Thursday, June 7, 2007

Use a condom, please

Fun article on MSNBC about "unnecessary" children on TV. Of course, I'm usually of the opinion that ALL children on TV fall into that category. And not that my admonition in the headline would have stopped some of these urchins from disgracing my screen: some were cousins, some wandered in off the street, and if you go down to the "vote" section and see more, you'll realize that some were "mystical balls of energy in human form."

Ahhh yes. The "Dawn" question from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I won't go into a lengthy diatribe or dissertation here, as that subject has been beaten to death in fandom. First, it's nice to see that Buffy (and Angel) even gets mentioned here in the "mainstream" press. I'll say this. I really, really liked the "idea" of Dawn. Dropping in a sister, at the end of Buffy's season opening and amusing confrontation with Dracula, was an inspired stroke of genius. It set in motion a wonderfully high concept plot, and after 4 seasons, gave our favorite slayer something different to play. Michelle Trachtenberg is a talented actress. I even liked how the whole "must be Tuesday" cliche became a joke. My main problem is that the writers scripted Dawn like she was 8 or 9 years old, rather than a legitimate teenager, and rarely gave her any kind of growth (as they did so successfully with all the other teenage characters -- including Buffy, Xander, Willow, Cordy, etc.). And no, whining "kleptomania" is not sufficient character growth.

Also mentioned in the poll is Connor, another "deal breaker" to some from the Whedon camp. Again, I didn't mind the "mystical pregnancy" bit that much in concept. It gave Darla a somewhat "redemptive" conclusion to her story, and Connor's birth in the alley was one of the more poignant highlights of the show. It also set in motion the "Dark Wesley" storyline, which was fantastic and exceptionally played by Alexis Denisoff. Still, I rarely rewatch some of the "baby Connor" episodes, especially the cringe-worthy "Provider." When Connor came back as a teenager, I went with it and there were some great moments that followed (the machinations, even to his last breath, of Holtz; Connor and Faith interacting; the sad conclusion to the whole arc that set up season 5; even Connor's enjoyable return in "Origin" and "Not Fade Away") but the same problem remained that was present with Dawn: the writers couldn't skillfully tread the tightrope between "angsty" / "conflicted" and "petulant" / "annoying." And despite the trippy detour into the Jasmine arc (which had a lot to say about "peace on earth" and what is really "good"), seeing Connor and Cordy get together was still supremely icky (I get it. Charisma Carpenter was knocked up, and in a show like Angel, it was virtually impossible to do the standard sitcom thing of standing behind counters and holding big packages to hide the pregnancy. But that series of episodes just about ruined Cordy as a character before -- thankfully! -- she returned for a fitting capper in "You're Welcome" looking and sounding great).

As for some of the other kids mentioned in the poll, I understand the necessity of Kim Bauer (and her tattered tank top) in Day 1 of 24, but once we got to the "cougar," (and sadly, not related to the euphemism of "hot older chick") and Johnny Drama in the cabin, it was apparent the character had more than run her course. I also sympathize with the need to show the effect of the "Soprano curse" and Tony's "putrid fucking genes" with AJ, but good lord what a douchebag he's been. And cute though she may be with her glasses and lisp, the less said about Luke's "mystery daughter" April and her impact on the plot of Gilmore Girls the better.

Too bad Wesley Crusher started with the show, or else I'm sure he would top this poll. (But to his everlasting credit, Wil Wheaton truly gets it and seems like one of the nicest and more intelligent actors out there. If you're a Trek fan, you owe it to yourself to check out his brilliant and hysterical TNG recaps over on TV Squad).

So, showrunners. Next time you think about pulling a "cousin Oliver," here's a word of advice. DON'T.

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