Thursday 12 February 2009

...and talking about doom

"What's wrenching about Willow's behavior -- and Whedon knows it as well as anybody else -- is that it cuts against everything Tara ever stood for. She was one of the show's gentlest and most sensible characters; when Buffy confided to Tara, in shame, that she was ensnarled in an obsessive sexual relationship with Spike, Tara's response was astonishingly sympathetic. Ultimately, she would be the only character who didn't pass judgment on Buffy for that behavior.
You could argue that of all the characters on "Buffy," Tara was the one who stood most clearly for the right of human beings to live and love as they choose without having to explain themselves, and to make their own mistakes if need be. Her soft, pearlescent voice and shy, doelike eyes didn't contrast with her resolve; they were a huge part of it, and a most effective way of telling anyone who would dare to make rash pronouncements on her or her friends, "Get your hands off our business."

This is from an old Salon article on the season six finale of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". I am quoting from it because on Friday, February 13 (and I don't believe that date was picked randomly... since it got the doomed Friday night timeslot, it might as well go with Friday 13, right?), Joss Whedon's new show "Dollhouse is going to premier on Fox. In advance, there are several interviews with the creator and the star, Eliza Dushku - "Dollhouse" also provides a new home for Tahmoh Penikett of BSG which finished shooting.

Salon: Joss Whedon just wants to be loved

I am excited about "Dollhouse" but the problem about the show is mentioned in the interview: Joss has made five or six stand-alone episodes to appeal to a wide enough audience because the show is going to need good ratings in order to survive (same, by the way, applies to "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles", a show that draws from Josses previous genius stroke of picking Summer Glau as one of the lead characters of "Firefly" - "Terminator" was just moved from Mondays to Fridays and is struggling for a third season, because, you know, I just got into it so it will get inevitably cancelled). But the ideas always work on such a big scale. There is always an entire universe behind them, and like Buffy, they probably actually need seven seasons to play out (and then some comic books). Getting a glimpse into the universe and then imagining with dreamy eyes what might have been is one of the most horrible situations any fan of a tv show can be put in.
In an 2005 article on Salon, the writer explains why Whedon should write for television, not for movies:
"Of course, you can fit stunning plot twists and brilliant dialogue within the confines of a 100-minute movie. But it's not the same. Take that character who dies in Serenity. Had Firefly lived on as a TV series, Whedon would have invested the character with foibles and hidden strengths. Our bond with the character would have had ample time to develop as we watched countless informal, telling moments. Then the character might have been killed in Season 3—only after this loss would be certain to stomp the heart of any die-hard viewer. Later, Whedon might bring the character back to life. Then make the character gay.
It all adds up to a richer relationship than can be had with even the most carefully drawn movie protagonists. The way characters can accrue definition over time, the opportunity to draw on a long back story of events—this is TV's powerful and innate advantage. It's the advantage of all serial narratives. Ask comic book fans (Whedon's one of them). Ask Charles Dickens. "
I grew up watching television, and shows have always meant more to me than any movie, ever, could. I also like movies for entirely different reasons than tv shows - and to some level, I probably even prefer the intensity of character development they make possible to literature.
And part of Whedon's great achievement is helping to shape the grand landscape of tv shows into what it is today - but for the idea of grand storylines and continuity and the actual "West Wing" for Sci-Fi to play out a lot of commitment and risk-taking is required from the networks producing the shows, at least as long as this is the way TV shows are produced (although this is just one more example where a different business model is desperately needed, one that actually takes into account that tv shows are seen around the world at about the same time when they are new and then readily bought as DVD because they are usually so well-produced).
"Q. The show has been moved into a tough time slot. How do you feel about that?

A. It’s a tough time slot if your expectations are to take over the world. If your expectations are to hold your own in a tough time slot, then it’s not a tough time slot. Knowing that genre shows have a life outside of their airing and that so many people are watching TV at a different time than it airs anyway, it’s certainly not the same as it used to be."

NY Times: From the Undead to Multiple Lives , February 4, 2009
Let's hope that, for once, the time is right for a new, long-running Joss Whedon TV show that can actually fill the void that will be left behind once the final episode of "Battlestar Galactica" airs. However unlikely, it is something to hope for (and wouldn't it be great if the running social commentary for the next few years would come from Whedon - after Ron D. Moore, creator of "Battlestar", followed those dark Bush years?).

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