June 22, 2017

Preview: The Bold Type 1x1 (US: Freeform)

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The Bold Type

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, Freeform. Starts July 11

No two publications are ever the same, inside or behind the scenes. I've worked on trade magazines, consumer magazines, newspapers and web sites, in the US and the UK, and while certain elements have been the same, management, culture, processes and budgets have differed almost completely. 

So despite the fact The Bold Type is based on the life of former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles, it would be tempting to say that pretty much everything that happens in the show is absolute nonsense. But maybe, in the land of insane ad spend, magazines do pay their writers enough that they can live in spiffy Manhattan apartments. Maybe once bright young interns are promoted to the stellar job title of 'writer', Cosmo immediately invites them to participate in board meetings where rich old white male board members listen to their feature pitches about vibrators and decide whether to allow them to 'empower women' like that - in 'Cosmo'? 'Surely not!' they say, like they've just wandered in from Shangri-La and picked up a copy of the magazine for the first time.

Maybe it really is like that. So I'll stop trying to pick holes in the inaccuracies. Although, seriously? How big was the computer presentation screen in the boardroom? How much did that cost? Can't they just huddle round a laptop like the rest of us?

Sorry. I'll stop that right now. Let's focus on the plot.

The old adage of 'show don't tell' is still a vital tool in writers' armouries. It lets them know when they should stop sledgehammering everything into the readers' minds, assume they have a modicum of intelligence and find subtler ways involving plotting, dialogue, direction and acting to tell the story.

The Bold Type. Yep, already 'show don't tell' has been chucked out the window, because it's a double meaning - as well as being about magazines, it's about strong, clever young women being bold and daring. And they're going to tell you that all the way through.

Unfortunately, the writers are either sending up the audience or they're too inept to actually show you how bold and daring the women are without telling you that the whole time. Indeed, just as 90% of The Playboy Club was contractually obliged to explain just how liberating and feminist working for corporate sponsor Playboy really was, so The Bold Type spends roughly half its run-time explaining how working for Cosmopolitan - sorry, 'Scarlet' magazine - really is a top feminist move that all the bright young, talented lead characters have been aspiring to all their lives. It's not just sex and shopping, but it's really willing to tackle the brave and daring issues, too. As you learn every other line of dialogue.

The trouble is the other half of The Bold Type is really just about sex and shopping, as well as just how groovy New York City is, which slightly undermines the message. It would also help if when it did try to do anything feminist or political, it wasn't so utterly, laugh out loud inept at it.

The main storyline of the first episode sees the new promoted social media director at Scarlet Aisha Dee (Sweet/Vicious) - a social media director who actually Tweets the corporate account from her phone, rather than using TweetDeck, HootSuite or something a pro might be use… sorry, I'll stop that now - trying to prove her worth (variants of "You go, girl" are the inevitable response) by convincing an artist to agree to an interview with the magazine.

Using a thesaurus, the writers of the episode decide that to show just how daring Scarlet and Dee are, the artist will be an Arab woman (Nikohl Boosheri). A lesbian Arab woman. A lesbian feminist Arab woman. A lesbian feminist Muslim Arab woman.  

A lesbian feminist Muslim Arab woman who's going to smuggle sex toys back to her home land! That was Dee's idea! You go, girl! What could go wrong?

Can you guess what happens next?

Yes, the artist ends up arrested at the airport. Oh dear.

But rarely has there been a funnier moment on TV than when Dee and her Scarlet friends - that's newly promoted writer Katie Stevens (American Idol) and top assistant Meghann Fahy (One Life To Live) - learn what's transpired and reach for their phones… only to realise that Tweeting about it won't save the artist. Not even the best-conceived hashtag campaign in the world will save her. 

"If only there was something we could do," they say, putting down their phones.

Indeed, amusingly, whenever Scarlet magazine boss Melora Hardin comes along to alternate between being a mentor and being a Devil wearing Prada, it's usually to suggest that the budding writers get off their backsides and do something, rather than trying to social media everything to death. 

"It must be terrible not knowing what your ex is up to, now he's quite Instagram," she says sympathetically.

"It is," says Stevens. How will she ever find out what he's doing? She can think of literally no way of finding out.

So Hardin forces her to… go to his house and talk to him. Gasp.

The Bold Type isn't so much a show about smart, talented, bold young women working in the world of media as it is a stupid old person's idea of what smart, talented bold young women working in the world of media must be like. And again, although I've never worked at Cosmopolitan and all magazines are different, my experience tells me that there are far smarter, far bolder young women working in journalism right now than The Bold Type would have you think.

Bin it, cancel your subscription and try another title instead is my advice.

News: US Cucumber/Banana adaptation; Taken, Quantico, Designated Survivor purges; + more

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Jason Isaacs in Star Trek: Discovery

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June 21, 2017

Happy 12th birthday to TMINE!

Posted yesterday at 17:23 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

A birthday cake

Crikey, as I always say. How did that happen?

Time has flown again, since The Medium Is Not Enough emerged blinking into the world a stupifying 12 years ago, primed to make sarcastic comments about foreign TV, mainly from the US, mainly in languages I can speak, with reviews of Prison Break, Supernatural, and Global Frequency

Normally, I recall at this point what I've learnt in the past year. However, I've reached the age where I've both achieved true wisdom, so have apparently learnt nothing new, and have started to lose my memory, so I probably did learn something but have now forgotten it.

Oh yes. That was it. My learning is that French TV has more than one good TV programme, now that Canal+ has added Baron Noir and Le bureau des Légendes to its portfolio of Engrenages (Spiral). 

One thing I would say, though, is that I think Peak TV has peaked. There are more and more networks on more and more media, it's true. But judging by the number of networks who dipped their toes in the water of scripted content a few years ago, shivered a bit, and have now retreated back in the warm, embracing confines of unscripted in the past few months, I'm thinking we're starting to see some obvious winners emerging from the melée and that there'll be fewer new dramas as a result. 

As always, a great big thank you to all the regular commenters: Mark Carroll, JustStark, bob and GYAD (who might have been picked off at the back by hyenas in the past few months). Another big thank you and welcome to new arrivals Eagled and Ian Miller for giving me hope in the darkness. But a thanks to absolutely everyone who even left a single comment in passing, particularly Craig Grannell, Toby, idleworm, Robin Parker and Adam Bowie. 

Same time next year everyone? I say that every year, don't I?

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Weekly Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman #24, Wonder Woman (Steve Trevor) #1, Justice League (Rebirth) #22, Dark Knight III #9

Posted yesterday at 15:29 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Back on Wonder Woman Wednesday after a two week absence, it's Weekly Wonder Woman - reading Wonder Woman comics now, so you can decide whether to fork out for the trade paperbacks once the series have been cancelled due to low readership.

The past fortnight, you've probably been off watching Wonder Woman, judging by the half-billion dollar box office it's now done worldwide, although not if you live in Algeria, Libya, Tunisia or one of various other countries that don't like Israel that much. Warner Bros were a bit surprised by how well the movie did, in fact, expecting something much more modest, but it's now all action stations to capitalise on the movie's success. Geoff Johns is now working with director Patty Jenkins to write a sequel and rumour has it that Joss Whedon is currently doing lots of reshoots to add more Wonder Woman to Justice League

Half a billion dollars is apparently enough to impress the Library of Congress in the US to have a special laying down ceremony for the script involving nothing other than Lynda Carter.

In other movie news, the biopic of Wonder Woman creators William Moulton Marston, Elizabeth Holloway Marston and Olive Byrne, Professor Marston & The Wonder Women, now has a US release date (October 27).

In the comic book world, however, the big news is that former Wonder Woman writer Gail Simone is revisiting the character in a new six-issue series starting in September. Simone, who's spent some time writing Red Sonja, marries that recent barbarian focus with the new run to give us… a Wonder Woman-Conan The Barbarian crossover!

“I love crossovers, I love Wonder Woman, and being able to bring the undisputed greatest warriors of the DCU and Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age together for the very first time is a dream come true,” says Simone. “A major draw is getting to reunite with the great Aaron Lopresti, whose very favorite things to draw are Wonder Woman and barbarians. Its blades and bracelets, wizards and wonder and I couldn’t be more delighted.”

Conan and Wonder Woman

Meanwhile, remember how I mused a month ago about whether DC's Rebirth reboot had wiped out everything from nu52 continuity or at least rendered it nothing more than divine fiction, including Diana's brother Jason? Turns out, that's still canon because starting from issue #31 of Wonder Woman, James Robinson, Carlo Pagulayan, and Emanuela Lupacchino will be starting a six-month run entitled 'Children of the Gods' that will be focused on Jason (and that will also guest-star Giganta):

Spinning out of the pages of DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH and JUSTICE LEAGUE: DARKSEID WAR, Robinson, Pagulayan and Lupacchino will answer one of the biggest questions of the year: Who is Wonder Woman’s brother? Taken away from Themyscira in the dead of night, the mysterious Jason (the only male ever born on the island) has been hidden somewhere far from the sight of gods and men… but his life and Wonder Woman’s are about to intersect in a terrifying way, bringing them face-to-face with a cosmic threat they never imagined!

Wonder Woman #31

But that's all the news for now. After the jump, we'll look at the past fortnight's new releases: Wonder Woman #24, Wonder Woman (Steve Trevor) #1, Justice League (Rebirth) #22 and Dark Knight III #9

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What have you been watching? Including American Gods, The Handmaid's Tale and Doctor Who

Posted yesterday at 15:11 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you've been watching.

The thing about holidays, even short ones, is you end up with masses of work to do in order to catch up. So apologies for the lack of much blogging last week and indeed this week, but work called. Plus there hasn't been that much new to review anyway.

Since the last WHYBW, I've looked at all the new shows I could find (there was probably something on Netflix, but they tend to hide) but that tally isn't huge:

Come on TV networks! What am I going to focus my sarcasm on if you're not going to wheel out some crappy new summer shows. (What's that Freeform (US)? The Bold Type started last night? Fine, I'll review it tomorrow.)

It doesn't help, of course, that a lot of current shows are winding up, too. After the jump, all I'll be able to talk about are the latest episodes of Downward Dog, Doctor Who, Silicon Valley, Twin Peaks and You Are Wanted, as well as the season finales of American Gods and The Handmaid's Tale. Pfft. I'm going to have to take up crocheting or something, aren't I?

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including American Gods, The Handmaid's Tale and Doctor Who"

News: Moffat/Gatiss' Dracula; HBO's Watchmen; a Supernatural spin-off; + more

Posted yesterday at 06:52 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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June 20, 2017

News: Sean Bean takes The Oath; Tony Danza to star in The Good Cop; David Suchet on Capitaine Marleau; + more

Posted 2 days ago at 06:22 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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June 19, 2017

Review: Ronny Chieng - International Student 1x1-1x2 (Australia: ABC)

Posted 3 days ago at 20:43 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Ronny Chieng: International Student

In Australia: Wednesdays, 9pm, ABC

It's a given that pretty much every actor and comedian in the anglophone world now heads off to the US to seek their fortunes; what's less acknowledged is that they often temporarily return to their home countries, reputation enhanced by the experiences abroad, with greater star power than before, able to carry their own home-grown series.

Ronny Chieng is one such world traveller. He's doing quite well for himself in the US on The Daily Show as a correspondent, but last year he returned to Australia to develop a comedy pilot for ABC, Ronny Chieng: International Student, based on his experiences of coming from Malaysia to study law in Australia. That did well enough to not only get a series but attract the attention of Comedy Central (US), who are now co-financing and airing the series later in the year.

The series proper continues where that pilot left off, with Chieng still living with a bunch of other Asian international students in the 'International House' of the campus, while hanging out with Australian gal pal Molly Daniels (Upper Middle Bogan). Added to the mix is new arrival from the US Patch May (Home and Away), who'd really like International House to be like a US frat house.

The humour stems largely from jokes about Asian culture, some stereotypical (eg Tiger moms who know no boundaries), some surprisingly fresh and novel. Episode two (Asian Rules Football), for example, sees the nerdy Asians suddenly the darlings of the legal faculty's Aussie Rules football team thanks to their awesome kicking skills, acquired from hours playing a game called 'jianzi', 'capteh' or 'da cau' (depending on whether you come from China, Malaysia or Vietnam), meaning they can avoid being tackled for the entire game. Ever seen that before? No, me neither.

But mostly the show mines some regular university comedy staples - the clapped out old lecturer who brings his personal life into everything, including his lectures; the overly politically correct staff; trying to maintain the correct distance from one's parents, particularly when girls are around; and trying to be cool while studying hard.

Chieng maintains more or less the same blunt persona he's crafted on The Daily Show, but here he's less in control and more perpetually frustrated by everyone around him. He's also by no means the bluntest of the group, meaning that he's often the peacemaker of the piece.

A tamer, more Australian, more Asian version of Dear White People, the show benefits considerably from May and Daniels' characters providing sounding boards to explain cultural issues to - I almost understand Aussie Rules now, which is something I never thought would happen. It also provides plenty of chuckles, if not outright gaffaws. 

Ronny Chieng: International Student isn't an A-student but it's a good B at least, having enough elements of truth, enough freshness and enough laughs that it's worth giving a try.

Mini-review: Blood Drive 1x1 (US/UK: Syfy)

Posted 3 days ago at 20:16 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Blood Drive

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, Syfy
In the UK: Acquired by Syfy UK

Grindhouse is one of those genres that never really took off in the UK. Best known for its exploitation tropes, you can probably name a few grindhouse movies, such as Death Race 2000, but chances are you won't have seen them, since they were pretty much eclipsed in our national consciousness by 'Video Nasties' such as Driller Killer

In the US, it's a different story, perhaps in part because of film nerds like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez doing their best to repopulise the genre. I'm not convinced people genuinely like it, so much as have fond feelings for it that probably wouldn't survive their rewatching any of their favourites. But so long as they never actually look to see if their memories have cheated them, grindhouse will still sit in the hearts of many a middle-aged US nerd.

Blood Drive is an explicit (in all senses) effort to capitalise on that fact-free nostalgia but makes the fatal mistake of being authentically terrible rather than post-modernly tongue-in-cheek terrible. Set in the far flung dystopian future of '1999', the show sees the world's resources all used up, petrol at $1,000+ a barrel, water scarce and crime rapant. Against this backdrop is a race through the US for no really good reason. All you need to know is that the race is happening and the cars run on… HUMAN BLOOD!!!!

The 'heroes' of the piece are former Aquaman Alan Ritchson as the one honest LA cop left who ends up having to join the race and hotty old hand Christina Ochoa (Matador, Animal Kingdom)*, both of whom must fight against all and sundry, particularly the other drivers, while occasionally having to top up with a pint or two of O-.

The show's tongue is very firmly placed in its cheek. Unfortunately, it's also placed firmly in your cheek, too, making it all a deeply unpleasant experience to watch. It's not just the gore, it's the letchery, sexism, racism et al that make it a hard viewing.

More so, everything is knowingly stupid, rather than fun stupid, appealing to the 'tickbox' mentality of genre fans, rather than just trying to enjoy itself. Characters are deliberately poorly drawn, budgets are low, direction poor because that's Grindhouse - but that was largely all through necessity with the originals, rather than because of deliberate choices.

As a show Blood Drive is deliberately bad, but so bad it's unwatchable, rather than a secret pleasure. If you're the sort of person who likes Sharknado, you might enjoy Blood Drive. But if you like shows that are… good, then steer well clear.

* Who I'm fascinated to learn is a member of Mensa who studied marine biology, focusing on elasmobranchii; an "actress, science communicator and writer"; grand-niece of 1959 Nobel Prize winner Severo Ochoa; and daughter of acclaimed Spanish sculptor Victor Ochoa. Blood Drive really doesn't play to her strengths

Mini-review: Claws 1x1 (US: TNT)

Posted 3 days ago at 19:27 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, TNT

TNT has been trying to break out of its crime niche for years now. A few years ago, its 'TNT - Bang!' birthed The Last Ship, but little else, and since then, like a cat trapped in a pit, clawing at the walls, TNT has been hunting for an escape. Last year's Animal Kingdom was still a crime drama, but it was about a family who indulged in a bit of criminality rather than being all about the crime.

Claws is a similar attempt to escape the pit, except here through a sort of marriage with Real Housewives. Set in a nailbar in Florida's 'Manatee County', it follows the exploits of owner Niecy Nash (Getting On, Reno 911) as she tries to raise money to buy a classy new nail salon through the drug trade, running dodgy medical clinics that let any old addict have what they want, provided they have the cash, coaching them what to say if they can't quite hit the low mark of 'slightly convincing shoulder sprain' unaided. Trouble is, her drug dealer boyfriend is playing her and cheating her out of her ill-gotten gains, so something's gotta give…

The show's real focus, though, is the staff at Nash's nail salon, and the show would really much rather be spending its time just hanging out there, while they all chat to one another. Notable amongst the identikit Floridians are The Good Fight's Carrie Preston as a recently paroled quirkfest and Scrubs' Judy Reyes as a near-silent tattooed lesbian. 

Claws goes through the well-trodden motions of female empowerment, bad assery, etc, which largely involve everyone teasing each other a bit, hugging each other more and then shouting a lot at anyone who dares to try to do anything to a member of the 'crew', particularly if they're a member of that crew themselves (Karrueche Tran). But it's horribly written, horribly acted nonsense that goes through the motions without truly doing anything new, whose only saving grace are some strong visuals, including the occasional architectural tour of a nice house.

Worse still, it's supposed to be a dramedy, but it's so poorly put together it's hard to tell if it's genuinely trying to be comedic or dramatic or whether it's trying to do the opposite and simply missed its mark. TNT's worst piece of TV since King and Maxwell, do not watch it unless you enjoy yawning a lot.

Watch Adam West's appearance in Powerless

Posted 3 days ago at 06:50 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

NBC (US)'s Powerless wasn't my favourite show, I guess, but after a weak opening episode caused by a last-minute format change, it did go on to become quite funny at times. Not enough to save it from cancellation, though. 

However, the sad death of Adam West (Batman), who was the show's narrator, has led to DC releasing the unaired episode in which West put in his first on-screen appearance. 

News: Glenn Close's Amazon zombie pilot; Sean Bean joins Medici; + more

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The Two Masters from Doctor Who

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June 16, 2017

When's that show you mentioned starting again, TMINE? Including Feud, Queen of the South and Son of Zorn

Posted 6 days ago at 19:44 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Every Friday, I let you know the latest announcements about when new, imported TV shows will finally be arriving on UK screens

This week's new, undated acquisition from the US is FX's Feud: Bette and Joan. I didn't review this at the time, because I'm getting a bit bored of anthology shows, particularly those based on real-life events, particularly those by Ryan Murphy - which makes a Ryan Murphy anthology show dramatising real-life feuds, starting with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, eminently missable. But BBC Two has picked it up, with plans to air it this year some time, you may or may not be glad to hear.

There was one other acquisition from the US this week: Queen of the SouthNetflix (UK) has picked that up, just as season two has started in the US. When's it airing? Well, right now. Not much notice that, sorry. I reviewed the first two episodes of that last year, if you want to find out if it's worth a watch (spoiler: watch Narcos instead - that's on Netflix, too).

Lastly - and indeed bestly - someone has seen sense and decided to acquire Fox (US)'s Son of Zorn. It may have been cancelled already, but it was one of my top 13 shows of 2016 so kudos to Viceland (UK) for making it their first ever first-run UK acquisition. No kudos to me for noticing that it started airing on Monday, though.

Son of Zorn (US: Fox; UK: Viceland)
Mondays, 10pm
Episode reviews: 1, 2-3, 4, 5, 6-7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 1213

News: Greg Wise and Billy Campbell join Modus; Netflix acquires Queen of the South; + more

Posted 6 days ago at 07:29 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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The Bold Type

Journalism for people who can't read more than a Tweet