Thursday, October 20, 2011

Survivor 23 (Good vs. Evil) Can you be honest and win Survivor?

As I've written in previous columns, Survivor in years past has been all about lying, cheating, scheming, double crossing others to win. This year, they've turned it on its head by having at least two people (Coach and Russell Hantz's nephew, Brandon) who have vowed to fight this season with integrity, honor and--gasp--honesty.

When I first got sober, I was forced to go from being a pathological liar to living a life free of lies. It was a difficult transition. And I'm sure I was a bit like Brandon has been in the last few episodes: brash, obnoxious, braying his honesty to everyone who'll listen, expecting everyone to conform to his rules.

There is a point to that. You know that honesty trumps everything. You also know that honesty is the only way to live, because all you really have is your own integrity.

But to bring that into the game of Survivor? It's madness.

Madness, yes, but also quite compelling TV. And mind you, the honesty thing isn't easy. Especially if you're somewhat new to it. I think it took me several years to even realize what was a lie, and that I really could live without telling one, in fact was MUCH better off without telling one. I had never conceived of such a thing.

And here is Brandon Hantz, now in our faces on our TV screens, compelling us to contemplate the question. Yes, it's true is it a "game," but isn't it also true that even while playing games we still have our own consciences to deal with? Especially when we are dealing with other people and their feelings? And is it just a microcosm of life that really no one can deal with the "honest guy"? He's so pure, he's so out there, I just love him.

Because thrown into this mix, we also have Coach. Now Coach is determined, this time, to not let his worst self get the better of him. He wants to live through this game with integrity and honor, and so far, he has.

But here's the thing Brandon has yet to realize. You really can only be 100% honest when you are in a place that's safe, with people you trust. There are fine-tunings of the honesty thing that one must really incorporate when dealing with/living with/interacting with others who are not quite so honest. The most important among them being tact.

You can't just go yelling from rooftops (although I did that very thing too): "Look at me! I'm HONEST!!! Isn't it grand?" You really run the risk of alienating others, and/or having them think you're crazy.

So I believe that discretion and tact comes with age. Yes, to answer Coach's question: Withholding IS lying. Yes, it is.

HOWEVER, sometimes, it's necessary.

In the case of Coach, he's the leader of the tribe. He's played Survivor three times now. He sees the big picture in many ways that others don't. And the way I see it, he's like Brandon's dad on this island: saving him from hurting himself, even though Brandon himself might not see it that way right now (cause he's too close).

In this last episode, Coach made it clear that he has the immunity idol, and the two people whom he wants to know about it, do. One of those is not Brandon. Brandon has the habit of spouting off EVERYTHING that's on his mind, and one thing even beginning Survivor watchers know is that you hold back some things, and play your cards when it's to your advantage. That's really all you have: the element of surprise.

Will/would Brandon be pissed to know that he looked all over the island for the idol, when it rested safely with Coach? Yes. Will he be mad that Coach wasn't honest with him? Yes. Will he have gotten MUCH farther in the game (not only he, but Coach and other members of their alliance) because Coach said nothing? YES. That's the key point.

When you are playing a game, or steering a ship, or running a corporation, you have to let someone else drive. Whoever is the leader/in charge, takes the responsibility for those under him/her and makes decisions accordingly, piecing out the information as necessary. BECAUSE he/she sees the big picture.

And hopefully, those worker bees under him/her trust enough to know they're being taken care of. And Coach IS taking care of Brandon, whether he realizes it or not. One of those, yes, I know you just learned how to shoot, but trust me, put the gun down, kind of situations.

So, it's a tough call, but I honestly believe that both Brandon and Coach are living their truth. Both of them are living honorably. One is withholding, but it's for the good of the tribe.

It's really going to be interesting once it gets down to Coach vs. Brandon at some point. How long can Coach live with integrity? I'm quite sure that both Coach and Brandon will make it at least to the merge (when they are down to 10).

And then, they have evil to deal with on the other side (in the form of Jim, who's an underhanded, low-dealing, backstabbing liar). I'm also quite sure he'll be there when they get theere. Should be very interesting.

I put my money on Coach. To win it.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Some Thoughts on the TV Season So Far (New Shows)

We're only midway through the rollout of the new TV season, and I have some comments and thoughts on the shows I've seen so far.

1. And the first to be cancelled is...

I would've laid money on the fact that it would be "The Playboy Club." Hef has always been delusional about how much of a cultural touchstone those Playmates are. And really, if you can't show their boobs, who's going to watch. This might've worked as a cable show. On broadcast TV, where people go apoplectic if you see an errant nipple, forget about it. So they tried to throw in some kind of murder mystery nonsense (at least from the previews, I couldn't stomach actually watching it)... and you know we don't have enough of THAT kind of stuff on TV... so CANCEL. No surprise.

2. More on the exploitation of women front

Another show, which, frankly, only succeeded in the 70s because it was all about jiggly T&A was sadly lacking the T&A in this version (Charlie's Angels). I would take the acting to task (it was dreadful), but then, the acting in the earlier version was no Meryl Streep either. (Sorry, Kate Jackson.) But truly, this show should be some fluff, if done right. People watch this for mindless entertainment that looks pretty. Is that so hard to create? Apparently so. One overall theme I noticed this season (and usually I only watch really good shows, so maybe it's always like this) was really bad tech stuff. On Charlie's Angels, we had some dreadful camera/editing choices.

All those girls had to do (other than shake their booties in cute costumes, which they didn't do) was pretty much say a line and hit their marks. They couldn't even do that. Now, Minka Kelly, who's been around on a series or two (the wondrous Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, to name two that she was better in), will be the only one you ever hear from again. The one with the Afro consistently stood in a well-framed shot (you kinda want to get all three Angels in the same shot), blocking at least one of the other two. Very frustrating. I don't remember ever seeing such bad camera work on a TV show in primetime.

3. Odd directorial choices

But then we have the odd directorial choices. An intriguing premise, Unforgettable, is based on a woman who is unable to forget. However, unlike the actual women who have this affliction, who recall everything at a moment's notice, this woman goes back into a crime scene to find details that she forgot. But the way they do it is that Woman 1 is sitting there looking at herself (Woman 2) as she does whatever it is she does. A real step backward for technology and innovative direction. I saw only part of one show, and that nonsense made me cross Unforgettable off my list.

4. More 60s female eye candy

The other show which delved back into the 60s era for its female objectification that worked (full-season pickup) was Pan Am. Some mini viewings have shown it to be basically a soap opera in fancy locales, but then, the whole 60s Pan Am stewardess thing was a juicy one, and it sounds like they're doing it right. I might catch this one out more later.

5. Real women make gains

There were some surprise breakout hits of this season so far. The biggest: Zooey Deschanel's New Girl. People love her. (Haven't watched it yet myself.) But one that is also a big hit that shot up my TiVo queue was 2 Broke Girls. Kat Dennings is the breakaway star, IMHO, although Beth Behrs makes a thankless rich girl role believable and heartwarming. Very well-written, a fun show, I highly recommend checking it out.

The other show from female comic Whitney Cummings is "Whitney" (gee, wonder where they got that title?). It's a bit too much Whitney for me. Although the guy who plays her boyfriend is really smoking hot sexy. So that makes it watchable. But why he'd put up with such a crazy whiny obnoxious too-skinny girl like her really escapes me. Her friends are marginally funny, but every episode revolves around Whitney, and that's already old after two episodes of viewing.

6. We shoulda kept Medium or Ghost Whisperer...

Guess CBS's got to have a "let's talk to dead people" show, and I do hate to diss a show that Susannah Grant is involved in... but... Well, here are the good things: Jennifer Ehle is a luminous ghost. Emmy winner Margo Martindale is in it. Tony winner Patrick Wilson is in it. Still, it's one of those rich and successful surgeon finds his heart in the ghetto through his dead wife dramas. Just don't know if I can stomach it, frankly. Oh, and back to the Item number 3, the sound guys should be fired. There were two really key moments in the pilot where the sound was so muffled that I had to rewind it three times to hear what the heck they were saying. ONE of those times was in the "Oh, btw, she's dead" line that pretty much sets up the entire series. Really really really bad.

7. Good things

One show that I wish I'd been able to view (it's on my TiVo), that apparently is doing things right is Person of Interest. Interesting premise, great actors, great production team and high-tech effects. I can't wait to catch up with this one. You should too.

I'm really grooving on (as I've written elsewhere) both Survivor (Good vs. Evil season) and Dancing with the Stars (I'm rooting for David Arquette, although Ricki Lake is quite inspiring too).

Homeland rocks my socks in previews (also sitting on my TiVo). Can't wait to delve into this one.

American Horror Story looks intriguing (plus, Connie Britton!), but sounds really scary. Not sure about this one.

8. Coming Up

It's the battle of the fairy tales: Grimm (featuring ex-Buffy the Vampire Slayer production people) vs. Once Upon a Time (featuring Ginnifer Goodwin and Lana Parilla, and Robert Carlyle). Both could be good. I'm looking forward to both.

What are some of your favorite so far?