Theme Songs

I know every single lyric to the theme song of Dexter’s Laboratory to this day. It was great. There was doom and gloom while things went boom. It was also short. Theme songs and opening credits are the least interesting part of a show. They usually come after a teaser too, which means a long open can really test your attention to the point where you may enter Act 1 with less than full attention.

Here’s the deal. We watch things on our computers. We can exit fullscreen and open a new tab at any time. Giving me a minute and a half of boring theme music that I’ve seen already 10 times before will spark my ADD.

Who am I really talking about? The Leftovers, Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones, True Blood (although I guess not anymore), Masters of Sex, Bojack Horseman, and any other show that has theme music longer than 30 seconds. Bojack might be 30 seconds, but it is a boring 30. I’ll also admit the Game of Thrones score is epic and True Blood’s “Bad Things” is still worth a bunch of listens. However, I started skipping them both after about 4 times. The Leftovers is especially stupid because it’s like a run across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with boring, instrumental music. I watched it once and thought it was a waste of time.

I’m sure that the data on skipping the opening credits is collected, at the very least by Netflix. They have to know that Regina Spektor’s theme song is tiresome on OITNB. I would just like to reinforce the notion that people skip it if it is too long.

I’m done complaining. At least for now. Now, it’s time to give some awards for short, but sweet openings. The Walking Dead, The Strain, Satisfaction (what a sweet cover of the Stones), Suits, Royal Pains, Garfunkel & Oates (they better), New Girl, The Big Bang Theory, Parks and Rec, South Park, The Simpsons, Shameless, Archer, Louie, and Community. There’s more that I left out, but those ones are all succinct and memorable. You’ll notice it starts of with shows that have aired in the summer and then I just started brainstorming. As an added note, True Detective’s was great. That song is so good.

Back to complaining. Here are a few that could use work. They’re not auto-skips, but they’re close. Undateable (WTF is going on there), About a Boy, It’s Always Sunny, Catfish, SNL (too many peeps), and I’m getting sick of Family Guy. Other than Undateable, everything else is just my personal taste. You can probably ignore it. Undateable’s is shit though. Chris D’Elia doing DVD commentary does not make for an interesting opening.

So get it together TV. Keep it short and try to make it unique to the show if you can. We need more Charles in Charges or even just taking ownership of a song like Veronica Mars and “We Used To Be Friends” or The OC and “California”. Don’t be The Leftovers. It is currently in the top spot of the “Horrible Opening Power Rankings”.

Actors Hall of Fame

In honor of the Emmys, I wanted to take a chance to talk about awards. As a lover of TV characters, I want to see my favorites beat the loser characters on other shows. It’s the same feeling I get when I want Adam Jones to win MVP of MLB. I want my Orioles to shine bright.

It’s pretty easy to pick an MVP in sports. You look at the stats, team record, situations, and your gut and make a pick. It’s much tougher for TV. How do you judge Bryan Cranston’s last 8 episodes as Walter White against Rust Cohle against Don Draper? It’s not easy. Hopefully, you look at the individual seasons and compare how they made you feel. The one that made you feel the most wins.

There are a lot of amazing characters on TV that actors never won awards for. Steve Carrell as Michael Scott. Jon Hamm as Don Draper. Josh Charles as what’s his face on The Good Wife. It’s a shame. I’ve seen a lot of people argue that Josh Charles should win this year because it’s his last chance. Not because he was a better actor.

This is an issue that plagues the Oscars as well. Samuel L. Jackson still moans to this day about how he should have won the Oscar for Pulp Fiction over Martin Landau, but lost because they wanted to honor Martin Landau’s legacy. The issue is there is no honor in Hollywood for the breadth of someone’s work.

Michael Scott may not be an Emmy-winning character, but he is one of the funniest, most memorable characters in TV history. He deserves a spot in an Actors Hall of Fame (that walk of fame nonsense doesn’t count). Let’s make a Michael Scott bust and put it up in Silver Lake, the new Cooperstown of the West. It doesn’t have to be Silver Lake.

How do we pick the inductees? The first thing to look at is the stats. Awards wins, award nominations, and anything else that is quantifiable. Then, you can try to look at the most representative ratings available for the show (Live+30 years?). It doesn’t mean the performance is great, but the number of people that watch matters. It just doesn’t matter when they watch. Situations are also important. That might mean watching the top highlights of the character. Finally, it’s the gut call. Who makes you want to tune in every week?

Recognition will help clean up the voting process because more performances are recognized and they deserve to be. Jon Hamm has 7 Emmy nominations. He has 0 wins. Is Don Draper not one of the most special characters in history? Are we really going to let Jeff Daniels have an Emmy for The Newsroom and give nothing to the Hamm? Let’s fight the injustice. Actors Hall of Fame. Get at it.

Starting: The Walking Dead

The first season of The Walking Dead is a delightfully compact story that flows perfectly and does great work to kick off the series. Unlike most American seasons, it is only 6 episodes long. This gives a lot of advantages to the writers, which they used. 6-8 episodes seems to be the length that audiences can stand a singular arc. I’ll explore this hypothesis more in future posts.

The theme of season 1 is safety through togetherness. It’s all about finding family, which can be both literal and figurative. Here’s a simplified look at the story of season 1:

1. Rick wakes up alone -> Family and safety might be in Atlanta -> They most certainly aren’t

2. Rick and gang need to get out of Atlanta at any cost -> The cost is Merle

3. Daryl wants to go back for Merle -> Probably a bad idea to send protectors back -> Guns could help -> Go to find Merle, but he’s gone

4. At least there are still guns -> But the guns aren’t coming easily -> Well… they actually are -> But the bad idea bites them in the ass

5. Regroup and come up with Plan B/CDC -> Argue over Plan B/CDC -> Go with Plan B/CDC

6. CDC may be hope -> It is not, there is no hope -> Life is hope

Positives:

  • Nothing comes easy – The biggest example that comes to mind is the guns. When Rick and gang go for the guns that they left in the street, you’re thinking that they’re going to face walkers to get them. Then, the Vatos show up. It’s unexpected and a big problem right away. The excitement is exactly what you want.
  • Pilot – Ooh baby this is a fun one. The intro is pretty much just Rick for 20 minutes, but it’s riveting. Information is introduced as needed, which allows the show to stay active.
  • Flow – Each episode builds off the one before it. The consequences of a solution become the conflict of the next episode. Leaving Merle on the roof becomes the catalyst for a wild journey. They are forced to leave the camp, which is a planted problem, to go back. Of course there are new problems there to get through. And once you get back, you have to deal with the shit that you set yourself up for, which is an attack on an unprotected camp. The attack spurs finding help for Jim and the rest, which leads to the CDC for the finale.
  • Nobody is safe – The body count is much higher here, likely because they don’t have to pay much for anyone on a 6 episode season. Even a strong supporting character in the group could be offed at a lower rate than in future seasons. The original group obviously needed to be shrunk to establish both the danger and the core cast that we care about.
  • Movement – This is a bit redundant, but the short season allows for constant movement. Things progress quickly and don’t need to be drawn out. It makes the pace of the season more to my liking.

Negatives:

  • Episode 5 – This is really the only thing I could think of that I really didn’t like. It’s an episode where the movement kind of stops. There is a lot of recovering from the events of the previous episode and it hurts the push. The CDC conflict is presented, but the argument is all talk. Without action, it becomes boring.

Lessons:

  • ABC (Always Be Conflicting) – Whenever somebody needs something, put something in the way of them getting it. And then another thing. And make those things seem impossible to overcome until the hero overcomes them.
  • Fake Left, Drive Right – When you hint at a problem, the audience will pick up on it. Use that to your advantage. The gun bag was surrounded by walkers, so the easy story is that they have to face walkers to get the guns. It’s definitely a conflict, but it’s expected. Instead, the Vatos show up. Who saw that coming? Nobody. That’s who.
  • Lick Your Wounds – Don’t dwell on the aftermath of an event unless you’re showing what conflicts the aftermath caused.

A Bad Haiku:

Rick and the walkers

Sitting in a tree. K-I-

L-L-I-N-G