MARC ALAN FISHMAN: GOTHAM GETS BETTER

Remember when the GOTHAM TV series was first announced? Comic book fans were all “Oh wow!” about seeing the U.S.’s most crime-riddled city (pre-Batman) on the home screen. The joy turned to angst – a common development when it comes to moving comics from their home turf – and then the bad feelings kind of leveled off. If, like us, you’ve been wondering where GOTHAM stands now, here’s one comics pro’s take:

by Marc Alan Fishman

Gotham-penguinBack in November I lamented that Gotham was a train-wreck with glimmers of hope peaking out amongst the smoldering boxcars abandoned near Arkham Asylum. Well, here we are, a large smattering of episodes later, and I’m starting to change my outlook on Fox’s proto-Batman dramedy. Hear me out, skeptics.

My turn of opinion first peeked its tepid head out into the light when I came to the realization that the show was not, nor would it ever be, Gotham Central by way of Ed Brubaker. The fact is I’ve circled my wagons around the ideology that business and the boardroom will always help dictate the creative endeavors of the Big Two™’s creations. That means that as critically acclaimed a graphic novel may be, at the end of the day all Warner Bros is going to care about is ratings and the potential syndication of Gotham. Hence, the fact that producers are making a show that by-and-large is built to appeal to the widest audience possible by way of brazen continuity-shattering canon-damning characterizations was bound to happen. Or in lesser terms, we were never ever ever going to not get interpretations of Batman’s rogue gallery. So I got over it.

And when I did, the sky opened up, and the show instantly became more entertaining to me. Jim Gordon – the John Wayne of Gotham – and his trusty drunkish sidekick Harvey Bullock are the lone moral compass amidst a sea of corruption. Hell, Bullock up until the 8th or 9th time Gordon saved his ass was as much a part of the problem as anyone. But as the show settled into itself, there was a slight shift in the dynamic duo’s camaraderie.

After sticking his neck out on the line enough times, Bullock and the police chief both turned from broken records (“You’ll never beat this city, Jim!) into begrudging do-gooders. And it did the series a hell of a favor. Instead of one man against a city, there was a subtle cracking of a window, piercing the muck and mire with rays of hope.

Hope. It’s the biggest concept the show misplaced at the onset. But over time, the cases of the week gave way to those notions that yes, in fact, some people did want to fight against the rampant corruption. And to a degree even those who existed on the other side of the law started to show depth of character. Make no bones about it: Carmine Falcone is an evil and bad man. But he bleeds the same blood as we do, and through the plot line of Fish Moody’s planted girlfriend, we saw shades of grey in what was an otherwise black and white caricature of any gangster we’ve seen a million places elsewhere. OK, and let me not give too much credit here. The shtick of an Italian-American loving his mother is not exactly original storytelling. Again, lowest-common-denominator here. Take the small victories as big ones.

Because Gotham was given more than twenty shows to produce within the first season, the writing team has been very sneaky in utilizing slow-burn storytelling in-between the predictable ratings bait. While we’ve been treated to outright terrible iterations of the Scarecrow and the maybe-Joker to-be, we’ve been privy to the ebb and flow of several well-defined debauchees….

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Cara Winter sees Broadchurch & Finds It (OMG!) Wanting

AirunGarky.com-Broadchurch

The Anglo Files #13
by Cara Winter

Maybe it’s because I am currently attempting to write a gasp-worthy, twisty-bendy, shock-ya-shock-ya mystery pilot myself, lately I have spent a lot of time thinking about BROADCHURCH.

Much lauded during it’s first season, I sat down and basically binge-watched the entire first season… and for most of it, I was stunned. It was tremendously well made, well acted and pretty to look at.

And then came the final episode of season 1… and,  NO.  Just, NO.

**MULTIPLE SPOILERS AHEAD**

The show begins with the murder of a young boy, and the local P.D.’s investigation, led by two detectives (Miller, played by Olivia Coleman and Hardy, played by David Tennant), an odd couple if ever there was one, each with their own baggage.

During the investigation (which lasts the entire first season), Miller and Hardy suspect almost every soul in town… including the boy’s father, played masterfully by Andrew Buchan (the depth and power of this actor’s emotional life takes your breath away – he’s one to watch, no doubt about it).

As the investigation unfolds, one by one people are eliminated as suspects, usually by way of something unsettling, foul, or just not what you’d expect from the ‘good folk’ of a small seaside town.  These twists make for compelling viewing, as each suspect transforms from angel, to devil, to ordinary flawed human being in a single episode.

I especially loved the storyline of trailer park matron Susan Wright (played by journeyman actress Pauline Quirke, who’s been doing this longer than I’ve been alive).  At first glance,  Susan was sullen, mean,  sinister even…I, for one, was sure she’d done it.  But scratch the surface, and all we have in this person is another heartbroken (and innocent) soul, looking for peace, and forgiveness, and a clean slate.

But it all came crashing down during the final moments season 1, when ‘he who done it’ was revealed.  The way the killer gives himself up – awful.  The confession, right there on the spot.  Terrible.  A full-on “I just couldn’t take it anymore!” breakdown…  ERGURAAAGG, it made me want to crawl through my TV and strangle somebody.  It just felt cheap, and beneath them, after an entire season of gorgeousness!

As Season 2 was about to premiere on BBC America, I pressed on.  Aaaand, things got worse.  For one, Hardy’s backstory (failing to get a conviction, over in another town, for a different murder) has now become a front-story  (is that even a thing?!)!   Meaning, the characters from this old case… are now here, and inexplicably living in Broadchurch.  WHAT?!

It was bad enough when Hardy was having some sort of life-threatening medical condition in season 1… but now, this?  His past isn’t just going to figuratively haunt him — it’s going to actually haunt him?   I can’t handle it.  It’s too much drama in one man’s life.  And especially for the incredible Tennant, it’s heartbreaking to see such an actor being used so thoughtlessly.

This is not to say BROADCHURCH (or, as I like to call it, DAME-RECTORY) can’t still redeem itself.  But it was informative for me, as a writer, to review when and how they lost me.  It brought me to this realization:  You have to tread very, very carefully, when working in realism.

When you’re writing about a bunch of zombies, or a masked, winged crime-fighter, or Charlie Sheen as someone you’d leave your child with… you have a certain amount of creative license.  You’re already asked the audience to take a huge leap with you, so suspending their disbelief again for maybe a cheaply placed plot point — whatever, it’s BAT-MAN, what’s plausible about that, to begin with?

But with a show steeped in realism, you cannot make a single illogical mistake.  You cannot underestimate your audience’s intelligence; you cannot cheat them, and you cannot trick them.  You cannot haphazardly pick “dramatic” plot points; you must create real, emotional human drama.

And, above all else, you must employ logic.  You have to tap into your inner Spock and ask, “What is the logical thing to do?” and then let that play out, beat by beat, detail by detail, moment by excruciating moment.  Yes, even if the star is David Tennant.

I’ll keep tuning in, for now.  I suppose I’m still curious.  But, sadly, I’m not counting the days and hours until the next episode airs.  And these days, the countdown (hashtag #countdown!) is the whole ballgame.


Cara Winter is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.

A Comic Book Pro’s Take on TV’s THE FLASH

Hint: He really effin’ likes it:

The-Flash

THE FLASH Reaches Light Speed
by Marc Alan Fishman

So I’ve gabbed about Gotham. I’ve adjudicated over Agents of SHIELD. Isn’t it time I got flustered over The Flash? After the episode debuting this week, “Out of Time”, I’m beside myself with glee. For those who saw the episode, that knowing smirk over my pun-tacular metaphor means we’re going to be the best of friends. For those who are missing out on the festivities – or don’t wish to spoil themselves having not seen the episode yet – I’ll see you next week.

OK, are the buzzkillers gone? Good. My god, what an episode! The Flash started off with a bang – melding the innocence of the silver age, with a well-rendered modern edge – and has quickly become appointment DVR television for the ole Fish-man. Whereas I boot up an episode of Gotham with tepid hope, and SHIELD with a yearning for less angst, I hit play at breakneck speeds when Grant Gustin slips in the red leather and lightning bolt ear cups. And “Out of Time” ensured that amongst all the comic-to-TV series being blasted throughout the airwaves these days, The Flash is the best one on by leaps and bound.

…[A]llow me to sum up what all we saw this week. We callback to the very first episode wherein the Martin brothers kill Joe West’s partner and take off in a biplane. Lucky for them, Dr. Wells’ particle accelerator don’ blowed up, and the resulting storm they pilot through. It splits their plane and leaves the crappy criminals imbued with wizard-like power over the weather. But the brothers were separated by the crash, and ole Mark Martin (the older of the pair) wouldn’t catch up to his kin before Joe would put two bullets through his chest. Now, some time later, Mark returns to get his revenge (on the revenge Joe got on his brother for killing his partner, I suppose?). What follows – in between some typical CW-style love quadrilateral drivel – is a breakneck deluge of amazing exposition.

The new Weather Wizard attempts to murder Joe and nails (but doesn’t kill) the captain of the squad instead. He captures Joe and lures Barry and Iris out into the open – where a waiting tsunami begins to crest. Barry reveals to Iris he’s the Flash! Caitlin Snow preps the Flash to fight off the impending tidal wave with a wall of wind to contain it. And for the thousandth time in the show’s history, Barry asks “How fast do I need to go?” Of course the answer isalways “as fast as you can, dummy!” Hence, he begins to run from one edge of the beach to the other at breakneck speeds. As the counter wall begins to rise, to subside the decimation, a smash cut lands Barry Allen mysteriously back to a familiar street-corner, literally an evening ago!

Oh, and while all of that was happening Dr. Wells revealed to the ever-curios Cisco that he was indeed the Reverse Flash, Eobard Thawne, trapped in the past after attempting to murder a young Barry Allen. And what does Cisco get for having the man who took him in practically as family, for finding out the juicy little spoiler? He gets his innards shaken, not stirred. And we’d be devastated over this… had Barry not literally traveled back in time to end the episode.

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Robin Reed: My Most Favorite Thing on TV Right Now

Hmm, doesn't look like a Henson muppet to us., but what do we know?

Hmm, doesn’t look like a Henson muppet to us., but what do we know?

by Robin Reed

The show that I have to stop and watch every time I come across it these days is “No, You Shut Up!”

Host Paul F. Thompkins discusses current events with a panel of puppets who seem to be forgotten relics from the Henson Creature Shop storage shelves. There is usually a human guest also, though he or she is usually forced to answer only in rap, or while doing impressions, or something else very silly.

The show is on the Fusion Network, which probably has other shows but I don’t know what they are. I don’t know exactly when the official air time of the show is either, I just find it while flipping channels, and when I do I have to stop and watch.

I do know that the Henson company does have a role in producing “NYSU!,” a credit at the end says “Henson Alternative.” Maybe some of the younger people are making it without telling Brian Henson.

Or maybe Jim has…returned?

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I Binge-Watched 9 Seasons of ‘Seinfeld’ to Find TV’s Funniest Joke

Hey, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. But still, isn’t watching something as old and out of it as SEINFELD way beyond the call of duty? (What? You remember it as great? And you still trust your brain?)

Seinfeld-thumb

4 characters desperately feeling to find their cool

by Steven Shehori

Few things in this life are more subjective than humor. That said, Seinfeld receives near-universal acclaim as one of television’s greatest comedies. In fact, a noted 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll crowned it the best sitcom ever. And when 60 Minutes andVanity Fair elect to join forces, you know the world of polling isn’t dicking around.

Taking these results at face value, one can’t help but wonder: if Seinfeld is TV’s funniest sitcom, what in turn is the funniest joke from TV’s funniest sitcom? And would this joke then, by sheer elimination, be the funniest line ever uttered in a situation comedy? A case could certainly be argued as such. But oh, the number of gags to sift though.

Some quick arithmetic: the average multi-camera sitcom delivers three laugh lines per minute. Multiply this by 22, the average sitcom episode length in minutes. Then multiply this by 176, the number of 22-minute Seinfeld episodes minus the pair of two-part clip shows we won’t count. This gives us 11,616 jokes. You know, give or take.

By default, one of these jokes must be the funniest, be it by razor-thin margin or toppling landslide. But which one? And which characteristics would make it stand head and shoulders above the competitors? With the scientific method as my co-pilot, I was determined to stick the landing on this potential Hindenburg of a head-scratcher.

The experiment: binge-watch all nine seasons of Seinfeld: Elaine-deficient pilot to prison-soaked finale. Whichever line would elicit the hardest, loudest, and lengthiest laugh would be named Seinfeld’s funniest joke, and by way of the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll results, the funniest joke in sitcom history.

Unlike their Best Sitcom poll, the Funniest Joke experiment would be performed unilaterally; one man’s singular experience. Would such an approach in any way compromise the veracity of these results? Pffft — Galileo was but one man, yet look at the buttload of things that dude objectively proved. Eppur si muove, amigos.

Anyhow, I set to work on this Sisyphean task. And after an accumulated 66 hours of viewing, I had my answer. Here’s the tale of the tape:

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LB Sees Some March TV Premieres

Calvin-on-writing…And all I can say is that if I’d had any realistic hope of finding some new shows to watch regularly, it would’ve been dashed.

Yes, it’s true. My lowest expectations proved to be too high. Cases in point:

BATTLE CREEK:

The Good: Um, nada. Sorry.

The Bad: A cop show that seems to have been written by 12 year olds for 9 year olds. The structure of the first couple of episodes more or less followed the procedural pattern. Ditto the characters. Except that nothing about the show rings true not only in regard to what’s happening but also in re why it’s happening and to whom it’s happening. Not a real human being reacting like a real human being anywhere to be seen. Just a bunch of big babies kibbitzing badly.

Conclusion: BATTLE CREEK is a cop show for those who like to have shouting on in the background while they eat their popcorn. It seems to have set the bar pretty damn low (“Let’s do a procedural!”) but still hasn’t come close to meeting it. And the fault, dear viewers, lies in the writing.

SECRETS AND LIES:

The Good: It’s not as terrible as BATTLE CREEK. At least here the characters behave like they’re a little bit older. Early teens, say.

The Bad: There’s a story here. I know there is. But it seems to have been devised by chimps who’ve never even bothered watching humans interact. About anything.

Conclusion: SECRETS AND LIES raises dullness to a new level. Do people still say “Meh?” “Meh” is where this one stands.

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH:

The Good: There are only two characters to have to watch and listen to.

The Bad: Those two characters refused to die by the end of the second episode. And believe me, I wanted them to. These selfish, stupid egocentric creeps bear no relationship to any genuine homo sapiens.

Conclusion: You know a comedy’s in trouble when the funniest scene in it is a visual shit joke.

CSI: CYBER

The Good: The theme song is one of The Who’s best.

The Bad: Quick cuts and pulse-pounding music isn’t storytelling, but it rules the hour this show somehow manages to take up. Combine that with Patricia Arquette’s apparent sleep-walking-and-talking problem, a CSI team composed entirely of re-cast stock figures from other CSI shows, and the complete lack of anything resembling rising action or a climax, and what’ve you got? CSI: IDIOCRACY, that’s what.

Conclusion: Aargh!

DIG:

The Good: Well, the hero looks heroic in a Daniel Craig kind of way, but….

The Bad: Know what DIG reminded me of? It reminded me of all the terribly written, poorly thought out Kindle e-books that keep appearing on Amazon.Com. The ones about ancient conspiracies that have set up an evil that’s going to wipe out everything worth living for sometime in the immediate future, all of which use the same tropes and stock characters, both good and bad. Except that DIG isn’t written nearly as well.

Conclusion: Early in the opening episode we are treated to the world’s longest, most meaningless chase through Jerusalem (natch), in which the hero proves beyond a shadow of the doubt that he can’t do his job. Putting him right in line with the makers of the actual show.

I was going to wait to write this after I’d seen the upcoming BLOODLINE, but that one doesn’t debut till next week and I haven’t figured out a way to get myself to watch it even then.

While talking about CSI: CYBER above I mentioned the 2006 feature film IDIOCRACY. It’s about a moron (literally) from our time who finds himself in the future, where society looks just like it does in 2006 but is, well, dumber. So dumb that the moron is now the smartest person on the planet. As I look at what I’ve written here I realize that there’s an explanation for the disheartening mindlessness of these new shows. Due to an inter-dimensional anomaly, possibly caused by evil conspirators who began working on it a couple of thousand years ago, contemporary TV has become a repository for TV series created specifically for viewing by the residents of the – or at least a – very real Idiocracy.

Either that, or the sensibility of Judd Apatow and the mindlessness of KNOCKED UP and THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN have seized control of all of TV’s executive suites. nothing else makes sense.

Watch these shows if you must, brothers and sisters. But as that old, familiar feeling of, “WTF? I can write like this!” floods you, don’t you dare start writing to prove it. I absolutely guarantee that you already can write better than this. And you owe it to all of mankind to keep it that way.

LYMI LB

LYMI
LB