It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
The US fall season started in earnest this week – no more previews, just plain old new episodes of new series in their regular time slots. Since the last WHYBW, we’ve had – and TMINE has reviewed – I Feel Bad (US: NBC), Magnum P.I.(US: CBS) and Manifest (US: NBC). Joining them are New Amsterdam (US: NBC) and FBI (US: CBS), which I’ll review after the jump.
The Internet streamers have been keeping up, too – as has TMINE – with the likes of season two of Ozark(Netflix) and after the jump, The First (US: Hulu; UK: Channel 4). Netflix also gave us Maniac over the weekend, but I’ve not had a chance to watch that, so here’s a trailer in lieu:
Meanwhile, the plucky Australians have decided to give us their own version of Footballers’ Wives (Aussie rules, of course) in the shape of Playing for Keeps (Australia: Ten).
Needless to say, I won’t be bothering with that. Maybe you will.
I’ll be trying to keep up with the rest of the new schedule (I hope) so expect all manner of new US TV shows to be reviewed by the next WHYBW, although my work schedule looks a bit crazy for the next week, TBH, so I can’t promise nowt, I’m afraid.
After the jump, on top of those new shows, I’ll be casting my eye over the latest episodes of the regulars: Forever, The Last Ship and You. See you in a tick.
In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, ABC
In the UK: Tuesdays, Amazon
The Crossingstarted as a really quite basic allegory about modern day politics, in which a whole bunch of refugees are literally washed ashore in the US, only to reveal themselves as Americans travelling back in time to escape from a war they’re losing quite badly.
Come on, audience, feel some empathy for Syrians – there but for the grace of God go you.
For the most part, that was all it was, with small town sheriff Steve Zahn (Treme, Mind Games) and Department of Homeland Security agent Sandrine Holt (Hostages, House of Cards, Macgyver, The Returned, The Art of More) having to deal with the new Americans. Holt has to deal with the mystery of the refugees’ arrival, while Zahn has to deal with one particular refugee (APB‘s Natalie Martinez) who it turns out has superpowers – the war was actually between Homo Sapiens and a newly engineered master-race of Apex predators, of whom she is one.
Come on, white audience, feel some empathy for oppressed minorities – there but for the grace of God go you.
And it wasn’t very good. It was okay, but it wasn’t great sci-fi, Zahn was less than plausible as a sheriff and Holt just sat behind a desk answering phones for the most part. A hint that another bunch of time travellers had already come through a good deal earlier gave the ending a nice twist, but beyond Martinez and her super-leaping, that was about it.
A mild improvement
Since then, things have got a bit better, as we’ve moved away from the allegory into telling more of a story. Episode two gave us some glimpses at the Continuum-like future and revealed Martinez’s mission in the past. We also got a super-virus that the world needs to watch out for.
While Zahn and Holt have had the same duties as before, Martinez has had some really quite whizzy super-fights and it rapidly became clear that she was the one good thing about the show. We also got some nice greying of the waters, with the previous travellers turning out to be regular humans coming back in time to try to prevent their terrible future from occurring, but not being especially concerned about what they have to do to prevent it.
However, while episode three at least maintained Martinez’s fighty fun, Zahn spent most of his time with his kid at a funfair, while Holt spent it typing into a computer or calling other people to get them to type into a computer. I do wonder if she’s only been hired for a couple of days, so they had to film all her scenes back-to-back on the same set.
The Crossing: Conclusion
Like The Whispers before it, The Crossing is probably going to turn out to be one of those sci-fi shows that ABC periodically produces that has a semi-decent core and just enough promise and decent production values that you imagine it might not be too bad – but which ultimately is likely to disappoint and never lead anywhere really satisfying.
That’s how I ended my review of the first episode and I stand by it. The Crossing is all of that and if you’re after decent sci-fi with pretty much all the same themes as The Crossing, try Continuum instead since it’s a lot better.
That said, The Crossing‘s meat and two veg sci-fi will serve you just fine as one of your regular servings a week, even if it doesn’t really contain much that’s nourishing. I might just keep watching to see what Martinez gets up to and if the plot will advance at all and become about more than looking for lost children and endless capture/release cycles, but as that would be my only draw, I imagine that if anything else pops up in the schedules, The Crossing would fall out of my watch-list very quickly.
In the past, I’ve fretted that today’s generations aren’t being educated in the TV classics. Back in the 80s, when there were just three to four channels, no Internet, no DVDs, no games consoles, no smartphones, et al, TV networks had a captive audience. So as well as making plenty of original shows, they could air repeats from decades earlier (sometimes even in primetime) and know the audience wouldn’t change channel or even turn the TV off. It ensured that the nerdy likes of me were introduced to The Man From UNCLE, The Avengers, The Invaders, the various ITC shows of the 60s, Champion the Wonder Horse, black and white sitcoms like The Addams Family or Car 54 Where Are You? and more.
The chances that any of today’s generation are going to watch these is pretty close to zero. Even if they wanted to, no channels are airing these old shows and few if any streaming services are offering them. There’s almost no chance they’ll get seen by the youth of today unless said youth have a lot of cash and patience.
Lost in Space? Good
However, I have absolutely no concerns about the youth of today not getting to watch classic 60s sci-fi show Lost in Space. Produced by the famous TV auteur Irwin Allen (Land of the Giants, The Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) and originally titled Space Family Robinson (kids: that’s a reference to a another thing we used to call ‘books’), it sees a family called the Robinsons blasting off into space in the then-far-flung-future of 1997 to colonise a planet around Alpha Centauri that’s fit for human life. However, their ship goes off course and before you know it, they’re… lost in space.
Why do I have no concerns? Because frankly – sorry, Lost in Space fans, if there are still any of you – it was terrible. Just awful, in fact. Forcing a child to watch it today is tantamount to abuse.
That isn’t just because of its patriarchal 60s values, with father Professor John Robinson (Guy Williams) and ‘Space Corps’ Major Donald West (Mark Goddard) going off doing action things and solving problems, while mum Maureen (June Lockhart) and daughters Judy (Marta Kristen) and Penny (Angela Cartwright) basically stayed at home and did the housework. It isn’t because of its shiny 60s idea of what space travel would be, either.
No, it’s because of what was actually the show’s most iconic character: one Dr Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris). He wasn’t in the original pilot, but in keeping with other Allen series and the post-Bond fever for spy shows in the 60s, the show included Dr Smith for an element of international intrigue. In the new first episode for the show, he’s introduced as a saboteur whose presence on board the Jupiter 2 is what causes it to go off course. Never intended to last more than a few episodes before being written out, Harris soon hatched a cunning plan: he started writing his own lines and playing up his character as a colossal coward and pompous oaf.
Irwin was no fool and seeing what Harris was up to, he told him: “I know what you’re doing. Do more of it!” Before you knew it, ‘special guest star’ Jonathan Harris was in every single episode and was the star of the show. Most episodes were about him, his relationship with the Robinson’s very trusting son Will (Bill Mumy) and the almost equally iconic ship’s robot voiced by Dick Tufeld, whose catchphrase “Danger, Will Robinson!” is far better known than even the show itself, despite only having been used once.
To cope with a man screaming “Oh the pain! Save me, William!” as though he was being attacked by Puss in Boots every episode, the writers naturally shifted the tone of the show’s writing, taking it from a surprisingly gritty and even dark piece in its initial episodes to one in which actors were spray-painted silver and giant carrots turned up. Watch anything more than those first few episodes and you’ll discover that if you have any actual choice in terms of what’s available to watch, you won’t be watching Lost in Space unless you also happen to be smoking something a little exotic.
And now for something completely different
For reasons unknown, people had fond memories of the original show – presumably because they hadn’t watched it since they were three years old – and producers have been keen to tap into that misplaced nostalgia. In 1998, a movie version tried to turn the TV series into something watchable, but even the acting talents of the likes of Gary Oldman (as Dr Smith), William Hurt, Matt LeBlanc, Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham and Jared Harris still weren’t enough to save it. The less said about it, the better – particularly if you’re in the company of anyone who worked for a London post-production house at that time (“Oh the pain!” indeed).
An attempt to make a new TV series, The Robinsons: Lost in Space, floundered in 2004, despite John Woo directing the pilot. Apart from this YouTube video, the show’s only lasting mark were its sets, which were repurposed for the Battlestar Pegasus in Battlestar Galactica.
You’d have thought that given such a low bar to get over, any adaptation of the original could only succeed, but apparently not.
Third time lucky?
Nevertheless, here we are again, as Netflix has just given us a full 10-episode season of a show called Lost in Space that is ostensibly a reboot of the original show. It sees Toby Stephens (Black Sails, Die Another Day) playing dad John Robinson, Molly Parker (House of Cards, Deadwood) playing mum Maureen Robinson and ‘queen of the indies’ Parker Posey playing Dr Smith, who once again are ‘lost in space’.
You would, of course, be quite entitled to wonder what sort of show this new Lost in Space would be like. If it’s an adaptation of the original, is it a remake of that original darkish spy show or the camp show it ultimately became? Is it more like the movie, perhaps? And is it a show for the kids or a grimdark piece for adults?
Last of all, is it actually any good and worth watching? Unlike the original.
While you’ll have to wait until after the jump before I tell you whether it’s any good, I can at least give you one of TMINE’s trademark ‘meets’ to give you an idea of the tone of the show.
Not only is it suitable for both adults and children, Netflix’s Lost in Space is indeed Lost in Space, but it’s Lost in Space meets Interstellar meets The Martian. Have a think about that while you watch this here trailer.