Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Year I Discovered Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV

I always like to write a New Years post, but characteristically, I'm late. I try not to do the same thing every year. And as pretty much anyone who has met me can attest, I'm a nerd. I was one as a kid, in high school, through college, and when I decided to pursue a doctorate. But video games, comic books, and film were always my choice mediums. As such, I made little time for television. Generally, the only shows I watched growing up were cartoons with my younger brothers while eating an after-school snack before hitting the books for the evening. Surprisingly, though, I watched little to no science fiction or fantasy shows, even the ones my friends enjoyed. I tried to keep up with The X-Files for awhile, but it got weird when Mulder died or whatever.

In the last couple of years, though, my wife Veronica, who grew up with shows like Xena and Farscape, was slowly shared her affections with me, encouraging me to try shows I never would have before. This hit a peak in 2013.

Doctor Who

Anyone who follows me on Facebook knows that Veronica and I are now in love with this show, but we've been fans for barely more than a year, finally sitting down to try it out near the end of 2012. Finally, on our much needed Winter break, after our first joint-semester of grad school, we spent the first couple of weeks of 2013 binge-watching the Doctor gallivanting across time and space from the warmth of our couch.

We had put off watching the show for a long time; it spent years in our Netflix Instant queue, but the timing for a brand new show never seemed right. We were working our way through other, shows like Criminal Minds, The Office, and such. But I'm glad we waited; something about the timing (grad school, a new city, and the need to recharge our batteries together) made it important. Once school started again, the only time we had to watch the show together was Sunday mornings, thus beginning a semester long tradition of starting our only morning together with breakfast, coffee, and an episode of Doctor Who before going off again. As such, the show became the thing I most looked forward to every week. We finished what was available online before summer, anxiously awaiting for the most recently-ended season to come out on DVD before the 50th Anniversary special, for which we awaited anxiously along with our first Christmas special.

Aside from the significance of it being "our show" now, it wouldn't be so if it wasn't just excellent. We love everything about it from the writing to the characters to the music. I love the lessons of tolerance, non-violence, and the value placed on intelligence. And we'll continue to follow it, now catching up on the classic episodes available online.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I remember seeing the Buffy movie in theatres in elementary school and loving it but thinking the TV show was dumb in high school. Part of it, again, was that I wasn't much into TV, let alone fantasy stuff. But I dutifully gave it a shot, since my friends like it and Sarah Michelle Gellar was "like, so hot!" Looking back though, I think that's why I couldn't take it seriously. As a very pompous teenager, I prided myself on not being an average teenage guy, and from the few episodes I watched (I specifically remember the one in which Xander almost gets eaten by a sexy teacher/giant praying mantis), I felt like the creators of the show (forgive me, Joss Whedon) were pandering to what I, a teenage boy, was supposed to find entertaining.

Now a pop culture scholar, it seems I can't go to any conference without hearing or reading about how excellent the show is and empowering Buffy was for when the show aired--the beginnings of Whedon's reputation for writing complex female roles into nearly all of his scripts. So I decided it was time to give the show another try; it became my Sunday night background show while I did laundry and prepared for Monday classes.

So far, I've only made it through the 1st season, and I have to be honest, it's not my favorite. But I can already see why it was and still is so popular. The writing's clever, and the pop culture references are great (especially now that they're so dated). So I'm convinced I need to keep watching and see where it goes, though I may never get on the level of actually writing about the show myself.

Once Upon a Time

In all honesty, this became our Doctor Who hiatus show. We'd been hearing a lot of good things about it, and finally gave it a shot when Netflix added it to streaming. Veronica, who still loves all of her Disney princesses, had to nudge me, and I relented not expecting to like it. But even I have to admit, it's cute, clever, and does a good job of pulling you in with complex, if a little cliche, characters (though what would expect from fairy tale archetypes?).

We watched pretty steadily through the first season and then breaked once the semester became too busy for us to sit down for hour-long episodes of anything. Still, this is another one I would have never enjoyed before now, without Veronica's subtle encouragement. Now, as one who studied heroic archetypes in my Master's thesis, I enjoy seeing what's being done known characters, even/especially if it's all kind of silly.

You could make a drinking game around Emma's awkward face :-)


This is another one people had been urging us to watch for years, and for years, it's been in our Netflix queue. Then it happened, on New Years Eve. Veronica declared that to celebrate bringing in the New Year, we should start a new show. And while we technically only watched a couple of episodes in 2013, our time on Tumblr pretty much made us feel like we'd been watching longer.

And we immediately loved it, spending the first couple of weeks of 2014 binge-watching Sam and Dean hunting, fornicating, and sharing brotherly feels around the USA--noticing a pattern here. And sure, the whole "cursed brothers" thing is a little over dramatic, but the writers keep it fresh by occasionally tossing the boys into ridiculous situations--my favorite being the episode that's actually a pilot for a ghost-hunting show called Ghostfacers!

"Ghost! Ghostfacers!
We face the ghosts when others will not, we're-
Ghost! Ghostfacers!
Stay in the kitchen when the kitchen gets hot!"

Shows to Come in 2014:

I'm almost ashamed to admit that we're more than half-way through the episodes of Supernatural on Netflix, so we'll likely be returning to Once Upon a Time as well as giving Torchwood and some other British series a more serious look. We enjoyed the first couple of episodes of Being Human but never got around to continuing it. The apparent obsession that is Battlestar Galatica also looms over our heads. And Veronica's been begging me to watch Hercules with her but baby steps. Sunday mornings have, once again, been dedicated to Doctor Who, though for now, we're limiting ourselves to what's on Netflix, which is far from complete--kind of like a primer on Doctor's 1 through 7. And of course, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones will be returning shortly, but I think we watch those mostly to stay current and have an opinion.

This never gets old :-)
Regardless, I'm psyched to discover this new world of storytelling that I've yet to adequately explore in any medium. But I'm getting there.

Questions? Quibbles? Controversies?


Beth said...

Keep me posted on your thoughts on Once Upon a Time as you continue. I was really into it when it started. Then I got bored, but kept up with it because it was good background noise for grading and planning. Now I'm kind of into it again and wish it would hurry up and come back so I can see what happens next. It's a strange cycle! Have you watched any Once Upon a Time in Wonderland? Sometimes I think I like it better.

NPR did a short, but interesting piece on Doctor Who and how he's a hero who uses non-violence and intelligence to win: and it said a lot of the things you just said! It makes me want to eventually get around to watching it, but I'm not sure I've been in the right mood for that yet, so for now it's still sitting in my Netflix queue.

Ben Villarreal said...

OUAT is good for background noise, so we may continue it with that in mind. But we didn't get to see the Alice one yet, but hopefully it'll also be on Netflix before too long :-)

Thanks for the NPR story! That was great, and I really hope the character maintains it's popularity in American culture as well as British for all the reasons she listed. But you definitely have to be in the right place to start watching it, because it's really unlike anything we have here in the States. I can honestly say that I would not have liked it as much had we tried to watch it sooner :-/

Eric Camarillo said...

This is really funny because I've been getting into sci-fi stuff, too.I mean, I'm always kind of into shows like that, but I've going a little deeper. Battlestar Galactica is really amazing, but there are points where it borders on the lugubrious. Supernatural is one of my favorite shows, but I've really fallen behind recently. I've also gotten into the X-Files.

Also, how does Veronica like Farscape. I watched the first episode, but I'm not sure if I should continue.

I'm on the fence about Dr. Who. I've seen a couple of episodes, but there hasn't really been anything to pull me in. Maybe I'll give it another shot this weekend.

Ben Villarreal said...

I got back into X-Files in 2012, Eric. I randomly caught a Halloween marathon on BBC America that year and couldn't believe how amazing the first season was. So I've been slowly working my way through that too :-)

Supernatural IS amazing!

All let Veronica field the Farscape question :-)

Doctor Who really is an acquired taste :-)


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin