The Right to Complain

AKA: The Right to Whine and be Annoying

One thing that’s come from Monday’s episode, Chuck vs. the Mask, is complaints in abundance.   I don’t think a single person commenting here has been able to say “great episode”, with no reservations.   I’ve been outspoken in my dislike of this episode, and this season in general.   But our complaining is clearly rubbing some people wrong.   Linda Holmes writes in a blog titled “Chuck vs. the Entitled Fan Base”  that we have unrealistic expectations from saving the show, and need to just accept who the writers actually are and what they are doing.

I’m sure it will shock no one that I disagree with her assessment.   Entitlement is a word used like a club.   We should instantly be ashamed for our inappropriate claims to rights and power that aren’t ours to have.    One enthusiastic ‘shipper apparently posted on Sepinwall’s blog that fans should boycott the show until NBC forces them to make changes.   Well, I think we can all guess the only consequence of that would be cancellation.   I understand that kind of rabid enthusiasm makes some people nervous.

But I don’t buy for a second the idea we should just sit back and let the writers take us directions we don’t want to go.    The obvious flaw in that logic is;  if the show goes in an unpopular direction, ratings will decline, and eventually the show will go off the air.    We actually do the writers and creative staff a favor when we tell them what we want from the show.   A few stray voices asking for something strange (it really bothers me when Casey wears blue, if you ever put him in blue again I’m through with this stupid show…) will be filtered out and ignored.   But when a quarter or more of the fan base is angered by something, they better take notice.    They know the rabid core who is posting on web sites, blogs, twitter, whatever, are unlikely to really quit watching.    But they also know we represent a number of more casual viewers.   The sort who may just slip away without saying a word if they are disappointed.   I happen to know many people in that category.   In fact, some of them would be done with the show already (if she could ever get the remote out of my hands!).

This is not a new or shocking thing.   This is how the arts have worked since the beginning of recorded history.   To create an art object of high quality requires time and devotion; of the sort that may keep the artist from working on a farm or holding a full time job.   So, even in ancient Greece, an artist might acquire a sponsor who would pay for their time and supplies.   Often, strings are attached.   The artist may be commissioned to make a specific object; or it may be more general (“I want you to write me a romance dedicated to my wife”).   But either way, the sponsor expects something, the artist does not have free reign.   I know many artists are convinced this is a great evil.   That is fine, we can call them “hobbyists”.   To devote full attention to your creative processes requires keeping someone with money happy.  

We all know, TV is both a business and an art.    The money comes from advertising (and cable fees, but for the networks its mainly advertising).   Advertising rates are based on how many people watch, or are expected to watch, a program.    To keep a show on the air, it has to generate enough advertising revenue to pay for its production, and earn the network a profit.    So when a show does something we like or don’t like, telling them about it is the kindest thing we can do.   I think there’s a kind of implied contract here.    The writers are hired based on their ability to entertain a given audience; and the audience will tell their friends and family about it when they like what they see, and the writers about it when they don’t.   Of course, if something completely isn’t to someone’s liking, they will go elsewhere quickly.   A casual viewer may offer no more support than their viewership.   More enthusiastic fans will offer concrete feedback.   I’m sure many in the business prefer more casual fans.   But with a marginally performing show, processing those opinions to deliver a desired product becomes more important.   

Obviously, this relationship can break down in a few ways.   We’ve been accused of trying to tamper with the artist’s work.   Perhaps some have.   But most of what I’ve seen is fans wanting something that seems reasonable.   Many are eager to defend any decision made by the writers, and defer to their professionalism and experience in all things.   But  many of us have at least as much experience as involved viewers as they do as writers.   As such, we’re in a better place to know what we want than they ever will be.   We do need to be realistic, and admit an excellent story will probably take a few turns along the way we don’t like.   But the writers need to admit they are writing for us.   It is pure hubris when they claim to know our desires better than we do.   We may allow a few bad moments, or even bad episodes; but we need to speak up loud and clear when the show is careening off in an unwanted direction.   I think we’ve done a great job of that, but so far, the writers have failed us.   They first warned of what they were thinking came at Comic-Con in July 2009.   The forums erupted with unhappy fans.    With every new bit of unpleasant spoilers we spoke our mind;   and now the end product is here, and we’re still speaking out.   They have not held up their end, ratings are slipping, and they give interviews and say we need to save the show again.   They need to show us they get it.   We still have reason to think the season will end well.   I will pitch this show hard to everyone I know, if they can deliver a product I can believe in.   But right now, I’m not taking anything on faith.   If things take a more favorable turn quickly, there may still be time to get the ratings back up.   But if they run all the way to the last few episodes of the season to lift my spirits; well, I don’t really need another season of that.

As always, I encourage everyone’s comments and input.   But please keep it civil.   I know this an emotional subject for many of us.   Whether you agree with my post, or think I’m an utter fool;  refrain from personal attacks and profanity, directed at me, TPTB, and other bloggers.   I think we have a pretty good reputation on this site for civil discourse, let’s keep it up!

-Dave

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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95 Responses to The Right to Complain

  1. OldDarth says:

    I agree Dave.

    My thoughts on the episode and the issues that arose from the last 8 minutes are here:

    http://tinyurl.com/yaz6rxr

    • atcdave says:

      Please don’t be offended if I’m stunned. I really would have guessed you and I were at opposite ends on this, so really, thanks!

      • OldDarth says:

        Glad to be of service. Nice that life can throw up surprises still right? 😉

        Story telling reigns supreme. And telling a story honestly goes hand in hand with that.

        We may disagree on content etc. but I think everyone is on the same page when it comes to not cheating on a story. It is instinctively true for everyone.

      • atcdave says:

        And I do need to return the favor; excellent analysis on your site. I do agree story is most important, even if we prefer slightly different aspects. We are more alike than you suppose….

    • amyabn says:

      OD, I read your piece and left my comments on Chucktv. Well done!

    • Faith says:

      #6 x infinity

    • Zsjaer says:

      OD..this episode was a disaster..they have done in one episode what should have be done in 10!
      It was so forced..so childish. Unacceptable.
      One of the worst moments ever in TV.

    • Lucian says:

      I never thought I would agree with you so completely about anything in the Chuck-verse; Bravo (but you said it far more eloquently than I could have).

    • herder says:

      OD, I get the impression from your posts that the most important thing for you is the story, that so long as the story is well told you are content to deal with the ups and downs as a well told story is most likely to have a good ending. But that the last ten minutes of monday’s chapter weren’t well told and so you decided to say what you liked about the chapter and what you didn’t. Excellent piece.

  2. amyabn says:

    Dave, you read my mind. This whole entitlement issue has been bugging me all day. I completely agree with your assessment and you summed it up better than I could. I was looking more at an analogy akin to the journey discussion we’ve had. I have faith that most, if not all, of our issues with the characters acting out of character will be explained and we will get our happy ending (note I said happy, not perfect). If we extend the metaphor, I don’t want to take the journey in a vehicle with no shock absorbers or muffler. It isn’t fun. I’d rather be in a smooth riding vehicle with friends, with the occasional squabble over what to listen to on the radio or where to eat at our next pit stop. Both take us to the same endstate, but one is far more enjoyable to get us there. Hope I’m making sense.

  3. Faith says:

    Allow me to complain…

    I am not ENTITLED. I am INVESTED. I don’t recall ever asking them to write what I want to see and really none of us are but we do ask for fidelity in the characters they hav already established. Read fidelity does not mean not growing (they too took a shot at that) it means growing believably…remaining at heart those that we fell for yet maturing, developing.

    I am insulted at the assumption that I’m just a spoiled, entitled shipper who is ignorant to the television/writing process. Insulted.

    • atcdave says:

      I’m sure you can tell I felt the same way. Good use of invested, I think that’s a most appropriate word.

    • Fake Empire says:

      Well put, CN8. Your reframe is accurate, and I think reflective of the vast majority (if not all) of the die-hards. Definitely the shippers.

    • herder says:

      I thought the way that they dismissed the legitimate concerns about the way things were done as a complaint about what was done was disingenious. Then they follow it up with the whopper “it’s not like were looking for ways to keep them apart”, come on, that is what the first seven, eight it you accept Ernie’s view that the Ring was the first episode of season 3 have been all about, ways to keep Chuck and Sarah apart. Her rejecting him at the Chapel, him rejecting her in Prague, neither hearing what the other is saying, her unease at the change in him and finally not one but two new romantic interests at the same time.

      When fans call them on the way the last was done they get called for trying to tell the writers how to write the show. A simple “We can see where you might think that but what we are doing is both necessary and important for the story we are telling, as the show goes forward we think you will see this too, to say more at this point would spoil what is to come.” would have been much better and more respectful of the fans.

      • atcdave says:

        Disingenuous is well put. They’re feeding us a line, they may have a big and exciting payoff in mind for us. But they give so little to cling to, there may not be many left when they get there.

        The problem with story telling though, very little is really necessary and important. By definition, they’re making it all up (how’s that for profound!). The best they can really say is, “we have a great idea, watch where it goes.” But as we’ve observed here before, its a week to week commitment. Too many weeks without a payoff, and they start loosing audience, its already started. If the payoff isn’t coming in 3.08, they need to show their hand a little bit, we need to have some reason to believe.

      • herder says:

        Dave, the point I was making is that the episodes have been written and mostly filmed, there is not much that JS and CF could say that would have rang true. But a little understanding of what people were upset about and some reassurance that they had taken that into account when they decided to go the route that they had would have been better. Futher some reassurance that despite the way things look now, when we get to the end we will likely see why this was necessary might have smoothed things better than the way that they did decide to respond.

      • Mike B says:

        It’s the same response to the collective groan he received at comic-con in July. He said that something traumatice but really really cool was going to happen. That really really cool thing was Pink Slip. Did anyone think that was cool.

      • atcdave says:

        I hear what you’re saying Herder. But I do want more than understanding. If things truly aren’t as bad as they look now; given slipping ratings and a large, discouraged group of fans; I think they need to show us a little that we shouldn’t be discouraged. Just like when Angel of Death suggested in the end that Awesome might be dead, but they immediately showed a preview that revealed he had been kidnapped. Something similar to show things are on the right track would be appreciated by many fans.

        If they really have screwed up our favorite characters; well I don’t buy the too late to fix it arguement. Its not like the old days where the episode was physically spliced together with tape, and rearranging elements could be a time consuming nightmare. Digital files can be easily edited and manipulated any number of ways. Some redubbed dialogue, a scene inserted or deleted, pieces from different episodes arranged in a different way; even at this late date, a fix is not impossible.

        I’m being unreasonable on purpose. They made a true mess of an awesome show, and they’re proud of it. They’re even telling us to save their show again. That makes me angry. If they can show why I should be excited, or if they FIX it, I will support the show. But I’m not telling MY friends and family about a show I’m currently embarrassed to have association with.

      • atcdave says:

        Mike B, I meant to reply to you above too, but I seem to have gotten carried away…

        Anyway, yeah, the train station scene from Pink Slip, and CF’s comments about it at Comic-Con is part of their current credibility crisis. If they really think that was great, it suggests to me I’m watching the wrong show.

      • Fake Empire says:

        Schwartz’s arrogance amidst all of this is truly disconcerting. I understand he wants to tell a story, but sheer common sense dictates that one should at least consider fans’ desires while constructing the tale. I’m not saying that fans should control the story, but at least be considered. It seems especially foolish to then purposely shove through a story that he knows would be distasteful to fans, and then say that he basically makes no apologies and feels like he does not need to defend it. The guy’s hubris is amazing. Which is more valuable to Schwartz: his ego or his fanbase?

        His contract as executive producer is up after this season. If there’s an S4, I would feel very content with Fedak taking over.

      • atcdave says:

        I hate to wish anyone ill; so let’s say this, I know Schwartz has other projects in development. It would be nice if they arranged so he could devote his full time and attention elsewhere.
        Except I’ve come to think Fedak is cut from the same cloth.

      • weaselone says:

        I wonder if Zach can produce as well as direct, act and serve up sandwiches.

      • Fake Empire says:

        If Schwartz does move on to other projects on a full time basis, then I would certainly wish him good success. If he stays with Chuck because his contract is renewed, I would like him to be successful here as well. What rubs me the wrong way is the arrogance that grows out of his proprietorship. Yes, the show is his. Yes, he is telling the story. As it should be. These facts, however, do not preclude an executive producer’s ability to be empathetic toward his fanbase. I haven’t seen that from Schwartz; sadly, it seemed like just the opposite.

        Re: Fedak . . . Sometimes I get the feeling that he tows the company line (read: Schwartz’s line), and that he would tell the story differently. He appears to have more of a soft spot for the fans.

  4. Faith says:

    Chuck fans are perhaps one of the most knowledgeable fans in all media so to label this entitlement behavior is not only missing the picture, it is insulting!

    • JLR says:

      Thank you!! That NPR article had me seething. I also posted on Sepinwall’s blog (where he provided the transcript of Shwedak) that coming to the aid of TPTB & dismissing the “furor” as the mere rantings of crazy shippers was a cop-out intended to defelct from the legitimate issues some are having w/ the show. I wish that the boycott issue had never come up, as now every time I have a legit criticism, I know I’ll have to state the disclaimer that I am NOT a shipper; in fact, I am an anti-shipper…

      • herder says:

        That is one of the things that bugs me too, as far as I can see there was only one poster, on the Sepinwall blog only that suggested a boycott yet it has become a shorthand way of dismissing legitimate critcism. Any one who tries to express that legitmate point of view has to first disassociate themselves with not only the boycott idea but pretty much the idea that they are invested in the Chuck/Sarah relationship before making their point.

  5. Fake Empire says:

    Very good blog, Dave. As you know, I have been very quiet since the beginning of S3 after being highly optimistic, vocal, and excited during the hiatus. I bit my lip because I had difficulty agreeing with the new direction of the show. In a nutshell: what I perceive to be an underwhelming 2.0; the *yet again* reset of CS; the splintering of Chuck’s relationships with his family; Casey’s marginilization; and now the inexplicable and infamous Mask ending.

    I desperately want to stick with the show and have faith that it can recapture the warmth and charm from S1 & S2, because I do not think that Chuck’s absorption into the spy world has to render these previous qualties obsolete, but I’m honestly beginning to wonder . . .

    I will give the show another shot, but I never would have guessed that it would have produced such cynicism in me that is dangerously close to becoming apathy.

    • atcdave says:

      Thanks Fake Empire. I agree with your whole litany of complaints. This is not working for me on several levels. I do believe they will right the ship; but I understand the apathy, I think I’m more interested in the blog/community right now than I am in the show.

      • Fake Empire says:

        Hopefully, we’ll be able to agree on a ton of positive developments down the road! 🙂

      • Faith says:

        I posted this on the previous page but it bears repeating…

        if vs. Mask was Beefcake 2 on steroids, put on your seat-belts for Colonel 2! LOL.

      • amyabn says:

        Faith, let’s just hope Morgan doesn’t dip into Chucks wallet again 😉

      • Fake Empire says:

        Will be prepared to buckle-up CN8! (Please be right; I hate wearing seatbelts for nothing!)

        LOL amyabn!

      • atcdave says:

        My fear is that the payoff will simply be Sarah choosing Chuck over Shaw in 3.13. I think ever since 2.21 that choice is in the “duh” department. That would be an inadequate payoff.

      • JLR says:

        That is funny!! I feel the same way: I am more interested in reading the blogs these days than actually watching the show. Sad, but true.

    • Zsjaer says:

      Ah Fake Empire.. i feel exactly the same..i was wondering why you were absence from the NBc forum 🙂 glad to know you have the same feelings that i had since the begin of this Season.

      • kg says:

        I’m sure Carina insisted on using protection.

      • Fake Empire says:

        Yeah, I tend to suppress my negativity, that is until there’s a “straw that breaks the camel’s back” – which the end of Mask was for me. Without rehashing, I simply think the shift in Sarah’s character was egregiously inappropriate and is still difficult to digest. To me, Sarah Walker was one of the best characters created in all of fiction, not just TV – one who, though far from perfect (who is?), was consistent and full of integrity. It bothered me to see those traits compromised – and in such a foolheardy manner.

        Re: the NBC boards – I got turned off by the Gestapo-like mentality of the mods and their sanctions of some good people. Though I haven’t been moderated, I probably will not go back there.

      • atcdave says:

        Well put, on the character of Sarah Walker. Her faithfulness and loyalty were a thing of a beauty. That was first squandered in Pink Slip, and completely trashed in The Mask. Heartbreaking deconstructionism.

      • Fake Empire says:

        You said it, Dave . . . heartbreaking indeed.

  6. weaselone says:

    Given the response of the executive producers and the bulk of the media critics, it seems that it is they and not the fans of the show who have an entitlement mentality. They seem to feel that a show is entitled to viewers, entitled to only positive support, and entitled to hard fought campaigns to save the show. It doesn’t work that way. That level of commitment has to be earned.

    Shows are sold to networks and cable stations. Networks derive their revenues from advertising and cable stations from subscriptions but ultimately it’s the viewers that are the end consumers. If a show doesn’t attract and retain viewers, it fails not matter how satisfied the executive producers and critics are with the show.

    • amyabn says:

      I was left with a bad taste in my mouth over this whole thing. Why insult the fan base that brought you back? I agree with Faith above that invested is the right word. We all have our own ideas of how we’d like the show to go, but no one has been stomping up and down like a toddler who has to have his/her way (at least not here!). The entire team, from CF/JS and on down to the entire cast should have heard the fans loud and clear, both at ComicCon and over the hiatus on the boards. Granted, they don’t have to do what we want, but they should try to make the product palatable. I’m mixing metaphors, so I hope I’m making sense.

      • Zsjaer says:

        amyabn..maybe they think that all of this negativity is good for the ratings..people are so surprised to what they have done..that everybody wants to see how are they going to handle this from now on. Maybe bad its good for the business. I don t know.

      • Jason says:

        2 episodes in a row ended very sadly, pretty hard to imagine 3 in a row like that, possibly no more this season even, things gotta be looking up?

  7. SWnerd says:

    I completely agree. Obviously it should be a two way street between the artist and the consumer. We rely on each other. We’re symbiotic. Ultimately yes it is their story to tell, but I don’t think anyone (including the critics who write articles like the one mentioned as well as other fans) should have the right to patronize us for expressing our discontent with the way the show is being handled.

    This is really what made me kind of angry last night is how others reacted to our reactions. They completely dismissed the entire point, which OldDarth has highlighted perfectly, and instead just blamed it on crazy shipper rantings. That didn’t even make any sense because most people’s comments weren’t demanding that Chuck and Sarah should hook up right now, they were demanding that the writers keep the integrity of the characters intact so that we can continue to root for them.

    Television is more character driven than film. That is the only reason it can sustain a long life without getting stale and boring. We have to relate, we have to sympathize, we have to care what happens to them. When you butcher the characters, you’re butchering the whole entity. This is what they must understand.

    And let me just add that some of the comments on other forums and blogs around the web yesterday were just plain mean to those of us who didn’t like the episode. Yes the boycott idea was bad but I’m willing to bet that even the person/people that suggested that never really intended to follow through. As human beings we tend to say and do things in the heat of the moment when we are upset or angry.

    All the mean spirited bickering back and forth was just sad as I would like to believe that as a fan base we should be able to show each other some respect and understanding based on our mutual interest in Chuck.

  8. Zsjaer says:

    Well Dave maybe this Season still can end well..but one thing i know i will not spend not even a cent with this Season. My collection of Chuck DVD´s ended right at Season two.
    Your point of view is very close to my opinion as almost always is.

    • atcdave says:

      Thanks Zsjaer; funny about the DVDs, if the season ended right now, I wouldn’t buy them either. I have a feeling, by the end, I will be wanting S3 discs; but there may be 8 or so episodes I never watch again!

  9. Ernie Davis says:

    Dave, you are an articulate schnook. Perfectly stated, and I also like Faith’s comment, we are invested, not entitled. We here have spent a lot of time and energy promoting and saving the show in various ways. We support sponsors with our money, we buy the show on DVD or iTunes, we tune in and DVR and watch on Hulu and make sure people know this show has fans who will save it, and one anonymous commenter makes a silly suggestion and we’re all a bunch of whiney crybabies who feel entitled. Weaselone has it right, exactly who is it that’s feeling entitled? I said it in my post, I’m rather disappointed that once again TPTB have done the one thing that I consider the stupidest thing they could do, and they want us to like them for it. In response, sadly, I’ve lowered my expectations. The next thing that gets lowered is my investment in the show.

    • JLR says:

      I have already tossed aside my investment in the Chuck & Sarah characters. I can’t believe it (b/c I’ve NEVER been this into TV characters before) but I am a bit sick to my stomach over that fact. Watching Chuck & especially Sarah wiped-out like that in a span of a mere 10 minutes or so was a shock to my system.

      • JLR says:

        I should clarify… It’s not merely the ending of 3.07 that damaged the characters; the entire arc since the Colonel has done it; the last 10 minutes of the Mask merely brought it to stark reality for me.

      • atcdave says:

        I mostly agree JLR. I wouldn’t quite say I tossed aside my investment; but I am ticked off, and devestment is the next step. Your timing on the decline is perfect. They peaked with Colonel; The Ring was the start of trouble, but it could have been acceptable had they simply continued with the mood from the reception. Instead, Sarah has decided she can’t be involved with Chuck if he’s a spy, so she’s getting involved with another spy. What a load of…..

  10. Gord says:

    I rewatched the Mask last night. I still don’t like it but I did see some good stuff in it. I liked how they progressed Chuck’s spy skills. With the exception of a few information flashes, all the spy stuff was done by Chuck Bartowski, not intersect 2.0.

    Because of this on a scale of 1 to 10, instead of a 1 I would give it a 4. I am angry with how they wrote this episode, but every show is going to have an episode that you find a stinker now and then. I just hope the writing is better for the rest of the season. When you look at the spoilers and casting calls we have seen for future episodes it sure looks like there is some good stuff coming up.

    I just hope the ratings recover after the Olympic break. Even with this crappy episode, Chuck is too good to not get a season 4.

  11. Ambaryerno says:

    You really need to keep in mind that television isn’t like a movie. A movie can run focus screenings and do reshoots and rewrites based on audience reaction.

    In television, once an episode airs it’s too late to make changes. As Chuck Versus the Mask aired, filming on Chuck Versus the Role Models wrapped, and Schwartz and Fedak have begun drafting the season finale. So I ask you: Just WHERE are they expected to stop and say “Uh oh, we just pissed off the fans. We better change our storyline…”

    They have no time for reshoots and rewrites because fans are upset. They’re on a fixed schedules. So to expect that fan reaction to an episode in the middle of the season can force the writers to change their tack for the rest of the season is no less hubris.

    Whether we like it or not, the rest of the season is going to unfold how Schwartz and Fedak drafted it. And so far, I’m satisfied with how they’ve approached the Chuck and Sarah relationship this season. Unlike the angst in Seasons 1 and 2, the situation between them in Season 3 felt like it was driven by the development of the characters, NOT the other way around. This is as it should be, and if you step back and look at how it’s unfolded, it IS a believable and realistic development. If JS and CF had handled the angst in this manner in S1 and 2, the fans probably would have been less turned off by it in the first place.

    Also, keep in mind we had ONE SCENE of Sarah and Shaw “together.” And in that scene Sarah seemed VERY unusually non-committal if not disinterested in Shaw’s advances. Not to mention that MANY fans noted that something was VERY ominous about Shaw’s behavior.

    WE DON’T KNOW how this situation is going to fold (actually, if you’ve been to ChuckTV.net and seen the preview summary blurb, you DO know at least some of it. And the fans waving torches and pitchforks right now are going to feel REALLY stupid).

    I can see both sides of the argument. I felt the same way about pretty much everything that’s happened in Star Wars since the prequels hit (I’m PISSED they killed Mara Jade, and Jacen turning to the Dark Side?! WTF?!). I stopped reading Song of Ice and Fire after Robb was killed. I refuse to even WATCH the Star Trek remake. I KNOW what it is to be a viewer, and to be so emotionally invested.

    However while I’m not a professional, I’m still a writer and creative person myself, and I can’t help but support the position of JS and CF, and ANY artist faced with audience hostility when they try to remain true to their vision. Because it IS their vision, and sometimes the artist HAS to stand up for his creation and defend his rights as a creator. Would Casablanca have been such a classic if Ilsa stayed with Rick? Would The Lord of the Rings have been as powerful if Frodo had stayed in Middle Earth? What if Romeo and Juliet lived happily ever after?

    If JRR Tolkien and William Shakespeare had been subject to the whims of their audience those were the exact sort of things they would have been forced to change, and in the process they would have lost something VERY special.

    Give the artists the chance to tell their story, to share THEIR vision. If when the work is completed you remain dissatisfied that’s your choice, and no one says you have to feel otherwise. But at LEAST let them be true to themselves.

    • Faith says:

      Is it true to their vision. I mean really?

      And I don’t know if you’ve read all that we’ve said, if you have I apologize. It’s NOT about rewrite, it’s not even about who ended with whom…we’ve already made that clear. It’s the implausible and incomprehensible transformation of what was beloved characters. A change that is not growth but outright out of body experience. That is my issue, and that is a lot of our issue. Not that they’re with other people. I could honestly care less…

    • weaselone says:

      Shakespeare was subject to the whims of his audience and like most writers of theater at the time he pandered to the mob’s desire for sword fights and humor as well as the sensibilities of his more distinguished audience and potential patrons.

      I can also only assume that you didn’t actually read the articles and commentary on this thread, because you make the same mistake as the critics, Schwartz and Fedak. You assume the criticism is WHAT was done and not HOW it was done. We aren’t complaining that the show put Shaw and Sarah and Chuck and Hannah together. We are complaining that they did so in a rushed and exceedingly sloppy manner. The writers were far worse than untrue to us, they were untrue to the characters as they’ve written them for the last two years.

      • atcdave says:

        To be fair, I’m complaining about both. Colonel was the absolute end of me accepting other love interests for them. There is no way they could have had them stray that I would have accepted. Investing more time in the story would only make me angrier.

    • atcdave says:

      I think you missed the point of the post. JRR Tolkien and Shakespeare were subject to market forces. Their work has endured because it was popular. A TV writer who spits on their fans will loose those fans, and loose the job. And we have been providing feedback since July, before most of this season was even written, so they have no claims of not seeing this coming. I would also say things like movies and novels, that are generally one-off in nature, have a different responsibility than something that is serial in nature. For a one-time event you need to convince an audience you have something worth seeing or reading; but with a serial, people see the product regularly, so the artist needs to honor an “episodic” contract. That is something that will keep people engaged and wanting to come back. If you provide something people have been telling you for 7 months they don’t want, you have no one to blame but yourself.
      I do feel some sympathy for the writers. I understand they feel like they have a great idea that isn’t being respected by a large segment of the fan base. But they have to sell us on it, or accept that it won’t work. “Trust us” is not going to work when we don’t like what we’re seeing. I understand no writer wants to give away their endings, but a condescending interview is hardly a way to win us over.

  12. weaselone says:

    I have to admit, it was nice having the cast of Chuck you Tuesday’s ire turned somewhere besides the shippers. The commentary was excellent and funny as usual. Razorback’s “All the critics are going to love this episode, because they have no *expletive deleted* sense of quality” was classic.

    • Mike B says:

      When Chuck You Tuesday’s and the shippers are in agreement that should tell you all you need to know about this episode. JS/CF please take note.

    • Faith says:

      I actually know casual fans that don’t go to boards and just got into Chuck (also know several that were in Chuck before but were really more a casual viewer)…even they thought the episode was bunk.

  13. Merve says:

    I should preface what I’m about to say with a bit of a disclaimer: I don’t want to tell people what to think or how to act. I do believe that fans have the right to complain. But I also think that exercising that right might not always be the rational course of action.

    I think that the negative fan reaction towards “the Mask” comes from four distinct groups. (It might seem a little unfair to categorize people as such, but hey, I’m a math major; it’s what I do.)
    1. People who are dissatisfied with Season 3 as a whole.
    2. People who are dissatisfied with the concept of potential love interests and the way that the Chuck/Sarah relationship has been handled.
    3. People who were feeling pretty good about season 3 but didn’t particularly like “the Mask” at all.
    4. People who were feeling pretty good about season 3 and enjoyed “the Mask” until the last quarter or so of the episode.
    (Personally, I fall into category 4, but that’s not the point.)

    For those of you who fall into category 1 or 2, I feel for you. I (sort of) understand your pain. A show that you might have really enjoyed in the past is going in a direction that you don’t like. You want to voice your opinion about that. That’s fine. I don’t see a problem with that. (Whether complaining will accomplish anything or not is an entirely different story and I don’t want to debate that.) I respect atcdave’s post because I see where he’s coming from.

    For those of you who fall into category 3 or 4, I see that you might not like what happened in the episode. I understand. Complain all you want about “the Mask.” But if you’ve liked what you’ve seen in season 3 so far, why complain about the season as a whole? I don’t see the point of jumping on the bandwagon that the people who don’t like where the series is headed are driving, tempting though it may seem. Good television series occasionally have dud episodes. It happens. If you’ve liked season 3 so far, why lose faith now? If you don’t like the next few episodes, then, sure, complain away and I’ll understand where you’re coming from.

    I apologize if this comes across as excessively bitchy. I’m just worried that this whole dissatisfaction thing is spiralling out of control, and needlessly so. Maybe it’s not my place to be analyzing fan reaction, but I think that it’s pretty easy to get swayed to extremes by persuasive arguments. I might be way off base here, but I believe that some fans are letting negative fan reaction colour their perceptions of season 3 as a whole. I guess what I’m trying to say is: complain when YOU feel that it’s necessary to complain. Form your own opinions. Don’t just jump on a bandwagon when it’s convenient. Go your own way.

    Again, I apologize if this seems preachy or bitchy. I’m just surprised at how negative the reaction has been since “the Mask” aired.

    • atcdave says:

      Merve, I do appreciate your analysis; it didn’t come across “bitchy” at all. But I would say there is value in voicing your complaints even if it is just a single episode. Even in a great show, they write the occasional dud, as you said. But isn’t there value in letting the creative staff know when they’ve failed? If you’ve read my stuff before, you know I am generous with praise when I am pleased. And I expect to be generous before this season is over. But I don’t want them to do the dud episodes again. I want to be sure all involved know what works and what doesn’t. As I said above, if my view is unique or odd, I can rightly expect it to be ignored; but if a large chunk of the fan base feels strongly about something, it is important, on a strategic level, for TPTB to make note of it.

      Of course, such feedback can go too far. This is the first show where I make a routine effort to voice my opinions. In most cases it simply isn’t worth the trouble. With Chuck I care more than I have before, so I post. I’m a pretty active poster, so at this point I’ll probably comment on most aspects of the show at some point. Most issues, good and bad, really aren’t worth getting excited over; but when a favorite show takes a really bad turn, you ought to say something.

      • Big Kev says:

        Dave….Great original post, and you’ve started off an interesting conversation. I have to say, if I was a showrunner, I’d be doing much the same as Schwatrz and Fedak are doing. These guys can’t ever be seen to be fan-driven. Imagine what would have happened if Schwatrz had stood up after Comic Con and gone, “you know, you’re right. We’ve stuffed Season 3, but we’ve listened, and we’re working on it”. I’d immediately be saying, “do you really know what you’re doing?”
        Of course, if they’ve got any sense, they’re going to pay attention to constructive criticism from real fans, such as the ones on this blog – but they can’t ever tell you that they’re doing that, because once they do, their credibility as writers is gone.
        And in fairness to them, I wouldn’t be taking any notice of some of the stuff I’ve read on other blogs either!

      • atcdave says:

        You make some great points Kev. They do need to be “in control” and keep people’s confidence up in their vision. But I think its a mistake to seem dismissive of fan concerns. The ultimate proof is what’s on screen; so the problem is when we don’t like what’s on screen, especially with a three week break. I am convinced many casual fans are already jumping ship, I base that on comments from the casual fans I know. They need to think long and carefully about how to fix this. An encouraging interview would have been nice. A more extended preview showing some actual good stuff ahead (and I don’t mean Shaw and Sarah kissing) might help too.

    • JC says:

      Nothing bitchy in your post at all.

      We as fans have overlooked a lot with this show glaring plot holes, recycled plots and PLIs, resets, etc. But those last ten minutes were so unbelievable and handled so poorly that it became the breaking point for people. No matter what group you fall into. It took every problem the show has had over 2.5 seasons and shoved into ten minutes of pure drivel.

      I wasn’t angry or upset I was insulted that anyone from the writers or actors thought this would be any way believable. I understand the TPTB have a vision but when your vision insults my intelligence don’t expect me not to call you out on it.

      • Big Kev says:

        JC – the last ten minutes are only unbelievable if you accept the premise that all is as it seems. It may turn out that way – and my faith in TPTB is a lot less than it was at 8.00 on Monday – but it may not. To some extent, we’re having a conversation on the merits of an arc, or an episode without knowing the full story.

        And yeah, I do know how much like Schwatrz’s publicist I just sounded. I’m just praying I’m right, or I’m going to have an awful lot of humble pie to eat!

      • atcdave says:

        It is interesting how many fans, with completely different viewpoints on what they like about the show, were unhappy with The Mask.

    • Faith says:

      For my part…I think the reactions to our initial reactions magnified this whole thing.

      I didn’t appreciate being labeled as a “crazy” shipper and I didn’t appreciate having both my intelligence and my cognition insulted without taking into account the real issue and without addressing said issue. That’s where it really spiraled for me…because you’re right. Overall I’m not entirely dissatisfied unlike others. I actually like the dark Chuck, I think the Mask is a sea of undercurrents and I may not have liked the direction on some of the things that have gone in this season (I questioned Chuck’s emotional maturity in First Class) but overall I am not a dissatisfied viewer. But I do not appreciate being painted as a petulant, entitled viewer simply because I have an objection to what can be construed—face value—as character assassination of my favorite characters.

  14. Faith says:

    These are ZL’s last two tweets:

    “Hmmm, I see. Question: did anyone think that Han would be stuck in carbonite forever at the end of Empire?
    about 2 hours ago

    So what’s all this hubbub I’m hearin about the last ep?
    about 5 hours ago”

    Can someone please explain to me about the Han thing? I watched the first 3 star wars in high school but I don’t really get it.

    • JC says:

      Han sacrificed himself for the girl and they still ended up together. Giving up what you love.

      Its just more BS damage control that doesn’t address the real reason people are angry.

      Someone should remind him that Han didn’t make out with Chewie and Leia didn’t get a creepy back rub from Lando before the sacrifice.

      • atcdave says:

        Excellent reply JC!

      • Jason says:

        interesting – did not leih indeed get a backrub from behind from that big fat thing, she was chained at the time I think, that final scene in 3.7 almost exact – or am I making that up, not a huge star wars guy and last saw it a long time ago

      • atcdave says:

        But the audience was never asked to believe she wanted it.

      • Jason says:

        yea – but the look on each of their faces, my memory would call them identical, just interesting that zach would use that reference, given his direct knowledge that people are mad, by the way, what is his twitter name?

      • weaselone says:

        Let’s look at it this way. If Empire had been like this episode the story would have proceeded normally until the last few scenes then everything would change.

        1. Luke would tell Yoda that Leia, Han, Chewie and the rest could go Chuck themselves. He’s keeping his butt planted in the swamp.
        2. Upon finding out that Lando was a traitor, Leia would have jumped his bones while Chewie gave him a high five.
        3. Having deprived Han of his weapon, Vader would have sat down with him and discussed the term’s of the empire’s surrender.
        4. The storm troopers would all have started shooting straight and killed Leia, Lando, and Chewie mid threesome.
        5. Jabba would have shown up at the end of Vader’s talk with Han and given Han the reins to his criminal empire so he could retire to a monastery and dedicate his life to austerity, fitness and assisting the needy.

    • weaselone says:

      The great irony here is that the events that befell Han were alluded to well before they actually took place as opposed being the result of a 180 degree turn within the last few minutes of the movie. Han had a price on his head courtesy of Jabba the Hutt since the beginning of New Hope and he was big player in the rebellion against a galactic empire with even more important players as close allies and friends.

      It wasn’t as if Vader and Jabba were Han’s close personal friends, drinking buddies, golf partners, and godparents to Han’s children. They didn’t suddenly and inexplicably turned on him.

      Lando’s eventual treachery was hinted at repeatedly before it took place. Han confirmed Lando wasn’t necessarily to be trusted soon after his arrival and foreshadowing of dark events to come arrived in visions while Luke was training and events that transpired on Cloud City. Similarly, before Lando pulled his 180 and went to the aid of Han, Leia, Chewie, R2 and 3PO, his growing discontent with the changing terms of his deal with Vader played out on screen.

      Plus the entire movie was a complete downer. Defeat, followed defeat for the Rebel forces and the show’s heroes. Empire is also considered the best of the Star Wars movie franchise by many despite being the darkest and most angsty of the series. Besides the Rebels being driven from Hoth and Han being frozen in carbonite, Leia kisses her brother.

      In the Mask we received 3/4 of an episode of missions underscoring the importance of a team, and scenes that suggested Sarah and Chuck were moving past Prague and then like a freight train slamming into the Great Wall of China as it suddenly coalesces from the ether in southern Delaware, suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt. The Intersect is eventually going solo and only Chuck seems to have a problem with the idea, while Sarah and Chuck aren’t moving past Prague, just past each other on a train ride to new love interests.

      • Fake Empire says:

        As someone who is a fan of both Star Wars and Chuck, I could not agree more with you. This episode feels more like the blight on the Chuck franchise that The Phantom Menace is on Star Wars. Although, the first 2/3 of Mask still exceeds Phantom Menace by a long shot. I think Yoda could easily have been referring to Schwartz when he said: “Told you I did. Reckless is he. Now, matters are worse.” 😉

      • atcdave says:

        Wow! This has been an excellent discussion. I guess we need to thank Zach for starting it. Key point being, we can live with some disappointment and ugly plot twists; as long as we believe the characters are being true to themselves, and the story makes sense.

  15. JC says:

    Big Kev.. I don’t believe what we’ve seen is real. I think its some sort of con. Just wanted to get that out of the way.

    But I still feel like it was insulting and unbelievable, not just from a story stand point but the writing and acting. I’ve said it countless times but it seemed like parody of some sort. At some level the writers had to believe a portion of the audience was going to accept the premise and that’s what bothered me.

    And you don’t sound like Schwartz’s publicist. If anything my bias against him comes out in my posts.

  16. Lucian says:

    I am going to do something which I don’t normally do, and that is defend TPTB somewhat. They had a difficult task in season 3, given where they left the characters and the story in season 2. They clearly needed to do a reset. They weren’t going to disregard the hero’s journey workbook completely, and Chuck needed to experience his dark night of the soul, and he needed to do it alone, sans Sarah. And, they couldn’t very easily ship Sarah off to Lisbon with another hot partner (not good for ratings). So, they had to take a step back in the relationship. Hence Pink Slip and the subsequent mess and clean up they have been doing ever since. They could have executed all of this with a lot more skill, IMO, but they chose the path they did, and we end up with the last ten minutes of The Mask. I do think things will start looking up somewhat from here on out, but they also seem to think that Chuck is still in high school emotionally (Sarah might be a college freshman), so he’s going to get all snarky with Shaw. More character damage, IMO, than is required. This was supposed to be the season of man to spy; it feels more like Chuck reverts to high school, then figures out how to be a spy, and then becomes an adult. The mask was clearly my favorite episode of this season, as I reset my expectations several weeks ago.

  17. Ashley says:

    Well i gonna stand out and disagree and say that Linda Holmes is right. I think this season has been Great and think too many people are putting focus on Chuck and Sarah. Everyone’s Entitled to their opinion and to complain but people have been unrealistic and all i see is a growing maturity in the characters. i think by the time we get to ep 19 people look back and wonder why they were moaning.

    • Jason says:

      if everything is taken at face value, the about face in chuck’s charachter did when he saw sarah ALIVE in shaw’s arms was inconceivable to me, all evidence was she was dead, he saw her alive, he looked about as happy as I am when I see the morning paper arrived, sort of like ‘good, its here’ – there are other parts of those last ten minutes that are mind boggling, but I had trouble with this one the most, because it was the first inconsistency

  18. Hans says:

    Hey I have a question, and even though it doesn’t pertain to this article (haven’t read it yet…eating through the blog in chronological order) I don’t know how and where else to ask:

    I have been reading a lot of comments on s2’s episodes, and I notice that people consistently seem to ‘look down’ a bit on the term ‘shipper’, as though it is interpreted in some circles as a pejorative. This is done both by those who do and those who don’t consider themselves one. “I hate to call myself a shippper but….” “As a shipper – oh yes, I do consider myself a shipper…”
    I wonder why this is! Is it just that some people, idiosyncratically, just don’t like the term, or is this some sort of commonality and does everyone have this same connotation to the word ‘shipper’, and even though some might not agree with it at least they know of this connotation’s existence?
    Same goes for the word ‘angst’.

    • atcdave says:

      I think a lot of people, especially guys, just hate to admit they consider the romance to be the most important part of the story to them. And the feeling is amplified by people who treat anyone admitting to such a thing as mentally defficient.

      Angst is a little harder to explain. The whole idea of a decent, normal guy trying to exist in an ugly, cut-throat setting like the spy world is bound to generate the sort of nervous, uncomfortable feeling we call angst. But what many of us object to is the contrived, relationship oriented worries, that are not a needed part of the story. We sometimes call it s-angst (s for stupid).

    • joe says:

      Good questions, Hans. Yes, ‘shipper has been used as a pejorative, which is precisely why some preface their words with things like “I hate to call myself a shipper, but…”

      It became a bit of a pejorative mostly through overuse, I think. Really, almost everybody realize that despite the comedy and action and drama, the Chuck and Sarah relationship is the single most important part of the show. (It’s an open question if that was by design or because of the incredible chemistry between the leads, but it’s undeniable.) In some sense everybody who likes the show is a ‘shipper, so the term is pretty meaningless.

      Some who called themselves ‘shippers went more extreme with statements like “If Chuck and Sarah don’t get together, I’m going to quit the show!” and even “Josh Schwartz said that Chuck and Sarah won’t get together soon, so I’m quitting the show!” Some fairly notable voices labelled those fans “crazy-shippers”.

      Problem was, I don’t think anybody really got that extreme. It was a rhetorical device used to mock the tendency we all have to get really caught up in Chuck & Sarah. But people took it a little personally.

      Dave’s explanation of “Angst” is right on the money!

  19. lizjames says:

    As a person who creates media for a living, it’s probably wise for me to say nothing about the controversy directly.

    But I will say this: I find it VERY interesting that the people who’ve critized unhappy fans by reminding them that it is the journey, not the adventure are now telling us that we shouldn’t be unhappy about the journey because the destination is going to be great.

    • atcdave says:

      great quip!

    • JLR says:

      Yeah, I’ve noticed that inconsistency for quite some time actually… On pretty much every board you’ll see the clique mentality develop. Those “in the know” tend to denigrate those who dare to question how the story is being told. Certain podcasts even dismiss every complaint as the adolescent rantings of crazy shippers. That’s what I bemoan the most about the backlash: one person (as far as I can tell) advocated a boycott. Friends of the TPTB (either @ their behest or not) mobilized to marginalize all criticism. When the journey is being complained about, like you said, were told to “wait, the last chapter will set everything right.” When people start moaning about the possibility that C/S won’t wind up together, they’re told “why do you focus on only one aspect of the show? It’s the journey that matters.” Well, which one is it?

      • lizjames says:

        JLR-
        Believe me, you can’t “marginalize criticism.” For everyone complaining, there is a number of silent viewers walking away.

        And when it comes time to mobilize fans again to save the show for season 4, there WILL be an enthusiasm gap.

        That’s why I have so many problems with my media comrades (I don’t work in TV, btw). If you come to your readers and viewers ONLY when YOU want something and tell them to BUTT OUT when you are creating, well, you inherit the wind.

  20. Mike B says:

    Our critque and opinions don’t count, we are all just “crazy Shippers”. Until they need to rally the troops for the season 4 renewal then we become passionate highly invested fans.

    • JLR says:

      This “crazy shipper” won’t be available to save the show. Funny thing is, I honest to goodness am NOT a shipper. I’ve railed against C/S being thrown together so quickly, as a matter of fact. I could tell when I watched season 1 (which I didn’t see until middle of season 2, I’m a Johnny come lately) that it happened too quickly (my opinion only, of course). I saw it in the tea leaves how TPTB would play this out (the romantic angle). I didn’t want to see that happen precisely b/c of what we have now. This is the first show I’ve liked since Firefly, and the first time ever I’ve cared about characters this much. I knew it in the pit of my stomach character damage would be done at the altar of romantic tension. I just want to like the characters. That is why I am anti-ship.

  21. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Mask (3.07) | Chuck This

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