Slowly saving the world with Paw Patrol

Having two nieces and a nephew means that I am very well versed in children’s television programs. Personally, my niece is more of a Bubble Guppies fan, but I’ve heard that Paw Patrol is all the rage, so I decided to check it out for this week’s instalment of TV Tuttle.

Children’s television isn’t so much about logic as it is about imagination.  Parents sometimes get upset over what’s depicted in children’s TV shows, but I think James Baldock says it best: “kids learn from what they see, but they’re not as stupid as many adults give them credit for.”

Here’s what happens in the first half of Pup Pup Boogie (S1:E2):

  • The pups play a video game called Pup Pup Boogie (which is like Dance, Dance Revolution, but way slower.)
  • A set of train tracks breaks and it’s up to the pups to fix it in time for the world’s slowest train to not derail and make for the saddest children’s show episode ever.
  • Each dog harnesses the power of a different public service employee (firefighter, police officer or construction worker) to save the day and fix the tracks!

A post shared by Marcus Tuttle (@marcustut) on

Here’s my niece Sophie, who helped me make a much more interesting prediction for Paw Patrol this week: 

  • A princess, a robot, bubbles and a ballerina with blue hair will appear.

What actually happened: Using the magic of randomly pushing buttons until something works, a dog that has never operated a bulldozer before somehow manages to successfully fix the train tracks.

What I thought would happen: the dogs would celebrate their train track victory around a campfire. Nope! They all fall asleep early under the stars, actually.

Another episode within the episode starts, which tells the story of an ill-equipped cruise ship that will crash into a coastal city if a bunch of dogs don’t break into a lighthouse on time.

Photo by Kevin Unger
How I felt while watching Paw Patrol

But mostly, Paw Patrol left me with a lot of questions, like:

  • Why are these dogs getting their video game delivered by train?
  • Why does the city entrust dogs with all its major problems?
  • How did they run into a walrus while crossing the lake? Why do walruses eat dog treats?

Overall, I’d rate Paw Patrol 2/5 walrus treats.

Pausing for effect in Netflix’s House of Cards

For some reason, I decided that watching House of Cards would be a great way to escape the horrifying news cycle we’re in.  Oh, 2017!

Netflix's House of Cards
Source: House of Cards Facebook

House of Cards, like Breaking Bad or Mad Men, tells the story of an anti-hero, which is someone who “lives in a universe with a much more cynical [and] ambiguous moral code.”  Pretty much the complete opposite of Captain America or Superman.

More specifically, Frank Underwood is an unscrupulous anti-hero.  He justifies his dubious actions by pointing to the more sinister behaviour of people surrounding him.  He’s bad with a purpose.

Here’s what happened in the first half of the pilot:

  • Frank Underwood finds a dog that has recently been hit by a car and, in a chilling moment, he kills the dog to put it out of its “useless pain.”
  • Frank doesn’t get the coveted Secretary of State role he was promised, but that’s no problem because him and his wife Claire plot their revenge by breaking expensive-looking glass, staying up all night and speaking in dulcet tones.
  • Frank agrees to help the incoming Secretary of Education draft a comprehensive education reform bill within the first 100 days.
TV Tuttle in Washington
I went to Washington once. Fortunately, my experience wasn’t like anything on House of Cards.

Here are my predictions:

  • Frank kills the guy that was going to be Secretary of State – FALSE. Seeing Frank enter the theatre and play a first-person shooter game gave me some serious Abe Lincoln vibes.  I guess he’s not that bad.
  • Claire starts a corrupt business dealing that hurts people in need– NOT YET. However, she does approve a measure that would mean firing half of the staff at her charity.  Seems kind of shady.
  • Nicholas Cage pops in and steals the declaration of independence – FALSE. But a guy can dream, right?
  • Things I did predict accurately: Zoey gets leverage over Frank; Frank blackmails a fellow congress person (Peter).

House of Cards is definitely the most interesting show I’ve watched so far for this blog.  Can’t wait to see how the rest of the show turns out!

TV Tuttle rates House of Cards 4.5/5 vengeful racks of ribs.

House of Cards rating: 4.5/5 vengeful racks of ribs

Story Structure 101

These last few weeks on TV Tuttle have been filled with vampires, stolen motel doors and dramatically divvied out roses.  This week, I’d like to pause and go through the elements of a great story.

Story by Robert McKee
Robert McKee’s iconic book, Story, is widely read by many professional and aspiring writers.

My knowledge of story writing is heavily influenced by Robert McKee’s iconic book, Story, in which he outlines the following essential elements for a good story:

A main character or protagonist.  This person or group is the reason why there’s a story in the first place.

  • Every character has two things: an inner need (e.g. a need to be accepted or feel in control) and an outer desire (e.g. get elected to office or win a gold medal).
  • The main character’s desires move the narrative forward and are the basis for all their decisions.
  • The most interesting characters are those whose inner need and outer need conflict with each other (think about Marlin’s outer desire to find Nemo compared with his crippling fear of travelling across the ocean).

Conflict.  It wouldn’t be interesting if the main character got everything they wanted; that doesn’t make for a compelling story.

  • The need for conflict is why every story will also have an antagonist or villain.  The antagonist – or even, forces of antagonism (e.g. an oppressive law) – opposes the protagonist in every way (e.g. Spiderman & the Green Goblin).

Here’s a visual look at story structure and what it means:

Story Structure

  • Status Quo = the situation before the story begins.
  • Inciting Incident = what sets the protagonist on their journey.
  • Crisis = the ‘point of no return’.  Things won’t be the same for the main character after this point.
  • Climax = ‘the hero risks it all’.  The protagonist puts everything on the line to try and get the thing they want most.  They will either be very successful (comedy) or crash and burn (tragedy).
  • Falling Action = what happens after the climax.  This is the part where the story’s loose ends start to wrap up and set the path for a new status quo.
  • New Status Quo = what the world is like now that the protagonist has gone through this incredible story journey.

What do you think I should watch next week on TV Tuttle?

Divvying out roses with The Bachelor

I’ve never felt inclined to date competitively on live television, but in the spirit of Valentines Day (or Anna Howard Shaw Day, if you’re a 30 Rock fan) I decided to check out one of TV’s longest running reality shows, The Bachelor (known by its alternate title: It’s Trash, But I Love It).

TV Tuttle: The Bachelor
TV Tuttle here trying to be Bachelor-ly

Pretty much every reality show incorporates the following ingredients: high stakes, high pressure decisions with no time to think, constant jeopardy and soap opera-level melodrama.

The Bachelor
Source: ABC The Bachelor Facebook

Here’s what happened in the first half of S21:E6: drama follows Corinne (or maybe it’s the other way around), Nick gallivants with beautiful women in St. Thomas, and alcohol ruins a perfectly boring game of volleyball.

Let’s jump into the predictions, shall we?

  • Corinne stays on the show—she must; she’s a dream for the producers – TRUE. But for the love of all things good, don’t ask her to compare gold or platinum.
  • Jasmine scares Nick and goes home – TRUE. Jasmine, please refrain from cracking jokes about how much you want to choke Nick.  Thank you.
  • Daniella outlasts Whitney on the 2-on-1 date – TRUE (WITH A TWIST).  Daniella then tells Nick that she’s falling in love with him but he does not share those feelings at all…so she has to leave.
  • Nick breaks down because it’s stressful dating so many people at once – TRUE.  But then he shows some more existential fears creeping in about never finding love.  He has been on this show at least four times already, so his fears are both warranted and highly lucrative for ABC.
  • What I did not anticipate: that so many women would go home early.  I’m also ashamed to say I believed the editors when they made Corinne falling on the beach seem super dramatic in the previews.
How I felt while watching The Bachelor
How I felt while watching The Bachelor

The Bachelor is completely ridiculous but very entertaining.  While I feel a bit gross after watching this two hour episode, I think it’s appropriate to conclude with a bit of life advice:

  • Contestants: drop the vocal fry.
  • Audience: watch this with friends.
  • TV Tuttle: never watch this again.
The Bachelor Cliches
The Bachelor Cliches

TV Tuttle gives The Bachelor 1/5 broken hearts.

TV Tuttle rating: 1/5 broken hearts

Packing my bags for Schitt$ Creek

This week, I watched the pilot of Schitt$ Creek (S1:E1).  Here’s what happened in the first half of the episode:

  • The Rose family gets evicted from their estate and moves into a dingy motel with nothing to their name but the deed to Schitts Creek, a town that Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) once bought for his son as a joke.
  • Alexis (the daughter) hopes her socialite boyfriend will rescue her by private jet (even though he will only “maybe say I love you at some point.”)
  • Mayor Roland Schitt overstays his welcome. Schitt$ Creek - Image by CBC

In his iconic book, Story, Robert McKee says that gut-busting laughter happens when the “gap between expectation and result” bursts open.  Sometimes comedies are written “just for the yucks” (McKee) and other times they are planned down to the minute, even before the jokes have been written.  Comedies aren’t easy to predict and that’s why they’re so fun to watch.

Schitt$ Creek essentials
A few essentials before blogging about Schitt$ Creek.

Here’s what I predicted:

  • Alexis does not get whisked away by her socialite boyfriend – TRUE! This was an easy guess, though.
  • Johnny reluctantly cozies up with the Mayor, but it backfires – TRUE! This happens at the end of the pilot and again in the second episode (and many times throughout the series, I’m sure).
  • Someone gets a terrible job that they eventually love – HALF TRUE! Johnny gets a terrible job in episode three, which he soon quits, but this prediction is bound to be fulfilled at some point in the show, isn’t it?
  • The Roses are downgraded to one motel room – FALSE! I had high hopes that the Roses would be stuck in even closer quarters.  Maybe next time.
CBC Schitt$ Creek Reaction
Schitt$ Creek is ridiculous. And hilarious.

Probably the best indicator of how much I enjoyed Schitt$ Creek is that I ended up watching 8 more episodes after the pilot.  The cast is full of wonderful comedians, and, as a former resident of the Poultry Capital of Niagara, I’m loving every time Schitts Creek’s small town charm bumps up against the Rose family’s posh snobbery.

TV Tuttle gives this episode 3.5/5 stolen motel doors.

Schitt$ Creek Rating

Sinking my teeth into The Vampire Diaries

This week on (the first half of) The Vampire Diaries (S8,E8):

  1. Vampire bros Stefan & Damon place a bet on whether this kind doctor named Tara is mean enough to kill Damon.
  2. Caroline (nice vampire) discovers that Sybil (mean vampire) uses mind control to get students to locate an old, magic bell. Sybil threatens to kill the students if Caroline can’t find the bell in time.
  3. An angsty father-son combo do some research about an old family bell (aha!).
Stefan & Damon, The Vampire Diaries
Vampire brothers Stefan & Damon

This episode (and probably most of TVD) follows what Christopher Booker describes as the “Overcoming the Monster” plot, which involves a seemingly invincible monster, a narrow escape from death, and a prize for the hero (usually a princess or treasure).

The Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker
By Source, Fair use,

Using Booker’s ideas, I made the following predictions:

  • Stefan loses control & enjoys being evil more than he should, reverting closer to his “Ripper” history– TRUE! Turns out he’s on a secret mission to be evil, but only temporarily?  Oh, and he devoured a whole bunch of hospital staff at the end.  Yikes.
  • Sybil doesn’t find the magic bell – TRUE! Someone named Selene has it, but apparently she’s hiding in the 1800’s.
  • Sybil’s students narrowly escape death– TRUE! Angsty father-son pair Peter and Matt save them, literally seconds before they all go up in flames. Phew!
  • Caroline wards off Sybil temporarily, but is stuck with her for a bit longer– TRUE! Turns out Caroline’s kids are in exile somewhere but Sybil could hurt them?
  • Tara lives – FALSE! I was too hopeful…I thought she’d outwit Stefan and Damon.  Unfortunately, she passed their ‘test’ and therefore, had to die.
How I felt while watching The Vampire Diaries
Thoughts while watching The Vampire Diaries.

Overall, the episode was pretty cringe-worthy.  From cheesy dialogue to overdone tropes, monotone, trying-to-make-vampires-sexy acting, magic plot elements (mind control much?) and even a weird case of vampire cat-calling, I’ll be perfectly content to tune into other channels from here on out.

TV Tuttle gives this episode 1.5/5 mind controlling vampire bats.

1.5/5 mind controlling vampire bats

TV Tuttle: The Pilot

Have you ever watched a TV show and been COMPLETELY shocked by how it turned out?  Maybe you’ve had the opposite experience: you watched a crappy movie and called out the plot details before they even happened (much to the amusement of everyone else you were watching that show with, I’m sure).

And don’t tell me you “don’t watch television,” (unless you’re one of those admirable people whose love of reading overpowers their love in television, in which case, respect).  Numeris reports that the average Canadian watches 19.5 hours of television per week. Netflix boasts 93.8 million subscribers that watch over 125 million hours of TV & movies every day.  People are watching TV.  And lots of it.

Skill Set Go!
I worked as a Writer & Director for the pilot web series Skill Set Go, coming soon through Edge Factor.
April Leung on set with Edge Factor
Actor April Leung on set for a pilot series being developed with Edge Factor

My love of stories and television is what led me to create this blog, TV Tuttle.  The premise is simple: I’m going to watch the first half of a TV episode I’ve never seen before.  Then, using principles of storytelling and acting, I’m going to predict how the rest of the episode will pan out.  Then I will finish watching the episode and be either delighted or disappointed at how my prediction went.

As for me, I have lived and breathed television all my life (not literally of course, there’s probably poisonous chemicals or something inside those screens, but you get the idea).

The long story short is that I have dedicated a significant amount of my life to understanding how to tell good stories.  This lifelong trajectory includes: working professionally in theatre, studying English literature, creative writing, popular culture and dramatic arts in university, and even having a few poems published.  I am so excited to bring that to this blog about another love of mine: television.

Please, comment your suggestions for shows you think I should watch and feature on this blog.  And don’t forget to tune in!