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TV [Jul. 11th, 2011|10:48 pm]
We're watching Fringe via Netflix; tonight we watched the first two episodes on the second disk of Season 2. Snakehead was super, super squicky. Wow. The pseudo-science wasn't bad, but there wasn't much arc. It would have made a dandy X-Files episode.

Aside: some people criticize Fringe for being a remake of The X-Files, and my response is always, yes, but that's what I like about it! They took the same setup and the lessons they learned from the original and made a similar show that's even better.

Gray Matters is a much more arc-tacular episode, and is another one that made me say "Oh, Walter, what did you DO? I really love how complicated and ambiguous they're willing to make things on this show.

I have started enjoying reading reviews of the shows that I'm watching. The Onion AV club has a bunch of good ones, especially some older shows, but I'm also following along with Mark Watches, and particularly enjoying vicariously re-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. Can't wait to read the reviews of the finale!

I never watch TV in realtime anymore (among other things, I have completely lost my ability to put up with commercial interruptions), and watercooler conversations about what was on last night are going extinct anyway, but it's nice to have persistent blog discussions about shows to spur the thinky thoughts after watching.

[User Picture]From: jofish22
2011-07-12 05:16 am (UTC)
Doesn't the appalling non-working science bullshit drive you round the bend? It made it unwatchable for me. They'd all be "But of course, we can identify the thief through... quantum!" "Of course! Quantum! Jim, fetch the quantum machine. We'll have this one cracked in no time!"
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2011-07-12 06:04 am (UTC)
It's weird, I would expect it to, but while there are a few stinkers, mostly it doesn't bug me enough to matter.

Usually the holes in the pseudoscience don't have a critical effect on the plot, and there's this veneer of "that shouldn't actually work" that I find a satisfactory rug to sweep most of the bad science under.

Probably a lot of it is that I enjoy the characters enough that I'm willing to forgive a lot.
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[User Picture]From: dcseain
2011-07-12 02:19 pm (UTC)
IAWTC! I've seen parts of Fringe thanks to tomhundleyrn, and agree with your assessment.
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[User Picture]From: ng_nighthawk
2011-07-12 02:24 pm (UTC)
I haven't started on Fringe, as we're getting through Numbers right now. But Numbers is similar, except pseudo-math instead of pseudo-science.

Now, here's the deal: I'm not enough of a mathematician to know if the processes they describe are real advanced math terms or just they math equivalent of a tachyon emitter that tears holes in time. Here's the big difference: they set it up as real math.

At least in Fringe (from what I gather--correct me if I'm wrong) it's your expectation that it's beyond speculative and into fantasy. So their fantasy flavor is science. Now, I'm not saying it would be the same show if the underlying flavor were a battle between demons and angels. It would not be. Atmosphere and setting bring a lot to define a show's character. Having theologians and metaphysicians replace the scientists would change the themes and character interactions dramatically, just for one example.

But the plot devices could be exactly the same. And you would have no more expectation for the theology to be consistent with real theology than you would for the science to match real science.

Numbers on the other hand is trying very carefully to frame itself inside the real world. It places its math characters in realistic careers in real-world academia, with concerns like getting published, figuring out where to best get tenure, having their earlier work discredited by new research, and (from what I remember) fairly realistic inter-departmental conflict. None of this is blown over-the-top, either. It's a concern for the characters, but not to soap opera levels.

This concern for grounding the show in something approximating a real-world situation makes you want to believe in the math. Frankly, the constant backdrop of mathematical symbols does less for me in making me want to trust their claims than this setting of a fairly realistic depiction of the life of a professional mathematician (from what I know, and as much as a prime-time crime show could be expected to do this--you would not expect a researcher to be as proficient in every area of advanced math as this guy is, but as a slight defense of this he is meant to be a superstar mathematician, and again, it is a crime drama).

The math itself usually starts out on firm ground but then eventually makes the leap into magic. The dynamic in the family and the mysteries they explore are still interesting enough to keep me engaged, but occasionally I yell, "That's just not possible!" at the screen. They pull me out of the show I'm otherwise enjoying enough that it's annoying. And I think that wouldn't be the case if the math were more hand-wavy and jargonish. But you couldn't pull off hand-wavy, jargon spewing mathematicians with a setting that feels so grounded.
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[User Picture]From: nehrlich
2011-07-12 04:35 pm (UTC)
Besides the AV club, I'm a big fan of Alan Sepinwall's reviews at http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching for virtual watercooler conversations since nobody else I know watches TV :)
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[User Picture]From: backrubbear
2011-07-14 12:35 am (UTC)
The critical thing about Fringe is it's about the characters. The plots just give them something to move around in.

And when they do arc, the characters have good stuff to move around in.
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