All Creatures Great and Small versus Miss Scarlet

All Creatures Great and Small

The PBS shows All Creatures Great and Small and Miss Scarlet wrapped up this weekend and their run gives me a chance to speak on their relative merits. I think a fair analysis of the two shows is in order because Miss Scarlet clearly has a Woke Agenda while All Creatures Great and Small displays many of the themes associated with that movement but with a significantly gentler touch.

The problem is that Miss Scarlet isn’t very good, in fact I’d argue it’s awful, while All Creatures Great and Small is rather a delight. Because of the Woke Agenda displayed by Miss Scarlet I suspect many detractors will lay blame on this theme while apologists will defend the show’s shortcomings as actual strengths.

I’d like to take a more objective look at the two shows and what makes All Creatures Great and Small what I would call good and Miss Scarlet bad. I’ve spoken of subjective and objective in other places so I won’t go deeply into them here.

What makes a show objectively good? Characters, cinematography, plot, theme, acting, directing, the ending, and other elements; not our subjective desires for a show to be good or bad.

The characters in Miss Scarlet are strikingly one dimensional. We know little about the titular character other than she was raised by a father and wants to be a detective. We know even less about The Duke, her love interest. Meanwhile, James, Tristan, Siegfried, Helen, and even the minor characters of Hugh, Mrs. Hall, Mrs. Pumphrey, and a host of others are more fleshed out than the main characters of Miss Scarlet. I have more empathy for the farmers whose cow is sick than I do for Miss Scarlet. One farmer stays up all night rubbing salve on his sick charge and that tells me more about him and his wife, who never lets James leave without a meat pie or two, than I know about anyone in Miss Scarlet. The most developed characters in Miss Scarlet are her patron and Moses, two side characters. Sadly, the director apparently chose to have Moses speak with such a heavy Jamaican accent I often don’t know what he is saying.

The chemistry between the Miss Scarlet and the Duke is akin to Anakin and Leah if you’ll permit me a Star Wars reference. I’m mystified as to why anyone would be attracted to either of them other than their appearance. Meanwhile the tension between James and Helen is palpable from the start. They care about the same things, they ask one another questions, they show interest in each other’s lives, if they bicker it’s just a good-natured jibe here or there, not a constant bombardment of quips designed to show us how clever is the writer. Even Hugh, the romantic rival, is portrayed as a real human being who cares deeply about Helen.

The acting in Miss Scarlet is atrocious. Both main actors display no range of emotion and their constant flirt/bickering takes the tension out of every scene that is designed to be tense. Someone is pointing a gun at them, time to throw quips at each other and grin condescendingly. Meanwhile I can’t think of a bad performance in All Creatures Great and Small. Tristan starts out as an obnoxious, entitled, moron, and by the end he is a lovable, if flawed, fellow. The minor characters are believable and add to the show at every step.

The music in Miss Scarlet is overbearing and attempts to force us into emotions. It’s time for action, time for fear, time for joy. It’s loud and obtrusive. I barely notice the music in All Creatures Great and Small. It is subtle and enhances a scene rather than dominating it.

The cinematography in Miss Scarlet is boringly repetitive. Almost every shot in the entire series is a front on close-up of a character as she or he speak. Not to mention the bleak, dark, washed out background which are clearly designed to contrasts with what must be the focus of our attention, the vivid and bright Miss Scarlet. The vibrant country life depicted in All Creatures Great and Small is colorful and stunning although some scenes are dark and gray as appropriate. It is never dull, predictable sameness. Just look at the images I picked for this blog. One is sterile and one is filled with life.

The sets in Miss Scarlet are stark and tell us little about the inhabitants. There are few nick-nacks on shelves, few paintings on the walls, few personal items scattered about. Even Miss Scarlet’s office has barely a picture of the father who supposedly so influenced her. Meanwhile the sets of All Creatures are filled with personal objects from the opulence of Mrs. Pumphrey’s house to the peeling wallpaper in the home of the interracial couple whose dog is having trouble with her puppies. I believe real people live here, people with lives outside of the shot required for the show.

The story in Miss Scarlet makes little sense and the finale was so convoluted I completely lost track of what was happening. It was as if multiple pertinent scenes were left on the cutting room floor. As an example, Miss Scarlet has been put in a cell for her protection, although it’s not clear why the villain wants to harm her, and suddenly, she is in the detective’s office working on solving the case.

The story in All Creatures Great and Small certainly takes liberties with reality in order to further the plot but largely remains believable. I was regularly unsure of what would happen next. Would Helen go through with the marriage, would James turn around, would the cow die? I didn’t know and I was invested in finding out.

The ultimate villain in Miss Scarlet is sprung on us at the last second and I’m not even sure why or how he managed it all. So much was unexplained I was left utterly baffled and dissatisfied. The ending in All Creatures Great and Small was bittersweet and totally in line with all the events that happened before it. I was left satisfied even though there was no final resolution.

In an English period piece, the clothing and scenery is almost always fantastic but in Miss Scarlet the tone was dark, darker, darkest with little of London on display. The clothes, you ask? Miss Scarlet and the Duke are always impeccably dressed in clothes that look like they just came from the tailor, this despite having been locked in a dirty cell all night or having been investigating in filthy brothels for hours. Speaking of brothels, I was instantly turned off to Miss Scarlet when she threatened to burn down the brothel and kill dozens of working girls and patrons because Moses stole her purse. I mean, she’s vile and selfish, she doesn’t think about others. Why would I like her?

Meanwhile the wardrobes in All Creatures Great and Small looked like clothes people actually wore all day. People got dressed up for fancy events but it was clear their fineries were not new from the tailor. Shirts look rumpled and lived in. Everything looked alive and real, as if these were real people from real life who happened to come across the camera that day.

I’ve gone on too long. You can certainly subjectively like Miss Scarlet and the Duke and subjectively dislike All Creatures Great and Small. That’s your decision to make. However, an objective look at the elements of both shows comes to but a single conclusion.

Tom Liberman

Batwoman Criticism Legitimate or anti-Woke Propaganda?

Batwoman

The second season of Batwoman on The CW is getting universally bad reviews for any number of reasons but is any of it simply anti-Woke backlash? What makes this interesting for me is that I’m just about ready to write a negative review about Miss Scarlett and the Duke which also includes a Woke objective.

This is a real problem when a television show or movie is objectively bad and is also being used as a platform for social issues. When someone like me; as white, male, and privileged as you can find in the world, writes negative thoughts about Miss Scarlett there often follows accusations of being hostile toward such social issues.

When someone like HeelvsBabyface, Nerdrotic, or TheCriticalDrinker makes similar complaints about Batwoman, they sometimes come across as anti-Woke rather than simply critical of the show in question. The show has numerous problems but the focus of the criticisms from people often is the subversion of good writing and logical plotlines in order to present Woke issues. The fact the producers of some of these show state quite clearly this is their objective muddies the water further.

The reviewers I’ve listed above are rather caustic in their tone and brutal in their assessments and do come across, fairly or unfairly, as anti-Woke. Ryan George of Pitch Meeting fame is far gentler in his criticism and includes a great deal of humor which makes him appear less negative.

This all leads to the answer of my question if the criticism of Batwoman is legitimate or simply the raving of anti-Woke activists. It’s both and it’s neither. Some of the criticism is certainly coming from an anti-Woke bias while a great deal of the criticism is legitimate and concerns other problems with the shows in question. Who gets to decide which is which? You. That’s the point here.

There is no question that raging Incel, anti-Woke nut jobs look to certain videos as validation for their misogynistic and misguided hatred. There is also no debate that some of the people who watch these reviews are not so inclined.

If a reviewer has a caustic and negative style that’s their business. Perhaps they do have an anti-Woke bias against Batwoman or perhaps they just find the show intolerably bad regardless of its Woke agenda. You get to watch the reviewer you want to watch and if you think they are overtly anti-Woke then stop watching. If you like the reviews, continue to watch.

I like to consider myself Woke and my novels address some of those self-same issues although I try to put logic, plot, character arc, and general theme above those ideologies. I also think my upcoming negative review of Miss Scarlett is not based on the Woke aspect of the show but other elements that are sorely lacking.

The question of Anti-Woke or legitimate review is largely for you to decide for yourself. I can’t decide for you, nor do I want to make such an attempt.

Tom Liberman

Nobody Thought they were Truman Burbank before Television

Truman Burbank

There are a number of people who think they are the subject of a Reality Show much like Truman Burbank from the Truman Show. They are delusional, certainly, but what is undeniable is that no one had such a mental delusion prior to the invention of television. Even after the invention of television it was not a heard about mental problem until after the Truman Show became part of the public conscious. What does that tell us about the human mind?

It wasn’t until H. G. Wells wrote the War of the Worlds that people began to see aliens and UFOs. No one saw a leprechaun until they read, or were told, about them first. This is reality, a concept from which the people who suffer these delusions are somewhat divorced. But then, aren’t we all? Our memories are faulty, our senses unreliable, and our confirmation bias on high alert most of the time. It’s no wonder people think they are the subject of a reality television show.

I have a friend who, despite being apparently sane, intelligent, and rational, firmly believes he is the subject of an alien experiment where he is the only “real” person on the planet and everyone else is part of the research. Is he insane? Or is his delusional normal? Is everyone delusional to some degree or another? Is he Truman Burbank?

We are, undeniably, the center of our own universe, just like Truman Burbank. When someone I know moves to a location beyond my ability to sense them, they essentially disappear. I have no idea what they are doing or how they are conducting their life until I see them again. We are, equally undeniably, not the center of the real universe. We are not the subject of alien experimentation or the star of a television show in which the rest of reality is an illusion designed to fool us.

What happens that causes people like my friend, or those with the Truman Delusion, to lose their grip on reality? If they continue to function in normal society, is it really that damaging? Do we not have functioning drug and alcohol addicts around us every day? If they can manage to keep their delusion, or addiction, from putting them in a mental hospital, what harm is there?

I’m not going to write a dissertation on these many questions. I think the problems of mental health and self-delusion are complex and not easily addressed. I’ll try to sum up my thoughts in a reasonable way.

I think we should all strive to do a better job of being critical thinkers. I am not Truman Burbank and neither are you. Don’t believe what you want because it boosts your ego, trust what evidence shows is the most probable truth. Be a critical thinker.

Take this attitude toward all things in life. What car to buy. What food to eat. For what politician to vote. What novel to read.

Tom Liberman

Are you Still Paying for TV? Why?

Cable TV SubscribersI just read an absolutely fascinating article from the financial world about how the television business is having a dismal year and the future looks bad.

The reason I found the article fascinating is that it completely agrees with everything I’ve been saying about those who make content and those who deliver it to the consumers. Here’s a hint for anyone that wants to be my friend, just tell me I’m amazingly smart and always right!

Massive ego aside, I did want to take a quick look at what the metrics from this article mean about our future consumption of content. What I think is happening is that there is a growing separation between those who create content and the companies that distribute it to us. In the past these two industries were often combined. The networks, studios, publishers, and labels created the content and delivered it to us.

With wireless internet becoming more universally available and with devices that can take advantage of that medium becoming almost ubiquitous we are seeing a trend where people consume content when they want and where the want. That content is no longer tied to a provider.

I’ve been hammering away for years that the major content creators should simply give up on delivering content. They should give their content away for free to the providers and get revenue each time someone consumes content.

Naturally there has been reluctance to accept this business model. The content creators had huge revenue streams through their delivery arms.

What is happening now is that people don’t want to pay for access and subscribers are falling. They want to pay for individual items they purchase. We don’t pay to have access to the grocery store, we pay for the items we buy. As times goes on fewer and fewer people will have dedicated television or internet devices. All media will be delivered electronically to whatever device we are viewing at that moment. We will pay for this by watching advertisements and possibly some monthly fee. Advertisers will pay the content providers a certain amount per view. The content providers will then pass along a share to the content creators.

As it stands, when I see my favorite shows being pulled from Hulu, my favorite sporting events being pulled from ESPN3 I get angry. However, I see a bright future for me and others who enjoy content. No longer will we be tied to a service. I will watch what I want, when I want. Those that provide popular content to the largest audience will get the lion’s share of the revenue.

The content creators will open their vast libraries to Hulu, Netflix, ESPN3, and other providers that will arise in the future.

New content creators will arise, regular people who write their own amazing Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels for example! People will consume what we want at a reasonable price.

There will be more success stories like Felicia Day. Regular people will be able to showcase their talents directly. More content, more creativity, more variety, more goodness!

Children will dance in the streets. Dogs and cats will live in harmony. The Cardinals will win the World Series every year (darn you and your beards; evil Red Sox).

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Kill all the Chinese and Fire Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel as HitlerI’m not exactly certain how I missed this earth shattering story but apparently a segment of the Chinese-American community is incensed about what a kid said during a Jimmy Kimmel show.

Kimmel has a Kids’ Table segment where he asks young children questions about serious issues the nation and world face. In this case he asked what the country should do about the $1.3 trillion we owe to China.

One young fellow decided that killing all the Chinese was a reasonable solution. Kimmel tried to suggest that perhaps this wasn’t the best idea but quickly moved on to other suggestions. One young girl argued rather persuasively that if we tried to kill all the Chinese they would try to kill us back and that might not be good. The boy countered with the idea that the Chinese would all be dead by that time so we had nothing to fear. In other words, children lobbing childish ideas. It was all rather humorous, if a bit dark.

In the ensuing outrage Kimmel offered an apology for offending anyone of Asian or Chinese heritage. He expressed the idea that the show merely meant to entertain. That they don’t control or condone what the children say.

This apology apparently did not go over well with as many as 1,500 people protesting outside the ABC studio where his show is produced. Jimmy is accused of teaching kids hatred, promoting genocide, and being a general Hitler like figure in the world. A petition to fire Kimmel was posted on the White House website and has generated a significant number of signatures.

I suppose the idea is that Kimmel should have stopped the segment and gotten into a serious discussion about how genocide against the largest population on earth was not a good idea. He laughed, he told them it was a bad idea, they’re kids. End of story.

A large part of me wants to think the entire protest is actually just an attempt at humor but apparently it is not.

I don’t even know how to respond. Should I try logical arguments about how kids say silly things they don’t mean all the time? That kids often say illogical and ridiculous things. Should I point out that Kimmel laughed it off and tried to explain why the idea was bad? Should I tell people being overly sensitive does their various causes no good? Should I try to write a dissertation about humor?

I’m stumped.

I will make one suggestion and I’ve made it before. I’m of Jewish heritage and history is my favorite subject. I know a thing or two about Hitler and the Nazi party. How in the early 1930’s young German women were paraded around town tied to polls and physically assaulted because they refused to call off engagements to young German Jews. How citizens were beaten and even killed for not giving the Hitler salute during parades. How they rounded up disabled children telling parents the children were being taken to schools where they would be treated with the latest medicine, and then killed them.

My advice, don’t compare Jimmy Kimmel to a Nazi, to Hitler. You don’t win me over.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Bad TV wins – why?

Don't trust the B in Apt 23I don’t watch a tremendous amount of television but there are a few shows on Hulu that I watch with regularity and something recently happened that, once again, caused me to question the rationality of television executives. Over the years we’ve all seen great shows get cancelled while shows not as good continue on. Sometimes it’s purely a ratings decision but I’m going to examine the situation a little more closely today.

Why is a good show cancelled and what is it that we call good?

The incident that brought about this examination was the cancellation of the show Don’t Trust the B* in Apt 23 while a somewhat similar sitcom called New Girl continues on. Apt 23 was regularly hilarious, generally funny, and occasionally stupid as cutting edge comedies often are. New Girl is almost always stupid punctuated by moments of funny. Apt 23 is well written and well acted. New Girl is poorly written with nonsensical situations highlighted by overacting and tired jokes. Yet, Apt 23 is gone and New Girl is highly touted by the network. Why?

The network spokespeople will suggest it is all about ratings but I’m not so sure that’s the case. See Firefly or American Gothic and even now Community for examples of a network mishandling a show with time slot changes, episodes shown out-of-order, lack of promotional activity, and other seemingly destructive policies.

As I try to be a rational thinker I want to examine some possibilities on the cancellation that don’t have to do with ratings. Perhaps a rational television executive crunched the numbers, the show production cost, distribution, long-term salaries, and weighed that against revenue, media sales of episodes already finished, and other factors. Is it possible that Apt 23 will make more money in DVD sales than it would have made if it continued in production for four more seasons? I don’t know the answer but it’s possible I suppose. Did the executive try to pick up Krysten Ritter in a bar and was shot down in humiliating fashion? It’s possible. Does the executive’s son hate James Van der beek? I don’t know, maybe?

Next we have to examine the idea of good. Is good a completely relative term? Just because I think Apt 23 hilarious and New Girl painfully bad; is this objectively true? Certainly there are those who think New Girl is hilarious and those who probably didn’t like Apt 23. I like to think there is an objective good. One joke is funny and another is not. Any comedian will tell you that certain jokes get laughs and others don’t.

What are the factors that make a television show good or entertaining? Funny jokes, a plot that is logically accurate to itself even if far-fetched and fantastic, see Big Trouble in Little China. Actors who effectively convince you that they are the character they are portraying. Sometimes called good acting. Good camera work. A thematic structure to each episode and the show in general. Dialog that is crisp. Characters that are consistent. I think all these things objectively define good even if people don’t always come to that conclusion. I think we can define Apt 23 as good and New Girl as bad.

That being my opinion I’m deeply saddened by the cancellation of Apt 23. I think about all the episodes of Firefly that were never made. I’m the loser because of this, I’m less entertained. I would argue that our society is the loser when bad wins out over good. Maybe it’s not a big a deal when it comes to entertainment but maybe it is. Maybe every time bad wins out over good we are all diminished.

Of course, there’s the possibility that New Girl is a great show and I’m just deluding myself.

Wouldn’t it be great if better always won out over worse? What would your world be like if everything that was better succeeded? That’s the ultimate goal of the Randian objectivist. I’m sure it’s not possible but I won’t stop striving. I hope you don’t either. And I hope a young network employee reads this and goes on to become an important executive.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Home Team Blackouts

BlackoutIt was a happy day for me when my Uverse was finally installed after much bickering with AT&T. I gave up my television years ago and streaming sports on ESPN3 was choppy and Hulu television troublesome on my old DSL connection.

My beloved World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals are in Spring Training as I write this and I haven’t been able to watch most of their games for the last couple of years. I certainly got my high-speed connection for a number of reasons and watching the Birds on the Bat was one of those.

Major League Baseball offers an internet package where, for $124.99, you can watch every game of every team streaming on your computer, tablet, phone or other device. Imagine my joy. I get to watch my World Series Champion Cardinals play every game! Then I clicked on the little blackout link and read this:

All live games on MLB.TV and available through MLB.com At Bat are subject to local blackouts. Such live games will be blacked out in each applicable Club’s home television territory, regardless of whether that Club is playing at home or away.

It goes on to mention the blackout applies even if the game isn’t televised. Home or away? Televised or not? Sold-out or not? I can’t watch the Cardinals!?

I’ve got $124.99 burning a hole in pocket to watch the 11 time World Series Champion Cardinals. Take my money, please?

Ok, wait, catching breath, bulging eyes recessing, fist pounding abating, let’s look at this rational, from a critical perspective. Perhaps MLB is justified in this policy. Think, Tom, don’t scream and rant like a radio talk-show host who would sell his mother into slavery to get a ratings point.

First stop, MLB Blackout policy page of Wikipedia. Have I mentioned my love of Wikipedia? Calmly reading. Keep blood pressure under wraps. Learn rational reasons behind policy. Keep calm … calm … soft music … calming waves … soothing … EXCLUSIVE TERRITORIAL RIGHTS! What? What? What?

Do we live in Communist Russia? Wait, stop , be rational, Russia isn’t communist any more … Do we live in Communist China? Socialism? Media control? Freedom Revoked?

Ok, breath slowly, long breaths, I mean, technically, television broadcast in St. Louis city could somehow be seen to be owned by the local team … the ENTIRE STATE OF IOWA blacked out for Cardinals, Cubs, Twins, Royals, White Sox and Brewers. HEAD EXPLODING!

Freedom being taken away, grab rifle, oh wait unarmed, maybe good thing, calm, calm, soothing sounds, ocean, babbling brook.

I know, let’s look at the easy to understand map of blackouts … ARGHHH … BUNNIES MUST DIE … DIE … DIE!!

Wipe frothing away from mouth, think happy thoughts, don’t kick cat, it’s going to be all right. There has to be a rational explanation, doesn’t there?

What is the idea? Ok, here we go, a broadcaster pays for the right to exclusively show the games on their channel. That’s capitalism, NBC shows, CBS shows, FOX shows. But, wait, don’t they stream on Hulu? I mean, the idea is get as much revenue as possible, isn’t it? Isn’t my $124.99 lost revenue? There are plenty of World Series Champion Cardinals fans all over from the great states of Iowa, Arkansas, Tennesse, Kentucky, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Southern Illinois, isn’t that a lot of $124.99s? Wouldn’t it be easy for MLB to distribute a percentage of that money to the broadcasters? I mean, that’s a lot of lost revenue.

If you think I’m a diehard Cardinals fan you haven’t been to Germantown, Illinois! You haven’t been to Busch Stadium after a Cardinals win to see a family of four, kids decked out in Cardinal gear, taking pictures for their once a year trip to St. Louis from Lawton, Oklahoma to see the Birds on the Bat.

This policy is denying all those fans the opportunity to watch the Cardinals. It is denying the children of die-hard Cardinals fans from all over the midwest the chance to learn, like their parents, to love the best team in baseball (Shut yer yaps, yuse Yankee bums). It is killing marketing, it is throwing money away! Do you not want more fans?

Why are the Cardinals so beloved all over the midwest and beyond? Because KMOX radio was a clear channel signal that broadcast the games to all those areas, that’s why. Now, we live in the television era and you want to LIMIT BROADCASTING of games only to areas nowhere near the actual team? Where does that make any sense? MLB, broadcasters, work out a deal, there is money on the table. There are millions of fans waiting to be made. This is capitalism! This is marketing. This is America! Isn’t it?

Why does Fox Sports Midwest care where anyone watches the game? My tv, my computer, my phone, my tablet? It doesn’t make any sense! You want more audience, do you hear me, MORE AUDIENCE! Not less. More. Do you see? Hands shaking … must calm down.

Shower, must have cold shower, brain exploding, stupid, morons, idiots, more audience, spasm-spasm, more audience, more revenue, spasm-spasm, can’t understand, does not compute, spasm-twitch-spasm-twitch-twitch-spasm … more audience … more revenue … twitch-spasm-spasm.

Tom Liberman