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January 13, 2016

Review: Shadowhunters (US: Freeform; UK: Netflix)

Posted on January 13, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Shadowhunters

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, Freeform (ABC Family)
In the UK: Wednesdays, Netflix

When The Shannara Chronicles hit our screens less than a week ago, it would have been tempting to assume that 'peak fantasy bobbins' for the year had already been achieved. Surely, nothing so weighed down by expositional dialogue, overly intricate world-building and general teenage angsting could be beaten. Yet here we are facing Shadowhunters, which makes The Shannara Chronicles look as uncomplicated as an episode of Pingu.

The success of Twilight and The Hunger Games in recent years at the cinema opened the flood gates for a whole bunch of dystopian young adult (YA) novels to be adapted. Some, such as The Maze Runner, fared well and continue to spawn sequels; The Mortal Instruments, on the other hand, didn't do quite so well and the intended franchise never materialised. Yet, in an age where TV networks are hungry for more scripted drama - particularly one formerly family-oriented network that still carries evangelistic church services but that would like to go a bit darker by rebranding itself (cough, cough, ABC Family) - death at the movies for yet another (YA) YA franchise doesn't mean the end of all adaptations.

And so we have Shadowhunters, YA2 TV series in which a teenager discovers she is the most important person in the entire world and so consequently is fought over by both all manner of forces, both good and evil - and boys. You'd think that that would be a relatively simple concept to put forth (again), but Shadowhunters is for today's generation of wired kids, whose brains have been so sped up by constant digital communication that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is comparatively as mythos-lite as The Andy Griffiths Show.

So stick with me, grandpa/grandma, as I spell it out for you. Try to keep up.

Clary Fray is a perfectly ordinary teenager who wants to be an artist. Art college isn't so impressed by her work, but they do like her creepy demon doodles for a graphic novel she has planned.

However, on her 18th birthday, she comes into her powers as a Shadowhunter, a human-angel hybrid that hunts demons. Yes, demons. And warlocks, vampires and in fact every other legendary beastie that likes to prey on humans, because all the stories are true. You just can't see them unless you're a Shadowhunter - or they let you.

So far so simple. Thing is, Clary never knew that she the daughter of a rogue Shadowhunter who used to work for a group of other rogue Shadowhunters based out of Chernobyl, the boss of whom fancied her and may even be her real dad. Her mum (Annie Wesching from 24) hid her, with the help of a warlock who wiped her memories, along with the Mortal Cup. 

I don't know what the cup is. Sorry. But everyone seems to want it, particularly Chenobyl people.

Meanwhile, Wesching is marrying the Old Spice Guy (Isaiah Mustafa), who may be a traitor Shadowhunter and in league with 'the Circle'. But fortunately, there's a group of regular Shadowhunters, including hotty Jace (Dominic Sherwood), female underclad hotty Isobelle (Emeraude Toubia) and her broody brother Alec (Matthew Daddario), and they're going to help Clary find out about her true calling. Which is going to involve rune tattooing (because of the demon venom - duh!) and stabbing people with glowy swords in reasonably competent but unconvincing martial arts fights.

But what will Clary's best friend Simon (Alberto Rosende) make of this new life and the usually invisible Shadowhunters, particularly Jace, who finds Clary 'interesting'? And will you be on team Jace or team Simon?

Continue reading "Review: Shadowhunters (US: Freeform; UK: Netflix)"

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January 13, 2016

Review: Shades of Blue 1x1 (US: NBC)

Posted on January 13, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Shades of Blue

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

If you want to know how to turn around a struggling TV network, you need to ask NBC. A little less than a decade ago, its primetime broadcasting slots filled with the likes of Knight Rider and My Own Worst Enemy, you couldn't pay people to watch it and it was a much deserved fourth out of the four broadcast networks in the ratings. Fast forward to now and NBC has overtaken CBS to become the number one network. Just how did it do it?

By broadcasting generic, unexceptional, reasonably stupid drek. Not too stupid and not too bad, since people will still turn off. But try to cater to the average viewer - bearing in mind that in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation, age et al, the average viewer is changing from year to year, but in terms of intelligence they're pretty much the same as always - with something that won't offend, that can be used as background viewing in place of the radio, that you can follow while playing with your iPhone, and that is pretty much like everything else that's been on TV forever and you'll do well.

Could The Shield work on NBC? Not a chance. But Shades of Blue, which is basically The Shield for the average viewer? That'll thrive.

Jennifer Lopez stars… Yes, let's stop there. JLo. She's the producer and the star. She is NBC's Michael Chiklis.

Considered that enough? Right, let's try again.

Jennifer Lopez is a corrupt New York detective working for the even more corrupt police lieutenant Ray Liotta (GoodFellas, Smith). They keep the peace between local gangsters in return for extortion money and they're happy to plant evidence, hand over suspects for the gangs to murder et al in order to do this. Then JLo gets caught by an FBI anti-corruption squad and is forced to turn against Liotta and the rest of their unit - otherwise, she's going to jail and won't be able to keep paying the tuition fees for her daughter's artsy-fartsy college.

Will she send family friend and trusted pal Liotta down to save herself and her family, or will she get killed by Liotta in the process if he finds out? Only time will tell.

Continue reading "Review: Shades of Blue 1x1 (US: NBC)"

January 12, 2016

Preview: Teachers 1x1 (US: TV Land)

Posted on January 12, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Teachers

In the US: Wednesdays, 11/10c, TV Land. Starts January 13
In the UK: Not yet acquired

The trouble with reviewing things is you actually have to have opinions about them. This means Teachers is causing me a fundamental problem. I've sat here for ages, staring at the screen, trying to have an opinion about Teachers and it's almost proving impossible. So how I can review it?

I've thought about merely stating the facts. Teachers is based on a web series created by and starring improv comedy group The Katydids, who presumably named themselves after the famous children's book, rather than the crickets, pop groupboat or even the sculptures. It's about six elementary school teachers who have their own personal issues about things like dating, friendship, body image, etc, and have a marked tendency to bring those issues into the classroom, which is in no way like pretty much any show about teachers of the past 20 years, including Channel 4's Teachers. It's produced by Alison Brie of Community fame. It's on TV Land, which with shows like Impastor and Younger is trying to reinvent itself as a network watched by people other than those one heart bypass surgery away from death. 

That at least gets me a few words further into a review. Then I figured if I described the plot of the first episode that will get me even further. Here, the teachers are tasked with developing an anti-bullying programme in a school that has no reported bullying. Rather than search the Internet for any anti-bullying campaigns who could advise them, go to their teachers union for best practice advice or ring another school and ask what they did, they come with a whole bunch of ill advised ideas based on their own personal issues, which ends up with an outbreak of bullying.

See? Halfway there already in terms of word count. But the key to the whole review thing is to have an opinion about a show, and I'm struggling to have one. The characters are pretty much what you'd expect - a whole bunch of comedic stereotypes that you'll have seen before and probably work well in improv, but aren't really innovative or individual in any way. Dumped woman still hung up on her ex? Check. Single woman desperate for a man, particularly hot dads? Check. Vain woman who thinks kids' drawings of her are unflattering? Check. 

But now I'm getting stuck, trying to remember if any of the other characters had any significant character traits. That's no help, is it? I can't even few inspired or insulted by them if I can barely remember them, let alone care about them, can I?

What I do remember is that about 10 minutes before the end, Alison Brie turned up and was funny. A lot funnier than anyone in the regular cast. I thought that was probably a bad sign. Do I think the lack of comedic acting talent will destroy the show? I honestly don't know. I just can't decide. 

Oh yes. I remember now. It was quite funny that the anti-bullying campaign was called STAB (stop teasing and bullying) and that they got the kids to say mean things to one another. Erm. Ish.

So there. I can't review it. It feels like I'm covered in some kind of space age material that causes opinions to roll off me without leaving a trace when it comes to Teachers. So I guess all I can say is Teachers is there. It's a programme on TV that you can watch. 

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