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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Monday (3/29/10) 9:43am - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.

Movies:  <none>
TV:  Monty Python:  Almost the Truth [disc 1], Glee [1x12-1x13] [spoilers]
Books:  <none>

Monty Python:  Almost the Truth [disc 1]
This is the 2009 BBC documentary about the beloved English comedy troupe.

Eh, if you're a fan of the troupe, you pretty much know the introductory material already.  Yeah, it was an absurdist rebellion against the repressive English social mores of the 60s.  Yeah, it was hugely influential to the next generation of comedians.  Stop the presses.  It's all presented competently, with the usual mix of interviews, stock footage, show excerpts, and hagiographic comments from famous people.

Still, it holds a few advantages over a standard bio of the troupe.  It does give you a feel for settings, for example.  The old footage and the cast voiceover gives you a gut feeling of how it felt to visit, say, the Footlights Club or the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the late 60s, in the heyday of Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and all the rest.  I love to imagine seeing that whole world of comedy just expanding the form in all directions.

I was also intrigued by the dissection of how the troupe worked.  I was vaguely aware that the troupe was split up into 'teams', but this went into much more detail about (say) the intense Jones-Cleese conflict about... well, everything, really, and how that conflict allowed everybody else to contribute meaningfully to the show.

I suppose I liked the show best when it wasn't "Ooh, Monty Python is soo wunnerful" and when it wasn't "British society was soooo restrictive".  I liked it best when it was about the nuts and bolts of how a talented group puts together a comedy show.

Glee [1x12-1x13] [spoilers]
The last disc of this first chunk of Glee ("The Road to Sectionals") contains two episodes:  "Mattress"
and "Sectionals".

Secrets are fuel for a drama.  People hold on to secrets, and the audience knows that when the truth comes out, everything will hit the fan.  Glee kept two big secrets tamped down for four months:  Terri pretended to be pregnant, and Quinn pretended that Finn fathered her child.  And in these last two episodes, both pretenses fell down, and everything did hit the fan.

The reveals were as sloppy as everything else in this show.  It wasn't like, say, Veronica Mars, where the title character gradually pieces together evidence that reveals the truth, and we really *couldn't* have uncovered the secrets until the last episode.  Instead, two random things happened:  Will found a fake pregnancy belly, and Puck leaped to Quinn's aid after she fell.  And boom! both secrets were outed.

Ah, Glee.  Is there no structural issue you can't address with arbitrary, random plot developments?

Regardless, it was exciting to see the penny finally drop for Will and Finn.  But it wasn't just excitement I was feeling.  Honestly, I was just relieved to finally see characters behaving vaguely like sane people on planet earth behave.  Look!  Will is telling Terri that she's crazy.  Because she *is*!  And Quinn is saying she was insane to lie about the kid's paternity.  Because she *was*![1]  Finally, I can watch this show without having to attach the lead weights of idiotic-character-behavior to my suspension of disbelief!

Everything else pretty much proceeded as expected.  "Mattress" was fairly plotty, as it sorted out precisely why Will couldn't go to sectionals.[2]  I still think Eve's acting kills most of the scenes she's in.  But of course, the song-and-dance numbers are still fun, and there are still some impressive monologs.

Side note:  I have a weird sort of respect for just how sloppily Glee uses voiceover.  Most screenwriting instructors say, with regards to how to use voiceover, "Don't use voiceover."  Most of the time, it's a lazy crutch for info-dumping exposition that you should be getting across through dialog and action.  "But," they say, "if you simply must use voiceover, at least do it consistently."  So you pick one character as the voiceover character, you introduce their voiceover as early as possibly, and you have them do voiceover throughout.

With Glee, the policy is more like, "We'll slap on a voiceover whenever something in our rickety storyline needs patching up."  The show introduced the voiceover device fairly late in the premiere episode, if I recall correctly, and now the voiceovers show up sporadically and randomly.  Any time the writers need to info-dump something into the script, some character -- you never know who -- will suddenly bust in with a voiceover and, if we-the-audience are lucky, some marginally-funny callout joke.

I'll say it again:  I feel like I'm watching fanfic.

I suppose I'll catch up with Glee when the next batch of DVDs come out.  I have no idea when that'll be.  It may be a long time.  If that's the case, I'll live.

For next time:  more EscapePod, more Sick Puppy, and I might finally finish watching Silver City.  (It's awful, so it's taking me a while to get through it.)  After that, I'll probably watch a few more episodes of Dexter.

[1] Side note:  am I the only one a bit distrubed by Glee's tendency to make its female characters into lying harpies?

[2] And by the way, isn't the "high school kid appears in local mattress commercial" story ripped off from... David Sedaris? Paul Feig?  I can't remember, I just know I've heard that story before.

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[User Picture]
Date:Monday (3/29/10) 9:31am
Most screenwriting instructors say, with regards to how to use voiceover, "Don't use voiceover."

See, this just goes to show how much I got sucked into Glee by the shiny, shiny musical numbers. I never even NOTICED this, and it is one of my HUGEST pet peeves in storytelling.

Every time I read your Glee reviews I find myself saying, "Yes, Peter, I totally agree with you. And yet I love the show anyway." I have no idea why. But I just do. :)
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[User Picture]
Date:Monday (3/29/10) 9:46am

It seems like the more I talk about film/tv with people, the more I wind up in conversations where we agree about everything that's good and bad, and only differ on how we feel about the end result.
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Date:Monday (3/29/10) 12:16pm
Who's Eve?
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[User Picture]
Date:Monday (3/29/10) 1:19pm
R&B singer who plays Grace Hitchens, who runs the show choir at their rival, the Jane Addams Academy for Troubled Female Youth.
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