Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Message From The Doctor

The following essay is NOT endorsed by the BBC. But I can dream, right?

Hello. It's been a while since we last met. I have many names, but you know me as the Doctor. As in, "Doctor Who?" Wasn't my idea. I had to campaign to get my name changed in the mid-Eighties. Anyway, I thought that we can have a talk.

I have been traveling through time for centuries now. I can tell you that I can name at least twenty years, past and future, worse than 2016. Recently? Not really, unless you count the time my arch-nemesis -- the Master -- took over the planet for a full year. I wound up hitting the proverbial reset button, so you don't recall that. If only I could do the same right now. And I spent the bulk of that year in an aged condition, living in a doghouse. To this day, I break out into tics anytime I hear Scissor Sisters.

The celebrity deaths? That's to be expected. People die. Things die. You'll die, and I'm certain that I shall pass one day. I've been to concerts with Prince and David Bowie, but I never met either of them. It would feel like cheating if I took a trip in the TARDIS to see them now. And I didn't get around to seeing Muhammad Ali. Before you ask . . . no, I was not the person who stole Cassius Clay's bicycle, putting him on the path to boxing glory. And I'm not planning on doing that anytime soon. I was also hurt when I found out that Steve Dillon had died. He moved on beyond drawing my adventures way back when.

But there was so much to be angry about in the past year. General unrest, the mess in Flint, the disastrous "Brexit" vote. Have you seen the people behind that? They were not expecting to win! They just wanted to further their careers, and now Great Britain is leaving the European Union. As somebody who is about inclusion, that was painful to watch.

And then there was what happened in the United States a few years ago. Once again: I travel through time. It's my thing. And I did not see that coming at all. Yes, Hillary Clinton does come off as somebody who learned ambition directly through Lady MacBeth . .. . but to lose to that? And get more votes? Flabbergasted. I am simply flabbergasted. I keep thinking maybe things would have been different if I took his votes back in time to relive the Fifties, but that's not my style. I promised the Obamas one supervised trip after they leave the White House. Barack didn't get to fulfill many of his promises, but I feel he's earned the adventure.

Why am I talking about this now? Because I feel partially responsible for the failure that was 2016. Apparently, I picked the worst 365.25 days to step away from the spotlight. I don't have a voracious ego, but I feel that I serve as a beacon of hope. I can change minds . . . usually. Odds are that if you're reading this, you follow me closely. I can't see a Venn Diagram where my circle and those voters would overlap. That's why I'm not screaming "PUDDING BRAINS!" at the top of my lungs. You probably feel a lot sicker about events than I do.

For the past year, I've done some stress-free traveling. I am aware of the books, comics and the magazine, but I cannot vouch for how "canon" any of those are. The last time you saw me, I was having that long-overdue dinner with River Song. She didn't say how big a relief it was for her to not look like she was robbing the cradle, but I could tell.

Why did I leave? The past few years had been so hectic. I encountered my unholy trinity: Daleks, Cybermen, and the Master. Only now, he was a Time Lady calling himself "Missy," an evil Mary Poppins. I made some questionable calls . ..  like saving the life of a girl in a Viking village, only to watch her transform into an amoral immortal. And the worst part is that I have a huge gap in my memories. I'm certain I had a female companion. Yes, I know that's usually the case, but I can't remember her. I think she did to me what I did to Donna Noble to save her life. I can't recall her name. And I've developed a taste for eclairs. Weird, I know.

Looking back, I also felt that you needed a break from me. I am prone to self-pity, but I thought the vacation was justified. After I regenerated, I became crotchety and hug-averse. Sure, I looked more dashing, but I wasn't as cuddly as I used to be. I was cranky, which is common in incarnations that are multiples of three (to save headaches, I discount Beardy and Ten-Point-Five). My new catchphrase was "Shut up!" And then I came back, trading in the Sonic Screwdriver for Sonic Sunglasses, which many of you didn't like. There was also the guitar playing. Now, I like playing a lot. Apparently, I have the knack for playing that, and I don't see myself stopping. Remember when I first regenerated, and I had the recorder? Come on, shredding is so much better than blowing. Had Ben grabbed the device and shoved it up my nose, he would have been justified. But I must have looked like I was deep in the throes of a Time Lord midlife crisis.

Sadly, I cannot "correct" what has happened. The last time I played politics, I created a power vacuum where the Master became Prime Minister, and the American President was vaporized by the Toclafane. I couldn't undo that, to my regret. The most I have done was to make sure that outside forces didn't influence the election. It came out clean, in the sense that this mess was human-made. No aliens meddled with affairs. I thought that the "winners" might have been Sontaran infiltrators, given their warlike march. I remember when they were a fearsome race not summed up by Strax. And there hasn't been reports of passing gas, so I'm certain that the Slitheen are not involved. I would check for head-zippers.

Another concern that I have is that I cannot gauge the foreseeable future. This is unnerving to me. I cannot say whether the new status quo will be riches or ruin. For all I know, 2017 might prove to be more depressing that the previous year. As scary as this might sound, the future is in your hands.

You don't like what is going on? Change it. Get involved. Find a place that would be in dire straits come January, and give your time. If you're too busy, send money. But try to get out there. Leave your homes. I am convinced that if the Internet existed in the Fifties and Sixties, the pioneers of civil rights still would have marched. "I Have A Dream" is more powerful to see than to read. If there is a revolution, it cannot be online only. I know that it's hard to get out of bed these days. I know the temptation to listen to Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt" in a loop. But you have to solve the problem yourselves. I can only do so much. I like the United States. I probably shouldn't, not after the business with the Daleks in Manhattan. And the Weeping Angels, where I lost Amy and Rory. And the time in the Wild West. And the first time in the Wild West. So many years have passed, I have changed my face many times, and I still can't get "Ballad Of The Last Chance Saloon" out of my head. Why couldn't I have that purged?

As for me? I will be back. There will be a special on Christmas, and then I will have new adventures. Naturally, there will be a companion. After 2017, I'm not sure I'll be around anymore. Well . ..  not with this face. Given the attitudes of those in power, I might try to become a Time Lady just to torque them off. I have never tried to shape a regeneration, but I am tempted to make the transition to blow tiny minds. Or maybe I won't be as pasty. I'm sure you'd be fine with it.

As for the new bosses in London, Washington and elsewhere? Mind your manners. Listen to the people. And remember . . . I have been described as a madman. You don't want this Doctor to make a house call. In the meantime, I feel the guitar calling to me. I just learned how to play Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It." Something tells me I'll have that in my brain for a long time.

The Doctor

Friday, November 04, 2016

Sharing The Blame: An Analysis of Puck's Departure from 'Battle of the Sexes'

How funny is it that I give Wes shit under the assumption that he's smarter than his fellow Challengers, yet I wrote a small thesis on freaking Puck Rainey? I did my homework, checked out sources, made some predictions, and came to the conclusion that Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray should get out of the reality television business. This is back in 2003; the only reason why Bunim isn't producing these days is because she's been dead for years. Anyway, this is from March 3, a week after Puck's "farewell" episode aired.

What really happened with Puck's departure from the Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Sexes? And who is to blame for repeatedly bringing Puck in front of the cameras again?

This was how it was supposed to work this week on Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Sexes: Puck finds out his family - his wife Betty and son Bogart - have been detained in Jamaica, since Betty lost her green card. Puck spends the full half-hour ranting and raving like a lunatic before huffing off in his usual way. In response, I would levy a dozen or so good lines at his expense and come up with a clever title for the recap, like "Puck Amuck," "Puck Off," or "…And Don't Come Back!" Admit it, you were thinking along those lines when you watched the teaser.

So what happened? Puck went off, broke some stuff, and left the show, perhaps never to return (remember, he did show up on his season of The Real World after he left the house). Aside from that segment being less than a third of what was expected, you'd think that I would revel in the chance to write witty lines at Puck's expense. Here's the kicker: you heard the window break and saw the holes in the wall? Well, that wasn't Puck. No, that was just more manipulation, brought to you by Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray.

During one recap, I vowed never to read the web sites of contestants, lest they influence my writing. Well, I couldn't hold out. Every week, I read inside recaps from Colin, Lori, and Melissa. This week, all three said the same thing: Puck only broke equipment, since he wasn't allowed to see his family. He cut a microphone wire with the machete. And that was it. The holes in the wall? Well, according to Colin, Jamie was fooling around with Puck's guitar, and the Scabby One had a moment inspired by John Belushi in Animal House: he smashed it like he was a rock star. Swept up in the euphoria, Jamie had grabbed a pole or one of Colin's crutches (Colin wasn't sure which it was) and rammed it into the wall.

As for the broken window, that was all Ayanna. Melissa heard that she smashed the window, and Lori mentioned that Ayanna's hand was bleeding. Actually, that brings me to something a lot more interesting: the fight between Aneesa and Ayanna. Yes, there was a verbal fight, where Ayanna went insane. I understand that a lot of stuff gets left on the cutting room floor. I don't need to see the credits being filmed, and David E. spitting on Puck AND Beth. Here's my problem: Ayanna going off was in the teaser that followed the first episode. Remember the segment with Ayanna rambling, "Aneesa, I gotta go"? Bunim-Murray Productions does that a lot.

So BMP made us think that the entire episode was going to center on Puck alone, as opposed to another game. This is standard operating procedure for the producers. What else do they have to offer these days? Their faux documentary, The Real World: The Lost Season, was a colossal dud. Road Rules hasn't been good in years. The Real World: Las Vegas is used as a low-cost alternative for anesthesia in hospitals. And really, who gave a spray of bullets about P. Diddy's version of Making the Band? Time has passed Bunim and Murray by, and they won't admit it. They're probably praying for a riot from their newest cast members in Paris right now.

I'm not letting Puck off the hook. Yes, he did resemble a human being during his wedding. But other than that? Usual Puck-like behavior, like something you'd see at a zoo. To start, there was the fight with David Edwards. I'll admit, I don't know who started that. Puck didn't improve things by spitting in David's face. But David was such a full-on mental patient, the other cast members sided with Puck and demanded he stay. Murray wouldn't acquiesce with them unless David was filmed spitting on Puck in payback. Seriously, Colin wrote that. How old is Murray, anyway?

Puck was a poor sport. After completing the Tree House game, he taunted the girls who were struggling to finish it. He played with a noisemaker while Veronica was trying to get her Inner Circle speech out, causing her to stop and snap at him. Of course, the guys didn't have a problem with him, since he was on their side. Besides, anybody who goes up against him would end up a pariah, like David.

And then there was Ellen. As Melissa said on her site, Ellen made the mistake of jousting with Puck in regards to his revamped wedding plans. That was a stupid move on her part. Now Puck was out to get her. He taunted her while wearing Bogart on his chest. Seriously, Ellen might have been able to confront him, but while he had his son as a shield, all she could do was sneer. Sure, she probably fabricated the story about how he was going to kick her ass. But the worst thing Puck did was unforgivable. After she announced Rachel was out, he walked up to her and threw up in front of her. You heard me: he vomited in front of Ellen, on purpose. Who does that? Seriously, what the hell was Puck thinking? As I read that nugget of information from Colin, I sympathized with Ellen, and you know from reading my summaries that is something I don't want to do.

Here's what gets me: according to Colin, Puck's plan was to cut out of the show halfway through. Why was that? Because Puck could make more than $50,000 on the campus lecture tour. Fifty grand is the cut of somebody who wins the final mission. Think about it: he deprives some RW guy of getting a shot at the grand prize. I also heard that all of the contestants got $4,000 for showing up. Look, I know some of you want to call these people "media whores" for going back on the reality treadmill, but who doesn't need $4,000? I think of some of the RW guys I would have wanted to see in Puck's place. Norman Korpi (New York) could have brought new and richly deserved insults for Beth, and maybe hosted another rollicking toga party. Jon Brennan (Los Angeles) could have joined Beth, Veronica, and Yes in avenging their first-round elimination in Battle of the Seasons. David Burns (Seattle) might have followed up his appearance on The Lost Season, and knocked down people with his thick Boston accent. Matt Smith (New Orleans), whom Puck dissed in the 10th Anniversary Reunion commercials, would have delighted us with his breakdancing skills and overall whiteness. Malik Cooper (Back to New York) could have brought his mellow ways to Jamaica, and maybe confront Jisela over playing him.

(Yeah, I thought of the two other males from San Francisco. Sadly, I don't see anybody getting eager over seeing Mohammed again. As for Judd? Hey, I'm a huge fan of his work and his status as the anti-Puck, but he would've gotten creamed in physical competitions.)

Also, Puck could have caused a lot more damage with his departure. In order to even out the ranks, the producers brought back Dan, who had been voted out earlier. But what if he couldn't make it back? During his stay in Jamaica, Puck had much respect for Blair. I got that from Sarah Greyson, the member of Campus Crawl who was voted out from that show. She even referred to Blair as a "Puck Whisperer," probably recalling the time he talked Puck out of going after Ellen. Blair had obviously agreed to be Puck's partner for People Mover, but Puck left Blair twisting in the wind. Had Dan not come back and Blair was unable to play the game, the men's team procedure of voting out the weakest player would have doomed him. Dan's return was good in theory, but by filling Puck's place alongside Blair, he was ensured another dismissal, barring a great performance. All Blair had to do was finish well enough to not lag behind the other contestants. So much for Puck being a team player.

As for Puck's future? I heard a rumor that he was pitching his family life as a reality show, a la The Osbournes. It even has a name: Puck Loves Betty. In this era of crap like The Anna Nicole Show, I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! , and Are You Hot?, a Puck-com is the last thing we need. Not like anybody would force me to watch, but the idea of it on the air skeeves me out. Should it be approved, I believe it gives intelligent people the right to burst into that network's office, grab the person who okayed it, and beat that person in front of the underlings. If Anna Nicole Smith were fully cognizant, she'd be cringing, too.

I had also heard rumors that he was considered for the first season of The Surreal Life. So hearing about him being on the follow-up doesn't surprise me a bit. Even if he shares a house with has-beens like Mayim Bialik and noted steroid abuser/collect call pitchman Hulk Hogan, Puck would still be the "bad boy" on the show, even at the age of 34. Heck, he got married on TV, just like Corey Feldman. Of course, the WB would eat Puck up, as his fans boost the ratings and the detractors get to throw rocks at the broadest side of the biggest barn.

Ultimately, the blame for Puck's actions falls on Bunim and Murray, for casting him back in 1994, and coddling his bad boy ways. They took a skuzzy bike messenger and turned him into a monster. And when he rebelled against not being able to see his family, they manipulated the footage to make him look more dramatic. It's high time that BMP cease operations and move on to something other than lowering the bar for reality television. If Puck wants a happy ending, may he spend the rest of his days with his family, and not disgrace us with his horrid presence.

First of all, how eerie was it that everybody I had in Puck's place wound coming to the show within the next four seasons, except for Malik and his awesome afro? On the other hand: Blossom on The Surreal Life? With Hulk Hogan? Retrospect is a bitch. And I'm guessing most of you thought Aneesa and Ayanna had it out only on Battle Of The Sexes 2. I remembered seeing the clip in the teaser. What I did forget about: Puck puking in front of Ellen. I ask you: is that nastier than Julie pissing on Coral's bed in The Inferno? Colin might have been a self-indulgent blogger, but damned if he didn't offer up juicy details. Anyway, that's enough vintage fame whore contemplation for one day. Next time: unneeded uproar over nudity!