What I’m Blanking #4

Even though my last one was late, I’m trying to get this on a schedule. So this will be a bit short!

What I’m Listening to/Went to see: Throwing Shade

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Something I haven’t really mentioned on this blog yet is that I’m a bit of a podcast addict. I really love a lot of podcasts, and I really enjoy trying more. That said, one of my favorites is Throwing Shade, and yesterday I got to go see the live show at Lee’s Liquor Lounge in Minneapolis.

If you haven’t listened to Throwing Shade, the basic premise is that the two hosts, Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson, cover women’s issues and LGBT issues “with much less respect than they deserve.” That means bringing humor to pretty much anything, and it’s hilarious. They also are pretty ridiculous, doing impressions of the various people who they’re talking about and generally being a podcast that goes off-topic about 75% of the time. In a really fantastic way. Both Brian and Erin also work for Funny or Die, and as someone from Minnesota I very much appreciate their Michele and Marcus Bachmann videos (and was a little disappointed they didn’t bring that up at all at the live show).

They were both hilarious live, and the crowd was completely eating it up. After the show Bryan and Erin sold merch, took photos and talked. They gave a lot of hugs, and seemed really happy to be there. It was really fantastic meeting them, and I had a really fantastic time. Throwing Shade is definitely one of my favorite podcasts, and one of the funniest. Go give them a listen, if you haven’t, and support them if you can! Erin said this was a really great showing, so hopefully they’ll make it to Minneapolis again soon!

What I’m Playing: Dragon Age: Origins

OK, yes, I know, third week in a row playing Dragon Age. But I’ve really been on a roll with this. Since I’ve been playing this game almost every day for a couple of hours, the time’s added up. I checked in game today to see how much I’d completed out of all the things you can do. 20%. That was it. After hours and hours of playing this one game, and getting pretty far within the main campaign I might add, and I had only gotten a fifth of the way through what the game had to offer.

I suppose that’s what I really like about games like Dragon Age, and especially other Bioware RPGs; there’s just SO much to do. However, I think that might be a detriment, as well. For example, in Dragon Age I want to play pretty much every sidequest and mission, and get frustrated when I can’t.  I’m not particularly a completionist when it comes to video games; I can do just fine not getting every achievement or every collectible. However, the aspect that’s most important to me is a story. And games like Dragon Age have so much that’s dependent upon what you choose to do; my character is an elven mage, but one who is also against blood magic. Those things limit what the story’s like. I recently started doing the missions around the Dwarven city of Orzammar, and I know that things would be vastly different had I chosen a dwarven origin as opposed to being an elf.

This was brought up on an old episode of the Indoor Kids podcast, where video game journalist Adam Sessler talked about reviewing Mass Effect 3, and how, talking to other reviewers, other people had vastly different experiences, which lead to the question of how many playthroughs are required to review a game. Games with very linear storylines, such as Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, Bioshock Infinite, etc. could probably survive on one playthrough, but if you’re playing something where you have many, extremely-fleshed out options, you might want multiple playthroughs.

I’m considering doing a review post of all the different origins you can do, in regards to the story, but I can’t realistically play through the game six times in order to do so. It’s an interesting predicament, as a reviewer.

What I’m Reading: Entertainment Weekly

OK, confession, I love and read Entertainment Weekly every single week. I just really love entertainment news, and Entertainment Weekly is a fun thing to read every week.

This week, the thing that made me want to write about this was that they did a list of the 100 greatest movies, tv shows, music and books. I started reading, and started getting a bit annoyed. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ranked all the way at #8 (Buffy’s a great show, but #8 seems too high)? No ELO albums on the music list, despite their influence? Great Expectations  ranked above Bleak House?

I like top lists. They’re fairly easy articles to write (I do a lot of them for my other blog), they’re fun for readers, everyone wins. And really, some lists could be more valuable than others. I would accept a “Most Influential Comedy TV series” list more than this Top 100 Greatest Shows list. Because really, how do you measure that? Some choices were on there seemingly for influence, while others were on there for their quality. It’s also extremely difficult to compare genres. How does one even go about comparing a comedy to a drama? Should a comedy be penalized if it doesn’t make you laugh quite as much, even if the jokes are smarter and better constructed?

I know this has been said before, but these lists, while well-intentioned and conversation starters, are pretty useless.

 

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What I’m Blanking #3

Sorry this is terribly late!

A thunderstorm in Minnesota lead to my house without power for Friday evening, and I got caught up in other things before I was able to write this. 

What I’m Watching: Man of Steel

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NOTE: THIS FEATURES SPOILERS FOR MAN OF STEEL

This isn’t a movie I necessarily needed to see; I enjoy superhero narratives, sure, but Superman’s never been my favorite superhero, and I’m more of a Marvel person than anything (*gasp*). Still, I thought it looked interesting enough. I don’t really like Zack Snyder all that much as a director, but I really liked Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and Inception is one of my favorite movies. So I went with a couple of friends and saw it last week.

I didn’t like it. That’s not to say it’s without redeemable parts; the visuals, as expected, were stunning. I do think that Henry Cavill was a great choice, and  had this been a better movie he could have made a marvelous Superman. I don’t like excessive action scenes, usually, but I enjoyed a good portion of the big final battle. 

Unfortunately, the script really wasn’t up to snuff. I think the biggest issue was that it was trying to be too ambitious. Ambition isn’t a bad thing, but what seemed to be a standard origin story ended up being too ambitious for it. After the way-too-long opening sequence featuring Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Kal-El (Superman)’s father, a good portion of the story is told in very fragmented flashbacks. It seems to be a structuring device that would serve another film better, but doesn’t make sense in the context of a Superman origin story. This also makes basic screenwriting and script formatting non-existent; for example, was there a specific inciting incident, a catalyst for the rest of the film? You COULD argue that Jor-El sending Kal-El off to Earth is that inciting incident, but it doesn’t really work as an inciting incident, I’d argue, because it doesn’t really start everything. Films don’t have to follow this standard screenplay formatting, but it’s something you definitely come to expect from superhero movies. 

I was also a bit disappointed by the treatment of women in the movie. Yes, Lois Lane is in peril quite a bit. She might have a bit of a feisty attitude, which is good to see, but ultimately she’s saved by Superman. The parent that gets much more focus is Jor-El, as opposed to the mother, who serves only to give birth and hesitate in general. The other female Daily Planet reporter is the one who gets buried under rubble and must be saved by her female coworkers. The female second in command to the main villain, General Zod, is given no personality and nothing to do other than be a resource at General Zod’s disposal. Even though I enjoyed the portrayal of Martha Kent (Kal/Clark’s Earth mother) as someone who can take care of herself, ultimately it’s Clark’s father who is the most important in the narrative. There’s one female soldier, and, after being distracted, says it’s because “he’s so hot.” Centering a movie around father-son relationships is all fine and good, but I was just disappointed that it was this way. 

Ultimately, it’s hard not to see this movie and not wish that it could have been something better. I enjoyed pieces of it, and had there been a better script it could have been a solid movie. I don’t hate this movie, but it was just not what I wanted to see. 

What I’m Playing: Dragon Age: Origins (and The Witcher 2)

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Still really into Dragon Age right now. I’m thinking of doing a review of all of the Origins in the game, because it’s very interesting to see how they play out. So far I’ve been playing around with various origin stories; I mentioned that I had felt disappointed by the Mage story earlier, but the City Elf origin is very fascinating; the way my character reacted to Duncan, a human, was interesting. I was unable to welcome him; instead, all the choices tried to get him to leave, so that he didn’t cause any trouble. Playing through as an elf is very interesting, as well, because of just how often it’s brought up. People amazed that an elf was able to do this or that. It’s a really interesting take on race, and I definitely recommend it. I also recommend, if you usually play as a male character, trying out a female one as well. Some of the most interesting conversations are with Sten, who is perplexed that I, as a woman, can be a warrior. These origins definitely color what your experience is in the game, which definitely drives replays. 

Recently, through the GOG summer sale, I picked up The Witcher 2. While I didn’t really enjoy what I played of the first one, I’ve been assured the combat is better. So far, it is a lot more fun to play, but I don’t know how fond I am of Geralt as a playable character. I was also bothered by the way they introduced Triss, nude and in bed. This is a character who’s supposed to be very powerful and a good female character, yet she’s objectified and sexualized. I want to give this game a fair shot, so I’ll keep playing; it seems like fun, anyway. Still, as someone interested in female representation in media, it threw me a bit. I have a feeling I’ll end up mostly playing Dragon Age for my fantasy gaming, but we’ll see. 

What I’m Reading: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I’m not very far yet, so there will be no spoilers or much of anything. I’m just very excited to be reading a new Neil Gaiman novel, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts!

2013-2014 Pilots: ABC

I love pilot season. The system itself is so flawed, but there’s all the excitement of new TV as various series’ get picked up, only to have some of them cancelled after a few episodes. While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, that’s what I’m doing right now: judging my excitement for each new show and my likelihood to watch it (though I plan on giving every pilot a shot for this blog).

Based off the descriptions at The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline

ABC – Comedy

Back in the Game:  A recently divorced single mother temporarily moves in with her estranged father, a beer-swilling former baseball player. She reluctantly starts coaching her son’s underdog Little League team and is drawn back into the world of sports she vowed to leave behind.

Thoughts: Nothing about this screams at me. The main actress hails from Psych, which I like but don’t love. I’m not a big sports person, so that doesn’t scream out at me. However, while I know next to nothing about football, I adore The League, which survives pretty much just on comedy alone. If this show is extremely funny, I’ll like it, and if it focuses less on sports and more on the family aspect I’d like it more.  So if this focuses less on sports and more on the family relationships I might be able to get behind that. But really, single parenthood and estranged parents; is there something in this that I can’t get from rewatching Gilmore Girls?

Trailer:



Ehh. Lots of child actors and some awkwardness. This trailer is about 2:45 long and I didn’t so much as chuckle once. There were maybe three jokes in there, and one of them was about the perceived femininity of one of the kids on the baseball team. The whole underdog aspect of the team seems like it will be really played up, to the point where I can see the basic arc of the series already. Again, what about this haven’t we seen before in pretty much any sports movie?

Likelihood to watch:NOT LIKELY. I’m not that interested in sports, and this doesn’t sound like my type of show. Unless it’s REALLY hilarious (which, from the trailer, I kind of doubt), I doubt I’ll get much out of it. Since sports really aren’t my thing, something about this will really have to jump out at me.

The Goldbergs: Family comedy set in the ’80s that centers on an in-your-face mother and hot-tempered father who love their three eccentric kids so much, they can’t bear to see them grow up; inspired by Goldberg’s experience growing up in the ’80s with a highly screwed up but loving family

Thoughts: What is there to say? Dysfunctional/eccentric families aren’t new to TV comedy, nor will the ever be. Occasionally some of the shows with that as the main driving force are great; I love Arrested Development as much as anyone. However, it’s hard to tell how interesting a show will be until it airs. The 80s could be an interesting setting, though hopefully they won’t try and hit the audience over the head with 80s nostalgia. Ultimately, though, the “in-your-face mother and hot-tempered father” feels quite stereotypical.
Trailer:

I can see this being pretty funny; the mother already gives me a bit of a Lucille from Arrested Development vibe in how overbearing she is, which is good. I got a couple of chuckles in there, though some of the humor fell a bit flat with me. There seems to be a lot of 80s references, and it already feels like it could be bordering on excessive. But there’s some humor in there.

Likelihood to watch: 50/50. Screwed up but loving family is kind of old news at this point, and it’s all a matter of execution. I don’t see anyone attached to this project that I have any particular strong feelings about. The setting could be fun, the description is vaguely interesting, but everything feels like it’s been done before.

Mixology: A high-concept single-camera comedy from the writers behind The Hangover set in the world of a sexy Manhattan bar chronicling the exploits of singles in search of love — all over the course of one night.

Thoughts:  This is a pretty intriguing idea. Whereas the other two I’ve listed so far are pretty standard comedy setups, this is way more high concept than almost any comedy setup I’ve seen. The concept immediately leads to a good deal of questions: How will one night over a season look like? Will it drag out too long, or will it feel right? How will this work if the series gets picked up for another season? I’m a bit more interested than excited about this one, really. Of the people behind it, I enjoyed The Hangover just fine, and I really like Sarah Bolger on Once Upon a Time (and I’d hoped she would get a bigger role for season 3…).

Trailer:

Ehh. Not much I found funny in here. I liked the idea, but no laughs were to be had. All the jokes seemed to center around antiquated gender roles; lines about the height of the heel equaling how much a woman would put out just repulse me, and, equally troubling, were assertions of “be a man!” to the male protagonist. There’s a decent amount of vomit references, as well; I get that this is set at a bar, but I assumed that the hangovers would happen next season. I actually thought The Hangover was pretty decent, despite having similar humor, but this is not funny so far. Pretty disappointed really. (Sarah Bolger please come back to season 3 of Once Upon a Time; Aurora is great!)

Likelihood to watch:  50/50. Even if this isn’t executed well, it sounds like an interesting show and one I want to check out. If it ends up being a train wreck, it’ll be an interesting train wreck. Disappointed by the humor I saw in the trailer, but I might still be compelled to see just how this set up works. Really, the worst thing this show could do is be boring or predictable.

Super Fun Night : Follows three nerdy female friends: Kimmie (Rebel Wilson), Helen-Alice (Lisa Lapira) and Marika (Lauren Ash) on their “funcomfortable” quest to have “super fun” every Friday night; originally done as a multi-camera pilot at CBS last year.

Thoughts: This is the other show being talked about a lot (other than Mixology), and I’m pretty interested as well. Even though I haven’t seen Pitch Perfect or much of anything featuring Rebel Wilson, something about her (maybe her attitude?) just makes me like her. I really hope that the whole “nerdy” aspect isn’t played up for laughs, a la Big Bang Theory, especially since the three lead characters are women. I’m pretty much out if they start joking about women not being nerdy and bad jokes like that. But, on the other hand, if they don’t do any of that this does have potential to be really funny, and I really love that there’ve been more and more female comedians lately.

Trailer

This is the most viewed ABC Trailer so far, beating out Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, two shows with pre-existing fanbases. So already the viewership for Super Fun Night should be pretty decent. The trailer focuses a lot on Rebel Wilson, which isn’t surprising, but she already seems pretty likeable, as do her two friends. Considering Rebel Wilson’s writing, as well, I hope that there’s minimal fat jokes involved. But really, it doesn’t seem like it will, which is refreshing. It would also be refreshing to see a larger female character be considered sexually desirable, so I hope that pans out as well. Still, looks like this could be funny, and I’d definitely be happy with a protagonist like Rebel Wilson!

Likelihood to watch: PRETTY LIKELY. It definitely has a lot of stuff going for it, and as long as they don’t fall back on cliches and old jokes, this could be a pretty good show.

Trophy Wife: A reformed party girl named Kate (Malin Akerman) finds herself with an instant family when she falls in love with a man named Brad (Bradley Whitford) who has three manipulative children and two judgmental ex-wives.

Thoughts: A modern-day Brady Bunch of sorts? There are a lot of big names in here, but nobody I’m necessarily going to watch the show for. Actually, the one thing that really grabs my attention is that one of the writers and executive producers on the show is comedian Sarah Haskins, who did the hilarious Target Women segment on the Current show Infomania. Haskins was absolutely hilarious, and if she can bring that humor to this project then I can see it being a sleeper hit.

Trailer

Looked pretty funny; not sure how long it’ll last, but I can definitely see myself watching this while it lasts! This concept could have been done so poorly, but the lead seems likeable, as do the other characters. Hopefully this will be marketed well.

Likelihood to watch: PRETTY LIKELY. Sarah Haskins being onboard erases a lot of my worries about how gender roles will be represented. If everyone else involved can follow her lead, I bet I’ll enjoy this show a lot. The trailer seems pretty good, as well, so I have hopes for this show.

Overall: ABC’s in a bit of a tough situation for comedy; sure they have Modern Family, but not much else (The Middle does fairly well, but doesn’t seem to be very noteworthy), and that can’t last forever. Can any of these fill the gap and be a long-lasting comedy? Personally, all I can think of that has the possibility of lasting a long time is Super Fun Night. Mixology has gotten a decent amount of attention because of its premise, but I have a hard time seeing how this will be a lasting show beyond the one season. The Goldbergs  could potentially last, as could Trophy Wife (I can hope), but the only thing I can really see being a major long-term hit (at least right off the bat) is Super Fun Night. However, I can see ABC keeping more than one show longer, if they want to build up their comedy lineups.

ABC – Drama

Betrayal: A beautiful but unhappily married female photographer begins a torrid affair with a lawyer for a powerful family. When he turns out to be defending a murder suspect who is being prosecuted by her husband, the relationship and the case begin a spiraling series of betrayals with cataclysmic results for everyone involved. Based on Dutch series.

Thoughts: Seems like ABC has been doing well with the whole torrid affair thing, what with Scandal becoming a really big hit. The title also reminds me of Revenge. I’ve slowly watched some of Scandal, and while I liked Revenge in its first season, I lost interest for season two (though I may check it out when it hits Netflix; it was fun to binge watch). However, both of these series have done well for ABC, as did Desperate Housewives. I do kind of wonder how long this show can go; how long can you reasonably draw out a court case? will it go beyond that? I also wonder if ABC viewers will get oversaturated in this scandalous type of shows.

Trailer:

Likelihood to watch: 50/50. Could be fun, but could be a dud. Not sure if I need a show like this.

Mind Games:  Provocative workplace ensemble centers on relationship between two brothers — a bipolar genius in human psychology and a slick ex-con — who head a unique agency designed to solve their clients’ problems using the real science of human motivation and manipulation. In addition to helping clients, agency staff sometimes use their skills to manipulate each another.

Thoughts: That last sentence, “agency staff sometimes use their skills to manipulate each other,” is what really interests me here. That could lead to something interesting. Also,the whole concept of using manipulation to solve problems could be pretty interesting, though it might be kind of hard to suspend my disbelief about some of the problems that are solved by motivation and manipulation. It could also be easy for things to get old fast. The other thing that catches my eye is that it’s written/executive produced by Kyle Killen, who did Lone Star (that got cancelled after two episodes) and Awake (which got 13 episodes). Not saying that he’s a bad writer, not at all; but I’m worried that this show might  end in a similar fashion.

Likelihood to watch: 50/50. I’ll really have to go with the pilot to decide on this one. If done well it could be interesting, but if not…

Killer Women:  It’s hard to fit in when you’re the only woman in the notoriously male Texas Rangers, but that doesn’t stop Molly Parker (Battlestar Galactica‘s Tricia Helfer) — our ballsy, beautiful badass who knows how to get to the truth and isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers on her way there. Based on the Argentine series Mujeres Asesinas.

Thoughts: Sounds interesting! Ballsy and badass are two of my favorite adjectives for female heroines! My biggest concern is how they do it; are they going to constantly mention that Molly’s a woman? Is she going to constantly use her sexuality in getting stuff done? A little of both of those wouldn’t be too bad, but too much and it will seem like it’s fetishizing her strength rather than celebrating it. Also the title feels kind of weird.

Trailer:

Already a few of the things I was worried about are happening.  Ah, well, it’s the trailer. I was a bit disappointed to see so much of that male character she was with; I know that you don’t want a solo character too much of the time, but I don’t want this to focus too much on some relationship; I want more of the protagonist. I quite like how stylized it looks, and Texas could be a pretty good setting.

Likelihood to watch: PRETTY LIKELY. As long as the show doesn’t constantly focus on A. the fact she’s a woman or  B. the relationship with that guy I’ll probably like it.

Lucky 7:  The lives of seven employees of a service station in Queens are changed in many unexpected ways when they win a lottery jackpot. Each episode centers on a different character, and each season will follow a different group in similar circumstance. Based on the UK series The Syndicate.

Thoughts:  The main thing that interests me is that “each season will follow a different group in similar circumstances.” This actually could be a big thing that would make me want to follow this series. You know that things will be tied up at the end of each season, it will be easier to plot out, and things won’t drag on and on. This is done more with UK television in general (shorter self-contained TV), and it would be nice to see shows that don’t have to drag things out too much. I haven’t seen the UK series, but I’ve heard good things about it. Winning the lottery’s a pretty good set-up, too. I’m honestly a bit more excited about the format, but in general this sounds like it could be pretty promising.

Trailer:

Looking pretty good; the tone isn’t too dark, but there’s clearly some tension. Nothing much to say other than it looks a lot like what I expected.

Likelihood to watch?: VERY LIKELY. I like the concept, the trailer looks pretty good, and the format seems like something interesting. I’m excited to see about this show.

Resurrected: What happens when the people you have mourned and buried suddenly appear on your doorstep as if not a day’s gone by? The lives of the people of Aurora are forever changed when their deceased loved ones, RETURN… Based on a novel by Jason Mott.

Thoughts: Sounds pretty intriguing. If they avoid the zombie route (I haven’t read the novel), this could be pretty unique. While my “dead people come back” TV series is definitely Pushing Daisies, I welcome new things. While Pushing Daisies was light and fun despite being a show about death, I really hope that this turns out to be fairly dark. Which I assume it most likely will be. It’s an interesting concept, and I’m intrigued to check out the pilot, at least.

Trailer:


Not quite what I expected, but I like what I see so far! It’s focusing on one family and one kid, though I’m assuming from the logline that multiple people come back from the dead. There’s a definite religious implication here (not so much zombies!), but that can be done well on TV without being too preachy or anything. I know I loved Joan of Arcadia when it was on, so I don’t see why this show couldn’t deal with these issues as well (it’s even set in a town called Arcadia!).

Likelihood to watch?: 50/50. I’m definitely intrigued, but I’ll want to see the pilot first.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland : Told through the point of view of Alice (Sophie Lowe), she has a generous heart but carries the scars of a hard life. She’s joined by Cyrus (Peter Gadiot), Alice’s love interest, and the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha), a sardonic adventurer.

Thoughts:  I’m way too fond of Once Upon a Time. Cheesy? absolutely. Occasionally uneven in quality? definitely. However, it’s a lot of fun to watch and follow, and I am definitely interested in season 3. My biggest concern with this spin off is that I don’t want things to get too stale or for the creative forces behind OUAT to get stretched too thin. One hour of OUAT is great, but will two hours be overkill? Will this affect the original show in any way? Ultimately we’ll have to wait and see. I really hope this feels less like “Once Upon a Time is a successful program and therefore we need MORE” and more organic, like this is a show that needed to be its own thing.
Oh, and hopefully the effects and scenery will be a bit better; for some reason the CGI I hated the most this past season was the stuff set in Wonderland.

Trailer: 

The effects are…eh. I’m not even sure WHY these bother me so much, but something about Wonderland feels so artificial, even compared to the rest of OUAT. However, the rest looks pretty nice. Victorian England is a good setting and I hope they use it as much as they can. Really, only the first few effects bothered me, but it started to feel better further in. I know the relationship of Alice and Cyrus is going to be fairly forced, but I’m actually intrigued in the two of them already. This seems a lot more interesting than I initially expected, honestly, and hopefully the show will do enough in differentiating itself.

Likelihood to watch?: VERY LIKELY. Looks like a solid spin-off of a show I already enjoy.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Based on Marvel Comics’ secret intelligence organization that has appeared in countless titles including Iron Man, Captain America and The Ultimates since being introduced in the 1960s. The military law-enforcement agency’s moniker stands for Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistic Directorate, which also has evolved over time in the comics.

Thoughts: I’m a fan of Joss Whedon (particularly Firefly). I’m a fan of Marvel comics and the current cinematic universe. Of course I’m pumped. Honestly, though, this idea really has me excited. One of the things I find most intriguing for superhero stories are the non-super characters; characters that have to deal with a world of supervillains and heroes in one way or another. Some of my favorite characters happen to be the side characters. This is an entire show about that. I’m ecstatic.

Trailer: 

Yep still pumped. This is the show I’m most excited for this year. I cannot wait. I’m on board.

Likelihood to Watch?: In case you couldn’t tell I’m going to watch this.

Overall:  ABC has been doing fairly well on the drama front, with the success of Scandal, Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Castle, etc. There are some definite possibilities here.

Of the shows listed, I can see myself continuing on with Trophy Wife, Super Fun Night, Lucky 7, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, with a few other shows interesting me. Of these shows, I say that Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, S.H.I.E.L.D and Super Fun Night are the three shows that are most likely to get multiple seasons and be relatively successful.

What I’m Blanking #2

Thanks to everyone who checked out my first post! I’m excited to keep up this series as well as this blog.

What I’m Playing: Dragon Age: Origins

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I am the absolute worst at starting games. In that I start new games half the time I play, and I start much more than I finish. As an adult with more income and digital download sales, I have a lot more games than time. As such, I skip around. This week alone I’ve dabbled in Borderlands 2 (continuing what I was playing last week), Bioshock Infinite (which I just picked up from a very good sale) and now Dragon Age: Origins.

I’ve been paying attention to the E3 announcements this week (and jumping in on the Microsoft hate bandwagon), and watched the EA stream. The announcement of Dragon Age: Inquisition immediately piqued my interest, and then I remembered that I had a few old save files (the last when I ragequit during the Fade section), and decided to pick this up again, playing as an Elf Mage. My sister and I are both playing similar save files and chatting while we play; I may be annoying her a bit, but I think we ultimately had fun. I named my character Aeryn after voice actress Claudia Black (Morrigan)’s character on Farscape. I feel like this has to have been done a million times before, but it amused me all the same. (I also wonder how many characters have been named Vala, after her character on Stargate SG-1…)

The thing that I noticed during this playthrough (I mostly got through the back story of my character) is how different it feels. My most prominent playthroughs have been as a human noble, one of the children of a noble of the kingdom. You learned about her family, went through a tragedy, and ultimately felt really connected to what was going on in the story because of your position. It felt really connected. Here, as a mage, I had to go through the trial out of apprenticeship (called “the Harrowing”) , and then I tried to help a friend escape being a mage so he could be with his loved one (which ended badly). However, I didn’t know how I got to the Circle Tower (They said people were taken there when young), and it really felt less emotional than the human noble intro.  Further, the reasons for starting on the main story (becoming a “grey warden”) felt less meaningful; the only explanation of why I was needed personally as a grey warden was because “we need more mages.” Perhaps it’s the case of writing one backstory first and then figuring the others around it, but my experience wasn’t quite as good as the first.

This is part of why I can’t even imagine writing a review for a game like this or any other Bioware title. Or any title that drastically allows you to change events. If you choose a specific class here, you don’t get to see any of the other backstories that have been written. This is also a pretty long game, as well, so doing multiple playthroughs might be impossible. Even still, I think it might be difficult to judge the writing based off of only one playthrough; if I was writing a full review of this game, if I had started off as a human noble I’d praise the writing, and if I started as an elf mage I would say it improved over time but fell flat at first.

I’m going to continue with this file, but perhaps I might have to start yet another human noble save file, so I can experience that again.

What I’m Watching: Stargate Atlantis and Farscape

Speaking of Claudia Black! As my Amazon Prime trial is coming to an end soon (ending in a week), I’m watching episodes of shows that are Prime exclusive that I want to see. At this point it’s mostly the Stargate series and Farscape, in addition to the one episode of Warehouse 13 featuring Sean Maher and Jewel Staite because I love those two.

Have I mentioned I like slightly cheesy sci-fi yet? OK, maybe not slightly cheesy, full on cheese at points.

I haven’t been watching full seasons of either, instead watching episodes I like, and wondering if I can afford a full series DVD set of Farscape once this subscription runs out. I got into Farscape around the same time as Stargate, when I watched immense amounts of the sci-fi channel (now Syfy), when they aired lots of X-Files reruns, Farscape reruns and Stargate. It was a marvelous time for Syfy, but a tough time for me, wanting to see everything but not willing to shell out the $100+ for one season of Farscape (yes, that’s how much those DVDs cost at that time. We’ve come so far~)

One thing that makes me happy, looking back at these shows, is the great female characters on all of them. SG-1 has the tough and brainy Sam Carter (who’s not about to let you dismiss her because she’s a woman), Atlantis has Elizabeth Weir (my personal favorite character of the Stargate universe), Teyla Emmagan and Jennifer Keller (who gets a bad rap sometimes, but I love her anyways), while Farscape, among other characters (like Chiana and Zhaan) has Aeryn Sun, played by Claudia Black.

All these characters I’ve named are strong in some way or another; Sam Carter becomes a full blown colonel of the US Air Force and ends up leading Atlantis. Elizabeth Weir is the original leader of the Atlantis mission, Teyla is a leader of her people and a warrior, and Keller becomes the Head Medical officer. Aeryn was a capable Peacekeeper (military) before joining up with the crew of the Moya. Geek culture has its share of issues with women, and I don’t want to say that it’s perfect. Goodness knows the video game community has been proving this time and again for me.  But growing up as a child, I’m really glad I had Princess Leia to love. In  my teenage years, I had women like Sam, Aeryn, Elizabeth, Dana Scully, and others who were capable and strong. So while geek culture might have its fair share of problems, I’m happy with what it’s given me.

What I’m Reading: Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon (#1-5)

As I’m gearing up to attend CONvergence, I’m rereading what is quite possibly my favorite comic book ever, the current run of Hawkeye. This week is reading through the first trade paperback of the series (I also have the individual issues except for #3 which I really need to get on).

The reason I’m rereading these is because I’m doing my first ever cosplay as another great female character, Kate Bishop (one of the two Hawkeyes).

One of the best things about this series is just how easy it is to get into as a new fan. I’ve been dabbling in comics for a while now (just over a year), and there are still times where things fly right over my head or I need to go look up a specific name on wikipedia. It’s not a big deal, but it can be a tad frustrating.

However,  it was nice to see the intro: “Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, became the greatest sharp-shooter known to man. He then joined the Avengers. This is what he does when he’s not being an Avenger. That’s all you need to know.” And so far, it is all I’ve needed to know. Sure, finding out a bit more about Kate Bishop by reading the selection from Young Avengers at the back of this book was helpful, but as someone who only really knew Hawkeye from the Avengers movie (and Clint’s small bit in Thor), this introduction was very true.

Honestly, I’m really surprised that this book interested me so much. I checked it out based on recommendations and the cover art being very cool, but I had zero interest in Hawkeye after seeing him in the Marvel movies. However, that really speaks to just how strong this series is, both with the writing and the art.

The main reason I like it is just how small scale it is. I’ve always been interested in the more human interactions within superhero characters; either the characters without powers or kind of lesser superheroes. In this comic book, Clint doesn’t save the world, but wants to help out the people living in his apartment building and save a dog. Some things get a bit bigger, especially the wonderful two-issue arc “The Tape,” but even then it feels less epic. In a really fantastic way. Clint is also very much aware of his place as a superhero; he gets injured a fair amount and he realizes that he’s not quite up to being Captain America or Thor anytime soon. But that’s absolutely OK, because Clint’s more interesting.

What I’m Blanking #1

Is it bad form to admit that the first post of my new blog is an idea shamelessly stolen from another blog?

One of my favorite blogs is Okay! Musume Time, a news/commentary/review blog of Japanese pop music. Every week, blogger Chiima does a digest of news, commentary, and just little things that are too small for their own posts, but she wants to say. It’s entertaining, fun, and has worked out for her for over a year. So for Happy Media, what I plan on doing is something similar; a digest of the things I’ve been enjoying over the course of a week, but  don’t really deserve their own specific review or post. So with that, I’m starting my own review of my media week, with What I’m Blanking, a weekly diary of media consumption.

What I’m Watching: Stargate SG-1: Season 1

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I have been trying out a trial of Amazon Prime to see if I can swing the $80 price tag for its streaming service (I really doubt I’d use the shipping all that much, and I have a Barnes & Noble Nook, not an Amazon Kindle). The one thing that has made me vaguely consider this cost is the fact that both Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis are available for free streaming. That and Farscape are the two things that I want that aren’t covered by my Netflix and Hulu Plus accounts (yes I have both).

To most people who encounter it but haven’t seen it, the whole Stargate television franchise is just some silly sci-fi with a weird gimmick. Which is, in a way, not inaccurate. It’s based off a Roland Emmerich film (to be fair, a Roland Emmerich I’m really fond of, despite the general critical consensus to be less than favorable). One of the characters is an alien with a weird thing on its head. There’s some slightly goofy special effects and aliens. Yet, at the heart of it all, both Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis (I’m less familiar with Stargate Universe) are, at their core, more than the sum of their parts. These shows embrace that they can be flat out silly; two of the most fun episodes are the 100th and 200th, Wormhole X-Treme and 200, respectively, which play with some of the cheesier aspects of the show. The people who made this were in on the joke.

I’m hardly a Stargate expert; I caught episodes of SG-1 here and there near the end of its run and watched a decent amount on Netflix. I’m a bit better for Stargate Atlantis, which I own two seasons of on DVD and I’ve seen most of it via Netflix. But this rewatching has really reminded me what caught my eye with the series years ago. It’s silly, yes, but there’s more to it than that. In a weird way (and I’m hoping I’m not completely ruining my chances of being taken seriously on my new blog), Stargate is a spiritual successor of the original Star Trek series. Both had limited budgets, some silly bits, and are generally fairly idealistic in regards to humanity (at least with the main characters). However, with all the limitations, they’re both able to achieve more.

For being a TV series based off of a Roland Emmerich movie, SG-1 is surprisingly subdued. There are action sequences, sure, and some occasional explosions. But there are plenty of episodes that are pretty small in scope. While writing this I’m watching the episode Solitudes, where two of the team members of SG-1 (Jack O’Neill and Sam Carter) get stuck on an icy planet. Cold Lazarus, which did feature some special effects, dealt mainly with grieving over the past death of O’Neill’s son, Charlie. There are lots of ideas and lots of personal moments in these episodes, even ones that have more special effects than others. For being a high concept sci-fi action/adventure show, it deals a lot with human emotions and human ideology.

That said, it’s definitely not a perfect show. There are weaker episodes; Hathor was pretty bad. In general, I really enjoy how they treat Sam Carter on the show. They don’t skirt around the fact she’s a woman, but it’s not brought up constantly. Some episodes they encounter different planets where women are treated differently, based on that culture, but in general her team doesn’t treat her any differently, and Sam can be both strong and smart. Hathor, where the Egyptian goddess of sex and fertility (who is an alien, all part of the show) starts seducing the men of the base, it’s up to the women… to use their own sexuality? Granted, they use their smarts/wits in the end to stop Hathor and fix things, but it’s in general kind of a disappointment. The show can also get pretty cheesy, beyond the levels that even I can stomach; Singularity, where the team rescues a young girl, is saccharine to the max.

However, this rewatch of season one has reminded me why I was interested in the Stargate franchise in the first place. While I don’t know if I’ll keep my Amazon Prime account, I might just have to track down some DVDs of the rest of the series and watch more.

What I’m Playing: Borderlands 2

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I got this game during this past winter sale on Steam. I played it for a while, put it down, and didn’t pick it up until now. Honestly, I don’t know why I let this go for so long.

I was a really big fan of the first Borderlands game, and, to me, the second one fits in just like a sequel should. Some things are different, some things are expanded, but Borderlands 2 just feels like a good Borderlands game. It’s not going out of its way to do something different or unique. Much like the first one, the story isn’t the big important thing. The writing’s fine, but I don’t play Borderlands for the story. The gameplay’s just fun. I never thought I was a hoarder until had to organize the loot in Borderlands!

I also really like the graphics style as well as the general feel of the game. I’ve never gotten into hyper-realistic military shooters; it’s totally fine if you like them, but I know I”m never going to pick up an Arma game, for example, because it’s not for me. Borderlands has a lot of style, which is part of why it stands out and has been such a success. Whereas over games can be pretty drab, Borderlands is full of color.

It’s never a very challenging game though; I know that playing through this solo, I was able to quickly level up without any grinding which made every mission far below my level. But in a way that’s OK; Borderlands is a great game for just running around and shooting things without much of a care.

So even though it’s not the best game out there and it’s not perfect, it’s nearly perfect at what it does.

What I’m Reading: X-Men #1

Despite having an interest in X-Men for years, I’ve only recently become a Marvel comics fan. Last year, in fact, was the first year I started really reading them. While I’ve gotten into other series since then (the current run of Hawkeye is my favorite), I still have a place in my heart for X-Men, particularly Kitty Pryde, who became my favorite X-Men character while I read Joss Whedon’s run of Astonishing X-Men.

This issue, X-Men #1, has been my most highly anticipated comic book after it was announced, and I have to admit a large part of it was the all-female team line-up. While I’m interested in superheroes, I’d really like comics as a medium to be able to start moving past objectification of women and move into utilizing more female superheroines. X-Men has always been a really great series for including female superheroes, and this book so far looks like it’s doing a great job.

In addition, the art is absolutely gorgeous and it looks like the story’s going to be really great. In fact, it’s the type of book that’s really excellent, regardless of the female heroines. Which is exactly what I was looking for with this. I don’t want a book that’s going to be so-so, but plays up the fact that these are FEMALE superheroes. I wanted a great book that has interesting heroes, who just happen to be female. So far, this issue hasn’t disappointed me, and I greatly look forward to reading more!

So with that, I end my first installment of my weekly series. I hope to put these out every Friday from now on.