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September 23, 2015

Review: Scream Queens 1x1-1x2 (US: Fox; UK: E4)

Posted on September 23, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Scream Queens

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: Acquired by E4 for autumn for broadcast

The list of evil was long, my foreboding great:

  • Created by Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee, American Horror Story, The New Normal, Nip/Tuck and Pretty Handsome
  • Teen heroes and heroines
  • Guest stars from Glee
  • A spoof of slasher horror movies, particularly from the 1980s
  • Pop star Nick Jonas
  • Sororities
  • Rich kids
  • The Fox network
  • No female writers

How could it go right, I wondered? Even with the possible saving grace of Jamie Lee Curtis starring in it, Scream Queens was going to be wretched.

I picked at my nails. I watched 800 Words. I even contemplated sitting down to struggle with The Bastard Executioner or re-evaluate The Muppets.

But no, this is a blog with a cast iron guarantee that it will cover every new, scripted US TV show for adults, provided they don't feature too much music, appear on some obscure network I've never heard of or start in August. Could there be any stronger bond of trust with you, dear reader? 

And gods damn it, it's September.

So I sat down and braved myself to watch two full hours of Scream Queens. And waddayaknow? After an initially bumpy start, Scream Queens turned out to be the first new show of the Fall 2015-16 that I've actually enjoyed.

Here's a trailer.

Continue reading "Review: Scream Queens 1x1-1x2 (US: Fox; UK: E4)"

September 21, 2015

Preview: Limitless 1x1 (US: CBS)

Posted on September 21, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Limitless

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, CBS

One of the best things about Dexter, Showtime's little-known show about a serial killer who only kills bad people, was Jennifer Carpenter. A foul-mouthed force of nature, she was both fun and clearly having fun in the show - for the first few seasons at least.

Post-Dexter, her career hasn't taken off, unfortunately. An attempted USA Network pilot, Stanistan, failed to make it to series, meaning she had to pin her hopes this year on CBS's Limitless spin-off.

Park that thought for a second because the progress of Limitless from book to TV series is instructive. It originally started life as The Dark Fields, a novel by Irish novellist Alan Glynn about a down-and-out writer who takes a new drug, NZT, that can expand his mental powers. Effectively a metaphor for how people on cocaine feel, it sees the hero turn his life round, become rich and powerful, and ultimately completely dependent on the drug, which turns out to have horrific side effects for those who stop taking it. Unusually for a European writer, though, the moral of the book was 'don't do drugs' and 'Eddie Spinola’ (spoiler alert) ends up dying alone in a motel room.

The book was eventually adapted by Leslie Dixon of all people. Until Limitless, Dixon was best known as the screenplay writer of Outrageous Fortune, Overboard, Mrs. Doubtfire, Freaky Friday and Hairspray. However, for Limitless, although largely faithful to the original, Dixon actually improved on it in several ways: she added action scenes, a new female character (Abbie Cornish) and changed the ending. In her hands, hero Bradley Cooper also discovers the good side of drugs, solves NZT’s side-effects and ends up running for senator, thanks to the power of NZT. Director Neil Burger and cinematographer Jo Willems also gave the movie a unique visual appearance.

And now we have the TV version, which is both a sequel and an adaptation of the movie. In a script by Elementary producer Craig Sweeny, we get Jake McDorman of you'll-have-forgotten-it-existed-until-I-mentioned-it-again Manhattan Love Story as a down-and-out singer who ends up taking NZT and with the help of Bradley Cooper, becomes a vital FBI asset, using his vast mental powers to solve crimes no one else can. His helper and biggest support? Jennifer Carpenter.

And two things are clear:

  1. Although adaptations can improve on the originals, they can also make them worse
  2. You can be too slavish too the original when you adapt it

Why do I say that? Because although Limitless isn't all that bad and is actually quite fun, mainly thanks to all the things it lifts straight from the movie's script and direction, it lifts too much - by having a Bradley Cooper-esque hero, it overlooks the fact the show would have been about 1,000 times smarter and better if Jennifer Carpenter were the heroine on NZT, McDorman the straight-laced FBI helper.

Here's the trailer.

Continue reading "Preview: Limitless 1x1 (US: CBS)"

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September 17, 2015

Review: The Bastard Executioner 1x1-1x2 (US: FX)

Posted on September 17, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


The Bastard Executioner

In the US: Tuesdays, 10pm, FX

The 'Renaissance Fair’ is a curious US phenomenon, the origin of which is unclear. A popular holiday-weekend form of entertainment all over the country, the Renaissance fair has nothing to do with the Italian Renaissance, offering instead a melange of earlier British medieval history that arrives in the present day via Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court and the Errol Flynn Robin Hood, taking in jesters going ‘hey nonny nonny’, knights in shining armour, dragons and random fairground attractions along the way.

But fair enough. It’s the US. The average European would find it hard to name most US presidents of the 19th century, let alone know the difference between the Roanoake and Jamestown colonies. Let’s not quibble too much over it and we can always take the kids to the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas and enjoy a permanent Renaissance Fair if we want.

The problem is when you get something like The Bastard Executioner, Kurt “Sons of Anarchy” Sutter’s latest show on FX. Allegedly set in the early 14th century in Wales during the reign of Edward II (US readers: that’s the wimpy gay one in Braveheart), it sees one man lead a rebellion of the Welsh peasants against the evil English baron who’s oppressing the masses.

And while The Bastard Executioner would very much like to be a rousing, gritty historical drama, it is instead pretty much a Renaissance Fair on TV.

Continue reading "Review: The Bastard Executioner 1x1-1x2 (US: FX)"

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