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March 4, 2014

Review: Mind Games 1x1 (ABC)

Posted on March 4, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Mind Games

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

Talking of show killers, let’s talk about two more.

Christian Slater is pretty much a death knell to any show he happens to be in. We’ve had in the past half decade or so My Own Worst Enemy, The Forgotten and Breaking In, all of them pretty much doomed from the moment Slater joined the cast list to not even being one-season wonders.

Keep your eyes on Breaking In, by the way - remember that? A Fox ensemble comedy about an unusual workplace? - it’ll be important in a minute. No, this is not a mind game.

Now let’s take a look at Kyle Killen. Killen is a man too smart for network TV and he produces shows that really should be on cable and so get cancelled after getting zero audience on network TV. His first effort, Lone Star, was generally saluted as an excellent, dark piece of work about a con man, and as it was on Fox, it got cancelled so quickly, I didn’t even have a chance to review all three of its episodes.

Awake, an almost as serious, interesting piece of work, saw Jason Isaacs as a cop struggling to tell which was real - his waking state or his sleeping state - before eventually discovering that both were equally unreal. As that was on NBC, its low ratings were pretty much in keeping with every other show’s, so that managed to survive a whole season.

Keep an eye on Awake - it’ll be important in a minute. No, this is not a mind game.

Anyway, now on ABC, a network that has traditionally skewed (with a couple of exceptions such as Lost) towards the mildly diverting and soap opera-ish, we have a combination of Slater and Killen - as well as Slater and Killen’s biggest highlights - that logically should be a drama series that’s dead on arrival. In fact, there’s probably not much point watching a single episode of Mind Games.

An ensemble dramedy, it mines both Awake and Breaking In, as well as the likes of Lie To Me and even Inception, to give us a show about two brothers: the slightly ethically dodgy Slater and his bipolar psychiatry expert brother Steve Zahn (Treme), who go into business together with a novel idea - to use the past 60 years of behavioural research to influence people into doing the thing you want them to do.

Unable to get much by way of backing from rich people - in part because of Zahn’s more manic tendencies, in part because of Slater having gone to prison for fraud for a couple of years - they decide to prove their ideas work by using their diverse and ill defined team of helper monkeys to do pro bono work for poor people that they can use as case studies. They start off by performing inception on a surgeon, except without all the interesting dream manipulation. Cue the hilarity, the heart warming and the quirkiness.

And the prompt cancellation.

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February 28, 2014

Preview: Vikings 2x1-2x4 (History/Amazon Instant Video)

Posted on February 28, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Vikings season 2

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, History
In the UK: Amazon Instant Video. New episode every Friday, starting today

Vikings was a big surprise for me. Had I watched it last year, it would easily have been in my top three new shows of the year. But given it aired on the History Channel - the channel’s first scripted drama - came from Michael “The Tudors” Hirst and looked suspiciously like it was a cash in on Game of Thrones, I missed it and only watched it last month when I bit the bullet and got LoveFilm access (LoveFilm, of course, is now part of Amazon Prime).

How glad I was. A semi-autobiographical drama about the life of the semi-historical, semi-legendary viking Ragnarr Loðbrók, it was a fantastic blend of the personal, historical, political, educational, mythological and extreme violent, showing how Loðbrók (as a proxy for all vikings) went from being a simple farmer to a Scandinavian Earl through his adventures in the hitherto unexplored west - 8th century England. Full of lovely little touches, including spoken Old Norse and Anglo Saxon, strong roles for women, the appearances (maybe) of Norse gods as well as all the things you’d expect from Saxo Grammaticus and others’ stories of Loðbrók, it quickly became a must-see for me.

Now it’s back for a much deserved second season with plot threads aplenty to pick-up. What will become of Ragnarr and Rollo? How’s Æthelstan the monk doing? What will become of Hlaðgerðr and Ragnarr’s marriage given his infidelity? Will the English be prepared for any further invasions from Ragnarr and his men? And will King Ælla manage to get Ragnarr into that snake pit?

Spoilers - not too serious, I hope - after the jump.

Continue reading "Preview: Vikings 2x1-2x4 (History/Amazon Instant Video)"

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February 28, 2014

Weekly Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman #28 + Injustice: Gods Among Us, Year Two #4 and Forever Evil: Argus #5

Posted on February 28, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Wonder Woman #28

So it’s the beginning of the end for a lot of things over in Wonder Woman. We’re heading towards the end of the current story arc for one thing, but we’re also heading towards the end of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s three-year run on the title, with wife and husband team Meredith and Brian Finch ready to take over on writing and art duties respectively.

After the jump, we’ll talk about all the other things that (possibly) ended in Wonder Woman #28, as well as Wonder Woman’s appearance in Injustice: Gods Among Us and various mentions in Forever Evil: Argus #5, in which Steve Trevor tries to prove he’s more than just her ex-boyfriend… by trying to beat up her arch enemy Cheetah and getting her lasso back.

Continue reading "Weekly Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman #28 + Injustice: Gods Among Us, Year Two #4 and Forever Evil: Argus #5"

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