Tag Archives: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

10 Highly Questionable TV Crushes

Yesterday evening, as well as the excitement of the first Only Connect quarter-final on BBC2, BBC3 brought us the new series of American Dad!, the much-less beloved baby brother of Family Guy. Always one to go off in my own slightly inexplicable direction, I actually prefer American Dad! to its brash and noisy older sibling. For one thing, it has Patrick Stewart in it. For another, it doesn’t have Quagmire (giggidy giggidy go away you are too creepy to be amusing). But perhaps the main reason for my preference is that I have quite a big soft spot for patriarch and eponymous American Dad Stan Smith. I really shouldn’t. He’s barking mad, often very sinister, and also he’s a cartoon. But nonetheless I see his enormous chin and hear his absurd pompous voice and I think, “Ah, Stan. How about slipping some of that American-ness my way, baby?”.

Therefore, in his honour, I now present to you Screen-Eyed Monster’s ’10 Highly Questionable TV Crushes’.

1. Stan Smith (American Dad!)

For those unfamiliar with American Dad!, Stan is your quintessential Republican. He always wears a suit with a little American flag lapel pin; he works for the CIA; he is immensely single-minded in his devotion to both God and Ronald Reagan (not necessarily in that order); he’s horrified by anything remotely left-wing (i.e. his daughter) or non-heteronormative (i.e. his son); in short, he’s sexist, homophobic, bigoted and gun-crazy. But here’s the thing – he’s actually quite sweet sometimes. I mean, he lets an alien and a talking goldfish (inhabited by the mind of a former East German ski-jumper, obvs) live rent-free in his all-American house. And he’s a very snappy dresser. And one time he sacrificed an eye and a hand to save the life of his estranged wife in a post-apocalyptic dystopia run by the Anti-Christ. So, you know, you sort of feel like you’d be safe with Stan. Unless he could only save either you or George W. Bush, in which case you’re a goner.

2. Nigel McCall (Rev)

At first glance, it’s fair to say, Nigel doesn’t appear to be a major heart-throb (even if you generously ignore the fact of his name). As the lay reader at a small inner-city church, he seems to have a problem with authority, which is a bit odd for someone apparently devoting his life to working for the Supreme Authority, and generally wears either a V-neck sweater or a cassock – so not exactly your go-to guy for flights of feverish fantasy. In addition, he’s worryingly strait-laced, posh, pernickety, fastidious, slightly camp and humorously out-of-touch with young people. I guess in that sense he’s quite similar to the actor who plays him, Miles Jupp. In fact, Jupp is the son of a minister and studied divinity, so really they have an awful lot in common. OK, fine, I have a crush on Miles Jupp. Stop banging on about it.

3. Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)

Ah, Barney Stinson. Womaniser, philanderer, inventor of the Lemon Law. Not a bad person, really, but hardly the ideal date/boyfriend/husband, not least because he seems completely incapable of committing to any other human for more than about twelve seconds. His motto is ‘Love ‘em and leave ‘em’ (well, that’s not strictly true – his mottoes are ‘Suit up’, ‘Legen – wait for it – dary’ and ‘When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead – true story’) and he bounces between attractive women faster than you can say ‘Bob Barker’s your dad’. Nonetheless, he has a sweet side, mainly involving a troubled youth as a lonely hippie and a surprising soft spot for babies. Bless! Sign me up.

4. Walter Skinner (The X-Files)

FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner is a man on a mission: to keep America safe from threats both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial. Sure, at the start of the series he has little time for Mulder’s wacky theories, but then Mulder is trying to convince him that aliens are trying to kill us all, which, let’s be honest, does sound a bit bonkers. But after a few run-ins with bad guys not of this world, Skinner starts to believe (certainly quicker than Scully does), and then he’s a steadfast ally, giving leeway where leeway is needed and reining things in when they get out of hand. He also had the balls to take on his evil boss, the Cigarette-Smoking Man, and he very much enjoys a good bubble bath. In fact, aside from the age gap (he’s 50 by the end of the series) and the fact that he has a bit of a bald thing going on, I’m not sure this one is actually that weird. Right? Right…?

5. Jack Donaghy (30 Rock)

Jack Donaghy is basically Stan Smith if Stan Smith joined NBC as a network executive. Staunch Republican – check. Snappy dresser – check. Severe disdain for namby-pamby airy-fairy lefties – check. At times it seems all he cares about is money, seducing powerful women and money. But, disconcerting capitalist dogma notwithstanding, Jack’s a pure charmer; after all, you don’t get to be Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming by alienating everyone you meet. In fact, as frontwoman Liz Lemon becomes increasingly selfish and morally ambiguous, Jack starts to shine as a beacon of common sense, conscience and compassion. Either that, or I’ve been so mesmerised by his hypnotic blue eyes and perfect hair that I’ve lost all sense of reality.

6. Brian Steadman (Teachers)

The thing about Brian is that he’s not a bad guy. It’s just that, well, he only ever wears tracksuits (he’s a PE teacher, after all), he’s not brilliant with the ladies (“This has nothing to do with you being fat, which you’re not, you’re just healthy… in a large way”) and he finds it hard to keep up with all this new-fangled political correctness – indeed, finds it hard to keep up with much of anything at all. Still, he seems all right at his job, and certainly manages to avoid some of the worse traits found in his colleagues, such as chain-smoking, one-night stands, sleeping with students, and whining constantly every second of every day. RIP, Brian. RIP.

7. Leonardo (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

By way of introduction to this one, let me quote Wikipedia: “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a team of mutant red-eared sliders named after four Renaissance artists and living in the sewers of New York City, where they train by day and fight crime by night as ninjas.” Standard. So, yes, essentially I’m saying I have a crush on a humanoid terrapin who lives in a drain. But not just any humanoid terrapin who lives in a drain, oh no. Leonardo is the leader of the gang. He’s the man (turtle) in charge. He’s the hero. He gets stuff done. And you’d never want for pizza.

8. Dennis Reynolds (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

My God, Dennis is a terrible person. I mean, even in the context of It’s Always Sunny, in which every character is appalling, Dennis surpasses them all by being outstandingly horrible. Ever pushed a former friend out of a moving car? Dennis has. Ever bought a boat so you could lure women onto it and coerce them into sleeping with you? Dennis has. Ever installed a glory hole in the bathroom of the bar you own? Dennis has. Ever threatened to kill your sister, chop her into small pieces and make her into a fetching suitcase? Dennis has, and he would do it again. Is he a sociopath? Perhaps. At the very least, he’s sufficiently odious that I’m really struggling to justify the fact that I’ve included him on a list of TV crushes. It certainly has nothing to do with the fact that he takes his shirt off a lot.

9. Huck Finn (Scandal)

Let’s get the bad news out of the way right at the start: Huck is a former Special Ops torturer who really, REALLY loved his job. As they say, once a torturer, always a torturer, and Huck remains a mass of inner turmoil and conflict (not helped by the fact that his ‘hero good guy’ employer keeps asking him if he could maybe just do a teensy-weensy bit of torturing, nothing too serious, all in a good cause, you know – but that’s a rant for another day). However, he has the following going for him. One – sympathy vote (he was blackmailed into becoming a torturer in the first place, so, you know, totally not his fault). Two – incredible loyalty to friends and family (see above re. ‘Nothing wrong with a bit of torturing between friends’). Three – strong technological game, including hacking into government mainframes, which would be useful in avoiding any pesky parking tickets / jury service / murder charges. Basically, however badly you mess up, Huck’s got your back. Maybe best to keep it turned away from him though.

10. Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Spike, AKA William the Bloody. Yikes. Where to begin? Vampire without a soul. Killer. Thief. Double-crosser. Science experiment. Punk. Bleach blond. Writer of truly terrible poetry. On paper, it looks bad – any sensible girl or boy would stay the hell (geddit) out of his way and go for someone a bit more wholesome and human. But pretty much the entire Buffy fandom would pick Spike over, for example, wholesome human Riley Finn, who’s about as interesting as a piece of old sandpaper. And that’s because Spike is cool, all sarcastic and leather-clad and muscly and Cockney and cheekboney and and such. Having a crush on Spike is basically inevitable. Twisted, absurd and highly problematic, but inevitable.

So there you have it. Am I mad, or do I have an eye for a diamond in the rough? WE MAY NEVER KNOW.

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Damn You, Moffat! The Writers vs. the Fans

For a certain portion of the UK’s television viewing population, the last three weeks have been simply glorious. We waited for two years, and then – AND THEN – Sherlock and John hurtled back into our lives, bringing us laughter, tears, gasps and occasional feelings of nausea or confusion when confronted with a particularly gruesome body (or the sight of Sherlock with a girlfriend). For three all too brief ninety-minute sessions, our lives were whole again.

But now those days are over for what may well be another two years, so it’s time to stave off the gloom with some obsessive dissection of what went on. To whit: the first episode, The Empty Hearse, was offered us not one but three possible solutions to the conundrum of how Sherlock faked his own death at the end of the last season. Each possibility was more ridiculous than the last, involving bungee jumping, fake bodies, wax masks and, at one point, Derren Brown. OK, so the writers were gently mocking us for all the implausible theories we’d come up with during the interim, and if we had any sense of humour, we found it funny and we laughed at ourselves. But let’s be serious – how did he actually do it?

Well, it turns out that we may never know. Ultimately, Moffat gave us three options, proposed one as the ‘real’ solution, and then, in a cruel twist, told us that even that one might not be how it actually happened. Immediately, the Internet exploded into a frenzied debate – which one was true? Were any of them true? Will we ever know? And was this utter genius on the writer’s part, or a bit of a cop-out?

Laying my cards on the table, I’m saying it was a disappointment. I’m all for leading your viewers up the garden path for a while, but you need a pay-off at the end to make it worth their while, and I’m not sure that we got that – particularly since the episode was so concerned with confusing and beguiling us that it forgot to contain any actual plot.

But, then again, what did we expect from Steven Moffat, Sadistic Television Overlord? I’m certainly not the only TV obsessive to be building up a strong list of reasons why Moffat is an evil genius, and, so far, I’ve managed to stay the right side of actual fury, unlike those fans branding him a liar, “the biggest troll in television”, or indeed “the King of all things troll-ish who reigns over a land in which the people are constantly crying and everything hurts”. As well as his sinewy plots on Sherlock, he earned both abundant praise and unrestrained ire for the Doctor Who fiftieth anniversary episode, in which he twisted around everything we thought we knew about the Doctor’s history, character and ability to regenerate. (Incidentally, I thought that episode was brilliant. You see – even I don’t know whether to adore or loathe the man.)

It should be noted that Moffat isn’t the first TV writer to have induced this bizarre love-hate relationship in his fans. Back in the 1960s, Patrick McGoohan’s final episode of sci-fi drama The Prisoner was so ambiguous and inconclusive that British fans rioted, leading McGoohan to believe that he was going to be lynched in the streets. Then, in the heady days of the 1990s, Buffy the Vampire Slayer secured its writer, Joss Whedon, a founding place in the tradition of using a TV writer’s name to mean a particular way of messing with viewers. While “to Moffat” is to insist that a show-related fact is 100% true, only to reveal later that, in fact, this is not the case and you were an idiot to believe it, a fan gets “Jossed” when the background understanding he or she has built up over the course of a series is vaporised in short shrift by a new episode, or, more poignantly, when a character is killed off unexpectedly and heart-breakingly. By the end of Buffy and Angel, Whedon’s flagship shows, almost every major character is dead, with the exception of Buffy herself, who has actually died twice but come back to life (cue long-winded explanation involving Hellmouths and Wiccan magic). Overall, Buffy and Angel had “more heartrending moments than stakes at a Slayers convention”.

But that’s not to say that the writers of our favourite shows are always mean and nasty. Sometimes they give us exactly what we want; this, in the terminology of manga fandom, is ‘fanservice’. Fanservice comes in many forms. It can be a cameo appearance from a beloved character or actor – Tom Baker in the anniversary episode of Doctor Who, Noel Fielding popping up for a last hurrah in the final episode of The IT Crowd, or Teri Hatcher playing Lois’s mother in Smallville. It can be a revealing outfit – Kaley Cuoco dressed as Wonder Woman in The Big Bang Theory, Colin Firth appearing from a pond in a white shirt in Pride and Prejudice, Lea Michele dressed as Britney Spears in Glee. It can be a fourth-wall-breaking in-joke about the ridiculousness of TV, such as Alex’s reference to the hospital in Grey’s Anatomy as ‘Seattle-Grace Mercy-Death’, or Baldrick suggesting that if a film was made of Blackadder’s life, Baldrick would be played by “some tiny tit in a beard”. Or, just to please the hardcore contingent, it can occasionally be a sexy moment straight out of erotic fan-fiction – Dr House telling Wilson, “I really gotta get you laid. If I have to plough that furrow myself, so be it”, Phoebe and Rachel’s kiss on FRIENDS, and, of course, the recent will-they-won’t-they-did-they-actually moment between Sherlock and Moriarty in The Empty Hearse (shippers ahoy!).

The real question is: how far should writers and producers take this kind of thing? There’s no question that fans are a force to be reckoned with. The last few years have seen entire series revived through fans’ efforts: when Firefly, Joss Whedon’s space western, was cancelled after one season, fans successfully campaigned to get it released on DVD, sales of which led to the commissioning of a film sequel; likewise, Arrested Development got a film adaptation and at least one further season when its fanbase grew to substantial proportions thanks to DVD sales and Netflix.

Naturally, if the team behind a hit TV show panders too far to the fans’ whims, there will be accusations of selling out and brown-nosing. On the other hand, ignoring the fans completely – or deliberately choosing to mess with them – can be dangerous. Shows like How I Met Your Mother, which eight seasons in has yet to reveal who the eponymous mother is, has slowly worn down its viewers’ interest so that the majority of them are now just praying for it to be over; meanwhile, one-off events like the notorious ‘Red Wedding’ on Game Of Thrones or the rape scene in Downton Abbey can cause viewers to be “5000% done” with a show they once loved.

Thus far, both Joss Whedon and Steven Moffat seem to be getting the balance just about right. The Internet has frequently vented its anger at them, but it’s an anger borne from love; and, crucially, people are still watching their shows. Whedon has a loyal following of fans who’ve jumped eagerly into Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly and Agents of SHIELD; meanwhile, the first episode of the most recent season of Sherlock was the most tweeted-about episode of any drama series, a record which the third episode summarily went on to break. Clearly, they’re doing something right, even if they occasionally cause their fans moments of angst and despair. So well done, and we’ll be waiting with bated breath for the next season. Which would be welcome as soon as possible. Please. Grrr.