Welcome to Biting-Edge, a blog shared by authors and vampire experts, Mario Acevedo and Jeanne Stein. We’ll cover urban fantasy, vampires, pop culture, and all things Joss Whedon. Unlike other fantasy blogs, we don’t insist on body cavity searches (unless you ask politely). Snarkiness is most welcome...though we won't promise not to bite back!

Sunday, December 02, 2012
  Best TV ever

Mario here:

What I'm reading: Alchemystic by Anton Strout.

One star reviews, what to do about them? Over at the League of Reluctant Adults, we take our most blistering one-stars and secretly repost them on our list group, where we gleefully jeer the reviewer. Our comments range from ridiculing the reviewer's poor English skills to speculating on their sexual proclivities and moral failings. But what about responding to the reviews on Amazon? I've read two different philosophies. Elle Lothlorien says to reply to the reviewers directly as a form of customer service. Another successful writer, Collen Collins, takes the opposite approach. She explains that you don't even click on a one-star review because Amazon tracks every click (who doesn't on the Internet?) and the more clicks a review gets, the higher its profile in the search algorithms. She goes on to explain how to "undo" a click.

At the last MileHiCon, CJ Henderson complained that modern television was a waste of time. Melinda Snodgrass jumped back at him; her rebuttal was that television programing has never been better. I have to agree with her. Today's shows benefit from bigger budgets, improved technology, and a lack of editorial restraints that hobbled earlier programming. Who wouldn't want to see an episode of the The Dick Van Dyke Show where the writers could've cut loose like Seinfeld or The Big Bang Theory?

Like many of you, I've gotten hooked on the great serial dramas offered by cable. What we fiction writers can learn from these shows is that they are all essentially soap operas. We are drawn into the lives of the heroes and villains and we tune back every week to catch up on the foibles of our favorites.

The Sopranos is over and done with. We hold our breaths for the absolute final season of Breaking Bad. In the meantime, what show should I sink my chops into? Despite the recommendations, I couldn't latch onto Battlestar Galactica or Dexter. The Walking Dead...meh. Mad Men lost me. I enjoy historical pot-boilers but was disappointed by Magic City. The premise is great: vice and corruption in Miami during the Rat Pack years. Visually, the show has a beautiful Mid-Century aesthetic and it hits the right historical notes. However, the gangster tropes repeat every mobster movie that I've seen. Boardwalk Empire is another series that I'm tepid about. Again, the set design and costumes...amazing! The historical backdrop...ching! ching! ching! But the character focus is too scatter shot, the plot complications too Byzantine (to the point I feel the need to take notes), and the narrative lacks much urgency.

So what's at the top of my Netflix queue? Hell on Wheels. It's an engrossing and unflinching look at life during post-Civil War America. We know the railroad was built across this country but do we realize that every foot of rail line was originally laid by hand? It's obvious if you think about it, but you have to see these teams of men hacking at the ground with pickaxes and sledge hammers to appreciate the effort. Every character brings a rich backstory: poor-mouth Irish immigrants, freed slaves smoldering at the humiliations they're forced to endure, former rebel soldiers traumatized by defeat, Native Americans about to get buried by ruthless "progress," camp prostitutes who clutch at dignity. What draws me into the show are the textured moral ambiguities in a lawless land. The show rubs our face in the ugliness and brutality of life on the frontier: a black man gets lynched; the Cheyenne braves are anything but noble; the hero of the show, Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), plays the most flawed bad ass ever. My complaints about the series are the lack of regular frontier women other than Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott)--not every woman out west was a whore. And I can't believe that men back them could be so cruel to one another. The men in this Hell don't form friendships but alliances.

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My son has me hooked on Walking Dead...used to be addicted to Monk and House. Sad they closed shop. Karen
I obviously can't speak from an author's perspective but for the most part I, as a consumer, ignore both one star and five star reviews unless there is an overwhelming number of reviews in either category. Granted, there have been plenty of books I've read in the past that were truly five-star books, but most five star reviews are all "zomg I <3 this book so much" and don't really tell prospective customers anything useful. On the other hand though, there have been very few books I have read that were so completely awful that there was nothing redeemable about them. That means that they at least merited a two star for *something*, be it character development, world development, linguistic approach, etc. As a result, I really pay heed to what one star reviews say since they are more than likely ruled by emotion and lack of critical thought.
We watched Jericho (and loved it) and we're now watching Prison Break. I like watching series on Netflix because you don't have to watch the commercials. Plus you can gulp them down three or four episodes at a time.

Television is so good right now there's little point in going to see a movie. That doesn't include The Hobbit, of course...
Karen: I also enjoyed Monk. Really fun show.
Leia: I feel like you do about 1 star reviews. 2 star reviews tend to provide more useful info why they didn't like the book.
Bonnie: I'll check out Jericho and Prison Break. The bad thing about watching a series on Netflix is that you might stay up all night!
Depends on what kind of one-star review we're talking about here. A thoughtful criticism would merit a reply from the author, but many of the usual one-star reviews on Amazon and such should be "avoid clicks".
Have you seen Justified? It's on FX. It is my current favorite tv show.The characters/world are based on creations by Elmore Leonard (the short story Fire in the Hole was the pilot, albeit with one major change without which the series would be a completely different animal). Rent the first three seasons. Since it's cable the seasons are short. Too short. The 4th season starts in January.

I also really like Homeland. The first season was superior to this season, but you take what you can get.

While there is a crapload of schlock on tv (the Kardashians and the entire TLC lineup spring right to mind) you would never have seen shows of the quality level of Breaking Bad or Justified or even The Walking Dead 20,30,40 years ago. The Big 3 would never allowed them on the air, let alone supported them. Even the best shows from those eras, say your MASH and Hill Street Blues as examples, did not have the depth of character and nuanced storytelling as the best shows today.
Daven: That's the problem. Once you click on the one-star, you've given the review a bit of legitimacy.
Catfriend: Thanks for your comments. You're right about the Big 3 though shows like Hill Street Blues did break a lot of barriers and laid the groundwork for today's programs.
Copper on the BBCAmerica just finished its first season. Pretty good, though I felt it tried too hard to be hard sometimes.

I'm still digging Person of Interest on CBS and The Vampire Diaries on the WB. Fringe is finishing its run; that would be a good one to mainline from the beginning if you haven't seen it.

I agree that TV has now and has always had some great writing. The TV series structure is its own unique form of storytelling and can be used to brilliant effect by a good writer. (David Chase, Joss Whedon, Chris Carter, Ron Moore, David Milch.)
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