#Longreads: The Age of Unlikability
The process of cloaking characters in unlikable flaws to heighten their complexity only works when the character still comes across as human, compelling. Too often newbie writers in their haste to create unique, fully-dimensional characters overdo it. They throw in a mental illness, make a character overly narcissistic, and then when people complain that the character is unlikable the writer stands back and says, “Yeah, but isn’t that the point?” But it’s not. The goal should be to write characters that come across as real. Of course they’ll be flawed and they won’t be perfect, but they should be more than walking symbols, and that’s where Girls gets it wrong. The unlikable characters of Girls are more like shells, empty vessels cloaked in their complexity but missing their souls. More…
I told a tiny fib in this piece. My professor said my character was “a complete psychopath,” not “unlikable.” Although I’m sure she would have said that too.
The Art of Not Dragging Shit Out
There’s a particular trope viewers are aware of when it comes to television: whenever there’s a major plot in a series (especially if it was introduced as a cliff hanger at the end of the previous season) the show spends the entire new season gradually filling in all the pieces of said plot. For Homeland the plot was that Brody was a terrorist, but no one else knew except Carrie. Instead of dragging this out all season, Carrie is vindicated by episode three when a video of Brody’s taped confession is found by Saul. (And then the series dissolved into a complete shitwreck, but that’s another story.)
Something similar happened with Breaking Bad during its season premiere last night, too. Last season the cliffhanger was Hank finding out that Walt was Heisenberg. Like most fans, I assumed this season would be a long cat-and-mouse chase as Hank gradually builds his case against Walt, setting up for an explosive confrontation later down the line, possibly during the series finale. But Vince Gilligan threw everyone a curve ball. Instead, the explosive confrontation took place…last night. And while I was watching it (with my hands over my mouth, of course) I realized how smart it was for the show to not drag that plot line out.
When you watch a lot of TV sometimes it’s easy to become conditioned to common TV tropes, but in today’s “golden age” of TV, sometimes I forget that the archaic rules of yore no longer stand anymore. And it’s refreshing when you think about it. TV writers actually value the intelligence of their viewers now. Aww, they think we’re smrt.
Virgins and the City: The Surprising Wit of “Princess Jellyfish”
Whenever I try recommending Princess Jellyfish to people they’re always turned off by the cutesy girlishness of the art. “Oh, it’s not for me,” they say. They want something grittier, more critically-acclaimed–something along the lines of Paprika. But people shouldn’t be so quick to judge Princess Jellyfish, a surprisingly smart, funny and daring manga (and TV show) that explores such topics as isolation, loneliness and rebellion.
I’m a big fan of Conan O’Brien’s "Clueless Gamer" series. The series is basically just him and his web producer playing and reviewing video games. Conan, who admits he doesn’t play videos games or even likes them that much, can be quite amusing with the ridiculous contrivances of certain games (Halo 4) or the over-the-top violence of others (Tomb Raider).
However—and I hate to be that blogger, especially because what I’m about to say is such a Tumblr thing to say—one thing I find particularly jarring is the constant sexist jabs Conan makes, especially during his Tomb Raider review. I’m not exactly telling the Tumblr social activists to grab their pitchforks or anything, but it is something that bothers me. I feel like because this is Conan, and everyone loves him, people are probably a tad hesitant to bring it up.
I was too at first until I watched the most recent “Clueless Gamer” episode that has Conan reviewing Injustice: Gods Among Us. In the video he forces his web producer to wear a frilly eye mask. “And it’s feminine too to humilate you more,” he says. Ironically, a woman in the audience can be heard laughing the loudest.
To be honest, this could be a case of Conan poking fun at “bro” gamers by mirroring their humor but it seems unlikely. Whatever the case, these jokes are making it hard for me to like and enjoy “Clueless Gamer.” Obviously I’ll continue to watch the series, but it’s important for there to at least be some level of awareness amidst the discourse. I can’t just blindly pretend like it’s not there, and I hope others don’t either. /ramblings
There can only be one: The Walking Dead kills one black dude, replaces him with another.
the walking dead
'The Mindy Project' And Why Comedy Pilots Are Like Dogs →
I think the biggest issue, though, is that they’ve crossed the line and made Mindy not just screwball, but kind of an unpleasant and legitimately obnoxious person. She never seems to have any real interest in being a good doctor or caring for her patients, she’s rude to everyone, and again, she frankly doesn’t seem very bright. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that on its own — comedy is filled with the wretches and the jerks and the fools. Michael Scott, after all, despite flashes of heart, was the same way for most of Steve Carell’s run on The Office.
But that’s why there were other characters who were in place to give the audience a surrogate. They existed to see Michael from the outside, to see him as he really was. If The Office had been pitched from the start as Michael Scott’s story and told entirely from his point of view with an angle on making you invested in his journey as a quirky leading man who happened to regularly say things that were racist, sexist, and generally clueless, I doubt it would have worked.
What are we supposed to do? Go to the library like the common masturbator?
Jon Stewart (paraphrased) on Wikipedia’s black out.
The Daily Show
The (very likeable) fall and rise of Jimmy Fallon →
Looks like The AV Club beat me to it. I also noticed the favorable air surrounding Fallon lately. It reminds me of the “golden years” of Late Night when Conan O’Brien started to evolve and grow momentum from his rough earlier years. What worries me though is if all the young people are watching Jimmy, Jon and Stephen, who’s left to watch Conan?
Last night’s Simpsons episode was actually good! In the episode, Lisa tries to write her own novel. She quickly realizes that writing is easier said than done.
Behold, the following clip is every writer’s greatest struggle:
Last year there was an almost fanatical obsession with supporting talk show host Conan O’Brien. After being kicked off The Tonight Show millions of fans rallied beside him, supported him on his “The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour” and then followed him to his new home on TBS. But now it feels like the Team Coco machine is running out of steam. TBS’ Conan is doing poor in the ratings and doesn’t seem to be satisfying the less hardcore Coco fans. Even Conan himself seems to be stifling a sense of frustration and boredom with his own show, something that’s almost painful to watch. Although most shows tend to go in and out of slumps, if Conan continues like this the future of the show seems shaky. Below are five tips that can help improve the show:
5. Less monologue
Conan isn’t a “stand-up” type comedian, and he never was. Even the monologues on Late Night were weak, but at least the monologues on Late Night were only 5-10 minutes long. The monologue on Conan is about 20 minutes long, which is way too long to watch Conan awkwardly struggle through jokes that even he himself doesn’t care for. Instead, that time could be spent on….
4. More remotes/desk sketches
The reason Conan’s monologue has always been weak is because Conan is funnier when he’s unscripted. That’s what made the remote pieces of Late Night so hilarious. Conan is best when he’s placed in weird situations, is forced to speak to random/non-celebrities and, most importantly, is forced to ad lib jokes. Any fan of Late Night can list some of Conan’s best remote pieces; so far Conan has none. It’s as if Conan is literally chained to the Warner Brothers lot. Even though the budget for Conan is probably significantly less than Late Night and The Tonight Show, the show should try harder to think of creative skits, which means…
3. Think outside the standard “talk show” format
Monologue/skit/first guest/second guest/musical guest — this might have been the standard at NBC, but now that Conan is on TBS he should try taking advantage of the freedom he has. Sure this is the format he’s used to, but the show should try harder at shaking things up a bit. Conan’s core audience are young people, usually in that important marketing category of 18-24. Young viewers are more likely to accept change and would probably prefer it. After all, the reason Jay Leno does so well is because his show appeals to older viewers, the kind of viewers who still watch late night talk shows. Most young people are busy watching shows like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show — talk shows that aren’t typical. Although Conan isn’t much of a political pundit, one of his biggest strengths are…
2. More interviews with the common folk
Watching Conan interview Khloe Kardashian is almost as painful as Conan probably feels. When Conan is stuck interviewing a celebrity he doesn’t care for the more likely he is to resort to his cards and be less spontaneous, making the interview feel stilted and boring. Conan is more animated when he’s interviewing everyday people who are doing interesting and sometimes bizarre things. In the past, some of these interviews have been his best because he’s less likely to follow his cards. Basically, one of the major factors that would improve Conan is…
1. More spontaneity, less writing
During the writer strikes of 2008, Late Night carried on without its writers. This resulted in some of the best episodes Conan has ever done. From spinning quarters on his desk to creating a German disco in the studio, Conan was like a kid in a candy store. When the writer’s strike was over, suddenly the excitement was gone and the show returned back to its regular routine. This spontaneity/excitement should be used in every episode, even if it means shelving a couple of writers. After all, the success of Conan is much more important. Long live Team Coco!