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In other news: Jesus Fucking Christ, Gilmore Girls, what the Hell are you thinking? Tonight we learn that Lane, whom I was previously annoyed at for not even considering an abortion, is having twins. And now that they've shown us a sonogram of the twins, had her tell Mrs. Kim, and now that we've seen her pregnant, there's no possible way they'll have her abort the unwanted children. Gluh.

And I don't even want to talk about the ending. For Pete's sake.

Unmentionables on Gilmore Girls


**This post contains spoilers for the most recent Gilmore Girls episode!**

I forgot Gilmore Girls was on and missed the first half of tonight's episode, so maybe this was covered then, rendering this whole post irrelevant, but...

Given that Lane is nothing but upset about this baby, given that Zack isn't keen on it either, given that both Lane and Zack are young and this pregnancy is unexpected and they're entirely unsure that they want to do this, and given that the entire Lane plot this episode consisted of her stressing and complaining about finding out that she's pregnant to a variety of young, socially-liberal comrades...

Why has noone even mentioned the possibility of an abortion? I'm not saying that an abortion is right for Lane, I'm not saying she should get one, but it's really odd that noone even brings the subject up. Again, I missed the first half, so maybe that's where Lane had an "Ohmygod I'm having a BAAAYBEEEE!!!" moment of joy and bliss, but the general tenor of what I saw from Lane was "I can't believe this fucking happened to me." And yet the attitude that she and everyone else takes is 1. well, I'll/you'll just have to endure. These things happen, and 2. you'll change your mind once the baby comes and you realize how awesome it is.

And yes, I know Lane has a strict Baptist upbringing (the flaunting of which has been the defining element of her character since the show started). And I also realize that Lane is pregnant in a life circumstance that is arguably slightly better than Lorelai's when she had Rory, and that it might be tricky to have an abortion discussion when so much of the show is built around the premise that Rory is smart and perfect and wonderful, yet was born under inauspicious circumstances.

Yet it's surprising to me that noone even brings up the possibility of an abortion. Star's Hollow has a liberal bent. Lane and her friends have a liberal bent. The whole show has a liberal bent. Rory used to have pro-choice posters on her wall at Yale, for Pete's sake. So why is abortion so taboo that noone dares speak the word?

Maybe (hopefully) they're saving an abortion discussion for a later episode. Perhaps this episode was meant to set up Lane's discomfort about the baby, with a future episode down the line handling the issue in full. Still, I would think it'd deserve at least a mention as a possibility. I don't necessarily think Lane should have an abortion (though I'd lean in that direction) but I think it would be unfortunate if the show just pretended the option didn't exist.

Postscript: Before anyone comments about it being a fictional melodrama, so why get into a snit about characters behaving out of character, I'd like to add that this ties into broader concerns about popular views on women's rights. This is a show that makes a hero of a single mom (and she's a single mom because of non-marital sex, rather than divorce). The show doesn't apologize for Lorelai, and in fact lauds her conventionally immoral behavior. Moreover, it's a smart show in which the women are fully-developed characters and the men are ornamentation (where most shows are the other way around). Gilmore Girls is arguably the most friendly environment on television for an abortion discussion, and yet it's not even mentioned in passing. I think it's unfortunate that abortion has become so stigmatized that it can't even be mentioned in a highly natural context on a very feminist TV show.

And again, all of this doesn't apply if they go ahead and have the abortion discussion next week, which they probably will. Still though! I am conditionally outraged!

Random Stupid Trivia

Did you know that Harry Anderson, who played Judge Harry Stone on Night Court and Dave Barry on Dave's World, was the valedictorian of North Hollywood High's Class of 1970?  You do now!

America's Next Top Model, Episode 3



Tonight's theme was falling. The general idea was to tell the contestants that falling down in heels is the worst thing imaginable, then put them in awkward dresses and stupidly huge and impractical heels and giggle and point when they fall down. This strikes me as particularly unfair to Sara, the 6'1'' girl who neither has much experience with heels nor, as the judges have repeatedly pointed out, should she ever wear heels. Nonetheless, she comports herself pretty well throughout the episode, and actually looks pretty good.

Notably terrible was Gina. Jade must not have said anything notably obnoxious or vainglorious this week, because the theme of this episode shifted from 2 parts Jade-being-self-obssessed, 1 part Gina's-an-idiot to a full dose of Gina's-an-idiot. Gina spends half the episode freaking out and screwing up, and the other half feeling sorry for herself and promising with something approaching resolve that this time she's going to be strong and powerful and sexy and not screw up. And then she goes batshit over having a hissing cockroach on her.

But before I get to that, the episode begins with Ms. J. teaching the girls how to do a runway walk. Sort of. There seems to be very little education involved and a lot of quasi-judging. Danielle falls on her face while walking in a rather stupidly cut dress which looks way too long for her. This proves to be foreshadowing. Gina selects a big poofy wedding dress which hides her entire body below the waist, completely defeating the point of the exercise. How can Ms. J. teach you how to walk when he can't see your fool legs?

Next the girls move on to this week's mini-contest: Runway walking for a designer ("Something Gold?") who creates ugly shock-value clothing and demands the girls pose with giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches. I'm not sure what the point of the exercise is, because the cockroaches are too small to see if you're not right next to the girl. I suppose it's a kind of Fear Factor-lite thing. Anyhow, nobody's comfortable with the cockroaches but Jade (insert your own Jade/Cockroach joke here), but the only one who absolutely freaks out is Gina. She talks about thinking maybe she should just quit to avoid the cockroach, she shrieks her head off, and eventually the designer has to push her onto the runway. She actually composes herself pretty well, all things considered, but she still did the worst of anyone there. Again.

Jade wins the contest and gets to pick three friends to go to a fashion show. She chooses Nnenna, Danielle, and someone else (I forget who). Not Gina. Jade's choice of three friends seems fairly arbitrary; other than Nnenna, who's sort of been nice to Jade in an attempt to get her to stop picking on Gina, nobody seems to like Jade, and Jade doesn't seem to like anybody. Anyhow, there's a fashion show, the real models look good, the contestants don't. Jade talks about how soon she'll be up there, everyone just needs to see her amazing talent, etc.

Next we're doing the photo shoot. The theme is falling: The girls will dress up as fairy tale characters, stand on a ledge, then fling themselves sideways. The photographer will shoot them in the air, skeet-style. Furonda is Rapunzel, which isn't surprising given the massive hair extension they gave her last episode. Building off a stupid comment from Nigel, they make Kari into Goldilocks. Furonda should be grateful they didn't work from Nigel's (repeated) comments about her and make her up into E.T.. Jade does pretty well, everyone else is mediocre. Intensely unhelpful Jay Manuel tells Gina that her problem is that she's thinking too much, shoots a photo, then complains that she's vapid. Jay Manuel is not a photographer. He is a make-up artist. Yet, for some reason, he is in charge of all the photo shoots this season. This means he has absolutely no constructive advice to give the contestants. He is, however, a pleasant orange color.

Mollie Sue feels that she's all personality, and she needs to let it show. This is interesting, because she's actually pretty much a Vulcan. Jay tells her (correctly, for once) that she shows no emotion and needs to get it out. He then discusses this in confessional. He refers to his having "broken her." Allow me to point out that he told her that she's showing no emotion in the same tone of voice one might use to tell a friend helpfully that she's wearing too much lipstick. If Jay Manuel think's that's breaking someone, he has no business in either fashion or reality television. Which he doesn't.

Now it's judging time. Ms. J. is wearing her stupid gimmick t-shirt with the number, but this time has the good sense not to point it out. The celebrity guest judge is Gold, the designer who had to shove Gina out on stage, which seems to seal her doom. Going in, I was certain Gina would get cut. She did the worst of everybody in every aspect of this week's episode, in addition to having sucked pretty constantly for the entire first two episodes. Even at her best she hasn't even attained mediocrity, and this week she really distinguished herself. Also not looking good: Kari, who's a bit weepy and looks like a B-grade porn star, Danielle, who can't walk runways, Mollie Sue, who's my favorite dark-horse candidate for a cut due to her utter lack of personality, and Brooke, who just plain isn't attractive. Why is she on the show?

As an extra bonus contest, Tyra makes the models wear what look like 9 inch heels and catwalk for the panel. About half the contestants trip in some way. Surprisingly, not Sara, the 6'1'' girl. Good for her. Gina screws up. Kari really screws up. Danielle, who's been doing sub-par this episode, screws up so badly that she tears out her pinky toe and is becrutched for the judge's comments. As will be seen later, this is quite fortunate for her.

The judges make catty comments to the contestants, then banish them backstage so that they can make cattier comments to one another. And then comes the decision. Danielle gets a pass mid-way through, probably out of pity. Her toe had better heal fast because, as Wendy learned last week, pity only gets you so far on this show. It comes down to Gina and Kari. Tyra tells Kari that she looked great the last two weeks, but that her photo was a little sub-par this time around. She then lays into Gina for how utterly terrible she is. She doesn't look like a model, she doesn't act like a model, and she's not even smart enough to be a model. So, naturally, she cuts Kari.

Not that I terribly mind losing Kari; I really didn't like her. But whereas in the last two episodes I was rooting for Gina not to get cut out of sympathy, I now just wish they'd euthanize her and put her out of her misery. You know what? She's not going to win. I know that. You know that. She knows that (she has the biggest expression of shock on her face when she doesn't get cut, showing she was actually more surprised than I am). All of your viewing audience knows that. The only reason that she's still on is because she's SO terrible that she makes good television. Except now everyone watching the show knows that you're insulting their intelligence. You're waiting for her to acclimate and become less interesting, at which point you'll cut her. You know what ANTM? You need to put up or shut up. You edited this episode into non-stop Gina-is-awful, then cut Kari for no apparent reason. That's not being surprising, that's just hiding the ball.

Still, the pattern's becoming clear: Regardless of what happens in the episodes, they're gradually cutting out the notably less-attractive girls. That mean's Danielle's next if her toe doesn't heal, and she'll be right after Brooke if it does. Furonda won't be far after. They'll probably cut out the defective personalities next, starting with Mollie Sue. This is probably when they'll finally let Gina go. They'll hold onto Jade as long as they can, but probably not into the final 3. I predict the show will end up as a contest between Nnenna and Leslie, with Nnenna winning unless Leslie can do something to stand out. They've already built Nnenna up so much in the early episodes, though. Hopefully Leslie will become more interesting as she gets more screen time, or else this season will just be a coronation for Nnenna.

I've been fading in and out in my Gilmore Girls watching this season, mostly because WB has been pretty inconsistent with the new episodes. But I've caught the last few episodes, including the most recent while I was at home for Spring Break, and I decided to rededicate myself to it.

So I turned it on tonight and settled in. It started out well enough; Rory moving back home after her long fight with Lorelai, the two of them making up, Rory going around Star's Hollow saying hi to everyone, etc. Lane was working on writing a song with Zack and the band. Luke was being reticent and hiding something (clearly his long-lost daughter). And Rory and Luke were not speaking to each other after a nasty fight. But something seemed... off. The dialogue didn't seem to be quite addressing the specific big events of the last episode. After about 20 minutes I started to wonder whether it was a new episode or not. I finally decided it must be a re-run halfway through the show.

I submit to you that this is not the sign of a good show, particularly not an ongoing drama with an evolving plotline. The show's becoming like Pachelbel's Canon; you watch an episode and have no idea where it fits in the overall plot. On a broader level, it shows they're running out of serious ideas and are falling back on standard WB drama tropes. Rory's fighting with Richard and Emily! Now she's living with them. Now she's fighting with Lorelai! Now they're friends again. Is this an episode where she breaks up with Logan, or one where she gets back together with him? Flip a coin! And for Pete's sake, Luke's daughter.

Moreover, they've fallen back on lazy characterization to motivate the conflicts. Almost all of the fights that come up lately would be solved if the characters just talked and listened to each other, which they used to do in the first four seasons of the show. But no. Now they keep secrets for no reason except to cause a fight when the secret gets revealed. They jump to conclusions then refuse to listen to reasonable explanations. The characters we've come to love over five years have been replaced by short-tempered idiots.

There are a dozen other smaller things. The dialogue has lost a lot of its snap. The pop-culture references seem forced (moreso than usual). Rory's turned from sweet and interesting to obnoxious and shallow. And it hasn't helped that Rory and Lorelai have spent most of the season not talking to each other.

I'll still watch the show when there are new episodes on, if I remember (next new one in two weeks. This is why I've missed most of the episodes this seaseon). Nonetheless, I can't help but feel the show's run its course, and perhaps ought to have ended a season or two ago.

UPDATE: On the plus side, Paris is still fun. Probably because she's relegated to sidelines comic relief, so we don't have to care about TEH DRAMA with her.

I just thought I'd take a moment to point out that this Friday Doctor Who will be showing on (non-PBS, non-BBC America) American television for the first time since the disastrous 1996 Fox telemovie.  I'd also like to point out that this is the revival that began airing on the BBC a couple of years ago, and that it has been met with critical acclaim by all who've seen it (which, admittedly, is just British folk and Sci-Fi geeks at this point).  It debuts this Friday night at 9 PM on the Sci-Fi Channel with two one-hour episodes.

This excites me as a dork generally and as a Doctor Who fan specifically.  If you would indulge me to listen as I provide some brief background on the show?  Alright.  The show premiered August 23, 1963 (the day after the Kennedy assassination).  It was placed on hiatus 26 years later in December of 1989 (one month after the Berlin Wall fell).  The show's about a benevolent alien (a Gallifreyan Time Lord) who calls himself The Doctor and travels through time and space ... being ... helpful.  That is to say, the general format for a Doctor Who adventure is that The Doctor (plus whatever companions he currently has in tow) finds himself on some planet (usually Earth) at some time (the present the plurality, though by no means the majority, of the time) and discovers that there is something bad happening.  This may be an alien plot, or a natural disaster, or some similar species of unfortunate event.  The Doctor (plus companions) spend a few episodes fixing the problem, and then they're off to their next adventure. 

A few interesting things about the show: First, the longevity.  The secret here was a rather convenient contrivance created a few years into the show's run.  The shooting schedule was such that a number of different directors and crews worked on the show.  Further, while there was one head writer (the "script editor"), individual serials were written by a rotating stable of writers.  Producers changed over time as well.  And The Doctor's companions were always getting written in and written out of the show, so those actors were non-essential.  The only person in the entire Doctor Who production who was actually essential to the show was the actor who played The Doctor himself, William Hartnell.  In 1966 Hartnell decided to leave the show, and it seemed the show might be over.  Then somebody hit upon an interesting idea: why not kill The Doctor off, but not really kill him?  And so the Regeneration contrivance was born.  The premise is that when a Time Lord sustains a mortal injury he doesn't die immediately.  If he can be allowed to recuperate he will regenerate.  The process leaves him young and healthy and ready for more adventures, but in a completely new body.  Moreover, the instability of the process can cause a radical shift in personality.  So, in other words, they find a way to kill off the old actor and replace him with a new actor.  The upshot of this is that there have now been ten incarnations of The Doctor, each unique and interesting in his own way (no female Doctors, though.  Regeneration apparently doesn't screw with sex or gender).  The other interesting thing about the show is the format.  Traditionally, the show comes in half-hour episodes, but those episodes never stand alone.  Rather, the show is serialized.  The shortest stories you'll see are two-parters, typical stories are either four or six parts, and the longest-running serial was the twelve-part season-spanning "The Daleks' Master Plan."  What all this means is that, thanks to the flexibility of setting (anywhere in time and space) and length, the show's writers have a great deal of leeway in doing what they like with their serials.

The show's something of an institution in England, and a lot of British TV writers spent some time on the show (Douglas Adams was head writer for a season.  Interested fans might want to pick up the serials "The Pirate Planet," "City of Death," and "Shada," all three of which were written by Adams exclusively).  And now the show's back on the air.  I spent most of high school dreaming of Doctor Who returning from hiatus, and now here it is, complete with Genuinely Good Actors, Non-Terrible Special Effects, and Sophisticated Plotlines, three things that, for all that I love the show, it has never really had in the past.  So, I'm quite looking forward to this Friday evening.

It's probably a good thing that I don't have cable back in New York; between the return of Doctor Who and a critically-acclaimed re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica both airing on Friday nights, I don't think I'd ever make it to board game club meetings.  If they ever start airing new Mystery Science Theater episodes I may have to get cable again.

Lawyer Shows

I haven't watched TV to a serious degree in years (I'm too cheap for cable, and couldn't get very good reception at my apartment in Berkeley). Now that I'm in Law School I thought I'd start watching some lawyer TV shows, since now I'm somewhat interested in the subject. And I'm shocked! Shocked! to discover that there are hardly any on the air anymore. The crime dramas now are all criminal investigation shows like CSI, NCIS, Cold Case, The Medium, etc. There's still a fair share of doctor shows like E.R., Scrubs, House, and Grey's Anatomy. But I can only find two explicitly legal shows: Boston Legal and Law and Order (which is, itself, 50% a cop show, and from what I can derive has been more cop than law lately). Where has Perry Mason gone? Wither Matlock? What about L.A. Law, The Practice, Ally McBeal and all the other shows about lawyers? Doesn't the American viewing public care about lawyers anymore? Come on! Our adversarial justice system may be a piss-poor means of ensuring equal access and a fair trial for everyone, but it's great for dramatic television! We've bent over backwards to accomodate the American need for showmanship, and this is how you repay us? With three flavors of CSI and a gaggle of doctor show? Frankly, I'm disappointed.

I'm a bit behind the curve when it comes to TV shows. I don't get cable and haven't in three years. I'll occasionally turn on the TV to see what's on (c.f. two posts ago) but I don't watch any shows regularly.

I do, however, buy TV shows on DVD when they come to me highly recommended. Thus a few days ago (before my Legal Methods exam) I bought the first season of the new Sci-Fi channel Battlestar Galactica series. While I'm familiar with the premise and characters of the original series, I haven't seen any episodes of it so I can't fairly speak to any issues of faithfullness. But I have really enjoyed the introductory mini-series and the first episode, for what that's worth. I would go on with a review, but that would be silly; most people seem to have already discovered the show months ago, and I've only just arrived at the party. Moreover, those watching on TV have just seen the second season draw to a close, while I've only seen the pilot and the first regular episode of the first season. Anything I could say would likely involve silly speculation that other people would already know to be laughably false. So I'll limit my comments to one issue of particular interest to me.

The premise, for those unfamiliar with Battlestar Galactica, is that the human race is organized into the Twelve Clonies of Man. Some indeterminately long time ago they created the Cylons, a race of robots. The Cylons rebelled, as intelligent robots are wont to do, and man fought a bloody war which they apparently quasi-won; they didn't vanquish the Cylons, but they did banish them from human space. Now, forty years after the war, the Cylons have launched a surprise attack, wiping out all twelve colonies and all but one ship in the Colonial navy, the Battlestar Galactica. The Galactica is now steward to a small fleet of civilian ships holding just under 50,000 people, all that remains of the human race. The Galactica and fleet then set out to find a new home for humanity and escape the Cylons, who continue to pursue them.

This is where, apparently, the original and the new series diverge somewhat. In both the Galactica is ostensibly searching for Earth, the mythical lost Thirteenth Colony of Man. In the original series, this has the character of an intergalactic treasure hunt. They find clues and follow them in search of the lost colony that everyone knows exists. In the new series, Earth is essentially a placebo. Commander Adama uses it to give people false hope for the future. Sure there are legends, but nobody really believes them. Yet, for the remnant of the human race, it's important to have this hope to cling to. There are only 50,000 human beings left of a population of, we are lead to believe, tens of billions. For the crew of the Galactica, unless you've effectively won the lottery and one of your friends or family is among the civilians, everyone you knew or loved outside the Galactica is now dead. Moreover, the threat of extinction continues to loom, and unless you do your job well it's all over for the human race. Without some hope of salvation, even if deep down you know it's a false one, there's no reason to even bother.

All of this reminds me of Prester John, the most important imaginary person in Medieval European history. Essentially, in the 12th Century a man styling himself an emissary was received by the Pope. At the time the crusades were going poorly, as the crusades generally did, and support for Middle Eastern adventures was waning. So this fellow shows up and tells everyone, in essence, "Fear not! Right now it looks like the Muslims are a mighty military force, able to kick your ass all over the place, but they're nothing! I come from the Kingdom of Prester John, decendant of one of the Three Magi. He rules a great Christian empire far in the East, farther than you have ever travelled. It dwarfs the Muslim kingdoms, and indeed all of Europe, by comparison, and contains many strange and wonderful beasts. Prester John has a mighty army, and he has seen your troubles and smiles upon you. If you can just hold out a little longer, Prester John will swoop in from the East, defeat the Muslim army, Christianize North Africa, expel the Moors from Spain, and deal with whatever other problems you've been having. All you need do is swear your fealty to him when he comes, and perhaps send a nice little tribute gift back with me." It was pretty apparent at the time, and has since been made abundantly clear, that the man was a shaister.

And yet Prester John became a huge figure in Europe. Knowing about Prester John is an essential element of Medieval cultural literacy, because, from the 12th century onward, he gets referenced all the time in Medieval liteature. For the most part, people seem to have bought into it. A large part of this is because of the general sense of dread in Medieval life. Leaving aside the day-to-day drudgery and local concerns of war and famine, there was a broad feeling that these were the End Times, the waning days of Christianity. The Roman Empire had long ago crumbled, leaving warring tribes in its wake. The Christians had been expelled from the Holy Land, the Moors had conqured the Iberian peninsula and had designs on moving eastward into France, the Byzantine Empire in the East was crumbling and soon the Muslims would be invading Eastern Europe. To the South were the Muslims of North Africa, and in the Far East were rumors of Mongol hordes moving westward. All in all, there was a feeling that even if you eked out an existence day-to-day, the long-run prospects for Europe and Christianity were pretty bleak.

And now here comes news of Prester John. He has a huge kingdom out East, beyond anywhere you've seen, and he's ready to come in and expell the Muslims and take care of your problems for you. So it's not surprising that Prester John's emissary was welcomed whereever he went, and tales of Prester John soon spread across Europe and infiltrated the literature. Even if people didn't really believe he existed, he was a source of hope. Sure, we just got our heads handed to us in yet another poorly-managed, misguided Crusade, but fear not! Prester John is coming, and he'll set everything right.

Now I don't know if the folks behind Galactica intended parallels to Prester John. As mentioned, he's big in Medieval literature, but since most people don't delve deeply into Medieval literature, chances are any parallels exist only in my mind. More likely it's just a common human theme of willingness to believe something patently false in order to maintain hope in otherwise desperate time. Still, it gave me an opportunity to write a blog post about Prester John, and in the end isn't that all that matters?

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