Tag opinion

What makes me hate the TV shows I hate

Unlikeable characters

Rescue Me was a perfect example: after watching more than a season (on the strong recommendation of a friend), and hating the Denis Leary character in ever increasing amounts, always thinking he couldn’t possibly get any worse until he did, I eventually decided I’ve got better things to do than watch shows about assholes. Since then, that has been a prevailing sentiment. This is the reason I won’t watch Sons of Anarchy.

Implausibility

I can put up with only so much. But what really blows my mind is how stupid details that could so easily be fixed without any impact whatsoever on the plot get overlooked. Science gobbledygook is a common one (often used in the CSI franchise), as are simple things like the continued use of “enhance” where people zoom into fuzzy photographs or videos and see impossible details. Also, the guessing of computer passwords. In a scene in the otherwise potentially promising Mr. Robot, one of the characters, a supposedly excellent hacker, needing to get into someone’s computer apparently looks up at something above the desk, finds a “clue” and viola! that is actually the password! The absurdity of  this makes me irate. Why not just have her use a USB stick that runs a password-cracking program and then when it finds it in an implausibly short time, she could comment on the inadvisability of a 4-letter all lowercase password or something? And while these little details are not enough to make me hate an entire show, the more of them there are, and the more heavily the show relies on them (CSI), the less patience I have with said show.

Invincible villains

I can name three off the top of my head: The Danish show The Bridge, in which the villain starts off by mysteriously killing the power to a bridge connecting 2 countries (Denmark and Sweden) and somehow, during some period of no traffic, taking a body which has been cut perfectly in half to the exact centre of the bridge and placing one half on the Danish side and  the other half on the Swedish side, without the slightest trace of blood or (of course) clues of any kind, and then vanishes without a trace. I forget, but I think other impossible acts carry on from there. In one of the later seasons of Dexter—a show that throws all plausibility to the wind as a matter of course—the city is tormented by a killer who manages to create a series of complex tableaux in public spaces of murdered victims decked out with wings and other set pieces without ever leaving a trace of himself. Where ARE these places where everyone sleeps solidly from midnight to 7am and surveillance cameras don’t exist? True Detective (Season 1) is another one with a killer that builds complicated ritualistic sets and leaves ridiculous clues hanging around, seemingly moments before without leaving a trace of himself.

Episodic overextension

Some shows stick to their premise so doggedly, week to week, that they create super-unbelievability over the course of the show. Take, for instance, Dexter. What if there were this character who is a controlled serial killer by night and blood-spatter specialist by day, but instead of murdering another killer per episode (resulting in a simply ludicrous number of murders and serial killers), he took an entire season to plot, stalk and kill his victim. It would probably be more interesting, more nuanced and certainly less absurd. The Americans (one of my favourite shows for other reasons) suffers from the same problem: every week, more assignments, more disguises, more missions … these people wouldn’t have time to sleep, let alone raise kids, pretend to run a business and retain a semblance of normalcy. I know, it’s only TV, and the shows are there to entertain. I’m not suggesting they be broken into pedantic slavery to veracity, but I think that they suffer from overextension, and that slowing the pace wouldn’t hurt them at all. On a slightly related note, how much better would the X-files have been if half the time, or even part of the time, Scully turned out to be right and the hoax was revealed? Much better, in my opinion.

Unnatural dialogue

This is strictly an American thing. The whiz-bang, rapidfire dialogue of certain shows is something I simply cannot tolerate. The actors speak quickly back-and-forth in perfectly constructed sentences and sometimes witty repartee. There is no thought, reflection or error. This is what caused me to dislike The Newsroom and Scandal among others. Related to this is precocious children: children who say things only an adult would say or in a way that only an adult would say it (and who do this regularly as part of their character).

The Tough Guy

I am convinced that there is no easier role for an actor to play than a tough guy, and TV and movies are riddled with them. They show no emotion other than lust and anger, maybe a bit of drunken camaraderie with the boys, or maybe a little bit of hurt (from whatever tragic thing it was in their past that made them so closed off). They are distanced from their lovers (who inexplicably love them nonetheless), they are never actually happy, they don’t laugh except to intimidate, they are ultimately boring beyond belief. They glower, clench their teeth, lower their eyelids and barely talk. The vast majority of cop/detective shows harbour at least one tough guy. A perfect example is Ray Donovan: a show I’ve been trying to watch, but simply can’t because I desperately want Ray’s wife to murder her tedious, boring, absent husband and go have some fun with his money.

Strippers and gratuitous sex

The Sopranos started  the stripper thing with the BadaBing, and it seems like every American drama since then has picked up on this “great idea” to have their men hanging out having conversations in strip clubs so they can get some naked women in there just for the fun of it. Similarly, I’m pretty sure that nearly every sex scene is a gratuitous sex scene. Ray Donovan has one or two per episode, and often starts with one. I was starting to worry about myself: am I turning into a prude that I find these scenes boring and moderately offensive? Was I wrong to feel that they are basically pornography, where the focus is clearly on the man fucking and  the woman receiving? That the shot is often absent the woman’s head, especially when fucked from behind? That there is little actual enjoyment going on other than perfunctory orgasm? But I’m pleased to report that I saw a show recently that completely vindicated these thoughts: that I am not having a prudish reaction, but that these observations are true in the overwhelming number of cases. The show I saw was Catastrophe: a British comedy about an American man who has a short affair with an Irish woman and … well, nevermind, but there’s sex: there’s realistic, mutually gratifying, believable sex that is necessary to the plot and not male-centric pornography (nor is it the silly, fast-motion, hopping up and down, legs akimbo, shapes under blankets “funny sex” that some shows resort to). They’re both having a good time, there are moments of awkwardness (but not all-awkward Girls-style sex), and of happiness. So I’m not a prude, I’m simply bored out of my mind and fed up with the incessant man-fucks-woman scenes in most TV shows.

The role of women

This last one should have been my first reason for hating TV shows because it has become a real issue for me with anything I watch. I’ve become very aware of the roles that women have in TV and very critical. This was a huge reason why I couldn’t get into True Detective: that the only women in the show were victims, strippers, and a wife who became an adjunct and mere plot device to both characters. This relegation of women to minor and often abused roles is outrageously common. I’m fucking sick of it, and I’m going to write an entire post about it.

Copy Anti-Copy

There is a Facebook page called Copy Anti-Copy, which is one of my current internet favourites. I have no idea who runs it except that English is not their first language and they have an abundance of work from the middle east. Whoever they are, what they do is post images of design work (with designer and date), next to a more recent example by a different designer that may or may not be a copy of the original. Like this:

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The above is a clear copy, totally ripped off a year later. But most of the posts are more ambiguous.

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Initially, the above image seems not such a big deal.A musical note and plant/flower. 16 years apart, it seems unlikely to be a copy … until you notice specific details, like the shapes of the leaves/petals are exactly the same in the 2nd version as the first. Which begs the question, if you’re going to copy something like this, why would you scan the original and use the exact same shapes rather than just scribble your own petals, which would surely be easier? It boggles the mind!

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The above is much more difficult because it’s not the form, but the idea that has been copied. In this case you have to decide on how common or likely the idea is: that there’s a crown that is also the top of a chair/throne. It seems unlikely to me and a probable copy.

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While I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt to this one, I thought the bum with ears was a suspiciously uncommon idea. I was wrong: I’ve been told by Stefan Bucher that “Arsch mit Ohren” (“Bum with ears”) is a common German insult! That piece of cultural knowledge makes this most definitely not a copy. [Ammended June 4, 2015.]

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Then there’s something like this where your first reaction is total and obvious copy! Unless … they are both using the same piece of stock photography. Aha! That is the most likely explanation (and a good reason not to use stock photography).

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Here’s an interesting one, and this has come up a couple of times, when the work being copied is so fucking famous, like this piece by Shigeo Fukuda, that instead of a copy you have to consider it as possibly an homage. The 2014 designer has taken this iconic piece which s/he knows we know, and put a twist one it. Aye, now there’s a head scratcher!

Other times it really is just a similarly obvious idea, or the use of clichés.

To exercise your own judgements on these and many more (and to submit examples you have found!) I encourage you to join, or Like, or whatever it is one does on FB, Copy Anti-Copy. But, oh, don’t try to friend me, I’m pretty much only friends with actual friends so … sorry. But you can agree or disagree with me on copies!

Meanwhile, what do you do if your work is actually copied? If it’s a blatant reproduction like the first example above you should first contact the designer and the organization it was done for and alert them to the fact that it is not an original design. Second, it is often not expensive to get an Intellectual Property lawyer to send a letter, which is often intimidating enough to result in some kind of compensation. If the offending copy is turning up on the internet, you can submit copyright infringement complaints with Pinterest, (and there may be similar complaints areas on other sites). Google will also remove links from their search engine findings if you submit a report to them, with URLs of the individual images. And if it’s widely distributed advertising work for a large company? You should sue their asses.

Games: Alto

I never used to play computer games or video games of any kind until I got an iPad. Since then I’ve become a semi-avid player, which is not to say that I play a lot of different games, but that I spend more time playing than I should. And I’m picky about the games I play. My eye-hand coordination is not great, so games that require too many actions aren’t right for me. And aesthetics play a major role; for instance I refuse to play Cut the Rope, Candy Crush or Angry Birds because I find them ugly, and not worth the wasted hours.

Which brings me to my latest game obsession, ALTO (or, Alto’s Adventure), built by the Canadian team, Snowman. Designed by Harry Nesbitt, it employs the simplified shapes and soft colours of some other recent games, notably the justly lauded Monument Valley. The game is about snowboarding down a mountain, and the play is easy, using only one finger (though the game is not necessarily easy and as in all games, has seemingly impossible impasses). But what I love the most is how the scenery, weather and time of day changes as you play.

The course changes, so you’re not always starting over with the same run, and the light and conditions change to distractingly beautiful effect. Many a time I’ve  run into a rock because I was looking at the scenery, or missed a jump as the sun came up behind me. I have even gasped when my figure was caught as a silhouette against the sun.

And I lost many games while taking screen shots for this post (though I now see there are even better shots available on Snowman’s site. If this style of aesthetics in gaming is a trend, it’s one I approve of, for now. While Alto has many different types of goals to achieve, mine is to get as far as possible, just to see new things. (Now there’s an idea for a game! Someone call me.)

And Harry Nesbitt has posted a “making of” Alto’s Adventure on his site. Piles more information there!

Anyway, gotta go. I have some hills waiting for me.