Spike TV's The Mist
US TV

Review: The Mist 1×1 (US: Spike)

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, Spike

Is there a Stephen King formula? Sorry, trick question. King’s obviously a very diverse author, since although he’s best known as a horror writer, he’s turned his hand to everything from The Shawshank Redemption (feelgood prison story) to 11.22.63 (time travelling attempt to live in the sixties to stop Kennedy from being assassinated). Sure, the action’s always almost set in Maine, but that’s really his one definitive defining trait.

Yet one in comes to adaptations, maybe there is a formula, since the adaptations have so often been much of a muchness. If they weren’t, there’d never have been a Darkplace.

Part of the problem is that success breeds imitators who want to latch onto what made the first thing a success and piggyback to the same popularity. CBS’s Under The Dome wasn’t exactly the greatest TV show on Earth – beyond Rachelle Lefevre’s hair – but it was CBS’s surprise summer hit of 2013 and swiftly went from being a limited edition one-off to a full-blown, multiple-season series as a result.

So with Spike once more dipping its toe into the water of scripted content, after its efforts with Blade and The Kill Point made it more or less hide its head in the sand for a decade, it’s perhaps unsurprising that for its glorious return, it’s decided to play it safe and follow both CBS and Hulu in not only adapting a Stephen King story but also following Under The Dome more or less beat for beat, to the extent that The Mist borrows more from Under The Dome in the first episode than it does from The Mist.

We start off in a teeny tiny Maine town full of people with issues that are tediously spelled out for us all up front so that we don’t have to bother trying to do anything too subtly once the action starts. Most of the ‘issues’ revolve around Alyssa Sutherland (Vikings) and her family, especially her gay step-son and her step-daughter who fancies a high school jock, but wakes up after a party suspecting that he’s raped her. Problematically, said jock’s dad is also a police officer.

But there’s also a guy in an army uniform (Romaine Waite) who wakes up on a hillside not remembering much and who comes into town to warn people that there’s something odd in the mist that’s coming towards town. He’s arrested on suspicion of being black and locked up in the jail, where we meet a murderous bad girl (19-2‘s Alexandra Ordolis).

Unfortunately, his warning comes too late, as before you know it, animals are being weird – toads are biting little old ladies and cockroaches are attacking policemen. The mist rolls in, killing anything electric, but woe betide anyone who enters it. Best everyone with the most issues stay locked up together in the shopping mall, hey?

None of this especially subtle stuff. You can see straight from the off what most of the issues are going to be, particularly if you’ve seen Under The Dome. The main difference is that Spike is basic cable, which means it can get away with more swearing and more gore. Once the mist rolls in, suddenly faces are coming off or losing parts, cockroaches are burrowing into flesh, people are being shot in the head. It reads like someone’s idea of what a Stephen King story should be like – it’s horror, isn’t it, so surely there should be nasty unpleasantness.

Even when a little old lady’s husband is shot in the head in front of her by someone driven mad by the mist, the desensitisation process has already began enough that neither the show nor the viewer seems to care. Normally I weep buckets whenever old people are left all alone by the death of their partner, but the scene evoked barely a trace of emotion in me, because The Mist doesn’t really know how to create real people you’d care about.

The Mist is good at gore, but that’s about it. It’s not even a good imitation of Under The Dome, let alone the original Stephen King story. Maybe Spike should have another think about scripted. See you again in 10 years’ time, guys?

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What have you been watching? Including GLOW, Riviera, Logan, Twin Peaks and Ronny Chieng

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching.

Redesigning and migrating TMINE took up quite a bit of my time this week, so I didn’t cast my net as wide as I’d hoped in watching new TV. All the same, you’ll be excited to hear that I’ve managed to give two other new shows at try, as well as a movie, and I’ll be reviewing The Mist (US: Spike) in the next couple of days, too.

After the jump, a look at the latest episodes of Doctor Who, Ronny Chieng: International Student and Twin Peaks, as well as the season finale of Silicon Valley. One of those could offer some of the finest visuals TV has ever seen.

But first…

GLOW (Netflix)
Slightly weird half-hour comedy based on the genuinely real 80s phenomenon of GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling), which has already been the subject of movies and TV shows but here sees aspiring but really rather terrible actress Alison Brie (Community) almost as the point of doing porn to make ends meet before her agent gives her one last potential gig – a new cable TV sports show in which she would be a wrestler. Together with several other oddball women, she auditions to take part, but it’s not until she ends up in a catfight with best friend Betty Gilpin (Masters of Sex, Nurse Jackie) that she gets her chance to appear in the ring.

I got through the first episode without laughing much, except at the over-the-top attempts at 80s LA fashions, which all seemed to be takes on Jane Fonda aerobics videos. But it was amiable enough and silly enough that I’ll at least try episode two.

Riviera (UK: Sky Atlantic)
Glossy French-set, French-filmed thriller in which Julia Stiles (the Jason Bourne movies, Dexter) is apparently happily married to super-rich Anthony LaPaglia (Murder One, Without A Trace) when his yacht gets blown up off the coast of Monaco. The result is… revelations! Maybe LaPaglia got his money through dodgy means. Maybe he was having an affair and slept with ‘party girls’.

All the episodes have been released but I’ve only managed the first, rather insipid one so far. Stiles is fine, but spends most of her time having passive aggressive sit-downs with LaPaglia’s ex-wife Lena Olin or one of Olin’s kids (Misfits‘ Iwan Rheon and Les témoins (Witnesses)’ Roxane Duran). Attempts to inject excitement into all the iciness come from having Amr Waked (Lucy, Engrenages (Spiral), Marco Polo) run around a bit or by promising some excitement soon but never actually producing anything.

Basically, the usual glossy Sky fare with a good cast list (and Neil Jordan in the writing credits) but only two big names who actually stick around for the main action.

Logan (2017)
The X-Men meet gritty reality and the cowboy genre, as we flashforward to 2029. Most of the world’s mutants are dead, with Wolverine and Professor X the only big names left alive thanks to a highly successful stamping out campaign. Even so, Wolverine’s dying from adamantine poisoning and Professor X has dementia over which he’s losing control, causing all manner of problems for anyone and any towns that happen to be in his vicinity. Into the mix comes a woman with a girl who has Wolverine-like abilities, asking our hero to protect her from evil Richard E Grant and the cybernetic Reavers.

It’s basically Shane with superheroes, but a clever piece of work that is sparing with the action but nevertheless has an awful lot of bloody stabbing. It pokes fun at its predecessors as being (literally) comic book fun, divorced from the real world in which people suffer and die, but manages to still enjoy the trappings of the superhero genre.

It’s all a bit bleak though and beyond a couple of cool scenes, nothing to really unique.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including GLOW, Riviera, Logan, Twin Peaks and Ronny Chieng”

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A shiny new look for TMINE

Those visiting here yesterday and today will have noticed that TMINE now has a brand new look. It was all supposed to be for TMINE’s 12th birthday this week, but development being what it is, deadlines slipped a bit.

It’s all a bit work-in-progress and a few things are missing and are in flux, so expect more changes over the next couple of weeks. Of course, if there are bits you like or don’t like, let me know, since making changes should be a lot easier now and it’s all a bit experimental anyway. I’ve already had some feedback, so the great big TMINE image has gone now (probably to wherever The Daily Show sent the giant head of Bruce Willis), so I do respond, honestly.

Also new is the fact that TMINE runs on WordPress rather than Movable Type. Although Movable Type was the best choice of blogging platform 11 years ago, nowadays it’s all a bit backwards (unless you fork out a few hundred pounds for a Movable Type 6 licence and can read Japanese well), but migration was a bit of a nightmare until recently which put that out of the question. But with a certain amount of tinkering, I’ve managed to make it all work, I hope.

WordPress brings lot of benefits for both you and me, including a working spellchecker, caching and faster comment loading, and the new theme is responsive and looks nice on mobile devices, too. If you’ve any suggestions for things I can introduce, let me know.