Posts tagged ‘ABC’

Designated Survivor

A horrible terrorist attack decapitates the US government and leaves Jack Bauer as President.  And he’s completely and utterly unprepared.

That’s an extremely intriguing premise.  And the pilot episode was extremely well crafted, for the most part.  I respect television shows that make me yell at the TV in a good way, and the ending of the pilot did exactly that for me.  It left me wanting more, and wanting more NOW, making me wish head over heels that they had gone with a two hour pilot.  Plus I was hoping against hope that someone would work the line “I’m gonna need a hacksaw” into the script.

And then the second episode aired.  Ugh.  So much for that.

I had two problems with the pilot: 1) I find it very hard to believe that horrendous amount of damage could be done to the capitol building by any means other than an airstrike.  And they made it clear that it was not an airstrike.  2) I really do not care about Maggie Q’s subplot.  At all.  I really do not care about Maggie Q’s character.  At all.  You don’t need to make the investigation into the attack a significant part of the show.  Let’s just focus on the hell that Kiefer Sutherland’s character is going through and the hell of how his family reacts to being completely and utterly uprooted.  But no.  We have to add the police procedural aspect to the show, and we have to have the main police procedural character moping over a potential loss.  Sorry, not interested, don’t care.  At all.  Why do we even have to have this B story?

And episode two now has the wife and kids getting annoying, so the “how the family reacts” aspect has suddenly become grating.  In spite of the fact that we’ve got Deirdre from Ronin here as Jack Bauer’s wife.

And then we come to episode three: “The White House has just been hacked!”  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!  Oh dear … that’s actually funny … but not in any sort of good way.  It’s funny in an oh-dear-the-writers-think-they-actually-know-something-about-computer-security-but-that’s-not-really-how-any-of-that-works way.  “Usually a frequency analysis should pinpoint any infected modalities” … what in the holy FUCK is that supposed to mean?!?

“Mommy, what are these?”  “Oh, those are just headache pills, sweetie.”  “I guess Leo gets a lot of headaches.”  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

“Look.  The greatest act of terrorism was just perpetrated on our soil, and I need to know what happened.  And if we don’t play dirty we don’t stand a chance.”  Okay … so much for the 4th Amendment.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

And Maggie Q gets mopier.  Lovely.  Nope, don’t need that.  Not at all.

The only good thing about this series is the fact that they included Kumar (Kal Penn), who was actually part of the Obama administration for a while.  That attempts to lend some semblance of credence to this … but … not enough.  Not nearly enough.

Y’know, I was really looking forward to this, especially with Kiefer Sutherland coming back to TV, but I gave it three eps, and now I’d much rather be watching season two of BrainDead.

 

Jessica Jones

With my recent disappointment with Luke Cage, I realized another level of disappointment: that I never took the time to write up all of my thoughts about Jessica Jones.  Time to dig back into my backlog and post some of these older thoughts.

If Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best film to come out of the MCU, I have to say that Jessica Jones is the best TV series to come out of it.  As wonderful as Krysten Ritter was in the title role and as fantastic as Mike Colter was as Luke Cage, David Tennant was at his swarmiest, creepiest, get-under-your-skin-est best as Kilgrave.  He even outdid James Nesbitt’s performance in Jekyll.  As much as I enjoyed Tennant in his time as the tenth Doctor, Kilgrave — for me — is Tennant’s defining role.  I never expected Marvel to outdo Vincent D’Onfrio’s Kingpin in villainy, but Kilgrave boosted it up to a whole ‘nother level.

My only complaints?  There are a few rough spots in the middle of the storytelling arc (Jones trying to get herself imprisoned in order to trap Kilgrave?  Handcuffing a cop at gunpoint in front of a lawyer?  Really?!?).  And my only real disappointment with this show is the final resolution with Kilgrave; that was just a little too final.  I know they were going for some semblance of personal resolution to allow Jones to move on with her life, but … it’s still disappointing.

In spite of that, I enjoyed it tremendously.  It’s good to see a superhero with flaws, because that reminds us that these superheros (or at least some of them) are still human.  So I’ll accept the complaints that I listed above as being due to the various human flaws in Jones’ character, especially considering this is really the first time we’ve seen a superhero depicted as struggling with the super equivalent of PTSD.  So yes, I’m really looking forward to the next season, but I’m concerned about how they could possibly one-up what they’ve done with Kilgrave.

 

Luke Cage

There’s a first for everything.  In this case, this is the first Netflix/Marvel series that disappointed me.  Both seasons of Daredevil were fun and Jessica Jones was surprisingly compelling.  But not Luke Cage.

I was really hoping it would live up to the hype.  The first three episodes were great, and I can see how people would describe that as the MCU’s take on The Wire.  Unfortunately, episode four was packed with an unnecessary and not-quite-relevant flashback/origin story that derailed the main storytelling arc.  Then they up and kill the show’s best antagonist, while the next couple of “major twists” are telegraphed ahead of time.  And the one thing that is not telegraphed is a blast from Luke’s past that essentially pops up out of nowhere.  I mean, c’mon, if you’re going to pack a whole lot of expositionary flashbackery into the fourth ep anyway, why not drop a hint or two of foreshadowing for what eventually forms the climax of the story?  The next few eps tried to recover but then it all pretty much went downhill after that one particular death.

And is it just me, or does scene after scene after scene of thugs shooting at a bulletproof super-strong guy just get boring?  Action scenes are supposed to be exciting, not dull.  Yeah, I see how they added a sequence in the third ep that was reminiscent of Daredevil‘s hallway fight (or stairway fight, depending on what season you’re watching), but Luke Cage‘s big action piece there was nowhere nearly as exciting as the corresponding scenes in Daredevil.

Then further flashbackery ends up interfering with the climactic fight itself.  No, dammit, we don’t need that.  Let the fight play out the way it will play out, as it is.  Throwing further flashbacks into the middle of the action ends up interrupting the action, which interrupts the storytelling, which pulls this viewer out of the moment and makes him wonder what new stories might be out there on Google News.

I am particularly disappointed here because of how powerful Mike Colter’s performance was in Jessica Jones.  He was fantastic in that.  He was … okay … here.

Another first: this is the first Netflix/Marvel series that had me watching it on one monitor whilst I was actively using a web browser in another monitor.  Daredevil entertained me enough to keep my attention.  Jessica Jones had me riveted to the screen for the most part.  Luke Cage had me reading the news, my email, and forum posts with one eye during a solid two-thirds of it.  That’s not a good sign for Iron Fist, whenever that ends up being released, since I was a whole lot more hyped for Luke Cage than I ever was for Iron Fist.

Sigh.  Bring on The Defenders already, please.  And Jessica Jones season two.

 

Daredevil

Wow!  Color me seriously impressed.

I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the original Daredevil film, but this series out-Daredevils Daredevil in the very first episode.  And as much as I thought Michael Clarke Duncan was a casting coup back in 2003, Vincent D’Onofrio’s first appearance as the Kingpin here sent shivers up and down my spine.

This is the darkest that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gone thus far, and it works tremendously well.  I’m pausing to write this up after binge watching the first three episodes, and now I’m heading back to the TV with a drinking jar full of Fosters to work my way through another few eps.

A few shoutouts:

Charlie Cox is spot-on perfect as Matt Murdoch/Daredevil.  I adore him in this role.

The continuous shot at the climax of the second episode was freakin’ awesome!  Felt like a nice homage to John Woo’s long continuous shot in and out of the elevator in Hard Boiled.

I’m so glad that Deborah Ann Woll is a part of this.  I could watch her in damn near anything, but she looks much better as a redhead than as a blonde.

The fight at the climax of the third episode has to be the most vicious fight I’ve seen yet in any MCU installment.  And I thought the May-on-May fight in Agents Of SHIELD‘s “Face My Enemy” was something.  Yowza.

So please forgive me as I shut down here and go back to binge watching a few more eps.  Now I can’t wait for Stick to show up.

 

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Ooooh, what a great show.  Just watched the first two episodes (Pilot and 0-8-4), and ABC really should’ve played them back-to-back as a 2 hour premiere.

Nice writing, nice pacing, neat li’l in-jokes, great chemistry between the leads — tho I’m somewhat reserved on Chloe Bennet as Skye, but I think that’s probably deliberate on the producers’ part.  I really liked the “hacked our RSA implementation” references.

This is the first TV premiere since The Walkng Dead that makes me want to sit down and make time to watch this show on a regular basis.  I need to start doing that.

Great start, let’s hope it holds up in the long run.

Programs Vs. Programmes

Two things inspired this far-too-long post. The first is a comment that a friend of mine made in response to my comments about The Cape. He said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that he’s pleased by how little stupidity comes out of his television because he never turns it on. The second is a question that my son asked me, which I’ll get to further below.

A little background first. My kids watch a lot of British television programmes. And it all started with Doctor Who.

I grew up watching a lot of British television. Thank you, PBS. Back in the ’70s, PBS was my main source of edutainment — Sesame Street, The Electric Company, ZOOM, etc. And then two things blew open the doors of my TV-viewing mind.

The Doctor and Jo Grant walked in on the Doctor and Jo Grant …

“This won’t do at all! We can’t have two of us running about.”

… and a dissatisfied Mr. Praline tried to return a parrot to a pet shop:

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my lad. ‘E’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it!”

PBS introduced me to Doctor Who and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and I’ve never been quite the same since. Those were my gateway drugs for British drama and comedy. Doctor Who led to Upstairs Downstairs, I Claudius, Danger UXB and other BBC dramas repackaged under the Masterpiece Theatre banner. Monty Python’s Flying Circus led to Ripping Yarns, Fawlty Towers, The Two Ronnies, and Dave Allen At Large.

I ended up watching so much British television as a kid that one of the first things my first dorm roommate in college asked me was, “Are you British?” Nope, born and bred in the Windy City. But then again, he got into college on a wrestling scholarship, so he wasn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Even in my childhood viewing habits, I started to notice a difference. Episode by episode, I enjoyed the British series a whole lot more than what I was seeing produced by American studios. There appeared to be an ephemerally higher level of quality running through the majority of the British programmes I watched that was lacking from most (but, to be fair, not all) of the American programs I watched. The occasional American episode would hit that level of quality, but they were fewer and further between compared to what I was seeing on PBS.

This was really driven home by failed attempts to adapt British programmes for the mainstream American viewing audience. My father was a big fan of All In The Family. Thus, I got to know and appreciate Bea Arthur as a comedienne through her work on Maude. When I heard she had a new series called Amanda’s, I eagerly tuned in. Imagine my surprise when I realized I was watching an adaptation of a Fawlty Towers episode, with some dialog sections lifted literally word-for-word out of the original script. Only … it was exceedingly poorly done. The characterizations weren’t there. The comic timing wasn’t there. It was godawfully painful to watch. Which is rather appropriate considering CBS tried again with John Larroquette in the ’90s in the aptly-titled Payne. That didn’t last either, for many of the same reasons.

Some more recent failures? The BBC’s amazingly engaging Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets became ABC’s amazingly dismal Defying Gravity. But I think I’ve ranted enough about that one already. And we can also blame ABC for having the gall to try to produce an American version of the BBC’s brilliant Life On Mars. The less said about that, the better. And nobody in our family holds out any hope for SyFy’s new version of the BBC’s Being Human.

All In The Family, however, is an example of a British adaptation that actually worked. All In The Family was a groundbreaking American sitcom that worked so well I never knew it was an American version of Till Death Do Us Part until many many years later. But this level of success in crossing the pond seems to be a rarity.

Another comparison that comes to mind is how our different entertainment sources treat the same subject matter. Let’s take, for example, a disaster story involving a volcanic eruption. In 1997, Hollywood produced Volcano and Dante’s Peak. (Yes, I know, these are movies, not television programs, but bear with me here.) Volcano was just plain stoopid. Dante’s Peak was somewhat more accurate scientifically, but was still full of dippy characters and unrealistic action sequences. Eight years later, the BBC airs Supervolcano, which was well-written, well-acted, scientifically down-to-earth, and (as my boys both admitted) downright scary.

Or nuclear war. ABC hyped The Day After as something nobody should watch alone, so I did. In a darkened dorm room. I thought it alternated between being dead boring and unintentionally hilarious. The single moment that came close to getting under my skin was the few minutes they spent depicting the bombs going off. That, and Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz saying to the other talking heads (Carl Sagan, Henry Kissinger, Robert McNamara, William F. Buckley) in the post-miniseries discussion, “The only reason we have for keeping nuclear weapons is to see to it that they are not used.” The very next year, the BBC unleashed Threads on the world. Threads scared the hell out of me. Just thinking about it still gives me a shiver up and down my spine as I type this. And recently, I finally saw The War Game, which the BBC essentially shelved for 20 years. Shivers, again.

In 2005, Doctor Who came back on the air. I had tried to get my kids interested in that programme for years. My daughter never could stomach the low (compared to today) production values of the old classic Doctor Who episodes. As much as my boys liked Daleks, they could take it or leave it. The programme’s 2005 regeneration, however, sucked all of them in. By the time the third episode ended, they were die-hard fans. I still remember how angry my daughter was when Christopher Eccleston left the programme; she absolutely hated David Tennant. As Tennant’s first season progressed, she started to adore him as the Doctor. Then when Tennant left the programme, she was angry again and absolutely hated Matt Smith. Now, after having seen Smith’s first season, she adores him. It’s so refreshing to see her experience what I experienced decades ago with Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, and Peter Davison.

In 2009, in anticipation of David Tennant ending his reign as the Doctor, we had our own BBCish Christmas. Doctor Who: The End Of Time, Nan’s Christmas Carol, The Gruffalo, The Turn Of The Screw, and Doctor Who-based episodes of QI and Never Mind The Buzzcocks. I also sat the kids down to show them Ghostwatch, which is a style of program that I haven’t seen done well since NBC’s Special Bulletin in 1983.

Around this time, my son asked me a question that I couldn’t answer: “Dada, why is British television so much better than American television?”

In addition to the titles I’ve already mentioned, my kids love Red Dwarf and Primeval. My boys love Sapphire & Steel. My daughter loves Coupling. My wife loves Blackadder. I love Blake’s 7. Shoutouts to Occupation, The Stone Tape, Karaoke/Cold Lazarus, Jekyll, Edge Of Darkness (Bob Peck can kick Mel Gibson’s ass any day of the week), Dead Set, and Sherlock.

That’s not to say that I think 100% of British programmes are 100% fantastic. I was less than impressed with the recent BBC adaptations of The Day Of The Triffids and The First Men In The Moon. I never could really see why people thought Benny Hill was funny. As fun as Space: 1999 was, it had more than its fair share of dumb moments, as has my beloved Doctor Who. The new Survivors was an unnecessary remake, but it was engaging enough to be watchable. The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy loses a lot in its translation from radio serial to television, but it’s still funny (and significantly better than the big-budget film adaptation). I can’t help thinking the average level of quality of British programmes appears to be significantly higher than the average level of quality of American programs.

So I’m going to open this up … why is British television so much better than American television? Or is that just a fallacy on my part? Does it have to do with the the BBC being funded by license fees and American television being funded by blatant consumerism? Does it have to do with cultural differences relating to how the viewing public expects to be entertained? Are British producers shooting for a higher lowest common denominator than American producers? Or is it some sort of cultural or perceptual filter, where only the better British programmes are making their way across the pond? (That may have been true in the ’70s & ’80s, but given how ubiquitous the internet and torrents are today, I see that as being unlikely.)

How should I answer my son’s question?

Shit, Revisited

Caprica

So … the final five eps of Craprica have aired in Canada (and are available online as torrents). And the best thing about them were the final few minutes of the final episode. We got an all-too-brief glimpse of what would have happened through the rest of the series. I really want to know if that was intended from the very beginning or if that was added after the fact when the producers realized that SyFy was going to can the series. As I said before, “very mixed feelings here.” The STO storyline is pure hokum. The Tauron mafia storyline, as much as it originally intrigued me, ended up being far too clichéd. The Greystone Industries storyline, as much as I want Amanda Greystone to be brutally disemboweled (I still find it amazing how much I liked Paula Malcomson in Deadwood compared to how much I despise her here), could actually sustain an entire second season. But no. Denied.

No Ordinary Family

Oh dear God … this show could’ve been fantastic … but it ended up as complete and utter crap … why the hell do I continue to waste my time with this?!? Oh yeah … Julie Benz … that’s why …..

The Walking Dead

The greatest piece of news I’ve heard regarding this series was that Frank Darabont fired the entire writing staff for season two. Again, this show should’ve been fantastic, but the first season ended up mediocre at best. It’s still stretching my suspension of disbelief (can you *REALLY* outrun a thermobaric weapon on foot in four minutes and thirty-one seconds?!?) Yeah, as I mentioned before, the source material ain’t all that great to start with, but I can’t help drawing analogies between the first season of The Walking Dead and the first season of Babylon 5. Babylon 5‘s first season had just a few bare hints of what the show would eventually become. Hopefully The Walking Dead will do the same. Bring on Michonne and the prison.