08th Apr2013

The Week That Wasn’t

by Will

So, one of you may have noticed there was no West Week Ever last week. Explanation: I just didn’t have it in me. I was on Spring Break (yay for working in education!), but spent the week depressed, watching 4 episodes  of Family Feud every day. When Friday rolled around, I just couldn’t be bothered. Plus, since I hadn’t been working, it also meant I hadn’t read any of your sites. Like, any of them. So, I couldn’t even do the “Links I Loved” portion. Still, I feel like I should’ve written something, and I hate that there’s now a gap in the schedule (well, a second; I’ve missed one other WWE since I started it). So, here’s a little bit of what I did during that week.

Around March 28th, I discovered that I had basically missed Comcast/XFinity/WhyDidWeBuyNBC?’s “Watchathon Week”, where they had entire seasons of tons of shows on demand for free. Seeing as how I only had about 3 days left (it ended on 3/31), I decided to binge watch as much as I could before the shows were all snatched away. Since I had missed a few critical darlings over the past year, I decided to watch Girls, House of Lies, and Downton Abbey. While the episode total varied per series, that was about 7 seasons of shows in about 72 hrs. Folks had raved over all these shows, and I wasn’t gonna have a better time to catch up. So, what did I think?

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Girls – I’ve seen a lot of Lena Dunham hate, but I really liked this show. Then again, I tend to like things others hate. My wife kept coming into the room during one of the many awkward sex scenes, and she was grossed out, saying she’d rather see pretty people having sex. I felt those scenes were probably pretty accurate for a plain girl who just graduated from college. She doesn’t really know anything, and her boyfriends had either been gay or psychopaths. Hannah is kinda relatable, Marnie’s kind of a bitch, Jessa sucks at life, and then there’s Shoshanna. You can’t imagine my surprise when I realized she was Peggy’s lesbian friend from Mad Men. And to quote the summer camp guy who refuses to take her virginity, she has a “hot rod little bod”. She’s totally my favorite of the girls. My favorite character, however, is Charlie. Poor, poor Charlie. It looked like the nice guy was going to win at the end of season 2, but now the rumors are that the actor has walked off the show due to clashing with Dunham. So, I guess we’ll just have to see how that plays out.

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At the end of the day, Girls is really just another Quarterlife Crisis tale. This phenomenon has been pretty popular since the Millennials started graduating from college, and there have been several takes on the matter. As much as I enjoyed Girls, there are 2 MTV shows that captured that phase of life SO much better: I Just Want My Pants Back and Underemployed. The characters in IJWMPB basically lived in the same neighborhood as the Girls crew, only they didn’t have privileged backgrounds. Their parents weren’t supporting them, and they were really struggling to hit the ground running after college. Still, that bunch was much more likable than Hannah and her pals. Sadly, MTV cancelled it after one season. Underemployed was probably my favorite new show of this season, but it had no buzz outside of a huge billboard in Manhattan. That show took place in Chicago, but the characters’ circumstances were much closer to those in Girls. One wanted to be a writer, while struggling to support herself when her parents cut her off (Hannah, anyone?). One was the bohemian musician who wound up a single mom, the wannabe model, and the girl sleeping with her boss. It was a great show, with a great cast, yet MTV also cancelled it after one season . So, now we have Girls, and everyone thinks it’s so “fresh”, but it’s just another in a long line of the same theme. That’s not to take away from it, but rather to show that Lena Dunham didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel.

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House of Lies – I watched the premiere back when Showtime had it on their website, with black bars over everyone’s privates. I really enjoyed it, but didn’t have premium cable, so just kinda forgot about it. I always meant to pick up the DVD, but I just…didn’t. So, once I finished Girls, it was a no-brainer as to what to watch next. Plainly put, I LOVE THIS SHOW. Basically, Don Cheadle is Marty Kaan, a management consultant who’s amazing at his job, but sucks at life. With every deal, he’s closer and closer to losing a soul that he doesn’t even think he has anymore. His mother committed suicide when he was younger, and it seems like he just lost his way after that. He uses anyone and everyone around him, and he never sticks around to deal with repercussions. Meanwhile, his team is comprised of Jean-Ralphio from Parks & Rec, Veronica Mars, and the dude from the American pilot for Spaced that you’ve never seen.

Watching both seasons back to back, two things jumped out at me. First of all, there’s a lot less sex in the second season than in the first. Maybe it’s because Marty got a girlfriend, so tried to actively avoid opportunities to bang. Also, one of my favorite aspects – Marty’s “Zack Morris Time Out”, where he explains different buzzwords and key terms in the management consulting world, is basically nonexistent in the second season. I guess the show had settled into its rhythm, so they no longer felt the need for gimmicks. Still, there’s definitely a tonal switch between the two seasons, as season 1 is Case of the Week, while season 2 has the long job with the casino, interspersed with a few smaller cases. I still have 2 episodes to watch (stupid Watchathon ended before the season finale), so don’t spoil it for me!

I think I’d have enjoyed House of Lies a lot more had I not been screwed by a “Marty Kaan”. You watch characters like him and Victor Newman and Dan Scott, and wonder “Man, nobody’s that evil.” That is so not true, and I learned first hand about a year ago. Let me tell you that these people are very real, and my only consolation is that I took him down with me. This real life experience probably hurt my ability to see Marty as a sympathetic character, but it did help me to understand his motivations.

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Downton Abbey – I’d seen all of the Facebook statuses and outraged tweets, but I had no desire to watch this. I’m actually an anglophile who grew up watching Britcoms and public television. Still, I hate bandwagon shit, so I avoided it. After I finished House of Lies, I knew I needed to watch something else to take advantage of the few hours I had remaining of the free On Demand stuff. I started watching Downton at about 10 PM the night of the 31st, and the eps were gonna be gone on 4/1. The first episode was boring as shit, but I powered on as it got better and better. Mary was such a bitch, and Sybil was so sweet, and poor, spiteful, ugly duckling Edith! Plus, I couldn’t tell if I liked Lady Grantham or not. Sure, she was American, but she had weird, narrowed eyes that always made you think she was scheming – especially since her sole concern was protecting her father’s money. And noble, yet lame, Mr. Bates! I stayed up til about 4 AM watching the show, and went to bed with 2 episodes left. Surely they’d be there when I woke up, right? WRONG! The Watchathon promotion had ended, but I needed to get my fix. I ran out to Target to see if they had the DVDs, but I didn’t wanna pay much ’cause I’d probably only watch them once. I came back home and found that the first and second season on Hulu Plus, so I signed up for the free week trial right then and there, just so I could finish watching. I only stopped to pee. I was on that couch for about 18 hours. Once I burned through season 2, I realized that season 3 was actually still on demand, and I powered through that. AND IT WAS SO GOOD!

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I said this on Twitter last night, but it bears repeating (especially for those of you scared to follow me): Mad Men and Downton Abbey are similar in that both shows depict characters whose way of life is at an end, yet the characters don’t realize it. The drama is the result of them being forced to deal with the changing world around them. This was probably subtle to the people who watched the series with the appropriate gaps in between, but to binge watch it you realize just how much the world has changed. The series starts the day after the Titanic sinks, while the season 3 finale take place during Christmas of 1921. The passage of time is drastic and subtle all at once. It’s amazing how the years jump in the middle of seasons, and nothing’s really changed. The war is still going on, and folks are carrying on like business as usual. At the same time, once you get to the end of season 3, you realize the world is a VERY different place. When the series begins, the whole aspect of titles and estates still seems perfectly natural in that world. By the end, as all the nobles are started to lose their fortunes due to mismanagement, and World War I has taught people to focus on things that are really important, it’s almost shameful to see the Crawleys trying to hold on to their way of life. They had lived in their ivory towers for generations, but the foundation was starting to crumble, and they aren’t quite sure how they’re going to fare in the new world. It’s really interesting stuff, especially when you see that the staff is genuinely considered to be a part of the family, even if in a lesser capacity. When a family member takes ill, the staff members worry. Sure, one or two will point out “They don’t care about us!”, yet the Grantham/Crawley clan truly see themselves as benevolent, and the staff go along with it. The Granthams justify their position by saying they provide jobs to the citizens, not realizing that the citizens need a chance to get along without them.

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Another shocking thing about the show was its respectful treatment of homosexuality. The character of Thomas is revealed as gay early in the first season. It’s really hard to feel for him, though, as he’s a scheming asshole for the majority of the series. Sure, it’s coming from a place of hurt, seeing as how he had to hide his way of life, but he’s still just SUCH an asshole. When all of this later comes to light, people start to tell him that he’s vile and evil. He defends himself by saying “I might be different, but I am not vile.” Later, when the police are called on suspicion that Thomas had been up to homosexual acts, the cops imply that he’s broken and vulgar. Lord Grantham stands up for him and says that Thomas is NOT evil, and that he didn’t choose to be the way he is. Yes, it’s modern writers projecting modern beliefs on historical fiction, it’s still interesting to see these beliefs in that setting. A bold choice for the show, and it helps to really show more of Lord Grantham’s humanity.

Anyway, after watching all of that, I was basically brain dead by Tuesday. So I just stayed in bed and watched every court show that came on. I didn’t feel like thinking, and I certainly didn’t feel like writing. Sure, I tweeted, but I didn’t really read what others were tweeting. I was pontificating instead of communicating.

I don’t really do internet videos. I’m not sure if it’s because they require too much attention, or I grew up without a fast internet connection or what. Still, I’d much rather read most things than watch a YouTube video about them. Still, I stumbled upon this and found it really funny. It’s a bit long, but still funny.

 

Before completely losing my mind, I also wrote about Operation: Trade Up, which should totally read if you’re into comics.

If you’ve got any money you’re looking to spend, you should buy something at Will’s World of Wonder.

OK, that’s about it. We’re back on schedule, so I guess stay tuned for more of the stuff you’ve come to expect.