Category: Television

Whither Joss Whedon?

On Sunday, producer and architect Kai Cole published an op-ed piece at The Wrap about her ex-husband, Joss Whedon, claiming that he had spent most of their fifteen year marriage being unfaithful and gaslighting her. As word spread about the article, its contents were not only shocking, but bitterly disappointing to his legion of fans, a group that includes myself. On Monday, the Joss Whedon fansite, Whedonesque made the decision to cease operation as an ongoing website after fifteen years of reporting on and discussion of news related to Whedon and his various projects. Whedon himself had even visited and posted to the site over the years. Amidst all the outcry and anguish, there has been a vocal minority who has questioned whether this should detract from Whedon being a feminist or even if it is really all of that big of a deal.

For those saying that Joss Whedon cheating on his wife is nobody’s business but theirs, or that hey, that’s Hollywood and this doesn’t mean he’s not a feminist still, this article by The Sunday Morning Herald columnist Clementine Ford is worth your time to read and highlights why this is indeed a pretty big deal. I find it a big deal for personal and professional reasons, as well as from the perspective of being an admirer of his. I think he owes it to a lot of people, most especially his now-ex wife, to address this. Yeah, he’s ultimately just a working stiff like all the rest of us, but he took up a banner and positioned himself as a warrior for an extremely important cause that he failed to follow.Turns out, he really wasn’t the feminist that he emphatically claimed to be. And, if this is all true, he turned out to be a pretty terrible human being. Yes, terrible human being. To subject another to years of humiliation and emotional abuse while at the same time doing everything you can to convince them that it is all in their head is one the most inhuman things you can do to another person, short of physically torturing or murdering them.

What is also hugely disappointing is thinking that there must have been friends and colleagues of both Cole and Whedon who knew this was going on, yet said nothing to Cole or took Whedon aside and pointed out that what he was doing was wrong. As Whedon is wont to work with a lot of the same people both behind and in front of the camera, these friends and colleagues would include a number of other people whose work I enjoy and I professionally admire. That’s pretty troublesome as well, that they would say nothing. Then again, perhaps he was very good at hiding it, but, at the very least, the folks he was having affairs with would surely know he was married and that the infidelity was in serious contrast to his supposed feminist beliefs. Much like an political scandal, I think in this case it is also important to know who knew what and when. I’m not saying I plan to boycott everything that Whedon is involved with going forward, but I’m certainly not interested in supporting anything wholly of his creation and I would seriously consider not paying for or viewing any productions and/or creations by anyone who helped him keep this a secret.

For the record, I don’t doubt Cole’s claims, especially since she cites a letter that Whedon wrote her confessing to everything. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I went through something similar to what Cole went through, except in a non-celebrity manner and over a much smaller time scale. I absolutely know how demoralizing it can be and how it can make you question your sanity.So, yes, I absolutely believe her and applaud her for finally talking about it. I’m sure it was hugely cathartic for her and has helped her come to terms with it and, perhaps, take another step towards moving on. I can’t imagine what kind of backlash she has surely faced, because people like to defend their heroes, even in the face of evidence that they don’t deserve the pedestal they’ve been placed on. So yes, my views of this are most assuredly skewed and I’m absolutely giving this more weight and time than it probably deserves. However, I feel that it is worth separating the man from the myth and from the cause of feminism, because he can be damaged and broken without doing the same thing to what he supposedly stood for. The message remains the same even if the messenger needs to change.

“Change, My Dear…”

In 1978, the local PBS station in Providence, Rhode Island started airing Doctor Who. I don’t remember exactly when I started watching, nor what the first episode I saw was, but to say it was a life-altering experience would not be too much of an exaggeration. Tom Baker was playing the Time Lord at this point and I am very sure that the show instantly became my favorite. This was in the days before VCRs became affordable, but that didn’t deter me from recording the episodes. I would prop up my cassette tape recorder against the TV speaker and record the audio. It took a little experimentation to get the audio levels on the recorder and TV just right, but pretty quickly I was able to listen to the episodes at night in bed. I designated a MEGO S.W.A.T. action figure as the Doctor and had my Mom knit a scarf for him and cannibalized the other figures for appropriate looking clothes and accouterments. I even made a cardboard TARDIS for him. I read about the Doctor’s previous incarnations in various magazines, but never really understood what regeneration really meant until Tom Baker did the unthinkable and left the role. It was difficult to wrap my little kid brain around and I don’t think I coped with it very well, until I finally got to see Peter Davison’s first series. Around that time I was living in North Carolina and the PBS station there started airing the surviving episodes of the first three Doctors. The whole concept of different incarnations and regeneration finally clicked in and made me more of a fan of the show. The Doctor regenerating, while still somewhat sad, was no longer a thing to be scared of, but exciting. Change was good and natural and a doorway to more possibilities. Fans of the show are always talking about their favorite Doctor or their Doctor, which is generally the one who was around when they first started watching. For me, I’ve always been a fan of the character, the incarnations not really being different or distinct, just other facets of the Doctor. I felt that the Doctor, to quote the Brigadier, was “Splendid chaps, all of him.”

The Doctor has always been a positive role model to me, as much as a fictional character can be. He is naturally curious about the universe, never judges anyone based on their looks, always does the right things, champions the little people and, above all, abhors violence. This is a character and show that represents imagination unleashed and that good can always defeat evil.It is constantly changing and evolving, finding new planets and times to visit and new stories to tell. For someone going through the awkward and painful metamorphosis of child to teenager to young adult, it was a good lesson in not being afraid of change, but embracing it. All these things and more are what this show and the the character of the Doctor mean to me. And now, in 2017, we face the prospect of the Doctor changing once again. Will all the different personalities the Doctor has morphed into over the years, this one will be the most radically different as it denotes a more pronounced physical change as well. For the first time ever, the Doctor will regenerate into a female.

Given everything I’ve said about the show so far, and how strongly I identify with it, you may be wondering how much the Doctor changing genders affects my opinion of the series and my outlook on the character. The short answer is…not one bit. Yes, this is the most radical change in the character ever, but it is also the most exciting. But here’s the thing, the Doctor has never been defined by being a man or, more specifically, by not being a woman. I don’t see the character herself changing. The Doctor will still be the compassionate champion of the repressed that she’s always been. Saying that one will view the character differently because she’s physically changed seems rather silly, as we’ve seen the Doctor physically change at least twelve times over the last fifty or so years. She’s still the Doctor, Time’s Champion and the Last of the Time Lords (although, with Gallifrey back, that last one isn’t really true anymore). Anything else is just down to an affectation of acting. I don’t consider the Doctor any less heroic now than when she was portrayed by Tom Baker or Patrick Troughton or Matt Smith. The Doctor is the Doctor as far as I’m concerned and I can’t wait to see what new adventures Jodie Whittaker gets into in the years ahead. The Internet tells me that there are many who vehemently disagree with me. That’s fine and maybe those folks should be OK with skipping the show for a few seasons. After all, Jodie will eventually leave the role and who knows who the Doctor will become then. Or the time after that. The point is, if you have a very defined idea of how the Doctor should be and what kind of stories Doctor Who should tell, and neither of those are how it is right now, just wait and it will all change again at some point. In the meantime, I will paraphrase the quote above and say “Splendid chaps, all of her.”

The Blacklist Star James Spader Sees Red

The Blacklist is already certified as a major hit for the 2013 Fall TV Season. A criminal mastermind, Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) turns himself in to the FBI promising his full cooperation to help them take down the really bad guys, but he’ll only work with new profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). The NBC show has been described as a combination of Alias, Silence of the Lambs and maybe a touch of Homeland, but it still manages to bring something new, and fun, to an episodic spy show. It’s an interesting premise with lots of mystery and plot points enough to keep things going for several years.

But what really makes The Blacklist special and almost a guarantee for awards next year is… James Spader. Or as Spader says…

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QUESTION: How did you decide what the look of this particular character would be? We’re used to seeing you often with a lot of hair so did you decide you wanted the guy to look a certain way like this?

JAMES SPADER: Yes. It sort of worked backwards from one moment, and that’s what I love in that opening sequence when he goes in and surrenders himself, the juxtaposition. I knew the very first thing when I got to New York to shoot the pilot — I had very long hair, and I knew that they were going to shoot a surveillance photo of Reddington to have on the wall there when he surrenders himself. I thought it would be just a great moment when he surrenders himself, he takes his hat off, and the juxtaposition of the shot of him with long hair and then like this. And I also thought that it would be nice just because actors are burdened with everything else that they’ve done before in any role that they’re playing, and I thought it would be nice to take off my hat and it’s an entirely different person and a very different look to go with that.

But working backwards from there, you know, the way his life has been for the last 20 years, he moves very swiftly through his life. He’s moving from place to place very quickly. I thought he should have a haircut, that he can do himself if he cares to or he can go to some barber shop in a little town in Cambodia and they can cut his hair in ten minutes. I just thought it was streamlined, and his clothes are like that, too, in that he looks well dressed, but traveling clothes. You know, he wears clothes that he can go from a bank to a cave and he’s dressed accordingly. And he’s also in a lot of different climates over the last 20 years, so I thought it would be appropriate that he that he dress and look as if he’s able to move through the world easily and comfortably.

QUESTION: What made you so interested in playing a character like Reddington?

SPADER: I was really drawn to the enigmatic quality of the character. I know certain things about his past, but I don’t know the facts and figures of the last 20 years where he’s been invisible, living in plain sight around the world. And I didn’t want to. That’s part of the fun of doing a television show as opposed a film. I like that a television show is fluid and it evolves and develops and changes. And especially with this show I want to be surprised every week. I want it to sustain me over the life course of the show and those surprises are part of that sustenance. So I have only asked from the writers for enough for me to be able to do the work that I need to be able to do. And when I need a question answered they answer it. But I don’t ask more than that because I want them to also have the freedom to be able to write in that fashion where the show can grow and change direction and surprise me the same as it surprises the viewer. If I knew the entire bible of this show, all the past, the present and also the future, for me the experience of making the show would be done. And I’m not interested in that. If anything, when looking for something in a television show, looking for a piece of material, I’m specifically looking for something that I’m going to have a lot of unanswered questions for as long as possible.

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QUESTION: This is sort of superficial, but some viewers are going to make a Silence of the Lambs comparison. Is that sort of connection that you want to embrace or steer away from?

SPADER: The basis of their relationship [Reddington and Elizabeth] is very real. I mean, it’s clear, even from the pilot; there is a past between the two of them that she is not aware of, but he has an intimate knowledge of her past, her childhood, relatives of hers and so on. The relationship between [the characters] in the film you refer to is obsession, and it’s not based on any sort of reality at all. And I think that as the story starts to unfold — and that becomes a driving force — is what the basis of their relationship really is. I think that issue is so invoked in a viewer’s mind based on imagery more than anything else. In the pilot, obviously he’s in this [glass security] box. He’s shackled to the thing. A girl comes in. She’s a rookie and so on and so forth, but the imagery is so powerful and so strong in terms of that, and I think that’s probably where the correlation comes from more than anything. But as soon as Reddington hits the streets, at a certain point, he has to work as an asset, and therefore, he’s got to move freely in public and so on. So I think that the relationship that you’re talking about, that imagery will end fairly soon.

The Blacklist airs on NBC Mondays at 10:00PM

“The Day Of The Doctor” To Simulcast Worldwide On November 23

To make November 23rd, the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, even more special the BBC has announced that the special episode “The Day of the Doctor” will be broadcast at the same time worldwide. Here is the official announcement from BBC America with all the details and a couple of choice comments:

Announced today, BBC AMERICA will simulcast the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, “The Day of the Doctor”, in the U.S. on November 23, 2013. For the first time ever, the world’s longest running and most successful sci-fi series will be broadcast simultaneously to millions of viewers worldwide in a global simulcast.

From the U.S. to the UK, Canada to Colombia, Brazil to Botswana and Myanmar to Mexico, fans in at least 75 countries spanning six continents will be able to enjoy the episode at the same time as the UK, with more countries expected to be confirmed within the next month. The one-off special stars Matt Smith (the Eleventh Doctor), Jenna Coleman (companion Clara), David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor) with Billie Piper and John Hurt.

In addition, BBC AMERICA will be dedicating an entire week to Doctor Who in November, including the new film An Adventure in Space and Time, marathons and new specials to be announced.

On top of the worldwide TV broadcast, BBC AMERICA will announce in the coming weeks details of select 3D screenings of the anniversary episode in theatres in the U.S.

“Few TV shows can still lay claim to being appointment viewing but Doctor Who takes this to another level. In its 50th Anniversary year we wanted to create a truly international event for Doctor Who fans in as many countries as possible and the simultaneous broadcast and cinema screening of the special across so many countries will make for a fitting birthday tribute to our Time Lord,” states Tim Davie, CEO of BBC Worldwide.

Steven Moffat, Showrunner for Doctor Who and Executive Producer of the 50th Anniversary episode adds: “The Doctor has always been a time traveller – now he’s travelling time zones. On the 23rd of November, it won’t be the bad guys conquering the Earth – everywhere it will be The Day of the Doctor!”

In London, birthplace of the iconic series, the 50th Anniversary weekend will also see over 20,000 fans gather at the ExCel exhibition and convention centre for the official celebration event which will feature appearances from cast old and new including Matt Smith and former Doctors Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker and Tom Baker.

Doctor Who is BBC AMERICA’s highest rated series. Since 1963, Doctor Who has been one of the best loved dramas and certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful sci-fi series ever. The show has received numerous awards across its 50 years and has seen huge commercial success with over 10 million DVDs and 8 million action figures sold globally. BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the UK broadcaster distributes Doctor Who to over 200 territories across the world.

November 23rd Is The Day Of The Doctor On BBC America

The centerpiece of BBC AMERICA’s celebrations of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary will be the special anniversary episode, The Day of the Doctor, premiering on Saturday, November 23. In addition to the episode title and iconic image revealed today, the BBC confirmed the anniversary special will be feature length with 75 minutes of adventure. The Day of the Doctor stars Matt Smith (How to Catch a Monster), David Tennant (Broadchurch), Jenna Coleman (Dancing on the Edge), with Billie Piper (Secret Diary of a Call Girl) and John Hurt (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alien). This is the first time David Tennant and Billie Piper have appeared in the series since their farewells in 2010. The special will be a celebration for long-time fans and an opportunity for those new to the series to jump onboard.

Matt Smith, who plays the Doctor, said: “The Day of the Doctor is nearly here! Hope you all enjoy. There’s lots more coming your way, as the countdown to the 50th begins now.”

Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer, Doctor Who said: “50 years has turned Doctor Who from a television show into a cultural landmark. Personally I can’t wait to see what it becomes after a hundred.”

BBC AMERICA will announce additional 50th Anniversary programming plans in the coming weeks.

Picture shows Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor and David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, joined by John Hurt in the 50th Anniversary Special - The Day of the Doctor