My Completely Unashamed Love Letter to a Ficational Character

 

A few weeks ago over at my livejournal I posted  a picspam/essay about why I love the character Britta Perry from the show Community so much, and while it started out sounding okay, it kind of devolved into  crazy fangirling. I think it’s because I was posting the pictures to my live journal as I was writing the essay, so it was kind of like watching the episode again. And I kind of fail at rational thought when I’m watching the show, because I just enjoy it so damn much. So my brain refused to behave rationally on that one. So I figured I’d try again without the pics, and that maybe I’d manage to be a little more sane about the whole thing.

I ship Jeff and Annie. A lot. Possibly more than a lot. It’s probably reached the point of being somewhat unhealthy, and if I was truly honest with my therapist about the amount of time I devote to a couple that isn’t actually real, I would likely be much more heavily medicated than I am. People assume that since I am a Jeff/Annie fan that I hate Britta. But I don’t. Britta is actually my favorite character on the show. I love Britta and I ship Jeff/Annie. It’s possible. I’m walking proof.

I actually didn’t like Britta for a good chunk of the first season. Thanks to The West Wing and that black hole of sucking known as Mandy Hampton, I have a reflexive dislike of characters that seem like they’re being written specifically to be the foil and romantic interest for the main guy. And for the first part of the first season, I kind of felt like that’s what Britta was, whether the writers meant for her to be or not. I just thought that the  “rebel” thing rang so false. Ooh, she’s a badass. She’s protested things and been tear gassed and she didn’t finish high school and she likes Radiohead. She’s so against the mainstream! Surely she will be Jeff Winger’s badassed salvation. I kind of hated that. A lot.

It was about halfway through the season when the character  began to feel genuine. Quirky characteristics kept being thrown into the character, but whereas initially they seemed to be treated as “reasons Britta is against the mainstream and is so cool”, they began to be shown in a different light. Mostly the “there’s something genuinely wrong with this person, and that’s not necessarily attractive” light.  These faults that at first were there to make her look cool were now there to make her look human. And I started to fall in love.

The moment I knew for sure it was love was during Romantic Expressionism. The whole way that early scene unfolds between Britta and Annie is kind of brilliant. Britta is clearly resistant to the idea of Annie dating Vaughn, but she wants to be cool , so she kind of sort of gives her the okay. Annie then says that Britta is the “coolest girl” she’s ever met. Britta quickly proves that’s not so by responding with “Give me some fivesies.” Annie does, and Britta turns it into a snake. At this point, even Annie thinks she’s a dork.

And that’s what Britta is. A huge dork playing at coolness.  The episode just gets better and better, with insecurity pretty much seeping out of Britta’s pores until she finally breaks down and admits that she doesn’t want Vaughn dating anyone else, especially Annie. She’s not that cool, okay, homeslice.

Britta’s at her best when she’s getting kicked. I know that sounds like a terrible thing to say when you’re talking about your favorite character, but it’s true. I like Britta because I get her. I’m not one of those people who goes around saying they identify with the coolest characters on their favorite shows. I love Agent Dale Cooper a whole lot, but nothing about what he does resembles me or my life in any way.  I’m pretty honest about the fact that I’m a mess. And so is Britta. And yeah, sometimes when I step back from it, that mess is just as funny as it is sad. So when the group is making fun of her for pronouncing the word “bagel” wrong, or getting on her for being a buzz kill, I can laugh, because I get it. And yeah, it hurt at the time, but when you look back on it… it was funny.

Another reason I love Britta (and relate to her) is her track record of failure. Like Jeff said in this weeks’ episode, “Don’t worry. She’ll be bad at it.” Britta’s key characteristic in the group, other than the whole buzzkill thing,  is that she fails, whether it’s at friending a lesbian or pulling off a prank, she’s never quite successful.  But she keeps trying. She’s so earnest in her attempts that when she fails, it’s impossible not to feel for her. She tries so damn hard.

But what REALLY makes her such an amazing character is that oftentimes she’s trying really hard for really selfish reasons, which I think was highlighted well in this week’s episode. She was driven back to her “rage against the machine” mode not because he friend was in peril, but because she wanted to be in peril, because she wanted a facebook group, because she wanted to be recognized. She tried (and failed) so earnestly for very self-centered reasons. Any other show, and the situation would probably make me hate the character. But this is Community. And the writers of Community manage to make a character’s flaws a reason to love them. These flaws just add a whole new facet to the characters. A whole new side of them to love, warts and all, just as the characters love each other.

I hope I’ve somehow managed to express my feelings for Britta in a way that doesn’t sound crazy. Because I’m pretty sure the way I feel about her might be a little crazy. I’m pretty sure I have family members I don’t feel this strongly about. Again, something that, if I were to tell my therapist, would probably at least shift my treatment. Maybe if I was more honest therapy really would be like In Treatment, and I wouldn’t feel like I was wasting a lot of my parents’ money every week because my therapy session didn’t turn into some intense battle of wills. But, really, I’d rather just keep lying and go on with loving television characters more than real people. That’s healthy, right?

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Muddy Drawers and Honeysuckle: The Sound and the Fury’s Caddy Compson

I’m going to start off by saying that I’m going to try to keep this essay sane and rational. Which might be hard, because Caddy Compson is my favorite character of all time. Not just in books, but in television, movies, plays, everything. I think she’s the most fascinating, beautiful, heartbreaking thing that a writer has ever managed to create. So I apologize if this starts to sound mildly insane. I just really love Caddy.

It’s not an abnormal thing for an author or filmmaker to make its central character appear only in flashbacks. But what William Faulkner did with Caddy Compson, the most important character in The Sound and the Fury was rather unique. Not only is Caddy a character who only appears in flashbacks, but these flashbacks are told through the eyes and minds of her brothers, perhaps the three most Unreliable Narrators ever. Caddy only appears in the three sections of the books that are told in the first person perspective by her brothers. In the third section, told from a third person point of view, Caddy is absent entirely. While there are many time periods on parade in this book, and the story shifts through time without much warning. But the present of the book is 1928. And when the storyline is entirely bound to that present, Caddy is gone entirely. She’s merely a thing of the past.

So how can a character who never appears in the present, who’s only a memory, be one of the most amazing, beautiful, heartbreaking, and tragic characters of all time?

The Sound and the Fury is meant to be about the downfall of a Southern family (symbolizing the downfall of the South in general), much of that downfall is because of Caddy, and it soon becomes clear that this book is about Caddy. About who she really is, who her brothers see her as, and the difference between those two things. But Caddy never is able to speak for herself. She never appears in the present to dispute or confirm the things her brothers think about her. We only see her through three very biased eyes. But at the same time, they are her brothers, so they do know her. Trying to figure out Caddy really is the key of the book, but stop trying. You’re never going to do it. Through the narrations of Benjy, Quentin, and Jason, we get ALMOST everything we need to know about Caddy. ALMOST. But there’s a tiny piece missing. And it always will be.

It’s important to look at her brothers’ narrations not only as what they saw her as, but what they forced her to be, unwittingly. Benjy, receiving no affection from anyone in the family other than Caddy, pushes her into the position of mother from a very young age. Quentin hangs all of his hope for the honor of the Old South on her virtue. The face that he’s OBSESSED with her sexuality in some very complicated ways can’t help matters. And Jason, cold and mean from childhood, sees her less as a sister and more as a way into a better job. All we see from the brothers’ perspectives is Caddy failing miserably in their expectations of her. None of them realize that part of the problem was that they were forcing her to be something she wasn’t.

At the same time though, it is hard to tell if her brothers entirely forced her into those roles. We see through Benjy’s memories Caddy as the strong willed little girl who wanted to be in charge of her brothers and who broke the rules without fear of punishment. From childhood she insinuated herself into the role of her brothers’ controller. That desire, in the end, only made them the controllers of her destiny. Her declaration that she be in charge of the three boys during her grandmother’s funeral is almost as dooming as her dirtying her drawers in the mud, foreshadowing her impurity.

In the end, Caddy rebels violently against her brothers’ expectations of her. Desite the love and affection she feels for Benjy and Quentin, she acts out with her sexuality (despite promising Benjy she wouldn’t after an early encounter), which confuses Benjy and frustrates Quentin (for so many reasons). The only one she doesn’t overtly and intentionally act out against is Jason, who hates her the most for her actions. He loses a potential job because Caddy’s husband finds out their daughter is not his. Jason loses a chance at a job (which he never would have had if Caddy hadn’t needed to marry Herbert Head in the first place) because Caddy was actually trying to fix the mess she had made. Jason has the least cause to detest his sister, but he hates her the most.

With all that messy psychological stuff getting all tangled and entwined in everything, it’s easy to miss the gigantic heart that Caddy has and her capacity to love unconditionally. Her bond with her father is very strong, despite he never once attempts to curb the issue of her promiscuity, even though he seems to be aware of it. They stay in contact even after she is banished from the family home, much to the dismay of Caroline and Jason. She loved Benjy no matter what, even when nobody else seems to care about him. And even after Quentin tries to fight Dalton Ames and then tells their father that he and Caddy had committed incest, she adores him. She has a huge heart that’s capable of the deepest love. If you deserve it.

She may not be present during the narrations. but her absense is almost as strong as, if not stronger, than her presense. Were she around to tell her own tale, she’d seem quite different. Her brothers probably wouldn’t dwell on her. But because she’s not there, they are obsessed with her. Every thought they have is connected with her in some way. Even when she’s not there she’s the most important thing in their lives.

Benjy, the mentally impaired youngest Compson child, doesn’t understand Caddy’s absence. He has no concept of time, so while he’s aware of the fact that, in the moment, Caddy is not there and that he misses her, he doesn’t understand that she is gone for good, and has been gone for years. Because of this, the shifts in time in his sections are sudden and without much warning.

His attempts to understand why Caddy isn’t there (usually triggered by the calls of “caddy!” on the golf course that’s now on land that used to be his) consume his thoughts. His memory is triggered by single words, and he, like his brothers, is focused on her sexuality as the reason for her absence. He recalls her muddied drawers, her affairs with local boys, and how upset those things made him. While he can’t grasp the concept of her absense, he seemed to be able to foresee it as a child.

There’s a noticeable hole in Benjy’s life without Caddy in it. In Benjy’s memory, Caddy was his voice. She asked him questions, even though she knew he couldn’t answer. She’d tell their mother what he wanted, and even though he couldn’t actually speak to communicate those things, she was always right. Without Caddy, Benjy loses the ability to communicate with the world in a way that anyone can understand.

While Benjy appears to be the “idiot” of the story, his view of Caddy is actually the most objective. He’s unable to form complex prejudice or affection for her. All he knows is that she’s his sister who takes care of him and he loves her. He sees her as something like an angel, while still being able to witness, and even understand, her sexual indiscretions. But his perception is still slightly skewed by his dependence on her.

For Quentin it’s much more complicated and messy. He’s much more preoccupied with Caddy than either of his brothers, because she represents so much more to him. In Caddy, he’s trying to understand the concepts of family, of honor, and of sexuality. It’s impossible for him to look at Caddy objectively because all of those things are tangled up in his mind. At one moment she’s a Madonna, the next she’s a whore. She’s simply too many things to Quentin, and it drives him insane.

So Quentin’s image of Caddy is incredibly muddled. Above all things his version of her is extremely tragic. A poor fallen girl who’s dying inside. He wants her to stay a little girl, yet he forces his sexual issues onto her. Even when he’s not overtly thinking about Caddy, she’s always present for him, especially when he comes upon a little Italian girl. He carts her around town, calling her “little sister”. Every woman her meets, no matter her age, will always be placed beside Caddy, as he tries to force them to be what he thinks she should have been.

Caddy’s sexual promiscuity is a problem for Quentin on two fronts. First, it highlights the way the honor of the Old South is dying, something he cannot come to terms with. He’s very fixated on the old ways of chivalry, and more importantly, the purity of the Southern woman. Caddy’s pregnancy means that neither men nor women behave the way Quentin thinks their supposed to.

Most importantly, though, it makes Quentin confront his own sexuality. He himself is a virgin, something that’s actually quite troubling to him. Of course, it really doesn’t help that he has his dad basically telling him that virginity isn’t something that remotely matters. Quentin is a virgin who doesn’t really understand sexuality. He has nothing to base his thoughts and opinions on outside of Caddy, who he’s already obsessed with.

In a severly twisted show of chivalry, Quentin tries to save Caddy’s honor by attempting to convince their father that she didn’t sleep with Dalton Ames, but that he and Caddy had committed incest and that the baby was his. There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not Quentin really wanted to have sex with Caddy. I think the answer, as always with this book, is a lot more complicated than yes or no.

There are two scenes that are extremely important in the argument. First is a flashback to when Quentin and Caddy were several years younger, and were just starting to find the opposite sex interesting. They both have their own encounters, which leads to an argument. An argument clearly borne of jealousy.  The second scene is one that’s not quite as overtly about sex, but which is written pretty much as a sex scene without really being one. Quentin tries to convince Caddy to run away with him, and then to enter into a murder-suicide pact, anything to save her honor, and anything to keep her with him. He has an obsessive need to possess her in every way. Faulkner wrote the scene to be fraught with sexual tension, the two of them laying on the ground, Quentin with his knife, a phallic symbol, ready to slit her throat.

It is about more than sex for Quentin though. He wants Caddy to be only his in every way. That just happens to include sex. His entire life is consumed by her. When it comes out that her daughter is not her husband’s and she’s dishonored, something in his brain truly breaks. He’s simply unable to understand that his sister has been entirely dishonored, that he couldn’t save her or that, at the very least, it wasn’t him. The thoughts lead him to suicide.

Jason is less complicated. We see from an early age that he’s self involved and incapable of even liking, much less loving, anyone but himself. By the time he’s an adult, he thinks he deserves pretty much everything, and he blames Caddy for not having it, despite the fact that he never would have had the opportunity were it not for Caddy. When she married HErbert HEad, JAson was offered a job at a bank, a job that was taken off the table when Caddy’s lies were revealed. Jason ignores the first part and focuses on the second part. It’s a grudge that he lets boil into hatred for nearly 20 years, and it’s something he constantly goes back to.

But really, I can’t help but feel a little sad for Jason, and I’ve written about that topic before. Quentin’s dead, Caddy’s as good as to the family, all the money the family had went into those two children and they, as far as Jason is concerned, wasted it. He’s left with a crappy job, and he’s saddled with the job of raising Caddy’s bastard daughter.

While there’s still plenty of flashback in Jason’s section, it’s not as heavy in it as Benjy’s or Quentin’s. But his mind is always on Caddy. When he’s not flashing back to screwing her over after their father’s death, he’s thinking about how he’s screwing her (and her daughter) over now, by pocketing the money Caddy sends for Miss Quentin for himself. And when he’s not thinking about how much he hates Caddy, he’s thinking about how much he hates Miss Quentin. Which basically is thinking about how much he hates Caddy, because he basically sees Miss Quentin as Caddy.

Miss Quentin is the most overwhelming reminder of Caddy in both Benjy’s and Jason’s sections. But Miss Quentin is really not like Caddy very much at all. She is promiscuous (but, with it now being 1928, isn’t quite as scandalous as it was when Caddy was doing it), but she lacks Caddy’s heart and her ability to love. Benjy recognizes this because he was able to see Caddy mostly as she really was, and he knows Miss Quentin is not that. And his recgnition of this fact is extremely upsetting, another devastating reminder that Caddy is not there. Jason, on the otherhand, sees Miss Quentin as being exactly like her mother, because he never experienced Caddy’s unconditional love. So when he sees Miss Quentin and her behavior, he simply thinks “like mother, like daughter”, not being able to recognize the fact that she’s the way she is because she was raised by him, with his harshness and coldness, and not by her mother who, despite her flaws, had a huge amount o warmth and heart. Miss Quentin is the strongest image in the book of both Caddy’s constant presence and her absence.

The fourth and final part of the book is told from a third person perspective, so there are no flashbacks, which means no Caddy, which is startling. Her absence is completely felt in this section because we’re not inside of anybody’s heads. We never get to see how a moment reminds one of them of Caddy. For the first time, we’re not so wrapped up in everyone’s feelings about Caddy that we finally get to see how bad things are without her. The Compson house is an extremely sad place, without any warmth or love. It’s genuinely upsetting to read. And, no matter how little we really knew her, it makes us miss Caddy.

So how do you reconcile this character, who was seen as both so perfect and so tarnished? Caddy never gets to tell her side of the story, so all we have is her brothers’ imperfect recollections. How do you even start to understand a character like that? You don’t. You simply recognize the warmth, the complexity, the free spirit, and the broken soul of a beautiful character, and recognize that the fact that we’ll never truly understand her just adds to the tragic beauty of Caddy Compson.

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Faulkner February Begins Again!

Yeah, it’s been FOREVER since I wrote anything here.  That’s what happens when you get a real job.

But it’s February. And I could never neglect the greatest time of the year, the amazing Faulkner February. Because Faulkner is too awesome to ignore.

Since I do have the aforementioned “real job”, Faulkner February won’t be as epic as it was last year. I don’t have time to read five or six books. Because I have to actually do work at this job. (Let’s all pause for a moment and remember that Saturday last February when I had one customer in six hours and managed to knock out over half of As I Lay Dying, or that Monday in the spring when I read all of the latest Sookie Stackhouse book in under ten hours because we were so dead. Good times, these were.) I’m just going to be focusing on The Sound and the Fury, mainly because I didn’t get to it last year. I won’t be doing daily “I read this today!” updates. I’ll start the month with an essay about Caddy Compson (which will hopefully be done in the next few days) and close it with an essay about why I think The Sound and the Fury is the Great American Novel. And I may have a few insights about what I read in between. We’ll see.

So, yeah. A less intense Faulkner February. But still an awesome one.

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Thanksgiving Shipfest: The West Wing – Josh/Donna – 17 People

The West Wing – 17 People

I love this episode. It’s probably my favorite episode of the series. Everything about it is perfect, not just the shippy goodness. So it’s going to be kind of difficult for me to just focus on the Josh/Donna stuff without mentioning the amazing tension of the storyline where Toby finally learns about the President’s MS. But I’m going to try.

I think season 2 is the best season for Josh/Donna shipping. By the time we got to 17 People, over a season and half had passed, so we’d seen an excellent and completely natural development of this relationship. But it was still only the second season, not so far into the series where you’re getting frustrated because OH MY GOD IT’S BEEN YEARS WHY HAVEN’T THEY KISSED YET. The UST was at its most perfect point.

In 17 People we got both the snark and the sweetness of the J/D ship. They’re arguing for most of the episode over the date of their anniversary. Donna insists it’s when she first started working for him. Josh thinks that it should be the second time she started working for him – after she had quit, gone home to her boyfriend, and then come back – because that was the one that stuck. It’s a great argument because you know that it’s not the fact that Donna left that really made Josh upset. It was that she left to go back to her boyfriend.

And it’s fun to watch Josh and Donna banter. That really was what made their relationship. He was her boss, but she was still really smart and could argue just as well as he could. They were, in that respect, on equal footing.

Throughout the series Josh and Donna had a lot of moments where they just almost confessed to their feelings. They always seemed like they were just about to say it, and the famous ‘red lights’ comment is probably the best. It’s moments like that where we see how deeply dedicated that are to each other. You know that if Donna had known Josh had been shot before she got to the hospital, she wouldn’t have stopped for a single red light on her way there. Just like Josh was useless at his job after the bombing in Gaza because all he could think about was being with Donna.

And, since it’s still shippy, I’ll give a little shout out to our B-team ship of the episode, Sam and Ainsley. Really, looking back, all of Sam’s ships were disappointing because nothing ever came of them. I liked Sam and Mallory a lot, but that just kind of petered out, and nothing ever came of Sam and Ainsley. But they were a good match. I really think Ainsley was just the Republican female version of Sam. They were both smart, both incredibly well spoken with an excellent handle on the English language, and both awkward and neurotic. This is a great episode for them. Like Josh and Donna, they can both give as good as they get when it comes to arguing politics, and they both have excellent points on the Equal Rights Amendment. That and the chemistry between Rob Lowe and Emily Procter make they’re little B-story delightful.

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Thanksgiving Project: The Ships I’m Thankful For

I wanted to do something special on this site for the holiday, and after all kinds of lame ideas (okay, the live-blogging rewatch of The Mouse and the Mayflower would have been pretty awesome. To me, anyway), I came up with this brilliant idea. I ship hardcore. I mean, when I get obsessed with a ship, there are few who are as intense as I am. They’re provided me with so much entertainment over the years, so they’re what I’m thankful for this year.

Sadly, the only day I have off is Thanksgiving, so I can’t just do an epic one day marathon. So I’ve decided to spread it over the five days of the Thanksgiving “weekend”: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I’ve decided on twelve ships. Those ships are, in no particular order…

Josh/Donna, The West Wing
Jeff/Annie, Community
Matt/Harriet, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Mason/Daisey, Dead Like Me
Mitchell/Annie, Being Human
Ned/Chuck, Pushing Daisies
Eric/Sookie, True Blood
Jessica/Hoyt, True Blood
Rose/Ten, Doctor Who
Charlie/Claire, Lost
Veronica/Logan, Veronica Mars
Raylon/Ava, Justified

I will watch one episode for each ship and then write something about it. It might just be a shipper analysis, but I might also be inspired to write a fic. Who knows!

This is where I’d appreciate some help. I’d love it if you guys voted on the episodes I watch, because it’s hard to narrow it down. Vote here!  Please vote!

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Episodes in a Bottle

Last night’s episode of Community was fantastic. After a front part of the season heavy with expensive, high concept episodes, they produced a bottle episode – an episode based in mostly one room, usually close to real time, featuring nearly no extras or guest stars. Shows do bottle episodes when they’ve produced a lot of really expensive episodes and now need to pinch pennies. In eight episode, the study group of Community have gone to space (sort of) and fought zombies, so it’s understandable why NBC would want them to do a bottle episode.

Well, it turned out to be, by far, the best episode of the season so and easily one of the best of the series. The characters are best when they’re really dealing with each other, actually being friends, and this episode brought all kinds of ugly things to the forefront. But our study group made it through, and were stronger in the end because of it. And a season that felt wildly uneven and somewhat untrue to its characters finally feels like its back on track.

When a good show does a bottle episode – it’s usually great. And Community made me think of some of my other favorite bottle episodes.

First of all, I want to praise HBO’s In Treatment, which is basically a series of bottle episodes. Each episode takes place in one room – Paul’s home/office – and takes place in real time. Each episode is a session with one of his patients.  That sounds like it might be boring, but the characters are so incredibly well-written and brilliantly performed, each half hour is an extremely intense exploration of the human mind. So, well done HBO, for essentially making a bottle series and a damn good one at that.

One of the most amazing examples of a bottle episode is Seinfeld‘s Chinese Restaurant episode. The entire episode takes place in a – you guessed it – Chinese restaurant, and takes place over a half hour while the friends wait for a table so they can eat before going to a movie. A simple enough premise – as so many episodes of Seinfeld were – but it’s one of the funniest episodes of the show.  It doesn’t have the kind of emotional revelations that Community’s Cooperative Calligraphy had, but…. it’s Seinfeld. What it lacks in emotional resonance, it makes up for in “Oh my god, that has happened to me and it’s SO TRUE.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer did a good bottle episode in the sixth season entitled Older and Far Away. There were a few scenes early in the episode that took place at the school and in the graveyard, but the majority of the episode took place in the Summers home for Buffy’s birthday. Birthday’s were never good things for Buffy – something bad always happened, and this was no exception. Thanks to a wish Dawn unintentionally made to a vengeance demon, Buffy and her friends end up trapped in the house. The episode doesn’t take place in real time, but with most of the episode taking place inside the house, it still qualifies. Being trapped in the house makes everyone a little crazy and some things are brought to light – Dawn’s shoplifting, Anya’s feelings about Willow’s addiction to magic. Season six was a dark season (which brought a fair amount of hate from fans), and this episode was no exception, delving into the way the group had fractured after Buffy’s return from the dead.

It might be a bit of a stretch to call The West Wing‘s 17 People a bottle episode, since it takes place in several different rooms. But the episode does take place on a single set, and it takes place in real time, so yes, it counts. It’s also probably my favorite episode of the series. It’s a masterful episode, one of the most intimate of the series, and the beginning of the explosion of the most important storyline of the show’s first four seasons. Toby has figured out that something is up with the Vice President’s behavior – that he’s making appearances that suggest he’ll be running for President in the next election – which leads Toby to wonder if, for some reason, Bartlet might not be running again – which leads to the President finally confessing to one of his staff that he has MS. The scenes between Toby and Bartlet are stunning and filled with tension. Neither really knows how to react to the situation. Toby’s not sure whether to be worried, upset, or outraged at being lied to, and the President isn’t sure whether or not he should be apologetic. This heavy storyline is then balanced out by two lighter ones. Several members of the staff – Josh, Donna, Sam, Ainsley, Ed, and Larry – stay late to punch up some jokes for the Correspondents Dinner, and Josh and Donna and Sam and Ainsley each have glorious shipper B-plots. Sam and Ainsley fight, adorably, over the Equal Rights Amendment, while Josh and Donna argue over their anniversary and when it actually is.  Really, aside from the episodes in season 7 when they FINALLY get together, this is probably the best J/D episode. “I’m just saying, if you were in an accident, I wouldn’t stop for a beer.” “If you were in an accident, I wouldn’t stop for red lights.” Yeah, I’m saying it now… Best Bottle Episode Ever.

I have a soft spot for Christmas episodes, and when Bones was good (way back in its first season), they produced an awesome Christmas episode that was also an amazing bottle episode. When Hodgins does a messy job cutting something open or somesuch, since he’s been partaking in the Christmas party, the lab gets locked down with Brennan’s team – plus Booth – locked inside. It was still fairly early in the show’s run, and this episode was needed, I think, to really solidify the chemistry between the cast and tie the team together tightly, which was what made the show so good for its first few seasons. Also, Booth tripping as a side effect to the treatment? “It’s Christmas Eve Day! The only day that’s both a day and an eve! It’s Christmas miracle!” Amazing.

Firefly was an amazing show, and the very premise – life on the run from the Big Brother government in deep space – naturally produced a few bottle-type episodes in its half season run. The very best one – and probably my favorite episode of the series – is what is now considered the show’s final episode, Objects in Space. It takes place over the course of one night. A night during which the crew finally decides that, yes, River is some kind of goverment created psychic super assassin. Later that night, after they’ve all gone to bed, a bounty hunter climbs on board to find River, and ends up engaging Simon and River in some serious mind games. It’s a beautiful episode, where we finally get to see inside River’s head, to see things as she sees and perceives them. And we finally get to see her really become one of the crew. It actually hurts that – with the exception of the movie – we never got to see what happened to her relationship with the crew next.

Frasier is one of my all time favorite television comedies. It’s absolutely fucking brilliant. Total, all out, unabashed farce that’s so smart it’s scary. It’s like a Neil Simon play that lasted a decade. It had more than one bottle episode, but the best was definitely The Dinner Party.  This episode is what Frasier did so damn well. The episode starts out with a plan, and then one thing goes wrong, and then another, and then another, and then it’s all out chaos. This one was even more hilarious and more chaotic because it was a bottle episode, taking place in real time, and it was just totally NUTS. I really miss Frasier. It was such an awesome show, and it plays just as well on rewatch as it did the first time.

Much like Firefly, the fact that the Doctor and his companions in Doctor Who were traveling in a time machine/space ship through time and space kind of lent itself to bottle-type episode. Sometime they’d on a planet somewhere, where they could explore the landscape and the villages and the whatnot. And sometimes they’d land on a space station, or someplace confined where they couldn’t really go anywhere. There really are a lot of bottle-type episodes. Most people, when talking about them, go with Midnight, which is a really good episode. But I’m going to go with something else, just to be different. I was tempted to go with The Long Game, but for some reason just the fact that it’s such a HUGE freaking space station with so many extras makes it feel not at all like a bottle episode. New Earth is a pretty good one, too. But I’m going to go with Dalek from the first season. The Doctor and Rose find themselves in a big, locked down, personal museum of alien stuff, where a mean and kind of crazy collector keeps his prized possessions – among them a Dalek, the Doctor’s greatest enemy. It’s great because for the first time we get to really, truly see the Doctor lose his cool because of his anger and fear of the Daleks, and we really get to see the Doctor’s feelings for Rose when he thinks he’s lost her. It’s a really good episode.

I do have to mention the Angel episode Spin the Bottle. It’s not one of my favorite episodes, but it is a classic and excellent example of a bottle episode.  It features only the main cast and takes place entirely in the hotel. And it is pretty fun. Lorne does a spell to help Cordelia recover her memory, but it ends up just making everyone revert to their teenage selves. It’s almost comforting to see Cordy the way she was when she was on Buffy, before all that character development, and it’s just delightful to see what everyone else was like before they all met.

Deep Space 9 is my favorite of the Star Trek series. Being set on a space station there’s not as much action as there is on the other Star Trek shows.  But what it lacks in action it more than makes up in some awesome and intense character relationships. In its first season the show produced a bottle episode, which was basically an interrogation by Kira of a Cardassian. The tension continues to mount slowly and brilliantly. It’s SO good.

So, there we go. My favorite bottle episodes! What are your favorites? Did I forget some that you really love? Let me know! Post some comments!

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How FX Become One of the Best Networks on TV

A few years ago, FX was, to me, just the network that It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia was on.  It didn’t have as many original series as it does now, and with the exception of  Sunny, I didn’t really like any of the shows they did have (and I flat out despised Nip/Tuck). So, really, FX was just the channel that aired Sunny.

Well, they did have pretty great syndication, which was better than it is now.  They aired Buffy reruns (and this was before the show was in syndication on about a bajillion cable channels), which I always watched, despite the fact that I had (and still have) the complete series on DVD. They also aired The X-Files, which was amazing and incredible. Nowadays, with the exception of Chiller, I believe, no cable network I’m aware of shows regular episodes of the show. And I don’t get Chiller. Which makes me a sad Panda.

The Shield

The year before Nip/Tuck premiered, FX really changed the way they did things with The Shield, which was their first major original series. I didn’t watch the first few seasons when they were on, but eventually I started watching and I caught up. I don’t adore The Shield like I do so many shows I watch, but it is a good show, a solid cop drama with some really great and well developed characters.  So The Shield led the way for FX to become magnificent.

But even with it going in the right direction, I wouldn’t have called it a great network, or even a good one. In the early years of their original program, they put out a few shows I really didn’t like. I really just hate Nip/Tuck, I don’t really like Rescue Me.

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia really was the start for me, but it was a slow start for FX. Sunny is, I really believe, completely brilliant. One of the funniest shows of all time. It doesn’t give a shit about being PC, it’s completely irreverent, and the absurd and sometimes intentionally mean spirited humor is perfect and hilarious.

The Riches

In 2007, FX started to really build beyond that amazing comedy with two new shows, The Riches and Damages. They also debuted Dirt, a drama starring Courtney Cox, but that show was really, really terrible. Between the two good shows, I did love The Riches more. It combined some really tense storytelling with a strong sense of humor and, most importantly, an incredibly written family dynamic. Sadly, the show only last two seasons. The show’s cancellation could have been a sign that the network would never reach greatness.

But they still had Damages.

I think Damages is the point where it started to be an amazing network, rather than just a good one.

Damages is one of the most intense things on television, and it’s brilliantly acted. From there on, I think FX just kept getting better and better, quickly.

Right now, a few of my very favorite shows are on the network.

Right now, Terriers is in-season, and it’s a really good show. If  a show is about private detectives, I’m probably going

Terriers

to watch it, and Terriers is such a good show. I’m so happy to see Donal Logue in a series like this. He is a funny guy, but it’s great to see him in a dramatic series where he can show what a great actor he really is. It also stars Michael Raymond-James, who proves what a really good actor he is. I had only seen him in True Blood, where he played SPOILER ALERT…………………………………..the murderer…………………………………………….. So I was worried about how I’d feel about him in this show. But he makes Britt the most lovable, sympathetic guy. This show is really good, folks, and you should be watching it.

I don’t watch Sons of Anarchy, but apparently, it’s amazing. It’s received some amazing critical notice, so I thought it should be mentioned in n article about how well FX is doing.

My current favorite show is actually on FX. That show is Justfied, and it’s absolutely amazing. I think Raylan Givens is the role Timothy Olyphant was born to play. He’s such a complex, fascinating character and Olyphant is so

Justified

unbelievably perfect. The rest of the cast is really, really amazing, too. Especially Walton Goggins, who plays Raylan’s BFF/antagonist. The show is an exploration of good vs. evil and the gray in between, while finding time to explore the relationships between fathers and sons, friends, lovers. It’s just such an awesome show. The second season starts in February. Watch it.

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is amazing, and it’s still great, but comedy was something FX has kind of had a problem with.  Last season their follow up to Sunny was the terrible Testees which was crude and disgusting, which would have been okay, had the show been remotely funny. Thankfully they seem to have started getting it right. Last year they debuted Archer, which is an incredibly hilarious and pretty filthy cartoon for adults. Its new season starts in January. The League follows Sunny on Thursday nights, and it a solid comedy with a really strong ensemble cast that has great chemistry. And they’ve picked up a comedy starring Elijah Wood, Wilfred, about a man and a dog, a dog who looks like a normal dog to everyone else, but who appears as a man in a dog costume to Wood’s character.

So, yeah, FX is awesome. And I hope they keep it up. A new drama series, Lights Out, looks pretty good. It’s a show about boxing and, well…… boxing is kind of one of my weaknesses. I hope it’s good.

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