Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Triple Spooky TV Tour

The other morning, on the way to work, a local entertainment reporter was doing a bit on the radio about “gateway” episodes to TV shows you may have missed or not thought you would like. These episodes, supposedly, were universal enough that you could get a feel for the show without taking the time to get to know the backstories and characters and such.

As soon as it was safe to do so, I grabbed a pencil and jotted down the only three I had heard (I always seem to tune in late!): Doctor Who “Blink”; X-Files “Detour”; and Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Hush”, all three of which sounded like spooky fun.

That night, my sons and I sat down to watch them. My 16-year old was so excited to show us the Doctor Who episode, so we started with that. He had just watched it a few nights earlier, and kept telling us to pay close attention so we wouldn’t miss anything. He also declared the “weeping angels” too scary for his 10-year old sister, so she didn’t watch with us.
Courtesy Den of Geek

“Blink” is a very, very good episode, and it works really well as a “gateway” because the good Doctor isn’t actually the main character—he and his companion step back into more of a supporting role. The actor(s) in the main roles do a great job, the special effects are decent (TV quality, but still… surprisingly good). The story is well-written (of course, it was written by Sherlock’s Steven Moffat), and the “weeping angels” are downright terrifying!

I absolutely agree that this is a great take-a-look episode for folks who aren’t sure about the show. I hope that having the Doctor featured in the forefront of the story in most episodes doesn’t take away from the show, but actually serves to enhance it.

Second, we watched “Detour”. My 16-year old and I have watched a few of the first few episodes of X-Files, and we did enjoy it, but we haven’t really gone back and watched any more, so it was fun to revisit it, along with my oldest son. This episode is totally in the classic “Monster of the Week” style shared with so many shows, with Scully and Mulder happening upon a crime scene, getting involved without being asked, getting in danger and saving the day (mostly). It’s fast-paced and Duchovney’s witty lines help it not get bogged down.
Image Source
The monster in “Detour” is a mysterious something creepy in Florida swampland, that has glowing red eyes and blends in to the foliage and growth around it like a chameleon. It is fairly scary, and while the story is okay, the lack of a full understanding of just what the critter is (at the end) kind of bothered me. I wanted to know what they determined. There just wasn’t time for the FBI labs to return the test results to Mulder and Scully, I guess.

As for being a “gateway” episode, I suppose it was. It was less aliens-from-outer-space and more red-eyed-monster, which may deviate from the norm, I don’t know, but I thought it was good. I do want to watch more, so I suppose that means it is a decent get-you-interested episode.

Then it was on to Buffy. My brother and his wife love Buffy and have told me for years to watch it. I tried once and just couldn’t get into it. I do like Joss Whedon, but I was not impressed. However, I thought we should give this one a chance. I understood, from the guy on the radio, that this episode was nearly all silent, written by Whedon in response to someone mocking his reliance on a constant stream of witty dialogue in each episode.

It wasn’t exactly silent, at least not during the opening 10-15 minutes. It was all kinds of talky. I wondered if maybe I had written down the wrong title, but we figured we would ford ahead and keep watching. Until the college kids and were arguing and the girl threw out a comment about her boyfriend only caring about "lots of orgasms”, which was repeated back again a few seconds later by another character.

Apologies to my brother and Mr. Whedon, but multiple orgasm jokes in just a couple of minutes qualifies as neither “witty dialogue” or “fun to watch with my teenage sons” in my book. 

So we turned it off. I know, I know. I'm so prudish, but dude! I was with my sons, and not laughing.

This episode did the exact opposite of what a good gateway episode should do. Instead of making us want to watch more, it actually repelled us, and we are now even less likely to watch it. If there had been some great redeeming value—for example, if everything else we had seen up to that scene had been really great, we might have stuck it out, or given another episode a chance. But it was dull, confusing and less-than-compelling. Too bad. 

So what are your favorite shows I might have missed?

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