Zombie scientists!

2010 July 30
by kvanaren

One of the most fun things about spending time at a place like Comic-Con is the opportunity to watch new episodes of shows in giant rooms full of major fans. We were able to have that experience with Eureka, which was made even better with an episode that featured nerd-god Wil Wheaton and a special guest appearance by, you guessed it, Mr. Wheaton himself. Eureka was the first show I ever wrote about for the blog, and for me it will always represent summer television at its best, so it was really, really fun to watch with a lot of cheering people.

IMG_1887

The episode that aired last week was a funny, well-made zombie episode, featuring the poor guinea pig employees of Global Dynamics as a horde of irrationally angry zombies bent on…well, it was never really made clear, but one assumes it was BRAINS. It was a classic Eureka form, introducing the zombie transformation as a Monster of the Week and once again trapping our heroes into a tiny room while they desperately try to find a cure before the zombies break in. Wheaton did a nice job as zombie patient zero, and there was a side plot line with Henry that seemed to be going nowhere but had a nice payoff at the end. Funny, Comic-Con appropriate, and a good time for all.

Zombies!!

Zombies!!

But the big story about Eureka this season is the new organizing gimmick, which was introduced in the season premiere and which has yet to be resolved. Rather than let its main characters continue to trundle along their merry destructive ways, Eureka reset the clock for this season by sending several of its main characters into the past – back to the 1940s for the founding of Eureka, to be precise – and then let them return to the present only to discover that everything has shifted slightly. Carter is sheriff, Jo is head of Global Dynamics security, Henry is married, and in the ultimate twist of unexpected strangeness, the accident-prone lab monkey Fargo is now head of GD. It’s a familiar plot device, probably best established by Back to the Future, and it’s a fun way to play with Eureka’s penchant for turning things on their heads.

Still, it would be well within Eureka’s typical format to resolve the Bizarro-Eureka plot line in relatively short order – one episode, or maybe two episodes would be the standard length of time that something this disruptive would be allowed to continue. And yet here we are, four episodes into the season, with still no resolution on how Carter, Allison, Henry, Jo and Fargo will return to their own timeline or whether time traveling 1940s noir scientist Dr. Grant will be sent back to his own decade.

It’s nice to see the show try something different with its long-arc plot line, particularly when this one demonstrates a willingness to fiddle with even the most well-received pieces of the show – Jo was about to get engaged to her boyfriend when she was sent back in time, and returns to discover that they barely even like each other in the new timeline. Allison’s son Kevin, whose autism combined with flashes of inexplicable genius have made him a long-term source of mystery on the show, has been transformed into a regular, Xbox playing, mildly obnoxious teenager. Of course, the alternate timeline problem also helps Eureka delay its own inevitable will-they-or-won’t-they scenario, as Carter and Allison finally kiss back in the 40s, but Carter returns to Eureka to find that he’s still together with his ex-girlfriend Tess.

I think the long-term alternate timeline is a strong device to keep Eureka on its toes, and am pleased that the show has chosen to use the conflict it creates rather than immediately dial everything back to the norm. My only concern is that I can’t find a way to finally resolve this whole mess without a very clichéd “they can go home now, but do they want to?” situation. Still, that’s a long way off, and for now I’m happy to watch everyone flounder around in bizarro world.

I'm a Phantasma Fanatic, and other reasons I still like Huge

2010 July 29
by kvanaren

I was quite enthusiastic about the pilot of ABC Family’s Huge, and wanted to check back in with the show now that it’s five episodes into the season. The short version of what I’m about to say: it’s still a great show, and I think it’s gotten even better since the first episode.

The longer version: The first episode centered on a protagonist, which it had to do in order to hook its audience and to give the pilot a satisfying internal arc (protagonist hates Fat Camp, protagonist runs away, protagonist resolves to give camp a try). Since that initial episode, however, the show has placed much more emphasis on the surrounding characters, which has had multiple positive effects. It provides an array of emotional entry-points into the show (maybe you resonate with Amber, maybe you’re into Ian’s emo guitar stylings, maybe you’re caught up in Dr. Rand’s conflicted relationship with her father), but more importantly, it keeps the portrayal of the camp far more balanced than it would have been if Wilhelmina were our primary focus. Her continuing negativity toward what she views as the central, unspoken tenant of Camp Victory (“hate your body”) could easily become the dominant tone of the show, and it would probably have limited the story possibilities and made the show more predictable.

Will, Ian, Becca and Chloe on Huge

Will, Ian, Becca and Chloe on Huge

Instead, we get a variety of reactions to the camp: girls who desperately want to be thin in a way that probably isn’t healthy for their self-esteem, guys who want to be athletic, several people who worry about what it will be like to have new bodies, and a few who want to lose weight, but find it so difficult that they still break the camp rules. In the most recent episode, the staff meeting announcements begin with a notice from Dr. Rand about some kids who go to the nurse saying that they have a sore throat – the nurse gives them salt to gargle, and they then use it to put more salt on their food. It’s details like that anecdote, and frequent casual discussions about childhood teasing, thigh chafing, and which bras to wear to Movie Night, that makes the camp appear grounded, plausible, and potentially positive.

Because I’m me, I’m also drawn to the subtle nerdy undercurrent that has flavored a few recent episodes. In one, Becca creates a fast, complex fantasy world based on several camp locations and tries to recruit people to LARP with her (Live Action Role Play). I was astonished to then watch an entire episode of a mainstream television show in which the term LARPing is explained just once and then used frequently in nonchalant conversation. Even better, Huge has established a well-written, gently teasing Twilight analogue inside the show. It’s a book and movie called Phantasma about a girl who falls in love with a ghost: (An explanation from Chloe, a camper: “This girl comes to this new town, right, and she keeps seeing this guy everywhere, like, he keeps appearing and then reappearing and appearing and then reappearing, ‘cause he basically is everywhere, ‘cause he’s like a ghost. It’s romantic.”) in the world of the show, even the actors of Phantasma have familiarly fascinating love lives. The girls study photos of the two lead actors in magazines, dissect their body language, and thrill when the director chooses Phantasma for Movie Night. They even play a several scenes from the movie so that we can hear the dialogue while the campers carry out all of their anticipated social entanglements. The sample Phantasma dialogue is just so good, and you’ll have to imagine it complete with a melancholy piano score:

A scene from Phantasma

A scene from Phantasma

“I would do anything for you Callie. I even swore to protect you from the Ghost Tribunal. But now I realize that the best way to protect you…is to stay away from you.”

“You can’t mean that. If you loved me, then you’ll stay with me. No matter what.”

“I waited 300 years to find true love. Before you came, I had no hope that I would ever feel anything again. You changed me, Callie. And I need you to know that. Before I go.”

“Go?! Where?!”

It’s odd to say this about a show like Huge that seems to draw with broad strokes, but it’s in the details like LARPing and salt theft and Phantasma that the show really works. On that note, I’ll leave you with a little more Phantasma dialogue:

“Are you still afraid?”

“Yes, I’m afraid…of how badly I want you.”

TV Weddings – Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman: Dr. Mike and Sully

2010 July 28
by kvanaren

I promised ten of these bad boys, and although I didn’t get them all in before the hiatus, I have several I still want to cover, so I’m going to keep chugging away at them whenever summer TV’s lackluster programming provides an opportunity. Up next, another influential offering from my childhood.

The couple: Dr. Mike, awesome unconventional female doctor in nineteenth-century Colorado Springs, is getting married to mountain man, hatchet-thrower and all around stud Byron Sully. The ensuing event launches Dr. Mike into an identify crisis, Sully into a political fiasco, and the whole town into railroad-inspired fits of cosmopolitanism.

dr quinn wedding 2

The premise: It’s a two-part episode, and because Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman episodes were already an hour long, they have space for quite a bit of wedding wackiness. Custer’s trying to hunt down the best man, the bride doesn’t want to change her name, one of the bridesmaids has an STD, and the wedding dress gets completely remade on the morning of the ceremony.

General Custer and the best man

General Custer and the best man

The inevitable sequence of mishaps: To begin, Sully’s best man of choice, Cloud Dancing, doesn’t look likely to RSVP for the wedding because Custer just killed his wife and son, and he’s now wanted by the government (bummer). Dr. Mike has crazy forward-thinking ideas like not changing her name and making Sully also wear a wedding band, and he’s not really on board. In addition, the train is finally coming to Colorado Springs! When it arrives, it brings Dr. Mike’s overbearing mother, who is determined to do the whole wedding Boston-style, including a wedding dress that Dr. Mike hates. Dr. Mike’s mother rubs Sully the wrong way, and he immediately disappears into the wilderness in search of Cloud Dancing. Even though he has a bounty on his head, Cloud Dancing promises to be Sully’s best man, and they’re both immediately chased down by Custer, who takes Sully into custody. Custer abandons Sully in the mountains, leading the whole town to believe Sully ditched her, but he returns full of apology and vitriol toward Custer. Sully agrees to let Dr. Mike keep her name if he doesn’t have to wear a wedding ring.

On the morning of the wedding, Dr. Mike’s mother still insists on traditional and refuses to walk her down aisle, while Dr. Mike makes her bridesmaids re-construct her entire wedding dress so that it reflects both what her mother wants (a giant train) and what she wants (more lace, less flouncy top). It’s a good thing, too, because Sully forgoes the tux jacket for Cloud Dancing’s wedding tunic over black tuxedo pants – an unusual look. Custer shows up for the wedding, as does Cloud Dancing, and the well-meaning townspeople “accidentally” knock poor Custer unconscious. Dr. Mike’s mother walks her down the aisle at the last minute, Cloud Dancing makes a hasty getaway after the ceremony, and the whole thing comes off beautifully in the end.

All that, plus Brian feels left out because he’s too young to be a groomsman, but too old to be a ring bearer, AND a whole C plot dealing with Dr. Mike’s sister, whose evil ex-husband gave her an STD.

The clichés: Dr. Mike has to ask Dorothy about “falling off a log” because she’s never done it (which is astonishing given that she’s nearly forty at this point), bountiful restrictive etiquette rules, bride who doesn’t want that much fuss, pre-wedding spats, overbearing mother, groom says goodbye to his dead first wife by cutting off the Jedi Padawan-like memorial braid he’s been sporting for the last decade or so (okay, not really a cliché, but it should be!).

The bridesmaid dresses: Not that bad, considering the nineteenth-century possibilities.

dr quinn wedding 1

And in the end…: Dr. Mike and Sully roll away from town on perhaps the most awesome honeymoon vehicle ever seen: a railroad car made over as a Wild West/Victorian love nest. Seriously, I am freakin’ jealous of this thing. It must have been satisfactory, because the episode ends with some surprisingly sexy undoing-the-corset shots, and a final fade-to-black on a gaslamp that’s rocking back and forth – presumably rocking to the motion of the train, but it’s clearly meant to be evocative. “Sully!” she says. “It isn’t even dark yet!” “It’s getting darker and darker,” he says, slowly pulling down the shades. Oooooh yeah.

dr quinn wedding 4

The verdict: LOVE IT. I love the random sister with the STD, I love recasting General Custer as a wedding crasher, I love that Dr. Mike keeps her name, and I really love how hot for each other Sully and Dr. Mike are. Honestly, for all the moralizing and politically correct allegorizing the show does, it lets its protagonists get quite steamy, and it’s hard to dislike such a strange, obviously sexual pairing.

Comic-Con: The Visionaries

2010 July 27

So, Comic-Con is one of the crazier places I’ve ever been. We tried to prepare ourselves for the impending bizarre hilarity, but nothing really prepares you for walking fifteen minutes just to get to the end of a line, and passing five women dressed as Slave Leia in the process. Unfortunately, we only had tickets for the first two days, which means I missed several of the awesome TV panels on Saturday and Sunday, but did manage to make it to a few really great panels, including the Girls Gone Geek panel I mentioned in my post last week, and the nerd-stravaganza that was the Joss Whedon and JJ Abrams panel on Thursday.

IMG_1588

The Whedon/Abrams panel was probably the panel highlight of my Comic-Con experience, and it particularly stood out after the long string of much less exciting movie release panels that we had to sit through in order to guarantee we’d have seats. This is of course a severe reduction, but my impression of the big name movie panels we saw (including RED, Battle: Los Angeles, Salt, MegaMind, and Tron Legacy) is that most actors are pretty boring (except for Will Ferrell and Tina Fey for MegaMind), most of the screened questions from the audience are repetitive (“What kind of fight training did you have to do?” “How are you dealing with this as an adaptation?”), and although the idea of using Comic-Con as a platform for previewing new things is a good one, everyone has a higher level discussion when we see enough from a preview to actually talk about it. (“So, we really didn’t see any glimpse of what the evil aliens will look like in this film, but… could you talk about them?”)

IMG_1558

Seriously, look at Mary-Louise Parker's face as she listens to Bruce Willis.

Which is why it was such a relief, and so completely awesome, to have Joss Whedon and JJ Abrams come out and be able to talk about well-known work, about narrative and storytelling, about inspiration and the production process, and about their own experiences as fans. It was fascinating to hear both of them talk about the differences between making movies and making television, and to hear Joss Whedon say that although movies are hugely satisfying because they have firm and final endings, he feels that long form storytelling is more rewarding and much harder. The moderator, Doc Jensen, also asked about serialization on television, and both men admitted to understanding the financial motivation for non-serialized shows but having absolutely no creative interest in them. “Stories imply time,” said JJ Abrams. “Stories imply inevitability and some kind of progress.” “I don’t think the networks will ever, ever ask for that,” added Whedon. “The networks will never admit that people want that, because they do see the cash cow of ‘The Mentalist! Let’s all do The Mentalist!’ And when Lost first hit and was blowing up huge…they were still like, ‘We don’t want that. That successful, Emmy-winning thing? No, we don’t want that.’…And it’s very weird, because ultimately, the serial is always going to be the thing people remember. What do they remember about Cheers? It’s Sam and Diane, not a great joke from Cheers.”

What came out of their discussion of serialization, including Joss Whedon’s trials with the cancellations of Firefly and Dollhouse and the unrepeatable structure of a show like Lost, is a huge disconnect between the stories people like Abrams and Whedon want to tell on TV and the capacity for network television to produce those shows. Recently, Abrams has been more successful than Whedon in creating television for the networks, but as he mentions in his descriptions of both Fringe and his new show UnderCovers, it’s because he’s been careful to balance the standalone aspect of an episode and his own dominant interest in longer story arcs. One of the most interesting moments for me was when Joss Whedon admitted that in making Dollhouse, he just had not realized how much the networks have changed, and had not come to terms with the idea that he has a cable rather than network mentality. “I definitely was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.”

IMG_1648

Whedon did talk about preparing to do The Avengers, and insisted on describing to JJ how fully he loved Star Trek. “I have had actual moments of sheer fucking panic because I love Star Trek so much.” In turn, Abrams talked about the process of rewriting, and when Whedon mentioned that he doesn’t really write second drafts, Abrams shot back “You bastard!” But however much fun they had joking around and teasing each other, it was hard not to come away with a sense of how tricky the television landscape is right now, and how swiftly the networks are changing. I can only hope that when Joss Whedon is done with that silly Avengers movie project, there will be a new Whedon show on cable.

I can also hope that next year, after we figuring out some of the basic Comic-Con ins and outs this time around, we get to attend more panels like this one.

Mad Men – Public Relations

2010 July 26
by kvanaren

Season four’s “Public Relations” opens with the question “Who is Don Draper?”, a query Don scoffs at for its cuteness and its suggestion of replying in the third person, but it’s a question that quickly becomes an obvious touchstone for the episode. The idea is particularly canny because “Who is Don Draper?” is the same question we’ve been asking all along, and by the end of last season, we had a pretty firm grasp on the answer. He’s a creative genius, a guy who works without a contract, a lothario, a liar, a neglectful father and husband – and he’s also Dick Whitman, an entirely different person. The opening line of “Public Relations” is a quick, chastising jolt. We thought we knew Don Draper, and perhaps we did, but he is not the same character we remember from last fall.

mad men 401 1

Everything about Don is now just a little different – all of the same qualities are there, but he’s been set inside an alternate universe where he is called upon to be a single father, a public figure, a company man, a guy with his eye on the bottom line, and a guy who dates rather than seduces. Unlike the man from the first three seasons, who was entirely comfortable in his skin, this version of Don has not yet quite caught up with the times, and hasn’t yet figured out how to give promotional interviews or how to handle his ex-wife and her new husband. In that vein, one of the episode’s most telling moments was the run-up to Don’s blind date. He smoothes out the bed (something we know he’s expecting will soon be seen by his date) and then pulls on his jacket over his white shirt, which has a pack of cigarettes straining against the fabric of the front pocket. Don stands at the mirror, hunched, fiddling with his sleeves, scrunching up his shoulders, and combing his hair. Where before we have watched him effortlessly slide from one persona into another, perpetually coiffed and polished to a high sheen, Don Draper is now a guy who has to adjust himself and pluck at his clothing before it sits the way it should. He has to work at being himself. Of course, he’s been working at being Don Draper since he gave up being Dick Whitman, but before, it was invisible. Now we can see all of the seams and rough edges.

mad men 401 2

Peggy seems to have undergone a reverse process, and I am absolutely in love with the new Peggy Olson. All of those little physical signals of discomfort and ill-fit (her hair, the dresses that managed to be both frumpy and girlish) have shifted into something much more self-assured, and Peggy can now spar with Don, joke with her illustrator about the Stan Freberg John and Marsha ad, and come up with ridiculous, back-firing promotional schemes all on her own. It’s about darn time, frankly, and Peggy’s confident stance in the office is just what’s necessary to balance a newly uncertain Don Draper.

Aside from these important and still developing character shifts, the thing I found most exciting about “Public Relations” was the commitment the show has made to all its foundational changes from the previous season. It would have been so unsatisfying to watch the show return to its regular status quo, but as I described in my post on procedurals, it’s just much easier for those blockbuster season-ending changes to quickly step backwards into familiar formula. In his interview with Alan Sepinwall, Matt Weiner talks about how important it was for him to commit to those changes, even the painful ones which required leaving behind characters like Paul Kinsey and Ken Cosgrove. Mad Men will continue to be a creatively interesting show for much longer because it’s clear that Betty and Don will not be getting back together in the near future, and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is here to stay.

mad men 401 3

So it looks like that’s Mad Men for this season: we spent three years watching it build on the outside while slowly crumbling underneath, and now after the final implosion, we get to watch it all build again. But this time, it’ll be something entirely new.

A brief and enthusiastic hello!

2010 July 23
tags:
by kvanaren

I am sitting in one of the smaller panel rooms at the San Diego Convention Center, waiting for the start of the Girls Gone Genre panel with Felicia Day and Marti Noxon. In the past two days I watched the JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon panel, saw Tina Fey manhandle a Brad Pitt cut-out, took a photo of William Shatner, and, most awesomely, got to say hello to Alan Sepinwall after the Hawaii 5-0 panel. (Eeee!) It’s been an overwhelming, crazy-making learning experience, and I look forward to putting this knowledge into practice for the already-purchased 4-day pass for next year’s Con.

I’ll write longer impressions and post pictures when I have more time and more power outlets, but overall, it’s astonishing how powerful the TV presence is here. By far, the craziest lines are for Ballroom 20, which was almost entirely full of TV programming today (True Blood, Bones, Big Bang Theory, etc). Nowhere is it more obvious that pop culture is TV culture than at Comic-Con right now.

TV Weddings – Gilmore Girls: Liz and TJ

2010 July 8
by kvanaren

On the whole, weddings did not go well in the Gilmore Girls universe. Or rather, they usually went wonderfully for the couple getting married, but were infallible sources of upheaval or distress for either Lorelai or Rory. Like many long-running shows, there were several weddings to choose from here – do you go with Sookie’s wedding (Lorelai finds out her ex-husband’s girlfriend is pregnant), or Richard and Emily’s vow renewal ceremony (Jess treats Rory miserably), or even Lane and Zach’s wedding (Lorelai gets drunk and gives an embarrassing toast). Given all of that, I had to go with the wedding that was most memorable for me, and where at least one of the Gilmore ladies ends the night happily.

gilmore girls wedding 2

The couple: Liz Danes and TJ

The premise: Luke’s crazy sister Liz marries her fourth husband TJ in a RenFaire-themed event that serves as a backdrop for romantic developments in both Lorelai and Rory’s lives.

The inevitable sequence of mishaps: Liz rips her dress before the wedding, but this episode is really all about the wedding ceremony itself, which is not so much a sequence of mishaps as it is a sequence of incredibly awesome Renaissance Faire hilarity. A fool in motley does flips down the aisle, the music is provided by a viol de gamba and recorder-playing band of troubadours, and the minister is a guy with a guitar who sings amazingly anachronistic lyrics about childhood games. I have to print the lyrics, because it’s just that great:

“As kids we shared our toysgilmore girls wedding 1

With all the girls and boys

Barrel of Monkeys, your Battleship sunk me,

Please recall the joys

Willow, Clue, Mousetrap

Bash, and Spyrograph

Kaleidoscope spinning, Yahtzee I’m winning

Think of how we laughed

But today we share our love

(Today we share our love)

For love is the greatest toy around

Around, around”

The clichés: Randy bridesmaids, bizarre themed event, dramatics at the reception

The bridesmaid dresses: I cannot believe more people don’t consider this as a solid bridesmaid fashion option.

Wench bridesmaids! Plus, troubadours!

Wench bridesmaids! Plus, troubadours!

The first dance song: “Reflecting Light” by Sam Phillips

And in the end…: Liz and TJ really make a perfect couple. TJ supports Liz’s wacky hippy tendencies, and Liz loves TJ’s doopy innocence. TJ spends the majority of the episode extolling the virtues of wearing tights, and the whole thing comes off with remarkably few hitches.

gilmore girls wedding 4

The verdict: Like Ross and Emily’s wedding on Friends, weddings on Gilmore Girls are always more of a showcase for the main characters than for the bride and groom, and from that perspective, this one does quite well. After some seriously poor decisions about drinking with strangers, Rory finally reaches a showdown between Jess and Dean that’s been brewing for years, and Lorelai’s relationship with Luke finally (finally!) gets a little bit of a kick start when they dance together at the wedding. But even though this wedding was more of a B-plot than the main event, the wackadoo RenFaire theme and genuine sweetness between the bride and the groom carry the episode. As Liz says before she walks down the aisle, “I don’t want to screw up this marriage even more than I want some pot, that’s how serious I am.” Aww.

TV Weddings – Star Trek DS9: Worf and Dax

2010 July 7
by kvanaren

The couple: Worf, half-Klingon Strategic Operations Officer on DS9, marries Jadzia Dax, a Trill whose combined lives include five previous marriages.

The premise: Worf wants to get married on the Klingon home world after the Dominion War ends, but Dax convinces him to do it in Quark’s bar on DS9. Worf and Dax gear up for a traditional Klingon wedding, but the matriarch of the House of Martok opposes the marriage.

Apparently Klingon rituals require a great deal of upper body strength

Apparently Klingon rituals require a great deal of upper body strength

The inevitable sequence of mishaps: While Worf goes on his four day long bachelor party with Sisko, Martok, Bashir, and O’Brien, House of Martok matriarch Sirella judges Dax’s worthiness as a potential wife for Worf. As Dax isn’t a Klingon, Sirella finds her completely unsuitable. The bachelor party turns out to be incredibly uncomfortable, involving six trials on the path to Kal’Hyah – deprivation, blood, pain, sacrifice, anguish and death. During Dax’s bachelorette party, Sirella shows up and demands that Dax perform a ritual. Dax refuses, she and Sirella come to blows, and then Worf insists that Dax beg Sirella’s forgiveness. Of course Dax won’t do that, and she tells a depressed Worf that she won’t participate in his traditional Klingon wedding, whereupon he calls the whole thing off. Finally, Martok convinces Worf to apologize to Dax, and Sisko convinces Dax to apologize to Sirella, so the wedding goes ahead.

Sad Worf is sad, and SIrella, undesirable mother-in-law

Sad Worf is sad, and Sirella, undesirable mother-in-law

The clichés: Judgmental and demanding mother-in-law, obsession with details, unexpected cultural rituals, crazy bachelor party, briefly cancelled wedding, blood rituals (okay, for a Klingon it’s cliché).

The bridesmaid dresses: Klingon weddings don’t have bridesmaids, but they do have men who symbolically attack the newly married couple with clubs immediately after the ceremony. So, you know, basically the same thing.

Klingon bridesmaids

Klingon bridesmaids

And in the end…: Happily, Sirella accepts Dax into the House of Martok and Worf is able to have the Klingon wedding of his dreams.

Awwww

Awwww

The verdict: The strange thing about this episode is that while the entire wedding rests on several crucial apologies (Worf must apologize to Dax for being intolerant, Dax must apologize to Sirella for being insufficiently humble), neither of those apologies happen on screen. The big emotional payoff for each character is when someone else convinces them that apologies are in order, and then completely skips over whatever Dax actually says to Sirella to gain acceptance. Much as I enjoy the subsequent Klingon ceremony, (bride and groom ceremonially attack each other, two Klingon hearts beat as one, gods tremble, etc. etc.), I feel like the episode misses something important in skipping those apologies. Realizing you should say you’re sorry is the easy part – actually saying it is usually much harder. In any event, Worf and Jadzia Dax’s marriage goes very well until Jadzia is killed by Gul Dukat and another Trill joins the Dax symbiont. Then things get understandably awkward for a while.

TV Weddings – Friends – Ross and Emily

2010 July 6
by kvanaren

There are so many weddings on Friends, it was hard to choose just one. Chandler and Monica’s wedding might be the obvious choice, and Phoebe and Mike’s wedding is also memorable, but I just had to go with one of Ross’s many failed marriages.

The couple: Ross Geller and Emily Waltham. After Ross’s disastrous marriage to his ex-wife Susan (now out of the closet), he hopes to move forward with his life by marrying Emily.

Ross and Emily and their eerie, crypt-like ceremony site

Ross and Emily and their eerie, crypt-like ceremony site

The premise: Doomed wedding combined with classic sitcom vacation episode. Rachel suddenly realizes she can’t let Ross marry another woman, and their friends have hilarious clichéd adventures in Jolly Old England. Monica and Chandler sleep together for the first time.

The inevitable sequence of mishaps: The wedding ceremony location gets torn down, squabbles ensue and Emily wants to cancel the wedding. After some discussion, Emily agrees to hold the wedding in the partially destroyed building anyway, which makes the whole thing look like a funeral service held during the Blitz, but to each her own. Emily’s parents try to get Ross’s parents to pay for home renovations by calling them wedding expenses, and Ross has to broker a contract between them. Meanwhile! Rachel realizes that she loves Ross and hops on a plane to try to catch him before the wedding begins. She arrives in time, but decides to let the wedding go forward without saying anything. Everything looks like it’ll work out until they get to the vows, where instead of Emily’s name, Ross says “I, Ross, take thee Rachel.” The minister asks whether he should continue, and – cliffhanger!

The clichés: We actually get double the clichés thanks to the potent wedding/vacation special combo. Sequence of wedding vendor catastrophes (changed menu, missing cellist), acceptance of alternate wedding plan, fighting amongst the in-laws, groomsmen hooks up with bridesmaid, things go awry at the last possible moment. Absurd tourism, homesickness, wacky guest stars, mockery of foreign customs, vacation hook-up.

The special guests: Richard Branson as a street vendor! Hugh Laurie as the annoyed guy on Rachel’s flight! Plus, a completely awesome Jennifer Saunders as Emily’s mother.

friends wedding 2

The first dance song: Alas, it never got that far.

The bridesmaid dresses: Things could be much worse.

friends wedding 1

And in the end….: Obviously, this marriage was not to be. Although Ross and Emily are technically married at the end, the marriage is swiftly annulled and Ross’s divorce count rises.

friends wedding 3

The verdict: While the wedding itself may not have ended well, this episode is probably most important for being the inciting force behind Chandler and Monica’s relationship, which later leads to one of the other major Friends weddings. Even if you didn’t know that Ross and Emily’s marriage would be doomed, the basic set-up of this episode (another typical two-parter) should have been enough to tip you off. The focus is clearly not on the wedding or the couple – stitching the wedding episode together with a vacation episode is already enough of a distraction from what should have been the main event. By the time you see Chandler and Monica sleep together, it’s clear that this wedding is going to be a sideshow for other relationships (Ross and Rachel, Chandler and Monica) rather than an end in itself.

TV Weddings – Full House: Becky and Uncle Jesse

2010 July 5
by kvanaren

Because it is the season, and because of my current investment in the topic, the blog will be running a feature this week and next – a brief look at 10 of my favorite TV weddings. We begin with one of the first weddings I can remember seeing on TV, on a show I was absolutely obsessed with c. fourth grade.

The couple: Rebecca Donaldson, co-anchor of Wake Up, San Francisco, and Jesse Katsopolis, rock singer and Elvis fanatic, go for the full on formal affair in an old church in San Francisco, followed up by a reception at Danny Tanner’s townhouse.

The premise: Becky’s father informs motorcycle-loving Uncle Jesse that his days as a wild rock star are now over, and as a last hurrah, Jesse forces Uncle Joey to take him sky diving the morning before the wedding. Meanwhile, DJ and Stephanie film a “The Making of a Wedding” tape as a gift for the bride and groom, and Michelle is grossed out by the ring bearer until she sees him in his tiny tux.

Jesse goes sky diving, falls into tomato country

Jesse goes sky diving, falls into tomato country

The inevitable sequence of mishaps: Frankly, if you want to go sky diving the morning before your wedding, you should probably leave more than three hours ahead of time. Jesse is already running late when his parachute gets stuck in a tree in “tomato country,” where he is arrested for trying to steal a tomato truck, and then Becky decides to drive up to “tomato country” to bail him out. As a resident of the Bay Area, I have yet to encounter this magical, tomato-loving place, but when I find it, I’ll let you know. So Becky hops in her dad’s car completely decked out in her wedding dress and enormous dangly headgear and manages to get Jesse sprung from Tomato Country County Jail, only to discover her dad’s car has been towed. They then hitch a ride with a convenient traveling gospel choir, who cheerfully follow them into a church to provide backup for Uncle Jesse’s serenade.

full house wedding 2

Becky is not pleased to discover that Jesse is going to make her wear that crazy thing for even longer, thanks to his tardiness.

The clichés: Over-protective father of the bride, cold feet, crippling lateness, bride doing unusual things in her wedding dress (running into a jail, driving a school bus), unnecessarily demonstrative kiss, cake smashing.

The first dance song: “Jail House Rock,” sung by Uncle Jesse while he was also dancing. That man was talented.

The bridesmaid dresses: FEAST YOUR EYES

Oh yes.

Oh yes.

And in the end…: Success! Jesse and Becky hop on the motorcycle and drive off into the distance, hopefully not too far because it’s hard to fit much luggage on a motorcycle.

full house wedding 4

The verdict: This is pretty standard fare for a TV wedding, beginning with the cheerfully nonthreatening comedy of errors, and going right down to the classic two-parter episode format. Without a doubt, though, my favorite thing about this whole episode is Becky’s role in the craziness. She’s definitely angry at Jesse for being stupid enough to go sky diving three hours before the ceremony, but not only does she barely even freak out, she insists on driving up to the jail herself. Even better, when they catch a ride back to the city with the gospel choir, she starts to give the driver directions, and then just hops into the drivers’ seat herself. It’s an unusual and pleasant image of a TV bride – she’s disappointed and upset, but she’s not so attached to the magical preciousness of the day that she’s above marching into a jail cell to bail out her fiancee. Not too shabby, Full House.