Monthly Archives: September 2008

Look! Up in the Sky. It's a Bird. It's a Plane. It's…Peter??

I’m re-watching the season premiere of Heroes, and something occurred to me.  Something I didn’t really notice last season (mainly because I was probably too busy noticing how much last season sucked).  That something is this: Peter Petrelli is Superman.

Now, before you all get your capes in an uproar, I’m not saying that Mama Petrelli’s baby boy has the same iconic status as Superman.  That would be stupid.  Supes has been around for seventy years.  He’s a mass media darling.  He’s been through World War II, the Cold War, and the near-collapse of the comic industry in the ’90s.  Peter Petrelli is a nurse with bitchin’ bangs.  So, what exactly am I driving at?  Simple.  Both Superman and Peter Petrelli provide similar obstacles and stumbling blocks to storytellers.

There’s a reason why the world has Kryptonite.  First invented for the Superman radio series in 1943, the deadly element was carried over into the comic series six years later, as a way of making the Superman stories a bit more dramatic.  Think about it: a story with an unstoppable protagonist who is impervious to everything and can do anything is boring.  Enter the little green rocks.  A weakened Superman is an interesting Superman.  I’m sure this is also why the Big Blue Boy Scout is vulnerable to magic and magic-based attacks.

This brings me back (finally) to Peter Petrelli.  Peter’s pretty much been set up as “the most powerful” character in the Heroes-verse.  In a world where people can walk through walls, stop time, or shoot lightning bolts from their fingertips, the dude who can do all of it is pretty high up the ladder.  Sure, there’s Sylar, but he has an inherent handicap–he needs to be more…umm…hands-on than Peter.  Sylar needs to identify, isolate, and lobotomize folks to get their powers.  Peter just needs to be standing in line at Starbucks with someone to get theirs.  So, as the writers and producers of Heroes, how do you deal with a character like Peter?  What do you do to keep the “drama” in this one-hour drama?  The answer is obvious: you need some kind of Kryptonite–in this case, it’s narrative Kryptonite.

Everything started off okay.  In season one of Heroes, Peter was still trying to figure his powers out.  He didn’t even know what he could do at first.  Then, when he finally realized that he could mimic the powers of others, he couldn’t do it unless his “donors” were nearby.  By the end of the season, Peter more or less figured out how to draw upon the powers of anyone he’s come into contact with.  Then he blew up–luckily, thanks to his niece Claire, Peter has the ability to regenerate.  See what’s happening here?  No one was worried for a second that ol’ Petey was going to die in the season one finale.  To paraphrase the musical episode of Buffy, he’d already “died twice” that season.  No threat.  No drama.

That brings us to season two.  What were the producers going to do about a character who could almost single-handedly deal with any threat they came up with?  They needed to find a way to tie Peter’s hands, metaphorically speaking.  Their solution: drop him in Ireland and give him a nasty bit of amnesia.  I might not have been a fan of the idea, but I can appreciate where it came from.  They’d pretty much painted themselves into a corner with Peter’s abilities, and needed to figure out how to keep the drama and tension cranked to 11.  It’s the exact same reason that Kryptonite was invented.

Now, season three is upon us, and the producers had to come up with yet another way to rein in Peter’s powers.  This time, they decided to have “Future Peter”–who has a scar, so we know he’s really bad-ass–come back to the present and take our Peter’s place.  While FP is masquerading as OP, OP finds himself trapped in the body of one of the villains from Level 5 (played by Veronica Mars‘ Weevil, you just gotta love that casting!).  It’s too early to know how long this current status quo will last, or what–if any–effect being in another body will have on OP’s abilities…I just think it’s funny that the producers find themselves jumping through hoops of their own making.

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Hot Dog! We Have A Wiener

And, the winner of the First Annual LET’S CAST… Contest is–

Mando, who submitted the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force series.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and congrats to Mando!  You’ll see my picks for Jaina, Jacen, Mara, Ben, and “all the rest” posted here as soon as possible.

R.I.P. Paul Newman

What can you say about a guy who’s been in some of your favorite movies of all time?  We’re gonna miss ya, Paul.  Hollywood won’t be the same without you.

Ya Gotta Be In It To Win It, Kids.

Clock’s ticking, cats and kittens.  You have four more days to enter the First Annual LET’S CAST… Contest.  Just go here and leave a comment telling me what movie you’d like me to cast.

I serve at the pleasure of the President.

No…wait, that’s Rob Lowe, Richard Schiff, and Allison Janney…

Yes.  I just made a West Wing reference.

Time to Fire Up the DVR–Part 2

In which we learn that, even in the 21st Century, network executives are still capable of totally jerking us around.  Three seemingly worthwhile shows slated for Wednesdays at 8pm, one slated for 9pm, and nothing at 10?  Really??  You still got it, network-weasels.  You still got it.

WEDNESDAYS

Bones: Part gruesome procedural drama.  Part goofy workplace sitcom.  All fun.  It’s nice to see David Boreanaz getting to play a character with an actual personality for a change.  But, I’m still waiting to see how this new season deals with the fallout from last season’s storyline.

Knight Rider: Y’know what…I kinda liked the two-hour backdoor pilot NBC aired earlier this year.  It wasn’t perfect, but they were trying to give us something that was (shudder) entertaining.  Sure, Will Arnett would have been a HY-larious KITT, but Kilmer isn’t half bad.

Pushing Daisies: I wasn’t sure about this show when it premiered last season.  But, it won me over with an awesome cast (including guest stars) and an aesthetic that is just this side of a Tim Burton movie.  It doesn’t hurt that female lead Anna Friel is downright Deschanel-esque.

Criminal Minds: I wasn’t sure this was going to survive the sudden departure of singing maniac Mandy Patinkin’s Jason Gideon, but the producers done good by (a) casting Joe Mantegna and (2) making his character more than a place-holding Gideon clone.  Now, let’s just see which characters didn’t survive last season’s (ahem) explosive finale.

THURSDAYS

CSI: Unlike Criminal Minds, I seriously doubt this is going to survive Grissom’s departure.  Why?  Well, there’s been way too much house-cleaning in the last season or two.  Sara: gone.  Warrick: dead.  And, now Grissom is jumping ship.  Sure, the rest of the cast is capable, and Lawrence Fishburne (as Grissom’s replacement) is always awesome, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope.

The Office: I was a huge fan of the BBC version of The Office, but it’s taken me a while to get into the swing of things with the American version.  I will admit that it has grown on me significantly.

30 Rock: When I was growing up, NBC was the king of the sitcom.  Then came a long string of Seinfeld and Friends clones, and the crown not only slipped, it rolled across the floor, out the door, down the street, and came to a stop at the feet of Neil Patrick Harris.  But, with 30 Rock, NBC has started to reclaim its former sitcom glory.  Anyone who doesn’t think Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy is one of the funniest sons-of-bitches on TV just isn’t paying attention.

Life on Mars: Another transplant from the UK.  I’ve heard amazing things about the original BBC version of this show about a modern-day cop who somehow ends up in the 70s, so I’m willing to check out the American version.  Although, after what happened with Journeyman last season, I wonder how well this is going to do.

Eleventh Hour: The guys behind CSI tackle X-Files-esque stories about cryogenics, cloning, and experimental brain surgery.  It’ll either be really good or complete crap.

FRIDAYS

Let’s be honest, until Doctor Who, Monk, and Psych come back, there really isn’t much going on TV-wise on Friday nights.  But, I guess I’ll give the second season of Life a shot, if for no other reason than Damian Lewis is awesome.

SATURDAYS

Ah-hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!

SUNDAYS

The Simpsons: The fact that The Simpsons have been on for 20 years means that there is an entire generation of people who have never lived in a non-Simpsons world.  It also means that the show’s been able to cycle through a bit of a slump a few seasons back and come out pretty close to the height of its former glory.

Family Guy: Either you like Family Guy or you think anyone who watches it should be forced to watch their own genitals being removed with rusty pliers.  Guess which group I’m in.

Cold Case: Not only is this a show about people doing their jobs, but it’s a show about people whose job is to investigate crimes that are sometimes decades old.  That means really cool music and goofy flashback effects.

The First Annual LET'S CAST… Contest

Drown the kids and shoot the neighbors, it’s time for the FIRST ANNUAL LET’S CAST… CONTEST!

That’s right, folks.  It’s time for you, my loyal readers, to submit ideas for my next LET’S CAST… post.  What does that mean, exactly?  Well, for starters, it means that I’ve run out of my own ideas and, like every other hack writer before me, I’ve decided to strip mine the brains of others.  The plump, sweet, juicy, life-sustaining brains of others.  But, it also means that you will get to make me your own private dancing monkey for however long it takes me to crank out a brilliantly witty dream cast for whatever project wins the coveted first place slot.

So, what are you waiting for?  Have a favorite book, comic, play, or old TV show that you’d love to see on the big screen?  Was there a movie that had a really cool premise, but whose cast was so horrible that it made you wanna go out and drop kick the first three-legged blind puppy you saw?

If you answered “Yes” to either of the above queries, simply leave a comment and tell me which movie you’d like me to cast.  Whichever suggestion is the most interesting (or, depending on my mood, the easiest) will win and you’ll get to see your entry after it’s been smacked around by the enchanted LET’S CAST… Shillelagh (trust me, like laws and sausage, you do not want to see how a LET’S CAST… list is actually made, it ain’t pretty).

What are you waiting for, Sally?  Make with the comments…

Four on the Floor #18: Wry, Sarcastic Butlers

The Situation: You’re a rich dude.  No, I mean like insanely rich.  So, odds are you’ve probably got at least one pretty big domicile of some kind that needs tending to.  Plus, let’s be honest, most really wealthy people tend to be a bit dim (it might be all of that blue-blooded inbreeding), so you might need someone around who can, say, keep your busy schedules straight or remind you when you’re about to leave the house without pants.

The Criteria: The trope of the servant who is smarter than his master has been around forever.  But, there is smart and there’s smart-ass.  I’m a sucker for that kind of droll, acid-tongued servant who knows that he’s really in charge of the situation.  Also, I know that, while all butlers are servants, not all servants are butlers.  For that reason, I’m sticking solely to ones who buttle–and, apparently, to those who valet, as well (sorry, I was never fully educated in the whole Upstairs/Downstairs hierarchy).  Therefore, that also means that the four names on this list also happen to be men–sassy housekeepers are a completely different list (Alice, Florence: I’m looking at you!).

1. Alfred Pennyworth

Unlike the other names on this list, Alfred does not work for a moron.  Actually, Alfred’s employer is probably one of the smartest men in the world.  But, that doesn’t mean that Bruce Wayne doesn’t need to be put in his place from time to time.  And, Alfred is one of the few people on the planet who can do that and live.  The reason: loyalty.  Whether he’s consoling a newly-orphaned 8 year old or stitching up the Dark Knight, Alfred’s been Wayne’s surrogate father and confidant since Day (or Year) One.

2. Reginald Jeeves

I wonder if P. G. Wodehouse new what he was doing when he created Jeeves?  Now, while technically a valet and not a butler, Jeeves embodies the very qualities that inspired this list.  He is not only the consummate gentleman’s gentleman, but there isn’t a soul on the planet who can get the dim-witted Bertie Wooster out of the ridiculous predicaments he manages to get himself into.

3. Hobson

While I’m no big fan of Arthur, you can’t ignore the brilliance of Sir John Gielgud’s Hobson (also, technically a valet).  Dudley Moore might have been the “star”, but Hobson walked away with the movie (and Gielgud walked away with an Oscar).  It should come as no surprise that Hobson is the perfect “Jeeves”, since the movie was pretty much an updated version of a Jeeves and Wooster plot.

4. Benson DuBois

Soap might be known for tackling subject matter that would have made Archie Bunker run and hide under the bed, but for me, it’s the show that gave me Benson.  In addition to having to deal with the usual assortment of wealthy dimwits, Benson frequently found himself surrounded by every kind of freak, maniac, and whack-job under the sun.  And, how did he deal with it?  He’d roll his eyes, shake his head, and mutter something caustic.