Emily of WTF Is This?

Being an L.M Montgomery fan, I had heard about the Emily of New Moon TV series years ago, but only recently have I had the opportunity to finally see the show (it’s been off the air for years now).  I wasn’t expecting something completely accurate to the trilogy of books that I grew up reading, but I really wasn’t prepared for the level of “WTF?” I’ve encountered.

Now, at least in my mind, Emily has always been the oddest and most fanciful of the major L.M. Montgomery heroines (those with more than one book).  There was always more of a supernatural/second site element to Emily than there was to Anne or Pat or Sara.  But that element of the odd, eerily-other-worldly does not account for the acid trip I’ve been on in my marathon viewing of the first three season of this show.  If you are expecting the kind of look and feel of the many Kevin Sullivan interpretations of other LM Montgomery tales*, you are not going to get it.  It’s got a darker, closer, eerier feel, from the music to to the many tree-enclosed scenes.

If you know the books,  forget them or just don’t watch.  The first season bears a passing resemblance to the source material.  You get most of the characters (Emily, Aunt Laura, Aunt Elizabeth, Jimmy, Perry, Ilse Burnley, Dr. Burnley, Rhoda Stewart…) all of whom seem to fit, at least generally, into their proper places.  Some of the sites and incidents are alike (the death of Mr. Starr, Emily’s letter writing in the garret, and there is a Disappointed House…) but larger plots and themes that unwound over a long period of time in the books are truncated to nothingness (the extended period before Emily is allowed into and eventually given the room that belonged to Juliet, for example).  The scads of smaller incidents that make up the episodes of the book (the soured friendship with Rhoda Stewart, various adventures in exploration with Ilse, day to day battles with Aunt Elizabeth, friendship with Dean Priest) are absent, replaced with incidents that are decidedly NOT in the original books (or any other part of the large body of LM Montgomery literature–like the whole Maida Flynn illegitimate baby thing.  WTF? And Ian Bowles and the whole doll mess?).  And that’s just season 1.

By season 2, names of characters are about all you have left.  Aunt Elizabeth, a featured character throughout the books?  Drowns at sea at the beginning of season 2.  And it’s all downhill from there.  Aunt Laura spirals into a laudanum addiction and the Murray’s of New Moon are less the upstanding family of Blair Water than a train wreck of epic proportions.  And while the Stewarts in the books passed as a little tacky, they don’t hold a candle to the white trash version we get on the TV show.  Random new cousins from Scotland bring some kind of interest, but only derail this thing further from the trilogy.  (Yes, I’m spoiling it, but if it prevents suffering to an Emily fan, I think I’m justified.)

In the mean time, Emily’s hallucinations and visions are increased in frequency–sure she has a few episodes in the book, but those are just a few very key and critical moments.  In the show it’s almost old hat and probably  sign the kid needs meds.  And in trying to blend Emily’s imaginings with the real-world plot, such as it was, things wind up feeling odd and disjointed.  More than once I thought maybe I’d been drinking while I was watching.  Especially with the final ep of the season which does a total sci-fi number on me with what basically amounts to a multi-verse version of one particularly relevant day at New Moon.  I give that props (me and multi-verse story lines are tight, yo), but it was HIGHLY unusual for a period costume drama and I was thrown for a loop at first.

The feeling that I must be drunk only increased with season three.  Jimmy does a Flowers for Algernon thing, we get more infidelity and unwed pregnancy than you could shake a stick at (Maud would have been SHOCKED).  Cousin Isabel and Uncle Malcolm from Scotland have a dynamic that may have been interesting if it weren’t so incredibly manic-depressive.  Aunt Laura, having finally kicked the laudanum problem, has moved on to Stockholm Syndrome.  The one thing I always read into the novels that never really got addressed (Aunt Laura + Dr. Burnley) is given a star-crossed lover’s treatment of painful proportions.  Random plagues of smallpox along with an adorable black boy with a painfully Scottish name (Robbie Burns) are actually the most coherent parts of the series, but certainly don’t resemble the books.  Emily is seeing everything from the embodiment of death to God (and having conversations/arguments with both).  Honestly, if you would have landed the Millenium Falcon in the middle of a Blair Water potato field it really couldn’t have made this season feel any less weird.

There’s still a 4th season that I’ll have to get ahold of to finish out the madness.

As a fan of the books, I’m horrified.  And as a general fan of a good yarn, particularly in TV form, I’m just confused.  Despite the (needless) divergence from the material available in the books, the kind of drama and character relationships introduced had some potential–it just wasn’t executed quite right.  For one thing, the character relationships were all running hot and cold.  While there is some value to be had in focusing on the conflicting feelings of a character and how that impacts events around them, we never got that focus.  Instead you are kind of left feeling like the interactions of the characters are dependent on what was needed for the episode (or even the scene), not out of any true, inner source.  For example, just about everyone’s relationship with Cousin Isabel ran hot and cold.  It could have made for a great running theme, but there seemed to be no reasoning behind the moments when they decided they were OK with her (the moments when they despised her were usually supported in the moment).  Aunt Laura’s weak spirit might have explained her inability to commit to her Stockholm Syndrome or rebel against it, but nothing in the show gave the proper focus to her internal struggle with indecision and we were again left with that feeling that whether or not Aunt Laura hated her husband was more a factor of what was needed to move a scene forward than out of her feelings.

And would it kill these writers to make one person happy?  Tragedy is good in small doses, but I didn’t see a single happy romance in this whole tangle.  The closest thing to happy is the friendships of Perry, Ilse, Emily and Jimmy, and they are continually being beat down from the outside.  Without at least one example of success and happiness, nothing in this series gave you much hope.  The town of Blair Water is gossipy, small minded and unwelcoming, and the New Moon family is the heart of dysfunction.

The acting is actually fine.  I love that all the kids looked like realistic kids instead of show pieces.  I totally loved that they let the kids scuffle and yell the kind of insults only kids can yell (Ilse’s are the best).  The adult cast is impressive (I really loved Susan Clark as Aunt Elizabeth–so it totally sucked when they killed off the character).  If the storylines had been more coherent, they honestly would have knocked this outta the park.

But the entire experience has left me feeling disjointed.  I can’t say I’m regretting having watched, but I’m not going to run out and suggest this to anyone else.  In fact, I think I mostly feel like I just want to take the good stuff and shake it into place.  The pieces are there if they just put them together a little different.

Or, maybe I’ll just go drink a beer and lie down.

*Note: Understand that this is NOT a Sullivan production.

Local News Part II: The Head Scratcher….

So, I already complained about the nutty local news inducing panic over space-trash.  But the fun doesn’t stop there.

This one, well, it’s not so much the fault of the local news as just a general head scratcher over the general incongruity of the other two big news stories recently.

Story 1:  Kansas City just opened a kick-ass performing arts center.  Some of you gentle readers who’ve been here recently were probably subjected to at least two views of the building as I took wrong turns around down-town trying to get places (and swearing profusely).

It’s an eye-catching structure (painfully modern, but what big project isn’t these days?)  and is the new home to the Kansas City Ballet, the Kansas City Symphony and the Lyric Opera.  All are things worth of nice digs, and help get KC back it’s old nickname “Paris of the Plains”, and since photography, painting, sculpture, etc. already have a great homes over at the Nelson-Atkins and the Kemper.

Also, it’s nice to see this after all the rah-rah over the Sprint Center which was basically built to attract sporting events.

All this sounds good, right?  World class art and culture?

The head-scratcher comes with Story 2:

The Kansas City school district just lost its accreditation.

Huh?

Yeah, KC’s school district is notoriously bad, and they’ve been teetering on the edge of losing accreditation for a while now.  They just recently tipped the scale to the negative, after a controversial “right-sizing” the schools and the sudden departure of the Superintendent.

So, we have schools that can’t cut the mustard to even the most minimal requirements of the state….and world class performing arts center.

I’m not going down the road of pointing fingers about how money should have been spent 0n the schools instead of the performing arts center.  I’m just left to scratch my head at how you wind up with fancy performing arts at the same time your schools are going down the tubes.

Actually, the demographics involved in these two stories explain 90% of it.  But the remaining 10% still confuses me.  You’d think that the school situation would have been on someone’s radar as they were anticipating that shiny new beacon to the arts.

Horror Movies: Long Time Confusers of Cammy

I generally don’t do horror films.  My parents were pretty strict about what my brother and I viewed as kids, so I had no exposure there.  And, for the most part, I’m a born chicken-shit–not exactly someone zoned for things-that-pop-out-and-disembowel you.  My only true brush with a horror film was Silence of the Lambs (note: watching this alone in your dorm room?  Bad idea), and I’ve been told this is “high brow” enough that it’s not really like a lot of other “slasher” flicks.

So, anyhow, maybe it’s my lack of love for the genre, but….

Why the frak are there so many of these damned movies?  Honestly, who the hell is watching these things?  I have to assume there must be a non-negligible number of people imbibing the crap since Hollywood keeps making it.  How the hell many Friday the 13ths are there? Every time I flip past MTV (by flip past, read “get-sucked-in-to-Teen-Mom”) they’re advertising some new horror film which has a tendency to look just like the last new horror film.  And scrolling through Netflix I swear I saw, like The Ring 16 or something.  With so many derivatives, how are these not completely contrived?  And even if you’re not in it for the plot, wouldn’t the effect of a brutal attacks on innocently stupid victims lose the adrenaline surge.  Are my assumptions wrong?!?!?!

So, gentle readers, if you are among the consumers of this brand of entertainment:  enlighten me.  Sincere confusion here.  This is not judgement, this is Cammy feeling very stupid and unable to grasp something.  What’s the selling point?  Or is there one?  Is watching this a secret heresy (feel free to confess here among friends, did I mention I watch Teen Mom?)?

Musikalischer Mittwoch: Christmas Songs that Make Me Grinch-y

If you thought I was going to limit myself to one Christmas Song discussion for the season, you clearly do not know me.  At all.  Even a little.  Because I love Christmas music.  A lot.

Except for the songs that I loathe.

Let’s talk Cammy’s least favorite Christmas songs:

– “Deck the Halls”:  It all comes down to the Fa-la-la-la-la bullshit.  Honestly.  It’s like someone was too lazy to write real lyrics.  A catchy little melody wasted because someone wasn’t up to the challenge of putting in actual words.  However, it’s perfectly acceptable to just leave that fa-la-la-la-la shit in if you’re turning this song into a filk.  Which is all it’s really good for.  Fa-la-la-la f-you.

-”We Wish You A Merry Christmas”:  I wish I could like this one because anything that mentions a “figgy pudding” is kind of cool….but no.  It’s repetitive and obnoxious and gets stuck in my head for hours on end.  And how am I supposed to be cheerful about these people refusing to leave until you give them figgy pudding.  What if I don’t want to turn it over to those greedy little bastards?  Someone should write a better song with a figgy pudding in it.

-”Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”: The quintessential example of a musical genre trying to capitalize on the holiday season.  Also, I always hear this in malls at Christmas. and since a mall at Christmas is one of the many levels in my personal incarnation of hell…..

-”Ding Dong Merrily On High”:  It’s a train wreck or really good and really bad.  Generally I hear this one performed by professional or semi-professional choral groups.  Unfortunately, listening to people who are, for the most part, trained vocal musicians singing phrases as goofy as “Ding Dong Merrily On High”  and “O-io-io-io” is something I can’t take seriously.  On the flip side the “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” section is awesome and totally worthy of the people performing.

-”I Saw Three Ships on Christmas Day”:  This song is one of many events in my childhood that probably render me an excellent candidate for therapy.  First of all, growing up in South Texas I was already mystified by a large proportion of the Christmas songs out there (snow, ice, sleighs….these are completely foreign.  I still remember my older cousin explaining to me what a sled was), so I really didn’t need the complete bafflement I got from this song.  To this day I hear it and, even though I understand it more now, I’m still overwhelmed by the memory of my childhood confusion:  Why three ships?  What do ships have to do with Baby Jesus?  Last I checked in my picture book of the Christmas story,  Bethlehem wasn’t a beach town and Mary got there on a donkey.  And Baby Jesus got there, well, however babies s get out of Mommy’s tummy.

TV Show Promo Confusion

There are always at least a few people out there who watch vastly different kinds of TV programs–the kinds which one would never expect to have any fan overlap.  Like the guy who watches The News Hour on PBS and Silent Library on MTV.  It happens, but it’s rare.

And the statistical likelihood of an overlap is what has me confused about the TV show promos I’ve been seeing on some channels lately.  The timing and targeting of TV shows is generally something that is based on statistics.  You show promos during a program for other programs that are likely to bring in a similar audience.

So why the HELL does the National Geographic Channel, while playing “Dawn of the Oceans”, a documentary on, for lack of a better description, primordial oceanography, keep showing me ads for “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” on E!?

Like I said, I know there’s someone out there who would find both shows entertaining.  Probably multiple someones.  But statistically speaking?  That number’s going to be a fraction of a fraction of a percent.  If that.  And more to the point, the percentage of people watching this documentary who had to ask someone else who the hell the Kardashians were, and–upon receiving an answer– concluded that they would probably rather put their heads in blenders than watch bad reality TV about pseudo celebrity white trash with money, is probably rather large.  Or at least statistically significant enough to justify someone saying, “Hmmmm, why are we bothering to waste ad time when we know most of these nerds would loathe watching this drivel?”

I’m left scratching my head here, because, yes, I am on of the people who, for the longest time, didn’t know who the hell these Kardashian people were.  I’ll be honest, I’m still not sure who they are or why I should care, but everything I’ve seen from all the TV show promos has been of white-trash behavior by people with what appears to be a lot of money.  I’ve seen no promo that leads me to believe any of the program’s content would dovetail with the current show (Honestly, if any reality show out there at all started involving the investigation of black smokers and the evolution of life in the ocean, I’d be pretty freakin’ impressed).  Does NatGeo really think they’re going to sell me on this?  Does E! really think they’re going to find an untapped market in the NatGeo set?

So confused….