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: Reboot Edition

Technically I suppose this should be a reboot and revival edition.  Reboots meaning re-imaginings with all new casts (Magnum PI) and reboots being old shows dragged from the pit with the same cast (Murphy Brown).

Magnum PI

Superficially, this show looks pretty much like the original.  It has beautiful Hawaiian scenery, beautiful cars, and sense of the history of the original show; even TC’s helicopter is painted in the original colors. But still I hesitate… There were two things that bugged me in the pilot episode: First, there is a flashback to Magum, TC, and Rick being held prisoner in an Afghani prison camp.  Really?  The Taliban ran a Stalag 13-like prison camp?  That was all a bit too much.

And secondly… no Magnum mustache.  I’m not sure I can get past that.

Murphy Brown

If there was a radio contest with the question, “which TV show from the 90’s has the least chance of being rebooted?” I would have thought it would be an easy win with “Murphy Brown.”  But no, this show is being dragged out of its crypt. Murphy Brown had barely made a ripple in reruns, given how dated the subject matter of the show.

But I guess in some sense, attacking Republicans is evergreen, so when #resist calls, the aged anchors from FYI answered the call

Last Man Standing

Although not as overtly political as Murphy Brown, Last Man Standing is a suitable replacement for the late, lamented Roseanne.  The revival pilot features a lot of meta comments about Fox and the fact that the middle daughter has been recast (again.)  It’s show message on divisiveness was a little too preachy, but hopefully the show will settle down and just tell amusing stories, which is about all we can expect from a sitcom.

The Connors

And speaking of Roseanne, The Connors debuted to meh ratings.  And no wonder, since this version of the Roseanne show, sans Roseanne, smacks of a network attempt to recoup some of the cash they threw away when they cancelled the show in a fit of virtue signaling.  TVInsider’s poll, taken before the premiere, asked the question, “will you watch The Conners without Roseanne?”  ‘No’ won at a staggering 76%.

Yet I still watched the premiere episode, and I have to say, it wasn’t that bad. The show revolves around the fallout after the death of Roseanne’s character from an opioid overdoes (natch). The show was sensitive to the topic, while still managing to squeeze some laughs in.  Although Roseanne had always revolved around the strong personality of its lead character, the show has a very strong cast which under normal circumstances could carry any show on their own.  Dan Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, and Sara Gilbert should have more than enough heft to carry the show.  That doesn’t mean I have an interest in watching it however.  What made the revival interesting was the Trumpiness of Roseanne’s character.  I suspect that aspect is in the grave just as surely as is Roseanne’s character.

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!

The Trumpification of Homeland

Homeland is not the only show that’s been thrown for a loop (still!) by the 2016 elections.  I’ve mentioned a few others previously, and this television season, even Mayor Oliver Queen from Arrow is being impeached.  It’s an epidemic I tell ya…

But the King and Queen of all Trump-tastrophes is Showtime’s Homeland.  Its two season #resist has finally, mercifully, ended.  It’s a sad detour for what had been one of the better quality shows on television, or at least premium cable.  For those not familiar with the show, it’s a national security thriller starring Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, a crack CIA analyst who is (was) secretly bipolar.  Her mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) treats her like a daughter, and constantly puts his career at risk for Carrie’s crazy analytical hunches, which often enough, turn out to be dead right.  After several seasons of fighting Islamic terror, Iranian terror, finally, show goes after the greatest threat of all, Carrie takes on the Trumpian patriarchy.

To summarize last year’s season 6 quickly (spoilers!), Carrie is out of the CIA and is working for an NGO in New York.  This takes place after the US presidential election in which the woman candidate, Elizabeth Keane, defeats whoever the old white male was.  Keane is all for downsizing the US presence in the Middle East; a position she is guided to by Carrie, who is secretly an advisor to the transition team.  But the evil neocon patriarchy isn’t done yet, and launches a false flag terrorist bombing in NYC, with one of Carrie’s Muslim clients as the patsy.

This was around episode 5 or 6 when the producer’s world collapsed, Donald Trump won the election.

“At one point each season, we are writing scripts contemporaneously with real events happening. That occurred this season around episode five or six when the election happened, and we realized that we were gonna have to change the narrative a little bit. The first thing we wanted to address was this idea that our election was influenced by another force; by fake news, which struck us as a very right topic to construct a story around. Sock puppets were actually already part of the story, then we introduced O’Keefe in episode five instead of eight, which we’d planned originally.”

So enter an Alex Jones like figure, Brett O’Keefe, who is involved with the sinister deep state forces trying to keep a sister down, and engages in a social media war against President-elect Keane, using fake twitter accounts and doctored video.

It’s pretty clear at this point where the producers originally intended to go and where they made changes.  The deep state and its social media fake news allies go after Keane, and eventually decide to launch an assassination attempt, which is thwarted, and Keane takes the oath of office and becomes President.  At this point, Keane morphs into Donald Trump, reeking with authoritarian paranoia, begins mass arrests of national security, defense, and intelligence officials (including Saul).  Carrie is shut out from the White House and democracy dies in darkness…

My wife and I couldn’t believe what an abortion season 6 had turned into. The Homeland writers’ room actually took their post-election breakdown and wrecked their TV show with it.

To me, it was so bad that I thought the only logical recourse was to have Carrie step out of the shower with the entire season having been just a dream, and then back overseas for some international intrigue.  No such luck.  Instead we got season 7, the pussyhat season.  I knew it was going to be bad when the opening credits showed rebel flag waving rednecks and Klansmen in full KKK regalia.  Did that have anything to do with season 7?  Nope, but the show did shine a spotlight on its greatest fear, flyover country rural whites, armed and angry.  Were rural whites the big bad for the season?  Close but no cigar, and it’s not even a spoiler to tell you who the real big bad of the season is:

THE RUSSIANS!

If you couldn’t have figured that out before the season even started, you haven’t been paying attention.

In the rush to un-Trump President Keane, the show decides to put all the previous deep state blame on one General, who is sentenced to prison and promptly assassinated.  Whoa, what luck!  So Keane releases the 200 plus conspirators and maybe conspirators, including Saul, and makes him National Security Advisor.  So the deep state enemies are now the good guys, and the bad President is now good again.

So after a season fighting poor whites, the Russians, and a Congressional plot to 25th Amendment President Keane out of office, Keane ends up resigning anyway because half the country already thinks she’s a liar.  I suppose this was to be the writer’s suggestion for Trump: Resign now.

Oh and Carrie is crazy again.

I’ve no doubt Showtime, the producers, writers and actors are all very smug about how they’ve wrecked their show, but it seems a sad end even though the show is getting another season.  Alas poor Homeland, Hollywood wrecked you…

 

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…