Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Rant Time: Netflix’s Stupid Ideas

Posted in botch, business, california, entertainment by commorancy on August 29, 2018

NetflixApp-smNetflix has had made some questionable product decisions recently. That is, since it has begun buying its own original content. At the same time, it has made some platform changes that don’t make any sense whatsoever. Seriously Netflix, WTH? Let’s explore.

Original Content

Netflix has been having a hard time as of late. It has been heavily dipping its collective toes into original programming. However, much of the movie programming content has turned out to be bombs. Not just everyday bombs, but you know the movie kind that make you cringe so hard, you want to throw something at the TV. Programs like the oh-so-forgettable The Cloverfield Paradox, Bright, Extinction, The Beyond and Tau. With these questionable movies, Netflix seems to be missing its mark so much of the time. So much, in fact, that I’m contemplating cancelling my membership with this service. I’m beginning to think that Redbox streaming might be a better alternative.

Until recently, the only way to find out exactly how crap the movies actually were was to read the Netflix movie reviews. This is not possible any longer.

Netflix Deletes and Closes Review System

In its infinitely stupid wisdom, Netflix has decided to close down its review system (deleting over 10 years worth of reviews in a day), citing that it is not being used by its subscribers. I call bullshit on that excuse, Netflix management team. I, and clearly many others, regularly used the review system all of the time to steer clear of these recent Netflix bombs.

Unfortunately, we can no longer do this thanks to Netflix flipping us subscribers the collective bird after not only closing the review system down, but dumping all of that user review content. If Netflix’s management team is trying to tear the company apart, they’re doing a bang up job at it.

A review system says that service cares about its users’ opinions and it values its users. It allows users to make their views known to the larger community. Unfortunately, Netflix has now deprived its user base of that valuable resource by dumping all of the reviews and no longer supporting a review system at all. In fact, removing the movie review system says Netflix no longer cares about its users.

Worse, Netflix has dumped its 5 star rating system in lieu of a stupidly simple thumbs up and thumbs down approach. This overly simplistic system which, in reality, does nothing at all to influence anything. What this change says to us members is that Netflix solely wants to be the entire wielder of content power. No longer can any content be influenced by external user opinion… or so Netflix management mistakenly thinks. Nope, that is absolutely not important to Netflix. Netflix wants to be able to target its crap content to us with impunity and without those pesky user reviews getting in the way… even if the Netflix original content is the dreckiest dreck ever to have been conceived, which most of it is.

Netflix’s Agenda

I’m really tired of businesses like Netflix always feeling that they need to get the upper hand in every situation. In fact, even with the review system, they already had an upper hand. Netflix’s ultimate agenda to remove the review system isn’t what they stated on the surface. They claimed that people weren’t using the system. False. New reviews were being written every day. People were reading them every single day.

If people weren’t using the system, they wouldn’t write reviews… and yes, people were actively writing reviews. In fact, if the the review system was being used less, it’s because of Netflix’s design choices. It’s not because users weren’t interested in using the review feature. It’s because Netflix kept burying the review system deeper and deeper under menus, making it difficult to find. If reviews were on the decline, it wasn’t that people didn’t want to use it, it was because your UI team made it hard to find. Even with that said, people were STILL finding it and using it. That’s tenacity. That means your valuable subscribers actually WANTED to use it and did.

This means that Netflix intentionally caused the decline of the system. They set the review system up to fail and then blamed it on lack of use by the users. No, it wasn’t for lack of use, it was that it was too hard to find and too hard to navigate. That’s not failure to use by the users, that’s failure of your UX design team. People will use features when they are easily available and front and center. Bury it under layers of menus and it’s certain that usage will decline.

The real agenda is that Netflix no longer wants users to influence content such its The Cloverfield Paradox and the rest of its poor quality original content. Netflix mistakenly believes that if people can’t see the reviews or write them that more people will watch its crap. False. Netflix was likely also reeling over the horrible user reviews being left on its own site. Netflix wanted to stop that problem and the only way they could do that is step 1) bury the feature so it’s hard to find forcing many users to stop using it and then step 2) remove the feature claiming no one used it. Not only is that a lie, Netflix’s UX team is actually responsible for its lack of use.

Review systems work when they’re well designed and placed in conspicuous, well trafficked locations. They don’t work well when they’re buried under layers of unnecessary UI clicking. That’s proven. In fact, if Netflix’s user experience team doesn’t understand this fundamental UX 101 concept, they should all be fired!

Crap on a Stick

Netflix needs to get their crap together. They need to fix their horrible UI system and provide a much more streamlined system. They also need to bring back the user review system and place it into a much more prominent front and center position. A place where people can find it right up front, not buried under many UI layers.

Movies and Reviews

Movies and reviews go together like a pea in a pod, coke and hot dogs and hamburgers and fries. They simply belong together. You don’t get one without the other. Netflix thinking that they can change this fundamentally ingrained concept is a huge misstep. This misstep is as huge as when Netflix renamed its DVD service to Qwickster. That naming and concept failed miserably. This one will too… and it will backfire on Netflix.

I don’t even understand how a movie site like Netflix can even think they get away with not having a review system. By their very nature, movies require reviews. A movie is not 3 minutes long like a pop song. No one will spend 2 hours of their life watching trite, predictable, boring, poorly written garbage. Storytelling is an art form that when done right can take us to places we cannot even imagine. Yet, when storytelling is done wrong (i.e., too many of Netflix’s crap originals), it wastes hours of valuable time. The review system is there to prevent that loss of time.

Sorry Netflix, if reviews actually give you that much butthurt, you either need to grow a pair and get over it, or you need to shut down Netflix. Perhaps Netflix should stop its purchase of its crap original programming and this will no longer be a problem.

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TV Review: Wayward Pines

Posted in botch, california, entertainment, TV Shows by commorancy on August 27, 2018

WaywardPinesNote: *** Contains Spoilers ***

Here’s yet another M. Night Shyamalan thriller, this time in the form of a two season TV series.  Let’s explore.

Comparisons

This show has a similar premise to Stephen King’s Under the Dome. However, it is based on novels by Blake Crouch. Basically, it’s a small town that’s been cut off from everything and everyone. As a result, the town must live by its own rules. These two premises pretty much match up.

The way in which the Wayward Pines diverges is how the plot unfolds. With Under the Dome we come to find that the town is encased in a huge dome that, when the dome wishes, allows some exchange of air with the outside. In the case of Wayward Pines, we come to find that it’s supposed to be set in the year 4028, after a great holocaust mutated the human population. Both Under The Dome and Wayward Pines have populations that are cut off from “the outside world”, but for differing reasons.

Both towns, however, fundamentally operate in very similar ways with the exception that Dome runs out of resources a whole lot faster since they were cut off from the world without any resource planning. The dome town’s resources wear thin much, much faster. Wayward Pines, on the other hand, has the benefactor, David Pilcher, who not only had foreseen this event, but seemingly planned for it well in advance by building infrastructure and storing limited food rations to sustain the small town. We’ll come to find that Pilcher didn’t quite think ahead much or have planned for all contingencies.

Characters

The Wayward Pines town is inhabited by a number of adults and children including a sheriff, a nurse, a doctor and several primary families who become part of the series. It’s a similar kind of makeup as there was in Under The Dome. There’s also a faction of disenchanted citizens looking to escape from the city… so they can get “back home”. The characters change over time, particularly in season 2.

Weak Opening Premise

The show starts off entirely on the wrong foot indicating the “making it up as we go” syndrome. Meaning, the show begins by making no sense. Burke wakes up near a creek, beat up, bruised and injured. The question is, why stage this 2000 years in the future? What purpose does it serve?

If he had just awakened from cryosleep, why take him out of his cryosuit, dress him back in business attire and place him in the woods? Is it simply stage his awakening as though he had just crashed from a car? Why not start the episode off with Burke in a hospital bed recovering from his car injuries. That’s just as easily explained and shows us the Wayward Pines hospital right from the start.

If they want Burke to accept his life in Wayward Pines, why spend that time and effort staging his awakening? Did they stage other reawakenings in this way? They didn’t do it for Burke’s wife and kid. Staging reawakenings like this also means that someone at Wayward Pines needed to be 100% up to speed on exactly how Burke (or anyone else) was abducted into cryosleep to know exactly how to restage the reawakening. There are so many better things to worry about in a burgeoning town than dealing with staged awakenings.

Trapped in the Past

As with the isolated town premise in Wayward Pines, I find that there are a lot of stupid ideas, particularly from the supposed creator of the town, David Pilcher. According to his telling, the first time Pilcher tried to set up Wayward Pines, he chose to reveal the 2000 year old truth to the residents. While the children seemed to accept their fate, the adults couldn’t face life in this way and eventually the town self-destructed. This forced Pilcher to commit genocide by using the indigenous mutated humans to clear the population. This idea is stupid from the go. If you’re trying to repopulate humanity from limited pool of people, why kill them? You’re going to need that genetic diversity to repopulate… as much of it as possible.

David Pilcher has his (very large) crew (including his sister Pamela Pilcher) clean up the town, only to reset it all and restart it for a second time with group B. For group B, instead of revealing the truth, this time Pilcher decides to only tell the children the whole truth and withhold that information from the adults. This led the adults to believe they are still in 2014 (or whatever time period they came from). It also meant the adults believed they could leave the town and get back to their families… the idea that would inevitably become the town’s undoing. This keeps the adults in the dark of the reality of the world. This second time up to bat, Pilcher decides to incorporate corporal punishment in the form of town center lynch justice as a means to control order in Wayward Pines. If someone gets out of line or breaks rules, they are summarily brought to town center and executed by slitting their throat in front of the town mob. This is called a reckoning.

Here’s where I dislike this plot idea, where I feel this part was entirely unnecessary and sent the story premise off the rails. Pilcher is indeed correct to be worried that his group B town is degrading into chaos and destruction, just has had group A. It is. There is an underground movement that is growing and sowing the seeds of a second town self-reckoning once again. However, the reason for this is primarily because of Megan’s ideas she fed Pilcher. Megan’s ideas were the poison seeds that fueled Wayward Pines’s destruction, every time. Megan is a cancer on Wayward Pines.

Cryonics and The Past

To give a bit of backstory here, Pilcher foresaw the destruction of the 2014 world due to a DNA mutation he found, a mutation that would lead to humanity’s destruction in the future. He tried to alert the attention of the scientific world, but failed. Instead, Megan Fisher (eventually becomes the teacher at Wayward Pines school), urges David Pilcher to take whatever means necessary to ensure survival. This was the primary piece of bad advice David Pilcher took in securing his vision and the piece of advice that single-handedly ensured Wayward Pines’s demise. Megan would go on to not only continue giving bad advice, but poison the children and jeopardize the entire project.

Anyway, Megan’s continual bad advice leads Pilcher (being all wealthy that he is) to use his great wealth to hire people to nab random folks off of highways and put them into cryosleep. One set of unwilling participants is our protagonist Ethan Burke, his wife Theresa Burke and his school age son Ben Burke (season 1). Ethan Burke was sent to the area by the secret service (?) to investigate the disappearance of two of his colleagues. Ethan becomes the eyes of the audience as the great mystery of Wayward Pines unfolds. Of course, the premise includes everyone else in Wayward Pines, who were all unwillingly abducted and cryofrozen. The only people willingly there are those that who David Pilcher hand picked to operate the mountain complex to keep Wayward Pines functional as a township.

The Philchers (Pam and David) call Wayward Pines the Ark.

Aberrations

In season 2, we find out more about the original awakening of group A via C.J. Mitchum. He was the advanced cryo engineer who was the first to awaken and who awakened group A. He was also the person who found the aberrations and alerted Pilcher to them. This is also where the story takes a bad turn. Instead of staying and killing off a bunch of indigenous humanoids, C.J. suggests heading back into the pods to wait more time for them to die off. In fact, there were so many ways this story could have been handled, Wayward Pines might have worked as a simple utopia. Pilcher decides not to wait… yet another dumb idea from someone who’s supposed to be very smart. Anyway, Pilcher clears the area and erects an electric fence.

Outside the electrified fence, the indigenous humanoids (called Abbys … short for aberrations) inhabit the countryside. They also inhabited the area where Wayward Pines has been built. This means that David Pilcher kicked them off of their land. The aberrations are the remnants of humanity left over after the DNA mutation and the event that David had predicted. The aberrations are vicious carnivores that eat any animal flesh they can find, including any 2014 humans that happen along the way.

However, we come to find in season 2 is that Pilcher cleared out the area where Wayward Pines was to built by killing all off the indigenous folks. This action effectively starts the war between the aberrations and the humans and ensures all of the problems for Wayward Pines going forward. A problem that could have been avoided had Pilcher taken CJ’s advice and waited longer.

Keep It Simple Stupid

The first problem I have with this premise is that Pilcher kidnapped folks without consent. He also didn’t vette them for suitability or compatibility for living in a utopia city project. He yanked them out of their life and put them into cryosleep. After unfreezing them in the year 4028, he has two options. Tell them their reality or make them think it’s still 2014. After all, the town looks like it did in 2014 so it’s not that hard to convince those who are unfrozen.

There are lots of reasons why this town won’t ultimately succeed. The primary reason it is doomed to fail is that these folks didn’t consent to be there, the problem treated by Megan. They still think it’s 2014 and they think they can leave and get back home. Yet, they are being told never to talk about that. That idea won’t work. You simply can’t tell people to suppress their desires to go back home to their families and loved ones. If he had explicitly kidnapped folks who didn’t have loved ones waiting, then perhaps he could have used that. David didn’t think the kidnapping idea through very well.

Another secondary reason why this township won’t work is limited food and medical supplies. While he did stockpile food to get the town started and maintain certain levels of conveniences like ice cream, liquor, fudge, toy shops, hair stylists and various amenities offered by the 2014 standards, that cannot possibly last. There is also simply not enough food resources to maintain a growing community of people. Pilcher also failed to foresee the need for medicines in the future. While he did bring some medicine forward in time, it simply wasn’t enough (season 2). Over time and with enough generations, there would be no way for 2014 humans to survive, particularly without access to modern medicines. It’s not like he also brought along a pharmaceutical company and people to run it.

This lack of foresight sows the seeds of destruction for any forced community at some point in the future. The corporate punishment only serves to double-down on this destruction by, along with microphones and cameras monitoring everything in the town, eventual dissent and violence. If David stays this course with each successive town reset and restart, he’ll eventually run out of people to inhabit the town. Thankfully, Pam puts a stop to that, but too late to really save Wayward Pines.

Survival

Even if there had not been any indigenous population to defend against, the community would still have failed. As I said above, Pilcher didn’t bring along enough medications, vitamins and food to last indefinitely.

If the town had been able to survive without the threat of attack, the population would have eventually overgrown the town. They would have had to either institute population controls or force people to leave and settle elsewhere. There were so many better and more horrifying story avenues than the aberrations, the aberrations simply ended up as a convenient copout distraction from all that was missing when actually trying to build a utopia.

Season 1 versus Season 2

Season 1 started out promising by offering hope that the town might survive and morph into something useful. By season 2, not only had the show jumped 3 years into the future, which robbed us of the internal struggles, we come to find that the first generation is now running the town. While this is a fairly stupid premise to begin with, it effectively turned the show into a Young Adult novel.

On so many levels for a TV series, this change doesn’t work. You can’t start out with adults running the show only to turn it into a teen fest. That, in and of itself, caused too many problems going from season 1 to season 2.

Additionally, season 2 introduces a lot of foreign concepts that take the show in a direction that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. While I have not yet read Crouch’s novels, I’m assuming that the two seasons follow the novels to some degree. Ultimately, I can see why this show was not renewed after season 2. It just wasn’t strong enough of a premise to survive such jarring changes between season 1 and season 2. By jarring changes, I not only mean the survival concepts, but also the never ending cast changes, particularly the teen fest.

Overall

This was not a great show. It had a lot of promise when it began, but it quickly degraded into a story place that couldn’t work. Additionally, there were so many unaddressed mistakes made by Pilcher, these made the show’s story entirely weak. For example, where was the livestock? If you can cryofreeze humans, why didn’t Pilcher cryofreeze cows, pigs and chickens? They will need protein and vegetables as food sources… particularly if they’re to repopulate the earth.

Also, if Megan’s population birthing initiative was so all fired important, then why didn’t they cryofreeze a bunch of babies or pregnant woman to immediately restart the repopulation process?

Additionally in season 1, it was never addressed where all of the food was coming from or how much food there was. By season 2 and three years later, the town was already running out of food and needed to build farms to sustain the population. However, the valley soil where Wayward Pines is situated is supposedly tainted and cannot grow food with no real explanation of this. If food was an important thing to consider, why didn’t Pilcher cryofreeze some farmers and botanists? Also, why wasn’t this idea addressed in season 1?

Also, if Pilcher wanted his Wayward Pines town to thrive as a small town circa 2014 style, he must have packed enough rations to last for well more than 3 years. I’d suspect he’d brought along enough to last 10 or 20. If you don’t bring along enough rations to last 10 or more years, then why lure people in with all of the ice cream and hot dogs when in 1-2 years they’ll be starving or subsistence farming? Also, ice cream is made from milk. Where was the livestock to keep it all going? What about clothing? What about making cloth? What about growing cotton to make yarn to make cloth? What about sheep to make wool for winter clothing?

Clearly, the show’s writers weren’t thinking ahead. They might be able to blame some of this on Blake Crouch, but the show’s writers should have been able to read the book material, see the problems and fix them in the series. Overall, it’s a generally weak show that appears better than it actually is. It’s easy to see why it was cancelled after 20 episodes. In addition to being only half-assed in concept, the stories were simply not thrilling enough. The story needs a whole lot more thought and work.

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Rebuttal: Kelly Marie Tran’s NYT Op-Ed Piece

Posted in Employment, entertainment by commorancy on August 21, 2018

Rose and FinWhile I can’t identify with Kelly Marie Tran’s problems growing up as an Asian female as she describes in the New York Times, I definitely feel she has made some very empowering points regarding her observations. However, I also believe Ms. Tran missed some points that many Star Wars fans were trying to address within the Star Wars series. Let’s explore.

Haters Gonna Hate

It doesn’t matter much how much of a celebrity you are, you can’t please everyone. This is simply not possible. In fact, it’s not even worth trying. However, the bigger of a celebrity you become, the more of these folks will appear and attempt to make your life miserable. You can’t let them. This is why everyone needs to make a decision about social media and celebrity. I don’t know a specific number, but I’d venture to guess you’ll find at least 40% of the people at most social media sites spout some form of vitriol towards at least one or more people. Perhaps that number is even higher. While I personally believe vitriol has no place on social media, I acknowledge that it exists.

Judgmental Society

No matter who you are, you can’t let the vitriol define you.. not on Twitter, not on Facebook, not on YouTube, not on any other social site. Criticism is everywhere in every form everyday. It happens when you drive your car. It happens when you eat out at restaurants. It happens when you drink at a bar. It happens when you post pictures to Instagram. Simply… it happens. Everyone around you is always judging you.

People judge you for what you wear, how you look, how you walk, how you talk, how you act, what you say, your shoes, how your hair looks, your makeup… etc. People judge other people everyday. You can’t stop it. You can’t do anything about it. But, what you can do is ignore it.

I know it’s hard, particularly if people use cruel words that you read or that you can hear. However, you can’t live your life by other people’s judgement of you. You must live for yourself, not for anyone else. If you find someone who is particularly cruel or judgmental, eliminate them from your life. You don’t need Negative Nancys and Toxic Tommys around you. Simply cut those naysayers off. That doesn’t mean killing your entire social media presence, but it does mean actively using the moderation tools given by these sites to block those who only serve to harass you.

Constructive Criticism vs Prejudice

In any profession where you must perform, act, sing or even create visual art, your work will be criticized. Some people will like your work, some won’t. Many will be vocal about that criticism. As I said, you can’t please everyone. Criticism is the unpleasant part of the performing and visual arts. But, it doesn’t have to define you. When reading criticism, you must always review that criticism objectively. If you don’t, you’ll always assume that everything is a personal attack. Step back and see it for what it is, someone else’s problem. Not yours.

Someone who is looking at your work isn’t necessarily judging you personally, even if it may seem that way. If you put your acting skills up onto a silver screen, people will judge that work in the context of that entertainment. As I said, some will like it, some won’t. If you’re an actor and you don’t understand this concept, then you probably chose the wrong profession. The same goes for any other performing or visual artist.

Basically, if you can’t take criticism of your work, then you should consider a profession that doesn’t require putting so much of yourself out there to be judged in harsh ways.

What this all means… it seems Ms. Tran is a little bit too sensitive to be a celebrity in today’s Hollywood. It’s a rough business to begin with. If you feel dejected every time you release a film or because fans tongue lash you, then you’re way out of your element.

Star Wars fandom and Acting Roles

What’s worse, a lot of Star Wars fans can’t seem to distinguish an actor from the role they play. Ms. Tran did the best with the material she was handed by Rian Johnson. None of the vitriol aimed at her after the film’s release is in any way justified. However, being judged and criticized is part of being an actress and part of the Hollywood business. That is something you need to accept being in the public eye.

However, if Ms. Tran is guilty of anything in this, she’s guilty of not understanding the reason behind why the Star Wars team cast her in the role. This casting reason is not her fault, but it is her fault in failing to foresee and act on the potential problems caused by her being cast in that role. She states she was the first Asian female lead in a Star Wars movie. True. Though, we need to read on to find out why she might not want to be proud of that fact here.

I can fully understand Ms. Tran’s temporary blindness of insight she might have suffered after her agent told her she got the role. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to appear in a Star Wars movie? With that said, this franchise was already off on the wrong foot with the affirmative action program enacted by The Force Awakens casting folks. It was completely foreseeable that this program would both carry forward and escalate within The Last Jedi. To no one’s surprise, it did.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with Ms. Tran accepting a part in The Last Jedi… had the part been anything other than blatant attempt by the filmmakers to escalate an affirmative action program by creating a character and a role that didn’t need to exist. This is what Ms. Tran should have foreseen. This is what she should have understood about that role she accepted. This point was crystal clear to me the moment her final scene appears on the screen. This is what her gut should have told her before accepting the part. This is what her agent should have seen and explained to her. This is what she likely would have understood by reading the script in full. These were all mistakes made by her and the team around her. She was more than likely blinded by the words, Star Wars.

Film Roles can Backfire

Not every film role that an actor or actress accepts will be a success. Sometimes the filmed work never makes it into the final film. Sometimes the role is wrong for the actor. Sometimes roles occasionally end up backfiring on the actor or actress. This goes with the territory. No one can fully understand the consequences of a role they might accept until a film is released. However, an actor can usually ascertain if the filmmaker has created a part that is genuinely necessary to a film by reading the script. You can’t blindly take the word of any filmmaker, you need to read each script and understand the full role being offered.

In other words, as an actor, you shouldn’t jump into a part because it has a name like Star Wars which blinds you in excitement. You still need to do your due diligence to understand if the part fits with your personal ideals before accepting it. As an actor, you always want to be taken seriously. You don’t want yourself and your craft to become the butt of an inside joke only to become immortalized on the silver screen. You don’t want your craft to be taken advantage of by a filmmaker’s personal agenda. This is the reason that doing research about the project, even a high profile project like Star Wars, is extremely important.

In fact, this problem is not limited to the entertainment profession. You need to always research the company and the folks where you might consider working. If their company ideals don’t match with your own personal ideals, you likely won’t be happy in a job there.

Star Wars as a franchise

Rian Johnson broke away from the Star Wars mold by introducing a new lead character in the middle of an existing storyline. One might argue he introduced two of these. Yes, but kind of. Holdo was technically a dispensable secondary character. The new lead role was for a love interest to Fin, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran). There’s a right way and a wrong way to introduce new lead characters into a narrative. Rian Johnson did it entirely the wrong way. Not only was the Rose Tico character’s presence entirely unnecessary for the greater narrative, Rose also served no real purpose in the side narrative. Rose’s presence, in fact, only served to distract the storytelling of the greater narrative.

That story and character problem is most definitely not the fault of Kelly Marie Tran. She didn’t have a hand in writing the character or the story to which the character is involved. That’s on Rian Johnson, Kathleen Kennedy and Disney. No, she simply acted the part on film. Unfortunately, many fans don’t understand this fine point in filmmaking. Instead, they see Ms. Tran as the problem. She’s not the problem, she’s the victim. She even admitted that, for a time, she also saw this as her problem.

In fact, the producers were the ones who sowed the seeds of affirmative action in this franchise and they followed through with its execution. That’s a production problem, not an actor problem.

Fans need to wake up and point their vitriol at the place where it belongs, at the producers and Disney. Leave the actors alone. They did their part by acting their role. Kelly Marie Tran performed her part admirably, all things considered. Their job is done. The producers, writers and directors must take the blame for anything related to the film itself, including casting and poor story choices.

Kelly Marie Tran’s Message

While I understand and agree with much of what Kelly Marie Tran describes in her New York Times article, I also agree that Ms. Tran needs to do a bit of soul searching and determine whether being an actress in Hollywood is her best career choice.

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Remembering the 80s: Moonlighting

Posted in botch, entertainment, TV Shows by commorancy on July 24, 2018

MoonlightingIn 1985, Moonlighting began as a show TV viewers seemed to both love and hate. I personally became very fond of this show at the time. Today, it is simply a product of its time period. Let’s explore.

80s TV

After coming out of the 70s, where crime dramas tended to rule the roost, the 80s spawned more lighthearted comedy to balance out those 70s serials. In fact, the 80s spawned a lot of TV shows that are fondly remembered. One of these is the screwball romantic comedy Moonlighting produced by Glenn Gordon Caron.

Moonlighting hearkens back to screwball comedies of the 40s with a straight man (or woman) character Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) to the cuckoo character David Addison (Bruce Willis). At the time, Willis was an unknown. I’m sure the TV executives weren’t sure he could pull off the role at the time, but once the chemistry between Bruce and Cybill became palpable, all executive misgivings evaporated.

Moonlighting and Chemistry

Like Charlie’s Angels before Moonlighting, this cast was as tight on chemistry as they come. The on-screen chemistry between these two actors was amazing to behold. Unfortunately, what made the show a winner would also see to its demise. The quick and witty repartee between Maddie and David would become deeply symbolic of what went on behind the scenes. After the second season, the apparently deep and constant bickering between the two actors would ultimately end up in tabloids, tarnishing this series irrevocably. However, what ultimately did this series in was its writing, production in-fighting and Cybill’s pregnancy.

Biting off more…

The witty rapid fire repartee of the Moonlighting character dialogue wasn’t without peril. Oh, it was most certainly fun to watch. Apparently, each script required double the amount of written exposition found in a similar series. This meant writing double the amount of pages in a script. Effectively, each episode was two episodes worth of material. Instead of cranking out several episodes rapidly, writers were only able to produce half the number in the same period. Because of the quick witty interrupting repartee, sometimes with Maddie and David talking over one another simultaneously, this would only serve to delay how quickly an episode could be shot.

At the time, it was said that it took upwards of sometimes 10-14 days to complete one episode of Moonlighting when most series with half the dialogue took about 5-7 days.

For both filming and writing reasons, trying to reliably release one episode per week was a chore for the Moonlighting team. This meant that episodes didn’t reliably show up every week. Usually there was a rerun in between new episodes. This also meant you’d never know if the show that week would be a rerun or a new episode until it showed up in TV Guide. This didn’t happen during season one and two because these seasons had many episodes in the can by the time the show aired. However, once the series airings caught up to the currently filmed episode, they never could get ahead again.

For a viewer, this unknown led to a lot of disappointment after finding out that this week’s episode was a three or more weeks old rerun. That’s not to say that those episodes weren’t funny, but they were way too recent to rewatch. This problem stagnated the series and was Moonlighting’s first blemish. More blemishes would show as time progressed. Though, the reruns were helpful if you missed that episode.

First Two Seasons

For the first two seasons of this series, which encompassed a total of 24 episodes (6 in season one and 18 in season two), the series kept its chemistry entirely on track. The writers kept Maddie and David in check and at just the proper distance from one another as Maddie constantly played hard to get. The constant keeping-David-at-arms-length premise kept the sexual tension at just the right level. It’s what kept people coming back week after week to see if Maddie finally gets together with David. Between the magic of the witty repartee and keeping David and Maddie at arm’s length, this was the show’s mojo. However, the witty rapid dialog and sexual tension began to wear a little thin by season three. Viewers wanted to finally see David and Maddie get together. Careful what you wish for.

Season Three

In Season three, when Maddie and David finally hook up in the episode I am curious… Maddie, the series deflates like a balloon. That episode singlehandedly took the wind out of the sails of Moonlighting. Not only did the sexual tension vanish, the constant rumors of the on-set fighting between Cybill and Bruce began appearing in tabloids and only served as a major distraction to the series. This coupled with Cybill’s real life pregnancy and Bruce’s leave to be in Die Hard left the series in a quandary:

  • Incorporate the pregnancy into the show or go on without her
  • Go on with or without Bruce

This is also where the actor’s real lives intruded into the production of this fine series. This season also marks when the series ran off the rails.

Season Four

At this point in the series, had I been the producer, I might have opted to create episodes with other characters while Cybill takes maternity leave if Bruce had been available. However, because both lead actors were otherwise tied up with outside commitments, the choice should have been to delay any further production of the series. The network apparently didn’t want this which led to a bad decision.

After the series introduced Agnes DiPesto (Allyce Beasley) as more than just a charming rhyming receptionist and brought in Herbert Viola (Curtis Armstrong) as her love interest, the series tried expanding on these two characters in their own episodes while waiting on Bruce and Cybill to be available. This really didn’t work. Beasley and Armstrong had very little on-screen chemistry leaving the episodes flat and boring. Beasley was charming as the rhyming receptionist role, but she wasn’t in any way able to carry the series in an expanded role. Neither could Armstrong. Together, they simply had no chemistry together nor were the characters leading character material. They simply could not carry this series.

By this point, I felt that the series was way offtrack. At the time, I knew it was only a matter of time before Moonlighting was cancelled. Not only was the sexual tension lost, the series began focusing on forgettable side character arcs that didn’t matter. This all happened simply because the two lead actors were unavailable. You can’t run a series when your leads are missing in action. While I understand Cybill’s pregnancy, I can’t understand why the series allowed Bruce Willis to sign a contract to be in Die Hard while the series was still in production. This just makes no sense.

Without its leads, the series should have taken a hiatus. Coupled with the slow shooting schedule, the longer than typical scripts, the show just couldn’t make any headway. If this had had a normal filming schedule, they could have put a few (or many) episodes in the can in advance of both Cybill’s and Bruce’s departure and then had them to fill out the time slots when the actors were unavailable. Because of the size of the scripts, this was impossible. Though, they did get pre-work from Cybill before her maternity leave and before season four began. But, this pre-work was filmed before the full episodes were fully scripted or shot.

By the time Cybill went on leave with her pregnancy and Bruce was tied up with Die Hard, this meant that a lot of season four was created by the actors phoning in their parts. As stated above, Cybill had pre-shot her dialogue scenes separately which had to be worked into as yet uncreated episodes. Because the leads were never seen together in scenes, the series ratings continued to decline. You can’t exactly create sexual tension between two characters when they’re talking to each other over the phone and not in the same room.

The ratings didn’t improve when the series tried focusing on DiPesto and Viola in an attempt to carry the series. In season three, not only had Maddie and David come together and split, the series introduced Sam Crawford (Mark Harmon) as Maddie’s new love interest. By season four, Maddie gets pregnant (assumed to be by Sam, but could have been David), thus integrating her pregnancy (and the unnecessary Sam character) into season four. It was a horrible plot choice, particularly the ambiguity of the father of the baby.

There’s no way faster to lose the hot model image than by knocking up your main character, particularly if by a transient and unnecessary character. This third character also transformed the series from a twosome into a threesome, which also didn’t work. The chemistry between these three did not work at all. This further served to degrade this series into a train wreck about to crash. Not only had Maddie and David gotten together and split forever, Maddie takes on a new boyfriend which is assumed she consummates that relationship with a baby. It was the wrong play. It added a new character dynamic at the wrong time into a series that least needed it. It also implied that Sam, not David, was the father of the baby. As well, having characters phoning in their parts didn’t make the episodes great. It would have been a better choice not to incorporate the pregnancy or Sam at all. The best choice was hiatus.

By halfway through the season, I’d grown tired of seeing stories about DiPesto and Viola and Maddie and Sam. The series was originally about the detective agency and the relationship between Maddie and David. We lost that when the series began focusing stories away from Maddie and David and more on other characters. The magic, at this point, was irreparably lost and the ratings continued to reflect that change in creative direction.

As for Maddie’s baby, just think what would have happened to the Charlie’s Angels ratings had one of the main characters gotten pregnant on Charlie’s Angels? That series would have tanked harder than when Farrah Fawcett left the series. The Charlie’s Angels story is about hot female detectives performing detective work. Not about rearing children or getting knocked up. Same for Moonlighting. Moonlighting was about a hot model owning a detective agency. It’s not about getting knocked up and rearing babies.

By season four, the writers had lost their way with the plots. This was in part because, according to the tabloids, the actors were not only fighting with each other, they were also fighting over what they were being paid. It was also in part because of the lack of their lead actor’s availability to film episodes.  It was also in part due to the writers strike. This led to poor story choices and a swirl of tabloid gossip.

Season Five

By this season and after the writers strike concluded, which cut short the final episode of season four, the writers and producers seemed to have realized the error of their ways with Maddie’s pregnancy and penned a season opener that sees Maddie miscarry and lose the baby. It was too little, too late. It was also a bad idea overall. Setting Maddie up to have a baby, see her carry it and then miscarry? This isn’t a topic for a comedy show. This topic on this show misfired. This is a detective show, not a home and family show. The damage was already done.

By season five, the show couldn’t get its mojo back for a number of reasons. The first reason is because of the lack of enthusiasm by the show’s stars. Bruce had further created a successful new franchise in Die Hard. Cybill now had twins and wanted out of the long working hours to be with them. The second reason is that the writing failed to go back to Blue Moon cases with Maddie and David in the office trying to rekindle the sexual tension spark with witty repartee instead of dealing with Maddie’s personal life. This change in show direction was due to Glenn Gordon Caron’s departure. The creative team was gutted. The episode that attempted to reignite the sexual tension spark failed and tanked the ratings further. Ultimately, season three showed it had entirely spent its mojo capital when it got Maddie and David together. Everything after that point couldn’t save the series from cancellation. If season four was the purchase of the coffin, season five nailed it shut.

Aresto Momentum…

Even still, the show did reach two more seasons after David and Maddie got together.  That’s respectable, but not necessarily unexpected. Some of the episodes in seasons four and five were okay, if not a little tired. However, the show still had a lot of momentum going into into the fourth season if only the actors had been available to shoot every episode and keep that momentum going. Unfortunately, Moonlighting just couldn’t withstand the turmoil, chaos and the cast unavailability. The series eventually succumbed to its ratings slump and the eventual loss of Glenn Gordon Caron, the series creator by season five due to a rift between Cybill and Glenn. That change in the creative team didn’t help the stories in any way.

The Fourth Wall

By the third season, the shows regularly opened with David and Maddie staring directly at the camera offering some kind of message. Usually the message existed simply because the show ran short on time and they needed to fill it. These messages made no bones about it. These show opening messages would become the first salvo in fourth wall breaking that the series would begin exploring.

Personally, while I didn’t mind the show openers, I didn’t want to see fourth wall breaks within an episode. It is what it is. The show would take this to the extreme in the final episode. The series ending in season 5 shows the crew breaking down the entire set while David and Maddie are still trying to play their detective character roles while the producer states that the show has been cancelled. It was somewhat funny to watch, but it really dissed the show. Sure, it’s fun for shows to poke fun at themselves, but this went way beyond what I thought was appropriate for a professional series.

Everything that went wrong with the series was pretty much summed up in the series closing episode by breaking down that set.

A product of its time

Moonlighting was cute, funny and endearing when at its best. It was a hot mess when at its worst. However, it was also a product of the 80s in which it was spawned. Time has not been kind to this series. Producers today reference this series as something to avoid when creating new productions. They simply don’t want to revisit what happened when Maddie and David finally got together. That single episode is now considered the poster child of what not to do with characters in a TV series.

Because Moonlighting never went into syndication in the traditional way, it simply hasn’t had the power of reruns on its side. I don’t think syndication would have helped this series much, anyway. Unlike I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch, which saw continual and never ending reruns, Moonlighting never got that chance. It’s probably a good thing.

The series was fun to watch during its era, but today the show’s comedy and antics seem antiquated and pretentious. Where I Love Lucy is mostly timeless, Moonlighting is a time capsule out of time when watched today. This show was definitely a product of the 80s with its shoulder pads and dated hair styles and clothing. If you like 80s TV, it’s a must watch. However, if you’re looking for something modern and relevant, you won’t find that in Moonlighting. The stories are definitely dated to its era.

If you really want to watch this series at its absolute best, I suggest watching seasons one and two and season three up to I am curious… Maddie and stop there. The last episode of season 5 is fun to watch if for no other reason than to watch the cast break through the fourth wall. Though, you can watch season four and five, don’t expect much from these two final seasons. Season three is ultimately where the series should have ended.

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Review: Law and Order Special Victims Unit

Posted in entertainment, TV Shows by commorancy on July 10, 2018

When Law and Order: Special Victims Unit began in the late 1999, I only watched it sporadically… basically whenever it was on. I’ve continued that same viewing behavior throughout the years. I’ve recently found that Hulu has 19 seasons streaming and I’ve decided to start watching it from the first season. I’m done watching all of the episodes to date. Let’s explore.

Sometimes silly with repetitive plots

The first season for this series started out extremely rough. Not only did the show not really know how to handle each of the characters in the squad room or how often, this season focuses almost entirely on Olivia Bensen and Elliot Stabler. It also didn’t really nail down its visual format until episode 3. It’s understandable I guess when it’s a new show. I’m uncertain how this show has managed to make it to 19 seasons considering the show is limited to sex crime which includes, rape and statutory rape and rape and rape. Did I mention rape? Sure, the circumstances are different in each episode. Sometimes the victim is dead, sometime the victim is alive. Sometimes the victim is alive, but then gets killed. The base stories are always similar. The perp might be the guy next door, a priest, a friend, a co-worker, a rich kid, a poor kid or whomever makes the most sense for the episode.

Cases that don’t belong in SVU

I also find that there are many cases that end up on the SVU desk that have no place being there. They aren’t even sex crimes, S5 E2 for example. I thought that when SVU determined the case wasn’t a sex crime that it got handed over to another appropriate division? Why would you waste valuable SVU resources (which are quite limited) on a case that isn’t sex related when there are other cases that need SVU’s attention. SVU has certainly had cases handed to them mid-investigation when a sex crime was uncovered. Why doesn’t this go the other way? Just have the writers hand it over to another division and introduce a new plot at that point. Just be sure to do it early in the episode. If you want realism, handing over unrelated cases certainly fits that bill. Having SVU hang onto a case just because they started with it makes no sense. See BAD writing below for more about this.

Early Seasons

The first season is both a mix of sex crimes and personal stories, sometimes intermingling. I thought the show might continue heading this direction, but it’s moved away from this direction as the seasons have progressed. Even by the second season, the stories mostly focused on sex crimes. I also thought the show’s writing would have stabilized into a regular format. Not really. Not only is the writing inconsistent in quality, the show displays a number of fairly egregious technical problems (booms in camera, booms in reflections and even a sound guy captured in frame — S2 E21). I’ve watched a wide array of series and have not encountered this many egregious technical snafus by halfway through third season. You’d think by the third season they’d have solved all of these silly filming problems.

I am also surprised to find the writing in many episodes is subpar. It’s a police procedural, how hard can it be to sweat the details?

When the writing is bad, it’s B A D …

Throughout the seasons leading up to this point, the show has touted each of the detectives to be the best and the brightest at what they do.. ‘An Elite Squad’ as the show announcer states. While I realize as a detective you can’t do anything about the things you don’t know, glossing over details you do know is not only stupid, it’s negligent… and it can get people killed. I realize this is “just a show”, but each episode attempts to tell a story that purports to be realistic (at least by Hollywood standards).

Well, this next episode’s writing is particularly awful, though it’s not the only episode. Not only does it show that the detectives are insanely inept, they probably shouldn’t even be detectives when they gloss over such visibly simple, but incredibly important details.

Here begins the list of the most clumsy and sloppily written SVU episodes.

Contents

S3 E17 – Scourge

As a synopsis for this episode, Emily Deschanel’s character ‘Cassie’ is assaulted and potentially raped in her own apartment. The detectives come to find that her apartment is bugged with 4 cameras watching her every move. How the cameras got there is a mystery yet to be solved.

Over the course of the episode they find a stalker named Terry who’s been stalking her since college. He’s recently moved into secretly filming her by bugging her apartment with cameras using the stolen credit card of the landlord where Terry lives. After being let into Terry’s apartment by the female landlord and discovering a shrine to Cassie, Benson and Stabler have a conversation with this female landlord, who claims to be Terry’s girlfriend.

Okay, stop right here. This is major story strike #1. Not only did Benson and Stabler choose to ignore this statement from the landlord, they proceed on the assumption that Terry is the attacker based on the shrine alone. Not following up on this landlord conversation is not believable, but I’ll let it slide for the moment.

Later, the detectives grab Terry from Cassie’s viola performance at an arts center and pull him into the interrogation room at the station. During the course of the interrogation, Terry states that he is not the landlord’s boyfriend. He also states that he loves Cassie and would never hurt her. Strike #2. The guy’s been stalking her since she left college. If he wanted to hurt her, he would have done so long before she (and he) moved to NY. So, right here Benson and Stabler should have stepped out of the room and had conversation discussing the inconsistent statements between Terry and his landlord “girlfriend”. She says he is, he says she isn’t. The first thing this says to me is that the landlord girlfriend is either lying or she has a personal vendetta. Whatever the reason, it’s definitely now suspect enough to follow up on this lead. The landlord “girlfriend” is also very likely a stalker intent on going after Terry. On that new information, the investigation should have turned attention to the landlord girlfriend and brought her in. Who would have more intent to harm? Terry, who idolizes Cassie and who’s been stalking her for years or a distraught woman claiming to be a “girlfriend” and who’s seems angry at Cassie? This is where this episode writers jumped the shark. Strike #3. Also, where was the psychologist in this episode?

Not only do Benson and Stabler miss this crucial clue that practically slaps them in the face, what does it say of their detective skills? This missed detail makes them seem like rookies. This TV show, up to this point, has prided itself on making these detectives, particularly Stabler, look to be articulate, intelligent investigators and sticklers for details. So, how could they possibly miss this clue? It’s one thing if the writers don’t tell the characters (or us viewers) crucial details and, instead, reveal them at the end. It’s entirely sloppy detective work when the characters have the information in hand and do nothing about it. Both Stabler and Benson have followed up less important clues in other episodes. They should have followed up on this one. Bad writers, bad.

Benson is also particularly sensitive to missed clues leading to the death of someone. She continually beats herself up about these. Yet here, not only did the show not acknowledge this missed clue leading to the death of Terry, it ends before we find out what happens to the perpetrator. The show also, way out of form, treats Terry with all the dignity and respect as that of a piece of human garbage. Prostitutes in other episodes have gotten more respect (and coffee and donuts) than Terry. This show, up to this point, has always been sensitive to any victim. Terry didn’t deserve his fate, even though he had stalked Cassie. Terry’s death could have been prevented if Benson and Stabler had simply followed up on the inconsistent statements back when Terry was in the interrogation room. The show didn’t even acknowledge this deficiency of the detectives.

S5 E2 – Manic

And the inconsistent writing quality continues… I don’t understand why this episode opens with Stabler breaking down doors with uniformed cops (even before Benson arrives). What’s the deal with that? I thought they were detectives, not street cops. The point to becoming a detective is to sleuth the situation after-the-fact. Are the NYPD cops somehow now so short-handed that they need help from detectives in breaking down doors and apprehending suspects? Also, why is Stabler the one there doing this? Is he getting so disenchanted with being a detective that he feels the need to go back to the front line? Also, he’s in a hoodie seemingly without wearing a bullet-proof vest. Seriously? He’s also the one taking the lead and calling the shots.

Worse, after all of the breaking down doors and entering, we find a kid whose head has been grazed by a bullet and who has not been sexually molested and is very much alive. We come to find that the kid had taken a drug that caused him to go manic and kill two kids. At this point, Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek) should have referred this case to appropriate narcotics division and gotten it off of SVU’s desk. Does he hand it off? No.

Horrible writing.

S9 E15 – Undercover

I know the stories have been a lot the same and Dick Wolf wanted something different in this episode. Well, this episode is totally improbable and unnecessary.

Despite being strongly advised not to do so, Olivia chooses to infiltrate a prison to find a guard who is raping female inmates. Yet more bad writing starts right here. Even Cragen says that its not NYPD’s job to police the prison system. That should have been a done deal, yet Cragen still allows Olivia to go into the prison undercover? Under any other circumstance, Cragen wouldn’t allow this of one of his top detectives.

This is a stupid story from the get go. Not only is the setup implausible, why would Olivia ever consent to put herself into such a degrading position? Why would Cragen even allow this? This is a woman who is intensely private and unwilling to share much with even her closest friend, Stabler. She won’t even share that she has a boyfriend. Yet, she’s willing to go into a prison knowing she’s going to be entirely degraded, humiliated and beaten? No, I don’t think she would have agreed to that. This episode is entirely out of character for how Benson had been portrayed up to this point. Then, when the perp takes Olivia down to the rape bed, she’s not raped, yet she’s left with severe mental anguish? And this piece they decide to carry into future episodes? Dumb writing at its best (or worst?).

S9 E17 – Authority

This episode features Robin Williams as a guy who always seems one step ahead of the detectives. Unfortunately, instead of the story making the Robin Williams character look he’s intelligent, smart and outwitting, it makes Stabler and Benson look like rookies just out of the academy. At every step, Benson and Stabler are played by this guy… not once, but many times. Never did Benson or Stabler make the observation that they’re being played.

If this story had had an element like one of Stabler’s kids involved, I could understand how Stabler’s personal interest might heavily cloud his judgement and put him into an emotional rage. I know that the writers were trying to use Benson to play the personal clouded judgement card, but it just doesn’t work against Stabler with Benson. Elliot is definitely fond of Olivia, but he’s not so fond of Olivia as to go manic like he does with his family.

The writers attempting to play this Stabler clouded judgement card here just doesn’t work. There were so many times that Stabler and Benson could have apprehended this guy, yet the story has him walk away. And, it makes both Stabler and Benson appear inept. For one, I thought cops were supposed to carry tasers for non-lethal take downs? Seriously, how hard is it to take down a suspect and cart him in? With a taser, it would have taken all of a few seconds. I also find it terribly hard to believe that Benson, as capable as she is, would simply allow herself to be carted off to an abandoned recording studio and be hooked up to wires without any kind of a struggle. This episode was so far fetched as to be stupid. It once again shows how rookie Benson and Stabler are. And, of course, this series will never bring this story arc back around. This Robin Williams character will simply be forgotten in among many hundreds of other forgotten and unresolved stories.

S9 E19 – Cold

This episode is convoluted, hard to follow and entirely implausible. This episode starts out with us finding out that Detective Lake likes to solve cold cases through an outside advocate group consisting of off duty law enforcement officers from all over. An advocate group that NYPD is aware of and dislikes. Upon leaving this particular advocate group meeting that we see him attending, he gets into a gun battle with two other people leaving another detective dead. In the process, Lake is injured and hospitalized. Lake also invokes a 48 hour NYPD policy that he cannot be questioned about the incident during that 48 hours. This 48 hour period conveniently overlaps with the 48 hours when the crime scene is the most fresh and when evidence can be lost. Convenient. Apparently, this policy trumps all other policies and even laws and prevents Stabler and Benson (or anyone else) from questioning Lake about the incident. Also, that Lake invokes this 48 hour holding period does not in any way prove innocence or guilt. Stabler comes dangerously close to having questioned Lake during this period and Novak calls this out. If Stabler had gotten anything out of him, it would have been inadmissible. Yet, Novak seems to be under the gun to determine what happened and get this case in front of a judge in less than 48 hours.

*needle rips across the record*

Wait.. what? Why would anyone want to get the case in front of a judge in 24-48 hours without having the detectives do their due diligence? How can the ME properly investigate the body, let alone the crime scene evidence and document it properly in less than 48 hours? How can the detectives even know what’s going on while within Lake’s 48 hour silent period? The writing on this episode is so intentionally atrocious as to be trite. Lake later escapes from the hospital and tries to run away, still during his 48 hour silent period. Up to this point, SVU has tried to remain reasonably believable. This one, however, is so unbelievable, it’s trash writing.

At the end of the episode, Lake is dismissed from SVU along with Novak who is to be hauled in front of the bar questioning her license over a Brady violation. A violation, I might add, that was not even of her doing. We’re talking about taking a case to court in less than 48 hours that had no business being there before all of the evidence and testimony was in. Talk about premature. How can you possibly take a case to trial without getting a statement from the one witness (Lake) who was there? I’ve seen Novak prevent trials for less than this. How can a medical examiner even rule on what happened in less than 48 hours? What DA would ever intentionally do such a piss poor job? If there was a Brady violation here, it wasn’t Novak who caused it. It was her superiors who set her up to fail by forcing the trial to proceed before all of the evidence was available. There was no Brady violation, only stupid superiors who rushed the case to trial before it was ready. Let’s not even discuss the weird editing and convoluted story pacing. Horrible episode through and through. Why are so many of SVU’s season enders so bad?

S12 E9 – Gray

In among the never ending parade of ADAs through Seasons 10, 11 and 12, Sonya Paxton (Christine Lahti) makes her first reappearance after alcohol rehab in this episode. Unfortunately, this episode’s writing is so atrocious, it makes the above episodes look great by comparison. I’m not particularly a fan of the ADA Sonya Paxton character. She is self-righteous, abrasive, condescending and she’s not a very good attorney. It’s one thing to be good at your job and have an attitude (i.e., Novak or Cabot). It’s entirely another when you’re bad at your job and have that same attitude. I don’t fully understand why Dick Wolf keeps bringing this character back. She’s a bad attorney and doesn’t do any favors for this show or this episode. Sorry, Christine. I know you put a lot of work into this character, but a crap written character always remains a crap character.

This episode features a college rape case. A girl claims rape against a guy she met at a college party. Later, after a series of convoluted scenes that slowed the pace, we find that she had been pregnant and miscarried a baby from the rape. Further, we find that her rapist came back a second time to have sex again… Wait what? *** hold it right there ***

The show has now gone painfully off the rails. If a female is claiming rape, why would she ever let her rapist back into her bed a second time? And, 8 weeks later? She willingly let him into her bed and willingly allowed him to use “Love potion #9” while she was pregnant ?!?

At this point, this is no longer a case of rape. It is consensual sex. If she willingly allowed this guy into her bed a second time, she willingly allowed him into her bed the first time. You can’t have it both ways here, writers. Let’s continue with this crap story…

Then, the episode turns away from the victim and plows forward with a trial against the male rapist based on evidence given to Stabler by his daughter from the University where Stabler’s daughter attends (conveniently, the same school as the victim). Yet, Stabler being a seasoned detective doesn’t even put 2+2 together to ask his own daughter if she knows the victim or the rapist? He only finds this out after the college’s psychologist points Stabler to his own daughter? *eye roll*

Anyway, Kathleen Stabler (Allison Siko) obtained that file of information from a guy she likes who works in the Dean’s office. Once again, Stabler acts like a rookie and doesn’t tell anyone about where he got this information and, of course, no one asks… not even Olivia… you know, the partner who questions everything? And, Stabler takes solely the word of his daughter (you know, the one who got arrested for a DUI) that the information he receives from her is admissible. Really? Kathleen Stabler is now an expert on all things law? So anyway, the victim claims that the second round of (ahem) consensual sex with her rapist, she miscarried the following day after having that sex.

After some investigation into the evidence, it’s uncovered that the rapist used a drug called Misoprostol in his “love potion” that the rapist’s attorney alleged was used to treat his erectile dysfunction symptoms, even though he had no troubles ‘getting it up’ during the alleged rape or during the second round of consensual sex. While the defense attorney claims he used Misprostol for E.D., the prosecution claims it is being used to abort the fetus… which, of course, it did. After all, that’s what the drug’s primary use is.

Later in the episode, the victim dies because the miscarriage was incomplete and caused a systemic infection which killed her. Even a quick search on Google demonstrates the number one use of Misoprostol is for pregnancy termination, not E.D. Further, if this guy had a problem with E.D., why choose Misoprostol over Viagra? A pill is a whole lot easier to consume and would have lasted a much longer than using Misprostol when combined with a vacuum pump. A lot less trouble too and wouldn’t have endangered the fetus. This was a slam dunk case that this rapist kid intentionally used Misoprostol to force terminate the pregnancy. A good ADA with should have been able to prove this beyond a doubt. Yet, we have Sonya who’s just out of rehab, not sure on her feet and not a great attorney. I can’t even fathom why the D.A. would consider rehiring her after that drunken stunt she pulled in the courtroom in S11 E4 – Hammered.

All other above stupidity aside, let’s cut to the chase on crappiest part of this episode which is also the worst part of this episode’s writing. Against all of SVU’s training which the 11 other seasons have proven, the detectives did not have the victim go to the hospital to be checked out… particularly after finding out she had miscarried about a week before they talked to her. In fact, her death was entirely preventable had Olivia followed her training, had been sympathetic to the victim… and escorted her to a hospital to be examined. If a hospital had examined her after Olivia’s prompting, they would have caught the incomplete miscarriage, then admitted her and treated her for it. Yet more rookie moves by SVU’s most seasoned detectives. A rookie move, I might add, that resulted in the death of the victim… a preventable death. Yet, once again, neither does Olivia nor does Stabler recognize their egregious mistake… because, you know, writers. Of course, her death conveniently leads to the close of the episode by getting her (ahem) rapist behind bars for manslaughter… or at least, we assume this to be true as the episode closes with yet another cliffhanger and no closure. Such crap writing.

S12 E24 – Smoked

While this episode’s writing is particularly bad, this episode follows in SVU’s past footsteps as yet another exceedingly bad season ender. I’m unsure why the season end episodes are so bad, but here we are. This one, however, most certainly deserves to be on SVU’s worst written list.

Suffice it to say that a rape victim is killed while walking down a street with her daughter a week before her trial to convict her rapist. Convenient… at least for the rapist. Of course, the kill is pinned on the rapist, but predictably he had help. As the plot thickens, we come to find that the FBI is involved in, of all things, an illegal cigarette tax evasion sting. Here’s where this one goes off the rails. The FBI snatches the alleged killer from SVU’s lockup and takes him to an FBI facility. Because, you know, the SVU is so excellent at all things cop, they pose Stabler as a shop owner looking to score cigs from this ring that the FBI wants to bust. This all goes down because, hey, can’t we all get along and because SVU needs this killer back in custody and the FBI isn’t willing to give him up before this sting goes down. Enter Stabler posing as a shop owner… as if SVU detectives can just do anything in the cop world and be great at it.

So, this FBI arc is entirely stupid and unnecessary filler. Anyway, Stabler goes in with the rape victim’s killer (???) as his sidekick to pull off this cigarette sting. Why would Stabler ever go along with this shenanigan? Seriously, just take the perp back to SVU by force and leave the FBI high and dry. They can get him back after they’re done arraigning him. Anyway, the cigarette sting goes bad because, you know, bad WiFi reception and the killer gets away.

Fast forward. The killer is found again and put in custody at SVU, along with the FBI guy who gave him the gun and the rapist who set it all up. Yes, three different perps in this one.

The daughter of the rape victim waltzes into the SVU station and, after asking Olivia to take her to the lockup to see the killer, she pulls out a gun and attempts to kill everyone in the lockup and also kills Sister Peg and injures a few blue shirt cops. Moments later, because she finds that after nearly entering a full clip into the lockup and the squad room hadn’t killed her mom’s killer, she attempts to shoot him, only for Stabler to shoot that grieving daughter turned killer. She dies in Stabler’s arms. Fade out.

Once again, they let anyone into the precinct without any kind of search? Really? After a number of previous gun shootouts in the SVU offices, how did this happen again? Seriously, how many times does a grieving relative have to come into SVU offices and shoot up the place before they institute some security measures… before being allowed into the building? Worse, Olivia didn’t even notice that the rape victim’s daughter was not only distraught, but agitated. The show has continually put both Olivia’s and Stabler’s victim sensitivities on parade for all to see. Yet, at the end of this episode, where was Olivia’s sensitivity awareness? Why was Olivia so oblivious to the this girl’s completely obvious anguish. Worse, it’s SVU’s job to keep anyone in their custody safe from harm. Yet, this precinct has continually put people in their lockup in harm’s way time and time again. And, for whatever reason, this lockup is right out in the open next to all of the detectives desks where anyone can take a pot shot.

Why hasn’t One Police Plaza stepped into shut down this precinct? With so many egregious and fatal mistakes, this entire precinct needs to be furloughed and re-hired. Reassign those people who can be and let the rest go. This precinct is a disaster. I can’t even imagine what the Bronx and other SVU teams think about the Manhattan SVU team with as many mistakes and deaths that this precinct has intentionally caused by its mistakes. The writers should be entirely ashamed at writing this dreck.

S14 E24 – Her Negotiation and S15 E1 Surrender Benson/Imprisoned Lives (two parter)

Here begins the tale of the serial killer, William Lewis. I’m clearly unsure what’s going on in the writer’s minds in SVU at this point. Sure, this one is a two parter that spans two seasons. I get that. I also get that it was likely trying to boost ratings. But, instead of writing actual detective stories, the writers appear to want to write IAB driven stories about dirty cops or prosecutorial misconduct or the personal lives of the detectives in the squad room. It’s less about doing their detective jobs and more about everything other than detective work. In this two-parter, Olivia is kidnapped by a guy named William Lewis (Pablo Schreiber) who gets off on serial sexual assault possibly leading to death of the victim at the “end”. Not only is Pablo Schreiber’s acting work laughable rather than menacing, the story is contrived, trite and stupid. Olivia taunts the guy in the interrogation room in the first part who then later kidnaps Olivia (end of first part) and sets out to “make her dreams come true” in a sadistic torturous way. Let’s forget that Olivia is a seasoned detective. Let’s forget that she carries a weapon that she failed to use when she heard a noise in her apartment. Let’s forget that she failed to call for backup when she heard the noise.

I’m sure when this episode was on, many people ooo’d and ahh’d it. I just want to roll my eyes at it. How many of these silly episodes do we need to endure? Yes, this sadistic character is a butt. Yes, he needs to be taken down. Yes, there are at least 3 or 4 times when someone could have popped a bullet in him and yet they let him live over and over. Even when Olivia has the chance to wound him, she doesn’t even after the beating she has taken.

Don’t even get me started on the ludicrous setup when the William Lewis character burned his finger tips off to prove a point to his roommate at a halfway house. Ok, let’s. Seriously, he turns the grill on and 20 seconds later we’re led to believe it’s hot enough to burn his fingertips? No, I don’t think so.

Then after about 1/3 of the way through S15 E1, a new episode begins and we’re seeing a story about a guy who abducts kids and then raises him in another house somewhere else and keeps them locked up in cages in the basement? Because it was only given about 25 minutes of a 40 minute episode, this partial episode just didn’t work. Why didn’t the writing team just make the entire episode about Olivia and William? I’d have been more interested to see the William Lewis character take her on a very long outing forcing her into Stockholm Syndrome. Then once she’s back, require her to be deprogrammed before being allowed back onto the squad. If you’re going to take Olivia to Victimsville, let’s take her all the way there.

S15 E5 – October Surprise

Once again, the writers surprise us with yet another weak and horrible story idea that doesn’t belong under the purview of SVU. Yet, here we are and here they are investigating a story about a mayoral candidate, Alejandro Munoz, who is a close friend of Barba from childhood. It also seems that this mayoral candidate’s wife may have had an affair with Barba. However, Barba refuses to recuse himself from this investigation, allegedly at the DA’s prompting. I highly doubt that.

Anyway, the Munoz is apparently paying off women he’s slept with or otherwise had indiscretions to prevent losing the election. Clearly, there is not a “special victim” here. SVU comes to find after tremendous digging and way, way later that Munoz has some kind of sexting fantasy and, in that process, he received (but did not prompt) nude pictures of a 12 year old girl from the Internet.

Hold it right here… There’s no rape victim, no one claiming to be a victim, no one coming forward as a victim… So, why again is SVU investigating this?

Overall, this episode was another non-starter and shouldn’t have even been handled by SVU. I still don’t understand why Cragen refuses to punt these back over to other teams. This one had nothing to do with special victims as Munoz’s worst offense was possessing pictures of a 12 year old girl when he likely didn’t even know her age. Not once did he rape any of these women. Not once did he assault any of the women. The 12 year old girl consensually sent him the photos. Sure, it’s pedophilia by the legal statutes, but SVU wouldn’t have even known if they hadn’t been told to intentionally go look for dirt on Munoz by the DA. If anything, this seriously shows that the DA led some kind of conspiratorial effort against Munoz to try to get him removed from the running… and SVU colluded with the DA in these efforts. This is one of those episodes where the writers were entirely misguided by the story’s idea and misguided in how SVU works.

I’d much rather have a straightforward case of rape than dealing with these sideline non-starter stories. I know that the writers are trying to freshen up the series with interesting stories, but these kinds of stories aren’t the answer. It’s no wonder why John Munch (Richard Belzer) left SVU during season 15 with these trite, horrible plots. Hey, at least they gave John Much a proper send off (S15 E5 – Wonderland Story), unlike how they handled Elliot Stabler’s departure, who got absolutely nothing (S13 E1 – Scorched Earth).

S15 E9 – Psycho Therapist

I debated about even watching this episode because I knew the writers would screw the pooch. I wasn’t wrong. William Lewis (Pablo Schreiber) is now standing trial and he’s up to all his courtroom shenanigans again… first by self-representation, next by playing games, then by making wild accusations all while ADA Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza) sits there and does nothing about it. But, that’s not the primary problem with this episode.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say Barba was colluding with William Lewis. Why? At one point it becomes known to Barba that after Benson had broken free from Lewis in the final act of her abduction, Benson ushers an immigrant maid and her daughter out of the house quickly. But, that’s not the problem. We’ve already established just how much of a loony psychopath that Lewis is.

Why then do I think Barba is colluding with William Lewis? During this episode and after one segment of a day’s trial, Barba asks Benson, “Why weren’t [the maid and her daughter] in the house when the police showed up?” Barba, what are you, stupid? Seriously? William Lewis is the very definition of a dangerous psychopath who would kill anyone who got in his way. Lewis had already proven this mental state several times in both the S14 and S15 episode. If the maid and her daughter weren’t in the house when the police arrived, it’s because Benson told them to leave because of danger. It’s 2+2, darlin’. Yet, Barba asks the question in some kind of accusatory fashion like Benson did something wrong simply by asking them to leave the house? Benson had already told you she broke free just as Lewis pulled the maid and her daughter inside. The question Barba should have asked Benson is, “Why did you ask the maid and her daughter to leave the house?” Even then, it’s still a stupid question with an obvious answer.

This Barba story point makes no sense at all. If anything, it points to Barba’s collusion with Lewis. Are the writers so blind to their story creations that they can’t see proper story logic? There’s no other explanation for this silly question except that Barba is helping Lewis go free. In fact, I’m also seeing more and more of Barba helping Lewis win this case. That’s not what an ADA is supposed to be doing. Of course, nobody recognizes this collusion.

This next story point (which happens before the maid incident) corroborates Barba’s collusion. Lewis dismisses his lawyer and requests self-representation. Yes, defendants do have the right to self-representation… but, the judge can also curtail it “…when self-representation is [excessively] disruptive of orderly procedures…” In this case, based on past Lewis antics in (and out) of the courtroom, his request to self-represent fully falls firmly under ‘excessively disruptive of orderly procedures’. Barba should have argued this point vehemently by showing past courtroom examples when Lewis requested to dismiss his attorney and self-represent. What the hell, Barba? Of course, the writers would make Lewis win no matter what just to prove this point.

I’m actually tired of the unrealism of the William Lewis character. There is no way that this person would have this much continual dumb luck and be this bad of a person. That is unless he was continually drinking Felix Felicis (Harry Potter luck potion). Lewis’s luck had to change. Seriously, with the amount of luck that William Lewis continually has, he should screw banging people over the head and go into a casino and rob them blind. Play the lottery. Then, go into bank and jewelry store heists. Anyone with THIS MUCH dumb luck should be able to do all of that, get rich and never get caught at it.

All the while that Lewis is tormenting Benson on the stand, Barba sits there saying absolutely nothing. What the hell, Barba? He should have been objecting every other word coming out of this guy’s mouth.

Worst of all, when it comes time for Barba to make closing arguments, the episode conveniently skips this. So, we get to watch the defense’s demeaning closing arguments but not Barba? Then he gets 25 to life. Then he fakes a seizure with his attorney? Really? There is absolutely no way they would transfer a 25 to lifer outside of the prison. He would get medical aid in the prison or die there. The writers seriously want us to believe this trash? SVU has seriously jumped the shark here. I’m surprised it wasn’t cancelled in season 15.

Oh, and I should also mention that Pablo Schreiber’s one-note scenery-chewing smirk-acting in this episode is actually worse than in previous episodes. If I never see this guy in any other program, it’ll be too soon. Pablo, find another profession.

S15 E19 – Beast’s Obsession

As we continue the saga with *eye roll* William Lewis, we find that he died and couldn’t be resuscitated, but then mysteriously comes back to life in Bellevue, then conveniently escapes without being seen. This episode also introduces the new ‘acting’ Captain to take Cragen’s place. This new boss pops up without showing so much as a shield and everyone just accepts him at face value without checking with One PP? Yes, they were little suspicious of him at first, but how is it they all seem to just know this guy? Rollins knows him and so does Amaro and Benson, but the rest?

*sigh* This ludicrous story arc has become the bane of SVU. It has nothing whatever to do with SVU and simply exists in some fantasy world that resembles SVU. Let’s just say that, for whatever reason, Benson decides to forgo better advice and her two person protection detail to gallivant off into the waiting arms of William Lewis, yet again. It’s almost like she likes doing this or something. This story arc is so completely ludicrous and unbelievable as to be intentionally this level of stupid. Seriously, Benson is still recovering from her previous ordeal. Why in the hell would she do this once again? Lewis has captured a little girl (predictable) and takes her off to some place somewhere. He lures Benson to him with the promise of getting the little girl back.

Anyway, long story short. Lewis, once again, sets Olivia up to take the fall for his suicide in a nebulous way. He sets it up so that it could appear incriminating towards Benson, as the ME rules the death as caused undetermined (CUPPI). Basically, his death could appear as his own suicide just as Benson describes or it could appear as if Olivia intentionally pulled the trigger on him. Fade out.

Actually, the writers and cinematographers for this episode attempted to be too smart for their own good and made a tremendous writing mistake. The medical examiner, Melinda Warner, states there was gunshot residue on both Lewis and Benson (S15 E20 – Post-Mortem Blues). However, this statement was so casually tossed out and not at all examined properly that when coupled with the screenshot below, this is a serious writing blunder.

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This is a screenshot moments before Lewis pulls the trigger. As you can so clearly see, only Lewis’s left hand is on the gun, not Benson’s. The medical examiner didn’t have this screen shot to examine and had to work strictly from gunshot residue (GSR). And, the GSR tells us (and the medical examiner) exactly what happened. While GSR might be sprayed onto Benson based at the angle and proximity of Lewis to Benson, the GSR would not have appeared on Benson’s free right hand in the correct pattern to implicate her in firing the weapon. The only way Benson’s hand would have had GSR consistent with firing this revolver would have been if Lewis had forced Olivia to hold the gun along with Lewis’s own hand and they pulled the trigger together. While Lewis was twisted enough to think of this, the writers (and the filmmakers) failed to show Lewis doing this.

One might argue that they both played Russian roulette. Well, yes they did. But, it doesn’t explain anything to do with the GSR. Olivia didn’t fire the weapon during this game otherwise she’d be dead. Olivia also didn’t fire this revolver at any other time during this scene. She held this revolver, yes. Yes, her fingerprints would be on the revolver. Since she never fired this revolver (or any gun during this scene), she wouldn’t have GSR blowback residue on either of her hands. This further reiterates this writing blunder.

This means that Benson’s free right hand would be entirely free of gunshot residue blowback in the quantities necessary to prove that she held the gun when it fired. The GSR pattern would have conclusively proven that Lewis held the gun in his left hand alone when it fired, which then conclusively proves that Benson was not holding nor was her hand anywhere near the revolver when it fired. Based on forensic testing of the crime scene, this should all have been captured. This further means that the medical examiner should have ruled Lewis’s death a suicide. The medical examiner was either complicit with Lewis to hide this GSR evidence or this has to be one of the biggest forensic blunders in the history of SVU. Melinda Warner should have her license revoked. Everything that happens next to Benson (accusations from IAB and the Grand Jury) after Melinda Warner’s inept report is entirely the fault of Melinda Warner.

I’ll reserve further judgement of this arc until after ….

S15 E20 – Post-Mortem Blues

Here’s where the fallout from Lewis’s suicide takes shape in the form of legal problems for Benson, singlehandedly because of Melinda Warner’s inept handling of the GSR forensic evidence. Benson is thrown into a long arduous IAB investigation which eventually leads to a Grand Jury hearing regarding Benson’s actions. Since the police headquarters at 1PP are looking for a scapegoat to hang out to dry, Benson is being set up for the fall. The prosecutor in the Grand Jury hearing, Derek Strauss (Greg Germann), appears to intentionally throw out only one-sided arguments regarding Benson’s actions, disregarding all else at the expense of throwing Benson under the bus.

As the hearing progresses, it’s clear this is entirely a fantasy world. Lewis has intentionally left a wake of raped and dead victims all along the way. He’s an escaped convict who is now at large and considered armed and dangerous. He’s also kidnapped a little girl and is now holding her hostage at gunpoint. Oh, but let’s forget all about those pesky details and focus on how Benson lied when she claimed she beat Lewis within an inch of his life while he was cuffed to a bed OR how she *might* have pulled the trigger on this known serial killer, kidnapper and rapist, which the evidence shows she didn’t.

No, let’s simply ignore this killer’s heinous acts, his escape from prison and focus on the red tape to convict Benson by completely disregarding any of those pesky Lewis details that just get in the way of this crap storytelling. Wait what?

What the hell Dick Wolf? You really expect us to swallow this trite, unrealistic, pretentious bullshit?

You can damned well bet that any prisoner who manages to escape from prison will be considered as top priority and not just by SVU. An escaped armed prisoner is well beyond a handful of sex crime detectives to be tasked for recovery. No, his recovery to prison would be top priority by law enforcement throughout the state. When prisoners escape, they aren’t allowed simply to gallivant off into the sunset freely. Worse, after he shot and killed several people at the hospital to escape, he would be considered armed and extremely dangerous. Lewis’s recovery would have been ordered as apprehend by deadly force, if necessary.

Based on this order, whatever it took for Benson to subdue Lewis would have been considered reasonable and appropriate force rather than suspicious. Not only was Benson robbed of her kill. She was then hung out to dry by the Grand Jury for doing her police duty against an escaped and dangerous prisoner. The medical examiner, Melinda Warner, also egregiously failed to do her forensic duties properly with the GSR evidence, which would have clearly exonerated Olivia Benson entirely. Worse, it was an entire slap in the face when the Grand Jury hearing completely and conveniently ignored Lewis’s heinous acts, including the little girl’s abduction and kidnapping let alone his prison escape and his killings along the way.

And here I thought seasons 13 and 14 were bad. Season 15 is the single worst season of SVU by far. But, that’s pretty much because of the William Lewis story arc, which was not only the single worst story arc in the history of SVU, it also has one of the worst casting decisions ever made on SVU with Pablo Schreiber. Schreiber couldn’t act to save his life. This guy simply has no talent, unless you count his incessant one-note stupid smirk-smile as acting talent. In fact, placing this guy into any scene drags down the acting talent of anyone around him.

The second worst casting decision was the introduction of Lt. Declan Murphy (Donal Logue) as Cragen’s SVU replacement. He simply has no charisma at all and no chemistry with the rest of the cast. It was entirely no consolation to the viewers when he steps in and defends Benson in one of the worst monologues in SVU’s history at the Grand Jury. Seriously? You’re going to pick the second worst actor ever in SVU to be the voice of reason and pull off a Benson save? Why couldn’t it have been Tutuola, Cragen or Munch. You know, someone we actually care about and have invested time in, not some random actor you’ve picked up in Toronto. Heck I’d even taken Cassidy, Rollins or Amaro in a pinch. Why choose this guy who’s been on maybe 3 episodes and in whom we have no interest to become Benson’s savior? The is so unsatisfying on many levels.

I realize the show started this story arc and needed to end it. It’s clear, the writers on SVU simply don’t know how to handle anything but fantasy writing with long arcs. There is absolutely nothing realistic at all in the William Lewis story arc… which then led to an entirely unsatisfying conclusion. Sure, he died (or did he?). If we’re going to get into the situation where people can now magically come back to life on this kind of series, then there’s no reason to continue it.

I’m entirely surprised that Mariska Hargitay has stayed with this series after this trash arc. We’ve gone from being a decent police procedural early on with Benson and Stabler to a Buffy the Rapist Slayer wannabe. What’s next? Cartoons running around with the main characters? Or, Superheroes?

This ends the crapfest tale of William Lewis.

S18 E20 – American Dream / Sanctuary

This one starts with a somewhat minor nitpick and progresses from there. After bursting through the front door of Hector Ramirez’s apartment, they find his wife and two kids, but no Hector. After a bit of searching, Detective Carisi (Peter Scanavino) meets up with Detective Rollins in the kitchen with Hector’s wife. Carisi calls the wife her name, Soledad. Wait… what?

This writing blunder is that nowhere leading up to the detectives entering Hector’s apartment is it disclosed that Hector’s wife’s name is Soledad. Also, there is no time after they burst through the front door where she discloses her name to them. While it’s possible that Carisi could have looked up her name on the police computer on the way or before heading there, this detail was not established either in dialog or in any other way.

The writers need to be much more careful about these types of establishing details.

Beyond the above, the ICE grab and deport a material witness in SVU’s double homicide case. The SVU team finds out the witness is already on a plane over the Atlantic. Hello? It’s a plane. Contact air traffic control and have them reroute the plane and have it land back at JFK. Then, pick the witness up there. Why does NYPD always feel helpless under certain situations like this? As soon as they found that the plane was in the air, they should made a call and required the plane to reroute back to JFK.

Oh, and this episode gets even worse. How is it that the season ender episodes are almost always the worst written, least realistic and most illogical of the entire season? Anyway, Hector provides testimony to the Grand Jury that he has pled guilty to murder two and kidnapping. Yet, immediately following this, some random shmoe kills Hector just a block away from the courthouse? Seriously?

How is it possible that Hector ended up “walking around” free after having just pled guilty? What the hell is wrong with the writers? How is it in any way believable that the NYPD would let a man who has just moments before pled guilty tp murder two simply walk away free from the courthouse? Shouldn’t he have been in custody at the very least? He obviously wasn’t in custody because there were no cuffs. What is it with the writers here? The NYPD wouldn’t be so careless as to let a material witness in an extremely high profile case walk around unprotected on the streets of NYC knowing the amount of protesting at the steps of the courthouse. Yet, the writers want us to believe this? Of course, the writers put Hector into the hospital with a nicked aorta in some dramatic fashion. What’s the point in the hospital scene if Hector dies just moments later? Just have him be dead on the sidewalk. What trash writing!

S19 E1 – Gone Fishin’

While I’ll let the child aging thing with Noah slide, I can’t let the whole Benson and Noah and first day of school thing drop. Olivia Benson is a whole lot smarter than this episode suggests. What were the writers thinking? The first day of school and the school finds a bruise on Noah. Olivia suggests maybe he fell down. The next day, Olivia is called into the school and is patronized by the teacher because Noah told the school nurse that Olivia gave him the bruise. The only way she could have given Noah a bruise is when she yanked him off the street just before being run over. Though, I doubt that gave him a bruise.

Because Olivia knows she didn’t give Noah that bruise, she should have turned the tables  on that instructor. She should have explained that this is Noah’s first day at this school. If anyone gave Noah that bruise, it was likely someone at the school. Further, she should have strongly suggested to that teacher the she will be opening an investigation into that school for further bruising and other injury complaints by parents. If she finds anything amiss with the school, she would see that appropriate charges are filed against the school and any instructors. She should have put he fear of god into both that teacher and the nurse. Olivia should have made certain that the school understood that you don’t screw with upstanding cops and expect to get away it. Yet, Olivia walks away sheepishly. That is not a Benson cop trait.

S19 E20 – The Book of Esther

Here’s another episode with writers who are writing beyond their means. A girl shows up at the station malnourished, underweight with physical injuries consistent with assault, who we come to know as Esther. She babbles on Bible quotes and it’s clear that she’s not all there. She doesn’t test positive for rape, so they let that one go. Her father shows up and attempts to spout a bunch of holier-than-thou crap and threatens legal action if he doesn’t take Esther home. The father shows a piece of paper that purports that Esther is 27 even though she looks like she’s 16 or so. This means she’s not a child and that child welfare laws wouldn’t apply. Convenient.

Rollins confronts Benson and states they can’t just let her go back home, that they have to detain her. Benson states they have nothing to detain either of them on. Let’s hold it right here. What the hell writers?

It’s clear that Esther is both in physical and emotional distress. In fact, there is at least one applicable New York state law that would have allowed them to detain the father. Specifically, reckless endangerment and assault. There are even degrees to reckless endangerment, but that’s for a court to decide. When Rollins asked Benson to detain someone, the father should have been detained for reckless endangerment. He could have also been detained on assault charges.

Are the writers even trying? This is supposed to be a police procedural isn’t it?

This writing jackassery aside, Rollins goes off on her own to investigate the family. She follows them to a bowling alley as the whole family piles out of a van with a bunch of children. Yet, Rollins just sits there and does nothing? It’s clear that they have underage children. Call ACS right then and there. What the hell is wrong with you, Rollins? Are you even a cop?

The story then escalates into a Waco-like standoff at a house when Esther and a couple of other kids are killed. Later, we come to find through some miracle of writing that one of Rollins’s bullets managed, through brick and mortar, through walls and through kitchen appliances to pinpoint kill Esther in the head… in the back left side of the house, in the kitchen. No, I don’t think so.

Boy, ballistics works fast considering how many rounds were fired and that both suspects only just moments before got into their respective interrogation rooms. Why doesn’t Benson question these findings? Benson needs to investigates the ballistics lab. Thanks writers for not allowing SVU to do its job and stop this before it even started. Thanks writers for pinning it on Rollins with such improbable scenarios. Stupid writing trumps this show once again. *eye roll* This episode’s writing is so atrocious it matches only one other story arc in SVU’s history… the William Lewis story arc. If this is the level of writing we’re getting at this point, I think it’s time for SVU to retire.

S19 E21 – Guardian

I’ll to cut to the chase with this one. Three kids are being accused of rape of a girl on a playground at night. When they’re rounded up and thrown into interrogation rooms, the first kid interrogated says of meeting the girl and her friend on a playground, “They were drinking Absolut. We asked if they wanted to party.”

Then, his lawyer says, “This is not a rape, not by a long stretch.” Carisi interrupts and says, “This victim was incapacitated. She had drugs and alcohol in her system.”

The lawyer leans over to the kid and asks, “Did you know this?” Hello, not 1 minute earlier the kid had confirmed that they were drinking Absolut Vodka. He most certainly did know that, he confirmed it to the cops just two sentences earlier. Yet, no one calls this out? Stupid writing trumps this show again.

S19 E23 — Remember Me / Remember Me Too

This is effectively a two parter in one and the season ender, not that that makes any difference here. Almost every season end SVU episode is poorly conceived and written. I really should know better by now. I’m not sure what the writers were attempting to show with the Benson character, but this episode is so far from what the show has established Benson to be, it’s beyond stupid. I’m surprised Mariska Hargitay is still putting her name to this farce they call a police drama. Anyway…

A girl meets a guy at a night club and they head back to “his place” for some casual after-club sex. Instead, she pulls a gun on him and holds him hostage. Turns out, it’s not his place. It’s his friend’s place and it’s wired with cameras on the ‘dark net’. Yes, that ‘dark net’ thing rears its tropishly ugly head, again. Anyway, the whole thing is streaming live on the ‘dark net’ preventing law enforcement from finding the location easily. Based on some ridiculous visual and aural clues, Benson and team determine the building’s general vicinity and begin canvasing the suspected area.

Benson, once again, stumbles upon the correct building and, without a partner, manages to find the suite and enters without gun drawn, without backup and without radioing in. Peeking her head in the front door, which was naturally wide open, you can see that the decor matches what they’d been staring at for the last hour or so on the video. Instead of stepping back into the hallway and calling for backup, she rushes in because a cop had already entered… as if that somehow makes the situation in any way okay.

So then, Benson allows herself to become a hostage of this clearly deranged girl, Lourdes, who is holding a revolver on Miguel (probably the same prop used in the William Lewis episode) and she proceeds to listen to what Lourdes has to say. Hold it right there.

I can buy some of this to a point, but story’s writing is difficult to swallow. Benson is a Lieutenant. What the hell is she doing working the field? Cragen rarely, if ever, stepped out and hand participated in investigations. As a captain or lieutenant, this is what your team does. So what the hell, Benson? Shouldn’t you be either back at HQ coordinating from there or standing on the street and coordinating your team from a van? Why are you entering apartments?

Suspending the ridiculousness surrounding Benson’s involvement in the situation she’s put herself in, I can then understand Benson doing whatever she needs to do to diffuse the situation and disarm the suspect. I get it. You say and do whatever it takes to diffuse it. It doesn’t mean you believe a word of what they’re saying, but you agree with and you appear empathetic and sympathetic because you need the situation to be resolved without casualties. I totally get it.

What I don’t get… when the situation is resolved, Benson is still painting the girl holding them hostage at gunpoint to be the ‘victim’. Damn Benson, where the hell is your head? She’s not a victim, she’s a perp facing a class D felony charge in NY. I don’t care what happened in her past. When she pulled that gun and pointed it at a cop’s head (not to mention shattering the skull of and killing the apartment owner), her past history is no longer relevant. If she wanted justice for a rape or trafficking committed on her past, she lost that chance by pulling a weapon on a cop and by assaulting and killing people. She needs to be convicted and sent to prison, end of story for her. If there are any traffickers in Rikers seeking a vendetta there, she should have thought about that before pulling a loaded weapon on a cop and before bashing in the skull of the apartment owner.

As for whether Miguel’s the guy who trafficked her (as she kept claiming), that’s an entirely separate investigation. Hold him and investigate his past. If he was involved in any human trafficking, then go find the evidence to uncover that. As it is, he appears innocent based on his statements. Also, anything he might have confessed while being held at gunpoint by her is considered coerced. It won’t hold up in any court. And, it cannot be believed. He was also doing and saying whatever was necessary to survive the situation. Worse, Lourdes fed him everything he parroted back, which is the very definition of a coerced confession.

In part two, two more improbable things happen. First, Miguel admits to having trafficked Lourdes and other women from Mexico. Convenient. Second, the newest ADA Peter Stone (Philip Winchester) is threatened that his sister may be hurt by someone who seems to be from the Mexican cartel. Comes to find that improbably, a single individual manages to take out the protective detail surrounding where Peter Stone’s sister is being held. Amazingly, even though the entire protective detail, about 3-5 people, are all dead, at least one guy is left alive to tell the police what happened. There is no way that would happen. If the Mexican cartel were to kill the protection detail, they wold kill everyone but the one they want to kidnap. So, the guy who threatened Stone kidnaps Stone’s schizophrenic sister and takes her to a warehouse.

The SVU and ESU teams meet at the warehouse. Effectively, the ESU goes in guns-a-blazin’ ultimately killing Stone’s sister. However, it takes hundreds of round of ammo hitting everything but the target… which eventually does bring down this lone dumbass guy. Did the ESU guys earn their weapons certifications from the Stormtrooper school of weapons training?

Yeah, it’s definitely as bad as it sounds.

Continued Bad Writing

I don’t know what Dick Wolf is thinking with this series in terms of consistency, but he’s definitely put some questionable episodes on the air. However, I will say that from seasons 5-7, the stories were acceptable with the occasional stinker, usually related to the personal lives of Stabler. In fact, the Stabler household stories are usually some of the weakest and most predictable, with Elliot usually abusing his shield to get one of his kids off of some kind of charges.

I don’t even fully understand why Dick Wolf added the Lake character to the cast for season 8. This character was absolutely not needed. He did nothing to fix a perceived squad shortage condition. In fact, the stories never once showed that the squad was short staffed. As an adjunct SVU Bronx character for a single episode, fine. As a recurring character given main title billing, what? This guy can barely act with his incessant mumbling. The only thing he had going for his looks… and even that wasn’t enough. This actor had zero chemistry with the rest of the cast. Worse, Wolf decided to push Munch aside and partner Tutuola with Lake even though Tutuola could barely work with the guy. It was like oil and water between the original cast and this new guy.

By Season 9, the series takes a serious turn for the worse. At the end of 9, there’s a continuous string of poorly written episodes that show, once again, not only just how green and novice Stabler and Benson are, but also Munch, Tutuola and even the absolutely useless and newly introduced Chester Lake (Adam Beach) character. Starting at S9 E17 to the end, these three episodes are possibly some of the worst writing I’ve seen so far in SVU and is at least as bad as the writing in seasons 14 and 15.

Thankfully, Lake lasted two seasons and departed at the end of season 9 along with ADA Kasey Novak. While losing Lake was actually a benefit for the show, Kasey Novak’s departure handling was surprisingly atrocious. As seasoned a lawyer as Kasey was, she knew the Brady law. Kasey wasn’t at all this level of stupid. Yet, the show treated her like a rookie green lawyer just out of college. It was a cheap and stupid story move. If you’re planning to have an important character like an ADA leave, have them leave of their own accord because they’re a victim. This is Special Victims Unit. Let her become a victim of a crime that leaves an emotional scar so intense she has to move away from the city. This is a fitting reason to leave the series. Using a stupid rookie maneuver to ruin her career says the writers are hopelessly amateur.

The Multi-show Crossover Episodes

For whatever reason Dick Wolf and crew decided to link the his police and fire procedurals together through several different crossover narratives between seasons 15 and season 17 of SVU. This is frustrating on so many levels, particularly if you’re binge watching. The binge watching problem forces you to stop watching SVU and then go find the Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. Episodes to complete the narrative. Hulu doesn’t have them. You’ll end up over at Amazon buying the episodes to complete watching the full narrative. THIS is a primary reason the crossovers are frustrating. I’m sure it was fine when they were aired on TV, but when you’re binge watching later on streaming, there is no warning about these in the SVU episodes. They just happen and you’re expected to figure out what the CF and CPD episodes that match are. Otherwise, the episode is just lost on the viewer.

The other problem with these crossovers is the change in show format between the storylines. If you’re used to watching SVU’s way of doing things, you’re in for a culture shock when you watch Chicago P.D. Not only is the entire series format different and, of course, the characters, but the way the story unfolds is also entirely different.

The first three-show crossover between Chicago Fire, SVU and Chicago P.D. saw the worst of the narrative on Chicago Fire. Not only did the writers wait until practically the last second to introduce the crossover narrative in CF, what they did include was pointless. In fact, the tiny segment on CF can entirely be skipped. The SVU episode was average, but not outstanding. The conclusion on CPD was horrid because of not only the change in show format which is jarring, the way the story unfolds is entirely unsatisfying. I mean, you get used to seeing the conclusion in SVU based on the way SVU does things, yet you’re robbed of that conclusion because it ends in CPD with CPD characters using CPD style endings. I didn’t bother to watch the second three-show crossover because, at the time, I hadn’t chased down the other episodes until just now while writing this update. The first crossover was just not worth the time to go watch the second one.

Here are the crossovers if you’re interested in watching:

Crossovers in order of appearance

  • SVU S15 E15 Comic Perversion and CPD S1 E6 Conventions
  • CF S3 E7 Nobody Touches Anything, SVU S16 E7 Chicago Crossover and CPD S2 E7 They’ll Have to Go Through Me
  • CF S3 E21 We Called Her Jellybean, CPD S2 E20 The Number of Rats and SVU S16 E20 Daydream Believer
  • SVU S17 E14 Nationwide Manhunt and CPD S3 E14 The Song of Gregory Williams Yates

Enough with the crossovers already, Dick Wolf.

Season 13

This is the first season sans Detective Stabler (see Stabler’s badly handled departure) and the show feels empty without this character’s presence. Worse, the episodes are now slow and oddly paced. SVU now feels more like a soap opera than a detective show. Clearly, the creative team has changed and not for the better. As this season progresses, the writing takes a terrible turn towards the last half of the season. SVU supposedly has one of the highest conviction rates of all SVUs in New York. Yet, you wouldn’t be able to tell this by season 13. This is particularly true of S13 E18 entitled Valentine’s Day. This episode is about an sociopathic nymphomaniac who, in her own trial, tampers with one of the jurors. Yet, even with all of the evidence, Novak (who’s back again, by the way) can’t even get a conviction of this manipulative woman. Who writes this stuff?

If the there’s even a hint of jury tampering, Novak should have called to have the entire jury replaced with alternates. That’s her right to ask for this. Why didn’t this happen? Seriously, let that suspected juror continue? No, I don’t think so.

Worse, episodes which would have been written for Stabler are now being given to Benson and which make her look like a stubborn unwavering cop. Stabler had a temper, could be stubborn and didn’t always follow the rules. Olivia simply wasn’t like this. However, in S13 E17 entitled Justice Denied, this episode sees Olivia wrongfully imprison a suspect 8 years earlier based on a 9 hour coerced confession. That’s not a Benson tactic. That would have been a Stabler tactic. And, 8 years earlier Stabler would have been in the room with her. Where the hell was Stabler during that 9 hours of coercion? If you’re planning to write an episode 8 years in the past, then you better hire in the cast that would have been there at the time… yes, this includes Elliot Stabler.

Additionally, not once in the 12 previous seasons had we seen an interrogation last more than a couple of hours. There were none that took 9 to get a confession. And, if it had taken 9, the DA couldn’t have used the confession because it would have been considered coerced. Further, why wasn’t this given to Munch or Tutuola? They’ve been with SVU long enough to have had such an incident take place. And, both could have been placed in the room at the time. In fact, it would be nice to see old cases before Tutuola or Munch joined SVU to come back and haunt them. It would have fleshed out more details about Munch and Tutuola both whom we rarely get to see much of their past. In fact, we know so little about Munch, it would have been better handed to this character. We already know what we need to about Olivia, there was no need to add this to her repertoire of character development. Giving it to Munch would have worked far better.

Then there’s the episode with Olivia’s half brother, Simon Marsden in S13 E16 entitled Child’s Welfare. We see Simon back creating more havoc for Olivia. Here Simon and his fiancé are being investigated by child services for alleged brutality of his kids. The kids are taken away. Olivia is pulled in by Simon to help him get his kids back. Olivia makes a bunch of stupid decisions again and so does Simon. The episode is a non-starter and really shouldn’t have been greenlit.

Also, why has the series abandoned having a shrink in the precinct. If George Huang had been watching the conversation given by the alleged rape victim in S13 E18, he would have seen how manipulative she was and could have given the detectives advice on how to break her down.

Season 13 is overall poorly written and out of place for SVU. I hope the subsequent seasons after this one get better. I’m unsure why this show has continued beyond season 13 all things considered. This season is a serious low point for the SVU series.

Season 14 and 15

These seasons continue the trend from season 13 and perpetuate the odd, disjointed and poorly written episodes. The introduction of ADA Barba was an odd choice. The departure of George Huang didn’t hurt the series directly, but the show should have replaced the role with a new psychologist character. Without this character in the series, the stories are much less credible. The psychologist who can sit outside the room psychoanalyzing both the suspects and the victims gave immense insight to both the audience and the detectives. Without this crucial bit of information, the detectives seem trapped by their own preconceived notions, which don’t always turn out for the best.

Unfortunately, many of the episodes within seasons 14 and 15 continue the downward writing trend which began in season 13 compared to season 12 and earlier. It seems the show is still reeling from the loss of the Stabler character dynamic whether the creative team recognizes it or not. And as such, they keep giving Olivia all of the weird episodes.

Season 15 is also seeing main character cast departures. With both Munch and Cragen leaving, the show is, yet again, losing more of its mojo and charisma. It’s not that Benson can’t be acting Captain, it’s that it’s way too early after her Lewis ordeal for that to happen. This show just seems to rush things along without thinking the story arcs through. It’s just another form of the World Reset problem.

Seasons 16 and 17

If Season 16 was the return of some sanity, then the insanity returns in season 17 with all of the unnecessary and frustrating Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. crossover episodes. Season 16 was at least somewhat better than the bottom of the barrel season 15. However, many of the Season 16 episodes were average with many unsatisfying conclusions. If you like SVU, season 16 isn’t a horrible watch. However, Season 17 is terrible with its incessant crossovers. So far, I’m only halfway through Season 17 and there have been 3 crossover episodes. Give it a rest Dick Wolf, will ya? I mean, one crossover episode… okay. But three?

Personally, I find Chicago Fire to be a snorefest. Watching the characters bicker about their problem-of-the-day is about as much fun as burning myself with a lit cigarette. The crossovers were entirely unnecessary.

Arrests and Asking for a Lawyer — Plot Conveniences

This show started off by making a big deal about not being able to arrest people in their own homes. Also, when a suspect asks for a lawyer in interrogation, the detectives must stop what they are doing and walk out of the room. By season 13 and above, these concepts are mere plot (in)conveniences. There have been many times when they have arrested people in their own homes without showing a warrant (one example, S16 E3 — Producer’s Backend) when Benson (of all people) arrests a Lindsay Lohan clone in her own home without asking her to step outside first.

This convenience problem is even worse when it comes to suspect interrogations. I’ve lost count of the number of times that the detectives have continued to interrogate the suspect after the suspect has asked for a lawyer. If the writers can’t even follow the real laws of NY when writing scripts, then why is this show still on the air?

Weird Endings

One of the things that irks me of this show is the odd cliffhanger endings. I’m guessing that this is a thing that the producers like. Well, I dislike it… A LOT. We watch through an episode where Benson and Stabler, Tutuola and Munch run around chasing and apprehending the perpetrator, yet at the very end, the screen fades before we find out the perp’s fate? Isn’t this supposed to be Law and Order? We get the Law part, but where’s the Order? Meaning, once the show catches the perp, aren’t we supposed to get see the adjudication proceedings? That’s the payoff. We want to see exactly how the perp gets sentenced. We don’t want to be left hanging after the fade. When we don’t get to see this payoff, as viewers we feel robbed. This makes watching seasons SVU frustrating and unsatisfying.

Character Musical Chairs

The ADA characters seem to come and go. At first it was Angie Harmon as Abbie Carmichael as a crossover from Law and Order, then she disappears in replacement with Stephanie March as Alexandra “Alex” Cabot. Before March joined on, it was a random array of ADA characters in and out with Angie Harmon in a lightly recurring role. In fact, I would have preferred to see a guest star in the ADA role every week. It’s not realistic, but it allows the show to hire a guest star whenever an ADA character role is infrequently needed. It’s not that I don’t like Stephanie March as an actress, I just don’t like the Alex character who’s ideas blow with the wind… or more specifically, whichever the way the writers need her to blow to make the episode work.

Stephanie’s acting of Alex certainly comes across as staunch, righteous and indignant as a DA’s office defender, sometimes to the point of endangering people’s live. I always felt that ideology was wrong for the role. Angie Harmon’s character was a whole lot more right for it. Not sure why the show went with March over Harmon in the early seasons.

Then there was detective Monique Jeffries (Michelle Hurd) and several medical examiners before the show settled on Melinda Warner (Tamara Tunie).

Also, the first psychologist Emil Skoda (played by J.K. Simmons) disappears for a random second replacement with George Huang (played by BD Wong)? In fact, I liked Emil Skoda better because he at least he acted normal with reasonably normal dialog. The George Huang character has both an oddly soft speaking style, a condescending tone and pretentious dialog as to be distasteful. Why the producers thought this character might be a better choice, I have no idea. You do want your main characters to be likeable, right?

What’s with the introduction of Detective Lake in Season 8? I know they trialed this character in an earlier episode. I didn’t like him then. Yet, Dick Wolf decided to bring him back in as a regular in season 8. He lasted two seasons before being given the boot. This character was a horrible addition to the squad room. Not only was he now the odd man out, the actor Adam Beach had no chemistry with the cast. Whenever he was featured in an episode, I found it excruciating to watch. The actor mumbles and chews his words badly. It’s not a good trait in an actor. I know he has other acting gigs under his belt, but Adam Beach was way out of his element in this role. It’s good thing that Dick Wolf dumped him at the end of season 9. He should have been dumped earlier.

Next, it’s Declan Murphy.

Elliot Stabler’s Badly Handled Departure

This one goes hand-in-hand with the musical chairs of cast. While it’s always up in the air what happens behind the scenes with an actor’s contract negotiations, it’s crystal clear what happened (or, rather, didn’t happen) with the exit of Elliot Stabler. Basically, Stabler is there one episode, gone the next. The all of about 5 minutes of screen time devoted to the memory of Elliot Stabler was so tritely handled in S13 E1, the show should have convicted itself of a crime. Considering how long this character had been with the show, Stabler deserved a properly crafted longer story arc exit. Instead, we get the most minuscule thing possible in the opening of Season 13. This crap treatment treats Elliot with all of the grace as one time throw-away characters. Even Sonya Paxton’s ADA character got a more befitting exit from the show than Stabler.

I can’t understand why the show runner didn’t at least have Olivia stop by Stabler’s house and have the tiniest bit of a conversation. Heck, even if Stabler did quit the force, that wouldn’t have quit Olivia’s friendship with Elliot. She should still occasionally stop by on her off time to catch up. Eventually, they might grow distant and lose touch, but not right away. And, what about Stabler’s wife and kids? That whole family was a staple on the show… and then what? They’re just gone? How hard would it have been to at least contract Christopher Meloni for one episode in Season 13 to give proper closure to Elliot Stabler and family?

What I will say about this is that the dynamic of SVU changed dramatically (and not for the better) after Christopher Meloni’s departure. Mariska Hargitay just doesn’t have the same chemistry with the then new rookie cast members. Season 13 simply doesn’t have the same feel as previous seasons for many reasons beyond just cast. Stabler and Benson were the cornerstones of SVU. To kill the show’s chemistry so completely by not keeping Elliot is just stupid. Even beyond Stabler’s crap departure, it also doesn’t help that the episodes in Season 13 are much slower paced and oddly off-key than in previous seasons. That’s partly because it seems they also changed the show runner. It also seems they try to give stories which would have been better handled by Stabler to Benson. The stories just don’t work. Let’s just hope that from here the show gets better again in later seasons, but I’m not holding out much hope.

Duds

With any series, there are always duds. In the case of SVU, there’s a first season episode that stands out: S1 E12. In fact, it’s so bad I couldn’t make myself watch the whole thing. It’s about a rich guy who gets killed leading to some Russian females as suspects. This episode is jam packed with Russian stereotypes.. to the point that they hired white American actors and asked them to put on fake Russian accents. It was not only cringe inducing to watch, the episode was highly boring. Skipped this one. If you can’t do it right, don’t bother. This is not the only episode this bad. I’ve skipped 2 others in addition to this one in 3 seasons. I guess that’s not a bad track record, but a good TV show shouldn’t have any worth skipping.

World Resets

More bad writing here as this style of episodic TV is one of my biggest pet peeves. Here we have a story about Stabler who assigns a protective detail to Benson (against her wishes and unknowing to her) because a former case perp has come back to haunt and target her. When Benson finds out about the protective detail, she becomes distraught and distrusting of Stabler (her partner) to the point where she avoids him. By the end of the episode, Benson isn’t on speaking terms with Stabler and she is sitting at home alone crying, fade out. The next episode, Stabler and Benson are happy as larks working together just fine like nothing ever happened. This lack of continuity in character relationships drives me nuts. How can you have two characters who have this level of falling out and then the next episode it’s like the world has reset and nothing has happened? There has also been no further mention of this issue in later episodes. So, what gives SVU? If characters have a falling out, then carry it over into the next episode…. or fix the problem before the episode ends.

Note that similar issues occur between many episodes. This example above just happens to be one of the most egregious I’ve seen to this point. What’s more frustrating about this situation is the randomness at which the writers choose to or not to world reset. Sometimes the show continues to carry forward plot ideas, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s entirely random.

Overall

Many of the stories are watchable if not predictable, but be prepared for the problems described. Also, how many stories can be written about rape? Most SVU stories are about female rape victims. Even in the 3 seasons that I’ve watched, I feel the stories are already treading dangerously close to one another. I’m unsure how the show has managed 19 seasons worth of original stories. Though, the episode about a male being raped by 3 women brings up a very good point at a time when it wasn’t considered possible. This story is a bit hackneyed. I would have preferred a more legitimate story rather a private male dancer who took money to please the women who allegedly raped him. Ultimately, because he was a male dancer for pay, the women got away with the rape. This episode would have been far more interesting to watch if the male could have conclusively been found to have been raped without the extra mitigating circumstances.

With SVU, it seems the writers like to add circumstances to the plot to intentionally make it more difficult for the DA to prosecute or simply to further convolute the plot. I’m not trying to imply that cases of rape are easy to prosecute in any way. But, some cases are likely to be easier than others depending on the circumstances. SVU should show cases of all difficulty levels. Some unwinnable, some practically handed to them on a silver platter and many somewhere in between. It seems the writers preferred creating stories about the most difficult end of the spectrum (i.e., extremely hard to impossible to prosecute).

I give Law and Order: SVU a 3 out of 5 star rating. Most of the positive portions of this rating is due to the stellar cast up to season 12. At season 13, the stellar casting breaks and doesn’t really recover. While the story writers do not get the stories right each time and there have been a number of technical filming problems, up until season 12, these well cast actors have amazing on-screen chemistry and give it their all each and every episode. They also do a spectacular job even with the crappiest of stories and dialog. Even as good as the actors perform and as decently written as some of the stories are, the mounting technical problems combined with too many sucky plots, poor endings and near constant cast changes drags down this rating and this series.

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What killed the LaserDisc format?

Posted in collectibles, entertainment, movies, technologies by commorancy on March 1, 2018

Laserdisc-logoThere have been a number of tech documentarian YouTubers who’ve recently posted videos regarding LaserDisc and why it never became popular and what killed it. Some have theorized that VHS had nothing to do with the failure of the LaserDisc format. I contend that LaserDisc didn’t exactly fail, but also didn’t gain much traction.

LaserDisc did have a good run between 1978 and 2002. However, it also wasn’t a resounding success for a number of reasons. While the LaserDisc format sold better in Japan than in the US, it still didn’t get that much traction even in Japan. Though, yes, VHS recorders (among other competitive technologies at the time) did play a big part in LaserDisc’s lackluster consumer acceptance. Let’s explore.

History

While I won’t go into the entire history of the LaserDisc player, let me give a quick synopsis of its history. Let’s start by what it is. LaserDisc (originally named DiscoVision in 1978) began its life as a 12″ optical disc containing analog video and analog audio mca_discovision(smaller sizes would become available later) with discs labeled as MCA DiscoVision. In 1980, Pioneer bought the rights to the LaserDisc technology and dropped the DiscoVision branding in lieu of the LaserDisc and LaserVision brands. It also wouldn’t be until the mid-90s that digital audio and digital video combined would appear on this format. A LaserDisc movie is typically dual sided and would be flipped to watch the second half of a film. They can also be produced single sided. Like VHS had SP and LP speeds that offered less or more recording time, LaserDisc had something similar in terms of content length, but offered no consumer recording capability.

There were two formats of LaserDiscs:

The first format is CAV. CAV stands for constant angular velocity. In short, CAV was a format where the rotational speed remained the same from beginning to end. The benefit for CAV was that it offered solid freeze frames throughout the program. Unlike VHS where freeze frames might be distorted, jump or be noisy, CAV discs offered perfect freeze frames.

It also offered a fast scrubbing speed and slowed play. Later LD players even offered a jog shuttle on the remote to reverse or forward the playback a few frames at a time to as fast as you could spin the wheel. CAV also meant that each frame of video was one rotation of the disc. Keep in mind that NTSC video is interlaced and, therefore, half of the disc ring was one half of the frame and the other half of the disc ring was the other half of the frame. It took a full rotation to create a full NTSC frame.

The NTSC format CAV disc only offered up to 30 minutes per side and a little more for PAL. A 90 minute movie would consume 3 sides or two discs. This was the first format of disc introduced during the DiscoVision days. Early content was all CAV.

The second format is CLV. CLV stands for constant linear velocity. This format reduces the rotational speed as the disc reaches the outer edge. You can even hear the motor slow as the movie progresses playback if you’re close enough to the player. I should point out that LaserDiscs read from the center of the media to the outer edge.

LaserDisc players also read from the bottom side of the disc when put into the player. It’s just the opposite of a vinyl LP that reads from the outside in and from the top. This means that the label on the center of the disc refers to the opposite side of the media. The CLV format offers no freeze frame feature. Because the rotational speed drops as the laser moves across the disc, eventually multiple video frames would be contained in a single rotation. Any attempt to freeze frame the picture would show multiple frames of motion. Not very pretty. The freeze frame feature is disabled on CLV formatted discs.

The NTSC formatted CLV disc offers up to 60 minutes of video per side and a little more for PAL. A 90 minute movie comfortably fits on one disc. After CLV was discovered to hold more content than a CAV LaserDisc, this format is how the majority of movies were sold once the DiscoVision brand disappeared. Note that many movies used CLV on side one and CAV on side two when less than 30 minutes.

The intent for LaserDisc was to sell inexpensive films forLaserVision_logo home consumption. It all started with the Magnavox Magnavision VH-8000 DiscoVision player which went on sale December 15th, 1978. This player released on this day along with several day one release movies on LaserDisc. The format, at the time, was then called DiscoVision. Because 1978 was basically the height of the disco music era, it made sense why it ended up called DiscoVision. Obviously, this naming couldn’t last when the disco music era closed.

Early Player Reliability

The first players used a visible red laser consisting of a helium-neon laser. The light output looks similar to a red laser pointer. These LD players had pop up lids. This meant you could pop the lid open while the disc was playing, lift the disc and see the red laser in action. The problem with these first players was with the helium-neon laser unit. In short, they became incredibly hot making the unit unreliable. I personally owned one of these open lid style players from Philips and can assert from personal experience that these players were lemons. If they lasted 6 months worth of use, you could count yourself lucky. At the time, when your player was broken, you had to take your player to an authorized service center to get it repaired.

These repair centers were factory authorized, but not run by Philips. Repairs could take weeks requiring constant phone calls to the repair center to get status. The repair centers always seemed overwhelmed with repairs. It just wasn’t worth the hassle of taking the unit in to be repaired once every 6 months, paying for each repair after the warranty ran out. This would have been about 1982 or so. I quickly replaced this player for a new one. I’d already invested in too many LaserDiscs to lose all of the discs that I had.

In 1983-1984 or thereabouts, the optical audio Compact Disc was introduced. These players offered solid-state non-visible lasers to read the CD optical media. As a result of the technology used to read the CD, LaserDisc players heavily benefited from this technology advance. Pioneer, the leading LaserDisc player brand at the time, jumped immediately on board with replacing the red visible laser with very similar solid state lasers being used in CD players.

Once the new laser eye was introduced, reliability increased dramatically. Players became more compact, ran cooler and became more full featured. Instead of being able to play only LaserDiscs, they could now also play CDs of all sizes. This helped push LaserDisc players into the home at a time when LaserDisc needed that kick in the pants. Though, adoption was still very slow.

1984

The year 1984 would be the year of VHS. This is the year when video rental stores would become commonplace. During this time, I helped start up a video rental department for a brand new record store. It was a time when record stores were expanding into video rentals. I don’t know how many VHS tapes I inventoried for the new store. One thing was certain. We did not rent anything other than VHS tapes. No Betamax, no LaserDisc and no CED rentals. We didn’t even stock LaserDiscs or CEDs for sale in this store location. In fact, the chain of record stores where I worked would eventually become Blockbuster and who would adopt the same logo color scheme as the record store chain used. But, that wouldn’t be for a few more years.

VHS was on the verge of and would soon become the defacto format for movie rentals. Why not LaserDisc? Not enough saturation in combination with LaserDisc having the same problem that pretty much all optical media has. It’s easily scratched. Because the LaserDisc surface is handled directly by hands (it has no caddy), this means that the wear and tear on a LaserDisc meant eventually replacing the disc by the rental store. This compared to VHS tape that, so long as the tape remained intact, it could be rented over and over even if there was the occasional drop out from being played too much.

LaserDisc fared far worse on this front. Because there was no easy way to remove the scratches from a disc, once a disc was scratched it meant replacement. Even if the disc was minimally scratched, it could still be unplayable in some players, particularly the red visible laser kind. These older models were not at all tolerant of scratches.

Media Costs

While VHS tape movies cost $40 or $50 or even upwards to $70, LaserDisc movies cost $25 to $30 on average. The cost savings to buy a movie on LaserDisc was fairly substantial. However, you had to get past the sticker shock of the $800-900 you’re required to invest into Pioneer to get a CLD-900 player. This at the time when VHS recorders were $600 or thereabouts. However, VHS recorder prices would continue to drop to about $250 by 1987 (just 3 years later).

LaserDisc player prices never dropped much and always hovered around the $600-$800 price when new. They were expensive. Pioneer was particularly proud of their LaserDisc players and always charged a premium. You could find used players for lower prices, though. Because Pioneer was (ahem) the pioneer in LD equipment at that time, buying into Magnavox or other LD equipment brands meant problems down the road. If you wanted a mostly trouble free LD experience, you bought Pioneer.

Competitors

I would be remiss at not mentioning the CED disc format that showed up on the scene heavily around 1984, even though it was introduced in 1981. CED stands for Capacitance Electronic Disc. It was a then alternative format video media disc conceived in the 1960s by RCA. Unfortunately, the CED project remain stalled for 17 years in development hell at RCA.

CED uses a stylus like an LP and the disc is made of vinyl also like an LP, except you can’t handle it with your hands. This media type is housed in a caddy. To play these discs, you had to purchase a CED player and buy CED media. To play the disc, you would insert the disc caddy into the slot on the front of the unit and then pull it back out. The machine grabbed the disk out of the caddy on insertion. As soon as the caddy is removed, the disc is begins to play. The door to the caddy slot locks when the disc was in motion. Once the mechanism stops moving, the door unlocks and you can insert the caddy, then remove the disc.

Because the CED is read by a stylus, it had its own fair share of problems, not the least of which was skipping and low video quality. LaserDisc was the consumer product leader in image quality all throughout the 80s and 90s until DVD arrived. However, that didn’t stop CED from taking a bite out of the LaserDisc videodisc market. The CED format only served to dilute the idea of the videodisc and confuse consumers on which format to buy. This was, in fact, the worst of all situations for LaserDisc at a time when VHS rentals were appearing at practically any store that could devote space to set up a rental section. Even grocery stores were jumping on board to get a piece of the VHS rental action.

VHS versus LaserDisc rentals

As a result of VHS rentals, which could be found practically everywhere by 1986, renting LaserDiscs (or even CEDs) was always a challenge. Not only was it difficult to find stores to rent a LaserDisc, when you did find them, the selection was less than stellar. In fact, because VHS rentals became so huge during this time, LaserDisc pressings couldn’t compete and started falling behind the VHS releases. VHS became the format released first, then LaserDiscs would appear a short time later. This meant that if you wanted to rent the latest movie, you pretty much had to own a VHS player. If you wanted to watch the movie in higher quality, you had to wait for the LaserDisc version. Even then, you’d have to buy it rather than renting. Renting of LaserDiscs was not only rare to find, but eventually disappeared altogether leaving purchasing a LaserDisc the only option, or you rented a VHS tape.

If you weren’t into rentals and wanted to own a film, then LaserDisc was the overall better way to go. Not only were the discs less expensive, the video and audio would remain the highest home consumer quality until S-VHS arrived. Unfortunately, S-VHS had its own problems with adoption even worse than LaserDisc and this format would fail to be adopted by the general home consumer market. LaserDisc continued to dominate the videophile market for its better picture and eventually digital sound until 1997 when the DVD arrived.

Time Was Not Kind

As time progressed into the late 80s, it would become more difficult to find not only LaserDisc players to buy, but also LaserDiscs. Stores that once carried the discs would begin to clearance them out and no longer carry them. Some electronics stores just outright closed and those outlets to buy players were lost. By the 90s, the only reasonable place to purchase LaserDiscs was via mail order.

There were simply no local electronics stores in my area that carried movie discs any longer. Perhaps you could find them in NYC, but not in Houston. Because they were 12″ in size, this meant a lot of real estate was needed to store and display LaserDiscs. Other than record stores, few stores would want to continue to invest store real estate into this lackluster format, especially when VHS is booming. In a lot of ways, LaserDisc packaging looked like LP records, only with movie posters on the front. This packaging was not likely helpful to the LaserDisc. Because they were packaged almost identically to an LP, including being shrink wrapped (and using white inner sleeves), these discs could easily be confused with LP records when walking by a display of them.

Marketing was a major problem for LaserVision. While there was a kind of consortium of hardware producers that included Pioneer, Philips and Magnavox, there was no real marketing strategy to sell the LaserDisc format to the consumer. Because of this, LaserDisc fell into the niche market of videophiles. Basically, it was a small word of mouth community. This was a time before the Internet. Videophiles were some of the first folks to have a small home theater and they demanded the best video and audio experience, and were willing to shell out cash for it. Unfortunately, this market was quite a small segment. Few people were willing to jump through all of the necessary hoops just to buy an LD player, then mail order a bunch of discs. Yet, the videophiles kept buying just enough to keep this market alive.

Laser Rot

In addition to the hassles of bad marketing, the discs ended up with a bad reputation for a severe manufacturing defect. Even some commercially pressed CDs ended up succumbing to this same fate. The problem is known as laser rot. Laser rot is when the various layers that make up a LaserDisc aren’t sealed properly or using correct adhesives during manufacture. These layers later oxidize causing pitting on the sandwiched metal surface. This oxidation pitting causes the original content pits to be lost over time ending up with snow both in audio and in video. The audio usually goes first, then the video.

Laser rot even appeared early on the earliest pressed DiscoVision media, we just wouldn’t find out until much later. This indicated that the faulty manufacturing process began when the format was born. Laser rot caused a lot of fans of the format a lot of grief when the format least needed such a pothole. This problem should have been addressed rapidly once found, but there were many discs that continued to be improperly manufactured even into the 90s after the problem was found. The defective manufacturing process was something the LaserVision consortium failed to address, which tarnished (ahem) the reputation of the LaserVision brand.

For the videophiles who had invested heavily in this format, nothing was worse than playing a disc that you know worked fine a few months ago only to find it now unplayable. It was not only disheartening, but it gave fans of the format pause to consider any future purchases.

Losing Steam

Not only were the average consumers turned off by the high prices of the players, consumers also didn’t see the benefit of owning a LaserDisc player because of its lack of recording capabilities and its lack of readily available rentals. Some videophiles and LaserDisc format advocates lost interest when they attempted to play a 3 year old disc only to find that it was unplayable. At this point, only true die-hards stayed with LaserDisc format even among the mounting disc problems and lack of marketing push.

The manufacturers never stepped up to offer replacement discs for laser rot, which they should have. The LaserVision consortium did nothing to entice new consumers into the format nor did they attempt to fix the manufacturing defect leading to laser rot. The only thing the manufacturers did is continue to churn out upgraded LaserDisc player models usually adding things that didn’t help LaserDisc format directly. Instead, they would add compatibility for media like CDV or 3″ CD formats or CD text. Features that did nothing to help LaserDisc, but were only added to help entice audiophiles into adding a LaserDisc player into their component audio system. This ploy didn’t work. Why? Because audiophiles were more interested in music selection over compatibility with video formats. What sold were the carousel CD players that would eventually hold up to 400 CDs. Though, the 5 CD changers were also wildly popular at the time.

Instead of investing the time and effort into making LaserDisc a better format, the manufacturers spent time adding unnecessary features to their players (and charging more money for them). Granted, the one feature that was added that was desperately needed was digital audio soundtracks. These would be the precursor to DVD. However, while they did add digital audio to LaserDisc by the early 90s, the video was firmly still analog. However, even digital audio on the LaserDisc didn’t kick sales up in any substantial way. This was primarily because 5.1 and 7.1 sound systems were still a ways off from becoming mainstream.

The 90s and 00s

While LaserDisc did continue through most of the 90s as the format that still produced the best NTSC picture quality and digital sound for some films, that wouldn’t last once the all digital DVD arrived in 1997. Once the DVD format arrived, LaserDisc’s days were numbered as a useful movie format. Though LaserDisc did survive into the early noughties, the last movie released in the US is ironically named End of Days with Arnold Schwarzenegger, released in 2002. It truly was the end of days for LaserDisc. Though, apparently LaserDiscs continued to be pressed in Japan and possibly for industrial use for some time after this date.

Failure to Market

The primary reason LaserDisc didn’t get the entrenched market share that it expected was primarily poor marketing. As the product never had a clearly defined reason to exist or at least one that consumers could understand, it was never readily adopted. Then VHS came along giving even less reason to adopt the format.

Most consumers had no need for the quality provided by a LaserDisc. In fact, it was plainly obvious that VHS quality was entirely sufficient to watch a movie. I’d say that this ideal still holds true today. Even though there are 4K TVs and UltraHD 4K films being sold on disc, DVDs are still the most common format for purchase and rental. A format first released in 1997. Even Redbox hasn’t yet adopted rentals of UltraHD 4K Blu-ray discs. Though Redbox does rent 1080p Blu-ray discs, they still warn you that you’re renting a Blu-ray. It’s clear, the 480p DVD is going to die a very slow death. It also says that consumers really don’t care about a high quality picture. Instead, they just want to watch the film. Considering that DVD quality is only slightly better than a LaserDisc at a time when UltraHD 4K is available, that shows that most consumers don’t care about picture quality.

This is the key piece of information that the LaserVision consortium failed to understand in the early 80s. The video quality coming out of a LaserDisc was its only real selling point. That didn’t matter to most consumers. Having to run all over town to find the discs, deal with laser rot, having to flip the discs in the middle of the film and lack of video titles available (compared to VHS), these were not worth the hassle by most consumers. It’s far simpler to run out and buy a VHS tape recorder and rent movies from one of many different rental stores, some open very late. Keep in mind that VHS rentals were far less expensive than buying a LaserDisc.

In many cases, parents found an alternative babysitter in the VHS player. With LaserDisc and rough handling by kids, parents would end up purchasing replacement discs a whole lot more frequently than a VHS tape. Scratched discs happen simply by setting them down on a coffee table. With VHS, they’re pretty rugged. Even a kid handling a VHS tape isn’t likely to damage either the tape or the unit. Though, shoving food into the VHS slot wasn’t unheard of by the children of some parents. Parents could buy (or rent) a kids flick and the kids would be entertained for hours.

VHS tape recorder

Here is what a lot of people claim to be the reason for the death of the LaserDisc. Though, LaserDisc never really died… at least, not until 2002. The one reason most commonly cited was that the LaserDisc couldn’t record. No, you could not record onto a LaserDisc. It had no recordable media version available nor was there a recorder available. However, this perception was due to failure of marketing. LaserDisc wasn’t intended to be a recorder. It was intended to provide movies at reasonable prices. However, it failed to take into consideration the rental market… a market that wasn’t in existence in 1978, but soon appeared once VHS took off. It was a market that LaserDisc manufacturers couldn’t foresee and had no Plan-B ready to combat this turn of events.

However, there was no reason why you couldn’t own both a VHS recorder and a LaserDisc player. Some people did. Though together, these two units were fairly costly. Since most households only needed (and could only afford) one video type player, the VHS tape recorder won out. It not only had the huge rental infrastructure for movies, it was also capable of time shifting over the air programming. This multi-function capability of the VHS recorder lead many people to the stores to buy one. So, yes, not being able to record did hurt the LaserDisc image, but it wasn’t the reason for its death.

Stores and Availability

Around 1984-1986, VHS tape recorders were widely available from a vast array of retailers including discount stores like Target, Kmart and Sears. You could also find VHS recorders at Radio Shack and Federated and in the electronics section of Service Merchandise, JC Penney, Montgomery Wards, Foley’s and many other specialty and department stores.

You could also buy VHS units from mail order houses like J&R Music World who wrote in 1985, “We occasionally advertise a barebones model at $169… But prices have fallen significantly–15 percent in the past six months alone–and now a wide selection sells for $200 to $400.”. That’s a far cry from the $600-900 that a LaserDisc player may cost. Not only were VHS recorders and players available practically at every major department store, stores typically carried several models from which to choose. This meant you had a wide selection of VHS recorders at differing price points. While in the very early 80s VHS recorders were around $1000, the prices for VHS recorders had substantially dropped by 1985 helping fuel not only market saturation for VHS, but also the rental market.

Unlike VHS, LaserDisc never received much market traction because the LD players failed on two primary fronts:

1. They were way too pricey. The prices needed to drastically drop just like VHS machines. Instead of hovering at around the $600 mark, they needed to drop to the $150-$200 range. They never did.

2. They were difficult to find in stores. While VHS machines were available practically everywhere, even drug stores, LaserDisc players could only be found in specialty electronics stores. They could be found in the likes of Federated, Pacific Stereo and other local higher end component based electronics stores. Typically, you’d find them at stores that carried turntables, speakers and audio amplifier / receivers. While Sears may have carried Magnavox LD players for a short time, they quickly got out of that business and moved towards VHS recorders.

Because the manufacturers of LD players failed to get the players into the discount stores and they failed to price the players down to compete with those the $200-$400 VHS units, LaserDisc could gain little mass consumer traction. On top of this, the confusion over CED and LaserDisc (and even VHS) left those who were interested in disc based video in a quandary. Which to choose? CED or LaserDisc? Because CED discs and players were slightly less expensive (and inferior quality) than LaserDisc, many who might have bought LaserDisc bought into CED. This reduced LaserDisc saturation even further.

It wasn’t the videophiles who were buying into CED either. It was consumers who wanted disc media, but who also didn’t want to pay LaserDisc prices. Though, the mass consumer market went almost lock-stock-and-barrel to VHS because of what VHS offered (lower price, better selection of movies, rentals everywhere and recording capabilities).

Why Did LaserDisc Fail?

LaserDisc’s failure to gain traction was a combination of market factors including lack of marketing, poor quality media, high hardware prices, unreliable players, CED confusion, and the VHS rental market, but this was just the beginning of its downfall. At the tail end, even though LaserDisc did attempt a high definition analog format through Japan’s Hi-Vision spec using MUSE encoding, even that couldn’t withstand the birth of the DVD.

If the LaserVision consortium had had more vision to continue to innovate in the LaserDisc video space rather than trying to make a LaserDisc player an audio component, the format would have ultimately sold better. How much better? No one really knows. If the consortium had embraced MPEG and made a move towards an all digital format in the 90s, this change might have solidified LaserDisc as a comeback format which could have supported 1080p HDTV. Though there was a digital LaserDisc format called CDV and also Japan’s Hi-Vision HD format, these never gained any traction because the LaserVision consortium failed to embrace them. Hi-Vision was never properly introduced into the US or Europe and remained primarily a Japanese innovation sold primarily in Japan.

Instead, the introduction of DVD is pretty much solidified the death of what was left of LaserDisc as a useful movie storage, rental and playback medium. Though, the LaserDisc media releases would continue to limp along until 2002 with the last LaserDisc player models released sometime in 2009.

What would kill the LaserDisc format? LaserDisc would ultimately die because of 1080p 16:9 flat screen HDTVs, which the LaserDisc format didn’t properly support (other than composite low res or the short lived Hi-Vision format which was problematic). Ultimately, no one wants to watch 480i 4:3 ratio pan-and-scan analog movies via composite inputs on a brand new 16:9 1080p widescreen TV. Yes, some anamorphic widescreen films came to exist on LaserDisc, but that still utilized a 480i resolution which further degraded the picture by widening the image. Of course, you can still find LaserDisc players and discs for purchase if you really want them.

If you agree or disagree, please leave a comment below. To avoid missing any future Randocity articles, please press the Follow button in the upper right corner of the screen.

Welcome to the new Randocity

Posted in entertainment by commorancy on February 7, 2018

In the spirit of random improvements and random explanations, I’ve renamed the blog site to Randocity. It’s still pronounced the same, but is spelled with a ‘c’ instead of an ‘s’. I felt that this blog content was more in line with the definition of this new word and, hence, the new name. This is in part because I liked this spelling better and in part because I’ve added a brand spankin’ new custom domain — randocity.com. The content will remain the same and the blog will continue onward just as it has, with as much randomness as you’ve come to expect. Except now, it’s using its brand new domain with a ‘c’.

Oh, in case you’re curious, the old randosity.wordpress.com domain will continue to work as it always has, except now it redirects you to the new randocity.com.

Welcome to the old Randosity which is now Randocity!

Movie Review — Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Posted in entertainment, movies by commorancy on January 7, 2018

the-last-jedi-theatrical[Alert: This review may contain spoilers. Though, I have done my best to not to reveal critical plot points and only discuss the technical merits of the film as a whole, you should decide for yourself what is a spoiler. If you are interested in seeing this movie, you should stop reading now, bookmark this review and read it after.]

The Last Jedi is a very long film. Clocking in at 152 minutes, it seems like a marathon. After trailers, your time spent can easily exceed 3 hours sitting inside of a theater. Giving up 3 hours of your life for a mediocre Disney romp is a very tough indeed. Movies with run times close to 3 hours also need an intermission. Let’s explore.

The Force Awakens

I want to like The Last Jedi. I really do. This film begins pretty much where The Force Awakens leaves off. If you’re interested, please check out both my The Force Awakens review and my The Force Awakens Analysis from 2015. If you haven’t seen The Force Awakens recently or at all, see it first. I will also state that my review of The Force Awakens is generally positive touting the look and feel. That look and feel is still retained in The Last Jedi, but I also expected The Last Jedi to have grown and matured this story. Unfortunately, it hasn’t matured nearly enough. With that said, The Last Jedi features lots of battles both in ship and out of ship with blasters and with lightsabers, but no battles of consequence. This film typifies what’s wrong with Hollywood writers. They have no vision. This problem is no more evident than in the many stories that unfold in this romp. There are certainly lots of plot contrivances and save-the-day tropes, but nothing new or notable to see (or say) here. It doesn’t expand on the Star Wars universe in any new or compelling way. It just uses the universe and abuses all of its existing George Lucas tropes, but never feels fresh, new or exciting. It doesn’t even feel like the writers truly understand or ‘get’ this universe or its inhabitants. It almost feels like professionally made fan fiction.

Middle Film Dilemma

Of course, this is a middle film. So, it can’t exactly resolve what was started, but it does its level best to make a dent in what will close out this trilogy. Unfortunately, this film is far too ambitious, trying to interweave too many side stories and not telling any one of them particularly well. There’s the Poe-as-a-rebelious-officer thread. There’s the Finn vs Nobody-Mechanic love interest thread that appears out of nowhere. There’s the Luke vs Rey thread. There’s the Leia vs Poe thread. There’s the Snoke vs Kylo vs Rey thread. There’s the topsy-turvy Rey and Kylo force connection thread. There’s the Millenium Falcon thread. There’s the useless Moz Kanata thread. There’s the new general who appears out of nowhere and gets killed thread. There’s the Phasma vs Finn thread. There’s the Luke vs Kylo thread. There are even more threads than that. There are far, far too many different story threads all competing for precious screen time.

For a middle film, the primary story arc should have been front and center. The rest of the story arcs should have been side stories for character development purposes. You know, stories to flesh out a character’s backstory, likes and dislikes, ruthlessness, charisma, scoundrelness, etc. These are why there are side stories. We need to get to know the characters while the main story is unfolding. And this is the problem with this new trilogy.

We still don’t know anything about Rey or Poe or Finn. Yes, we know Rey was a scavenger based on The Force Awakens, but there is no information immediately before that? Was she a scavenger her whole life? Clearly, she knows how to handle herself with that staff. So, that means she’s seen combat before. What other adventures has she had? What about Poe? He’s been in the Resistance for quite some time. He’s got stories. Where are those? And Finn, he was in the First Order. He’s definitely got stories. His field trip to Jakku in The Force Awakens can’t have been his first time out with The First Order. Yet, it’s like these characters began their existence at the start of The Force Awakens. We still don’t know anything about them even after The Last Jedi ends. Come on writers, give us stories that develop the characters.

Hack Writers

This story needs to be simplified, reduced, rewritten and refocused. The Last Jedi is all over the place and, at the same time forces the writers to cut too many story corners to make ends meet. It also sacrifices character development for unnecessary action scenes and CGI. It’s the typical Hollywood blockbuster writing team that cares less about making sense and more about writing too many threads and then cheating to close those threads because they’ve simply run out of time. It is, for example, killing off much loved characters like Luke, not in glorious battle, but alone on a remote planet using some extraordinary force power he has never once exhibited before. It is tying Kylo to Rey with some kind of force sensitive connection that allows them to communicate over vast distances, which isn’t explained and wasn’t even hinted at in The Force Awakens (the hallmark of bad writers). It’s Poe and Rey and Finn all running off on their own missions, not working together. It’s Finn and Nobody-Mechanic off on a mission to save the fleet with no backing and who are destined to fail (and they do) because of a cheap mole trope. And, to top off the cheesiest of the cheesy plot devices, Leia being blown into the vacuum of space and then exhibiting a force power she has never once even hinted at to inexplicably pull herself from space (with no oxygen) back into the ship, flying like Superman. What… what? Am I watching a Marvel movie?

I’m torn. I want new original story ideas, but not like this. On the other hand, I’m almost now wanting to see copycat stories from the original trilogy because at least copying those formulas might actually work better than this disjointed romp of a movie. Let’s hope that whomever they get to write the last installment can get their head out of their ass and actually produce a cohesive focused ending that makes more sense than these too many unnecessary and unfocused dead end threads in The Last Jedi.

Cliché Story

The story starts off with a rag tag fleet of rebels on the run in space trying to find a new base. Unfortunately, the long of the short of it is, the fleet can’t get a break. Every time they think they are ahead of the game with the First Order, somehow they are found. In the opening of the film, the First Order fleet begins beating the crap out of the Resistance fleet and destroying their ships one at a time. Poe in an extraordinarily brave and stupid move, decides to order the last few bombers of the Resistance to attack a Dreadnought (a glorified battle cruiser). After that ship is destroyed and everyone celebrates for an instant, Leia looks at the amount of ships that were destroyed to make that sacrifice and figuratively face palms. Then they hyperspace jump.

Suffice it to say, this face palm sets the tone of the entire film to come. The scene switches to the planet Luke is on and we continue the story just as The Force Awakens left it. Rey does a whole bunch of nothing with Luke. At this point we’re back with the fleet. We continue with more yelling, screaming, blowing up ships and posturing from both the First Order and from the Resistance. This cat and mouse game continues throughout the entire run of the film until the Resistance thinks they’ve gotten a break on an old fortified rebel base planet. But, that’s just a pipe dream because the First Order, yet again, comes knocking. At this point, the First Order deploys a logic probe (oops, this isn’t Tron)… er, I mean an energy weapon that knocks down the base’s big metal door.

By this time Rey and Kylo are friends and Snoke, well, let’s just say he’s having a divided moment. Back on the new rebel base, Luke chimes in with his new improved ‘magical power’ and begins to taunt Kylo (after Rey runs off) into doing stupid things based on emotion. Rey is nowhere to be found as yet and Finn has decided to ram his speeder into the energy cannon when Nobody-Mechanic knocks him out of the sky for a love-story-then-pass-out trope.

The whole thing comes to a close while Kylo is occupied and the Resistance makes their way to some place safer.

I’m leaving a lot of stuff out.. It’s almost 3 hours. Overall, the contrived storytelling of the rag tag fleet barely making it to the next step each time is an old twice told trope. It’s already been done in Battlestar Galactica, but so much better. There are so many ways this story could have unfolded, but this is not how I would have written it. The fun of Luke, Leia and Han is that they worked together most of the time… only splitting up occasionally. Finn, Rey and Poe are almost never together in a scene. If you’re going to write for a triangle of characters, at least put them together at some point for a together adventure.

The final scene is of a foretelling. It’s of a child holding a broom like a lightsaber. Let’s just hope that by the time this child makes it into the final film that he isn’t still a child. No child actors in the final act, please.

Star Wars Droids in the Story

One thing that has been totally lost on Disney’s Star Wars writers is that the Star Wars story is, more or less, told from the point of view of the droids (R2D2 and C3PO). Meaning, the droids are in almost every scene because they are both helping the heroes and recounting it from their droidy perspective. Since Disney began their version of Star Wars, that idea has been almost completely lost. I say almost because The Force Awakens and to a far lesser extent, The Last Jedi, tried to keep this idea alive with BB-8. However, in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, there are long stretches of story where there were no droids present at all. When BB-8 is included as a main character or even a plot element, the scene works well. When not, the scene is dry and boring. For example, in The Last Jedi, it’s funny when we finally get to see BB-8 driving an AT-ST walker. Unfortunately, it’s just a token gesture from the writers. They don’t keep it going. The reason it’s important to include the droids in the scenes is that they 1) make for excellent comic relief, 2) they help the heroes get things done with computers and 3) they are the perfect storytellers for such a romp. Unfortunately, BB-8 really had no substantial role in The Last Jedi other than being used as a trope to tie up loose ends. The original Star Wars trilogy showed us just how important droids are to the success of not only the missions, but to the film’s success.

Story Misnaming

This is the second film of, I am assuming, a trilogy. The Force Awakens was the first. However, even at the end of The Force Awakens, we still didn’t know who that awakening referred to. Was it Rey? Was it Finn? Was it Poe? Was it someone else?

At the end of The Last Jedi, we exit the theater asking the same exact question of both this title and of The Force Awakens. Who is The Last Jedi? Who really awakened? In fact, the film postulates the question that there is no such concept as a ‘last Jedi’. Luke explains that even if every last Jedi falls, another will rise on their own because the Force so wills it. I would assume this to also mean that there will be at least one Sith because the Force wishes to remain in balance. This means that there can be no last Jedi ever. So, why call this film that? Why call the first film The Force Awakens? If the writers cannot definitively answer the question posed by the title of the film, why produce a film with that title? If the ending of this film is foretelling of the rise of a new Jedi (and/or Sith), then a more apt title for this film should have been The Rise of the New Jedi or The Balance of the Force or The One Jedi.

A New Hope clearly refers to Luke. The Empire Strikes Back is as clear a title for that movie as there ever could be. You clearly understand exactly what the title means by the time you finish the film. Return of the Jedi is, likewise, the perfect title because you know exactly who is returning 15 minutes into the film. There is no question about why these films are named the way they are or what the titles mean. Even the prequel film names worked properly in this way with The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Leaving the theater after the prequels, there is absolutely no question as to why each film was given its respective title.

These Disney Star Wars films, on the other hand, are entirely misnamed. You leave the theater not knowing what the title means or who it refers to. If your writers can’t answer the question that the title poses within that film’s story, then the writers have failed or the title has. This series definitely needs to choose better titles.

Overall

This film is overproduced and the story is clumsily heavy-handed. The film is way too long and unfocused. The Last Jedi is definitely not any better than The Force Awakens. I give this film 2.5 stars out of 5 or in RottenTomatoes grading: 50%. The film is way too long, way too disjointed and it doesn’t congeal into a cohesive whole by the end. I realize this is a middle film and will be somewhat of a cliffhanger, but still, the way that The Empire Strikes Back was handled as a middle film was classic. This film, on the other hand, is entirely mishandled. Though, in some ways it is marginally better than The Force Awakens and in other ways it dearly sucks. The one thing I will say is that the 3D version of The Last Jedi is well done visually, but it doesn’t make the story any more palatable.

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Pulse Club Shooting and Reopening

Posted in botch, business, entertainment by commorancy on June 18, 2016

As we all know by now (and if you haven’t, you’re probably living under a rock), the Pulse Club was a primarily gay dance night spot located in Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, as a deadly shooting unfolded, it has now become the unwitting site of the worst mass shooting in the US so far. Should it reopen? Let’s explore.

Shooting Aftermath

After that 3 hour massacre ended in the death of the shooter, this situation now leaves more questions than answers, especially for the victim’s families and those who were injured. In fact, my heart goes out to each and every one of the victim’s families. Those people who had gathered at that club that night arrived to have fun, drink and dance. Many had done so on many previous nights. Nothing wrong in that.

Unfortunately, the shooter had other plans. He entered this night club with the intent of taking lives. After 3 hours of standoff with law enforcement, the situation ended with the death of the shooter, but not before 49 people were dead and 53 others were injured and sent to hospitals. Let’s not forget about those who were not injured, but who were there witnessing this horrific event unfold. These victims may not have physical injuries, but they now have emotional injuries that may take decades and therapy to resolve. Survivor’s guilt is a real thing. A horrible situation for any business owner to contemplate.

Club Reopening?

The manager of the club, Barbara Poma, is trying to salvage this situation with her business and has vowed to reopen this night club. Unfortunately, the Pulse Club has now become a victim in its own right with a massive stigma attached: the massacre and all of those brutal deaths. This situation never spells a good end to any business. Barbara, if you are in fact reading this, I’d strongly suggest not reopening this club at that location. However, before considering reopening, you should most definitely wait (see below). There are a number of reasons why it shouldn’t reopen in its current form:

  1. Macabre thrill seeker tourists. Your club has now (and will for a very long time) become an unwitting tourist destination for those seeking a brush with the macabre. Yes, your club will now have people seeking to stop by and talk about the massacre, the deaths, the victims with anyone who will talk about it including to your customers, your staff and you. This will eventually become distracting and annoying to your customers who are there just to party. It will drive your existing customer base away. This will not be forgotten quickly or easily.
  2. Ghost hunters. Because of the 49 deaths in your club, inevitably someone will claim they have seen or heard the ghost of one of those who died on your premise. I’m not here to argue the merit of that type of claim, but I will state that your club will become a destination for ghost hunters looking for ghosts. Again, this will be to the distraction of your paying visitors simply there to have a good time. It will also become a distraction for your bartenders and other staff. This will also drive your existing customer base away.
  3. Regulars will shy away. For those who were regulars to your club and who were there that night, they won’t be back. Your club is forever tainted as that club that had a mass shooting and now holds that stigma high and wide like a badge of honor, except there’s no honor in that. For anyone who was there that night, the memory is just too painful and few will be back to avoid reliving that memory, especially those who were trapped in there for hours.
  4. Tainted by death. The Pulse Club brand has now become the unwitting poster child for mass shootings. What I’m about to write may seem a little crass, but you might as well re-theme your club to have heart monitors, hospital beds, and nurses running around if you want to move forward with this name. This is what people will forever link to this club’s name. People will not remember it for the fun party spot. It will now be remembered for the deaths and those living victims still in the hospital. If you don’t have any intent on capitalizing on this notoriety, you should change the name and move the club to another location.
  5. Because of at least number 4, you may find that your original customer type no longer visits your club. You may find that types 1-4 make up the vast majority of those who visit your club. They are not there to have a good time, they are there to take pictures, vlog, gawk, talk to your staff and generally be a nuisance to your club. It might even lead to confrontations that you and your staff might not want to deal with. You can never know the intent of a single person requesting access into your club.

What this basically says is if you reopen the club, your clientele will drastically shift from that happy-go-lucky dance place that it once was to that-place-that-had-a-mass-shooting. The above are not necessarily the reasons you want people at your club. The Pulse Club can never live its now-infamous past down. Even if you change the name of the club, paint it, redecorate it and refurnish it from top to bottom, that location won’t ever forget what happened.

Rebuilding the Pulse Club

The only way the Pulse Club can ever live again is by moving it to an entirely new location somewhere else in the city and rebranding it. You must abandon that building and let it become someone else’s problem and stigma to solve. What happened there is something that stays with that building, not with your business. If you want to get your business back the way that it was, you cannot reopen in that location. You must move your business to a new building. This is the only way to free yourself from the thrill seekers, from the macabre, from the ghost hunters and from those just morbidly curious. These people are not the reason why you opened your club and these are not the reasons you should want to continue with your club.

These are distractions that only serve to taint your establishment, chase off would-be new customers and cause your staff daily grief throwing random lookie-loos out. You need to ask yourself the hard question, is this really the reason you opened the Pulse Club?

Before you contemplate reopening the club, you need to let the legal dust settle. And, settle it will, I can guarantee that. Before making plans of spending money to renovate your club, you should reserve those funds for the upcoming legal battles that are about to ensue… and sue they will.

Lawsuits and the Future of Pulse

We haven’t seen the last of what is in store for this club. Just you wait. Some of the victims will file wrongful death suits at someone, anyone, for negligence. Where to start? The club’s owner. It’s as good a place as any.

Was the Pulse Club negligent in what happened? Well clearly, if the club’s staff had been properly enforcing at least metal detection or a pat down at the door, the guns might not have gotten into the building. Unfortunately, it now appears that this club was not enforcing any safety best practices when allowing patrons into the establishment. This could very much appear as negligent actions by the club’s owner. And, there are 53 living injured who can file lawsuits against this club. There are an additional 49 families who can also file lawsuits against this club. There are additional people like employees and those who suffered severe mental anguish at the horrific events that night who can also file lawsuits.

Unless the Pulse Club owner has engaged in specialty insurance in high amounts to cover such occurrences (probably not), she may find the Pulse Club out of business and her personal finances spent covering each and every one of those yet-to-be-filed lawsuits. It’s way too early for this club’s owner to be thinking about reopening the night club when the legal battles have barely even begun.

Clearly Barbara, as the club’s owner, you should wait out the legal battles before making plans to reopen this club. You may find that you can’t actually afford to reopen the club after the legal dust settles.

Victims

If you are a victim of this shooting, you should contemplate all of your legal options and you should do so quickly with your lawyer. If you are intent on filing a lawsuit, you should do it as fast as possible. The first to the table are usually the first to walk away with settlements. If you are one of the last, you might get nothing.

Was this club negligent by allowing a shooter with a Sig Sauer MCX rifle (every bit as deadly as an AK-47, just quieter) into this club? Clearly, the Pulse had very little in the way of security due diligence at the door. Is that considered negligent? Only a court can decide.

Review: Man of Steel

Posted in botch, california, entertainment, film by commorancy on May 24, 2014

SupermanWhile the Man of Steel has been out of the theaters for a while and is now available on blu-ray, I’ve decided an analysis of this film is now in order. It also showcases what’s wrong with Hollywood blockbusters in general. Man of Steel is an excellent poster child of the problems associated with today’s storytellers populating Hollywood. It’s all about the money and never about the quality. Though, let me start by saying the Superman suit is the least of this film’s problems. In fact, even though the suit is not at all in keeping with Superman, the suit itself is probably one of this film’s best features. Go costume department! Let’s explore.

Lois Lane

The script pieces surrounding Lois are quite unexpected. There’s nothing specifically wrong with Amy Adams’s portrayal of Lois Lane in terms of acting. In fact, she did a respectable job of acting Lois within the context of the role. Still, Margot Kidder’s and even more so Noel Neill’s Lanes seem much more human and in-line with being an actual reporter.

Unfortunately, the story behind Lois Lane in Man of Steel has created far more questions than answers. For example, every time Superman has landed after a long drawn out battle, flying at enormous speeds all over the city and destroying parts of perhaps 10s of buildings and then ultimately landing who knows where, Lois can be found standing right there within moments of touchdown. There is no way that’s possible unless Lois is not from Earth.

Also, she (seemingly) reluctantly agrees to be captured by Zod after a taunting comment by Colonel Nathan Hardy. After being taken aboard Zod’s ship, her lack of awe and concern seems dubious if not down right suspicious. Worse, she is pinpoint accurate firing a particle weapon (not found on earth) and not at all phased by it let alone killing said individual she fired upon. Most people put into that situation would not only have crumbled, but many might have fainted or gotten sick. Not Lois. She is as stoic about the whole thing as Superman. In fact, in some ways she is more stoic. It’s almost as if she knows what was going to take place in advance and her part in it.

Hidden Identity

We all know that Superman has his ‘hidden identity’ in Clark Kent, but that’s not the hidden identity to which I refer. In fact, we know that Superman is not good at hiding his identity. He practically opened up to Lois about the whole deal almost immediately upon meeting her. He certainly displayed his powers to her to heal her. Though, he verbally confirmed everything after the second meeting.

The fact that Lois is there at the discovery of the crashed Kryptonian scout ship in the ice means something suspicious with Lois is already afoot. How did she get there, how did she even know about it and how did she come to learn of that ship being there in the first place? If it’s a classified military secret operation, which it seemed to have been, why would a reporter have been notified? Also, why was Clark there? I think he was explained off as ‘yet another job’. But, that’s a separate issue entirely. The whole ‘dig up the 18000 year old ship from the ice’ plot device was far too convenient. But, that’s part of the reason Hollywood fails at making movies great. Things are inserted strictly for plot convenience, not because it makes sense.

In fact, I believe the true hidden identity here is Lois Lane. I don’t know if she an occupant from the original scout ship that landed there 18000 years ago (somehow preserved for many years), if she’s a descendent from someone on that ship (in which case there are probably more than a few) or if she’s from another world entirely. But, she’s definitely not of Earth. There’s just no way she can be all things considered.

Lois Lane from Krypton?

In fact, she seems to have the power of teleportation (being exactly where Superman is within moments). The power of clairvoyance (knowing where Superman is at all times). The power of people manipulation (able to convince military personal that she should be part of their secret projects and on board military aircraft). The power of memory manipulation (making people believe she’s always a helpless victim). She may even be a form of succubus seducing Superman at the end of the film.

There’s just no other way to explain how the Man of Steel Lois can end up doing the things she does. She cannot be of Earth. Yet, she’s obviously very good at hiding her true identity. For the same reason that Clark explains the need to work for the Daily Planet, it makes perfect sense for Lois to be there for that same reason. She can easily keep her finger on the pulse of the world and know where she needs to be and what she needs to do.

Though it’s quite clear. Lois doesn’t save people or interfere with humanity directly. She just watches, reports (within the limits of a real reporter) and lets mankind do whatever it’s going to do. That is, with the exception of Superman to which she has some kind of fascination and is willing to do all kinds of interfering. Of course, Superman is not of Earth and Lois knows this. So, if she has an official non-interference policy with the locals, then she can interfere with Superman all she wants as he’s not indigenous to Earth.

Lois Lane’s agenda?

Here’s the kicker. We don’t know. It’s clear that Lois seems to be on Earth for some agenda involving Superman. Perhaps she wants something Superman has or perhaps she knows he has the Kryptonian genetics key and needs it. Whether she’s malevolent or benevolent, we don’t yet know. Clearly, her manipulation of Superman is key to whatever reason she’s on Earth. But, it’s likely she’s from a planet that knows of Krypton and its fate.

This is not the same Lois we have come to know from the original Superman comics or indeed the Lois portrayed in the 50s, 60s or 70s. No, this Lois is a Lois who has powers of her own, but exercises them sparingly and out of sight. When she does use them in front of someone, she quickly manipulates their mind to cover what they saw (including the ability to manipulate Superman’s mind at certain emotional times). Though, it seems Superman can unknowingly resist her abilities.

Man of Steel destruction

On a separate topic, there’s all of the destruction surrounding Superman and Zod’s actions. It’s quite clear that the amount of destruction and human casualties in Man of Steel was quite large. While Superman always prides himself on saving people, the sheer carelessness of Superman in Man of Steel was quite unnecessary and appalling. We are seriously to believe that Superman would willingly throw an indestructible person through several buildings knowing they can’t be harmed or injured? And then do it again and again and again?

It’s clear that at the point where Superman first gets a hint that there might need to be violence, he would have excused himself and flown to, for example, the moon or a barren desert to battle it out. There is no other way to stop the unnecessary destruction than taking it somewhere remote. Why carry out such destruction in the middle of a city like Manhattan? Superman is way smarter than that. Of course, Zod could have insisted on destroying a large city anyway with his ships, but he can’t battle Superman if he’s not there.

Instead, this whole film treated Superman as if he didn’t have a brain in his head. That he was just some conflicted teenager unable to make heads or tails of any of his situations. That he’s some bumbling idiot with no thought to that level of destruction. No, Superman is a whole lot smarter and more reasoned than that. In fact, he’s probably the smartest person on earth, he just didn’t have the proper Kryptonian teaching. He should be able to at least make the proper strategic decision involving moving fights to places that cause the least amount of casualties and destruction.

Military

The whole film jumped the shark when Colonel Nathan Hardy proudly announces at 1:39:28, “This man is not our enemy”. Wait.. what? You’re standing in a pile of smoking burning rubble. He just caused enormous destruction and death in the middle of a city and that’s not considered being an enemy? Really? Yes, Zod was involved and aided in that destruction, but Superman could have easily moved the battle simply by flying somewhere else less populated.

Again, this influence on the Colonel must be the Lois Lane powers at work. There is no other explanation except Lois Lane’s protection of Superman. Even Superman has an incredulous look on his face when he says this. Lois is clearly protecting Mr. S for some reason and purpose yet to be explained. We already know she has the power of human manipulation and knowing where he is at all times. That’s the only explanation for that Colonel’s statement at that moment in the plot.

Overall

The special effects are reasonably well done, but the story has some huge holes that really make no sense. This is yet another Hollywood non-sensical romp that really doesn’t enhance the superhero genre in any notable way.  In fact, it makes Lois out to be some kind of alien with some agenda involving Superman. I’m just waiting to find out what that agenda really is. Maybe there is no Lois at all and this is some other Superman enemy attempting to manipulate Superman for their own bidding?

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