Category Archives: TV

Tee Vee

My husband and I have started watching television again. I mean, it’s always on anyway, but we’ve started following specific shows. Now, we don’t watch anything live – the ability to pause and rewind are just too wonderful to give up – but through the magic of Netflix and Hulu we do pretty well.

Once Upon a Time continues to be fun. The relationships between the characters grow ever more tangled. I like that Mulan is finally starting to grow a personality and that Disney did not shy away from the obvious chemistry between her and another female character, heterosexual norms be damned. Rumpelstiltskin remains my favorite character. I rather enjoy alternating between loving, hating, and feeling sorry for him. My husband is rather fond of Captain Hook, and I have to admit that he does have some of the best lines in the show.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland has only had one episode so far, and it shows promise. My reaction to the ads for it went something like this: “From the creators of Once Upon a Time…” – yay! – “…and the writers of Lost…” – um. Anyway, stylistically I haven’t been too impressed yet. One of the best parts of the original Once Upon a Time is the costuming, so I’m hoping that Alice starts wearing better stuff soon. I also would rather John Lithgow in a rabbit outfit than the painful CG critter they’re using, but whatever. I’ll give it a few more episodes before deciding how I feel about it.

Sleepy Hollow is a remarkably silly show, and we both are really enjoying it. Ichabod Crane is a Revolutionary War soldier brought back to life in modern times. Abbie Mills is a police officer. Together, they fight the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Yes, really. It’s hilarious far more often than I think it means to be. I wonder how many more Famous Stories From Colonial America will be incorporated into this show.

My husband’s started watching Supernatural on Netflix streaming, and his commentary is marvelous. He admits that he finds it entertaining, and he’s pretty impressed with some of the creature effects, but he thinks Sam and Dean are both complete douchebags. He’s right, of course, but I think most of the female audience overlooks that because they’re (1) funny and (2) incredibly hot. I stopped watching after the fifth season, but if my husband gets to that point and wants to keep going, I’ll watch it with him. I’m looking forward to hearing his opinion of the Trickster God episodes, and Ghost Facers.

Hannibal should be showing up from Netflix soon. I’ve read all of Cleolinda’s episode recaps, and I think this is the sort of show my husband will like. You might think it strange that I still want to watch the show even though I know everything that’s going to happen, but to me it’s a little bit like reading a book after seeing the movie: I already know I’m going to enjoy the story, only now I’ll get all of the details I missed.

I’ve heard a lot of buzz over the upcoming Dracula series, but I haven’t decided if I want to watch it or not. I’ll probably catch the pilot and go from there. I’m very excited about the upcoming 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who, and I think the twelfth Doctor will be a good one, but I really wish it could settle into a regular season format. I wouldn’t mind going back to half-hour episodes if it meant more than two months of episodes a year. And don’t even get me started on the Sherlock schedule. Is that ever going to start airing again?

I don’t consider myself much of a TV watcher, but a single 45-minute episode during dinner with my sweetie is kind of a nice ritual. Are you watching anything good these days?

Japanimation

Before I met my husband, my entire experience with anime was a vague awareness that Sailor Moon existed. He was a longtime fan, starting with Battle of the Planets when he was a kid. When we first started dating he tried to get me to watch Love Hina, a fairly typical anime romantic comedy. I couldn’t get into it. I didn’t find the insane overreaction to embarrassing mishaps amusing, and that appeared to be the bulk of the humor. I wasn’t interested in Please Teacher either, for the same reasons, and when he tried to get me to watch Trigun I fell asleep.

I usually have no issue with subtitles, but in this case I think that was part of the turn-off. Many of the female Japanese voice actors have high-pitched, whiny voices. And unlike the languages of Europe and the Americas, the cadence of Japanese bears no similarity whatsoever to that of English. For example, questions don’t go up at the end, and the sentence structure is completely different. So I didn’t feel like I was really gaining anything by being a purist.

However, many English dubs are simply dreadful. Homestar Runner’s Stinkoman 20X6 was spot on. You can’t line English words up with an animated mouth speaking Japanese. Well, you can, but it’s just awkward. Luckily, dubbing has improved dramatically over the years, so most of the more recent series are perfectly bearable in English. (Not all of them, of course; Naruto’s “believe it!” just doesn’t translate.) Disney’s handling of Miyazaki’s films is an excellent example of just how good a dub can be.

One of the thing most anime outsiders don’t realize is that anime is not a genre: anime series span all genres, from romance to science fiction to drama to comedy to just plain old weird. It’s a style – and not even a specific style, really. Compare, if you will, characters from One Piece, Tokyo Mew Mew, and Ghost in the Shell:

One Piece

Tokyo Mew Mew

Ghost in the Shell

There’s hardly any comparison, though all three are very common artistic styles in anime. It could also be argued that anime doesn’t necessarily need to be Japanese. I would consider Teen Titans to be American anime, for instance, and there are plenty of anime-style comics from Korea.

Though my husband is quite enamored of this style of art, I’ve come across only a few series here and there that have piqued my interest:

  • Outlaw Star: I need to rewatch this one. Basically, it’s a science fiction story about a group of otherwise unrelated characters thrown together to search for the Galactic Leyline, a mythical place said to hold lots of treasure. They have lots of adventures along the way, many pretty hilarious.
  • Death Note: My favorite series so far. Bored college student Yagami Light finds a notebook that gives him an immense amount of power: whoever’s name he writes in the notebook will die. He decides to become the personification of justice, killing criminals left and right under the pseudonym “Kira” as uber-detective L attempts to discover his identity. Things get even more interesting when Light teams up with L to “help find Kira.” Throw in additional Death Notes and a jealous death god or two, and you have a fascinating game of cat and mouse. The live-action movies are almost better, actually, because they concentrate solely on the Light vs. L story of the first half of the anime series, rather than introducing later characters such as Near and Mello.
  • Kino’s Journey: Kino and her talking motorcycle explore vastly different countries in a strange land, sort of a fantastic interpretation of Gulliver’s Travels meets couch surfing. It’s been a long time since I watched this, so I don’t have much to say about it anymore, except that it was very interesting.
  • Naruto: I get a kick out of this series about kids going to ninja school. There’s a whole pile of characters, so you’re bound to find one you like. I’m not sure who I’d count as my favorite, though I’ve always been fond of Kakashi and Gaara. The English dub is decent but often unintentionally amusing, as everything Sasuke says sounds like a double entendre. It’s a long series (220 episodes, plus a continuation in the currently airing Naruto: Shippuden which will almost definitely surpass its predecessor by a large number of episodes) but not one you have to concentrate on, or even necessarily watch all of. After all, a battle sequence can last several episodes without actually moving the plot forward.
  • Bobobo-bo Bo-bobobo: Distilled insanity on a cracker, man. It could be argued that a lot of the jokes are Japanese cultural references that fly over my head, but that doesn’t explain a guy whose primary weapon is his nose hair, or the dude made out of gelatin (that everyone wants to eat), or — well, pretty much the entire rest of the series.

Would I call myself an anime fan? Not really. I’ve been to several conventions (usually to peddle wares in the artists alley), but the programming doesn’t really interest me. What about you? How do you feel about anime?

Hat tip to Wikipedia, PSP themes and Marilinunio for the images.

The Storyteller: Greek Myths

The Storyteller: Greek Myths: A short-lived series (only four episodes), telling the stories of Perseus & Medusa, Icarus & Daedalus, Theseus & the Minotaur, and Orpheus & Eurydice. We actually watched the episodes in reverse order, but it didn’t matter much: with the exception of actually seeing the Storyteller and his dog enter the Labyrinth, there wasn’t much plot outside the myths themselves anyway. It was a little weird to see Dumbledore as a scruffy, beardless Greek dude, but he made a good narrator. While the tales themselves were brilliant – good acting, beautiful costumes, amazing creatures, horrible wigs – this is not something I would necessarily recommend for small children. None of the stories end happily, which actually brings a refreshing honesty to the production. The myths were mostly tragedies; it’s nice to see an authentic retelling. I wish the Henson Company did more like this. Not just other Storyteller series (I haven’t seen the other one yet, but it’s in the Netflix queue), but other shows for adults. I love the Muppets, but I can never get enough of the gorgeous puppetry and effects of Farscape, Mirrormask, and The Dark Crystal.

How It’s Made

I’m not an avid television viewer, but a few months ago I stumbled upon an awesome show on Discovery Channel: How It’s Made. It’s a half-hour show with three or four brief segments on how various items are produced. There is no theme; the other day I caught an episode that covered amplifiers, footballs, marbles, and airplane wings. Most of the stuff is assembly line (which fascinates me, especially the complex automated stuff), but I’ve also seen segments on recycling, hydroponic lettuce, and chickens. If you’ve ever wondered how commonplace objects are manufactured – or if you haven’t but, like me, you have a short attention span and a soft spot for documentaries – check this show out. It’s on several times a week and since the segments are brief and unrelated, there’s no serious time commitment.

High Speed

I was trying to find out what kind of high-speed camera is used on the Mythbusters TV show, so I decided to start at the source. Finding no email link (understandable, as it would get flooded regularly), I tried the message boards.

I find message boards to be remarkably unhelpful, and this was no exception. In fact, it went beyond your standard level of obnoxious sidestepping, most of which takes the form of “What a stupid question! Stop pestering us, n00b.” No, this was even better. A quick forum search brought up several posts asking in plain language, “What brand of high-speed camera do they use on the Mythbusters TV show?” Invariably, if anyone responded at all, they received one of two answers: “Lots of companies make them. Google ‘high speed cameras’ and you’ll find tons.” or “They cost a lot more money than you can afford. You’re better off looking up rental companies.”

No FAQ or thread links, no “this is what they use but it’s extremely expensive,” just blatant misdirection. I looked all the way back to the beginning and not once did anyone actually answer the question, though there were a couple of unhelpful “this has been asked before, do a forum search” responses. One guy was looking for the frame grabber software, was presented with the costs-too-much answer, and repeated that he was looking for the specific program name, not how much it costs. Nobody answered.

In case you’re curious, it’s likely that they use many different brands and models on the show, but one company who freely admits to their camera being used is NAC. (And no, that wasn’t found on the message boards. I finally wised up and Googled “mythbusters high speed camera”.)

Oh yeah, and speaking of such things, I really enjoyed these high-speed clips.

esuvee

You’ve probably seen those weird esuvee commercials on TV – the ones where these dudes are in a rodeo, riding these strange beasts that look like a cross between a truck and bison. After months of boggling over the point of them, convinced they couldn’t possibly be just some kind of freakish PSA about proper driving techniques, I finally visited the website. There my horrors were realized: it really is just a freakish PSA. Apparently people who drive SUVs are too stupid to handle them properly and cause accidents. If that’s the case, then what are the odds they’ll be smart enough to get the symbolism of the weird muppet buffalo things? So scary, and honestly not that effective – it took me months to work up the curiosity to check out the website, and I pay a lot more attention to advertisements than most. Then once I got here I realized what it was about and didn’t bother to actually read any of the safety information (and wouldn’t have even if I owned an SUV). So in the end we have ads that were obviously pretty expensive to make – the effects are good and there’s no telling how long it took people to create the esuvee beast itself (there’s also a physical one that tours the nation) – but don’t do any good. I wouldn’t be nearly as annoyed if it weren’t my tax dollars that were being dumped into such a worthless project.

© 2010-2021 kate weber All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright