“The Blind Banker”
August 1st, 2010
Look, “The Blind Banker” was bound to be a disappointment.
First of all, it’s the second act of a three-act series, which means that it has nothing to introduce and nothing to conclude, robbing it of any real serial potential.
Second, it’s the one hour not scripted by the series creators, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.
And third, it has the ominous task of coming after a very strong premiere which overcame most people’s expectations for the project.
Mind you, I do not mean “disappointment” in the sense that I was not entertained by the episode, but the episode just has too much to live up to – the story is fine, and the characters remain well drawn, but the episode’s plot is thin enough that it seems to draw out my issues with the series as opposed to highlighting its best qualities. Lacking in both continuity and ingenuity, “The Blind Banker” struggles under the weight of its running time and eventually feels like little more than a basic procedural with some strong performances.
Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but certainly isn’t the same series we saw last week.
One Past, Two Perspectives
July 26th, 2010
You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.
Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter has said that he has no intention of ever using flashbacks for the FX series, which some might find odd considering how much of the series is based on an earlier generation of conflict regarding SAMCRO’s founder, John Teller. However, each season of the series has a tightly constructed arc, and so much of its drama depends on capturing the intensity of the Sons’ daily lives that flashing back would likely disrupt any sense of momentum.
And yet, for network series with similarly complex backstories, flashback episodes are almost a necessity: with 22 episodes to deliver each year, as opposed to the 13 offered on cable, flashbacks are a good way to kill some time between major story arcs, or fill in some necessary exposition heading into a new story arc, or to simply have some fun by featuring a character who everyone seems to enjoy. “Fool to Love” and “Darla” are both flashback episodes, and even flash back to the same scenes in two instances, but they represent two distinct types of flashback episodes, which becomes clear when watched together (as they would have originally aired).
I want to talk a bit about how each series uses its respective flashback episode as a standalone piece, but I also want to look at how they work as parts of their respective seasons: while “Darla” is very clearly part of the series’ narrative arc, “Fool for Love” has a unique relationship with the momentum built by “No Place Like Home” and “Family” which offers a different take on the potential function of flashbacks.
Day Four: Scheduling Patriotism
February 15th, 2010
Perhaps I am simply a proponent of less is more, but there’s something about having a large percentage of the medal winners at the Olympic Games stand on two separate podiums at two separate times that seems sort of funny. I understand the logistical issues surrounding it: because the events are scattered all over the place, they don’t want to have to have that many sets of flags kicking around, nor do they want to have the medals spread all over the place for security reasons. Doing most of the medal ceremonies in controlled environments either at BC Place or at Whistler makes perfect sense, except that it creates two separate “moments” for viewers to experience.
At a point during CTV’s broadcast of the medal ceremony for Canada’s first ever Gold medal on home soil from Alexandre Bilodeau, James Duthie made the argument that now Canadians will remember precisely where they were twice: once when Bilodeau won gold, and once when he received it. Now, I would tend to believe that I am never going to be telling my grandchildren that I was sitting in my parents’ living room watching Bilodeau win gold, but I can absolutely guarantee that I will not specifically remember a night later when, free from all suspense, Bilodeau stepped onto another podium and got that medal around his neck.
Both moments are memorable, but the excitement of the former and the resonance of the latter feel disconnected by the separation, and I have to wonder if the logistics (and the networks’ desire to be able to get two separate viewership boosts) are damaging the true impact of these Olympic moments.
“Having a Baby’s Got to Be Easier Than This”
April 26th, 2009
One of my favourite travel stories from my trip to California was that, when I was waiting for a late flight from Toronto to Halifax, I sat down in the departures area to watch the previous night’s episode of The Amazing Race. Now, admittedly, I shouldn’t watch TV in public as a general rule: I tend to be fairly reactive (aren’t we all?), and while an airport creates a cramped space that gives you some pause before overreacting an airport lobby feels open and results in some rather embarassing outbursts of laughter or shock.
However, I should have been doubly aware of this when queuing up last week’s episode of The Amazing Race, which I had no idea featured a spectacular meltdown of epic proportions as Jen and Luke got into TWO consecutive footraces resulting in TWO highly physical confrontations where a combination of aggressiveness and Luke’s sensitivity to physical contact (as he would be unable to hear them coming) created a whole overblown scenario. Killer fatigue playing the role that it does, emotions were high, but I tend to be on the side that Margie crossed a line when she attempted to claim it was deaf-bashing, an argument that felt like a defensive action she had in her pocket the entire race almost searching for an excuse to pull it out. This is a highly competitive race wherein emotions are high, and the best course of action in conflict is to chalk it up to a misunderstanding: lobbing accusations never gets anyone anywhere, except for the Amazing Race editors who got material to make an unsuspenseful episode extremely engaging.
Unfortunately, or fortunately for the racers’ sanity, there is no such event this week, as the teams travel to Beijing for a mostly uninteresting leg that seems almost mean in its efforts to accelerate the teams’ killer fatigue to the point of outright exhaustion. While last week’s episode may have been about personal exhaustion creating drama, I have slightly more of an issue when the producers are outright creating these kinds of reaction.