Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Is It Because I Have A Penis?

The new season of TV is about to begin... and my penis may be getting in the way!

I have never been a regular TV viewer, but I have gotten hooked on some shows for a while. So there was a time when I was home every Thursday night to watch the NBC lineup - SEINFELD to ER, including whatever half hour show they were trying to make work in that leftover slot (NEWS RADIO, whatever). But the shows fade, or run their 10 years, and I move on. Every so often some new show looks great, I watch it for a while... and then it just screws up. I watched 4 seasons of 24, hoping that they would figure out how to make the show work - but the cougar attacks and madmen of the week kept on coming. There were always episodes that seemed like fillers, and things that were *really important* in episode 5 that were forgotten in every episode after that. So I quit watching. I came in late on LOST - and it seemed like a house of cards show that could never add up to anything... maybe I needed to start from the beginning on that one.

There are two shows on TNT that get a lot of critical attention and Emmy notice, CLOSER and SAVING GRACE, so I thought I’d try them out. TNT does new episodes during summer, which is a great idea - they probably make fewer new shows, but they air while everyone else is doing reruns or crap reality shows.

CLOSER is a typical cop show built around a female detective name Brenda (Kyra Sedgewick) who can get a confession out of anyone. She’s an interesting, human, character and her personal problems are B story or runner in every episode. But the main story is crime-clues-confession. Some good twists, you don’t know who the killer is until the end. And the supporting characters are interesting and fun. The show has some wiggle room, and uses it - last week’s episode was dead serious, about one of the guys on the homicide team’s brother being shot on the street, and how difficult it was for him to just go home and let his fellow detectives handle it. He wanted to *do something*. It was very emotional, and had one of those great 1st season LAW & ORDER reveals - the reason the brother was shot was because he was wearing a baseball cap that looked like it belonged to a rival gang... and it was the brother cop who gave it to him as a gift. A couple of episodes before this they did a comedy with Jennifer Coolidge (Stiffler’s mom) as a trophy wife who hires a hitman to kill her husband. The hitman was one of the detectives, GW Baily, undercover. They have the whole thing on videotape, all of the evidence in the back of the Baily’s car... and the car gets stolen! Now they have to get the evidence back before anyone knows it’s missing... and hijinks ensue. Same show, and same confession device - in this episode, GW Baily - who is Brenda’s mentor - has to prove himself by getting Jennifer’s confession... as Brenda, in another room, gets a confession from the killer. Both episodes worked as cop show and character shows - which is why all of the Emmy nominations.

So, I’ve seen every episode of CLOSER I’ve recorded, but only made it through one episode of SAVING GRACE... abandoning the others after the first commercial break. GRACE pretends to be a cop show, and stars Holly Hunter and Laura San Giacomo - two actresses I really like. I like them more than Kyra Sedgewick. But I don’t like the show, and I suspect it may be because I have a penis.

Where CLOSER is a typical cop show with a crime that is solved, GRACE is something else. The cop show part takes up about 15 minutes of the hour long show, and the rest is all about the characters. The crime is a subplot. The show is looser and more realistic and seems more natural... because most of the show is “plotless”. The main story seems to be about Grace, her Guardian Angel who sometimes only she can see and hear and other times gets involved in bar fights with people - I don’t understand the rules of this angel, and the other cops who work with Grace: one is dealing with the death of his brother, one is in deep cover and misses his wife and kids, one seems to have a sex addiction problem, and all of the others have problems and relationship issues and spend the episodes drinking and dealing with problems and arguing with each other... and maybe they solve a crime in their spare time. And it comes off as a soap opera to me.

Now, maybe I needed to get in from the beginning, like with LOST. Maybe if I knew these characters and their issues it would seem less soapy. But I came in late to NYPD BLUE and never had a problem with that show. NYPD was in syndication, playing late night on weekends in LA, and being an insomniac, it was the only thing on that wasn’t showing me how to use this portable appliance to completely cook a frozen turkey in less than ten minutes. So I began watching it in the middle of season 3... and had no problem understanding all of the relationships on the show. That was probably because there were usually 2 crimes per episode, then a couple of minutes of TV safe nudity involving the off duty relationships. Andy (Dennis Franz) was an amazing flawed character, but most of his character came out during the search for the criminal portion of the show.

I have a theory that any halfway decent writer can write a *great* stand alone scene. In fact, any halfway decent writer can write two dozen *great* stand alone scenes. The problem is making all of those scenes connect to each other and add up to something. When a scene is on its own, it’s free to do whatever it wants - it can begin where it wants and end where it wants and what happens can be unusual and interesting and take characters right up to the edge of a cliff... But when a scene has to be part of something larger - a story - it has to start (more or less) where the last scene ended, and the characters must do and say things that are story related, and it needs to advance the story - so it has to service the story, and it can’t end at the edge of a cliff (metaphorically) because there’s a scene after it - so it must end in a way that leads us to the next scene. Once your scenes have to be part of something larger - the story - they have many more responsibilities... and are no longer free. They *serve* the story. And those scenes are much much much more difficult to write.

On GRACE, we get character without crime. Just scenes of one of the characters dealing with their alcohol problems, or sleeping with some other cop’s wife, or... Well, they are stand alone scenes that don’t service the plot, because the plots tend to be ultra-simple things that can be resolved in 15 minutes of TV time (probably 11 minutes). There is a crime, there is a suspect, they capture the suspect, the end. No complications, no false trails, no twists. Those things are on CLOSER - and that’s why the scenes on CLOSER can’t go off on some wild tangent that leads nowhere... and why CLOSER needs to show character as it relates to story, not in some separate scene. GRACE is all over the place with a dozen character subplots... and to me these dramatic scenes that are peripheral to the cop part seem like a big soap opera. Tune in next week to find out if Bobby gets caught sleeping with Darlene! Though NYPD BLUE had a continuing character story as well, it wasn’t the *focus* of the show. They had those 2 crimes to solve. On GRACE, so much of the show is continuing character that it turns into EDGE OF NIGHT - a soap opera about cops. Hey, it’s a high quality soap with great actors, but still a soap.

Which got me thinking about shows that have no genre to guide them and focus on the problems of their characters almost exclusively - we’re getting a new version of 90210... that was a high school soap opera. DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES is basically a soap. Isn’t it about time for a reboot of DALLAS, which was a “primetime soap”. When you take a dramatic TV show out of the cop shop or the hospital or the court room you end up with all of the big character scenes without the anchor of a genre - and it gets soapy. And I started thinking about *films* that skip the whole genre thing and end up straight dramas about people dealing with their problems - some of these films work, but others really do get soapy at times. The character’s personal problems get kicked up a dramatic notch in order to fill the screen, and we get soap.

But maybe the only reason why I care about that is because I have a penis.

Soap operas appeal to women viewers more than men. And I think shows like DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and SAVING GRACE probably appeal to women more than men. And I think those drama films like LORENZO’S OIL appeal to women more than men. Men have that mechanical thing - we want to see all of the pieces come together... and become a 1968 Ford Mustang or something. We’re frustrated when the assembly process gets slowed down... or doesn’t seem to exist. Women seem to be all about the feelings, the scene, the emotions... and it may not matter if it ever adds up. Yes, these are generalizations. I’m just trying to figure out why a critically acclaimed show like SAVING GRACE makes my head explode like that guy in SCANNERS. Why I can’t make it through an episode. After 15 minutes of characters dealing with their drug issues and sex addiction issues and betrayed friendship issues and all of these little character issues, I turn it off... Yet, last week’s episode of CLOSER which was all about cop Raymond Cruz dealing with the death of his brother... while he was ordered to go home and not do the job he was trained to do: find the killer... was amazing, emotional TV. And, I think deeper than anything on that one episode of GRACE I made it through. Maybe it didn’t seem as “natural” because it was tied to plot, but that end where he reveals he bought the baseball cap and then completely breaks down was a *moment* - and worthy of an Emmy nom for Cruz.

So... do we need plot and story? Or is that just my penis - and we can have a bunch of character scenes that have nothing to do with each other? What do you think?

- Bill

CLASSES ON CD - ON SALE NOW!

10 comments:

ObiDonWan said...

good analysis! 'nuff said.

Laura Deerfield said...

I don't have a penis - and I have not been able to make it through a single episode of Grace yet, though I've tried four times, because I (usually) love Holly Hunter. It comes off to me as preachy and melodramatic...but then, I've never been into daytime soaps or shows like Dallas. I do, however, love procedurals, especially those that carry the character storylines through them like House and the Closer.

Emily Blake said...

I don't have a penis either and I don't like melodramatic crap. I like things that explode.

Cunningham said...

Wait til the fall when LEVERAGE premieres.

The Moviequill said...

I watch Desperate Housewives because I do have a penis and it regularly reacts to Eva Longoria ha

bitmaestro said...

As long as we're (over?) generalizing, I've always believed that TV thrives on interesting characters that the viewer will want to come back and watch, week after week. Whereas movies, being more-or-less a one shot deal, tend to be much more plot driven.

Oh, and they already remade Dallas... last season... as Cane.

Wallfly said...

Phallus aside, audiences of today want mindless escapism, not thoughtful reflection / insight. Who is the target TV market for Closer and Saving Grace? I sincerely doubt a Caucasian male who thrives on meaningful visual entertainment.

As an aside, did you, Bill, ever consider the dreadful possibility that you have reached the point of no return? Namely, your exposure to so much material has blunted / stunted your ability to transition to feckless drivel.

So, to counter this unfortunate phenomenon, lower your expectations and standards, and you might survive. Otherwise, back to Matlock and Columbo reruns until you turn into worm food.

Morgan McKinnon said...

I am so grateful thankful and happy happy happy that I don't have the penis.

Men. Real men just don't know.

I do love soap operas though. Just too busy these days to watch.

Morgan McKinnon said...

"So... do we need plot and story? Or is that just my penis - and we can have a bunch of character scenes that have nothing to do with each other? What do you think?"


~
I’m writing a script. If someone were to read what I have in Movie Magic(at this very moment)…they might think…this is just a bunch of character scenes that have nothing to do with each other.

But like a number of brilliant stories…when you can take one thread and tie all of those scenes, romantically and lovingly and mysteriously together…

What do I think?

I think that’s thinking outside of the box.

Peppino P said...

Interesting post, would like to say something important about penis health.

The penis is one of the most sensitive areas of the male body....and yet, ironically, the penis is also the recipient of some very abusive treatment, more so than any other organ of the body. Penis skin, over time, is expected to undergo many hours of touching, rubbing, penetrating and, quite often, aggressive behavior. The penis is frequently yanked, grabbed, squeezed and pumped. And, despite all this aggressive behavior, this sensitive organ can withstand any number of acts of which few are gentle. Experiencing all this activity you would think that the penis and penile well-being should not be ignored. Well, at least that is what you would expect. However, with most men, this is not the case. And for men who ignore the health of their penis, beware, because if penile health is abandoned then, with time, you can expect loss of penis sensitivity or penile blood vessel damage, erectile issues, dry, cracking, irritated penis skin to name just a few of the potential male organ health problems. Over the long term expect health issues in which your penis may not provide the performance to which you have become accustomed and of which you will no longer be proud.

Most of us sensible guys give the other parts of our bodies lots of attention through exercise, vitamin pills, minerals, nutritional liquids and diets to keep our bodies healthy in order to provide peak performance, physically and mentally. So you have to ask yourself, why do so many men ignore the health of the most sensitive and pleasurable part of their body? There is no logical answer, however, now is the time for intelligent men of action to step up and be responsible for their penis health care and do so before the inevitable penis health issues appear.

There are products available that have penis-select vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are ingredients necessary for proper penis health care. For information on penis health and penis health products visit, http://www.man1health.com And, please, act now, your penis health is much too important to ignore any longer.

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