Echoes Of Buffy

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Not every show a major name in the TV biz creates is gold. In fact, most TV production stars get their name from their first hit show, and carry it through several less awesome shows, until they are (hopefully) redeemed with an awesome show again.

Consider - Josh Schwartz rocked the world with the OC, which ended on a sour note, and landed a plum job at the helm of the TV adaptation of Gossip Girl, which truly pales in comparison to dear ol' Orange County.

JJ Abrams has built up a following over the years - first through Felicity, then through Alias, and finally through Lost - but he's also built up resentment by abandoning his projects towards the end and letting them suffer (as Lost currently is, and Alias did for S4 & S5). Don't forget, he's also had a couple of failed projects - What About Brian & Six Degrees, and Fringe isn't exactly storming the nation.

Then of course, we have Joss Whedon, best known for one of the best shows of all time - Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I'm not afraid to say I'm a fan of this show, I've watched the entire series several times over and love every second of it. As most fans will tell you, the show was an amazing mix of humour, introspectiveness, psychology, character development, passion, action, spookiness, and reality.

Things have not entirely fared well for Joss beyond Buffy (and its spin-off, Angel). His pet project Firefly (and movie Serenity) died out after one season - although I've heard it was a *great* season, and one I must watch. He's also laid pretty low on the radar since Buffy ended in 2003, and Angel in 2004, with his first major television project being launched this year on Fox - Dollhouse.

I decided to give Dollhouse a shot, mostly because my friend was rewatching Buffy at the time promotions started coming up, and I was craving a return to Buffyverse without actually rewatching the series. Well Dollhouse ain't no Buffy. If you don't know the show, essentially it's about a secret organization that signs people on for five years to have their minds reprogrammed to be whatever their multi-million dollar clients want them to. Although a fair number of the engagements are of the romantic (yuck) nature, they're also called upon for high-end thriller missions - from acting as security to helping to rob a secret vault to taking down a cult. When the 'dolls' aren't programmed, they are in a childlike state and simply exist in a very peaceful, zenlike, spa retreat.

Let me count the ways the show lacks in Buffy quality:
- There is no protagonist. In theory it would be Eliza Dushku's character, but Eliza doesn't have the acting chops, nor the character development required to make this work. She's either forced into some hokey role (with horrible costumes) each week, or she's a vacant doll, hanging around the compound. The alternative would be Paul Ballard, but the actor is wooden and the character can be downright annoying.

- The secondary characters fit neatly into Buffy-created roles, but they pale in comparison. Topher is a diet Xander (god, even their names are both short for another name), Sierra is a bizarre choice for proxy Willow (and equally as boring as Echo), Boyd is a boring version of Giles, and the other characters are wholly one-dimensional.

- There doesn't appear to be a solid direction for the show. While the same could be said of lots of shows, I've always at least felt like there was a purpose. I suppose on Dollhouse it would be for the dolls to realize what's happening to them and vive la revolution! but if that's the solution, the show would no longer exist - unless the dolls chose to continue on by choice, and be themselves instead of doll-like when not on engagements (unlikely).

- The show is rooted in science, rather than fantasy as Buffy/Angel were, which doesn't give it as much legs. Everything continues to be brought down to earth - but it's hard to envision anything on the show actually being plausible.

- It's just not as funny. The last episode this week did a decent job of being amusing, and Topher usually gets the show's rare funny parts, but as a 'forget who you are' episode, I could name 3 episodes off the top of my head on Buffy that did a much better job of being amusing in this same scenario (Halloween, Something Blue, Tabula Rasa).

That being said, I - like most other Whedon fans out there - am still holding out the show will manage to capture me once and for all.

I still feel like the characters are being underused, perhaps with too wide of a cast and not one unified location for them all to be in (like Lost), Whedon is struggling to make the time balance work. I also feel like Eliza Dushku was the wrong choice for this role - she's relatively one note, and having been in a previous Whedon vehicle in that very note, it's hard to seperate her into the myriad of roles she's asked to play each week. Finally, the blatant sexuality of the show is a put-off. The sexual aspect of the Dollhouse is creepy and hard to look past, and Eliza Dushku's wardrobe in general is horrible. This is definitely not appealing to all ages as Buffy once was.

Regardless, like I said, I am hoping for the show to go somewhere good and take me with it.

Till then,

Britt's On

Stacey & Clinton, Will You Be My BFFs?

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I remember back in my college days, a group of my new classmates and I bonded over a mutual love of TLC's What Not To Wear. We all shyly admitted there were Friday evenings where we'd almost rather stay in and catch up with Stacey and Clinton (does anyone remember that weird Wayne dude that predated Clinton? Talk about an Upgrade!).

Since then, I kind of wavered - I got tired of incessantly following the show, especially when TLC decided to kick their episode numbers into high gear. My sister however, upon returning from living in Europe for a year, had never really gotten hooked on the show - until she returned. After a sister/sister bonding evening, I began my new love affair with WNTW, yet again, PVRing more episodes than is healthy. The crazy part is, I actually crave watching it. In a world where my once favourite shows continue to let me down, having a show that is consistent (albeit a tad repetitive) in its quality and fun makes me happy somehow.

I think part of it is that I am a bit of a shopaholic. Nothing makes me happier than new clothing - yet oddly, all of my newfound loves eventually find the reject pile of my wardrobe. I dream about shopping - and damn, I'm a good designer in my dreams.

Another part is that the change really is consistently revolutionary. These women are just better versions of their former selves - and Stacey and Clinton are awesome at promoting a healthier self-image, regardless of your body type. While they encourage healthiness, they're also champions of dressing for the body you have today - a lesson I think every woman could benefit from. The show is part inspirational (even if just to run out and get your hair did) and part educational - and surprisingly unsuperficial if you actually believe in the power of first impressions and personal style.

I would pretty much do anything to go shopping with S&C - ANYTHING - especially if we hit up a few of my fave stores (an ode to H&M could be written at this point) and a few stores I've always been curious to shop in, but never quite gutsy enough. Or wealthy :)

I don't think my personal style is particularly horrible - I definitely own a lot of er, cool clothing that generates a fair bit of (positive) attention & compliments. But, as I grow older, I think it'd be sweet to have a proper work wardrobe that suits the creative industry I'm in - i.e. not too fussy - and as much as I love shopping, I feel like some expert opinions would be awesome.

With that, I wanted to give a salute to Stacey & Clinton. Although I might never get to shop with them in person, I hope to enjoy shopping alongside them at a moderate pace for the forseeable future.

- Britt's On

You Lost Me

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Oh Lost. Oh how sad you make me. I'm not a diehard Lost fan - I only jumped on the bandwagon this year, but jump I did. My friend lent me the first 3 seasons in December-ish and the boyfriend and I decided to power through all of them (+ rent the 4th on Blu-Ray) before the series returned at the end of January. Needless to say, many, many evenings were spent eating dinner in front of the TV and many mini-marathons were had - 3 or 4 episodes a night. And we loved it!

Let me tell you though, watching that show on DVD is *so* the way to go...if you can avoid spoilers when the series ends next year, wait until it's all said & done and watch it. You'll be able to pick up on details more and won't forget all the drama and mysteries. Watching it week by week - as I've since discovered - is painstaking, even moreso by the fact the series has taken a sharp nosedive over the past two seasons.

In the vaguest of terms, let me recap how the show has gone up to this point - a plane crashes on an island, but it's not just any island. It's an island of mysteries and mayhem and magic of sorts. Each week the survivors of the plane crash grapple with some sort of issue - whether moral, rescue-related, or just trying to live on the island in peace - and usually one character has a 'flashback' that reveals insight about their character.

If you haven't watched the show at all, stop reading now. That little description above doesn't reveal much about where the show is at today, but what I'm writing next will.

Basically the final seasons of the show are supposed to finally answer all the questions that have been unraveled since the beginning. Who is really evil - Ben or Charles? What's with the time travel? Who are The Others? What's the future for the 815 / Oceanic Six / Ajira Airways people? What is the island? What's the smoke monster? And so on & on & on...

But instead, the show is painstakingly trying to make progress, and it's not enjoyable anymore. While before the fun came from a relatively plausible situation - a group of survivors on an island - being continually turned on its head, today there are just TOO MANY questions, and their so-called way of answering them has just brought up more aggravating questions, in an increasingly impluasible manner.

Additionally, the format of the show has changed considerably. While it might be conducive to (supposedly) moving the plot forward, the writers really haven't made much with the extra time they've been given. And that's another problem - the writers. Something's rotten in the state of Abramsland, perhaps because JJ has gone off to work on the Star Trek movie for the last while, but the writing stinks lately. Even this week's episode, which finally had a return to form with flashbacks, felt like it was poorly handled. The writing - and subsequent acting, since they're all written very 'off-character' - is just balls.

800px-5x10-oldham-tortures-sayid

Lately all I've been saying about the show is I just want it to be over, so I can just know everything once and for all.

To the writer's credit - they somewhat seem to recognize the state of unrest us viewers must be in. In this last episode, Sayid mentioned that his return to the island felt like it had no purpose - just as the audience feels. Why are the gang of them back? What is the motivation of the show now, since leaving doesn't seem to be the greatest option.

I'm hoping there's some grand plan for the series as it does its swan song over the next season and a half, but it's been a serious downgrade from the amazing potential the beginning of the show had (which ps, I've heard is the case for other JJ Abrams vehicles...Alias anyone?)

So I'm a bit Lost on Lost, but like a good portion of the fans (although ratings have sharply dropped for the series) I'll stick it out till the end.

- Britt's On

Nice Try Ty Ty

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So, up until last night's episode, I was feeling pretty okay about this season of America's Next Top Model (or if you will, America's Next Top CoverGirl...Seventeen Model...guest star on future seasons of ANTM).

The show has certainly (notably) downgraded itself over the years. Tyra no longer bonds with her little models in waiting - hell she sent Toccara from Cycle 3 to chat with the ladies last night. The sponsors have grown increasingly patchy and thin...remember when the prizes included contracts with Revlon? Sephora? Photoshoots in legit fashion mags? C3 was the beginning of the end for sure - but even that had really great sponsored shoots throughout the season (ranging from Dooney & Bourke to an energy drink to a diamond company) that made it feel more like a real modelling competition.

Part of the problem today is that a) there is a finite supply of model-worthy girls out there, b) the integration of the sponsors has made the show very cheesy and directed towards 'role models' (sorry single moms and former exotic dancers), and c) Tyra seems hellbent on picking different 'types' of girls to win per season...consider what a big deal was made when the 'first black girl', the 'first plus-sized girl', and even the 'first blonde' to win happened. As a result, it's a lot easier to figure out who can actually live up to Tyra's "top model" standards.

An additional problem has been the extremely gimmicky nature of the photoshoots, and the horrible airbrushing! However, the return to New York this season *felt like* a return to form (unlike C10, which made very little use of the world's fashion capital). The first three photoshoots all had slightly gimmicky themes - but the actually execution and styling of them *felt like* they could have been legitimate photoshoots. In almost every critique this season, they've mentioned 'showing off the garment', something that's been long-forgotten on the show for some time.

I always use Teen Vogue as a good barometer for the ideal types of photoshoots these girls should be doing on the show. It's a step up from the tacky High School Musical shoots found in teen mags like Seventeen, and more interesting than the boring as hell stricitly fashion photoshoots you find in Elle or Cosmo, but it's not quite as avant garde as something you might see in Vogue.

I was pleased to see that the first 3 shoots of the season could all easily have found a place in Teen Vogue.

America's Next Top Model

Although the 'bad seed' girls in the background downgraded this concept, the main models from the actual show all made perfect sense in a kind of Gossip Girl-esque cute shoot idea.

America's Next Top Model

Again, the idea behind this shoot was a bit silly - the show often talks about 'finding the light' and the idea here was they'd have a hand (ha ha) in lighting themselves. But the cool styling and group shots made it seem at least somewhat plausible as a kind of avant garde "rock clothes are in style again" concept.

America's Next Top Model

Although perhaps not the best example of the awesome potential this shoot had in terms of fashion, this is the first time in a long time the show really made use of its surroundings to create a dynamic setting. I could totally imagine a shoot where a magazine used different areas of a city to capture the latest trends - shown here, the business look.


However, last night's episode was just lame. The episode was about posing, and not a single girl had a fierce pose in the vintage camera approach they took. Thalia (who's been doing rather poorly all season) had the best photo to be sure, and the final scene in the judging room was BEYOND awkward ugh, but the overall photoshoot was not fashionable, realistic, or effective in delivering a unique photo for the girls books. If they wanted to do what they did - re: the old photo look - I think it would have been way cooler to have the girls do beauty shots and pose as cameos. How long has it been since they've done a normal close-up of the face? Even a vintage cameo would be preferable to last night's silly "immigrants on Staten island" concept that did *not* effectively use the city, as the prior shoot did.

I'm hoping that despite a lack of legit sponsors on the horizon, the show at least takes a turn back towards fashionable photoshoots that will not only look great in a girl's portfolio, but give them a taste of how to work a garment, no matter the shoot's theme.

- Britt's On

Desperate For A Housewife

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I debated starting this blog for awhile, based on the amazing job the Slate girls (Meghan O'Rourke, Emily Bazelon, and Hanna Rosin) are doing on their analysis of S3 of Friday Night Lights, and also just based on my general involvement with pop culture.

The funny thing is, one of the posts I thought about writing was totally random - and I actually felt I needed to post this, now that the worst case scenario just might happen! I'm talking about Edie Britt's possible death on Desperate Housewives (her second of the series ps). Now...I'm sure I could go look up spoilers and IMDB Nicolette Sheridan, but I'm a traditional girl that likes to enjoy her TV on a weekly basis.

Before I get into Edie - and why she must live on - let's take you back on the Desperate Housewives train.

When the show premiered five seasons ago, it caught the attention of America - a nation surprised that a show with such camp, such archetypal characters could be so subversive and provocative in showing that we maybe haven't come such a long way baby. The title said it all - whether playing the role of ever-devoted wife for life in the 1950s and 60s (see Mad Men's Betty Draper) or trying to be a modern woman in the new millenium, things were still not okay for the 'housewives'.

So here's the real reason why the show succeeded. Yes, each of the core characters was extremely flat, campy, zany, archetypal, to the point of becoming caricatures of themselves. But...the way the show refused to let the women just be these caricatures, to actually break out and surprise you with their angst and emotion and heart and spirit - hell it was Peyton Place 2.0. These women were showing the housewives of America (all over again) it's OK to not feel good about certain things in your life.

The show suffers from two problems today. The first is what I call the slate wiping effect - a problem that plagues wayyy too many shows nowadays. The characters - despite the increasingly heightened dramatic hijinks on Wisteria Lane - are thrust into these insane scenarios, only to continually walk away unscathed. Other than the occasional death or disappearance of a minor character, there are very little consequences for anyone on the Lane, particularly the core cast.

The second is the fact the women - although supposedly more complex and less archetypal - are anything but. They no longer have their boxed-in roles to break out of, and because of the slate-wiping effect, it rarely makes sense how they've 'evolved' into the roles they play today. What we're left with is a bunch of predetermined outcomes that can be seen way too many miles away, and the odd scene that plays into each woman's initial character type.

Let's review...

Gabby was the trophy wife. A former model (at 5"2?) with a superficial lust for life, Gabby simply wanted to be loved - or at least wanted attention again - and found it with her hotness personified gardener John. Today, Gabby has already shuffled through several bouts of being poorer than she'd like, fatter than she'd like, and loneliness in an extended break from her husband Carlos. And what does she have to show for it? She's become a money-grubbing, somewhat superficial trophy wife again - but with no motivation in her life. What is the future of Gabby, really?

Lynette was the unwilling stay-at-home mom. A former shark in the advertising world, she was constantly neglected by her uber-busy (and still working) husband who could find no more joy in life than sleeping with his wife - and getting her knocked up, again. Today Lynette has survived cancer, gotten back into and quit the ad world (and jumped in again), owned a pizza parlour, and still dealt with the mistrials of motherhood. But again, what's next? Lynette no longer seems to be the career-hungry woman, nor does she seem the pained mother. Her once dreamy relationship with her husband Tom seems continually on the rocks, with little to no progression in the 'together forever' or 'hitting the rocks' direction.

Susan was the scorned single mom. A children's book illustrator, she was busy raising the world's most perfect teenager while trying to let her own messy dating life seep into her daughter's. Not a whole lot changed for Susan over the years - she's got her first job on the show as an assistant art teacher, and she's still supposed to be quirky and cute, but she hasn't aged a day mentally (or via plastic surgery) since the first season. Also...come on writers. Susan and Mike are going to get back together. Just do it already.

Bree was the Stepford wife on speed. Her conservative values had her family buttoned up so tightly it was like the third reich of housewifeness. After her world continued to come crashing down around her - dead husband, failed romantic endeavours, gay son, unwed pregnant daughter - Bree loosened the reins and realized only she could build her perfect life, thus starting her own mega-business as an archangel housewife (or, cookbook author). The problem is, while Bree's complete lack of social normalcy in season one was laughable and at times, painful - today it seems downright justified, and almost sad.

edie-britt

Finally we have Edie Britt, the fifth wheel of the Desperate trajectory. Edie has always been the neighbourhood bitch, gossip, seductress, full of machismo guy's girl. This has not changed - but unlike Susan, in a good way. The character of Edie is still who she was in season 1, the writers have not softened who she's always been - upfront, honest, and generally right, no matter how hard it is to hear. This generally means Edie is on the outskirts of the social happenings on Wisteria Lane, which has probably served her well. Edie is allowed to make controversy and speak up and have the gold scenes that snap these b*tches out of their simulated dramas. Consider this current season - it was Edie that woke Susan up to the fact Jackson was a pipe dream, and it was Edie that told Gabby to snap out of her bratty state during the workout camp. These kinds of scenes are really had between the core four anymore, because their friendships just don't allow it. Edie is also continually diabolical, not afraid to bring other people down if it puts a little spring in her own step, causing a lot of the juicier (i.e. not ridiculous season-long arcs) episodic tension.

So now, it's possible she'll die. Which again, it's the second time around for her - the previous being a silly suicide attempt with a silk scarf a couple of seasons ago. But I'm here to say that if Edie dies, this show will not only lose one of their core cast members, they'll also lose the hub of what's still keeping me (and others) watching the show's spokes continually roll on.

Sure it's easiest to kill off Edie (after Katherine, who's been horribly underused in both of her feature seasons), but is it really worth it? This is the woman that's driving the show, providing much needed humour that isn't playing to the actress' demands or glamourous self-perception.

Also, the death to drive ratings? Never a good plan. See the OC.

With that in mind, I bid you adieu for now. My blog is not named for ms. Britt, although I do enjoy the name - since it's my own.

Till next time - Britt's On.

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