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This week we talk about some of our favorite criminals in media.
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Back again. The Rec Room’s back. Tell a friend.
That’s right, after a long unannounced absence we’re coming back. Well most of us. Brandon unfortunately has a ton of cool projects he’s working on and had to step away. As for me and Kate, well life got complicated in different ways.
With just the two of us, for now, we’ll be continuing on. We are both broadening our scope, covering whatever media we want for a given week.
In honor of our glorious return we’ll be taking a look at media about, or worth, a second chance.
I’m cheating a little bit here, because this one isn’t exactly coming soon, but who can blame me with the seriously bleak looking fall tv lineup? I almost wish I hadn’t already written about Glee, because at least then I could be writing about how happy I am that the final season is upon us.
HBO has signed on Fight Club (amongst other things) director David Fincher and Gone Girl author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn to adapt the British thriller series Utopia stateside. There’s no release date and no cast, and I’ve never seen the UK show (it’s about to start its second season), but Fincher, Flynn, and the description of the show have me excited.
The UK series is about a group of conspiracy theorists who are united in their obsession with a graphic novel whose author has written a secret sequel, the pursuit of which entangles the crew in lots of dangerous situations. You can watch a trailer for the UK series here.
UK Utopia supposedly treads on some heavy and loaded topics – utilitarianism, conspiracies, overpopulation, etc. It’ll be interesting to see an American take, and to see how much those topics are addressed and how they are handled in comparison to the UK.
I’m a big fan of Gillian Flynn and Gone Girl (if you haven’t read it, read it), and the film adaptation, directed by Fincher, is set to release October 3rd in the US. Of course, I’m skeptical of any film adaption from a really good novel, but I loved Fincher’s adaptation of Fight Club, so I’m mostly looking forward to it. Given the dark content of Gone Girl and the dark content of David Fincher’s mind, I think the two will be a successful pair, and I’m excited to see how they work together.
This is a short recommendation this week, as not a lot has been announced about the show. Keep an eye on HBO’s website for updates, and I’ll be sure to post a review of the premiere when it arrives!
Post by Kate:
Coming out of the closet can often be likened to a character arc all its own. At first, there’s the fear that comes beforehand, then the drama surrounding the actual act of telling people. Then there’s this part where you finally understand what gay pride is all about, when it feels like a relief and a thrill to share who you are with the world. A lot of TV writers seem to leave their gay characters in these first three stages, and it can be frustrating not to see them complete their arc. Because what it comes down to, no matter who you are, is that you’re just a person. And eventually it becomes exhausting and boring to live every moment as a gay moment; eventually they just become your moments.
This was my problem with The L Word, a show I truly love to hate, and of course saw every minute of all six seasons. Of course gay people have unique struggles because of the times we live in, and of course we have our own culture that we are proud of, but ultimately we’re just people. Looking past the deplorable lack of minority representation, or the stereotypical and offensive portrayals of minorities in the media, sometimes the overzealous ones are just as irksome. Race, sexual orientation, gender, or gender expression color our identity, sure, but to suggest that all of our thoughts revolve around those aspects of ourselves only further implies that other people’s thoughts about us revolve around those aspects – when they shouldn’t.
Orange is the New Black is my favorite show. It’s funny, it’s smart, and it has one of the most diverse casts ever in regards to race, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. The gay characters are gay, yes, and they are portrayed as such, but they are so many other things, just like gay people in life are so many other things. It’s not just each character’s gayness or blackness or transgenderedness that colors their perspective, its their whole lifetime of experiences leading up to the circumstances of the show, and we get to see that on screen.
Orange is the New Black is based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name and follows Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling, as she is incarcerated for a crime she committed ten years prior to the show’s current setting. The show follows her hijinks in prison, and creates an amazing ensemble cast out of her fellow inmates.
At the show’s Paleyfest panel, creator Jenji Kohan calls Piper the “gateway drug” to the rest of the characters. She is pretty, white, thin, blonde, and privileged, and she quickly becomes the least interesting part of the show. The diversity of race, age, and size is unlike anywhere else I’ve seen, and the show has a nearly all female cast. There have been some idiots online who complain about the portrayal of men on the show (OH, SO SORRY LOL. No.), but joking aside, no character on the show is perfect, and that’s what makes it so great. Everyone can find something to relate to in each character regardless of who they are, and we genuinely care about everyone on the show, prison guards included.
Piper Kerman’s book is really more of a demand for prison reform than a memoir, and although the show follows it relatively closely at first, it ultimately moves away when it begins to explore the effect that prison has on each inmate and guard at the human level, rather than the political level. We see each character’s backstory through flashback to the events leading up to their arrests (my favorite part) or snapshots of their childhoods. We see unlikely characters relating to each other, or see the prison system slowly break down the carefully constructed part of them that keep them sane.
I loved Jenji Kohan for Weeds and everything else she’s done, but I can’t help but fall in love with her all over again for giving us Orange is the New Black. If someone had told my high school self that there would be a show that featured a bisexual (or whatever Piper identifies as) main character, a black transgender woman, a butch lesbian (who masturbates on screen), frank talk about female anatomy, several fat women who are portrayed as sexy and no less than their thinner counterparts, and women of all ages, and that that show would be a huge hit and would be nominated for 12 Emmys, I would have laughed.
Ten years ago, shows like Orange is the New Black wouldn’t have been made, or if they had they would have existed on the very fringes of pop culture. But here we are, with Laverne Cox on the cover of Time magazine and the show is set up to sweep the Emmys. We have a long way to go, for sure, but I can’t wait to see where we are ten years from now.
Orange is the New Black is only available on Netflix.
There’s not a lot of straight up “packaging” that comes with television, and usually a show’s main draw for me are the actors or writers involved in it. But sometimes you see an ad or hear something about a new show and immediately you know: that show shall be my jam.
Such was the situation one day in the spring of 2009 when I saw an ad for Fox’s then upcoming show, Glee. A campy and sometimes dark tv show full of Broadway actors about high school underdogs with musical numbers?! That show shall be my jam.
And for awhile, it was. I loved the satirical mood of the show, it reminded me of Heathers, and hearing Broadway stars cover pop hits was great, although I realize not everyone appreciated that aspect. Maybe it was because I was a theatre major at the time, but it seemed like everyone was watching, listening to, and talking about Glee.
The first season was great. It was smart, funny, sometimes touching or dark or topical and edgy. The second season started out decent, but then something strange and terribly disappointing happened. Fox discovered that 12 year olds were watching the show, and instead of catering to the wider audience of underdogs of all ages that it started out with, it switched focus to the preteen audience. Suddenly, the storylines made me feel like I was watching an ABC Family show. Gone was the satire, the camp, and the snark. Gone were the majority of the showtunes, replaced by artists who were younger than me. Even the continuity fell by the wayside as character arcs were warped to fit the new target audience.
I had to break up with Glee. I don’t give up easily on TV shows (I still watch Grey’s Anatomy for Pete’s sake) but I had had it with Glee. The meat of the content was gone, what was left felt like a Katy Perry music video made out of cotton candy.
I still appreciate what the show did, showing multiple gay relationships between high school students, making glee clubs and showtunes cool for about five minutes, and pushing a lot of underappreciated Broadway actors into a larger spotlight. And for that reason, I recommend watching the first season. But I wonder what the “packaging” for Glee would look like if the show had to advertise for the first time again right now, and not when it was as much an underdog as its characters. Would the same actors have even been cast, or would we be looking at a show starring Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift?
The first season of Glee is available for instant streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
It seems like everything is having a comeback these days. Disney recently launched a sequel of Boy Meets World called Girl Meets World, in which Cory and Topanga are married and their daughter is the main character of the show. CBS is talking about a Charmed remake, FX recently re-made Fargo. It seems that now that children of the 80’s and early 90’s are entering the workforce, nostalgia has a firm place in pop culture. We are the first generation to have access to Youtube clips of our favorite cartoons; Netflix streams The Magic Schoolbus, and Buzzfeed writes articles about our favorite childhood toys. So I can’t say I was surprised when I heard that Jason Blum, director Jon Chu, and Scooter Braun were planning a live action movie the 80’s cartoon Jem and the Holograms. But I can say I was pretty excited about it.
Jem ran from 1985-1988, so I while I wasn’t alive during its run, I inherited the dolls, the tapes, and the fanaticism from my older sister.
Jem follows the story of Jerrica Benton, whose father passes away at the beginning of the series and who leaves his record label, Starlight Records, to her. She and her sister, Kimber, form Jem & the Holograms along with guitarist Aja and drummer Shana when Jem discovers a supercomputer called Synergy able to create holograms in an instant.
Jerrica also inherited a home for orphans, Starlight Manor, from her father, and all of the Holograms efforts to become successful are ultimately to benefit the orphan home.
Of course, no one realizes that Jerrica is Jem and Jem is Jerrica, she keeps her identity secret with the help of Synergy (who changes her hair and costume only, but I guess the eye makeup fools everyone?). Even Jerrica boyfriend, Rio, doesn’t realize they are the same person, and is forever conflicted by his feelings for both women.
Of course, no show is complete without a villain. Rival group the Misfits (Pizzazz, Stormer, and Roxy) spend their days constantly trying to sabotage the Holograms.
The show features music and music videos from both groups, and like the theme song says, the Misfits have better songs.
There’s not a ton of information about the remake set to release in 2016. Director Jon Chu directed some Justin Bieber documentaries, and Scooter Braun is his manager, but I’m going to try to look past that. So far the cast is Aubrey Peeples (Nashville) as Jem, Aurora Perrineau as Shana, Stephanie Scott as Kimber, Hayley Kiyoko (The Fosters) as Aja, and Ryan Guzman (Pretty Little Liars) as Rio. IMDB also lists Molly Ringwald and Juliette Lewis in the cast, but without characters attached to them, and some very uninformative promotional shots have been released:
Jon Chu has said that the film will be a modern-day, live action re-make of the classic show. With the amount of ABC Family regulars in the cast, there’s a good chance the target audience will be the tweens of today instead of the kids of the 80’s, but the fan support behind the project is strong. As is always the case with new interpretations of beloved works, this could go one way or the other, but one thing is for sure: the original show will forever remain truly outrageous.
You can follow the progress of the film at jemthemovie.com. The original Jem & the Holograms streams on Netflix, and is available on DVD.
Here’s our second post on the firsts theme, by Kate:
The first show I watched every episode of was Dead Like Me. I must have been in 7th grade or so and at the time it felt like a big deal. Every. episode. It was also the first show I binge-watched, courtesy of some VHS tapes recorded off the TV of my mom’s coworker. Yeah, you read that right, VHS.
Dead Like Me stars Ellen Muth as George Lass, who is killed by a toilet seat that has fallen off of the Russian Space Station. She’s brought back to life as a reaper, and her new job is freeing the souls of those on their way to the other side. (Another notable cast member: Mandy Fucking Patinkin as the kind of shift leader of the reapers.)
With George’s new afterlife comes new challenges – namely, finding employment, and living on her own for the first time – challenges that will probably ring familiar for all us jobless millennials. Before she dies, George is a college drop-out living at home with her parents and younger sister. After she dies, she quickly learns that the reaper gig doesn’t pay and finds herself in a cubicle job at a temp agency. Huge props go to Christine Willes as George’s perky boss, Dolores Herbig, for some of the best comedic moments of the show.
Dead Like Me is a Bryan Fuller creation, the same man who brought us Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls, so you can expect a good amount of quirk, and it compares pretty strongly to the latter in style. Plus, I really can’t complain about Fuller’s treatment of young female characters. They are funny, smart, and their brains don’t fall out when they date people.
The show is a little sci-fi, but the best part, of course, is its heart of gold. It manages to examine death, grieving, and coming of age all while maintaining a snarky, biting wit (see: Mandy Fucking Patinkin).
Dead Like Me is funny, quirky, touching, and its main character is a girl named George. What more could you ask for? It’s currently available on Amazon Prime Instant Video, and on the VHS tapes kicking around in my closet somewhere.