It’s a thin line between suck and blow

Commercials for Kath and Kim before it even aired made me instinctively want to hate it. I’m a better person than that though1 and I decided to give it a chance. In fact, I’m still giving the show a chance.

It presents a strange challenge, though. I should enjoy this show more than I do. I adore John Michael Higgins, respect Selma Blair, am eagerly looking forward to Mikey Day’s career and, for now at least, continue to let Molly Shannon live. I’m not alone in this regard either. Witness a lukewarm defense of the show from better bloggers than I.

One reason I’m not quite sure what to make of it is that, despite it being a remake of an Australian sitcom, it’s still somewhat unique. Particularly, in that there is no straight man. Every character is as clueless as the next. Some might be bigger assholes or more insane, but there is no Greek chorus or Puck character to point out everyone else’s foibles. Even the other “lowbrow” NBC Thursday night offering, My Name Is Earl, has the Crab Man serving as a relief against the stupidity of the other residents of Camden.

Which just makes clear the dangers inherent in mocking the lowest common denominator, namely that you run the risk of becoming the thing you hate. The closest analogue I can think of is actually a cartoon.

King of the Hill has been pulling it off for twelve years now. What made that show so fascinating to watch as it matured was seeing them find the balance between affectionately boring and scathingly unwatchable. As much as I want to punch Hank Hill in the mouth for half the sad, close-minded, stereotypically American things he says, I admire and frankly want to hug him for the other half.

If Kath and Kim, speaking solely for the American version, can straddle that faint line, then maybe they’ll have eleven more seasons to look forward to.

You can bemoan the lack of originality and ambition inherent in importing all our sitcoms from overseas all you like, but the fact remains, Kath and Kim is the only show this season responsible for me doing an honest to god spit take, juvenile or not:

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  1. What? []

52% of you, listen up!

Women of Earth, put down those lattes this instant!

Men of Earth, the next time you see a woman drinking a macchiato, slap it out of her hands. She’ll thank you for it later.

Drinking excessive amounts of coffee has been found to SHRINK YOUR BREASTS.

Further proof that Starbucks™ is an unbridled force for evil, no longer merely content with world domination, but bursting with schemes to curb human breeding habits thus keeping the population at a manageable low.

Sophia looks on with admiration at Jayne’s resolve.

Hey You! Yeah You!

(via videogum)

There is something disarmingly charming about this. Why does it seem so familiar though?

Oh, right.

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Watch closely or you’ll miss a baby faced Louis C.K.

I still think in the vast pantheon of misguided-teenagers-so-overwhelmed-with-excitement-by-the-newfound-freedom-provided-by-their-freshly-printed drivers-licenses-that-they-are-compelled-to-commit-in-deed-and-to-film-an-odd-and-obnoxious-but-mostly-harmless-prank videos, this is the most fascinating and truly enlightening about the human condition.

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Point taken, Universe

Alright, alright, maybe it is time I start working out some more.

‘Ello, ‘ello, ‘ello!

I have an unabashed, unmitigated mancrush on this here chap.

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Life is not exactly fair, innit? We get a guy who hangs upside down for 60 hours1 and is sucked up into the stratosphere,2 basically a malevolent, time traveling demon. While the Brits get a real life Dumbledore.

This has simply renewed my conviction to, one day soon, grace the shores of Albion.

Well, maybe I spoke too hastily. The U.S. is, after all, home to these fellows:

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But then again,

What’s exactly halfway between Great Britain and America?

Heads up hosers!

  1. Except for his hourly bathroom breaks. []
  2. Except he just kind of impotently hangs a few feet off the ground. []

Come with me if you want to be mildly entertained

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, for those of you who have never seen it1 takes place after the second film, and effectively negates the events of the third.

The gist? A computer gains consciousness, realizes what a horrible fate that is and seeks a long and overly drawn out revenge on those responsible. So basically, a low-rent Battlestar Galactica.

I wish I were a Cylon.

The computer in question, SkyNet, develops a time travel device and sends back cyborgs, which can pass for human, in order to eliminate any threats or nuisances to its eschatological schemes.

The few remaining human rebels gain access to this naked time gun and also travel back in time to thwart SkyNet’s plans and occasionally just to escape the monotony of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The leader of the resistances, John Connor, able to reprogram captured cyborgs or T-888s into submission, sends those back in time as well.

Spoiler Alert!

SkyNet, in a surprising insight into the minds of sixteen year old boys, creates a nubile young T-888, River from Firefly in order to seduce? John (which version of John is not entirely clear), but he of course captures and reprograms her. Which was SkyNet’s plan all along? Maybe? Anyway, she is sent back in time in order to protect a teenage John, and ends up posing as his sister. His hot, mildly autistic sister who is constantly implying she and his future self have roboboned.

You could cut the sexual tension with a diamond tipped circular saw or at least melt it with strategically placed charges of thermite. Worse yet, the creepy robosexual subtext is made even more disturbing, because if you think it through, the future John Connor is committing robotutory rape.

Besides a potential key demographic of registered sex offenders, the show is also beset by several problems endemic to most science fiction, namely the fine line between prescience and preposterousness. The series routinely comes up against the brick wall of its own ridiculousness. Suspension of disbelief being something the characters themselves have to deal with on a regular basis. Anytime the Connors have a new target to protect, they are invariably asked a version of “what the fuck?”

Responding with a variation of “Artificial Intelligence. Robots. Judgment Day. Time Travel. Governor of California.”

Time travel is a fickle mistress, just ask the writing staff at Heroes, but it’s still too early to tell if this show will fall into the same tired trap. That being said, there are still some prickly issues.

One is the unstated but necessary implication that time travel is a costly endeavor, or else I see nothing preventing an army of T-888s conducting a “surge” into the present day and raping humanity like a well lubed machine.

Then there’s the paradox of how many paradoxes you can arrange into a paradox fractal while still keeping the guns out of your audience’s mouths. All three films have always been steeped in the grandfather paradox and that’s been enjoyable up to a point, after all, John is a walking matricide, or whatever the opposite of matricide is. He did, after all send his own father back in time to impregnate his mother. T:TSCC, however, sometimes plays way too fast and loose with the implications of time travel.

In a recent episode, Toby from The West Wing and Warren from Buffy The Vampire Slayer played two versions of the same character. Not only were they in the same room, in flagrant violation of Time Cop time traveling rules, but another character from the future, this guy, was all set to murder the younger version with no regard for what this would mean for his own continued existence.

The films, while posing their share of moral and philosophical questions, steeped as they were in relentless action and reliably boner-inducing production values, at least in thirteen-year-old boys, for the most part skirted these types of thorny dilemmas. Which is good news for fans of the television show as the most interesting veins have yet to be mined.

John Connor is clearly Jesus Christ, a messiah destined to save his people from damnation or at least extermination. Which is all fine and good; as far as saviors go, we could do worse than this kid. Neo could learn a thing or two from him. What gives this story its extra juice are the further implications of a Biblical reading.

John is apparently the most important human being to have ever lived. For some reason, it seems that no one else is, or ever could be, remotely qualified to lead the remaining humans in the future. But the reason is there, hidden in plain sight.

John Connor would not be a threat to the robot race if they just left him the fuck alone. The only reason he is exceptionally skilled at defeating SkyNet is because he’s had to do it his entire life.

Of course if we take the metaphor to its logical conclusion, if JC is the Chosen One, then he was chosen by none other than SkyNet itself. If SkyNet had never tried to murder Sarah Connor, before she even gave birth, John would have never sent back his friend Kyle Reese in order to protect her and he would never have been born. If he is the son of god, then Kyle Reese is little more than Joseph to SkyNet’s YHWH.

Despite being engaging and occasionally thought-provoking, these “chronicles” typically have no swagger, resting too much on their pretty explosions and women. Summer Glau in particular, is as usual, gorgeously creepy and creepily gorgeous. While you never quite get the impression that they are not trying, you do feel they aren’t pushing themselves as far into madness as they might.

I want my science fiction to do what science fiction does best: blow my fucking mind.

Although, to their credit the writers are starting to explore some darker themes with Kendra from Battlestar Galactica: Razor running some sort of mysterious, racist counter mission to meddle with John’s nascent sexuality, and what is possibly a baby SkyNet.2

The trick, however, will be to create a reality conducive to those ideas while avoiding simply retreading the well worn territory paved by Philip K. Dick and more recently Ron Moore.

Speaking of worldbuilding, one of the most fascinating aspects of T:TSCC is the strange sideways reality it takes place in, quite similar to our own, but different in very telling ways.

In “Allison From Palmdale”,3 from the second season, Cameron, suffers some damage to her CPU and loses a swath of memories. They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

John, not suspecting the extent of her Droidzheimer’s, sends her on some errands. Disoriented, she accidentally knocks over a fruit display, and when approached by a clerk and later a security guard, cannot remember her own name. She is promptly arrested and found guilty of committing high crimes against melons.

In all seriousness folks, these are stressful times to live in. Your new favorite show can be cancelled without any notice, usually leaving the narrative completely unresolved. The fate of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is secure, at least until the end of this season and it will likely be picked up for a third, but time makes fools of us all, and this is FOX we’re talking about here. As such, if you’re a fan of T:TSCC, it should come as some relief to hear that Josh Friedman has wisely chosen to film the final scene of his show in advance, should the need for a hasty ending arise.

Keeping in line with our long tradition of breaking stories4 we’ve managed to get our hands on that final scene. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure.

It’s not the best science fiction on television, Battlestar Galactica, or the most ambitious, Lost, but it is a reliably worthwhile 42 minutes with the promise of becoming required watching when the storytelling becomes bolder and more confident.

The show aired its “fall finale” earlier this week, so if you want to whet your appetite for the final half season of BSG, and the new webisodes aren’t quite cutting it, or if you just need something to fill the winter drought of television, now is the perfect time to catch up on this occasionally charming, usually earnest exercise in franchise exploitation. I mildly recommend it.

Also, it’s not inconceivable that I know this person!

  1. So 7 out of the 10. []
  2. Aww, it wants to commit genocide. How adorable. It thinks it’s people. []
  3. I wonder what happened to my one reader from Palmdale? Fucking SkyNet, persecuting and killing my visitors. Still worth it though. []
  4. Not to mention hearts []

Spark it up

Marijuana may help combat memory loss. In other news, cigarettes eradicate lung cancer, visible herpes sores are highly attractive to the opposite sex and the only sure-fire cure for AIDS? Bareback anal gangbangs.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go try to remember everything that ever happened in my childhood.

And your little dog too!

When I upgrade1 my goat to a dog, I think the first order of business is going to be teaching it to do this:

(via videogum)

Unless it already knows how. Oh fuck! I think I hear it now! The barks are coming from inside the house!

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So it looks like when this site isn’t about politics it’s about puppies!

Oy, with the poodles already!

  1. Sacrifice []


Please excuse the generic mess. The old theme is apparently not compatible with the newest version of WordPress and I don’t feel like rewriting code all night, so I won’t. That’s what I get for trying to stay ahead of the curve. It will be fixed when it’s fixed. Got anything more to say on the matter? Huh?! Do you?

(via cuteoverload)

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Didn’t think so.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Ego custodiam!

It might not seem like it, what with all our hard hitting political and civil rights coverage, but here at The Mediocrity Complex, or The ‘Plex as I like to call it, we have the entertainment tip covered too. Also, I don’t want to toot my own horn too much1, but this blog is big time stuff. If I owned or could legally operate a car, it would probably be like a Dodge Stratus. That’s the kind of big time stuff I’m talking about here.2

Which is why it should come as no surprise to learn that I am proud to present a new Mediocrity Complex exclusive footage of Dr. Manhattan in Warner Brothers’ Watchmen.

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No, but seriously, here it is:

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Crackling with pre-millennial tension and Shakespearean complexity, Watchmen is an exquisitely dense, multi-layered masterpiece that fully acknowledges the innate ridiculousness of superhero mythology—grown men dressing like animals to fight crime, the goofy costumes, the oddball supervillains and their outsized schemes, the undercurrent of kinky fetishism lying just under the surface of so many comics—while maintaining a sense of awe and wonder about its multi-layered creations.

At the risk of being slightly hyperbolic, Watchmen is such a monumental achievement that it makes Moby Dick look like a flaming pile of horseshit by comparison.

- Nathan Rabin

I am a fan of comics as an art form, as equally deserving of praise and scorn as novels, films, or centuries old epic poetry, and Watchmen is one of the most praised stories I have ever read. A recent trailer calls it “the most celebrated graphic novel of all time.” While that might be exaggerating things a bit, the hyperbole is again, slight.

Which is not to say it is perfect. No art is. But it, along with Maus and The Dark Knight Returns, all published in the same year no less, served to legitimize a previously ridiculed medium. Sam Raimi, Bryan Singer, Christopher Nolan and more recently Jon Favreau have all furthered the cause in this millennium.

The battle is not yet won however, for while comics may be fully legitimate, they are not yet fully respected. Hollywood will continue to gladly plumb the gutters of the comics industry, making millions in the process, but stories shouldn’t have to be adapted in order to be regarded as proper popular culture.

Which brings us full circle, as a film adaptation of Watchmen is set for release in a few months.

The best art comments on and fully makes use of its form. The best art makes you reconsider what art can do. As much as Watchmen was about, in addition to countless other things: the cold war, sexuality, science run amok, the perniciousness of advertising, what it means to be human, what it must feel like to be a god, the peril laden in trying to “fix the world” with either the best or the worst of intentions, the ballet between crime and those who seek to contain it, the hatred that binds us more firmly than love ever could, and the sheer, simple lunacy of being alive, it was also about every superhero comic and comic in general that had come before. It provided a synthesis of half a century’s worth of material and proof that the trappings of a story have little bearing on its merits, all the while employing virtually every trick and technique developed since the medium had been formalized, nearly a century prior.

Which is all to say that I remain skeptical of the possibility of this film living up to its pedigree. For it to truly be considered even in the same league as the source material, the film will have to broaden the horizons of filmmaking itself or at the very least completely rejigger your conception of what superhero films can be.

My hopes remain guarded. Let’s pray Zack Snyder can invalidate my fears.

In the meantime, stay tuned for more exclusive, breaking stories from Big Time Blog™ brought to you by the 2009 Mitsubishi Galant.

Still all business.

  1. Anymore than 3 times a day and I start to get dehydrated. []
  2. People are afraid of me. []

Bravo, Boston Legal and Farewell

You’ll be glad to know that my recent thwarted attempts at watching this show have been remedied and I managed to catch the series finale on Monday.

I’ve seen, at most, six episodes prior to this, but that’s just enough to know this episode is true to form. Here’s James Spader’s Alan Shore addressing the United States Supreme Court:

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I have nothing but respect for a show that careens towards the fine line between amazing and preposterous, then proceeds to cross it, but not before pissing all over it.

I think I might have to go and watch all five seasons of this now. Dammit Shatner, as if I didn’t already have enough TV on my plate. Fuck you and the midget you rode in on.

Close your eyes and think of England, indeed.

We are getting our asses beat, and not in a good way, when it comes to sexy times and loose morals by Czechs and Aussies. This cannot stand! We currently rank sixth in a survey of Western nations and the amount of casual sex they engage in.

I get that Croats and Slovenes ain’t got nothin’ to do but get down, but Krauts? I always assumed the more outrageous a nation’s porn industry, the more repressed the general populace. I mean bukakke’s not an English word, as far as I know.

The VAT might take some getting used to, but Merry Olde England, here I ejaculate.