International Morning Show Jealousy

Some people have very strong opinions about religion.  Or politics.  Or food.

I have strong opinions about morning news shows.  Mock if you will, but I more or less hate all humanity before I’ve had my 20 ounces of coffee or it’s past 10:00am.  I have patience for almost nothing, my temper is short.  In this state, it’s playing with fire to subject me to crappy morning news programming.

Now, obviously, here in the states you have the potential for morning news show offensiveness at both a local and a national level. While I have plenty to say about local morning news*, my issues with the national morning news programs have been going on for longer.  Oh, sure I have fond early-childhood memories of Good Morning America way back in the Joan Lunden days, and I still have a soft spot for the old CBS This Morning jazzy version of “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning.”  But it all went pear-shaped when GMA took a nose dive, CBS destroyed their morning show and all that was left standing was NBC’s Today.  Maybe could have made it through with NBC’s offering, except that at the ripe age of 15, I came to loathe Matt Lauer with the fire of 1000 suns.  That sentiment continues, in force, to this day, no matter how much coffee I’ve had.

So, I’ve been adrift.  I’ve tried going back to the other networks–GMA has shown some improvement, but they aren’t there yet–everything is too forced and carved out of cream-cheese.  I even tried cable (Robin Mead on Headline News with her valley-girl inflection is only a hair more tolerable than Matt Lauer being arrogant). I kept looking for the morning news program that did what I needed it to do:  give me enough information about world events to avoid being a total nitwit in the conversations before the morning stand-up meeting, and not give me another reason to hate the world before I get to my desk.

And finally, at long last, in December 2010 I found the show.  It didn’t just meet those basic criteria, it went above and beyond.  It is the morning show of my dreams.  It not only didn’t offend, it actively highlighted everything that I hadn’t even realized was wrong with every other morning news program I’ve ever seen.  This show brought the thing that matters most:  The Funny.

Unfortunately for me, it’s Australian. Read the rest of this entry »

Downton Days are Here Again…

Cammy:  Please raise your hands if you held out this teeny-weeny-miniscule-scrap of hope (carefully nurtured by a studious avoidance of all things spoiler) that Sunday’s Downton return would wipe away the tragedy that last season ended with in a completely cheeze-tastic and deus ex machina “Surprise!  It was all a dream!”

Anybody?  No one?  Really?  I’m all alone here?

Read the rest of this entry »

Downton In Review

First off, I would like to solicit some applause for myself:  despite having received the Downton DVDs in the mail (I had completely forgotten that I’d pre-ordered this season for myself for Christmas…So, I check the mail this week and: best.surprise.ever.), I am NOT cheating and watching ahead.

So, I watched tonight’s along with everyone else (and by everyone else I mean everyone else who normally watches and whose priorities were not screwed up by the Stupor Bowl….Today is one of those days when I am actually so incredibly glad to be single–no pretending to want to watch pro football).

That said, I don’t have much to say about this week.  After last week, it was rather low-key, which was good.  I needed that.

-Still feeling terrible for Branson, but, oddly, I feel worse for Cora (which is weird because normally I find Lady Grantham just, “meh”)

-I’m pissed at Carson this week, but I’m pretty sure anyone with a vagina and/or some human decency is ready to smack him.

-I’d like to say I’m absorbed in the f’d up love quadrangle happening below stairs with the garden girls (really, is there some rule that the kitchen maids at Downton have plant names?) and the footmen, but I find myself wishing this were something they would hurry up and resolve (like some things that happen on this show), instead of something they drag out (which sadly, it’s looking like this one is going to keep going for a bit).

-Love seeing William’s Dad.  He’s adorable and sane and everyone on this show should be visiting him for regular therapy.  The only other person that speaks half as much sense as him is the Dowager Countess (but she’s a lot more acerbic about it, generally).

-Yes, she is generally acerbic, but the Dowager Countess kicked me in the shins with her turn to the nice and tender side when talking with her son about his loss.  Every week, I go in not needing anyone to tell me she’s awesome, and every week, she decides to prove it again anyhow.

-Am I the only one who felt more rallying around Ethel’s situation than around Ethel herself?    I just can’t muster the give-a-damn about Ethel, but at least this week, the whole feminist rumbling offered something that piqued my interest.

-Lord Grantham needs his ass kicked.  I’m sorry he’s being forced to face the fact that he’s not all that and a bag of chips, but he’s mostly coming off like a petulant child.  Honestly, I think I’m still bitter over that damn situation with the maid.  If he hadn’t f’d up there, maybe I’d be able to pity him having to face the reality that his son-in-law is way smarter at business than he is.

-Anna and Bates….FINALLY.  Let’s get this guy out of the clink.  I want them to be sickeningly happy for the remainder of this season and into the next.  I want sacchrine cuteness out of these two, and I’m not apologizing for that.

All in all, it may not have had quite the impact of last week, but it beats the hell out of watching pro-football and pretending to be entertained by advertisements.

 

My Irregularly Scheduled Programming

Between what I am now realizing was a very extensive period of extreme work stress, travel, and my decision to cut off my satellite because I just didn’t have time to watch $80 worth of TV a month, I found myself getting way off schedule with the shows I watched regularly.  I’m not a complete spoiler-phobe, but I do get kind of anal-retentive about watching things in order, even if I’m spoiled for what’s coming.  In this case, I’ve avoided spoilers (pretty easy when you’re buried in work or on another continent), and I’m finally at a place where I can start to catch up.

As I type this, I’m finally watching season 4 of Chuck.

That would be the 2010-2011.

Yes, I managed to get two whole years off (for the record, I am still highly amused and I still kinda wanna work at the Buy More).

Psych hasn’t fared much better.  Even the show I would have picked above others–and the one for which I managed to stay on schedule the longest–Bones–is over halfway through a season beyond that which I’ve seen (and because of the way their DVD release runs in comparison with the start of their seasons, I’m kind of concerned that I may have another Chuck situation where I’ll only ever really be able to catch up if the show actually comes to an end.).

So at this point, everything I’m watching is–at a minimum–a year off schedule.  Except Downton Abbey.  E-mail reminders from my local PBS station and lots of twitter chatter keep me from ever forgetting that one (also, PBS doesn’t fuck around with the time slot–Sunday nights are sacred so I don’t have to worry about some stupid schedule change).

This comes with other strange side effects:  because I’m a year behind and working solely off DVDs, I have no idea what other shows may be going on (other than on PBS–totally know what’s up on next week’s Nova and that Antique’s Roadshow coming to us from Corpus Christi next time).  Were there any new shows this season worth looking into?

Of course, even if there were something new, right now?  It’d only be something else I’d be behind on.

 

What Cammy Did On Her Summer Vacation: Summer of the Telenovela

We’re baaaaaaaaaack! Estamos aquí!

Among other things that have taken me from the blog this summer has been my continued efforts to re-learn what little Spanish I ever knew.  Despite having grown up in Texas, I’ve never been fluent in Spanish.  In fact, if not for the kind assistance and interminable patience of Kristy and Mary, I would not have managed the C I got in our shared Spanish class at William and Mary (the one semester I dared to take beyond the additional semester of Spanish required to fulfill my language requirement–it’s also the class that resulted in Kristy and I really meeting Mary, so even if I’d have failed, it would have been a win).

Kristy has long been telling me I should be watching telenovelas (and providing adequate guidance and support for exploration) both for entertainment and to strengthen my knowledge and understanding of the language,  and, years later, this message finally made its way through my thick skull.  I had started with an impulse purchase of Soy Tu Dueña on DVD.  Though highly edited from its original airing*, it was totally addictive.  I was beyond amused.  I’ve sampled others since, particularly those featuring the actors I became familiar with through that first novela.  The edited DVD thing was a downer, though, so when I heard that Televisa had a new comedy telenovela starting Lucero, star of Soy Tu Dueña, I thought it would be a great way to start watching a telenovela in its full run, no edits.  Sadly, you get geo-blocked from watching episodes on the Televisa website, but I was delighted to find that in July, the US Spanish language network, Univision was set to start airing the show.

Even though the Univision station in my area (literally the only Spanish language, over-air broadcaster in my state) is low power and just barely pulls in on the rabbit ears at my home, I was set to start watching in July.

It’s called Por Ella, Soy Eva. The literal translation is “For Her, I’m Eva” though apparently when translating to English someone thought it would be better to call it “Her, Me, and Eva” which is kinda stupid–I think the literal translation was A-OK, so why fuck with it, I ask?  I’ll give you my summary first:  Jaime Camil, cross dressing to clear his name and win (back) the love of his life.

The more “official” version is that womanizer Juan Carolos Caballero (the aforementioned and HIGHLY attractive Jaime Camil) is forced to live a double life as a woman, Eva, in order to clear his name from a theft he was framed for committing, and, more importantly, to win back the love of his life, Helena Moreno (played by the always- awesome Lucero–who incidentally is also a fantastic singer with some great music)–the single mother he had originally intended to dupe out of her project (to develop a particular community in the state of Guerrero into a family-and-environmentally-friendly tourism destination).  Along the way, his time in Eva’s pantyhose teaches him many valuable lessons about sexual equality and the impact of machismo on women (honestly, if sticking men in pantyhose were that effective at curing men of being macho assholes, Leggs would be worth more than Apple).

At this point we’re still early in the series (the Mexican run is estimated to be around 140 episodes*).  Not too late for you to jump into the funny if your Spanish allows.  Hulu Plus has the whole series so far (and also, all of Soy Tu Dueña–in its original, un-edited form) if you’re a member.  If not, there are some sites with summaries available to get you caught up.  And if the strength of your Spanish is worrying you, don’t let it.  You really will be amazed at how much you can follow without the benefit of understanding the language, and more amazing is how much it’s possible to pick up through viewing.  Sites like the blog Caray, Caray!! have some fabulous English language recaps of the episodes (if you read them, BE NICE and leave a thank you for the recapper…).  I have only read one of their recaps for this particular series (been too busy to read others), but I’ve read recaps in the past for series that are completed and they were highly entertaining and informative in and of themselves (SNARK!), as well as being a great way to ensure that you get the important elements even if your Spanish fails you.

And it IS funny.  I had my fears about how amusing I would find the show.  Humor can be so closely related to a culture that it just evades outsiders.  I can’t be 100% sure I’m finding the same things funny that a Mexican would, but I’m definitely amused.  There’s still a dramatic drive to the show (I’ve yelled at characters not to be stupid as much as I’ve laughed, but this is to be expected because in the end it IS a telenovela, not an episode of Sabado Gigante).  Jaime Camil, as I’ve mentioned, is hot, but he’s also great at this comedic role.  He also makes a strangely nice-looking woman (to the extent that I ‘m qualified to judge).  And Lucero continues to make me think she’s the Reba McEntire of South of the Border as she is pretty damned funny herself in the more comedic moments given to her character***.  The supporting cast is also great (another lesson I’ve learned about telenovelas is that the supporting characters and cast can be even more entertaining than the leads, though in this case it’s balanced nicely).  I’m just as invested in their outcomes as I am in watching Juan Carlos learn how the world works when you’re stuck wearing heels.  Mimi de la Rosa is awesome (“La vida es color de rosa! La vida es felicidad!  Llueven flores!  Llueven flores!“), and the whole family dynamic with the Fernando and Marsela and their kids is great (though, it’s hard not to snicker at how 80s names arrived late to Mexico:  the teenaged Contreras kids are named Jennifer and Kevin…).  And Eugenia?  I’m completely touched every time she’s on-screen.

Humor, characters and language lessons aside, it’s also kind of educational to see what it is that other countries are tackling through their media.  In this case the over-arching theme of the impact of male-dominated sexist behavior is a definite reminder that for as far as we still have to go with women’s lib up here in the States, gal’s south of the Rio Grande are fighting some of the cultural norms we ditched by the 70s.  Not to say that all of Latin America is stuck in the 50s as far as women’s rights are concerned, but their pockets of machismo are more widespread than ours.

You also get weird cultural lessons like how absurdly bad some of the product placement is in these shows (if you’re just starting, the further you go, the more blatant it gets), and just how popular spandex appears to be in Mexican fashion (I think it must be the national fiber down there).  And if you’ve got good ears, you can have fun trying to spot the differences in accent (I’m convinced–based on how bad my own Spanish is–that noticing accents is more about having an ear for musical sounds than anything….I’ve been able to note several regional differences for certain characters, even though I couldn’t actually translate what they’d said).

As a linguistic and cultural education exercise, this series is one of the most humorous and entertaining ways you could go.  If Juan Carlos can learn to understand women by wearing their shoes, I’m happy to learn to understand Mexico by watching its comedies.

*Check that:  Between the time I drafted this and my check of the Wikipedia article this morning, apparently it’s up to 150 capitulos according to the Mexican airing schedule.  ZOMG, I’ve got SO FAR TO GO! REVISED AGAIN: Now Wikipedia is showing it will run to 155…
**I am VERY pissed to find out that just about every telenovela you can find on DVD has been heavily edited.  There’s no such thing as a DVD or DVD collection of a Mexican telenovela as it aired originally. According to the primary outlet for the telenovelas produced by Televisa in Mexico, their take is that such a collection would be so expensive, no one would buy it.  To this I say BULLSHIT.  I would TOTALLY fork over for a full copy of Soy Tu Dueña and even though Por Ella Soy Eva isn’t finished yet, I already know it’s more than awesome enough to justify purchase..  If you look at the full run of US TV series that many of us have, the number of episodes from, say, the full run of Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica, is approximately the same as an entire telenovela, and many of us paid the $150-200 involved in those investments.
***For the record, I totally want to see a concert line up of Lucero, Reba and Claudia Jung.  Three languages, three countries, a whole lotta awesome.

Attempting to Like GCB

You would think that with my having suffered the horrors of dwelling in North Dallas for 3 years, the ABC series GCB, which lampoons that very same microcosm, would be right up my alley.

Oddly, I think it’s the familiarity that makes it difficult for me to watch.

On the one hand there are things that they get oh-so-very right.  The plethoras of money, the mock version of Highland Park United Methodist Church (where you go to rub shoulders with the wealthy more than for any real religious reason–though the service shown seems way too casual to be like the HPUMC main service…and not casual enough to be like the contemporary service), women with bizarre names like Bookie and Cricket, mentions of places like Turtle Creek, proper homage to the roll of Nieman Marcus in the shopping pantheon….

But then you have things like people offering over hand-gun laden purses to their daughters.  I’m not saying a hand-gun laden Gucci bag is abnormal in North Dallas, I’m just saying that every woman there would be damn good and well aware of the concealed carry rules (having gone through the process herself…except for the ones married to slightly more fringe husbands who cling to the belief that the concealed carry law will only give the government a list of names to collect from when the Second Amendment is destroyed–but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish) and know better than to arm her recently-imported-from-California daughter.

And the pet peeve that actually arises in every show which tries to set itself in Texas (or, honestly, much of anywhere in the U.S.):  putting a definite article before a numerical freeway designation.  I-20 is just that “I-20” or “20” not “THE I-20.”  The minute I hear that I’m reminded that this whole thing is clearly being shot in L.A. (first ep WAS in Dallas at least as far as the exteriors were concerned–I’ve driven past more than one of the places shown).

The emphasis on ranches and cowboys is also losing me.  You see way less of that in Dallas than in other Texas cities like San Antonio or Ft. Worth.  Oh, sure, you see it in Dallas, probably more now than in the past few decades, but it’s mostly a costume put on to distinguish themselves from wealthy folks in, say, Atlanta.  It’s not because anyone’s spent any time on the family ranch.  After all, Dallas is all about “bidness” not farming and ranching.  Men in Dallas are more likely to be in Armani than Wrangler and I honestly can’t say I have EVER seen a woman from North Dallas over the age of 23 in a cowboy hat or boots.

Now that we’re on week two, I have to question the whole pork thing.  Really?  REALLY?  Pulled pork?  Oh, hell no.  This is Texas.  It’s all about the beef.  Even John Ford got that much in Rio Grande (“Ain’t no one told Uncle Sam we grow beef in these parts?”).  Also, if you drive 80 miles from Dallas, you won’t get to anything looking like the landscape shown around the locale of the pork incident*.

The thing of it is, the necessary fodder for TV is there in reality.  North Dallas and the Park Cities (Highland Park, University Park) are twisted little worlds.  Saint Molly of Ivins captured some of that in her article “Hello from Boosterville” (included in her book Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?).  While I was in law school there was still a gas station down in Snyder plaza where you could get full service.  No joke.  And I saw many a Grande Dame ol’ gal with that particular style of North Dallas Helmet-Hair sitting primly behind her wheel while a guy in coveralls filled the tank of her Mercedes and cleaned her windshield.  I’ve seen a fleet of Mercs, Jags, Audis, etc. parked in the firelane outside of my dorm because if you’re late to HPUMC on Sunday, you wind  up having to park over in one of the garages and that’s just not acceptable.  It’s worth it to pay the ticket left on your windshield after one a disgruntled law student in one of the dorms calls campus police….

I may give it another week, but I just don’t think I’m going to be able to overcome what I know of the real comedy of North Dallas enough to enjoy this fake version.

 

*Update: August 2012:  Oddly enough, the location of the pork incident does look a lot like the location in a scene from the Mexican telenovela, Por Ella…Soy Eva.

Changing the Channel Part II: Days of Our Lives

So for part II of my changing the channel adventure, I decided to check out Days of our Lives. I didn’t really have much of a concrete reason for choosing this one other than the online buzz for the show at this point seems fairly decent.

I didn’t have any trouble figuring out what was going on. For the most part (more on this later). Just like in stereotypes they do a good enough job of working exposition into scenes that it’s easy enough to catch up. Even though there’s major plotline that seems to be referencing some deep history.

Over all, I’m digging the show a bit more than B&B (which annoys me since it’s twice as long). There are things I definitely like about it. I like that they’ve spent a lot of time dealing with the friendship dynamics between Abigail and Melanie. Abigail kind of grates on my nerves, but the big issue is that television usually gets so swept up in couple swapping that they forget to include non-sexual friendships. And friendships can be just as compelling dramatically. I loved watching Melanie listen to Abbey’s whole story about sleeping with her married professor boss. You could see Melanie thinking that her friend was crazy and stupid and yet trying to still be a good friend. A lot of us have been there. It was a nice touch of reality.

Other things I like: EJ is a wonderful villain. Smarmy and smug. Devious. But he’s also multifaceted—seems to actually have some sort of a heart and feelings etc. I was blindsided by the revelation that EJ and Sami had slept together (this is a big deal because they’re both married to other people) because ordinarily on soaps when people have secrets they talk about them constantly, loudly, in public locations. I’m amazed that the show enabled me to be surprised. Nicely done. On the other hand, I wasn’t entertained by Sami’s husband Rafe making out with her sister Carrie because they kept building and building to it, yet I don’t really see any chemistry between the two. I’m also incredibly sick of listening to Sami yell at people about it. I hate when television shows do this thing where they have characters have the same conversation over and over again and it goes nowhere. Oops, this was supposed to be the things I liked. I like Will. By which I mean Will is an obnoxious little punk, but that’s an accurate portrayal of a young man in his late teens/early 20s. Particularly one simultaneously struggling with being in the closet and knowing his mother cheated on the step-father he really likes with the ex-step-father he hates. I liked the corporate espionage storyline with Sami and Madison, particularly in the way it made it clear that people around the two women would not have been so upset out of similar behavior by men. Nice. I like that the professor sleeping with the student subplot didn’t go with the standard seductive teacher but when with the kinda psycho undergrad. (By the way, since you may not be watching, they didn’t actually sleep together, she’s just convinced him they did. He was actually too drunk to stay conscious that long).

Things I dislike: Stefano is simultaneously too much of a cartoon villain and not enough of a cartoon villain. It’s hard to do a fleshed out caricature, and they aren’t pulling it off. I’m not entertained by this whole subplot where Hope (who thinks she’s married to Bo) is actually married to John (who thinks he’s married to Marlena). I don’t care. I don’t get why they care so much. I just want it over. I don’t like the whole election storyline because I’m clearly supposed to be rooting for Abe, but I can’t get past is unethical behavior (he let someone give him the debate questions ahead of time while slipping his opponent fake debate questions). His whole logic that his opponent (the aforementioned EJ) was dirty and so he had to sink down to fight him at that level didn’t convince me. Nor did his desperation that EJ would do horrible things as mayor. Seriously, he’d just be mayor. Too my knowledge that doesn’t come with missile codes or anything. How badly could he screw things up in one term? I was relieved when Abe’s wife finally pointed that out to him, but not relieved enough to like this storyline.

So over all, I’m definitely liking it more that Bold and the Beautiful. But I’m not loving it. I’m not invested in it. When my DVR crashed and erased an episode I wasn’t that upset. I didn’t even go watch it online. Maybe investment takes time. I had half a lifetime invested in OLTL and I don’t expect to feel that for any other show any time soon. But I’m still trying to support scripted drama where I can. And I’ll admit I’ve been thrilled to see ratings for all the non-ABC soaps increasing while the ratings for ABC’s new reality show nosedive into the toilet.

Weekly Downton Reaction

I thought about coming up with something creative to post about, but I have a migraine that I’ve had on and off since Friday. So we’re just going to stick with reactions to our British import obsession.

I just really don’t know what to think about Isobel this season. Last season I really liked her. This season I really don’t. I’m thrilled she’s going to help the refugees though I worry every time she leaves she’s going to croak and everyone will have to feel guilty. Not to mention it will screw with our survival odds.

I’m not sure how I felt about the Patrick thing. I know, as a soap fan I should be behind any plot that involves amnesia and people coming back from the dead. But… I’m not sure I am.

I kinda need them to stop kicking Edith in the shins. I don’t love her, but seriously? Is this necessary?

I know I’m probably the only one, but I kinda want more Sibyl and Branson.

I’m kind of sad we aren’t seeing as much of the sweetness in Robert and Cora’s marriage as we saw last season.

I feel genuinely bad for Daisy. They spent a season teaching the poor girl about honesty and integrity and then told her it only mattered some of the time. You can’t do that to a girl. Especially one as simple as Daisy.

Oh Matthew… I simultaneously want to hug him and push his chair into something hard.

Lady Violet is totally who I want to be when I grow up.

I knew Vera was going to be dead. I knew it! Who killed Vera? Cammy did, obviously.

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.