Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A man. A dog. A fucked-up farewell.

Ralph Stanley - O, Death (Hey! A reference to my last post! Synergy!)

As in the past, I was inspired to write an angry post after a night of watching Sunday night television. Two shows in particular, both airing at the same exact time. The shows couldn't be more different, but in their most recent episodes (one a season finale) they both made the same mistake: killing off a major character.


Boardwalk Empire decided to kill off my favorite character, after disgracing him first, and Family Guy killed off the family (talking) pet.

I'm not one of those people that petitions the network to cancel a show for killing a character or petition the creator to bring back the character; in fact, I love when a series has the balls to kill off a main character, if it's done well. If it makes for a great episode and story line, and it works for the show as a whole, kill those sons of bitches. But these two deaths felt forced, unnecessary. Just...wrong.

First off, the easier one: Family Guy. I'm not the biggest fan, but I think it's the third best prime time cartoon ever (right behind Fish Police). Brian, the talking, martini-drinking dog, is easily one of the best characters on the show. He is often the one that keeps the show grounded in reality (ironic considering he's a talking dog) and gives it a sense of class. He is the voice of reason in the family, and the show itself. Family Guy is not a show that deals with serious topics. It has an entire episode dedicated to making fun of babies left in the dumpster after prom night. I watched a rerun last night where Peter mistakenly, yet mercilessly and horrifically, slices Quagmire's new cat to death without batting an eye, and all of his friends show no real concern.

There is the occasional "real" emotion, but the show deals mostly in the absurd.Then, this past Sunday night, Brian gets run over by a car right in front of his best friend, Stewie. It's bloody and gross, like the show often is, but it's not played for a gag. Stewie and the family are generally upset. Stewie figures he'll use his time machine to go back and fix it, but he had dismantled it earlier.

So Brian dies.

Stewie can't fix it.

The family gets another dog.

The dog has a heart to heart talk with Stewie about missing Brian.

End episode.

What the fuck? Did Seth McFarlane commission a middle school PSA on dealing with dead pets? What the hell did I just watch?

The one article I read about the episode said it was an idea that came up in the writer's room and they just went with it. They thought it was just the bestest idea ever! How fun it will be to watch the whole family suffer! We'll make this absurd cartoon about a moron, his murderous baby, crazy family, and talking dog into an after school special about the harsh realities of pet ownership. Fun!

Well, the backlash is upon them, and this time, the same internet fury that got Family Guy back on the air after cancellation might just get their asses booted off the air.

I don't mind when characters die, if it makes for a good show. This did not. And there's no way it can be beneficial to the series. Even if Paulie Walnuts was amazing as the new dog (he's not) there is no coming back from this. Think about when your own pet dies. It sucks for a very long time. It's a hard decision to get another pet, and even when you do, you don't love that new pet as much. Maybe you will eventually, but that also takes a long time, and it requires that you accept this pet as an entirely different individual that you will love differently. Well, this is a tv show and audiences don't want to love our shows differently. We want our dramas to remain dramas and comedies to remain comedies (hear that Weeds??). When series replace actors it hardly ever works; we have grown attached to this character, represented by this person, for so long that it feels fraudulent when another actor tries to emulate that character. We can't accept it. And adding new characters is such an obvious ploy to draw attention and boost ratings that the Family Guy writers should be embarrassed. I mean, we all learned that trick on The Simpsons (a much better show overall) a long time ago.

You know the Family Guy writers saw that Poochie episode. One of them remembered it a decade later and instead of seeing it as a hilarious parody of the tv industry's lack of creativity, he took it as a tutorial.

Maybe this is a part of a larger story line and they are planning to bring Brian back, but it seems to me this is a permanent, long-term move (unless they eventually buckle to fan pressure). It was a horrible decision, but like everything else Seth MacFarlane does, it's not the quality of the material that matters, its how much attention the material gets. This move got plenty of attention, I just don't think it's the attention they wanted.

Besides, Futurama already did the ultimate dead dog cartoon. No cartoon should ever deal with the subject again. Ever. Please.

The next death didn't get as much attention, but I think it was just as devastating to the series in which it occurred. Richard Harrow, the man with the half-tin face, made his very sad, sad departure from Boardwalk Empire in the finale of the very sad, sad season 4. The show may have jumped the shark in the previous episode, so it's no surprise that the finale was so disappointing.

The shark jumping occurred when Gillian Darmody confessed her murder (of that guy in her bathtub) to her new fiancee, who ended up being an undercover detective. I won't get too much into it here, but it was a ridiculous twist to an uninteresting subplot.

After the last season finale, where Richard shoots up about 20 gangsters and takes Tommy to a new home, Richard has lost his edge. He doesn't appear too much in season 4, but one scene early on involves him being unable to even kill a dying dog. Late in the season, we see him interact with Chalky White, and it seems as if our (my) wildest dreams will finally come true: Half-face and Chalky are gonna get together and fuck shit UP! Yes!

In the season 4 finale, Chalky meets with Dr. Narcisse, and we see Richard in a balcony with a rifle about to take Narcisse out. Hell yeah! But Richard hesitates. His hands are shaking. His fingers are stiff. He refocuses and pulls the trigger...only to shoot Chalky's daughter, who had just walked in front of Narcisse, right in the head.

Damn. Okay. Didn't see that coming. Surprises are usually good. Like Eli killing the federal agent earlier in the episode. Awesome! But this? Damn.

Richard runs away as Narcisse's men shoot at him. Chalky is dragged away by his people.

Later we see Richard, meeting little Tommy and his new wife in Wisconsin. He's smiling, and we see that he has his real face...he's dreaming. Cut to the final scene of the season: Richard dying alone on the beach under a pier.

Fuck. That was depressing.

Ok, I'm admitting bias here because he is my favorite character, but...WHY YALL DO HIM DIRTY LIKE THAT HBO?

I get it. He's a soldier who lost his nerve, and a soldier without the ability to kill serves no purpose, especially in 1930's Atlantic City. His time had come. But why have him kill the girl? That disgraces his whole legacy. Not to mention, it taints Chalky. Yeah he'll be more outraged than ever, but instead of focusing all the fury on Narcisse, now he'll have to face the fact that he is partially at fault for his daughter's death.

I don't want to see all that. I just want Chalky to fuckin destroy Narcisse. His character is well rounded enough, and deals with plenty already (race relations with the whites, race relations among the blacks, balancing a business and family). This is another level to his character, and it feels very unnecessary.

And Richard. Poor fucking Richard. Besides Buscemi's legendarily ugly mug, he was the face of the show (no pun intended). He was the most interesting character, and it seemed as if he had the most story and character to still develop. When Jimmy Dormady died, it was sad. But he had to go. It fit the story, it improved the story, and it pushed the story forward. I just don't see it with Richard's death. Maybe (hopefully) they prove me wrong, but this season as a whole has left me disappointed.

But what do I know? I don't write these shows, I just watch. I'm just a fan.

A fan with a broken heart... *cue violins*

I Love You All (Goodbye, Brian and Mr. Harrow)...Class Dismissed.

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