Em and Stu do America part 15: Cascadia, home of The Goonies, Twin Peaks and The Shining

Reading time: 5 minutes

Cascadia. As magical as it sounds. This region of loosely defined boundaries, otherwise known as ‘the northwest’, has inspired generations of filmmakers with its endless vistas of mist-shrouded pine forests, its jagged, wild coastlines and the chilling remoteness of its snowcapped mountain ranges.

The drive to Twin Peaks locations: you really could not ask for more atmosphere than this.

The drive to Twin Peaks locations: you really could not ask for more atmosphere than this.

Our national parks tour was drawing to a close, time growing short and the weather dropping below freezing. But we couldn’t leave Colorado without a visit to Estes Park: home of The Stanley Hotel. This grand old hotel fired up the imagination of Stephen King when he and his wife were its only guests one night, and The Shining, one of the world’s most famous horror stories, was born.

There was a Halloween masked ball on while we visited - that just seems like flirting with danger to me!

Was a Halloween masked ball on while we visited – seems like tempting fate to me…

Stanley Kubrick, however, chose the Timberline Lodge in Oregon to film at in his adaptation, one famously disliked by King (also disliked, less famously, by me). That version, which departed radically from the text of a complex and emotionally truthful novel, prompted King to write the teleplay for another version, a three-part miniseries. This version is lesser-known and hard to find (we bought it here). But it is excellent and worth tracking down, and was filmed at the Stanley, showing off its creepy beauty to full extent. So imagine how excited we were to visit!

Next on the Nerds’ Tour of Cascadia comes Twin Peaks locations! The real home of Twin Peaks is the Snoqualmie Valley in Washington state, but budget travellers should note it’s more affordable to stay in Cle Elum, about an hour’s drive out. The drive was laden with atmosphere – mists, snowy pine forests, fall colour, rain – but the downside was that fog and cloud were obscuring the Twin Peaks themselves. Not to worry – we had a bunch of locations to visit that day…

The bridge Ronette walks over, injured and traumatised, in the unforgettable opening scenes of Twin Peaks.

The bridge Ronette walks over, injured and traumatised, in the unforgettable opening scenes of Twin Peaks, episode 1.

It’s the Sheriff’s station! Now a driving school.

They keep the Twin Peaks car out the front of the driving school!

The Double R Diner, which is Twede’s Cafe IRL. Interior is virtually identical to the show, which is really cool, and en route to the restrooms is a wall full of cool filming photos and news clippings. Very worth the visit, but unfortunately Coop was being a little overgenerous in his estimation of the cherry pie. Order coffee and feast your eyes on the decor.

These were all awesome, and there are more locations you can visit as well, but the highlight was definitely Snoqualmie Falls, which features in the series’ opening credits. They are overlooked by the Salish Lodge and Spa, which in the series is the Great Northern Hotel, and in real life has a restaurant not only with this incredible view but also excellent food. Not cheap, but totally worth it; if you’re on a day trip and tossing up between lunch at Twede’s and here, choose the Lodge.

The iconic Snoqualmie Falls, with Salish Lodge visible at the top.

The iconic Snoqualmie Falls, with Salish Lodge visible at the top.

The valley was breathtaking, ablaze with fall colour, but we had to move on; we had a date with Stu’s parents in Vancouver and so we drove straight there, skipping Seattle (I know! Next time, Seattle!)

After a relaxing few days off from our breakneck pace we drove south again from Vancouver – and only later discovered there was a new Twin Peaks-themed bar in Vancouver called The Black Lodge. Damn it! In order to make it down the coast on schedule, we were, unfortunately, also obliged to blow off Portland (I know! Next time!)

Effective sightseeing requires careful preparation.

Effective sightseeing requires careful preparation.

No matter – nothing can dampen the excitement of a pilgrimage to the home of my most favouritest movie in all the world, The Goonies. For those unforgivably ignorant, Steven Spielberg’s 1985  cult classic follows the story of the Goonies – a lovable bunch of nerd kids – who search for pirate treasure in an effort to save their homes in Astoria from foreclosure. The excitement began immediately, as the bridge we drove over into Astoria is the one seen in the distance from Mikey’s house, in the opening scenes.

LOOKITS THE BRIDGE.

LOOK IT’S THE BRIDGE.

Foggy and rainy, the weather was perfect for atmosphere, the movie having reportedly been filmed in the fall to capture the kids’ sombre moods at the prospect of losing their homes. Astoria turned out unexpectedly beautiful, a misty fishing town of pretty Victorian homes snuggled into hillsides, a working fishing pier and lots of nice restaurants and little shops for tourists – the economy pretty much runs off Goonies tourism, as far as I can tell.

They don't like people snooping up close, but you can see Mikey and Brand's house up on the hill.

The owners understandably don’t like people snooping up close, but you can see Mikey and Brand’s house up on the hill.

We prepped with a screening the night before (sorry, Stu) and in the morning set off for a full day of Goonies location visits…

 

The former jail where the opening scene of The Goonies was shot, is now the Oregon Film Museum. It's ostensibly devoted to all the hundreds of films made in Oregon (including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Stand By Me, Point Break, Free Willy, Batman Forever, The Ring, Into the Wild) but really it's an ode to all things Goonies.

The former jail where the opening scene of The Goonies was shot, is now the Oregon Film Museum. It’s ostensibly devoted to all the hundreds of films made in Oregon (including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Stand By Me, Point Break, Free Willy, Batman Forever, The Ring, Into the Wild) but really it’s an ode to all things Goonies.

Bit excited.

Bit excited.

Inside!

Inside!

 

Lol. I had to include this.

Lol. I had to include this.

The working fishing pier from the opening credits of The Goonies, where Stef helps her dad sort crabs, and Data ends up falling into a garbage can while testing his latest invention.

The bowling alley, scene of Chunk’s first line over spilled milkshake: “Ah, shit!”

The museum where Mikey’s dad, hard at work, waves to the kids as they set off.

We also visited Mouth’s house and the store Rosalita exits in the opening credits, now a cute cafe and gift store. But the most exciting part of our tour was the next day, as we drove south out of Astoria. Thirty miles south lie Cannon Beach, where the car chase was filmed, and Ecola State Park, where the kids bike to the restaurant that marks the entrance to the underground tunnels where the rest of the movie is filmed.

“The lighthouse, the rock, and the restaurant all fit the doubloon!” We couldn’t get to the angle where Mikey shows us this, because the cliffs are unstable and roped off, but you can see the lighthouse behind me in the distance!

The drive to Indian Point, Ecola State Park, where evil Troy chucks Brand off his bike.

OMG! Look! It’s exactly matching the movie! I’m such a Goonie I actually shed a few happy tears.

I knew it would be awesome. I just never understood how beautiful it would be!

Haystack Rock. This is where the car chase was filmed.

I hated to leave Astoria. At this point I felt like I could happily live there, even though the nice checkout lady at Safeway told me it’s not unusual for it to rain for 180 days in a row. But we had to go, and I was comforted by the fact that Oregon’s entire coastline looks like this: wild, windy and majestic. I drank my fill as we drove hundreds of miles south towards California, its redwood forests and its iconic Pacific Coastal Highway.

StuMobservation: Cascadia

  • I am going to be so annoying to watch TV/movies with now. #beenthere

What we’re reading
Both of us:
Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey; The Midnight Line and No Middle Name, Lee Child; A World Without Princes and The Last Ever After, Soman Chainani; Behind Closed Doors, A. B. Paris
Em: The Big Nowhere and White Jazz, James Ellroy; Incurable and Circle of Flight, John Marsden (Ellie chronicles, follows the Tomorrow series); They Found Him Dead, Georgette Heyer; The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson; The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton; DIY Super for Dummies, Trish Power; A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle; Unshakeable, Tony Robbins
Stu: Tears of Requiem, Daniel Arenson

What we’re watching
Stephen King’s The Shining, The Walking Dead S8, Rick and Morty S3, Master of None S2, Aziz Ansari’s latest standup special; and movie prep for LA! Clueless, Sunset Boulevard. 

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Seven TV shows I abandoned in 2016

This list is riddled with spoilers, but they’re all very old news, so you should be all right.
It's not you, House of Cards. It's me.

It’s not you, House of Cards. It’s me.

There’s something about my life these days that makes me battle to become absorbed in a TV show, and so fickle I’m ready to quit at a moment’s notice.
The Ministry reckons it’s not the shows, but that I’m changing – probably valuing my time more highly. I was maybe more excited about other things in my life than about TV shows in 2016, making it harder to sit still for anything longer than 20 minutes… and boy, is it hard for find a decent 20-minute show these days.
So maybe the below shows deserved my neglect and eventual abandonment, maybe not. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else fell out of love at the same points or for the same reasons.
The Good Wife 
We quit late season five, after the certain shocking event I will not mention here even given my spoiler warning, just in case you decide to begin and finish this show based on my review, because I had it spoiled for me (oh God, the pain). I adored this show in its first few seasons, a fantastic drama with a compelling lead actress, beguiling premise, dramatic overarching storyline and also excellent episodic legal procedural plots. By season 5 the Ministry and I had started to go off it, thinking the plot lines were coming off the boil, and I grew miserable about the demise of the Will-Alicia relationship. I think the tension of that relationship was a major driver for the series, so when they were over, it lost magic for me. I somehow tolerate it less and less these days when shows make me miserable. Then The Event happened and I got way more miserable. I made it through maybe one or two more episodes and just couldn’t face any more.
I’d still heartily recommend starting the series. But I couldn’t finish it.
Game of Thrones 
Oh, be quiet, it’s not that shocking. See previous notes about things making me sad. Early GoT was so funny, sexy, sharp – and emotionally, it grabbed you by the throat. But by season five I was no longer being amused and titillated and amazed as I was early on. I was damned sick of being emotionally grabbed by the throat. Scenes got nastier and nastier. I felt like the show was in a race to the bottom of how awful and depressing shows could get. Then someone burned a nine-year-old to death at the stake. Then a sad princess got raped onscreen. Again, I started wanting out. I love gratuitous on-screen violence as much as the next man, but this was no longer enjoyable. I felt like I needed to knock back a scotch and clench a length of rope between my teeth just to get through an episode. The quality of the surrounding storylines and character development didn’t feel as though it was worth watching all this horror.
The Ministry watched season six without me, though he pretty much related in detail everything that happened in every episode. The final couple of episodes he watched, then insisted on showing me highlights reels, fast-forwarding the boring bits. I will concede the closing episodes looked pretty badass, and the Ministry says the makers have decided on fewer episodes for season seven, with higher budgets and a laser focus on quality (and I hear maybe some revenge for poor ole Sansa). So my attempt to quit this show might weaken when season seven comes out.
Breaking Bad
I know. Everybody just loved Breaking Bad. Mums, dads, probably sweet little old grannies, meditation teachers, everyone. For a while it was the name on everyone’s lips. I’d tried to watch it when it first came out and gave up at season two. This time, I tried again, and I only made it up to perhaps early season three. I knew it was supposed to have this amazing build and then a jaw-dropping finale, but again, this show just felt like it was no fun for me. I just felt depressed by it. Bryan Cranston is fantastic in the role. It’s got tension, humour, comedy and style in spades. I wanted to push through the horror of the end of season two, but it just felt too bleak for me.
Orange is the New Black was hilarious, edgy and original - made for binge watching. And one day, the binge was over.

Orange is the New Black was hilarious, edgy and original – made for binge watching. And one day, the binge was over.

House of Cards
I guess we’re starting to see a pattern. Another brilliant show that I just felt too dirty after watching to go on with season three. A brilliant first couple of seasons, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to keep going. I’m a sap, OK? I’d hoped for redemption for Doug. I didn’t get it. I got sad again. I’ve heard the new seasons are amazing. Yes, there’s definitely a pattern beginning here. It’s not you, TV. It’s me.
Girls
The Ministry reminded me I’d abandoned this one, surprising me somewhat, because unlike the others, I didn’t so much quit Girls as much as forget to keep watching it. I would forget, then remember and go back, then my interest would flicker and die again. I’ve Googled, and I believe I last forgot to keep watching around season four episode seven.
I related to it so hard at first (well, the me of 10 years ago who still lives on inside related to it) but the cringe factor frequently outweighs the awesome for me. However, it remains incredibly frank and perceptive about the experience of being a young woman – I kind of think men should be made to watch this for educational purposes – and manages to be likeable despite its characters being anything but. I’ve got a vague intention of restarting, this show, but it’s very vague. And I think the Ministry is hoping his education is complete.
Suits
This was a little different to the others in that I never loved this, and conked out in less than a season. I just couldn’t quite seem to work up any care factor. I don’t think it had the necessary style or swagger, though its attempts were obvious. We only made it through less than a season, so I haven’t given it much of a chance, but what the hell – life’s too short to watch TV shows that bore you. I don’t think I’d recommend this show to anyone. Even if they were terribly bored.
It should have been written by Aaron Sorkin. Then it would have been better.
Orange is the new Black 
This was a bloody fantastic show. The first two seasons I loved. In fact, this show and The Good Wife were the only ones in the list that prompted me to binge-watch. But I think I just felt that by the end of season two, neither the Ministry nor I were that interested in new storylines going forward, and we made a mutual decision to quit. We just felt like we’d had the best of what the show has to offer. I could be wrong. But I don’t think I am. It was a good time, but not a long time.
I look forward to quitting many more shows in 2017.
But lest you think I’m just impossible to please, I’ll be back soon with a list of shows I did NOT quit in 2016.

Down the rabbit hole with: Jane Austen

One of my favourite things about the world of books and movies is the way they lead you around by the nose, back and forth between them.

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An author, genre or entire series can form a rabbit hole, some I emerge from in a matter of weeks, others forming a whole warren that can take years to traverse, interconnecting with other related authors, genres and series. I fell into a warren of Stephen King books and adaptations about five years ago I’m yet to clamber out of, blinking. It doesn’t help that he is master of the cross-reference, meaning new works constantly lead you to back catalogue. Nice sales tactic, King!  

My most recent rabbit hole, literary biographies, saw me off crashing down side route after side route, and I have emerged from one as convert to the cult of known as Janeites.

Three literary biographies survived 2016’s Minimalist Challenge and 2015s Curing of a Bibliomaniac. My experience over the past year writing my own first novel has led me to poke with increasingly greedy interest into the lives of the authors I most admire.

So I devoured A. N. Wilson on the life of C. S. Lewis, Peter Ackroyd on Charles Dickens and my beloved Carol Shields on Jane Austen with gluttonous pleasure, wondering how did they write even one book, which bitter experience now informs me is a gruesome, impossible task?

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Deserves its own post. A standout biography.

All these were outstanding and made me determined to fill in the blanks of my reading and to re-read favourites. Starting with the blanks, I’m two-thirds through Oliver Twist and have now read Lewis’ sci-fi novel trilogy. Yes, he wrote space books! (They are a bit heavy. Strictly for extreme Lewis or sci-fi nerds).

Knowing the depth of the rabbit hole Lewis’ non-fiction list represents, and ditto for re-reading the entire Dickens canon, I tackled Austen first, since she was the only  one I’d never read at all. 

Another profoundly affecting book.

Another profoundly affecting book.

The story of her life – and untimely death – moved me and captured my imagination. Lewis and Dickens, while they certainly struggled, at least were born men. All the world wanted from Jane Austen was for her to get married and procreate, but with the encouragement of a lovely Dad she forged her own path, sometimes a lonely and difficult one, and in doing so gave the world gifts it still treasures.

And all to be struck down in her prime. This author who had suddenly hit national fame with just a few works of brilliant insight was struck with sudden illness and wasted quickly to a death at about 40 years old, without so much as a diagnosis. They now think it was perhaps breast cancer, the Shields biography explained.  

It’s hard for a modern soul to comprehend how such a woman, famous, beloved and blessed with a rare genius just flowering, not to mention committed to succeeding despite some serious odds, could simply be permitted to expire without any fanfare or medicine or even a knowledge of why she was dying. And yet this is what happened to Jane Austen, who was denied life and whose further works were hence denied to humanity. 

Struck by these ideas and by the social constraints that inspired Austen as much as they confined her, I picked up a giant omnibus and worked my way delightedly through Sense and Sensibility, then Pride and Prejudice. I found their intelligence and wit, their painstaking evocation of a world complete in and of itself, as utterly worthy of inclusion on any required reading list of English literature – and a damn sight more enjoyable than many other books on said list.

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A very large book.

I stopped here, however, having failed to get through the omnibus in six weeks, but now dying to see it all recreated on screen. I had a stab at Mansfield Park, on Netflix, which utterly failed to hold my interest, then turned to the BBC Pride and Prejudice.

This is in itself required viewing, as Bridget Jones’ dedication to Mr Darcy in a wet white shirt shows, and hits the jackpot. Glorious escapism and a near faultless adaptation, with excellent scripting, casting and story transmission. It even preserved the essential humour. The Ministry, who I was by episode three confident enough to drag into it, turned to me and said, “Is this supposed to be a comedy?” “Yes!” I replied, joyfully.

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My cheat sheet to get the Ministery up to speed on the plot of Pride and Prejudice.

Next we debated Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I don’t want to go there. It might ruin my pleasure in the BBC series. It got 5.8 on IMDB, encouraging for a zombie movie, but all things considered it’s low priority. After all, there is The Walking Dead to provide zombies as required when the interminable mid-season break ends. 

Next I’ll probably read Emma, then re-watch the film for 90s nostalgia purposes. I’ve discovered the Ministry hasn’t seen it; terribly remiss, since his only reason is an irrational fear of Gwyneth Paltrow. He hasn’t seen Sliding Doors, either, so we’ve clearly got some remedial work to do these holidays.

Then maybe I’ll hunt out a good screen adaptation of Oliver Twist.

See what I mean?  The rabbit hole is a delightful place to be. It’s amazing I ever come up for air.



 

 

Suspend your disbelief for new Netflix doco, Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru

Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru

Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru

Every year 2500 people from 71 countries come to Tony Robbins’ Date With Destiny seminar in Florida.

The word seminar seems a little inadequate. It’s $5000 a ticket for six 12-hour days in which Robbins speaks and performs ‘interventions’ for audience members. Attendees also attend intensive group therapy  sessions to confront their demons, build relationships and eventually create strategies to take their ‘breakthroughs’ into the future.

Robbins was someone I had previously thought of as a fat old white dude who writes self help books for a living, but turns out to be a relatively young, foul-mouthed and funny behemoth of a man who looks like Jack Reacher and burns with an almost evangelical passion to help people, a passion that arose from the ashes of a troubled childhood.

His brand of ‘intervention’ is a technique he calls ‘practical psychology’, a unique blend of performance and personal connection in which people (like deer in headlights) tell him darkets secrets in front of a crowd of thousands. He doesn’t know the outcome of these conversations at the outset, but under the pressure of the spotlight he questions them closely, pays close attention to body language and every time, leads them to catharsis, usually using a heady blend of humour and tough love.

Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru. Photo credit: Courtesy of Third Eye Motion Picture Company/Netflix

Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru. Photo credit: Courtesy of Third Eye Motion Picture Company/Netflix

This sounds terribly weird, even grotesque, but it’s fascinating. His huge team of staff (the coordination  of this event is a wonder in itself) who run the groups identify from extensive questionnaires the ‘red flags’, or most damaged attendees, those at risk of self-harm or worse, and keep a close eye on them, as does Robbins himself, throughout the process.

I’m a noted sook, but I defy you not to cry at seeing people, who in some cases have faced unimaginable trauma, finding hope in a place they thought of as a last chance at life. It’s also an insight into a man who the phrase ‘larger than life’ was probably written for.

This is the first time in the event’s 25-year history that Robbins has let media in and the result is this remarkable documentary by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, the Paradise Lost triology).

Robbins said in a recent long-form podcast interview (worth a look itself) that after the premiere he got a letter from Michael Moore, telling him that watching it left him both a better man and a better filmmaker.

Suspend your disbelief and check it out – at the very least, it’s grand spectacle, but for many it’s redemption.

Have you seen Stranger Things?

ST_ILLUSTRATED_ANZThis new Netflix miniseries is like the love child of Stephen King and Stephen Spielberg, living life to a soundtrack by Daft Punk, but confusingly, none of those entities have actually been involved.

It’s made by Matt and Ross Duffer, who are my new favourite people even though I had never heard of them before. It’s got American kids riding around on bikes, it’s got other kids with secret mind powers. It’s got animatronic aliens, Winona Ryder doing a bang-up job as a crazy mum, a smart smalltown cop, the best theme (sounds a lot like the soundtrack for the new(er) Tron movie) and an amazing 1980s soundtrack.

It’s Freaks and Geeks meets E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial meets Firestarter meets Aliens meets The Goonies. You won’t believe this wasn’t actually made in the 80s, so strongly will it transport you.

If you’re not curious by now, there’s no hope for you. I’m up to episode five and it makes me too excited to sleep.

Turbo Blog

  • The Sending: The Obernewtyn Chronicles, Book 6 (Isobelle Carmody, 2011)

I might have to read this again from the beginning before the last and final book in the Obernewtyn series comes out. I just dont think I can wait long enough for my appetite for this series to be sated. I think I got the first book in the series nearly 20 years ago, and it speaks volumes about the quality of the writing and the plots that I enjoy it as much, if not more, now.
Of course the books have gotten bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and could now double as weapons, or crook-stoppers, as the Ministry calls them.
I confidently predict that even those who don’t get into fantasy would love this epic post-apocalyptic series.

  •  Gabriel Iglesias’ Stand-Up Revolution (Astor Theatre, October 14, 2012)

Phwoar. This guy is not the world’s most You-Tubed comedian for nothing. If you do nothing else today, Google Fluffy and be prepared to laugh your ass off.
This show was more like a rock concert than a stand-up gig – Fluffy’s support acts were awesome, and then the main act, the lovably obese Latino himself, ran nearly an hour over. He ended up talking until his on-stage “reminder” clock ran out at 99 minutes, at which point he giggled and happily pulled its plug out.
Then, and only then, did he stop with the brand-new material and obligingly do all the fans’ most beloved routines, which they deafeningly requested then nearly sang along with everypunchline.
It was a powerful, positive, bizarrely touching event to be a part of, and I laughed until I nearly passed out.

  • Dark Shadow (2012)

Tim Burton’s latest (I think) offering would surely be a deep disappointment to any fan of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands or The Nightmare Before Christmas. Noticeably lacking the dark, disturbing quality of his earlier work (even his relatively recent work, like Willy Wonka), the movie is stylish but shallow.
It’s not stylish enough to be watchable purely as eye candy, and it’s too shallow to be enjoyed even as B-grade fluff. Johnny Depp is peculiarly lacklustre, and even his visual gags about being an ancient vampire struggling to understand a modern-day society are barely enough to raise a snicker.
The villain is so two-dimensional and lazily thought-out she is ridiculous, without any feelings or motivations except a deeply irrational desire to be loved despite being a murderous witch.
Only bother watching this if you are so hungover you can’t get off the couch and change it to something else.

Misfits (2009)

I know I’m about a thousand years behind the rest of the world (yes, a THOUSAND), but hey, whatever.

After another berserk week, I have just enough energy to quickly tell everyone that they should stop what they are doing to binge-watch Misfits.

This TV series is laugh-out-loud funny and the plot, though random, is cool enough to keep you caring (in the opposite way to how the plot of the latest season of True Blood is random enough to stop you caring).

A freak storm gives a bunch of twenty-something reprobates on community service orders a bunch of superhero powers, and they have to figure out basic life skills such as how to control their powers, how to keep them hidden, how to hide a rotting corpse… the usual.

As well as developing powers, the characters actually develop as people.

Amazing!

Tried both this show and Sons of Anarchy recently, as instructed by numerous people, and Sons of Anarchy was good, but a little ugly and depressing for what I’m after right now.

At the moment, I want lighthearted, funny and sexy as well as unpredictable, but I don’t want it to be dumb.

I still want it to be awesome and have good dialogue, and Misfits has this in spades.