Monday, May 19, 2008

Worthless TV Character Additions That Damn Near Ruined the Show

A TV show is only as good as the characters that occupy it. When a series begins its first season, there's a reason you're being introduced to that specific group of individuals: they're the ones that the show has been built around. They're the ones that determine how the story will unfold. But once that season ends, the entire game changes. Suddenly the studios and writers are worried about audiences losing interest and ratings dropping.

The solution?
New characters.

These characters are different though. They haven't been added to advance the storyline or bring something unique to the show. They've been added for the sole reason of appealing to a much broader audience, and hopefully, to increase the show's ratings in the process. What seems to be lost on the studios though is that they're not increasing anything; all they're doing is losing the original viewers by spiting the show's established fanbase, since more times than not, these new characters just plain suck.

Nikki & Paulo - Lost
Added: Season 3

Thrown in the mix with all the care and subtlety of a kick to the nuts, new castaways Nikki and Paulo were immediately met with an endless amount of face palms and lengthy shoutings of expletives from practically all loyal viewers of the show. This was due largely to the duo being pathetically introduced as if they had been in the background the entire time, and then that hatred was reaffirmed by the two characters contributing absolutely nothing to the series outside of looking like a couple of incredibly good looking and very tanned models. I mean, c'mon, what else could you possibly want from the characters of your favorite TV show? Certainly not an interesting backstory or, say, a justifiable reason for existence. Nah, we want people who look like they should be posing for Abercrombie & Fitch ads.

If that weren't enough, these two new characters also blatantly brought to light something that really should've gone unsaid: that the group we've been following through all these bizarre occurrences is the "popular" group. You know all those other survivors in the background? Yeah, they're just boring losers (a.k.a. "normal" people, like you or me) who sit around while Jack, Locke, Kate and the rest of the cool kids have all sorts of crazy adventures. With this, it almost felt like the writers were breaking the fourth wall, presenting the show's characters as just that: characters. For me, it really detracted from the reality of the show. (And yes, I know I'm complaining about the reality of a show featuring smoke monsters, cursed numbers, and a magical island.)

There was an upside to these two characters though. After the fans complained enough, the writers went ahead and off'd the annoying couple in the most satisfyingly fucked up way imaginable. "Razzle dazzle," bitches!

Stosh “Piz” Piznarski - Veronica Mars
Added: Season 3

After two spectacular seasons of pure crime-solving bliss, Veronica Mars had unfortunately not picked up enough in viewership to crawl out of its ratings slump, and the writers became desperate. So next to a number of other deeply saddening and unnecessary alterations to the show's flawless format, the writers made their worst decision of all: introducing the annoying, unfunny little twerp Piz.

I don't think the inspiration for his character has been officially stated, but I'm pretty I know who they based him off of: these guys. You may know them as the (supposed) comedy duo "Smosh." If you don't, it's likely because you're not a 15-year-old girl who subscribes to every gay and Asian vlogger on YouTube. If that's the case, then you probably also aren't a fan of emo/scene-looking douchebags who try and fail at being funny at every chance they get. And in turn, you're not the intended audience for the third season of Veronica Mars, which not only managed to confound its fans with what might just be the least appropriate character to ever join a show's cast (eventually even getting more screen time than the other much more appealing supporting characters), but even has the gall to make him a central love interest. Goddamn you Piz. You just about ruined Veronica Mars, and I will forever loathe you with every fiber of my being.

Maya & Alejandro - Heroes
Added: Season 2

Hold on now. Another randomly introduced TV duo that contributes nothing to the show outside of becoming increasingly more annoying with every episode they're in? Did we learn nothing from the third season of Lost? Maya & Alejandro may not be as pointless as the additions of Nikki & Paulo, but they're equally as dull and uninteresting.

Here's a summary of literally every episode featuring the two of them...

Oh no, I keep killing people by filling them with tar (or something)! What have I done? I have been cursed with this terrible burden! I am sad now! Thankfully you are here, Alejandro, as you apparently make it stop for some reason.
Yes, that's what I'm here for. Let me hug you while looking deeply concerned.
Hey guys, what's up? I don't have any powers anymore (fun plot progression, right?), but I'm still super evil. Can I join you?
Of course. I don't know who you are, but you seem like a trustworthy guy. Hey Alejandro, he's going to help us!
I don't trust him.
I trust him.
I don't. You can tell because I'm looking really concerned right now. See? When I frown like this I look really concerned. I'm fascinating.
You're wrong about him! I'm mad at you!
Oh by the way guys... *kills Alejandro* Yeah, he was right.
I'm a dumb bitch. Excuse me while I act sad some more.

End season two.

Can't wait for season three!

Zombie Tony - 24
Added: Season 7

Though I was unable to venture beyond the first season of 24 due to my strong opposition to all plot devices amnesia related and that appallingly bad accent by way of an unintentionally comical Dennis Hopper, it was still sad news to hear that series favorite Tony Almeida had been killed in season five, not even so much as getting a silent "ticking clock" at the end in tribute (as is given to all prominent character's deaths). Did this mean there was a possibility he survived? No, he fucking died. Case closed.

Cue season seven, and guess who's back? Tony Almeida. And now he's the villain. Now, he's a goddamn terrorist.

24 has officially run out of ideas.

Dawn Summers - Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Added: Season 5

I'll leave this one up to you guys to decide, since I've only seen a handful of Buffy episodes, thus I may not be the best source on commenting what a blatant excuse for ratings her character is. She first gets introduced as Buffy's little sister, despite Buffy being established as only child, and then the writers basically switched it around saying, "Oh wait, she's not actually her sister, she's actually some mystical hottie, but who cares, we're still going to act like they're siblings." From then on Dawn become the go-to character for getting in the way and causing all sorts of mayhem.

So what do you think? Does she deserve to be on this list? Let loose your thoughts in the comments below.

Oliver Trask - The O.C.
Added: Season 1

(Contributed by Myles McNutt and Angie Han)

It was a story out of a fairy tale: Girl O.D.’s in Tijuana, sees a therapist where she meets an odd-looking boy, girl allows boy to get close enough that he falls in love, boy is obviously crazy, hijinx ensue. Oliver’s disruptive influence introduced three of the show’s worst tropes: The Character who comes in, screws with emotions, and vanishes into thin air, Helpless Damsel in Distress Marissa, and Every Guy Who Encounters Marissa Falls Madly in Love. The end result was a character who became such a running joke that the series itself had Seth raise the concern that Oliver could return at any moment for the purpose of contrivance. Luckily, he never showed up at the door again.

Lauren Reed, Nadia Santos and Rachel Gibson - Alias
Added: Season 3, 4, and 5, respectively.

(Contributed by Myles McNutt)

Three very attractive actresses were added to Alias’ cast in its final three seasons, as the series began devolving from its original quality to something far less interesting. That the hotness: quality ratio would fail so spectacularly is largely because the three characters were either too contrived, too useless, or too bland. In a show where Jennifer Garner epitomized a character who could kick ass and hit the show’s emotional beats, these female characters never went beyond eye candy to contribute anything to the show’s core narrative beyond being part of some of its worst tangents into mediocre storylines. They were designed to tear apart relationships, convolute mythology, or just add a fresh face to pander to the new viewers ABC wanted to court. By the end, all of them fell by the wayside, even if Nadia was somewhat justified by her fantastic final moment with her father.

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5 Groovy Sites for Free Music Downloads

Want to fill up your MP3 player for free without facing the wrong end of an RIAA lawsuit? These five sites offer DRM-free downloads from exciting artists.

Emru Townsend, PC World

Short of "free food" and "free beer," "free music" is one of the sweetest phrases you can hear. But getting tunes gratis doesn't have to mean ending up on the RIAA's Most Wanted list. These five sites will let you easily fatten up your music collection with tracks that creators and recording labels are giving away--all in DRM-free, MP3 format. An extra bonus: None of these sites require an e-mail address or any kind of registration.

What's the catch? Well, don't expect to find much top-40 material here; the four major labels are still pretty tight-fisted with their properties. But that's not really much of a catch: Saying good-bye to Mariah Carey and Madonna means saying hello to independent artists (some of whom have been in the business just as long) who will round out your most-played list quite nicely.

1. Venzero Mixtape

Venzero Mixtape

Some audio player manufacturers will happily give you music, on the condition that you buy their product first. German company Venzero is a bit more generous, having launched the Venzero Mixtape: a rotating collection of MP3 tracks by "exquisite bands" that anybody can download. Or at least that's the theory. Since launching the Venzero Mixtape, the company has changed the lineup only once. The nine tracks that make up the current mixtape are a pleasure to listen to, however, so even if Venzero never gets around to picking up where it left off, you still come out ahead.

2. Epitonic

Epitonic; click to view full-size image.

My favorite brick-and-mortar record stores--I can call them that because they still have plenty of vinyl--not only offer a wide variety of music but also have staff who can talk intelligently about what they offer. Even when I walk in just to say hi, I usually end up walking out with a new CD and new knowledge.

The closest experience to that in the online world is Epitonic, where you don't get just free music--you get free schooling too. The site features extensive writeups on all the featured artists (including links to similar acts), streaming audio, and at least one free MP3 per album.

Unfortunately, Epitonic hasn't really been updated for almost two years. But the site has enough content that you can still spend hours, if not days, exploring new musical avenues.

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Jacques Brel Ne Me Quitte Pas English Subtitles

Everything you were afraid to ask about "Donnie Darko"

With the release of the new director's cut, there are even more questions about the 2001 cult fave. Who's the fat guy in the track suit? What's with the 6-foot rabbit? We answer them all.

Jul 23, 2004 | 2364 days, 20 hours, 52 minutes and 1 seconds ago, Donnie Darko flopped.

"Darko," 26-year-old writer-director Richard Kelly's first film, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore and Patrick Swayze, came out on October 26, 2001. In the hypersensitive aftermath of Sept. 11, the film's distributor was understandably uncertain how to sell a film whose bizarre events are set in motion by a jet engine falling from the sky. While its critical reception included a number of rave reviews, the film died on the vine, taking in only half a million dollars in its initial release in a handful of cities.

Three years later, "Donnie Darko" is being re-released in a handsome director's cut, with remastered sound and picture, 20 minutes of new footage and new visual effects. Years of midnight screenings at theaters around the country and the film's impressive success on DVD -- taking in more than $10 million to date in U.S. sales alone -- have turned what was once a confusing and oblique failure into a confusing and oblique cult hit. With the release of Kelly's director's cut, an even wider audience should have a chance to be bewildered by "Donnie Darko's" mix of '80s teen comedy, psychological drama and science fiction.

The film, with its countdown to apocalypse, its intimations of time travel and alternate universes, and its 6-foot-tall talking bunny rabbit, lends itself easily to wildly divergent explanations. Countless Web sites devote themselves to teasing out its many mysteries. In his foreword to "The Donnie Darko Book," the film's star, Jake Gyllenhaal, writes, "What is 'Donnie Darko' about? I have no idea." And Kelly himself mentions in the DVD commentary that "this film kinda does need Cliffs Notes."

And so Cliffs Notes it shall have. I've created the definitive guide to the mystifying plot of "Donnie Darko." Like the junior detectives of Mulholland Drive, I've compiled clues from all over the place: not only from repeated viewings of the original and the director's cut, but also from the film's Web site, Kelly's screenplay, the DVD commentaries, published interviews with the filmmaker, Internet speculation, shower-based cogitation, and plenty of arguments with my friends. And I'm happy to say that, after all that, I more or less pretty much understand what the hell happens in "Donnie Darko."

So if you haven't seen "Darko" and don't want the film spoiled, don't read any further. (The publishers of Salon have asked me to note that instead of reading you might consider blindly flipping through the next six pages and clicking on all the ads.) While I will be including some information from the director's cut in this explanation, very little of this is true spoiler material, as almost all the additions to the film were previously included among the movie's DVD extras.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

We first meet Donnie Darko (Gyllenhaal) at sunrise; he's asleep in the middle of a mountain road. He wakes up and looks out over the valley below, including his hometown, Middlesex, Va. We're told he is a sleepwalker and never knows where he'll wake up on any given morning.

We meet Donnie's family: his sisters Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jake's real-life sister) and Samantha (Daveigh Chase), and his parents (Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne). An argument around the dinner table reveals that Donnie is on some kind of medication.

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5 Vacation Planning Tips (According To Horror Movies)

It's that time of year again, when school is out and we plan a nice vacation that hopefully doesn't end in any kind of death or mutilation for us and all of our friends.

To make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible, here are five steps to follow from a reliable source: Hollywood slasher movies.

Step One: Choosing a Location

Many of your classmates will head back home or to classic vacation standbys such as Virgina Beach. To hell with that! If you want to make this break extremely special, you and your attractive, one-dimensional friends should pick somewhere a little more secluded and off the beaten path. Some things to keep in mind:

Hotels: The cheaper and more sparsely populated the surrounding area is, the better. It's more authentic that way. Or something.

Activities: You'd think those locations would be abandoned because they're boring. On the contrary, plenty of desolate locations are chock full of potential for fun outdoorsy activities, if you know where to look. For instance, ancient Aztec ruins are a great place to go hiking with your friends, as are abandoned caves and mine shafts.

Step Two: Selecting Travel Companions
First of all, if you have any African-American friends, you should probably bring one of them. Not more than one mind you, but at least one. This tends to make others around you more comfortable because they know you're not racist.

He'll also act as a canary in a coal mine, warning you about anything that might threaten the less expendable members of your group by being first to turn up in his tent with a knife sticking out of his neck.

Also, see if you can coerce the college slut to come with you.

From House of Wax. Two characters destined for violent deaths.

Not only will she also act as a canary in a coal mine, but she's a canary that puts out! Chaste girls are not only a lot more boring, something about their intact lady bits makes them very difficult to kill.

Do you have that one guy in your group of friends who everyone hates, but who always hangs out with you anyway? Of course you do. If you don't, you're probably that friend and you don't even realize it. Tough break.

But if you're not that friend, you should make sure you bring him with you.

From Cabin Fever. Nice hat, asshole.

While these dickheads might be irritating, they can be a great source of comic relief. Plus, it'll sting a lot less when his blood gets sprayed all over the slutty girl's face.

To recap, that's one black dude, one asshole and as many slutty girls as you can fit in your shitty van.

Step Three: Packing

Most people tend to overpack, or forget to pack items that could be crucial to properly enjoying their break. Here's a rundown on some of the necessary and totally unnecessary items to bring along on your trip.

NECESSARY: Revealing clothing/bathing suits.

From Turistas. Not pictured: sleeves.

In an emergency, it's of utmost importance that you be able to move freely, and that you not overheat. Thus there is never a reason to wear an entire shirt.

UNNECESSARY: Walkie-talkies/working cell phones

You do want to get away from it all, right? Why ruin the trip by allowing yourself to have any contact with the outside world? Really, what can possibly happen?

UNNECESSARY: First-Aid Kits.


If you're going to Eastern Europe you can generally pick these up on location, otherwise you're going to have to bring your own weed and ecstasy. In general, though, you should do your best to obtain on-sight, preferably for free from some remarkably generous stranger.

UNNECESSARY: Spare tires.

If you get broken down in some out-of-the-way town, the locals are sure to help you. Speaking of which ...

Step Four: Dealing with Locals
The locals: Ideally, the locals should be semi-retarded, suspiciously friendly, and laugh a lot for no reason.

Just remember that you're a college student, and unless they're getting you high or having sex with you, there is no reason to take any interest in them whatsoever. Is one of them trying to warn you of something? Don't worry about it, people are always a lot more superstitious around that area.

And don't worry about pissing them off--you'll be leaving in a few days anyway, right? What can they possibly do to you?

On the other hand, if you're more of the social type, Eastern European clubs and raves on deserted islands are a great place to meet supernaturally attractive, emotionally empty women.

From Hostel. Don't worry. They're probably just fond of Americans.

Try not to think too much about why they're being so nice to you. They probably just really love Americans. Take full advantage of whatever they want to give you. Follow them to the amazing, secluded locations they tell you about. Make them a copy of your room key.

If you're going to a locale where English is not the primary language, don't worry. You can get by with hand gestures and talking very loudly. Don't bother to learn the language or even purchase a guide book. A couple of weeks of immersion in their surroundings will let you learn their strange customs.

From Turistas. Helpful locals giving a scenic tour.

Step Five: Emergency Management

In the extremely unlikely event of something bad actually happening on your trip, there are a few basic steps you can take to get out of any nasty situation unscathed:

Split up. Large groups of people make for easy targets, and can't cover as wide an area as a bunch of people heading off in different directions. Streamline your group by having everyone head out on their own. That way, by the law of averages, at least one person is guaranteed to make it out alive.

Run around aimlessly. If you stay in one place, you're never going to leave that place. The best way to find an exit is to just run around until you find one. Don't try to over-think it, just follow your intuition and burst into whatever random rooms you come across. If you get cornered, find a sure-fire hiding place.

From Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Bonus Tip: Meat is an excellent hiding place.

Scream your head off. Not only does it make you feel better, but it will draw the attention of friendly locals who will almost certainly carry you away to safety. Also, if you're cornered and there's no other way out, most people, even violent sociopaths, tend to respond well to shrieking pleas for mercy.

From Hostel 2. Moved by her screaming, the killers immediately released her.

Don't be paranoid. If the killer is lying motionless with a weapon still in his hand, it's probably because he's dead. If you're not 100 percent sure, just get up close and check the pulse.

If all else fails ...

Don't be afraid to replace one of your arms with a chainsaw.

From Schindler's List.

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