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

Friday (8/8/14) 12:46am - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.

Movies:  Monty Python Live (Mostly)
TV:  Arrow [1x07-1x10]
Books:  <none>

Monty Python Live (Mostly)
This is the movie-theater presentation of the closing night of the 2014 Monty Python reunion theater show, ostensibly their final live performance.

Yes, it's basically like seeing your favorite legacy act play their decades-old billboard hits.  They do the dead-parrot sketch.  They do the four Yorkshiremen.  And so on and so on.  Cleese (the oldest Python) is now in his mid-seventies, and his voice was in bad shape by that point in the run.  It's one last run of all the old favorites, sometimes with pleasant updates to the material.  It was very delightful to see Eric Idle's "Isn't It Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?" song get a "Isn't it nice to have a vagina?" verse added for counterpoint.  ("I Like Chinese": still racist, but now racist with modern references.)

There are two things that elevate the production.

The first is that they go all-out to make this a very razzle-dazzle and theatrical production.  There is a lot of impressive tech going on here, along with a dozen or so live accompanists, occasional English-comedy guest stars, a couple dozen damn good dancers, and a chorus of singers stashed somewhere in the wings.  There are massive musical numbers.  There are elaborate sets.  There are pre-produced video segments.  "Sit on My Face" becomes a deft ballet which has exactly the choreography you'd expect.

The second is the *warmth* behind this last Python show.  There's an audience of thousands of fans who just feel lucky they get to see this material live.  Most of them have known these sketches their whole lives.  Most of them probably discovered Monty Python and felt like this was a strange, lovely thing that had been made just for them.  There are celebrity guests who are themselves starstruck by the revered sketch troupe.  And the performers are doing what must be the last run of this project that will, even after thirty-odd years, dominate their obituaries.

When I'm nearing the end, I should be so lucky to get a sendoff like that: one last victory lap with old friends, revisiting past successes, reveling in how much *joy* there was.

Arrow [1x07-1x10]
I watched a few more episodes of this CW comic-book adaptation about Oliver Queen, a pampered, über-rich playboy who returns from a mysterious shipwreck intent on saving his city by moonlighting as a masked vigilante.

There's not really much new to report in these last few episodes.  It's still surprisingly not-bad.  Felicity remains a good side character -- kind of one-note so far, but that's fine given how rarely she shows up.  They've wisely eased off of The Mysteries of the Island a bit and focused on stories in the present day.  Both the copycat "hood" and Helena Bertinelli are solid storytelling choices, and new things to explore with the character.  And the tentative romance between Laurel and Tommy often feels like it's beamed in from some other, more grounded show, which is quite nice.

At the same time, I'm losing patience with some of the shallower aspects of the show.  I'm tired of how the over-treacly soundtrack music blares FEELINGS at me every time Diggle talks for more than thirty seconds.[1]  Laurel comes across as weirdly blank, frequently with the sort of vacant, mouth-a-bit-open gaze you'd associate with airbrushed fashion shoots.  The "dark archer" revealing himself to be Malcolm Merlyn was unintentionally hilarious.

And it's not just that the show flags a bit in these and other areas.  It's that the show has no sense of humor about itself yet, sharing a little in common with the grimdark, "waah, being a superhero is HARD" class of superhero stories.  And when a show takes itself that seriously, I'm more likely to laugh at it when it stumbles, because it suddenly flips from feeling like a CW drama to feeling like an SNL parody of a CW drama.

All that said, I trust my friends, and I trust the TV critics, who all say that the show really gets running midway through this first season.  So I suspect that everything's about to click for Arrow.  Either the performances will get strong enough to support the "srs superhero is srs bsns" tone, or the show will lighten up enough to breezy and fun.

For next week: more reform-school movies, as I prepare for the Wayward Girls show, more of Arrow, and maybe another Tufte book.  Hopefully I'll start reading Tapworthy (it's about iPhone app design, not dancing).  Meanwhile, I'm just about done with the excellent audiobook production of The Final Command, the last Star Wars novel in Timothy Zahn's "Thrawn Trilogy".

[1] Kind of sadly ironic, since David Ramsey is one of the more capable members of the cast.

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: none
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