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


February 9, 2015

Review: Allegiance 1x1 (US: NBC)

Posted on February 9, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Allegiance

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC

Sometimes it can seem like all the Big Four US networks do these days is watch cable TV and then develop their own poorer, tamer versions a few years later. Certainly, if you watch Allegiance, you’d be tempted to think that all NBC had done for its latest spy thriller is to watch FX’s rather wonderful The Americans and come up with a weaker, stupider version set in the present day.

Allegiance sees a young talented CIA analyst (Gavin Stenhouse) tasked with helping track down some top secret Russia intel that a defector is trying to give to the US. The only problem? Unbeknownst to him, his Russian mother (Hope Davis) is really a KGB/SVR spy who recruited her American husband (Scott Cohen) and elder daughter (Margarita Levieva) to the cause. And they’re all named in that intel. Will they be able to stop him finding out their secret or will they be forced to recruit him to the cause, too?

If that sounds familiar, it’s perhaps because that’s pretty similar to the plot of The Americans, particularly its latest season. Typical, hey? Why can’t network TV be original like cable TV is, hey?

Except this is a shining example of how cable isn’t necessarily an original source in itself. Because just as Showtime went to Israel’s Prisoners of War to give us Homeland, so Allegiance is actually an adaptation of Israel’s The Gordin Cell.

One thing’s constant though: cable’s smarter than network because Allegiance is almost offensively stupid. Here’s a trailer.

Continue reading "Review: Allegiance 1x1 (US: NBC)"

January 30, 2015

Review: Fortitude 1x1-1x3 (UK: Sky Atlantic; US: Pivot TV)

Posted on January 30, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Fortitude

In the UK: Thursdays, 9pm, Sky Atlantic
In the US: Thursdays, 10e/p, Pivot TV

I remember watching the first episode of Twin Peaks very well. It was my first year at university and I was sat in the TV room. The hype for the show had been huge, and the room was full as a result. We sat waiting in expectation through the previous programme for the moment when David Lynch’s very first TV series would begin.

And for about 30 minutes, we sat there wondering what the hell all the fuss was about. This was boring. This was dull. David Lynch made this? David Lynch?

But then, through a simple straight cut scene change, we were catapulted into the Twin Peaks everyone would come to grow and love. Because we were suddenly in the car with Special Agent Dale Cooper of the FBI and finally we understood what the fuss was about.

Fortitude doesn’t quite have that moment but it has something almost approaching it. For pretty much two episodes, you sit with baited breath, watching the beautiful Icelandic filming and the famous cast as they enact a lifeless and - punningly enough - glacial script. Set in a small town on a Norwegian island in the Arctic circle where the inhabitants are outnumbered by polar bears and no one’s allowed to die, even the murder of one of the inhabitants isn’t enough to get things going in the frozen wastes of the prestige filming.

But then, in the last act of the second episode, Stanley Tucci arrives to save the day. The Agent Cooper of the piece, almost single-handedly he makes this a must-watch show… and he even brings the Twin Peaks with him. Here’s a trailer.

Continue reading "Review: Fortitude 1x1-1x3 (UK: Sky Atlantic; US: Pivot TV)"

January 20, 2015

Review: 12 Monkeys 1x1-1x2 (US/UK: Syfy)

Posted on January 20, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

12 Monkeys

In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, Syfy
In the UK: Acquired by Syfy UK. Begins 9pm, 27 February 

For quite some time now, Syfy has been coasting. Gone are the halcyon days when Battlestar Galactica was the toast of the town. Indeed, with a schedule intermittently packed with wrestling, reality shows and knowingly bad B-movies, it was possible to surmise that Syfy had changed its name from the Scifi channel not just for trademarking purposes but so it could avoid having to show sci-fi, with what little it did airbeing anaemic-to-poor knock-offs (Alphas) or imports (Continuum, Being Human, Bitten). 

However, for the past couple of years, Syfy has been trying to raise its game in original programming. Sometimes, the quality's been awful (Dominion, Z Nation), sometimes it's been okay (Defiance, Helix), but so far, nothing's been great.

12 Monkeys doesn't quite change that track record, but given what's gone before it, it's surprisingly good. The film, 12 Monkeys, was a Terry Gilliam classic, itself based on the Chris Marker's 1962 'photo-roman' La Jetée, in which a time traveller from the future comes back to the modern day to prevent armageddon. However, time paradoxes mean that the story has more than a twist or two.

Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, as well as being a movie rather than a series of photos, adds many plots and sub-plots to Marker's story, portraying a virus-devastated future from which Bruce Willis returns to find out the source of the virus and prevent the future from happening. Along the way, he meets a doctor (Madeleine Stowe), with whom he falls in love and convinces he's from the future, and a psychiatric institute inmate (Brad Pitt), who is the head of 'the Army of the 12 Monkeys', the likely cause of the virus. And again, as with La Jetée, there are plenty of timey-wimey twists.

This new TV version moves things on slightly and straightens out some of the twists. Our new hero is Aaron Stanford - best known as Pyro in X-Men 2 but also doing serviceable secret agent turns in both Nikita and Traveler - and he's come from 2043 to find out the source of a viral outbreak that's set to happen in 2017. Why him? Because in the future, the few remaining survivors of the virus find not only a time machine that can 'splinter' someone back in time but also a message from a CDC doctor, Amanda Schull (Louis' helper in Suits), saying that he is the one who must help stop the virus from getting out. Will he convince her of what's going to happen? Will he be able to find who's really behind the viral outbreak? And how many time paradoxes will he encounter along the way

Here's a trailer.

Continue reading "Review: 12 Monkeys 1x1-1x2 (US/UK: Syfy)"

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