Scott (squid314) wrote,

Stuff

As I mentioned in my last entry, I've been watching Babylon 5 lately. It's not a perfect show, but it has one big advantage: it's consistent and believable.

Contrast this with Doctor Who. Doctor Who is fun to watch, but if you think about it for more than two seconds you notice it's full of plot holes and contradictions. Things that cause time travel paradoxes that threaten to destroy the universe one episode go without a hitch the next. And the TARDIS, the sonic screwdriver, and the Doctor's biology gain completely different powers no one's ever alluded to depending on the situation. The aliens are hysterically unlikely, often without motives or believable science, the characters will do any old insane thing when it makes the plot slightly more interesting, and everything has either a self-destruct button or an easily findable secret weakness that it takes no efforts to defend against.

But I guess I'm not complaining. If the show was believable, the Doctor would have gotten killed the first time he decided to take on a massive superadvanced alien invasion force by walking right up to them openly with no weapons and no plan. And then they would have had to cancel the show, and then I would lose my chance to look at the pretty actress who plays Amy Pond.

So Doctor Who is not a complete loss. But then there are some shows that go completely beyond the pale of enjoyability, until they become nothing more than overwritten collections of tropes impossible to watch without groaning.

I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called "World War II".

Let's start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn't look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn't get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn't even mind the lack of originality if they weren't so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we're supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren't that evil. And that's not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.

Not that the good guys are much better. Their leader, Churchill, appeared in a grand total of one episode before, where he was a bumbling general who suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Ottomans of all people in the Battle of Gallipoli. Now, all of a sudden, he's not only Prime Minister, he's not only a brilliant military commander, he's not only the greatest orator of the twentieth century who can convince the British to keep going against all odds, he's also a natural wit who is able to pull out hilarious one-liners practically on demand. I know he's supposed to be the hero, but it's not realistic unless you keep the guy at least vaguely human.

So it's pretty standard "shining amazing good guys who can do no wrong" versus "evil legions of darkness bent on torture and genocide" stuff, totally ignoring the nuances and realities of politics. The actual strategy of the war is barely any better. Just to give one example, in the Battle of the Bulge, a vastly larger force of Germans surround a small Allied battalion and demand they surrender or be killed. The Allied general sends back a single-word reply: "Nuts!". The Germans attack, and, miraculously, the tiny Allied force holds them off long enough for reinforcements to arrive and turn the tide of battle. Whoever wrote this episode obviously had never been within a thousand miles of an actual military.

Probably the worst part was the ending. The British/German story arc gets boring, so they tie it up quickly, have the villain kill himself (on Walpurgisnacht of all days, not exactly subtle) and then totally switch gears to a battle between the Americans and the Japanese in the Pacific. Pretty much the same dichotomy - the Japanese kill, torture, perform medical experiments on prisoners, and frickin' play football with the heads of murdered children, and the Americans are led by a kindly old man in a wheelchair.

Anyway, they spend the whole season building up how the Japanese home islands are a fortress, and the Japanese will never surrender, and there's no way to take the Japanese home islands because they're invincible...and then they realize they totally can't have the Americans take the Japanese home islands so they have no way to wrap up the season.

So they invent a completely implausible superweapon that they've never mentioned until now. Apparently the Americans got some scientists together to invent it, only we never heard anything about it because it was "classified". In two years, the scientists manage to invent a weapon a thousand times more powerful than anything anyone's ever seen before - drawing from, of course, ancient mystical texts. Then they use the superweapon, blow up several Japanese cities easily, and the Japanese surrender. Convenient, isn't it?

...and then, in the entire rest of the show, over five or six different big wars, they never use the superweapon again. Seriously. They have this whole thing about a war in Vietnam that lasts decades and kills tens of thousands of people, and they never wonder if maybe they should consider using the frickin' unstoppable mystical superweapon that they won the last war with. At this point, you're starting to wonder if any of the show's writers have even watched the episodes the other writers made.

I'm not even going to get into the whole subplot about breaking a secret code (cleverly named "Enigma", because the writers couldn't spend more than two seconds thinking up a name for an enigmatic code), the giant superintelligent computer called Colossus (despite this being years before the transistor was even invented), the Soviet strongman whose name means "Man of Steel" in Russian (seriously, between calling the strongman "Man of Steel" and the Frenchman "de Gaulle", whoever came up with the names for this thing ought to be shot).

So yeah. Stay away from the History Channel. Unlike most of the other networks, they don't even try to make their stuff believable.
Tags: history, tv

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xiphias

July 12 2010, 00:21:18 UTC 1 year ago

Truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.

Anonymous

July 12 2010, 16:41:53 UTC 1 year ago

Dag nabbit

Someone said something very similar to this in a fancy and articulate way, and since just about anyone else is more credible than I, I've been dying to figure out who and just how they put it.

dithie

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

xiphias

1 year ago

xiphias

1 year ago

xiphias

1 year ago

sinspired

1 year ago

Anonymous

11 months ago

sjrspike

1 year ago

sjrspike

1 year ago

micheinnz

1 year ago

sjrspike

1 year ago

xiphias

1 year ago

xiphias

1 year ago

wight1984

1 year ago

alphistia

July 12 2010, 02:31:49 UTC 1 year ago

ha! that was a good description of the Hitler Channel offerings :-)

Anonymous

July 2 2011, 19:20:35 UTC 11 months ago

guTactcFMO

That's the best anewsr of all time! JMHO

xuenay

July 12 2010, 03:42:47 UTC 1 year ago

:D

ciphergoth

July 12 2010, 07:34:18 UTC 1 year ago

Mitchell and Webb point out how ridiculous it is to put skulls on the uniform of the bad guys. Hello? They don't actually think of themselves as the bad guys! They think they're the good guys!

pomo_drunkard

July 12 2010, 17:04:04 UTC 1 year ago

What type of good guys put skulls on their uniforms?

Anonymous

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

minion_for_hire

July 12 2010, 08:32:23 UTC 1 year ago

Do you mind if I link to this rant? It's some kinds of awesome.

squid314

July 12 2010, 14:48:25 UTC 1 year ago

Of course I don't mind. But I wouldn't recommend you watch the original show - they totally leave out Ireland, under the guise of it being "neutral".

Anonymous

1 year ago

Anonymous

July 12 2010, 13:30:32 UTC 1 year ago

history

Surely and a little counter normal history, the war really lasted from 1914 - 1945 and if the German generals had been a little more competent Berlin would have been reduced to a large nuclear hole in the ground...

Anonymous

July 12 2010, 14:04:55 UTC 1 year ago

Coming from Germany myself your thoughts seem a little strange. Well maybe I´m not getting them at all, but yes u are right about the history channel documentations .. but u can take any documentation about WW II they are all mostly exaggerated. On the other side WW II was fact and even if some or many things are corrected by the winners to make them appear in a better light ... let´s not forget who where the victims of this war and that the nazi were a fucking bunch of human "slaying" assholes. I don´t know if you have ever met some of the old nazis but I have encountered some of the so called neo nazis and they are not the funny type ... They have a total fixed sight on things and are willing to use force to terrorize you for the smallest fault.

But as stated at the beginning of my comment, maybe I´m not getting what you are pointing at, at all. So I´m sorry if I understand your post wrong, no offense ;)

@Ciphergoth: They actually did wear skulls ... That were the so called SS Totenkopfverbände. There is even a not so bad wikipedia articel about them ...

ciphergoth

July 12 2010, 14:48:35 UTC 1 year ago

You have to read the article in a funny way, I'm afraid: it's deliberately written as if WWII were a TV series instead of a real event.

Anonymous

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

scyllacat

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

katsaris

1 year ago

micheinnz

1 year ago

katsaris

1 year ago

sinspired

1 year ago

lafinjack

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

drdoug

July 12 2010, 15:17:09 UTC 1 year ago

I've seen some spin-off stuff based around the development of that Deus Ex Machina 'superweapon' and it's just as bad rubbish. Real scientists doing real science are nothing like that.

The story is they get all these leading scientists together, and they all work on one single project, all at the same time, with nobody worrying about grants or publications. Yeah, right. And they have this one joker guy Feynman, obviously there for comic relief, and he goes around picking generals' safes, sneaking secrets and contraband off the base where they're developing it, and generally being a PITA about everything, but even though this is the Most Secret Project Ever, and it's Total War, they never court martial him or anything and just let it all go because ... well to be honest it's never really addressed as a problem. He even gets his own spin-off spin-off series where they imply he was some kind of genius, but he clearly wasn't a key figure on the superweapon project, and really you can't take this later stuff remotely seriously - it jumps the shark very near the beginning where he gives pick-up advice to young men based on his extensive experience in topless bars, and just gets worse until towards the end there's this really silly bit where he gets called in to investigate a huge space disaster like he's Sherlock Holmes and "proves" his point by doing this really cheesy trick with smashing a bit of rubber that he's frozen in liquid nitrogen.

avva

July 12 2010, 16:45:33 UTC 1 year ago

Also, did you notice that later on they became so desperate that they tried to reinvent this Feynman character first as a musician, then as a painter? I mean, come on! At its worst, "The Big Bang Theory" was never as ridiculous as that.

Anonymous

1 year ago

the_gneech

July 12 2010, 15:44:49 UTC 1 year ago

I approve of this message!

-The Gneech

ethan1701

July 12 2010, 16:33:57 UTC 1 year ago

Excellent!

I got to this via BoingBoing, and I think it's an excellent post!
Thank you so much!

squid314

July 12 2010, 19:51:33 UTC 1 year ago

Re: Excellent!

Wait a second...MY BLOG WAS ON BOINGBOING??!?!?!
...guess that explains the 62 comments to this entry. Cool, and thanks for telling me.

ethan1701

1 year ago

vvz

July 12 2010, 16:44:14 UTC 1 year ago

Great post! Thanks!

unixronin

July 12 2010, 16:45:30 UTC 1 year ago

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

This post is made entirely of epic win. :)

turil

July 12 2010, 16:45:44 UTC 1 year ago

This is the first time I've ever even come close to having a decent explanation of that part of history. Thanks!

(Got here via Reddit.)

kynn

July 12 2010, 16:51:27 UTC 1 year ago

...and the Americans are led by a kindly old man in a wheelchair.

they totally ripped off X-Men

tuckerch

July 12 2010, 17:15:36 UTC 1 year ago

And some of the dialog!!!!

So the big head US Army guy in the Pacific Ocean is chased off a couple of islands by the Japanese, and what does he say?

"I Shall Return!" And, yeah. You can even see the uppercase letters as he's saying it.

And over in England, there's some US reporter who's standing on a rooftop in London during a nighttime bombing raid by the Germans and he's doing a live radio report as bombs are dropping all around him.

Oh, and lets not forget the episode with the heroic PT boat captain whose boat is sheared in half by a Japanese destroyer. The captain then swims to an island, while carrying a wounded crewman, and once he gets TO the island, sends a message to come rescue him to the Navy. Written on a coconut! He then gets elected President and sends men to the moon!

Really, who ARE these hacks writing the WWII series for History Channel?

Anonymous

1 year ago

elfs

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

naath

1 year ago

sorek

1 year ago

pauamma

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

kynn

1 year ago

mme_n_b

July 12 2010, 16:57:11 UTC 1 year ago

Thank you, this just made my day.

giza

July 12 2010, 17:02:44 UTC 1 year ago


In case you haven't heard bu now, Hacker News linked to your LJ post:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1507526

Nice job, BTW. I'm sending that to a few WWII buffs I know. :-)

squid314

July 12 2010, 20:07:24 UTC 1 year ago

Nifty. Thanks for telling me.

Anonymous

July 12 2010, 17:08:28 UTC 1 year ago

You could also question the credibility of their casting. I am sorry but a small dark haired man as the leader of the Aryan race? They should have chosen a tall, strong, blond man.
It makes you seriously wonder why the Aryans would obey to leader that obviously wasn't one.

Anonymous

July 12 2010, 17:11:34 UTC 1 year ago

Only tens of thousands for Vietnam?

If you're only counting American and Allied dead. But it was a civil war remember, civil wars are bloody. Try several hundred thousands dead.

Anonymous

July 13 2010, 03:48:07 UTC 1 year ago

Re: Only tens of thousands for Vietnam?

try millions if you count civilians

Anonymous

1 year ago

mhammer

1 year ago

Anonymous

July 12 2010, 17:12:57 UTC 1 year ago

Russians

Russia was not allied to Germany, but rather to the other side, the "Allied Forces."

Is this your mistake, or is that really what THC says?

tuckerch

July 12 2010, 17:19:45 UTC 1 year ago

Re: Russians

It's true. Germany and the Soviet Union had a treaty.

Up until Germany launched Operation Barbarossa. (wiki article)

pauamma

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

kraorh

1 year ago

mikser

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

mikser

1 year ago

Anonymous

11 months ago

gdy

1 year ago

drewkitty

1 year ago

Anonymous

July 12 2010, 17:24:46 UTC 1 year ago

Superweapons in sequels

I believe that there WAS a scene shot in which there was debate between the American military and civilian leaderships about using the mystic superweapon in Vietnam, but it was cut from the DVD release. But forget about that... go to conventions and find yourself a bootleg VHS copy of the 1983 Christmas special, "Able Archer," it's hilarious!

But give the writers some credit. You would EXPECT that when the Germans started building the new high-tech fighter plane late in the series, you'd have an elite squadron of photogenic young men who change the balance of the conflict, as if this was a Japanese giant robot show. But do you see that happen? Nope! The new super-plane just isn't enough and dozens of similar superweapon programs are scuttled to focus on bare essentials in a desperate attempt to keep the empire from collapsing.

Keep circulating the tapes...

(Fun fact: the reCAPTCHA word for this post was "jackboot".)

nelc

July 12 2010, 17:45:53 UTC 1 year ago

I just want to point out a slight error in your piece: the Churchill character was actually First Sea Lord, which is a kind of admiral according to the series' bible, in the first series. What's interesting in a total breakdown of continuity kind of way is that his back history has him in the army before this. So it's easy to see how you made your mistake in calling him a general. It's what you'd expect, after all, if the writers hadn't been more concerned with the Rule of Cool than realism.

Also, has anyone noticed just how many superweapons there were in this series? Every time things get slow, they pull a secret weapon out of nowhere. Early on, when the good guys are facing the invasion, it looks like it's all over for them? They unveil this super-secret invisible detection system out of nowhere to track the enemy bomber squadrons. And it works perfectly, in contrast to the bad guys' secret weapons which when they work aren't used properly, and when they are used properly are just too big to use, incredibly delicate or melt their users. The only weapons that work well and are used properly are those undersea boats and that magic 88mm gun (which tends to get used in everything).

sianmink

July 12 2010, 18:47:05 UTC 1 year ago

Totally implausible prototypes and superweapons, and from a power that was struggling to produce enough fuel for its mechanized forces! Totally unbelievable, and already been played to death in giant robot anime, thanks.

mhammer

1 year ago

xiphias

1 year ago

nelc

1 year ago

chiliarches

July 12 2010, 17:52:36 UTC 1 year ago

Hm...

A) This is incredibly clever and witty
B) Actually, this sort of exposes how much the Nazis have influenced fictional villains!

gromm

July 13 2010, 06:30:20 UTC 1 year ago

Re: B)

To the point of being tremendously cliche, you might say. :)

Anonymous

1 year ago

athelind

July 12 2010, 18:09:52 UTC 1 year ago

This is brilliant.

If I had the chops, I'd follow it up by critiquing the Gulf Oil Spill as a clichéd disaster movie. (As someone else has pointed out, they even cast a black actor as president.)

sorek

July 12 2010, 22:22:50 UTC 1 year ago

Already done

Anonymous

July 12 2010, 18:48:38 UTC 1 year ago

You know, what pisses me of is the fact that they decided to call it World War II. I mean, at that point there wasn't any World War I, but instead they take the Great War series and renames the whole thing!

And just the Great War, the plot leading out to the outbreak is so cluttered and confused nobody really knows what happened or whose fault it was, but everyone tends to blame Germany. Then they have this boring long almost four year arc on the western front where almost nothing happens apart from people dying and almost everyone seems to be a poet. I also find it almost unbelievable the way they always portray the British Generals as almost stupid and out of touch with reality and continuing to do the same kinds of attacks time and time again. Strategy doesn't work that way!

And not to mention that they solve that arc by an "America saves the day!" when they join in the last year after some line-cruiser or something sank. And those "secret weapon" "tanks", supposedly named such to fool German spies into believing they were water tanks, which were so slow that artillery could home in on them easily.

cynicalcleric

July 12 2010, 23:54:44 UTC 1 year ago

Then the Korean War series came along and they bring back one of the World War II characters in a leading role. The first season is really exciting with things going back and forth (but that Inchon episode was so unrealistic - that would never work!). But its almost like the writers didn't expect the show to be renewed after that first season so they used up all their good ideas. After they resolve the cliffhanger finale with the Chinese attacking, the series just goes nowhere and nothing much happens. It just finally ends randomly after several more seasons without any real resolution. And they wrote out the main American general character (the one that reprised his big role from World War II) for no real reason.

Anonymous

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

Anonymous

1 year ago

david_deacon

July 12 2010, 18:52:02 UTC 1 year ago

No, you've got it all wrong. World War II was that rarest of programs: a sequel far more interesting and complex than the original. Remember the first series, World War I, when the Germans rebooted the concept of war? Four years of endless trench warfare. Ratings were abysmal.

mikser

July 12 2010, 19:11:35 UTC 1 year ago

Yep! At least WW2 was interesting, if not realistic.

xiphias

1 year ago

squid314

1 year ago

xiphias

1 year ago

jetspeaks

1 year ago

mhammer

1 year ago

xiphias

1 year ago

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