Vampire Academy Is in Session

And the folks here at SportsAlcohol.com are team-teaching for the rest of the week, before the long Vampire Weekend. Keep an eye out up top for our full coverage. Your schedule:

First Period: Major Cultural Event: Vampire Academy (2014) 

Second Period: What Do Teenage Vampires Watch on TV? CW Series About Teenage Vampires?

Third Period: Chvrches Is Right

Fourth Period: The State of the Modern Vampire

Major Cultural Event: Vampire Academy (2014)

Before I talk about Vampire Academy, let me get some stuff out of the way:

Vampire Academy is about an academy for vampires so obviously during the movie you wonder if Vampire Academy has rival schools that play them in sports and stuff, and think of additional schools such as:

Mummy College

International School of Werewolf Studies

Frankenstein Country Day

The Gill-Man Institute of Technology

The Mortal Instruments: Campus of Bones

Unicorniversity

But apart from that train of thought, I went into Vampire Academy ready and willing to take it as seriously as I needed to take it. Most of the movie, as it turns out, is an exploration of how seriously you should be taking Vampire Academy and, by extension, the life you’ve lead that resulted in you sitting in a movie theater on a Monday night watching Vampire Academy.

The presence of who are now billed, apparently, as the Waters Brothers, suggests that one should take the movie itself seriously (because a team-up of the guy who wrote Heathers and his brother who directed Mean Girls seems so natural that it also seems like some kind of a trick) while allowing the movie itself to not take it too seriously (because Heathers and Mean Girls are both very funny movies that puncture high school melodrama with non-vampire fangs). Daniel Waters and Mark Waters are ideally equipped to make a movie that casually and charmingly tear down the romantic dopiness of the Twilight series and replace it with snappier expressions of adolescent angst.

If they ever go back and make a movie about smart-mouthed vampire teenagers at a boarding school, I still think that could happen.

But Vampire Academy is not so much a movie about smart-mouthed vampire teenagers at a boarding school as it is a budget would-be franchise-starter based on a series of popular YA novels. So yes, some of the vampires are smart-mouthed and some of them are teenagers and there is a boarding school involved, but those easily understandable descriptions are too meager for the complex, multi-generational, heavily detailed and completely fucking pointless mythology that this movie is built around.

Here is a little tip for screenwriters and YA writers and pretty much anyone putting pen to paper about teenagers and magic, years too late to save Beautiful Creatures or The Mortal Instruments or any other movie I’ve seen in the past year-plus that chokes on mythology and then turns blue and purple on screen as the mythology stays lodged the throat of its corpse:

Mythology is not cinematic.

It sounds cinematic, I know! Mythology! Maybe you picture Greek Gods or centaurs or minotaurs or Middle Earth when you hear the word! But mythology is not just the fun of centaurs and/or minotaurs. Mythology, if it is made into a crucial component of your movie, is actually just a form of exposition, or at least requires a fair amount of it. And exposition is usually non-visual information. And movies, at least in theory, are a visual medium. So while mythology may make your movie sound grand and epic, it may actually weigh your movie down with information about something that is so clearly made up that no one really needs additional information about it.

Of course, as with mythology, there are ways to cleverly work exposition into your movie. I to this day cannot believe that people have a problem with Ellen Page’s character in Inception, supposedly because she exists to have the rules of the Inceptionverse explained to her and to ask questions on behalf of the audience. But the thing is, Ellen Page’s character asks way smarter questions than I would ask about this stuff, and is also a character with thoughts and opinions, and who moves the story along quite handily. She is the proverbial new kid being shown around the cafeteria on the first day of school. Hey! Speaking of that: Mean Girls! Mark Waters directed a movie that used voiceover, exposition, and a high school version of mythology (more like anthro, I guess, but still) very, very well.

Vampire Academy goes as far as to actually tee up a cafeteria-intro scene and call attention to it, and then, I guess because Daniel Waters imagines he is poking at convention here, then doesn’t actually have that scene where we meet a bunch of Vampire Academy students, organized by lunch table. I guess he thought that would be too cliché, or beside the point, or maybe there is so much goddamned mythology in this movie that there is no room for anything else that takes up more than half a minute. It engages in a lot of “world-building” while ignoring just how much world-building the title has already done: it’s a school for vampires! Got it! Done! But this movie would rather explain the hierarchal process by which Vampire Academy administration happens to be formed than, you know, have anything to do with vampires going to boarding school.

Here’s what I was able to glean: there are three types of vampires at and around this academy, except one kind aren’t really vampires. There are the bad vampires, who are presumably not welcome to matriculate, who want to kill the pretty good royal vampires (who don’t kill humans, at least as far as we can see), and the non-vampires who protect said royal vampires. This movie is about Rose (Zoey Deutch), a non-vampire protector who has bonded with pretty good vampire Lissa (Lucy Fry). So a semi-reverse-slayer, basically. Rose can sometimes see what Lissa sees, a power that allows her to both better protect her and absorb even more exposition, in part concerning a mystery about who is trying to intimidate and/or kill Lissa and/or Rose. There are also, by my rough estimate, forty to fifty boys in the movie, subject of various crushes and entanglements that the movie finds far less interesting than the (again, by my rough estimate) one thousand different types of royal vampire families who blah blah blah blah arrrrgggghhhh. There’s one who looks like a lil’ Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, one who got my attention by also being named Jesse (SUCH a hot name right now), and then Rose naturally, by which I mean creepily, falls for the one who’s actually an adult man. In general, the I-hate-high-school backstabbing and gossiping and hooking up feels like an afterthought as Important Mythology Characters jostle for screentime with characters who might actually be funny or affecting. The gossip in Vampire Academy conceals itself within the elaborate mythology, which could be a sly joke if the delivery was remotely interesting.

Vampire Academy 2

The most disappointing thing about Vampire Academy (the movie, not the higher-ed institution) is that Zoey Deutch, who I’d never really heard of before, is quite good in it. She’s the one who displays the most frequent signs of Daniel Waters wiseassery; at least fifty percent, if not closer to seventy percent, of her wisecracks don’t really land, but they come a lot closer to landing than they should because there’s something appealingly brusque and no-nonsense about Deutch’s delivery. I may have mentioned Ellen Page earlier because Deutch has a similar fast-talking vibe, and she looks like Page crossed with Rose Byrne. Her performance and character in this particular mythology-flooded enterprise left me with the odd sensation of thinking, boy, I’d like to watch a whole movie about her instead — during a movie where she is, in fact, the main character.

So Vampire Academy isn’t painful to watch, mainly because of Deutch and the stray good lines Daniel Waters feeds her and a lucky few. But it plays uncomfortably like a pilot for a show that gets better seven or eight episodes in, shortly before its cancellation. It also gives the distinct impression that I could read Vampire Academy books all day every day and still not learn a goddamned thing about Vampire Math, Vampire Art, or Vampire Biology. I guess it’s off to Vampire Summer School for me. In related news, be sure to check out SportsAlcohol.com Presents: Vampire Summer School, coming to an e-reader just as soon as we can make up a bunch of stupid backstory.

Maybe Just Don’t Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

If you’re looking for last-minute ideas about how to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, consider this one: Just don’t. Hear me out.

Nobody Else Is Celebrating It

 

Well, nobody you want to emulate is celebrating it. The only people who make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day are kids (who are forced to give valentines to all their classmates, regardless of their true feelings), single people who want to make a big show of being self-pityingly single (or make a big show of not being self-pityingly single), and couples who are celebrating their first Valentine’s Day together. Most of the happy, long-term couples I know would rather be home re-watching the last episode of Sherlock or that insane, six-minute tracking shot from the end of last week’s True Detective again. They know they love each other—every day—and they don’t have to make a big freaking deal about it on the day that they’re told they have to make a big freaking deal about it. Not that I’m against long-term couples fêting their love for each other—it’s just a lot better for all involved if they don’t do it on Valentine’s Day. Why?

Continue reading Maybe Just Don’t Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

An Initial Evaluation of a Handful of Songs from Teeth Dreams, the New Album by the Hold Steady, as Played at Their 10th Anniversary Concert at the Music Hall of Williamsburg

AHHHHHHHHHH! THESE SONGS ARE SO AWESOME! THAT FIRST ONE WAS GREAT BUT I HEARD IT ALREADY, AND THAT SECOND ONE WAS JUST AS GOOD, BUT THE THIRD ONE WAS EVEN BETTER AND I DIDN’T THINK THAT COULD EVEN BE POSSIBLE! WHY DID I HAVE TO WAIT FOUR YEARS FOR THESE SONGS?

Wait, I waited four years for these songs? The Hold Steady has been a band for ten years? Am I really that old? Come to think of it, the crowd was jumping around a lot less and there was maybe only one beer spilled on me. Are we all getting old? Sleepy.

Mexican Roulette

In addition to writing about I, Frankenstein, I also sometimes write fiction. I’ve been working on a story recently that involves a potato gun. You might say that I am somewhat obsessed with potato guns despite little experience with them in real life. For example: years ago I wrote this extremely short story that also involves a potato gun. Now that I’ve written a second story with a potato gun, I have to either make a potato gun-themed short story collection, or maybe set this other piece aside. Or: maybe I set it free, and nothing says setting free like SportsAlcohol.com. It was either this or try to discreetly slip it into a literature textbook and get fired. Enjoy?

MEXICAN ROULETTE

Dawson, Pete, and Sophie are planning a trip to Mexico. They go over the checklist.  It’s in Sophie’s handwriting, which looks sort of like normal girl handwriting, soft and round, but messier, like if a boy possessed her hand.  Sophie is recording secretary. Sophie keeps things civil by telling people to shut up.

“Blankets.  Matches.  Juice boxes—apple.  Pillows.” Sophie reads, and Pete and Dawson nod in unison several times, until Pete looks at Dawson’s nods and stops.

“A box of change for tolls.  One BB gun.”

They are in Dawson’s van. It used to be a minivan, but he took the back seats out to make room for the stuff on the list.  It’s summer and it’s hot inside the van, but Dawson never wears shorts. Sophie would say it is because he never figured out how to look dignified in them (even though nobody has). Pete would say it is because he is an asshole. Dawson would say that he doesn’t have any shorts.

“Batteries.  Photographic film.  Marshmallows.  BBs.”

“Hold up,” says Dawson.  “BBs?”

“For the BB gun,” says Sophie.  Pete looks at the floor.

“He’s allowed to load the BB gun?”

Pete looks up. “Of course I am! BBs are on the list!”

“True,” says Sophie.

“If I thought we were gonna let him have BBs, I never would have agreed to buy that BB gun,” says Dawson.

“It was implied,” says Pete. “So I added them.”

“You doctored it!  You added BBs without my approval!”

“Shut up, Dawson.  I’ll cross them off,” says Sophie.

“Don’t cross it off.  What am I supposed to do with a BB gun and no BBs?” says Pete.

“You should’ve gone for the potato gun,” says Sophie.  “I told you.”

“No,” says Dawson.  “No way would I supply him with potatoes.”

“I would’ve brought potatoes from home.”

“You don’t have any potatoes from home.”

“Well I know where I could get some.”

“Even now, without a potato gun, potatoes aren’t on the list.  Do you think I’d put them on the list if you had a potato gun?”

“Enough!” says Sophie.  “Pete, do you have a potato gun?”

“No.”

“Do you even know where to get one?”

“Not exactly.”

“Dawson, do you even know what a potato gun looks like?”

“I saw one once.”

“Dawson, do you know?”

“No.”

“Then let’s shut up and move on.”

“If I ever get a potato gun, Dawson, I’m coming for you.”

The next night, Pete sneaks into Dawson’s bedroom with a potato gun.  This sounds impressive until you consider that Pete and Dawson live in the same apartment.  Then it sounds very simple, until you consider that Pete went outside and came back in through Dawson’s bedroom window.

“AHHHHHH – hey, is that a potato gun?” says Dawson.

“You’re goddamn right,” says Pete, immediately forgetting to use his menacing whisper.

“And it’s loaded with potatoes?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, Jesus. I’m pretty impressed.”

“Honestly, you didn’t think I could find potatoes?”

“I figured you’d spend most of your energy not being able to find a potato gun,” says Dawson.

“You figured wrong,” says Pete.

“Why did you just start whispering?” says Dawson. “Anyway, can I go back to bed now?”

“So I can bring it?”

“No,” says Dawson.

“Okay then,” says Pete. He points the potato gun at Dawson’s head. “We’re gonna play a little Idaho roulette,” says Pete.

“I don’t really see how it’s roulette,” says Dawson, “since there’s no way to partially load a potato gun. So I’m going to get it in the head no matter what, unless it jams. And knowing you, you didn’t buy a cheap potato gun. You probably cashed in a savings bond you had since you were a baby or something to get yourself the best potato gun in the catalog.”

“Website.”

“Plus shipping,” says Dawson.

“I’m a man of taste,” says Pete.
The next day, Dawson comes home from the store with bread and a flower for Sophie and sees Pete on the steps of their building with two potato guns at his sides.

“So when I told you that you couldn’t bring a potato gun,” says Dawson, “you decided to ask if you could bring two?”

“I found a way to do roulette with potato guns,” says Pete. “I have two.  One is loaded.  One isn’t.  Get the picture?”

“I get a picture,” says Dawson. “But I don’t exactly see where roulette comes in.”

“I’ll juggle the guns around and shoot you in the head with one of them.”

“But that’s not really roulette.  I’ve got a fifty-fifty shot of getting mashed in the head, and that’s assuming you don’t maintain some knowledge, subliminal or otherwise, of which gun is loaded.  I’m guessing a loaded potato gun is significantly heavier than an unloaded one.”

“Fuck it,” says Pete. “Now I’m just going to shoot you.”

Dawson’s van pulls up to the curb, driven by Sophie.  Even though they’re already looking straight at her, she leans on the horn.

“Hey boys,” she says, and honks it again.

Dawson calls over to her.  “Sophie, do you have that Super Soaker full of mustard?”

Sophie brandishes it.

“Son of a bitch,” says Pete.  “This always happens.”

“The mustard gun thing always happens?” she says to Dawson. “Were there others before me?”

“Since forever,” says Pete. “He’s taller, for one thing.  It pretty much went from there.”

Sophie looks at Dawson, and apologizes with her eyes. She open fires mustard on the crowd of two. She shows no mercy.  She gets it in Dawson’s hair. She staves off adulthood for another week.

This is the story that Dawson and Sophie tell on their wedding day six years later, about their trip to Mexico, when they first admitted to falling in love.  They get about halfway through it before Pete charges in with roman candles blazing and wrecks two centerpieces.  As Dawson’s two biggest cousins drag him away, Pete gives the first part of a magnificent toast, trailing off. Sophie takes Dawson’s hand. They look around the room, heads turning in sync, and for a moment everyone else is a stranger.

We are Social Media Human Beings!

If you’re anything like me, you are full of hate. A couple of the things you hate are social media ‘experts’ and the silly names they give themselves. Some of this hate might be borne out of jealousy because you want that job, but I wouldn’t read too much into it. 

We here at SportsAlcohol.com don’t claim to be social media gurus, ninjas, or any other moniker that reeks of cultural appropriation. We are, however, human beings and we would like you to follow us on social media. We are Social Media Human Beings! Here is but a sampling of our fine social media offerings:

Continue reading We are Social Media Human Beings!

Improve Your Life with Our Apps

The Super Bowl is Sunday, and because SportsAlcohol.com is a hard-charging tech company and a thousand times better than Apple and Cyderdyne combined, we need you to know that we have the best Super Bowl apps available in our app store. Although our site is still soft-launching, the app store is hard-launched and completely perfect.

Maybe just don’t watch The Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl this year looks really good. Like really good. As Nate Silver noted on Colbert earlier in the week, this year is only the eighth time the two best teams have faced off against each other. He called it a pick ’em. In addition to statisticians, sports books and video game simulations think it’s going to be a very close (and therefore exciting) game. We even have some lovely apps in our app store to help you enjoy the game better.

That being said, I’m nothing if not difficult. I think I’m going to probably skip out this year. Maybe you should join me. Here is why:

Continue reading Maybe just don’t watch The Super Bowl?

Close Encounters of the Tubby Kind

This story was originally written for a 10th grade English class.

Roy Bellows winced as the scalding soup spilled over the edges of the green plastic bowl onto his hands, and he flung the bowl onto the tile below him. As he nursed his blistered fingers, he looked down at the mess he had caused and cursed himself. Suddenly, he cocked his head and looked at the overturned bowl again. Something about the half a sphere protruding from the floor fascinated him. Instead of mopping up the soup that covered the floor he went to the cupboard and got another green bowl. He set it down right next to the first one and studied what he saw. Acting on a sudden impulse, he used a modeling knife to cut the outer edges of the bowl off and slid them together to connect them. He felt an absurd wave of pleasure course through him, but immediately it left him in favor of puzzlement. Why had this image suddenly come to him?

Over the next few weeks, Roy found himself continually being drawn to this shape, this image. He doodled it on the comic section of the newspaper every morning, he sculpted the connected hemispheres in ice cream sundaes and even mashed potatoes, and he even went as far to erect a diorama of this structure on a grassy field on the floor of his usually well kept apartment.

Now in addition to being a compulsive idiot, Roy was also portly, middle aged, near-sighted, single, and lazy. It was because of his inherent indolence that he would take frequent breaks while constructing his diorama to peruse the fine public programming to be found on PBS during the daytime. One of his viewing choices was eventually a children’s program called “Teletubbies.” Now if you’ve ever seen this show you most likely can attest to the strange call the vibrant colors and cutesy-poo situations exert on the unsuspecting viewer.

Roy sat entranced as Tinky Winky (the largest, purple Teletubby), Dipsy (the green, and next largest of the Teletubbies), Laa Laa (the yellow Teletubby), and Po (the smallest, red Teletubby) frolicked and had a merry old time in Teletubbyland with the rabbits and the flowers. Roy could not tear his attention away from the program until it had concluded.

Whether he became aware of it or not, Roy soon began to make it a daily ritual of staying home from his job as a patent attorney, working on his double-domed diorama, and turning the television on for a break just in time for the Teletubbies (which he watched, regardless of the endless repetition, all the way through every day). After 16 days of sitting in a darkened room with the blinds pulled close, and his rapt attention focused on the antics of Tinky Winky and the gang, he almost fell out of his chair from a sudden and ominous realization. As the Teletubbies continued to gallivant across his television set, he looked back at his diorama. He glanced back at the television to get a look at the building the Teletubbies called home and, his suspicions confirmed, he turned back to his sculpture. All this time he had been obsessing over the Tubbytronic Superdome, the house of the Teletubbies!

Shocked he turned back to the show and felt his troubles melt away as Dipsy scrubbed his feet with his Tubbysponge. In spite of the deep surprise he had just felt and the turmoil it had caused in his life, he felt perfectly content to continued watching until Tubby Bye-Bye. He didn’t seem to find it odd at all that as the baby in the sun squealed and set on the television show he became extremely drowsy and drifted off into a deep sleep.

He became aware that he was lying face down on an odd metal operating table without any clothes on. He could hear a soothing voice somewhere out of sight, in the inky darkness surrounding him on all sides say, “Okay, Tinky Winky, time to insert the Tubbyprobe.”

Roy awoke with a start and shook the bizarre dream out of his mind. He drifted back to sleep.

He became aware that he was lying face down on an odd metal operating table without any clothes on. He could hear a soothing voice somewhere out of sight, in the inky darkness surrounding him on all sides say, “Okay, Dipsy, time to insert the Tubbyprobe.”

Roy’s eyes again burst open as he tried to think of something else. As he attempted to keep his mind on a different subject, he fell back asleep.

He became aware that he was lying face down on an odd metal operating table without any clothes on. He could hear a soothing voice somewhere out of sight, in the inky darkness surrounding him on all sides say, “Okay, Laa Laa, time to insert the Tubbyprobe.”

Roy fell off the couch and muttered to himself wondering what on earth was going on. Before he could even pick himself up off of the ground, he had fallen asleep again.

Roy became aware that he was lying face down on an odd metal operating table without any clothes on. He could hear a soothing voice somewhere out of sight, in the inky darkness surrounding him on all sides say, “Okay, Po, time to insert the Tubbyprobe.”

Roy awoke and stood up, confused and shuddering at the memory of the dream. He ran to the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face.

The next day, he went back to work and was quite exhausted after having to catch up with all of his work and after spending the morning being berated by his boss. He felt a twinge of disappointment when he realized that he had missed the Teletubbies. He ate dinner, took a shower, and settled down to bed. No sooner had his eyes closed than he was being pulled out of his bed and carried above the heads of his abductors as they ran to the window and jumped out.

Roy gasped and sat up in bed as he ran over the events of the dream in his mind again. He rubbed his eyes and laid down again as he drifted back into unconsciousness.

He hurtled out his window, held aloft by his kidnappers, but the glass didn’t shatter as they passed through it, and as they entered the outside air, they rose up into the night sky. His abductors let go of him and as they fell upwards faster and faster he could see them and realized that they were Teletubbies! He looked up, and saw a gaping hole in the sky that he was being sucked into. Some kind of tractor beam seemed to be pulling him into the giant Tubbycruiser overhead, and as he entered the hole, it hissed shut behind him, and he felt the sensation of extreme speed as he was grabbed by strong, but fuzzy arms and thrown into a cell that was lined with what appeared to be unbreakable glass. Now the images in Roy’s dream started to flash by in rapid succession, and he was surprised to find he could understand, with surreal clarity, everything he saw.

He seemed to have been taken to the actual Teletubbyland. He was herded into a metal dungeon in the bowels of the real Tubbytronic Superdome along with a group of about ten other men and women. Every now and then they were let out into the field to stretch and exercise, but a Teletubby that they didn’t ever seem to show on the television program was in charge of them. He was named Jumbly Jombly and was colored black. He had a pentagram-shaped protuberance coming out of the top of his head, and a nasty green whip that he used to keep the abductees in line.

Roy remembered watching as the Teletubbies feasted on Tubbycustard and Tubbytoast, while the humans were given warm water and Tubbygruel. Periodically, groups of people were led out of the dungeon, while other groups were led in. Soon, it was Roy’s turn to go, and he followed as Dipsy led the prisoners with Po taking up the rear with Jumbly Jombly’s whip. A variety of experiments were performed, utilizing various Tubby instruments, but the most horrific of all came last. All the experimental patients were laid on medical tables and fastened down as a strange shuffling creation made its way out of the shadows. This mechanical monster had a hose coming from its face that moved of its own accord. Horribly bulging eyes were to be found atop this robotic terror, roving around crazily. The patient at the end of the row of tables began to struggle in abject horror as the monstrous vacuum machine scuttled toward him. Tinky Winky and Laa Laa set about removing the skull of the patient above their ears, exposing the brain. The vacuum, which the Teletubbies called Noo Noo, extended its hose towards the brain and sucked it right out of the skull. Roy felt the contents of his stomach heave, and watched in a kind of perverse fascination as an unintelligible analysis tumbled from Noo Noo as he moved to his next victim. Roy began to fear for his own brain, and trembled in his bonds awaiting his turn, which never came…never came…never came.

Roy was returned to his home and the Tubbycruiser hovered off to collect a new sampling of the human race. As he settled back into his bed in his dream, he sat bolt upright in bed quivering in abhorrence of the images in his dream. He wondered what on earth was wrong with him.

Suddenly, a deafening pounding shook his door in its frame, and made the hinges creak. He rushed to the door and unfastened the bolts and the door swung wide. Strange men wearing trenchcoats and snap-brimmed hats walked inside and Roy gaped at them in amazement.

“Are you from the government?” Roy asked, his voice faltering and the strange men giggled with high-pitched voices. The tallest one stepped forward and removed his hat and coat to reveal…Tinky Winky! Roy gasped in horror.

“My dreams…,” he whispered. “They were real?”

“Yes,” Tinky Winky growled as he stepped forward menacingly. “We abducted you, but you survived. Your brain tissue was left intact.”

“Why?”

“The great windmill declared that we had enough data. You weren’t needed.”

“What do you want?”

“We want good ratings!” Tinky Winky said, and all four Teletubbies erupted into a fit of giggling.

“The youth of this world is being indoctrinated into accepting our eventual colonization of your planet, and the subjugation of your inferior race.”

“That’s horrible!” Roy exclaimed. Suddenly, the shortest figure stepped forward and revealed himself as Po. He angrily bobbed up and down, waving his arms and shouted, “Dammit, Tinky Winky, why don’t you just kill the poor bastard?!?”

Roy’s eyes glanced terrified from side to side, “What are you talking about?” Then, Tinky Winky reached into his coat and pulled out his magical bag. He reached inside it, whipped out his Tubbyblaster, and leveled it squarely between Roy’s eyes.

“Time for Tubby Bye-Bye,” he said as the rest of the Teletubbies took a step backwards.

“Uh-oh,” they said together. Giggling madly, Tinky Winky pulled the Tubbytrigger.

Noo Noo

I Am Not That Into Sherlock’s “The Sign of Three,” Because I Am a Monster Who Has No Heart

N.B.: This post will hypocritically complain about Sherlock spoilers while simultaneously containing Sherlock spoilers. Away with you if you haven’t seen up to the second episode of the third season.

COMMUNITY -- "Geothermal Escapism" Episode 504 -- Pictured: (l-r) Danny Pudi as Abed, Donald Glover as Troy -- (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

Before We Get to Sherlock, Let’s Talk About Community

 

Hmm, this seems like an unrelated topic. I wonder where I’m going with all this.

But hear me out: Community is a fine show, to be sure. But it’ll never work its way into my (cold, possibly absent) heart the way the best of its NBC brethren (i.e. 30 Rock) has. Why? Because it insists on being a comedy with heart, only it keeps hitting the same emotional beat over and over again. Far too many episodes boil down something threatening the friend group, and the group deciding that, yes, their friendship is more important than whatever was threatening it.

This was effective in the beginning, where there really was a transition from a randomly assembled study group to a real circle of friends. But a couple seasons in, they were still affirming their relationships. And a couple seasons after that, they still are.

Think I’m wrong? Take this season’s premiere. The Community characters are not even a study group anymore. They’re people who legitimately know each other outside of school. And yet, something threatens their friendship: Jeff manipulates the rest of the group into suing Greendale. And he almost gets away with it…until he decides that, yes, their friendship is more important than his professional success. (Have we seen this episode before?) And instead of suing the school, he convinces them all to re-enroll in it, and re-form the study group.

It just gets emotionally repetitive.

Sherlock-Bench

Now, to Complain About Sherlock a Little

 

I’m still not talking about “The Sign of Three” yet. Just go with it, because you love my roguish qualities.

I watched the previous two seasons of Sherlock on Netflix. I saw the first episode of the first season while Jesse was out of town, and decided it was so good that I’d wait for him to come back, make him watch it, and continue the season with him. The second season came and went on the BBC, and then came and went on PBS, and then finally came to Netflix, where we watched it at our leisure. At no point was I subjected to spoilers.

Sometime in between the second and third seasons, something changed. Now there are bits of Sherlock information floating around in the ether, ready to spoil me at a moment’s notice. Not only that, it seemed like everyone downloaded the episodes as soon as they hit the BBC, so I had to be worried about being spoiled for a show that hadn’t even aired in the United States yet. My choices were these:

1) Be like everyone else and download the episodes, and either watch them on a screen of sub-optimal size or on my regular TV but of the sub-optimal watching-a-web-video-on-my-TV quality.

2) Watch the episodes on PBS, and cross my fingers that a) the downloaders won’t spoil everything and b) PBS didn’t cut the episodes down, as they did the previous two seasons.

3) Wait until the season comes to Netflix, where I can once again watch the uncut episodes at my leisure. Resign myself to knowing everything that happens before I get to watch it for myself.

I went with Option No. 2, and it seems to be working out. The episodes don’t look like they’ve been shortened, and I’ve only been spoiled for minor things. But, obviously, I resent having to make the choice. We only get three Sherlock episodes a season, people. After they’re done, who knows when Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman will be available to shoot another season together? I wanted to spread the episodes out and make the season last as long as possible. Instead, I feel pressured to blow through the entire season in three weeks, and wait however long to blow through the next season in three weeks, and so on.

This is just another example of how…

Sherlock-Moriarty

Fans Are the Worst

 

I should be more specific. When creators listen to their fans, it’s the worst.

Not to go off on yet another tangent, but the big, archetypical example of this—at least around the SportsAlochol.com office—is the Veronica/Logan relationship on Veronica Mars. They’re so much more interesting apart than together, and yet fans somehow bullied the show into keeping them together for longer than was useful.

For a more relevant example, think back “The Empty Hearse,” the season premiere of Sherlock. What was the worse thing about it? If you’re like me, your answer probably has something to do with Anderson—especially his little club of people speculating about how Sherlock is alive. I’d say the worst moment was the imagined Sherlock/Moriarty kiss. It was an elbow-to-the-ribs kind of joke, and it was so, so cheesy. The club is clearly a stand-in for Sherlock fans, and the kiss was total fan service. Did that moment deserve a guffaw, a laugh, or even a chuckle? Sherlock should be better than that.

Sherlock-DrunkDeductions

Which Brings Me, Finally, to “The Sign of Three”

 

I know—I took a roundabout way of getting to the point. Kind of like Sherlock’s interminable wedding toast in “The Sign of Three.”

I’m not saying I hated the episode. All Sherlock episodes are good. I enjoyed the lighter tone of “The Sign of Three” (“the elephant in the room”), along with the clever way the seemingly unrelated cases he mentioned all came to bear at the wedding. I especially adored Sherlock’s drunken deductions. (“Egg? Chair? Sitty thing?”) My problem wasn’t even with the notion that the cases hinged on two people not feeling fatal stab wounds, though I found that kind of unbelievable.

No, my problem was with the excess of gooey emotion between Watson and Sherlock. (I know, I know: monster, no heart, etc. Send all hate mail to rob@sportsalochol.com.)

The idea that Sherlock is a damaged sociopath who is only redeemed through Watson’s love is one that should be used in the show very sparingly. In “The Sign of Three,” it was overused. So many moments were there just to make you go “awww.” We get the mushy parts of Sherlock’s Best Man toast. We get the flashback to when Watson asks Sherlock to be his Best Man, and thus affirm that Sherlock is his best friend. We get Sherlock’s heartfelt violin-playing for Watson and Mary’s first dance. We get Watson saying, “She has completely turned my life around. There are only two people who have ever done that.” (Clutch your hearts, non-monsters who still have them!) And we get the sad way Sherlock slinks out of the wedding, even though he loves to dance, because he has no one to dance with—despite the fact that people don’t really dance exclusively as couples to fast songs at weddings, and no one was dancing with Mrs. Hudson. Manufactured emotion, Sherlock!

If all of these “awww” moments weren’t enough, it all comes after a season premiere that ends with a big, cathartic speech about Watson’s feelings for Sherlock—a speech that starts with Watson saying how hard it is to talk about his feelings for Sherlock. To me, it seems like he actually can’t shut up about them.

It’s not that I’m totally disinterested in these kinds of emotional scenes. I found the end of “The Reichenbach Fall,” the last episode of the second season, to be hugely moving. Watson’s speech at Sherlock’s grave got me, man. I had Feelings-with-a-capital-F. I still do when I think about it. But I only found it so effective because scenes like that, up to that point, had been so rare throughout the series. I’m afraid I’m going to become numb to them.

That might be the goal for some people. It’s clear that, for some fans, reveling in the Watson/Sherlock relationship is the main appeal of the show. But Sherlock should resist, because giving fans what they want is the quickest way to ruin something. If Sherlock pauses every episode—possibly multiple times an episode—to reaffirm that the friendship between Watson and Sherlock is more important than whatever is threatening it (Moriarty, marriage), it’ll stop being great. It’ll be Community. (Look! All the threads came together, just like I planned from the start.)

Conclusion: The tenderness of the Watson and Sherlock relationship is like salt. A little bit of it brings out the flavor of the entire thing. Too much leaves a bad taste in your mouth.