It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
We’re midway through the second week back following the Christmas break, and already, we’ve unveiled a cornucopia of reviews. On Monday, Boxset Monday took in no fewer than eight new shows from the Spring 2020 season in the US, Canada and Australia:
- Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
- FBI: Most Wanted
- Dare Me
- Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt For the Bone Collector
- Fortunate Son
- The Gloaming
Today, however, we’ll only be looking at one new show – Freeform (US)’s reboot/update of Party of Five – and the very few regulars still in the viewing queue: Evil, Stumptown and the second half of Messiah.
Oh yes – and we’ll also take in the second, concluding part of The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths Arrowverse crossover, which is itself a tale of two halves.
Let’s talk about all of that after the jump.
What TMINE watched this week
Party of Five (US: Freeform)
The five Acosta children navigate daily life struggles to survive as a family unit after their parents are suddenly deported back to Mexico.
Party of Five was one of those early 90s show that passed me by because I was just too old for it by the time it aired. Just. So it’s a little hard for me to truly appreciate its importance in the US, although I can certainly appreciate the fact it launched so many careers of future big TV stars: Matthew Fox, Scott Wolf, Neve Campbell and Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Even knowing its importance, though, I still find it a little difficult to understand why Freeform has decided to reboot an old Fox show about a group of siblings forced to band together when their parents die. Particularly when you have a much better version of more or less the same story on the air already – Shameless.
Shameless does at least have something reasonably original to say for US television, with some real insight into the miseries and hopes of the underclass. Whereas here, we have an almost saint-like pair of hard-working immigrant parents deported by ICE back to Mexico, leaving their eldest, would-be musician son to take over as the head of the household.
Oh no, we’re all going to have to be adults and bury our dreams in favour of going to school and having a pay cheque. Boo hoo.
Similarly, while Shameless‘ kids are disparate, this new Party of Five‘s kids are identically surly and shouty. There’s ostensibly the good girl turning bad; there’s… the other son; there’s… another daughter. Oh yes! There’s a baby.
But the writing is more focused on the political angle and the separation of families by the Trump state than it is on the kids as characters.
Worth a gander for the curious and for those who remember the original. Eminently avoidable for those who prefer drama to be about people, rather than generic templates.
Enter the Arrowverse!
Crisis on Infinite Earths – Arrow/DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
Last year, we ended the annual Arrowverse crossover on a cliffhanger. The universes had all been destroyed, leaving just seven ‘paragons’ behind to save the day. One of which just happened to be Lex Luthor.
Now the final two parts have arrived to finish off the narrative, this time as episodes of Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. However, it’s really in the first part that the story concludes. After all that build up, it’s really just another quest and since (spoiler alert) Oliver dies… again and Arrow‘s in its final year, there’s a chance to revisit some of the highlights of previous seasons from different angles.
It’s not all about Arrow, mind, with Supergirl and co all getting plot service, but it’s done less effectively than the previous half did. To be honest, unless you’re an Arrow fan, it’s really only worth it for a certain cameo (spoiler alert) Ezra Miller as the DC Extended Movie Universe’s Flash , who’s delightfully amusing, it has to be admitted.
By contrast, you think there’s going to be some actual plot in the second episode, but it’s DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, so instead you get a load of daft meta jokes and the guest stars from the more serious parts of the Arrowverse get to yuck it up and finally point out the daft conventions of theirs and other shows.
However, given this is an adaptation of Crisis on Infinite Earths, it’s no surprise whatsoever that the final part is basically an attempt to unify the various parallel DC TV shows into one glorious whole. No more having to plomp through various portals. Now Supergirl, Arrow, Black Lightning, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Batwoman all take place on the same Earth – as will, presumably, the forthcoming Supergirl spin-off Superman and Lois – and crossing over should be as easy as driving down the freeway or taking a plane.
How much of a continuity shakedown is going to be necessary is going to be interesting to observe. I’m also not 100% sure about how many characters are supposed to have survived all of this, since by comparison with the superhero-packed first half, this more sedate second week of the crossover didn’t feature the likes of John Constantine or most of the cast of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. I guess we’ll have to see on that score, too.
Slightly more unexpected – and somewhat muddying the waters – was the set of cameos by all the other DC TV Universe shows in the final minutes of the second episode. As well as past series, including the now defunct Swamp Thing, we also got ongoing shows including Titans and Doom Patrol, as well as glimpses of future shows such as Stargirl and Green Lantern. So is there more than one Earth again or have they all now been wiped out? I’m confused – maybe you can help?
So all in all, probably the best ever crossover of superhero shows in history, but a distinctly flawed one nevertheless. There were enough squee moments to make everyone happy but the plotting surrounding those moments often left a lot to be desired.
If you’ve any interest in DC superheroes at all, it’s certainly worth watching. But don’t expect anything Alan Moore-level.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
1×3 – 1×10
So Messiah isn’t quite what I thought it was. Although it may be.
I thought it was about how the world would react to the Second Coming, albeit a Second Coming for the Abrahamic faiths, not just Christianity. Or even how it would react if Jesus came to visit us now, not just back in 0 BC.
And to a certain extent it still is all those things.
However, episodes three to 10 are more about the power of faith and whether that power is a good or a bad thing. Initially treading a thin line between endorsing ‘Al-Masih’ as being sent by God and revealing him to be a trickster, the show eventually goes big on one of those options to the point where you’d have to be silly to believe the other – although a couple of points remain from earlier episodes that don’t quite work either way.
And then it plumps for the other option in the final moments of the final episode.
Ha ha, fooled you. Or maybe that was the point.
Anyway, there’s no word on whether there’s a second season coming or even whether the producers intended there to be a second season, so we’ll have to judge it on its merits as is for now. Apart from that conclusively inconclusive conclusion, which both disappoints and lifts the show back up again in the quality stakes, this block of episodes is well made and well told, if a little impenetrable in terms of what the producers’ message is.
Certainly, Al-Masih’s initially powerful teachings start to degenerate to the level of a first year politics student’s after five beers – something other characters even point out, highlighting how naive and even dangerous they are. If he is the messiah, God’s got a lot of explaining to do. Or maybe it’s all part of His great plan.
However, at the very least, the show is a very powerful take on how faith can utterly mess things up. Plus any show that features the Amazing Randi is definitely worth a watch.
Stumptown (US: ABC)
1×10 – Reality Checks Don’t Bounce
Dex does some private investigating on behalf of Omar Epps’s Judge Judy-style reality TV judge. Meanwhile, personal stuff happens.
You can probably tell I’m starting to lose interest in this. I think it’s basically Cobie Smulders that’s keeping me going. But forgive me if I give up very soon.
The recommended list
Evil (US: CBS)
1×11 – Room 320
A slightly odd episode, in which one of our cast is in hospital and can’t tell whether the nurse is out to get him or he’s just hallucinating. It’s all quite creepy, although you do wonder if she has it in for him, what the big plan might be, given what she could do if she wanted to.
More interesting is the show’s continuing narrative, including our heroine’s predecessor turning up and the return to a previous plot that you didn’t really needed resolving but which makes fascinating viewing. Again, I wasn’t 100% convinced they could have apprehended the bad guy in the way they did, but it was clever, nevertheless.