My So Called CW Life

In response to an online forum topic a few weeks ago, namely, what TV shows are you currently watching; I dutifully listed the shows that I had been following.  Much to my surprise, about 80% of my current TV show viewing was on The CW.  Considering its reputation for teen dramas, that seemed surprising.  On the other hand, with so many of those teen dramas as either science fiction or superhero genre related, it makes a kind of sense.  The CW seems to go by one rule:  Hot young people making out.  Now; with superpowers.

The New

Valor: A military drama seems an unlikely addition to a schedule of teen superhero soap operas, however the IMDB description puts everything in context.  “The boundaries between military discipline and human desire are tested on a U.S. Army base that houses an elite unit of helicopter pilots trained to perform clandestine international and domestic missions.“  Ha!  I couldn’t have written that better if I were a CW publicist!   So the hot young person making out rule is still applicable, in the unlikely scenario of special operations.  Although it’s too early yet to make a definitive ruling on the show, I’ll have to give props to the military technical advisors.  As a veteran, it’s sometimes agonizing watching most television shows depicting the military, as they manage to get it wrong on the simplest things; particularly uniform wear and military customs and courtesy. This show does a great job at working on getting that right.  Or…at least acknowledging when they are getting it wrong.

Returning Shows

Riverdale:  This show, returning for its second season, was one of my more surprising picks.  My curiosity was initially peaked by the idea of a gang of Saturday morning cartoon characters getting a live action make over.  What I didn’t expect was what the CW would actually do with the opportunity.  I’m not sure what I expected, but I don’t think it was the Twin Peaks meets Dawson’s Creek that Riverdale turned in to.  And they started the show turned up to eleven. One of a set of high school twins is murdered which started off the first season mystery.  Frankly, I didn’t care who the murderer was, and by the time I found out in the season finale, it hardly mattered.  The re-imagined characters was the thing.  Miss Grundy as young music teacher; preying on innocent Archie Andrews?  Hilarious!  Jughead as the hamburger chomping noir narrator? Inspired!  And with the spinoff of Sabrina in the works, I expect less magic teenage hijinks and more grim evil spirits (Goth style not included).

Supergirl: In the realm of the CW superhero shows, they almost always include a heavy brood factor, with the fill-in-the-blank hero on the ledge of some building in the dark of night, brooding about some responsibility that’s his or hers alone.  Supergirl has always seemed the least broody of the CW Superheroes, Supergirl being played as an earnest millennial rather than tortured hero-with-a-past.  But the returning season premiere has Supergirl, brooding over the guilt that’s hers alone.  Welcome to the club Kara Danvers.  Whether she continues to try to out brood the other CW Super Friends remains to be seen, but the charm of this show was she often was just as she appeared to be, a mid-20’s go getter, single gal in the big city… who could fly.

The Flash: In the season premiere, Barry Allen returns to Central City from the Speed Force to find himself being out brooded by his girlfriend, Iris West. With the Flash being trapped in the Speed Force for 6 months, Iris picked up the brooding slack and provided the heavy brooding needed by Team Flash. I assume that with the Flash back, he will be back to full brood mode soon.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow continues to be the most off the wall of the CW superhero shows.  Their motto seems to be, “no rules.”  Even when they obey rules, it’s just barely.  A particular moment from last season is classic. When seeking the “Spear of Destiny” the gang is told that it requires the blood of Christ to activate it.  So Sara Lance is like, sure, why not?  Judea  and the Crucifixion, here we come!  Rip Hunter freaks out at the idea but it struck me that time travel shows just don’t “go there” in terms of potentially theologically sensitive moments.  Legends actually brought that up, which tells you that no moment in history is safe from their meddling.  This season, Hunter and the Legends are on opposite sides as they grow bored with their 2017 lives and decide to start time traveling again.

Supernatural, entering its 13th season, amazingly still has more stories to tell.  It’s hard to recall the last time a non-animated show went on this many seasons and still had some juice left.  Frankly, I thought that after thwarting the Apocalypse in season 4, it would be difficult to top, but in season 11 they managed save the entire universe, meet God, and get God and his sister together in a divine family reunion.  After that, dealing with Lucifer’s son and getting their mom back from an alternate universe should be child’s play.

Arrow: Oliver Queen, the King of brooding CW heroes, is back with hopefully fewer flashbacks and more Parkour, this time as a single dad. Juggling fatherhood, being mayor, and being a crime fighting vigilante will fill up a desk calendar.  Because of the over the top brooding I almost bailed out of season 6, but the dropping of the flashbacks is a good sign that has made the show more watchable, and with the upcoming crossover, Crisis on Earth-X, I cannot even think of bailing until we get through that.  This really hits home for me.  As a kid, I read the original Justice League comic which actually introduced “Earth-X,” the world in which the Nazi’s won World War II.  I would never have imagined as a kid that there would actually be a series of TV episodes that would actually adapt that very story.

In some ways, the future turned out to be better than I could have ever dreamed.

And none of this even covers the mid-season replacements!  More to come on that I suppose…

 

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Winter TV Watching

My whole TV world changed a few weeks ago when my wife came home from work and announced that she was going to drop Cable and go to Direct TV.  I had always been suspicious of Direct TV since I assumed weather would be a factor in viewing far more than was the case with cable.  And I was never sure how much weather would make a difference.  However television service was one of those responsibilities I had delegated to my wife so I had little choice but to go along.

So far, it’s not a disappointment.  In fact, the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages by a considerable amount. With an 800 hour capacity DVR, I’m taking advantage of 3 months of free premium channels to pack it with a year’s worth or more of movies.  And the interface and system seem to be far more modern than what I had with cable.  Being able to be in my office and watch something recorded on the DVR is an advantage I didn’t know I needed until I got it.  What a convenience!

And the weather issue?  It is real.  So far on two separate occasion’s bad weather has resulted in a loss of signal, one while watching one show while recording two more.  All things being equal, being able to record 5 shows while watching one at the same time more than makes up for the infrequent weather issues.  At least I think the weather issues are infrequent.  The summer rainy season in Florida may be an issue.  Summer is coming…

With a high capacity DVR, I’m juggling more TV show plates than ever.  Here is a sample of some of the newer shows I’m watching now:
Shannara

MTV, yes, that MTV, has a new fantasy show called The Shannara Chronicles.  It’s based on series of fantasy books which I’ve never read, but it has all of the usual elves, trolls, and so forth, but the hook is that it takes place in a future post apocalyptic Earth, not some other world like Middle-Earth or GoT.  I’ve watched a couple of episodes and I like it. The show is filmed in New Zealand so the scenery is gorgeous. But what is really surprising is how good the digital and costume effects are.  I didn’t expect this kind of quality effort from MTV.  As for the show itself, it strikes me as Lord of the Rings meets the CW; hot elves flirting and dating while demons threaten the world.  Maybe they should have called it Shannara 90210.

Supergirl, yes Supergirl. I find the show enjoyable, despite its flaws.  On the other hand, maybe because of its flaws and let me tell you, this show has them!  Most of the problems of the show can be summed up in a Saturday Night Live parody trailer for a Black Widow movie:

Yes, it’s Supergirl, played as a romantic comedy.  There is the hot guy Supergirl desires, Jimmy (excuse me, James) Olsen, who is dating someone else, and there is the friendzoned work friend, who wallows in his self pity, but he is such a good friend that Supergirl would never want to change what they have.

So yes, you have seen this movie before.  However the show does have its own charms.  Calista Flockhart plays Supergirl’s media mogul boss Cat Grant with a hypercharged, manic gusto.  All words I would never have thought to use in relation to Calista Flockhart.  But the selfish, driven, work-is-all boss with the secret heart of gold probably gives the show its best moments.  Will a Superhero themed romcom attract the woman viewer?  No idea.

The Magicians is a new Syfy show that can best be described as Harry Potter goes to Graduate School, because that’s the setting of the show, a secret, magical grad school hidden away in upstate New York.
Magicians

The magic seems a little less ridiculous, although still magic, and it’s treated like alcohol or drugs; enjoyable but potentially addictive and very dangerous if misused (and it’s misused often apparently). The problems are more adult; or perhaps specifically young adult.  Finding your place in the world and of course relationships seems to drive a lot of the action.  There is even their own version of Voldemort; “The Beast.”  Apparently Brakebills University has a similar policy as Hogwarts; keep every threat and danger secret even when people start dying.  Nothing says school administrator like keeping everyone in the dark.  I give this show two and half wands.

Limitless is not only based on the movie of the same name, but it’s more or less a sequel to it. Bradley Cooper, who was the star of the film, has a recurring role as his movie character, now Senator Eddie Morra.  The new victim/recipient of the brain enhancing drug NZT is Brian Finch, a loser wanna be musician, who comes across NZT, likes it, and stumbles across both the FBI and Senator Morra.  Since the film, Morra has figured out a treatment to prevent the mental and physical decline from prolonged NZT use and offers it to Brian if he will be a mole for him inside the FBI.  The FBI wants Brian because they think his Morra supplied treatments are a natural immunity, so they hire him as a consultant, both to study him to see if they can reverse engineer his immunity to the deleterious effects of NZT and take advantage of his NZT enhanced IQ to solve cases.
Limitless

This show really works because Jake McDorman, who plays Brian, is exceedingly likable.  He plays Brian as basically a good guy who is forced to spy and betray his new FBI friends.  He’s also one of the few regular pot smokers on network TV.  His bong is a prominent accessory of his apartment.  You don’t usually see that in a crime drama.  The show’s breaking of the 4th wall makes this different from most shows on TV and fun to watch.  I ended up liking this show much more than I thought I would.  It’s fun.

If I were to cram every childish, pulpy thing I liked into one show, I couldn’t have done a better job than DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. It has superheroes, it has time travel, and it has a super villain.  I mean, that’s one delicious stew. And it’s all sitting in the same universe as Arrow and The Flash. It’s not surprising since many of the characters are side characters borrowed from those two shows.

The premise is, 150 years from now, an immortal super villain, Vandal Savage, conquers the world, so Rip Hunter, one of the “Time Masters” decides to go back in time to stop him from ever getting that far.  To do that, he goes back to 2016 to assemble a team of heroes and villains from the Arrow/Flash universe to travel in time with him to stop Savage before he gets to conquer the world.

Well, I did say it was childish and pulpy.  But it’s also fun too.

One of my more oddball shows that I’m trying out is You, Me, and the Apocalypse.  Now I love a good Apocalypse, and TV and movies have often tried to put a comic spin to the idea with movies as diverse as Night of the Comet,and  Zombieland to This is the End, and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.  Not to mention TV’s Last Man on Earth. With 34 days to live before an asteroid renders Earth uninhabitable, a diverse group of people worldwide end up following paths that will somehow cross…I’m not sure how but the show is throwing out clues left or right.  With a great cast (Rob Lowe, Jenna Fischer, and Megan Mullally) and a tight, well written script, this show is growing on me. And Megan Mullally as Leanne, an escaped neo Nazi prisoner on the run with housewife and Librarian Rhonda (Jenna Fischer), provides some of the shows funniest moments.  The word for this show is intriguing. I’ve not seen anything quite like this on TV before and I like it.

Another new show I’m kicking the tires on is Second Chance. Just a guess, but I don’t think this show is going to be around too long.  The premise is that a grumpy and disagreeable retired Sheriff is murdered and brought back to life by a Google like company run by twins, one of whom is dying of cancer.  So after conventional treatments fail, just bring someone back from the dead and use their blood as an anti cancer treatment.  Pretty standard medical procedure right?  The entire bringing someone back from the dead angle sounds totally implausible.  And I mean by Science Fiction standards.  People come back from the dead all the time in science fiction and fantasy shows, but it’s either with “magic” or some sort of semi plausible technobabble that sort of, kind of, makes sense.  Not this time; it’s just technobabble. Maybe if I could like the characters more, I could get pass that.  But so far, only the tech genius twins seem likable.

There are those who might think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew in TV watching.  Maybe some critics might think I’ve let the hubris of an 800 hour DVR cloud my thinking on what’s practical to watch.  Only time, and a full DVR can say for sure.