Archive for May, 2010

TV Shows That Moved to Other Networks

May 29, 2010

We’ve all had beloved television shows get canceled. Sometimes, you get so angry that you claim that you’ll never watch network television again. You still watch the big networks, of course, but it feels good to have that one moment of gumption when you feel as though you can make a stand against the mass media system.

But there is hope. Some shows killed (mercifully or mercilessly, depending on your point of view) by their original network have been picked up by other networks. Although this is incredibly rare, many viewers still like to believe that this is a viable possibility when they realize that their favorite show is about to be executed. A successful move is equally rare, since most of these refugee shows barely survive a season before being canceled for good.

This list will focus on shows that have lateral moves- in other words, to comparable or better networks. So shows like Law and Order: Criminal Intent (NBC → USA), Southland (NBC → TNT), and Futurama (FOX → Comedy Central- NEW EPISODES IN JUNE!!!) do not count. Neither do shows on WB/UPN that went to CW after the merger.

Candid Camera

A network switch is not a new phenomenon. Several older shows got shuffled around back when there were only three channels and even UHF stations weren’t available. Allen Funt’s “original” reality show Candid Camera might be the first notable example.

Starting as a radio program in the late 40s, the show started its television life on ABC in 1948 and was moved to NBC to syndication to hiatus before landing on CBS for its longest consecutive run (1960-1967).

The show featured the now played out concept of regular citizens (and some celebrities) doing foolish things while being captured on hidden camera before having their shame being broadcast to the entire nation. It has inspired the likes of Punk’d, Boiling Points, and To Catch a Predator.

Candid Camera never really went away. After its run on CBS, it kept coming back every now and then throughout the decades with new episodes on syndication (the last version was on PAX from 2001-2004) and anniversary specials on CBS.

Leave it to Beaver

CBS: 1957-1958
ABC: 1958-1963

Leave It To Beaver’s legacy comes down to the unfortunate-but-hilarious choice of its protagonist’s nickname. The iconic show centered around The Cleavers- your typical, average, suburban nuclear family with a precocious child, his wiser older brother and two parents.

Even in 2010 America Beaver has its purpose. It can be held up as representative of the happy-go-lucky post-War period that never really existed but we like to pretend it did. The Cleavers can be (and are regularly) considered the epitome of the “idealized suburban television family” and the series as the “idealized suburban television family” sitcom. It can be used ironically to condemn Normal Rockwellian simplicity. Or it can be an example of America’s oppression of minorities.

Afters its first season, the show moved from CBS to ABC where it remained for five more seasons. With the exception of the family relocating to a bigger house on a different street, the move didn’t affect the show’s content. Unlike many shows that survived into the 1960s, Beaver never gave into that color fad and performed its entire run in Black and White.

My Three Sons

ABC: 1960-1965
CBS: 1965-1972

Though My Three Sons was another family sitcom, unlike Beaver, this one was about a widower (Fred MacMurray) dealing with his three sons. Widowers were very popular on television at this time (see: The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Andy Griffith Show); widows were not, which is odd since you’d expect a lot of husbands to have been dead from the wars.

MTS moved to CBS after ABC wouldn’t produce the program in color. Besides filming in color, the ABC years introduced the boys’ grandfather, had the eldest son Mike Douglas move away (never to be heard of or seen again) and adopting the youngest son’s friend Ernie as a replacement to keep the title proper. The characters also moved from the midwest to sunny California in late 60s and several of the children had children of their own.

Get Smart

NBC: 1965-1969
CBS: 1969-1970

The classic Mel Brooks and Buck Henry spy parody (starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon) lasted for four years on NBC but moved to CBS for only one season before being canceled. Allegedly, even Don Adams was finding the show trite and repetitive, boycotting season five’s Ice Station Siegfried for this reason. At NBC, the show was nominated for several Emmys and even won Outstanding Comedy Series in 1968 and 1969 and Outstanding Lead Comedy Actor (Don Adams) from 1967-1969. At CBS, it was nominated for nothing.

In 1989, the cast returned in the made-for-TV movie Get Smart, Again! that aired on ABC thus putting Get Smart on all three major networks. If you throw in FOX’s terrible mid-90s Get Smart sequel spinoff/reboot starring Andy Dick (as Agent 86’s and 99’s son- with Adams and Feldon returning) you get the full set.

Diff’rent Strokes

NBC: 1978-1985
ABC: 1985-1986

Before it became a symbol for ironic t-shirts, Diff’rent Strokes was one of the first shows to take on the issue of white guilt. Originally about upper crusty white man Philip Drummond adopting two black children, like so many family sitcoms it devolved into lame catchphrases, trying to pimp the stand-out character (Arnold (Gary Coleman)) and special episodes devoted to warning children against pedophile bike shop owners.

After seven seasons on NBC, the show was canceled because of low ratings. It was picked up, and had one final season, on ABC.

Nothing much more to say except Gary Coleman died today so this suddenly becomes topical.


ABC: 1978-1982
NBC: 1982-1983

Although only lasting five seasons, Taxi has long been held as one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. The series (a workplace sitcom) was about a bunch of mostly dissatisfied losers (including Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, Danny DeVito, Andy Kaufman and Christopher Lloyd) working the late shift at a New York taxi company.

What made (and makes) Taxi stand out from other shows was that it was grittier than most sitcoms, even many airing today. The characters were losers. They had dreams but it was unlikely that they were going to succeed at them, a trope regularly used today in shows like The Office and Party Down. They had defects of a more human variety- gambling addictions, drug addiction, sexual harassment, downward spirals, being foreign- not just zany quirks meant for laughs.

The show lasted for four seasons on ABC where it won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series from 1979-1981 and was nominated (and received) many other awards. It moved to NBC (where it was paired with the first season of Cheers) for one final season before it was canceled.


KTMA: 1988-1989
Comedy Central: 1989-1996
The Sci-Fi Channel: 1997-1999

Mystery Science Theater 3000, the cult classic comedy show about a man marooned in space forced to mock terrible movies with his robot friends, is no stranger to change. By the end of its 11 year run, none of the original cast remained (though a lot of the original writing crew did). Even Kevin Murphy, the longest running cast member, only became the voice of robot Tom Servo in the show’s second season. The human host/lead changed in 1993, leading to the Joel [Hodgson] v. Mike [Nelson] debate among the show’s fans.

When Comedy Central canceled the show after a final season of seven episodes, a massive write-in campaign inspired The Sci-Fi Channel to pick it up in 1997. The show underwent a series of changes during this time, the biggest probably being Trace Beaulieu not returning. Beaulieu served as the voice of bowling-pin-billed Crow T. Robot and the main bad guy, mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester whose experiments at Deep 13 sent Joel and Mike into space aboard the Satellite of Love. The voice of Crow was taken over by newcomer Bill Corbett, who did a more than passable job as the gold bot. The villain role was taken over by Clayton’s mother Pearl Forrester (introduced in the Comedy Central years), evolved ape Professor Bobo and omniscient doofus Observer/Brain Guy. The show also stopped reading fan letters, a staple of the Comedy Central years and a throwback to its cable access origins.

The brass at Sci-Fi weren’t the most encouraging to the show. It took a good deal of effort to get them to move the Saturn-esque mark (signifying The Sci-Fi Channel) from the bottom right of the television screen (where it blocked the silhouette of Crow) to the bottom left. Originally, they put restrictions on the types of movies MST3K could use (limiting it to the sci-fi/horror genre) and banned the shorts, which are among MST3K’s finest moments. As the series went on, shorts returned (unfortunately, only three appeared in the entire Sci-Fi era) and more varied movies were allowed to appear (such as the classic episode The Girl in Gold Boots). After three seasons, The Sci-Fi Channel changed management and MST3K was among the first on the chopping block.

While many were a bit hesitant towards the Sci-Fi episodes, a lot of the episodes hold up incredibly well and are among the series’ best offerings (like Puma Man, Werewolf, and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, among others). The Sci-Fi era suffered a good deal from the villain aspect. While Pearl/Bobo/Observer might have been fine on their own, they couldn’t fill the shoes left by Dr. F. and his lackey TV’s Frank.

Years later, MST3K is still a very influential show. A lot of the original members (including Hodgson and Beaulieu) mock older, terrible movies with Cinematic Titanic while the Sci-Fi trio (Murphy/Nelson/Corbett) savage newer movies and shorts with the hilarious Rifftrax. If you put a cardboard cut-out of theater seats on your television while watching it’s almost like the real thing. Not that anyone would do that…

Family Matters/Step by Step ABC → CBS

Family Matters
ABC: 1989-1997
CBS: 1997-1998

Step by Step
ABC: 1991-1997
CBS: 1997-1998

When ABC finally decided to abandon its TGIF line-up (that defined the weekend for homebound losers in the early to mid 90s), for some reason CBS decided to rescue two of the series- Family Matters and Step By Step– to bolster its “CBS Block Party” Friday night line-up. Needless to say, this scheme failed and both the shows (and the Block Party format) were canceled after one season.

Family Matters started about the struggles of a black family in America and became about the crazy misadventures of unstable stalker/trespasser/borderline rapist Steve Urkel (whom we were supposed to side with despite him being a self-absorbed asshole). Although the show dropped characters before (like Aunt Rachel, future-porn star Judy Winslow and latter day Step-And-Fetch-It Waldo Geraldo Faldo), the final season had to recast the mother/wife Harriette Winslow when Jo Marie Payton (whose role as the same character on Perfect Strangers led to Family Matters’ existence) didn’t sign up for the final season. She was replaced with Judyann Elder. The final season also lost Ritchie (Aunt Rachel’s son who existed on the show without even a mention of Aunt Rachel), replacing him with inner-city adoptee 3J and Carl’s mother and matriarch of the Winslow clan, Estelle. The show ended with a two-parter featuring Urkel getting lost in outer space then returning home and marrying Laura.

Step By Step, a Brady Bunch-wannabe and one of the more forgettable entries in the TGIF lineup despite lasting nearly a decade and featuring a whole bunch of child stars who never went on to do much of anything, was bought by CBS in the same deal that got them Family Matters. During its final season on CBS, the youngest child, Brendan, disappeared and was never mentioned again.

Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher

Comedy Central: 1993-1997
ABC: 1997-2002

Unlike most shows on this list, Bill Maher’s irreverent take on politics and society actually got a promotion. The show (four political figures, celebrities and/or comedians sitting around talking about current events) started in 1993 on Comedy Central and became one of the basic cable station’s earliest hits.

The show got picked up by ABC in 1996 where it aired after Nightline. Back in the “Rah-Rah-America” days after the attacks on 9/11, Bill Maher made a faux pas by saying “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.” This upset a lot of people. The quote was taken out of context and Bill Maher was pariahed as an America-hating terrorist-supporter. Networks, as they are apt to do, abandoned the talent, kowtowed to the cries of special interest groups, and canceled the show.

Bill Maher and his political commentary soon after found a home on HBO with the still-airing Real Time with Bill Maher.

The Critic

ABC: 1994
FOX: 1995

Before prime-time animated shows (other than The Simpsons) were given the respect they deserved, there was The Critic from The Simpsons’ Al Jean and Mike Reiss . Though only 23 episodes were produced between the two channels, it had a relatively strong (but small) following and Jay Sherman’s call to action against terrible films (“It Stinks!”) is still recalled today.

Although regular parodies of then-current and classic films were regularly featured, the show was more intelligent satire than spoof. The core of the show came from the life of Jay Sherman, an intelligent, pretentious, loathsome, self-hating, pathetic film critic voiced by Jon Lovitz.

It lasted for a half-season on ABC, got canceled, moved to FOX where it lasted for a half-season then got canceled again. On FOX, the character designs changed a bit and Jay was given an almost-love interest in make-up artist Alice Tompkins. Also on FOX, he was responsible for a classic cartoon crossover when he went to Springfield to judge a film festival with The Simpsons (episode: A Star Is Burns).

While it can be said for a lot of short lived shows, The Critic is definitely one that came and went before its time. Arguably movies have only gotten worse since the mid-90s so there would be a lot more fodder for the writers to savage. But mostly, Jay Sherman himself might find a better audience today. Cynical, depressive, misanthropes are among the best, most acclaimed characters on television (Don Draper, Walter White, Dr. House, Andy Millman) and despite his two dimensions, Sherman could fit with that group.

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer

WB: 1997-2001
UPN: 2001-2003

The show that turned Joss Whedon into a cult hero began its life as a poorly received 1992 movie starring Kristy Swanson before becoming its own series in 1997 starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and became one of the nascent WB network’s first (and only) critically acclaimed hits. It could also be considered at least partially responsible (or blamed) for the modern humanized vampire trend.

After five seasons, the show moved to UPN for budgetary reasons in 2001. (UPN, the channel that never really had a hit, offered the producers more money.) Buffy spin-off Angel remained on the WB however.

The switch to UPN didn’t affect the show drastically. However, many of the show’s fandom (it had and still has one of television’s most vocal fanbases) disliked the direction series creator Whedon took during the UPN years, preferring the WB Era’s ending of Buffy sacrificing herself and the final shot of her tombstone with the epitaph “She Saved The World A Lot.”

While the series ended, the characters and their adventures never did as Whedon took the “Buffyverse” to a series of graphic novel considered the show’s “Season Eight.”


NBC: 2001-2008
ABC: 2009-2010

Despite lasting for seven years on NBC, Scrubs is one of those shows that the Peacock Network has been (somewhat validly) accused of never throwing enough support behind. NBC was blamed for never giving Scrubs good time slots, never promoting it enough and often relegating it to mid-season placement. Even after becoming what seems like syndication’s most popular show, NBC still kept it under the radar (arguably because the show was produced by ABC Studios, thus ABC getting most of the syndication dollars, despite it airing on NBC).

When NBC canceled Scrubs, ABC was quick to pick it up. The NBC finale was some unimpressive fairy tale-inspired affair, but because by the show knew they were picked up by ABC, they brought a lot of the “NBC” episodes with them to their new home.

At the end of its eighth season (its first season on ABC) the show had a “proper” finale with lead JD leaving Sacred Heart Hospital for the last time, having received his long-desired respect from father figure Dr. Cox and daydreaming about a happy, more adult future for him and his future children as opposed to the zany, childish fantasies that made up the bulk of his inner life.

And then ABC brought it back for yet another season. Without most of the main characters. Though Dr. Cox and Dr. Turk hanged on as regulars, and many former regulars (such as JD, soiling his well-done farewell) made occasional guest appearances, the focus was on a new set of medical students. Derisively called AfterSCRUBS (after MASH’s ill-advised sequel spinoff AfterMASH starring Radar and Colonel Potter), the new show began its life with uneasy legs. Although it seemed to have found some footing about mid-way through the ninth season (mostly because JD finally left and the new characters were allowed to operate on their own), it was canceled, ending Scrubs 9-year run with a wholly unremarkable filler episode.


NBC: 2005-2009

Medium, featuring Patricia Arquette as a psychic who helps cops solve crimes, was actually a hit for NBC during its run on the channel but when negotiations for a sixth season broke down in 2009, CBS picked it up almost immediately. CBS put it alongside Numb3rs and The Ghost Whisperer. Oddly enough, while Medium was picked up for the 2010-2011 season, its companion shows were canceled this year. Meanwhile, The Ghost Whispererer made a failed attempt to get picked up by ABC.


Random Musings: Teenage Werewolves

May 25, 2010

Looks like The Twilight Saga: The Twilight Saga has encouraged something more than horrible writers (like yours truly) to peddle their wares. That’s right, teenage werewolves are now in style according to this local news report that, like most local news reports, fails to comprehend anything. Unfortunately, these obviously-mass-consumers-who-delude-themselves-into-thinking-they-are-different are just wearing their normal outfits but with cheap looking tails. …so much for creativity.

This is a call to arms for those more cleverly inclined high school students to offer an olive branch to these sadly-self-awareness-lacking emo-wannabes eternally crying that Bella ends up with Edward and Jacob fucks a baby by also becoming a teenage werewolf. Or, to use hip lingo, a teen wolf.

Clothing wise, unfortunately you no longer have Hot Topic to carefully pick out the perfect outfit to let the world know that you are an outcast who doesn’t follow trends. But you still have plenty of options, although you are constrained to Michael J. Fox’s wardrobe in the film.

The yellow basketball outfit might work for you. Personally, I think the windbreaker/flannel/turtleneck/jeans is passable anytime.

As a teen wolf, you get many benefits. You are able to dunk. You can dance and air guitar on the top of a moving van. You get to choreograph a dance that your classmates follow. You don’t have to brutally maim people, though that’s always an option.

You can get beer. And you can sniff out pot- a skill that’s far more impressive and important than putting on eyeliner.

And, finally, at the end of the big basketball game, some dude will show his dick on the stands.

So for all you high schoolers looking for a way to make inroads with the Twilight Emo Furry crowd, Michael J. Fox it up (or Jason Bateman, if you prefer), extend your paw, flash your red eyes, and howl with the best of them.

Eulogy For a Crappy Show: Farewell to Heroes

May 19, 2010

With the networks announcing their 2010-2011 fall schedule, one thing is for certain: NBC has canceled Heroes. Finally. Thankfully. It’s about damned time.

There are a lot of reasons (both on screen and behind the scenes) for the collapse of this once good show, and while I won’t go through all of its many, many, many issues, I’ll try to highlight some of Heroes’ biggest failures (without even talking about Caitlin, the chick they wrote into non-existence).

Shrinking The Universe

Arguably the show’s biggest problem was that with each subsequent season the show’s universe kept shrinking.

Season 1 began with a pretty huge Heroesverse, which was one of the show’s biggest and most popular selling points. It began its series chock full of mysteries, seeds of storylines that could have blossomed, side characters, possible allies and villains, secret organizations, underground facilities for mutants, evil companies, a mutant mafia, an old generation of heroes that remained behind the scene, a newer generation of heroes just learning about their powers, etc.

For some reason, they scrapped all that. With each subsequent season, the Heroesverse got increasingly smaller. This is the opposite of what most comic books and most television shows do. Generally, you build up and add to what you have; you don’t raze it. Creating a fully formed world that exists independently of the 40 minutes per episode is what keeps people watching every week.

Every new volume, Heroes seemed to kill off or forget about characters that could have been useful or important or interesting. Overarching ideas and organizations that could have been a background (or foreground) storyline or threat for seasons in the future were often unceremoniously abandoned or destroyed in following seasons. Instead of maybe even giving these ideas or characters a way to return, they made sure to burn everything to the ground …. literally … several times.

By the end of the series, the paper companies that represented a danger to the heroes were destroyed (except I think the characters briefly talked about creating a new company and just as quickly forgot about it). The government threat was pretty much over. The mutant mob was gone. The older generation of heroes were practically dead. People forgot about Mohinder’s research and even Mohinder himself. New threats didn’t replace the old ones. New characters didn’t replace the dead ones. The series felt empty.

What might be considered a big reason for TPTB’s refusal to expand comes from…

Obsession with First Season

The show had a pathetic obsession with its first season. But who can blame them? It was the last time this show was successful- critically or fan-wise.

It’s been said that the show’s original plan was for each volume to feature new heroes rather than focusing on the old ones but the first season was so successful that they had no choice but to keep the old cast that the audience fell in love with. So instead of using a combination of the two schemes (i.e. use the old cast to build up a new cast and then watch the new heroes sink or swim on their own), they went the completely opposite direction and only kept the old cast (well, old main characters) except for a few forgettable stragglers each season. Hell, even when Nathan Petrelli died for the third time, they still felt compelled to keep Adrian Pasdar in last season’s stupid “mindrape Sylar into thinking he’s Nathan” plot. When Ali Larter’s first character(s) died, they brought her back as a second character from a set of never-heard-about-before triplets.

On top of that, they never let the characters grow from their season one roles. Much like the first season, at the start of each volume, each character spread to the four corners of the world stuck in their first season clique (Claire and HRG; Hiro and Ando; Peter and Nathan, etc.). They went on little side adventures, united to fight the threat at the end, then dispersed once more. It got redundant and disappointing for a show that was tailor made to have the characters be a cohesive fighting unit ready to take on threats wherever and whenever they emerge.

But a bigger problem was that the characters never grew emotionally either. Every season Claire WANTED A NORMAL LIFE before accepting she was different and then WANTING A NORMAL LIFE AGAIN. Noah Bennett was a morally grey guy who loved his family…but how can he balance life and work?!? Nathan Petrelli (this was most evident in the volume with the government going after the mutants)went from wanting to destroy/hating the mutants to wanting to save the mutants and back again nearly every volume. Every time Hiro seemed to grow up, he regressed right back to being a child.

And there’s always…


You can’t talk about where this show failed without talking a good deal about Sylar. Sylar (Zachary Quinto) was the show’s break out star. Quinto was a good actor and Sylar was a good villain: dangerous but charismatic and fun. While it’s understandable why they wanted to keep Quinto on, the show didn’t really know what to do with Sylar after the first season ended. They couldn’t even explain how his powers worked consistently. How hard could it be to figure out what he does with other people’s brains?

Every volume he went through the exact same “I’m struggling to be GOOD! … Fuck it, I’m evil, let me wreak havoc” arc. They also tried to throw in some “Are you my mommy/daddy/real daddy?” issues that never lead anywhere either. (The answers were no to Angela Petrelli, no to Arthur Petrelli, yes to Lionel Luthor in one of the most wasted guest appearances this show ever had.)

Some think that Sylar should have died at the end of the first Volume. I disagree. Sylar didn’t need to die (where would comic books as a whole be if the villains always died?) but, just as not every X-Men comic book has Magneto, Sylar didn’t need to be in every volume. A surprise appearance every once in a while (especially after a long absence) by Sylar would have been a much better use of the character, retained his novelty and prevent viewer burn out (which many viewers had with Sylar).

He worked best as a wild card. An agent of chaos. A slightly less evil Harpo Marx. But when it came to being a true threat, he never evolved from where he was in the first season. Sure he became nigh-invulnerable but unless you had powers or got in his way, you seemed relatively safe. There didn’t seem to be much of a chance of him becoming an uncontrollable nuclear man again.

Which leads us to…

No New Villains

Every new season should have had a new threat, ever increasing in their threat potential. And while every volume started with a new bad guy, by the end of each volume the villain became impotent, lame and ended up being dispatched relatively easily before the show returned to SYLAR’s grasp.

When discussing this issue, I’ll focus mostly on Arthur Petrelli (Robert Forster). Arthur Petrelli, the presumably dead father of Nathan and Peter could have been a strong series-long villain that could spend the majority of his time in the background. Arthur was originally the shadowy head of a mutant mob. He was wiser and stronger than most mutants and his ability was to steal other’s powers, rather than just absorb them like Peter was able to do. Making him the puppet master behind people like Linderman (Malcolm McDowell) who could work as a “public face” for his criminal activities and his son Nathan, who as a Senator could easily affect whatever long-term goals Arthur had, could have turned him into an almost unbeatable villain. And, unlike Sylar, he wasn’t just primarily dangerous to mutants, he could be dangerous to mankind as a whole with far-reaching plans as well as government AND evil mutants resources at his disposal. (Compared to Sylar’s more self-centered/instant gratification/anarchy-ish schemes.) Arthur wouldn’t have just been powerful with powers but with powerful with prestige.

But then they have Sylar off him with a single bullet.

There’s plenty that can be said about the other villains (e.g. Samuel Sullivan being a cult-ish carnival leader who apparently didn’t even discover his powers until a couple of months before he appeared on the scene and was mostly obsessed with a high school crush whom he ranted in the lobby of her apartment complex of on a regular basis(?) and Doyle the rapist everyone seemed to love) but this is getting long winded so I’ll touch on some…

Odds and Ends- Ignoring Own History

The show never really got a firm grasp on what it was about or how things worked in the Heroesverse. What follows is some other specific problems the show never really managed to take care of.

What caused the mutations? We got several explanations but none completely worked. They tried linking it to the eclipse, but if so then how come last volume’s Emma didn’t discover her powers until long after the eclipse? Could it be something genetic? Plenty of mutant parents had mutant children. But in some episodes they tried to link the powers of even children from mutant parents like Nathan solely to genetic experimentation. The reasoning behind the abilities changed several times every season and no one answer fits.

There was also the catalyst plotline. Simply, a hero (Claire, then Hiro after some time travel stuff) had some glowy power inside of them that, when put in some formula, would be able to turn normal people into mutants. An entire volume was spent with the mutants in fear of this ‘catalyst’ and what it would do. What happened was one test Marine got super-strength, had his neck snapped relatively easily, and then the fluid was spilled, burned and lost forever. How exciting.

The reason why the catalyst seemed so dangerous was because a character saw the future of powered people and got scared since, shockingly, some regular people abused their new super abilities and did bad things with them.

Time traveling was another problem with this show- both in real and picture form. Time traveling is a tricky thing to pull off in fiction and there needs to be rules. The show took time traveling for granted, established no rules (not even threatening a collapse of the space-time continuum; adult Hiro hung out with little Hiro regularly), and never used it to solve problems even though they easily could have.

This show also had a hard on for having “prophets” paint pictures of a scary future, usually being some sort of explosion. What in the first season came across as a clever “ticking bomb” became a joke by the end because the bomb never went off. It lost its power.

Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) was a terrorist with a bomb strapped to his chest on national television. Then he’s he’s a cop again with no explanation. Then he attempts suicide by cop. Then he escapes from custody. And then he’s chilling at home, no worries, no one staking out the house, no police coming to his door to check if he’s at his own address.

Electro-Girl Elle (Kristen Bell) was an emotionally unstable killer practically tortured from a young age to become an amoral sociopath. When we first met her, she was frying up a pub full of people in Ireland with a smile on her face. But a year earlier (in a flashback episode), we see her as a simple happy-go-lucky agent with a heart of gold.

How did Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) become a Senator? He gets crookedly elected to the House of Representatives, loses his job after drinking heavily and growing a giant beard, gets shot in an assassination attempt, comes back to life with no explanation, talks about God and angels, and then gets offered (and takes) the position of US Senator (at which point he stops talking about God and angels). And, while in office, he disappears for very long period of times on crazy mutant assignments.

These were just some of the problems Heroes had during its run.

But What About a Wrap-Up?

Some people are asking for a wrap-up season for the show but to that I ask, what is there to wrap up? What plotlines are left open? What characters have a journey to complete?

There are no overarching mysteries left to answer since every storyline opened got closed hastily after it was muddied to a point of incoherence. Characters have been on the same hamster wheel since the first season.

For a sci-fi show about superheroes, you’d expect fanboys to raise hell over the cancellation of the show. Has there been any outrage of the cancellation of Heroes? Even Enterprise had like five guys holding protest signs outside of Paramount’s studios.

The show never appreciated its audience or itself. They reset every character. They reset every plotline. And when that happens you never even get to the next level, let alone finish the game. It’s no wonder why Heroes cancellation was met with rejoicing rather than grief.

How Movies Should End: Shrek Forever After

May 18, 2010

Plot: In Shrek 4, reality gets fucked with and we go through yet another “It’s A Wonderful Life” ripoff.

How The Film Should End: The film ends with Shrek getting back to reality, seeing the dead corpses of all his friends strewn about the land like photos of a Civil War battlefield. He puts his hand behind the neck of Fiona as her eyes flutter one last time. He hangs his head to silently cry as the narrator (there’s a narrator in Shrek, right?) says “good night, sweet prince.”

Networks Upfront Announcements- Opening Statement

May 14, 2010

As I am primarily a pop culture/entertainment snarky blogger- because there aren’t enough of those on this god forsaken internet- and a relatively uncreative one at that, over the next week or so I will be commenting on the network’s new fall (and mid-season) schedules. And while I could easily begin my comments on the news that have come out (L+O canceled?! V renewed?!?!?) most of them might be rumors and conjectures. So I’m going to wait until the official news and official schedules are release by the networks before I start my commentary. So keep your eyes open.

When A Trilogy Isn’t Enough- Why Won’t Some Franchises Just Die?

May 10, 2010

Last week Tom Cruise announced his return to the Impossible Missions Force with Mission Impossible IV in 2011. It’s to be directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles and The Iron Giant), scripted by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec (the people behind the canceled US Life on Mars, the canceled October Road, and the soon-to-be-canceled Twin Peaks-lite Happy Town) and based on a story by J.J. Abrams and Tom Cruise (both of whom I assume you know).

The Mission: Impossible film series has been around since 1996. Fifteen years. The first two did very good business but the third could barely be considered a modest hit. (From The first one in 1996 made $180 million US/$457 worldwide and was the third highest grossing movie both domestically and worldwide for that year. The second one from 2000 made $215 million domestic/$546 million worldwide and was the third highest grossing movie domestically but number one worldwide. The last installment (#3) in 2006 made $134 million domestic and $397 million worldwide making it the fourteenth highest grossing movie of that year domestically and the eighth highest grossing movie worldwide.) But, to get to my point, is anyone really clamoring for a return of this series?

Put another way, has the series itself really taken a foothold on pop culture that warrants a fourth film? Are the first three really that memorable? Have you ever heard anybody talk about the Mission: Impossible films long (say, a month) after their release? Are they quotable? Do they have any classic scenes? (Okay, I’ll give them the hanging from wires hacking into a computer scene but that was fifteen years ago.) Have you ever heard anybody say “you know what I would love to see? Another Mission: Impossible flick!”? Probably not.

Part of the reason why the Mission: Impossible movies never really took off in our pop culture consciousness is that they never accomplished making the franchise more than the lead actor (Tom Cruise). While a recurring, and occasionally major, actor is often an important part of a successful franchise, the franchise itself should be bigger than (or at least equal to) that one guy. For example, James Bond the character is bigger than any of the actors playing him. Same with Batman. Same with Jason Vorhees.

There are also close calls as to whom is the most important part of the series: the actor or the character/franchise. Who’s bigger: Indiana Jones or Harrison Ford? John McClane or Bruce Willis? It’s difficult to answer and the best response might be that there exists a symbiotic relationship between the two. Bruce Willis has done plenty of action movies but none have had the lasting impact of Die Hard, yet at the same time it’s doubtful that a new Die Hard would be as successful without Bruce Willis.

But what makes those films different from the Mission: Impossible series can be boiled down to a single question: What was Tom Cruise’s name in the series? How long did it take you to come up with Ethan Hunt? Or, put another way, when someone says “Indiana Jones” or “John McClane” you can probably conjure up an image immediately. Whether it’s the hat and the whip or a man in a dirty white t-shirt crouching in Nakatomi Plaza or a guy jumping off a roof tied to a fire hose, something comes to mind. Now when you hear the name “Ethan Hunt” what do you think of? At best, it’s Tom Cruise being … Tom Cruise. He doesn’t even have a catchphrase.

Ethan Hunt not being memorable wouldn’t even be that big of a deal if the other characters had anything to offer. After all, the original Mission: Impossible television series was about a team. Except the films aren’t about a team- they’re about Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise while Tom Cruise runs away from buildings exploding behind Tom Cruise (standing in front of a green screen). The only thing I recall about the team was that Emilio Estevez was in the first one, Ving Rhames was in the others and Peter Graves was evil.

For an action film franchise to succeed, especially with bland characters, it needs something to make it stand out but the Mission: Impossible films lack any sort of quirks or nuances, ongoing storylines, ongoing character drama, original action or original plots to rise above the typical action-adventure movie. If the films were written smarter and more realistic that could work, or if the films decided to delve deeply into the realm of not-too-distant-future hard sci-fi that could be very cool, or if the team aspect came to the forefront and the films were more an ensemble that actually would be a angle not often used in modern action films (well, at least not until this year with The Losers, The A-Team and The Expendables). Instead we get … Tom Cruise and there’s no I in team, though there is TOM in Teamwork.

What makes this news even more disappointing is that M:IIV is going to be Brad Bird’s live action directorial debut. Brad Bird is an animation genius responsible for a lot of work on the early seasons of The Simpsons, The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. To see that his first live action film will probably amount to a traditional action movie/Tom Cruise vehicle is disheartening. I’m not saying it’ll be terrible but it could be in danger of lacking the spirit and creativity that one wants and expects in a Brad Bird film. It’s not like the Mission Impossible directors have fared well. When was the last time anyone heard of the first Mission: Impossible’s Brian De Palma? MII2 basically caused John Woo’s exile back to China. And Mission: Impossible 3’s J.J. Abrams, well, he’s still going strong.

Yet it’s not that the franchise concept is dead other than in the superhero realm, modern action franchises can work.

The Fast and the Furious is going to get a fifth film. Whether you love it or hate it, that’s a legitimate franchise and it’s probably because it has a unique hook- shiny cars that go vroom. The cars are bigger than the dual acting powerhouses of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker combined. And like many successful franchises, it’s set up to survive no matter who from the first movie stays involved as long as people in fast automobiles engage in probably civilian killing Death Race 2000-style (not Death Race) contests.

On the other side of the equation are the Bourne movies, which are probably closer in spirit to the Mission: Impossible films because it’s centered around a single guy (Jason Bourne) and a single actor (Matt Damon). Those movies found their niche by being a kind of realistic take on the action genre while having an interesting lead character and maintaining its own internal universe. The Bourne series definitely had an impact on the action genre as evidenced by the Bond series revival in 2006’s Casino Royale. (Sidenote: CR was the ninth highest grossing US movie of that year and the fourth highest grossing worldwide movie. See above for stats on 2006’s Mission: Impossible III.)

Meanwhile, what does Mission: Impossible have to offer? DVDs that explode at the end of a message? The theme song? Is the Mission: Impossible name really that much of a draw, or is it more about action hero Tom Cruise, no matter what the movie’s title is? If it’s the latter, as I assume it is, why not just try and start fresh?

Before I wrap up, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about Scream 4- another film franchise that probably should be left for dead also returning to theaters in 2011. While the original film was definitely influential film on the modern meta-horror genre, the second one tried unsuccessfully to duplicate the ‘we know we’re in a horror movie’ gimmick and the third one (not even written by series creator Kevin Williamson) was pretty much ignored.

Wes Craven has said in interviews that part of the reason the series is coming back (in a possible new trilogy form) is for the audience to see what’s happened to the characters since we last encountered them ten years ago. And that’s part of the problem. Very few horror series can coast solely on the strength of human protagonists. There’s The Evil Dead trilogy with Ash (Bruce Campbell) and…The Evil Dead trilogy with Ash (Bruce Campbell). (Also, possibly Alien depending on what genre you place those films in.) But is Scream one of them? Have Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Dorothy Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox-Arquette) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) risen to the level of classic horror movie characters like Ash or Halloween’s Laurie Strode?

Another problem with the series is the lack of a definable bad guy. What makes many horror franchises work is often a singular, nigh-unkillable monster. While the Scream mask made a good image, Ghostface could never really rise to the level of a Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers or Freddy Kruger because the person/people behind the Scream mask were humans as forgettable parts of a convoluted mystery killing people for increasingly stupid reasons.

The film is hinging itself (and a potential new trilogy) on the spurious concept that we care about the survivors a decade later. While taking a serious look at the long term psychological impact of surviving a massacre (let alone three) could be a very interesting concept, it immediately loses its power by becoming yet another slasher flick. Also, in this hyper post-modern, overly self aware world, what will the new Scream films’ novelty be?

But at least we’re not getting Charlie’s Angels 3.


May 8, 2010

Although I haven’t posted in awhile, I might get back into this sometime this weekend. Just typing this to sort of remind myself/get back into the “grind.” Topics might include: Mission Impossible IV, the Cinco De Mayo American flag shirt controversy (siding with the shirt wearers but in a non-“This is America and if you hate it, get out!” way), and I don’t know.

And this is the end of my high school girl livejournal-esque post.  Stay tuned non-readers.