Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Change of Plans

Okay, I was going to cut down the Glee review to a submittable length. And I even made all the slides for the new script (118, by the way. That's about six hours of work, right there). And now I've decided not to do Glee.

Part of it is my concern that a Glee review won't be considered relevant enough. Part of it is that I don't want to be disqualified just because I started with material that wasn't original to the contest. Mostly though, it's that Burn Notice is shaping up to be awesome.

Not the show. The show is... well, you'll have to watch the video. I'll link to the site after I submit, but I can't post it as a review until after the contest, so there may be a blank week in my schedule. I'll try to do another in time, but no guarantees.

Also, I have a Twitter now (which seems like a terrible idea now that I've already done it, but I'll forgive myself later when I'm not feeling quite so betrayed... by myself. Good Gods I'm screwed up), so if you care about the random humor that comes from watching bad TV at two in the morning, I'm OpinionCritic, but only because "Opinionated" was taken and "OpinionatedCritic" has too many letters. I got as far as "OpinionatedCrit" but that just sounds like I'm judgmental about my Nat 20s.

Monday, September 27, 2010


So The Escapist as a video competition. The prize: a contract.

That's kind of a big deal, and I was all psyched and everything, but then I was flipping through the rules and saw the maximum video length. Five minutes.


My videos run seven to eight minutes, and I go at a decent clip. So I talked around and settled on Glee for some serious pruning. I figure that it's old enough that there will be things that my more developed critical eye can see. And I cut it down by three hundred words. And then I ran a test-read, and even going at ludicrous speed, it was still too long. So I cut out another two hundred words.

I'm still going to have to go pretty quick, but if I cut it down any further I'm going to lose content instead of just gags. This scares me. I don't want to sacrifice the integrity of my product just to fit it into an arbitrary timeline, but at the same time I really want that contract.

I'm gratified to see that the judging for the contract will be done by the moderators instead of by popular opinion, because I believe that my videos have merit, but I really don't think that they're terribly entertaining.

So I guess we'll see, huh?

Oh, and I know that the entries have to be unique to the contest. I have to remake my Glee video from scratch, though, so it is completely new. It's sort of a... version 2.0.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Feeling a Little Off

It's so strange not to have anything to post tomorrow (today, technically, but I haven't been to bed yet so it's still Saturday, damnit). After two months of posting every week, I feel like I've failed or something, even though this week off was scheduled.

And then not doing anything tomorrow is also a tad bizarre, as not having the kind of job that requires my attendance on certain days means that I also have only the weekends I give myself. I usually work on Sundays.


And the poll for the video to post tomorrow? By a resounding majority of one (1) vote, Heroes: The All Bad All the Time Edition won. So I'm just calling the whole thing off. I know that it was a silly little idea and everything, but I had hoped for a much better reaction.

So yeah. Stargate: Universe is next week. After that's Burn Notice.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review Talk

I don't usually talk about the critiques themselves here. In fact, I try to avoid talking about the critiques at all, as I feel it makes me look like I don't have anything better to do than stalk YouTube and hit F5 every thirty seconds just in case there's Another View. 'Cause, you know, I would never do anything like that.

But three days ago I posted The Mentalist and I did my usual rounds of Facebook and The Escapist and then walked away from the computer for awhile. Okay, I went to sleep, but point is, I didn't stalk it. And then it got sixty four views in twelve hours. For scale, even Heroes: The All Bad All the Time Edition, my most watched video to date, took a week to hit sixty five.

I know it's not crazy-viral or anything, but for me, that's a lot of views, really fast. Well, yesterday The Mentalist passed 100 views and as of writing is sitting pretty at 107.

And it's freaking me out.

I mean, yes I know that for my videos to become popular, people actually have to watch them, and yes I've been getting steadily more views as I keep doing this, and yes the fall premiers are coming up so searches are up, but damn, ya'll.

So, yeah. Thanks, Everyone Who Watches My Videos.

Oh! And since I'm taking this week off to start a rolling schedule, I shall link a the video that's selected by The Audience. There's a poll here if you want to vote, or just comment with your choice from the list below and I'll add the results together. I really don't expect to get a whole shit-ton of results, but The Mentalist has surprised me this week, and ya'll might as well.

Criminal Minds
Heroes: The Good Stuff Edition
Heroes: The All Bad All the Time Edition
The Mentalist

Make your choice!

Monday, September 20, 2010

From the Audience

"Quick question: Are you ever going to review Leverage, or Burn Notice? I liked both of them, and it would be interesting to see your take." --ALuckyChance

I was and they've both been upped on the list now that it's been requested. In fact, once I'm done with SG:U, I'll do Burn Notice.

"Good review. You hit all the key points and were very entertaining. As for the show, I always preferred Psych, myself." --Super Toast

Thank you, I try, and now Psych's on the list as well. See this whole "getting comments" thing really cuts down on the need to come up with the shows for myself. And I get to put off CSI: Wherever for a little longer.

"I liked it. Also i like your voice lol. Don't know how to describe it though lol." --Tankichi

Okay, this one's more of a personal gripe of mine. "LOL." I don't have the words to express to you how much I hate LOL. It's a good abbreviation, and I do use it myself, but I use it... when I laugh out loud. Such a concept, I know, but it's been overused to the point that people seem to use it the way they would use a nervous chuckle in conversation. That is to say, involuntarily. And that usage just doesn't work very well at all in a written medium.

Last year someone actually said "LOL" to me. I was incredibly confused. Why would someone do that? Lawl is awkward to say, awkward to listen to, and it doesn't have any connotations when spoken. Now I'm not one of those "Text-speak is killing the English language!" nutbags, but I do have a problem with the new words that don't translate the medium of interaction. That is to say, abbreviated phrases should stay in a written medium.

On an entirely different note, I'm editing my edited schedule. I thought about how doing a video every two weeks would be boring as all get out, even with the store to get up and running, so I decided to go back to a video a week, BUT! I'm still going to take this week out so that I can start watching shows one week, and making the video the next week, while I'm watching the next show. I know this sounds just as bad as a video every week, but it's actually not. You see, I spend a lot of time not doing whatever it is I should be doing, and on this schedule I'll have something productive to do while I'm not doing what I should be. It's foolproof!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More on The Mentalist

As predicted, there are some things in my notes that didn't make it into the video. Most of them are little things, like that occasionally the background noise (footsteps, traffic, ringing phones) drowns out the dialogue, or that the camera during fight scenes has no desire to show us what's going on, or the myriad continuity errors from multiple takes. So I won't go in to those.

A big one though, is that, like his inspiration, Patrick Jane is occasionally wrong. Sherlock Holmes was wrong all the time, he frequently edited his theory as he got more information to accommodate the new facts, and on one spectacular occasion (Wisteria Lodge, I think it was), he was out-and-out wrong. Jane is outright wrong more often than Sherlock was, but it's usually about minor things, and he brushes off his mistakes with such savvy that it's difficult to notice when he's wrong. Which is a great thing from the actor. The writers made him wrong, yes, but a minor tweak to the way Simon Baker plays it, and the scripted mistakes could be glaring.

The other major thing is the way the show treats the supernatural. Early on there's an episode with a psychic, and it's heavily implied that she's a faker, but no undeniable proof ever comes up, and her insights provided one of the best "Awwww" moments in the show. She wasn't even the bad-guy-of-the-week, just a minor character antagonist.

There's also an episode with a "Wiccan," whose depiction is just about as stereotypically neo-pagan as is possible. I hates her, because she's... well... fluffy. For some reason that's the only satisfactorily descriptive that I've got. She does cast a couple of spells and, if you interpret it that way, they come true, but it could also be chalked up pretty easily to coincidence. Thankfully.

Friday, September 17, 2010

From the Audience

Now that The Mentalist is ready to go I can slow down a touch and talk about something that's been bugging me since it came up. This is a comment that I got on my second Heroes critique:

"your review was pretty good and well tought out. But it was very subjective, which is fine considering your review title." -- wasalp

I could rag on the lack of a fifth-grade level editing skill, or the spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choice, and clause placement mistakes. It would be mean of me, and probably pointless, but I could. Instead though, there's a concept here that deserves some thought: the idea that subjective reviews are a problem.

Quite simply, no review is objective. Part of objectivity is the ability to quantify, or assign a number to, the object being reviewed. And while, yes, you can give any feature of anything a numerical score, you have to do so arbitrarily, so that number has no meaning to anyone but you. Bit of a waste then, huh? And that's assuming that your perception of the object being reviewed isn't filtered through your experiences, opinions, and prejudices. If it isn't, then we've got bigger problems than subjective reviews because you are a robot.

So, since no review can possible be objective, why is subjectivity a problem? It seems to me that since objective reviews don't exist, if we bitch about the subjective ones, what have we left? Nothing.

And if you think about it, every time someone expresses their opinion, that's a review. "Hey, you went to see Scott Pilgrim last week, right? Whatja think?" "Oh, it's awesome you should totally check it out!"


Not a great one to be sure, but a review nonetheless. And that's really what professional written reviews are about. Not just the opinions, but also the reasons behind them. What's good and why. What sucks on a saguaro and why. So when we read reviews, we're not looking for opinions, we're looking for someone else to justify our opinions.

Ponder that one.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

More Pointless Rambling that You're Free to Ignore at Your Leisure

So It's been suggested to me by two utterly unrelated people and I've been considering it myself for some time, but perhaps I shouldn't be doing a video every single week.

Partly it's the quantity of material, partly it's that I do have to sleep at least occasionally, and partly it's that it's sort of a drag to spend my days watching bad TV. Admittedly this week wasn't at all bad, but for past three weeks I was trapped in here with the bad TV, a self-imposed deadline, and a steadily shrinking supply of patience. Also some friends and I are opening a gaming store here pretty quick, so I've got other things to occupy my time than needling television shows.

So! Depending on the reaction I get over this week, I may start posting videos every two weeks.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Still Watching TV...

I'm afraid that without exceptional amounts of comments or questions the blog is going to run a tad dry the first half of the week, since I'm just watching shows and there's not much that's exciting about that.

With The Mentalist, though I've got a shit-ton of notes and they may not all make it into the video so there may be an expansion pack of sorts here once the review hits the web. No promises, but I'll keep you posted.

I'll just stop typing here, since I'm inclined to just ramble to my hearts content and probably give away a good many spoilers to the review, and we wouldn't want that now would we?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Feeding the Trolls

First thing's first: There was a bit of a conversation that you may want to be aware of for this one. I'm not going to recount it, but check out that link if you're interested or if this post doesn't make a ton of sense right off the bat.

So yeah, I got my first troll. It's not that I mind the criticism, in fact, I did ask for it. What I mind is that Liquidcathedral assumed that my goal is to be like Yahtzee and MovieBob, and then implied that they are only popular because of the cursing, blind hatred, and pop culture references.

Now, I would like to be as popular and widely viewed as Yahtzee and MovieBob. Duh. However, I want to be that popular because I express legitimate opinions, not because of the dick jokes. No I don't curse all that much. My vocabulary is large enough that I can express complex opinions far more fluently than four-letter words would seem to allow, expressive as curse words can be.

I also got called "Yahtzee's lost sister who reviews tv shows", and I'm not sure how to take that. Maybe it's a good association, what with Yahtzee actually being good and everything. Maybe it's implied that I'm the red-headed stepchild, you know, the one without talent. And that's terrible. So yeah, I'm a tad confused, but the guy also gave me legitimate criticism so I'm not too concerned.

But the troll. Yes, I know that another responder called me a troll, but he was very polite about it, so I don't mind; I did get rather more insulting than I'd like to admit, but I had fun responding to the blind baiting in what I feel was an appropriate manner. A manner inspired by Franklin Habit. Sadly I can't claim it, but I'm glad I got the opportunity to use it.

Now this got sort of tangental, but to sum up my feelings on the subject: I asked for criticism, not abuse, and if you're not a moderator on the Escapist, then you really have no place comparing me to "Escapist standards". Be polite to me, and I'll be polite to you. Give me an irrelevant statement, and you'll get one right back...


The Last Heroes

Here you go, this week's video. Have at, please comment, all that jazz.

I am more than happy to answer any question you have about things I may not have covered as well as I thought I did, as long as you get them to me. Guessing is fun, but I've failed every mind reading course I've ever taken, so send me an email or something, ja?

Edited to add: And for the last time, speaking quickly and being acerbic does not make me a Yahtzee rip-off. Forty percent dick jokes would do that.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

From the Audience

Way back in my Numb3rs review thread that I posted to The Escapist, there was some discussion about Castle. A viewer expressed disbelief that I'd actually liked Castle, to which someone (who I can't assume actually watched my review) responded:

"Castle's main problem is the cops. Nathan Fillion's character is great, the scenes with his mother and daughter are great, and the core concept is sound. Then they bring in the annoying female lead and her comic-relief friends and ruin the whole thing. The writing team on Castle need to take a long, hard look at The Mentalist to learn how to write Comedy Male Lead and Serious Cop Lead."  --sosolidshoe (emphasis added)

I responded to that thread, but I think there's a concept here that deserves some thought. Sosolidshoe has implied that Castle would be better if it were more like The Mentalist. But they're different shows. Now, I haven't actually watched any of The Mentalist yet, so this is pure pre-review speculation, but it seems to me that the more one show is like another, the worse off it is. After all, they have to share an audience, so wouldn't it be prudent to be as different a cop show as possible in order to attract people that the other show doesn't?

That's the entire point of the gimmick. All procedurals have them to avoid being completely generic, some fail, but most do alright in that regard. And I'm sure this will earn me the ire of the Internet, but I actually hate procedurals. If I judge them by the standards of character shows, some can do alright, but procedurals are massively overdone and some just have to reach so far in order to provide a unique gimmick that my suspension of disbelief has fallen right from the start. Like Numb3rs. And White Collar (which I also have not yet seen, but it looks like a pile of shit with a side of fries, so I despair of the day when it comes up on my list).

And the Heroes: TABAtTE is ready to post tomorrow morning, so in response to sosolidshoe, next week's critique will be on The Mentalist. I just hope it's not as agonizing as Heroes.

Edited to add: Oh yeah, it's 9/11. It's not that I don't care... well okay, it is that I don't care. Living in the past never helped anyone, the dead are still dead, and we're still locked in a pointless war with a concept. Can't fight a concept, and it was a major conceit to even try. You can say that makes me un-American. I can say, "Bite me."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Angry Reviews

Getting mad is fun. It's a fact. I'm not entirely sure why it is that people enjoy being angry so much, but we do. And that's part of the fun of being a critic as well. The desire to rail against inferior quality becomes almost a professional right when we can say, "I'm just the critic, you can't be angry at me." There're two problems with that sentiment, though, one of which I will probably never touch on.

The other, though, is what I've been fighting with all day. You see, I sat down to write the script for H:TABAtTE, and I couldn't do it. Oh, I'd pound out a paragraph or two, and then I'd catch myself just ranting about some personal pet peeve of mine. Some of them even made it into the review, albeit heavily edited.

You see, I could write a six page rant on the myriad problems with Heroes, bust out a video and call it a day. I could, but that wouldn't be much of a critique, would it? In order to call myself a critique, I need to be able to point out the good as well as the bad with a show, and usually that's not a problem, but with this one I'd divided it up so that any good I speak on this week will be suspiciously out of place. In order to call myself a critic, I need to make legitimate points with my criticism. And that's really hard.

It's difficult to set aside personal feelings in favor of a review unbiased, and every time I'd catch myself slipping into the tone of voice in which I discuss inferior subjects around the house, I had to stop writing. Like I said, I could write unGodly amounts about how much I hate Heroes, but it wouldn't be a critique. If I want to get nasty emails from fanboys, I'll post on a fansite.

I don't think I succeeded as well as I'd like to've in setting aside my preferences for a show. Next time I need to separate a show into multiple videos, I'll divide it differently. But in the meantime, I've got a script excise the bile from.

PS. Here's a little gem from my housemate: "You have these thoughtful, interesting opinions, and they go on YouTube and get maybe a hundred views. I get a 'Funny Cat Video' and it's got twenty thousand."

I chalk it up to Sturgeon's Law + People Are Pack Animals + Laughing Creates Endorphins = Instant Popularity.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion

The internal debate entitled "What the Hell am I Going to Put in My First Post" rages on, which isn't terribly surprising, since this blogging idea occurred to me perhaps ten minutes ago for the sole purpose of giving my review series more exposure. Oh, and also for some clarification of points I don't get to explain very well in the video due to time constraints. However, I don't tend to get much feedback, so maybe a format that encourages commenting will help? I dunno, let's see.

-Half an hour of browser flash games later-

So I was cruising the Escapist User Reviews forums today, and I noticed that I seem to be the only person reviewing television shows. I checked the index and there were only a handful of entries for tv shows (that aren't anime) and the most recent of them went up in May. This got me to thinking... why the hell is this such a niche thing? If there's a demand for critiques of other entertainment media, surely there's a demand for tv show critiques, too. Running under the assumption that there is, why don't more people review tv?

I speculated in my first Heroes video that part of the problem is the sheer quantity of stuff to pore through. I still think that's the case, but it does need to be qualified, as video game reviewers generally have fifteen to twenty hours (maybe not "generally" so much as "hopefully") of material to work through and criticize. Television on the other hand... well, if it's an hour long episode, then there's about forty-two minutes of actual show in it. Typical seasons have twenty-four episodes. Which means that a single season is eighteen hours of material that's created over a period of seven or eight months.

That usually (again, "hopefully") means that the show will evolve. Especially in the first season, which is why I always start with the first season of a show, since it's important to be aware of where a show started when you start tearing it apart. It's a great thing when shows evolve; in the first season, shows need to accustom themselves to their tools, so it's necessary that they stay out of strict episode formulas to fully explore the possibilities with their budget, crew, writers and actors. Later seasons, though, should evolve to avoid treading old ground. That's the whole reason that shows with a conflict-of-the-week have over-arcing storylines: without story arcs they get a little stale. And by "a little" I mean "stale enough bounce when thrown down on the counter in frustration because someone finished the peanut butter and put the jar back in the cabinet."

However, that kind of evolution makes a show difficult to summarize into an eight minute video. Premises are easily summarized into a sentence or two, but every statement that I could make about characters or inter-play or subtext (with I generally stay away from because nothing spells doom better than criticizing something so purely subjective as subtext) can be refuted with an example from any number of episodes or scenes that just don't fit the tone of the rest of the show. As happens pretty frequently with shows that have writing teams or cyclic directors. There's never a single person on which to blame a great wrong. Which is probably for the best considering the number of people that would leap to write terrible things in their livejournal.

You know, I think the primary deterrent is the quantity of material to look at when critiquing television. I mean, I watch these shows for ten to twelve hours a day and I can't ever just sit back and enjoy them. Even shows I love must be painstakingly picked apart for flaws that I then must weigh based on egregiousness. I know that it looks like fun, but it actually is work. I was rather surprised, since I'd set myself a schedule of one video a week and now I'm looking at that going "What the fucking hell was I thinking?"

Well, I could ramble in this vein for some time yet but I think I'm'a watch some more Heroes instead. If you watch my videos and have some feedback for me, feel free to comment here, or send me an email at opinionatedtvATyahooDOTcom.

And on Sunday the video for "Heroes, the All Bad, All the Time Edition" goes up on YouTube.