Apr. 17th, 2012 12:55 am
elegantpi: Karen Cartwright (karen)
Lately, I've been watching a show called Smash on NBC. It got a lot of comments when it was being advertised: "OMG, it's totally copying GLEE" and so forth. I was skeptical (which is pretty much every tv show these days - I've got "trust no network" tattooed on my face at this point), but we recorded it to dvr and watched the first episode. Since then, we haven't missed a single Monday.

Maybe I'm just not looking hard enough, but I'd love to see more conversation about this show, because it has SO MUCH to offer. It has a cast of several well-rounded and, for the most part, complex characters.
It features a deep, loving, platonic friendship between a gay man and a married woman who are song and script writing partners.

It has a canonically gay character whose gayness is not a pivotal plot point, yet he is show to have an active dating life that has its ups and downs.

It has a canonical gay character of color.

It has strong women, driven women, talented women, women who make good choices, women who make bad choices, women who own their choices, women who take responsibilities for their choices.
It has women who are friends.
It has women who are professionals.
It has women who are successful.
It has women who are rivals.
It has women who are rivals who are also friends.
It has women who are rivals who form alliances and their own particular kind of friendship.
It also has Anjelica Huston.

It has unwise relationships and sweet relationships and could-be relationships, budding romances, fading romances, hidden romances.

It has gorgeous voices and fun songs and sometimes silly song sequences.

It has cheese, and it has something that feels very real.

It has. so. much.

Let me tell you a little bit more about the plot. The two writers/composers - Tom and Julia have been taking a break from doing a job that they both love so that Julia can devote some time to her family and hopefully get through the process of an international adoption. Suddenly, an idea drops into their lap - a musical about Marilyn Monroe - and it proves too much to resist. Despite it probably being a bad idea, they launch into the project, meaning to keep it a secret.

Tom's new assistant, Ellis, uses his phone to record Tom and Julia singing one of the songs they wrote and emails it to his mother, who posts it to YouTube. Suddenly, everyone wants to know about Marilyn the musical, and Tom and Julia reluctantly put together a team.

Anjelica Huston's character, Eileen, signs on as a producer, despite being in the middle of a rather messy divorce. Derek, a cantankerous, been-there-done-that stage director is convinced to join the team, despite his and Tom's past differences. Karen Cartwright and Ivy Lynn compete for the part of Marilyn; Karen as an inexperienced ingenue, and Ivy as a girl who has been waiting a long time for her big break.

Everyone is passionate about the Marilyn project for their own reasons, and in putting together a workshop, it becomes the focus of their lives and intertwines them in some very intense ways. Ivy and Karen start out as rivals but form an uneasy friendship as time goes by.

This show is so big that it's impossible for me to hit every point of it, but here's a list of things I love.
  • Karen (played by Katherine McPhee) and her voice.

  • Eileen and her sassy, vulnerable way of handling things, and how she's willing to do just about anything to see this production all the way to Broadway.

  • Tom and Julia and their relationship. Their dialogue is just filled with all the snappy, almost-inside-joke things that close friends say to each other, and when things go bad, they have each other's backs. They pick each other up and just hold on. Love it, love it.

  • Derek. I haaaated him at first - because we're meant to hate him at first. But as you get further into the show, you see so many different sides of him. Where we are now with Derek - I absolutely adore him despite his faults. He's grumpy and brilliant and everything I love about people who have a passion for doing something well. I've also been loving the way he's sort of been losing his mind over the production, giving the show writers the opportunity to write these weird hallucinatory sequences that end in Derek with a "freshly kicked in the balls" expression on his face. Priceless.

  • Ivy and Karen. The writers could so easily have made their relationship a catty, ugly mess, but instead have shown two women in the hyper-competitive, highly stressful world of stage acting who put aside their differences at critical times in order to help each other out. Neither one is a villain or an angel, and I love this portrayal of talented and complicated women whose lives cross in different ways.

  • Julia herself. She's a writer, and I relate to that in many ways. She's intelligent and vulnerable and she makes a huge, life-shattering mistake, but she doesn't shake off responsibility or make excuses for herself. She owns it.

I could say so much more, but there would be massive spoilers. It's true that the show has its share of cheese - you can't have musical numbers without a little cheese. But it doesn't take the cheese to anywhere near GLEE levels. It just seems to me that this show offers a lot that fandom is often asking for - canonically gay characters whose gayness is not the whole point of their character; gay characters of color; strong women who have friendships (many, many scenes easily pass the Bechdel test). If you love music and great characters and storylines, give Smash a try! If you're watching it, I'd love to chat with you about it!
elegantpi: Elizabeth with coffee, White collar (El)
Mostly, [personal profile] sholio is to blame for my sudden onset of rabid White Collar fannish-ness. In reading her posts about this series, I became mildly intrigued, and when I saw season one going for $15, I picked it up. And the first episode led to marathoning our way through the first season and paying full price for the second season because 2-day shipping from Amazon was too long to wait.

It really is some of the best television I've seen this year! I've caught up on season 3 (all but episode 2) from my parents' OnDemand, and I'm going to get the s3 eps from iTunes for David to watch. And we're DVRing the rest of the season, of course!

I wish I had time to make an enormous post on all the things I love about the series, but I've got some... stuff going on that requires me to get up earlier than I would like. So, maybe later, although I make no promises since I've been a truly crappy journaler lately. In the meantime, general bullet points! And then some spoilery musings under the cut.

  • Jeff Eastin is a Frank Abagnale fan. He HAS to be.

  • EL AND PETER FOREVER. Seriously. They are tied with Sheriden and Delenn from Babylon 5 as my favorite tv couple. I love everything about them, as individuals and as a couple. I love, love, LOVE Elizabeth's intelligence and the way she so easily navigates the currents of Peter and his job, and the complications that Neal brings into their lives. She is awesome. And I love Peter for his genuine goodness and honor and rightness without righteousness. I love that he is always, always willing to see the good in people, the possibilities. ♥♥♥

  • I can really get into the Elizabeth/Peter/Neal OT3, but ONLY in future!fic when Neal is out of the anklet and truly free to do his own thing. My interpretation of Peter's character is that as long as Neal is in his custody, the power dynamic between them being unequal, Peter would never enter into any kind of relationship with Neal. Nor would he bring Neal into his and Elizabeth's lives so long as any doubts about Neal remain. And, canonically, Peter has a LOT of doubts. But I do love putting the three of them together under the right circumstances almost as much as I love Peter/Elizabeth.

  • Mozzie and Elizabeth's friendship. So. Adorable!

  • Mozzie in general. David and I called him "Marty" through the first half of season one. The actor gives us Stargate SG-1 nostalgia! Marty was a favorite of ours.

  • The playfulness of the whole cast. They all have great chemistry.

  • The writers know how to sell the material. There have only been a couple of episodes where I had suspension of disbelief issues. Leverage needs to hire some of these people. Oh, Leverage, I have so many thoughts about you, but I'll save them for another post. The White Collar writers turn out consistently good stories and great dialogue. And believably human actions and reactions.

Some thoughts on Season 3 and where it's going )

Conclusion: Love the show.

Also, crossovers with Castle are an absolute MUST. There are so many ways the characters' lives and the show stories could intersect. And so many ways for Detective Beckett and Agent Burke to bond. I have one quick rec for this. My soul, it cries out for MORE.

Five Ways Crime Does Pay by [ profile] celli - Impossible to read without laughing loud enough to wake the house.
    "Jimmy Ellery!" Castle said, jumping up and holding out a hand. "I haven't seen you in years. How are you?" He turned to Beckett. "He sold me that Lorado Taft bust."

    "You sold him what? As who?" Agent Burke rolled his eyes up to the ceiling, then back down again. "Allow me to introduce my consultant, Neal Caffrey."

    Castle froze, his hand still held out in front of him. "Neal Caffrey the con artist?"

    Caffrey tilted his head in an aw-shucks gesture. His hat remained tilted rakishly on his head.

    "Neal Caffrey the forger?"

    "Alleged forger," Caffrey said.

    Burke groaned.

    "Awkward," Ryan muttered.

    "Oh, my God," Castle said. His face lit up, and he reached out to Burke and shook him by the shoulders. "I got conned by Neal Caffrey!" He let Burke go and grabbed Caffrey's hand. "This is awesome."

    Burke looked at Beckett. "I don't even know what to say to that."

    "I never do," Beckett said.
elegantpi: (Quill)

My Nominations:
  • Dangerous Beauty
  • Edward Lucas White - The Unwilling Vestal
  • RPF - Heian Japan (for me, this is Sei Shonagon and her Pillow Book)
  • Rubicon
  • Sailor Moon (anime or manga)
  • Twin Peaks
I waffled about Dangerous Beauty and The Unwilling Vestal, especially the latter because I've only run across two other people in my entire lifetime who've read it, and I've known a lot of people, most of them readers. But in the end, both of them won out over Louise Marley's Nevya series, which maybe I'll nominate next year. I will be so surprised and pleased, though, if The Unwilling Vestal makes it in.

Very excited about participating in Yuletide for the first time ever. :)
elegantpi: (Reading)
[community profile] fannish5: Which 5 persons from any fandom would you place on a lonely island to get the most interesting reaction?

1) Peter Kavanagh, Stargate Atlantis: If a Kavanagh complains in the wilderness and no one is around to hear him, does he make a sound? I've always been interested in Kavanagh's character. As unlikeable as he is sometimes, I never perceived him as evil. (I know people a lot like him, actually.) He's obviously a capable scientist, or he wouldn't have been offered a place on the expedition in the first place, but he's got this thing where he gets wrapped up in every worst case scenario ever. He also seems to feed off the energy of conflict, taking an active role in stirring the pot. So... what happens to Kavanagh when you isolate him from everyone else and make him fend for himself with no one to complain to but his own self? How long does he contemplate the unfairness of it all before he sucks it up and starts dealing with the situation? And then, how does he deal with it?

2) Angus MacGyver, MacGyver: Do I need to give a reason? How long would it take him to build a super rescue radio out of driftwood and random metal bits?

3) Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks: I just love his running monologue. Would he write notes to Diane on palm fronds?

4) Higgs, Sammeeeees: (this may be one of my very smallest fandoms. If you want to know more about the wonderful Sammeeeees story, go here, watch the intro video, and click through the links below it. It was a non-linear experience, so putting the pieces together might take a little work, but the story is well worth it. The digital prequel is an awesome read, as well. And I'll be happy to answer any questions! I'm working on a fic to post to AO3, but it's taking forever to finish.)

OK, new paragraph after that long intro. Before his involvement with the Sammeeeees, Higgs (not his real name) was a brilliant physicist. He experienced a sort of breakdown before falling into the clutches of Mr. Alan Johnson. I'm not sure what he's doing now, but last I saw of him, he was free, and, I hope, happy. I would choose him to put on a lonely island because I'd be interested in what he would do when left to himself, out of peril. He thinks a lot. Would he write out theoretical physics equations in the sand? Would he be glad of the silence and peace? Or would he try to escape the island and go back to civilization?

5) River Tam, Firefly: Away from the pressure of people's minds, thoughts, terrible deeds; left alone, what would she do? River seems to me to be a character who, if she had not been so horribly tampered with, would have been content to live a life of the mind. I can see her on a lonely island, easily adapting to the ins and outs of survival, and, once she had her routine in place, exploring, creating art, and building her own world. I don't think the loneliness would harm her, as long as she knew her brother was somewhere safe. But if she wanted to leave, there would be no stopping her.

ETA: The more I think about it, the more I want fic about all of these characters together on the lonely island, just to see how they interact with each other, deal with their situation, etc. I may have to add this to my "to-write" list. :D

elegantpi: Jeannie - math skillz (Jeannie)
I so much enjoyed reading gamerchick's 30 Days of TV meme that I decided to do my own. There's no way I'll make a post every day - I can barely make a post a month!! - so this will be 30 non-consecutive days, for sure.

Day 01- A show that should have never been canceled.
It's hard to judge which tv shows *should* never have been canceled... )
elegantpi: (Default)
I love the long stretch of show premieres unwinding through September and October. There are always some exciting new finds, and old favorites pick up where they left off at the beginning of the summer. Here's what I'm watching - what are you watching this season? If you create fanworks, what shows (new or old) are you making art, writing, vidding, or mixing for at the moment?

New Shows:
  • CW's "Nikita" - The previews bring Dollhouse to mind in a tangential way. I love spy/assassin shows and am looking forward to tomorrow night's premiere.

  • CW's "Hellcats" - OMG CHEERLEADERS. My husband and I watched the premiere tonight, and I've already written it firmly on my "guilty pleasures" calendar. It's not really my usual kind of show; I tend to like supernatural or science fiction themes, or at least a good conspiracy theory or caper. Cheerleaders definitely don't fit the bill. But I'm just going to throw this confession out there - I really did love the premiere, even though it's predictable and formulaic. I like the main character because she strongly reminds me of someone I know and admire, and to be quite honest, I love watching athletes tumbling across my tv screen. The music was great for me, also, but my tastes in music run to the mainstream and mundane, so that's probably not saying much. Anyway, I liked it.

  • AMC's "Rubicon" - This premiered in the mid-season, a couple of months ago, and is now 8 episodes in. It's a conspiracy theory show that has the most elegant cinematography I have ever seen. It's gorgeous. The color palates are beautiful blues and pale greens and grays, interspersed with rich browns and dashes of red. It's just so pretty! Some of the frames you could actually print out as a photograph. I love the sound of the show, too - the way they sort of linger on the sound of coffee pouring into a cup or papers shuffling around.

    I'm super-interested in the story, although my husband finds it slow and hasn't bonded with the characters yet. By the fourth episode, as Grant, Miles, and Tanya were starting to gel as a team, I'd bonded with the team at least. Will, I like but feel distanced from; I can't stand Maggie and hope she goes away. Ingram is awesome; Spangler is odious. I want to see more teamy stuff from the three main API characters. And fic. I want fic. I've got a couple of stories started, but I'm noticing there's not much of a fandom for Rubicon just yet. Not a single story on AO3, even! I'm surprised, because the possibilities for smart, introspective storytelling are endless with this series.

    I amused myself one evening by tracking down exactly where in New York the "API" offices are located, since the show gave so many visual location clues - the ships, the bridge, etc. - and they turn out to be right around these coordinates in NYC: 40.705623,-74.004311. I know. I have way too much time on my hands. It's the tv studio building - Warner Horizon, I think. At least, some of the office scenes and the roof scenes are filmed there.

  • NBC's "The Event" - I'm vaguely interested in this. I was also vaguely interested in "Flash Forward" and "V" last fall, and that never grabbed my interest, so I'm not bouncing on the couch cushions over "The Event". It could be awesome, or it could be meh. I'll watch and see.

  • NBC's "Outsourced" - If you didn't see the movie "Outsourced", check it out. My husband is from an Indian family, so we always enjoy movies that spotlight Indian culture. I was amazed to discover that such an itty-bitty film has been made over into a television series, but I'm interested to see what NBC has done with it. I'm reserving judgment until after the first episode of course - it could be awful! - but I'm hoping it's good. I love multi-cultural shows that get it right - let's hope this is one of those. I'm sad that it's filmed mostly in LA, but the producers have mentioned wanting to film the second season on location if the first season is successful.

But wait, there's more! )
elegantpi: (Default)
For [community profile] fannish5 7/2/2010: Name your five most-loved fairy tales.

1. Deerskin by Robin McKinley

Deerskin is a re-telling of the fairy tale "Donkeyskin" and other fairy tales of the same sort. It is not a happy tale - there is a mad king who wants to marry his own daughter, Lissar, who escapes his clutches and goes to live alone on a mountain and later in the palace of a king in another kingdom. It's hard to explain why I like this book, even though it's so difficult to read, but the writing is beautiful and I fall in love with Lissar and her dog, Ash, every time I read it.

2. Beauty by Robin McKinley

McKinley is sort of my fairy tale goddess. Beauty is the first book I ever read by her, and it remains one of my "comfort" books that I can read in an hour on a day that I'm feeling not-so-great. The invisible servants in the castle, the beautiful dresses, Beauty's sisters (who are not at all wicked but lovely, in fact), the Beast, the library that holds all the books that have been and all the books that will be, and the roses - it's all just perfect and has not diminished with time.

3. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I didn't become familiar with the name Neil Gaiman until my friends on LiveJournal started writing reviews of some of his novels. I hadn't read the Sandman graphic novels, either. But back in 1997, an advertisement slip appeared in my box at my local comic book store announcing a 4-book series illustrated by Charles Vess. I ordered a copy of the series because of Vess - I was, like many people in the late 90s, deeply in love with Vess' art. And I loved this little series - the art and the story - and still have the four volumes. It wasn't until much, much later that I realized it was written by Neil Gaiman, and that was after I'd read Neverwhere.

The story of Stardust is so... glimmery and dark and gorgeous. Yvaine is so snarky and Tristran so patient, and then there are the brothers of Stormhold and the witches and it is all a delightful, violent, pretty tale indeed. I have seen the novel published without Vess' illustrations, but I don't know how anyone can read this story without them...

4. "Stone Soup"

This is one old fairy tale that has a happy ending and while teaching a positive lesson - qualities that are a bit rare in fairyland... In many variations of "Stone Soup" (or "Nail Soup" or "Axe Soup"), a traveler comes to a town where the people are poor and no one wants to share what they have for fear that they will end up with nothing. So the traveler borrows a large pot, puts in some water from a stream, and a large river stone and starts it boiling. Then he tells the villagers all about "stone soup" and how delicious it is. Then, he turns their curiosity about "stone soup" into a means of getting them to share what they have and add it to the soup - a little seasoning here, a few potatoes there - and finally, after everyone has put something into the pot, the whole village feasts on soup that they made together.

5. "Scheherazade"

I'm not fond of all of the Arabian nights tales, but my favorite is the over-arching story of Scheherazade and how she saved herself, her sister, the women of her country, and even, in some ways, the king himself. Scheherazade is the young woman who, seeing that no one was willing to do anything about a terrible situation, stepped in and handled it herself, with wisdom and wit.

One of my favorite feminist authors, Fatima Mernissi, talks a lot about Scheherazade in her autobiography, Dreams of Trespass (also titled The Harem Within) and analyzes Scheherazade's relationship with her husband in feminist terms and in terms of psychology and psychoanalysis. Her conclusions are fascinating and changed the way I read Scheherazade and her tales when I dig out my old Arabian Nights collection.


elegantpi: (Default)

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