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Erin (Re)Watches: 30 Rock, 3rd Rock, Damages, Burn Notice, Grace and Frankie November 24, 2015

Posted by Erin Ptah in Meta.
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Another post with reactions to the TV which has played on my computer over the past however-many months.

…including all the way back to March, which is when I watched Burn Notice. Did I ever mention that?

It was suggested as a follow-up to Leverage. Not quite as unrelentingly feel-good, especially during the last season or so, when it takes a turn for the unnecessarily grimdark…and our ex-spy hero is even more wrapped up in his own quests than Nate Ford is. But there’s still a healthy amount of Scrappy Underdog Do-Gooders Helping The Helpless, as well as Lovely Detailed Competence Porn.

And what I said mid-watch still holds: Michael Westen has the greatest mom. She has her own life and concerns separate from the action characters’ shenanigans, but she helps them out in increasingly involved ways as the series goes on — you really come to appreciate how much she has the unpolished version of some of Michael’s skills and abilities, and that’s where he got it from.

On the comedy side of things, Grace and Frankie was a lot of fun. When lawyer-friends President Bartlet and Sam the Eagle reveal that they’ve been secretly having an affair for years, their shocked wives, Jane Fonda and Ms. Frizzle, end up forming an unconventional support-group/friendship as they struggle to cope.

It’s funny and snappy and sweet by turns. The premise has a tough tightrope to walk — being queer and closeted and in love with someone you can’t be open about is hard, but being lied to and cheated on and divorced is also hard, but when the lies are about queer stuff the reaction can go to a homophobic place very easily. IMO the first season does a really nice job of letting everyone be hurt and angry for legitimate reasons, without vilifying anyone.

There’s plenty of room for them to bomb at it whenever the second season comes out, especially after the S1 cliffhanger. But given their track record, I’m optimistic — they’ve been good about the characters’ flaws being the product of these specific characters, rather than sweeping statements on the behavior of All People of Sexuality X and/or Gender Y.

Made it through a rewatch of 30 Rock more recently.

It kinda suffers on second viewing because the good jokes are no longer delightful surprises, so there’s not as much delight to distract you as much from the terrible bits. (I don’t want to say there are a lot of terrible bits…they’re just really outstanding in their terribleness. Like “this thing they’re referencing is rape, but the show doesn’t realize it’s rape, and seems to expect you to find it hilarious” levels of terrible.)

But, y’know, the characters are still mostly lovable in their ridiculousness, Liz Lemon is still great, and Liz and Jack’s relationship is still all kinds of heartwarming. The guy she marries didn’t wow me,  but they’re believably happy together, and the wedding was excellent. (“I’m a princess!” Ahhh, had forgotten that happened.) It’s a series with a good finale! So few manage to pull that off.

And I totally did not pick up on Kenneth’s immortality during the first viewing. That was a worthy second-watch bonus.

These days, comedy-wise, I’m working through 3rd Rock From The Sun. (For reasons other than “thematic naming.”)

It’s a nice mild sitcom about aliens. The main actors are all really good at interacting with human society in weird and confused ways — you get genuine sci-fi vibes out of it, even with, so far, absolutely no special effects. (The hilarious ’90s 3-D animation in the opening doesn’t count.)

There’s some awkwardness about social issues, nothing I haven’t been able to shrug off. You just have to keep your “product of the ’90s” filter up. Sometimes it’s even pleasantly surprising. There’s an episode where the alien family is trying to figure out how race/ethnicity works, and one of them tries to go “I don’t see race, there is only the human race”…to which a co-worker immediately replies, “dude, I’m black, it’s a thing, deal with it.”

And it’s doing pretty well in the “unrelentingly feel-good” department. To the point where I don’t think any of the characters have been mean or vindictive or petty, even for purposes of hilarity. The comedy all flows from the culture clashes, and from the aliens being sweetly, earnestly bizarre.

Back in the dramatic end of the pool: did a rewatch of Damages not long ago.

It’s a very different experience when you know from the start who’s plotting to kill who, and for what reasons! Less tense in some ways, more satisfying in others.

I would really love a show about the lawyer that Patty Hewes is pretending to be when she first meets Ellen. Tough but fair, relentless in the pursuit of justice, and without, y’know, the murder-y streak.

…and since I originally checked the series out on the promise of complicated adversarial f/f potential, I would also love a show that’s basically the same as Damages, but without Ellen getting that one reason to reeeeeally hate Patty. I mean, as-is, the hatesex would be intense, but there’s no plausible way to get anything else! If Ellen’s feelings were left to be more ambiguous…if she was pushing back against the ruthlessness of some of Patty’s methods but undeniably impressed by the results…also, drawn along by her own ambition, and slowly growing into her potential to be just as terrifying, with Patty wary of the potential competition and not allowing herself to show just how appealing she finds Ellen’s progress….

That would be some good shipping, right there.

(Basically, I want The Devil Wears Prada as a law-office AU.)

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