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Woo in Review - LETTER BAG PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

Rather than dig my fingernails into another review this week, I have decided to devote this Woo in Review to addressing some concerns voiced in the comments of previous editions. If you're coming here in search of a television show slam, however, not to worry - we'll be covering several shows throughout the course of this article.

I have seen many comments wherein readers have expressed their concern that I may, in fact, be a terrible writer. Now, I can't really confront this worry. It's quite possible that my sentence structure, grammar, and style are positively terrible. In fact, there might be a sentence with a preposition I ended on. As some form of reassurance, I'll now give my writing credentials, though I daresay that if I stink I'll continue right on stinking whether I've got a Pulitzer Prize in my back pocket or not.

pulitzerI am an English major, minoring in creative writing with a focus on critical theory. I have taken courses in short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, media writing, and philosophy in literature. I have an award-winning creative non-fiction piece. I was invited to present my fiction work at an academic symposium this year. I have been published in eSkeptic, Skeptic Report, the newsletter of the Secular Student Alliance, the JREF quarterly newsletter. I write the articles for my own organization, Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society. These are the credentials that spring immediately to mind, and though I feel they give me some experience, you may think not (which is your right). I'll keep the Pulitzer out of this.

To the issue of the "It's fiction - get over it," refrain. The fact that a show, book, or movie is fiction doesn't halt conversation. Never, in any review, have I said that a show shouldn't be on television because of its subject matter (though I am convinced that eventually I'll insist, perhaps even within this article, that some shows deserve it simply for being terrible).

Some shows that I will be reviewing claim to be based in reality, like Medium, which I actually enjoy, and Ghost Whisperer, which I hope will be taken out and shot Old Yeller style. There are obvious reasons, from a skeptical perspective, for being aware of, reviewing, and debunking these. And, as a skeptic, how can I like Medium? If you happen to have seen the latest incarnation of the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you may be able to understand why.

texaschainsawmassacreTexas Chainsaw Massacre says, at the very beginning of the movie, that the film is based on true events. Certainly, the serial killer who inspired the creator was Ed Gein who, in addition to many other revolting things, owned a belt made from human nipples. But Ed Gein never killed a car full of teenagers on a spring break. To my knowledge, he never even killed anyone with a chainsaw. The movie is based on true events only insofar as it is about a killer, and at one time on this planet, there was a killer. The recent Liv Tyler movie The Strangers is the same way. Based on true events - the Manson murders. And yet in a setting, time, plot, and with victims that had no part in the reality.

The fact that Medium claims to be based on true events bothers me no more and no less than Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Strangers, or Ghost Whisperer being based on true events.

So, as a skeptic, what difference does any of it make? If it's fiction, we should all just let it go, right? Well, to a degree, sure. I can enjoy watching whatever I feel like, and so can you. These reviews aren't to tell you what to think or how to feel about any show. They are reviews from a skeptical perspective (which, incidentally, is why they have a place on a site that is skeptical and educational).

To illustrate this, I'll take a closer look at two shows with similar plot elements. Both are shows about large groups of people from very different backgrounds who are caught in a world where things have gone a little crazy and use the opportunity to remove their shirts as often as humanly possible. I am referring, of course, to Heroes and Lost.

Heroes is similar to a comic book. Certain people amongst the population have evolved 'abilities' like mind-reading, telekinesis, prognostication, etcetera. Some of the abilities seem to have the potential to work in the real world with only a few changes, like mind-reading, whereas others seem to break apart every single attribute of reality as we know it, like turning objects into gold with a touch. It is an entertaining show. I've seen every episode, and Sylar is my favorite character (though, as the series continues, he is turning more and more into marshmallow fluff than the box of knives and thorny things I had originally envisioned him to be).

heroesA review of Heroes would say just that. There is no more to mention beyond how fun it is, how strange it is, how interesting it is. The deepest I could go in such a review would be to discuss how certain tropes make their way into basically every piece of fiction on the planet - like how Evil Claire has decided to wear leather and a lot of eye make-up, I suppose because all evil people admire black eyeliner. Let's call Heroes a 4 out of 5 for the sake of this tiny review.

Then we come to Lost, which is the story of a plane full of people who crash land on an island where strange things are always happening - like polar bears stalking through the jungle intent on munching a main character, or a hatch buried deep beneath the sand where a man named Desmond must type numbers into a computer to keep the world from ending, or a cryptic message from a French woman played over and over again across the radio waves.

It sounds just as crazy and unbelievable as Heroes, and it is. However, Lost uses its popularity to educate as well as entertain viewers.

In every episode of Lost thus far, a piece of literature is either mentioned or shown - and they all have relevance to what is happening in the story at the time, or give a hint to the future. So far, these have included: The Brothers Karamazov, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (full text available at the link), The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (full text available at the link), A Moveable Feast, Lancelot, The Third Policeman, The Turn of the Screw (download full text at link), A Brief History of Time, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Additionally, Lost has included elements of history, theology, science, and even has a character named for a noted skeptic: Desmond David Hume, named for the Scottish philosopher David Hume.

If one were to create a reading list based solely upon books shown in Lost, they would be reading somewhere around twenty-four great pieces of literature per year, learning about the philosophies of the world, and getting a very decent dose of science.lost

And in addition to those things, there is also an interesting plot, great acting, fascinating characters, and enough mystery to capture the imaginations of millions of people even during the season's downtime; with the summer Lost games.

Lost, therefore, would receive 5 out of 5 stars.

The review of Criminal Minds is similar to that. In the very first episode, we already have information about Joseph Conrad, and then the plot of the episode revolves around an individual who sent a message to police identical to one received from a real life serial killer named William Heirens, dubbed "The Lipstick Killer." In further episodes, there is information on psychology, sociology, statistics, and, of course, real serial killers, kidnappers, murderers, and bombers. Perhaps not as academically valid as the information from Lost, but still a large dose of reality mixed with the fiction.

Of course, doses of reality are not a requirement for fictional television shows, but there are reasons to review those hinging on pure fiction as well.

In 1973, William Peter Blatty's movie The Exorcist hit theaters and sparked a nationwide panic that led to an increase in requests for exorcisms so large that even individuals not associated with the Church were brought in to perform them. According to the book American Exorcism, two of these individuals were Ed and Lorraine Warren - paranormal researchers who started their careers in 1952 and went on to investigate the Amityville horror in 1976. Did The Exorcist help the Warrens' rise to fame?

exorcistAnother example can be found in the 1984 film Ghostbusters, before which ghost hunting was an eccentric past-time, not the booming industry it is today, with expensive tech toys and cable television shows.

I suppose what I mean is - today we shrug our shoulders and say "Get off it, it's just fiction," when tomorrow we will be dealing, in the skeptical community, with the fallout of these fictional works.

Again, enjoy whatever you like. These reviews are strictly about bad science and the paranormal as presented in certain television shows, not about what you are permitted to enjoy. As I said, I would love to Old Yeller the heck out of Ghost Whisperer, and yet somehow I've seen two and a half seasons of the show.

Take what you can from this, and if not, well, it's only once a week anyway. You can always turn the channel.

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written by BillyJoe, November 14, 2008
Alison,

Thank you for reading the comments to your article and for responding to them. That is more than we get from most of the other scribes around here. Yes, I know they probably have more important things to do, but there have been some serious errors in other articles here that remain uncorrected because the author hasn't bothered to come back to read the comments.

I disagree with "Medium" though. It is based on a real live person who is a liar and a cheat and it promotes her lies and deceit, and she feeds off it on her website. I will not even consider watching it, however entertaining you might think it is. I would feel like an accomplice.

BillyJoe
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written by RvLeshrac, November 14, 2008
(I was originally going to post this with the Mentalist review, but this article popped up, so I'm placing it here as it is more likely to see the light of day. I will likely go back and stick it with the original post. Also, I *like* the Woo in Review posts, though I think you should focus on a *single* show and reviewing the individual episodes in one article, as covering an entire series with a few statements is difficult and can be, as you discovered with the recent Criminal Minds episode, slightly embarrasing should the show take a twist.)

I think you're overestimating television viewers when you talk about the clues on Mentalist being "spoon fed." A quick perusal of the Mentalist boards on cbs.com shows that at least some portion of the viewers (I know, I know, squeaky wheel...) are unable to see the clues. There are several calls for the producers to "dumb it down," though not in those words.

There's a lot of joy in reading a Sherlock Holmes novel and solving the case on the scant clues BEFORE reading Holmes's explanation, but not for the majority of people. They want something that caters to them - a show that provides them with easy reads, a show that makes them feel more intelligent. That's precisely where shows like The Mentalist and Criminal Minds need to be, and the producers and scriptwriters seem to be keenly aware of it.

These shows entertain, but I like to think that those working on them are also trying to impart some wisdom unto the viewers. Jane vs. Reid is actually a fairly good example of this.

Jane is smug and arrogant for several reasons, which should be painfully obvious after watching the first few episodes. He's arrogant because, well, he's seemingly never wrong - he is, of course, frequently off-base, but he tends to ignore his 'misses' or brush them aside as part of his 'plan.' You might say "well, that's exactly what's wrong with the character," but that seems to be, to me at least, his mandatory flaw. He was once a highly-paid 'psychic' who depended on never being 'wrong' for his livelihood, and that shows through despite his change-of-heart. It is in his very nature. It makes him endearing to the viewer (and his coworkers) because that's a fairly childish view of the world (See also: Jacob Hood, Eleventh Hour). You can see that he knows when he's made a mistake, but he always finds a way, however convoluted he makes the logic, to convince you otherwise. Just like a stage mentalist.

His smugness is just a defense mechanism. Because he feels that his arrogance led directly to the murder of his family, he puts up a front of apathy and pretends not to really care about the outcome of a case or the effects his antics have on others. The writers did a decent job of showing this when he donated his ill-gotten casino and poker winnings to a charity and the young woman who was bilking the casino in order to raise funds for her mother's transplant. He assuages his guilt over outing the woman while never letting anyone know (directly).

Reid, on the other hand, is insecure and naive. Even though he's a profiling prodigy, he is completely and utterly defenseless against the world at large (See again: Jacob Hood, Eleventh Hour). He has trouble relating to others, and largely seems to reject attempts at friendship (he's not a recluse but, until recently, he's not gone out of his way to interact with other teammembers on a personal level). He carefully weighs his personal decisions and how they might affect others, and seems to assume (until otherwise shown) that others take the same pains - despite being shown, day after day, that truly evil people do exist. When his actions (or inaction) cause harm to someone, regardless of his intent, he takes it deeply personally. While he attempts to internalize this, he has a tendency to fail at it - not surprising, as he's surrounded by other adept profilers.
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written by RvLeshrac, November 14, 2008
(Comment was too long! Ha! If you don't want to read through the continuation to the previous wall of text, this is your warning.)

The 'wisdom' I mentioned earlier is similar for both characters, though the writers seem to have taken completely different approaches. They both demonstrate a need to be acutely aware of the effects your decisions have on others.

Jane shows one extreme - he simply acts based on his whims, always trying to prove his mental superiority. He draws everyone into his mind-games, and never stops to consider the results of his actions until it is too late to change them. It is what, ostensibly, got his family killed, and while he always attempts to atone for the harm he does, he can never make things 'right.' Reid shows the other danger - he cares so much about the results of his actions that he has driven himself into a fragile corner of his mind, where he has to rely, knowingly or not, on those around him simply to navigate life.

Realistically, that's likely far more in-depth than the writers have gone, I'm sure. That's just how I see it. Both of the shows are good for their own reasons, and they demonstrate two equally valid points of inquiry. The Mentalist wants you to understand that a sharp eye can often tell you more than you think, while Criminal Minds focuses on a more reasoned approach to finding the truth. Both shows, as you've discovered, have their pitfalls. I really think both of them deserved a 4 out of 5.

And no matter how many times you say it, I can't possibly believe that any right-minded skeptic could like Medium. If we're going to accept that television shows have a very real effect on the public's perceptions, and the 'CSI Effect' on juries is far more than enough proof for that, 'Medium' does absolutely nothing but harm. It promotes a very real person's very fake 'powers.' If it were simply presented as a complete work of fiction, that would be one thing, but it instead purports to be based on reality. What reality that IS, I'm not entirely sure. Apparently one in which psychics are fighting a daily war for the survival of humanity, if the previews I've seen are accurate.
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written by IceSage, November 15, 2008
Actually, Heroes I believe, goes under the "Mayan apocalypse of 2012", or whatever it's suppose to be. Well, at least, it seems a lot similar, especially since shows claiming to be based on "real world stuff" are coming out now.

Part of the prophecy is that humans will develop super powers, etc. (Then something about aliens, and the end of the world, etc.)

Also, "Real Exorcists" or whatever it is on the Sci-Fi Channel just kind of... makes me sad. Although, I'm glad it's on the Science FICTION channel, although, a lot of people don't even bother to realize why only such a station would pick up the show. It still has "real" in it, therefore people believe it's true.

At first I had thought Ghost Hunters was a cool show... until I found out that they're more "out there" than I thought. Also, the fact that they stage a lot of some of the crap on there just makes it even worse. It's a show where they go "OH, WHAT'S THAT!?" every 5 minutes to sounds and stuff... or a spec of dust. But then they'll also stage things at the same time, just equally as lame. Then, the "oh, well, we have to use logical thinking to debunk what could be real and what isn't real" comes to play, making people think they're actually trying to use their critical thinking skills, when in reality, barely any thinking is taking place.

I'm not sure where I was going with this comment, but that was my rant.

I look forward to future articles.
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written by Human Person Jr, November 15, 2008
Alison - You might be a wonderful writer, but I'm thinking not so much. Trim it! Economy with words is a hallmark of good writing. Awards and plaudits won't change this simple fact. It's an enduring truth.

I must admit, however: You're in good company. My hero, James Randi, often is guilty of similar meandering. On the other hand, he's not pointing to a plastic statue as proof of an excellent writing style.

Trim it!
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written by jbspry, November 15, 2008
Alison, your writing is fine with me. Style is nice but content is what matters.
This is your web site, not mine and you are free to speak your mind on whatever interests you. For myself, I turned my back on network TV drama many years ago and so find any discussion of it uninteresting. My feelings (nothing more than feelings) are that TV shows are total baloney and discussing their relative merits is like doing a restaurant review of McDonald's vs Burger King. But review on! If the review itself doesn't goad me into commenting, the comments it stimulates just might. And after all we, like you, are here for the egotistical purpose of shooting our mouths off and attracting attention to ourselves.

"Never say anything - it will only be misinterpreted and will hound you to the end of your days" Bob Dylan
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written by dr pepper, November 15, 2008
One thing i like about Criminal Minds is the range of personalities featured. Yeah they're all trained in psychological evaluation, but they all have different methods and thought processes. As for Reid being introverted, that's his particular end of the spectrum. He was once accused of being borderline autistic, but i think that from what has been revealed about him since, he's probably keeping himself in check for fear of developing schitzophrenia like his mother.

Also, in reply to the comment from the earlier post about how disappointing it was that Reid turned to hypnotherapy to retrieve a buried memory, i thought it was well done. Before the session, there is a discussion of the technique's limitations, the therapist herself warns that results are not guaranteed and cannot be used as legal evidence. And the session produces what later is shown to be a false memory but with some real clues buried in it. That sounds like a pretty good dose of rationalism to me.

Please, continue the reviews. I'd like to see Psych next. And after that, how about Survivorman?
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Bad enough having reviews, but now reviews OF reviews.....
written by monstrmac1, November 15, 2008
Allison claims to be reviewing shows from a skeptical viewpoint. The truth, however, is that when she likes a show she's willing to forgive any real problems and when she doesn't like a show she finds a whole host of issues. There's no real problem with this, its how critics have operated for years. As consumers, its in our best interest to find a critic we tend to agree with and follow there advice. Personally, I read Roger Ebert's reviews before seeing a movie, doesn't mean that he's right, it just means our tastes are similar. That is why a review can never be unbiased. Reviews are subjective, personal, and definitely not educational. JREF has always been a haven for the factual and rational, and though Allison may be able to "rationalize" in her own mind why "Criminal Minds" is better than "The Mentalist", there is no scientific data to support this conclusion. Trying to give a skeptical perspective on fiction TV shows is like trying to draw skeptical conclusions as to the difference of Pepsi and Coke. I can sum it up by saying, reviews are BS and belong on review sites and not educational sites. I hope these idiotic reviews are put to a slow death....or maybe taken out back and shot "Old Yeller Style".
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written by BillyJoe, November 15, 2008
What a conceited fool you are. If you don't like these reviews you can just damn well not read them. Instead you are here - and get this for irony - reviewing them!

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written by Starthinker, November 16, 2008
I know shows like Monster Quest are usually torn apart in the forums but I wouldn't mind seeing reviews of these types of shows. Is there a current sitcom based on the paranormal? Not talking about kids shows like Wizards of Waverly Place or Sabrina, but something mainstream?
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written by monstrmac1, November 16, 2008
written by BillyJoe, November 15, 2008
What a conceited fool you are. If you don't like these reviews you can just damn well not read them. Instead you are here - and get this for irony - reviewing them!


When this is your strongest argument you should politely step aside and let the grown-ups debate.

I read and comment on items I don't agree with because community involvement makes the site better. I think these reviews are pointless and only serve to make the site look cheap and menial, however, I also think the JREF is one of the greatest resources available for turning people towards rational thought. I'd like to see it remain a valuable resource and public involvement can help. Obviously, I represent only my own opinion and don't expect a drastic change because of my gripes, but I know there are others who agree and simply don't take the time to comment. In other words, I can't speak for others but my opinions are shared by enough to warrant consideration, which makes me feel obligated to share my point of view.
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written by Wareyin, November 16, 2008
I think monstrmac1 has a valid point about Alison Smith's personal slant on the reviews. I cannot stand Medium because of the "based on reality" aspect combined with the outright fraud of the real person it is based on. I enjoy Heroes because of the convoluted plots (having such a large cast, a timeframe that ranges from hundreds of years in the past until some undefined future, and ranging over large parts of the world make for large story arcs) and for the simple fact that it reminds me of the comic books I enjoyed as a boy. Medium rarely uses hypnosis (IIRC in only one episode is it claimed that a real hypnosis takes place, as opposed to Jane pretending to hypnotize someone to elicit clues) and is a lot more entertaining to me than some CSI type show where the crime scene investigators somehow outrank the real police and take on the role of detectives themselves. Criminal Minds is something I will watch if there is nothing else on, because my impression of the episodes I have watched is that it deals so much with tragedy. You have the crime that calls the characters in, plus they all have their personal demons to contend with. I watch TV in general for entertainment, and life is too tragic to enjoy large doses on fictional shows.

All that having been said, lets get back to more mocking Q-ray like scams or Kevin Trudeu (sp?), where people are intentionally committing real harm, rather than reviewing silly shows that do not claim to be anything more than entertainment!

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written by BillyJoe, November 16, 2008
Wareyin

All that having been said, lets get back to more mocking Q-ray like scams or Kevin Trudeu (sp?), where people are intentionally committing real harm, rather than reviewing silly shows that do not claim to be anything more than entertainment!


I don't get this argument. Fot a start, Q-rays and Trudeau have been done to death. But why do you presume to choose for Alison Smith what subject matter she should to write about? Her quest, as I understand it, is to show up pseudoscience and nonscience in popular TV shows as an educational exercise. It doesn't matter that these shows are just meant to be entertaining. It doesn't matter if they are entertaining. Alison herself is on record as finding them entertaining. She is not saying: don't watch them because look at all the nonsense they promote. She is merely pointing out the nonsense as an educational exercise.

I agree with you about Medium though and I don't understand why any sceptic who knows the backgrond to this show can bear to watch it.
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written by BillyJoe, November 16, 2008
Monstrmac,

I was commneting on this part of your post:

I can sum it up by saying, reviews are BS and belong on review sites and not educational sites. I hope these idiotic reviews are put to a slow death....or maybe taken out back and shot "Old Yeller Style".

Sorry for not making that clear.
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Wow
written by Modern_Moron, November 16, 2008
I'm surprised someone with such credentials would stoop to writing reviews about fiction that don't claim to be anything but fiction. I mean, do you really think anyone who reads this site doesn't understand the science in Fringe and other such shows is science fantasy and not science fact?

Like someone else said: Where's the reviews about Monster Quest, Ghost Hunters, etc...?

Or shall we wait with baited breath for the next Woo In Review featuring Harry Potter (in case we didn't get that magic isn't real) or an expose' kindly informing us that Scooby Doo, being a dog, can't possibly speak English?
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written by drowven, November 16, 2008
These reviews are far from educational for anyone. Unlike other articles on this site they represent opinions of one person. A personal opinion can never be wrong just different from someone else’s. So in the end these articles for me at least are very detrimental to this site. You could argue that my opinion that the articles are not educational is wrong, but once again you are arguing opinions. In the end the author would better be off using their time watching and pointing out flaws of logic or biased editing and narration in shows like Ghost Hunters, Monster Quest, or Is it Real?

As stated in the above article that this is skeptical review and belongs on this site I must disagree. Watching a show about crime being solved and thinking it is anywhere near reality is never discussed. A show about real judicial system workings would have cases unsolved, no real answers to why the perpetrator committed the act, would spend an entire season on just one or two cases, and would end with the criminal taking a deal and serving a much reduced sentence.

For me at least this is the last review article I will read. If I wanted to read reviews I can go to other sites and find a review that doesn't claim to be educational but instead examines the merits of the shows entertainment value.
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written by Caligo, November 16, 2008
I enjoy reading the reviews especially when they contain Zero Punctuation quotes smilies/tongue.gif. The reviews are well written, informative and tend to be similar to what I might say about these shows (the ones I've seen). However, none of those qualities matter because at the end of the day when I sit down to read a swift article, I expect it to be about bogus claims or fake technologies. The reviews feel like they are off topic and diminish the cohesiveness and quality of the website.
To me it feels like my local mechanic saying that he would ordinarily be able to change my oil, but today they are having a special on pie. While I do enjoy pie very much, I did not go to the body shop to purchase pie.
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written by Wareyin, November 16, 2008
But Caligo, what if BillyJoe says that your mechanic has done bodywork to death? smilies/wink.gif
Sorry, but I come here to read about the latest scams and ridiculous products. I'm not saying that Alison Smith has no right to an opinion, but I am saying that I don't agree with her opinion. I am also saying that we can ALL agree that scam products and fake medical procedures are only good for conmen and scam artists. I don't think that a review on a TV show helps society at large, or really even harms the tv show in question.
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written by BillyJoe, November 16, 2008
Hey, you guys, you are entitled to your opinions, but I expect not to see you here again complaining because you don't want to read reviews here, right, and you don't need to repeat your personal view that these are reviews, which they are not, and that you think reviews don't belong here, okay?

Come on. Off you go then.
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This is just painful.
written by delphi_ote, November 16, 2008
Swift is now a completely disorganized disaster. What is going on? This was once a high quality resource for skeptics. Now it's basically a glorified Live Journal account!
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written by RvLeshrac, November 16, 2008
My only real complaint about the reviews is that they're including, relatively, a LOT of 'entertainment' qualities and a little bit of skepticism.

On this site, I'd rather see shows reviewed based on their eye toward skepticism. A show like Eleventh Hour, for example, scores infinitely higher on the "skeptical viewpoint" scale than Fringe.

Obviously shows such as Heroes don't belong here. They don't make an effort to be 'realistic.' Shows such as The Mentalist, Eleventh Hour, Medium, Fringe, CSI: Major City, and 'reality' shows based on the paranormal belong in a review column on this site. They go through great pains to project 'reality' over entertainment.

Fringe and Eleventh Hour are two sides of that coin. Both shows make an effort to be 'real,' and purport some scientific basis to their plots, but while Fringe can't even seem to get the basics right (waiting for the alien abductions and zero-point), Elventh Hour shows improbable events with grounded explanations (not necessarily scientifically accurate, but I don't expect a chemistry lesson from entertainment TV). A good example of this being the way Eleventh Hour handled the 'freezing people' episode (experimental quick-freeze compound designed to aid organ transport misused by one guy with a crazy philosophical agenda), vs. what I'd expect Fringe to do with a similar concept (I imagine some vast government conspiracy using alien technology).

As long as the reviews keep the site's purpose at their forefront, I can't understand anyone complaining - if you don't like them, you can skip over them to the Swift and news posts.
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written by RvLeshrac, November 16, 2008
Oh, and in response to Wareyin...

These shows often help to shape public opinion on a variety of topics. They don't exist in a vacuum. I mentioned the "CSI Effect" earlier. You can look it up, but the short version is that prosecutors across the country are having a more difficult time convincing juries of guilt due to expectations of infinitely-zoomed-in and cleared-up grainy security footage, on-demand DNA, and fingerprints gleaned from tiny shards of glass meticulously pieced back together.

As such, they DO have a place on this site. They're arguably far more influential than a quack who happens to be teaching at some small educational facility.
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written by Wareyin, November 17, 2008
RvLeshrac, you are certainly correct that there is a CSI effect. Can you honestly believe that there will soon be a Heroes effect? I personally would welcome a Mentalist effect, in which people say there is no such thing as a psychic, rather than going to a woo explanation first.

I never claimed reviews have NO place on the site, but I do say I don't agree with these reviews. I also say that I don't think this review will affect any of the shows mentioned. Let's face it, breaking up Swift from once a week into many smaller single purpose posts means people will only read the ones they agree with. BillyJoe for one is even telling us to do just that! That means less readers per article, and this site was never looked to to be the Roger Ebert of TV shows.
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written by BillyJoe, November 17, 2008
God forbid that anyone would suggest that you don't continue to read what you think is a complete waste of time.
Who on Earth would anyone suggest such a preposterous idea!

Yet here you still are reviewing reviews of reviews of shows that you don't think should be reviewed.

The irony I say.
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written by Bob Gerics, November 17, 2008
Dearest Alision,
Pease forgive that this is slightly off-point. 5 out of 5 stars for Lost? 4 out of 5 stars for Heroes? Maybe I ask too much of tv but I wish for better quality in the shows, artistically speaking. Writing-wise, casting-wise, and in some cases acting-wise these shows aren't that good. smilies/sad.gif Maybe I'm a snob.
But I like your attitude/philosophy regarding critiquing woo and enjoy fiction (even if you are too accepting of tv mediocrity). smilies/wink.gif
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written by Wareyin, November 17, 2008
Calm down, BillyJoe. These aren't reviews, they are comments. smilies/shocked.gif
I'm just trying to have a civil discussion here, but I have to keep poking fun at comments that are a little too full of themselves NOT to be teased!
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written by DrDoLittle, November 17, 2008
I love a good suspension-of-reality sci fi or horror flick with the best of them, but when said movie starts to say things that are patently woo and entirely against a scientific/common-sense view, it ends.
Case in point: The Happening. Not two minutes in, I was completely peeved at the main character, who, as a science teacher, spouted something along the lines of "Some things in nature are just always going to be unexplainable, and we have to respect the mystery". What could have been a great little suspense film was ruined by this woo nonsense spouting from the "scientist's" mouth in the film.

Good grief. If science really had that view, where would we be? Oh, polio is a mystery, might as well just respect it. Aids is a mystery, just respect it. Sheesh.
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Eh
written by Cuddy Joe, November 17, 2008
I'll leave it to the Proper Comment Content experts above as to whether I have any 'right' to voice my opinion where it goes against Ms. Smith's efforts, and simply state that I have zero interest in reading reviews of dramatic, fictional TV shows, from a general or a skeptical perspective. That Mr. Ed's voice was dubbed and the disappearances on Bewitched were edited in is obvious to most, but not all viewers. Evaluating the WQ (Woo Quotient) of shows like Lost or Medium is essentially the same - some recognize the woo, some don't, some won't.

Of course, it affects my opinion that I don't watch any of the shows mentioned, haven't seen so much as a single episode of any of them. I think the comment above that most matched my feelings on it is that comparing Lost to Heroes or whatever is like comparing the Big Mac to the Whopper. OK, a lady named Smith prefers Whoppers. So?

Since I don't watch the shows in question, I obviously have little interest in reviews of them. Accordingly I'll just skip them. Then again, I've been skipping a LOT of the new format here, checked in today for the first time in a couple weeks. I feel the Swift content has weakened considerably since the changeover.

OK, now cue the guy who'll post "Then why do you come here if you don't like what Alison writes, huh? Why? How ironic!"

Because I've been a JREF member since it began, that's why. But to be honest, my interest is slipping. Going thru what I've missed over the last week or two, I found myself reading a few sentences of this or that entry and passing on the rest of it.

Howdy, jbspry
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written by Caligo, November 17, 2008
I find some of these comments quite disrespectful anti productive. Why do I voice an opinion against the reviews (even though I think they are good)? Why do I care what gets posted here? Yes I do always have the option to stop reading, but I do consider myself a member of the Jref community and therefore I do care. Obviously a lot of other people do care as well. The comments section bellow the article is a barometer of popular opinion. It should never be 100% positive comments. This is not a parade and we are not raining on it. These are just the opinion of some of the readers who make up a part of the readership of this publication.
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written by dr pepper, November 17, 2008
Perhaps the reviews could be made a separate feature, like the challenge journal.
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written by BillyJoe, November 17, 2008
It seems you all hate this review section so much that none of you want to leave. Oh well.

(Ever heard of voting with your feet?)
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written by Wareyin, November 18, 2008
BillyJoe, I understand that you only want to read comments from people that you agree with. Henceforth, please ignore all the comments you don't like. smilies/cheesy.gif
Seriously, do you not understand that this is a feedback section? Do you not understand that, if you are only allowed to leave positive comments, this would skew the perspective? This is a community. This is not a cheer section.
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lol
written by Cuddy Joe, November 18, 2008
"It seems you all hate this review section so much that none of you want to leave. Oh well."

I can't believe he said it, lol. Must be Ms. Smith's hairdresser or something.
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written by BillyJoe, November 18, 2008
Must be Ms. Smith's hairdresser or something.

No, her pedicurist. :rolleyes:

I understand that you only want to read comments from people that you agree with

And I said this where?
I'm happy to have you coming here complaining, but I just wonder why you keep coming back and reading these reviews when you don't even want them published here.
Maybe you are all masochists?

BJ
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lol
written by Cuddy Joe, November 18, 2008
No, Billy, we keep coming back to see if you ever find a clue.

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SWIFT is starting to fall apart.
written by Kaldi, November 18, 2008
I have to agree with some of the previous posters who pointed out that this site has become dull and pointless since the Amazing One has stepped down as its main operator. The days of useful information and insight seem to be over. It's sad. I certainly understand Randi's decision, and even if I didn't it is just my opinion, but no one seems to be in charge anymore and this is a sinking ship. I only hope that something will take its place when the inevitable end finally occurs.
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written by BillyJoe, November 18, 2008
Oh, for god's sake. Randi is gone (well, not really, but you know what I mean). Get over it and move on already.

(Talk about not having a clue.)
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written by Cuddy Joe, November 19, 2008
I'm not quite so doubtful as Kaldi and suspect (and hope) this is transitional and temporary rather than a permanent problem, but I do agree that the quality of many of the entries has nose-dived. A new entry today lists several woo topics offered at local community colleges (as if this were news), but says absolutely nothing else. Doesn't tell us which CC offered them, if they all came from the same CC, if they were all recent or culled from years of junk mail. Seemed pointless, in that it's common knowledge that woo topics infest CC educational offerings.
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I do have a clue
written by Kaldi, November 19, 2008
Okay so Randi is gone, the fact remains that this site sucks now. I am sorry that I once looked forward to interesting, insightful reading and often funny comments that brightened my day a little. That is what I miss, BillyJoe. I think I have the right to express that.
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written by BillyJoe, November 19, 2008
You do and you have.

And I have a right to express an alternative view.

I much prefer the daily read than once a week.
The main gripe I have about Swift, and that applied even more to the previous setup, is that authors should be prepared to read the comments to their articles and be prepared to correct errors in the commentary and, more importantly, errors in their own articles.

Randi has been the main transgressor here and there is a glaringly false article written by him here that still remains uncorrected.
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written by Kaldi, November 19, 2008
Fair enough, and I really did not intend to start an argument with anyone. I like the daily updates as well, but I miss the better organization of the site, okay I won't say "better" as that can be taken as an invitation to another argument, I preferred the way the site "looked" in its previous incarnation. Especially I miss Randi's wit and insight. And I think the TX show reviews have got to go! Seriously, if you want to read reviews of Lost or Heroes there are better sites with better writing about those particular topics. One last point about that and I won't mention it again, TV shows such as Lost, True Blood, X-Files, whatever, are clearly fiction and not proper subject matter for a site such as this. I hope Skeptic doesn't start including TV reviews on its site or I am just going to have to go ahead and join the woowoo crowd; if you can't beat 'em join 'em, right?
Okay nuff said. Bye all.
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written by dr pepper, November 19, 2008
Agreed on that previous article, i am somewhat concerned at the lack of response.
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written by Coffee, November 21, 2008
A section devoted to reviewing TV shows is a section I will be skipping every week.
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written by BillyJoe, November 21, 2008
Coffee,

Well, I'll be having my coffee while reading it every week, so you won't be missed.

smilies/wink.gif
.
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Dwarven Plumpers, Ward Churchill, and the Nigger of the Narcissus
written by Caller X, November 21, 2008
I am ... award-winning creative non-fiction piece... I have been published in eSkeptic, Skeptic Report, the newsletter of the Secular Student Alliance, the JREF quarterly newsletter. I write the articles for my own organization, Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society. These are the credentials ...


Shakespeare(?) wrote something about talking to spirits, and how anyone could do it, but do they answer. The analogy is what have you gotten paid for.

To the issue of the "It's fiction - get over it," refrain. The fact that a show, book, or movie is fiction doesn't halt conversation.


I look forward to your review of Lord of the Rings. "It's" not only fiction, "it's" television, so you should, indeed, get over it. On the other hand, every article you write increases your "publication" count.

Some shows that I will be reviewing claim to be based in reality, like Medium, which I actually enjoy, and Ghost Whisperer, which I hope will be taken out and shot Old Yeller style. There are obvious reasons, from a skeptical perspective, for being aware of, reviewing, and debunking these. And, as a skeptic, how can I like Medium?


Remember, it's only television. Does Medium have anything to rival Jennifer Love "I'd do her if I could cover that nose and mouth with a pillow" Hewett's sweater burgers? Of course not, the show's called "Medium". It's only television.

I'm waiting for Lost to reference Conrad's Nigger of the Narcissus. It's an allegory about individuality and solidarity with a group, so it would be a natural. Of course there's that troublesome word. I consider the "W" word to be almost as bad. Why don't we start saying "Wew" like "Jew"? Then it would be a cool word, not a term of opprobrium that sounds like the person using it is a snob. That's right, I said it. If you call someone a "woo" or a "woowoo" you, Sir or Madam, are a snob. Perhaps "Wuslim"? "Woodhist"?

Heroes is similar to a comic book.


Actually, it's based on a comic book, and no doubt you've noticed the recurring comic book motif in the show. I've heard that some writers have had good results with doing research, but I can't say for sure.

The deepest I could go in such a review would be to discuss how certain tropes make their way into basically every piece of fiction on the planet - like how Evil Claire has decided to wear leather and a lot of eye make-up, I suppose because all evil people admire black eyeliner.


If that's as deep as you can go, I will wager all I own against you in a Limbo contest and then I will drink your milkshake. The simpler and correct explanation is that the producers realized that they had a smokin' hot 18 year old on their hands and they should dress her in leather toot-sweet. And this illustrates the biggest problem with Heroes: all the white people look alike, and it's difficult to keep track of who is who's brother or father and at whom you're looking. Ali Larter's character has to look the same to work, and the two Asian characters are distinguishable, but somehow their dialog is almost always garbled and impossible to understand.
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Get Off My Lawn, You Kids!!!
written by Caller X, November 21, 2008
[qoute]Randi has been the main transgressor here and there is a glaringly false article written by him here that still remains uncorrected.

If it's not the one about the publically funded imaginary acupuncture needle art project, there are two.
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written by RvLeshrac, November 21, 2008
Many of you have gone FAR off base here, and I don't see how any of you plan to get your various viewpoints across with a page full of ad-hom. attacks.

Caller X's post goes so far as to be twinged with racism and sexism at every turn, cleverly including a reference to 'Nigger of the Narcissus' so as to more easily dismiss or deflect any such claims.

Perhaps we can all stick to the topic at hand: the reviews. I don't think they're going anywhere, nor do I think they should go anywhere. Statements which imply that skepticism is solely useful when combating charlatans are incredibly narrow-minded. Television has an INCREDIBLE impact on society, and many individuals believe what they see on TV. You can ignore that all you like, but it won't make it any less so (ignoring creationists for decades and not confronting them openly led to ID).

The issue is not "whether these reviews should be here," but rather "what should these reviews focus on?" Hence my earlier comments: skeptical criticism should be the content, not entertainment value. The plotlines and character development are irrelevant except where they demonstrate some thought in line with a skeptical viewpoint (or the lack thereof).

Comic books have been reviewed in this fashion for many years. Peter Parker, as Spider-Man, killed his first girlfriend in a tragic, though physically accurate, fashion by saving her with a well-aimed shot of webbing, only to have gravity snap her neck. Superman's various writers have even wrestled with physics on a number of occassions. While they brook few limits in their characters' powers, they have often been home to numerous lessons in science for young minds. The heat of a star and the vacuum of space are obstacles that may not hinder our heroes, but they must take pains to ensure that the tremendous forces endured do not harm those they're rescuing.

I don't see why there's such an opposition to discussing television in the same way that we've discussed many other forms of art.
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written by BillyJoe, November 22, 2008
RvLeshrac,

How refreshing it is to read your comment. smilies/smiley.gif
Unfortunately, I can give you only one vote. smilies/sad.gif

But please do not fall into the trap of responding to Caller X. I'm pretty sure he gets off on it.

BJ
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written by Caller X, November 22, 2008
The very title "Woo in Review" is less than helpful. How about "Those Stupid People in Review"? of "The Non-Cool Kids in Review"?

RvLeshrac wrote:

Comic books have been reviewed in this fashion for many years. Peter Parker, as Spider-Man, killed his first girlfriend in a tragic, though physically accurate, fashion by saving her with a well-aimed shot of webbing, only to have gravity snap her neck.


As someone who has suffered with gravity for years, I can testify that it has never snapped my neck. Perhaps you meant to post on dontknowanythingaboutphysics.com?

Caller X's post goes so far as to be twinged with racism and sexism at every turn, cleverly including a reference to 'Nigger of the Narcissus' so as to more easily dismiss or deflect any such claims.


What's your rationale for calling me a racist? The fact that I mentioned one of the great works of English literature (incidentally, written by a Pole? You didn't know that) and tied it into the discussion which was started by an English major ?

If it's sexist to like big boobs (up to a point) and pretty girls, set your phasers to "Guilty"! I like Kelly/i Ripa too, so don't pigeonhole me as a size guy. In real life, I wouldn't need the pillow, but it's fun to make fun of people on TV whom you'll probably never meet, and if you don't get that, well, fine.

I see you enjoy using what the politically correct like to call the N-Word. You could have said "a work by Conrad." Interesting choice. You enjoy saying "Nigger" is what I take away from that.

Sexist? In real life I'd probably fall in unrequited love with JLH; she seems nice when I see her on TV. But her image is fair game; that's what she sells, and her nose and mouth are freakish. On TV and message boards (note: this message board is not real life) she is Jennifer Love "I'd do her if I could cover that nose and mouth with a pillow" Hewett.

Racist? No, I'm prejudiced agains obese people who just don't care about there extreme size, and the fact that they have a panis.
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written by BillyJoe, November 22, 2008
Well, I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm leaving him to disappear up his own self importance. smilies/cool.gif

But there I see he has two votes.
Oh well, I guess that goes to show: you can fool some of the people some of the time.
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written by Caller X, November 22, 2008
BillJoe wrote:

Well, I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm leaving him to disappear up his own self importance. smilies/cool.gif

But there I see he has two votes.
Oh well, I guess that goes to show: you can fool some of the people some of the time.

Is that new information for you?

But please do not fall into the trap of responding to Caller X. I'm pretty sure he gets off on it.


I'm sorry, what did you say? I was getting off.... like a BIG dog.
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written by BillyJoe, November 22, 2008
Nice try at goading a response. smilies/wink.gif
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written by Caller X, November 23, 2008

written by BillyJoe, November 22, 2008
Nice try at goading a response. smilies/wink.gif

Eminently successful, I should say... if such were my aim. Pardon me a moment while I drink your milkshake.

Oh, by the way, just to add some substance (you might think about that, BJ):

RvLeshrac wrote:

Television has an INCREDIBLE impact on society, and many individuals believe what they see on TV. You can ignore that all you like, but it won't make it any less so (ignoring creationists for decades and not confronting them openly led to ID).


Completely wrong. Intelligent Design was devised as a way to get around the opposition to the teaching of creationism.
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written by BillyJoe, November 23, 2008
Again, nice try at goading a response. smilies/wink.gif
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written by Caller X, November 23, 2008
written by BillyJoe, November 23, 2008
Again, nice try at goading a response. smilies/wink.gif

Again, I spackled my ceiling. You drink my "milkshake".
I look forward to your next reply. Who's mommy's little post-whore? Hmmm?
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written by BillyJoe, November 23, 2008
Someone around here doesn't understand smilies. smilies/wink.gif
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