Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why NBC's "Awake" Needed to be Cancelled

I am a fan of actor BD Wong. So when I heard he was ending his position as Law and Order: SVU's Dr. Huang I was very sad. I was, however, excited to know he would be in a new show on NBC called "Awake."

Awake is a strange show about Detective Michael Britten who has been in a car accident and now he doesn't sleep. In fact, instead of sleeping he lives in two different worlds. In one world his wife lived, but his son died, and in the other his wife died and his son lived. The thing is, when he falls asleep in one world, he wakes up in another. Soon, parts of his cases begin overlapping. He is now solving both cases at the same time, using evidence from each life.

Unique concept, yeah? Too bad it hasn't worked out. It's being cancelled after just one season, and a lot of people are really upset about this.

Except apparently I'm in the minority; I really and truly understand why Awake was cancelled.

Television shows have three plots to them - a running subplot for the season, a running subplot for the series, and the plot. Think about it like a car. The television show is supposed to be the vehicle. It could be a simple number like a Subaru with minimal frills and add-ons (think of this like NCIS - what you see is what you get), or something really fancy with onboard navigation and other bells and whistles like the Infinity EX35 (I watch way too much Top Gear).

Either way, in every episode a different plot is driving the car. The subplot should be a respectful passenger riding shotgun - quiet, contributes to the conversation, is enjoyable to ride with, and doesn't dictate how the plot should be driving. The series subplot should be like the sleeping kid in the backseat. They're snoring softly so we don't forget they're there, but they're only contributing to the road trip by existing. In Awake, there is no season subplot, so the series subplot is sitting in the passenger seat and going on like an annoying backseat driver: It wants to drive the show instead of letting the plot do so.

Awake's subplot quickly took over the show, and the plot shifted into the passenger seat - bad move if you want the show to last. What we like about a subplot is that it runs the entire length of the series and we wait for it to be resolved. SyFi's Eureka does (soon to be "did") this brilliantly. The series subplot is an undercurrent of sexual tension between various characters and the friendships and relationships they form. Every season of Eureka has a different subplot to it that just happens to be there. Last season it was a preparation for the Astraeus mission. It quietly sat there, existing but allowing other plots (like Eureka's bank literally floating away) to be the primary focus of the episode. 

Awake quickly became all about the subplot of Britten's condition instead of about the cases he was solving. The subplot developed too quickly - the series finale was tonight and there wasn't much of a surprise twist to me, despite promises that it would have one. I guessed the ending about six weeks or so ago.

Awake could have been a hit. It had all of the potential to do so. It had an undercurrent of conspiracy theories (like the X-Files), a bit of something unusual (the quantum mechanics theory known as the Many-Worlds Interpretation), and a potential for a great crime drama. It's a shame the subplot took over. I would have loved to have seen how the writers planned on developing the concept. 

Awake would have been fantastic as a mini-series, not a multi-season show. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dear Cat

... I've noticed that recently you've become remarkably adept at giving me dirty looks. When I decide to take a cute picture of you instead of petting you,

when I tell you to stop trying to eat my lily plant on the patio because it can make you sick, when I wake you up to get you off my bed so I can sleep,

and then when I tell you that no, you may not sleep in my room because you don't sleep, you walk all over my sensitive bits, you look at me like you're a teenager and I'm some out of touch parent that's ruining your life. 

Yes, I know it's your apartment and I just live here. But if we're going to be roommates then I'm going to have to insist upon a few ground rules. 

1) You are not to give me dirty looks when I am doing Things That Are Not Petting The Cat such as sleeping, eating, preparing food, cleaning out your litterbox, working, and standing up.
2) You are not to sit outside my bathroom, crying to be let in and shoving your paws under the door.
3) You are to...


Hehe... what was I saying? Was it something important? Must not have been. Oh, just keep being adorable, kitty. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Yet Another Video Game Review

I'm sorry I haven't gotten on and blogged lately. You can blame my new videogame obsession.

See, the newest Humble Bundle came out, and with it came the premiere of Amanita Designs' newest game, Botanicula.

I would say this is my favorite game that Amanita has produced to date.

Botanicula is a puzzle/adventure game about a group of plant friends who are on a mission to save the last star tree in the world (I honestly don't know what to call it. The problem with all of Amanita's games is that none of the characters use actual words) from these evil spider creatures that suck the life out of everything around them. While they do this, they attempt to right as many of the spiders' wrongs as they can along the way.

Typically of Amanita Designs, the game is visually stunning. Amanita almost seems to be attempting to blur the line between video games and art. Here are a couple screen shots from Botanicula:

Look at those. They are art, plain and simple. When you add in the beautiful music, Botanicula is much more than just a piece of entertainment. And the beauty of Botanicula is that the game is almost magical.

But that's just it, though. These sorts of visually beautiful games are not limited to one of Amanita Designs' games. This is actually quite typical of them. Here's a shot from Machinarium:

Here's one from Samarost:

And here's one from Windowsill.

The fact is, everything they do is remarkably beautiful. Even if it isn't detailed, the game play is smooth,  intuitive, and fluid. I recommend just about everything they've put out. The four I've mentioned here are only a few of the games Amanita Designs has produced.

The visuals aren't the only thing that's inherently beautiful about the design. In every game I keep hoping for a soundtrack that I can listen to when I'm walking around. They have fit the music to the scene perfectly.

You can currently get Machinarium, Botanicula, Samarost 2, and Windowsill with the Humble Bundle.

Special thanks to gamrReview for the screenshots I used. 
Creative Commons License
Help, The Stash is Attacking! When Yarn, Knitting and Growing Up Go Terribly Awry by Kimberly Lewis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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