Archive | Canadian TV

An archive of blog entries about Canadian TV programmes and production.


June 29, 2015

Third-episode verdict: Dark Matter (Canada: Space; US/UK: Syfy)

Posted on June 29, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerDarkMatter.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In Canada: Fridays, 10e/7p, Space
In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, Syfy
In the UK: Mondays, 8pm, Syfy

The best that can probably be said about Dark Matter is that it’s better than you think it’s going to be and that it gets better over time. A show initially so generic in its grungy, generic sci-fi ambitions, we all had a hard time working out if it was Blakes 7 crossed with Andromeda or Farscape crossed with Firefly. Since then, its essential core - generic characters in a generic spaceship experiencing generic science-fiction plots in generic outer space Wild West - has hardly changed. The characters are the same, the situations are the same and the tropes are the same.

But whether it’s now finding its feet or its original comic source has now been exhausted and the producers (who also wrote it) are trying to work out what’s better for the small screen, episode three felt marginally better. A more generic version of Blakes 7’s Stardrive, it was basically a ‘ship in a bottle’ episode that allowed everyone to interact and reveal more about themselves and the main plot. While pretty much everything went as you’d have expected it, there were a few surprise twists and despite the ‘gritty’ setting, it managed to be amiable and fun enough to maintain attention throughout.

More importantly, the very end of the episode suggests potentially more interesting territory is about to be explored: the crew may have lost their memories but (spoiler alert) they may never have had them and may only be clones of the real crew.

All the same, the show’s put enough of its cards on the table now that we can see there’s a peak quality threshold it’s never going to exceed. Dark Matter's generic space opera at best and to be fair to the producers, that’s all they’re aiming for. I’m not sure if I’m going to stick with it, but unlike its equally generic, Friday-night schedule buddy Killjoys, it does at least pass the time nicely and without many dull moments, there are some decent actors in the cast and it’s not stupid. And by both Syfy and sci-fi standards, that's pretty good.

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Could well make it to a second season, but I suspect I’ll have given up before then

June 25, 2015

News: Nathaniel Parker gets biblical, Stephen Mangan to play Conan Doyle, Mr Robot 2.0 + more

Posted on June 25, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

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June 22, 2015

Review: Killjoys 1x1 (Canada: Space; US: Syfy)

Posted on June 22, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Killjoys

In Canada: Fridays, some time or other, Space
In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, Syfy
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Talking of generic Canadian-US co-production space opera science-fiction, here’s some more! The Killjoys of Space/SyFy's Killjoys are a group of bounty hunters who have to track down criminals in a system of four planets ruled by a powerful corporation unimaginatively called The Company, the forced title for the show coming from the fact that’s what bounty hunters are nicknamed in this system.

What’s the organisation that employs these bounty hunters? Brace yourself, Brits. Why, it’s the RAC. Yes, the RAC. “The RAC is coming to get you!” Doesn’t that send shivers down your spine?

The three bounty hunters follow the golden ITC rule of casting first laid down in The Champions back in the 60s, in giving us two guys and a girl as leads. The girl – Britain’s own Hannah John-Kamen (Banana, Cucumber, Happy Valley, The Hour) – is the mysterious highly trained one, probably raised since birth to go around killing people; she’s also possibly a member of the rich elite that rules ’the Quad’ as it’s known. Working for her is regular goofball Aaron Ashmore and following this first episode, his brother Luke Macfarlane, who’s wanted by the Company because he knows something bad from when he was a soldier. Together, they all have to track down criminals while cracking jokes and trying to avoid sides in an impending civil war.

You’ve got a decent enough synopsis there, so you should be able to extrapolate from that. Possible love triangle? Yep. John-Kamen having secrets that will be revealed in time? Almost certainly. Lots of semi-decently choreographed but ultimately average fight scenes? Sure thing. A smattering of sci-fi jargon and ideas that very slightly distinguish the show from all other very similar shows you’ll have seen before? Absolutely.

But it’s Canadian sci-fi at its most generic. It even features some of the same guest cast as Dark Matter. Perhaps the only really good thing about the show is the main cast. John-Kamen’s good and you wonder what happened to poor old Aaron Ashmore’s career that he’s ended up here after Smallville, Warehouse 13, et al. Not a great actor, Luke Macfarlane is nevertheless clearly there to bring the funny, having starred in Canada’s only good sitcom of the past decade, Satisfaction.

As a result, this first episode at least was hard going, with aching gaps where there should have been action, decent dialogue, jokes that are funny or in fact anything to stop me yawning like the only thing that would keep me alive was constantly stretching my face muscles for a whole hour every day.

Still, you have to admire a show with the chutzpah to call itself Killjoys, at least. That’s not inviting some obvious jokes. Not. At. All.

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