Great TV Theme Songs, Part 1

In light of the recent death of beloved actor James Garner, I have been reminiscing about my favorite…TV theme music.

Really. It’s not the effect of his death I would have expected. He was an actor, and when an actor dies we normally talk about which of his movies we loved (The Great Escape) and hated (The Notebook, there, I said it, though he was the best part of that crapfest).

James Garner, for those who didn’t grow up with me, was in a scrappy little show in the 1970s called The Rockford Files.

Don't mess with Jim Rockford. From fansshare.com

Don’t mess with Jim Rockford.
Photo from fansshare.com

He played Jim Rockford, a smooth-talking private eye who drove a giant car, had a really nice…answering machine…and loved the ladies. And this show had one of the GREATEST TV theme songs of all time.

I mean, I’m part of the generation that grew up with TV as a babysitter, and make no mistake about it–these shows provided much of the soundtrack of my youth. They’re often more readily retrieved from the inner recesses of my brain than, say, the Preamble to the Constitution. Is that unfortunate? Maybe. But if the most lasting side effect is that I suffer from an abundance of useless information…meh. There are worse things.

On second thought…I can access the Preamble easily enough. It was burned into my brain thanks to the efforts of Schoolhouse Rock!. Saturday morning cartoons weren’t complete without at least one SHR short coming across my TV screen. They were catchy. The songs were peppy. And I learned stuff from them; SHR also taught me, in no particular order, how to unpack my adjectives, how bills becomes laws, and how to determine multiples of 3, because it’s a magic number. Here’s the Preamble, which I used to have to sing to remember; at least now I can recite it in my normal speaking voice.

One of the many things I’ve always loved about the Rockford theme is that it’s purely instrumental. There’s nothing wrong with TV theme songs that tell a story (i.e., The Brady Bunch theme), but to be able to hook the viewer in without chirpy and/or heartwarming narrative? It’s a talent. In more modern TV themes, think of the unforgettable music from Law & Order.

Infectious, right? You’re going to walk around doing that “Boom-boom, doot-do-do-do-DOOOO” thing for the next hour, at least. All day, more likely. Because that’s how music hooks work. They anchor themselves in your head and fuse themselves into your mental DNA like controlled nuclear strikes that irrevocably litter your brain with pop culture references.

There are a few other instrumental theme  pieces besides Rockford that have been bound unto me from my adolescence and are part of my permanent mental loop. One is the bass-heavy, groove-funk theme from the cop sitcom Barney Miller.

Cop shows aren’t funny? Watch Barney Miller‘s legendary hash brownie episode and get back to me.

But if we’re talking about instrumental TV themes that infiltrated the core of my consciousness–and indeed, the public consciousness at large–then no conversation is complete without a celebration of the incredible theme from (non-sitcom) cop show Hawaii Five-0. Performed by The Ventures, this instrumental theme helped define surf-rock and set a new standard of TV-based awesome.

It wasn’t unusual for me to think that Hawaii Five-0‘s theme song was the best part of the show; the show itself could be a little formulaic, but I could always dance to the song.

Added TV show bonus? Jack Lord had the best hair.

Slick. Photo from ctva.biz

Slick.
Photo from ctva.biz

Looking back, I’ve realized…there was a lot of fun music bouncing around the airwaves when I was a wee paisley. I’m just getting started with this; there are family-based themes and women-show-oriented themes and weepy themes…and on and on. These shows worked their way into the fabric of my life, and I’m glad to take a sun-dappled, gauzy, nostalgic look at them. If you were (or are) a TV kid, then the theme music you’ve encountered along the way has informed you too. Don’t disregard; embrace! And tell me…

What’s your favorite theme music?

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The Walking Dead S4 Ep 14: The Grove

~~~SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS~~~

Sorry this is a day late. I was out of town, couldn’t do it.  Anyway.

So. This episode. What can I say? There can be some recap, I suppose, but in the end… Lizzie did it. Lizzie did it, Lizzie killed it, Lizzie fed it.  And then…

OK, a quick summary. Carol, Tyreese and the girls (Lizzie, Mika, and baby Judith) were walking through the woods when they came to a cleared grove and a house/situation that seemed almost too good to be true. A secured property, lots of workable farmland, plenty of fresh meat–like venison–that walks itself onto the property, and a shit-ton of fertile and productive pecan trees. What could be better? Why NOT take a load off, set a spell, and actually really really have your own postmodern, post-apocalypse version of The Brady Bunch?

I figured I've made this joke so often I owed it to myself. Enjoy.

I figured I’ve made this joke so often the past few weeks I owed this to myself, and now I can’t really crack said joke any longer. Enjoy.

But of course, in the “too good to be true” vein…it doesn’t last. This episode ties up a lot of loose ends before we go into the final two episodes of the season, and Lizzie seems to be dangling most of the ends. It boils down to this: she is organically broken and at her core doesn’t seem to understand that zombies do not = an altered but nonetheless viable form of life (though she comprehends that they’re dangerous and does things to protect people from them…usually, sort of…when appropriate).

Hi, I'm Lizzie. When trouble comes, I lay on the ground and scream. My kid sister can handle this.

Hi, I’m Lizzie. When trouble comes, I lay on the ground and scream. My kid sister can handle this.

So Lizzie’s “they’re our friends” trope is somewhat selective, and I maintain that in a non-zombie world she would be a budding serial killer. This episode confirms, first by action then by conversation, that she was indeed the one feeding the zombies at the prison (called it!); we even get to see her feed a trapped zombie in this episode, ew.

Yeah, they're all cute when they're trapped but I don't see her helping him up any time soon.

Yeah, they’re all cute when they’re trapped but I don’t see her helping him up any time soon.

And she was the one doing rat dissections in the basement of the prison, though that’s no surprise considering her assault on a bunch of bunnies while chilling out around a campfire one evening.

She does, indeed, play keep-away from a zombie, and then flips out when Carol comes running out to kill it (called it!).

Oh, Lizzie. It's not love. You're just food.

Oh, Lizzie. It’s not love. You’re just food.

Then Carol and Tyreese took off into the woods to gather firewood and check their perimeter and make sure they have a safe, fairly secure place to live, for the time being.  Tyreese took the opportunity to mope and get all, “I’m haunted by dreams of my one true love.” I love the look on Carol’s face as she’s like, OK fine, Heathcliff, but can we gather some firewood?

Carol? I haz a sad.

Carol? I haz a sad.

During this downtime from their subsistence-living, hunter-gathering, hiding in shadows and waiting for threats to pass, Lizzie–who was crazy, operating under her own agenda, alone with two kids smaller than her, and armed with a really sharp hunting knife–takes the opportunity to murder her sister, so she can prove that when zombies return they really just want to be our BFFs.

I love my baby sister! But I love murder more! {{{heart}}}

I love my baby sister! But I love murder more! {{{heart}}}
—Lizzie

Carol realized at this moment that Lizzie couldn’t ever…ever…be trusted with people. With anyone, really, and while it’s obvious that baby Judith would be Target Numero Uno now that Mika was gone, it would just be a matter of time before she moved up to bigger game. Like Tyreese. Or her. Or anyone she wanted to “prove” something to. Rut-ro! So, in the interests of not harboring an adolescent sociopath who was only going to get bigger and more insane because they live in a crazy world, Carol gets Lizzie to go outside with her and then–because there really is no other choice–executes her.

That's the end of that. Sorry, Lizzie. But. You crossed the wrong woman.

That’s the end of that. Sorry, Lizzie. But. You crossed the wrong woman.

Don’t. Mess. With Carol. Hershel always said, “Everybody has a job to do.”  Apparently, Carol’s job is cutting out threats to her group like they were tumors. In all fairness, someone has to do it.

Whether the writers intend for this to be a side effect or not, one of the bits of underlying social commentary that comes up is: being angsty is a self-indulgent luxury, available to those who have some time on their hands. Now, I’m not saying that applies to Lizzie, because she was barking mad, poorly wired, her tether to reality snapped a long time before. But Tyreese…

While they were still at the prison, Tyreese was absolutely vengeance-minded and eaten up by rage (Michonne even had a “I want to kill The Governor, who made me put down my zombified best friend, but that’s not where my heart lives and dude, you’ve got to let it go” talk with him) since Karen died. And her loss–let’s face it, writers, this was a bit of a biff on your part–wasn’t that keenly felt by anyone except Tyreese, since the viewers barely knew her. When the prison went down and he had to re-focus his priorities, he seemed much less alternatively angry and/or glum. Now that he’s got some time on his hands again and is in a place in which he feels relatively safe, he’s back to mooning about Karen, and seems overly depressive and Edwardian-romantic-hero-self-indulgent. There’s things to do. This is the zombie apocalypse. Take off your neck ruffle and get off your fainting couch and snap out of it.

So the other loose end was Carol’s confession to Tyreese that she was the one who killed Karen. He suspected Lizzie, who never admitted to killing Karen even though she ‘fessed up about everything else that she did. But here he is, relaxed and in a safe little house and right away he’s all, “Karen is still dead. And now I think Lizzie did it, because clearly she’s been our under-the-radar resident psycho, and I need to blame someone.” Carol could have let him carry that belief, but in the interests of a) moving forward and b) being fair to Lizzie’s memory (because despite her willingness to be incredibly cold-blooded, Carol is fair), she spills to Tyreese about how she killed Karen, sliding a gun toward him so he can dish up justice how he sees fit.

Hey, Tyreese. Funny story...

Hey, Tyreese. Funny story…

Now, this is after she’s demonstrated her willingness to kill someone she loves in the interests of the Greater Good (an expression I hate, BTW, and I’m not really sure why), so he can’t say that she’s mean or crazed or thoughtless or spiteful. And, Tyreese was on board with Carol dropping the 11-year-old Lizzie, so if he can be OK with this then he can start to wrap his head around Carol’s actions with Karen. And he forgives her, because what else is he supposed to do? He just OK’d an execution. Who’s to say that Karen’s death was any different, really?

And so. There we are. They move on, two kids down and baby Judith strapped to a papoose on Tyreese’s back.

I’ll say this: Carol’s track record for child care is less than stellar. But she tries, she tries.

Questions: There was a fire burning somewhere close by that was a significant plot point, creating completely horrifying crispy-fried zombies.

If there were zombies in Mordor...

If there were zombies in Mordor…

There’s speculation about what was burning. My guess: the town that Rick, Michonne and Carl fled from after the creepster gang invaded the house. Because the gang (that Daryl is now a part of, remember) is trying to flush out the people or person (Rick!) that killed their friend in the upstairs bathroom and got out of the house unnoticed. I’m sure they’re thinking this person can’t be far. That’s gotta leave a scar if you pride yourself on being a gang of violent and implacable dicks, like these guys do

The other question I’ve seen asked around the interwebs: Why, exactly, did Rick banish Carol in the first place?  The short answer: Because he is afraid of her. Because she’s willing to do the wet-work, and he knows that if she decides he is a poor leader or a danger to her group in any way, she’ll take him down. He can’t control her, and he knows it.

#teamcarol #4eva!

Next week: Daryl walks through the woods with the other bow-hunting guy from the murderous creepy gang. And everyone closes in on Terminus. Finally.

And finally. Let the Brady Bunch sing you out with “It’s a Sunshine Day“.  Ev’rybody’s smilin’!

The Walking Dead: What’s the Matter with Glenn and Maggie?

I was out of town this weekend and just watched Sunday’s episode (S3-E10) of The Walking Dead.  First things first…

It’s Daryl Dixon for the win with the most creative use of a car’s hatchback in a zombie kill!

There’s a zombie under that hatchback. You fill in the rest. Follow the link to see it in full, gory detail. From http://www.uproxx.com

I don’t read the comic book on which the show was based.  I don’t know unless I search out the fan chat in forums about who was originally one of the main group of survivors or who was really in Woodbury or which characters are hopelessly changed between their comic incarnations and their TV ones.  But I do like to watch movies based on comic books and/or video games and one thing is a pretty fair constant: character development is usually clumsy at best (I’ve seen all–ALL–the Resident Evil movies except for the most recent one, and Alice has yet to have actually grown in any way) (that’s not to say they can’t get smarter; I’m talking about witnessing the characters grapple with tough emotional questions).  When monster-action writers start writing about things like internal development or self-reflectivity their work tends to fall apart and seem contrived and hackneyed and really, most of the time, who’s to say that’s so wrong?  You don’t go to a zombie movie so it will force you to contemplate your inner reality (though if you can get that out of a zombie flick, good on you).  When you go to see a zombie movie, you want want shoot-em-up thrills, gore, impressive kills (though I’ve yet to see one that can top the hatchback) and perhaps a glimmer of hope that the zombie apocalypse the characters have just endured will come to an end and they can get back to their regularly scheduled lives.  Do you think about the social implications of the final scene of Night of the Living Dead (not spoiling, if you have lived under a rock for the last 45 years and haven’t seen it)?  No, you talk about the little girl with the trowel.  When you talk about 28 Days Later you don’t contemplate the horror of having to make a kill-or-be-killed decision if your loved one were infected with a rage virus.  You think, wow!  Those zombies were fast!  (To those out there who would argue that the monsters in 28 Days Later are “the infected” and not zombies I say, for the purposes of this blog, let it go.)

But The Walking Dead is TV.  Season 3 is 16 episodes long and so, they have to write for, basically, eight feature-length zombie movies with narratives that tie together.  Of course sometimes the writing–as I mentioned before, NOT a zombie movie’s strongest suit–fails.  I would imagine it’s quite a burden to write for hours and hours of audiovisual mayhem and carnage, while building characters with personalities and relationships that seem real, without sounding trite.  This is where comics have an edge; they can express the mayhem over pages of panels, physically depict how characters build trust, and can do so with limited dialogue.  We’re remarkably good at filling in blank spaces and understanding implied meaning.  But with a TV show, the audience wants to hear the characters speak and relationships have to grow and develop, otherwise you’re basically watching the nightly news.  With zombies.

With this said, I was struck by the rapidly unraveling relationship between Glenn and Maggie.  Glenn, a surprisingly resourceful college student turned survivalist, met Maggie, a member of the Farm Family, when one of the Farm Family shot one of Glenn’s party members, who they then rush back to the farm compound to save.  First came sex, then love, and Glenn and Maggie have been a relatively happy couple in the middle of the chaos and a formidable fighting duo who could hold their own against the zombie masses.  Until they were captured by The Governor, leader of Woodbury, a town/compound not far from where Glenn and Maggie and Co. have taken refuge.

In disgustingly classic war strategy, The Governor exploited Maggie’s gender, forcing her to participate in her own violation by making her take off her top and threatening (but not going so far as to engage in) rape.  She has just heard Glenn get beaten in the next room, and The Governor says that if she doesn’t take off her shirt, he’ll take off Glenn’s hand.  It’s an appalling plot point that was hard to watch and is still hard to see.  After they’re rescued from Woodbury, Glenn and Maggie struggle as a couple and in S3-E10, they have a fight that has since prompted considerable discussion among the fan forums.  “OMG!  Maggie’s such a bitch!” some of the fans said.  Or, “Wow, Glenn’s such an ass!  Why is he mad at Maggie?  She was sexually assaulted.  It’s like he’s blaming the victim!”

OK, OK.  I hear you, people.  And I’m glad to hear these criticisms, because it means people aren’t just watching the show, but thinking about it in more ways than just looking at it as a primer on zombie kill skills.  However, there are a few things to consider in Walking Dead-land.  First: the three seasons on the air have put the cast on the run from zombies for well over a year now, though it’s probably not anywhere near two when you consider another plot twist (for the regular viewers, the Lori/Rick/Shane/uncertainty about who’s the baby daddy storyline, unless of course they don’t care about normal human gestation periods).  That’s a long time to live in a constant cloud of fear and can wreak havoc on even the strongest survivors.  And there’s no end in sight; there’s no cure, there’s just a relentless wave of flesh-eating monsters who don’t sleep or stop moving (anyone else have a little “Landshark” chuckle here?).

Second: Despite their bleak situation, they have worked to establish fairly normal social interactions.  There is a clear leader to their group, family hierarchies remain intact, and there is an element of caring and trust that doesn’t necessarily get conferred onto other people they encounter outside their group.

Third: The Governor went for the jugular.  He violated Maggie.  He had Glenn beaten.  He held guns to both their heads.  He would have executed them if their friends hadn’t shown up in time.

Fourth: When The Governor held a gun to Glenn’s head, he didn’t disclose any information about his group–not their numbers, not their abilities.  But Maggie broke.

She told them how large their group was, holed up in the relative safety of the prison.  Which is a betrayal of literally everyone Glenn and Maggie care about.

Fifth: Rick, the leader of Glenn and Maggie’s group has gone crazy.  Maggie’s father, Hershel, is missing the bottom half of his leg.  And they have a baby to take care of in the middle of all mess.  Daryl, the badass, has left with his brother.  As far as Glenn knows, he really only has Michonne as a tested fighter and Carl, the 12-year-old-boy-turned-child-soldier, as backup.

So in this week’s The Walking Dead, when Glenn’s seemingly freaking out about the safety of the prison, and advocating that they leave, and admitting that they kind of can’t, and seemingly blaming Maggie, he isn’t blaming her for her sexual assault.  That’s secondary in their “do you want to talk about it” discussion; it’s almost like he puts that part in as an afterthought, though she doesn’t want to talk about any of it.  He freaks out and blames her because she put the entirety of the group at risk.  It’s fraught with all the shadowy problems that accompany personal relationships; Maggie doesn’t want to see the man she loves get hurt.  Glenn can’t protect Maggie anywhere near as much as he would like.  This makes them both vulnerable to one another beyond the need to protect themselves from the zombie herds.  But betraying their numbers to The Governor imperils them all.  Glenn didn’t know Michonne had made her way to his camp and had helped his friends put together a rescue plan, and he was willing to die to protect his friends/zombie survivor family.  Maggie, it seems, was not.

That’s where the anger comes from.  The episode where the capture/beating/near rape occurred aired at the end of November; three months later it’s hard for the audience to remember everything beyond the shock of the potential rape.  But I’ll bet money that Glenn is mad at Maggie because of how she exposed their group, not that she exposed her breasts.  If the writers are going to have their characters endure wartime rape and experience the nuanced and conflicting emotions that accompany selfless bravery and fear of agonizing loss, then they need to let their characters grow.  Please, Walking Dead writers, stop referring to the comic book.  The AMC show isn’t a comic book anymore, and stopped being that once the show was renewed for a second season.  It’s high time you switched genres.  Look at Daryl; he was not in the original comic and is easily one of the most interesting, and most complicated, characters on there.  And he’s a fan favorite, which is a good thing.

Oh, yeah, and here are my guesses for spoilers, for the fans reading along:

Hershel won’t make it to the end of the season.  Not because he’s missing a leg, but because he’s starting to sound suspiciously like “I only ever say one thing anymore” Dale.  If they’ve got nothing left for that character to do, then it’s time to go.

Michonne will kill Andrea by throwing her kitana through Andrea’s body in order to kill The Governor, who is using Andrea as a human shield against her old friends.

(Will someone please do in Andrea?  She is a barometer for bad decision-making.  It hurts my heart whenever I see her on the screen.  Or else, writers, stop it and write for her like she has a brain.)

The mysterious, truck-driving, black-bodysuited babe from this episode will disappear for a season in order to build her own army and then reappear in season 5, tracking the main group for revenge.

Tyreese’s group will rejoin the main characters at the end, allowing for the end of The Governor.  They’ll join the main characters, and Tyreese and Rick will battle for who will be king.  Carl will break Rick’s heart when he sides with Tyreese.

And that’s all I’ve got for now!

I swear, I have a schizophrenic taste in movies and TV.

Some People Are Laughing All The Way To The Bank And I Have The Proof

Or at least, ONE person is laughing.  Long and hard.

I rarely, if ever, look at Parade magazine…you know the thing, right?  The kind of kitschy magazine that’s inserted into your Sunday paper?  Occasionally I’ll pick it up if I’ve had a particularly poor week absorbing celebrity gossip, or if I’m looking for a reason to continue drinking coffee and reading in bed on a Sunday morning, or if I feel like I need to re-confirm that I have no use for either Ken Jennings and Marilyn vos Savant.

Today, I picked up Parade magazine.  The cast of The Chew was on the cover and, while I’m not a great fan of the show (largely because I’m just not a talk show fan), I like the individual cast members and am always curious to find out what Mario Batali is cooking.  I flipped to the page for the Chew Thanksgiving recipes (a girl’s got to bring a side dish, after all) and…

Holy Jesus.

God in Heaven.

What the..?

What.  In the world.  Is this.

The thumbnail sketches pictured above were done by Riccardo Vecchio, a stylized portrait/sketch artist who has worked for a variety of media outlets.  Some of his work is interesting and kind of loosely cubist.  These are not those works.  I don’t know if Parade contracted him and he forgot about them and put them in as a rush job, or if he subcontracted these sketches to his 11-year-old niece, but they are among the worst of the worst I’ve ever seen.  While they’re all dismally bad, my personal favorites (in that “Holy crap! These are awful!” sort of way) are the sketches of Michael Symon and Clinton Kelly.

Celebrity chef Michael Symon is amazingly gregarious.  He’s got an open and generous smile and an infectious laugh, loves food and life, is a monster chef and has two insanely successful Important Restaurants in Cleveland.

Hence my lack of understanding for him being drawn to look like a cross between sad-eyed character actor Vincent Schiavelli and Sling Blade.

Reckon I’ll make you some beef cheek pierogies, mmm.

And Clinton Kelly, the debonair, handsome and all-around fabulous co-host of both The Chew and What Not to Wear (among other things) ought not to be drawn to look like the love child of Jackie Mason and a hobbit.

“Personally, I don’t mind a good cry,” says Kelly, which is good news because this sketch is certainly cry-worthy.

Word.

Maybe I opened the magazine expecting too much on a beautiful Sunday morning.  When I initially reacted with shock and horror, a friend tossed out a reality check and reminded me, “Nothing says “It’s the 70s!! Inside, 10 Great Recipes With Cool Whip!!” like Parade.”  And he’s right.  And maybe I shouldn’t expect anything more than mediocrity from them.  But they could at least pretend to have editorial integrity.  I looked at them again, and again, and every time I did the needle scratched on the record in my head.

The emperor has no clothes.  Riccardo Vecchio is laughing all the way to the bank.   The proof is right in front of you.

What I’m Watching: Awake: The Series Finale

Dear person who tried to start a flame war with me on Facebook because I disliked the finale of a TV show that you, apparently, love, on the one hand I thank you.  If it weren’t for your completely overblown reaction, I probably wouldn’t have written this post.  On the other hand, sit down and STFU.  See, what happened was this:

Warning: There.  Will.  Be.  Spoilers.

Did you hear about the TV show, Awake?  Yeah, not a lot of people did, which is really too bad.  It was a good show.  Jason Isaacs, who was the horrible Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series, lost his blond creepster wig and starred as Detective Michael Britten, a police officer who along with his wife and son was in an awful car crash.  Either the wife or the son died, but Britten doesn’t know which because he fluctuates between dream state and reality so completely that he’s never sure when he’s awake or asleep.  He’s basically splitting his time between two realities, both of which feel legitimate to him.  As I am completely enamored of anything that resembles liminality, I couldn’t help myself, I had to watch a show that played with the liminal as a driving force behind the plot.  Much as it pains me, though, I could also see how it was maybe a little too cerebral for network TV and I wasn’t surprised when I heard NBC yanked it.  And, they decided not to renew it fairly early in the show’s season.  That’s fine, that’s cool, the producers were given enough time to create a wrap for the series, and they’d done so well at manipulating the two timelines.  I had faith in them.  I was a little bit bummed when I tuned in to the finale, but hey, what’cha gonna do, right?  *clink*  Here’s to a good run.

Woah.

And not good-woah.  Cop-out-finale-woah.

I’ll spare you all the details, but suffice to say, I still don’t know what happened to Detective Britten.  It’s totally unclear.  Did he, as was briefly mentioned during a session with one of his alternate (or was it real?) reality shrinks (since he goes to therapy in both universes), simply create a new, third reality for himself where his wife and child are both alive?  If so, then Brazil engineered that sort of ending better, because A) you knew the protagonist had gone mad and B) the question then became, does this movie, in a convoluted way, have a happy ending or not?

If Awake‘s ending is indeed meant to show he’s completely broken with reality, then it’s dissatisfying on a few levels.  First, it simply doesn’t successfully portray that break (hence my questions).  AND if his complete break with reality is final, then the conspiracy he’s been uncovering and the bad guys the viewers have grown to hate, win.  Unlike Brazil, this TV show doesn’t take place within a dystopian totalitarian setting, so Britten conceivably could have gone up against the power structure in place and made a difference.  If he willfully broke from reality and created a space for himself where his entire family is alive together, then he went in an instant from a crusading, tragic hero who’s maybe a little dotty, to someone who’s codependent and kind of selfish.

So the dirty cops get to sell all that heroin?  Is the short man alive or dead?  Which family member really died?  Which of his partner cops was a real detective?  Did the one partner really get killed?  What about the son’s pregnant girlfriend?  And to the cynics in the room who think, “Ha!  Well, that’s real life, sweetheart.  The bad guys win, the good guy checks out one way or another and nobody’s happy at the end,” I say with nary a trace of malice that I DON’T WATCH NBC FOR ITS TIES TO REALITY.  I mean, even reality TV doesn’t pretend to be reality, unless you think the contestants on America’s Got Talent (can’t bring myself to link to it, and I don’t apologize) actually have talent.  If you want to get real about reality TV, then NBC should have renamed The Biggest Loser, and called it The Hunger Games because there’s for sure got to be a lot of hungry people walking around on that ranch.  Tough break that Suzanne Collins has a lock on that title now.  (NBC people, call me, we’ll talk.)

Anyway, back to Awake.  Too many loose ends.  I know it’s a show about liminality, but that doesn’t mean I want the finale–which is by definition a non-liminal event–to leave unanswered questions.

If, on the other hand, it was all a dream and he simply wakes up…I feel CHEATED!!!

Remember when they killed Bobby Ewing at the end of season seven of Dallas, and then brought him back for the end of season eight?  And then it was revealed that all of season eight was a dream Pam had?

What kind of lazy plot turn is that?  Don’t they pay writers to come up with stuff?  Isn’t that, as a creative industry, what the world of TV is supposed to do?  Instead, if this was their idea and I’m supposed to believe that all we went through with Detective Britten through the series is a dream?  Then…OK, well then he’d better split his reality a third time because he’s not getting nearly enough therapy, and hey, TV execs, thanks for nothing.

There were some good points to the episode.  I thought the scene where he confronts himself in jail was well-done, and I loved the scene where he said goodbye to his wife, which was poignant and beautifully written (so I suppose that IS one question answered, since he wouldn’t need to say goodbye to her if she were still alive…unless it was all a dream, in which case him saying goodbye to anyone in the demented world below his forehead doesn’t mean squat).  And it was so worth it to see Wilmer Valderrama in a penguin suit, posing as some kind of dreamworld mentor.  He’s decidedly more benign than Frank from Donnie Darko, but I would imagine they exist in these furry incarnations for similar purposes.

Wilmer Valderrama, and Frank the Bunny.
Separated at hellspawning.

Sadly, Wilmer Valderrama in a penguin suit can’t make up for a thousand and nine plot holes or a totally lazy way out.  And so I voiced my displeasure on the Facebook fan board, because what else is that thing for.  What I think I said was, “What the crap with the most dissatisfying ending ever?”

And then someone–whose reply was immediately deleted off thanks to a vigilant staffer at the NBC nerdery, but not before I saw the notification flash up–said, “Clearly you have terrible taste.”  I did want to respond, but as I said, vigilant staffer, speedy deletion.  If I replied at that time it would have gotten even weirder.  But here’s what I would have liked to have said:

Look, I get that you like the show.  I get that this show has impact for you, is clearly emotionally relevant and that you’re going to miss it when the next fall lineup starts.  But really.  A personal attack?  On me?  I’m not the one who effed up your show on you.  I’m not the one who wrote a lazy ending or decided to pull the plug.  And if you did really, truly, deeply love the finale and thought it was the best thing you’d ever seen, and I didn’t…so what?  That’s like me thinking everyone who doesn’t like to eat chicken are assholes.  But even more so, it’s like me defending factory chicken farming against people who like to eat chicken but say that sort of farming method might be unethical, because I feel threatened by your lack of total and unquestioning agreement with me on chicken.  I didn’t like the stupid episode, OK?  I’m allowed not to like it.  Further, I’m entirely allowed to cherry-pick things I did like about it, and evaluate the series episode by episode, if I want.  Know what?  It won’t reflect one iota on what sort of person you really are, unless you take my opinion personally and start slinging mud.  I thought the show embodied faux intellectualism and created more questions than it answered.  You’re free to love it all you want, and that doesn’t affect me as a person.  But before you go spouting off about my lack of taste, take a minute to think about your lack of class or inability to think about pop culture with an ounce of nuance.  I don’t have to love things just because you do.  Get over yourself.  (I’ll pop-analyze this person’s victim complex somewhere else.)

Some people seriously need to relax.

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