M. Night, say it isn’t so!

I don’t post much about TV stuff because I don’t watch a lot of TV. But when I do, because my tastes have always been eclectic and a little weird, I tend to watch weird eclectic stuff. Thus was born my love of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s a children’s cartoon. Yeah, I know. But I fell passionately in love with this show, because it’s frankly some of the most original fantasy I’ve seen in a very long time. Like most good children’s shows, it’s made an effort to appeal to adults as well, through complex subject matter and multi-layered jokes — to great and successful effect. I watched the finale episode at a party with 20 other twenty- and thirtysomething adults, all of whom were literally holding their breath and cheering at various points. Yeah. Over a kids’ cartoon. It’s that good. Go rent/buy it and see for yourself.

But let me be blunt: one of the things that hooked me about this show was that it was set in an all-Asian world. And it wasn’t fucked up. OK, let me clarify. You know how usually, when there’s an Asian character in an American TV show, he (or more frequently she) ends up as the martial arts master, the (white) hero’s submissive love interest, the dragon lady vamp, or the magical elderly person dishing out nonsensical proverbs and occasionally a can of whoopass? The thing is, all of these stereotypes are present in Avatar to some degree. But because the whole world is Asian, they’re lost in a sea of non-stereotypical, non-exoticized, perfectly normal human beings. How amazing is that? Not only that, but Avatar actually depicts different Asian ethnicities. Though this is a fantasy world, there are clear allusions to the Inuit, Koreans, Mongols, Tibetans, several flavors of southeast Asian, various Indians, and more. The Chinese- and Japanese-analogues of the story actually come in several varieties (Earth Kingdom and Fire Kingdom, Kyoshi warriors, etc.). Better still, while there are lots of martial artists in the show, the vast majority of people in this world wouldn’t know a punch from Hawaiian Punch. Just like most people anywhere. I know, huh? Good shit.

Given all this, I wasn’t surprised that M. Night Shyamalan, twist-director extraordinaire, was drawn to the material in order to make a live-action film. I was actually excited about his direction when I heard. I don’t like all his movies, but at least he’s not some no-name music video director. So it sounds like he’s chosen his cast for the film.

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Black Is The New Doctor

This may all come to nothing, but it’s being widely reported that Patterson Joseph has been asked to play the lead in Doctor Who and he’s either thinking hard or has accepted the role.

For those of you who don’t know Doctor Who, it’s an iconic British SF show where the main character, The Doctor, has an unusual reaction to being killed.  Instead of dying, his body regenerates and he gets a new face, body, and personality.  This conceit was invented way back when the guy who first played the Doctor said he didn’t want to, anymore, but the show was doing so well that they didn’t want to end it, so they wrote an in-story explanation for the actor change and now there have been 10 guys in this role.

Further in case you didn’t know: Patterson Joseph is black.  And the Doctor has always been played by white guys.

Yes, I hear the wank coming for us, too.  There’s already been a bit.

But this is a pretty awesome turn of events.  Joseph is a good actor, from what I’ve seen, and quite handsome, which doesn’t hurt.  And the role of the Doctor is, as I mentioned, iconic, and a very big deal.  Doctor Who isn’t just a very famous SF show.  In England particularly, but in Western countries all over, the show transcends genre and is regarded as an integral part of childhood TV viewing.  This role is one that actors dream of playing.  It’s a chance to make some very influential TV.

I hope that the rumors don’t end up being unfounded, because it has the potential to be very awesome (or very crazy.  Doctor Who is not immune to icky race stuff).  Yes, the fandom will explode in stupid racism, but it may come out on the other end better and more enlightened.

And also: Black Doctor.

Inconceivable!!

Ever since the new TV season started I’ve been pretty pissed off at Heroes. I believe my exact words have been:

Dear Heroes,

KNOCK IT OFF WITH THE RACISM AND SEXISM ALREADY.

Bob!Beyond that, the writing/plotting itself hasn’t been the best. Everyone I know who watches has been grumbling in the same way.

Usually when this occurs, the fans have little recourse. We complain on blogs and to each other offline, but the show continues to suck and eventually becomes the ninth season of Stargate SG-1. However, something amazing happened recently. A show creator actually acknowledged the problems with his show and –Gasp!– vowed to fix them.

I know! It sounds like a total lie. But look:

‘Heroes’ Creator Apologizes to Fans

[...] Kring himself is keenly aware that Heroes is broken. Here’s his candid critique:

THE PACE IS TOO SLOW ”We assumed the audience wanted season 1 — a buildup of intrigue about these characters and the discovery of their powers. We taught [them] to expect a certain kind of storytelling. They wanted adrenaline. We made a mistake.”

THE WORLD-SAVING STAKES SHOULD HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED SOONER [or perhaps scrapped altogether... --abw] The premonition of nuclear apocalypse created a larger context that unified every story line last season. Kring now sees that Volume 2 (the first 11 episodes of season 2) would have been better served if Peter’s vision of viral Armageddon had appeared in the season premiere rather than episode 7. ”We took too long to get to the big-picture story,” he says.

THE ROOKIES DIDN’T GREET THEMSELVES PROPERLY New Heroes Monica (Dana Davis), Maya (Dania Ramirez), and Alejandro (Shalim Ortiz) ”shouldn’t have been introduced in separate story lines that felt unattached to the show. The way we introduced Elle (Kristen Bell) — by weaving her in via Peter’s story line — is a more logical way to bring new characters into the show.” (That said, Kring says a few newbies won’t make it beyond this second volume, which wraps Dec. 3.)

HIRO WAS IN JAPAN WAY TOO LONG Hiro’s (Masi Oka) time-bending adventure in 17th-century Japan — where he mentored samurai hero Takezo Kensei (David Anders) — finally came to an end on Nov. 5. But Kring says it ”should have [lasted] three episodes. We didn’t give the audience enough story to justify the time we allotted it.”

YOUNG LOVE STINKS Kring regrets sticking Claire (Hayden Panettiere) with a super-dud boyfriend and forcing Hiro to moon over a cutesy princess. ”I’ve seen more convincing romances on TV,” he admits. ”In retrospect, I don’t think romance is a natural fit for us.”

There’s more at EW, go read.

He doesn’t touch on all of the problems — I see no mention of some of the icky race stuff. This gives me hope, though. I’ll hold out until Vol. 2 ends in December then eat some ginger, clean my palette, and go back to Heroes fresh and ready to be amazed again.

ABW’s TV Corner: Fall TV – Want/Do Not Want

Fall is upon us.  That means new TV shows on the horizon and season premieres up the wazoo.  Ah, when I was a child this was the only thing that lifted my mood after having to return to the evil that was school.

Of course, it’s all different now.  Back then the summer was a time for reruns (you suck, reruns!) and movies of the week (more sucking!).  American television finally caught on tot he fact that some money could be made off of people desperate to watch something new in the warm months.  Suddenly the Season Schedule wasn’t so easy to predict; stuff might get started in January and run through August or there might be shows that come on only in the summer.  We’re never without some new TV these days.  And that’s fine with me.

Still, Fall is exciting.  Lots of new stuff to watch.

I’m excited about Heroes, even though that finale made me cry out in pain.  At least they finished the plot arc!  I really don’t care about the conclusion to the cliffhanger on CSI, but I’m glad it’s back.  Same for NUMB3RS.  I want to know what happens to Colby!!  I watched the first season of Dexter this summer and completely fell in love with it.  Can’t decide if I should watch it every week or wait until it’s all done and then watch.  Family Guy is back – I think Fox will never cancel this show, even if it continues to suck in many ways, for fear of making another huge mistake.  Sadly, I will watch it, even if it continues to suck in many ways, for the few moments of joy it brings me.

Of the new shows, Journeyman looks interesting, as does Pushing Daisies.   Reaper might be amusing or it might be stupid.  As I have yet to see a whiff of brown people in it, I may not even bother.  I want to watch Cane because Jimmy Smits still lives in my heart, despite Star Wars and that terrible production of Twelfth Night I saw him in.  Plus, you know, brown man as lead on television.  It must be worth something.  I never watched the old Bionic Woman, so it has no nostalgia value for me.  But Michelle Ryan is a good actress and excellent eye candy (if I can just stop mistaking her for Jennifer Garner).  Women’s Murder Club – all female lead cast, mysteries being solved, Angie Harmon?  YES.

What are you all looking forward to?  I declare Open Thread for talking about TV.  It’s the weekend, we can have a little fluff.

ABW’s TV Corner: The Closer

Someone asked last week if there were any shows I felt did well on the gender or race front. Though they are few and far between, some exist. One of them is TNT’s The Closer, which I just love to watch. Unfortunately (or perhaps this is a good thing) the show only comes on during the summer. The seasons are 13 episodes long. And you have to wait through the Fall/Spring season to get more Closer goodness. It’s worth it, though.

The Closer’s lead character is female–Brenda Leigh Johnson, played by Kyra Sedgewick, who is awesome. The ensemble cast only has one other female, sadly, but many minority actors:

The Closer cast

Irene Daniels (Black & Latina) played by Gina Ravera
Julio Sanchez (Latino) played by Raymond Cruz
Commander Taylor (Black) played by Robert Gossett
Michael Tao (Chinese-American) played by Michael Paul Chan
David Gabriel (Black) played by Corey Reynolds

Of the 10 main characters, five are ethnic minorities. Pretty impressive.

I love The Closer because the creators they don’t just pay lip service to diversity by throwing some brown people in the cast. It’s an ensemble and the group is very integrated. Each team member is important and the writers don’t take shortcuts and don’t go for negative racial stereotypes. That’s not to say that all of the minority characters are good and golden. They have flaws, like everyone, and Commander Taylor is Brenda’s biggest nemesis in the first and through part of the second season. The writing allows the audience to not have to focus on the race of the characters without acting as f the characters don’t have a particular race at all. They do, and it’s commented upon but not put in neon lights.

Like in real life!

Though I love all of the characters in The Closer, I do wish they’d get some more female detectives in there. Brenda is wonderful, and Kyra Sedgewick can carry a show in her sleep. The only other female in the squad is Irene Daniels. While she is written just as competently as the others, I’ve noticed that she doesn’t often get to shine in the foreground as much as Detectives Flynn and Provenza or Sgt. Gabriel. Gabriel is understandable since he’s Brenda’s favorite and sort of her right hand man. Flynn & Provenza are hams and excellent at providing comedy relief, so it’s not a stretch to understand why they get forefront attention a lot. Still, I wish they would bring in another female and give Daniels more time in the spotlight.

Season 3 is almost over at this point, but you may be able to catch some episodes on TNT OnDemand, or watch them at TNT’s website, or you can buy episodes from all three seasons for $2 each on AmazonUnbox. Seasons 1 and 2 are out on DVD. It’s definitely something you should check out if you like crime dramas.

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ABW’s TV Corner – CSI and the ignorant storyline

Don’t ask me why, but I love the original CSI. And even though the season finale made me go ‘meh’, I’m looking forward to this new season. Not just for the return of my favorite investigators, but because they’re adding a newbie to the cast who is not only black but a woman! And she’s not slated to be Warrick’s love interest, as far as I can tell. Double happy good.

Still, if I have to endure another season like the last one, my love for CSI may dim. It wasn’t just the finale that did nothing for me, or the anti-climactic reveal of the serial killer, but one of the secondary throughlines viewers had to suffer through that revived my opinion that the CSI writers are clueless bastards about race.

CSI Cast

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ABW’s TV Corner – Stargate: Atlantis and why I hate it

In comments, Dead Man Walking said:

Another show that I believe has good minority characters is Stargate Atlantis. IMO, they are fair and balanced. Teyla and Ronin are good guys. Aiden is a rogue team member who became a bad guy. I don’t think that they can be more balanced.

Unfortunately I am going to have to disagree with his assessment of Atlantis. I think that it’s one of the worst shows when it comes to PoC portrayal and racial issues.

Stargate Atlantis CastI first formed this opinion in the Season 1 episode Letters from Atlantis. The one where the folks on Atlantis are recording video diaries for their families because the Wraith are coming and they’re scared they are all gonna die. Anyway, in between the main cast doing theirs, there is one female scientist I hadn’t seen before that they bring in for a bit of comedy. She’s Asian, and she spoke in the most stereotypical Asian accent EVER. Like 2 degrees up from ching chong talk. She tells her family all about how her job is wonderful and her boss is especially wonderful. Her comments about her great workplace are interspersed with scenes of Rodney, her boss, yelling at people, calling them stupid, being an ass — you know, typical Rodney stuff. And yet this woman paints him in a crazily fantastic light. Now, either they are playing up on the submissive Asian stereotype or they’re playing up the woman so in love she is too stupid to realize she’s being abused stereotype. Or maybe it was both.

At that moment, I started to wonder how many people of color I had even seen on Atlantis. (After I got over the shock of seeing something so horrendous on my TV, of course.) Upon examination of the reruns, I noticed that NONE of the scientists that came from Earth are people of color. That Asian woman doesn’t appear in any other episode that I’ve seen. Others tell me that there’s one black female scientist who’s never had a line. ALL of the rest of them are white.

The only people of color that come from Earth are in the military, and I think there are only two of them, Ford and Bates. Bates is overly aggressive and shoot-em-up, especially towards Teyla (for no good reason). Ford eventually becomes an intergalactic junkie (no stereotyping there, right??).

Alien CoC include Teyla and Ronan. Both of them are depicted, at first, as being backward, tribal people who are born to kick ass. Rachel Luttrell was even told by the producers to think of Teyla as a ‘simple island girl’. Wha?? Also, why is she the only person of color in her tribe? Everyone else from her planet is white, and we never see her parents. Also, where the hell does she get relaxer in the Pegasus galaxy? Teyla is Teal’c light, speaking in that stilted dark warrior way and being very one with the earth or something. Gah.

(Don’t get me wrong, I love Rachel and I know she’s doing her best with what she’s been given. But Jesus…)

Ronan is a whole other problem. He’s the typical wild warrior man actors of color are often asked to play. He’s shows as overly aggressive and uncivilized. One of the first scenes he has on Atlantis proper is him in the cafeteria eating with his fingers. Later on we find out that he comes from a civilization more advanced than Earth. So why the hell does he not understand utensils?

Atlantis inherited this problem from SG-1, but they take the racism to whole new levels. It’s a combination of no scientists of color with men of color as savage, wild men and/or drug addicts and aliens of color coming from supposedly backwards backgrounds.

Let’s not even get into the Michael as tragic mulatto storyline.

I don’t watch Atlantis anymore.

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