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June 15, 2015

Review: Dark Matter 1x1 (Canada: Space; US: Syfy; UK: Syfy)

Posted on June 15, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Dark Matter

In Canada: Fridays, 10e/7p, Space
In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, Syfy
In the UK: Mondays, 8pm, Syfy. Starts tonight  

They say there are no original ideas any more and that everything has already been done before - it’s just a question of how you take elements of what’s gone before to create a new mixture.

If this statement is true, it’s doubly true of science-fiction, where for any given show, it’s almost certainly possible to name a very similar if not identical predecessor. A case in point is the new Canadian-US co-production Dark Matter.

Adapted from their own comic by the brains behind the TV version of Stargate, Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, the show is roughly 90% Blakes 7 for starters - a group of six misfits, four men, two women, wind up on board an advanced spaceship. There they meet the seventh member of the crew, the ship’s artificial intelligence, and come together to fight oppression from a huge federation.

The remaining 10% of the show is pure Andromeda, with the ship’s artificial intelligence having a robotic avatar and the crew having turned good relatively recently, originally being a bunch of criminals until they had their memories taken away. And then there’s the slightly enigmatic woman with funny coloured hair who’s on board the ship but wasn’t one of the criminals and who has strange powers.

So far, so derivative. There’s even a little sprinkling of Firefly on top. The question is - does Dark Matter stick all these components together to create something decent?

The short answer is: not really, but at least it’s fun.

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June 12, 2015

Preview: Proof 1x1 (US: TNT)

Posted on June 12, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Jennifer Beals in TNT's Proof

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, TNT. Starts June 16

The procedural is killing mainstream US TV. It really is. On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with a procedural, whether it’s cops, doctors, firefighters or soldiers. As a format, the procedural is versatile since if you’re going to produce 13-24 episodes of something that doesn’t necessarily have a linking narrative, you’re going to want to have a reason for things to happen - and if your characters’ job is to go and find things, that really does help.

Trouble is when everything has to be crowbarred into that format, even when there’s really no good reason for it. You can just about forgive something like Stitchers - who else would bother trying to insert themselves into dead people’s fading consciousnesses every week apart from a shadowy government agency? Once would be enough for most people and you’d probably pick people who hadn’t died traumatically, which would be dramatically dull, of course.

But now we have the ludicrous Proof on TNT, a network that I thought was trying to get away from the fact that 90% of its content is procedural but here are showing that like some teenager after a break-up, they can’t quite get over their first love.

Jennifer Beals (Flashdance, The Chicago Code) is a powerful, high flying surgeon who is a sceptical woman of science. However, following the death of her teenage son, her family isn’t quite so happy, with Beals and husband David Sutcliffe (Cracked) getting divorced and her teenager daughter being none too happy with her either.

Then one day, tech billionaire Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket, Weeds) bribes hospital administrator Joe Morton (Terminator 2, Grace and Frankie) into ordering Beals to meet him. Modine is dying and hasn’t long to live, but being the prepared type, he wants to know exactly what’s going to happen to him afterwards. So he offers to give Beals his entire fortune on the event of his death - provided she can bring him proof of what happens, be that ascent to Heaven, everlasting blackness or partying in Valhalla until Ragnarok. And rather than investigate plausible cases in a long-drawn out research project, she's going to look at a different phenomenon every week.

Yes, that’s right, we have the first ever ‘investigate the afterlife’ procedural. That’s… plausible.

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June 4, 2015

Review: Westside 1x1 (New Zealand: TV3)

Posted on June 4, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Westside

In New Zealand: Sundays, 8.30pm, TV3

As we saw recently with AMC's Better Call Saul, prequels can be tricky things. You typically only get a prequel to a show if it’s been popular and has a strong fan base, and those fans are going to want everything to line up nicely with whatever’s already been established in the original story. However, unless you want ever-reducing audience numbers, you have to ensure that the prequel is of interest to a wider circle than just the fans.

The show formerly and cleverly known as Westside Story, but which is now presumably for copyright reasons simply Westside, has these two issues to juggle. Now, I’ve already gone into the history of its progenitor Outrageous Fortune elsewhere, so I won’t bother here but suffice it to say, as esteemed New Zealand shows with a huge fan base go, you couldn’t find a bigger one than Outrageous Fortune. All the same, that finished five years ago and wasn’t widely known in its original form overseas - indeed, these days it’s perhaps better known as the show that the creators of The Almighty Johnsons ran before venturing into matters more fantastical and theological. As a result, there’s a potential new audience for Westside that never saw the original and who might be looking forward to Rachel Lang and James Griffin’s latest production.

So will the story of safecracker Ted West, his wife Rita and their son Wolf, the future prison-bound patriarch of Outrageous Fortune's West family, stand on its own two feet or will it simply be a piece of fan service from a creatively bankrupt team that have run out of ideas?

I’ll tell you after the jump.

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