Derek Johnson Muses

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Why I liked the How I Met Your Mother Finale Twist (Major Spoilers!)

(Warning: The following posts contains spoilers from the SERIES FINALE of How I Met Your Mother, up to and including the final scene of the series. Proceed at your own risk!)
I’d followed How I Met Your Mother since its early years and was always enchanted by the show. Granted, the whole mystery of how Ted actually met the mother could be tedious, but the show never took itself that seriously, which, incidentally, I would argue was the fatal flaw of Lost and why that show’s finale didn’t work. That’s why, when HIMYM pulled its final, premise-undermining twist, I was impressed that Craig Thomas and Carter Bays had the guts to pull a real shocker, even if the final reveal wasn’t as clean as it could have been.
The reason the ending worked for me is, like the daughter said, the mother was barely in the story. If you just plopped down on the couch and starting watching HIMYM, you’d probably have the same observation: show about the mother who isn’t there? What’s up with that? Ted, the classic overthinker, is the kind of guy who would sit his kids down and tell them eight years of history to work up the courage to ask one girl out. So that serves the overall arc of the show.
But the ending could have been better with more context. It is fair to look at the ending and say (as many have), “If Barney and Robin got divorced after three years with no kids, how are Ted and Robin going to make it with Ted already having kids?” Some more context could have helped, like saying “Robin moved back to New York two years ago and doesn’t travel as much as she used to. She’s shown much more interest in Ted’s kids since their mother has died.” There’s a ten-year gap between the last Robin sighting at Ted and Tracy’s wedding and Ted asking Robin out again, when Ted and Robin are now in their fifties. A lot could have changed, and that should have been made clear, in order to make the twist more palatable.
This leads to the real problem of the finale, and that is of Barney and Robin’s divorce after a mere three years of marriage, after three seasons’ worth of buildup to their marriage. Honestly, the produces should have killed Barney at some point in the future if they wanted to bring Ted and Robin back together. It would have been sad, but it would have been better than negating all the growing up Barney did for two years, only to knock it down and build it back up in half-an-hour
But in a way, HIMYM finale is just the way life is, for better or worse. People fall in and out of love, and in and out of lives. Just because Ted is asking Robin out in the future doesn’t mean that he was in love with her all the time he was married to Tracy. He’d still be with Tracy if she was alive, but she died. Ted moved on, and at his age, he can marry a woman who was just a friend.

The Walking Dead Underachieves Because of Its Radical Nihilism (Spoiler Warning!)

(Warning: This post contains spoilers through Episode 4×14 of The Walking Dead. Proceed at your own risk.)

Right now, The Walking Dead is my favorite show on TV, which sucks because of how disappointing the show can be. Don’t get me wrong, the zombies are terrifying and the action scenes are creative and captivating, but I just can’t stand the people moping around when they are on the verge of running out of food. What would make the show better is a dose of conservative ideology.

The Walking Dead underachieves is because it’s a wildly liberal/nihilistic show, embracing the motto, in the long run, we’re all dead. Whatever satisfies you now, do it. Which works great, in the modern American world of 7-11’s and mass convenience. When you put that philosophy into practice in a world full of flesh-eating zombies (as TWD tries to do every week), at some point, the characters become unsympathetic, because there’s so little pleasure in the world. If you live for pleasure in the zombie-apocalypse, why don’t you walk into the arms of the biters?

Season 4’s second half demonstrates how dumb this philosophy is. Rick and the counsel would have plan ready if they had to suddenly abandon the prison, like bags that were ready to fill with food, and a place to met on the outside (and getting to this specific, predetermined place could have been the major arc of the second half of the season). Remember how Glenn slept on the broken bridge through the night after the Governor’s attack? The prison was intact enough that they would have time to go to the kitchen and gather supplies before they left.

Instead, the characters run off into the woods and scavenge houses and eateries for food. Hadn’t they picked the area clean when they were on the road a year ago, at the beginning of season 3? The world went to hell, but it’s as if the McDonald’s never closed.

This roaming-in-circles, Cheese-Wiz-from-the-sky attitude is because Hollywood holds luck, not hard or planning, as the main arbiter of success and failure in life. The belief in the supremacy of lucks leads to a belief that personal actions are not important, and at some point, there’s no point in watching people whining over their personal autonomy being violating. (Like Maggie in Episode 4×13, for example.)

There’s a simple conservative ideology that could fix this: building for the future. Things may look bleak, but we have inalienable rights steaming for our creator, however we define him, and we have to preserve our society. To those who want to keep ideologies off television, I’d say this: this is a mild conservative ideology that would make the show mostly apolitical, and if you want to watch more liberal TV, you have unending options. No one says you still can’t have a couple pessimistic characters to balance things out.

I do have a glimmer of hope that The Walking Dead will get better, and that has to do with the one arc that I have found interesting in the second half of this season, the Daryl-Beth story. I know fans tend to complain about Beth (seriously, fans of guy shows hate woman as a general principal it seems), but Beth got Daryl to be more optimistic and to open up. If this season ends with Daryl saving Beth and becoming a more purposed character, that could be a great arc into the next season. But given how this show likes to play ball, I’m guessing that Beth is going to be killed, and her death is somehow going to motivate Daryl to be more of a leader. While the latter scenario would be ideologically consistent, it would do the impossible: it would make The Walking Dead even more nihilistic. But at least I might be able to give up the show then.

(For more on TWD‘s ideological issues, check out this post from The Federalist.)

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Oh Beth, if You Were Only on Hart of Dixie

Future Walking Dead Death Discovered? (MAJOR SPOILERS)

(Warning this post will contain major spoilers for the second half of The Walking Dead‘s fourth season. Proceed at your own risk.)

A few months ago, I read a spoiler from Comicbook.com that one of the deaths in the final eight episodes of season 4 of The Walking Dead would be a character that had not died in the comics yet. Being the looser that I am, I analyzed some of the promos and after seeing them closely, I’m guessing that the character who dies is Maggie, who yes, has not died in the comics.

My basis for that is the freeze frame bellow. Look at what Maggie is wearing, the blue-black top.

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Now, look at this freeze-frame from another trailer. The second body from the left in the picture looks to be wearing the same blue top. Again this, is just a guess that it’s Maggie. Notice how Beth is crying.

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And, in case anyone asks, here is another shot showing walkers in the same spot eating someone.

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Where Bad Should Have Broken Off

(Warning: the following post contains spoilers from the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad, including who dies and content from the series finale. Proceed at your own risk.)

The ideal series finale for Breaking Bad (in my humble mind) would have been “Ozymandias”, the third-to-last episode of the series. Let me be clear: I don’t think the actual series finale “Felina” was a bad episode, but there was a lot of standing around and staring. And by now, Walt going Scarface on Uncle Jack and his gang was a foregone conclusion. We all knew why he had to get his keys back.

This season was supposed to be a payoff for Bad‘s long-hanging plot of what would happen if/when Hank found out Walt cooked meth. Once that plot was wrapped up, there was not any story that could top that, other than Walt’s family being in danger. Jesse joining with Hank forced Walt’s fall, and Hank’s death was when Walt lost his family as the cumulative payment for his lies and pride. We didn’t need to hear Walt tell Skylar “I did it for me” because it had already been spelled out.

Instead, Walt annihilated a faceless gang we barely knew, and in the last two episodes, Skylar was in some vague “legal trouble” because Hank was missing and presumed dead. They were  consistent with what the series has been throughout. Yes, it’s great that Walt rescued Jesse, and the final scene in the lab was priceless and summed Walt up completely. But the scene where Walt gets in the van to disappear into the sunrise, the dog walking across the road after the van passes? That’s the last scene of Chuck. That’s The Office characters reflecting on being part of the documentary. It sums the series completely, and it’s a shame that it could not have been the last scene of Breaking Bad.

Knocking Compulsion

I have personal flaws. I overestimate my physical strength. I’m too modest to ask for help. I’m not as driven as I should be. I take things too personally. I’m not great at details or planning. And I can be prone to compulsive behavior, which is why I ended up binge-watching Breaking Bad. A few weeks and twenty-something dark episodes later, I was on the verge of stashing my kindle at the office because I was on pins and needles.

My Netflix subscription was just sitting there since I finished the new episodes of Arrested Development. I’ve kept the subscription rather than get actual cable installed, even though I didn’t have a lot of shows to catch up on. But eventually, I watched an episode of Breaking Bad, speeding through slow parts at first. BB substituted for 24 in my need for serial TV, each episode and even each season picking up where the prior episode or season leaves off. 

I got off-center when I got into this manner. I quit listening to my string of Issues, Etc. podcasts and my sports radio. And BB‘s worldview didn’t exactly help my mindset, either. Thankfully, the Netflix app quit working on my Kindle, slowing my intake.

Binge-watching on Netflix is so easy, and done without so much as a second thought. No commercials, no waiting for next week episodes. I have a pile of podcasts I haven’t even listened to, and yet, days melt away while I get through another six episodes. No wonder I can’t think of anything to write. How much more American productivity can Netflix and video streaming services eat?

Am I this ungrateful for what God has given me? Forgive me, oh Lord.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin...Has nothing to do with this post, but it looks nice.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin…Has nothing to do with this post, but it looks nice.

Breaking Bad and the Human Flaw

Two week, I started watching Breaking Bad on Netflix (hey, my subscription’s just sitting there.. I had only had a perfunctory interest in Malcolm in the Meth Lab because it was on the same network as The Walking Dead. The 8 minute episode recap I saw drained me; I could only imagine how much moral weight a full episode, much less a 13-episode season contained. But the show’s blending of a liberal and a conservative understandings of evil intrigued me. 

BB is partially typical liberal satire on middle America, and a liberal understanding that evil is created by one’s circumstances. The conservative dopes in the sticks want to judge us, says Hollywood? A mega-villain can just pop out of the cul-de-sac in average-joe-New Mexico if he gets cacer. But what makes the show great is a conservative understanding evil. Creator Vince Gilligan admitted that one of best decisions he and his writers made early in the series was to make Walt driven by blinding pride, so much so that he cannot accept help from others to pay for his cancer treatments (see the video below). Otherwise, according to Gilligan, it would have just been clumsy Dr. Tim Whately, bumbling to hold on to his drug money. In spite of this, BB was in fact fifteenth on a 2010 list of favorite shows of democrats, mainly because its most dominant theme is perversity-in-the-suburbs. (No doubt, many democrats also watched BB because of AMC’s other hit show, Mad Men, which was democrats second favorite show and their top scripted show.)

It is fascinating to consider the corruption of a man who says to his partner in crime, “Do you believe that there’s a hell? We’re pretty much going there.” The way Walt charges toward the blackness in front of him just shows how much nihilism has taken over American culture. We run toward judgment and indulge in pain, even if we admit what the consequences will be.

How to Get out of Arrested Development

I caught on to the Arrested Development-on-Netflix phenomenon three or four years ago. The first time I watched the series, it didn’t stand out until the last four episodes of season three, but then I ended up rewatching most of the episodes. It was sad there weren’t more episodes, but judging by the start of the third season, it would have faced some creative ups and downs as it began to stretch the characters from their roots of a never-do-anythings, sans Michael.

Judging by the reaction to AD‘s fourth season, we finally saw the characters stretched.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad that Mitchell Hurwitz and Imagine decided to bring the show back and found a format that could accommodate the actors. Anyone who is willing to break the standard entertainment mold deserves a measure of credit. I’d also bet part of the reason that Netflix agreed to do AD was that it could say to other series who have been off the air, “Hey, want to do a reunion series but your major contributors can only shoot an episode or two? How about this!?!” Not that’s necessarily bad; I could see this format working for a show like The Office which ended (spoiler alert) with many of the principal characters going their separate ways.

But business reasons aside, comedy happens with the right mix of characters (straight man, the crazy sidekick, etc.), and when you split those characters up, you risk loosing the energy. You give Kramer his own show (The Michael Richards Show), and it’s not as funny. In the case of AD, George Sr. just isn’t interesting enough to carry to hours of comedy. On the other had, Buster, the wacky son, did very well with his episode, albeit a shorter one. But the biggest surprise was that Michael need to have his crazy family around, or otherwise he went crazy. Jason Bateman is a TV star, but even he can’t carry a lot of broad comedy.

What really killed the show’s momentum was the storyline progressed like that of a comic book: sprawling and characters too often intersecting by chance. They were just wandering around, trying to “find themselves”, and weren’t acting on behalf of their family, like they did in the original series.

Beyond the character development, the fourth season arc lacked polish, that, considering how long it gestated in Hurwitz’s mind, there is no excuse for. Ironically, the last two episodes of AD‘s third season were perfect for a show that didn’t know whether or not it would get more episodes: the main storyline of the whole series was wrapped up, and it didn’t matter whether or not the show continued the story of Lucille fleeing the country. Season 4 ended with implications that the major cliffhanger items would be addressed, even though the show has no firm commitment for another season. Could we at least have found out what happened to Lucille 2, given that it was set as the seasons’ big mystery?

Here’s how AD can improve: a ten episode season, with each episode running between 25-27 minutes. Do some team-up style episodes, focusing on two or three characters as opposed to just one. And foremost, have an overarching story that involves ALL the characters doing something for the family, like helping to build the wall between US and Mexico, Buster’s trial, and Michael’s movie. Have a plan, keep it tight, and it will keep the show strong.

Why Jim and Pam’s Struggles Didn’t Bother Me

When I read the criticism of Jim and Pam’s relationship, I shake my head. The Office‘s perpetual sweethearts, who moved seamlessly from crush to couple to married couple over the shows nine seasons, spent the better part of the show’s farewell season fighting over Jim’s absence, in direct contraction to their relationship over the previous 180-some episodes, where they moved on from fights in a heartbeat.

This is, America what you expect have in your relationships. Don’t be surprised when you see this generation’s Harry and Sally come close to calling it quits. It speaks to how the concept of marriage being a stable and permanent institution in our culture is long over. But I digress.

Jim and Pam Halpert just go to show how much even secularists want to believe in marriage, even when they find the institution “unrealistic.” Yes, Jim and Pam’s behavior this year has not as consistent with what they have been, but Jim undermined Pam’s engagement with Roy, and Pam proclaimed her feelings for Jim while he was in a relationship. The show has never dealt with their emotional infidelity.

And to be fair, it wasn’t just Jim and Pam fighting. One of the best episodes this season was “Junior Salesman”, that took place after the Halperts had a huge fight on the phone. Instead of just throwing Jim and Pam back into bliss after that fight, the show did something more realistic: they showed Jim trying to do the right thing for Pam on that day. When two people are having fights as big as they were, you can’t just go back to happy bliss without some work. It goes one day at time.

I’m actually glad that The Office went the way it did with Jim and Pam, and I’m not a fan off TV relationship drama for the sake of drama. Unlike the storyline with Jim being tempted with Cathy last season (oh please), this storyline was believable. And honestly, what could the show have done that would have been better?

Almost happily ever after...

Happily ever after…

Best Episodes of The Office

I got pretty emotional when The Office ended last night. While they final ten minute-sequence was a pretty typical, planned series finale material, it cut straight to the heart. It’s terrible that we’ll never see those characters together again. And I told NBC last summer, “Let this show end with grace.”

The Office revived comedy on NBC by becoming a parody of what the network had been doing since Seinfeld went off the air. For seven or eight years, all of NBC’s new comedies featured nothing but bad jokes. The Office just told those bad jokes and showed how uncomfortable they made everyone. That was funny.

So in lieu of the show ending, I thought I’d list the episodes that stood out. Nothing from the last two seasons; not enough time to get perspective. Can’t really pick one, although “The Whale” and “Moving On” were really good.

“The Injury”: Everyone else has this in their list of best episodes, along with “The Dundies”. I didn’t think of it personally, but it has a lot of great stuff. Michael trying to justify his status as disabled, being so brazen as to call in the guy in the wheelchair. The scene of Pam helping concussed Dwight to the elevator is classic, girl-next-door Pam.

“The Job”: There isn’t another Office episode that I would say is better than this one, and while it’s seems almost too easy to pick the third season finale, it holds up. The two big arcs of the first fifty episodes, the Jim/Pam dynamic and the Michael/Jan relationship came to huge heads. Jan was unveiled to be more screwed up than Michael, almost psychotic in fact. This was the perfect twist-it came out of nowhere, but made complete sense once it happened.

Karen reaching the end of her term, Dwight getting a taste of being the manager, Ryan’s big jump, and Pam finally coming into her own all highlighted the episode. Dwight and Andy’s nerd-vona conference room session was amazing in and of itself, and it was the fifth-most important thing in the episode.

But Jim finally asking Pam out on a date was the cake of the episode. Pam talked a lot in this episode, but was speechless at the end. After fifty episodes of “will-they-or-won’t-they?”, Jim and Pam were together for the rest of the show.

“Dinner Party”: In an article on TVGuide.com in which Jenna Fischer said this episode, whose filming had been postponed due to the Writer’s Strike of 2007, was going to be one of the funniest they’d ever done. I had my doubts, as the episodes that fall had been a bit stale, as four hour-long episodes glutted September and October.

I had to wait six months to eat my words on this one, but I was more than happy to.

There was conflict in every scene of this episode, from the cold open where Michael tricks Jim and Pam into dinner with a fake Friday-night work assignment to Michael and Jan’s putting their internal dysfunction on full display, to Dwight’s wedging his way into the party with his former babysitter as a date. Jan’s paranoia against Pam is what make this episode worth repeat viewings.

“Stress Relief”: The post-Super Bowl hour-long episode’s opening scene is probably the funniest in the show’s history. By the time everyone was running into the annex, I was laughing out loud (and I rarely laugh out loud at something I haven’t seen before). When Kevin breaks into the vending machine, I was laughing on the floor. Every subsequent time I’ve seen Kevin doing that, I’ve laughed.

The episode deals with a lot of meaty themes, starting with Stanley’s heart attack , Michael’s struggles with death, and the roast of Michael Scott, an obvious storyline where a normally subtle show could over the top. Even though Jim and Pam’s storyline is less believable (we knew they wouldn’t break up), Stanley’s laughing at the end showed us it was all right.

“Gossip”: The season six premiere creatively worked in the reveal of Pam’s pregnancy to the office into a great Michael Scott scheme to get out of trouble. The intern storyline was just the tip of the iceberg.

Michael was a man defined by being an insecure outsider and wanting to be liked, emotions that come into brilliant conflict in this episode. He shifts from trying to be a part of the gossip at any cost, to distilling to damage by creating wild, new rumors. What a five year-old complex.

“The Chump”: This episode has an unconventional take on how Michael, in his head, weaseled around the fact that the woman he was infatuated with had a husband. The subplots, Jim and Pam trying to stay up at work after their baby has kept them up all night and Andy’s investigation into Sabre’s faulty printers, could have been great A-stories. Favorite part: Creed’s talking head, which includes the episode’s title.

“The Inner Circle”: I know everyone supposedly hated Will Ferrell on the show, but watch any season eight episode and say that this episode isn’t funny in comparison. It’s funny. The shear notion that Deangelo would think for a second that Kevin could figure him out is hillarious.

Resetting 24’s Clock

I enjoyed the nearly two year wait between 24‘s sixth and seventh season, not just because the sixth season was terrible, but because I’d gored myself on endless rewatchings of the show on DVD. After I waited for the eighth, I wished to myself that show could come out with a new season every two years instead of every year.

Guess Fox has taken the hint.

24 was the perfect show (along with Alias and Lost) to move television into the DVD and online age. Built around cliffhangers and every little plot twist, you had to get the show on DVD if you missed an episode. And when Netflix started streaming episodes without commercials, 24 was the perfect show to sell it. Combined with contemporary themes about terrorism and riffs from twenty years of classic action yarns, the show was like a mini-action movie every week.

I’m not betting that Fox will for sure bring 24 back. Honestly, where Jack Bauer was left at the end of the series was a good way to end things (or to move into a film franchise that wasn’t to be.) There was talk that JJ Abrams and ABC would revive Alias, sans Rambaldi mythology and Jennifer Garner, and that was just talk. This talk, I kind of buy because  Netflix probably is involved, and if Netflix raised the critical darling but seldom watched Arrested Development out of the abyss of canceled shows after seven years, reviving 24 should be a cakewalk. (And who knows how much Netflix has said they’ll pay Fox for more 24.)

Bringing Jack back into action will be like the how can still be called 24 if the timeline is broken after twelve hour (as is reported by David Fury on Twitter), or however long it runs. (Fox almost split the show’s seventh season into two halves, after seeing the eight so-so episodes produced before the writer’s strike halted production.) Listen, people: don’t think about. You still watched 24: Redemption, and it was just two hours. Just enjoy the fact that, if a season is terrible, the door to a reboot is that much closer.

And with a 12 episode series, the season plot doesn’t need three or four levels of conspiracy, each one more preposterous than the next. The show could get by with two, or at the very most, three. No more seasons ending with trying to nail the super-villains with a recording, or thinking “really, there was a guy behind Jon Voight or Ramon Salazar?” And maybe they will even be able to do the story without a mole.

And if you are wondering about the memories of your favorite show getting ruined, just watch the second half of The Following‘s season this year and say to yourself: that the best Fox can do, a 24-wannabe that can’t even make the FBI believably competent. Might as well bring back 24. Murder, She Wrote and Dallas movies that followed the conclusion of those series. In a way, the short run series has become what the TV movie was back in the 80’s and 90’s. Thanks, Netflix.

And with the going on three years that have passed, there’s new stories that 24 could do a take on, like a politician trying to cover up the government’s failures in a terrorist attack, ALA the current Benghazi scandal. Now that wouldn’t be interesting TV, would it?

Ready for more?

Why You Should “Watch” Your TV

Recently, I read a book on my Kindle called Primetime Propaganda by Ben Shapiro. It opened my eyes to the agendas of a lot of shows I liked. Turns out, the Hollywood left could be as extremist, intolerant, and cold-minded as they accuse the Tea Party of being, and probably more so.

I watch TV, and even if you are really conservative, you probably do too. TV has this addictive quality that I taste whenever I eat fast food: you just can’t get enough of it, and you can take the trashiness of it as you swallow (or watch) your favorites. Consuming liberal television does your mind what consuming fast food does to your waste-line.

Vanguardism is the buzzword in Hollywood. Those who inhabit the golden shores of Malibu and the sweeping lawns of Sunset Boulevard are of an almost uniform political bent-virtually all vote Democrat, fervently support gay marriage, see abortion as a sacrosanct human right, approve of higher taxes, despise religion, think guns are to blame for crime, maintain that businesspeople are corrupt and union organizers are saints, feel that conservatives are racists, sexists, and homophobes, and sneer at the rural right-wingers in ‘flyover country.’ Almost all voted for Barack Obama. Almost all hated George W. Bush.”

And we all let them into our living rooms, with subtle coded messages on our flat-screens. My conservative friends and Christian brethren, Hollywood hate us. Thanks be to God.

Shapiro also makes the point that Hollywood constantly derides big business when they are just that. And Hollywood fights for the same tax breaks that every other big business fights for and gets.

One of the most revealing parts of the book is how Hollywood has come up with every storyline about how gays are discriminated against. The writers take a story about they discriminate against conservatives, and make the conservatives the ones who discriminate.

“…the television industry is going to have to admit that it has a problem: it’s ideologically xenophobic. Most conservatives in Hollywood don’t work today…because liberals employ a mirror form of McCarthyism on a large scale…Outspoken conservatives are less likely to get jobs, as many of the liberal television folks I interviewed openly admitted…”

“They wouldn’t dare do to the same to blacks or gays who suggest discrimination in Hollywood, even though the evidence of such discrimination is far scantier. There is institutional bias against right-wingers in Tinsletown…”

In light of this, this part of the left shouldn’t be called liberal. Liberals are people who defend everyone’s right to speech and perspective and bringing in lots of opinion.  What this really shows is how insecure the people who make television are. If you have to slander and call your opponent nasty names and try to defeat them by saying they are a hateful person, it says that if their opinion is allowed to even be spoken, you can’t believe your own.

Reflecting on Shapiro’s book, I think a lot about how Christianity gets portrayed on TV, under the liberal protestant that subjects God to any force of mankind. Consider how Christian father Herschel is portrayed on The Walking Dead: when he comes on the show, he is portrayed as strong, faith-motivated person who uses his faith to stand up to Rick. But after the crisis of (Spoiler Alert) his zombified wife and son being gunned down, Herschel abandoned the effectiveness of his faith. He still reads scriptures with his daughters, but he stays out of the big decisions on the show.

And by the way, his daughter Maggie is a sexually promiscuous vixen who hops into bed with Glenn pretty quickly. Like Angela on The Office, TV seems to be telling the conservative Christians they can separate their faith and sexuality. This much worse than telling Christians that their faith isn’t valid. It’s telling them that faith can be secondary to liberal social views. It’s having a semblance of Jesus to justify your behavior.

Thankfully, there hasn’t been a TV show that I’ve really liked that’s come on in the last couple of years, but that’s probably because I’m burnt out on TV. I feel in love with the medium back in college, when Lost came on the air in the fall of my senior year and was Jurassic Park on the small screen. I loved Lost (through season 5), 24, How I Met Your MotherPrison Break, and shows I can’t even remember. In a lot of ways, those shows inspired me to be a writer. But I binged on those shows until I was fat as a hog.

I still watch TV, but I don’t expect it to fill me. I realize I need real food too.

Why Seinfeld Worked

I have a confession: I love to watch DVD extras and audio commentaries, if they are talk about how a movie or episode (loser alert). Recently, I watched up some extras from Seinfeld DVD’s on YouTube about how Jerry Seinfeld developed his series for NBC and was blown away by his vision and work ethic. While it probably makes me a loser, I just find it fascinating how an individual idea can blossom from a two-sentence monologue to a full film or TV episode, or series. I learned a lot from how to turn conversations into the manuscript I’m now writing.

Here are some points I took from those DVD.

Strong self-image without being pushy: Seinfeld honed his crafted as a comedian for more than ten years before filming the Seinfeld pilot, and always thought of himself as a comedian, not an actor. He knew which network notes to take (adding Elaine) and which network notes to say no to (generic sitcom notes, specifically about “The Chinese Restaurant” episode), and didn’t try to go against NBC just for the sake of doing so. Jerry the character was a guy that “things worked out for”, against conventional sitcom wisdom.

Humility and lack of ego: didn’t take the best storylines his staff writers gave him and let them be used by the more eccentric characters on the show. As Jason Alexander noted, George and Elaine often had more interesting things to do than Jerry did. Jerry was the straight guy who often commented on the funnier antics of his friends.

And at one of the reunion roundtable, Seinfeld was concerned about if his co-stars felt like they were doing the right thing by walking away from the show when it was on top, after they had to return to the wasteland of reading tons of bad scripts.

Could take any story and make it funny: multiples times, one of Seinfeld’s writers would be telling Seinfeld and Larry David a story about something that actually happened to them, and it would end up as one of the stories.

Incredibly high standards: Recently, I happened to catch an episode of a typical 90’s sitcom which featured a single storyline throughout the episode. It was painful to watch the story stretch for twenty-two minutes. While other sitcoms where doing one or two stories, Seinfeld and David demanded four. They wouldn’t use ideas that writers said they’d always used before, and every idea had to be original. And the second the show was showing some signs of age, he knew it was time to walk away.

goingoutandcomingin

"The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore." Psalm 121:8

Sun-Ton Farms

Dairy Farming through the eyes of a former "city" girl.

Mark Yarhouse

An Evangelical Christian in LGBT+ Studies

GMO Free Girl

Changing The Way You Eat One Bite At A Time

StarboCho

Dragon Slaying: from the Lutheran Perspective

The First Premise

Looking at all things through suffering and the Cross

Final Mystery

"The final mystery is oneself" - Oscar Wilde

Biking with Coleman

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