Saturday, July 27, 2013

This Category Needs An Enema

A few nights ago I sort of eavesdropped on a Twitter conversation between Django Wexler and Brian McClellan concerning the Hugo Award For Best Dramatic Presentation-Short Form and the unrelenting love that Dr. Who gets from the voting body. Now I have no aspirations of winning a Hugo even if it is the Academy Award of the SFF publishing world. I write primarily YA and, for the most part, that is largely ignored by them. But that's for another post, not this one. I want to talk about the Short Form because I think there is something wrong with the selection process that is ignoring large swaths of nominees because they favor the "things they know." Kind of sounds like a redundancy in the world of scifi/fantasy, based on recent events. Anyway, that's another blog entry for another blogger...back to my point, if I have one.

Of the 55 possible nominations since the category was formed, Dr. Who has been nominated 23 times and won 6, which is both considerably more than it's closest competitor: Buffy the Vampire Slayer with 6 nominations and 1 win. Now maybe part of it is that I just don't get Dr.Who. I mean I have fond memories of watching it when I was a kid on my grandparent's little b&w TV when I would spend weeks at a time with them. If I remember right it was on PBS in the metro NYC area, though I can't be sure. Anyway, there was no cable back then, so it had to be some broadcast network. I've tried watching the reboot/recent continuation and I just can't get into it at all. It's backstory and canon are more convoluted than that of the Transformers and compared to some of the other stuff I watch it's kind of rubbish. (I know I risk my geek card by typing this but hopefully I'll earn it back by the end of this post.)

I wonder how is it that about 42% of nominations (kind of weird that's the number, wonder if it's symbolic?) come from one show when you think of how many genre programs are out there. And it's success rate is equally as baffling when you consider that it consistently beat out a classic like Battlestar Galactica. But that's not even the thing that sticks out. It's how narrow the list of nominees actually is. Almost three quarters of all the nominees came from 5 television shows. You're telling me in this day and age of hundreds of television networks, webisodes and webshows, that's the scope of the list? It's baffling to me. It has to say something about what's happened to the SFF community. What was once a place of progress and advancement has become stagnant and stuck in an almost "Good ol' boy" cycle. Let's talk about all the things they ignored.
Animation: How is it possible that there are NO animated shows on this list (I'll admit some ignorance here in that I haven't studies the "other" nominees I spoke of to determine that they aren't animated and I apologize for that). How can something like Avatar: The Last Airbender OR Avatar: The Legend of Korra not have earned a single nomination? The "Iroh's Tale" vignette of  "Tale of Ba Sing Se" episode of A:TLA is worthy of a nomination all on it's own. (I defy you to watch that one and not cry. If you do not, I contend you are one of the lizard people.) Avatar (both incarnations) are original concepts that are brilliant examples of modern fantasy. Is it because they are aimed at a younger audience? (There's that disregard for YA/MG again, but that's another post.) Star Wars: The Clone Wars has done some pretty darn good stuff during the course of it's run too. Though I've never watched it, I hear amazing things about Adventure Time as well.

The Venture Brothers is another show that I can think of that is some of the best scifi/fantasy on TV now. Is it because it pokes fun at so many tropes of sff OR because it's animated that it gets no love in the Hugos? It is some of the best episodic television out there, as far as I'm concerned and that means it's easily some of the best scifi on TV today.

And let's not forget the two most popular step brothers since John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell: Phineas and Ferb. went so far as to call the show the best scifi on TV, yet the Hugos will march out three mediocre episodes of Dr. Who because it's the "grand duke of Sci Fi programming?" There are other shows that I don't regularly watch but when I do, I'm impressed: Gravity Falls, Ben 10, Generator Rex and Sym-bionic Titan all come to mind. I'm also ignoring the multitude of DC/Marvel properties that have shows too. They do some fine work too. But for some reason, these shows: well written, designed and acted don't get the same respect as the quirky white English guy saving Earth does.

Network & Cable Television: I'm usually sour on the big networks, but lately they've been taking big riders of genre shows and delivering too. Sure Lost has been nominated, so have a few others, but for the most part there are dozens of shows that have been ignored. First one that comes to mind is Castle. Is there a show that has more nods to the SFF world than this one? I mean they've had episodes featuring bigfoot, vampires, zombies and steampunk.  The episode where they go to "comicon" and poke fun at Star Trek/Firefly/Andromeda is all time classic brilliant, yet no nomination at all for the show.

Another one that comes to mind is Person of Interest. This is the definition of doing scifi for an adult audience without them knowing they are watching scifi. It's an amazing show that crosses so many genres it can be mind numbing, but it's clearly a scifi show that won't get noticed because the main characters hide in an old library...not a police box.

There are others. I know that Once Upon A Time can be soap opera-y, but there was some good storytelling going on the first season. I don't know if Arrow was eligible this year, but it does some fun stuff with genre and is well done.

And let's not forget the granddaddy's of today's television: The Simpsons and Family Guy. (I know, they are animated shows but I count them in a different category.) Both of these shows have never been afraid to dabble in scifi. Family Guy has played with time travel, multiverses and parodies of the SFF world. How either "Blue Harvest" or "Three Kings" weren't nominated I'll never understand. "The Splendid Source" (an adaptation of a Richard Matheson short story for crying out loud) is one of my favorite episodes of any television show ever. Do I really need to talk about The Simpsons? "The Book Job" episode is all time classic and that's one example out of about a hundred.

There are other shows: Big Bang Theory comes to mind immediately as being genre savvy. Yet there is no love for it. I'm sure there are others, but I really don't watch sitcoms anymore.

Webisodes/Web Shorts: How do these not get love? I mean seriously. Sure we had Dr. Horrible, but that was Joss Whedon and he could pretty much slap his name on a floor tile and it'll get nominated for a Hugo. (I say this not as a complaint because said floor tile would be shiny.) How has The Guild, featuring geek girl Felicia Day, not garnered one nomination? (Not to mention other webseries that she's worked on!) Not to mention all the BSG webisodes or Blood and Chrome. I'd rather see that nominated rather than another episode of Dr. Who.

And what about individual sketches from shows like Saturday Night Live? I mean their send up of Twilight Firelight was hysterical and spot on. (And, quite frankly, wouldn't be a terrible pitch for a YA novel in the right hands.) The Louis CK sketch involving heroes on a quest and an annoying hornblower was another one. Why are these not getting some mentions?
(I'm going to confess that even I'm out of the loop on this and I'm sure there are even more worthy ones.)

Commericals: Yup, why not. And I'm thinking of one in particular. This Cartier commercial. Again,the category is awarded for: "The best dramatized production devoted primarily to science fiction or fantasy." How does this not fit the bill? Super Bowl commercials are great for this. Yet perhaps because they are computers, they are ignored.

Music Videos: Okay, it's a dying art form, but I was thrilled last year when "F**k Me Ray Bradbury" was nominated but there have been plenty fantasy and scifi themed music videos that have been overlooked over the years. I know it's a bit old, but I think of "Tonight, Tonight" by the Smashing Pumpkins. But there is one that absolutely needs to be on the next ballot and I'm going to crusade for this in the coming year: Commander Chris Hatfield's cover of Bowie's "Space Oddity." Here it is and I defy you to tell me it's not deserving:

Let's get this done people. Let's make these changes and get our voices heard in the Hugos and put a stop to this damned Doctor Who.

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