Thursday, January 18, 2007

Three-in-One

“The Earth Girls Are Easy,” “The My Two Dads,” and “The French Connection”

So it's been several weeks since I've written. I know, I'm sorry. I actually started a review for “The Earth Girls Are Easy,” but then the cancellation news came down, school started back, and it just didn't seem worth it. I'm not completely out of the game, but I'm so disheartened by the fact that February 22, in all likelihood, barring a last minute resurrection by Dawn Ostroff at The C.W., is the end for us. I mean, it's just come and gone so fast. And man, I'm just in shock.

Anyway, we'll dwell on the sad stuff when the time comes, but for now, let's take look at the three episodes and try to delve into the relatoinships. First of all, let me show just paste you the ¼ page review I had written for “The Earth Girls Are Easy” so you can see where I was going with that before I stopped:

In this case, 'The Annoying, Whiny, Idiotic Fans of “The O.C.” vs. Josh Schwartz's Creation,' the defense calls Drew Timmons, show critic, to the stands.

Thanks, it's nice to be here. And yeah, I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God. I'm cool with that. I'm just here to make it known that people out there who watch this show are sometimes so incredibly dense and ridiculous that they make me want to swear off television for good.

Sir, you say that 'The Earth Girls Are Easy' was a pretty good episode, but it seems that a large percentage of the fan base, the kind who uses complete sentences at least, disagrees and found it weak and unbelievable. How do you respond to this?

Look, I'm not here to tell anyone how to watch an episode or what to get from it. But it's not my prerogative to make everyone like every episode. I mean, you know, some people didn't like the first four episodes of the season, and that's pretty ridiculous. There are people who don't think that this season has honored Marissa, and that's absurd. But really, until now, I haven't called them out too harshly. So yeah, it's not my prerogative to make sure that people like every episode, but it's my job to make sure people see that they've found the stupidest possible reasons for disliking the show this season, and I think this episode is a good one to make that point with.

But didn't you realize that Seth and Summer had no chemistry in this episode? I mean, how can you say anything is a good episode when Seth and Summer act so awkward around each other? This episode cannot be good!

So there ya go. It ends without an answer to that question. But we'll kind of get to it later. As you can see, much like Josh and his writers, I thought I'd play with traditional format, too. They, of course, have been more successful. But they get paid in six figures. Cormac has yet to offer me any money for my services. And fans haven't donated. Not that I'd take it. (Only, I would). But I digress, as usual.

The Earth Girls Are Easy: Not a great episode but a solid one that would have kicked January off correctly had Fox not reworked the schedule so that this aired before Christmas. It wasn't perfect, and I know it wasn't well liked, overall, but most of the criticisms were horrible, particularly the one that said Seth and Summer didn't have any chemistry in the episode and that they were too awkward. I don't even know where to begin addressing that. And there was, of course, the whole thing about how people thought we should have seen Ryan and Taylor having sex.

In fact, this has been a point of discussion for weeks now. People say that we should be seeing Ryan and Taylor making out/having sex/whatever and that Josh is a lesser showrunner because he hasn't given us those scenes. Jesus, people who think that, are you all really that moronic? I know, I know, I shouldn't lash out at people reading this, but there isn't a single logical point behind this thought. What is gained through a prolonged make-out session? What is gained through showing them having sex? Nothing. Don't give me the argument that they have too much chemistry to waste. I know that. I don't need you to spell that one out. They have GREAT chemistry. But that doesn't meant we need to see them doing ANYTHING other than what they've been doing. All it would do is slow the show down, slow the story down, and just generally suck the life out of the show. I like a passionate kiss or a great sex scene as much as the next guy, but give it a rest, people.

Some people thought Seth was a dick for being happy that Summer wasn't pregnant. Methinks that it's okay to celebrate when you're 18, basically unemployed with no high education, and you don't actually WANT a child. So, yeah, there's another terrible criticism.

But the episode did have some great stuff in it, most notably all things Bullit. When the Bullit joined the cast, I liked him, but I could see why others wouldn't – he was loud, obnoxious, obliviously racist, and just a huge stereotype. Somehow, though, the actor and the writing clicked, and he became something pretty special. He's an incredibly warm character, and as he's started to fall for Julie, you can't help but want her to fall back. That's why it was so heart breaking to see him standing alone, waiting for Julie to dance with him, oblivious to the fact that she's gone to somewhat innocently meet Frank.

Enter Kaitlin. Now Kaitlin has been the surprise of the season for many people, especially the idiots who took Josh's words out of context and decided that the whole fourth season would be about her. But it hasn't, and that's awesome. Instead, she's clearly her mother's daughter, and she's funny, and she's cool, and so you just knew she'd save the day for the Bullit and she did! Their dance together is one of the greatest moments ever on this show, and I fully and honestly mean that. In a sense, Bullit standing by himself and Kaitlin, in her own fit of loneliness (Jimmy! Why must you be such poor dad to this awesome girl? Why did you like Marissa the best? Why!), encapsulates everything about the series. It was about failure and betrayal and loss and pain, and then it was about hope and family and possibility. I hope that Julie comes around, finds that she loves the Bullit, and they live a perfect life together. Julie and Kaitlin deserve it, and the Bullit seems to want it, and I can't think of a better match. The Kaitlin/Bullit dance, I think, wins scene of the year so far for me, even outdoing a lot of the amazing grieving the characters did early on and the awesome, “Ryan...Ryan...I schmeared it for ya!” scene.

Let's also not forget how crucial this episode was in establishing the Taylor/Summer friendship. While Taylor was overdone in a later episode, she was used very well here, and I think that her complete unselfishness and willingness to support Summer shows why she's the best friend Summer has ever had. Okay, Taylor knowing Summer's period cycle is kind of weird, but it is Taylor, and so you just kind of accept it. From any other character, it's scary, but from Taylor, it's weird and quirky, and you just take it. But from that moment on, Taylor was determined to be there for Summer because Summer is her friend, and she was in need. The shot of their hand-hold in the back of the car was one of the best shots this season. Compare Taylor to this scene, quote taken from Joanna at TWoP's recap of “The Strip”:

She drops the bomb: the manicure she just got yesterday is already chipped! Oh, and Theresa is prugnunt. The camera circles around them ... And also that the baby might not be Eddie's. She orders Ryan to tell her what's going on, and the camera pans upward to black. How did this moment become more about Marissa than Ryan?

Taylor never made Summer's pregnancy about herself, and even though it was the catalyst for her plot with Ryan, she always separated Ryan and Summer so that she never really lost sight of her priorities. I love Taylor. She's so awesome.

The My Two Dads: This was a definite all-time classic, I feel. I think it hit the right character notes (though Seth/Summer's storyline has certainly sparked debate, but as usual, I'm here to settle it!) and did a very good job trying to establish exactly where Ryan fits in the family.

First, briefly, let's discuss Seth and Summer. The common criticism of their storyline seems to be, “If they're too immature to tell each other how they feel, if they have to play these games, then they're too immature to get married.” Duh. Of course they're too immature to get married. But the key is that they know it. They're both intelligent enough (during most episodes at least) to realize that they're 18 and mostly useless to society at the moment. Neither are in a position to get married. But they will be eventually. A more mature criticism of this storyline was, “Seth and Summer have come so far this year in terms of willingness to talk, so I can't buy this storyline because they regressed.” I can agree with that to an extent, although I would say that the fact that they're dealing with marriage probably knocks them down a few notches. But that's a point better taken the first one, and to that I say, “Well played, but they were funny, so who cares?” And yes, they were hilarious. Seth and Summer have always had great chemistry and have always been fun together, but this was a major step up. Kudos to Adam Brody for finally seeming motivated again. Maybe the news of cancellation made him want to act again. Or maybe the scripts were just finally good again. But he seems like he enjoys what he does now.

Anyway, the meat of this episode was the Frank/Sandy/Ryan storyline, and I have to say that it was one of the finest executed plots they've ever done. I still believe that maybe the story would have benefited from a multi-episode arc last season, but for the little time they had, they did wonders with it. I'm more than impressed. I felt that Kevin Sorbo actually fit the part of Ryan's father well, although I was initially hesitant. He was cool with just a hint of menacing, and Sorbo's acting past made him seem tougher than he probably actually is. No offense to him, of course. I'm sure he could kick my ass.

But it was great to see Frank enter the picture. We've seen everyone else, but we've barely even heard of Frank, and it was clear that it could provide something very intriguing. After all, the show is essentially built on Ryan's relationship with Sandy. Without those two, this show is nothing. But last season, we heard Sandy basically dismiss Ryan as his son. Not meanly, of course, but every time Sandy made mention of having one son, it stung the fans of their bond. By no means do I want Ryan to take the last name Cohen (EVER, Josh, although I do like referring to them as “the Cohens” -- I'm kind of difficult to deal with), but I do want him to feel part of the family. Remember when he said he wasn't an Atwood but he wasn't a Cohen, either? Well, Sandy did nothing to help that last season. I think it was just the writers being careless, but I won't blame the writers and credit the characters, so I'll blame the character.

But this episode fixed that. Sandy saw Ryan and suddenly became territorial. He wanted to protect Ryan, keep Ryan, love Ryan. It was a bit intense at times, but that's what you want. It's the passion and love that I expect from my dad and all my friends expect from theirs. I think that after all Ryan has been through, Sandy began to see himself as a father even more. And then that was threatened by a “terminally ill” Frank. In some sense, you have to feel for Frank. Here's someone who was more than a shitty father, he was a shitty human being. But he's served time, and he's turned his life around. It doesn't excuse what he's done, but this show is about second chances (and don't give me any e-mails about how Marissa deserved a second chance – maybe you can argue a 202 chance), and so maybe he deserved one. With proper supervision and such. Despite his changes, though, some people can't escape their old demons. I think Trey proved this, and like father, like son. Frank is different, he wants to be different, and even though his mistakes weren't as great as they were last time, they were still big enough. And it's not just the lying. Notice how quickly his temper flared when Sandy got defensive. It was a great job from Josh & Stephanie to show the remains of who he was. It'd be too easy, like with Trey, to write him as a pure villain or a pure reformed saint, and they avoided it.

I think special credit has to be paid to Peter Gallagher who delivered his best performance since season one. He was absolutely remarkable. At no point did you doubt exactly how Sandy felt, and when he punched Frank and then dared him to come for more, you couldn't help but cheer. I couldn't, at least.

You also can't help but love the two scenes that really cemented the new family dynamics. First is when Ryan told Sandy that he's his father. Just brilliant. Exactly what we all needed to hear. And then, at the end, as Seth returns home, and they all sit on the couch, just watching a movie. The writers tried to make us feel last year like the true fab four consisted of the four teens, but that's not true, it's never been true, and it never will be true. The Cohen family is our fab four. And were we hearing things or did Ryan outright call Sandy, “Dad” in that scene? I don't want him calling him that all the time, but it was a sweet, so sweet, moment.

Before we get onto “The French Connection” and diss Taylor for the first time ever I think, let me compliment her here. She played everything very low-key, stressing a bit about her relationship, but worrying mostly that Ryan was okay. When she told Ryan to go sit with his family, she won every heart that wasn't still freakishly attached to previous girlfriends. She didn't want to be a part of that moment. She didn't belong. It wasn't about her. It was about Ryan. And that, my friends, is beautiful.

Oh, oh, and Chris Brown was there, too, acting horribly in a well-written role. I still love Kaitlin, though, so I'll forgive all his craziness. But Kaitlin's report, and the Ward twins being complete, wonderful dorks are the things that made the Harbor storyline very, very fun. If you're not enjoying Kaitlin and her friends, then you're just wrong. Maybe you're even in the group that took Josh's words out of context when he said they'd show high school again this year. You know, the group that took that to mean that Kaitlin would be another Marissa. Shame on you, people!

The French Connection:
Seth and Dr. Roberts = awesome chemistry, a lot of fun, a few fun cracks at the enemy.
Will and Kaitlin = bad acting + good acting + solid writing, so it's all okay.
Julie and Kirsten = fine since it gave Kirsten something to do (which, as I've said before, isn't a huge deal like some people insist that it is) and even better since it may lead to an actual rift between the two.
Seth and Summer breaking off their engagement = tons of heartache in the best possible way since it was painfully real and a beautiful way to really look at Summer's character.
Newpsieweds = funnier in theory.
Che = still awesome and anyone who doesn't think so isn't too cool in my books

I go through that in bullets so that I can end this review before it gets too long. But first, I need to discuss Taylor and why this episode failed badly with regard to her storyline. I mean, the idea was good. Find a way to put a wedge in the seemingly perfect Taylor/Ryan relationship. Play to insecurities. That's great! I love conflict that isn't in love triangles. But this just wasn't the way to do it. First, you can't tell me that Taylor is really that smart. No way. Second, don't try to center an episode around how Ryan isn't as smart as Taylor when you've spent three seasons trying to tell me that Ryan really is smart. Maybe not in the same way that Taylor is, but I can't see why Ryan couldn't adjust the conversation to English and to architecture or something similar.

Second, people like Taylor because of how easily she slid into the group and how great she was at helping others. She very rarely existed on her own, and that kept the stories fresh and her character fun. We weren't overexposed. Until this episode. Simply put, this was just too much. Taylor has always been a larger-than-life character, but this episode just made her too big. French books, French talk shows, etc. Just too much. She works best when she's big on a small scale. Does that kind of make sense? Like, I love when she does crazy things, but I like it best when she's relegated to remembering Summer's period or taking random photos of Ryan or updating her no doubt sensuous blog. I think my main qualm is that although I completely accept Taylor as a main cast member, she's not as important as the rest, and I feel like the show should focus on the other characters more. Something for Sandy outside of his awesome Jerry Lewis impression. Maybe a date with Spitzy?

Now I do enjoy seeing conflict in Taylor and Ryan's relationship, unlike those who complain that The O.C. isn't boring enough so they want to see Ryan and Taylor happy all the time, but I want to see the conflict fed through Ryan, not through Taylor. The difference is astronomical.

I also enjoyed the final sequence where they almost did a callback to “The Countdown” and thousands of R/M fans everywhere pissed themselves in terror (and yes, I've read that pissing yourself isn't an actual response to terror, but it's in the world enough for me to use it). Nice, nice swerve for it not to be real, although it does seem like Ryan and Taylor may be a little too in sync. Their fantasies/dream sequences are shockingly similar, huh?

But overall, it was another solid effort. There have been a few missteps this season, but those missteps have been so minor and haven't hurt any episode overall. Every episode has been solid to great, and that's something you just can't say about last year.

So that'll do it. Not much else to say other than that according to spoilers, things are about to really heat up, so everybody watch and be excited. I can't imagine that you'll be disappointed.

Thanks for reading and for your patience. And continue to enjoy Editorial Newport, as it looks better than ever, even in the face of cancellation adversity. Watch for updates, including a couple of new podcasts – hopefully, at least.


-Drew
Questions, comments?
dukedevils9192@gmail.com

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Chrismukk-huh?

So it's been a while, hasn't it? A long time has passed – nearly six months, give or take a few weeks – since I sat down to write about the show. The podcasts have been fun, and I really enjoy doing those, but as you can tell, it's hard to formulate thoughts when you have only a few seconds to think. We'll definitely continue to do them, but for at least a little while, I'm back to writing, and I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing.

Okay, I can, but this is still fairly high on the list.

Just to clarify, the reason I haven't written isn't because I've disliked the episodes. No way. I think that this season has been nearly as good as season one, and it pains me to think that we're halfway through this season and then we'll see no more show. That's not 100% confirmed, and maybe if someone from the afterlife could visit and tell us exactly which God is up there, we can all pray to him, and the show will be renewed. Because truly, as good as this writing is now, it deserves extra time. Then again, maybe this season is so good because it has a focus, and that focus is the end of the series. Who knows? All I know is that any faith that I lost in Josh is completely restored, and after reading the articles about network meddling last year, I can't say I completely blame him for what happened.

But I digress.

At the beginning of the season, Josh claimed that this was going to be the best Chrismukkah ever. Now, I'd debate that and say that's wrong, but not because this episode was bad. It's just that the first two Chrismukkahs are so good. Season one was a wonderful, hilarious, sweet episode with just the right amount of soap and intrigue. Season two was soapy and intriguing with the right amount of hilarity and sweetness. Season three, well, let's put that behind us (and yes, I gave it a good review last year, and I still don't think it was horrible because a sizable chunk was pretty good, but overall, yikes).

This show has always been really straightforward in its storytelling. If I'm not mistaken, they didn't even do a dream sequence until the season three premiere. I think there might have been something somewhat unique at the end of season two when Marissa was having some kind of attempted-rape flashback, but other than that, everything was told straight to us, and while it worked, it always seemed unadventurous. So when I saw some narrative framing in the premiere, and the stages of grief sequence in episode four, I was blown away. Add in the awesome fantasies Ryan had about Taylor (and the awesome weird lens shot of Sandy handing a bagel that he “schmeared” to Ryan), and you've got a show that's far from unadventurous.

But an alternate universe episode? That's a little bit more difficult to do right. “One Tree Hill” proved that with an absolutely horrible episode a few weeks back. That's not to say that it can't be done as “That '70s Show” did a brilliant “It's A Wonderful Life” parody, and I'm sure I've seen others that I just can't remember.

So did this episode work? Yeah, it really did. It wasn't perfect, but it was still really good, and I think that it's an episode that people will look at fondly in the future because it managed to weave together humor and heart, and that's all we need at the holidays. No one doubted that Ryan and Taylor would recover from their comas, so there was little tension there, but the writers did manage to develop significant tension as we waited to find out how they were going to get out. So this episode was about how and not if, and that's cool for me.

The main criticism that I've heard about this episode is that nothing really happened. No plot progression. I don't know what to say about that other than: ha!

Aside from 'The Graduates,' which relaunched the entire series for the better, this was probably the most important episode of the series. It was the writers' way of writing the final chapter in the Ryan/Marissa story, and while there is certainly room to write an epilogue, I'm not sure one is needed. If anything, their relationship has been better portrayed in Marissa's death than in life where it was routinely a joke. It wasn't until this year that I saw that Ryan truly loved Marissa. Some argue that the series hasn't shown that this year, but those people, I firmly believe, are just looking to criticize. I've really yet to hear, read, or see a valid argument against this, although I totally welcome any e-mails that try to convince me otherwise. I firmly believe that I'll win that argument, though.

But the biggest reason this episode was important is not merely that it closed the book on their relationship, but it opened the book on the rest of Ryan's life. For the last few months, he's been trying to move forward, but he's been anchored down by the weight of Marissa's death and their relationship. In many ways, it's not unlike his initial venture to Newport where he was trying acclimate himself and failing because the weight of his previous life held him down.

He doesn't have to worry about that now. It's not that life is going to get much easier for him now, but he can take larger steps and strides toward a new life, and that's extremely important. Ryan, for all intents and purposes, is the “main” character of the show (though I'm not trying to diminish the others because frankly, I've never believed Ryan was the best, so no hate mail about that please), and we've followed his journey through a lot of highs and a lot lows. So I find it important, no matter how you feel about Ryan, that you recognize how important it is for him to move on. He needs it, and I think he's earned it.

In fact, I found this episode not only the beginning of a new life for Ryan but also a redemption for Marissa. It takes a pretty blind eye not to recognize Marissa's utter selfishness over the majority of three seasons. She was a self-centered, self-absorbed, and, well, self-everything really except -sufficient. She constantly brought Ryan down with her, and many of Ryan's problems since he arrived in Newport can be traced back to Marissa. Aside from turning herself in for shooting Trey, she didn't do much for Ryan. But this letter completely changed that, I think. You can effectively argue that it was simply the writers' way of bringing Taylor and Ryan together, but I do think it fits perfectly in the continuity of the series, and it actually shows us that Marissa really did mature in the final months of her life, something the show seemed to want to tell but didn't know how to show. Through this letter, Marissa smartly broke ties with Ryan. Their relationship was self-destructive, and they were never going to be completely happy together, and it's pretty amazing that people ever believed that it could. And I love that Marissa, who I used to think had the IQ of a special needs monkey, was the one who realized what needed to be done. She had to move on, and she knew Ryan did, too. Maybe Taylor wasn't the person she would have picked for him, but Taylor's good for him, and I think we can all see now that Marissa just wanted him to be happy.

And Taylor will make Ryan happy. And Ryan will make Taylor happy. And they both make me happy. And if I'm happy, the world is happy. Or at least, my world is happy, and my world is the most important world to me. So there. Anyway, you can't deny the smoking chemistry that these two have, even in alt-world, and I'm constantly amazed that after such a dismal year last year, the writers and actors are meeting on the same page. The writers are offering up the best romantic comedy has to offer, and these two actors are responding in kind. It's really lovely.

To use that as a transition to talking about Taylor, I have to say that this episode was just as important for Taylor as it was for Ryan. Now first, to shush the critics who say that Taylor has “taken over” the show. Fine, maybe she's been slightly overexposed. But honestly, she's better and more energetic than anyone else on this show (and this coming from someone who would go GAY for Adam Brody and Peter Gallagher and who thinks that Rachel Bilson hung the moon and who thinks that Ben McKenzie is the most improved actor on television and that he wows me week after week), and the show needs her at the moment. Further, there was nothing else needed for the other characters at this point. You have to remember that the show was structured in a particular way this season. This episode was supposed to air on the 21st, and it was going to end the first part of the season. So they put all the characters in situations where they could hold for a while, and they did so very well. I'm amazed at how well they did it, actually. At the end of episode six, I thought that everyone, minus Ryan and Taylor (who were still good), was in a perfect position, and they didn't need episode seven for their stories. So no, that criticism doesn't fly. Taylor hasn't eaten up any story that anyone else needed. The storylines have been fair and balanced this year, a far cry from last year. Everyone's involved (except for maybe Kirsten, but that's a whole other debate that I might get into later on; or maybe it'd make a good podcast topic), and they've done this even with adding two new main characters. That says a lot about how much screen time Marissa ate up last year.

Anyway, my point through all this is that Taylor needed this journey as well. She had to realize that the fact that her mother hates her has nothing to do with her but everything to do with her mother. Even if she were a boy, her mother would hate her. You can possibly read even deeper into the storyline and look at Taylor's masculinity versus her femininity, but I really don't know where to go with that. I just know that Taylor's dream and the decision she made in her dream heavily influences where she goes from here, and that heavily influences her relationship with Ryan. Now that she's at peace with the relationship that has scarred her the most, she can really help Ryan come along. Not that he's not getting there. He is. But he'll still need a little boost. Of course, whether they survive or not is up in the air, but if they fall apart now, it's not because of Marissa or Veronica. Then again, even if Taylor has made peace with her mom's bitchiness, she still has to work through the years of scarring it's caused. So, yeah, interesting potential there. Since Fox is run by morons, though, we probably won't get to see that potential played out since they're determined to kill what I'm not afraid to call their best show currently on the air (and yes, I'm including “House,” which is so laughably bad this season that I can't even try to compare it to “The O.C.” without laughing – and I really do love that show!). “24” will take that crown for some people in January, but for now, this show is it.

A couple of other notes . . .

Julie got some closure tonight, it seems, as she showed she cared about Ryan, and she didn't freak when she read the letter from Marissa. You can't ever get over death, but you can move on with it, and that's important for Julie. With Kaitlin by her side (they're the best mother-daughter combination on television), she'll survive, and I'm glad. I love to see her play the surrogate mother role to Taylor, someone who desperately needs that figure. I'm beginning to think that the series should end with Julie leaving Newport and returning to where she can survive on her own, but with her heart bigger than it's ever been, maybe she's proving that she's just as good as Sandy and Kirsten. Okay, not quite. But damn, she's trying.

One of the most ridiculous criticisms I've heard about this episode was that Kirsten was too concerned with her ham. Yeah, she was concerned with it (and probably could have shown more concern for Taylor and Ryan, even though there was no reason for more concern since the doctor assured them they'd be okay), but that's because it was cooking. If she hadn't worried about it the house would have burned down. I know people want “hospital Ryan” with the Cohens acting concerned, but it's ludicrous to think she should just forget about her house possibly burning down. On the same note, the people complaining about Kirsten telling Ryan he should put the decorations up are ridiculous, too. Yeah, if Seth wants something then Seth should do it, but Lord, to complain that Kirsten is treating Ryan wrong by telling him to do something have obviously never been in a family before. Or else my mom, who I thought was a great mom, isn't that great after all. She tells me to do things all the time. There are such warped views of Ryan's relationship with the Cohens out there that I can't even begin to go into detail here. Suffice to say, spare me the angry e-mails. I know what I'm talking about.

Jimmy should have been used better, I think. I didn't mind them using him only in the alt-world, but I would have preferred that they gave him more lines. I know that Tate Donovan's acting skills aren't appreciated by everyone, but I think he's great, and I think he knows Jimmy Cooper as well as any other actor on the show knows their character, and I would have liked to have seen a little bit more of him and his interaction with Kirsten. They always had a fun chemistry, so to see their scenes tossed aside was kind of depressing. But they weren't integral to the plot, so I won't waste too much time with it. I do feel bad, though, that Sandy and Julie will divorce and Jimmy will kind of be left in the dust when Kirsten and Sandy reunite. Unless it means that Jimmy and Julie will rightfully get back together. *sigh* All that speculation is ridiculous because it's an alt-world. Forgive me for overthinking it. Oh, and I'd also like to know how Sandy and Julie got together. I imagine that they did it to spite Jimmy and Kirsten, and spite is a great reason to do anything in life.

People who say that Seth and Summer were cartoonish are wrong, as well. Yes, both were cartoonish, but consider that Seth would have far less confidence without Ryan in his life and consider that Summer would have had no need to evolve without Seth, and you'll see why it's hardly a stretch. These characters weren't meant to mirror the characters in the pilot. They were meant to mirror what the characters would be like now. I can still see the criticisms, but again, I don't find them valid. Besides, without it, we'd wouldn't have gotten Seth's pouting, which was awesome.

And finally, on the criticism standpoint, let's just say that Luke shouldn't have been in this episode. Che worked far better. The explanation for why Che was there was clunky, yes, but Che fit the role far better than Luke. It's not just that Pratt is a better actor than Carmack, but it's that Che is better suited to this particular character. Che is wacky and silly while Luke really wasn't. Yeah, he was a bit wacky and silly at the Rooney concert, but other than that, he's fairly reserved and normal. There's no way I'd buy Luke telling Julie to spank him while I can completely buy Che doing it. You've also got to consider that Luke could never fill this particular role because his role in Marissa's death is just too great, and thus, he's not likely to have sex with her mom, nor is he likely to speak of “thong removeification,” which, by the way, is the greatest phrase that any team of writers ever invented, perhaps bypassing Chrismukkah. We'll see if catches on.

Before I go, I want to thank the writers for packing this episode with little things for the fans. Whether it was simply Seth actually getting into Brown or Johnny's surf poster or Brad and Eric riding on a bike and skateboard or Sandy working with Henry Griffin (which, by the way, is interesting because it suggests that whether Ryan was there or not, Sandy was destined to get caught up in that dirty game) or Darryl as the homeless guy or Julie symbolically telling alt-Ryan that she knows his pain, it was all really fun, and it was a great tribute to the people who stuck with the show through some less-than-perfect times.

And with that, I'll sign off. This has been an interesting review to try to write because it isn't necessarily plot heavy, and you can really only analyze two major characters, but still, I think I hate some of the high points. I hope you guys enjoyed it. It feels good to be back writing again, as it's been a long time.

I probably won't have anything else up before the New Year, so I hope that everyone reading this (assuming you're not reading this at Editorial Newport where it might be after New Year's before it's up) has a great, wonderful, terrific Christmas (or holiday equivalent) and a great, wonderful, terrific New Year.

Questions, comments, criticisms (but for the love of God no complaints about the things where I told you not to bother me)?
dukedevils9192@gmail.com

-Drew

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Season Four!

Want season four spoilers? Updates?

Well, I've seen the first four episodes, and Cormac and I talk at length about them in the new Editorial Newport Live!

Definitely check it out. And don't worry, I won't spoil too much, but I hope I'll get you excited.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

First Podcast - The Debut

First Podcast at Editorial Newport! Listen and enjoy! Comment! And eventually, when it's ready, subscribe on iTunes.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Season Three Review

So, what’s the date?

Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m late. Real late. The season ended well over a month ago (update: the season ended well over two months ago as I finish this), and you haven’t heard anything from me since my “Thank God Marissa is Dead” review, a review that really wasn’t that anti-Marissa if you think about it.

Anyway, I do apologize. It’s not that I haven’t remembered. I think about writing daily. It’s not that I’ve been too busy, although summer school has required much more of me than last year did. It’s mostly that I’ve had time to gain perspective on season three, and to be honest, I haven’t wanted to revisit it. Overall, it was extremely disappointing, and the writers managed to mangle what should have been the best season of the series.

Last season’s review came in around 17 pages. A lot of it was lists and analysis from people who sent their thoughts, but still, I wrote a lot. A whole lot. But this year, I’m more jaded, more cynical, and more tired of trying to make sense of the season. Season two wasn’t perfect, but at that time, it was only one bad season. Now we’ve had two. So don’t expect anything too long this time. I’m just being honest. (Besides, there’s something special that might happen at Editorial Newport, and I have to save something for that, right?)

Look, I’m not saying that season three was terrible. It wasn’t. I enjoyed myself far more than many people did. I never once had the urge not to watch the show, even through the Johnny mess. I just grew increasingly frustrated because the show had no idea how to respond to the fans’ wants. It was satisfied with rehashing old storylines, storylines people were sick of after the first time through. And that’s horrible. The fans knew exactly where this season needed to go, what it needed to do, etc. The fans saw so much promise at the end of last season. And it was just squandered away by a clueless writing staff.

But like I said, it wasn’t terrible. Maybe not good, overall, but terrible is a, well, terrible word. In fact, there were genuinely good moments and storylines on the show. Unfortunately, when these good moments happened, they came at the wrong times. Too little, too late, and add those two together and you get too wrong. That’s over thinking it, I guess, but from what I can tell, it’s pretty true. So, to make this review easier and more fun to write, and more fun to read (I’m just thinking about you guys, you know), we’re going to play a little game called:

‘How Did They Blow It?’

I’ll list a storyline or moment during the season, tell you why it was a good decision, and then discuss how it failed. Some will, of course, be a bigger stretch than others (seriously, how bad did they actually screw up Taylor?), but I’m telling the truth on everything. It’s exactly how I feel.

Johnny Harper: So how was it a good decision to have this character? Well, the writers needed a wedge to go between Ryan and Marissa. They needed something to force them apart, something that would accentuate the problems that started with Trey. A guy is a clichéd choice, sure, but it’s an obvious one, and if it had been done right, then it could have been, well, good.

How didn’t they screw this one up? Not only did they cast the most uncharismatic performer this side of Mischa Barton, they managed to put him at the front of storylines for almost half of the season (well, maybe not half, but it felt like the whole). He received more airtime than all the regulars except for Marissa for these episodes, and he even managed to destroy Chrismukkah, a holiday with twice the resistance of a normal one. It’s pitiful.

How could they have made this better? Well, they could have, first, not thrown Marissa out of school since it led to nothing. Johnny could have been a transfer student, perhaps a junior for no reason other than to change it up. Marissa is hired, as social chair, to take him under her wing. Johnny and Marissa would have become friends while Marissa slowly pulled away from Ryan and went under Johnny’s wing. Johnny should not have developed feelings because Marissa’s vagina is not golden and not every needs to suddenly fall in love with her. She should have fallen for him as the problems between her and Ryan got worse. Yelling, shouting, etc. None of the, “Let’s deny that nothing’s wrong” nonsense. It should have been ugly. They’d just been through a shooting after all. Eventually, Ryan becomes disgusted with the relationship, torn with jealousy and anger. He breaks it off, sending Marissa to Johnny, where they both get drunk. Then Johnny dies in the same way he did. This sends Ryan and Marissa further apart while Marissa continues her downward spiral. Volchok could have still been a part of all this. Just because Johnny’s a transfer doesn’t mean he doesn’t have family in the area.

Look, I know that’s not perfect, but I really and fully believe it would have been more interesting than anything the writers rehashed for us.

Ryan Attacks Volchok and Flashes Back to Trey: Great decision. Ryan had a traumatic experience happen. He fought his brother, his brother almost killed him, and his girlfriend shot his brother. His brother ran away without a real goodbye. Just awful. And he didn’t properly deal with what happened. So when he fought Volchok, the flashback to Trey was terrific. It showed, in a short scene, that Ryan’s wounds weren’t healed. He was angry, pissed, terrified, filled with rage. It was beautiful to watch because it was a deeply psychological, emotional, and powerful moment.

But it took until the end of the season. There’s no reason it should have. Maybe, in real life, things take months to explode. This isn’t real life. Television needs to be fast paced, issues need to be addressed with in a reasonably believable, yet entertaining, time. Instead, Ryan was pushed to the backburner, ran through a series of boring storylines (hey, random sex is cool and hot, sure, but that doesn’t mean they were too incredibly exciting or anything). He became Marissa’s puppet. He put up with her shit time after time, and then he would disappear into the background.

Ryan’s anger should have come to fruition much earlier in the season, definitely. One way to do it? Volchok kidnaps Marissa, Ryan outwits him, and then he heads home, punches the punching bag, and we still get the incredible scene where we discover his rage problem. That should have lasted for a few episodes, and then Volchok, instead of disappearing into tertiary Limbo, would have come back, pissed. He gets in a fight with Ryan again, and then the fight should have happened. Perhaps this could have happened right after Johnny died. Maybe before. It doesn’t matter. Marissa could have found out what happened, and that way, there’s a great reason for Ryan and Marissa to break up: she’s scared.

Sandy Becomes Caleb: When Caleb died, the show lost a great villain. And really, even though his death was a terrific shock, the show lost its central villain, the most intriguing member of its adult cast (Sandy is more fun, I know, but Caleb had a lot going on). The adults revolved around what he did. Sandy was always the antithesis of everything Caleb was, so what’s a more interesting change than to shift Sandy, the new head of the family, to Caleb’s role, at least for a while? Perfect Sandy angst, perfect marital problems that didn’t involve old girlfriend contrivances, and just a perfect storyline. So easy to pull off.

Except they didn’t do it correctly. I was fascinated by it all along, but I was never quite as engrossed as I pretended to be or hoped I would be. They drug it out too long. They never accurately explained where Sandy’s transformation took place. They didn’t use Matt properly, they didn’t explain his role. They didn’t use Henry Griffin correctly, they didn’t really explain his role. They went back and forth with Sandy. One episode, he’s bad. The next he’s not. One half of an episode, he’s good. The other half, he’s bad. It was impossible to keep track of. And what exactly was the moral of the story? Was it Sandy’s character flaws that allowed him to succumb? Was it the Newport Group? Was it business, in general? No answers, only a plethora of questions.

And honestly, there’s no way I know how to fix it. I liked the idea that Sandy wanted to do something so good that he was willing to do something so bad. The hospital was the perfect way to do that. But I think that they should have shown Sandy succeed by taking the high road in a few business deals. Maybe run plots similar to the ones they ran in the first season with the Balboa Wetlands, Uncle Shawn, etc. Sandy would have reacted the exact opposite. All along, there are rumblings of this hospital. Sandy’s becoming more and more successful, and he’s enjoying the money. When this hospital deal happens, he won’t lose. And then he does anything necessary. He shouldn’t have helped Matt, he should have honestly used him. He should have thoughtlessly put him in harm’s way. Things that were out of Sandy’s character but that completely made sense given the circumstance and the character motivation built over the course of the entire season. Then, somehow, these dealings should have endangered his family. Now, he has to give the business up somehow, maybe to someone shady. This sets up conflict for next season, as Sandy uses his legal skills to uncover something about the people who stole the company from him, and he puts them out of power before putting the Newport Group to rest.

Charlotte: Seriously, I won’t even try to make sense of this. Just know that the fact that she and Kirsten never faced off in a one-on-one catfight makes this all incredibly useless. They should have gone with the simple, clichéd Single White Female Oliver redux storyline. It would have been, well, simple and clichéd, but at least it would have given us a reason to really feel creeped out, and it would have given us payoff, for, I don’t know, the STALKER SCENES in the premiere. Seriously, she’s looking over Kirsten’s shoulder, she steals a family picture, etc., and the best we get is clunky dialogue that says, “I will find a way to use her”? Give me a break. So poor.

Taylor Townsend: The best-written character of the second half of the season, Taylor wasn’t always so great. In fact, the writers managed to somehow take the charismatic and scorching hot Autumn Reeser and turn her into lifeless set decoration for the first part of the season. They stuck her in a lifeless storyline with Dean Asshole (who was a mistake on his own…I won’t waste space talking about him, but just know that they should have made him a ruthless dictator who had it out for every student and then learned to hate Ryan and Marissa for reasons unconnected to the shooting…oh, and not one-note would have been nice), and then they decided that Johnny would be the better recurring character to focus on despite the fact that in the one episode about the lock-in, they managed to add more layers to her character than they had ever done before. Unfortunately, because the writers are extremely short sighted, they completely dropped the ball with Reeser early in the season, only locking her in for a certain number of episodes. Thus, when she became the star of the often restless cast, they couldn’t use her. She popped in on occasion, and she became featured more prominently toward the end of the season, but she was never given the role she deserved. Autumn’s a series regular next season, so here’s to hoping she gets a chance to shine because she’s absolutely brilliant.

Seth on Pot: It was a great idea. Take Adam Brody, someone who clearly knows a thing or two about the pot (c’mon, watch his performance…this guy knows his marijuana), add in some anxiety, and it’s perfect.

But make 14-year-old Kaitlin his drug dealer (and no, I’m not going to rant about Kaitlin because I’m mostly content with her, and her main flaw stemmed from the fact that she was thrust in a situation with Johnny, no real character fault), make Seth a compulsive liar, throw in a meta comment about how it isn’t intended to be part of an After School Special, add an anti-climactic fire story, and a slap on the wrist from an increasingly unconcerned parent, and it’s really not that great.

Truthfully, the storyline played about as well as it could have. After all, marijuana isn’t exactly taboo, and harder drugs are done on television all the time, so if they wanted to use pot, then they did about as well as they could. It just could have been so much more had Seth really used it to distance himself, become extremely isolated, and used it to mask his anxieties. I always liked the “lying” storyline with Summer, but it ran out of steam pretty quickly, so they probably should have focused more on the drugs and less on the lying. Adam Brody was absolutely brilliant as a stoned guy, and he’s also a terrific actor, in general, when motivated, so he deserved the chance to shine for more than few episodes. Really, though, this storyline should have carried over to season four. I hope we see a little more pot in Seth’s future, but something tells me the writers are PSA’d out.

Marissa: I’m not just talking about her death here, people, even though that, in retrospect, was pretty bad. I’m talking about the character in general. This is what people mean when they say, “character assassination.” Hardcore Marissa fans will disagree with me, and that’s fine, really. But for the majority of fans, and yes I feel I’m speaking for the majority, I think this season turned general indifference (i.e., sometimes like, sometimes dislike, never strong opinions either way thanks to a lack of acting skills and an onscreen romance that was overshadowed by the best friends) into hate. This can definitely be seen in the ratings drop that occurred as she began to take up 25 minutes of screen time each week. No, she’s not the solely responsible, but I definitely believe that the overexposure contributed to the ratings decline. Mischa wasn’t a strong enough actress to carry a show, and Marissa wasn’t a strong enough or interesting enough character to be at the forefront. It’s the truth. I don’t mean to upset huge Marissa fans, but look at the numbers. It all works out.

I’ve already covered how the Johnny storyline could have been better handled, so I won’t rehash it, but I will say that I think that the writers did manage to handle Marissa’s downward spiral fairly well. Should have been a little more intense, should have been a little more “Volchok” than “Kevin,” and it shouldn’t have turned romantic at all, but still, it was all okay. So please don’t think I’m completely trashing Marissa. I’m not. There were bright points, but overall, the writers did such a horrible job with her this season that there was no way to redeem the character and fit her properly in the group.

That leads me to say that Marissa’s death was the right move. She was completely useless by the end of the season. You can say, “Oh, Josh copped out. It’s his fault there wasn’t anything left to do with her,” and maybe that’s true. But the point is: it happened. He overused her. He overexposed her. Too much Marissa led to huge creative problems. That’s it. There was nowhere left for her to go. I’ve yet to hear a viable hypothetical storyline for what she could have done in season four. She’s had sex with men and women, she’s shot someone, she’s done drugs, she’s drank, she’s befriended wounded souls, she’s befriended psychos, she’s broken up and gotten back together with Ryan too often, she’s dated around, she’s fought with her mom, she’s fought with her dad, etc. It’s just a lot. And like I said, you can argue that Josh screwed up by doing all that too soon, and I’ll completely agree. You cannot, however, argue that it’s untrue that Marissa had done more than enough. At least, I don’t believe you can argue it successfully.

Unfortunately, though, Marissa’s death, however perfect it might have been in terms of character, was incorrect in terms of execution because it was a result of her golden vagina, and frankly, it was barely silver by the end of the series. Volchok shouldn’t have fallen in love with her. The entire storyline could have been much better had the story stayed Volchok versus Ryan instead of dissolving into “Volchok loves Marissa.” That was the fatal (pun intended) flaw.

And that’s that. I don’t really know what else to say.

Actually, though, that’s a lie.

I know plenty more to say, but as much as I want to type it, I’m saving it. You know why? Because I need to leave something more for the brand new Editorial Newport podcast coming soon! There I’ll repeat some of what I said and provide brand new insight, particularly about the ratings decline, what a sixteen episode order means for season four, Marissa, Johnny, and whatever else comes to mind. Plus, I’ll have some more overall season three thoughts.

Okay, yes, I’m copping out by doing that, but I need to offer something that some of you might be interested in so that you’ll listen to the podcast! It’s going to be great, I promise.

Also, I do have a few e-mails that people sent, but instead of reprinting them here, I’m going to read them out in the podcast, so if you wrote in and want to know that I got what you wrote, listen to the podcast! More incentive!

Well, that concludes this season three rant, a few months late. And let’s see, this review was:

- Choppy
- Uninspired
- Shallow
- Erratic
- Unstructured

Hey, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Who’s to say I don’t know how to be symbolic?

Questions, comments, etc.?
dukedevils9192@gmail.com

-Drew

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Graduates

“I’m gonna live my life like every day’s the last.
Without a simple goodbye it all goes by so fast.
And now that you’re gone, I can’t cry hard enough.
I can’t cry hard enough for you to hear me now.
Gonna open my eyes and see for the first time,
I’ve let go of you like a child letting go of his kite.”

- “Can’t Cry Hard Enough,” The Williams Brothers”

Everyone who expected me to be even a little bit moved by Marissa’s death, raise your hand.

That’s what I thought.

I found Marissa to be the most incredibly selfish, whiney, egotistical, arrogant, spoiled, and generally unlikable character ever on television. My hatred for her knew no limits and often crept into reality. More times than not, she disgusted me to my very core and made me question why I like this show at all.

Let me digress for a moment, though, before I get sentimental.

Earlier this year, the webmaster at Editorial Newport forwarded me an e-mail where a webmaster from a Marissa (or Mischa) fan site said, “Tell Drew and all the other Marissa haters to suck shit. The girl always does the right thing.” I have to say that, at the time, it was an asinine comment. But finally, this statement holds some validity. Marissa did the right thing. She died. Ha!

Okay, back from my digression.

I knew she was dying. The spoiler trail led us to Sandy dying of a heart attack just like Caleb did last year. See, all the problems with the Newport Group were going to lead to Sandy dying just like Caleb did. The parallels had been there all season, so it made sense. Except for the fact that Caleb had documented health problems (including, but not limited to, being on blood-thinning meds and having a first heart attack) and had been working for years. Oh, and every year, Josh releases foilers. So despite Ausiello and Kristen’s assistant talking about Sandy dying, it wasn’t going to happen. At least, it wasn’t going to happen with any sense of real excitement. Once I left the Sandy trail, rumors jumped in about Mischa wanting to leave. She was apparently unprofessional and wanted out, though Josh denies it. Rumors circulated that she would leave and come back as a guest star. Then, Mischa went and told “Access Hollywood” that she was dying. Then that show proceeded to tell the world. And then every newspaper in the country picked up the story.

So yeah, I knew. I knew, and I hated Marissa. Seemed like it’d be the most anticlimactic finale in the history of television (except for “One Tree Hill” this season). But when it was over, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. My body ached. My legs were wobbly. My eyes had a few tears in them. I dreamt about the final few moments. I was seriously messed up. Last season, I watched and re-watched the final sequence of the finale over and over in one night. This one, I just couldn’t. It was just difficult.

After a night’s sleep, some discussion on message boards and with friends, and a little perspective, I realize that it was actually a very good episode, and it made perfect sense in the terms of a larger story. It was completely necessary and logical, and it wrapped up a tragic story, and pushed forward a new one. Some people will argue against that, but they’re just wrong. A ‘wrong opinion’ is a contradiction, I know, but trust me. This was what was needed, and this was the completely right way to go.

The episode, overall, was a solid one. It was much like the entire season. There were moments when it was absolutely perfect, when it all made sense. There were moments where it was slow and a bit plodding (thankfully, those moments were very few). There were moments when it was hilarious. And there were moments when it was dramatic.

I loved the scene between Seth and Sandy early in the episode. There’s good chemistry between a lot of people on this show. Peter and Kelly, Ben and Adam, Adam and Rachel, Ben and Rachel, Ben and Kelly, Ben and Peter, Adam and Kelly, Adam and the sink, Adam and plastic horses, Adam and the iMac. But I honestly think that the best is between Adam and Peter. When they are on, there isn’t a better, or more realistic, tandem. They have a similar sense of comedic timing, and they seem extremely comfortable in the most awkward father/son way. So watching them together is always a pleasure for me. I was particularly excited about the fact that Sandy chanted a celebratory chant for us. I love Sandy. More on that in the next paragraph, actually. Now, I know people are a little upset with Seth saying he can’t tell Sandy that he loves him. God, people piss me off. Seth wasn’t being serious. He was joking. He was undercutting the melodrama in the same way that both he and Sandy always do. Think back to ‘The Ties That Bind’ when Sandy undercut the moment between Ryan and Kirsten before he left. It was exactly like it. It’s what they do.
I’m also glad that the fire storyline didn’t play out any differently. People forget that since Sandy is running the Newport Group, he didn’t have to press charges (if that’s even a term used outside of television). He saw it as a good opportunity. It was resolved, not dropped, contrary to popular belief. And I think Seth has learned his lesson. Maybe he’ll smoke more in college, but he won’t put it near a trashcan. Baby steps, people.

And it was wonderful to see Dawn back, sobered up and completely together. Not exactly great to hear her say, “Kirsten” incorrectly, but I’ll let it slide because I have a MILF crush on this woman. No lie. She’s a looker. Not Kirsten or Julie level hot but hot enough. Ryan’s reaction is completely the right one, too. He’s excited to see her, thrilled that her life is together. But he’s not throwing himself at her and gushing over her. He knows she’s had problems and that they’re relationship is strained. It’s just not irrevocably strained like it seemed to be in the past.
I thought the car was such a nice gift. Ryan should have already had one, true, considering that the Cohens are filthy rich and could afford to buy both Ryan and Seth a car, but I’m not going to nitpick that because it’s been nitpicked to death. But it was such a tremendous gesture, a way to make amends. A car is the ultimate sign of maturity (well, maybe losing your virginity is, but this is close), and so it represents both Ryan’s graduation and progression into the real world and Dawn’s newfound maturity. While I’m somewhat sorry that we didn’t get many Ryan/Sandy/Kirsten moments, I’m okay with it because we got to see how successful the Atwood family can actually be, and we got to see how they can still work as a family. It shows that the Cohens generosity has extended far beyond just helping Ryan. I love it. I hope she’s back next season.

The graduation scene was handled very well. With these, you run a risk of being to maudlin, but this episode knew what it needed to do and did it. It felt important without feeling overwhelming. It was nice that no one in the immediate group was valedictorian, a common, and sometimes unbelievable, practice for teen shows. Taylor fit the mold perfectly, and I was glad to see her mom pop back in during a perfect moment. I can only hope that the show explores her relationship with her mom next year since I think it’s an extremely volatile and telling one. The minor looks we got it this year were among the most interesting and exciting scenes. Taylor failed for the fans first because she was just a rival for Summer, but she began to win acclaim when they fleshed her character out. It’s going to be exciting to see her join the cast. She’s already got more depth than some of the main characters.
I really enjoyed the parents’ reactions to the graduation. Sandy was true to himself as he completely embarrassed Seth only because he loves him and knows nothing else, and Julie was extremely proud of Marissa because all she’s ever wanted was to give her a good life, just like she admitted later on. She wasn’t always a perfect mom, and she didn’t always do everything in the perfect way, but she always thought she was doing something right. We’ve seen that as far back as ‘The Rescue.’
I wasn’t crazy about the snapshot sequences since they seemed out of place on this show, but I quickly grew to love them if only because it was funny to see how the pre-picture poses differed from the picture pose. Sandy, in particular, won me over with his complete smugness in his picture. He looked so incredibly dignified and awesome. And he knew it. Peter Gallagher, when he’s on, is simply God on this show.

It’s wonderful that Seth got into RISD, as if there were any doubt. Summer won’t end up at Brown if only because it would mean that the fans would demand Anna, and there’s been no indication that either Josh or Samaire want to Anna to return full time. If Summer does end up there, it’ll be for a short time, but more on that later. It was nice to see these two end the year together, sweetly. I read someone who said they were sick of these two being the cartoonish couple, playing hand slapping games or whatever, but that’s, more or less, a terrible sentiment. These two have always been designed as the goofier couple, the Monica and Chandler to Ryan and Marissa’s Ross and Rachel. They have their problems, sure, but ultimately, they work best together because they’re from similar worlds, they have similar demons, and they have similar dreams. It’s interesting to see Summer with the Brown admissions letter while that was initially Seth’s dream, but it’s rewarding to know that Seth is happy about RISD. It shows that your dreams can change and everything can be okay in the end.

That’s what a lot of this episode was about: dreams. It was about how these characters have put themselves through hell and still managed to reach a milestone in their lives relatively unscathed. Don’t discount the parents, either. It’s just as much of an accomplishment to raise a child to graduation as it is for a child to graduate. Because life doesn’t necessarily get easier out of school, not even for the richest of the rich like Sandy and Kirsten. Julie’s speech about wanting to do what’s best for Marissa showed that she’d achieved something. It reminded me of Caleb’s “I did what I did for this family” speech from season two but without the sinister undertones of adultery and illegitimate children. Okay, so maybe Kaitlin isn’t quite an achievement yet, but there are still a few more years left for her. And don’t Sandy. He’s overcome a place he mostly hates, a few jobs he’s hated, huge marital problems, etc. to find himself right back where he wants to be. Helping people is clearly what he’s born to do. He always had his dream at his fingertips, he just had to make sure it’s what he wanted. It is. And it’s going to open up a world of wonderful new storylines next season, storylines where Sandy can go back to fighting the system, where he can go back to helping people, and where he can back to loving life and not being so unbelievably stressed. It’ll help his sense of humor, definitely, and that’s what the group from Newport is going to need to deal with the biggest tragedy to hit the group since Caleb’s death.

That’s right, Marissa’s death, despite my disdain for her, is a tragedy. She was young, sometimes vibrant, and occasionally, she even managed to be endearing. Those moments in the last year have been few and far between, but still, here’s a girl that’s just graduated high school. There was a future out there. Maybe it’s college, maybe it’s peeling potatoes (and I won’t even get into the irony of Marissa being pissed at Ryan for wanting to leave on a boat while it’s okay for her to do it because if I talked about that, I’d be forced to reveal what a hypocritical bitch she could be), or maybe it’s staying in Newport. We’ll never know, though. Make no mistake, though, Marissa’s death was her fault. Volchok caused it, yes, but Marissa brought problems on herself constantly. She was always trying to rebel. She wanted to push herself a little further each time. She wanted to go against her mom for the sake of going against her mom. She didn’t want to be like anyone else. And, as Josh says, tragedy was in her DNA. First episode, she smokes and drinks and parties. She’s dropped off passed out in her driveway. She’s got a mother who loves her but doesn’t know how to express it correctly, and she’s got a father who loves her, can express it, but can’t deal with his own problems. She drinks more, steals, befriend a psycho, drinks, throws furniture, dates a girl, drinks with Trey, shoots Trey, throws a laptop, drinks more, does coke, etc. There’s more, I’m sure, but the point is that she was never putting herself in situations where she could succeed. She allowed herself to constantly be sucked into these situations where there could be no ending. She always needed to be rescued. That’s why the montage of clips where Ryan was carrying her off was so incredibly powerful. The recaplet at Television Without Pity (yes, I reference this site a lot since I’m a member) made a comment about how the show is in love with repetition instead of creativity, and that’s an asinine comment in this situation. There was a reason for the montage and for the way the shot was filmed. There was a reason the lyrics, at that point, said, “I’ve been here before.” They had. Marissa had. She was always in danger, always in trouble. She could never, ever quite get things to work out for her. She’d managed to escape every time, but eventually, luck runs out.

That’s why it was smart to use Volchok as the “murderer” instead of an OD or a plane crash or a regular car crash. Volchok perfectly represents every problem Marissa had in the past. She knew he was wrong for her. She knew he was imperfect. She met him around the time he kidnapped her. The alarm bells should have gone off. I realize she was in dire need of a friend after Johnny’s death, but she had a support system that she chose to ignore. She had several chances to get away, but she always came back to him. It was stupid, completely stupid. He also represented the alternative lifestyle that she’d tried so many times in rebellion. He represented everything she’d pushed herself to be at various points. When she was with him, she was trying to shed a certain image, and in doing so, she became so wrapped up in his world. This time, though, the person wasn’t going away. No breaking down and realizing he was wrong like Alex did. He just wanted to hurt Marissa.

Should Ryan have pulled the car over? Perhaps. He said there was nowhere to pull it, but that was wrong. There was room. But what happens if he does? Perhaps Volchok has a knife or gun. Ryan pulls over, Volchok jumps out, wields the weapon, and tries to kill one of the two. Let’s say Ryan slams the breaks. Volchok hits him, jumps out of the van, and fights. Let’s say Ryan whips a U-turn and Volchok isn’t savvy enough to turn his car around and he speeds past them. The fight’s not over. Ryan did what he had to do and that was continue to drive and hope they could get somewhere safe, somewhere where Volchok’s driving wouldn’t go unnoticed. It also didn’t help that Marissa didn’t appear to have her seatbelt on.

As for the final scene, it was excruciating, but in a good way. Imogen Heap’s “Hallelujah” wasn’t quite as powerful as I’d hoped, but it was still really good combining elements of both finales. But the best decision was to cut the music off as Ryan set her down. Maybe Ryan should have run for help, but she wanted him to stay. His cell phone was likely in the car, and he couldn’t go back to do it. A lot of people keep their cell in a cup holder so that it’s easier to get to if it rings on the road. It’s reasonable that he wouldn’t have one on him. I think, also, that Ryan knew it was over. Partially, he didn’t want her to panic, and that’s why he didn’t make a fuss. But mostly, I think he knew she was dying. It makes perfect sense with who Ryan is, actually. He’d just had a great moment at the Model Home, a perfect scene where the kids interacted like kids. He’d just had a terrific conversation with Marissa where they recognized their relationship problems. There was a sense of growth in both in the moment inside the Model Home. Things were nice. But just like Ryan established several episodes before, whenever something good happens to him, something bad happens as well. Nothing can ever be perfect in his life. Everything comes at the expense of something else. He gains the Cohens but loses his mother. He gets off after the shooting but loses his brother. He gets into college but loses Sadie. And as Ryan watched Marissa, he knew it was over. That’s why when she actually died, his reaction was less, “Oh my God she’s dead,” and more, “Oh God no, I hoped it wasn’t true.” Ryan wasn’t melodramatic. There were no last kisses or goofy declarations of love. It was Ryan and Marissa, two unemotional people, who never could say what they needed to say to each other, together, in mostly silence. It was a since of shock, of wonderment, and of understanding that there was no other way that their story could end. The fact that the scene was long was an interesting choice, but I firmly believe it sold the scene because it added a sense of realism that balanced with the soap operatic elements in Ryan carrying Marissa in slow-motion. Tragedy doesn’t always happen quickly, and people aren’t exposed and then pulled away from tragic situations. They sit through them. They watch events unfold. It’s cringe-inducing, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s scary. And that’s what happened to Ryan there. He had to watch this. There was no escape for him or for the viewer. The image of Ryan holding the body is something I’ll never forget as long as this show continues.

Odds and Ends about “The Graduates”

- Loved the scene with Dr. Roberts and Kaitlin. It was very reminiscent of some of the earlier scenes between Sandy and Summer. Very awkward, a clear clash in personalities and generation, but it ultimately worked because the actors know the characters.
- Loved Taylor’s summer vacation plans and her welcome into the group. She’s going to be a tremendous asset to the show.
- Loved the symbolism of Ryan and Marissa leaving Orange County. The sign was perhaps too symbolic, but it worked big time for me.
- Why exactly is Julie talking to Jimmy? She forgives very easily, I suppose. I never thought that she’d get over him standing her up.
- Why is Marissa jumping at the chance to go with Jimmy? She said she never wanted to see him again. And she can’t say, “He seems to be doing well.” That’s how it seemed last time, too.
- When Sandy mentioned the Nana, I was sure we’d get a cameo. Too bad he was talking about teaching her how to use a website.
- Who didn’t love Julie eventually drooling over the ab pictures Kaitlin put up?
- Speaking of Julie and Kaitlin, Julie didn’t seem too excited to see Kaitlin. Not too shocking, I guess, since she never cared much for her.
- And why does Kaitlin still have an iPod mini? I mean, I have one, and I’m fine with it, but this is Newport we’re talking about. These people get a new umbrella with every rain. I’ll consider it ‘Julie is Poor’ continuity.
- Not a single “China has alopecia!” reference and Kaitlin was there a lot.
- I would love to have a four-way with the Cooper women (while Marissa was living, of course).

So that’s “The Graduates.”

I’m always a sucker for graduation episodes, and this was no different. It was emotional, well-written, and shocking despite the twist being a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t the best episode, but I truly believe that there’s potential there. Real potential.

But in order to see the potential of next season, I think we need to take a look back at this past season, a season of real highs and extreme lows, and a lot of mediocrity. What did the writers do right, wrong, and otherwise? What did they fix and what did they break further? What do they need to fix? Is the show salvageable? Could it get more than a fourth season?

Those questions and more…

…now.

(Or so I thought. See, at the time I was writing this, I was prepared to take a break, come back to it, and finish it up with the complete season recaps. Then, I strained a muscle in my neck while working out, and I can barely sit in front of the computer for extended periods of time without screaming because it’s so painful. I’ve had this before, so it’ll go away. As will, I though, as I’m taking a vacation Wednesday. My laptop is coming with me, so I’m going to work on a lot of things that I need to do, this included. So, for those who were looking for my season three analysis, sorry.

I only got two responses to my request for people to send their comments in, compared to ten or more last year. Because I’m putting this off for a while, you guys can still send things in about this particular episode and the season in general. I really do hope to hear from you. It can be long or short. Doesn’t matter as long as it’s readable.

I’ll have the review coming before the first full week of June, so if you’re looking forward to it, it won’t be too long. Just hang in there with me. It’s been a hectic few months.

Thanks for understanding. Hope you enjoyed the six pages prior.

Questions, comments, concerns, etc.?
dukedevils9192@gmail.com

-Drew)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Three!

“The College Try,” “The Party Favor,” and “The Man of the Year”

It’s been a while, I know. C’mon, lay off of me, I have reasonable reason (that’s not even a really good phrase, and I think it’s grammatically incorrect, but I don’t particularly care). College life is tough. The last couple of weeks were really rough, but let me tell you this:

I have now written a short novel.
I have now written a scholarly article (once it’s past 10 pages, to me, it becomes more than just a paper).

So there we go. I did make the Dean’s List after three semesters of my dad pitching a fit when he saw my friends’ names in the paper and not mine. That’s cool, though. There’s a first time for everything.

So how about The O.C.? What do I think about it? Well, let’s run through a couple of quick thoughts on each individual episode and then a character analysis as we head into tomorrow night’s (or tonight’s, or even last night’s, depending on when I finish this and/or when you’re reading it) finale.

“The College Try” – A good episode. Aside from Anna’s ridiculous hair and fake tan, she was a pleasant addition to the cast. I didn’t like that we didn’t hear much about her, and that they relegated her to a plot device in the end, but Samaire and Adam have a great chemistry. They’re always fun. I became very disgruntled with Seth at times because he wouldn’t tell the truth, but I won’t hold that against him since there is method to his madness (we will discuss that in a bit). It was nice to see that Seth didn’t actually get into Brown because that would have been shockingly unrealistic, even for a primetime soap opera. Marissa was essentially a non-factor in the episode since her relationship with, um, the guy at Berkley, was unbelievably tame. There was a nice ending where she cuddled up to next to Volchok, but that’s about it, really. Oh, and she wants him to be a Nazi. He kind of turns out to be a dickhead, so Marissa = psychic! Ryan was probably the most interesting character in the episode, as we saw him settle in to a new world only to realize that he can’t escape his old one. That’s his life in Newport, and that’ll be his life at Berkley. The writers tossed aside the baby story in one fell swoop, but I hope that’s just a swerve before another swerve, and they’ll actually bring it back. The kid was cute, though. And it was actually more enjoyable, for me, to see Theresa than Anna because while I love Anna, her role was to be with Seth. I like Seth with Summer. Theresa’s role was to be with Ryan. I don’t like Ryan with Marissa. So anytime he gets a shot with someone else, I’m excited. Ben played the scene so well, too, as you could sense that there was a bit of disappointment that it wasn’t his seed that spawned the kid who looks exactly like him.

“The Party Favor” – Definitely enjoyed this episode, maybe even more than last year’s prom episode, one of my all time favorites. This one worked for the odd couplings, if nothing else. There was a perfect symmetry to Ryan and Theresa going to senior prom together. There was a nice symmetry with Anna and Seth together in formal attire since that’s how they met (well, how they got to know each other) and how Seth learned he didn’t have to be a total moron around girls. Marissa, the girl who is always looking for a way to get into trouble whether she realizes it or not, dug her grave with Volchok. Or Kevin as he is now called because the writers realized that when someone has just a last name, he’s too hardcore, but when he has a first name like Kevin, he’s much more primetime television acceptable. Summer was forced to go with Big Korea, and I don’t even know what to say about that. I love the guy. Not as much as I love Sung Ho (God only knows if I spelled that right) being the right man for Taylor. Taylor is essentially the greatest thing I’ve ever seen, and when Theresa indicated in the next episode that Taylor, Big Korea, and Sung Ho had a threesome, I voted it best moment ever. That doesn’t quite excuse Taylor leaving the money around at the Bait Shop, but she scored a major zinger when she said her prom was better than Marissa’s. So true. And Kevin laughed! Ha. Of course, in this episode, Sandy got into a little trouble, but that didn’t come to a head until the next episode. And then there was one of the best endings on the show ever. Maybe the best ever. Some are arguing that it’s repetitive, unoriginal, bland, etc. That’s wrong. Yes, it’s an opinion, but I’m willing to argue that it’s actually a wrong opinion. Reasons are coming up in the Ryan analysis, I promise.

“The Man of the Year” – Seth and Summer are back together (yes, I ignored that in the above recap but with reason), and someone named Continuity reared his head long enough to help Summer basically screw with Seth. And, of course, somewhere along the way, Seth decides it’s cool if he smokes. After all, everyone knows he lied, his mom’s drinking again (and Seth’s the only one who knows it leading a beautiful scene where he takes care of her and then cleans her mug), and he has to face his father and all of the family problems. The scene with Seth and Sandy was just brilliant. And as Seth said, it’s good that all of his lies were out. What’s not so good is that Seth lit the Newport Group on fire. But hey, we all make mistakes, right? Yeah, not like that, I know. Seth telling Sandy off leads to Sandy taking the high road and agreeing to compromise with the D.A. in the investigation of Griffin. He just doesn’t want to be Man of the Year. Who can blame him? Last time that happened, there was a fight. I think. Or Caleb lost some wetlands. Either way, it wasn’t pretty. Then there’s Ryan. Yikes. He’s in trouble. That’s all I can say. And, of course, Marissa and Kaitlin and mini-Summer, who only knows how to say, “Obvie” and has a Josh Schwartz replica for a dad, need to cause havoc. It proves nothing other than to remind us Kaitlin’s on board for next season, that Mischa’s accent isn’t that great, that her belly button is ginormous, and that she’s HOT as a school girl. If only Schwartz could have written the Coopers as a Catholic family.

Now on to our beloved characters who have been far more complex than ever before. Some are complaining, as usual, but few have valid complaints about where the characters have been. Most have already decided to hate the show, and that’s fine. But I can’t imagine a time when the characters (not the lines or the storylines) have been written with more consistency and with more complexity. Kudos, Josh. Let’s start with the one who’s been through the most hell lately, the one who has become so unbelievably dark that it’s scary: Ryan.

This poor kid just can’t catch a break can he? One of the reasons the second half of the season (or final third, I guess, since Johnny took up an abnormal amount of episodes) has been better than the other part is that Ryan is finally being forced to deal with his problems. The problem with that, though, is that his problems aren’t simple. Volchok has been an effective character because he essentially stems from Trey (Trey sends Marissa to Johnny who brings out Volchok), and they are, of course, very similar, and it’s not just that they call Ryan “little bitch” (even though I wasn’t bright enough to make that connection early on). It’s that they both want to take others down with them. Ryan is a good target because he’s impressionable. He’s strong-willed at times, but overall, he doesn’t know how to say no. He’s got a complex that tells him that he can’t be anything more than Chino. His trip to Berkley and the subsequent return were sad for that very reason. To tie this back around to Volchok, Volchok knows how to bring out the worst in Ryan, the Ryan that Ryan believes is the real Ryan (see if you can decipher that one). He knows how to egg Ryan on, to make him feel as if he belongs in the world of underhanded tricks, drugs, and violence. And Ryan feels this is true because he’s never deals with his issues. He accepts them as an unchanging part of who he is. That’s why the end of “The Party Favor” was so brilliant. The fight was an intentional parallel to the fight with Trey. Ryan suddenly had to come to terms with the fact that he was scary, angry, and unsure. It was a terrifying scene because it finally revealed just how deep Ryan’s problems ran. The follow up to it was interesting, as well, though less terrifying. Ryan’s rage, his problems had gotten him into trouble again, and there was no right way out. He ran, and some people say that’s out of character, but I find it perfectly in character. True, he’s always stood up for others, but now he’s trying to deal with the one person he can’t save: himself. That’s where Ryan stands now. He has to overcome himself, to realize that his problems aren’t going away unless he attempts to confront them, and to understand that he can rise above the Volchoks and Treys of the world. As I stated, Ryan is a darker character than most of us ever thought. But it makes perfect sense in the context of the show. He’s always been this way. It’s just now coming to a head as he attempts to deal with the ultimate change in his life. He deserves everything good that he has, but he often seems to forget that. I hope that will change soon.

Seth. There’s another character that’s taken a dark turn, but I don’t find it too out of character. Over the last two seasons, we’ve seen Seth become even more self-absorbed. It was slightly out of character in season two, but since the writers have held back on it a little, it’s become normal. He’s someone who takes everything to heart, someone who internalizes everything. So not getting into Brown was awful for him. It completely defeated his sense of self-worth. I’m not advocating his lying to Summer. He shouldn’t have done it. He should have told her from the beginning what happened. But I understand that he couldn’t. The minute he told her, he not only ruined her chance at a great school (and yes, it wasn’t her dream, so his head wasn’t in the right place, but his heart was—it’s easy to confuse our dreams with those of others), but it all became real to him. How hard that would be? He was not only struggling with his girlfriend, but he was struggling with himself. Drunk Summer at the prom was excellent, too, handled in a way that I remember high school alcohol actually being. I didn’t know many Marrissas, but I knew a lot of Summers, people who drank just to forget the night. Her perfectly choreographed flip, along with Taylor’s faux-melodramatic, “Man overboard!” was an episode highlight. Anna’s presence wasn’t necessarily needed, as I think that Taylor or Ryan or even Sung Ho could have given the same advice, but it was nice to see Anna tell him because we know just how wise Seth thinks she is. What’s the song lyric? “You were unexpected but not unwelcome”? That kind of works here. She wasn’t really needed, but there’s no reason for us to hate her. I suppose we could argue the ethics about Summer actually giving that list of things to Sandy, but I don’t think that argument would go anywhere. Not only should Seth have confessed to those things himself, he told Summer to do it. She really shouldn’t have even tried to get it back, though I understand why she wanted to. Summer’s problems, thankfully, have been minimal. They’ve been related to an inability to trust Seth, and since I think that Seth is learning from his mistakes, I think things will be okay. But Seth’s not completely clean, I guess. He’s still smoking pot. He’s still anxious. He’s still not sure what he’s doing with his life. Things are still okay in Newport, he’s fixed his parents, he has a best friend and a girlfriend, and he could easily not leave his comfort zone. Maybe things are too perfect. And that can just as easily push someone over the edge.

I’m not going to spend time discussing Marissa, though it’s not because I dislike her at this point. I’m enjoying her spiral, and I like that she’s not hogging the screen. I can just say, though, that her problems are the same as they always were: she lets herself get involved with things she shouldn’t. Volchok was clearly bad. There were no two ways around it. The Sound of Music thing fixed it slightly, but that came after Marissa was involved. Anytime someone kidnaps you, don’t get with them. But Marissa did it anyway because she, too, is unwilling to actively cope with her problems. And no, throwing a laptop doesn’t work because that just shows that you have no sense of the almighty dollar. If she expects to move on with her life, then she’s going to have to understand that many of her problems are self-inflicted. She’s not always looking for trouble, but she almost always finds herself in it.

Nothing good to report on Julie this time around. I’m definitely enjoying calm Julie. I want bitchy Julie to come back eventually, but for the time being, let’s let her have some peace, support her friends, and just have wild sex with Dr. Neil, the greatest soft-spoken man ever.

Nearly a year ago (or nine months, something like that), Sandy decided to take over the Newport Group himself. Easy enough, right? But then something happened. He decided that he could do a lot of good for a lot of people if he sold his soul. This story didn’t work for a lot of people, but it did for me since I always felt like he was struggling slightly. He was never outright a bad guy, but his actions were wrong. He was ignoring his family, and that should have been his first priority. And it finally pushed Kirsten too far. Calling Sandy out at the hospital dinner and comparing him outright to Caleb may have been a little too expositional, but I can forgive it because, at the very least, he needed some exposition to wake him up. And it was crushing when she finally went back to the bottle. It’s a hard to habit to break, to put it mildly. The scenes were very reminiscent of the Rebecca debacle with Sandy knowing his wife was there and choosing to ignore her, whether it was to save Matt or put papers in a safe or whatever. He chose himself over Kirsten, and that had to be difficult for her to deal with. I’m glad that the Cohen family—and I’m only including Seth, Sandy, and Kirsten here, so don’t e-mail me angry that I’m not including Ryan—caught each other, that they all saw their imperfections. Maybe it wasn’t quite the explosion that Josh promised, but it was a scary reminder that the Cohens had become what Seth feared: they had become “that family.” Sandy’s speech at the Man of the Year dinner was a little too maudlin for my tastes, but it was still a nice moment. In the end, we all want Sandy to do the right thing, and we hope that he will. If he didn’t, we’d lose such awesome lines like, “Sometimes I scare myself, Summer.” Is there anyone in this cast who could pull off a line like that other than Peter Gallagher?

So the finale’s tonight (yeah, it’s now Thursday as I finish this), and rumors abound. Apparently, a certain cast member has gone on record claiming to be the person who won’t make it through the night (no spoiler here). There have been spoilers and foilers and speculation aplenty, and I don’t know what to make of any of it. I know that the finale has tons of promise because every graduation episode of every show is good simply because it’s really hard to mess with the emotion of graduation. It writes itself. Still, according to the Fox preview guy, we’re going to lose Sandy, Ryan, Seth, Marissa, or Summer. I’m not sure which it’ll be. I have my thoughts, but I won’t say them here. Let’s just say that Orange County will never be the same.

Since next week is the finale, I’ll have a long review taking a look at the finale and the season as a whole. I hope to have it e-mailed in by that Tuesday since I’m leaving either Wednesday or Thursday for vacation. As last year, I’m looking for volunteers to write in with your season three comments and season four predictions. What did you like? What did you hate? What do you want to see more of? PLEASE! try to use proper capitalization, grammar, spelling, etc. I’m not asking for perfection because I’m not good at all that either, but I do ask that it’s readable. Last year, some of the responses I got were so bad that I had to spend an additional hour editing. So do your best to make it readable so that I can help share it with every visitor to Editorial Newport and The O.C. Community and my blog. Oh, and the deadline is SUNDAY MAY 21, 2006 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

I know this review wasn’t the mind shattering, brain swelling in-depth look you all might have hoped for, but it’s been a few weeks. I’m trying to get into the groove again.

Have a great time watching the finale. I look forward to hearing from some of you.

-Drew
dukedevils9192@gmail.com