Monthly Archives: November 2010

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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I’m back! And with a fun new reading series! Yippee!

So, I totally have two jobs now and it’s taken me a really long time to adjust to the strange schedule I’m on (which is the main reason I didn’t finish Waugh-gust. Next year, folks. Believe.). But now that I’ve adjusted I’m reading and watching movies again, so hopefully there will be more posts here soon.

Especially since I’m starting a new reading series. Because I’m an obsessive compulsive little freak, I can never just read one book. I have to read a series of books relating to a certain theme, author, etc. Right now I’m doing historical fiction, specifically fiction taking place between 1919 and 1945.

Books in the series:
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Invention of Everything Else
by Samantha Hunt
Bury Me Deep
by Megan Abbott
Devil’s Garden
by Ace Atkins
Free Air
by Sinclair Lewis
Carter Beats the Devil
by Glen David Gold

Yes, Boardwalk Empire made me want to read Free Air again. It’s the original American road trip novel, and I loved it when I read it in high school and I want badly to read it again. I guess I can’t so much call this ‘historical fiction’ considering it was written in 1919, which is when it takes place. But I’m reading it now, in 2010. So I’m putting it in this series. Deal with it.

With the exception of Free Air and Water For Elephants (which I’m reading right now and is, so far, a really fascinating exploration of circus life during the Great Depression), all of these novels are fictional stories that brush against historical face. The Invention of Everything Else explores the relationship between a young woman and Nikola Tesla not long before the eccentric scientist’s death. (I’m pretty sure I’m going to love this, considering it’s got NIKOLA TESLA as a main character. How I love Nikola Tesla. So damn much.) Bury Me Deep is a fictionalized account of a true murder case from the 1930s. Devil’s Garden sounds completely fascinating. In actuality, pulp author Dashiell Hammett, before becoming a famous writer, was a Pinkerton detective, and he was assigned to the Rosco “Fatty” Arbuckle rape and manslaughter case, and the book is a fictionalized version of the story. All kinds of historical figures are running around in Carter Beats the Devil. The Carter of the title is real life magician Charles Carter, and the book deals heavily with the death of President Harding, while inserting historical figures such as Philo T. Farnsworth (who lived just down the street from me. Yes, we had Carole Lombard and Philo T. Farnsworth. Fort Wayne is awesome) into the fun.

Like I said, I’m working on Water for Elephants, and it’s really good. I can’t wait for the rest of my books to arrive.

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