Tag Archives: tv

TV Blog-entary: Bones S5Ep5

I’m super busy with publication of my first novel, so here’s a quickie:  my latest episode of Bones in my mission to finally watch this awesome series!

Obviously, this could be spoilerrific, so if you’re behind like me…. well, GO WATCH BONES.

  • Oh God, typical security guard of quality:  ping! ping!  Sadly, having worked security for five years, this is pretty typical.
  • ZOMG BONNNNNNES! On a FENCE!
  • Poor Booth.  Actually, no, Booth has had his chance to confess to Brennan for years.  If you don’t move in, your superiors will, dude.  Bones is a hottie.
  • The best part about Brennan is her blunt approach to sex… which, in turn, makes Booth squirm.
  • You know, I have slowly grown to enjoy Lance Sweets.  I hated him for the entire first season he appeared on the show, but he’s grown on me.  It helps he’s a fellow U of Toronto alumni.
  • I do not, however, enjoy his girlfriend.  I HATE DAISY.
  • Mummy!  Ra!  *snicker*
  • I can’t help but dance like an asshole to the theme song.  Truefax.
  • Okay, Daisy reeling herself in is just creepy.  Like, Sybil-ish.
  • Bwahahaha: Brennan and Daisy are fangirling themselves.
  • Assistant DirectorHorker needs to STFU and GTFO.  NOW.  Stop interfering with my OTP!
  • “If she attacks, he can put her down.”  Angela is the ‘me’ of this show.
  • I’m pretty sure Brennan and Daisy are going to have a lesbian affair on top of these bones.
  • Bones quoting a classic movie is just….  wow.
  • Daisy just told Sweets off.  OMFG I take it back: I could like her a little.
  • Ginger Diorama Boy.
  • Shit just got real!
  • Bones is wearing dressier clothes lately… this dress is pure sexy.
  • “The urine of a redhead boy.”  And this is why I love Hodgy. OMFG.
  • Paintings inside a mummy.  Hmm…. Egyptian porno?
  • Okay Ms. Bitchypants, chillax.  It’s a LIGHT.
  • Bones, how DARE you take Hork-boy to Founding Fathers!  That’s where you’re supposed to have dates with Booth!
  • Also, judging from these identically designed yet differently coloured dresses and the way they hide the stomach, I must wonder in my spoiler-free bubble if Emily Deschanel is knocked up.
  • Angela, she’s not bright about love.  Tell her like a five-year-old.  Booth loves you, dummy.
  • It’s taken three seasons but I no longer hate Cam.  I just find her irritating in large doses.
  • I want to snuggle Booth.  It’s so painfully obvious that in spite of his own lines of professional relationships from eons ago, he’s been in love with Brennan for years and in utter denial.
  • UNF!  So much UST!
  • BUSTED!
  • Oh boohoo, cry me a river over your retirement.
  • Ewwwwwwww Lance/Daisy sex.  Judging hard.
  • NOOOOOOOOOOO cock-blocked! AGAIN.

And as usual, I am stomping my feet in frustration and driven to keep watching.  Netflix is how a girl watches 50 episodes in a week.  Addiction, folks.  This is my new X-Files.

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Beyond Twilight: Victimization of Women in Twilight Fanfiction

True story: I’ve written Twilight fanfiction.

I am the first in line to criticize the plot, characterizations and anti-feminist nature of Twilight.  I read the books while bored working in security, and treat the movies as a soap opera akin to Passions, creating drinking games for home viewings.  I’m far more enamoured with Alice than Edward.  It was my love of Alice – and anger at how Meyer shortchanged the character’s back-story – that led to my first fanfiction in the fandom.  This in turn led to a random midnight musing of “What if the characters were in Empire Records?” and then, a one-shot that blew up to become an intricate examination of mental illness, and ultimately a revival of my original fiction writing.

You see, many fanfiction writers create their stories as a means of testing their skills, toying with a plot idea in a way that yields ample feedback, or simply amusing self and others “in on the joke”.  I read fanfiction from multiple fandoms because I appreciate a good tale in any form.  There are true talents in the fanfiction world, and I wish them well in original pursuits.

In discussing fanfiction based on Twilight as of late, a somewhat disturbing trend emerged that sparked a broader discussion.  Specifically, several of us commented on the now-prominent trope of “Victim-ella”:  a Bella that is battered/abused/raped as a key plot feature.  Why the rampant storylines of this nature, we wondered.  Were writers channeling their personal experiences, going for shock value, or romanticizing violence against women?

For me, to understand the phenomenon, there are two angles to appreciate.  First, the canon story and characters of Meyer’s series are a breeding ground for victims.  Consider the Cullen women and their back-stories:  Rosalie Hale is gang-raped and left for dead when Carlisle finds her and turns her; Alice Brandon is committed to an asylum, abandoned by her family after realizing her father has hired an assassin to kill her, and stalked by James; Esme Evenson is beaten by her husband, and eventually attempts suicide when her infant child dies.  Happy beginnings, huh?

As for Bella Swan, she is nearly gang-raped (rescued by Edward in Port Angeles), stalked and nearly killed by James (again rescued by Edward), must become a vampire or be killed by the Volturi, deals with Jacob forcing his advances on her (with her father congratulating him for going for her), is stalked by an army of baby vampires and a vengeful Victoria, and is the key player in a war bent on killing her daughter and imprisoning her and her family.  Did I mention the fact that Edward creeps her, makes her decisions for her, leaves her to protect her and manipulates her friendships and relationships?  I mean, he offers Jacob as a sexy baby-making playmate to convince her to abort Nessie!

At the same time, Bella has an unhealthy approach to their relationship. Edward is her life, period. She has no real interests or hobbies outside of him once she has him. Until she’s pregnant, she truly orbits him like Renee says. Her self-worth is tied into him loving her. Even at their wedding, Tanya makes her insecure, even though anyone with a brain can see Edward’s sole focus is Bella.

Is it any wonder then, given this canon, that All-Human (AH) Alternate-Universe (AU) fanfiction often spins off into the realm of violence against women?  With that foundation, it’s no wonder that inexperienced fic writers – fans who simply have a whim of an idea and write it, figuring “anyone can do it” – will step in and create stories with Bella as a damsel in distress, escalating it further and further to the point where raped/beaten Bella is the norm. They continue to up the ante, exaggerating the core canon.  I’m not immune to this, either: in one of my own AU-AH stories, Alice and Rosalie are survivors of sexual violence and deal with alcoholic parents; in another, Bella is struck by angry men in one scene.  It’s not difficult to conceive of these female characters in peril precisely because each and every one has been in dire circumstances with devastating psychological effects.

The other angle to consider is the main demographic of fanfiction authors:  women, 18-45 years of age.  Given the statistics on violence against women, it is no wonder that women craft these stories.  Many are, indeed, drawing from real life.  Be it a cruel boyfriend or an abusive husband, a large percentage of women behind the computer screen are coping with their own pain.

But here I’d like to draw the distinction between Victim and Survivor:  while a Survivor storyline traces the healing trajectory and has the character emerge stronger than ever, a Victim storyline centres either on the Damsel-In-Distress motif that’s been a constant for centuries, where only a man can save her and “fix her” with his love, or worse, it veers into Victim-As-Titillation, where rape and abuse are sexualized, romanticized and condoned, as our heroine “redeems” the Big Bad Man and lives Stockholm-Swooning Ever After.

These latter stories are the disturbing ones for me.  They perpetuate dangerous beliefs about relationships and what women should tolerate, and also insult those who have endured violence by minimizing their trauma/making it romantic.  Sadly, this is nothing new, particularly in crime thrillers and suspense stories:  women in danger are “sexy” and sell.  Men in danger, whimpering and begging, are an affront to our internalized notions of masculinity and femininity.  Male readers dismiss them as weak and uninteresting, not worth saving via identification with the usually male hero; women cannot relate to their struggle and vulnerability, because it is women who are faced with danger so often in their lives.  Men have privilege, and thus, we cannot sink into a world of men in peril.  We can also look to the media and tabloids, finding a culture of women needing to be saved. Rihanna and Chris Brown. Whitney and Bobby Brown. Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva.  “The beat(ing) goes on…”

Even the strongest heroines fall prey to old themes:  in season six of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Spike attempts to rape Buffy, proclaiming she loves him and will remember when she feels him inside her; in season seven, he is granted his soul and magically, through self-mutilation and pitiable demeanor, Buffy suddenly forgives, forgets, entrusts him with her sister and, in a way, loves him at last.  In Veronica Mars, Veronica is nearly killed, raped and ridiculed for it, and puts up with psychologically unhealthy relationships with men – one of whom (her big love of the series) threatens her, controls her, then sleeps with the woman who roofied her.

Hell, even Disney trains young girls to have a dysfunctional view of love. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourites, but seriously consider what’s going on: he threatens her, holds her hostage, threatens to starve her if she doesn’t obey… and she loves him anyway. The Little Mermaid? Gives up her voice and whole world for a stranger who’s cute.  It’s a tale as old as time all right, Mrs. Potts.

Bringing us back to the fandom at hand, I took a wander through past reads on Twilighted, a site dedicated to fanfiction for the Saga that is “well-written”.  In examining Twilight fanfiction, I present a few summaries of stories involving violence against women in the fandom – healthy and dysfunctional.  This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a taste of what is out there, provoking ire and concern.  In fairness, I’ll stick to completed or actively updating stories as much as possible.

In alphabetical order:

Beautiful Hitchhiker by emarroquin: In the opening chapter, Bella has James demanding sex from her in exchange for a lift in his car, Bella refusing and being assaulted, and in swoops Edward (a stranger) to pick her up from the side of the road.  Despite the terrors of James and his knife and gun, Bella is screwing Edward in his car within the first few chapters, and they’re going at it non-stop throughout.  In between, James and his serial killer/rapist partner stalk them etc.  Oh yes, and they have a LOT of sex.

Break Even by TwiStar_Junkie:  Another Bella in peril story, this one sees Bella tolerating beatings from James, her husband, for years, even as Edward picks up the pieces and cleans wounds.  She tells him she’s pregnant and is beaten beyond anything before, and finally leaves him.  Edward the rescuer engages, offering to raise the baby as his, move her in, etc. – as her best friend.  He hasn’t revealed he’s in love with her, and she hasn’t revealed her love.  That’s somewhat grating (and years of standing by respecting her decision to stay with him is hard to appreciate if you’re in love) but at least the emotional healing work is realistic and the love affair sweet.

Could Be Worse, Right? by Savage:  In answer to the question posited by the title:  not really.  A tale of human trafficking, Edward purchases Bella as a sex slave, treats her as awful as that entails… and well, this scene happens and rage ensues:

I still didn’t understand her reasoning, and as much as that part of me wanted to just say “fuck it” and go with whatever the hell was happening here, there was the other, albeit smaller part that wanted answers.  Needed answers.  As much as it was physically painful to do so, I pulled back from her, kissing her lips softly just a couple more times before I looked into her eyes.
“Why?” I asked softly, just trying to make some kind of sense out of any of this, and figuring it was a hopeless task.  I knew why I wanted her – it was far too obvious – but I didn’t understand why she wanted me.   Not at all.
“Why what?”
“Why…how can you…want this?”
The backs of her fingers brushed my cheekbone.  She brought her mouth back to touch me briefly, gently running her lips over mine.  I let my hand glide down her side until it rested on her hip.
“Because I can see the man inside of you,” she whispered back.  “He’s not what he tries to show everyone else.  He’s not even what he thinks he is.  He wasn’t trying to do anything…evil.”
Even as I kissed her again, I didn’t believe her.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” I said with my lips still against hers.  “I can’t make up for what I’ve done to you.”
“But you have tried,” she responded.  Her fingers twisted into my hair and she pulled me hard against her mouth.  I felt her tongue on my lips, and I welcomed it…craved it…longed for it.
I would never be able to refuse her again.  It just wouldn’t be possible.
“I know what you really wanted,” she told me.
I felt that lump in my throat again.
“I wanted sex.”
“No, you didn’t, Edward,” she corrected me.  “That’s not what you wanted at all.”
“It isn’t?”
She slowly shook her head from one side to the other.
“You wanted someone to stay with you,” she said.  “You wanted someone you could trust – who you knew wouldn’t leave.  That’s not a bad thing to want, Edward.  You just didn’t know how to find that without doing something stupid.”

Fridays At Noon by followstrouble1017:  Classify this one under “tolerates abuse far too much”:  Edward is a rich, controlling asshole.  Bella is his waitress at a posh restaurant, where he treats her like garbage.  When she retorts, he’s turned on.  He pushes his way into her life, refuses to respect her opinions on accepting his money, keeps secrets but demands she tolerate his boorish behaviour… and she does.  Even when she’s in danger of being killed out of spite towards Edward by James.  There’s far too much “I can fix him” tolerance here to be healthy.

Love and Obsession by michelly: The entire plot of this one centres on Bella’s abusive relationship with James, who is also an Italian mobster’s relative, Edward rescuing her (along with her entire family) after she finally admits everything (she’s knocked up and said abusive love affair has been completely secret), and then makes stupid mistakes in Bella fashion to “spare” everyone else’s lives.  Grows more confabulated by the chapter towards the end.  I blame canon for this one.  That and apparently blind family and friends for not noticing months of relationship including sex in a room down the hall.

Mental by MaraPore321:  Not updating often, but worth noting if only for how disturbing it is.  Amplifying the canon notion of deadly Edward and enraptured Bella, the story takes place in a mental hospital.  Edward is confined for the murder of 14 women, at the behest of a voice in his head.  Bella, a new employee at the hospital, quickly becomes the object of Edward’s affections, even as the voice wishes her dead.  Edward beats an orderly who sexually harasses Bella; she swoons despite herself.  Edward orders her to say she belongs to him, that she won’t have sex with her husband anymore; she agrees and does not find cause to change jobs or report Edward.  Disturbing as hell, and not in a dark romance fashion.

Sins of the Father by bethaboo: I’m conflicted about this one, but enjoy it overall.  Edward is the troubled son of an IRA member who is kidnapped by his Irish side; Bella is inadvertently dragged in as a fan disillusioned with his loss of musical direction.  While primarily a story of Edward’s reconciliation with his history and family, his behaviour towards Bella can be emotionally abusive and worse, Bella tolerates it a little too much for my liking.  It’s hard to imagine why she’s fallen for him at times, but ultimately, it seems intent on not excusing Edward, which is a huge plus.

Speak Now by SaritaDreaming, wmr1601: Irksome shock value usage of sexual assault here.  Plot is kicked off by a plan conceived by Tanya to drug Bella, have Mike mack on her to send Edward running into Tanya’s arms, and Bella finding out years after marrying Mike, sending her to break up Tanya and Edward’s wedding.  The plausibility of Mike recording the conversation, let alone having to have drugging involved, grates deeply.

Teenage Dirtbag by palewhite_n_icecold:  This one decidedly falls under the umbrella of dismissive towards violence/thrown in to spice up plot.  Bella is dating super-popular jock, Jacob.  One day, Bella decides that Jacob is an asshole and tries to break up with him.  Jacob decides to try and rape her.  Lucky for her that Edward swoops in with Alice and Jasper and saves the day.  Of course.  Jacob spins the story to make Bella into a tramp.  Rather than march into a police station with her bruised arms and get some justice, the foursome concoct a weird scheme of Bella and Edward fake-dating to get Jacob to snap and reveal his douchebaggery in front of everyone, thereby saving Bella’s reputation.  You know, because that’s what really matters here.  Also, Bella has no problem macking on Edward after this trauma.

The Letter – changed_by_edward:  In the opening chapter, Bella recounts being nearly date-raped by a drunken Jacob, her father blaming her for the assault, and then marrying verbally abusive Mike Newton (who also rapes her within the marriage if she refuses sex).  These plot points fade fairly quickly – Mike re-emerges for mild drama during a court case – but these traumas are quickly set aside to deal with child-neglecting Tanya (Edward’s ex) and Edward’s borderline-abusive rap persona.  No matter, though:  Bella loves EC Velvet anyway.  She changes him, softens him and all is magical.

The Ride by aylah50: One of my favourite fanfiction stories of all time, hands down.  Written by a survivor of sexual violence and it shows in the raw honesty, emotion and journey Bella takes throughout the story.  Edward is no rescuer; Bella saves herself.  She heals herself through her own strength.  There are stumbles and falls along the way.  Haunting and beautiful.

30 Days of Darkness by Mkystich:  Ever seen or read Kiss The Girls?  Then you know the plot of this one.  Brutal, graphic violence against women.  Women fight back.  Women struggle to heal.  Not a pretty story, but not titillation either.

Turn To Stone by nikkipattinson: This is one of the stories that is centred on sexual assault, but is realistic and of the “healthy” variety.  One of my favourite stories, it centres on Edward and Bella’s relationship, her first since a violent sexual assault that nearly killed her.  The twist: Edward defended Bella’s rapist on a previous charge, getting him acquitted days before he attacked Bella.  Heartbreaking, raw and a tale of mutual redemption, Edward doesn’t just save or rescue Bella; they work together.

***

I will have more to say on this topic in general in the future, but for now, what are your thoughts?  Is violence gratuitous in fiction?  Is it more so in fanfiction?

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12 Days of Netflix Finds: Jericho

Jericho

Genre:  Television/Drama/Suspense
Rating:  4.5/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Fans of Lost, Dollhouse, Cloverfield
Special Warnings: Violence, a little gore, ‘end of the world’ themes that might upset some

Holy crap, it’s the final day of Netflix Finds (for now)!  For those who’ve been devoted in checking out my posts, thank you! I love you and write for your enjoyment on the days where I just want to be lazy and, well, watch Netflix.

For our final installment of 2011, I thought we’d end with a bang – as in, nuclear explosion.

Jericho is a television series more notorious for the fan devotion to keeping it alive than the content itself, which is a serious fucking shame.  I’m not done with this one yet, but it’s one of fiance’s favourite shows ever, and it’s a show I wish I’d watched hella sooner.

Jericho is Lost set in midwestern America, all in all – only less smoke monsters and flashbacks, and more conspiracy/political intrigue.  Skeet Ulrich (my 90s crush – nomm!) shines here as Jake Green, the black sheep son of Jericho’s mayor who slips into town to snag a few bucks from an inheritance, but never makes it back to his sunny home.  Why’s that?  Oh, you know, just a nuclear BOMB going off!

Yeah: Jericho pulls a Lost and shit gets real.

Jake makes it back to his hometown, and suddenly, the black sheep is the brave leader that no one realized he could be, beneath the criminal mischief and running away from everyone he ever knew and all that.  Need to hide from fallout? Jake’ll hide you safely in a mine, even if he has to blow up the entrance to seal you in from the elements.  Yeah, Skeet is bad-ass.

I don’t want to spoiler you too much, but there is a LOT of “tangled web we weave” madness that unfolds with every passing episode.  Mystery supply drops, incommunicado government, relationship triangles and army mercenary types… and the first season’s not even done!

While some might argue that Lost already did this story, there’s a lot that Jericho gets right/does a little better.  For starters, it’s so much easier to keep track of the characters and their subplots in Jericho.  The storytelling is more linear, and there are definite main characters and definite secondaries.  Jericho also calls for less suspended belief, and is more generous with answering mysteries – at least in part – than Lost ever was.  And I love Lost, so don’t get me wrong.  Jericho is doing something different here, beneath the surface, and it is great at it.

The best part about Jericho, I think, is that it’s believable: I can see this actually happening.  Add in the awesome writing of Stephen Chbosky (yes, he of The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and the fuck-awesome acting of Ulrich, Gerald McRaney and Lennie James (more recently seen in The Walking Dead and Hung), and you’re set for a weekend of marathoning.

Visit Jericho; this ain’t Dorothy’s Kansas, Toto.

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12 Days of Netflix Finds: Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High

Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High

Genre:  Television/Drama/Teen
Rating:  4.5/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Fans of Saved By The Bell, Beverly Hills 90210, and their ilk
Special Warnings: Episodes dealing with depression, suicide, anorexia, drug/substance abuse, sexual assault (obvious from descriptions)

For Canadians of Gen X, it’s impossible to meet one not familiar with the kids of Degrassi.  For some of us (like me), teachers showed episodes of this critically lauded show in class as teaching moments/reprieves on the last day of class before holidays.  Joey Jeremiah? Our Zach Morris.  Hell, Kevin Smith loved the show so much, he named the infamous Caitlin of Clerks after Degrassi’s Caitlin Ryan.

Degrassi is your typical “lesson of the week” teen show in its structure, but it still works so well that I found myself marathoning both old series recently in a week’s time.  The difference is in the kids themselves:  these young actors aren’t polished adults playing teens; they’re playing themselves, awkwardness and all.  There is continuity over the series, but mostly, we are treated to a spotlight of a character each episode as he/she deals with a serious issue.  What also endears here is the lack of a laugh track minimizing their lives; instead, these kids face serious issues, screw up, face consequences that sometimes endure, and still have parents bugging them for good grades.  Everyone does not get a shiny new car for their sweet sixteen; these kids buy their own after working jobs.  Condoms break, and pregnancies happen.  Even ableism is handled in an episode of Degrassi High, where well-meaning girls don’t invite their wheelchair-bound friend because they “know” a theatre isn’t accessible and what a shame, only to be confronted angrily that “not inviting me and assuming what I can and can’t do is as bad as places that aren’t accessible – I’m a person”.

The shows are shot in the late 80s-early 90s, so the fashion is fricking hilarious, but the show is impressive for how far it’s willing to go.  Gay characters?  Abortion clinics and protesters? Degrassi has it.  The show is sex-positive while still encouraging, through the thoughts of its teens, to at least wait for someone you care about and be safe about it.

Oh, and they did the caffeine pill abuse before Bell’s infamous Jessie meltdown.  True facts.

Degrassi was a voice for the youth of its time, demonstrating that they were more competent and adult than mainstream media gave them credit for, but also still vulnerable and prone to mistakes.  It endures for being easy to relate to.  Put on your jelly bracelets and tune in, and remember your teens with a laugh (and maybe a tear or two).

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12 Days of Netflix Finds: The IT Crowd

The IT Crowd

Genre:  Television/Comedy
Rating:  4.5/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Fans of The Big Bang Theory; fans of geeky humour; computer nerds; fans of The Office/Clerks/other “damn the man” slacker comedies; Brit-Comedy fans
Special Warnings: Definitely not for little kids (it’ll go over their heads a lot anyway)

I often look at the top recommended titles for our Netflix account and am utterly baffled by their algorithms.  Titles come up that have nothing to do with our watch preferences, or are a great deal like something we’ve just trashed.  But sometimes, Netflix scores a goal; The IT Crowd is one such success story.

Half my DNA is British, so we checked this show out pretty quickly, quickly discovering it was hilarious – so much so that we devoured all 3 available seasons in a couple of days.

The premise: Jen is in desperate need of a job – a good one – but her resume is a little lacklustre.  Spotting a job involving IT – something she’s clueless about – at Reynholm Industries, she decides to fudge her skills and interview anyway.  To her credit, she sweet talks her way into a great job; unfortunately, it’s head of the IT Department, and resident geeks Roy and Moss see right through her.  But just as she needs them to explain the internet to her, they need her to show them how to relate to the rest of their coworkers, and perhaps earn a little respect from their grungy basement home.

Filled with computer-speak gags, The IT Crowd features all of the hilarity of The Big Bang Theory tucked into the IT world.  Moss truly makes the show with his social ineptitude wrapped in a lovable package; I just adore him, and I’m not the only one, given the brilliant Texts From Moss Tumblr that blends the best of TFLN with stills of the show. But maybe you should see for yourself just how much fun The IT Crowd can be?

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12 Days of Netflix Finds: UHF

UHF

Genre:  Comedy
Rating:  4.5/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Fans of Weird Al, Seinfeld’s Kramer; people who enjoy feel-good yet goofy humour-loaded films (particularly the 80s flicks ie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; people who enjoy light movies with a deeper message if you want it/no message if you prefer it
Special Warnings: None

I clapped like a little girl when this film showed up in the New Additions section of Netflix a while back.  It’s one of those movies that I love because it never tries to be more than it is, and it’s damn good at what it’s trying to do.  Plus, Weird Al Yankovic is a genius.

UHF tells the story of George Newman (Yankovic), a slacker dreamer who loses minimum wage job after job due to his daydreaming ways.  Specifically, George is obsessed with TV – think the classics:  Beverly Hillbillies; Leave It To Beaver; The Addams Family.  When George’s uncle wins a flailing local TV station in a poker game, his aunt convinces him to let George run it.  After all, it’s already a sinking ship of debt; how much worse can George make it?

Although things start rocky, George’s decision to have his janitor hosts a children’s show for a night turns the station into an overnight success.  Soon, little ol’ channel 62 is thriving – outdoing a rival VHF station.  And the owner of channel 8 will not stand for it… and will destroy channel 62, at any cost.

Filled with parodies, offbeat humour and a “little guy can make it” feel, UHF is a movie that makes you smile and laugh, and as a bonus, it’s family friendly.  Throw this on TV over the holidays and revel in the stellar cast.

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12 Days Of Netflix Finds: Being Erica

Being Erica

Genre:  Television/Dramedy
Rating:  5/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Fans of Back To The Future; women (and men) experiencing a “how the hell did my life end up like this?” crisis (or relate well to the feeling); fans of “protagonist keeps making things worse to hilarious effect” storylines
Special Warnings: None

I have to admit that when I first saw the massive advertising blitz in the subway system for Being Erica years ago, the concept seemed cheesy and hokey in the press pictures.  Given that the CBC has been on a bit of a failtastic run for a while now, I also had little faith when I realized it was their baby.

Then, I threw my back out and was sentenced to a week of bedrest.  Being bored to tears, without cable, and having read a review that indicated the show was far more stellar than the pilot had demonstrated, I threw up my hands and said, “Fuck it!” and loaded up CBC’s website (awesome, because it allows you to watch whole seasons of shows).

I devoured the entire first season of Being Erica in a few days.

Like Dollhouse, you need to get past the first few episodes with this one.  They’re not terrible – Erin Karpluk immediately shines and reels you in as Erica Strange, the woebegone heroine of the series, while Michael Riley is her brilliant sarcastic counterpart as Dr. Tom.  It’s just that after the first two episodes, the show truly hits its stride, and digs its way into your heart.

The premise:  what if you could go back in time and undo the regrets that have ruined your life, destroyed your dreams, or just made you miserable?  What if this gift was a form of therapy, a way to become the person you always wished you could be?  This is the gift offered to Erica, after the worst day of her life (and seriously, it is shit-tastic; it plays out in the first ten minutes of the series).  Erica’s got a monster list of regrets, and Dr. Tom has alllll the time in the world.  But is it really better to do what you wish you’d done – and will it change anything at all in the present?

The cast is stellar for this series, and the writing is pitch-perfect.  Karpluk and Riley really make the show special, though; lesser actors could have never made the characters so genuine and lovable.  You want Erica to succeed, to shine.  You want someone like Dr. Tom on your side.

Seriously, one of my favourite TV shows of all-time here, right up with my precious Buffy and Lost.  Watch it.  Now.

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12 Days Of Netflix Finds: Dollhouse

Dollhouse

Genre:  Television Series – Fantasy/Action Adventure/Suspense
Rating:  5/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Joss Whedon fans who’ve somehow avoided it; fans of Profiler, X-Files or Tru Calling; people who enjoy fantasy/sci-fi that has intense character development and exploration of human relationships/interaction
Special Warnings: sexual assault; exploitation/human trafficking elements; domestic-type violence

I am a huge fan of Joss Whedon’s work, and adore Eliza Dushku, so you would think that this show and I would have been joined at the hip from its premiere date. Sadly, not so: not only did I not have cable access (and being in Canada, where Hulu etc. block our asses, streams are not as readily available), but I was underwhelmed by the first episode  and only moderately interested in the second.  I decided to wait for the boxset, and um… forgot.  I bought season one several months ago, but being me, it was lost in the disaster shuffle that is our media shelf.

It’s a huge shame, because I LOVE this show.  Hardcore.

Let me preface with this: Fox forced Whedon to change the pilot around, and to me, it shows.  Having now seen the original pilot, I don’t think either was perfect, but the original felt a little more “Joss”.  Why Fox continues to contract this genius for shows and then fuck with them/put them at the worst time slots ever/cancel them, I do not know.  Thus, I urge this:  stay with it for four episodes.  By then, you’ve got a strong sense of the show’s direction, mythology and promise.

Dollhouse is centred around a pet project of the Rossum Corporation, the Dollhouse.  People with criminal pasts… enemies of Rossum… people with traumatic events they’d as soon as erase… all are sought out and brought to the Dollhouse where they sign their lives away for five years in exchange for an obscene payout of cash and other terms negotiated.  In signing their lives away, their memories are erased and stored, data on a hard drive, and their brains outfitted to be programmed on a whim for the obnoxiously wealthy.  Want a perfect girlfriend? Order up a doll.  Want to spend time with your dead wife? They can program a doll to be her for you.

Echo, played by Eliza Dushku, is one such doll.  The trouble is, something isn’t quite right with Echo:  she’s no longer “wiping” properly.  Memories remain – skills, glimmers – including her own true self.  And with an FBI Agent determined to find the Doll Formerly Known As Caroline, you know shit’s going to hit the fan…

And that’s just one small piece of the puzzle.

Similar in structure to X-Files and Buffy, in that there is usually a ‘story of the week’ with overarching mythology, Dollhouse will have you shaking your head, screaming, “WTF?” at the TV.  My fiance lost sleep marathoning six episodes in a row, because he HAD to know what was next.  I, too, marathoned the entire series in four days.  It’s like fandom crack.  The cast is fan-fricking-tastic – I especially love Topher, Priya/Sierra and Dr.Saunders.

Joss Whedon is indeed my master.  Now, let him be yours…

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Coming Soon: 12 Days of Netflix Finds!

In anticipation of the end of the year – and holidays from school/work for many people – I offer to you a fun way to distract yourselves: Netflix Diving!

Just to make your lives easier (who wants to think when knackered on spiked egg nog?), I will be posting twelve days in a row with Netflix Finds worth checking out!  From tv series that I can’t believe more people aren’t watching, to movies that actually manage to not make me pluck out my eyes in terror, I’ll be running down some of my favourite treasures in the Netflix trove.

Annnnd……  I promise, most/all will be things I first saw on Netflix.

So stay tuned, starting December 19th, as I count us through Twelve Days of Netflix!

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2011 Pop Culture Challenge: Status Update

Back in November, 2010, spurred by my decision to read the most banned books in the States (as listed for Banned Books Week), I challenged myself to finally get off my lazy ass and ‘catch up’ on all of the pop culture and reading I always ‘meant to’ finish.  This is the first major status update.

So, four months into a thirteen-month series of challenges, I figured it was time to reflect on my progress, and also, on the recently enjoyed items on my lists.  For those interested in the full extent of the challenge, list items and the original posts, click the 2011 Pop Culture Challenge tab in the header.

We’ll take this by categories, for simplicity.

Literature
Progress:  2 new items crossed off on American list, 1 on Canadian

For all of the reading I’ve done as of late, I confess much of it was pleasure reading done without the list as a guide.  That said, one item I’ve crossed off both lists was really 7 books, so I deserve some credit.

I’ve polished off Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, which was not remotely a book that should be banned.  It wasn’t graphic, and it was appropriate for YA readers.  I personally found it a bit dull, truth be told, but a worthwhile read.

My other checklist completion was finally reading the Harry Potter books, and, with a few exceptions, they were really well done.  I don’t know that I would endlessly reread them or anything, but I enjoyed the journey, for the most part, and liked the end (even if it felt a little too easily achieved).  My favourite of the series was Goblet of Fire, followed closely by Chamber of Secrets.  I’m glad I got off my ass and gave them a go, and much thanks to my little brother, who never lends anyone his books… but lent me the first four.

Television
Progress:  1 new series tried; 2 caught up; others in progress

This is where I’ve made most of my headway; it’s easiest for me to find time and the attention span to watch an episode or two and then scurry off.  TV shows are also easier to find to watch than 150 movies, know what I mean?

Fiance and I finally tried out The Walking Dead and being zombie nuts, we loved it.  We knew we would, but we were so lazy about watching it.  Not having cable is a massive hindrance.  I was a little mixed about the ending of the season, but overall very satisfied and ready for the next.  This show really needs to be seen, because it is about more than zombies; it`s about humanity itself, in any crisis.  It`s what I wished 28 Days Later had been (the ending’s always irked me, because I wanted to know what happened!).

We also finally caught up on Dexter (three seasons plus!) and I have loved them, with the exception of season 3, which just pissed me off.  I think season 2 is the best overall, followed closely by 4.  I wish the Trinity Killer had been used to greater potential; I feel the reveal was way too soon, and we needed more suspense.  I loved Lithgow, though.  The Lumen story in 5 was patchy and hit or miss, but overall good.  Such a fucking good show.

I also finally watched all of South Park… This show really has aged well, far better than I even predicted.  LOVE.  It sometimes misses, but given how many episodes there are, whatever.

I’m currently in progress with Heroes (loved season 3, mixed on season 4 so far) and Robot Chicken (pure genius!).  Now that we have Netflix, this is even easier for me.  Whee!

Films
Progress:  7 new films seen

I’ve begun attacking the films list more thoroughly lately, being as it is so long and I have so many other obligations.  Part of the issue lies in tracking all of them down, of course, particularly older or more obscure films.  That aside, of the films I’ve seen, I’ve been quite happy about doing so.

The most recent one, M, is fantastic, and I never woud have even heard of this 80 or so year-old film without taking this challenge on.  It’s in German with subtitles, which I know aggravates some people, but it’s an insightful look at serial killers and how their crimes affect the public, society on the whole, and the killer himself.  Slumdog Millionaire was a long overdue viewing, as was The Wrestler; both should be seen by film afficionados.  The JJ Abrams reboot of Star Trek was pretty bad-ass, and unlike my Trekkie fiance, I rather enjoy Zachary Quinto as Spock.  Kick-Ass?  I’ve already REWATCHED that one.  The Departed?  It’s what Lock, Stock… wishes it was, even if the ending irked me.

But The Social Network is my big one, thus far, because it, by all rights, shouldn’t work on paper.  And yet, the casting, the score (fuck yeah, Trent!), the way it’s shot and paced…  I love it.  It’s truly one of the best films I’ve seen in years because, in so many ways, it’s subtle to pitch-perfection, and in your face in others.  Jesse Eisenberg’s performance makes it, and it was totally robbed for the Oscar.

I know that ahead lies a bunch of movies I have zero interest in (wtf, IMDB voters, with all the mobster and sci-fi action shit?), but for now, it’s been a blast.

See you in a few months… and hopefully, with a much more diligent progress report…

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