March 28, 2008


from the creaters of thirtysomething and my so-called life... first they tackled well, thirtysomethings, then teenagers, now recent college graduates.
it hasnt gotten great reviews but i like it quite alot.
first i think the idea of web-tv is really interesting. its sort of an extension of youtube... i personally find youtube kind of annoying, i like narrative especially extended narrative adn whats so cool about webtv is teh potential for anyone to crate their own extended, televisual narrative. obviously these guys are professionals but still its an interesting crossmedia innovation. i watched the first episode from itunes and then i tried watching it online but the 5-10 minute segments were so fucking annoying. i couldnt stand it. so today i downloaded the rest of the episodes from itunes.
something i really like about the show though is the way it blends (sort of cheesy) teen melodrama (of the wb variety for one) with something more interesting and perhaps more genuine. these characters are completely self-indulgent, dylan with her video blog or lisa with her video or debra with her father's money, but theyre not self-indulgent in an obnoxious way theyre self-indulgent in a very real way. so many of us (myself included) have or have had blogs in which they pour out their feelings half convinced no one will read it but half desperate that someone will. so many of us get drunk just so we have an excuse to pour our hearts and express real genuine emotion and fear and celebration and hatred. and it is pathetic and self-indulgent just like the kids on quarterlife, but its real.
and maybe thats especially when youre a recent college graduate or a twentysomething who cant quite believe that you actually made it to being a twentysomething that you made it to being able to go to bars and being able to buy beer and yet youre there and youre nothing like the twentysomethings you knew when you were in high school or even in college. and i feel pathetic for not having something to show for myself because it even seems like my friends have more... and thats a feeling that i think the show captures well. all of these kids think theyre pathetic failures and theres always a sense among that they they see their friends as far more successfull than they feel themselves.
the video blog is also a nice mechanism, ive gotten rather tired of voice overs as a narrative device so even though i dont know anyone who has ever used or even though about using video as a means of blogging or sending messages i like the way its used... its something more authentic and free-flowing? than anytime you have people writing in journals or doing anyother kind of voice over. dylan does sound like an idiot alot but thats what makes her videoblog authentic.
i also really like dylan's relationship with eric. i love how she always expects him to be able to read her mind knowing he can't, having him tell her he cant and yet still expecting it. i think thats kind of what relationships are all about... and i like how dylan has this job that doesnt actually have anything to do with what she wants to do but is in the vague vicinity and so she's stuck with it.
its all a strange combination of what it was like when i was living with dena and monkey and what its like now. but quite familiar. its too bad it took two middle aged white men to get anywhere close... because i think a different kind of authorship would really change the show...

March 2, 2008

lost again

something that drives me crazy about lost is that it has so many interesting ideas that it doesnt follow through on.
one that makes me the most exasperated is john locke. you can't name a character john locke and not have him represent John Locke (especially when you have another character named Rousseau who had a member on her team named Montaigne). through the first season i tried very hard to make the character fit the philosophy. i tried to see him as being a part of the struggle to establish a society, the nature of the social contract, the nature of the self and the parts of each which are inherent and the parts which are socialized. but in fact neither he nor the show really explores any of these issues in any depth. indeed locke doesn't actually give a shit about the society he's only interested in his own destiny which is often couched in terms of faith which is quite the opposite of everything john locke and his socio-political philosophy was based on!
so what im trying to express is the balance between having characters be characters and having characters be more symbolic. its alot like dickens in some ways, at their best a dickensian novel has a few main characters who grow and develop and emerge as good or evil or ambiguously both while there are secondary characters who represent ideas or virtues or what have you. i wish lost would do something more like that. buffy is a show that does that more successfully. it blends broader and narrower character arcs to be both character driven and idea driven. lost however drops hints that characters or character arcs are going to be idea driven or symbolic (ie locke as locke or locke as faith and jack as science) but it doesnt work because the ideas only drive characters or character arcs for the span of an episode. we do get faith vs. science/ locke vs. jack but only in one or two episode snippets.
the show drives me crazy because i watch and im looking for meanings to emerge and they just dont. we get narrative twists (so thaaaat's why there are polar bears on the island... thaaaaat's why the plane crashed) but those twists never seem to actually mean anything. theyre some cliche about 70s scientific utopian experiments based in eastern philosophy.
the disclaimer here should be that i have only seen seasons 1 and 2. maybe season 3 or 4 reveals everything as some brilliant metaphor but i dont have the patience to deal with that one week at a time (thank god for coming in late).

one thought that john had (he said it as a joke, but it actually made sense to me) is the idea of the island as a metaphor for the internet. its the place where you end up and youre hoping to be saved but you really just end up with a bunch of other people who are as lost as you are. the problem with the show though is that it should be this place where your inhibitions sort of dissolve, where youre willing to tell people things that you wouldnt otherwise. its not a place where you keep more secrets its where you let them go because you dont know these people and youll never have to see them in your real life. i think the show would be more interesting and even realistic with more honesty between people about where they come from...

im not sure how i feel about blogging. my thoughts feel so incoherent. maybe thoughts just are inherently incoherent.

March 1, 2008


we've been watching lost for about a month now. we were resistant to the lost trend for a long time, but as an aspiring television scholar i decided i needed to see what all the ruckus was about. so we started at the beginning...
and i must say the pilot was pretty amazing. it was a saturday night so we continued on. we watched the first disc and then stopped to discuss. (john might say i called class into session.) i was certainly intrigued. the narrative structure which combines an ongoing story on the island with flashbacks is a nice play on television formula. not unlike a typical sitcom or drama it offers a clear template for each episode, yet that template combines a single continuous ongoing (serial?) narrative with more strictly episodic stories that can be viewed in isolation. (and to some extent you might argue that once you know the basic premise of people stuck on a deserted island you could watch any episode out of order.) one thing i do really like about the show is how it uses the ensemble cast in a very new way in as much as instead of learning a little bit about each character in every episode we get great revelations about a single character in a single episode. in these ways it plays in a great way with the history of television narrative which it is itself a part of.
however, after those first four episodes i also found the show's narrative to be extremely muddled. its like the writers were so intent on not creating a science fiction/fantasy show because they didn't want it to be like star trek (william shattner to trekkies: get a life) that they shied away from the very fantastic elements which make the show interesting and unique (and not gilligan's island). i found the fifth episode "white rabbit" to offer a brilliant moment because of the way it treats jack with uncertainty as to whether he's totally insane or the island is just a magical place. the other characters really believe he is going crazy from lack of sleep or so much stress and we really dont know whether its his grief or the island or some combination of the two. at its best moments this is what the show does. the magic of the island could easily be explained away rationally or at least psychologically but the show encourages us to be caught up in the universe of the island such that we believe in the magic and the island on its own terms. (it reminds me alot of 'magical realism' in someone like gabriel garcia marquez or isabelle allende where the point is not that its magic because in places like that jungle crazy shit, shit that doesnt happen anywhere else just fucking happens, but the point is that these crazy things do become metaphors as our rational minds explain them away... and you could make a nice comparison between a show like lost, a marquez novel and a show like buffy interms of how the use the fantastic as a metaphor or as reality or reality as a metaphor, etc)
however, in watching the first two seasons i have found that most of the time the show fails to let these things be ambiguous and thus metaphoric. for isntance, when charlie starts seeing things and his dreams are mixing with reality and his distinctions are dissimilar from those of everyone else, he's explained away (and condemned) as a junkie.