The Goode Family

Sometimes a purposeful mirror image of a previous work can be a good thing. Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors are largely the same film, only one has an ultimately positive view of humanity, the other negative, and both are good. Susan Vega’s 99.9 Degrees and 9 Objects of Desire are bookends, the first warm, the second cool, both fine pieces of work. Creating a good second work by flipping your previous one sounds likea good idea.

And thus we get to The Goode Family, Mike Judge’s follow-up to his long-running and overall-quite-good King of the Hill. KotH is based around an essentially conservative family in a conservative town, trying to figure how their values respond to times that are changing against them; The Goode Family is about a family that is trying to stay ahead of the curve in liberal values, embracing vegetarianism, recycling, composting, whatever.

And based on the first episode, he (with his talented cohorts) doesn’t quite pull it off. The problem is that he doesn’t make the characters seem human. The parents seems like some stereotyped redneck in a bar’s mockery of what a lib’rul couple of neo-hippies is like. Their adopted Afrikaaner-American son is the sort of stiff teen parody that KotH would use to fill out its background — there’s less to him in the pilot than there is to Joseph Gribble in most of his episodes. Only the daughter Bliss, whose calm pleasantness and willingness to choose for herself makes her basically the Marilyn of the Goode Family’s Munsterdom, comes across as a character of depth rather than someone from a Saturday Night Live skit that you’ll hate to see recurring.

But despite that, the episode is not without its moments, its charms. Once the first episode gets down to its storyline, in which Bliss gets caught up with an abstinence crusade, it actually comes to a very KotH  type conclusion, a realistic look at what’s out of kilter in this world — which is precisely what the ealier material was not.

We shall see. There may be something shiny underneath, but there’s a lot of mud that wold need scraping off first. And part of the difficulty with animated shows is that the entire season is generally written and voiced before the first episode is completed in the animation process, making it much harder to adjust an imperfect work as the reality of what’s been accomplished becomes apparent. (I can’t help but recall the late-1980s sitcom Second Chance, which is memory serves had, by its third episode, dropped its original title, original star, and central conceit.) But perhaps there was a pilot, then a pause, then some other episodes produced. Or maybe the scripts just get smarter. Or maybe not.

Published in: on May 31, 2009 at 10:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

This weekend's movies: UP

Critics are recommending you go see the new animated film UP, but only if see it forwards. Cause if you see it backwards, it’s P-U!

Published in: on May 27, 2009 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  


So, it was only flipping through tonight’s schedule that I discovered that Fox was launching a new series tonight. That’s not exactly a sign of a heavily-backed series. I don’t know if this is simply dumping some episodes that they had made, or if this is a series they’re trying to launch gently at a low-risk time…. but I’d bet on the former. Think I’ll blog it as I watch.

mental. Obviously, a doctor show. Looks like it’s a hospital show, specifically mental hospital… a House of the brain?

The new boss arrives today. Think he’ll be a loose cannon?

They don’t now what to look for in finding him. But a crazy guy just went crazy… think he’ll come out of the crowd and stop the situation? Oh, yeah!

The girl in the low-cut dress is criticizing the new doctor for getting naked, saying it’ll be hard for folks to take him seriously.

Written by Deborah Joy Levine — who did a nice job seting up Lois & Clark, all those years ago.

Wow, he carries a trick deck of cards specifically to make one specific point if it ever comes up. Yeah…

The lead character has an English accent, and it seems like he has a foreign accent because the actor does, not for any reason in the story. It seems a distraction.

In general, he comes across as a shmuck whose efforts work only because, well, the writers say they work.

He’s sending the residents outside of the hospital to do research. Yeah, it wants to be House.

Ooh, he breaks into the house himself to do research. Sure, that will draw the line of where the differences from House lie!

Yeah, this thing is by the numbers. It’s more of things I’m already getting better versions of. So… no.

Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 10:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is Peter married — update

I still can’t say definitively whether Peter is married, but the odds have sure increased. Today’s California Supreme Court ruling means not only that if he is in California, he is now married, but also that he was married the last time he was in California, even though we didn’t know that for sure at the time. And presumably, if he is in (say) Iowa or Massachusetts, he is married as well.

But odds are that he’s in Washington, DC at the moment. That would mean that he’s not married. If nothing happens (say, Congress making a decision), then come June 6th (if I understand correctly), if he’s still there, he’s married.

I still haven’t reviewed the ruling to see if it clarifies whether, for example, a couple who got a same-sex marriage in Boston and then moved to California during the equal marriage period are still married. This is a game you can play with any same-sex couple that has applied for a marriage license at some point… but as with Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, the real game will always be about Peter.

Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 3:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cheeseburger Pie II : The Revengification of Emily

Pretty soon after the first, but the first one worked out well enough that it encouraged such things.

This time, it was:

  • 20 oz of not-specifically-breast turkey
  • Ground garlic, in its own little grinder, courtesy of the 99 Cents Only Store
  • About half a jar of Paul Newman’s Pineapple Salsa
  • Several fistfulls of shreddy cheese
  • half cup Bisquik, cup of milk, one large egg (79.99 cents per dozen at the 99 Cents Only store!)

Cooked absically as the prior one. Mixed a bit of the salsa in with the meat when cooking, adeled the rest on top of the cheese layer. Worked out well. Sweeter, due to the fruit salsa. Worked. Not brilliance, but but got some yums from the gathered throngs.

There will be a further sequel.

Published in: on May 25, 2009 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Uh, Glee

Fox is being quite aggressive in promoting Glee, their new musical set in a high school. They premiered the pilot months in advance, made the pilot streamable online, giving everyone a chance to simmer in its glory and soak up its richness to stoke interest for the fall.

Now if only there was richness there. Even a light drama shold have something to connect with, or a guilty pleasure should have someone you want to be. But the characters are all just these stereotypes from some 20 year old John Hughes wannabe film. The jocks-against-the-creative-kids parts feels like it came from someone who only ever read about high school, the administration-versus-glee-club and cheerleaders-versus-glee-club portions feel like things that come from people who have only read about real life. Yes, it’s supposed to be both humorous and stylized, but still they seem to want you to care about the emotional conflicts, and there ain’t no there there.

Which leaves the musical portions of this, and yes, they are nicely done. I confess to having flipped back to rewatch the cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” several times (a song I’ve been meaning to hunt down and listen to in its entirety in the original; I’ll admit that I’ve not heard Amy Winehouse so much as heard about Amy Winehouse,  but the clips I’ve hard in other context always made this song sound interesting. Yes, I’m old. Oh, wait, there’s an apparently-legal online copy of the video, I’ll watch it after writing the review.) And I can certainly see teenage girls watching this show and enjoying the music and replaying it. But while shallowness is endemic to the musical form, it seems like it would be deadly to the serial music form – which is unsurprisingly not a form with a vast history of success. I don’t see those teenage girls — or anyone else — spending their time talking about “What happened to Rachel last episode”, unless the show makes some storng adjustments.

Published in: on May 25, 2009 at 6:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Not technically a loaf

Last night, in part of a push to finish up some of the food we had on hand in preparation for this weekend’s move, I did some riffing on a recipe I found on the back of the Bisquick box. First, I fried up:

  • 20 oz of ground turkey breast (which, while healthier, is a lot blander than the ground not-specifically-breast turkey meat)
  • the remainder of a canister of dried minced onions which had probably come with us in the last move 7 years back
  • the remainder of a jar of minced garlic, not nearly so old
  • two packets of soy sauce

Then, once that was all cooked, I threw it in a greased glass pie plate, and sprinkled quite liberally with what we call “shreddy cheese”, a premixed set of chedder and a couple other cheese that we buy by the humungous pillowload at Costco.

Then I mixed two eggs, one cup of mik, and a half cup of genuine Bisquick brand cooking powdery substance, and poured that over everything.

25 minutes in an oven that was as close to 400 degrees as our random-temperature oven could put up.

Result: Pretty good, actually. The onion and garlic kept away any concept of “bland” without being overpowering. I thought I was putting a lot of cheese on there, but it could’ve actually survived more. The “bun” created by the Bisquick mix was surprisingly eggy; next time, I might try one large egg instead of the two mediums. Most of this large dish disappeared in one meal for three people, with the remainder quickly being claimed by Mrs. Nat’s TV for today’s lunch.

Published in: on May 22, 2009 at 11:13 am  Leave a Comment  

The Lost Natwork

Normally, I don’t post much about my writing work here. But a story I wrote about 15 years back and never saw print was just posted by its artist. It’s not a great tale (to put it mildly) — this was from my work at Parody Press, who would have me writing parodies of not-yet-released comics, which would mean parodying things I’d not read. And then much of the time the orders would come in and the publisher would decide that it wasn’t worth publishing… which meant no money for Nat. And that kind of discouraged putting serious work into anything and… well, this ain’t my best work by a good margin, but the artist gave the work better than it deserved (although I only learn that now, because the comic never saw print so I didn’t see the art). The job was to parody a then-upcoming comic called Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, so I turned it into a parody of The Punisher. So ladies and gentlemen, I present… TyRex Dinosaur: Hunter.

Published in: on May 22, 2009 at 6:28 am  Leave a Comment  

It's better than Flies in the WiFies.

My more-than-an-acquantaince-but-I’m-not-sure-if-“pal”-fits, we’ve-certainly-exchanged-a-number-of-messages-and-he’s-gone-out-of-his-way-to-“hi”-me-in-person (of-course-this-was-before-he-was-quite-this-famous, now-everyone-thinks-they-know-him, so-he’s-overwhelmed where-e’er-he-goes), and-he’s-let-me-publish-some-of-his-stuff-on-occasion (and-send-him-checks-regularly) but-it’s-not-like-I’m-gonna-ask-him-to-help-me-move, so-I-don’t-want-this-to-sound-like-I’m-bragging-because-I-know-him Neil Gaiman, notes on his blog:

yesterday afternoon the new posh slick black internet router was discovered when I picked it up to try and work out why the internet was so very, very slow, to contain an ants’ nest,  upsetting a very large number of little black ants in the process, most of whom ran off, carrying their eggs and probably grumbling about me in Ant.

To which I dropped him this line:

Having heard about the ants in your internet router, I must encourage you to improve your internet security. I hear that many apparent computer bugs are actually caused by infections downloaded over the internet, so it seems likely that the ants came bundled in some safe-looking executable or zip file. I’m not sure all of what forms of security are best against ants, although a good firewall would probably work against fire ants, but that would do little to stop the dangerous red ants, army ants, and eleph ants. Perhaps you need to install a RAID array in your computer; I hear that kills bugs dead (which is the best way to do it.)

Just a tip, to anyone who has a similar problem.

Published in: on May 14, 2009 at 3:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sherlock Holmes and the Lost Hour

I’ve written before (not on the blog, in print) about the inherent problem of doing mystery stories in comics form. It is inherent to mysteries that details are important. Any detail which seems out of place will seem significant, and should be addressed in the mystery’s solution. In prose, you have the advantage of very tight control over what information you give the audience. In film, while mistakes are certainly possible, you have the advantage of actual physical sets and props that can be coordinated, and a staff of alert people keeping track of things. But in comics, everything is drawn, every line is an interpretation rather than a reflection of reality, and it’s very easy to accidentally create “information” that will seem significant. And if there’s a very obvious piece of dubious information, the reader can be left doubting the telling of the work rather than accepting it, thus pulling them out of the story.

I came across what appears to be a particularly egregious example of this, in the new Dynamite Entertainment comic book Sherlock Holmes, written by Leah Moore and John Reppion and drawn in a precise-if-stiff manner by Aaron Campbell. Time is very much of the issue of this story, and in a house laden with clocks, Dr. Watson sees fit to comment on this one:

Any ten oclock scholar should be able to see the problem

Any ten o'clock scholar should be able to see the problem

Now I might call that timepiece unusual, intriguing, perhaps fascinating. But for something to be a magnificent timepiece, I reckon it should be at least capable of tracking time; the inability to register ten o’clock is a harsh limitation.

We see the same timepiece later, with it’s own odd variation repeated. Had it been redrawn by hand, I would’ve figured that the apparent error was intentional, that this clock does have this curious feature. But given that the clock face digits look to be computer type, the easiest thing to do would’ve been to draw it once and copy it over.

Now I could be wrong; it may be that this was supposed to be a subtle oddity that Dr. Watson is overlooking but which Holmes will make something vital of when the moment comes (the story is not completed in this issue). But even if that’s the case, it just points up the problems that come with the inability to trust the work on the level that mystery requires.

Published in: on May 13, 2009 at 6:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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