August 26, 2011

Curse of the Backdoor Pilot

This is an installment of a look at things television show's do that bother me.
I have always hated the concept of back door pilots. These are when writers on an established show attempts to create a new show using the structure of the existing show. Unlike spinning off an established character we already like, they throw totally unknown characters at us using the show and characters we do love.
The one’s I really hate are the episodes where the main cast inexplicably becomes supporting characters in someone else’s story. This is the inherent problem with this concept. One of the best examples of what I am talking about was "The Brady Bunch" episode “Kelly’s Kids”. In this episode the Brady’s take a backseat for a new story about another family. The point is, when I watched the Brady Bunch I wanted to see the Brady’s! This episode is boring and I always felt myself wondering what I was missing on the show I was supposed to be watching. My point is giving the main characters supporting duties doesn’t make us want to watch the new show it makes us hate the episode because it’s about people we don’t know or care about.
Another example of this is "The Golden Girls" episode “Empty Nest.” In this episode we are introduced to the girls’ neighbors, a middle aged couple dealing with the fact that their daughter’s have gone on to college and they are alone now. If this doesn’t sounds like the series that made it to air, it’s because after this episode they revamped the concept with Richard Mulligan as a widower. The only things to remain were the set which was the exact same and David Leisure, who was in the Golden Girls episode but his character was different. The girls are hardly in this episode which is arguably one of the most forgettable.
I could go and on with examples. "Who’s The Boss?" tried this three times, to no avail. Though "Living Dolls" and "Princesses" made it to air even if briefly, while "Mona" went nowhere. "Cosby Show" ended its first season with an episode about a youth center where the Huxtables disappear for most of the second act. Of course there is the original "Star Trek" episode “Assignment:Earth” where Kirk and Spock literally stand around for half the episode letting Gary Seven have the spotlight.
The show’s which did this successfully do so because they didn’t shunt the main characters off to the background. That’s why "Happy Days" did very well with "Laverne and Shirley", for example, or when "Home Improvement" tried it they didn’t deviate from the basic structure of the series.
Spin-off’s work fine when it is a character we know and love. "Growing Pains", for instance, when it spun off Coach Lubbock into "Just the Ten of Us" was just fine because we knew the coach and had spent time with him. Just springing new characters on us that we never met and will never see again just doesn’t work. "Deep Space Nine" also used a supporting character we already loved, and introduced the main structure of their show in their own show, rather than being crammed into a "Next Generation" episode. "Deep Space Nine" is a great example of a good backdoor pilot, one that spins off from the main source material without compromising it.
 This is still done, for example "CSI" and most recently "Criminal Minds", but the bottom line is most of these fail, leaving us with a boring episode of an established series we normally love.

August 25, 2011

Top 5 worst Friends episodes

I have wanted to do this for a long time, why not now? I have been an avid tv fan for as long as I can remember. I love comic books to, but want to focus on tv. I will bring up comics from time to time though. Why aren't there any tv reviewers on here? I want to change that.

As you probably know, Friends was NBC's mega hit from 1994-2004. It was funny, well written, and smart. The cast is known the world over and I, at least, know all the episodes by name. However, there were a couple episodes which just leave me scratching my head, wondering what the writers were thinking. Did they really think these idead were good? They are not just not funny, but downright creepy.

 Before I begin, let me say this is my first blog so have patience with me.

#5 Episode 168, "The one with Chandler's Dad". The problem with this episode is the B story, about Ross and Rachel driving and getting a ticket. Overall the ep is not bad, but that last scene where Ross flirts with a male cop is bound to make anyone cringe.

#4 Episode 45, "The one with the bullies". In hindsight, this is not that bad an episode. However, when it first came on in 1996 there was something about it which, irked me. The story I am referring to has a couple of bullies giving Chandler and Ross a hard time in Central Perk. The idea of these characters being reduced to nervous grade schoolers just bothered me. And where are their friends, I know there is a scene with Joey saying he will stick up for them but what about Phoebe, or Monica. Imagine Monica defending her bother which upsets Ross, that would have been a better way to go. It's not that bad an ep, this story just bugged me.

#3 Episode 77, "The one with the ballroom dancing". Talk about a no win situation, with most of these the B or C stories make up for the horrible other story. Not in this one, not only do we get this absurd story about the janitor learning to dance with Joey (seriously? I wrote it and I don't believe it) but we get the annoying bank story where Ross and Chandler can't quit the health club and if that isn't enough there's Phoebe lusting after a massage client. Nothing worth tuning in for. 

#2 Episode 206, "The one with phoebe's rats". Oh my god, what were the writers thinking? One of the stories in this episode involves Phoebe and her rat babies, and worrying about caring for them. Not funny is an understatement. The worst part is that the rest of this episode was really good, there were some genuine laughs. The rats story drags the episode down which is to bad.

#1 Episode 198, "The one with the sharks." When this first came on I had recorded it for some reason, but I hated this episode so much I instantly erased it. Basically what happens is that Monica walks in on Chandler, well, gratifying himself. Chandler turns the channel when she walks in, but Monica believes that he was getting off on the shark show that is on the television. She freaks out about it then at the end of the ep is prepared to turn him on with a shark video. I mean, c'mon! Forget they were friends for years, even if I could believe she was stupid enough to believe Chandler didn't just change the channel why didn't she just ask! I can see how this story started, the writers probably had no idea what to do with it. Well, they went the wrong way.

Well, that's it. Agree, disagree, I can take it. I enjoyed this and hope to do more, if you liked let me know. Gotta go for now.