December 3rd, 2007

Tom Lehrer is Smug


Looks like Sony got more than just a few tsk-tsks from readers and card cataloguers alike about its latest Super Duper Sexier Than A Librarian eBook Read-O-Matic ad campaign. The campaign is back in full force in South Station, with all the walls and columns plastered with signage telling you that electrons rule and paper drools. Not only are the book readers displaying something other than the DuhVinci Kode replete with religious flagellation, but one of the slogans now reads
Sexier than a librarian (your librarian may vary).
Okay, that's a cute concession... I think. I'm still not buying one, though.

Last night I caught Tin Man, the Sci-Fi Channel's "original reimagining" of the Wizard of Oz story. I shouldn't have caught it -- I shouldn't have even bothered to raise my glove -- but a few weeks back I had a conversation with my pal Mo, who is probably the biggest L. Frank Baum fan I know east of the Mississippi.

"You gonna watch it?" she asked me. "Zooey Deschanel is in it. Richard Dreyfuss is in it. Alan Cumming is playing the scarecrow character. I got ahold of the script."

"Yeah?" I said. "How is it?"

"Oh my god."

"Is that oh my god good or oh my god bad?"

"Just watch the damn thing. And be online when you do, because I want to see your reaction."

Oh, I had a reaction all right, bordering on the anaphylactic.

It wasn't that someone had gone and taken The Wizard of Oz and made something new out of the characters and mythos. There's been plenty of "reimaginings" or whatever they're calling adaptations nowadays. I rather like The Wiz, for one. Even though it's definitely a product of its time, it's still a very imaginative approach and faithful to both its roots and its "urbanization" concept. Gregory Maguire went and wrote hisself a nifty revisionist prequel, exploring why the Wicked Witch of the West was so darned wicked. Then Stephen Schwartz came in, set the prequel to music, and made it pop-yu-ler. (He also gave a lot of young women reason to wear green makeup while he was at it.)

But there are good adaptations and there are bad adaptations. And lordy mama, this one ain't so good. It's got a great concept which emphasizes the dystopian angle from the original stories, makes things dark, I'm cool with that. And ok, sure, it's cute to make little Oz-like nods at the beginning while Zooey our heroine (named D.G. -- get it? GET IT?!) lives in the Real World. She pines for a life Anywhere But Here, rides a motorcycle instead of a bike, is harassed by Officer Gulch (the name of the mean old lady in Kansas who tries to steal Toto) and works as a waitress at a diner where she wears a familiar-looking blue-and-white checked apron. But too many cutesy nods turn grating and contrived, and you start looking for things to hurl at the TV screen when Alan Cumming tells the Tin Man (who's not really metal, he's a flesh-and-blood lawman, get it, tin badge) to "have a heart" or when the Evil Character in this story (a sorceress named Azkadelia or something) learns of DG's trip to the decidedly un-green Central City and haughtily remarks "Well! She's off to see the wizard." (The guy's known as The Mystic Man in this story, and nobody uses the word "wizard" except for this one scene. Ha ha ha. Ho ho ho. And a couple of tra-la-las.)

But frankly, the thing lost all its credibility entirely due to one incredibly poor choice in naming. See, the Oz setting in this story is a parallel universe split off from our own and, in a prescient move, the inhabitants named their universe the "Outer Zone." Okay, that's pretty cool.

But everybody refers to it as "the O.Z." That's right. "The Oh-Zee." THE OH-ZEE. Somebody was obviously watching Fox when they wrote this screenplay and let me tell you, the ultra-hip abbreviation was ludicrous enough in the original. Its adapted counterpart sounds absolutely horrid in Tin Man. Each time someone says "the O.Z." the show loses another chunk of potential coolness. And people say it a lot. My shoulders hurt from all the cringing.

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If anything, Tin Man has but a single moral, and that moral is there's no place like MGM.
Banana Splits Head

(no subject)

What with the precipitation precipitating, those of us in Boston may be very interested in monitoring the situation using Universal Hub's very handy French Toast Alert System. This simple color-coded level-based system, powered by weather reports, lets you know whether or not you should be dashing out like crazed methmonkeys to stock up on a month's supply of bread, milk and eggs. The levels range in severity from Green/Low...
No storm predicted. Harvey Leonard sighs and looks dour on the evening news. Go about your daily business but consider buying second refrigerator for basement, diesel generator.
...all the way to Red/Severe:
Nor'easter predicted. This is it, people, THE BIG ONE. Harvey Leonard makes repeated references to the Blizzard of '78. RUSH to emergency supermarket NOW for multiple gallons of milk, cartons of eggs and loaves of bread. IGNORE cries of little old lady you've just trampled in mad rush to get last gallon of milk. Place pets in basement for use as emergency food supply if needed.
There is even a nice spot of Jabbascript you can use on your own page (if, indeed, your new Russian holding company lets you use Jabbascript) to help keep you and your readers informed on impending french toast binges.

Maple syrup levels, however, are not easily predicted through computer algorithms and done, one presumes, by hand on a case-by-case basis.