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Review: Into The Badlands 1x1 (US: AMC; UK: Amazon Instant Video)

Posted on November 19, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Into the Badlands

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, AMC
In the UK: Tuesdays, Amazon Instant Video

There is a famous paradox. Although Knight Rider claimed it was Zeno's Paradox, it's not. But it is at least a paradox. Here it is:

What happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object?

What's the answer? Into the Badlands. How so? Because it's an actual, real-world test of that paradox. It takes the unstoppable force that is the Hong Kong martial arts movie and confronts it with the immobable object of an AMC TV series.

Despite the likes of Indonesia's The Raid coming along to challenge them, Hong Kong martial arts movies are, of course, the fastest genre in the world. If you have any interest in martial movies, you watch Hong Kong martial arts to see the best - and fastest - martial artists the silver screen has to offer. I'm most partial to classic Jet Li myself, but Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan et al have all formed part of my viewing habits since Jonathan Ross's Son of The Incredibly Strange Film Show revealed their delights to me back in the 80s.

And the slowest genre in the world? AMC TV series. The network practically fetishises slowness:

Even its fastest shows - Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul - have a glacial chill to them, and that's before we consider the almost geological time scales over which the likes of Mad Men, Hell on Wheels and Halt and Catch Fire operate.

And Into The Badlands is a deliberate attempt to bring these two genres together. Rather bizarrely the brainchild of Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, it stars Daniel Wu, an American actor but the star of dozens of Hong Kong martial arts movies.

The show is set in a post-apocalyptic America. This isn't that surprising: martial arts date from before guns and are made largely redundant by the presence of guns, so a martial arts movie usually needs to have a reason for there to not be any guns - something somewhat problematic in modern-day and even historic America, but not so hard in a post-apocalyptic, post-technological society. Unles you turn the guns into a virtue, of course.

As with most other post-apocalyptic societies, everything's become weirdly patriarchal and feudal in Into The Badlands, with seven 'barons' now running America, following a series of wars. Each has made their territory safe and stopped the wars by getting rid of guns. In return, everyone either learns how to be a 'Clipper' - martial arts soldier cops - assuming they're male or goes to work in the fields picking poppies or getting married to the Baron.

Wu plays one such Clipper, who patrols the territories, enforcing the justice of his increasingly unstable, increasingly bewived Baron (Marton Csokas from Falcón, Rogue, The Equalizer, The Bourne Supremacy). One day, he comes across a peaceful boy sought after by another Baron, 'The Widow', only to discover that he gets superhero killing powers at odd moments. 

What will he do? WIll he take the boy into the lawless 'Badlands' between Barons' terrorities, looking for the boy's mother and answers to his own past? And will he do it before the Sun expands into a Red Giant and dies (aka the next AMC Upfronts)?

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How long does it take before you get hooked on a TV series?

Posted on September 24, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

So for a long time now, this 'ere blog has had a USP in terms of recommending shows: The Barrometer, which itself replaced The Carusometer. This takes the long view, requiring a minimum viewing of three episodes before it's willing to give a cheesy grin and a rousing showtune - and the all-important thumbs up or thumbs down to the show.

But I often wonder if that's too much or even few. Some shows you sense are never going to be good from the outset, while others genuinely do take a long time to get to the point (I'm looking at you here Rubicon - 10 episodes before you reveal your brilliance? Really?).

All I can do is guess. However, Netflix knows better. Apart from its top secret way to covertly view your every move as you sit in front of your TV screen or monitor (shh, don't tell anyone), it also can analyse exactly how far you get into a show before you decide you've got to watch the rest of it or abandon it altogether. And they've just released the results in a shiny infographic (click it to make it bigger):

Netflix infographic

There's also a list:

  • Arrow — Episode 8
  • Bates Motel — Episode 2
  • Better Call Saul — Episode 4
  • Bloodline — Episode 4
  • BoJack Horseman — Episode 5
  • Breaking Bad — Episode 2
  • Dexter — Episode 3
  • Gossip Girl — Episode 3
  • Grace & Frankie — Episode 4
  • House of Cards — Episode 3
  • How I Met Your Mother — Episode 8
  • Mad Men — Episode 6
  • Marco Polo — Episode 3
  • Marvel’s Daredevil — Episode 5
  • Once Upon a Time — Episode 6
  • Orange is the New Black — Episode 3
  • Pretty Little Liars — Episode 4
  • Scandal — Episode 2
  • Sense8 — Episode 3
  • Sons of Anarchy — Episode 2
  • Suits — Episode 2
  • The Blacklist — Episode 6
  • The Killing — Episode 2
  • The Walking Dead — Episode 2
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — Episode 4

Although it's worth remembering that the Netflix viewing experience is different from watching TV weekly, as you can see, it's never the pilot episode that grabs virtually anyone, so clearly I'm onto something there.

But there are a few surprises in there. Eight episodes before being grabbed by Arrow? Who waits that long? And episode five for Marvel's Daredevil, rather than the bravura episode 2? How odd.

Oddest of all: how can anyone get addicted to Sense8?


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Preview: Another Period 1x1 (US: Comedy Central)

Posted on June 11, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Another Period

In the US: Tuesdays, Comedy Central. Starts June 23

Talking of reality TV show mockery, here comes another pastiche, albeit in a somewhat different form. Imagine it’s the turn of the 20th century and the cast of Downton Abbey have been relocated to Rhode Island. Now imagine that they’re being followed by a reality TV crew and that actually, all they want to do is everything that the Kardashians get up to, except in the milieu of the time.

So we have the show's creators and writers Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome playing a pair of idiotic sisters who want to be in the list of the “400 most powerful white people”, invited to all the best dinner parties and doing sexy time with that John Ritter, if only it didn’t require 20 servants to undress them all.

As jokes written down in those paragraphs, they’re quite fun ideas and knowing that both Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks and Community’s Paget Brewster are in the show might even make you want to watch Another Period. Now try sitting through 25 minutes of those jokes being milked for all they’re worth while someone does a bit of shakycam in their direction. It’s not quite so funny then unless - and this is the important part as it’s vital to understanding Comedy Central's comedy output - you’re either hammered or stoned.

Only you know if you’re hammered or stoned, but if you’re planning on being wide awake and alert and this is on your tele, you’ll be making a mistake. You’ll titter a bit, but without a bit of a chemical incentive, big guffaws will be as elusive as Raffles.

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