Moving Away from Evergreen Terrace

Simpsons DVDs!

Guess which season saw the introduction of a new box design. And guess which set I hate most for ruining everything.

Obsessive completists who collect physical media and refuse to give up on The Simpsons received heartbreaking news this week when longtime producer Al Jean revealed Season 17 would be the final DVD/Blu-ray set produced. In numerous back-and-forth discussions with fans on Twitter, Jean cited poor sales in a world where streaming media has become the preferred viewing option for a lot of former disc buyers. It’s not hard to argue the diminishing aesthetic returns on later seasons may also have contributed to America’s growing consensus as to exactly how much of the show deserves to be archived in their own homes.

For anyone with the true collector mentality, this cancellation poses a special form of anguish: a no-frills Season 20 set was rush-released in 2010 as an anniversary merchandising tie-in. Anyone who’s bought them religiously since Season 1 will now have a eternal gap between 17 and 20 that can never be filled through legal means, to say nothing of the unreleased 21 through 60. Granted, you could pay to watch those online via Amazon, or indulge in the Simpsons World app if you care to watch the show on certain devices. You could store said device on the DVD shelf between 17 and 20, and argue till your face is Homer-pants-blue that it’s close enough. You’d be wrong.

For my wife and myself, it’s another stumbling block to our once-fervent Simpsons fandom.

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“Revolution” 5/21/2014 (spoilers): Lights Out for Good

Monroe Defeats Davis!

For anyone who’s ever wanted to see a Hollywood caricature of George W. Bush threatened by an unhinged former despot, Revolution has just the finale for you!

The end is here!

A capricious NBC allowed Revolution to remain on the air until tonight’s finale, “Declaration of Independence”, but didn’t officially cancel it until it was too late for the showrunners to alter their course, aim for closure, and/or toss in some last-minute nods to us stubborn, longtime fans. The season-long arc with Willoughby and the Patriots limps toward its anticlimax, alliances change too late, plot points are dumped by the roadside, and all the Revolution fanfic writers out there (if any) receive the parting gift of a permanently unresolved cliffhanger that could serve as a pretty bouncy springboard for any number of Revolution Season-3 NaNoWriMo novels.

This way to bid Our Heroes farewell…

“Revolution” 5/14/2014 (spoilers): Preamble to the Cancellation

Revolution steam engine!

Folks in WIlloughby knew their days were numbered when the Cancellation Bear drove a runaway train through their town.

We five or ten remaining Revolution viewers heard the unsurprising news late last week: NBC is pulling the plug on what’s left of its electricity after forty-two episodes. I joked in a previous entry that perhaps the show could’ve forestalled cancellation if it had jumped to CBS and been retitled CSI: Future Texas. While waiting for the penultimate episode to begin, I came up with other useful ideas for new names if creator Eric Kripke can convince the studio to shop it elsewhere — to, say, the CW or Spike TV or Investigation Discovery or maybe TV Land. If someone bites, they could try rebranding it as:

Law & Order: Overthrow
Matheson, Texas Rebel
Charlie and the Soldier Factory
Everybody Hates Bass
Neville’s Advocate
Post-Apocalypse Idol
A Stop at Willoughby (and Other Twilight Zone References My Wife Will Love)
The Day the Nanoz Took Over
The Big Bang Dreary
Abandoned JJ Abrams Project #232
America vs. Nature
All Steam, No Punk
Mustache Dad and His Amazing Friends
Death Death Revolution
Mel Gibson’s The Patriot: 2029
Blackout is the New Orange

…none of which has anything to do with tonight’s new episode, “Memorial Day”, in which trainjackers try trainjacking a train from another group of trainjackers who were there first. Also, someone gets slapped and angry. But I had to keep my spirits up somehow.

This way for another weekly recap, now with 75% more futility!

Cartoon Network to Showrunners: Sell Toys or Perish

Green Lantern, Young Justice, canceledTV animation fans are still coming to terms with recent announcements that Cartoon Network had canceled two Saturday morning series, both part of the DC Nation programming block — Young Justice after two seasons, and Green Lantern after a single season. Cancellation isn’t unusual for the basic-cable channel — their programming history is a long shopping list of short-term productions. In fact, if you set aside the frequent Ben 10 reboots (the Scooby-Doo of a new generation in its own way), their longest-running series outside the Adult Swim block (i.e., still producing new episodes and not existing solely as reruns) is Adventure Time, which will celebrate its third birthday next month. The minds behind Young Justice should probably count their blessings that they were allowed two entire seasons instead of being truncated after six episodes.

Typical Cartoon Network cancellations tend to come and go without a public post-mortem or much of a protest. However, the curious circumstances surrounding these shows’ unforeseen terminations was addressed last weekend at the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, where longtime Warner Brothers Animation producer Bruce Timm was asked about the cancellations at a Q&A. In the wake of a January article about Young Justice ending due not to low ratings but to anemic toy sales, multimedia news/rumor site Bleeding Cool followed up with Timm’s response regarding Green Lantern, referencing weak merchandise sales as the primary cause of death:

Since the Ryan Reynolds’ film, retailers were stuck with film merchandise that just wasn’t selling. This led to those retailers being very reluctant, if not downright refusing, to any carry merchandise from the Animated Series. Therefore, a lack of sales on that front lead to a lack revenue for an admittedly expensive CG series.

In reading the paraphrasing of Timm’s comments, I couldn’t help feeling a little naïve and a whole lot disappointed. Though the shows weren’t quite for me, I can respect the efforts that went into them and the fan bases they garnered. The part that struck me in the worst way was that, if those two articles linked above are to be believed — and I’ve seen no evidence that anyone in authority disagrees with them — then the crews of both shows essentially lost their gigs regardless of the quality of their own work. If the stories were engaging and the animation was suitably competent, it didn’t matter. Even though Nielsen commoners didn’t exactly boycott the show, ratings were seemingly a secondary consideration. The bottom line, as I understand it: they failed as toy commercials.

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Today’s Unrelated Things: Joss Whedon, Action Hero; and “The Killing”, Inaction Victim

For Rosie Larsen, justice was served far, far too late.

Last Friday AMC announced their cancellation of The Killing after two controversial seasons. What launched as a grim-‘n’-gritty crime drama with a unique tone and a promising premise strained to sustain viewer patience, culminating in a season-one finale that launched a thousand ‘Net-fits when it ended To Be Continued. TV fans raised on the complete, self-contained, season-long arcs of superior shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars were unaware that any showrunners in this age would still rely on the ancient TV model of ending a season with a DVD-boxed-set-ruining cliffhanger. We former might have been more forgiving if the season had been more satisfying. Alas, ’twas not the case here.

Before season two premiered, my half of a conversation with a friend digressed into a diatribe about my discontent with the show and my bold plan not to watch a single episode of season two, despite the thirteen hours of my time already invested without benefit of closure. My tantrum went like so:

I patiently allowed myself to be strung along for thirteen hours’ worth of watching one truly original character, several mopey characters, and one aggravatingly incompetent protagonist. I labored under the delustion that the season would be a fulfilling story in and of itself. I waited it out through thin and thinner, enduring unbelievable acts of stupidity committed in extreme slow motion by characters that would’ve been fired or murdered long ago if the same had happened in real life, under the expectation (fostered by precedents set by other, better shows, not to mention 99% of all other whodunits throughout recorded entertainment history) that closure for the simple question of “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” would be forthcoming in a timely manner.

When the show revealed itself to be an extended tease for a resolution that might or might not occur in some future season, unless they decide never to solve it, which they totally could if they wanted to, meaningless press releases in recent months notwithstanding, and when showrunner Veena Sud confirmed that they never intended to solve the mystery in season 1…I was not remotely happy.

And it wasn’t just for my own sake, but for my wife’s, whose reaction was even more vehement and scary than mine. She and I rarely watch any new TV shows together, but just this once she had trusted my recommendation and given The Killing a shot. It was fun to watch the show together, to compare our notes and thoughts on a shared experience.

So that blew up in my face. When the finale ended with the complete non-solution and the one original character betraying us, she instantly swore off the show, and she’s not fully trusted a TV recommendation of mine ever since.

So thank you, Veena Sud, for helping me not spend more time with my wife. I’ve never been this excited about not watching a TV show, but now I’m zealously anticipating any and all Schadenfreude I can derive at your show’s expense.

…but I’m feeling much better now. I honestly expected this to be a minority opinion that would long forgotten somewhere around the show’s fifth season. Apparently I wasn’t the only upset customer who upheld their promise, refused to tune in again, and passed the time until the finale aired and online news sites reported the mystery’s solution.

For what it’s worth, my wife bought me season one of Sherlock for our eighth anniversary a couple of weeks ago, in hopes that we’ll have time to enjoy it together. Neither of us has seen an episode yet (I’ve watched one brilliant scene online, under the title “Sherlock Holmes, Grammar Nazi”), but trustworthy people keep recommending it. Here’s hoping.

* * * * *

Since I’m not really in the mood for a complete downer of an entry, enclosed below is something completely different. If you’ve already seen it six times in the last week because your friends flooded all your Internet inboxes with links to it, I’ll understand if you groan and fire up your escape pod now.

From the producers of The Guild, a new Web series called Written by a Kid springboards from simple storytelling segments with children ages four to nine, who still say the darnedest things after all these years. Whereas Bill Cosby would only allow each of his interviewees a brief moment in the spotlight, Written by a Kid moves one step beyond and turns each child’s improv short-story into an animated tale of whimsy and wonder.

Episode one is called “Scary Smash”, about a one-eyed monster on a milkman-murdering rampage and the SQUAT team captain that takes seven days to stop him. Starring Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall, NewsRadio, A Bug’s Life) as the dead milkman, Kate Micucci (stuff I’ve never seen) as a latecomer to the war, and, in his first starring action role, TV’s Joss Whedon (TV’s Angel, TV’s Firefly) as that steadfast captain, Gerald by name, who wields a sword and a shield and a gun and a small gun.

…and now you know how to count to ten hundred.

If you watch as many YouTube shows as my son does, you may also recognize some of Gerald’s poor, ineffective soldiers in split-second cameos, including YouTube stars Rhett and Link, and executive producer Felicia Day herself.

For a first effort, it’s not bad. It may be the last time in this kid’s life that he will know the joy of having a script produced without a rewrite by a meddling studio hack.

Y’know what I liked best about it? It told a complete story in four minutes flat.

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