Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Manafort Destiny: Earth S2016 E33

Once more real life takes a toll on the plot. As we've all heard by now, the actor playing Paul Manafort had a little issue with driving into a lamp post while drunk off his ass, and the producers dumped his ass like an empty candy wrapper. This has happened  numerous times throughout the show's history, most notoriously back in Season 1963 when the actor playing JFK got caught with a couple underage girls. But the people writing Earth in season 2016 don't have a twentieth of the talent of the writers from 1963, which is arguably the last great season the show ever produced. Oh, the current writers clearly adore S1963. We can see it all over recent episodes with the resurgent Russia and the return of high-stakes spy shenanigans. But suddenly outing Manafort as a Russian agent and having like five news organizations make major revelations about him in a single episode ... I mean, come on. (Yes, I know there was some foreshadowing of Manafort's foreign ties before this, but the way it was revealed was as subtle of a sledgehammer).

Of course the sudden change of course left the producers scrambling to find a new campaign manager for the Trump campaign. Personally, I wish they'd bring Lewandowski back. His odd-couple relationship with Trump and the wacky shit Trump said at his assistance was the highlight of the last season. But instead they bring in the Breitbart guy, and Roger Ailes, and Sean Hannity, which, again, heavyhanded. By the time we get to the election, Trump and his staff are going to be goosestepping around in Nazi uniforms. Lewandowski at least kept everything farcical. The current direction of the show seems to indicate that we're supposed to take Trump seriously as a villain, which ... no. I'm sorry, the guy playing Trump isn't nearly a good enough actor to convince me that he has fanatical followers. (The actors playing his followers aren't much better. I mean that scene with the lawyer on CNN demanding "What polls?" was painful. I can believe these twits would follow an idiot like Trump, but I can't believe that Trump is in the position he's in when these are the best followers he's got.)

And to top it off, the end of the episode doesn't even make sense. If you're going to bring in these crazy whackjob characters to run Trump's campaign, you can't go and have him suddenly start acting reasonable and apologizing for hurting people's feelings and walking back his position on immigration. It's one or the other -- he's going to go more extreme, or he's going to start playing at being a real candidate (and it's about twenty episodes too late for that). Having him do both at the same time is nonsensical writing.

And in the middle of all this, we have the conclusion of the Olympics arc. I'm glad they pushed it down to a B-pot this week and didn't focus on any stupid sports, but the subplot where the athletes break a door and lie about it and get arrested ... were the writers trying to be funny? That's the only thing I can think of. If they wanted to be dramatic, surely they could come up with a better crime (though I suppose having one of the athletes get into a drunk driving accident was off limits due to the Manafort business). Having Brazil arrest the guys over something so minor is a real eyerolling moment.

NEXT WEEK: A Clinton scandal. Exactly what nobody in the viewing audience wants.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Gold Record: Earth S2016 E32

I hate sports episodes. Let's just get that out of the way up front.

I hate the annual Super Bowl episode. I hate the March Madness arc. I hate the World Cup storyline. They all bore me.

But above all, I hate the Olympics. It's always the same storylines over and over. Oh look, somebody broke a world record. Again. Then in the next episode it's going to turn out at least one of the record breakers was doping, and it'll be a huge scandal and blah-blah-blah. We've seen it all before. Writers, it's time to move on. Come up with a different plot line.

I mean, it wasn't always like this. Used to be the Olympics were world shaking events -- remember season 1936 when they were set against the backdrop of the Hitler arc, and Jesse Owens humiliated the Nazis in the heart of their empire? That was great writing. Or remember the Olympic boycotts and how they came just as the Cold War arc was at its most exciting?

That's how you do something like this.

But the last few years, it's all been lackluster. The 2014 arc could've been something, coming right at the start of the Ukraine storyline, with Putin cracking down on political dissidents in the background, but the writers completely blew it. And this year, the big plotline they came up with was the Olympics taking place in a city with shitty water -- literally. And it hasn't even played a part in the plotline.

But my big problem with the Olympics is the writers' stupid insistence on making them coincide with the American Presidential elections. This was a dumb move from the get-go, but it's become more so in the last few seasons as the American election arcs go on longer and longer. Here we are at the most exciting point in the story, and we're taking time away for a two part sports story.

The writers had a chance to fix things when they decided to stagger the Summer and Winter Olympics. The smart thing to do would've been to move the summer games, since those are the ones that occur right before the election climax, but instead they shifted the Winter Olympics, which used to take place right before the primaries. So we're stuck with the Olympics reducing the American elections to a B-story.

And what a lame B-story. I don't think the writers were even trying this week. Trump's statements are getting more and more ridiculous -- rants about rigged elections and suggestions that someone should shoot Hillary -- but we're still supposed to believe that Ryan, Priebus and McConnell are supporting him? No rational politician would stick by this guy, especially with his polls tanking. There better be a revelation coming that he has pictures of the Republican leadership committing sex crimes, because the current direction this story is taking has broken by suspension of disbelief.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

I'm Not There Right Now: Earth S2016 E31

After last week's horrible episode, the series tries to get back on track ... with yet another Trump controversy.

Really? We've had like five thousand of them this season. Some of them have been fun, but we all know at this point that they aren't going to stick. The writers are just throwing them in to stir up drama because they don't have any real ideas about how to advance the plot. Worse, the Khan thing is a rehash of Trump trashing McCain last season -- if that didn't bring him down, why are we supposed to believe that suddenly this is a major crisis for his campaign?

Likewise we have Trump's crashing poll numbers, but we know he's not going to flame out quite yet. There are a dozen more episodes before the election. The writers have to keep the tension up. They played this card before, with the Mexican judge episode, and just when it looked like Trump was about to implode, they had the FBI announce their conclusions on Clinton's email screwup. Clearly, the writers are going to do the same thing again -- probably be Wikileaks this time releasing some dirt on Bill.

On top of that, suddenly the writers are setting up a potential coup d'etat within the Republican party. We're supposed to take this seriously now? For the last twenty episode we've been hearing how there's no way to stop Trump once he gets the nomination, that the convention was the last chance to do something.

Don't get me wrong, I like the fact that what finally pushed the Republicans over the edge wasn't any of the egregious things Trump said, but the fact that he wouldn't back Ryan. The expression on Trump's face when he said, "I'm not there yet," was classic -- as always, the best part of this season has been seeing the Republicans get their comeuppance -- and I loved that whole, "Why is this guy still here," reaction to Priebus.

The real problem with this plot line is twofold.

First, the writers are having some Republicans defect for Hillary, but they're only minor characters. I mean, when Meg Whitman is the big name you throw out for shock value, you've got problems. Come on, why not Romney or the Bushes. If they went over, that would be shocking. Whitman, not so much.

But second, at the end of the episode, it looks like Trump is finally cowed and he endorses Ryan and McCain. Come on now, does anyone actually buy that? It's a cheap cliffhanger that's going to be forgotten within a couple episodes. I guarantee you, two episodes from now, Trump's going to be back to his old antics, Priebus will be wringing his hands again, and it'll make exactly zero difference to the ongoing plot, if it's even mentioned again.

NEXT WEEK: The show puts the election storyline on hold for ... a sports episode?