Opening yourself up to joy

The best show on TV right now is Glee. It's the only (first?) musical television series. Combine the trials and tribulations of high school with the edgy realism of Ryan Murphy, throw in gaudy theatrical productions, add just a touch of Journey, and the result is simply fabulous.

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the best?

I watch it, but if it's the best, then God help us.


Melodrama: An unrealistic, pathos-filled, campy tale of romance or domestic situations with stereotypical characters (often including a central female character) that would directly appeal to feminine audiences.

If that's your thing, then Glee is almost certainly the best thing on television.

By definition, a musical is melodramatic

Instead of merely saying, "I'm mad at you," they sing about it. Instead of giving a pep talk, they break out into "Don't Stop Believin'". Isn't that one of the big reasons people like musicals?


I'll be talking about T.V shows in general and giving a few off-topic conversation starters along the way.

I don't know if it's me or what, but I could never get into these Care Bear worlds, with no depth or feeling conveyed in ways that speak to me personally. In general, I think T.V shows are absolutely atrocious.

There is enough in a simple film like "Sex, Lies and Videotape" and "Blade Runner" that can STILL have emotional impact AND raise interesting questions. There is a certain poignancy captured in the poetry of human striving that gives these movies their power.

For example: Star Trek, interesting, but ultimately cheese. I'll reply later if you or someone else does not agree.

It's a decent enough show I guess. It's safe. It presents problems and it solves them. But it is NOT "Blade Runner". It is not "Alien". It is not "2001". It is not "The Thin Red Line". It is not Herzog's "Nosferatu". It is not "Boys Don't Cry". etc. etc. etc. These are deeper movies. They leave long lasting impressions on the viewer. They capture an aspect of of the human condition that simply does not exist in mainstream shows.

There is Sci Fi done right (IMO) and there is the "cheese" level or modern T.V Sci Fi. In other words: Serious Sci-Fi and Commercial Sci Fi.

My hope for T.V shows is at the same level of my hope for the pathetic music industry. It's catered to 14 year old n00bs or it's so lacking in depth, charm or poetry, that it just comes across as an exercise in bad conversations, and contrived characters.

When it comes to musicals (or Opera)... the cheese reaches levels that I just can't stand to watch. You call this joy. Fine.

This is a movie and this is completely subjective. Bow down to your new master:

For you budding filmmakers out there, let this be your guide. A movie with four interesting, realistic and imperfect characters, along with a large dose of intriguing conversation - can still stand the test of time.

Sex Addict
Untainted Wife
Asshole Husband

All intelligent. All flawed. Good stuff.

Could not disagree more

The title of my post was taken from a quote early in the first episode of the series. My point wrt musicals is, suppose you watched a play on Broadway, walked out of the theater and said, "Wow, how melodramatic!" Would that make sense as a criticism? Of course it was melodramatic--the actors are expressing themselves in song and dance!

On the larger topic of what's better, television or film, I'd say that 15 years ago, you were correct. Most TV episodes were stand-alone things so that if anyone started watching mid-series, they wouldn't have a monster backstory to catch up on. The market was also centralized with most of the viewers going to the nationwide networks. Cable was an afterthought.

Enter the modern era of a bazillion cable channels, satellite television forcing cable monopolies to compete, DVRs allowing easy recording of any series, internet fan forums, youtube clips, home theater equipment available to the middle class, decreasing production and distribution costs, etc. Serial dramas became possible and are today the dominant form of TV making. When you don't need to wrap up all loose ends in 60 minutes, you can have multiple plot lines and many more characters. Complexity grows exponentially. Today, television is an artform that far outshines film.

There's more moral philosophy in one episode of Dexter than an entire year of movies. The myth and fantasy of Carnivale far outshine anything on film. Deadwood said more about civilization building than... wait, what movie said anything ever about making civilization sprout from the mud? I can name about 50 characters from The Wire that I feel like I 'know' pretty well. A movie can simply not have that because it ends after a couple of hours. That's just scratching the surface.

I'm sure that despite the technological limitations, good movies are still getting made, but many more good TV shows are being made. Sturgeon's law: 90% of everything is crap. But there's less crap on TV than film. I rarely see a movie released these days that's not aimed toward the lowest common denominator. And the technological trends are only making movies more and more obselete.

Melodrama, cont.

My point wrt musicals is, suppose you watched a play on Broadway, walked out of the theater and said, "Wow, how melodramatic!" Would that make sense as a criticism? Of course it was melodramatic--the actors are expressing themselves in song and dance!

Well, I think that depends on the musical. If I had just walked out of The Threepenny Opera, then I think that "How melodramatic" would be an absurd criticism -- or at least a demonstration that you entirely missed the deeper themes at work (Brecht's critique of capitalism, the hero as murderer, some of the earliest instances of breaking the fourth wall, etc.) If, OTOH, you'd just walked out of Legally Blonde - The Musical, then I think that describing the show as "melodrama" might end up being one of the nicer things one might say.

The problem with melodrama isn't that there's lots of emoting going on. Of course any musical will have that. The problem is that it's stuffed full of cardboard stereotypes: the villain who is the smartest character around but who is undone by generally being overly-clever; the bumbling hero who saves the day by blind chance; the none-to-bright heroine who generally requires some sort of rescuing; the fat kid who is always good for a laugh but who we all know has the heart of gold; and since this is the 21st C., we've also got the brave gay kid and the kid in the wheelchair.

Our cast of lovable cutouts then faces a set of increasingly-absurd plot points (really, you don't know your wife is faking being pregnant?), while armed only with terrible dialogue and over-the-top delivery. And it's over-the-top in the spoken scenes, not the musical ones. It's bad enough that I genuinely asked my spouse if the writers were trying to deliberately lampoon hackneyed dialogue -- if there was some kind of meta-badness that I was totally missing.

Then there's the fact that Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger had both won Super Bowls when they were younger than the dude who plays the frickin' high school quarterback. That doesn't make the show bad, per se. But, seriously, couldn't they find a couple of teenagers to star in a show about high school?

I agree with your points about television. Good TV can tell a story that's not possible in a 2-3 hour film. But I see zero evidence that Glee is doing so in a particularly good way. I certainly wouldn't mention it in the same post as the other shows you discuss here. Indeed, Castle, Chuck, White Collar and even Bones all do the comedy/drama combo far better than Glee manages. And I wouldn't put any of those up against Deadwood et. al.

I think we're coming at this from very different angles

When I was a teen, I hated teen dramas. Over the years, I've grown to like them. All the stuff you describe is part and parcel of teen dramas. I accept it part of the deal. You're comparing it to other genres.

High school, at least mine, was full of stereotypes. You almost have to be a stereotype to survive. Even if you like a particular song, you'd have to pretend you didn't just to fit in with the peer group. You had to dress like your friends or you'd be an outcast. The stereotypes were there because of the cliquish nature of high school.

Every drama on TV has absurd plot points. I know you like House, as do I, but it's full on absurdity. Same with Chuck.

(I've read that the director specifically asked Lea Michele to deliver her lines over-enthusiastically as part of her character.)

Tom Welling looked 30 when he played a freshman in high school. All the OC and Gossip Girl actors look way older than high school age. Like I said, that's part of the deal (for me) for teen dramas. I'm not sure if teens just aren't mature enough to work as actors on TV, or whether there are child labor laws, or what. But I've come to expect it. If anything, Cory Monteith looks way younger than the the typical actor portraying a high schooler.

I don't think Glee is in the same universe of quality as the premium channel shows, but for network TV, it's damn good.

Disney has long used actual

Disney has long used actual children and teenagers in roles representing characters close to their own age. Apparently not a legal problem. Judging by results, it's an acting problem.

Or, alternatively, it could

Or, alternatively, it could be that most people aren't really all that interested in actual, realistic teenagers and actual, realistic children, realistically portrayed by realistically teenage and child actors, as protagonists.

Good Points

I take your point about HS and stereotypes. And I don't really have a problem with stereotypes or with teen dramas. I mean, the very best teen drama ever -- The Breakfast Club -- is entirely about forced interactions between stereotypes. But it's precisely because TBC, and for that matter Freaks and Geeks, handled the material so masterfully that it leaves Glee's over-the-top performances in the dust. And, seriously, when you come off as over-the-top in comparison to Seth Rogen and Jason Segel, something is amiss. (Also, FWIW, many of the principal cast members of Freaks and Geeks were actual teenagers; all the dudes in The Breakfast Club were in their 20s, though.)

With the absurd plot points, I tend to distinguish those into different categories. Some shows are built around fundamentally absurd premises: that I could accidentally download all the government's secrets into my head; that some island warps space and time; that a bunch of human-munching aliens find it necessary to try to fool humans into cooperating rather than just enslaving everyone, etc. That, however, is different from shows that feature characters who behave in absurd ways. There are, for example, no actual people who behave like the folks in your typical daytime soap.

I find that I can deal fairly well with the former kind of absurdity, so long as it's not paired with the latter kind. Put actual people into weird circumstances, and I'm willing and able to suspend disbelief. I find the latter kind of absurdity harder to watch. It can work well for comedy (indeed, people doing crazy things in ordinary circumstances is possibly not a terrible definition of "comedy".) But as drama, I find that kind of absurdity to be grating.

The problem I have with Glee is that it's absurd in both ways. So the network that brings us huge throngs of people hoping to perform on one of the 759437549383 audition episodes of American Idol wants us to believe that super-talented singers would somehow be major league pariahs. Well, okay, fine. But it then also gives us a show that is filled with cartoon villains who do everything but twirl their mustaches and actors who make Blake Lively and Olivia Wilde look really talented. If a show has people who fail to behave like normal people and a central premise that looks nothing like the world we actually inhabit, then I have trouble finding anything to grab hold of.

All that said, it occurs to me that everything I've said about Glee could also be said of The Simpsons (or could many years ago when I still watched it regularly). Maybe Glee would work better for me if it were an old-fashioned episodic sitcom? Or even just animated?

On a side note, I suspect that our experiences watching House actually differ pretty dramatically. Much of what is absurd about the show doubtless goes right over my head, seeing as how I know almost nothing about ways that the human body can actually break.

Here's the difference between us

I automatically put Glee in that other category you talked about. I see the singing and dancing and accept that the show is going to involve absurdity.

Another thing I should make clear about why I might have a different impression of the show: I love to sing; I love to hear people sing and watch people dance. (I don't dance). To me (and others like me I assume) this show is digital crack. There are few things I love watching more than someone who has completely forgotten himself in song.

My favorite scene from the show isn't any of the polished numbers with vocal enhancement, but rather, the scene of Finn singing in "Can't Fight this Feeling" in the shower. Simple, pure, and joyous. Those ten seconds in the first episode got me hooked for life.

Musicals used to be a

Musicals used to be a tremendous thing in Hollywood. Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, all Hollywood stars on the strength of their ability to sing and/or dance. At some point, maybe by the end of the sixties, my impression is that the Hollywood Musical mostly vanished, with occasional exceptions (Grease, All That Jazz).

Good interview with a good

Good interview with a good point:

Did anybody else catch the

Did anybody else catch the Evil/Melodrama bit here in this interview?

A common mistake by the interviewer; and a fine correction by Christoph. See Wilde, I could write pages and pages about the reactionary commentary by Christoph. But alas, I have a Dog to walk.

Interesting that so many people naturally peg Villains into these templates. The female seemed as if she really didn't know how to react to such a reply, given to what she's used to.

And what about Movies that break from these templates? As we see, at least in this instance, it sure did make for one unique mother fucker, and I think other movies would do just as well to take Christoph's POV here.

The "bad guy" in Inglourious Basterds is utterly unique, and I think some would do well to not only notice the departure from melodrama (and follow it themselves), but also be aware that the term "Evil" needs some explanation.

For example, is this just another Evil Character that the Lady Interviewer would ask about:

It's a rhetorical question, but I'd be interested in seeing what others had to say.

So instead of writing, I'll let Brando do the talking for me in making my point, which I admit, must be sought.

Movies can be much more

Movies can be much more highly polished than TV shows. The writers, directors, actors, and crew must produce about 25 episodes of about 40 minutes per year (in most American shows). That's 1000 minutes of show per year. In contrast, if you go to IMDB and look at an actor's or director's movie credits, you're liable to see at most a handful a year. If it's 3 movies at 90 minutes movie, that's 270 minutes.

Frame by frame, quality is most obvious and least deniable in animation. So compare animated movies with animated TV. Is there anything on TV approaching the quality of animation of, say, UP? South Park is the first TV show that comes to my mind and it has smartly embraced the marginal quality of its animation as a deliberate aesthetic.


Certainly you're right in terms of polish. All you really have to do is compare any television series that later gets turned into a film. Even terrible remakes have a polish that far outstrips the shows themselves.

This might also get at part of the reason why HBO and Showtime keep producing shows that are far superior to what you can see on the networks. Producing a season of 13 hours gives you more time to get things right -- particularly when season 3 might premier 18 months after season 2 ended. You can have higher production values, more takes, and (arguably) attract better actors, since they will then have the option to do other work during their much longer off-time.

That said, while movies can tell a short story much better than a television program can do, TV can tell much longer, more complex stories. Movies can do this (the Harry Potter series tells a fairly long and complex story), but typically they don't. And even then, film might not be the ideal medium. Imagine the same Harry Potter series done as 7 seasons of television. The story could have been nearly as complex as the books. It would have cost a mint to make, though, unless you seriously compromised on the production values.

I'll tell you what I do

I'll tell you what I do like, if I may just get off the subject for a sec. I like that you bring a little variety to the website. Whether it's football, movies or T.V. shows... it's all good man.

I may have goofed on the "Joy" thing. It's clear now though.

You can do the same

I've been struggling for years to bring variety to the blog. Why don't you post something varietous? (And don't delete it afterwards.)

My vote for best show on

My vote for best show on air at the moment, which that ain't saying much.

The show is a god-damned

The show is a god-damned awful, primetime soap opera full of kitschy melodrama.

(No subject)

This is all very well. . .

But "Cop Rock" was the first.