RIP James Garner

Award-winning American film and television actor James Garner who starred in several television series & movies spanning a career of more than six decades has died at the age of 86. Garner was best known for his primetime television roles as a wisecracking frontier gambler on Maverick and as an ex-con turned private eye on The Rockford Files. Garner starred in more than 50 films including The Great Escape (1963), Paddy Chayefsky’s The Americanization of Emily (1964), Grand Prix (1966), Blake Edwards’ Victor Victoria (1982), Murphy’s Romance (1985) for which he received an Academy Award nomination, and The Notebook (2004).

A purple heart awardee who was wounded twice in Korea, Garner entered showbusiness in the 1950s after serving in the Korean war and first rose to fame on the TV western Maverick, a sardonic alternative to the more serious frontier shows then popular on American primetime. Garner left the ABC show in 1960 in a contract dispute with producers but brought his Maverick-like alter ego to a series of films, including The Thrill of It All, Move Over Darling, The Great Escape and Support Your Local Sheriff! His next big hit was on the small screen in the 1970s, when he starred as the canny private detective Jim Rockford, a wrongly accused ex-convict starting life over in a beachfront trailer home in The Rockford Files. The show ran on NBC from 1974 until Garner abruptly quit the series in 1980. He reprised Rockford for several TV movies in the late 1990s. The role earned Garner an Emmy award in 1977. He also received an Oscar nomination for his work opposite Sally Field in the 1985 feature comedy Murphy’s Romance. His last few hit movies included Space Cowboys, The Notebook & he was on the final season of 8 Simple Rules.

He was married and had two children. According to police, an ambulance was dispatched to Garner’s Brentwood, Los Angeles home at around 20:00 on July 19, 2014. Garner was confirmed dead when paramedics arrived at his home. The cause of death was not immediately reported but initial law enforcement officers on the scene declared “natural causes” as the cause of death.

James Scott Bumgarner; April 7, 1928 – July 19, 2014

Too Short A Season

I’ve got a bone to pick with American & I guess Canadian tv channels and tv series producers. Why the fuck is it that almost 98% of tv shows since 2010-2011 onwards all have such short seasons? I can understand if some of them have the shorter seasons of 10, 13 or 16 episodes per season but it seems like all of them are suddenly of that range. This trend means that there are way too many shows being produced – which is a good thing in terms of jobs and variety for the actors & crew alike but it also means that audiences don’t get enough time with their favourite shows and characters. 13 episodes are not enough for us to enjoy and it takes so much longer for the next season to come that you have to rewatch the previous season’s episodes just to reconnect with them again.

The best shows seem to still generate the interest and capture the public imagination. But not every show can be a Game Of Thrones which has only 10 episodes a season (granted that their episodes are slightly longer than usual and pack a punch) or a The Walking Dead (which had 6 & 13 episodes the first two seasons before settling on 16 for the last two). While these two and some other shows like them have done a bang up job of capturing the hearts & minds of their audiences and winning awards and ratings the other shows, good shows with good themes, fail to stick with you because they a) do not have enough time to flesh out the storylines in detail b) character development has to be a minimum or left to just the main 2-4 characters and even c) in science fiction stories, have stuff in them that do not really connect with audiences because there is no background story or enough time to make things stand out or explain as to what is the science, technology, reasoning, history behind a certain weapon, culture, decision making etc etc. Let me take a couple of shows as example since scifi shows are the ones which need the longer time to develop interest, especially shows with aliens & alien cultures, settings on other planets or on ships. Take Falling Skies & Defiance as the prime examples. Both are good shows with interesting storyline arcs and recurring themes but they are, in my opinion anyways, hindered by shorter seasons.

Falling Skies worked really well in the first 2 seasons when they focused on just humans vs the invading powerful Espheni (insectoid creatures) who have destroyed most of earth and are enslaving part of the surviving humans. When they added another alien race, the Volm who can talk and has a background history with the Espheni, and further technology it failed to connect with me as they don’t have enough episodes to flesh the plots out and give the aliens more time to develop. Some of the “deaths” seem hasty and some of the new technology seem rushed. They also had to jump several months in the timeline at the beginning of this season and that’s when I grew frustrated because the cohesion was lost. Adding to the fact that they had a rapidly growing alien/human “starchild’ (a la V) character added and a cult that suddenly grew around her just doesn’t sit well. You need time to develop these stories unless done really well and this show has failed in doing so. They had 3 10 episode seasons (or call it 12 as the season opener & finales are usually longer) and this season has 12. Their 5th season will be their last and will have 10 episodes.

Defiance is another good show but they have so many alien races and yet so few episodes to do justice to them all. They have managed to develop one of the races but the others seem so dull in comparison. Plus with a generation of the alien children having been born and raced on what is left on earth, they just seem human teenagers in makeup. Again less time to develop the races and feel connected to the characters; I just don’t care if any of the main characters die. No alien lands because everything is happening on earth (a much changed earth due to a terraforming situation but still earth) and no reason to try and learn the alien races reasons behind their way of life, choices or decisions and what makes them tick. I can’t remember a show in which there are 5 or more alien races and I only care or know anything about just one of them. It’s the 12 episodes in the first season to blame and this season we get 13. And don’t even get me started on Star-Crossed which was just a whole big mess but it was more a teenager show anyways and I didn’t connect with it anyways and it got cancelled after just a season.

I do hate the fact that all my favourite non-scifi shows are also either 10-13 episodes long but they don’t have this problem of explaining alien technology, races, planets or even advanced earth tech because they are set in the present (or in some cases the past) and they can focus on stories and plots and even have time for the characters in a shorter season. I’ll talk about my non-scifi shows in another post.