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It's premiere week! Hooray! Bring on the new TV!

Last week I watched K-Ville and Gossip Girl, neither of which were particularly impressive. Gossip Girl felt like a retread of the O.C. only with less interesting characters. And Kristen Bell's narration felt awkward and distracting. It's fine for what it is I guess, but what it is just doesn't interest me much.

In her blog, television writer Jill Golick enthusiastically deconstructed the K-Ville pilot, praising it for its structural elegance. What's interesting to me is how she managed to completely overlook the fact that it's just not very good. Sure, the structure's technically adept, but that doesn't necessarily translate to compelling writing.

Which is a shame, because I think it's great to have a prime-time drama focusing on the situation in New Orleans, and even better that it's actually shot on location, a la Friday Night Lights. And it is a beautifully photographed show that uses the setting to lovely effect. Unfortunately, it's also about as subtle as an anvil to the head.

K-Ville is a show that's just plain trying too hard. Instead of letting the shadow of Katrina delicately inform the story and characters, it constantly beats you over the head with it like an ABC Afterschool Special. The story is trite and completely predictable--everything that happens is exactly what you'd expect to happen in a mediocre cop drama. Worst of all, there's no actual complexity to the characters, no matter how hard they work at furrowing their brows somberly, and consequently most of the scenes fall flat.

Cole Hauser does all right with what he's got to work with, but Anthony Anderson just doesn't have the range to carry his half of the dramatic weight. And none of the actors are from anywhere near Louisiana, which shows painfully in the way they struggle with their accents. This, my friends, is no Friday Night Lights.

Thanks to Amazon Unbox I also got an early glimpse of Bionic Woman, Journeyman, Life, and The Big Bang Theory. And of those four the one I was least expecting to enjoy--Life--was the one I enjoyed the most. On its face it's pretty much a standard cop drama, but Damian Lewis is fantastic and edgy and delightfully fun as the lead. Journeyman and Bionic Woman were both okay, but I'm going to have to watch a few more episodes before I decide if it's worth sticking with them. The Big Bang Theory may be okay once it finds its feet, but in the pilot the characters are painted far too broadly and while I did actually laugh once or twice, some of the jokes were just plain offensive to me as a geek. Note to the writers: watching Battlestar Galactica is not, in and of itself, a punchline.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 25th, 2007 03:42 pm (UTC)
The Golick post reminds me of the conversation we were having the other day (in re: Doctor Who) about how difficult it can be to both do the nitty-gritty plotting well and hit the emotional beats. A less successful example (IMO) would be the Harry Potter movies, where I'm constantly left frustrated about how the connect-the-dots approach to the plotting gets the story to the next phase but almost entirely misses the emotional point. K-Ville is more like the Harry Potter example--perhaps more "elegant" structurally, but without the emotional beats, who cares? And emotional beats cannot be accomplished by throwing them at me. Paul Haggis.

I was especially intrigued by your comment that you'd find writing fanfic for something like Who to be intimidating because you don't feel you have a good model for the plotting. Not that you're looking to write K-Ville fanfic, but would something like that lend itself more easily to well-done fanfic because the plotting examples are strong but the emotional playground is free for writers to play in? In other words, I am intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
Sep. 25th, 2007 04:26 pm (UTC)
I dunno, I think part of the problem with K-Ville is that they didn't lay enough groundwork to make the characters into interesting, complex characters, so hitting any emotional beats is going to be difficult. Other than the scars they each bear from Katrina, they've got almost no distinguishing characteristics or personality.

That said, I just watched the second episode, and it was a slight improvement. Still pretty standard fare, but the Katrina stuff wasn't quite as self-conscious. Maybe they realize they can't beat that horse quite so hard for an entire season or else they'll be left with nothing but dog food. I do hope they come up with an A story other than exposing corporate corruption in the midst of the rebuilding efforts, though.
Sep. 25th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC)
You have just made my head snap back with the realization of why Heroes drives me up a tree (so thanks a lot, Kristen Bell)--the plotting's a joke, which I could likely forgive if it was emotionally engaging, but with 1.5 exceptions the characters are emotionally indistinguishable and the writers rely on the differences in their superpowers to distinguish the characters. Which--boring. It's why people are more interested in Hiro and HRG, because they are the only ones whose emotional lives go beyond, "Oh no! I have superpowers! Why must I live with this terrible curse??"

As I sit here trying to think of an example of elegant, sensible plotting paired with the effective pushing of emotional buttons, I'm starting to wonder if I'm just more susceptible to the latter but really, really unforgiving of plotting mania if the emotional buttons aren't pushed. BSG, for example, has some ludicrous plotting, but I often find I don't care. As we discussed, Doctor Who is in the same boat. Most procedurals these days, however, are like fingernails on a chalkboard, because they're not even trying with the emotional stuff and the plots are just as much of a mess. What nailed both--maybe VM season 1? And yet I liked S2 about as much, because it pushed those buttons for me. Hmmm. Turning to the other question, is the creation of engaging characters more useful in encouraging a) fanfic at all or b) good fanfic than either good plotting or heavy emotions would be?
Sep. 25th, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)
You're so right about Heroes. I'd never realized it before, but that's exactly why I've never gotten attached to it. And it's also probably why the episode I came closest to liking was the "Six Months Earlier" episode when they flashed back to the characters just as they were starting to come into their powers. For a moment they almost seemed to have personalities beyond their superpowers.

This is also probably why I tend to be drawn to character-based dramas. Friday Night Lights is show where everything's driven by the intricacies of the characters and their complex personalities rather than complicated plots. And the reason I've never quite fallen out of love with Lost is that some of the characters continue to be incredibly engaging (while others need to be jettisoned out to sea).

As for fanfic, I think plot is often antithetical to fic. The majority of fanfiction doesn't even have much in the way of plot (my fic tends to be the exception rather than the rule). It's all about the characters for the most part, and you've got to have something to inspire fic writers in that department.
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