Super SJW Girl

After the wrapping up of the CW’s annual crossover, Elseworlds special among its CW DC “Arrowverse,” we’ve seen the last of new CW DC shows for the calendar year.  Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and The Flash are taking a much needed Christmas break after saving the nature of reality. But Supergirl’s never ending battle against hate, fear, and Trumpery is just getting started.

Of all of the CW’s DC “Arrowverse” shows, Supergirl is the most woke super hero show currently on the air.  And when I say woke, I mean I honestly don’t think the writers understand how ridiculous they are.  Supergirl season four, for all of its Red Son like hints, spent the first few episodes focusing on the 2018 midterm elections.  Not directly of course, but in the never ending battle between good people against “hate.”

Apparently on Earth 38, the 2016 electoral battle between a woman breaking the glass ceiling and “that man” was decided in the woman’s favor.  I mean, this is science fiction after all. The previous season revealed that the President of the United States, Olivia Marsdin, was secretly an alien.  Living under a fake (yet apparently pretty convincing) identity, Marsdin ran for President, won, and spent her political capital to get the Alien Amnesty Act passed ( a bit self-serving don’t you think?).  So now alien refugees can come out of the shadows and have a legal path to citizenship.  The federal agency responsible for dealing with aliens, the DEO, Department of Extra-Normal Operations, was in on the secret.

So to review, when season 4 opens, a deep state federal agency has engaged in a conspiracy to cover up that the President of the United States is not who she says she is, but is an alien living under an assumed identity and fake birth certificate, in violation of the constitution (not a natural born citizen).  These are the “good guys.”

The season premiere had a “hate group” that successfully reveals to the public on live television that the President is an alien.  This of course creates a political and social crisis, which the President tries to diffuse by resigning. This gives the Supergirl writers a chance to pull out every trope in the book about hate and fear. If you have “fear” because the Presidency was occupied by a lying alien, you’re a bigot. And the group that revealed that the President was an alien?  These are the “bad guys.”

Episode 3 “Man of Steel” was a look back at the origin of the season’s big bad, Agent Liberty. The episode couldn’t have been more unintentionally hilarious if they had asked an NPR reporter to describe the life of a West Virginia coal miner.  Agent Liberty’s family owns a “steel factory,” and is put out of business by the competition both by the superior alien steel, but also by the superior alien workers.  Mere humans can’t compete.  Two previous alien attacks directly impact Agent Liberty’s family, and as he turns more radical, he loses his job at the University.

Quicker than you can grab a tiki torch Agent Liberty is a radicalized terrorist.  Meanwhile, what is the lesson that the Supergirl team draws from these malcontents who have issues with aliens colonizing their world?

They are simply afraid. It’s all about fear.

The comparison to what passes for political analysis at an MSNBC roundtable can’t be overstated. And I’ve no doubt the writers think they are oh so clever.

Luckily for Supergirl, she has the assistance of new character Nia Nal.  Played by actual transgender activist oops I mean actor Nicole Maines, the character is revealed to be not only trans, but also an alien.  Think about that; a trans-alien.  This opens up a whole new branch of intersectionality!

So when the show returns in January, how will Supergirl deal with these alt-human nationalists (or is it human supremacists?  I can never keep track…).  I’m unclear, but I’m pretty sure it ends with the show’s privileged white alien giving a speech on fear and ignorance.

 

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Quick Takes on the New Fall 2018 TV Shows

Manifest

I wasn’t sure I wanted to get involved in another Lost-like “mystery” show.  You know the type; the “mystery” is the central premise of the show and you hope that eventually the show will unravel the “mystery” with some satisfying and clever clues along the way. Certainly the reviews I read warned that this was exactly that type of show.  But…I decided to give it a try anyway and based on the first few episodes, it’s better than I thought.

The “mystery” is “…Montego Air Flight 828 landed safely after a turbulent but routine flight, the crew and passengers were relieved. Yet in the span of those few hours, the world had aged five years and their friends, families and colleagues, after mourning their loss, had given up hope and moved on. Now, faced with the impossible, they’re all given a second chance. But as their new realities become clear, a deeper mystery unfolds and some of the returned passengers soon realize they may be meant for something greater than…” blah blah blah.

Surprisingly, the show is interesting.  Besides the usual soap opera drama of people presumed dead for 5 years, they are hearing voices and are having psychic visions.  So…what’s up?  Assuming there is really a showrunner out there who actually knows what’s going on (instead of faking it week to week) then this could be a good show.  Just please don’t “Lost” me.  So thumbs up for now.

The Neighborhood

Cedric the Entertainer tries to pull a reverse Archie Bunker in this show about a Midwestern-nice white couple moving into a black neighborhood, disturbing the segregationist Zen of the main character. The over the top curmudgeon Calvin doesn’t really explain his over the top hatred of whites so it’s hard to take the character seriously.  He’s simply being played as mean guy who will learn some sort of lesson about togetherness each episode.  Meanwhile the white couple, the Johnsons, will learn supposedly some valuable lesson about black people, but are so clueless about…everything, that they first need to learn how to call a plumber when having plumbing problems.

In theory, I’m in favor of the reverse-Archie, and think TV needs more shows that can pull it off, like the late lamented The Carmichael Show, which really got the formula down pat.  However this show, with it’s ridiculous white family playing the role of clueless whiteys (like Tom Willis from The Jeffersons) gets a thumbs down.

Happy Together

Hands down, the dumbest new show of the season.  In fact, I tuned in because I couldn’t figure out what the show was about from the promos, and having seen the pilot episode, I get why; it’s too dumb to think they would actually produce a show like this. Damon Wayons, Jr and Amber Stevens West (who manages to bounce around from show to show and land on her feet) star as a couple who has an Australian pop singer move in with them so he can avoid the paparazzi.

That’s it.  Thumbs down.

The Cool Kids

This show is supposed to be The Golden Girls, only with dudes.  Since I never liked The Golden Girls, I’ve no idea if this show succeeds or not, I just know I found it boring.  That doesn’t mean the show isn’t going to be a success; after all, The Golden Girls was a massive success. But it does have Vicki Lawrence.  So that’s something.

Thumb drop.

I Feel Bad

Of the new sitcoms, this is one I had the most hope for, mainly because you can’t have enough bickering Indian parents on TV.  Sarayu Blue stars as a hurried mom who is “just figuring it out like the rest of us.”  In other words, this is a show by women, for women, about women doing it all in a man’s world…you get the drift.  Although I’ve bailed, this may have an appeal that I can’t see.  Let your own thumb decide.

 

Fear the Walking Dead finishes Better than it Started

Now with spoilers.

Now that the season four finale has concluded, I’ve got a few things to say. I last wrote about Fear the Walking Dead back in April, and didn’t expect to revisit it.  After all, my review was mostly negative, and I didn’t actually expect the show to get better did I?  I’m not alone in that assessment. The website CBR has a pretty good take on what went wrong with FTWD and it matches up roughly with my own thoughts. And with the season four premiere up through the mid-season finale, it seemed like the same old crappy Fear.

It starts off with some time having passed since the season three finale, with Madison and her surviving crew is now occupying a baseball stadium somewhere in Texas.  However Madison is acting totally out of character. Very differently than the way she has previously been portrayed; less Negan and more Rick and she’s not wrecking every situation she stumbles into.  That of course makes no sense since we’re never shown the character arc that took her from a selfish piece of garbage to a savior. But that’s less important than the fact that the entire story, from episode one to the midseason finale in episode 8, makes no sense because of, you guessed it, erratic time jumps, the entire story was played out of order, for what assumedly are “artistic” reasons, but story wise are just a distraction, since you never know from one scene to the next where in the timeline the story sits.  This made this story arc more or less unintelligible.

Long story short, Nick (Frank Dillane) and Madison (Kim Dickens) both wind up dead; with Madison’s pointless death somehow appearing to be heroic.  At that point, I just didn’t care because it seemed so out of character that I really didn’t find anything self-sacrificing about it at all; particularly when their foe was probably the stupidest concept for a roving band ever.  The “Vultures” methodology was to set up outside of an encampment and just tailgate until the people in the camp got so bored with them they would voluntarily open the gates and let the Vultures loot.

Seriously.

Luckily for the show, the second half of the season took a totally different path.  The only surviving member of the Clark family and from the pilot episode was Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey).  The survivors of both the Vultures “attack” and Madison’s immolation of their baseball field compound are scattered with a Hurricane bearing down on them.  The lack of any sort of early warning for the hurricane plays a role in the desperate situation the group finds itself in.

Having a liner timeline, instead of weird artsy time jumps across the story, definitely was an improvement on what came previously.  Killing Madison, as unlikable a lead character as any I’ve come across helped as well. This allowed the producers to rebuild the show with a new, much improved cast.  Basically they’ve fire blasted what came before, and rebuilt a totally new show in its place. That was the sort of major restructuring that was needed if this show was going to survive.  How much that is due to new showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg is anyone’s guess, but they’ll be sure to get the credit if Fear’s ratings improve.

The show was so much improved that I was actually entertained by some of the episodes, particularly episode 10 “Close Your Eyes,” which had Alicia and pre-teen Charlie (the killer of Alicia’s brother Nick) trapped in a house together during the hurricane, while the house is under siege by the dead.  That’s probably the best episode of the entire series.  If Fear can keep cranking out a few episodes like that every season, it might finally shrug off its poor history and become a worthy member of the Walking Dead Universe.

Observations

The Walking Dead Universe used to be more observant of the fact that at this point, approximately 2 years after the Zombie Apocalypse, every car battery that’s actually connected would be dead.  That’s not even counting that the fuel would be going bad, but hopping in a Paramedic vehicle that’s been sitting for two years and just taking off seems like a big ole story telling gap.  That’s not even counting Morgan’s stunt of throwing a body off the roof of a building onto a car and the car alarm starts blaring…come on.

Weirdly, the Walking Dead Universe regards middle aged women as the incredible bad asses who are both greatest asset and greatest danger.  On the Walking Dead, Carol goes from abused housewife to commando killer.   On Fear, new character “Martha,” a former English teacher in her 50’s is the thorn in the side of the group.  Sorry, I’m just not buying it.

Amazon Prime Video-Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan

When I heard that Amazon was coming out with a Jack Ryan series, I was a bit surprised, because I figured that was a character, and a universe, that had run its course.  Don’t get me wrong, I had been a Tom Clancy reader since the 1980’s, and had watched most of the film iterations of Jack Ryan.  But that was a character created in the Cold War and the world now is so different from the one where a young Jack Ryan was on the chase for the Soviet submarine Red October.

But…after seeing a devastating review in Vanity Fair:

How could I say no? So I decided to give the show a chance.

Color me pleasantly surprised.

First off, John Krasinski really pulls it off as Ryan.  I’ve heard some people argue that they just can’t get past his goofy Jim from The Office persona.  However having already seen him take on a tough guy roll in 13 Hours I had no problem suspending my disbelief. In fact, if anything it helps the role of someone who is primarily an academic but is reluctantly thrust into the action role.  Of course, an academic being thrust in action roles does strain the bounds of credulity. That was one of the weaker parts of the show in my opinion, Ryan’s boss James Greer (Wendell Pierce) does have an operator background, yet constantly drags Ryan into dangerous situations, totally out of his skillset.

The other notable on the show is Ali Suliman as the terrorist mastermind, Mousa Bin Suleiman.  As noted in another review of the show, this actor really sells it as a complicated villain.  He could have simply played this as a simple, evil, religious fanatic, but he has a backstory that gives his actions, if not exactly justification, at least reasonable within his mindset, and it shows.  If anything, he has the most difficult role in the series and manages to pull it off beautifully.

One thing I noticed in the pacing of the show, in deference to it appearing on a streaming service, is each episode ends leaving you wanting more.  And although I’m just not a binger, we did end up watching the last three episodes back to back.  I didn’t want to stop.  So yeah, I have to give the show a big thumbs up.

And as for the Vanity Fair reviewer?  She was totally wrong.  This wasn’t any sort of jingoistic right wing Fox News anything.  You would be hard pressed to find any sort of political bias in this show, unless you regard Islamic terrorism as a fiction created by right wing Republican Presidents.  In any case, this show has already been renewed for season 2, so the reviewer (and me) will get a second chance to reconsider when the show’s focus swings around to…Russia!

Rebooting Old TV with Diversity in Mind

In an age when Hollywood has been totally mined out of original ideas for television, but the number of platforms have expanded with room for more and more television, comes the TV answer for zero ideas but lots of airtime to fill: The reboot. But it’s not enough to simply reboot old television shows, they need to be rebooted through a social justice warrior lens to give show concepts like this:

Just before he recently departed ABC Studios to embark on a rich overall deal at Netflix, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris sold one last high-profile project to ABC: Bewitched, a single camera, interracial blended family comedy based on the popular 1960s sitcom of the same name.

In Bewitched, written by Barris and Taylor, Samantha, a hardworking black single mom who happens to be a witch, marries Darren, a white mortal who happens to be a bit of a slacker. They struggle to navigate their differences as she discovers that even when a black girl is literally magic, she’s still not as powerful as a decently tall white man with a full head of hair in America.

This description of the show sounds hilarious for all the wrong reasons.  One would almost think it’s a parody of a socially aware TV reboot but no, it’s serious.  Am I intrigued by the description?  Darn right!  I would definitely sit down and watch a show in which an immortal magician is still under the thumb of Trump’s America.  The possibilities are endless!  I’m sure we can expect to see Samantha pulled over by white cops and she turns them into actual pigs, and she teaches the slacker Darren about hard work by transforming him into a black slave in the 1850’s. Nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz will be the White Nationalist neighbor across the street, spying on the interracial couple. Uncle Arthur? Played by RuPaul of course!

Just a few weeks prior there was the announcement that Joss Whedon was rebooting Buffy the Vampire Slayer, only this time with a Black Buffy. So everything old can be new again if you diversify it up a smidge.  Never mind that they already had a Black Slayer in the original run of the show…diversity.

I’m not opposed to reboots, reimagining’s, or however you want to describe them, with diversity, but let’s don’t pretend that diversity is actually a new idea. It’s really about saying,” I don’t have any new ideas, and I want approval from twitter.”

I will seriously watch this if it gets through development hell and actually airs somewhere.  Not because I think it will be quality entertainment, but because I expect it will be an entertaining hot mess.

What Happened to Fear The Walking Dead?

AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead returns on Sunday for its fourth season, and I’m of two minds about it.  First, it provides continuous coverage of delicious Zombie action after The Walking Dead wraps up its season.  Bullets, hatchets, machetes, it uses them all to good effect against the “infected” hordes.

But secondly, this show sucks, and it really had no reason to considering how good The Walking Dead was.  Of course I have to be responsible for my own expectations.  I had high hopes, and an idea of who the characters should be and what they should be doing.  And sure, one’s show-in-your-mind is always better than an actual show, but good lord, did they work hard to make sure every single character was unlikable and every situation ridiculous.

Of course the handwriting was on the wall all the way back in season one.  The show decided to take a slow burn to reveal what was actually going on, so in episode 3 the families think they are on the run from some sort of massive civil disorder, perhaps inflamed by videos showing cops “killing” rioters who are actually undead.  By the very next episode, they are back in their neighborhood being protected by the National Guard, and somehow, and some way, everyone seems to understand that the dead are coming back to life to chow down on the living.

So when did that realization happen?

I thought the entire point of doing a sequel going back to the beginning of the Apocalypse and show how it started, and what happened.  None of that is really done.  The entire realization of omigod the dead are really coming back to life this isn’t a joke what is happening is this the work of god or the devil and are there souls trapped and why oh why….  None of that happens.

And the military…this may just be a pet peeve of mine, but it’s clear that WD creators Greg Nicotero, Robert Kirkman, and Dave Erikson hate the military.  This may be a common attitude among Hollywood creators but it doesn’t usually leech out into the product.  In this case, the military and military personnel are constantly presented in a bad light.

In short, with unlikable characters and uninteresting situations, Fear is a bad show and after coasting on TWD for years, is finally realizing the ratings danger it’s in by providing a bit of stunt casting.  Lennie James, aka “Morgan” will be doing a stint on FTWD.  Since Morgan’s story has (through flashbacks) been fairly well told since the zombie virus, and doesn’t include a trip to Texas, that means they are either going to ignore the actual TWD history and just do their own thing, or have Morgan in the “present” and time jump the show a few years.

Oh time jumps; the gimmick that has more than worn out its welcome in one hour episodic drama.  With all of my complaints, I’m still planning on watching the show.  True, I may be hate watching, but it still counts in the ratings I suppose.  However, with the possibility that there could be further Walking Dead spinoffs in the future, my heart leaps and hope springs eternal.  Maybe this time they will get it right…

 

 

Politics is downstream from Roseanne

When I sat down last night to give the new Roseanne revival a try, I had no idea that plenty of other Americans were sitting down as well, a lot more, 18.1 million according to the ratings.  That’s not nutin’.

It was actually much as I remembered the old Roseanne; wise cracks and working class angst. Twenty years later, nobody’s life is really great.  Becky’s husband has died and she is resorting to desperate measures to make ends meet, Darlene has moved back home having lost her job, and DJ is back from the military, after serving in Syria.  But satisfying nostalgia isn’t what got me curious enough to tune in, it was this:

Roseanne is a Trump supporter.

At first glance, that seems a big leap from the character during the original run of the show.  She definitely pulled left during the original run of the show, as did  Roseanne Barr herself, but times change, and some of the same factors that would lead Roseanne Conner to pull the lever for Trump led leftist Roseanne Barr, who previously had run for the Presidential nomination of the Green Party in 2012, to support Trump in 2016.

In a way, that’s not that inconceivable a change.  Tens of thousands of Obama voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania went for Trump in 2016 during an election year in which Trump was the only candidate speaking to their concerns.

Television is a vast wasteland as far as the right is concerned, with virtually every network and every show on those networks as left leaning avatars for the Democratic Party.  Not always overtly, but the liberal worldview is the subtext behind virtually everything in pop culture.  In almost any other show, a Trump supporter would be a walk on villain; racist, sexist, and homophobic. We have not seen a sympathetic portrayal of a Trump supporter since ABC cancelled Last Man Standing last year.  I assume that the show, even with solid ratings, was a smug slap in the face to ABC executives so soon after the election.  But there’s been time to heal so it looks like TV is willing to give a character who’s politics are not to the left of Murphy Brown (another show being revived) another try.

Andrew Breitbart, the late conservative publisher was fond of saying that “politics is downstream from culture,” meaning that if political bias is imbedded in popular culture, than most of the political battle has already been won since those are the premises that everyone already accepts without thinking.  On TV, everyone knows that corporations are evil, and activists are good.  It’s as much a part of the scenery as a brownstone on Law & Order: SVU.

So it’s nice that there will be a Trump supporter shown on TV without devil horns.  And don’t get me started on how the devil gets a more sympathetic portrayal on TV than conservatives…