reviews: bad tv, good tv, shaun tan, tolkien

Caprica: Started watching this because mom thought it was a movie, not the pilot for a new TV show. Watched just the first half because none of the characters were particularly sympathetic or interesting, the dialog was insipid, and the whole thing pretty much just flat-out boring. The only even remotely intriguing thing about it was the culture, which seemed to be playing with (or rather, paying lip-service to) what a modern/slightly futuristic world built on the worship of the Greek pantheon might look like. Apparently, an awful lot like oh, say, our world, just with robot butlers and different curse words. And virtual clubs dedicated to every kind of debauchery known to man with a few more thrown in for good measure, but that seemed to be mostly an excuse to show naked girls kissing each other.

And since this is all supposed to be a prequel to Battlestar Galactica, we already know how things are going to turn out: badly. So really, why bother?

But Burn Notice and White Collar are back, which makes me happy. White Collar did an excellent job of taking the seemingly inexplicable ending of the previous episode and spinning it out into something that makes sense, while still retaining the possibility that Peter's been lying to Neal and is still lying to him. The episodic stuff was pretty throw-away, as usual, but the season arc is turning out to be a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. And Burn Notice was marvelous, as always. I have so much fun watching the characters bounce off each other and be totally kick-ass that the plot almost doesn't matter.

(...Though if I'd finished this before work, when my brain was still fully functional, I would have talked a bit about plot weaknesses in both shows and why they did/didn't bother me. I'm too tired now, though.)

Gave Human Target a go, and might keep up with it, if they tone down the extremeness of the dire situation the team (are they a team? I'm not sure what term to use) and their client wind up in. Though as my dad commented, the first two episodes must have pretty much blown their effects budget, so we'll see. It feels a little unbalanced, like the writers and everyone are trying to find the show's stride, but still a lot of fun.

Bought Tales of Outer Suburbia, which is by turns beautiful, whimsical, odd, disturbing, and downright breathtaking. The artist's versatility is astonishing.

It was in the kids section of the bookstore, which probably isn't the best place for it, but I'm not sure where else it should go.

Am currently reading the Silmarillian for trishkafibble's very late Christmas ficlet that definitely isn't much of a ficlet anymore. Can't speak about the whole thing, but the bits I've read so far feel authentic--like stories that could have been told over and over through the generations. Makes me want to sit down and do the same sort of thing for the Athosians and Satedans (and C&S, which has languished long and will probably languish a while longer, though not forever). Reading Tolkien always makes me want to quit my job, surround myself with books of myths and history and some atlases, and then write all the stories in my head properly. By which I mean, with fully developed cultures and such that will make in onto the published page only obliquely.

I started an encyclopedia once, for C&S. Now I want to dig it up and spend about a year or two completing it for real.

This is why I don't read Tolkien as often as I'd like: he's DANGEROUS.
Rachel and I are both re-reading the Silmarillion. It's a lot better now that I'm older and that I'm expecting something like an old myth or romance and not an action-packed fantasy epic. Tolkien's ability to write convincingly about characters that are some inhumanly close to perfection (Thingon, Feanor, etc) is simply breathtaking, but the result so different from a modern novel that I don't think it can even go by the name.
It really isn't a novel--even LotR shades into being more myth than novel. The hobbits are the only thing that keep it from becoming that.

I think that's why I find it so fascinating; we currently have a glut of novels but not very many myths.
Thanks for the warning about Caprica - I was flirting with the idea of watching it on Hulu (because I definitely got sucked into BSG, though I've only seen the first few episodes). The world-building really is one of my favorite things about BSG - the whole colonies idea and the funny little glimpses of their religious beliefs and society that they left behind make their desperate, worldless situation all the more poignant. (Rather Runner-like, now that I think it, but for the fact that its everyone.) I would like to learn more about the world, but if I have to suffer icky characters, dialogue, and awful foreboding plotness, its not worth the time.
It really isn't, sadly. Here and there are little glimpses of the show it could have been (maybe will be, I don't know; a course correction could be made by the writers), but those are swallowed up in the general "and why would I want to continue watching this?" of the story et al.

I tried watching BSG a couple of times, but just couldn't deal with the gritted-teethness of it and the overall dark pallet. Although I may have just picked the wrong episodes to start with.
BSG is rather nail-biting to watch, but interspersed with the crazy "aaah human race on the verge of extinction" are all these wonderful moments of humans still being humans - flirting, laughing, living and the like - and it gives the show a more hopeful tone. (Of course, this might just be the way it is at the beginning; perhaps once the whole "there are cylons among us" plotline becomes more prominent it is not as nice.)

I'm glad I watched it from the beginning and in order so far. That's actually what turns me off of shows most of the time; I prefer being able to watch the episodes in whatever order and it not make much of a difference, because otherwise my life would tend to revolve around watching the next episode... It's one of the reasons I don't watch Lost or 24 or Heroes - too much commitment.
Yeah, the whole time-commitment thing is one reason why I don't watch much. I have two shows I watch regularly, and one of them is shiny (and has a paper-thing season arc) but I wouldn't really care if it got dropped. The other also has a season arc, but again, it's basically just a way to make things a little more complicated for our hero and keep him in Miami; mainly it's an episodic show. I watch it regularly because the characters are a ton of fun together and I like watching people be sneaky (and good at it) and blow things up.
I have to say I agree with your thoughts on Caprica. I actually watched the whole thing, but I didn't walk away impressed.

I've watched the first two eps of Human Target and found it entertaining enough to come back again. We'll see how long that lasts.
Three episodes into Human Target, I'm still at the "well, I guess I'll watch the next one" stage. It feels like it's on the edge of tipping either into awesomeness or awfulness. My dad says he thinks they really need a woman on the team and I think he's right.

Edited at 2010-02-06 01:55 am (UTC)
I am bummed that Caprica is, by most accounts, really not that good. I really, really liked BSG (the good was good enough that it outweighed the bad parts) and wanted to see more of it. Alas.

Ditto Will on enjoying the Silmarillion. I know a lot people are put off by Tolkien's writing style, but I enjoy the way the story flows. It's very similar in that way to things like old epics and the Bible and that similarity makes the whole work feel ancient and very... real. Like if our world were a little different, it could be real.
I bet what people are put off by is actually their own expectations that it will be a modern-type story, similar to The Hobbit and LotR (although the latter shades toward being myth at points). I know that's what happened to me when I first tried it in high school, after having plowed through LotR. Now that I'm reading it with the understanding that it's myth, I'm really enjoying it.
Thanks so much for the Tales link--it looks so very, very intriguing!!

And wow, The Silmarillion, no less! I'm even more intrigued to see where this story is headed. Personally, I never managed to get through the book--while I could appreciate its unique narrative style, there just wasn't enough sensory content in it for me to get a good mental grasp of the characters' identities, the settings, etc., which meant I could never figure out who was who and what was what long enough to follow the stories. I should probably give it another go now that I'm older, but truly, I get such perfect satisfaction from LotR (and occasional re-readings of The Hobbit) that I really don't feel the need....
Tales truly is fascinating and gorgeous and I wish I could lend you my copy. Ah well. Shaun Tan seems to be pretty popular nowadays, so I expect there's a nearby library with a copy.

I'm finding that what I love about the Silmarillion is the narrative style, so similar to the Greek & Roman (and a few Norse) myths I read and reread as a child (and then stopped reading when I realized how badly they all ended--that's when I started reading more fairy tales, which appealed a bit better to my sense of justice). But I'm struggling writing-wise in matching the tone and phrasing: I know exactly what I want to do, it's just the how that's mostly eluding me.