Monday, April 30, 2007

Fit For Ben Franklin: The Most Shocking Moments on Television

I am currently sitting in National Airport, waiting for my flight to board to Atlanta, my hometown. I’m jetting home for one night to surprise my sister, who is playing Marty in Grease this weekend. Nobody knows I’m on my way home, thanks to some particularly Sydney Bristow-like maneuvers; namely, my neighbor is picking me up at the airport.

In honor of this big surprise, I thought I would recount my favorite television surprises of all time. Here are my ten favorite shockers, in no particular order.

1. Carol and Doug are reunited on ER. My parents let me stay up late to watch Julianna Marguiles’s episode, and it certainly did not disappoint. Being the spoiler whore that I am, I was grateful to Jack Orman for keeping the reunion so under-wraps. It made for maybe the sweetest ER scene ever shown. Next time, though, show us the babies!

2. Jim confesses his love for Pam on The Office. I guess we were all expecting a Jam cliffhanger, but Jim’s teary confession to Pam in the parking lot was more than I ever could have hoped for. And then they kissed and everything I knew about the rules of television were thrown out the window. Until “Gay Witch Hunt,” when they were all reinstated. Still, it was a nice summer of speculation.

3. Rachel is pregnant on Friends. Friends was so stale during the season of Chandler and Monica’s engagement that I often felt like I was the only one watching. The Monica pregnancy storyline was predictable and trite. Sneaking in that cliffhanger, where Phoebe comes to the realization that the pregnancy test was Rachel’s, began a brilliant upswing for the show. The next season (the eighth) was perhaps my favorite ever.

4. Meredith wakes up with Denny in Grey’s limbo. Holy crap, Meg, don’t scare me like that! I think I’ve said it here before, but everybody this side of the Grey’s writing staff knew that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was coming back. We just all assumed it would be in an Izzie-related manner, and that we would think it was stupid. My roommate Lily hated the Denny episodes of season two more than anything in this world and was incredibly dismayed at the news of his resurfacing. However, his return was so smart, so unexpected, so downright terrifying. And then Kyle Chandler was there, too! Good job, Grey’s, at making for the most shocking episode-ender ever.

5. The Others take Walt. Just when rescue seemed imminent—hugging, backslaps, and general bilingual joy—turns out the Others had other plans. When those effers threw that Molotov cocktail, effectively destroying the raft, I was so terrified that I gripped my computer screen like a crazy person. “The Bagel” remains my favorite B-story cliffhanger ever. It was this insanity that kept me waiting for the season premiere.

6. Sydney Bristow is the Prophecy. The first-season episode “The Prophecy” connected Milo Rambaldi and Sydney Bristow for the first time. Probably the first taste of real live Jabrams the world ever got, this reveal set the rest of the series in motion. Terrifying, thought-provoking, and downright shock-inducing, the Sydney-is-The-Chosen-One storyline started with the phrase: “This woman here depicted will possess unseen marks. Signs that she will be the one to bring forth my work...”

7. Josh and Donna kiss. After waiting for six—six!—seasons, one of my favorite couples ever hooked up for the first time in “The Cold,” an episode that marked the beginning of the end for this beloved series and set in motion the wrapping-up of West Wing’s (arguable) only love story. This super-sexy kiss (find the YouTubed version without the Dizzy Gillespie music if you want to hear the breathing) was long overdue, yet in no way anticlimactic.

8. Rory boffs Dean. In a season finale chock-full of surprises, including Luke and Lorelai’s first kiss, nothing was more shocking than the reveal that Rory had given her virginity to the very-married Dean. That ending scene, with Rory breaking down on the front porch, marked the ending of young Rory and the beginning of adult Rory, as the choices she faced in the next season were profoundly the result of her decision to become somebody’s mistress. Not how any girl probably imagines her first time, but it was especially disappointing for super-smart Rory.

9. Michael Vaughn might be evil. I suppose I should have been hesitant to believe that Jabrams really would have let Alias’s fourth season end with Sydney and Vaughn riding off into the Santa Barbara sunset, but I never could have expected what occurred in that beach-bound car. The show had given us many wayward turns throughout the run, but stuck to some guidelines. Sloane is evil. Dixon is pointless. Vaughn is a good guy. Questioning that particular tenet of Alias threw me for a total loop—it took me the entire summer to recover.

10. Ethan Rom is an Other. By far the creepiest shocker, Ethan Rom is probably the scariest villain of any on television. It’s that squinchy-nose thing he’s got going on, added to the fact that he’s got superhuman strength and the creepiest voice inflection maybe ever. And he steals babies. I was so scared in the Season One episode when Hurley finds out Ethan’s not on the flight manifest and then it cuts to Ethan approaching Claire and Charlie. YIKES! (PS—that actor is totally Tom Cruise’s cousin.)

ER: A "Dedicated" John Wells? What's that?

Currently, there is a full page article in TV Guide dedicated to ER and the upcoming episode that will feature the wedding of Abby and Luka. This is also known as the episode that makes me want to vomit. I will be the first to admit that I know basically nothing about this show anymore, seeing as how I haven't bothered to watch more than maybe five episodes in the past several years. If even that many episodes, really. But that doesn't change the fact that I know Abby and Luka pretty damn well, and I will forever hate them together.

I love that Abby finally had a baby, because she deserves that happiness and (let's face it) her becoming a mother was always predestined since the moment her own mom told her she needed to stop being afraid of the good things in life before she misses out on the greatness of marriage and motherhood. But still! The fact that it had to become a reality with Luka, of all people, makes me ill. I would have rather it been with Jake (Remember him? Aw.) or some other random dude we hardly knew. Never Luka. Never.

It's hard for me to believe that Abby and Luka would have ever stayed together, much less gotten engaged, were it not for her becoming pregnant. Their entire love story has always been a sham to me. I'm sure that I'm currently alienating a good deal of readers right now, seeing as I'm more than well aware of the battle between Carby and Luby fans - but I don't care at all. I don't buy what Luby is selling. The first time they were together was a big effing joke. He told her she's not that pretty and not that special. I'm sorry, but I wouldn't exactly be giving him any second chances in my lifetime if I were her.

What infuriates me the most about the article in TV Guide is that one of the last statements made declares that John Wells says he is completely dedicated to the Abby/Luka love story and plans of having them go the distance. That's not word for word, but it's close enough and it's still the same "pisses me off beyond belief" gist of it all.

First and foremost, it's not exactly a secret that Goran is leaving. He has made it perfectly clear that he intends (as of right now, at least. Please let it stay that way.) to do no more than five episodes next season. Maura has also said that next season will be her last, but then again Maura has a tendency to say that every couple of years and still she remains. On the other hand, NBC only has the show contracted through next season so there's a good chance that (unless they salvage it again, which would be beyond me) next season will be the end of it all, no matter what. So that begs the question: if Goran is only doing five episodes, but Maura is planning to fulfill the entire season, how in the name of Jack Orman does that idiot Wells think he can pull off a "love of a lifetime, happily ever after" story with those two?

Some people think Luka will leave the show to go home to Croatia, which I would have thought a plausible ending for his character a few years ago... but not now. I find it unbelievably ridiculous to think that Luka would ever leave his son, even if he and Abby were on bad terms. I don't care if they don't end up married or if they do but quickly decide it was a mistake - he would never just move an ocean away from his child. I don't necessarily like Luka, but I do know that he's a dedicated father and he has always been very much about the love he has for his children, past and present.

So, really, the only option I can see for Goran leaving without Maura is for Luka to be killed off. Now, Abby has always been my favorite character on the show and I would never wish her pain and suffering - so it's a little bit cruel for me to say Luka needs to die. I don't want him to die just so that he can't be with Abby anymore - that's not what I'm saying. I'm just saying it seems to be the only believable option for the situation the actors are in right now. The only other possible out would be for him to have to go off to Croatia or whateverthefuck for months on end for whatever stupid reason, and then have Abby and baby Joe go to live with him there in the end when Maura actually leaves. But you know what? That idea is pretty much ludicrous. I would think that to be a really idiotic cop-out and a just plain retarded storyline. You can't try to recreate what happened with Doug and Carol, so don't even go there with me.

All of that aside, the most infuriating point of interest to me is that John Wells is - by and large - an incredible effing idiot. I have no idea why NBC loves and trusts him so much, seeing as he is more or less solely responsible for the decline of two of their once top-rated shows (ER and The West Wing, respectively). They had two shows that were living on top of the world, and suddenly he takes over the reigns and they both go to Hell in a handbasket. They both became virtually unwatchable because of what he did to the foundations and the relationships of those shows. The man does not understand the concept of writing for television, because if he did he would understand the importance of couples and solid relationships. One could argue that he clearly does understand that, given his dedication to the Abby/Luka storyline, but I would be forced to start a debate.

And that's exactly what I'm doing.

John Wells is completely incompetent when it comes to keeping viewers involved. He is so incredibly self-righteous about his worldview and his opinions, to the point where he could care less if the audience disagrees with him. I don't know what his purpose was for never fulfilling the Josh/Donna dynamic on West Wing, but it was a huge mistake. They were basically canon, and he just ignored it. As for ER, I could write an effing novel on the disaster that was the Congo storyline. And I'm not even talking about how it ruined my 'ship with the introduction of Kem and the subsequent exit of Carter. I'm simply talking about how he shoved it down our throats, time and time again, to the point where I sadly no longer gave a shit about the plight of the Congo people and their war. I was well aware of what's happening over there long before he brought it to my favorite show at the time; it's a true, terrible story that's actually happening, and I get that he wanted to give it some attention so we Americans would open our eyes to the rest of the world - but SERIOUSLY. To this day, a mere mention of Africa or the Congo makes me roll my eyes in boredom. It's like when a really great song gets overplayed and you suddenly can't stand to hear it anymore, eventhough you used to love it more than life itself. Not that the Congo storyline ever had a chance of being as cool as a really great song, but you get my point.

If the man paid any kind of attention to his fans, he would know that the number of Luka/Abby fans has always paled in comparison to the number of Carter/Abby fans. I'm not one of the crazy Carbies who still believes in her heart of hearts that it will go my way (although with the possibility of Noah's return next year, I kind of am.), but I definitely am the type of Carby who will always defend what they were and why it was better. There were two seasons of build-up for that relationship, then ongoing angst and fuzz and mutual understanding that they were meant for one another. Carter had stated loud and clear that despite how infuriating she can be and despite how often he wonders if they're meant for one another, in the 24th hour he would always come back around to the fact that he loved her and that was all that mattered.

All of this happened under the penmanship and production strategy of Jack Orman, mind you, and I will probablly never get over him leaving the show. He had Carter/Abby set up so perfectly, and 99% of the viewership totally bought into it. Then in comes John Wells (who I believe is responsible for Orman's exit, personally) and he fucked with so much shit that it was as if seasons 7 - 9 never even happened. He worked his ass off to make it seem to any casual or new viewer that Carter and Abby were never anything more than colleagues to one another - neither character ever even acknowledged what they once were to each other, and that was pretty much downright infuriating. Wells is, in my opinion, a laughable excuse for a television writer and producer. He clearly doesn't care about what his audience is interested in, and so I find it even more laughable that he now claims to be dedicated to the love story of Abby and Luka.

He doesn't know how to be dedicated to a love story. No romance has flourished or survived at all since he took over as the Executive Producer, and the only reason he's now "dedicated" to Abby and Luka is because they are the only believable (generally speaking, that is) couple on that show. No one else has enough history to make anyone really care. Abby and Luka's history isn't exactly one filled with smiles and fuzzy moments, so I don't quite get that one either - as I have already previously argued.

Let me just say this loud and clear: if Luka leaves to run off to Croatia, then Carter comes back for this "maybe" arc that has been rumored, thus putting Abby in the position to have to choose between the two of them... and then she chooses Luka? After he moved an ocean away and abandoned her and the kid? I will be livid. Well, I'm already livid but it will absolutely solidify my belief that John Wells is a freaking idiot.

I think the world will be a safer place if I just end this rant here and now, because chances are I could actually write about this for years. I just... I really think I may hate John Wells more than I hate Ben Affleck.

If you ask Caroline, that's really saying a lot.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

BROTHERS & SISTERS: The New Kid On The Block

New characters on a show always throw me for a loop. Most of the time, I enjoy their addition to my TV families and bask in the rays of a new adventure that involves figuring out who these people are and how they're going to make my show even better. The addition of Desmond on Lost or Addison on Grey's (although I loathed her deeply at first.) is a good example of such situations. Other times, though, I find myself face to face with people like Lauren Reed, Rachel Gibson or Thomas Grace - all of whom jumped into my Alias world uninvited (at least by me.), and while the latter two additions really only annoyed me because they lacked any definable purpose or plot, the former of the three succeeded in ruining everything that was once good and perfect about that show. She is undeniable proof that sometimes - just sometimes - a new character can be your worst nightmare.

So you can imagine my extreme levels of anxiety when it became clear that the illegitimate Walker child was going to be joining in the Sunday night fun with me, Kitty, Rob Lowe and the gang. I wasn't really sure what to make of her, but I must say that Sarah's Oscar-worthy performance in the role of "Self-Righteous Bitch" really did help me out in deciding whether or not to like Rebecca. Sarah has been nothing if not a pain in the ass and an outright bitch lately, so it was easy for me to sympathize with Rebecca. As she grew closer to Justin, I liked her more. Then Nora started taking her in as one of her own, and Sarah even made an effort to reach out to her and be a real sister. Kitty's stubborn nature left her out as the only one in the family still refusing to be nice to Rebecca, and thus I liked Becca even more because I felt sorry for her. She didn't deserve to be treated like a piece of trash just because William Walker was a skeezbag - and a skeezbag she never even knew was her father, no less.

Pretty much by the middle of the last episode (the one with all the games and the cool Dharma and Greg crossover!), I was completely on Rebecca's side. But I also knew that she was really good at being a bad girl, as was so nicely displayed in the episode where she and Justin went to a party and not-so-innocent Becca showed everyone what it's like to play with drugs. With that in the back of my head (as well as a tip-off from the Promo Monkey about something happening with her and Joe), I immediately perked up and paid attention when she found Joe on the back patio and they started befriending one another.

I may have already decided to like the girl, but if TV has taught me nothing it has certainly taught me this: "Trust no one." and "Everybody lies." Hell, I spent year after year trying to figure out if SpyDaddy, SpyMommy and Sloane were EVER worth trusting! Just when you think someone's good, they turn around and steal a Rambaldi artifact or kill your sister! How can one not be skeptical after spending so much time with characters like that?

So when Justin came running to her side after a quick cut-away from a tense moment between her and Joe, I really didn't know what was about to happen. I was still on her side, still believing that she was good. A huge part me thought she was going to say he effing raped her, but maybe that's just because I'm overwhelmingly cynical and pessimistic. Still, when she said he kissed her... you just knew one of two things was happening - either she's telling the truth and he really is a jackoff, or she's lying and trying to stir up some Walker family drama; perhaps in the hopes of hurting Sarah since she was such a bitch in the beginning.

Ever since that episode (and that moment) aired, the conspiracy theorists in different magazines and TV columns have been running rampant. Either Rebecca is a lying witch, or Joe is one hell of a skeezbag bastard. People are taking sides, and a lot of people seem to think Rebecca is lying. I think this is just because they don't know her well, and they're ganging up on the new kid.

Me, personally? I think Joe is a skeez. I can't really explain it in words, but there is just something about Rebecca that makes it hard for me to believe that she would lie about something like that. Despite what they've put her through and how deeply her life has been uprooted, I believe she truly does care about the Walkers and what they think. It seems to me that no matter how she tries to deny it, having them accept her as a part of their family is a very important thing for her. I find it hard to believe that she would purposely jeopardize that - especially when it comes to Sarah's husband. Sarah isn't my favorite person, and certainly was never Becca's either, but she was also the first one to truly change her ways and make a solid, sisterly effort with Rebecca. The idea of Becca making the whole "he kissed me" story up is just something that I don't buy.

What I do buy, however, is the idea that Joe may be a skeez. Again, I can't really explain it, but there's just something about him that makes it seem like an easy jump from "loving husband" to "skeezbag bastard." If the red flags weren't going off when he was hanging out with that mom of Paige's friend, they definitely were waving wildly during the therapy sessions that he and Sarah went to not long ago. The man just weirds me out. Sometimes he's so sweet and funny and I adore him, but there are those rare occassions when he simply freaks me out.

The answer to what really happened isn't far away at all, as today is Sunday and I've only a few more hours until it airs. But I spent the last week and a half debating with myself and trying to decide what I thought was going on. I never really believed that Rebecca would make it up, but reading all of those conspiracy theories actually started to go to my head and make me question what I knew to be true: she would never lie about something like that, but he would totally be the kind of guy to do something like that.

Now I just hope Joe owns up to being a skeez and the Walker clan actually takes Rebecca's side for once. This could be a huge turning point in her relationship with the family, and I'd really love to see them all believe her and rally around her. In the grand scheme of new character additions, Rebecca Harper-Walker has quickly become one of my all time favorites.

Friday, April 20, 2007

OCTOBER ROAD: A Brief, Shining Moment - And Then That Dialogue

When it comes to brand new shows on television, I've gotten to a point where I stick with what I know and trust. For instance, if something was created by J.J. Abrams then I'm automatically going to be watching it - he's kept me happy and intrigued for years and years, with many different shows. I'm at a point where I more or less trust him to not disappoint me - or to at least not disappoint me until after the first season.

On the same token, if something is created/produced/written/whatevered by John Wells, it's an automatic deal-breaker and I won't go anywhere near it. That man broke my heart (mine and Caroline's and about 957987452 other people's, for that matter.) when he went against canon and killed the Carter/Abby lovestory on ER in one of the most ridiculous plot twists ever. I know other people that say he destroyed Third Watch, too, and both Caroline and I noticed an obvious and unlikable shift in the stories on The West Wing once Wells took over the helm for that show, as well.

I basically despise that man and refuse to watch anything that he has anything to do with at all. But I do know who I trust and who has been involved in making me happy over the years, so I tend to go where they lead.

Which is exactly why I was excited about October Road. Andre Nemec and his team are alumni of Alias, and other Alias alums (Ken Olin, etc) had already proven themselves more than worthwhile away from JAbrams with the wonderful new addition of Brothers and Sisters. How could I possibly go wrong following Andre and his boys into their new venture about coming home again?

Oh, if only it were true.

I'm truly sorry if you actually enjoy October Road, because I think it's an absolutely ridiculous show. I wasn't impressed by the pilot, but I gave the second episode a chance to redeem itself. It didn't work. I didn't watch it for a few weeks, but last night I watched it again because I was too lazy to pick up the remote and change the channel after what turned out to be a very boring episode of Grey's (which I'm sure will be blogged about soon enough).

It was just... bad. The premise itself is actually not terrible, and the storyline of Nick, Hannah and "their" son Sam is actually kind of nice to watch for the most part. My problem is with the supporting cast. My bigger problem is with the writing.

The dialogue is some of the cheesiest bullshit I have ever heard. What happened, Andre? You did things so well with Sydney and the gang! Where did the magic go?

It's as if my ears are fighting very hard to not start bleeding out in pain from the ridiculous dialogue this show is spewing. When the boys ran into the frat house to pick a fight, it was simply laughable. Stupid. Like reading a really bad crap-fic. You know the kind I'm talking about.

And Hannah's speech about the crutches that Nick made for her and how she liked to lean on them? Wow, that was such a subtle metaphor. I almost puked. Not to mention that the whole "hugs for sale" moment at the very end could have actually been kind of cute, had it not been followed through in entirety. Perhaps if Nick's dad had just said "I got hugs for sale" and then Nick walked over knowingly, hugging him - instead of going through the entire cheesy routine we had heard about earlier in the episode - it would have played out with less of a gag reflex. But it didn't.

I have absolutely no love for this show, and it actually makes me sad because I only wish the best for writing teams who have done me so well in the past. But honestly, I pray for this show to be cancelled.

The season finale is next week, and I can only hope that ABC sees that open timeslot as a perfect place for Perfect Gentleman. They can't really go wrong having viewers go from watching Patrick Dempsey on Grey's straight into watching Michael Vartan on his new show. I sure as hell won't be complaining.

The ratings would go through the roof and ABC would have a solid clench on Thursday night. And it would be the first time since I gave up on ER and lost Friends that I would truly feel as though Thursday is the best night on television. Ever.

HOUSE: Denial is Cameron's Favorite River in Egypt

In the past two episodes of this show (the two that I missed while I was away.), it seems that my predictions have been coming true. I stated in this post that the whole idea of Cameron/Chase having "no strings attached" sex was only going to backfire and end with one of them wanting more. It was so effing obvious that we were going down that storyline path.

And it has, in fact, happened. So now Chase wants more - he wants a real relationship with her, and she has in turn ended their sex fun altogether because (according to her) he broke the rules of their little agreement by getting emotionally attached. What I love the most about it all is that the writers were very quick to have Chase (and Foreman) point out the fact that Cameron is the last person on the planet to NOT get emotionally attached; her claiming to have zero feelings for Chase is all a lie, because Cameron gets emotionally attached to the dust bunnies under her bed and the annoying cricket outside of her window that keeps her awake all night.

She is incapable of remaining detached, especially when it comes to getting so physically close to another human being. It's only a matter of time before she finds herself unable to pretend anymore. The Cameron/Chase love story is just around the proverbial corner, but I love the way it's all coming together.

It's funny, because I never really noticed Chase as the kind of guy who could display raw emotion with his eyes - but in this last episode, he totally did. In the locker room when he gave her those flowers and just stood back, watching her and feeling so good to have simply made her smile? I melted. The look in his eyes when she told him she really didn't want a relationship with him and he simply said "I know. I also know you like flowers," totally got me. He has fallen so hard for her, and his eyes displayed an emotion that says he's willing to step back and wait for her to realize that she's lying to herself about her feelings.

ANGST! My favorite thing! FUN! This makes me so haaaaaaaaaaaaaaappy!

Chase and Foreman both know that she's lying, and I would assume it's only a matter of time before House himself calls her out on her bullshit. He may or may not, but it'd be cool if he did. Either way, the truth will come to light and Cameron/Chase will become a full-on lovestory fandom reality.

I cannot express how thrilled I am to finally have a solid 'shipper flag to fly for this show. It's taken three seasons for me to find anything to cling to in terms of lovers on this show, but I have one now and I'm totally into it.

It's also pretty obvious that House wants Cuddy all to himself, judging by how he reacted to the whole possibility of Wilson/Cuddy, but I'll save that whole shpeal until I have a better grasp on what it is I'm trying to foretell.

As of right now, I'm just going to enjoy the C/C angst and wait for that moment when she traps him in a room somewhere and is yelling about how she's not interested while at the same time on the verge of tears and inching closer and closer to his lips. And then she'll kiss him - hard and full of love - and the real fun will begin.

Or, at least that's how I picture it going down in my mind.

The Hiatus of Mae: How TiVo Saved My Relationship With Television

I just spent over two weeks travelling on business, most of which was spent in the middle of nowhere without reliable internet access - hence the lack of blogging on my part. Clearly it wasn't problematic here at CiG, as Caroline climbed above and beyond the call with her 2095704957 new blogs in my time away.

What really matters though, is that along with having no internet for two weeks, I also had no free time. Or, at least, no free time when it really counts: primetime weeknights. I was constantly working and it was impossible to even try and watch any of my shows, so I more or less gave up.

It was kind of shocking to realize less than a week into this trip that I felt no separation anxiety from my TV or my fandoms. I'm usually the one refusing to leave the house on any given night if it means I'm going to miss an important moment in fandom history, but suddenly I was apathetic. I can chalk up part of that non-chalance to the fact that I knew I had everything set to record on my DVR here at home, but it was still different; it was a feeling of not even caring if I ever watched those missed episodes at all.

Hell, Grey's wasn't new at all while I was gone and that was (generally speaking.) the only one I would have truly gone into withdrawal over. I caught an episode of Lost and Brothers and Sisters on during one very rare day off from the grind, so it helped to quench that need for a while. But I still missed the last three episodes of Friday Night Lights - the only show I really, really wanted to keep track of - as well as every episode of everything I blog here for, aside from Grey's and Heroes, which both kindly took a TV hiatus at the same time as my own.

I came home with the intention of spending an entire day on the couch with my TiVo, catching up on what I had missed. But I got home and found myself less and less interested - found myself admitting to Caroline that being away and missing so much on TV had left me feeling like I was just going to stop watching them entirely. It was like I had lost the fangirl in me whilst I was away, and this new Mae felt so overwhelmed by what she had missed that she didn't even give a rat's ass if she ever saw those shows again.

It was a really effing weird feeling. I assume there are plenty of people in the world who have actual busy lives and no time to become truly invested in television, but I have never been one of them. Television has always pretty much been a big part of my life. Television is my career, quite literally. So for me to suddenly not care about watching it? That was creepy.

Lucky for me, I finally did sit down and catch up on my shows - it took place over a three day period instead of a quick 8 - 10 hour spree, but it happened nonetheless. And you know what I learned?

I have no idea how people live without TiVo. No, seriously. I was trying to convince myself that I didn't care, but it turns out I had missed out on some of the best effing episodes of ALL my shows, ALL SEASON. I never would have forgiven myself had I decided to give up on them entirely. TiVo saved my fandom life, and it really boggles my mind to try and imagine how I would have pulled that off if DVR hadn't been invented yet.

Memories of the old days of VHS tapes are still mildly vivid in my mind's eye, and I cannot even begin to figure out how I would have caught up on my shows if that was still our best bet in recording devices. I don't know about all of you fandom kids, but I used to have entire drawers and boxes in my bedroom dedicated to holding all of the VHS tapes I used to record episodes of ER and whatever else I was in love with at the time. It was an overwhelming collection that I was happy to throw into a dumpster once ER gave me a solid premise for hating it forever, and it really makes me wonder how anyone could survive today on that same recording plan.

There's no way in hell that I could have taped everything I was missing on a VCR. I would have had to have called several different friends and family members and tasked them with taping one specific show each week, because my own VCR would have imploded trying to keep up with my TV schedule.

Without TiVo, I truly believe I would have simply given up on the majority of my shows after missing two weeks of programming. Without TiVo, I would have been rendered worthless to this blog. Without TiVo, Caroline would have killed me.

But I did catch up, and I am more addicted to my shows than ever before. The episodes I missed while I was gone were just that good.

I can't believe I came so close to walking away from my lovelies. If you don't have a TiVo, I am incredibly interested to hear how the holy hell you manage to keep up with your shows from week to week. Because I surely couldn't do it.

TiVo, you are my hero.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

ER: Noah's Arc?

Here's a short post about my hopes and dreams.

You may have noticed by now that I have a pretty serious love-hate relationship with ER. Basically, I used to love it more than anything else in the entire world (probably even more than my sister), and now I hate it. The Carter-Abby breakup led me to completely abandon my ties to the fandom, the series, and especially John Wells. (May he spend eternity with Michael and Walt.)

Anyway, Mae and I both agree that ER could be restored to our good graces with the snap of a finger and the return of John Carter.

According to rumor (and now semi-confimed by Michael Ausiello), Carter will indeed spend a few episodes at County next year.

Before I get my hopes up, I should preface this with:

It could be more lame Africa episodes, in which Carter and Abby have no interaction whatsoever.

Carter and Abby will, at this point, be married. To different people. Hmm.

However, despite warnings to myself that Carter's return will probably mean nothing to Abby, my gut reaction was "Noah? Certain people in Croaaaaatiaaaaa? Baaaabieeeees? 'Biiiiitas?"

Literally, if you brought Carter back and put him in scenes with Abby where they weren't pretending to be happy for each other, I would be hanging on every moment of those episodes. I would be blogging about it constantly, I would be running around like an idiot before, during, and, after the episodes, I would be an ER fan again.

I would love it.

Carter and Abby remain, four years after I abandoned Thursday nights because of them, remain my OTP. My heart holds out hope that producers would use Noah Wyle's arc to put the characters back together, raise baby Joe together in America, adopt lots of little Carbita girls, and live happily ever after.

And tonight, I sleep with the feeling that this might just happen.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lost: Magic Box a Matter of Degrees?

I’m pretty good at TV. A decade plus of being a fangirl has given me the equivalent of a Master’s Degree in all things small screen.

Lost is pretty much the perfect show for a person like me to watch, as it often requires the viewers to have at least a BA in Jabrams.

Yeah, I majored in Jabrams.

I started watching the show about a year ago, when I watched DVDs and iTunes before catching up with real time Lost on the episode “Lockdown.” Watching DVDs with my then-friend now-roommate Melissa, I think my TV-smarts often surprised her. I connected the Oceanic 815 children to the Others when the Others were seen trekking through the jungle with a teddy-bear-toting small-footed person.

Melissa: “You are awfully observant.”
Caroline: “Well, of course I am observant. I’ve only been living in the Jabrams world for 47 years.”

It seemed only natural to me, then, that on a show riddled with con artists, some of them would be connected. Long ago, I forecasted the connection between James Ford and Anthony Cooper.

I predicted that Locke’s dad, who we presume has been working under aliases, was actually the original Sawyer, whose name James Ford adopted after his father committed a murder-suicide upon the knowledge that his wife was cheating on him.

Now, with the release of an ABC synopsis for the upcoming episode “The Brig,” I am more certain than ever that I am the queen of television.

“A newly focused Locke breaks away from “The Others,” it reads, “in an attempt to persuade Sawyer to help rid them of a great nemesis that has caused nothing but pain in both of their lives.”

What else could this be besides the man in the magic box?

I am almost positive now that Anthony Cooper is the real Sawyer.

What I don’t know does Locke find this out? Obviously he does, if he’s trying to “persuade Sawyer” to join him in the fight against this guy. (How much of a fight could it be, though? The man is tied to a chair in the middle of a jungle.)

Anyway, I know I said a few days ago that I was about ready to give up on Lost, and I am. I know it’s extremely hypocritical of me to update now with exciting news about Sawyer, but I really am psyched about this one. Not because I care about Sawyer. I don’t.

I just really enjoy being right.

Thank you, Jabrams. I'll take my PhD now.

TV Pilots and Titles: A Show By Any Other Name...?

Last Thursday, I spent the evening watching reruns of Across the Hall and The Gilmore Way before settling in for the new special catch-up of Complications.

Yeah, not really.

Before their pilots aired, these shows were retitled in the eleventh hour to become what we now know as Friends, Gilmore Girls, and Grey’s Anatomy, respectively.

All I can say is thank God.

What’s in a name? When it comes to television, a lot.

Grey’s Anatomy is brilliant little piece of wordplay on the title of the world-famous reference book Gray’s Anatomy. From the title, you can infer two things—sex and medicine. As a fan of the show, I can say that such an inference would be extremely accurate. Grey’s Anatomy probably has more sex than any other show I’ve ever watched. I wouldn’t be surprised to see just about any two of those characters hook up. The actors just ooze sex, to the point where everyone has sexual chemistry and tension with everyone else.

And while you can’t get all that from a title, Grey’s Anatomy comes an awful lot closer to conveying that than Complications, or the maybe-even-worse Surgeons, another almost-title.

Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten so attached to Grey’s, but I cannot imagine talking about Surgeons with Mae. (Can’t imagine talking about anything with Mae these days, since she’s become a workaholic and hasn’t returned my phone calls in a week and a half!)

Mae and I are both quite excited about the Michael Vartan/Dylan McDermott pilot. We don’t know a whole lot about it, only that our favorite dreamboat is headlining.

Let's face it, I would watch Complications if it had Michael Vartan in it.

Until recently, this new level of television sexitude was titled Boardrooms and Bedrooms.

Talk about a mouthful. I can barely get that phrase out of my mouth without tripping on it or getting bored by the sound of my own voice and just stopping mid-utterance. I mean, can you really picture standing around the watercooler saying, “Can you believe what happened on Boardrooms and Bedrooms last night?”

Boardrooms and Bedrooms is the equivalent of calling Grey’s Anatomy Sex and Medicine.

Get creative, executives! A sloppy title is usually indicative of a sloppy show. There’s a laziness and lack of confidence inherent in a poor title. You slap something stupid on a pilot, and it looks like you just didn’t care enough to give it a proper title. And if you, the creator, don’t care enough, then why should I?

Michael Vartan’s show has been renamed Perfect Gentleman, which I am much more pleased with. It seems a little more romantic comedy-esque, a little less dirty-sex-with-coworkers. I haven’t spoken to Mae about it, because, you know, she’s been on business travel for what feels like years, but I’d imagine she’s happier with this, too.

I’m still torn about the title of the Addison Montgomery spinoff, Private Practice. This title has grown on me since I heard about it a few weeks ago, but I’m still not crazy about it. Truth be told, it’s kinda boring. There’s nothing sexy about that title, unless you want to find some sort of sick double-meaning to the word “private.” I don’t think it’s there.

If you really want to upset me with a title, do what David Duchovny did and title your new show Californication. It makes me feel dirty just talking about it—I hate it. Sure, your show is on Showtime, but that doesn’t mean you have to push the envelope as far as you possibly can. (Check back here in the next few days for a blog on why I really dislike pay cable.)

Californication is like what would happen if Grey’s Anatomy was called Dark and Twisty Slutty Mistresses.

It’s so gross, David Duchovny.

I mean, you wouldn’t talk about this show around the watercooler, because you wouldn’t want your boss to overhear you say such a nasty word. Seriously.

I’d rather watch Untitled David Duchovny Project.

Let’s not kid ourselves, I’ll be watching it, because it’s going to be on after Weeds, and because it stars the man who was Foxy long before Party of Five introduced me to Matthew Fox. But I am not going to talk to my mom about it after it airs.

And not just because I was embarrassed that I kept watching The X-Files until the end, even though she stopped watching after season six.

Because I hate that slutty title.

Titles mean everything. They can be the difference between hit and flop, so naming a show should be a huge priority of pilot-sellers. So here’s hoping next season’s pilots get it right and remove dirty words from our TV Guide vocabulary.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Office: "Safety" Happy Dance

This week, I had been working on a scathing blog about The Office and what I feel has been its recent downward spiral. Jim was bothering me, Pam was frustrating me, and Karen was boring me. Even Michael’s antics were rather lackluster.

Maybe it’s just me hating the March/April period of repeats, but my repertoire of television is rather disappointing right now.

I was ready to bitch about it.

Then I saw “Safety Training.”

This episode restored my faith in The Office and in Jam. It had a very Season Two feel to it, what with Michael doing something ridiculously stupid while the rest of the staff watches. Jim and Pam were on speaking terms, everybody was happy...

I’ve heard complaints that this episode lacked plot motion, but you know what? I’m okay with that.

Most episodes from Seasons One and Two can be watched individually without concern for being lost in a sea of backstory. They’re independently hilarious, and, no, they don’t really do much. Remember, for the first thirty episodes or so, Jim pined helplessly for Pam. Sure, they occasionally threw in a “Booze Cruise,” but other than that, the Jam storyline remained relatively flat. Fast-forward to this season, where one of them does something ridiculously emo in every episode.

“Safety Training” was a delightful departure from the unnecessary drama that The Office has been shrouded in lately.

Funny that I say that, seeing as much of this week’s hilarity came from Michael’s threat of suicide.

I was thoroughly pleased with the whole episode, from Creed’s potato snack to Kelly’s Netflix explanation to the watermelon “test.”

I am also hopeful for the future of Jam for the first time in several episodes.

I doubt the season will end with a juicy Jam kiss, nor do I want it to. First of all, it would be too reminiscent of “Casino Night,” and wouldn’t properly show the character development that has taken place in the last year. Plus, right now, Jim and Pam are about as far from each other as we’ve ever seen them. Having them make up and make out in the finale would require the pair to gloss over all the problems they have right now. I would be unsatisfied with such a result.

The only thing I’ll allow myself to hope for is a Jim Desk Relocation. I predict that the finale will end with Jim emptying his desk and moving back to his pre-Stamford work station. This would give the audience some Jam happiness—maybe he sinks down into his chair and catches her eye, or positions his Office Olympic Bronze Medal just so—without skipping any of the necessary steps toward reconciliation. Maybe Jim will have broken up with Karen, making Jim’s move back symbolic of things returning to pre-Stamford normalcy.

At least as normal as Dunder-Mifflin gets.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Lost: Please Stop Squishing the Jabies

On July 22, 2003, I updated my LiveJournal with the news that I was officially quitting ER. I went totally cold turkey. Stopped talking about it, stopped hanging out with my ER friends (including Mae), stopped watching the show completely. Since that day, I think I have seen a total of maybe five new episodes. And every time, I’ve ended the hour feeling like a fool.

J.J. Abrams and I are now at that same crossroads.

Much as I am loath to say, Lost has these last five episodes to keep me as a viewer, and then I’m done. I’ve said before how I felt like I was promised Jate in the Pilot, and almost three seasons later, nobody has come through for me on that one.

The promo that aired after the last episode really pissed me off.

Because if there’s one thing that just absolutely kills me, more than any other element of modern television, it’s backwards-moving storylines.

Yeah, I was broken up about the cage sex. But it seemed like Kate regretted that choice, as evidenced by her bitching at Sawyer on the trip back, and her sincere double-meaning apology to Jack at the Barracks. She seems to be seeing Jack in a more romantic light as of late, and seems to be showing him just how much she cares for him.

And he, being the cold douchebag that he is lately, pushes her away. Not because he doesn’t want her or love her, but because he’s stubborn and jealous.

I have no patience for this whatsoever.

The promo shows Sawyer and Kate having more jungle sex, and Evangeline Lilly told Kristin Veitch that her tent had been expanded to fit two.

I seriously don’t know what to say, other than that I am extremely dismayed. What was the point of Kate going back for Jack if she was just going to get back with Sawyer? What was the point of the Jack/Kate hand-holding that literally melted my insides?

Kate’s moving backward! She spent the last eight episodes growing more than we had ever seen her grow before. She exhibited bravery, loyalty, compassion, and what I thought was a deep affection for Jack and a respect for the relationship they had together. And now, she’s throwing that all away, probably because she senses Jack and Juliet getting closer.

I hate this choice, Jabrams. And you will pay for it with my loyalty.

And the thing that makes me even angrier is that they can’t even say now that Jacket is a legitimate option. Jack and Juliet isn’t ever going to work now because she’s betraying him! Jack’s pretty serious about loyalty, and I know he’s not going to be happy when, next week, he finds out that Juliet’s been playing him this whole time. By revealing that Juliet is still in cahoots with the Others, J.J. and the team basically made Jacket into another plot device to keep Jack and Kate apart.

That said, I’m delighted that Juliet is double-crossing the Lostaways. In my Love-to-Hate blog, I said, “The problem is...besides being interested in/involved with half of [my] OTP, [this woman hasn’t] really done anything wrong.... Juliet hasn’t done anything at all. She brought Jack sandwiches. I want my lovey to be fed! I still hate her.”

I now feel justified in my hatred, so thanks for that.

It’s one of those things, similar to what’s going on over at The Office right now, that if they would both just realize that they could have each other, they would. But instead they have to play up the triangle for as long as humanly possible.

Immediately after the most recent episode, in which we learned that women don’t survive island pregnancies, I was planning on titling this blog “That’s Okay, I Can Wait For Jabies,” but I can’t. I want Jabies for Christmas. I want Jate to happen right now. It’s been three seasons, and I’m tired of waiting. And I’m not going to do it anymore.

Yes, I know there’s a lot more to Lost than Jate. It’s probably the most intriguing show plot-wise that I’ve ever watched. But I am so invested in the Jack/Kate relationship that to continue watching now would just be self-destructive. (Wednesday night, I literally had to lie in bed and try to name as many Sports Night episodes as I could just to get my mind off this whole Lost debacle. I really need a boyfriend.)

The only way to keep me satisfied is to give me some more Jate development by the season finale. Seems like from what I’ve been hearing that there’s going to be a battle between the Others and the Lostaways—this will probably happen when Ben and Juliet reconnect in a week. Juliet’s true colors will be revealed when she fights on the side of the Others, and Jack will be revealed as the too-trusting idiot that he is. (My roommate Melissa and I call this “Sydney Bristow Syndrome.”) It’ll be his turn to apologize to Kate for, you know, causing a siege, and they can start rebuilding from there. Maybe Sawyer witnesses their tearful apologies, and realizes once and for all that he ain’t never going to be able to make it with Kate.

Yeah, this theory makes Kate a terrible tease, but I don’t really see any other options at this point. And when my choices are Sawyer getting cockblocked and me not watching Lost anymore, I’ll go with the first choice every time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Caroline Crosses Over: How TV's Finest Can Combine Efforts

In an early season four episode of Alias, Sydney and Vaughn throw a party for Weiss’s birthday. Everybody’s having fun, eating pizza, drinking beer. Suddenly, if you listen very carefully, you can hear the music subtly change. The new song is none other than “You All Everybody,” the single by Driveshaft, Charlie’s beloved band on Lost.

Crap like that makes my day. I love when my favorite shows mention each other, or when it is inferred that they exist in the same universe. Obviously such allusions were pretty easy between two shows in the Jabrams world; they’re more fun to catch when they’re more random. For instance, because of this reference, are we to believe that Charlie’s ex-girlfriend Lucy’s father owns Werner-Hogg, the British Office’s Dunder-Mifflin?

I wish crossovers happened more often. In fact, I already have several ideas about how some of my favorite shows could combine efforts. Here are some of my best ideas.

I. ER and Grey’s Anatomy: McClooney?

When Julianna Marguiles and George Clooney left ER, their characters moved to Seattle to settle down with their daughters. Now, Carol Hathaway and Doug Ross are presumably working as medical professionals in the Seattle area. Why not, then, bring these two beloved characters to Grey’s Anatomy, a show set conveniently in a Seattle hospital? Grey’s needs more nurses, and it never hurts to bring in another sexy doctor. I was anticipating the announcement of Patrick Dempsey as People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, but George Clooney definitely took that honor this year.

I’ve also been saying for a while now that Grey’s needs a pediatrician; I predicted here that Meredith would choose pedes as a specialty, and she’s gonna need a mentor. Plus, Hathaway and Meredith can bond over attempted suicide, while Izzie and Doug can chat about getting too involved with patient care. Sounds like a party to me!

II. The West Wing and Private Practice: The First Wives Club?

I don’t think I’ve yet said this here, but my favorite West Wing character of all time was Amy Gardner. Basically, I want to be her. I’m interning this summer at a big non-profit women’s activism group, and I’m pretty much going to pretend I’m her all summer. God, she’s so badass.

The only TV character who could ever compete with her for badass-ness is Addison Montgomery. I have this theory that Amy and Addison were best friends in college, but lost touch when Amy moved to Washington and Addison moved to New York with Derek. So I’d love to see the two characters “reconnect” by having Addison help Amy with, say, a prenatal healthcare initiative. In addition to getting legislation passed that will help Addison (and lady doctors everywhere) do her job better, they can also dish about Josh, Derek, and those slutty slutty whores Donna Moss and Meredith Grey. Just kidding. (Hey, this crossover is better than the one I came up with wherein Evil Francie, played by Private Practice cast member Merrin Dungey, infiltrates the fertility clinic to steal eggs for Covenant purposes.)

III. Lost and The X-Files: Did Jack Also Have a College Boyfriend?

Compare the following:

“I know your size. I know your blood type, your resting heart rate, your childhood fear of clowns. I know the name of your college boyfriend, your true hair color, your ATM pin number, favorite charities, pet peeves. I know you spend too much time alone. And I know that on one lonely night you invited Mulder to your bed. I was as surprised as you are.” – Shadow Man, The X-Files, “Trust No 1”

“I know where he was born, I know what his parents did for a living. I know that he was married, and who he was married to. I know why he got a divorce. I know how his father died. I know his height, his weight, his birthday, and his blood type.” – Juliet, Lost, “Left Behind”

Could Juliet be a supersoldier? She seems to know just as much about Jack as the Shadow Man knew about Scully. Now, I guess we’re supposed to assume she knows so much because the Others have files for all of the Lostaways (all of that info would supposedly be easily accessible to somebody willing to do a little investigative research), but I would really enjoy it if Juliet was actually an alien.

For those of you who don’t know, the Shadow Man was played by none other than Lost’s very own Terry O’Quinn (although he’s credited as Terrance Quinn).


Well, yeah.

But maybe Locke is, like, still a supersoldier. Maybe he TOLD Juliet all that stuff about Jack before he left with the Others.

That would be awesome.

IV. Alias and The Office: SpyFam Part Deux?

I am a big fan of connections. Like, say, Blythe Danner played Noah Wyle’s mom in The Myth of Fingerprints and also played Maura Tierney’s mom in Forces of Nature, so basically, Carter and Abby are siblings, right?

Hee, so fun. It’s like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, only with my TV people.

Anyway, my favorite villainess this side of Cruella DeVil is Lauren Reed. Her mother, Olivia Reed, also a Covenant operative, is played by Peggy Lipton. Peggy Lipton’s daughter in real life is Rashida Jones, who plays Karen on The Office.

So basically, Lauren Reed and Karen Fillipelli are sisters.

I would really enjoy a reveal that Karen is actually a terrorist, posing as a paper saleswoman in order to...well, I’m not really sure why she would need to do that. I’m pretty sure Jim doesn’t know any national secrets. Maybe they are both deep-cover agents of competing intelligence agencies. Jim is CIA, of course, and Karen is Covenant.

I will really need to work on the whys of this little scenario, as I can’t imagine what kind of information you could get out of infiltrating Dunder-Mifflin. I mean, I’m pretty sure if Michael Scott knew any government secrets, you could just ask him and he’d tell you. Not a very good secret-keeper, that one.

Maybe Dunder-Mifflin is like Credit Dauphine, just a front for a secret branch of the CIA. And the only people who know the truth are Toby, Jim, and Creed. The selling of the paper is just a pointless exercise so that the branch can maintain its cover.

Do you know how pissed Dwight would be if he found out?

Monday, April 9, 2007

Alias and The X-Files: The Advent of Disney Happy Paint

During these bleak months of March and April, when most of my favorite TV shows are on hiatus, I often turn to my extensive DVD collection to provide me with some much-needed entertainment. My roommate Melissa and I have gone through the entire fourth and fifth seasons of Alias in the last three weeks, and when she’s not around, I busy myself with X-Files: Mythology DVDs and logic puzzles. (Yes, I lead a very exciting life.) For years, I have noted the connection between these two series. The X-Files was such a groundbreaking piece of television that it influenced not only the science fiction genre, but the entire TV community.

If you watch a show with a “man of science/man of faith” dynamic, thank The X-Files.

If you use the word “shipper,” thank the X-Files fandom.

Perhaps never more so is this influence obvious than in the work of J.J. Abrams, particularly Alias. Now, I love J.J., and I love Alias, but after the second season finale, it seemed that almost every episode—and especially every major plot arc—was reminiscent of a much-beloved X-File. On the audio commentary track of season three’s “Full Disclosure,” producers discuss the influence of “shows that start with letters at the end of the alphabet.” They claim that, while they are fans of that unnamed show, they found that toward the end of the series, it became obvious that the writers really didn’t know where they were going, and swore up and down that Alias was different.

In the end, Alias was not different. The fourth and fifth seasons are more wandering than a chicken with its head cut off, and the finale is an unsatisfying end to a five-year journey. Rather than beating a very-dead horse (check out Mae’s blog about the disappointment of “All the Time in the World”) by berating Alias, I’m going to discuss the striking similarities between my two favorite spy-fi shows, and explore how the tone of the shows allowed them to be separate entities.

For its first five seasons, The X-Files was shot in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver is a bleak, rainy city—not pretty. Throw in a couple of smoke-filled rooms, and you’ve got yourself the perfect location for a show about government conspiracies and back-door deals with aliens. Much of the show’s action took place in Mulder’s office, located in the basement of the FBI Building. The agents primarily wore suits, and both lived in comfortable, but rather dull apartments.

Alias, meanwhile, benefited from Jabrams’s comic book approach to storytelling. The sets were exaggerated, from Sydney’s swanky bachelorette pad to the “Apple Store” offices of APO. And while the sets were awesome, they had nothing on the costumes. Missionwear was extensive, colorful, and sexy. And when Sydney was stuck at an APO desk, she wore tailored outfits that were always far more flattering than anything in Dana Scully’s closet. The whole series (shot on the Disney lot, by the way) was just absolutely swathed in color, making it all the more thrilling to watch.

(Part of this discrepancy, I think, is budgeting. Thanks to the success of The X-Files, networks were more apt to fund high-concept shows to the hilt, allowing producers to build beautifully elaborate sets and costumes.)

Due in part to the color (but more so related to the writing), Alias had a much brighter tone than The X-Files ever did.

For most of the series, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were the only cast members in The X-Files’s opening credits, only adapted in seasons eight and nine, when Duchovny’s exit caused a cast shake-up. Even so, the most actors ever to be featured in the credits was five, in the series finale. The show was entirely about those two people. They were two lonely individuals who had only their work and each other—every fight was a Mulder and Scully Against Everyone Else type deal. Alias survived on a virtual revolving door of leading and supporting characters, totaling seventeen over five seasons. While Mulder and Scully single-handedly took on everyone from the rebel aliens to Jeffrey Spender, Sydney Bristow had a veritable army of support staff. If Mulder and Scully had had a Jack Bristow-like character, the show probably would’ve needed at most six seasons.

The CIA of the Bristow era was quite powerful. With unlimited resources and contacts, the team always proved to be a force in the field. APO was no match for any terrorists, all of whom pretty much ended up crumbling in the shadow of the American government. All but one of the bad guys ended up dead, and our heroes got happy endings or heroic deaths. It was a little more difficult for Mulder and Scully, who, as I mentioned, were pretty much doing everything themselves. And they weren’t just dealing with misguided aunties with fantasies of world domination over a zombie slave race. They were dealing with extra-biological entities, who had superior technology, intuition, and, oh yeah, most of them could shape-shift. And some of them worked for the government.

Even though this ultimately resulted in the romantic coupling of Mulder and Scully, producers seemed to enter into it almost reluctantly. When the show ended, we still didn’t know when they first hooked up or if/how they conceived Baby William. They were just suddenly in love. While living in desert exile with Gibson Praise, Mulder sent Scully emails with “Dearest Dana” as the subject line, and I felt so awkward listening to her do the voiceover of his super-mushy words. The man rarely called her Dana, let alone say stuff like “I’m lonely, Dana, uncertain of my ability to live like this.” Alias was committed to Sydney and Vaughn from day one—October 1, 2001. Sydney had a real life away from her work, a life that included Vaughn. They were allowed to be sweet together, to say things like “Yes, I’ll break into the Vatican with you,” because Alias and the CIA didn’t force them to have tough exteriors and non-fraternization complexes.

While Alias’s finale might have been disappointing, The X-Files ended with the most depressing message of futility ever to be found on the airwaves. Where last we left our heroes, they were awaiting the arrival of the 2012 apocalypse and biding time by eluding the feds. And they gave up their precious miracle son William for adoption.

Overall, Alias was just a happier place to be. Jabrams gave me more fluff in any random Sydney/Vaughn scene that Chris Carter gave me in an entire series of The X-Files. Which is probably why I wasn’t watching The X-Files for the romance. Watching The X-Files for the Mulder/Scully relationship would be like watching Ally McBeal to learn about the legal profession.

So, basically, I would argue that Alias blatantly stole from The X-Files and then put a fresh coat of Disney Happy Paint on it.

Some Alias characters are reminiscent of X-Files characters, while others seem to be virtual facsimiles of TXF counterparts. Dixon in his Joint Task Force Director days is Skinner-like, and Marshall’s tech skills make him like a Lone Gunman-in-training, only without the paranoia.

Sloane, however, is basically the Cigarette-Smoking Man, except less anonymous. Both were rogue agents who had come up at their respective agencies with the fathers of our heroes. They infiltrated the government repeatedly, but were really pursuing their own devious agendas of world domination and immortality. The only difference between the two, really, was that Sydney Bristow, much as I love her, trusted Sloane over and over again, only to kick herself when he (gasp!) was actually evil again. Mulder and Scully never trusted ol’ C.G.B. Spender.

Throughout the series, Sydney Bristow seemed to incorrectly translate “Trust No One” into “Trust Everyone” on a daily basis. Whether it was Sloane, a Covenant cellmate, her mom, or Lauren Reed, Sydney was far too trust-happy for a CIA spy.

Vaughn, meanwhile, was far less quick to trust, as was Mulder. They both made big mistakes only once—Vaughn with Lauren Reed, Mulder with Diana Fowley. Lauren is a direct descendant of Diana, as a new member of the task force who steals Vaughn’s heart and makes Sydney jealous. (Diana’s involvement in the X-Files, however frustrating, had quite a glorious payoff for the MSR.) The reveals of their duplicity (Lauren a Covenant higher-up, Diana in cahoots with the Smoking Man) were some of the most gratifying television moments ever. (Read more about me loving to hate these beyotches here.)

One ever-present figure on Alias was Julian Sark, a free agent with loose ties to every bad guy on the globe. He is strikingly reminiscent of Alex Krycek, who pandered to the Syndicate just as often as he followed his own agenda. (He also ended up saving Scully and an in-vitro William in “Essence.”) These guys have strong rivalries with our heroes, but we love the episodes where they all have to work together to stop the real bad guys. You know what they say about enemies of enemies...

Okay, so you’ve got these big organizations threatening the lives of innocent people across the globe. Sometimes they want to use you to test the black oil vaccine, so that they can survive the alien apocalypse; other times, they want to use a big red ball to turn you into a zombie...we still don’t really get that one. (However, note again the difference in color here. The X-Files used the black oil, while Alias used a big red ball.)

Then you’ve got your devoted public servant with a very open mind. Both Mulder and Sydney Bristow grew up under less-than-ideal circumstances. Mulder’s sister Samantha was abducted while he was sitting right there in the room, and Sydney lost her mother to a tragic car accident. Their fathers were largely absent, and both of their mothers were having affairs with the aforementioned criminal masterminds. For Mulder, this led to the revelation that the Cigarette-Smoking Man was actually his father. Sydney fretted for a while about the possibility of Sloane as her father, but a test later proved Jack’s paternity.

The Disney Happy Paint makes the evil guy not your daddy.

Disney Happy Paint, however, can’t save you from the horror that is a doubling procedure. The X-Files introduced shape-shifting aliens early in the series, most notably with the Alien Bounty Hunter. After him, though, it seemed like just about all the aliens could do it. The melty face ones could do it. Anyway, Alias’s version of this was a little more concrete, because it was like this technology that would turn one person into another. It was not instantaneous, and it was permanent. Over the course of the series, it happened to Ethan Hawke, Francie, Irina Derevko, Renee’s father, and, finally, Sydney herself. (For a project which Sydney supposedly exploded in “Double Agent,” they sure used this science a whole hell of a lot more times.) Such use of the helix protocol always caused so much mayhem. Which is which? How do I tell? I THOUGHT I KILLED YOU!

It got very old, in both cases. On The X-Files, they all pretty much went like this: Shape-shifter Becomes Mulder. Shape-shifter Fools Scully. Real Mulder Must Find Scully Before It’s Too Late! Showdown Between Shape-shifter and Real Mulder Results in Shape-shifter Getting Poked in the Neck. It was a cool concept in season four or five, but by the time it got around to season seven, I was so tired of those damn melty-faced shape-shifters I could've kill someone.

And Alias’s doubling procedure ended up being an excuse toward the end of the series. Lena Olin basically told everybody she wasn’t coming back to the show, so season four began with the revelation that Jack had killed her. When she agreed to return for two episodes at the end of the same season, the producers were so excited to bring her back that they went back to the old standard and just said that it was actually her double that had been killed. What a freakin’ cop-out.

Eventually, our heroines get pregnant. This is rather remarkable in both cases, because both Sydney and Scully had their eggs taken from them by the bad guys. (Well, Sydney only had half of them taken. The Disney Happy Paint leaves you with a fifty-fifty shot of conceiving, I guess.) On The X-Files, the pregnancy was written in because the show didn’t really have anywhere else to go, and they thought the show might be ending anyhow. (Can you imagine how pissed I would have been if “Requiem” had been the series finale? With him shooting up into space like that? Oh, Chris Carter, you’d better be glad it didn’t finish that way. I’d have had your head.) On Alias, it was because it would’ve been whoa hard to work around Jennifer Garner’s real-life pregnancy. Sydney Bristow’s normal jobs aren’t really conducive to costumes that would hide a baby bump. So Sydney got pregnant, and her unborn baby often participated in operations.

Anyway, these babies were special. William could move mobiles with his mind, Isabelle could put together the Indicator puzzle. Somehow, the bad guys (aliens/Prophet Five) know that these babies were different, and infiltrated the OB-GYNs. Scully’s Doctor Parenti ended up with his face in a jar, while Sydney ran into Dr. Lynn when Prophet Five held her captive on a barge. Despite these pressures, and the fact that the bad guys were literally right around the corner, both babies were born healthy. Disney Happy Paint at least allowed Sydney Bristow a little privacy; the supersoldiers actually witnessed Baby William’s birth on The X-Files.

Okay, so the babies are okay, but they have lonely mommies. Because, in addition to the babies, the bad guys want the daddies. On The X-Files, Mulder was gone for most of Scully’s pregnancy (dead) and most of William’s life in Washington (hiding in the desert with Gibson Praise), only stopping by for a couple months leading up to the birth. He went into hiding right after kissing Scully and seemingly admitting to being William’s father. Vaughn, meanwhile, was gunned down and presumed dead shortly after Sydney found out she was pregnant, but really he was faking it.

So Dad’s in hiding, Mom’s trying to balance finding the truth/destroying Prophet Five with motherhood. While one cracks under the pressure of keeping her child safe, the other becomes even more dedicated to her cause, before the entire happy Spy Family is reunited in the finale. Thanks, Disney Happy Paint, for not making Sydney Bristow give up Isabelle for adoption.

Actually, thanks, Disney Happy Paint, for everything you did for Alias. I’m not sure I could have handled the darkness of The X-Files for another five seasons. While I appreciate the X-Files mythology so much—and am still compelled by the DVDs years later—the show really scares and depresses me. The unending doom and gloom at times overwhelmed the story, while Alias offered sweet reprieves from the Rambaldi chaos at least once a week, even when Sydney and Vaughn were not together. And while the Rambaldi story was probably not as compelling as the aliens/conspiracy story, those happy moments made me an Alias addict.

Are you desperate for more of my discussion on supersoldiers? Check back in the coming days for my take on which Lost character might just be one!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Forget Next Week's Office – Get Your Safety Training Here!

Next week’s episode of The Office is called “Safety Training,” so I decided to do a little Safety Training of my own. There are many tenets of staying alive to be found on our favorite TV shows, and I figured I should share what I’ve learned. Sharing is really what we’re all about here at Chaos in General, and you’ll really be better off in the long run if you know how to take care of yourself. It’s a scary world out there, and Sydney Bristow can’t always have your back.

1. “You should have your keys already out. You never know who might be lurking.” These words, uttered by Dr. Carter in ER’s ninth season, have been a lesson to me. Just last night, I walked home from a friend’s house with my keys in my hand. Not only does it prevent unnecessary lingering on your front porch, your keys could also be a good weapon if you got attacked, God forbid. Use your resources!

2. Never EVER go in parking garages alone. Or at all. Bad stuff happens in parking garages. Sydney Bristow’s first fight was in the SD-6 parking garage in the Pilot, and many more altercations, interrogations, and general mischief-making took place in parking garages throughout that series. Let’s see, there was the time Dixon and Renee tied the guy to the hood of the car and then whipped him around the parking garage. Oh, and then the time that Lauren Reed dry-humped that Convenant skeez and then slit his throat. Umm, Sloane snuck up on Sydney and Isabelle in the finale.... On The X-Files, the ultimate showdown between Team Mulder and Billy Miles in part took place in the FBI parking garage in "Essence." It ended in a huge explosion that killed Alex Krycek and which Team Mulder barely escaped. Danger lies in these concrete structures of death.

3. For God’s sake, lock your doors. And if someone knocks while you have been drinking and they are shouting at you, it’s probably not a good idea to “see what they want.” They want to beat you up, Abby Lockhart.

4. Be wary of electrical appliances. Yes, operating, say, a toaster oven, might be an everyday part of your life, but beware. Objects like toasters, microwaves, and George Foreman grills are dangerous and deadly. Michael Scott burned his foot pretty bad on his George Foreman grill. Jack and Irina experienced a toaster oven disaster when they got drunk and forgot about their toast. Which leads me to point number five...

5. Don’t drink and do anything. Drinking on television is not going to go well for anybody. TV drunks are more stupid than real-life drunks, and nobody on TV either knows how to drink in moderation or has an alcohol tolerance above that of my seventeen-year-old sister who threw up the last time she visited me at college. They inadvertently kiss people (Pam Beesly), crash their bicycles (Jim Halpert), or set kitchen appliances ablaze. It’s a bad idea, kids.

6. Run. I can’t explain how irritated I was with Alias’s first season finale. Vaughn, who’s admittedly not the brightest crayon in the box, found himself trapped between a rapidly-closing door and a huge wall of water. Sydney made it to the other side, while Vaughn just stood there and WATCHED it. The man literally watched as a hallway tsunami came full-force at his face. And then he was upset when he didn’t make it through the door on time. That was stupid.

7. When all else fails, scream. The worst thing is not falling off a pier, Meredith Grey. The worst thing is not getting found. If you had taken that plunge in season two, you’d have been screwed. A few good screams of “Help!” could have saved you the trouble of hanging out in surgatory with Denny and your mom. Nobody should be too proud to ask for help, especially if they are bleeding, drowning, or otherwise impaired.

You can learn what not to do from your favorite TV characters. They make safety mistakes every day, and these screw-ups often cost them big time. These guidelines can keep you out of trouble in everyday situations requiring some safety judgments. Just don’t ask us what to do if you encounter a supersoldier. I’ve got no clue.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Lost: Movin' On Up?

First of all, may I offer you the following quote from Damon Lindelof: “Christmas may be celebrated in Season Four.” Got it? Now read my March 8 blog titled “Lost: All I Want For You is Christmas.”

Funnily enough, lately I’ve been musing on how every Lost event could affect the Christmas celebration. Like, I know Nikki and Paolo were buried with their diamonds, but Jack could totally do a little excavating and turn one of those little rocks into a pretty nice piece of jewelry. (Screw my theory on an engagement ring made out of twigs—give that girl a diamond!)

Yeah, that’s pretty sick.

Anyway, remember that whole season one debate about moving to the caves? Jack’s half of the group thought the caves would be safer, while the Kate Contingent refused to give up hope of rescue by leaving the beach. Both sides had legitimate arguments at the time, even though they pretty much abandoned the caves for the hatch, and now that it’s gone kablooey, everybody’s back at the beach or traipsing around with the Others. (By the way, go screw yourself, Locke. I hope you die a tragic death next to Michael and Walt.)

I wonder if such an argument will arise with the possibility of moving the group away from the beach and to the now-abandoned Barracks. I mean, three months ago, I might have been hesitant to move to the caves. Sure, there was fresh water and three sides of rock walls, but the possibility of rescue still seemed so real.

Now it’s December, and help ain’t coming.

The Hatch is gone, and took with it showers, music, and mattresses. (One of my gripes about last year’s finale was that nobody tried to salvage anything from the Hatch before blowing it up. Yeah, I know they probably weren’t predicting that massive explosion--or their survival of it--, but I bet a comfy recliner’s looking pretty nice right about now. Am I right, Desmond?)

If I was Jack, I’d be trying to convince everybody to start packing.

The Barracks have so many things that the beach doesn’t. Shelter is the first thing that comes to mind, along with a seemingly endless supply of DHARMA food and fresh water. With the houses at the Barracks comes privacy, something the Lostaways have had very little of in the past 83 days. (Yeah, I’m secretly squeeing at the possibility of Jack and Kate setting up house together, but that has very little to do with this particular argument.)

There’s also the potential for communication with the outside world, no? We’re still not entirely sure how the Others operate, but they’ve somehow got contact with the mainland, unless we’re to believe Patchy that communication has been down for a while. They’ve got a better chance there than at the beach.

Clearly, there’s also a big security factor. The smoke monster can’t get through the sonic barrier, which would be reason enough for me to make the trek through the jungle. Juliet knows the code, and she/Sayid could surely change the code so that returning Others wouldn’t be able to get through. I mean, I guess they could climb over it like Kate and the gang did, but that might be difficult for Ben “I Just Had Back Surgery” Linus.

Life in the Barracks would also substantially influence Christmas. With a huge amount of stuff lying around, gifting would be a lot more interesting and fun. Imagine, instead of getting a beautiful seashell necklace, you might get Rock-Em Sock-Em Robots. (And anything’s possible with the magic box.)

My roommate Melissa pointed out to me, however, that we don’t know why the Others left, and we should assume that they did so for a reason. Cautious optimism is called for, definitely, but I still think that the Barracks are the best choice right now.

Especially if those houses have cable.