What I’ve Been Watching (Summer 2013 Recap)

I love TV. I love a lot of different kinds of TV and even the TV that I don’t love I understand the existence of. Even in the dead of summer, there’s still a lot more TV around than people sometimes realize. This summer was a pretty good year for some of my favorite summer shows, and will continue to be for another couple of weeks while these shows, and others, finish out their run.

Of course I’m happy to see that’s it’s once again New Series advertising season (every bus in town is plastered with a new Fall show), I’ll be sad to see some of these shows go. Without further ado, a brief rundown of my summer favorites.

King and Maxwell
I love TNT shows. They tend to have great, slightly quirky, but always respectable procedural in the works that I’d be happy to watch till the cows came home. This one is no exception. King and Maxwell (one of whom is Rebecca Romijn!) are two former Secret Service Agents turned private investigators after an incident in the service. It’s set in DC, which makes me smile even when they don’t get it quite right.
They’ve also got Dichen Lachman who’s fantastic! It’s procedural, with a little bit of serial in there, with a few out there characters, and a bit of a will-they-wont-they thing going on between the two leads. A bunch of my favorite things all mushed together to make sure I tune in every week (Or every other week and a few days late on my DVR, but nonetheless).

Major Crimes
King and Maxwell‘s constant companion, I can’t watch K&M without a side helping of Major Crimes. A friend of mine thinks I’m a middle-aged woman for liking this show, but I don’t even care. It’s corny at times and pretty clearly not aimed towards my age bracket, but I kind of love it. I like seeing a show set in LA, filmed in LA, and referencing the obvious fact that we’re in LA and we’re going to run into some industry people. Maybe not as many as are on the show, but still, it’s fun.
Especially fun for me since my school’s classes were on the same studio lot that this show filmed. We would see cast members and crew in passing and one of my classes managed to get a tour of the set.

Risoli and Isles
I’ll admit that most of the summer season of this show is still hanging out on my DVR, but I needed to give it a shout out. I’ve been a fan of Sasha Alexandra since her NCIS days, and love seeing her on my screen again. As a lesbian medical examiner from Boston? Why not?
Like all the other ME shows (Quincy, Body of Proof), there’s a bit of suspension of disbelief that this exists, but it’s a leap I’ll take. The show is cheeky and fun while still being procedural drama-y. That’s a technical term right there.

The Newsroom
By far the most intellectual of my summer viewing habits, The Newsroom in continuing it’s increasing levels of awesome. This is the show I’m probably most loyal to. I watch new episodes every week the night they air.
At first I was wary of the framing device that Sorkin is using for this season, but after a few episodes I’m really okay with the way this is going. There’s a much stronger season arc this year and I’m absolutely in love. I’m also a little terrified that my free trial of HBO is going to cut out before the end of the season, but we’ll deal with that when we get there.

MasterChef
One of my best friends from high school thinks that my love of this show is strange. I am a self-proclaimed drama girl, why am I so gung-ho about a reality show? Well, there are a few reasons. I love food and I love cooking. I love watching people cook and my dad likes all these things too. My dad and I watch this one together, but I’d probably watch it even without him.
Following cast members on Twitter makes the show that much more exciting. It’s strange to see them all friends on the internet and in real life, when it’s so clear that at the time of filming they hated each other’s guts. A little disarming actually. And I do wish that they would be more understanding of each other on film, because not everyone knows they’re all good now.
The challenges they put on to these contestants through are hard. Going from near-zero to running a five-star restaurant is crazy, but they all handle it so well. It’s a crazy show (and the only one I’ve ever for a minute considered auditioning for), and I love it to bits. Still going on too, so if you’re interested I would be happy to recap who’s who for you so you can watch the last few weeks. Let me know!

Hell’s Kitchen
I’ll level with you, really, I’ll watch anything where we get to see Gordon Ramsey on camera (not even kidding). Something about his brash style and abruptness is mesmerizing to me. It doesn’t hurt that I love cooking. Love it. Add competition and varying degrees of incompetence in there and I’m with you 100%.
This season was a staggering production. As always there were divas and a-holes and a few that I rooted for. While I was kind of rooting for Mary to win it, I would have been fine with any of the top four taking it. Also, since I’m in LA now I keep watching the show and thinking, “Hey, I should go there.” Except for, you know, money.

Camp
I feel like every summer there’s a new scripted show that takes place at a camp. I’ve seen tons of variations from fat camp to drama camp, and they usually don’t manage to stick around for very long. My personal theory why this one’s doing well? They’re focusing on the counselors and staff of the camp instead of the campers.
While this show is NOTHING like the camp that I went to growing up (I went to a christian girls camp), it still manages to bring back memories. I love this show. It’s campy and a little bit awful, but in the best way possibleThere are so many characters, anyone is bound to find someone they can connect with. And with sdo many love triangles it might get hard to keep up with later. I don’t know if they’ve been renewed to come back next summer, but I for one would absolutely tune in again.

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What have you been watching this summer?

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4 “Pro” Tips on 2nd Screening

Twitter + Fringe

For a long time I’ve thought that I couldn’t get behind the second screen experience. I’m very invested in my TV shows, so the idea of looking away even for a minute to be distracted from what could potentially be critical information was horrifying to me. Lately though, I’m starting to come around.

Second screen has sort of become a verb, but can also be refered to as Social TV. What it means is that while you’re watching TV (preferably live), you as a viewer have a second device open – usually a tablet or smart phone, sometimes a laptop or desktop – through which you’re following along on social media.

For me, this means I’m tweeting my way through Fringe as I watch it on Netflix and letting my favorite MasterChef contestants know that I’m rooting for them, but the phrase refers to much more than that. Using Get Glue to check in to TV shows (live or rewatching), tweeting at people involved in the show or movie you’re watching, and checking out the other, live-feed cameras on the Oscar’s red carpet are all second screen experiences.

I’d hardly consider myself a professional, but I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks of second screening.

Use Hashtags! Some shows use episode specific hashtags for people watching live (watch along the bottom of the screen for #___), but if there’s not one then you can just hashtag the show. Fringe is #fringe or #fringeonFOX. Masterchef is #masterchef. It’s usually just the name of the show with a # sign in front of it. Sometimes there will be hashtags for things within the show, like rooting for a specific contestant or plotline, you’ll learn more about the show you’re watching by following the hashtags.  By including these tags in your tweets, other people can find your opinions and tweet back at you.

Respond to others. If you’re following the hashtags you’re using (search them in the search bar), then you’ll see other people also talking about what’s happening. This is usually the most prevalent when watching live. Interacting with other fans while watching the show is one of the most rewarding parts of the second screen experience.

Be nice. It’s simply unnecessary to be rude to people on Social Media. Don’t say anything about the actors, plot lines, or contestants that you wouldn’t say to them in real life. Because fact is, nearly everyone and their mother is on twitter these days so you might be saying it to them indirectly.

Have fun! Social Media is used for lots of serious things like spreading news and starting revolutions. Which is all well and good, but it can also be a fun way to be more actively engaged in what you’re watching, and maybe even make a few friends along the way.

Do you second screen? What shows do you engage with?

Writing Your Way Up

The hierarchy of a TV show staff is a many-layered thing.  Specifically, a TV writing staff is a confusing place where half the people in the “room” are called producers.  This whole system was confusing to me until a few weeks ago when one of our guest speakers explained it in depth.

A few terms to know:
“the room” refers to the writers room.  It is often an actual room with a conference table and white boards and or cork boards on the walls where the writers will sit together and figure out the story of a TV show.  Sometimes there are ping pong tables.  Or at least, that’s what I hear.
“Staffed” is to be working in the room.  All the positions I’m going to list are staff positions except for the last two.

Rolling credits (shown in the list of names under the first few scenes of a TV show):
Showrunner–This one is actually not listed as “Showrunner”, but as “Executive Producer”.  This is the one in charge of everything.  He or she is the person to whom everyone is asking questions of how the show is going to look, feel, sound, be written, and everything else under the sun.  Often, this is also the person who created the show.
Executive Producer–Sometimes also referred to as the “EP”, there will often be more than one of these, and they are the second in command.  These guys are in charge of the room while the Showrunner is busy with other things.
Co-Executive Producer–“Co-EP”.  Similar to the EP in a lot of ways, but with slightly less pay.
Supervising Producer
Consulting Producer–This is sometimes someone who was brought in for their knowledge on a particular subject.  A doctor on a medical show, a commander on a military show, ect.
Producer–All types of producers can be involved in varying degrees in aspects of the show besides writing.
Co-Producer

End Titles Credits:
Executive Story Editor
Story Editor
Staff Writer–Credited as “Writer” in the end credits.  Not be be confused with “Written by” in the opening credits, given to whoever wrote the specific episode that is being shown.
Script Coordinator–This person is not directly involved in Writing the show, but getting the scripts from the writers to the directors, producers, actors, and other technicians who will turn it into a full TV show.

These guys, and their friends below are not members of the Writers Guild and are therefore not protected by mandatory minimums like the more senior positions are.  There is a significant pay difference between the Script Coordinator and a Staff Writer.  Also, while there is only one Script Coordinator, there can be multiples of all the others above.

Writer’s Assistant–The coveted job among low level people.  This person is pretty much the note-taker for the room.  They listen to the discussion and take notes on what’s being decided.
Writer’s PA–The guinea pig for the office, the one getting coffee and lunch orders.  Not all shows have them, sometimes the Writer’s Assistant will take on these tasks.
Writer’s Intern–Again, not a position every show has, but some shows will have an intern available to do research.  This is especially pertinent if it’s a historical show because they want to be accurate whenever possible.

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Of course, all this should be taken with a grain of salt.  This list is nothing official, and is only something that was discussed in the class I’m taking.  Titles and positions will vary with different shows, networks, showrunners, and studios.

While there is a loose system, this is not like the corporate ladder.  The most significant difference here is that if a writer/creator is talented enough they can jump the hierarchy.  A new writer who pitches a show and gets green-lit can jump from zero to Co-EP with the push of a button.

What’s the organizational structure in the job that you’re hoping get?

The Time to Be Super

I’ve noticed in the past few years that superheroes have become a reoccurring theme. As far back at the new batman trilogy, and slowly growing, there have been more and more superheros breaking out of comic books. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the upcoming Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are all evidence of a new uprising.

Of course this is far from the first surge in popularity of comics and superheroes. In the past few decades since superheroes have arrived on the scene they have risen and fallen in popularity. My hypothesis is that their popularity is related to the political and economic status of the world at the time, but that would be for someone much more seeped in comic lore than me to prove or disprove.

What I can do is give a little bit of history of superheroes in comics and their breakout into other mediums (mostly TV). Because I am a nerd and I spent a few hours researching comics on the internet and it’s interesting. Get ready.

We start off with the Golden Age of comics. This is when the big wigs showed up. Superman, Captain America (originally Captain Marvel), among others made their first appearances in or soon after 1938. You’ll notice this to be soon after the depression as it became obvious the world was going to go to war again. Superheros made people feel like there was something out there to save them. In these early comics the hero always saved the day and the damsel (because that’s all women were in these stories).

In 1955 the Golden Age gave way to the Silver Age of comics. Now more superheroes arrive on the scene to help get delinquents off the streets. This era lasts until the early 70’s and I’ll point out that this is around the time when television becomes popular. Near the end of the Silver Age is the first time we start to see superheroes on TV, Batman being the first, and launching many others that make appearances in what’s called the Bronze Age of Comics.

In the Bronze Age (~1970-85) the stories in comic books become darker. The dark hero is clearly the picture of the decade and a half of the Bronze Age. On television there are superheroes abound with Wonder Woman, Spiderman, and the Hulk being pulled from comics to star on the small screen. Alongside them, there are heroes such as the Six Million Dollar Man and it’s spin-off, Bionic Woman from other original material ($6M Man was adapted from a novel).

The adaptations make way for original superheroes in the Modern Age of comics (~1985-present). Shows such as Greatest American Hero and Misfits have no ties directly to comics or novels. Meanwhile comics such as The Flash and Superman are still brought to life in movies and on TV. These shows and their comic counterparts are more psychological, and many are darker, than any of their previous incarnations. 50-plus years of super work will do that to a hero.

More here.

As more and more superhero series and paraphernalia crop up I can’t help but think that we are on the cusp of a new era. We want heroes we can relate to. Heroes who are ruthless and fantastic in their search for the true villain, but are also vulnerable and real. We want more out of superheroes than we have before, but I think the new generation of creators will be able to deliver.

Who is your favorite superhero? What would you like to see in a new superhero (or changes in an old favorite)?

YouTube, Advertisements, and Generation C

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Lately there’s been a lot of buzz about the influence that YouTube has on the rest of mainstream media.  As everything is changing so rapidly networks are fighting for viewers right next to cable networks.  Premium cable networks are fighting with new online content put out by other subscription services.  Somewhere in there, YouTube is holding it’s own.  In fact, it could easily be argued that YouTube is winning.

In order to better understand where YouTube stands, I want to give a brief outline of house these other companies make money.  As much as I am interested more in the creative aspect, having an understanding of the financial makes me more aware of the industry as a future creator and helps viewers to have a better understanding of why these corporations makes choices in the way they do.

Network television includes the “big 4” networks, CBS, ABC, Fox, and NBC.  If you include The CW it’s 5.  If you have the right kind of TV, these stations are free to pluck out of the airwaves.  Legally they must provide news coverage along with entertainment.  They make their money from advertising revenue, AKA commercials.

The next step up is basic cable.  These are networks like TNT, TBS, and USA that create original content to run next to syndicated repeats of network shows, as well as 24-hour news channels like CNN and MSNBC.  Whatever your niche is, you can probably find it on basic cable.  These channels are scrambled in the airwaves and you have to pay a cable company a subscription fee to give you a box to unscramble it.  These companies make money two ways, through the subscription fee as well as through advertising revenue.

Beyond that are premium cable channels and subscription services.  These are considered separate entities by some, but they turn a profit in the same way.  They include HBO and AMC, and Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime.  These services run solely on subscription fees and are broadcast through scrambled airwaves, digital boxes like a Roku or Apple TV, or through online streaming.

Then comes YouTube.  While there are a few other video hosting sites, Vimeo and Yahoo! Screen come to mind, YouTube holds the market share.  YouTube is viable only through advertising revenue which include sidebar ads (that run along the bottom and sides of web pages), lower third ads (that pop up along the bottom of a video), and pre-rolls (commercials that run before a video will play).  The difference here is in the content.

While TV networks and subscription services create their own content or pay syndication fees to run older shows made by other studios or networks, YouTube content is made by individuals and uploaded to the site directly.  This leads to lots of videos of cats and stupid human tricks, but also has allowed for a new type of content to emerge.

Web content falls under a handful of categories and, in a similar style to basic cable, anything you want, you can find it online.  What I’d guess to be the most regular and consistent content is vlogs (video blogs), how to videos, and web shows.

In the case of any of these you can easily subscribe to a channel (the term used for a YouTube creator).  Once you’ve subscribed, their videos will show up in your subscriptions list and you can follow their comments and likes on other videos.

To me, and clearly to thousands of others, what makes web content great is the community it creates.  By following a how to channel I have a group of people I can go to if I have questions.  By following a vlogger and commenting on their videos I start to become a part of their online community.  By following web shows and interacting with other fans in the comments we create a whole new experience of fandom.  Down the line this leads to things like VidCon and other meet ups where fans can meet the creators.

Creators of web content are more accessible to what’s starting to be called Generation C (“C” stands for community).  While sometimes described by year, Generation C is defined more by their way of interacting with each other online.  Generation C is made possible by YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.  The platforms they use to stay connect to each other across city, state, country, continents, and oceans have shaped their existence and these habits are being cemented into popular culture.  Get ready, because it’s not going away.

Are you a member of Generation C?  What type of media gets your eyeballs?

House of Cards

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I finally finished watching House of Cards.  Late to the party?  Perhaps, but the party’s still going, so I don’t mind.  Well done in some of the most brilliant ways, I’m not even sure where to begin with this show.  Is it even a TV show?  Where did this magic come from?

House of Cards is a Netflix-only show that was released all at once to stream on Netflix.  Thirteen episodes of gorgeous, scandalous political anarchy, that Kevin Spacey talks us through step by step.  I’ve described it to friends as The West Wing with Hamlet’s soliloquies and more sex (I’ve noticed as I grow up a lot of things can be described as [blank] with more sex).

Since they released all of season one at once the format gives way to easily slipping into spoiler territory.  The format vs. content thing has actually been a bit of a point of frustration for me.  We keep getting distracted by the format when I want to talk about the content.  It annoys me, so I’m going to go ahead and talk about the content of the show as much as the format.  You’ve been warned.

The format vs. content discussion usually leads to the binge watching discussion, which is actually a very short discussion.  Either you binge watch or you don’t.  I don’t.  Though I see the appeal.  Each episode of this show leads beautifully into the next.  When you finish one the only thing you want to do is click through and continue to be consumed in this world.

The show is visually stunning from the opening shots of Washington to the angles and movements.  They show visually how the characters grow and how relationships between them change.  This is visual story-telling at it’s absolute best.  Personally, I love when they show text messages on screen (They have a similar style in Sherlock).

The world of House of Cards is full of shady deals and misplaced trust.  Honestly, the shifty morals going on here make me more than an little scared of Washington. Is this how candidates are chosen?  Is this actually the way things work?  I hope not.  But outside of reality, it makes for pretty fantastic television (internet-vision?).

In fact, the shifty morals and under the table deals are what makes this show feel so real.  Haven’t we all been in situations where we think it would be easier to make a deal and let something slide than face the actual consequences of our decisions and the decisions of others?  No?  Just me?  Well then…

Bottom line is that every character on this show is trying to play their hand to their advantage.  And seeing the board shift as each one makes their move is fascinating.  No one has a bad hand, but sometimes the cards don’t intermingle nicely.

They have signed on for season 2 and I couldn’t be more entranced.  Have you seen House of Cards?  What do you think?

Angel the Series: The Team, The Villains, and The In-Betweens

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As I did with Buffy last summer, I’m taking some time to analyse it’s sibling, Angel.  Angel is a completely separate beast to Buffy (in more ways than one).  It is oft-times darker and more sinister, but also arguably more diverse in a multitude of ways.  My adoration for the Buffy-verse starts here, with my Buffy series last summer and continues with Angel.  Other topics covered on Angel: Beginning.

The general cast of characters on Angel changed drastically over the course of the series.  From the pilot (“City of”) to the final battle (“Not Fade Away” and beyond), literally the only character who is “consistent” is Angel.  And even our vampric hero sways from good to evil from time to time.

The Team

A rotating cast of characters composes the team of Angel Investigations.  Brains or brawn, the team is full of fantastic complexities.  Weather it be an individual’s own questions or the interpersonal relationships of the group causing problems, the focus of the monster of the week is only one part of this show.

The Villains

Unlike Buffy’s Big Bad’s, Angel was much more episodic with larger story archs tending more towards characters and relationships than evil villains.  When a season neared it’s end was the time when a version of a big bad would appear.  Perhaps we had seem him or her before, perhaps not.  Sometimes the end of season villain was born of the character and relational problems that had arched through the season.  In one case quite literally.

The only arguable, consistent big bad of the show was Wolfram and Hart.  And in the final season even that was up for consideration.  The evil law firm had multiple agents working for them, but many of those agents fit better into a category I call…

The In-Betweens

An in-between is a character who either works or has worked both for an against Angel Investigations.  Some of these are characters who we recognize from the larger Buffy-verse.  Spike, Harmony, Darla and Drusilla, all of whom play large roles in various seasons or plot lines.  Character’s whose allegiance we know or don’t know, but is perhaps ever changing.

Others are more ambiguous.  Lindsey, Lilah, Conner, and Illyria all fall into this category.  They’re evil, but they’ll play on our team when it suits them.  Or, they should be loyal, but are having trouble figuring out which side to believe in.  Or when they don’t know where else to turn.  Wesley circa season three and four also falls into this category, though more for being shut out than for his own indecision.

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These are some of my favorite themes in the show.  These characters are such examples of the gray areas in life.  They are uncertain of where to go, who to trust, just as we often are.  As the viewer we can see what they “should” do.  The “right thing”, but their choices, as ours are in real life, are so much harder for them.

What is your favorite character from Angel?  What category do they fall into?

Why Fringe was so Revolutionary, Thoughts on the Series Finale

I have already tried to get you to watch Fringe.  And considering that it’s series finale was last week, at exactly 100 episodes, it’s a bit late to convert you.  But I did want to share some of my thoughts on the series and my sentimentality over it ending.

The world of Fringe is full of alternate universes and time and memories being erased.  They move quickly from your typical freak of the week procedural, into a place where there are tons of questions to ponder with each new episode.  As a viewer

Fringe (TV series)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I learned quickly to never trust what I was seeing, questioning every thing from characters motives to if they really were who they claimed.

The multiple universes and realities let the cast show off their versatility as each actor or actress played two or three different versions of their characters.  Olivia, Fauxlivia, and WilliamBell!Olivia.  Peter and Observer!Peter.  Walter and Walternate.  Even when the character itself didn’t change, what the characters remembered was sometimes different from what the audience saw, and the actors all played it beautifully.

From the finale the show’s message is clear: love of family wins over all hate.  Seeing it shine so clearly in the show’s final moments brings to memory all kinds of moments in the series that have pointed to that message.  Family is what brought them together.  Love is what kept them together through everything.

Saying goodbye to Fringe is a sad moment for me.  Countless hours have been spent watching and discussing it, and I’m sure will continue to be spent on watching and re-watching old episodes.  Fringe was one of the Sci-Fi greats and it will be missed.

Whedon Wednesday: Eulogy for Penny

So, whatever happened to Whedon Wednesday?  Well, in short it sort of got away from us.  Whedon Wednesday is a tribute to the many Joss Whedon characters who have died over the years.  A combined effort with Laura, Megg, and Elspeth, Whedon Wednesday is a series of Eulogies morning the loss of these characters who died in fiction.  See also: ArchiveIntroduction.

In light of last week’s tragedy (and yesterday’s post) it seems fitting to end this series today.  A goodbye to a series of goodbyes.  They will always be alive in our hearts.

The only way out is up.  But Penny never wanted out.  Penny’s death was a tragedy in two parts.  Part one being her unseen impact on the city and the work that Caring Hands was doing here.  Part two being the loss of a beautiful, heartfelt soul.

Penny kept to herself.  Very few got to know her well, and in light of recent knowledge I am sad to know that she was taken out by a friend.  I don’t know why her friend Billy decided to kill Penny.  I don’t know what happened for him to become Dr. Horrible, but this knowledge only adds to the questions that we cannot answer.

I don’t know what happened leading up to that day.  What I do know is what I’m going to do now.  The world is not ending   Not yet.  And though it may come to be even darker yet, I am proud to say that I will continue to open my hands and my heart to all those who are still in need.  She would have wanted it that way.

Whedon Wednesday: Eulogy for William the Bloody

Whedon Wednesday is a tribute to the many Joss Whedon characters who have died over the years.  A combined effort with Laura, Megg, and Elspeth, Whedon Wednesday is a series of Eulogies morning the loss of these characters who died in fiction, but will never die in our hearts.  Archive.  Introduction.

It sometimes feels that Spike has been around for an eternity.  In some ways he has been.  William the Bloody, the vampire we now know as Spike, was born in 1860, but he entered our lives comparability recently.  Despite his vampire demenor and his brash manner he was embraced immediately.  Metephrically speaking that is.  Anyone who would have tried to come near him at the time likely would have been bitten.  At first glance, an interesting villain, but no more than the next big bad.  Over time, Spike turned into so much more than a nemesis; becoming an ally, a friend, and a lover.

From this love and respect that was shared, Spike grew more than some would have ever thought possible.  From this simple villain emerged, slowly but surely, what could arguably be called a man, and a kind one at that.  What always amazes me about Spike is how he gradually became a rock that all the Scoobies relied on, weather they were willing to admit it or not.

William the Bloody has been known for many things; poetry, violence and bloodlust the most.  Around here, Spike has come to be known for his courage and caring.

His courage is what brings us here today, in the wake of the Battle of Sunnydale, to this space; to these words.  Spike had the courage of a champion and he died as one.  A death that gave those of us alive today the chance to be here.