XIPHOS TV ROUND UP – Summer Fall Winter
This is a follow up to a TV article I did at the end of August last. I am nothing if not timely, full of drive and ambition.
I am going to be tearing through a lot of shows so most of these posts will be short due to volume. I am going to break it down into three sections: Summer, Fall and Winter series. All of them are new shows.
The Strain (FX): Vampires invade NYC! (Although how could you tell?) These aren’t sparkly vamps at all. They are the messed up ones like in Blade 2, coincidently made by Guillermo del Toro who made this show and wrote the book it’s based on. No wonder it all seems so familiar. The Strain stars Corey Stoll as Scully if she took a job with the CDC instead of becoming a Fed. There’s a hot wise Latina CDC La Doctor given to banging Stoll at inappropriate times, some old dude as Van Helsing if Van Helsing was an Armenian Jew that survived a Nazi death camp and the vampire that preyed on the prisoners and Tall Dude with an awful Russian accent that is fun to watch. The Strain also features Corey Stoll’s wig which is easily the breakout character of the show. Oh yeah and the Blood Pack shows up. Tall Dude and Armenian Van Helsing are great fun to watch. The rest not so much. 7 out of 10 only because it’s a summer show.
Extant (CBS): The worst Cat Woman ever goes on a space mission alone (like that would happen), gets knocked up, the government steals the rapidly growing kid that has super powers and there is also a creepy robot child thrown in the mix. Horrid TV show but a great piece of performance art since it is impossible for every facet of the show to get worse than the week before unless it was done on purpose. Extant is so dire they had to have been deliberately pissing in our ears and telling us it’s raining. I got caught up in the search for finding something at least halfway okayish every episode but there isn’t. It was a fascinating study in pure TV shit. 0/10.
The Last Ship (TNT): After getting sent to the Arctic on a “science mission” a multi billion dollar US NAVY destroyer is able stay out of communication range somehow for 6 months (which the Navy is A-Ok with BTW) and the world dies by a “virus” they found the cure for. Capt Kirk’s great great great grandfather is the captain of the ship since he goes on ground missions even though the Navy spent literally millions of dollars teaching him how to sail and fight a boat. Did I mention there is a naval “mountain warfare” unit aboard? Last time I checked those aren’t called sailors they’re called MARINES. I mean shit we have a whole training center and everything near Bridgeport, California in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Also CONSPIRACY! Awful garbage. 2/10 and the 2 is only for Rhona Mitra’s ass.
Manhattan (WGN): This is WGN Chicago’s second foray into making their own programming, the first being the woeful Salem. I am happy to say the highly fictionalized account of the making of the atomic bomb is much better than Salem. The Manhattan of the title is of course referring to the code name given to the project and follows two groups of competing scientists each developing different ways of making the atom bomb go boom all the while working in total secrecy in the exact middle of nowhere New Mexico. Like I said, the story is highly fictionalized and the characters are also. (5 seconds of research and you can figure out who most are based on.) At first I was ambivalent about the show but once they started taking a deep look at the competing morality stances taken over the use of such great power and the toll it takes on the people involved, the show got a lot better. 9/10
Z Nation (SyfY): This show has all of Skiffy’s worst instincts. It’s filmed in sterile Canadian locals, Y and Z list actors, writers that unabashedly steal from other zombie works like The Walking Dead and Romero and every post apocalyptic thing ever made. The worst offense is the cheapness. However is all that bad? Well yes, but in the case of Z Nation it is incredibly fucking fun to watch. Z Nation also features one great original idea and character that is absolutely brilliant in execution. Z Nation also has the worst/best zombie bear ever put on film. 10/10 for pure enjoyment and fun in an 50ish sort of Sci-fi movie way.
You’re the Worst (FX): This was a summer show I watched during Christmas. You’re the Worst is a comedy that focuses on 2 highly damaged narcissistic and emotionally stunted people; Gretchen a hard partying LA publicist and Jimmy an author with one highly reviewed but underselling book. The show is sarcastic, cynical and beats the livin’ hell out of modern relationships, hipsters, LA and just about everything in its path. However in the end it is also emotionally satisfying and surprisingly full of resonant truth about relationships, romance and modern dating mores. You’re the Worst has has a depth to it rarely seen in dramatic shows let alone a comedy this funny and it is howlingly funny all the time. The writing, acting and direction are all top of the line. I recommend this show without reservation. 10/10 Added bonus: I’m certain the Jimmy character, who is English, is partially based on Jarv. HEY LOOK! An embedded video to prove my point.
To say that the Fall slate of shows was underwhelming is not too far off the mark. Most new shows I tried I didn’t stick with because they weren’t very good and most of the returning shows weren’t much better.
The Flash (The CW): It’s nice to see a superhero that is happy to be a superhero and isn’t all angst ridden about, well, everything. The Flash is a fun show with a likable lead and a happy bunch of support personnel. I also like that they are doing off the wall things like Gorilla Grodd, Firestorm and time travel. The special effects of The Flash at speed or using the speed force are really well done. I give The Flash 8/10
Gotham (Fox): Going the other route we have this slow dragging over stuffed show. The main problem with Gotham besides sticking every single major and minor baddie from The Batman comic strips in it, they made the mistake of including a young Bruce Wayne. This only serves to remind the audience that you won’t be seeing Batman in the show. The next thing they need to do is get rid of Jada Pinkett Smith who is awful. However The Penguin and especially the nascent Joker rock out in their respective roles. Gotham gets a 6/10 mostly due to the look of the show which is really well done and for Ryan Atwood as Jim Gordon. The kid who plays the young Bruce and the guy that plays Alfred are both excellent in their respective roles.
Outlander (Starz): I was feeling under the weather and too lazy to get off the couch and had nothing to watch so I decided to give this chick lit bodice ripper a shot. The story is this: a WW2 combat nurse, while on holiday in Scotland with her former Military intel husband trying to reconnect after the war, gets thrown back in time to Scotland circa 1743. The oogly googly chick based love shit sucks but when the show deals with inter/intra clan issues and the nuts and bolts of the Bonnie Prince’s rebellion the show isn’t too bad. The fight scenes are decently staged. Also there is a bunch of nudity especially by the Irish lass playing the English nurse and the Scottish Highlands look spectacular on film. 6/10 if you are too lazy to get off the couch. Added bonus if you are looking for something to watch with the old lady this isn’t a bad choice. You just need to slog through first three episodes before it get tolerable for a man to watch.
Kingdom (Audience Network): To say I was ambivalent about watching this show is an understatement. I had no real desire to watch a show about tatted up knuckle dragging meth head white trash MMA fighting family (I know Conti I know but…) However it turned out that Kingdom is excellent. The writing, acting and direction were all top notch. I highly recommend the show you will be stunned by the quality on display. The stand out of Kingdom is Jonathan Tucker as the oldest son Jay Kulina. They start him off as the meth headed white trash archetype. However the writers and actor infused Jay with depth, heart, poignancy and pure beautiful battle lust that you would not think he would have. Great show 10/10
Marco Polo (Netflix): This show is the bastard love child of three way between Banshee, Strikeback and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The only reality in the show is that an Eytie traveled to the lands of the Chinamen in 1300 after that the show goes full retard a la Davinci Demons and makes up wild ass shit. Marco Polo is entertaining as hell and if you have the yellow fever that particular fetish will get scratched. 10/10
Bosch (Amazon): Based on the Harry Bosch character from John Connolly’s series of books. They change a bunch of shit about the character but in the end they mostly get it right and Titus Welliver really grew into the part as the show went on. Pretty decent LA noir cop show. 8/10
Married (FX): Technically this is a summer show but I only watched it a few weeks ago so here it goes. Married is, for all intents and purposes is, You’re the Worst for the later 30’s set long time married with kids. It got better as the show went on but not as good as another show with the same subject called Togetherness. 7/10
Togetherness (HBO): The premise, like Married, is You’re the Worst except in your forties. Is it just me or are there now a shit ton of married white folk suburban angst TV shows on the air? Since this is from HBO it has a lot of nudity and is funnier than Married but nowhere near as funny as You’re the Worst. 8/10
Marvel’s Daredevil (Netflix): This show is Marvel’s best outing but that isn’t saying much since most of their output is putrid (coughcoughcoughAGENTSOFSHIELDCAPTAINAMERICAWINTER SOLDIERcoughcough) or is way too Whedony or has that talentless hump Chris Pratt in it. However that being said, DD is OK but with a shit-ton worth of issues the first being the dude playing DD is short and charismatically challenged. The King Pin started out good but then sputtered out. The strength of the show is the look, the fight scenes and most of the side characters being particularly strong. The main issue I think though is that Disney is afraid of doing anything hard or challenging. They will only go so far and then retreat.
Bloodline (Netflix): A bit meandering but well acted show about what happens when the worst prodigal son ever returns home, 20+ years of secrets and lies get laid out and resentments and anger come to a full boil in the coastal south Florida sun. The acting on the show is top notch with the ever reliable Kyle Chandler and Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn leading the pack. Mendelson is particularly riveting as the demon haunted oldest brother and prodigal son. At turns you are sympathetic to him and then repulsed by his actions. Great work on his part.
Lastly the single best show of 2015 so far…
Better Call Saul (AMC): I had zero expectations for this show. I mean none. I figured it would be a one shot zany pastiche on Breaking Bad with arguably the weakest character from BB getting the spotlight. I was spectacularly wrong in my assessment. BCS is easily in its 10 episode first season better than the overly lauded BB. My biggest issue in BB was Walt. I could never suspend my disbelief enough to get behind the notion that a life long weakling like Walt would one day wake enough to become Heisenberg and then take on Neo Nazis and Mexican drug cartels and beat them. However the progression from low life street con man “Slipping Jimmy” to a guy trying to do the right thing as eventually deeply fucked over lawyer Jimmy McGill to outlaw scumbag Saul Goodman was way more believable. I also think that Bob Odenkirk is a much stronger actor than Malcom’s dad. Great show and it had two of the finest episodes of TV I have seen in a very long time, 5-0 and Pimento. They are both tour de force episodes for directing, writing and acting. Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut (the best badass currently on TV) and Odenkirk were stellar. As an added bonus the show is hilarious. I can’t recommend BCS enough. 100/100