Monday, November 29, 2010


Sorry I haven't written for awhile, kids. I've been working on this.

I promise, promise, once the store gets up and running I'll finish the script for Skins and post it here, mostly because I don't remember enough to make decent images. The script is possible only through extensive use of my notes.

In the meantime, check this guy out. Go on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Articles of Quality

Okay, first of all, go read this. Seriously, go. This whole post is centered on that article, it's not that long, so I'll wait.

You done? Good.

I have some basic complaints about this article (aside from the pretentiously proprietary, "Hey that's my thing"). First of all, it's terribly written, with a thesis statement that isn't supported by the body of the article. Secondly, if LOST is the only example of deep, thought-provoking television that the author could come up with, perhaps she's not anything close the the authority she writes like she is. I mean, what about Studio 60? Babylon 5? Soap?

Deeper than that, though:
Sure, there are some astounding clunkers, but television is getting better and better. Writing is more compelling, better actors are becoming attached to televised projects.
What? Tell me, do you watch anything that's actually on, or do you only Netflix dead shows? Writing is not getting better in television. It's exactly the same as in any other medium: Primarily competent but bland with a few sparkling gems that stand out from the mire. And since Aaron Sorkin has departed from television for awhile with no return in sight, JMS is doing Superman (correct me if I'm wrong on that one), Joss Whedon's busy with the Avengers and Cap,  Andrew Marlowe's doing Castle (one of the aforementioned gems), and... no other great TV writers spring to mind.

Which means that we're left with Glee and (shudder) CSI.

What about that "better actors" comment?

Anyone who doesn't know who Richard Mulligan is should be ashamed of themselves. And from the same show, Robert Guillaume. From other great shows: Andreas Katsulos, Peter Jurasik, Alan Tudyk, Ed Wasser, Jewel Staite, Katheryn Helmond, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Perry (I'm forgiving him for Friends), Timothy Busfield, Thomas Gibson, Stana Katic, Emily Proctor (I don't forgive her for CSI: Miami, though), Richard Schiff, Dule Hill, Kathryn Joosten, Paul Gross, Nathan Fillion, Kelsey Grammer, Neil Patrick Harris, John Larroquette, John Lithgow, French Stewart, Robert Carlyle, Michael C. Hall. I'm sure there are more that I missed, but I think my point has been made.

The acting is as good now as it ever has been, the writing is the same. The trick is that most of everything is crap. Sturgeon's Law. It's not that the television is getting better, it's that there's so much more of it that it's easier to find the good stuff.

Television won't just "get better." Sorry, but it won't. As with any other medium, it's only as good as the people in it, and the people who pay attention to it. I can agree that television has been sidelined as an entertainment medium. I can't agree with... anything else in that article.

How will TV get better? Simple. We need to have higher expectations. There should be no "good enough," no "well, it's only a sitcom," no acceptance of the mediocre.

It can be better. But it always starts with the audience, and that, kids, is you.

-Gets off soapbox-

Monday, November 15, 2010

From the Audience

The entire time I was watching the video the two contrasting thoughts of "This is like reading the comments on the internet" and "And what exactly makes you better than the people who works their asses off on BN" crossed my mind alot.
--Dude Man
Fair point. In fact, I'm actually shocked that I didn't get this sooner. Now, it wasn't phrased as a question, more as an accusation, but I'm going to assume that this guy has the balls to ask me to my virtual face and just missed all of my contact information.

Short version? I worked for a few weeks shy of a decade in theatre. Not just any theatre; live theatre. I know, I know, live theatre, and television shows are very different, blah blah blah.

Shut up, because actually, they are very similar, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Long version: I mostly worked in technical, which means that I designed and built sets, I painted, I worked make-up and effects, I hung lights and did some basic sound engineering. It also means that I saw a lot of shows. I got to see what playing the same character night after night does to the performance, I saw what it does to the actors. I learned to differentiate between the acting and the directing and the producing. I know what jobs belong to which people.

I also did some acting (I'm not saying that I was ever good), so I know what it's like to form a character (knowledge bolstered by my years and years of playing D&D) I know how direction gets adapted by the actor, and I can totally sympathise with playing that same character night after night after night.

Also, I went to college for theatre. When I went to college. You know, before I moved half-way across the country and opened a gaming store. So I know things like color theory. I can date molding and wallpaper by the patterns. I can design and create costumes. I can light a set, I can run live-mics for a cast of forty by myself (but those were dark times). I can build a rig for pretty much anything. I'm aware of budget constraints, and what tends to get cut first. I know how to write a script, and I can identify script-writing techniques, as well as more general literary techniques like foreshadowing and symbolism (thanks primarily to the greatest English teacher evar: Mrs. K).

So, how are live theatre and television similar? Well, for a start theres the run. For a movie there's a set amount of material that needs to be acted, teched, and filmed, and that's it. For a television show, there's not only considerably more material, but everything about the show needs to be sustainable. It needs to be reused; everything from the characters to the sets to the lighting models to the rigs cannot be one-time-use, or even until-we-get-the-shot-use. In theatre, while the show stays the same, it does happen over, and over, and over. Some shows run longer than others, but I've worked everything from six-show community theatres to thirty-show tours, and the stress and the deadlines and the weariness from doing the same thing grates on a person. Similarly, there's the stress of doing the same thing.... but different. Adapting to different venues is a bitch and a half. In short, the amount of change that's expected and allowed is almost identical between live theatre and televison, and the same techniques for most everything to do with the production translate easily from one to another (the exception is acting. Watch the pilot for Babylon 5 and understand what I mean what I say, "You're used to a stage, get used to a soundstage for the love of all that's holy!").

My greatest strength has always been tech (which I'm simplistically defining here as "everything that's not the acting or actors"), and my reviews reflect that. I get sidetracked by things like lighting and sets because that's what I'm familiar with. That's what I'm most comfortable judging.

And that, kids, is what qualifies me to pick on television shows. Well, that and I really, really like them and would like to see them improve as an artistic and expressive medium.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Feeding the Trolls

First of all, to those that care, I did not do well in the video contest. Three contracts were given out, none of them were to me, and I was granted the consolation prize of an Honorable Mention... me and thirteen other videos.

Yeah, I'm disappointed, but no more than I am when a video doesn't do well. I'm also disappointed that I won't be able to redo the video like I'd wanted with more time, and more breathing.

Here's what really upset me, though:

God, I'm so glad this didnt get picked up. Shes trying so hard to be ZP by deliberately nitpicking apart a wildly popular show. YOUR personality seems bland and uninspired. So please, whatever your name is. DO NOT I repeat, DO NOT QUIT YOUR DAY JOB. But you probably suck at that too.

Yeah. I got another troll.

I kind of love trolls in that yo-yo-ey way of being simply delighted that they've offered themselves for the stomping, but utterly crushed that they're simple enough to try to get a rise out of me.

Oh well, these days I must take my fun where I can find it.

I'll post my reply to him at the bottom, and you're welcome to check out the thread and see for yourselves, but right now I'm not going to go into the conversation and battle o' wits (such as it was). I'm more interested in the idea of trolling.

I mean, really? What the fuck?

When did basic manners become optional? Why do people go out of their way to malign the characters of people they don't know? I mean, I run my  mouth off on the internet all the time, but I try to stay polite. Even when I'm being mean I'm generally polite.

That basic conversational skill, the ability to say what you mean with manners and a smile, is increasingly rare these days, and I have to say, I miss it. You can say that it's two-faced. You can tell me that "being real" is more important. But we're all secretly delighted when someone puts someone else in their place with grace and charm. How about this exchange:

"It's not as good [a party] as last year."
"Yeah? What'd they have last year?"
 Shindig, Firefly
Bitchy right? But still, we laughed at that line even as we winced at Kaylee's discomfort, sympathizing with that feeling of being out of our depth. And we laughed even harder at the follow-up line, which did the same thing, but not to a protagonist:

"It must have taken a dozen slaves a dozen days to get you into that dress. Though from what your daddy tells me, it takes the space of a schoolboy's wink  to get you out of it."

I mean, burn. And here we mark the line between "nice" and "polite." Neither of those examples were in any way rude. They refer only obliquely to the issues at hand, but at the same time, allow both parties to keep face (if they choose) while drawing that "Don't Fuck With Me," line pretty clearly in the sand.

This is a lost art. It's easy to pick out in media, but how often does it happen in real life? Well, almost never. The art of conversation is pretty far into its decline, and the art of banter has followed in lockstep.

Which means that when people (especially people with the anonymity buffer of the internet) encounter something they don't like, they have only the skills to express their discontent in the most crass and yet banal of terms. In other words, they get mean and rude instead of one or the other.

I really don't know why this started. I could blame any of a dozen things, but any of them would be a cheap shot. I do know why it continues, though: We let it. We allow ourselves to insulate ourselves with that layer of pixels and data, never interacting with the people we speak to. We don't let ourselves view them as people. And if they're not people, they're expendable. They're just a name and an opinion on the other side of the internet, so we don't have to be polite to them.

I'm not going to pass judgment on that idea; I think you know pretty well where my opinions lie on the matter.

I would, however, like to pose a question. You don't have to answer me, but think about it.

Who is it "okay" for you to be rude to? Why?

I was okay with the negative comments. I put up with the comparisons. I waded through the shallowness and mire that is the general public to put something I cared about up for inspection by the unpleasable peanut gallery. Well and good, but now, dude, you've crossed the line. 
You can insult me, you can insult my critiques, fine. When you ascribe to me petty motivations, and a general ineptitude, though, I take some offense. 
As for my day job? I own a gaming store. I balance the professional and the geeky and handle people and companies regularly. I manage hard feelings and embarrassment, the shy, the outcast, and the forlorn. I run a nexus of asocial people at an intrinsically social activity. THAT is what I do with most of my time, and I wouldn't stop for the world. 
I make these videos in my spare time. I make them. I put my heart and my time and my skills into something that I actually care about. I didn't make this video for the contest. I didn't do it for the contract. I did it to express an opinion, to lend some credence to the idea that what is popular is not always good, and that a good concept does not good entertainment make. I did it because television is something that gets sidelined in terms of quality and effort, and I object to that. 
My name is Sharon. I'm the Opinionated Critic.
Tell me, who are you?
Happy watching, ya'll.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

From the Audience

You know what? Even if I don't win the contest, I've gotten some great exposure from this. I've gotten more comments and emails in the past week than I've gotten from the last three months before that. Most of them aren't worth sifting through, but let's pick out some relevant ones, shall we?

These revives share a few points with Zero Punctuation and works as well even thou the visuals could defiantly be experimented with a bit.

 Just modify the visual style; it's too similar to Bob's or Yahtzee's.

Good points made but need to change animation style. 

I'm not going to get into the ZPish style either, but you may want to mix it up if they hire you.

Perhaps a little change in the presentation. 
--Mr. Omega 

How to put this politely... No. I will not change my presentation. I will not change the way I make these videos. Perhaps if Burn Notice had been my first review, I would, but three months in my style is pretty well established and changing it would not only be difficult, it would create a buffer period of crappy videos while I get my feet under me again. Sorry kids, but I ain't changing now.

And here's something that my harshest critics don't seem to take into account: How very difficult is it for someone to consistently rip off someone else? For those of you that don't know: Very. Once you become comfortable with a style, your own starts to leak in. It happens to everyone who imitates someone else. Hell, it happens to actors on TV shows all the time! On the long-running ones, there might be an episode with a less-strong-than-usual director, and a character or two might inflect or react minorly out of character. It's usually not the actors fault, it's just that there's only so long you can keep something compartmentalized.

And the point of that story was that even if I had started out as a Yahtzee rip-off, the fact that I've consistently produce Yahtzee-like work just means that our styles are similar anyway. So I won't change it. And if you ask again, I'll probably smirk at you.

Which you totally can't see, but trust me, I shall.

While overall I was impressed, my only concern is with regards to doing something like a weekly episode.  Currently, it's easy for both Bob Chipman and Ben Croshaw to review their respective media because there is always new content coming out during the year.  The question I pose is whether or not you would review new shows only, shows that have a couple seasons under their belt, or a mix up of both.  Typically the Escapist reviews "what's hot", so my personal curiosity begs me to ask you.
--Cody D.
I gotta say, I loved getting this email. It was polite and grammatically correct, and something about the formal tone just tickled me. Like those times I look at my life and say "I'm really happy that I've cleaned carpets today... I must be an adult." The idea that people can treat me and my work so seriously is massively entertaining and flattering at the same time.

To answer the actual question, though: I want to do primarily current shows, though I have, and will continue to do so, done dead shows. Most of the time these are relevant reviews, which means giving an opinion on something current, however sometimes I need to illustrate a point, or demonstrate some quality in TV, or there's something in the show that I've spoken on before and wanted to critique in a different environment.

Plus, according to my rules, I can review web serieses and miniseries, so I shouldn't lack for material. And shows that have been running for a while would need to be broken up according to how much I can watch in a given week, and, if I can manage it, by internal segmentation of the show.

And then there's the things that'd be marathons. Like if I ever have to review CSI. And someone's requested Law and Order. Things that have spin-offs will be done next to each other, hopefully in the order in which they were started so as to trace the evolution better.

So yeah. Run out of stuff to review? Probably not.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More Burn Notice

Sorry not to have anything new for ya'll. Partly it's that my review schedule has been shelved for a month or so, and partly it's that Burn Notice is just so bad that I still have a metric fuck-ton of stuff to talk about. And the topic of the day is... execution.

See, Michael Westen spends a lot of time talking about "When you're a spy," and "When you're a covert operative," and "If you work in the information industry," but he's not really a great spy. In fact, he's a horrid spy. A spy needs to be able to talk to anyone and everyone. Micheal Westen can only talk to the bad guys. In a room with the client or victim, he's invariably cold and distant, and visibly makes the characters uncomfortable. You'd think that a guy who's a jerk on the outside but secretly cares for children and puppies would be more invested in that whole "reassuring people" thing.

Further, Sam Axe, who's introduced as an "Ex-Spy" but later is retconned to "Ex-SeAL," can talk to people. He makes friends with everyone and easily comforts clients and victims alike. He can befriend anyone in minutes to the point of them lending him their stuff. Expensive stuff. Cars, for example. Further, in the three seasons that I watched Sam was the only one who shot anyone. He also did some pretty impressive sniping on a couple of occasions, including dealing a fatal abdomen shot on a guy with 3/4 cover, and one-shotting a surveillance camera from across the four-lane street and two floors up (twice).

(Not quite true. Micheal did shoot that one guy who's name I can't remember. That Agent to the Spies guy. But that was because AttS sold out Micheal's twoo wuv, so I really can't count it. It also wasn't an impressive shot. Fast, yes, but he shot the guy from fifteen feet away with a pistol. Some things should be epic, and the first time the protagonist kills someone directly is one of them. Also, that whole scene was shot and scored and lit like it was something epic, but the writing and the acting made it more melodramatic than moving. Say it with me guys: /epicfail.)

Also, The Girl. Good lord does she irk me. To start out with, she's really not that great looking, but the show treats her like she's a world-class beauty (before you ask, yes I did get the opinion of people who like women on this one. There was some discussion over whether the excessive muscles were scary or hot, but no-one said that she was a beautiful as the show and everyone in it seems to think). Also, for someone who's said to be a slightly psychotic, trigger-happy, gun-dealing, ex IRA guerrilla, she's surprisingly level-headed and tame. Yes, she talks about blowing shit up left and right, but someone with the character we're repeatedly told she has would have gone solo and blown up a bunch more shit than she actually does. Maybe it's the leash her twoo wuv has her on, but she's surprisingly open to reason and logic. Also, as you may have gathered, she doesn't ever shoot anyone. The show makes her out to be this amazing marksman, but she's the one that gets to miss things.

Yes, I know, the voice-over tells us at one point that it takes great skill to miss someone while making it look like you're trying to hit them. But if we've seen her hit anyone before, it's still an informed trait. That's the thing about extreme skill, and it's the reason that trick horse riders generally start out straddling the saddle like anyone else. Starting with the basics actually makes the exceptional more believable. It shows the range of skill that's required to impress the audience.

At one point (during the Great Sam Rescue at the end of season one), Fiona's got a sniper rifle and a great vantage point on Sam's captors and instead of sniping them off, she provides cover fire. With a sniper rifle.

Head? Meet Desk. I know you two will meet often and I hope you will become good friends.

So... yeah. I hope that clarifies some of my gripes on the characters. If not, feel free to ask questions here or send me an email.

Also: "Hell, I never even paid enough attention to the joiners to see all the bikinis, and yet we use that as an example of why the show was "atrocious." Criticizing that just makes you sound girl who is probably jealous of others in a swim suit and finding it borderline offensive." -- Sigma

I said the show was an abomination. I never said it was "atrocious," so you're kind of missing the point of "" there, bud.

And also? LOL.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Okay, this has come up before, but I've gotten it a bit more angrily today, and I think it bears addressing.

I am not Yahtzee. I am not trying to imitate Yahtzee, and I am not "ripping off" Yahtzee.

Superficially, yes, there's quite a bit of resemblance. We use the slide-show style videos, speak rather quickly, and tend to be harsh on out topics.

However, there are things that make Zero Punctuation, Zero Punctuation, and those defining characteristics are absent from my videos. Similarly, I do have my own style. I write and speak differently, and I animate differently. The art style, media that's critiqued, and judgments are different.

He uses extended analogies. I don't. He uses a considerable amount of profanity. I don't. He anthropomorphizes everything. I don't.

I spoke quickly on my submission video because I had a lot to say. There's nothing to read into there. There was no intention to copy or rip-off, and I really don't think that I did. In fact, throughout my reviews, I've worked rather hard to keep from pulling too much from any one source of inspiration (and there are several).

In summary. The videos and the reviews are me. They're not me trying to be someone or something else. Anyone who knows me can see my fingerprints all over these videos, and the majority of my viewers (though they don't know me personally) are, I think, discerning enough to see past the superficial resemblance.

I shall say no more on the subject, but I've broken it down for you here. For the love of whatever you consider holy, please do not accuse me of ripping off Yahtzee, or ZP again. It's not true, and no amount of fanboy indignation will make it so.

The Escapist Film Festival

No time for extensive rambling right now, but the video gallery for the film competition I entered my Burn Notice review into is here. Go vote!