I love murder mysteries. I love them in movies, I love them in books, I love them in videogames, but most of all, I love them in TV shows. I’m not talking about a simple case of the week, I’m talking about a single, significant case that permeates the season of a TV show and is given around a dozen or more episodes to develop and expand and twist and turn, all leading to the inevitable reveal of whodunit. A good season long murder mystery has led to some of the greatest TV seasons of all time, like with the first two seasons of Veronica Mars, a series I believe perfected the season long murder mystery arc. Nothing feels quite like the rush of putting together the clues and solving the case yourself, and seeing your suspicions confirmed in the electrifying murderer reveal, a moment that should always be a highlight of a show’s season. Unfortunately there are shows that don’t quite grasp this, that completely botch the killer reveal and leave you feeling deflated. Two recent shows that come to mind are Riverdale and Trial and Error. You may think, wait a minute, Trial and Error is a comedy, why does it matter if the killer reveal is good? Well, because revealing a murderer should be powerful no matter the circumstances. Murder, killing another member of your own species, is one of the most human things out there. You can draw so much emotion, and yes, even humour, from it. The taking of another life and why the mastermind of the crime chose to act the way they did should be explored on a character worthy of such exploration. Every murder is a story, and botching the murderer is like botching the protagonist. Since shows seem to be screwing this up recently, I’ve decided to write my own criteria for how to properly handle a murder mystery through the use of 5 important, absolutely correct, inarguable rules that without a doubt must be followed.
It’s been over two years since I’ve last written one of these joke analyses, but the… enormity of this one really grabbed my attention. Unlike the last joke where I discussed it in largely positive terms, I want to analyze how a joke can actually hurt a show. Because with this bit of comedy, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend basically ruined a main character within a single scene. Let me break it down.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is one of those rare shows where you actually feel like you take how good it is for granted. On top of being a genuinely great comedy-drama, it produces 2-3 original songs each episode as a bonus. They flow into the episode’s stories, they’re usually quite catchy, and always funny as hell. The dream of a comedy-musical as a TV series that so many of us had after watching “Once More With Feeling” on Buffy is here, and it’s beautiful. To honour it, and its upcoming second season (premiering this October), I’d like to list my eight favourite songs so far.
While I discussed Person of Interest and tropes before in a more serious context, I originally announced my interest in the show on this blog through a post that poked fun at a lot of the goofy cliches that cropped up frequently in the show’s earlier seasons. Since the show is ending soon I thought it would be cool to talk about all the series’ own tropes and recurring elements on this blog. Some of them I wouldn’t trade for the world, others I could do without, all are funny in their own ways.
*This article contains spoilers of the latest Person of Interest episode “The Day The World Went Away”.
I’ve always maintained that the greatest strength of iZombie is its stellar ensemble cast. Every individual main character on the show feels like they are strong enough on their own to maintain any story they find themselves in. They’re all very different people that happen to work very well together, but once they’re off doing their own thing I can’t help but think “Whoa, I would watch this show!”. Liv Moore is a great protagonist (with an appropriately punny name), but unlike creator Rob Thomas’ other famous heroine Veronica Mars, she isn’t her show’s greatest weapon. That distinction belongs to the cast itself, and this article is about how each of them are strong enough to helm their own TV spin-offs because of that strength. Here are five examples to illustrate what I’m talking about.
When people reference shows starring (purposely written) horrible people, they inevitably bring up the Always Sunny in Philadelphia gang. The Reynolds family (along with Mac and Charlie), are self-centred, egotistical, and emotionally immature nuisances who often star in episodes where they take their unpleasantness into the outside world, damage the lives of the people they interact with, then get rejected and forced to find comfort in the awful safe-space that is the bar that they own. On Transparent, much of the same thing happens with the Pfeffermans, a family very much like the Reynolds, but with the only difference being that their awful actions have lasting negative repercussions on the people around them and themselves. While Almost Sunny operates on a cartoon logic of everything more or less reverting to how things were before by the start of the next episode, Transparent forces its narcissistic characters to sit with their bad decisions for the remainder of their sad and empty lives. The comedic fallout of their actions are so dark at times that it almost veers into dramatic territory, but the heightened nature of everything reminds the audience to laugh at what has transpired. It’s shocking how little punches this show pulls, even with its transgender star Maura Pfefferman, who also happens to be a mostly awful person. Much like Frank Reynolds on Always Sunny, much of her role seems to be as the one financing the bizarre behaviour her kids seem to get into, and the fact that the show can make us feel be both sympathetic and angry towards her is a grand feat. Once again like Frank, she has a kid that is an honest to God sociopath, but less in the popcultural serial killer sense and more in the toxic presence that routinely hurts those close to her. Ali, along with her two siblings Josh and Sarah, are really who are at the centre of the show despite it being ostensibly about Maura coming out as transgender. Those three siblings are the beating rotten heart of this show.
The much beloved CBS drama The Good Wife ended yesterday, so I’ve decided to dedicate a brand new mind spill to this once great series. A lot has happened throughout the show, a lot happened in the finale, and now is the time to get some stuff off my chest to address them both.
Electric Nachos (a dumb nickname I keep using to refer to her, that is in my defence, no less ridiculous than her actual name) has an interesting position in comic book history going into the second season of Daredevil. One of the most prominent examples of “fridging” in comics (the act of killing or crippling a female character for the purpose of causing man-pain for the male lead), Elektra came into the series with the weight of expectations revolving around what she should accomplish as a comic book anti heroine and as a woman. In both counts, the series sets up a compelling case for the character, and on both counts they squander it completely – twice.
Transparent is the story of an L.A. Jewish family based on the life of its creator Jill Soloway. The character that acts as Soloway’s proxy on the show is Ali Pfefferman. Ali Pfefferman, it turns out, is a sociopath. I realize that’s a strange thing to say, considering that Ali is the character one would expect Soloway to give a more sympathetic view of, and because the word sociopath isn’t really a recognized term in the world of mental health anymore, but it’s a very convenient way to classify someone who behaves in the way that she does. She doesn’t just have some anti-social traits, her presence actively damages the society she lives in. The family at the show’s centre is filled with awful people who possess varying degrees of crappy personalities, but at least you can understand what motivates their actions. Sure, there is a listlessness to all of them, moving from interest to interest, not truly knowing what they want out of life and making terrible decisions along the way, but within those moments where they have to make a decision, those crucial little pockets of time, you can understand and even relate to what motivates them. That is not the case with Ali. It gradually becomes clear what lies at the heart of her actions throughout the series, but it’s really difficult to accept as it becomes more and more obvious. One of the central questions of the show is “what does Ali want” and I’d imagine that’s a result of Soloway’s own indecision at this stage in her life, but on Transparent, as it becomes more and more obvious what Ali wants, you just don’t want to accept it. After watching every episode of this show, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing that Ali really wants is to cause other people to suffer, whether she’s consciously aware of it or not, that seems to be what truly motivates her actions.