Saturday, September 22, 2012

Firefly Rewatch 2012: "The Train Job"

As mentioned in my last post, Joss Whedon's short-lived series Firefly premiered ten years ago this week. After seeing pictures from the cast reunion at San Diego Comic-Con, and reacquainting myself with my inner Joss Whedon fangirl at Montreal Comic-Con, I've decided to rewatch it. The same way it aired - one episode a week, in the (completely illogical) order that they aired.

Okay, who are we kidding. My inner Joss Whedon fangirl was not hiding anywhere. Whedon's writing changed both television and its viewers, including me. I didn't actually watch Firefly when it first aired - somehow, a print journalist saying that a new series is a space western didn't convince me to watch it. Buffy was still on the air at the time, so I had my fix of Whedonesque writing, and there was so much on TV that I didn't even give it a try. Maybe, if I'd had a nerdy enough friend at the time to explain to me what exactly made it a space western and just how damn cool that is, I would have been convinced.

So, let me be that friend and tell you in just a few words what makes Firefly great, if you've never watched it: All of the adventure and the planet-hopping of Star Wars. (Space!) An ensemble cast of good-guy rebels played by actors that I immediately became attached to. (Western!) Lovable characters and the kind of writing that you could only get when a choice screenwriter brings his A-game and assembles a crack team of writers. There are no other shows quite like it, and you just need to watch it to understand why.

If you're watching the series for the first time, I highly recommend that you watch it in the order that Joss Whedon (and God) intended. Since the fans are rewatching them in the order that they aired (and so I could see what all of the anger is about) I'm doing that, too.

First up: "The Train Job," which was the first episode to air but was intended as a second episode after the two-part pilot. In this episode, the crew of Serenity are hired by a creepy-looking man with a ridiculous accent (and a propensity for threats) to steal cargo from a train, only to realize that some paydays just aren't worth the money.

The first two minutes or so of the episode (or rather, of the series as it aired on Fox) look like basically any sci-fi series ever, in terms of production value. Luckily, as soon as three of our main characters are onscreen, the actors and the dialogue demonstrate that isn't isn't just any sci-fi series ever. We get a pretty good sense of who these characters are: Mal is charming, witty, and stubborn, Jayne is bristlier and more badass than most action heroes, and Zoe is tough as nails. If I was watching this show for the first time, I probably wouldn't have had such a good grasp on any of the other characters. The viewer gets a base for who these characters are in the big picture of things - but they don't get a really clear view of that picture. Most of the pilot's audience probably scratched their heads, trying to figure out who some of these characters were and how they came together. In particular, all we see of River is that she's unstable but we don't really know why, or who she is, and that's pretty unfair considering that she gets a hell of an introduction in the original pilot.

This episode, like most of the series, gives us a really interesting picture of good and bad in the universe that Whedon has created here. Thieves for hire are supposed to be the bad guys, but once they realize that they are (because that the medical supplies they've been hired to steal are desperately needed by the people they stole it from), they immediately change their minds about what they've done. Except for Jayne, who thinks that a job is a job, and might be a little bit intimidated by a scary crime lord and his face-tattooed minion. Inara has more social power and respect than Shepherd Book, and Book knows it. These characters are in a really interesting place on the moral spectrum, and I think that will continue to figure as the series goes on.

Overall, "The Train Job" tempers what could have been a really heavy episode with so much humour and excitement that it hardly feels serious at all. Now, almost every bit of dialogue is delicious, but this episode has one of everyone's favourite lines:

It also has one of my favourite lines:

(Okay, actually, that entire scene is brilliant. I think this may be Adam Baldwin's best role, even though I've stated before that I love all his work.)

This is an extremely watchable episode, but it's an extremely watchable second episode. It doesn't necessarily function well as a pilot, no matter how hard it tries, because it wasn't written as one.

But who ever trusts the networks to make good decisions, anyway?

Look for Firefly Rewatch every weekend from now until I run out of episodes. If I'm on this continent, I will be watching Firefly. (I say this because I might be out of the continent for two weeks.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Awesome, much?

(Written on the ten-year anniversary of the premiere of Firefly, which I did not expect to love, but do.)
As a pop-culture junkie turned hockey fan, I always find it interesting when my worlds collide.

I'm a nerd (yes) and spent half of last weekend at Montreal's Comic Con.
Among the things I did: Spend an inordinate amount of money on original art, T-shirts, and pins. Sneak pictures of celebrities I didn't want to spend money on or wait in line for. Take pride in telling Warehouse 13 star, Eddie McClintock, that I thought he was great on Friends, which is basically the opposite of what nerds usually do. Get a hug from Xander Harris himself, Nicholas Brendon. Stand by as my friend's friend get an autograph from Wil Wheaton that turned into more than just an autograph:

So, what's a girl to do after she meets Nicholas Brendon, and gets a hug from him? She walks over to Eddie McClintock, who is available for autographs but somehow no one is waiting in line for them. (He was also texting and chewing on something, possibly a cookie. Someday I will approach a famous person when they're not eating. Someday.) Because, come on, he was Phoebe's love interest for a whole two episodes while we watched Rachel have a baby.
So, I told an actor who's now on a cable sci-fi series that I loved his guest spot on one of the biggest shows of the last two decades. I told him I had heard that his role was supposed to be expanded in the following season of Friends, but those plans changed when a pilot he was cast in made it to series. To which he said, "Actually, I was bumped in favour of Paul Rudd." Now, in all honesty, Paul Rudd's character on Friends was awesome and any fictional character would be lucky to marry him, but you can't tell that to the actor whose role was reduced to two episodes. So, instead, Eddie McClintock and I shared a moment where we both shook our fists and said, "Damn you, Paul Rudd!"*

But the real excitement happened before and after this: Adam Baldwin was also in attendance. If you don't know who Adam Baldwin is, it's more than likely that you're wrong, you do know who he is, and you love him:
He had a Q&A panel, where he answered questions and told stories about all the roles he's been so great in. He talked about going to Nathan Fillion's house and keeping in touch with Zachary Levi. He name-dropped Joss Whedon and Stanley Kubrick. He recalled how the cast of Independence Day went a little crazy filming in desert heat, and how Judd Hirsch and Jeff Goldblum improvised "Jewish Death of a Salesman" between takes.

He also mentioned that he's a hockey fan. Shiny. I actually had no idea that he was, so my ears kind of perked up. (I know my friend Erin's did, too.) He said he was a Kings fan, and talked about how great it was to watch them win the Stanley Cup, and that he grew up in Chicago, and watching his old hometown team turn around and take home the Cup a few years ago made him happy, too. He also, obviously, mentioned that Los Angeles' last run at the Cup was, um, stopped by the Habs. He was really funny about it, and handled all of his questions really well. Yes, even laughing with the guy who thought that he was related to Alec and Stephen Baldwin (and the other two.)

It was so weird to think that I had no idea that this actor I've watched and loved in so many roles was a hockey fan, just like me.
So, the next day, I rushed to his autograph table right as he was getting up to leave. I had thought of what I would say, but obviously everything was a blur. (I have no photographic evidence of this, unfortunately, because no pictures were allowed, but I swear on my P.K. Subban jersey that every word of this is true.) I welcomed him to Montreal, told him I was a hockey fan too, and that the Kings are my favourite team in the West. Then, as sort of a peace offering for 1993, and because he's in Montreal, I gave him a Habs keychain - the only gift I could conjure up on such short notice. He probably won't use it or anything, because it's completely random, but the actor who has played so many tough guys just smiled, asked me my name, shook my hand, and thanked me.

It was pretty gorram cool.

*Hey, Paul Rudd, if you're reading this: No hard feelings?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Oh, look, a lockout.

After weeks of negotiations that went nowhere, it actually happened.

Yes, I'm upset and disappointed and wondering what's going to happen to hockey. All I can say about it, other than everything that's already been said, is this: It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

Monday, September 3, 2012

How To End CBA Negotiations

Okay, NHL and NHLPA and whoever else is involved. You've been pointing fingers and deflecting blame for too long. It's time to finally decide whether or not there'll be a lockout this year.
I mean, come on, I'm trying to plan a trip in October but there's a Habs game that month that I quite literally need to attend, so make up your minds so I can get planning and buy a plane ticket while the airlines are having seat sales. Because yes, I have to look for sale prices on airfare because I'm not as rich as anyone who gets to decide whether there'll be hockey this year or not.

Since you refuse to come to any sort of agreement, here are some ideas that I propose and may actually force you to try:

Undercover Boss it. All of you guys in suits with nice houses are squabbling over money, while arena employees and small business owners are wondering how they'd be able to replace the income that they get during the hockey season. So we're putting you in their shoes. You're going to take orders at concession stands. You're going to bus tables at a sports bar. You're probably going to hate it. Now, imagine how much more stressed you would be if you were at this job, serving much larger crowds during a hockey game. You would never know. But you would get to see what it's like to be the kind of person who wishes for a huge customer rush during hockey season so that you could put a bit more money in the bank to pay off some loans or buy warm boots for your children.

Owners: Fire your GMs. Why would any team owner argue that players' salaries are too high, when hockey teams need players? And where do these players and their contracts come from? They don't just fall out of the sky, dear owners of the NHL. Remember those guys you hired to run your hockey organization? They're the ones who get the players. They're the ones who negotiate these ridiculous salaries. If you think your players are getting paid too much, fire the guys who pay them.

Take a pay cut. Everyone. Offer to make 10% less than you do right now. Anyone who works in hockey and has Scrooge McDuck money is going to take a pay cut. If you're so worried about money, try spending some of your own. Don't be that friend who says they're broke, but goes out for steaks every week. No one likes that friend.

If you can't cut your budget, cut your earnings. Being a hockey fan (and probably also a sponsor) can get pretty expensive. Think about what you'd have to do to make things more affordable for us. What would happen if there were less ads in the arena? Imagine what it would be like if no one ever had to pay more than $100 for a ticket. What if merchandise cost less than it does now? You'd have to find some way to make things work. Just remember that all of this money you're arguing over comes from somewhere.

Pretend you're a jury. I'll have you sequestered if I need to. You're all going to spend time in a mid-market hotel conference room with a jug of water and some cheap sandwiches. There will be no half-days, no days off, no impasses, no "We'll pick this back up in a couple of days." There will be no talking to the press and no going home to your families. You're going to stay in that mid-market hotel and most of the good stuff will be gone by the time you get to your continental breakfast. The bailiff will make sure no one tries to duck out early for a round of golf or whatever. You're going to sit in that room and talk until you reach a verdict. It'll be like 12 Angry Men, sort of. (Would anyone in a room full of businessmen and jocks even have seen 12 Angry Men?)

Okay, maybe you get breaks. But all of the entertainment will be decided upon by your children. So, you can either continue negotiations or spend an entire day watching the same episode of Hannah Montana over and over and over again.

Or, we can do this Hunger Games-style. If you can't negotiate, then you'll have to compete. I won't make you all fight to the death, though, because there are too many players on that negotiating committee that we like, and it was really sad when characters we liked died in the Hunger Games. (We at HIHW will always have Dominic Moore's back.) Instead, this will be a televised dance-off. You're going to dance. On television. May the odds be ever in your favor.

It's up to you. You can either come to a decision on your own, or I'll help you. Just please, stop dragging your heels on this.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I Don't Heart This Shirt

I'm far more superstitious about sports than I care to admit.
This is my New York Jets T-shirt. I bought it about a year ago. It's not so great. It came from Old Navy and I paid full retail price for it. Such are my (regrettable) options as a female person in Montreal who wants to own NFL merchandise that fits her. (Okay, and also a boy told me to buy it, which is never a legitimate reason to buy anything, because look at this mediocre Jets shirt that I paid full price for.)

Every time I wore it last year, the Jets failed. Hard. It might have just been that 2011 wasn't their year... but it might also have been the shirt. The first game of the season? I wore it for the first three quarters of the game and then showered and went to bed, in anticipation of an early morning. And, as you may remember, the Jets were awful the entire time I watched the game and then came back in the fourth quarter. Yes, I know that that happened in part because they were playing Dallas and Tony Romo can never finish a game, but it was because of the shirt, I swear.
And, well, you know how the rest of the Jets' season went. They were far from the Jets that I fell for just one year earlier.

So, what should I do with this thing to help rid the Jets of last year's bad juju?

  • Treat it like I do my "unlucky" Josh Gorges T-shirt, and hide it away during the football season, only to be seen in the offseason?
  • Cut it up and do some sort of craft project with it? Or maybe use the pieces as rags?
  • Burn it? Bury it? Go to the beach and throw it into the water?

  • Buy myself another Jets shirt at Old Navy and hope the same thing doesn't happen again?

Suggestions are welcome.