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April 1, 2014

Mini-review: Surviving Jack 1x1 (Fox)

Posted on April 1, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Surviving Jack

In the US: Thursdays, 9.30/8.30c, Fox

Forget 60s nostalgia. Forget 70s nostalgia. Forget even 80s nostalgia. Apparently, 1991 nostalgia is where it’s at.

Based on Justin Halpern’s autobiography, I Suck At Girls, Surviving Jack sees a 1991 family getting to grips with changing parenting roles when mom (Rachael Harris) goes to law school, forcing the ex-military doctor father (Christopher Meloni) to have to deal with being more nurturing with his two kids (Connor Buckley, Claudia Lee).

Strangely, Surviving Jack’s 1991 is pretty identical to 2014, the only difference being a lack of Internet, apparently, so I’m not quite sure what the nostalgia is for. But if you ignore that supposed hook, the show’s actually surprisingly good. While a lot of the first episode revolves around Buckley’s trying to deal with the fact that girls now seem to like him but he has no idea what to do about that, it’s quite a nuanced piece. Harris is as reliable as always but Meloni does surprisingly well as a slightly more sensitive Major Dad (see? That’s the kind of 1991 nostalgia we should be getting). It’s all a very male-centric piece, but for once, the men aren’t total dicks, and there’s plenty of laughs in the show.

Definitely one to try.

March 24, 2014

Review: The 100 1x1 (The CW/E4)

Posted on March 24, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

 

The 100

In the US: Wednesdays, 9/8c, The CW
In the UK: Acquired by E4. To air 2014

Sometimes, the contrariness of US TV amuses me. Watch pretty much any US TV show these days and you'll spot someone who isn't American pretending to be American. Whether it's simply the ubiquitous Canadians who permeate every show that's shot for budgetary reasons in Canada (pretty much anything on The CW, for example), or the numerous Brits, Australians, New Zealanders and Scandinavians looking for jobs and pay in the US they're never going to get back home, look close enough and they'll be there, usually sporting a non-descript Mid-Western accent, in pretty much any show you care to mention. 

Yet, when a show actually calls for some degree of international representation, not only will virtually all the characters be American, even the foreigners the producers bring in will be obligated to pretend to be from someone in Iowa.

Case in point is The 100, set in some distant, post-nuclear future, in which only a handful of humans from around the world have survived. They all live in The Ark, an amalgamation of all the world's space stations, so naturally you'd expect just a few of them to not be American. Yet they aren't. Even the obviously and famously Scottish Henry Ian Cusick from Lost is forced to feign US accent.

Bizarre.

Nevertheless, The 100 is a moderately interesting piece for The CW, which is rapidly turning into the 'more sci-fi than the SyFy' channel. Yes, we have all the standard tropes designed to appeal to young people of both genders - pretty, clean-cut, fit young things in various states of undress, emoting at each other and worrying about their teenage relationships. But these 100 pretty young things are all juvenile offenders, forced to return as guinea pigs to the irradiated world that is the Earth by the Draconian regime that runs The Ark. Will they all die of radiation sickness, get eaten by rabid rats or club each other to death?

Maybe, actually, which is surprising. In fact, some of them might even get killed before the end of the first episode...

Here's a trailer.

Continue reading "Review: The 100 1x1 (The CW/E4)"

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March 20, 2014

Mini-review: From Dusk Till Dawn 1x1 (El Rey/Netflix)

Posted on March 20, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

From Dusk Till Dawn

In the US: Tuesdays, 9pm, El Rey
In the UK: Available on Netflix. New episode released each week

Robert Rodriguez is best known as being a pal of Quentin Tarantino. His first big success was a Tarantino-scripted flick, From Dusk Till Dawn, which saw Tarantino and George Clooney play two brothers who rob a bank then head off to a strip joint that just happens to be run by sexy Latina vampire Salma Hayek. As a piece of grindhouse, it was fine and clearly benefited from Tarantino's ear for dialogue. But it wasn't exactly a classic.

Rodriguez went on to greater success with the Spy Kids movies, but he's produced more grindhouse over the years. Bizarrely, he's just launched his own TV network, El Rey, which is an English-language channel targeted at Latinos. The flagship drama he's using to launch the network? A TV-length adaptation of From Dusk Till Dawn, starring almost no one you've heard of and written by Rodriguez rather than Tarantino.

Hmm.

Okay, not strictly true. Don Johnson appears in the first episode and although this isn't a spoiler if you've seen the movie, gets killed before the end of it (although, you know, vampires). And Robert Patrick (Terminator 2, The Unit, The X-Files, The Last Resort) takes over Harvey Keitel's role as a vicar vampire-hunter in later episodes. 

However, largely, this is just a slower, duller, much, much cheaper version of the movie, played out over an entire series. It's not terrible and there are attempts to emulate Tarantino's style; the two leads (DJ Cotrona from Windfall and Zane Holtz from nothing much at all) do just fine as more generic versions of Clooney and Tarantino, the cool one and the psycho-crazy one respectively; the action is okay, if not especially thrilling; it's not got a great attitude towards women, but it's no that much worse than many other shows I could name on that score; and there are promises to flesh out the vampires' Mayan backstory. 

But, you know, they killed Don Johnson. Why bother watching after that?

Here's a trailer:

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