As I was growing up, watching television was a family event. We waited until everyone was gathered and ready before lighting the silver screen. To me it was a bit like the storytellers of old, telling tales around a campfire. A communal experience resulting in a shared story.
Technology continues to change how we interact with stories, but I still love the communal aspect of a shared experience. In that vein, our writer’s group, A Drift of Quills, decided to discuss our favorites. Maybe you’ll discover something new today, or maybe we’ll find something in common.
First up is Robin, who has something to say on the subject of favorite TV shows…
Author of As the Crow Flies
I remember going through a period of time several years ago when I was bored with television. Oh, sure, there were some decent dramas to watch, and maybe few good action programs, but my speculative fiction soul positively yearned for fantasy and science fiction, and the pickin’s were extremely slim. But then…
Author of Oathtaker
I’d guess that it was over a period of about fifteen years that I watched little or nothing in the way of television series, whether dramas or comedies. As a political news junkie, other things held my attention. Moreover, I had young people in the house, and there were so many things I didn’t want them to see and to hear before their time.
However, more recently, I thought it would be interesting to catch up on some of the shows I’d missed over the past years. I found that most of those of interest to me came from cable stations and/or are Netflix originals. Aside from the obvious series with the “political bent” (such as House of Cards), three main types have attracted my attention and they all relate in some way to my writing: historical fiction, crimes and mystery, and fantasy/superhero. While I find television considerably more graphic overall, I’ve enjoyed some series, nonetheless…
Author of A Hero’s Curse
Parker’s Website…oh wait. You’re already here.
I love movies. TV shows. As mentioned, part of that love relates to the communal, shared-story aspect of film. I watch Person of Interest with my wife and Phineas & Ferb and Dinotrux with the boys. I watched Marvel’s Netflix collaboration, Daredevil, which was particularly interesting as it featured a blind protagonist with super senses. How intriguingly fortuitous.
But today, since I’m a young adult/middle-grade writer, I’ll talk about A Series of Unfortunate Events, released on Netflix just this spring. I loved the witty repartee, the brilliant acting and cool-toned cinematography. The series stays true to the books and just as in print, the Baudelaire children have each other, even as everything around them is tragic and made near meaningless by a the ineptitude of adults.
It’s a story of ironic and even comic calamity stacked upon devastation, but the hope that springs from the Baudelaire orphans is the thing that gets us through–lets us breathe and even laugh at the comically absurd. To be able to laugh in the face of misery while clinging tight to hope and family–these are precious things.
But as the season wore on I found myself getting restless. The plot began to feel repetitive–and while the repetitious circle works in a crime show like Person of Interest, it wasn’t working for me here. The familiar cycle of a tickle of hope dashed by some tragedy instigated by the sinister Count Olaf became tired. The series’ bright moments felt fewer and further between and even the comedy seemed somewhat lessened, as the writers kept pulling out the same jokes and gags we saw in the first few episodes.
Finally, by the end of season one, I realized that while I loved watching the Baudelaire children face obstacles of every sort, I was rooting for them to win. I was rooting for them to emerge victorious. I wanted hope, but with every successive episode, the idea that a happy ending could be obtained crumbled just a bit more. “If you are interested in a story with a happy ending, that story is streaming elsewhere,” says the narrator, Lemony Snicket. Fair warning. In fact, each episode begins with a similar dire warning that all will be peril and nothing will work out. I began to realize that the wry humor of Lemony Snicket was not as wry as I had thought.
Season one has been completed and Netflix has promised additional seasons to finish out the Series of Unfortunate Events, (we’ve only made it through the first four books thus far!). There is much to love here. Dark humor, great themes, a muddled mystery, witty wordplay and the story itself is an engaging one. But I do love happy endings, and this one cannot offer that. At least, not yet.