Posts Tagged‘TV’


Gilmore Girls: How I Met Your Finale

I realize literally(!) everyone has already written about the latest Gilmore Girls season released on Netflix. Well, it’s still bothering me, and my wife Claire (who is real) and I have discussed it  many times over (a lot of these points are hers). So I decided to write those thoughts down for all the world to see!

I’ve watched the show, but it’s my wife Claire (who is real) was the real fan. That said, I was pulled in by the witty dialogue and endearing, conflicted relationships. The reunion was intriguing on several levels; beyond the character storylines, the fact that nostalgia was being targeted at women rather than male fans was exciting. Hell, I even checked out the surprisingly entertaining promotional materials:

So I wasn’t as amped as I would be if it was a Friday Night Lights reunion or a chance to correct the horrible injustice that was the How I Met Your Mother finale, but I was looking forward to a pleasant T-Give weekend with the Gilmores.

Before we get to what worked, in general, most of the scenes were fine, albeit a little indulgent. Some cameos felt more forced than others, but it’s a reunion show, what were you expecting?

That said, some scenes were painfully bad. Many have already complained about the Stars Hollow Musical scene, but it is worth the rant. This scene went on for a whopping 9 minutes. If it’s an intricate staging of the history of the town starring beloved but nutty residents, you might have an argument. But this was just strangers singing with cutaways to an annoyed Lorelai scribbling frantically in her notebooks. Oh and just to repeat, this went on for NINE MINUTES. Let’s put that in perspective. Remember Lorelai singing to Luke at karaoke?

Yeah, that’s her serenading the man she is destined to be with, telling him that she never stopped loving him and she never will. It’s arguably the apex of Lorelai’s storyline for the entire series – the looks, the banter, the fights, the misunderstandings, everything was building to this.

And it lasted under three minutes.

Oh, and one more thing: How goddamn old were the writers on this show? At times the storylines reeked of email forwards about entitled millennials. Oh no, there’s a trendy news site that really wants to hire Rory, but they don’t have offices!!! AND they have the audacity to…ask her to pitch story ideas. Same for the whole three phones issue (kids today and their electronic devices!!), and Luke’s wi-fi password was a joke that landed with all the topical humor of Curb’s brilliant Bernie Madoff and iPhone apps, only here they appear to be taking themselves seriously. Isn’t it way more effort to pretend to have wi-fi? What’s the endgame?

I digress.

So there were plenty of missteps, but these two storylines flat-out worked.

First and foremost, the Emily Gilmore plot was perfect. Perfect. I assumed this would be the weakest part following the passing of the great Edward Herrmann, but I was way off. Emily’s transformation into the woman she (perhaps) was always meant to be was delightful, poignant, and essential. Her “bullshit” monologue at her DAR meeting was flawless and was directed as much to herself as the other committee members. Throughout the series, Emily was often her own worst enemy, torpedoing every kind gesture with clueless or petty indifference. Here, we see her true self revealed, a brazen, bold, fiercely independent woman determined to find happiness on her own terms…remind you of anyone?

Most of the reunion felt unnecessary, particularly following the excellent original series finale. But Emily’s evolution actually developed her character and strengthened the entire series; suddenly, it all made sense.

There’s this great exercise where you identify someone who you cannot stand and write down everything about them that bothers you. In doing so, the goal is that you realize the list is really a list of things you hate about yourself. This is what we see with Emily. The reason she would lash out, the reason she kept pushing Lorelai toward a certain type of man, the reason she seemed so bothered by Lorelai’s very existence: Emily saw herself in Lorelai, and she saw Lorelai living the life she could have had. She wasn’t mad at Lorelai, she was mad at herself. Because of this reunion show, Emily ended up with not one, but two happy endings. Good for her!

The second successful storyline was Logan’s. I’m not part of Team Logan – he was never strong enough for Rory. I am not on Team Jess – anyone who does hope for those two to reconcile is ignoring how short-lived and tumultuous their relationship actually was. As for Dean…well, I was hoping that the first shot of the series would take place at Dean’s funeral…so no, not Dean. Ultimately, I was hoping Rory would find someone new and amazing and refreshingly, wonderfully different.

But it makes sense Logan would get so much screen time. For as much of an impact as Jess has had in Rory’s life, it was Logan who dominated much of the original series (three seasons – 59 episodes!). And yet, the last we saw of Logan was him walking away from Rory after graduation, seemingly forever. Logan had plenty of flaws – mostly involving his family relationships – but he was also kind and supportive throughout most of his time with Rory, despite his occasional entitled outburst. Anyone who loves Jess likely loves the idea of him, the potential that Jess had, and anyone who loves Dean is a psychopath. And again, Logan is not the one for her. This was underscored by the fact that he was cheating on his fiancé with Rory until like a week before she moved in – completely consistent with Logan’s character.

That said, Logan felt like he never got the goodbye that they both deserved, the goodbye that all college loves deserve. They had shared so much at such a transformative time in both of their lives, I was glad to see them get a true, meaningful farewell. The scene with the brigade went on almost as long as the interminable musical numbers, but the last kiss in Finn’s new bed & breakfast felt genuine and earned.

But few people are discussing those stories because everyone is fixated with those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad final four words.

This ending was a massive, tone-deaf, clueless disappointment. It’s not quite on the level of the disastrous betrayal that was the How I Met Your Mother finale, but it’s still awful.

One of the most important themes of the series was Lorelai struggling to give Rory the opportunities her mom never had, bolstering and supporting Rory’s dreams without smothering her with rules. The idea was to get Rory out of their idyllic town. First it was Chilton, then it was Yale, then it was following Barack Obama around the country. Every once in a while, we caught a glimpse of Lorelai lamenting the life she could have led – the scene at Harvard where she saw a photo of her valedictorian doppelgänger (Erika Palmer) was an especially poignant reminder of what could have been. Lorelai was determined for Rory to dream big, and Lorelai did everything she could to help make those dreams come true. And after all that, Rory ends up in Stars Hollow.

Since the second episode of the series, Rory wanted to be Christiane Amanpour, to travel the world up close and see what’s really going on (Mitchum Huntzberger be damned). It seemed she was well on her way at the end of season 7. Now, I think you can make an argument that she only thinks she wants to be a journalist, and the idea that Rory Gilmore is not a good journalist is an intriguing one. But in this extra season, Rory either needs to become a world-beater journalist, or she needs to find her true calling (she always had a knack for politics) and pursue that dream. Instead we got a Lifetime original movie ending, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

Here’s the thing: You can make the Pregnant in Stars Hollow storyline work. Here are three free ideas:

  1. Home Sweet Home: Rory spends the four episodes talking about how much she missed Stars Hollow while she was on the campaign trail, about how she longs for that small-town charm. Now she has seen the world, she realizes that it’s time to come back to Stars Hollow for good.
  2. You Can Go Home Again: Rory is living the dream, traveling all over the world covering fascinating stories in exotic locations (for budget purposes, Rory will mostly be talking about them, with a few photos of her in front of a palm tree). She either tires of her on-the-go lifestyle or the producers regurgitate that time-tested old standby that small-town life is perfect and cities are evil and Rory falls in love with her hometown all over again (I’m picturing a lot of montages).
  3. Rory Saves the Day: Rory returns home after her freelance gigs dried up. She goes to work at the Stars Hollow Gazette because the paper is in danger of shutting down. She vows to not only save the Gazette but to improve it. She lands some amazing interviews, her stories get picked up by the AP wire service, and she is nominated for a Pulitzer. Rory becomes an inspiration for countless budding journalists who learn that you can make a difference no matter where you are. **NOTE** This is my favorite option.

And yes, they tried to shoehorn in an Outsiders-esque ending where she was going to write her own story. Generally speaking, I have no problem with ambiguity, but if we’re getting the whole gang back together for a reunion tour, and we spend the majority of Rory’s scenes with her drifting aimlessly through a career and love life that offers no real answers. She’s going to write the Gilmore Girls book…hey, that’s great. Then what? Nothing in this season suggested she had any other ideas or motivations for future projects. So that leaves us with Rory pregnant in Stars Hollow working for the Gazette.

Here’s a reminder for all you writers out there:

*grabs megaphone*


But in order for that to work, you must establish one of two things: that your job/career that you love is going to remain the same and you’re going to find a way to make it fit perfectly with a child, or your job/career is going to change significantly to adjust to a child, but doing so will result in an exciting new adventure.

Neither of these things happen with Rory.

And that leads to the biggest problem with this sham of an ending: Rory does not have…a…choice.

Nothing here suggests Rory is going to end the pregnancy – Gilmore Girls has always purported to be a pretty feminist show (lunch basket auctions notwithstanding), but given her talk with Christopher, the signs point to the fact that she’s made up her mind, she’s keeping her baby.

Lack of choice is unfortunately not new to the Gilmore Girls universe – just look at Lane  Kim. Here was a true free spirit, rebelling against her mother’s strict rules in the hopes of becoming a famous musician. All that came to a crashing halt after she had horrible sex one time with her husband on her honeymoon. Several episodes later, the twins were born. But have no fear because as we saw from this season, Lane is now…working in her mother’s antique store? Ugh. And none of this is terribly surprising; bold, amazing over-achieving Paris didn’t get her happy ending either.

So Rory is definitely not trying to get pregnant, she spends most of the final episode insisting she is not back to stay in Stars Hollow, she is soon to be rejected (again) by the baby’s father, and she is stuck at the local paper because there are no other options. As I said, no choice, no agency, only reacting helplessly to life events. Moreover, it seems that she has completely given up and accepted that this is the end of the road. This is embodied her short-lived crusade to not publish a poem at the beginning of each season on the front page of the paper. She fights this for (apparently) three months before her convictions die a mediocre death. Valuable lesson here: If something has always been done a certain way, it’s best not to challenge it.

And the writers failed to give us any semblance of hope beyond the inferred, “Well Lorelai was happy raising Rory in Stars Hollow, so yeah.” For Rory, nothing is going to change, she’s going to trudge to the paper every day, not have anything or anyone challenge here creatively at the paper, and then trudge home, wondering what the hell happened. Somewhere, Christiane Amanpour is weeping.

And here’s the thing that’s most frustrating: This is a TV show. It can end any way you want it to end. My god, Mad Men had a happy ending! Of course in real life there are people whose lives don’t end up being the non-stop adventures they dreamed of having, but this isn’t a documentary. Let Lane go on tour. Put Paris and Doyle back together and have her find something she loves doing, not just something she’s good at. Have Jess marry someone he didn’t date for a month in high school. Murder Dean. Let Rory succeed in her career or love life (or…dare I say…both!). If this wasn’t going to improve on the ending we were given in the seventh season, then what was the point?

I reference HIMYM because that finale was a perfect example of flying a plan into the ground. The creators had great existing footage of their oh-so-clever ending shot in the first season, and so they ignored nine years of character development, relationships, and emotions because by god that was the way the show was supposed to end from Day 1. The same thing happened with Gilmore Girls: The show creators had an idea of what they wanted the last four words to be and stuck with it. And now, we’re all stuck with another tone-deaf ending to an otherwise creative, unique series.


SEC TV Ratings

An article released yesterday made its way through social media yesterday about ranking college football teams by TV ratings. You can read it here.

There was much chest-thumping in the SEC over the fact that 12 SEC teams were in the top 25 teams in terms of TV ratings. This guy was pretty excited about it, as were his followers:


And why wouldn’t they be? It’s yet another example of SEC dominance…or is it?

The first thing I tell my students when reading a study is to simply take a minute to see if it makes sense to them. Nothing fancy or scientific – just a gut reaction as to whether the study seems like it makes sense. In this case, it does not. Mississippi State at #23 in the nation? Really? Texas at #26? Double really?

Once you find that logical irregularity, then you have to determine if the study is merely presenting something that is challenges the way we traditionally perceive something…or if the study is flawed.

In this case, the study is flawed, for three big reasons:

1) The number of games included.

Look at the number of games for those SEC teams. LSU has 11 (respect), but Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn and Georgia only have 10, Tennessee has 9, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Missouri have 8, and Mississippi State has 7.

Now look at some of the other teams, particularly the traditional powers: Florida State and Oklahoma have 12, Notre Dame and Ohio State 11.

My follow-up rule to students: Actually read through the methodology, because that’s where mistakes are made. And that’s where this study falls apart:

“Ratings include only games on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and FOX Sports 1. Data for other networks are unavailable (e.g., Big Ten Network, Pac-12 Network, Longhorn Network), and this boosts averages for teams playing on those networks since ratings are generally low (e.g., Michigan on the Big 10 Network and Texas on the Longhorn Network).”

“Boosts the averages for teams playing on those networks since ratings are generally low.” Oh, okay. Since you said it, that must be true!

Teams like Ohio State and Florida State have more games on these networks. And while your half-assed explanation for excluding BTN and the like from your convenience sample makes sense on the surface, the number of games included is what makes the difference.

Let’s look at Florida State’s schedule, since they had 12 games broadcast on the list of networks (unfortunately, I do not have access to what games were televised, but we can certainly make some assertions). Not only were almost all of these games blow-outs, but only one game was not televised, which I’m assuming was against the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (yes, that team exists). So let’s look at the others that were televised: Nevada, Wake Forest, the rest of the ACC…Idaho!

Think back to school: Remember when you had to figure out what your grade was, and one really bad quiz or test would tank the whole thing? That’s what Idaho and Nevada were – a horrible biology lab or spelling test. Those (undoubtedly) awful numbers undoubtedly dragged down the entire average for Florida State…who still ended up 14th overall (which, given that schedule, is kind of amazing).

Compare that with Alabama, which had 10 televised games. Looking at the Tide’s schedule, the most likely games that were not televised were Georgia State and the Chattanooga Mocs (also a real team that exists). To keep with the school metaphor, they got to drop their two lowest quiz grades, while Florida State only got to drop one. That’s a hell of an advantage.

Incidentally, that’s undoubtedly why Michigan sits at #3, despite an awful, awful season – the Wolverine average only had to include seven games.

2) Fox. Sports. One.

The authors go to great lengths explaining how they included all the numbers for the national networks, ESPN stations…and Fox Sports 1. Considering that ESPN/ESPN each have access to about 11 million more households than Fox Sports 1, that’s a hell of an advantage when you’re talking about the difference between 2nd place and 30th place is about 3 million viewers. It’s a fledgling network that was in its first year, and it’s being compared with the most established name in sports. The ratings discrepancy was rough – to quote from the linked article:

The Oklahoma-Baylor game on Fox Sports 1 last Thursday drew 2.11 million viewers, the highest viewership total ever for the network. ESPN alone had nine telecasts break the two million viewer mark for the week ending November 3. It’s not even worth comparing directly at this point because the gap from ESPN to everyone else is huge.

And you know who has not played a single game on Fox Sports 1? SEC teams. Fox Sports 1 has contracts with the Big 12 and Pac-12 , and Fox is desperately trying to court the Big 10 for when the contract renewal time rolls around…but no affiliation whatsoever with the SEC. So you get a lot of Big 12 teams and Pac-12 teams who lose a significant chunk of ratings simply because of the network they’re on, not necessarily because of a lack of fan interest.

3) Opponents.

For me, the most damning part of this chart are #23, #24 and #25: Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Arkansas, respectively. Like I said earlier, ask yourself if you really, truly believe that this year, the University of Texas had fewer people turning in to watch them play than Arkansas. The Longhorns were wildly disappointing this year, but the Razorbacks? An Arkansas team with a 3-9 record, who lost their last nine games? Really?

Of course not. And that’s the key – when you find some portion of a study that is not consistent with what is known, then it’s a gateway to understanding why the study is flawed.

In this case, Arkansas is ranked higher than the University of Texas because of a combination of what we talked about earlier (the authors counted six televised games for Arkansas, nine for Texas), and the opponents that those teams played.

Arkansas had six games televised on the aforementioned TV stations. The Razorback schedule is here, so let’s look at the opponents together: Louisiana, Samford, Southern Miss, Rutgers, Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and LSU.

Out of those 12 teams, which ones do you think were not televised? My guess would be Louisiana, Samford, Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and maybe Rutgers. So, we’re left mostly with the traditional SEC powers (Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Auburn, and LSU) and Texas A&M.

In other words, this isn’t measuring the ratings for Arkansas fans – it’s a measurement of other fan bases. And therein lies the fatal flaw of this study.

There’s no denying that some SEC teams have delivered ratings, and this is why so many people find SEC fanboys so obnoxious – it’s not enough to say that Alabama achieved ratings excellence (or Texas A&M or LSU), but they have to go lumping the entire conference in with the top performers, as though standing next to Lebron James makes you an amazing basketball player or standing next to Bill Gates makes you a millionaire.

Bottom line: When you’re asked to determine the internal validity of a study, it comes down to a simple question: “Are you measuring what you think you’re measuring?” And in this case, the researchers who threw these numbers together are not. What this analysis essentially says (beyond “We don’t have all the TV ratings but let’s crap out an article anyway”) is that the SEC has a contract with ESPN, not all of the SEC conference games are televised anywhere because the SEC network isn’t rolling yet, and highly-ranked teams garner more ratings.

As for conference dominance in the TV ratings, like most arguments about the SEC, it’s more about the teams at the top than anything else.


Walking Dead Finale

So last week the season final of The Walking Dead aired and, in typical Walking Dead fashion, it was filled with potential but never really delivered. Clearly, there are some obvious solutions that would enhance any episode, such as killing Carl, killing Lori, killing Carl again…








But let’s focus on the specifics. I’m going to fix the episode in two simple steps and lay the groundwork for the next season…while not killing anyone. For reals. Obviously, this is about the season finale, and so if you haven’t seen that episode, here there be spoilers. Also, while I’m looking forward to reading the comic books, I haven’t gotten The Walking Dead Compendium yet, so don’t look for any overlap. Let’s do this.

Separate the Group

One of the main problems of the series is that we don’t know much about any of the characters (and care even less). I’m reminded of Plinkett’s epic reviews of the Star Wars prequels, where he asks fans to describe classic Star Wars characters without referring to their occupations or physical appearances. After describing Han Solo and C-3PO, Plinkett asks these same people to describe Qui-Gon Jinn and Padme Amidala. Not surprisingly, the fans with tons to say about Han and C-3PO were at a loss for words with the prequel characters.

You could do the same thing with the Walking Dead cast. Quick, describe T-Dogg, but you can’t use the term “black.” Describe Carol, but you can’t use the term “mother.” Hell, tell me how many people were living on the farm when Carl was first shot (“Let’s see, there’s Herschel, Maggie…Otis….ummmm…).

Unfortunately, most of the characters we can identify don’t fare much better (describe Lori without using the terms “nag” or “shrill”). Why is this? Well, it’s simple: We don’t know anything about them. One of the best shows ever in terms of character development is LOST. Each week, we spent an episode getting an in-depth look at one character (“This is going to be a Sawyer episode”). Initially, this was so we (the audience) could see how the characters behaved before the crash, which informed the decisions they made on the island.

Eventually, the character flashbacks were less about plot and more because we cared about them. Dead tried this in the “Bloodletting” episode, where Lori had to tell Carl that Rick had been shot (and it gave Carl a chance to chew the scenery), but it was thankfully not attempted again, as it didn’t inform the characters or plot in any way. Overall, we’re expected to pick up character traits and flaws from arguments or half-baked philosophizing about the end of the world. Character development cannot be fixed in a single episode, but the season finale had serious potential. After a rousing display of nighttime gun battles and confusion, it seemed like the finale was off and running…literally.

In all the chaos, the farm posse gets separated into five groups: 1) Hershel, Rick, and *sigh* Carl 2) T-Dog, “Lori,” and Maggie’s sister (remember when we totally thought she committed suicide but she didn’t? Powerful stuff.) 3) Glenn ‘n’ Maggie 4) Andrea (a.k.a.: the real Lori) 5) Darryl and Carol In what is only slightly more likely than actual walking dead, everyone meets up back at the highway, even though this was never designated as the official fallback area and even though everyone seemed to drive for hours in opposite directions. Only Andrea didn’t show and, because they thought she might be dead, five minutes after everyone rolled in, they rolled back out. On the road again.

So what about this? The group gets separated…and stays separated. T-Dog heads for the coast (Lori optional), Glenn and Mags find some isolated shack and discuss whether they want to rejoin anyone, Rick and Hershel kill Carl swap monologues, Daryl and Carol form some sort of elite walker-assassination unit, and Andrea just hangs out being awesome. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what they do. This would give us a chance to actually get some quality time with these characters and figure out what makes them behave the way they do. It would set up the entire third season as the group slowly joins back up, only this time they understand one another better (maybe even forming some unlikely alliances)…and so do we.

Zombie Development

This one is more for me, and honestly I wouldn’t have thought of it if not for a user named Mentat on Fark. I had completely forgotten about it. I’m going to quote at length, as it was an excellent point:

“…My one major beef with this season is that the zombies have become the stereotypical generic shamblers. In the first season, the walkers were more tragic figures. Even though they were dangerous, they were once people just like the survivors and a great effort was made to present them in a softer light.

– Bicycle Girl, pathetically crawling through the grass to god knows where. Rick’s first task once he’s recalibrated, is to extend an act of mercy to this person he doesn’t even know. As she reaches out to him, you’re left to wonder if she’s trying to grab him or begging him to put her down.

– Before chopping up the Alley Zombie and smearing his guts on the survivors, Rick takes a moment to go through the man’s wallet. Wayne Dunlap, Georgia licence. Born 1979. He had $28 in his pocket when he died. And a picture of a pretty girl. It was a nice message to the audience as well as the survivors.

– The little girl zombie, picking up the teddy bear, given Rick one moment of hope that someone survived. – Morgan’s wife also seemed to retain some degree of her humanity. Somewhere deep down inside, she recognized the house and knew there was something in there that she wanted. The scene of her trying the doorknob and looking through the eyehole was haunting and I’m glad it was Rick at the door and not Morgan.

– With Amy, they avoided the “I’m a walker now and I kill you” cliche. Amy’s slow return amplified the tension, but it was the way she came back that worked for me. Instead of just lunging for Andrea, Amy reached up and seemed to caress her hair. You were left with the impression that she might have been trying to communicate with Andrea instead of killing her. They tried that sort of thing on occasion in Season 2. Sophia obviously, and Beth’s mom, though that was ruined by the cliched “Ha! I’m not really dead!” thing.

The zombies this season became the typical generic targets for the sharpshooting survivors who a week before couldn’t hit a swinging tree branch. Minor complaint, I know, but I think that trait they showed in the first season was what set TWD apart from other zombie takes we’ve seen.”

I remember the scene when that zombie woman cyclist (who I don’t think had legs) had pulled herself through the woods and fields into the middle of nowhere. Remember her?







In the words of Ted Mosby, that scene was hauntingly beautiful. This woman was a disgusting sight, and yet we felt sympathy for her. She was clearly trying to get somewhere, but wasn’t hunting anyone or anything. She was wildly determined, and even at the end you weren’t sure if she was overcome by walker instinct or if she was pleading for Rick to end it all.

I would have loved it if one of the zombies had shown some sort of humanity (maybe not during the attack on the farm, but a lone straggler later on). Even a brief moment would have made a substantial difference, and again set the scene for the third season. And yes, Walking Dead writers, I am available for freelance work.