Monthly Archives: March 2017
Okay, so it’s been a while. I’m the worst. Yadda yadda yadda. I get it. And I’m sorry for it. But nonetheless, here we are, so let’s just move on to the good stuff, and let bygones be bygones.
I’ve been watching a lot of shows since I last wrote, and I am surprised, and pleased, to say that so very many of them are excellent programming. I don’t know if I’ve just gotten lucky this time around, or if there really are that many great shows out there these days, but either way, things are looking good for us television watchers these days, though we may be experiencing something of a glut of good TV. Regardless.
*Exhales* Okay. I’ll try this again.
Westworld, though I am not current on it, is fantastic all the same. Anyone out there looking for both a sci-fi drama and an Old Western period piece will be hard-pressed to find a better one. And anything that gives me more Anthony Hopkins (yes, that Anthony Hopkins) can’t possibly be bad. And Westworld isn’t; it’s the opposite of bad. It’s actually quite good.
Marvel has been hitting big again and again – this time around, Luke Cage and Iron Fist deserve mention (and Legion, but that really demands attention all its own). Luke Cage is pretty great, though I’m not sure where I would place it relative to Daredevil or Jessica Jones. All three of them have been fantastic, in their own ways. Which brings us to Iron Fist. I’ve only recently begun that one, and I’m well aware of the issues surrounding this character and property; for where I am in the series so far, I haven’t yet encountered those issues, as far as I can tell, though maybe I’m too white to know it (I’m certainly very, very white), but I would also say, regardless of that, it’s weaker than the other titles, at least to this point (two episodes in, for those keeping score). I plan to continue it, of course, so it may yet improve, but that calls for speculation on my part, so here we are.
There were a couple of fantastic foreign titles that require mention this time – Occupied, a Norwegian show set in the near-ish future (Okkupert, if you have trouble finding info using the English title), and 3%, a Brazilian endeavor taking place in the indeterminate future. Both are excellent. Occupied explores Norway as it experiences a quiet Russian takeover of the government, with Europe looking on in apathy. It was really quite well done all around, but what has continued to stick with me is the opening credits, which just might do the absolute best job of both setting the tone and conveying the backstory of any show I have ever watched (which, in case I haven’t been clear, is quite a few). Aside from the credits, of course, the acting, writing, story, etc, are all well worth the subtitles. I’m eagerly awaiting a second season on this one, though I don’t know when that might be.
3%, on the other hand, is something of a cross between The Hunger Games and pure originality (since I can’t find a better comparison offhand). It follows a group of 20-ish-year-olds as they go through “The Process”, a series of tests designed to select out the best 3% of every generation. One of the best things about this show is the relatable-ness of the villain – not only does he pretty much exude arrogance, over-self-confidence, and sadistic intellect, but you also can’t help coming away from the show feeling some amount of sympathy and respect for the man. It’s really well-done, in all regards. The subtitles are very much worth it.
Next on the “good” list are Embeds, about political reporters following a third- or fourth-rate Presidential campaign, and Shut Eye, about a con-man psychic who starts having actual visions. Embeds is nothing revolutionary, to be sure, but it’s relatively short (only 6 half-hour episodes), and still manages to do some good work with the time it has. Given its length, it’s definitely worth a consideration. Shut Eye, on the other hand, requires a larger time commitment, but is still worth the investment (perhaps if you’ve already seen much of what I’ve already mentioned, at least). It was, on the whole, well-written, well-acted, and so on, though there was, for me, a pretty glaring inconsistency in the story which was annoying. But on the whole, I would have to recommend it.
Finally, MTV has done it again – first they created a really faithful television adaptation of the Scream franchise (Scream: The TV Series), now they’ve come out with Sweet/Vicious, a series about a couple of college women who exact vigilante justice on accused rapists let off too easily by the system. Obviously, it deals directly with issues of sexual violence (since that is the prime motivator of the series), but I would argue that, on the whole, it is respectful and relatively honest in its depictions and descriptions, and beyond that, it’s just generally entertaining to watch a pint-sized sorority girl kick the shit out of guys who really, by any estimation, deserve it. Beyond all that, Sweet/Vicious does a great job writing characters you care about, giving each a lot more depth than many other shows. Again, it’s very much worth a watch, more so than either Embeds or Shut Eye.
Finally finally, an animated fantasy-adventure from Guillermo del Toro – Trollhunters. This one follows the story of a teen-aged human who gets chosen by a mystical amulet to defend Trollhome from evil trolls (all the non-human characters are trolls, but not all of them are evil). It’s the right mix of fun, light, dark, creepy, and horror, and is just an all-around good time. (It also features the voice-work of Kelsey Grammer, for all you Frasier fans out there.)
So that’s the good (except for Legion, which really just deserves its own email, but will be handled at the end of this one instead). Watch anything on this list, and you probably won’t be disappointed, with an asterisk next to Iron Fist mainly because I’m only two episodes in so far.
On to the bad.
I am so happy to report that there is so little bad to report this time! Based on what I’ve watched, at least. There’s only two that are worth a mention – Aftermath, about the end of…. well, everything, really; and Van Helsing, about a great-great-something-or-other descendant of the classic Van Helsing who finds herself the focal point of a vampire conquest of the western United States after the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts and coats the sky in ash and darkness. Honestly, the premise sounds a lot more interesting than the first 6 or 7 episodes proved to be; I would say don’t waste your time, given how much greatness there is elsewhere (just re-read the earlier paragraphs here, if you doubt!).
Aftermath, on the other hand, suffered from weak characters, weak writing, and just generally too much risk. Basically, it follows the struggle of one family to survive the apocalypse, both natural and supernatural, as everything that you can possibly imagine going wrong goes wrong, with some extra unimaginable wrong-going thrown in for…. good measure? I guess? Aside from its overall weaknesses, which could maybe be forgiven or corrected given enough time, my biggest problem with this show is that, from the start, the stakes are too high. There are hurricanes staying inland over the west coast; the power can’t stay on for too long; a mysterious virus is infecting people more or less at random and turning them into irrational berserkers; fish are falling from the sky during storms (presumably from the hurricanes); meteors are hurtling towards Earth; long-dormant spirit-walkers are awakening and possessing people; and I think I saw some preview somewhere that showed dragons? I don’t really know. The point is this – when the stakes are raised so much that survival is impossible, but you make a show about people whose survival is guaranteed, you find yourself in a predicament that’s really hard to get out of. You can’t back off on the disasters without weakening your premise, and you can’t kill off your characters while still having characters left over, so your only choices are great writing, or really compelling characters. Unfortunately, Aftermath fails on both those points.
I’m also going to skim though a number of shows that weren’t bad, but weren’t great. These are worth watching, I’d say, if their premises interest you, or if you’re looking for something more mindless to use to pass the time without becoming super invested. So here goes – Pitch. Timeless. Lethal Weapon. MacGyver. Designated Survivor. The Blacklist: Redemption. Powerless. Each of these has merits in its own right – Pitch and Designated Survivor are probably the best of this bunch, all around, being about the first woman called up to the major leagues in baseball, and about the HUD secretary assuming the presidency after the rest of government is blown up in a terrorist attack during the State of the Union speech, respectively. They’re each solid shows, on the whole, and you could watch a lot worse than these.
Lethal Weapon and MacGyver are reboots of their respective properties; both are generally entertaining, reasonably solid shows, but to my knowledge, neither adds anything revolutionary or ground-breaking, and can be skipped without missing anything more than mindless entertainment.
Timeless is about a trio of people recruited by the government to track down a terrorist through time; he’s bent on changing history, they’re bent on saving it. It’s silly; it’s fun; it’s not-awful; you could do worse. The Blacklist: Redemption probably isn’t worth watching unless you’re a fan of The Blacklist, in which case you’re probably already watching it. But it’s basically an extension of the original; it’s generally solidly-written and solidly-acted, but I can’t say I’d suggest starting this one up without having some investment or interest in The Blacklist in the first place. It’s intriguing so far, but not must-see TV, by any means (unlike Legion; see below).
Powerless answers the question all DC Comics fans have been wondering for ages – what about the people in a superhero universe who don’t have powers? It’s fun, and it’s got some really fun actors – Danny Pudi and Alan Tudyk will always have a special place in my heart – but so far, it’s not exceptional, or groundbreaking, or etc etc etc. But fun, all the same.
To end (most) of this entry, a new category(!) – shows I expected would suck, but surprisingly didn’t. These are shows I didn’t know much about, beyond the premise, and didn’t expect would amount to much, but definitely did. First up – The Mick, about a non-affluent woman whose affluent sister and brother-in-law get arrested for tax fraud, and who finds herself the unexpected custodian of her sister’s absolutely atrocious children. It’s more or less a fish-out-of-water story, except the fish is no great saint herself, and is just generally a lot of absurd fun, with just the right amount of emotion to make me care.
Likewise, we have Mary Kills People, a show with an ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS name, that is nevertheless much better than you’d expect. Surprisingly, it’s about a doctor, named Mary, who moonlights by helping people commit suicide. It’s a Canadian show, which kind of destroys the premise (since Canada legalized assisted suicide back in June of 2016), but regardless of that, the writing, acting, and story are all much more engaging than I had expected. I would probably recommend this one above the “okay’s” or “so-so’s” that I’ve already discussed.
Finally (for this section), the breakout star, from SyFy Channel (oh my God, why did they do that to themselves?) – Wynonna Earp. Like Van Helsing, mentioned above, this one follows the great-to-whatever-degree granddaughter of another classic figure, in this case, Wyatt Earp (duh), as she finds herself back in her hometown fighting the resurrected demon souls of the men her whatever-degree-grandfather killed in the first place. There’s no doubt that the premise is absurd, and the acting/writing/storytelling are far from perfect. But watching it through to the end of its first season, not only did I find myself surprised and excited by the twists and turns it took throughout, but I also found myself really hoping for a second season (apparently announced in 2016, so yay for that!). This isn’t one that demands attention, obviously, but it’s a supernatural woman-vs-demon Old-Western-style show that was, for me, a lot of fun, and a good deal better than I expected. It’s not great, by any standards, but if you looked at it and scoffed, maybe give it a second look if you find yourself with some time.
So, I think that’s about it for now. I don’t know what else to say, except…. what? What’s that? I didn’t mention Legion? I committed such a sin against the TV-watching public? Well, I guess I need to make up for that, don’t I….
Legion. Watch it. Watch it now. It’s amazing; it’s weird; it’s gorgeous; it’s crazy; it’s amazing. It’s about an (apparently) obscure X-Men character (Legion), about whom I knew nothing, prior to this show, but holy Hell is it fantastically done. The filming, acting, writing, and story are all, to this point in the season, superb. The show airs on FX (not necessarily known for its television muscle, though certainly no slouch, I suppose), and they could not have done a better job with it. The season is only 6 or 7 episodes in, at this point, and I am not caught up on Westworld just yet (I know, I know; parade me naked through the streets beating a drum and chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!”. Except please don’t do that, for my sake and yours), but Legion might just be the best show on TV right now. Plus, it’s got Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) absolutely killing it in possibly the most sinister role I’ve seen on TV in a long time. Do yourself a favor – do us all a favor – and watch Legion, if you haven’t yet. This is my new Utopia (another show that you should probably drop everything and watch right-the-f-now, by the way, if you haven’t yet). Legion demands to be seen. Just…. expect weirdness, because hoo-boy!, does it deliver!
Okay, for real this time, that’s all I’ve got. What am I not watching that I should be? Did I leave out your favorite new show? Is there something full of buzz that I didn’t mention here? Let me know! I’m always looking for new shows to consume.
P.S. I’m aware of, but haven’t started watching yet, a number of new and relatively new shows, including Incorporated and Falling Water (the first episode of which was so very different from any other USA show that I don’t know why I haven’t watched more just yet, but I haven’t), so if I didn’t mention something here, it might just be that I haven’t given it a try just yet. But let me know about it anyway, just in case! AND GO WATCH LEGION! NOW!