The Media Witch's Look Back at 2007: Part One, TV
Article ID: 12312
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Peg Aloi [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: January 13th. 2008
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Buh-bye, Willow Rosenberg. Hail and Farewell, Halliwell sisters. So long, Sabrina. It's been a while since we had any witch role models in movies or TV, hasn't it? Now that we witches and pagans are all mainstream now, we're starting to grow used to media that shows an awareness of our culture, our beliefs and communities.
True, there may not be much out there that accurately portrays neo-pagan or earth-based spirituality in a focused way. More often than not, it's an off-handed comment or joke on one of Fox's animated shows like Family Guy or King of the Hill, or maybe a random mention of some ancient druidic or animistic belief spouted by some fringe character on a weekly sitcom.
Sadly, now that Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer have departed, we no longer have any television shows with actual contemporary witches (however enhanced they may have been with special effects). But there is definitely something happening in contemporary on TV lately, with a surprising number of shows that go beyond the realm of mundane reality.
Why is this? Is Hollywood growing more pagan-friendly for a reason, or is it just a gradual osmosis, absorption of the culture at large? Maybe it‚s a response to the constant reiteration of the naďve idea that our nation must embrace "traditional values" if it is to survive. Maybe it is pure, unadulterated escapism: how better to forget the very real troubles in the world than watching shows about superheroes and mystical worlds and magical powers?
I think it is also true that what we traditionally regard as "reality" on television, including news, has become increasingly surreal and entertainment-oriented. I mean, does it get any more surreal than the news coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's horrific death, or any more sensationalized than the paparazzi's obsession with the downward spiral of Britney Spears?
And the genre narratives traditionally associated with mystery, and by that I mean crime dramas, have become very intricate and unusual, perhaps because the world of forensics and DNA-testing is, in reality, a rather dull and unglamorous matter. In an incisive article for The New York Times, Alessandra Stanley examines the idea that the only form of novelty left for police shows is a return to magic.
Shows like Law and Order (all three franchises) and CSI (all three franchises) have woven all sorts of dark, occult-related storylines into their weekly crime-fighting; and NCIS has its own personal Goth lab technician.
Meanwhile, Wicca has been mentioned on shows from ER and House to Malcolm in the Middle and The Simpsons. Sure, it's usually in a less than serious context, but at least it's talked about as if audiences will actually know what it is.
2007 was a fairly interesting year for films and TV, with plenty of themes connected to paganism, magic, witchcraft, and the occult and supernatural phenomena. Some established shows continue to explore life on the dark side, perhaps most notably ABC's Lost, an unusual character-driven drama about the aftermath of a plane crash on an uncharted island. If you have not yet succumbed to this intelligent, thrilling, deliciously addictive show, you have time to watch the first three seasons on DVD before the fourth season begins in January.
Come on, someone you know will lend them to you if you don‚t want to buy them. I am not usually interested in encouraging people to get hooked on network TV shows, but trust me on this one.
Another show continuing to fascinate audiences drawn to the unreal: Heroes, the show about ordinary people who wake up one day with extraordinary abilities. I admit, I have not been able to watch this from the start because of my schedule, but the bits and pieces I have seen are impressive indeed, and as far as I can tell it is much loved by pagans. I do plan to try and get caught up on it when I can.
Some others that continue to draw enough audience interest to keep them on the air include CW's Supernatural, with two teen heartthrobs exploring things that go bump in the night, and NBC's excellent Medium with Patricia Arquette as a crime-solving clairvoyant. Then there's Ghost Whisperer on CBS, which, sorry, I just cannot bring myself to watch because Jennifer Love Hewitt is...well, in it.
While we're talking about network TV, I also want to mention the very brave and almost hard-to-believe trend this past season to introduce a number of brand-new shows dealing with the paranormal, the occult or magic realism. These include NBC's Journeyman, starring British actor Kevin Mocked (Okay, that's another trend, loads of Brits jumping the pond to star in American TV shows. Am I complaining? No. No, I am not.) as a man who time-travels with alarming unpredictability. It's not as good as I'd hoped it would be, but then I gave up on it rather quickly.
There's Moonlight, a vampire show on CBS starring the very-hunky Alex O'Loughlin as a private investigator who struggles to keep his undead status a secret. It's sexy and kinda witty but not all that exciting. Its gorgeous lead actor is definitely a draw, though.
Then there is the quirky bit of magic realism known as Pushing Daisies, a fanciful and fun show about a guy named Ned who can bring the dead back to life with one touch, and kill them again with a second.
Anna Friel (another cute Brit) plays the once-deceased childhood sweetheart he has to keep at arm's length. Comic mavens Swoosie Kurtz and Kristin Chenoweth also star, it's been nominated for a number of Golden Globe Awards, and, oh, the best part, it's set in a colorful bakery (The Pie Hole!) that looks like something co-owned by Betty Boop, Martha Stewart and Glinda the Good Witch. So watch it already.
Cable TV also had its share of new and continuing shows on the darker side. BBC America continued its run of Hex, the sexy, witty show set in a girls' college. The network debuted a new version of Robin Hood which was very disappointing. Some of the actors are wonderful, but the production values are fairly half-assed: inauthentic costumes, inappropriate music, lots of action-flick style camera work.
Do yourself a favor and get hold of Showtime's Robin of Sherwood on DVD; it's brilliant-and pagan.
They also debuted another twist on a well-loved story: Jekyll, a hot new show starring James Nesbitt in a compelling portrayal of a man with two distinct personalities, written by Steven Moffat and starring Gina Bellman, both of the hit Brit comedy Coupling.
There's the new sci-fi thriller Life on Mars, about a detective who travels in time via car crash, from the present to 1973 (a very interesting year to travel to). This one is fairly new but it's already drawing a lot of buzz, and has a great soundtrack with music by the likes of Santana, ELO, David Bowie and Roxy Music. Speaking of time travel, the classic sci-fi series Doctor Who has been re-imagined in a wonderful new way, and its strange evil twin Torchwood (the title is even an anagram of Doctor Who) is yet another show about people who can apparently travel anywhere through space and time, fighting evil and engaging in various shenanigans.
So far, I like the new Doctor Who more than Torchwood, but maybe that is because I never saw much of the original Doctor Who and because Torchwood has an irritating tendency to focus on American characters.
Hey! I watch BBC America for the accents, people!
FX continues to impress with its terrific roster of shows, including the ongoing Rescue Me and Nip/Tuck, and great new shows like Dirt, Damages, and The Riches.
None of these are particularly pagan or occult-oriented (although Denis Leary's character in the firefighter drama Rescue Me sees dead people due to his unacknowledged PTSD from the events of 9-11), but I feel a need to mention The Riches. Starring Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver (both of them amazing), this show has a controversial premise: Wayne and Dahlia Malloy (Izzard and Driver) and their two children are essentially con artists who are on the run after stealing the communal funds belonging to the odd, nomadic community they belong to.
These folks look like they live at a pagan gathering year-round, a group of American-style gypsies who live out of tents and RVs, warm themselves around campfires, sing traditional Irish songs at funerals (where the dead are burned on byres), and live by a complex code of ethics. As they try to escape their vengeance-minded comrades, the family is involved in a deadly car accident; deadly, that is, for the other car that rolls into a ravine.
Wayne and Dahlia discover the dead couple, the Riches, was on their way to claim their new home in a town they'd never visited before. Stealing the keys and paperwork from the smashed mini-van, the Malloys and their kids hide from their impending troubles by impersonating the Riches and living in their huge McMansion in a wealthy gated community. Constantly having to improvise, lie and reinvent themselves, and all the while wondering if this new life is really what they want, the Malloys (sorry, the Riches) are a nail-biting, eyebrow-raising joy to watch.
Next: a look back at the movies of 2007. Until then, stay warm, be brave and keep smiling! Or at least don't eat too much junk food.
Location: Jamaica Plain, New York
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