Sometimes a tv show, a book, or a film comes out, and the pedigree of those involved is so strong that it must be good. You feel compelled to love this product. But you don’t. And maybe you feel guilty about that, or disloyal for not loving their creation.
It happens to everyone. It happens to me regularly. So I’ve decided to put together a list of things I should have liked, but didn’t.
Steven Erikson’s “Dust of Dreams”
“Gardens of the Moon” is such a wonderful book, as are most of the rest of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, up until “Reaper’s Gale”, which is good but muddled and very, very slow. “Dust of Dreams” is muddled writ large: The book slogs its way through 800 unnecessary pages before anything actually happens. I like a good character study as much as anyone, but like the TV show “House”, a large part of the book seems to be people’s and creatures’ mumbled introspection. Most of this introspection reads like they just got their character description and used a thesaurus.
I’m reading through “Dust of Dreams” a second time; hopefully this second reading will help change my mind about the book (which I desperately want to like), but so far it seems to be clarifying why I didn’t.
Snow Patrol’s “A Hundred Million Suns”
“Eyes Open” was a fantastic album. It wasn’t an ambitious technical and artistic masterpiece, but it was full of great riffs, great tunes, and get-to-the-point lyrics. Even “Final Straw”, with it’s many missteps, can be forgiven its weaknesses in light of its strengths. But “A Hundred Million Suns” was utterly forgettable. I listened to it once and forgot about it… until I was unfortunately reminded of it again today.
When “A Hundred Million Suns” first came out, I was excited to hear it. I love Snow Patrol, in spite of myself. I wanted it to be another permanent-repeat record like “Eyes Open”. But it wasn’t. It’s alright, I suppose, but a thousand other bands are doing more exiting things.
The Good Guys
Let’s be clear here: I love Matt Nix. Burn Notice is a fantastic television series (and USA is a fantastic network for a particular type of tv show). I love Bradley Whitford. If he wasn’t part of the cast of The West Wing, I don’t think I could watch the show. I love Colin Hanks. He has a sort of baby-faced good-boy charm, which explains his casting. His appearances on Numb3rs were some of that show’s highlights for me.
But The Good Guys? Meh. Blah. Feh. It should work. It’s got that impressive pedigree. It’s got the low-key humour, the action, all that stuff, but it doesn’t have the edge that Burn Notice has. It’s lacking a certain je ne sais quoi. Hard to put into words, but I get fidgety when I watch The Good Guys. I want to do something else. And so it is that I’ve stopped watching.
Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life, Cars
Ah, Pixar. So very many fabulous films have flown from your beautiful nest. Toy Story was (literally) a revolutionary film, but also a film full of wonder and adventure. Toy Story 2 was even better than Toy Story in almost every way. Monsters Inc (still the best Pixar film in my opinion) was stunningly original. The Incredibles is probably the best superhero film ever made, bar none. Wall-E was minimalistic, retro-futuristic, delightful, and showed that even without much dialogue and exposition, a film can be moving and pointed. Up was almost indescribable; it had at its core a love story, but a love story wrapped in action and adventure. It was delightfully different from any other animated film I’ve ever seen, not simply in content, but in theme (who else could build an animated film on nostalgia alone?).
And then there are the other. Finding Nemo. A Bug’s Life. And especially, Cars. I didn’t connect with these films or enjoy watching them. I wanted to like them. I really did. I want to think the whole Pixar canon magical. But I can’t. Because of these three films.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
I’m starting to think Aaron Sorkin is a one-hit-wonder. He probably shouldn’t exist in television, instead sticking to plays and films. But there he was, first with Sports Night, an utterly baffling sitcom/not-sitcom. Not surprisingly, Sorkin was writing about writing. Then came the West Wing, where once again, Sorkin was writing about writing but managed to find a way to wrap the writing about writing in something a bit more exciting. The West Wing was a fantastic show for 4 seasons, and a middling show for 3 more, but it deserved the praise and the viewership it got. I especially enjoyed Matthew Perry’s bit part, as I quite like a lot of Perry’s work.
So let it be said that I adore Mr Sorkin’s writing (about writing or about anything, really; he could write about a toaster and toast and I would watch it), I like Mr Perry and wish him every possible success, and I think Mr Whitford is among the best television actors of our times.
How did Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip manage to stink so much? I’m not exactly sure. But its cancellation was a mercy killing. While writing about writing (again!), Mr Sorkin displayed a stunning lack of the funny that he somehow managed to bring to The West Wing, which was truly charming at its most jovial, and bitingly awesome at its most pointed. Something that Studio 60 lacked. Completely. For a show about comedy… it was too serious.
I’m not sure what Mr Sorkin has in store for the rest of his career (though I can image we’re going to have a show where Mr Sorking writes about writing something), but I think there’s a lesson to be learned here.
That’s All, Folks
I’m out of time here… but I’d love to hear some feedback on this. Anything you were supposed to love but didn’t? Hit me up in the comments.