Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

How Can The Walking Dead Save It’s Second Season? Get Lost

Friday, February 10th, 2012

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The whole gang is back! After an inexcusable hiatus, breaking up the momentum just as the season got reasonably interesting we finally return to meet back up with Rick Grimes and company this Sunday on AMC.

Either the series rebounds to the form of the first season and the flickering promise of the final act of the mid-season finale. Or we return the plodding nonsense that was the heft of first half. In genre television, a realm where concepts and execution mean so much, you either pass or fail.

The Walking Dead is at the tipping point.

Two sides of a coin. Two paths in a wood. Is TWD ready to step up its game?

Let’s consider the possibilities.

Remember true believers, we’ve been here before. Worse even! It was late November, 2006. In order to avoid maddening rerun breaks in the schedule of their suddenly popular cult hit Lost, ABC came up with a brilliant plan. Run it with no repeats, but in two parts. One six-episode run in the fall and the bulk in the spring.

The results were awful. The six-episode arc plodded, new characters added nothing to the show and took away screen time from old favorites and at the end of six hours we got a tense yet predictable climax that delivered on none of the mind blowing awesomeness we’d come to expect from Lost.

Run Kate! Run (away from this show because it’s boring)!

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But something miraculous happened when the show returned in February of 2007. The creative spark was back. We got the first of what would become a trilogy of great episodes centered around Desmond’s time defying, reality hopping prowess. Our big bad Ben Linus became both more ruthless and sympathetic through an artfully told backstory. Found out why Locke was in a wheelchair. AND.. AND… AND they cleared the new character dead weight with a flourish. And Billy D. Williams.

Meanwhile, the season finale ended with perhaps the biggest sucker punch in a series known for sucker punches. A brilliant example of why you need to consistently blow up your mythology to keep things interesting.

We have to go back Kate! We have to go back (to watch this seasons again because it ruled)!

What can TWD learn?

skitched-20120210-180409.jpgDead isn’t Lost. But it is the most important show about zombies since… well… ever. The first season showed so much outside-the-box promise. The CDC and Merle Dixon explored concepts like global hope and power dynamics in a thrilling and exciting way. Although Herschel’s farm certainly gave us a careful examination of how to consider the humanity of the undead, it took it’s sweet time to do it and diluted the point like a homeopathic cold remedy.

In the second half of season three, Lost focused on telling great one episode stories. Some dealt with previous mythology but many (like Desmond’s Flashes Before Your Eyes) did not. Let’s get more of those! You have an endless possibility of character interaction in show about post-apocalyptic survivors. What strange people? Cultures?

Think about how many terrible episodes in the first half hung their entire dramatic arc on the search for a little girl they knew they weren’t going to find? The complications they found were either easily solvable or had no dramatic consequence.

Not to beat a dead horse, but the sure fire way to fowl this up is to follow the comic series closer than they have. Until we get to Woodbury and meet The Governor (whose casting rumors are quite juicy) there’s a whole lot of sloooooooooooow burn in this source material.

This is not a slow burn series, it’s a story about survival and the forces against it. Or at least it shouldn’t be if it wants to be watchable.

The Walking Dead Television Series Is Superior To The Comic Series [Opinion]

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011
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Walking Dead mastermind Robert Kirkman has famously said his most popular franchise was borne from wondering what happens after a zombie movie. Typically, a zombie outbreak story begins with a relatable reality, add zombies, initial crisis ensues, survivors band together and after a few casualties the initial crisis is solved. But when the credits roll, our main characters are left in a world changed forever.

What happens to them? How do they cope? How do they eat? Do they forget the past? Do they make a future?

The Walking Dead is that story and Kirkman is telling it twice. Once in the original comic incarnation and simultaneously on AMC as a surprisingly popular hour-long drama (returning with a second season this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on AMC) of which he is a writer and executive producer. There is a reason his second draft, initially reshaped by mastermind Frank Darabont, is more popular.

Thanks to more consistent relatable characters, key revisions in the canon story and new wrinkles added exclusively in the AMC series it’s way, way better than the source material. Some might disagree but we survive by pulling together and not apart, with a warning of heavy spoilers through the first season of the AMC show and the first 25 issues of the comic, I’ll explain my position. (more…)

Bob Saget Is On The Hunt For Bigfoot

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

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Bob Saget is shooting a new show for A&E entitled Strange Days where he hunts down the strangest elements of our society, including Bigfoot, which was the episode he was shooting last week.

“Bob Saget’s Strange Days” delves into weird, wild stuff: biker gangs, partying Amish teenagers, mail-order brides, a survivalist cult — and, of course, Bigfoot.

So out Saget came to the North Olympic Peninsula to peek at the West End woods and interview John Bindernagel, author of two books about the hairy creature supposedly living in the deep forest.

And since Saget wanted a nice spot to meet Bindernagel — who came down from Courtenay, British Columbia — he and his entourage found the George Washington Inn, a replica of the first U.S. president’s estate in Mount Vernon, Va.

[Peninsula Daily News]

Love Bugs: Reaper, X-Files Tackle The Weirdest Evil Insect Episodes In TV History

Thursday, August 13th, 2009
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In this column, we look at two pop-cultural interpretations of ubiquitous Weird legends as portrayed by two narrative television programs… like how That ‘70s Show’s Donna and CSI: Miami’s Horatio Crane were both created by their respective networks in order to fulfill SAG-regulated ginger nut quotas. But with monsters. Enjoy.

Reaper, Episode 1×03, “All Mine”
AND
X-Files, Episode 9×05, “Lord of the Flies”

Fleas provide a wily vector for the bubonic plague and wipe out a third of the world’s population.

Killer bees buzz up against America’s borders, causing a prolonged nationwide freakout.

All kinds of weird bugs terrify Willie Scott and Indiana Jones almost dies.

Spread out across every continent and driven by a simplistic nervous system that puppeteers their segmented bodies towards only the most primal satisfactions, insects have alternately fascinated and terrified humans since the first time some blundering caveman saw a beehive and went all My Girl on it. Their ubiquity and instinctual persistence postures them as an ever-moving imagined boundary between nature and civilization that, for every two steps it’s forced back by poisons and zappers, advances one step forward into kitchens and bedrooms. Insects have proved such an enduring fixture of human experience that they’ve infested language itself, swarming the vernacular with a bevy of bug-related clichés, euphemisms and metaphors, ranging from “the birds and the bees” to “mad as a hornet” to “patience, young grasshopper.” It’s no surprise, then, that these perceived pests, and the swarm of associations they evoke, occupy their own cavernous burrow in the pantheon of pop culture, eating their way into the very foundation of American narrative.

Even beyond their aforementioned presence in spoken rhetoric, insects’ universality and relative biological simplicity allow them to play the cipher for a variety of basic human circumstances, relationships and emotions. For instance, both the episodes examined in today’s column employ bugs in exploring different dimensions of love, from the ardor and stewardship that shape and fortify it, to the gnawing jealousy and guilt that can hollow it out from the inside. One episode uses the fundamental disgust that bugs can instill to channel the gross desperation and jealousy that the jilting wake of lust- gone-awry can inflict, while the other, in a failed attempt to portray a good kid gone bad in the name of both love and a genetic disease, ends up utilizing the simple, beautiful biology of insects as a microscope through which to examine the exact point of impact in a collision between feelings and actions.

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Is this the ultimate weapon for the inevitable Terminator: Salvation robot apocalypse?

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Preparing for the inevitable Terminator: Salvation robot apocalypse a five part series

We here at Weird Things aren’t just committed to telling you about all the weird things going on in your world, we’re here to do something about it! As every day brings us closer to the robot apocalypse envisioned in the Terminator saga, we’ve been preparing ourselves for a fighting chance. Our editors (actually just this one; the others looked at me funny when I suggested this) decided to design the ultimate weapon to use in the front lines of the man versus machine war.

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Making Star Trek Possible: Warp speed without the warp drive

Friday, May 8th, 2009

A five-part series that tries to explain how to make the science of Star Trek real…

Enterprise

Probably the most fascinating idea that Star Trek popularized was the idea of a warp drive. This was a concept from golden age sci-fi that went mainstream via Trek as space-age audiences became sophisticated enough to realize that NASA’s fastest rockets wouldn’t take you very far in a human lifetime. Even going the speed of light wouldn’t work for a show that tried to visit more than one star system in it’s 3 season run (due to time dilation your characters could visit those places, but their friends back on earth would be long dead). What was needed was a (plot) device that allowed you to visit distant planets in the time it takes to drive to the next state.

Since Star Trek, warp drive has become a part of public consciousness. It’s a theoretical form of technology that some feel is as inevitable as AI and teleportation.

There’s one big catch; while AI (or something that acts like it) seems to be a problem solved at some point on a graph projecting the development of intelligent systems and teleportation seems to be more of an energy problem, there’s not a viable theory for how a warp drive could work (exotic matter, worm holes, Alcubierre drives etc.) that doesn’t violate the laws of physics (as we know them) or result in some equation balancing phenomenon like a “quantum scream” (an obscure term used in an equally obscure paper on the subject).
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Making Star Trek Possible: The Humanoid Problem

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

A five-part series that tries to explain how to make the science of Star Trek real…

Separated at birth?

In an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation called the “The Chase” a long running problem in Star Trek was finally solved – Why do all the aliens in Star Trek look humanoid. The answer was not “budget”. It was that a race that lived 4.5 billion years ago seeded the galaxy with its DNA. Humans, Vulcans, klingons etc., all got their imprint from them. We kind of look like each other because we all look like some alien race from 4.5 billion years ago. Problem solved. But is Intelligent Design really a satisfying answer?

If we find aliens that look like us, what other explanations could account for them?

Kidnapping
Having to deal with a slightly more sophisticated audience that grew up watching Star Trek, the producers of Stargate and the producers of the television series had to come up with a simple explanation for there being humans all over the galaxy in present day time. Their solution was a popular one in sci-fi literature: We were kidnapped. Over the last 100,000 years humans have been relocated to the distant corners of our universe. Once there, they go about their business. Building monuments to their gods (Star Trek and Stargate) or becoming thriving interstellar civilizations more advanced than us on earth (Iain Banks’s The Culture).

Ian Banks Matter

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Making Star Trek Possible: Practical Time Travel

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

A five-part series that tries to explain how to make the science of Star Trek real…

Time Travel stories generally suck. There are some noteworthy exceptions – specifically stories that deal with the problems of time travel and not just time travel as a plot device (Primer, Back to the Future, to name a few).

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Star Trek has done some great and some very bad time travel stories. Story merits aside, there’s one big problem with most time travel stories; Transmitting people back in time (information) has no theoretical basis: It’s impossible. For every worm hole propped open with exotic matter or giant Tippler tube, someone always finds an equation to show how the universe corrects itself with quantum screams, bubbles or other annoyances that get in the way of us correcting that horrible thing that happened in 6th grade or saving the whales.

Assuming for a moment that the killjoys at MIT and Princeton who relish in pointing out that time travel as we understand it is impossible, then what? How can we tell scientifically literate time travel stories? (more…)

Making Star Trek Possible: Mind melding and ESP

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

A five-part series that tries to explain how to make the science of Star Trek real…

Spock's early failures at mind melding

An important part of the Star Trek mythos is the idea of mind-to-mind contact. Spock uses this to probe other people’s minds and even transplant his entire consciousness. Counselor Troi used it to read the feelings of other species. It’s a wonderful concept that has fascinated people since at least the 1800’s. Unfortunately, we’re no closer to it being real now then we were back then.

We can imagine all sorts of technology assisted ways to make this real, but there’s nothing sexy about your Vulcan girlfriend asking you to step into an fMRI so she can read your voxels (okay, maybe a little sexy). What we need are some organic solutions or explanations for brain to brain transmission that make the concept a little more plausible. (more…)

The Truth Behind Lost’s Moving Island

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Can an island really move like the island(s) on Lost? Short answer yes. Maybe not through a donkey wheel in the bottom of a well, but an island can definitely move around.

The not so technical term is a “floating island” or tussocks, floatons, or sudds. They form when vegetation grows out from shore and eventually becomes buoyant and the roots can’t grab hold of the ground. A heavy wind can shear it off and set it adrift. They’re actually fairly common in lakes. Some are as large as a football field (or more) and can have trees and animal life.

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