E-mail me or post a comment if there is something specific that you'd like me to address and I'll try to answer as many as I can.

Update: I did some reorganizing. See 'I'm a slacker...' for more info. :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Venice: Season One (a response to critics)

I haven't read every comment out there regarding Venice, but I have seen many varying viewpoints. I'd like to take a moment to address some of the comments and list a few of my own responses to those comments that aren't episode specific things that have already been pointed out in previous blog posts.

The first comment I'd like to address is that people don't 'understand' 'get' 'empathize with' or 'like' the character of Gina. That they don't understand what she wants, haven't been told what's driving her and don't understand why Ani loves her. My response is, that you're not paying attention to everything that's going on under a scene that plays into the overall scope. If you're just looking at a scene in a vacuum it may not be as visible, but so many little things add up. Sure it's easy to be distracted and only pay attention to what you can actually SEE when Crystal is on screen. But she says so much about who Gina is when the camera isn't focused on her. The way Gina acts and reacts in different surroundings says so much about 'who' she is around and to these different people in her life. She's not the same personality with The Colonel as she is with Guya and she's not the same person with Guya that she is with Ani and so on. We all do that to some extent especially between co-workers, friends and family, but paying attention to how Gina is around whom gives great insight into who she really is and who Ani really sees "so clearly through all of [her] bullshit." Gina is hurt and vulnerable. She just wants to be loved and held but can't let down her walls long enough to allow herself to be. She wants that. She just doesn't know how to get there or even IF she can be that person. It's all there (and maybe I'm misinterpreting it) you just have to be paying attention to more than the pretty, to see it. Not that the pretty isn't worthy of watching, but you can't claim something isn't there if you're not looking for it.

The second comment I wanted to address is 'useless' scenes that don't further the plot. Every scene adds something to the overall experience, and it's usually telling us something about Gina along with it. The most commonly stated example is the scene where Gina brings Alan his boots. So many people have written that scene off and said that there is nothing for us to get from it. I couldn't disagree more. It tells us that Gina not only allowed a client to have a personal package delivered to her office, she then delivered it to him instead of having him pick it up at the office. And she wasn't meeting him for a business lunch or drinks either. It was a very personal touch that not only said that she valued him as a client, but as a person, and he sees her not only as a contractor, but as some one that he's comfortable enough around to share not only his "new dream" but the fact that his "wife wants him to get a new hobby." Gina only talks to him for a couple of seconds, but we learn that she's kind from her responses to Alan, after her initial surprise at the sparkle-y-ness of the boots, and her comment of, "You're gonna look great." as she walks away. She's a very likable person.

The third comment (don't worry I don't have too many more to go ;) ) is that people want to 'see' more of the things happening instead of be told that they happened. I say, why? I don't need to see a scene between HIGH Bar and wall sex in Episode 11 to know that there was a lot of tension, maybe a fight maybe just some silent steaming, that led to Tracy needing to claim Gina and to remind her that she was there, and Gina needing to prove that she's okay, and to forget at the same time. I don't need to seen that scene, because the wall scene told me everything they were feeling whether they had verbalized it with each other on the way home or not.

The fourth comment I want to address is the claim that the writing isn't good because it doesn't follow text book outlines for plot, character arc etc. My first response to that is, just because you don't see a plot or character arc, doesn't mean that there isn't one. It's a bad sign when audiences are so used to formulaic scripts that they apparently need a study guide to understand a script that is fresh and uncommon. The less snarky response would be that just because it doesn't follow 'text book' doesn't mean it isn't good. Nothing ever changes from doing things the same way. {If that were the case no one would ever progress through Meisner's first lesson. ;) } My television viewer response is, 'Thank God that it doesn't.' I mean seriously! Unless it's a special episode or a multi-episode arc you can switch on most shows and, depending on whether it's half hour or hour and what genre it is, tell just by the time frame (10 minutes in or just after the half hour C-break) what important piece of information you'll be receiving that's 'integral' to the plot. For example you can watch the last 15 minutes of any Law and Order episode and get what the entire show was about. Tune into any of the CSI shows during the 20-30 minute time frame and you'll see that the investigators have just discovered another 'person of interest' to question. It's mind numbing. While we may have all broadened our vocabulary with legal and medical Latin, and we now instinctively pay attention to potential evidence, we aren't being challenged to broaden our minds or pay attention to each other or human nature. I think that Venice does that. It gives us characters and plot points, but doesn't tell us how we should view the characters or what we should glean from the plot points. I passed elementary school a long ago and I thank Venice for not treating me like I'm still there. I didn't like being patronized by teachers then and I don't like being patronized by my scripts now. So to everyone who says that they aren't seeing the 'necessary ingredients' for quality writing, I encourage you to dust off the grey matter and actually pay attention. Sorry, that last bit was a bit more snark than intended, but it's a repeated comment that has really not set well with me.

My fifth and last comment to address actually ties in to all of the rest. When I've shared the preceding ideas with some viewers their reply is, "I don't want to have to work this hard to be entertained." That statement alone says so much to me, and leans me toward another pet peeve of mine, reality, alternative, or sensational programming. It gives credence to the saying, 'Television will rot your brain.' It has undeniably created a culture of instant gratification and in doing so the 'mini season'. You don't have to really invest in the 'characters' because you're only going to be with them for 2 months maybe 3. You don't have to really get to know them because everything that the producers want you to know, they show you. I think that what we're seeing with comments like this, not wanting to work to be entertained, is a desensitized audience that needs more to hold it's attention than good characters and subtle (actual reality) plots. That's our failing as an audience for not wanting to be engaged, then complaining about it when we fail to become invested. You have to shop at the right place for the product you want. When I need 30 yards of raspberry silk I go to the fabric store I don't go to Home Depot. When I want mindless entertainment I go watch a good action film, I don't go watch a dramatic soap style webseries.

Maybe I'm a romantic when it comes to my desire for entertainment. I don't want to watch on TV what I can see everyday at the office. I don't want plots that are so predictable that I know when something is going to happen even if I don't know what is going to happen. I may be very attentive to more than just the acting, dialog and setting, but I also enjoy just watching the show with no expectations of 'within the next few minutes certain things have to happen.' I don't like being told how to think or how I should feel about a character by the script or the editing or the music. I love that I can just 'be' with the Venice series and enjoy it and get involved with the characters without being told every five minutes that I need to be thinking about this now, or my focus should be here. Venice is open and refreshing and easy for me in a way that television hasn't been in years and it does that without sacrificing engaging entertainment.

That being said I sincerely hope and make a gentle plea to the Venice creative team that, although I know some critiques will be taken into consideration and some changes will be made as season one was a learning experience in many ways, the face and feel of Venice isn't changed so drastically to fit into the narrow frame of reference that many vocal critics seem to want that it becomes just another literary automaton cookie cutter formulaic series. My brain needs the chewy granola goodness that is Venice.


  1. This has said everything i have felt about venice from the beginning thank you for putting it into words. I have taken my share of slams for saying that i hope vteam stays with their vision of venice and not change to conform to text book scripts. I like it the way it is.

  2. Thank you for this ! I've been noticing some of the same things and was beginning to think I was the only one! If you go back and watch it all again, one episode after the other, you'll notice things like the way Gina's walls come and go. The difference in her body language around Ani from the first episode to the last is a good example. And I like your mention of the scene with Alan, too, that tells us something about her character, just like her attitude during the phone call from episode 2. Lots of good stuff there! Thank you!

  3. Well said. You pretty much said what I have been thinking. As well as Donna & Valerie comments have. I think some people just wanted to see CC & JL together and cannot get disconnect from Otalia/GL.

  4. I disagree point by point with you. However, I'm blowing 20 minutes of my time today responding because I admire you engagement. Please take the following as a gesture of respect from the Loyal Opposition.

    1) On Gina's personality: her unlikability is based on her selfishness and immaturity she displays in her personal life, not in her behavior with a client she is trying to land (although how she blends the of the two is perhaps less than professional). Her character flaws are in the text, not a function of lazy viewing. The better question is if the text sets up Gina as a character realistically capable of growth. Are her flaws interesting enough to sustain compelling drama?

    2) Scenes becomes useless or meaningless not necessarily because they don't further the plot, but because they don't adequately fulfill the function for which they are designed. This is the basic notion of whether or not a scene "works." Perhaps it would be better to address the question of whether or not a scene is "working," by imagining how it could have been done differently, for instance.

    3)In this style of drama, the issue of continuity isn't a matter of missing scenes, it's a sense of how deeply or completely we feel we are experiencing the character's emotional journey. It needs to be more like Route 66 and less like airport stops on a Southwest flight from lay-over hell.

    4)The following is a total straw man argument: "the claim that the writing isn't good because it doesn't follow text book outlines for plot, character arc etc."

    5)I have never heard a serious argument that one has to do too much intellectual work to enjoy Venice as entertainment. (On the contrary, most in Venice's audience would count among their greatest entertainment pleasures those that use subtly, nuance, metaphor or allusion that require thought and engagement, and reward multiple viewings.) I suspect that is a misunderstanding of the nature of the annoyances more commonly voiced about Venice.

  5. I think it is pretty arrogant to say that everyone who doesn't see the "vision" of Venice is stupid and/or lazy. I could just as easily say that you are overcompensating by projecting and seeing things that aren't there because you want Venice to be great.