Archive | US TV 2017

Reviews of new US TV programmes from 2017

March 15, 2017

Third-episode verdict: Time After Time (US: ABC)

Posted on March 15, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerTimeAfterTime.jpgA Barrometer rating of 4

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, ABC

I ended my review of the first two episodes of Time After Time - Kevin Williamson's reimagining of the 1979 movie in which Jack The Ripper steals HG Wells' time machine and journeys into present day New York, where Wells has to hunt him down - with a prediction. Given virtually the entire movie's script had been exhausted by the end of the first two hours of the show, whither next for the series?

Maybe it'll be "hunt the Ripper" every week or maybe it'll start to explore Wells' other novels… Everything's to play for with episode three then. More of the tedious same or something a bit different. Has Williamson run out of ideas or does he still have some gumption? We'll soon see.

However, we might have to wait a little longer to find out.

Episode three has two strands. The first half hour or so appears to set up Time After Time as the new Forever, with gentlemanly HG Wells (Freddie Stroma) and his quaint oldy-timey manners flirting away with insanely bland museum curator Génesis Rodríguez. Meanwhile, evil Jack the Ripper (Josh Bowman) continues the main theme of the first two episodes, by alternating between making threatening phone calls to Stroma and hacking various people to death. 

The unifying theme between the two? Marvelling at and being perplexed by modern technology, with Stroma delighted by the Internet, cars and talking SatNavs, Bowman excited by iPhones' video capabilities and the burrito-heating properties of microwaves - if only he could find the button to open them.

It's the second half of the episode that changes the show's direction, since it quickly becomes apparent that literally everyone knows who HG Wells and Jack the Ripper are. Everyone. Because he's got a time machine and in the future, he's going to go back in time to their pasts and they're going to find out about that somehow. And keep it a secret from him because he won't know yet. 

Everyone? Really? Yep. That bloke who stalked Stroma in the pilot? He knows. That bloke's mum? Even she knows. 

And that shifts everything. So, we've got some kind of odd conspiracy theory plot for Wells to deal with on the one hand. On the other, something odd is going on with Bowman. It looks like business as usual as he romances Jennifer Ferrin (The Knick, Falling Water, Falling Skies, Hell on Wheels), but then that goes in a very different direction than the one you'd expect.

All the same, despite this slightly surprising bit of plotting, this is still at heart the reasonably stupid, slightly unpleasant show of the first two episodes. As well as inventing the time machine, Wells apparently also invented lasers and quantum mechanics a few years early. Jack can viciously stab someone to death with a kitchen knife and not even wrinkle the suit he's wearing, let alone get it bloody. The two of them speak almost fluent modern New Yorkese, and beyond one or two vestigial Victorian English manners like saying 'please' and 'thank you', appear to have entirely acclimatised through osmosis to modern American manners, too. Before you know it, they'll be tipping a minimum of 20% without anyone telling them to, like some modern day Muad'dibs.

The leads are appealing, the subject matter is intriguing, but ultimately this is a very bad implementation of a potentially good idea. So I won't be sticking with Time After Time any longer to see if it gets better. Or less stabby.

March 14, 2017

Third-episode verdict: Taken (US: NBC; UK: Amazon)

Posted on March 14, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerTaken.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Monday, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Tuesdays, Amazon

Three episodes into NBC's Taken, a prequel of sorts to the movie franchise, it's now reasonably clear that the show wants even less to do with Liam Neeson's European family drama than the first episode intimated. Instead, what it really wants to be doing is a slightly smarter version of 24, but without the full-on, balls-out belief in the efficacy of torture that being on the Fox network brings.

What it really doesn't want to do is have prequel Liam (Clive Standen) acting in any way even remotely resembling Liam Neeson did in the movies. Things like being a father, working by himself for no-one but himself, having contacts. That kind of thing.

So, each week since the pilot, we've had our Clive off with his team, doing team things together, at the behest of boss Jennifer Beals. He's not learning his very particular set of skills, either, since he already has them. Unlike in the pilot, though, there's absolutely no reference to the movies, no foreshadowing, no characters who'll show up in the movies.

Indeed, beyond the fact it's called Taken and features 'Brian Mills', there's nothing Takenish about it. Even Standen's hint at a Northern Irish accent in the pilot has disappeared, perhaps suggesting it wasn't deliberate, although getting him to be a soccer player in the third episode suggests the producers want to hint at some kind of European background, at least.

That said, the scripts are a lot less stupid, Standish is a vastly more compelling lead and the action scenes are about 1,000% better than those of 24: Legacy. Certainly, you can usually rely on each episode to serve up an unexpected fillip to a fight or a scene that you've never seen before in a TV show.

But other than that, in its foundations, it's unremarkable. There's nothing unique about its set-up, characters or scenarios that you won't have seen in a dozen other TV shows. Characterisation is shallow, perfunctory and uncompelling, and there's certainly nothing that makes you think, "Ah, that's why Liam Neeson is so frightened of Paris in the movie!", for example.

If you can get by purely on action scenes and the occasional signs of intelligence, Taken's worth a punt. If you miss 24 and find 24: Legacy an unsatisfactory replacement, give Taken a whirl. But if you need involving plots, dialogue and characterisation, Taken's not for you.

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March 9, 2017

Review: Time After Time 1x1-1x2 (US: ABC)

Posted on March 9, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Time After Time

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, ABC

Kevin Williamson's arm slumped to his side, the remote control loose in his grasp. The room was silent now, silent as a single tear rolled down his cheek.

"When Alexander saw the depth of his empire he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer," he repeated to himself. "So right. Hans was so right."

Williamson was inconsolable. He owed everything to serial killers. Everything. His entire career had started with Scream but how he wished that he could escape them now, to develop sweet, lovely little shows. 

But every time he'd strayed, every time he'd tried to develop a Dawson's Creek or Hidden Palms or adapt another young adult book to make a Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle, he'd been forced to return to the minds of these misogynistic sociopaths. Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last SummerScream 4 and then The Following had all drawn him back in.

Except now The Following had been cancelled. What was he to do? Three seasons of The Following. Three! He must have exhausted every serial killer permutation in the book. Worse - people were becoming jaded with serial killers. They had… over-kill!

Williamson would have chuckled at that, if there had been even the slightest trace of joy in his life. There was nothing left. He ruled… nothing.

If only there were some way to make serial killers better, to truly catch the public imagination once again, just as they had all those years ago.

If a light bulb could have appeared about Williamson's head, it would have done. All those years reading books hadn't been for nothing after all! What if he could bring the most popular serial killer ever into modern times to save him? What if he could bring Jack the Ripper himself into the present day?

And he knew just how. He reached over to his bookcase and took out Time After Time by Karl Alexander. He opened it. In the hollowed out centre of the book was the DVD of the movie, Time After Time, written and directed by Nicholas Meyer.

He put the disc into the machine and pressed play on his remote control.

Yes, this will work. And he already knew how he could turn it into a TV series. Just with someone a bit hotter than Malcolm McDowell or David Warner…

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