TV Is Pissing Me Off

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These days, my husband is all about the Hulu.  We pay a ludicrous amount of money every month for cable, and, as he rightly points out, we watch maybe three broadcast shows a week. Why not lose cable and just do Hulu?  (We already have NetFlix; laws, do we have NetFlix, we couldn’t live without the NetFlix.) I’m the holdout; I’m the one who insists I need to watch those few shows as they air to make my life complete. (And most of them I live tweet, if anybody wants to watch with me: @lucybluecastle on Twitter.)  “No, no, no!” I shriek as he waves the cable bill under my nose, putting my fingers in my ears and chanting the theme music to Entertainment Tonight.  But two weeks into the new season for two of my favorites, I’m beginning to think he might be right.

Sleepy Hollow ended last season with so many heart-stopping cliffhangers, it got kinda silly.  Captain Irving’s going to prison! Abbie’s in Purgatory’s Playhouse! Ichabod is buried alive! Katrina is – oh hell, who cares?  Okay, okay, Katrina’s in the clutches of the Headless Horseman! (Not to be confused with the Horseman of War, aka John Noble, an actor way too good for TV in the first place who was given a fantastic character to start with which was then ripped into stupid pieces that still make no freakin sense – but more on that in a minute.) Jenny is dead on the highway! Clancy Brown still isn’t in it any more! Brooks’ neck skin is still giving me the creeps!

So last week, they had the season premiere, and the best thing I can think of to say about it is, Brooks’ neck skin seems to have healed up nicely, probably because he’s moving on to another show, and saggy neck skin just doesn’t work on a sitcom (just ask Courtney Cox).  It’s not that the episode was bad; it just didn’t have fuck all to do with anything that came before it.  All the cliffhangers were resolved in the most unimaginative way possible (or not resolved at all – I strongly protest the fact that nobody even MENTIONED Captain Irving until Episode 2).  And everything I care about in the on-going narrative (the relationship between Abbie and Ichabod, Irving’s struggle to protect his child, the FACT THAT THE END OF THE WORLD IS APPARENTLY UNDERWAY) kinda got swept aside so we could watch them continue to ruin Henry’s character and try to write their way out of the plot black hole that is Katrina. Why in East Hell would you cast John Noble as a Sin Eater, then make him the old guy incarnation of a child character who was barely a Damian-rip-off blip on last season’s storyline?  By Episode 2, he was reduced to fighting his battles by proxy through evil magic armor–one of the great baddies of our age reduced to wielding the Kinect from Hell.

And then there’s Katrina. Full disclosure: I have never liked this character, and not just because I “‘ship” Abbie and Ichabod. First of all, the flawless expositionary hot chick from beyond the pale has always bored the pants off me as a plot device, and Katrina ain’t breaking much new ground. In fact, the writers don’t seem able to settle on exactly who she is beyond “Ichabod’s beloved wife, the witch.” She started out as a kind of Hester Prynne/Witch of Blackbird Pond/Kelly McGillis in Witness kind of dream date, a meek Quaker beauty in a snow white cap hiding great power behind her luminous blank stare. Then we decided the Headless Horseman was really Abraham the Tory, rival of Ichabod for her affections, and she became a discontented 18th-century glamour puss, Rose in Titanic crossed with Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons. Now, apparently, she’s going to be a mole among the undead ghoulies, Mata Hari in Purgatory.

What-the-fuck-ever.  In barest fact, she is exactly what she always was from the very beginning–a reason to keep the romantic tension between Ichabod and Abbie from moving past a certain point until ratings dictate it’s time.  Last night’s convoluted explanation as to why she has to stay in Purgatory and vamp the Horseman was the stupidest thing I’ve seen on TV in a while, and I watched the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover.

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And The Big Bang Theory was even worse.  Once again, Chuck Lorre and his brain trust have created a warm, smart, funny community of characters I love for their ability to love one another as much as their quirkiness, then have decided to turn them all into mean-spirited, self-involved assholes. I’m not a big fan of fan service (ask anybody who watched the latest season of Sherlock within earshot of me) but I hate it even more when writers/producers/creators decide to spit back at the fandom they feel is oppressing them by making fun of everything they want.  “I want to have coitus with Amy” was the most hateful slap this crew has delivered to their audience since Rose shoved Charlie in front of the Metro.  Don’t mistake me; I don’t think Sheldon and Amy need to have sex.  I didn’t think Sheldon and Amy ever needed as clearly defined a romantic relationship as they have right now. But this whoopee cushion of a joke at the expense of the audience’s expectations took the already-queasy way they make fun of Amy’s sexuality down to a whole new low.  The characters deserve better, and so do we.

The big question after last night (because as with Sleepy Hollow, nothing from the big emotional cliffhanger finale amounted to a hill of beans) seems to be will Leonard and Penny break up again.  Jeebus give me strength.  Leonard and Penny’s relationship is the linchpin of this entire show (and yeah, I like Bernadette and Howard better, too; that’s not the point).  Leonard’s desire to nail Penny from the moment he saw her is the “big bang” of the title.  (And the crassness of that joke ought to be a clue to people like me who want something deeper and more delicate that we’re whistling in the wind.)  The reason I love the show enough to pay too much for cable is the way they’ve brought these two people who were predestined by their creators to never sync up into a relationship together.  Their arc isn’t just funny.  It feels real; they’ve earned their love, to use a romance writer’s phrase. And if show makers split them up again to keep the engine chugging down the track for three more seasons, it will break my heart.

Every one of these actors has done a brilliant job of creating a unique character that has grown and evolved over time and made connections with one another. Please, Lorre & Co., don’t fuck’em over now. Don’t piss it all away.

Sleepy Hollow: All I expected and just enough more

sleepy hollowNot that anybody cares, but Washington Irving’s original “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was not a scary story.  Not remotely gothic beyond some lovely travelogue-like description of the Hudson River Valley, it’s an early American satire, a comedy about how the salt of the earth manly men of an American wilderness town turn an artistic, intellectual, woman-stealing nancy boy’s own poetical imagination against him to run him out of their territory and away from their potential mates.  There was no headless horseman, and Ichabod Crane was nobody’s idea of a hero.  Disney did a pretty straightforward cartoon adaptation as far as story, but the imagery of the Headless Horseman was so deliciously scary, nobody remembers he was a fake.  Johnny Depp, with his portrayal of “Ichabod Crane, Girl Detective” (his words, not mine, and utterly perfect), hit close to Washington Irving’s original skittish schoolmaster in his mannerisms, but he was a forensic detective who pushed past his fear to kick ass when courage was required, saving the day in the end.  And oh yeah, the Horseman really was an evil Redcoat from beyond the grave.  And there were witches.

FOX’s new series, Sleepy Hollow, seems to pick up where Tim Burton left off, adding a time link element to this new Horseman mythology.  Ichabod is a Revolutionary soldier/spy who looks like he stepped off the cover of a nicely-designed 1980s romance novel.  He finds himself in the Sleepy Hollow of today, a fish out of water with Oxford diction, allied with Abbie, a gorgeous lady cop in mannish clothes that show off her cleavage, a pretty pro straight out of the Dana Scully playbook.  Watching the promos, I anticipated one more network supes show where the Magic Man spends half his time trying to convince Miz Pragmatic he’s not crazy and Miz Pragmatic spends half her time with her head in her purse.  But they’ve got sexual tension and a pile of corpses to explain, so gosh darn it, they better team up.  <yawn>  I mean, just look at that promo picture – could those four characters look any more focus group ready?

But  . . . . I watched the first two episodes.  And while yeah, it starts out very much as expected, it veers straight off that rail and into fun stuff almost immediately.  Ichabod (Tom Mison) is stalwart and intense and handsome, yes.  But he’s also snarky and warm and ready to fight back not only against the Headless Horseman but against the modern day skeptics who think he’s delusional and possibly dangerous.  Abbie (Nicole Beharie) is smart and capable and rocks the hell out of a scoop neck teeshirt.  But she’s also kind and vulnerable in a genuinely womanly way (not the “she goes in the bathroom and cries for ten minutes every day about her ticking biological clock just to prove she has a uterus” way writers of this kind of show usually fall back on) with her own connection to the supernatural events that’s just as real and strong as Ichabod’s.  Plus we have Orlando Jones as the usual doubting cop in charge – except this time, he may have a secret of his own, a reason for roadblocking our protagonists that goes beyond the “I’m too cynical for this shit” cliché.  And John Cho is wandering around as a zombie cop with connections to the Horseman.  And best of all, Clancy Brown haunts the warmest corners of the story as the ghost of Abbie’s mentor, the late sheriff and the Horseman’s highest profile victim.  Any show that uses Clancy Brown as a good guy pretty much has me at hello.

There are problems – I’m not convinced yet by the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” angle (must the stakes ALWAYS be the end of the world?), and Ichabod’s witch wife, caught between worlds, seems more like a plot complication created to keep the leads from smooching until sweeps month than a necessary element of the story.  But of all the new shows I had hope for this fall (I’m looking at you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D), this one has been the happiest surprise.

Watch tonight at 9 o’clock on FOX – and come over and live Tweet with me (@LucyBlueCastle)!