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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.


September 26, 2013

Review: Marvel's Agents of SHIELD 1x1 (ABC/Channel 4)

Posted on September 26, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

In the US: Tuesdays, 8/7c, ABC
In the UK: Fridays, 8pm, Channel 4. Starts 27th September

Marvel's The Avengers/Avengers Assemble (delete according to which overly litigious side of the Atlantic you live on) was a movie phenomenon. As well as taking huge box office earnings last summer, it did an unprecedented thing: it took four separate movie franchises, all inhabiting the same universe - Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk - and brought their leads together in one movie.

You can thank a Mr Joss Whedon for its success. Although not the original creative mastermind behind the operation, it was he who directed and wrote The Avengers and it is he who is now the head of all things creative for this unified movie universe.

Whedon is, of course, best known from his TV work. Despite being the man who polished Toy Story into the gem it is, he's best known as the creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, its spin-off Angel, and later shows Firefly and Dollhouse - collectively known as the Whedonverse.

So to create a TV spin-off from The Avengers, who better to mastermind it all than Joss Whedon? There is literally no one better qualified in the whole world to do this job. He's certainly got a firm grasp on pretty much everything involved and necessary to making it a success.

Only trouble? It's TV and the budget and time to craft a show on the same scale as The Avengers just isn't possible. You certainly aren't going to be getting the ever-so busy stars, so there's no Thor or Hulk, no Iron Man or Captain America in this spin-off. With even supposedly secondary characters such as Black Widow and Hawkeye played by the expensive and powerful likes of Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner, there's never going to be a chance of getting them involved, either. And no way is a SHIELD helicarrier or the destruction of New York going to be affordable every week.

So, instead, imagine The Avengers that you knew and loved. Then imagine everything big and brave and bold (and expensive) about The Avengers has been removed, leaving perhaps one or two familiar tertiary characters and some quirky fun bits. Then imagine most of the effects and the scale removed as well.

Then imagine what's left and the great big gaping hole left behind by all of that and fill that hole with a load of new regular-type (and therefore cheap) characters who you aren't going to like as much. Add in a scene or two filmed in Paris. Then add in a few references to other Marvel movies such as Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3. Finally, mix in a lot of the trademark Whedon touches you've come to expect, from funny and clever dialogue to multi-dimensional characters and kick-ass women.

What do you have? Yes, you have the inelegantly titled ABC's Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, featuring that Agent Coulson who definitely died in The Avengers but has somehow come back; that Agent Hill, who's preoccupied on CBS in How I Met Your Mother so is only going to be in one episode; that car you half-remember from Captain America; that guy who used to be on Angel but who's only going to be in one episode too; an aeroplane you haven't seen before but isn't going to be in it much and is a whole lot cheaper than a helicarrier anyway; and a whole bunch of people you've never seen before but are largely pretty and can deliver a Whedongag.

Some bad? Well, it's probably not as great as you hoped, but it's still not half bad all the same. Minor spoilers after the jump.

Continue reading "Review: Marvel's Agents of SHIELD 1x1 (ABC/Channel 4)"

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September 24, 2013

Review: The Blacklist 1x1 (NBC/Sky Living)

Posted on September 24, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

NBC's Blacklist with James Spader and Megan Boone

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Acquired by Sky Living. Starts 4 October

Ah, James Spader. Star of the original Stargate movie and Sex, Lies and Videotape, he was the thinking heterosexual woman's crush of the early 90s, the sensitive, hot intellectual actor it was okay to collect a sticker album for.

But time marched on and thanks to a process called 'Shatnerisation', he stopped being the subtle, sophisticated actor he once was, preferring instead to ham it up something chronic on The Practice and Boston Legal. It's therefore somewhat appropriate that for his return to mainstream TV, he's picked one of the least subtle roles available to him this season: 'the concierge of crime' Raymond 'Red' Reddington on NBC's The Blacklist.

Reddington is a Moriarty, a man other criminals come to to organise their plots, put them in touch with other criminals and get them what they need. But one day, he mysteriously turns up at the FBI's headquarters, voluntarily surrendering himself to the authorities. He then offers up the name of a criminal and agrees to help the FBI catch him on one condition: that he only speak to FBI rookie Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). Why her and what he's doing are even bigger mysteries, but before the end of the first episode Reddington is offering his continuing help to catch everyone on his 'blacklist' of big bads, providing he gets to stick with Keen.

And while that's all as ridiculous as it sounds, it's actually a surprisingly enjoyable hour and Spader, despite being the headline act with the spotlight firmly on him, curiously decides to diet his performance and reduce the ham. The hat doesn't help though.

Continue reading "Review: The Blacklist 1x1 (NBC/Sky Living)"

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September 19, 2013

Nostalgia corner: John Doe (2002-3)

Posted on September 19, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

John Doe

Imagine you knew everything. I mean literally everything. Okay, maybe not the answer to questions about things that haven't happened yet - although with all that knowledge about everything, you'd certainly do well on the stock market and horse racing, for example - but whatever question anyone ever asked you, you could answer it, provided it was part of the sum of all human knowledge, whether it was a question about an obscure 19th century French law, how to make an explosive or how many dimples there are on a golfball.

Everything, that is, except your own name or indeed anything else about yourself. Are you a god in human form? An alien? A scientific experiment?

That was the set up and central mystery of Fox's John Doe, a 2002 series that saw Prison Break's Dominic Purcell wake up naked on a deserted island off the coast of Seattle, with no memory of who he was, brain chock full of answers, a mysteriously shaped scar on his chest and even more mysteriously only able to see in black and white - apart from a few, very important things that show up in red.

It's a fascinating idea, and one that requires a fascinating answer. Unfortunately, the show was also a salutary example to serial shows based around a central mystery - whatever you do, you better have some good answers at the end of it all. Here's the series-explaining title sequence:

Continue reading "Nostalgia corner: John Doe (2002-3)"

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