Warrior
US TV

Review: Warrior 1×1 (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky1)

In the US: Fridays, Cinemax
In the UK: Acquired by Sky1 to star in June

Despite his short life, Bruce Lee to this date remains the world’s most famous martial artist. While he was alive, there was many an imitator and even after this death, there were many who tried to piggyback on his fame or who claimed to be “the next Bruce Lee”. Small wonder then that the producers of Cinemax’s Warrior would wish to do the same by saying their show is “based on the writings of Bruce Lee” – even though it’s basically “Period Asian Banshee from the producers of Banshee“.

All about Bruce Lee
Joe Taslim and Andrew Koji in Cinemax's Warrior
Joe Taslim and Andrew Koji in Cinemax’s Warrior

Warrior

To be fair, Lee’s daughter Shannon is one of Warrior‘s producers and she did indeed have an eight-page treatment by Lee for a western TV series in which he would have starred. However, given that it was a treatment for ‘The Warrior‘, which (probably) ultimately metamorphosed into Kung Fu, I imagine there might have been a few copyright issues involved in a straight adaptation of that treatment.

So instead, Banshee‘s Jonathan Tropper fleshed Lee’s original ideas with his own characters and situations. In so doing, he’s basically recreated Banshee again, just in a different time and place.

Warrior sees 19th century martial arts prodigy Andrew Koji (The Wrong Mans, The Innocents) coming over to San Francisco from China. As in Banshee, our hero is looking for a woman from his past; as in Banshee, he’s a gifted fighter; as in Banshee, his skills mean he’s soon found by a local (Banshee‘s Hoon Lee) who helps put into a position of power; as in Banshee, that soon puts him into conflict with criminal elements in the city; as in Banshee, he doesn’t care about local rules and soon begins to shake up the status quo.

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The Twilight Zone
US TV

Preview: The Twilight Zone 1×1 (US: CBS All Access)

In the US: Thursdays, CBS All Access
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Why is Jordan Peele determined to prove me wrong? A while ago, I suggested that the old-school anthology show, with a different story and cast every week, no longer worked as a format, given the nature of modern television scheduling. Instead, the season-long anthology show has the best of both worlds, with both a regular cast and the ability to tell closed stories, all rolled into one:

With an audience who likes serial drama but who wants eventual conclusions to their stories that haven’t been drawn out too long, what could be better than a season-long story with a beginning, middle and an end, the next season then telling a completely new story in the same vein? With a bit of cleverness, you can even appease fans of the shows’ stars by having the cast come back to play different characters if they want – or just let them go off to the next job if they’d rather, just like in the old days, since that way you can get big names with limited availability to come in for just a season.

There have been attempts to return to the original, episodic formula, such as The Guest Book and Room 104, but these exceptions have somewhat proved my hypothesis that the format no longer works. How? Because no one watches them.

So I ask again: why is Jordan Peele is so determined to prove me wrong? I mean first he creates a feelgood, episodic anthology show for YouTube, Weird City, and now he’s resurrected possibly the most famous anthology show of them all, The Twilight Zone.

Why does the lauded writer-director of Get Out and Us think he knows better than me, hey?

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Abby's
US TV

Review: Abby’s 1×1 (US: NBC)

In the US: Thursdays, 9:30/8.30c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

There’s a long tradition of multi-camera US comedies been prefaced by one of the cast members pointing out that it was “filmed in front of a live studio audience”. It’s supposed to make you think that the laughter isn’t canned, which is what the likes of M*A*S*H* had to endure.

M*A*S*H’s Larry Gelbart explains this history of canned laughter and why it is so awful

However, I must confess that with multi-camera comedies now being so rare, I was taken aback when NBC’s new sitcom, Abby’s, rolled out its own disclaimer about having a studio audience. That wasn’t the only reason, though. See if you can work out the other reason I was surprised:

NBC (US)’s Abby’s was filmed in front of a live outdoor audience

Yes, it’s filmed before a live outdoor audience. Have a think about that. An outdoor audience. That’s going to sound different, isn’t yet? No echoes, more diffuse. That sort of thing.

Given the fact that there are no echoes, the cast never leave gaps in the dialogue for when the audience are supposedly laughing and no one’s really delivering lines like they’re expecting anyone 30 metres away to be able to hear them, I’m going to go with the theory that Abby’s was both filmed in front of a live outdoor audience and has canned laughter.

A trailer for season one of NBC (US)’s Abby’s
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What We Do In The Shadows
US TV

Review: What We Do In The Shadows 1×1 (US: FX; UK: BBC Two)

In the US: Wednesdays, 10pm, FX
In the UK: Sundays, BBC Two. Starts May 19

As a rule, TV versions of films aren’t usually that much cop. Sure, there are exceptions (eg Hannibal, La Femme Nikita), but largely you watch a movie, tune in to see the TV series and are disappointed that either it doesn’t capture the strengths of the original or it’s just the movie again and doesn’t do anything new. FX (US)’s adaptation of What We Do In The Shadows is therefore a rarity, as it both embodies many of the movie’s best qualities and transcends them to become its own, even better beast.

I wasn’t hugely impressed when I recently watched 2014’s What We Do In The Shadows in preparation for this FX adaptation. Three vampires flat-sharing in New Zealand? You could predict most of the jokes just from that description. Lots of jokes about whose turn it is to clean up after the latest round of blood-sucking, house meetings, that sort of thing.

Perhaps what you might not have predicted is just how many darker vampiric horror tropes the movie would incorporate, but given it was by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), I was expecting something a whole lot funnier.

Directed by Waititi and written by Clement, the first episode at least of What We Do In The Shadows seems to be an attempt to get the formula right this time.

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Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Robin Tunney in ABC's The Fix © ABC/Ed Herrera
US TV

Review: The Fix 1×1 (US: ABC)

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, ABC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

I really don’t know why people are still fascinated by the OJ Simpson trial(s). Maybe it’s the racial angle; maybe it’s the trials’ mutually contradictory conclusions mean the truth is still debatable; maybe it’s because of the idea of a celebrity murdering someone.

But you’d think, 24 years on from the trial, we’d be over it by now, wouldn’t you, not still making TV series – certainly not making celebrities out of the children of the lawyers involved. Just in the past few years, we’ve had the dramatisation of the trial in American Crime Story, and we’ve had documentaries like OJ Simpson: Made in America.

And now we have The Fix, exec produced by Simpson’s prosecutor Marcia Clark, which sees Robin Tunney (The Mentalist) playing a thinly veiled version of Clark given a second chance to prosecute Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost, Oz, The Bourne Identity) playing a thinly veiled version of OJ Simpson.

Adam Rayner and Robin Tunney
Adam Rayner and Robin Tunney in The Fix

The Simpsons

The action starts in 2010, which is easily identified by everyone having cars dating from the 1990s for some reason. Akinnuoye-Agbaje has been in and out of jail for a year for the murder of his wife, for which Tunney and fellow LA prosecutor and main squeeze Adam Rayner (Tyrant) have prosecuted him to the full strength of their abilities. Then comes the glorious day when the jury finally return a verdict… and wouldn’t you know it, Akinnuoye-Agbaje is found innocent!

Fast forward to modern times. Tunney’s given up the law and is happily living with cowboy Marc Blucas (Buffy, Underground, Necessary Roughness) in rural Oregon, while Rayner’s become LA’s deputy district attorney and has married one of the reporters covering the trial. Then oh noes! Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s girlfriend is murdered!

Guess who Rayner thinks has done it. And guess who he decides to bring back to LA for a second chance at sending faux-Simpson down.

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