Books: The Joy of Bootstrap
TV: Galavant [1x05-1x08]
The Joy of Bootstrap by Alan Forbes
This is a short book about Bootstrap, the web framework designed to make it easy to make web apps that look good on both desktop and mobile platforms.
The book isn't great. The accompanying web site is a little out of sync with the book, the exercises are basically just "here's a big used car web site -- try adding <x> to it", and the text is in need of a little copy-editing.
But all that said, the book does exactly what it promises: it explains how to work with Bootstrap. And given that I was just fumbling in the dark with this framework -- mostly copying other people's templates and hoping for the best -- this was incredibly helpful. The book reads like a more organized and competently-written version of the documentation, and it patiently takes you through all the main features of the framework, including some features like "media objects" which are (1) great, and (2) stunningly badly documented.
So I came away from this quick read more or less knowing my way around Bootstrap, knowledge I was immediately able to put into practice with my web design. To my own surprise, I highly recommend it, though, again, it's not a great book.
This is the second half of the fantasy comedy musical series that somehow aired on ABC this year.
And to my happy surprise, the show started getting out of its own way. They eased off of the comedy game of "but this <x> was wacky and different!" ("these pirates lived on land!" "this joust doesn't involve any action!" "the black guy is from a Jewish shtetl!"). Instead, we only get one trip down that rabbithole, with Ricky Gervais playing a wizard who is actually more of a 60s-style psychedelics merchant.
But even that pretty much worked. In earlier cases, like the joust, say, they just removed what was central to that element (in this case, the action), and left the audience with nothing. The show just sat there, and you could sense the writers expecting to be patted on the head for being witty and transgressive. In this case, they didn't rip out the central trait of wizardry -- Gervais did indeed make something crazy and magical happen -- and instead of serving as a limp bit of "wackiness", the guest character gave us an excuse to explore character, as King Richard and the chef explored the king's history in flashbacks.
The rest of the time, they set aside their precious, self-congratulatory irony, and got on with the storytelling, which was very much to their credit. It was still very plotty, with a surprising number of moving parts for being a half-hour comedy, but you could still pretty much follow the action. Madalena wants to take over the kingdom -- okay! great! I can understand that! Galavant realizes he loves Isabella and fights to save her. Kingsley arrives to (also) take over the kingdom. Gareth tries desperately to obey the rules of his service, under increasing emotional strain. And Richard, through all this, just tries really hard to be liked, a task made difficult by the fact that he's a genocidal tyrant.
And Isabella and Sid are given relatively little agency and sort of fall by the wayside. (*shrug* Can't win them all.)
So even with all these plot whirligigs spinning around, the show seems to calm down. It's not trying to impress us with how ironic and detached and cool it is. It's willing to just play its characters straight and have honest emotional moments with them. And as the show starts to settle into normal, competent storytelling, the songs get better. When people want things, it's easier for them to sing about what they want.
"No One But You" isn't a great song by any stretch, nor is it brilliantly performed, but it does okay. It makes sense that the song exists, and the production is a lot of fun. And with the show easing into some more genuine emotion (rather than mannered wackiness and manic plotting), the songs can vary more in tone, so we get the quiet poignance of "Goodnight My Friend" alongside the usual silliness of "Close Your Eyes, Open Your Mind".
It's by no means a great end to the season (and, let's be honest, most likely the series). Anthony Stewart Head was wasted in a brief appearance, and I agree with the AVClub that Rutger Hauer was bizarrely miscast in this show. And there was some more desperate plot-thrashing in this back half, with Isabella's randomly-appearing royal cousin wandering into the story, wandering out again, and then serving as a convenient deus ex machina to capture Isabella at the end of the season.
But in spite of that, the show was just fun. If you can't enjoy a drinking song about regicide, you have signed up for the wrong show. If the chef and the maid aren't amusingly adorable to you, then you probably can't react favorably to kittens or puppies, either. And the proportion of moments that work goes up markedly as the season gets to the end.
Again, I can't imagine Galavant getting renewed. ABC has shows that are doing okay -- this isn't NBC we're talking about here -- so it will have less room for something quirky and ratings-challenged. But if they should buck the odds and get a renewal, they've set themselves up competently for a second season. They have pulled the typical move of rearranging the pieces on the board: now Richard and Galavant are in a road movie, Gareth and Madalena are running the castle, and the remaining characters are ready to pull some kind of prison break. Now if they can just take some deep breaths, take their time with their stories, and make room for genuine emotion, they could have a second season that delivers what the end of the first has promised.
For next week: I'm watching season two of Adventure Time while exercising -- I'll probably start the first season of The Venture Bros. next. I'm reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, which is fascinating. Lindsey and I are still listening to Welcome to Night Vale. We're watching season two of Community (which is still amazing) and puzzling over picking a second comedy to start, now that we're done with Galavant.
Mood: contemplative · Music: none