Along with the rise of this Golden Age of TV, is the arrival of the celebrity showrunner. The job of a showrunner is to, as it says, run the show, and it’s been part of TV since TV began, but quick, name the person that ran Gilligan’s Island or Magnum P.I. And now try to name the showrunner for Orange is the New Black or Breaking Bad. Exactly. Well, a new book is attempting to put the rise of the celebrity showrunner cast into context, and break down what it takes to be successful in the business, and as a taste of the new book has been posted on the web in the form of an except that asks a couple of key nerd icons: What does it take to be a good showrunner? (more…)
Ok, so who remembers the teen movie entitled ‘Not Another Teen Movie?‘ I don’t because I don’t watch corny stuff. But let’s imagine that somebody wanted to build off the fad of those parody movies and pitched ‘Not Another High School Show‘ for television. It was developed in 2007 and a pilot was shot for Comedy Central but it wasn’t picked up. The show was allegedly supposed to include individual sketches, an example of which somebody found in a trashcan and put on YouTube. It’s called ‘Muffy The Vampire Slayer’ and holy cats are you in for it. Not to dissect it too deeply before you’ve watched the clip, but let’s just say that it starred Alison Brie in the title role. Oh, and Jennifer Lawrence pops in for a few seconds too. Wait a minute, this sounds awesome… (more…)
Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer know that the series has continued into the present via the magic of comic books and courtesy of Dark Horse Comics. The series has passed beyond the seven season of the television show and brought two new “seasons” to its fans. Season 10 is due to start releasing in March, though this time the series will have a unique guest writer in the form of Nicholas Brendon – aka Xander Harris. (more…)
The legacy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer lives on, with hundreds-of-thousands of fans still out there singing its praises, cosplaying its characters and spending their nights marathoning the seasons. And as we pass the 10-year mark on when the show officially ended, the folks at BBC Radio 4 decided to do a half-hour special. They gathered up some famous faces, including Joss Whedon, Anthony Head and even the well-known writer and Buffy fan, Neil Gaiman, and interviewed them on their opinions about the show. (more…)
Nerd Deity Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, writer/director of The Avengers, and the forthcoming spinoff series, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed to Entertainment Weekly how an often overlooked episode of BTVS provided inspiration for his new show:
This is basically a TV series of ‘The Zeppo’, which was a very deliberate deconstruction of a Buffy episode in order to star the person who mattered the least. The people who are ignored are the people I’ve been writing as my heroes from day one. There’s a world of superheroes and superstars, they’re celebrities, and that’s a complicated world — particularly complicated for people who don’t have the superpowers, the disenfranchised. Now obviously there’s going to be hijinks and hilarity and sex and gadgets and all the things that made people buy the comics. But that’s what the show really is about to me, and that’s what Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson) embodies: the Everyman.
If you’ll recall, “The Zeppo” was a rare Xander-focused episode of Buffy. As the only member of the Scooby gang without supernatural abilities, Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) was often relegated to the background–providing support rather than fighting on the front lines. In “The Zeppo”, while the rest of the gang was off saving the world again, Xander had to deal with a zombie infestation all on his lonesome.
Essentially, Whedon’s taking the concept of how “normal” people deal with living in a “paranormal” world, and stretching it into a series. These agents are remarkably talented, painstakingly trained, and incredibly well-equipped–but in the end, they’re just people like you and me. This gives them certain handicaps when fighting superhuman threats, of course, but it also makes them much more relatable…
And this relatability is what I believe will make Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. stand out as a series.
Because Sarah Michelle Gellar has had SUCH a successful career post Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she just can’t escape the thought of future vamp slayin possibilities.
Being that Veronica Mars raised $5 million for a movie, TV Scoop wondered why Buffy couldn’t do the same. They posed the idea to ‘ole Sarah Michelle. You can almost hear her rolls her eyes with her response. Here’s what she said:
“Joss and I always talk about [a movie],” Gellar told me during an interview for E! News. “But the thing with Buffy is that Buffy was a movie, and it ultimately didn’t work as a film. And I mean, we had such miles to overcome when we were trying to do a TV show based on a movie. And one of the reasons is that the story works better over time.”
I think you all know the likelihood of a NEW Buffy is incredibly slim. You actually have better luck at finding out you’re the chosen one and have a lifetime of hunting vampires than you do at seeing a new Buffy show or movie. The cast are busy with their own successful careers (except for Nicholas Brandon, he ain’t doing shit) and Whedon has signed his soul over to Marvel. But, Sarah Michelle is right. A movie would never work. A TV show (or even the Buffy comic book series) would be only true form in which to develop stories for the Scooby gang that are worth telling. But, even then, the idea of Buffy has elevated to a level of praise and recognition beyond it’s own greatness. Basically, fans built it up and can just easily tear it down. Which, if a new Buffy were to happen, they most definitely would.
When you really think about it, musicals are actually quite a nerdy genre:
Not only do they have their die-hard adherents, as anything qualifying as “nerdy” must, but even the most mundane musicals have an element of the fantastical to them. Think about it: Musicals are populated by people who think it’s perfectly normal to break into song for literally any reason, people for whom an intricately choreographed dance number is an everyday occurrence….
Does anyone ever stop to think about just how WEIRD that is? (well, Joss Whedon did, but I’m getting ahead of myself)
Some musicals, of course, take this a step further, and draw from the various franchises and genres that we, as nerds, know and love for their inspiration. Others are just totally batshit insane, thus making them quite appropriate for a card-carrying nerd’s movie library. It is such musicals that we honor here today.
I have deliberately left out musicals that have so far only been stage productions. Not that I have anything against live theatre, but such musicals are so numerous as to warrant their own list. Instead, I’ve decided to stick to film or television (and in one case: neither) productions. These media are much better known to nerddom, anyway–no offense, Theatre Geeks!
So clear your throats, and prepare to sing along with:
10. Phantom Of The Paradise
One of Brian de Palma’s very first films, Phantom of the Paradise is unique to say the least. “Weirder Than Tits On A Bishop” would be more to the point. It’s a celebration/brutal satire of 1970s pop music tropes, and the music business in general in the form of a musical based on a combination of Phantom of the Opera, Goethe’s Faust, and Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey. The songs were written and performed by ’70s musical wunderkind Paul Williams, best known for scoring The Muppet Movie. Williams also plays the film’s villain–and he gives one of the most disturbing performances in cinema history: Directing a sex tape for your grandparents is less unsettling than Paul Williams as evil record producer “Swan”. Above is the film’s trailer, with a voice-over by one of the most influential directors and nerds in Hollywood: Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim, Ant-Man)
9. Sweeney Todd
As awesome as Tim Burton’s cinematic adaptation of the famed musical tale of the semi-legendary murderous barber and the gruesome uses his accomplice, a baker of meat pies, found for his victims is, it’s a bit too mainstream to warrant a higher ranking on a list like this. I’m not judging which musicals are the BEST, merely the NERDIEST.
Still, Burton‘s Sweeney Todd has it’s share of nerd cred: “Burtonverse” fixtures Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter make the roles of Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett their own (and have surprisingly good singing voices). The film is a casting director’s wet dream, with every role filled superlatively: Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall stand out as the draconian Judge Turpin and his repugnant toadie Beadle Bamford (yes, 3 members of this cast played Harry Potter characters!) Plus it’s visually magnificent, wickedly funny, and boasts some truly infectious musical numbers.
Oh, and blood. LOTS of blood.
8. Cry Baby
Sweeney Todd wasn’t Depp’s first musical–it was just the first he actually SANG in. Back in 1990, Johnny starred as Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker in John Waters’ 50s retro musical Cry Baby. The nerdiness of this film may be a tad less apparent than some of the other entries, but John Waters’ fandom is zealous, if relatively small: Cult comedy nerds may not be the most vocal or visible branch of the nerd family tree—but trust me, we’re there! This hilarious film boasts a number of truly eclectic cameos and supporting roles: Including Traci Lords, Iggy Pop, Susan Tyrrell (remember that name, you’ll hear it again soon), Willem Dafoe, and Ricki Lake (Glenn Milstead, AKA “Divine”, was originally part of the cast, but sadly passed away before filming began).
7. Cannibal! The Musical
Cannibal! The Musical, thanks to legendary independent film studio Troma (the fine folks who gave the world the Toxic Avenger franchise), who distributed this odd little film, put the names Trey Parker and Matt Stone on the radar….last I heard, they had this cartoon thing on basic cable, and some stage show about Jehovah’s Witnesses, I think.
Would have thought they’d have amounted to more given how awesome this film is: Cannibal! tells the story of Alferd Packer–supposedly the first American ever to be tried for cannibalism (Packer DID exist, but Parker and Stone‘s historical accuracy is dubious at best). A VERY young Trey Parker plays the titular cannibal, with Stone and their perennial sidekick Dian Bachar in supporting roles. Parker wrote and performed the music, and the whole thing is far more fun, likeable, and sweet than a movie about eating human flesh should be. Fans of South Park will recognize little tidbits that would later pop up in the show: Matt Stone’s character is where the series got Kyle’s big red Jew ‘fro, and a line in the song featured above is referenced in South Park: Bigger. Longer, and Uncut when Kenny’s heart is accidentally replaced by a baked potato.
6. Little Shop Of Horrors
The original Little Shop of Horrors made bad movie history when infamous schlock filmmaker, Roger Corman, produced and directed it in just under 3 days–merely to prove that he could make a movie from start to finish in under a week.
Two decades later, that story of the little skid row flower shop and the man-eating plant behind its doors became a blockbuster Broadway musical, and was soon adapted into a film by “Muppeteer” Frank Oz. It’s quite simply one of the most purely enjoyable movie musicals ever made, due largely to the brilliant performances of Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, and Steve Martin, seen above in the iconic role of dentist/domestic abuser Dr. Orin Scrivello, DDS.
5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Yes, friends: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, adapted from the stage musical The Rocky Horror Show (see what they did there?) in 1975 by director Jim Sharman, writer Richard O’Brien, and producers Lou Adler and Michael White. It’s a devious satire of Middle-American values crossed with an homage to classic horror and science-fiction cinema. Everyone knows the plot: Girl and Boy go for drive, Girl and Boy meet Alien Transvestite, Alien Transvestite creates Muscle Man in vat of chemicals, Everybody has sex, Alien Transvestite and his creation killed with lasers by the help, Castle flies off into space, THE END.
Oh, and there’s a lot of really kickass musical numbers in between the sex and the death somewhere.
RHPS is probably best known not on its own merits, but due to the following it has developed: For 38 years fans have been going to midnight showings across the globe where they watch not only the film, but a “shadowcast” in front of the screen in full costume (well, the GOOD casts do it that way ) miming the actions of the characters. The audience itself also gets into the action: Throwing things (carefully!) like toast and toilet paper at the prescribed times, and yelling call-backs and insults at the screen (an RHPS tradition from decades before MST3K or Rifftrax). In all seriousness, at least ONE trip to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror should be on everyone’s bucket list.
4. Shock Treatment
It’s likely many of you have never heard of this musical by the writers and producers of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s equally likely that if you have heard of it, you’ve heard it’s a sequel to Rocky Horror. That isn’t entirely accurate. The filmmakers refer to it as an “Equal, Not A Sequel”. Many of the same characters, actors and settings from Rocky Horror are present, but it isn’t really a continuation of Rocky’s story line: You could see Shock Treatment without ever knowing Rocky Horror exists, and you wouldn’t miss a thing.
Anyhoo, I personally prefer Shock Treatment to its far more famous predecessor: RHPS had a few better actors, and arguably superior production values–but Shock Treatment has much better songs, and a generally “nerdier” vibe. Long before things like Reality TV or The Truman Show, Richard O’Brien envisioned a town that WAS a TV studio itself….where citizens actually lived in shows and the audience just slept in their seats. Again, Middle America is satirized–but it’s not its puritanical morals that are attacked, but its mindless consumerism and obsession with television. I grant you the plot does wander, and lacks Rocky Horror’s cohesiveness: But the superior music makes up for these flaws. (FUN FACT: That’s Rik Mayall of The Young Ones taking the Polaroids)
3. Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Once More, With Feeling
I almost didn’t include this. I wanted to stick to movie musicals, and besides: I’m a lukewarm BTVS fan at best (Angel and Firefly are another story). But our dear and fluffy editor insisted….
And he knew what he was doing! I love this in ways I cannot properly communicate with language. Once More, With Feeling is a work of sheer genius, and the best part is you don’t need to know barely anything about Buffy to enjoy it. The flashback at the beginning is comprehensive enough to bring non-fans up to speed. Here’s the skinny: The town’s under the influence of a song and dance-loving demon accidentally summoned by Dawn Summers. The citizens are breaking into musical numbers at random….just as they would in a musical, except they realize it’s abnormal. Buffy and the Scoobies are affected as well, leading to some great numbers from the show’s best loved characters. Joss Whedon outdid himself with this episode: He could have had a very successful career as a songwriter. Once More, With Feeling has become one of the most famous and beloved BTVS episodes, and has even been performed by live casts on stage!
(PS: Sorry for the subtitles, but getting a clip of anything owned by Fox in its original form on YouTube is like pulling teeth–this was the best I could do…the alternative was a mere slideshow)
Before he was the “Man Behind The Music” of Tim Burton’s film library, Danny Elfman fronted a New Wave/Ska fusion pop band called Oingo Boingo.
Before that, he composed and performed the music for an experimental musical theatre troupe in L.A. run by his brother Richard Elfman called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo (hence the name)
Around 1980, when Danny decided he wanted to move from live theatre to music, he and Richard put together a movie version of everything the Mystic Knights was…sort of a “swan song” for the troupe, and Forbidden Zone was born. This utterly mad film follows the adventures of the unbelievably dysfunctional Hercules family, who discover a portal to a parallel universe called the Sixth Dimension in the basement of their new house. The music is a cacophony of conflicting styles, from jazz to rock to minstrel shows to Jewish Vaudeville–yet somehow it all works together, a testament to Elfman‘s genius. The cast includes the aforementioned Susan Tyrell and the late Herve Villechaize (yes, Tattoo from Fantasy Island) as the Sixth Dimension’s queen and king, and Danny himself as Satan (yes, SATAN). Unfortunately, early ’80s audiences didn’t quite get what the Elfman brothers were attempting here, the movie faced accusations of racism for its use of blackface, and it performed poorly at the box office…..Fortunately, the “Midnight Movie” crowd adopted it a few years later, and it’s developed a sizeable and rabid following.
1. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog
Our #1 is neither a movie nor a television show, but holy balls is it NERDY!!!
Joss Whedon’s internet sensation Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog is nothing short of magic. It’s less than an hour long, but it easily out-nerds (if that’s a term) any feature length musical on this list. Neil Patrick Harris is Dr. Horrible: A budding supervillain torn between his devotion to evil and world conquest, and his crush on the pretty redhead at the Laundromat who runs a homeless shelter (if you never understood why nerds love Felicia Day so much, it’s because you never saw her in this). Horrible works out his frustrations on his video blog, and in song, as he works to gain the notice of legendary supervillain Bad Horse, and deals with the humiliation of constant defeat at the hands of Captain Hammer: World’s Douchiest Superhero (Nathan Fillion–obviously having the time of his life) who’s also dating his girl!
I won’t spoil the ending, but try to remember: This IS a Whedon production….
As nerds, we connect to fictional personalities in a way “normal” people often look at as oddly serious, if not downright creepy. I’m not saying we don’t understand the difference between fantasy and reality – I’m merely pointing out that many of us are creative, sensitive people. Well-crafted imaginary characters often resonate deeply with us, and their losses can be quite harrowing. While I’m sure there are a few folks out there who’d love to re-enact key scenes from Misery with, let’s say, Joss Whedon (I’m half convinced he’s only bringing back Agent Coulson for S.H.I.E.L.D so he can slaughter him in an even more traumatizing manner), most of us stick to bitching and moaning on the Internet, threatening to boycott the shows in question, and then coming back for more next week.
But however much outrage and despair they may inspire, character deaths are often some of the most memorable moments on television – and feature some of the best writing and performances as well. Sure, there’s no shortage of poorly thought out, bullshit deaths, but they’re for another list. Get out your hankies, my nerdy brethren and sistren, and prepare to have your hearts kicked in the balls all over again with The Top 10 Saddest, Most Gut Wrenching Deaths in Nerdy Television.
NOTE: As most of you will have assumed simply from the nature of this list, it features spoilers galore. If you haven’t seen one of the shows featured, and wish to feel the full emotional impact of seeing one of its characters snuff it, I advise you to skip the entry in question. Enjoy!
Oh sure, he reigns supreme now, standing high above us all on Nerd mountain following the success of The Avengers (meh), but like all of us, Joss Whedon has regrets.
For instance, there is that time he wore that salmon and grey colored henley jersey shirt for 14 consecutive months, the time he didn’t blame more people for the failure of Alien: Resurrection, the time he turned down an Indecent Proposal-style offer that could have gotten Firefly a back 9 (Robert Redford was inexplicably powerful at Fox in the early aughts, but I’ll never know why he craved Alan Tudyk in that way) and apparently, that time that he wasn’t able to sell the Buffy animated series.
Here’s what Whedon had to say on the non-life of the Buffy-toon during a Q&A at the Director’s Guild:
“We got to do almost everything we wanted to do. The only thing we didn’t get to do is an animated version, which was a delight for us because the writers themselves were working on it. We wrote seven scripts … it was ‘what could we not do [on the regular series].’ They were really fun to write. We could not sell the show. We could not sell an animated Buffy, which I still find incomprehensible.”
Thankfully for Whedon and us, he has continued the Buffy story into the comic book realm with Dark Horse’s Buffy series. Within those pages, Whedon and his shiny cohorts have been able to take Buffy to the limit without the bounds of a TV budget.
Whedon even got to pay homage to the dashed cartoon in the 20th issue of Buffy Season 8, “After These Messages… We’ll Be Right Back”. Written by Jeph Loeb (who worked with Whedon on the Buffy animated series and who is now working with him on the SHIELD pilot) and partially drawn by Eric Wight, the sorta-one shot cuts into Buffy’s dreams as she remembers the comparatively calmer days of season one, so if you really want the scoop on what the Buffy Animated Series would have felt like, go pick up the comic and find out.