OTHER SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

Why I love FRINGE and TRUE BLOOD

POSTED BY: REGINAROADIE
UPDATED: Friday, January 30, 2009 06:32
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Friday, January 30, 2009 3:19 AM

REGINAROADIE


Hey All

Recently I finished a massive 22 page blog that I've been posting in increments at various places. I recently posted September, in which I go on about my two new favorite shows, TRUE BLOOD and FRINGE. I delve into Joss a lot as a sort of reference point. And while I've posted a lot on the FRINGE and TRUE BLOOD threads, I'm posting part of the blog as a way to combine all that I've written about it.

Hope you enjoy and please comment. Because that's the only paycheck I get for writing this.

It was the beginning of the new season on TV that things really moved. The shows I was already into all had stellar premieres (including HEROES with its “Villains” volume. While bashing it is still fashionable, I will defend that show to the bitter end), but I was beginning to fall in love with two new shows that brought new twists into a tried and true genre.

The two shows I fell in love with was Alan Ball’s new HBO show TRUE BLOOD and the latest from wunderkind J.J. Abrams, FRINGE. Both were shows that when they were initially debuted had some mixed reviews and kinks to work out. But by October, both shows were picking up steam and getting the accolades they deserved from the general public.

TRUE BLOOD could not have more unfortunate timing, what with those stupid TWILIGHT books and the dumb ass movie becoming huge successes, thus making it seem like a cheap knock-off. But knowing that this is from Alan Ball, one of if not my favorite current screenwriter working in the industry today, I knew that there would be so much more to TRUE BLOOD than yet another vampire love story. And in the weeks that followed, TRUE BLOOD leaped across its uneven toned pilot and became a riveting neo-realist take on the vampire genre.

After seeing the trifecta of BUFFY/ANGEL/FIREFLY, I am as much a Joss Whedon fan as the next guy or girl. I love his distinct characterizations, the universes he creates out of thin air, and the genre subversion and sense of humor. But he is not a perfect writer as so many people on the internet would claim he is. His stubborn atheism that hinders the worlds he created, the obvious daddy issues, his random killing off of beloved characters for shock value and the occasional overboard feminism are things that I see as major problems in the Whedonverse (“Oh, wow. You actually use the phrase Whedonverse in real life.”) And one detail that always bugged the shit out of me in BUFFY and to a lesser degree ANGEL, was the fact that an entire town was built on a Hellmouth, and yet outside of our cast members, the entire town was oblivious to the high death toll and things that go bump in the night that vastly outnumbered the humans. And I couldn’t buy the “oh they forget easily” excuse in the pilot.

TRUE BLOOD, on the other hand, bases its entire concept on the notion of vampires being out in the open and of people dealing with the fact that the stuff of legend is actually real. That I find a far more interesting and fascinating twist on the vampire mythos than the typical vampire love story that seems to have taken root. While the relationship between Sookie and Bill is a through line, it’s only a minor aspect to the far more fascinating “vampire as minority” metaphor that runs throughout the series and influences all the various sub-plots. If you need more convincing on how great the show can be, watch episode 5 “Sparks Fly Out”, where Bill is invited by Grams to speak at the local church to the town about him fighting in the Civil War and the various reactions the different townspeople have. The moment when the shell shocked soldier from Iraq comes up to Bill and hugs him because he’s finally met someone who truly knows what he’s gone through (“They don’t understand.”) was to me the moment when the show finally found it’s voice. Where it’s goal of having fantasy interacting with harsh reality finally came to fruition.

Also, while vampires may be what get’s people to tune in, it’s the human characters and their glorious contradictions that keep us coming back week after week. While some people claim that subtlety is not one of Ball’s strengths as a writer, I think what puts him far and above so many other writers is how he is able to have his characters full of contradictions and make wrong decisions that us viewers find painfully obvious not to do, and yet still have us care for them and find aspects of them that we can identify in ourselves. I just find that more interesting a direct than 11 ½ seasons of “demons as metaphor for real life struggles” that after a while can get a bit boring.

Genre subversion was also the main reason that I fell in love with FRINGE, the latest from J.J. Abrams. But first, an expository rant.

With the ridiculous amount of genre shows I watch, one tends to notice recurring plotlines, character traits and general whatever. And while the majority of these I’m willing to forgive provided the show does something unique with it, there are a few recurring motifs, if you will, that annoy the shit out of me. High on that list is “daddy issues”. As aforementioned with all of Joss’ work and also in LOST, it really bugs the Hell out of me to see characters whine and complain about who they are in relation to their families and specifically with their fathers. The dad’s are either absent or more villainous than the villains they’re fighting. This is explicit in the BUFFY episode “Family” from season 5 where Tara essentially says to her biological family (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Fuck you, you sucked as parents, so now I’m going to be with the these group of strangers that I consider to be a closer family than blood.” And so on and so forth. With the exception of Fred in ANGEL, pretty much every character in the Whedonverse has massive daddy issues. And this is even worse in LOST, where there was an ep entitled “All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”. To me, it’s just lazy psychology on the writer’s behalf, and untrue to my own personal experience. In my experience, I have never been part of a group of friends who are closer and more intimate with me than my own family. To me, friends come and go like the ever changing seasons. But family, no matter how contentious it can get, are always with you no matter what. It is a bond that can and will never be broken, which is why I identify more with shows like SIX FEET UNDER and MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE than the aforementioned shows and 90’s relics like FRIENDS. I’m sure that there are people from broken families out there that eat this up like catnip, and God Bless for finding something that you can identify with. But from my own experience, where the only person that replies to my blogs is my Auntie Jill, this just sounds false.

Now why did I go on this rant? Because it is the relationship between Walter and Peter Bishop that makes me come back for more. While all the stuff relating to The Pattern (The Observer, the cool images with hidden symbols, the accelerated pregnancies, parasites, LSD sensory deprivation tanks and exploding heads) gets me to tune in, it ends up just being icing on the cake for me. For me, the real draw is the interactions between mad scientist Walter Bishop and his estranged son Peter. How Walter is this brilliant and terrible but timid man who can go from reciting the recipe for root beer to solving baffling scientific events to cutting down a person to size for not understanding where he’s coming from. And what keeps John Noble from running off with a wild characterization is the brokenness and timidity of a man trying to regain his sanity and salvage his relationship with Peter. And that while Peter initially wants nothing to do with him given the Hell he put Peter and his mother through; he is ever so slowly coming around to making this relationship work. I imagine this dynamic is very much like a child having to take care of a parent afflicted with Altzheimers. Of a parent and child trying to mend their relationship, but having to fight through so much pain between the two of them. I just think seeing that in a genre show after so many “I’m doing this because daddy didn’t love me” moments just makes me ever the more grateful for stuff like this.


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"And it starts with a sentence that might last a lifetime, or it all might just go down in flames. If I let you know me, then why would you want me? Each day I don't is a shame. Each day I don't is a great shame."

Loudon Wainwright III - "Strange Weirdos" off the "Knocked Up" soundtrack


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Friday, January 30, 2009 4:56 AM

DEEPGIRL187


I haven't watched Fringe, but count me in as a die-hard fan of True Blood. I came in by way of the novels the show was based on. Where I think the show succeeds the most is how it's taken relatively small or even minor parts of the books and created new characters or new storylines with them. Tara, Jason, Lafayette, and even Sam to a certain extent are given roles and stories that weren't really explored in the books at all (and in the case of Tara, didn't exist at all; her character is vastly different). And surprisingly, there are many aspects of the series that I enjoy more than the novels.

I also enjoy how the series deals with the conflicts between the supernatural and everyday life. To me, one of the things that always set the novels apart from standard fare was the fact that it never forgot the fact that despite the world Sookie lives in, she still has to do things like go to work and pay her bills. With many supernatural-themed series (and I include Buffy and Angel in this), it becomes really easy to go off on a tangent and forget about things like reality. On some series that's the point, but I think for many shows, it makes the assumption that viewers are only concerned about the fantastic world of the show and nothing else. I'm glad True Blood has found a way to resolve and expand on that conflict.

Adaptations like this usually make me edgy, but True Blood has shined where most would have failed, I think. Of course, having Alan Ball at the helm doesn't hurt.

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"This is my timey-wimey detector. It goes ding when there's stuff. Also, it can boil an egg at 30 paces, whether you want it to or not, actually, so I've learned to stay away from hens. It's not pretty when they blow."

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Friday, January 30, 2009 6:32 AM

DEADLOCKVICTIM


Quote:

Originally posted by deepgirl187:
Of course, having Alan Ball at the helm doesn't hurt.



and the fact that it's on HBO.... instead of say... Fox





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