New TV Shows - Spoilers within
Probably not a big deal to have some spoilers here, since these shows won't last long.
Not sure what network is on, since the advent of the DVR I rarely notice what channel I am watching. I'm sure the networks love this fact.
A boy goes missing in the 1970s and magically reappears in China. For him it is the next day. For his parents and extended family (who magically include the town sheriff (his uncle) who investigated his disappearance and the doctor (his aunt) who examines the boy upon his return (and who was a baby at the scene of his initial disappearance when her mother either committed suicide or was pushed into the river or jumped in the save the boy who claims to have jumped in to save his aunt.
An ICE officer (Omar Epps) returns the boy to his parents (somehow they get to his house since the boy does not speak initially), and 30 years later they still live in the same house (maybe that's normal in a small town, we moved like 12 times before I graduated high school). And I've only seen the pilot, but he and the doctor are definitely hooking up.
There are similarities to the plot of Flight of the Navigator, without the aliens (or maybe not perhaps).
The pilot ends with, you guessed it, another formerly dead guy coming back to life, and he's related to one of the main characters.
With obvious religious themes the show has potential, though it seems overly saccharin with lots of emotionally manipulative scenes.
This is NBC's answer to "24". A bus carrying the children of America's elite is attacked and the children are abducted, including the son of the president, the daughter of Gillian Anderson (she's playing some big time executive like Carly Fiorina) who is really the daughter of the lead FBI agent(Rachel Taylor) working the case (what are the chances?). After the pilot episode, it is clear that every single parent of every kidnapped child is somehow involved. No doubt each episode will focus on one parent and his or her involvement.
The show, in comparison to 24, is typical NBC - they simply don't spend enough money on these shows. While they got Philip Noyce (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) to direct the pilot(it can only get worse from here), and a couple of actors we recognize besides Agent Sculley, the show falls flat almost from the first scene.
The show jumped the shark (this is the pilot mind you) when the baddies managed to crash a Predator drone. We see the drone shut down, then cut to the inside of a diner, as people go about eating their burgers and fries. Through the windows we see the drone crash and explode, and the people in the diner barely notice. In reality, I'm pretty sure such an explosion would have shattered the windows of nearby buildings and caused quite a commotion. And it just looked silly. Sorry NBC, but a pilot episode of a serious drama should not have anything silly in it.
I have yet to watch the Believe pilot, about kids with supernatural abilities.
Helix - SyFy
The show was advertised as Walking Dead meets Andromeda Strain. It is from Ronald Moore who brought us Battlestar Galactica.
We watched most of the episodes, starring Billy Campbell and some other somewhat recognizable people, including a brief appearance by 7 of Nine. I can't really put into words how uneven this show is. It jumps from conspiracy theory to conspiracy theory with bits of action followed by lots of uncomfortable dialogue and implausible coincidences.
I get it, it's the SyFy channel. Perhaps Mr. Moore licensed his name like Wolfgang Puck puts his name on restaurants in airports.
If you have missed Helix up to this point, consider yourself lucky.
In all honesty, I slept through about half of these episodes - they just don't hold your attention, and when you wake up you don't really feel like you missed anything important.
Think we'll stick with AMC, HBO and Showtime.
When an episode of Game of Thrones costs $6 million, unfortunately the broadcast networks just can't compete. Unfortunate for the networks that is.
Believe looks like a knock-off of "Firestarter".
I've been meaning to give Helix a try, on principle.
This week I got curious and watched two of the Amazon Prime pilots. I guess they made ten and whichever of the batch got the best feedback and viewership, they ordered full seasons? The two I watched got a full season order, though I didn't know that at the time.
First, The After, which I decided I needed to watch because the creator, Chris Carter, also created X-Files. I love X-Files more than I love any human being. I was cautious though. I saw the last two seasons of X-Files and the last X-Files movie and Millennium, after all. So This After is a post-apocalyptic tale set in modern LA -- a band of conveniently ethnically diverse strangers are tossed together when something really bad happens in LA or to the world. They're trapped in an elevator and parking garage for a little while together, and when they emerge, they discover that the world is ending, communications and power are completely down, and they're all missing a day of time from their lives. Chaos ensues.
This was one of the worst written shows I've ever watched in my life. The cast is trope by numbers, The Mom Who Wants Her Kid Back, The Arrogant Lawyer, The Angry Black Convict, The Sexually Liberated Woman, The Useless (but not) Old Lady, the Foreign Dude. They end up sticking together for inexplicable reasons after they've been freed. The dialogue is awful. The symbolism couldn't hit you in the face any harder. People do things that don't make any sense: the Mom runs her phone battery down watching a video of her kid, the Sexually Liberated Woman skinny dips in a stranger's pool, the Irish Man is drunk. It's a godawful train wreck of a show, you guys. As a friend of mine put it, "this show isn't written, it's typed."
That said, I'll watch the next episode (and that's all) because I dig the very basic premise and I admire the bold move at the end to (spoiler) actually show a physical monster and put this on some kind of path right away, unlike many mysterious horror-esque shows. This has some Lost vibes to it, which doesn't work in its favor. I don't want to get hooked into a show that's weird for the sake of weirdness, and this isn't even a tiny fraction as good as any five seconds of Lost's pilot. Pilots can be rough, maybe it works itself out after an episode or two. Probably not. Actually maybe I won't watch the next one.
The other pilot I watched was Transparent, which stars Jeffrey Tambor as a dude who is trying to start living his life as a woman, but can't figure out how to tell his adult children. But oh look, the adult children all have sex-related secrets of their own. Tambor alone is enough to watch this show -- funnily, his demeanor reminds me a lot of Oscar Bluth, the stoned twin brother of George Bluth -- but he's very sweet and you actually feel for his character. The kids though...this is gonna be a rough show to like, I think. He admits they're all very selfish, and they are very selfish. But the pilot goes to the trouble of showing that they're all hiding something, and not in a way that makes me say "oh, that sort of thing is what's motivating them to be a dick." I'll keep watching this show because it's got a nice comedy-drama vibe, but the pilot was kinda warm-ish to me.
It's not new but I also watched the first episode of Hannibal and it was ten times better than either of these pilots, so there ya go.
Sorry to hear about the Chris Carter pilot. He's one of the guys who has earned the benefit of the doubt from me, but this sounds pretty hideous.
A pair of guys who used to be at the tippy-top of my must-see list are now at the tippy-top of my "filled with dread as cold as the grave, but have to check anyway because they used to be at the top of that OTHER list" -- and that would be JJ Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón. At this point, I assume that everything they touch will turn to crap, or worse, and can only barely peek through one eye at what they're doing...
...and you know what? I'm enjoying the heck out of Believe, the drama they're doing for NBC. There's a 10-ish year old girl with powers that something something whoever controls her controls the whatever...to be honest, I can't remember that part. But she's AMAZING. Absolutely enough to carry a full-scale network series on her own.
The good news is that she's not on her own. The two guys fighting over her are former partners, a well-intentioned geneticist played by DELROY f'in LINDO -- now THAT's a guy I'll watch whatever he does -- and a mysteriously wealthy scientist who's interested in developing these powers in kids, played by KYLE f'in MACLACHLAN. Every bit of scenery has giant teethmarks on it, and it's awesome.
There's a sappy sentimentality -- the human spirit blah blah blah --plus revelations about the little girl's parents, mysterious collusions between gubmint and creepy corporations BLAH BLAH BLAH, but pulled off with mainstream drama skilz played straight -- VERY naturalistic. If you watched with the sound turned off, you'd barely get a hint that there was any supernatural (by which I mean "natural PLUS") element at all.
I don't get the sense that this show is going to be eternal, or even necessarily a hit, but I always look forward to it, and I always really enjoy it.
Resurrection is an interesting compare-contrast -- definitely nudged a little bit further supernatural, but the ripples of people coming back from the dead extend a lot further out. It's still played pretty straight, though. Not at all plotwise, but in TONE, this reminds me strongly of Under the Dome, which I mostly mean in a good way. You definitely sense that the town is getting wound tighter and tighter by this, and that we're one false move away from things getting ugly fast -- also meant mostly in a good way.
Otherwise, though, another example of mainstream network drama, ALSO meant in a good way. Just because there's no drugs or dragons, not even vampires, doesn't mean it's beneath contempt.
Best show of 2013-2014 for me has probably been Sleepy Hollow, but I reserve the right to remember something else. I don't think I will though. I think they got dang near every second of that thing exactly right.
Comedy, though? A slam dunk for sure: Brooklyn Nine-nine. Season 1 just wrapped, and it really was pretty close to perfect. I think one reason why P&R may have slipped so far this year is that the showrunners shifted their attention to Brooklyn Nine-nine, which I honestly enjoyed more than almost anything P&R has had to offer.
Now on one hand, you know how little respect I have for 13-episode seasons. I just don't feel like you're committed to the story telling if that's all you're giving me, and that makes me less inclined to be committed to YOU. That said, I think both Sleepy Hollow and Brooklyn Nine-nine benefited from not having to stretch any further than they did. B9-9 definitely deserved its Best Comedy trophy. I can't wait for both of these to return.
Unlikeliest comeback of the year: The Walking Dead. It's not just the most popular show on cable. It's the most popular show on TELEVISION, and I think that it has mostly deserved that...but my heavens, the first part of this season was an almighty drag. We stopped watching. Then right before the second half started up we figured, aw, what the hey. We've come this far, let's see what they've got.
They basically rebooted the show into wonderful little slices, as characters peeled off in twos and threes, with maybe one major zombie episode per episode, so to speak. It got very QUIET, almost contemplative, which had the effect of ratcheting up actual EMOTION. Gol' dang, I'm INSANE for this show now. They've been by far the best in the series, and the other show in contention for year's best. Heck, depending on what they deliver in Sunday's finale, it may yet sneak into first place.
YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS TOO.
The fact is that a ton of people are. It's the hour-long post-mortem that's meaningfully driven by comedians, but also exec producers, actors, and intense celebrity fans who know how to tell a good story themselves, plus behind the scenes stuff, extended previews, etc. -- and if cable and networks were calculated head to head, this would be a top-20 show, and deservedly so.
The running not-so-joke is that these last few episodes are so intense that this hour is our therapy group. Admittedly, this won't be for all of you...but it's definitely worth a shot. Even at an hour, it flies by, and they post another 20 minutes+ online the next day.
Nothing will make me stop watching The Vampire Diaries, but I do feel obliged to mention that, after a couple of "wtf are you people THINKING" episodes at the beginning of the season, they've largely righted the ship. For its first 3 seasons, I thought it was among the best shows on tv. In its third season THE BEST SHOW ON TV, PERIOD, certainly from a production design -- nobody was designing, lighting, shooting, editing, using music in even vaguely the same class. Nobody, and I thought the stories were amazing. These days, it doesn't scale those heights, and I don't think they ever can again -- TV keeps getting better so fast -- but if all it can be is "really, really good," that's good enough.
I need to re-fire the Cosmos thread, but I have mixed feelings about it. I love Neil, and I love that Fox is trying to do something special...but I'm not entirely sure they're entirely succeeding. I dunno. I'll tune in no matter what, but the jury is still out for me.
I'm going to start a new thread on Orphan Black, but if you've ever loved anything on TV with a science fiction-y/suspense-y flavor, you need to get Season 1 of this at the top of your Netflix queue. It's a show with basically one star who you've never heard of -- and her Comic-Con session was one of the hottest tickets. Even though she looks nothing even a little like a cover girl (she could be Mila Kunis's plainer older sister), she was on the cover of Entertainment Weekly naming the show as your next obsession. Maybe, maybe not...but definitely deserving of its own thread, and your attention.
Rick and Morty is hands down the best new show of the year. To me, there is no competition. And every episode is on YouTube for some unexplained, glorious reason (oh I guess it's played in slight fast forward, that's not what their voices sound like...)! Need more convincing? Uhhh, Dan Harmon is the co-creator, and also it's freaking hilarious and super cleverly written. It's the only Adult Swim show I've ever loved.