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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.

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Review: Believe (NBC/Watch) 1x1

Posted on March 13, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

NBC's Believe

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, NBC
In the UK: Thursdays, 9pm, Watch. Starts March 27th

There used to be a time when I'd look forward to a show that had the name JJ Abrams attached. Even to this day, Felicity has its fans and although Alias went to seed in the second season, it was a real gamechanger and made Jennifer Garner’s career. Lost cemented Abrams' reputation, even if he had minimum involvement with it, as did Fringe - at least in some quarters.

But largely, Abrams’ reputation rests on those shows - and it’s a foundation of sand. Look over his CV, and even if you discard the pilots he made that never saw the light of day, such as The Catch, Anatomy of Hope and Shelter, you’ll see he’s mainly produced turkey after turkey. Remember Six Degrees, Undercovers, and Alcatraz? Almost Human wasn’t exactly a tour de force, and if you’re still watching either Revolution or Person of Interest, you have my sympathies.

So now I approach any TV show with Abrams’ name attached with a fair degree of caution. To a certain extent, that’s because Abrams’ playbook has become quite clear. He stocks up the pilot with a sci-fi or fantasy scenario, fills it full of random mysteries and questions that must be answered, adds a secret organisation with answers to these mysteries of the in-world universe that have no implications at all in the real world, adds in a few ‘wow’ moments, a few martial arts fights and then, over the course of the series, slowly ekes them out, adds more mysteries, before finally revealing the largely unsatisfying answers. Not always, but that’s usually how it goes, assuming they don’t get cancelled before they’ve had a chance to reveal all.

So behold Believe, Abrams’ latest show in which a mysterious organisation led by Agent Dale Cooper (sorry, Kyle MacLachlan) is hunting down a young girl with secret powers over pigeons. Yes, pigeons. Oh, she can do other things, too, like predict the future and read minds. How? Good question. She just can and she might change the world as a result, so the baddies want to control her.

However, there’s another secret organisation led by Delroy Lindo that wants to protect her. So they bust a wrongly convicted death row prisoner (Jake McLaughlin from the TV version of Crash) out of jail and put him in charge of protecting her… for the rest of his life. Not the best idea in the world, you might think, so why have they done that? Well, that’s a mystery. Kind of. But it all revolves faith and belief.

It sounds a bit rubbish, it is a bit rubbish, and with yet another central mystery of no real-world import, a secret organisation, etc, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was Abrams working by numbers. But, actually, it’s Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, Gravity) and Mark Friedman (The Forgotten) who are the creative forces behind it, so despite its Abrams-ness, there are a few quirks to it you might not have been expecting.

Like that it’s deliberately silly to the extent that the main baddie is worried she won’t be home in time for her mum’s birthday with all the child-hunting she’s got to do.

Here’s a trailer. It'll tell you the answer to at least one of the mysteries mentioned above.

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Third-episode verdict: Intelligence (CBS)

Posted on January 22, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerIntelligence.jpgA Barrometer rating of 4

In the US: Mondays, 10pm/9pm CT, CBS

Three episodes in and there's not much really to add since my review of the first episode about the very silly Intelligence, in which Sawyer from Lost in a US government secret agent with a computer chip in his brain and and Little Red Riding Hood from Once Upon A Time is his useless minder. It's largely the same set-up as every other CBS procedural: a by-the-numbers team that together give Sawyer easily solvable missions that are largely meaningless sci-fi drivel, with by-the-numbers (foreign) baddies (usually Chinese). There's also a tedious story plot about Sawyer's ex-wife being a secret agent who may or may not have been/be a terrorist. There's the occasional element that suggests that there's at least some understanding of science and technology among the writers, but largely it all gets skirted in favour of, for example, things like edible explosives.

But I will say this: they really should have learned from The Bionic Woman reboot, since the three episodes have spent an awful long time showing us how awesome the Chinese version of Sawyer is and not actually giving us any real missions. On top of that, the actress they chose for the part was terrible and the producers decided that because she's 'evil', she must be both sexual and 'deviant' (better for her to be punished, unlike the 'good' and passive Little Red Riding Hood), so it was an even worse decision than The Bionic Woman. But with no real idea of why Sawyer's so vital a US asset beyond an ability to access computers, and with a much better idea of why his Chinese opposite is better, it does feel like we were watching a remake of a much better show we just haven't seen yet.

With no real sign of any life in this one, a poor set-up, poorer scripts and everything else by the numbers, I'm saying this one's a miss rather than a hit.

Barrometer rating: 4
Rob's prediction: Will be cancelled by the end of the season

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