The Librarians premiered on TNT last night. It’s a spin-off of The Librarian, a series of TV movies that TNT launched ten years ago. I’ve seen and enjoyed all the movies, and I think I may like the new show even better. Whether or not you should watch this series depends entirely on your psychological response to the following phrase:
Ninjas in Oklahoma.
Okay, still reading? Do you miss Warehouse 13? Then you should watch The Librarians, because The Library is pretty much exactly The Warehouse. Seriously. It’s a mystical archive run by a secret organization tasked with housing magical artifacts that can’t fall into the hands of the general public. Do you miss Leverage? Then you should watch The Librarians, because it’s executively produced by Dean Devlin and it features Christian Kane as part of a quirky ensemble cast of adventurers.
The comparisons don’t end there. The Librarians is every bit as fun, light-hearted, and imaginative as the aforementioned dearly departed dramas. It requires as much suspension of disbelief and tolerance of cheesy special effects and props. As with its feature-length predecessors, The Librarians knows exactly what it is and makes the most of it. It doesn’t try to be dark and edgy, nor does it go far enough in the other direction to become a self-parody. It’s dumb in a smart way.
The cast is likable and fun to watch. Eve Baird (Rebecca Romijn), aka The Guardian, is a great foil for recurring Librarian Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle). She’s also believable as the group’s designated muscle, a role not falling to Christian Kane this time around. As Jake Stone, he’s more of the brain, a humanities scholar with an encyclopedic knowledge of art history and world literature. Well, Stone is half the brain. He’s the right hemisphere to Cassandra Cillian’s (Lindy Booth) left. Cassandra’s synesthesia gifts her with almost superhuman mathematical and spatial abilities. The ensemble is completed by Ezekiel Jones (John Kim), a snarky Brit who can breach any security system and evade any trap.
If I have any complaint about The Librarians, it’s Cassandra’s inoperable brain tumor. It’s the explanation for her synesthesia, but it’s an unnecessary one. I know people who were born with synesthesia in real life. I’m hoping this arc doesn’t become a source of needless drama and tragedy in an otherwise feel-good show.
I can’t end this post without mentioning the appearance of TV comedy legends Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin, and John Larroquette. Newhart and Curtin’s roles were brief reprises from the Librarian movies. Laroquette, a series regular, plays Jenkins, the caretaker who’ll be mentoring the Librarians In Training (LITs) in Carsen’s absence.
The Librarians airs Sunday nights on TNT at 8pm/7pm Central. Check it out if you like quirky ensemble dramedies, myth and magic, and ninjas in Oklahoma.
A few weeks ago I got the following text from my sister:
Normally I don’t follow reality TV competitions. I’m not a snob about them, they just aren’t my thing. I’ve never seen a single episode of Survivor. Overall, I think I’ve watched more parodies of reality TV shows than actual reality TV shows. However, the concept (and my sister’s endorsement) of this one piqued my interest, so I gave The Quest a try.
It’s what would happen if you could play a World of Warcraft style video game in a holodeck instead of whatever lame-o device you’re stuck playing it on. Of course, this means all you have to work with are your own personal stats, not a superhuman digital character’s. So far the challenges have included archery, horseback riding, blacksmithing, running, plus a variety of puzzles that require more brains than brawn. In the tradition of reality TV (so I’m told), one of the three weakest contestants gets voted out every week, so you don’t want to use Charisma as a dump stat.
Although the contestants themselves are fun to watch, I think my favorite thing about The Quest is the NPCs. For you poor, sad people who aren’t familiar with fantasy roleplaying games, NPC stands for non-player characters. They’re the people who exist for you to interact with. Sometimes they’re basically talking furniture. Other times they have distinctive personalities, major roles in the story, and enhance the overall environment of the game. The actors playing the NPCs on The Quest are doing a great job putting themselves in the latter category. I have no idea whether these actors are nerds or not. For all I know, they could’ve taken the job because it was this or a Viagra commercial. But they are SO into their roles. They never break character. Ren Faire Drill Sergeant. The Royal Queen of Queenliness. The Vizier. The Fates. OMG, the Fates. And there is no scenery left, because The Hag chewed it all to pieces.
The Quest airs on Thursdays at 8pm/7pm Central on ABC. As my sister said, it also replays on Hulu (though it’s on a one-week delay if you don’t have Hulu Plus). Click here if you want to check it out!
Oh, and if any producers are reading this, y’all totally need my sister for Season Two.
SPOILER WARNING. This is all about the series finale of How I Met Your Mother. Which aired a week ago. It’s taken me this long to process it enough to write a coherent blog post. If you haven’t seen the finale and want to see it unspoiled, DO NOT read further. Here’s another nice article I wrote about a popular sitcom. Go read that. Okay, you want the SPOILERS? You can have the SPOILERS. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
“So are you! Wait, why does that sound like an insult?”
~ Rosa Diaz and Amy Santiago, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
A couple weeks ago I delivered a rant about how most Latina characters on TV tend to fall into a few basic stereotypes: maids, immigrants or the daughters of immigrants, from the ghetto, thickly accented even when the actresses playing them aren’t, and hypersexualized in contrast to the prim and proper WASPs around them.
Most of the Latina characters I like fall into at least one of these. Even the ones that, overall, are unique and well-rounded. I can’t overstate my love for Betty Suarez from Ugly Betty. Betty is Jess from New Girl before Zooey Deschanel made that kind of character cool. But a major plotline in that series is the discovery that Betty’s immigrant father is undocumented. Carla Espinoza Turk from Scrubs is serious, responsible, a leader in a professional career, and attractive without being overtly sexualized. But, again, immigrant backstory, though at least her family is legal. Santana Lopez, one of my favorite characters on Glee, starts out overtly hypersexual in contrast with good blonde suburban Evangelical Quinn, whose sexuality is safely hidden under a facade of chastity clubs and purity balls. Santana’s arc is somewhat salvaged when it turns out that her earlier promiscuity was her attempt to convince herself she wasn’t a lesbian. She’s actually been pretty restrained in that regard since coming out. But, even though early episodes established that her father is a well-off doctor, in later episodes Santana claims residence in seedy, violent “Lima Heights Adjacent.” Yes, even small rural towns have a ghetto, because where else are the Latin@s supposed to live? Gloria Pritchett from Modern Family is funny, likable, and to be honest, a character I identify with in some ways. But she is pretty much the embodiment of every Latina stereotype in the history of television.
I’m throwing pinches of wood and knocking on salt as I write this, because even after an awesome first season, I’m still afraid Brooklyn Nine-Nine is going to to make a liar out of me in Season Two. But so far, Detective Amy Santiago is possibly the least stereotypical Latina character I’ve ever seen on TV. Like, ever.
Tonight is the night! After six years of idiocy and two years of cohabiting couplehood, Special Agent Seely Booth and Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan FINALLYYYYYYYYYY tie the knot. I thought I’d try something different for Media Monday in honor of these long-awaited nuptials. Instead of reviewing a single work, I’m going to fangirl about some of my favorite dynamic duos in current television. Note that I’ve used the word “pairs” in the title rather than “ships.” Some of these pairs are canon couples, some aren’t a couple in canon (YET) but I ship them anyway, and some have a platonic, familial bond that I love as is and wouldn’t want to turn into a romance. So, in no particular order of favoritism, read on, and do not disturb me tonight in the hour following 8pm/7pm Central on pain of death.
So far, Sleepy Hollow ties with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the Fall 2013 show I’m most excited about. Since it seems like everyone else has done Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I decided to start my Media Mondays prompt by reviewing Sleepy Hollow. And by reviewing, I mean shamelessly fangirling.
In this modern-day twist on Washington Irving’s classic, ICHABOD CRANE (Tom Mison, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”) is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers. Revived alongside Ichabod is the infamous Headless Horseman who is on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod quickly realizes that stopping Headless is just the beginning, as the resurrected rider is but the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and only one of the many formidable foes that Ichabod must face to protect not only Sleepy Hollow, but the world.
As Ichabod finds himself in 2013’s Sleepy Hollow, he discovers a town he no longer recognizes and grapples to understand. Teaming up with Lt. ABBIE MILLS (Nicole Beharie, “42,” “The Good Wife,” “Shame”), a young cop who has her own supernatural experiences, the two embark on a mission to stop the evil that has awoken along with Ichabod and that now is seeping into this once-sleepy town.
Clues from the past enlighten mysteries in the present, as each episode features a flashback to Ichabod’s life in 1776. Ripe with untold stories from American history and cloaked in mythology, the divide between present and past becomes dangerously blurred. Lives are in the balance, including that of Ichabod’s late wife, KATRINA (Katia Winter, “Dexter”), who is trapped in a mysterious netherworld. In his pursuit to save her, Ichabod uncovers secrets about her, leaving him with countless questions.
Not everyone believes Ichabod’s tales of 1776 and supernatural evils, especially the new head of Abbie’s police precinct, Captain FRANK IRVING (Orlando Jones, “The Chicago 8,” “Drumline”). When faced with bizarre events he can’t explain, Capt. Irving reluctantly turns to Ichabod and Abbie to investigate.
Ichabod’s extensive first-hand knowledge of our country’s hidden history, coupled with Abbie’s superior profiling and modern threat assessment skills, make them a formidable duo. The complex pasts of the pair, from Ichabod’s inclusion in the powerful and secretive Freemasons Society to Abbie’s childhood visions, will help them solve the intricate puzzles of Sleepy Hollow in order to protect its – and the world’s – future. As history repeats itself, the oddly-linked pair will draw on the real stories and secrets this nation was founded on in their quest to stop an increasingly vicious cycle of evil.
– Sleepy Hollow on FOX
Where to start. Okay, the premise. I love mythology (shocking, I know). Not just the stories themselves, but the concept of mythology and its role in a civilization. Washington Irving’s works are part of the mythological canon of the civilization that currently calls itself the United States of America. You don’t see American mythology in fantasy entertainment that often since it’s a pretty young civilization. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the apocalyptic aspect is uniquely American, we do love us some apocalypse. Seriously, there is nothing Americans can’t turn into The End of the World As We Know It. The Endtimes and seven-year tribulations haunted my childhood nightmares. Sure, TV shows about demon hunters bagging and tagging the monster-of-the-week have been done before, but on Sleepy Hollow, they’re hunting my demons.
And how about those demon hunters? We have a beautiful Brit from another era who is both a soldier and a scholar, paired with an equally beautiful policewoman who is a strong character without being a Strong Female Character™. Both have compelling backstories that make you want to learn more about their past, present, and future. Some fans are shipping Ichabod and Abbie, i.e. “Ichabbie,” already. Others want to see their relationship stay platonic. Personally, I could see it going either way (just PLEASE don’t screw up their dynamic by giving either one an unrequited crush on the other!). Their interactions are always fun to watch. They’re both quick with the snark without either one coming across as antagonistic or mean-spirited. There’s something rather endearing about Abbie’s efforts to help Ichabod acclimate to the 21st century. I have no idea why it’s so freakin’ cute when Ichabod calls Abbie “Leftenant,” but it is. Maybe it’s because it took an upper-class white man from the 18th century all of two minutes to accept a black woman as a gun-wielding, badge-wearing authority figure. (Oddly enough, he took longer to get over the fact that she wears trousers.) Abbie’s reaction when Ichabod proudly identifies as an abolitionist is priceless.
And, yeah, did I mention Abbie is black? Sleepy Hollow‘s cast is even more colorful than my other favorite Fox drama, Bones. Missing from the above image is a recurring antagonist played by John Cho, and Abbie’s ex-boyfriend (to whom she was not betrothed, TYVM) played by Nicholas Gonzales. It’s only been two episodes, so I knock on wood as I say this, but the non-white characters are as well-rounded as the white characters, not racial stock figures. And by that, I don’t mean that the show takes a “colorblind” approach and doesn’t acknowledge racial differences at all. Waking up to a diverse America with people of color in positions of power is a big part of Crane’s fish-out-of-water arc, perhaps highlighted by the fact that the ghost(?) of his late(?) wife Katrina is the only white person he really has consistent contact with. And the great thing is, Ichabod never appears bothered by the passage of the white establishment. The diversity in modern Sleepy Hollow is portrayed as fruition of the free, equal United States of America he was fighting to create.
Now, sales tax, that’s another story. Maybe Ichabod should go to Oregon and see what The Grimm is up to.
ETA 10/1/13 – I’m getting a lot of search engine hits from people asking why Ichabod calls Abbie “Leftenant,” so here it is: he’s calling her “Lieutenant” with the British pronunciation. It’s like how we pronounce the word “Colonel” with an R and no L in the middle. Want to read a discussion on how to say “Lieutenant” from The Guardian, a prominent UK news site? Click here.
The news of Cory Monteith’s tragic death was the last thing I read before I went to bed last night. An RIP post on Tumblr tipped me off. I Googled Cory’s name hoping to find it was a rumor or a hoax. Instead I found a full page of links confirming that this beautiful, talented man who was the same age as me had been found dead in his hotel room. I put my Heath Ledger flashbacks to rest, went to bed, and desperately hoped there was some chance I’d wake up to find out the whole thing was a rumor. Didn’t happen.
But that’s exactly the kind of thing that would happen on Glee. Glee, I don’t know how to tell you this because you apparently love making Very Special Episodes so much, but…you suck at it. You really, really suck at it. So far your numerous efforts have included a suicide episode with no suicide and a school shooting episode with no school shooting. To be fair, your heart attack episode and cancer episode did feature a real heart attack and real cancer, but the patient (the same guy? really? what did poor Burt Hummel ever do to you?) still turned out to be just fine in the end.
Glee, you cannot handle real, long-term, lasting tragedy. So please don’t try.
It’s not a bad thing. Like you’re constantly telling your characters and your audience, know who you are and embrace it. You are fun, campy, bubbly, over-the-top, ridiculous, not-remotely-reality-based escapism. That’s what I’ve always loved about you. When you play to your strengths, it’s wonderful. But when you try to be something you’re not, it’s painful for everyone. Not in the touching, poignant way you’re going for, but in a bad American Idol audition way. So, please, don’t try to deal with Cory Monteith’s death by dealing with Finn Hudson’s death. You cannot pull it off. You just can’t.
Especially after the train wreck that was Finn’s season 4 character arc. I spent the whole season trying to figure out what you were punishing Cory for. It felt like you were going out of your way to portray Finn as a loser. And you gave him such a strong send-off at the end of season 3. He set Rachel free to pursue her dreams and to explore the world outside of Lima, OH and McKinley High. He went off to do the same thing himself by following in his late father’s footsteps and joining the military. In his final moments Finn was the man he’d spent the last 3 years becoming. Even though I was a die-hard Finchel shipper, I thought that was the best ending you could’ve given them.
But, no. You had to bring Finn back just to show him as a pathetic slacker who’d gotten kicked out of the military, had no job prospects beyond those offered out of pity, tried college just to party, occasionally rejoined Rachel for weird scenes that made me wonder when he’d be wearing her face for a mask, and broke up his mentor’s impending marriage by kissing his fiancee. Please, Glee, I’m begging you, don’t let this be the way Finn’s story ends. Cory Monteith’s story was cut tragically short by terrible, self-destructive decisions. Finn Hudson’s doesn’t have to be. Give Finn the offscreen ending he deserves.
Last week I blogged about my take on princess culture and why I don’t hate it. Apparently Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor saw my post and thought, “Hey, this sounds like a timely topic! I think I’ll go on national television and address the nation about it.” (A blogger can dream, right?)
Judge Sotomayor comes to Sesame Street to explain the word “career.” She describes “career” as “a job that you train for and prepare for and plan on doing for a long time.” Muppet child Abby Cadabby immediately says she wants a career as a princess. Judge Sotomayor gently breaks it to Abby that “pretending to be a princess is fun, but it is definitely not a career.” She tells Abby that real careers that a girl like Abby can train for in real life include “a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, and even a scientist.” In the end, Abby decides that when she grows up, she wants to follow Judge Sotomayor’s footsteps and earn a career as a judge.
So, what did a self-described lover of all things pink and purple and princessy think of this little PSA?
I loved it.
I loved the fact that Judge Sotomayor did affirm that pretending to be a princess is fun. It is fun (if you like that kind of thing), and it is just pretend. That’s why I don’t think it’s all that big of a deal for little girls to play princess any more than it is to play knights or dragons or zombies or space aliens or whatever. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not that hard for kids to learn the difference between make-believe and reality. You can encourage imaginative play and still make sure children understand the difference between fantasy and reality.
Which is and isn’t what Judge Sotomayor did on Sesame Street. How many little girls or little boys are really going to grow up to become Supreme Court justices? You can only have nine at any given time, and one of them has to die or voluntarily resign for a spot to open up. So, in a way, Judge Sotomayor just replaced Abby’s completely unattainable fantasy with an almost completely unattainable fantasy.
And I love that.
A kid who’s capable of imagining herself as a fairy tale princess, something that’s not even real, is also a kid who’s capable of imagining herself as an engineer, a scientist, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, or a judge. Sure, her imaginings are probably as close to the real thing as her princess fantasies are to the life of The Lady Louise Windsor. But maybe as she grows up and she learns more things about the realities of those careers, she’ll keep the ability to imagine herself in them. The vision will change, but the power to believe it won’t.
When I was young enough for Sesame Street, I loved imagining I was a princess. And a dinosaur. And an alien. And a cowgirl. And a mermaid. And a fairy. And a Bedouin warrior. And a centaur. And an officer on the USS Enterprise. And Laura Ingalls Wilder. And Sacajawea. But most of all, I loved imagining that when I grew up, I’d be able to take all of my imaginings and show them to the world.
Hey, what do you know? Playing pretend did turn into a career.