The 10 Dumbest Things on TV So Far This Season
TV is widely reviled as the dumbest medium. I can't argue with that. Here's 10 moments from the last few weeks or so that stand out as pillars of dumbness in a dumb wasteland.
The Ultimate Anti-Sniper Strategy (Revolution)
The premise of the new J.J. Abrams/Eric Kripke drama Revolution is that all the electricity went out for some mysterious reason and we have gone back to lifestyles of the Civil War, complete with Civil War uniforms and, for some reason, muskets.
I don't really know guns, but you know, they're the kind you have to muzzle load like you are one of George Washington's soldiers.
I don't know why they use muskets, because I'm pretty sure the manufacturing process for a repeating rifle (you put in a bunch of rounds and take a bunch of shots in a row) doesn't require electricity, since they've been making them since the mid-1800s or something. I mean, the machine gun was invented during the Civil War. You can make some pretty deadly guns without electricity. It's not some ragtag bunch of outlaws, either -- it's the dominant military power in what's left of the U.S. I don't know, maybe they burned all the books about how to make things and raided a Civil War museum. Whatever.
The point is that the bad guys have muskets in this particular scene, and they run into a good guy sitting on a roof with a modern military sniper rifle.
Bad news for them! The commander quickly pulls all his troops under cover (well, apparently it takes him several hours, because it gets dark) and formulates a plan.
Quick, what kind of plan would you come up with to take out a sniper, an enemy who can quickly and accurately take out single targets? That's right! Send one guy at a time! "Go go go!" he says.
The guy go go goes!
Blam! Thump. Oh, that didn't work. What does he do now?
He thinks about it. "Send another man!" he says. His reasoning is that soon they will run out of bullets. I don't know, how about maybe send 10 guys at him? Maybe the sniper shoots three of them and the other seven take the roof and cave the guy's head in, because the sniper is all alone on the roof for some reason and all the good guys are inside talking about their feelings. Or I don't know, keep sending lone guys, hoping that one of them is bulletproof.
"Drink Every Last ... Oops" (Revolution)
Captain Neville is the Revolution writers' attempt at creating a complex bad guy character who carries out evil deeds but has his own rationalization for them and shows flashes of humanity. How it actually plays out is that he seems to have severe emotional stability problems, switching from rambling, homespun short stories to flashes of anger apparently at random, like Nomi Malone in another character development masterpiece, Showgirls.
At one point, he taunts his captive by saying, "When General Monroe finds out, he's gonna be irate. Might even have my head." Then he smirks, as if to say, "You'd like that, I bet."
Then the kid says, predictably, "Let's hope," because that's exactly what Neville is hinting at. Instead of a wry "We'll see about that," Neville's smile dissolves into a look of shock that his taunt had its predicted effect and he slaps the kid.
Essentially, he's going, "You'd like to see me dead, wouldn't you?" and the kid is saying, "Yes," and he's saying, "YES!! YES?!?! HOW CAN THIS BE!" like it came out of fucking nowhere.
Later, in one of his "moments of humanity," he gives a vial of poison to one of his men who has been mortally wounded, telling him that it will kill him quickly and end his suffering. "Drink every last drop," he says slowly and deliberately, like this is the exact killing dose. The dying man grabs it desperately and ...
Oh no. Poison flying everywhere. Neither of them bats an eye, they keep talking about death, the soldier eventually drinks the poison and I assume passes out, probably to later awaken in agony underground, where they have buried him under the assumption that he is dead. I didn't see that scene, they must have cut it for time.
Charlie's Completely Absorbing Flashbacks (Revolution)
In Revolution, you can always tell that someone is having a flashback because they stop right where they are standing and drift off.
Remembering something, the writers imply, is pretty much like going into a coma. Previously, Charlie had been walking through the woods when she somehow realized that an expert tracker was on her tail and was able to get the jump on him by luring him into a trap.
Even though the audience did not hear or see him, she taunts him with how he was "stomping around like an elephant," showing her to be an alert backwoodswoman, attuned to the slightest sound.
Later, however, she has a flashback in the woods that evidently transports her mind to another plane ...
... because someone just walks up to her and taps her on the shoulder.
And it freaks the hell out of her.
Fortunately it's just her uncle, Miles, who seems just as surprised to have taken her by surprise.
Look, I don't know, maybe her amazing concentration on her flashbacks is one of her powers/weaknesses, but considering what a great hunter and survivalist the show implies she is, you'd think she would have learned at this point to avoid having flashbacks while alone in a hostile environment. "Well, I know the bad guys are after me, and no one's got my back here, but I think this might be a good time to stop and lose myself in memories about my dead parents."
"I'm Ashamed of Saving Our Lives" (Revolution)
At one point in the masterpiece serial Revolution, the traveling companions are sleeping when a band of ruffians takes them by surprise, laying out a plan for the evening that involves rape and murder. Maggie, the older mentor figure, offers the attackers a bottle of whiskey.
"Thanks!" says the ruffian, knowing that you can always trust a gift of consumables from someone you've just threatened with rape and murder. To everyone's great surprise, the whiskey turns out to be poisoned!
Much blood is coughed up! The whiskey, combined with a bit of fighting, saves their lives. Later on, Maggie attempts to pass on some wisdom to her younger charge, saying, "Charlie, I'm telling you, you can't trust anyone."
Because she is a young person, Charlie must contradict everything the mentor figure says, and spits back, "Is that why you carry poisoned whiskey?"
"Yes!" any reasonable person would say here, "And clearly it came in handy! How are you enjoying being not-raped!" But Maggie just looks chagrined, like Charlie has totally got her.
The poor soul stews in silent shame, having to live with the burden of poisoning some poor rapist-bandits who just wanted to violate and kill them. Truly she was the real monster all along.
The Easily Dodged Arrow Trap (Revolution)
In order to tempt viewers with the false hope that the whiny main character would be killed, Revolution's writers set up a tantalizing cliffhanger where Charlie is tied up in front of an elaborate arrow trap.
This is one of those ironic Saw-style traps where, when her rescuers open the door, it will shoot the arrow into her face and kill her. Unfortunately, this is all left up to speculation, and she is never in any actual danger from the arrow. Once her captor leaves the room, she starts shaking from side to side in the chair, her head easily clearing the arrow's path on either side of her swing.
I'm just saying, there isn't a lot of suspense here. I guess she tries to make it suspenseful by constantly wiggling back and forth instead of just hanging out on one side, safe from the arrow. That just raises other questions. Why does she feel the need to give the trap an opportunity by constantly passing in front of it? Is she teasing it? Does she feel like it's unsportsmanlike to not give it a fair chance? Does she realize that it's an inanimate object?
Well, Revolution promised to raise a lot of interesting questions, and I guess it technically does.
The Packers-Seahawks Game
This is all fading into memory now, but the September 24 Packers-Seahawks game was probably one of the worst public displays of officiating of all time, bad enough to make the NFL cave in to referee union demands and end the unpopular lockout that had replaced the regular refs with high school referees and Bank of America vice presidents. To no one's surprise, they performed terribly for weeks, but this Monday night game apparently broke the camel's back.
The infamous bad call happened at the end of the game when Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate allegedly caught a last-minute long-shot pass to win the game. One of the referees alleged this, at least, while the other one was making pretty much the opposite call.
This cost the Packers the game and drove football fans into a frenzy that led to the return of the regular refs. What got missed in a lot of press coverage was that there were probably four questionable calls in a row leading up to that score, starting with a Packers interception (they stole the ball from the Seahawks) that was ruled not an interception, and the ball was given back to the Seahawks. And on the same play as the infamous touchdown-or-not-a-touchdown catch, the player who made the catch "pushed off" the guy defending him right before attempting to make the catch that he probably didn't even make, which is a penalty and should have ended the play.
And finally, in between the non-interception and the maybe-touchdown was a ridiculous pass interference call. Pass interference involves grabbing or otherwise molesting the receiver before he catches the ball. The guy in the blue here (Sidney Rice, a Seahawk) is the guy who was trying to catch the ball.
Naturally, the Green Bay Packer, Sam Shields, was called for a pass interference penalty, apparently for grabbing Sidney Rice's hand with his face.
Death of the Wagon Man (Revolution)
Where did the replacement refs go after this? Apparently they began writing for NBC's hit show Revolution, with the same level of competence they had previously displayed in officiating. Very likely they wrote this scene, which attempts to explore the lengths people go to for survival in this post-apocalyptic world. In these times, desperate men do desperate things, like threaten little girls at knifepoint to try to extort food out of their families.
That little girl is Charlie, the heroine of the show. Her dad points a gun at the guy, and a tense standoff ensues, and finally the desperate man lets her go, because, as he says, he doesn't want to hurt anyone, he's just hungry. That said, he takes their wagon of food and starts walking off with it, very very slowly.
Seriously, he is just moseying along.
The dad points the gun at him again and what feels like another eternity goes by as he tries to decide whether to shoot or not. He finally puts the gun down, having wasted valuable time and letting the guy get about two feet farther away. Then the mom shoots the guy.
I mean, she had no choice. Look how far away he was getting!
Look at the gaping distance between these people! Another moment's hesitation and he could have been like 15 feet away! No, there was no chance that the two of them could have caught up to this speed demon on foot.
Taking a human life is a terrible thing, but I guess there was really no alternative here. It's not like they could have run -- or walked briskly -- up to him and tackled him or anything like that. Maybe tie him up. Beat the shit out of him. Or maybe they didn't want to take any chances because he had a knife. Fine, walk right up to him and shoot him in the leg. Shoot him in both legs and roll him away from the wagon with a long stick. Sure, some of this seems brutal, but I reckon he would probably prefer it to how things did turn out.
None of this is played as "My mom was a bloodthirsty murderer" or anything. Charlie keeps flashing back to this scene as she's about to walk up to a bad guy and shoot him, something her uncle said she wasn't tough enough to do, so the subtext is obviously "The women in our family are tough enough to do what needs to be done when we have no choice." Never mind that if her mom had walked up to the wagon man at the same rate Charlie is walking up to the present-day bad guy, she would have had her choice of limbs to shoot at point-blank.
The only way the flashback makes any sense is if they put the whole family in wheelchairs.
Brand MonroeTM (Revolution)
In the future of Revolution, the Monroe Militia, an organized, oppressive military force dressed in Civil War uniforms, brands every one of its members with an M logo.
Which is fair enough -- that's the sort of thing a fascist military organization would do. But where did the symbol come from? Conveniently, the show has provided a flashback to answer that very question.
Apparently, before the blackout that is the premise of the show, there was a reckless, partying soldier named Sebastian Monroe. Returning to base one day (the day of the blackout, as it happens) without ID, he instead rolls up his sleeve:
And reveals a tattoo! Of his own name! And logo!
Now I admit that I don't know a lot about hard-partying soldiers, but I don't think that one of their top concerns is branding. Maybe this is one of the unexpected aftereffects of the Citizens United decision declaring corporations to be people, in that some people now mistakenly think they are corporations, and spend a great deal of time worrying about their market presence and developing a corporate logo. Maybe he's had his own stationery printed.
Or maybe the show's writers believe that it is impossible to overestimate the stupidity of their audience and it is important to bludgeon them to death with a hundred reminders that some character in the past is now some character in the present. That seems likely, since they immediately cut to present-day dictator Monroe washing his hands.
And then, for the portion of the audience that is illiterate, but can recognize faces, they have him turn dramatically toward the camera as the background music shouts, "LOOK AT THIS MAN'S FACE IT'S THE SAME GUY OH MY GOD."
At this point, people who strongly identify with Revolution are probably wondering, "Hm, what is the significance of this man? How does he relate to the flashback we just saw? I hope we find out in a future episode!"
The Least Dying-Looking Dying Person Ever (Revolution)
When a character with a medical background (Maggie) gets stabbed in the leg, the wound needs to be sewn up. Obviously she can't do it herself, since she's badly injured and clearly going into shock.
I think what happened here is that they told the actress that her character should be "in shock" and she took that to mean that she should be very surprised, as opposed to being about to pass out from blood loss. Well, she nailed that one.
Anyway, she's supposed to be near death here, but she talks like she's just come back from an invigorating jog, chatting calmly and casually with everyone, and giving very clear orders to the bearded nerdy comic relief character on how he should sew her up. Despite his complete inexperience in medical matters and C-3POlike fretting about every stressful situation, she feels that he is the best candidate for the job, because there is no way she, in her weakened dying state, could do such a thing. So she nods briskly toward her backpack and tells him what materials he needs and what pockets they are in.
Note that she got stabbed in the leg, so her upper body is perfectly fine, and apparently her arms are strong enough to apply pressure to the wound herself instead of asking someone else to do it. But I don't know, I guess she has had a lifelong fetish to have a bearded nerd sew her up, and she'll be damned if she's going to pass up what could be her only opportunity.
And indeed it is, because she dies. I hope it was worth it, lady!
The Point Where Revolution Started Being Eerily Similar to Star Wars
Yeah, yeah, I know, lots of things can seem similar to Star Wars because many story archetypes share the common elements of the Hero's Journey as described by Joseph Campbell, and wearing black is a common visual cue for villains, etc., and of course you expect vaguely similar plot arcs and character archetypes, but the sheer number of details seems a bit much. Take a look and decide for yourself:
After the brutal murder of their guardian(s), a whiny young protagonist (Charlie/Luke) who has always wanted to leave home sets off with an older British person of the same sex (Maggie/Obi-Wan) and a comic relief character who has been given a vital piece of intelligence in secret and charged to take it to someone (the droids/the nerd).
The purpose of their journey is to rescue an opposite-sex sibling who was captured in an ominous scene where a terrifying bad guy who is/wears/sounds black arrived with his soldiers, killed a bunch of people, unsuccessfully tried to interrogate someone and finally kidnapped said sibling.
Near the beginning of the journey, the hero is attacked by random ruffians, and the older British companion surprises us by dealing the ruffians a brutal fate (arm cut off, poisoned).
In order to continue on their journey, they find a scoundrel in a bar who likes to call people "kid" and persuade him to help. He is reluctant to help, and characters often wonder out loud if the scoundrel cares about anyone but himself. After getting into a fight in the bar, the scoundrel joins the group on their journey.
Later, they join up with a rebellion that is fighting the military power that employs the black/black-clad/black-sounding villain introduced earlier, who, despite his badassery and prominence in the story, is not the empire's leader, but serves an even more evil man above him. Also we find that the hero's same-sex parent, thought to have died a long time ago, is actually alive and with the enemy.
A bounty hunter comes after the scoundrel and encounters him twice, capturing him at some point.
After being freed, the scoundrel kills the bounty hunter.
Even though guns exist in this world, a lot of the fighting is done with bows and swords. In one dramatic scene, the older British companion is fatally stabbed while their group watches helplessly from a short distance away.
If you're still thinking that it's just coincidence, there's this interview with show creator Eric Kripke, where he said that he was inspired by Star Wars, albeit in a vague, hero journey way. But then there's also this, at the beginning of the pilot episode:
Kids in 2012 (when Charlie was a child) don't buy a lot of Return of the Jedi lunchboxes (unless they're big eBay shoppers), so that was probably shoehorned in for a reason.
I'm just saying, the story is still ongoing, but don't be surprised if Captain Neville throws Monroe down a shaft at some point.
For more from Christina, check out 6 Reasons The NFL Is The Trashiest Reality Show on TV and 8 New TV Show Ideas Almost as Stupid as 'Grey's Anatomy'.