get locked up, then you have the evidence that he's guilty and all you have to do is to survive through the defense attorney, the "bad guy"?

There's nothing interesting about that at all.

What's at stake here? The worst thing that could happen is that the guilty party manages to evade a conviction. That isn't even close to being a high stakes situation compared to what happens in those other shows.

If the guilty guy walks free, then so what? Unless he's going on a total murder rampage afterwards, it really isn't interesting.

But in any case, what has to be the worst part of the show is that our protagonists do not care whether the accused is guilty or not. If they convict an innocent person, our guys just shrug it off like it was no biggie. "That's the way it is. Let's get some coffee".

So we are supposed to root for guys like these? Huh. I can't believe people liked this show.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chuck Lorre's Vanity Cards.

You'll see cards like these at the end of Chuck's shows. Have you ever read any of them?

I have. Some of them are okay, I guess. I have laughed at them. At least twice anyway.

However, most of the time his cards fall in to one of these categories: 1) childish 2) lame 3) Chuck passes the buck 4) Chuck blames others 5) Chuck tells us how he wants to win an Emmy award some day. (FYI, he hasn't won one)

I have been thinking about this 'winning an Emmy thing' and Chuck's vanity cards pretty much give us the answer to why he hasn't won and likely will never win one.

Lack of talent is obviously the biggest reason.

But his ultimate nail in the coffin is him choosing to write those cards in the first place. He shows us that he's not that interested in storytelling.

That is because every second that he spent on writing a vanity card he could (and should) have spent on making those scripts a little bit better.

Because in the end, the only thing that matters is the quality of those scripts. Nothing else matters. It's that simple.

By the way, here's another way to end an episode. By David E. Kelley:

In that clip we have Kelley's now late grandmother telling us how his grandson sucks when she says 'you stinker". Pretty funny, if you ask me.

Does it really surprise anyone that Kelley has won 10 Emmy awards and Lorre hasn't won a single one?

What a difference in attitude between these guys. Kelley says "the buck stops here" while Lorre says "wanna hear a dick joke?".

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Good Wife, A Bad Show.

I've seen only the first 15 minutes of this show about lawyers. So how on earth can I say that this show isn't any good?

Well, that's because once upon a time it took me something like two minutes before I fell in love with a show called 'The Practice".

If you haven't seen that show, I say go go go. It's on DVD.

But anyway, let's list the token reasons why 'The Good Wife' isn't a good show:

1. Uninteresting characters.
2. No atmosphere.
3. No urgency.
4. The not so good acting.
5. Really bad writing.
6. It's a thematical mess.

Do you need more reasons to not watch a television series?

There's a reason why the network executives were against developing lawyer shows in the eighties. They thought these shows would be boring and nobody would watch.

They were both right and wrong.

They were proven wrong when Steven Bochco and David E. Kelley, genius writers who understood life, were able to turn seemingly ordinary events into extraordinary.

But the network executives were proven right when they decided to greenlight 'The Good Wife', a show written by people who have no clue what they are doing and have nothing meaningful to say.

I had to quit watching after I saw the worst cross-examination I have ever seen on a lawyer show.

That is, when one of the protagonists on the show bombs his cross-examination but the show portrays the event as a success.

I simply couldn't stomach more than that. That's not how you make 'compelling tv'.