30.12.11

Four Storylines That Suck or Sucked (in Otherwise Good TV Series)

I was talking to my nephew this morning, and he had the audacity to imply that the recent developments on Dexter might be a good thing.


My first reaction was to type up a long-winded response to his ridiculous suggestion, explaining all the reasons why [spoiler] is not only a bad thing, but a total catastrophe.

Then that got me thinking. After I watched Dexter's season six finale, I decided that if that storyline continues for long, I might be forced to quit watching the series. Even if the writers realise their horrible mistake, however, this dark moment in Dexter's history will always remain, like a scar you can't really get rid of.

(And reparative surgery, as Dallas proved in the past, has disastrous results on TV series.)

And Dexter's not the only TV series to have made such a mistake. No, there's a long line of TV series to choose from, otherwise good shows whose writers went crazy for a day, a month or, hell, an entire year and either gave their creations a terrible scar that will never go away or just went and killed them entirely. Here are four of those storylines.

(Spoilers follow for Grey's Anatomy, Angel, Doctor Who, and obviously, Dexter.)

Here's an image of a puppy to give you the chance to leave the page if you want to remain spoiler-free before accidentally reading any of the headlines.


OK, here we go:

#1. Grey's Anatomy: Izzy slept with Denny. (Who was dead.) Repeatedly.

Say what you want about Grey's Anatomy today (and you'll probably be right), but it used to be a good show in the first three seasons. You know, before everyone started sleeping with everybody, about a thousand new characters were included in the regular cast (thus giving each main actor screen time that can last up to approximately 3 mins and 32 secs) and the parallels between the medical cases and the characters' lives started being applied with sledgehammers, Grey's Anatomy was a good show. Occasionally, even brilliant.

Then Shonda ran out of ideas.


The beginning of the end for me was that time in the third series when Meredith fell into the ocean and nearly drowned or froze to death or whatever, then was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead but then was brought back to life about four hours later (!) even though her brain had not been functioning during that time and she was... fine. And not just that: during those four hours, she had had a supernatural experience which involved meeting the ghosts of past patients and people she knew and having a heart-to-heart with her mother, who had just died in the real world, before the latter crossed over and Meredith was revived.

...


Even without the Christian undertones (which do not belong in a medical show), this would've been a terrible idea. But some fans loved it, so what was the natural next step?

This, apparently.


In case you're not familiar with the story, Denny was a patient in season 2 who fell in love with Izzie, a doctor at the hospital where he was admitted. Theirs was a doomed and forbidden love, for doctors are not allowed to have sex with patients (it breaks some protocol or oath or something), but their feelings for each other were so strong that they overcame all the obstacles in their way.

Except Denny's illness, which is why he died after he proposed to Izzie. It was sad.

("Come back, Jack -- err, Denny, come back!")

Then a couple seasons later, Izzie apparently exhausted all the alive options and the producers decided that it was a terrible idea to get rid of the one guy who could not run away (literally, since he was usually confined to a bed), so what did they do? They had Izzie have sex with his ghost.

Have sex. With his ghost.

(And all that after she had got Casper's hopes up. The bitch.)

Of course, it wasn't his actual ghost. As we later found out, Izzie was suffering from cancer, the type that brings back dead lovers, and as soon as she started her treatment Danny disappeared. (Thus reaffirming the stereotype that all guys want is to fuck you and then go away.) But this took about 7-8 episodes to be revealed, and there was no indication whatsoever that something was wrong with Izzie.

Well, something was clearly wrong with her since she was screwing a dead guy, but the whole story was treated as a joke.

(Grey's Anatomy's Life Lesson #143: "Cancer is funny.
And you get some great hallucinations if you feel like masturbating.")

Is it any wonder that Katherine Heigl quit the show soon after?


#2. Angel: Cordelia had sex with Angel's son. (While possessed by Gina Torres. To whom she gave birth.)

Angel was never that great of a show, if you ask me. Some people will disagree, referring to the "if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do" mentality that characterised it as an important life lesson -- which I do kinda agree with, but I don't believe that's what Angel was about. Also, some fans will suggest that "Angel was darker than Buffy" (the former span off from the latter), which is a ridiculous and infuriating idea. But anyway, Angel was a decent, enjoyable show and it had some great storylines here and there.

It also had some horrifyingly stupid storylines here and there. Namely, the entire fourth season.


In case you don't remember or don't know the details, let me help you out: in season 3, Angel and Darla (his ex-lover) had a son, Connor. Connor was later kidnapped by one of Angel's enemies and taken to a hellish dimension, to which nobody had access. A few weeks later, Connor returned, now a teenager, from said dimension, where he had been raised to hate and wanna kill and torture his dad, Angel.

(Talk about Oedipal syndromes.)

Then, at the end of season 3, Connor finally managed to do what he wanted: he confined his dad to a casket and threw him in the ocean, while he was on his way to meet Cordelia, to whom he wanted to confess his love.

At the same time, Cordelia, on her way to confess her love to Angel as well, was visited by a guide who let her know that her destiny was to become a higher being, so she ascended to heaven while Angel descended into the ocean, providing us with some symmetrically sad and epic ending for the season.

("It doesn't have to make sense, just make it symmetric!")

So then season 4 came, and Cordelia returned... without any memories. No worries, they did a spell and the memories returned, and then Cordelia slept with Connor.

(I hate to use a .gif twice, but it's fitting.)

Connor, as in the child that up until a few weeks ago she was holding in her arms. The child that pooped and peed in her arms. The child whose diapers she changed. The child of the man whom, up until recently, she was in love with.

(The creepiness calculator exploded soon after that.)

But, wait, no. It's all right, because it wasn't actually Cordelia. As we found out about half a season later, Cordelia had been possessed all that time. Apparently, while she was in heaven, her body had been hijacked by another higher being, who had been awoken when they did the memory spell, and it was it who used Cordelia's body to have sex with Connor, so Connor could impregnate Cordelia with another body for that higher being so it could give birth to itself.

Also, apparently the past four seasons of the show had been plotted by said higher being, to make sure that she would be born.

(There's an argument for you, abortionists.)

So, basically, the entire show was a plan devised by a bad guy. Huh.

("I never fail.")

#3. Doctor Who: Rose returns to the man she loves. (And gets a free copy of him to keep, since the  original doesn't love her the same way.)

Doctor Who is a children's show from the 1960s, which was cancelled somewhere mid-1990s and then revived in 2005 by Russell T. Davies... and this is where my gratitude ends to this guy.

Russell T. Davies is a terrible writer. I'll say it now so I can get it out of the way. He's an OK showrunner, but most of the scripts he has produced would be better if they had been crapped upon by writers like Joss Whedon, Stephen Moffat (a.k.a. Doctor Who's current showrunner), Bryan Fuller or, hell, even Marti Noxon.

This is the guy that gave us farting aliens:


girlfriends made of stone:


and about a million episodes with these annoying little creatures called the "Daleks":


Nothing could prepare us, however, for the worst abomination of all time and mother of Deus-ex-Machinae, i.e. the ending of Rose Tyler's story.


Now it's been a good while since I watched those episodes so bear with me, but this is what I remember: Rose Tyler was the Doctor's best friend ("companion", in the DW universe) in series 1-2. She started developing feelings for him in series 2, but he could not respond because she was a measly 20-something-year-old human and he was a 900-year-old alien.

("Name: Doctor
Surname: Who
DOB: ??
Place of Birth: Planet of Gallifrey")

Then something involving the Daleks happened and they were trapped in two different worlds, unable to ever meet each other again.

But wait...

Two series later, all throughout series 4, Rose kept reappearing here and there, trying to contact the Doctor in various ways. And at the end of series 4, the barriers between the worlds collapsed, and she came back to him.

Then the Doctor died.

(Because people can't just run towards each other without something bad happening.)

Well, sort of. See, if I remember correctly, the Doctor had a magic hand in his house which is bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside and he used it to survive the deadly blow he suffered, but this somehow made the hand create another copy of him which looked exactly like him except it wasn't alien like him, but human, so it could love Rose like she loved him without any trouble.

(As I said, it's a children's show.)

So what did the original Doctor do? My, my, of course he gave the copy to Rose as a freebie, took her back to the alternate universe she had been trapped in for the past couple of years and left her there with it, so she could live out the dream she had of shacking up with him while he continued to travel. Basically, everyone lived happily ever after.

("I'm sorry, I have to get out of here before this storyline gets any worse, 
if that's even possible.")

Moral of the story: every doomed love story would have a happy ending if writers were as smart as Russell T. Davies and introduced clones out of nowhere into their scripts.

#4. Dexter: Debra falls in love with her brother because her therapist told her so. (Don't worry, they're not blood-related. That makes everything better. Right?)

Dexter is a show about a serial killer you're supposed to root for, so some lenience is required. From the get-go, you're aware that not everything is going to be a bed of roses, or morally clear.

Also, some scenes are meant to make you squirm, or think about them for weeks.

(This still haunts me, for example.)

But there are certain lines that even shows like Dexter aren't meant to cross, and this was one of them: for five and a half seasons, Dexter and his sister Debra have had a dysfunctional, but insanely interesting brother-and-sister relationship. Then in season 6, Debra goes to a therapist and the therapist suggests that she's actually in love with her adopted brother and Debra takes her word for it and runs to tell him and finds him killing someone so she discovers he's a killer and then CUT, see you next year.

...Where do I start?

First of all, just because you're not biologically related doesn't mean you're not still siblings.


This is the first argument the (very very few) supporters of the idea bring up: they're not actually brother and sister! Dexter is adopted, so it's not gross.


IT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY. Regardless of whether you share the same blood with someone or not, if you've been raised as siblings, YOU'RE SIBLINGS. Dexter and Debra were raised by the same parents, as siblings, so they are siblings. Ergo, it's disgusting. So there's that.

But, as I said, Dexter has always been morally grey, so why is this any different?

Well, first of all, because Debra went from "I love my brother" to "I'm in love with my brother" in two seconds. All it took was a therapist suggesting it and a dream and she was ready to confess her love to him.

(The writers of Dexter in the writers' room.)

And the therapist? What the fuck, lady? Where'd you get your degree? I've been to a therapist before and I took psychology classes in uni, so trust me when I tell you you're not supposed to put ideas in your patient's head. She wasn't helping Debra reach a conclusion; she tied Debra's hands behind her back, threw the conclusion in a pit and then grabbed Debra and just dumped her in the same pit, all the while screaming: "THIS IS WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU BECAUSE I SAY SO!"

Uh, no. This is not what's wrong with Debra, this is what's wrong with writers who have clearly run out of ideas.

And the worst part? We've been waiting for Debra to find out about Dexter's serial-killerish ways for seasons now. But now that moment's been ruined, because she's in love with him. As I told my nephew, Dexter fans wanted Dexter's fucked up but normal sister to find out that her brother is a serial killer. We did not want Dexter's fucked up and crazy and in love with him sister to find out that the brother she wants to have sex with is a serial killer. This does not a good drama make. So fuck you, Dexter writers. You took away the one interesting storyline everyone was looking forward to.


25.12.11

Five Things That Suck About Christmas

In case you didn't get the memo, it's Christmas today.

(Merry Christmas.)

Before you cock the candy-loaded gun or send evil reindeer after me, I'm a fan of Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/any holiday people pretend to observe in December in the company of their parents. 


No, even a determined atheist/agnostic and self-proclaimed (and almost certified) cynic like me can't find it in his heart to hate this holiday. It might be the cold and the snow, it might be the presents, it might be the cheery, everything-will-be-all-right attitude that most people decide to adopt, but Christmas is my second favourite holiday.*

(Definitely the presents.)

But as everything that's great in life, there are certain things about Christmas that suck. Some of them apply to almost everyone, some only to specific people. Here are five of them.

(*My first favourite holiday, as I've stated before, is Halloween.)

#1. It's the worst time to be alone.

It's never fun to be alone. Human beings are a social animal; it's part of our instincts to interact, to love and hate each other, to form friendships and all kinds of relationships and to want to be around each other.

(Although those instincts do tend to fade during office parties.)

But what seems sad at any given time becomes a million times worse during Christmas. Spending a Friday night in front of your computer, alone in your room? Pathetic at any given time, officially depressing during Christmas. Living miles away from your family? Potentially sad (or extremely fortunate, depending on the family) at any given time, seriously painful (or exhilarating) during Christmas. Having no friends that you can hang out with? Gloomy at best at any given time, a reason for alarm regarding suicide attempts during Christmas.

(And don't even get me started on being a teenager on the Upper East Side.)

There are two main reasons people tend to hate Christmas: (a) something really bad happened to them during Christmas in the past, or (b) there are things in their life that suck so bad they can't even pretend to be in the cheerful mood that the holiday demands.

(Batman, for example? Not a fan of Christmas.)

And who can honestly blame them?

#2. It's the worst time to be broke.

As I mentioned above, one of the greatest things about Christmas is the presents. As a child (and much like every single child in the entire fucking universe), I looked forward to the moment when I would wake up, run up to the tree and grab my presents, hungrily rip the wrapping off and discover what they were. Sometimes, when I was quite young, my dad would dress up as Father Christmas and deliver them to my brother, my sister and me. Most of the time, we just discovered them under the tree, mysteriously delivered during the night while we were asleep.

One year, my parents didn't have any money. I, of course, as a child, did not understand that. They didn't even tell me; they tried to ease my siblings and me into the forthcoming disappointment by mentioning that Father Christmas had run into some problems with our presents but I figured, hey, it's Father Christmas, it's his fucking job to get his shit straight and give us proper gifts.

("If you don't like it, there are a bunch of people waiting in line for the same job, pal.")

Imagine my surprise/anger/disappointment when I woke up and discovered that my present was a chocolate bar and a meagre amount of money. My parents tried to explain, saying that this year Father Christmas had focused on the poorer children in third-world countries, but I would hear none of it. "Why skip out on us? There are a bunch of rich children out there whose parents can buy presents if Father Christmas can't afford to. He's an asshole!" I didn't say that last part, but I thought it. And the things I did say, I'm pretty sure made my parents quite unhappy. When I look back on it now, I feel sad that I didn't understand. But I was a child, and children want presents.

And not just children. I'm 24 now, I still like presents. But this Christmas I'm officially broke. I currently have about £60 left for the next two weeks. You know what my Christmas present to myself was? Two used DVDs from CEX, £1 each.


(True story.)

#3. It's the worst time to be on a diet.

Do I even need to explain this one?

Think about it. The very symbolic figure of Christmas is an old, fat guy.

("Merry Christmas. Now eat!")

The whole point of Christmas Day is to have a scrumptious dinner with your family. The whole season is characterised by cold, snowy weather, presents and having drinks and eating sweets and pudding with friends and family by the fireplace. If you google "Christmas food", this is the type of results you get:

(I think I just gained five pounds just by looking at this.)

It's like an international prerequisite that if you want to enjoy Christmas, you have to gain weight. You don't even have to enjoy Christmas, but the weight-gaining part almost always remains. Unless your metabolism is insanely flexible and your body remains the same regardless of what you consume (in which case I think I speak for everyone when I say "fuck you"), you're doomed to Christmas pounds.


(And obviously not the good kind.)

Sure, this is not as bad as being lonely or broke, but who said that #1, #2 and #3 are mutually exclusive?

#4. It's the worst time to try to travel.

This might be exclusive to the UK, I'm not sure. I wanted to spend Christmas in Leicester with my family; I had yesterday and today off from work (a miraculous thing, considering my job is casual and we're therefore open on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day), so it would have been perfect: I would take an early train on December 24th and a late train today and I'd be home on time for work tomorrow. East Midland Trains, however, begged to differ.

("Except on the days that matter the most.")

And not just East Midland trains. No, douchebaggery is not exclusive to them. The entire fucking train system freezes on the 25th in England. No tube, no buses, no trains, no DLR, nothing. The only thing that works are taxis, and they charge you a month's rent for a ride.

Look, I don't wanna be a dick. Sure, tube drivers deserve to spend Christmas with their families. But you know what? So do doctors. And nurses. And writers. And, hell, even baristas like me. And all these people get paid less than tube drivers. (Even certain doctors get paid less, according to my doctor flatmate.) So, it should come with the job description when you decide to be a tube driver, just as it comes with it when you decide to become a doctor, or nurse, or whatever: "there's a slight chance you'll work on holidays."

But nooooooooooooooooo. TfL would rather shut off the entire train system than mess with the needs of a bunch of people whose biggest concern is making sure they don't accidentally switch lanes. (Or, OK, run over some idiot.) And why wouldn't they? As Boxing Day and the tube drivers' massive strike over "unsatisfactory pay wage over the holidays" proves, the drivers can do what they want. Hell, they even demanded higher wages for the Olympics for having to "work harder". And they got them. Everyone will have to work harder during the Olympics, dear drivers. We won't get paid more.

("As a tube driver, one of my favourite pastimes is being a dick.")

#5. It's the worst time to do anything.

You name it, you try it, you'll see. Send a letter? It'll take twice the time to arrive. Go shopping? Good luck surviving. Go to the gym? Better check the opening times, they're probably gonna be 9.00am-9.15am. Fly abroad? Better wish it doesn't snow. All in all, wanna do something? Better wait until Christmas is over.

You see, the problem with Christmas is that it has to be celebrated, and in order for that to happen your life has to be put on hold. You have to take time off your job, and so does everyone else. (Almost.) And since that happens collectively, almost everything shuts down.

And that's even worse if you belong to the select few (or many) who don't get time off their job. So... you have to work over Christmas, you have to endure listening to other people's plans about Christmas, and you have to wait for anything important you want or need to do since the service is going to be limited and sucky during Christmas. Still enjoying the holidays?

(Your future.)

So, yeah, anyway... Merry Christmas, y' all! I hope you have a great one! Talk to you soon.

11.12.11

Why Greece Sucks #1: Greek Universities

[The introduction to this post used to describe a situation between my sister and one of her lecturers at UoA. Now that the situation has been resolved, my sister has asked me to take those paragraphs down. If I have time soon, I will amend the opening so that the whole post reads smoothly again. Until then, I apologise for the current botched version.]

...I did my Bachelor's at the same university as my sister, and I had my fair share of ignorant, conceited and worthless lecturers. One of my lecturers gave me a failing grade four times -- his was the last module I needed to pass in order to graduate, and I had to beg him and explain I'd been accepted in a UK university for a Master's in order to pass. The same lecturer once famously decided that he would change the examination process (switch from open to closed books) for his module... on the day of the exams.

("My name is Rick Perry and I approve of Noel's ex-lecturer.")

Another lecturer used to teach Modern Philosophy -- and he decided that the only books we needed to read were books written by him. I should explain: not books written by him describing modern philosophical currents and theories... nooooo, philosophical books written by him. The entire module was practically a flourish of complacent self-praise, an ode to the lecturer's self-imposed glory.

(I've no doubt the only reason he throws exams for his module 
is because he needs to refresh his masturbatory material every year.)

To be fair, of course, I did have some excellent lecturers as well (including, but not limited to the two people who gave me my letters of recommendation for my MA.) But the whole Greek university system is preposterous, sad and infuriating. How the hell does a lecturer like my sister's get away with this? How does a lecturer get away with creating an entire module based on his own random theories?

(I'm surprised my ex-lecturer didn't turn up like this in class.)

And then there are the other small things. When I moved to Canterbury to study, I was amazed to find out that there was a student society for everything. My friends and I constantly made fun of it, often referring to the "Hedgehog Appreciation Society" as a token of ridiculousness -- but the truth is, there were many useful societies as well, many societies that you could actually use your participation in later on to boost your CV.

In Greece? In Greece we have political parties.

(Colin Farrell is convinced I have a case here.)

Or the book system? Everyone in Canterbury was amazed that Greek students are entitled to free books at university. But here's the thing: we're entitled to one book per module. I dunno about you, but I had to read at least ten books per module at my postgraduate, and consult at least twenty more. One book per module is ridiculous.

("Welcome to English Literature in the 19th century.
The only book you're entitled to read is The Old Curiosity Shop.
Don't worry, we'll figure out the rest with drawings and shit.")

And the libraries? Templeman Library at UKC wasn't great, but it was four fucking floors of not great. My department's library at UoA consisted of a room that's smaller than my parents' living-room and the only books they had were the books we'd already been given for free. Oh, and the opening times? 10am-4pm... Monday to Friday.

(We also had a computer with free internet access.)

Don't get me wrong, I did learn a few things at UoA, and I'm aware that bitching about a university course you paid nothing for is bordering on provocative when others have to pay £9000 per annum for their education. In fact, because I paid for my MA course, I'm much more critical towards the university and what they offered. (For example, it's infuriating that UKC has not gotten back to us with our dissertation results three months after we submitted. Also, their finance office should be publicly shamed for their practices with regards to accommodation deposits. And those are just the tip of the iceberg called 'Kent'.)

But that doesn't change the fact that Greek universities are incredibly fucked up -- and there are those who struggle to gain or offer something despite that, and those who profit from it... like my sister's lecturer, or those students who still haven't graduated after having been enrolled for nearly a decade or more.

I'm grateful for it being free. But you know what? It would've required quite a lot of nerve to ask for money for what we were offered. Maybe Greek universities would benefit from charging -- just as long as they became privately run, as well. If they remained public and charged, the money would most probably go straight into the MPs' bank accounts -- but that's a different story, and I'll get back to it.

(I'm sure you all look forward to it.)