September 27, 2012
How could this not be a real show?
There's a rule in Hollywood that all television series must eventually make a self-referential episode where the characters end up in a "reality" show about the show, or visit the set of a television show based on the "real" characters they portray.
Seinfeld dragged out the conceit for a whole season, but Seinfeld was about Jerry Seinfeld to start with, so it was meta all along. Bones did an episode last season, though it was entirely too self-aware to be as fun or clever as it could have been.
But sometimes it totally pays off. Stargate SG-1 gets the prize for taking the concept to meta-meta land in the funniest, cleverest version ever. An alien rescued in a previous episode turns to screenwriting after getting bored and running away from the Witness Protection Program.
The television show he comes up with, Wormhole X-treme, is based on the "real" (super-duper classified) SGC, so the team is sent to Hollywood to figure out what the heck is going on.
The first smart thing the "real" Stargate does is have General Hammond point out that if any classified information about the SGC does leak out, they'll blame the television show as the source. No need for an elaborate cover-up.
Because, aside from the X-Files, which had the running joke of Mulder getting critical intel from the tabloids, the conspiracy theory as a plot driver wears awfully thin after a while.
Person of Interest is my favorite television show right now, but there's no need for government agents to go around whacking every person who figures out the existence of the "Machine." Pass out more tinfoil hats. The loonies already think they're being watched by the government anyway.
People will keep believing what they already believe (and believe it more when they're being "convinced" not to), and disbelieve what they are predisposed not to believe in.
As when a "real" spaceship descends to the set of the "fake" show. The special effects guy shrugs and says, "Yeah, okay, we'll fix it in post." And all during the shooting of the show-within-the-show, the actors complain constantly about the insufficiently "realistic" parts of the "fake" script.
It's a tribute to every geek fan who simply can't suspend belief past a certain point (like me).
But the real brilliance comes in the last five minutes, a special "making of" segment about the making of a television show that isn't even a real television show. It starts out with Christian Bocher (a real actor) breaking through a half-dozen fourth walls in less than a minute:
I'm Christian Bocher. I'm portraying the character of Raymond Gunn, who portrays the character of Dr. Levant which is based on the character Daniel Jackson portrayed by the actor, Michael Shanks. Originally portrayed by the actor James Spader, in the feature film.
And then the director (Peter DeLuise, the real director) explains to the"fake" lead actor (Michael DeLuise playing Nick Marlowe playing Colonel Danning, i.e., Colonel Jack O'Neill played by Richard Dean Anderson) that the show he's been cast in isn't a "real" show.
The bewildered man finally throws up his hands and declaims:
That's seriously up there with the sound of one hand clapping and trees falling unheard in forests, a question so deceptively deep that it deserves its own school of philosophical thought.