Brandon's Journal


If you've read any of my writing in the past, you may have come across a time or two when I've mentioned how my moral compass was developed by television and the like. In a nutshell, I don't come from the best family. In fact, their morals are very questionable even today. So growing up, they weren't all that active in my life and I spent a ton of time in front of the TV or with my nose in books. I learned to mimic the things I saw in entertainment and I feel like a portion of my moral fabric was made up thinks to the likes of Stan Lee, Batman, Star Wars, Full House, and the like.

Now this may be a stark difference in writing compared to my recent posts about watching gritty and violent films, but one of the things that I'm discovering as I age is that in order to be whole you need to embrace both sides. For every dark side is a light, and for every up there is a down. I know I'm going all Taoist on yall, so I'll stop there, but I'm really beginning to embrace this idea of there being being a need for both sides of the spectrum.

Alright, back to the topic at hand... morals and television. Needless to say, I'm not so sure I would have developed a decent moral compass if I was raised on television today. Sure, I love Breaking Bad, Yellowstone, and even the ocassional bad reality TV show, but these shows don't really offer those same positive moral messages that the 70's, 80's, and 90's presented. Now, comparing Breaking Bad to The Brady Bunch is not fair, because obviously the audiences are very different, but there really aren't many run of the mill family sort of a shows. There is no Fraiser, MASH, Friends,* or even Star Trek of this generation (although I have high hopes for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds). The closest I've seen to this old school morale storytelling is the CW Arrowverse shows, Stargirl, and random one offs like Fuller House or One Day At A Time.

So, why don't we have those type of shows anymore? Well, for one, they could be very cheesy. Full House can be sickening sweet at times, and Fuller House wasn't much better.

Two, they just don't pull in the ratings like they used to. Everyone wants dark, dreary, and dangerous, and that's what sells.

Three, optimism for things working out sort of died with 9/11 and as an American society we've struggled to grasp ahold of that ideal again.

I'm sure there are other reasons, but those are the three that came to mind.

I wonder if this is a bad thing though. I wonder if the lack of moralistic tales does a disservice to society. I mean, for generations we were raised on fairy tales and mythology that taught us how to act. It taught us what was considered right and wrong. Now, in the world of the anti-hero, things aren't so clear cut. Being selfish and shitty is commendable and makes for great television (see Seinfeld and It's Always Sunny).

But what happens to those kids like me, who didn't have the proper home life to guide them? Is it televisions responsibility to provide inspiration and guidance on how to live? Or did I just get lucky, and was raised when this sort of storytelling was popular? I don't really know. I wasn't able to come up with a great argument either way.

I guess, like most of my nostalgia, I feel like we've lost a little something with all the changes. I'm sure this is the way that everyone feels as they get older. They miss the “simpler” times, however that can be described for them.

I just know that when I go back and watch an old sitcom, I have this weird, calming sense of peace when its all over. Everything feels like it's going to be okay and I like that. I hate to think that other generations won't experience that same feeling.

#100DaysToOffload 64/100 #Television

Recently, I've been watching Married with Children on Hulu. Growing up, I'd occasionally watch it, but I haven't seen too many episodes. In fact, when I started watching it a few months back, I was confused because I had never seen an episode with Steve (Marcie's first husband) in it. I thought maybe he was replaced after the pilot, but I was quite wrong since Steve hung around for first three to four seasons.

Married with Children seemed to be on quite often in syndication and that's where I saw it the most. Like most boys/teenagers of the 90's, I had a crush on Christina Applegate and I got a kick out of Al Bundy's hand down his pants routine. But besides that, I didn't find much to enjoy about the show.

Now that I'm a bit older, I appreciate the show a lot more. I can relate to it in some ways, and really laugh at all the absurdity in other ways. I find the cruel insults and over-the-top humor perfect for some of these bad days I've had lately.

A few weeks ago, I watched the first episode of season three and Al went on a rant to the librarian who'd tortured him as a child. It cracked me up, because I related to it all too much. That quote has been on my mind lately, so I thought I'd share it here.

So you think I'm a loser? Just because I have a stinking job that I hate, a family that doesn't respect me, a whole city that curses the day I was born? Well, that may mean loser to you, but let me tell you something. Every morning when I wake up, I know it's not going to get any better until I go back to sleep again. So I get up, have my watered-down Tang and still-frozen Pop Tart, get in my car with no upholstery, no gas, and six more payments to fight traffic just for the privilege of putting cheap shoes on the cloven hooves of people like you. I'll never play football like I thought I would. I'll never know the touch of a beautiful woman. And I'll never again know the joy of driving without a bag on my head. But I'm not a loser. 'Cause, despite it all, me and every other guy who'll never be what he wanted to be are still out there being what we don't want to be forty hours a week for life. And the fact that I haven't put a gun in my mouth, you pudding of a woman, makes me a winner.

Also, there was a fantastic breakdown on reddit on whether or not Al could have supported his family on a shoe salesman's budget in the late 80's and early 90's that is totally worth your time reading.

In the sitcom Married... with Children, protagonist Al Bundy is able to support himself, his homemaker wife, and two children on the income he earns as a shoe salesman in a strip mall in the suburbs of Chicago. Was this at all realistic for the late 1980s/early 1990s?

#100DaysToOffload 63/100 #Television

Last night, I decided to check out one of Big Finish's Stargate SG-1 audio dramas. I began with the first title, Gift of the Gods, performed by Michael Shank (Daniel Jackson). The audio drama was released on April 1st, 2008, about a year after the tenth and final season of SG-1 aired.

I'm currently watching Stargate SG-1 for the first time. I'm up to season five, so this limits how many of these audio dramas I can listen to. The majority of them take place in later seasons, but Gift of Gods takes place during season three before Fair Game.

I really wasn't sure what to expect. Most of Stargate's merchandise seems to have been put out with little regard to quality. The books, for example, are mostly print on demand or digital and primarily seem to be written by fan fiction authors. I don't mean for this to sound bad, but you can tell not a lot of time, money, and effort has gone into expanding the universe via other forms of media. It's obviously a franchise with a dwindling fanbase and a parent company who isn't concerned with creating anything new.

The producer of this audio drama, Big Finish, is known for creating Doctor Who audio dramas with the original casts. They are very experienced with what they do and it shows right off the bat. The audio drama is well crafted, has good music, sound effects, and is properly mixed. Having spent many hours over the years enjoying all sorts of audio dramas, I can say that rarely do they sound this good.

Michael Shanks puts on a stellar performance. He slips right back into this season three role of Daniel Jackson and does some fantastic impressions of his former co-stars. He channels Jack's sarcasm, General Hammond's authority, and Sam's curiosity well. Having spent so much time with his fellow actors, he's able to nail the timing and delivery and that makes this a fantastic listen.

I also really enjoyed how the story was set up. It was told through flash backs via an audio log of this particular event. It was believable and tied into the show well.

The plot itself is good, although I will say the ending seemed a bit far fetched. It was definitely the type of ending that would not have been made into an actual episode because it was just a little too risky and opened up quite a few plot holes for the future. Still, I enjoyed the heck out of Gift of the Gods thanks to the fantastic performance of Michael Shanks, the convincing sound effects, and the great pacing.

#100DaysToOffload 42/100 #Television

Fifteen years ago, I remember sitting in a movie theater with my buddy Alex waiting for Batman Begins to start when a trailer popped up for a cool looking sci-fi movie titled Serenity. He flipped out when he saw it and went even crazier once the screen said, “From the Creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I sat there, unamused, wondering why he was so excited. Between trailers, he tried to explain that Serenity was based on a cancelled TV show but he lost me at Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Shortly there after, Alex convinced me to watch Buffy and I loved it. The movie had soured me years earlier, and I hate that I didn't give the show a proper watch while it was still on the air. But it didn't take me long, running around town to all the CD Warehouses, to buy seasons of the DVD and power my way through all seven seasons. Once, I reached the end, I was going to start Angel and that's when Alex reminded me about Firefly, another show by Joss Whedon that had a sequel movie coming out soon. So,

I used whatever form of piracy was popular online at the time, and I sat on my bedroom floor watching every single episode in a row. It was the first time I ever binged a complete season and one of only a handful of times I've ever done that. I loved every moment of that show and as much as I loved Buffy, Firefly was superior in my eyes.

Firefly had the same great writing that Buffy did but it was more sci-fi balanced with a large dosage of western. Being both a huge sci-fi and western fan the show just played to my interests.

The cast was amazing, the action pieces great, the humor was hilarious, and the ship... the ship was perfection.

I watched the whole series again over the next week before starting Angel and I anxiously awaited the release of Serenity. I bought tickets for the first showing, a 11 AM matinee and I took my girlfriend at the time and a friend of mine from high school. I hyped them up the entire way to theater about the second coming of Star Wars and how amazing this experience was going to be. I wore my “Joss Whedon is My Master Now” shirt and I squealed like a school girl when I saw they had mini-posters on the table out front.

We walked into an empty theater and my stomach churned. By the time the trailers had started two other people had taken a seat and I knew this wasn't good. Serenity had cost $39 million to make and it only brought in $10 million the opening weekend. After the entire theatrical run was over and the international market was included, Serenity had brought in just enough money to cover it's budget. Between DVD sales I'm sure it made it's money back or at least it got close, but this wasn't the breakaway sci-fi hit I was expecting.

Firefly fandom was in full force with the release of Serenity. The movie was greenlit because of the demand of the rabid fans and people constantly compared the fan uprising to that of Star Trek's. I think we all thought our favorite crew would live on in a motion picture universe the same way The Original Series cast did in the 70's and 80's. Unfortunately, with no major stars attached and without the benefit of fifteen years of syndication, there just wasn't enough support to pull it off.

Afterwards, I joined forums and attended “Can't Stop the Signal” screenings. We all discussed how Firefly would come back eventually, and I think deep down we all believed it would. Eventually a lackluster comic series was produced, and a mobile game was announced. Sadly, despite the cast recording lines for the mobile game, it never saw the light of day.

When Netflix picked up Arrested Development back in 2012 it was a huge deal. Everyone expected Firefly to be next, or at least us Browncoats did, but then Netflix's chief content officer had this to say:

“Let me give you one broad statement about these recovery shows. In almost every case the cult around the show gets more intense and smaller as time goes by. Arrested Development was the rarest of birds in that the audience of the show grew larger than the original broadcast audience because people came to discover it years after it was cancelled. The Firefly fan is still the Firefly fan from when it was on TV and there’s fewer of them and they’re more passionate every year. Whereas with Arrested Development we’re going to be serving a multiple of the original audience. Any of the other shows we could bring back would be a fraction of the original audience.”

I think that's when my hope finally died. As much as I hated him for saying it, I knew it was true. I watched the fandom and fever die down since the release of Serenity. Firefly was a show that grew thanks to word of mouth, but everyone had already discovered it that was going to discover it and it had been so long they just moved onto their next obsession.

Since then the licensing of Firefly has increased with toys, Pop figures, models, and t-shirts having been released. A newer (and better) comic book series was released, but short lived. In the past year, several tie-in novels have been released, but according to the reviews I've read, they really lack the passion and excitement for the source material. I think the most interesting (and best reviewed) book has been a cook book inspired by the dishes seen in Firefly.

I'm even debating about purchasing it and cooking my way through it.

The Firefly fan sites and forums are a ghost town now. Memes still pop up time-to-time and Firefly is always talked about when it comes to great science fiction shows, but I can't help but to think that it's gone forever. We got what we got, and we need to appreciate it for what it is.

I recently started my re-watch of Firefly. It was once a yearly tradition, but it's been four or five years since I last watched the entire series. It's almost shocking how young the cast looks and how the CGI hasn't aged all that well. The series wasn't shot in HD and while it doesn't look terrible, you can definitely tell it's a pre-Battlestar Galactica show.

The interior ship design is still brilliant and once you get past the first thirty minutes, the cast begins to connect and you can still see the glimpses of what wonderfulness is to come.

I think what makes Firefly special is that when you watch it you want to be part of the crew. A crew that is always struggling, dabbles on the side of law breaking, and seems to run on borrowed time. Despite all of this, you feel like it would be totally worth it to live in cramped quarters on a ship that is constantly falling apart and being commanded by a very broken man. There is something about the family that is created on that show that seems to fill a void that many of us are missing in our lives.

#100DaysToOffload 32/100 #Television

The Arrowverse DC shows on the CW get a lot of flak online, and at times, rightfully so. The show runners balance telling solid superhero stories while infusing enough teen melodrama to keep the typical CW audience riveted. And well… it works. The shows do good ratings and the crossover appeal seems to be pretty big. But I think the lower budgets, forced relationships, and bad graphics at time get too much focus at times. Maybe I’m a little less harsh on the shows because I remember what it was like not to have superhero TV shows on and quite frankly, I don’t think they are all that bad. I’m not current on any particular show, but I’ve enjoyed Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl quite a bit over the years.

A few nights ago, I decided to do a DC Unlimited free trial to check out a few episodes of Harley Quinn. I was one of those people who paid upfront for a year of DC Unlimited when it launched and found myself quite disappointed with the offerings. I enjoyed Titans and loved some of the exclusive content they had at first, but when they cancelled Swamp Thing before it even aired I was crushed. Being a big Swamp Thing fan, this killed me and I began to lose faith in the service. It was apparent the streaming service wasn’t a priority for Warner Brothers, and the lack of comics upon launch and the constant rotating movies and comics proved that.

I logged on to watch Harley Quinn and that’s when I noticed the first episode of Stargirl was streaming. This was a show I didn’t really see myself enjoying and I had no interest in checking it out. But I ran across an article about Geoff John and how the character was a tribute to his sister who died in a plane crash and well… I just felt like supporting the show. It also helped that I really liked the cast. I’ve always been a huge fan of Amy Smart since I first saw her in Road Trip. I especially loved her performance in Interstate 60. Luke Wilson is great in the right role and Joel McHale is almost always a joy to watch. #SixSeasonsAndAMovie

I clicked on Stargirl and within the first couple of minutes I was beginning to regret it. The opening scene is action filled but a bit of mess tonally. I decided to let things played out and I’m glad I did. Stargirl was actually quite enjoyable and a breath of fresh air in comparison to the typical Arrowverse shows.

Stargirl comes across almost Spielbergesque. It feels like something you’d watch in the 80’s with the whole family. It’s wholesome, but not in a cheesy way. While watching it, I really felt the same sort of vibe I got from Shazam, which is a good thing. I miss that feeling of magic in the movies and Shazam really captured that for me. There was awe and excitement at the powers, and Stargirl channeled that as well, albeit on a smaller scale.

I’m not sure about villains as they came across a bit… unimpressive, but we really didn’t get a chance to learn much about them as this first episode spent the time setting up the family dynamic and introducing our main character to the world of superheroes.

Speaking our main character, Courtney, portrayed by Brec Bassinger, she did a great job. She’s in her early twenties, but does look and come across more like an actual teenager which is rare on TV shows. I’m interested in seeing how her character grows and if she can truly lead a TV show but my initial impression was a good one. I was pleasantly surprised with Stargirl and I hope it keeps up the same level of quality. It doesn’t feel like an Arrowverse show and I think that is a good thing. The DC shows on the CW could use a little diversity.

#100DaysToOffload 20/100 #Television

As cheesy as it may sound, the one fictional character I’ve grown to idolize over the years is Jean Luc Picard, from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He’s a character who is good and authentic and I guess in an ideal world, he’s the man I’d like to be. With that being said, the character means a lot to me and as much as I was excited about the announcement of Picard, the recent CBS All Access show, I was equally terrified. My main concern was: would they taint my image of this character that I admire?

This concern led me to not watch Picard when it began airing. In fact, I waited till it was completely done airing and I was in the right mood to give it a shot. It’s a bit ridiculous to put so much pressure on a fictional television show to perform, but what can I say, I’ve had some rough spots in my life and I feel like the character and his actions has inspired me more than a time or two.

Last week, I decided to give Picard a go, and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t my favorite TV show ever, but I felt like they did the character justice and the performances all around were quite impressive. I was not excited about seeing Picard as a renegade with a new crew, but damn if they didn’t pull it off. The supporting cast was incredible, as was the story.

The themes I pulled away from the show were: -Just because you are broken, doesn’t mean you are useless. -The world is deeply flawed, but there is always a place to do the right and noble thing.

Both of those lessons are very much the type of lessons I’d expect to get from an episode of The Next Generation, and although the show feels nothing like an episode of The Next Gen, I’m happy that the heart of the show was still to be found underneath all the layers of storytelling.

Star Trek fans seem to be incredibly decisive over the series, as they seem to be over every series, but I really enjoy the new versions of Trek like Discovery and Picard. I look forward to seeing what CBS offers up next and I hope the quality continues to improve.

#100DaysToOffload 8/100 #StarTrek #Television