TV Party (Part 1)

I guess the previous TV thread was sacrificed to The Gods of Discourse?

So I started watching Mr. Robot. I…think I like it so far? I’m only two episodes in but I’m guessing that Christian Slater and the rest of ‘fsociety’ are all in Elliot’s head? Which is a bit too Fight Club but ok?

the previous TV thread was auto-hidden when we banned ni go (because he created it) and reverting this has proven difficult.

working on it, thanks for the reminder.

Your work is much appreciated good buddy.

ln the meantime this can be a placeholder for such ramblings?

Absolutely! I can merge it back into the old thread when I fix it.

Heard Robot season 2 starts off a little slow but has picked up lately.

I just finished watching Stranger Things, which was basically a collection of 80’s and 90’s geek references congealed into an unsatisfying 8-hour slog. It was watchable obviously but it never becomes anything more than the sum of its parts. The problem with Netflix shows is that they all seem so focus-tested and soulless once you get past the initial conceit. I guess all those years of tracking user data has paid off because they knew exactly what their audience wanted and what they wanted was inherited nerd nostalgia barfed down their throat like a mommy bird feeding its young.


You are the only person I’ve heard who didn’t think stranger things was more than the sum of its parts

It’s obviously derivative but I have never been happier with something so obviously derivative


Mr. Robot is my favourite show probably ever. I relate to the MC to an uncomfortable degree. Second season has picked up some steam but I’ve been enjoying all the psychodrama regardless. The sound design in the 1st season is incredible.

I think Stranger Things is p good, too. I dig the homages, but what I really appreciate is how the kids act like fuckin kids, the teenagers act like teenagers, etc. The writing has a lot of empathy for its younger characters.

I also love how Hopper is really not a smart person but he’s still charismatic enough to root for.

Well a couple more episodes and a quick poke at the internet tells me I was half right. Interesting that they would go that route but it fits the subject matter?

Stranger Things is so good, even if you don’t buy into the nostalgia angle it’s exceedingly well acted and crafted.

2501 was banned? Ouch

per his request.

Curious about what you appreciated; perhaps take some time to go into greater detail? Maybe i’m missing something and could benefit from your analysis.

the tick (the new one) is not that good but it feels like it might be good in an episode or two if it gets picked up? very awkward dramatic/comedic tonally. peter serafinowicz’ american accent reminds of those old bbc batman/superman radio dramas in a good way tho

Jean Claude Van Johnson’s JCVD specific comedy/references are all heavy-handed and obvious I DON’T THINK IT WAS WRITTEN BY TRUE FANS OK

At least Serafinowicz isn’t Warburton.

Who was always terrible and terribly written.

…I have a little trouble with Griffin Newman playing a character because I’ve spent so many hours listening to him podcasting about dicks, etc.

For this reason the gf and I have dropped Mr. Robot.

Stranger Things is probably one of my favorite shows ever.

Falls nicely into that category of “probably not the best show ever, but it is my favorite show ever.”

Previous record holder was probably Battlestar Galactica (new one), which had giant, gaping flaws, especially towards the end, but so much about it was so perfect in such a specific and organic way, and it succeeded in ways I feel I never see things succeed. Though I guess–mostly–it just felt like a show that was made by a friend with characters that felt like friends.

All that said, I don’t actually think Stranger Things is very flawed. People are saying that it was unpredictable, and the creators said in their Variety interview that they were inspired by Game of Thrones to try to create an air of unpredictability. But–aside from a few oft-cited instances of expectation dashing (one of which was inspired by the actor himself and changed during production), I thought the show was completely by-the-book–but in a good way. Basically: the non-exception to prove the rule.

To me, it was a perfect pop song: it follows all the old formulas but does it with such gusto, chops, and enough minor originality and flourishes that it has an addicting and lovable quality, that extends beyond the appeal of sheer aristry into the realm of pop fantasy.

I’d say it’s certainly more than the sum of its parts!

I mean, a lot of that comes down to the wonderful casting and performances (mostly the kids). Complaints about it just being an 80’s reference fest remind me of when people say Steven Universe “steals” ideas from anime or when people say, “Eva was just ripping off X” anime. Not everyone’s going to be as transformative as Tarantino (whose wonky structures really help him get away with his knitted pastiches), but I feel that you can completely get away with (and artistically succeed by) creating a Frankenstein’s monster of your inspirations, provided that it’s your blood pumping through its veins.

Stranger Things definitely achieves that in my book.

Like most people who were blown away by it, my only skepticism has to do with the second season, which clearly isn’t fully planned. People are baffled that Netflix hasn’t renewed, and they’ve coyly said, “Well, we’re obviously going to, but we want to focus on the first season before working on the second.” To me this implies that they want a hand in checking to make sure that the Duffers actually have an idea for the second season.

Honestly, Netflix has overall been one of the best TV network in history, matched only by the likes of FX, Adult Swim, and maybe the last five years of Comedy Central. “The Executives” have always been this faceless bogeyman, haunting all discussions of TV and movies for the last forty years of relative creative transparency. “Notes” are discussed as if they decrees from somebody’s lame aunt with edits from your accountant uncle. But there is no inherent, systemic reason why the action of executives has to impede quality.

The systemic flaw with the network notes system is that it relies heavily on the artistic abilities of people who are not artists. The notes system is–at its most basic–pretty much the same process by which one learns, academically, to be an artist: writing work shops and art critiques. A creative person makes a version of a piece, and others tell them how to improve it. The thing is, you need the advice to be from people who are talented and/or experienced in their own right and whose goal is to improve the artistic work. And–ultimately–it must be up to the creator to decide what advice to take, because only they know how it fits in to their ever-evolving vision.*

Unfortunately, the first ingredient is often not the case in TV. Executives probably aren’t artists themselves, and they might be most concerned with the fretfully temporat issues of ratings and finances–concerns that often don’t aid in accessing the sublime eternal. And although notes often are voluntary, they essentially are suggestions from a boss, to creators are heavily incentivized to follow them, even if they violate their vision.

So notes–in theory–don’t have to impede art, but they often do. The Simpsons creators actually negotiated a policy in which they were under no obligation to follow any notes from Fox. And they proudly say they threw out every one that came their way.

So–anyway–how can one network be better than another at producing great shows, and what does this have to do with Stranger Things?

Well, basically, I think Netflix follows the HBO model. HBO shows are carefully selected, creator driven, and heavily supported. Basically, if HBO buys your concept, they approve a relatively absurd budget and then let you do whatever you want with it with very little oversight. No notes. FX–famously–went even further with Louie. CK had been making short films for decades, and he said he just wanted to be handed a lump sum of money (I believe it was a million dollars) and be allowed to hire his own staff and create his show as an indie project. So that’s what they did.

This is all a great argument for creator driven shows and a great argument against the hobgoblin of Network Notes. But–hey–it’s not as if any creator, given cash and druthers, will create a masterpiece. Give Zach Snyder free reign and you get Sucker Punch. So, there is something at play with “talented” networks like HBO and FX. Basically, they must have taste: the ability to know when a pitch has legs. From a business perspective, they would be seen as shrewd entrepreneurs, whereas of course artsy types see this quality as connoisseurship.

But–you know what–I think it’s more. I think these networks are actually helping people develop these shows. I think they’re giving the notes early–in the planning and drafting stages. Just a hunch–but basically–it’s a good idea. You can here a pitch, think it’s good, and trust the artist; but as a custodian of the project, you will undoubtedly have doubts and concerns. It makes sense to start with a firm hand and say, “I see these flaws. Convince me otherwise now or come back with answers.”

So when I hear that Netflix is holding off on greenlighting Stranger Things season 2 until they have time to dedicate to it, I think two things: 1) they’re as aware as the rest of us that the content of the second seasons is far from obvious, in that the obvious would be really lame; and 2) they need to figure out the budget to dedicate to the show, which–even if everything else I said above turns out to kind of be bullshit–is probably a big part of the “work” that needs to be done.

Anyway. That certainly was a lot of writing that probably not many people will actually read. I liked Stranger Things a lot, and I really love what TV has become–especially the Netflix mutation into film novels, which is really what these are.

*e.g. The workshop may unanimously think a character needs to be more sympathetic, but only the writer knows that if you piece together some clues it turns out that the character is purposely pretending to be unsympathetic.

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You additionally have to consider that with the way the Whole Season At A Time thing works is that they want to maximize PR and the critical conversation in a different way than a regular show which can naturally spread over multiple months. As soon as they say Season 2 is a go that is automatically more news stories and more curiosity. So even if you know you want more, you might want X amount of time between the announcement and the actual start of production itself.

That is also true and probably actually what they meant!

Pilot for the new Tick series is out. I’m very impressed.

New actor is going to take some getting used to, obviously, but he’s good, and he gets the Tick’s general character down right. Arthur is great. He’s different and interesting.

Tone is a bit darker than usual, with the world depicted as basically the same as ours, just with superheroes appearing some fifty years prior. I think they’re doing a good job of mixing the absurdity of the superhero concept with reality, in a vaguely Watchmen-like way. I’m actually interested in the recent history of The City after a few of the pilot’s flashbacks.

So yeah, I was bracing for the worst, and very pleasantly surprised. There’s an Amazon survey here if you like it, which supposedly will help its chances of getting picked up for a full season.