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Voice Of The Fans: J.J. Abrams vs. Joss Whedon Grudgematch

Amazon’s Armchair Commentary had an interesting little post comparing two of the current SF TV Jedi masters, J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon. It’s really interesting to see all the cool stuff that both of these guys have been involved in.

A couple of things jump out at me here. First, Whedon is the darling of the ‘geek’ crowd, with only Buffy breaking out into mass appeal. Everything else is appreciated by a much smaller set, especially Firefly. Abrams, on the other hand, has tasted mass appeal with Alias then kicked it big time with LOST and Star Trek and, okay, you can include M.I. 3 and (ugh) Cloverfield.

Second, it’s apparent to me that Whedon and Abrams do things differently. Abrams looks like a big picture/idea guy, the guy who dreams up all these cool ideas then lets others do most of the dirty work (see LOST). Okay, okay, so he’s a producer on lots of stuff (and director on Trek) but, in case of the TV shows, his M.O. appears to be to kick start it, write/direct/produce a bit then move on. Nice work if you can get it! (Note: I am not knocking this in the least. The imagination Abrams has is incredibly deep and varied. I’m very impressed with the man.)

Whedon, on the other hand, appears to be much more hands on. Writer, producer and director on almost every one of his projects. This is probably why his shows have a very distinctive ‘flavor’ to them and why, because it was toned waaaay down, Dollhouse just wasn’t that appealing. Whedon isn’t afraid to get down in the trenches and wear all the hats to shepard his babies along. He’s like the TV equivalent of James Brown.

But, if you could only watch one new series by either of these gentlemen, who would you pick? Both have solid genre cred behind them. Both have written shows the geek crowd have flocked. Who would you pick?

After much interior wrestling, I’d probably have to, reluctantly, pick Whedon over Abrams. ..

About JP Frantz (2323 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

7 Comments on Voice Of The Fans: J.J. Abrams vs. Joss Whedon Grudgematch

  1. Whedon, hands down.  He thinks his stuff through, and it actually follows rules of narrative and logic (quite an achievement in American SF/F movies and TV series).  Whedon tells stories.  Abrams just tosses high-concept pitch memos.

  2. The Saddling Saint // April 2, 2010 at 3:12 am //

    Joss Whedon FTW. 

    There’s no denying J.J Abrams has worked on some great shows, but there’s more to a great show than interesting concepts. Lost and Fringe are the perfect examples. Lost is fantastic, one of my favorite shows of all time, but the things that make it amazing are the characterization, the dialogue, all those little elements that just gell together; those things that come from a top-notch writing staff. Fringe has a good concept and intriguing mystery, but the small things don’t work for me. I want to like the characters, I really do, but I can’t (except for Walter), the dialogue doesn’t feel natural. J.J did a great job with the concept, but those tiny details don’t work, and that’s not his fault. It’s not what he takes care of. 

    Joss Whedon, on the other hand, does those tint details amazingly. His characters are three-dimensional, his dialogue is incredible and he writes stories that I’ll never forget. Add to that that his concepts aint nothing shabby, and you have a man who creates emotionally compelling stories, which to me is more important than concepts, no matter how mind-blowing.



  3. Assuming that they each get to make their own show, free of studio interference then it has to be Whedon, the guy simply makes brilliant TV shows when he is given the leeway to do things the way he wants to do them. Even Dollhouse flawed as it was shone on a few instances and you could jsut tell those where the episodes where Whedon did what he wanted to do.

    That said if its a ‘real’ tv show made within the studio system then I would go for J.J. he ain’t half as creative as Whedon, also he often seem to accept ‘good enough’ rather than striving for excellence (take the trek movie as an example, there was nothing special about it… it was simply a trek movie with a re-boot ‘twist’). That said he does seem to find it far easier to work within the system and get the show that he wants on the air in an acceptable fashin, something that Whedon has failed to do since Buffy.

  4. These are both people who I really like when it comes to their projects. I loved Firefly, Serenity and Dollhouse from Joss Whedon, and I enjoyed Alias and Star Trek, loved Lost, Cloverfield from Abrams, not to mention really digging Fringe. There’s a real difference in these two guys though – one really uses the story at the core of his projects, with very strong and memorable characters, interesting story arcs and major thining points that make all of his projects real classics. The other really knows how to sell his vision, with some incredibly slick looking visuals, interesting and intriguing storylines and gets people talking. Respectively, that’s Whedon and Abrams – both guys have their high points when it comes to the geek world, and I don’t know that one is necessarily better than the other in terms of how they have impacted the genre.


    Still, I have to throw my hat over to Whedon, with some caviats: he knows that story is the more important thing here. Firefly/Serenity, Buffy, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog, his Astonishing X-Men comics, and so on, all are really heavy with the story and characters, and people still talk about each of these projects, even though all are now over. His major problem seems to be that with the exception of Buffy, nothing seems to have taken off like they should have. (Well, Dr. Horrible was pretty damn popular) Abrams, on the other hand, makes some really well done movies and TV shows, and knows just what will make the geek stuff appeal to everyone else. 

  5. Whedon. No question. I can rewatch any of his series or movies over and over and not get bored. Abrams provides a good initial ride, sometimes, but doesn’t stand up to time or re-watch. And, just as importantly, Whedon doesn’t use big red blobs that make no sense.

  6. Whedon for me.  As much as I enjoyed Alias, Star Trek, and even MI3, Abrams just doesn’t get to me the way Whedon did with Buffy and Angel.  I also stuck with Dollhouse till the end, despite the uneven tone and network interference.  It def had some brilliant Whedon moments.  I honestly just love everything about the Whedonverse

  7. I’d have to say J.J. is the top man right now.  I loved Alias and love Lost and Fringe.  His version of Star Trek was awesome!  Cloverfield was really good too.  He just can’t seem to do wrong.

    Whedon also does really good work, I loved Buffy and I liked Dollhouse and Firefly.  The thing with him I think is only the true geek follows him which is why his last few shows haven’t been hits.  He needs to have his shows on Syfy right off the bat, I think then the ratings would be fine.  The regular channels go for huge rating and they’re more for the regular person where us uber geeks are fewer so USA, Syfy, FX..etc would be fine for shows like his.  Battlestar Galactica would have never made it on regular TV.

    Since J.J. could take a show like Lost, which is an uber geek show and make it a hit on regular TV, that shows he got the magic touch, and thats why I’m picking J.J. Abrums.

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