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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Jonah Goldberg on V (2009 ABC unoriginal series)

I think this is the whole thing from the Corner, in some semblance of chronological order, up until today.


Jonah Goldberg on The Corner at November 3, 2009 9:26 A.M. entitled "V v O":
Yes, yes, yes: I will be watching V. I might have to record it and watch election returns (so please no emailed spoilers). As many, many readers have noted the Visitors seem to share much of Barack Obama’s agenda. We bring you free healthcare! We bring you hope and change! But in reality they’re a bunch of thugs from Planet Chicago. The comparisons are pretty obvious. What surprised is that Tom Shales Hank Stuever sorta-kinda sees them too:
There are some twisted little microbes living in the algorithms of the television programming grid, which might explain the delicious scheduling of “V” and “By the People: The Election of Barack Obama” back-to-back on different networks Tuesday night. It’s a nice night of hope, change and delayed ironies — if you watch both with a suspicious mind.
You can dive into the paranoid, things-are-not-at-all-what-they-seem world of “V,” ABC’s exciting new science-fiction drama, and then, after a quick potty break, hop over to “By the People,” HBO’s uplifting but stultifyingly naive, please-drink-a-little-more-Kool-Aid paean to the historical highlights of President Obama’s campaign and election.
The telltale alien behavior is everywhere. In “V” (a remake of the early-1980s series), the otherworldly “visitors” want to bring us universal health care. They possess a knack for speechwriting and managing the message. In “By the People,” well . . . same thing! It’s all about happy people flying in from strange places, smiling at complicitly available TV cameras.
Update: CORRECTION! Woops. Sorry, I made a big goof. It wasn’t Shales, but Hank Stuever who wrote the review. I was looking at the paper version and Shales’ name is in bold at the bottom of the page and it must have stuck in my head. My apologies. Serves me right not to huff glue this early in the morning.
Jonah Goldberg on The Corner at November 04, 2009 12:40 PM entitled "V (With Spoilers!)":
I watched it. I liked it, but didn’t quite love it. Some random thoughts and asides in no particular order:
  1. I think they rushed it a little too much. They could have spent a little more time playing out the drama, political and emotional, of an alien visit. Having most of the main characters figure out this is a sinister alien invasion and discovering the secret identities of the visitors-in-our-midst in the first episode was a really profligate waste of dramatic material.
  2. I really hope they don’t lose the scientists-as-Jews plotline from the original series. I thought that was a great part of the original miniseries.
  3. If I were 17 and the super-hot alien blonde wanted me to put on a German gay disco doorman’s jacket, I would have done so.
  4. Scott Wolf is just hard to take seriously when he’s not crying over Jennifer Love Hewitt in Party of Five. Maybe he’ll improve, but I fear he may have a Mickey Rooney problem in that he won’t be able to play a non-teenager until he’s 60.
  5. Alan Tudyk is awesome because he’s awesome. But he’ll be under-used and killed in no time. Because that’s just how he rolls.
  6. Big hair is out, short hair is in.
  7. Having rewatched some of the original series on SyFy yesterday (what is up with the spelling change anyway?), I have to say the show looks a lot better — a lot better — than the original. Technology has advanced quite a bit since the 1980s, but fake TV technology has been revolutionized.
  8. Oh, all right: The politics: I simultaneously loved the “universal health care” line and thought it was a bit hamfisted. I do like that it all bothers Jonathan Chait so much, but I think they could have been a bit more subtle. However, it’s worth recalling that the visitors in the original series promised to cure diseases as well.
I think Chait goes overboard too when he says the show is a loveletter to the Tea Party movement. If liberals were less insecure about the political climate, they might even argue that much of the stuff about the dangers of “devotion” and promises of miraculous cures amounted to an indirect shot at faith-healing evangelicals.
It’s also worth noting that the show is still an allegory for fascism, albeit a loosey-goosey one (hardly anything new in sci-fi). The obsession with youth, the promise of a new age, the seduction of power, the aesthetics of physical beauty and uniformed order, and yes, the promise of universal health care etc etc: This all fits perfectly well into fascist wheelhouse.
Ultimately, I liked it. I will keep watching it. But I really, really, hope it doesn’t fall back on high-priced action sequences and sex. That’s not to say I would be happy if they cut out the high-priced-action sequences and sex, but I’d like more than just that.
Jonah Goldberg on The Corner at May 20, 2010 9:57 AM entitled "TV Update":
So the word is out. Flash Forward has been canceled, V gets a last minute reprieve. I guess if I had to kill one of the two, that’s how I’d go too. But the real shame is that both shows could be/could have been so, so, so much better if they were just better written and (particularly in the case of Flash Forward) better cast. There’s literally no character in Flash Forward I wouldn’t have been perfectly happy about being killed off.  None of them had chemistry with each other or with the viewer. The only guy I was sorry to see go was that fat bearded guy from all the David Mamet movies [Update: Yes, this guy]. I could spend a lot of time dwelling on the idiocy of F.F.’s scripting, but since it’s canceled, why bother? But, please, someone inform the producers that the Department of Homeland Security didn’t exist in the early 1990s! That was by no means the show’s biggest idiocy, but it vexed me every time they referred to DHS doing this or that in 1993 or whenever.
As for V, I just don’t get why it has to be so bad not good. It, too, has huge casting problems. The Hugh Jackman knock-off terrorist character is particularly idiotic. In every episode, there are countless “that makes no sense” moments (as in last night’s finale when the FBI chick asks for her gun and is allowed to wander around the ship alone). My biggest pet peeve? Every single time the alien queen hottie lies to the humans — every time! — be it during a press conference or when she’s talking to the teen beat Dan Rather character from Party of Five, she then turns around and smirks her villain smirk. First of all, she’s supposed to be without human emotions. Second of all, even the worst politicians know that smirking-like-Montgomery-Burns after you lie to the public is a horrible habit, particularly in this age of ubiquitous cameras. But what really, really, bothers me is how it betrays the contempt the producers have for the audience. After a whole season of telling the viewer that the Vs are evil, they still think we need to see the alien queen from Victoria’s secret do her Snidely Whiplash smile lest we think she really does want to give us clean energy and cancer cures.
Argh.
Update: From a reader (some spoilers):
Jonah:
I enjoyed the intro episodes of 2009, but am finding the last run of episodes to be mediocre, at best.  There are dozens of examples, but in my mind, the most egregious examples the creators’ collective lack of imagination are as follows:
  1. The aliens have an extreme technological advantage over humanity, yet it does not yet appear they have invented locks.  When Erica was sneaking around the mother ship, her ability to walk into the super-soldier hatchery with a bomb seemed a bit surreal.  I have a higher level of security to keep my kids from bothering me in the bathroom.
  2. The human resistance is pathetic.  If there are ever situations where terrorism may be justified and collateral damage acceptable, the list of situations should certainly include global invasion by malevolent aliens. I’m just saying…
  3. Maybe it was too much to expect, but Erica didn’t have the presence of mind to shoot Anna when they were having their one-on-one conversation during the finale?  It would be like going to a meeting, ALONE, with Hitler in order to size him up for next time.  Really?
  4. The super-soldiers sure sound scary, but the ONE they managed to hatch early and release only killed two people by stabbing from behind.  Who couldn’t ambush someone and kill them from behind?
  5. .The ops/terrorist guy seems too much like someone I have a chance against.  He reminds me of the guys we’ve all met who begin story’s with “when I were in special ops…”  I’ve known guys who were in ops, and I’ve known guys who said they were…they weren’t always the same people if you know what I mean.
The list could go on, but these seem to bother me the most.  One final though…  Why don’t they have surveillance cameras on their ships?  Just wondering.
Thanks,
I agree with all of these and, as my wife can attest, I have shouted at the TV about many of them.
Jonah Goldberg on The Corner at January 19, 2011 10:30 A.M. entitled "V Stands for Vawful With a Silent V":
For reasons I could not possibly articulate, I’m sticking with ABC’s remake of V like it’s Bob Dole and I’m the ‘96 GOP. It’s hard to watch and you know it’s going to end badly, but what’re ya gonna do?
Spoilers ahead.
My chief complaint is that this should be the easiest TV series in the world to write, and yet it’s as if there’s an institutional hostility to plausible motivation and plot. Let’s start with Anna’s mom, introduced last week.
Let me get this straight: the one-time queen we’ve just learned has been secretly held prisoner in the swamp-basement on the mother ship, was dispatched to Earth many years ago to do undercover work and intelligence gathering? Really? That’s even worse than sending Captain Kirk on away missions. He was just the captain of one ship. This is the Queen of the entire lizard race and she was working like one of the kids from 21 Jump Street in 1990s New York? And we’re afraid the humans are going to lose to these morons?
Moreover, the mom (played by the chick from the original series) apparently hates her daughter for betraying her, seizing power and locking her away in what appears to be the University of Florida’s Chi Phi fraternity’s common room. Fair enough. But then why is she constantly warning Anna that Anna’s own daughter (basement mom’s granddaughter) will betray her? Why tip her off?
Then there’s this soul-studying plotline that kicked into high gear last night. Apparently the V need to gather even more humans to study, because the locked-up-grandma says the secret to the human resistance is the soul. More on that in a moment.
But first, are we really to believe that  an alien race with vastly superior technology needs to rely on one dude with a panel van trolling for runaways to serve as research subjects? Really? And their plan is to collect “hundreds of thousands” of them this way? And it needs to be done  in mid-town Manhattan? No offense to the Third World, but if I was a race of super smart geckos trying to collect human test subjects, I might — just might! — look someplace other than the media capital of the world.
And then there’s this soul thing. I like — really like — the idea that the soul is making a comeback. But to listen to the salamanders, they’d never heard of it until last week and they have no idea that there’s at least an open debate about its existence, whereabouts, nature etc.
This would be fine, except for the fact that they’ve spent decades collecting intelligence on humanity. They’ve mastered all of our languages. They’ve insinuated themselves throughout world governments. They even know that the first thing to promise us when they land is universal healthcare. But souls? Never heard of them. So rather than spend five minutes on Wikipedia, the iguanas are going straight to a risky, inefficient, implausible plan to mine every 7-11 parking lot and back alley in the New York metropolitan area for skeeves and going-nowhere-fast guitar players to use as pinatas with a special prize inside called the soul.
And why hasn’t the FBI agent from Lost (I’m too busy to look up names) told her son about the V’s true intentions yet? The only reason the kid is a V sympathizer is that his girlfriend (Anna’s daughter) is, well, exactly the sort of crazy hot alien every teenage boy hopes to be captured by. But the girlfriend is now on our side. So why keep it all a secret? The kid is obviously dumber than a box of rocks, but come on.
I could go on, but as I’m probably one of the only people around here who watches the show and clearly the only one who takes it remotely seriously, I should probably stop.
ladykrystyna commented at 01/19/11 15:02:
I think the problem is this: they are doing a remake but trying to make it different from the original.
The original was simple - steal the water and use us as food. It was basic and horrifying. And it kept with the Nazi imagery that it was trying to bring forth - people being rounded up, the fascism, etc.
Plus the Original was as mini-series so the story was resolved more quickly.
They are trying to do a series here and that involves mystery and piecing things out slowly but surely. And thereby making it more complicated which becomes a problem because you have to think ahead and I think they have no idea where this is going yet.
They should have left it as a mini-series and seen if it would work into a show... But in the end Jonah is right about the plotholes, etc.
And I was thinking the same thing about the son - you've got the girlfriend on board, WHY DON'T YOU FRICKIN TELL HIM! JHC!
But I have a feeling that I'll continue watching it anyway. At least until a sucker punch comes along.
There you go.

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