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Notes From Comic Con: Locke & Key screening

19 Oct

Fox arranged a special Locke & Key screening at NYCC.  I can tell you this much:  the place was packed.  I literally had to stand against a giant cement post to watch it.  And I was one of the last few people let in, in spite of the fact there were probably at least one hundred people left behind me.  It’s no secret fans of the comic book and fantasy television shows were upset at Fox’s decision to not pick up the pilot this Fall.  But I think they made the right decision.  Now, before you get very angry at me and stop reading, take a deep breath and listen…

There are two competing fairy tale shows out there this Fall.  Grimm (NBC) and Once Upon a Time (ABC).  It is true Locke & Key isn’t a fairy tale show but any fan or reader or person with half a brain in their head has to admit it is fairy tale-ish.  I had just come from the Once Upon a Time panel to watch Locke & Key and watching them back to back, I was struck by how similar they both seemed and here’s the problem:  both shows feature a young boy who is struggling to save the world around him from being engulfed by a world of of make believe.  In Once Upon A Time, the world of make believe is reality and in Locke & Key, it’s the opposite, that reality is constantly threatened by magic and fantasy.

While Once Upon a Time has an evil Queen, Locke and Key has the (SPOILER ALERT) evil Echo.  Both females.  Maybe one is younger than the other but both females are set on destroying the world of these young boys.  The other similarity is that Locke & Key has flashbacks throughout the pilot and while I don’t know if that will be standard (but I’m guessing it probably will be because how else do you get your mythology across and explain the past’s grip on the present) on this show, it is ingrained in Once Upon a Time.  Sure the styles of the flashbacks are even different but the narrative structure itself is a bit too similar for comfort.  At least in the competing season.

Yes, the idea is neat.  There exists a set of keys that opens doors throughout the Keyhouse, a mysterious mansion in New England where the Locke family retreats after their father has been killed.  There are three siblings and each will gain a power with a specific key… The keys open doors that will transform people who walk through them.  Apparently Rendell Locke (Mark Pellegrino plays the deceased dad) used these keys copiously and his family is now paying the price.  His three children, Bode (Skylar Gaertner), Tyler (Jesse McCartney) and Kinsey (Sarah Bolger) begin to uncover the secrets and must grapple with their own issues regarding their father’s violent death.  Their mother Nina (Miranda Otto), appears to be having a nice time with their long-lost uncle, Duncan (Nick Stahl), because they spend A LOT of time together.

The family must battle their greatest known enemy, Sam Lesser (Harrison Thomas) who killed Rendell for seemingly no apparent reason until we learn in the pilot it was at the urging of Echo (Ksenia Solo).  Although the siblings battle Lesser and Echo kills him for the time being (there seems to be an implied promise she can bring him back), we know their nightmare is only just beginning.  At the end of the pilot, we go deep inside a tree and discover that is where Rendell has hidden memories kept hidden.  These memories are represented by miniature versions of people in jars and we focus on one of his wife, Nina.  Honestly, I didn’t even understand what was going on there, I had to read about the San Diego Comic Con panel to discover that’s what the jars represented.  That was not Joe Hill‘s idea or in his comic book originally, that was Josh Friedman‘s idea (who wrote the pilot).  I’m glad I found that explanation as that was completely confusing and guess what Dreamworks/Fox?  I teach film and television and have to understand strange and complicated film and television constantly and I didn’t figure that out.  How is your average viewer going to get that?

I know many fans are disappointed and I do think this show could still work.  I know that Dreamworks (who acquired rights to make the pilot after Dimension Films lost them) wants to keep it alive and I have a feeling Fox wouldn’t be opposed to it but there needs to be a little time and distance between Once Upon a Time, Grimm and Locke & Key.  They did a good job with casting Nick Stahl as Duncan who has been a favorite of mine since HBO’s Carnivale but they had him looking so geeky it took a while to recognize him.  Note to director Mark Romanek who every male reviewer seems to get very  excited over:  don’t make Nick Stahl look geeky.  You’re ruining a built in female audience.  And perhaps Steven Spiellberg, once again, can stop trying to manipulate the audience with his agenda of forcing people to identify with some cutesy, misunderstood boy.  Am I the only person on this planet who sees that we are just seeing another version of E.T. whenever we get a young boy in the lead?  Think about it:  missing father, misunderstood kids, pre-occupied mother (or dead mother, pre-occupied father), something supernatural or other-worldly.  It is the same story over and over again.

New Girl: Pilot Review

24 Sep

Men are not always the best communicators. To be fair, sometimes their parents aren’t either and they are not taught exactly how they should express themselves when it actually matters. This doesn’t just apply to teenage boys or guys in their 20s or 30s, this also applies to my father. Who, instead of actually writing me emails, forwards me emails. Jokes, political commentary, news clips. Almost every day. Today I was struck by one about women being like apples. That men are sometimes too lazy or too scared they are going to fall if they have to climb up to the top of the tree to get the best apples (i.e. women), so they settle for the ‘fallen apples’ (I really want to send an email back and ask him if he interprets that as sluts or just sloppy seconds but that might just confuse him – and that would be direct communication something he isn’t comfortable with after 82 years of living). I’m not sure how I am supposed to interpret this. I suppose I am a top apple and most of the men are afraid of me. I could have told him that when I was 19 when guys started informing me I was scary (amazing what guys will admit when they are drunk) but what made me appreciate the email was the rest of it. Apparently, men are like grapes and women have to stomp the hell out of them to ‘create a fine wine’ just so they can bother to eat dinner with them. Now, I agree with the apple thing and the grape thing. I don’t think men really appreciate women unless they are properly stomped. In fact the more one stomps, the more the men seem to come back for more. Or perhaps I just attract extremely warped men. I’m talking about this because I hadn’t bothered to watch the Fox pilot, New Girl created by Elizabeth Meriwether. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel and I already have so many shows on my plate. But I was reading about the high ratings so I decided to watch it but if you missed it, just go straight to iTunes to download it. Unless you have the Dish Network, you’ll get a message on Fox’s website that you can’t watch the pilot for the first nine days after airing or something ridiculous like that.  Honestly, these studios are so stupid at times.  Uh, I’m a viewer.  I want to see your show.  I almost didn’t bother because I found it so annoying to get it.  And the only reason I didn’t want to bother with iTunes is that my computer and external hard drive are almost full of shows that I’ve bought so I’ve got to be picky.

All the annoyance aside, I liked the show.  It’s a simple enough premise:  Jess (Zooey Deschanel) discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her when she shows up unannounced in the afternoon dressed in nothing but a raincoat to help him out with his fantasy.  Ok guys:  guess what, if you ask a girl to do that and she’s actually into you, at some point, she will actually decide to surprise you like this so you probably should not be screwing around on her because the way things work, you will get caught.  Jess’s boyfriend gets caught.  She’s humiliated standing there stark naked in front of him and his slut but I just kept thinking:  why did Jess take a cab home?  It was daytime.  NOBODY in Los Angeles takes a cab unless you are going to or from the airport or you are a tourist or your pet has a medical emergency and your car has just died (yes that happened to me).  Otherwise, people in Los Angeles like to think cabs are something only for New York.  Jess must now find a new place to live.  We don’t see lots of roommate interviews (I’m so relieved I missed that process in life), we just see the interview with her soon-to-be new roommates, three guys who are nice enough but basically jerks.  Personal trainer Winston (Lamorne Morris) can’t be nice or relate to women, Bartender (at least I think that’s what he is) Nick (Jake M. Johnson) is hung up on his ex-girlfriend but seems the most well-rounded one of the three, and finally, Schmidt (Max Greenfield), who believes all women love him and takes his shirt off for everyone of them (note to guys:  even if you have a good body under that shirt, women think you’re an idiot if you do that in person or online, nobody likes a showoff).  The only reason they reluctantly allow Jess to move in is because her best friend is a model and they figure there will be models hand-delivered for the taking.  Instead what they get is an ultra-geeky female who cannot read social cues and likes to watch Dirty Dancing and cry a lot.

The way this show is described is:  it is about the sexual politics between men and women.  I’d say it is more about wish fulfillment.  This show is about men having to become human with feelings because they see if they don’t, their living situation will become unbearable and they start to realize that other people’s feelings do matter.  I’m assuming each week Jess will do something stupid in their eyes and while they try to teach her what is acceptable to men, her emotional needs will teach them how to understand women and themselves more.  This is most likely why this show did so well.  Jess is non-threatening to men and women.  She’s average but can look better when dressed up.  She has a friend who is a model and you will notice that she’s far more self-confident and the ball-buster.  She cares about her friend but you will notice that the attractive woman is far more superficial than Jess.  She is the object they desire but can’t have while Jess is more accessible to all three of her roommates.  I don’t think this necessarily sends the healthiest message:  if you are an attractive woman you simply cannot be accessible.  These guys seem to have to learn from Jess, the apple that fell to the ground.  Now you can argue with me and say she’s high maintenance and worth the climb.  I would say, uh, every female is high maintenance but not every female is worth the climb, just like some grapes are so sour you wouldn’t waste your time stomping on them.  Conversely, if Jess were hot, there would be a different problem:  all three roommates would probably want to have sex with her and start to understand that she isn’t only a sexual being but a human as well.  Maybe that’s a different show.  And a different lesson.  Because these guys are in their training pants right now.

Yes, I’ll watch the show at least a few more times and see if it sheds more light on um, sexual politics.  Or, if it is just full of hot air.

New Girl airs Tuesdays at 9pm/8pm central on Fox.

Can Christian Slater Break In to TV Comedy?

22 Apr

Breaking InBreaking In, Fox’s newest comedy (and mid-season replacement) starring 1980s and 1990s bad boy Christian Slater, is actually… funny and amusing. Not that I doubted Slater’s performance abilities. It’s just that I’m hard to please. Thanks to Apple’s iTunes sneak peak and pilot available right now (its free, go on, I dare you to download it – you won’t be sorry and if you are, I’m doubting your ability to have any sense of humor), I became a quick fan. I’m only sorry there are just 6 episodes for this season’s order.

It’s a simple premise, Oz (Christian Slater) “recruits” (ok…blackmails) straight-man computer hacker Cameron Price (Bret Harrison) to become the newest member of his highly-specialized team of um… experts for his business, Contra Security. There Cameron meets his newest workplace buddies including the hot break-in expert Melanie (Odette Annable) and fanboy, stalker of William Shatner and all-around logistics expert Cash (Alphonso McAuley).

The second episode, “Tis Better to Have Loved and Flossed,” guest-stars Alyssa Milano (it really is an 80s reunion of sorts). I didn’t even recognize her! I will say that I was just as entertained with this episode as I was with the pilot, which is increasingly not the case with so many shows. I’m not naming names but between us, Fairly Legal comes to mind.

You can also check out both episodes for free on Fox’s website so go take a look because this show is worth renewing. Hint Hint Fox Executives!

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