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

Tuesday (8/6/13) 1:30am - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.

Movies:  <none>
TV:  Arrested Development [4x15]
Books:  Will in the World

Arrested Development [4x15]
Yup, finally finished off Arrested Development.  There's nothing more to say about it that I didn't say here, here, or here because, in the same way the show just sort of picked up in an arbitrary place, the show also ends in an arbitrary place.  We get one last trip through the tangled ball of yarn that is season four, and that's it.  There's no real season arc, so there's no real reason episode 15 should be episode 15.  You could have watched it first, or third, or tenth, with no ill effects on the overall structure.

And that's odd, because usually, if you've got a nonchronological story, it will still hew pretty closely to conventional story structure.  "Remedial Chaos Theory" has through-lines that run through all its different alternate timelines, and even reach resolutions in the last one.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind hits all the beats of a conventional rom-com with clockwork precision.[1]

And so, for season four, you might have expected some rising tension over the course of the episodes, some mounting "how is this going to turn out?" question.  And you can tell they were making a vague stab at that with the "what happened to Lucille Austero?" mystery, but (1) that was way in the background, (2) it was happening to a secondary character, and (3) it never got resolved anyway, because presumably they're saving that for the movie.  (Oy.)

So in that way, the finale was unsatisfying, as season four didn't end, it just stopped.

That said, it was still another entertaining hour of the show.  I've read very cogent criticisms of season four, from critics I greatly respect, who really can't stand this season.  It seems like a central criticism is "all these interlocking references and callbacks aren't funny".  And the weird thing is, I kind of agree.  I didn't laugh out loud to discover that (say) the sweatlodge that George buys online was sold off by Ann after a failed wedding stunt -- it was more of a grinning, "Oh. Neat."  But that didn't make it a bad show for me -- if anything, it just made it a show with fewer jokes than the early seasons of Arrested Development, a quality that it shares in common with every show on earth that is not the early seasons of Arrested Development.  It was still fascinating.

So: I had fun; I'll watch it again sometime; I'm curious to see what influence it has on TV shows in the future, and what Mitch Hurwitz can do next with the property.  In conclusion, here is a giant chart of the season-four timeline and the season in chronological order.

Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt [audiobook]
This is yet another biography of William Shakespeare.  Like every such biography, it does a lot of hand-waving, since there are so few known facts about the Bard of Avon that intellectuals still argue about whether he was a glover's son from the boonies or the Earl of Oxford.  So there are enough "may have"s, "could have"s and "it's not impossible to speculate"s to put most of the first half of the book into some sort of conditional tense.

But at about the halfway point, it starts settling into a close look at Shakespeare's plays.  This, I found interesting, because it focussed on how Shaespeare's work differed from what had come before.  Most Shakespeare criticism that makes it into popular culture winds up feeling like drooling, gibbering hagiography from critics who desperately hope that if they just string together enough superlatives, listeners will finally turn off Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo and go to their local community-theater production of As You Like It (hint: they won't).

But this book had clear and informative things to say about how, say, Shakespeare *omitted* motives for his main characters, while his contemporaries patiently explain-a-logged them to the audience.  The source material for Othello patiently tells us that Iago desired Desdemona for himself.  In Shakespeare's version, Iago is asked point-blank why he did all these horrible things, and he essentially says, "I'm not telling you, sod off, I'm not saying anything to anybody, nyah."  And this 'opacity' (Greenblatt's word) adds remarkable depth to the characters.

And at times, the book's hand-waving history *felt* convincing.  For example, the author draws some lovely parallels between Prospero's renunciation of power at the end of The Tempest and Shakespeare's own retirement from the theater biz.  But event through that, the thinky bits of your brain churlishly mutter that yes, Stephen's latest theory could be true, or maybe Shakespeare was actually a very clever marmot dressed up in fancy Elizabethan robes, and hey, look, there's equal evidence for both his theory and that one.

Side note: I hated the performance of this audiobook.  Like the reader of Chasing the Devil's Tail, the reader of Will in the World is of the "pick two pitches, and deliver all unaccented syllables at the low pitch, and all the accented syllables at the high pitch" school.  Why do people *do* that?[2]

For next time: I'm having a third go at the audiobook of A Clash of Kings (wish me luck), and watching the old 1980s series Playing Shakespeare.  I've also watched a smattering of Orphan Black, Spartacus, and (believe it or not) My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, but will hold off on reviews 'til I've watched decent numbers of episodes of the shows in question.  (Note: while MLP:FiM is a fine kid's show, it may be a while before I get around to watching more of it.)  Jeez, I need to watch QI at some point, too.

Busy busy busy.

[1] It's just that the timeline is swizzled about to the point that, for example, the "meet cute" at about 0:15 actually occurs, in story time, *after* most of the events of the film.
[2] The irony here is, when I read that particular sentence in my head, all the accented syllables go to a consistent high pitch.

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: none
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