Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Spy...

...with my little eye, an massive boost in spy television in recent years. Since our beloved show went off the air, scores of new spy-related programming has emerged. JJ Abrams himself has been on-board for many of these projects. This only pushes me to wonder what our obsession is with the spy world? Is it the idea that living among us as secret heroes, traipsing the planet, protecting our freedoms right under our noses? Or is it the constant chase? The notorious, elusive bad guy and the thrill of his (or her) ability to get away and present the next challenge? Let's take a look at some of the other television shows that have revealed the confidential work of the CIA, the FBI, MI6, the KGB, etc. Let's take a look at society as a whole, the population or demographic of the audiences who tune in to these programs. And let's explore why some of these shows, like 24 and Burn Notice have succeeded, while others have failed. I am back and we got some talking to do...


Page48 said...

I think the spy genre has massive appeal for lots of reasons, but primarily, I think it's the need we all have to feel more alive than we normally do.

For most of us, the most exciting thing we can look forward to all week is maybe trying a new restaurant. Who doesn't want more than that, BUT without any real risk to our personal well being?

Spy shows, like "Alias" are as close as most of us are willing to go to know what it feels like to almost get killed, to hear a bullet whiz by our ears, knowing it was intended for us.

Who doesn't want to know what it feels like to almost get caught, knowing that some freak with a set of pliers would love nothing more than to pull our teeth in an effort to extract valuable information.

Who doesn't like the idea of being 'in the know', knowing that while suburbia beds down for the night, feeling safe in the knowledge that there will be a tomorrow, we could be the ones who, by our tireless and anonymous efforts determine whether or not that tomorrow actually comes to pass?

Who doesn't want to go to work and know that some nerd is working day and night to develop the coolest tech ever designed, and WE get to use it?

I think the whole spy genre just pokes holes in the notion that most of us comfy, middle-class couch potatoes have any idea what it means to feel the rush of being truly alive, and this is the only way we're going to get there without putting our asses on the line.

Girlscout said...

I agree. I think the appeal of all TV programming is the feeling of escape, forgetting your real life, and totally giving into the lives of fictional characters. I mean, I remember being relieved and happy and excited and squealing the moment Sydney met Vaughn's arms in the middle of SD6. We get to feel a whole array of emotions in a one hour sitting, perhaps emotions we wouldn't normally feel, or feel to that degree. So we continue to tune in for that rush, to see what happens next. To live a little, while just sitting on the couch.

Page48 said...

I would add that most of us see all of the outrageous behaviour of evil regimes or groups around the world playing out on the news channels every day, and we can't do anything about it.

Our favourite spies or special forces characters can and DO do something about it, and I think, at least for an hour a week, we allow ourselves to be tricked into thinking that real-life wrongs are being righted in a way that feels satisfying to us.

Page48 said...

After only 1 eppie, I will go on record as saying that I believe "Revolution" will, at some point down the road, play the "Mom?" card.

I mean, we're told that Mummy Rachel is dead, but does anybody believe it's so? Did they hire Elizabeth Mitchell to appear only in flashback form? I'm just sayin'.

We've already seen the "Mom?" card dropped 3 times in the last 2 years ("Chuck", "Grimm", H50), so it's not much of a stretch to think it might happen in yet another JJ Abrams show. Then again, maybe that's too obvious.

SRM said...

So I meant to watch the premiere of Revolution...and forgot. :-| Any good? Worth watching online?

Page48 said...

SRM, I watched the sneak peek version of the "Revolution" pilot a while ago, when NBC began streaming it, and I watched it again on TV this week.

It's drawn both praise and criticism (surprise, surprise). I thought it was respectable, but it was certainly not in JJ's top 2 when it comes to TV pilots. In fact, as far as JJ is concerned, it was basically hands off as he did not write or direct.

The criticism mostly seems to stem from the unlikely premise, which is easily overcome by the usual suspension of disbelief. Also a target of some critics is the acting of the young woman who plays Charlie. I confess that I found fault with her as well, but who knows, she may improve.

Personally, I'm less concerned about the shaky aspects of the premise than I am about how compelling the mystery is going to be. Fans of Eric Kripke seem to love him, so I'll give him time to win me over.

All of this amounts to: I don't think this will ever be my favourite show but, for now, it's too soon to announce a verdict.

Page48 said...

Pondering the idea of what makes some spy shows riveting, and others revolting.

Our favourite spies (Bristow, Weston, Bauer) all seem to have serious Daddy issues, if not both Daddy AND Mommy issues.

Who didn't have Daddy issues? Steven and Samantha Bloom ("Undercovers") didn't seem to have any issues. They appeared to be perfect and where did it get them? About 13 episodes.

What I draw from that is that we like our spies psychologically wounded, seemingly at a disadvantage, and yet able to set all that baggage aside for the greater good.

We love rooting for an underdog. Sydney cries and throws her pager in the ocean. Bauer settles down with Connie Britton, but he's not allowed to enjoy that happiness for long. Weston is burned, the CIA is out to destroy him.

Still, there's a world of difference between "24" and "Alias" and "Burn Notice". The latter is full of USA's Blue Sky formula, with affable characters and good natured banter. "24" is full of Jack torturing and being tortured. "Alias" is a combination of rock video, sci-fi, over-the-top (but in a good way) spy action. There is obviously more than one way to skin a cat in the spy genre.

Meanwhile, the Blooms are enjoying a private lingerie party at home. "Undercovers" had no sci-fi, no big bad, no flawed heroes, no weekly cliffhanger, etc... And, JJ thought this was a good idea because.........??????

Page48 said...

And, what conversation about gifted spies with issues would be complete without mentioning the CIA's very own bi-polar basket case, Carrie Mathison?

Isn't the ultimate burden to be right when everyone else just thinks you're nuts?

uncle111 said...

Got to get caught up around here!

uncle111 said...

Good analysis Page. I keep wanting to use a line from 1776 where delegate Stephen Hopkins from Rhode Island tended to start stating his opinion with the phase, "As the oldest man in Congress..."

I remember vividly watching the first episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I was 12 years old and it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. Spies who could do anything jetting around the world using cool weapons, fighting skills and their brains to save the world every week from one of a never ending slew of evil geniuses. The effect it had on me never completely went away.

The TV spies of this decade are much more realistic, and the gadgets are not so much science fiction as just a year or two ahead of current technology, but the struggle, mixed with a degree of humor is still the same. We know there is danger waiting to get us and we are glad there are people whose lives are dedicated to working in the shadows to keep us safe. And, at least in our minds, we kind of want to participate.

SRM said...

So that's kinda weird, all the comments about Alias on Netflix have disappeared? Anyway, I don't think the DVDs are HD, but I'm not positive. Also, rest assured Phase One does indeed start with Back in Black. ;-)

Page48 said...

SRM, I know this isn't what you're referring to by "comments about Alias on Netflix", but I can't get over some of the ridiculous comments on the Netflix site itself regarding "Alias".

Here's a classic sample:

"Okay, for anyone who thought the series Nikita had too much action, this show is the much slower version for you. For anyone who thought dollhouse had too many story lines or too many attractive actors and actresses, this series is perfect for you.Seriously, after watching other similar series before this one was my biggest mistake. Because this one is disappointing in comparison. Had I watched this first, maybe it wouldn't have bored me to tears.I can't believe some people reviewing this call it, "Full of action". No, it isn't and the action that is there is contrived and non-suspenseful in comparison to others in this niche. Extremely predictable outcomes, poor music choices and mediocre acting make this series a poor choice. Unless you call Jennifer Gardner's same, open mouthed, shocked expression in several scenes per episode acting.I actually liked her in other stuff, not here." Rating 1 star out of 5.

To which I say: "Dude, give your head a shake".