Saturday, 28 January 2012

Saying Goodbye to Good TV

Yesterday was the Series Finale of Chuck, a show I've watched, not since the start, but for the last three years and really enjoyed it. About eight months ago a show I'd watched since it's second season and it went on to last ten years making it the record holding science fiction show in North America, this was Smallville. Around about then I was going to do a vlog about my top five series finales, in fact I filmed it all in preparation for the finale but never actually got around to editing it, mostly because I was still using Windows Movie Maker until a few months ago and that program was one of the most insanely frustrating things I've ever experienced (for those of you who don't know I hate video editing with a viscous passion and anything that makes it worse is clearly sent by Satan to torture me). The jist of the video though was talking about my favourite finales of TV shows. Unlike a film or even a film series, when a TV show comes to an end we've not seen two hours or at a trilogy of films coming to maximum eight hours or so, no, we've seen possibly over a hundred hours of television week after week, year after year and, if the show's creators have done their right, we become attached to these characters and their development and it's always sad to see it go more so than a film series ending. Don't get me wrong, I was quite sad when Harry Potter ended but realistically not as sad as when say Scrubs, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or even Smallville ended. This was because unlike Harry Potter, this wasn't like the really good friend I'd see every couple of years, this was more like my best friend I'd see every week and finally saying goodbye.

Now this isn't going to be a Top Five/Ten/Twenty/ElevenBecauseILikeToGoOneStepBeyond/Whatever list because frankly I'm too lazy to do that right now and I've got a lot to get through in this blog post plus I'm working on a new series for this blog called What I Would Have Changed where I talk about certain films, TV series or video games, y'know random nerdy things as the blog name implies, and what I would have changed with my knowledge retroactively to make it better. I'm just simply going to talk about in this blog post, series finales of TV and how I think they tend to end and cause a lasting impact on people.

First off, I think there's several categories of finale, I don't mean "Good" or "Bad" as often that's relative to your experience with the show. For example despite being very sad about the Chuck series coming to an end, I felt a lot of the finale was rather shallow and focused way too much on Chuck and Sarah with the real finale in my opinion coming much earlier in the series when they faced off against Brandon Routh's Daniel Shaw, Chuck's hated rival and the man who once slept with his now wife and murdered his father, now manipulating his life like a puppet-master. On the other hand a lot of people like my brother were disappointed with Smallville's finale which I liked a lot, even if I knew it wasn't perfect, kinda like the whole show at times. So I'm going to split these up into categories in no particular order.



Full Circle; the type of finale where it analyses everything that's come before specifically where the story has come from and brings things full circle to give a sense of completeness. Generally these finales tend to be on shows with a "half-arc" where the show is not completely serialised but not completely episodic either, where there is an arc woven into the fabric of the show but the episodes themselves generally tend to be separate and easy to watch. The name is thought to originate in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On the other hand there's only really one moment in that show's finale that brought it full circle, when Buffy finally gets what she wants "To Be Normal", something she wanted since the start. Examples of Full Circle are, Chuck, which used Sarah's memory wipe to bring many things from the first episode and first season back to try and get her to love Chuck again. Heroes most certainly had this in it's last moments ending with Claire intentionally jumping off a high point and saying "My Name is Claire Bennett, and as far as you know, that was attempt number one" bringing it back to her recordings from the first few episodes. 

Probably the best full circle ending was Angel and it most certainly had a full-circle ending, and unlike it's sister show Buffy, it didn't end on just one not of full-circle, the whole episode brought back little references to the seasons before it, bringing back guest stars like Lindsey and Connor. Hell even earlier in the season on the 100th episode they brought back Cordelia and Doyle, albeit the latter via video as unfortunately the actor had passed away. It also ended on a great note which really brought the message of the whole series full circle. Angel was about two things at it's core; redemption and achieving redemption through a never ending struggle of good and evil. For Angel who once murdered thousands of people and was a sadistic bastard until he was cursed with a soul, redemption is what he seeks spiritually and since the first season his physical reward would be that he could become human and be free of the vampire's curse and get his soul back permanently as prophesied. Now twice in the first season Angel was given this opportunity. The first is when he gets the mystical Gem of Omara, a ring that would make him invincible to sunlight and other vampire weaknesses, essentially making him closer to humanity. However Angel decides to destroy the ring because he saw it as just "false redemption", seeking to earn his reward rather than have it given to him. Later in the first season Angel is made human when his blood mixes with a specific breed of demon. Unfortunately this makes him weaker than he was and unable to protect Buffy when the time is right (I believe it's referencing Season Seven of Buffy at this point). As such Angel reverses time giving up his one chance at happiness to be with Buffy; once again, redemption has to be earned not given freely. In the second season Angel has given up hope realising that no matter what he does he'll always be "fighting the good" fight and in the long run it might not make a damn bit of difference, but has an epiphany that the slightest difference to one person's life is what makes that fight worth fighting. It's fighting that fight even if it seems hopeless and even if it won't ever be won long after he's turned to dust that's how he can earn his redemption. 

Throughout the series Angel's physical reward of redemption can be granted by the Shanshu Prophecy, a prophecy that says the Vampire with a Soul will play a major role in the Apocalypse and as such will be made human as his reward. Many times also Angel stops "counting score" because it's really not about that. In the finale Angel has made lied his way into the most powerful cabal of demons in our world known as the "Circle of the Black Thorn" in an attempt to bring them down. During his manipulations they test his trust to them; he must sign away, literally in his own blood, his right to the Shanshu Prophecy; making Spike, his rival and now the only other Vampire with a Soul, the man who would fulfil it. He is giving up the physical reward of redemption and he does it. Why? Because he's not counting score, he's not after the physical reward any more, he doesn't need the carrot in front to attain the spiritual redemption he's so sought. In fact the last shot of the series has the survivors of the assault on the circle meeting up in an alleyway by the Hyperion Hotel, their base of operations from seasons 2-4, and being charged down by dragons, giants and all manner of thousands of demons sent to kill them by Wolfram and Hart, the extra-dimensional overlords of the Circle of the Black Thorn. Angel and the others might die, and killing the Circle may have done nothing in the long run, but he's earned his redemption by doing his job; fighting that never ending good fight. Despite what the comics say the series ends on a note that says Angel and the survivors will die in this onslaught, some quicker than others who are already dying but as Angel steps forward with a sword in his hand and smile on his face the last words of the show are "Let's Go To Work". And with that his job continues, fighting the good fight, dealing blows to evil and his spiritual redemption, even if he no longer has the rights to his physical one, is earned. Full Circle.

Holy crap I wrote a lot there, okay onto the next one, promise they won't all be like that.


The End; often the saddest of finales because it's usually when so much stuff happens that it would be near impossible to continue on the way things were. In an action series this usually means big explosions of the hero's home base e.t.c. In The Practice it meant the practice shutting down and everyone going their separate ways. Many characters die in these finales just to really close the book. 

Probably my favourite example of this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In case you haven't guessed already I really like Joss Whedon's work on these shows. In Buffy the finale ends with the entire town getting swallowed in an Earthquake, two or three main characters dead or dying, and Buffy has now created an army of slayers meaning her job is now redundant and she can go on to live an normal life. Simply put it's pretty god damn epic. I'm obviously not going to go into much more but really that's where it ended and no matter what those comics say, that's where Buffy's journey ends for me. The End.

At the end of the third season of Chuck they prepared a series finale, the Buy More is destroyed, Chuck's father is killed, Chuck and Sarah are in a relationship together and they've just brought down "The Ring" the big bad of the last season. The show got to continue for another two years and as such we instead got the Full Circle ending I mentioned before.


This is when a show ends and the characters and situation are irrevocably changed but moving on into a new chapter of their lives. Much like "The End", "A Whole New World" has all of it's qualities but also many qualities of what I'll go into below in "And The Adventure Continues..." as it often has some epic event that forever changes the story but also says that the characters will continue in this world in new adventures unseen. Unlike "The End" however usually more characters survive the onslaught so that they CAN carry on.

I've named it this because this is exactly how Heroes ended. Okay it's also named after the song in Aladdin but still... Heroes as I've said before ended with Claire jumping off the top of the tower and injuring herself, that was full circle but what I didn't say was that in doing show she reveals the existence of metahuman people to the world live on national television. Forever changing the world they live in but never actually showing how it ends. This was also partially a "Premature Cancellation" but it mostly goes here in the Whole New World section to the point that the coda of the show or the epilogue is actually called "The New World" hence where I took the name from... and Aladdin.

Greek is also an example of this. The show ends with one of the main fraternities the "Kappa Tau Gamma" house being bulldozed despite their efforts to save it. Two of the protagonists have now graduated also and leave and Rusty, the audience surrogate character now becomes the new President of Kappa Tau as leads them into a new generation of peace with their rivals as they must now build a new house. It's adventures unseen once again but also a perfect example of things ending as the main love story of Cappie and Casey gets a happy ending; Cappie finally leaves college behind him and commits to Casey and leaves the Kappa Tau behind him in that bulldozed house as the song "Forever Young" plays in the background. Whilst I normally hate music like that being played as it's so on the nose, I have to admit this really got me at the time, the question of "Do you really wanna live forever young?" is a poignant one and as someone who not too long ago graduated from University it's something I really felt especially when I went back there for the first time in two years and really felt like I missed that place. It's a very sad finale.

This sort of finale is as with Heroes often one made in fear of cancellation and written to wrap things up but leave hope for the future. Unlike the next category however it's usually written when cancellation is an almost certainty or has already become a certainty and it's just wrapping up loose ends. It's usually very sad like "The End" but has some hope for the future leaving a smile on your face. This is the most bitter-sweet of the types of series finale.


The Premature Cancellation is not the opposite of a sexual problem as it might appear to be but is when a show is cancelled before it's had time to wrap up it's stories and usually has to tag on an ending that seems fitting. Sometimes shows will be forced to do something like this and leave it all hanging as they have no idea if they're going to be cancelled long after they've filmed it.

Perfect example: Stargate Universe a show that in it's first season I really did not enjoy. In it's second season, I absolutely loved and was very sad to see it go. It ended on a note that was very much a cliffhanger to be resolved by the next season, Eli Wallace being the only man on board the destiny waiting for them to find out if they'd ever escape the galaxy as the rest go into hibernation unsure if they'd wake up three weeks or a hundred years from now. From that description it's a big cliffhanger and really it was but the way it was shot and written it was done to accentuate the fact that Eli had grown up and that was good because at the start he was the immature geek and whilst intelligent not quite on the experience level as Dr. Nicholas Rush, played by Robert "Should Have Won a Fucking Emmy for this Role" Carlyle. By the series finale only two seasons in when ratings had dropped like a lead brick in a pond, Eli was a man. He was outsmarting even Dr. Rush at times and was left in charge of the well being of the crew of the Destiny.

Premature cancellations often try and bring things full circle with mixed results.  They're often sad because we know the reason they're ending and yet we just have to accept that this is where the journey ends, not at it's logical conclusion but in a wrap up that's forced on the show with little time to spare.


This is the most common of series finales, as what is a series finale if not a goodbye to characters we've loved often for close to a decade sometimes for even longer. It's the most common in sitcoms and often used in dramas too. It's usually where the characters get to say an emotional goodbye to each other on screen even if they are going to see each other again, they probably won't see each other often.

A quick note before I get into a whopping four examples of this is that 24  ended on this note. Despite knowing that it was going to be the next thing really it ended on a goodbye to Jack Bauer and the cast and crew and it's really worth noting here. Chloe and Jack say goodbye to each other for the last time as Jack goes on the run from the Russian and US governments.

First example, a little sitcom known as Friends you've probably never heard of it. Anyway in all seriousness this finale was all about The Big Goodbye. It was Monica and Chandler moving out of the city, it was Ross and Rachael getting together again at last and once it's spin off show Joey had begun; it was Joey moving to Los Angeles. Friends' final scene was with Ross and Rachael together and Monica and Chandler moving out of their apartment, the main apartment of the series with no-one filling the void this time. It was a big goodbye to all those characters and quite a sad one too.

Second example is Scrubs, now before anyone says anything, yes I know there was technically another season after this. I DON'T CARE! Season 9 was good but it was a different show with a different primary character and narrator even if JD returned for a few episodes. It was a different show, it should have been a spin-off, hell if it had been it might have been more successful. Hell even the title had the words [Med School] written in the bottom corner. It wasn't the same show. Scrubs ended with Season 8, with JD leaving the hospital and an influx of emotion as dozens of guest stars returned and as he in typical JD fashion envisioned what his future would be like essentially telling us all that that's what will happen in the unseen world after the show ends. I love this finale it actually had me openly in tears by the end. It was an emotional and beautiful goodbye.

Third example is M*A*S*H, now I'll be the first to admit I haven't seen all the episodes so I'll keep this short. But the Korean War, the setting for the show that went on about three times as long as the actual war, is over and everyone is finally going home. They all say emotional goodbyes and as Hawkeye and co fly off in that helicopter once last time they literally see the word M*A*S*H now turned into GOODBYE, a message from BJ. Hell the finally is called "Goodbye, Farwell and Amen". This is the most watched finale of all time, I think it's actually the most watched episode of television in history having over 70% audience share and over 100 million viewers in the United States. Very sad.

Forth and final example is the science fiction drama Star Trek: Deep Space Nine unlike The Next Generation, which fits into the next category, DS9, as it was known, was very serialised, especially in it's later years with full seven-part arcs revolving around the Dominion War. It was a not a "continuing adventure" show like Next Gen, it was a show with an arc, a beginning, a middle and an end. And boy was the ending sad. And yes I've warned spoilers but seriously don't read this if you haven't seen it. Go onto the next paragraph. Deep Space Nine ends with Captain Benjamin Sisko's "death", Chief O'Brien leaving the station, Worf becoming Ambassador to the Klingon Empire, everyone going their separate ways and saying one of the most emotional goodbyes ever. Just watch that montage here if you don't believe me.

The Big Goodbye is often a sad and often most logical conclusion to a series. It's interesting to see these and compare because it's the standard ending really compared to the other styles of finale.


When the ending is that nothing really changes even if it's HUGE the ending is that the characters will continue their journey in adventures unseen. Perfect example of this is Stargate SG-1 a finale that didn't even end the big bad threat of the Ori, later to be ended in the rather average film Stargate: Ark of Truth. The finale involved the team of SG-1 and the base commander getting trapped on a ship frozen in time, if they stop the time loop they die. This finale didn't do any form of ending the series as such and ended on a note as they were about to go through the Stargate on yet another mission; not even a mission that would lead to the movie. Just an average mission and they go through the Stargate and as they say The Adventure Continues...

Another example is Star Trek: The Next Generation a series nominated for Best Drama Emmy and the series finale that won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation beating out some serious competition including movies like Interview with a Vampire, The Mask and Stargate. This finale was awesome and in my Top 5 list I originally wrote I ranked this as number one as it's awesome. It's a brilliant episode that examines three timelines through the eyes of Captain Picard. The first timeline is his current one, seven years into commanding the USS Enterprise D. The second is in the past, on his first day commanding the Enterprise and the final is set twenty years into the future where he's going insane from a degenerative brain disease and Admiral Riker his former first officer doesn't believe him that he's time travelling. It's also slightly full circle this episode but as I'd written so much for Angel I didn't want to bog that category down any more. We have the original pilot episode's era, the current era and the potential future era. We have the antagonist from the pilot, Q, returning and in an antagonist role again. It's all full circle. However the ending leaves on a note that makes you happy, Captain Picard for the first time joins the crew for poker night, also a full circle moment, and the adventure continues. In fact Q even says this, his whole reason for tormenting Picard as it were from the pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint" to the series finale "All Good Things..." was that he was putting humanity on trial for their barbarous history, deeming if they were worthy to exist. He leaves it on a note that the "Trial Never Ends", making us all wonder if he's really ever going to leave them alone, but is that the message? I think it's what Star Trek was all about really, don't get me wrong, I can respect the original series but the Next Generation was what brought Star Trek into the mainstream and it was what made Star Trek's message so clear; exploring the human condition, that's the trial. It's full circle but also ends on an note saying that the crew will go on to continue to explore the human condition going boldy where no-one has gone before.

To a certain extent, Smallville is this. The whole show had been building for ten years and in for the most part a very good progression about Clark becoming Superman. Most people make a mistake with Smallville, they often say "He's not Superman yet, he can't fly, this isn't the man we know... blah, blahhh,blahahshasdsdhgblabab..." I don't care. Not the point, you're missing the point. This isn't a show about Superman, this is a show about Clark Kent and his journey to become Superman, the man we all know and love and by the final episode he is. No matter what people say, I loved it. Does it occasionally drift from comic continuity, yes, but it works in the context. Does it insult your intelligence often, yeah quite often. I don't care, I love it. The ending is of Clark ripping open his shirt to reveal the Superman symbol to the theme of John William's "Superman" music from the famous 1978 movie. It was AWESOME. We know the adventure continues and I would have loved to have seen a spin off show which could see Clark and Lex return. It's also very full circle in man ways as from the first episode Clark is literally asked "What are you? Man or Superman?" when Lana see's his book on Nietzsche, a reference that would be brought back time and again. He responds "I haven't quite figured that out yet". By the finale, he's made that choice, he's now confident in who he is, even if he has to hide it behind those dorky glasses, persona and a bad haircut.

This sort of finale is quite nice actually because it leaves the audience with a really big smile on their face as they know their characters will continue on their journeys even if we don't get to watch them. It's usually done either because there's a fairly good chance that it could continue, there's a spin-off show that relies on this show being around or the writer's didn't want to just end their creation and thought it'd be nicer to see this. For Star Trek: The Next Generation it's mostly the first one as they were going on to do movies, one that summer in fact. For Stargate it's all of the above.

So that about wraps it up. Those are all the finales in my opinion. I've provided YouTube clips to show off if you want to see them. If you have any opinions please don't hesitate to comment. Film people often look down on TV as the "lower form" of entertainment and sometimes it is. There's a beauty in a two hour movie being able to express a story. TV however is able to develop characters further and this is coming from a guy who did his masters thesis in film as opposed to TV. TV leaves a lasting impression because of the time we spend with it and I think a good series finale can leave you wanting more and wanting for them to leave it as is forever both at once.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act

Today Wikipeida, That Guy With The Glasses and dozens of other sites have gone completely dark to prove a point. SOPA is wrong. The Stop Online Piracy Act currently on the floor of Congress in the United States could potentially damage the internet irrevocably. 

The bill basically says that companies like Sony, FOX, Universal, can claim copyright infringement and not just shut down one video on YouTube or a user's account on facebook, but the whole damn site. It's the equivalent of one soldier performing an illegal act during war time so his whole branch of the military gets put in prison for it. The worst part is that it's giving the Government powers they don't need, the power to simply shut down websites without due process and remove them from search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo. 

Hundreds of companies are against this bill, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, even Barack Obama and his White House Press have made a public statement that they do not endorse the bill with Vice President Joe Biden making a video for YouTube explaining how damaging this was a while back.

The internet is the fastest growing sector of the economy in the world. In a recession, can we really afford something like this... no? But it's not only that, it's immoral, it's wrong... and hell, even Rep. Lamar Smith who created the bill has actually violated it. Don't believe me? Click this picture here on the right and see...

What can YOU do to support the Anti-SOPA, Anti-PIPA campaign? Simple, here is a website that will tell you everything you need to know: draw awareness through twitter and facebook by using a twibbon, a banner th at will go over your profile picture to raise awareness. Click that here.

Still not convinced? Then watch this video. 

Thanks for listening, and remember, we have to fight to protect the internet. Piracy may be wrong, I don't agree with piracy, but neither do I agree on making the internet a place where information can be stripped down by those in power. People who are given power are shown time and again that they will abuse it, not everyone will, there are some good people out there, but there only has to be one or two assholes, which we all know exist to ruin it for everyone. Right now SOPA and PIPA are too vague in their wording. Help us fight for a free and better internet today.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Golden Globes 2012

Last night was as second time running host Ricky Gervais put it, "the second most prestigious film award ceremony in the world". He's right, it ain't the Oscars, but the Golden Globes definitely are a lot of fun. Despite being pretty pissed off at them year after year at the Globes, Emmys and Oscars, I love watching these award shows because it shows a part of the year where people get honoured for their work. Some people like George C. Scott don't like the idea of competition in acting, I don't see it as a competition so much as when your peers can honour you for the work you've done this year and if you've done great work like Scott did Patton back in the 70s, then you should surely be honoured.

A lot pleased me about this year's Golden Globes, some truly deserved awards were given out. One mention I'd like to make before I begin is that of Idris Elba winning his Golden Globe for "Luther". I am extremely pleased about this despite only having seen a few episodes of the show. From what I've seen he's an absolutely terrific actor and one of Britain's rising stars in my opinion.

Now, the awards I was very pleased with winning were for starters obviously Elba, who won for Luther. A great performance from a great actor. He was joined by my choice for Best Supporting Actor in a TV Series, Mini-Series or Movie by Peter Dinklage for Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, a show that I personally think is one of the best shows I've ever seen on TV. Peter Dinklage's performance as the manipulative but honourable Tyrion was a personal highlight for me, it was Sean Bean that got me into the show it will be Peter Dinklage that will keep me watching. 

The next award I was very pleased with was Best Director which went to Martin Scoresese for Hugo. An award I thought he thoroughly deserved. Hugo was also my choice for Best Drama but we'll get to that. Scorsese's direction of his first 3D movie really showed how the medium can be used when it's put in the hands of a master. Scorsese knew how 3D works and how to make it work, much like James Cameron did two years ago with Avatar, Scorsese has shown us how 3D can be used for the betterment of film, first off by shooting that medium and secondly by using it's use of depth perception to our advantages. In Avatar it was the sweeping landscapes of Pandora, in Hugo it was recreating scenes like the famous Train and the wonder and amazement that just a little thing like depth can really add to the movie going experience. Hugo however did not win for Best Drama, The Descendants did. I've not seen that film, but I've not heard great things either, I was pretty disappointed. 

The Best Comedy however I was very pleased that The Artist won. A silent film in this day and age. In many ways Hugo and The Artist are very similar films, they both celebrate the magic of cinema, Hugo tells of the wonders of it's advancement and that even with 3D and colours and digital visual effects, Cinema can still wow and amaze us through it's characters and passion for the art. The Artist did the same but without sound, without colour, with effects. It showed the same thing, that without 3D, colours, sounds or effects, a film can still be great and the passion of the art is all that matters. Both are very valid and whilst Hugo will be my choice for Best Picture at the Oscars this year, The Artist is very funny and beautifully made.

The host Ricky Gervais didn't get as much on screen time this year as he did last. He was however still very funny, not quite as funny as last year but still very funny. He was a touch cynical this year it almost seemed but I really enjoyed him hosting and I hope he gets a third year and becomes the Billy Crystal of the Globes.

EDIT: There was one thing I forgot to mention. Morgan Freeman's lifetime award was beautiful and getting Sidney Poitier to hand it out to him was very nice. It was strange because Sidney is lookin' good! He's about fifteen years older than Freeman and Freeman looks way older! Good job! It was also nice to see just how awesome Freeman's career has been, he's been in films with Christopher "Superman" Reeve and Christian "Batman" Bale. Yeah... oh yeah, and he's been Nelson Mandella and well.... God.... yeah he's awesome.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Network: A Screenplay Analysis

Screenplay Analysis by: 
Petros L. Ioannou

Network is a 1976 film about the “first known instance of a man to be killed because of lousy ratings.” It is an absurd jaunt into a satirical and yet extremely potent and spellbinding world written by three-time Academy Award winning screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. The story revolves around a news anchor called Howard Beale who has an on-air meltdown and threatens to blow his brains out live on national television on the fictional UBS network. This in turn creates a series of events that lead to him becoming something of a television messiah to the people and leading the people around him to get dragged through his insanity crisis as we the audience get dragged into the insane world of television that Chayefsky created.

If there’s one way to describe the events of this film it’s “Snowball Effect”. One event leads to a bigger one, which in turn creates another bigger event, and starts a chain reaction that results in one of the most bizarre and insane scenarios ever played out on screen and yet one of the most powerful messages. From the very start we’re told about Howard’s life up to this point by the narrator. He was the number one news anchor in America until his wife left him, his ratings dropped, Howard began to drink and now his ratings have dramatically dropped and he’s been fired. Before the film’s even begun a snowball effect has started, he gets depressed because of one incident after another and it is something we can all relate to in our lives unless you’ve led a bizarrely perfect carefree life. He gets depressed from the mountain of stress that piled on him. Knowing from personal experience I know how tough that can be, stress can make you lose sleep, it can make you lose weight, it can make you lose your appetite and cause all kinds of havoc with your personal and professional lives and that’s what’s happened to Howard, before this film has even begun.  This is compounded by other people’s lives intertwining to enhance this snowball effect. How  Max’s problems with the restricting of the News Division leads him to angrily let Howard continue his “I ran out of bullshit” rant on the air, which in turn spikes the ratings and gets Howard on the show and begins the insane rise in popularity and his eventual death.

It’s strange; you can almost look at Howard’s personal journey as vaguely similar to that of recent events in history. In particular, the utter insanity and eventual firing that recently surrounded formerly TV’s highest paid actor, Charlie Sheen.  Sheen completely lost his mind, he ranted and raved in interviews and uStreams leading to him getting fired from the show. Sheen’s rants were indeed some of the most insane things we’ve ever heard spoken aloud, “I have tiger blood and Adonis DNA” or “I’m an F18 Bro, I’m tired of pretending that I’m not a total bitchin’ rockstar from Mars”, or my personal favourite, “Brrrr!!! Hold on stupid plane above with noise attached!! WINNING!!” Suffice to say Charlie Sheen really went off the deep end in a manner so bizarre not even a movie could write that kind of thing. Even Howard in Network is speaking an iota of sense in his madness, Sheen just went balls-to-the-wall insane. However what is very similar is the way their madness was used and abused to the benefit of gaining ratings. When Sheen was finally fired from his job on Two and a Half Men, he was replaced with actor Ashton Kutcher. At the same time Comedy Central hired Sheen to do one of their famous “roasts” with him, where an assortment of friends and other comedians mock him live on stage before he gets a rebuttal and decided to air it right after the first episode of Two and Half Men with Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher’s first episode gained the CBS show a 26.8 Million viewership, the highest the show had ever recorded, higher than any episode where Sheen was in the lead role, it was not however because of Kutcher, but because of Sheen’s madness and the fallout from which people wanted to see what happened. At the same time, Comedy Central got it’s highest ratings in the Cable Network’s history for Charlie Sheen’s roast. However since then the ratings for Two and a Half Men have rapidly dwindled. The madness Charlie Sheen almost seems like it’s what inspired the madness of Howard Beale only Network was actually written over thirty-five years before Sheen ever started crying that he was “Winning”, Sheen was only eleven years old when this movie hit theatres.

But it’s not just Sheen that Howard Beale seems to be like, he’s reminiscent of people like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. Unlike Howard Beale, these are real people, who genuinely think that what they’re saying makes perfect sense. But they’re really tools to the political machine, just like Howard becomes towards the end of the script, and for lack of a better expression “shit-stirrers”. People who throw all multitudes of “the truth” or what they believe is the truth at the audience, and reject any notion that they could possibly be wrong. And networks like FOX and MSNBC are perfectly willing to let them go insane live on the air scream at callers and tell people that there is absolutely a God because the “sun goes up, sun goes down, never a miscommunication”, for one simple reason. Ratings, these rants and raves bring in ratings just like Sheen did; and most importantly just like Howard Beale did in the screenplay for Network. Each of these commentators who spouts that they and they alone speak “the truth” be they politically inclined to the left or right considers themselves to be the man standing in front of the camera screaming “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” But they’re not. They’re tools used for ratings, just like Howard Beale becomes. The film is almost prophetic in its presentation, a satire of present day news shows written thirty years before the present day. It’s as though Paddy Chayefsky travelled thirty years into the future, got mad as hell at the state of television news, got his ideas, travelled back and put pen to paper to write one of the most incredible screenplays ever written.

And yet even as I write this analysis of what is an incredible screenplay it’s brought to my attention the grandest irony in all of this. This is screenplay, with a political message about TV stupification, in film, now being broadcast on TV being taken away and having it analysed by a film student studying how to put something on the screen.

I could go on for hours about the political message of this screenplay, its prophetic nature and the grand irony in me, a film student writing a screenplay analysis on it. But let’s look at the characters for a moment outside of Howard. Everyone is a product of their generation; Diana is a cold calculating “programmed droid” who was raised by television who can’t deal with “primal doubts” that every human has so she simply ignores them and lets them build up as they slowly rot her from the core to the point that she willingly has a man executed for having poor ratings and doesn’t give a second thought to it, the world is a television show with three act stories for movie of the week. Then there is Max an older man going through a mid-life crisis, his traditional values feel askew in this confusing new world where his friends either go crazy, abandon him or die of a heart attack. He leaves his wife, his family and his life behind to be with Diana because nothing else makes sense in this world and he wants to be a part of the new one or least bring a part of his world into the new one that Diana represents and as with their relationship and his attempts to try and be a part of Howard Beale’s raving ranting ratings success, it is an abject failure because he does not belong in the new world. Finally there is one scene with the famous Arthur Jensen, the owner of the parent company that owns the parent company that owns the Network. He is the top dog of all top dogs, and in a single scene with a single monologue has more power and insanity burning through him than the whole of the rest of the cast. “It is the international system of currency that determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today.” – How prophetic this statement is. This film was made before the fall of the Soviet Union and that would be theisr own downfall. The political furore of this film and his character as he espouses it is incredible! “The World is a Business Deal.” How right he is as he continues to say that the “individual is finished..... people are as replaceable as piston rods”. How right is he? Howard Beale’s death has advertisements rolling over it. That should say it all.

Network is preachy, overbearing, unsubtle and yet very subtle, methodical, emotional. It stands on a soap box but does it through personal characters. It might just be one of the best films ever made, on par with Citizen Kane and The Godfather even. Rocky is my favourite films of all time. Taxi Driver is also an amazing film. But how this didn’t win best picture is absolutely BEYOND ME! It thoroughly deserved winning Best Screenplay however and it stands the test of time so well, it’s like prophetic gospel!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Quick Thoughts 15-20 Hours into Skyrim

Unlike most people out there I went into playing the much anticipated The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim not really caring about the hype. I've played it's predecessor Oblivion and thought it was, "Good". A 7/10, that's all, perhaps being a bit generous even. I didn't buy the hype people gave it really. So when people started raving about Skyrim, I was just like "Meh... sure." And then people kept telling me why it was better than Oblivion; it didn't have any of the technical issues or limitations, the combat was improved e.t.c. But to be honest, that was never the problem I had with Oblivion in the first place.

Here's how I like my games: big and expansive with a strong focus on story and characters in that story, a need to play the game that derives from the story driving you forward but at the same time optional side-quests that can allow you to divert for a while from the main story that is so hardcore it can be exhausting at times.
Examples: Batman: Arkham City, Final Fantasy VII, Breath of Fire III, The Legend of Zelda (The Entire Series) and to a certain extent Mass Effect and Dragon Age.

To me, The Elder Scrolls is in the same vein as games like Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto, where you have these massive sandbox worlds to explore and do anything you want in them really but then you can do the "main quest" at your leisure, almost a reverse of the games mentioned. Mass Effect and Dragon Age sort of all under this banner too but they're not sandbox.

Now let me preface this by saying. I like Skyrim, a lot, I've been enjoying it more than I did Oblivion. I think that's because at the start, it makes you focus a little more on the main plot so you can get the Dragon Shouts. After this I've been blacksmithing, of to the Mage College, killing random wolves and goats with a flamethrower (I'm a sadistic magical bastard, sue me) e.t.c. Everything most people said is true, this game is better than Oblivion, though many say not as good as Morrowind and I'll even touch on that in a minute. But like I said, those 'problems' the people who loved Oblivion and now love Skyrim had, aren't the same problems I have and my problem with the game is thus...

Despite the massive open world with huge amounts of detail, which is very commendable and by far the best and most detail oriented world I've ever seen or played. Despite all the thousands of sidequests and new mechanics that make the game almost completely different every time someone plays, which is also excellent... I find myself really not giving a shit about half of it because of the lack of character the characters themselves have. Virtually every NPC in this game could be faceless and nameless to me, as could the Dohvakiin, the protagonist you play as. He has no voice, he has no personality and to many that's like "Great, I can play as 'myself' it's a role-playing game". But as a writer, I like to feel connected to characters and more importantly, relate to the characters.

I can't relate to the characters because I just don't give a rats ass about them, they all look very samey, act very samey, have very samey voices and, yeah... that's how I feel about the world. Take the Greybeards... they're four of the same damn person. The mage school... everyone is practically the same with one being a bit schemey one being a different race.... eh.... they're archetypes not characters.

The combat is... average at best. It's button mashing, running around, healing, there's little strategy involved except "Kill Your Opponent and Don't Die". Compare this with say a turn based system from Final Fantasy where you have to use your whole party together in a strategic attempt to take down the enemy. Or The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, where you have to aim and time your sword strikes to kill an enemy whilst trying to dodge their attacks. It's not that the combat is bad, it's just, I've seen it before, it's nothing new and it's very standard. It's not outdated or anything, it's not not as strategic as other RPGs like the Final Fantasy's and Dragon Age's of this world. Thought I will admit the Dragon Fights so far have been exciting and awesome, in part thanks to the great musical theme that plays there.

As for the story... well, I dunno. Characters tend to make up a story and for me nothing has been memorable so far except killing a dragon and learning the shouts. Aside from that it's been pretty basic, even Oblivion has the threat of the Gates of Hell Opening to put the fear of God in you about the severity of the siutation. Here there's a civil war going on that I just don't care about because I don't care about the people involved, there's some mythical dragons returning which a lot of people are just like.... "Yeah... Dragons are back... man that sucks..." Wait... What?! Seriously their reactions are so blase about it. You just heard that a supposedly extinct and possibly even mytholgical beast has returned to destroy the f***ing world and you're just like "Wow... that sucks..." I'm sorry but take this in a real world context... If a Tyrannosaurus Rex suddenly rampaged through downtown Manhattan, people would not be like "Wow....a dinosaur... that sucks..." They'd be more like "HOLY S*** B*** MOTHERF***** THERE'S A DINOSAUR TRYING TO EAT EVERYONE! S*** RUUUUUUUUUN!!!!!" There'd be bloody mass panic and hysteria and that's for a creature we know exists, not one that might not even even existed.

Back to the world for a second, but this massive world that's open and "you can see it, you can go to it" as people have described it. Awesome as it is... 90% of it is completely pointless.... It really is, all the detail is bells and whilstles really because it's great and all but it's pointless in a practical sense. Much as I hate doing it I'm drawn back to other examples, Mass Effect, every mission even the side missions have purpose. But that's a mission based style so let's try... Final Fantasy, every inch of the world map has a different pattern of enemies, some you can only fight in a small section which hold key items you'll need for side quests.... Let's try... Skyward Sword. Every inch of this game is like a dungeon at times, it's got loads of puzzles and methods and ways to get around. Deus Ex: Human Revolution, something I'd describe as the pinaccle of "Choose Your Route" gameplay because there's literally about 5 different methods to do every section of every mission in the game. It's incredible. Grand Theft Auto, lot's of cars available on every street, certain things available only in certain places.

Skyrim is just kinda... empty at times with some goats and wolves here and there. It's an amazingly huge and detail oriented world, not quite as fantastical as Morrowind's which one day I'll give that game a try because the world there looks so damn beautiful, it's very fantastical and unique, unlike Oblivion and Skyrim, which really doesn't have such fantastical feel to it, it feels a little too down to earth at times. Hell even the worst example of a linear game, which I've said time and time again I dislike how linear it is despite being a fan of linear games and for the record Skyrim is a far superior game in general; Final Fantasy XIII. When you get to Gran Pulse, it's world is beautiful and imaginative, of course the gameplay itself is pretty bad and much of you find yourself saying "this was one of the biggest wasted opportunties in gaming history", but the point stands.

The music in the game has been lauded as excellent. Whilst the main theme that's been around since Morrowind is really, really, great, especially when used during the dragon fights... the rest is very kinda... meh. It's not made me go, "Wow what a beautiful song" or even "What an atmospheric piece of music" like Deus Ex: Human Revolution did constantly.

However in spite of this I am enjoying the game a lot. I find that despite it's faults it has, I'm actually finding it a lot more fun than Oblivion and Fallout 3 (but that's another story for another time... feel a little betrayed there). I'm also only about fifteen-twenty hours into the game but I've played other games for that time and if this is just a slow start, maybe I'll eat my words but I doubt it. I am enjoying this game and it's "Great", which I give 8/10 so far. We'll see how it progresses...

Pictures are from various sources around the internet, I do not own them.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Blog Reboot

Okay because Squarespace sucks, I've rebooted the blog on via this address, there we go. Now that that's out of the way I'm going to re-post some old thoughts from the old blog later today and try and update this once a week.