Tags: tv

in motion

the inner drama

I can barely remember a time when PBS was actually interesting, but during its early years, before corporate funding took over, it was quite the provocative and controversial little network, to to mention the home for groundbreaking children's shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

In the mid-1960s, the National Educational Television Center had a six million dollar yearly grant from the Ford Foundation to do programming on cultural and public affairs, which allowed it to produce a series of documentaries like The Poor Pay More, Black Like Me, Appalachia: Rich Land, Poor People, and Inside North Vietnam.  These were critically acclaimed, but station affiliates, especially in the South, complained about the network's radical "East Coast Liberalism."  Private funding dried up.  PBS, created in 1969 to oversee NET, looked to the government in hopes of getting more support for educational television.  But the Nixon administration was violently set against independent federally-funded programming, and was making massive budget cuts.

Here's an amazing clip of Fred Rogers going before the U.S. Senate in 1969, speaking for six minutes, and securing $20 million dollars of funding for PBS.

I know some of the widely reported stories about Mr. Rogers may be apocryphal, but I love them all anyway, because they speak to something true about the man.  He really was that guy.

(thanks, neighbor)
in motion

(no subject)

Suddenly I'm posting like mad. I guess my return was not so much a breadcrumb as a um some other metaphorical object that heralds an incoming flood. 

My brain is not firing on all cylinders just now. I got food poisoning last night and was awake in the wee hours of the morning, alternately writhing in pain and throwing up. Then I fell into a hard sleep with incredibly vivid dreams. When I woke today, I thought for a happy moment that the food poisoning had been a dream too, so I couldn't figure out why I was so exhausted and achey.  I've always suspected tofu was dangerous, and now I know!  A vegetarian-ish lifestyle is not for the weak. 
Conversely, I was certain that I really had seen a trailer for the upcoming Star Trek movie in which the cast included Eddie Izzard, Ricardo Montalban, James Bond, and Xena: Warrior Princess. To be clear about those last two, it wasn't Daniel Craig and Lucy Lawless but actual Bond and Xena on the Enterprise. Needless to say, I was thrilled about this lineup, and only reluctantly sorted out that it had been a dream. Then I was crushed, until I realized that the combination of all those bits forms a remarkably similar mix to what I get in The Middleman.

The Middleman is my favorite new tv show that I want to share with everyone, and don't be thrown by the fact that it's on the Family Channel. When they slipped in a hentai reference two minutes into the pilot episode, I knew the show's wholesome atmosphere was a feature, not a bug.  Based on a comic book by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who is also writing the show, The Middleman is thoroughly steeped in things I love.  There's smart snappy dialogue and aliens and robots and zombies and Mexican wrestlers and photogenic young artists and most of all, a dynamic duo whose dynamic makes me really, really happy. It's the funniest thing on television this summer, and it's science fiction.  And it gets better with every episode, so now's a good time to start watching.

"Who are the Middlemen?" featuring clips from the pilot
in motion

pasdar psa

All I have to say about the second season of Heroes is that I am so glad it's over, so I do not have to watch this ridiculous show in order to get my Adrian Pasdar fix. 

Instead, I am happily going through DVDs of Profit.  If you're not familiar with Profit: it was a short-lived tv series from back in 1996 starring Pasdar, co-created by David Greenwalt of Angel fame.  Pasdar is at his intense best here, playing a charming psychopath in the business world.  The show is smart, dynamic, disturbing, and tremendously fun if you like your humor dark.  There are only eight episodes; Profit never found more than a cult following and got cancelled quickly.  But it's amazing that it even got made on network tv in the nineties.  It's genuinely strange and original, and does its own thing with an independent integrity.

(Note to MB: have you seen this show?  It's tailor-made for you.  Just don't compare it to Dexter.)

If you want some vintage Pasdar, why not go further back to his cult roots and watch Near Dark?   Two significant vampire films came out in 1987.  The Lost Boys had pretty people, a budget, and the Coreys.  Near Dark had a nearly unknown lead, half the cast of Aliens, and a Tangerine Dream score.  They're both good movies, but Lost Boys, with its glammed-up pop 80's style, was the only one to become a popular success.  Near Dark is more adult, though; interesting and influential.  (Joss Whedon has cited it as a key inspiration in his vision of what Buffy could be.)  Unlike Lost Boys, Near Dark completely deglamorizes the vampire mythos.  There's nothing gothic about these bloodsuckers (the word "vampire" is never used in the movie), who roam the land like a band of cheap bad guys in a Western, wreaking vicious havoc and killing people.  A cute young Adrian Pasdar is the star, and while he has not fully developed his signature raspy voice yet, he's already got the smolder in his eyes. 

This has been a public service announcement for those of you who share my love for the Pasdar.  Enjoy!
in motion

on heroes

I would have expected to feel more loyalty, but in the second season, the show has squandered my good will in a mere month.  Re: last night's episode, I have only one thing to say: they voted on whether to let Claire onto the cheerleading squad?  And nobody pointed out that it was a cheerocracy?

Squandered, I tell you.
maggie mechanic

how you can tell i'm a huge science-fiction geek


My son showed me the palm of his hand, on which he'd drawn a picture in silver ink.  In the center, he'd drawn a star, and there were ten small lumpy circles crowded around it.

"This is a sun from another galaxy," he told me, "and it has ten planets."

He went on to describe how the sun gives off rainbow light and each planet gets hit with a different color on the spectrum, so there is a red planet, an orange planet, a yellow planet and so forth.

"Do you think any of these planets might have life on them?" I asked him.

His eyes lit up, and he breathed, "Every single one."

And -- my heart -- jumped!


After a lifetime of not caring about Doctor Who, I've fallen in love with the 21st-century incarnation(s) of the show.  Christopher Eccleston made it exciting; David Tennant kept it hilarious and gave it warmth.  I adore Rose and Captain Jack.  I agree with Jed's critique of how they handled Martha Jones, and it's a shame about Torchwood, but damn this show is a joyride. 

When fans used to talk about previous incarnations of Doctor Who, it always felt to me (having never seen it) like their fondness for the show must be based in nostalgia.  I figured they liked the kitsch of the hokey rubber alien suits, the old-fashioned sci-fi elements.  But I think I get it now, because this millenium's Doctor Who is doing for me what it did for them: leaving off the slick polished surfaces, this is raw speculative story for the sheer love of it.  A simple premise that freewheels us all over space and time, unencumbered by American studio process.  You can feel that freedom in the show, the way the episodes swing madly from one thing to the next in a universe with nearly infinite possibilities.  And the only consistent thing in the universe, the thread pulling it all together, is this wonderful character.  I love the show's exuberant queerness, and the way it throws open doors to the future while drawing on the past and decades of its own internal traditions.

I read a lot of science fiction and every now and then I burn out on the more spaceshippy end of it, but Doctor Who has reminded me of what a thrill it can be to play in those kinds of stories, rubber suits and all.


...There may be a few other clues as well.
in motion


Drive has already been cancelled, with only six episodes filmed.  Like I didn't have enough reasons to be disgusted with the Fox network.  I wonder how it was going to end?  My money was on Fillion, but that other woman was endorsed by God, so that's got to tilt the odds.  Or were they going to upend the chessboard and change the rules, Buffy-style?  I would have liked to see it play out.  I hope Tim Minear and Nathan Fillion, ideally together, will get to try again with another good series someplace where they're appreciated.
in motion

ira glass on getting good

Adorable Ira Glass of "This American Life" talks about learning to tell stories (or really, to make anything):

"It takes a while. It's normal to take a while, and you just have to fight your way through that. You will be fierce, you will be a warrior, and you will make things that aren't as good as you know in your heart you want them to be."

See also the full series of him discussing storytelling.

(via Jonathan Carroll)
in motion

i'd like to thank the academ--

Note to self: when TiVo reminds you that live shows tend to run late and do you want to add an extra hour to your planned recording time?  Take the extra hour.  Don't be optimistic and add just half an hour.  We watched (well, skimmed) through the entire awards ceremony, only to miss out on the last couple of categories.  I suppose it's just as well; seeing Peter O'Toole's face when he lost this Oscar would have broken my heart.  Though I'd have liked to catch Forrest Whitaker's speech.  Come through for me, YouTube...