Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Hey! This TV show is doing well! Let's make a spinoff!"

First off, I apologize for not updating my blog regularly. I shall rectify this starting...sometime in the future. =D Just kidding...

Anyway, I know what you are thinking. 'What kind of title is THAT?' Well, it's a title that I tried to make witty and humerous without taking up the maximum title space. But I'm not here to write about the title. I'm writing about what the title means. So, let's begin...

This blog could be used against several TV shows, but I'm focusing on one in particular, mainly because I'm a fan of the parent show. I'm sure many of you have either seen or at least heard of this show:

I absolutely love this show. It is witty, humerous, and light at the same time it is dark, contentious, frustrating, etc. The characters are all their own person, meaning not one of them is the same in characteristics, thought processes, reactions, and the list goes on. Their interactions throughout the various episodes are intense, humerous, emotional, touching, frightening, etc.

So, with the obvious success of the above-mentioned show, CBS decided to air a brand new TV show alongside the new season of NCIS:

Whoa! What is this? NCIS goes to Los Angeles? Is that comparable to CSI going to Miami? I digress...

Anyway, after falling in love with the regular NCIS, I figured this new show would be pretty engaging, exciting, humerous, and everything you would expect from the parent show. Um...not so much. Sad to say, after two episodes, NCIS:LA as failed to really catch my attention. The premiere was lackluster at best, and the ensuing episode was just as bland.

Reason 1: Everyone is exactly the same, and what I mean by that is, there may be diversity in roles of the actors, but their characters', well, characteristics, are almost identical. There is not much interaction between the characters. They just seem to know everything about everyone and just take down bad guys. In contrast to the original NCIS, there is no "computer nerd", no "male chauvinist", no "can't-stop-thinking-of-girls guy", and no "goth forensic scientist", to name a few. NCIS:LA's characters just lack diversity in this way which causes a lack of true interaction between them. For those of you who have seen this show, maybe you differ in opinion, but this is what I think.

Reason 2: Did I miss something? Are these people undercover? They must be because none of them own a badge. Oh, and they have the worst crime scene investigation techniques ever. As of yet, I haven't seen the use of rubber gloves in a crime scene area or when combing through a suspect's house. Where is the professionality?! They just tell people they're NCIS and everyone just believes them! Hello!

Reason 3: If you ever thought NCIS was predictable (which I personally don't), then you'll be able to figure out the ending (whodunit) of NCIS:LA in the first two minutes. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but still, the show is pretty straightforward in its approach. Unfortunately, there are not many twists and turns yet. Granted only two episodes have concluded, but still, usually the premiere is meant to lure the viewer into watching more of the series. NCIS:LA did not really accomplish that goal, at least in my eyes.

Just because the original show was amazing does not mean the spinoff of it will be just as amazing. (There can be a lot of relation to this on the movie side of things). I'm not saying it shouldn't be done, but when you're pitting the spinoff against its parent show, please make sure it's at least as good if not better. (Especially if they air back-to-back on the same network on the same night!)

Now, I understand this show is just starting out, so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it will get better and better as the show continues -- one can only hope. And for those of you out there who have seen it and liked it, that is completely fine. I'm more or less just pointing out several issues I've had with the show so far.

So, here's to hoping that this TV show spinoff turns things around and really becomes the blockbuster show people think it will be.

(Please comment below! Thanks)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Something Magical

At LeakyCon 2009, I went to a session by Time book critic and author, Lev Grossman. He was doing a session about writing and also promoting his new book, The Magicians. Having a love for the fantasy genre, I was intrigued by his new book and decided to purchase it. I had heard good things about it via tweets from friends, so I felt confident that I had made a good purchase. I finally finished reading it last night and decided to blog about it--kind of a review. So, if you have not read it yet and don't want to be spoiled...


Yes, you have been warned....

Let me first say that this a totally different take on magic versus Harry Potter (although several nods are given to HP throughout the book which I will touch on). Having not really read any reviews on it and only reading the extract received at LeakyCon, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had in mind something like Harry Potter just from what I heard, but was curious as to the direction the book would take.

The book does loosely follow some of the construct of the Harry Potter world (i.e. hidden school of magic, different years at the school, etc.), but obviously not to the same degree. For one, the school is in America and it is a college rather than a sort of secondary school such as Hogwarts. Also, the magic is very different. These are all good because obviously copying JKR wouldn't go over well.

Anyway, one of the biggest things that really caught my attention was the type of magic used. It was more based on language skills and patterns of the hands versus conventional wands. Also, the spells used were more complex than the magic of HP. Grossman used a very unique style to convey the magic of Brakebills and that impressed me.

Something else that really caught my attention was the many references to the Chronicles of Narnia. If you read the book and didn't catch the correlation between Narnia and Fillory, well, then either you just didn't make the connection or have never read the Narnia books. At any rate, there is almost unmistakable similarities between the two fictional worlds, right down to the different buttons used to get into Fillory (the rings used in the Magician's Nephew). I won't go into too many details because I want you all who are reading this to read The Magicians and find out for yourself.

Unlike HP, the book does not really revolve around Brakebills and the education there (much to my suprise), nor like Narnia does it really center on the quests of a magical world that really is not as fictional as our main character, Quentin, figures. In my opinion, the main issue in the book is finding oneself. Is it being a magician? Is it finding a magical world and having a crazy adventure? Throughout the entire book, we see Quentin battling the issue of what really brings happiness, what really brings fulfillment in life.

And that leads me to some of the issues I have with the book:

First, it does not seem that there is any real center point for the plot to revolve around. We have Brakebills, Fillory, magic, New York, etc.: several aspects of the book and yet not one really takes center stage, in my opinion. It seems that the connection between Brakebills, the magic learned, Fillory, and the magicians is more abstract than concrete, meaning it is hard to weave these aspects together as they are presented in the book. This makes the plot hard to follow.

Second, the references to Narnia are, well, very blunt. It's one thing to come up with your own world, but it's something totally different to take something already made and just change around some names and places. No offense to Mr. Grossman, but I think the differences between Fillory and Narnia are very small. I can see how making a nod to a well-written series would be fine, but taking something already written and just recreating it, well, I think that is going too far.

Finally, the ending seems very anti-climatic compared to the build-up of the entire series. There seems to be too many loose ends at the final chapter to really give closure. Yes, Alice turns into a niffin but is that it? Did that water nymph really know what that horn did? And why didn't Jane Chatwin just turn back time to before the Chatwin kids had entered Fillory, saving everyone the trouble?

Overall, a very interesting book, but my suggestion would be to borrow it from either a friend or the library and read it first before buying it (not to keep anyone from buying it, of course, but it might not be for everyone).

Please comment below! Thanks.