Years ago, I had read that Cowboy Bebop might have been one of the influences on the making of the TV show Firefly. Being a big fan of Firefly, you would have thought that I would have tracked it down and watched Cowboy Bebop long ago. And you would have been wrong. I never did. Now this might have been because it was an animated series. Or maybe because it wasn’t originally an English language show. Or maybe because I figured it wasn’t as good as Firefly. Who knows? Anyway, I started watching the first few episodes last week. My first conclusion is that Joss Whedon definitely borrowed heavily from the look and feel of Cowboy Bebop. Secondly, it is an enjoyable show and stands on its own merits. Now let me qualify that second statement. It’s a cartoon. The characters and the action are larger than life. When a gun fight breaks out bullets saturate every last square inch of wall space around the protagonist. Every fight has fists and feet flying in all directions and every facial close up has clenched jaw muscles and popping eyes. Basically, everything is exaggerated to cartoon level. Oh, and there’s a Welsh Corgi as part of the crew of a space travelling bounty hunters. Suffice it to say that reality is in no way a condition for something showing up in this show. But the characters have consistent personalities, the look of the show is very well done, there’s a fascinating backstory with terrible enemies and mysterious women and the plots although wildly unrealistic are (in my opinion) enjoyable. As I’ve said, I’ve only watched the first five episodes but I like it well enough to want to keep watching it.
Alright, now what’s it about? Cowboy Bebop is a space ship that so far has a crew of three humans and one Welsh Corgi. They are bounty hunters who work for whatever government (or other organization) that can provide a large enough pay day. Like on Firefly the culture seems to be a combination of American and Chinese culture. Also, as on Firefly, humans inhabit a number on moons and planets (but this time within our own solar system). Cowboy Bebop seems to work on both sides of the interface between the criminal and legal spheres. Their biggest problems seem to be monetary. They are chronically short of funds. The protagonist is named Spike and seems to be a young man in his thirties who enjoys his job as much for the fighting as for the rewards. In his past, he worked for a very high-level mob boss. Spike’s partner is an older man with a much angrier façade but can also be depended on in a fight. The similarities to Mal and Jane Cobb in Firefly are pretty strong. The regularity with which the ship comes up empty handed after a mission is also a point of similarity to Firefly.
I consider that I prefer live action movies to animation but I’ll go on record as saying that Cowboy Bebop seems a highly creative show and has many features that make it interesting and entertaining. I look forward to seeing the remainder of the series and will report back on its qualities.
So now I know where Whedon got his inspiration. And maybe his own effort may not have been the superior to the model.
A Eulogy for Grimm – Part 1
Spoiler Alert. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know, don’t read this.
So, last night I watched it. Oh, Good Lord. The only theory that could deflect shame from everyone involved in this fiasco is if the writers had all been fired and instead the Producer’s teenage daughter wrote it, while attending a school dance, while texting her best friends, while breaking up with her boyfriend, during a hurricane. Even as an ironic joke or as part of a drinking game (let’s say a tequila shot after each important character is brutally slaughtered) it’s unwatchable. Rather than belabor the point with countless examples of awful television viewing let me cut to the chase. At the climax of the show the hero is about to betray the world to the devil by surrendering to him this ultimate weapon when he is stopped by a young woman snatching it away. He then chases her down, beats her into submission and is heading back to surrender it again when his dead mother and dead aunt calling to him from heaven shame him into a debate about fighting back. But he’s so broken from the beating he’s been given by the devil that the only way he agrees to fight is if his mother and his aunt will fight for and with him. Think about this for a moment. A grown man has to be helped in a fight by his mother! And in fact, most of the damage in the battle is done by his dead female relatives. This truly represents the low ebb of masculinity on broadcast TV. After the victory, there’s a sort of alternate reality scene change where all the main characters are alive again and don’t remember any of the climax as if it didn’t actually happen. Nick starts hugging them all and seems pretty close to blubbering and it’s reminiscent of Dorothy awaking in her bed in Kansas. “You were there and you were there, and there’s no place like home.” Good Lord. Then the very final scene is twenty years in the future and his son and his baby mamma’s daughter (by his mortal enemy and police chief boss) are now Grimms getting ready to head off with Mom and Dad for some good old American Wessen slaughtering. Good clean fun. Good Lord.
I confess I liked this show when it first came out. My only defense is that it was in the early Obama years and I needed something absurd to allow me to think that maybe none of what was going on in the world was real. After all, if a whole American city could be composed of monsters without any humans suspecting then maybe somehow the world would manage to escape the Obama presidency without mortal damage being done. Silly me. Luckily, now we’re in the age of Trump and I don’t need fantasies to distract me. The reality is bizarre (and entertaining) enough. So, farewell to Nick and Juliette. Farewell to Monroe and Rosalee. Long may you inhabit Wessen-infested make-believe Portland Oregon which is a distinct improvement over the actual horror of SJW infested Portland.
A eulogy is supposed to be praise spoken over the deceased at his funeral. It literally means “good speech” in the Greek. So technically I suppose this should be called a kakology* because I won’t be saying too much good. Maybe what this should be called is a post-mortem.
I started watching Grimm when it premiered in 2011. When it began I thought it was fun. The special effects were alright and the conceit that just about everyone in Portland Oregon was a monster (called Wesen) hadn’t yet become a reductio ad absurdum. Also, I hadn’t grown to despise most of the characters yet.
I’ll give my analysis for what went wrong with Grimm. I think the problem with any of these urban fantasy TV series is the open-ended aspect of weekly TV. While it is possible to advance the “mythology” component of the show toward some long-term plot line in a way that can be sustained for several seasons, the single episode plot component needs to have some interesting writing each week to prevent the show from seeming repetitive and boring. I mean, how many ways are there to have the protagonist (Nick, the Grimm) skewer the monster du jour with a sword or a pitch fork or a lawn dart? Eventually the look of boredom starts showing up even on the well-paid actors’ faces. This is similar to the problem that occurs on all long-running TV shows but it’s especially dangerous to these fantasy shows because the action is already incredibly close to ridiculous from the get go. It doesn’t take much to achieve the reductio ad absurdum I mentioned earlier. After all, hiding the prodigious body count of terminated monsters (who revert to human form upon being deep sixed) is kind of hard to justify over the course of years. And with just about every individual introduced in the series being a Wesen it seems laughable that they haven’t already taken over Portland and massacred Nick and his friends.
Another problem is the lack of likeability of most of the main characters. Nick’s girl-friend (Juliette) becomes a Wesen and eventually murders and beheads his mother. And after Juliette is killed (and then re-animated as an emotionless zombie named Eve) Nick becomes intimate with the Wesen (a hexenbiest or witch named Adalind) that was responsible for Juliette becoming evil. Her ex-lover (Sean who also happens to be the chief of police and Nick’s boss) goes from being an enemy to an ally to a mortal foe of the good guys, He is also the step father of Nick’s son. Basically it’s hard to really take any of the relationships seriously or even remember how we got to where the story stands. However, over the course of the series, the only character that I didn’t come to despise was Monroe. Regardless of how idiotic the script that this vegan werewolf clock repairman was given, the actor managed to inject humor and interest in the character.
And finally, the biggest reason Grimm stinks is because the plots are all the same. The variations for why Wesen were murdering the few humans that exist in Portland or each other were wholly unimportant and extremely boring.
I stopped watching the show a year ago. When I heard it had been cancelled and only a half season was being produced this year I started watching again. I wanted to see if a short span allowed the writers to sharpen up the plots and give us something worth watching. So far it hasn’t. This Friday (March 31st) is the series finale. I’ll report back afterwards to document whether they could even salvage that. I’m not very hopeful.
*I prefer transliterating the Greek letter kappa into English with the letter k instead of c.
A Eulogy for Grimm – Part 2