The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall

The Revolution Was TelevisedConsidering the amount I write about television shows, I read relatively little on the subject. I follow plenty of blogs scanning through dozens, if not hundreds of news stories and interviews via the marvellous productivity aid of RSS, but the number of books I’ve actually read can be counted on the fingers of one hand and is entirely limited to books dedicated to specific shows.

The Revolution was Televised had come up in passing from several television pundits I respect, most notably Maureen Ryan, currently of Huffington Post, who always adds depth not just to reviews of individual shows and episodes, but of the television landscape as a whole. I popped it on a Christmas list and had finished it by 3rd Jan.

The concept of the book is that there was a revolution in the way television was produced starting in the late 90s and those changes can be tracked back to a dozen key shows, that were not necessarily ratings hits (or even critical hits, although most of them are), but marked a step change in the way that television shows are created, run, marketed and watched . Alan Sepinwall takes us through each of these shows telling their stories and explaining their importance.

DeadwoodYour enjoyment and empathy with the book is going to be somewhat dependent on how many of those shows you’ve seen and what you thought of them. But, I was actually surprised at how engaged I was even in chapters on shows I’d never seen a single episode of. Out of the dozen shows, I would consider myself a fan of about half of them (Deadwood, Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights, and Mad Men), five others I’ve seen a few episodes or couple of seasons of and have some respect for even if they weren’t to my taste (The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield, Lost, 24) and two I’ve never seen at all (Oz, Breaking Bad). But Sepinwall does a great job introducing each show and making you see what was groundbreaking and even magical about each show whether you were already on his side or not.

The dozen chapters telling the story of the shows are built up from interviews with a range of people involved with each show – the creators, producers, network executives that bought them, even the people who didn’t support them at the time. The comments are very open and honest, pride in successes, acceptance of mistakes and Sepinwall weaves them all together to form a detailed picture of the world of television production. Throughout the book there are also plenty of references to both older shows that lay the foundations and the newer ones which built upon them, charting the whole thing in a giant network of giants’ shoulders. Thanks to it going all the way up to the Summer of 2012 and talking about shows that are still on the air, it feels extremely current, although I guess the flip side of that is that it may not age so well.

LostMy only frustration with the book was that as it went on, it felt like it lost sight of its premise a little. Each chapter focussed more and more on the show itself and less on what was revolutionary. The reader is left to draw a lot of conclusions themselves, which is slightly frustrating. Also, for a book which is so current, there was surprisingly little said about how television distribution is changing both with the internet (pirated or otherwise) and even the rise of dvd sales over the period. Although it’s touched on a little in the section on Lost, there’s also very little coverage of the other effects the internet drives including marketing and fandom. Mind you, those subjects could easily fill whole books just by themselves.

This is an absolutely brilliant book for anyone interested in how television really works, not just gushing about shows that people love, but about how the industry develops and innovators can succeed in a massively competitive and generally risk averse environment. Alan Sepinwall is clearly a television fan, but he is not blind to the fact that it’s a commercial endeavour – he doesn’t vilify the networks who cancel low rated series and he doesn’t sanctify show runners whose poor working practices overwhelm their brilliant creative ideas.

Buffy the Vampire SlayerI found this book fascinating, entertaining and completely un-put-downable. Sepinwall has reminded me of just what a complex and fascinating medium television can be. He’s given me a fresh look at shows that I adore, brought to my attention shows I knew nothing about, and encouraged me to give second chances to ones that I’ve struggled with in the past. If you’ve read any of the dribble I’ve written, go read this and see what a professional can do.

The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall (2010) is available in paperback from Amazon. It amuses me that if you search amazon for the book title you get a number of suggestions including The Revolution Wasn’t Televised (1997), The Revolution Will Not be Televised (2008), The Revolution Will be Televised (2010), Will the Revolution Be Televised (2012) – so it would seem the jury is still out on the question.


Battle of the Shows – Round 1 are doing a sort of battle of the best TV drama of the last 25 years. I started reading it and was really impressed at the depth of the analysis and with the unexpected outcome of the first decision. But then I read a second article and I could not have disagreed more strongly with their choice. I figured I’d run through their choices myself and explain why they are wrong.

NB – They have started out with a shortlist of 16, which was already wrong. There’s a few of my top shows of the decade missing from the get-go and of course it ignores the output of every country other than the US (oh and Canada, there’s some Canadians on the list!). But I wanted to use the same list.

So round 1 – ding ding:

Deadwood vs. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This was the first category I came across (because I got the link from Whedonesque) and thought that Buffy would be in for short shrift. But I was impressed not only by the depth of the analysis, but by the fact that Buffy won. Although I’m well known as a Buffy fan, even I don’t think this was an easy competition to judge. I really love Deadwood, it’s a fascinating and unusual show that brings the poetry of Shakespeare to potty mouthed prospectors. Buffy on the surface is just an American high school show with cheerleaders who happen to fight vampires, but of course as any number of sources will tell you it’s really about life and destiny and choice. The beauty of Buffy is that it’s actually both, it’s hugely entertaining and it’s really very important. It created its own genre and dozens of shows owe Buffy their success.

The other issue to me though, and this is what really swung it – Deadwood is incomplete. Cruelly cut down in its prime, it never got to finish its story. Of course that’s not the shows fault, but when I evaluate the competition Buffy got more time and told a complete story.

The X-Files vs. The West Wing
This was where lost me. I’m sorry, but no way in this universe or the next is The X-Files a better show than The West Wing. My love of The West Wing is well documented all over this site, so I’ll not go over how smart the dialogue is, or how fascinating the subjects are, or how much I adore all the characters. On the flip side you won’t find any article about The X-Files because I haven’t re-watched it since I started writing reviews properly about 8 years ago. Now like every geeky teenage girl of the mid 90s I adored Fox Mulder, obsessively videoing every episode and dissecting them with my friends. But even my adoration couldn’t stick with the show when 4 seasons in it degenerated into overly complicated, drawn out conspiracy theories and endless will-they-won’t-they relationship bumblings. Then it went on another 28 seasons or something. Yes, The West Wing had some dodgy phases and although it eventually clawed its way back for a breathtaking season 7, it never really reached its original heights; but the best of The X-Files was never as good as The West Wing’s, and its worst was considerably worse and much longer.

Breaking Bad vs. Friday Night Lights
I have never seen Breaking Bad, I have sesaon 1 on dvd, but I just haven’t got round to watching it. So, I don’t really have any right to make a judgement here. However while I’ve heard stunning things of the early Breaking Bad, I’ve also heard some disappointment at the direction of later seasons. So with an acknowledgement that I’m not being fair, the only way I can vote is for the show that appealed enough for me to actually watch it. An easy win for Friday Night Lights.

The Sopranos vs. Six Feet Under
I’ve seen one season of The Sopranos and four of Six Feet Under, so I’m 5 seasons short on Sopranos and 1 season short on Six Feet Under. But the reason that I haven’t finished either season is the key to my decision. I thought season 1 of The Sopranos was ok, but I never really connected to the characters and there was nothing calling out to me to watch more. The counterpoint to that is that I haven’t seen the final season of Six Feet Under because I don’t want to say goodbye to the characters. I have had the season 5 dvds on my shelf for years, but haven’t watched them because although I know it is a superb season and often described as one of the best series finales ever, I enjoyed the show too much to watch it end. It’s stupid, but that’s why Six Feet Under wins.

The Wire vs. My So-Called Life
This is a bit like the battle of who cares less. I have friends who threaten to disown me for this, but I just didn’t get along with The Wire, I watched one season and really struggled to follow what was happening. I do have vague intentions to give it another try though. Meanwhile, I’ve got the box set of My So-Called Life and haven’t made it past episode 2 – I can’t tell you anything about it, just that I haven’t bothered to put the dvd back in. So on episode count alone, The Wire wins.

The Shield vs. NYPD Blue
This one is another unfair one as I’ve never seen an episode of NYPD Blue in my life. I suspect it’s also not fair because without NYPD Blue, would The Shield exist? I’ve seen the first few seasons of The Shield and thought it was amazing, BUT I haven’t watched the whole series because I just couldn’t take any more. It was all just too bleak, violent and depressing. So do I go for the show that is a foundation for so many great shows after it but that I’ve never bothered to watch, or the one that takes those foundations to their logical but eventually unwatchable extreme? I genuinely flipped a coin and it came down in favour of The Shield.

Twin Peaks vs. Battlestar Galactica
I’m about two thirds of the way through Twin Peaks. I watched the first half obsessively over the space of a week and have got at least 4 blog posts in my head about it. So why haven’t I finished watching it? Mostly because like most people who watched the show, I found that after they solved the initial mystery of who killed Laura Palmer, the momentum of the show just disappeared. Secondly I wasn’t actually a fan of the levels of weirdness it degenerated to, I liked the kooky and odd stuff, but the resolution to the mystery was just too much. Battlestar Galactica came pretty close to losing me a few times along the way as well with its rather extreme mythologies. But I stuck with it, because it was so well written and produced and in the end, I think it all came together, and then it dutifully stopped. Maybe if Twin Peaks had just stopped, it would have stood a chance, but as it didn’t, Battlestar wins.

Mad Men vs. Lost
I gave up on Lost somewhere in the third season, because I lost faith in the writers. I felt they were trying too hard to make a television show that could be stretched out for as many years as possible, rather than telling a well paced mystery story. By all accounts I should probably go back and watch it through because I hear it pulled it all back together in the end, but I haven’t got round to that yet. With Mad Men however, I have nothing BUT faith in the writers. It’s one of the slowest series I’ve ever watched, half a dozen episodes can go by with seemingly nothing happening except gorgeous period detail and subtle acting. But every now and then, something happens – two characters share a moment, or a single line of dialogue and you realise that all that nothingness has been building to that one perfect moment. It’s breathtaking. The only proviso I put on awarding this win to Mad Men is that it’s one of the few shows on this list still airing new episodes and it still has time to blow it.

Next up – Round 2, and the semifinals and the final

Alcatraz – Pilot review

In 1963 Alcatraz prison closed. But the prisoners weren’t transferred away as everyone thinks, in fact they and all the guards just disappeared. Now it seems they’re coming back and they don’t seem to have aged or rehabilitated in the intervening half century. A special team of FBI, police and civilians is formed to track them down before they commit more crimes, and to find out who took them and what they’ve been sent back to do.

This is the latest in a string of series being heralded as “the new Lost” which basically seems to mean that the story is built around a core mystery that will encourage you to spend hours picking apart all the hints. Of course of the many things studios have hoped would be the new Lost, few have succeeded and the label is as much a curse as anything else these days. Alcatraz however has the bonus of pedigree behind it – JJ Abrams produced it, there’s overlapping writers and Jorge Garcia (Hurley, one of the best things in Lost) co-stars.

The concept behind Alcatraz looks pretty good for the Lost-model – it’s got the mystery to keep you returning each week but also a good set up for episodic story-lines to keep you entertained while it taunts you with micro-hints each week. There’s a mixture of present day cops running around and shooting and gradually revealing flashbacks to fill in the gaps. The combination of true history and made up mystery is sure to be sending some hefty traffic wikipedia’s way as well.

The problem I had with the show was that the pilot didn’t feel very well put together, in particular a lot of the dialogue felt as if someone had written all the placeholder exposition and then forgotten to address the note of “make this sound more realistic before filming it”. The characters had a similar problem, as if they’d just gone with a shorthand version and forgotten to sand off the cliché corners, for example the lead character was orphaned at a young age, raised by gruff cop, grows up into ambitious young detective, bit of a loner after the death of her partner which haunts her.

Somewhere under the cliché and poor dialogue there’s some good actors struggling to get out. Relative newcomer Sarah Jones somehow managed to take the cliché ridden character and clunky dialogue and still be interesting to watch. Jorge Garcia’s very presence brings something unusual to the show, a very non-Hollywood presence. Sam Neal may only ever really play one character, but at least he does it well. The supporting players didn’t really rise above though, the villain of the week was particularly bland.

I think what JJ Abrams has done is not re-created what he did with Lost, but instead what he did with Fringe, and I mean that in both a good and bad way. Alcatraz, like Fringe, has a good foundation to build on – elements like actors, character breakdowns, mystery and episodic set up that can come together to form a really solid and interesting series. Unfortunately, just like Fringe, I think it’s got off to a really poor start with a pilot singularly lacking in any spark that makes me want to come back. The fact that I will give it a few more episodes is solely down to the fact that I fell for that misdirection with Fringe and it took me years to realise what I was missing. I don’t want to fall into the same trap with Alcatraz.

Alcatraz will be shown on Watch in the UK from March

Other reviews – I always read the other reviews after writing my own, at which point I realised that Alcatraz actually aired the first two episodes back to back as a pilot, but I’d only watched the first. I couldn’t be bothered to re-write the review, so my stuff may not tally with the reviews below.

CliqueClack – It looked captivating, unique, mysterious and … interesting. Sadly, it is none of those things to me after seeing the 2-hour premiere.

TV Fanatic
Alcatraz hits on all the key elements that make a show great and, while not as serialized as many of J.J. Abrams other shows (Lost, Alias), it does contain plenty of factors that make the series more than just hunting down criminals each week. Fox has another winner on its hands and I’m looking forward to seeing where this show takes its characters and the fascinating mystery that surrounds them.

Three golden rules for science fiction

What’s gone wrong with science fiction shows this year? It looked set to be a good year, with a spattering of returning shows and a good crop of new ones coming in. Sitting at the end of the year looking at the list though, there are very few successes, a lot of mediocrity and a couple of high profile failures.

The most embarrassing failure of all has been FlashForward. Promoted to death as the new Lost, launched with a pretty decent pilot it barely made it out of the gate before its ratings collapsed and the critics turned on it. For me there are three big problems with FlashForward, and they’re representative of what’s been wrong with some of the other sf shows this year.

Yes, yes Mr Showrunner* you’ve got Big Ideas – parallel universes, complex analogies, virtual reality, fate and whatnot. You’ve also got a big budget and a giant marketing team. But you have to actually deliver that. If you’re presenting yourself as smart, you need to BE smart.

I need to have confidence in the people that are making a show that they know what they’re doing, where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. It doesn’t matter if every episode is action and excitement melded into a perfect 45 minutes, if the next week you contradict everything that happened I’m rapidly going to get annoyed. But at the same time it doesn’t matter if you have an amazing plan for a five year series if every episode is really dull, I’ll rapidly get bored. It’s a difficult middle ground to hit, but it is achievable – go back to and watch Babylon 5. That’s how you create a masterpiece.

2Charisma vacuums
My god there’ve been some boring characters this year! The lead character of FlashForward was just a kind of gaping, well paid hole where an engaging person should be. The cast of V looked so good on paper, but as it turned out by the end of the first episode the only ones I found interesting were the aliens (notably the Firefly duo of Morena Baccarin and Alan Tudyk). If on careful consideration I’ve evaluated your entire ensemble and have decided that in fact the best thing for you is to be eaten by the invading alien force, you’ve rather failed in your mission. I lasted half a dozen episodes and then gave up. Sure, the show is shiny and some interesting ideas, but if I don’t care about anyone, I’m not gonna bother.

3Lighten up!
The other big failure of the year for me was Caprica. I’m a big fan of Battlestar and thought this could be really interesting – same concept, different setting, characters and philosophy. Six or so episodes in and I just couldn’t take it anymore. Battlestar was never exactly laugh a minute, but at least they blew stuff up periodically and appreciated a nice fist fight or sarcastic aside. Caprica was the most depressing, soul destroyingly slow thing I’ve seen in a very long time. Battlestar seemed to be about hope in the face of overwhelming destruction, Caprica was about doom in the face of overwhelming shininess.

When it works… it works
Caprica and FlashForward both got good pilot reviews from me and then failed to deliver. On the flip side, Stargate Universe got a poor pilot review and then I cheerfully ate my words for the season review. The Stargate showrunners have been at this a while and I should have had more faith. They pulled it all together – it was smart AND fun, happy AND sad, sometimes characters moved forwards, sometimes they moved backwards, but they actually seemed like real people who it would be interesting to have coffee with. The confidence from the showrunners was quiet and reassuring – ‘we know what we’re doing, just trust us’.

I personally thought Defying Gravity had a lot of things going for it. I found it interesting and entertaining. This is one I think where the show was let down by everything around it – it wasn’t on the right network, it wasn’t marketed right and it was kind of doomed from the start. I think if it had been on the sci-fi channel we’d probably still be watching it, but Grey’s Anatomy in space was gonna be a tough sell.

Warehouse 13 is a truly awful show. The plots are all over the place and the production is often terrible with poor blue screening and budget effects. But it somehow manages to actually pass all three tests and ends up being one of the staple shows in our house just because it’s so entertaining! The characters are likeable, the dialogue snappy, the stories follow on from each other and no one is taking themselves seriously, it’s like some sort of ugly mongrel that you can’t help but love.

When it doesn’t, it’s kind of sad
Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse should have worked. It has great characters, an original plot, some fun episodes and a showrunner with a built in fanbase and a lot of success under his belt. But, much as it pains me to say it, I think it failed on the smugness test. It put a lot of emphasis on the long term plot and asked for a lot of trust, which only those of us with an unhealthy obsession with Joss had any faith he could deliver. To everyone else the cocky attitude of “you’re watching something special and you don’t know it yet” was too patronising.

Although I adore Supernatural, I find I have to also put this season into the “kind of sad” category, because it too failed a couple of the rules. It often drifted away from being fun to watch, the endless misery of the apocalypse does get you down after a while. The smugness also occasionally overwhelmed, it took the season a long time to get started, spending way too much time wallowing and mucking about before finally squashing a lot of plot into the final half dozen episodes. It’s a real shame, because I think the first four seasons managed a really good balance of the rules, I have high hopes for season six though.

And there’s no coming back once you’ve lost me
Of course the gaping hole in this review is the assessment of Lost. This year of television will probably be remembered as the year that Lost ended. But I can’t comment on it, because I stopped watching three years ago, when the smugness became too much for me. I don’t know whether it redeemed itself, maybe it really was as good as it purported to be. Maybe one day I’ll go back and watch it all again. Today is not that day though.

* I did a check, although sadly imdb doesn’t seem to list ‘showrunner’ as a job title, despite the fact that it’s referred to in the press a lot, so I looked at ‘creators’ and ‘executive producers’ (and no I don’t really know what they do). Of the shows I have name-checked (and Doctor Who and Fringe which were mentioned and then edited out) in this article there are a total of seventeen people listed as show creators, only one is a woman (Jane Espenson on Warehouse 13). Of the 43 executive producers listed, there are seven women (including Jane Espenson again for Caprica). These are not good percentages people.

New Season So Far

I’ve reviewed 21 pilots this season and I am declaring myself done. If I were to be a completionist about things, there’s still two pilots I haven’t reviewed: The Cleveland Show which I’m choosing to exempt because it’s an animation and the reimagining of Melrose Place which I just don’t think I can bring myself to dedicate 45 minutes of my life to. There are also a few shows which may debut later in the season, the most notable of which is the reimagining of V which I’m quite excited by, but doesn’t appear until November.

I’ve gotta say, I’m not hugely impressed with this year’s selection. These things tend to come in waves and this is clearly not a poster year for television. For example 2004 was a good year – it saw the arrival of Battlestar Galactica, Desperate Housewives, Veronica Mars, CSI:NY, Boston Legal, House and Lost – that’s a pretty good haul!

Even though there’s only a couple of direct spin offs on the roster this year, the vast majority of the shows that are obvious attempts to cash in on something already successful. The Beautiful Life tried and failed to be the new Gossip Girl, Mercy is Grey’s Anatomy with nurses, Eastwick is Desperate Housewives with magic and FlashForward is enthusiastically selling itself as the new Lost to anyone that will listen. The Vampire Diaries is a TV show for Twilight fans, Glee owes a lot to High School Musical and Defying Gravity is actually a remake of a BBC documentary!

The problem is that for each of those you’ve got an obvious problem. If I don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy, it’s unlikely I’m going to watch the new version. If I AM already loving and watching Grey’s Anatomy why would I also want to watch a cheap copycat? You’re setting yourself the difficult challenge of being so much better than the original that people don’t care you’re not original. The best thing FlashForward could say about itself is not “if you liked Lost, you’ll like us”, it’s “if you liked the idea of Lost, but gave up on it, come watch us because we learnt from Lost’s mistakes”. It’s not such a catchy slogan, but it might just work.

What that means is that no show is really going to stand out because of what it’s doing creatively. What does stand out is quality writing, acting and directing. The Good Wife is far and away the best pilot of the year, not because there was anything particularly original about the story, but because the writing and acting were a step above everything else out there.

So on the flip side, there were lots of potentially good shows let who’s pilots turned me right off because they just weren’t polished enough. Stargate Universe was the key example of this, I desperately wanted to like it but found myself continually frustrated in my attempts by lazy writing. NCIS: LA has some great characters, and the actors are making it watchable while the writers don’t seem to even be trying. Both these shows are lucky because their pedigrees mean they can get away with slow or bumpy starts, but I’d hoped for a bit more from each.

The pilots for Glee and FlashForward both got the job done, in that I’m still watching the shows a few episodes down the line. Both have a lot of hype and noise about them and I sorta like both of them, but I’m not exactly a raving fan of either and it wouldn’t take much for me to lose interest. I think FlashForward I’ll stick with because if it does get great I don’t want to have to admit that I missed it. Glee I suspect I’ll probably watch in chunks when I’m feeling down – a little quirky goes a long way and I’m continually frustrated by the bad dubbing.

There are a couple of shows that are bubbling away. When I reviewed Trauma I loved half of it and hated the other half, but after a couple of weeks for some reason I can’t get it out of my head so have got a few more episodes to watch. I guess the pilot did what it needed to. On the flip side I really wanted to love Eastwick, but hated the pilot, I’ll keep an eye on the reviews and potentially pick it up later if the news is good. Likewise if by mid-season Mercy, Three Rivers or The Forgotten are getting decent reviews I might have another look, none of them were bad really, just utterly unremarkable.

One of the things I’ve learnt about myself is that I just don’t get sitcoms. I watch television in a very pro-active kind of way, I sit down to watch specific shows which I’ve sought out and none of the new season’s comedies inspired me to do that, despite the fact that other reviewers I respect say that they’re pretty good. Community and The Middle were the only two that I actually enjoyed watching and at best I might tivo/pvr/sky+ or pick up a dvd box set on special offer. Most of the others made me want to punch people.

Last time I did this in 2007 I reviewed ten shows, so I’ve doubled my workload this time around. If I do it again I’ll definitely drop the ½ hour sitcoms. I have enjoyed the challenge of writing the reviews, sometimes having to expand “it’s awful” into something a bit more lengthy, and sometimes having to shorten three pages of incoherent gushing down to something that people might actually read. Forcing myself to watch bad things definitely makes me appreciate the good more though. I would never have thought it could be so hard to write good pilots, but what do I know!

Show Title UK Airing Category Cancelled? 1word Review
Accidentally on Purpose E4, 2010 Sitcom   Meh
Bored to Death   Sitcom &nbsp Dull
Brothers   Sitcom   Awful
Community   Sitcom   Smart
Cougar Town   Sitcom Renewed Ugh
Defying Gravity BBC2 Scifi Cancelled Good
Eastwick Hallmark Channel Drama Cancelled Poor
FlashForward Five, Monday Scifi/Crime Procedural Season deal Possible
Glee E4, 2010 Drama/Comedy   Unsumarisable
Hank   Sitcom Cancelled Awful
Mercy   Medical procedural   Uninspiring
Modern Family Starts Thurs 15th Oct, Sky1 Sitcom Renewed Cringe
NCIS: Los Angeles Starts Sky1, 21 Oct Crime procedural Renewed OK
Stargate Universe Sky2, Wednesdays Scifi   Troubled
The Beautiful Life: TBL   Drama Already cancelled Doomed
The Forgotten   Crime procedural   Dull
The Good Wife More4, 2010 Legal Procedural Renewed Superb
The Middle   Sitcom Renewed Good
The Vampire Diaries ITV2, 2010 Drama   Unoriginal
Three Rivers   Medical procedural Cancelled Vanilla
Trauma   Medical procedural   Not sure

Lost: Season 1

Telling the story of the 40 days after a plane crash leaves 40 odd people stranded on an island it touches upon many genres but is best described as a character drama. Each episode focuses on one of the character’s backstory told in flashbacks but for every piece of information revealed, two more questions are presented. The lives of these characters are linked before they ever get on a plane, and the shifting alliances on the island keep everyone moving. Life on the island covers everything from the mundane of water and censuses to the bizarre of polar bears and mysterious transmissions. Nothing is as it seems and no answer is simple. Once you’ve watched the whole season, you’ll want to watch it all again to pick up all the hints of things to come.