180 Degrees – The Skyler White Edition Part 1

Where I go from loving/hating a character to hating/loving them…

I’ve never been a big fan of hyperbole or grandiose statements, but Breaking Bad is the greatest show in the history of television.  Season 5 is currently filming and I am counting the hours until the premiere episode.  And part of the greatness of this show is how it took a character I totally despised and turned her into a character I laughed at, cried with, shared a cigarette with…  We’re even trading beauty secrets now.

But here at My So Called TV Blog, we believe in honesty.  So, I recently sat down with Skyler, to let her know that although she gets MASSIVE amounts of hate on the interwebz, I now love her and want her to avoid past mistakes and faux pas that reverse-endeared her to the audience.  And I fashioned it in the time honored American business tradition, a tradition of telling you suck in the most polite way possible:  THE PERFORMANCE REVIEW.

Calm down! We haven’t even started yet you psycho…

Skyler, come in and have a seat.  Yeah, just go ahead and get the door, if you would.  Thank you.  So, here we are.  Performance review…  I know, the words can be scary, but I think this will give you a nice perspective on what you’ve accomplished throughout the series of Breaking Bad so far, and where we are headed together.

Let’s start with your face…

Often, when administering these performance reviews, management will begin by listing an associates’ strengths, then areas of opportunity.  But we here at mysocalledtvblog do things a little differently.   So, if you’ll reference the materials I emailed you, you’ll see I’ve broken down your performance by season.  We’ll just briefly touch on each topic, starting with Season One.  As you can see, there are a few bullet points with the areas of focus.  I’ll briefly discuss each of these with you as we go along.

 Poor conflict resolution / communication skills

You went behind your husband’s back to Gretchen and Elliot to seek assistance for your husband’s illness and impending medical bills.  You organized a lynch mob/intervention to bully your husband into undergoing chemotherapy.  You ratted out your sister Marie to her husband Hank.  All of these things basically backfired on you and didn’t exactly endear you to the audience.  

 Emotional instability

Excuses are like assholes.  Everyone has one and they all stink.  That may seem harsh, but the show runners did you no favors by making you unlikeable BEFORE exploring the pregnant and hormonally-fueled “my husband has cancer, my son has cerebral palsy” angle.  Timing, they say, is everything.  And your timing in Season 1 was just plain unfortunate.  The few opportunities for sympathy you had were squandered with your shrew-ness.

ME??? EMOTIONAL???? GTFO

Now I don’t want to bore you with a bunch of idioms and management-speak, so I’ll use Laymen’s terms.  And it may sound harsh, but it’s tough love.  At this point of the series, we, and I mean the collective we of the audience, hate you. 

And not as the “character you love to hate.”  You are the character we hate to hate, because we wish you weren’t in existence in this fictional realm.  You are like the all encompassing archetype of what women fear they will become and men fear will become of their significant others.   When you google “I hate Skylar White”, this is what pops up:

http://www.cafepress.com/firstnameshop.105661121

But, hey, that’s only the first quarter of your performance review.  It sounds harsh, but it’s tough love, and I think you’ll see where I’m going with this.  If you’ll just flip to page 2 of the review…

– Stephen

COMING SOON:  Part 2, aka Where Skyler gets an almost kinda somewhat redemptive story arc

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Bring Back Dan Cortese and Rock & Jock Please!

Am I the only person that misses Rock & Jock sports on MTV?  That shit was must see TV for me and my friends when I was growing up.  It was loose, featured a nice mix of well known celebrities and pro athletes, and best of all it was fun. 

Remember when I was in How to be a Player? Nah, me either.

 Those were the good old days when the only thing better than being extreme was being X-TREME.  That’s how I wanted my Doritos, and god dammit. that’s how I wanted my sports.  Gen X was ready to say fuck you to everything.  You want me to play baseball?  FUCK YOU!  I’m gonna ride this bike out of a plane!  WOOOOO X-TREME!  And we all know nothing is more X-treme than out of shape celebrities trying to play softball against pro athletes.

Dan Cortese was more famous than both of these guys once.

 

The MTV Sports host and symbol for everything X-treme was Dan Cortese.  Dan was a wild, slightly douchey, California guy fromPennsylvania.  He was the perfect bro for MTV at the time.  In the future, scientists will determine that all Jersey d-bags can be traced back to Cortese.  You know that guy was slaying ass all over the country starting in 1990.  I know it sounds like I’m trashing the guy, but I couldn’t get enough.  What can I say?  It was the 90’s.  Cortese was Rock & Jock and Rock & Jock was Cortese. 

I’m the bro prototype

Rock & Jock Softball looked like the most fun thing in ever.  I looked forward to seeing commercials for it every year.  I’d watch those games over and over just knowing that I was better than Kevin Costner.  The pro ball players would go out of their way to shame the completely uncoordinated celeb players.  Take that drama team!  Outside of Cortese, one of the only great celeb players I remember was MC Hammer.  That dude had game.  Being a bat boy for the A’s will do that.  I’ll always love John Kruk from his yearly antics.  I almost pee’d myself when Rafael Palmiero got to play.  There were genuine A-listers out there and it seemed like they were having fun.  We need this again.  Who cares about humanitarian efforts?  I gotta watch actors suck at softball!

Tell me you don’t want to see his antics. I bet somebody would wind up injured.

I know the MLB All Star game puts on a celebrity softball game every year but that thing sucks.  You know why?  Not X-treme enough.  Also boring.  What could make it more X-treme?  Dan FUCKING Cortese!  I haven’t talked to his agent or anything, but I’m pretty sure Dan’s available.  Let’s go back to the days when MTV had sweet shows like Buzzkill, Aeon Flux, and MTV Sports.  Or maybe I’m just letting nostalgia get in the way.  I can feel the X-citement in X-tacles!  Thanks Frisky Dingo. 

The best thing to ever happen to MTV

Workaholics is coming…

Workaholics returns to Comedy Central on May 29th, and to celebrate the return of the most brilliantly dumb comedy I have ever seen, I’ve created a glossary of terms that you will come to know and love.  If you watch, that is.  You probably won’t, because the ratings aren’t great.  And you’re busy, what with your relationships and cleaning and The Bachelor or some shit like that.  BUT YOU TOTALLY SHOULD, YOU GUYS.

“Let’s Get Weird”

Translation:  Hey, we’re good friends who are comfortable in our friendship and our bodies.  Let’s be open to the experiences of life and embrace spontaneity.

“Tight Butthole”

Translation:  Hey, that thing you did / thing you said / thing you are wearing / situation you have presented?  I find that to be after my own tastes.  Kudos.

not to scale replica

“Loose Butthole”

Translation:  Ooh, I do not approve of that thing you did / thing you said / thing you are wearing / situation you have presented.  I find it unpleasant, like a loose butthole.

“S’GO”

Translation:  Let’s leave this current setting to attend to more pressing matters / disengage from this particular scenario.

“Boy Scout Rule of D’s”

Translation:  I seem to have visually encountered your penis.  This has caused you great discomfort and has brought imbalance to the world.  I will now show you my penis, so the scales of justice have been balanced.  We will become closer because of this experience.

“Ohhh I like Thyaaattttt”

Translation:  OK, don’t be retarded.  Some of these are pretty self-explanatory.

“Half Christmas”

Translations:  A Holiday celebrated at the halfway point between two Christmases.  You’re not even trying to figure these out at this point, are you?  *Sigh*

“Pizza Shrapnel”

Translations:  A dangerous side effect of violent food fights and follicle sabotage.  Not to be mistaken for Piece of Shrapnel.

Adam always had issues with social norms, including the high five

“Garage”

Translation:  Latin for go rage.

We hope to see you at Temple this week.

“The Ders”

Translation:  The alter ego of Anders Holmviq.  A violent, misogynistic animal who disregards societies rules.  He will place you in harm’s way… possible to a Seven Mary Three record.

“I love the ders. and you love the ders. last time we partied with the ders we went to seven mary three, he got us backstage!’
“he headbutted a female security guard, bumrushed the stage and dedicated a song to his dad!”
“yeah, and that song was cumbersome. and it meant a lot to all of us at the time.”

“Jetset”

Translation:  The most debonair telemarketer you will ever meet.  Just don’t ask him to take off his headphones.

“I Don’t Carry Cash With Me, I Just Charge It To The Game”

Translation:  I’m a baller with poor money management skillz.

“Fully Torqued”

Translation:  Raging Boner.

two penises enter, one penis leaves…

“Pre In My Pants”

Translation:  It happens to a lot of guys, JULIE.

Ok, so there you have it.  You’re all caught up and won’t have to ask what they’re referencing every time they say something.  I’m looking at you, Brian.  JUST FIGURE IT OUT FOR YOURSELF, GOD!

-Stephen

Big Bang Theory Part 2

Hey gang, Josh here.  I’ve been debating with myself on whether or not to address The Big Bang Theory as an overrated show.  Bev did an incredible job of skewering the show so I decided to piggy back off of her post.  My hesitation to write about this show stems from the knowledge that my wife is a fan of the show and she already thinks I’m enough of a comedy elitist.  I have friends that swear this is one of the funniest shows on TV.  Anytime I tell a group of people that Big Bang is awful, I have to go through a 20 minute argument about what makes a show good.  I’m going to present my argument rationally and more importantly, while staying sober.  I’ll also try to act as a bit of an anger translator for Bev at the same time. 

Let me start by saying that I get this show.  I really do.  I understand it and could even understand why people like it.  It’s got a tried and true comedy formula.  Setup.  Payoff.  Queue laugh track.  Repeat.  Easy.  It’s worked well in the past and it works now.

(A+B) x Laugh Track =$$$

Chuck Lorre is a smart guy and he knows what he’s selling.  He’s a TV smack dealer and he’s got a set strategy.  1. Keep it simple. 2. Stick with a core group of very similar characters with one outlier that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the group.  3. Don’t take any drastic risks or change things.  That could upset that balance and as a result, upset the audience.  Every episode gets wrapped up nicely in thirty minutes or if they’re feeling really frisky, you get a To Be Continued.  Big Bang Theory is an easy show that you don’t have to invest in mentally or emotionally.  If you miss it one week, it’s no big deal.  It’ll be there when you get back next week and nothing will have changed.  It’s simple.  I’m not saying anyone that watches it is simple.  Big Bang is just a safe show on an ultra safe network.  Unfortunately, safe usually equals success on network TV while innovative get you cancelled.

Bev Issue 1: The laugh track.  The laugh track really gets to me too.  We all grew up with it.  Almost any primetime comedy from the 50’s until the late 90’s came pre-installed with the laugh track.  That or the live studio audience that gets told to laugh outrageously, even on take fifteen of every scene.  The laugh track works though.  Nobody wants to not be in on a joke.  If a group of people thinks something is hilarious, goddammit, chances are you’re going to laugh right along with them.  And that’s how Hitler came to power.  Don’t think the canned laughter makes a difference?  Go to Youtube and watch Big Bang with the laugh track edited out.  The problem with the canned laugh is that it breeds comedy laziness. 

Lazy comedy?

Why try anything new and innovative when you’ve got all the laughs you need without trying?  Are all shows with laugh tracks terrible?  Of course not.  Married with Children and Wings are two shows I grew up watching that can still make me laugh a bit even if I’ve seen every episode 10 times.  But TV has been around a while and things can and should evolve.  When a show depends on a laugh track to place its punchline, it’s forcing the laugh.

Beverly Issue 2:  Bev is completely correct in saying that a hot blond like Kaley Cuoco will likely never hang out with a group of four completely nerdy guys.  There’s a really good chance that they would be neighbors for years and never say a word to each other.  They have nothing in common and wouldn’t know how to relate to each other.  But the reason this part of the show pisses me off is that it’s just the reverse instance of the same TV concept that’s always been used.  Rather than having five exceedingly attractive people and a dumpy nerd, Lorre threw together five dumpy nerds and one exceedingly attractive chick.  Watch out TV land!  Suddenly the tables have turned!

And say goodbye to these!

It’s lazy and unoriginal.  But it’s safe.  We’d all love to live in a world where there’s a beautiful girl (or guy) that always wants to talk to us.  Maybe some day we’ll have a chance with her. We want to have a nerdy guy that’s smart but is socially awkward there to make us feel better about ourselves.  And that brings us to the biggest annoyance of all. 

Bev Issue 3:  The Stereotypes. This is usually where I hear people defend the show the most.  The most common argument is that Big Bang makes it cool to be a nerd.  And I call horseshit on that.  It oversimplifies everything and isolates nerds even more.  The characters on the Big Bang Theory are like a Midwestern housewife’s idea of what nerds should be.  “These guys are nerds so they only like Star Trek, video games, and comic books.  This girl is pretty so she doesn’t like any of that stuff.” 

I don’t care for the brown fellow. I think he’s stealing things.

“These are nerds so they are smart but only book smart so it’s okay to like them because I’m cooler than them and they’re sexually non-threatening. ” “That’s a hot blond girl so she’s pretty dumb so it’s okay to like her because I’m smarter than her and I would totally have sex with her.”  The show makes these smart guys as incompetent as they possibly can when it comes to day to day life.  As a result, their intelligence is basically useless and you laugh at how they can’t get a girl or figure out how to cook.  Isn’t this just sort of making fun of nerds again? 

It’s funny cause he might roofie her later

How can I care about these characters when they’re nothing more than a few easily predictable characteristics?  Why bother getting to know their names when you can call them the nerdy one who is kinda normal, the really quirky nerdy one, the nerdy one that always hits on girls, and the foreign nerdy one?  People aren’t that simple.  Life isn’t that simple. Nerds love sports.  All guys play video games.  Hot girls read comics sometimes. (rarely)  I want a reason to be interested in what these people do.  I want to know exactly why Sheldon is so poorly adjusted to real life and most likely a future serial killer.  Did he have a rapey uncle?   Has Howard ever been accused of sexual assault?  That dude is walking a tight rope and maybe he crossed the line once. If Raj can only talk to girls when he’s drunk, he’d be an alcoholic like me.  I want to see that charming drunk asshole hit rock bottom and get laid all the way down.  That I would watch.  Let’s dive into our characters so I can find a way to like these people!

I wish I could care about you

 I think Beverly summed up the rest quite efficiently so I guess I should wrap up my rant. 

Big Bang Theory is an easy comedy to watch and it’s one of the most popular shows on TV.  You put your group through a small problem that’s easily managed, solve it 23 minutes or so and reset.  Nothing has changed and your characters are the same people they were when you started watching.  It doesn’t try to do more than that.  The acting is solid but there’s nothing there.  It follows the formula every week and executes it really, really well.  I just think that the show grows stale quickly and I have no interest in seeing it again.  Like Beverly said, it wallows in mediocrity. There’s no evolution or motivation given to the characters to grow.  Maybe I’m completely wrong since most of the shows I love don’t make it past 2 or 3 seasons and are cancelled because of low ratings.  Maybe I’m just an asshole that’s too jaded to appreciate things for what they are.  Life is hard.  When people get home from their soul crushing jobs, a lot of them just want something simple that doesn’t require too much thinking.  I just think we owe it to ourselves to want to see new shows that present something different and challenge us to step out of our comfort zones.  Or let’s say fuck it and give Big Bang another Emmy.

god dammit America

– Josh

Top 5 Favorite Non-Main Characters

Thinking back, I’ve always been a fan of characters that aren’t the popular main character.  Where most kids liked t-rex, I liked triceratops.  (he had fuckin spears on his head!)  Everybody liked Kermit, I was a Gonzo fan.  Daffy is infinitely funnier than Bugs.  Maybe it’s from having little brother syndrome.  Maybe it’s cause I have a “moral flexibility” and I think main characters are usually too weak and lame to do what needs to be done lest the audience like them a little less.  That’s not to say I always like the goofy sidekick that’s only there for comic relief and for the main character to save.  Fuck that guy.  That guy is just there to make the main character look better.  Nay.  I’m a fan of the character that’s okay hanging in shadows and making shit happen any way he (or she) can.  Whenever I watch TV, I tend to develop a greater liking for “secondary” characters.  These guys and girls don’t have the same set of rigid TV rules of the typical main character and tend to be much cooler as a result.  When a show actually takes the time to develop these characters, it instantly jumps up a notch for me.  So here are my top 5 non-main TV characters that I could come up with in five minutes. 

#1 Boyd Crowder 

I was blowing up churches before it was cool.

Boyd is the reason Justified is in my top three shows on TV right now.  Walton Goggins took a guy that was supposed to be a stereotypical redneck villain destined to get shot dead in the first episode and turned him into an Emmy nominated badass.  You win this round Dinklage.  Boyd’s eloquence makes him seem all the more devious and likeable.  But he isn’t a complete psychopath that kills without regard to consequences.  Boyd takes the time to plan out his escapades and is always a step ahead the rest of the Harlan riff raff.  He’ll work for any side as long as it furthers his own ends.  That’s the way a proper villain should be.  When push comes to shove, Boyd is the best triggerman around.  He’s the perfect counterpoint to Raylan’s shoot first, ask questions later method.  The bigger his hair, the more badass his scene will be.    

#2 Gus Fring

Nah, I'm good.

Gus is the definition of a professional.  He’s calm, collected, and brilliant. If something could be a problem, Gus sends Mike to deal with it.  There’s no room in Gus’s world for leniency or hesitation.  (He shoulda off’d Jesse when he had the chance)  He never seems to make a rash decision, going so far as to wait over twenty years to get revenge on the Mexican Cartel once he’s assured that he can operate independently.  The slow burn and stillness of Gus’s scenes always made me squirm.  His proficiency with a box cutter is pretty amazing. (most uncomfortable scene ever) My favorite opening from last season was the flashback to the 80’s where we see a young, naïve Gus trying to break into the meth game.  While I can’t say Gus is my favorite character, I will say that I respect the dude more than I could ever respect Walt.  Also, most epic death scene ever?

#3 Roger Sterling

I don't always sing in black face. But when I do, it's always highly offensive.

Roger Sterling is the kind of functioning alcoholic I aspire to be.  One of the partners of Sterling Cooper and later Sterling Cooper Draper Price, Roger seems to have coasted his way through life with a drink in hand.  He’s always ready with amazing one-liners even when feet are cut off by lawn mowers.  That was awesome by the way.  It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Sterling lately though.  Two heart attacks, a divorce, and the loss of Lucky Strike have taken their toll on Roger.  However, his upcoming divorce seems to have been just the thing he needed to return to greatness.  I expect great things from Roger as Mad Men wraps up.  Either he’s going to marry Joan and raise his little bastard kid or he’s going to drop dead from heart attack #3.  Either way, he’s an American hero.

#4 Gob Bluth

No caption needed

George Oscar Bluth is my favorite character living in a world of amazing characters.  Everything about Gob screams shallow and manipulative and awesome.  He has a massive inferiority complex and only seeks approval from people that reject him.  If someone does show him kindness, he sees it as weakness and attacks immediately.  Gob relies on bravado and a GMC commercial voice to get through life.  Get a few drinks in me and I’ll call somebody a chicken Gob-style.  I hope to buy the album Franklin Comes Alive when the series is renewed.  Jason Bateman was a brilliant straight man on AD, and his best fall guy was Will Arnett.  My day isn’t complete if I don’t follow up a sentence with “Come on!”

#5 Randy Marsh

You're the best around!

Randy is one of those secondary characters that took an extremely long time to flesh out.  For the first few seasons of South Park he was just another parent.  I love that as the show has aged, Stan has become more of the voice of reason as Randy has regressed.  He’s basically one of the kids, but he has the ability to do whatever he wants because no one can really tell him no.  Trey and Matt tend to use Randy whenever a parent is in the news.  My favorite episode by far is Randy fighting his way through the little league circuit.  His turn as Steamy Ray Vaughn was pretty epic.  Add to that his time on Wheel of Fortune, and Randy has definitely surpassed everyone else as the best SP character.

*My runner up was Walton Goggins as Shane in The Shield.  But that’s way too much Goggins to put in one list.

– Josh