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Now there are a lot of people out there who read this blog who will undoubtedly be shocked, nay, disgusted by the addition of High School Musical to my list of reviewed shows. My brother, Henley, is definitely one of them; but I am sure there will be others.

I will not apologise for what I am about to say. I absolutely love Disney’s High School Musical.

Sure, sure, you can be cynical about the idea of cashing in on the themes of individuality, standing up for oneself and accepting everyone in the world for who they are and what they want to be – but there is something so beautifully innocent about this show. It’s not really made to be the runaway hit it became. The show has that “something to fill in the holiday television schedule” feel to its production and music – and yet it becomes something else… an artifact of some dream ideal of America, maybe?

We’re all in this together…

One of the key things that strikes me most about the world of High School Musical is that there are no bad guys. Sure, there are antagonists who try to stop the two protagonist characters from being themselves – but everyone is willing to accept mistakes and make peace with each other. Primarily through song, smiles and being nice to each other.

If only it was that simple in the real world, right?

And I think that is kind of the secret to its appeal. In this time of growing conflict, a simpler world where problems can be solved by people being willing to work things out is a dream we all want to see fulfilled. The catchy tunes and music is popular not so much for its own sake, but rather for its ability to act as a trigger back to the euphoria the viewers feel from watching this idyllic vision of the world.

I know that I wish I could just break into song when I really want to express my feelings – have a little dance number and everyone is friends afterwards. 🙂

It is hard to fault a show for its lively upbeat nature. I just love to watch this show when I want to relax and feel good. The simple story, the upbeat music and the sheer fun of a musical really makes this show work for me. More so than even Rent – which I almost cried at the end of (I will be reviewing Rent in the near future)

If you haven’t yet taken part in High School Musical – I highly recommend it. Put your cynicism and world-weariness aside for a short while and just let yourself be a kid again, enjoying the simple pleasure of a fun world where nobody is left out of the happy ending. 🙂

Love and Huggles

Conan

Currently Reading: Storm Front
Currently Playing: Exalted: Nexus of the Sun
Mood: Feeling positive and upbeat from High School Musicals… 🙂

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Back in the early days of X-files, when supernatural and quirky television shows were attempting to make a break into mainstream television, there was a series that literally was the Firefly of its day.

The similarities between Firefly and American Gothic are impressive – if somewhat divergent later down the track. Much like Firefly, American Gothic was a series plagued by idiotic executive decisions. Firstly, it was played erratically, rarely in the same spot twice. Secondly, all the epsiodes were played out of sequence – causing many first time viewers to be confused and confounded by some odd plot developments. Finally, it was pulled for low ratings and simply being a series that was well ahead of its time subject wise.

Also like Firefly, it is a series that benefits from an excellent choice of cast and some truly inspired storylines. Rarely an episode is wasted in this series.

On the positive, American Gothic did get to run its course and end on a fairly satisfying conclusion that also left the door open for another season if anyone ever chose to pick it up.

But what is American Gothic really about?

The Devil in South Carolina

At the core of American Gothic is the story of the age old battle of Good versus Evil. In the town of Trinity, SC, a young boy named Caleb Temple is orphaned when his father is arrested for murdering Caleb’s sister, Merlyn (short for Merly-Ann). After his father “commits suicide” in the town jail, Caleb finds himself in the middle of a custody battle between the Sheriff of Trinity, Lucas Buck, and Caleb’s out-of-town cousin, Gail Emory.

Sounds normal so far? Well how about the fact that Merlyn was actually killed by Lucas, as was Gage Temple – Caleb’s father.

Or the fact that Lucas seems to have everybody in town owing him favours.

Or how about that Merlyn’s ghost is talking to Caleb and reveals that Lucas Buck is actually Caleb’s true father?

American Gothic’s core mystery is the identity of Lucas Buck and what he really is. Is he the Devil? A sorceror? A Demon? A Psychic? Whatever he is, he has a supernatural grip on the town of Trinity and many episodes in the series are really about exploring the depths of Lucas’ evil and corruption. We see how he seduces the townsfolk into sinful acts without ever being outright told what he is aiming to get.

Meanwhile, Caleb is surrounded by loving people who are not yet willing to accept what is happening in the town. Unaware that their actions are helping decide whether Caleb will follow in his father’s footsteps or heed the warnings his sister’s ghost is giving.

This is a fantastic series. It deals with a variety of mature themes in a chilling way that lacks the unnecessary voyeurism of current shows. There are themes of rape, murder, lust and virtually every sin you have heard of – yet it is all handled with a subtlety and humour that keeps the show from being depressing or disgusting.

Furthermore, while the theme is the battle of Good versus Evil the series doesn’t really pick a side. It presents the idea that not everything is necessarily as clear-cut as we would like. Buck is evil incarnate, but sometimes he is actually capable of the occasional compassionate act. Merlyn is meant to be working for the forces of purity and light, yet she often lets her own feelings of revenge cloud her judgement.

Of course the winner in all this is Gary Cole, who plays Lucas Buck. As has been mentioned in many places, he must be the best villain to ever grace film or television. Cole manages to make a truly loathsome being who is seductive and charming – someone who you whoop with joy when he is outsmarted, and yet also cheer on when he has the upperhand. Right to the very last few minutes of the series, Gary Cole keeps us reminded that for all the evil he commits in the series (and there are some truly horrible things he makes people do) we can’t help but like Buck. He gets under your skin with his confidence and good-humour.

Lucas Black, who plays Caleb, is also an impressive young actor – and it is a shame that he hasn’t been given a lot of opportunities to prove his talent more since this series. However some people may recognise the grown up Lucas from Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. I hope to see more of this actor – he really is talented.

How to almost screw up a DVD collection

Unfortunately, Universal doesn’t deserve much praise. The DVD set is a classic example of how to virtually kill a potential money maker. American Gothic could have been a BIG DVD seller if Universal had taken a leaf out of the Family Guy/Carnivale/Firefly DVD release books.

In those releases, fans were treated to a large number of extras that filled up a lot of their appetite for their series, but also presented these shows in such a way that non-fans could pick them up out of interest and also get hooked into the shows.

The story goes that Universal weren’t going to release American Gothic on DVD. In a refusal to admit that the failure of the series lay in the laps of the executives who killed it, they didn’t believe it would make any money as a DVD release.

A massive fan petition turned the tide and it was eventually released on DVD. However, Universal has chosen – for some unfathomable reason – to set out the DVDs in order of screening, NOT in order of sequence. How could they do something so stupid. Unless someone has had the foresight to look on the net and learn what the actual viewing sequence is meant to be, this DVD set will fast become a frustrating and confused presentation. Sure- the series is still all there, and it is American Gothic – a DAMN good series. But the order will mean that newcomers may be put off the series by the exact same flaws that lead to the failure of the series in the ratings game.

I genuinely hope someone loses their job over this – as unlikely as that may be – because this could have been a golden opportunity to turn a failed series into a gold mine. It is, after all, the original. Shows like Dead Zone, Tru Calling, Lost and Medium are successors to the throne – and with the popularity of many of these types of shows in this current time, American Gothic could have been a great way to cash in without having to actually spend a lot of money filming a show.

None-the-less, it remains one of my all time favourite series. It is pure viewing pleasure and I guarantee it to anyone who is into shows about the strange and unusual…

Love and Huggles

Conan

Currently Reading: China Mieville’s Looking for Jake
Currently Playing: Exalted: Nexus of the Sun
Mood:Not doing too badly…

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