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2013.01.28: "Thought-pocalypse?" "Is brain-pocalypse better?"

Monday, January 28, 2013

Close your eyes while watching "The Hollow Men" ('Dollhouse', season 2, episode 12) and see whether you can tell the difference between Fran Kranz and Enver Gjokaj as Topher.

I.

Today we took in the season 3 finale of 'X-Files', "Talitha Cumi", which gave us cameos by Deep Throat and Bill Mulder, along with X, the Bounty Hunter, and more. The kitchen sink, so to speak. It is, however, a cliffhanger season finale, and now Ms. S. must wait until Friday for the conclusion because we're starting new seasons on the first of the month.

We'll be done with 'Dollhouse' tomorrow when we watch "Epitaph Two: Return". Today's "The Hollow Men" probably didn't blow Ms. S.'s mind as much as the previous episode -- in which Rick Fox cameoed, one Whedonite was shot in the head, and a trailtor was revealed --, but we still had a good amount of action and wit, including Gjokaj playing Topher for the second time this season.

And we followed things up with the pilot of 'The Following', the hyped but rather predictable and pretentious crime thriller with Kevin Bacon.

II.

That Bacon's Hardy had a relationship with Purefoy's Carroll's wife? Obvious. The army of 'helpers'? Not that surprising. Something strange with Sarah Fuller's (Grace) neighbors? Clearly. But what? I called it improperly, though I shouldn't have. And then recapturing Carroll by the end, seemingly taking the 'thrill' out of ... not bad, as the 'actual' game seems to be the social network of serial killers ... upping the ante, so to speak. So this is a high concept sort of pice ... I can live with that.

But their attempts at literary criticism?

Tsk, tsk.

Please leave that to a real writer.

My reaction may not be all that different than that of people in the intelligence field when they watch espionage shows, and I know how I feel with tech in TV and movies, with math in shows like 'Numb3rs' (which sort of blurred the boundary between getting some things right and eliding for narrative efficiency. Watching anyone 'hack' on TV or in a movie is painful.

Yet ... yet ...

There's a slight difference between the (mis)representation of programming, math, science, engineering, espionage, and the like on the screen and the representation of writers or literarure. A better comparison is with film-making and acting, and the moment a genre piece themates the making of movies (or television) or the process of producing or acting you have that sort of mirror-facing-a-mirror infinite regress that makes it impossible to treat the material without irony ... without being 'meta'. And Kevin Becon and the rest talking about E. A. Poe entirely fails in that regard. It's not that 'literature' is off-limits to this kind of representation, but one should never do it ... badly.

Yet then the show almost redeems itself in the final minutes.

Up to this point the show has taken itself seriously as a genre exercise. We have a broken cop (FBI agent) who got too close to a case, who is now an alcoholic. We have the return of an old case, we have a serial killer, we have unfinished business. We have puzzles and the like. This could be any procedural or thriller. It's more or less humorless. And while a woman jabbing a piece of metal through her eye and into her brain after dropping her clothes and displaying her tattooed body indicates an attempt at shock value, it's nothing we haven't seen before and better in other shows or movies unfettered by the limitations of network programming. It is not a shocking event: it is an echo of better works.

Yet then Purefoy provides Bacon not with a monolog, but with a lecture, a genre-savy lecture of what he has planned and how the characters in the criminal investigation will be fictional characters in his newest work. Any viewer would recognize this as already being embedded in a fictional universe, and so Purefoy is not talking to Bacon, he is talking to us.

But, you see, Ms. S. and I already watched the superior "Josť Chung' 'From Outer Space'" this past week, so little shocks or impresses us these days.

III.

Our viewing is much like our eating, both consisting to a great extent of comfort foods, of themes and variations. We try something new from time to time and are sometimes surprised how much we like it, so we come back to it again and again.

We wonder how we could ever live without it, and when we do live without it we suffer withdrawal.

This goes for 'SG-1' (for Ms. S.) as well as it does for caffeine, mac & cheese, and more. Sometimes we find substitutions or replacements ('SG-1' for 'TNG', SoDelicious for Ben & Jerry's; other times our new ideas fall flat, as neither 'BSG' nor bulgur wheat went over well.

Our tastes develop over time, likes and dislikes shift, and we remember things as better or worse than they may have been. Actually, they didn't change, but we did. Brussels sprouts and coffee were always bitter, as was dark chocolate, it's merely that now we like that nuance.

Tonight there should be the deliciousness of roasted broccoli and roasted carrots to go with whatever grain or protein anchors our meals. We finished off the Veggie Patch "meatless meatballs" ... good enough to taste like meatballs. Nothing is what it seems, so it seems. And so when we return later to 'The Following' I expect more of the same. I'm waiting for Maggie Grace's character still to be alive, I'm waiting for Kevin Bacon to be revealed as our serial killer ... one can only hope!

But this evening?

We might even take in an episode of television or a movie to satiate our cultural appetites.
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