Tuesday, January 31, 2012

One-Season Wonders

The other night I was watching one of my all-time favorite TV shows – Joss Whedon’s Firefly – and wished that it had lasted longer than one season. Of course, after the public outcry following its cancellation, Whedon wrote and directed the companion film Serenity, but even it left so many questions unanswered.

This got me thinking about all the shows I’ve loved that were cancelled too quickly and left us with unfinished plots. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with many, MANY shows that lasted no more than a year, some even taken off-air before the season completed. And so I’ve compiled a list of . . .

My Favorite One-Season Wonders:

Firefly (2002)– 
A brilliant space-western set in the distant future set five hundred years in the future, the crew of the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity will take any job, legal or illegal, to keep fuel in the tanks and food on the table. Things get complicated after they take on a passenger wanted by the new totalitarian Alliance regime and find themselves on the run, desperate to steer clear of Alliance ships and the flesh-eating Reavers who live on the fringes of space.

EZ Streets (1996) – 
Set in an unnamed, broken-down city somewhere near the Canadian border, this moody, film-noiresque tale follows undercover cop Cameron Quinn, who is accused of corruption after his partner is gunned down and $10,000 turns up missing, as he goes up against the gangs and crime-bosses running the streets. It’s dark and gritty, with a brilliant soundtrack, and though it’s not hard to see why its gloomy plot beaten down characters didn’t appeal to the average viewer, EZ Streets is one of the most brilliant shows I’ve ever seen.

Pasadena (2001) – 
This dark tale follows the youngest daughter of the most powerful family in the upscale Southern California enclave of Pasadena after she witnesses a stranger's apparent suicide and begins and investigation into her family's long-buried secrets. Cover-ups, familial greed and murder, this show revealed the darkest side of one of America’s oldest and wealthiest families.

Moonlight (2007) – 
Moonlight tells the tale of a fifty-year-old vampire turned private investigator who falls for a beautiful young reporter who’s mysteriously connected to his past. Together they solve crimes and do everything they can to keep his secret from coming to light. Considering the popularity of vampires these days I’m surprised this series didn’t last longer, but it’s gothic-esque characters and sinister plots made for great television.

Point Pleasant (2005) – 
A series of supernatural events begin in the small coastal town of Point Pleasant, New Jersey after the arrival of a mysterious teenage girl whom apparently has ability to make people and events act on her behalf. While this show erred a little on the side of teen-drama, it made up for it with a dark and demonic story-line that kept me hooked. This is one of the few shows I’m glad ended with only one season . . . not because it wasn’t interesting, but because the ambiguous ended adds to the ominous nature of the story.

Freaks and Geeks (1999) – 
This show revolves around two unique groups of teenagers – the freaks and the geeks – as they deal with life in high school during the 80's. Freaks and Geeks is a corky show that is highly praised for its less idealized and more accurate look the life of high school students who chose a more . . . alternative lifestyle. Though this show only lasted a season, its popularity continues to grow (belatedly) and holds cult-classic status.  

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006) – 
One of Aaron Sorkin’s lesser-known shows, this series takes place behind the scenes of a live sketch comedy show (similar to SNL) on the fictional television network NBS, and follows the shows’ two best-friend executive producers. I loved the show’s self-deprecating humor and the chemistry between the two main characters (as well as the rest of the show’s cast).

Mercy (2009) – 
A medical drama set in New Jersey, Mercy centers around the life of nurse Veronica Callahan after she returns from Iraq and deals with PTSD, a love triangle, and a single-minded devotion to her patients. Though it could be confused with other medical shows (like Grey’s Anatomy, which I always found a little melodramatic), somehow the characters made it different and unique.

The Black Donnellys (2007) – 
Doom hangs over the heads of the Donnelly brothers, four troubled young Irish-Americans caught between the Irish and Italian mobs in New York’s Hells Kitchen.  Its stark feel always reminded me a great deal of EZ Streets . . . probably because, as I found out recently, they were both written and created by Paul Haggis (best known for Crash and Casino Royale).

Justice (2006) – 
A little known legal drama, Justice revolves around a powerful Los Angeles law firm handles high-profile, media-circus cases. I think what I always liked best about this show was that at the end of every episode they reveal the events leading up to the each trial and whether the client was really innocent or guilty.  

Life (2007) – 
An off-beat police-drama, Life revolves around a falsely accused (and newly acquitted) former cop as he returns to the police force after serving twelve years in prison, with a tough new partner and a determination to find out who set him up. This is the only show on this list that made it to a second season. However, it was too good not to mention, and like the others, deserved to last longer. It’s like no other show I’ve ever seen.

Warning: Many of these shows were AMAZING, but never reached completion. Watch at your own discretion. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Top 11 of 2011: Memories

In my previous post, I listed my top 11 "finds" of 2011. But there was something else I wanted to pay tribute to. Memories. 2011 was a spectacular year, and life-changing, year. I have so many incredible memories that it was really hard to chose from. But here they are, my . . .

Top 11 Patronus Moments of 2011:

*** Patronus Moment: A moment so wonderful it would evoke a Patronus. (For those of you who don’t know what a Patronus is, you should be deeply, deeply ashamed. Go read Harry Potter. Immediately.)

1. One of the best things that happened in my life during 2011 was meeting Julie, Terry, Jay Jay and Kristi. Up until this year, I didn’t have very many “writing” friends. Now, not only do I have four AMAZING writers who push me, support me, and make my writing better, I also have four new friends who I just flat out enjoy being with. Occasionally when we meet to critique one another, we get so caught up hanging out with one another that it takes us an hour before we even get to our writing. Each time I meet with them is a Patronus moment.

2. In May I attended (along with my awesome writer friends), the Houston Writer's Conference. There I met some amazing editors and agents. It was perhaps the very first time I felt like a "real" writer. Furthermore, one of the editors I befriended the first night of the conference over obscure garden gnome, Princess Bride and The Terminator references invited me out to dinner with another editor and two agents (including the agent who eventually signed me as a client). Though it was obviously an incredible – and fortuitous – networking experience, it was also just plain fun. They enlightened me with lots of insider literary gossip (which sadly I cannot share), and gave me tons of advice and encouragement (which I’m more than happy to share). It was one of the best weekends of my life.

3. I must admit that when I attended the writing conference, I had not yet completed my novel (shameful, I know). After pitching it to four different agents, all of whom asked to see more, I realized that I had to finish it as soon as possible. I waved goodbye to all my friends, locked myself in my room, and nearly a month later, surfaced with a COMPLETED novel. My first completed novel! And no though no one who has never completed one can understand exactly what that means, it was, without a doubt, one of the most euphoric feelings I’ve ever experienced.

4. So, if you’re still with me here, in May I went to the Houston Writer’s Conference, on June 1st I finished my novel (and subsequently sent it to the our agents I pitched to), and on August 15th, my agent Josh emailed me back and told me he wanted to sign me as a client. To this day, I still cannot believe it. I AM AN AGENTED WRITER. Since people often say a picture is worth a thousand words – something which, as a I writer, I have qualms with – here’s a pictorial depiction of my emotional state as I signed my agency agreement:

5. If getting an agent wasn't amazing enough, my friends' reaction to the news would have itself been a Patronus moment. They sat with me while I cried (happy tears of course), they bought me champagne (and even thought to buy me sparkling grape juice because I don't actually like champagne), bought me cake from my favorite dessert café, and showed me in every way a friend can how proud they were of me. As amazing as getting an agent was, my friends' reactions following the news might have been even better.

6. Shifting away from writing related moments, another one of the best aspects of this year was spending time in the kitchen with my friends. I’ll admit, I have NEVER thought of cooking as a pleasurable pastime . . . until this year. My friends Annie and Tina, who unlike me are quite culinarily talented, roped me into helping them cook. And I could not believe much fun we had doing it! Some of the best evenings of 2011 were spent with the three of us chopping, dicing, and sauté-ing in my teeny, tiny apartment kitchen.

7. And speaking of my apartment, moving into it was yet another Patronus moments – one which acted as the springboard for many, MANY others. Including, but not limited to: dancing around the apartment with my amazing roommate Tina. Staying up until 3 in the morning gabbing with my semi-second roommate Annie. Friendsgiving . . . and so many more.

8. In June I went to New York with my mom and cousin Allie. We had the BEST time! We visited the Harry Potter exhibit, went to a zillion museums, Stayed in the Marriott Hotel on Times Friggin’ Square, and went to see How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying . . . where we met and got the autograph of Daniel Radcliffe aka. Harry Potter. I’ll never forget that trip.

9. For the past three years running my birthday has been pretty amazing. And this year kept the tradition rolling. My amazing friends all took me out for a wonderful dinner at Olive Garden (a tradition which began when we were in college), and then came back to my apartment where they showered me with cupcakes (thanks Annie!), cookies (thanks Julie!), powdered sugar covered treats (thanks Tina!), festive party hats and some of the best gifts I’ve ever been given . . . including a printed and bound copy of my novel with “critical praise” excerpts from each of them. I’m not ashamed to admit that I bawled like a baby when they gave me that one. And then we watched Die Hard. It goes down as one of the best birthdays in the history of time.

10. Beginning in December, Lifetime Television started airing a series of truly spectacular made-for-TV Christmas movies. My mom and I recorded ALL of them, and spent our free afternoons mocking them. What started out as a funny pastime turned out to be one of my very best memories of 2011. The two of us, camped out on our living room couches by the fire, enjoying the cold weather and Christmas spirit. While most of the movies were spectacularly awful, a few of them wound up being pretty amazing; I even ordered two of them on Amazon. It’s a tradition which I hope we continue in the oncoming years.

11. Last but not least, my blog. I started Pensuasion in May after the writing conference as a way to stay connected to the writing community, with little expectation. I had no idea how to gain followers (thanks Julie for giving me some tips), or what all to write about. Now it’s been eight months, forty-six posts (or forty-seven including this one), and ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY-NINE FOLLOWERS (I was hoping for 150 before the end of the year, but since my real goal was to reach 100, I’m going to consider this one a win)! So thank you to all my followers and readers for the much, MUCH needed support and comments.

The Top 11 of 2011

I meant to get this out yesterday, but sadly didn't have time with all my New Year's Eve festivities. But I didn't want to let 2011 slip by with some sort of a wrap up. So I thought I'd commemorate it by making a list of some of the highlights. Here are the . . .

The Top 11 of ‘11:

These are some of my favorite discoveries of the year. While some of them didn’t actually come out this year, I saw or read them in 2011, so they count.

1. The Hunger Games Trilogy
Thank you Allie and Julie for insisting I read them! (Read my post on them here)

2. Alphas (SyFy channel series)
Thanks Steven for insisting I watch this show. I had no idea how awesome it would be!

3. Strike Back: Project Dawn (Cinemax channel series)
The best action series of the year. (Read my post on them here)

4. Crazy, Stupid Love
This one surprised me. Thought it would be a cheesy romantic comedy . . . turned out to be more.

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Knew it would be awesome. It didn't fail me.

6. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Thought the series was insane for making a fourth movie without Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner. Surprise.

7. The Muppets Movie 
Not only was this movie AWESOME, going to see it with my friends Tina, Annie, Jonathan, Sami and Andy made it even MORE awesome. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed that hard in my life.

8. Michael Fassbender

He played Rochester in Jane Eyre and Magneto in The X-Men First Class. I’d never heard of him before, but I loved him in both movies.

9. Once Upon a Time (ABC channel)
I went in to this show thinking it would suck . . . turns out, I LOVE it.

10. Atlas Shrugged: Part 1
When I heard they were making a movie out of one of my all-time favorite books, I was very, very scared. Thank GOD they didn’t screw it up.

11. True Blood series/The Southern Vampire Mysteries Books

My cousin Allie forced me to watch the show on our trip to New York. I wound up loving it so much I went back and read the books. Not my usual taste, but total guilty pleasure material.