Thoughts and Rants Archive

February 2007

Confessions of a Recovering Shipper

Anyone who has listened to my rants about televison knows that I am a bit of a shipper. From Mulder/Scully to Jim/Pam, I frequently find myself rooting for some couple to get together. I've always considered myself a reasonable shipper. I won't stop watching because my couple didn't happen. I won't hate the writer because the couple won't happen. Still I would root for my pairing. However, I have decided to abandon shipping. Not that I won't go "Hey, that's a neat couple." I just refuse to pick a pairing and root for it. I'll just go where the story takes me. Why, you may ask? Glad you asked.

Top Five Reasons I've Given Up Shipping.

1. The "We Learned the Wrong Thing From Moonlighting" Issue

We've all heard this before; they can't get together because it would ruin the show, just like it did Moonlighting. However, the problem with that show wasn't that Dave and Maddie had sex. That was about the only thing that didn't kill that show. The most significant problem was that the stars wouldn't even work together anymore. And having Bruce Willis playing a fetus that dies and goes to heaven while doing a soft shoe or entire plotlines dedicated to Curtis Armstrong didn't help. No, this show was going totally off the rails and in a Hail Mary pass they had them hook up. And in the grand tradition of Hail Mary passes it got nothing but turf. Yet the conventional wisdom has always been that hooking them up screwed up the show.

Network executives and creative types took this mis-learned lesson, turned it into a truism and made it law. Now these relationships can't happen until it's dragged out to the point of absurdity. How can you care about a couple that has been trapped in the flirty stage for years? My last big Ship was Josh and Donna from The West Wing. After seven years of them obviously being in love with each other they finally got together, but what a long haul. He got shot. She got blown up. She dated Republicans. He dated that woman from Weeds. She worked for him. She worked for his opponent. Dear God it was tortuous. And that's a well-written example of this phenomenon.

2. SHIPPERS Fubar Fandoms

Typically people start our fine.

"Oh yes, I love the show."

" Oh, it was a great read."


"Do you think this supposed to represent American during the Civil War?
"No, I am pretty sure it's a metaphor for the 100 Years War."

Then someone goes: "Don't you think Character A and Character B would make a great Couple." Followed by: "No Way! Character A totally belongs with Character C." or "No Way! I don't care for Character B and feel Character A could do better."

Boom boom boom.

Yes, ominous music is completely appropriate. For in this seemingly well-reasoned exchange is the seed of a Shipper war.

Boom boom boom

Okay I will stop with that.

Shipper wars can be fought between pro- and con- (the Intraship War); or between two different ships (Intership War).

Intraship Wars, while being bitter, typically are more limited in their destructive effects on their fandom. However, there are exceptions to this rule. One would be the infamous Spuffy wars in the Buffy fandom. Also, same sex pairings can cause pretty ugly intraship wars (Say Smallville's Clark/Lex, or SGA's McKay/Sheppard). However, that usually has more to do with political and social issues that might be better discussed outside cheesy science fiction shows.

Despite this nothing inspires madness like a good old fashioned Intership Wars. Intership Wars must include one shared character. Some of us remember the early Xander/Buffy/Angel wars. And comics have had the Jean/Scott/Emma thing going for a while. However, nothing compares to the awesome power of the Ginny/Harry/Hermione/Ron Shipper war. Tempers flared. Friendships Thrown Asunder. Web Communities Destroyed. Enclaves Created. Accusations Thrown. If you hear some say "Harry Potter Fans Are Nuts" it's because of this war.

Shipper wars may seem fun at first. "Oh I am going to show those A/B Shippers how silly they're being, and how their logic fails in comparison to mine." But they drag on. Escalate. And suck all the fun out of the fandom and show. It's very sad but given the right ingredients and enough time.. boom boom boom.

3. UST Breeds Cheese-Tastic Characters

Most Unrequited Pairs eventually acquire cheese-tastic characters. Or they will convert a cool character into a Cheese-Tastic one. There are three major types of cheese-tastic characters that bog down stories.

The Emotionally Clueless Male Lead

This guy either is unable to admit or even unaware of the fact that they are in love with somebody. Neither of these scream " a good get". I mean who wants someone who's so emotionally detached from themselves they spend years unable to realize they're in love? I mean really. And if you're not fourteen, being unable to admit that you have feelings for someone is kind of sad. And yet this dude pops up on occasion, and this dude is near ubiquitous in fanfiction.

Prime Example: Josh Lyman (West Wing)

The Lady In Waiting Lead

Now of course the woman is aware of her feelings, and is typically able to admit them. And they are frequently aware of the fact that the object of their affection reciprocates. So, they go on and initiate a romantic relationship. Well, no, they don't. They wait for the guy to initiate it. Now, if this character is in a Jane Austin novel or a teenager, that's not really surprising. But I am supposed to believe a woman who runs her own business, has been married, raised a kid and can make people who cross her cry, suddenly decides that she's shy and demur about love. Take Who's the Boss's Angela Bower. Now, why didn't she go after Tony? Because women who crawled their way to the top of an ad agency are known for being passive? Because its better to date and even get engaged to other people because it's too scary to have an honest conversation with a guy? As time goes on this character gets more and more absurd. Writers have finally had to give her amnesia or make them think the guy slept with her sister or something.

Lavender Brown AKA The Plot Devise Pretending to Be A Character

Now in the course of not pulling a Moonlighting, it is necessary to give one member of our pairing another love interest to cause obstacles in the relationship. Now, this could make a really great story. Find an interesting character that contrasts the other love interest and you can show growth in both members of the pairing. But we don't get that very often. What we usually get is a plot device pretending to be a character. The character can be a hodge podge of quirks and behaviors intended to make their rival look good. Or they are perfect characters who have everything except charisma, chemistry or sex appeal (aka Nice Guy/Glasses Wearing Girl).

Now, I named it after Lavender Brown (aka Keep Hermione and Ron apart for one book) because she is to my reading the most egregious example of this phenomenon I've ever come across.

For those who don't know, she's a witch who during Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince dated Ron Weasley. Ron is Harry Potter's best friend and has been smitten with Hermione for a couple of years. But, the course of true love never runs smooth. So, Ron spends the book for various reasons dating Lavender Brown. It's one of the lovely complications you get in romantic sub-plots. Now, here lies the problem for in Half Blood Prince, Lavender is pretty much a pile of annoying "girlie-girl" habits with a pair of lips attached. She's clingy, uses appalling nicknames and is basically every bad thing the smart girls (Hermione) think about popular girls.

Thus, Lavender Brown exists solely to show us how much better a woman Hermione is. Not even the most strident anti-Ron/Hermione shipper on the entire planet thought for one second that Lavender might keep Ron and Hermione apart. She exists to be a complication and doesn't get a life of her own.

Various versions of this character appear in fiction. They are rarely interesting. They are rarely developed. They exist to be an obstacle to our couple, but not a threat. They could be replaced by a picture on a stick, for all they matter.

4. SHIPS Suck Up Storytime

Anyone watching Battlestar Galactica knows how quickly a SHIP can eat up storytime. The Dee/Lee/Kara/Anders dodecahedron has managed to annoy all fans, shippers and non-shipper alike with its storyline. Season 3 of Buffy dedicated a significant portion of that season to the machinations of the 'will they/won't they' saga. A pattern that third season Veronica Mars has followed Buffy into. Way too many times large storylines get shunted aside or truncated for romance stories that don't pay off. And when they do the pay off frequently isn't worth it.

5. Shipping Frequently Has Nothing to Do With Story

Many times I've shipped cause there was character I identified with and a character that I would find attractive. Other times I've Shipped just to annoy other shippers. People sometimes ship cause they think it's hot. (See 2/3 of slash ships) Sometimes it's because they have a political agenda (See 2/3 of Xena ships, I haven't figured out the political ramifications of Gabrelle/Joxter). But it frequently doesn't come out of the stories. Or at least not if you're being unbiased. I have certainly seen numerous times where people's love of a ship is distorting their interpretation of the story. And to me that's what is important.

Special Addendum:

6: Shippers Seem to Lose Their Sense of Humor

Shippers FUBAR Fandom covered this, but it needs to be repeated. For some reason picking a pairing in a story, seems to require turning in your sense of humor at the same time. Not sure why but it's the price of admission.

Now I have to go watch The Office. Pam and Jim. Pam and Jim.

October 2006

Marvel's Civil War

Civil War is the most recent uber-cross over at Marvel Comics. The story so far is: the New Warriors, a team of young superheroes, was attempting to apprehend a bunch of villains. During the fight one of the villains, named Nitro, used his explosive powers killing a number of children from a nearby school. The public outcry has led to the passing of the Superhero Registration Act. The act appears to say that if you wish to be an active Superhero, you must register and work for the government. The government in turn will train and provide a salary. This sent a schism through the superhero community, with Iron Man leading the pro-registration superheroes, and Captain America leading those opposing the act.

Now this could have been a fascinating exploration of the superhero concept. Superheroes have a strong anti-authoritarian and, at times, anti-democratic bent to them. They have their roots in 'outlaw' characters, such as Robin Hood, Zorro and the Lone Ranger. People fighting alone in places where the authority is corrupt or non-existent. However, when the rightful king comes to town, Robin Hood retires. When law is established in the west, the Lone Ranger leaves. Batman on the other hand doesn't stop, even when Gotham is no longer infected with corruption. He continues. The implication being that, even when functioning properly, society, even a democratic one, cannot completely protect and serve people's needs. They need people who are either so much wiser or so much nobler than us. And these people have no obligation to have their motives, techniques or rules of engagement reviewed by anyone but themselves.

How dare the people questions their heroes? Their heroes are here to save them, so shut up and be saved.

Despite editors' and creators' assertions to the contrary, this series doesn't really question that concept. There is very little lip service paid to the idea that the government has every right to exercise control over people who go out and enforce order on people. Despite the fact that the government is the people. Imagine if people went out and created their own army or police force that felt no government agency. They promise to enforce the law and what is right, but they are the only ones that get to decide what that is.

Even the leaders of the Pro-Registration side don't seem to operate on the principal that the government has the right to do this. Both Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic seem to think it's best option, because if they don't accept there will be worse consequences. With the exception of one line in a She-Hulk issue, no one has made a case for the right of the government to control what are essentially free agent law officers and soldiers.

What most of the writers have done is use this story as a parable about post-9/11 America. Which makes it an odd little parallel. Is dressing up in costumes and using your god-like powers to fight criminals really comparable to the right to privacy? And sadly it's a bit of a ham-fisted metaphor at best.

It's unfortunate that Marvel didn't live up to the potential that this story line had, but instead used it mostly as an excuse to have a big superhero fight.

June 2006

“ I just want the man I fell in love with.” Lois Lane
“I wish he were here Lois, I wish he were here.” A depowered Superman

Superman II

“Clark Kent is who I am, Superman is just what I can do.” Clark Kent

Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman

Two very specific versions of Superman have managed to percolate their way from the comics’ page into the popular culture. They both came from the Planet Krypton as children and were raised in Smallville by the Kents. They both work at the Daily Planet and are in love with Lois Lane. Where they are different is a subtle distinction in their ultimate identity.

The first is what is often called the Silver Age Superman. And in this version once Superman realizes that he is a strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of normal men, he becomes Superman. Clark Kent from that moment on is the disguise and Superman is the real deal. See the Superman movies to see this Superman in action.

Now in the more modern version, when Clark Kent finds out his history, he develops Superman as a way to use his powers to help people and protect and maintain his true identity. Superman is now the disguise and Clark Kent is the real deal. This version can be seen in the shows Lois and Clark and Smallville.

It’s likely the humanist in me but I must say that I prefer the modern character more. The silver age Superman is essentially a secular science-fiction Jesus. This is very apparent in the first Superman movie with Jor-El telling Superman why he was sent to earth. “I sent my only son.” He is a hero because of his other worldliness, his non-human part of him. And is typically portrayed as almost infallible.

In the modern version, though, it’s the human values taught to him by the Kents that make him a hero. With his powers he could either be villain or hero or neither but because of his parents he chooses to be a hero. I find this metaphor much more powerful. The idea that the best parts of humanity can be used to not only control and avoid the temptations of the godlike power’s Superman has but can even be used for the good of humanity is much more hopeful to me.

You might ask what brought all this on. Well, I’ve been reading that Bryan Singer’s new Superman movie will be in the continuity of the first two Superman movies. I just think its interesting that we are returning to the ‘old school’ Superman. I also wonder about people who are mostly familiar with the more modern version and how they will take to it.


The 2005-2006 Television Season

[Warning: This essay contains plot spoilers for episodes aired in the U.S. If you live outside the U.S. or watch your shows on DVD and do not wish to be spoiled, please read no further.]

Best New Show

My Name is Earl

Very funny. Has a lot of heart and is never schmaltzy.

Best Villain

3. Lex Luthor (Justice League Unlimited)

The dude just rocks. For me Lex Luthor isn’t Gene Hackman, or Michael Rosenbaum (We shall see about Kevin Spacey), it's Clancy Brown. Takes over a cool version of the Legion of Doom and wrecks havoc and then saves the world. For his own purposes.

2. Harron Echolis and Kendal “Put Away Wet” Casblancas (Veronica Mars)

Nothing like two self absorbed people working together for their own purposes (plus sex). These two were a lot of fun.

1. Michael (Lost)

Holy crap. Did he do what I think he did?

Worst Villain

3. “Zod” Luthor (Smallville)

He is supposed to be a villain without an alien influence. And I am sure the first thing that a world conquering supervillian wants to do is make sure Lana Lang loves them.

2. Any Wraith that talks. (Stargate: Atlantis)

These guys were kind of creepy until they started walking around and drinking wine and stuff.

1. Annoying are the Ori (Stargate: SG-1)

Good gods these guys sucked.

Best Hero

3. Superman (Justice League Unlimited)

“You know Doomsday, I always have to be careful. I always have to pull punches cause I don’t want to hurt anyone. But you can take it. I get to cut loose, don’t I.”

2. Dean Winchester (Supernatural)

Daddy issues aside, he gets the job done.

1. Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars)

Why? It's Veronica damnit.

Worst Hero

3. Doctor Jack Shepard (Lost)

2. Doctor Daniel Jackson (Stargate: SG-1)

He spent so much time being a prick this season that I would have rooted for the Ori. Except they suck even worse.

1. Clark Kent (Smallville)

In this season, Clark essentially trades another’s life to get his annoying girlfriend back. Not that I am sure he understood what he was trading. The man is profoundly stupid.

Best Couple

3. Josh and Donna (West Wing)

Could have resolved better, but after seven years they finally hooked up. Go team.

2. Pam and Jim (The Office)

I love these two.

1. George Michael and Maebe (Arrested Development)

I know it's wrong. But they were so tortured about it all. It was wonderful.

Worst Couple

3. Lois Lane and Aquaman (Smallville)

This Lois Lane is so bad she actually sucks the talent from other women who have played Lois Lane. What did you think happened to Margot Kidder? Add to that a very toned, uninspired Aquaman and you have a thud of a couple. Maybe if this was titled “Fishboy Makes me Wet” and aired Friday nights on Cinemax, this would work. But it's not.

2. Lana Lang and Lex Luthor (Smallville)

I wonder if Kristen Kruek ever goes “Please let me do something that doesn’t involve a boyfriend. If I never have to repeat the words Secrets and Lies again, I would be very happy” I suspect she does.

This couple only makes the list, cause damn it I am sick of Lana.

1. Lana Lang and Clark Kent (Smallville)

Dear Clark,
Once a relationship ends you are no longer required to talk about the state of the relationship. You are no longer required to listen when you are being told what a bad boyfriend you are. While it may be true, it's kind of rude for Lana to come over and tell you that. Once someone’s fired you don’t go over and say “You never showed up on time and la la la.”

I think the problem lies in the lack of a clean break. You seemed to break up and hook up again about four or five times. Usually dragging out the end of a relationship just makes it more painful. Especially for the viewers.

Best Regards,

Best Surprise

Uncle Junior shoots 1. Tony Soprano. (The Sopranos)

They shot Tony. You Bastards.

2. GOB is dating Ann. (Arrested Development)

Did not see that coming.

3. Michael shoots Libby (Lost)

Okay Michael was acting wiggy enough, that I figured he’d shoot Ana Lucia, but then Libby came around the corner and boom. Bye bye sex for Hurley.

Not Surprise

3. Laura Roslyn is cured of Cancer. (Battlestar: Galactica)

I figured that Ron Moore wasn’t a crack smoking monkey whore, so I knew that Mary McDonnell was going to stay on. Good No Surprise.

2. Hurley’s friend Dave was imaginary. (Lost)

Come on. Though it does open us up for the bigger surprise of the episode.

1. Vito gets whacked. (The Sopranos)

The only shocking thing is it took so long.


March 2006

Greetings Watsamatau Investment Group,

As you know we here at Follow the Talented Productions are looking for start-up capital to begin production on a new TV show. It is certain that you have concerns about the wisdom of this investment. Shows get cancelled all the time. Why should you invest your money with us? Cause we have a foolproof plan for successes. Find out what works. Copy it. Do it with even more intensity. And that's exactly what we've done here.

Battlestar Galactica, a reimagined version of an old sci-fi "classic", is the hottest show in science fiction. It's obvious to anyone that what the fans want right now is new 'reinvented" versions of shows they loved as a child. Surprisingly, few have tried to replicate this formula. Now, there was Kolchak, which didn't really connect that well. However, that show lacked the other key feature of Battlestar Galactica, its dark tone. What people really want right now are re-done versions of happier shows but they want them to be mature, dark, and possibly even bleak. They want their characters to be a little grayer, a little meaner, and maybe even more psychotic. We here at Follow The More Talented Productions have come up with some ideas that I think are killer.

Salvage 1

What was the original about?

Andy Grifith is a junkman, with dreams of the moon. So using parts he finds in the Junkyard, he builds his own rocket and sends Joel Higgins to the moon to salvage the pieces of the Apollo Mission. Subsequent episodes involved odder and odder ways of using the rocket. An adventure series in the vein of The Six Million Dollar Man.

The Reimagined Salvage One (Note the Spelling Out of the Number.)

Jason Marks (James Best) served his country with distinction, until he made a fuss. For, Jason has identified a great threat to America, a cabal of people are attempting to take over the country and they are using the space programs to do it. And what does he get for his troubles? Put out to pasture. Now bitter and cut-off he runs his late-brother's salvage yard, until he gets an idea. He builds a spaceship out of parts from his former military contacts and recruits NASA washout Mike Wilson (Nicholas Brendon). Together they thwart the cabal's evil plans.

The Hook: Keep this secret, for it will only be revealed over a season or two. Marks is actually quite mad and a bit racist. There is no cabal, just a bunch of people with 'questionable' heritage. Wilson is fully aware of Marks' mental condition, but he has his own plans. He uses Marks money and spaceship for his own nefarious purposes. Picking up prostitutes all over the world, running drugs, giving intel to both sides of warring factions and causing just enough damage to America's international and space based operations to convince Marks that their battle is doing some "good".

Think Alias in Space with Al Swearengen as pilot.


What was the original about?

"Tron. The Cop Show."

Desi Arnez Jr. creates Automan a crime fighting computer program that takes human form. If that human was a John Tesh look -alike wearing the remains of a Disney Electric Parade Float.

The Re-Imagined Automan

Scott Wolf is a computer programmer who invents a computer generated Superhero, named Automan (named after his favorite TV show growing up). Because he's a hologram and can't touch anything, he fights crime by talking to it. He's mighty persuasive. However, being connected to the internet has allowed him to experience the totality of human depravity, thus making him a total misanthrope. He's more likely to talk the bad guys into killing themselves then turning over a new leaf. It will be a crime fighter who debates the nature of man and in his opinion it sucks. We're thinking David Mamet to direct the pilot.

Misfits of Science

What was the original about?

A Scientist collects a group of people with odd powers: A teenage girl with telekinesis, an rocker who can toss electricity, and a 7 foot tall scientist who can shrink down to six inches tall. They have adventures.

The Re-Imagined Misfits of Science

We will keep the premise and the outline of the characters the same, just update them. For one thing the rocker in the original was called Johnny Be Good, and basically was a 50's rocker. That was out of date even then. So, we are going to make him a hip hop artist, and his name will now be N&M. And we need to sex it up, so first off nudity, we'll pretty much have at least three nude scenes an episode. Also, we need to find someone really hot for the telekinesis girl. And not just Courtney Cox hot, but really hot. We are thinking of seeing if any of Playboy's Cyber Girls of the Week want to act. That might do it. We'll come up with some interesting storylines; love triangles, undercover at a strip club, tantic mystical cults. Things like that. We are in discussions with HBO to put this on. If that doesn't work out the Spice Channel has shown definite interest.

As you can see any of those shows would be a likely successes. There is also the upside that the rights to these shows wouldn't be all that much. That and cashing in on the upcoming trends indicates an almost guaranteed win here. So, be smart and invest in Follow the Talented Production Company.


President and CEO of Follow the Talent Productions


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