A Long-Overdue TV Review (Warning: It’s a Long Read)
First, an apology to A and P for taking so long to write this; things got busy for me through much of the first half of this year. But I figured, summer’s a good time, right?…. right?……
Next, a welcome to A and K; I was told you were interested in reading my random, rambling thoughts on new TV shows, so here you are. Let me know if I was mistaken, obviously.
Now, on to the good stuff.
I know I normally don’t do this, but season 2 of Mr. Robot just aired, and I’m oh-so-excited to see where it goes. I think we can all agree that season 1 was pretty spectacular, and from the first couple episodes, the new one won’t disappoint.
But I digress. New shows are what this is all about, and given my delay between this writing and my previous one, there are quite a few I want to talk about. Let’s start with the horror(ish) shows.
Ash vs. Evil Dead was everything I had wanted it to be – Bruce Campbell reprises his role as Ash, the eternally demon-beset, trying to figure out how to just be left alone. It’s got gore, it’s got comedy, it’s got a chainsaw for a hand – basically, it had everything, plus Lucy Lawless! It was like a serialized version of the movies, and it was amazing.
A bit more recently (like, a few weeks ago), an interesting series called Outcast. This one centers on a man with a pretty terrible childhood whose demons have returned to possess the townsfolk. It’s something like a mystery version of The Exorcist; I’m not quite sure what I think of it yet, having only seen a few episodes so far, but it’s definitely been intriguing, and could end up one to watch.
The final horror(ish) show that I must DEFINITELY recommend, to everyone, right away, now, is BrainDead. This one, first and foremost, is perhaps the timeliest piece of television I have ever had the good fortune to find, given our current election cycle and the show’s focus on political entrenchment. In short, alien bugs land in DC and start changing people’s behavior. It’s part alien horror/mystery, part – really dark – comedy. Plus intro recap songs by Jonathan Coulton, and, as a bonus, exploding heads. Really, it’s definitely worth a watch; just be ready for some gross.
Next up, a trio of sci-fi shows to talk about. Into the Badlands is a post-apocalyptic ninja/western hybrid, with supernatural overtones. The acting was a little weak, to be sure, but the concept was intriguing, and it was a solid show, all around. Again, on the violent side, but with some really cool sword fights. Plus it’s short – only 6 1-hour episodes – so it’s not much of a time investment. I’d recommend it, if “post-apocalyptic ninja/western hybrid” sounds interesting to you.
The second sci-fi show – The Expanse. This is very much a mystery show, following along several different story lines in a far-future solar system where humans have colonized Mars and the asteroid belt (in addition to still living on Earth), and begun evolving away from each other both culturally and physically. It’s based on a book series, and relative to the other sci-fi shows I talked about from last year (Dark Matter and Killjoys), this one is definitely the best, though all three are solidly entertaining. But the way that the stories are all intertwined and connected is really well-done, and there’s space Mormons. So.
Finally (in sci-fi), Colony. Aliens have conquered Earth and set up essentially occupation zones for the surviving populace. It’s essentially a resistance story, looking at how the parents in a family are drawn in different directions to do what they think is right. I’m a big fan of the whole “resistance” or “rebellion” theme, so this one works for me, though it’s nothing special in terms of television shows, at least not yet. I mean, it’s no exploding heads, after all.
Okay. Almost done.
There are three fantasy shows that made the cut (i.e. that I want to talk about). First up is The Magicians, another one based on a book series. In essence, it’s Harry Potter for grown-ups, and so it’s much more serious and bloody in its portrayal of magic. Basically, a grad student gets accepted to a school for magicians and wackiness (read: terror and badness) ensues. The lead character pretty much is a pissant, and I spent basically the whole season wanting to slap him upside the head, or just kick him in the shins repeatedly, I’m not really sure; but physical pain was called for. HOWEVER. Most of the rest of the characters are really great, and since they didn’t shy away from some really intense story lines and events, it ended up being pretty engaging.
Fantasy show number 2 – Lucifer. This is essentially your basic lady-cop-pairs-up-with-charismatic-but-eccentric-male-partner show, except here, the partner is Lucifer, as in Satan, taking a break from ruling over hell by escaping to Los Angeles (because duh). I believe this one is adapted from a graphic novel, but P would be better able to address that. Either way, although it’s formulaic and more or less predictable, and doesn’t really add anything new to the genre, I really enjoyed their version of Lucifer, as a guy who wanted to escape from a job he really didn’t like. On the whole, it was pretty entertaining and fun, if not especially original.
Finally, Shadowhunters. Adapted from teen novels (I believe), this one was basically a bunch of really attractive people killing vampires and fighting demons in New York City. Everyone is after a chalice to have power over the demons, and they have to stop it, and so on. It wasn’t terribly well-acted, nor well-written, and I wouldn’t have finished the season, I don’t think, except that one of the students I was working with knew the books, so we would discuss differences between the show and books occasionally. Worth your time if you want to watch pretty people fight evil with swords made of light (or something like that).
Two more (I know, this is loooooong). Also, these last two are rather out of character for me – they’re neither science fiction, nor horror, nor fantasy, nor do they feature exploding heads, mysteries, anything supernatural, or really fit with any of the shows I’ve discussed, in this summary or any of my previous ones; yet here we are.
I never expected to say this, but I have to recommend Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It’s a musical comedy about a slightly-obsessed woman who follows her ex-boyfriend (from years ago) out to California. I was expecting to watch a few episodes, see just how much they played up the various “crazy female” tropes, and then move on to something better. But then I realized that this show was that something better. Despite all the expectations, it really wasn’t about any of that, at all, for which the writers and creators deserve major kudos. Instead, although it’s framed as being about her attempts to win back her ex, really, the show explores much more about being okay on one’s own, and developing as an individual. The songs are hit-or-miss, but generally made me laugh, and with the surprising depth to the writing, if you overlooked this one, I would suggest you take a second look at it; it was surprisingly good.
Finally – finally – another completely out of character show – UnREAL. This one follows the drama behind the camera on the set of a (fictional) Bachelor-style reality show. It is, in many ways, a psychological drama, as we watch the characters manipulate and coerce the contestants into all kinds of questionable (at best) behavior for the sake of getting good ratings. It’s a really well-done show all around, and again, I was surprised at what they did with it, given the premise seems pretty superficial and bland. This too would be worth checking out, I’d say.
So that’s it. I’m sure I left a bunch out; I already edited my own list to include just the good ones (mostly), since it was running so long. But I’m sure I left out some that deserve mention, so with that in mind, and as always, any thoughts? Did I overlook something that should have been included, or give too-high praise to something that wasn’t worth the trouble it took to make it? Feel free to share your thoughts with the group; that always makes these reviews more fun.
P.S. Everyone should watch Utopia, from 2013. It’s basically the best thing ever (and super, crazy violent, but still, so very, very worth it).