S.H.I.E.L.D. Renewed for 2nd Season!

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Yaaaay!!!! S.H.I.E.L.D. has been renewed for a 2nd season! Now, just to wait and hope that Joss gets done with The Avengers in time, and comes to work on the show. It has already become a really great show, without Joss’ direct involvement. I can see his hand in the overarching plotlines, but not so much the individual episodes. Season 2 will be different, and better, if he’s there. And in between The Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D., Joss will be working on the next installment of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog! This summer is the time when Joss & his brothers and their friends and their actor friends will be getting together to make it. That’s what he said in an interview. Yaaaaay!

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How I Cured My Writer’s Block

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I have not been keeping up on my Joss Whedon news. I’m something like two weeks behind! This happens to me regularly. I want to blog a lot more than I do, but I lack energy to sort it all out – there are so many topics I want to seize upon. I have started at least eight different posts before realizing that something else was more pressing, and posting about the something else instead. That is, when I post at all. All of this leads to psychological pressure that I put on myself, which contributes to my writer’s block.

The idea of trying to catch up is ridiculous – it would be way too much work! So I have come to a conclusion and that is this: from this time forward, this blog will be hopelessly, hilariously out-of-date if it wants to be. Or not, if it doesn’t. I’m going to fall back into my time vortex and let myself lose track of ordinary time. So I’m going to post things weeks, sometimes months, after they hit the news. Or sometimes on the very day the news is out! It’s the only way. But I’ll be on time when it really matters, you’ll see.

Coming soon: blog posts about Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Sexisim in Joss Whedon’s work, Isms vs. Ignorance, and Lady Sif from Thor. (I luuuurve Lady Sif.)

I was going to close with an embedded video called “8 Mind-Blowing Connections Between the Works of Joss Whedon” but I then I watched it, and I find the people in it (especially the woman) extremely annoying, and I don’t want them on my blog. But the premise is cool. Check it out if you dare.

Age of Ultron is Written!

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Word on the street is that scripts are coming out for The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Mark Ruffalo got his, anyway. This means that Joss is pretty much done writing it, and it will go into production soon, and then he can direct it and then he can come home to S.H.I.E.L.D. and rescue it from mediocrity.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Makes Good

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It finally clicked for me. As of Episode 1.7 “The Hub” S.H.I.E.L.D. has officially grown on me. And now I’m worried that they’ll possibly either get rid of one of my favorite characters (Ward) or cancel the show altogether. Internet chatter says people aren’t loving the show. People want more references to super-heroes, people want actual super-heroes, people want whatever it is that S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s not dishing out. I couldn’t agree less.

The true test of a show, for me, is whether I can watch episodes repeatedly without getting bored or sick of it. And with this show, I can. There are enough bits of quirk, good enough dialogue, and enough unsolved mysteries (what’s going on with Coulson, where did Skye come from, etc.) to keep me hooked. And I was so happy, at the end of 1.8 “The Well” that Ward went into Agent May’s room at the end of the night. I’d been worried that he’d hook up with Skye, which would have been both sappy and predictable. In real life, the two actors are hooking up (which is sappy and predictable.) But it is much, much cooler for Ward to hook up with May.

However, S.H.I.E.L.D. is a deeply flawed show. I have gone on at length about this. Its biggest problem is that it is sometimes boring. The biggest mistake the creators have made is to repeat the mistakes of so many shows that have gone before – to deliberately make the episodes episodic, with no real overarching plotline. The biggest “big bad” we’ve seen so far is Project Centipede, but a) the only time that came up after the pilot was in the very worst episode so far (“Girl In The Flower Dress”) and b) they already killed off the doctor! What a waste of a potentially good character.

I don’t understand why anyone would deliberately make a show so episodic. It has been proven time and again (see: Angel, Season 1, Dollhouse Season 1, Buffy Season 1) that it just doesn’t work. Not for a Whedon show anyway (my expectations are higher for a Whedon show than an ordinary show.) Every time there’s a new Whedon show and it starts out this way, I’m baffled. What’s it called? “The definition of insanity?” Trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. You’d think they would have learned by now.

But all complaints aside, I still like this show better than anything else on TV! So please don’t cancel it, ABC. Let Joss get back and start working on it, and let’s see if he can turn it into something excellent. And if he can’t, then I will sadly agree (with him) that he’s done doing TV and should concentrate on new media instead. He’s out to make things better, not worse, so maybe this is just no longer his medium. Sucks for me, but I’d rather see him doing excellent movies than mediocre TV shows, even though it’s TV that I want more of. We shall see what happens, won’t we?

From Buffy to Bard

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Today I went on a pilgrimage with my friend to see the Joss Whedon exhibit at Joss Whedon’s alma mater, Wesleyan University. It was in the film building, where he took his film courses. Unfortunately photos were not allowed, except I was able to take this pic at the entrance to prove I was there:

Screen Shot 2013-11-16 at 9.32.37 PMYou can kind of make out the outline of my head and shoulders in the reflection. Anyway, it was in a tiny room, but the exhibit didn’t feel tiny. It was really fun! They had scenes from Buffy running on a screen, and then things around the room like posters from Buffy, The Avengers, Much Ado, etc. and then in glass cases some props, such as money from Firefly, and Buffy’s stake! But for me, the most exciting thing was Buffy’s scythe from the end of Season 7, on the wall. When I touched it I felt a rush of slayer power coursing through my veins, and I felt connected to generations of slayers!

There was a Chitauri helmet (not the infected one, I hope) in a glass case as well, and other things like some of Joss’ notebooks from when he was coming up with Buffy and Dr. Horrible. And there was a map of Sunnydale on the wall. One of the most fun things was Hawkeye’s quiver, from The Avengers. It had an “ON” switch which I was allowed to operate, and the quiver actually worked! Remember how it would turn to ready a new arrow? It did that.

After visiting the exhibit we wandered around town, thinking about how this was where Joss hung out for four years. And we went to the movie theatre where he must have gone to see who knows how many movies! We saw Thor: The Dark World, which I must say was a disappointment. I found it nowhere near so funny nor fun as the first one. But we had to see it because it supposedly sets up the next episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. So in spite of my disappointment in the movie (it was battles, battles, battles, and one cute bit where Eric Selvig was naked on TV) I am ready for S.H.I.E.L.D. on Tuesday! (Or Wednesday morning, or whenever Amazon has it ready for streaming.)

All in all it was a great day. I’m still buzzing from touching the scythe. Scythe matters!

Angel: Illyria and Drogyn

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I was hanging out (like the total geek that I am) on a S.H.I.E.L.D. chat site tonight, and I met this cool Aussie girl who reminded me of this moment in Angel, Season 5, which happens right before the end of the world (for Los Angeles, that is, as it is about to get sucked into Hell!)

OMG how I miss Buffy and Angel. Or rather, I miss them being on TV so I could talk to people about them! All my Buffy friends were in California where I used to live. I’ve only met a couple people here (East Coast) who’ve watched Buffy. And one of them was a guy at a party who likened me to a marsupial frog! Which looks like this:

Don’t Blame S.H.I.E.L.D. on Joss!

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I just watched episode five of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it was horrible, and not good-Horrible either. It was just as bad as most of the other crap that’s on TV, except for the super-heroesque plot which of course makes it more interesting. But it was boring. And there was absolutely no Whedon Wit. It wasn’t even pretty to look at. I could go on.  This is reminding me of a troubling story I came across in September 2013, about how the S.H.I.E.L.D. scripts that were coming in were so bad that Joss himself had to be called in to do “major rewrites.”

I expect a lot from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. because Joss Whedon is supposedly at the helm, and it’s his name that’s on the line. He has never let me down before. But I really shouldn’t critique this as a Joss Whedon show, because he’s not really running it. It’s his brother Jed, and Jed’s wife Maurissa Tancharoen. They have proven themselves in the field (they co-wrote Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and worked on Dollhouse as well) so they should be able to at least make sure the show is funny. But that isn’t happening. There have been a few good episodes of S.H.I.E.L.D., but they weren’t very funny. And the weaker episodes (Episodes 2 and 5, in my opinion) show no wit whatsoever. Who’s to blame?

It depends on who’s overseeing the scripts. It should be this couple. Why did they let it get so bad? I don’t know. But I blame them, not Joss. He is very busy  hammering out the next Avenger’s movie, which I expect to be better than the first. He says that The Avengers wasn’t a “great” movie (which is true, it’s just a hugely profitable movie) and “why do it again if you can’t do it better?” So he’s off making the second one even better, which he will, and meanwhile S.H.I.E.L.D. flounders. Perhaps he is to blame for attaching his name to this show & then not being around to make sure it’s any good. But the show itself is the fault of many, many people..

People forget that Joss Whedon is much more than just a brilliant writer and director. He is also brilliant at encouraging other people to be brilliant. And apparently Jed and Maurissa, pretty good writers in their own right (see: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog; Dollhouse) are NOT so brilliant at getting the people around them to be brilliant.

When will Joss finally be called in to fix the episodes? And will it do any good if he’s not at the helm of the ship? It’s not all about the writing. It’s also about the delivery, the timing, the aesthetics. I think S.H.I.E.L.D. is doomed to be a tragedy akin to the original Buffy movie. It should make Joss cry. But hopefully he’ll jump the Marvel ship soon and get back to creating his own original content, because that’s what he’s best at. The more overall control he has, the better the TV show or movie is. Or the Dr. Horrible! That was the most pure form of art because there were no meddling investors.

I don’t think it’s Joss who has gotten suckier and suckier. I think he has taken on too much, bitten off more than he could chew. He is a known workaholic, and usually that’s a good thing, because it means he keeps creating brilliant new stuff for us to enjoy. But here, I think he’s made possibly a mistake. He just isn’t around to make this show all it could be. It’s not a bad Joss Whedon show, it’s a NON-Joss Whedon show.

Here are my overall gripes:

1) It’s not funny. The pilot episode was injected with Whedon Wit, but it was written and directed by Whedon. After that, the wit part of the equation got progressively erased from the board. The most recent episode had no wit at all, unless you want to count “Say it, Ward. SAY IT.” “You sank my battleship.” I don’t count it. If this was really a Joss Whedon show, it would be funny, as well as sad, scary, exciting and mysterious.

2)  Sucky Music. If this were a Joss Whedon show for real, the music would be great (see: Christophe Beck for Buffy.) But the music here is bland, repetetive, and obnoxious. It’s so repetetive that it’s really noticeable, and whenever the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. theme music plays, It stands out as being ridiculous. It makes me groan. This is the fault of Bear McCreary, who did a reasonably good job with Eureka. Battlestar Galactica didn’t have the best music either, but it wasn’t so bad as to be noticeable. I don’t think he was the best choice for scoring the show, and I’d like to know who’s to blame for hiring him. Still, he does have the skills to do better and he could do better. The question is, why isn’t he? Joss Whedon isn’t there to give him direction.

3) The cast. I do love Agent Coulson, but he’s the only one whose face has real character. The others are all beautiful in the most bland way, and ridiculously young to boot. This strains believability. I can believe that they auditioned and were actually the best for their roles. But that means the roles are bland to begin with. Not only that, but no one except me seems to like FitzSimmons. I like them, but I don’t know anything about them, and we need some major backstory there. How did this rocket scientist and double-Ph.D.-wielding Biochem specialist wind up completing each other’s sentences? How did they get involved with S.H.I.E.L.D.?  You can’t just dump a couple of characters like that on us and not explain anything. Ward is the blandest of the bland, but with the right directing he could be very funny. And Skye – I’m tired of the whole “Is she a traitor?” theme. It’s a boring way to use that character.

4) The plane. How can I be expected to be in favor of this team that spews carbon emissions everywhere they go?

5) Overall theme. If this was really a Joss show, it would be about family. It would be about Skye’s search for belonging. She is looking for her parents and is apparently using the resources of S.H.I.E.L.D. to assist in her search, to no avail. If Joss were at the helm, Coulson and May would be the parents, and the rest of the cast would be the kids, with rivalries and such but really learning how to be a family in the sky. Not to compare it to Firefly, but it is a group of disparate characters who join on a flying vehicle for a common purpose. Skye should be finding that her adopted family means a lot more than the parents who gave her up. But for that we need her to interact with someone besides Ward.

6) Aesthetics. The latest episode was dark and dreary, and had no aesthetic sensibility at all. I could barely stand to watch it.  The episode that Joss directed was colorful and shiny! It was fun to watch and it made me want to buy Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. action figures. But it’s just gotten worse and worse with each episode. Who is choosing the directors for this show?

The real tragedy of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is that it has the potential to be great, but that won’t happen until Joss gets more involved. And that won’t happen at least until Season Two. But the way things are going, there won’t be a Season Two for Joss to get involved with. Ratings are plummeting for good reason. How is it ever going to get renewed? I can only hope that I’ve witnessed the worst already, and that Joss’ rewrites are going to start showing up and this will turn into a watchable show again.