Friday, January 30, 2015

A massive apology

Here's the deal, I'm … transitioning.
I'm moving to being a writer full time. I'm almost there.
I'm not giving up the blog -- or my passions.
I will start updating next week -- and I won't be pulling any punches. I apologize for the lapse.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

THE WALKING DEAD: Is someone going to die Sunday night?

After a rock-solid start to the fifth season, The Walking Dead has stalled.

What’s the difference? Well, for starters, the cast was together for the early episodes and separated for the later ones.

After a breathtaking season premiere which saw Carol almost single-handedly taking out the whole of Terminus, and which culminated with Rick and Carl reuniting with Judith, things sped along in the next two episodes as the remaining Terminus inhabitants hunted Rick and Co.

After taking them down in bloody (and justified) fashion, things tumbled when the cast was split again.

Listen, I get why they’re doing it. It’s to save money. The show runners figured they got away with it for the second half of last season – but the difference is, that they could get away with it as a plot device last season.

It’s a lot harder to explain now.

For example, am I really supposed to believe that Maggie would willingly wander off with Glen without looking for Beth even though she knows her sister isn’t dead? Really? Beth is Maggie’s only living blood relative left. There is no way she wouldn’t at least spend a few days looking for her sister.

And, while Carol and Daryl sped off into the night to search for Beth, Abraham’s insistence on fleeing right when the group was grappling with stuff seems so … lame.

Now, I’m glad the truth about Eugene is out and – God help me, I still like the guy – but it’s time for Abraham’s group to back track and join with their friends. Is the group too big? Yes. It’s going to have to be cut, but Rosita and Tara have had fodder written all over them since they were introduced, and try as I might, I’ve never really warmed up to Sasha (or Tyrese, for that matter).

There’s been a lot of talk about a big death happening on Sunday’s episode. And, whenever The Talking Dead (the companion chat show for The Walking Dead) touts a surprise guest, that usually means someone is going to die. They did it the week before Gareth died – and lo-and-behold, the actor who played Gareth showed up on the couch the next week.

That’s not always the case, though.

They did it before last year’s spring finale and Andrew Lincoln was the surprise guest – and we all know Rick didn’t die.

We’ll have to see. However, since we haven’t had a big, core death since Hershel, I’m guessing one of our beloved heroes is going to go – and the odds seem to point directly in Carol or Beth’s direction.

Personally, I have grown to love Carol and will be sad if she’s killed off – but she “fits” the signs that have been showing up, for some reason. The episode that followed her and Daryl before she got hit by the car seemed to be a love letter to her – and whenever an episode like that runs, the person featured in it often dies (just ask Hershel).

I am hard-pressed to believe they’re going to kill Beth off before reuniting her with Maggie. The Walking Dead is cruel – but I don’t know if they’re that cruel. They seemed to have gone through a lot of effort to build Beth up over the second half of last season and the beginning half of this season.

I am not ruling Beth out. I’m just leaning toward Carol – which very well could crush me. I would sacrifice the bulk of our group to keep Carol (Daryl and Rick notwithstanding) – but there’s just “something” in the air.

I don’t think that anyone can argue that we’re going to get a death Sunday. It’s not the “if” but the “who” in question. It would be much too easy for viewers to watch Rosita, Tara or Sasha die – which means it’s probably going to be someone we care about – which means a member of the core group.

Either way, I’ll have the marathon on all day Sunday to revisit the season in anticipation of the big finale – and then I’m sure I’ll be glued to the television for The Walking Dead and The Talking Dead Sunday night (so no one dare call me!).

All I hope is that separating the cast so early in the season means they won’t have to in the second half of the season – because the show tends to lag for me when that happens.

So, what do you think? Who is going to die Sunday night?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

GENERAL HOSPITAL: The cast pruning has officially begun

It seems that General Hospital is finally getting around to trimming the cast.

Unfortunately, I’m starting to suspect it’s so they can afford Billy Miller (Jason), and not because the writers realize the folly of balancing too many characters.

First up, Marc Anthony Samuel (Felix) announced that he has been dropped to recurring. That’s not an outright ouster, but it’s pretty close. Samuel expressed his ambition to move on to other things – so I doubt we’ll be seeing much of Felix.

I’m guessing – and this is just a guess – that Sabrina will be following in upcoming weeks. The character has been written into a corner, and she has no ties to anyone on the canvas. There’s really no reason to keep her.

I am hoping that GH moves Lucas and Brad into a realistic relationship (instead of the cliché threesome), although I still think it would have made more sense to move Milo into their orbit. I am worried that both of them will be gone, too. While I can take or leave Brad, Lucas is a legacy character. He’s Carly and Sam’s brother and Lulu and Maxie’s cousin. He’s important to the canvas.

In addition to Samuel, Kelly Thiebaud (Britt) has voluntarily dropped to recurring. If you believe the
gossip, she’s only staying recurring to finish up Britt’s storyline. While I had high hopes for Britt and Nikolas in the beginning – those were dashed pretty quickly when the writing for her character went from weak to dismal after the baby Rocco reveal. I can’t help but think Thiebaud is better off getting away from the soap.

Since Thiebaud is involved with Bryan Craig (Morgan) in real life, I’m betting he opts to leave when his contract is up next year. While I like Craig’s Morgan, I think he’s one of the few actors who has a chance to hit it big outside of daytime, so it’s only a matter of time before he flees Port Charles.
GH head writer Ron Carlivati has also written several big characters into corners they might not be able to emerge from. Who?

1. Nina Clay: If Michelle Stafford only signed a six-month contract, the disastrous writing for Nina makes sense. She was always intended to be a villain. If that wasn’t the case, the writing for Nina is so atrocious that Stafford must be mortified. There’s no rooting value in the character, and there’s no redeeming her. Once the baby storyline is wrapped up, Nina will either be locked up with Heather Webber or killed.

2. Ava Jerome: I love Maura West, but the second she killed Connie in cold blood, Ava’s die was cast. The best thing to do with the character is to reunite her with her baby and have her flee. I don’t want Kiki or Morgan saddled with a kid – and Sonny has enough kids to field his own ball team.

3. Franco: As much as I applauded his outing of Carly and Sonny – and the truth behind AJ’s murder – there still isn’t any rooting value in the character. Roger Howarth is a tremendous talent – and now a regular on the CW’s The Flash. Maybe it’s time to let him go with dignity. Bringing someone of Howarth’s caliber in as a character as dumb as Franco was just … well … insulting, to both fans and Howarth.

4. Sonny Corinthos: Maurice Benard may be a popular actor, but who can root for Sonny? He killed AJ in cold blood. He lied to his son. He tried to kill Ava. Seriously, how does Sonny think it’s okay to kill Ava for killing Connie but take no personal responsibility for murdering AJ? Sonny and Carly do not work as a couple. In fact, they’re the couple who helped sink Port Charles. Besides that, Laura Wright and Benard have absolutely no chemistry. Send Sonny out of town, give him a happily ever after with Brenda in a non-extradition country, and call it a day.

And, finally, when it comes to cutting dead weight – can someone explain to me why Olivia is still around? I’m sure Lisa Locicero is a wonderful person, but Olivia is completely unnecessary. The cast has to be trimmed, and while it looks like the pruning has started, there’s still a long way to go.

GH's greatest strength lies in its veterans and core families. Let's not lose that.

What do you think? Who should go? Who should stay?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

GENERAL HOSPITAL: How would I write things in Port Charles? Very differently

I think it’s time to bring back my monthly ‘If I were writing General Hospital’ column.

There’s no denying that watching the show has become a chore (like a break-me-off-a-switch-
someone-is-going-to-get-a-whooping chore). It’s just painful.

The ratings are starting to show a progressive slide, too.

When Ron Carlivati first took over head writing duties on GH, he raised ratings. How did he do it? It was a combination of things. The biggest being the return of our beloved vets. Fans wanted to see Anna, Felicia, Frisco, and Robert. The vet returns, in conjunction with the One Life to Live transplants was enough to inflate ratings.

That’s not the case anymore.

RC has gone off on some wild tangents, and completely alienated fans. Yes, appealing to new fans is important to keep the genre alive, but you have to do it without turning off longtime fans. All RC is doing right now is turning off dedicated fans.

So, let’s play the game. How would I write GH if I was in charge?

* Once Sonny’s culpability in AJ’s murder is revealed, Sonny goes after Franco. There’s a shootout on the docks, and Franco is wounded and killed (I love Roger Howarth, but Franco is a dud of a character). Sabrina witnesses the shooting and goes to the police. In an attempt to avoid jail time, Sonny has to flee the country. He reunites with Brenda and they move to some non-extradition country. As long as Sabrina is alive, Sonny cannot return. As long as Sonny is out there, Sabrina’s life is in danger. She has to go into Witness Protection and is (thankfully) off of our screens.

* When “Jake’s” memories return, it’s Jason Quartermaine, not Jason Morgan that awakens. Jason
Quartermaine reunites with Monica and wants to make amends for his past deeds. He also wants to cut ties with certain factions – including Carly. While he’ll always be there for Morgan and Michael – Jason Q is not pro-mob. Since it has become obvious that Liz and “Jake” are going to fall in love before Jason regains his memory, I would like Jason Q to move away from both Liz and Sam when he comes around. Everyone knows that Jason Q wouldn’t touch Sam with a 10-foot pole, and I’ve never believed the Liz and Jason “love” story. Let’s give Monica some time with her son, and fans the chance to get used to the new Jason.

* When Robin returns to town, I want her to smack the crap out of Patrick. This is not a stupid man. So, why, given all that he knows about the Cassidines and Jerry Jacks, isn’t he suspicious about Robin voluntarily abandoning her family? Jerry Jacks was one of the individuals responsible for kidnapping her in the first place – and he just shows up again? Really? I want Robin to take a step back from Patrick. He’s proven to be fickle (and apparently stupid) when it fits his needs. How about the romance I’ve always wanted to see? How about Nikolas and Robin get a chance? Put Sam in a triangle with Patrick and Silas and see who comes out standing – and no “back-from-the-dead” women to conveniently muck things up.

* It’s time to kill Ava off in a murder-mystery. I love Maura West beyond reason, but Ava cannot be redeemed. She shot Connie in cold blood. She tried to kill AJ in cold blood. She watched Sonny murder AJ, all the while knowing that he was innocent. She slept with her daughter’s husband. She tried to poison her daughter’s boyfriend. She framed Carlos and sent him to jail for her misdeeds. How, exactly, can anyone root for this woman? She’s not even fun to hate because there’s nothing to like about her. There are plenty of people who want her dead.

* Have Nina revealed as Ava’s killer. I’m sorry. I know Michelle Stafford has fans. I cannot watch her, though. All Nina needs is a mustache to twirl and some rope so she can tie Kiki to the train tracks. The Nina character was completely unnecessary from the beginning – and then to make her obviously crazy and evil without giving fans enough time to even try to like her? Who thought of that braniac idea? Nina is another character without rooting value because she’s just unlikeable. Reveal her as Ava’s killer and send her to prison. She’s a huge time suck – and she has no redeeming qualities. She’s not even funny evil like Heather and Dr. Obrecht.

* Bring Robert back and let him and Anna clean up the mob. This show is called General Hospital.The mob should have never been the focal point. The focus on Sonny, Carly, and Jason is what put GH in constant danger of cancellation in the first place. Anna’s reunion with Duke has fallen flat (is he even still in town?) and Robert and Anna are the team to beat when it comes to bringing down the bad guys. Let them round up the usual suspects – including Julian – and be done with them.

* Give Alexis and Ned an actual romance. These two sparkle together – and you can tell the actor and actress like each other. Alexis’ constant need for a “bad boy” often makes me dislike the character. Ned and Alexis were always fun. Put Alexis back in the ELQ orbit and let her spar with Tracy, and let Robert and Anna roust Julian Jerome.

* Oust Kiki and Rosalie. Neither are acceptable love interests for Michael and Morgan. Bring in
Scott, Lucy, and Kevin’s kids and let the old crash into the new. Those are pairings with history that give the adults something to do.

* Put Milo in the gay storyline. I’m still not sure what the writers were thinking by trying to put
Epiphany and Milo together. There’s no chemistry (even if you could get past the obvious problem with the relationship). The story isn’t believable because the characters have nothing in common. I’ve often thought Milo was underutilized. What not make him realize he’s gay and pair him up with Lucas for an actual love story? Go ahead and keep Brad in the mix, but send Felix out of town with his BFF and call it a day. As it is being written now, the all-male love triangle is tacky and full of clichés.

* Have Bobbie run the Brownstone. This gives Bobbie something to do, and all those shiftless 20-somethings somewhere to live. Morgan, Michael, Dante, Lulu, Britt, Lucas, Brad, Milo, Nathan, Maxie and TJ all need a home. Lulu and Dante’s one-room apartment is too small for them – let alone a baby. Putting everyone under one roof allows for fun and mayhem.

* Bring Jacks back for Carly. He's the only love interest that's ever worked for her. This Franco thing has been a complete dud -- and trying to wedge Carly and Sonny back together has disaster (and ratings upheaval) written all over it. Laura Wright and Maurice Benard have no sexual chemistry. Roger Howarth and Wright do have chemistry -- but Franco is a horrible character. And, say whatever you want about Carly, she would not date the man who kidnapped her child and had her son raped. She's a horrible person. She wouldn't do that, though.

* Send Luke and Laura off into the sunset. The fact that Tracy can’t tell the difference between Fluke and Luke is telling. As much as I like Luke and Tracy – and I do – Luke and Laura pretty much have to end up together. Have her come to town to visit Lulu and realize right away that Fluke isn’t Luke. Have her stay for the adventure storyline, and then have her and Luke ride off into the sunset. If Geary doesn’t want to work a full year anymore, then let him retire. All of Luke’s comings and goings (and, yes, I know this time he had to have surgery and do not fault him for that – I’m talking about all of the other times) wear on the story and the viewers.

What do you think? How would you write GH if you could?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why jumping on the bandwagon for books, movies, and television is a mixed bag

I’m usually in front of most bandwagons. When I fall behind, though, it generally takes me forever to catch up.

I guess that’s why I didn’t read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl until this past weekend. And, before you ask, it’s not so I can go and see the movie. I will eventually see the movie – but probably not until it’s out on Blu-Ray or On Demand.

Anyway, back to the book. I kept hearing how well it was written and how amazing the “twist” was, and I figured it sounded interesting. So, I finally sat down and read it.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that it was overwritten. I mean way overwritten. I don’t think everything has to be written in simplistic sentences – and I love the Terry Brooks and Stephen King prose forms – but the inner-monologues (especially when it comes to Nick) just go on and on – repeating things until I thought: I just can’t hear this one more time.

And I get why we’re not supposed to warm up to Nick at first. He’s a suspect in his wife’s disappearance. There’s supposed to be something “odd” about him. When I finally did get to the twist, it wasn’t a big surprise. I was expecting more actually – which is why word-of-mouth phenomenon can backfire on readers and viewers.

And, while I don’t want to get into a debate about the ending because I don’t want to ruin it for people, since I found the vast majority of people in this book to be unlikeable, I will say I was fine with the ending.

While I didn’t dislike Gone Girl, I certainly didn’t think it was amazing either. It did get me thinking about the nature of a bandwagon, however.

Sometimes, when you come to the party late, you find you love what you’ve been missing. That happened to me with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games. I didn’t start watching Buffy until late in the second season (and then never missed an episode). I didn’t start reading Harry Potter until the fourth book hit shelves. And all three of The Hunger Games books were out – and on top of best sellers lists for years – before I finally took the plunge.

Oh, and I came to the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo sensation late – and I absolutely loved all three of those books.

On the flip side, when I caved to the Twilight pressure I wanted to smack someone I hated the books (and especially Bella) so much. When I sampled Divergent, I wanted to smack someone again (talk about a terrible ending – The Village meets The Truman Show anyone?) and this time I wanted to smack them with the Sears Tower in Chicago. And, when I finally check out the television show Grimm I wanted to laugh (and not in a good way) because I found it to be so poorly done.

Everyone has different tastes. I know that. Sometimes the buildup helps a show or book, and
sometimes it hurts.

I have a feeling it hurt where Gone Girl is concerned. It is an interesting twist. I think the writing was decent – although obviously padded – and I have real trouble believing anyone writes in their journal with the amount of detail Amy used in the book (even a rampant narcissist and sociopath).

I just don’t think it was the be all and end all of modern fiction like some people are suggesting. It was merely “interesting” to me. It was a decent character study.

I will, however, check out the movie down the line.

What do you think? What bandwagon have you jumped on that you wish you could jump off?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Why American Horror Story: Freak Show is already wearing on me

I go back and forth on American Horror Story.

I was really excited for the first season, and I thought the quality associated with the show for the first handful of episodes in that season was stellar.

Unfortunately, just like everything else he’s ever produced, Ryan Murphy took it a step too far. He always takes it a step too far – which is the problem I consistently have with each American Horror Story season.

AHS: Asylum started out phenomenally – creating a gritty world that you wanted to know more about. The Nazi doctor angle was inspired, and the social commentary affixed to being able to lock a woman up for being a lesbian in those days was poignant.

That was all painted on a backdrop of dueling serial killers working in the past and present day.

Then Murphy insisted on including an Anne Frank angle – and then reinforcing a strong season with
alien abductions and magical hybrid baby births. Ugh.

I was a big fan of the Coven arc – mostly because I loved the New Orleans setting and I thought Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett were fantastic additions to the AHS universe. As a whole, I do think the Coven arc held together the best – but it still wasn’t perfect.

Which brings us to AHS: Freak Show, which debuted Wednesday night.

The whole point of AHS was to create a horror anthology. Sure, because Murphy is in charge, those horror anthologies often go off course. I’d rather see genuine fear than forced sexual innuendo that is meant to titillate instead of terrify the viewer.

For example? Evan Peters went a little too far for me in his rubber rapist outfit in the first season. Now, in the first episode of Freak Show, we see he has “magic hands.” That whole scene was just about pushing the envelope – not about character development – which is why it failed.

Then you have a sociopath who wants to buy conjoined twins for god knows what reason – although
I’m betting it’s sexual and nefarious – and a killer clown. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think the people the clown killed deserved to die. I mean, who takes a look at a creepy clown like that and doesn’t think something odd is up? And why did that girl in the field trip? That was just so ... lame.

And then there's the whole time traveling music thing. Jessica Lange is singing a David Bowie song (loved the blue eye shadow, though) in the 1950s? How does that work?

I get the alienation associated with these freak shows -- and I think the arc could be fantastic -- but immediately going for multiple murders with a freaky clown, conjoined twins, and a lobster-clawed man seems like a contrived and insulting way to go.

Right from the get go this season, it seems as if AHS has gone too far for me – and that’s usually something that only happens on the back half of a season. I’ll still check it out – but I’m not exactly thrilled with how this arc is going already.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Freak Show?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The top five things I want to see on this season of The Walking Dead

One of the only television shows I’m truly passionate about these days – The Walking Dead – returns Sunday, and I honestly can’t wait.

I’ve given up a lot of shows over the past year – some were long overdue, some just lost my interest, and others (cough*Once Upon a Time*cough) are barely hanging on. The Walking Dead is one of the only shows that I’m actually excited about.

When we last saw our heroes, the bulk of them had been reunited in Terminus. It wasn’t exactly a happy reunion, since they were locked in a box car together and, when Rick and his group were herded through the sanctuary, it certainly looked like the Terminus folks were cannibals.

I’m not particularly worried about Rick and the rest of our survivors being eaten (although, it would be a gutsy move and I nominate Sasha or Bob for the task if it happens), but I am worried about everyone being reunited.
Everything I’ve read about this season says the folks at Terminus are not going to be the big bad – and it does sound like people are splitting up again. Eugene needs to get to Washington D.C. to save the world – and some of our heroes are probably going to go with him.

I can’t see Rick being one of them, and there are still a few other things to deal with this season.

So, what are the top five most important things I want to see happen this season:

5. Rick needs to pick a persona – and stick with it: We’ve seen Rick run the gamut of human emotion, from confusion, to happiness, to sadness, to rage, to downright fury. I didn’t quite understand his turn as farmer early in season four. Yes, I know the writers wanted us to see that going back to a normal life was out of the question for these people, but after running the Governor out of town it didn’t make a lot of sense to me for Rick to just give in the way he did. His return to warrior was welcome – and Carl finally showing him that he was a man, too, was needed. In the end, it was Rick who rallied his troops. I want to see that continue this season.

4. Daryl needs some action: I was all for Carol and Daryl to get it on a few years ago – and I’m still
not opposed to it. I’m not sure if it’s in the cards, though. I think we’re going to get Carol and Tyrese instead – which makes me worried they’re going to try and force the Daryl and Beth issue. When we were introduced to Beth, she was still a minor living in her father’s home. Now, she may have turned eighteen, but Norman Reedus is 45, and Daryl is just too old for Beth. It’s creepy. And dirty. And I don’t want to see them go there. I do think poor Daryl needs some loving, though – I’m just not quite sure who is going to give it to him.

3. Trimming the cast: This is inevitable on a show like this. People are going to die. And, while the bulk of the Woodbury folks introduced at the end of season three died by the middle of season four – either by flu or the Governor’s attack – we still had a fairly big cast at the end of the year. I think that Sasha, Bob, Tara, and Rosita are the obvious choices for first victim – and I’m fine with any of them going. At least one big character we’ve grown to love bites it each season, though, and this season I’m worried about Glen. There was a lot of foreshadowing to Hershel’s death before it happened, and I feel Glen was getting that treatment at the end of season four. I love the character, and I’ll be sad to see him go, but when you look at the other options, I’m not sure there’s another choice. Maggie and Glen are the romantic core of this show – which could change things drastically. I’m hoping Glen survives – but I’m not sure, especially given how small the core group is now, who else they could kill off. While I do think Rick will eventually die – I think he’s safe until the final season. And, if Daryl dies, people will riot. Who else does that leave?

2. Beth needs to be rescued: This may come as a surprise to folks, but I want Beth rescued and not
killed. Yeah, I said it. The singing blonde has been at the top of my hit list for two seasons, but I actually started to like her in season four. Sure, it took Daryl to humanize her – but it took her to give Daryl more layers, too. And, while I could still take or leave Beth as a solitary character, I think her return to the fold is what Maggie and Daryl need. I still don’t want her and Daryl paired together. He’s too old for her and it’s creepy – but I do want her to come home to them. After Hershel’s death, I want Maggie and Beth to get their reunion.

1. Carol’s return to the fold: Carol got the strongest arc last season (well, her and Daryl). She went from a battered woman in season one, to a grieving mother in season two, to a woman who started thinking for herself but still needed to be saved in season three, to a total badass who killed two sick people in cold blood to protect the rest of the group in season four. Not only did she admit her culpability in his girlfriend’s death to Tyrese (fully expecting to be killed), but she also put down a “messed up” Lizzy by shooting her in the back. Each season of this show seems to have two episodes that simply take your breath away. Carol was the star of the second this past season. I’m hoping the reunion between Rick, Carol, and Judith (and Tyrese and Sasha as a secondary) happens early. Both Rick and Carol deserve a little forgiveness – and for something good to happen.

What do you think? What are you most excited about this season?