eleanorjane: Ziva David, captioned 'a few deadly sins' (deadly)
Oh TV, how I've missed you. *hugs* I mean, I hate the Leverage and Burn Notice hiatus, but it's so good to have Castle and NCIS back.

Thoughts! (Cut for spoilers.)

Leverage 2.09 thoughts )

Castle 2.01 thoughts )

And then there was NCIS! )

Next in the viewing pile - NCIS:LA. (I am disappointed to see all the promo images seem to be LL Cool J + Chris O'Donnell, rather than team-centric, but I haven't seen the actual ep yet, so.)
eleanorjane: Sophie looking seductive. (rowr)
Boo for hiatuses; I hate the American TV system and its bizarre "woo, a TV show's just gotten really rolling? let's pull it off air for four months!" ways.

Thoughts, spoilery. )

And now, something else I like: John Rogers (the Leverage showrunner) is pretty benevolent about fanworks.

From this post, in response to a pretty hostile question about fanfic:

1.) I think fanfic is the sign of a healthy show. Here's what it boils down to: you're telling me that in today's crowded media space, our show made someone love it so much they take time out of their own life to talk about it? Holy. Crap.

To be fair, I have a somewhat different attitude toward media/fans than most people. I think what TV/corporate media had wrong for a long time was how they understood the idea of a "water cooler show." They saw it as making the audience talk about their show, on their terms. So any fan-created media is them losing control of their material. I see this more as the natural evolution of culture in a shared digital age. I will be blunt -- other than the satisfaction of our own creative urges (and all that entails: the quest for perfection, artistry, craft, etc), our job in media is to give you stuff to talk about in your conversations, to integrate into your social circle in whatever way you see fit. I doubt that's TNT's official stance, btw, but they are much cooler about this stuff than most companies.

2.) As far as "borrowing" our characters -- to paraphrase Alan Moore, they didn't go anywhere. There they are, sitting right up on the shelf. Waiting for us to let them loose again. Besides, how many people read a fanfic story? A couple hundred, tops? We have, on average 3.5 million viewers, well into the 4 million range when you get the DVR numbers in. I just don't see someone taking control of our Ideaspace through sheer force of Slashfic.

Sure, a lot of fanfic is crap. Of course it's crap. It's written by people who are not professional writers. If I paint, what I paint is crap. Does that mean I should give up painting and displaying stuff in my neighborhood art show?

3.) Is fanfic flattery? Again, depends on how you define flattery. If someone's writing fanfic with intention of currying favor for some ... er, frankly unguessable benefit, then they're really engaged in an exercise in futility. If you mean flattery as in: it's flattering to think someone is so entertained by our work that it inspires them to talk about it and create around it, then aces.

4.) Most writers and actors don't feel this way. Some, including writers I both like personally and greatly admire, hate the idea of fanfic.

Look, end of day, you should always be trying to create your own material. But fanfic, etc, is a different process than original creation -- which I think is the source of a lot of the controversy.

People who do original creations assume the fan is taking some sort of unearned ownership, somehow implying their act is the same/as difficult as the original act of creation. Which, of course, tees them off (doesn't tee me off, but I'm a very relaxed and often drunk guy).

And some fanfic humans are under the impression that creating fanfic is the same creative process as creating original material -- and are sometimes frustrated that they're not accorded the same respect as the original creators. That's also wrong. Fanfic to me is spiritually much closer to the fan-created music videos.

The basic rule I follow here is one I learned in stand-up comedy: Always punch UP. I am a relatively successful typing human whose words are physically produced using millions of dollars and is distributed nationally by a massive billion dollar corporation to millions of people. Exactly how is a free web page with a 1000 word story about Eliot and Hardison fighting a trans-dimensional incursion of Elves hurting my brand, exactly?

Tell you what -- if some fanfic writer is so good they manage to amass a million-person audience with their web-distributed free stories using my characters, I am going to consider that evolution in action and hire that bastard. Or, at the very least, urge them to go create their own show. But odds are it ain't gonna happen. And that's okay. We write for different reasons.


Also, now I want to read about Eliot and Hardison fighting a trans-dimensional incursion of elves.
eleanorjane: Frank n' Furter looking bemused. (wtf)
So, Leverage. I posted this on an external blog a while back, but no-one really reads that blog, so. Here I am, recycling content already!

When I first posted about Leverage on LJ, I said:

It feels like it's trying to be Ocean's 11 for television - and given that I loved the Oceans movies a lot, that is not a bad thing in my books. It has a lot of similarities; each episode shows you the job, the setup, and then plays out the con to keep the suspense rolling. Critical things happen behind the scenes so that the viewer can be surprised, but it's never just handwavium; they'll usually cut to a flashback scene showing how the team set things up. There are serious personal issues motivating many of the characters, but on the surface the banter flies, and I spend most of an episode laughing as I watch.

The similarities extend as far as the soundtrack; Leverage uses a lot of the same music as the Oceans movies, particularly Ocean's 11. Not just the same style; I'm sure some of the tracks are identical.

It even shares the same language of cons, where the characters suggest cons to each other without ever going into detail about what each con entails.

Nate: ...And besides, we're going with a much bigger scam. *smirks*
Parker: The London Spank?
Hardison: The Genevan Paso Doble?
Eliot: The Apple Pie.
*pause, everyone looks at Elliot*
Eliot: [defensively] It's like the Cherry Pie, but with lifeguards.
Sophie: Oooooh.


Lifeguards. I love it.

Although it's not doing anything really ground-breaking, one of the things I do like about it is that it really pushes my 'competence' buttons; I love seeing people being effortlessly good at something, and this delivers in spades. Eliot is a perfect example; he's the team's muscle, and the first episode makes it clear how ridiculously good he is at his job. So, you're inclined to write him off as The Thug.

Except, except; he's nearly as good a scammer as Sophie, the team's actress, con artiste and grifter. Or Hardison, the team's computer genius, who does a fantastic line in impersonating FBI agents. It'd be so easy for the show to play them as pigeonholed cogs in the ensemble, having them fumble and bumble when they're out of their element for comedy value; instead, they're professional and effortlessly competent, and it's just a joy to watch.


That line about being glad the writers avoided the temptation to paint the characters as one-note stereotypes certainly resonated with me a couple of weeks ago, when I watched a recent NCIS episode - which is a show I generally enjoy a lot, even if you can't take it too seriously - and saw how not to do it.

To wit, the following exchange. (McGee is the team's computer-savvy agent; he's got a Masters in forensic computing, and is generally a stereotypical geek.)

McGee: Actually, I met someone.
DiNozzo: What's his name?
McGee: Her name is Claire. [smugly] She's a computer programmer.
Ziva: Where did you meet?
McGee: Well, actually, we, uh - we haven't met in person. We met online.
DiNozzo: [laughing] Of course you did. Go figure. [McGee is beaming in the background.]
Ziva: So, when is the first date?
McGee: Hopefully as soon as possible. This girl, Ziva, she's perfect - she's gorgeous, she thinks I'm hysterical. And... she's a level five sorceress.
DiNozzo: [holding his head and laughing] Oh god.
McGee: What?
DiNozzo: No! The sadness, when I hear you talk like this! You don't know who these people are - it could be a forty-five year old overweight man in Minnesota. I mean, like you said, you two haven't even met yet.
McGee: What part of level five sorceress don't you understand?
Gibbs: [entering] All of it.
McGee: Boss, to be a level five sorceress, you have to conquer ... it's not important.


McGee refers to the "level five sorceress" thing at several other points in the episode, too, as though it's a measure of Claire's awesomeness as a person. Every time it happened I died a little inside. (Bear in mind, for those of you who don't follow NCIS: this is a character who graduated top of his class from FLETC, the law enforcement training program. He has had girlfriends. He's supposed to be capable of dealing with people, not just computers.)

And really: a level five sorceress? I can't think of a single game where being a level five anything is much to brag about. It has the dire ring of the writers skimping on background and just throwing a couple of nerdy-sounding phrases in approximately the right order - and this is far from the first time the NCIS writers have been lazy about backing up geek cred with solid research.

Compare it to this conversation from Leverage 1x08, where Alec Hardison - the team's hacker and token geek - is posing as an employee to infiltrate a company's headquarters.

Hardison: [leaning against a counter in the break room, looking bored] ...yeah, they transferred me from the second floor.
Cheryl: Well, I don't know what it was like down in Consumer Integration, but let me tell ya, I have been working my butt off on this account. But Steve? No, he's just sitting back waiting for me to fail so he can swoop in and save the day. I swear, it's like he's a rogue and I'm a mage and we're part of the same guild, but secretly he's working with the Alliance to undermine us.
Hardison: [looks startled and impressed] For the Horde!
Cheryl: For the Horde. [They fist-bump.] You play World of Warcraft?
Hardison: You kiddin'? Did you get the new expansion pack? Woman, I was up all night. I mean, Burning Crusade was great, but this new one is mindblowing.


There. Was that so hard? All the NCIS writers had to do was say "okay, guys, anyone got kids who play Warcraft, or one of those games?" and spent five minutes asking 'Okay, so, how do gamers actually talk about their characters? What would a gamer say if they were bragging?'

As it is, NCIS's pandering to the cheap-and-easy mainstream jokes at the expense of the nerd brigade is uncomfortable to watch, and it sends the message that their show doesn't care enough to appeal to a geeky audience. With a tiny bit of effort, Leverage's writers produce a scene that's just as funny as the NCIS jokes - but it's positive, inclusive humour that ultimately just leaves a better aftertaste.

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