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June 09 2010

Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams in 1000 words for a Minerva. The Chief Culture Officer at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics wants to hear from you how each changed the face of television.

I know we've discussed this topic many times on WHEDONesque, but this time you could win an owl. Compare and contrast. Check your work.

Seems pretty straightforward - pretend you're in high school and write an essay. Which is why I'm taking a pass, I never ever want to write an essay again.
I mean...what's a Minerva and why do I want one? Who is J.J. Abrams? (Seriously - I've heard the name but I have no clue what he's done, other than that....ahem...Star Trek reboot.) What the heck is a Culture Officer and how do anthropology and economics intersect? I'm so lost.
JJ created/wrote Felicity (strong female character #1), Alias (strong female character #2), Lost (many strong female characters #3), Fringe (strong female character #4 except he really needs to make Astrid much stronger), and then worked on various horror- or scifi-related films.
Here's a few WHEDONesque posts/discussions that might help - there's a lot more we've had here that you can prolly find if you search "Abrams".

October 28 2009: Wired Magazine on the "Great Geek Debate": Joss Whedon vs. J.J. Abrams
September 10 2009: Whedonesque cited as inspiration for new JJ Abrams blog.
May 11 2009: Seven franchises J.J. Abrams should reboot.
April 15 2009: (SPOILER) Fanboy Fight: Joss Whedon vs JJ Abrams - Who is your favorite?
October 16 2008: Is JJ Abrams the new Joss Whedon?
August 29 2008: From Abrams to Whedon: TV's most inventive minds.

As to the rest - well, I think there's a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek humor on the parts of both The Chief Culture Officer (author Grant_McCracken) and myself.

I'd love an Owl - she's Minerva/Athena's fowl of choice and would go nicely on the shelf next to my Maltese Falcon. Sadly, I'm prolly just not willing to do the concentrated Abrams research and all the thinking & writing I'd need to win a shot at one.
cabri Ah. Thanks. Never saw any of those shows, so...probably couldn't write an essay.

QuoterGal Holy cow with the links! To paraphrase Mal, "Define 'a few'." ;-P

Yeah...not gonna. If it was one or the other, I might be able to think of some things about Joss...hmm. Nah. Probably not. 'cause...I don't really know how he's "changed the face of television."

And I really don't have anywhere for an owl.
Apart from watching the first two seasons of Lost and an ep or two of Alias, I don't really know much of anything about J.J. Abrams, if it was just Joss (ha, I just had a mental 'Just Jack' image flash through my brain) or Joss and 'insert list of writers I know more about here' then I could've been interested.
A comparison between Joss Whedon and Russell T Davies would a worthy article as well.
I have an owl already (ta sis ;), she sits on the bookcase behind me, ever watchful. Not quite as fancy as that one though (and by fancy I mean "useful as a deadly weapon").

And anthropology and economics seem fairly good bedfellows to me, they're both about people and the various ways we do the wacky, they're both often split by controversy along idealogical lines, they both start with vowels. The parallels are literally finite.
Apart from the first series of Lost I've also never seen any of JJ Abrams shows. Are they really 'genre' stuff like Joss's though? I know people like to claim Lost is sf or fantasy but I really don't think it can be categorised as such.

I guess this is a contest for fans of tv rather than fans of genre shows hey. How about a TNG vs B5?
If Joss and JJ were to ever team up for a project itíd probably be absolutely amazing. Theyíd compliment each otherís strengths and weaknesses so well. Abrams can bring on the epic like its nobodyís business and make a class act out of pretty much anything, his characters arenít too shabby either. Joss could deliver the layered characters and funky dialogue that would help bring some humanity to the piece and itís not as if his work is ever mundane. I think it would be a fantastic collaboration.


Both Alias and Lost contain supernatural/sci fi elements. Lost has time travel, smoke monsters etc. Alias often focused on a prophecy that Sidney was the Chosen One, Rambaldi could predict the future and in the final episode one character even becomes immortal.

[ edited by vampmogs on 2010-06-10 12:46 ]
Folks, Fringe has gotten so good. I am honestly not an Abrams fan, and gave up watching Lost after its first season, but Fringe has real emotional resonance and some truly great characters, leading out with Walter, and then Olivia. But in the end, he ain't no Whedon...
To really learn all you need to know about who J.J. Abrams is and why he's great, you should watch this video.
I could never do this, because I know about a gazillion times more about Joss's work than about JJ'S. But I covet the gorgeous Minerva, being a collector of owls. Even though I already have a beautiful Minerva, in brass.

I never know just how much Abrams stays involved in the shows he starts. He seems to be more of a start up guy than a stay with the project guy.
was gonna say something similar to Shey. JJ starts with an interesting idea but doesn't have the strength to take it where it needs to go. When Lost got bad, real bad, JJ brought on Drew Goddard to fix it. Im guessing JJ was so thankful that he helped Drew get Cloverfield made.
I've never seen Lost, but there seem to be some people who schedule their lives around it. An owl would look really cool in my office.
I don't understand why they keep comparing them, Joss is closer to RTD and maybe Kurt Sutter in a lot more ways than to Abrams.

I'm always "This guy Abrams is really good !" at the beginning of his shows and like "That's IT ABRAMS I'm never watching anything else from you!" at the end, I felt betrayed with Alias and to a lesser extent with Lost, but Fringe is another business, Fringe is great TV, I wasn't convinced during season 1, but as the show became more and more character driven it became good, because the actors (especially the one who plays walter, please give him an emmy right now), are really good, Fringe has a huge potential and I hope he doesn't screw it up with mystical rambaldi/divine nonsense.

Anyway i'm never getting rid of my joss is my master shirt
I'm quite familiar with JJ. Fringe, as of the S2 finale, is rocking my socks off. Lost was the most spectacular show ever, I loved Cloverfield and his Star Trek was amazing. That being said, Fringe isn't his, Lost isn't his, Cloverfield is barely his - only Star Trek is. I haven't seen much of his earlier work, the comedy films and Alias although I have seen the half the first season of Felicity. I understand the comparison. Or I did, a few years ago, but now its getting further and further from the truth. JJ is become more like Spielberg (he's producing an upcoming Harrison Ford romcom, and his new show is spy-fi/romance) and Joss has created his own niche. There's a similarity between Mutant Enemy and Bad Robot, in some respects, though.

Joss isn't so much like Kurt Sutter, but I could possibly make the argument for Bryan Fuller/Aaron Sorkin even though Joss' fandom is on a different level - hence why he's special. And why JJ was special
@Jaymii, yea, he does tend to abandon his work. I could have sworn he had kept ahold of Fringe though. I dunno, I tried watching it, but it seemed so much like an X-files rip off to me.

But yea, the last thing he did for LOST was (after a season absence of course), was directing the season 3 premiere. Joss keeps creative oversight on his shows so I don't even know why everybody decides to compare the two. I mean, I know why, but they're not strong reasons to me. :P
JJ has also created UNDERCOVERS for NBC, which is - yet again - another strong female character. He also often uses interviews to talk about, for example, how amazing his wife is.

I've enormous respect for JJ. He understands mystery like few men.
I only hate on JJ cause I don't like how he gets treated with more respect in the industry than Joss does. Here Fringe goes the same year as Dollhouse, "JJ you get 20 episodes and a better day of the week slot. Joss, you get 13 eps and we'll put you on the Friday death slot." and "oh! you both didn't meet our expectations on the number of viewers, JJ you get 23 eps, Joss, still only 13, try and do better next time." I'm hecka ( Simon, I almost used double hockey sticks but im censoring myself now) mad at how Joss got treated and often wonder if there was no JJ would Joss get treated better?

[ edited by Butler on 2010-06-11 07:12 ]
I understand the Fringe/Dollhouse comparisons, Butler. I've often wondered what would have happened with DH if Fox had supported it and promoted it as they did Fringe. Which is entertaining, but not even close to being in the same league as DH, quality wise.
IMO of course. I know that DH is Joss's most controversial work amongst his own fans, but I think it had the potential to become the best work he's ever done.

Bottom line is, Abrams' work - or Bad Robot projects, whoever is in charge at any given point - is far more commercially accessible than Joss's work.
clubsilencio, my comment was more based upon what level he tends to take on, not only Fringe, most of his projects. He oversees them and occasionally might even chuck an idea or two forward but his trusted compadre's (Orci and Kurtzman, in Fringe's case) do all the work. Which I have nothing against, he gets things off the ground and that's an amazing feat in itself.

Shey, I wouldn't really say his work is more commercially accesible, I just honestly think he's been given a couple of real good breaks and he's swung for them. Joss got the post 24 slot on Dollhouse and had Dollhouse been something more Alias/Buffy and less erm, Dollhouse, the show would probably still be going along. Fringe started as an X-File reboot and now has become something entirely different, its its own thing. JJ knows how to gain and audience and keep them throughout. Lost was about people surviving a plane crash. Buffy was a Vampire Slayer. People can grasp these ideas. The show Dollhouse became was absolutely terrific, but just watching an episode shows its niche (to me, anyway). In an different world, I could imagine Firefly becoming a runaway hit dispelling the space opera stigma the wider public has because of how 'fun' it is (the opening basketball-type scene at the beginning of "Bushwhacked" springs to mind) but I literally can't imagine a middle-ground for Firefly. It's either huge or its not. Erm. Yeah. In other words, er, if Fringe started the show it is now I'm pretty confident it would have been cancelled about six episodes into it. Even after Idol.

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