I Call, Damn You

So I watched Heroes tonight. Well, some of it…

I would say it’s because I’m a comics fan, but it really isn’t. Comics fans are just a little further ahead of the curve, at this point. Soon everyone will notice.

That you’re bluffing, entertainment media.

Don’t bother denying it. I don’t want to hear it. Look, the conversation’s over: I call. Lay your freakin’ cards on the table, and let’s see what you’ve got.

The other day I was reading, but the TV was on in the background. I heard this:

VOICE: “Is it possible…to have the world at your fingertips? Can you imagine…being everywhere you want to be?”

Etc., etc. Cut to me, thirty seconds later, screaming at the TV:

ME: “For Christ’s sake, do I ask you endless questions questions QUESTIONS all the time, car-commercial voice? Just tell me what you want, and stop WASTING MY TIME!!!!”

Then there’s me watching (you see I admit it) “Beauty And The Geek”:

BORING HOST: “And in just a second…we’ll find out…just who it was…who won this highly-contrived ‘contest’…and is safe from having to go…to the elimination round…and possibly lose their chance…at a quarter…million…DOLLARS…”

Cut to commercial.

ME: “My God…do you really think I care that much? Do you honestly imagine that this is the kind of suspense that will keep me from flipping away? I mean…suspense over the numbers? Really?

This show is a good example of how received wisdom can go wrong, actually. The idea is clearly that I am fixated on who will win ALL THAT MONEY, who will stay and who will GO HOME, and this means that if there is anything I must not be permitted to know before the commercial break, it’s what happened.

Which is precisely the wrong way to think of it, you see.

Because I actually don’t really care who wins. I’m just sort of…watching. To see what happens. So, when will I see it? Because if you think about it, what happens is really the price you pay for having me continue to watch…and not, not, not the other way ’round…

Next week on ‘The Apprentice’…your eyeballs will literally MELT RIGHT OUT OF THEIR SOCKETS when you see what happens!!!!” Oh no they won’t.

And on the next ‘Deal Or No Deal’…we absolutely guarantee you…you won’t want to miss a SECOND…!” Oh yes I will.

When you see what we’ve got planned for Spider-Man at the conclusion of 2011, you will SHIT YOUR PANTS SO HARD YOU’LL WANT TO TELL PEOPLE ABOUT IT…!” Alright, that’s enough. No, seriously. Now you’re just embarrassing yourself. See, at some point, and I don’t know if anyone’s laid it on the line for you like this before, but at some point you have to give me something. Actually give it to me. You really can’t put it off indefinitely. Look, take your cue from the generation previous: they thought that the first payoff was itself the hook, that would keep me coming back for more payoffs later on. They tried to produce the feeling in me of “whoa, I can’t believe they did that! How satisfying that was! I am totally sticking around to see what happens next, so I can experience this satisfying feeling again!” But you seem to think that I will pay endless amounts of attention, time, and money just to see the thing which is misdirection for the real trick.

Which, for some reason, never gets performed.

I mean, since when could the questions “who’s that guy now?” and “where are they taking her, d’you think?” be relied on to create infinite excitement?

All of which is by way of saying: gee, Heroes is one slow-moving show, isn’t it? There are lots of questions. Every cliffhanger’s a question that really should’ve been asked, and answered, three episodes ago. Oh, I like Heroes, don’t get me wrong! But if there were a place I could go to see spoilers for it, I totally would.

And if you like, you can ask Ed this about me: “does he hate spoilers?”

He will laugh and laugh if you ask him that, because I have a pathological fear of spoilers that he finds incredibly comical. But, even I can’t hold my breath this long. Not when everything in the whole media universe is geared to keep me permanently and completely and only on the edge of my seat, ’til the turtle swallows the ocean…I mean, this is starting to feel like watching a Moonlighting marathon, you know? And, HEY! Just like in Moonlighting, honestly I don’t care anymore. Do what you want. Cut, as much as I hate this expression, to the freakin’ chase already! Because I am beginning to reconsider the way I invest my attention, I’ll tell you frankly. Because I am starting to think I should be looking for things that pay me an actual dividend on it every once in a while. As opposed to this, what you’re all doing…which is starting to look like a game of no-limit hold-’em played between J.D. Rockefeller and Bill Gates: they can just keep on raising forever, but who would ever watch a twenty-four hour hand of poker? No one would. No one.

No one.

You know, this may sound funny, but one of the things I find appealing about 52 is that it is guaranteed to end with issue #52. So…at least that, eh? It all won’t have a claim on my soul into the afterlife: eventually I really will be able to find out what happened.

How unusual that is, these days!

How precious!

Who is Ronin? Well, that would be telling…suffice it to say it’s a character you know very well, it’s the last person you’d expect – or is it? – and all will be revealed by the time the Sun burns out.” No. Reveal it now, or shut up forever. Seriously. This is too much, blast you. I didn’t sign on for this. In fact unless Ronin is really the Batman of Earth-2, and his secret is that the multiverse still exists, I’ll tell you right now I don’t really care who he/she/it is, like at all. Ultron? Modok? Squirrel Girl? Dragon Lord? The cast of Friends? Time’s up; I call. I call. I CALL.

And: next hand! While we’re young, please!


13 responses to “I Call, Damn You

  1. I actually don’t think Heroes has been too bad in terms of stringing the viewer along. That could just be me, though; up until recently I was a regular Lost viewer. Consider: in the same episode where we first met Claire’s real mother, we also had it revealed to us who her real father was. The same episode! On Lost, it would have taken half the season. Or more.

    To me, the tricky thing about Heroes is this: as superhero fans, we’re used to an episodic structure that starts with our superhero characters in a stable situation, and at the end of the episode or arc, we’re right back in a stable situation that is either identical or really similar to the initial stable situation. But Heroes doesn’t seem interested in that kind of setup. I think subconsciously we’re waiting for all of these characters to team up and get a satellite headquarters somewhere, and we’re frustrated because it’s just not going to happen.

  2. Compared to Lost, an hour of Heroes has the finality of the Fugitive’s famed final episode.

    But I see your point. Basically, so much energy is devoted to anticipation that the inevitable conclusion is always disappointing. It’s like the X-Files. When we found out that it was all about alien colonialization, I remember thinking “that’s all?”

  3. Of course it isn’t just Heroes or Lost or Civil War, either, it’s pretty much everything at this point. Too much kiting, damnit! Now, my impression of Lost is that it’s specifically designed to be that way — though I don’t watch it, I can get behind the idea that it’s almost riffing on that old serial — was it, in fact, “Mysterious Island”? For some reason I can never remember — that Ed and I used to watch as kids, where all the episodes were shown totally out of order and you just didn’t have a chance of figuring it out, you were quite simply phucked and you had to accept it…and you liked it that way! But when that approach starts to turn up in Deal Or No Deal and Ford commercials, too…jeezus. Some bad education out there, I think. I think you have to bring a lot to the table, too, when you plan on doing that endless-teasery, and when you don’t…pfeh. The attention-vampirism starts to set in. Suddenly you and the show/book/whatever are in an abusive relationship.

    Put it together with waiting for downloads and navigating corporate voicemail trees, and you’ve got the basic cause of road-rage, possibly?

    All that said, with Heroes, as a comic fan I feel a little proprietary about it, so when it drags for the sake of viewers who don’t already know what beats it’s going to hit, I get annoyed, and flick away, and look up what I missed on Television Without Pity later on. I’m not specifically angry with it, but as I say, I’d read the spoilers if they existed. Just to cut down on the time commitment. Well, if you think about it I am reading the spoilers, since I often go over to TWP without having seen the episode I’m looking up! And unless things start to happen a little faster on that show…well, like I said I’m not angry at it for dragging its feet (as I definitely am at all these other things, and especially at Marvel and DC, who should know better by now), but I’d absolutely consider letting this whole season pass by and then just reading a Season Recap to find out what all the mysteries were. But, it hasn’t gotten that bad yet, so when it’s on, I’m still kind of going to have it on in the background, at least.

    But it’ll never be a must-see for me, until I find out what at least one of the payoffs is going to be. And if that payoff is good, I’ll probably stick around…but if it’s lackluster, I’ll probably be gone for good. Because for me it’s all about the execution. I was so long-gone from X-Files by the time they got around to what all their secrets were, I can’t tell you…

    And finally, Sean…I hate “cut to the chase” because I remember when people started to say it all the time, and watched as it pushed out older and more authentic ways of saying “get to the point”. This happened because of Hill Street Blues: all the cops said “cut to the chase” all the time, and they sounded cool when they did it, so people started copying them. Without ever knowing they were using the lingo of Hollywood agents…

    Hey, we’ve talked about this before! Haven’t we? I’m sure we have…

    Off to look for the link…

  4. Maybe, I think the biggest problem is that payoff has turned into a dirty thing as of late. But at the same time if I know what to look for Deadwood and The Venture Brothers are on tv – shows that honestly respect their audience. I’m not completely against holding things back from your audience. i’ve seen it doen well and waiting a year for things to pay off sometimes works for great affect.
    But the problem is the shows are nothing but waiting for the payoff. Does anyone care about these characters? Really? I think, say if you pick up anu issue of the Titans or the XMen from the 80s you can see leads being set up now, but at the time, the audience wasn’t blatantly told “AND YOU’LL NEVER GUESS HOW THIS PAYS OFF” every commercial break. I don’t think people sat for months waiting for something to happen, instead they were surprised. “Holy Shit, Jean Grey is evil” and all that.

    The thing about Lost or Heroes is, if anyone with tastes remotely close to mine got ahold of them – they’d be berserk. Why isn’t the island a testing ground for goddamn nazi scientists? Why aren’t there Giant Robots? Why is every show just stuffed with filler. It’s obviously pulp storytelling, why not go all out? 24 is just a guy fighting terrorists and it ends up a lot closer to my tastes in serial storytelling than any of these shows. It’s pulp, right? So why isn’t there some of that brainsludge that comes out in old pulps and 70s marvel comics and grindhouse movies? Maybe it’s because these people aren’t under the gun to just get something out to the printer by friday or they’ll lose theiur job. Maybe that has nothing to do with it.

    Actually, as a side note, the most annoying thing to me about Heroes is that when George Takei and Christopher Eccleston are showing up, why not go all out and just cast former genre TV stars? Wheres Vaughn and Culp and Hamill? Wheres Pam Grier?

    (God, I’m writing a lot here) I thik that I actually have never minded spoilers. I always seem to read the review before seeing the movie/read the book/etc. – honestly I’ve always favored how something is done over what is done. Also the action fan mentality of hearing someone say “Tony Jaa breaks like forty guys arms in one sitting” – I want to see that.

    And We might have talked about “cut to the chase” before, Pillock. I still like it in a Chuck Jones kinda way, though.

    Wow, that went on forver. I doubt it’s understandable. Sorry.

  5. No, it’s understandable, all right…and I think I agree! Thinking of Chuck Jones even — almost! — rehabilitates “cut to the chase”…

    You know, it occurs to me that maybe this is all of a piece with the “broken bargain” of the current Newspeaked cultural environment. Isn’t “you will be blown away by what happens next” sort of an implicit value in any serial story? And so usually unnecessary to make such a big meal of? But naturally, if you won’t be blown away, all the more reason to tell you that you will…because the broken promise is all that’s left to offer. “Next episode: something happens“…

    There’s a guy in my building who tells me he meets a lot of people in his business who say things like “it’s okay, you can trust me: I’m an honest man”, to which he replies “what, you think you get brownie points for being an honest man? Buddy, you’re supposed to be honest…you’re obliged to be honest…no, as a matter of fact I don’t think we’ll be having many dealings in the future, I only work with people who don’t want extra credit for doing me the favour of not being a crook…” He’s got the right idea, in my opinion. A twist, a hook, a reversal, a climax, a surprise…that’s not something the storyteller hands out to his audience as a reward for a year’s patronage, that is the deal, for heaven’s sake! That’s what’s supposed to be on the table, up front, from the beginning! So all the boasting about how great it’s gonna be, once it gets here, really seems to spell “SCAM” out in fifty-foot letters of fire. Say what you will about Stan’s hucksterism, it was silly, it was hyperbolic, it was pander-riffic…but if I’d bought everything Stan claimed was gonna be a collector’s item back in the old days, I’d be an Ebay millionaire right now, and that’s the fact. Also, I was reliably entertained by almost everything he was a booster for. And he only had to tell me I’d like something once! Not ten times a day, every day…

    Thinking of all those Seventies titles I really liked, but that had short runs…six, ten, fourteen issues…if a comic or a show were to be cancelled after six issues/episodes today, no one would miss it, because they wouldn’t get deep enough into the story for anything to happen. Weird, huh?


    OH NO!

  6. It’s weird, I was watching Lost and Heroes fairly regularly but after the first 3 episodes of the second season of Lost I gave up. I didn’t want to see the same episode from different points of view anymore and feel like I’m only there to be advertised to. Then Heroes had me but I realized I’d rather get it in the trade paperback and rent the DVDs when they come out. I’d rather get the whole story rather than feel I’m simply there to be advertised at. Then again, I don’t want anything affecting my schedule and the possibility to go to the pub at the drop of a hat – and no I don’t want extra gadgets to remove commercials and record shows for me. I can wait, there’s a lot out there.

    To that effect I’ve been really enjoying CSI reruns as of late. You get at least 2 payoffs in every episode. Sure the crossover when CSI Miami was painful to watch, but the rest of is dead body, witty comment, The Who, second case, interlacing and two conclusions that aren’t always getting the bad guy. Sure it’s an abused formula but I’m entertained each episode and never at a loss. Its something I actually appreciate now – kind of like Dini’s current run on Detective Comics.

  7. I have to say over all i like Heroes, but there is one thing that bugs me. I hate the teases like you say but i also hate the double parts. what i mean is in the preview they tell what happened last episode then waste a few mintues showing it again in the show only adding 30 more seconds. The phone call from Nathan this week and Syler and Bennet last week and Nikki in jail the week before. i feel like its just such a waste for us i almost feel like im watching old 80’s cartoon where after a commercial it would rewind about 30 seconds to get the kids attention back.

  8. Yes, the voiceovers…in “Beauty and the Geek” (look, don’t judge me), I notice that they make a mistake — what I consider a mistake, anyway — that “Show Me The Money” avoids…

    (Look, I’ve mentioned all this before, that’s why I say it…)

    …Which is that they concentrate on telling you about the money and the task and the dire consequences soooooo much that they gobble up tons of time that could be put to better use. But the sense of pomp and circumstance is so absurdly out of place it makes me want to scream. I neither need nor want to be reminded of the game’s “game-ness” by a two-bit sermon on how life-changing it may end up being, and no matter how often someone says “one…MILLION…dollars”, it’s still only one million dollars. It’s the same amount that it was two seconds ago, when you said it then!


    Is it not the same thing that’s going on with these interminable voiceovers in the new Outer Limits style, i.e. a cheap bastardization of the old Twilight Zone style, which tell you nothing about anything, just sort of mouth platitudes at you? How many minutes, o Lord? I find myself thinking…how many minutes is this pointless voiceover crap stealing from me? What is it saying that enriches my viewing experience in the slightest of ways? Of course the answer is, not a damn thing. It’s just there for mood, it means nothing, they might as well have the sound of an owl hooting.

    Blah! Rip-off!

  9. I’m just watchin to see chris eccleston, that 9th doctor who and an amazing actor. the rest is just a rehash of defiant comics’ the Good Guys.

    PS, I’ve linked out to you on my blog. Good writing, and nice link on the supes/spidey crossover book

  10. Hey, thanks, Charles! I really enjoy reading your blog, as well, and was almost gonna put it as one of my three entries in that Blogaround Challenge I did a couple weeks ago…and if it makes you feel any better, it took Eddie Campbell to beat you out for that spot, so…!

    Always like reading what an illustrator has to say about the work process, and what they admire or don’t admire in the work of others, so your blog’s quite a treat for me.

    On Christopher Eccleston: tonight’s another re-run of his Doctor Who on CBC, so, can’t wait…but I swear to God, we ought to put a moratorium on the sentence “you comin’, or not?”, especially as spoken by northern Britfolk…it’s becoming as ubiquitous as the Londoner’s “Can I get you anything? Coffee? There’s only instant, I’m afraid…”

    I believe Hugh Grant gets a royalty on that one.

    Also: Supes/Spidey! Man, those oversize pages are so great for Andru’s pencils, I could look at them for hours. This was everything I loved about that period of Spider-Man packed down into one issue. I liked it so much, I practically think it should be considered in-continuity. Actually I think it’s a rather influential book, even if the influence is mostly of the subliminal kind…in a way it’s almost like one of those blueprint/reboot/Ultimate/All-Star/back-to-basics/Year One comics, in that it crystallizes and showcases a lot of basic Supes/Spidey stuff. A gateway comic?

    Well, I think the only real gateway comic is Understanding Comics…you can give that to anybody…

  11. Pingback: Then Again, Maybe Rage Is Boredom Laid On Thick « A Trout In The Milk·

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