Tag Archives: Bear McCreary

On Zombies: Community and The Walking Dead

On Zombies: Community and The Walking Dead

October 31st, 2010

I’ve already written enough about Halloween episodes (both in my review of The Office at The A.V. Club and in my piece on Halloween-themed TV episodes at Antenna) that writing a review of Community’s “Epidemiology” in that context seems like a waste of time. In fact, part of me feels as if it’s too late to really add anything new to the discourse.

However, having now watched the first two hours of AMC’s The Walking Dead – which premieres tonight at 10/9c with a special 90-minute opener – I think that I want to talk about zombies, and their function as genre. In a movie, zombies are easy: you introduce zombies, chaos ensues, heroes emerge, a conclusion is reached (which is either the heroes proving themselves capable of subsisting within a zombie-infested nation or the zombie outbreak being contained, presuming a happy ending is desired). Admittedly, I’ve only watched a handful of zombie movies thanks to being largely averse to suspense, but the point I want to get across here is that there’s a clear timeline. There is a situation, there is a conclusion, and you move on from there.

When you move this notion into television, however, you’re forced to live in that space, which is a problem that The Walking Dead will have to face should it join the rest of AMC’s lineup. Community, of course, is a very different situation, but it is nonetheless interesting to note that seriality plays a pretty substantial role in how their zombie story is told, and so I think tackling them both simultaneously will speak to some of the things which impressed me about Community and some of what concerns me about The Walking Dead.

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The Trick is to Actually Watch TV: The 2010 Emmy Nominations

The Trick is to Actually Watch TV: The 2010 Emmy Nominations

July 8th, 2010

The Emmy nominations (which you can find in full here) are less a sign of what’s truly great on television and a more a sign of what the Emmy voters have actually been watching.

Series and performers are nominated for Emmys for one of two reasons: either the Academy members watched episodes carefully and saw them deserving of an award, or they looked at their ballots and chose a familiar name, a much buzzed-about series, or the first name on the ballot. And, frankly, most years the latter seemed to be their modus operandi, to the point where I’ve started to disassociate voters with any notion of television viewership – I’m not even convinced most of them own televisions.

However, for once, I’d say that the 2010 Emmy nominations seem to have been made by people who actually enjoy the medium, with plenty of evidence to demonstrate that voters actually watched many of the shows they nominated and discovered not only the most hyped elements of that series but also those elements which are truly deserving of Emmys attention. There are still plenty of examples where it’s clear that Emmy voters didn’t truly bother to watch the series in question, and all sorts of evidence which indicates that the Emmy voters suffer from a dangerously selective memory and a refusal to let go of pay cable dramedies, but the fact remains that this is the most hopeful Emmy year in recent memory.

It isn’t that every nominee is perfect, but rather that there is evidence of Academy voters sitting down in front of their television and watching more than a single episode of the shows in question, making them less like soulless arbiters of quality and more like actual television viewers – it might not stick, but for a few moments it’s nice to finally see some nominees that indicate voters aren’t so much different from us after all.

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The Theme Song Lives: 2009-10’s Emmy Contenders for “Main Title Design”

The Theme Song Lives: “Main Title Design” in 2009-10

April 19th, 2010

There’s a lot of news posts out there today which are viewing the elimination of the “Outstanding Main Title Theme Music” Emmy Award as a long overdue decision, a logical move to reflect the “death” of the theme song in modern television. I understand this impulse, and certainly think that there is an element of lament and loss to this particular development.

However, my immediate thought upon hearing this news was that it was perfectly logical: however, it is perfectly logical not because the theme song is irrelevant, but rather because the theme song is no longer a distinct element of a show’s identity. Just look at the winners over the past three years: two went to theme songs to anthology series (Masters of Horror in 2007 and Great Performances in 2009), and the other went to CBS’ Pirate Master (which was a complete and total bomb). The fact of the matter is that these are probably very impressive compositions which have had absolutely no staying power as pieces of music due to their lack of connection with the role of the Main Titles, as I discussed in earnest a few months back.

Really, the award for “Main Title Theme Music” is now wrapped up in the “Outstanding Main Title Design” category – I would personally consider theme song to be part of the opening credits design, and I’m presuming that a good theme has played a role in past winners like Six Feet Under, United States of Tara and Dexter taking the award. While I don’t know if the Academy would go so far as to include composers within this category as a way to honour them for their work (for the record, I support such a motion), I do hope that the role of the theme song within these openings becomes more important. It’s always one of my favourites to predict in each given year, and I think that this almost makes that category more interesting as we see whether a quality theme song plays an even more substantial role in this year’s winners and nominees.

And so out of respect to the composers who continue to write main title themes, and due to my love for both main title sequences and Emmy predictions, I figured I’d run down the contenders for this year’s Emmy for Outstanding Main Title Design (all of which feature effective use of music, albeit some using pre-existing musical soundtrack).

Predicted Nominees

HBO’s Hung

By cleverly combining the most buzz-worthy (the sex) and the most subtle (post-recession America) qualities of the series into a single set of images, the opening very clearly lays out both the tone and the premise of the show in an iconic fashion.

HBO’s The Pacific

I will be honest: I’m not a huge fan of this credits sequence. As impressive as the style of the piece is, and as strong as the theme may be in its own right, I think it’s honestly too long and has absolutely no sense of narrative or function beyond the stylistic flourishes of the charcoal. They’re guaranteed a nomination based on the strong technical work, but I haven’t watched them since the premiere.

FOX’s Human Target

While these credits deserve to be here stylistically, I think that the thematic value of these credits is perhaps their most important role: they very clearly place the series within the area of James Bond through the aesthetic choices, and the great main theme song from Bear McCreary informs us that this will in some ways be a throwback to something familiar and that some would consider to be old-fashioned. It really captures the tone of the series, which is something that any Main Title should strive towards.

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Caprica – “There is Another Sky”

“There is Another Sky”

February 26th, 2010

Early last week, I posted some thoughts which had been percolating for a while about SyFy’s Caprica, in particular how some people just can’t seem to get over the fact that it’s connected to Battlestar Galactica and judge it based on its own merits. And while I didn’t get to this week’s episode, “There is Another Sky” when it aired on Friday, I did notice that I wasn’t the only one with this point of view: both Todd and James came out with much the same perspective after this week’s entry, which indicated that the show’s roll continued into its fifth episode.

“There is Another Sky” is probably not the best episode of the show thus far, but I would argue it may be the most significant. You see, while I wrote last week about how the show shouldn’t be judged solely on its connections to the world of Battlestar Galactica, this week painted a picture (and visited a world) which offers a serious expansion of the Caprican landscape that blows this series wide open and yet simultaneously narrows in on what we know will happen in the future thanks to our BSG knowledge.

And by managing to juggle these two roles so successfully, Caprica remains on a rather exciting journey, whether you know the destination or not.

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Caprica – “Rebirth”

“Rebirth”

January 29th, 2010

I was warned ahead of time that Caprica’s pilot was not necessarily representative of the series, and that the two additional episodes sent to critics seemed to offer something very different. However, all of those people who had seen the episodes seemed excited but in a way that was at the same time quite cautious: when I chatted about the episodes with Todd over at Media Elites, he indicated that, while he was quite taken with the episodes, not everyone is going to fall head over heels in love with the show that Caprica has become.

I, however, have. What surprised me about Caprica was that it managed to resist diving straight into melodrama, despite a premise that lends itself to that sort of interaction. After a pilot that felt steeped in the complexities of holo-bands and avatars, “Rebirth” takes that scenario and investigates the human consequences: stories that are big philosophically, like the fate of Zoe Graystone’s Avatar, are small in the context of the story, while the stories which go public are those which are more personal and thus more devastating. Rather than focus on creating conflict between characters, the episode allows the characters to start developing independent of that conflict, discovering new ways to adapt to a world without a daughter or a family shattered by tragedy.

It’s an episode that manages to subtly investigate the show’s premise while also triumphantly proclaiming that Caprica is a place of great complexity, and a place that has no idea the changes that the next decade or two will bring; in short, it’s a damn fine start for the series at hand.

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Human Target – “Embassy Row”

“Embassy Row”

January 25th, 2010

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this week’s new episode of Human Target, which aired in its normal Monday timeslot on CTV and which airs Tuesday at 9pm (due to the State of the Union on Wednesday) on FOX: it’s another fun episode that continues to care very little about believability, but because each hour is its own self-contained 40-minute action film it isn’t really that big of a deal. I don’t have any sort of fancy or complex thematic introduction to my thoughts on the show, so I’ll just suggest that people enjoying the show so far should tune in.

However, I do want to say a few things about where the show sits at the moment, and whether the episodes we’re seeing out of order are adding up to a distinct impression of Christopher Chance and his universe of sorts, so I shall nonetheless analyze the episode after the jump.

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Human Target – “Rewind”

“Rewind”

January 20th, 2010

Airing out of order, “Rewind” is either trying to complete the trains, planes and automobiles trifecta for Christopher Chance’s various missions or trying to simply put the show’s best foot forward in its second episode out of the gate behind American Idol. I’d be worried if it was the former as the show can only go so far when Chance is trapped on a moving mode of transportation with no chance of escape, but I think the latter is their primary goal here.

And it works really well, because the hour is certainly an improvement over the already solid pilot. Not only does “Rewind” feature one of the most extensive uses of in media res storytelling I’ve seen in television for a while, but it also taps into both the potential comedy and the potential mythology present in the series. It is a ludicrous hour of television from a physic perspective, but in terms of delivering action and suspense while maintaining a light-hearted sense of humour and revealing some deeper shades of Christopher Chance and the work he does the episode is quite successful.

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