Friday, November 25, 2011

My favorite episode of The Simpsons.

It's pretty hard to choose one single episode of The Simpsons that is better than the rest but I think 'Krusty Gets Busted' from the first season is one of the best of the series. It's the episode in which Sideshow Bob frames Krusty the Clown for an armed robbery. Krusty goes to jail and Bob takes over his comedy show while Bart is convinced that his hero is innocent.

There are numerous reasons why 'Krusty Gets Busted' is a really good episode. One of the most important reasons is that everything in the episode happens for a reason. There's hardly anything in the script that doesn't serve a purpose. Compared to today's sitcoms, the difference is pretty huge to be honest.

When pretty much everything in the script happens for a reason it means that the writers are telling you a story. Pick any random moment from this episode and you'll notice how the writers are either advancing the plot or showing us the values and traits of the characters that are needed for the story to exist and to make sense.

One of the best parts about the episode is how efficiently and effortlessly the writers use exposition in the episode. In the very first scene they already manage to tell us that Krusty means everything to Bart (he's ready to kill himself for Krusty), that his show is a bit lowbrow (throwing pies) and that sideshow Bob isn't happy with it (he's shot from a cannon by Krusty).

From that scene on things start to develop. There's the robbery that Homer is a witness to, there's Krusty's arrest, his trial, Bart's hunch that Krusty didn't do it, the search for proof that he's innocent, the reveal that Sideshow Bob had a lot to gain and finally the well-timed confrontation in which Bart tells everyone how it couldn't have been Krusty and that it was Bob who did it.

'Krusty Get's Busted' is basically a 'who done it' episode and yet it doesn't really feel like one, which makes it even better. There are so many Awful shows like CSI that have nothing going on for them except the 'who did it part' and unfortunately with those shows even the 'who did it' very rarely makes sense.

But in 'Krusty Gets Busted' everything makes sense and the audience even sympathizes with the future arch-villain Sideshow Bob - which probably played a crucial part in making the episode as good as it turned out. Thankfully we got to see more of him later on.

The best moment of the episode for me is in the direction when Bart figures out what the 'mighty big shoes to fill' said by Sideshow Bob means. That moment couldn't have been executed any better and it shows the almost unlimited potential of cartoons if done right.

By the way, I decided to check out from the credits and it looks like the episode was directed by some guy called Brad Bird. I wonder what happened to him?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why Enlightened isn't a good series.

I've seen every episode of Enlightened - seven episodes so far - and I think I'm finally done with the show. There are so many fundamental problems with it that I can't pretend that those problems don't exist. My issues with the show are mostly:

1) Pretty much nothing happens.

It's not exactly that I'm not a fan of plot-free shows. Storytelling is hard and if there's no recognizable story, it means that the writers are simply cutting corners. There's no excuse not to have a compelling tale to tell.

In this case the lack of story and the lack of interesting characters is probably a result of the writers falling in love with their own nonsense.

They thought that since the show is about enlightenment, just about any random feeling or experience would constitute as a story. After all, we happen to live in a postmodern world where every thought is supposedly equally valuable.

2) I don't give a damn about the main character.

It's not always necessary for the protagonist to be likeable but there's a difference between being unlikeable and being completely pathetic. What were they thinking when they decided to make the protagonist a cheater who's also ignorant, arrogant and has no social skills?

I have to be honest here - if I knew in real life someone like Laura Dern's character, I would stay as far away as possible from that person.

3) The show doesn't know what it's about (lacks self-awareness and doesn't have a point).

Watching Enlightened makes me miss those Charlie Sheen interviews all the more. After all, earlier this year this 'train-wreck' managed to be self-aware, funny and consistently made great points about life. Enlightened hasn't managed to make a single good point about anything. (unless of course copy-pasting Zen literature counts)

4) Nature unintentionally trumps everything else.

One of the things that I actually have liked about Enlightened have been the lovely scenes that involve nature. That's where the 'enlightening' part of the show is.

It's just that once we get back to normal scenes it becomes evident that the scenes about the nature are much more interesting than the actual characters. There's no balance between nature and the man and it's something that weighs the show down even more.

5) A show about enlightenment needs enlightened writers.

The problem is that very few - if any of us are actually enlightened. Anyone who decides to create a show about the meaning of life is setting the bar pretty damn high and that person had better provide some answers.

That's why I would never take on a project like Enlightened myself. I don't think I'd have answers. At least I couldn't give you answers without telling a good story.

Unfortunately, there's no story here and that's why Enlightened is not a good series.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Train-wrecks get ratings.

One of the weirdest things about this tv season have been the high ratings that certain shows have been getting. I'm talking primarily about The Big Bang Theory, Two And a Half Men, Two Broke Girls, all on CBS and also that 'New Girl' on Fox.

These shows have gotten great ratings and yet they all have been terrible when it comes to actual quality. The Big Bang Theory for example has pretty much been on a meltdown mode this season.

Who can forget that infamous Raj episode that openly mocked disabled people or Amy & Sheldon officially becoming a couple last week? (Amy after all is the Jar Jar Binks of television) Nevertheless, it's the most watched comedy out there.

On Two and A Half Men Ashton Kutcher probably hasn't made me laugh even once. My friends haven't laughed either and yet Kutcher replacing Charlie Sheen is widely hailed as a success. (That is of course as long as ratings mean success and that actual content doesn't really matter)

Two Broke Girls also got a great 4.8 rating in the 18-49 demographics a couple of weeks ago so the show is a 'success'. But on the other hand it looks totally cheap, the actresses are terrible, the writing is abysmal and it probably took like three minutes to come up with the concept for the show.

Then there's that 'New Girl'. I've heard it's going to be a hot show to spec. Some aspiring writers are already writing scripts for that show. The only problem with the New Girl is that it's totally horrendous, shallow and empty. The show has nothing to say about anything. But it's a success - because people are apparently watching.

I mean, I can understand why people (me included) keep watching The Big Bang Theory. You never know if it would miraculously become better again. It's also hard to let go of something that you cared about and in Two and A Half Men's case you also kinda have to watch it because Ashton Kutcher is so bad that it's almost good.

But why on earth are people watching shows like Two Broke Girls and New Girl? I have no clue. Both have sucked from day one and there seems to be no potential whatsoever.

Yet people watch.