Top Five. The Fictional TV Characters I Wish were Real

I’m starting a new thing in this blog which I’m calling “Top Five”. Just for kicks.

My first “Top Five” pays homage to the brilliant minds who created characters on Television today whom if these people had been real, they would certainly and surely make the world… well, not necessarily a better place, but surely a more interesting one. Good or bad, these characters make Bart Simpson seem like just another regular Joe.

1. Jack Bauer. You can’t not know Jack Bauer. He’s the lead character in the TV series 24. An ex-CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) agent, eventually became a CTU Director, then a free agent, then a wanted fugitive, and eventually a private citizen who simply wanted to live his life in peace. But we know better. As long as Jack Bauer roams the streets of the planet Earth, Jack Bauer can never rest in peace.

The world needs people like him. The guy you can count on to always do the right thing regardless of the cost to himself. He has literally died (twice!) for his country; been tagged as a hardcore enemy of the state; sacrificed his wife, daughter and friends for the sake of the country. He has saved the world from countless terrorist attacks, saved the lives of millions. If a Jack Bauer really existed in this lifetime, maybe terrorists would think thrice about striking.

2. Michael Westen. The lead character of Burn Notice, a show about the life of an ex-agent who gets burned, leaving him with no prior work history, no money; in essence, no identity. He suddenly wakes up after a humongous explosion while on a mission in Nigeria, in Miami, Florida, attended to by an ex-girlfriend, and an old friend who tells on his activities to the US government. The entire series is all about Michael investigating why he was burned and by whom; and trying to find ways to restore his identity and recover his assets. But in the meantime, he accepts odd jobs helping people who can’t help themselves, and who can’t ask help from official channels. Victims of scams and cons; targets of gangsters and mobs; people who were basically taken advantage of, ripped off and abused.

His methods, like Jack Bauer, are often questionable. But he does what needs to be done, and his heart is in the right place. You’ll never catch this guy crossing over to the wrong side of the fence. He will always champion the side of the good, albeit the side of good can sometimes be riddled with shades of grey. And he’s street smart too. ‘Course he is, he was one of the US’ best field agents before he was burned. A modern day but low-key MacGyver who’s loyal to the core.

3. Dr. Sheldon Cooper turns 20 minutes of each Big Bang Theory episode into 20 minutes of utter hilarity and uproarious belly-aching laughter. The young know-it-all genius Physicist who has absolutely no concept of emotional intelligence makes Geekdom seem like the coolest thing to be. He puts pompom-donning cheerleaders and prom queens to shame. Admittedly, he is a bit arrogant…. (okay, ‘a bit’ is an outright lie), has no concept of what it means to be a good friend, is probably asexual, and is emotionally constipated.

But he’s absolutely funny and adorable! He can probably change our perception of sub-atomic particles, black holes  and whatever other things that rock the world of Physics (leaving about 99.99% of the world’ population in complete obscurity about such discoveries), but he surely wouldn’t be the best housemate to anyone. But he can sure make us all laugh. And with a character as oblivious and clueless as that, he’d make for a highly entertaining companion, as long as you’re not in dire need of a morale boost.

4. Mademoiselle Blair Waldorf from the Upper East Side. ‘Queen B’, as she was fondly called up until Season 2 of Gossip Girl. Absolutely spoiled, insane and sometimes bordering on having a blackened soul… but gorgeous, trendy, funny and sweet, in her own bitter-sour way. Most people I know who love Gossip Girl, love Blair Waldorf more than her other Upper East Side female buds. She’s often a hardcore bitch with a capital ‘B’. But when she loves someone, she loves them to death.

Do not ever make the mistake of crossing the Queen of the hive, she can guarantee you’ll be out of friend, acquaintances, a home, a hometown… she can even send an entire city running after you…. if it doesn’t get to Gossip Girl first. If Blair were real, I’d give my entire month’s salary to make sure I’m on her good side. The best part… while I may not have the heart nor the guts for sweet satisfying revenge on those who wrong me, Queen B certainly does…

5. Walter Bishop is the genius of Fringe. A bit weird, yes. That’s what genius does to many.

And maybe if Walter Bishop were real, the fabric between our world and the parallel world would tear and other versions of ourselves would be crossing over, wreaking havoc on the world as we know it. And maybe buildings with thousands of people in them would start crossing over and pushing aside our buildings on this side. And maybe we’d have children test subjects who would be exhibiting extraordinary abilities when they reach adulthood so they can defeat evil. Would that be such a bad thing?

But okay, scientific genius aside, we love Walter Bishop cause he’s lovable, adorable and a generally good father to Peter. He may have technically stolen his son from the other side… but he’s certainly making up for it in his older age.

Who’s on your top five?

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TV Shows: Renewed or Cancelled?

In the US, the latest seasons of our favorite TV shows have just finished. Which means that for us folks down here in the Americanized third world archipelago called the Philippines, there’s a strange separation anxiety and a tinge of sadness giving up the usual prime time cable fanfare habit catching up on our favorite characters on television.

I don’t catch the shows on TV though. I wait for the DVDs or the legitimately downloaded shows from friends and acquaintances.Which doesn’t mean that TV show season endings don’t affect us just as much. If any, it hits us worse off. See, we normally wait for the entire season to finish, then watch the season for a few days straight. And then as soon as that’s done, it means another one year hiatus from our TV friends.

In this rough-and-tumble world, these shows have been with me and hubby through thick and thin; bringing us joy and temporary respite from the madness called real life.

And sadly, it’s that time of the year when TV lovers like us wonder – which shows get renewed, which ones get cut? Which friends live to continue keeping our minds occupied for several more hours again? And which ones do we bid adieu to?

Here’s just an unconfirmed rundown of the status of these shows we’ve come to love:

Stays! 30 Rock, Big Bang Theory, Bones, Castle, Chuck, Criminal Minds, CSI (all of them), Family Guy, Fringe, Glee, Gossip Girl, House, How I Met Your Mother, Human Target, Lie to Me, Mentalist, NCIS (both of them), Private Practice, Royal Pains, Smallville (!)

Goes: 24 (buh-bye Jack Bauer! *sniff*), Dollhouse, Flash Forward, Heroes

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I have a few thoughts about some of the shows that were axed.

We haven’t started watching this latest season of 24, but I’m actually a little bit glad about this  being the last we see of Jack Bauer (on television at least). I love the show to bits, and I love Jack Bauer to bits — but I seriously think it’s time for Jack to retire. The scenarios portrayed in the last few seasons were sometimes already bordering on being ludicrous. If we were talking about invincible superheroes like Superman, plots upon plots where Superman gets this close to certain death and still manages to escape unscathed could already be considered unbelievable… what more a mere mortal like Jack? I know he’s Jack Bauer… but seriously, Jack Bauer puts the Titan Gods to shame. And for that reason alone, I really think it’s time Jack really retires.

If he were a real person (and I’ve written about my profound admiration of the man in a previous post), I’d liken his life to a Greek tragedy. And then I’d say that this man deserves to finally die and be at peace. 10 seasons to relive Jack Bauer again and again until I’m old and frail is good enough for me.

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I also wrote about Dollhouse in a previous entry. Wrote about how much I loved it, while singing the praises of one of the greatest directors in our lifetime, Joss Whedon. Of course when I wrote that post way back in 2009, I already had an inkling it wouldn’t last.

And why not? The show is not about a damsel (seemingly in distress) falling in love with a blood-sucking vampire.  Ironic how I talk about humans and vampires considering the creator of Dollhouse was the first director to even conceptualize a TV show featuring human-vampire relations through Buffy and Angel. And then Twilight, Vampire Diaries and True Blood comes into the picture. All copy cats, if you ask me. Joss Whedon is and will always be the true genius of cult flicks.

Which brings me to say that Dollhouse being axed is a sad disappointment. Granted that the premise of the show may be a bit too out-of-this-world and as un-mainstream as it can be… but isn’t that what true entertainment is all about? When I plant myself on our living room couch in front of the television set with a bowl of chips, I want to be swept away into another reality where anything is possible. That’s what Dollhouse has always done for me. I guess that’s that.

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Now, Flash Forward. Within the first five minutes of the pilot episode, I was taken in. Three episodes later, I was hooked. But after about ten, twelve episodes… it just sorta fizzled. (Much like how Heroes took us all in at the beginning. Season 1 was terrific. Season 2 was so-so. Season 3 was a mess. Season 4 was a waste of time and money.)

Too too bad. It had an excellent plot. In fact, it made me ask one too many existential questions. What would you do if you could know without a doubt what the future held for you? Would you change your future without even knowing the full context of the few seconds’ glimpse of the future? Would you sacrifice yourself to save the future of a virtual stranger? What would you do if you knew you were to die in the very near future?

It started out on the right foot. Excellent casting (I love Joseph Fiennes!). But it just abruptly went downhill midseason. I haven’t even finished the first season and don’t even feel a tinge of enthusiasm to finish it. What a pity.

Lessons from the Anti-Heroes

We can always learn a thing or two about dealing with injustice and grief from today’s fictional anti-hero heroes and icons. (indulge me for a while in this post as I talk about fictional characters as though they were real).

I wager many fans of thriller and suspense flicks actually love Hannibal Lecter as much as they love Clarice Sterling. I know I do. After all, he does what we all just wish we could do but dismiss as even a remote possibility owing to our long-held beliefs of right and wrong. When karma takes too long to get back at those who did wrong to you, it’s almost tempting to contemplate revenge and vindication.

But that was one of the very few things my mum has carefully instilled in me since I was a young girl. Never exact revenge, and never will nor want for anything bad to happen to anyone, even to those who have wronged you. The world has a way of righting the wrong, but just let it be… and don’t cause for any of it to happen.

And so I just take vicarious pleasure watching and contemplating Hannibal Lecter’s life principles. Not that it makes his methods right, nor does it make him any less of a madman, nor is what he does right in any way. But you gotta admit. He  does what we all just wish we could do in a less extreme way. Hurt the ones who hurt other people. Lecter generally takes good care of the people whom he has dubbed as “people who are worthy of being a part of the human race”. He lets people like Clarice Sterling live. He offs the opera singer who cheats on his spouse; tortures and terrorizes the ambitious, dishonest journalist who gives little regard for what is morally right… effectively, he is just ridding the world of morally ambiguous people.

I have a handful of friends and acquaintances who classify as “don’t ever mess with me or you’re dead meat“. They’ve gotten justice at people who’ve wronged them in ways I can never even imagine doing (and yet, it’s nowhere even remotely close to Hannibal, okay?). On the one hand, I cringe at the thought of willfully causing hurt or pain to someone else…. even if it is only to seek justice (not even revenge). Even if repercussions on the recipient of justice are mostly emotional scars.

On the other, part of me admires their tenacity and will to get the justice they feel they deserve.

Where do you draw the line?

Every decision and action we make, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has corresponding actions and reactions. It’s not so far from making a decision everyday on how we behave towards humanity.

My husband gave me an interesting insight last night. As we were watching a documentary on History Channel about the Legacy of Star Wars, he told me to pick up lessons from Anakin Skywalker’s journey to the dark side. It began with just one incident: his mother’s death. Not only did it awaken his lust for revenge and power, but it brought out the strongest emotion that led him down the path to the destruction of his humanity: fear.

And so it begs the question of what to do when people have wronged you. It’s so easy to seek vindication and justice but sometimes, you wonder. At what cost does it come? Whose feathers do you ruffle? How many individual’s lives will you alter? Whose spirit will you crush?

Perhaps those are the same questions that plague Jack Bauer. (Jack Bauer, the perpetual martyr in the TV show 24)

I used to joke that next to God and the others powers-that-be in the Universe, Jack Bauer is the next rockin’ hero.

He takes bullet after bullet of crap to save his country. Several nuclear bombs, suicide bombers, biological warfares and homicidal terrorists later, Jack Bauer still keeps coming back to save the day. At what cost? His life, his wife, his daughter and all the other things that matter in his life.

Never one to seek revenge or vindication for himself. Always does the right thing. Always takes the fall even when he should be the last person to take it. Seeks to protect others before himself. Decides always for the greater good even if it’s at the expense of his own life.

Does a person like that truly exist? If there is, I’d like to meet this person and take him away from his awful reality, give him a taste of the good life for a change.

Like many fans of Jack Bauer, I draw comfort from the possibility that a Jack Bauer exists in this lifetime. A character like him restores my faith in humanity (although watching his enemies affirms the cynicism that the human race is often in a state of total, utter disgrace) and reminds me that there are people who will go beyond the call of duty to do the right thing.

The whole point of this discourse? Nothing much. Maybe except for the fact that life will always be unpredictable and we will always wonder why things happen to us that we feel we don’t deserve. And maybe we really don’t, who’s to say?

Perhaps if there’s anything you can take out from pop culture’s icons today, it’s this: we can never ever lose the part of us that’s good, that’s kind and decent. That’s what it means to be human. Every single day, we cannot lose our humanity. Every word we say, every thought we think of, every action we do irrevocably shapes the person we will become someday.