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What Non-Aardvarks are Pondering

By Curtis C. Chen

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October 24, 2001

Let TV Be

[ Enterprise | Alias | Buffy | TV ]

Why am I still writing about television, you ask? Why don't I address more important issues like terrorism or public health?

Because I know next to nothing about those issues. I have no illusions about my ignorance; reading a couple of articles and listening to NPR isn't going to make me an expert on the Middle East or national security. I'll stick to what I do know.

I'm a TV viewer, a movie watcher, and a writer. I love a good story, and I know when someone isn't doing it right. I can hear when dialogue doesn't ring true, and I notice when narrative falls apart. These are the issues that I feel qualified to comment upon.

And yes, it's important. Art and culture and entertainment are as important now as they have ever been. More on this later.

[ top | Enterprise | Alias | Buffy | TV ]

Flee Enterprise

Here's all you need to know about last week's episode of Enterprise (and, by extension, the whole series):

"[T]he only way to enjoy 'Unexpected' is to dismiss it as a light-hearted piece of fluff that doesn't even pretend to take seriously its science fiction premise... the episode ends up being about nothing at all, not even gratuitous titillation or creepy, icky reproductive horror. It's not science fiction, not drama. At its core, it's precisely the sort of garbage [co-executive producer Brannon] Braga once had the sense to reject."

-- Michelle Erica Green, Trek Nation

Ms. Green and I are in the apparent minority of people who just can't see the emperor's new clothes. I feel like Ripley in Aliens. "Did I.Q.'s just drop sharply while I was away?"

Of Enterprise, I can only say this:

"Boo! Boo! You had the franchise in your hands, and you gave it up. Star Trek sired her, and she treated it like garbage. And that's what she is, the Starship of Refuse! So, bow down to her if you want. Bow to her. Bow to the Starship of Slime, the Starship of Filth, the Starship of Putrescence. Boo! Boo! Rubbish! Filth! Slime! Muck! Boo! Boo!"

[ top | Enterprise | Alias | Buffy | TV ]

Alas, Alias

My hopes for this series were too high. I let myself get worked up by all the late-summer buzz, all the critical pronouncements that this was the best new drama of the season. I should know better.

Alias is classic high concept: Felicity meets True Lies. Sadly, the execution is more like From Dusk Till Dawn. Alias takes itself way too seriously in character moments, and becomes too pulpy during action sequences. (Dark Angel suffers a similar dichotomy, but to a lesser degree.)

In its heart, Alias is not a show about espionage. The whole "spy" thing is just a device, a thin metaphor for the undercurrent of deceit that permeates human relationships. The problem is, the espionage storylines keep taking over, featuring ridiculous assignments and ludicrous battles that no intelligence agent would ever attempt, much less survive.

You can have it all. You can combine tragedy and comedy (at this level, I have to equate action with comedy), but it's tough to find that balance. It's not just providing equal time -- the parts have to be connected together, components of a larger vision. Examples? It's a Wonderful Life did it. Sports Night did it. I'm not sure Alias can.

[ top | Enterprise | Alias | Buffy | TV ]

Buffy was Dead. Long Live Buffy!

If you've never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or only saw it once and found it lacking, you owe it to yourself to watch at least three or four consecutive episodes. I'm serious. Buffy is, at its core, not episodic. It's a series, at least as coherent as Babylon 5's much-vaunted "story arc," and even more resonant in its characters and situations. This is a huge, heroic, effusive epic, way too big for a single hour.

I could go on for days about the genius of Buffy, but enough people have done that already, and there's really no substitute for seeing it with your own eyes. If you are now or ever have been a teenager, if you've ever loved or wanted to love someone, if you believe in Good or Evil or anything in between, then this show is for you.

Catch Buffy reruns every weekday at 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM on FX* (schedule). New episodes air Tuesdays at 8:00 PM on UPN (schedule). For more reruns on your local station, check out*.

* WARNING: Flash plug-in required.

[ top | Enterprise | Alias | Buffy | TV ]

No News is Good News

Television is our most potent storytelling medium -- more immediate than the written word, more illustrative than a guy in front of a campfire, more intimate than cinema. And what are you using it for? News. You make me sad.

You want news? All the news you could ever want is on the Internet. Go to the Net and get news from all over the world. Get the latest headlines from Reuters and other wire services. Get censored news that you won't see anywhere else. If you're really attached to CNN, why not visit their web site instead?

On the Net, you get to choose which news articles you want, then read them in the order you want, at your own speed. You can even search for specific information! You can't do that on television.

Use your TV set for something more than watching newscasts. Use your TV to get more than facts and figures and bulleted lists. Let your TV show you stories that speak to who and what and how and why we are. Let your TV enlighten you. Let your TV entertain you. Let your TV elevate you.

Your TV can be more than an idiot box, more than the boob tube, more than a babysitter, more than just a noisemaker. Let it be.

[ top ]




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