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Last night, I watched the first episode of Fringe with the commentary turned on.

I am not usually a commentary type of person. I find that too often the commentary on DVDs are a bunch of people getting drunk together in a small room, making inside jokes as they watch their own work, boring the crap out of the people listening/watching. Plus, the author is dead, right? I actually find that finding out what authors intend often spoils the work for me. Does anyone remember when Jacqueline Carey declared that Melisand Shahrizai was supposed to be a sociopath? I never read another Kushiel book again, not even to reread the first one, which I'd originally enjoyed. I have had a lot of experiences just like that!

When an author can't get across everything zie wants the reader to know in the book itself -- when the makers of a show can't get across everything the viewer is supposed to know in the show itself -- I admit to not having a lot of sympathy. As an editor, I know how tough and consuming it is to be the person who has to point out where the holes are; as a writer, I know how awful revising can be. If the creative work isn't ready to be put out there, though... don't put it out there.

Sure, that is a little over-simplified -- sometimes things just don't gel together, sometimes you're working to an unrealistic deadline that you don't have much of a choice about, sometimes you just need the damn money. But in those cases, can you really blame the readers for filling in details themselves, or taking to fanfic to satisfy their need for "fixing" characters or plot, or the desire for something more or deeper? (I guess you can if you want to. I'm on the side of the readers here, though.)

If you've done all you can to convey your vision, all you can do is trust that you've done your best to get what you want to say across, and leave the reader alone. Sometimes really exciting things come out of the minds of readers, things you might not have thought of, perspectives you may not have taken into account; sometimes the reader is so incredibly wrong that you want to reach through the computer screen (or step out from behind the lectern at a con) and slap that wrong person right on their wrong face! Yeah, I know how it goes. You think it's easier for the editor? The editor is supposed to help the author convey everything properly! If the readers don't get anything the author wants them to, it's (usually) at least partially the fault of the editor.

(Honestly, I've found that if I step away from being the author/editor of a work, and just take what the reader says about the work at face value, I can usually see where the reader is coming from -- even if I don't agree with it.)

Sometimes there's just no arguing with a reader/viewer -- and my recommendation is do not engage. Just suck it up, and realize that people bring their own shit to everything, and see most things -- television, movies, books, food, whatever! -- through the lenses of their baggage.

All that said... back to Fringe!

There are so many things about Fringe that I am interested in knowing about, especially because I still think the show's world building is so weak, that I couldn't help myself. I turned on the commentary. What. A. Mistake.

Those men are writing a completely different show than what I'm watching. They're writing, apparently, a soap opera-type drama about a father-son relationship. Yeah, Peter and Walter's relationship is definitely a big plot point, but the show I am watching is 90% about Olivia. Olivia kicking ass, taking names, being hard and vulnerable at the same time. I think she's a really good example of the kind of female character who I absolutely love -- she's flawed because she's human, not because she's a woman. And her flaws are real and deep and ring very true to me.

In the commentary, they talk about how Fringe was originally conceived as a show about a mad scientist, but they had two problems -- one, they couldn't write a character smarter than they are. (Honestly, I don't necessarily agree with this, but it's a good basic rule. If you don't understand the basics of physics, maybe your character ought not be a physicist...) Two, there is no way into a mad scientist character; there's no real way to relate to him, to empathize. So the show grew out of a need to make the mad scientist -- Walter -- relate-able and worthy of the compassion of the viewers.

To hear them tell it, Olivia barely factored into the equation then, and hardly factors into their equations now.

I can't lie -- I was pretty effing shocked to find this out. Were I building a show (or a book) similar to Fringe, I'd be starting with the strong female character in the center of everything, and building the entire show/book around her. Of course, that's me; no two people create the same way, and I can understand that.

What I can't understand is how/why they spent more time talking about Felicity and Alias than talking about the character of Olivia.

Plus, even though I suspected that they didn't have a plan or know anything about what they were writing, it sucks to have that confirmed. I spend every episode on tenterhooks, wondering if this is the episode where everything is going to fall apart or go off the rails like season three of Alias and beyond, and now that tension is going to be even worse! They haven't let me down yet -- although I do have a lot of questions about plot points that have just been totally dropped or overwritten -- but there's always that worry, because this show is made and written by people who I know cannot always be trusted to deliver.

So I'm back to not watching commentary or reading the author's intent about things. I might change my mind when my season two DVDs come, because I want to know all the little details about the noir episode. Maybe by the end of season two, they'll be tired of talking about the other shows they've worked on and making stupid Lost jokes, and they'll actually talk about the show itself.

Tell me about you: do you like knowing the intent? Watching commentary? What's the best commentary you've ever watched/listened to/read?
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Day 10 - A show you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

Oh, gosh. There are a lot of shows I thought I wouldn't like but ended up really enjoying. The one that stands out the most is Arrested Development -- I started out really loathing it because it was so weird and depressing and pissed me off all the time. But after a while, I switched my perspective and ended up really liking it. Even now I think some of the arcs and episodes are terrible (like the arcs with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who I find painfully unfunny at the best of times, and actively offensive in those episodes), but I do like enough episodes so much that I sometimes rewatch the show -- skipping the really terrible episodes, though.

Another show I thought I wouldn't like is Fringe. I even talked about that a few weeks ago! I didn't like it at all the first time I watched the first two episodes, but enough people I know thought the second season finale was amazing that I decided to give it another shot. It took a while -- it, in fact, took until at least halfway through the first season! But I did eventually start to really like Fringe. Then, during episode 15 of season 2, I suddenly fell in love with Fringe.

The things that piss me off about Fringe now are the exact same things that pissed me off at the beginning. The worldbuilding is kind of crappy; it's definitely getting stronger, but it's still crappy. When people are intolerant of Walter's disability. The fact that the characters of color are much less developed than the white characters. (For example, Nina has much less screen time than Broyles, yet she is a much more developed and rounded character. As much as I do love all of the strong female characters, it nevertheless makes me really irritated! Ah, the kyriarchy in action!) The way Astrid is treated is infuriating 99% of the time (I was shocked as hell when Olivia asked her to babysit. That is not part of Astrid's job description as a BAMF FBI agent!).

But there are a ton of things about the show that I really like -- and sometimes that makes it a lot easier for me to deal with the fail, although sometimes it makes the fail so much more painful.

Things I like, an incomplete list in no particular order:
  • The bizarre double-world thing

  • Leonard Nimoy. Nom nom nom.

  • Olivia doesn't take anyone's bullshit; no one gets to call her "sweetheart" without being called out on it!

  • Olivia is a really strong female character -- not strong in an unrealistic way, but strong like a real person. She makes mistakes and then endeavors to correct them. She screws up and owns up to it. She wants things she can't have and doesn't take them anyway. She prioritizes her job above her family and feels shitty about it, but knows that sometimes it's not something she can avoid -- especially since she wants to keep her family safe. And her family, for what it's worth, is frustrated sometimes but definitely understanding.

  • Everything about Joshua Jackson's character. He's awesome! Even though I hate the way he talks to Walter (see the above about the way people deal with Walter's disability), I do think it's actually pretty realistic. It's really rough to deal with people who have mental disabilities like Walter's, and it must be especially rough for (oh crap I forgot his name!!) Charlie from The Mighty Ducks, who remembers him as being completely different, and for a long time is trying to interact with his father the way he was sixteen years ago, not the way he is now. So I ended up with a lot of sympathy for him.

  • The scene in the fifteenth episode of season two with the almost-kissing!

  • Broyles. Om nom nom hel-lo. Yes, I'm shallow, but he's hot. So is Astrid. So is Joshua Jackson! I think Olivia always looks like she's smelling something really disgusting, but that actually totally worked for her in the episode in which Walter is telling that noir story.

  • That noir episode! How freaking great! I know, everyone said that when it aired and I didn't pay any attention. But what the actual heck?! That was amazing.

I am not going to keep going. Basically, I find that I really love the show. To the point where I am putting off watching the last three episodes of season two -- once I watch them, it'll be over! And I'll have to wait until September (or whenever) to see the next season! Argh!

I was also really skeptical of Better Off Ted; I don't tend to like half-hour sitcoms, mostly because I find them racist and anti-female and awful, etc. But [personal profile] cesare wrote a post about why it's a good, watchable show, and I was looking for a new show to watch with my mom -- and the whole first season is available at Netflix Play Now! -- so we watched it. And wow! I laughed within the first fifteen seconds of the first episode -- definitely a first for me with a sitcom -- and I kept laughing. So did my mom. So did my baby sister, who is not a fan of most things that aren't animated. I really recommend it; even though parts of it are something a little dull and sitcom-y, I got through the whole first season without being enraged or infuriated about its treatment of the characters. I also got through the whole first season without having to turn off an episode, or fast-forward through a scene because I was feeling so embarrassed and humiliated on behalf of the characters! That is unheard of for me with sitcoms (including The Office, which, to be honest, I often watch with it slotted into "drama" in my head). So, yeah, thumbs up to Better Off Ted!

Other days )
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Missing Castle, I started watching the first season of Fringe last night. I'm up to the third episode, and remembering why I stopped watching when it first premiered. First of all, the junk science. Now, I am the first person on board with crappy science in novels and on tv. Give me spaceships or give me muppets that fart helium!

Yet the junk science in Fringe is so ridiculous and hard to follow that I am often flabbergasted. The big problem is not that it's stupid (even though it is). The big problem is that it isn't convincing. I'll believe a lot of stupid things in fiction -- if you can convince me that it makes sense in the world you're building. Fringe doesn't kick off with enough convincing world building!

Oooh, that's right, I said it. Fringe has crappy world building!

I'm still watching, though, because I am really bored with tv right now, and because I still have a crush on Charlie from The Mighty Ducks. (And, wow, helloooooo, Jasika Nicole!!! And Lance Reddick!! Yes, I am shallow.)

I find that Charlie-from-The Mighty Ducks and I often have the same reaction to things that happen on the show: Are you effing kidding? That's not how $THING works!

Normally I am okay with having someone in the thick of things telling the audience that they understand that the audience is annoyed by the weirdness and factual inaccuracies -- but in this show, I wish they'd've just tried a little harder to write a show that is either much much weirder, so that we can easily assume it is an alternate version of our reality, or a show that is slightly less weird, so that we can easily accept that it's just that weird things happen in our reality.

I'm sticking with Fringe this time, though, because so many people I know really enjoy how ridiculous it is, and I'm hoping that eventually I will too. I just hope (perhaps in vain) it kicks its world building up a notch or two.

(Second, I also hope that Charlie-from-The Mighty Ducks quits the way he talks to his father like his father is making a choice to be mentally damaged. Ugh. It really irks me.)

...Two of my favorite things are world building and cooking, and this blog entry will be about them both. Here is my recipe for making a delicious frittata, complete with pictures. Check out this picture: that is my new knife, a gift from [ profile] perfectbound, which I am using for pretty much everything I possibly can. Need to cut up some pieces of celery? Whip out that knife! Need to slice eggs for egg salad? Where's that knife? The only thing I haven't been able to use it for so far is slicing bread.

It cuts the thinnest slices of tomato imaginable. Oohh, knife, be mine! Oh wait! You are!

How to make a delicious frittata, with bonus instructions for roasted cauliflower, caramelized onions, and roasted baby red potatoes. )


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anna genoese

November 2015

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