Trying to Make Sense of ‘The Flying Nun’

Nope, sorry, impossible. Nobody can make sense out of THE FLYING NUN. Not even its loyal viewers back in the day. (None of the Team TVWriter™ minions was even born then, so we’re not responsible for this show’s unbelievable popularity. Nopers. Not even a little:

Sorry, old-timers, but TV Past ain't always better than TV today

Sorry, old-timers, but TV Past ain’t always better than TV today

by Pilot Viruet

From 1967 to 1970, ABC aired a strange little sitcom called The Flying Nun. The very existence of this show, which I discovered in passing just a few years ago, doesn’t make much sense at first. The title reads like a throwaway joke from an episode of 30 Rock, which routinely took clever potshots at NBC (and television in general) by expertly creating fake, empty programs that revolved around a hilariously straightforward title. The Flying Nun would surely fit right in with the fictional shows Tank It or, more appropriately, God CopThe Flying Nun isn’t a punchline, though. It was a very real show, and even a somewhat successful one, that spent three seasons detailing the adventures of, well, a flying nun.

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To be clear, she can’t actually fly. The premise, which is based on the book The Fifteenth Pelican by Tere Ríos, is as simplistic as it is silly: Sister Bertrille (Sally Field) is able to “fly” when the wind is right, thanks to a combination of her low weight (under 90 lbs) and her cornette. There are no explicit supernatural or divine elements at work, just Bertrille’s small frame and high wind speeds. After breaking up with her boyfriend, Bertrille decides to become a nun and moves from New York City to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she lives with fellow nuns in a convent.

Throughout the series, Bertille converts people, solves mysteries, catches robbers, and helps orphans. Throughout the series, Bertille regularly flies around. Sometimes it’s necessary, like when she flies out to sea to help guide a lost fisherman to fish, but other times, she flies even when a simple ladder would suffice, like when she just needs to retrieve a kitten from a roof.

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Dennis O’Neil: Too Many Superheroes?

by Dennis O’Neil

SuperheroesI’m about to use a word that may be offensive to some, so if you’re one of them, I suggest you leave. You can make a ruckus as you go if you like; we judge here, but we do not blame.

Evolution. That’s the word, and now it’s out there. It may or may not recur as we proceed down the page.

The occasion is an item in Yahoo’s news site over weekend reporting that the moviemakers at Marvel and DC have their superhero schedule figured out for the next five years. Not all the t’s are crossed, but apparently The Big Two know how many superhero flicks they plan to make and when they’ll be putting these entertainments on a screen near you. And they don’t intend to skimp on quantity.

And I’ll probably see many, if not most, of them, so these are not the remarks of a disgruntled septuagenarian who wonders why nobody out there in that Hollywood makes Hopalong Cassidy pictures because, dang it, they were entertaining. But I can’t help wondering if there isn’t such a thing as too much, a saturation point, and if superheroes aren’t fast approaching it. (And in the case of guys like Superman and the Flash, that “fast” is fast!)

Then there’s television. I can think of at least three superhero weekly outings destined for a screen near you – the one in your living room – and my information is probably incomplete.

Bottom line: too many superheroes?

But that wasn’t really the bottom line because, while we’re in wondering mode, we’ll wonder if the superhero situation isn’t a small edge of a much, much larger one.

Consider these facts, culled from a New York Times piece by Daniel J. Levitin: we citizens are exposed to the equivalent of 174 newspapers worth of information on a typical day; over in TV land, the world’s video broadcasters produce 85,000 hours of original programming daily.

If you’re Joe Average, you spent five hours a day watching your living room tv set.

The brain fodder comes at us in the form of cop shows, sitcoms, news, commercials, stuff that’s playing in the background (but is nonetheless seeping into your psyche), and the books you read, and comic books you read and the magazines you page through,, and billboards, and bus ads, and Facebook and what that smart young fella down at work says…

Mr. Levitin tells us that “the processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited.”

Evolution gave us the ability to make narratives – tell stories – so that infants could began to make sense of all that garble by figuring out that effects have causes and grownups could discern patterns that might be useful for survival and construct personal identities and from there stories evolved into myths, drama, songs, campfire tales and commercialscomicbookstelevisionshow…

You can fill in the rest of the blanks.

Mr. Levitin deserves a direct quote: “Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message … is competing for resources in your brain…”

How about every story you read/hear/see? Any competition for resources there?

As is so often the case, I don’t know. But no harm in asking, is there?

You anti-evolutionists can come back in now.

Cara Winter: The Anglo Files 2

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MIRANDA
by Cara Winter

As we established in my last post, I am an unabashed Anglophile.

My friends, rather than shunning me, or trying to get me to watch LAW & ORDER: SVU, or finding me an A(ng)A meeting to attend… are full-onenablers.  Case in point:  on a recent trip to LA, my best friend (who long ago introduced me to BLACK ADDER) sat me down, and told me I was about to watch a show from the UK called MIRANDA.  It was February, 70’s and sunny in LA, I’d just left behind sub-zero temperatures behind in Chicago…  so naturally, instead of frolicking on a beach somewhere, I remained seated while she queued it up.

MIRANDA is a fantastically funny and gloriously absurd sitcom written, created by, and starring comedienne Miranda Hart.  Pretty much everything takes place in the title character’s tiny flat, and the joke shop she runs in the floor below. Miranda’s best friend Stevie (played by Sarah Hadland) helps her run the shop.  Occasionally they venture down the block to a restaurant where the chef is her other best friend, Gary (played by the dishy Tom Ellis) – who Miranda is secretly in love with (of course).  Within the first minute of S1 /Ep1, I felt something of a kinship with Hart – as would anyone who’s ever tripped over their own feet, passed gas at an inopportune time, or forgotten their underpants.

Hart has a masterful wit, both as a writer, and performer.  The character she’s created is at once lovable, cringe-worthy, absurd, and spectacular.  It’s like someone spliced Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, and Buster Keaton together, then sent her to an all-girl’s boarding school and told her men were aliens.  In a TV comedy landscape full of busty, tiny cupcakes who all start to look like the same person, Hart stands out.  Not just because of her tall personage, but because she shimmies, sings (enthusiastically, and off key), sashays, and shuffles-off-to-Buffalo like she’s been possessed by Tim Conway. (Yes, I know he’s still alive.  I was merely trying to paint a—never mind.)

Miranda never misses an opportunity to laugh at herself, or anyone else.  But it’s all in good fun; it’s never at someone else’s expense.  And even more refreshingly, MIRANDA openly attacks “adulthood” itself, with childish mania.  (Why would you spend time balancing your checkbook, when dressing up in a full-body Velcro suit and catching Nerf balls with your body is so much more fun?  Why would anyone go clubbing, when you can stay home and paint your bestie’s face to look like a cat’s?  Who wouldn’t want to dress up like Where’s Waldo, and go to the mall?  And isn’t cake just …awesome?  It’s this element of fun that I appreciate most of all; makes one feel free to be a ridiculous and silly, and embrace the absurd.  Because life is absurd, and so are all of us. Aren’t we?  Absurd, are we?  (Sorry, catch phrase– watch and you’ll understand).

While it has been reported that MIRANDA will not be taping another season, they’ve promised Christmas specials, and currently there are 3 seasons (18 episodes) available for free on HULU.  If you know what’s good for you, if you’re interested in comedy, or if you’ve ever had your skirt pulled down exposing an extraordinarily hard-working pair of Spanx, or if your mother outwardly seems to hate you and everything you do… check it out.  The kind of laughter MIRANDA elicits is just plain good for the soul.

Diana Vaccarelli Sees Lifetime’s EXPECTING AMISH

Amishby Diana Vaccarelli

I’m the first one to admit that I love Lifetime movies, especially the cheesy ones, so I was looking forward to last week’s Lifetime premiere of EXPECTING AMISH, although not necessarily for the right reasons.

EXPECTING AMISH is the story of a young Amish girl named Hannah Yoder, played by AJ Michalka, who attends rumspringa in Los Angeles. She leaves behind her Father, Brother, Sister, and her boyfriend Samuel, played by Jean-Luc Bilodeau, to experience what the modern world has to offer for short time.

While in L.A., Hannah meets a college D.J named Josh, played by Jesse McCartney. The two immediately become inseparable. So inseparable, it seems, that upon her return home she discovers she is pregnant and has to choose between the life she knows and marriage to Samuel or reuniting with Josh in Los Angeles.

I was expecting a cheese fest of a film, with actors unable or unwilling to show real feelings, as is par for the Lifetime course, but was pleasantly surprised. This film has heart and shows genuine emotion and inner struggle. AJ Michalka plays Hannah brilliantly and shows her inner struggle to make the hardest decision of her life.

I wasn’t expecting Jesse McCartney to be good, but he was great. His portrayal of Josh was not only charming and funny but dramatic as well. In one pivotal scene he shows true dramatic talent that won me over. The chemistry between McCartney and Michalka is great and the way they play off each other well makes this relationship even that more believable.

Jean-Luc Bilodeau was under utilized in the role of Samuel. I would have liked to have seen more of the relationship between Samuel and Hannah to better emphasize her inner struggle.

Screenwriter Scott Durdan ( who co-wrote the original story with Samantha Dipippo) has written a film that isn’t typically seen on the Lifetime Network. He writes the two male leads, Josh and Samuel, so that they, to be blunt, are not the assholes they could have been. Most films produced by Lifetime have had one of the male leads be an unattractive character who makes it easy for the female lead to choose which man she loves and wants to be with at the end. But this time it’s a genuinely difficult decision.

SPOILER ALERT:

What I enjoyed most about EXPECTING AMISH was that the heroines’s inner struggle was totally credible and affecting. And, to be honest, I also was pleased with the ending. I wanted Hannah to make a life for herself and not simply follow a family obligation, and that’s what I got.

I highly recommend this film. Just make sure you watch it with a tissue.  

Cara Winter: The Anglo Files

Sit back and enjoy the first of what we at TVWriter™ hope will be a long series of reviews/reports/discussions of  UK TV from the remarkable writer – and Britvision fan – Cara Winter (whom we first met and immediately recruited for the site when she won the Action/Drama/Dramedy category in the 2013 Spec Scriptacular):

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The Anglo Files
#1: OUTLANDER

OK, so, confession time:  I’ve been known to watch TOP GEAR just to hear the accents.  I’ve seen every episode of SHERLOCK sixteen times.  I mayhave been accepted to drama school because I’d memorized the entirety of Shakespeare’s HENRY V.  My Google search history reveals more than a few “2BR rental, London” searches, and my dream car is a Mini with a Union Jack hard top.  I am (shamefully? or shamelessly?) …an Anglophile.

Perhaps good ol’ LB picked up on this, at some point.  Or, perhaps not, and his request was pure randomness.  Regardless, LB suggested that I watch the first episode of OUTLANDER (the new series from Starz), and write about it for all of you.  So here goes.

Not knowing a single thing about the OUTLANDER book series, I didn’t have any expectations going in.  I queued up the first episode (it’s available free, online and on TV), sat down with my notepad, and … wait, what?  It’s set in the UK?  Of the past?  Wait, there’s time travel, too?  To an even more distant past?  And Scottish horsemen, Paganism, and unscrupulous English lords?  Holy crap… SIGN ME UP.   Still, not having gotten into GAME OF THRONES, or THE BORGIAS, or really any of the other historical dramas out there…. even given my Anglo-proclivities, this wasn’t necessarily going to be a home run.

OUTLANDER is the story of Claire, a woman who (while on holiday to Scotland with her husband) finds herself suddenly inexplicably thrust 200 years into the past.  From the get-go, I was intrigued by the world created by Diana Gabaldon, and adapted for television by Ronald D. Moore.   Visually, the show looks amazing – lush landscapes, gorgeous costumes, expensive cinematography, the whole bit.  Even the score is lovely, with just enough bagpiper-y (is that a thing?) to set the mood, without grating on one’s nerves.

Time travel, romance, and the mystical Scottish Highlands have been fertile ground for writers for hundreds of years, of course.  But OUTLANDER manages to feel fresh, original, and somehow timeless.  (And so far, all without zombies or vampires – whoo hoo!!)  And fear not, for those of you not into Sci-Fi:  the moment when Claire (played by the luminous Caitriona Balfe) travels through time is masterfully crafted; you don’t give it a second thought, let alone scoff at it.  I think this is where Mr. Moore’s experience creating one of the best TV shows ever (he wrote & produced the reboot of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) comes in handy; he knows how to effectively remove even a hint of camp, by focusing not on technology or mysticism, but on people.

Upon waking up suddenly in the 1740’s, Ms. Balfe plays subsequent moments with a perfect mixture of disbelief, wonder and fear.  You have no choice but to follow her down the rabbit hole — and once you have, you’re really glad you did.  So often, TV heroines lack one or more of the things we adore in their male counterparts, be it depth, confidence, brains, or skill.  But Claire has all of this, and more.  She makes me want to buy a plain white dress and find my own ancient monolith (tho, I’d only undertake travel to a pre-indoor-plumbing era if Miranda Hart could be my tour guide).

And credit where credit is due; it isn’t just Ms. Balfe’s acting, but Mr. Moore and director John Dahl’s vision, which sucks us into Claire’s journey.  At one point, she reminded me of the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina’s World – earthy, striving towards home, but stranded – and in the very next frame, I saw an image of my own grandmother in her 30’s.  And all of that was accomplished visually, within a 20 second span.   How did they do that?   Well, TV magic is how.  This first episode is a triumph of solid casting, exceptional direction, and high-end production values… quite possibly a case of the medium transcending the source material.

I’m excited to see subsequent episodes, so long as I can afford to add Starz to my cable package.  But… would doing so be the worst thing for my late summer malaise?  With no more MIRANDA episodes coming out, THE IMITATION GAME not in theaters until November, and DOWNTON’s next season even further off?  How could I resist?

I think there’s potential for greatness in OUTLANDER; of course, time will tell.  While the first episode is somewhat of a slow burn, they still hit all the right marks, and to me a quick pace isn’t everything (24? …hate, hate, hated it).  The most encouraging thing of all, here, is that Ronald Moore is at the helm.  Because for an American, he makes some remarkably good telly.

munchman: RICK AND MORTY is the Best Show on TV

rick and morty on tvwriter.netby munchman

The Good:

  1. It features a whole universe full of Ricks and Mortys, AKA DOCTOR WHO’s Doctor and whomever is his current companion, AKA BACK TO THE FUTURE’s Doc Brown and Marty.
  2. It’s totally irreverent. Rick is a genius and master of travel through time, space, and dimension. He’s also a miserable and physically disgusting old drunk who is using Morty – his grandson – as a shield to escape detection from all the enemies he makes in his travels.
  3. It turns every show in the super scientist hero genre completely upside down. Nobody is good. Nobody is evil. Everybody just – is. Including the alien villains – and allies.
  4. It’s funny as hell. Even your grandmother will laugh after she finishes complaining about the swearing and shit.
  5. It has a plan. A worldview. A philosophy of life. A grand arc into which every damn thing that happens fits. Everything.
  6. It proves that RICK AND MORTY co-creator Dan Harmon really is the genius COMMUNITY cultists have been claiming…even if the true sign of his genius is that he partnered up with series co-creator Justin Roiland.

The Bad:

  1. Nada.
  2. Zip.
  3. Zilch.
  4. The Big Zero.

What? You’re still here at TVWriter™? Forget us. Go where Rick and Morty live. Watch all the episodes. Then play the RICK AND MORTY RUSHED LICENSED ADVENTURE Game.

And then give thanks to whatever deity you worship, especially if it happens to be Dan Harmon, that this masterpiece has been picked up for a second season, in spite of Deity Dan Harmon’s reputation/personality/inability to play well with others. (Think about that one.)

In other words:

MUNCHMAN LOVES THIS SHOW

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Ooh, ooh, ooh – it’s the !$#@ pilot!