Posts Tagged ‘television’

A Hope for the Genre?! No way!

show_art_Killjoys_new

Genre: Space Opera/Space Western

Medium: Television

The premise: Killjoys is a sci-fi adventure story co-produced by SyFy and the Canadian genre channel, Space. It tells the story of three bounty hunters Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen), John Jaqobis (Aaron Ashmore), and D’avin Jaqobis (Luke Macfarlane) who navigate a colonizing human society known as the Quad ruled by an oligarchic council called the Nine and a domineering corporation simply referred to as the Company. Bounty hunters, known as Killjoys, work on behalf of the Company to bring in or assassinate wanted criminals. Life is neither easy nor simple for these protagonists, who most negotiate obstacles both martial and political to stay alive, all while also overcoming the dark secrets of their own pasts.

Why it’s awesome: If you’re a fan of Firefly, Farscape, or Outlaw Star, you’ll enjoy Killjoys. (Or if you remember the glory that was campy nineties television.) Although the show doesn’t lack for serious moments, danger, or suspense, it is tremendously good fun to watch and does not take itself seriously to the extent that so much television does today. Sometimes as genre fans we want to explore deep, thoughtful questions–and sometimes we want to watch a kickass heroine take down baddies and rescue her friends from certain danger. Hannah John-Kamen is wonderful to watch as Dutch and Aaron Ashmore complements her perfectly as her partner Johnny. A host of entertaining secondary characters from their fellow Killjoys to bureaucrats to the bartender at their favorite watering hole round out the cast.

Why it’s hopeful: It’s refreshing to see a woman-centered science fiction show on sci-fi. Especially since Dutch is a woman of color. She’s also a capable, complicated yet sympathetic character with real human relationships and a mysterious backstory. There’s no doubt who Killjoys is really about. Even better, Dutch’s friendship with Johnny is the emotional centerpiece to the show. Whatever romantic relationships the two pursue elsewhere, they are always reunited. It shouldn’t be revolutionary to have a compelling friendship between a man and a woman on an action show that doesn’t devolve into sexual tension…but it is. And while some critics have said that Killjoys is thematically light, it has plenty to say about class and class structures, power, and the destructive force of capitalism in society. There’s a lot to like here and I’m happy to report that the show will return for a second season in 2016.

The 15 in ’15 series continues with this year’s exciting new genre television!

1. Galavant (showing now) [ABC] It’s hilarious, deliberately corny at times, and doesn’t take the musical genre too seriously. Plus, they’ve gotten some fantastic people to guest star, including Hugh Bonneville and Weird Al. And they’re so very diverse!

2. Agent Carter (showing now) [ABC] I cannot believe this isn’t getting better ratings. This show is everything I wanted and more. Here’s hoping it kicks open the door to a wider range of stories being told in comic book adaptations.

3. Face Off (showing now) [SyFy] I appreciate that SyFy tries to do something a bit different every season. For 8, they’ve brought back three champions to mentor the current group of aspiring make-up artists. The friendliest reality TV show on the air.

4. Last Man on Earth (3/1) Following in the footsteps of films like ZombielandLast Man on Earth aims for a comedic post-apocalypse. It’s good for us to laugh at this subgenre, I think.

5. Community (3/17) Saved from the clutches of cancellation by Yahoo, your favorite community college tv show returns for season 6. And if you don’t think this counts as a genre show, you’ve clearly never seen any of their fantastic pastiche episodes.

6. iZombie (3/17) [CW] Yup, they had me at zombie.

7. Daredevil (4/10) [Netflix] I will watch this for two reasons: 1) it’s humanly impossible for it to be worse than the Ben Affleck movie and 2) Netflix has been kicking ass at its original series.

8. Orphan Black Season 3 (4/18) [BBC America] I have been madly, madly in love with this show since the first episode and last season ended with a killer plot twist. Plus the teaser will give you chills.

9. Penny Dreadful Season 2 (4/26) [Showtime] This show is a wonderfully fun–but not campy–celebration of gothic literature. It’s great to see the genre dealt with so lovingly.

10. Wayward Pines (5/14) [Fox] I am genuinely curious to see how M. Night will handle this new medium. It might be that his deep affection for plot twists will serve him better on the small screen. Unless this goes the route of Lost, of course.

11. Supergirl (Unknown) [CBS] See my comments for Agent Carter.

12. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Unknown) [BBC America] The book is amazing; I have no doubt the BBC will do a beautiful job with it. And I am thrilled at the prospect of a fantastic series that isn’t utterly ridiculous (looking at you, Once Upon a Time).

13. Humans (Unknown) [Xbox] It’ll be interesting to see how this approach works for XBox. It’s heartening that they’re collaborating on the production of this show, which has an intriguing premise and supposedly very good source material in its Swedish counterpart.

14. The Magicians (Unknown) [SyFy] You never know how a Syfy show will turn out or whether it will last. I am, however, a Sera Gamble fan, so it’s encouraging to know she’s onboard for this adaptation of Lev Grossman’s very popular book.

15. Scream Queens (Unknown)[Fox] Three words: Jamie Lee Curtis.

What TV shows are you looking forward to in 2015?

Fall is upon us, friends! Which means the dreary television wasteland of July and August has passed. Here’s a small roundup of six of this fall’s speculative offerings on the small screen. (Goes without saying: some spoilers below.)

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Definitely still on the upswing from last season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has recovered admirably from its initial inertia to give us the engaging, action-packed story of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s attempt to resurrect itself in the wake of last season’s events. It shouldn’t surprise us either that our characters have become more complicated and tragic in the intervening months. But the classic Whedon-esque humor persists. I’m especially digging B.J. Britt’s continued presence as Agent Triplett and the addition of Henry Simmons as Mac. Dramatically, Clark Gregg continues to impress as Agent Coulson and Iain De Caestecker has been delivering some major chills as the mostly-recovered-but-still-pretty-damaged Fitz. By the way, FitzSimmons4life.

The Flash: Set in the Arrow universe (guess who makes a cameo at the end of episode one), The Flash seeks to give the CW Muppet Babies treatment to another one of our beloved Justice League heroes. They’ve certainly got the formula down: unrequited love affair, baddie created at the same time, gaggle of geek types to work support. As a result, what should be exciting and fun (I mean, it’s the Flash), ends up being pretty stale within the first 45 minutes.

The Walking Dead: Sweet Zombie Jesus, what a season premiere! Carol could spend the rest of the season at a spa and still win the show’s biggest badass award. I’m also a big fan of near-sociopathic Rick and dual-lightsaber Michonne. But seriously, it’s really exciting to see this show have some momentum. The last two seasons have shown vast improvements, but I think this year is going to leave them all behind. After all, they’ve finally answered the question of “is there any sanctuary?” will a resounding NO and an explosion. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to group as they venture north. Alas, there are so many of them now that you know somebody’s going to have die soon…

American Horror Story: I’m never sure what to think or feel about AHS and Freak Show is certainly no exception. This is a show that continually trips over itself in concerted efforts to one-up the previous seasons. As a result, previous seasons have hosted completely bonkers plots (see: aliens in Asylum) or see their narratives falter and fall apart completely (Coven). Freak Show at least seems to be looking for some cohesive storytelling and obviously the setting of a freak show is incredibly rich. But I’d like to see a season that didn’t begin with some sort of sexual assault. What they do have going for them? Jyote Amge as Ma Petite.

Gotham: Many of my feelings regarding The Flash also apply to Gotham. Maybe it’s because Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight deals so comprehensively with sinister, gritty Gotham. Maybe it’s because there are so many other superhero shows out there. Maybe I’m just tired of origin stories. (How about a superhero show dealing with the characters 10-20 years after their prime?) Thus far, Gotham just feels like a less interesting rehash of everything we’ve seen before in the Batman universe–without Batman and somehow still about Batman. I mean, even Carol Kane couldn’t make me like this.

Sleepy Hollow: I have to say, I was skeptical of Sleepy Hollow at the start. I thought it would completely tank like Grimm or descend into utter ridiculousness like Once Upon a Time. Which isn’t to say that Sleepy Hollow isn’t often silly. They love them some naked Ben Franklin. They play the “man out of time” jokes hard with Ichabod. But these are the marks of a show having fun with its casts and concepts and the mythos of American history. Season 2 is definitely off to a promising beginning. The first episode played a somewhat expected alternate reality plot twist. The weird connections between the horsemen of the apocalypse and Ichabod’s family persist. But whatever plot kinks there are tend not to bother me because this show rises and sets on Nicole Beharie. Abbie is the source of the show’s greatest pathos. She’s also a helluva heroine and tough customer, with believable personal, non-dude-related issues. Which is all to good, because Abbie is contemporary America. Ichabod may be our idealistic, storied past, but Abbie is our present and future. And we’re rooting for her to win.

This week, I was going to write the next of my dystopia posts, this one focusing on how gender works in post-apocalyptic dystopian worlds. I was also going to review the two most recent episodes of NBC’s Revolution (Yes, I’m still watching it). Somewhere along the way, those two posts merged to become something between a rant and a cry of despair.

To be fair, “No Quarter” (episode 3) had some interesting parts to it. We learned about Uncle Miles’s dark and twisted past (working for the militia — *gasp*!). And there was Mark Pellegrino. Was there ever Mark Pellegrino.

But. But. Did we see any character development in Charlie, who is supposedly our protagonist? Not so much, no. And then there was this week, AKA Abandonment Issues Week, although I think they called the episode “The Plague Dogs” or something equally pithy.

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with Charlie being a complicated character of emotional depth. I want that for her. It’s one of the qualities that is often lacking in female heroes because there’s this notion that a woman can’t be emotionally vulnerable and a badass (ahem, Katniss, ahem, Lisbeth Salander). However, the problem isn’t that Charlie feels things. It’s that her feelings come across as overwrought and are therefore very irritating.

And already, because Charlie is so very irritating, I’m reading comments about how the show would have been so much better if it was about Miles. A guy. And granted, we would probably see those comments regardless, but c’mon show creators, did you have to make them completely justified? Charlie’s the weak link in the show. She hasn’t developed as a character, let alone as a hero. That was the most exciting part about the show, that we had a female hero on a quest.

And it’s not just Charlie. Maggie AKA British Chick AKA iPhone Girl, depending who you ask, was a non-character before they offed her. How much more interesting would she have been if her backstory had been played out slowly and patiently, if her relationship with Charlie had matured and developed over the course of the last four episodes? How much might we have cried over her death, over Charlie’s loss of her? But instead, she was only a blip in the plot line and Charlie’s mourning of her was just another note of histrionics. Nora AKA Hot Chick from Miles’s Past has some potential (her revelation about her son was compelling), but I’m also seeing serious potential for her to devolve into the Sexy If Slightly Badass Love Interest category. Don’t even get me started on Charlie’s mother, whose absconding to Fort Monroe is as nonsensical a plot point as the random tornado in this episode.

But Charlie & Co. aren’t alone in this ridiculous post-apocalyptic portrayal of gender. (I’m looking at you, The Walking Dead. Right at you.) I know that the apocalypse means a shift in social structure and, in some sense, this means backsliding, especially in scenarios like Revolution where technology is defunct. But I’m troubled by the notion that this justifies an archaic view of gender roles, that heroines can succeed only in the company of greater heroes, that women would be immediately herded back into domestic roles — at best. And what worries me is the why of this. Is it just lazy thinking on the part of these writers? Or is these something of the wish fulfillment we sometimes see in apocalyptic fiction, the desire to revert to simpler times, in this case simpler times of gender inequality?

Yes, that could easily be reading too much into it and I hope it is. But honestly, I have to wonder — could the reason Charlie and characters like her don’t succeed be that we as a society don’t want them to?

Are you still watching Revolution? How do you feel about Charlie’s characterization? Who’s your favorite post-apocalyptic/dystopian heroine?

So this week Revolution continued with its second episode, “Chained Heat” (presumably named for the 1983 exploitation film starring Linda Blair?), AKA the next installment of look-at-these-horrifying-but-stunning-panoramic-visuals-oops-we-ran-out-of-money-for-good-writers. But with 100% more flag burning.

I’m still working on the reasons why I’m going to continue watching this show, but let’s run through the egregious sins and slight triumphs all the same. And although it should go without saying:

HERE BE SPOILERS.

So, episode two begins with a trip in the DeLorean back to our heroine Charlie’s childhood immediately after the fall of the technologically-driven world as we know it today. Mom and Dad are packing the kidlets up for a trek out of the ruins of what was Chicago because there will be food and water and better daycare in the country. Mom takes Charlie aside and in classic Eric Kripke fashion explains to her daughter that she’s in charge of her little brother, Danny, and must never let go of his hand because when the world ends it’s totally okay to give your children neuroses, especially if you’re planning on dying/disappearing in the near future.

But in case you wanted to linger on the emotional and psychological complications of that, TOUGH SHIT because we need another action sequence starring Bella Swan’s dad (aka Uncle Miles, aka Han Solo) and some random bounty hunter. No, not this one.

Unfortunately, Charlie begs Uncle Miles to let the poor slob go after he knocks him unconscious. Which totally won’t get them into in trouble in, oh, the very next scene when Uncle Miles get captured by militia to get taken back to his army buddy, who is apparently the King of Everything. Cue second action sequence and consequent escape, MAKING EVERYTHING PRECEDING THIS COMPLETELY POINTLESS.

Cut to said King of Everything who’s in the process of good-cop-bad-cop torturing one of the rebels, AKA terrorists, AKA patriots (I’m not kidding) except he’s apparently really bad at it because he kills the prisoner after, like, two minutes.

Uncle Miles tells Charlie and the gang (British-chick and Ex-Google) that he’ll be going off on his own to get some help. He’ll meet them in Random Town, Illinois. And no, you better not follow him. No seriously — Yeah, of course she follows him. British-chick and Ex-Google spend the rest of the episode talking about British-chick’s dead iPhone and the magic Apple necklace Charlie’s dad gave Ex-Google before he died.

Meanwhile, Danny, the little brother whose sole defining characteristics are his asthma and his inability to shut his mouth at key moments, is still with his militia escort. They stop at a Random Victim’s house to shoot him, steal a deer carcass, and burn the American (read: “rebel”) flag. It’s okay to shoot people according to something called the Baltimore Act, which says no civilians can own or carry guns — except, in true Baltimore fashion, everyone does.

Back at the farm, Charlie and Uncle Miles inevitably meet up, but they have to hatch a plan to rescue the chick Uncle Miles needs to blow stuff up. Introduce new character, Hot Chick from Miles’ Past (HCMP) but don’t worry, you don’t have to care about this one either.  HCMP is trying to steal a high-powered rifle from the militia, so long story short, Charlie has to play decoy and kill a coupla guys. Which she feels really bad about — oh wait, your time to contemplate the emotional and psychological realities of that is over, too.

And naturally, if you weren’t exhausted enough by this episode, BTWS, CHARLIE’S MOM IS ALIVE AND BEING HELD CAPTIVE. LOL, BYE.

I’m not kidding.

So between the ham-handed political and pseudo-religious commentary (I mean, honestly, they’re making True Blood look subtle here) and the whiplash pacing and story structure, I don’t have much to recommend this episode over the pilot. Charlie’s got some interesting stuff going on between her feelings of responsibility for her brother and her introduction to the scarier side of the apocalypse, but it’s dealt with so shallowly that it just feels trite.

If next week is a bust, too, I think I’m calling it quits.

What are your thoughts about “Chained Heat”? The flashbacks? The reveal at the end? Will you be tuning in next week?

So, in general, I’m interested in this blog being a place of positive discussion–a place where I can be spaztastically enthusiastic about what’s going on in the spec fic genre. In other words: squee. I know more negatively oriented reviews have a place, but personally I’d much rather highlight material I love than bash stuff I hate. That said, I think it’s productive to talk critically about popular culture, if only for what it teaches us about ourselves.

It should go without saying that review posts may have spoilers. And snark. Definitely snark.

Revolution is a brand new series from NBC, produced by such industry BAMFs as J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke. The premise of the show is simple: what if all the technology died? Not just the lights or the internet, but also our cars, our jet engines, our iPhones–everything. What if countries broke up into fiefdoms, and independently organized militia prowled the land, enforcing their vision of law and order?

Given the general enthusiasm for dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction lately, it should be no surprise that something like Revolution cropped up eventually. (Thank you, Hunger Games.) What’s compelling about the series, however, isn’t the end of the world, but the fact that it’s a traditional quest story–a walking across the country quest story. With a heroine.

What’s happening with gender and dystopian science fiction is beyond fascinating and I hope we will talk about it at length very soon, but that’s in a nutshell what had me interested in Revolution.

Then, NBC put the entire pilot on their website. Seriously, go watch it. I’ll wait.

So, there are some exciting things going on here. The visuals are stunning and horrifying. Who isn’t in love with the notion of plants and wildlife retaking our major cities? (Or…is that just me?) The promised quest kicks off quickly. We’ve got a family dynamic, which has the potential to be emotionally compelling. Danger waits around every corner.

And yet, I had trouble caring.

I think some of it is the result of pacing. We get whipped through the end of our technocratic society and BAM! Suddenly it’s fifteen years later and the “village” is a reclaimed suburban cul-de-sac (btw, adorbs). Oh, look the family from the first ten minutes! Oops, except the Mom is dead! Oops! Except now the Dad is dead, too! And the asthmatic son is kidnapped! The daughter—whose mildly rebellious streak reminds me of Luke Skywalker’s “But I wanted to pick up some power converters!” bitchface–must find her estranged uncle to save him! Oh no! Rapists! Oh no! Militia attack! Check out how badass the estranged uncle is! WTF are these people’s names!?!?

(Btw, the estranged uncle is Bella Swan’s dad and, to be fair, this is a redeeming role for him.)

But essentially, I felt so jerked around that I had no immediate connection with the characters and so didn’t care when the Dad died, wasn’t worried when our heroine (Charlie) was in danger, and couldn’t give a womp rat’s ass if Uncle Miles tagged along on our epic quest or not. Why can’t 30 Rock and Community have full seasons again?

Even so, I’m going to watch the next episode. Why? For the same reason you watch the rest of the original Star Wars trilogy. The point isn’t that Luke starts out a hero. It’s that he becomes one. That said, the series is going to live or die with Charlie and whether she can become a compelling character and a heroine in her own right.

If you watched the pilot, what are your impressions? Are you going to keep watching? Why or why not?