Thursday, October 11, 2007

Genre Bending

So, fair warning, this isn't going to be a well thought out post.

But I'm watching The Bionic Woman right now and think I've come up with at least one reason why this show just doesn't work (in spite of the amazing Katee Sackoff as "bad bionic woman").

I think for any kind of story to work, whether it be TV or a movie or a novel, it needs to know what it is. Now this doesn't mean it can't blend genres, but if it does blend genres, it has to do it purposefully and artfully. Does the Bionic Woman do this? Not so much. Not yet, anyway.

The original 1970's series was cheesy in the same TV vein as other hits on the air at the time like Charlie's Angels. It was a show as much aimed at kids as adults. It was a bit cartoonish. (Anyone remember the sound effects when the original Jamie jumped?) This new version of Bionic Woman wants to be darker, to be taken more seriously... but then they throw in these really bad jokes that not only aren't funny, they don't fit the tone of the show, nor are they consistent with the characters. "That's right, Sir, we did talk about an attitude adjustment." Not funny and it completely undermined the Miguel Ferrer character who's still being established. In fact, it made a joke of the whole whatever-the-hell-organization they're all supposed to work for. Within the five minutes of the same episode they try to establish Ferrer's character as a cool customer who can fool lie detector tests (along with another bad joke attempt, "How do you do that?" "I was married.") and then they cut down that characterization by having him cave on something so key as keeping Jamie safe. Made zero sense to me. I'm all for character complexities and sometimes that means inconsistencies, but I think you need to establish important character traits fully before you contradict them. With BSG we knew Starbuck was super tough before we saw her be vulnerable. We knew the President was sensitive before we saw her be cut throat. We knew Adama was cool headed and tough long before we saw him let his emotions take control of his decision making. That's good complex character development.

I can't understand how the same people who darkened and deepened BSG could have blown it so badly with this one. OMG the writers just made Katee suggest to Jamie that they form a union because the guys watch them in the shower. ARGH. Not funny and so stupid. It seems like they want to poke fun at the premise, like the writers don't know whether to take the show seriously or not. Not working for me so far.

Oh, and it doesn't make any sense to me why Jamie's trusting the people who created her over bad bionic woman. They haven't done a good job of making me believe Jamie trusts the people she works for, and she has plenty of reasons not to trust them. It just doesn't make sense that she wouldn't listen to Sarah. Maybe they should have waited a few episodes before introducing the Katee Sackoff character (although she's the only good thing in the show, so that might not have worked, either.)

In contrast, I saw the second episode of another new series this week based on Alli's recommendation. (Thanks, Alli!) Pushing Up Daisies seems to know what it is. It's blending genres and doing it well, from what I saw in one episode, anyway. My personal jury is still out on this show -- I fear the narration could become tedious -- but it seems to be holding true to its vision -- an odd blend of detective show, fairy tale and quirky romantic comedy. Has promise.


Unknown said...

I think I'm about to give up on The Bionic Woman. Not only for the reasons you mentioned here, but also because nothing has happened. Nothing...Jamie hasn't really changed, I have no idea what the organization does, or why I should care.

The only thing I enjoy is Katie's performance. She's an excellent actress and I can't wait to see her in other roles. If they take her out, I'd have nothing left to watch for.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way, Christine. I'm watching this show only for bad bionic woman, because at this point, I'd watch Katee Sackhoff read the newspaper.

But the show is bad, often makes no sense, and has these wierd moments where I literally go 'huh'


Alli Sinclair said...

I haven't caught The Bionic Woman - sounds like I'm not missing out on anything anyway! Glad you liked PUSHING DAISES, Maureen. I must admit, after watching the second episode, I started to wonder how it will stay on air. I LOVE it, but I think it will appeal to a select audience - whether that audience is wide enough, I guess time will tell. I hope it does stay, I'm really enjoying the writing - and the love story between the Pie Maker and Chuck breaks my heart. Imagine being with the love of your life and knowing if you touch them you'll die? I can't wait to see how that unfolds.

Molly O'Keefe said...

What channel is pushing dasies on? Because Chuck and Pie maker might break my heart too--

Hey I have to say HOUSE is coming around for me. I am loving all this new dynamic and House has now lost two patients. I'm back in!!

Maureen McGowan said...

CTV has Pushing Daisies, Molly... Can't remember which night.. I'll e-mail you.

There's actually a pretty heart-breaking love triangle that worked for me, even though I missed the first episode. The Pie Maker, Olive the waitress who loves the pie maker, but he doesn't notice her, and Chuck the woman the pie maker brought back from the dead but can't touch. (see what I mean about the fairy tale thing?)

And House is coming around for me, too... I heard that 3 of those job applicants were offered full time contracts, but i'm not sure which 3. The guy from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle is one.. but I'm not sure about the other, two. I'm betting on the guy who played Teddy in Huff and one of the girls, but not sure if they'll go with blondie or brunettey. Of course, not that Omar Epps has been fired from his other job... who knows.

K J Gillenwater said...

I don't think I would trust some psycho woman who attacked me on a roof the first time I met her over some underground organization my fiance worked for. Dilemma either way...but at least with the organization they act like relatively normal people. Sarah is unpredictable, cut-throat, and scary.

I thought this 3rd episode was better. I liked some of the conversations between Sarah and Jamie.

I think their biggest problem right now is balancing the series arc stories (like how Sarah came back from the dead and why, and why Jamie was chosen years ahead of time to become bionic, and the new one, what genetic anomaly did the grandma have??) and regular episode storylines (like this week's Serbian baddies).

This show is getting a lot more of a 'pass' from me just because of my love of the old show and Katee Sackhoff. Plus, there is enough mystery to keep me coming back.

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