Sunday, January 16, 2011

13 Things You Should Watch (But Probably Haven't) Part 3

Well, here we are again. The 13 Things list I started back in September. I bet everyone thought I forgot. This is turning into an epic affair. It keeps getting sidelined, and it sure is dragging on. I seem to have contracted what a friend of mine calls run-on-at-the-mouth-itis, so I'm only going to cover one item.

Reviewing my last post in this series I realized that I got the list out of it's alphabetical order. So much for my attempt at organization. But-- I shall not be deterred! I'm simply going to talk about a few of my favorite franchises ever, and to heck with the alphabet. I never liked it anyway.

Highlander: The Raven

The Highlander franchise period is one of my biggest fandoms. I truly mourn for it, because I don't know many others with such devoted fans, awesome characters, fun stories, engaging concepts, and ridiculously poor continuity and development.

My love affair with the world of the Immortals began in the early 90s with Highlander: The Series. Somehow I missed the Highlander movies and didn't watch the first one until I had already started to enjoy the TV series. When I did see the first film, I was thrilled and found that it gave me a lot of insight into the world, the Immortal mythos (as opposed to the Immortal Methos), and the atmospheric elements conveyed by the series. Then I had the misfortune to view the sequel movie, Highlander II: The Quickening. It would take me an entire blog series to list all the things I don't like about that film. For the purposes of this post, I will say only that "continuity" is not a four letter word. Resolving to put The Quickening out of my mind and pretend it didn't exist, I went happily back to Highlander: The Series and stayed there until the show ended in 1999.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried to forget The Quickening, it had scarred me. So, when I came across Highlander: The Raven in 2005, I was leery. Then I heard fans talking about licencing issues that essentially prevented the spin-off show from mentioning either of the MacLeods, and my response was: "How can you have a show called Highlander: Anything when it doesn't have a MacLeod?"

I will admit that did have a small, niggling curiosity about the show, simply because my favorite Immortal had always been Amanda, but that curiosity wasn't enough to compel me to buy the DVDs. I finally saw the show only because I got it as part of a birthday present which also included all six seasons of Highlander: The Series and the first Highlander movie. (Why yes, I do have awesome friends. Thank you very much.)

I'm sure there are fans of The Raven out there, but I have yet to converse with anyone who told me that the they really like it. I pride myself on my ability to keep an open mind, but I have to say that I did not have high hopes for The Raven. One of the biggest complaints I heard was that it felt more like a cop show than like a show about Highlander style immortals. I don't like cop shows in general, and I did not think Paul Johannsen was a good fit for the Highlander universe, especially in the role of a police officer who was supposed to be playing counterpoint to Amanda. I really hated knowing that Duncan wasn't even going to be mentioned, and to top it all off, I hated Amanda's haircut when I first saw it. I also knew that if I didn't take the time to watch it, I would forever be haunted by the possibility that Amanda had done something awesome in the short, thirteen episode run and I would never know.

Well, let me deal with the small issues first and work my way up to the ones that matter. Amanda's haircut grew on me. (No pun intended.) It does make her look edgier, but Elizabeth Gracen invests the character with such an enjoyable mix charm, mischief, class, and simple joie de vevre--even when she's dealing with for her past or with issues relating to the down-side of living forever--that an audience would have to be asleep not to be won over by her. Of course, I may be prejudiced. As I've stated, Amanda is my favorite Immortal.

Does The Raven feel like a cop show? Yes, at times it does. Is that a bad thing? Not really. Here's why. The entire premise of the show was that after centuries of living as an irresponsible thief, Amanda was going to have to face some of the consequences for her behavior. A series where she became a complete do-gooder and ran around helping people the way Duncan usually did would have been laughable. No one changes that much over night, and all the character's inherent charm would have dissipated very quickly into a heavy, annoying moral struggle.

Paul Johannssen surprised me a lot in the role of Nick Wolfe. The character is a fish out of water when dealing with the Immortals, and he's kind of a "by-the-book" police detective, two things I really tend to find irritating. Paul put a lot of work into making Nick a compelling and likeable person, and the character works great as a counterpoint to Amanda. I completely retract my opinion that he doesn't fit with the Highlander universe.

The only thing that I don't like about the show is that there is no Highlander. I miss Duncan--and I even miss Connor, though I'm less attached to him. The absence of a MacLeod just reinforces my belief that this franchise suffers badly from lack of continuity. Jim Byrne reprises his role as Joe Dawson, and that does help, but if they're going to call the show Highlander: Anything, there needs to be a MacLeod somewhere. I'm not saying that Duncan should have been in every episode. If he had been, The Raven would have been little more than a sequel to Highlander: The Series. A couple of episodes or at least mention of him was really necessary in order to make this show feel like part of an established franchise.

That aside, though, The Raven is a good show with a fantastic heroine. The emphasis on a female character who is not a cliche is a definite plus in my book. Most of the so-called "strong female protagonists" on television today are just jerks or bullies who can shoot and have big boobs. Clearly, Amanda is capable of holding her own against any and all comers, but she is not a jerk. She's a complex, multifaceted and fascinating person who deserved a lot more than a thirteen-episode run.

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