templemarker: star trek tos: spock with a red mask on (red makes him feel pretty)
Fans of genre shows have, I think, been primed to expect mediocrity edging towards downright cardboard acting in the shows we love. Say what you will about The Sentinel, Sliders, or especially Smallville, but they all lowered the bar for the kind of television we watch religiously and with little discrimination for the quality of the work. Buffy, Farscape, Battlestar Galactica--these were exceptions, not the rule.

I say this because I watch a lot of mediocre television. Not as much as I used to, before fifty hour work weeks and willful attempts at maintaining a social life, but enough to be steeped in the knowledge of kind of crappy yet still compelling fantasy/sci-fi/somewhere in the middle television series. And it's with that in mind that I figured I'd pick up Teen Wolf to have something to amuse me at the gym.

Let me introduce the Boreanaz Scale.


(Image credit [personal profile] chaosraven who is the best first responder ever.)

The Boreanaz scale, named for you-know-who, is a kind of arbitrary but still generally useful scale for determining the quality of the television show you're watching. I base this primarily on the acting, because it could be the most compelling idea in the world (hi, Andromeda) with great production values (oh, Caprica) but if the acting isn't there to draw you in and keep you hooked (five seasons, six television movies, and three spin-offs of Babylon 5) your beloved show won't make it all the way. This is where Boreanaz comes in: stilted, creeper cardboard vampire in Buffy; fast-talking, charming sharpshooter in Bones. Two balanced sides of a scale.

Now, most genre television is going to hover around Season 1 Buffy. The acting is kind of weak, but the premise is compelling enough to make time for the actors to get things like experience, and be more comfortable with production notes. But then there's your Boreanaz 1 shows, your Smallvilles, who despite all odds and acting coaches manage to keep a wooden, anvilly show on the air for 10 seasons. And on the other side, your Boreanaz 6, you have your Battlestar Galacticas--tightly produced and paced shows that have a finite end point from the start and are always working towards that goal.

Stargate Atlantis? A solid Boreanaz 3. It had its moments, but it was a journeyman show. Firefly? Boreanaz 6. It should have had a longer life. SeaQuest DSV? Boreanaz 2. It could have done better, but it could have done so much worse.

Teen Wolf? Boreanaz 4.

I know, I know. I said the scale was arbitrary above, so clearly I'm just privileging a show with a lot of half-naked well-defined young men and their Blair Waldorf-esque female counterparts. I feel you. But here's the thing: what this show has in spades, what carries it beyond the 1997 Sarah Michelle Gellar award for Acting in a Teen Paranormal Series, is how shockingly nuanced the actors are with their characters.

Scott McCall, played by Tyler Posey, is the titular character who is undergoing his para-normality while suffering puberty. This could easily be a role that was phoned in for a decent first-title-credit paycheck from a network desperately trying to stay relevant in scripted tv. Instead, Posey takes his time with the role, swinging from intense, realistic anxiety attacks to small, silent, charming as fuck sly grins that are half-knowing to his audience. The fact that the show uses silence, instead of trying to fill every moment with tension and hipster-of-the-week music is shocking enough, but that Posey has enough command of his own talent to portray the many emotional states his character is put through shoots him into Ninth Doctor territory.

Scott's boyfriend best friend, Stiles, could also quickly and immediately suffer from The Best Friend curse, but the show gives the actor, Dylan O'Brien, room to clearly ad-lib some portion of his lines and feel out the dimensions of Stiles as a character. There are several scenes where, in most genre television, Stiles would have had a split-second reaction shot and then the camera would move on to the B-plot, or another show of Posey's admittedly impressive musculature. But rather than use Stiles as a gag machine, the show gives him moments of reflection, moments where he's talking to himself, or reviewing some research, that give him depth and dimension that would otherwise be ignored if not outright discarded on my beloved Roswell.

And in a show with a clear (and unremarkably predictable) bias towards male cast members, the two female characters, Allison Argent (Crystal Reed) and Lydia Martin (Holland Roden) do have more characterization than your average "Lana's parents are dead" lip service. I have not yet watched the whole first season, but while Allison and Lydia have not yet made the show pass the Bechdel test, the writers have given them details and backgrounds that have less to do with the men they are respectively dating than with them as individual characters. It leaves the door open for more robust characterization, which is better than the treatment most teenaged females get in similar shows without an identified female protagonist.

That's not to say that the show doesn't have it's Moonlight moments: the plot is pedestrian, and the tension, while believable, is manufactured more through the cinematography and the scoring than the writing. But on the whole, I've been delighted with the rampant thread of humour--intentional and unintentional--as well as the subtle, talented nuance in the wide swathe of emotions. I expected Smallville, and I got Haven, and I'm telling you all of this so that you won't dismiss Teen Wolf and its silly, outwardly non-compelling appearance. Fans of The Vampire Diaries or Roswell and the casual fans of Supernatural probably are already sold, but for everyone else--especially those who've seen the crazy shit (<3) that's come out of the fandom response to Teen Wolf (thanks, Slash Report) let me tell you: this show isn't what you think it is. It's not The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Boreanaz 5), but it's not Earth: Final Conflict (Boreanaz 1), either.

Give it a chance. You, like I was, may very well be pleasantly surprised.
templemarker: random: a phonograph (phonograph)
Here's the thing--when White Collar started in 2009, I really struggled with it.

I mean, I got it, the appeal. Matt Bomer was a sexy BAMF seen previously on Tru Calling, Traveler, and Chuck, he's smoking and has that endearing hipster gay thing going on. Tim DeKay has been on basically every show that's aired since 1996 (though I personally liked him first from SeaQuest) and I don't know about you, but I started watching because I had a love connection with Tiffani Theissen on Fastlane that I've never abandoned. (Especially not now, lord have mercy that woman is built.)

But I wasn't up for The Adventures of Two Special White Guys again. I was frustrated with the cable networks for being uninventive in their casting and programming, frustrated with fandom because I knew White Collar was a recipe for slashy slashiness and was going to get a following no matter what. Especially when you add in the whole authority angle, and the hurt/comfort angle, and the likable thief angle. But I wanted something else, something that played with the tropes but inverted them as well; I wanted Psych, at least the parts of Psych that aren't white or white-washed. Or heteronormative.

What I'm saying is that it took a lot of convincing from my friend L to get me to really sit down and watch it, and what kept me around was all the things there are to like about it--Diana, Elizabeth and Peter's marriage, June's existence, the supporting characters. It actually took almost the whole first season for me to grudgingly admit I was into it, and the thing that kept me from being all college freshman feminist about it was the Peter/Elizabeth/Neal aspect which did, finally, become the predominant ship in the fandom (much to my relief).

I mean, fandom sees Psych and ships Shawn/Lassiter. What even is that. I'm not going to knock anyone's pairing--god knows I've liked the minor ships in my time--but I completely fail to see how to view the OTP as anything other than Gus and Shawn, a life partnership with a whole lot of gay. And yet, for the first four, maybe five years that Psych was around I could count the Gus/Shawn stories on one hand. That whole ship is the special guy and the guy that follows him around, i.e. Holmes/Watson, House/Wilson, etc. etc. etc.

Similarly, one of my longstanding bafflements was when The Dead Zone finally made it on to fandom's radar. I watched that show with an embarrassing fervor stemming from a visceral love of Anthony Michael Hall. (Thanks John Hughes.) And I wrote fic for it, too, of which there was very little for the first number of years. Same set-up as above: special guy and the guy that follows him around, namely Johnny and Bruce, who are together from day one. And somehow fandom, when it eventually turned its slashy eyes towards TDZ, thought Johnny and the dude that married Johnny's kid's mother and busted on him constantly, was the OTP. The mind boggles.

All this to say that when White Collar premiered I didn't have a lot of thrill going on; which is why I'm kind of shocked at the completely immediate way I've reacted to Suits. Same basic premise: special (white) guy encounters other white guy and they have adventures only they can have. Gayness included at point of sale. And I want to have problems with it, I do. I know from The Sentinel, I know from due South, I know from The Mentalist and House and Merlin that this is a pre-packaged Special White Guy sandwich of slash and yet I can't help myself.

Here's why I think this is so:
  1. It has the mentor-student/authority role structure that I secretly crave without the abuse of power issues inherent in Peter and Neal.
  2. Gina Torres.
  3. I am a sucker for menswear and Harvey wears a three piece suits with double vents, peaked lapels and a full Windsor.
  4. Everyone is kind of bitchy on this show and I like snappy comebacks.
  5. Despite the racial and heteronormative flaws of apparently every cable show out there, I remain a key audience for shows where remarkable people are given opportunities to extend their talents despite previous circumstances.
I don't know. I eventually got over (most) of my concerns about White Collar, particularly given the supporting casts' diversity. And one day, like Psych, I believe there will be more than one show out there with a lead cast member who is a person of color and/or a queer person and/or not male and not relegated to "recurring character" or "supporting cast member." But even with Gina Torres, who I still worship like she's Jasmine and dream of like she's Zoe, until there's one episode that's about her and not about Harvey and Mike's happy funtimes together, that's supporting cast. And that bothers me.

But not as much as it should, which bothers me even more.
templemarker: generation kill: two soldiers watching artie rain on a city (when the world ends)
YAGKYAS assignments are out! I'm so excited, really. Thanks so much to everyone who signed up. I really hope that this can be a creative and fruitful and awesome experience for everyone.

We're starting to get secret santa letters in, and it's really fascinating to read them, because it's like a window into people's fannish perceptions. [livejournal.com profile] shoshannagold mentioned that there wasn't a lot of meta in this fandom, and that seems to be true. This is kind of a wide-casting, unconnected, endlessly diverse collection of meta, in a way. It speaks to what people are thinking about the characters we all write, but seem to talk about amongst ourselves.

I'm just about to post mine--I know you're all waiting with baited breath.

I wanted to mention as well that the posting volume from the last two-three months, in terms of fic, has and will continue to drop off for awhile as I work on a couple longer projects. I'm writing a Gen Kill story that's heading towards 30 or 40k, and that's been consuming a lot of my time; and thanks to my lovely winning bidder over at the ontd_ai auction earlier this month, I've been working on a continuation of the AIRPS-Star Trek XI fusion, which will come out at about 5-6k and requires a lot of detailed thought about Starfleet. I'll try to post a couple more short stories here and there, but that's going to be my writing focus until the deadlines for the winter challenges creep up on me. Hope you stick with me! I promise, the longfic will be worth the wait.
templemarker: generation kill: two soldiers watching artie rain on a city (when the world ends)
So I wanted to talk for a minute about secondary and tertiary characters in the Generation Kill universe, specifically how I write them and why. This is meta! You have been informed.

The miniseries doesn't give us a lot of information about the people outside of the platoon who exist in our characters' lives; the book gives us more, but not significantly more. Nate Fick's book offers up small pieces of his life that it seems clear he'd rather not really talk about. And googling, I assume, will give you access to more information about the characters' real-life counterparts that can offer more potential "canon" for storytelling.

But I'm gonna tell you straight up, I'm ignoring about 90% of it.

This is on purpose, because I'm pretty damn uncomfortable with the line between RPS and fiction that's drawn in this fandom. That is to say--I'm writing about the fictional characters from the miniseries, and knowing too much about the real people who are portrayed on my screen is just--it's a line, and I can't deal with the other side of it.

I read Fick's book, and I had to stick my thumb over his image in the photo inserts. I couldn't even look at the photos in the GK book without kind of spazzing. And both were gripping books, well written and interesting on their own, but in order to keep writing in this fandom about these characters I've come to be fascinated by, I have to pretend that there are only the fictional people I see from the miniseries, otherwise my apparently intractable guilt complex will take over.

All this to say--I will make up new names for characters I introduce, parents, siblings, family members. I will not always respect the family trees of these guys; I will not go out of my way to have accurate information about how many kids they have, what their middle names are, etc. The more I learn about that the greater risk I run of not being able to write these characters at all, and I am willing to sacrifice my usual intense adherence to accuracy and canon for the writing.

So if you know Mike Wynn's wife's name, don't tell me. If you know people's wives names, don't correct me. If you wonder why I'm messing up the names of Nate Fick's sisters, wonder no more. It's purposeful. I'm aware of it. And I am totally not changing it to be more accurate. I'm not ashamed of writing about these dudes' fictional counterparts, and though I kind of blanch at the notion of any of this stuff I'm writing coming up in a Boolean search string for >insert name here<, that concerns me less, because they agreed to be portrayed. I'm much less comfortable with, say, Colbert's sister searching for her own name and finding this. I don't know why--I survived bandom with an appalling level of name accuracy--but I can't do it here.

Here endeth the meta. I apologise for making you witness my crazy.
templemarker: stxi: kirk demanding to know who ate the last cookie (last cookie)
I'm about a third of the way into my post about Spock, and there is just so much information to compile. Hopefully I'll have it up tomorrow, but in the meantime, my "people are wrong on the INTERNETS" rage is sufficiently peaked to address something I'd planned to talk about after the backstory resources were done. Namely: authorial intent with regards to Star Trek XI, and the problematic necessity of a Director's Cut.

[Administrivia note: these posts are available crossposted at [livejournal.com profile] templemarker and [personal profile] templemarker; you are welcome to add these journals if you want. It's solely for public fandom things. Nothing will be locked.]

Thar be spoilers under this cut.

Why Adam Roberts is wrong. )

Why Abigail Nussbaum is wrong. )

Why John Rodgers gets it right. )

How did we ever get by without audio commentaries and Director's Cuts? )

If you skipped (or made it to the end!) of my pontificating, here's your reward: Wired Magazine's fantastic TOS retrospective pictures, compared side by side with screenshots from the new film. Ace.

Also of interest: Bad Astronomy's science review of Trek XI, which is particularly interesting if you take into account the science Orci & Kurtzman describe as being the basis for Star Trek XI.

As well as the Shuttle Atlantis wake up call last month (right click save target as). NASA at Houston woke up the crew with the original TOS theme song, and the whole exchange just made me laugh in delight.

Oh god, now that I got all that out of my brain, I have to get some sleep.

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