Episode 162: Who Whurdles

January 24, 2013

Click to step into the TARDIS and download Dr. Who podcast

It may have taken us 162 episodes but we’ve finally bowed to listener pressure and attempted to hurdle Dr. Who. As the old adage says, be careful what you wish for.

Given the monumental height of this hurdle, we enlisted the help of our faithful companion, Kathie, who’d actually watched Dr. Who as a child. We thought this might help add perspective since I figure heart of the rabid Whovian fandom is nostalgia.

My theory was based on my experiences with Star Trek: The Next Generation. I grew up with original series Star Trek and then later I watched TNG from around Season 5 onward (when it started to get really good). My love for these shows is what helped me get through the first two abysmal seasons of TNG when we embarked upon our rewatch of the series.

As with introducing someone to TNG, the first two seasons of Dr. Who were probably not the best place to start our journey. Without the benefit of an existing infatuation with The Doctor, it’s hard not to watch an episode like “The End of the World” and not make constant glances at the “stop” button on the remote with a sense of longing.

But perhaps we were just missing the point of Dr. Who.

Listener Wally had this to say to us in an email regarding this episode:

I’m a massive Doctor Who fan. Old and new series, TV and audio. I think you’ve hit pretty well on why it sucks, but I also know you missed the point. Most of the time the show isn’t taking itself very seriously. When it does is often when it’s at its weakest, but when it is light and poking fun at itself it can be great. Blink and “timey wimey” is a good example.

The characters of The Doctor and the TARDIS are the only constant elements to the show, so you have to like them to enjoy it. After that it’s up to the writers. They can go for any genre or style, and any setting. A lot of the time they miss in cringe worthy fashion, but there are enough reasonable to great scripts to keep me coming back. You have to enjoy the slightly off beat style of the show though.

There are lots of reasons why Doctor Who is crap, but enough redeeming features that can’t be found in other shows to make it my favourite by a long way. If you can’t find your own reasons to get past the shit then it’s not for you.

What Wally says about “cringe worthy” and finding “your own reasons to get past the shit” reminds me of my own relationship with ST:TOS. There’s a lot of shit episodes I sit through with a smile on my face just because some part of me is reminded of being a five-year-old sat  in wonder at the magical space adventures of Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise. I suspect I will never have that with Dr. Who, so unless the following seasons are significantly stronger, I’m not sure The Doctor will ever be for me.

I believe this because I didn’t exactly “miss” the point so much as the point missed me. The balance between the show taking and not-taking itself seriously felt off. And it wasn’t just episode to episode that this flip-flop happened, but within the same episode it would often reach Red Dwarf levels of silliness and then turn around and ask me to take the situations and characters seriously. This can work in theory, but it hasn’t worked in episodes like “New Earth” and “Army of Ghosts/Doomsday.”

The show seems to consider itself neither science fiction nor fantasy and feels like it’s caught in a dimensional flux where it’s both and neither simultaneously. One moment it’s pantomime and the next it’s attempting naturalism but both approaches destroy the effect of the other. From the perspective of someone outside the fandom, the show is a complete, unmitigated mess.

Which I suspect is part of what the fans like about the show—to them (as with ST:TOS for me) the flaws enhance rather than detract.

So, should we keep watching Dr. Who and record a second part to this episode or should we never darken the Doctor’s hallowed halls again with our negativity? Let us know: nerds@nerdhurdles.com.

Special Executive Producer for this episode: Tony Pucci.


January 7, 2013

Click to download Walking Dead podcast

If humanity is caught-up in a zombie apocalypse, surely the question that’s going to be at the forefront of our collective consciousness is: Can you ever make an arc-based television show that isn’t fundamentally a ridiculous soap opera?

Where is the line drawn between epic storytelling full of big themes like vengeance, ambition, duplicity, sex, valor, betrayal and sacrifice, and schmaltzy, lowest common denominator, emotionally manipulative script gimmickry?

It appears to be a subjective distinction since many of these themes are the cornerstone of Greek myths, Arthurian tales, Shakespearean plays or and even Bible stories. The ingredients of the great stories of our culture exactly the same as the ones that seem so trite and contrived in shows like The Walking Dead. Is the Rick/Lori/Shane love triangle any different from the Agamemnon/Clytemnestra/ Aegisthus triangle? Not really. And in the end, the tale plays out in classically tragic form—the usurper is vanquished and the hero is punished for his hubris.

So is it, then, the skill of the chef and not the ingredients which determines if an epic tale is a hearty, satisfying meal or a cheesy, stomach-turning and guilt-inducing indulgence? Perhaps.

The Walking Dead trowels every story-telling gimmick on as thick as possible and doesn’t shy away from the cliffhangers. There appears to be less of a recipe being followed as much as the larder being raided. Anything that’s the slightest bit sweet, salty or fatty that might keep the audience engrossed is tossed in a given a good stir.

The question is, could anything different be done on a television show based on long-arc storytelling? Arguably, Battlestar Galactica‘s strengths an weaknesses all stem from the show being a soap opera set in space. Without the “soap” aspect, it could only be a series of battles and firefights which would have gotten even more tiring (even more quickly) than it did over four seasons. The “soap” elements provide a human element to engage the viewer and help them stay invested in the story and the characters. At the same time, “soap” is like a drug. Each hit has to be a little stronger to achieve the same high and things inevitably spiral upwards until every possible sexual relationship has been explored and someone loses an eye.

But where BSG could perhaps have avoided a few of these pitfalls, could anything other than soap opera melodramatics be done with The Walking Dead?

I’m drawing a blank for possible narrative alternatives. Other than raiding yet another abandoned drug store for supplies and endless waves of zombie attacks (there, frankly, needs to be more of these) what’s left for the characters to do but draw alliances, betray each other, manipulate the situation, grasp for power and plot revenge along the way? Remove the sex and duplicity and it’d be The Endlessly Walking Living show and that’d be arguably a lot worse. Or at least a lot more boring.

I’ll take “soap” over boring any day.

Episode 160 – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

January 3, 2013

Click to download The Hobbit episode

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nastydirtywet hole…”

‘Cause it’s not that kind of movie, mate.

2012 in review

January 2, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 24,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals.

The busiest day of the year was February 10th with 139 views. The most popular post that day was Death Disco Star.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for robert duncan mcneill gayugly bettyunderworld asslindsey stirling butt, and nerd costume.

Click here to see the complete report.

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