Tag Archives: TV

Things we come back to

My consumption and frankly obsession with media tends to be cyclical. I’m really into something for a couple of weeks, then it dies down for a little while, then often it comes back. I think some of this is encouraged by streaming services like Netflix, where you can simulate the cable TV model by watching a season of a show obsessively for a week or two, then catch it next year. Some interests are more sustained (like Star Trek), but even these wax and wane.

My current cycle seems to be watching things I watched years ago, in part again because of Netflix. And I realized that there’s a taxonomy of how we evaluate things we go back to. On the left hand side are things that on a second viewing we don’t like, and on the right are things we do like. I would further sub-divide likes and don’t likes into two categories:


  • Pleasant Surprise – It’s as good as I remember it.
  • Nostalgic – I like this, but probably wouldn’t if I was seeing it for the first time now.

Don’t Likes

  • Tastes Change – I may be able to understand why I liked this in the past, but I don’t now.
  • Holy Crap – What the hell was I thinking?

Some examples from my recent viewing (with the exception of Chapelle which was a few years ago):

Red vs Blue – Watched this pretty obsessively through college, one 3 minute episode at a time. The first five “seasons” are on Netflix, and even though I cringe at the distinction of this being the longest running sci-fi series (at 11 seasons and counting), these first seasons are as good as I remember. Sure the language is crude (sometimes imaginatively so), but the pacing and building storyline are hilarious even when I know what’s coming. (Pleasant Surprise)

Chapelle Show – Another college show. Maybe this one was more of its moment than I realized, because watching it again I couldn’t stand it. It was crude, it was gross, and it wasn’t nearly as clever as Key & Peele. I had bought the first season cheap out of memory, and promptly resold it. (Holy Crap)

Batman: The Animated Series – It’s a kid’s show and I am one of those people who contend cartoons were better in my day, based on my limited knowledge of current TV. This show shaped my perception of what Batman should be, and some of them are really quite good to go back to. But the dialogue is definitely a little hokey in spots and it lacks the stakes of more mature Batman tales told in the comics. This one’s somewhere between Nostalgic and Pleasant Surprise.

The Rescuers – What can I say, I love Bob Newhart. And it’s the rare Disney movie that doesn’t involve saving a princess and actually shows a woman (admittedly a mouse) being fun loving and capable, and even having to encourage her more nervous partner into bolder steps. I would love to show these movies to my kids someday. (Pleasant Surprise)

Foamy (Neurotically Yours) – This one’s a little trickier because I already sensed the quality dipping when I was watching this (again back in college). But truthfully as I get older I find less of this funny and just crude and gross, and occasionally sexually creepy. I still love the Matrix one, and the burping one about (when’s the last time I had a f-ing hot dog) but that’s about it. This one is somewhere between Holy Crap and Tastes Change.

I could go on, but I’d love to hear from you. What have you gone back to recently and how have you reacted to it? Where does that show, comic book, video game, book, or movie fall on the taxonomy?

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Filed under Round-Ups

We’ll Meet Again

For those of you who are fans of Kubrick’s classic Dr. Strangelove, I just got a tune stuck in your head.

There’s a moment in TV shows, movies and video games that I always like. Something is happening that is bad, be it a brutal fight, a building falling down, or the world being destroyed in a nuclear holocaust and instead of playing intense music in the background, something cheerful is playing.

This is best explained with examples:

  • In the opening scene in Watchmen, the Comedian is brutally beaten and thrown out a window, all while Unforgettable by Nat King Cole is being played.
  • In Metropolis (the anime movie), as the Ziggurat (a huge tower) is destroyed we hear not the bombs or the twisting metal, but “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles.
  • In Dr. Strangelove the ending is dozens of nuclear explosions, signifying the end of the world, all while someone sings “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when. But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.”

I love this to the point where I have even imagined a character who acts as a mafia assassin while Abba music is playing. Can’t you just see it? Someone is riddled with bullets while “Dancing Queen” is played?

Okay, that’s pretty macabre and it’s not exactly what I mean.

I like the contrast of something sweet and something scary. This last week while I’ve been sitting in the living room with the dog I’ve been playing BioShock, which is chock full of moments like this one. The whole game is set to the tune of 1940s standards including the apt “Somewhere, beneath the sea” (the game takes place in Rapture, and underwater dystopia). It’s gotten to the point that when I first entered a room and heard the strains of “Danny Boy” I swore, knowing that something terrible was going to be just around the corner.

So this got me thinking, is there a way to do this in writing?

I guess tone would be the closest analog to actual music. Your character can be the sing-song cheerful type who describes an imploding building with glee, but this doesn’t feel quite right. Again it’s macabre, and fundamentally I don’t think this moment is macabre, but strangely apt. The perfectly executed moments like this in cinema make you feel like there couldn’t have been any other music underneath them.

You could talk about an actual song playing and try to get people to think about that contrast in their heads, but that feels a little too much like screenplay writing as opposed to actual fiction writing. You’re looking for a bizarre juxtaposition, but not one that seems loony or completely off the wall either. It has to fit.

Well, more often than not I write these posts without a particular conclusion in mind. This is just one of those problems I’ll toss into the back of my sub-conscious and see if I can come up with anything. In the meantime, however, have you ever read a story that creates this kind of a moment? How about more of your favorites from TV and film?


Filed under Writing