Another great sf television show was lost last Friday. Fringe was a show that I got into late – and I understand very clearly that I am part of the problem because of that. We are offered so few challenging shows on television, so it is up to us to not only support them but also share them with other potential viewers. I failed to get on board sooner, mostly thanks to the fact that the first season is merely adequate. It doesn’t sell the high concepts that came in the later seasons. Read the rest of this entry
This post may contain spoilers about Looper. I’ve done my best to keep it somewhat vague, but perceptive readers might be able to figure it out. As for Doctor Who, I’m less vague. Why? Because I think the accessibility of television shows allows us to tiptoe far less.
Time travel stories are simultaneously some of the most intriguing and frustrating science fiction tales out there. They offer glimpses of possibilities that we will likely never, and should never, know while being burdened with the fact that they must tell a compelling narrative. If most individuals were provided the means to travel through time, the stories would be uninteresting and/or disastrous. Meeting idols and family members do not necessarily make for compelling fiction. Nor does the likely scenario of someone simply breaking time and space for doing something stupid. (“Well, they’re going to learn how to make fire eventually, so what the hell?”)
io9, likely directly inspired by watching Looper, recently posted an article about how messy time travel stories, those with uncertain rules and no desire to adhere to a stable loop and timeline, are some of the most interesting. I cannot say that I agree, but I can understand Charlie Jane Anders’ point of view. After all, when the end is the beginning is the end of a story, where’s the fun of it? Everything seems boxed into place in a manner that seems to hit the border between OCD and OCPD. But that doesn’t mean time travel stories should eschew rules. Otherwise it becomes far too convenient. Read the rest of this entry
It appears that there is talk of changing Hulu’s current model. Instead of free-for-all streaming of content, they may be moving toward having viewers use their cable subscription credentials for authentication. In other words, Hulu will still be free if you have a cable subscription.
This is an obvious swipe at cord cutters, who immediately reference Hulu and Netflix when discussing how they get occasional television content. The idea is that by withholding Hulu from those who are not paying for cable, it will discourage future cord cutters and possibly persuade previous cord cutters to return to the fold. It’s not a bad plan in the long run. Without Hulu, how else are cord cutters going to watch Community? That’s what NBC Universal, owned by Comcast, is expecting. Read the rest of this entry
The original Young Justice comic was the perfect source material for an animated series. It sadly never came to happen, but the Teen Titans cartoon was a good substitute. It still would have been nice to see Tim Drake’s Robin teamed up with Impulse and Superboy in an ongoing animated series.
A couple years ago an announcement was made for a Young Justice cartoon, featuring an Aqualad of color and a lack of overall humor. The latter was a deal breaker for YJ purists with the former being a deal breaker for DC purists. I was of course interested in the series, and it did not disappoint. Read the rest of this entry
Fringe is a difficult show to start watching. Tuning in for new episodes is difficult due to the serialized nature of the show, but even starting from the beginning can be rough. Before it reaches its current state of brilliant science fiction, it starts in the muddled area of X-Files-esque science monster-of-the-week nonsense. Maybe that is unfair to say because I never really cared for X-Files. But Fringe did start in that area, especially since it resembled more of a knock-off than anything else.
Until the final episode of the first season introduces viewers to the Other Side, the parallel universe that resembles the point-of-view universe with tweaks. Zeppelins float in the sky, the statue of liberty is made of bronze, and cappuccinos never became popular. (A world lacking in Starbucks?!) Aside from offering a slightly askew world, the Other Side also presents alternate interpretations of the characters and the question of how they got there. We are reaching the end of the fourth season, and every character has been faced with what makes them different. Read the rest of this entry
I just finished the second season of AMC’s amazing series Breaking Bad. 26 more episodes and I will be caught up with the rest of everyone who appreciates good television, but I had to comment on the series as soon as I could. I’m also going to put out there that AMC seems to rarely misstep with their series. How can Mad Men, The Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad all exist under one roof? How can other networks compete, and why aren’t they trying harder to compete?
For the uninitiated, Breaking Bad is the story of Walter White, a man diagnosed with lung cancer years after his work as a chemist. In the first episode, he watches a drug bust and finds that one of his former students (Walt begins the show as a high school chemistry teacher) is a methamphetamine cook. Walt tracks down his former student, Jesse Pinkman, to teach him the art of cooking meth. Why? Walt does not want to leave this world without providing as much as he can for his wife and impaired teenaged son. Despite his pure intention, he is traveling down a dark path that seems to slowly corrupt him. As the show progresses, audiences start to wonder if Mr. White is a protagonist, an anti-hero, or even a villain protagonist. It is really hard to say. In just two seasons, he has made some truly dark and questionable decisions. Read the rest of this entry
I’m sharing this on the off chance that you somehow missed this. I’m both pleased (due to the quality) and displeased (because no proper scifi show has reached the level of storytelling of this sitcom’s scifi episode) to report that this, so far, is the best episode of science fiction television of the current fall season. Why do I say it’s so good? Because while superficially the episode is all about the gimmick, the episode is really a brilliant character study made possible by analyzing the current state of the characters but in different situations at the same point in time. Think about it.
I probably shouldn’t admit that I’m overall fine with the hacking of accounts of big corporations, even if the hackers have no other motive than a few laughs. Hack Apple and Sony all you want. But leave any and all aspects of Sesame Street alone! There is no reason to go out of your way to potentially expose children to pornography, and there is no reason to dirty the name of a brand whose purpose is education. Furthermore, they’ve always done a good job of being both entertaining and informative. They have definitely made mistakes along the way, like Cookie Monster’s saying that cookies are a sometimes food and Oscar the Grouch’s living near recycling bins, but those errors are on the side of positive messages. Hacking Sesame Street is basically akin to saying, “Hey, I’m an absolutely horrible person.” Yes, you are.
It may have taken a few years, but Torchwood was finally continued in another high-concept series – this time in a joint British and American production. Children of Earth‘s concept was the desperation of humanity against an impossible to defeat alien threat that simply wanted to use their pre-pubescent children for drugs. Miracle Day, the latest effort, had an even more amazing concept – what would happen to the world if people stopped dying? It wasn’t a matter of invincibility, mind you. Even when decapitated or crushed, people stayed alive through what could only be described as a miracle. What does humanity do with a population that only increases in number? Vile things, it would seem.
There’s a lot to talk about with this particular series, but I’m going to try to streamline it. This is an approach I wish that BBC and Starz had taken with the series, which would have been brilliant at 5 episodes but seemed stretched thin at the 10 episodes they aired. Good storytelling with proper buildups would no doubt have a bit of slow movement in the middle of the series, but Miracle Day almost came to a crawl as the writers struggled to figure out how to slow down the pace that a proper Torchwood story should have. What made Children of Earth so effective was that it felt like a five hour movie, whether you saw it all at once or over the course of days. Miracle Day seemed less fluid and contiguous. I suspect it has everything to do with the arbitrary episode count.
But the series was brilliant nonetheless. I love the idea of exploring how humanity tries to deal with overpopulation (categorize and eliminate). I love the idea of taking the Torchwood team out of Wales, proving that their efforts really do affect the world. I love that they were taken away from the Torchwood tech, meaning that the solution to each problem did not depend on having the right miracle gadget. They played it smart, and I appreciate the series for that. The spirited performances also helped me to believe in the story and the new characters.
Bill Pullman did an amazing job as Oswald Danes, convicted pedo-rapist/murderer and first high-profile survivor through the miracle. I loved watching this complete slime rise in popularity despite how horrible everyone acknowledged he was, and I loved Captain Jack Harkness’ deconstruction of the man Oswald was hiding inside. His character arc was very subtle, but it was there. He basked in his glory until he realized that he was being recategorized as no longer living but rather as someone who should not be allowed to live. In helping to end the miracle, he found some level of redemption in the eyes of the viewers. Meanwhile, he proudly boasted he would likely go to hell when he was finally able to die, finally accepting his fate.
But what about the climax? To be honest, the payoff for the series was pretty damn disappointing. It should be a spoiler to say that some weird, two-opening creature that lives literally through the Earth was the cause of the miracle, but a lack of any sort of build-up or worthwhile explanation renders the spoiler pretty much null. It simply exists, and it proves Jack’s theory that the miracle was somehow caused by morphogenic field alteration. No, this isn’t made up sci-fi terminology. However, its application here is again stretched thin. The reversal of the morphogenic field needed to be explored further to be satisfactory. All the time they had was squandered.
I can’t help but think that I’m more intrigued by the concept of the series than anything else, and that helps me to acknowledge the poorer aspects but look past them for the rest. I’m not sure if any other show would take a chance on running a full concept through for a season. For any other show, this would have been a two-parter.
So would I recommend Miracle Day? Probably. I would sooner recommend Children of Earth, as that is truly mind blowing and heartbreaking. Miracle Day felt like it was almost but not quite the same. Maybe if they get another chance, if the ratings didn’t drop too much, they can build upon this and make a much better series. They already put in sequel hooks, after all. Still, more Torchwood is never a bad thing in my book.
The idea of a cult classic film or television series has been bothering me lately. If one really thinks about it, it’s more of a marketing term than anything else. According to Wikipedia, a cult film is one that ” that has acquired a highly devoted but specific group of fans.” By that definition alone, almost any film (or piece of art) can technically acquire cult status so long as two people really like it. The article goes on to say that not everything goes on to acquire cult status for a multitude of reasons. To this I have to ask Why? Why are lesser known films that a handful of people like not automatically cult classics? The answer is recognition. Read the rest of this entry