Archive | Featured articles

Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.

June 2, 2015

Preview: Stitchers 1x1 (US: ABC Family)

Posted on June 2, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, ABC Family. Starts tonight

Usually, there’s nothing quite like the word ‘family’ in the description of something televisual to guarantee its general shoddiness. But over the years, ABC Family has been a notable exception. I stopped watching the network’s output a while back when it started producing things like Bunheads: it may have been the best show in the world, but when you’re a 40-something male, you probably shouldn’t be watching TV dramas about female teenage gymnasts. - that’s just creepy. However, over the years, the network has produced some generally decent shows, including Kyle XY, Three Moons Over Milford, Lincoln Heights, 10 Things I Hate About You and Pretty Little Liars.

As you may have noticed from that list, the network has been moving from genre shows towards more conventional fare generally aimed at teenage girls and young women. But it apparently hasn’t escaped the network’s bosses that what teenage girls want to watch is changing - we’re living in a post-Twilight, post-Hunger Games world. So the network’s decided to take some baby steps back into genre TV. This autumn, we can see the continuation of the Mortal Instruments film franchise in Shadowhunters and now we have Stitchers, a hybrid sci-fi/procedural drama that’s part CSI, part Inception.

Emma Ishta is Kirsten, a technically gifted PhD student who has a rare brain condition that makes her unaware of passing time. This makes her aloof, rude, generally unloved and unable to feel emotions in the same ways as the rest of us - when her adopted father commits suicide she’s unmoved because it feels to her exactly the same as if he’d died years ago.

She's also willing to break whatever rules she wants to get what she wants. While this gets her kicked out of Caltech, her condition does mean that she’s uniquely suited for the top secret ‘Stichers’ programme into which she’s quickly recruited following the washing out of the previous ’Stitcher'. The programme not only allows the brains of the recently deceased to be preserved for much longer than normal, it allows the ‘Stitcher’ to enter their memories as though they were the real world, in order to solve crimes. And in this first case, she must enter the mind of a man killed in a bomb explosion, because he’s stashed two other bombs around LA and they’re set to go off soon.

And while it’s as stupid as bag full of spanners wearing toupees, it’s at least a good deal more fun than CSI: Cyber. Here, have a rather good, Inception-like trailer that belies the show’s essentially cheap silliness and another trailer that’s a little bit less deceptive.

Continue reading "Preview: Stitchers 1x1 (US: ABC Family)"

Read other posts about:

June 1, 2015

Review: Aquarius 1x1-1x2 (US: NBC)

Posted on June 1, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

You’d think, given that NBC already has the origin story of one famous serial killer in its schedules, that it would be reluctant to produce another one. But even as Hannibal is about to return to our screens this week for its third exquisite season, here comes Aquarius, which on the face of it should be a far less fictional affair, given that it’s the origin story of real-life sociopath Charles Manson and his so-called 'Manson Family’, who in 1969 went on to kill actress Sharon Tate and six other people.

Yet, Aquarius is almost as fictional as Hannibal. It stars David Duchovny as an LAPD detective who’s brought in by an old girlfriend (Michaela McManus) to investigate the disappearance of her 16-year-old daughter (Claire Holt). Asked to keep everything quiet because of her important husband (Brían F. O’Byrne), Duchovny has to recruit a young, hip(py) detective (Grey Damon) to help him reach the communes and parties he’s can’t, and hopefully find the daughter.

Except, unfortunately, it looks like a certain Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) has already found her and recruited her to his growing ‘family’.

Billed as an event series, the show’s about as schizophrenic as they come. On the one hand, it wants to do ‘true crime’, yet practically everything and everyone involved, other than Manson and some of his family members, are fictions. Being set two years before the murders of 1969, there’s as yet no tie-ins with the real crimes and we know that unless the show takes a brief jump or two forward and introduces a whole new set of characters, there’s no chance that Manson will be behind bars by the end of the show’s run.

Yet while everything is linked to Manson, the episodes have a procedural element, with episode two taking some time out from the Manson-hunting to investigate the suspected murder of a wife by her husband, for example. The show tries hard to link this with both Manson and the era, with the surprisingly sympathetic husband nevertheless being an overt racist and the Nation of Islam turning up to give Manson’s ‘Helter Skelter’ philosophy some grounding. But as with the show's hit-laden soundtrack, it feels as obvious as the vintage cars on display as being an attempt to simply say ‘Hey guys! It’s 1967!’ The fact there’s invariably something to do with Vietnam on the news or Vietnam is on Duchovny’s or Damon’s mind for one reason or another doesn’t help with this.

Aquarius also wants to be something of a cable show. As well as the novel aspect of NBC broadcasting the first two episodes then making the rest of the season immediately available from its web site, the show also has some quite near-the-knuckle sex scenes. Unsurprisingly, given the casting of Game of Thrones' Renly Baratheon as Manson, not all of that sex is straight, and the show is happy to explore Manson’s bisexual side. There’s also a really surprising scene towards the end of the first episode, which while not quite up there with Outlander’s recent finale, is pretty horrifying.

The trouble is that all of these distinct strands don’t fit together very well at all. While the historical background detail is at least interesting and Duchovny and Damon’s pairing not as annoying as you’d think and is even quite comedic at times as they try to adjust, among other things, to this new ‘Miranda thing’, the two of them feel like they’re in a different show from Manson’s storyline. Indeed, Manson seems to think he’s in another show, too, since a lot of his storyline is about his attempts to get a record contract and his possible involvement in political corruption.

Women don’t really get served well here, either. Different times, etc, etc, but Aquarius only offers us a vision of women needing men’s help in one form or another or of messing things up by ‘transgressing’. On the plus side, though, there is at least an exploration of the race problems of the time and there are even some black characters with lines.

Compared to many NBC dramas, Aquarius isn’t half bad and I might potentially watch the rest of the season, one episode at a time, if I have time. But despite Duchovny’s presence and the potentially fascinating nature of Manson, Aquarius feels like it’s a pale imitation of a something potentially a whole lot better.

Read other posts about:

May 28, 2015

Preview: Mr Robot 1x1 (US: USA Network)

Posted on May 28, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Mr Robot

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, USA Network. Starts June 24
In the UK: Not yet acquired

I want you to hack me as hard as you can

Over the years, the USA Network has struggled to work out what kind of network it is. Scroll back a decade or more in the timeline and most people associated it with the likes of country & western reality talent show Nashville Star. Then it started trying to do drama, with a brilliant but quickly cancelled remake of the UK’s Touching Evil, which was perhaps a bit too dark and unmarketable for the likes of USA.

The network didn’t abandon its attempts with drama, but the set back did lead it to start going a bit fluffier. By about 2007, Burn Notice, Monk and Psych were the network’s go-to shows, and while Burn Notice was obviously a much darker show than either Psych and Monk, it still wasn’t quite Requiem for a Dream. These shows had something of an 80s nostalgia to them, which led to the fluffy likes of In Plain Sight.

2009’s Royal Pains proved a game-changer, showing that fluffy and light were very much the order of the day on USA, leading us to the quite fluffy White Collar, the slightly fluffy Covert Affairs, Suits and Graceland, the really very fluffy Common Law, Fairly Legal, Necessary Roughness, Playing House, and Sirens, and eventually the still-fluffy Benched.

Now some of these were great, some of them really weren’t, but they almost all still had something of an edge to them, at least. And slowly, with most of the new fluff fluffing in the ratings, the pendulum has started to swing back over the past year or so towards USA’s skulking darker side with the likes of Rush, Satisfaction and, coming soon, Complications.

This is all for the good, since now we have perhaps USA’s darkest - and best - new show for quite some time, Mr Robot. It sounds fluffy, doesn’t it, with that name, but it’s really not. Think Fight Club if it was all about hacking or Batman, if Batman was a socially anxious coder who used technology to stop people faking identities, end the distribution of images of child abuse and bring down the corporate elite who secretly rule the world.

Rami Malek (24, The War At Home, The Pacific) is Elliot, a white hat techie at a cybersecurity firm. He has social issues, which means in between bouts of crying to himself at home from loneliness, taking morphine, having sex with his drug dealer, hacking people he knows about to find out more about them or talking to his new friends - the viewers at home - he’s busily putting the world to rights. Or to rights as he sees them.

In particular, he’d really like to destroy his company’s biggest client, The Evil Corporation, and one day he comes across 'Mr Robot' (Christian Slater) and his team of socially minded hackers, who offer him the chance to do just that and liberate society from this menace. Is The Evil Corporation really running the world? Is what Slater says possible? Can he be trusted? And is he even real or is he just the Tyler Durden of Elliot’s unmedicated, occasionally paranoid schizophrenic sub-conscious?

All these questions and more are asked and you will want to know the answers. If you’re in the US, you can watch the full episode below; otherwise, I’ll leave you with some trailers and we can talk more after the jump.

Continue reading "Preview: Mr Robot 1x1 (US: USA Network)"

Read other posts about: , , , ,

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 212 213 214 215 216 217 218 219 220 221 222 223 224 225 226 227 228 229 230 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 238 239 240 241 242 243 244 245 246 247 248 249 250 251 252 253 254 255 256 257 258 259 260 261 262 263 264 265 266 267 268 269 270 271 272 273 274 275 276 277 278 279 280 281 282 283 284 285 286 287 288 289 290 291 292 293 294 295 296 297 298 299 300 301 302 303 304 305 306 307 308 309 310 311 312 313 314 315 316 317 318 319 320 321 322 323 324 325 326 327 328 329 330 331 332 333 334 335 336 337 338 339 340 341 342 343 344 345 346 347 348 349 350 351 352 353 354 355 356 357 358 359 360 361 362 363 364 365 366 367 368 369 370 371 372 373 374 375 376 377 378 379 380 381 382 383 384 385 386 387 388 389 390 391 392 393 394 395 396 397 398  

Featured Articles

Marvel's Iron Fist

Season two of Daredevil but done right