03 October 2005

Viewing Update

B. and I have recently been rewatching Firefly, in preparation for going to see Serenity this Thursday.

God, that was a good series, or rather the half of it they were allowed to make was. I hope the film is half as good, because if so it's going to be bloody amazing.

We took the unusual step (for us) of bothering to do a second rewatch with the DVD commentaries turned on: most are fun, although more by way of entertaining banter between various series luminaries (Nathan Fillion being particularly highlarious) than of actual critique. The most interesting by far is Joss Whedon's solo commentary on the final episode, Objects in Space, which delves into the writing process and the philosophy underlying the episode. Generally when people start quoting Sartre I remember my nineteen-year-old self and run a mile (not that I actually read Sartre at nineteen, so much as believing that I looked good in black jackets and polo-necks), but Whedon says some very interesting things about Objects in Space as an existentialist text. It's well worth listening to if you have the boxed set.

In unrelated news, people will tell you that The West Wing -- once the smartest, most mature and intelligent thing on American T.V. -- went badly downhill once series creator Aaron Sorkin left under a narcotic cloud. You may well be tempted to dismiss them as televisual snobs: after all, the series has so much going for it. How could it suffer so badly from the absence of one man?

As someone who's now very nearly at the end of season 5, the first after Sorkin's departure, I can tell you that those people, despite their unattractive air of knowing far more than you do about things like film stock and camera angles, are quite correct. Season 5 is, by the standards of what's gone before, really poor. There's still the occasional good episode, but they're only as good as the feebler episodes of the first four seasons (which were still pretty good television, admittedly).

There's a huge reduction in intelligence, both in the scripts and in the presumed audience, and a shift of focus from the politics (which were always fascinating) to the characters' emotional lives (much duller, especially since those lives seem suddenly to have become cliched and soapish). Even the politics begins to tend towards melodrama, with nuance and ambiguity replaced by grand declarative gesture. It's terribly disappointing.

On the plus side, though, I think I now understand Mulholland Drive. It's all about lesbians.

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