Saturday, September 29, 2007

Grey's vs. Private Practice

I found the premiere of Private Practice excruciating. The main flaw I think is that the spin-off of Grey's Anatomy attempts to simulate the life-or-death tension that lends weight to the parent show, but these situations are at odds with the show's setting: a cushy private clinic in Southern California. So far, the creators have failed to inspire in me any sympathetic feelings for any of the doctors in the clinic, much less their patients. I'll provide a more thorough analysis next week -- if I can stomach another full episode.

As for Grey's Anatomy itself, I have mixed feelings that the characters would approve of and wallow in with me. I have often been a willing victim of the writers machinations, allowing them to yank my emotional chain week after week, working up tears for dying patients and their conflicted doctors.

However, the only character I would unabashedly characterize as a SFL is Dr. Miranda Bailey. Known from the first episode as The Nazi, she is brash, frank, and can be bitter. She does have a softer, kinder side, but she is one of the few characters whose home life is rarely seen. In a four-episode arc, she went home for bed-rest, came back to give birth, and we saw her holding the baby. Since then, we've never seen her husband or child, and we certainly have never seen her making out with any of her fellow residents or an intern.

Because we rarely see Dr. Bailey show sympathy or emotion, it means so much more when she does, compared to Grey moaning for the 400th time about how messed up/depressed she is or that she can't decide whether to break up with Shepherd for the 24th time. Her indecisiveness and whinyness make her for me a completely unsympathetic character.

Yang's stubborn focus and ambition make her my second-favorite character. As with Bailey, her expressions of weakness are much more palatable because they are not, like Meredith's, unrelenting.

And Izzie Stevens? While I never thought her original mettle (overcoming her trailer park upbringing, proving she wasn't an airhead, giving up a daughter for adoption) was softened by her doomed relationship with Denny (a patient who died despite her unorthodox attempts to save him), I think it's now been compromised by her mooning over George (who is married to another hospital colleague). We'll see where they take the pair this year.

The premiere brought to the foreground a new character: Lexie Grey, Meredith's half-sister. It's too early to tell what will happen with her character (who has been brought on as a full regular cast member, beyond her originally-planned story arc). But I hope that she will be not just a shadow of Grey, but rather developed in a completely unique direction. And please don't let her be "dark and twisty"! Despite the fact that they share the same alcoholic dad and both have lost their mothers in the last year - let's see another personality deal with these factors in a very different way.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bionic Woman Series Premiere

By far my most anticipated new show...

And I'm far from disappointed!


Great shocking beginning, to start with a bang, then several minutes of relationship goo until the Crash that Changes Everything.

The Stakes are set early. They can "terminate her later, if need be." Lots of mysteries to unwrap, which is a good thing. Her relationship with her younger sister is a great area to explore, especially as we're not sure what kind of delinquent her sister is. I don't think Jaime will be able to keep her in the dark for long.

The science is of course ridiculous, though I like the possibilities inherent in the quick-healing capabilities. Will tries to explain it to Jaime: "Technology is at the point where science fiction isn't fiction anymore." Me: "Are you kidding, they had all this technology back in 1976!"

I like that she's got an equally strong female to combat (Sarah, the updated fembot!). I was going to call her a villain, but she's just a messed-up version of Jamie. I think their relationship could be interesting, but I'm guessing they'll kill off Sarah.

Some questions:
1. The original Jaime Sommers was a tennis pro. Why does this one have to be a bartender? I know smart people (they establish that she has a high IQ) are found in all professions, but this seems to demean her, putting her in a position where she has to ask Will, who is a professor/scientist, why he's with her. In the original, she would go undercover a lot - maybe we'll get to see her stretch her wings a bit...

2. Why did she need to be pregnant? They didn't think losing two legs, an arm, an ear and an eye were enough for us to feel sympathy for her? In fact, doesn't mentioning her pregnancy actually decrease our view of her as someone smart... enough to use reliable birth control?

3. Why doesn't Sarah shoot Jae when she has the chance? This is the man who has already shot her to kill her. They apparently were lovers, so maybe that's supposed to explain it all...

Things I thought could have been done in a more unique way:
- The mandatory cry in the shower/tub scene
- The mandatory stop-the-mugger/rapist in the alley scene
- Some cliched dialogue, but it could have been worse, given that it's an action show.

Best Line:
Sarah - "I'm cutting away all the parts of me that are weak."
THIS is a great metaphor for our plastic surgery culture, as well as cutting off our emotions, connections with others, or other perceived weaknesses. And this is of course the subjective part of this blog: what I view as weak and strong.

How do we know Jaime's all SFL?
Her parting shot to Jonas, the man running the secret lab: "I know what I'm capable of now. So you send whoever you send. And I'll bury one guy after the next."

I for one will be here next week to see who they send, how Jaime adjusts to her new strength, and what Sarah gets up to.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bones Season Premiere

Caught the Bones season premiere last night. (Tuesday nights, Fox; Wednesday nights, Global)

As mentioned, I hadn't actually watched this show before, but had heard quite good things.

I'm an instant fan. Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan is freaking awesome. The smartest woman I've ever seen on TV. And hyper and driven and committed. Although of course she has been made emotionally stunted to balance it all out. In fact, I would place her and one of the other characters, Zack, on the Asperger scale. Despite this, she does share chemistry with a male FBI agent Booth, who refuses to use the technical jargon that gushes non-stop from the mouths of every other character. I learned some new vocabulary!

What makes the show even more appealing to me, is that every other woman on the show is also distinctively strong. Angela, another forensic expert, is the emotional counter-balance to Bones. Dr. Saroyan, the coronoer, appears to be a voice of reason. And Caroline Julian, a prosecutor, is tough-as-nails and no-nonsense.

Yes the premise is creepy (she's an anthropologist who specializes in forensics), and the season has been set up to follow a cannibal killer, but I didn't get that squicky feeling I get in my stomach at CSI or Cold Squad. The creators make a choice not to "flash back" to bloody crime scenes, and they suckered me in with hints of the Illuminati.

Clearly I'll need to go back and watch Seasons One and Two.

Fave line:
Julia to Brennan: "Sweetie, this is not one of those things where you try to keep a secret and I ferret out the truth. This is where I tell you something that's true, so you can catch up to your own reality."

Monday, September 24, 2007

The New Season

What am I excited about?

Bionic Woman - of course! Very interested to see how they adapt it. Hopefully they will really make it new, as Battlestar Galactica did so successfully. [Premieres Wed. Sep 26]

Ugly Betty - It took me a while to understand what this show was trying to do, but I really admire it. [Premieres Thurs. Sep 27]

Brothers & Sisters, Grey's Anatomy - a few SFLs and definitely some space for critique [Premieres Sun. Sep 30]

Battlestar Galactica - The final season. What will happen to Starbuck, Laura and the rest of the crew? Won't find out until November.

Bones - Haven't actually seen this show but have heard good things about the SFL at the center of it! [Premieres Tues. Sep 25]

I will have more to say on each of these shows after their season premieres, but this is my Must Watch list.

Then there's the shows that have already started up!

L Word - All Female, all the time! All kinds of Strong.

Weeds - I'm still catching up on Season 2!

Saving Grace - have a few eps ready to go in my PVR, but haven't dug in yet.

Blood Ties - Canadian made detective show meets vampires - airs on Lifetime.

The Closer - became a fan last season and Brenda Johnson is my ultimate SFL right now.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Every story has to begin somewhere

Why I made this blog:
I'd always thought about screenwriting, but the push to actually do it came at the end of a heist movie where, after 2 hours of getting lied to, the woman got left waiting for her man while he was off in a gun battle with a cop, who kept the dough. I thought to myself, "I would've had her drive off with the bag of money." I decided it was time to write my own endings for my own heroines. I'm hoping that analyzing shows and films will help me to define what I want to do (and not do) with my own characters and story lines.

And then there's television. When I was young, I could only watch one show a day (outside of public television). It always came down to Wonder Woman or Bionic Woman (though Wonder Woman usually won - couldn't resist that lasso!). In the 80s we had Cagney and Lacey. In the 90s, Scully and Buffy. In the Oughts, so far we've seen Sydney Bristow, Veronica Mars, Starbuck, Brenda Johnson, Vicki Nelson, and I would argue, Laura Roslin, Nancy Botwin and Betty Suarez.

What I want to do here:
My plan is to provide commentary on female characters in television and film, penned by both male and female writers. The choices made by writers, actors, networks. Where characters are allowed to go and grow over the course of their story.

I'll be analyzing current shows and films as well as referencing and studying older work. And I'll also occasionally be showcasing women who work in the industry, as this is a source of interest to me!

What I'm not interested in looking at (at least right now)
Comedy. Don't get me wrong, I like to laugh. And there's no doubt Roseanne for example was a SFL (Strong Female Lead). But I barely have enough time to watch all the drama shows I'm interested in, let alone develop a new interest in comedy.
Grisly Crime Drama. I admit it, I get squicked out by intensive forensics, and don't really feel the need to fill my mind with all the details of horrific crimes. This means no CSI, no Cold Case, and probably no Bones (though I'm going to try an ep).

Who the heck am I?
I am a writer and filmmaker. After three years of making short films and receiving grants to write, in 2006-07, I attended the Canadian Film Centre's Television program. I got to work with Barbara Samuels (now there's a SFL!) and a room of talented up-and-comers to create a mini-series. I'm now working on specs, original series ideas, and features, and pitching them to Canadian broadcasters and production companies.

I hope you'll join me in my investigations. I welcome your opinions, theories, counter-evidence, and of course suggestions for shows or films to watch!