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01 November 2011 @ 10:25 pm
New TV: Stories about the stories we tell  
Is anybody watching the new US television shows "American Horror Story" (FX), "Once upon a Time" (ABC), or "Grimm" (NBC)? (I don't know if they're available internationally yet.)

I may be too plebeian to appreciate "American Horror Story". I feel like the total square standing in front of the Art and whining, "But I don't get it." [personal profile] violetcheetah seems to be getting a lot more out of it than I am, at any rate. Oh, I'll stick with it through this week at least; the next episode is written by Minear, and in theory at least some movement-in-direction-of-answers is promised.

It's densely packed with visual motifs ... that I keep missing and only learn about in reading later recaps. It's richly steeped in homages to dozens of American horror tropes/themes/images ... many of which I don't know. And, probably most of all for me, I don't like these people. The male lead is a self-righteous, responsibility-avoiding nozzle who tries to justify cheating on his wife with one of his students. He's one of those insufferable archetypes who is presented as "too weak" to resist the "seduction" of all these "forward" women. He uses his psychiatric training to manipulate his wife into being at fault (though at least she calls him on that), but he otherwise seems to be a pretty crappy psychiatrist. The female lead is less objectionable, but then, she's playing a martyr; I don't dislike her, and she's had several moments of taking the smart action in various situations, but that's not really enough to make me especially pull for her ... especially when one of her goals is repairing her marriage to the nozzle. Their daughter is a cookie-cutter rebellious teen for the most part (and even though I know it's petty, the smoking puts me off). The neighbors certainly aren't people I'm rooting for, and neither are Moira nor Tate.

Yes, yes, yes, these are all realistic character portrayals and elements ... but I don't want to watch those kind of people. If I'm going to invest my time and interest in something, I as a media consumer want to connect with a character. It's how I consume narratives. And so far this show isn't remotely something I can do that with ... and they're not paying out explanations regularly enough for that to compensate.

So I dunno. I'll stick around for one or two more, but I may bail, because I don't care.

I found "Once upon a Time" more enjoyable, but it's also not really got a particular direction — but then again, it's only had two episodes. I'm worried about the likelihood that Emma will discover that she's meant to be a mommy after all!!!, barf; I'm wearily resigned to the probability that we'll get a couple of bog-standard fairy-tale het romances as focal points; and I'm concerned that the primary antagonist, at least so far, is a woman who is evil because, well, she's evil. (Or, alternately, because That Bitch Ruined My Het Love So I Will Bring Her Down If It's The Last Thing I Do.) All of that said, though, I'm at least more interested in seeing where the characters are going. I like that Emma's giving up a baby for adoption when she was 18 has, so far, been portrayed remarkably sympathetically for modern US television. [personal profile] violetcheetah points out there's even a chance that Regina/Evil Queen will get a redemption arc or heel/face turn; that would be excellent.

(Or, to put it in more sophisticated terms, [personal profile] violetcheetah observes that "actually, one of my hopes for OUAT is that they will get to the story of why evil witch was evil, and give her some humanity in her subconscious desire for a child that brings her from antagonist to realizing she's a pawn in her own curse and trying to help break it. like, when emma asks if she loves him and she says she does, i believed that. so if that's true, the story could be largely about her character arc to reluctant hero, a la spike or something, and that could be fun.")

You know what else I'm liking? Women in primary roles. Emma is the lead; she's battling Regina. (Upside, a Latina in a primary role! Downside, the Latina is the evil character ... so far.) Snow starts out assertive and confrontational, and even in her present state, she's slyly determined. The primary male early on is a kid (though "Mr. Gold" will obviously become more prominent); the Sheriff is pretty clearly secondary.

And that makes me much less interested in Grimm, which would seem to have a vaguely related thematic set. I look at the Wikipedia page, and what do I see? Main guy, partner guy, bad-guy-turned-good(ish) guy, police captain guy ... and main guy's girlfriend. I mean, seriously, that seems to be her role: Girlfriend. They couldn't spring for one woman in a primary role that was anything more substantial than "main guy's girlfriend"?

I've got nothing against guys — I mean, seriously, my fanfic identification character is Rodney McKay. I'm used to stories being About Guys. But this is 2011; we can do better than this. Can't we?

So I may watch the first ep on OnDemand; I may watch the second episode. But unless it has something magical to redeem the sausage-fest, that'll be it for me.

"Anyway, I'm sorry, but that just happens to be how I feel about it. What do you think?"

Originally posted at Dreamwidth | Comment | comment count unavailable comments
Sholiosholio on November 2nd, 2011 03:26 am (UTC)
I want to try both "Once Upon a Time" and "Grimm", but ... you've nailed my objections. Granted, I haven't watched either one so far. But "Grimm" sounds like it would be totally up my alley in terms of general premise and mood and so forth -- except for the complete lack of female characters. I have no problem whatsoever identifying with male characters (hello, every show I watch) but I am a trifle fed up with it, and I'm reluctant to get into yet another show in which all the characters in major roles and the ones about which 90% of the fic is written are male ...

And then, "Once Upon a Time" wins major points with me for the mostly-female cast (plus, Robert Carlyle) but from all I've heard about it, it sounds way more slow-moving and romance-oriented than I usually go for. Also, I have dismal hopes for its survival past midseason.

What I really want is "Grimm" with more women in the cast. *snivels*
michelel72: CM-Garcia-Joymichelel72 on November 2nd, 2011 03:50 am (UTC)
I suspect the calculus is "women like romance", so anything with primarily women "has" to be primarily romance, and everything else "has" to be primarily guys. Which, as a concept, pisses me off. The romance(s) obviously have an important role in Once, but I'm hoping they won't be the focus. We'll see. (To the extent anyone has been semi-fridged so far, it's been Prince Charming. Ha!) I'm certainly willing to give it a chance; I think the Emma & Snow link is going to be very important, and I do so hope they'll surprise me with Regina.

And Robert Carlyle in his, well, "other" role, is practically worth the price of admission alone. The script itself must have called outright for chewing the scenery (it fits the character), and wow does he ever revel in the chance. Hee.

I'll try to give Grimm a chance — the promos actually started to grate, so I don't know — and maybe even see if a female-inversion casting occurs to me as a fic concept. I haven't yet managed to write anything that isn't SGA, but you never know. Or, more likely, maybe someone else will get there first. Not that that would make up for the source material not doing better, but still.

So apparently TNT has a search-and-rescue series starting production soon with Tricia Helfer in the lead role and Summer Glau has just been added. It'll probably be your typical romance as well in the end (it's based on a book titled "Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog", so there you go) but ... maybe it'll be more than that?
Sholiosholio on November 2nd, 2011 04:24 am (UTC)
Yeah, Grimm looks like it's going to have all the fail of SPN ... in fact, it kinda looks like SPN 2 in an awful lot of really annoying ways. (The Youtube trailer is all centered around a sexy girl getting murdered in the woods -- and she's basically the only girl in the whole trailer.) Which is so frustrating because otherwise it looks like quite my kind of escapist entertainment! But I don't need another Supernatural in my life, aargh.

I must admit Robert Carlyle is the main selling point of "Once Upon a Time" for me right now. :D (Which I realize is quite ironic considering that I've been complaining about not enough women in the other show ...) But, yeah, it really looks like the two shows have split down major demographic lines: women = romance, and men = stuff blowing up! Except that I'd rather watch stuff blowing up, dammitall. I'm probably going to try some episodes of "Once Upon a Time" when there are a few more episodes out; I have a history of giving up on shows after only one or two episodes (SGA, White Collar, etc) only to find that I like them once I watch a few more, so I'm trying to learn from my mistakes and wait 'til there's a half-season or so, to give myself enough time to get into it ...
michelel72: SGA-Teyla-Seriousmichelel72 on November 2nd, 2011 04:44 am (UTC)
Re the trailer: Oh, ugh. I never got into SPN, and given what I've heard about its various fails, I haven't regretted that. Not promising.

I don't know the expected audience demographics for the recently released movie "In Time", but it was very action-oriented, with the romance perfunctory as far as I was concerned (there's a few kisses, some stripping down to underwear, and an implied overnight sex), but I had a grand old time with all the action, even though I'm female! And the female lead was more proactive than I'm used to for the genre, so bonus.
Atalanta: Ginalothy on November 2nd, 2011 11:33 am (UTC)

I'm really enjoying Once Upon a Time (and didn't expect to at all as I've never much cared for fairytales even as a kid). I love that it's female-dominated, I like the main characters, and so far it hasn't got overwhelmed by romance or other "women's things" (in fact, the only romance so far is Snow White/Prince Charming, which is a. inevitable and b. only in the fairytale realm as yet).

As for it survival past midseason - it's only aired 2 eps so far so you can't tell for sure, but both of those have had really good ratings I believe.

Grimm: I watched the first ten minutes of it and got fed up and turned it off. Maybe not a fair assessment of how good it is, maybe the other 30+ minutes were great, but I didn't care enough about it to give it the benefit of the doubt. Also, the lack of women doesn't appeal it to me.
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Elizabeth colorssholio on November 2nd, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the info! :) I certainly don't want to dismiss Once Upon a Time out of hand, since the thing that really makes or breaks a show is the writing and how the cast plays off each other, and those are things you can't really judge without watching it.

I do have the first couple of episodes waiting to watch when there are a few more available (I like to marathon things to get into them).
michelel72: CM-Garcia-Joymichelel72 on November 5th, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC)
To inform your potential-marathon plans: "Once upon a Time" just got picked up for the back nine, which augurs well for its survival past mid-season.
michelel72: SGA-RodneySam-Readingmichelel72 on November 5th, 2011 05:49 pm (UTC)
Once upon a Time just got picked up for the back nine, so apparently it is in fact doing well. That pleases me; I don't know if it's there yet for me, but it's promising!
X-parrot: dw donna snowxparrot on November 2nd, 2011 04:18 am (UTC)
Yes, yes, yes, these are all realistic character portrayals and elements ... but I don't want to watch those kind of people.

Ahh, this is my major problem with a lot of both "realistic" fiction, and a lot of symbolism-dense fiction - if the characters aren't engaging, then it doesn't matter how realistic it supposedly is (I like escapism anyway; but also I find things where everyone are petty assholes to be unrealistic) or how intriguing the iconography is; it's just not going to engage me...

I'm used to stories being About Guys. But this is 2011; we can do better than this. Can't we?

Sometimes I have a bad feeling that we're moving backwards in this...or at least aren't going forward anymore? Buffy and Xena were years ago, and all the major genre shows now seem to star the dudes, with women in supporting roles...
michelel72: DW-Donna-Spookymichelel72 on November 2nd, 2011 04:38 am (UTC)
Ahh, this is my major problem with a lot of both "realistic" fiction, and a lot of symbolism-dense fiction - if the characters aren't engaging, then it doesn't matter how realistic it supposedly is
Yes, exactly! I know folks who actively like that sort of thing in all categories of literature, and that's fine for them — but it's really not what I'm looking for. My limit is probably something like "The Shield", in which the show manipulates you into rooting for the bad guy most of the time (sort of), but that's a delicate balance ... and they bothered to invest the viewer in the antihero.

(I like escapism anyway; but also I find things where everyone are petty assholes to be unrealistic)
I do, too — in no small part because, while there have been some petty assholes in my life, I've made changes to get away from them. No need to revisit that personally, and as you note — it's not everyone in my life anyway!

ETA: Whoops, left out: The thing with Grimm is, David Greenwalt is a creator. He was deeply involved in Buffy! How can he not try harder at this concept particularly?

Edited at 2011-11-02 04:39 am (UTC)
Grey Lupous: hmmgreyias on November 2nd, 2011 04:12 pm (UTC)
I covered my eyes on the rest of it since I haven't watched those shows yet, but having watched Grimm, I think you may want to watch the pilot before writing it off completely. You raise some valid points, and only time will tell if it's going to be Supernatural Redux. I can see how it might, but there's also the chance for it to go in a totally different direction. I think it will probably be determined by what they ultimately wind up doing with the MC's aunt, who I haven't seen anyone mention yet. I hope she sticks around,because television needs more kick-ass librarians. Of course, I'm usually dense about these things, so I might be off base.

I have "Once Upon a Time" on my TiVo to watch when I'm ready, but if it is as romance based as it seems, I'm probably not going to get invested in it. (Although maybe I'll wind up surprised, I do really enjoy Castle.)
michelel72: SGA-RodneySam-Sadfacemichelel72 on November 5th, 2011 05:57 pm (UTC)
I figure I'll check out the pilot on OnDemand and the second episode, which I DVRed, to see what happens post-pilot-itis. I admit I'm not hopeful, but that's the pessimist's secret: any surprises will be pleasant ones, right?!

"Once" hasn't played the romance angle all that hard so far, which is surprising given its apparent genre. It's mostly been a split between backstory and the early stirrings of Emma v. Regina. (Plus moppet, but the kid isn't half as annoying as he could be.)

I didn't remember that you like Castle! My friend-and-boss ninjamonkey73 is alllll about the Castle/Beckett and pushed me into finally catching up. I friendshipped them in the first two seasons, came to see them as a viable ship in season three ... and have been actively squicked by what they've done this season (not counting the most recent episode, 4x07, which was back to being cute and unobjectionable to me). But the squick is apparently a me-thing; both ninjamonkey73 and violetcheetah fall more on the "I get where she's coming from and I think it's realistic" side of things, while I'm hung up on really disliking people who pull some of what she's been pulling (intentionally or otherwise). I'm really hoping 4x07 signals a change in direction; I want to like them!