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!

JOHN OSTRANDER: EQUAL TIME IS NOT EQUALLY TRUE

Um, isn't that the Tardis?

Um, isn’t that the Tardis?

by John Ostrander

My pal Bob Greenberger did a nice review this week of the TV show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson; the TV series is now out on BluRay. I was particularly struck by two facts about the show when it first aired. 1) It was shown on two TV networks, National Geographic and Fox. Nat Geo doesn’t surprise me, but Fox? 2) It was exec produced by Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family GuyAmerican DadTed, and A Million Ways to Die in the West (which several million people, including myself, have opted out of seeing). I’ll be honest; I’m not a fan of MacFarlane. His humor doesn’t work for me. However, I have a ton of respect for his getting Cosmos on the air. He used his considerable clout to make it happen, and that’s a service to us all.

For those who bypassed the series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is the sequel to Carl Sagan’s noted and much respected PBS seriesCosmos: A Personal Voyage, from 35 years ago. Both series have sought to explore and explain concepts of science in ways that are comprehensible to those of us who struggled with algebra in high school. (I’m raising my hand here; I squeaked out of algebra, failed horribly at chemistry and math is Greek to me).

Both shows had charismatic and brilliant hosts – the early version with Dr. Sagan and the recent one with Dr. DeGrasse Tyson, who has to be the foremost communicator of science for our time. An astrophysicist, he is the Frederick P. Rose Director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space and a research associate in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum “The goal is to convey why science matters to the person, to our society, to us as shepherds of this planet. It involves presenting science in ways that connect to you, so ‘Cosmos’ can influence you not only intellectually but emotionally, with a celebration of wonder and awe,” Tyson says about the series, according to USA Today.

In both versions of Cosmos, there was a basic desire to entertain, to make the show visually stunning, to make it accessible. Tyson said that it’s goal “is not that you become a scientist. It’s that at the end of the series, you will embrace science and recognize its role in who and what you are.” It used animation in a graphic novel style and hired noted composer Alan Silvestri to do the music. It was popular culturein the best sense and use of that concept.

The series wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers. It talked about evolution, it talked about climate change, it talked about the science of both of these and of other things, it gave the scientific dating of the earth and the Universe. The Creationists, predictably, were not amused.

Danny Faulkner of Answers In Genesis voiced his complaints aboutCosmos and how the 13-episode series has described scientific theories such as evolution, but has failed to shed light on dissenting creationist viewpoints. AiG maintained that God is the Creator, who “was the only eyewitness to the time of origins and that He has given us the truth about how He created everything in His Word. He is the one that created the natural laws that govern the physical world and make science possible.”

Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, if the first segment is any indication, will attempt to package unconditional blind faith in evolution as scientific literacy in an effort to create interest in science,” wrote Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on the AiG blog.

Creationism tries to explain the Bible in a scientific or quasi-scientific way but it insists on the existence of God, specifically the Judao-Christian God, as a prerequisite. Its proponents want it taught in schools as a viable alternative to the theory of evolution and the creationists are upset with how Cosmos presents evolution and some want equal time to explain their view, preferably on Cosmos itself. Opposing views should get equal time, right? That’s only fair, after all.

Except it isn’t.

Tyson, in an interview on CNN, said “You don’t talk about the spherical earth with NASA and then say let’s give equal time to the flat-earthers.” Kate Mulgrew, the former Capt. Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager, was the narrator on a documentary that tried to promote the theory that sun did, if fact, revolve around the Earth. Should she have a voice on Cosmos as well?

Creationism is not equal to the scientific method. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” Boiled down – observation, theory, experiment and test to ratify the theory, repeat the experiment to verify the results. Confirm or change the hypotheses.

Creationism doesn’t do that. It starts from a specific conclusion – that the Bible is factually true and God exists – and draws its theories from that. That’s not science. That’s belief. Dr. Mitchell’s assertion of a “blind faith” in evolution is simply wrong; science doesn’t ask for blind faith. It accepts as true what can be proven from observation and experiment. That is why it remains a “theory” even after it has been universally accepted. If you can prove something wrong, science can and will accept that, if sometimes a little belatedly. (Cosmos itself illustrated that.) Science acknowledges that a theory can be mistaken; creationism does not.

I continue to have problems with those who insist that the Bible is a history or a science book or an infallible source of information. It’s not meant to be taken literally. It is full of myth and poetry and metaphor and in that lies its power. It isn’t meant to stand up to the same rigors by which science holds itself. My former pastor, Phillip Wilson, used to say there is a difference between the road map and the road. The former is not the same as the latter but it may be able to guide you. If we understand that Genesis is a metaphor and evolution is a description, then perhaps the two can live together. The Bible can have truths in it without needing to be literally true.

Science and religion have the same origin – gazing at the stars and the world around us and asking, “Why? How did this come to be? How did we come to be here?” Religion has come up with answers and has stopped questioning; it has dogma and that’s where questions go to die. Science continues to question even after it has a reasonable answer.

As for having creationists have equal time on Cosmos – maybe Neil deGrasse Tyson might consider it. Right after he’s given equal time on the 700 Club.

I mean, that would be fair, right?

JOHN OSTRANDER’S 2014 TV REPORT CARD

report cardby John Ostrander

We’ve had our TV season (or series) finale blitz so I thought I’d give a report card on some of the series I’ve been watching. These are my current faves; they may not be yourfaves but – hey – it’s my column. Grades will be of different hues of satisfactory/unsatisfactory. Here there will be spoilers; you are so advised and warned.

Arrow: Satisfactory. The plots and subplots including the backstory all wound up in a satisfactory manner. Tracks were laid down for next season. Amanda Waller, even if I’m not nuts about how they interpret her, was there and appears that she will be there next season which means I get some money down the road. I don’t care for Oliver Queens’ younger sister Thea, who comes off as a self-righteous whiny spoiled brat. In theory, she could be written out if the show by her exit but somehow I doubt it. The show gets a little sudsy for me at times but, overall, I’ll probably watch it again next season.

Almost Human: Sadly satisfactory. This should almost qualify as an incomplete as I came in late on the series but I very much enjoyed what I saw. Unfortunately, the series has been cancelled which is a shame – good writing, good cast, good production values. They couldn’t have known when they did the final episode whether or not they were cancelled but they ended on a right note between the two main characters. While there were a few loose ends that could have been tied up, emotionally it ended well. I’ll miss it.

Castle: Unsatisfactory. This season was leading up to the nuptials between Castle and Kate Becket but the show is dedicated to keeping them apart. It took them a good long time to let the characters get together at all and now they’ve done a season cliffhanger where Castle, on his way to the wedding, is forced off the road and the last thing we see is his burning car. Ooooh! Maybe he’s dead! Nah, no one believes that. No, this is just another way of keeping the two characters apart because, as we all know, once two people get married, they become dull and uninteresting and boring. I mean, Hepburn and Tracy proved that. Gomez and Morticia. The Thin Man movies. Come on!

Justified: Unsatisfactory. I think I covered this elsewhere but the season simply treaded water, there were storylines about which I didn’t give a rat’s ass, the bad guys weren’t very compelling, and it’s marking time until next season, already announced as the last. It should have jettisoned one or two storylines and wound the show up strong this season. I don’t know if I care anymore.

Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D: Surprisingly satisfactory. Of course, they did bring in Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury so they had a lot going for them but this was a series I wasn’t keen on when it started. However, after the events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (extremely satisfactory) tied into the series, it became compelling. Betrayals, twists, character development, and Agent Coulson gets a promotion at the end. I’m looking forward to next season. Well done.

Suits: Satisfactory. There’s an underlying premise to the series – that Mike Ross, assistant to ace lawyer Harvey Specter, has faked his law degree, faked going to Harvard, and so on and that Specter (and several others at the firm) know it. The series has toyed with Mike’s exposure as a fraud and did again at the finale this year. There’s a lie at the center of the show and I think it has to be dealt with. They found an out this year; Mike has an offer of a big paying job in a different field. If he leaves, the odds on his lie being exposed reasonably go down and they’ve left it that he intends to take the job. Whether he follows through is something we’ll see next season but at least the series is addressing the issue.

The Blacklist: Satisfactory. This is a twisted series but I like how the information must sometimes be inferred and may be misleading. Characters died in the finale, often very violently. Tom Keen, the asshole pretending to be series lead Elizabeth Keen’s husband, bit the big one. Is James Spader’s character, Raymond Reddington, Elizabeth’s father? It seems as if he is but, with this series, you can never quite tell. Some questions were answered and some plots tied off but there are more questions and places to go next season and I’m ready to go with them.

Overall, not bad. More things I liked than things I didn’t. Some new shows are coming up in the fall that look promising. Nothing terribly challenging, but that’s why God created Cosmos. Oh, wait! S/He didn’t. Not a lot of God in the show, which pisses Creationists off no end – and part of the reason I really like it.

LB Sees CROSSBONES

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The Good:

  • The first episode of CROSSBONES plunges us right into an action-packed story with a rousing sea battle.
  • John Malkovich joins the ranks of great TV actors of 2014. (A year filled with great TV actors, btw.)

The Not-So-Good:

  • The first episode of CROSSBONES does indeed plunge us right into an action-packed story, but that story is about a bunch of psychotic, cruel, and totally stereotypical barely human beings with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
  • John Malkovich great’s acting may in fact make him the best showbiz incarnation of Satan in a year that’s also distinguished by masterful showbiz incarnations of Satan.

Bottom Line:

CROSSBONES is the obvious result of a meeting that went like this:

Exec #1: GAME OF THRONES is the hottest thing on TV. Let’s give our audience all the barbarity of that one and watch it grow!

Exec #2: Plus pirates. Gotta have pirates for the kids.

Everyone involved in this exercise in re-hashed, over-the-top crap deserves to be tortured the same way they now are torturing their characters…and viewers.

The most disappointing thing about this series so far is that they won’t.

ELEMENTARY: SEASON 2 – A Review

…by Alana Mancuso, a writer we always enjoy cuz she cuts through buzzwords and, as our grandparents used to say, “tells it like it is:”

Lucy Liu is the best thing about SHERLOCK...except for the writing and, um, Sherlock!

Lucy Liu is the best thing about SHERLOCK…except for the writing and, um, Sherlock!

by Alana Mancuso

Even as a fan of the show, I was not actually expecting the second season of Elementary and its finale to match what it had pulled off in Season 1—namely, because Natalie Dormer is now busy with Game of Thrones and really, Lucy Liu versus Natalie Dormer in a battle of hardcore ladies matching wits with millions of dollars, a global crime syndicate, and one man’s life in the balance? How were they going to top that? The writers still tried, bless their hearts.

Which is why, even a week after the finale, I find myself confused at how they managed to underwhelm me even when I was expecting to be underwhelmed.

This season had some very strong episodes. Elementary is, in many ways, a police procedural with Sherlockian elements instead of the other way around, which is perhaps why so many fans of Sir Doyle’s detective have been tentative to give Elementary a try. Despite the occasional formulaic form of such a show, there were a number of cases this season that had me intrigued even as a long-time fan of the genre. “Solve for X,” “Corpse de Ballet,” and “The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville,” stand out for their interesting premises, while “Tremors,” “The Diabolical Kind,” and “No Lack of Void” excel by using the cases as a framework to bring out the emotional conflict in and between characters. The fact that the anonymous internet hacktivist collective Everyone wasn’t introduced in the early season only to be discarded as a single-episode plot device, and instead showed up several times in later episodes, was also gratifying on a world-building level, as was the return of the NSA into Joan and Sherlock’s affairs.

Of course, the cases are why you watch a single episode: the characters are why you watch an entire season. While Sherlock’s character arc on his struggles with forging worthwhile human connection has ping-ponged back and forth over the season — his complicated relationship with Mycroft, his responsibility in Bell’s injury and antagonizing of the department’s other police, Moriarty’s letters, etc. — Watson’s own growth and search for independence outside of her partnership with Sherlock has been… there, and there consistently, but rarely in focus. The realization of how much of Joan’s life now revolves around their Great Work was brought up early in episode four but, aside from a few ominous conversations (notably with Jamie and Lestrade) about what it will be like once Sherlock has moved on from their friendship, which Watson even rebuffs, Watson’s development from loyal partner to separate entity doesn’t get much attention. That is, until she starts hooking up with Mycroft again near the finale; then it’s full speed ahead to wanting her own apartment so that she can see less of one Holmes brother and more of the other.

Read it all

MUNCHMAN’S NOTE: This review contains spoilers. We didn’t mention till now cuz…didn’t care. Spoilers are bullshit anyway.

To Hell With Your Realism

This article is so awesome that it has actually made us re-think the way we approach fictional entertainment. Ms. Mlawski, TVWriter™ thanks you for your insight into our beloved medium of TV!

lenaOur favorite woman from GIRLS

by Shana Mlawski

Express even a modicum of distaste for the extra-rapiness of HBO’s Game of Thrones and you’ll inevitably hear this kind of comment: “But there was plenty of rape in the Middle Ages! It’s realistic! Deal with it!”

The same thing happens if you comment on the show’s sometimes cringe-worthy racial politics: “There were no people of color in Medieval Europe! I’m being realistic! Deal with it!”

Let’s put aside for a moment that the second comment isn’t even close to true. Here’s a thought-experiment for all the realism-referees in the audience. Seven percent of girls and 3% of boys in grades 5-8 in the U.S. report having been sexually assaulted. Do you want to see between 3 and 7% of the kids on TV sexually assaulted?

Don’t you dare say you’d prefer not to. Don’t suggest it might be exploitative or simply cruel. Don’t ask if such scenes are necessary to the story. ’Cause if you do, here’s what I’ll say: Shut up. It’s realistic. Deal with it.

Maybe you think my analogy is unfair. Fine. A less incendiary one: Have you ever watched Girls? Have you ever seen Lena Dunham strip and have sex with people? Have you ever complained about her nudity? Well, you can’t. Women who don’t look like supermodels take off their clothes and have sex all the time. So stop whining. It’s realistic. Deal with it.

What I’m saying is that appeals to realism are not applied across the board. I have no statistics on the matter, but it seems they’re often used to shut down criticism that comes from “haters,” a.k.a. marginalized people who hope to bring attention to TV’s backward politics. But when a show dares offend the sensibilities of a certain type of fanboy, suddenly we’re not talking about realism anymore. Suddenly the conversation is about what “people” do and do not want to see on their screens.

But appeals to realism aren’t only used to shut down criticism. They’re also used to damn and to praise. This movie is bad because the science is inaccurate. That movie is good because the period details are spot on. This show is bad because the dialogue is heightened. This show is good because there are no plot holes.

It often makes sense to use these arguments. If you’re judging a work of hard sci-fi, it’s reasonable to put a magnifying glass on its technology and physics. If we’re watching a thriller and a plot hole destroys your ability to suspend disbelief, nothing I say is going to make you like the work. Nitpicking TV and movies for fun isOverthinking It‘s raison d’être, so far be it from me to tell you it’s always wrong.

It’s just weird when I enter forums and comment threads about Game of Thrones, and I find myself back in the 1800s, and everyone’s Émile Zola—except this Zola’s applying the rules of naturalism to a story featuring dragons. It’s like everyone got together before the first episode and decided Westeros was a real place and its history real history, and any naysayers are idiots ignorant of the Way Things Were.

It’s bizarre.

It’s equally bizarre when these would-be Zolas apply their rules to works of surrealism. Take those who have burned my dear Hannibal with a dire brand reading “unrealistic.” Unrealistic?! This brazenly surrealistic bit of Grand Guignol?! Why, I never expected this of Bryan Fuller! I’d better renounce my fandom.

When did appeals to realism become a trump card in pop culture criticism? And when did we agree that a certain kind of Internet commenter is the final arbiter of what is real and what is not?

I have some unverifiable theories.

Read the theories!