an awesome way to watch TV

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Why We Should All Be Effing Pissed About Dan Harmon Being Fired

In case you missed it, since The Man did everything they could to make sure you would miss it, Dan Harmon was fired as showrunner of Community on Friday.  I highly recommend you go read about it in his own words because, like so much else that he does, it's funny and poignantly sad.

Done?  Okay, so here's why this sucks:  they figured out a way to cut the creative balls off of Community without killing it outright.  Look, clearly they've been gunning for Community for a long time.  Business men don't like shows that are smart because they might have to put some actual work into properly marketing them.  But when they tried to quietly kill it back in December, the Internet exploded.  Fans went crazy.  The comment thread at The AV Club's post for "Regional Holiday Music" exceeded 30,000 posts.  Community won not only Splitsider's tournament for The Best Sitcom Episode Ever, but also Hulu's Best In Show competition.  While I'm sure that the people in charge would have loved for Community to die a quiet death after airing the back ten episodes, that obviously wasn't going to happen.

Then two unfortunate things occurred.  Well, one occurred a year ago when Harmon's contract was only renewed for one instead of the usual two seasons.  The second was the Chevy Chase debacle.  Who knows how much effect Chevy's dickishness and Harmon's poor handling of the situation had on THIS situation, but you can bet it didn't help anything.  If nothing else, it provides enough reasonable doubt so bloggers like me will speculate on it since no one, not even Dan Harmon, really know all the reasons he was let go.  But I think that mishandled event is more of an excuse than an impetus for this disaster.

Taking Dan Harmon off of Community is like slaughtering Khal Drogo's horse.  It's like Peeta after the tracker jacker torture or McMurphy post-lobotomy.  They cut out the part that fights for what is good and right in this world.  They cut out the originality and the creativity and the magnificent, not-a-fuck-giving mind that created this show that speaks so wholeheartedly to my generation.  And look, it's not like Community is going to be bad; I have faith that as long as Megan Ganz is in the writing room, things will be alright.  It's not like the remarkably talented cast is going anywhere.  But it will not be the same groundbreaking, inspiring show it has been.  And that's because neither NBC nor Sony has ever shown much of an interest in supporting or marketing the show, but they also didn't want to anger all the millions of fans by cancelling it, so they first moved it to goddamn Fridays after goddamn Whitney (while The Office keeps its lazy, decomposing ass parked at 9 pm Thursdays) and then sneakily went in, cut off the head, legs, and balls, sent a press release to TV Guide at 7 pm on a Friday, and hoped no one would notice.  Well, guess what?  Notice taken, assholes.

So, other than the idiots who run television taking a big ol' dump on the fans and viewers that support them, why should we be pissed about this?  Because Dan Harmon is a champion for a new kind of television.  From its pilot episode, Community has celebrated diversity, not just in terms of race and gender and age and sexuality, but in terms of personality.  Harmon, like Matthew Weiner, personally fought for more women in the writing room, and as a result developed some of the most interesting, well-rounded, and hilarious female characters on television.  Community is all about diverse people coming together and forming a - what's it called? Oh, right, a community.  Is there another sitcom on television that features so many actors of color?  Nope.  Is there another sitcom that presents a queer character who likes to cross-dress in such a loving, non-judgmental light while still celebrating his inherent humor?  Sadly, no.  No other show has the temerity to take on a character like Fat Neil with such studied compassion, or to use an elderly character like Leonard to such a consistently brilliant degree.  Community has covered religion, lesbians, poor people, racist gardeners, racist parents, homophobic parents, plain shitty parents, racist grandparents, weight issues, bullying, class issues...and NONE of it has been preachy or saccharine.  Community has dealt in human emotions and chose to focus on what unites us instead of what divides us.  It has presented different kinds of people as PEOPLE, not as stereotypes.

I saw all this as the future of television.  But it seems like the people in charge don't see it that way at all.  Watching the upfront trailers, my stomach dropped lower and lower as white face after white face flashed on my screen (notable exception being The Mindy Project, which looks great and I can't believe NBC didn't pick it up except I can because they're obviously frittataed).  Network television looks whiter than it did in the 90s.  And Ryan Murphy gets to continue perpetuating his favorite stereotype that the only gays that matter are young white males.  What I wouldn't give for a funny queer chick on TV....

So, yeah.  I'm pissed, and sad, and currently trying to figure out what I need to do to get a job in television production so I can start changing things from within.  Dan Harmon has spent the last three years challenging our ideas of what television could and should be; he has given a voice to those who have for so long been voiceless; he created Troy and Abed, two of the best television characters of all time played by two of the very best comedic actors (not that the Emmys have noticed, because, you know, racism).  For me, he created a show that so clearly exemplified what I love about television that it helped me realize my passion and inspired me to work towards a career in the industry.  So I will stand with Dan Harmon in whatever he decides to do next (and it hopefully involves Chris McKenna, who left the show in solidarity with Dan), and we'll just have to wait and see what happens with Community next season.  Although the threat of cancellation has hung over the show all year, that thankfully allowed Harmon & Co. to pull out all the stops and fill this season with awesomeness.  Yesterday when I was mourning by rewatching most of season three, I kept thinking how appropriate the theme song is, and has been to this show.

"Gimme some more time in a dream
Gimme the hope to run out of steam
Somebody said it can be here
We could be roped up, tied up, dead in a year"

Dream big, don't give up, fight for what's right, and write every show like you're about to get cancelled - THAT'S how you make great television.  The season finale wrapped up in what would have been a satisfying series ending, and we'll just have to hope that when Abed steps into his mini Dreamatorium, he's imagining an alternate, far happier timeline.

Thanks for everything, Dan.

Images via aspecialthing, videogum

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Why It's Important To Keep Talking About Girls

One of the interesting (read: super depressing) things that has arisen over this whole Girls brouhaha is the backlash against the backlash.  Everyone was fine to talk about it for a week, but to keep talking about it was to "not be able to let things go".  But to not keep talking about it is, in my eyes, to ignore it, and like it or not, ignoring it is not the way to handle the issue.

I admit that my last post on the subject was a bit vitriolic, and my friend said, "It kind of sounded like you just hate the East Coast" which isn't the case at all.  There are many, many, things that I adore about the East Coast, but the tendency of people who live in New York City and produce work for the screen (or write, or blog, or photograph, or paint, or whatever) to be navel-gazingly obsessed with living in New York City and what that means is one of my least favorite things about pop culture in general and the East Coast in particular. I have lived in and spent a lot of time in different states up and down the East Coast and no matter what, my feelings about it always come back to Joni - "I wouldn't want to stay here; it's too old and cold and settled in its ways here".  In California, everyone is from somewhere else.  The importance of old money and history and who your family is and where you went to school fades here; we care about who you are now and where you're going and if your actions will help the world or the community.  Oh, we definitely trade in other weird issues (go watch some Portlandia for examples) and in certain circles all the dumb moneyed social crap still stands, but in my extensive experience, it's not as pervasively a part of the culture out west.

I see this idea of The Way Things Are Done not only in Girls, but in the backlashbacklash as well.  Famous people's children have always had an easier way of it, they say.  Why are you punishing Dunham for writing what she knows? the handwringers cry.  The types of people Hannah and her friends are probably DO only have white friends and it is ridiculous to expect otherwise, I'm told.  And my favorite, why aren't you as mad at any of the other all-white shows out there?  Why has Girls been forced to try to fulfill so many expectations?

Let's address these one by one.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Wherein I Cry Actual Tears At The Parks & Rec Finale

Season finales abounded last night!  But we're only gonna talk about two of them.

Well, actually, three, because I've been meaning to say something about the Castle finale all week, so we'll start there.  Castle!  Ba-bam!  Finally!  Ok, the episode itself was pretty terrible because for some reason the showrunners use the season finales/premieres to abandon all the witty and glib humor that makes the show worth watching for heavy-handed, depressingly dramatic bullshit...but that doesn't mean that Nathan Fillion isn't AMAZING and TOTALLY THE BEST.  He delivers this speech that is pained and honest and beautiful and gratifying and Beckett, because she is an atrocious, selfish person, responds in an atrocious, selfish way.  Just watch:

But I never watched this show for her.  I've always known she's The Worst.  Like I said about last year's season finale, "We just want Castle and Beckett to make out.  It's all we've ever wanted."  And that's the truth. So I could care less about the crazy conspiracy and about Tahmoh Whatshisface from Dollhouse being a super-good murderer and about Esposito and Ryan's terminal cases of Serious Face and all of it, because at the end, not only did they make out hard-core, but they also definitely HAD THE SEX.  Which gives me great hopes for next season being less about Beckett's boring and illogical mental and emotional hangups and more about Castle and Beckett having all the sex.  I just can't believe it took FOUR SEASONS to get there.

Moving on.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

These Are Links!

Just some stuff worth checking out.

First is this excellent interview with Tony Hale, whom we all know I adore, and he talks about The Creek!  It's awesome.

Next, also from the AV Club, is a really good article about ending shows before they get sad and terrible, much like we were just talking about.

And lastly, did you see Jason Segel be stoned and/or adorably nervous on The Daily Show a few weeks ago?  Priceless.

Go forth and see these things!

Friday, May 4, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: Growing Up & Losing "Friends"

Sometimes I wait so long to post not because I have nothing to say, but because I'm not sure how to say it.  Or because I keep waiting to get inspired by a show that has ceased to be inspiring.  This post is full of a bunch of things that've been rattling around in my brain and have finally reached the point where they need to be forced out.

Oh, How I Met Your Mother.  I have been meaning for months to write a post about how this season of HIMYM has been markedly better from last season (or, as I call it, The Jennifer Morrison Tragedy), but have been waiting for an exemplary episode to really bring it all together.  That episode never came.  After "The Ducky Tie" early on, so full of promises and hope and boobs, HIMYM has sort of evened out to a mostly enjoyable, mostly mediocre sitcom.  The performances of the actors continue to give the show life and spirit, but the writing just isn't as fresh.  If you go back to an episode from seasons 2, 3, or 4, you'll find it has an edge that these days, has been blunted.